Behind the Scenes: How to do an inexpensive makeover!

inexpensive makeover

Casa Bianca kitchen make over


An Inexpensive Makeover at Casa Bianca (Part One)

Why an Inexpensive Makeover?

Sam’s parents are coming over from Australia, that’s WHY!

It’s been three years since we’ve seen them and they are arriving here in the last week of March. They will be staying with us for three months. So they need a space of their own.

With our Loft Apartment taking bookings and our own house with only two bedrooms we need a place for them to stay in comfort and close by.

So Sam came up with the idea of a temporary inexpensive makeover at Casa Bianca (our 4 thousand euro bargain house next door). The old kitchen will transform into a three month bedsit and they will of course eat in the main house with us.

Create a time frame

A time frame with a deadline always helps to get things moving and boy are things moving around here. I love nothing more than getting my hands dirty helping Sam with renovating. We completed a dozen renovations in Australia (living in all of them arghh). It’s a way of life that most people hate and would normally break up many couples, we seem to thrive.

The arrival of an early spring has me in cleaning mode, I’m astonished at how much ‘stuff ‘ has crept back into our life. I have to say I do love my ‘stuff ‘ and could never be a minimalist, but some of this just has to go.

Once Sam says he will do something it gets done, he has great organization skills and the know how to put it all into practice. They say men don’t multitask well but he has it to an art form, working on restoring the borgata, making lunch, picking up and dropping off the kids to school, making salami, preserves, and generally keeping everything running smoothly.

I am the calm on in the partnership, smoothing the way…

Totally clear the space

The first thing to be done is to totally clear the space.

Don’t work around things, and be sure to clean as you go.

We spent a day moving everything from the house up to our garage.

We’d been using Casa Bianca as storage for all the ‘treasures’ we found when we first arrived. So it was full of old bottles, baskets, furniture, an original bed frame, old suitcases, and a multitude of bits and bobs.

Visualize the space

Planning the space will save you time and frustration later, it’s fairly easy to do this on a computer or even just sketched out in a notebook.

Gather inspiration and look for ideas, I have hundreds of images, I take after my Mum as she always has a notebook in her handbag to jot down any ideas she sees. I keep my camera with me and take photos of things I like and ‘pin’ things I see online to my Casa Bianca inspiration board on Pinterest.

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If you are working on any project Pinterest is a great way to keep everything together, just be careful not to fall down the rabbit hole and become one of those people who sit online pinning all day.

Keep the purpose in mind, although at a latter date the house will be restored as a whole for now we need to create a space for Sams parents.

The Casa Bianca of my dreams will still happen, just not now.

Keeping costs low

Reuse as many items as possible, we seem to throw nothing away here at the Borgata. In our own home we took the old board up from the floor in the lounge and ended up sanding them back and reusing them as a benchtop and shelving.

Call in some helpers, we have a great community of friends here who give us a hand in return for us helping them out. It’s a collaborative community and it helps us keep costs low.

Shop online for prices and don’t be afraid to haggle (Sam has this to an artform). Be aware that locals will get a better price so get a local friend to go with you to the local stores for the first few times.

Keeping it Simple

Using a simple color pallette will help keep costs down, the room will be recoated white and the texture gives it some depth.

This also means that we can use left over products on other renovations.

We can then add warmth with elements like soft furnishings or decorative elements on the walls.

Our Inexpensive Makeover – What we’ve has Done so far!

» Taken out the old window and security bars and replaced it with a ready made double glazed window from Bricoman which helped us to save on costs.

» Totally cleared the room of stored items like an old bed, the original windows, and items from other renovations.

» Removed the old staircase to the upper floor which was twisted and rotting. Cut up the wood to be used as firewood.

» Cleared the sink area, removing the sink and pipes.

» Taken out the old pantry cupboard, removing the doors and shelves to make a wardrobe  space.

» Sanded the wooden window ledge back to original timber ready for a clear coating.

» Scraped the walls and ceiling free of ridges and filled holes.

» Refinished the walls with stabilatura, a mixture that you trowel on.

» Currently replacing old flooring with ceramic tiles. These will be harder wearing than a floating floor. Bricoman had a good range and we found something we liked for 13 euro a square meter.

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Casa Bianca Kitchen

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So that’s it for our Inexpensive Makeover #1,

I’ll be posting the follow up next week. Sam has already started laying the floor tiles and they look great. Carina thinks the room would be a great teenager ‘flat’….I told her not a hope till she’s at least 16 lol.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog and follow along with the adventures, many things are in the works for 2016 here at Borgata Malpertus.

I’ll be posting the completion of our ‘mini apartment’ at Casa Bianca as we go, Sam is next door right now laying the floor tiles. Oh and it’s snowing which is why he has the little wood stove connected (yep borrowed from our friends).

