What I am doing is nothing extraordinary. It’s been done before by many. You may not have any friends that have done this, but trust me, the countryside is filled with people like me.
So what have I done? I just bought a small home ( not a castle, not an estate) in Italy-- In the town of Asproli, in the region of Umbria. I don’t think anyone I know has heard of Asproli. Its not like Cortona in Tuscany where Under the Tuscan Sun was born, and with it, a surge in foreigners, mainly American and British buying out Tuscany to the point that it became too popular and expensive.
This is why I have “settled” (for lack of better term) for Umbria…Not as much English spoken here and real estate prices are reasonable and I love this part of the country.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank all of Europe, especially Greece, for making this transaction possible. A weak Euro made all the difference to fulfilling what has been a dream for so many years.
The keys were handed over to me in a leather pouch. Much like giving birth and the nurse placing the newborn on your chest and the first thing that comes to mind is ok, what am I supposed to do with this… this most miraculous thing. That is sort of how I felt when I received the keys.
Why was I not jumping up and down with joy over finally seeing a dream come true?
Be careful of what you wish for?
But I’m cool with that.
I did not rush over to the house with keys burning a hole in my hand. It took me a few hours but when I arrived at dusk, it was one of those moments of OMG—Is this mine???
This trip was made all the more possible by my GPS. There is no way I would have found my way around without it. It’s what made it possible for a highly functioning, directionally challenged person like myself to not only navigate thru Fiumicino Airport, but to ultimately arrive at my B&B destination which is no more than a speck on a map.
Go furniture shopping in Perugia, no problema. I have a male companion every time I get into my car. He is teaching me the difference between meters and feet. He does not correct me. He is most certainly not a back seat driver. He announces in a very timely fashion when to turn, though he does not say the names of the roads. He speaks loudest when he really wants you to turn…NOW. He is my friend now and keeps me company and gently reminds me to turn around when I have regrettably not listened to him...yes… that is possible even with a GPS. Did I mention that I am directionally challenged!? Even with the aid of GPS? I think he deserves a name.
I am here alone taking possession of the house and getting it up and running-- and getting along with myself so very well. I like me. I like my company. I am so easy to get along with. Free to be me and totally selfish and I am loving it.
I listen to the radio while in the car, I listen to people talking amongst themselves. Maybe I will magically pick up Italian just by it going thru my ears. Maybe not.
I have driven alternative routes to get where I need to go and some of those routes produced the most amazing sights--some were magical – magnificent homes with Cypress trees lining the extensive driveway coming out of nowhere! I could not stop the car to take a picture for fear of being run over…
But it is an image that is burned into my brain.
I am now besties with Fabiola, my B&B hostess—we have a mutual goal-- learning each other’s language! And she’s a really nice person--my first friend in Italy. She says she will take me shopping. Can’t wait.
One month later!
This time, Dan (husband) is with me and we are here to furnish this newly acquired house. I had ordered furniture prior to leaving last month. We and the furniture arrived on the same day. So, I made of few logistical mistakes, not realizing that the wardrobes I purchased (there are no closets in the rooms) might be too tall, only one room has that problem but was solved easily...Furniture was the easy part, everything else to furnish a home meant a very looooooong visit to IKEA (outside Rome and an hour and a half drive). Almost 5 hours spent inside IKEA and I was a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown towards the 4th hour. What flummoxed me the most was trying to make important decision like do I buy 8 or 12 of things, round or square plates, stoneware or porcelain....seriously, these are not easy decisions...let's not even talk about the shape of the wine glasses!
I realized that I have never had to do this--household items were always acquired along the way..never all at once!!
What did me in were the bed linens! First, these linens are sold according to the size of the bed. No names really other than the traditional "martrimonial" (slightly smaller than a queen) and single. You are then left to your own devices to distinguish between the various widths, which helpfully or not, are also given in inches! But I did not find that helpful as I decided to talk in metric only. I was tasked with finding sheets for 2 matrimonial beds and one (wait for it) bed and a half. Yes, this bed closely resembles a double bed minus 6 inches, which makes it look like a very wide single bed. I consistently grabbed the wrong sheets and it was late in the stage when I realized that there are several widths for a non-matrimonial bed. so everything that I took off the shelves (2 of each) had to be returned. It was at this point that I started to have a melt down. Thank God Dan recognized this fraught stage I entered and was more understanding and helpful than I have ever witnessed. He exhibited an enormous well of patience. I was hungry, hot, frustrated and overwhelmed by products, not to mention tired...
WE got out of there, thankfully-- stuffed the car and drove back to the house.
it is now officially home. It is us.
What have I learned about myself this trip? That I really do hate sourcing things like furniture, rugs, wall art, lamps,furniture, utensils, pots and pans, etc... I could go on and on. I much prefer construction, planning spaces and building walls, seeing a building grow from the ground up.
