From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 14
Casa Giorgio
After the rain comes the sunshine, so even during the stormiest weather, one should not give up hope. The sun that came shining upon our poor little house came in the form of Adenaco Lotti and my adventuresome sister Mary Lee and her husband, Sidney Nolan.

For a number of years the Nolans had participated in the production of filmstrips for our company, Educational Filmstrips, now Educational Video Network. The Nolans loved to go camping with their two children, David and Mary Katherine, and so they happily agreed to camp out in Casa Giorgio and work with Adenaco in starting a more professional restoration process than what my novice helpers and I were able to accomplish toward making the house more permanently dry and cozy.

In a letter that Sidney wrote to me on August 23, 1978, he reported that the money that I had sent would cover the roof replacement as well as the custom made windows that would cost $114.00 each installed. Adenaco thought that amount was excessive, but there were no alternatives available, so we gave the okay to proceed when the contractor would be free in September after the Nolans would be gone. Adenaco was more than happy to agree to supervise the work and to pay the workmen with the money we left with him.

My parents were to return in late September to check on the progress, and Sidney impressed upon the contractor the importance of having the roof work completed and windows installed so that my father could let another contract for new stairs and floors.

Sidney reported in a P.S.: “We found a pavement of sorts on part of the patio. Lotti will have the contractor haul away the rubble, leaving some good stones for maybe building a barbeque fireplace or something someday. We are chopping up the rubble and usable rock and piling the waste in the center to haul off. It’s going to make a nice place to sit in summer.”

The third stage, after the floors and stairs were complete, would be to pipe water to the bathroom and add a wash basin and a real flush toilet. The original “bathroom” consisted of a small room with a stone with a hole in it leading down to the pozzo nero, or cesspool, Modern indoor plumbing was a rare commodity in Gioviano and other isolated villages in those days, and those who were fortunate enough to have it were proud to show it off as if it was their most prized possession.

Our mattress had rotted from rain leaking through the roof to the point that it had to be hauled away and replaced with the Nolan’s air mattresses which Sidney agreed to leave in the house for use by my parents when they returned in September to check on the progress.

When they arrived in Gioviano on September 20th, the work had not even begun, and even though my mother wrote “Italy gives me a feeling of peace and pleasant memories,” the house was still uninhabitable and thus not prepared to provide her with the additional pleasant memories she had hoped for.

As there was much work to be done on a series of eight filmstrips we were producing on Italy, my parents left for Florence and San Gimignano and were planning on working on another filmstrip on the Etruscans but changed their minds.

“Since Italy is SWARMING with Germans and Swiss who find it a travel bargain due to the money exchange, we’re leaving the Etruscans for George and Sue’s spring trip, and heading back to France,” my mother wrote.

Before leaving for France, they again went to Gioviano to contract for the new floors and stairs. When they returned to the Hotel Milano just outside Borgo a Mozzano where they had been staying, the smell of food coming from Maria’s kitchen was so tempting that they stayed for lunch and “decided to take a nap”.

After their nap, they were determined to visit Barga, a Florentine city perched on an outcrop high above the Serchio to the north of Gioviano. Barga is just one of the towns that can be seen from our Tuscan window and gazing at it in the far distance had aroused their curiosity, especially since the city was not even mentioned in any of the guide books at the time, including Baedeker’s.

My mother wrote, “We were impressed with the beautiful drive up the mountain to the little city. The weather changed today. It rained some off and on early, but poured torrents late this afternoon, and the mountains have been shrouded in mist. Tomorrow we leave for France. As we finished our work early in Italy we plan to go to Carcassonne, a place I’ve longed for us to see.”

The little house was now all alone in the hands of Sig. Lotti and the contractors under his command. What would the future hold? Would the work actually be accomplished before the summer of 1979? Those were questions that were quite legitimate and are so even today considering the fact that I had contracted for work to be done on our fifth Gioviano house in the summer of 2003 but have yet to see the contractor arrive as of the date of this writing—June 14, 2005.

Revised March 3, 2008
Copyright 2005-2006 George H. Russell
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