I clearly sleep late, and when I go outside to water I see a little straw hat bobbing near the pomodori. It is Felice, and he is tying up the pomodori and checking them out. I walk over to him and tell him about Candida slinging her blue potion on the leaves. He nods and tells me that is very good. I tell him I am "preoccupata" (busy worring) that the liquid is a chemical and that the pomodori are no longer biological. He screws his face up and tells me that what Candida did is very good. The bottom leaves on many of the plants are brown and curled up. It is too late to worry anyway.
I twist two gigantic zucchini off their stems and plan to stuff them later with sausage and ricotta and other good things. Everyone here tries to give their zucchini away, it is so plentiful. Perhaps we will start to pick the flowers and let the zucchini themselves just turn to compost. The eggplant seems to be reviving, magari. I want to be sure to get Prue's recipe for cold eggplant soup soon.
Roy pulls out several of the older heads of lattuga, and preps the ground to plant seeds of rughetta (arugula). We can't seem to buy the slips anywhere, but have been told it only takes ten days for them to sprout. Roy waters the ground and makes a little roof with nursery cloth and sticks. His little roof looks like it is a miniature campsite. Roy is very resourceful and seems to enjoy this planting business.
Tonight there is a town meeting with the sindaco. We had planned to go, but changed our minds. We will understand very little of what is said. Most of the conversation will be about Bomarzo, so we drive by and decide not to stop.
Later on the terrace over cocktails, we hear drums in the distance. The beating is the beat of medieval drummers, practicing for a festa. Roy thinks the natives are restless, and that the townspeople of Bomarzo are unhappy with the results of the meeting. This is their way of striking. I think I am listening to an old western movie. It is dark and surreal.
A real breeze greets me when I walk out the door this morning. The air feels fresh and fragrant. Late in the morning, after we water all the plants and all the vegetables, eat breakfast and do a few things inside, we take our books out to the lavender garden and read on lounge chairs under the caki tree. There are a few clouds. Perhaps it will rain later. Although it is very warm again, the breeze and occasional clouds beckon us outside to relax.
The breeze, which comes from the southwest turns into a whirling gust and then dies down. We hear unfamiliar noises this morning. First, on the road down below us near Via Mola, affectionately called "Via Puzza" (dirty water) because it is lowland and near the river, a piece of machinery seems to drag the strada bianca. Perhaps the road will soon be paved. Later, when we sit under the caki tree, Roy draws my attention to a tractor up high below the top of the ridge near Michelle's road and behind the village cemetery. Someone is clearing the road, perhaps for a house site or to extend the unpaved street up there, or both.
Does this foretell the winds of change? Now that we are settled here, we so wish things would stay the same. No development. No American school. No strangers buying houses and properties in the village. But now that last night's town meeting has finished, we wonder if new permits have been granted. Bless each moment. Bless each day. We never know when things will change.
We go to yoga class in Attigliano. There are eight ragazzi here, including us. The new students do not speak English. Catherine speaks in both English and Italian, and thanks to her husband, who speaks several languages fluently and stands with his mat in the front row, she is able to do an admirable job. At the end, her words touch me. "I honor the divinity in you" is the phrase she ends this session with. Taking yoga once a week is a real treat for us. Now that grade school is out for the year, class is held in a space that Roy thinks is a former sewing factory, just across the street from the post office. The back doors open with rollup shades facing a garden, and there is a welcome cool breeze.
Before Shelly leaves at the end of class, I ask her what is going on at the end of her road. She thinks they are repairing the water tower, and tells us that Claudio drove up there to see. We doubt that, so Shelly will send him back, and if there is a development going in there, Shelly will get us involved in petitioning the commune to deny a permit to build. We hope that will not be necessary. Last night Paola Fosci came by to deliver airplane tickets and said that she will ask, but does not know of anything being built on the ridge behind the cemetery.
In the afternoon, I sit in a lounge chair under the small caki tree and try to read. I am so relaxed from the yoga session and from just sitting there that I nod off as much as I read. The birds chirp endlessly, and thankfully the cicadas are not doing their noisy scratching near my head. I am imagining Sofi nosing around and sleeping at my feet and just being a happy puppy. This is a great place to raise a puppy.
Roy comes out and tells me that he wants to go to Amelia to refill the bombola. We take off and are able to do the errand in less than two minutes once we are on the main shopping street. A stop at the nearby gelateria and then we spot a poster for the Amelia bocce tournament next week. Of course we get in the car and drive to the bocce court, which is on the back side of Amelia inside the walled medieval town.
We park and walk down to the two courts. We can hear the men laughing and talking from around the corner. Roy really wants to play, but now we take a look at how they play. Rules change from area to area, and we find that they do not use the sidewalls of the court. The walls are "off limits". I think that means that if you use the wall to roll your ball, your ball is marked "dead". Roy often bounced his ball off the sidewall or used the wall to help angle the ball as it rolled toward the palino in San Rafael. Not here.
The men are exactly what you would expect. The youngest is about sixty five. The oldest is about eighty. We watch about twelve men play on two courts, and there is not a bad player in the bunch. One thin little man in overalls two sizes too big squats down to aim and someone tells him to "give the palino a hug". Some of the men take two balls at once, and Roy tells me he thinks that is for balance. Most of the men are in t-shirts, but one is so neatly dressed in blue shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt and gold chain around his neck that he wipes the ball off before he rolls it with a paper towel. There are a lot of stories on these courts, and we hope to learn a few if we come back to watch often.
The courts look as though they are made of a combination of clay and sand. There is a large roller nearby, and it is clear that the men take excellent care of the courts. One man in each court has a long metal rod, which extends out when a measure is called for. The man who measures does not play here, but he uses his shoe to clear the court of dimples created by aggressive ball handlers who bounce the ball onto the court to break up the arrangement of balls and palinos. The person who breaks up the arrangement of balls on the court Roy calls a shooter.
Roy really wants to play. When we go home he calls Simona and Jaimie from Eurolinks, who live in Amelia, to find out how Roy can get into a game or into the tournament. Jaimie will make a few calls. In the meantime, we talk about building interest in our village for the game. If we can do that, we agree that we will go to the Mayor and offer part of our land next to San Rocco for a court, if the commune will agree to finance it. We have wanted to do this for several years. Let's see what interest we are able to stir up in the next few months....
Last night we ate grilled cheeseburgers and my version of fries (peeled potatoes roasted in olive oil and rosemary at a high temperature and stuck under the broiler for the last minute or two). The rolls were the local rosettas, delicious and round with a rosetta formed on the top. This was our only American Independence Day celebration, and celebrated, if you can call it that, before the fact. Today will be a day like any other. We are thinking fondly of our friends and relatives celebrating the day, but not wishing to be anywhere but here.
The fish truck comes late, and when we walk up we see a flower truck parked right next to it. Bunches and bunches of flowers, which people buy and take to the cemetery, stand inside stuffed in plastic buckets. I love the lysanthus, a white flower not unlike a rose. We buy a bunch, since our roses are not as abundant due to the hot weather, and will arrange them in a big vase in the kitchen.
We buy a piece of perch for tonight, a container of marinated sardine-like fish and another container of tiny pink shrimp. The shrimp are from Denmark in a special liquid. I am not sure of these. They have some kind of preservative that will keep them "fresh" in the refrigerator for a month. We will give them a try. I will try to be open-minded.
Tomorrow we will serve only cold food to Wendy and Allan at pranzo, but there will be a lot of it. Last night I cooked cannellini beans in rosemary. Today I strained them and put them in oil. I will also make more rice-stuffed tomatoes. This time I will cook the rice a little in advance. The granita is almost gone, so Roy asks that I make another batch.
When Roy was watering this morning, he found a big green pepperoni lying next to one of the plants, and brought it in to me proudly. We will do something with that as well. Stuffed eggs, olive tapenade on crostini, salmon, red and yellow pepperoni in oil, shrimp salad, prosciutto and melon...the usual stuff. And the little fish...Spumante and cold Orvietto classico. Wendy calls in the afternoon to ask if their two adult children can come. Why not?
I spend almost three hours early this morning in the garden, feeding the roses with the last of the rose Maxi from California, dead-heading and weeding. Everything looks good. Perhaps today we will put gravel on the last path in the lavender garden. There are several lavender plants which blossom late and we will cut them early next week.
When I finish watering, Roy is sitting on the bench in front of the kitchen. I sit there with him and we are quiet, just listening to the sounds of the birds and taking in the loveliness of it all.
Later in the afternoon, we have a short thunderstorm, followed by clean, clean air and a welcome breeze. I read under the caki tree until the sun drops too low in the sky for the tree to shield me. I get up and do some weeding. These days have been so pleasant that weeding in late afternoon is a pleasure. If weeding can be a pleasure.
Here, the most mundane watering of the tomatoes, or weeding around a boxwood, take on a tenderness for me. It is as though I am bringing up children, pampering them and so enjoying the daily changes in their lives.
Later in the evening, we take a walk toward town, but only go as far as the garbage drop-off. Neighbors are out and wave to us. Our terrace is cool, but the row of little houses below us toward the center of the village is not. The street is in front of them and the other side of the street has a tall row of medieval buildings. The asphalt retains its heat, and the little houses, although they look out on the Tiber valley, probably are not cool. Everyone sits outside lethargically. Some night we will invite them all up casually for granita, but not tonight. We are tired.
I water and see Roy bringing gravel to the lavender garden. We did not finish the path yesterday as we had thought, and he wants to do it now. He brings wheelbarrow load after load to the last path to cover. Yesterday we laid the nursery cloth down and today we finish raking the old gravel on top.
Roy sifts the gravel to clean it before bringing it over. It is the gravel left from the first batch brought several years ago, and we have decided to use that gravel instead of the new gravel, on these paths. While he sifts, I rake dirt and twigs and stones from around the big olive tree. Roy will move all that to the back of the house, in preparation for filling in the hole under the bathroom.
Next week, Roy will contact the company in Viterbo who cleans out septic systems, to find out what we need to do to pump out the old "stuff" and fill in lime or whatever is safest. We will also need soil or rocks, so this will work out well. We are not quite finished with this part of the project.
Ideally, once we figure out what we need to do in the back of the house, we will cement a pad and then bring in a "room" or build a store room under the bathroom for garden chairs, ladders, and other things that are just lying around in the area behind the house.
I finish all the cooking early, and putter around. We will have a completely cold pranzo, and take many of the dishes out of the two little refrigerators, to let them get to room temperature. We set two long tables next to each other, making a square. We have a square cloth that fits perfectly, and set the three sides with chairs and plates, etc., so each person can sit looking out at the view.
Wendy and Alan and Brianna, their daughter and Ben, Brianna's findanzato, arrive promptly and we spend the next five hours relaxing and eating and drinking and laughing. It is warm, but there is a good breeze, and we make the best use of the shade from three sun umbrellas and one big caki tree overhead. For the first time in recent memory here, the boys ask for beer and drink their beer right out of the cans. I don't bat an eyelash. At least we don't have plastic water bottles on the table.
As the day progresses, we learn a great deal about the Australian's love of anything American. We are told that since the advent of television in Australia in the 50's, Australians have been glued to their TV sets, watching and learning and emulating every move Americans make. We had no idea. And now Alan and Wendy are living here, getting another very different slice of life. Wendy will travel back to Australia often. We don't think she is as enamored of Italy as Alan is.
