The search for a suitable ‘forest monastery’ property continues. We find ourselves visiting literally hundreds of properties within a reasonable distance from Rome. Several times we seem to have found the right place – near Velletri, Tivoli, Palombara Sabina, Rocca Sinibalda – the excitement level soars, word goes out and many interested and enthusiastic people visit, only for some major obstacle to eventually come to light. One building was basically illegal, while another was restricted to agricultural use. One property could not actually be sold for another several years and the final one just cost far too much.
The Thai ambassador’s wife of the time, Khun Natcharee, is deeply involved and committed to concluding the project before her husband’s retirement. Meetings are held in the embassy and fund-raising events organised. However, time is running out and there have been so many disappointments, despair is beginning to take hold. Perhaps we should just give up and stay in Sezze or else return to England or Thailand?
A property that comes to our attention in the Sabina hills near Poggio Nativo sounds interesting. It is at the end of a road, but not far from the Via Salaria and thus well connected for public transport to and from Rome. There are four buildings and 5 hectares of land, partly wooded. We go and visit in May of 1997 and are soon convinced that this is what we are looking for! It really has all the potential of a forest monastery and not only is the price substantially lower than all the other properties that we might have bought, it is also from our point of view by far the most desirable.
Once again, though, doubts begin to surface. The entrance road seems to cut across the neighbour’s property. But the toughest and seemingly insurmountable problem is that, according to the law, a legally-recognized association – such as Santacittarama – needs governmental approval before acquiring a property. Nobody has any idea how long this would take. One year, two years or even more? In the meantime, the owner is deep in debt and needs to sell as soon as possible. There is no way he is going to wait for us indefinitely. Despair begins to take hold again, but then some unexpected news arrives. The law has just been changed and the purchase can go right ahead!
Here is part of a stop press item added as insert to a newsletter of June 1997:
“Finally our ‘new monastery project’ is approaching a satisfactory conclusion. A suitable property has been found in the comune of Poggio Nativo, among the Sabina hills, near the 53rd kilometre of the Via Salaria. Frequent buses shuttle between Rome and Rieti, stopping just over a kilometre away, providing easy access by public transport to a very quiet location of gently rolling hills and wooded valleys.
The main house, sturdily built in the distant past and then extended for use by his family by the last owner, an architect, is in excellent condition and consists of a large kitchen/dining room, five bedrooms and three bathrooms. A smaller house standing about 30 m away has three rooms, kitchen and bathroom, while two large outbuildings suggest various possibilities for future development. Around five hectares of meadow and woodland offer a contemplative community a suitably inspiring and peaceful environment.”
Finally, negotiations are concluded and the property is acquired on 26th September 1997 by the Santacittarama association, minutes after a major earthquake that has the windows rattling and plants shaking in the notary’s studio in Rome. We are fervently hoping that what we have just purchased does not turn out to be a pile of rubble!
The following day Khun Anurak, the Thai ambassador retires, and he and his wife, Khun Natcharee, return to Thailand, her dream having been realized just in time, several years of patient perseverance having finally come to fruition!