Richard & Helen Crossman - Dorset & Scalea

After a free for all flight into Naples we are picked up by the itinerant Luigi, slightly reticent about getting into a car with few original features we set off South into the unknown. Luigi activates the air conditioning, the breeze from the only opening window is welcome but it comes to me via Luigi so it’s augmented with an unwelcome human twang. The scenery is stunning, just visible through the roadworks, we pull in for LPG and are told to get out. A figure in black appears, all muscles and teeth and tells us to get into his van, garbles something to Luigi in Italian and we're off – god knows where.

We reach Scalea, the Mafioso turns out to be a Manchester United supporter from Liverpool – good joke, my how we laughed. We are shown to our flat, a delightful attic premises on the fourth floor with no lift. ‘The Spar is over there, the sea is over there, the old town is over there, see you at nine thirty tomorrow at La Playa ok?’ And he was off, ‘football match, bye.’ We go out for food and a small libation. We get lost on the way back to our hovel, being English we expect to be attacked any moment; we panic and phone the Mafiosi. Stay put he says, two minutes later we're drinking a beer with him and that was the start of a beautiful friendship.

Next morning the limping footballer shows us some property, we go to the Centro Storico first and fall in love, not with the scouser but with the place. He shows us some new build stuff but we are smitten with the medieval splendour of our chosen ruin. A pile of stones piled up in the rough shape of a house would be a more accurate description, but we have vision and time on our side and go to the office to seal the deal. The compromesso is signed and we go back home delighted with our pile of rubble in our beloved Italy.

Silvio has prepared a schedule of works, the price for the basic work is fine, if anything more than concrete is required the price goes up, and up, and up. 'You have expensive tastes' translates the muscles, 'Silvio says he likes you', we all laugh and we sign away our next five years income. The work starts roughly on schedule, our pile of stones becomes a pile of stones without the benefit of form, our roof becomes Silvio's firewood, our relatives start looking for vacancies in mental homes. We go back in September, nothing has been done, the red mist descends and we meet with Silvio. 'So, you think we have not done much work' he says, suddenly you wonder if he has 'connections' and we may have been a little hasty. The footy player translates 'they aren't allowed to work in the Centro Storico during August' he says. It's smiles all round and back to Silvio's for lunch, a massive affair with unlimited quantities of food and just a bit too much of Silvio's home made red. I acquire a thoroughly undeserved reputation for drinking wine but a firm friendship is made with Silvio who understands our vision for the house, he shares the vision and the rest is easy. We go back the following year, it’s our honeymoon and we have toured Italy from Venice through Rome and Sorrento and end up in Scalea for the final week. Well, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs. Finished, immaculate, perfect. We are overcome with the kindness of the people we have met and how they have pulled out all the stops to make this special, flowers and champagne await us, the house is wonderful, the people exceptional, it doesn’t get any better than this.<

We sip our champagne on the terrace, overlooking a lazy Mediterranean and the twinkling lights of Scalea below. It’s been a long journey, faith in good people has made it happen, don’t hurry, don’t worry, it’s worth the wait.

Richard & Helen Crossman - Dorset & Scalea