Eighteen months ago, my wife and I had been homeless for a couple of years and were desperate.

My wife came across a listing for a ruin — a 250-year-old, stone-built village house in Puglia — on an Italian real estate site. It cost less than a broken-down small car with high mileage. We made an offer for it, sight unseen. We sold eveything we had and bought it. Then we begged, borrowed and crowd-funded the restoration costs.

There’s still a lot of work to do but we moved in a month ago.

The ruin will not be just a much-needed home for us.

We want it to become a stopping place in southern Italy, a retreat, a studio, for artists, writers, photographers, performers, arcane scientists and others who might appreciate a short-term place to rest, work, and/or think without stress or financial obligation (we’ll even share our food and wine).

With luck, it’ll be ready by the end of this summer.

Below, the proposed guest space.

We had neither the budget nor the inclination to undertake major work on the house. We left the rooms as they were built in the mid-18th century (rear) and 19th century (front) and the 100+ year old terrazzo tile flooring (laid on earth, not concrete).

There's very little plastic — like an 18th century house, just stone, plaster, wood, glass, and steel (the windows and doors).

We're installing solar panels on the roof and rain collection. We have an old working well in the front courtyard.

Our kitchen/dining/living room has a footprint of about 225 sq. ft. but what we love most about the space (and about every space in this house) are the massive, 15-foot high, vaulted, star-shaped ceilings.

The ceilings were in a terrible state when we bought the ruin — water and plant intrusion, decayed stonework — and took most of our money to repair.

We've installed some elements of a freestanding, stainless steel, commercial kitchen, which were going cheap a year ago.

A lot still to do

Our front courtyard, before (a year ago) and after (about three days ago, during the delivery of orange, lemon and clementine saplings).


The front courtyard again, with the trees arranged (temporarily). I am having to treat them all for apphid infestation. And yes, I'm already searching for ladybirds to feed on the surviving aphids.

Last images from the 'ruin for a while: the roof terrace, which runs SW to NE across the entire footprint of the house. We imagine turning it into something like the colorful tented and cushioned lounging areas found on the rooftops of Zanzibar's Stone Town or Essaouira, in Morocco. Even if we're covering a third of it with a solar array.

Maybe my favorite custom-built feature of the restored ruin: a solid steel front gate we modelled on one we saw on a narco-trafficker's house in La Linea, in southern Spain (not far from where we hid out from the pandemic through 2020). Note the essential, locking 'pistol port'.

We have a fridge (it arrived this afternoon) The kitchen is almost done. We just have to find an affordable, seven-foot, timber table and some steel shelving.

@ccohanlon Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful restoration story. I’m really engrossed.

@invisibleshark Optimism and recklessness are elemental when restoring a 250 year old stone ruin.

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