1200m up a beautiful Italian mountain with views across the stunning Tiber valley and over the border into Umbria… Franciacorta all round, please, barman!
Before we start renovating, I thought I’d offer it up as a location for film and video shoots… fashion shoots… ‘mountainside decay’ springs to mind… roll up, roll up!
We first saw this incredible property in June 2020 on our way back from seeing a ‘disappointment’. This enormous building, clearly abandonata, caught our eye as we drove past and so we started asking questions.
It is here that we say a heartfelt thank you to Pierluigi at ItCasa in Anghiari – a “dog with a bone” is an understatement. The amount of effort Pierluigi applied to finding out the story behind the old hotel restaurant was extraordinary – it needed to be, in the extraordinary year that was 2020 when courts and councils were closed and remote working extended to tribunals and auctions…
Long story (12 months’ worth of chapter and verse with teasing reveals and then heart stopping disappointments…), short: the property eventually came back up for auction in July 2021. Only because, by this point, we had made a couple of off the record offers on it, and were practically stalking the notary at the court which held the bankrupt stock – aka Pierluigi’s tennis partner… ahem… – and begging for the opportunity to bring it out of mothballs. And – spoiler alert – we won it at auction!
The history and the legacy
The property was built in the late ‘60s as a restaurant with rooms and holds a warm place in many locals’ hearts, having been a venue for family get togethers, Sunday lunches, Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinners and wedding receptions, over the years. The original owners put the emphasis on quality food and sold as an impressive going concern in around the early ‘80s, from what we can gather.
The new owners ramped up restaurant capacity, volume of building (adding hotel rooms and bungalows on the land) and increased food portions, with ‘meal deals’. For a while, they continued to hold the title for ‘Place to go for Family Gatherings’ – they expanded their kitchen further and aimed at the high volume, low cost market, from what we can gather…. However, over time, reduced food quality will begin to irk an Italian. That’s simply called ‘pizza’, and there’s a lot of that around!! So people stopped coming.
Where the building did cling on to some loyal custom was in the height of the summer. In the valley and surrounding hills, summer temperatures can reach 35c – at 1200m, this reduces to a more bearable 28/29c! So families would ascend the mountain for a walk in the forest and lunch during the Summer, occasionally during Spring, less so during Autumn. Winter sees a high volume of snow, that high up, so only the most intrepid walkers and cross country skiers ascend, although the restaurant did cling on to the New Year short breaks market for a while, offering the beautiful surrounds akin to a Wham video, circa 1984… and a massive double-sided open fire in the main restaurant (yep, still there)!
From what we can gather… the hotel restaurant closed in 2010 and has been empty ever since. We understand it never recovered after the recession, the dynamic of the mountain and the local village changed for the same reason, and the property was repossessed by the bank.
So why the delay in announcing the news?
We’ve been in limbo, to be honest! The auction itself was a weird experience; partly because of Covid and because it was in Italian!
It also happened at the end of July, which meant that, even if we’d handed over a credit card on the day, nothing could happen until September, as Italy closes for August! We had a series of family staying with us over the summer, and then it’s taken a while to get payments and paperwork lined up. So, it is only now that we are confident to make the announcement and share the news. It has been slow and painful and very frustrating, as you can imagine.
We’ve also had to accept that the building is not properly secured and, only now it is in our legal possession, can we stop people accessing it! This has made for uncomfortable summer weekends, knowing crowds of families have been wandering past, peering in, even walking around inside, as the downstairs windows weren’t locked…
Now, however, we can stake our claim – which we have. Cin cin! 🥂