Category Archives: House renovation

So, you decided to move to Italy…

I just put up a page, accessible from the top navigation, with a summary of information about moving and living in Italy. It is called “So you’ve decided to move to Italy”. I will constantly update it with things I learn that I think will be useful. Go to the page here.


At long last we are in our own home. December 8. It is soooo wonderful! We had a house cleaner in. Her name is Vera. She cleans for Susan and Gary too. She spent two full days cleaning and it looks good. Here are pictures.

Hall from in front of back bedroom and office.


Next two are the pantry.


Next three are the kitchen.



Dining room

View out really clean picture window.

Luther in the living room.

Space age dishwasher.

I even put up our itty bitty Christmas tree.

Here are a few pictures from the office window of the town Christmas tree and the Wednesday market.




A funny thing that would never happen in the US. We bought a 48 inch smart TV from Formica. He set it all up and left. We have not paid for it. €849. I guess we’ll have to walk over and pay them sometime. Strange.


It’s Tuesday – Veterans day in the US. Our kitchen arrived yesterday at 10AM. There are a LOT of pieces. I have not been bothering the workmen but they are supposed to be finished by 6PM today. It’s 4:30 and I’m dieing to go and see!

This morning we went furniture shopping. First we went to Chateau d’Ax which has some nice furniture and I had not visited it yet. I saw some nice kitchen tables and one coffee table I liked. But not that much. I also still have to see the finished kitchen to get an idea what size kitchen table we can accommodate. We headed over to Divani & Divani which is the Natuzzi store where we got our sofa. I just love their stuff. It’s a bit pricy but Oh well! Luther found a TV stand he liked and then we found a coffee table that went with it. I didn’t take pictures. Here are a couple but they are small.

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The TV stand is two pieces of a bunch of modules that you can get which gives us the flexibility to add on more later should we want to. The coffee table matches the wood and the black part swivels so you can make it crooked shaped, or long or squarish. We get the coffee table right away as it was on sale. The other won’t come for 3 months (!)

A side note. After all these years of cooking I learned something new. You may already know this so just call me ignorant if you do! You know how recipes say keep a cup of the hot pasta water to put in the sauce? Well I found out you need to put the water into the sauce and get it simmering. Take the pasta off the heat BEFORE it is cooked al dente. Then drain and put into the sauce and cook it the rest of the way in the sauce. It allows the pasta to soak some of the sauce into it as it finishes cooking. I found it to make the pasta much better. Doesn’t work so well with creamy sauces.

It is dark and 7PM and they are not done yet so I will wait until tomorrow to see it.

The Kitchen !!
OK, now it is Wednesday morning and I couldn’t sleep for wanting to see the kitchen. I went over before Luther even got up. It is beautiful, or I think so. Very sleek Italian styling. They are not quite done I think because the counter top bits that go around the edges are loose. And since there is no electricity yet nothing can be tested. Here are some pictures.

Notice the “back splash”. It has shelves and sliding glass doors for bottles etc.


From the pantry door.



See the drawer inside a drawer feature?




From the hallway.


Little spots lighting.


November 1st

Well, here it is November already. Yesterday day on the way to the bank we passed a bar with two carved pumpkins. Last night out on the piazza the shops were being visited by lots of little witches and caped crusaders! So Halloween is alive and well in Italy!

It has gotten pretty chilly lately so we’ve been using the stuffa. That’s the little stove in the apartment. You load it up with pellets of wood and it feeds them into the hopper slowly.


What have we been doing… Well on Thursday we took a trip to Norcia. We also visited a small town called Sellano on the way. It was a place where I had fallen in love with a house before we came over. It is a lovely little town. Very nicely kept. BUT it is devilishly hard to get to. I am glad I gave it a miss.

Norcia is a really nice little town that is known for it’s cured meats, truffles, lentils and faro. We walked about and visited a couple of churches, went into some shops and bought some of the specialties and then had lunch! Here are some photos, first of the town, then lunch.






The restaurant was called la Cenoloco. They were very proud that they used only local foods from just around Norcia. It was pretty quirky and very tiny. Enjoyed the experience.

I dropped by the apartment after five or six days. They have cleaned up most of the trash and swept the floors in the bedrooms and hall. Probably preparing to refinish the floors. They have to do that in two steps. First the back of the house while it’s empty. Then move everything in the living room back to the back and paint and finish the floors in there. Other than the lights it is mostly done now. Here are a few pictures that don’t really tell you much. Shows the new paint and cleaned up rooms.






