Italian Potato and Ham Pie

Italian Potato and Ham Pie

I say this is an Italian Potato and Ham Pie, because I found the recipe on an Italian website – and I used mozzarella and parmesan cheese – but apart from that, I don’t think there’s anything specifically Italian about it. What it is about, is a recipe that is so easy, and ultimately so delicious, that you just have to try it.

INGREDIENTS

  • Potatoes
  • Two egg yolks
  • Cheese – the original recipe calls for caciocavallo cheese, but I couldn’t get this and so substituted it with mozzarella
  • Grana Padana cheese (or parmesan)
  • Fresh Spinach
  • Sliced ham
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Salt & pepper
  • Rosemary – fresh is best, but dried will work, too

METHOD

  • Boil the potatoes until ready for mashing – drain, season with salt and pepper, add the grana padana (amount according to taste) and mash, the add the egg yolks, salt & pepper and rosemary and combine, then use of the mixture to line a dish or oven proof tin
  • Saute the spinach in the olive oil and garlic – when wilted, drain, so that all of the excess water is removed
  • Put a layer of the garlicky spinach over the potato, then a layer of the cheese you are using, then a layer of sliced ham
  • Add another layer of cheese and top with the remainder of the potato, pressing it down, so that it is compact
  • Brush a little oil over the surface, and bake for around 50 minutes in an oven, pre-heated to 190°C – it’ll then be ready to eat immediately or saved for later, and eaten cold

Photo credit : www.giallozafferano.com

Photo credit : www.giallozafferano.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving On…

Moving On…

The phrase “End of an Era” has been used a lot over recent days, and although not on quite the same scale, it’s also the end of a bit of an era for us. In December 2020, we finally signed a pre-contract on the purchase of a very unusual building in Oprtalj, which had been up for sale for a long time. Constructed on one level, this expansive industrial, concrete building filled us with excitement, as we could see its immense potential for open plan living. We had already put our renovated Istrian stone house on the market, as the negotiations were carried out with the seller. We firmly believed that our house would sell quite quickly as it was fairly priced, based on its age, condition, location and the fact we had taken into account we do not have a pool. However, what we didn’t take into account was the impact of the global pandemic.

The pre-contract was excellent, as far as we were concerned. It was for eighteen months – more than enough time, we thought, to sell our home. A monthly rental was negotiated and it was agreed that these payments (and the deposit) would reduce the agreed sale price. We were also given permission to begin works on the property, whilst we were still under the pre-contract. All seemed very hunky-dory and we went as far as to engage the services of an architect who would help us to realise our vision. But, a global pandemic doesn’t make the selling of a house – however beautiful and desirable you think it is – very easy, as people were largely no longer travelling. And if they were, a house purchase probably wasn’t too high on their agenda. This would have been the prefect time to start on the structural work on the new property, but without the injection of cash from the proceeds of the sale of our home, we were a bit limited as to what we could do. With hindsight, it’s a good thing that the only things we did actually do, were the demolition of the internal partition walls. Otherwise, we’d be very much out of pocket.

Things started to pick up regarding our house, in summer 2021 as viewings started. We were selling it ourselves, via Right Move Overseas and our own website, as well as via our social media channels, but it became increasingly more difficult to manage the viewings. It was difficult showing people around, and trying to be dispassionate, as viewers made judgments about our home. So, we appointed a real estate agency in April 2022 and interest went through the roof, culminating in an offer being accepted and legal documents drawn up. But, sometimes things don’t go as you expect them to and people often turn out to be flakey at best. Seriously unhinged, at worst. And this particular one decided to pull out just as the contract was about to be signed and the deposit paid. We were furious and devastated in equal measure, having felt that finally Lady Luck was on our side. But, a couple of weeks later, we’ve calmed down and have realised that what happened, was likely for the best.

