Things that matter and following your heart is what stands out to me in this interview with Lisa from Renovating Italy.
Just a bit of background for you.
Meet Sam and Lisa.
Lisa is an Aussie who grew up in Melbourne.
Salvatore (who everyone calls Sam) also grew up in Melbourne to Italian parents.
They met while studying photography.
After spending 2 years renovating a house in Italy, Sam and Lisa knew Italy was in their heart. They are now heading back to Italy to renovate a beautiful home, creating a simple life full of friends, good food and simple joys with their children Carina and Luca.
Snippets of the Family in Italy
Lisa, you travelled extensively in your 20’s. What was it about Italy that captured you?
I felt like I had come home, there was a connection on such a deep level. Each moment spent wandering through ancient towns, seeing the works of art that inspired me since I was a teen, was a gift. In Italy, I felt free, at ease, as if I had lived there my whole life. What captured me so…the flavour, texture, passion, riot of colour, the absolute feeling of being alive every moment, and of course the people.
“In Italy, I felt free, at ease, as if I had lived there my whole life.”
Your first renovation in Italy was in Gambasca. Do you have before and after pictures of the renovation?
Where did you live while doing this renovation?
The house in Gambasca had at one stage been a working farm owned by one family. Sections of it were liveable and we had two rooms in total that we used for over 8 months while the renovations were under way. The lower floor was used for animals and the upper story for storing feed and one room for smoking chestnuts to use as flour.
So we had our two children, Carina then 3 and Luca then 1, sleeping in with us. The other room functioned as kitchen, playroom, laundry, bathroom (we heated water on the stove and washed the kids in the sink). Sam and I took showers in the campervan. I still wonder how we did it.
We knew we had to get the building sealed quickly as Winter was approaching and the entire porch area was open to the elements. We had dirt floors upstairs, no windows, and no idea what we were in for! You can read more about it here: Our First Letter Home.
Have you utilised the flexibility of living in a campervan to travel around Italy and beyond?
Funny you should ask, we took my in-laws for three months through Europe and Italy in our 6 berth campervan. We were able to see the most beautiful out of the way places, stopped at the top of the alps overnight, woke up overlooking the ocean at Portofino, slept in a tiny village square in France, got robbed in Barcelona (they took all our clothes and got the camera). Travelling in the camper gave us such freedom: we could stop where ever the whim took us.
When we were sick of the renovations we could load up the van and be in France in a few hours, after living in Australia the ability to travel through entire countries in a few days is incredible.
Colourful Streets in France
“After living in Australia the ability to travel through entire countries in a few days is incredible.”
What do you miss most about Australia when you’re overseas?
Of course my family and friends; I missed them the entire time. I miss being able to join in a conversation, never getting the joke; my Italian was limited although I understood more than I spoke. I miss having the kids start school and not being able to talk with the other Mums or teachers. Being able to drive, having my independence as Sam did all the driving and we went everywhere as a family. I miss the sound of Magpies carolling, shopping centres, junk food, libraries, op shops and garage sales…silly things I just took for granted in Australia.
You have purchased a new place to renovate in Veravo, Liguria. Do you plan to move to Italy and live there with your family permanently?
Yes, the plan is to move permanently. We finished renovating the house, where we are currently living in Brisbane, and have it up for sale. We also have a renovation of an old house in Scarborough, which is split into 4 units to complete which we’ll keep as a nest egg.
I can’t wait to board that plane for Italy, and relax for a little bit until we start all over again.
The View at Our New Place In Liguria
Overlooking Tiled Roofs to Majestic Mountains
The Path To Our Place
The house in Liguria is not liveable so we will be living in a campervan while we renovate. It is a 10 minute walk into the house from where we can leave the van so that will get us all fit as it’s mostly up hill! The good thing is that the kids are older now 10 and 8 so they can walk! The locals used donkeys to get furniture and provisions into the houses in the past, which our daughter thinks is just wonderful (yep she wants a donkey!).
What are your tips for living a simpler life, and how does living in Italy reflect that?
For us, life has been this way for about twelve years: renovating then moving, and doing it all over again so we have very little clutter. Also knowing we are moving overseas tends to stop me buying things we don’t really need. Marrying into an Italian family has shown me that life doesn’t need to be complicated. Slow food, great friends, and a simple life are the essence of living in Italy.
“Slow food, great friends, and a simple life are the essence of living in Italy.”
How do you balance treasuring memories, that are often attached to material things, and living a simple life without clutter?
I am extremely sentimental; I am such a hoarder of memories. The thing I’ve learned is that I can let go, that holding on to ‘things’ is not the same as holding a person. We lost our first little boy Aaron, and he would be 12 this year. Over time I have given up many treasures of his childhood. I’ve learned to see that things are just that: things. The memories are attached by me, so I slowly remove the material memories like the bassinet, the clothes, the toys, and keep only the most precious things, like a lock of hair, hand prints, his blanket. Each of our children have one box of treasures from years past, they are filled to the brim with concentrated memories and love. Our children don’t have rooms full of toys, and when they outgrow something we pass it on to someone else. We really don’t need much to be happy, as you soon find out when living in a campervan for any length of time.
