Thursday, April 15, 2004



What a day! We had two appointments to see apartments that Larry and Jill may be interested in. Both are for sale, but there may also be the possibility of renting, so we decided to take a look. At ten o’clock, we stepped outside to meet our neighbor, Armando, for the first appointment. While we were waiting, I noticed that we had mail in the box, but once again, I couldn’t get the key to work. Armando had gotten his brother, the locksmith, to open it for us last week, but I guess we’ll just have to get a whole new lock assembly. Art managed to get the lock open, and asked Armando to contact his brother for a new lock.

About this time, a car pulled up, and who should it be but the sister of our neighbor, the lady who told us that the picnic was cancelled! Now it was all coming back to me…Wendy had talked to Armando about this apartment, and had told us that it was connected to our other neighbor, Mr. Farnesi, the man who lives in the blue house and had invited us to the picnic. This woman is the sister of Mr. (Adamo) Farnesi, and her name is Rosalba. Her husband is Luciano, and the apartment belongs(ed?) to his mother.

We decided to take two cars, and we rode with Armando, although we could have easily fit into Luciano’s car. We wondered where we were going, since we thought the apartment was in San Venanzo. And so it was…we could have walked to the apartment in less time than it took us to drive there! It’s in an apartment building, right next to the school, and right behind the carabinieri (police) station.

We did finally get some clarification of the sign that we had seen saying that the commune would be re-locating to the school building. Of course we thought they were just moving, but now we’ve found out that the move is only temporary, while the villa that now houses the commune is renovated. I was really happy to hear this news, because as I wrote before, the villa that houses the commune is covered with frescoes and is very beautiful. This will make this apartment a convenient, if busy, location. Additionally, it is just a short walk to the farmacia and the bakery, accessible down a set of steps.

The apartment is located on the second floor of a three floor building. The lower level of this building houses a storage area for each apartment. The apartment itself was fairly nice…a small entryway, a good sized living/dining room with a nice sized balcony and a nice view. The main bedroom was a nice size, and there is also a second room, for guests, an office, whatever. The bathroom is nice sized, but the tub is one of those very short ones…I’ve seen them in Italy before, and don’t quite understand why they are so short. There is also a balcony off the bathroom that faces the main street below, but at the level of the tall trees, so all you see is green. The kitchen is small, but there is also a balcony off the kitchen. Nothing spectacular, but not bad either. Of course we don’t know the price.

We did know that they were interested in selling this apartment, not renting it, but we have told them that our friends are only interested in renting for a year. They told us that they would need to talk with the geometra, Mauro, to determine the price. We would later hear the same thing from the owner of the other apartment…guess the geometra’s opinion is highly regarded! He must also double as the real estate agent, more or less.

After I had taken pictures of each of the rooms from various angles, we were invited for coffee at the home of Rosalba and Luciano. Of course we accepted! Once again we rode in Armando’s car, and I had a hard time not laughing out loud…he stopped at the bottom of the hill, and proceeded to tell Art something quite involved. Of course he had to use his hands, and of course he forgot to drive. A friendly toot from the car behind us got him rolling again, but the way he turned the wheel! No “hand over hand” wheel turning for Armando. He simply repositioned his hands, and it just looked so awkward when he turned a corner.

Of course I was wondering how far this ride would be…but we did make our way out of town…but only to the first house on the road to Orvieto, just a short distance out of town. We had seen this house on one of our walks, and were happy to have the opportunity to see it more closely. It’s a large house, with a smaller building in the front. We learned that once their children get married, the children and spouses would live in the larger house and Luciano and Rosalba would move to the apartment in the smaller building. For Italy, this is a normal living arrangement.

We immediately noticed the screen on the windows, and once inside, Luciano showed us that the screens would roll up like window shades. This is what we want! We asked if they were made by Dino, the man who made our door, but were told no, it was someone else, but this person also lived in San Venanzo. We’ll find out more about this person very soon! I think the park behind us my make us more susceptible to bugs, so we definitely want to use screens.

While Rosalba fixed coffee and tea, and put out some cake, Luciano showed us around the house, and all of the artwork that Rosalba had created. She paints flowers on ceramics…on small ceramic tiles that are then framed and hung, on larger tiles, on ceramic topped, iron legged tables, and even on wooden boxes. Her work was very nice, and I also enjoyed seeing the house…the rooms were quite large, and there was a huge fireplace in the living room. They are restoring this house, but I have no idea if this house has been in their family for many years…but I would think so. Italians don’t move around like Americans do. People stay in the same place for generations, and children stay at home until they marry…which can be well into their 30’s, even 40’s. In Italy, family is still the most important thing.

