PLUMBING SUPPLY OUTLET, SOMEWHERE IN PINETTA, UMBRIA ¬–Yes, in many ways, life is easier when your wife is a witch.

A good witch granted. One Darin could imagine himself kissing as he went off to his job at the ad factory. We’ve always had our time in the ad game in common, Darin and I. And I’ve always felt it went deeper than that.
shower panicale italy
Except instead of being on 1960’s TV, in an American suburb, we are in downtown Umbria. Ergo, we have company. Fun, lovely company. Then we traveled, came back, had more. Do not try being us without a calendar in hand. Both companies, plural, were in the same upstairs apt, just at different moments.

The second set are wonderful friends and neighbors from Maine, and Paul is one of the handiest people I have yet to meet. He can make anything out of any other thing almost as a party trick. Marvelously handy. But he couldn’t make hot water come out of that apt’s shower. And if he couldn’t make it work, it was well and truly fried. He could with the right tool. But it was the weekend. And then they left.

But with more company on the horizon, it was quickly falling to me to Stand and Deliver. Which means call the plumber. And bathe in the withering glare of his famously handsome but nevertheless, cold, ice blue eyes. Eyes that, as soon as I could find him (please allow a week to ten days) would be saying “a preschooler with half a brain, hint, hint, and the proper tool, a tiny pre-schooler could do this. I have massive, important castles and business people of great import to stare down, and yet you bother me.” So. I could go that route. And, or, I could be that tiny pre-schooler with the proper tool. And just do this thing.

As always, before any trip to a foreign land, say, an Italian hardware store, I take copious photos, and any visual aids I can break loose from the battle site. In this case, the tub faucet on which was written in script “Nobile.” All of which I packed off to the giant plumbing supply place. Where they gave me the same look I could have gotten from the plumber. And then they gave me what was even obvious to me, the wrong tool. And advise that was even wrong-er. Which boiled down to “Oh, llustrious client, Mr. PreSchooler yourself, please buy this wildly expensive pair of regular pliers and pull on that thing, there in the middle, pull like your wife depended on it. And then it will miraculously come off in your hand, and you will have no water at all in your home until you bring that part back here. And we’ll see what we can do. Maybe we’ll have one like that. Maybe.” And then he added “Semplicissimo.”

Hmmm. Ok. Like Scarlett I will think about that Domani. showerview panicale italy

Domani came, Midge left. For a Girls’ Day Out in, and surely involving a glass of, Chianti. But before she left she said “You know how I like to think that things left alone can fix themselves?” Yes, yes I do know that. But being someone who went to an actual engineering school for a couple semesters, that is really not fixing the actual faucet here.

After waves goodbye, I shut down the water supply right at the street. And cautiously approached the surly tub. New pliers in hand, I grabbed the thing they said to grab, it stuck, I wrestled, and immediately purpled the pointing finger of my left hand. At which point I realized I needed professional help. In oh so many, many ways. Because this valve thing isn’t going anywhere if it depends on me and this particular tool. And I can’t get any other tools because our car is cavorting in Chianti.

Friends? Already used Bruno to do a gratis repair in this bathroom, earlier this same week. And company still coming tomorrow. What to do now? What. If. I. Just …what if I just try, not the shower, slowly carefully try the tub faucet, just one more time?

In a scant few moments you could poach eggs in the water coming out of the faucet and you could hear the comforting roar of the gas heater. I’m more of a tub guy but I’m going for the gold now. I flip the lever to “Shower.”

Sure enough. She fixed it.

See you in Italy,,

Stew Vreeland

PS the landscape is the view out the window of the bathroom. To keep everything in perspective. That is the important bit! Hey, we can shower when we get home, right?

Italian Road Trip! Picture us on instagram.

PANICALE, PADOVA, TRIESTE, Italy – Well, this is too fun. Latest iPhone app seems wicked-user friendly.

Check out our road trip through FIVE ITALIAN PROVINCES to Padova and Trieste here. Stayed in the nicest spas in both places. What a fine relax mode we got into.

If you have Wi-Fi, INSTAGRAM is a snap. Click your picture, adjust it, caption, send. Ta da!

More on both these excellent journeys soon!

See you in Italy right now! And now, we’ve had our coffee at Aldo’s, and company coming soon – so no excuses, back to garden maintenance!

Stew Vreeland

Getting in Hot Water: A day at a Tuscan Spa

Oh, we’re headed to an adventure today. I’ve been trying to work up the courage to go to a spa in Italy for years. Today’s the day.