Catching up

I am still having problems with updating so no pictures right now. I will add them a little later since we are going on a short overnight trip and I should be able to use the hotel wifi. [added pics below]

Sunday was a most gorgeous day. It was sunny, 70s and the perfect blue sky with that beautiful fall sunshine. We had been invited to go to lunch with Susan and Gary and their two guests from California, Irene and George. We went to Calagrana which we had enjoyed once before. It is so pretty. I took some pictures and will add later. Irene and George are vegetarians and Susan had called ahead and they had made a few dishes that they could choose from. Top picture is my veal chop. Next is my porchetta appetizer. Last two are semifreddo desserts.





After lunch we went to Preggio, a hill town that was having a chestnut festival. The place was packed and there was not terribly much to see. Still, since we had to park miles away we got to walk off lunch and continue to enjoy the day. View from Preggio.


They have started to paint the apartment. It is a nice creamy white. Still have not begun to clean up. We got bad news yesterday. Our kitchen is delayed and won’t be installed until November 10th. Nuts.

Yesterday we looked at outdoor furniture. We need to measure before we buy but found some nice stuff. We also bought the living room lights and the ones for the guest bedroom.

As I said in the beginning of this post, we are off on our first trip. It is a town in the Marche called Fabriano about an hour away. They are having a special exhibit at their museum of Giotto works. But the whole town is involved so we thought it was worth an overnight. It will be the first time we left the cats alone.

Meeting with Emanuele

Emanuele moved the meeting up a day so we met yesterday afternoon. I had my list but it wasn’t necessary. They have finished the door in the hall. The electrician was there working on all the wiring and I am sure he will be installing the lights everywhere. They have already replaced the mantle over the pellet stove. We looked in the attic. What a transformation! It is still crumbly concrete on the floor and he suggested industrial carpet to go on it which I was really happy about as I had thought we would do that ourselves. They removed all the unnecessary walls so it is one giant open space. They even painted the ceiling white. Still just an attic but good for storage. Pedini will be bringing the kitchen one day next week to be determined. We discussed the painting to be done and I said I was fine with it all white. He said it should be hot. What he meant was warm 🙂 as in a creamy white rather than cold white. He will paint swatches after the kitchen is in for me to choose from. So he says in 10 or 20 days we can move in. I can’t wait.

Today is market day and it’s in full swing down there even though it is very wet but I don’t think it’s raining right now. The loud man is in full form. Luther and I always buy some seafood and now that we know how to ask for the fish cleaned AND de-scaled we are good to go! I’ll see what other produce is out there as well. We will also probably have a cappuccino at Bar Mary and people watch. Always fun.

Tomorrow we are going to the furniture store as I mentioned. The name of it is
Luigi Filippo Bastianelli I took a look at the site. They do it all there (new custom built to look old, old, and restoring your own pieces) so perhaps I’ll find something but I kind of doubt it. It looks like a junk/antique place mostly.

Then we decided to go to Civitelli Ranieri tomorrow evening for the concert and presentation by Russell Platt. You may remember from a couple of months ago that this is a NYC based foundation for artists of all kinds and they have free presentations. We hadn’t been in a while because nothing interested us. It is nearly the end of their season which I believe runs until November. What a great thing to have so nearby.

Two things of recent note

First, I finally found some soft toilet paper! TMI? Not really. The T paper here is not very soft at all. Since we came I have tried many brands, probably 5 or 6, and finally found one that is nice and soft called Scottonelle.

Second, cat litter here in Italy is eons behind modern cat litter technology. Let’s go back a few decades. When I was growing up there was one kind of litter and the entire litter box had to be changed often or it smelled. When we moved to Germany we found that those canny Deutschers had moved way ahead in litter technology to invent the clumping litter. All the Americans I knew with cats were so happy to have found it. When we returned to the States happily the new litter had found its way there and we were happy there as well. The year is 2014. We moved to Italy with our two cats. For the first month or so I used the litter in the grocery store. After a time I finally realized it didn’t really clump. And it smelled. I said we HAD to find clumping litter. In the little town of Umbertide there are three pet shops. The word for clumping is agglomerante. Armed with that information we finally found one pet store (of the three) who had some! Happy days are here again. Yes small things make me happy!

More reno pictures

I’m afraid this is getting a little repetitive but we are moving toward the home stretch. I went over the day before and looked in the closet. Bad. Clothes are pretty dusty. I decided to go back today and tape them both shut and try to tape the cardboard over the living room doorway. Probably too late now but they still have to sand the floors so can’t hurt I guess. I want to be there when they are moving stuff out of the living room as it is covered with dust in there. I want to “carefully” remove the plastic on the sofa after everything else is out. Then I want to vacuum it before it moves. I’m pretty concerned about it.

So I went over and did the taping. One of the workmen was still there. After I was done and he’d left I took a few more pictures. They made good progress. The new wall around the terrace looks really good with the old stones on it. Here is a picture. See how they match the windowsill stone?


