Chasing the dream_ the road from ottawa to italy gets bumpy _ ottawa citizen

Editor’s note: After Ottawa couple Lisa Grassi-Blais and Jake Rupert fell in love with the region in Italy where her grandfather came from, they left their careers to stake their futures on a tour company and restored villa in the old country. Homemade italian sausage recipes This is the second instalment in a 12-part weekly series offering a first-person look at their adventures as they gear up for opening day. Recipe homemade italian sausage Last week: Falling in love with the Abruzzo region.

My wife, Lisa Grassi-Blais, and I had spent more than a year making careful plans for the project, had already sold our home in Ottawa’s Chinatown and our belongings, and we were looking forward to eventually quitting our jobs and moving to Italy to run the business.

It was the spring of 2013, and our plan was to keep working in Ottawa for a year or so while completing renovations on the property to turn it into a beautiful vacation villa complete with a pool and grand terrace. Johnsonville sweet italian sausage pasta recipe We were pinning our futures on the villa and business in the town of Torre de’Passeri in the stunning Abruzzo region of Italy, about 150 kilometres east of Rome.

Those plans — and our lives — were sent into disarray when the first of the renovation projects came in at more than double the original estimate.

I was sitting at my desk at Ottawa City Hall that April when I opened an email from our project manager in Abruzzo and saw final contract costs for some interior work were going to hit 75,000 Euros (about $115,000 Cdn), not the 30,000 Euros (or $45,000 Cdn) estimated before we bought the place.

The total cost of all renovations, including the pool and terrace, was supposed to be 80,000 Euros ($120,000 Cdn), and that, along with the purchase price of the villa, was already 20-per-cent more than we’d hoped to spend. Sweet italian turkey sausage recipe Now, the first phase of work alone was eating up almost all our reno budget. Homemade hot italian sausage recipe How much was the remaining work going to cost? 120,000 euros? More?

The next morning, we made the first of dozens of phone calls from a little apartment on Somerset Street where we were temporarily living to our project manager in Italy. He understood our frustration and anger. Italian sausage recipe crock pot But the boiler to heat the place was more expensive than expected because the villa was going to be used as a business rather than a home. Authentic italian sausage recipe The six bathrooms needed more work than anticipated, more windows needed replacing, the walls were in worse shape, blah, blah, blah. Ground italian sausage pasta recipe Short story: 45,000 Euros ($68,000 Cdn) over budget.

I was told we would address those issues later. Italian sausage recipe slow cooker My anger grew and for the rest of the day I was plagued by doubt. Mild italian sausage recipes We loved Abruzzo, we wanted to live there, and we knew a tour company would work, but was this a mistake? Where were we going to get the extra cash?

Over a glass — or three — of wine that night, Lisa and I discussed the situation and decided that, despite this setback, we were still committed to a future as tour operators in Italy. Spaghetti and italian sausage recipe But how? Maybe we’d have to live and work in Ottawa longer than the one year we’d hoped. Homemade italian chicken sausage recipes Maybe we would have to borrow more money. Italian sausage seasoning recipe Maybe we’d take on a partner. Jennie o sweet italian turkey sausage recipes Maybe we’d win the friggin’ lottery.

We committed to doing whatever it took to chase our dream and find a way to live with the fact that we weren’t completely in control of our own destinies and wouldn’t be for some time. Recipe for homemade italian sausage It didn’t help that we were 7,000 km away, we didn’t know the business culture or how much things cost.

As much as it pained me to admit, until everything was done and the first guests arrived, we weren’t really driving this bus. Johnsonville mild italian sausage recipe We were along for the ride. Italian sausage rigatoni recipe I had to accept that or start ordering anti-anxiety drugs by the truckload.

Bottom line: If we really wanted to make our dream a reality, we had to trust our project manager. So, the next morning, we took several deep breaths, signed the contract for the first round of renovations and faxed it to him. To borrow a gambling term, we were literally all in.

Getting there: Direct flights from Toronto and Montreal to Rome are available from several airlines, including Air Canada and Air Transat. Spaghetti with italian sausage recipe Flights from Ottawa and smaller cities require one transfer. Italian sausage spices recipe Cost: $1,000 to $1,500, depending on time of year. Italian sausage soup recipes olive garden Torre de’Passeri is easily reached from Rome by the A24/A25 freeways, Pronto Bus Service from the Rome Airport and main train station, and by rail with Trenitalia.

Packages and cost: Amazing Abruzzo Tours offers a range of packages from simple bed-and-breakfast accommodations to its signature product — week-long, all-inclusive packages with all transportation, accommodation, meals, and daytrips. Depending on exchange rates and group size, prices range from $60 a person per night for a double-occupancy bed-and-breakfast stay to $1,700 a week per person for an all-inclusive package. Details and a sample tour can be found at