'My Big Italian Adventure' – She came, she saw, she renovated
We’ve all gotten the emails – buy an old home in Italy for next to nothing and renovate it – but few of us had the courage to act on them. Lorraine Bracco did, and her experiences are documented in a recently premiered series on HGTV.
“My Big Italian Adventure,” airing Fridays, follows the “Sopranos” and “GoodFellas” actress to the Sicilian village of Sambuca, where she has purchased a nearly 200-year-old 1,800-square-foot home for the bargain price of one euro (equivalent to about $1.10 U.S.). But that’s where the bargain ends as the house needs basically everything – plumbing, electric, structural repairs and even a bathroom.
Bracco, who also purchased the adjacent house to combine with the fixer upper to make one big home, initially got a very reasonable all-in estimate of about $145,000 to do everything. But as anyone who has renovated an old home knows, surprises are around every corner and within every wall and resolving them can run up the budget fast.
“Basically we brought the house down to the rock walls that were outside,” Bracco explains. “I think that every time that we needed to reinforce the floors, reinforce the walls – you know, it cost a huge amount of money and a huge amount of time. That was hard. You know, deciding whether to put on the second floor and how much that was going to cost. All of the kitchen was, you know, a huge job and we had to reinforce all of the floors so it didn’t fall through. So things I never expected (were upsetting).”
But Bracco wasn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves, picking up a hammer to help demolish a wall or a trowel to apply plaster (because, she learned, Italy doesn’t have drywall). She also helped recycle some of the original tile and, of course, chose all of the finishing touches. That, she admits, also helped add to the project’s price tag.
As the home neared completion, she invited in some of the townspeople for a walk-through and dinners. She says getting to know the people of Sambuca was one of the perks of the project.
Now over a year removed from the renovation, Bracco says her expectations were exceeded. She’d recommend a project like this to others – but with a qualifier.
“You’ve got to have a lot of b…s,” she says with a laugh. “You’ve got to have patience and you’ve got to know what you want to do. I didn’t have a lot of changing-of-the-heart kind of thing. I was very specific in what I wanted it to look like and how I wanted it to feel, so that was good. But yes, are you kidding? The town is magnificent, the people are unbelievably beautiful and wonderful and welcoming. It was really an incredible experience.”