Looking at it now, objectively and without the desire to get everything over the line, we think that in the long term this buyer would have been a potential nightmare, so we’re probably well rid. Had our sale gone ahead, we’d potentially have been looking to store our furniture and rent, as work was carried out on The Printworks. And, this would have been over the winter, as she wanted to move here full time, and as soon as possible. The other complication is that the original pre-contract expired at the beginning of May, but thankfully the summer has meant that things have progressed very slowly as annual holidays are taken VERY seriously here. We have kept up the rent payments, in good faith, but have now decided that the time has come to end things. The signs are telling us, very strongly and loudly, that the property isn’t right for us at the moment, so we’ve been clearing it out, ready to hand back the keys.

We’ve also taken out house off the market. Not forever. It’s going back on, hopefully in Spring 2023. By which time, Plan B should have been executed, meaning we can still realise a big part of our dream…

For now though, we’re looking forward to an autumn and winter of interior and exterior planning, plenty of demolition and rebuilding and a lovely house to be cosy and warm in, instead of the prospect of renting somewhere we don’t really like. Onwards and upwards!

 

Courgette & Tomato Soup

Courgette & Tomato Soup

Making a soup is definitely not difficult, especially a veggie one. I’ve made variations on this recipe before, usually making it up as I go along – because how difficult can a soup made of courgettes and tomatoes be? But I decided this time, I wanted something a little bit different, as all of the veggies had come from our garden. Grown from seed. So, this time, I wanted a soup to remember. And, boy, did I find one! It’s still super easy to make, but it packs a punch in flavour terms, as it also includes spicy paprika and a generous sprinkling of chilli flakes. As autumn approaches, and as your garden may have a glut of zucchini and tomatoes, this is definitely a recipe I’d add to your warming and wholesome collection…

INGREDIENTS

  • Tomatoes – ideally ripe tomatoes on the vine for the best flavour. I used a mix of larger beef tomatoes and smaller cherry tomatoes from the garden.
  • Courgettes – for this recipe I used one courgette – the one above – and it was definitely sufficient
  • Olive Oil – a nice big splash, to start cooking the courgettes
  • Large White Onion – red would work as well, I think, but I wanted a bit more depth of flavour
  • Plain Flour – a large, heaped tablespoon was used to thicken the soup
  • Veggie Stock – two cubes were more than enough, in about a litre of water, which I topped up as & when necessary, as the soup was cooking
  • Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped – dried basil would also work, but fresh was delicious
  • Spicy Paprika and/or Chilli Flakes – depends on how much of a kick of you want your soup to have. We like spice, so used both.
  • Tomato puree – a generous squeeze, for extra colour and richness of flavour
  • Salt & Pepper – according to your taste

METHOD

It really is a chuck-it-all-in-the-pot and let it do itself recipe. I heated the chopped onion and courgettes in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, sprinkling with plenty of salt and pepper. Once soft, I added the paprika and chilli flakes, then the chopped tomatoes and mixed in the plain flour, cooking for a further 10 minutes. The stock was added along with the basil leaves – leaving a few unchopped for garnish – and the tomato puree and simmered for about 40 minutes. The soup was whizzed up until smooth, given another 10 minutes on the hob, and then served with warm, crusty, granary bread. And, there ware more than enough for lunch next day…

Just need to now decide what to do with the beautiful courgette flowers, which are very abundant…

Recipe originally found here.

 

A Change of Direction

A Change of Direction

If the last couple of weeks have taught us anything, it’s that you need to be adaptable and always be prepared to change your direction. There’s absolutely no point in just ploughing on, when literally everything is telling you to stop and rethink. We’ve had a summer full of house viewings, one even going so far as contracts of sale being prepared. But, looking back, we realise now that without exception, literally everyone who viewed, was at best, a time-waster. Let’s not consider what they were at worst.

So, as summer comes to an end, it seems the right time to take stock. And finally admit to ourselves that our long held onto dream of The Printworks, may be over. Finished.

With our current, beautifully renovated home still not sold, we can’t go on forever, clinging onto the hope that the next viewers may be the ones. If they are, all fine and dandy, but it’s time to take things back under our control. So, a big change of direction is about to be implemented, which may or not involve our house being sold. Which may or not involve us taking on additional renovation work. Which may or not involve a radical move.

All we know is, we are back in charge again. We’re not dependent on the whims of people who love our house, build up our hopes and then dash them. It’s ALL now down to us. And we cannot wait for what may be about to happen.

