Sicily – House Hunting

Ok.

So until today, Franco was a unicorn.

We heard Paul & David talk about him.

We have heard Anne & Doug talk about him.

They have both only had the best of best things to say about him, but I still have no idea what he looks like or how firm his handshake is. Both are important factors. I mean, I know he is a real human being. Both of the guys have told numerous stories about how their realtor, Franco, has helped them out in a variety of ways throughout their time in Sicily. Some of the ways he has been there for his customers, I would like to explain, but it’s not my place.

Plus, unless you heard these kinda stories from the actual recipients, you probably wouldn’t believe them because of how uncommon and far out they are. But again, it is a testament to the Sicilian community. Even the realtor has got your back, and isn’t just someone that you go to when you have a real estate issue.

Before we get to meet Franco, Anne has got a hair appointment, and Bec and I are hoping to check out some more of the little city.

We head into the town, and Anne is mentally preparing herself for the saga ahead. She’s telling us how the hairdresser will be halfway through the cut or colour, and will just put the haircut on hold because someone is delivering her groceries or something. Not even having a giggle. She will just bail on the cut to pick up her bread or something.

While Anne is getting her hair (mostly) done at the hairdressers, we begin the wandering. We literally just want to get lost. We don’t care where we go, or what we see. We just want to see something new, and get a good feel for the place. We quickly find ourselves in the little back alleys of the town and away from the people in the city. We pass a whole variety of different houses, all of which have a slightly different appearance. They’ve all got their own little feels. There are balconies and roof terraces literally everywhere. Its so cool to see.

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The streets are all cobble stones, and most of the time, aren’t much wider than a car (at best). You know that these houses have been around for years upon years, and have been built on even older foundations. I forever keep wondering about all the lives and the things that these people have achieved while living in these walls. What did they succeed in, and what did they fail in? How many ambitions were realised, and how many dreams went to the grave with the dreamer? It’s these kind of things that get me wondering.

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The feeling that I get with a lot of European cultures is that their history and their culture is built upon centuries and centuries of life and experience of the people who have gone before them. I mean, that is an obvious statement, but I kinda feel as though as a people and a race, they stand on the shoulders of the people before them.

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As white Australians, we haven’t got so may shoulders to stand on just yet. We certainly have made the most of what we have got, but after seeing more of the world, I really begin to understand that as a culture, we have got so much to learn and grow as a people. Its quite amazing.

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Anyways.

We keep walking through the streets, spying people hanging out on their balconies and moped riding places that they probably shouldn’t. Soon enough, we find ourselves having zig zagged through the streets of Caccamo, and ending up back where we dropped Anne off for her haircut.

We spot a little bakery joint just up the road. So, we swing in there, and I see that there are a few people walking out with these Brioche buns, stuffed with Ice-cream.

Oh yes.

I want every part to do with this.

We head in, and with our now, expert sign language and using a bystander as an interpreter, we order our brioche buns with ice cream. It only costs us 3 euro for them both. How good is that? 1.50 each. You cant scratch your ass for that price in most places, let alone getting a delicious sweet bit of bread, stuffed with ice-cream.

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We sit under the shade of the umbrellas, and nibble away on the buns. After finishing the buns, we decide that it is about time for a good Italian coffee. Being that we are fans of trying new places, we leave our little bakery kinda place, and walk about 10 meters to our next spot. We get our coffees, and shoot across the road and sit on this bench and watch the Sicilians do what Sicilians do best.

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Which, is be Sicilian.

What does “Be Sicilian” look like?

Its not much different from being Australian, except that they have been born in Sicily.

People use the horn of their vehicles as terms of endearment or a means of encouragement, unless it lasts more than .7 seconds, in which case, it means the opposite. We sit and watch the traffic go past in the warm afternoon sun. We sit and relax and watch the traffic pass, along with the people. Its a nice and relaxed day so far.

We have to meet Doug and Anne pretty soon, so we make our way to the cafe. We have got a few minutes spare, so we head up to the castle, to see what we can see. We have only got about 15-20mins left before we have to meet the guys, and we find out that we need to get tickets to head up and see the place for real. We cant justify it for only a few minutes, but we did get an amazing view of the town and the surrounds, and we got to jump into this one section which used to be the stables.

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Now, it is a small gallery, and there is some of the coolest, partly abstract art hanging on either side of the room. We spent more time than we were expecting to spend there, and enjoy a moment to ourselves.

We head back down to the cafe and just hang out for Anne & Doug.

