Thank you for helping Paolo and I celebrate the news of our first home together in Italy! I was blown away by how many people cheered us on. Among the “Congratulations” and “Great news!” comments, there was an open appreciation for how groovy our 70s time capsule of a home is. Here’s a few of the awesome comments we got on social.
“oh my gosh – I practically cried reading this! So so so happy for you guys! This is so wonderful. And I LOVE all the funky everything!” – Tiffany
“Omg I’m so happy for you! I love smart investments that pay off in the future and retiring early! Can’t wait to see the renovations” – Andrew
“The house is gorgeous, with its classic panels, fittings, and decor. The pictures are wonderful, and this sounds like a fantastic project and a place to live in. Congratulations” – Prasanna
“Love your story and the house is treasure” – Vicki
“I hope you leave some of the vintage during the renovation…such history there.” – Donna
“I would not change a single thing. Except what u feel u absolutely have to. Beautiful music groovy tunes n the aromas of fresh coffee n in the morning. Seriously wouldn’t change a thing.” – Patti
“It’s a time capsule home. What’s to renovate? Enjoy.” – Theresa
This brings me to the reason for this post. Why we’re doing a gut renovation of a pristine 70s lux time capsule in the Italian Alps.
9 Reasons to Renovate a Home in Italy
As it stands right now, our home in Bardonecchia truly is the perfect vacation home. While it’s hard to see all the 70s charm leave this place, there are several hurdles to living here full time. Some hilarious, some not, and some drastic enough a gut renovation is necessary. Here are 8 reasons why our property in northern Italy needs some major work before we can call it home.
1. Hot Water: We’re Showering in Shifts
There are no long hot showers with older water tanks, especially not ones like this!
No matter how careful I am, if I take a shower in the morning, Paolo has to wait to take one at the end of the day. Showering in dayparts has to go. Plus, for monthly expenses, the sake of green living, and the tax incentive program the Italian government has in place for home renovations, it’s time to get rid of ye olde water tank.
2. Electricity: We Need More Power!
Every time I forgot to turn off the electric Stufa (heater) before turning on my hair blow dryer, I blow the power. In the entire house!
Unfortunately, I’m usually standing in the bathroom in a towel with wet hair when it happens. I consider myself a lucky wife that Paolo has never blown his fuse no matter how many times I forget. He simply stops working, calmly leaves the apartment, goes down to the basement and flips the breaker. Same thing happens if I turn the oven on, or the washer. There is only enough power for one major appliance at a time. In short, we need more power!
3. Insulation: The Italian Alps are Cold!
Most homes in Italy have roll-down shutters. In cities, it’s mostly metal shutters for protection against break-ins. In the Alps, wood shutters for protection against the weather. Unfortunately, ours are the kind that scrolls down from a box above the window. Ironically, that window box has no insulation. The hot air moves out and the cold air drafts in. Front door, balcony doors, and all three windows in the back, same problem. No insulation. The only thing sealed around here is the wine.
4. Heating: Building Admins Control the Heating
Most homes in the Italian Alps are vacation homes. Which means they are only occupied during peak vacation season. Summer to escape the heat from the cities and winter for skiing. With condos, the building admin decides when to turn the heat on for the entire building. Logic says, why turn the heat on outside peak winter vacation season if no one is here?
Wait, we’re here and we’re cold! We need an alternative heat solution. As lovely as the original ceramic Stufa is, it’s wood-burning, and not centralized in the home. This means it’s messy and only heats the four feet around it to 90+ degrees while the bedroom is freezing. I’m sad to see this beauty go, but living in the Italian Alps year-round means we have to put function first for heating.
5. Gas: There’s a Bombola Under Here!
Hidden underneath the kitchen sink, is what’s called a bombola. That’d be a propane tank for my English-speaking friends. That’s right. The stove runs on propane.
There is no gas currently running to the apartment. Not a big deal really… until we got quarantined after flying during COVID and couldn’t leave the house for any reason, and you guessed it! The propane tank ran out. Since dinner must always go on, we need another solution.
