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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.

Majordomo Nadia, project Queen

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!