Sunday, November 7, 2010

House Restoration in Italy

The purpose of my visit to Italy this fall was to remodel the tired bathroom
that just has had enough.
(actually I am sure the bathroom is quite content, it is me that has
had enough...)

Husband keeps asking how it is going.
Well, it is always much more interesting
to use some visual aids to tell a story, in my opinion,
so I keep evading his questions
until I could paint a picture with both words and photos=

We bought this apartment in 2002 and in the first year we owned it, it was necessary to remodel the kitchen and add a second bathroom.
That is pretty much all we have done in 8 years.

But this tired old bathroom has not had
an overhaul probably since the 1980's and it is due. I tried to give it facelifts by
painting it white a few years back and I worked with a local Cortona
artist to paint some fun painted finishes on the ceiling.
3 or 4 years ago doing the bathroom "facelift"
The facelift of the past 3-4 years

It was fine for a while, but this poor bathroom has
seen better days.
I'm over it.
So once again, I am entering into the world of
House Renovation.
Not a job for the faint of heart.
Everything you may have read or heard about renovating a house
in Italy is most likely true and then some.
I have had just about all these experiences that were ever
written about building or remodling in Italy.

They are extremely challenging, frustrating, funny,
unbelievable, maddening to the point of homicide,
and some of the best times I have ever had.
I love the sound of workers hammering, sawing,
pounding, drilling, it thrills me to no end to see
my vision being built.
(remind me I said that when something goes
wrong with THIS project, so far nothing has
but it isn't over YET)

So exit old tired bathroom and this is what I walked into
10 days ago...

Completely demolished, down to the 500 year old walls.

Isn't it beautiful?
I was delighted!
No more stupid blue.
No more 1980's tired gaudy fixtures.
No more cheesy painted white wood
walls that keep peeling.
No more centuries old dust that keeps falling out from
behind the cheesy white paneled walls that barely
held everything in.

Just rubble.
Beautiful, pure rubble.
And 500 year old stone walls.
A blank canvas.

I called the two main worker guys,
Giuseppe and Taddeo, the
respective idralico (plumber/electrician)
the muratore (wall mason).
They INSISTED on coming over immediately
that evening at 9:30pm.

They seemed quite eager and pleased
to see me.
(actually I think they were really happy to see
me arrive,
knowing they were going to make a
sacco di soldi (a sack of money)
at my expense,
stupidina Americana..
Now I was here to begin the project and
the sacco di soldi was not far away...

But maybe not,
maybe we are all just good pals and they were
really excited to see me...

Yeah right.

But none the less, we had a fine, animated chat.

They point out all the various places of work that was done

BEFORE their sojourn here, at Casa San Marco 2 years ago,

and take great glee in showing me how the imbecile former

plumber who remodeled our kitchen which

adjoins the bathroom wall,

used pipes made out of plastic that were as thick (or thin) as a balloon.

Balloon thin pipes in 1/2 thick walls.
If you fell against that wall with enough impact,
you would probably end up in the kitchen.

They then illustrated to me how

both the bathtub drainage and the washing machine drainage was

joined into one tiny pipe that leads out of the house.

The previous evil idralico then encased these pipes

in a flimsy sheetrock rock wall about 1/2

inch thick.

The upshot of this

discussion was that we were extremely

fortunate that the pipes never burst by carrying so much

water in pipes

not designed to carry much water at all,

much less the kind of water that gets

drained out of a washing machine and bathtub.

Next, they proceeded to show me the the pipes

where the toilet HAD been.

The way the former plumber had done those was to not support them

in any way, the main drain from the toilet was just kind of flopping around,

lyingright up against my

neighbors ceiling.

So again, we were lucky that the toilet sewage

or the toilet itself never fell into our downstairs neighbor

Ivana's living room.

They then asked who the CAZZO (fuck)

did that shoddy work anyway?

Was it that joker Rinaldo?

I sheepishly looked at the floor.

"Well, we were new here, we didn't know anyone, Rindaldo

was referred to us by some friends who knew a plumber...''

They dismissed my pathetic answer, they all ready knew that

Rinaldo was the culprit, they just wanted to see me squirm.

They went on to

joke around between themselves drawing me into

the festivities.

A lot of words were batted around referring to the former

idralico (plumber) such as:


I don't see that I need to translate here.

It is fairly self explanatory.

I don't usually like to indulge in such slander (Ha!)

but I must admit, I got right in there with them.

So a good time was had by all.

We made some decisions, talked about the general ideas

of this bathroom remodel

and it was agreed that they would come back to start

building the next day.

The next day, the new improved wall went up in about 10 seconds,

thanks to the hard work of the

Albanian work force that Taddeo has


Those guys are amazing.

Newly improved wall, made with real bricks,
several inches thick,
with the correct plumbing fixtures and pipes,
strong enough to carry sludge to the sewer system.

I should say that my experience

in these now 3 times of doing restoration in

Italy is always done by looking at a few photos

that I show the workers,

and I cross my fingers, say a prayer that it will all turn out ok.

And here I go again, insane enough to enter into this

process yet another time.

It is like giving birth.

You never remember the pain and you

are ever so eager to repeat the whole

grueling experience all over again.

Here we go....let's have another baby!

1 comment:

Judi said...

Oh, this is wonderful! I'm so glad we found each other's blogs. My fabulous ex-sister-in-law just bought a place in Italy and I will send her over to your blog! She is in Umbria. Can't wait to see the rest of the project.