Chicago woman buys 17th-century Sicily house, learns Italian-style renovations


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The Italian house you’ve always dreamed of buying will ultimately cost more than $ 1.

Reimagining stones and woods first put together around the time Shakespeare put pen to paper cannot be rushed. This will likely require careful thought. An espresso. More thinking. No more espresso.

Meredith Tabbone admits there are frustrations in buying a dilapidated 17th-century house in the Sicilian town of Sambuca. She’s a Chicago financial advisor used to getting things done.

But two years after paying around $ 6,000 for a two-story house she had never seen except online, Tabbone looks like a woman under the spell of a hilltop town that glows pink at sunset. and put at ease by Giuseppe, its architect, who pronounces the Italian word “tranquillo” just at the right time.

Meredith Tabbone on the roof of her house in Sambuca, Sicily. The Chicago financial adviser, who bought the place in 2019, hopes to one day live in Italy full time.
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“There are so many ways that I feel more at home there that I have never felt in my life in any other place,” said Tabbone, 42, returning to Chicago after her last. trip to Sicily in October.

Italian cities, mostly in the south, have advertised $ 1 homes as a way to revive declining communities. There is usually a catch: the buyer must commit to spending, within a certain period, a minimum amount to repair the property.

So far, Tabbone has spent around $ 120,000, which includes the renovation, as well as the purchase of the neighboring property to expand his 750-square-foot home to approximately 2,700 square feet.

The house in Sambuca, Sicily that Meredith Tabbone bought without seeing it in person cost $ 6,000 at an online auction.  The Chicago woman has since spent around $ 120,000 on renovations and on a neighboring property.

The house in Sambuca, Sicily that Meredith Tabbone bought without seeing it in person cost $ 6,000 at an online auction. The Chicago woman has since spent around $ 120,000 on renovations and on a neighboring property.
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Along the way, she felt the warm embrace of the quiet life of southern Italy. The ricotta served in so many homes is incredibly delicious, espresso accompanies the most important discussions, and a quick trip to a neighbor’s house is not.

“You have to come in, have a conversation,” says Tabbone. “You’re probably going to need wine and bread, nuts and fruit. You are going to have a coffee.

Soon you will get to know the family history of everyone who works at the local tile store, she said.

The roof terrace of Meredith Tabbone's Italian house, which is being renovated.  The Chicago woman bought the home for $ 6,000 at an online auction before seeing it in person.  She has since bought the adjacent property so that she can expand the house.  In total, she has spent around $ 120,000 so far.

The roof terrace of Meredith Tabbone’s Italian house, which is being renovated. The Chicago woman bought the home for $ 6,000 at an online auction before seeing it in person. She has since bought the adjacent property so that she can expand the house. In total, she has spent around $ 120,000 so far.
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You also learn that Italian bathrooms must have a bidet.

“My architect was like, ‘No self-respecting human who lives in this town and does a renovation isn’t going to have a bidet,’ Tabbone said. ‘I’m like’ OK, let’s put them on then. ‘ “

This is not precisely what the architect said. Tabbone relies on facial expressions, hand gestures, and Google Translate to get by – especially frustrating when communicating through Zoom.

Of her Italian, she says: “It’s not good. This is by far the biggest fight I have is the language barrier.

The best way to learn the native language, it is sometimes said, is to fall in love with a native.

“I am, I guess, a rare bird,” Tabbone said. “I like being single and have no plans to get married someday.”

She plans to one day retire to her new home, which she hopes to complete in January or February.

To those who might have similar dreams, she says, “It’s like anything you want to do that’s hard – if you wait until the conditions are perfect, it will never happen. … Somehow it all falls into place once you get started.

Renovation work continues on the Meredith Tabbone house purchased in Sicily for $ 6,000 at an online auction.

Meredith Tabbone keeps tabs on her home renovation in Italy through regular Zoom calls with her architect, Giuseppe. Tabbone’s Italian, she said, still needs work.
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