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Rustico Renovation – Bringing an Italian farmhouse back to life

Hey everyone who’s been following the renovation!

I’m taking an official break from updating the blog to concentrate on getting the renovation done – Helen will still be updating the midlifeitaly blog so you can keep up to date through her.

Thanks for your interest in what we are doing – when I get back to the blog, I will email anyone who has subscribed to let them know.

Ciao, Marcus!

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(Writing this post in July, things really are hotting up – 38degC today! But as I said last time, I am playing catch up on a couple of jobs we finished earlier in the year, so this job we finished in April).

The great thing about old houses with thick walls is that the temperature remains fairly stable – cool and fresh in summer and warm in winter. Well that is if you have some form of heating inside, the house will hold that heat for much longer than a modern house. To be fair, even without heating, on a cool day it does actually feel like there is a fire on when you walk through the door – although that first impression soon fades as you realise that stable temperature is only 6degC ! So it was time to get some heat into the house … but first we needed a chimney!

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I know it has been a while since I wrote, so I am playing catchup – we actually finished the next couple of projects two or three months ago. I just got carried away with getting jobs done that I then forgot to write about them – sorry for that, I must try harder!

So, ‘things are going septic’ – don’t worry, nothing is really going green and mouldy or falling off! I am talking Septic Tanks (Fossa Settica). Because our house has not been lived in for a lot of years, and the previous owner was ‘old world’, there was never a bathroom in the house and nowhere for the ‘waste’ to go.  Our humanure compost system worked perfectly well for us, and we have now left it to mature for the next couple of years to ensure any harmful pathogens are killed off and the compost is ready to use on our non edible plants. But we needed a more permanent and socially acceptable way of disposing of our waste from the toilets and sinks (i.e. one that the planning officers would approve!) – a Fossa Biologica Imhoff to be precise.

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In November our attention turned to all things ‘winter preparation’ – a little later than was sensible as apparently winter normally starts in November, but hey ho! Our first jobs were to make sure we had a constant un-frozen water supply to the house (it has been suggested the temperatures can fall to minus 20deg around here!), and to sort out where the rain and melting snow will go.

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I want to give you an idea of the scale of project we have taken on – not a huge project by many standards, but there is certainly enough work required to cover all areas of a house renovation short of demolishing and rebuilding.

Our house is a two bedroom, two storey stone farmhouse with no bathroom, a kitchen (cucina) which is really just a bare room with a cast iron wood burning stove connected to a partially demolished chimney, an outside store room (cantina), two wood stores (legnaia) attached to the house, a detached hay barn (fienile) and a wood fired outside bread oven (forno di legna) – all in all around 160m2 of potential.

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We don’t really have any idea of how long the project will take. Unlike all our other projects in the UK where projects were planned to the day and to the pound, this project as I have said elsewhere, is for us. We know what we want to do and what we are capable of, we probably don’t have enough money at the moment to do all the work, so we will just make a start, and one day it will be finished! I think it would be all too easy to talk ourselves out of renovating the house exactly as we want if we were to think about the job in detail – so far better to bury our heads in the sand and pretend we have all the money and time in the world, and just go for it! And anyway, we want to ‘enjoy’ the renovation without putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure … so it will be done when it is done!

My posts will be published when I have something to write about – when a particular job is done, rather than a weekly/monthly update. In the long term, I think it will become a better read than trying to add content when really there is not much to say, so please be patient – this is a real life renovation that is happening right now!

To keep more up to date on our daily/weekly comings and goings, please keep reading Helen’s blog at midlifeitaly.com where you should get an idea of the progress (or lack of it) we are making on the project. Where possible, Helen will let you know at the end of her blogs when I post a new entry for the renovation.

However, I do urge you to register for my blog separately and I will email you each time I post so you don’t miss anything (click on the ‘OTHER STUFF’ menu above and select ‘REGISTER’) – this will also give you access to the ‘Project Costs’ info, so you can keep track of how skint we are getting!

Ok, so let’s get started … I love it when a plan comes together!

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Before we really get into the renovation work itself and in order to give you a full idea of what is involved in living the dream of buying abroad, I want to explain what is actually involved in buying the dream home and hopefully open your eyes to some potential pitfalls.

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We have owned our dilapidated Italian farmhouse in Liguria for just over a year now and lived in our caravan for 9 months in the garden just staring at it! Well that’s not quite true…we have begun to tame the land around the house, tried our hands at a vegetable garden (well Helen has), and more importantly for me, we have taken our time to decide exactly how we want to renovate our new home. Something we have never had the luxury of before as our previous homes were also always projects to sell on, so time was always of the essence. This time it is different…this time it is for us!

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