Sunday, September 28, 2008

DERUTA CERAMICS

Last weekend I took a few photos of the Deruta ceramics that were being sold in Perugia. Here are two of the pictures and the rest, as always, are on our FLICKR PAGE.



More Deruta wine stoppers

I can't figure out who needs wine stoppers....I mean, who ever has wine left over???

I can see this serving dishes filled with olives, maybe some slices of cheese, and the larger platter filled with bruschetta....

More Deruta ceramics

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

A SURPRISE IN PERUGIA

You know how sometimes a visitor can tell you something about your hometown or local area that you didn't know? I guess as locals we don't read the guidebooks or research the history of places we take for granted. We had such an experience the other day. Even though Umbria is our 'adopted' home, with the rich amount of history in the area I think it's safe to say we'll never know all the stories and all the history! We were surprised though, when our friends from Seattle, Jill and Larry, asked us if we'd seen the totem pole that Seattle had donated to it's sister city, Perugia. Uhhh....no we hadn't!

We did know that Perugia and Seattle are SISTER CITIES, but we hadn't heard/read/seen a thing about this new totem pole. The four of us (along with 2 year old Daniela) decided to meet up in Perugia to check it out for ourselves. Larry said it was at one of the MINIMETRO stops, so this was also the perfect time to take our first trip on this new way into the centro or Perugia. After having received not one but TWO $100 tickets for driving illegally (but unknowingly!) in the centro a few years ago, we support any alternative means to get into Perugia.

We took the Madonna Alta exit just outside of Perugia and followed the signs for the soccer stadium. Just past the stadium is a new, huge, free parking lot, and although not well signed, we walked up the steps to some buildings, even though we weren't really sure what was up there. Once at the top of the stairs we found a little mini-mall, complete with a huge, upscale bar, a toy store, optical shop and a few other rather unusual shops, at least for this location.

Tickets for the minimetro trams are available at the bar or in machines at the entrance to the tram. One way tickets cost €1 each and the trains are frequent. minimetro Perugia_0011Each car holds maybe 15 people, and for our journey on Saturday we had the car to ourselves. We wound up the hill to the centro, through a series of tunnels, stopping along the way at other stations. We got off at the last stop and watched our tram turn itself around for the return journey via a turntable like they use for trains.

A short walk up into the centro was made even better when I spotted a new GROM gelateria on the corner opposite the Post Office. We'd have a sweet treat for the ride back down to the parking lot! Once on the Corso Vanucci, the main drag in Perugia, we strolled, people watched and took a few photos. We discovered some Deruta ceramics for sale just behind the duomo, and Jill and Larry went to the police station to ask about the totem pole. And guess where it was??? Give up? It was down at the bottom of the hill, at the very first stop of the minimetro, right where we'd parked! We were all a little confused since we certainly hadn't noticed it. Although Larry had called it a totem pole I had Googled the internet and discovered that it was really an orca fin, decorated with Native American as well as Etruscan symbols.

When it was time to head back to the parking lot we of course stopped for a gelato (chocolate lovers, try the extra noir if they have it when you're there!), then took the quick ride back to the parking lot where we would search for the orca fin.

Orca Perugia_0043
A quick walk around and all of a sudden, there it was!!! Yes, it was an amazing orca fin, rising out of a small pond on top of a hill! The landscaping left a lot to be desired, but still the sculpture itself was impressive. I'm not sure what the Perugini think of it, or if they understand the significance, but it's certainly not what you expect to find in Italy.


Perugia Fountain_0010
More pictures of Perugia and the Minimetro are on our FLICKR PAGE, in the folder entitled "Perugia and the Minimetro".

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Friday, September 26, 2008

LA BUONA CUCINA AMERICANA - MADE IN AMERICA - POTATO SALAD

Today Michelle shares her MOM’S POTATO SALAD recipe with us. It's very similiar to my own recipe, so I heartily recommend it!

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

BUYING A HOUSE IN ITALY - LEAVING FRIENDS AND FAMILY BEHIND

If you're thinking about buying our house in Italy...or buying any property abroad, then leaving family and friends behind is certainly a big consideration. Leaving your safety net of familiar surroundings, familiar faces and a familiar language can be scary. Aging parents and/or grandparents and grandchildren are usually at the top of everyone's worry list, and rightly so. What if there's an emergency? How will I stay close to my family and friends? Will I become a stranger to my grandkids?