 

 

Volta Gin & Wine Bar, Oprtalj

Volta Gin & Wine Bar, Oprtalj

Anyone who’s been to stay with us, will know that, as beautiful as Oprtalj is, it could be described as a “sleepy” little town. We have a restaurant, a gorgeous loggia, numerous festivals throughout the year, a mini-market, a post office, a cash point, a gift/interiors shop, an antique shop, a primary school and a boutique hotel. Plus, views to die for, across to the Adriatic. But, it’s definitely not Party Central. We did have a second restaurant and pre-Covid, a wine bar was just beginning to establish itself. The second restaurant is no longer and the original wine bar closed, as the owners decided to focus on their expanding olive oil business. So, when I spotted on Instagram a new account, describing itself as a Gin & Wine bar – in Oprtalj, no less – they got an immediate follow! Contact was established with the owner, and it was confirmed that this new venture would be opening where the original wine bar used to be located. Countdown was on to summer opening…

The owners, a couple from Zagreb, clearly have a long term plan. They know that everything won’t happen overnight, especially as they have only opened towards the end of the summer season. But with apartments they now run, above the bar, already fully booked for the remainder of the summer, they’ve clearly decided not to put all of their eggs in one basket. We recently visited quite late after eating in the local restaurant, but could see that they had had a steady stream of customers, which was a good sign. Food – probably along the lines of the traditional Istrian charcuterie boards – will be added at a later date, but the drinks menu was extensive, and with some unusual offerings, included a range of beers and ales from an independent craft brewery  – BruMan – in nearby Buzet. Wines ranged from the extremely reasonable to quite expensive, if you wanted to push out the boat, and a good range of cocktails are also available.

By a twist of fate, the bar is called Volta. For those of you familiar with West Didsbury, you’ll know we have a huge fondness for a bar of the very same name, run by our old friends, Luke & Justin, from way back when we were at Manchester Polytechnic and flat sharing. So, Volta in Oprtalj was always going to be a winner for us…

 

 

 

 

Picking Ourselves Up

Picking Ourselves Up

It’s fair to say that the last two and a bit weeks have been one big roller-coaster of emotions. We are selling our renovated stone house in Istria, to enable us to finance the renovation of another building, not too far away. With hindsight – which is obviously a wonderful thing – we put it on the market at the worst time possible. The summer of 2020. Lockdown. Maybe we should have just stopped marketing the house and sat it out until slightly better times arrived. But, we didn’t and so we feel that the house has been on the market forever. Of course it hasn’t and looking at things realistically, whilst we were having no viewings, much, much worse things were happening across the world as a result of Covid. As things started to look a little more optimistic in summer 2021, we took the decision to list with an estate agency. Viewings did happen, but again, with hindsight, we see now that serious buyers were still not really even dipping their toes into the water, as people visiting Istria were still well down on previous years. We took comfort from the many enquiries which came in via our listing on Rightmove Overseas, perhaps deliberately ignoring that most enquiries were never going to go anywhere. Most were quite brusque, even rude. Rarely did we get a reply to the quite extensive information we’d send out. And then when we did, it usually became apparent that the interest wasn’t actually that great – or realistic – at all. We recently took our listing down.

But earlier this year we had a breakthrough. We ditched the initial estate agents and listed instead with a new, vibrant agency, who absolutely understood how to market a property. We have had a lot of exposure via their own website and social media channels and have subsequently had increased viewings by people who seem genuinely motivated to purchase a property in Istria. They are working hard on our behalf – and yes, you could say, “Well they would, wouldn’t they?” because if they sell, they get a fee – but so be it. If a sale comes as a result of their work, then fine. We feel confident that they will find our buyer, and so we are still very happy with them. Their work with us has been a breakthrough and we feel we are in good hands.

So, why the need to pick ourselves up?

