Nope, I’m not writing about HRC’s book way too many years ago, but our little village here. Or I should say, about 4 or 5 kilometers below, the town of Valfabbrica. And more precisely, about the people we’ve met along the way.
Debora Bazzucchi, left, with Angela Gorietti
First up is Bazzy, real name Debora Bazzucchi. She’s the real estate agent who sold us our house here, and she’s a full-service friend and businesswoman. (Should you ever want to buy a place around here, I’ll put you in touch, but you’ll have to buy us dinner.)
Debora is energetic to the max, funny, and fierce. She’s a great cook, and we’ve spent a few evenings at her place somewhere up in the mountains across the valley from us. She likes good bubbly, has friends who traffic in black truffles, and drives an Audi cabriolet, usually with the top down. Don’t try to follow her if you want to hold onto your license.
One country house, three Euro hatchbacks (friends came over)
Here’s the reason for the headline: We bought a house with great bones and an incredible location. But it needed some TLC before we could move in. We aren’t neophytes when it comes to Italian real estate, having a little apartment in the city. But having a house on a mountaintop is a whole ‘nother deal. Okay, so some of the work is self-inflicted. We wanted a pool, which is, I’ll concede, completely optional, if not irresponsible and decadent. Sue me. (By the way, with Debora in the photo above is Angela, her pal who supplied the stone surrounding the pool. It’s amazing to look at and walk on, and it comes from a local quarry. It’s a family company, and she came every couple of days for quality control.)
When Italians move, they take their kitchens and light fixtures with them. Kitchens in the land of great food are, oddly enough, not a big deal in terms of installation. They’re plug and play, and not as big a project to design as they are in the U.S. We bought ours at Mondo Convenienza, which is sort of like IKEA, except that they don’t do flat pack, and deliver and install the stuff as part of the deal. Debora came into this by supplying the necessary guys to do the plumbing and electrical work. Plus, she watched the installation like a hawk. Installations, actually; the house has two kitchens, one upstairs in our living quarters, and one in the ground floor guest quarters, which serves as our summer kitchen since it opens onto the garden.
I won’t bore you with the wonders of places like Mondo Convenienza. Suffice it to say that they translate high design for popular consumption. We sat with someone who went through the dimensions we had to work with and we came up with the designs. They sent someone to measure and figure out whether it would work.
So back to the village. Simone was our plumber in this, and I suspect he will be forever. The guy just figures things out and makes it work. That included modernizing a manual water cistern/pump system (don’t ask) and making it so we really don’t have to think about how the water gets to the house.
Then there’s Luigi and his assistants. We bought a bunch of lighting fixtures. The previous owner, a good guy but a chef who works too many hours, did a lot of the electrical work himself in between shifts as a professional chef. Luigi, a pro, cleaned it up and installed all sorts of clever lights and switches around the house. I’m still trying to memorize what controls what, but it all works and I keep being struck by the thoughtful touches.
We can’t forget Enrico, who is Debora’s ex. He’s an incredibly kind and sweet guy who came in, patched up walls and painted. The place looks like new and without Enrico’s help (and his and Debora’s son, Nicolò, pitched in), I wouldn’t be sitting in my office here writing this. And there’s Gianni, a stonemason who worked through the hottest days to get the pool border done. Many hot days; the guy’s an incredible perfectionist.
Our village here wouldn’t be complete with mentioning Marco Ferramosche, who is our architect. He started the work on the pool on a dare, and served as the general contractor. He sent us almost daily photos when we were in New York, and coordinated the work of Simone, Luigi, the excavators, geologists, environmentalists, town officials, concrete workers, pool suppliers, etc., etc. He nagged me (nicely) when I had to do something like pay a bill, be there to make a decision, or talk to the pool guy about how to do things.
The Spartan Woman, ricotta from Pasquale
Wait. I’m almost forgot our neighbor, Pasquale. He’s one of the brothers and their mother who sold us the place. He owns the agriturismo next door, Ca’Mazzetto. It’s certified organic, and they raise sheep, grow olives, and make cheese and fabric from the sheep milk and wool. He drops by to say hi regularly. And when we first started sleeping over here, he brought us a plate of delicious fresh sheep’s milk ricotta.
Phew. You can come visit now.
[Copyedited by Judy Lopatin]