Look at our new property! It's on the shores of Lake Trasimeno, one of Italy's largest lakes, and it's a former abbey. We bought it last night in our dreams while surfing for Italian real estate. Why were we doing that? It doesn't exactly make sense, but we were searching for Italian real estate because we saw the movie Sicko at last and realized we need to live in France. (I said it didn't make sense. But, see, the French real estate on the site was all modern apartments and not nearly as much fun to drool over.)
Have you seen Sicko? Especially if you are American, you really need to see it. Any non-Americans among you, you will just be horrified and feel lucky and probably a little superior. It deeply, deeply shocked me. That's not strong enough. It FREAKED ME OUT. I mean, I know a lot of that stuff, but really hearing account after account of the lives ruined (and lost) because of our "health care" system. . . It should really be called a "denial of health care" system. I could go on about it, but really it is so much more powerful, shocking, freaky, infuriating, and terrifying to just see it for yourself. Please do see it. I wish everyone in America could be made to see it. If they were, we might see some change. I don't know the details, but a Canadian in the film made reference to their system being basically the result of the efforts of one man, who is now considered to be the most important person in their entire history. I can see why. When you hear the story of the mother whose three year old died of complications of a high fever because Kaiser wouldn't pay for her to be treated at a non-Kaiser hospital (and the non-Kaiser hospital wouldn't treat her without Kaiser's approval, and kicked her out so that the little girl died on the way to Kaiser). . . And then think -- that could be your child. Easily. Anyway, see it.
So, France. Jee. Zus. They are so cared for. A dear friend of mine lives in the Netherlands and it's the same there. No worries about medical care! Can you imagine? I was so shaken up by it, I actually got to wondering. . . what's the deal, without EU citizenship, of living in Europe? If you are a writer and don't need to seek employment there, can you partake of the system? Can you pay taxes there and get what they get? That naturally led to looking at real estate, and we found this one on Lake Trasimeno. Our new -- har har -- home.
Here's the view of the lake from the property's tower:
And here's the courtyard:
The crypt. That's right. The crypt:
And here are some other rooms:
Are you wondering what this might cost? Ah, that's the best part. It costs. . . $700,000 dollars. And I'm not saying I have that, I'm just saying, here that doesn't buy you a medieval abbey on the lakeshore! (Okay, okay, actually, it's unclearly written, but I'm pretty sure that price is for an apartment within this building. But still.)
I camped at Lago Trasimeno years ago when I was a college student/travel writer. I was very lucky that during my years at UC Berkeley, the travel publisher Fodor's tried to start a student travel guide series to be competetive with Let's Go, which is written by Harvard students. This was the "Berkeley" take on travel. I was in the first batch of writers, and wrote three chapters of the first edition of the Italy book. I'll confess it wasn't the most fun travel I have ever experienced. I was on a crazy timeline, and so had no time to do the things I love, the loitering in cafes and museums, the swimming at the beach, etc. Rather, I had to track down the best and cheapest hotels and hostels, and jot down train info, etc. Tedious! I camped as often as I could, which led to one interesting night in the Apennine Mountains, a lovely, not-very-high mountain range that forms the "spine" of the boot of Italy. Well, I was nestled snugly in my little tent at the fringes of an out-of-season campground. I was the only tent camper there, and I felt very alone when I awakened in the night to the unmistakable roar of. . . a lion. Really. Even if you have never heard a lion roar in person, you know it when you hear it, and this was it. My mind worked frantically. There are no lions in Italy. I know this. I don't know if there are mountain lions, but this was a lion-lion. It didn't sound really close or anything, but that was little comfort. I felt suddenly about as safe as wonton filling is inside a wonton. I can't recall if I slept. . . but I survived the night, told no one I had heard a lion (crazy!), and noticed that morning that there was a circus in town!!! Ha ha.
Another interesting camping experience came in Assisi. There was an absolute stunner of a campground in the hills just outside the city, maybe a mile walk, and worth it. The whole of Umbria seemed to roll away in a valley from the hill on which Assisi sits. Again, I had the place almost entirely to myself. I chose the perfect spot, set up my little tent, looked around contentedly, then walked into town to do my tedious research thing. Late that evening I returned to a very changed campground. You see, a horde of Slovenian pilgrims had arrived for some religious holiday, and they had set up a city of World War II-era tents around my little tent. A city. And their tents were so huge and ungainly they literally had their stakes and tethers stretching over my tent, crisscrossing it. It was horrible!
Anyway, Lago Trasimeno. I had no camping adventures there, just a run-of-the-mill campground to return to after spending the days taking boats to the lake's various islands. On one island was an ancient ramshackle abbey, right at the shore, filled with marvelous things -- it was open as a poorly maintained museum. My imagination set to work at once imagining sneaking there to camp illegally, but I didn't attempt it, because I noticed a group of unwashed types had the same idea, and they looked a little surly. So I stayed where I was. But the property above reminded me of that daydreamy ramble around the grounds of a falling-down medieval abbey on the lakeshore. It was kind of like a Miss Havisham house, but in Italy. Imagine!
Sigh. Here's another one. This is in Tuscany, and the whole 16th-Century villa legitimately does cost under $600,000, including gardens originally planted by the freaking Medici family!!! Here:
Sigh again. Well, Sicko didn't even mention Italy, but I found my way here anyway. It is a big dream of mine to one day own a villa in Italy. When Jim and I have traveled there, we like to play the game of "where will our villa be" and we've provisionally decided on the Amalfi Coast. But Tuscany doesn't sound SO bad! ha ha!
Happy Oscar night, movie lovers. My mom is making an amazing spread of food, including crab-stuffed mushrooms and something about chicken in pastry. I am providing fixings for "tropical banana splits," ie mango and coconut sorbet, toasted coconut and macadamia nuts, and very likely some decadent lavender-infused hot fudge from Alma Chocolate, where I find myself mysteriously compelled to go today. . . I think they had ginger caramel sauce too. . .