This summer has been busy for us renovating our old properties. One of the loveliest things we have done is to put a new roof on our little Pieve dei Monti di Villa village house. The roof has been leaking gently for the last 8 years since we had had it repaired the first time(!), but recently, in the last year, our aged neighbour did some of his own repair works of his wall via our roof and since then the water coming in, has been by the bucket. It has kept us away from the little place and this has been really sad because it is such a wonderful retreat. So, as the summer wore in, our friend and very busy muratore, Fabio, pledged his commitment to the job and lo and behold it has actually been done as well as the facade which has also worn the effects of its age.
The eaves have been painted, and there is new cooper guttering, and the walls have been partially rendered in calcia, an original method which is a bit like plaster and a bit like mud, it breathes, unlike cement, with the stone work showing through but not heavily pointed out. Its beautiful and it looks ancient. Fabio believes from the quality of the cement between the stones that the house is about 400 years old. The rickety old castagna windows certainly seem to bear this possibility out.
While Fabio was working outside, singing in his delicious wobbly tenor voice nostalgic partisan songs and rousing communist party songs, Mike decided to restore some of the walls inside, knocking off cracking calcia to stabilise it with the new. To his great delight he uncovered a part of the original surface of the lounge wall, knocking off more recent applications of calcia and paint until he arrived at the first and original application. Fabio, too, was excited saying that this was evidence of its age. Curious, Mike couldn’t leave it alone, he carefully picked off all the layers of calcia and paint on that wall ’till he got to the last two layers, both equally interesting. Needless to say, we now have two old layers of soft muddy brown, with their markings of old cupboards and stencils. It feels like it has emerged from Pompeii! All it needs is a rustic trompe l’oeil half worn away. The other walls were too damaged to pick back, so they have been sort of restored, albeit rustically, (we love its character), and coloured also in a soft muddy brown. Its a cave. It feels like nestling in the earth, gentle and warm on the spirit. Soon our fire place will be working too and the winter will come in and the roof with all its insulation will keep us cosy, and we’ll cuddle up on a soft old couch and read and watch the flames lick up the chimney. Totally gorgeous!
When our roof went on, our neighbours along with Fabio and his assistant, Paolo, told us we had to have a roof party! A flag had to go up and we had to have macaroni (handmade pasta) with ragu, (meat sauce).
I asked for further advice on this festa we had to have and was assured the right thing to do was to have not just the prima piatto but also the secondo, a roast meat and contorni,vegetables. This we did. Fabio making his own delicious ragu sauce and Mike making a spectacular macaroni. I bought the roast meat (ahem) and made lovely veggies. It was a feast to be proud of. Paolo, a lonely widower who would like to meet a nice Australian woman(!), is as lean as a willow stick and asked periodically for another five roasted potatoes, he had twenty in all, and looked at us aglow at the end of the meal. It was a very slow afternoon of work after that, but I must say I feel we have been toasted into good fortune.
Now our little house looks solid. Its funny. I used to love the crumbling pink painted calcia on the outside wall and the decrepit roof tiles, higgedly piggedly and weighed down with rocks, and the cascading ivy clinging to the eaves. Now it is tidy and solid and yet it looks ancient and we are so proud and totally in love with this dear little place nestling between buildings on either side and gardens all around. And Fabio has won the hearts of the old people next door, his joyous serenades and noisy naughty discussions finding audience in the perfect stillness, and now he is busy quoting them all to fix up their walls too.