Alan wants to build his own version of the Bomarzo park, with sculptures they have bought during trips around the world. He has installed a new, large Padre Pio sculpture in one area of the garden, and we have seen at least one large carved marble lion and two statues we think are Balinese. He is expecting a big shipment of statues soon, and we will see what he comes up with for a plan.
Their space is very large, so there is room for a lot of creative thinking. He wants a garden that looks like a painting, with splashes of color. We like Alan and Wendy very much, and look forward to getting to know them better. Brianna and Ben are wonderful...she is exuberant and full of life, like her father. Ben is quiet and confident but delightful and friendly. Their wedding will be next July in Italy, and we all laugh about arrangements they are making for the wedding.
After they leave, we put things away and sit outside for a while. The weather continues to be lovely and cool. We go inside and watch a Roman Polanski film, and wonder if it is shown in the U.S. We are starved for first run movies in English, and it is funny that we now watch movies we would not watch in the U.S. They all look good to us here.
We dress for church and drive up, only to find the square empty. The door to the church is open, but no one is there. Giuliola comes out of her door and we ask her what is going on. She responds, "Don't you know? The anniversary for Don Fabbio is here at 6PM tonight...a mass and then reception outside the church.
She tells us that everyone was told, but it was not in the weekly missal, and no one told us. Well, if they did, we did not understand. Last week's missal clearly states that the reception for Don Fabbio was in Bomarzo last night and mass is this morning, as usual, at 9:30. We agree to come back and get in the car.
Since we are dressed, let's go to mass in another town. Orvieto? I love the tiny San Giovanni but have never seen a mass performed there. We get on the A-1 to go and then think...this is the first weekend of the month...Let's go to Arezzo!
On the first weekend of every month, a huge outdoor market is held on all the side streets and piazzas of Arezzo...more than 200 stalls, we are told. We want inside door knockers and Roy always wants to look for small black and white dogs. It will be fun to just look.
We buy an old, embroidered linen dress for me for €10, a square piece of embroidered and cutwork cloth and four white tassels to make a lampshade for another €14 and Roy finds a small but heavy iron black dog, quite old. He thinks it is a basotto but when we get home discovers it is a basset hound.
We have lunch in a restaurant in an alley...Lasagna for me and papparadelle noodles for Roy, with a plate of crostini first. A simple lunch and later we have gelato at a gelateria. We arrive home by 5PM, and Livio walks down to ask if we will bring our camera to mass to take some pictures. How wonderful that we have been asked.
I put on my white €10 dress and we go to mass, which is so hot we all wilt, even with an open door to the plaza. Afterward, a long table with wall to wall food....pizzas and desserts and bottles of soft drinks. I ask the women we know what each of them made, and we try it all.
There are delicious pizzas, with zucchini or pepperoni and thin crusts. They look as tho they were made in a regular oven. I will have to find out. Tortas and more tortas, from lemon to chocolate to zucchini to nocciole, on and on and on. Lucia even makes a pineapple cake. I think it is the old fashioned "pineapple upside down cake", a recipe at least 50 years old, but it is good just the same.
We get Don Fabbio's email address. There are three Romanian people in the village, who have been hired to take care of very old residents. They congregate around Don Fabbio, who has been in Romania for the past year. He tries to talk to us and mixes up his Italian with Romanian and throws in a little English. He is a very serious sort of man, but this makes him laugh. I think he is thrilled that the village turned out for him to welcome him back for the weekend.
I have been very itchy all day, asking Roy to give me a scratch on the middle of my back where I cannot reach. By the time we arrive home from church, I am so itchy that I cannot stand it. My back is all red bumps. Roy rubs cortisone cream on me after I take a bath in something like Epsom Salts. I am dying to scratch. Tomorrow we will go to Dottoressa Ofelia to figure out what is going on.
We sit outside for a cocktail and Roy wonders what is going on with the cicadas. He playfully rubs his legs together and cannot make a sound. Can't identify with those bugs. They are SO LOUD.
I must be having an allergic reaction to something. Around 1AM, I wake Roy up to tell him I cannot stand the itching any more and he drives me to Soriano, where the closest emergency clinic is. Elisabetta is on duty there a few nights a week, but not tonight. A very young doctor named Roberto is on duty. The whole building is closed, except for Roberto's clinic.
Roberto does not speak English, but shakes our hands and is excited to see us. He has a relative in Pasadena. That makes us good friends right off the bat. He takes a look at me and goes into another room. We hear pages of a big book being turned. Not a good sign. We all agree that I need a cortisone shot. Once that happens, he gives us a prescription for drops and pills, which I am to take after pranzo and after cena.
He tells us to fill the prescription right away. There is a pharmacy in Soriano that he does not know the location of, where we can make a telephone call and they will fill the prescription tonight. He insists we do that. We spend twenty minutes trying to find the farmacia and decide to go home instead, since I won't be able to take the medicine until after pranzo anyway.
The remainder of the night passes slowly, but I sleep a few hours and wake up before 7AM to find the swelling has gone down on my neck at least. While I am outside watering, Roy makes notes so that he can call Dottoressa and explain what is wrong with me.
He gets out the verb tense book and grammar book. What he comes up with is so good that Dottoressa does not need to interrupt him once. He starts with " lei ha uno sfogo sulla schiena e colo." With this unfortunate event, we have learned some new words...itch(prurito)...stinging(bruciamente) ...drops(gocce)...rash (sfogo)...back (schiena)...neck (colo)
Dottoressa is very helpful and tells us what to get from the farmacia. She is still in Perugia, but we will meet with her at noon at her home office in Bomarzo. Ofelia gives me a prescription for steroid pills to take for a week, and very strong salve.
We agree that I will go to Capranica in the fall to get a battery of allergy tests. The rest of the day is spent trying to keep my attention off my itching. I call Shelly, who is knowledgeable about so many things, and she tells us to use mentholated talcum powder. It helps.
On the drive up the Bomarzo hill this morning, we pass a big blue local bus. In front of us is a three-wheeled ape. In front of the ape is a huge piece of farm machinery, with round bales of hay, taller than the truck bed. Roy thinks this is good fodder for the rock/scissors/paper game. We banter back and forth and it is fun. The road is very curvy, and it takes us several tries before we are able to pass both the ape and the farm equipment.
The exercise reminds me of taking our drivers' license tests in Rome, where we had to determine which cars had rightaways, and in what sequence, in several different scenarios. Apes (pronounced "ah-peh"...three wheeled vehicles allowed on secondary roads) and farm equipment are two reasons it takes a long time to travel on two-lane roads. Plenty of time to smell the roses.
While I am resting at home and trying to be quiet, Roy goes to Viterbo and locates the people who will pump out our septic tanks. He also wants to get a cover for the car, a mini car-port made of white canvas on poles, to deflect the heat. Our parcheggio is like an oven. Beautiful, but like an oven. Yes, a bit of form over function. We'll come up with something that will look well and also be functional.
Tia calls while we are having cocktails and invites us to a pool party at her house on Saturday. Simona is giving the party, using Tia's pool as the location, as a welcome to the parents of her husband, Jaimie, who are here for a visit from England. Tia is at the most difficult and stressful time of their construction project, as the windows are arriving on Wednesday, the painter needs to finish, as do the plumbers and electricians. Her general contractor is off on vacation, and she is now the capo.
We will take a tour on Saturday, and have offered her project management help or shopping help or research help. But we think she has things well under control. It is just too bad for Tia and Bruce that the party has to be on that date. They are so generous I cannot imagine them saying "no".
The doorbell rings when I am in the shower. I have slept later than usual. Roy sees that it is Felice, and by the time I go out he is weeding in the upper orto garden. The timing is right, and I tell Roy that there is at least one tomato ready to pick.
He gets his camera, I bring a serrated knife and plate outside, and we call Felice down to join in. We ask Felice to do the honors of picking the first tomato. It is truly luscious looking..orangey-red and yellow, bulbous and ready to burst and warm to the touch.
He hands it to me. I wash it in the outdoor sink and slice it. We each take a slice and slip the juicy fruit into our mouths. The taste is the taste I remember from the tomatoes at Whole Foods. Sweet...rich...I cut some more and Felice suggests we use salt and olive oil and basilico with the tomato, which we will do at pranzo. Yesterday we bought fresh buffalo mozzarella and it will still be fresh. Can't wait to tell Peggy.
Inside, we rewire the overhead lamp in the guest bedroom, with the shade we fashion out of the square of embroidered linen we purchased at the mercato in Arezzo on Sunday. My sewing machine is very good, and we will finish the shade off with a white tassel on each of the four corners. The glass of the lamp is a lovely shade of blue, and curves down so that the color is visible from below. We love these little projects.
Roy really wants to play bocce. I agree to return with him to the courts in Amelia and we show up around 5:30. We are welcomed by all the same men who were here the last day we came. After twenty minutes or so, one comes up and asks if we'd like to play a game. Well, Roy reminds me later that in no way did they invite ME to play. Roy agrees to play immediately, and about ten minutes later a game is set up.
Roy has some good shots, including a "shooter", where he breaks up the balls like a pro. He also has some bad shots, but this is his first time playing in over a year and the first time on this court. I am so proud of him.
Remember that this group of men have been playing on these same two courts for decades. Roy is able to hold his own, and although his team loses the first game, they are all tied at the score of 8 when the man who asked us if we want to play gets a holler from a woman who appears to be his wife from the hill above the court. He has to go home. So the game is over. He tells Roy to pay €1 but all the other men say, "No!" So Roy does not have to pay.
The bocce tournament with the five contradas of Amelia starts tonight at 9PM. When we are home having cocktails, he wonders about going, but decides against it. I agree to go with him on Friday night for the finals. Instead we talk about our court in the new property. The Amelia court seems no longer than the space we have to build ours.
Earlier in the day, we take the photos of Don Fabio from Sunday to Giuliola and Livio. We sit in their living room and Roy tells them that we'd like to see if we can create some interest with people in the village to play bocce. This will be a fun project to work on. A very long term project. In the meantime, we'll visit other courts in the area (Lugnano, Penna, return to Amelia) to see if he can get to know some of the players. I am hoping he will meet someone who will advise him about the court. Whatever happens, it will be fun.
Juliano arrives from the Fossa Settica company to look at the pumping project for our septic system. He is cute, has a dark and wild head of hair tied back with an elastic like a bunch of lettuce. Best of all, he speaks a little English, learned years ago at school. He is quite charming, and we have agreed to his price. He will return late on Friday to do the work, hopefully after John Fernbacher and his family have left. How embarrassing that would be to be pumping out sewage while we all finish pranzo on the terrace.
We have rejoined the Telepass Family. We picked up the controllo at the bank, and now can whiz through the toll plazas again. Back at home, we eat a huge heirloom tomato at pranzo, with fresh mozzarella, salt, pepper, fresh basilico and Diego's grand olive oil. We add marinated red onions to the tuna salad, and this simple meal is so fragrant and satisfying.
The simplicity of eating in Italy continues to delight us. Many of our expat friends complain about the boringness of always eating Italian, seeking out the Asian or Mexican cuisine at any opportunity. Although Roy chows down an occasional can of chili, we seem to do just fine with the variety of local food we are able to put together.
