A Kitchen in Sicily
During our hunt for a house in Sicily, we learned early on that the majority of Italian houses come without kitchens. This includes rentals.
"They even took the kitchen sink!" is a common refrain from expats renting or buying houses or apartments in Italy.
So, when Marco and I were looking at houses online, we kept asking Angelo and Ayan if there was any way to negotiate to keep the sellers' kitchens. They replied maybe, but insisted that getting a kitchen wasn't a big deal.
Kitchens in the U.S.
Living in the U.S., we could not comprehend how getting a new kitchen could be anything but a big deal.
For Americans, putting in a new kitchen is generally a major months-long, budget-busting endeavor. A "cheap" kitchen where you do a lot yourself is at least several thousand dollars.
Marco and I have been planning to redo our small Brooklyn kitchen since the day we moved in eleven years ago. But it was never in the budget. Instead, every couple years we'd end up needing to replace a major appliance. Most recently, it was our 20-year-old stove. Including installation and haul-away, the cost of the cheapest stove that would fit in our kitchen was over $700.
So, naturally, we viewed the concept of needing to install an entire kitchen with dread.
To add to that, in the house we fell in love with, we wanted to relocate the kitchen from one room to another to better utilize the space.
It all seemed impossible and overwhelming. Here we were, December 2021, still in Brooklyn, proud owners of a kitchen-less house in Sicily.
As we started to plan our first visit for mid-2022, we chatted with Angelo and Ayan about the basics we would need to survive:
A hotplate to heat water for coffee and tea
A small pan, also for heating water
Maybe a couple plates and a mini fridge?
Basically, we imagined camping. In our house. In Sicily.
Enter our Hero, Concetta Crucitti
Then something magical happen. After the closing, Angelo spoke with Concetta Crucitti, who had worked on our purchase on behalf of RE/MAX Platinum Siracusa. Originally, we understood Concetta would help us get the rest of the utilities connected and look after the house until we arrived.
Then, in January 2022, we hopped on our first call with Concetta. She asked us: What else can I do to get the house ready for you to live in?
Our response: Kitchen! Please help us, we need a kitchen!
Yes, of course she would organize to get a kitchen installed. But she asked what else she could do?
We told her we wanted to move the kitchen hookups. Okay, she said she'd find a bricklayer.
We said a bed would be nice. In reply, she suggested we might also want a sofa and a dining table.
Her message to us was stunning and unexpected:
We are going to make this house ready for you to walk in and live. When you arrive, you'll be home.
Our ridiculous reply:
That's incredible! Thank you! But just to confirm, it will include a kitchen, right?
La Cucina che Vorrei
It was early 2022, and in addition to planning with Concetta, I was studying for my Italian B1 Cittadinanza exam. In order to apply for citizenship by marriage, I needed to pass a B1 level Italian language exam. B1 is basic conversational proficiency.
So, still anxious about not having a kitchen, I asked my online tutor if we could study kitchen and house related vocabulary. For one of my lessons, I even prepared a PowerPoint about the kitchen, called La Cucina che Vorrei or The Kitchen I Would Like. (Italian-speaking readers, please excuse my pre-B1 Italian in the slides!)
On the ground floor, right inside the front door of the house, there's a large open room with a nook on the far wall. In the past, the owners had a small kitchen in that nook.
But more recently, the kitchen hookups had been moved into the next room (through the door in the picture above).
We wanted to turn that second room into a sitting room/living room, and move the kitchen back to the original nook. That meant removing tiles, redoing the drywall, and moving all of the hookups.
The very first step though, was ordering the kitchen. The order needed to be placed at least two to three months before we would arrive, otherwise it might not get there in time.
At that point, we started to talk about arriving in Sicily at the end of May, so in early March Concetta worked furiously to get us to pick a kitchen.
This is where we finally learned the truth about kitchens in Italy.
A Complete Kitchen in One Unit??!! What Is This Miracle?
It turns out that, in Italy, you can order a complete kitchen. In the U.S., I have never heard of this. A complete kitchen in Italy includes:
all appliances (refrigerator, oven, cooktop and, if you want it, dishwasher)
The only thing not included? The kitchen faucet. (Yes, a strange omission.)
Concetta must have made four trips to Conforama just to look at kitchens for us. Each time, she took photos and sent them over. Since we were tucking the kitchen into the nook, we didn't want the space to be dark. So we insisted on white kitchen cabinets. But not just any white, smooth glossy white.
At this point, I have to note Concetta's patience. She searched and searched until she found exactly what we were looking for:
The total price? Around $1,200.
Now...to get it installed in time...
The Bedroom Set and Beyond
While Marco and I were fixated on the concept of having an actual kitchen, Concetta thankfully took a much bigger view.
Near Melilli there is a large furniture store called Conforama. It's a European furniture chain, sort of along the lines of Ikea. Concetta went to Conforama on our behalf, taking photos of sofas and chairs, dining sets and coffee tables, bedroom sets and, of course, kitchens.
One thing we'd noticed from property listings was that many people had full bedroom sets. That included a bed frame, dresser, armoire, and side tables that all matched.
Bedroom sets have gone a bit out of style in the U.S., but Marco and I decided to embrace them for our house in Sicily. The bonus? The bedroom sets were very affordable (especially if you pick the cheapest one, which happened to be the one we liked).
We were on a budget, but we all agreed it was worth splurging on a nice armchair that was in one bedroom set display:
There were also living room sets and dining sets.
But we chose to buy a simple sofa from Maisons du Monde (of course, being someone who cannot help but go above and beyond, Concetta coordinated delivery and assembly). Concetta didn't stop there. She made sure we got a washing machine installed and, despite our reluctance, insisted we pick a dining table and chairs.
As Concetta shared in her interview here at A House in Sicily:
The thing that makes me happiest is to make others happy and to feel pride in my efforts. I love my work and I put my whole heart into it, always putting the client first.
And she really, truly put her whole heart into preparing our new home.
The Finishing Touches — But Will the Kitchen Be Ready in Time?
As our first visit to see our house in Sicily approached, things started to happen quickly! The bricklayer moved the kitchen hookups, and uncovered some lovely tiles in the kitchen nook that had been covered over.
Furniture began to arrive. Concetta arranged for someone to clean the house top to bottom. Every step of the way, Concetta kept us updated.
Bit by bit, our home was coming together. The house began to feel real in a new way. Living there became more tangible. There was the bed we would sleep in. That's where we'd wash our clothes. We'd eat dinner on that table.
We wouldn't just be visiting. We'd be living. The way we'd originally dreamed.
But, as Marco and I headed for the airport in mid-May, one thing was still missing: the kitchen!
Tune in next week for the story of our first trip to Italy together...along with the nail-biting saga of our Sicilian kitchen.