Sunday, February 20, 2005


Our friend Frank bought nine roses for his girlfriend Clara. Those NINE roses set him back €60….or $80….again…..for NINE!!!! I think he can thank the spread of American commercialism for these ridiculous prices! It wasn’t all that many years ago when this was a relatively minor holiday in Italy. Ah…progress.

Our neighbor Armando finally bought a new car. He’s been looking for a while, and we thought he was going to buy a used car. I don’t know how old his old car was, but it was a Fiat Panda, which is a very small car. His new car is almost as small, and it’s a Chevrolet Matiz.

Wendy said that the Matiz used to be made by Daewoo, and suddenly it’s being advertised by Chevrolet. We don’t know anything about that situation, but were very surprised that Armando would buy an American car.

We have a new four story apartment building going up in San Venanzo. It’s on the edge of town, next to the shoe factory and across the street from the soccer field. With four floors we assume it will have at least eight apartments, and are wondering who will live in these apartments.

It can’t be more Italians….the birth rate in Italy is WAY down. Most young people don’t leave home until they get married, and they usually don’t get married until mid thirties at the earliest. Maybe they’re expecting more stranieri (foreigners) like us and Frank. We certainly don’t know of anyone who’s planning on moving to San Venanzo.

Speaking of Frank, he made a trip to the military base at Livorno to buy some supplies at the PX. He took Clara with him, and introduced her to Burger King. Supposedly she liked it, but I have to think she was just being nice.

Frank brought back Duncan Hines cake mix, vanilla extract, seasoned salt, and for us, a 48 ounce jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. He also bought some frozen beef…a large roast for the American style dinner he plans to prepare for Clara’s family (complete with mashed potatoes). Because the ground beef here is so lean, Frank also brought some American ground beef for hamburgers. Lean is a good thing, but you’ve just got to have a little fat for the taste.

He plans to make a second PX trip, but next time he’s going to the larger base in Naples. He’s offered to pick up some things for us and I plan to ask him to get some of the heavier things like a large can of Crisco and a large bottle of canola oil. The absence of these items will make our suitcases a lot lighter when we return from the states. Oh, and he’ll also bring us some CHEESE…cheddar, Colby, American! Won’t that be a nice treat! We may even get some bread and butter pickles!

I don’t have to worry about dill pickles because our friend Judith, who lives in Citta di Castello, has a jar waiting for us! She had to grow the cucumbers in her garden since the variety they grow here isn’t the pickling variety. I’m not sure how many jars she canned this summer, but she called us over the holidays to say that we were getting pickles for Christmas! This was almost as exciting as the cast iron skillet I got for my birthday! Can you tell that I’m becoming food obsessed?

Oh, our neighbor Frank also plans to start his own business. He’s outfitted his Ape with framework to hold his machinery and plans to drive around the area sharpening knives, scissors, saws, whatever. When we asked him about the legalities, he said all he needs to do is to go to Terni, tell them that he’s retired and wants to make a little extra money sharpening knives. He says they’ll approve as long as he pays taxes on his earnings. It’ll be interesting to see how this works out.

We ran into our friend Corinna today at the grocery store. She asked us if we would like to stop by to see their house on our way home, and of course we said yes. Somehow Art and I imagined that they had a tiny house that was very old and that they were restoring it. Not so!

The house sits just off the road to San Venanzo. The building is a triplex, and Corinna and Maurizio’s house is at the far end. This means they only have one common wall, so maybe things are a little quieter, and it also gives then a side yard as well as a backyard.

The houses have obviously just been finished, and are very cute. Each has a one car garage in front, a small front yard, and a covered porch. Once inside there is a huge room, and a kitchen beyond, separated by knee walls on both sides. They installed a wood burning stove in the living room to augment the radiators, and it made the room inviting as well as toasty.

The kitchen was bright and airy, and the kitchen cabinets they had installed are a blond wood, keeping the open feel. A door opens to the back yard, and they’ve put down a narrow patio along the edge of the house. I’m sure they’ll eventually expand this so they can have a table outside.

The back yard was a nice size, and along the back border was a raised bed planted with shrubs and surrounded by an attractive wrought iron fence. The only downside is that the back yard faces an apartment building. The building is fairly attractive, but it’s not a s nice as a beautiful view.

Also on the main floor is a large laundry room with a big laundry sink, and I complimented Corinna on her foresight in this area. A large bathroom with a shower and a guest bedroom are also on this floor.

The stairs to the second floor have no railing, which helps the room to feel so large. The steps, as well as the entire second floor are done in a beautiful blonde wood that Maurizio put down himself. We later found out that Maurizio is quite an accomplished artist, and his works are displayed throughout the house.

The second floor has two nice sized bedrooms and another large bathroom, this one with a large tub. Corinna told us that this is HER bathroom. I understood completely. Oh, and there are balconies off both the front and the back bedroom.

Of course since they’ve just moved in, they’re still in the process of furnishing and decorating. They’ve strung up a line in the guest room to hang clothes from since they don’t have the money to buy an armadio yet. We certainly understood that!

Although they said that the house is too big for just the two of them, they wanted to have the extra bedrooms in case her father and his mother should ever need to live with them. Unlike most Americans, this is just an accepted fact. I’m not even sure if nursing homes exist in Italy, at least not as we know them. We have the old folks home across the street from us, but I think this must be the exception rather than the norm.

Corinna fixed coffee in her American style coffee maker. She told us that her years of living in Germany converted her to the American style of coffee. She also opened a bottle of sweet fizzy white wine, and we nibbled on nuts and a few pastries while we talked.

They told us they thought we were strange Americans…because we thought so much like them…because we don’t approve of the war…because we have no use for organized religion…we seemed to agree on so many issues, I did my best to speak Italian even though Corinna is fluent in English and Maurizio can get by. I think this is the perfect situation to practice, because I can always ask for help or maybe just an explanation of why a certain word is used.

We must have stayed for at least an hour, and before we left Corinna gave us a huge bag of the small Easter egg chocolates from Perugina. They want us to come for dinner at their house…the water and the gas have just been hooked up in their kitchen, so now they can cook.

We left Corinna and Maurizio feeling so lucky to have met such wonderful people. The fact that they live so close makes it even better…we’re almost neighbors! We’re probably just as interesting to them as they are to us, but whatever the reason, we enjoyed our visit with them immensely and look forward to seeing them again.


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