DrIt’s official – we’ve gone crazy! Marianne Pfeffer Gjenedal (42) announced on her Instagram account @Sweet.N.Pfeffer in December last year.
She and her husband had just purchased the 600 square meter Palazzolo Acreide in Sicily.
Where many have now turned their noses toward the mountains, to cabin life with all its somewhat-fascinating comforts, Marianne loaded the car with paint and drove it south to the Cabin Palace, as she somewhat jokingly refers to it as.
or residential buildingwhich, perhaps, would be more correct to call it.
– The Italian word Palazzo does not coincide with the Norwegian and English words. In Italy, large apartment buildings are also called a palazzo, so our house is probably more like a great apartment building, Marianne explains.
When we talk to her on the phone, they recently celebrated Palm Sunday, which, among other things, was marked by a lot of cathedrals on the island decorated with palm trees.
– Palm Sunday is a lot of fun in a country with palm trees. And bakeries are full of baked goods that traditionally belong to Easter.
They mention bread is no accident. As an artist, cookbook author, and former food stylist, she specifically shares her creative excess by baking luxurious, multi-tiered cakes, often inspired by various artists. (See one of them in the video below in the box).
It now mainly works as a content producer for clients in the food industry. The man is a rapper in the Gata parliament.
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little green dot
This epidemic must have some credit for the fact that they both end up in a mansion in Sicily. In fact, the couple had been planning to move their two sons to Nicaragua for a few months, when the virus stopped everything. As freelancers, they’re both used to working in home offices and didn’t notice much of a difference.
When they saw that the boys (10 and 15 at the time) enjoyed homeschooling, travel plans returned.
“We can do it anywhere,” Marianne thinks in the pandemic’s second year.
One summer night in 2021, when travel restrictions are starting to ease in some countries, she lies sleepless in the family’s old mobile home, looking at her cellphone to see where to go. And there, like a little green dot on the map, Sicily blinked at her.
It wasn’t Marianne who slept that summer night. By the time the day dawned, she had found an apartment on Airbnb in Sicily, checked all the current pandemic restrictions in the area, had solid insurance and read Homeschooling.
– We had to hurry up to order while it was still green. By the time my husband got up, everything was ready, she laughs.
He wasn’t bad at praying either. Two days later, the apartment and plane tickets were booked.
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I took a long look at the man
From November 2021, they lived in Catania for four months, and had a great time, says Marianne. Life has become much calmer there. Marian, who had no plans to start another new venture, did just that. After seeing all the good ingredients and cake traditions that exist on the island.
When she got home, she posted “Brava – Sicilian-inspired cakes, biscuits, sweets and drinks”.
And the guy, who also had no intention of making a new album, did just that.
While on the island, they notice many posters with the word RETURN written on the old grand mansions. What does it mean? They asked each other, translated into Norwegian on a mobile phone, and so fate began to ripen, because Role means for sale In Italian – maybe they should go and see?
When Marianne looked at the man one day and asked if they should check with the bank to see what they could get for a loan, it was, in a sense, already decided.
– Then I took a long look from my husband, who understood where you were going. We had this conversation about, “Why are we waiting until we retire?” And all that. Then the adventure began.
– I feel a “pink in my arm” every time I come home
I must get help
In fact, the plan was to find “something small” as Marianne describes it, with an area of 60-70 square metres. It’s just that the Italians built way too big in the glory days of yesteryear.
Once upon a time the country was among the richest in Europe. In recent decades, however, the economy has been characterized by stagnation and a debt crisis, leaving many homes empty and in ruins.
Sicilians also want to live in smaller, more modern apartments or houses. Most people think big houses are impractical.
– When we finally found something, it was 600 square metres. So we went from thinking we shouldn’t buy, to that we should buy something small, and from that we should buy small to big. Right, Marianne summed up with a laugh.
However, it was not easy to buy a house without knowing the market or the language.
Buying a home in Italy is often a time-consuming process. Houses have often been in a family for generations, and sellers take the time to find all of the paperwork. Then a legal dispute from the eighteenth century may suddenly arise that needs to be resolved first, Marian explains.
