Ann and Steve Jones

n October 2015 we bought a plot of land with an old farmhouse situated in a small hillside village just south of Scalea in Calabria southern Italy. We had made the offer to the vendor in May 2015 – which was accepted – and we immediately started to design our new house. We commenced by attempting to incorporate the existing building into the new, extended structure – but it soon became apparent, in early discussions with the local builder, Giuseppe Scarfone, and our architect, Massimiliano, that this was not feasible. We then started with a blank canvass and let our imagination run riot to design a two storey villa of 315sqm. Our wild designs were soon reined in by the construction estimate and the complication flagged up by the architect that the size of the house was determined by the area of land that we owned.

The result of 5 months of planning and meetings with the three musketeers in Italy – Tony, Giuseppe and Massimo) produced a final design which we were happy with and one which Massimo believe would be acceptable to the planning authorities.

With the able assistance of Tony Hackett (our man on the ground and soon to be Project Manager) we successfully negotiated the vagaries of the notary and local commune to purchase the plot in October 2015. Planning submission was put forward in November 2015 to the various authorities with a much smaller and simpler 132 sqm villa.

Everyone in Italy was quietly confident that demolition would commence in early January 2016 with a planned completion date of December 2016.

On 30 June 2016 demolition finally commenced - 8 months after the application was submitted. Apparently this was unprecedented even by Italian standards and was due partly to a relocation of the planning authorities from one part of Italy to another and the inability of the authorities is understand why we wanted to demolish a perfectly good (in their eyes) building. Giuseppe set out with a vengeance and by 7 July the site was cleared and being set out.

The build proceeded to schedule with a few minor glitches along the way but with us going out to Italy regularly, with regular emails and photographs from the Team the majority of issues were highlighted and dealt with before they became a problem. Some construction conflicts with client desires resulted in a few compromises but by and large the construction developed into the building we had planned. One of the major learning curves for us was that Italians build houses in a completely different way to northern Europeans and Britains especially.

For a start the materials used differ in that it is concrete, steel and block and the only piece of timber you will see in an Italian house is the shuttering used for concreting then later as a log on the fire. There is no concept of first and second fix for the plumbing and electrics – so for a long time it looks as if no real progress is being made – then suddenly it all comes together.

As the client is was our responsibility to go to various suppliers to select the internal fixtures and fittings. Tony arranged all the meetings necessary with marble supplier (for the door and window surrounds), door and window supplier, kitchen designer and last but by no means least the sanitaryware and as it happened also the tile supplier. Without his assistance this task of selecting and ordering would not have been possible for the basic Italian translation. With the assistance of Giuseppe the quality and specification level of what we were buying was checked and assured. This trust between us the clients, Tony the Project Manager and Giuseppe the builder was important – especially as we were not on site all the time.

As I mentioned earlier the build was progressing more or less to schedule with a couple of weeks delay at the beginning of 2017 due to continuous rain. That was to be expected – but the next major delay wasn’t – tiles. We visited the tile supplier back in early March 2017 to order all the tiles and sanitaryware and draw up what is referred to as a preventivo – or an order list. The floor tiles were promised delivery by Easter ie the middle of April when Giuseppe would be ready for them. Giuseppe was ready for them by Easter, and Mid May and when they finally arrived early June the project was now some further 8 weeks behind. Our plans (and Giuseppe’s) of moving in on our late June visit were shot but this is something that in a strange frustrating way is the attraction of Italy.

Having got the floor tiles and laid them all the other parts of the jigsaw began to fall into place. The bathrooms sanitaryware could go in, the kitchen went in and the external doors and windows all went in. The project transformed in a very short time to a house and by the time of our next visit in early September it was ready to move into.

Throughout the whole project Giuseppe’s emphasis has been on quality of workmanship and neat and tidy working conditions. He has put in various things “just in case” we decide that we want them in the future to ensure that they can be accomplished easily. That has resulted in a first class top quality project that after 14 months of painstaking work we can now call our home.

Ann and Steve Jones - Maierà