Don't think it ended with IKEA. Oh no. We have driven miles to furnish this home in one week..to all different types of home stores and have met with great success and it is truly amazing that things are starting to come together rather successfully. Thank God.
We all have to go through it, and being in Italy it takes on new meaning for me. For instance, how do I fill up my car with gas or as I learned all too quickly, Benzine? Dispensing benzine is not quite up to First world standards, so it appears. Strange, to say the least and at this particular station, it did not take credit cards. It requires you to deposit money into this box. Whatever denomination you put in to this machine, gas will be dispensed from the nozzle to that amount. You make sure you are not dispensing diesel into your lead free tank – that’s a whole other topic.
Thanks to a lovely looking middle aged Italian gentleman who mentioned in broken English that he just returned from Australia -- showed me which nozzle to use for non leaded gas. But perhaps due to his own jet lag, he did not point out that archaic machine that takes your money leaving me to seek further help from a middle aged woman who looked like she wanted to ignore me. But I prevailed and using sign language and props, she explained that I had to insert money into this machine. I pulled out a 50 euro note and she gasped—too much!—so I pulled out a 20 and she was now happy. She fed the machine its’ money which finally zeroed the dispenser-- and so she filled the car for me. At least I had accomplished filling up—actually 20 Euro bought only half a tank of gas . I thanked her profusely and wondered why the gorgeous Italian man left out that part. I’m sure it was the jet lag.
I am constantly at odds with trying to resist temptation, exhibiting good self -control and being a good guest. Case in point-- My new best friend and hostess at my B&B comes out with a delicious fruit tart straight out of the oven …for my breakfast. Do I say no thank you thus showing great self-control, yet risking serious offense!? Not on your life. I am on a one- woman mission to preserve and promote Italian American relations. So what-- I return from this trip a few pounds heavier. Look what I am contributing to world peace.
I have also discovered that when it comes to food—more specifically feeding food to guests and family, Italians resemble a big Jewish family always worrying if there is enough on your plate. They politely ask if you want more. You politely say no thank you and before you can count to 1, there it is, on your plate, that extra portion you declined less than a second ago. Again, you take one for the team and dutifully and quite happily eat it because it tastes so damn good.
I love this.
Living a dream. I recommend it.
I find that I best communicate with kids. They don’t intimidate me and I find myself answering their questions in Italian! One word at a time. So I have been" speaking" Italian to a 3 year old named Stefana, who has a lot to say for a 3-year old! I don't understand it but she feels comfortable enough to confide in me. And the one thing you gotta love about 3-year olds-- they don't judge you! Stefana is my new friend.
If you thought Verizon was a pain...listen up!
During my 8 days in Italy, I have not let anything aggravate me. It's amazing when you decide not to get aggravated, you really don't. Plus I am in this "honeymoon period" -- too euphoric to sweat the small stuff. My mantra in life, as my daughter well knows, is to go in with little expectations so there is no room for disappointment. But I have to hand it to the Italian cell company TIM. They win the prize for almost pissing me off. I bought a plan and sim card that gave me an italian number and 1 gb data. The fact that it took close to 5 hours for the number to become active was one thing...but who cares..it's not like there were hundreds of people waiting to get in contact with me. The fact that the data never materialized and that I paid 29 euro for this-- well, that pissed off Dan in the US. I get it.
I returned the the same TIM shop that sold me the plan, but this time without the help of my Stefano (real estate agent who speaks great English and who has been my minder). No amount of mime helped me overcome the language barrier with the saleswoman. In fact I went in a third time...I don't know why..it's not like she could suddenly start speaking English and I knew that my limited Italian wasn't gonna work this time either. She really looked horrified when she saw me enter. I think she would have run away if that were possible but she was the only one in the store. She shrugged after playing with my phone. I shrugged and left...smiling at the absurdity of the situation. However, TIM really likes to send text messages-- so many-- unimportant ones I discovered...but no clue as to why my data would not work.I did manage to create an online account... in English..so I stupidly thought, this is good..I am on to solving my problem. I gave Dan in the US my account and password number so he could top up my sim card because I inadvertently failed to mention to the saleswoman thru Stefano that most of my calls would be to the US-- I guess I used up all my credit in one call to the states. Oops. Dan says he topped up my card. TIM says he didn't.
So, today, on my last day in Italy, I decided that it would be a good idea if i added money to my card so at the very least I could make outgoing calls on the number in case of any problem when I was driving back to Rome. A phone that can't make outgoing calls is quite useless... anywhere! I first call the TIM number one uses to take care of such business. In English, they tell me that I can't add money to my card because I have not done it twice before. I swear that's what they said in pretty odd English. OK. I go on the website (in English) and navigate my way through some more weird English and get to the point where I input my credit card details...Almost there...
Instead, the website informs me that there is something wrong with their server and I should check back in a few hours. I laughed, folks.
AS I write, I just got another damn text from them...why do they keep sending me texts? I didn't even buy a text plan!!!
I will sort this out next visit.