But first, we open our mail, consisting of a package from the Holdings in San Francisco and an envelope from Phillip Thompson. Receiving mail here is a treat. It takes a real effort to write and mail a letter these days, so we savor every little piece of mail that comes to L'Avventura. We do not get "junk mail"...perhaps that is something divinely American.
Carol Holding sent photos that were taken at our house with us last month. One is especially funny of Roy and Ren sitting on the bench in the lavender garden, both pointing away at something, ignoring the camera, with their coffee cups on their laps. I remember that Carol and I were lounging under the caki and nespola trees at the time and thinking how great it was that the two guys share the same dry humor.
Also enclosed is a book she brought on the trip and read, City of the Soul, all about the back streets of Rome. Roy and I both look forward to reading it soon. But first, I must finish Iris Origo's The Need to Testify.
Phillip's mail consisted of two pages copied onto parchment paper. He had sent a photograph of the queen's guards that he had taken years ago, this photo in honor of her anniversary as queen. In the letter, he milked every opportunity he had to meet the queen or the queen's mom. It was very moving, and funny at the same time. The second sheet was from the Queen's Lady in Waiting, thanking him. How great that he wanted to share that with us. He is "quite a chap" and we so enjoy his visits here with Donna.
Roy loves to water the front terrace, front path with the roses, fiorieras and front orto garden each morning, and I take the side garden with the lavender and roses, pomodori ort o and upper orto garden. This takes about an hour each for us, and we try to do this before 8 or 9am. On a good day, I am up before 7 and finish before 8. Although Roy gets up after me, he seems to be better organized, and can do more in less time. I seem to linger over areas and dream a little, or futz with a flower, so it takes me longer.
Since I don't spend a lot of time on his garden area, today I decide to walk out in the mid afternoon sun to the raised orto garden. I remember I saw a few onions ready to fall over a day or so ago. I take a look and decide to pull a couple of them up. Quite beautiful, I would say.
There is a real satisfaction pulling something out of the ground that is not a weed and knowing that it will be part of a meal soon. Even today! I take them in and clean them off in the sink. Roy will have a good surprise when he comes downstairs and goes to the kitchen. Such little things make us happy.
Outside it is very hot and a cloud cover tells us to expect rain. That is a good thing. Perhaps it will cool things off.
A few hours later in the cool twilight, I take my little stepstool out to the terrace. Roy brings a piece of nursery cloth over to where I want to work and cuts two slits. We place the cloth over two boxwood at a time. I sit on the little stool and give sixteen little boxwood a haircut. Perhaps tomorrow night I will do the rest of the row facing the street.
Behind me, the melons grow and grow and grow. We already see one looking spiny. It probably will be ready to cut and eat next week. The melons take over at least a third of the raised orto. I am imagining Cinderella and her pumpkin here...the leaves are just like they are in the story-book.
Tonight my handsome prince and I dine outside with grilled chops and grilled onion just picked from our garden. I did not know life could be so sweet.
There is a poetry in the way the bales of hay are randomly left in the fields below Mugnano. From a distance, we view Mugnano as a kind of fairytail promonotory, surrounded in lush green any time of year. Coming closer, the village rises up steeply from low fields that are ever being worked by local farmers...Sunflowers, grain, corn, hay, olives, grapes, kiwi, asparagus...and then there are several large orto gardens.
Driving up the only road to the village, the bales appear to be thrown across the land. The placement, however, appears not to be random at all. The fields are moving paintings, yellow and brown in the heat, cicadas noisily guarding their turfs. Rows of sunflowers separate two of the fields, and depending on the time of day of our arrival or departure, the flowers turn (gira) toward the sun (sole).
We were raised as suburban children. Roy spent summers in the California wine country at Aunt Amanda's farm, and my country memories were of visiting friends "down Maine" and picking blueberries. Otherwise, we had no idea what farms were like, or what farmers did with their days. We have such great respect now for the land, and for the people who toil and also embrace the land here, every day of the year.
At around six, I return to the terrace to give haircuts to the rest of the tiny "box"-wood plants facing the street. With my little step stool and nursery cloth, I am able to finish very quickly.
Below, two women pass and I wave and sing out, "Buona serra!" They thank me and pause, and then look up. The shorter woman asks me if I have lavender "semi" (seeds) that they can have to plant a couple of plants. I tell them the lavender has no "seeds" but they are welcome to come up and look. They will continue their walk now, but will come back on their way home.
Catharine and Kees arrive a few minutes later for a drink, and to look at our raised orto bed. They want to put one in in front of their Giove house and want to see how we have built ours. Their timing is great, because Catharine speaks much better Italian than I do, and she can help translate when I cannot figure out what to say. The other woman is the niece of Celestino Natale, the man who built this house circa 1935.
After we have sat for a while, the women arrive, and we open the gate for them. At first they use that word again... "fastidio..." meaning, "Are we bothering you?" Now that word makes sense to me.
I introduce myself when they get to the top of the stairs. Lydia is the shorter woman with dark hair and a beautiful round face. Noreena is Celestino Natale's niece, and her last name is Natale. It is good to know their names. We welcome them in and walk them around, show them the lavender, but also introduce them to every little "room" in each garden.
They are amazed by the heirloom tomatoes, and seem to like everything. They ask who has helped us with the pomodori and I tell them Felice. They nod their heads that he has done very good work, noting the bamboo structure he has built for the pomodori.
I show them the Mariani property and tell them about the six olive trees we will plant in the fall and Roy's "campo di bocce". They laugh. They do not miss a thing, as Catharine later relates to me. "Complementi, complementi. You have brought such beauty to our little paese."
I ask Noreena what she remembers about the house, and she only remembers playing here as a child and watching the workmen do the building. So she is about seventy five. She has an aunt who is still alive who may remember more, who lives in Rome. I ask if there are any pictures, and she does not know. We would so love a photo of the Natale family enjoying the house.
I tell Noreena and Lydia that to us, Mugnano is paradise. I also tell them that we like the people in Mugnano very much and they are both surprised and seem moved by my words. The words are very true.
When they leave, we hear from Catharine for the first time that the people of the village were suspicious when we planted the lavender garden several years ago. They could not figure out what we were up to, planting and watering things you could not eat. But now that we have planted three orto gardens, we have their respect. We feel more grounded here every day.
The night is very humid, so I welcome getting up at 7. I rake some leaves from the loquat tree on the terrace, so that Roy won't have to use the aspiratore (a kind of blower and vacuum-cleaner in-one for the garden) today before our guests arrive for pranzo.
The fish truck comes and we liked the small shrimp last week so much we purchase some more, for a salad with wild fennel, red onion and lemon. We also pick up some marinated calamari. The flower truck is not here. It comes later, probably too late to buy lysanthus again.
There are some roses for vases at home, and I mix them with herbs, including lavender. We'll have another all cold pranzo today. We seem to have a good plan for how to do it so that we can really enjoy our guests and the weather is too warm to have anything hot.
John Fernbacher, his wife Kathy, daughters Sarah and Kelly and son Jack arrive, and we spend a great afternoon here. Aside from a moment when we almost have to use the Heimlich maneuver on Kelly, who chokes on a piece of melon, the afternoon is mellow. John later said to Kelly, "I would have given you the Heimlich, but I was taking a picture." It was a funny moment.
John and his family stopped for pranzo here after spending a week in Greve, where they got to know the owners of the place where they rented. Last night, John asked them if they would like to have dinner together. "We can't," said the wife, "We have to have dinner with our tractor salesman."
Today, when John left, the wife asked them if they wanted to have lunch with them. John said, "We can't. We're having lunch with my tractor salesman." John was a client of Roy's for many years in San Francisco. We all had a big laugh. Now John thinks of Roy as his tractor salesman. Roy is happy to leave it at that.
After the Fernbachers leave, we have what I now call "A Brinkley moment". That is the time when we are alone again. It is quiet then, and we can relax together, thinking back on the time with our guests. When Brinkley was alive, she would stand at the door after guests left, wiggle her tail and dance around, making sweet little noises of joy. "Alone again! Yay!" We love having guests. But we also love the silence after they have gone to reflect on the time spent with them. I call these Brinkley moments. I sure miss that little dog.
The Vitorspurgo people come and within an hour they are through pumping and disinfecting the back of the house. We are very relieved. In ten days we will have the paperwork to prove the septic system has been done.
We take the empty bottles of spumante and Orvieto Classico from pranzo and a bag of garbage down the street. We walk to the second set of containers where the glass recycling is located. On the way back, we stop to talk with Italo and Dina and Noreena and Lydia. They ask us if our guests were relatives. We tell them no, they are friends from San Francisco.
"Friscola!" Italo exclaims. "Friscola?" I respond. "What's that, like Briscola?" (Briscola is a card game played in Italy.) We all laugh. Now when we go to the states, we will go to Friscola. What a great name!
Of course, by now the word is out about Roy's bocce court. Roy tells them we are going tonight to watch the finals of the Intercontrada Bocce tournament in Amelia. The subject of bocce is now officially on the table. Italo modestly tells Roy that when bocce was played in Mugnano he was a champion. I said, "Capo?" He responded, "Mezzo Capo" with a shake of his shoulders. He said to Roy, "If you build a court, I will be your client." What a funny way to put it.
We go to Amelia and get really good seats on white plastic chairs right at the "line of scrimmage." We are not sure how these games will be played, but in a moment the first men start. A few of the men are familiar and they acknowledge us, which is great.
During the next hour and a half, we watch a number of games, including two games made up solely of female participants. In each case, there is one older serious woman and one younger one. One set wins, one set loses.
The women roll the balls slower, in an almost delicate fashion, taking their time and gliding forward. One young woman, however, has been practicing "shooting". Twice during the game she aims and the ball bounds through the air and... "bam!" All the balls, including the palino, are scattered. This is very gutsy.
Overall, the men are much more animated. They seem to have a better time of it, joking with their opponents. They do not care if their ball sails over the palino. One big man, who seems to have a watermelon shaped stomach that looks firm as a rock, has an incredible style. He stands with the ball raised in both hands, stares steely-eyed at the opponent's bocce balls and palino, knowing just where he will strike. He takes one step back, never moving his eyes.
The ball is lowered almost to the ground, he spins it and it flies out of his palm like a rocket, taking dead aim where he intends to land. The women, on the contrary, play a more conservative game. It is all great fun, until we leave and walk up the hill to the car.
There is a message on Roy's cell phone. We must have been in a dead zone. It is the Carabinieri. I recognized the number because we have seen it on signs along the road. Roy calls right away. "Where are you? When will you be home?" We tell them 30 minutes and drive swiftly and silent all the way home, each of us with our own remarkable fantasies.
The actuality, however, is somewhere in between. We let them in the gate. They walk up the stairs and ask us immediately about our stolen cell phone. It appears we still have the box of a missing cell phone. We purchased the phone in 2000, and were given a box for the phone, but it was not the correct box. We did not know that at the time.
When we reported the cell phone stolen, we looked at the box and indicated the number on the box. Now it appears the police have found the phone that matches the code on the box and think it is ours. But it is dark blue. And our cell phone was grey.
These three Carabinieri are becoming friends of ours, whether we like it or not. We do not know their names, other than the Capo's, but they are feeling relaxed in our kitchen. It seems strange to me that they are dressed in casual clothes at 11:30 at night, although they are on duty....Jeans and polo shirts and no official signs that they are police. If we did not know who they were, we certainly would not have let them in the gate.
