Tuesday, 21 September 2021

The Alchemist

 “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

The book 'The Alchemist' is one of my all time favourite books and *spoiler alert* the journey of the boy in pursuit of his dream is a very literal take on our own pursuit of happiness. Upon dreaming of buried treasure beneath the Pyramids, the boy, seeking advice of others, embarks upon an adventure, crossing the sea and travelling across Africa to seek his treasure.

It sounds straight forward, but the book looks to delve into the conscious decision making and barriers that can often stop our dreams. From making that first decision and step to change your life, to the many challenges and barriers that we face along the way. The journey in pursuit of a dream is just as exciting as the the end result (which isn't always what we think it'll be).
When we decided upon moving to Italy, there were numerous challenges and barriers, difficulties and problems that caused huge stress. But at the same time, the universe conspired to make it worthwhile, and helped us to achieve it


Sabi was worried about the school system in Italy being less hands on and engaging as the UK and was only sold on the idea once we found 'Asilo nel Bosco' in Pianfei (a town about 10 minute drive from our chosen house). It meant we could send the kids to a more open, wood school where practical activities, free play, and a 'child first' philosophy were prominent. There are only a handful of these types of schools in Italy and to have one so close felt like fate and a sign that our decision was the right one.

Cash monies.

While we had planned to have savings to support us when we got here. There was a underlying worry of money when we got here. Both sets of parents expressed their concerns about how we would survive. Afterall, I was leaving a relatively safe and well-paid position at the start of a potential career to go to a country where I'd have no chance of replicating it. We were moving a country where I don't speak the language and Sabi hasn't lived for over 15 years, without jobs (or prospects for jobs for me!).

Upon our arrival Sabi embarked on a nervous search for work as our potential expenses started to rack up (and our financial budget was expanding with new things that needed doing). However, within a week, she had a job, not her dream job, and certainly not a long term job, but one she is good at and one that helps keep our spending under control (a job just as the boy in the alchemist had to get before his dream got back on track). This week, I too have had a meeting with the founder of the wood school and been offered a job, initially a trial with the nursery before a real start in July/August next year moving on to the primary. It is everything we had hoped for. That's not to say we haven't struggled and still face numerous challenges on our way through life, but for now, these are huge steps forward that make those initial early steps and decisions feel like exactly the right ones, even when it felt like everything was going wrong.

I'll leave you with these words, taken from the Alchemist, which if you haven't already, I highly recommend you read, and if you have, I highly recommend you read it again. It should be available at all good bookstores (and if you can avoid Amazon, all the better).

“It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

The time Neil caused mischief

Sabi's first day in work meant it was my official first day as a stay at home dad. Nothing terrifying about that, 60% of the time, they behave every time...

As it was a sunny, boiling hot kind of day, I decided it'd be nice to cycle into the neighbouring town (on Sabi's bike with trailer) to take the kids for ice cream, to the playground and then to the supermarket to buy some necessary food stuff. 

A lovely 3.5km bike ride down the mountain to Villanova and we arrived at the Gelateria a little sweaty and ready for ice cream. The shop was empty when we arrived so I donned my mask and the three of us entered to browse the flavours. Both kids already knew they wanted ciocolato flavour, but I pretended to browse to get my order ready in my head in Italian. 

Pretty sure I nailed it. "Un cono con ciocolato per favore". The nice lady behind the counter looked a little confused. asked me how many flavours I wanted. "Solo uno, ciocolato". She continued to look confused, but somehow managed to get it right. Then I had to order a second cone, the same. Hah. I just blabbered "ancora uno" which Sabi reliably informs me was correct. Nailed it. Two ice creams. 

By this time, the shop behind me had filled up with several other people, all intent on not socially distancing. I shimmied around to the lady who was taking payment and gave her some money (this bit was easy as I know numbers). 

Then I took a little step backwards and woahhhhhh, there is a grumpy* old Italian lady behind me with something (me) on her foot. Cue panic stations everyone. A hurried scusi and apologetic look before rushing the kids outta the door and back to the bike to hop skip and run to the playground where, thankfully, grumpy old ladies don't go. 

* I highly suspect the old Italian lady wasn't grumpy prior to my foot crushing hers. Social distancing is the greatest invention and outcome of the recent pandemic and I will be ever so sorry to see it go when (if) this thing ends. I didn't enjoy close contact (she enjoyed it less for sure). 