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We pile into the car and make our way to the liquor store, as Franco has just recently become a grand father, and as it must be done, he needs some alcohol to celebrate with. Whiskey in hand, we make our way to Franco’s office. He welcomes us in, almost like he was expecting us to come and visit. It was nothing to him that some one his clients just rocked up to his office, and brought some tourists with them.

With the formalities out of the way, the seal on the bottle of whiskey is broken, and Franco does the honours of beginning the pours. After seeing the size of the pours he is dishing out, Bec and I strap on our big boy pants. After only one serving each, we have poured about ⅓-½ of the bottle already. Not a bad innings hey? Franco means business.

We load up on the whiskey and get talking with Franco. We tell him that we are in love with Sicily, and are hoping to end up buying a property here in the next few years. He stops us right in our tracks. “I have a property that I would like to show you”. Most of the time, I would be skeptical about salesmen. In this case, I have heard countless stories from his own customers about the endless lengths that he has gone to ensure that they are looked after and become parts of his extended family, that I take him at his word and we have a look online at this place.

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Bec and I have no intention of buying a property today.

We are only hoping to make his acquaintance, so that when the time comes to buy a place, we actually know who we are dealing with, and so that he knows who he is dealing with. I promise you, if we had the money sitting there, we would have bought the property straight away. We watch the clip, drink another whiskey, and talk about the logistics of it all.

It is mental.

I mean, the guy does everything for you. Franco has 150 clients from around the world, and none of them are Italian. The reason is mostly for business, and that he wants to retain his clients and help manage their properties in their absence, which is a pretty smart business move, I think. Attract the people who need you once the sales have been finalised. Very smart businessman.

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Pretty much, we find out that this place is dirt cheap, and that the guy who is selling is a divorcee and is flogging the place for 35,000 euro. Its a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, renovated last year, townhouse. It is absolutely perfect. Bec and I cut every angle we can to try and work out a way to buy the place. I mean, it would be more for investment purposes than for anything else, but it would be nice to be able to come and visit Sicily every now and then too.

We go and check out the place, and we are in love.

One side has a roof terrace, and the other balcony has views of the castle and the valley further. The architecture of the property echoes the feel of the old world craftsmanship from years ago. The shutters and doors are solid wood and are a three part design. They all open and hold into each other. The kitchen is new, and it comes with all the furniture.

Bec and I have enough money for half the deposit, but we need someone else to split the costs with. There is really only one other person we know of who has the spare cash to be able to throw at a venture like this, so we tell Franco that we are super keen, but we can’t commit just yet.

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He takes us to this little bar, tells us to hold onto the keys so that we can visit the place again if we feel like it, and orders drinks for us all. We sit there, chat and talk about life and all the facets of life in Sicily. Its really great. Franco has been an absolute gentleman, and hasn’t once need to mention to us that what we are looking at is an absolute steal. The truth is, if we had the money, we would have signed the paperwork that afternoon.

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We tell Franco that we will be back in touch as soon as we can, and head home with Anne & Doug. We ended up pretty much polishing off the whole bottle of whiskey at Franco’s office before seeing the property, and then had more to drink at the bar. With that in mind, Bec and I are more than ready to have a nap.

We pile into the car, and are held up momentarily by a farmer moving his cattle, occupying the majority of the road. Its a whole different world over here, and I really do love it.

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We get home, and send the info about the place to the person we want to split the property with. We have a look around for other places in the area like that, and the truth is that there really isn’t anything of the same quality, with a price that low. The property truly is a steal.

We have a nap, and end up chatting with the other potential buyer we know after the sleep. We explain everything, and I know that this person can see that it is a pinch too. The fact is, though by committing to this, it would be holding up their own plans. We end the chat, and think about it more and more. The more we think about it, the more it is going to put us under the pump and make things more stressful than we are hoping for right now. We let it rest over night, but we both feel that we might be barking up the wrong tree right now. As much as it is a real steal, its not the right move for us right now.

We decide to sleep on it, and in the back on my mind, I can hear Mick Pratt’s words from when we caught up with him and Jen for our anniversary in Albany last year. He was telling us that the best deals are bought by the person with the money on hand.

Being able to put the cash in someone’s hand right away, when they need it most is where you make the money. In this case, he was more than right. This couple selling the house were in need to a quick sale, and if we had the money to buy the property, we would have saved tens of thousands of dollars that very afternoon.

Its a lesson to learn for today.

Come back for the next story,

Billy

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