Because our world has been turned pretty much upside down, after a series of events the last two weeks. To cut a long story short, we had a walk in viewing a couple of weekends ago. The person viewing was pretty much bowled over by the house and its decor and its surroundings. She had been trying to find a house in Istria for some months, and having just viewed a property close by which was unsuitable, saw our “For Sale” sign and asked to view. We decided that after lots of walk-ins, which have amounted to absolute zilch, we would not just immediately agree to show people around. We wanted to gauge their level of interest, so we advised that there & then was not convenient, and could she and her husband return later. Which, to be fair, they did – and after viewing, made a verbal offer of the asking price. She was keen. Boy, was she keen! She was very concerned that someone else might view and make an offer and she wanted to pay a deposit asap, offering us her official documents – we’re not sure why at this stage and could only assume as some kind of assurance that she was serious. We agreed that once the deposit was paid, we’d cease all marketing of the property.

I contacted our solicitor the next day who advised me he was on holiday but would still begin to draw up the pre-contract (a standard procedure here), the next day, so as to facilitate her request to get things moving. This was communicated to the buyer – a tiny ring of an alarm bell was set off, when rather than acknowledging that our solicitor was prepared to work whilst on holiday, and very quickly, she hoped that there would be “no dragging of feet”. However, this little ring was put right at the back of mind, as we were now getting to a very momentous point in the long journey of our house sale.

Our buyer returned to Germany, and as expected, she had lots of questions. These were all welcomed, as we have absolutely nothing to hide. Our own website is extensive in terms of information. We have an Instagram account which is a truthful record of our journey in the house from Day 1. Our blog details even further all aspects of our move and the full renovation. She requested more photographs, so rather than send images via email, I gave her links to all of our platforms. Possibly, in hindsight, I should have just sent a few photos…

As I would do, she trawled through everything I sent her. I expected her to do this – after all, buying a home (and it would be her new full time home) is not a small purchase and you need to be as fully informed as possible. However, I would also be a little bit circumspect and realise that a photo or a blog post, captures a moment in time. And this is where I started to feel that things weren’t perhaps going as positively as they had been when she viewed.

She had concerns about where the shadows fell in the garden. We had discussed this as we walked around the property, and maybe I hadn’t grasped how she would become fixated by shadows, but I also emailed, in depth, explaining what the garden was like at various times of the year. I also tried to explain, that when you have a property, and there are structures near it – ie our green wall and our stone cottage – shadows will be cast at certain times. Thankfully, she seemed reassured and advised me that she was happy and all was still going ahead. But this didn’t last long – a flurry of emails came in, all based on photographs she’d seen on our Instagram feed or a blog she’d read, some going back two or three years. When she viewed, we explained that we did not have air con – our home is warm and cosy in the winter, and in the summer, we use fans when necessary, and as it was not installed initially, we’ve not wanted the disruption of having it put in. However, she’d found a blog – and believe you me, I’ve tried to find it to ascertain exactly what I wrote, but can’t – where I alluded to the fact that at times, air con could be a “bonus”. I can’t have it both ways, apparently and she intimated that I had not been honest with her. She referred to a photo I had posted of a screenshot of my Iphone weather app. This showed, in February last year, that the lowest point the temperature could reach, in the middle of the night was -7. This apparently was more evidence of me not being truthful, as I had told her that in general, winters here are quite mild but can get chilly, and that every year we have been here, we have had snow, but it is fleeting. I also explained to her how to interpret the “temperatures” on such an app, as I felt that things were now being picked up on and perhaps starting to be used as a get-out. I also explained that had the temperature actually fallen to -7, I would probably have recalled it as it would have been cold!

However, she once again reassured me, and urged that the pre-contract be delivered as she wanted to press on and transfer the deposit payment. Just over a week after her initial viewing, the pre-contract was indeed drafted by our solicitor, whilst still on holiday. It was at this stage, she decided she wanted it in German. Absolutely fine, but it had been drafted according to Croatian law, with one version in Croatian and a second, in the accepted common language of English. Had she requested a German version sooner, this could have been put into place, but a delay was now created whilst our solicitor – still trying to enjoy his vacation – arranged for a court interpreter to organise a German copy. What a waste of time this was, as she decided later that day, she didn’t need it in German, after all. Much rolling of eyes ensued…

