Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Beginning and the End

The trip to Italy was a real chore for Harry.  This was his first time over, his first time stuffed into a carrier since his puppy-hood, his first time tranquilized, his first time stuffed under a seat and having to hold his bladder for 8+ hours till he could find a spot in an exercise yard in Paris.
Thankfully, he will not likely have to do it again as I have good neighbors here in Italy to take care of him.  I have always given him commands in Italian and French, so he does not look at people uncomprehendingly when they give him simple commands.  He looks at them uncomprehendingly because he is offended that they want him to take a command from them.
We arrived in Rome, the first time ever that I did not plan a few days of food, walking in the ruins or watching the fountains.  Instead, I jumped right on the train from the airport to Termini Station, and immediately...with moments to spare, for the wilds of northern Lazio where my house is.
I do not think that people understand the topography of Italy.  I know that I always had this vision of a vast plain dotted with ruins.


It is, however, a very mountainous place.  The plains run along the coast, but they quickly rise to rather high hills and precipitous mountains all along the length of the peninsula.  In the north, the Po river valley makes a rather large plain, from east to west, where a lot of rice is grown.  Above the Po river valley, the mountains rise again, to dizzying heights in several small mountain ranges that are basically the southerly reaches of the Alps.
We rode for about an hour and a half to the north-north east to get to the Rieti stop(It was a local train so it was stoping at every town), and from there, had a rather long cab ride to my little hamlet.
John and I bought this house about ten years ago, and owing to its state as a near ruin, I have had people doing some of the work that I just cannot do anymore, or the work I know nothing about.  Stone construction is not something I understand along with the common tile work for the roof. 
I have never been able to afford all the heavy construction that would come along with a complete renovation.  Instead, I have had local people with time on their hands between other jobs doing things like re-cementing the tiles on the roof, putting in new window frames and new windows as I could afford them.
The two doors are chestnut and are probably two hundred years old, so I have been trying to have them repaired instead of replaced.
As a result, I do not have a tourist haven in the mountains, but I do have an enclosed space ready to occupy, even if the certificate of occupancy is not ready for it.
The house is on a hillside and attached to others on one side. This means that I may be able to cut a couple of new windows on the East side someday.
Walking up from the town, you first come to a tiny lane on the left running off the paved road. 
As you walk down the lane, you basically cross my land to access the other properties.
 Perhaps this is a fault, but since everyone actually accesses their house from above, this is a minor inconvenience.
On the left is my garden, there is an ancient stone and brick bread oven going back hundreds of years.
The rest is just grass and shrubs that will wait till warm, but not hot weather.
On the right is my house.  It is built of stone and rubble, again perhaps hundreds of years old.  There is a small window to the right and a broad chestnut door, split in the middle with a bronze knob.
Inside is a singe large room, perhaps 6 meters by 8 meters.  In the future, there will be a staircase going to the upper level, but at present, it is completely independent. 
A large stone corbelled frame surrounds a large fireplace with a raised hearth projecting into the room.
On top of the corbels is a huge chestnut beam acting as a mantle.
There are no other windows on this level, and it would be here that the occupants would have retreated in the winter, as three sides are buried or nearly buried into the hill.
There is a small cave cut into the side wall on the east for storage, like a root cellar.
You have to go to the end of the house outside at present and climb a stone staircase to access the upper story.  This level has two windows on the south side and one window and another chestnut door on the north.  These windows on the south look out at the garden to be.
At present, as the chimney still needs work, I am living on the lower level with a gas heater and a small gas bottle.  It is very comfortable, and also heats the upper level to sweater temperatures where the light is better and there are a few sticks of furniture just for sitting and reading.  Electricity is minimal, but there is enough for a single bulb and an outlet on each floor. 
There is a corner devoted to toilet and a sink on each floor, but they are not separated from the rest of the room, and every flush is an adventure.
I have to walk down to the village for food every day, but this is not uncommon in Italy.  There is no place to really have a refrigerator that does not serve double duty.

As you may know, I sold my house recently, and with two mortgages, a couple of small loans that I had to repay from when John was sick, a new roof, a new septic system for $35,000 and mold removal before selling, I had to pay out to close on the house.
That means that money is very tight, but everything except energy is very cheap here in Italy.  I plan a vegetable garden and a few chickens for eggs and meat, and perhaps a goat.  Well we will see what happens as we go along.
One problem here is that I have no way to upload photos, and except for my old real-estate photos and stuff already on the computer, it will take some time before updated photos appear, but I will do what I can as soon as I can.  I do not have the money to buy new equipment right now, and perhaps never.  Hold your breath and I will continue to post as often as possible when I walk down to the Internet cafe in the village.