Aaaaaanyway. Lessons learnt? I doubt it. I'll very likely get flustered and cause more chaos in the future. Stay tuned.

Catch up.

It's been a while since I posted. I think the 'We completed' post was the last one and that was 2 weeks ago (blimey, that time flew!). A very quick run down on things that have happened since I suppose. 

We moved in officially a few days after completion, once we had managed to clean and get things in place (although not a new oven (it was delivered yesterday to Sabi's parents house...)) Our beautiful retro red fridge arrived a few days after while our washing machine came at some point too. 

The biggest challenge, and it is a challenge is that Sabi got a job! She is working in a cafe about 20 minutes down the mountains in 'Mondovicino', an outlet park and shopping centre that caters for a whole variety of people and tourists alike. It isn't her dream job, but it is (in my eyes) short term until I am up and running teaching English and running woodland activities and she can get Amore Mio Italia going. 

Sabi's "part time" job turned into 8-9 hour days almost immediately (day 1 in fact) and she has been working shifts, though thankfully she is usually home in time to say good night to the kiddos. With this, I have been thrown into the stay at home dad position which I have struggled with purely because the house isn't ready, I'm not allowed to drive (Thanks Brexit, ya great goose), we don't "officially" own the woodlands here yet and I don't speak Italian. 

Day 1 of "Kids with Dad" found us upsetting old ladies in the Ice Cream parlour and confusing staff at the Supermarket (I say "us" obviously, it was only me that did these things - see blog "Where Neil caused trouble" for more). Thankfully things improved after this with trips to playgrounds, and a second trip to the market both much more improved (actually saying Grazie, instead of 'you're welcome, in Italian, to the shop clerk). We also made some progress in the house, getting the kitchen and living areas cleaned and sorted (though we all knew it wouldn't stay clean...)

We celebrated two birthdays over the weekend just gone, Nonna (Friday) and Il Padrino (Monday) so we had an impromptu pizza cook-up on Saturday and then we visited Nonno & Nonna's for the late afternoon (and night and following day) on Monday. The kids enjoyed the swimming pool, which is the only thing our new house misses (though I am tempted to chuck the kids in the pond sometimes). 

Sabi had a day off on Monday too so we 'explored' up the mountain, aiming for Rastello, but being blocked off at a ski resort because of some e-bike event, so turning around back to Norea and a picnic in the park. 

We continue to do stuff, explore etc. Lobo continues to escape and terrorise the users of the cycle track out the front of our house. I have almost given up worrying about that though. The next big and exciting thing to happen will be on Saturday when my amazingly fantastic, adventurous explorer (Leonardo) turns 5! 

We'll be having a party at Nonno and Nonna's so there can be swimming and his God mother (Manu & family) can be in attendance. 

Thursday, 5 August 2021

We have completed

It has been such a rollercoaster since, probably Friday (which coincides with the day we ended our isolation). I'll do a day by day summary and follow up this post with a 'Neil's guide to buying property in Italy' post later, just in case you, after following our adventure, wanted to join us out here. 

Thursday 29th July 2021

The end of our 5 day isolation was met with much joy. We went to the local pharmacia for our Covid tests. They were 'rapid antigen, nostril only' tests and I won't lie, it felt like they stuck that swab into my brain. I am not sure why it was so different, but compared to the test in Heathrow, this was a horrible experience (though still preferable to throat swabbing). Anyway, negative for both and a celebratory trip to Mercato (supermarket) to buy cheese and ham for the kids. 

After lunch, we were met with confirmation that Monday or maybe Tuesday would be 'meet the notario (solicitor), agenzia (estate agent) and the sellers in a meeting to sign the contract. So cue the sudden motivation to transfer our money from the UK to Italy. Haha, so unorganised. Unsurprisingly, trying to transfer £25,000 at a time via online banking to Wise (formally transfer wise) resulted in Fraud blocking first our joint account, and then Sabi's personal. Cue the 'wait on hold forever saga'. 

This was also the day my UK mobile contract ended, meaning we had very few ways (none that were free) to contact the UK bank to sort out the issues. Stress levels - medium - high

Friday 30th July 2021

We continued to be on hold for most of the day, meaning our ventures to visit the new house for the first time were delayed until mid afternoon, when the kids were hot, getting grumpy and tired (awesome timing!). Eventually we unblocked the joint account and started the transfer process, but Sabi continued to be blocked by the TSB fraud team. 