The contract was sent to her and she emailed to say “all going ahead”, and we waited on tenterhooks for her signed copy to be returned. Only, it wasn’t returned. I got an email that afternoon, which ended with the phrase, “I will not buy it!!” Two exclamation marks also included. Gutted doesn’t come into it, but now that we have reflected and calmed down, the reasons she gave have made us realise that this was probably never meant to be, and that we have probably avoided a much more complicated situation. She had decided against it, as in her words, “…there were too many restrictions on the property…” This was refuted immediately and forcefully by our solicitor as we have ALL documentation to prove ownership and boundaries, and there is nothing to suggest any kind of restriction on any part of our home/land. The shadows made a return appearance, making us realise that whatever we said, her mind was made up. And, because we had chosen to have a potted garden, rather than dig up concrete to plant permanently, we had, in her words, “dodged everything”. Make of that what you will.

So, here we are. Back to Square One. House still for sale. Feelings swinging between anger and sadness. But, as the saying goes, everything happens for a reason, and this is the only way we can look at it. We think, being realistic, The Printworks dream is over as the pre-contract we entered into has ended and the seller has intimidated he is now looking for more money. On balance, we think we’ll now walk away and start to look in a different direction. A very different direction. And hopefully, in time, our brush with the ultimate time-waster, will become a very distant memory.

 

Boutique B&B Mali Pariz, Marušići, Crikvenica

Boutique B&B Mali Pariz, Marušići, Crikvenica

Every now and again, you stumble upon the most perfect place to stay. It happened to us last year when we discovered The Dolphin Suites, on the beautiful island of Veli Lošinj. And it’s happened to us again this year, having discovered the most wonderful little boutique B&B, in a renovated villa, high up in the hills above Crikvenica on the Adriatic coast of Croatia.

We finally had family out to visit us for three weeks – the first time since 2019 – and when we took them back down south to Zadar to fly home, we decided to do a stop over, to break up the journey home. However, my chosen hotel – the Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel – in the historical centre of Zadar, was fully booked, so the search was on to find something as unusual and special. And this was when we stumbled upon Boutique B&B Mali Pariz (“Little Paris”).

Coming off the coast road – The Adriatic Highway – we wound our way up into quite hilly territory. Renovated villas nestled next to very contemporary new builds, all with spectacular views across the bay to the northern Croatian islands. Tiny villages emerged around hairpin bends, with the obligatory abandoned houses and churches, being reclaimed by nature. We climbed higher and higher, not sure what we were going to find at our destination – but we need not have been concerned, It was just gorgeous.

A very elegant, pale pink early nineteenth century, with shuttered windows and a huge double wooden front door revealed itself as Mali Pariz, with the the hand-painted signage on the side of the building. Through the grey iron gates, the prettiest courtyard was revealed. Pea-gravels paths, lots of plants in terracotta and zinc containers, established fruit trees and creepers, growing across the walls. Hanging baskets and pots on window sills. A raised area with different sized tables and chairs. Candle holders. Hurricane lamps. Strings of lights in the trees. And, a tantalising glimpse of a upper level, with sun umbrellas and loungers – and hidden from view, so completely private, a swimming pool.

There are only seven rooms available in this boutique hotel – two family suites on the ground floor, two doubles on the first floor and two doubles in the eaves of the house, as well as a stand alone annexe in the garden. Our room was a deluxe double in the attic, up two flights of wooden stairs and through very pretty landing areas, with lots of French style furnishings.

Being right at the top of the house, the ceiling could be an issue as it sloped down, almost to ground level on both sides. It’s probably best to remember, at all times, that there are low beams, both above the seating area and the bed. As cute as our room was, the jewel in the crown of this little hotel, is definitely the outside space. Hidden behind the big gates, it’s completely private and as pretty as picture.

