Home Ownership in Italy: Space Invaders

The night after our return from the US, we were awake at 3 am (jet lag), and it was raining hard. I remarked to Ross: “The rain sounds nice.” Her reply: “Anything sounds nice, after a month of air conditioning.”

Good point. Most of our time in America was spent in enclosed spaces (both homes and cars) with air conditioning, completely cut off from the natural world. (Which was very hot and steamy, so this is understandable.) Italy is far less air-conditioned, and we have big windows which are open most of the time, so there’s not a huge distinction between outdoors and in. Giant grasshoppers, lizards, and even baby birds have trouble telling the difference, and sometimes decide they’d rather live inside with us than outside where they belong.

Nor is there much separation between the neighbors’ spaces and ours. We can see and hear a lot of what goes on around us, including the family down the hill who have bought their toddler a number of expensive, noisy toys – a train that he can actually ride on, around a tiny track; a mini-SUV he can drive (the horn is the part he understands best so far); and an electronic keyboard. Of course the child has to play with these things out in the garden whenever I’m trying to take a nap in the afternoon…

The dogs next door have also decided that they want to live with us – whenever left alone too long by their owners, they try to tunnel under the fence into our yard. A few nights ago they finally broke through – there were muddy pawprints all over our kitchen verandah. At least they didn’t go dig up the winter vegetables (fennel and broccoli) freshly planted for us by Domenico.

We called the neighbor (on vacation) and she called somebody to “fix” the situation, which he did by simply putting back the dirt the dogs had dug out. They could easily have dug it out again, but instead decided to force a hole by bending back a panel of wire fencing, which also required them to chew through several inch-thick branches of our honeysuckle vine. I’ll give them points for persistence, but I am not pleased! I came up with a more effective temporary solution on my own, using a rectangular wire basket left over from an Ikea closet, and lots of wire. The neighbors will need to fix this situation more permanently, as well as replace the plants – half of that honeysuckle is now dead. A few nights after that, the dogs got out of their own yard some other way, then decided they want to tunnel INTO our yard – what is this obsession with our yard? It’s not as if we keep garbage around that they can get into.

A more welcome intruder is Tatiana, one of the cats belonging to another neighbor. She adopted us last winter, perhaps because there’s too much competition from the four other cats at her home, and passed the cold season in Ross’ bed. We didn’t even have to feed her – she turned her nose up at leftovers, and we didn’t have whatever fancy cat food she’s accustomed to, but she’s so plump that she never seemed to be hungry, either.

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