This past week, after yet another week of intensive Italian classes, I raced home, grabbed an overnight bag, and began the three-hour drive to my home in Umbria. The sole purpose of this short trip was to see the progress being made on my Italian stone wall adjacent to the house, which collapsed after heavy rains just three weeks ago. If you want to follow the journey from the beginning of this saga, be sure to see the photo and read about the initial collapse in another post.
Again, I have to salute my dear neighbor Carlo, who made calls and orchestrated getting the work going (a bit of a rarity to be able to initiate work so quickly here in Italy). When I drove up to the house at dusk I saw a cement mixer, piles of sand and large stones (mostly reclaimed from the collapse of wall). And, I saw a beautiful new section of wall about 2/3 of the way to completion. Setting aside internal calculations as to what this would set me back, I marveled at the amazing craftsmanship and structural integrity. This was a wall under construction that would mesh beautifully with the existing wall, while providing me assurance that heavy rains wouldn’t bring the land above me crashing down. I could sleep with greater ease.
I think you’ll agree that the photos speak for themselves, and I am glad I was there to help chronicle the progress on the wall. I’ll be going back again soon to see the final work, and to settle the bill.
The trip was successful in this regard, but in the mode of “when it rains, it pours”, my 24 hours in Umbria had a bit more in store for me…
I had made plans to have dinner out at wonderful local restaurant/pizzeria with Carlo and Amalia, and their best friends from the village. After the long morning in school, and after the long drive, I was SO ready for a nice hot shower or soaking bath. The Universe had other plans for me as I soon realized that my caldaia (water heater) was not functioning properly. This meant I couldn’t turn on the radiators, nor could I take any type of bath or shower without dying of hypothermia. The temps were heading towards freezing that night.
“OK, I can deal with this.” I thought. I boiled some water on the gas stove and gave my face a good wash. I knew I could build a fire in the wood burning stove, when I returned from dinner.
Then, prior to heading out the door for dinner, I discovered that a bottle of beer (one of four) in the fridge had frozen, and burst all over the inside of the fridge. I guess things had been a little colder in the house than I had realized. Okay, more to deal with.
Then, heading down the hill, I came around the curve and noticed large, dark shapes out of the left corner of my eye. Two, large, hairy cinghiale (wild boar), easily about 200 lbs. each, were running along the road. Thankfully they disappeared into the woods below. But wait, there were more…five teenage cinghiale, running after mom and dad. Yes, a herd of wild pigs. Last year, when Simone and I were returning home from dinner late at night we were “charged” by a very large wild boar. We were in Simone’s car and he skillfully maneuvered the car so that we were only glanced by the wild boar. Still, he found a small buckle in the left fender of his car. This was a better outcome than a totaled car that was the result of a similar cinghiale encounters by some friends.
I share this extra level of detail to to help you understand that wild boar can be the largest threat to your car when living in the countryside of Umbria.
Back to the story. Dinner was awesome, as was the company. Then I had to come home and deal with no heat. I built a strong fire in the wood-burning stove, and then parked a small electric heater on the coffee table in front of the sofa in the sun room. When you have an old, stone house deep in the country, and when you’re not there to keep it minimally warm, it takes a while to thaw. So, I grabbed two blankets, two pillows, and I went to bed (on the sofa) wearing all of my clothes and a wool knit hat. I also set my iPhone’s alarm to wake me up every 1 1/2 hours to add additional logs to the fire. I was miserable. I felt like I was camping in the wilderness, but inside my house.
In the morning I was anything but well-rested. Carlo called to make sure I was awake. I had a coffee, and then off he and I went to pay the bill for the materials for rebuilding the wall. Next, I made a down payment on the work on the wall. Then my other neighbor, who is a certified electrician and all around whiz at fixing stuff, came by to look at the water heater. The problem was quickly diagnosed and remedied. A sudden drop in the water pressure had shut off the caldaia, and a few skillful twists of the water valve triggered the heater back into action. After offering profuse thanks, I raced back into the house to draw a hot bath, adding pomegranate bath crystals from the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. This was my reward for my night of misery and discomfort.
So ends this chapter on the rebuilding of the wall, and of the unexpected trials and tribulations of having an old Umbria home. I promise to share photos of the completed wall, and let’s hope that my next trip back to Umbria is a bit more restful.