To complete the property tour, we looked at the bedroom, comfortably proportioned for a queen sized bed and a floor-to-ceiling closet with a large window facing Paolina Park. The attractive bathroom was functional and came equipped with all the essentials. Lastly, we looked at the garage. Maria Laura informed us that Italians refer to a garage as a “car box”. The car box was large enough to accommodate a mid-sized car, a workbench, and storage for tools and seasonal items. I was overjoyed to see a clothes washer installed in a corner, while Vince raved about the sink with a faucet for hot and cold running water.
This apartment was absolutely perfect for us. It had everything we were looking for and it was in close proximity to Orvieto. We couldn’t ask for anything more. We were convinced that we had found our Italian Dream Home. The seller’s agent concluded the tour and asked if we had further questions. When she left, I felt free to show my enthusiasm, although, since Vince and I had not discussed our thoughts in private, I was afraid to seem overanxious. I was completely smitten by the apartment and hoped that Vince could read my mind. Then, I heard him ask Maria Laura to draw up the paperwork for an offer and I cried tears of joy! Our First Offer!
Due to several years of a slowing economy and a serious recession throughout Italy, it is not usual for properties to remain for sale for many months, sometimes years. The apartment in Porano had been on the market for several months without generating any interest or offers. When Vince suggested making an initial offer of 15% below the Seller’s asking price, Maria Laura quickly agreed and guaranteed to prepare the paperwork straightaway. She would send the documents via electronic email for our review and signature by the time we arrived in California, before submitting the official offer to the motivated Seller who resided in Rome.
With a strategic plan in accordance, we walked out to our cars, when Maria Laura unexpectedly asked us to follow her to what she said was “a very special place. ” A bit mystified, we drove behind her on the country road towards Orvieto, when suddenly she pulled over to the side, stepped out of her car and made a hand motion directing us to do the same. “Before you leave, I want to show you my favorite view of Orvieto” she explained as she walked across a field of grass to the edge of a cliff. “Look,” she continued with a sweeping motion of her arm. “Look at Orvieto. ” It was indeed an amazing view seldom seen by the average tourist.
This was Maria Laura’s own discovery, a secret spot known only to her. We treasured her sweet gesture to bring us to this unique panorama of Orvieto; Umbria’s ultimate Gothic hilltop town. The sun-dappled glow on the cathedral and the slabs of tufa stone on which Orvieto appears to be hoisted, intensified the dramatic outlook of the city and made this an appropriate, lovely spot to say goodbye to Maria Laura. We thanked her for all that she had done for us, reiterated how much we appreciated her encouragement and looked forward to working with her on achieving our dream of owning a home in Italy.
We promised to review and sign the documents as soon as we arrived home. Confident that fate was guiding us through this endeavor, we assured her that we were extremely eager to proceed with the buying process. In Orvieto, we were on a mission to complete our last minute shopping. We dropped by Patricia’s shop to say goodbye. She was very nice and offered us a bottle of local Orvieto Classico wine as a parting gift. I took a picture of Vince standing next to her, which Patricia happily posted in a conspicuous place in her shop.
We also stopped by our favorite Umbrian delicatessen to buy a few local specialties for family and friends. Vince bought a fresh truffle for Bob, spices for neighbors and friends and while he was still engaged in making a few more selections, I discovered the tiniest bottle of balsamic vinegar I had ever seen. “Look, Honey” I interrupted. “Isn’t this cute? ” I loved the way it was packaged in a miniature box and thought it would make a delightful Christmas Tree ornament; a reminder of our house hunting trip, however, when I looked at the price, I reluctantly returned it to its place on the shelf.
Additionally, Vince bought some sausages and a few slices of cinghiale to munch on during our ride to the airport in the morning. When he was ready to pay for his selections, the proprietor totaled the items on his old-world, brass cash register, then came out from behind the counter and took the little bottle of balsamic vinegar I had shown to Vince and placed it inside our bag. “For you” he said as he looked at me, “For you, a present. ” “Awe. ” I exclaimed. “Really? Thank you, signore. Grazie. I thanked him profusely as this was yet another affirmation of how inherently warm and friendly the Orvietani are. Vince shook his hand and asked him for a business card.
The name of the shop was Dai Fratelli and the owner’s name was Emilio. I asked Emilio for permission to snap a picture of his shop. It was entirely charming, a typical Italian deli with hunks of prosciutto hanging on meat hooks from the ceiling. Some of the hunks looked like the substantial sides of pork we were familiar with, while others were covered with bristly dark brown hair.
