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Tag Archives: cats

Base Camp Barton

29 May
We are mostly settled now that we have been at Base Camp Barton for almost four weeks. Why Base Camp Barton? This is a place to keep our (limited) personal possessions and to park the cats while we travel around Europe for a couple of years. We wanted a “base camp” to return to, to call home, to make a headquarters. Here in Rome we have friends, contacts, doctors, and services we need, as well as access to the terrific transportation network of Italy’s trains and quick flights to other parts of Europe.
We have a large "sala," a combined living room and dining room. Some of our landlady's antiques combined with our comfy recliner, our rugs, and a modern sofa.
We have a large “sala,” a combined living room and dining room. Some of our landlady’s antiques combined with our comfy recliner, our rugs, and a modern sofa.
We wanted a furnished or semi-furnished apartment to make eventual departure easier as we have no intention of shipping large items back to the U.S. at the end of this adventure. I found out about SabbaticalHomes.com and started perusing it last summer. Here, as opposed to VRBO or other tourist-oriented rental sites (which I love and use when traveling), I found apartments with pricing more conducive to long term living that are fully furnished.Finding an apartment here is a very different process from finding one in the U.S. There you can fill out an application almost anonymously, submit it, have a credit check done, and with payment of a damage deposit you are approved. Here it is more of a relationship thing, unless you are a tourist renting a VRBO-type of apartment. I’ve had other ex-pats or would-be-ex-pats tell me that they were refused a mid-to-long-term rental, or that the rental suddenly disappeared when they went to meet the owners.
The bedroom has two French doors to the terrace. Very light and airy.
The bedroom has two French doors to the terrace. Very light and airy.
Eventually one popped up in our preferred quartiere of Parioli at a price that was within reach, which is a different concept than affordable. (Rents in Rome are staggering!)  The person who listed the apartment is an ex-pat Italian living in Boston, and the apartment belongs to his parents, so we made contact on both sides of the Atlantic. It was a perfect size, about 100 square meters. Would they be able to rent it for two years? Yes. Would they consider letting us bring our cats? Yes! So we went to what we have come to call “The Vetting.”
Janie models the bed.
Janie models the bed.
One warm September Sunday we met our landlords to see the apartment, had coffee and chatted in a mix of Italian and English. There was no application, no credit check, not even a question about income or finances. It was good enough that we were associated with the American Embassy. We went back for a second look and said yes, we’d take it. Constructing a legitimate rental agreement was another process that eventually involved an attorney, but not for any negative reasons. We all wanted to end up with a legal contract and in Italy there are some interesting requirements. For example a two-year agreement is not legitimate. It has to be a “4 + 4” contract or an 18 month (maximum) contratto transitorio. Perhaps most interesting is that once the contract is signed, it has to be registered with the State and a fee paid. In the U.S. I would stick a rental agreement in my file drawer on the odd chance I needed to refer to it, as would the landlord, but here it must be registered so the State can collect yet another fee. Oh, and just before the formal signing, the son from the U.S. was here to visit, so he dropped by to meet us too. A family affair!
The new apartment guest-room-office is not-quite-ready for occupancy.
The new apartment guest-room-office is not-quite-ready for occupancy.
Italian friends have told us stories about having to open a bank account in the name of the landlord and deposit an amount equivalent to a year’s rent! This is in case of default and only the landlord can withdraw from it. €1,000 rent = €12,000 deposit. To add insult to injury, the renter has to pay bank fees, so at the end of the rental period one has not only tied up a significant amount of cash but does not even get it all back as monthly fees are deducted! Luckily we were trusted and were able to put down only a standard two month’s rent.
The guest room now ready for guests.
The guest room now ready for guests.
Before we unpacked the last box our nephew and his fiancée were in Rome to visit. Luckily for them not in our guest room as it was the place we stashed all the stuff we didn’t know what to do with right away. We had lots of meals out with them as we were not ready to tackle cooking just yet. They left town, we unpacked the last two boxes and made up the guest room the morning our son arrived just two days before I retired. Immediately following our last day at work, we went to Sorrento with him.
So now we are alone for a week and doing the shakedown, figuring out how things work, where things are, where to put our still-too-abundant “stuff,” and how to spend our days. They are going by rapidly. We joined the gym across the street and did our first workout today. How nice it was to not be constrained by a lunch hour for a workout!
We’ve had to have some minor repairs on appliances and it seems the stove (which must be 40 years old) will need to be replaced, but the landlady has been an angel about it all. Yesterday we had screens installed in our bedroom, a blessing as the mosquitoes can be horrible here and very few Italian apartments have them.
The terrace is narrow, but wraps around the bedroom and there is just enough room for two to sip wine.
The terrace is narrow, but wraps around the bedroom and there is just enough room for two to sip wine.
Beautiful bougainvillea across from us.
Beautiful bougainvillea across from us.
Another view out the back door, off the bedroom.
Another view out the back door, off the bedroom.
The lady across the street has a terrace to die for...but she faces west which is less-than-optimal.
The lady across the street has a terrace to die for…but she faces west which is less-than-optimal.
We’ve already been yelled at by the portiera for parking in the driveway for 6 minutes after an IKEA run our first week here. “NON SOSTARE QUI!” she said. “NON MAI!” So we feel like we are accepted. She yells at a lot of people.
The cats love the wrap around terrace and have discovered all the sunspots. We have adapted to hanging laundry out versus having a power-hog clothes dryer. We do have a dishwasher to compensate, which the embassy did not see fit to supply us.
We are expecting guests – my brother and sister-in-law arrive Monday – and the first cat sitters are lined up for a 9-night stay. Base Camp Barton is ready!
Libby has found a good hiding spot, under an afghan on the couch.
Libby has found a good hiding spot, under an afghan on the couch.
This would be called an "ampio ingresso" in an ad for this apartment. I love these big entrances with room for a coatrack, umbrella stand, big table and mirror.
This would be called an “ampio ingresso” in an ad for this apartment. I love these big entrances with room for a coatrack, umbrella stand, big table and mirror.
Many Italian apartments have a service hallway, leading to the kitchen, that can be closed off.  That's Janie trotting toward the camera.
Many Italian apartments have a service hallway, leading to the kitchen, that can be closed off. That’s Janie trotting toward the camera.
The kitchen is the size of a postage stamp, but functional. We were spoiled at our last place!
The kitchen is the size of a postage stamp, but functional. We were spoiled at our last place!
 
