Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Italian Bathroom Pavimento (Floor)

I have dreamed about having a polished concrete floor in a bathroom
You know, the hip, industrial kind you see everywhere is restaurants, boutiques,
the kind that has become increasingly popular in the last 15 years.
It is also very economical and simple to create if you are starting from
scratch, you just pour a slab of concrete, and get someone who
knows what they are doing to polish it with the proper equipment.

Just like these below.
When I started designing this Italian bathroom in my head, I knew I finally could
bring that dream of polished concrete floor into reality.

I thought it would be easy.

But I must have forgotten that when building or remodeling in Italy,
nothing is easy.

So I approached Taddeo, the muratore (wall and floor builder)
with the idea of a polished concrete floor.
He tells me they don't do those in Italy.

What do you mean they don't do those?

He tells me, again, they don't do
"pavimenti industriali" (concrete floors)
in bathrooms or any other room in Italy.

But that is what I want, I explain patiently.
I see them everywhere, I tell him there is a parking
garage down the road a bit with the perfect
"pavimento industriale"
that will do just fine.
He says,
No, they just don't do that here.

He then brightens and says,
"But I can do something with "resina"
over the concrete base we have to pour anyway,
it will look just like you want.
I'll bring you make you a sample."

Allright, I am going to be open-minded about this.

The next day, Taddeo shows up with some concrete smeared on a piece of roof tile,
that he poured some of this resina stuff on, and did some smearing.
If I squinted, it looked kind of like concrete, minus the polish part.
For about a week, I tried to be ok with his solution.

Then I saw yet another nearby parking garage, with again,
the perfect concrete floor for my bathroom.

I am very tenacious (or maybe it is just controlling)
about what I want, when I want it.
is just not acceptable.
So, I decided to do a little internet research myself and educate both
myself first,and subsequently Taddeo,
on how we could make a polished concrete floor
in this bathroom here,
at Casa San Marco,
in this Italian hilltown of Cortona,
even though nothing like it
had ever been attempted before.

Thank god for Google and high speed-internet.
I Googled and YouTubed for hours until I was
proficient in the creation of high polished concrete floors.
One uses a diamond grinder which looks kind of like a huge
lawnmower with a large drum on the front.
This may be a good business opportunity for me here in
Italy, this making of concrete floors since
no one does them.

But back to the task at hand.
So now that I am so knowledgable in
the making of polished concrete floors, how am I going
to pass on my new found knowledge to Taddeo,
who speaks no English?
I can't exactly show him all the articles
I found.
My Italian is functionally fluent, but certainly
not fluent enough to deliver a long dissertation
on the chemical components and the technical procedure for
polished concrete floor making.

But I do know enough Italian to plug in some keywords into,
the Italian version of Google.

"Pavimento industriale", " pavimento di cemento"
and pavimento industriale come uno specchio"
(concrete pavement like a mirror)
were but a few of the phrases I googled.

I am happy to report the Google Italian
works just well as Google English.
A host of informative sites appeared on this
concrete floor business, along with many informative
DYI or how to Youtube videos.
My favorite were these two videos, part 1 and part 2.
Oh. Whoops, looks like this is Mexico.
Won't really serve my purpose here.
But the technique crosses all borders.

So then I find some helpful articles in Italian
on concrete floor making and polishing,
I even use Google Translate to translate an
entire PDF document from English to Italian
that was particularly informative.
I save at least 5 or 6 YouTube
videos, 4 or 5 Italian articles,
all on my desktop, organized and packaged
all nice and tidy.
I have also spent a small fortune on
Italian Home magazines, all which have glossy
photos of concrete floors built in
real Italian homes,
living rooms, kitchens,
(Didn't Taddeo tell me they don't do that here??
I went so far as to purchase earlier several packages of
metal clips to mark the pages in these magazines.
I wanted to be hyper-organized when
I did my visual aids presentation to Taddeo.
After many, many hours of research and subsequent
I was ready for Taddeo.

I called him up and told him that I wasn't feeling right about
our decision to do the floor with "an imitation concrete
resina look-alike'' solution that we had arrived at,
I wanted to "show him" some things I had found.

Ha. He didn't have even a clue of the coming

He showed up at the usual time of 9pm,
after dinner, after his actual work day somewhere else,
because he never seems to stay here more than
15-20 minutes during the day.

He sat down at the kitchen table where I had my presentation all
ready. I stated my case and used my armory of
visual aids.
He focused on the diamond floor polisher and laughed.
Stacey, first of all,
you can't get those here, second of all,
how are you going to fit that in the bathroom?
He has a point.
I'm sure you can get those diamond polishers here,
I did find them on Italian sites as well,
but regardless, those monsters are about 8 ft long and
3 feet wide and the bathroom isn't even that big.

He looks at a few of the sites, mildly interested,
I had so painstakenly saved on the desktop for him,
and says,

"Si, no problema, we can do this.
You just need to do it by hand
with an American trowel tool."
(whatever that is)

You can?
That's it?
He explains how he will do it, and does not seem to think it is an issue.

Then, he says, like a schoolboy who want's to be let out of school,
"Posso andare?"
Can I go now?

Yes, Taddeo, you can go.
Wouldn't want you to spend more than your
allotted 15-20 minutes a day here.

