Monday, August 19, 2013

My Missing Neighbor--An Italian Mystery

We've had an interesting occurrence over here at Via Fontanelle this weekend--our missing neighbor has suddenly reappeared! (at least I think it's him)

Let me start at the beginning.  

Our house sits amongst a weird little collection of Italian homes that are typical for Italian families but quite unusual for Americans.  We are quietly tucked away in the middle of the Veneto farm and wine country, on the banks of the Bacchiglione river.  While most of our windows look out at the beautiful vineyards and farm land that this region of Italy is so famous for, our front door opens up to a fairly small front yard and a larger Italian farm house that houses 3 families.  The "unit", for lack of a better word, to the far left is the largest and this is were my neighbors Anna-Maria and Luigi live with their single son (who is easily in his late forties).  They are also the grandparents of Clarissa, the little girl who is only a week older that Delilah. The girls sometimes play and have this strange bond that I can't even begin to understand or explain since neither of them speak the same language, but somehow they play just fine together...although now that I think of it, Delilah *does* spend a tremendous amount of time patting Clarissa on the top of her head and talking to her in a high squeaky voice...


The unit on the far right is a weekend get away home for an Italian couple living in Milan.  They are probably in their late 50's and are very friendly with us. He speaks a tiny bit of English--probably as much English as we speak Italian--and we enjoy talking to them when they come into town every now and again.  She is amazed at the thought that we have 4 bambini and ends most of our conversations with "Mama Mia!".
The farm house was built in 1782--this plaque is about the opening for the garage. I'm curious what the letters stand for--If you know, send me an email...I'm so curious!

The person living in the middle unit is who this mystery is all about.  He's a single man, in his 50's also and although I have no idea what he does for a living, he seems to be home a lot...AND he is OBSESSED with his car.  It's nothing fancy--just a four door 1990's Volvo sedan, that dark teal color that was so popular during that time period. You would have thought it was a Ferrari though with as much attention as he paid it.  He literally washed it several times a week and we would always see him outside cleaning it.  He had this one friend who would come over sometimes and they would work on these racing cars that were covered in sponsor logos.  I'm not sure who was the car racer--I always assumed it was the friend--and that our neighbor was the mechanic.  
Garden shed

He had lived across "the way" from us from the time that we moved into our house in early 2012 and we would see him pretty much everyday, sometimes more, sometimes less, and we had a friendly, neighborly relationship with him--meaning we would yell out "Ciao" to him and he would answer us, or vice versa. One time when we went on vacation early last summer, we asked (in our totally broken Italian) if he would mind dragging our garbage can back up to the house and he was nice enough to help us out.  It was that sort of relationship.  He seemed like a nice enough guy...

And then last August, he totally vanished.  One day, we woke up to him putting a few things into the back of his friend's car, and then they waved to us and just drove away.  The odd thing was that he had driven his beloved car into the "garage" part of the house and just left it.  It seemed ordinary enough at the time.  August is vacation month for Europeans.  It seriously seems that everyone goes on a vacation during that time. Houses are shut up and businesses close down for extended periods--sometimes for weeks--in August. Last week, Steve and I went out to dinner on a Tuesday night and we had to go to six restaurants before we found one that was open! They take their vacation time seriously around here, so it wasn't surprising not to see him for a couple of weeks. Then those weeks turned into months, summer slipped into fall, and still no neighbor. 
From our driveway

It was our first summer and fall in Italy, so we didn't really know what to expect.  I suppose it's common in farming communities, but the FLIES were (and are this summer as well) overwhelming!  I had never seen anything like it.  There were quite literally THOUSANDS of them on the back side of our house.  It was gross! And obviously, a few of them ended up in our house as well. The kids would come home from school and I would show them my "kills" for the day...

Steve and I really didn't think anything of it until the weather started to turn cooler.  The pretty little garden our neighbor had maintained by the side of our house had turned into a jumble of weeds by this time and his Volvo was covered in dust.  Otherwise, everything was just as he had left it.  
 Clothesline and pretty little garden now covered in weeds

Garage with the Volvo

Then, on one weeknight in the late fall, we had a knock at our door late one evening.  It was around 9 or 10 at night, and both Steve and I were in our pj's watching TV in the living room.  Normally, I would have ignored it, but the time of day made us curious, so we answered the door to find an Italian man and woman, middle-aged and wearing suits, standing on our doorstep. He was holding a clipboard with some paperwork attached. They both immediately apologized--I assume for the time--and started to point at the paperwork, and at our neighbor's house.  Neither spoke any English, and we unfortunately didn't speak enough Italian to decipher what was being said, but it was obvious that they were "official" and were talking about our neighbor.  When they realized that we were Americani, they waved and left.  Nothing EVER came of this...

Skip to this summer...still no sign of our neighbor....The mail is piling up in his box, the garden looks like a tropical rainforest, and the car is covered in dust and dirt.  Even I started to worry.  And then I remembered the flies...  And all my true crime-lovin' mind could imagine was bad, bad things.  
The Volvo today--see all the dust and dirt!!

Until this weekend.  On Saturday night, a little red honda hatchback pulled onto our driveway and stopped in front of his house. I honestly figured it was just someone who was lost and had come to the end of our street and was using our driveway to turn around.  But on Sunday morning, we woke to find the little red Honda hatchback parked in the driveway in front of his house.  The curtain that covers his doorway was pulled back, but all the shutters were still closed and the windows were still closed. And when we came home from the movies on Sunday evening, there were clothes on his clothes line.  The little red Honda was gone, but there were clothes!  You better BELIEVE I stalked that house for the next few hours!  No luck.  We went to bed last night with no little red Honda, and clothes still on the line (and I thought I was the only one who left clothes on the line all night)

Until this morning.  Red Honda is back, clothes are off the line.  But Teal Volvo is STILL covered in dust and STILL in the garage and the mail is STILL overflowing out of the mailbox and, you guessed it, the windows and shutters are STILL shut....(expect for one at the top of the  house, which is now suddenly open) 
The curtain to the door pulled to the side now but the mailbox is still full!

It's a mystery....and I love a good one.  I'll keep y'all posted!!

I'd love your vote!  One click on the picture of the happy momma below is all it takes! Ciao and Grazie!


  1. Lol...Ask Anna Maria...she knows.

    1. My money is on Luigi! I just sent you a FB request, by the way...

  2. I'm so curious and slightly concerned! Definitely keep us posted!

  3. Love this story! Please keep us updated. :)

  4. Ooh, this is so interesting! I wonder what is going on? Could he have gone on holiday and employed someone to clean but they have been really lazy and are only doing it at the last minute?

    I will keep checking back to see what else happens!


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