Breakfast is included in the room rate, but for an additional (very reasonable) charge, Martina, the owner, will prepare an evening meal, which we were very grateful for, not arriving until 7.30pm. The nearest large town, Crikvenica, is a drive away and we didn’t fancy heading out again, especially as the garden looked so alluring as dusk set in. I think because we hadn’t pre-ordered, we largely had to take what was on offer and we were offered pasta, which was fine with us. However, we definitely didn’t expect such a simple dish – spaghetti with tomato, garlic and basil – and a rocket salad, smothered in nutty olive oil, to be quite so delicious. This is our staple kind of week night dinner, but whatever Martina did with it, it was super gorgeous. Maybe it was a combination of the setting and her excellent white wine…

Self service breakfast was simple, but substantial – meats, cheeses, bread, juices, coffee – and eggs. We opted for an omelette, which was perfect – light and fluffy but browned, just right. And again, sitting under a fig tree, and surrounded by oleanders, as the hot sun shine down on the terrace, was lovely. However, the best thing was the relaxed approach to the morning. Although check out is stated as 11am, I got the distinct impression that if you were a little later, there would be no problem. And with breakfast being served until 11am, it all felt very laid back. We had the most amazing weather – in fact, the whole summer in Croatia, has been amazing – but this little boutique B&B is also well set up if the weather is a little more inclement, with a very pretty glass walled internal dining room.

If you are looking to stay somewhere that is right in the centre of the action, with bars and restaurants on the doorstep, we definitely wouldn’t recommend you book a night or two here. But, if like us, you’re looking for peace, quiet, relaxation and somewhere that is beautifully quirky, we definitely would recommend Mali Pariz. A little bit of French chic, up the hills, on the Adriatic coast.

 

 

 

Medica Agroturizam, Medici, Istria

Medica Agroturizam, Medici, Istria

Not too far from our house, but a little off the beaten track, along a country road, through beautiful scenery, to the end of the village of Medici, is the last of the closest restaurants to us, which we’re ashamed to say we only investigated recently. We’ve always known about Medica, as it is signposted form the road, and we’ve read fantastic reviews, but we always found a reason to go somewhere else. So, on a very hot, sunny, May weekend afternoon, we decided to put this right and make a visit.

You wouldn’t get here without transport, and as there is no public transport in these parts to speak of, you would need a car. Or a friendly driver who didn’t mind taking a hit on the vino. It’s pretty isolated, being right at the end of the track, but with views like these, across the Mirna Valley, who cares? Motovun can be seen, on top of the hill, on the right of the photo, and just out of view, Oprtalj. Breath-taking.

The car par was full when we arrived and there was only one table available outside on the terrace, so we were lucky we arrived when we did. I think all of the cars, apart from ours, had Italian licence registration plates. Conversations all around us were conducted in Italian and the owners spoke only in Italian. Unsurprising that our part of Istria is often compared to Tuscany or Umbria.

The set-up is as simple as can be. On ordering our drinks, we were given a choice – vino rosso or vino bianco. No wine list. But we knew that the wine would be good – restaurants around here, which produce their own wine, have to make sure it’s good, otherwise people will just go elsewhere. After all, we’re not short of options. Mezzo litro di vino bianco ordered and we were onto the food. Again, a very limited menu, but this time there was a menu…

No fuss. No frills. A sheet of A4 inside a plastic wallet – very handy as menus will change according what is available, although I would be urging that they lose the caps lock! Because we were eating later in the evening, and had only really come to check it out, we opted for sharing portions, rather than main meals.

Homemade bread – warm and fresh – was the perfect accompaniment to a plate of Istrian cheese, which had a parmesan texture and taste, and olives. The frittata con tartufo was perfect – clearly made with the freshest of eggs, and resembling more scrambled eggs than a traditional omelette style frittata – and laced through with truffle cream and topped with truffle shavings. A portion of patate in tecia was ordered as we are on a mission to try this dish whenever it appears on the menu, as it’s gorgeous. It’s a mashed potato dish, cooked in a tecia, a flat cast iron pan, sometimes like hash browns, or sometimes, like the one served in Medica, like bubble & squeak, with its browned top and bottom. I think we can safely that probably everything we ate and drank came from with 50 metres of our table, as the agroturizam is also a small holding, with olive groves, sheep, goats, hens, rabbits, cattle and a couple of pot-bellied pigs, as well as donkeys and ponies and a variety of birds. Which I think were to add to the small zoo feeling, rather than menu items. Although I couldn’t say for absolute certainty…

So, another really delightful restaurant, not too far at all from our house. Although it’s not fine dining by any stretch of the imagination it’s really good, wholesome, homegrown food, definitely served with love by the owners.

