It’s been a hoot – as this native Alabama girl has been known to say a time or two to describe something exceptionally fun and interesting – to receive your comments and messages after the 1st installment of our Lucca Home Search 2.0 adventure.
And, truly, I don’t want to oversell anything, but I must say, there are some treats coming your way as far as hard-to-swallow stories from this home search process. Let’s just say things have not exactly proceeded smoothly. Unlike the first time around when we purchased the sweet, petite apartment with the delicious view, this quest has been stuffed to bursting like overloaded cannoli, oozing with sticky challenges and ensuring tummy tumult to come. The messy underbelly of la dolce vita, perhaps?
With every movement along the thin line between catastrophe and comedy, we’ve questioned our decision-making abilities. “What in the hell are we doing?” we’ve thrown our hands in the air and wondered. It’s laughable now to think how we once agonized over those “old house quirks” of our previous home in the U.S. – a beautiful, circa 1928 Tudor, ancient by American standards. Now we are considering structures with three-centuries-older quirks and exponentially more foreign-to-us belly aches.
Let’s take for example one property we seriously considered. The potential was eye-popping and scale of the project was exciting, yet oh-shit-scary. After a few visits – coupled with daily run and cycle stalking – we were close to making an offer. Our biggest hesitation wasn’t the enormous, never-ending renovation, but a tiny moisture issue we spied on the stones of the guest-room wall. We talked to our ace team about possible causes, typical fixes, and worst-case scenarios. In these type of properties, you’re going to have moisture issues, was the general assessment. Most are manageable, though some…not so much so.
A terrible soaking rain soon came and the “not-so-much-so” potential prompted us to request a last-minute viewing. “If the seller’s agent comes back with excuses on why we can’t see it today, we’ll take it as a sign,” we agreed. But, she didn’t. She consented, and quickly. However, she said she couldn’t be there. She would leave a key. “Hmmm,” I thought. “It’s surprising she doesn’t want one more face-to-face with us to make the sell.”
When we arrived and saw it – “it” being the river rushing along the guest room wall, inside the apartment – well, we understood. She suspected what we would find and knew from the thorough interrogations in previous visits that we would trip over ourselves to get to the door, which is exactly what happened. She saved us, in many ways, while also giving herself cover. Her plausible deniability was intact. “I’ve never seen a water issue,” she could say with a straight face. And, we could now, without hesitation, mark this property off our list and free up our attention for the next space. And, the next space would be one that would light up all our imaginations’ rooms and make us forget about those that came before. It’s the one that would become our one.
But, that’s getting ahead. For now, here’s the second round of contenders. And, as with the last round, we cannot wait to hear your thoughts!
And, as always, I must say how grateful we are to our team in Lucca. Our real estate agent, geometra, attorney, and notary have been with us through every step while navigating this muddy, obstacle-loaded path and we could not do this without their expertise, good humor, and constant care. We are very, very fortunate.
HOME SEARCH LUCCA: v 2.1
Pink Suburban Palace
Not long ago, an Italian stopped me on the street to ask directions. I lit up like a glow bug (yep, another favorite southernism)! The woman was looking for Via dei Garofani, a small street in the suburbs – la periferia in Italian – that I happen to know well. What are the chances?!
I first stumbled upon Via dei Garofani (the street of carnations) during a meandering run to explore the neighborhoods surrounding Lucca. “What a tranquil street,” I thought as I studied the stately homes, including several 1930’s era stunners. By coincidence, not long after, our agent Lorrain receives a call from a colleague about a house for sale on that tranquil little street. And, the very next day, we are standing in front of what we dub the Pink Palace – well, eventually. At first blush, the word “fortress” is what comes comes to mind.
“What’s up with the bars on all the windows?” I ask Lorrain. Though there’s petty crime, and certainly, break-ins happen here like everywhere, Lucca is a notably safe town.
“I don’t know, maybe the owner is old and lives alone,” she offers.
“Yeah, but even the top floor?” I wonder aloud, thinking it surely seems out of step with the street’s other houses, none of which have bars. When the other agent arrives, we learn that the house has been closed up for almost a decade. “Now, that’s a security door,” Matt says as we enter the front hallway. We soon notice an equally massive door and security lock at the back of the house as well as leading out to the second-floor terrace. “No one’s getting into this place, or out of it,” we laugh, a little uncomfortably.
It’s in the master bedroom where things really get weird. Unfortunately, not in any sexy sort of way. It’s less kinky and concerns the walk-in closet. There is a free-standing safe there. It’s the size of an extra-large refrigerator. You’ve got to have a lot of valuables to justify a safe that size.
If we can overlook the fortress-chic-feel, along with an overabundance of religious iconography, the house is in incredible shape. By simply removing the bars, updating the kitchen and bathrooms, pressure-washing, and repainting the interior, the pink fortress could easily become our palace.
Leafy, upscale neighborhood, 10 minutes walking from the center of Lucca. Very near all services, including good restaurants, cafes, shops, and pharmacies.
Approximately 220 square meters on two floors, plus a large, fully-fenced yard. There are currently 3 generously-sized bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, in addition to a large kitchen, separate dining room, lounge with fireplace, and sunroom/study. There’s also a small shed in the backyard with an asbestos roof which must be addressed.
