My name is Claire and I live in

FutureBuyer Image
11/23/2009 - 09:51

 My name is Claire and I live in Edinburgh.  I'm looking to buy a holiday home in Sarzana, Villafranca or, perhaps, Fivizzano.  Haven't  been to the area as yet (typical Gemini,  I'm afraid,we run before we can walk ...), but I know areas further to the north and, from what I've read about Lunigiana, I'm sure I'll like it.  I'm thinking of a visit around March and, hopefully, will have bought something by the summer.  I'd love it to have been yesterday but I haven't won the lottery yet.

I'm an artist but I've spent most of the past few years renovating a house in Edinburgh.  Now that that's finished I'm ready to tackle a fresh project in Italy.  Yes, I know....can't live without builders'



Butterfly minds must stick together!  Good luck with the search, Claire.  You'll find masses of advice on here - both positive and negative.  Pick the bits you like!

Hi Claire. If your not sure spend some time looking at different areas, as buying a property is an expensive and costly mistake if you get it wrong. Property prices are on the slide here so you should be able to bag a bargain. But remeber that if you try to sell after making a wrong decision then it may take some time to realise your funds again, as it can take years to sell again.Good luck and let us know how you get on do lots of research first mind...!!

Well we are sort of above Sarzana, and yes it's lovely.  Does sound you are rushing things a bit, but if you want any help to find something in the area, or any other advice, send us a pm (no not a Prime Minister, don't want one of those!).  My personal favourite having lived around here now for 5 odd years is Vezzano Ligure on the other side of the valley from us.  Best view in all of Italy and dead convenient for everywhere.

Hi Heiko, Gromit and Annec, nice to meet you all.  Gromit, my nose usually tells me what to buy and, so far at least, I haven't put a foot wrong.  By the time I bought my house in Edinburgh I had it down to two streets and ended up buying in my favourite one so I know what I want.  Unfortunately, things haven't gone so smoothly in Italy... I've always looked to the North of Italy as I thought it was more European, more organised.  What I forgot is that even the North has the Mediterranean touch which translates into mañana with a bit of chaos thrown in to keep you on your toes.  I should know, I'm Greek by birth and no one understands Italians better than us and vice versa.  Hence the saying on both sides "una faccia, una razza"....................which is why I live in Endiburgh. lol  But, my love affair with Italy was rather of the coup de foudre variety and it won't go away.  On the contrary, with every passing year it's getting worse and I really hate not being able to spend more than a holiday there.  So the plan is to spend six months here and six months there.  That would really be the dream.   I couldn't leave Edinburgh permanently, I love it just as much so it's got to be half and half.Heiko, funnily enough I looked at Vezzano Ligure houses on the net but I didn't like the prices.  it seems you can get more house for your money in the three I mentioned, well Sarzana can pinch too but not as bad. So my first question, if I may, is what are train connections like.  You see I have a problem, I get car sick even when I'm behind the wheel so I'd rather spend as little time as possible in that mode of transport.  Trains and legs work far better in my case.  I know that the fast train out of Pisa reaches Sarzana and Villafranca but what happens with Fivizzano? Is there a choo choo train? Bus? I know there's a Villafranca/Bagnone train so I'm ok there but Fivizzano remains a bit of a mystery so far. lolAnnec, glad to see a fellow Gemini here--we make so much sense.  To each other.

"I know that the fast train out of Pisa reaches Sarzana and Villafranca but what happens with Fivizzano? "The nearest stations to Fivizzano  are about 6Km or so away,-4.042969&sspn=11.812827,28.168945&ie=UTF8&hq=Fivizzano+train+station&hnear=&radius=15000&ll=44.206573,10.094376&spn=0.10484,0.22007&z=12

Hi Alan, thank you for that link.  Blonde moment, clearly, because I should have thought of googling "Fivizzano train" myself.   This simplifies things considerably as I could definitely bear 6k's in a car.Hi Gala and thank you for your kind wishes.  You're right about research, google earth is invaluable when it comes to terrain and location.  I've got eight houses on my A list and about ten on the B so one of those will, hopefully, still be up for sale by the time I get to buying.   I know my limitations as well as preferences and don't deviate.   It's got to be a one-flight journey so I'm limited to Pisa from here as anything else would add too many hours between connections.  Proximity to people/a town is important, as is water.  I'd love a big garden as I'm a keen gardener and the house has to be of some age and size.  After that I'm easy. lol  Of course, nothing beats hands-on experience and I intend to take as much time as necessary to be certain I don't make a mistake.  There's no 100% beforehand but I do try to minimise the possibility of error as much as I can.

Hi I'm a gemini and a glass half full girl but I'd be very, very careful before signing on the dotted line !We too have experience of restoring an old cottage in the UK but this simply didn't prepare us for the complications and extra expenses we've experienced in Italy.How about getting yourself a translator and asking locally what might be for sale? I generally find at least one person a week asks me if I can sell their house for them when I'm staying in Italy!My second piece of advice is if you see a place that you like ask a local builder ( if its an old place make sure they are experienced in older property) to look at it and make up a preventivo for the works. If you want to do some of the work yourself you can deduct those labour costs from his total but at least get a figure!Finally read 'After Hannibal' by Barry Unsworth.If you still want to buy somewhere in Italy after that bravo!

