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Articles by Alpaca World Magazine:

The Italian Job

Hilary Shenton

The sheer relief of getting out of our truly dreadful house in Puglia and all the troubles of the last nine months made the day of the move to Basilicata all the more special. As with the trip from the UK a great deal needed to be organised and as is common with house purchases in England, much of it happened necessarily at the last minute.

We were due to complete the purchase at the notaio?s office on the evening of Friday 11 January. However we had given notice on our house and could only get a removal company who could move us on a weekday. Hence we managed to get permission to move the alpacas into the grounds and our furniture and effects into the new house before we completed.

The house is actually a bungalow built only twenty years ago on the site of a much older house which was demolished. At first glance it is an ordinary regular shape and a bit smaller than we wanted. However there were a number of attractions. Firstly the location is just gorgeous. We are 750 m above sea level in a glorious mountainous area. We are in fact about one third of the way up Monte Sirino and so we can ski in the winter and walk on the beach half an hour away on sunny days. Secondly we are within fifteen minutes from the A3 motorway which leads to Naples, Rome and Florence. Hence we are easily accessible to prospective alpaca owners and our friends. Finally the house is easy to improve. It is sound, well-insulated and in lovely grounds. We have decided rather than extend the building we will have a log cabin for guests in the garden near to the pool and overlooking the view. I think we shall have a lot of visitors.

One of our first tasks has been to erect fencing for the alpacas. This was easily achieved in the first month and now they too are enjoying the view. Last year?s crias had never known such freedom. From a 100 square metre flat enclosure in Puglia to a mountainside is quite a change and they relish it ? running around and playing all day long. There are stray dogs here too, although not quite such a nuisance, so the fence has to be five feet high and very secure.

The next task was to re-register the herd with the local health department. As in Puglia it required a visit from the ministry vet who was quite bemused and gave us the necessary ticks on his paperwork. What has been more difficult has been finding a vet to care for them. In fact at the time of writing this in March we have only just found a name and have yet to meet the person. I don?t know why there are so few vets here. I am told though that this lady knows about alpacas which is quite a coup if it is true.

When we were in Puglia we were granted Italian residency. Now you could be forgiven for thinking that all we had to do was notify the local council here of our change of address. Wrong! After three visits to the council eventually they received all the paperwork from Puglia and we find that the residency we were given was temporary only ? in fact for just one year. We do not know why and frankly I am clean out of patience with the whole issue. Suffice to say we have to re-apply here and provide documentary evidence of our income, our health status and our national insurance/social security position in both the UK and Italy. All of this is right outside all the rules issued to prospective incomers from other EU countries but, hey, since when did that stop the Italians asking? I am now in the throes of dealing with the UK HMRC Residency office trying to enlist their help with all the paperwork. I am beginning to wonder if the UK really is part of the EU.

There are other benefits to being in Basilicata. From the alpacas angle the grass grows. There is a superb supply of good quality hay and in fact we have been fortunate in getting a hay:alfalfa locally grown mix which they just love. So we do not have to get food brought down from Milan. It is also easier to link with Maridiana in Umbria where our boys are standing at stud and where we are also going to be running introductory courses.

On a domestic level although there are not many Brits here we do not feel such an oddity. I think the proximity to Naples and the rest of Italy means there are lots of visitors here and we shall see in the summer just how busy it gets. We are told it is very busy indeed. The downside is that for a shopaholic such as me there are not as many good shops nearby and so my days of bringing out the credit card and having a spot of lunch in a chi-chi area are confined to Salerno (1.5 hours) and Naples (2 hours plus a lot of hassle).

Our own village is a hilltop settlement called Rivello. It is just delightful. There is a church right on the top and a rather promising, summer only, restaurant next door that has a balcony with a stunning view. There are very tiny streets and passages hiding local shops and cafes and a weekly market.

Only half an hour away is the very swish resort of Maratea which has a harbour stacked full of yachts and ?floating gin palaces? with restaurants in abundance. The hotels look good although the best are very expensive indeed. The coastline reminds me of Cornwall. It is very rugged with lots of hidden coves. There are very few sandy beaches. Mainly they are of volcanic rock with Vesuvius and Pompeii of course very close.

We can get down to Reggio Calabria in under three hours and get a ferry to Sicily for the weekend or we can go north and get a ferry to Capri. All these opportunities are going to make for exciting exploratory days out in the Spring/Summer whilst we await the work which is to be done on the house and garden.

In the meantime we have the 2008 season for Zarza to plan for in the UK. My time is split for the next few months. I am running up lots of BA air-miles flying from Naples to Gatwick and am looking forward to the usual round of shows and of course our Zarza Sale which this year is on 3 May.

My first Italian course is in Umbria on 12 April and I am trying to memorise some Italian phrases in case we get locals as well as expatriates! I think this will be a more ?hands on? course than ever with the alpacas getting very ?centre stage?! I wonder what their Italian is like????????