Thursday, November 5, 2015

Troubles in paradise, but hopefully our problems will soon be forgotten

Wednesday, November 4
First with the vacuum and then with lots of ammonia,
I attack the smell in the closet above the bathroom door.
Even paradise has its problems. At least, our Tuscan paradise does. First it was the riscaldimento (heating and hot water). Then there is the issue of the odors in the bathroom and the hallway that leads to it. We were aware of a mild stink before we bought the house, but it was stronger when we came back this fall, and it has not gone away with a few days of fresh air from open windows. Add to this some electrical and plumbing issues that have surfaced in the last two days. And this week, we spent close to $2,000 to buy a washing machine, range with an electric oven and gas burners, dishwasher and clothes dryer. Will we really be saving money by not paying rent anymore?

The problems with the riscaldamento solved themselves pretty easily. Before I even had time to call Rachele, our real estate agent, she saw us passing by on via Roma during the Halloween festivities. She and her husband were enjoying the festa, and so was Pierluigi – one of the sellers – and also Juri, our downstairs neighbor. They are all part of the same family, actually. Juri’s wife is a grandchild of the deceased nonna whose home we now occupy. So is Rachele’s husband.

When we mentioned that we had no riscaldamento, Pierluigi and Juri came up right away. It seems there is a second on/off switch that we had not been told about, and they turned that on and said we should have hot water soon. We all went back to the festa, but when we returned home, we still had no riscaldimento. Luckily, our first night was fairly mild.

The next day, however, a cold wind blew all day, and we were getting chilled during daylight hours. Night would be difficult. However a phone call to Rachele and then Pierluigi resulted in the latter coming to our house and fixing the problem – by turning on the gas valve outside the house. We also had to climb inside the attic and push the restart button on the pump, which had gone into safety mode when we tried to use the riscaldimento without having the gas on (at least I think that’s what he said). Heat is a beautiful thing!

The electrical problem is minor and can easily be solved by paying Juri, who is an electrician, for some modifications. A few old outlets need to be changed, and we need an outlet with more wattage for the bathroom, where we are putting the washer. He will run this down the wall from the attic, hopefully in the next few days.

We bought the appliances from our local Trony, and we paid extra for delivery and installation. However, because of a slight misunderstanding, the two young men who brought the appliances were not able to complete the installation. I was certain that Trony salesman said the appliances would be installed by an “idraulico,” a kind of combination plumber and gas line mechanic. I knew that our plumbing in both the kitchen and bathroom would need some modifications that wouldn’t be covered by a normal installation fee, but I had hoped that I would be able to pay the idraulico extra for the additional connections. Nope, these guys were not qualified for that, they said. They were able to install the dishwasher with the drain just going into the top of the sink for now. They attached the range to the electricity, so we have an oven but no stove, because the gas line also needs some additional copper tubing and a valve. The washing machine needs water lines both in and out to be attached to our bathroom sink.

The dryer is ready, but poor Lucy can't wash
any clothes yet.
So the only things that we can actually use are the dishwasher and oven. Oh, and the clothes dryer, which we bought from Mercatone Uno. It only cost 12 euros and I installed it myself – what a deal! Of course, it is an Italian clothes dryer, which is really just a foldable metal rack.

So tomorrow I will call an idraulico recommended by Luca. Hopefully he can come while we are still here.

The odious odor is probably going to be the most difficult and expensive problem. There is a storage space in the hallway above the bathroom door that stank badly, and I removed some old linoleum that had been used as shelf paper, and that helped a bit. Tomorrow I will take some bleach or ammonia and scrub the plaster shelf, and that should help even more.

But now that the hallway odor has improved, I am better able to smell the foulness of the bathroom ceiling, and that is not so easily resolved. By looking in the attic and then outside the house, I have come to realize that there may be no way for air to get in the open space above part of the bathroom ceiling. A few years back, we were told, the roof had some leaks when a satellite antenna was installed for Juri’s family. We can see some staining on the ceiling in several of the rooms. The roof has been repaired, and the attic is vented, so everywhere else has dried out – except for the space over the bathroom that appears to be unvented.

Realizing that this could be a major problem, I sulked for an hour and then asked Angelika to set up an appointment with our geometra, Fulvio, at a time when they can both come. I don’t want to have any problems understanding what Fulvio recommends. We will meet Friday at 6 p.m.

Since then, I have been trying to figure out how to avoid taking out the entire bathroom ceiling. From the outside, I see a place where we could install a fan in the crawl space, and once it is aired out, maybe a sealer can be put on the ceiling to keep the smell from the moldy plaster from descending upon our noses. Perhaps the problem won’t be as bad as I feared.

In any event, all of these issues are costing some extra dollars, but Lucy and I still marvel at how much we have, about how liveable this house is compared to nearly every other affordable house we looked at here. If we had bought a more modern house (which would have been either more expensive or smaller), it would still have been completely unfurnished. Sometimes Italians even remove all the cabinets and light fixtures before selling. And it’s unlikely that any place would ever match our location, with the main street of Montecarlo on one side and a quiet private terazza with a spectacular view on the other. Furthermore, even if it proves that owning a house costs more than it would to continue renting at the Casolare, we didn’t buy with the purpose of saving money. Our hope is that by becoming true Montecarlesi, it will eventually become possible for us to become part of the community here.

No, we are facing some bumps in the road, but still there is nothing close to remorse for our choice. And once these issues are settled, they will become vague memories in the coming years. “Remember how we had no heat our first day here, and our bathroom used to stink?” “Oh, I had forgotten about those things.”

1 comment:

  1. There are 9 Airbnb locations in Montecarlo with an average nightly rent of $111. I wonder if you could recoup some of your investment that way (and meet a few travelers from around the world).


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