House Hunters International, yes! It ranks among my favorite cable TV shows, one that I have set to record the entire series. Who hasn’t watched at least one episode of House Hunters, whether that episode be U.S. based or any other locale around the world. The premise rarely changes—an individual or a couple with or without children is looking to buy or rent the ideal home and enlists the help of a local real estate agent who either pledges her all to fulfill their needs, or pops back with, “You expect what on that unrealistic budget?!” Ultimately the agent provides our potential buyers a choice of three homes, none of which are perfect but quite possibly doable, especially when there are no other choices available.
It’s the international shows that draw me in, especially those located in Europe rather than the exotic islands in the South Pacific or the colorful cities and remote area directly south of the border or those in Central and South America. Of the European HH shows, my favorites have to be those set in Italy. I’ve watched homes being discovered in … let me think … Sicily, Calabria, Rome, Florence, and Pisa. Plus other villages in Tuscany because, hey, what’s not to love about Tuscany with its rolling hills, lush vineyards, olive groves, and green cypress reaching for the sky. But never did HH take me to the mountains of Northern Italy known as the Piedmont/Piemonte Region, that is, until several days ago. Wow! There I was, viewing three small villages, quite similar to those I visited on my recent trip and those before—Cintano, Borgiallo, Colleretto, and Chiesanuova among others.
In this particular episode of House Hunters, a renovation-savvy Australian couple and their two children have returned to Italy for a second time, having lived there for two years before returning to Australia. This time the parents are determined to make Italy their permanent home. They have in mind a fixer-upper costing no more than $20,000. Naturally, they want a view of the mountains, a place for livestock, a patch of ground suitable for growing veggies. In other words, back to the good earth and simple life. Good luck with that on your budget, I thought. Evidently this couple picked their right realtor and they all knew Italy better than I did, which comes as no surprise. Three houses popped up, between $18,000 and $22,000.
House No. 1 at $22,000 must’ve started out as a series of individual residences connected under one roof, similar to those of my families and Hubby D’s, except ours were classified as condemned ruins. In the HH version, most of the doors in this house led outside, which required exiting onto a long walkway to re-enter any another part of the house, even the bidet-equipped bathroom. Br-r-r … think snowy winters in the foothills of the Italian Alps. On the plus side this place did have a decent kitchen with a ceramic cook stove similar to the one our Italian cousin E used for making polenta.
House No. 2 at $21,000 was a former schoolhouse, plenty of square footage but no room to garden or keep animals, plus the nearest functioning school for the village children was ten kilometers away, a negative for these potential buyers. Toilets, yes, but no bathing facilities, and if that wasn’t enough, the floors slanted and the walls needed major work. I knew this wasn’t the place for our Aussie family.
House No. 3 at $18,000 spelled Old World charm, with its access through a narrow corridor flanked by stone walls on either side. Dark wood double doors opened into the courtyard and from there, a 17th century stone house offering a myriad of possibilities. The kitchen contained a working fireplace big enough for the Aussie dad to crouch in. And doorways so low he bumped his head when walking through. As with House No. 1 the only bathroom was accessed through the outside walkway. Underneath the house was a stable to accommodate the livestock, and outside enough ground for a decent garden. Was there ever any doubt? Not on my part. I chose House No. 3, as did the clever Australians who weren’t afraid of a new challenge.
Three months later found the family comfortably settled in their new digs. Lots of work still to be done. All in due time but not before a modern-day essential, which is where I next saw our industrious dad, perched on the roof while installing an Internet connection before the kids got home from school.
Hmm, maybe the simple life isn’t so simple after all. One thing’s for sure: the world as we know it is growing smaller with each passing day.