The first thing most expats-to-be have to face is the reaction of friends and family to the decision to move far away. After the initial surprise/shock wears off, you'll find that most people fall into four categories:
  1. First there will be those who truly 'get it'. They'll be excited for you, and excited by the idea that they'll now have an excuse to visit Italy and maybe even a place to stay! To them you'll be a hero. the ones brave enough to take the chance and live the dream.
  2. The second group will be those who truly do NOT 'get it'. These people will ask why you want to leave your home country, and many will even suggest that it's downright UNpatriotic. They see your decision to live in a foreign country as a rejection of your homeland and all it's traditions. These people might even be angry and confrontational.
  3. The third group of people are people who also don't 'get it', but they'll just be so confused about the whole concept of a foreign country that they really don't have much to say. These people have probably never traveled outside their home country, and really don't know why anyone would want or need to do such a thing. One comment often heard from people in this group: "But there's so much to see in the United States!"
  4. The fourth category will consist of close friends and family who definitely support your decision to move whether they understand it or not. They offer their unconditional love and support and just want you to be happy.

Needless to say, the move will be easier if most of your friends and family fall into the first and fourth categories. There's no way to make the people in the second and third categories understand....ever. It's like trying to explain why you fell in love with someone - you can list all their wonderful qualities, but in the end we all know it's that special something, the chemistry or special spark that's just impossible to describe. Art's tried over and over and over to get people to come to Italy so they'll finally get it...but in the end, most of them have no interest in making the trip, and those who have still don't get it.
Try as we might, we've never been able to adequately describe just why we moved to Italy. We just knew. We knew it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. We also knew it would be hard to leave friends and family, but somehow the pull of Italy was stronger than any other pull.
When my mom's friends found out we were moving to Italy, one of them said, "What are you going to DO?!" My mom just looked at her and said "Nothing. she's 50 years old; I can't ground her or forbid her to go! Sure I'll miss her, but it's what she want to do and I'm happy for her." Unfortunately my mom died before we made the move, but just knowing that I had her unconditional support meant a lot.

My daughter on the other hand, although not surprised when we made the announcement, had quite a different reaction. Actually she had lots of reactions, most of them negative. Yes, I understand that kids are supposed to move away from parents, but parents aren't supposed to move away from their kids! In a sense I'm sure she felt as if I was abandoning her, but all of her reactions were based on HER feelings. Never once did she say she was excited or happy for us. Never once did she say she hoped we'd have fun on our new adventure. Although I DO understand her sadness at our leaving, I was definitely hurt and disappointed that she didn't seem to care that we were really happy and excited!
My son, the real reason we ended up in Italy definitely got it. He'd lived in Italy for two years and he and his wife did their best to really get to know their Italian neighbors, to explore the country and to take advantage of all life in Italy had to offer.

When friends asked if we wouldn't miss our kids and grandkids our answer was "Of course we will, but we can't stay here just because of them!" Given my son's situation in the military, it's doubtful he'll ever return to Louisville, even when he retires. In fact, there's every possibility that he and his family will end up in Europe one day. We told our friends that with so many grandparents now living long distances from their grandchildren, we didn't see much difference between our grandchildren flying to see us in Italy or flying to see us if we'd retired to Florida!

Because neither of us have any living parents or grandparents, that's one concern we didn't have to address, but for many it's a fact of life. As parents and grandparents age and become more dependent on others to drive, or cook, or oversee their financial affairs, making sure you, as well as your family, are comfortable with the arrangements is a must. Although these discussion can be difficult, I'd recommend having a frank talk with your parents and siblings to discuss how future changes will be handled. Knowing that your parents are safe will help you to enjoy your new life.

In the end, we've been lucky that we've been able to go back to the states twice each year. Yes, some friends have drifted away, but new ones have taken their place. We've actually connected with new people in Louisville via the internet who share our love of Italy! Had we stayed in Louisville we probably never would have made these connections. We've also made so many new friends in Italy, a real international group of friends who expand our world and brighten our lives.

