Life on a Shoestring in Sicily

November 18, 2010

People ask: Do you, uh, have a trust fund or something? How can you afford a house in Italy?

Answer: We’re just a couple of free-lance artist-teacher types, wondering from which tree the next job will drop. I acquired the house in Sicily on a shoestring budget by sheer force of will. (Prices in Sicily are, certo, a fraction of those in Tuscany.)

We practice frugality. We schmear paint on the walls ourselves with big sponges, sand plaster from raw stone, putty every crack and crevice.

Our coffee table is a weathered old skid scavenged from the street. We extracted the rusty nails and polished the brittle wood to a shine.

We eat from mismatched china scavenged from Sunday-morning flea markets.

Old Caltagirone Ceramic Bowl, copyright Jann Huizenga

Old mixing bowl from the Modica flea market, €5

Glasses found in a flea market in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Glasses from the Modica flea market, €1 each

We decorate with “trash” that Sicilians have tossed.

Sicilian sconce chandelier, circa 1950, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian chandelier, circa 1950, from the Modica flea market, €10

Old Sicilian church chair with woven seat, copyright Jann Huizenga

"Found" antique chair, gratis

Green door, copyright Jann Huizenga

Bath door made of found wood (and flea-market knobs, €2)

Baroque Sicilian Chair, copyright Jann Huizenga

Flea-market chair, €30

We shop the sales at Upim.

Italian Flatware from Upim, copyright Jann Huizenga

Flatware purchased on sale at Upim (Italian version of K-Mart), €1 each

We frequent church bazaars, jam-packed with cheap new or vintage homemade goodies.

Sicilian Crocheted Potholders, copyright Jann Huizenga

Potholders crocheted by a local woman and sold at a church bazaar, €2

And did you know that in Sicily you can bargain for new beds and couches (like for cars in the US)?


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15 comments to Life on a Shoestring in Sicily

  • With the publication of this post, you have become my new hero.

  • That’s my kind of living! Only you’re doing it in a much friendlier climate than where I practice the fine art of creative poverty.

  • christine

    Brava ! I love hearing things like this…I too am looking to relocate sometime soon (loved ones are there in CT/ i am here in the US)and your blog is inspiring in that it’s the kind of artist lifestyle ( thrifty/budget, etc) that I’m looking to replicate as well. Happy to hear it’s possible AND you’re surviving ! Best of Luck to you…Hope to meet up in the future.

    • Jann

      Hey Christine–thanks so much for writing. I’m glad you’re finding a little inspiration here, and I’d love to meet up when you make the move!!

  • Sam

    To follow up on Joe’s comment: do Sicilians themselves feel like they are “living a dream”, or is it more likely that foreigners would feel that way?

    • Jann

      Well, some–especially younger Sicilians who can’t find work on the island and feel the “system” inherently unfair–feel quite the opposite. Others I’ve met love the island so much they’ve never felt the urge to leave!

  • Dennis Berry

    Yes thats the way i do it If you run out of money you just get some more.

  • susan ploplys

    Simple – Beautiful. We really have so much at our fingertips and need so little. I like your philosophy of frugality – and the items are one-of-a-kind precious.

    • Jann

      I don’t know if it’s the economy, or a stage in my life, but I’ve thoroughly embraced the “less-is-more” philosophy.

  • Oh I love this post! Nothing beats the thrill of finding stuff in flea markets or thrift shops. Hey, as the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!”

  • joe girolamo

    Ditto from Modica!!!! Living In St. Petersburg Fl. and Modica is a dream. Markets and frugal shopping make Sicily so affordable.Living a dream.

  • Ha. THis cracks me up. It’s not your frugality or repurposing or shoe string style that is funny, rather it’s the fact that people actually ask you that question.

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