Monthly Archives: June 2014

Birthdays and Cuba Feste

This was Sunday so not a lot to do with house renovation or Italian paperwork. A nice break. The weather was just gorgeous.

We had been invited to lunch to celebrate Susan’s birthday. They took us to their favorite place near Deruta called Antica Forziere. It was a beautiful stone farmhouse up on a hillside. They had pretty outside tables. We dined inside and it was beautiful with vaulted ceilings. The food was wonderful. I had a beet ravioli (picture did not come out sorry!) and a veal steak that was coated in sesame seeds with an artful pile of eggplant and mozzarella. A beautiful presentation.


I think their real claim to fame though are their desserts. The presentation is amazing with sugar “cages” and spun sugar. The first was a selections of 3 parfaits. The second is their main dessert plate meant to be shared, which we happily did!!



We returned to Umbertide for a rest to let that lunch settle and digest. This evening was the Arts on the Piazza and later in the evening there was the Cuban Feste. Don’t ask me why Cuban or what the relevance to Umbertide is but we enjoyed it. As Susan said, it is very disorganized but oh well! First we sat at a table at Cafe Centrale and shared it with a bunch of British folks who live around here. One of the women owns an alpaca farm. She lives in Umbertide and the farm is on the way to Montone. She is going on a 10 week vacation so has another woman who will be taking care of the animals and house etc. The housesitter lives a rather peripatetic lifestyle. Most recently she’s been living in Cyprus which she liked very well. She also lived in Bermuda, Georgia (US) and I forget the rest. I liked her. I hope to see her around because the house is just behind us.

The Feste was both funny and good. First they had a bunch of the local children dressed up in costumes who danced (badly). There was a Tango demonstration and the two dancers were very good! Also a group of Ecuadorians in costume danced. There also had been lots of World Cup cheering from the two bars. I was pretty ready to turn in by this time and since our window is up above the piazza I could watch from there. Joseph and Paul showed up after picking up a friend in Rome who flew over from San Francisco. Her plane was late so they didn’t arrive until the end. It was good to see them.

After we went upstairs the main event started on the stage below. A very good Cuban Salsa band. I was impressed but it was VERY loud. Here are a couple of pictures:




Yesterday we visited Francesca who will be helping us to get our gas and water contracts situated and our permesso started. She also helps with whatever we need so I have sent her numerous questions about things like bed sizes. They are not the same as in the US. Our mattress in our apartment seems too small for the platform. I am fine with making that our guest mattress but don’t know the sizes here. She can help.

Today we had coffee in the piazza with John and Libby, Americans who live in the hilltown near here called Montone. I have conversed with John for a long time and it was great to meet them! It was a beautiful morning and the Saturday market, which is more local producers was in full swing.

Next we decided to find another pet shop in Perugia. We plugged in the address into the GPS and it sent us right. Through. The. Middle. Of. Perugia (!) OK well we managed it and found a good tree for the cats to pick. On the way back the GPS took us through the middle of nowhere (I think she is schizophrenic). Lots of hiking trails, mountains, parks and we even found the Strada del Vino for Lago Trasameno. We stopped in a lovely winery/agriturismo and bought a couple of bottles. When we brought the cat tree to the flat they immediately, enthusiastically started to pick it. Happy days! They are very good about not picking furniture as long as we provide an alternative.

We ate lunch in and dinner out. The dinner was great, we sat outside and the weather was perfect, but way too much food! We ended up out in the Piazza for wine and grappa and Luther’s cigar. The Piazza is amazing. So much is happening from the old men playing briscola (Italian card game), to the little kids on bikes and chasing pigeons, to the table full of Brits to the 15 or so people watching the world cup. All this at around 10PM. Luther and I just looked at each other and agreed this is what we wanted. Our town is not that picturesque but it is a “real” Italian town with authentic activities. Yay, we love it.

Back to the flat to bed. Speaking of the flat. It has air conditioning but it has not been so hot that we have to use it. At night I open the windows on both ends of the living area and put the fans in and they pull in the cool overnight air. I shut the door to the zona di notte and we and the cats stay in there. I am afraid to let the cats get into the windows even though there are screens. We do sun management with the shutters, closing them when the sun is coming in and opening them when it passes on overhead. Then closing the back one in the afternoon. Works pretty well. I see we are headed for a streak of very hot weather so we shall see if we decide to use the AC. The cats with their long hair do suffer in the heat.

Tomorrow we are celebrating our friend Susan’s birthday at an agriturismo for lunch. There is an Arts on the Piazza in the afternoon and then there will be a group of us getting together for dinner. It should be fun!


