Falling in love with a Tiny Trullo in Puglia
Can you remember the exact moment you fell in love? I do! In this blog, I will share how it all started…
On February 16th, 2020, I bought an olive orchard in Puglia, southern Italy, on a whim. The 6,500m2 plot of land has 24 ancient olive trees, as well as several almond, fig, and other fruit trees. There is also a mini-house that is more than 200 years old, a traditional ‘Trullo,’ a type of dwelling unique to this region.
This oasis of peace and nature is a special gift to myself after a long series of disappointments.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
I left the safety of my childhood home at the age of 17 while my parents were going through a nasty divorce. I wandered the world for decades trying to convince myself that I didn’t need a ‘home’. The few times that I tried to settle down, I was roughly uprooted again: by unwelcoming in-laws, by a municipality that deregistered me from my own home, and following the end of a relationship that meant I had to leave our shared house. I felt displaced and needed a sanctuary, somewhere in the world that was all mine, where no one could kick me out. Even if I could only visit occasionally, the idea of having a plot of land somewhere gives me a feeling of safety and security.
From disappointment to dream
I visited Puglia with a group of girlfriends at the end of 2019. I noticed that the atmosphere and energy were the same as in my beloved Mallorca. The earth has the same beautiful deep red color, the trees look similar and there are identically stacked stone walls along the country roads. When I discovered that you can buy a piece of land for as little as € 25,000, I was sold.
But where would I get that money? Coincidentally, I had been sent from pillar to post for the last 11 years trying to buy off an old annuity. This January I finally managed to get rid of the policy and get the remaining amount paid out. It should have yielded about €300,000 but was now only worth €25,000. Rather than be disappointed with this result, I decided to spend the money on something fun…
How do you buy an olive orchard?
In February, I went to Puglia with a friend who lives in Rome. We stayed for three days at three different locations to view some random areas. I didn’t know anything. Didn’t know anybody there. I didn’t speak a word of Italian. I knew nothing about the region, local rules, investment value, or permits. I had found eight plots of an olive orchard for sale that we would visit, just by word of mouth. But when we drove to the first plot on Valentine’s day, something special happened. You can see this moment in the video.
The streets narrowed, the olive trees along the road got bigger, it became quieter and greener; my heart started beating faster. The moment we entered the land and I saw the majestic old trees and the proud old Trullo house, I knew. I fell in love instantly.
My friend warned me: there is no electricity, water, or sewerage and organizing anything in Italy is difficult and slow. I just thought about how incredible it is that people could have lived here in the past. I resolved to restore the Trullo and turn it into something beautiful. We stuck with our plan for the day and looked at two other plots of land. Then I canceled all the other viewings. It made no sense anymore. I had found my land.
The real estate agent put me on the spot: if I decided at that moment, on a Sunday, just before driving back to Rome, then the owner would offer a discount. This meant that this slightly more expensive piece of land would now fit right in my budget. For a moment, I realized what I was doing: I was buying a piece of land in a country I didn’t know at all, without any preliminary research or help. But my heart had already decided. I wholeheartedly answered, “Sì!”
The Tiny Trullo dream
My dream is to create a place where my visitors and I can take time out from our busy lives. I am going to have the old Trullo renovated. I’ll build a tiny house in the same style, and of course, I’ll install water and electricity, but all in due time.
I see it as an exciting project; I have plenty of time, I’ll take things as they come, and I’ll enjoy what is there already in the meantime.
A new adventure
Every step of this process is precious. Creating the design for the ‘Tiny Trullo’ with my designer Anja; learning a few sentences of Italian every day on Duolingo; discussing the renovation of the Trullo with my neighbor Mario. Not to mention my very first olive harvest at the beginning of November.
My first olive harvest
It was fascinating to experience this age-old tradition, with the aid of a few modern tools. My ancient trees yielded 1620 kg of olives, resulting in 230 liters of the purest extra virgin olive oil. It took us just three hours to shake all the olives from the branches. An hour later the freshly-pressed oil was poured into beautiful tins. Check out more pictures of the harvest on this blog.
I had the oil shipped to the Netherlands so that friends and acquaintances could enjoy its unique flavor. Within a week almost all cans were sold. There were even people who wanted to adopt an olive tree!
Lessons from the land
Sometimes I still have hard times, and disappointments are not easily forgotten, but thinking about my plot of land in Puglia brings a smile to my face. The ancient trees teach me to have patience, and the land helps me to feel grounded, wherever I am in the world.
This blog is written as part of MijnMoment.com, an annual tradition where a small group of prominent Dutch people are asked to share their most precious, most important, most beautiful, most poignant, or characteristic moment of the past year.