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Restoration Sexy

■ 2 May 2012 by James Martin

If you’re like me, you go absolutely giddy when you hear of something you’d like to see in it’s original state being “restored.” I felt that pit-of-the-stomach tickle when I read of 4.5 million euros being freed up to the restoring of 33 Romanesque churches in Portugal and Spain.

Then it hit me. What? This:

church restoration giovinazzo, puglia picture

Ok, so the church needed a wider door. So let’s chip away at that really cool bit of ancient art. Let’s not look for alternatives, a hammer and chisel is always faster.

So maybe “restoration” isn’t really something one should wish for. What we’d like is resurrection—things to come back the way they were only cleaner and with decent roofs.

Then I started reflecting on all the European restorations I’d witnessed. Even in simple places of lodging, it was hard to look back upon 30 years of staying somewhere in Europe without thinking, “You know what? I’ve stayed at country houses, farms, apartments and hotels grand and not, and yet very few of them, in fact nearly zero of them, looked like the places where I’d seen people living.” Few were even “homey.”

Generally, folks “restore” most tourist things to look like something they’d put in one of those designer magazines named something like Tuscany Style for the 1%. It’s a fake of something someone’s thought of after buying a hulk and painting a bit: “hey, that would make a great fake old Tuscan room!” And so they sponge paint on some fake, sun-faded walls, lay in some rustic designer tile, put up some fake wood beams and bingo! The tourists will never know—but it’s sexy. And that counts oh, so very much. And you get a lot of money for a room. Bingo. Sexy!

It’s like they do with women in fashion magazines. It turns out men are attracted to women with long legs. After all, you’ve probably never heard of a construction worker who shouts out, “look at the stubby gams on that one!”

See, God, in her infinite wisdom, made women’s legs longest at puberty, after which time the body grows more than the legs. So, to get you to buy the purple eyeliner, all the pics of beautiful women are altered in Photoshop to stretch the model’s legs—all because it would be a bit too much to advertise something sexy using a real 11 year old. And what does this “restoration” of mature flesh do? It “makes” you buy the eyeliner thinking it’ll make you as sexy as the model. Most of the time. Every once in a while it seems to force women into eating disorders, if you believe in the veracity of the lawsuits flying into courts these days.

Sexy. We’re stuck on the concept of it. But what about comfortable? Authentic?

So then I saw this:

tenuta pinto restoration

This is the dining room at Tenuta Pinto, a Bed and Breakfast country house nearing the end of its restoration period, located just outside of Moli di Bari in Puglia. I was shown it by Dominico Pinto and his wife Isa, who are very enthusiastic about the project and determined not to alter the footprint of the place. That’s why this dining room is here. They couldn’t bring themselves to gut the 1792 villa and install a rabbit-warren of little tourist rooms that had the Tuscan influence everyone seems to crave. So the upper story is how it was only better. It’s a sympathetic restoration that allows for a suite of rooms that reflect the age and dignity of the original place.

Outside there is a huge garden and rows of table grapes, from which the Pinto family has made a living for many years.

It’s nice when someone has the sense to turn aside the frantic huffing and puffing of sexy for the long, slow sigh of longing and remembrance. I like that. It’s like when you were a kid and you first went into the strange, shadowy place inhabited by your grandparents and ran your fingers over the strangely colored photographs in their ancient frames and everything was so quiet you thought you could hear your heart beat.

And then, of course, mom came up to you and slapped your hand for touching stuff and that was that.

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Restoration Sexy originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com May 02, 2012, © James Martin.

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