Sunday, November 22, 2015


Here is a gallery of photos that have been awaiting their moment. In most cases, I have a story to go along with the usually shirtless young Italian(s) we have lured to our impossible-to-find country home where something is always kaput. But in some cases, I will be listing the person without the photo.

I seem to recall a line from "The Godfather" and maybe also from "the Sopranos" about the need to bump off somebody who has fallen out of favor: "It's nothing personal. Just business." But where we live in Umbria, ALL business is personal, and what follows are a few of the people with whom we have developed working relationships.

1. Our Caldaia Man, Ricco, who, by Italian law, is required to come every year to inspect the boiler

Here he is in action! 

And here he is packing up. As you can see, he does not travel light.

Ricco's visits are not cheap, but still a bargain compared to having your boiler malfunction or explode!

In any case, he is a lovely person who really knows what he's doing. We are glad to have him on our team.

2. Emanuele the Gas Man who fills our tank, but who knows just when the weather conditions will allow his truck to make it here and back

Have your credit card handy, because it's going to be a BIG bill. But our roads are so bad that if it's too muddy, he might not make it. In any case, we need to be his last stop of the day so the truck is lighter and less likely to get stuck. Emanuele is as pleasant as can be, and like most Italians we know, he is able to make a not-so-nice job more fun by turning every visit into an event.  

Just think about it: if you've got to have gas, wouldn't you want it to be Ultragas?

3.Big Davide, the pool pump expert 
When your pump acts up, you need an expert!

We have everything to learn about pumps. Step One: knock LOUDLY before opening the cover to get to that pump, just in case Signore Serpente is taking his siesta in there!

This problem is going to take some studying...

The AHA moment! And now to explain it all to the hapless homeowner...

We've decided that since Davide is such a great guy with advanced degrees in thorny pump problems, we should leave the pump issues to him.

4. Young Giacomo--new to the business, but who is on his way to becoming a pool pump expert 

If you can't get Davide, Giacomo is your man. 

Looks as if Giacomo does yoga on the side: great forward bend!

Oops! This pose is less yoga worthy. But then again, there's not much room to maneuver. Any way you slice it, when you live where we do, it pays to have more than one pump specialist willing to come over.

5. Mirko #1, son and heir-apparent of the irrigation guru who with his father positioned every nozzle on the property after encircling it with a fence embedded in concrete to keep out unwanted wildlife. But sometimes there are leaks, and we end up with our own geyser.
Hmm.. Looks like trouble! But this isn't the source of the problem. Gotta look further afield.

Among his many other skills, Mirko is a water diviner. He told us just where to dig our well, and fortunately for us, he was right. Now he's turned into Sherlock Holmes to figure out where the current leak might be.

It takes a brave man to stick his entire arm down a hole without knowing where it might lead.

Bingo! Once he's zeroed in on the general area of the trouble, it's time to bring out the tools. 

That leak is no match for Mirko! From now on, if you want to see a geyser, try Old Faithful!

6. Mirko #2, our cute electrician who, along with his smarter partner who has unfortunately since left the business, did all our original wiring. The ins and outs of his love life have been giving us ongoing insight into the pressures that lead a young man to never want to leave his mom's cooking. (See                   HEEEEE'S BACK!:MIRKO's TRUE CONFESSIONS

Due to his frequent mishaps, Mirko has had to call in a number of different partners to help him do his work. Even though his last name sounds like the Italian word for "miracle," our impression is that if any miracles do occur, it's the partner du jour who's responsible. 
We like Mirko's latest smart partner and hope that he sticks around. Mirko has had many more misadventures since the last ones you heard about here, including setting himself on fire while making popcorn to celebrate with his fiancee of 17 years the first night in their own apartment. All the more reason to keep living at home with mom! Now 40, he has changed his look many times, and since Mirko is practically a member of OUR family, he deserves a photo gallery of his own to document our years together. Coming soon!
7. Andrea, the trattorino expert. If our wounded riding mower requires more than a consultation, he usually just takes it away in his truck. But when asked, he will kindly demonstrate proper techniques for staying OUT OF mechanical doodoo, and he does this without ever making us feel as dumb as we are. 
It's never a good sign when your trattorino starts smoking.

