Standing on the balcony at Borga Nari, we gaze at the long abandoned dream Italian village across the valley. It enticed us to explore. Fascinated by the way it seemed to vertically caress the mountain, we set off a number of times to find it but something always happened to stop us.
One day Carina and Sam headed off for a long walk and came back with excited stories about this amazing Borgo, punnets of raspberries from the one and only resident, and pleas for us all to immediately jump in the van and go straight back.
They were right!
I fell in love, and instantly in our hearts we knew that one day it would be returned to it’s former glory. There is no logic to such a dream, yet we know that it has been achieved by others. One day this dream Italian village will be restored.
Colletta is a stunning restored village, and I have been in love with Borgo di Vagli ever since I accidentally came across it on the web one day.
Walking through the tiny lane ways between the buildings it felt as if eyes were watching us, as if the residents had just gone for a siesta and soon the village would come to life. Our friend Aldo tells us that he went to the Scuola (school) here as a child, I long to explore the inside of the buildings and we wander about imagining how it could all be restored.
An ancient grape vine trails through the entire village supported by a rickety trellis. There is a pair of old fashioned underwear left hanging on a line strung up on a balcony. Wood is stacked neatly in every available opening which must have been cut years before.
Overgrown with weeds we watch out for snakes, the walls are so close it’s possible to touch the worn rock walls on either side. I hear music but know that’s not possible, as if these ancient buildings are welcoming us.
Yes we are in love….the dream is planted!
I’d love to hear your thoughts, do you think it possible to restore?
Have you had an impossible project come to life?
Restoring our Rustic Farmhouse
Looking back is always interesting when you renovate… the first days at our rustic farmhouse in the mountains of Piedmont were completely naive. We bought the house by torchlight on a sunny day in June. I didn’t even go inside I just knew I wanted to live here and nowhere else seemed possible. It was love at first sight.
The house was just above the village of Gambasca, and had a view in both directions through the Valley. With a big terrace that caught the sun, and so much potential we just couldn’t resist and soon after it was ours.
So this is Salvatore taking a walk around the grounds and into the house, (we filmed constantly to send home to our parents). Apparently my mother in law cried when my Mum told her about the dirt floors.
For us it was all a big romantic adventure, a chance for the children to experience the “real” Italy.
And boy did we experience it!
and the gang x
Salvatore (Sam to anyone not in Italy) finished painting the walls of the Metato – Castagne (Chestnut) room…
Notice the small door (top right hand corner), this is where the chestnuts would be put through onto the mesh for smoking. The walls are covered in a black tar like substance which the locals assure us will never be able to be painted… you can see the beams that held the mesh and the little door above.
Sam came up with a mix of cement, lime and something like bondcrete to bind it all to the wall. First he coated the walls with the watered down bondcrete mix to seal them.
The great thing about dirt floors is you don’t have to worry about drop-sheets!
The “paint” went on with the “paint throwing machine” although we ended up using a brush like the top of a yard broom in the end to get the mix on the walls…
Sam and Carina had great fun putting the ceiling boards in, the upper level is her new “cubby house” … she can get into all the small angled places, hold nails and is learning to use the hammer…our little “reno girl”
We lined the dirt floor and put lining boards on the ceiling, oiled the door (and found the key) and the windows are in.
So what is a Metato?
When you want to know something ask a local.
Joseph grew up in the “Snow White” cottage at Borga Nari, so we asked him about the strange little door in our house. He told us that as children (he had nine brothers and sisters) the family would collect the castagne and dry them in the metato to make flour. “Ahhh so that’s what it’s for” at last we know!
In the metato there would be a mesh floor on the upper level holding the castagne and underneath a couple of smouldering fires.
The chestnuts would be smoked for six or seven weeks (getting turned every couple of weeks) and at the end would have shrunk to a third of their original size.
The flour was used to make bread and was the main source of food for the winter.
The mountains around our house are covered with castagneti (chestnut woods) and for us it is a fun afternoon exercise to roast them in the pan we found… but only a few generations ago they were a staple part of the diet for the locals.
Castagnaccio – chestnut flour migliaccio, a flat firm chestnut cake described as peasant food at it’s best, and a fixture on winter tables …
pic: authentic italy
Today we put a deposit on our house which is about 3 kms out of the town of Gambasca, Piemonte. It is straight up a road that in some spots reminds me of Lombard St (the very crooked road in San Francisco). Are we nuts? Most certainly. Do we want to renovate this rustic farmhouse in the mountains? More than anything! We could hardly contain our delight when we drive up the mountain road with the agent. Sam knows I love it already and no matter what it looks like inside it is ours from that first moment.
The further up the mountain we drive the thicker the forest gets. At our first visit it was cool, deep green with dappled light. Our farmhouse is off the road to the right, down a bumpy driveway usually draped in the local dogs and cats. They always move out of the way with seeming annoyance for daring to disturb them.
The two cats think they are dogs and one time I found Smokie the cat curled up on a chair (that’s her in the photo) with Smarties the puppy. When we turn the corner my jaw drops, this is it, the rustico part of the borgata which is overgrown with weeds and deserted when we moved in.
What are we going to tell the parents home in Australia? We now own a part of history, dirt floors, vaulted ceilings, rock roof, no windows, and totally isolated (believe me that’s how it felt on the first night). Time to renovate!