In reply to by myabruzzohome

Hi Gemini, thank you for your advice. These forums are full of invaluable information and earlier I was reading up on seismic zones and flooding zones courtesy of someone's comment on the L'Aquila earthquake.  Where I'm thinking of looking is a seismic zone, thankfully category II, but it's not a flood zone as such, at least not from what I've read so far. Rule one in my book is not paying for other people's taste when it disagrees with yours.  That's why I'd prefer a tired property vs. one where all the work has been done (according to the vendor, always).   There are a couple of things that are high on my list, like underfloor heating, solar power and good insulation which I expect to have to install, of course.Once I decide on a property I intend to have a survey done by a structural engineer which should highlight a few nightmares.  Of course, with older properties one never knows what lurks below and you don't find out until you start scratching the surface (by which time it's too late as it's already yours).  But then I could step outside my house tomorrow and get hit by a bus.  Everything in life involves risks, what makes a difference is the degree.Estate agents are the spawn of the devil as far as I'm concerned but they also fall under the category of "better the devil you know".  From what I've read and from conversations I've had with friends who lived in Italy for a number of years, it's not unheard of for an agent to price a property according to the vendor's perception of what it's worth.  However, this is also possible when you talk to locals so I'd rather take my chances with an agent.

Hi again, I know what you mean by not wanting to be too far away from anywhere.  Fivizzano does have a railway station which is served reasonably frequently, however it is in the valley in the new part of the town.  There is a bus up the hill, or, if you are fit, you can walk (we do all the time!).  La Spezia is very close, and whilst it may not be the prettiest city in Italy, we rather like the atmosphere there.  Sarzana in my experience is very expensive, not only propertywise, although it's a pretty and laid back town.  See if you can find something in Arcola, which also has all the amenities and a pretty location.  The train station there is served very infrequently, but the slow(er) bus from Sarzan to La Spezia passes through there.  Like gemini says, it's a good idea to put the word out locally.  We are NOT estate agents ourselves (before anyone accuses us of angling here), but do know a lot of people.  So as I say, we are here to help if you need it.  Have a look on my blog.  we went to their Grape festa this year:

That's very kind of you and I will happily pick your brains when I've decided on a town.  That's the most important decision in my view as my Italian life, to a large extent, will revolve around it. Thank you also for the link and the information about Sarzana and Fivizzano.  Funnily enough, the other day I was talking with a friend about locations, and she too made the comment you did about La Spezia and she said that she and her husband used to always go there when they lived in Italy.  We have quite similar tastes so I'm sure I too will enjoy it. Ok, I'll go make myself a cup of tea now and look up Arcola.  By the way, the pictures on your blog are great!

One hour away from Pisa Airport would cover quite a lot of places in Northern Tuscany or Southern Liguria. It took us several trips before deciding on Bagni di Lucca. You should not rush into anything and look around until you find the right place for you. We made at least six trips and at different times of the year to see how the area looked and what it had to offer throughout the year. It is a buyer's market right now so you may find quite a bit to choose from. Good luck with your search.

Have you any suggestions? As I'm a "virtual buyer" at the moment, I'd love to hear of places people like/are fond of that haven't crossed my mind as yet.  Like Arcola that Heiko suggested.  I googled it and it  is picture-book beautiful. Maybe it's a good thing, maybe bad, but when I zoom in on an area, my search doesn't venture too far from it because it makes for more "orderly knowledge".   Perhaps, I'm limiting myself too soon.  Of course you can't jump around the map like a chipmunk on speed, you wouldn't get anywhere that way but, as you said, an hour out of Pisa does give me options, maybe more than I have considered so far.  My only condition, not south of Pisa please.  I know Piedmont and Lombardy reasonably well, Maggiore and Lugano, as well as Bolzano and the Südtirol (German is my first language so it's easy for me up there), and Venice.  I like the North and feel very comfortable there.  Liguria I've been to many times as a child but that doesn't count as I can't remember much but, what I do, is all positive. 

I must confess that we found Bagni di Lucca quite by chance on our first trip. We were renting an apartment in Lucca but the agent's office was in Bagni and we fell in love with the aream which we thought it was perfect for us. That did not stop us from looking at other places as well, but we always came back to Bagni.... until we found the property we were after, easy maintenance, within walking distance to all amenities and on the river. I saw it advertised, we took the car and ended up there buying within a week.If you want to know more about the area, this could help contains a brief but also excellent information about the area.Another useful link that covers more territory:www.valdilima.comYou will find properties in the area through Italy Magazine and the Property section. There are other agents in the area as well and my advice would be to see the all.If you have further questions you can ask me through this thread or you can send me a pm. I will be glad to help.Happy hunting!

 May I point you towards Pontremoli and the sorrounding area?We are currently in the process of buying there, and some of the good sides about the area are:- Immediate acces to Autostrada, and thereby short time distance to the sea or other destinations (compared to i.e. Fivizzano)- On the main railway between LaSpezia and Parma (direct trains from Pisa)- Low property prices- Few tourists and foreigners = quite an unspoilt sedate Italian town  We have had good experiences with quite a few estate agents, if you want any recommendations, send me a PM. Good luck! Erik

Nice to meet you.  No, I haven't as it's a landlocked area and I need to have access to water.  I know it might sound weird but I can't live too far from a big lake or, preferably, the sea.  The weather is different in such areas too as there's usually a microclimate, like around Maggiore and the other lakes, as there is in Liguria/lower Lunigiana.  Thanks for the suggestion though.

Great suggestions, thank you! I like the Lakes and I did consider buying a house there but I really, really love the smell of the sea.  One of the reasons I live in Edinburgh actually.  There's nothing like it!