Tuesday, September 23, 2003

So the other thing I found inspiring about Under the Tuscan Sun was, unsurprisingly, the aspect of building/renovating a house to suit one's ideal. (This is another reason why I will not see the movie--how on earth could such a thing convert to film?) Every two months, when I receive the latest issue of Mother Earth News, it provides further inspiration for future plans of building the perfect house. This is a common topic of conversation between Odious and me, as we have long wanted to build an energy-efficient, environmentally-sound house using many different ideas culled from Mother. Frances Mayes gave me even more ideas, though some I know will not be feasible in places of the world other than Italy, and I will have to incorporate her descriptions of terraced gardens and stone patios into my vision.

However, I don't think we would ever put ourselves through some of the nightmares that Mayes and her husband had to endure, caused in part by unfortunate choices in contractors. Seemingly simple renovations (restoring the original finish on chestnut beams, putting in new doorways, etc) turned into massive projects with months of clean-up that, despite the final satisfaction, don't quite sound worth it to me. Thus our plan to build a new house to our specifications (although Odious warns he will need to be allowed more than one try--I can just see a property somewhere in the West, littered with deserted environmentally-not-so-sound houses). On the other hand, the incredible discoveries the Mayeses made make their trouble almost worthwhile.

While stripping the paint in the dining room, they uncover an old fresco--a country scene that, while not a Giotto, is wonderfully charming. Later on, workmen dig through three layers of stone floor before unearthing the original, centuries-old, foundation; and every gardening venture reveals more Etruscan artifacts and wall-markings. This would indeed be amazing beyond belief, but having to endure smoking toilets (a misdirected water heating system), having to camp out in one room for months while the rest of the house is in utter turmoil, and dealing with disappearing workmen who leave behind all too apparent piles of rubbish, sounds like more than I could handle. Fortunately for us, however, it makes a delightful read!

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