The most fun part of moving to a new country is the house hunting. Usually it starts right away and for good reason, hotel living is the pits especially when there’s four of you and no kitchen. Safe to say, we’ve eaten more pizza than the average person and I’m pretty sick of pizza. (GASP, I know, right?)
We started house hunting a few days after we arrived. We are allotted 5 days for house hunting and this island is not small. In just a few short days of being here we drove to the different little towns to see what we liked. The Navy Base (Sigonella) is pretty far from everywhere. Its about a 20-35-minute drive no matter where you live unless you choose to live on base. When nerves get the best of you, you think maybe I’ll just live on base if that’s an option. Here they call it the “triangle” Living near the two bases they say is pretty much the equivalent of living in America with Italy on the outside. We don’t move overseas to live in America so we are choosing to live out in the towns. Yes, it makes like a little more difficult since work and school is farther and the car situation, which we haven’t figured it out yet.
We ended up loving the area called Nicolosi but after seeing only one house there that was pretty dilapidated and it hadn’t been lived in for 2 years we were pretty discouraged. Nicolosi is one the farthest from the bases plus we had heard because it is in the mountains, they get some snow in the winter and they DO NOT clear the roads making it harder to get to work on time.
The first day our relocation guide told us we would be seeing 7 homes and to keep an open mind because all houses in Italy are different. We had already decided what was important to us. With kids certain things are “no nos” like treacherous stairs or not having a fenced in yard for them and the dog. We also HAD to be at least 10 minutes from a bus route. They picked us up in a huge Mercedes van and let me tell you by the end of the day all of us were sick and nauseated. The roads here are so windy, back seats are the enemy.
The first house we saw was an apartment and the town seemed nice. I wasn’t in to apartments since we have a dog that constantly thinks it need to pee. I can’t imagine taking her out and dressing the kids each time the dog got bored. NO thank you. I humored them and saw it anyway. When I walked in at first I was like, “okay this is kind of cute.” The balcony was huge but the rails were not very safe. Then we rounded the corner to the bathroom… No No, that’s not a bathroom, that’s the kitchen! I know Europe is NOT known for large kitchens like we Americans are used to, but this one was ridiculous. It was pretty much a closet with a sink and oven. Across the house there was a refrigerator. I’m no chef, but I love to cook. I’d have to put my cutting board on the floor to even make that work. But they were upbeat about the kitchen saying we could “add a little side table”. I smiled and decided “next house please” to myself. One of the houses they showed up was on the top floor of an apartment building which had either a staircase or the tiniest elevator you’ve ever seen. The actual apartment was nice and the view from the toilet of the city and sea was kind of amazing. The balconies were great if you didn’t have two little climbing kids which was totally unsafe. Most of the houses weren’t memorable at all, and the whole time we were discouraged. We didn’t see any houses in the areas we liked or any houses at all, just apartments. The last house of the day was actually very modern and nice. It had a nice view but the kitchen which was an actual kitchen, was on the basement level. That was also where the only shower was. The stairs were not navigable for children but I told my husband that had to be an option because everything else was terrible.
We are used to house shopping in different countries and we aren’t like those idiots on House Hunters International (yet) who have unrealistic expectations of what you are going to get when you are overseas. We knew, kitchens are small, bathrooms rarely have showers, and there is probably no place for a washer and dryer. We also know that sometimes you get lucky like we did in Kuwait. The bathrooms in Kuwait looked like something from a Saw movie but you have to be able to compromise. Our kitchen however, was out of a million-dollar American home, minus the dishwasher. But you get used to that.
The next time we went to look at houses, we let everyone know the things we needed to have in a house. The first house was actually a huge house but they had turned it into two smaller houses though the house was still very big. My initial reaction to the house was “Eh, another bummer.” The house was filled with trinkets and ceramic figure and had tons of furniture. Just like Hungary, I was starting to expect they were showing us houses who would rent only to Americans with money. The owner was very nice and her house was actually really neat. The backyard wasn’t much to see, but the house has two large living rooms side by side on a step down level. The stairs were beautiful. The house reminded me of a rich grandmother’s house. Big and old, filled with dollies and weird ceramic crap. I had a vision that once it was all gone, it could be really cool. The upstairs had only two bedrooms that were attached by a bathroom. The house has so much furniture I was disappointed knowing it would take a long time for someone to actually move out. The bathroom was disappointing. There was only one and the shower was like a coffin. Outside the bedroom was this beautiful old desk that look likes something that would be in the Oval Office. I was okay for that to stay in the house since we could pick what we wanted to keep for use. The kitchen was also big with very old appliances and a huge family table. There was a very of Mount Etna from the front and a view of the water from the back of the house. I felt more hopeful after seeing that house, but the next few houses were just as disappointing as the first day. I began to worry that we wouldn’t find a house.
The final day we saw a house that someone lived in. It was WAY out passed the bus district. It was pretty isolated and overgrown. The owners lived on the property but had kept up with it and we were sure nothing would change if we were to move in. The house was actually really cool but the tenants had smoked in it which was an automatic NO from me. The kitchen was all the way down some stairs that there was no way to get kids down to every morning. The rails were about 2 feet apart, the bathroom had mold from 1992 and there was only one workable bathroom all the way upstairs. We decided there was no way to make that work and once again felt irritated. We really felt like we weren’t being heard. We only had 5 days to find a house and we only had about 30 days left to be in a hotel. Also, they had told us that negotiations with landlords could go for a while and it typically takes about 30 days to finalize the lease. In total we have 60 days in a hotel and we used 30 days stateside since we had to rent out our home before leaving. To date, I have been in a hotel for 53 days and I’m nothing short of OVER IT. The hotel is super nice but it gets old not having a real home.
The final house we looked at, we pulled in the driveway and smiled at each other before getting out. We had high hopes that this could be it. We had seen photos of it but you still never know what to expect. It was perfect. It had a fenced in yard, a beautiful kitchen, perfect furniture, nice owners, and 3 bedrooms. The only negatives were farther from work and school and only one bathroom but I could work with that.
So now, we are in negotiation with the owners which had come to a halt as our relocation person had a sudden death in his family. We aren’t sure when he will be back and we are praying for his family through this sad time.
Luckily the weather has started to warm up during the day and the rain is gone. We don’t feel so trapped inside during the day and get to enjoy the beautiful patio.
For now, we will march on and enjoy spring break from this patio…