What Emanuele found out from Elisabetta

Emanuele talked to Elisabetta today. Here is what he found out:

  • The leak in the living room, she knew about but never did anything about because it only happens when it rains a lot.
  • The leak in the bedroom from the shower next door. She only knew about when she moved the bed to move out and thinks it only happens because her son takes long showers (!)
  • The leak in the hall happened when she was at her summer place from the hot water heater. She fixed the heater but not the damage from the leak.
  • There are 2 attics. One has the furnace and water heater. The other is a very large space but Elisabetta had never, ever in all the time she lived there gone up there. Even when her son told her there were pigeons walking on his ceiling! Well yes we did find out there had been a LOT of pigeons up there and the window had been left open for who knows how many years! Maybe she thought if she didn’t go up there it wasn’t happening?
  • She never used the fireplace but said the person she bought the place from said it worked. She said we may want to have the flue cleaned.
  • So there we have it. Emanuele will bring his contractor friend over to take a look and we’ll know more then.

    Meeting the Geometra

    Since we arrived we dined at our basic but very Umbrian hotel restaurant on our first night. On the second day we dined on Proscuitto and melone for lunch – so sweet and salty. Yum. Thank you Susan! Susan left our frig nicely stocked and we are so grateful. That evening we dined on yet another amazing gift from Susan and Gary – an enormous truffle! I made fettuccine and we grated it on along with a mozzarella salad with very sweet tomatoes. So good! we had taken a run to the wine store we like and had some fine wines and then Luther went out into the Piazza which was buzzing with activity to smoke his cigar. The men playing cards and all around tables of things for sale, kind of a flea market.

    Rocky and Simba are getting used to all the noises of the apartment. Here is Rocky keeping watch on the Piazza which he seems to enjoy. The second picture is Rocky with the ornate bell in the background.



    Today, Friday June 27 – two days since we arrived we met the geometra (kind of a cross between a general contractor and architect) of Susan and Gary. He and they had already visited the apartment. His name is Emanuele and he noted many things that we did not. The conversations were kind of a mish-mash of English and Italian. Luther and Susan were pretty good with the understanding of it all, I also understood a good bit of the Italian happily. There was a lot of back and forth about all the logistics of moving the kitchen. Also water damage which could have been from before the roof was repaired but must be looked into. There is also a bit of structural work that needs to be done to stabilize the roof. Emanuele says that cost should be shared between the owners of the apartments in the building but I am guessing that will not happen. There are no condominium fees here it is rather an informal agreement among the owners. In our building there is nothing set up to take care of issues like this. So we shall see how that all shakes out.

    We discussed the moving of the kitchen. Emanuele wanted it to be in a different room than I wanted it to be in for logistical reasons like running the gas and drains. I am pretty hard over that I want it to be moved to the room with the fireplace next to the current kitchen. We are going forward with that. The fireplace needs to be checked to see if it will draw. Evidently it has not been used in years. Our Geometra will check with our previous owner about water damage in the house and when it happened. They repaired the roof nine years ago so the damage could have been prior to then.

    There is also a concept I learned about today called Zona di Notte or night zone. Our geometra is very concerned about us not having one. Evidently the Italians don’t want cooking smells getting into the sleeping area so install a door to separate the spaces. Well that never would have occurred to an American! But I think I am OK with a door being installed in the hallway but only because it would be handy to separate the cats from the kitchen/living room area should we need work done. Of course I will not tell Emanuele that!

    I feel pretty positive about the progress we have made. We have a couple of “action items” that we need to do for Emanuele. He in turn has some as well like talking to Elisabetta about when the water damage happened and what they did about it. We will probably stay in this apartment until all the work is done. We will proceed with purchasing what we need to live there and having it delivered.

    The journey is accomplished – part 2

    We still had to lug three 40+ pound bags up 4 flights. We decided to take them to our own apartment and unload only what we needed to Susan and Gary’s apartment. We got a chance to look around our apartment. It was as charming as I remembered. I know we will be happy there once we get everything done. Here are some more pictures of the empty apartment:

    Living Room – where the sofa will be. Those bookshelves need to be removed.

    Other end of the room where the dining table is.

    Office room

    Guest bedroom

    Existing kitchen.

    Patio view to the Tiber river.

    We showered and changed clothes and went out to Bar Mary and enjoyed a relaxing beer on the Piazza. There was a thunderstorm brewing so we hurried over to Susan and Gary’s house where we enjoyed a chat and a bottle of red wine. By the time we were finished the rain had stopped.

    So the end of the arduous journey and onward to the new adventure!

    The journey is accomplished!

    Well, we are all now here in Umbertide. It was a “fairly” smooth trip. First here is a picture of our empty townhouse in Alexandria VA.


