Tried to buy an Italian house that included a ghost that wasn’t dead yet

The 16th century structure was elegant on the outside but ruined on the inside. An entrance arch for the horses separated the bedrooms on the first floor, each with cross-ribbed roofs. A faded fresco adorned a back wall. A twisting stone staircase to the second floor and terrace, from where a view of the sea could be savored with the wine I dreamed of making in the endless garden that would be turned into a vineyard.

We parked our Lancia on the side of the road and met the agent outside the house, but I soon realized that I would be buying my wine from the local wine shop a little longer and that the buying the property would be much more difficult than renovating it.

The local Daniela beach in Puglia, southern Italy, one kilometer from where we tried to buy a house.

The property, the agent explained, shielding his eyes from the sun and prying eyes, was currently divided between two children and their widow.momwho, unlike the children, refused to give up her room on the second floor. She no longer lived there, but her heart was still there.

“Apparently she had a love affair in there,” he explained, “and can’t emotionally part with the piece until she dies. The kids live in Milan, never come back here and tried to convince her to sell but she didn’t budge.

I imagined the words “on my corpse” appearing in these negotiations.

The family at a local party in my wife's fishing village.

The family at a local party in my wife’s fishing village. Credit:Author’s picture

“It’s not nice to say it,” the agent continued, “but she’s very old and probably won’t be around for long, but until she dies I’m afraid the house is for sale minus his share.”

It was the same story with the garden, aka my vineyard. Only two-thirds were up for grabs. We would own the vines but not the grapes.

“But don’t worry,” the agent sought to reassure us, “it will be written in the contract that on the death of the mother, her room will be sold to the buyer of the rest of the property, for a price at agree later.”

Well, in that case, where do I sign?

Daniela thanked the agent and wished him luck with this unlikely sale. Then our own negotiations began.

“Why don’t we call the old woman’s doctor and ask her how long?” ” I suggest. “Perhaps we could offer him a free bottle of my first vintage in exchange for the information.”

“No, you couldn’t do that,” said Daniela’s mom, who has yet to embrace deadpan humor.

“We could restore the house,” Daniela speculated, “by excluding this room, and then when the woman dies, we can finish it.”

Nothing wrong with his sense of humor, though.

Houses in the nearby town of Castro.

Houses in the nearby town of Castro. Credit:Author’s picture

“The only thing we need to end is this nonsensical conversation,” I suggested. “Anyone who buys this house is buying a headache. I wouldn’t touch the place with a gondola pole. (The Italians don’t make houseboats.)

In some countries you buy houses with ghost stories. In Italy, the horror story is the purchase itself. Despite being close to the mother-in-law, a second story on Daniela’s house was the least scary option.

So the next time you’re browsing €1 daydreams for sale in southern Italy, my advice is to come to your senses and close the tab.

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