I photograph the children’s art works and school things, the only thing I can’t do without are my books. Many of them will come to Italy with us. I am stockpiling novels to read, and have a growing library for the kids as well. So we travel light, do without, and create our own memories without needing souvenirs to hold them.
“We really don’t need much to be happy. We travel light, do without, and create our own memories without needing souvenirs to hold them.”
In 5 years, what will your family life look like?
In five years I think we will be one with the rhythm of Italy. Life moves at a totally different pace, I would love to continue writing (perhaps publish a book). Our children will be teens, and working out their own place in the world. I think the biggest effect will be on my husband, all the pressures of life will slowly lose their grip and he will get to just enjoy life day to day. Friends will come to visit, and we’ll be able to get back to Australia.
My goal at the moment is to build my blog, Renovating Italy, into a resource for those wanting to follow a dream. I love blogging and the freedom it gives to work anywhere in the world doing what I love. I never thought when I started it would come to this.
Follow Lisa and Her Family
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Deb @ Bright & PreciousJune 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm
What an inspiring and beautiful story! And what a gorgeous house! I love reading about families that take risks and do something adventurous. Thanks for sharing this Kelley. x
Ellie at Emerald PieJune 9, 2012 at 5:57 am
Wonderful photos and a great story. Well done Sam & Lisa!
Lisa | Renovating ItalyJune 14, 2012 at 9:06 pm
Grazie Ellie, can’t wait to start the house in Veravo. Great to meet everyone here, ciao lisa
Kelly Be A Fun MumJune 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm
Lisa and Sam, it’s been a delight to share and read your story. Thank you for inspiring me to continue to look for ways to live life simply and joyfully. x
Lisa | Renovating ItalyJune 14, 2012 at 9:09 pm
Kelly there is joy on every page here, I think sometimes in the rush of life I forget to just have fun, there is nothing like the sound of the kids giggles! Thanks again for such a wonderful feature, I love the way you put it all together. ciao for now lisa x
Jackie StenhouseJune 13, 2012 at 11:44 am
Love following Lisa and Sams story. Hoping they can sell their home in Australia soon and start their new adventure. Wow your new place in Italy looks fantastic – and very challenging.
Lisa | Renovating ItalyJune 14, 2012 at 9:10 pm
Jackie you’ll have to come visit and make sure to bring Lisa Wood!!! What a party we’ll have x
Lisa WoodJune 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm
Lisa – I love following your journey to Italy and to where your heart belongs. Amazing photos, and amazing how you are creating memories that last longer than stuff that takes up room!
And its so true – kids dont need a room full of toys to be happy. All the need is quality time, lots of loving and lots of experiences.
Books are my all time favorite – we now use a library where ever we stopped long enough.
Lisa | Renovating ItalyJune 14, 2012 at 9:12 pm
Lisa you know more than most how much it means to create life and live it to the fullest! Those boys and that BUS, life on the road with you all would be a hoot! xxx
Lisa | Renovating ItalyJune 13, 2012 at 10:01 pm
Kelly thank you so much for such an incredible article, I see myself in a completely different way when looking through your eyes. I was watching for your message and of course it slipped past me until just yesterday. I’ve been telling all my friends about you and hope they come over and say hi like Lisa and Jackie.
Having your questions really got me thinking about what we have achieved and how life has changed since we started renovating so many years ago. And also about what we want our lives to be like in the future, It’s great to stop for a moment to reflect. ciao lisa x
Kelly Be A Fun MumJune 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm
Lisa, thank you so much for sharing your journey with my readers and I. I love that there is something for anyone to take away, wether they are moving to Italy, Hawaii or staying right where they are. x
Jennifer AvventuraJune 13, 2012 at 10:43 pm
An inspiring and beautiful story! Thank you!
Anne RobichaudJune 13, 2012 at 11:02 pm
Been through renovation too, though husband Pino did the restoration of our Assisi farmhouse.
You inspired: I will have to write about the adventures of restoration on my blog.
Never enough time, though: still so many stories to record there about our life on the land in Umbria – as of 1975.
Let us connect…..
Lisa | Renovating ItalyJune 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm
Anne that would be great, I know what you mean about time! I’d love to feature your house at Renovating Italy, I’ll send you a message, ciao lisa x
CathyJune 14, 2012 at 7:40 pm
I know that your heart is truly in your future adventure and that you will make such a success of it. You are so driven by your desire to be in Italy and live life there. You have already had so many adventures and will create so many more. I wish you all the best and hope it all goes to plan.
Lisa | Renovating ItalyJune 14, 2012 at 9:16 pm
Cathy thanks so much for all your encouragement and support through my adventures in Blogging, nudge nudge wink wink LOL x
Lisa | Renovating ItalyApril 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm
Hi Kelly, just wanted to send you an update. We are now in Italy and have begun to renovate a house in an ancient borgata (tiny village) in the mountains. Life has certainly changed and the best thing has been the way our children have embraced the freedom of country life.
Who knows where our dreams will lead us x