Handy Mandy! Amanda Holden and Alan Carr become builders for new TV show

Amanda and Alan have renovated their own homes in the past
(Image credit: BBC)

Britain’s Got Talent star Amanda Holden and TV comedian Alan Carr spent last summer renovating a pair of adjoining apartments in rural Sicily.

Holden brought the former social housing flats in Salemi in southwestern Sicily for a staggering one euro – about 88p – each.

Amanda and Alan have renovated their own homes in the past, but neither of them has tackled a project of this scale before. 

The pair’s refurbishment journey was captured by a camera crew for the eight-part BBC show Alan and Amanda’s Italian Job.

Knocking through to make a two-bedroom apartment

Amanda, 51, bought the flats, which overlook the stunning Siclian countryside, for her and close friend Alan, 46, as a summer-long refurbishment. She felt they would benefit from a major project after the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon seeing the properties, which had mould-covered walls and debris everywhere, Alan said: "This is going to involve more than plumping up the cushions."

Despite being celebs, Alan and Amanda got their hands dirty with clearing rotting, rat-gnawed furniture out of the properties, smashing down bricked-up windows and walls, and plastering all under the watchful eye of locally-based British builder Scott Thompson, who the pair called their ‘rock’.

Finished with Italian Terrazzo flooring... and a disco ball

The pair sourced beautiful local traditional Sicilian marble and tiles, and combined religious iconography and Sicilian touches with a sleek, minimalist design for ‘Casa Alamanda’ - the name they eventually called the home.

In the dining room they added a jaw-dropping custom-built marble table and throughout the kitchen and living area, they installed stunning Terrazzo as their stone flooring idea, They also installed simple yet eye-catching light fixtures made by gluing together three vintage second-hand tiles as well as a disco bath in Holden's pink bathroom.

Alan Carr meanwhile went for a serene green for his ensuite, highlighting how different his interior design tastes ended up being compared to Amanda Holden, who was more into a touch of Hollywood glamour. 

And in part due to this, the project was not without tension. After the work was completed Amanda asked Alan: “Do you think we should go into business?

Alan replied: “No, I think it would be the end of our friendship.”

In the final episode, Amanda concludes: “We’ve pulled together to breathe new life into our empty apartments. We’ve managed to marry Sicilian traditions with Amanda and Alan’s personalities. We did exactly what we wanted to do. Brick by brick this place has come back to life.”

The property was set to be sold and the money donated to UK charities after the show finished filming.

Why are Italian towns selling homes for one euro?

Several Italian towns are selling off vacant houses for €1 each to keep dying towns and villages alive. Young Italians are migrating to the city to seek work, leaving ageing populations and empty homes.

The supply comes from elderly Italians who have nobody to leave their house to, or younger citizens who have inherited properties in areas they have no intention of relocating to.

Second homes in Italy are taxed, so selling these unused houses for a nominal sum may make financial sense. If these homes are refurbished and occupied they are worth more to the towns than leaving them empty.

New owners are required to submit details of a renovation project within two to 12 months of purchase (although this varies from authority to authority), start work within one year, and complete it within the next three.

Renovation is in the region of €20,000-50,000 depending on the size of the property, plus legal fees of about €3,000 on top.

You can watch Amanda and Alan's Italian Job series in its entirety on BBC iPlayer.

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.