6. One Butt Kitchen
Currently, we have what I call a one-butt kitchen. Meaning only one butt is gettin’ in that kitchen at a time. It’s strange given how much Italians love food, but most Italian kitchens are small and enclosed. I haven’t seen many others hidden behind fancy accordion doors like ours is thought! Still charming as it is, I want a bigger, open kitchen and like Julia Child, I need taller counters. This was my one non-negotiable.
7. Code: Too Small for a Primary Residence
I’ll be honest after living in 200 square feet in New York City, this one blew my mind! Currently, the master bedroom is too small to legally zone the home as a primary residence. Meaning, we have to move walls to get the home up to code for residency. This little fact is a game-changer because of the domino effect.
If you’re gonna move walls you’ve got to redo the floor. If you’ve got to redo the floor, your in for a pound, not a penny. Which is a big part of the reason why we’re going gut reno vs reno light. We legally have to make substantial changes. I’ll share in my next Renovating Bardonecchia post why moving walls is a much bigger deal in Italy than it is in America.
8. Dead Zones: Hallways Waste Precious Space
Older Italian homes have a lot of hallways. Even in small homes like this one. We currently have more square footage in hallways than we do in the studio. So, as long as we have to move those walls… we’re going to make way better use of 700 square feet we have. Besides, we have to be able to get at least a second queen bed in the studio for folks who want to come to visit “hint, hint!”
9. Style: We Don’t Want to Live in a Time Capsule
Paolo summed it up best. “You’re so good at saving money, but I don’t want you to have to ‘make it work’ anymore. I want my first home to be with you. It needs to be our home. I don’t want to live in a time capsule. We need a fresh start. Let’s do this.”
So, we’re doing this! I hope you’ll enjoy coming along for the ride as I share what it’s like to renovate a property in northern Italy. Fingers crossed, we can keep the cost of renovating a house in Italy under control and still end up with the first home of our dreams. More on that to come!
Follow for Updates on our Italian Home Renovation
New Renovating Bardonecchia posts coming every Friday. Next week I’ll share some of the quirkier differences between Italian homes and American homes.
For 700 feet, Brandy, it still looks a lot roomier than a NYC apartment! 🙂
Would you believe I still miss my 200 square foot apartment in Gramercy more than anything! Virtual hugs to my NYC friends!
Most excellent! Congrats and I can’t wait to keep enjoying this blog!
Thank you Jay. I am happy to be able to write this blog!
That’s a great analysis! It reminds me of when I lived in a Victorian house in England. How do you think houses are going to change in Italy now that greener living is becoming essential?
Honestly there is a lot that needs to change. Italy is behind the times with green living sadly. I predict solar becoming more incorporated outside of wine country. Regulated toilets and shower heads. Better insulation and most needed perhaps alternative power sources. Italy is not great at power generation as a country. Air quality is enough of an issue it’s likely to call for air filtration systems too.
Well, I hope they can go green and still retain their uniqueness! I hear you about insulation. That was a problem in England too. I hope it’s not a problem in Canada though. How committed is the population to going green though? As long as everyone is on board, things will change!
Unfortunately not committed. Italians use a lot of plastic and don’t seem ready to question it yet. Diesel engines are still used for consumer cars. It’s an uphill battle. How was England with prioritizing green living?
Well, I left in 2013, but there was already a trend towards a greener life. Induction stoves were becoming widespread, as were greener electrical standards and installing. Also, newer buildings had to be greener and they have timed showers. Plus, they care about nature a lot. Businesses were getting their act together too. Although, the English still had to get their act together on recycling and compost, air pollution and wrapping everything in bullet proof plastic and there are some older houses that need to be upgraded. I’m rather surprised to hear about how well they are doing these days and I wonder if it’s actually true, considering what I have seen before
We can hope! Have you seen this document yet? David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet. You might really enjoy it if not.
I don’t have Netflix and kind of busy with the move right now, but I hope to eventually
Happy the move is around the corner for you! Finally