The house visit was lovely, the house was more beautiful than we'd hoped and so much more spacious than the pictures had shown. Some cautious optimism about the whole thing here as we finally saw (in person) the end of the journey. 

Back to the temporary residence to be met with a phone call from the seller (or maybe the estate agent) to inform us that the sellers had got themselves a lawyer (unheard of in Italy - all legal stuff is handled by a single notario for both sides) and the lawyer was attempting to rip up the original contract (where we agreed a price, deposit and 'deadline' for completion - 31 december). This was down to the on-going 'garage with incorrect planning' issues that meant the deed for the house and garage were being separated and we'd buy the garage once it was fixed. Introduction of a lawyer and attempts to alter original contract were met with distrust and annoyance, Gino (Sabi's dad) immediately got in his little electric vehicle and drove to the estate agent to argue. I informed Sabi (and therefore her dad) we wouldn't be signing a new contract and the meeting with the notario was pushed back to Tuesday at 4pm. Stress levels - High

Saturday 31st July 2021

So everything is closed today and we didn't do a great deal, we discussed the sellers motive's for new contracts, i started browsing alternative properties should the worst case happen and we generally had a 'relaxed' day not doing a great deal, swimming maybe, maybe there were thunderstorms and the kids watched TV. I can't remember, 

Lobo was collected by the taxi-man, several hours after originally planned, but collected safely and finally on his way to us. 

9pm on Saturday I had a phone call from the taxi-driver at the UK border stressing because Lobo's passport didn't have my name on it, only the details for the rescue centre. Ooops. I emailed various documents (adoption contract, passport etc) and he was eventually allowed over. Hooray. 

Sunday 1st August 2021

Rising early after being informed the taxi would arrive between 8 and 9, only to later discover that became 11:30, then 12:30. Still, he was on his way and we were excited to be reunited with Lobo. 

Sabi drove us to collect Lobo from Cherasco, about 25 minutes from our temporary home. Lobo was excited, then went for a poo and to see some other dogs...not that excited. We were excited though. Happy times, we took him home, gave him cuddles and he quickly tried to investigate the 5 girls next door (one of whom is on heat). Happy Lobo. Stress levels medium

Nothing progressed on this day regarding the house, It was Sunday. Sabi managed to finally get through to the Fraud line at the bank, only to fail their tests (what year did you open your account? damned if we knew that). She had to send her details and passport to the team for verification then go through the whole damned process again. We did however succeed and open her account to allow transfers to go forward.

Monday 2nd August 2021

We visited the house again for a few hours to take some measurements, have a picnic in the garden and explore the woods a little bit. Absolutely lovely and delightful and we only found 2 ticks (one crawling on Sabi's clothes, and one that attached itself to Lucia - it was removed within an hour and stored safely - disease from ticks usually needs the tick to be attached for over 24 hours so nothing to worry about).

Tuesday 3rd August 2021

We didn't hear anything until about 15:15 regarding the meeting with the notario. We had previously been informed that the notario and sellers lawyer would be discussing the contract and changing to two new ones. So we sat about, waiting for any news. At 15:15 the estate agent phone, and had assumed we were still going, although we had informed them we'd wait for updates on the meeting. 

Cue panic - Gino and Sabi went to the bank to withdraw the cheques with which to pay for the house (cheque payment feels very 'dark ages'), I got the kids ready for the excitement of a meeting (in which we'd hopefully buy the house) followed by Ice Cream to celebrate. 

We arrived for the meeting at 16:05 and, after perhaps the most boring 3 hours of our lives (kids and me) we bought the house. For less money in the short term and obligations for certain things to be fixed by the seller by 31 December. Hazzah. It was now almost dinner time and the kids ate bits of their ice cream and two bowls of crisps from the local cafe bar. 

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Well, well, well. Siamo arrivati.

The last week has seen stress levels rise to never before seen heights in our household. From initially organised packing into last minute chaotic 'chuck it in any old box' packing and a moving day of 3 trucks arriving at different times, with only 1 of the 3 drivers speaking English and a lot of prioritising what was to be taken and what was to be left behind to a complete farce of an operation by Well Pharmacy. We have experienced highs and lows of moving house.

Thursday: the movers. 

