My triumphant second arrival at the house in the epoch of Covid proved to be a trifle short of entirely triumphant. It started with the heat refusing to work and went downhill from there. The space heater I’d bought last summer (thinking I was buying a portable air conditioner) didn’t work in any of my outlets and not one of the adapters I had on hand fit the heater’s plug. You may not know this, but there are different kinds of outlets in Italian houses, depending on the age of the house and the position of the outlet. On top of that, products themselves come outfitted with various types of plugs.
While I was mulling what to do, I got a suspicious message from the bank that my card had been blocked and I should visit the link provided or a local branch. Of course, that was suspect, but I wanted to check my bank card just to be sure, since it occasionally can be blocked when I’m abroad. So at the last minute, before stores closed for the evening, I ran out to do that and to find an adapter for the space heater. When I finally found a place that sold adapters and described the piece I thought I needed, the man behind the counter said “Ah, it must be the German kind.” Sure, why wouldn’t it be?
Meanwhile, my friend Elida got in touch while I was out running around and recommended I contact a guy named Silvio who did emergency heating repairs and lived quite close. I did, and he agreed to come within ten minutes, bless him. But when I tried to get back into the house, I discovered that my key had fallen off the ring and I was locked out. I tried to call off Silvio but he didn’t get the message in time. He showed up while I was still inspecting the five stops I’d made around town for the key, checking streets, parking areas, etc. When I met Silvio at the house and explained what had happened, he must have thought I was the most hapless person on the planet.
I drove the 45 minutes back to Pescara to get a spare key from Antonio, who was not answering his phone. I just hoped I’d find him once I got there. To run up to Antonio’s apartment, I needed to park in a place where parking wasn’t permitted, and the police were on me like starch on pasta. Fortunately, they were very accommodating once I explained that I’d locked myself out and just needed a moment or two to collect a spare key. When I headed back home, key in hand, the fog had rolled into the environs of Pescara and you could see about five feet in front of you on the highway. The good and bad news was that nobody else was on the highway. Once that cleared, I found the autostrada closed ahead and was forced to exit and take the back roads home. At that hour and on those roads, I needed high beams like I’ve never needed them before. Except, that is, when behemoth trucks that were terrifying towers of moving light came at me around the dark curves one after another like that monster rig in Joy Ride.
Back inside the house, I discovered that the utility room seemed to have a poltergeist. Brown liquid was dripping from somewhere. All the stainless steel surfaces seemed to be covered in a goose-bumpy rust. There was a creepy feeling of wetness on the walls. And both washer and dryer had given up the ghost.
I daresay I took all of this fine howdy-do with equanimity, though I felt kinda like the stars were “agin” me. I would have asked the universe what else it had in store for me but for the fear I’d get the answer.*
(In my last visit, I'd arrived to no hot water. The time before that, country mice that were both mighty and industrious had dragged entire cereal boxes down from the shelves and into the middle of the floor; and the fridge had gone kerflooey.)
On the upside...
The next morning, I found my mandarin tree in bloom. If only I liked mandarins.
But cue the chorus of seraphim and cherubim! I found a property management company headed by a young, well-credentialed go-getter named Sergio Morales and I’m practically giddy about it.
I’d long wanted to find one, particularly since life has sent Antonio and me in different directions and I see much less of him when I’m here. I had to admit to myself that I’d been hiding behind him a bit, letting him handle house issues as they arose, letting him call in tradespeople when necessary. It was time I acted like an adult and a homeowner.
During my last visit, I’d made some contacts — thanks to recommendations from friends — with plumbers, electricians, masons, etc. I felt much better about facing house-related contretemps, but still needed a property manager to rely on. I have long felt vulnerable and out of control of the house here. And with good reason. I have been out of control. It’s a scary, unsettling feeling, knowing that you won’t know whom to call or what to do if something goes wrong.
Moreover, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. For example, that the boiler had to be inspected every year or you could get a whopping annual fine that would date back to the last inspection, whenever that was. That the door-sized window upstairs needed a security bar to prevent a fall into the backyard. (The window is screened, but I suppose in very unhappy circumstances a person could find herself hurtling headlong through it.) Lack of said security bar would also earn a fine.
Sergio and his company, Property Management Abruzzo, is exactly what I sought: a real office with a real team and an English speaker at the helm. (In fact, Sergio spent his childhood in Florida before his family moved to dig into family roots in Italy.) Italians, and even some expats here, are highly entrepreneurial; many will hang out a virtual shingle as a property management company. However, in many or most cases, the “company” behind them is non-existent. That sort of arrangement I find too precarious, for obvious reasons. I wanted an office with a staff so I’d have something like continuity, particularly given that my nephew will one day inherit the house and I’d like him to have somewhere concrete to turn.
Sergio and his team will check the house regularly, oversee renovations, hire plumbers and electricians when necessary, and serve as a general resource for anything I might need. He told me that there’s almost nothing they won’t do. To wit: Sergio himself acted as interpreter for a frightened English client when she found herself at the hospital; he bought and installed a treadmill for a Dutch politician who wanted to be up and running, so to speak, upon arrival.
I’m practically doing a little dance to have found him and his outfit.
Oh, and he informed me that the utility room has mold. Moldergeist. I’m steering clear of it and have put it atop my new property manager’s list of things to do.
*I got the answer to my unspoken question. The answer was I’d get a flat tire on my rental car. On a Saturday. When nobody was working. When my new property manager’s wife was giving birth in Pescara. When I needed to be in Pescara Sunday morning.
And I think I might have a rat in the kitchen.