After five years people now seem to 'accept' the fact that we live in Italy, but those who didn't understand then still don't understand now. We know now, more than ever, that yes, we made the right decision for us. We keep in touch via email, via this blog, and via our regular visits. In the end, overcoming feelings of guilt or questions of responsibility might be difficult, but once you give yourself permission to live your own life and to follow your heart, everything else just falls into place.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

AMARETTI

This past weekend we enjoyed just another wonderful feast with friends at Angelino and Peppa's. The place was packed when we arrived, and the only open table was the one we'd reserved. Our mixed antipasti was followed by coltello...something from the inside of the pig, I don't even want to know what it is...but it was tasty, and accompanied by freshly made, hot-off-the-griddle torta al testo. Next came the pasta dishes. First, lasagna, light as a feather, made with peas and zucchini and parmesan cheese. Next was the dish we'd specifically requested for our friends - fresh tagliatelle with porcini. The fragrance when this is served, gently lifted out of a huge bowl and placed on your plate until you say basta! is intoxicating! Okay, I was starting to feel full, and really, just another bite or two of the pasta with porcini and I would have been satisfied, but of course the end was nowhere in sight!

Cinghiale (wild boar) was next, gently roasted and served in it's own juices. More hot torta al testo helped us sop up every last bit of juice. After the cinghiale came the grilled meats...grilled over an open fire in the kitchen's huge fireplace....goose, pork and sausages. Oh yes, and skillet-fried potatoes! Oh my! And of course some spinach, or maybe it was chicory, but whatever, it was delicious as usual. And last but not least came the salad, just lettuce and tomatoes dressed with oil and vinegar, the perfect palate cleanser after the meat.

Of course coffee, or café, completes every meal in Italy...or at least it signals the beginning of the end. Following the coffee we enjoyed limoncello and grappa, and our waitress, a familiar face from San Venanzo, laughed when I told her we'd be having our dessert (dolce) at my house. She said we should let them prepare a dolce for us, but I told her mine were better...that we as Americans know our sweets! I invited her to drop in sometime and take the test!

Okay, by now you may be wondering why the title of this post is "amaretti". I started to write about the dessert, but somehow I couldn't resist reliving the wonderful meal that preceded it! So now, on to the dessert...filled peaches and amaretti (almond cookies).

Unless you're going to buy the cookies, and WHY would you want to do that when you can make them fresh?, you'll need the recipe for amaretti. A Google search turned up numerous recipes, but most of them called for almond paste. I don't know if almond paste is available in Italy, but even if it is, I like to keep things simple when I can. So I searched more recipes, and eventually found one I really liked on the blog CHOCOLATE SHAVINGS. It called for grinding the almonds first, and as an added bonus, used a little cocoa powder! (This recipe was orgininally posted on a different blog, CREAM PUFFS IN VENICE, and it's a family recipe)

I was quite pleased with the recipe, and froze about half for another day. Here is it, with thanks to both felow bloggers for sharing the recipe:

Amaretti Cookies Yield: 50-70 cookies

1-1/2 pounds almonds, finely ground
2 cups granulated sugar (plus 1 cup extra sugar to roll the cookies in)
1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa
4 eggs
3 tablespoons of almond extract

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Position oven racks so that one rack is at the bottom of the oven and the other rack is in the middle of the oven; line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the ground almonds, sugar and cocoa. Add the eggs and almond extract and mix until well combined. Using a tablespoon or your hands, scoop out enough of the almond mixture to form a ball that is roughly 1-1/2 to 2 inches in size.

Roll each ball in the cup of granulated sugar and place on cookie sheet. Make sure that there is a visible layer of white sugar on each amaretti. Press down the center of each cookie with your thumb to create an indentation in the center (this helps with sugar crackle on top of the almond base).

Bake cookies on lower rack for 10 minutes and then move to middle rack for an additional five minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, store cookies at room temperature in an airtight container. Cookies will keep for up 10 days.


I have to admint that I had only about 2 ½ tablespoons of almond extract, so I used vanilla extract to make up the difference.

I made the cookies the night before so they'd have time to cool completely before I had to crush them to fill the peaches. Here's that recipe:


Pesche Ripiene Baked Amaretti Peaches 6 servings

7 peaches
8+ crumbled amaretti cookies
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 350º

Wash and dry 6 unpeeled peaches. Cut each peach in half, remove the stone and carefully scoop out most of the fruit. Skin the 7th peach and place the peach flesh in a large bowl along with the flesh of the other 6 peaches. Mash with a fork.

