Monday, February 22, 2010

La Nuova (Vecchia) Casa

My new house is about 350 years old. There has been much discussion among our acquaintances as to the real age of the building. There are probably records in some great book at the city archives that we may one day be able to consult, but that would take away some of the lively debate we have been enjoying. Some friends say it is even older, while others argue for a more "modern" construction-meaning it is "only" 250 years old. Judging from the layers of dirt we've encountered I'd throw my vote on the older side of the coin. Maria and I think we could actually see the varying epochs of history in the strata layers that covered the floor. Curtains of spider webs had to be parted, like something you'd see in an Indiana Jones movie. We have breathed in and sneezed out some ancient dirt, my friends.

There is a very old-fashioned fireplace with a very small and irregular bocca, a particular feature very peculiar to this area.  The small hole consumed less wood and wasted less heat, I'm told.  They were also built this way because the primary function of the fireplace was for cooking, and coals would be brought out onto the stone where a pot was hung from a metal ring.

In addition to an apartment likely built in the 1600s we have taken possession of two cantinas and a legnaia. Because the town is built onto the hillside these storage rooms of old are carved out of solid rock. The cantine were the key selling point for Bryan, who envisioned demijohns of vino and legs of prosciutto merrily aging in their naturally climate-controlled depths.

The legnaia, or "woodshed" as it is translated, was a bonus, a room we hadn't seen during our original property tour, which rests below our flagstone terrace and, like the cantine, is chiseled out of the mountainside. It currently contains about 30 big glass demijohns ready for a trip to the local winery, along with a discarded bathtub where, legend has it, potent moonshine was once-upon-a-time brewed up. The legnaia is roomy and cozy and may one day be converted into a taverna or office. We're told we can hack away at the rock to enlarge it, if we should ever feel the urge.

View from the village edge to see how it is built into the hillside

The terrace is going to be a fabulous space once it is weeded. There is room for a bistro table and maybe a wood-burning grill. There are stone built-in planters for herbs and a banco for sitting. Giovanna told me that women would sit there to shell peas or mend clothing while chatting.  I foresee a pretty wrought iron gate at its entrance and wisteria or honeysuckle on an arbor. I will sit there and enjoy my cappuccino while taking in the view and listening to the church bells clang out the time.

Below, in the garden that we are told belongs to us, a nest of cats live in playful harmony, climbing a tree trunk up to a cozy perch of dried foliage that looks like they have taken over an eagle's nest. They are probably descendants of cats who roamed this village with roots dating back hundreds of years, like everyone else who lives here. We are the newcomers, the only foreigners in town, but we have been told that since my heritage hails from a nearby village I am already considered a paesana. With warm smiles, friendly chats, rounds of caffe, and helpful assistance given freely, I have already been made to feel like a local, confirming our choice of this house and this village.


LindyLouMac said...

It is lovely to read about your new home and hear you are already settling in.

I have used some of the gigantic wine flagons that were left in our cantina as decoration, the green glass is so attractive.

Karen said...

What a delicous read, don't ever stop!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I am so happy for you. Congrats again on your new home.

Look forward to reading more about it.

Diana and "Guido" said...

Glad all your adventures led you to your new home.

Dana said...

Congratulations! And good luck on this new adventure. Home ownership in Italy has proven to be just that for us. . . .wouldn't trade it, though.

Andrew said...

What an amazing property. And that fireplace - I've never seen anything like it - a real throwback to the days, as you say, when fires were used for cooking as well as heating.

Valerie said...

Grazie a tutti! We're thrilled with the place. Now we have to furnish it!

Megan in Liguria said...

So looking forward to seeing the progress on your new/old home!

Cherrye at My Bella Vita said...

I love that you love it! Don't you just love it when it all comes together?