After a few years of living, here I have to say that I consider being able to communicate in Italian exceedingly important. Prior to our move I attended classes for over three years but when I arrived on  a permanent basis  I found myself no further forward than good morning , good night and how are you. As the years pass the Lingua becomes easier and many doors have now opened for us.

At the beginning the language barrier caused us a huge problem. The house was in a terrible state and we had wanted to do our own planning, project managing and some labouring. Somewhat crazy but we felt this would cut down our costs as funds were exceedingly low,  We would be living here and thus able to put all our time into the build. We needed advice from the experts,  builders ,architects  in fact anyone who could help us .  Our estate agent introduced us to a few contractors and said she would be willing to translate for us. Although she was helpful this was limited as I felt she seemed to misunderstand our intentions.

These so called experts clambered around our house and produced amazing plans some were works of art. Their estimation of their own costs were even more amazing  and that was only for their services not for the construction.

We kept hitting brick walls,  they said ” Italian legislation says you must have a geometra or an architect, a builder and most importantly it prevents you from participating in anyway with the build.

Frustrated by this and concerned that this would slow the renovations we eventually enlisted the aid of architects who could speak some English. However we quickly realised that we had made a mistake, they were certainly good at extracting money but slow at coming up with the goods.

They did manage to get the project on its way with the construction of the new roof. This was however done with some bullying from my friend Ernestina who was panicking as winter was rapidly approaching. Quite honestly I don’t think the roof could have taken another winter. They also found us a builder who gave a fairly low estimate for the roof but I guess this did not come without problems.

We all parted company somewhat amicably six months later when we refused to continue with their very modern unsympathetic plans for our farmhouse.


The 12,000 euros originally suggested would not look at it. It might have bought us a couple of  years of respite but the beams were rotten, there were many tiles broken, there were large gaping holes and the supporting walls were buckling. It was obvious to all that this needed a demolition job.

New earthquake legislation also required us to have a ring of cement (cordola) placed on top of the walls to support the new roof beams. It was a huge job and cost well over 45000 euros which did not include guttering, down pipes or chimney stacks.

The house was completely clad with scaffold that took three Egyptians ten days to renovations 004

On the first morning of the build I was shocked to see a very large crane arriving up the drive. house renovations 002 It was sited to the front of the house, we slept each night with this huge monstrosity hanging above us. We had one evening of absolute panic when I noticed that it started to move by itself. AS it twisted and turned  we could hear it creak, I was terrified was it about to flatten us in our bed ?. I rang the builder who came post haste,  he viewed the scene and  bemusedly informed us that it moves freely in the wind which just happened to be quite strong that evening.010

They constructed the roof in two stages dividing the house in half, it took three months in late summer 2013 and thankfully we only had two days of rain during the build.

Unfortunately the first was a really nasty thunderstorm that happened one evening after the builders had left leaving the beams uncovered. The heavy rain poured in between the rafters permeating all the ceilings below which included the room were we had stored all our furniture. once again there was a frantic call to the builder who arrived to find us inside the room knee deep in buckets , plastic covering and standing with umbrellas.lucy's holes 025

The head builder was hilarious he was a chain smoker, he was able to speak with a cigarette in his mouth. It would stick to his top lip going up and down as he spoke. I marveled at how he could toss a cigarette in the air, catch it with his lower lip and light it all in one move, quite ingenious. My brother in law Ugo who was living out front in his camper ( but that’s another story) nick named him Clint as he wore a cowboy stetson and was always puffing renovations 033

They worked away dismantling the roof collecting the old cotto tiles one by one and stacking them on pallets for later use. They cleared away years of straw and rubble from inside the barn, they cut out the big old beams and dismantled the gable ends. Mounding the bricks and rubble in huge piles in our garden.

lucy's holes 046

We were not allowed near the build and were enclosed in our apartment with that dreadful orange plastic fence like prisoners behind bars.  We would kneel on our balcony and peer through the holes in the plastic to catch a glimpse of the goings renovations 037 When the builders left the site in the evening we would guiltily climb onto the scaffold like two naughty children and peruse the work done. We had many an evening sitting on our open roof enjoying a glass of red wine and admiring the views around us.

To be honest, we were thinking to ourselves how the hell did we get into this one. !!!!house renovations 036

We learned from this build, there was no interaction with us and we were completely cut out from any of the decisions made.

This was certainly not the way we had planned our new life in Italy to be.g

They did however advise us to keep all our old bricks so with time on our hands we spent each day cleaning and storing over 3000 bricks. (They cost one euro a brick to buy here.)020

When our roof was complete the builder finally knocked on the door to ask where we wanted the chimney stacks to be placed I was thrilled to at last be involved and replied

“obviously over the chimey breasts in the house”.

Whoops the roof had been designed without any consideration to that trivial fact. One of the main beams was directly in line with the chimney. So much for the expensive architect. OH had mentioned it to all on many occasions but was always ignored.

End of the road for Clint.






  1. stefan marquardt

    Oh my goodness! what a story to read – especialy for someone who was up to now considering buying a house that needs a new roof too (and not speaking italian either). I think we will probably better concentrate on candidates that have a new roof. what did the architect say to this little problem?
    regards stefan

    1. Julia Gilmour Post author

      Hi Stefan
      Please don’t panic about the roof it is achievable, we did it. When we started on this adventure I could not find any information, advice or experiences from expats there was so much I wanted to ask. I decided to write this blog to help and encourage other brave souls Or just to give people a good laugh at our madness. I have actually sent you a message via e-mail.
      regards Julia

    2. Andrea Ghidone

      Don’t get scared for the roof. Generally speaking, it’s important to find a builder who listen to you and wants to fulfil your needs. I’m Italian, but the problems I find with builders are almost the same.
      Usually builders think they can do whatever they want and what they suggest it’s not what is good for you but what is cheaper and faster for them (which doesn’t mean cheaper for you at all!).
      Remember to make kind of a contract with the builder and ask your geometra or architect to make a list of works. For each work (removal of the roof tiles, of the wood, new roof, insulation, gutters, etc.) he will have to put a price. In this way you will know what he does and the price. Enclose this list of works to the contract.
      Good luck for your roof!

    1. Julia Gilmour Post author

      Hi Conor
      Thanks for reading I guess we maybe got off to a wrong start with the architects put it down to translation they interpreted our requirements a little different to what we had in mind. It was all good experience.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *