Renovating my Home in Tuscany | An Honest Update

I would love to pretend this Italian home renovation process has been an incredibly inspirational and educational journey, sprinkled in silver linings and dipped in expensive Italian wine with a side of spicy pecorino cheese, but it’s been anything but that and I REFUSE to pretend I’m over here in Tuscany living my best life. This whole house renovating thing has been really hard. It’s been a lot of crying into 6pm Negronis, acting completely overwhelmed and feeling like a big idiot, thinking I could handle renovating an entire house with a full time job and limited income. But let’s get into it.

My brain looks a lot like my backyard

Before I begin diving into walls and flooring, I wanted to share something. Today I found out that someone who lovingly sat across from me at loud family gatherings, sang Hey Jude at birthdays and played guitar with my brother hasn’t been feeling so good. And I really hope he gets better. His hurting was a sobering reminder of how ungrateful I’ve been acting lately.

Because, so far this week, I’ve complained about basically everything in my life: the amount of decisions I’ve had to make for this home renovation, my bad shoulder, the money I don’t have, the empathy I wish the world had, my hair, my bed, my lack of intelligence and anything else a 30-year-old who is trying to become a decent human being might complain about.

All of this complaining could’ve easily gone something like this: WOW, I was lucky enough to buy a house and the renovation work has finally started after almost two years of waiting, WOW I didn’t lose my job because of Covid-19, WOW if my hair is too long I can just cut it, WOW my shoulder pain will go away and guess what, I can buy a new bed if I don’t like mine WOW and WOW I’m lucky enough to stress about choosing NEW tiles and flooring for the new house I bought. MAMMA MIA, GET A GRIP.

Now that you all know about how embarrassingly ungrateful I’ve been, it’s time focus on some good.

If you haven’t been following this Italian home buying journey of mine, here are the bullet points about my story you should know:

  • Made an offer on this house in February 2018 (I was 27 and now I’m 30)
  • Almost bought it in November 2018 and then one of two owners didn’t feel well and cancelled our notary meeting 15 minutes before it started. He passed away a few weeks later
  • I then found out he secretly got married during the summer and also had a secret teenage daughter (this added 6+ months of paperwork)
  • Finally was able to purchase the house at the beginning of August 2019 (after a missed notary appointment because the secretary forgot to tell me, ME THE BUYER, about the notary appointment so I got there late and sweating and my rude notary said SORRY, I HAVE TO GO TO LUNCH AND NEXT WEEK I’M GOING TO LUXURIOUS SARDEGNA SO WE MIGHT HAVE TO MOVE THE APPOINTMENT TO SEPTEMBER, but I almost fainted in her office so she made sure to do it before her beach vacation)
  • The original geometra (contractor) I chose wasn’t my cup of tea so I switched to someone else, but it took him 9 MONTHS to send the new geometra (contractor) all of my documents (hence the reason WHY I chose another geometra)
  • Covid-19 happened and the world stopped
  • Hi, it’s June 2020 and we finally started renovating

So now that you know all about the more-dramatic-than-any-ex-I’ve-ever-broken-up-with home buying story, we can talk renovation details!

When I originally bought this little Italian house in Florence, I already knew deep in my soul that there were way too many walls for my Canadian heart to handle and they needed to go because I THRIVE IN OPEN SPACES. So the first thing I did was ask the experts to take down two walls. And guess what? They’re officially GONE!

The wall blocking the front door is gone! Now when you walk in, you can see the doors overlooking the garden. (Door pictured here is the front door)
This is the view when you walk in! You can see the garden. The wall blocking the living space (left) from the kitchen (right) is also gone. I live for an open living/kitchen space.

Being part of a big renovation project means regular meetings with the builders. At every meeting we have, there’s always AT LEAST 5 MEN and they’re mostly arguing with each other (or it sounds like arguing to me), talking very loudly about ceiling heights and things I mostly don’t understand — I mean, I don’t have to understand ALL OF IT, that’s why I pay them. And don’t forget about the builder’s Italian son who glides into these meetings on his scooter, takes off his helmet and whips his long wavy hair back and forth alla Ariana Grande like a true Italian teenage dream. I’m not gonna lie okay, if I was 17, I would’ve really appreciated his skinny jeans and glossy brown waves.

But let’s not get distracted.

Last week, at one of our loud meetings, I was asked the following questions: BUT LISA, WHERE WILL YOU PUT THE FRIDGE? WHAT TILES DO YOU WANT? DO YOU WANT SANITARI A TERRA O SOSPESI (TOILETS ON THE GROUND OR HANGING TOILETS)? DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE NEW ECOBONUS? No, but tell me more. DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR BATHROOM FURNITURE? Again, no. DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR FLOORING? Everyone say it with me, NO GIRL. So I was told in a very gentle manner that I needed to get my shit together — and quickly.

One day you’ll be cute, tiny bathroom

I’m an organized girl, but I am no interior designer. So choosing tile felt kind of overwhelming to me. But I love a challenge so I made two appointments with two women who both happened to have the same name. Let’s call them Sandra.

The first Sandra INSISTED on 30 shades of brown tiles in my bathroom even though I said HEY SANDRA, I LIKE WHITE TILES BECAUSE I LIKE JOANNA GAINES’ STYLE, but Sandra didn’t care about Joanna Gaines. Then I said, HEY SANDRA, I want a different kind of tile for the bathroom floor, maybe something black and white? And Sandra said NO WHY WOULD YOU WANT THAT, I INSIST YOU USE THE SAME FLOORING AS THE REST OF THE HOUSE IN THE BATHROOM. So basically, I got an estimate for a house designed for Sandra.

Kiwi telling Alessandra that we just want rustic country-looking flooring

But then, Sandra #2 saved the day. I definitely still had to insist about the ALL WHITE tiles (ITALIANS — OR MAYBE JUST SANDRAS — REALLY LOVE GREY AND BEIGE BATHROOMS). And I had to insist on the flooring (BECAUSE LIGHT AND GREY-LOOKING WOOD IS SUPER STYLISH IN ITALY RIGHT NOW and I like warmer colors), but Sandra #2 knew I wasn’t going to change my mind. And no, the bathroom won’t be as Joanna Gaines as I originally planned, but I still like what I chose. It’ll be more like, GIOVANNA GAINI. Close enough. I also want to point out that Sandra said I chose “THE FERRARI OF WALL TILES.” Damn, Sandra is really good at her job.

Testing out some black and white tiling with textured white wall tiles

Next week, I’m meeting with a gardener for the tree in my garden that is dangerous to the foundation and sewage system and with an awning expert to look at the broken glass and rotting wood covering the patio. What can I say, home renovation is a sexy sport. And I’m still trying to pick bathroom furniture and a kitchen layout. I’ll be working on that tomorrow. Feels like a rainy Sunday morning kind of job anyway.

My concerned face studying the rotting wood and delicious spider webs in the garden

That’s all I’ve got for now. Thank you for sticking with me if you made it until here! I hope I didn’t discourage you from buying a house in Italy. Renovating property is challenging no matter where you are in the world.

Talk to you soon,
Lisa xoxo

17 thoughts on “Renovating my Home in Tuscany | An Honest Update

  1. Your style of writing is great
    I feel myself galloping along in your three wheeled world swerving around the cultural obstacles and the vagaries of building
    From my nearly forty five years in the construction industry I can say that there’s always 5 men arguing the best way to do something and 4.5 of them have no right to be in the conversation
    However, sometimes it’s good to stand still see your vision and go for that
    You will hear it’s impossible, that’s not how it’s done in Italy, looks of incredulity that a woman could be so stupid but eventually your dream will arrive as the last dust leaves with the builders and you will have achieved more than most who sit and wait instead of being totally Absorbed in one of life’s greatest moments
    For every author there will always be a thousand critics
    Write more and write it quickly 😂


    1. Hi Clive, thank you so much for the words of encouragement!! I’ve been trying to adapt to Italian renovation culture, but I’m sticking to my guns with the GENERAL VISION I’m going for. I’ll keep writing!!! 🙂


  2. I certainly hope you’re turning at this into a book, you write so well I was engaged from the first sentence. I appreciate you’ acknowledging your gratitude and also your frustration. Very engaging!


  3. I love following your renovation stories! I’m just starting my Italian house buying experience and I’m in California. I found a house just a little southwest of Siena. Since Americans can’t come to Italy, I may end up buying a house I haven’t seen! I have hired an engineer to inspect it and then I will make the offer. Super scary and exciting at the same time. Should I hire a real estate agent? Oh, I’m an interior designer (I also have a small winery here in CA) and would be happy to answer any questions. Love the black and white floor tile!


  4. We bought a year ago and I have yet to visit. I saw our home before we bought. I am so scared of the renovations that will be coming. I have no idea how to hire a contractor so your story is very helpful and inspirational to me. Nice writing too!


  5. Your article is quite helpful! I have so many questions, and you have answered many. Thank you! Such a nice and superb article, we have been looking for this information about renovating my home in Tuscany honest update . Indeed a great post about it!!


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