As it turned out, the GC wasn’t good enough. Expenses were piling up and work was moving glacially. When my father, a builder and land developer himself, finally flew over with me to see the place and check out the progress, he told me I absolutely had to call in the cavalry.
The cavalry meant my longtime friend Antonio, an Abruzzese architect and engineer. Why he wasn’t on board as my advisor from the start is a long story that involves his and my colorful history together. Suffice it to say we’d lost touch for a while.
The GC had hired workers who were at best unequal to the tile work and at worst unskilled entirely, though he'd charged me at top craftsperson prices. He and his henchmen had screwed up the kitchen tiles that were supposed to form a checkerboard in champagne and Wedgwood blue, and instead had just tossed a few blue ones willy-nilly into the sea of champagne. They'd botched the multi-colored tiles in the salotto that were supposed to create a striking diamond design. The gorgeous, mottled border tiles intended to pull all the room's colors together in one grand flourish disappeared entirely. They'd laid the dark green tiles in the guest bedroom so unevenly that in spots you can catch your shoe on a lip; then, the GC himself had painted the sloppy grout in that room a garish turquoise to “match" the tiles. I’m still scratching my head over that one. They'd slathered the grout for both floors and ceilings on so thickly and unevenly that Antonio later commented that, as the saying goes here, they’d done the work with their feet.
I can live with most of that. The kitchen floor will be uprooted, anyway, if and when I get around to the work I still want to do.
More importantly, the GC had removed a foundational pillar in the center of the house, which Antonio quickly replaced when he took over the work. He’d bought doors and window frames that are basically pressed stacks of paper, the latter fitted with cheap plastic handles that come off in your hand. And he'd carved my initials into my beautiful heavy wood front door, telling me that was the local tradition. If it is, then I’m the one introducing it to my neighborhood.