Our Sicilian Home – Second Floor

The top floor of our house is in very dire condition – largely due to the state of the roof. On the original floor plan, one room is labeled as the ‘cucina’ (kitchen). Traditional Sicilian homes have the kitchen on the top floor. The other room is labeled ‘sottotetti’ (attic). 

The door to the top floor is located in the corner of the living room. Behind this door is my favorite feature of old Sicilian homes – a toilet in the stairwell. 

I’m not sure where this tradition came from, or if it exists beyond Sicily. But I have probably seen a dozen houses that have a random toilet in the stairs. This one is extra unique because at some point in the house’s history, someone decided to make the space even more multipurpose by also adding a kitchen stove. At the moment, this appears to be the only source of water in the house. 

Beyond the toilet and three-burner stove, is a set of wide, deep stairs that lead to the top floor. 

You may not be able to tell from the photo, but the stairs are topped with terra cotta tiles (two deep per stair) that seem to be in relatively good condition. 

The top of the stairs opens into a very large room with a door on one side that leads to the balcony, and a door on the other that leads to the attic. 

Both rooms have very high ceilings. In the large room, the ceiling is about 4.7m (15 feet), in the other room it is 5.7m (almost 19 feet). 

When I first walked into this room, I couldn’t believe that beautiful blue tiled stove in the corner. These traditional, wood burning stoves have two or three holes for specially sized pots. This one is in near perfect condition. There is one tile that has fallen off, but it is still there. 

Next to the stove is the original wood burning oven. What I usually refer to as a ‘pizza oven’ was actually used more for bread and other dishes. While we probably won’t use these for their original purposes, I am hoping we will be able to use the oven as a fireplace. 

Given the height of the ceiling in these rooms, we are hoping to add a roof terrace. Our initial thought is to have another set of stairs above the current ones that would lead up to a covered landing and then open out to a terrace. 

Because this house is in the historic center of the town, we cannot raise the height of the house. Our terrace would need to maintain the same roofline as the current one. Our architect has done all the measurements and is working on a plan for how to maximize this outdoor space. 

You can see from the reed and tile roof buckling in why the ceilings in the floor below have such extensive water damage. 

While the attic room currently looks pretty rough, it has some incredible potential – primarily due to that amazing view. 

This room is directly above the kitchen/dining room below and for some reason, when they constructed it, they didn’t put a barrier between the arch of the ceiling below and the floor. So you can see a large bump in the middle of the floor that corresponds to the barrel vault of the ceiling below. 

When I first saw this room, I wrote it off as being just full of junk that would need to be cleaned out. But after we signed the deed, I took a friend through for a tour. He was born and raised in Sambuca and had visited this house as a child but hadn’t been back since. When he saw this room he stopped in his tracks and told me that there is a museum worth of antiques in here. He pulled out treasure after treasure explaining them to me and asking me to preserve them as they simply don’t exist any more. 

The room has the characteristic Sambuca stone walls which will be lovely once cleaned up. 

As this room has such high walls we could either extend the roof terrace across the full length of the house, or we could add a mezzanine to this room making it a sort of two-story room with an entrance to the terrace. 

We are hoping to put a door at the other end of the wall with the window which would go out to a small terrace/balcony, using the roof of the hallway below as the base. You can see in the image here. I think it would be big enough for a small bistro set to have coffee (or wine) on while looking out over the countryside. 

The roof of the rooms below (which you also see in the image here) will be replaced and will have solar panels installed. The hope is that it will be enough to power the whole house. 

This post covered what the Italians refer to as the 2nd floor (piano secondo). In the US, it would be considered the 3rd floor, but in Italy what we call the first floor is referred to as the ground floor (piano terra).

To keep the posts from being ridiculously long, I’ll cover each floor in a separate post. 

You can follow our Sicilian home renovation journey by clicking on “Our Sicilian Home” under topics on the right side of the page or following us on Instagram here

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