Hope you enjoyed the post, I’m trying a new informative style for some of my writing here at Renovating Italy along with the diary style…..let me know what you think and if you have any questions or thoughts I’d love you to leave them below, and a share would be great.

love as always….

Lisa signature 2and the gang x



Making Salami at Borgata Malpertus #1

This year we (I mean Sam) are making salami with our friends here in the Borgata. We have done this once before but this time Sam made a hotter Calabrese salami rather than the milder Piemontese one.

This is our neighbor Claudio and his son, although Sam was hard at work he was also taking the photos so he isn’t in any of them.

making salami

Making salami is such a traditional part of Italian life, the first time I was invited to join in was in Australia when I was dating Sam. We spent the day at his Uncles house along with all the cousins and extended family, it felt like a scene from the movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’.

Afterwards we had a huge feast, at a table that seemed to go on forever. As a suburburn girl from the other side of the city I was in shock. I had entered another country, where everyone spoke in Italian, drank vino, and ate and ate and ate.

Our life together has always felt a bit this way, my Australian life and my Italian life. They very rarely overlap. Two worlds that have their own traditions, set of ‘rules’ and lifestyles. Living here in the Borgata brings this home so sharply, and being invited to make the salami is a great honor and one I treasure.

I hope you enjoy some of the photos that Sam took during the weeks making salami. If you have any questions let me know below, I did ask him to write this post but I think with some encouragement from you he’ll add his voice. He just loves to cook, and has been bottling up peppers the last few days.


making salami

making salami


making salami

making salami

making salami

making salami

making salami

making salami

making salami

Please know I’ll be updating this post with further photos and recipies. I’m just coming good after being really unwell for weeks.  The video is on YouTube and if you are not squirmish you can view it here (warning could upset some viewers).

Sadly I totally missed making salami, but know that we now have 104kg of salami hanging in the kids room in the main house. They are being tended lovingly each day and the cotechino are in the freezer.

So go ahead ask away…….any questions??

Lisa signature 2and the gang x







Borgata Malpertus – be part of the project

One big thing I’ve been working on is a new site dedicated to the restoration project here at Borgata Malpertus.

This year we are looking to continue with the restoration here in the Borgata. We’d love you to come and join us either here at the blog, over at facebook or with a visit in person.

It seems like all we did over the Christmas and New Year at Borgata Malpertus is eat, and eat and eat……lot’s of delicious treats we normally wouldn’t have through the year.

Snow has been falling and the Valley looks like something from a movie, Ponte Naploleone is especially beautiful with it’s dusting of snow. When we go for walks the dog and all the cats come along with us, it’s so funny.

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With our friends from Australia moving into the Valley it’s been all go here, with either us at their house or them at ours. We also had other friends staying with us for a week before they head back down to Naples. OH and then we all got sick in turn, first Luca, then Carina then me, and lastly our guest…..arghhh.

So we’re all back on deck now, the kids have returned to school after a two week break, we are living in the Apartment as it’s so warm and cosy. The Christmas tree is about to come down and it’s time to start planning for the next year.

We will be learning how to prune the apple orchard, planting the ‘orto’ (veggie gardens), raising chickens and rabbits (yep we eat them sorry), and at the end of this month we’ll be making salami the traditional way right here in the Borgata.

If you really want to experience the simple life this is the year to do it and we’d love you to stay with us and be a guest at the Loft Apartment!

We were so excited to be named winner of Italy Magazine ‘Best Living in Italy’ blog for the second year running. I would like to thank everyone that voted for us and know that this year we aim to build on all we have achieved so far.

If you’d like to connect with us and be part of the Borgata Malpertus project visit us at:

Borgata Malpertus Website
Borgata Malpertus on Facebook
Renovating Italy on Facebook
Renovating Italy Group on Facebook

If you’d like to arrange a stay here at Borgata Malpertus visit us at:

Stay with Us- be our guest at Borgata Malpertus

We love to actually ‘meet’ the people who sign up for Renovating Italy, so don’t be a stranger, come and say Ciao!

As you could imagine we get lots of emails and comments on the site and on our social media and I try to reply to everyone, that said if I don’t respond I do actually read every comment and I’m so happy to have such a great group of friends online.

Drop us a line and let us know your plans for 2016, it’s going to be a big year!!


Lisa signature 2and the gang xcomment








The World comes to stay at Borgata Malpertus

loft apartment

stay at borgata malpertus

Come and stay at Borgata Malpertus

….we said, never expecting so many wonderful guests to arrive through the year! Summer has passed us by. It’s felt like one big party with people arriving as guests and departing as dear friends. Apologies for the sporadic posting here, it’s been a big learning curve for us hosting visitors from all over the world.

