The base housing office gave Ted an appointment for viewing houses...for August 31. Well, the housing office staff do not have to live in a 2-bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor with 6 children! So Ted called Luisa, who came highly recommended, and scheduled our own appointment. (This is perfectly acceptable and happens all the time.)
We met Luisa just before 3 p.m. on Friday, a full week before our originally scheduled date with the housing folks. She is a short, squatty, grandmotherly figure, almost exactly how I would have pictured an Italian grandmama. When Ted was on the phone with her making the arrangements, I could hear her exclaiming over the fact that we have 6 (SIX!) children. When he introduced her to me in person, she looked at me in disbelief...or, I should say, she looked at my waistline and asked, "WHERE are the BABIES?!" She apparently thought I didn't look as though I had had 6 children, ha! She kept shaking her head...it was flattering, but a bit embarrassing, as she commented on it more than once!
Luisa speaks English fairly well, but with a very strong accent. She drove us in her dusty little car with, as Ted's dad would have said, "2-80 air conditioning." (Two windows down going 80 km/hr!) The first villa we viewed belonged to a friend of hers (or acquaintance, or cousin, or some sort of connection...I totally missed that part), so we got out of her car and into his (which had a car seat in the back, so Luisa and I got really up close and personal). My view from the back seat of the car was limited, but I could tell that we were zipping around the downtown area very close to the support center--not really an area we are at all interested in living.
So, the fun part about viewing this house was getting to see a typical Italian villa, "city" style! That said, it definitely is not the place for us. The kitchen is about as big as our closet was in Ohio, and only slightly less dark. There are were--FOUR--levels. Aside from the kitchen, it was a unique and pretty spacious place, really; and there was a nice courtyard where the kids could ride little bikes and play. The street outside was extremely narrow, and there were houses jammed together all around. We didn't take any pictures here because we were pretty sure this was NOT the place for us.
The next two places were in Lago Patria, which is very, very close to where the new JFC will be. At the rate Luisa drove, it took well over half an hour between the support site and the houses. (For comparison...we drove the same road today with a Navy wife who made it in about 20 minutes!) It was murderously hot in the back seat, but at least on the highway I got some breeze from the front windows. (The back ones didn't work.) The drive took us through mostly agricultural fields, much different from the drive we had made from the Naples airport to the support site.
The second house we saw was enormous! Really, it had such wonderful potential. Some of the pros:
* Large kitchen
* Two pizza ovens (one in the kitchen, one in the basement)
* Huge--HUGE!!--bedrooms, at least five
* Lots of balcony space
* Lemon and orange trees in the garden
* Large lot
* HUGE basement
* Gray tile and walls all throughout made it feel like a dungeon.
* The outside had peeling paint and just looked run down and sad.
* The courtyard was in horrible condition. It could be SO beautiful, but we don't have the time, energy, or resources to make it what it could be. (My friend Debi would be able to work some magic with it, I'm sure!)
* The sweet landlady didn't speak a lick of English!
Still, we were encouraged...there were big houses to be had!
Pressing on, we came to the third and last house we looked at. What a difference--the outside was freshly painted and very beautiful, and the inside had shiny tile and new paint, so bright and cheery. There was a beautiful winding staircase with a fun little nook underneath. There was one large bedroom downstairs, but it is behind the garage (which could actually be another room--it's tiled and quite nice) and not attached to a bathroom. If we were to be in that house, it would likely be an office/craft room and guest room.
The kitchen is in the process of being updated. There was a drawing on the wall of how the new kitchen will look, and it looks amazing! There were four good-sized bedrooms upstairs, but what would be the master bedroom had no attached bathroom.
Still, of the houses we saw, we were pretty pleased with this one. The owners were there doing work on it, and they spoke some English and seemed very nice. Aside from some space drawbacks, the biggest concern we had with it is the fact that there is an empty lot beside AND behind it and a long-time empty house across the street. The location was just not a safe one; we've heard of too many houses being broken into that are next to fields, etc., where there is easy in, easy out access. We do already know the neighbors--I had met Jamie, the wife/mother, at the homeschool meeting. We had no idea she lived next door until we saw her and her sons returning from an outing! So that was nice to know, but we weren't 100% certain that this would be THE house for us.
Here are a few pics of this last house just so you can get an idea of what it's like!
To be continued...