    I loved living there but I will not particularly miss it. I am happy a growing family has purchased it and it will be loved by them.

    We had two suitcases to bring. They have a 50 pound limit. Turns out ours were both overweight on my sisters bathroom scales by a good bit. So we bought another suitcase and redistributed the weight. An additional bag costs $100. An overweight bag cost $200. You can do the math. When we checked them they weighted 46, 48 and 45 pounds! Once we got rid of them we were better. We had the cats in soft carriers that we could sling over our shoulders plus a carry-on for each of us.

    The trip through the TSA security at the airport turned out to be pretty smooth. I got lucky and got a Pre-Check so didn’t have to remove my shoes or computer. Luther was not so lucky. We each had to remove the cat from the carrier leaving the harness on and walk through the detector. We then had to have our hands swabbed. Not sure why. But the cats remained pretty calm in the chaotic atmosphere. Whew!

    We went to our favorite wine bar and brought the cats in their carriers in with us. No one knew they were there. They were very quiet. Ha Ha. I bet we would have been chucked out should they have known.

    We boarded the plane and stuffed the boys under the seats in their carriers. They remained quiet thru the night. The calming medicine we gave them at 6 hour intervals seemed to help. I chuckle to remember the faces and comments of our fellow passengers when we were waiting to debark. We had pulled out the carriers and let the cats stick their head out. Everyone was so surprised they had traveled across the ocean with a pair of cats and had not known they were there. They all said they were so good.

    Arrival in Italy was on time. We retrieved the ginormous bags and went through passport control. Just as I expected they didn’t even look at our visas or cat papers. An interesting aside, we paid fare to take the cats on the United flight but no one ever even noticed we had them. Or they didn’t seem to.

    The car was a different story. We were supposed to call the Renault people, which we did. We were told our car was lost in transit. No one knew where the truck was. They would not send the shuttle to pick us up. We should stay at the airport. OK this was just not what I wanted to hear with two cats who hadn’t been to the bathroom in 14 hours. Luther called them back, he said they said the car was there. Finally we got a call and the shuttle van picked us up. We had had to wait about an hour and a half in the airport. Much tension. But in the end all was well. We got there and picked up the Renault Megane stationwagon – our auto for the next 3 months. I was still suspicious because the car was in the middle of a bunch of other cars and not at all clean as were the rest. Go figure. I didn’t care as long as we were on our way.

    We drove the 2 hours and met up with our friends who took us to their apartment that they generously loaned us. The cats were freed, the litter box was filled, the food and water bowls were filled and they very quickly took care of business.

    To be continued…

    Last car sold! Tomorrow we leave…

    It is hard to believe after all we’ve done and been through to accomplish this move it is finally here. I am finally allowing myself to feel a little excited.

    We left my sisters house on Sunday June 22 and arrived a few miles from Dulles Airport at a pet friendly hotel. We are staying two nights here.

    The reason for this is that we needed to sell our last car which we did today. We are now officially carless and homeless, at least in the USA. We decided to use CarMax because they were simpler. Interestingly they offered us a LOT more than we expected. We had expected trade in value and they gave us even more that we had been asking on Craigs list to sell it ourselves. I do recommend them.

    Our flight out is tomorrow evening. We are carrying the cats aboard the plane in the cabin. We will see if this was a good idea or not after we get there :-{ I am nervous about TSA and getting the cats through Security. I have no idea how this is done. I am sure we will have to take them out of the carriers. I have little harnesses for them. I hope they don’t want us to take them off. I am terrified they will get free in the terminal. I know how hard it is to hang on to a frightened cat with claws when he wants to get down. I do have some medicine which is supposed to help but my test run on that didn’t make me feel really confident.

    So more tomorrow…

    Taking Animals to Italy

    It was not a good story. It did not have to be that way though. So because of that I will write of our difficulties in getting our cat paperwork completed.

    We read many posts. We checked the Embassy site. We thought we had done it all right. About a month before our move date we took the cats to our vet to have them micro-chipped. The next hoop was to take the forms that we had downloaded from the Italian Embassy site to our vet. This could be done no more than 10 days before our flight out. They filled them all out. We next had to either FedEx these forms to the USDA in Richmond VA to have them certified and stamped and overnighted back to us. Problem was we were moving targets with no address and to assure we could get them done we decided to drive to Richmond with them.

    It helped some that we were staying with my sister at that time in Wintergreen Virigina which is 2 hours from Richmond on a very dull but traffic-free interstate.

    We presented our forms to the person at the counter. Suddenly I heard. “there is a problem”. Well it turns out that the rule is that the cats have to have rabies shots AFTER they are microchipped. Our vet did not tell us this although she does these forms a lot. The lady must have seen me turn white as a ghost. She says “OK, OK we can fix this”. All we had to do was get the cats rabies shots again and come BACK to Richmond.

