August 26, 2011

Before the first Guest arrived

This summer was the summer we finally would move into the house that we first spotted in summer 2006 – FIVE years ago. Who would have thought that it will take us that long?!
There are a few reasons why it took us five years.
First we needed to get all the paper work done and the permissions from the commune.
Then we needed someone on site to talk to the architect and supervise the project, at least from time to time. This was Angelo, my father-in-law, who also himself had some other businesses running in the last years. Our architect started the renovation from the outside and when that was done, we waited for Angelo to take over the inside fitting. He would do most part like painting and flooring by himself. Since he is very precise he noted his working hours:  three thousand something… ! But Angelo also had support by Tonino and Mimmo, two masons who prepared the floors and did the tiling of six bathrooms, three kitchens, one terrace, one balcony and one garden and all kind of other works. And there were the plumber, the electrician team “Fonsi” & partner, some carpenters and other suppliers.      
me & Angelo on his Vespa on the way to work in Pizzo 

Since the past 5 years, we were living most of the time overseas, far from the construction site, we were doing – what I call - a “long-distance-online-renovation”.  And whenever we spent our summer holidays in Pizzo we have been busy in the beginning with decision makings. Then in August, basically when all Italy goes on vacation, shops would close and workers would go to the beach as well. So, when on site we could only push little things. The main communication between us and Angelo was via email and sometimes via Skype, in urgent cases via SMS. But the fact that it was “long-distance” did not delay the project, since Angelo would decide when I would be too slow…

Another reason why we were not that fast is that a renovation of a house – even when the construction supervisor and main interior worker is your father-in-law – costs a lot of money that needs to be earned first. There was a time when money was tight and I had to bring in my pension fund…
And after five years, this was finally our summer.
When I arrived in Pizzo, Angelo had already started with the flooring of the last square meters in the guest residence in the seminterrato.
working in progress in the seminterrato

The masons were filling the holes in the stairways with cement and adding the granite border.
cement filling and granit border for the stairways

The cutting of granite stone and wooden panels together with the earth movements for the future porto below the house caused lots of dust that was carried with the wind inside the house, every day. I kept cleaning and cleaning.
One day, even the outside scaffolding on one part of the house was back! Angelo had figured, that rain water might penetrate the walls through some holes that he wanted to seal. (The renovation work will never end!)
scaffolding is back for some sealing work

The workers and Angelo asked me constantly when our first guest are arriving. They wanted to finish everything before.
I assured them that our guest will sleep upstairs with us and not in the guest residence. Only the second group of guest that will arrive 10 days later might use the guest residence. However, I was happy, when finally no cutting of whatsoever material took not place any longer.
After the cleaning woman who came three times a week to help to get rid of the last dirt of a construction site just had finished the bedrooms, the air condition guys came and mounted three airconditions…
AC is mounted in LCs room
But not only needed the interior work of the basement to be completed, the other floors now needed some fine tuning like mirrors, hooks and accessories for all bathrooms, wall and ceiling lamps for all rooms. Luckily we discovered a shop that copies a bit the success and style of IKEA, although still much more expensive for many items. But who wants to drive three hours to the nearest IKEA in Sicily, just for shopping some accessories, when Semeraro is at Lamezia?.
We bought all lamps there and bathroom accessories in a shop close by. Then, started the long drilling and vacuum-cleaner-assistance phase.
mounting the kitchen lamp over the island

And bedsheets! Bedsheets for under (lenzoli sotto con angoli) and bedsheets for over (lenzoli per sopra) and cushion covers (fodere) needed to be purchased for all kind of beds of different sizes. Another bottle neck seemed to be the mattress protections. Either they were sold out or our standard sized mattresses (200x180) were not standard size in Italy (190x170).
Italian bed sheets for over and under and pillow cases

When this was finally done, sheets were pre-washed – and we finally could move in. 
Monday, July 25th 2011 moving in !

 Every morning we were woken up by Angelo to continue the work. Well, after an extended walk with CC and a breakfast at Belvedere, the work started much later than before. Tonino and Mimmo had already their break, when Angelo finally joined in.
When unpacking moving boxes (yes, the last boxes for the kitchen), we realized that we do not have even five matching plates. But 24 Champagne flutes (3 different styles) and 8 crystal wine glasses. Just one day before our first guests were arriving, we bought a set of white plates (large, small, deep – each for 12) at EURONICS (!), an electronic gear shop that features also lots of household items.
Instead of going to the beach this holiday, we spent most of the time in shops and in the car driving to the shops.
CC is a fast decision maker, and I got influenced, so at least our acquisition processes were efficient.
Meanwhile, in the seminterrato, Angelo discovered that sand trickles down from the vaulted stone ceiling – probably due to life and movements in the floor above. The finish he had applied all over on the stone walls and stone ceilings, did not fix the sand enough.
sand trickles from stone walls with sandy joints

We had to buy another material (resina = resin) and apply it all over again - worse, the flooring by now was finished. The resin gives the stones and sand a wet look, not great, but we saw that before in shops, restaurants and bars with similar stone ceilings. It seems the only method to really fix it.

resin finish fixes the sand and gives the wall a wet look

The time flew fast, the work progressed, but we never had found a moment to toast to our move, to the new step, to success. Stress and disappointment and emotions muddled me. A half hearted planed inauguration party was cancelled, as it was too early to have people walking through the whole house – and I just was not in the mood. CC was not in a good mood either, since his holidays were coming to an end - he had to go back to Bangkok two weeks earlier.
we had rainy and stormy days end of July

and there was sun after the rain !

The day our guest were arriving, Angelo borrowed and delivered us a self made table around which I grouped a selection of old chairs (in need of renovation!) we had found in antique shops.
a borrowed table, a variety of old chairs and a table-cloth from the market

What an exciting and lucky day, when our friends, a family of four, from Germany finally arrived. Their son is a good friend of our son, so the boys were happy too! - And finally I got good company to toast to the palazzo – every single day!!


  1. What a lovely story. It shows that you should never give up - Alles wird gut!
    All the best,

  2. Wow, 5 years already! Didn't realize it before...
    All these last-minute-actions! So much stress! ;-) But so nice results!