After much anticipation, Jeremy and I received notice that the final steps of adding the wood stove and hooking up the water/propane in our kitchen were done and our house was habitable. Habitable, but not done.
It has been a while since we have blogged about our house, but we are now back in Italy and the website has been updated. Therefore, I am apologizing ahead of time for my verbosity. We have a lot to catch up on. When last we were here in Italy, we were struggling with the unpleasant realization that the house our purchase agreement claimed was 80% renovated needed a lot more than 20% worth of help. One of the biggest problems was the floor of the 2nd floor/ceiling of the first floor. The wood flooring had warped considerably and the wood beams supporting the underside were not lining up with it. This caused the upstairs floor to bow to a frightening extent when tread upon. The other problem was that the house was molding everywhere due to an increase in rain in recent years and the lack of someone living there to heat and improve air flow in the house. Oh and the roof that had been replaced recently by the previous owners was leaking everywhere. We had come to Italy that year with the delusion that we would have a few more major things fixed and the house cleaned. Then in a month we would move in and remodel the house slowly over time. Our enlightenment on the true nature of things was heart breaking and we spent the first month in Italy slowly accepting the fact that it would be a long time before we moved into our home.
Our house is too remote to have access to city water. When we bought it, we learned vaguely that there was a spring nearby but didn't get nearly as much detail as we should have. Worst case, we figured we could always drill a well if necessary, while hoping that the existing system would work well enough. Unfortunately, once work started on the house and water became a requirement we learned that the existing system wasn't quite as reliable as we needed. With regular usage, water quickly stopped flowing.
Once we were settled in a B and B in the village of Sillico near our property we decided to tackle the problem of mail. When we were still in the states we had noticed that there wasn't an address listed in our house paperwork. We realized that the property does not have a mailbox and we forgot to ask the previous owners how they got their mail. We headed to the closest city with a post office, Pieve Fosciana. There we attempted to find out if we could be added to the mail route if we bought a mailbox or if we had to get a post office box.
Our house sits between the famous Apuan Alps (as a source for marble) and the rest of the Apennines. In spite of being in one of the wettest regions in Italy, we've been fortunate to have amazing weather while here. We've seen plenty of clear skies and sunshine, and on one such day we set out from our house to explore our valley.
There are days when everything seems to go wrong. The hard hotel bed keeps you up all night. You get a flat tire trying to avoid the crazy Italian driver zipping up the windy Mountain road. The internet is so slow you can't get anything done and no one understands what you are trying to say. On these days I wonder if Jeremy and I are crazy for attempting this. And then I look out my window and I wonder if everyone else is crazy for not attempting this. It is for certain that this process is taking a lot of patience and stamina. Jeremy has of late described me as a veritable rollercoaster.
The idea of buying an old rustic home or ruin in Tuscany is not a unique one. It's practically a cliche, just one of the many "dreams" talked about by your average American further spread by movies and books like Under The Tuscan Sun. I swear I am almost sick of people telling me that we are living the dream. Jeremy and I have spent most of the life we have shared together living one "dream" or another. We are the quintessential romantics and our life is romantic, but it hasn't transcended into a different plane of existence and living the dream is not always what it is cracked up to be. When you hop as many fences as we do, you get a very clear understanding of the concept "the grass is always greener on the other side".
Jamie and I spent two years trying to buy a house in Italy. Our first attempt fell through after the bank spent over a year processing paperwork during a failing economy. This lead us to renew our search, finally falling in love with a couple of stone buildings on 8.5 acres in a remote section of Tuscany. Less than ten minutes from Pieve Fosciana, the nearest town, our property had been abandoned for three years. A smaller stone house is reasonably livable, while a larger stone farmhouse will need a tremendous amount of time, money and effort to restore. The land is quite steep, and includes nearly eight acres of terraced hillside on which we hope to grow grapes and olives.