Brits wind up working as property agents abroad for all sorts of reasons and many have great stories to tell.
For Alison Bruce, a decision to start selling Tuscan holiday homes stemmed from a chance encounter with a neighbour
How did you get into the property industry in Italy?
Much of my family is of British descent, however we are a conglomeration of different cultures so I'm a bit of a hybrid. I was born in Rome, educated in England and with family properties scattered around Italy, I soon became involved in the property market. I made my home in Tuscany where a new neighbour, with an international background like mine, invited me to join her, working on the innovative new Villa Bossi Pucci project.
Have you always worked in property?
I have had the opportunity to work in interesting Italian businesses ranging from baby products to furniture restoration, but property has always been part of my life.
Do you have a typical buyer in mind for your development?
It's the person who wants a property in Tuscany but cannot justify the cost of purchasing outright a holiday home that they'll only use for a few weeks a year.
That's the appeal of our private residence club concept. Most of our buyers are people who enjoy Italy and its lifestyle, without staying in a hotel or doing the cliché tourist thing.
Do you have any memorable anecdotes involving clients?
Yes. Not all couples on preview visits share each other's enthusiasm. In one case, the wife was in love with the “Tuscan dream” but her husband ignored or deplored all he saw – until the pig encounter. During lunch in the local trattoria he asked what was on his plate, prompting the jovial owner to enthuse about the special Cinta Senese pigs he reared – in no time we were all whisked off to see them. Over talk of pigs, wild boar, hunting and truffles our client was converted!
Does Tuscany, and the area in which you are based, attract a certain type of buyer?
Absolutely. They are those with a zest for life and a desire to learn about the region's wine, food, history, art, language and culture. They are people who never grow old – at 95 they still want to learn new things.
Tell us a bit about your own home
It's warm Tuscan rustic; some would say shabby chic. I especially love the huge traditional country fi replace in my kitchen. Our marvellous climate means we have a cornucopian garden with tomatoes, aubergines, herbs and delicious zucchini. No one notices when I haven't been shopping; I just pop out to the vegetable garden. We live in something of a time warp. Doors are left open night and day. Children are free to roam and discover. A local farmer delivers milk from his cows, eggs from his chickens and family businesses take pride in their products and services.
What would be your advice to anyone buying property in Italy?
Get to know the area and its people. Life as an insider is far more interesting.
What do you do in your free time – how do you wind down?
We are surrounded by vineyards and I enjoy walking through them with my dog. I can mark the progress of the year through the vines – pruning prepares them for new growth, next grapes start to form and grow and then they're harvested. The views are so magical that photography has become part of my walking routine.
If you weren't selling property in Italy, what would you be doing?
Living in Italy and feeling guilty that I wasn't sharing this wonderful life with clients!
Alison Bruce works for Villa Bossi Pucci