It’s a beautiful legacy being able to bring an old place back to life, and especially our wonderful rustic Italian kitchen. Last night we were listening to Asian music, it has such a haunting quality, as if speaking to our home in an ancient language. The house has not heard music like this before, or voices speaking anything other than the local dialect of the mountain people born and bred here. Certainly not had computers, a family of Australians or all the things we take for granted like a television (which we are still to get lol).
I feel the spirit of the past owners most strongly in the kitchen, generations of the same family lived in this house for hundreds of years. I see them in all the small details, the rough cut wooden hooks to hold coats as you enter the kitchen. The curved bar in the courtyard used to scrape your boots, hooks and shelves and the old wooden latch above the original kitchen door used to stop it from opening. When visitors came we’d delight in getting them to try to open the door, they never worked it out. Our first day here with the key in hand and door unlocked we still couldn’t get into the house, luckily Sam’s logic works well with Italian logic and the door opened.
It’s easy to look around a renovation in progress and be overwhelmed with the dust, mess and rubble but it’s all worth it in the end. Our rustic Italian kitchen is progressing along, we still need to put in the old ceramic sink (we found at the “Ri Shop” for 20 euro). Currently we have no running hot water in the house, I do the dishes in a bowl with water heated either on the wood burning stove or electric jug. We need some shelves under our kitchen bench and some way to seal the rock floor. All jobs for the years to come, right now it’s winter and we’re hibernating with our haunting Chinese music playing in the background.
We had no idea how beautiful the ceiling would be without all those thick crusted layers of darkness. I really didn’t know anything about sandblasting the kitchen ceiling other than Claudio was coming to do it. The sand was billowing from the windows and coated the entire house is a fine powder. Being a total novice I didn’t think the sand would come up into the bedrooms from the kitchen…..big mistake. It was like we had a beach inside our house.
We have two stoves in the kitchen and the large open fireplace, the stove on the left is wood fired and heats up the house in winter. The other is gas which we use for cooking in the summer. The slatted racks overhead are used for storage and usually hold biscuits, cakes, cooking trays and things too long to fit in the drawers. The sink and cabinet will be replaced and we only have cold water running to the house (really bloody cold water, right now it’s about 4 degrees and I don’t even want to put my hands under it).
At one point we had a couch in the kitchen
and a chicken as it wouldn’t fit through the doorway into the ‘rustic lounge‘. Answer to the problem, take the door out and widen the doorway, which opened the house up and lets the conversation and the warmth from the kitchen flow through. Doing this meant we had to take up the floorboards in the lounge (which were rotting) and replace them with rock. Now it seems like it’s always been this way, I love the way the rock floor flows through and each rock slab cut and placed by hand.
I’m slowly learning to cook (yes alright it was one of my New Years resolutions about two years ago!) and Sam does 99.9% of the cooking which means we all eat really well. He loves to cook and is happiest in the kitchen especially if guests are coming. We have lots of old nails and hooks selectively left in the beams to hang pots. As you can see the ceiling is low on this floor and I can easily touch it, Claudio’s hair just skims the beams.
You can always find Sam in the kitchen, he searches Italy high and low for ingredients and for the local festival decided to make Lamingtons (an Aussie specialty) to represent Australia. All the ladies loved them and we had none left over. But it took us a lot of searching to find the right sugar, and other ingredients. Now we’re not looking we see them everywhere.
Putting in the floating shelves was lots of fun (Not) we got them all up and on the last one kept hitting rock wherever the drill touched. Big holes all over the wall and a few readjustments later we have shelves. These were made using sections from the old boards in the lounge room. The prime place in the kitchen is in front of the stove, I wash clothes in the afternoons knowing they’ll dry overnight by the fire. The higher up I can hang them the quicker they dry, and hanging them from spatulas works as well.
Black still comes to visit, he knows he will get a treat so is very determined to get up to his spot on the doorstep. He sits with his nose against the glass looking soulful and I think we are all feeding him without each other knowing. The biggest difference in the kitchen is the new door and window, they let in so much light and are crystal clear bringing the outside in. I love them, the richness of the timber, the beautiful way the windows open in two directions, and all the warmth they keep in, all handcrafted and fitted by our fantastic ‘window guy’
Of course the biggest thing to happen since arriving is our House Hunters International episode. Knowing we were on a deadline certainly got us going with the renovations. We found curtains, lamps, a throw for the couch, painting around the borders of the rooms, finishing the wall upstairs, and a big tidy up. Now if they only came back every month we’d get so much done!
One of the best things from the experience was seeing ourselves through another persons eyes. Our adventure was compared to ‘River Cottage’ the director fell in love with our story and couldn’t stop talking about our ‘rustic’ kitchen curtains. He gave us a much bigger picture to work with, ideas flew and a whole new mindset was created right here in this little kitchen.
Our shelves are starting to fill, friends are coming for a meal and the jars hold fagioli beans from our own veggie garden. By the way we also have a growing bar for visitors with Grappa, Baileys (the cheap Italian version), red and white wine, a few home brewed liquors from Claudio, Sambuca, Marsala (for the cooking) and two of the wine bottles are always filled with fresh water from the fountain daily by Carina. Considering Sam doesn’t really drink we are doing well. The relationship to alcohol is totally different here, it’s highly unlikely to see anyone falling down drunk even on New Year.
Just recently Claudio and his family came to the house for lunch, they bought the food and we did the drinks, coffee and dessert. They shared with us a local specialty called Bagna Cauda a strange concoction which was just mind blowing!! Each of us had a special pot lit from below with a votive candle (these pots were wedding gifts so over twenty years old), and the mixture simmered away creating the most amazing aroma. It’s an incredibly relaxing meal, just chatting and dipping, Claudio tells us a meal like this usually goes on until around five o’clock and that’s exactly what happened. Our kitchen is filled with life again, cooking, love and family just as it should be.
Our vision to see the beauty through the dust and rubble continues and the house is slowly revealing her secrets. This home is full of character, and I like to think that we bring to life an era past, one that is slowly disappearing.
So many layers to this house and such a lot of history to uncover, I can’t wait to see how she develops over time along with us. I hope you enjoy the journey xx