Tuesday, March 16, 2004


March 15, 2004...The Ides of March

Well, even though I was beginning to doubt that it would ever get here, spring has finally arrived! We worked in the yard on Sunday, pulling up all the old stuff so that we can start over. There were daffodils that are probably ancient, all foliage and no flowers! and tons of some woody type of perennial that has large leaves and small pink flowers. I have no idea what this plant is, but the planters in front of our house are full of them, and I decided to just get rid of everything in the back yard.

Art wants to re-do the patio. Right now it’s just large, concrete squares, and although it’s not the best looking patio around, I figure once you put out the patio furniture and some potted plants, who’s going to notice, but Art is adamant. We asked at the hardware store to see how much this project would cost, but the girl told us for this small a job, we should just go to Corciano and buy the blocks directly from the factory! We didn’t get the specific location, but we can always ask the next time we’re there…I know it won’t be too hard to find.

We need to stop by Mauro’s office to see if we are supposed to buy an outdoor light fixture…that was one of the projects that was put off until nicer weather arrived. And I guess we’ll need to talk with the door/window guy abut replacing these windows one by one. We still need to have the shutters re-varnished…another nice weather project. Our bedroom window needs to be replaced, as does the window in the blue bathroom. If we could get those two windows, and the ones in the kitchen replaced before next winter, I’d be happy. The new windows would be double-paned, and therefore warmer. Since I have no idea how much these window will cost, I don’t know if this is a feasible plan or not. Eventually we would also like to replace the hall window and the two window/doors that are in the living room and guest room too.

Fabio stopped by today and installed the sink in the garage. He told us he was in bed with the flu last week, and is still not feeling 100%. Since I fought my cold for a good week, I can understand. Art was so glad he asked Fabio to put the sink in…it cost us twenty euro and was worth every penny! Having the right tools makes any job easier, and knowing how to use those tools makes the work simple. Our supply of tools, and our knowledge of how things work in Italy are both very limited.

The reason we went to the hardware store was to buy some garden tools. I was using two hands tools to dig up the plants on Sunday, and our neighbor Armando lent us his hoe and pitchfork, which really made the job easier. We decided we needed to get some tools of our own…all we have so far is a leaf rake. Today we bought a hoe and a shovel. The standard way to buy these things is to buy the handle and the work end separately. I was familiar with the concept, but you don’t see it much in the states any more. What really surprised me was the way they sell garden hoses…the hose comes without any couplings on either end…it’s just a hose. The hose that’s in the garage, attached to the sink, has a clamp around the end of it, and when you want to put it on the faucet, you just tighten the clamp. This works fine as long as you don’t turn the water on too hard! And of course you can’t do the wash your car, turn off the hose at the sprayer end sort of thing!

We went to the garden center today, but a lot of their annuals are not in yet, which surprised me. The guy said they’ll arrive in April….I was sure Italy would be a little ahead of Kentucky, but I guess not. We did buy some geraniums for the window boxes I want to put outside the kitchen windows. They were two euro apiece, which I thought was cheap. Geraniums always seem to be fairly expensive in Louisville. I did find out that they have most of the things I’m looking for…I took a garden book with pictures and the Latin names, just to be sure. I was surprised when the man told me that hostas wouldn’t grow here. At first he said it got too cold, but when I told him that it got just as cold, if not colder, in Kentucky, he explained that it’s the type of cold, and that the wet, humid winters of San Venanzo have something to do with it. Since the ground doesn’t freeze, they probably rot away. Since our back yard is mostly shade, this was certainly a disappointment. Oh well, if everything was the same as it was in the states, what would be the point?

Very large and VERY heavy concrete edging blocks were used in the yard to create flower beds along the fence. These will go! They just make the yard look too small, as if it weren’t already small enough. And the large lumpy and porous rocks that encircled every tree will be removed too. And the benches that are made of stacked up bricks and concrete slabs…ugh!

We have several trees in our backyard...all tall juniper trees I think. They add no interest, little shade, and a lot of mess. One of them is half dead, and we were hoping to have it removed by the commune when they cut down the dead trees in the park behind our house, but no one seems to know when this will happen. Our neighbor Armando didn’t even seem sure that it would be this year! He told us that we would only be allowed to remove the dead tree and one other, a tree that’s close to the house, and could therefore cause damage with its roots. He said the forestale people would NOT be happy if we cut down the others. As usual, we don’t know if this meant we CAN’T cut down trees that are on our property, or if this is just his opinion. Italians are highly opinionated people, and never hesitate to share their opinions, at least in our experience. Maybe they feel we need all the help we can get!

The “park” behind our house isn’t really a park, but a large area owned by the commune. The only ways to get to it are through the locked gate next to our house, though another gate that doesn’t seem to be used, and finally, from the pool area of the hotel. We thought that maybe the new hotel was behind the move to have the park cleaned up and all the dead trees removed. There are quite a few dead trees back there, but also one hugely magnificent tree that must be hundreds of years old. We hope that in the summer, the shade provided by these trees will keep our house nice and cool…especially since these same trees will prevent me from having any tomato or basil plants. This was a major disappointment for me, but I’m hoping that the breezes and shade will make up for it!

They tell us there used to be a castle in this park…and some of the walls are still there. A set of very old and very steep steps leads to a lower part of the park, where there is a huge old cistern, now covered with boards. I think the area directly behind our house was the castle garden…there are bushes planted in very definite patterns, creating pathways, and I would love to see this area restored. The man around the corner (curve, really) from us was telling Art that there used to be an arch over the road right by our garage, and said that there are old pictures showing this. I need to find out who has those pictures…I would love to see them! We knew there was a 12th century castle in San Venanzo, up by the commune. All that remains now is the tower, and one wall. I would guess that the area behind our house was part of the same complex, but don’t know for sure. I hope to find out more about this castle, and the history of San Venanzo, as time goes by.

Everyone keeps telling us how beautiful and fragrant San Venanzo is in the spring! We were in Umbria during the last week in March and the first two weeks in April in 2000…things were just starting to bloom, and all the fields were that wonderful bright spring-green color…we can’t wait to see that again. I hate the fact that we’ll be gone for four weeks in May…I don’t want to miss a thing! My preference was to go back in July or August when it’s hot and full of tourists, but Art wants to work the Derby, so we’re going in May. At least we’ll be here when the sunflowers are in bloom…I can’t wait to see the fields full of sunflowers, and plan to take more than a few pictures.

We bought some new potatoes and green onions from the fruit and vegetable man who comes to town once a week. He drives his large truck into town and announces his arrival with a loudspeaker. He has several places where he stops, and then he just open up the side of his truck, and viola! Instant market! I was hoping that the potatoes would be the tiny new potatoes we’re used to in the states, but these were “normal” size. The green onions were what were amazing…not the green onions we’re used to, where the bulb is just slightly larger than the stalk. These onions were regular onions picked halfway through their growth. The bulb part was at least the size of a tennis ball, and they smelled wonderful. As a wonderfully decadent treat, we fried the onions and the potatoes in some olive oil…once again, deep south meets Italy, and of course, it was wonderful! The freshness of the ingredients makes the difference!

We’re going to Prague a week after we return from our visit to the states, mainly to see Paul McCartney in concert. Of all the cities he’s playing in, Prague was the one we wanted to see the most, and from what we’ve heard and read, it’s an amazing city. We hope to spend four or five days there so that we can really explore the city.