Quite a year in Nardò…

Before I came to live in Nardò, I had been backwards and forwards from Monopoli for about six months. I certainly fell in love with the place and thought it extremely beautiful (see Nardo who knew for pictures and description of the town) but I actually moved to start a large project here.

I started moving stuff into my new rental flat just before Christmas and moved permanently in January.  I was extremely busy with work, finalizing the plans and fundraising for my new project and organizing the purchase of, and quotes for the restoration of, an apartment in Nardò for some new clients.  From a work point of view, Nardò seemed perfect and everything seemed to be falling into place as I quickly managed to assemble a new team of engineer, artisans and builders to work on both projects. In the midst of all this I was very excited to have found a large single investor for my project and signed an investment deal only to find out at the nth hour that the investor was not who he claimed to be and that the whole thing had been a scam. This was a blow, but I picked up the pieces and started amassing smaller investors.

View of the square from Caffe Parisi

View of the square from Caffe Parisi

I tried to explore the town whenever I had a moment, and enjoyed the occasional breakfast in the winter sunshine, admiring the main square, at Café Parisi  and lunch at Antica Trattoria Salandra, both still firm favourites. It has to be said I wasn’t getting out much though, or really socializing, so I was thrilled to meet an American artist, Mary Judge, who promptly invited me for a day out to explore the surrounding area. It was a truly magical day – I will put up a write up and pictures shortly..

On the way to lunch

On the way to lunch

Back at work things were getting even busier when  I got hit by a car (possibly admiring the beautiful building opposite rather than watching where I was going). At first it seemed that no major damage had been done, though a severely bruised and swollen foot had me on crutches. On the positive side it became apparent quite how lovely the people of Nardò are. Offers to run errands, take me to the hospital and do shopping poured in, from people I hardly knew.

About six weeks later I was off crutches, though still limping badly.  The sale had gone through of the Nardò apartment, we were finalizing restoration plans and I also made a quick trip to Monopoli where I managed to find a beautiful house in the historic centre for another client. Coming back to Nardò already felt like coming home. Monopoli is beautiful but, in my 10 years there, it underwent a complete transformation becoming more sophisticated, more polished and much busier with visitors..  One of the reasons for my move is that Nardò is more like Monopoli was when I went to live there. It has a far bigger foreign population than Monopoli did but has a sleepy, laid back, unspoiled quality and feels somehow more authentic without ever feeling ‘dead’ even in the winter.

While I was in Monopoli I had felt somewhat unwell, and on my return I suddenly developed alarming symptoms. I would get up and be unable to walk across the room without lurching severely and any sense of balance completely went (and this without a single glass of primitivo!). I also had blurred vision and other symptoms. After a particularly bad bout my trusty Nardò driver took me to the local Guardia Medica, (open only in the evenings and all night till 6 am, but available to everyone.) The doctor there was fantastic.   After carrying out some basic tests she told me, gently, that I really should go to the hospital for a neurological check up. I had previously done some frantic googling and asked whether it could be a brain tumour, and appreciated her honest reply.  I wasn’t particularly keen to go back to Copertino hospital, where they had failed to spot that I had badly sprained my ankle as well as having a very bruised foot (apparently I should have gone to Galatina or Lecce). Anyway it was the middle of the night at this point

After a somewhat sleepless rest of the night I decided to get some blood tests done, as the only relatively unscary cause for the same symptoms was a severe Vitamin B12 deficiency. It is great that, in Italy, there are lots of private labs where, if you know what tests you want, you can just have them done for a small fee. I didn’t want to wait for a referral. Lo and behold the results showed that my B12 levels were critically low, and later tests showed that I had pernicious anemia. It took quite a while for the symptoms to all go away but they did which was just as well as soon work on the apartment was in full swing.

I had told my clients that the bulk of the, somewhat extensive, renovation work could be completed in 3 months. They had been speaking to some other non Italians who had bought in the centro storico of Nardò who said that it simply couldn’t be done. Well I like a challenge…By the end of the three months the apartment had been rewired and re plumbed, painted, plastered, some cracks repaired, the old bathroom removed and a wall knocked down to make an open plan kitchen/dining room, a kitchen fitted, two new bathrooms added and the old kitchen turned into a verandah. Windows had been replaced, new doors added, new shutters made, and the front door moved to improve the façade of the house. The roof terrace had been cleaned and repaired and plants and built in seating areas added, as well as solar panels. A new staircase had been built to link the verandah and upper terrace. All the existing, ugly, floors had been covered with a microcement finish.

As always, other problems had come to light, during the restoration, which needed fixing but I was determined to finish on time. By June, when the owners arrived, they were able to sleep in the house, relax on their terrace and cook in their new kitchen. Once they left there were obviously a fair few bits and pieces to finish up, and snagging to do but the fact that we managed to pull off the bulk of work in the time (never again – it would have been  challenging even without the hobbling and lurching!) was a testament to my new building team.

By now I was beginning to suspect that I needed to get some help with my ankle/foot. Admittedly I had been constantly running around including lots of up and down stairs, but I was still limping badly and in intermittent pain. It turns out that I had also cracked a small bone in my foot which hadn’t been picked up at the hospital in Copertino. The ankle sprain had been bad and hadn’t properly healed. Again my newfound team of Nardo’ supporters and advisers sprang to the rescue, and I was taken to an excellent physiotherapist in nearby Galatone, who have been absolutely brilliant – though it has been a slow process as I should  have started immediately after the accident.

An evening stroll

An evening stroll

So I was now fitting in physio with showing new people houses, finishing off the first apartment and going to and fro to Monopoli to sort out the sale there. In June a second couple bought an apartment in Nardò, followed by a third in September. All needed help and support with the process. Over the summer I was also busy sourcing furniture for the Monopoli house,  supervising its delivery and spending time with my client there helping her settle in.  With the bad health scare earlier in the year I had decided not to follow through on my big project – which was just as well as I can’t see where I would have fitted it in..

Morning sunlight

Morning sunlight

Through all of this, my sanity was more or less maintained by Nardò itself. Going to and fro from the apartment every day while work was underaway, walking through the beautiful streets, stopping for a coffee in the main square or by the castle and observing the play of light on the spectacular buildings never failed to raise my spirits. People very soon recognized me and smiled and said hello and were generally kind and supportive. One day I bumped into someone I didn’t know very well and she later knocked on my door with a foil container of delicious tomato and mussel sauce for pasta, piping hot because she had left her family at the table to run it around to me. She even brought me some fresh pasta to cook in case I didn’t have any. All this because she thought I looked very tired!

Nearby beach

Nearby beach

Whenever I could, which wasn’t very often, I ran away to sea. First to the enchanting Santa Maria al Bagno, or Santa Caterina, Nardò’s beaches, then, as these got more crowded, to a selection of beautiful beaches near Gallipoli. The pictures speak for themselves!

Santa Maria al Bagno

Santa Maria al Bagno

From September things got calmer, and I was able to make an offer on, buy, and start restoring my own apartment as well as enjoying the sea well into October and having more spare time to enjoy eating out and socializing.  People in Nardò are interesting – as well as locals there are a large number of ‘adoptive’ Neretini (natives of Nardò) of all nationalities, some year round, some who come and go. Lots of artists and creative types, all well assimilated into Nardò life and somehow a million miles away from the ‘ex pats’ you tend to get in the Valle D’Itria. I look forward to meeting more of them and adding to their number (another client is buying an apartment on Monday)

As the New Year starts I am filled with enthusiasm and excitement for the year ahead and have lots of plans for this year so watch this space!

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