Add sugar, cocoa, crushed amaretti, the egg yolk and mix well.

Place the peach halves in a buttered baking dish, close together. Fill each half with the peach/amaretti mixture, dot with a pat of butter and bake for about 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This was the perfect dessert after the huge lunch we'd eaten....light, refreshing and not too heavy. I put a plate of more amaretti cookies on table for a little crunch. Give these recipes a try when you're looking for something a little lighter or if you're like us and just love anything made with peaches!

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Friday, September 19, 2008

LA BUONA CUCINA AMERICANA - MADE IN AMERICA - BAKED POTATOES

Cherrye shares her recipe for American-style BAKED POTATOES. This might not be news to you if you're an Amercan, but if you're an Italian, check it out! You just might be surpised to find out that some American food is really good!

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

MOTORCYCLE SUNDAY

Because we live in a hilltown. on a winding, curvy road that goes up and over Monte Peglia, we often hear motorcycles, expecially on the weekends. This past Sunday a local ride was organized, starting and finishing in San Venanzo, and promising 90 kilmeters of scenic roads along the way. There was a stop scheduled for breakfast, then a grand lunch once everyone was back in San Venanzo. Here are a few pics I snapped at the beginning of the ride.


Sun moto_7113




Sun moto_7124

Sun moto_7143

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Monday, September 15, 2008

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY FESTA

Every night of the six day Festa dello Sport promised to be fun, but we were really looking forward to Friday night for many reasons. One of the featured dishes was going to be fresh pasta with truffles (yum!!), Erika was gong to provide the entertainment, and we'd have three Enlish friends with us: Janine from nearby Rotecastello, and new friends John and Sheila. John and Sheila are now retired and live in Avian France, on Lake Geneva, but are here in Umbria for a few weeks, house-sitting. We'd invited them to join in the festivities and were hoping to show off the best that San Venanzo had to offer.

After pre-dinner drinks in our graden we all walked up to the community park where the festa was being held. The weather looked threatening, but we're such pessimists when it comes to rain; it so often passes us by, leaving us with only the sound of distant thunder and the knowledge that someone else is getting our much needed rain. We didn't expect tonight to be any different.

All the tables were set up under the double tent behind the palazzo that houses the comune. Two sides were opne and two sides were closed, giving us a little protection from the wind, but not making it miserably hot like we'd been the other night in Cannara where all four sides of the ten were tightly closed. This picture was taken the next day, but on Friday night the left side and the side opposite it were wide open so that people could easily walk in and out.

Festa Tent

We ordered our food and it was delivered quickly. Just as we started to eat the wind really started to pick up. And then it started to sprinkle. And then it rained harder...and the wind blew harder. Someone came to pull the side of the tent, directly behind where Janine and Sheila were sitting, closed. As the wind continued to pick up force the free-hanging side was whipped back and forth until someone else secured the ends to a support pole. We could see outside through a small gap in where the sides of the tent met, and by this time it was raining harder and blowing sideways.

The torrential downpour continued as we bemoaned the fact that we hadn't brought umbrellas, but of course with a storm like this they would have been useless. We were glad we'd already gotten our food! I mentioned the fact that all our windows were open...a fact Art hadn't considered...but without knowing which way the storm had come from, we weren't really sure which rooms would be soaked by the time we got home...IF we got home! It seemed like the storm would go on forever, complete with booming, rumbling thunder and frequent bursts of lightning.

And then the lights went out! I hadn't even brought a purse, so I had no matches, no flashlight, not even a bic lighter! Luckily most of the Italians had their cellphones, and one by one patches of light appeared from the phones. Lightning provided periodic bursts of brighter light. Of course everyone was animated, and there wasn't much else to do but eat, drink and be merry...which we all did!


Eventually, maybe 15 or 20 minutes later, the lights did come back on, and a few brave souls left the tent. Most of us thought it was better to wait it out, but we knew the evening's entertainment would be cancelled. Erika conferred with her dad, and I told her she should just sing in the tent.


A little while later, after several spontaneous songs and increasing joviality, some of the men came around offering complimentary limoncello or grappa. As long as we were stranded there, we figured we might as well make the best of it. Gioberto saluted us with his usual "America America!" toast, and being stuck in the storm didn't seem nearly so bad!


