Our Italian Restoration Project: Expat Q&A
Jayne & David moved to Le Marche from the UK and restored a beautiful farmhouse. In this blog, discover how they decided to make the move, and what advice they have for anyone wishing to begin their own Italian restoration project.
What made you decide to move from the UK to Le Marche – was there a series of events or was this a dream that you always had?
Having visited Italy a couple of times, staying in Umbria and Le Marche, in 2011 we decided to have a sabbatical and see more of the country. We had our own consultancy business so we only had to give ourselves permission! We undertook an eight month trip starting out in Le Marche and then spending about six weeks each in Abruzzo, Puglia, the Naples area and Tuscany. After the trip we returned to North Northumberland and recommenced working, but our hearts were still in Italy.
By the spring of 2012, we had finished our outstanding projects and decided we would stop working. We put our house in the UK up for rent and planned our return to Le Marche. We rented a property for six months before buying our property in October 2012.
Our Italian Restoration Project
What made you choose a restoration project over a ready-made home?
We viewed lots of properties to buy in various states of repair or disrepair. We never envisaged doing a restoration project, it just happened because after seeing our house and its location, we could see the potential. Our house was occupied by an Italian family and so, after a quick deep clean and decoration we moved in, and started planning the complete restoration of the ground floor (which was still animal stalls) and a re-design of the middle floor.
We drew up the plans ourselves having tested various layouts with walls made of cardboard! We then employed a Geometra to assist with engineering aspects of our portico, and secure planning consent – which once submitted, was granted within two weeks.
We lived in the property throughout our Italian restoration project which was at times very challenging! It did mean however, that we achieved the restoration project we envisaged. It allowed us to make instant changes along the way and ensure the original character of the house was preserved.
We undertook a lot of lesser-skilled work ourselves, such as knocking down internal walls, removing plaster, channelling tracts for pipes and cables, brick-pointing, tiling and decorating.
The major building works took about a year, with the internal heating, electrics etc adding another year. We continue to use D&G Design on an adhoc basis, as and when required.
One mantra we continually followed during our project was that we restored the house for the winter season with quality insulation and wood burning heating. Living in the summer is easy, however the winters can be tough.
How did you find adjusting to life in Le Marche – are there specific moments you can think of that made you realise you had made the right move?
We were always aware that becoming isolated was something we had to positively work against. The dominating factor is the ability to speak Italian. Jayne mastered it quickly, David took a lot longer. Six years on we continue to take lessons and study. We have joined many local clubs and societies: tennis, biking, environmental, conversation, local history etc. We have a numerically balanced set of friends – between English speakers and Italians, whom we have met via our external activities.
What do you enjoy the most about your new lifestyle?
We love life here and can never foresee leaving – even after the 2016 earthquakes. Between the mountains and the beaches, the land is stuffed full of interesting medieval hill towns, villages and bigger towns, all offering quality art and architecture. Before we moved here we never knew that all of these settlements have numerous festivals throughout the year. We have never had such a social life – in the summer months you can party every evening – so long as you accustom yourselves to staying up late!
We enjoy travelling around Le Marche and into Umbria visiting places. We have found that if you seek out the small treasures, someone will gladly show you around and make the day special … if you use your Italian!
Any tips on learning the language or what helped you get by before you spoke Italian?
Get some good foundation course books including a verb book. Read and read and read everything from advertising displays, road signs, and food packets! Study a little everyday. Find a teacher. Prepare yourself with learning some vocabulary prior to going into situations, i.e meeting plumber, going to bank or post office. Speak the language and …. do not worry about making mistakes …. Italians are very friendly and will warm to you for the fact you are trying to speak the Bella Lingua!
Thank you Jayne & David for sharing your Italian restoration project and journey with us.
Jayne & David discovered this old photo of the original owners of the house after they moved in, so they recreated their own version once the renovations were complete. We love the way they have paid tribute to the legacy of the house, and the people who lived there before them.