Please Do Your Homework…

Please Do Your Homework…

If there’s one thing we do in this whole process of attempting to sell our renovated home in Istria, it’s provide information – LOTS OF IT – so that anyone who is potentially interested in it, can make an informed decision about whether it’s right for them, very early on.

Initially, we didn’t really refer to a swimming pool on our website and in other places, other than to state we don’t have one. Because, you know, we don’t have one. But, it became increasingly clear we were going to have to be a whole lot more blatant, because when viewings commenced after travel restrictions were eased, we found we were often being met with puzzlement. Because, there was no pool. So, we made it clearer on our website etc that although there is the space to install a small pool or a plunge pool, there isn’t one currently. We found we were almost having to justify why we didn’t have one, and this really started to irritate as it should have been so obvious a pool wouldn’t magically appear. Thankfully, we seem to have got this particular message across – and if asked, we do now politely suggest that should the viewers proceed to buying the property, they might want to consider installing one.

But something new has reared its head – something we’d not even considered.

Our house & gardens (front & rear) would be perfect for someone looking for a holiday home, with *manageable* outdoor space. We do not own any additional land/fields – as we are sometimes asked, even though we make it VERY clear on our website what do actually own, externally. We’re really quite surprised by the number of people who enquire – and often subsequently view – our home, who have on their list of requirements either “land” or a “field”. We can only assume they pay scant regard to the images and textual information as there is NO reference to either, and this does make us wonder what goes on in some people’s heads. These people who enquire – and sometimes take it as far as viewing before revealing this nugget – haven’t come from the next village. They’ve often travelled quite a distance, and usually from another European country. I think I’d want to be pretty certain that what I was putting in an awful lot of effort to view, at least ticked my main boxes so that I didn’t waste my time, and potentially build up the hopes of the people selling.

Most viewings are for the house to be used as a holiday home/let or a second home. And, for us, this kind of begs the question – would you really want to buy a holiday home & also take on the responsibility of more land/fields?

Who’d look after it in your absence? Things grow very quickly here, so you might find you’d be starting your holiday tackling an overgrown field ? Or, you’d have to find someone local, who could look after the land on your behalf, especially if you were letting the house out to visitors. I can’t imagine anyone would appreciate rocking up on holiday and finding they had no view as they couldn’t see beyond the overgrown field.

What would you actually do with it? Soil here is rich, thick, red clay – without a lot of additional work, it’s difficult to imagine doing anything other than growing crops. And, as lovely as this idea is, who’d look after your field of crops in your absence? Who’d treat the crops & harvest them? Who’d actually eat all of the produce? Would they be just left to wither and rot, if you weren’t here full time?

And, finally, if your thinking is to buy a house with a field/additional land attached or nearby, to build on or install a pool, we’ll save your time right now. You’ve NO CHANCE. Land here, which is designated as arable, can’t be built on. There may be ways for locals to get around this, but as someone coming in & planning to develop their property, you really would be wasting your time.

But, if you still think you definitely want a field, I think we can say, quite categorically, our home is absolutely not for you.You’d be wasting your time coming to view it. You might be viewing a number of different properties in the area, and decide to view ours too, as it looks nice and a bit unusual, but with no intention of taking things any further. A bit of a filler for you, on a day of viewings, perhaps. Please don’t do this. It’s cruel. With every single viewing, we ensure that our home is in the best state possible and this takes up a lot of our time. We emotionally invest in every single viewing, as it could THE ONE. We care about our home and who it might be owned by next, so it’s always a bit of a blow to find out that someone really hasn’t done their homework.

