Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A roof with a view . . .

Lucy and I watched the sunrise this morning for the first time ever FROM THE ATTIC in our Montecarlo home. Yes, our leaky roof has been repaired and two skylights were installed on the east side, so now we can get a view of the hills above Montecatini Alto, Pescia and Buggiano for the first time from our house. We bought three stools from a second-hand store, the Mercato Usato near Pescia, and now we can open the skylights, sit on the stools and watch the glow of the rising sun in the morning or the city lights blinking on in the evening.
Sunrise seen from Montecarlo.

The attic is also much brighter and more inviting, especially since it’s no longer cluttered with some 30 buckets and pans formerly needed to catch intruding drops of rain. We’re also pleased with other work that we authorized our neighbor, Juri, to contract on our behalf. We have two new persiani doors on our terrazza, each overhung by a little awning. These were needed to keep the water out as well, because during a hard rain combined with a driving windstorm, the rain would beat against the side of the house and enter under the doors of the kitchen and bedroom. We’re on top of a hill with a western exposure, and that’s the side where the storms roll in.

Lucy enjoying the view from one of our new skylights.
We also had improvements added downstairs, in our large closet just inside the entry door. Juri disposed of some musty old cabinets for us, and we had the walls cleaned and painted and tiles installed on the floor. In addition, we shared costs with Juri and Silvia to repair and paint the crumbling walls of the entry hallways and replace the old floor tiles.

We are thankful to have a savvy neighbor who oversaw all these projects, and Juri is probably thankful to have someone to share the costs of improving the house. Our apartment had been empty for several years, and before that, it was occupied by Silvia’s grandmother, who probably didn’t have the resources or interest for such things as painting the outside or improving the hallways.

I do have some trouble fully enjoying our view from the skylights, however. That’s because there were supposed to be four of them instead of three, they weren’t all installed in the correct locations, and they are not the sizes and models that we wanted. We don’t understand fully how this happened, and we haven’t asked Juri to explain it yet. We are waiting for a chance to speak with him with an interpreter present, because we don’t want there to be further misunderstandings, and we don’t want him to think we are ungrateful for all his supervisory work.

But the fact is, I gave Juri a detailed drawing before I left last spring, showing the location and size of each of the four skylights. It also included model numbers. We had agreed that we would pay for the three east-facing skylights and share the cost for the western one, since one was needed by code to access the roof. Apparently, Juri thought these were just suggestions and didn’t share the drawing with the contractor.

That large beam at the top is the center of the attic.
Just below that is where two skylights should have
been. Instead, there is one, installed much lower.
The two skylights on the east side were installed much lower on the roof than we requested. We had hoped to have them near the peak, so that we could lift them open and gain more standing room. As it is now, we can only stand up straight right next to the center beam. It’s true that we can stand up inside the new skylights, but we have to hunker down and practically double over to reach them. Also, if they were in higher locations on the roof, we could stand on platforms and get an even better view over the tops of the houses on the west side.

The skylight facing west is right next to the center beam--just what we
wanted for the ones facing east. Oh, well. Life goes on. And it's a good life.
We could just contact the builder and say we’ll pay to put in two more skylights in the right places—but we’re on a limited budget, and making all these improvements has already stretched our capabilities. We had previously decided that the next project would be to install a decent staircase to the attic. Now we have a creaky set of metal stairs that we pull down from the attic using a long hooked rod. When the stairs are down, it blocks the hallway to the bathroom, so we can’t keep them down. They also come up under a low roof timber, so one has to go on all fours for a couple of feet after reaching the attic.
Our retractable staircase, which blocks
the hallway.

We’ve decided to stick with the plan and live with the existing skylights. If we get a good stairway installed next year, it will be easier to add another skylight or two and also make other improvements in the attic. All of this is complicated by the fact that I really want to sell our road maintenance business and retire fully. Living only on Social Security and my pension from teaching will limit our income. Is being able to stand up in the attic and having a better view really worth another summer of hard labor?
Sunset on the same day, taken from our terrazza. These are the hills between Lucca and Pisa.

We’ll have until next summer to ponder. For now, we’re going to enjoy this month in Montecarlo and be thankful for what we have. We know that our lives have been blessed. My ancestors who grew up scratching the soil here to eke out a living would probably be ashamed of me if I grew preoccupied over something so trivial. But I hope my grandparents would also be pleased and proud to know that because of the sacrifices they made 100 years ago, one of their own is able to enjoy and appreciate the stunning beauty of Tuscany and this amazing house.


  1. I'm sorry that your plans weren't followed. It's like getting exactly the expensive jacket you wanted for Christmas, but it doesn't fit and can't be returned. Delight followed by disappointment. I'm glad that it's at least better than it was and no more leaks.

  2. Maybe when you talk to Juri with an interpreter it will turn out there was some structural reason for placing them lower? Or maybe the contractors were just short.....


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