Villa Chatto is really two conjoined properties. We purchased the first house in 1983 after we fell in love with the peace and quiet and the breathtaking view - olive-covered hills tumbling down to the Ionian Sea; gaunt Albanian mountains rearing up in the distance. The house was old and partially derelict; half the roof was missing, there were no windows or doors, plumbing or electricity, and nothing but a dirt floor downstairs, where animals had been kept. Birds’ nests decorated the beams. But we were not deterred: the metre-thick walls were sound, as were the original cypress staircase and upper storey floor. And there was a sizeable piece of land and another one-room house across the patio, perfect for writing. We lived there full-time for the first four years, having babies, writing books, farming our olives, and slowly restoring the house – a protracted adventure described in my book The Greek for Love. After that, we returned to live in Canada, visiting the island in the summers.
In 2003, we purchased the ruined house next door and set about renovating it. This is a much older building; it was originally a cell-like monastery built in 1675 by three Illyrian monks fleeing persecution. It may well be one the oldest buildings in the village. Much of their work is still in evidence, including a beehive oven, an alcove where the host was kept, a stone sink and a superb floor of large pink marble flagstones. An upper storey was added in the following century and the cypress floor – with its massive beams - is still there. After extensive renovations, carefully preserving the mood and integrity of the monastery, we put through a door to join the two properties into one large, unique house. Never rented, it has been our family holiday home ever since.