If your wanderlust has ever been tempted by visions of Italian sunrises, sips of strong Sicilian espresso and days spent strolling through old-world architecture, you’re not alone. For acclaimed actress Lorraine Bracco (The Sopranos and Goodfellas), the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase and renovate a 200-year-old home in Sambuca di Sicilia (for 1 euro!) was too hard to pass up, too. While the journey from run-down to renovated was not always easy, Lorraine was able to uncover her own Sicilian paradise with a little help from the locals, her friends and her own ingenuity – and discover an amazing Italian adventure along the way. Check in every week as we update Lorraine Bracco’s progress in transforming this ancient building into a Sicilian sanctuary.
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The adventure started off so simply: Lorraine Bracco read a news alert saying that the town of Sambuca di Sicilia – a small town on the the Italian island of Sicily – was selling homes for a single euro (about $1.50 in Canadian dollars). While Lorraine had never been before, she did have a family connection to the area, as her grandparents on her father’s side were from Sicily. Though, as Lorraine says, it was “almost too good to be true,” she decided she had to check it out.
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Plenty of Potential
Upon arriving in Sambuca di Sicilia, Lorraine immediately connected with the food, culture and people. After touring three of the 16 available homes that the town was selling for one euro, Lorraine fell in love the with bones of one property: a one-euro, 1,800-square-foot home that was nearly 200 years old and featured two levels, two bedrooms – and no working kitchen or bathrooms. While the home truly cost only one euro, there was, of course, a catch: Lorraine would have to also put down a 5,000 euro deposit and would be required to renovate the property within three years. If she failed to do so, she would lose her 5,001-euro investment, and her Sicilian home.
Rock Walls and Rubble
Still, Lorraine saw the opportunity to create a truly unique and wonderful space for her friends and family. To give herself more space to work with, she also purchased the house next door for an additional 45,000 euros (with the vision to eventually connect the two properties). To make her dream a reality, Lorraine enlisted the expertise of an architect, Domenico, and a local contractor, Piero. Armed with an 87,0000-euro renovation budget, they got to work.
Starting From the Ground Up
The first step towards creating Lorraine’s Italian dream home was renovating the ground floor of the one-euro house – including the living room, ground-floor bedroom, bathroom and outdoor courtyard. Starting the renovations meant addressing the major structural issues that came with a 200-year-old house, including reinforcing crumbling walls and levelling out the floors – which, unfortunately meant losing some of the old flooring (and a bump in the renovation budget).
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Ornate Original Tiles
It was important to Lorraine to preserve much of the character and authentic features of the home. Case in point? In the ground-floor bedroom, Lorraine and Piero were able to salvage about 80 per cent of the original tile – which was stunning in a pattern of rich hues – and re-lay it for a beautiful ode to the original look. To help her choose new tiles to surround the ornate tiles, Lorraine called upon the advice of two visiting friends – her long-time production partner, Monica, and her former co-star, Angie Harmon. The end result was a seamless mix of old and new.
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One of the biggest obstacles that Lorraine faced with her one-euro home was the total lack of any bathroom facilities, so the ground floor bathroom was one of the most stunning – and practical – additions. While staying true to the feel of the rest of the home, the bathroom is totally modern and luxurious with a large tiled shower, wood details and lots of natural light.
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An Old-School Outdoor Italian Oasis
For the outdoor courtyard, Lorraine wanted to create a distinctly “old Italy” look and feel, so she decided to opt for local Sicilian sandstone tile flooring, classic white walls and plenty of lush green plants. A custom, handmade stone sink creates a stunning and serene water feature for the space.
Ancient Staircase to Possibility
With the downstairs bedroom, bathroom and living room renovations complete
, it was time for the Goodfellas star to turn her attention to the one-euro home’s second storey – and to her play-ready ping-pong room. While the stairs that took her upstairs were, unfortunately, somewhat in shambles, Lorraine Bracco and her Italian contractor, Piero, saw plenty of potential.
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A Grand Entrance
The entrance room, which the team dubbed “The Hub,” connects to the upstairs and to the kitchen – but with Lorraine Bracco’s vision, it became more than functional. Lorraine restored the space’s old-world character by cleaning up the walls and keeping much of the exposed stone, but elevated the room’s elegance with a stunning 1970s light fixture that she found in Palermo. The stairs themselves were renovated to be safer and more consistent in rise. The new refined look still retains the charm of the hundreds-of-years-old passageway.
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A Lofty (and Luxe) Dream Bedroom
At the top of the stairs, the home’s new loft bedroom beautifully balances modern style and old-world charm. Swaths of preserved Sambuca stone add rich character to the wall, while large tiles create a rustic-luxe look underfoot. Framing the bed, delicate vintage wall sconces bring extra light – and plenty of elegance.
