We saw the west side of our house for the first time Friday. Really. We bought the house two years ago, we’ve lived in it for eight months, and until now, we never saw the west side. We also never knew that our kitchen sink drains directly into the downspouts straight down into someone’s garden—the garden that now hosts Montecarlo’s biggest celebrations, such as the annual wine festival and the haunted house for Halloween.
These are things that sometimes happen when you have a house that was built in the 14th century.
|Our house, in the middle, viewed from the courtyard on the west side. That's our terrazza, with the laundry out, on the top floor. Note the downspout that goes down from the roof just below our terrazza and exits directly above the ground.|
The east side of our house fronts on via Roma, the city’s lively main street. We can walk outside and within a minute we can be sipping an espresso or ciocolatta calda, dining at Italy’s finest trattorias, restaurants or pizzerias, savoring gelato, sampling wine and stuzzichini (appetizers) or shopping for groceries, shoes or fine Italian clothing. It can be a little loud outside our windows during a festa, but it’s a happy noise.
The west side is a totally different world. From our terrazza, we look over a renaissance-era brick city wall and see the plain of Lucca—groves of grapes, olive trees, rolling hills, the jagged Apuane Alps, the mountains that separate Lucca from Pisa. We can see Lucca in the distance, and the beginning of the Garfagnana valley. Because of the city wall and our position on a hilltop, no one can see us because the nearest house with a view over the wall is a mile away.
Between us and the wall is a private garden, which, when we bought the house, actually was a junk yard. It is owned by a wealthy family that is slowly renovating a huge house that borders on the garden, possibly to make a hotel—we don’t really know. Juri, our downstairs neighbor, said the work has been going on for years. Two years ago, the garden contained piles of bricks, scrap metal and wood and trashed appliances—not a pretty sight, but then we could just raise our heads and look over it all if we wanted. And there were periodic signs of construction on the house and a gradual rearranging and removal of the junk.
We came back this fall to find every scrap of rubble removed and the entire area leveled. A dead tree in the middle had disappeared and gravel had taken the place of the patchy, scrubby weeds. It’s not exactly a garden yet, but it’s definitely a neat and tidy courtyard, It has large scenic photos on the walls of some of the area’s best vineyards, and we were told that it had been opened to help host Montecarlo’s 50th annual wine festival in September.
In the last few days, we’ve seen workers bringing in the metal framework for the house of horror for Montecharloween, and that’s how we finally got a view of the west side of our house. We walked by and saw that the entryway open for the workers, and we went inside with them. We were pleased to see that our house stood out among the half dozen others adjoining the garden, because we had collaborated with Juri’s family to paint both the east and west sides a cheery bright yellow. We enjoy the fresh look of the east side each time we approach from the street, and it was nice to get a few minutes of pleasure and pride by looking at the west side.
The enjoyment was tempered, however, by the discovery the previous day that our sink—including our dishwasher—was draining directly into the garden. Juri had come up to ask us not to use the little sink outside on our terrazza to wash dishes, because it drained into the garden right outside the ground floor of our shared house. We were confused, because we never use that sink. We knew it drained directly into the gutters. Why would he be telling us not to use something we already didn’t use? And then it dawned on me. What if the kitchen sink did the same thing? It only took a moment for all of us to discover, with horror, that it did.
‟How long has it been doing that?” Lucy asked. ‟Always,” Juri said. ‟We just didn’t know it, because the garden has been overgrown for years. Now I put a sidewalk outside the house, and the garden has been all cleaned up.”
|This view from the ground of the courtyard shows the large house in the middle that belongs to the family which owns the courtyard. It may not look like it from the outside, but gradually it is being refurbished.|
Fortunately, the soil is fairly absorbent, and the water drains straight across Juri’s sidewalk before forming a small puddle that dissipates fairly quickly—but I see a few grains of rice in the puddle, residue from our dishes. Now I’m thankful that we weren’t here for the wine festival and that we’ll be gone before Halloween. Imagine what a brutta figura this would have made if our kitchen scraps had coming pouring out among a crowd of celebrating tourists and city officials.
Juri will have his idraulico—plumber—see what needs to be done to join the kitchen drain with the bathroom drain (which, we are certain, properly flows into the sanitary sewer system), and it will be fixed by time we come back in the winter. The next time we’re in Montecarlo and the garden is opened for a festa, we’ll be able to enjoy the event and the view of our house proudly.