Courtyard Work – removing the original bread oven

original bread oven

Entering the large double wooden gates to the the lower courtyard the first thing you see is the original bread oven. Dating to 1916 (the date carved in the rock oven door) and with a large area underneath used for the pigs we are told. Sadly the interior of the oven was beyond repair and crumbling away with huge cracks throughout.


I try to imagine the borgata and valley back in 1916, during the first world war, we are walking in the footsteps of hundreds of years here each day. This oven would have provided the entire borgata with bread, I’d love to learn more about the history of our Borgata.

Anita who is now in her eighties was born here and has never left the Borgata, she lived through the second world war and saw both the Nazi’s and the Partisans walking through these very streets and past our big double doors.


After discussing the idea with the local men here in the borgata Sam decided to take the oven out. I regret seeing it go but sometimes history has to move with the times and be practical as well as safe. We are slowly removing all the added touches in the house that would not have been original like the ugly metal railing. As much as possible we want to restore the house to it’s original state.




The upper porch area will now run right to the exterior wall and the railing eventually replaced with timber. Originally a door was in the rock section leading to the house next door. We also found a doorway down in the back of the original bread oven that must have gone though to Casa Bianca. The two homes were once owned by the one family and now they are again owned by one family who want to protect and restore them.



We have saved as many of the original terracotta bricks from the vaulted section as possible, most are just crumbling away in our hands. I know we’ll find a special place for them to be re used in the house. It’s fascinating to see how the vaulted original bread oven was built, a work of art. We had an original bread oven in our first home here in Italy at Borga Nari and even fired it up a few times.

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Our lower courtyard has been a bit of a mess for the past two weeks and is just now coming back to order. Once  the original bread oven  is totally removed  we can move the wood down from the upper level Sam will begin to work up in the back rooms. He has some good ideas for this area now after talking with our neighbor and seeing what is possible.

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Even though it has been cold and raining now for the past two weeks Sam has continued working to get this area finished. Then we will move the wood down to this area and have the entire back section of the upper floor for another project we are working on. More to come about that as the work progresses. The original bread oven is now gone and all that remains are the photos and the rock door dated 1916.

It’s a fine line between preserving the past and creating the future…….have you ever been torn between the two?

Signatureand the gang x


Casa Bianca – renovating Italian houses


Renovating Italian Houses has become a little like renovating our lives

Slowly stripping back to the essentials, seeing what is missing, and adding a touch of love.

Finding the bare bones.

Seeing what can be done with what you’ve got.



Restoring an old home means removing the signs of a life hard lived.

A fresh start, enhancing the beauty, removing the barriers.

Finding what is really important, enhancing that, recreating the space.


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Renovating Italian Houses means letting in the sunshine.

Clearing layers of misunderstanding.

Deciding on our own future and moving constantly in that direction.

Finding our happiness.



Renovating in our beloved Italy means gathering friends.

Sharing stories, bringing laughter back.

Creating new echos.



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Renovating Italian houses means replacing what doesn’t work.

Blending old and new.

Creating a view beyond normal life.


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some further inspiration:

Restoring a Home in Italy

Italian Country Living

Signatureand the gang x

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Rustic Farmhouse – Clearing out Casa Bianca

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No matter the set backs with our rustic farmhouse we always keep moving forward. Over the past month I’ve been out of action with a mystery illness. Sam has continued to work on ‘Casa Bianca’ next door to our house, we hope to have it habitable so friends and family can come to stay with us and experience life here in the valley we love so much. Lots of work to be done, nothing new for us but we will be taking it slowly till I’m recovered. Maybe I can come in at the end for the ‘house dressing’….I don’t mind missing out on all the cleaning.

Bianco on the outside and gelati flavored on the inside, the latest addition to our rustic farmhouse is just a delight. Sam has been clearing the rubbish from inside the house and the main rooms are now cleared. Four tractor loads so far. Under these stairs are two cellars which are crammed with more rubbish, the doorways are tiny and I haven’t even taken a look. The doors and windows need replacing, every surface needs a good clean and the whole place needs flea bombing.

This room will be gutted, cleaned, painted and something needs to be done with the flooring. All of the rubbish has been cleared out and only the old fridge and cabinet are still in here now. I’m already imagining the transformation photos, I’m picturing the rustic farmhouse of my imagination, somewhere friends and family can come to visit and experience life in the valley. We’ve left all the windows open to start to air it out. It will take shape quickly once cleaned, then we start looking at new sink, and furnishings.


I like the old fireplace, everything else will get pulled out and we’ll start from scratch. The doorway leads into the stairwell and across from this room is another largish airy room that was used as a bedroom. The window looks out over the old original road. After so many renovations this doesn’t phase me at all, although now being unwell I haven’t been able to help out, just supervise from a distance for short periods of time before heading back inside to rest.

One house in Australia that we wanted to buy was beyond belief. We were given access and removed cubic tonnes of rubbish, ended up using a gurney on the walls and the family that lived in the house were hoarders. The house had such a horrific history that I always felt creepy being in it and was actually glad when the contract fell through. One wall had a tombstone drawn complete with a child’s name and date of death, we found out later that the owners had ten foster kids. I always expected to move something and find a body in that house.

