Behind bars

Maintenance is a good thing, right? Of course it is! Without good maintenance, we wouldn’t have anything in our lives for very long—especially relationships.

Taking good care of physical things in Italy is often something of a contradiction. Surprise, surprise! Stucco and stone really don’t need much care and feeding. They take care of themselves, and actually develop their own special patina as time marches on. You might say that in a way, they get better and more beautiful with time. That’s why there’s a great market here for salvage building materials. The price skyrockets when the roof tiles are ancient and have all of that mossy, moldy stuff on them. Beauty like that is really hard to find. When it comes to stucco walls, it’s a mark of distinction to have slightly crumbling areas with various hues of discoloration creeping across the finish. It all adds to the old world charm—to a point. So, in a way, we would say that the Italians have that maintenance/patina thing figured out when it comes to certain materials.

Iron and Wood

On the other hand, next to the old pulverizing stucco you often find varnished wood windows and/or painted iron grilles and railings. In the US we would have a vinyl cladding on those windows before you could even utter the word varnish, and would never even consider using iron everywhere you look, unless it was permanently sealed with a “powder-coat” finish—never painted! Remember bake-lite, that never needs anything, ever, ever, ever? We remember. Italy does not.

It’s That Time Again

So that brings us to the real point of this little story: 2010 is the year to paint the iron around the house. It’s actually not so bad, since we only need to rework the iron every 4-5 years if we do a good job of prepping with lana d’acciaio, steel wool. As with all of the quirky aspects of living in Italy, we just make the most of it and try to laugh as much as possible. There’s always a way to turn drudgery into play if you just ponder it for a while. And that’s exactly what we’ve done with those pesky iron grilles and railings.

Iron Therapy

We discovered that the biggest issue with that black, gunky, rustproof (ha ha) paint is that, when painting the multitudinous round bars, it drips on the backside, where you can’t see the drippage. After all, you can only paint one side at a time. Right? Then when you finally move around to paint from the other side, all of the globs you couldn’t see not only become obvious, but they have dried into something akin to gummy bear tears. But we are resourceful! It didn’t take us long to figure out that if we worked together, we completely eliminate that problem. Now the job is actually fun! We can move lickety-split when working both sides of the same bar. It’s just like synchronized swimming only we use graphite paint and we’re not under water. The real bonus is that we can work facing each other. The only other job where you can possibly look at your work partner is cleaning windows, but then you can’t talk through the glass. Only 12 inches apart at all times with the open grille work, we can talk as if we were standing at a party holding drinks (cans of paint), swinging our arms around in true Italian expressiveness (painting).

You can really get to know someone during 6-8 hours of “paint-talking.” We’re thinking about opening a marriage counseling service in Tuscany where partners who don’t talk enough can come to participate in “iron-therapy.” While they develop their communication skills, they could simultaneously repaint our iron grilles AND save their marriage. If the idea really takes off, there’s plenty of iron in the valley, and we’re certain that the neighbors won’t mind the extra help.

We estimate that the divorce rate could potentially be cut in half by the end of 2011.

Note: You may also enjoy another story about a secret home project called, “Window On the World.”



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