A New Adventure: Making a House a Home and Garden

In a few days we’ll be the proud owners of a house and garden in the countryside of Lucca, Italy, in a village called Arliano. Nestled next to foothills that lead west toward the Ligurian sea, with an abundance of land to grow vegetables to our heart’s desire, we look forward to waking up to the sound of the many species of birds. Distant neighbors have a rooster, and someone else a peacock (we’re guessing), which is less thrilling.

After being house-bound during the “chiusura” (Italian for “closure,” meaning the Covid lockdown), Tom and I realized how much we missed having outdoor space. While as lovely as our apartment is in downtown Lucca, inside the medieval and renaissance walls, it has no balcony, terrazzo, or yard.

The current owners of the house have been more than kind to us by letting us jump start pruning trees, clean the inside of the house (it’s been empty for years), and most importantly, start a garden. Over the last couple of months, we’ve had the garden tilled (there are a bazillion blackberry roots to get rid of, which might take a few years); amended the soil with organic sheep manure; and planted seeds, seedlings, and a few plants. On the list are a variety of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, flat green beans, eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, sweet corn, fennel bulb, cabbage, and cauliflower. There is also a section dedicated to flowers for a cutting garden.  Maybe we’re being too ambitious — just writing this, I feel overwhelmed.

As an adult, wherever I’ve lived, if a yard existed, I always had a little garden. My father was an engineer who often had a garden, planned by square foot on graph paper. Maybe some of his planning and green thumb rubbed off on me. Rosetta Costantino, friend, cookbook author and teacher has also produced dozens of videos (cooking and gardening), which have been helpful getting us up and running, too. If interested, you may find her videos on Instagram @rosettacostantino.  

If all grows well, expect to see more garden-fresh vegetable inspired recipes here in the coming months. Tom and I tell each other that this will be a learning year. We’ve already had some failures (I loved my San Marzano seedlings so much that I killed some of them with kindness by over watering them. Many yellowed and died.) and successes (other seedlings and seeds planted directly in the ground are coming up right on schedule).

Some friends have already started calling us “Farmer Greg” and “Farmer Tom.” I tell them that I don’t want to insult the hard-working real farmers out there. Instead, they can call us, “Future Bed & Breakfast, or Future AirBnB owners that grow and serve food from their garden.” It’s not as catchy, but that’s the plan for maybe a year or so from now. Even though we are under the Tuscan sun, our house is certainly not a villa. That said, the Italian word for “lodging” is “alloggio.”  Tom thought of a potential name we could call it if we eventually open up for rentals, “Gli alloggi ad Arliano.” In English this means, “Lodgings in Arliano.” What do you think?

In Italy, if you’re abundant enough to have the amount of cash needed, a home sale can be completed within a month. We, however, needed a mortgage, which can take six to nine months to obtain. In our case it has been time enough to have a human baby – nine months! While there is no infant in our plans, we are happy to call our home and garden our baby.

PS — As your reward for making it this far down this post, here is a link to a David Lebovitz recipe that I made a couple of weeks ago for Canistrelli cookies. They are popular on the island of Corsica and are anise flavored. If you’re not an anise fan, use instead, 1 teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary. These are not pretty cookies, but they sure are delicious and easy to make. The only change that I made from the recipe is that I used an orange flavored liquor instead of anise since I didn’t have any. https://www.davidlebovitz.com/canistrelli-anise-cookies-french-corsica-corsican/


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Author: gregnelsoncooks

Visit weekly for original and adapted recipes as well as cooking tips to make your kitchen life easier — and more delicious! I’ll include simple, straight forward instructions along with recipes that are truly worth your time making. And, recipes that elevate the familiar and introduce you to the new and unexpected.

10 thoughts

  1. With how organized all your pictures are, I’m going to bet you will be up and running in under a year! Great adventure!

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the confidence. Although… we are applying for a couple of government programs that have reimbursement levels from 50% – 110% for infrastructure projects (windows, insulation, heat pumps, solar panels, and the like) that increase the energy efficiency of the house. Getting these approved takes plans and approvals from engineers, architects, the government, etc. It’s a very slow process, but worth it if approved. In the meantime we’ll be focusing on the main house and the garden. I’m guessing all else (rental property part) will happen in 1-2 years little by little.


  2. Reading about the journey & watching the steady steps to realization is truly impressive Greg You asked for thoughts on the “name” of your dream…& Tom’s suggestion with general “lodging” & the “where” is wonderful…but maybe you guys should not be shy about creating a long term legacy. Maybe add one more “easily remembered” word that “spices up” the”natural food” side of this wonderful destination or speaks to that legacy!….so excited for you guys!

    Liked by 1 person

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