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One year

19 May

Italiano

To our friends and family, miscellaneous musings after our first year in Italy. We arrived May 18, 2012.

1. Cats do not need to go outdoors. A windowsill will do.

Dare-devil Janie on the (very wide) window sill. Libby watches from the cat tower. Window screens are a rarity.

Dare-devil Janie on the (very wide) window sill. Libby watches from the cat tower. They traded a Portland garden for a 3rd floor windowsill.

2. When Italians ask “Come stai?” they really mean it. It’s not just in passing, like in the U.S. Here it is a conversation starter.

3. Arugula is fantastic on a sandwich piadina or panino. Lettuce is for salads.

4. A scarf around your neck is really comforting. It keeps the chill off your neck and it looks good, too.

5. Walking is a terrific form of transportation but shoe leather wears out faster than car tires.

6. Parking is colorful: white (free), blue (pay), yellow (restricted) zones are interpreted liberally by drivers.

Here we see a car parked in blue stripes (pay) but overlapping onto yellow (reserved in this case for handicapped).

Here we see a car parked in blue stripes (pay) but overlapping onto yellow (reserved in this case for handicapped).

This car is parking in a free zone, as indicated by the white lines...except this is a pedestrian crossing. "Liberal interpretation."

This car is parking in a free zone, as indicated by the white lines…except this is a pedestrian crossing. “Liberal interpretation.”

If there's no room in the street, just block a sidewalk. Pedestrians be damned!

If there’s no room in the street, just block a sidewalk. Pedestrians be damned!

7. I’d hate to be in a wheel chair in Rome. (See above)

8. Privacy is an American concept.

9. Dinner does not have to be a protein, a starch, and a vegetable. The American “square meal” is no longer a part of our lives.

Risotto all zucca

Pumpkin risotto – one dish meal, no meat, delicious local flavors.

10. Fresh flavors need little help. We have tossed out many of our spices.

11. Starbucks is NOT an Italian experience.

No  "Grande Americano" here: a single shot espresso gets us going in the morning. We have a few throughout the day.

No “Grande Americano” here: a single shot espresso gets us going in the morning. We have a few throughout the day. Pastries only on the weekends…or holidays…or vacation.

12. Being a repeat customer is heartily acknowledged. When was the last time your “regular” waiter greeted you with a kiss on the cheek?

Celebrating one year in Italy, here we are in Martina Franca.

Celebrating one year in Italy, here we are in Martina Franca, Puglia.

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