Considering buying a home in Cortona? Or just curious what it is
like to become an Ex-Pat? If so, I invite you to join me here, over the coming
months, for a glimpse at my journey of settling into my new life in Cortona and
Amsterdam. I’m a 71 year old American, widowed since October 2017. I consider
myself a citizen of the world, with food, wine, entertaining, travel, friends,
family, and the pleasure of observing the world the core of my being. I’ve had
successful careers as a clothing designer/manufacturer (Salaminder), boot designer/manufacturer
(Ariat International), horse breeder, food writer, food critic, and high-end
real estate agent. I recently published a cookbook, Just Cook with Sally
and maintain a blog at www.justcookwithsally.com
I now create recipes to pair with wine or Molesini Wine Club, here in Cortona.
no wonder I bought a 400 year old farmhouse in September 2020, in walking
distance of Cortona. I’ve come home. Italy has been calling to me for decades,
with each of my numerous trips over the years causing deeper roots to take hold.
My first introduction to Cortona was six years ago, when my husband Robert performed
with a small group of American friends and fellow musicians, on a Sunday
afternoon, in Teatro Signorelli. We arrived in the morning, spending a few
hours before and after lunch exploring the colorful, tourist-packed, bustling town.
I was enchanted. Fast forward to the beginning of 2020: In a flurry of
activity, I purchased an apartment in Amsterdam, packed up my USA worldly
goods, and in March made the big move. I arrived in Amsterdam 3 days before the
lockdown. My children, family, and friends were horrified, urging me to return
to America. “You don’t know anyone,” they reasoned. “What if you get sick?”
June, when the lockdown finally eased, I began traveling from Amsterdam to
visit cities and museums, knowing I would have the unique opportunity to view
great masterpieces without crushing
crowds. Florence beckoned.
Walking around Florence’s Duomo, the
realization struck me: I could buy a second home in Italy. I immediately zeroed
in on Cortona, as it offers so much on my “list” of desired attributes:
historic, well preserved, with terrific restaurants, a solid train system, a
strong Ex-Pat community, an ideal location for day trips and exploring Italy. My
last career, in Bozeman, Montana, spanned 14 years as a real estate agent with
a Christie’s affiliate. I know real estate, and how to research. Cortona International
is, hands down, my choice for agency. In June, I arranged for Nicola Burazzi
and Roberto Ghezzi to show me Cortona possibilities. I thought I wanted a sweet
little apartment in the heart of the town.
in Amsterdam, surrounded by city, I came to understand that a country home
would be nice: a bit of land to enjoy tranquility, grow some olives and vegetables,
let my dog run free. I asked Nicola to expand the search and returned in July
to view more properties. I really only needed to see one-- Casa del Gatto, the
first on a long list of potentials that Nicola had prepared. The stone house
sits on top a gentle hill, surrounded by forests, with expansive views and the
sense of absolute privacy. The Sellers, Rob and Sheryl, had painstakingly renovated
and landscaped the property, doing all the essential, non-sexy, things that
make a home solid: plumbing, electrical, heating, adding a pool. To top it off,
from the moment I met the Sellers it was as if we’d known each other forever.
We have so many friends in common that we joke, “We’ll soon discover we’re
to buy it,” I told Nicola as I buckled up my seat belt to head for the second
showing. “Wait, wait,” he cautioned. “You need to see them all to understand
values, potential, and to be certain.” I told him I really didn’t, as I knew
this was home. I humored him and saw the other properties, which only cemented
Casa del Gatto as being the One. Around 5 o’clock that afternoon, we signed the
closed on Casa del Gatto the beginning of September, in what ranks as uber-fast
by Italian standards, all thanks to Nicola. Have I mentioned the Italian pace of
life? It is unique, starting with store hours: Does the shop open at 8, 9, 10,
or 11? Does it close for lunch at 12:30, 1, or 1:30? Does it re-open at 2, 3,
4, or 4:30? Does it stay open until 6,
6:30, 7, or 7:30? It’s all a mystery, but somehow, things get done, at their
own Italian pace.
I arrange with the Sellers, Sheryl and Rob, that they could stay in the house
until November 10th. They planned on moving into a houseboat they
owned in Seattle that was rented until the beginning of November. I closed on
the property and returned to Amsterdam, with plans to come back to Cortona in
early October for two weeks for the olive harvest, then back to Amsterdam until
mid-November. I would stay in the guest room of my house, still occupied by the
Sellers. This, of course, flies in the conventional practices of real estate in
which you keep Buyer and Seller apart.
early October, Covid reared its ugly head with a second wave of pandemic.
Countries began falling like dominos, locking down borders and issuing tighter
and tighter restrictions. Cities turned into ghost towns. Sheryl and Rob decided
not to move back to Seattle until Spring 2021, but rather to occupy a Cortona
home, starting in November, owned by an absent Brit, all too happy to have the
house live-in through the winter. I returned for the olive harvest and asked
Rob and Sheryl what they thought of me remaining in Italy, sharing “our” house
until they moved. They welcomed me heartily. For a month, Rob, Sheryl, my dog
Boo, and I lived together. It was a blessing, and so much fun. We cooked, drank
terrific local wines, told tales, I learned all the nuisances of my farmhouse,
and most importantly, they provided me a smooth transition during troubling
times into the Ex Pat community. My 2 week “Olive Harvest” trip is now into its
5th month. The time has flown by.
have grown to value the Cortona community far more than the other items on my
list of where to live. Our “Covid Bubble” group keeps me laughing, engaged, and
informed; leisurely lunches and dinners, long hikes through the countryside, exploring
other Tuscan towns together, and having true friends, wards off the loneliness
of not seeing my family and US friends for nearly a year. The wealth of their suggestions,
contacts, and directions for navigating daily life in Italy has made for a soft
landing. If you’re considering Cortona, include community at the top of your “plus”
list. And take it from a real estate pro: hire Cortona International to find you
next month, be safe, drink great wine, enjoy fine food, and let yourself dream
of the future when travel and exploration is once again the norm.