home reno, italy, Liguria, living abroad, renovation, villas
One of the questions I get a lot is whether I had a terrible time trying to work with Italian workers and bureaucracy on the villa project. While this may disappoint people looking for a more juicy post, the answer is no. Why? We went local, and we had a great geometra.
The geometra is, in my opinion, the single most important decision you can make on an Italian reno project. Good ones know their way around the myriad regulations and filings, they know which contractors are good at what, which suppliers have the best windows, plasters, rafters, etc., who has the time to really devote to your project and who will try to charge you too much. They run the show on you behalf.
Fees are usually a fixed percentage of construction. This is, of course, something you want to work out ahead of time. But it’s money so well spent, it’s the last thing you want to haggle over.
So how do you find a good one? As I mentioned before, it’s not through your real estate agent. We spent some time in our local community, asking around at bars and our new neighbours, and they directed us to Studio Ginocchio and the capable Nadia Silvano. The fact that she was part of the local fabric was as important as her professional skills, because when you start on a project like this, you begin to build a web of contacts and interdependencies that are just like a spider’s web: strong and delicate at the same time. No-one wanted to let Nadia down, and by extension no-one would let us down, either.
Not that we delegated completely and then disappeared. That was another important aspect of being able to get things done reliably. If you don’t make an effort to be present as much as possible, to be part of the community when you’re there, to care about who’s just had a baby and whose mother has just died, then no-one will care about the progress of your house in turn. But the number of times someone from whom I needed help asked me who the geometra was, and the way they always made an effort to give me what I needed when I said it was Nadia, convinced me of the importance of her role.
Advice: Find the geometra everyone loves. Love him/her in turn, treat them with respect (this should go without saying, but you’d be amazed), appreciate their knowledge, listen to them. They are your most important renovation asset!
Julie Fanciullacci said:
Would you have email contact details/website for your geometra, Nadia? We are about to buy a property in Liguria that requires extensive renovation work and have followed your blog with interest. Does she speak English? My husband speaks fluent Italian but he left Tuscany at 14 years of age, therefore sometimes he prefers to speak english with certain subjects.
Thanks for your help.
Her name is Nadio Silvano and she’s with Studio Technico Ginocchio & Silvano in Varese Ligure.
+39 0187 842180
I’m pretty certain she doesn’t speak English, unless she was hiding a talent from me! It is intimidating wading through all the technical terminology in a foreign language, but it’s likely your contractor will also be unable to speak English, so best to brush up on your vocabulary if you can.
Julie Fanciullacci said:
Thank you Shelagh, we will be visiting Liguria soon, so we will contact Nadia to see if she can help us.
Never were more truer words spoken than what you wrote Shelagh. We went the route of one nominated by the real estate agents and have ended up in the Tribunale because of his gross overcharging, conflict of interest (the building company whilst in the name of the Romanian builders was run by him and now with all the problems he has because of us, he has given up any impression of ‘arm’s length’ and purchased the company!
We are in the process of seeking to break our contracts with him and the building company. He is actually in a different town and region to us (just over the mountains) and since living in the town we have come to know and respect several other geometras and the towns people have also pointed out who to avoid. We now know stonemasons and several builders, carpenters etc and when we start again we will be working closely with our chosen geometra (still haven’t decided on that) to ensure that all goes well.
It was a tough lesson to learn and cost us dearly financially, but it has been marvellous how the people in our town have rallied around us. That alone has made it all worthwhile.
Wow! I’m so glad we dodged that bullet early on. Your bad experience tells the story even better than my positive one.