Although the night didn't turn out as we had planned, and even though we never got to hear Erika play, it was still one of those evenings that will stay with us for a long time. Thankfully all our guests were just as philosophical as we were, and despite the stromy weather a good time was had by all. And we did need the rain!

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Friday, September 12, 2008

LA BUONA CUCINA AMERICANA - MADE IN AMERICA - POTATO SALAD



After a summer break, today marks the return of La Buona Cucina - American recipes prepared in Italy. Since summer has continued to linger, Mary's recipe for Potato Salad is perfect for those picnics and barbeques still to come.

If you've been following along, you'll know that Judith over at THINK ON IT first came up with the idea of sharing some really good, really American recipes, mostly to show our Italian friends that we can do more than make delicious sweets...

Judith also has a LIST OF ALL THE RECIPES HERE, just in case you'd like to see if one of our favorites might become one of yours! La vera Cucina Americana!

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Friday, September 05, 2008

THE THIRD PROBLEM - AND A SURPRISING SOLUTION

The third of our recent problems involved our washing machine. We'd specifically bought a brand we thought we could rely on, but it was one we'd never had in the states: a Bosch. After several months of making mysterious, ominous sounds during the spin cycle, the washer finally gave out a few weeks ago, on the weekend, of course.

Ever since the noises started I knew it would end badly, but with something as large as a washing machine, what can you do but wait til it conks out? And how can you possibly be prepared for when it does? Luckily for us our Canadian friends told us we were welcome to use their washer if we needed to, but my more immediate concern was getting the washer repaired...and how much that would cost.

Friends stopped by on Monday morning and we scoured both the yellow pages and the white pages searching for a Bosch technician in our area. Maybe they don't have that catch-phrase here like we do (or did?) in the states about letting your fingers do the walking. Our fingers and eyes were exhausted from trying to think of how or where we might find a phone number. Eventually we gave up and I turned to the computer. I looked on the site where we'd bought the machine, Mediaworld. Luckily they have a wonderful resource on the site: you can enter your region, then your province, then the manufacturer's name and you'll get the names and numbers of all the authorized technicians in your area. I copied down all the names, numbers and locations and we decided to call one of the offices in Perugia.

Our friend Giacomo did the talking for us, thinking that our basic Italian might not be good enough to describe the problems we were experiencing. At first the technico didn't want to come to San Venanzo since we're in the province of Terni, but eventually Giacomo was able to persuade him, reminding him that San Venanzo was much closer to Perugia than Terni. For the technico it wasn't too far out of his way....San Venanzo is actually closer to Perugia than quite a few cities south of Todi.

This was on a Monday morning, and the person in the office told us that someone would call us back in a day or two to set up an appointment. On Wednesday the office called to ask if we'd be home on Thursday after noon and of course we said yes.

On Thursday afternoon, just after two, the doorbell rang. It was our neighbor Franco, with the technico right behind him. I'm not sure if the technico had trouble finding the house, or if he just stopped at the bar first to ask directions. Whatever the case, Franco had escorted him right to our front door!

We explained what the problem was: the tub wasn't spinning at all. The technico opened the washer door and rotated the tub with his hand, and the sound of metal clanking around made us all wince. "This isn't normal" the technico told us in Italian. Ya think?!

I told him that we'd been hearing a noise for about 2 months, and also that I was very disappointed since we'd heard Bosch was so reliable. The technico agreed and told us what our options were. He said he'd have to replace an entire assembly, and that it would probably cost around €200. Ouch! He then went on to suggest that we call the main Bosch office in Italy to explain the problem. He said that often Bosch would offer to pay for part of the repairs, and that we'd have the added bonus of being able to speak with someone in English. Again, with technical problems, or if some heavy persuading is needed, I'd prefer to converse in English because I just get too tongue-tied and flustered in Italian!

I found the number of the Bosch office in Milan and called. The person who answered the phone told me no one there spoke English. Perhaps if I called back later?, I asked. No, she told me, no one here speaks English. Before I attempted to describe the problem in Italian I wanted to double-check with the technico to know what terms I needed to use, so I walked back to the kitchen. I explained that no one in the Milan office spoke English, and that really surprised our technico.