We found out that Rosalba teaches at a university, and according to Armando, they are quite rich! When Wendy met with them in December, they had told her that they would like to meet with us to learn English, and of course they would teach us Italian. This subject came up during the conversation…Art told them that he had studied by listening to cassettes in the car, and Rosalba laughed and said yes, that was what she had done too. She said she has taken four courses in English, but I’m not sure what constitutes a course. Since she never had anyone to practice with, what little she did learn was quickly lost…a situation we understand only too well. For me, even being around Italian all the time doesn’t help much!

I asked Rosalba about the old pictures of San Venanzo that her brother had told us about, and she disappeared into the other room.. When she came back, we saw that she had removed a picture from the wall…it was a photograph of the town, taken from the area of their house, and dated 1940. It was amazing how little has changed! I told her that once I learned more Italian, I would like to study about the history of the city, and especially about the medieval castle that once stood there. All that remains of it now are the tower, and assorted walls throughout the city. Parts of the ruins are behind our house…the cistern, a set of steep stairs, and of course, the garden.

As we chatted, it was amazing to me that we were able to understand one another, more or less. Of course we often use the wrong word, or the wrong tense, but everyone is happy to help us…a fact that we both appreciate. I keep forgetting that “to know” a person is a different verb than “to know” a fact. And in Italian, you “make” everything! You make a walk, and make a shower, but you “take” coffee.

The nicest compliment we got was when I had asked Rosalba if we were the only Americans/English speaking people in San Venanzo. She told us that previously there had been an American couple, but they had moved back to the states, and that the Irishman, Jerry, who we had met when we first arrived, was a deacon with the church and was attending school in Assisi. So, of course everyone knows who we are, as the only Americans, the only English speakers in town. There must be other foreigners here because just yesterday we received another notice from the commune telling us about their new information secretary for foreigners. Anyway, Rosalba said no, you aren’t “the Americans”, you are “San Venanzites”…that this is OUR town too, and that everyone is like one family. What a nice thing to say!

On the SlowTrav message board, many people have raised the question about really “fitting in” when you live in Italy This has never been a big concern for me. It’s not that I’m anti-social, but I have never been the one who knew all the neighborhood gossip, or even knew all my neighbors. I would smile and wave, say hello while on a walk, but for some reason, I was never very involved with my neighbors before, so if I’m not now, it won’t be a big change. Everyone we have met has been very nice…helpful, friendly, and interested. What more could you ask for? We haven’t lived here for generations like most of these people, and will never have the history and the memories that they do. For us to be warmly welcomed into someone’s home is more than enough!

Okay, enough philosophizing! We said our goodbyes and told Luciano and Rosalba that we would be in touch with them once we had heard from our friends. And once Mauro returns from vacation to tell them what price they should ask! Armando drove us home, taking the scenic route so that he could show us once again how well located the apartment was. We’ve been here for six months, and have seen the main areas…there’s just not a lot to see, so why he thought we needed the locations pointed out to us is a mystery.

At noon we walked down to the gas station, to meet the man who had told Art he also had an apartment for sale. We asked at the gas station, and were told he lived across the street. After waiting a few minutes, he drove up, and took us to his home, the apartment upstairs. The apartment in question is the one on the ground floor, and although he didn’t have a key for it, he did show us the floor plan. He too is interested in selling, and told us that one of the garage spaces could be easily converted into a living room. We thanked him for his time after telling him that our friends were only interested in renting. This man also told us that he would have to speak with Mauro to find out what the price should be!

After downloading the pictures of the first apartment to my computer, I tried to email them to Larry and Jill. They have started school in Cortona, and are only free in the afternoon…how well we remember that schedule! Anyway, for whatever reason, I could NOT get the pictures to attach…I had zipped them into a folder, but that didn’t work. I knew that I had taken the pictures at the lowest quality because they would be emailed, but apparently the folder was still too big. Then I tried dividing the folder into two zipped folders, but it still didn’t work….I hate being so computer illiterate, but I only know what I know! Maybe I’ll try to resize the photos to see what happens.

In order to accomplish something concrete for the day, we decided to put up the trellis for the jasmine vine in the back yard. Fabio is supposed to come tomorrow to install the two lights we bought, so then all we’ll need are the stones to be laid. Of course I’ll still have to add the smaller ground cover plants and the rest of the mulch, but all the main stuff is finished! The trellis went up fairly easily, for Italy. In Italy, nothing is ever simple. A job that should take 15 minutes can stretch into an hour or more, depending on what difficulties you run into. Art had a hard time drilling into some of the places, but eventually we got enough anchors into the wall, and I attached the trellis to them using green wire.