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With visitors from Australia, England, Germany, and America, it feels like the world has come to Borgata Malpertus.

Our dream to create a new life here in Val Pellice has slowly come together over the past three years. Restoring our own home, purchasing Casa Bianca and creating the Loft Apartment happened with sweat, tears and yep tantrums along the way. The world really did come to stay at Borgata Malpertus.

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We continue to grow as a family, dysfunctional much of the time yet we still managed to make our dream come true. We now have a lifestyle that gives our children a strong sense of community, a new language, freedom to run about and come home at dusk, and importantly meet and get to know people from all over the world. What a gift it’s been for all of us.

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Feeling the wrench when our visitors leave for home just continues to prove we are doing the right thing. Such wonderful, kind, thoughtful, loving people have visited us this year, a million memories shared, laughter and good meals, and many discussions about DINOSAURS.

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Seeing our life through the eyes of others has been a huge gift. You remind us why we fell in love with Borgata Malpertus and the people of the Valley.

First Guests Loft Apartment

One family that visited loved it so much they bought a house and plan to move here early in the new year. Sam was able to help another family with a tricky house purchase with just a few phone calls, they were mega happy and we hope to one day be able to visit with them at Lake Como. Now he has created Renovating Italy – Property as a way to help others with a similar dream.

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Thank you to everyone who has visited us, whether you stayed for a night, a week or just for a meal, we love you all.

A special thank you for all the patient chats with Luca, the girlie times with Carina.

For bringing us all a richness that we never imagined possible way back when we welcomed our first visitors to the Loft Apartment.

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So now the party is over until next year, we are enjoying the last of the autumn sunshine before winter arrives.

Next year will be bigger and better, we have many things planned…..stay tuned or better yet come for a visit and Stay at Borgata Malpertus.

We’d love to see you,  why would you love to stay at Borgata Malpertus with us…..?

and the gang x





Savor Life – 5 lessons from the orto

lessons from the orto

 ” Grow your Life from the Heart ” 


lessons from the orto

Lessons from the Orto

Do you grow your own vegetables? Up until we started growing our own food I never actually realized the lessons from the orto would make a difference. That the food would taste was so superior to any I had ever eaten.

Having just now eaten a bright red tomato from our garden I can honestly say I’ve never tasted anything like it. We picked the first three of many tomatoes and bought them into the house as if they were the most precious jewels. Sliced with a sprinkle of salt and eaten just as they came from the vine……delicious.

Being a suburban Aussie girl I didn’t grow up with a farming background like Sam did, our first veggie garden was in our backyard at Strathpine in Queensland along with six chickens, we were an oddity in our neighborhood. I still remember how excited Carina was to reach in and gather her first egg, now we take fresh eggs for granted.

Spending time in our ‘orto’ has been a learning curve, I love the lessons I am learning. To help inspire you these are my five favorites:

lessons from the orto


Lessons from the Orto – Weeding is Relaxing

I never thought I’d say this but I love the late afternoon after the rabbits and chickens are fed and I get to do some weeding in the orto. It’s my quiet time, the kids are inside helping to get dinner ready, Sam is cooking and I am happily pulling weeds.

I always think of my brother Bradley who was methodical in the garden, starting at one point and not stopping until every weed was pulled up by the roots. He would laugh at my feeble attempts and redo the section I’d done. I love that his spirit feels close to me in the veggie garden when I’m weeding.

Lessons from the Orto – Growing Vegetables is Easy

Especially when Sam is doing the digging, planting, watering, picking and cooking!! But really watching him in the garden is a joy for me, it’s his relax zone, the place where he regroups, and a real source of pride when he gathers the goodness he has grown and brings it to the table for his family to enjoy.

Everyone here grows food, even in the smallest pot, the tiniest plot of land and they make it look easy and it actually is. If you get the chance give it a try or join a community garden.

lessons from the orto

Lessons from the Orto – I’m no longer scared of picking up snails

Our very first year here in the Borgata I have to tell you I was scared to pick up snails. Just the thought had me saying Ewwwww. Now with our raised beds I don’t find many but when I do I can pick them up and I toss them down to the path below and figure it will take them a while to climb back up. I can’t bring myself to kill them, but I send them on a holiday. Now slugs are a whole different thing, no way will I pick one of those up!

Lessons from the Orto – Being Lost in the Moment. 

Living a Simple Life is not always easy, it feels like we have been on the go for years without pausing. Being in the garden gives me a chance to think about nothing else. My normal routine is to feed the rabbits and chickens around five o’clock, then go to the ‘orto’ and weed for around an hour. Sam comes out and waters and usually we end up with Luca helping out and our dog Fiume and our boy cat Bello supervising.

It’s one of my favorite times of the day, a chance to see what has grown, what is ready to be picked, the time when everyone is out and about, a time where I can just forget the worries of the day and enjoy the moment with my family.