So we’ve been through many renovations in Australia and now this is our third rustic farmhouse in Italy, hopefully our last for a few years.

The staircase up to the main bedroom has a small lean, and seems to also have a bit of a twist. It’s an art form making it to the top level without whacking your head on the ceiling, Sam has a few new scars. Ahhh the master bedroom…..what can I say?

Everything is going, the furniture will be broken up so we can get it out, and then used for firewood. The room is actually quite big and although it has the most mold we think it’s coming from a leak somewhere in the rock roof. I’m not sure what will happen with the old stairs, perhaps a spiral staircase instead.

Thank you again for all your well wishes and love, I’m still struggling with exhaustion, and now a bad cough, aches and pains, and menopause thrown into the mix…..Bonus. Having just about given up hope I sent out some messages to our English speaking friends and guess what found a Doctor (I thought he was a musician lol) and I hope to get some thoughts about what might be going on with my health. It’s been almost four weeks now since I went to the hospital and I don’t feel much better. Something has to give……hopefully it won’t be me.

and the gang x

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Italian Rustic Decor – the collector

italian rustic decor

Italian Rustic

‘The measure of a life, after all, is not it’s duration, but it’s donation…’

Corrie Ten

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We almost didn’t enter, even though I’ve been wanting to visit this shop since we arrived in the valley back in April. The double doors open onto a small workroom and as we peered in a man appeared. Now we had to enter, hands were shaken, ciaos exchanged and Sam (love him) did the talking, I feel as if I’ve stepped inside Aladdin’s cave, La Bottega del Restauro.

On every surface, from floor to ceiling my eyes are dazed, a million memories in this tiny room, the history of the valley. Italian Rustic gone into overdrive. After a few minutes he beckons us to follow…..’what’s he saying’ I hiss, and then I am left speechless.

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The interior of Dario’s workroom is filled with tools, varnish, relics and ancient treasures….a giant key with an ornate headpiece is part of the fresco of old keys along the ceiling. I tell him one day he will find the door that fits that key (in my very broken Italian) and he laughs and nods. I feel as if I’ve met a kindred spirit, he just lights up when talking about his collection. Yes everything is for sale he assures us.

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We enter a classic stairwell leading up through three floors of room after room filled with more than my eye can take in. Small vignettes are carefully set up telling little stories, and the beauty is that these aren’t displayed in some fashionable high street store but in an old home in the mountains where they came from. A living museum and the passion of one man who has been collecting for over 25 years.

I see items here that I have seen still in use in daily life at the borgata, things we have found in our own home, things that have been given to us knowing how passionate I am to preserve the history I find around me. All I can think about is how much my Mum would love this, she and I would be in here for days, I find the most delicate carved two story stationary holder, so fragile and a little broken on one leg….I gently place it back, when we are more financial I’ll  be back with my twenty euro.

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Sam starts calling me…..come here quick….following his voice down another flight of old stairs into the cellars, it’s much darker than these images show, a little cold and when my eyes adjust I could be in Madame Tussaud’s. More rooms, ancient doors and ducking heads to stop from hitting the beams, it’s just overwhelm, on every possible space another story, another memory.

The story of the valley people, the women and men I’ve come to love, a lifestyle that is slowly fading into history. Yet here in this unassuming building it has come to life again.

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La Bottega del Restauro is online

You can also find La Bottega del Restauro on facebook

and the gang x

Rustic Italian Kitchen – an update

rustic italian kitchen

‘The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten’

 Cesare Pavese

The heart of most homes is the kitchen, our rustic Italian kitchen is starting to take shape after a bit of TLC and lots of work from Sam. Over the last few days he pulled out the old sink and tiles, mixed up multiple batches of white cement and coated the walls, then re cemented the slabs of rock on the floor.

It’s been wonderful having the entire population of the borgata come for visits to see what we are doing and give advice. Most frequently the comments are ‘rip out the fireplace and pull up the stone floor’ arrrghhh!

Meanwhile I have been busy painting the first floor bedroom, bathroom ceiling, re varnishing the timber and best of all painting the main bedroom on the top floor. My favorite room is this bedroom, high ceiling with wooden beams and so much promise. A small balcony and a beautiful view, perfect. Sam being the chef in the family is besotted by the fireplace in our rustic Italian kitchen and already researching cooking methods to use.

We leave early in the morning to work at the house and come home late so computer time is a rarity. I hope you’ll forgive us as we need to move into the house within the next two weeks. Lots to do as always, but I will show you the bedroom and introduce the neighbors who are priceless asap.

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Idea’s and Inspiration for our Rustic Italian Kitchen

We both agree we want to keep the house as close to original as possible and Sam plans to put in the rack for the cooking pot to hang over the fire. Our neighbors are already donating some ancient relics and love that we want to keep the rustic heritage alive. The only problem we now find is that the floor slopes and is wildly uneven so a table and chairs will be tricky.

We are gathering ideas and looking for the best way to overcome this. Any thoughts are most welcome, have you ever had a very crooked floor?

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thanks to everyone for sticking with us through this transition, we are expecting friends in June and again in September so ‘molto lavore’ for us as usual x

Signatureand the gang x




Our Rustic farmhouse in the Mountains – a little film…

rustic farmhouse

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!

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and the gang x