I had started a meat sauce for tonight’s lasagna. I had planned to make this for our dinner with Enrico/Wilma/Gino/Gino's wife on Saturday, but many people seem to think it’s a bad idea to cook Italian for Italians, so I’ve changed the menu. Although we will still have spaghetti, we will also have barbequed ribs…I’m hoping this is a good choice for people who are big fans of cowboys/Indians/the old west. We’ll see. Anyway, I had bought some fresh pasta, and decided that I might as well make the lasagna for us. Last time I had used a recipe from the Carla Capalbo cookbook, but it was pretty runny. This time I decided to use a recipe from The Joy of Cooking, although I did make a few changes (Why would it call for white wine instead of red? I substituted red) The sauce simmered while we started hanging the trellis, and once Art didn’t need for me to hold the trellis in place, I assembled the lasagna and put it in the oven.

As we count down the days until we leave for the states, I am starting to think of all the things I still need to do. We need to get our plane tickets for Prague. That whole trip is turning out to be a lot more work than I had anticipated. I had hoped to buy a hotel/air package, for simplicity, and to save money. The one brochure the travel agent had only listed hotels that were more expensive than we want, and generally they only offer 3 day packages. When I started to search for hotels on my own, I discovered several things…#1, there are several different areas in Prague, and although I know we’d like to be in the centro, I’m not sure whether one is any better than another. #2, the hotels are much more expensive than we had anticipated. We had originally wanted to stay for 6 nights, but now I’m wondering if that’s such a good ideal. And #3, when I contacted our Prague guide to ask her to book us a hotel, she answered by saying she was in the hospital having surgery…I think for a ruptured appendix! So I spent all last night on the internet, searching for good rates in a good location, and when I found those two, there was never any availability! GRRR!!!!

I also need to remember to pick up the picture I had re-framed at the place across the street from Gran Casa. I really liked this frame shop, and we had stopped in on Tuesday just to see if it might have been ready early, but it wasn’t. I don’t want to forget it, then be gone for four weeks and have them think I’m never coming back! I had my Yellow Submarine pins framed vertically rather than horizontally, to fit a space in the guest room, and I had to take the backing board home with me and position the pins myself…not a fun job! I hope I like the finished product!

And BTW, the lasagna was delicious! And, it wasn’t runny…in fact, I would say it was as close to perfect as it could be. Because we had been smelling the lasagna as it baked, by the time it was ready, we were both famished! Maybe that’s what made it taste so good!

This morning Fabio and his two helpers arrived as promised and began working on the lights. I wish I had taken a picture of the 3-4 foot long bit they had to use to drill through the outside wall in order to run the electricity for the outside lights. As it turned out, we were very lucky that Fabio had picked this day to install our lights…we would end up using their drill when they were finished with it!

While the lights were being installed, Art and I went to work hanging a picture and some shelves in our bedroom. Because of the problems we had encountered when we hung the mirror over the dresser, we were both nervous about this project. I had already told Art that he was NOT ALLOWED to blame me if the wall crumbled away under his drill bit. I reminded him that it was the wall, NOT me. The hook for the picture went up easily. Then we positioned the two shelves that would go below and beside it. So far so good. The first shelf went pretty good…the holes drilled fairly easily, and it was as close to level as one could hope for under the circumstances. All that was left was the smaller shelf. And of course, the wall just crumbled away, making a bigger and bigger hole! Art had bought some plaster/spackling compound for just such problems, and we knew we would need it to finish this job. This was when he decided to borrow the electrician's drill...not only had our battery opereated one run out of juice, the wall was just too difficult for the "home" version...what needed was an industrial strength drill AND an industrial strength bit! What a difference the right tools make!

Since it was now obvious that we would be doing some touch-up painting in our bedroom, I went ahead and peeled away the plaster that had bubbled up a few weeks ago. While Art set the anchors for the shelf into place, I smoothed the plaster over the other spot. A quick smoothing with a plastic ruler was all that was needed…these walls are so rough anyway; a really smooth section would stick out like a sore thumb.

As I’m blogging, Art is re-working the speaker wires…the speakers in the kitchen seem to have a wire crossed, or the positive and negative wires touching somewhere…what a fun project. He hid all the wires behind the baseboard and door moldings, so now he had to take everything apart again.

Oh, and I've booked a room in Prague, using We have to wait for final confirmation, so keep your fingers crossed!


At 8/04/2011 06:05:00 AM , Blogger iand said...

The best part about apartment hunting is meeting other people, be it other tenants or the proprietor's family. Meeting the property owner's family is a good way to start a friendship, especially if you will be renting their space. Based on your descriptions of the two apartments, I would have taken the second one.

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