The scene is almost funny. They at first think they have solved a great crime. We do not know what the crime is, but the theft of a cell phone in itself is not worthy of all this attention. One of the men tries to convince Roy that his phone was blue. Roy is sure it was not, but cannot find the two-year-old telephone contract. He does remember the store in Viterbo, and tells the carabinieri where the store is. He also gives them the box for the stolen phone.
They leave, and we decide to go out to the Octoberfest pub in Attigliano for a beer. The pub serves the beer from Regensburg, Germany, where Roy was stationed in the 60's. We love the beer and the pub has an outside beer garden that offers a perfect scene for us on this warm night.
The moon is almost full and we chock this strange night up to that.
Even though it is hot at 7AM, it is lovely and quiet outside. Not a cicada yet, not a tractor, not a weed-wacker anywhere nearby. I take a good look at the eggplant, and see four tiny dark jewels growing daintily from the main stem, despite a recent chomping from hungry snails. I do believe the plant will make it. I pick several small zucchini and the smaller cabbage, and will make cole slaw with chopped baby zucchini, red onion, wild fennel, vinegar, lemon and mint. Almost everything I need is right in the garden.
Down below, the pomodori are thriving. I am not so sure about whether it was a good thing or not for Candida to put copper sulfate on the leaves. But the three tomatoes we had earlier this week were surely incredible tasting. I think that several more will be ready this next week.
I make cole slaw and we have that for pranzo with what is left from yesterday's seafood salad and pepperoni. The cabbage is so tasty that I am sorry we gave ten plants away. There is only one left, so perhaps we will plant a few more in the next weeks.
We agree that we need a larger umbrella to shield us on the terrace from the summer's scorching temperatures, and remember that there is a discount store on The Flaminia, the SS3 route toward Rome, where we can find one at a good price. We drive on the A-l to Ponzano Romano and wind around the back hills, near Mount Sorate.
We decide to go up to the hill town near the top, San Oreste, and park right outside the wall and huge open gate. A man sitting on a bench in front of a stupendous view tells us how to make sure we do not get a parking ticket. We speak of the weather, and he asks us if we like the sea. There it is again, the Italian fascination with the seaside. This promonotory where we are standing is so beautiful that I cannot understand why he would yearn to be somewhere else.
It is almost 4PM. We walk up into the old village, and see at least two buildings that were built in the 9th century. One of them, a church, is large and suffering a great deal of moisture problems. Its faded grandeur is there, however.
But what is more remarkable is the sound wafting out the front door and down the cobblestone street of the women reciting the rosary. Their tone is like a bell, moving up and down the words like honey. We stand silently at the front door and then bless ourselves with holy water and enter, standing in the back of the church.
In a minute or two we leave, just as a very old woman steps silently in to join her neighbors. We feel as though we are intruding. But as we leave we turn around and hold hands, closing our eyes, just listening to the drone of the voices. We will long remember the sound and the silence and the moment.
We walk around the remarkable old town some more, stopping for a gelato on the way out at the bar at the gate. Then we sit on a bench overlooking the sheer drop and fields and crops below, drinking in the smell and the sounds all around us as well as the taste of the creamy rich treat.
Back in the car, we drive to the Flaminia, and find the store we are looking for. We also find the umbrella we want. But on the road again, Roy muses, "I wonder what Karina is doing now. Perhaps she'd like to meet us for coffee."
Before we know it, we've spoken with her and have agreed to meet her at the bar across from her apartment in Rome. It is so good to see her, and to hear about how the tour went today with the Fernbachers.
We walk instead across the Ponte Milvio bridge with her and have drinks at a neighborhood bar. Then we agree that she will come home with us tonight and take the train back to Rome tomorrow night.
On the way, we race toward Viterbo, to see if we can get to a big store to buy ribbon before it closes. Karina wants to make lavender wands with some of our remaining lavender, and we have none at home.
We will not make it to Viterbo on time, but find a store on the road that sells all kinds of things that is still open at 9PM and amazingly they sell ribbon. Karina stocks up and as we leave she tells us a story about her tour today.
The Ferbacher family of five needed to take a cab to St. Peter's because it will be closed tomorrow, their last day in Rome. The pope has decided that it is so hot that he is leaving town early. So Karina tries to convince a taxi driver to take all five of them. It is against the law, the cabbie tells Karina in Italian.
"But what if Jack (who is twelve) makes himself really small so that you cannot see him?" "How small?" the cabbie responds. "VERY small. Jack, roll up. As a matter of fact, get in and lie down so no one can see you and don't get up until you're there."
Jack does as he is told and Karina has the cabbie get out to inspect the scene. He agrees to take them and to drop them off a block from St. Peter's so that he won't be stopped by the police and fined. This is one example of why Karina is such a great tour guide in Rome.
We just love being with her and are delighted that she will spend the night with us. She has not been with us since May 16th, the night after our robbery. It is a full moon outside, and we hope this visit will erase all the bad vibes that may remain in the house from May.
We are all tired, but sit out on the terrace and hear stories about her trip to the U S for her mother's 80th birthday party. Tomorrow early I will cut more lavender and she will show me how to make lavender wands. It should be fun to hang out with her for the day. We love her so.
Two lavender plants are cut before the bees zoom in at 8AM. I move the cuttings to the loggia, in preparation for Karina's project. Then I check out the side garden and water. A few of the Earl of Edgecomb pomodori will be ready to pick soon, as will at least one of the Pre-Italian variety. Up above, more zucchini have sprung up overnight, along with several zucchini flowers. We will not pick anything today.
While Karina sleeps cozily in the next bedroom, we get ready for church and drive up. I bring one of those inexpensive Asian bamboo fans for church. The Italian women use them often at times like this, when there is no air cooling available. The mass starts late, and almost everyone waits outside until the priest arrives. No need to go inside until the bell peals in this heat.
We go in before the bell, and see Felice sitting just behind where we sit. We ask him how things went in Capranica and he tells us that his nose is fine but he needs to take some medicine. I go over to Marsiglia sitting in the last pew across the aisle to greet her and ask about Felice.
She whispers something about his heart. I have no idea what she is saying but I am sure there is something going on with Felice. We will try to find out. A kiss from Candida and the bell peals for mass.
Mass today moves me more than usual. Yesterday's sight of the old women saying the rosary in San Oreste remind me that the 40 or so people here for mass are here because they truly want to be here. The four hymns we sing are sung with emotion. The responses are said in strong voice. We have not come to a rosary since May, but will try to come early this week. The rosary is said in the church every week day afternoon.
We are learning more and more about the liturgy in Italian, and are able to start to speak it. During the homily I even understand a little.
After church, I make breakfast for Karina and we sit around and gab. I make a frittata for lunch, and sit it on the counter to cool. I use a beautiful white onion and two zucchini from the garden, plus slices of the potatoes we used on Saturday to prop up the roasted rice-stuffed tomatoes. It all works out, and we even have cocomero (watermelon) granita left for dessert.
Before pranzo, we put up the new umbrella on the terrace, to block out the sun pouring in the front of the loggia, where the first stage of the lavender project will take place. We bring two kitchen chairs out and the lug of lavender. Sitting around a big black waste basket, we clean and strip the lavender stems, then put them in a bucket with a few inches of water, until we are ready to make the wands.
We finish stripping a lot of the lavender before pranzo, but are too tired to go back to it in the heat in the afternoon. Karina will stay tonight, and later we will take out the lavender and the ribbon to start.
We all decide we need naps, and take at least an hour to cool down and try to sleep. Later, Karina begins to do the wands in the loggia, and I join her until I need to get ready to go to dinner. Karina does not want to come, but Roy and I go to meet Tia and Bruce at a restaurant outside Orte, Nonni Pappa. We return a few hours later to find Karina still in the loggia, plugging away at her lavender wands. She has made almost fourteen. They look wonderful.
We sit outside under a full moon and tell more stories, until it is time to come inside. Wait...there are fireworks in the distance. It must be some local town's holiday. Instead, I go inside to find an email from Peggy that she will be here in a few weeks to meet Sofia and share the tomatoes.....This is wonderful news to take to dreamland....
In the silence of the early morning, I putter around in the garden, before I water. I clip, deadhead roses, and bring in herbs and flowers to make tiny flower arrangements. I am learning that in this incredible heat the blossoms wither and die in a day. So when I see a lovely bloom, I pick it and bring it inside.
Felice arrives and in the upper orto garden I show him the melanzanie. He is pleased with it. There is nothing much to say about the zucchini. It just thrives. He thinks the capuccia is perfect to pick and makes a hole in his cheek with the end of his index finger to indicate it will be delicious. We will buy some capuccia "plugs" soon so that we can plant more.
He gets some cord to tie up the pomodori, and when I come down with the hose to water, we have a wonderful time. The pomodori are really growing quickly now. He wants us to slow down the process, and when Roy comes out tells him to get a piece of nursery cloth to cover them during the hottest part of the day.
That makes a lot of sense. He picks the first two San Marzano plum tomatoes and we agree that three of the heirlooms are ready to pick. Two are zebras, and one is an Earl of Edgecomb, orange and beautifully round.
While we are alone, I ask Felice about his health. He tells me he is fine and I ask him what Marsiglia said about his heart. He is taking medicine for what I think is an irregular heartbeat, but it is not serious. I am satisfied.
I tell Felice that there are no lemons on the lemon tree, and he goes with Roy to investigate. He will cut off some branches. I am still watering in the side garden, so do not follow along. When I finish, I see Felice and Roy cutting back a lot of the melon vine in the raised orto bed. Although there are many flowers, he tells us that the pale flowers are no good. They will not become melons. So he cuts where he needs to cut. Right now, there are three melons in this orto bed and at least two near the zucchini.
We then have a discussion about the pepperoni. We were sure we asked for red pepperoni, but these are green. He tells us to pick them. I think he is saying that these are not red pepperoni. There is so much to learn.
We show him the seeds that we planted to grow rughetta (arugula) and they are not doing all that well, despite the little roof Roy has built to shade them. We need to find plugs of rughetta and plant those. I think we also need to plant some more basilico. The plants we have are starting to get pale in color and leggy.
Karina gets up after nine, and we have breakfast together. She then goes out to do a few more lavender wands. We have a peaceful morning, and have the largest zebra tomato at pranzo with fresh buffala mozzarella, olive oil and basilico, frittata, melon, prosciutto, hard boiled eggs, marinated artichoke hearts, you know, the usual stuff.
Karina gets the train back to Rome in the afternoon and we try not to move too much, because the temperature is very humid and over 40 degrees (38 is around 100 degrees). We pick up some capuccia (cabbage) and a basilico plant and will plant them later. We will probably change our watering pattern to evenings, with the weather this hot. Tonight we will start. Perhaps we will jump under the hose as well.
A few hours later we water everything, and this makes a lot of sense. For the foreseeable future, we will change our watering pattern to evening. The hot sun is off the vegetables and flowers, and the water now will have twelve hours before the hot sun beats down again to soak in the soil.
The roses on the rose arch (Crepescule) are thriving. So much so that I thin them out, to give them more incentive to grow. Already they are taller than me on each side. The laurel tree just above the arch will have roses growing into it as well, as the shoots climb and climb.
