Surprises of the good kind

As you’d expect, most of the surprises we’ve stumbled across so far during the renovation have been of the relatively bad kind… supporting walls that don’t exist, rotten beams, snakes in the well (that’s not a sequel to a very bad film, it’s a real thing!), but we’ve finally uncovered a couple of rather nice surprises.

I say we, it was actually A, who came bounding up to us all excited, as usual, to pronounce that in cutting tracks for the electrician and plumber they’d found that some of the walls were just fakes, concealing beautiful old stone walls behind. Now we’re talking.

Langhe stone wall 3
A nice bit of Langhe stone

Imagine his surprise when we told him to go ahead and uncover them. He looked like he was going to cry with joy! They will need pointing and sandblasting, plus some clever lighting, but they already look pretty good.

One even has a secret passage. Okay, it doesn’t actually go very far, but there’s a sink in there, bizarrely, and it’s exciting to find these spaces that nobody knew existed.

Langhe stone wall
You can just about see the secret passage on the left-hand side

The make-up of the house remains a total mystery. It’s been added to over time and nobody, not even the old man who lived here for many years, knows which bits are original and what was added on when. In many places old and new join together in the same wall, with Langhe stone meeting old brick, meeting new brick in the space of just a few centimetres, and there are outlines of external windows and doors in the middle of internal walls.

Still, there’s definitely more to the place than meets the eye and we’re very gradually finding it. It’s good to know we’re not only bringing the house up-to-date, but also restoring some of its former glory. Bringing back its character. What’s more, we’ve got builders who understand and appreciate what we’re trying to do, so, quite frankly, we’re very happy with things right now!

Langhe renovation bedroom
Even the old hayloft, which had no original character, is starting to look good now




33 thoughts on “Surprises of the good kind

    1. We’re certainly trying… The trouble is if the person who lived there for most of the house’s life can’t remember, we’re kind of stuck. Maybe we should pester them to see some old family photos!

  1. Ask in the comune, maybe there was another family who lived there before and they know.
    Great, isn’t it, to live in a place with so much history.

    After we moved here we found out our house was a toll house when there was still a real border between Liguria and Piemonte. People paid toll here, but there were also rooms for people to stay overnight… and now we are an agriturismo with holiday apartments 🙂

    1. That’s so cool! You should start charging a toll again, make some extra money on the side! 🙂

      I hadn’t thought of asking in the comune but we’ll definitely see if they know anything. Thanks!

  2. Just love that Langhe stone, reminds me a bit of Cotswold stone. Here in Jersey we have a lot of houses built with granite, and a lot of buildings with granite exposed feature walls. I’m sure your house is going to be stunning, it is so good to find builders who understand what you want to achieve. Our place in Murazzano is relatively new, built in the late fifties! We will be venturing back to Piemonte early next year, before going to Australia for a warm break. Good luck with your renovations, so good to read about your experiences!

    1. Thanks Maureen! Granite walls sound amazing. I’ll have to check that out. We’re so happy to have found builders who get what we want to achieve. So many who came around to quote wanted to level off the vaulted ceilings, use manufactured wood for the roof, put in pvc windows etc, basically function over form. All of those things have their place, but an old farmhouse isn’t it. Fingers crossed it turns out as well as we hope!!

      1. Ooh… now that sounds good. I’ll talk to wifey about it and let you know. It’s just a question of what we can do with the little one (not Allegra) for the evening. Thanks!

      2. Bring her, she can play with the scabby cats.

        It is a small restaurant and Marco is a great friend, he is also black sheep and child friendly.

      3. They were obviously looking for my German sauna post or the naked selfie of Mrs Sensible and myself. 🙂

        Some of the search terms that people have used to find my little blog of madness is quite scary, and I have no idea how they end up here!!!

    1. Thanks June, I think we’re lucky to have found one so good. Some of the guys who came round to quote were a little ‘less professional’ (too much wine at lunch time and quotes scribbled on the back of receipts from the bar…) but these lot really are great!

  3. Glad your uncovering a bit of the history of your house and love the fact your leaving it visible so that you and any visitors can really understand the house. It’s one of the best things about renovating, rather than building and makes up for a lot of frustrations.
    Here in Scotland a lot of old houses are also built from granite, including our farmhouse. We broke through a former external wall (from the sitting room to the kitchen) and went through 80cm of random granite boulders. The sides of the opening are wide enough that we Now have a glass fitted into one of them. Also started to realise from these bits that the house must be Georgian, rather than the Victorian we had thought – dug up some old horse tax records, maps and post office directorates online and found it has been around since at least 1759, rather than 1865 (which is when it got separate deeds). Have also been able to identify almost all owners since 1805 and a fair bit of their history, by just keeping googling each time I found some new info. Sadly don’t have the time to dig through local archives to fill the gaps.
    Not sure whether there’d be a similar mount of info online in Italy, but worth a try.

    1. Wow, that’s great that you’ve managed to find so much out. Sounds like an incredible place too!! We’re going to start at the Comune. We know the family that lived there for many years but don’t know anything before them. Lots of digging to do…

  4. Beautiful wall! We have a fake wall in our house (built in 1850) . We have discovered that it protects us from particularly bad insulation (i.e. none) on the Northern side of the house. So we’ve left it. I agree with PN and BerLinda (I’m sorry I missed the pre-party, it looks like it was fun). Our house was owned by a local wine grower who cheated the system and sent his white wine to his son’s winery in the Champagne region, where he turned it into bubbly. It was a real success across France, but his son blackmailed him, ratted on him to the state, the house was sold not long after. I often imagine the family scenes that must have been played out in our living room. Brrr.

    1. That’s an amazing story, there’s must have been some great scenes in that house! I wonder how common things that like used to be though. I’d like to think it couldn’t happen anymore, but who knows… I think the previous owner of our house was much the same. Didn’t fancy spending on insulation so instead just built another house within the old house!

  5. Good luck with digging up more stories about your house. I’m sure you’ll find there are some hidden passages there too.
    Keep us posted.

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