FCI 032 – Under the Puglia Sun with Paul and Steven

By Rick

April 4, 2016

villa under the puglia sunI wrote a blog post a few years ago about buying property in Italy. I’ve never actually made the dive, but I’ve looked into it… so of course I felt qualified to speak as an expert.

Anyway, the Tweet that I’ve sent out for this particular post is: “Buying property in Italy. My concise guide to your inevitable descent into madness and regret.”Tweet: “Buying property in Italy. My concise guide to your inevitable descent into madness and regret.” http://ctt.ec/bNYdR+ @RickZullo1 #expats

I’ve received feedback from a few Italians over the years who’ve asked, “Why does every mid-level manager from Milwaukee suddenly want to pick up a hammer, call himself a carpenter, and move to Tuscany?”

Well, it’s true, right? Anybody who reads this blog has probably entertained the same fantasy—including me.

The stories that eventually turn into Hollywood films are always some version of pastoral bliss. A country house with a view of rolling vineyards, quirky but friendly neighbors, and enough Chianti to drown yourself. Sure, there are the comical scenes of roofs collapsing and other reconstruction setbacks. But everybody has a good laugh in the end, and the village residents all come over to welcome their new expat neighbor with baskets full of Italian goodies. Then everybody sits down at a long, outdoor table to savor the bounty of life in Italia.  Ahhh…

But wait! What about the permits and the unreliable contractors and the pizzo and the lack of infrastructure and the sudden discovery of an ancient cistern that triples the cost and quadruples the amount of time required? Oh, Hollywood forgot to mention all of that!

Well, suffice to say that both versions have some truth to them, as my guests on today’s podcast episode will share with us. They’ve experienced it all first hand—the tragedies and the triumphs—and now have settled in to a comfortable, fulfilling lifestyle in rural Puglia.

Under the Puglia Sun

villa cappelli in PugliaOver 12 years ago, while visiting his family in Terlizzi, Puglia, Paul literally stumbled upon a villa in the Italian countryside. It was in ruins. Here was this historic site along the ancient Via Appia Traiana without purpose or life. But there was something magical about the place, so while Paul’s kids ran all over the property in sheer delight, he knew this would be an amazing home someday.

Paul says, “From the moment we stepped foot on this property, we felt the need to restore its soul. In the process, it has restored ours.”

Over the years, Paul and Steven have painstakingly restored this historic villa to the beautiful home it is now. But they didn’t stop there. Surrounded by ancient olive groves, vineyards, and fruit trees, they decided it was time to share all of these wonders with everyone else. That is how Villa Cappelli was born.

Ridiculous Rituals in Italy

This episode of my podcast is actually half of a “podcast exchange” that we did. Recently I was honored to be a guest on their brilliant podcast, where they asked me about one of my favorite topics: Superstitions in Italy.villacappelli2

This always makes for a lively discussion, and inevitably I wind up adding a few more wacky examples to my on-going list. Check out my guest appearance on their podcast here:

Living Villa Cappelli Podcast

Furthermore, my cohorts in expat rebellion (C.O.S.I.) are weighing in on the general topic of “Ridiculous Rituals in Italy,” which has the potential to cover SO many different points, from personal hygiene to food rules to health obsessions, and yes, superstitions.

Here’s my irascible crew for your entertainment pleasure:

Paul and Steven at Villa Cappelli

Villa_Cappelli_Paul_and_StevenThe conversation also covers the cultural differences between the U.S. and Italy. Paul has a really unique perspective. He was born in Pisa, moved to New York at age seven, spent summer in Italy growing up, then eventually moved back to his mother’s hometown in Puglia.

Steven is more like most other expats who is encountering all of the nuances of Italian culture for the first time. So it was really interesting to hear two different perspectives on the same experience.

I’d like to give a big GRAZIE to Paul and Steven for being on my podcast today, and sharing their passion for Italy with me. If you’re planning a trip to this region, make sure to check out their website which highlights their villa and the surrounding areas in Puglia, as well as an eStore where you can purchase their outstanding extra virgin olive oil.

Click the link to check out other episodes and see my list of the best podcasts about Italy.

Recent Posts:

About the author

Living in the Caput Mundi and trying to decipher Italian culture for the English speaking world.

  • Rick – As an American who lived in Italy for several years and who was married in Tuscany in 2013, and return a couple times a year, really enjoy your posts and points of view.

    But I must ask if you think your point of view about purchasing property is affected by you living in Rome? Outside of Rome in Tuscany, Umbria, or points North, we have had several friends that have found reliable craftsmen, projects that have finished on time and under budget, and no issues with pizzo, ecc. Rome isn’t typical Italy anymore than Manhattan is the US. Love both those incredible cities.

    • Ciao Doug! I agree that Rome isn’t “typical” Italy, but what is? In any case, it’s not an easy question to answer accurately, because there are so many factors involved and anecdotal experiences will vary greatly. While I’ve seen both the agony and ecstasy of living in Italy, I often make a conscious choice to present the contrarian point of view on my blog, mostly because 90% of what’s written is an unbalanced recount of the opposite extreme. A dose reality now and then is a good thing. I think it makes us appreciate the best parts of Italy even more. Thanks so much for your comments… I love a good discussion on this topic. Ciao!

      • Rick – I hear you. The “Tuscan Sun” syndrome makes me cringe as well. I appreciate you providing some perspective. Looking forward to you upcoming posts.

        And of course, if we do take the plunge and buy in Italy, you’ll be on the short list for an invite. With no need to bring a hammer………..

        A presto,


  • Hi Rick,
    I always enjoy your blog and of course, Rome that I visited first many years as a girl/foreign exchange student from Germany. Then I married an moved to CA but we still go there frequently. What is a good site or info to buy a modest apartment in a nice section of Rome, close to the center. Can be small… we are once again thinking about this but don’t know where to start. We usually rent an apt when we go to Rome and had very nice and flexible landlords over the years at very reasonable prices but don’t know where to start. Any hints would be helpful. We are not wealthy….


      • I agree with Rick, rent first if you decide you like the area and the people you can then look at buying a house.

        The first house we rented was in a little village surrounded by fields, it was a beautiful setting, until the farmer planted his crop of rice and flooded the fields with water.

        In Italy water = mosquitos which equals a miserable summer.

        Before leaving the house to walk to the local shop we would spray ourselves with anti mosquito chemicals, it was impossible to sit outside and have a Barbeque

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Channel Your Inner Italian!

    Whether you're preparing for an upcoming vacation, trying to reconnect with your family's roots, or if you just want to emulate the joyful and healthy lifestyle of Mediterranean Italy, then get started by downloading one (or all) of my FREE guides to Italian living at its best!