Down below on the path, the Lady Hillington roses are also very happy. The blossoms are 3-4 inches wide, and the color starts as a melony-yellow and turns to cream. In this heat, they are almost all cream. The shoots are fanning wide on either side, and we are training them with silver metal wire, nailed to the tufa wall in a long line, every foot and a half or so up the wall.
The roses in the side garden are not so happy. The Jude the Obscure rose is fine, but the Glorie di Dijons are not really taking off. They are puny little things, although one is several years old and two are at least two years old. The Madame Alfred Carrieres are long and leggy, no matter what I do. At the beginning of the season they flourished, but now they are just, well, there. I am almost considering pulling them out.
The four iceberg roses on the top of the side garden wall are not doing all that well, either. I have used the last of the Maxi fertilizer we bought for roses from California, and am using local food now. I feed them at least once a week. Last year, these roses did very well, and could be seen way down the street until mid fall. Perhaps they will get a second wind soon.
All the boxwood, the new as well as the old, are doing fine. We are considering taking out all the lavender (it has been five years) and Sarah tells u us that is about right for lavender. They are getting too big. We will decide in the fall. In the meantime, they are clipped back to balls, and look like modern art in all their greyness. We will, of course, replant lavender in their place. The lavender is a signature of L'Avventura and we love it here, inside in big baskets and outside in the garden.
Early in the morning, we go to Soriano for a blood test for Roy. He has not taken cholesterol medicine for over a month, and this test is to see how his cholesterol levels are doing. We then go to Sippiciano for haircuts. Roy gets his beard trimmed, a haircut, I get a haircut and color, and it all comes to €42. Danieli, who is about 25, owns his own salon, and does a very good job. Some things are good and very inexpensive here...medical care and haircuts...two mainstays of our existence...
The pots we are having made as our anti-theft receptacles for the spiny roses are ready in Ripabianca, so we drive there to pick them up. It takes less than an hour. Ripabianca is just below DeRuta, and after we get the pots we drive east to find a place for pranzo.
We love the name San Terenziano, in honor of our son, so eat at a little outdoor café there. No postcards to memorialize the rather unremarkable town. Back home with the pots...It is again over 40 degrees and very humid.
I am so disappointed. The heat has dried up many of the heirloom tomato flowers, and this means that many of the tomatoes we looked for ward to picking will not make it. Starting two days ago, with Felice's counsel, we started covering the pomodori during the strong sunlight hours with nursery cloth.. The pomodori at the bottom are ripening very quickly, and we have tomato salads twice a day. We don't know what to expect.
This has been a sad lesson. Our respect for the farmers grows exponentially. In the fall, we will purchase more heirloom tomato seeds from California, and will keep them in a cool dry place. In February, we will plant the seeds in the guest bedroom window, and then plant them outside at the end of April. We will change the soil, and will absolutely not put any chemicals anywhere near our vegetables.
I cannot imagine saying anything to Candida about what she did by putting copper sulfate on our tomato leaves, but she thought she was doing the right thing. I will know better next time and will understand what that blue liquid is the next time I see it anywhere near our garden.
For today, at least, the doorbell rings, and I am able to greet Felice with joy. Last night we saw that at least three of the tomatoes on his two heirloom plants are ripe. I take him down and show him. He does not want to take them, but I convince him to take one Zebra and one Earl of Edgecomb to share with Marsiglia for pranzo.
We will take several heirlooms to Alan and Wendy's for pranzo today. It is hot, so we may even take a dip in their pool.
I cut the last several lavender plants and strip the bottom of the stalks. There is more room in each of the baskets in the house, and we will pack them tight.
Roy is busy getting ready for Sofia. He takes the cage out of storage, and puts in her little pillow. It is now right inside the bedroom door, facing the desk, with its door open, ready to greet her. I will iron the linen cloth that will sit on top of the cage like a little sunshade. We have two soft little toys, and all we need for her. Last night, we moved the little dog house right outside the loggia, where we sit for cocktails. After this long hiatus, we are really ready for our new little puppy.
We watered everything very deeply last night, because we will be gone for three days. Although Felice will come each morning and evening and do the watering for us, we take extra precautions. The 35 degree plus temperatures each day are an everyday occurrence. There has not been a temperate day for at least six weeks.
We leave here before 7AM, and are able to drive to Mantua before pranzo. We make the trip in very good time, and arrive there before noon. We remember wanting to spend some time in Mantua years ago, but only stopped for pranzo then. Today, we have made reservations in a trattoria we found in a guidebook, and look forward to a special meal.
Thursday is market day in Mantua, and the streets are teeming with people and tables covered with umbrellas. If I close my eyes, I can imagine this as a medieval marketplace, the t-shirts and plastic sandals transformed into barrels of grain and linen.
We walk the market, enjoying the sights and sounds. The cobblestones are difficult to walk on, and we imagine this town treacherous in rain. Because the town is surrounded on three sides by lakes, it is very humid. Again, the temperature is over 40 degrees.
We have left the car at the edge of town and walk to the restaurant. By the time we arrive, we are very hot. The building is very cool, and we are greeted by a man wearing a light grey suit and red bow tie. He seems impervious to the weather, and guides us down a hallway to the restaurant.
We are not disappointed by this meal. Melon and peach soup, served cold, with the most unusual ingredient: melon seeds, which have been dried and toasted, then pulverized. Cold veal with tuna sauce. A perfect blend for this weather. We skip dessert, knowing we will have something later, and are served tiny sweet biscuits before we leave.
We do not look forward to our walk back to the car, and realize that although the museums will all open at 3PM, it is far to hot to attempt any sightseeing. In the middle of town, there is a lovely round building, several hundred years old, and we stop to look inside. Otherwise, Mantua will have to wait for another trip. It is all we can do to reach the car and get inside to turn on the air conditioning.
We arrive in Verona about an hour later, and Roy's parking karma serves us well. The bed and breakfast we are staying in is perfect. Our room is on the third floor, overlooking the Palazzo Signori. There is air conditioning here, and we are again thankful for this blessing.
We are able to walk to The Arena, where the opera is being held. We have wanted to see Nabucco again, remembering the wonderful music from a performance we saw in San Francisco several years ago with Pat and Margaret. The Arena was built in the first century A D, and most of it survives now.
We sit in the orchestra, first row of the third section. Giovanna tells us the only place to sit is up in the "bleachers", but it is so crowded there that we think that the discomfort is not worth the experience. We are able to arrive just before curtain, 9:15 P M, and agree that this is well worth the extra cost.
On the way to Verona, we played the opera on our CD player, while I read the words in English. The music is dramatic, exciting, and the Italian national anthem is sung during the opera, so we expect there to be a groundswell from the audience. Again, we are not disappointed. At one point, there must be 150 chorus members on stage!
The back of the stage is the back of the arena, with stone row after row to the top. It is beautifully lit, and during a scene where there is a huge battle, a huge red splattered yellow fabric is draped down twenty or so rows of stones. The center of the stage has a huge door, during which several different constructions are moved in and out with the cast. A huge bird, an angel, I cannot remember them all. I do think there was a little too much of this spectacle. It reminded me of a Cecil Be DeMille movie. Otherwise, we loved it all.
Near the end of the four act opera, the chorus sang their famous piece. It was sung slowly, mournfully, and although the sound was huge, the timing was impeccable. At its end, cheering and foot stamping erupted for about ten minutes. So of course there was an encore. Another five minutes or so of cheer and then on to the end of the opera.
Although we were disappointed by the sound, because there was no amplification at all, the sound was quite pure, and we were able to hear everything. How strange that our ears are so accustomed to amplification.
Although we have a perfect parking space, we decide not to spend the day in Verona. It is just too hot. So we drive to Sermione, on the shore of Lake Garda. The town is beautiful, with a view of mountains on the other side, and a blue-green lake. Hoards of people surround us. The drive is slow, much of it on a two-lane road. And when we arrive the breezes on the lake do not compensate for the continued heat.
We walk around a little, and eat at a too-expensive restaurant with shade under olive trees and a view of the lake. No matter. Afterward, we walk into a few shops, but decide we do not like this town. The shopkeepers and restaurants seem to prey on their victims, charging high prices for unremarkable food and shopping.
Back in Verona, we walk around a little, and eat at an outside trattoria, again too expensive. This is a tourist town. But what incredible architecture. We will return here in cooler weather to take more of it in. We walk around after dinner and find a restaurant that we will come back to next time.
We leave Verona early, and drive to Padua, to see the Giottos in La Cappella degli Scrovegni. We are able to get tickets for the 9AM tour. This "tour" consists of a group of no more than 25 people who are shown into an air conditioned room for fifteen minutes. Then we are taken to a nearby room, where the frescos are, and are able to stay there for about thirty minutes.
The walls and ceiling are covered with extraordinary art, painted by Giotto and his students between 1303 and 1305. I like these frescos almost as much as those in the Duomo in Assisi. It is good to see that there is such care taken with the atmospheric conditions to protect the art.
We drive home on the E-45, through Umbria, stop for lunch at Citta de Castello and arrive home before 6PM. We change and go out to water, and Felice arrives a few minutes later, telling us everything is doing fine. He tells us the mayor is giving a dinner for the people of the village at 9PM. It is a good thing Felice told us. Otherwise we would not have known.
We arrive at the dinner, outside the old school, and tables are set around the courtyard. Stefano, the mayor, greets us, as do many of the people of the village. Someone at the far end of the tables beckons us over, and we sit across from the shoeman who lives above us and a woman who came to see our construction project weeks before and her husband.
We do not know their names. They live in Rome and Mugnano. Her father lived in Mugnano, but neither of them were born here. The shoe man is also a stranieri, buying his building ten or so years ago because he wanted to retire here.
We are served: penne arribiatta, hot porchetta, green salad, bread, a hot donut-like dessert, big slices of watermelon, wine and water and then coffee and scotch and brandy are served after dinner. People jest with the mayor that this is not an election year. He comes over to us and greets us and I remind him that we told him we would give him English lessons...when? He thinks August. Roy tells him about his idea for the bocce court and Stefano does not disagree that it is a good idea. He suggests Marino, with his little frontloader to do the work.
Vezio and his wife come by, and we go over to the iron fence to talk. His bid of €15,000 for San Rocco was turned down by the Curia. So the deal is dead. The Curia seems to think they will get a lot of money for the church. In the meantime, it falls deeper into disrepair.
We are alarmed to learn that most of the cotto flooring, original and several hundred years old, was stolen from the church around the time of our robbery. We are so surprised. We have been there every night and we cannot imagine that we would not have seen people taking that heavy stone down the path in front of us.
Unfortunately, when Vezio talked with the Curia, they asked him what he thought was the most valuable in San Rocco. He replied, "The floor". A strange coincidence. The church is now worth much less to us to buy.
Sophia's day. We drive to church, and then to pick her up near Lake Bracciano, above Rome. She is just as cute as can be, and sits on my lap on the way home. She gets sick four times, but is a good sport. Poor girl. She has never been in a car before, and the road is very curvy for most of it. The drive home seems endless.
She gets her energy back quickly upon arriving at the house, and settles down here as though she has been here a long time. She follows me everywhere, and that is fine with me.
Duccio and Giovanna and Clara arrive at 6 for Spumante to greet Sofia. She has fun with them, then sleeps under Clara's chair. Mario Fosci sees us and asks about Sofia, so we invite him in and he joins the group, then gives Sofia a greeting.