We used Shiply.com to get a range of quotes for the move and I quickly settled for the respondent entitled 'European Courier', they had excellent feedback and reviews, quick responses to my queries and a competitive price (neither cheapest nor most expensive). I happily booked 2 vans and paid the deposit (this changed to 3 vans as my early estimates were greatly under-sized and under-weighed). 

Moving day finally arrived (Thursday 22nd) and having been informed the previous day that they would be with me between 9 and 11, I arrived at the house at 06:30 for finally packing and tidying activities. At 10:05, I received an email to inform me that actually, they wouldn't arrive until between 2 and 3. Balls and Buggery. My help (brother-in-law and father) arrived about 5 minutes after this email to help load the vans. Alas, I had to break the bad news, followed by the good news that actually, one of the vans (a Mercedes Sprinter) was only 30 minutes away and we could load 1.2tonnes of boxes onto it. Hooray. 

The driver told us he could stay awake for 48 hours without problem and anticipated, with no customs issues, that he'd arrive Saturday morning (image above of his truck loaded to weight limit). Excellent. A few hours and much traffic later, the arrival of the next truck (and thereafter truck 3). Both larger and ready for the furniture. The barrier here, no English was spoken by the drivers and no Romanian was spoken by my crack-team. So we bumbled our way through loading the vans and, relatively quickly we ran out of space and I was left rapidly prioritising what to take and what to leave (farewell my oak bench and outdoor dining table). 

With a signature and some random customs forms, we sent them on their way and finishing sorting out the house. Hazaah.

Friday: The flight

Friday morning I rushed around sorting out the final bits and pieces, sold the van and had a hurried lunch and an emotional farewell to my family and embarked upon our relatively uncomfortable taxi to Heathrow airport. The kids were well behaved, Lucia had a nap and we arrived without any issues or concerns. We approached check-in and let them know we were still awaiting our test results from the Pharmacy, they asked us to wait until they came through....tick tock, tick tock. I phoned Well Pharmacy, who were polite but unhelpful as they informed us that their pre-departure tests take 48 hours after the lab receives them to get a result...we took our tests 48 hours before our flights and they were collected Thursday morning at 09:30am, delivered to the lab on Friday morning (flight day) at 10am (don't know what they were doing in between). I asked how they can (miss) sell a pre-departure test so impressively they said it wasn't miss-sold and that their website has changed as they have changed test suppliers (which can apparently get a result the same day as it is received). We argued, Sabi got angry and emotional but in the end, we were out of time. We had missed our flight. 

Cue a late evening in the airport trying to organise ourselves while our kids were (thankfully) being amazingly well behaved. We booked ourselves new tests at the airport for the following day (£70), found accommodation for the night (£100) and booked new flights for the next evening (£900). We then went on an adventure from Terminal 2 to Terminal 5 via the delightful (and free) Heathrow Express where we were greeted with London Airport cabbies who charged us £25 for a 4minute journey to a Covid-ripe maskless and social-distance-less hotel. Hooray. 

A fun night in the hotel where we all slept (mostly) to awake to the free breakfast (and stolen lunch), a cheaper taxi straight back to Terminal 2 for our rapid antigen tests and then back on the train to Terminal 5 to have lunch and play in the fountain (See photo). Then back on the train to Terminal 2 for check-in and boarding and finally, flying, landing and arriving home at 1am, a day later than planned and £1,000 worse off than planned. But arrived, safe, sound and ready for adventures. 

I would like to add a massive amazing thank you to staff at Heathrow Airport who were relentlessly helpful, kind and friendly throughout our stressful couple of days. allowing us access to 'non-trolley' areas with our trolley to aid moving car seats around with us, helping us organise our tests and generally being kind and friendly to our kids, who were determined to make friends with every single one of them. 

If you need to travel abroad and need to get a test. DO NOT USE Well Pharmacy. They are a bunch of thieving crooks. Also, you can book yourself in for a rapid antigen test at most airports if you arrive early enough without any real worries. 

We all miss Lobo, who is staying with my parents in Swansea until he is collected next week and brought to us. I have no new pictures of him, and it makes me sad.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Family time

Our last weekend in the UK was full of much fun, relaxation and family curry time. In the knowledge that this week, starting on Monday, was to be the most chaotic of our lives at decided to take our really easy.

Saturday was a morning of waterfall swimming and an afternoon of grandparents swimming pool swimming with the cousins, while Sunday was a massive family curry and swim day. Though swimming first, for obvious reasons.