Vince pointed to a hairy one and asked Emilio what it was. “Cinghiale! ” He retorted proudly with his chest slightly expanded. Then Vince pointed to one of the others and asked “What about that one? Then what is that? ” Emilio’s chest deflated as he made a dismissing gesture and answered, “Oh, that is just pig. ” We were amused by his reaction and response. Vince made an effort to explain that we were going home to California, but planned to return to Orvieto soon. “Arrivederci, Emilio. Ciao! See you again soon. ”
When we shut the door behind us and stepped out into the narrow street of the via del Duomo, we were startled by the unusual hustle and bustle outside. The street was more crowded than normal and huge spot lights mounted on roof tops brightened up the area below, but the strangest sight of all, was a laundry line that was being suspended across the street from the top floor windows of a prominent residential palazzo. We had never seen laundry hanging in the streets of Orvieto’s historic center and we certainly had not noticed those big spot lights earlier in the day.
A man with a bullhorn loudspeaker directed a throng of people to move aside to clear the way for a policeman who came running down the street, blowing a whistle and waving a fist in the air as if he was chasing someone. Curious about all that was occurring, we questioned fellow spectators, who informed us that the street had been transformed into a movie set for the filming of a night-scene in a major motion picture. I wondered immediately who the movie-stars were, what the name of the motion picture was and where I could stand so that I might end up in the film’s background as a movie “extra.
Our early morning drive to Rome’s Leonardo DaVinci International Airport; more commonly known as Fiumicino, was a bit challenging because we knew that once we reached the Grande Raccordo Anulare (the Great Ring Road) highway approach to the airport, the exit to the terminals was easy to miss, which would consequently require us to drive the entire circle around Rome again to get back on the right track. Nevertheless, we departed Casa Flavia in plenty of time to compensate for any unexpected delays, including potentially getting lost.
Fortunately, rush hour traffic had not yet reached peak congestion, we were able to follow the highway signs to the correct exit, leaving returning the rental car as our only concern. Since Fiumicino is the second busiest airport in Europe, we expected to see plenty of Car Rental Return signs, blatantly marked in English; the universal language, leading us to the drop-off location, however, not so. Frustrated and nerve-wracked, we drove around the airport multiple times looking for a clue or indication of where to return the car, until I finally referred to my Italian dictionary to translate Car Rental to Autonoleggio.
Once we knew what to look for, the Autonoleggio signs easily directed us to the drop-off location. We were finally done with the more exasperating issues and on our way to the more familiar chores of international travel. During the horrendously long flight to San Francisco, Vince and I found solace in perpetually discussing the apartment in Porano. We couldn’t wait to get home to review the documents Maria Laura was preparing for us. We were actually on the verge of buying our Italian Dream Home!
Who would believe it? We deemed it remarkably serendipitous to have found a property so ideally suited to us on the last day of our trip. We loved absolutely everything about it and in my imagination, I had every room redecorated to reflect our style. Despite only one bedroom, I already had a million ingenious ideas of how to furnish the intimate space with dual purpose furniture to accommodate overnight guests, while Vince developed his own ideas about utilizing the garage to its fullest potential.
He planned on using it as a workshop, a place for storage, a laundry area and, in due course, a safe place to leave our car when we are not in Italy. I cannot describe how much I adore talking with my husband about our dreams. I love to watch his face when he radiates such positive energy. It makes me feel as if we have the world on a string and my heart swells with emotion. When we finally arrived home, I must admit that we did not immediately start up the computer as promised, to look for Maria Laura’s email. After our sixteen hour journey from Casa Flavia to our front door in San Carlos, we were completely exhausted.
After Vince briefly reconnected with our cat Henry to let him know we had returned, we showered and crawled into bed. In fact, it was the morning of the second day when we finally gathered our wits to read Maria Laura’s email and review the documents she attached. We were impressed that she provided an English translated copy of each document written in Italian. The offer was unquestionably straight forward, without intent to negotiate closing costs or other miscellaneous fees, it included our offer price and request for a response within three days.
Without further ado, we signed where required, scanned the documents and sent them back to Maria Laura, who almost instantly confirmed receipt. To our dismay, she also informed us that on the morning following our property tour, the listing agent showed the apartment, quite unexpectedly, to another potential buyer; a single young man who discovered the listing on the internet. We found it utterly unbelievable that no one had shown a lick of interest in that lovely apartment until we were prepared to make an offer.