No Ordinary Woman – Our first guest renovator

 I am excited to announce that over the course of the year, I’ll be running a special series of guest posts on one of my favorite topics – Renovating in Italy. I knew that we couldn’t be the only ones out there dreaming about houses in Italy, so I have enlisted the help of some friends who have also undertaken renovations and would like to share the experience with you .

A beautiful lady and the first to put her hand up when I shared my idea is Sally Ganci….who is based in the Provence of Emilia Romagna. She shares her wonderful Italian farmhouse with a rambling garden overflowing with flowers and lives with her husband Settimo, her Mother Tanina and beloved menagerie of animals. She blogs about it all here.

Don’t let her fool you, despite what she says Sally Ganci is no ordinary woman and this is no ordinary house!

Not only did Sally share with me the story of her house, it’s history and it’s renovations, she also shared a little of her life and this is where I’ll start.

Sally’s family is originally from Sicily, they then moved to America.  “My Dad and his family was from Castellamare del Golfo, Trapani, and my Mom’s family was from Palma di Montechiaro Agrigento. So I have PURE Sicilian blood in my veins.”

Sadly her father was just 37 years old when he lost his life in an accident at work. He had only been in America  two years and left his wife Tanina, young son Joe  and unborn daughter behind.

Years passed and when she was twelve the family returned to Italy and settled in Milan. She was only able to speak a little bit of Sicilian at the time because it was what her Grandparents and Uncles in New York would speak.

“It was really hard, especially going to an Italian school, but I had a great Italian teacher which helped me a lot, and I learned the language without even realising it. It’s faster than you think when you’re so young, really, after about six months I felt great with it!.

I met my husband Settimo and we married and continued to live in Milan before moving to a town near Reggio Emilia.

My interests have always been varied. I have used my native language to teach English for many years and also to translate. I have always loved to teach children and received my certification to teach Kindergarten and subsequently specialized in the Steiner method.

I have a love of art and paint, sculpt, and embroider. I specialized in the unique Ars Canusina style, and am the Vice-President of the Ars Canusina Consortium. This style of the Emilia area is only available to those who are certified in the Ars Canusina style.

With a workshop attached to our home, I am also a partner in Artigiani della Pietra an enterprise that carves designs into stone.

Giuseppe is my co-worker in the stone company and is also a muratore. He has done all the renovations of the old barn that has become my uncle’s vacation home. Also all the renovations in this house where I live with my husband Settimo and where my Uncle was born and grew up. Davide is my other co-worker, he’s a graphic designer and takes care of all the drawings of our works.

I have done my part of course. All the wooden parts he made were finished by me as I worked for a company that renovates old doors, windows, and shutters ect. So I’m great at doing all the sanding and varnishing parts!

My husband and I of course did all the rest, putting in the garden and decorating the interior… it is a work in progress and a labor of love!

In the next post I’ll share with you the beautiful story of the house and it’s history as shared by Uncle Arrigo.






26 comments… add one

  • sally August 16, 2013, 7:30 pm

    Hi Josephine ! Your family’s story is very similar to mine. Yes, we do have much in common! Thanks for your comment!
    sally recently posted..Grande la Proloco di Cortogno !My Profile

  • josephine catalano August 15, 2013, 3:43 am

    I so enjoyed reading your story-I too have 100% Sicilian blood-Dad from Castelvetrano Tr and Mom from Catania-They emigrated to Ny when they were children-My husband is from Benevento and we spend 2 months a year in his “casa nativa”–The aritisenship in Italy is fabulous and I so admire your work——Complimenti e buon lavoro-

    • Lisa Chiodo August 15, 2013, 5:04 am

      I’ll pass your comments onto Sally, she is just the most beautiful lady and I know she’ll appreciate your story. ciao lisa x

  • Ulrich Niedzwetzki February 16, 2012, 2:01 am

    very nice story. We bought our terratetto last year in September at Val di Vara straight above the Cinque Terre. I can’t wait until April for the next steps of the renovation

    • Lisa Chiodo February 25, 2012, 4:46 pm

      Grazie Ulrich, how exciting you start renovating soon. I’d love to hear about it, anything you’d like to share?
      ciao lisa

  • sally January 18, 2012, 11:27 pm

    Thanks Audra! You’re just so nice and cute..we’ve had some good times together……or were they good meals ??LOL – Never thank you enough Lisa, but I’m sure you already know that!! XXOO

    • Audra January 19, 2012, 8:31 am

      Lol Sally… it was both!!

      I still really need to try you arancine! I use the feminine because we make them like palermitani in my house and in Palermo they’re called arancine, not arancini. 😀

      I was looking at your blog and I saw some of your latest meals. Dying of hunger over here!!!

