Winter in Umbria ~ Weeks 6 & 7

Our final two weeks in Umbria flew by and now that we are back in sunny Florida our seven week adventure in Umbria honestly seems almost like a dream. The weather improved significantly during our last couple of weeks in complete contrast to the cold and damp of just a month earlier.

You could almost smell spring in the air, and the warmer temperatures and sunny skies we enjoyed the last few weeks of our stay encouraged many visible signs of spring to unveil around our property. Our wild roses started to grow and bud, the wild lavender around our yard began to sprout, and the color green seemed to be magnified everywhere we looked.

The weather improved so much in fact that we no longer needed to make a fire to keep warm during the day anymore and were in fact able to eek our firewood out to last until we left. My husband couldn’t resist planting something with signs of spring so evident so he dug up a plot between two olive trees and planted an herb garden.

Hopefully it will still be alive when we return in May! The emergence of spring also compelled my husband to order an additional 15 olive trees, a number of apple trees (we ARE called Il Casale di Mele after all!), fig trees, as well as assorted climbing flowering vines and shrubs that will be in place when we return.

After spending a lot of “couple time” the past two months, during our last week we had two separate visits from friends who came to check out our new Umbrian homes. It was really nice to see some familiar faces and visit with old friends, as well as share our new homes.

Between the visits with friends, we finally completed buying all the major pieces of furniture except the furniture for our bedroom. We are pleased though that when we return to Umbria in May the rental house will be completely painted and furnished and apart from the final decorating, it will be ready for guests!

The one major step that took place during our final days was that our builder finally began on the renovations needed to repair the cracked walls in both upper stories and in just a few days all the walls were knocked down to be replaced with new ones. The decision was also made to extend both master bedrooms out, removing a tiny balcony off the back which will leave room for a nice little sitting area in each master bedroom.

Although it was a little difficult to see truck loads of debris being removed from the destruction of our homes, we knew it was necessary to repair the cracks, and now when we return in May both houses will have almost brand new upper bedroom/bath areas.

During the last few days of our stay, we also walked through both houses with our painter and chose all the color changes we wanted completed once the repair work was finished, and had our windows measured for curtains. After looking for what seemed like hours through book after book of fabrics, we finally ordered drapes to be made for all the main windows. Our center island in the kitchen of our house was also ordered, and we chose a gorgeous chestnut table and chairs that will be custom made for our dining room.

One very nice Italian woman I met who has been keeping up with my blog about our Umbrian adventure stated that she was concerned that folks who have never visited Italy will read my blog and think all Italians live that way. I had not thought of that before, as I thought anyone reading the blog posts would certainly understand that our homes are in fact in the country and that living in a city anywhere in Italy would be quite different.

We have in fact lived eight years in Milan many years back where the majority of the population live in apartments and living in Milan was similar to living in a large city anywhere else in the world. We chose these two farmhouses in the heart of Umbria however as we wanted a slower paced country setting. We can drive to a number of larger towns and cities if we feel the need to shop, dine in great restaurants, or just mingle with people, but we chose our places for their serenity and gorgeous country vistas.

Although I can honestly say I probably will not plan to return to Umbria in winter, I can also say that we both loved (most of the time) living in our farmhouse. After spending almost two months living in our new home, we are very happy with the location we are chose, and know for us it was the perfect choice.

We have the best of both worlds as we can hop onto the highway in mere minutes and drive to a number of small towns or larger cities, but when we are home looking out over the rolling hills behind our house we feel we are alone, surrounded only by nature’s beauty. We have also met so many wonderful folks in our local area that constantly went out of their way to help us settle in during our stay.

We are happy to be back in the land of warmth and sunshine, but we are both looking forward to our return to Umbria in May to complete the decorating, get our gardens planted, and to start renting out the second house.

A few additional incidental things I learned during our 7 week Umbrian adventure…..

Feeding outdoor cats will cause them to multiply. We started feeding the two cats we had “inherited” when we bought our farmhouses but as time went by we kept seeing new cats creeping onto our property headed to the food bowl.

No matter how isolated they may seem, folks living in the country always seem to have access to quality ingredients. There are trucks that travel the country daily carrying everything from fresh vegetables, to seafood, cheese and meats, or even fresh pasta and bread. All the folks needed to do it seemed was to hang a bag on their doors or gates on the days the trucks drove by and they would stop and sell their wares to the home owner.

Italian irons rock! They are similar to what we would call a professional iron here in North America with separate water reservoirs. The steam that comes out of these amazing inventions is so powerful it could take the wrinkles out of a Sharpei, not that I would ever want to do such a thing!

Italians living in the country are an extremely hearty bunch. No matter how cold the temperatures many old Nonnos would be out working in their gardens or trimming their olive tress while Nonnas would make the trek each morning along winding hills all bundled up to the closest grocery store miles away to buy their daily provisions. Each afternoon we would see old women walking up our road collecting firewood with wheel barrows or even by carrying the wood on their backs. God Bless them!

We are lucky to have a fenced yard as there were constant signs of wild boar digging up the area just outside our fence!

Whoever invented fleece fabric should get the Nobel Peace Prize. I brought a number of cashmere sweaters to Umbria that I never wore, but instead I lived in layers that included my three $9.99 Target fleece pullovers that I rotated daily. Fleece fabric is the warmest thing ever!

And last of all, I found that a bathroom bidet makes a GREAT jacuzzi for a 5 pound little dog! Who knew????


Deborah Mele
February 2009

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