How it all began. Casa di Nonnas… Our story

This piece was first published in Strada della Nonna by Gian Bohan and Maurizio Mori and gives a little background to Casa di Nonnas…

The phone rang one evening and on the line was Michael Hackett, an old friend and a Nonnas’ regular over the years.

There was a hubbub in the background and it sounded as if he was in a busy bar – in fact he was in Milan and he couldn’t understand the menu as it was all in Italian and wanted help with the translation!

It’s a typical story of the sort of relationships we’ve developed with customers in Nonnas, many of whom have become friends.

Often we would get customers coming in with a map and asking for tips on where in Italy they should visit. They knew our love of real Italy, away from the tourist track and they wanted a piece of it themselves. We were becoming a bit like an unofficial tourist board.

We had considered buying a property in Italy and all these requests for information had made us think. Why didn’t we buy a house so we would have somewhere we could send everybody?

We had the ideal contact in Maurizio’s father…

It started with a search for property and ended with us acquiring a home in Tuscany which we have named Casa di Nonnas.

It is the stuff of storybooks – the house is perched high in the hills of northern Tuscany far away from the tourist track, yet within easy reach of some of the most historic places. It has lots of land, fabulous views, peace and tranquility.

The house has an interesting yet tragic history, which tells a wider story of rural Italy. For generations it had been a smallholding under the ownership of one family. The peace and quiet of the area was shattered in 1944 when the retreating German army’s scorched earth tactic saw them raze buildings to the ground.

The house was set alight and family’s father and mother murdered. One of the daughters survived by hiding in the woods and she eventually returned to rebuild the property.

 

Today, there’s a plaque on the house wall in memory of those killed during that tragic period in Italian history.

The years after the war saw a migration of the younger element of Italy’s rural communities to the cities where they sought work and a better standard of living. Many of the hillside properties became redundant and dilapidated and ours was no exception.

Eventually the family that had owned the house for generations looked to sell and that is where we came in. The family kept a flat on one part of the property and we bought the rest, adding the Cherry Tree house on land previously occupied by a derelict rabbit hutch and cattle shed.

We were the first strangers, or straineri, ever to have ownership of the land but we all get on well and are now firm family friends.

The family still have their flat and they come up at weekends to tend the allotment where they grow gorgeous tomatoes and salad stuff. It is lovely having them around and they have been our introduction to the local community.

The area is very beautiful and green and gives a slightly cooler respite from the summer heat, yet it’s within easy reach of Florence, Pisa, Lucca and Modena and the beautiful nearby towns of Montecatini, Pescia, Velano and Vinci – birthplace of the one of the most famous Italians of all – Leonardo.

 

 

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