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A Bright Bathroom
Installing a second bathroom upstairs was key to this phase of the home’s transformation (Remember: when Lorraine Bracco purchased the one-euro house, there were no bathrooms at all!). In addition to new plumbing and electrical, the bathroom used clever design techniques to create a larger, more spacious feel. French doors, for example, add elegance and lots of natural light, while vintage-look metal legs (custom made for Lorraine by a local artisan) for the stone sink take up less visual space. For the floors, wall and shower, smaller-sized tiles create visual depth and a bigger feel – without overpowering the space.
Outstanding Old-World Views
The crowning gem for Lorraine Bracco’s new historic house? This charming rooftop terrace, located just off of the bathroom, which features incredible views of Sambuca. To enhance the space and make it perfect for lounging, the team installed new blue-and-white checkerboard floor tiles, which Lorraine topped with bistro-worthy patio furniture.
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Downstairs, the cellar – which was supposed to be the easiest room in the 200-year-old home to restore – turned out to have problems so big that even the former Sopranos therapist couldn’t unwind them. While she dreamed of a turning the space into a recreational room completed with her prized ping-pong table, an unexpected water leak threatened major damage to the budget. Luckily, Lorraine’s clever contractor was able to find a low-cost solution by re-routing the water’s flow under the floor – and safely away from the home.
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Time to Play
With the leak fixed, the team made the ping-pong room an incredible space to play and relax. By knocking out the dividing wall and re-plastering the arches, the room itself was totally transformed to be cohesive with the rest of the home – marrying modern comfort and old-world charm. Lorraine and her producing-partner, Monica, outfitted the space with the infamous ping-pong table (which came all the way from New York), chic movie posters and antique furniture. Lorraine and team replaced the dirt floor, extra-large, cement-effect floor tiles (which Lorraine found while at a flooring store owned by a huge Goodfellas fan) that stylishly suit the scale of the space.
The Final Touches
The last two areas that needed to be renovated to complete Lorraine Bracco’s dream Italian home were the house’s exterior and the kitchen – both of which proved to be challenging tasks, but with stunning results. Outside, the home’s exterior looked (and was) rundown. To deal with the exterior’s structural issues, Piero had the walls reinforced and plastered.
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What’s Old is New Again
Once the building was structurally sound, Piero worked to create the remastered mix of rustic old-world charm and clean style. To achieve a traditional Sicilian look on the exterior, the team exposed and repaired the original sections of stone building which they then covered with a fresh coat of white paint. As a special ode to her father, who worked in a fish market, Lorraine Bracco DIY’ed the home’s front door handles out of tiles adorned with painted fish that she found in Palermo. In this subtle way, Lorraine’s father could welcome her and her family into the home.
Here’s an inside look of the door of Lorraine’s vacation home. You can see the detail of the door holders. Whether you are coming or going you will be impressed!
Opening Things Up
The home’s kitchen was originally a compact, closed-off space – not the spacious area that Lorraine envisioned herself preparing and sharing meals with friends and family in. To create her dream kitchen, Lorraine Bracco had Piero and the team open up the space by opening up the wall and converting the small set of stairs into a new countertop.
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Kitchen Appliance Issues
Appliances are necessary for a working kitchen, but actually getting new appliances to Lorraine Bracco’s Italian home was a major obstacle. The first issue was getting the appliances delivered: as Piero explained, they were on island time, which meant that deliveries didn’t always come with a lot of urgency. Once they finally arrived, getting the appliances (including Lorraine’s two dishwashers and oversized oven) into the old home was a challenge that required a lot of people-power, a 1970s forklift and some serious ingenuity.
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A Sunny Kitchen
While the new, modern appliances make the kitchen functional, Lorraine’s design instincts make it stylish. On the walls, Lorraine used a distressed finish in a creamy shade to enhance the room’s old-world charm. Patterned tiles on the floor add interest, while a large table makes space for sharing family meals.
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Just as she did throughout the rest of her Italian home, Lorraine Bracco outfitted the kitchen to honour the island’s culture and its history. On the kitchen table, for example, Lorraine used handmade, authentic Sicilian ceramic plates and bowls that she and her friend Angie Harmon found in a nearby family-owned shop.
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Space to Prep
Finally, beyond the eat-in kitchen, Lorraine created a spacious prep kitchen complete with a huge fridge, extra sink and tons of shelving and kitchen storage. This luxe space lets Lorraine keep the counters in the main kitchen clean, and also provides lots of room to cook up delicious Italian meals for her children and grandchildren when they come to visit.
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Italian Conga Line
To celebrate the successful completion of her vacation home the Lorraine invited family, friends, everyone from the project and neighbours for a tour of her newly renovated place. Following the tours there was a conga line through the streets of this small Sicilian town. Now, that’s a dramatic exit!
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