For anyone who might be thinking about restoring a villa in the Italian countryside, this is my one best piece of advice: be a locarenovator! Source your contractor, geometra and materials from the community in which you’re building.
We’ve made a lot of mistakes with our villa – mostly with regards to understanding how much stuff actually had to be done to make it livable, and how much money it would take. More about that tale of woe another time! The one thing we have done right is to hire people who live within a 20 minute drive, and to buy our materials from about the same radius. Why is this so important?
For one thing, everyone who’s got something to do with the outcome knows each other. They all run into each other (and sometimes us) at the bar, the bakery, or Saturday night’s festa. They went to school together. They know each others’ babies. Their interconnection is vital for getting things done.
And, more than that, I believe fervently that the project, however sporadic our activity, should benefit the community in which we seek to be welcome. It seems only right.
One last piece of advice: learn the language. You can’t participate if you don’t. You end up being a mere stranger demanding service, and it will never be as good. Italians are the most forgiving people on earth towards those who butcher their beautiful language, so there’s really no excuse. Go forth fearlessly and learn to be local.