We know that the next custodians of our home are out there, and they will most probably be people who we’ll really like, because if they go as far as purchasing, we’re pretty sure they’ll have left no stone un-turned. They won’t have unrealistic expectations as they will know we don’t have a pool, but won’t be fazed at the idea of actually rolling up their sleeves and having one installed. They won’t have the pipe-dream of a “field” because they recognise all of the above points if they are purchasing the house as second home or holiday let. And they will probably be super happy that our (very large) front garden is incredibly low maintenance, so they can get on pretty quickly with putting their feet up and relaxing, in their new Istrian holiday home…

 

A Vision : From Beautiful Home to Boutique Hotel

A Vision : From Beautiful Home to Boutique Hotel

Our renovated house, in beautiful northern Istria, is for sale. We have thought since Day One, that it would sell to people like us. People who wanted to either live in it it full time, or use it as a holiday home, for themselves, family and friends. We think this will most likely still happen, as the enquiries which are now translating into serious viewings, are generally from people who want to do one or the other.

However, we’ve started thinking a little bit outside of the box, and have realised that our market – because of where we are located – is actually potentially much wider than we initially thought.

Not Just A Home…

As we drive around Istria, especially in the north, we’re seeing more and more stone houses being renovated. This is wonderful to see, as however beautiful we think they are in their abandoned states, they will just continue to fall into further disrepair. Some of these properties are clearly being renovated to become holiday homes, but some are a lot more interesting to us – they are being, or have been, renovated to become very small, but very beautiful, boutique hotels. Some are one-offs, and some are outposts of other hotels, already established and successful. And this has got us really thinking about the wider possibilities of our renovated house. Presumably, at some point in the past, all of these properties were homes, like ours, and now they have taken on a new character. So, maybe ours could, too…

Constructed of Istrian stone, and built over three floors, our home could potentially be converted into a small hotel. We currently have three double bedrooms, with a further living space (one of three) being perfect for a fourth room, with ample space for an en-suite facility. We have a large living room, a dining room – with a very, very unique exposed and illuminated (although very safe as covered with reinforced glass) well chamber, which guests will love – and a fully renovated kitchen. Although not huge, the kitchen is fitted with everything that a small residence might need initially, but The Well Room could definitely accommodate a larger kitchen if required.

The main bedroom (top photo) is very definitely large enough to accommodate quite a spacious en-suite. The upstairs bathroom is situated in the room behind where the wardrobe stands, so plumbing would be a fairly easy job for someone who knew what they were doing. The other two bedrooms aren’t as large – but for a person with vision, this wouldn’t be a problem. Currently, with a partition wall between them, it would be a fairly easy task to take this down to create a large room, with an en-suite. These en-suites would pinch space from the current bathroom, but as it would be no longer needed, the area left could be the perfect storage space for linens, towels etc etc.

Knocking two rooms together would obviously decrease the number of rooms available for guests, and a boutique offering, however beautiful, but with only two en-suite rooms, would be less appealing as a project than one with three rooms. So, to get that third room – and a large room it is too – we have a very unique room at the bottom of the house, accessed by stairs from the living room. Our Snug…

This room could become perfect private accommodation, with an en-suite bathroom installed under the stairs (behind the curtains), and access either down the stairs from the upper floor – or, with a bit of imagination and investment, the window could be transformed into a doorway, with steps leading up and into the rear garden.

And, talking of which – if a boutique retreat is something which get your imagination going, we also have a small stone cottage included in the sale of the property. This currently in what we like to call a “rustic condition” – it is definitely not habitable, as the roof and walls would need serious attention. But, for the right person, this could be an amazing project. It could become a self-contained annexe, therefore providing additional accommodation space. If demolished, the beautiful stones could be used to create a boundary wall around what would become a very large rear, private garden. Certainly large enough to install a small pool. We think that this additional property, is the icing on the cake of our sale and with someone in charge, who had a clear vision and the finances to allow it, it would become an absolute hidden gem.

Very close by, are a number of properties which have been converted sympathetically and restored, to create beautiful boutique accommodation. Take a look at these and if you feel inspired, why not get in touch with us for a chat? Alternatively, have a look at our website, as a starting point

Casa Ars Natura, Groznjan http://casa-ars-natura.istria-hotel.com/en

Melegran in the Hills, Biloslavi https://melegran.com/melegran-in-the-hills

Fig Tree House, Bale http://fig-tree-house.istria-hotel.com/en