    Being in an unfamiliar place with only a day and a half to get this done and back to Richmond this was not an easy task. I enlisted my sister who is always good in a crisis. She searched out vets in this very rural part of Virginia. We managed to get a 4PM appointment that day and got the shots. The vet was nearly an hour from my sisters house so we had been in the car for over 6 hours this day and had the prospect of driving back to Richmond the next day. Oh joy!

    So we did drive back. We did get all the stamps etc. We are not actually, technically, perfect though. The rule is the shots had to be more than 21 days before we leave and they are more like 5 days. The lady told us we may get our hand slapped that we could quarantine them in our apartment since we were living there and it should be OK. Well, that doesn’t make me feel totally secure but there you have it.

    So to anyone out there who is bringing their pet to Italy, here is the proper order. First get your pet microchipped at least 1 month prior to your trip. Personally with hindsight, I think you should just go ahead and do it the moment you know you are going as it is never too early. After that (and at least 30 days before you leave) get a new rabies shot even if they already had one. 10 days or less before your flight download the official dual language forms to bring a pet into Italy from the Italian Embassy website. Take that form no more than 10 days before you go and have your USDA certified vet fill it out. Make sure you have your rabies certificate from the shot about a month ago. Then go find the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services in your state. Either FedEx all your forms (Italian form and Rabies certiicate) to them or take them to them for certification. Then you should be good to go.

    Here are the links to sites with forms or information that is useful.
    This is the Italy embassy information about bringing pets

    This is the form that your vet must fill out – and the vet must be USDA certified.

    This is the USDA site


    I have read in nearly every blog that the authorities in Italy never look at these papers but it would just be my luck that that would be the day they did and I didn’t have everything I needed!

    Shipment is gone!

    We finally finished packing our UPak cubes and following all the instructions got them wrapped, strapped, stickered and ready to go!

    Friday the UPak people picked them up at our house and they are on their way. In 4 to 6 weeks they should arrive.
    I have arranged to have them unpacked remotely from our apartment and loaded into a van and then the team of movers will take them to our apartment.

    SO final steps. Our nephew Dave and his girlfriend Shira came by yesterday and packed up what they want to take. Their moving truck comes Monday afternoon. Then the house will be empty except for a couple of boxes and some carpet that goes to the storage unit.

    We have an appointment Monday afternoon at our Vet to get the cats checked over and the Italian forms filled out. This must be done no more than 10 days before departure.

    We go to Settlement on the house on Tuesday morning. Then we have to pack up our enormous suitcases along with the cats and head to my sister’s house at the Wintergreen resort until Sunday.

    Finally we sell our car Monday and and fly out Tuesday.

    Next thing for me to worry about is getting us and our cats through TSA. I will report back once it’s done. We have purchased little harnesses and leashes so they can’t get away in the terminal.


    Since my last post we did indeed pickup our passports with Visas at the Italian embassy. Check.

    We have had a home inspection and have fixed everything but one. We have had a ton of rain here and the item that need fixing is a landscape issue. All of those folks are booked up for a couple of months. SO we are working on leaving cash so the new owners can handle that issue. Crossing fingers.

    We have had a moving company come and move all of the furniture we are keeping and moved it into storage. Check.

    We have nearly finished packing the two huge UPakWeShip boxes. We have scheduled pickup for Friday, 3 days away. Here is what they look like.
    So far the jury is out on the UPak people. I do like Pete who helped me at the beginning. Alicia hasn’t been very responsive but today was better. Today I also found out that door to door shipping is not exactly what I expected. Alicia told me they deliver the giant boxes to withing 25 feet of our door. Being as our apartment is on a pedestrian street by the main Piazza, and 3 floors up I could not deal with that. We are also 63 year olds and cannot carry all that stuff to the 3rd floor. I contacted Pete and he is is working on it for us. I am having to change the way our shipment will be delivered so that someone will actually unload the boxes and take them to our apartment. Crossing fingers.

    A friend is supposed to come this week to pick up a few items. Still have not heard from her when.

    Our nephew is coming to pack our dishes, pots, and pans on Saturday and the truck comes Monday for the furniture. This leaves us time to vacuum and clean up, throw away the last of the stuff.

    It has been an ordeal. Our closing is two days after the truck comes. We will stay with my sister for the week between the sale and 2 days before our flight over. The last two nights are in a hotel near the airport. We still have a car to sell. We will take it to CarMax the day before we leave.

    If all that works we should be in Italy soon. Whew! I will be glad when it is all over.