August 2010


By mid-July, we established a rhythm and routine for the work we had to do.  We had a rental car, so some days we went furniture, light, or paint shopping. Other days we hardly stepped foot outside the house.  Here’s what I wrote a couple of weeks on:

The breakfast room is now complete! (Please ignore the lack of furniture on which to actually consume breakfast).  As I may have mentioned, we (Pepper) decided to paint it a sunflower yellow. (The name on the can is ‘ginseng’, but I have no idea what part of a ginseng is this color, do you?)  There was enough paint left over so we also painted the kitchen.  The results were great and Pepper said repeatedly, “I am loving this color”.  I must say that I’ve never noticed before what a difference a coat of paint to have on a room.  The entrance into the breakfast room and the door into the kitchen are archways, which we decided to paint white.  I think the effect is very ‘clean’.
On our various shopping trips, we’ve also been buying light fixtures.  As we’d see one we liked, we’d pick up the box (or, in one case, the bubble-wrapped beast).  At home, it was  tucked in the corner of one of the as-yet-unfinished bathrooms.
The electrician repeated said, ‘when you have lights, call me. I’ll come right over, since I live just down the hill’. Since the walls had been painted, we called the electrician on Friday.  As typical for Italy (and maybe in the U.S. too), Allesandro couldn’t come Friday nor Saturday, and then not even Monday.  He finally arrived yesterday afternoon and installed all of the lights for the breakfast room and kitchen.  To me the lights really added the finishing touch to the breakfast room.  And we can now see in the kitchen (though we can’t cook yet – but that’s another story).
Today we painted some more.  It’s odd that the end result of 4 hours of painting is only part of a hallway…….
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I wrote this in early July, not long after we arrived.  The house was almost complete – the 3 new bathrooms remained to be done – and now our work began.

I feel good because today we finished our first  task!
Our house is 3 stories and there is an internal staircase.  The Albanians (the workers who performed the renovations) sand-blasted the iron railings.  When we arrived, the railings looked better than before, but definitely needed painting.  I originally had that as task #77 (give or take). But the Albanians informed me that they couldn’t apply the sealant to the stairs until the railings were painted.  Paint can be removed from bare stone, but not from the sealant, it seems.  (Do you think they sized me up as a mess-maker and klutz?)
In conclusion, the railings on the stairs are now a nice graphite color (not glossy, but with a hint of shimmer).
Only 124 tasks to go!

Becca and Kate arrived in early July, staying two nights.  Even though they had to take cold showers, I think they really enjoyed their brief stay.

Saturday morning we were up for an early breakfast.  We caught the 8:45 train to Lucca and spent the morning wandering the narrow streets.  We of course had to stop for a cappuccino and gelato during our stroll; all 5 senses were satisfied.  By 12:30, the sun was directly overhead and it was hot and sultry.  We found a wonderful restaurant in a piazzetta just off the Via Filunga, the main shopping street, with dining under lovely umbrellas, and, even better, air conditioning inside.  It was our good fortune that the food was really good, too.

After delaying our exit as long as we possibly could, we returned into the hot, still streets of Lucca.  To work off our lunch, Kate and I climbed the Torre Guinigi, the highest tower in Lucca. It is as famous as much for the oak trees growing on it (6 stories above street level) as for its incredible views of Lucca.  Pepper and Becca sat and awaited our return (and Becca had a nice power nap).  The best part of our visit to the top was not the marvelous vistas. It was the wonderfully cool breezes that blow along the tiled rooftops, with just a little tang of the sea (or perhaps this was suggested to me by the cry of the seagulls).  Kate and I lingered a good while and hated to leave our breeze aerie. But our friends were baking below, so we begrudgingly spiraled down again.

The best antidote to a sultry afternoon is gelato, of course, so we sauntered back to the train station, licking cones and slurping spoonfuls of the delicious (and cold!) treat.

Whether it was the heat or the wine at lunch or the gentle rocking of the train, Kate and I couldn’t keep our eyes open, even for the 25-minute return to Ghivizzano.  A short nap refreshed us and then we drove to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana for a sunset stroll and wonderful dinner.

Sunday morning was a lazy one, with the girls coming to breakfast after nine.  With stomachs full, we drove first to Ghivizzano Alto.  Our Medieval village is a perfect introduction to the  structure of the hundreds that are scattered along the Serchio and Lima valleys.  Each town, tiny or large, is similar and yet each has its own history and geography to render it unique.

Our next stop was Coreglia Antelminelli, the seat of power for our town (Ghivizzano is one of 5 villages that make up a ‘comune’).  Being much larger, it also takes much longer to walk through, but provides many more photo opportunities.  Coreglia is also at a much higher altitude, constructed on the peak of a mountain so the alleyways can be much steeper.  The houses on the side alleys were festooned with geraniums, lavender, hydrangeas and other flowers. We finished off the morning with a cappuccino, and hopped in the car to descend to the valley floor.

After a wonderful lunch of pizza (and water this time, to avoid afternoon sleepiness from wine), we strolled the Ponte della Maddalena, also known as Ponte del Diavolo.  Then we took a ‘Sunday drive’ (Kate said it was just like her grandparents used to do) to a village up, up, up on a promontory above the Lima river valley.  This village was tiny, so the complete circumnavigation lasted only 20 minutes or so. But the views in all directions were incredible!

We ended the drive by dropping down, down, down to Bagni di Lucca for a wonderfully cold gelato.

Too soon, Becca and Kate departed on the train to Lucca.