Tag Archives: apartment

Nothing like we expected, twice

We went to Orte, a small town located about an hour from Rome, to look at an apartment. Yes, an apartment. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve longed for outdoor space for years. But as it turns out, a garden is just as hard to find in Rome as it was in New York City. So when I saw the ad saying “large terrace in a hilltop village”–for less than half of what we pay now–I packed up the crew and set out to see it on a sunny Saturday.

The apartment was indeed nestled into the side of a stone wall, a cave really. The architecture of the whole village was charming and fascinating. And the apartment itself was also interesting with a beautifully open kitchen layout, a big terrace and even a wine cellar. However, it was an awkward layout for a family with small children; two steps up here, one flight down there, uneven cement floors in places, bedrooms on separate floors. And worse, it was old and needed repair–but the owner didn’t think so. She remembered the apartment as it was in the glory days, even whipping out the family photo album to show us how she’d overseen the renovation herself…fifteen years ago. As Paul said, it would be an amazing place to buy and fix up yourself, but not to rent. And not from her.

So we headed home, to our own apartment that isn’t in need of repair and has all of the bedrooms on one floor. (It’s funny, for as much time as I’ve spent looking for other apartments, none are ever better than ours. I’m always relieved to get home! And with Bambina II coming soon, my days of real estate exploration are over. For now.) On a tip from the owner, we stopped at what she explained to be a park with a playground. Only the whole thing was fenced off. Confused but determined to figure it out since we’d actually found the place, we wandered in through the open doors of an entrance around the corner. That’s where we found ourselves paying 9 Euros each so we could enjoy the little playground but also visit Bomarzo, the semi-famous sculpture park created in the 16th century by the famously wealthy Orsini family. It’s their “Park of Monsters”, with dozens of over-sized sculptures of every kind.

It turned out to be something Paul had wanted to see for a while. But it was also dangerously close to nap time and not knowing we were about to embark on several acres of gardens, we left the stroller in the car. So we strolled, in the literal sense. We saw about six pieces before calling it quits–and nap time.

Laughing to ourselves back in the car, we wondered why the lady hadn’t mentioned the park’s true setting but then thought, maybe she hasn’t been here in a while. Maybe fifteen years.

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Keys, mental lapses and landlords

It’s never good when your landlords call you and yesterday was no exception. Paul was in Torino for the Slow Food Festival with Dan and Eric, enjoying forty-eight hours of serious eating. Back in Rome, Phoebe and I had a nice weekend ourselves; we walked, ate and played with friends, most of it pretty slow.

Then yesterday we were going shopping for long-sleeved onesies. Not that it’s cold in Rome now, not that you can find a 3-pack of onesies, but we’re headed to Prague next week and I’m sure the temps will eventually drop in Italy too. So we were off.

Coats on and into the elevator we went. We greeted a lady in the lobby and opened the mailbox to find two letters from the INS. Now, as visitors in a foreign land, these are the scariest initials to see in one’s mailbox. But upon closer inspection I realized they were both addressed to someone else entirely. Good. But since this was important to someone, not just an advertisement for cheap furniture, I spent a couple of minutes trying to arrange the mail on top of the boxes in a way that would be easy to find. Here comes someone else through the lobby, hellos from Phoebe and myself. And we’re off again.

It was when we got to Via Veneto that my purse starting vibrating and ringing. I picked up and heard my landlord’s voice booming through the line in his usual way, a little too loud. “Hello, did you leave your keys in Via Nizza?” Confused I thought to myself, did I? “Yes, I think you did. In the mailbox, maybe today or yesterday? The woman on the first floor has found them.” Oh. Yes. “Do you have an extra set to get back in the building?” No but I’ll try the neighbor, I explained. “Ok, let me tell you how it’s arranged. You will buzz Madame Pastore, like ‘Shepard’, and she is on the first floor. She will give you your keys.” A little embarrassed but grateful for the care, I assured him that we’d be back in an hour to collect our keys.

Onesies in hand and one bus ride later, Phoebe and I returned to the building. I assumed she didn’t speak English so I practiced my conversation a little in my head before pressing the Pastore button. I got as far as, “Buonjo…” before she buzzed me in. So I quickly stuffed Phoebe’s stroller into the elevator and pushed Piano 5 as I always do. This allowed me to make eye contact with M. Pastore, who was standing outside her flat holding my keys, just as we continued past on our way up to the fifth floor. You can’t change floors once you make a selection on our antiquated elevator–and it’s glass. Ugh. Back down to the first floor. I don’t know how to say, “my husband is out of town this weekend and I guess I’m a little tired” in Italian so I just shrugged as she raised her eyebrows and at last handed me my keys.

But the funniest part is the extreme intervention in the first place. If I saw someone’s keys dangling from the mailbox downstairs, I think I’d just leave them. But not the Italians. This was a mission; there was action to take, calls to make, plans to arrange. It’s sweet, I think.

Paul is home now.

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Too hot to blog

There’s only one word for Rome in July and I’ll say it three times: hot, hot, hot.

It’s been nearly 90–and mostly above–every day for the last three weeks. Sadly, sweatily, we do not have air conditioning in our apartment which makes the prospect of sitting at one’s computer just too dreary.  Instead, Phoebe and I have taken to cruising around in the car in the afternoons. Sometimes we go shopping, sometimes we run errands, once we went to the pool. But we always have A/C. Wonderful, refreshing A/C.

