I bought a house with no water, no electricity and no heating in Florence.

10 second timer in the rubble to capture the renovation fear. August 2019

This is not Under the Tuscan Sun, I’m not Frances Mayes and I’m not renovating a huge villa in rural Tuscany with my boyfriend while sharing my best jam recipes with you. This is me, buying the ground floor of a duplex in the gritty outskirts of the city of Florence. It’s busy, it’s loud and literally Post Malone is blaring in the background. There’s no peach jam, there’s mostly Chinese take out. There’s no expensive trattoria serving tender veal and Barolo, there’s late nights of endless 1 euro wine and vegetarian food at Vino e Ravioli. And I couldn’t ask for anything better to celebrate the last year of my twenties.

About two years ago, I didn’t have a permanent job, an Italian citizenship or a plan for my future. Because my life has always revolved around impulsiveness, I decided that it would make perfect sense to start looking into buying a home in a country I wasn’t even sure I would be allowed to live in.

It was 2017. Instead of taking it easy and focusing on the piles of citizenship paperwork and my job search, I decided I would casually begin house hunting…I don’t know what casual means.

In the past 10 years, I’ve moved a total of 10 times between Montreal, Vancouver and Florence; I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what I like by now. As I started visiting apartments for sale, a lot of the places I saw in Florence were alright and had potential, but none of them were giving me HGTV House Hunters “We love House #3” vibes until I walked into this small apartment with missing walls, the cutest garden and an actual chicken hanging out near the fence.

When I visited this house for the first time, I could literally see the badante cooking in the kitchen next door. There was no water. No electricity. No heating. No walls. Why? Long story short, the owners had bought two neighboring homes 30 years ago, broken down the walls and made it into one giant house. A few years ago, they decided to divide it back up again and sell half (my half).

An example of where the missing wall used to be.

If you’re thinking that I have no idea what I’m in for, you’re right. I’m slightly reckless, but WHO ISN’T SOMETIMES. I’ve never liked the idea of buying a renovated home. I want the RENOVATION GLORY. I WANT SHIPLAP EVERYWHERE. I want to walk around the house I live in and be in love with every little thing I see. God is a woman and her name is Joanna Gaines.

Buying this place wasn’t easy. It scared me and when something scares me, I know it’s the right thing to do (except the time I decided to get a Shakespeare tattoo on the back of my neck in gothic font like Angelina Jolie…it scared me and was 100% the wrong thing to do). During this whole house buying process, shit hit the fan SO MANY TIMES I lost count. I’m not going to share the countless meetings where people didn’t show up, the dozens of bank appointments and all of the missing paperwork, but let’s just say the entire process took almost two years. TWO YEARS! I made the offer when I was 27 and I bought the house at 29. Between one of the two owners (two brothers who didn’t speak to each other) passing away a few days before signing and finding out he was secretly married and had a daughter (a minor in the equation resulted in months of paperwork in order to sell the home), the entire process was very slow, very Italian, very messy and very expensive.

Now that it’s over and it’s finally mine, here are some pictures I took with my phone (sorry) to give you a general idea of what I’ll be pouring my heart (and bank account) into for the next few months. Also, I hope that this reminds you that you don’t need to be (or want to be) married, have a man (or woman), the job of your dreams or the perfect situation to do the shit you want. It may not be what you (or others) pictured your life would look like, but fuck it (and them), you know?

The view as you enter (for now). The wall on the left is coming down to open up the space. If your turn to the left, you walk into the “living room” and if you go down the hall and turn right, you walk into the bedroom.
The living room (there’s no electricity so this is the best I can do as far as lighting)
Living room view from the garden. Pretend that facing wall isn’t there and the pile of rocks is a cute couch.
View from the veranda. Basically, these are two rooms (until I get my HGTV hands on it), but I’m tearing down the dividing wall (that you can’t see) so the “kitchen” on the left will open into the “living room.”
Cute lil garden

When I saw the garden, I knew I wanted this place to be mine. Florence is mostly made up of three floor walk-ups and finding a place this close to the city center (technically on a map, I’m in the city center, but like I’m not) with a quiet garden is pretty rare. Also, there are 7 chickens that casually stroll in to say hey sometimes. How could I resist?

Scary basement with big window

There’s also a relatively large basement with a big window, but I’m scared of basements so I’ve never gone down there alone. I’LL GET OVER IT. I’d love to turn it into a hang out room, kind of like the one your parents had in the basement with wooden paneling where you kept everything you didn’t want to see around the house.

The bedroom
Walk-In closet or on-suite (who do I think I am?) bathroom
Beautiful swan decor (why) on the bathroom tile
View of the garden
View of the veranda from the garden

Obviously, this is costing me so much money and sometimes I lie awake at night and consider becoming a part-time webcam girl (not actually, you know what I mean), but it’s making me really happy and I can promise you that besides your health, that’s the only thing that matters.

Also, if anyone has any tips, ideas, suggestions, ANYTHING…I am open to all of it.

39 thoughts on “I bought a house with no water, no electricity and no heating in Florence.

      1. THE THIRD LISA IS COMING NEXT YEAR…………I LIVE IN TORONTO, I AM BUYING ALSO NEAR FLORENCE, I AM ITALIAN AND I WANT TO HAVE MY PLACE THERE. YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB LISA C.P, FOR HEATING YOU CAN BUY A PELLETT STUFA, WATER YOU KNOW, YOU NEED CONTATORE AND FOR THIS YOU APPLY AT THE CITY SERVIZIO IDRICO (I THINK PUBBLIACQUA) DO NOT CHANGE TOO MUCH OF THE LOOK, BUT INDEED YOU CAN TURN ONE ROOM ONTO A B&B, THE GARDEN IS SPECTACULAR. GOOD LUCK!