We also had a family trip to the beach one evening for chips and adventuring. Leonardo dragged us to the top of the little hill overlooking the Mumbles Lighthouse. It was a beautiful little spot and made more so by the realisation that in 36 years, I haven't ever clambered up there before. Good job Leonardo.

Lobo has been working hard to stay out of the 🌞 although her is a bit twp and does lie in the sun at times. Here he is... In the shade.


Do you remember that time I said we were 'barrier-less' to completing in Italy, though probably not because of the 1000 other complications that were going to arise? Haha. funny how things turn out. 

Sabi had a video call this morning with the current owner of the house we are buying in Italy. Apparently he speaks very well and looks cool with a giant beard. He also keeps bees, so he sounds like my kinda guy. Anyway, he called up to have a chat and tell us how angry he is with the estate agent for being pretty sh*tty. I mean, I have been annoyed at her for a while now, so I am glad I'm not alone in this. 

It turns out that the notary (solicitor) in Italy is linked to the estate agent and has flagged an issue that needs fixing before we can complete. Essentially, the garage, which was built in the 70's, was built 40cm longer than the original architect planning. The notary won't allow the sale to go through until either the deed is changed or the building is fixed. This probably wouldn't be a huge issue other than the fact that in August, Italy practically shuts down for holidays so nothing will happen until September. Not a huge problem, other than we'll be living with Sabi's parents for a month - which does have some benefits (including a swimming pool and opportunity for me to finish some work I need to do without distraction) and some challenges (Sabi's parents aren't dog people....Lobo is a dog, a pretty stinky annoying one at times). 

If, as we asked her to, the estate agent had started the notary off 6 months ago when we put a 10,000 euro deposit down, we wouldn't be in the position. Instead, she told us 'it'll be fine, it'll only take a couple of weeks to go through'. In hindsight, we should have forced her to start, but y'know, we are passive. So anyway. we all dislike the estate agent. But are working on ways to circumnavigate the issues with the current owner, who is willing to pay to have it all fixed and 'rent' the house to us for 1euro so we can move in during the interim. Not ideal. But maybe better than alternatives. 

So, top tip for those of you looking to relocate. Put pressure on estate agents and notary to get started early so when you are 3 days away from moving to the country, you aren't being told there is a potential 1 month or more delay to completing.

In positive news, our packing is on-going. Sabi's fabric collection exceeds 180kg, which is pretty impressive, her sewing machines are packed and business is closed until we are settled in Italy. You can still pre-order for delivery, which is being bulked together for 1 or 2 deliveries to the UK per year. visit her page at Amore Mio Clothing and Zero Waste on Facebook or Amore del Mondo on Instagram. 

Here is Lobo.

Monday, 19 July 2021

A whirlwind of a time

So, too much had been going on for me to get on and write a post over the last few days and I'll probably break it up into a couple of posts to make it less strenuous reading for you. 

First up, after the joys of being informed as the last hour that I needed a 'codice fiscali' from Italy in order to complete on our purchase, and then told it could be up to 6 weeks before I get a response, I am delighted to say it came through within a week of my application and we are now barrier-less to completing (we all know that's a joke, I predict 1000 other complications yet).

In local news, I gave officially finished work in the UK and, as of 5pm today, am unemployed. The team, where I have been based since Jan 2017, threw me a lovely leaving do at over of my favourite woodlands on Thursday (my last working day). There was a lot of chat and laughter and it was lovely to see everyone in person, especially after the last 18 months. 

I was also gifted some very thoughtful presents, including a wonderful wild food recipe book in both Italian and English, a poly tunnel growing guide (from a friend) and a beautifully hand sewn fabric Welsh love heart. 

As excited as I am to be going to Italy, I am hugely thankful to the people at the job I have been doing for the past 4.5 years. I have learnt so much from everyone and, at cliché as it sounds, developed as a person. I can't wait to take my skills and knowledge to Italy to share the woodland love with them. 

A big thank you to everyone in NPT council, Coed Lleol and Swansea council for everything. See you in Italy!

Here's Lobo, being Lobo, by a Waterfall

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

The Checklist

'The Checklist' sounds like it could be a film, albeit a boring film. I'd envisage Will Smith playing the lead role, staring at his checklist. But instead of a fun or exciting checklist like in the 'Bucket list', it'd just be a standard to-do list. The film would, most probably, have Will Smith standing there on his phone, looking wistfully (and bored) out of the window while listening to hold music as he tries to cancel his home insurance before moving on his big trip. Perhaps sitting at a computer trying to navigate his accounts for various utilities contracts that they make impossible to cancel simply on their website. 

