So you think you would like to live in Italy

This is our story, warts an' all. We have come this far since May 2004 and survived the bureaucracy, a freezing cold winter, a landslip and a diminishing money pot. Share our experiences, believe me the good ones far outweigh the bad and if you want to ask a question and we know the answer, we'll tell it like it is.

I found this little phrase in a Collins Italian Phrase Book published in 1963 ~ "passa ogni limite" pahs'sah ohn'yee lee'mee-tay which means: That's the giddy limit. Useful if there's anybody out there that quaint!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Onwards and upwards, sideways and some times even backwards

Casa Antonio

The Bunker (underground garage)

There’s a quirky little law in Italy about underground buildings insofar as you are almost certainly likely to getting planning permission for one, on the premise, I suppose that if the building doesn’t occupy visual space, in other words if you can’t see it then who’s going to mind or even know. It makes me think that there might be some leverage in buying up a hillocky patch and applying to build ultra modern underground pods, bit like ‘Teletubbies’ houses with porthole doors and light tubes to provide natural light. Now, there’s an opportunity for somebody, to develop the ‘CASAPOD’. Anyway, I digress. The garden at the back of Casa Antonio runs away from the house for about 50 feet and then the land slopes down into a field. This change in level offers prime ‘underground build’ space. You can sink something into the bank and disguise it as a bank and hey presto you got yourself a bunker. Which is exactly where we are ~ mid-build with the ‘bunker’ our underground garage, which strictly speaking isn’t fully, since only the roof and three sides will be buried in the ground, the front, for obvious reasons of access, won’t. Or will it?

The plans show two garage doors, set at either side of the front elevation leaving a wide stretch of wall in the centre which has to be disguised as a flower bed. There was I thinking what a perfect backdrop for my lemon tree. But no, it seems the prerequisite is to deposit a mound of earth from the floor to roof height up this centre wall so that where it meets the roof it forms a hump with a discreet opening either side. Are you starting to recognise any similarities ~ YES! It’s a Teletubbies house. We had hoped to get the roof on and the sectional doors installed by Christmas but snow has stopped work. Yippee! Well, it drove us indoors, different conditions, different tools, still work.

Casa Antonio
Just to bring you up to date a bit with the main house, Casa Antonio. ‘Casa Antonio’ encompasses two buildings, the main house, which is where we now live on one floor which is fairly habitable, and the old garage built from ‘tufi’ (volcanic rock) blocks with a flat concrete roof. It is intended to transform the main house into a six bedroom, five bathroom luxury house with a huge kitchen and dining/living room at ground floor level. A bedroom and shower room for the disabled will also be incorporated at ground floor level. It’s a great shame that the house, considered by most to be ‘una casa brutta’ (an ugly house) has been faced up with cheap, shiny-faced bricks because beneath the bricks there is a heart of stone. The walls throughout have been constructed from local stone, from wonderful great chunks of it to exciting little nuggets from the palest colour of honey to burnished indigo punctuated here and there with a dash of terracotta and just a smidgeon of concrete. An irregular and deliciously lumpy work of marchigiana art. Since money doesn’t allow us to hack the brickwork off the exterior walls and return them to their natural state, the best we can do is expose some of the interior stonework and render the exterior “villa style” with a few mouldings and travertine stone around the windows to add a dash of sophistication.

During the last three years we were able to get some of the major works to the main house out of the way, new roof and windows, well, as much as the budget would allow, bearing in mind that we were having to shell out huge tranches of dosh to pay the builders at Casa Renzo, since work on both houses were running concurrent, with my husband doing the work at Casa Antonio. Having a husband who is a builder in these circumstances is a big cost saver but materials are still expensive and he doesn’t make windows and doors.
Casa Antonio price guide for windows so far: 15 new windows with outside shutters (louvred) in pine @ 850 euros per set = 12,750 euros. 9 doors and a further 7 windows all with shutters, are required to complete the main house. That’s the way the money goes, pop goes the weasel for those of you who remember the song. Sadly we don't have a weasel to pop.

The roof is as pretty
as a picture;
a pity we can’t see it
from the ground.

Casa Antonio ~ The old garage
Well, a lot needs to happen to this building; so this is a major project on its own. We will live here eventually. The plans have been drawn up, but between the plans and completion there will be any number of aggravations waiting to happen! I’ll come back to this when things get underway.

Going Backwards ~ Just one of those days!!
We all have them; a day when we would have achieved more if we hadn’t got out of bed. How the day started. My husband had to pay a visit to the house in Montegiorgio which is 35 minutes away by car to attend to a minor repair. When he arrived he realised he did not have the key. Not a disaster, just time consuming and a nuisance having to do the trip there and back again. Then at Casa Antonio we laid out the travertine stone mouldings for the respective window surrounds in preparation for fixing and discovered that quite a lot of them had been cut short. This prompted one of my growling, stomping routines accentuated by some choice expletives. I didn’t know that I knew so many. (Thankfully, we don’t live close to anyone). However the stone for the upper windows were OK so we decided to push on with the upper floor and at least have something to show for the day. The scaffolding was in place so access wasn’t difficult and we had an electrically powered scaffold hoist with a bucket attachment to get materials up to the top. But the bucket tipped as it reached the top and all the mouldings crashed to the ground; sadly they didn’t survive the fall. They lay broken and crossed like sticks on a boyscouts fire. Angry? Way, way beyond that; anger just peters out to disbelief at times like this. How the day ended. Watching the sun go down from the top of the scaffold with a good bottle of Prosecco and only the sound of bees for company. Ah me! How lucky are we?

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