Restoring a Damp House in Sicily, Part 7

April 12, 2010

Into the cramped space under this arch—hardly big enough for a closet—I plan to stuff an entire bathroom: sink, toilet, shower, heat rack, mirror, towel racks. The project manager is insisting on a bidet (he says no Italian can live without one), but you’d have to put your foot in the bidet to squeeze into the shower.

This is part of the cantina, the old wine cellar that is slowly morphing into guest quarters.

I plan to expose as much stone as possible inside and above the arch. The back wall, which needs to be waterproof, will be a sea of tiny tiles. Tiles the blue of a storm-tossed Ionian Sea.

Beastly expensive tiles.

I knew nothing about the cost when I ordered. I didn’t bother to ask the price. I figured: they’re just tiles made right here in Italy, not some expensive import. How much could a few little tiles cost?

The boxes finally arrived from Milan, along with the bill. My eyes popped. I had to read it over and over. I could feel my face on fire.

“Well, you ordered glass tiles,” the project manager says. What did you expect?”

I did notice how lustrous they were, but I had no idea they were glass.

I thumb through the instruction manual that comes with the tiles. The installation looks complicated. “Are you sure the mason is up to this?” I ask the project manager. The mason seems to have perfected the art of banging and pounding, but I’ve never seen him do anything delicate with his thick, calloused hands. Do I trust him with my treasures? Has he ever installed anything of the sort?

Non preoccuparti,” says the project manager, winking. Don’t worry.

This is the favorite phrase down here. It usually means trouble.

But who am I to argue?



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6 comments to Restoring a Damp House in Sicily, Part 7

  • John

    Hello Jann, Been following your adventures for a while now. How big is this place? (SQ FT please, square meters just don’t register). I’m thinking about buying an old olive farm in Sicily one day. Do you have any contacts that might help me locate one? I found this site of Italian properties for sale by owner, but don’t know if it is reputable:
    My mother’s maiden name is CERAMI and her family grew up in a village outside of Palermo called Petralia Sottana. I had the pleasure of visiting there with my mom several years ago when our cruise ship docked in Palermo. I fell in love with the beautiful, moutainous Sicilian countryside and hope to one day return and look for a farm to retire to (at least for 6 months of the year)… I have no idea what a farm would go for, but I’m sure they can’t be outrageously expensive, or can they? Anyway, thanks for a great blog, great photos and a real taste of Sicily. Ciao, John

  • I can’t wait to see the after pictures! From what you’ve described, the tiles sound beautiful. Still wanting to see those if all that stuff will fit in that tiny space, but if anyone can do it, it’s a European. lol Good luck! Is everything else going smoothly?


  • Cathy

    Jann, The tiles sound beautiful..can’t wait to see the after pic! One wouldn’t think there’d be room for a shower stall in there, but after spending 2 weeks in Italy last year I can believe it. They were pretty small in some of the places we stayed!!
    Still loving your blog & pictures,

  • sandee wheeler

    I remember the story of uncovering that stone work, never dreaming that would be the bathroom! Can’t wait to see the tiles!!

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