Moving in

One of the Italian moving crew, carrying our armchair on his shoulder.

We finally moved into our Torino apartment almost two weeks ago.  We’ve been trying to create some semblance of order ever since.

But first, the event itself, because it was entertaining.  On moving day, a crew of five Sardinians and one very talkative man from Florence showed up with a hydraulic lift.  Most Italian elevators are of the oldest type, the exposed cage, so movers aren’t allowed to use them for moving.  Instead, Italian household movers use a hydraulic lift to access the balcony doors.  In this case, the balcony was the one to our bedroom, because it overlooks a parking lot (which we get to park in!).  In the first photo below you can see the living two room chairs, all wrapped for the ocean crossing, as they arrived at balcony height.  The next photo shows how the lift works, with a load coming up, and boxes waiting to be loaded.

The next photo shows the book boxes piling up in the living room, and fresh ones arriving in the bedroom.  Down in the left corner, the Florentine, Giuseppe, is having me check off the numbers from my master list.  He was very pleased at how quickly he picked up the English names for the rooms, and showed off his knowledge by telling the other crew members where to put everything.  Then he wanted to know how to say, “Dove va?” in English.  After the next trip down, he informed me that he and another of the crew had been practicing:  “Where does it go?” he asked proudly, pointing to a box.  “Where do…”  and then he stopped.

“They…” I offered.

“Where do they go?”  he finished.  This became the refrain of the afternoon!

The photo after that is of my living room rug, which the movers kindly beat and hung over the balcony in proper Italian fashion.  But then they forgot about it, and I couldn’t lift it alone, so hours later the landlord had to help me drag it back into the living room. I’ve seen many housewives beat rugs over balconies since, but they’re always smaller ones.

And in another nice gesture , Giuseppe the Florentine helped the landlord bring up an ancient, musty cupboard from the apartment’s storage room in the cantina.  The cupboard was missing a lot of the varnish and smelled of mold to the point of asphyxiation, but we put it in the living room anyway.  I was pleased to have it to use as a bookshelf.

The next day we got right to work cleaning up that cupboard, but the daily reality since the move has been a bit sobering.  Much more often than not, our foyer looks like it does in the photo below. There seems to be no end to the packing paper! And we find the strangest things: Contents of the kitchen junk drawer, such as twist ties and a magnet, or two highlighters, lovingly wrapped in paper. Ceramics from Sarie’s room, thrown into a box with who knows what else and no wrapping at all. Items from one room thrown into a box from another. But so far everything seems to have made the crossing more or less okay.

The day after we moved in, a steady downpour of rain began. It lasted for five days without a break.  By the fifth day, the rivers were threatening to wash out the bridges, and schools were closed. During the downpour I dragged box after box to the paper recycling dumpster at the end of our street. Thankfully, the sidewalk next to the dumpster was one of the arcaded ones. I’d remove an armload of paper from the box, run to the dumpster, stuff it in, and repeat. Once back inside the apartment, I desperately tried to make our American lamps work with European voltage. I’d heard that they would if I used adapters and European bulbs. The truth is, some worked and some didn’t.  Two blew out and are now useless. The ones that remain seem dimmer under the higher ceilings. We’re going to have to get more lamps.

As soon as a friend would take me, I went to IKEA and ordered the kitchen. The people at the store said it would take twenty days, and would be installed by Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, I borrowed a burner and a toaster oven and set up the taller boxes as counters.  I wash dishes in the largest bathroom sink, which is on the other side of the apartment. I pulled out the most useful kitchen implements I could find from the tops of the deep kitchen boxes, and set to work trying to create simple meals. The results are mixed.  I can fry things as long as they’re thin, but it takes almost an hour to boil water. We’re eating a lot of Caesar salads and cold cuts.

As the day arrived I had been told I would get the call about the kitchen, I was all excited.  But the call never came.  I did an online chat (because Italian is easier that way than on the phone) and was told they’d call Monday.  Still no call today, so I found the special client number that you access by code, and called.  No kitchen this week.  “But my parents are coming!”  I pleaded.  I didn’t have the fluency to argue about La Festa di Ringrazimento and all that it means to Americans, though.  I sighed and hung up the phone.  Then I called Bob, and he called someone, and someone called IKEA.  We’ll see.  Thankfully I ordered my fridge from another store, so it’s here.

Apparently Fastweb has to all but dig the tunnel to install our supposedly installation-ready fiber optic internet service.  But the two old men who come and work in our cantina are nice as can be.