They started building the zona di notte doorway in the hall. I am not sure how I feel about this. I guess it’ll be OK once it’s done. It will allow some privacy in the bedroom and will also allow us to put the cats there if work is being done. I am sure I’ll get used to it. It will also restrict how big a piece of furniture can go back there. Picture.


They also finished the last tile in the pantry doorway. It’s hard to see but here’s a picture. It still needs to be cut along the edge to fit. I guess they do that last.



We have a meeting set up with Emanuele Wednesday morning to discuss final work. As far as I can see we have these things left:

  • Finish door in hall
  • Cleanup site (whew!)
  • Floors to be sanded and refinished in 2 steps because of the furniture
  • Kitchen to be installed
  • All walls need to be painted
  • Overhead lighting needs to be installed
  • All wiring needs to be finished; covers, switch plates, dimmers, plug fittings, etc.
  • Fireplace needs to be opened, inspected and cleaned (and I think Emanuele is Umbrianizing it sometime)
  • Need to replace mantle on pellet stove fireplace
  • They took off old door shutters and still need to install the new ones

I want to talk to Emanuele about moving the shelves in the living room into the pantry but I think I’ll wait on that. I want to be sure they are firmly attached so they won’t fall and I am not confident I can do that.


Today we also went down to the lighting store near Perugia. Drat. I thought because it was a big box store it would be open but Monday mornings in particular are problematic. Actually I think the Italians have a great idea easing into the work week. Not getting up early and going to work on Monday would have suited me just fine when I was working 🙂 . We just need to give up on this doing anything on Monday idea.

Since we had gone all that way we went into a really big shoe store that WAS open. Pretty good prices. Luther got some running shoes. Next we drove down to Metro – another REALLY big store. When we went in it stretched on forever and reminded me of Costco. Well it SHOULD have reminded me of that because after we’d walked blithely in a woman kept calling out to me, Senora, Senora! I don’t really answer to Senora yet but finally figured out she was talking to me. Turns out you DO have to be a member, just like Costco so out we went!

I contacted Cecelia who helped us with our Gas and Water contracts back in the summer. We will meet her on Thursday to see the furniture store owned by her fiancè’s family. I may not like it but I’d like to look. I forgot to say we visited a store up towards Citta di Castello last week called Tiziano. It was recommended to me by Susan. They don’t have a lot of space for furniture on site but they can order anything you want from a bazillion catalogs. This may solve my furniture problems. We need to measure our mattress and bed to order those. Now I have to wait until we open that doorway I taped to do that!

Apartment yesterday

Yesterday morning we went for a nice long walk. We drove over to the other side of the river to a very small, lightly traveled road which turned out to be the old Roman road to Perugia according to small signs we found. It was a pretty area. Strange to think we were walking on the road the old romans would have taken. It is definitely not on the beaten path now!

We started out at a really beautiful church complex called Mezzacorona. On one end was an olive oil and wine seller who are only open from four to seven on Saturdays. Next to it was a really old church and tower. And next to that was a defunct restaurant. I forgot my camera so didn’t take any pictures but need to go back to do that. We went through the church door which led into a basement lower church. Great old stone arches were lighted with discreet lights and candles which an unknown someone had lighted. Up above that was another, larger church. The walls had many paintings from the 1,500s. All this in a very out of the way place. Amazing.

Later yesterday we dropped by our apartment to see if there was any more progress. They look to have finished the wiring work and have been working on covering up what Manuele calls the “tubes”. These we would call pipes. They are the pipes on the terrace. One large black one was already there. Probably takes waste water away. The other was the smaller one that goes from the kitchen sink and out. These had been discussed and we had decided not to make the covers into seating. They will, however have built in lights that point up onto the walls to make a muted light. I am looking forward to seeing how that will turn out. I took some pictures but it is hard to really see how it looks because I can’t get back far enough.


The pile of stone to the right of this picture appeared today. I think it will be laid on top of the tube covering but am not sure.



After we went to see the apartment we had an appointment at Bar Mary to meet Lynda who had rented her apartment to us last January when we were house hunting. She has moved here for the forseeable future as she said. She is very nice and I look forward to seeing her around Umbertide.

Nice hike

On Sunday it was a beautiful day. Not too hot, not too cool, so we decided to drive up the Niccone valley and go for a walk. We had been driving past a sign pointing to hiking and decided to check it out. It started out nearly level but got quite steep quite quickly. It passed a restaurant where we had dined once before. On up above that turnoff are a number of fields full of what looked like shrubs. After closer inspection I saw they were lavender fields. Won’t they be beautiful in the spring! I must make sure I go back to see. After we passed them there was a sign Le Tre Donne – the three women. They had a sign pointing to where you can buy lavender soap and oils.


Today I went over to the apartment and they have tiled about 3/4 of the kitchen. Looks nice. You can see how crooked the walls are when you look at the tiles!