There is a bright, open kitchen in my dream home. One with a small but functional island that fits two bar stools. In my dream bathroom, there is a bathtub near a window. Paolo’s dream home has a small office with a door he can close. All in all, we’re not talking outrageous dreams. Yet still. They won’t all fit into our small space in Bardonecchia.
Cons of Renovating in Italy
Today Paolo and I went over our second set of plans for our Italian home renovation with our architect. I’d like to share how excited I am with you, but the truth is I’m underwhelmed. Here are the three hardest reality checks most expats will face during an Italian home renovation in 2020.
1. Language Barrier
Italy is in the bottom six countries in Europe for English speakers. While we interviewed just shy of a dozen architects only one spoke “a little” English and he wasn’t our final pick. Which means our architect only speaks Italian.
I realize even typing these words someone is going to comment “What did you expect, you moved to Italy!” Thankfully, Paolo speaks fluent Italian being born and raised in Italy. So our project can move forward while my Italian lessons do too.
Yet still, Americans should know before buying that dream home in Italy, that not speaking Italian is a very real barrier. Options for architects and general contractors with whom you can fully communicate will be extremely limited outside of Milan, Rome, and Florence. Something anyone considering one of those 1€ homes on a remote hilltop town in Italy should be aware of.
2. COVID 19
This week, Italy went into a partial lockdown due to COVID. Italians fear the government might soon restrict free movement around Italy if new numbers of COVID infections don’t start dropping. Which makes architects, contractors, and clients like us concerned about starting a project.
Design meetings, sourcing, reviewing, and purchasing materials, can all be done remotely, but it’s not ideal. Everything just got that much harder. While we are not giving up and putting off the renovation, we are very aware that the timeframe for our renovation is most likely going to slip. We just hope it doesn’t slip so far we loose out on the massive 2020 tax breaks the Italian government is offering for home renovations and improvements.
3. Space Restrictions
Two weeks ago I shared a post called 23 Quirky Differences | Italian vs America Homes. In that post, I pointed out the average size of an Italian home is 81 square meters (871 square feet) while an American home is closer to 2,600 square feet. That’s a huge difference. Especially for a girl who grew up in America like me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a small space. My favorite apartment ever was a 200 square foot gem in New York City. My kitchen was so small I used my dishwasher to store glasses, dishes, pots, and pans. Still, the only thing I missed in that tiny apartment was a bathtub. After a long hard day, it actually made me sad not to be able to take a bath.
I realized today going over the plans with our architect that there are certain dreams I have to give up. In a small space you simply cannot have it all. Like an island or a breakfast counter if I want to keep that bathtub.
Unless your budget is boundless, living in Italy means downsizing what a dream home looks like for most Americans. While Paolo and I still reserve the right to run off to Spain or France for months at a time in the future, this is our forever home. Which makes giving up ideas for our dream home a bitter pill to swallow. Giving up our financial freedom to buy a larger place, however, is not something I’m willing to do. Not even for a bathtub.
What’s the one thing you could never see giving up in your dream home?
Curious to see what we’re working with? Here’s a photography tour of or very 70s home in Bardonecchia, Italy.