It’s easy, while on vacation in some sun-drenched, fabulous corner of Italy, to fantasize about how it would be to live there. Great food every day, eye-popping beauty in the landscape and the people, oodles of charm, culture and history, a heart-melting language.
It’s all true. My husband and I moved to Milan when our daughters were two and four years old. We stayed for seven years, learned that heart-melting language, and loved it all so much we bought an ancient pile of stone that we are slowly turning back into a habitable home.
This is our story. The house is in the pristine hills of an uninvaded, largely unknown valley in Liguria, in which the language you hear is almost exclusively Italian. The people who live there are rebuilding our house. They are some of the most solid, hardest-working people I’ve ever met, and this story is also about them. More importantly, this is not a report on the past; we’re working in real-time. You get to participate in the reconstruction, which has started but has so much yet to come. Comment! Advise! Cheer! Weep!
In case you’re thinking this is going to be one continuously fabulous, romantic romp, let me tell you about some of the things that make expats (the ones who succumbed to their fantasies on vacation) turn grumpy about the country they expected to love. Paralyzing bureaucracy is a frequent starting point. Then come some key cultural differences, such as a confusing tendency for Italians to tell you what you want to hear instead of what is true (this is not considered lying); a fluid concept of time in which urgency is a pointless construct; and an almost serene acceptance of crisis as one of many things one should simply expect of life.
It’s a great atmosphere in which to tackle a massive renovation project.
On the plus side, I can tell you this experience has already taught me a lot about community, connectedness, commitment, and yes, patience. The project is turning out to be about a lot more than just building a house.
Where do you live during the reno?
Unfortunately I live most of the time in Toronto – but we have a little apartment very close to the villa and we stay there when in Italy.
Cheryl (@WryAndGinger) said:
So excited to see this blog. I’m starting a new DIY blog (www.thediyadventures.com) and was hoping to find some overseas blogs to put in my roll – and Italian ones especially. So you’re on the roll now yeay! (haven’t launched the site yet, just cobbling it together for a launch hopefully this weekend.)
But now, more importantly, where are you from that you know what mummering is?!
So glad you’ve found me! All the best with your own blog. They’re as much of a learning curve as DIY itself. I’m Canadian, specifically from Toronto although mummering here is really only a tradition on the east coast.
Cheryl (@WryAndGinger) said:
Yes – I’m in Nova Scotia – and the mummers show up here sometimes – tho more in Newfoundland. I love your blog – I fell in love with Italy a few years ago. I’m showing your blog around now.
The mummering tradition is great – along with kitchen music nights and other such forms of east coast socializing.
Isn’t it exciting!! I bought my ruin last year and am embarking on a renovation in Abruzzo! I will watch your project with interest – currently my final plan is with the architect. Hoping for planning permission end of August!!
There are many ups and downs on a project like this but it’s a wonderful journey. My best advice: don’t be in a hurry!
Debra Kolkka said:
Good luck with your house. Buying a house in Italy has been the best thing we have ever done. We are now building a house in the mountains. So far, it has gone very well. You can check it out on my blog. The category is New house in Vergemoli. We are three years into the project. The first couple of years were taken up with getting permits and finding a builder. The actualy building started this year and we have walls and a roof and the internal stuff is underway.
I will watch yours with interest.
Heck yeah bay-bee keep them coinmg!