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


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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

Italian Living – creating the rustic lounge room

rustic lounge room

Rustic Lounge Room

 ‘The longer you are in a place the more you get under its layers’

 Frances Mayes


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Our rustic lounge room is starting to take shape, this is the room I long to see finished. The one we will live in, the place to read and write, to sit with friends and to cuddle up with the kids. Stripping the awful plastic paneling from the walls of our rustic lounge room gave us back the bones of the room.

We had purchased plaster sheeting to cover the damage and all the nail holes but I couldn’t bear to loose the original  walls. They have the gentlest undulations and could never be described as even which is of course exactly the way I love the house to be….original and filled with character.

We have taken up the boards,  we hoped for the original rock underneath like the kitchen but no luck. The boards are all safely stored and cleaned ready to use again somewhere in the house. Our friend Claudio bought us over one huge slab of rock to go between the two rooms and it is the perfect gift for us, it will be here for hundreds of years to come.

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After sandblasting the beams the walls in the kitchen have taken on a buffed ochre tone far from the original chalky white. The difference is clearly seen when one is next to the other. We will now need to clean down the walls in the kitchen and re coat them.

I’m thinking of the many layers of color in this room and the people who lived here before us. What is the story behind the traditional deep blues and greens through the house, right now we are happy to see them disappear along with the black soot.

I know many readers wanted us to keep these tones but the house is just so dark inside and I need some light to take us into Winter and it’s three months of darkness.

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Walking through the lounge at night is an obstacle course ducking the head at both doorways and avoiding the piles of rock. We have no lights in this room or in the stairwell only moonlight coming through the open window. Sam took the window out to lay the stone on the ledge and now we just have the bars with no glass.

We have windows and doors being made to measure and can only hope they arrive with time to fit them before it starts getting cold. They are due to be started in September and my friend Molly tells me it gets cold leading into Winter here by October.

Keep calling him she tells us, Italian time isn’t like time in Australia.

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You could say I’m in love with our beams, each one is unique with a warmth that smiles into the room. I’ve only hit my head once, poor Sam hasn’t been so lucky and has numerous scars.

I walk through the house now ducking at just the right moment and don’t even think about it until a visitor arrives and we have to tell them to watch out for the beams. It’s a little like a dance the house and I take part in .

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The doorway has been widened slightly and we won’t be putting a door back on, the rock will continue right through the two rooms. Now we will be able to get the lounge and furniture through. Sam and Claudio have been deep in discussion regarding the opening and how to finish it. Claudio is often over at our house and he has an insight born of the valley. He has lived in Malpertus his entire life and knows the way the buildings breathe, the history and the way they are all intertwined.

Each day I fall further in love with this valley and her secrets.

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Our rustic lounge room is taking shape, soon it will be a room to relax, write, play and entertain. Maybe one day you’ll join us here.

Signature-00134 editand the gang x

The French House – a little tour

Returning to my tale of Borga Nari, it’s late Autumn. The air has a chill straight from the mountains. Leaves are blanketing the path and soon there will be deep snow. We are yet to meet our neighbors, the French people. We’ve been told they come in Summer and I can’t wait to meet them. Theirs is the only section of rustic Borga Nari that has been totally renovated.

I thought I’d show you a little movie, this was something I did to send home to our parents so please excuse my amateur video.

Life’s Postcards

The lost village – Abandoned in the Mountains

I thought tonight I would share with you all a little video from our time at Borga Nari, now you just need to bear in mind the following things

  • Big number one – this is not a professional video
  • I created this to send home to my family
  • if you wish you can forward to around 1:18 (you’ll miss our gorgeous daughter if you do)
  • I’d love it if you’d let me know your thoughts, more video, less video would you like to see inside our world?
  • continue on at your peril…..

So this clip was taken on an Autumn walk with my daughter Carina, we wandered down the trail behind the house to the stream passing the most incredible abandoned Borga which was almost totally hidden in the undergrowth.