In other news, we managed to tick a few more items off our own pre-departure list. I have informed the local council that we are moving out (cancelling our council tax) - tick. We have found a new home for Stella, our 2 year old cat (left) who is sadly not making the journey with us - tick. Both Sabi and I have completed 2 doses of our respective Covid vaccinations. Hooray and tick. We have even agreed a new moving date for Lobo, a couple of days early, meaning he won't need to be dogsat for quite as long without us. All fantastic and positive. 

In somewhat less positive news, our house purchase on the continent has been hitting a few snags. Several months ago, Sabi and I pushed the estate agent for information on what we were going to need (paperwork/documents etc.) in order to complete on the purchase. The agent was entirely relaxed about it all telling us not to worry and it'll all be very quick once we have the cash-monies. Turns out, she just wasn't paying attention and has this week informed us that I (Neil) need a Codice Fiscale, essentially a Tax code for Italy, which is easy enough to apply for (5 minutes online - tick), but the time to get it approved can be anything up to 6 weeks! Not a huge issue as we have Sabi's family nearby to stay with in the interim between moving and purchasing. The biggest stressors now are agreeing with the sellers to store our furniture and lives in the house prior to completion, which they may or may not be happy about. Also, we have to keep Lobo for X number of weeks at Sabi's parents who are not as....dog friendly...as we are. So that'll be interesting. 

Still lots left to do on our checklist and some days we achieve nothing (like today) others we achieve a little (I packed 1 box on Sunday). I finish work on Thursday this week (with a mini-leaving-do in the woods) and then it's t-minus 1 week until liftoff and 5 days of manic panic packing, weighing and organising. Right now, I am going to find and book a taxi to take the four of us to the airport next week to begin our wonderous adventure for reals. 

Here is Lobo, on a walk, having a good shake.

Friday, 9 July 2021

Packing is my least favourite hobby

Alright, it probably isn't a 'hobby' but I seem to spend more time thinking about, planning and subsequently ignoring my plan for packing than any other non work activities.

Today was a day off work to be organised in an unorganised manner. Our pack of 6 rolls of paper tape arrived this week so we were all set to put boxes together and fill them haphazardly with stuff we probably don't need before we move... But we might. I have already had to unpack stuff I packed as month ago, so it's going well. 

Today we boxed up 45kg of Sabi's fabric. It'd be fine if it wasn't less than half of her stockpile, tidied the garage a bit more (that's a slow burner), packed up a box of toys while the kids were distracted and then unpacked and repacked some boxes. Good times. 

Because we are moving abroad we also have to complete a customs form detailing what we are taking, so I also spent about an hour weighing every box and recording what's in each one. 

We fly 2 weeks today. I wonder if the vans will be big enough. Hope so. 

Here is Lobo. Looking majestic

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Where we are now

So it has been 8 months still our journey began. We found a house in Italy that we loved, it came with land and a second property purchase option that gives us a bungalow with which we can rent out for tourists as a means of income. It is nestled in the foothills of the Italian-French Alps on the boundaries of a Nature park and within 15 minutes of the ski slopes. Only 30 minutes from Sabi's family and closer still to the forest school we have signed the kids up to, it appears fate has stepped in to make it work. 

With a house found (photo below), offer accepted and deposit paid. Everything got real. We got our house sorted and put it on the market, a part of the process I wasn't overly worried about. We had a few valuations carried out and opted with Peter Alan as our sales agent. Within 3 days of the house going live on their system, Zoopla and Right move, we had accepted an offer on the house. Bam. This is going well. 

3 months later and we, after months of toing and froing, surveys, negotiating and getting unnecessarily stressed, have exchanged contracts and set a completion date (23rd July)! 

Cue a mad rush to organise everything on the Italian side (in hindsight we should have been doing this earlier, but y'know, life). Sabi is in regular contact with her dad and Italian agent, and in turn they are contact with the notary. All is going forward, though slowly.

The Italian house
I got multiple quotes for moving our valued belongings out of the country and paid the deposit (I highly recommend using Shiply.com for this as I had loads of quotes and was able to chat to them all relatively easily during the process of picking who we wanted). Then came the (almost last) major stress to date....Lobo. As a European dog, with an in date passport, I wasn't worried about the paperwork. So we went about (trying to) book our flights. 