Today mercifully, there is a refreshing breeze and a dip in the heat. Mmm, breeze.

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Spring planting

It’s gardening season again and this year I’ve got a new helper.

Ok, helper is probably too strong.

But someone to keep me company.

Note: no babies nor bees were harmed in the making of this post.

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The perfect pre-Easter project

Is called putting together our new coffee table. We branched out and bought a few new things from a few new stores. A big table (the old one became a desk for crafts and projects in the guest room), a beautiful sideboard for the hallway and now a coffee table.

I was excited when I got the call yesterday that the delivery men were on the way. I was saddened when they dropped the bundle of materials on rug and bid me “Ciao!”

Oh well. At least it came with a tool.

It wasn’t actually very hard to assemble. Only four legs, eight bolts and either five, six or seven washers (more on this below). They’d gone to the trouble of actually affixing stickers onto each of the legs, corresponding to more stickers on the base of the table. As though this was going to be hard to figure out. I pictured someone at the factory saying to another, “How will they know which legs go where? We’ve got to do SOMETHING to make it more clear.”

The tone changed considerably with the hardware though. No longer taking great pains to help the home assembler, the bolts and washers, were loose in the packaging. Rattling around and only discovered with considerable effort and creativity. Pulling back this flap of cardboard, shaking out that piece of bubble wrap. It was like my own personal Easter egg hunt on the living room floor.

Eventually I found all eight washers (even after I’d given up on them, twice) and got it easily together.

Now all it needs is a thousand magazines and remote controls.


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First fire

We were apprehensive at first. The apartment has an open fireplace and we were told “it works”. But still, the idea of lighting even a portion of your apartment on fire seems daunting. But two Duraflames (plus a bowl of popcorn and a movie) later, we’re wondering why we didn’t get the fires going earlier! Nothing is more cozy.

Except maybe a beard.


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Home is where the heat is on

Or in our case, isn’t.

The apartment has lost its magic this holiday season because things only kind of work.

Take the heat. Our building has a boiler. Our apartment has radiators. Somewhere in time and space, the two are supposed to get together and provide warmth to apartment number 9. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening. The hottest we’ve been able to reach, and I use the word loosely, is 16 degrees. About 64 degrees in America, sweet, sweet land where I remember heat magically coming into my apartment year after year. Even with the radiators cranked up to 5 (even the number sounds puny), this is it. So it’s oldie-timie here. We’re wearing thick sweaters, puffy slippers, sometimes hats. Space heaters are in effect, but it’s a careful dance to not overload the finicky circuit breaker. Two heaters maximum–and no running the dishwasher at the same time. Ditto for clothes, which is fine because we’re wearing most of them anyway.

Then there is the elevator, which in Italy is called a lift. Actually it’s called an ascenscore but always translated in the British style. What’s important is this: ours works 80% of the time. This figure may seem like a lot but the 20% failure rate packs a punch. It’s usually out of commission just as I’ve gotten Phoebe bundled up in her stroller, Carter collared and everyone out the door. We press the button and…nothing. Or, even more frustrating, the elevator comes but the door doesn’t open. From the 5th floor, it’s not possible to bump down the steps out the door. And let’s face it, Carter isn’t much help. So, it’s back inside to unbundle, repack and break out the Bjorn. Sometimes this involves changing my outfit to accomodate the new demands of the errand, almost always my coat. Mid-process I think to myself, Without the stroller basket, do I need pockets? What about a big bag? If I can’t carry everything in one trip, what’s most important to get now? When is this kid going to start walking? When is this kid going to start walking the dog? And so on.

These annoying failures, coupled with the neighborhood yelling and the general mediocre feeling I’ve always had for the pad have caused quite a stir this weekend. Our landlords have been notified, repairmen are on their way…and we’ve started looking at other places. As always, I’d like to live in an oasis of quiet and green; Paul would like something more lively, with interesting things just outside our door.

We’ll see what happens but either way, I will say one thing. It will be warm. If I have to start wearing a Santa costume around the house just to keep cozy, you’ll see me at the Big Belts store first thing in the morning. They’re probably on sale now anyway.


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Fruit on the vine

We planted this raspberry bush in March. The idea is for it to eventually grow up along the wall and provide cover, plus jam. So far not exactly a bountiful harvest but it’s a start!

Raspberry bush



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Mathews 1: Italy 1 million

We got Sky TV today! For you non-Italians, this means satellite TV. Three short months after requesting installation, we now have access to 999 channels, literally. While the majority of them are in Italian–and we aren’t quite fluent yet–today I heard with my own ears the sweet sound of English on television. Sure it was coming from the collagen-infused lips of those girls who live in the Playboy mansion, but still.

And there’s more where that came from. Comedy Central? Yep. E! You bet your exclamation point. And not just Fox, but Fox Life, Fox Family and three more versions. (Who knew The Simpsons Channel would become an empire…and I’d discover this only after moving to Rome?) We have movies and some sort of cartoon network as well. But the best part is knowing there are 14 channels devoted to soccer. This is after all, Italy.

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Under cover

Carter on the terrace

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