Looking down from six stories high
We’ve been here almost three months. And while we have no intention of staying a single day over one year, we do refer to this place as home. When we visit another city for the weekend, we come home on Sunday. When we pick up the boys from school, we come home for lunch. And after an afternoon navigating the foreign, loud, confusing city below, we can always retreat to our apartment and feel like it’s ours. It’s a good place.
But not perfect.
By now we’ve had time to get familiar with the nuances. The good has only gotten better, and for the most part, the bad is just a big inconvenience. For anyone interested, here’s a little tour.
I’ll start with the disadvantages
1. The water. One of the first things I noticed when we moved in, was a strange, filmy, white residue left in the pot after we boiled water. And the tea always has the look of an oil slick floating around on top. I thought the pot had some leftover toxins from the previous tenants, but after buying a new pot, I had the same problem. So I Googled “white residue” which led me to “hard water” which led to “calcium and iron magnesium”. It turns out this suspicious film is a result of all the mineral deposits. Upon further investigation, I learned that we are getting a full day’s supply of calcium and magnesium just by drinking water from the facet! So this actually might be a good thing. But it’s gross.
left: the mineral deposits left over in the pot. right: the sludgy look of tea made with a daily dose of calcium and magnesium.
2. Old appliances that break or don’t work well. Since we’ve moved in, we’ve had to replace the washing machine and the refrigerator. We had to live without both for nearly four weeks. Then last month we had to repair the hot water heater after two days of freezing, cold water. And the intercom used to communicate with visitors when they arrive downstairs (and also open the door to our building) hasn’t worked for weeks, meaning one of us has a long hike every time a someone rings, which leads me to . . .
3. Living on the sixth floor. There is no elevator in our building. We climb up and down 89 steps at least three times a day. I never buy more than a day’s worth of groceries at a time, one reason being that it would be too heavy. I dread the ascent after a weekend away with the extra weight of suitcases. It’s tiring. It’s sweaty. But I think I’m getting stronger.
On our way to school this morning. No problem going down.
4. The shower leaks and makes a puddle on the bathroom floor after each use.
5. The toilets are really hard to flush.
6. We have woodworms in all the antique furniture and wood shelves. I’ve tried getting rid of them, but they seem to be very resilient. They have burrowed themselves too deep in the wood for me to see, but they leave plenty of evidence with a brown, sawdusty powder all over.
7. The bells. Outside our bedroom window is the city bell tower. It rings every hour. It also rings every 15 minutes. Matt did the math; that God forsaken bell rings 456 times a day.
A view of the bell tower from our bedroom. Each bell is 7 feet high. Each bell is very loud.
I’m starting to detect a little whine in my voice, so I’m going to switch over to the benefits of this lovely place.
1. The ceiling. Above the living room is a bright fresco of a horn, a ribbon, and some holly branches. Another ceiling has beautiful red stones mortared into it. I love it. When I look up, there is no doubt we are in Italy.
Our living room. The fresco is above. The stones are over on the right.
2. The boys each have their own room. This has been so nice, especially since there isn’t a back yard to play in or much space in the apartment to get away from each other. When they need a break from the rest of the family, they now have their own place to be alone.
Tom’s room is decorated with football pictures he gets in the mail from friends back home. (Those are all his school books stacked on the right.)
3. The location. No other detail about our life here makes as big a difference as this one. We are in the middle of it all. We are in the center of the center. With the warm weather, we keep the windows open and can hear silverware and plates down below at Perugia’s most popular restaurant. The boys can go downstairs and across the street to the best gelataria in town, and we can see them the whole time from our windows. We are are less than five minutes by foot to the kids’ school. From our dining room table, there is the frequent sound of street musicians. Then there is the constant traffic of fashionably dressed Italians walking past down below. We are surrounded with so much vibrancy and energy. It feels great.
4. The way our oven cooks potatoes. This is weird, but every time I make roasted potatoes, they turn out perfectly. I don’t even have to do anything except cut them up and pour salt and olive oil over them. I don’t even know how hot the oven is because it’s in celsius. I just turn it on the highest number and check on them every 10 minutes. It’s amazing.
5. The fireplace. There’s a little fireplace built into the wall. You can see it from the photo above. It’s adorable, and I think it will be really cozy in the winter if we can find some place to buy wood.
6. The postcard wall. Every time we visit a new city, we add a postcard from that location to our kitchen wall. As the postcards accumulate, the wall of this apartment record the highlights of our year.
We’re up to 13 now. We’ll add another on Monday after we spend the night in Gubbio.
6. The photo wall. Thank God the apartment came fully furnished. The landlords have done a nice job decorating it. Most of their paintings on the wall are fine, but we knew we would want something from home to make this place feel like ours. So we brought pictures of all our friends and family and stuck them above the shelves in the entryway. It looks fantastic.
If you look carefully, you’ll probably see yourself somewhere on the wall.
7. A place for Luke. The top shelf is dedicated to Luke. In addition, we packed the pink candle that we light in his memory. And I brought the framed picture that our friend gave us on the five-year anniversary. It’s called Flight of the Recently Departed. We keep them together near the kitchen table. They hold a space for Luke. While we didn’t bring very many personal items for home, these were essential. These pictures and objects of Luke’s might be the most important features of our apartment.
I just heard the town bell. It’s time to walk down 89 stairs and cross the street to get groceries for lunch.