Restoring a Damp House in Sicily, Part 4

March 10, 2010


My husband, newly arrived on the scene, has clawed his way down to stone. I phone the project manager with the news.

The crew turns up the next day with hammers and chisels. Now that Kim is here, the garrulous workers completely ignore me, peppering him with questions and concerns—never mind that he doesn’t speak one iota of Italian.

Something about a manly presence in the house has lit a fire under the crew. They really get cracking. Chink chink chink. Chunks of plaster fall like overripe fruit, unveiling enormous blocks of tawny stone.

Madonna! They look pretty freakin’ old. I’m prone to wild mood swings in Sicily, and now I’m on the upswing.

“Stones from the old Norman castello!” say nosey neighbors who wander in the house through the open front door, wondering what all the racket is.

They tell me the entire neighborhood scavenged rubble from the castle that once stood on this site before it crumbled in Ragusa Ibla’s great earthquake of 1693.

Norman castle in Ragusa Ibla before 1693 earthquake, copyright S. Tumino

Finding the ancient Norman rocks is a delicious surprise.

There are more surprises to come in the near future, though none nearly so pleasant.



Win this book!!!!!

I love this tiny up-to-date (2009) guidebook. It packs in information in the form of many top 10 lists. It includes charming out-of-the-way places—the author knows the hidden nooks and crannies of Sicily—and  a few fold-out maps.

HOW? Between now and March 26, write a comment on any of my blogposts. The best comment wins. (“Best” could be funniest, most enlightening, most touching…)

9 comments to Restoring a Damp House in Sicily, Part 4

  • cemal karahan

    You’ve got to find ways to make men work in the Mediterranean region ,Jann…! It
    is these cultures who created the words like ‘ siesta ‘ because of the unbearable heat at times..Why not ACT LIKE A PRIMADONNA when nothing works properly….?

  • Anthony Zangara

    Ciao Jann, non essere dispiaciuta che ti ignoravano quando eri sola come donna, ormai che c’e’ tuo marito faranno il lavoro necessario. Buona fortuna in tutto cio’ che stai facendo. Antonio

    • Jann

      For those who don’t read Italian, Anthony says, “Don’t be sorry that they were ignoring you as a woman alone; now that your husband is there, they’ll do the necessary work…”
      Grazie, Antonio, but the problem is that my husband bolts after five days and I’m back on my own again! I eventually learn that when the workers say what I ask is “impossibile”, I should say, “But it’s not me that wants this; my husband phoned and is insisting!” That makes them take me more seriously. 🙂

  • Amazing to have such history in your place! I love the top 10 guide book also. I carry it with me wherever I go.

  • Great stone. What excellent foragers these people are…but I have lived here long enough to wait for the other shoe to drop!!
    Just this morning my daughter was talking about the present she is making in school for her dad and I asked how come you didn’t make a present in school for me for Monday? I guess they need to give the dads something and we moms don’t need anything!

  • sandee wheeler

    What a find, Jann!! And the stones coming from a castle just tops it all. I am sensing the bubble is about to burst!

  • I love that you are swooning over ancient stone! And what is up with the Italians loving our husbands so much? Last year we spent a day with a great big Italian family (relatives of friends from home) and no one spoke a drop of English. I spent the entire day – 15 hours thank you very much – translating for everyone. At the end of the evening my husband stood up and uttered his first Italian words of the day…”Grazie a tutti” and everyone fell off their chairs in amazement at his command of the Italian language. They clapped him on the back, hugged him, set off a chorus of bravo, bravo!, uncorked and poured more wine, and proceeded to dance around the table. Geesh!

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