Discover more from the writing grove
Dreams of Italy, but with a reality check
Tip: beware the 1 euro houses. Plus, join the autumn writing retreat!
This week’s theme is about Puglia in Italy. First, the writing retreat I’m hosting there, and then an interview with Nikki Taylor, an Australian expat who has the fabulous job of helping people realise their Italian property dreams with a healthy dose of pragmatism.
There are still places in the autumn writing retreat in Puglia starting on 30 October! I’m excited to meet and work with everyone attending.
Over the week, you’ll:
Gain the confidence to write great scenes using techniques from film, theatre and established authors
Support and be supported by other writers in a 900-year-old monastery converted into a luxury hotel
Experience a part of Italy still off the radar for most tourists. There will be guided tours and experiences with locals. You’ll get to know the town of Nardò, its history and the people living there
The retreat is heavy on interactivity (no didactic lectures!), exercises and fun. And there’s plenty of free time to rest, recharge & explore - it is, after all, a holiday!
If you have any questions or if you want to have a session to discuss anything, email me at email@example.com or click the button below for more info:
Meet Nikki Taylor
I first learned of Nikki whilst listening to a podcast about Italy during the darkest days of the pandemic lockdowns. She spoke with passion about her love for Italy and how she created a business helping people from all over the world realise their dream of owning Italian property. I quickly subscribed to her newsletter and later contacted her directly. On her recommendation, I went to Nardò and fell in love with the town. As you’ll often hear her clients tell you, trust Nikki. We caught up about language, her business and those famed €1 houses.
Nikki Taylor is an Australian expat and a bilingual real estate and holiday rentals expert, specialising in Italian property purchases for foreigners. A 2x Amazon best-selling author, Nikki's work has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur and Millionaire magazines, and HGTV's House Hunters International and Mediterranean Life TV programs. She is the founder of the first-ever Italian digital property magazine, which gives a complete 360-degree insight into how to achieve La Dolce Vita. Residing in Puglia, you'll find her enjoying her own "la dolce vita" with her two italo-australiano bambinos.
Lloyd Miner (LM): Nikki, thanks so much for taking the time. I always start with language: How many languages do you speak? And when did you learn them?
Nikki Taylor (Nikki): Thank you for inviting me to participate and share my story! The first language I learned was Brazilian Portuguese in 2011, as I lived in San Paolo then. When I moved to Italy in 2014, I lived in Bolzano in the far northeast of the country on the Austrian border. It's a dual-language city of Italian and German, so I enrolled in a language school to study both.
LM: What’s a word or phrase in Italian that you love that doesn’t exist in English and vice versa?
Nikki: Il dolce far niente. The sweetness of doing nothing. I love that phrase, as the message in our culture is often to be on the go and doing something. I am from Australia, so the phrase G’day mate definitely does not exist in Italian.
LM: You’re raising a family in Italy, right? How is navigating multiple languages at home?
Nikki: My boys understand Italian and English, but I always speak to them in English at home whilst their father speaks Italian. They attend an Italian school, so most of their language skills are Italian, but they both understand English. They are both still very young, so I am enjoying seeing how their knowledge of English is progressing.
LM: Anyone who’s ever moved countries has a high and a low point (or several!). Could you share some of your triumphs and tribulations since moving to Italy?
Nikki: Well, my path to “la dolce vita” has definitely not been smooth sailing. I think any move to a new country, a new culture, will have its challenges. I struggled at times when I was living in an area in Southern Italy (that I cannot mention for privacy reasons) that was not a safe town. I felt like, how on earth did I get here? It was not the life I had imagined for myself, but through that challenging time, I found the strength to create my own business and move back to Puglia, my heart-home. Every challenge along this journey was worth it.
LM: What were some of the most surprising things about moving to Italy? Expectations you had that were perhaps misplaced or things that wow-ed you that you hadn’t expected?
Nikki: The total difference in culture has been a shock at times, and still, at times, I feel like I have a long way to go in developing my knowledge of Italian culture. Things that are no big deal to me as an Australian can be a huge drama for an Italian, so it's really about being mindful that you are in a country that thinks completely differently from what you have grown up with.
LM: How does Italy differ from where you've lived in the UK and Australia?
Nikki: The main difference for me is the pace of life. I still struggle at times with feeling the need to be on the go all the time, walking quickly like I am in a rush when, in fact, I am not. The “vita lenta” (slow life) concept for me is still something that I am adapting to. Let’s just say when I am in the car and driving, I lose my patience A LOT with the slow drivers. LOL.
Helping clients find their dream home:
LM: Talk about your business(es). How did you get the idea to start? And how has it evolved over the years?
Nikki: I found a job immediately when I arrived in Italy in 2014 in the real estate industry. I worked in real estate at my first job in Perth, Australia, when I was 19, and I have always been passionate about real estate. When I moved down to Puglia in 2017, I found work for a real estate and holiday rentals company, and I was managing all the client enquiries in English. It was there that I saw a pattern forming. Many people had the same fears about buying property in Italy; they worried about unethical agents and builders and feared losing their money.
From there, I created the first course in the country and the industry on buying property in Italy. Then, I created the first property newsletter, now a weekly digital magazine, “La Dolce Vita Lifestyle Magazine”, where I give a 360-degree insight into real estate, lifestyle, culture and cuisine. I have a consulting side to my business, Italy Property Consulting, where I assist my private clients with helping them find their dream homes in Italy.
LM: One of the things that shocked me about the housing stock in Italy was the price range - everything from expensive to very affordable. And the choice. There’s so much available. How do you help clients narrow down all the options?
Nikki: I go through a fact-finding exercise with each of my private clients when we first meet. My background in financial planning and investment banking really has been a great skill addition to what I do now. I dig deep with my clients to understand what they want from a real estate perspective, lifestyle, and investment.
Sometimes, clients have a certain objective that is misaligned with what they are really looking for in their new potential property. A good first interaction is crucial to help them see the possibilities and keep them on track.
LM: Of course, the one-euro houses keep attracting attention in the news. I know you feel strongly about these. What should potential buyers know?
Nikki: I could write a book on this subject! In a nutshell, these homes are just clever marketing. There is a LOT of red tape and restrictions. Honestly, the amount of money you would need to invest to make the property habitable is not worth it. A lot of people believe that they can create a successful Airbnb business from one of these types of properties. Still, the reality is that the towns are outside areas popular for tourism, and the majority of these homes require the buyer to live in the property as their primary residence.
It was actually off the back of the €1 homes hoopla that I came up with the idea of creating the property newsletter, which turned into the magazine as I wanted to showcase properties that were in fantastic areas with great potential for tourism and investment and not with all the limitations and restrictions that the €1 homes offer.
LM: How did your business navigate the pandemic? Were people still looking for property even though there was no ability to travel?
Nikki: During the pandemic, people were not able to travel, and I was one of the first in the industry to pioneer the idea of creating virtual tours via Zoom for my clients, drone footage and the like so that they could “view” the property without having to leave their home. Many clients of mine successfully purchased properties during the pandemic and have been thrilled with the result of this purchase.
LM: What are some of your top tips for Puglia? Especially for people looking to avoid the masses?
Nikki: As you know, I am a HUGE fan of Lower Salento, where you have bought, and it is still such an undiscovered area. The great thing about Puglia is that the climate is amazing for a good 9-10 months of the year, so if you want to avoid the masses, come in the off seasons in May or June or September until November. You will avoid the crowds that are here in July and August and still be able to get around and have some beach time and sunshine!
If you want to experience all Puglia has to offer, consider coming on the writing retreat and adding on a few days extra to explore the region!