We file into the office to sign the Compromesso . There is ‘Uncle’ Francesca at the top of the table, and there are three middle aged cousins, Chiara and Paulo who are sister and brother and Marco who looks like he had a late night out on the town and just stopped by on his way home.
Also in the room there are the estate agents, the geometra, Lizzy the notary at the top of the table, and on our side of the table Laura, Ronan, me and our friend Lucia who is there to be our interpreter.
So we are all ready. Lizzy begins to read the 20 page document. She gets half way through the first sentence and ‘Uncle’ Francesca pipes up with a protest. I catch Paulo looking at the ceiling and muttering ‘Mama Mia’. Lizzy’s lips are getting tighter, Uncle Francesca has a bunch of papers in her hand from her ever growing large file, she’s quite irate, Lizzy waits till Francesca burns out everything that she has to say and then calmly says something back. But it sets Francesca off ranting again. Marco’s phone is ringing, he takes the call.
All of a sudden Lucia, who is supposed to be here just to translate, is shouting at ‘Uncle’ Francesca. The estate agent is nodding in agreement.
I whisper loudly, “Lucia what the frock is going on?”
“She’s crazy, she thinks she knows better than the notary about getting the court document changed. No one knows more than the notary. That is why she studied for years, you don’t argue with the notary, it is like arguing with a judge you just do what they tell you to do. And that is what I told her.”
The notary continues to read, Marco continues his call. If Francesca is going to object to every sentence I can’t imagine how long this will take.
Twelve pages in and we have had no further interruptions just a few fact checks back and forth between the geometer and the notary. It was all going well until the part we came to about the buildings that need to be destroyed.
It’s a heated discussion, everyone except our side of the table is ranting. Sure I might as well join in. “Scusi” I shout, the room quietens, “Momento”, I’m quickly running out of all the Italian words I know. “I need to know what is being said, so can you kindly wait until Lucia has time to translate for me.”
“They must agree to destroy the buildings before you can buy it.”
“Which buildings need to go?” I know the one at the end of the garden has to go but which of the two others, the garage or the side building? I point to the plans where both are called ‘Fondo’. “It is not these, these are okay they have the permissions. It is the attachment to the back.” She’s talking about the small ugly perspex porch at the back door.
“That?! … That’s brutto,(ugly) I’d have that down by myself in an hour, we were getting rid of it anyway. We’ll take care of it. We’ll look after the destroying.”
The notary and geometer are looking at me a bit bewildered. “Si?”
“It’s Ronan’s birthday next week, I’ll buy him a sledge hammer.”
“But it’s a lot of work.”
“We are good at destroying things. If it speeds things up here, we’ll take the responsibility.”
“Okay then, if you are sure,” Lizzy scribbles notes in the margin.
By the time she is finished going through the document two hours have passed. Just as she is finished I say, “Can we note that it is sold as furnished?” I have done my research, I know that if you don’t state furnished in Italy then they can remove everything that is not screwed to the wall such as kitchens, light fittings, bulbs, sometimes bathroom suites and it’s important you note everything you want included in the sale. I’m thinking of the wrought iron bed, the marble table and the sofas I now want to upholster. There are also some nice light fittings.
The notary asks the three cousins, they are saying ‘si, si’ and shoulder shrugging, but I notice ‘Uncle’ Francesca looking flustered out the corner of my eye. “Okay?” asks the notary directly to Uncle. ‘Si’ she says, her hands lift off the table a little.
We’re now going to take a break, while the notary’s secretary makes the amendments to the deed.
Uncle is up on her feet, she takes her phone and explains she needs to go to the pharmacy. She’s gone out the door before we notice she has left her purse behind. Chiara runs after her with it.
Uncle Francesca is back quickly, the notary is still busy preparing the final document and Mario, Ronan and the geometer have gone outside for a cigarette.
Uncle sits and shuffles through her papers. Marco is looking at her, waiting for her to make eye contact, it’s not working so he says something to her. Silence falls in the room, I don’t know what he said but the atmosphere has shifted. Within seconds their voices are raised at each other. I don’t know where to look, embarrassed for them having a full blown row here in front of strangers.
Paulo is on his laptop and his sister is scrolling through Facebook. She laughs and then shows Paulo a short video of a cat falling off a shelf, I know because she pushes it across the table to show me too, leaning under and avoiding Marco’s pointed finger at Francesca, “I have a cat like this!” she says loudly in Italian so that I can hear her above the shouting. Neither of them seem at all bothered that their cousin is shouting at their 78-year-old aunt and that she is alone in her fight back.
“What is happening?” I ask Laura.
“The cat missed the shelf.” she says laughing at the video.
“I mean with this.” I nod towards the war going on in the room that only I seem to be noticing.
“Ah, okay, they are arguing about a previous inheritance. He believes Uncle Francesca took more than she should have. It was in 1978 and their families have been arguing about this since then.”
I want to break into the theme tune of Frozen ‘Let it go’.
Chiara and Paulo are complaining of being starving. This quietens Marco and Uncle Francesca. If it is one thing Italians can mutually agree on is food, nothing interferes with their three hour lunch breaks. They are all agreeing that they are starving.
At last we get to sign the document and everyone leaves.
Two days later we stop by the house, I want to measure the shutters. Ronan tries the back door and it’s open, so we go in and walk around. Something doesn’t feel right, something has changed and I can’t put my finger on it. The house looks sadder, more derelict and I don’t know what it is. I notice a broken tile on the ground in the doorway of the kitchen and then I figure it out.
“Was there a door here before?”
We’re both standing staring at an empty doorway, wondering if there was a door there before. We walk through to the next room the door is off it’s hinges and lying against the wall.
“That’s odd… I think I would have remembered noticing that before.”
Ronan goes down the hallway. “There’s no door here either… There were doors, weren’t there?” We’re both doubting ourselves.
Then I remember that I took a walk through video on my phone, the last time we were here. I’m scrolling and eventually find it. I’m looking and looking and yes there it is, a door. There were definitely doors here and now they are gone!
I’m already running up the stairs. Three empty doorways, not just the doors gone but the frames also. And two more doors lie waiting against the wall waiting to be collected. The lock on the apartment has been busted open. We go to the next level, more doors and frames gone, plaster splattered on the floor from the walls where the frames have been prised from. All together there are nine doors gone and three more lined up to be taken.
Then I notice, the marble table and chairs and the wrought iron bed are also gone. “What the frock? No!”
I’m raging. I use Google translate and leave a scrawled note for Uncle Francesca. ‘Francesca, Return the doors and furniture or the deal is off.’
Come back next Monday for more 😉
If you missed Part 3 of Buying a House In Italy Click here to read it