L’atto รจ fatto!

Today we completed on the purchase of a little house in Torri, a little village behind the Italian Riviera and pictured above. The process was typically Italian – bureaucratic and full of confusion but in the end satisfying.

It started off with a visit to our bank in Ventimiglia, to agree the final terms of the mortgage and pay the necessary fees. Our party comprised the two of us, the two vendors, our mortgage broker and the estate agent – six in all. The notary was late – he hadn’t yet arrived for the appointment before ours – so we trooped back to the estate agent’s office for the vendors to discuss the rounding up of their own mortgage, to be repaid on the sale of the house. By a coincidence, our mortgage broker was the one who’d arranged their own mortgage a couple of years earlier, but this is typically Italian – you keep running into the same people.

Back to the bank for the completion ceremony – the “atto”. In Italy, property transactions take place with all parties in a room together with a public notary, rather than each side having to employ a lawyer and have them deal with each other, as is done in England. So with the head count now at seven the process began. The notary’s job is to read the draft contract, checking it for mistakes and adding annotations where appropriate.

Our man was something of a phenomenon; I’ve never seen anyone read aloud at such a speed, at times baffling even the native Italians. He would periodically switch to English to explain a point, all the while making jokes and wry observations about the lunacy of the latest batch of forms and regulations issued by the Italian government. He commented that one form was probably the most useless document ever devised, so we asked him what it was for; his answer was “I don’t have any idea; I just fill it in”.

After nearly two hours of this, with every document, cheque, ID card, and local authority permission being photocopied and added to the growing pile, the job was finally done and the keys handed over. But not before I had to sign in about forty different places. I have no idea what I was signing, but this is commonly the way here.

Eventually we were able to take the first car-load of boxes to the house and up to the third floor where our apartment is located. Transferring everything from the garage lockup a few miles away where it’s been languishing for two months will be a Herculean task but there’s no rush to do it all at once. The heavier items will have to be lifted up the outside of the building and in through balcony doors, but this will be done by a local removals company who are well used to the peculiarities of Italian village houses.

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