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One of the big condominium/bank buildings in Rapallo has been undergoing a face-lift since March of this year.  What a job!  It’s not just a question of applying a fresh coat of paint.  All the old stucco is being removed from the stone building underneath, new stucco applied and, finally, painted.

work permit sign-001

One of the fun things about building repair and restructuring in Italy is that the work permit must be prominently placed for all to enjoy.  It details the ownership of the property, the people responsible for the job, when the work commenced and, often, when it will be finished – which is always, always a joke.  They were clever enough to leave the last off the sign for this project, seen above. Even so, they are moving right along.

delivering bricks andmortar

A delivery of brick blocks is being made above. It’s hard to see through the protective netting placed around the work, but if you squint you can make out the stucco still on the building at the bottom,  and the stone under-facade up above. The lower floor is made from huge cut granite blocks; the upper floors, which will be covered by the stucco, are made of the smaller stones that are so abundant here, and of which most older buildings are made. The new blocks will probably be used to repair gaps that have occurred in the stonework during the removal of the stucco, and perhaps for some window work, or perhaps some interior walls. (Clearly I don’t know!)

Interestingly the scaffolding is required for any work done on a building over 10 meters in height – that’s 32.8 feet, not all that tall.  It’s not cheap; the scaffolding company has to be licensed and insured, and has to have gotten approval for the ‘project’ of installing the scaffolding for each particular job.  Additionally they have to install at least one copper cable lightening rod.  So there’s no scampering up a tall ladder to do the work yourself if your house is over 10 meters tall.

finished job on left

The completed work is visible on the left, work still in progress on the right.

Here is the south side of the building, all finished (note the large stones on the lower level):

finished job on side

It’s rather plain, isn’t it? There are very strict rules about changing any aspect of the exterior of buildings in Liguria.  For instance, when we restructured our house we wanted to put two small balconies on the south side, one outside of each bedroom.  Permission denied: it would alter the appearance of the structure too much.  Likewise above, even if they had wanted to do some fanciful painting on the new stucco, they would not have been permitted to.  It has to be made to look the way it looked before the work began, in materials, color and design. While this adds enormously to the expense of a project,  it means that old buildings retain their original character – which we think is an excellent idea.

We were fortunate when we did our house – there was no original color left on the exterior, though some of the original designs could still be made out.  A neighbor recalled that it had once been yellow, so Speedy chose a pleasing shade of yellow and went to see the town architect.  “Yes,” she opined, “that house looks like it might have been yellow.”  So we got the color we wanted; wasn’t it lucky we wanted yellow?  We did sneak in one little addition that wasn’t part of the original exterior painting:

The false window is original, the false Luciano is not.  Photo by Hilary Hatch.

The false window is original, the false Luciano is not. Photo by Hilary Hatch.

By the way, the bank that occupies the ground floor of the office building described above has one of the greatest names ever for a bank: Banco di Chiavari e della Riviera Ligure (Bank of Chiavari and of the Ligurian Riviera).  Once upon a time they put out a quite beautiful annual calendar, a real work of art.  In fact, that is one of the reasons why we chose them to be our bank.  Alas, the calendar has gone the way of so many ‘extras’ in the last years, but the great name remains on all their buildings, in spite of the bank having become a part of a very dull sounding much larger bank: Banco Popolare.

So, the next time you have to touch up the trim around your windows, or even paint your whole house, thank your lucky stars you don’t live in Ligura, where painting your house can be an enormous undertaking – unless of course you do. (Then thank your lucky stars that you live in a little piece of paradise.)  Thank you to our friends who are surviving a house-painting as I type , complete with scaffolding and lightening rod; they provided the details on legal requirements for this kind of work.