From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 8
The Opportunity That Knocked
Remember a few chapters back when I made the statement, “When opportunity knocks, open the door?” Well opportunity was just about to knock, but you will soon see the problems we had getting the door open. Opening doors sometimes takes money, a commodity that we simply did not have in those days.

Vittorio soon showed us the other two houses, both of which were in better condition than the one we had just seen, but did not have the spectacular view of the first. The beauty of the situation with all three houses together was that the entire complex was connected. The small terrace of the first house was adjacent to the large terrace of the second house, and the third house was adjacent to the second house.

At the far end of the large terrace was a stone doorway leading out into an orchard of cherry trees intermingled with other species. The property line tumbled down a slope to the road below. Just above the road was an old stone barn or capanna that had served to house animals or store chestnuts. Even though it had been used for things associated with farming, it could easily be converted into a small house.

Vittorio still would not reveal the price until we had seen everything including the antique furniture that would be included in the bargain should one be reached. The contents of the first house included: a huge chestnut madia (bread bin) used for storing flour, various chairs and tables, a great single wrought iron canopy bed, ancient handmade brass pots and pans, old tools of various sorts, glassware, and a variety of other objects associated with life in the 19th century and earlier.

The second house was likewise filled with antiques from various eras and epics. In addition, it was extremely interesting because the cantina floor revealed huge exposed boulders. This floor had also served as the pigpen, as each family in Gioviano in the past had at least one pig in their house to consume any garbage that the family might produce. The pigpen in the first house was in a tiny room with a doorway leading out to the terrazzo (terrace) . Built into the wall was a hand-carved stone feeding trough.

The third house was used to store firewood, which is its current function even to this day. In fact, nothing has changed during the last 32 years. For the last few days, Daria and her daughter Anna, as well as other family members and villagers, have been hauling tractor loads of logs to La Corte, where they are cut into shorter lengths. Daria’s wood has been split and stacked by Anna in the third house which still boasts on its facade a small stone head of what appears to be an African slave that I believe may date to the 1400s.

“Signor Vittorio, per piacere, dica quanto vuole per le case.” (“Vittorio, sir, please tell me how much you want for the houses.”) Finalmente (finally) he responded. “Vogliamo un milione di lire se vuole solo la prima casa che abbiamo visto. Se vuole comprare tutto costarà tre milioni, o se preferisce comprare quelle alter due case con terreno, il prezzo sarà due milioni.”

(“We would like one million lire if you want only the first house that we saw. If you want to buy all of them, it will cost three million, or if you prefer to buy those two other houses with land, the price will be two million.”)

I couldn’t believe my ears. At the current exchange rate, as terrible for us as it was, the asking price of the first house alone was $1,700 or for the other two with land and barn, $3,400 or for the entire complex, $5,100! Sometimes we delude ourselves, as I would soon find out.

Updated December 21, 2009
Copyright 2005-2009 George H. Russell
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