I saw the future once and there was no crystal ball, tarot cards, or palm reader in sight.
I just closed my eyes and I was pulling into the driveway of my stunning Italian villa in Torre de’Passeri with a van load of guests after a day of sightseeing in beautiful Abruzzo. The happy guests got out of the van, walked by a pool surrounded by flowers and bushes, and went up a flight of stairs to a grand terrace where they were greeted by my wife Lisa Grassi-Blais with chilled bottles of prosecco, local pecorino cheese and salami, fresh cut veggies, and other nibbles.
As the guests relaxed on the terrace, they gazed out over the surrounding sun-dappled hills that lead to imposing mountains and talked about all the cool things they saw that day. With our guests settled, Lisa and I met in the kitchen to discuss the dinner plan.
It was vivid. It was in colour, and I can still see it, even though it hasn’t happened yet.
The future came to me one night after dinner in August 2012, when we were in my wife’s ancestral Italian village of San Sebastiano for the annual festa and reunion. In the previous days, we had visited about 20 properties that could be converted into accommodations and home base for a tour company.
At the time, we weren’t planning on making any serious decisions. Instead, we wanted to get a good idea of whether or not our dream of ditching the North American work-focused daily grind for something different was financially realistic. We’d seen a variety of properties in various locations and states of (dis)repair in Abruzzo that were in or close to our budget. We felt comfortable that in a couple years when we made our final decision, there would be a property that would work, even if it was going to be more expensive than we had hoped.
So our goal for that trip was achieved: We could make it work financially.
But we had a problem.
“You know, I keep thinking about that one in Torre de’Passeri,” Lisa said. “I can really see us running a business there. I can see people lounging around the pool. I can see myself serving dinner in that big dining room. The place feels right.”
There it was. Lisa and I both had seen the future, but it was too early for it.
According to our plan, we were two years away from making the final decision on taking the leap or not. We were supposed to be seriously looking at buying a property in 2014 after sorting out a bunch of details, but earlier that day, Fabrizio De Sanctis, of Abruzzo Houses, had shown us a place that was just about perfect in every way.
It was well-priced for its size, already halfway converted into an inn, and in a great location in the town of Torre de’Passeri, which itself was geographically perfect for our business idea. The house had some land, and it was rustic without being cramped. It was bigger than we had expected to be able to purchase for our budget. The views were outstanding, and the layout both inside and out was exactly what we’d envisioned.
Where it took some imagination to see how the other properties we had seen would function for the type of business we were contemplating, this property was the embodiment of our vision for the business. It was just about perfect even though at the time there was no pool, terrace, the interior needed lots of work, and it looked like bikers with bad cleaning habits had been living in it.
The feeling that this was the right place was so strong; Lisa and I had to try hard to remain objective. We are both more than a bit impulsive, so we had to guard against moving too far too fast. But it just seemed like the property wouldn’t be on the market for two years waiting for us to make a decision.
We decided to sleep on it for a couple weeks, and if we felt the same way after getting back to Canada and settled back into our lives, we would then see about altering our plan.
There have been a lot of starts and stops and twists and turns since that day, but I’m happy to say, the vision is intact. Finishing touches are being put on the terrace and pool, the interior renovations are done, our tour itineraries are planned and tested, and our first guests are scheduled to arrive in May 2016.
Next blog: Is this really the place?