Friday, October 17, 2008

Life in Lucca Continues...

Okay, so this week I found and moved into the perfect apartment for me. It is in the heart of the city (inside the walls) so I will be able to benefit from the energy and life that is part of Italy and Lucca.

The apartment is in the Piazza Anfiteatro where my friend Serenella had her photos taken by Chico’s magazine a few months ago. It is a really important part of the city and tourists flock to it on a regular basis to marvel at its oval shape and see some of the homes that began to built in 56 B.C. My kitchen, bathroom and sitting room windows all look out onto the piazza.

I was so happy to move out of the bed and breakfast for so many reasons – the main of which is I have finally been able to unpack and have a home I can call my own.

A huge bonus of the apartment is that it is completely furnished. It has a lot of superfluous stuff, but it’s also got some intriguing items in it since the owners also own an antique shop. It has an old bread-kneading trough that looks like a baby crib in the sitting room. I had no idea what it was when I first saw it and have no idea what I will use it for but it makes for a great conversation piece.

I have found that most apartments (unfurnished) are approximately 100 Euros for every 10 mq (100 square feet) and since this one is furnished and 90-100 mq (900-1000 square feet) I am getting a bargain for 800 Euros per month. As the dollar went up in value and the Euro went down this week, it will run me approximately $1065 per month.

The entry door to the building is very old and the inside foyer and stairs are made of very old cement, bricks and metal fittings that were used to keep the formed concrete in place. It’s quite scary walking up the stairwell, however there is plenty of lighting so I don’t have to worry about tripping and falling. Of course, because of the time this apartment was built, there were absolutely no elevators.

To maintain the integrity of the building, all the electrical and heating elements have been carefully placed inside the walls in copper conduit rather than digging into the structure. Many walls inside the apartment have the original brick exposed so as to see the construction. It’s quite intriguing. There are many different sizes of bricks and stones and old mortar. All the ceilings have the original beautiful wooden beams and the ceillings are approximately 10-11 feet tall.

The landlords of my flat are wonderful. Their antique store is a few doors down from the apartment and Antonella, the wife, actually came to the B&B the day I moved to not only pick me up with all my luggage and dogs in tow, but also help me move everything down the three flights of stairs to her truck! She greeted me with a smile, complete makeup and stilettos all at 8:30 in the morning! I don’t know how these Italian women do it…

That has been one adjustment that has been a little difficult for me. Coming from Menifee (and southern California) I am used to being much more relaxed in my attire. I wouldn’t be caught dead now going outside to walk the dogs without my nice shoes, jeans and a jacket. I draw the line at makeup first thing in the morning, though, because the poor dogs would probably go to the bathroom on my floor while they waited for me to finish.

I had an interesting experience a few days ago. I saw what would be the equivalent of our checkpoint. The carabinieri (policeman) actually stood by the side of the street with a stick with a stop sign affixed to it, randomly waving it in front of cars that he thought should stop. He and his partner would then run the registration and information from their vehicle and, if everything was okay, they’d let the driver continue on. At the time, I happened to be sitting in the park with my dogs watching everything happen while enjoying gelato – one flavor with pinenuts, the other with pistacchios.

Last Friday I also got the wonderful news that my remaining boxes arrived with NO EXTRA CUSTOMS FEES! I guess whatever we wrote on the Customs forms was accepted and they delivered them with no questions asked. The first thing I did was get my little dog basket out that fits on the bicycle and Marco helped to install it. I spent the evening riding around the fortress walls with one girl in the front basket and one in the back basket.

It was a little unwieldly at first to ride in a straight line with both girls in tow, but I soon figured it out and was weaving through the throngs of people like the rest of the natives. The girls seemed to thoroughly enjoy the ride.

I don’t think I mentioned how loud it is here. I am used to the serene quiet of my Menifee home (with the exception of a few golf balls hitting the house once in a while). Well, the noises rarely stop because I am, after all, now living in a city with all the city noises that come along with that. The girls are having a tough time relaxing because just as they do, along comes a new noise. They’re favorite is the neighbor cat meowing to be let in next door. I’m glad they’re short or they’d probably jump out the window to get at it.

The Italians love children and any kind of pet. I think the Italians love their children to remain children their entire lives as I’ve seen many 5-6 year olds still nursing on a bottle or sucking a pacifier. They all seem to be cuddled and spoiled, yet they are (so far) remarkably pleasant to be around. All of them love the girls and stop and pet them.

My friend John from Menifee happened to come to Pisa for business this week and was kind enough to bring a suitcase full of my things with him. My son packed the things I asked for and threw in a few others he thought I might want. It was fun to open it and see what was included – kind of like an early Christmas. I had dinner with John and his boss that evening and it was nice to be able to speak complete sentences in the correct tense. They seemed to really enjoy Lucca and it was fun to see them experience a taste of what I’ve been able to live the past few weeks.

Most of this week has been spent unpacking and buying food items and things I need for the apartment. I visited another rustico (old villa) in Montecarlo with Luca and Marco that is being purchased by a Danish man who will, hopefully, want me to assist him with the remodel. I’ve also been patiently and quickly trying to complete my permesso di soggiorno which is my permit to stay in Italy. I have to complete it within eight days of moving into the apartment and can only process it through a few post offices in the vicinity. Of course, it is only in Italian so my translation lessons continue…

I posted this blog by using an internet “key” that you purchase from the local telefonino (cell phone) shop. It’s quite handy. You just plug it into a USB port and are in business. After purchasing the key, you pay 25 Euros a month for 100 hours of internet connectivity. At the end of the month, you renew the access again at the store. Thank goodness it’s near my apartment.

I met another woman this week who owns a high-end furniture business and wants to collaborate with me on business. I also visited Elisabetta’s fabric shop again yesterday to see all the new products that arrived. I can hardly wait to begin actively working since I seem to have caught up on my sleep. Now, if my poor feet and legs can just get used to all these hard surfaces…

A presto!


Stephanie said...

Hi Marlene,

I just read your updated blog. You are just incredible and what an experience. I am so glad you have found an apartment and are now settling in. It is so much fun to read your blog and see what you have accomplished in such a short amount of time. I look forward to your next update. Stephanie (William Lyon Homes)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I found your blog via Miss Exptria. Welcome to Italy.

I hear you on the clothes. I lived in L.A. for 10 years. I used to wear sweats to run errands. I don't do that here. ha