  • Audra January 18, 2012, 12:44 pm

    I used to live in Reggio, but now I am back in New York. I desperately would love to move back to Italy and enjoy myself again, but I fear I’m not ready yet. I wish I knew! 🙁

  • Audra January 18, 2012, 12:40 pm

    Yup! She’s good people for sure. 🙂

    I was glad to have been able to be her friend. She has lots of really cute animals too! I hope one day you two can work on some cool renovation stuff together. That would be awesome.

    Take care.

    • Lisa Chiodo January 18, 2012, 12:42 pm

      Oh yes we’d have sooo much fun, where are you now? We will all have to meet up! ciao lisa

  • Audra January 18, 2012, 12:32 pm

    I had the pleasure of knowing Sally personally when I too lived in Reggio Emilia. She was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in Italy or elsewhere and is a really great cook to boot! She once gave me a tour of all the stuff she made for Ars Canusina and I have to say it was really awesome stuff.

    • Lisa Chiodo January 18, 2012, 12:38 pm

      Iv’e seen all the photos on her blog of the meals, one day we’ll share one! Great to meet you Audra I know Sally is thrilled to read all the lovely comments here she and her family so deserve them. ciao lisa

  • sally January 17, 2012, 10:21 pm

    Thanks so much for your beautiful thoughts Lisa.! Maybe that’s why I have success as a teacher! LOL. I’ve always tried to put myself in my students place, and what I would like to see is a kind, smiling face but also a little bit rigorous at the same time. Did you know that I also have an English blog to thelp my students learn extra topics?

    I’ll never thank you enough for wanting to be my friends. It’s people like you that make friendship worthwile!!
    Hugs, Sally

    • Lisa Chiodo January 23, 2012, 1:25 pm

      I can imagine you would be a wonderful teacher Sally, it’s hard enough to learn without someone that doesn’t relate to the students. Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring family with me and with everyone reading along. xxx

  • sally January 16, 2012, 10:52 pm

    Thanks to all….but a very special thanks to you lisa!!

    • Lisa Chiodo January 17, 2012, 10:02 pm

      Sally people just fall in love with you and your beautiful spirit, it shines in your family and your home!
      with love lisa x

  • Carla Coulson January 16, 2012, 5:21 pm

    Inspirational woman and a great post thanks Lisa should be a interesting series the “guest renovator” wonderful idea.
    Carla x

    • Lisa Chiodo January 17, 2012, 10:08 pm

      It’s been on my mind for such a long time Carla just not had the courage to follow it, my husband is my biggest fan and pushes me daily to believe I can do this and takes no excuses, love him so!
      So many inspiring souls and so much history, it’s my passion, ciao lisa x

  • Susan Heslington January 16, 2012, 2:21 am

    I have a feeling this idea side of the blog is gonna be really popular indeed! Well done Lisa and family!

    Great story Sally! 🙂

    • Lisa Chiodo January 16, 2012, 3:17 pm

      Thanks so much Susan, I just find these old homes so fascinating and the stories of the people who were born and raised there even more so! I know you share the same love at Tuscany Villages…ciao lisa

  • Trisha Thomas January 13, 2012, 5:57 pm

    What a fascinating story. I love to hear about Italian immigrants who went to America and then moved back to Italy. It most have been so hard for them in the US trying to get by, then to be left a widow with young children must have been so difficult. Truly admirable the way she held on to her culture and artistic passions.
    Great to read about these other renovators.

    • Lisa Chiodo January 23, 2012, 1:23 pm

      Impossible to imagine isn’t it Trisha, we lost my Dad when we were very young but not in a far country away from family or with a new baby on the way. My Mum and Dad were together since they were 18 and he died at 39. Sally is such a lovely woman, and has such a kind nature! Looking forward to our next renovator.
      ciao lisa

  • Janine January 11, 2012, 2:16 pm

    How gorgeous Lisa! Brava!!!! Alla prossima allora…Jx

    • Lisa Chiodo January 13, 2012, 1:58 pm

      Yes dear Janine, until next time…the story of the house is next. I am trying to work out which bits are which as there are two houses on the property. I have so enjoyed this project and getting to know Sally better, she is a wonderful woman! ciao lisa

  • This is Belgium January 9, 2012, 11:38 pm

    great idea to post these stories, looking forward to it

    • Lisa Chiodo January 11, 2012, 8:52 pm

      Thanks Anni, can’t wait to share the house photos, what I love are the stories from those who grew up in these houses like Sally’s uncle!
      ciao for now


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