Thursday, April 7, 2011

Calabrian Habitations--Open Space Conservation

A Villa in Santa Domenica Talao
Yes, it’s Guido and I do like to talk about buildings. I want to share a couple of things with you--especially those of you that have never visited Europe. I was surprised by things when I came, so you might be too. I heard in school 40 years ago how Europeans had run out of space, so they built up and not out like Americans did then, and continue now. It is true. Italy is a fine example of good land-use. Yes, there are open spaces left around here. They are protected agricultural or park-like lands. Europeans understand they are dealing with a finite resource (land). America is so big, it’s hard for them to imagine running out of space. The great American dream is to own a stand-alone house with yard, picket fence, and 2.2 kids. Italians are happy with the high-rise life (the larger the city, the taller the apartment buildings). You do see small green lawns now and then, but it’s not a great place to be a Snapper lawn mower sales rep. 

Scalea has many high-rise apartment buildings that provide housing to permanent residents, and to the numerous holiday home owners – mostly from Naples.  In the winter most units are empty. You can tell where permanent residents live by their balcony plants and laundry. 

Down the hill from us, Scalea has a population of about 10,000. As we have learned, the population in Scalea grows to about 30,000 in August when Italy goes on holiday and families go either to the mountains or the sea. Holiday apartments are the main housing type along the coastline from Praia a Mare south to Lamezia Terme. Like anywhere else, prices vary depending on views and proximity to the sea. We have seen a range of €35,000 to €700,000. There is one American couple there, a Brit couple and quite a few British holiday owners. There is also a growing Russian presence in the town – again, for holiday flats.

Even in our village of 1,330 people, there are newer tall apartment buildings below the old historic part of town.

Last summer a neighbor commented to me that all the “inglese” buying property here are driving up prices of construction and prices to buy. I was not inclined to believe that and still do not. I would guess that the same builders that work for us, probably quote lower prices to the resident Italians. There was one case of a building owner posting a ridiculously high price (with hopes of wealthy foreign buyers), but the estate agents refused to list at the silly price and it sits empty across from us.

Regardless, it’s nice to see the historic segments of towns being stabilized and “recycled”. There are more Italian-owned restoration projects going on here in Santa Domenica than a couple of years ago. We are watching the progress made by our neighbors. The family owned a portion of the building next to their home where their 26-year old son still lives.  Then, they bought the remainder of the building and are converting the whole place into a home for the son. They are doing all the work themselves with some hired friends helping. They are making pretty good progress. In one Saturday they demolished an old floor, formed up the new floor with block and steel, then finished it with concrete Sunday.
Of course villas as in the first photo do exist too, but I get the impression that the majority of Italy either lives in old towns like ours or in high rise apartments. In Santa Domenica Talao, the big single homes tend to be owned by large extended families living together, or by wealthier folks. Variety is a spice of life and there is plenty to look at in Calabria. We appreciate how the Italians handle land development and historic buildings. There's space between towns and clusters of buildings.
Auguri, Guido


  1. The American, USA, way of owning la house with a lot of land seems to be growing older faster than I am. It was good when I was younger and went hunting and my son had a place to drive a junk car around and camp out with his scout friends, but I don't know anymore. If I wanted to go hunting I could always get a permit for state land or get permit from a friend. In fact, that is what my son does these days. The idea of living in a place where you can just walk to any store or business sounds pretty good!

  2. Gil,
    Lots of the old timers in town here have a little patch of garden away from the town. So it goes, town, gardens, woods. Very nice.

  3. As an Italian, who has always lived in Italy I can confirm that foreing buyers have pushed out Italian ones and have pushed the price up so much that local people struggle to compete. Here in Umbria, like tuscany most sales are to foreing buyers as they are prepared/able to pay higher prices. As we italian say around here umbria and tuscany no longer belong to the italians. Such is life!!!!! (loretta)

  4. Oh yeah, errr, Tuscany! You have me on that one!
    Can we blame it on rich people instead of foreigners?

  5. Interesting post and comments. It is certainly not happening in our district, foreigners pushing out the Italian buyers that is, thankfully :)



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