Then even more surprising, the technico offered to call for us. After being transferred around and around he eventually connected with someone who might be able to help him...but he'd have to wait until Monday to know for sure. We told the technician to go ahead and take the washer with him. Even if we had to pay the €200 it was still cheaper than a new one (we'd paid €549 for the washer in the fall of 2003). If Bosch decided to cover part of the cost that would be great, but in any event we needed it fixed ASAP! The technico told us to call the office on Monday to speak with his daughter, Silvia who spoke 'perfect English'. She'd be able to tell us what was going on with Bosch.

Of course when we called on Monday no one had heard from Bosch yet. Silvia had talked with the technico so at least she'd know what the problem was when or if someone from Bosch called back. Tuesday brought no news, but on Wednesday Art said something that triggered an alarm in my head. I can't even remember what it was, but I suddenly got the feeling that nothing was being done to the washer because they were waiting to hear from Bosch. "Tell them to fix it now!" I told Art. "Do the have the part in stock, or does it have to be ordered? Have they ordered it?" I know it's just the two of us, but still, laundry seems to accumulate rather quickly, especially since it's still quite warm!

And then today, Thursday, the strangest thing happened. The phone rang and as expected, it was Silvia. We were expecting her call and were hoping for good news from Bosch. What she told Art was really shocking: Bosch would sell us a brand new washer for €300! Did we want to do that? Uh, YES! Figuring that the technico's estimate of €200 might be a little low, I think we were both prepared to pay around €250 for the repairs, and neither of us had any real hope that Bosch would agree to pay anything, so we'd resigned ourselves. My main concern was how quickly they could get it back to us, not the cost. And now, a brand new washer for €300....SOLD!

Silvia told us it might take about a week, so I guess we'll have to take the Canadians up on their kind offer, but in the near future I'll have a brand new washer to figure out! (Whoever buys our house will also benefit, so I guess I'd better be sure to mention this to prospective buyers!) Although our Bosch didn't hold up as well as we would have liked, in the end Bosch came through and made things right...in today's world that's pretty surprising, at least to me.

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THEY COME IN 3'S, DON'T THEY?

When someone has a series of accidents people usually say that these things come in threes. I don't know where that saying originated, and I doubt there's any evidence to back it up. Still, when three seemingly random bad things happen, it's somehow comforting to think that our run of bad luck is over, at least for a while!

A few weeks back we started hearing a squeaking sound from the front end of the car. We didn't think it was a fan belt, and the sound continued as we drove. Then we stopped, but the squeak didn't....until Art turned off the headlights! Okay, yes, that was weird, but we checked it over and over, and the cause of the squeak was directly related to the headlights. Since headlights are pretty much stationary, we were really confused!

As you know if you've been reading the blog these past few weeks, August is vacation month for Italians, and many take the entire month off. It's really hard to know if your favorite shop or service will be closed for one week or one month. Luckily Art ran into our mechanic at the bar just a day or two after the noise started. The bad news was that yes, the shop was closed until the following Wednesday. The good news was that the mechanic knew exactly what the problem was and told Art how to fix it!

Maybe this is a common feature in newer cars, but our car has a switch on the dashboard that allows the headlights to be adjusted up or down with just the flip of a switch. The mechanic advised Art to set the switch to zero and was sure that would solve the problem. Unfortunately it didn't, so when the shop re-opened a few days ago Art took the car in. The mechanic said he'd simply cut the wires thus eliminating the problem, and for €20 the squeaking headlight was taken care of. Problem #1 solved, and solved pretty easily and cheaply.

Problem number two began one evening when I was sitting in the kitchen. I heard a loud 'clack!', and thought that Art had dropped something while taking a shower. Then I heard the noise again. And a few minutes later, again. The source of the noise was our water softener. One of the knobs that rotates around to cycle the water softener on and off was stuck. It was trying to click over to the next cycle, but somehow it was stuck.

I hit the reset button...no luck. I unplugged the water softener for a few minutes then plugged it back in, but after a few minutes the noise return. Guess it was time to call the technico. And of course it was the worst of all possible weeks in Italy: the week of Ferragosto. Ferragosto, August 15th, is THE day of summer vacation here in Italy, and this year it fell on a Friday, meaning that it worked out perfectly to combine Ferragosto with a weeklong holiday. Meaning that finding a repair person could be difficult, or that the wait to could be lengthy.

When we called the repair shop someone took our name and number and said they'd call back in a day or two to set an appointment. As we've discovered, this is the normal way of doing business. Maybe they don't have a calendar, or maybe the person in the office has to wait to confer with the technician, who would of course be out on the road, fixing stuff. When the phone rang the next day to ask if we'd be home the following morning we said YES!

Whatever the problem was the technico said he's have to take our water softener to the shop to be repaired. Unfortunately for him I'd just fill it up with salt right before the problem started. I offered to scoop the salt out but he said no, disconnected everything and just lifted the water softener up and carried it out to his truck. He said it would be ready in about a week.

When we called the next week to check on the progress, we were told that they'd taken the softener apart and put it back together, only to have it make the same noise as before. Now they'd have to start all over again, so it would be about another week. Aarrgghh! At this point I figured I'd better buy some Calgon (called Calfort here in Italy) to add to the washer. The reason we have the water softener is because we have VERY hard water here, and I didn't want the calcium and other minerals to build up on my washing machine OR my clothes.

We called early the next week to see when our water softener might return, and we were assured it would be back in a few days. the man in the office told Art it would could about €120, or maybe a little less. Needless to say, we were prepared with €120 cash on hand the day it was brought back, and were both a little surprised when the technico told us the bill was only €100! He said that the machine should be serviced every couple of years, just cleaned out, and that the problem was nothing serious....just lack of maintenance!

Well, €100 certainly wasn't a small amount, but amortized over the past few years it didn't seem outrageous, and we were just glad to have our soft water back! Every time I washed my hands I was reaching for the hand lotion to combat the dryness!

The next prblem would occur just a few days later, on a weekend...of course, but I'll write about that later, lest you think I'm just being whiny! These things are just a part of everyone's life, really, but somehow when they happen to you it always seems like it's at the worst possible time.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

RENEWING OUR PERMITS OF STAY - PART 2.75

Almost there! Yes, we're inching closer and closer to actually having our renewed permits of stay, or permessi di sogiorno, in our hands. Our scheduled appointment on Monday didn't go quite as planned, but all things considered it was just a tiny blip.

We drove the 45 minutes to Orvieto for our 9:45 appointment to turn in current photographs and be digitally fingerprinted. Although we'd been fingerprinted the old fashioned way when we first arrived, Italy is slowly coming into the digital age, so we needed to be digitally fingerprinted for our latest renewal.

We'd been warned to bring copies of all the documents we submitted with our renewal forms: bank statements, proof of home ownership, and our passports.
We also brought along the registered letter we'd received telling us the day and time of our appointment. No one had mentioned that we'd also need a copy of that letter to us, and apparently everyone else who was there for the same purpose didn't know either. We made a nice little parade back and forth between the questura and the copy store!

Unfortunately the digital finger printer decided to take the day off. Calls were made to Terni and yes, they were having the same problems. We took a short walk and returned to find that the system was still off-line. We waited until the office closed at 12:30 but it never did come back up. We asked if we should return the next day and of course the three Italians working at the questura looked shocked and doubtful. They raised their eyebrows and said "Who knows if it will be working tomorrow?"

The woman who'd been helping us gave us a card with their phone numbers and told us to call in the morning before we drove the winding road from
San Venanzo. She told us we could call as early as 8:30, so the next morning that's just what we did. A man answered the phone but he obviously didn't work in the office. He told me to call back at 9:30 but I explained what had happened yesterday and that we'd been told to call early. "Okay", he said, "try back in a little while."

About ten minutes later, just as we were getting ready to call again, the phone rang and it was the woman from the questura! She said everything was working today so we told her we'd see her soon and jumped in the car. Once we arrived in Orvieto there was someone at the window where the fingerprints are done, but after just a few minutes we were called in. The process was quick and simple...digital fingerprints of each finger of both hands, then one additional print of our right index finger and we were done! We were probably there a total of ten minutes!

The clerk told us to call in about 2 1/2 months to see if our permessi, now done like a credit card, rather than the full size piece of paper, are ready for pickup. After that we'll be good for another two years, by which time we'll probably have sold our house and be back in the states. And if not, the process will probably have changed so we'll have it figure it out all over again!

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