Grab a drink and settle in, this is a longer than usual post…
As some of my readers know, my husband and his sister inherited a lovely house up on the hilltop of Portofino (which was packed up a year ago and I thought we said our final goodbyes). They are not rich or famous. The house has been in the family for almost 100 years. Over time it has passed from generation to generation. My father-in-law inherited the house when there was only an old Roman road leading to it and cars were not allowed.
This is the story of a legacy…
My father-in-law was barely 20 when he, along with his older sister, were ‘gifted’ this house. His father passed away at war and therefore the mother decided, to make things fair, the house should be divided from top to bottom (it is four stories high with a tower at the top half). They flipped a coin to determine who got which half.
Years passed and families were made. My father-in-law decided to ‘fix the place up’ and make his half beautiful. He put in a spiral marble staircase, stone and marble flooring and kept the olive grove in top shape harvesting the olives every year. His dream was to retire there one day. His sister, who was jealous that he got the top half, never spent a dime and protested that she wanted to sell her half but her hands were tied because the property was never legally divided and the brother didn’t want to buy out her half.
Sadly and suddenly, he had a massive heart attack and died behind the wheel of his car on his way from Genoa to Portofino. The family gathered to mourn and pick up the pieces. My husband was in his early 30′s and was in no position to buy out the Aunt’s half. She pressured him and his sister to sell but they didn’t want to give up this family legacy.
For thirteen years a vicious court case ensued. The father was remarried for 5 years and his widowed wife wanted (and received) 1/3 of his children’s inheritance. Lawyers were getting rich off this familial feud while my husband and his sister were going into debt to keep their father’s legacy alive.
The final division of the property was settled. Lines in the sand were drawn and the children got a hefty bank loan and paid the wife. But the Aunt was still not satisfied. For more than 60 years she still harbored a hatred and jealousy because her brother flipped a coin and got the ‘top half’ of the house.
The new judge decided the only fair thing to do was to flip a coin again! May I remind you that for the past 20 years the Aunt spent no money renovating her half. She also neglected the house entirely and let it fall into such a dilapidated state that the walls were crumbling inside.
My sister-in-law lost the coin toss. The Aunt requested and received the top half. This past month the final keys were exchanged and this story is now finished. The Aunt has a beautiful, renovated house which she will probably just put up for sale with no regards to any family legacy or her brother’s blood, sweat and tears.
We, on the other hand have the bottom half and must start over again. For the past few weeks my sister-in-law has been working herself to the bone to renovate the Aunt’s half. Bats and rats and spiders had overtaken the house. She had one day to clear it out and move all the furniture. God forbid, the Aunt would have enough soul in her heart to wait for my husband to come home to assist.
I’ve only spent two days up there so far to help out and my back already aches. I spent Saturday treating the wooden doors to bring back some shine but they are full of termite holes and all day yesterday I painted our bedroom and am only half-finished. It is not a big bedroom but the walls have been neglected for so long that the paint is absorbing faster than I can apply it and can only be applied with a brush not roller. I have also been driving back and forth because I don’t want to subject Coco to all the chemical fumes.
Today, I decided to take a break and hang out with Coco who has been a bit neglected while I was on vacation in Tuscany with my sister. She has been alone all day while I was painting and when I get home she keeps me up all night wanting attention. I know I spoiled her but she deserves to be loved and so I get up and play with her for 5 minutes hoping that she will let me sleep for another hour.
So, this is the new chapter of our lives in Portofino. I don’t know what the future holds except that the rest of my summer will be spent painting alongside my husband and in-laws while we try to put some love back into this neglected house.
It’s not the same though. At least not for me. I am not shying away from the work to be done but part of the charm of the upper half was that my husband’s father made it what it is today. You can feel his presence there (I had never met him so it was important to me to feel this connection). Now, the bottom half is just a neglected shell with no soul.
Can a coat of fresh paint and a can of bug spray replace the lost soul in this house? (I sprayed a big ugly spider three times and it was still alive the next day) I’ll also admit another thing…I’m afraid to sleep there alone. When we were still in the top half I had a horrible nightmare about being alone in the bottom half. Is this silly? I can’t wait for my husband to come home. I also bought an owl ring with purple amethyst eyes to protect me.
I would post photos here but I would prefer not to right now in the interest of privacy. Perhaps I will post some before and after photos once the renovations are done. There won’t be any marble staircases on our beer budget though.
Keep well and safe and love and respect your family!