Meet the neighbours

Our house with neighbouring houses around in IstriaWhen house hunting, our ideal property would have been detached, on a big plot with distant neighbours. Unfortunately our budget didn’t stretch to that and the property we bought was an old stone Istrian house, part of a terrace in a village location. With sea views, the coast less than ten minutes drive away, a shop round the corner and four walk-able restaurants, the location is in many ways far better than a remote, rural property. But it comes with four neighbours – one of which is very, very close!

Unless you have bottomless pockets, buying a property usually involves compromises and for us, it would be the closeness of our neighbours. While the rest of the property was great, we’ve had a few bad experiences before with neighbours in Istria (tales for another day), so for this project to work, we needed reasonable, open-minded neighbours. Time to find out what they were like …

 

Valter – the man who sold us the house

Valter's house is the pink one at the end of the gardenFirst of our neighbours would be Valter, the guy selling the property. He lived next to the parking at the end of ‘our’ garden, well away from the house. We’d met Valter several times when we were viewing the place and liked him a lot. If the rest of the neighbours were like him, we should be OK.

 

Fioré – his cousin

our house and our neighbour's house in IstriaThe second of our neighbours was Valter’s cousin, Fioré, and it was a house on his property which caused us most concern as it looked directly onto our land. (Originally this house and ours, and the land, were all one. After it was all divided up, it ended with some of Fioré’s windows opening directly onto our land and some of ours opening onto his – a very common situation in Istria.)

So before we went ahead, we really wanted to meet Fioré and he was equally concerned to meet us. Like many Istrians, he has a couple of places for rent and wanted to make sure we would not be poaching his guests. But once we assured him we would be catering to different markets, he was extremely welcoming and keen to show us his place. Run by his wife, Lili, they have two apartments and they also have a konoba, where they sell local wines, spirits and olive oil, which he was keen to promote to our guests. After much talking and several glasses of medica (local honey grappa) in his konoba, we all felt much happier – and that wasn’t just the alcohol. Fioré seemed as good a neighbour as we could wish for and was happy to welcome us next door. If the other two neighbours were OK, we’d found our house.

 

Empty places

Opcina's house, shielding us from the road in IstriaBetween our plot and the road is a triangular property with a tiny house, and a garden with a shed and derelict lean-to. Owned by the local council, this property is currently unoccupied and up for sale. As it doesn’t overlook us, we couldn’t see any problems there.

 

Screenable red-brick extension, next door in IstriaFinally, the next house in the terrace also proved to be empty and thought to be owned by people who long since moved to Germany. Our main concern was its ugly, half-built, red-brick extension, which is all too visible from our plot. But this we can simply screen with a trellis and some plants, so shouldn’t pose a long-term problem.

 

Of course first impressions are all well and good, and we’d only really find the truth when the work began and we started having to compromise with each other. But from this quick assessment, it appeared we had a great start: two neighbours seemed friendly, reasonable people – and the other two didn’t exist! Keep your fingers crossed for us! 

See how we get on in my restoration diary

 

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