Well, I am holding my breath about this concrete floor.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cooking in an Italian Construction Zone

The first few days here, I ate out, the house being a
construction zone and everything had a fine layer of
centuries old dust over it. It simply wasn't very
appealing to think about cooking with dust, and I
mean MAJOR dust.
After a while, eating out got old.
And spendy.
So I was inspired by something I ate in the local restaurant
called polezze. (Rape greens)
So I got a handful of the stuff along with some of the olio nuovo
or new olive oil which has just been pressed in this last month.
I set about washing down the kitchen counters and cleared a space to work.
I boiled the polezze just as Nunzi,
the frutta vendolo (fruit and vegetable seller) lady told me to.
Saute a few cloves of garlic in the new oil,
drain the polezze...sautee that up for a minute or so-
and done!
This is the color of extra virgin
olive oil that has just been pressed.
The taste is unreal.
It was so good, just garlic, oil and greens...
great chick dinner.
I was very happy.

I get very enthusiastic about some things, well,
maybe many things, and I tend to move into
extreme mode.
I liked the polezze so much, I went back to
Nunzi the next day and bought every bunch of polezze
that she had.
That went home to the frig.
Then I got sick.
About 2 or 3 days into this cold that had me
stationed on the couch, I lazily thought,
" I better cook the polezze..."
So I did.
Nunzi told me however that it tastes kind of bitter after several
I didn't think so , it was fine second time around.

The mound of polezze in the fridge didnt seem to get
smaller at all.

I let it sit.

Now 10 days later, it is kind of smelly.
I think it is time to toss the polezze.
And, I haven't cooked again.
It's back to depending on the kindness of
people here to feed me or
eating cold pecorino cheese and a pear,
standing up in the kitchen,
which has now become
a dustbowl again.
The only thing going on the stove is a pan
of boiling water for coffee each
morning...I am content.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Arrival in Italy- 13 Days Ago

I am constantly taking photos with the
intent of doing some blog post.
Rarely does the blog post ever materialize.

There are just too many wonderful things to do
in life, and I can't usually sit still long enough to
devote hours to a post.
You fellow bloggers know what I mean.
It is a considerable commitment to post
So, that said, I have been flat out on the couch,
in Italy for several days now with a nasty
cold. Thank god for wi-fi.
I wouldn't want to have to read a book or something.
Or start that art journal I have been meaning to do for
about 5 years now.
No, instead, I, like so many others, get lost in a cyber world,
so I am NOW catching up on at least a few of the posts that
I took pictures for since arriving in Europe 3 weeks ago.
That said,
Let's visit the arrival in Rome,
Leonard da Vinci Airport,
more commonly known here as Fiumicino.

My Berlin Air flight lands and
I thank the powers that
be for arriving safely.

I never understand when people complain about
a flight, regardless of how miserable it
might be with cramped leg room or that it takes
sooooooo long to arrive in Asia or India or whatever.

I mean come on, lets get a grip folks...

In my mind, it is first of all, amazing that we
can go hurling through the air in a metal canister, across the world,
and arrive somewhere else in a matter of hours.
Even if it is 24 hours, who cares?

How great is that that we get to do this?

And secondly, that we touch down
is a lot to be grateful for.
But enough of my ranting.

Back to the story...
As we hit the runway, the entire plane
of passengers simultaneously
whips out their cell phones, having been out of
communication with the world for 1 hour and 25 minutes.

It was as if this dance of emerging cell phones was
choreographed by some unseen director, no kidding.
And of course, I was right in there with everyone.

I text my beloved Italian friend from Cortona, Denys,
who has generously agreed to drive 2 hours to the
airport to pick me up.

What a pal.

I send her a message saying
"Sono arrivata"
(I have arrived)

As people are scrambling to get their luggage out of the
overhead, I hear my phone beep in my pocket.
Great, I think, I bet Denys is right outside.
I check the message.

It says:
"Ma arrivi domani!"
(But you arrive tomorrow!"

I think, she's joking with me...
I call her her up,

"Denys, dove sei?"
("Where are you!)
I am still thinking that she is just outside of

She replys again and

"Stacey, ma arrivi DOMANI!!!!"
(You arrive TOMORROW!)

Then why am I standing in this plane, at Rome airport,

I really confused for a moment as the truth of the situation settled in,
Denys was not right outside at all.
I frantically search my mind,
"Did I tell her tomorrow?"

NO! Ah Ha! I remember that I sent her the airline
itinerary via email.
So I didn't goof this one up.
I remind her of that and she pauses,
and says,
Oh si, giusto,
"Mi dispiace, ma devo andare al funerale oggi..."
"Oh ok, you're right, I'm sorry.
But I have to go to a funeral today."

Well, I guess I'm taking the train.

Luckily, I sent more stuff from Berlin down
to Italy, just like last summer,
for a rerun of that experience,
see here.
I can't ever seem to go anywhere without hauling alot
of stuff around.

So now I am in no rush to be anywhere,
it's 11 am and I've been up since 5am,
so after I retrieve my 1 bag from baggage
claim, I head for the nearest bar, in desperate
need of a doppio espresso.

Ah, that's much better, I feel great now!
Ok, onward to Roma Termini, the central
train station in downtown Rome.
I get on the train and settle in for a nice 2 hour ride to Cortona.
Whoops, well, it turned out to be a 5 hour ride,
there were no direct trains for a few hours,
so I took a milk run train that changed trains along the way.
But still, I have settled in to the change of events
for the day,
I have the latest Carl Hiassen book
"Star Island", I'm all set...
Hours later, in that golden light of the day,
I approach that magical town of Cortona...
I'm home.