Andrea to the rescue!

"Anything else I can do for you?"

8. And speaking of being dumb in the face of mechanical issues, we are supremely grateful to be able to rely on Giuliano, our very honest car man. Like Andrea, he never has to climb into any holes in the ground, or even get his hands dirty. He leaves the latter to his able young assistant, Marcello, who seems to do everything except set the prices and collect money. Further, so far G hasn't yet had to come all the way to the house to rescue us. Somehow we've managed to "limp" our cars to him--and if you saw the state of our so-called roads, you would recognize what a miracle this is. (not to mention that both of our cars are 2002 models) Can it be that I have never taken a photo of these guys? And after all the time we spend with them at their garage? 

Never mind. Since both of our cars are currently on the fritz, I will be there tomorrow with my camera handy.

9. The naked (?) old shepherd--at least he looks naked from the body parts visible above the steering wheel--who rounds up the sheep in his three-wheeled vehicle that looks a bit like a tricycle. What does he do for/to us? Leads his flock of sheep across the road right in front of our car, just when we are in a hurry to get somewhere.  
This is NOT what you want to see in front of you when you are already late for your dentist appointment.

But this is a shepherd who knows just what to do to keep the flock moving.

The shepherd himself is no youngster, but he's found a modern way to do his job. And I can tell that this photo was taken at a time other than high summer, because here, he is wearing AT LEAST a shirt. (What's going on below the steering wheel is anybody's guess.)

10.Ernesto, the plant man from whom I bought my first scythe (falcia), the whetstone sharpener that keeps its blade deadly, my happiest plant that has never stopped blooming, and my best-ever long yellow pole beans. Oops! Gotta go back there and get his picture. In the meantime, here are the beans he recommended, and I'm really glad I took his suggestion.
DO plant these! They are fantastic at every stage of their cycle. It's the third week in November, and mine are still going strong.

11. Rodolfo the Pool Man, whose company built our pool--may he rest in peace. He died this spring, but his famous quote lives on: 

"Una piscina รจ come una bambina" ("a swimming pool is like a little baby who requires constant love and supervision”)

12. Lamberto and his assistant, Gian-Luca, who between them, can fix anything. And sometimes they don't even charge you!

Here's G-L hard at work on our stove

This is a tough one!

Even though G-L couldn't fix it on the spot, he has always managed to find our house, which is more than the UPS guy can do. Further, the amount he charged would barely have covered the fuel to get here. To his credit, on his previous visit he figured out what was wrong with our dishwasher, and wasn't even grossed out by all the mouse poop from those voracious critters who ate the insulation and left their evidence.

This is Lamberto, the owner of an establishment that can fix just about anything. Don't let his Santa Claus-like appearance fool you. He is super smart and prepared to go to great lengths to resolve your dilemma. My husband, who cannot live without his Gaggia coffee maker, depends on Lamberto to keep that gizmo going. While zeroing in on the problem, Lamberto made umpteen cups of lousy coffee before getting one that wasn't "acqua sporca" (dirty water). This is not the first time this sensitive machine has acted up. And when we brought her in, we noticed a lot of her busted Gaggia cousins hanging out on Lamberto's shelves. But he was not daunted. 

"Let's see what we can do."

Forty-five minutes later: "Hmm...this may be harder than I thought, but I am not a quitter."

"GOT IT!" The Evil Demons in those Gaggias are no match for our hero.
My husband is a happy man.
We ask, "So how much do we owe you?" The answer: "NIENTE!" Even after having had to drink a lifetime's worth of rotten coffee from our machine and having to deal with us, he wouldn't let us pay him. This is a patient man who likes a challenge! He didn't even seem to get annoyed when I called back to say we had left behind a small part. We returned a few days later to pick it up, bearing cake to go with his coffee. As much as we love him, however, we hope not to have to see him again too soon.


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