When it is time to water, I take Sofi around with me, introducing her to all the flowers and plants. She clearly loves the garden, and noses around at everything. Roy sprays her a little with his watering wand, and she investigates the shower of water.
Late in the evening, we take her with us to take out the garbage, and the few neighbors on the way delight in meeting her. She does not want to sleep in her cage. Each time I put her in, she hops out. She cries when I close the door. So I let her go, and she sleeps right beneath me, under the edge of the bed.
Little Sofi slept all night right below me under the bed. When I awoke, she woke up and wiggled all around, even doing what she is supposed to do sort of on the newspaper. Everything is so new to her, and she seems to love most everything. Ba Ba the tiny lamb toy is one she hangs her head over to sleep on, as well as shake about.
Today is mostly a lost day, for my migraines of the past have returned with a vengeance. Roy and Sofi spend most of the day on the couch, watching TV and sleeping. It is too hot outside to do much.
Another lost day. Sofi continues to charm us. A scare today. Felice comes up at 8AM while Sofi and I are sitting on the front step. He whistles to her and she is paura (afraid). Felice is such a kind man, but his face is rough and he is wearing his straw hat. Somehow he frightens her, and she cowers behind me.
I ask him what is wrong with the pepperoni, and we go over to look at it. Too much hot sun, he thinks. Cover them with nursery cloth, but don't touch the plants with the cloth. Roy will build a scrim later with short poles.
I turn around and Sofi is nowhere to be seen. I let Felice walk about and try to find her. "Sofi? Sofi?" Not a sound. Felice leaves. It is too hot to work. "Sofi? Sofi?" No response. I look inside in the kitchen, in the back pantry, outside on the front terrace. All gates were closed, so she cannot be in a side garden.
Roy hears me and comes down. He searches one area and I search another. We are panic-stricken. Marelisa told us to not let her alone in the yard for long. Big birds sometime mistake these tiny puppies for rodents and carry them off. Please, please, let her be all right. I am worried that she has fallen somewhere and is hurt.
Roy goes inside and looks in the living room. We had closed the doors part way, blocking them with Roy's bocce ball kit. I could not imagine that she was inside, but Roy saw her, in a dark corner behind the round table. She let me go in to get her and acted fine. Time to play. We are SO RELIEVED!
Today is possibly the hottest day yet...at least 41 degrees (over 105). The orto garden is hanging on...barely. Tomatoes ripen faster than we can pick them. Rugghetta (arugula) is not doing well. It has tiny holes in it. The rugghetta we planted two months ago did fine, but we planted from plugs. We are trying to find more. Planting from seeds is not working.
The fiorieras look fabulous. Rosemary and roses thrive there. The rose arch grows and grows, and blossoms more every day. The seafoam roses are bouncing back. The Jude the Obscures are doing fine. Most of the flowers in Roy's watering territory are doing fine. Mine are not. Piano, piano, I will feed everything in a day or two.
Sofi slept under my side of the bed for the first part of the night, and we put her in the cage for the rest. Early, before 6AM, I went down to open the gate for Mario, who will do his heavy duty weed-wacking at 6AM. Roy gets up to supervise Mario, and while he is taking a shower I do the unpardonable. I take her up with me to the bed. She is in heaven. I tell myself this is her reward for peeing right on the newspaper during the middle of the night. Remarkable.
Minutes later, Roy comes in and in his eyes Sofi can do no wrong. I am amazed, but he is not upset. He never allowed any of our dogs to be on our bed before. She makes herself at home and after playing for a few minutes goes to sleep.
Is it possible that an 8-week old dog is already paper trained? Magari! She was truly sent from heaven. During the day, I notice three times that she wets on the paper in the kitchen and also does her business outside, without prompting. What a girl!
We miss yoga this morning, because we are getting ready for pranzo tomorrow with five guests. There is not much to pick from at the Attigliano weekly outdoor market, so we go on to Viterbo's daily outdoor market to shop. The rest of the day is quiet.
Marilyn and Bob are unable to take their tour with Karina in Rome today, because there is a train strike. By the time they drive to Rome it is 2PM, so have arranged to do their tour early, early tomorrow and then they will drive to Mugnano for pranzo with us.
I am able to go to see Italo, the fish monger, who is there in his spot in the shade when Sofi and I go to get some fish for salad for tomorrow. I am also able to get some of his specially marinated alice (anchovies) in oil and herbs and spices. He meets Sofia and as a gift prepares some fresh alice and bones it. When I get home I bone it some more and cook it a little and she has a great pranzo of her own. Italo tells me it will be very good for her coat. She continues to be an angel.
Marilyn and Bob Smith, their son Mike, daughter Jody and her husband Carlo and children Wyatt and Simona come for a very late pranzo, after a remarkable tour with Karina in Rome. Roy takes them for a short tour of the village, and when they return, Jody tells me that everyone in the village seemed asleep on their benches and chairs until Roy arrived and then they beamed and all wanted to talk with him. What a joy to hear this.
We have a wonderful visit with the Smiths and Sofi especially loves the children. They are very sweet to her and when the adults are taking a tour of Mugnano, we go inside and sit on the couch with Sofi and watch Pipi Longstocking on the Disney Channel in Italian. They know all the words...Sofi is in heaven. These are two remarkable children.
We invite Mike to stay with us overnight and offer to take him for a tour of some old Tufa towns and then take him back to their place in Tuscany. Everyone agrees it is a great idea.
Later that night we take Mike to the Octoberfest Pub in Attigliano. The owner's wife is Portuguese and she and Mike are able to speak Portuguese together and we have fun drinking German beer outside under the stars. Sofi sleeps away and is content on my lap.
Roy is up at 6AM and does an extra watering. Mike and I get up shortly after and we are on our way before 8AM. By the time we reach Marilyn and Bob's, we have seen eight towns: Viterbo (a short spin through, to take Mike on our secret ride through a seldom-used street on the other side of Viterbo, a one-lane road carved out of tufa, with tufa rising thirty feet on either side), Sorano, Solvano, Pittigliano (where we have lunch at an outdoor café, with the town rising out of tufa in our view), Bagno Vignoni (where we poke our feet in the hot theraputic water), Buonconvento...and on to their house.
We have dinner and tell funny stories under a wonderful pergola, and then take a 26 kilometer ride to the place where Marilyn and Bob have rented for themselves. For their kids, they swapped their San Francisco place for a little place in Tuscany which their kids Jody and her husband Carlo and children Wyatt and Simona and Jody's brother Mike, are staying. There is not much water. A reminder for people who rent places in Italy in the summer. The water can go off without warning. We have been so lucky in Mugnano. No water shortages...yet.
Up early and coffee in Mercatale with Marilyn and Bob. Then off traversing across Tuscany. We love the cypress trees. They look like brush strokes on canvas in the distance. In this unbearable heat, whatever green grass grew is now brown. Fields are golden brown with scatterings of green cypress and grey olives. The grapes are, if not thriving, really trying their best to survive. Many of the grapes on the vine look more like raisins. This will probably not be a good vintage year, but what do I know?
We stop in Buonconvento. Roy likes angular towns, and this is one. It is well groomed and its face is washed. Stores are appropriately Chianti-shired (high prices). There is a great old blacksmith shop at the end of town, but it is too hot to spend any time there. A too-cute weathervane is strategically placed outside. We are not fans of Tuscany. It is just "too-too". We prefer the old tufa towns built on hillsides. They have more character to us.
Taking the Cassia all the way to Viterbo, we have lunch in Radiocofani. We happen upon several original Della Robbia's. They are really remarkable. One statue of the Madonna is near the front of the church, and I almost miss her. I do a double-take when I see her, because Della Robbia's work is so distinctive. I have never seen one of his sculptures placed by itself. Everything of his I have seen is in a relief, with the characteristic blue background and figures in white.
There are Della Robbia's in two different churches in this little town, done about 25 years apart...1500 and 1526 to be exact. When we leave the last church, we have lunch at La Grotta, a wonderful small restaurant hidden down a side street. We stumbled upon it, and are lucky we did. Roy ate wonderful Strozzapretti (pasta) in wild boar (chingale) sauce. I ate roast chicken in lemon. The sauce was worth trying to duplicate.
Sofi had little pieces of my chicken and bread, slipped to her secretly as she lay next to my foot. We ate outside and this worked out fine. I am feeling so motherly, cutting up the chicken and making sure it is cold enough for her to eat. She is overly playful, and keeps entertaining herself before I feed her by gnawing on one of the legs of my plastic chair.
We take a short detour to Bolsena and a make a promise to return when it is not in the middle of the afternoon. Sofi sleeps peacefully all the way home.
Although we have loved this trip, we have driven too many miles, and it is time to stay home for a while. We get home to an email from Peggy that she is not coming in August. We will miss her but will see her in November. Another email from Suzanne Ciani that she will return in October....We think we will be guest-less for at least two months. But Marilyn and Bob want to do at least another day trip with us before they leave in two weeks. We will try to think of something.
Roy is puttering around and hears, "Sofia? Sofia?" and looks up. It is little Federico, who is with his grandmother, Rosina, during the day. He is standing in his skivvies at her balcony. Roy cannot find us, but later Sofi and I go out and look up and greet him.
Later, while Roy is washing the car, someone drives by in his apple green Fiat 500 and looks in. He stops, backs up, and asks if he can leave his car with us to be washed. We look at him as though we can't figure out what he is saying. When it sinks in, we laugh. We don't know who he is...yet.
Tiziano comes by to thank us for the photos of Corpus Domini, and to tell us they will be published in the Bomarzo/Mugnano newsletter that comes out on Sunday. Roy is now a published photographer. This is a wonderful way for us to get to know the people of the village.
I pick about ten San Marzano pomodori, as well as more heirlooms. I will try to "put up" at least one glass container of San Marzanos tomorrow. They are not looking too good, but it is worth a try. I will check out how to do it on the internet.
We are dropping one of our phone lines. Most people call us on the cell phone, anyway.
We've heard raves about our cold vegetable soup from Marilyn and Bob Smith, so thought we'd mention it here. We are loaded with heirloom tomatoes. That's nothing to complain about, but what to do with them in this hot, hot weather? We also have plenty of zucchini and our pepperoni are maturing daily. Right now these peppers on the vine are mostly green, but some are turning red.
Cold soup sounds great to us, so we chop up whatever we have into small dice, and that means 60% heirloom tomatoes (which have few seeds) with the skin still on (regular tomatoes will be fine, too), a green pepper or two, a cucumber (skin and seeds removed), celery, a zucchini, a couple of onions, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup fine olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon, plus salt and pepper. Then put about a quarter of this mixture into a food processor to puree and refrigerate it, all blended, for a couple of hours.
This is a good morning project, giving you plenty of time to chill it before lunch. When you are ready to serve it, dollop it into bowls and put a tablespoon or two of plain youghurt in the center of each. The crunchiness of most of the vegetables are important, so don't puree everything for this one.
Roy also likes it completely pureed, but try the unpureed version first, and see which one you like best. We were sorry we could not get sour cream until we tried the youghurt. The youghourt is really wonderful with this soup. When asked if it will keep, the response is, "Not in my house!" It's that good.
