It wheezes with the effort of a heaving asthmatic, bravely soldiering on some 50-plus years after its creation, struggling to keep its charges cool in the sweltering heat of the
This monument to Indesit is a true relic, and one of several quirky features of a house that is huge, only occasionally inhabited, and partly used as a farmhouse along with its surrounding fields that have been worked for the past 38 years by Mario from Paterno.
The ground floor is home to several dozen rabbits and chickens, giving the place a distinct whiff, one that is no doubt quite pleasing to the rather large and pink pig which wallows sadly in his small concrete pen, no doubt waiting out his days – unbeknown to him – until he becomes so much prosciutto, speck, and ragù. It’s hard not to feel for the poor animals, but us born of the city perhaps don’t appreciate the business of rural survival and working with reality, as it were. It’s made Maria reconsider her meat-eating habits, particularly her pork ones, given their living conditions, diet, and apparent lack of friendliness to the human system.
We’re one floor up, in two bedrooms, a central room, a bathroom, and a kitchen, with the other two bedrooms stacked to the rafters with the boxes and packets of “stuff” (clothing, books, household goods, you name it) that are supposedly destined for Poland where one of the co-owners of the house, Marino, is a priest. The other owners are his brothers the doctor in Colmurano, and Piergiovanni, hiking friend and husband of Ornella (deputy mayor, mother of Margherita, Julius’ class-mate, and provider of photographic work for me), and they generously offered us the place knowing our precarious predicament.
(We were offered two other places at €500 for the 10 days, apparently quite reasonable for this area and time of the year, but we – mostly Maria – felt it was too expensive. She was prepared to stay in our caravan in this hottest summer for over 100 years without a bathroom, a kitchen, or electricity. I was reaching for my wallet when Ornella came along with this life- and marriage-saving offer.)
Needless to say, we’re hugely thankful. And it’s been an experience, already after just two days. Almost half of the windows are home to wasp nests, either populated, abandoned, or under construction. And on two of the nights we’ve had bats flying around inside our rooms for at least half-an-hour until they found – or new helped them find – the way out. Their apparent struggle to locate the path to freedom – the same as the way in, the window – has thrown my previous admiration for their sonar capabilities into some question.
There’s also a ghost in the water system, a sort of delayed alto-tenor’s wail every time a tap is turned on somewhere on the property.
It certainly has one thing that a lot of more recent or reconstructed houses don’t have with all their new finishes, fittings, and furnishings – character, and loads of it. What a great project it would be to give it back some of its lost glory, while keeping its idiosyncrasies.
But that’s no matter, we have our own “character study” to worry about, one with its own set of idiosyncrasies, and I can more-or-less guarantee that there won’t be a pig in ours…