It took four months for Jemma and Lizzy to sell their cottage. The girls felt sad packing up all their mothers' treasures but she would want them to move on and be happy. A box of special mementos was kept but most of the furniture was either given away or sold off.
Lizzy packed up the paintings that were important to her, the rest she gave away to friends and a local charity.
Moving day soon arrived, and Jemma and Lizzy were headed for the airport. Miles drove them and it was clear he was sad saying goodbye to Jemma. Miles had been there for both the girls these last few months and Jemma acknowledged they couldn't have managed without him.
Miles hugged the girls' goodbye and called out as they headed for the departure lounge "Call me when you are settled and I will be over".
Jemma gave Miles a wave and a smile.
"You'll miss him Jemma," said Lizzie looking at her sister, she could see she had tears in her eyes, "You ok hon?" she added.
"Yes of course I am. He has helped us so much…that's all" replied Jemma.
Soon the girls would be arriving in Rome. They were both feeling excited and a little apprehensive. They had decided to spend a week relaxing and doing a bit of sightseeing then they were going to head up north to Lucca.
They had read so much about Lucca and little walled towns like it. The girls wanted to see if they could make a new life and find a new home in Italy. This was a big decision and they were going to spend a couple of months soaking in the culture and seeing if they could be happy in a new country.
The week in Rome went by fast and they did all the touristy things, like visit the Vatican City, The Trevi Fountain and the Colesseum. They had a lot of fun and really enjoyed the food and everything Rome had to offer. Both of the girls managed to buy themselves handbags from the street sellers and enjoyed the experience of being able to barter.
On the Saturday the girls checked out of their hotel bright and early and headed for the railway station. They had an hours wait before they could get on a train to Lucca, which would take them via Pisa. Rome station was huge and the girls felt a little overwhelmed but soon settled down once they were on the train. The countryside flashing by was so pretty and every so often there were lovely yellow fields of canola.
Arriving in Lucca, the girls were totally enchanted by the town. The cobbled streets were so narrow and there were very few cars allowed to drive through its centre. Jemma and Lizzy had booked themselves into a charming little B&B. It was delightful, and the proprietor and his wife were ever so welcoming. The girls felt happy, and they were going to stay a few days so they could get a feel for this delightful little town.
Giorgio and Marta went out of their way to look after their guests; they suggested tours, restaurants and places to visit. One evening Jemma and Lizzy were invited into Giorgio and Marta's apartment for supper and a glass of red wine. During the evening the girls said they were looking for somewhere to settle and possibly buy a property. With that Giorgio jumped up and grabbed a handful of real estate cards, "I have a good friend Sergio, he can show you places all around Lucca, and up in the hills as well".
"That would be lovely, thank you Giorgio" said Lizzy excitedly.
True to his word, the next day Sergio arrived to take the girls out to look at properties. He was a charming man in his early forties. Jemma and Lizzy felt comfortable with him and he seemed very knowledgeable.
On their way to Bagni di Lucca, Sergio suggested they stop for a gelato so they could talk about what sort of property the girls were looking for. The view from the café was breath-taking; the rolling hills and the olive and Cyprus trees that dotted the landscape looked so beautiful. It was magic, and the girls knew instantly they had found their paradise.
But now they had to find their new home. Sergio showed them many properties; some needed quite a lot of maintenance which was not what the girls had in mind.
The first day was spent really looking at the area and it wasn't until their third visit with Sergio that the girls found the villa of their dreams. The villa was in the little village of Benabbio, which dated back to medieval times. It was so pretty and was perched on the side of a hill. There were olive trees, wild roses and orange trees around the property, while dark red Bougainvillea draped itself around the entrance. There were two bedrooms, a lounge, kitchen, dining room, one bathroom, and a small outdoor area where they could entertain friends. It was ideally situated and only forty minutes from Lucca, and just over an hour away from Pisa. Upstairs there was an attic with enough space for Lizzy to be able to paint. The house was 130,000 pounds which was about what the girls wanted to pay. Jemma and Lizzy did not want to over-invest their money in case they decided not to stay.
Over the next week Jemma and Lizzy started to look around for furniture. They were lucky enough to have had some basic furniture included in the sale of the house. But the girls were keen to add their own personal touch to their new home.
They planned a house warming and invited Giorgio and his wife, who had been so kind to them, and Sergio arrived with some friends in tow. Jemma sent an invitation to Miles but didn't really expect he would be able to come at short notice.
By Kay Rayner