There are a few mentions of the word "fastidio" earlier this month in the journal. We have come to realize that it means "bother". Anyone who knows the Diner family well knows of the favorite Italian phrase they thought they grew up on..."Scusi tanto per la visita", or excuse me very much for the visit. In Italy, when people come to the house, before they enter they say, "Permesso?" meaning, may I enter? They want to say that they hope they are not interrupting anything. They also use the word "fastidio", but I am getting ahead of myself....
Well, growing up, Roy, Adrian, Jay and Christopher heard this "scusi tanto.." often around the house. Many years later, when Pope John Paul II came to San Francisco, he performed a mass that Christopher attended. Seated on the aisle, as the Pope greeted people, Christopher stepped forward and shook the Pope's hand, while he said proudly, "Scusi tanto per la visita", thinking he was saying, "Excuse me very much for the visit." The Pope responded, "Scusata!" or "You are excused."
When we told our Italian friends, they thought this was incorrect. When we asked them why the Pope responded as he did, they said, "How did he know...He is Polish!" The other day, we heard someone say to us, coming up the front stairs, "Scusi tanto per fastidio." Aha. The word "fastidio" sounds like the word "visita".
And now we know why the Pope responded as he did. Actually, he was quite polite. He could have scolded Christopher for shaking his hand. But then again, it is difficult to be angry with Christopher. So, family, now you know the truth. "Scusi tanto per fastidio".
Sofi does not howl or bark, unless I abandon her downstairs and come up to use the computer. So right now she is on my lap, watching what I am typing. She seems quite fascinated. Moreso, I suspect, than some of our readers....She surely has a sweet disposition.
Last night was the first cool night since the end of May. What a luxury! We sleep in late and go to yoga class. Roy thinks Sofia will just sit next to me. I am very skeptical. When we arrive, she gets a burst of energy, and wants to play. Luckily, Paola, who owns the house where the class is held, has a young daughter who is crazy about dogs. She comes down and sits with Sofia while we do our class. I put my mat in the back of the room right next to her, but she won't keep still.
Class is very distracting, but Paola's daughter does a great job keeping Sofia occupied. At the end of the class, while we are lying doing the "corpse pose", Sofia lies between my knees. She finally rests. We will have to work out some kind of other arrangement during yoga class.
We go to the open market in Attigliano after class, and the fish truck has a huge head of a swordfish (spada) with its long snout. I love swordfish, and Roy gets a fillet for us to grill tonight. The fish is expensive, €22 per kilo, so the fillet costs about €11. That is very expensive by Italian standards. We still cannot fathom how inexpensive most food is in Italy.
At home, Sofia is so tired she lies on her back in some kind of yoga pose and sleeps soundly right through lunch.
Ruppert Murdoch owns SKY TV in Italy and SKY TV purchased Tele Digital. So our cable TV is now SKY TV. We are figuring out how to program it. Watching TV is one of the ways we use to learn Italian.
Speaking about technology, Paul and Glenda sent us a message to look up the site mentioned below. You can download it from here or cut and paste it onto your browser. It takes a few minutes to download, so do be patient. It is worth the wait.
Once you see it, you will have all you need to know about what the Italians are REALLY like. We find ourselves becoming just like them...
Finally, the clouds swarmed overhead, the temperature dropped from 33 to 21 degrees, the wind whipped across the terrace and it poured. For at least five minutes we had our first rain in weeks. What a way to end the month of July....
Last night was a dream...cool with a breeze that made our bedroom fan almost not necessary. We think we will have a quiet day at the house and sleep late...I get up just before 8:30, and only then because Italo the Fish Monger comes to the village at nine. After I am up we decide not to get fish today. When we sit down for breakfast Roy notices a message on his cell phone. It is Karina, asking us if we want to do a spur of the moment trip to Ostia Antica, an ancient port city near the Rome airport.
Si certo! We call her back and in the next twenty minutes are in our car driving down the A-1. We pick her up and drive to Ostia Antica. We have assignments. Karina is staking out Ostia for a tour she will do on Sunday. Here's what we need to do with her: 1) find a good trattoria and try it out; 2) take a tour of the castle, 3) take a walk through the old ruins, to locate: a) the amphitheatre, b) one of the temples dedicated to the god, Mitra, and c) the Capitolium.
We find a good restaurant, Il Monumento, right outside the wall, and make reservations. We take a tour of the castle, which is fabulous. The guide speaks English, so we are able to really understand what the castle is all about...Originally the castle consisted of just a tower, used to take tolls on the river from ships transporting goods, but when the river was rerouted the castle was added to.
Julius II, who was Michelangelo's major sponsor, commissioned this castle to be built, and the frescoes inside, called grotesques (the word comes from the word grotto, or hidden) are wonderful. Nero's tomb had been discovered just before the castle was built (around 1500 AD) and as a result, the designs from his tomb became quite au courant. Many of the designs are repeated in the walls and ceilings of the hallways going up the spina de pesche steps.
The city outside is also remarkable. We visit it after a wonderful lunch, consisting mostly of an antipasto "fruiti di mare" and housemade ravioli. This is a good choice for Karina and her clients on Sunday. The old city is similar to Pompeii, but built for the common man, instead of noblemen. Inside, we locate yet another amphitheatre. This one is much smaller than the others we have seen lately, and concerts are held here every week. We'll look for upcoming concerts and will definitely return.
In at least two areas of the city, we find design "interns" restoring the tiny mosaic flooring. Sofia and I stand outside the gate of one for about ten minutes and watch them. About 25 meters later on the road, I spot two men restoring a short wall. I call one "Michelangelo" and he replies that his name is Otello. Dressed only in shorts and a gold chain around his dark brown tan neck, he appears to have had plenty of vino with his lunch. Enough said. When we walk by later on our way out, the wall is finished with a coat of cement. No Otello in site.
When we return to our parcheggio, I see Lucia and Silvana walking toward us. I take Sofi down the street to greet them and Silvana tells me that basottos are philosophers. Everyone seems to like basottos in Italy. There aren't so many, but those that we see get lots of attention.
We arrive home to a message from Duccio. He wants to invite us to Nonni Pappa for dinner with friends. Of course we agree, and meet them at the Orte train station to show them the way to our favorite restaurant. Duccio brings Giovanna, his wife, and Francesco, his eldest son, as well as Clara and two Rome/Bomarzo friends, Lili and Ezio.
Sofi has been a big hit all day, and at the restaurant her popularity continues. The chef, Fidelia, and her father owned a Basotto from our breeder, bought ten years ago. They love Sofi, and Fidelia asks if she can take her to the kitchen. I don't have to mention that this would never EVER happen in the U S.
She returns Sofi to me about ten minutes later, during which time everyone at the table teases me that we will have basotto carpaccio, and asks me who our vet is. We tell her we are going to take Sofi to a vet in Orte and she insists we not go there. We must go to a special vet in Terni, Dottore Cristalli, who knows all about Basottos. This is a very good tip. Months ago, when Roy ran into the Orte vet in Terni, he mentioned that we were getting a Basotto and the vet did not know much about them.
The food is marvelous...raviolis stuffed with four different things. As they come out on platters to serve everyone, each presentation is in a special shape...one in the shape of a flower, one in the shape of a heart, one in the shape of a little bag tied at the top...This is one remarkable country restaurant, casual yet innovative. Carlotta, Fidelia's daughter, falls in love with Sofi. Sofi really likes children. This is wonderful news.
We think (magari) that she will have a wonderful disposition and get along well with everyone. She is very playful, but especially after a nap is very submissive. She lets people pick her up and fawn over her and often kisses them. If she's not particularly happy she just hangs there. What a girl.
During the meal, we speak about our trip to Verona. Again, I am mistaken. I thought that the signature piece of music in Nabucco, "Il pensiero" was the Italian national anthem. I am wrong. Duccio and Giovanna tell us that it is a piece of music so loved by the Italian people that most of them know it as if it were their national anthem...That makes sense. The music is too mournful to be a national anthem. I cannot imagine it playing before a calcio (soccer) match!
We arrive home to 23 degree temperature. This has been a lovely day and the weather, although rainy early in the morning and a few showers in the afternoon, could not have been better. We are hoping the hot summer weather has passed.
We arrive home to a message from Lili inviting us to the Orte festa this weekend. We will call her tomorrow. Earlier in the evening, Felice comes to tell us that he had been unable to garden for a week because of the medicine he is taking, but he is fine now. We agree to pull up all the melons. We tell him the melon tastes like compost. He thinks the seeds have come from the hill up above. He thinks the pepperoni are doing fine, and pulls up some tiny red onions from the upper orto garden and washes them off in the old marble sink behind the big olive tree. I give him a heirloom tomato to take home.
He tells Roy the tomatoes are almost finished. I want to ask more questions, but Felice has already left when Roy tells me this news. The little flowers at the top will not turn into fruit, he tells Roy.
At 9 I call Tia to get the vet's phone number from her Terni phone book. She is able to find it and tells me that she has good news and bad news. Good news is that it finally rained at her casale.
The bad news is that all the new windows leak. This is terrible. So much of the project relies on the windows working...the wood flooring, the special paint treatments, on and on. She is such a good sport, but the stress of this huge project is wearing on her. I wish we could help her, but don't know how.
We get in the car and stop at a bar in Attigliano for café, where the owner, Maurizio, meets Sofi for the first time. Roy likes this little bar. Maurizio and his wife are very friendly. He thinks we are British, and when Roy tells him we are Americans he gives Roy the "thumbs up".
On to Terni, and the vet is a remarkable jolly fellow, dressed in a Frontline t-shirt, displayed with dogs and cats all over the front. He cannot resist talking to anyone who calls or comes in, so it takes an hour for us to finish. In the meantime, he gives us plenty of attention. He knows our breeder, and tells us that she is also a judge. Everyone seems to know and respect her. He also thinks that Sofi is in good health.
We get her third shot and will return at the end of the month for one more. Sofi is now prescribed glucosamine chondroitan, the same medicine we are taking but a much smaller dose, to protect her joints. Basottos need to be careful of their spines, and we need to be mindful of her going downstairs and keep her from jumping.
Tonight we will go to the annual Guardea gnocchi festival. We went three times last year. We invite Kees and Catherine from Giove, but there is a festival in Giove, so they decline. We garden and putter around, and the time passes so quickly that we decide not to go anywhere tonight. We have our nightly cocktails under the stars and it is cool and dreamy.
We close Sofi in the bathroom, after removing the towels, the rug, putting the shower curtain inside the tub...This is the first time she will have been left alone. We drive up to church, because it is very hot. I take a little Japanese fan and use it many times during the mass. There is no bulletin, so we must wait another week to see Roy's photographs displayed proudly. The church is full, and a replacement priest who is not new to the church performs the mass. He has only one eye, and several sets of glasses, that he puts on and takes off during different parts of the mass.
He loves this particular mass. It is all about people needing more than bread to live. We are not sure what he is saying, but he is so animated and he talks about eating a lot. I have read the liturgy in English before mass, and am thinking while he is gesturing that we need to do more than passively garden.
We need to understand the soil better, the conditions better, the process better. We need to become farmers. We need to learn to sustain ourselves, without relying on the kindness of others. We know that the priest is speaking about how important having faith is and we agree. We know we are blessed.
When we return home, Sofi has been whining, but is playful and happy when Roy opens the door to the bathroom. The rest of the day is very hot, and we all spend it inside, keeping cool, watching movies and documentaries on our new television stations. We do not have a classic movie channel and that is too bad. Otherwise, there is much to watch during these days of 35+ degree weather.
