The first nine weeks

We finally got an internet connection and it took us nearly three months to get there!
There is so much to update that I don’t know even where to start. Looking back at the photos we have taken during the first months, a lot has developed but yet pictures don’t seem to truthfully convey what we’ve been through.

For the first few weeks it was difficult to contain the sheer excitement of just the size of the open spaces. However, tensions tried to sneak in and overtake the excitement as we soon also realized the amount of work ahead of us: rotten wooden shutters to replace, a hay storage full of pigeons, leaking taps and lots of vegetation, to name a few tasks that do not include just setting up the kitchen and unpacking our boxes from England.

The house and the Old Stable as received in the beginning of June

I think it could have become just too overwhelming to manage. Luckily, Elena’s family is just so helpful and positive. We got lots of guidance, advice and physical help, but most important, a lot of encouragement that we can do it and that we are progressing well.
The garden was mowed, big bulk of vegetation cleared, we learnt from the ‘experts’ how to do anything from mixing cement to refitting shutters using affordable materials (I say ‘experts’ as Elena’s family have experience in DIY when it comes to countryside houses, but that’s was never their day job). We got a hand and equipment such as: proper scaffolding, grinders and even a circular saw.

On the days it rained we were disheartened and got worried, but when it was sunny and the lads (that is Marco and Loredano) came for a coffee and to check that we were doing fine, our smiles came back and we were motivated to continue.

Bit by bit the green rotten wood has turned to a yellow builder’s wood (you buy them here coated with a yellow paint). We decided the shutters need a bright new colour something more ambitious than the forest green that it had before.

Learning from family how to fit new shutters… 12 in total. Loredano has done this job in the two houses he lived in previously

Archaeological evidence, gathered by Elena has revealed that an older period had the shutters and windows red, so we went for it. Elena was responsible for the painting while I was doing the fitting and cutting.

It was such a sense of satisfaction to complete one side of the house and move on to the others. Visitors and delivery personnel are happy with the vivid red that is evident from the junction at Via Mavora as it is lively and makes it easy to find us.

In between working on shutters, garden and mosquito nets, Elena was making sure we already start enjoying the traditional activities practiced in our area such as making the annual family stock of tomato juice (passata) and giving a hand during the grape picking period.


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Finally, we are ready to start working on the stable doors and get our place ready for social gatherings,  start lessons and develop our workshops. I’ll keep the blog space updated as I go along!



“Eccovi le chiavi… però la porta non chiude”

4 giugno. Atterriamo a Bologna e salutiamo i colleghi di Barak, che hanno preso il nostro volo per partecipare ad una conferenza dell’Università di Bologna; Barak li raggiungerà domani. Il tempo di lasciare le valigie a Nonantola, abbracciare tutti e rifocillarci di albicocche e melone a casa delle nonne e poi via, inforchiamo la bicicletta per pedalare verso la nostra nuova casa. L’ormai ex padrone ci aspetta seduto sulle scale: “La casa adesso è vostra. Ecco le chiavi, ne ho solo una copia, le altre ve le porto quando le trovo. Ah, però la porta sono tre o quattro mesi che non chiude dal di fuori. Si sarà abbassata sui cardini, dovrete metterla a posto.” Saluta, fa salire in macchina i cani e se ne va.

L’erba è alta, le fronde del salice piangente toccano quasi terra nel vialetto di ingresso. Però il glicine è fiorito, le rondini sfrecciano tra il fienile e i campi intorno, il silenzio si interrompe solo quando un refolo di vento fa stormire le foglie dei pioppi. Siamo all’inizio del nostro nuovo, grande progetto e non sarà certo una porta di legno abbassata sui cardini ad intaccare il nostro entusiasmo, anche se ci fa sudare un po’ perché per chiuderla dobbiamo sollevarla di forza.

Il sole sta per tramontare e la luce calda si stende sui campi di grano quasi maturo mentre pedaliamo di nuovo verso Nonantola, verso la casa della zia dove sono in corso i festeggiamenti per il terzo compleanno del cuginetto. Si sente già qualche grillo.

Siamo tornati, e siamo felici.


4 June. We land at Bologna Airport and wave goodbye to Barak’s colleague, who are on our flight to attend a conference organised by the University of Bologna; Barak will join them tomorrow! Just the time to leave our suitcases in Nonantola, hug everyone and feast on apricots and mellon, and off we go, pedalling on our bikes towards the new house. The ex-owner is waiting for us on the staircase. “The house is yours now. Here are the keys… ah, by the way, the door does not lock from the outside. It’s been three or four months… It probably moved down on the hinged, you’ll have to get it fixed”. He gets the dogs into his car and waves goodbye while driving away.

The grass is luscious and very tall, the branches of the weeping willow almost touch the ground along the driveway. But the wisteria is in full blossom, swallows dart between the hay deposit and the fields around, the silence is broken only by the poplar leaves rustling in the evening breeze. We are finally at the beginning of our big project, and it won’t be a wooden door too low on the hinges to scratch our enthusiasm: it just makes us sweat a bit because in order to lock it we have to lift it by force.

The sun is about to set and the warm light caresses the wheat fields while we pedal back to Nonantola, to auntie’s house, where a party for the cousin’s third birthday is awaiting us. We even hear a few crickets.

We are back, and we are happy.