Restoring a Damp House in Sicily, Part 11

May 29, 2010

I’ve cooked up the idea of installing in my kitchen a tile baseboard (called battiscopa, literally hit-broom) with a floral design. It’s going to be more than twice as high as a normal Sicilian baseboard.

When I explain my brilliant idea to the project manager, he knits his shaggy eyebrows into a scowl and gives his head a sad shake.

No, Gianna.”

I get a whiff of his strong aftershave.

Perché no?”  Why not?

He shoots me a look you might give a very slow learner.

“Non si fa in Sicilia.” It’s not done in Sicily.


I search for the right words. I tell him the ceiling is very high “e a me piace i fiori.” And to me pleases the flowers.

“Non si fa,” he repeats with steely authority. It’s simply not done.

Does he think one non-traditional battiscopa will throw the whole island out of whack?

This isn’t the first time I’ve run smack into the Wall of Tradition. Sicily is a culture that values the Old Way, the Way of Granny.

I adore this about the island, really I do. In fact, I’m restoring my house in the Way of Granny. Mostly. I’m preserving and enhancing whatever is old. The floor tiles I’ve chosen for the kitchen are traditional Sicilian ones made in Palermo. The floral tiles are also an old Sicilian motif.

But I just want to tweak things a bit here and there, add my own little spin.

In the end, I defy the project manager. The new stonemason masterfully installs the butterscotch-colored daisies while crooning Sicilian love songs.

“Beh, non e brutta,” the project manager concedes when he sees the battiscopa. “It’s not ugly.”

Sicilian Floor Tiles, Copyright Jann Huizenga


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Readers, can you help me? Will you consider voting for my Sicily photograph in the Islands Reader’s Choice poll? Here’s the link. The link will bring you to a photo I shot of a Sicilian woman in Capo Passero (in the extreme southeast corner of Sicily). You can vote by clicking on *My Favorite* underneath the photo. (I could win a photography course and you could win a camera!) GRAZIE MILLE! (To see thumbnails of all 22 photos in the competition, click this link.)

10 comments to Restoring a Damp House in Sicily, Part 11

  • Nur

    That’s also my favourite,I would always like to have one.I think our taste of furniture is the same Jann!Great!

  • Jann,

    Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been faithfully following your progress with the house. I think the tiles look great. I think it’s so funny how Italians have to keep things just so, instead of “going outside the lines”.

    Good luck with the next project!


  • Dennis Berry

    very nice the battiscopa looks great. I read Italian on line most mornings. I had read your new blog and I was looking for something on one of my favorite sites http://WWW.WORDREFERENCE.COM. I saw this and thought it totally agreed with the comments
    posted. e bellissimo ke la tua mano accarezza la forza del mio pensiero.


  • non e brutta, more like beautiful–you are doing an incredible job restoring your damp house I’d say and I love reading about it!

  • Catherine Billups

    It looks great and congratulations on having the strength of character to win the battle.

  • Josephine Lissandrello

    I love your battiscopa and it looks great with the floor tile. Sono bellissime!

  • Brava, Gianna! Non e brutta – e bella!

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