“I’M WET! I’M WET” Gene Wilder’s character in “The Producers.”

RAPOLANO TERME, Siena, Tuscany, Italy—Oh, we’re headed for adventure today. For years I’ve been trying to work up the courage to go to one of Italy’s many spas. Today’s the day. Midge has an appointment, buddy Steve has an appointment too and we’re on our way.


Do try this. It’s hard for me to imagine a finer way to spend the day. Even in famously idyllic Tuscany. And it was about half reasonably priced. The spa we picked charged 11 euros for an all access pass that let you into all the many thermal pools indoor and out. For the whole day. The place is great, clean and polished, chaise lounges surrounding pools of every temperature. With a slack jawed look of contentment, bathers were positioning themselves under the splash of wide mouthed spigots and letting the relaxingly hot, mineral rich waters whoosh over them.

Once in a great while you can pick up a hint of the sulfur in the water. But not in a disagreeable “What the Heck was that?” kind of way. You just note it and maybe think to yourself “Hey, Farmboy, you’re at a Spa in Italy. How about that?”


There are pools of every size and shape but the pecking order for temperature seemed to be: the closer to the building, the hotter the water you were into. The further away, the cooler the waters. On a spring day when the temps are still a bit cool in the shadows of the pines, you can tell where the heat is by where the bathers are ganged up.

This was better than I imagined. There is food of every kind and a full bar just inside the pool area. Pastries, coffee, they’ve got all the necessities critical for a day at the beach. Except towels. Who would have thought? Believe me, they just don’t have them. How can that be? Oh, and they don’t have directions. Even sitting up real close to the computer screen it was vague/mysterious about how one was to go about arriving here. I should have asked Andrea. This is all his doing.

I was hanging out, bothering him at Masolino’s between lunch and dinner crowds one day and broached the subject of this particular spa with him because we have a major villa for sale right beside it. So I asked if he knew about Terme Antica Querciolaia. Knew it? He, literally, has a season pass to it. He and his family are on their feet, I don’t know, 12 hours a day feeding half of Umbria and keeping their coffee cups and wine glasses full six days a week. But on the seventh day they rested. Clicking the numbers off on his fingers, he said “on our Torno (our turn to take a day off) we first get the kids up, second we feed them, and point them to the door. And we run to the car to get as much spa time as we possibly can.” He named spas big and small for miles around. He has different subtle seasonal variations he explores constantly but as a Brit would say about their favorite pub, this is “his local.” His main spa.


Even though the directions are not obvious on the Terme Antica Querciolaia web site, it’s easy to find. You know where the main North South autostrada A1 hits Bettole? That is where we jump off to get to Castiglione del Lago or Panicale or Cortona etc when coming from Florence or Siena. Anyway, it is right about there not far from the Bettole autostrada exit/entrance. As their site says it is just “due passi” two steps from Siena, Pienza and Montepulciano. When you get near Bettole, just start looking for Rapolano Terme. Follow the signs and in short order you are there. And bring a towel. I know, I’m back on that again, but why wouldn’t they sell, rent or give you towels? Do not know. Must be a cultural thing. But it was funny because we called to make an appointment for different treatments and massages and the nice voice on the phone made a special point of saying to “be sure to bring a bathrobes and flip flops.” Oh, well, they don’t and once you get over that you see it for what it is, very clean, organized, newly renovated and lazygoodfun.

Plenty of ways to get upgraded and up-charged. Pick your poison. Weight rooms, workout center, massages, facials, mud baths. A whole menu of treatments of various lengths and Steve says compared to San Francisco they’re all great bargains.

I’m not emotionally prepared to go for all the treatments that Midge and Steve are signed up for. People I don’t know pounding on my naked body? Remember Spring Break in Biloxi?


And hanging by the general admission pool waiting for more Panicale friends to join us is not half bad way to pass the day, either. Give me a low brow beach book, a good cup of coffee and I’m all set. Midge, coming out of her second or third treatment of the day finds me on the same chaise where she left me earlier and wonders “Isn’t it hard not to be distracted here? You know, by the topless 25 year olds on either side you?”

“Hmmm? What was that dear? Oh, you mean like the one in the tiny orange bikini bottom whose chaise is right across from us? The one rather affectionately applying more suntan lotion all over her bronze bossom every half an hour?”

“Nope, nope never noticed.”

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland