Monday, November 2, 2015

First day of Italian home ownership confirms our choice of house, location

Saturday, November 31
It’s moving day, and one might think that we’d want to get up early and get working right away, but it was not so. Our apartment at the Casolare is clean, tidy and toasty warm, and it has one of the best showers we’ve every encountered. Moving means disorder, stress and back strain. We knew we would have no Internet access in our new home, until we could figure out how to get wi-fi installed (and we’re not sure we want to do this yet, since we are only here for less than two weeks until we come back for a longer stay in February), but we had a good connection at the Casolare.

One of our wooden wardrobes and beds.
Dresser with knickknacks.
Also, we had turned on the heat in our new home last night and nothing happened, so we feared it was going to be cold until we could ask our real estate agent for help. Maybe it just takes a few hours for the hot water to get to the radiators, and the house will be warm when we get there, we speculated. Anyway, we took our time to get the most of our last few hours of relaxation before checking out at noon. We said good-bye to Luca and Roberta, though it was not a permanent good-bye, since we will bump into them occasionally at the supermarket. We already know that we have friends coming in the spring who will be staying at the Casolare, so we will surely be dropping in for some visits.

Hutch with dishes and glasses.
As we drove down via Roma to our house, we found no parking spaces available, but I was able to quickly unload our suitcases before any other cars came along. Then I moved the car outside the city walls, where there is usually parking available. Luckily, our home is only a hundred meters from the Porta Nuova (well, it was “new” in the 16th century), the archway leading out of via Roma, so even if there is no parking on via Roma, we won't have far to walk if we have to park outside the walls.

It took a dozen trips up and down the stairs to finish moving all of our possessions from the storeroom to our apartment. As we slowly unpacked, we kept getting pleasant surprises, kind of like being on an Easter egg hunt.
Light fixture in the living room.
We had known that the furniture included a couch, two beautiful wood and iron framed beds, hand-crafted wooden dressers and wardrobes and numerous other old-fashioned wooden nightstands, bookshelves, cabinets and hutches, but we hadn’t fully noticed the dozen area rugs and the 14 hardback wooden chairs that were spread throughout the rooms. And then, we would open a drawer or look on a shelf and find some other useful item that the previous owners had left: a little nightlight, several clocks, abundant cleaning supplies, a blender, a toaster, two Moka coffee makers, dishes, cups, glasses and many, many knickknacks that helped make the place look homey. There was also silverware, sheets, tableclothes and couch pillows. I’m sure we still haven’t found all the little treats.
Wooden bedstead, night stand with lamp and knickknacks.

Wooden wardrobe.
Outside was sunny and warm, probably 70 degrees or more, so we opened all the windows to let in the fresh air. As we feared, the heat didn’t work, but we weren’t worried because of the warm outside air and the fact that the sellers had just installed a new pump and had promised that it worked. The new-looking thermostat had an on-off switch on the bottom, and it was definitely on, but there must have been a main switch somewhere that we couldn’t find.

After a couple of hours, hungry and tired from the exertion, we drove to Altopascio for a late lunch and found a cozy and reasonably priced trattoria. We had to wait 15 minutes for a table, but we regarded this as a good sign; the local people know where to find the best restaurants, and we concurred with their choice. The red sauce on the gnocchi that I ordered burst with flavor, and Lucy, who is a gourmand when it comes to spaghetti alla carbonara, gave her meal a hearty thumbs up.

Rather than go back to work – after all, we would be here for two weeks – we decided to check out the prices for two appliances we badly needed, a clothes washer and an oven, and a third that we could definitely appreciate, a dishwasher. We looked at Mercatone Uno and Trony, two franchise stores with branches all over the country. Both were having sales, but Mercatone’s sale only involved store credit that must be used from Nov. 16-30, which wouldn’t do us any good. Trony was offering a one-day sale of 20 percent off on the three items we wanted. They also offered a reasonable price for installation, so we hurried home to take some measurements of our kitchen and then returned to complete our purchases minutes before the store closed.

This will put us way ahead of schedule as far as home improvements go. The other items on our agenda are much smaller: put up a mailbox, fix our doorbell, find out why the hallway to the bathroom smells bad and, of course, unpack our old belongings. I may also have time to test ride a 36-volt electric motor bicycle to see if it is powerful enough to boost me up the Montecarlo hill without having to take a shower immediately afterward.

We were having too much fun looking
and forgot to take pictures.
That evening – or maybe I should say night, since Italian events usually don’t start until at least 9 p.m. – Montecarlo celebrated Halloween with a huge festa called Montecharloween. Via Roma was closed down for auto traffic at 3 p.m., and food and arts and crafts booths started going up. All we had to do to be in the midst of the festivities was walk out our door. Right outside our house were a group of masked adults organizing games for children, and the laughing and shouting went on until nearly 1 a.m. We took several strolls down the crowded main street at various times during the event to view the booths and games and just people watch. A young woman performed dances with various flaming batons, ropes and even a hula hoop, and a nearby booth had a display and performance of live owls and a large raven. The line for the haunted tunnel was a little too long, so we passed that up.

The main difference between Italian and American Halloweens is that here the event is much more social and less oriented towards candy, costumes and games. Fewer than 20 percent of the people wore costumes, none of the kids were carrying bags of candy, no prizes were given out after the games and socializing among all the participants seemed to be a main activity. It actually seemed not much different than the normal evening stroll that Italians habitually take. However, the costumes, games and larger than normal volume of people made it seem like a passeggiata on steroids. Although Halloween has only become popular here in recent years and is most an idea imported from America, it still has a unique Italian flavor. And that is what we have come here to experience, so it took only one day for our choice of home locations to be resoundingly confirmed.
Sunset from our terazza on our first night.


  1. I'm so happy for you! What great confirmation - what a beautiful view, fun location, and beautiful furnishings! Saving up to visit!

  2. What a beautiful sunset! Incredible! But what's going on with the heating?

  3. We went the first night and second day without it. Luckily, we got help the second afternoon and got it working, because it was pretty cold that night. More on that later.


Comments welcome.