Lessons from the Orto – Vegetables come in all shapes and sizes

Well who knew that vegetables came in odd shapes, not perfectly clean, ours come with blemishes and dirt clinging to the roots. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an onion with roots. That cucumbers have tiny little prickles on the skin, that potatoes don’t need a lot of water, that one bean plant can give you kilo’s of fresh green beans.

Oh and that we’d get totally sick of zucchini, that we’d grow massive ones that we couldn’t even give away as everyone else around here grows them as well. That eggplants have the most delicate skins and cook in minutes, that our glorious tomatoes have almost no seeds and are bright red all the way through, they taste amazing by the way. That picking fresh vegetables we’ve grown ourselves could give us such a sense of pride.

lessons from the orto


Lessons from the Orto – to be in the moment, to be fearless, to create life as easy, to remove what isn’t needed, to accept life just as it is and just as it is not.

Go out and grow something!

and the gang x



A Year of Leo – #1

portrait in paris

When did  I learn to eat my feelings, to swallow them whole before they flew from my mouth or flashed from my eyes.

We have had a tiny visitor, she is two and has no trouble expressing exactly how she feels from moment to moment.

I on the other hand have long since learned it’s easier to go with the flow, but as I am moving into my second fifty years (yep I’m going to make it past 100) I am starting to think about what I really want from life.

Currently what I want and what I am getting are way out of sync…….I have been in a funk, a blue funk.

Funnily enough I just visited a favorite blog Zen Habits and Leo happened to be talking straight to me!

Does that ever happen to you?

Having been ill, menopausal, stressed, and just last week falling like a sack of potatoes and cracking a rib, I know I need a bit of time out. Time to renew my love with my husband (whom I’ve been really really cranky with), time to sleep, to walk, to pick the wildflowers without feeling guilty that should be doing something else ‘more productive’, time to find me again.

Time to reconnect with this Simple Life that we love.

Sam has been unwell, he has gone through a number of hospital tests for allergies, guess what he’s allergic to cats (up till today we had eight, now we have six), stone fruit (we have an orchard), dust (well just don’t even go there) so he is doomed lol. He’s been told to loose weight, and I need to join him, so it’s a change of diet to come.

Carina is a teenage girl with all the drama that goes with the age. Luca is just Luca.

I am slowly going around the bend and beating myself up constantly for not being this incredible switched on blogging superwoman, for not having a perfectly clean house, or a ‘perfect’ Mum, wife, daughter, sister, friend.

So according to Leo “It’s OK to be in Funk Town now and then. We all do it, so you’re not alone at all. It’s human to go through ups and downs, to not always be on a high. We sometimes doubt ourselves, sometimes get really tired, sometimes suffer. Because of your experience in Funk Town, you’ll be stronger and wiser and ready to take on the next challenge with renewed gratitude.”

So I may be posting daily, or weekly, or even miss a week (I’ll try not to do that anymore), but I will be posting. I can’t exactly tell you where it will lead, I have no certainty from moment to moment anymore, but I am ever the optimist so I know it will all turn out okay in the end.

I am thinking of doing a Year of Leo…….because if I don’t do something soon I’m going to disappear. This is my first post in this series, “My Year of Leo”…….I’ll still be posting about Italy, our simple life and all that goes with living in a medieval renovation, but sharing the ups and downs on a personal level as well.

Hope to chat with you here, to connect on a deeper level and to share what we really deal with, to be honest with each other……..can we do that?

Signatureand the gang x

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The saddest little Church – Madonna della Neve Bagnolo.

Madonna della Neve Bagnolo

It is unlike any church I’ve been in.

The Santuario Madonna della Neve was visible from the valley floor not far from our house.

Shining like a beacon on the hillside we decided to see if we could find it. A few wrong turns and some dirt roads later we arrived.

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Inside the chapel it slowly dawned on me that all the pictures covering the walls were of people who had died.

So many children, so much sadness, I felt overcome by many of the paintings especially the little photos in the corners.

Each one told a story, bought to life knowing they were images of actual people.

Many were obviously painted by the same artist over a number of years.

There were hundreds, all the walls were covered from floor to ceiling. It was overwhelmingly sad, a living history of the people and the losses they had suffered. I couldn’t imagine sitting here at a service, so many spirits, so many sad stories.


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Subdued we left the  Madonna della Neve Bagnolo.

Walking back out into the sunshine we met a couple who knew the history of the sanctuary.

They told us that the pictures were in fact of ‘miracles’ not deaths.

They explained to Sam who later translated (as only Sam can, see below)  the story of the Church and the paintings.

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If you’d like to hear the official story of the chapel you can find it at Madonna della Neve Bagnolo.

 Signature and the gang x

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