Many of the homes they looked at were not available online, and so it was difficult to find information on them. Only after contacting Swedish broker Emilie Olsson (@emelieinsicily) did they succeed. She is fond of many of Sicily’s old buildings, and has helped many Scandinavian couples realize their dream of a home in Sicily.
– It was very decisive, says Marianne.
This is how they turned the dilapidated palace into a big city oasis
Halfway between two cathedrals
You will never forget your first Palazzolo Acreide coffee. They bought coffee each. Now she and her husband sat on the porch in the Wall of the Sun, hearing the chirping of birds and the sounds of the city.
Then the bells in the two cathedrals next to it rang ominously.
– We are located in the middle between two cathedrals talking to each other. He was very nice. We didn’t talk about all the renovations that were ahead, but about our future and who we wanted to share the house with.
She paused before explaining more about how the two of them see all the work ahead.
– We look forward to cleaning up and having coffee during the break. We really enjoy it. It’s not like we’re looking to do that.
– What do you think about the large volume of work in the future?
I can create beautiful content while I work. We don’t have a bad time. We can give the house time to tell us what it should be like here, says Marianne.
She loves to walk around the mansion, picking up peeling paint, and finding out what colors are hiding underneath.
– I found out that the roof was once blue. You almost have to use binoculars to see it, you laugh and fix it first like last:
– It’s adventurous so it’s bright.
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You don’t have a budget for renovation
The plan is to create four apartments in the palace that they can rent out, but without making any changes to the old layout.
They are arranging the first of them now, while they themselves live in a rented apartment a little further down the street.
It is the old garage that they deal with first, the garage that does not look like a garage at all, but consists of three rooms with a total area of 55 square meters under a beautifully vaulted stone ceiling.
There, they’ll replace the garage door with a glass wall, and put the kitchen and bathroom in their place. Marian was recently in a nearby village and found floor tiles from 1938.
– We’re looking for antique building materials and trying to make them as authentic as possible, you say.
Many people have asked “what budget do you have?”.
“We don’t have a budget,” Marianne replies, which is true. They also didn’t set a deadline for when everything would end.
– We buy a lifestyle, a life project. We invest in the house when we have the opportunity.
On Instagram, where she has followers all over the world — one of whom says she lives for the posts Marianne makes from the palace in Sicily — there have also been some negative comments.
They are now helping to flood the place with foreigners who are buying up all the houses. That’s not how it works, Marianne.
– The houses have been empty for many years, since few people here have the financial resources to buy and renovate them. Many villagers thanked me for taking care of the house. That’s what I see too, that we help arrange them, so that the Italians themselves can buy them again when the economy changes. If we can save one house, it will all be worth it.
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The house in Sicily is very different from Norway. Most of it is made of brick, not wood, as it is here at home. There is also a completely different danger of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Not least the price is different.
– How much does a palace cost these days? Is it okay to ask about it?
It costs less than a one-bedroom flat in Oslo, says Marianne, who before buying the mansion was looking for a one-bedroom flat they could invest in for their children while they’re out of the nest — only to discover that it’s easier to have a mansion in Sicily.
Life also has a different rhythm in Sicily. In many cafes, many people stop by to take the time to chat and have a cup of coffee together. Nature itself is slower, says Marianne, as if it hums and goes too, infecting those who live there.
– Not like here at home, where suddenly it’s summer and we have to hurry to enjoy it. The whole winter here is like Norwegian September with a temperature of 10-15 degrees.
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“Where should we go?” people ask her. She replied “just get in the car and start driving”.
– She is so beautiful here and so beautiful everywhere. It’s like a painting. The tomatoes are completely bright red. It can show both goats and donkeys.
I paused before continuing.
– Everyone wonders if I’m nervous about buying, but I’m amazing how calm I feel. We have good contacts, and have had confirmation from both the architects and the engineers that we have made a very good purchase.
– Is there anything you would say to those reading this who feel like things are starting to mellow a bit in the cylinder head?
The answer comes quickly.
– do not wait! I met a couple at the airport who said they were looking for homes until they were due to retire in six years.
– I said driving on! Start enjoying it now! Don’t wait for the kids to come out or whatever. There’s always something that doesn’t work for you – but then life just gets in the way.
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