Standing at the airport looking through the glass wall, waiting to see Tony walking down the long corridor, my feelings of anxiousness and stress were overwhelming, and nothing compared to the exhaustion I was sure he was feeling. I just wanted him back here with me so we could be together and figure out this giant mess that we had gotten ourselves into. We work better together, and being so far apart throughout all of this made everything so much worse and added to our anxiety. What he didn’t know while he was on a plane flying over the ocean, I had received a call from the sellers, while I was at work that afternoon. They were understandably upset that he had left, and while I understood their feelings, my “mother bear” instinct had kicked in and I was going to protect us and our family at all costs. I had told them that once Tony and I had a chance to talk and take stock of everything, we would be in touch.
You're probably asking yourself why he left? Why get up and get on a plane back to the US? Seems pretty drastic right? Well, during that last meeting with the “Commercialista”, Tony expressed his concern over the way things were unfolding. As time went on, there seemed to be less and less commitment from the sellers. Everything that had been promised sitting around their kitchen table, was now down to just a few days of commitment to transition this entire brand. Their “word” never made it into the contracts, and it was obvious that all they wanted was to cash out, and then peace out! Tony prepared a plan B in an attempt to work with the sellers and express with them our concerns. This plan ensured the continued success of the brand and they would still get the remainder of their money. That brief meeting was met with them making it clear that they had no interest in any sort of a partnership plan that would have helped us all to be successful in the long run, and they walked out. It was apparent that this just wasn’t going to work. What they said, and what was in writing, just didn’t match and we were not comfortable with any of it! This was our life savings, and while we had already handed over significant amounts, we now had to put the brakes on this speeding train before it went any further.
Once we had about 24 hours to address the ominous feeling in our gut, and attempt to read over all the paperwork that Tony had brought back with him, it was obvious that this was poorly written and completely in the benefit of the sellers, and full of things that just didn’t make sense to us with the foreign language and legalese writing, we were frustratingly baffled. Next up, making that phone call to the sellers, that would end up being our last phone conversation with them. The call was short, and ended just after it began. When someone opens a dialogue saying that they “understand this isn’t for you”, “not your thing”, and “we can end this all very amicably for a price”! Just send more money and no hard feelings. Insert jaw drop! They went on and on about how things are done in Italy, and how this was their culture and community now, despite being American. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor and collected myself, I answered that I will put the financial needs of my family above all else. While they may live in Italy now, they are in fact American, and still are, and I am pretty sure the world over, THAT is called extortion. That call ended with the sellers stating that we would be hearing from their lawyer. I remember hanging up the phone, taking a deep breath, and picking the phone back up again. One call to a friend, and a short journey that led us to our italian attorney, now turned dear friend. Stefano lives in Milan and has a very respected practice in business contract law and litigation with some very high profile clients in his resume. Today, we are still grateful that he took on our “little” case.
Within a few short days we were on a WhatsApp video call with Stefano and sending him ALL of the contracts and paperwork we had in our possession. Including my original Apostille that I, thankfully, had the insight to never courier to Italy. At this point, the final contract was not binding and had not been filed by the notaio. I remember being utterly shocked at some of the things that were in that final contract once our lawyer had read it all. Shame on us for not knowing better, being too trusting, and not protecting ourselves! After some back and forth emails, and the seller's lawyer continuing to attempt to get yet more money from us, Stefano said enough! The contract was not valid. I remember so clearly when he waved the papers around on a WhatsApp call and said, “This is not a contract, it is just, Air!” You see, it is against Italian Supreme Court law to sell “good will”, and that is exactly what they had done. There was absolutely NOTHING in that contract that was tangible for selling a business or brand. And yes, that includes all those potatoes! We bought NOTHING. It was at that point, that Stefano sent an email to the seller’s lawyer informing them of the Supreme Court law in Italy, and that if this continued, we would be taking this to court and litigating. Basta!
After that email, we never heard from them again. Well, not in a legal sense anyway. I am sure that they knew they were in the wrong, and continuing would most likely not end well for them. What followed was an onslaught of social media bashing for lack of a better word. Facebook and Instagram posts, podcasts, and blog posts that were filled with, straight up lies. We listened to every podcast, read every post and our lawyer documented it all. We were truly shocked at some of the things said. The comments that were left by all of their devout followers were absolutely horrible! Our character was being attacked by complete strangers saying truly cruel things about us. We felt hurt and used, yet again. Used to boost their “story”, perhaps further their business through sympathy, to keep their followers on “their” side. It was as if they were using their followers to attack us so they didn’t have to do it themselves. There were so many things said over that time by them that would shock their followers today, but we chose to stay silent. All of this added to the devastation we felt and was a part of the emotional journey we had to go through. Instantly, the property was miraculously still available and they were able to pick up where they left off and have a VERY full and successful season as always. They were fortunate to have never skipped a beat, and went back to business as usual.
Now, nearly 5 years later, it continues. Updates on the original blog post claiming to be the “true story”, that now names our business and a link to our website! Maybe we should thank them for the free marketing. To be honest, we are truly surprised at the attempt to continue to churn hatred from followers for us, and try to somehow hurt our business. As for us, we choose to live our life in a way that we can feel good about. To make choices that we can look back on and know that we did the right thing and didn’t intentionally negatively impact others. The past few years have been a roller coaster for us. A series of ups and downs as we found our way back to our dream. Back to owning a home in Italy. Attempting to bring down others or hurt their business along the way, does absolutely nothing for us. This is why we have chosen to not mention anything about them or their business or where they are. We have chosen to always stay focused on our journey.
Sitting here now, we can truly say that we had to go through all of that, to get here. To find Miedi and all of our wonderful neighbors that we now call friends. To be a part of this amazing community of ours. To learn to trust again, and come back and buy a home! It was a lesson learned, albeit a very expensive and truly personal one.
So, our advice to anyone reading this and maybe has a dream of a life in another country. Protect yourself! Do your research, find your people to protect you, represent YOU. There are people out there that charge you a lot of money for workshops claiming to teach you how to move to Italy, or how to “retire” in Italy and share their “secrets” on how to do this, based solely on their experience and circumstance. Promising to have all the people to help you with the entire process, for a big cost! I am here to tell you, all of that is available to you for FREE. You do not need to attend an expensive workshop for information, unless you want to enjoy the trip. There are no “secrets” on how to move to Italy or any foreign country. There are so many different circumstances and it looks different for everyone. Some would like to retire, some would like to run a business, some are being relocated for work. And there are hundreds of different visas and documents and paths to a foreign country based on where you are coming from and what your circumstances are. There are so many social media groups out there filled with other expats, such as ourselves, that are always willing to help others in all types of circumstances and provide what knowledge we have from our different experiences and to try to point someone in the right direction to get the correct information. To share the free government sites and reputable people should you prefer, to help guide you. We are not experts by any means, but we are always willing to help others through our journey, if we can. Be wary of anyone promising to have all the people with them to help you along the way, because those are THEIR people, not YOUR people.
Next up...the fun story on how we found our beloved Miedi! Some things are just truly meant to be.