THE bank reneged on our mortgage — nearly half a million sterling, or $750,000 at the time — after backing our plan to convert the farm into 12 independent apartments for holiday rental.  No reason was given: one minute it was there, the next it was gone in the wink of a firefly. They do things that way in Italy.

There was some continuity, however. The bank kept charging a usurious interest rate of 23%  on our stalled bridging loan.

left.jpgBy then, Italy's 'Clean Hands' anti-corruption campaign was in full swing and graft and dodgy dealings were making daily headlines. The bank was raided by the police and two of its directors were jailed for receiving kickbacks.

Back at the farm, the wreckage was complete. Builders had reduced our ruin to a heap of bare-bone stone. We were living in the rubble and counting our last pennies, searching for alternate funding.

right.jpgThe years changed, once, twice, three times, but we remained in limbo, in the same primitive conditions at an altitude of 1,600ft, bitterly cold in winter, sleeping in ski suits, cooking with camping gas, trying to keep warm. La what Vita ?

Here came Dante’s Purgatory: dealing with banks, architects and lawyers; labyrinthine planning procedures; no fewer than four layers of government — national, regional, provincial, communal;  four levels of police —  Guardia di Finanza, forest rangers, provincial cops and the village plod;  contradictory building laws; health and safety nonsensities; and at every turn dysfunctional, inefficient and corrupt public administration.  You get the picture.

Then, miraculously, a second bank came to our rescue.
We called in a new team of builders and as the calendar continued to turn we got down to it together (progressively increasing our vocabulary of swear words) until and at last our dream began to take shape.


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