One airline (British Airways) told us we had to use their Partner company to get him a place ticket. No problem, I went off and got a quote...£1900 for the silver package. So, plan B, AlItalia, who quoted the much more reasonable price of 75euros. We booked it up. Only to discover that Lobo is too long for the maximum sized crate allowed. 

*back to the drawing board*

Ok, so I was starting to worry and stress about this. I turned to the Expats in Italy facebook group to ask for advice and was almost immediately contacted by an Italian fella (Marco) who happened to be smuggling  transporting dogs back and forth from Italy to UK and vice versa. He told me he didn't have opportunity to take Lobo until the end of July, a full week after our flight. Cue further panic (so far, Lobo has probably caused the most stress). 

At this moment in time, we are reviewing our options for a week long dog sitter to look after him until he can be collected. While we do that, packing has started in earnest and the giving away and selling of crap we don't want has all but finished. The move is now 2.5 weeks away. Here's some fun things we have to do still...

  • sort out our banks
  • tell HMRC (probably)
  • redirect our mail
  • cancel insurance
  • sell the van
  • find the cat a new home (she isn't up for the move)
  • shut down our utilities contracts
  • cancel the milk
  • cancel council tax
  • organise a safe, secure and economic money transfer
  • pack our belongings
  • party
  • Covid tests
  • Covid vaccines round 2 (booked for this week).
That doesn't look as much as I thought when I started writing, but I guarantee there is something missing...17 days until moving day.

Here is Lobo, you can't tell from the photo, but he is apparently unusually long. 


Ciao and Hello!

Welcome to our blog! The place where we'll detail all the exciting stuff around our escape from the UK and into the Italian Alps. Join us on our adventure, follow our challenges, successes and excitement as we start a new life, create new businesses, explore the country and create a sustainable life for ourselves.

Who we are

We are a family of 5: Neil and Sabi, Leonardo and Lucia and Lobo (the dog). I am sure you'll learn more about us as time goes on and I won't bother with detailed write ups now.

The main thing you need to know is: Sabi is Italian, born in the 'borough' of Piedmonte back in 1982, Leonardo was born in Piedmonte in 2016, while Neil and Lucia were both UK born (1985 and 2019). 
As luck would have it, our marriage allows me, as a UK citizen, to gain residency in Italy without any issues, with this, I can maintain my European residency and freedom of movement that would otherwise be lost to me. 

Lobo, the dog, joined us in October 2020 from Portugal, with a Spanish passport meaning that I (Neil) was the one person in our family most limited in my ability to travel abroad!

Where it began

Approximately 6-7 months into the UK Corona Virus Pandemic (October 2020), we started serious discussions about the idea of relocating to Italy. It was a subject we'd spoken about before, and even browsed houses online before, but it had never been a serious, short term plan. In October, we got serious.

Sabi, being Italian, was keen to be closer to her family again, lockdown and limited travel meant our usual annual visits were missed. While back home, although we didn't feel the effects of it, Brexit weighed heavy on our minds and the future for our kids. I was more than happy to drive forward on a new adventure, pursuing a better quality of life away from a country that appeared to be falling further and further into a state of hatred, corruption and xenophobia. 

Once we had made the decision, we properly and seriously started browsing houses, considering our budgets and potential work and school options. This is, without doubt, the best bit of the process. Excitedly browsing the Italian 'Zoopla' looking at houses that, quite frankly were way out of our budget alongside others that were affordable because they were falling down, or indeed one (a particular favourite of mine) that was a set of three ruins, set in 5 hectare of Sweet Chestnut woodlands. The cost of knocking down and rebuilding was probably a bit much, so we moved on from that option. 

While we browsed houses, we thought about the other important bits and pieces: how can we make money? where will the kids go to school? 

The second question was neatly answered by a friend of Sabi who told her about a 'forest school' in Italy that spent 80% of their time out in the woods/meadows no matter the time of year. We were immediately sold and found one relatively local to the area we were browsing houses for (it seems fate was on our side). The first question was and remains the biggest question. How can we make money? Lots of options and as it stands, we'll be exploring a range of viable business opportunities and jobs and seeing what sticks. 

It's all a bit terrifying. 

Here is Lobo.