Meanwhile, I’m making things look as nice as I can, considering that we brought a lot of our belongings, but not the cabinets, bookshelves, and closets that once held and organized them.  Our coats are in (or usually piled on top of) one wardrobe carton, my clothes in another. Sarie has no furniture at all. The books, more or less all 1200 of them, are in boxes all over.  The rispostiglio, a sort of walk-in closet, is filled with everything imaginable, and also serves for now as our file room and office.  Other boxes are in piles to be taken downstairs to the cantina, or basement. But not until I get more plastic bins.  That cantina is full of dirt and spiders! (With my apologies to Susan’s spider.)

I’ve been to IKEA four times now, and to the flea market and antique district once.  I have someone coming to help me install bath fixtures, including lights and mirrors, tomorrow. Somehow or other, we’ll get this place in shape.  Meanwhile, here, below, is what we’ve done with the cupboard.  (In the rather blurry photo, I’m trying out IKEA lamps. I finally chose the kind on the left.)  One shelf wouldn’t fit and will have to be sanded down.  And there are still plenty of boxes sitting around.  But it’s a start!


9 thoughts on “Moving in

  1. Oh Laura, what a gorgeous, gorgeous apartment. I can’t believe the height of the ceilings, nor the view from your windows and balcony. I am sure that the task is daunting, however everything you’ve accomplished so far is exquisite. (I love the wardrobe/bookcase, but of course didn’t have to clean it) It’s going to be an absolutely fabulous home for you, I just know it. I must confess that having visitors without a kitchen would cause a lot of stress for me, but then again, you have the charm and appeal of lots of outside food options. You are an inspiration, and you look wonderful.

  2. Well, Barbara said pretty much exactly what I was going to say, so that will save me some words! 🙂 I love *all* of the details you put into this post–so much fun to read! Your apartment is truly wonderful, and I am envious of that cupboard!

    Have fun, Laura! (Can’t wait to see the kitchen and everything else.)


  3. The cabinet bookshelf is an inspiring focal point–just lovely! Your post brought back so many recent memories, including waiting for a kitchen (well, only the counters and sink this time but our when we moved to our last apartment we had to wait a month for everything.) God bless you with patience and strength as you settle in. Oh, and the view from your veranda is lovely–at least from the vantage point I could see.

  4. What a lovely post! And I greatly admire the spirit of adventure with which you are approaching what could be seen as merely an endless round of frustrations.

  5. That building behind us *is* lovely, isn’t it? Sarie counted five chandeliers through the windows of one apartment! And she likes the faces across from us, too–alternating men and women. Our own building is not as clean or fancy, but we get the benefit of our neighbors’ excellent upkeep in our view. (Our building starts renovating in January.)

    This whole city is an architecturally ornate 19th century celebration of the unification of Italy, which is one reason it’s so nice that we moved here during the sesquicentennial.

    And yes, I am very thankful for that cupboard.

    What you perceive as equilibrium, however, may reflect the fact that I used this post in part to achieve some perspective on my exhaustion. I kept thinking that settling was just a matter of putting in a little more energy, until I ran completely out of steam and patience. But as I wrote this post and reflected back over the past two months (writing on the day that I learned the kitchen wouldn’t be here when my parents arrived), there was a sort of “Aha!” moment: “Oh, yeah. *That’s* why I’m exhausted and teary!” Then I was able to acknowledge it and move on. I’ll eventually find someplace to hang up the coats.

  6. Oh, I love your cupboard. It looks so inviting. And I like the light on the left, too. Did you do the painting on top? Is it Sarie? I love your view and the only thing I have to compare it to was when we stayed in downtown St. Louis we were across from an old ornate building. I pretty much have to pretend I am somewhere European….but I’m thankful that I at least can muster up some imagination. It’s the next best thing, I think. =)

  7. I feel for you, Laura!
    I have moved enough times to know the stress of it all. But you have the added challenge of setting up house in a different country! I hope the dust is beginning to settle for you and that the kitchen especially is completed soon. Looks like you have a lot to work with—a lovely place.

  8. Oops, got a bit overwhelmed with things and never replied to these…

    Leslie, the portrait is in fact one I did of Sarie, but I didn’t finish it, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to now, because she’s grown so much and my photos aren’t very good. Let’s just call the portrait a monument to motherhood and getting over perfectionism, because I know that shadowed cheek is a mess and the eyes aren’t right, but there it is out in my living room, unapologetically.

    And yes, it might be something like being in downtown St. Louis! At least, I remember a similar building across from our hotel in downtown Portland, OR.

    Thanks for the well-wishes, Jody! Your life seems especially far away from mine these days, and thus nostalgic, but I still peek in at the cozy world of Gumbo Lily whenever I have a chance.

    And Silvana, you’re right that there’s a lot to work with here. It’s just a matter of balancing the fact that we actually have more space and good architectural”bones” with the uncertainties of living here for we-know-not-how-long, and not wanting to spend much under the circumstances. But still, I love a design challenge, so I consider this mostly fun despite the mistakes (yup, lots of them) and delays.

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