Kitchen and bathrooms need a facelift, though not full-scale renovation as the tiles are classic and worth keeping. The yard and garden are in good shape, but with a little TLC could be spectacular. The roof needs to be inspected and potentially replaced. Thanks to Italy’s building rebate program, it’s a good time to replace a roof.
Well, I guess we’d feel safe here. 🙂 The rooms are spacious and light-filled. This is one of the biggest kitchens I’ve seen in our search and I adore the classic tiles and windows looking onto the garden. There’s an expansive terrace on back of the house and beautiful, fully-fenced yard with just enough space to get our gardening fix without adding extensive yard-work chores to our to-do list.
The tile floors throughout the home are interesting and particular. Though it might not be what I would choose, they seem to work for the space. What we’d save in renovation costs, we’d spend in rugs!
Coveted neighborhood, on a narrow street, which is not a “cut through” location, ensuring little traffic. And, it’s just a few blocks from our Italian school.
Are we ready for the maintenance that comes with a single-family home? And, even with all its security-mindedness, it doesn’t exactly fit our “lock and leave” criteria. What happens when we go visit Trentino and beyond for long stretches?
Though the terrace is large and has incredibly-cool potential, the view is of a small apartment building located on the next street over.
And, really, could we ever shake that fortress vibe?
Canal-Side Reno Special
We did say we want a renovation project, right? Well, here’s one with works required – top to bottom, inside and outside. It’s located right beside a small waterway running through Lucca. The area is very quiet and green and each of the neighbors seem to have recently renovated their own properties, with the house directly next door showing off an Instagram-worthy garden. The townhouse consists of three floors with a living room, dining room, and kitchen on the ground floor, three bedrooms and a small bathroom on the first floor, and two attic rooms.
It’s a 20 minute walk from the center of Lucca, along a canal that runs through town. Though in a small neighborhood of 5-6 other homes, this property is surrounded by fields and feels rural (though it’s not).
180 meters square, three floors, plus large fully-fenced yard with a historic garden gate.
This place is truly a renovator’s dream! Other than a couple of rooms having the original tile floors I adore, every other aspect of this home needs renovation, from the facade and roof to flooring, heating, bathrooms, and kitchen.
This is by far the least expensive property we have viewed, priced at 150,000 euros. You could potentially even offer 100,000 to see if it’s accepted. Through Italy’s tax concessions and building rebates for the renovation and energy improvement, there’s the potential to renovate every system to a top quality level without breaking our budget. The corner lot feels spacious and private.
We are ready for a new renovation project – and, consider ourselves fairly competent renovators, but is this a project that we can really tackle? No way around it, this is a full-scale gut-job.
Boho Birdhouse in Centro
For months, our entire focus has been on moving outside of the center of Lucca, right? Then, all the sudden, we began to reconsider that notion. We knew our friend Pablo’s apartment would soon be on the market and began to wonder if we should consider this place that, in many ways, has always felt like home.
This apartment is the first place we stayed in Lucca when visiting in 2013. For years after, every time we returned, we rented “our” room from Pablo and began to fall for Lucca from the kitchen table of this 1700s property.
We learned to make ravoli in that kitchen. We’ve drank more bottles of wine than I can remember in that lounge. We’ve watched the whole town walk by from the window-seat looking out onto Lucca’s main street. We chose to make Lucca our home while nesting in this perch.
A corner apartment on the top floor along Lucca’s ancient Roman road. The busy pedestrian street of Via Fillungo is where the people of Lucca parade in a nightly ritual known as passeggiata.
Approximately 180 meters square, with an open plan lounge, dining room, and kitchen. There are two large bedrooms, one bathroom, a private study, along with a generously sized entry wall/bonus space and walk-in kitchen pantry.
We would hope to carve a second bathroom out of a corner of the studio room. We would renovate some parts of the kitchen – while keeping many of the historic elements – as well as the sole existing bathroom. We would keep the terracotta floors which are in great shape. The wallpaper, that’s a decision, though. It’s not our taste, but it is boho-perfection in this apartment.
This apartment already feels like home. We’ve enjoyed so many wonderful moments here over the years, it’s special to us and highly-unique for Lucca. The views from every room are expansive. It’s light-filled and cheery. Even for a hack like me, it’s joyous to cook in that kitchen. It’s surprisingly quiet given the location, and, again, this is something we know firsthand (and, believe me, that kind of firsthand experience in a city like Lucca can’t be beat)!
And, perhaps more than any place we’ve seen so far, this apartment will always be a hot commodity and gem of an investment.
How ironic will it be if our desire to get out of the center of town to find more space and tranquility leads us even deeper into the heart of Lucca. The biggest negative of this apartment for us is the lack of outdoor space. There’s not even a sliver of a balcony or terrace. However, when the windows are open in the lounge and kitchen, the corner position feels like living in a birdhouse high in the trees.
For fun one night I tried to count the number of stairs leading up to this apartment, but forgot what I was doing somewhere along the way…that’s how many stairs there are to reach this perch!
THAT’S A WRAP – FOR NOW!
Three truly unique and fascinating choices, yes? From these three contenders, which do you think is the best choice? And, compared with the last round? Which would you choose?
I hope you are enjoying coming along with us on this journey. There’s one more round of choices coming, then the big “reveal!” Oh, the drama. THANKS FOR PLAYING ALONG!