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  1. Bravo! Love your garden. We bought a house in Le marche, my most important tip is Learn Italian! Without it you will find it very hard to deal with the workmen you will need to help you. In bocca al lupo!

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  2. Well I am dreaming of the Abruzzo region. I too will do interior work.
    How lucky are you to have that sweet garden. That would sell any place for me.
    Currently I live in Mexico on the Pacific Ocean. It’s a four year plan. I read some FB pages for Abruzzo which gives me tiny villages. to study online.

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  3. Follow your dream! You can do it!
    You sound so much like me. I saw a house on the lake once, and it’s the view of the lake that sold me! And I’m also scared of basements. 🙂
    All the best!
    Margie

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  4. At 52 I’m looking at you with the envy of things I wish I had done in my life. Though Under the Tuscan Sun is a favorite of mine, yours is a more realistic version. Cudos to you for taking that giant leap & thank you for sharing your story.

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  5. Hi! I really admire your gumption! You will manage fine! In general there are good ways to cut corners in home renovation here in respect to the other side of the Atlantic in my opinion. I have lived in Italy for 25 years and have seen that one can find many fair priced options. So excited for you! Hope I can see your progress!

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  6. That is awesome! Good luck on your project. Sounds like you have a dream and you are determined to follow it. We just bought a home in Abruzzo and I am scared to death but super excited too. I’m envious of your Italian. Did you pick it up by just living in Italy or did you study? I’m looking forward to your posts about renovating. We are going to be doing some of the same things! I really do believe getting work done in Italy is all about the relationship

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    1. Thank you so much, Yvonne! I picked it up when I started hanging out with Italian friends. I never studied! I agree with you, relationships are very important in Italy. Good luck on your home in Abruzzo, I love it there and spend time nearby in Molise quite often!

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  7. Howdy from Brucciano, Lucca! My husband and I bough our “under the Tuscan sun Villa” and like in the movie, we’ Been they storms in the mountains, seen a snake trying to get into our house, scorpions and the beauty of tearing a wall and dust flying everywhere. We’ve done some remodeling and other things to make it ours. I’m not a writer like Frances (as you can see 😉
    Best wishes on your project! It looks amazing! We are only 2 hours and 15 minutes from Florence. We LOVE that city!

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  8. Howdy from Brucciano, Lucca! My husband and I bough our “under the Tuscan sun Villa” and like in the movie, we’ve been through some nasty storms in the mountains, seen a snake trying to get into our house, scorpions here and there and the beauty of tearing a wall and dust flying everywhere. We’ve done some remodeling and other things to make this house our home and it’s finally feeling it’s ours. I’m not a writer like Frances (as you can see 😉 )
    Best wishes on your project! It looks amazing! We are only 2 hours and 15 minutes from Florence. We LOVE the city of Florence!

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  9. Wow, You’re incredibly courageous! Your house has loads of potential and I’m sure it will be stunning.
    I’m doing something similar…not buying, but finally moving to Italy taking the bull by the horns and trying not to think of Brexit! I love Italy soooo much I’m finally making the dream come true! There is certainly something about this country…..

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    1. Good luck with the move! Yeah, there’s something about Italy… Everything here is twice as hard to get done, that’s why it’s so satisfying to finally do or complete something! Thanks so much for reading 😉

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  10. It’s fabulous! And that garden…I can completely understand why you had to purchase it. I travel to Lucca a couple of times a year and visit Florence regularly … so if you ever need help or someone to whine (wine) with…just ask.

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  11. Girrrrrl you better paint them walls and give it a katy perry vibe. Lol. Love the place. I see sooo much potential. Looks like a fun ginormous art project. You were made for this! ❤

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  12. I purchased a lovely large stone house on side of mountain near Lucca and found a wonderful handyman who lives close to help me remodel a kitchen, bath, roof issues and install heating and air units. ALL WITH NO ITALIAN language skills. I am happy to give you his reference if you get stuck or need help.

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  13. I can’t say I have any advice except to have the time of your life. I lived all over Italy for a year. Lived in Florence for a month and returned several times after that. I’m still working on my citizenship and have returned twice in the last year for extended visits. You’ve got courage. Keep going in the direction of your dreams. Xoxoxo

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  14. I know it will look amazing once you are done. Beautiful place! Do you mind me asking around how much did you pay for the house? I was thinking about moving sometime in the future

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  15. Fascinating! That garden, that basement room with big window, the wall to be knocked down. This is terrific. Good luck on it all.

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  16. What a great adventure. I am Scottish but have been living in Tuscany for 16 years – our house is out near Rignano sul Arno. I am a mum to 3 kids and a potter, selling my work at farmers markets. I found myself laughing when I read your post as so much of what you said also happened to us when we were buying our house. Wishing you a really big “good luck” and if you ever want to meet up for a coffee or hang out just send a message. All the best. xx Kirstie.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kristie! Happy I’m not the only one who suffered through the madness 🙂 How cool, I just saw your work and would LOVE to pick up a few pieces when I’m working on the final touches in my place! xx

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      1. Hey Lisa – I’ll send you the list of markets I’ll be at over the next few months. Come along and say hi. Good luck with your building project and well done for creating this group of people from all over the world – I’m sure that their comments will give you strength when things get tough
        . All the best. x K

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