We talked once again to Rocco, our friendly “Geometra”, who pointed out a couple of extra things that we needed to be aware of before completing the purchase of the farmhouse.
In Italian law, if a vendor is selling his agricultural land any neighbours adjoining his terrain, who are officially registered as “agricultural producers” or “Coltivatori Diretti” have first refusal on the property. This is known as the “Diritto di Prelazione Agraria”. The vendor has to give his farming neighbours, in writing, 30 days to decide whether they wish to purchase the land. If he should fail to sell the land without the neighbouring farmer’s knowledge, the neighbour still has the right to buy it for the same price agreed by the purchaser. Giampiero, the estate agent, who had lived in this area for all his life, was reasonably sure that there were no neighbours which fell into this category, however Rocco wisely advised us to assess this thoroughly.
The following day Rocco offered to accompany us to the Land Registry or and here we ordered computer searches and printouts, relating to the “particelli” of land in question. These documents listed the registered owner’s name, in addition to the size and registered rateable value of the land. We then met up once again with Giampiero, and checked through the owners’ names and details for each neighbouring section of land. We then determined each owner’s occupation and whether or not they had any children. Finally we felt we were 99 per cent sure that none of our immediate neighbours were agricultural producers, nor were any of their children. In fact we learned that in Itri, nowadays there are very few registered “agricolturi”. Over the decades, many of the larger parcels of land had been sub-divided between families, or readily sold off as building plots. The remaining smaller plots were generally used to produce olive oil for personal family use, but not on a commercial basis. It seems that the young Italian generation do not wish to dirty their hands, working on the land for what they regard to be a meagre profit – to them it almost seems demeaning. It is a sad prospect that many of the old farming skills and traditions, passed down through the ages, could soon be lost forever.
As for the house purchase, a provisional date was proposed for the signing of contracts. Normally the first stage of the procedure for purchasing a house in Italy is the drawing up and signing of the preliminary contract, known as the “Compromesso”. The final contract the “Rogito” or “Atto di Acquisto” is usually signed at the notaio’s office. A “notaio” is something between a lawyer and a notary.
In our case, the two parts of the contract were both to be signed on the same day, as the owners lived in the very north of Italy and wanted to complete all the formalities in just the one trip down south. As the date swiftly approached the tension intensified. That final week seemed to be fraught with problems. Giampiero, had done everything he could to get all the necessary documents in place for the “notaio” in Fondi.
Then Paul began phoning, faxing and emailing various banks in the UK to transfer money from one account to another, then send it on to a company which specialised in currency dealing. This proved to be an excellent system, as having set it up, it made converting pounds sterling to euros, and transferring funds from the UK to Italy very straightforward.
It seemed that for once we had been lucky, as at that time the value of the Euro had recently fallen due to France and Holland voting “No” to the new European Constitution. The transfer of our funds over to Italy was supposed to take just a day or so, however we were left waiting for days and days to hear whether the money had actually arrived safely. There was much chewing of nails as Paul became more and more fretful, agitated and stressed. Remarkably, somehow, I managed to kept my calm. Eventually, the money arrived the very day before we were due to exchange contracts, so then we had to speedily order a series of special non-transferable cheques, known as “Assegni Circolare” to pay the vendor of the property.