The highlight of Roy's day is the Formula One race in Germany. Juan Montoya wins by an embarrassing amount. Just before the end of the race, Michael Schumacher, everyone's hero, in his Ferrari, has a tire puncture and is out of the race. He takes it in stride and still wins in the points.
It appears the hot weather has returned, with no letup in sight. We continue to cover the remaining tomatoes during the day. Despite the hot weather, most of the roses are thriving. This morning, I fed the roses that are not doing well, to see if this will give them an added boost. Not wanting Sofi to nose around the rose food, I hold her under one arm while I take the big watering can from plant to plant. She hangs like a bunch of spring onions over my arm.
Roy loves going out in the car. Since the second telecommando for the car has arrived at the dealership, he returns to pick it up while Sofi and I stay home. I am nursing yet another migraine. Perhaps it is from the heat. This morning, I want to get a little extra sleep, but Sofi is full of pep. So I pick her up and put her on the bed with us. Mamma mia she is so happy she wiggles all over the bed, kissing my nose, jumping all over my head, and trying to do the same with Roy, who responds by hiding under the sheet.
After about five minutes of this, I give up and take her downstairs and make her an egg with milk. She sits waiting for her food, not understanding that the egg must cool before she can eat it. She barks out as if to say, "Hey, I am sitting like a good girl. Now where's my food?" She loves everything we give her to eat. Luckily she has stopped last week's exercise of playing with her water dish, splashing her paw in it while she takes a drink.
Late in the day, while Roy is watering with the new bigger hose from the parcheggio, he brings up a "just off the press" summer journal from the parocchiale. He is so excited. On the back page are our pictures of Corpus Domini. But what we don't expect are the words in the accompanying article:
This year, at the end of the procession, Roy and Evanne, new inhabitants of Mugnano, grateful for the welcome that they have received, have given gifts to all, presenting very fragrant bunches of lavender, cultivated with loving care in their beautiful garden that they have in the Tiber Valley. In its country of origin, lavender is symbolic of friendship. Our jaws drop. I remember Livio asking me on Corpus Domini what the significance of the lavender is. We are really moved.
An hour later, Roy takes me to Chia, which is two towns away but in the same province of Viterbo. Dottoressa is on vacation, and we go to see the doctor who is covering for her. I need a new prescription for Vioxx, which I take for ten days a month. It is miraculous for the migraines. We wait almost an hour for him to show up. He is quite gruff. We are thankful for Dottoressa Ofelia and take less than two minutes for him to write up the prescriptions.
I bring Sofia into the farmacia to meet Vezio. He fills out the two prescriptions, one for two boxes of Vioxx and one for two boxes of Imigran(similar to Imitrex for migraines). The cost is €4.
We take Sofia with us later to take out the garbage, and see Paola and Dario, walking down the road below our house. Although she works in Rome, during these days it is too hot to stay in Rome. So she takes the train in and out each day. Ubik is with them, as well as Dario's hunting dog, but I keep Sofia in my arms. She is not ready to nose around other dogs yet. It will be two more weeks. Ubik's big ears stand up tall. Sofi does not seem interested at all in them, but she does wag her tail at Paola.
We sleep late and Roy returns to Terni. He did not have the spare keys for the telecommando yesterday, so had to return again today to get everything rekeyed. Sofi and I stay home. Today will be another blistering hot day.
This afternoon, we drive to Mt. Cimino, above Soriano, to cool off under the trees. We drive to about 3,000 feet. I suppose you could say this is the Mount Tamalpais of our area, with out the sleeping maiden profile we love so much. Usually, it is about 20 degrees cooler on Mt. Cimino. Not today. In the car, the temperature measured in the mid 40's in Mugnano (over 110 degrees) and when we left Cimino, the temperature was 37 (just under 100).
We returned home and see Lore and Alberto's shutters open, so know they are here. We decide to present Sofi to them, and drive up for a short visit. On the walk from the car, we see the bandieras up all over town. So we will get ours out. We think it is early, at least a week until the festa, but why not. After greeting us, Lore and Alberto bring out the spumante to welcome Sofi. We even give her a little taste. It remains so very hot.
Back at home, Felice has been in the garden for at least an hour. We ask him what we can plant and he tells us it is too hot. Don't plant anything until September. I pick a few heirloom tomatoes and he hands us a few little red onions and the last little melon, which we will refrigerate and try tomorrow.
The god-awful heat continues. Today it surpasses 110 while we are out. We decide to go to Sorano to pick up the two additional copper lanterns for the terrace, and want to reexplore Sorano and Pittigliano.
We drive up through Gradoli, around Lake Bolsena. Gradoli is a wonderful town to walk around when the weather is better. We drive on to Sorano. Before we reach the town we spot a tower on the right and a sign that says "Orsini Fortezza". Since we have an Orsini Palazzo in our village and there is also one in Bomarzo, we stop to look around.
Inside, we find building after building built out of tufa stones, medieval in character, with glorious views. There is a small hotel, and we look at the rooms. We will certainly stay here sometime. The rooms are very nice, and the cost of the rooms is reasonable...around €120 per night for a double with ensuite bath and breakfast included.
The town, Sorano, is a place worth visiting, and we stumble across a school right inside the Fortezza...check it out. You will find it as: www.artandcraft.org . This is a school held various times during the year for artists and aspiring artists; 6 or 10-day courses in ceramics, sculpture, glassmaking, painting...The classes are over at 2PM each day and there is so much to explore. Sofi is with us, si certo, and people stop what they are doing in each class to come over and greet her. She is literally a showstopper.
We move on to Sorano, and pick up the lanterns, then look around. The heat drags us across the cobblestones, and although we love this little town, it is difficult to do more than get a feel for it and look at the outsides of the buildings.
We drive to Pittigliano, and have pranzo. This is another very beautiful tufa town built high on a kind of mesa. The temperature is over 110 and it is all we can do to find our way back to the car. We take a short walk to the Duomo, which is beautiful, but small. We are too hot to really enjoy this beautiful place.
Strangely, the high point of the day is back in Capodimonte, on the shore of Lake Bolsena. We take Sofi out for a walk and I take her down to the lake's edge to cool her off. This is her first experience with "friendly water". The sand is black, because this area is all volcanic. She noses around at the edge of the lake and I guide her in a little.
She drops down into the wet sand and gets cool. She tries to eat the sand and spits it out a few times. She tiptoes into the water and I encourage her in. She does not really "dunk", but noses around some more. When we think she has had enough for one day, we take her out and dry her off. We look forward to bringing her back when it is not so hot. Will it ever be "not so hot?" Is this the start of the real global warming?
Back at home, the temperature drops to 38 (100 degrees). It is just before 5 PM.
We awake to great news. Nephew Chris has been promoted to Petty Officer. This is a wonderful thing for Chris and Bernadette and the whole family. We are very proud of him...These days he is somewhere in the Persian Gulf and we are sure is experiencing heat even more excessive than we are. Bravo Chris! We look forward to congratulating you in person in November.
Poor Sofi. She knows something is going on. We take everything off the bathroom floor and put her in with a little cushion, her Goofy toy, and close the door. We decide it is too distracting to take her to yoga. When we return two hours later she is very submissive. We drive to Viterbo with her in my lap, until she climbs up behind my neck and decides to sit there, hiding and looking out, until we arrive where we are going.
Roy is intent on finding a portable wading pool, just enough for us to sit in under the trees during these incredibly hot days. We search all over Viterbo but are unable to find one. It is obvious that we are not the only people with this idea.
We come home to a cool house, and spend the rest of the afternoon inside. Outside the temperature is over 100 degrees.
We are going to start "putting up" the San Marzano (cooking) tomatoes tomorrow morning. So we buy more glass jars and tops and a little pulverizing machine. If we start before 7AM, we can finish before it gets really hot. We have a hotplate out in the loggia. The loggia is what some people call the summer kitchen. We will boil the glass jars there, and if we are in luck will finish most of the work there.
Tonight we invite Jordano with us to go to the Guardea Gnocci Festival. We did not go last week. When we arrive, there is a theatre group in the square with lots of pieces of scrap wood and many, many tables set up with plane saws. Fathers and sons and daughters, mothers and sons and daughters work away making toys out of the wood...Usually the children stand around while the adults build every thing. Sofi lays right in the middle of things, gnawing on her very own little piece of wood.
We left to take our place and fill out our orders of wine and gnocchi, grilled meats, and cocomero (watermelon). There were booths set up there as well. The one we stopped at donates most of the collected money to the third world village where the hand made objects are produced. They are very interesting. We buy a CD and a round kind of trivit.
Dinner is excellent, as is the service. Giovanni waits on us last year as well, and wants to know where we are from. We ask him what the proceeds go to. There are two festivals...This one ends on August 14th. The proceeds go to the local soccer team. The cinghale festival starts on the 15th, and that festival is to support the care and training of the local hunting dogs which hunt the cinghale.
We spend most of the morning preparing and bottling the tomatoes. We don't have all that many San Marzano tomatoes ready to pick yet, but are able to produce five jars of tomatoes, in varying sizes. Roy does not want to reuse jars, but Michelle and Catherine tell us they do that all the time. We think everything looks all right until the jars cool down, and there seems to be a separation, with a juicy water at the bottom. I ask Catherine on the phone about it, and she is not concerned.
When we meet Catherine and Kees later at Karen's house, we show them a jar and Kees thinks it is fine. He remembers that his mother's tomatoes always looked like that. Next time, we will not add the rest of the juice at the bottom of the pot, which probably has too much water in it. Otherwise, the spoon test for a good seal is done and is successful. We will process more tomatoes in a week or two, possibly augmented by purchased tomatoes. This is a very interesting process, and we will have tomatoes for the winter, all neatly labeled and stored "backstage" in the rear hallway.
Karen's house is now for sale for €140,000. She purchased it a year ago from Karina, but will not be able to spend enough time here to justify owning it. There are about 25 olive trees on the land, with enough space for a swimming pool. The house needs work, but is in move-in condition. For between € 50,000 and €100,000, the house could be wonderful. We would be willing to be project managers, if a buyer is found. We certainly know the local resources and how to manage the people to do the work.
We want to take a look at the little portable wading pool Karen has purchased, to see if we want to buy it. It is in a box, so we take it and will get chlorine tablets before we set it up. Catherine warns us that without the chlorine it will be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Two more days until stores open that sell chlorine. No matter. We will try it out on Monday.
Roy hangs out our bandieras for next weekend's festa in our village, and finds little clips to keep them attached to the wires on the wall. When it is windy, the bandieras fly up like kites, which makes our land look like a pirate ship, ready to take off. The bandieras, which we had made in California several years ago, look wonderful. The two big ones are hung on the long wall where the roses are growing. The third one, which is rectangular in shape, is hung in the parcheggio on the back wall facing the cancello.
Lore and Alberto come down for a walk and we take them through the garden. They are surprised by the sight of the lavender, which is truly morte. But these are the most beautiful dead plants you can imagine...each one clipped to a round brown globe. Not to worry. We will replant new lavender in the fall.
Later we take Sofi to the Octoberfest Pub, but it is closed for ferie (vacation). So we walk next door to La Fossate for a pizza, eating outside in the garden. Sofi sits next to me on a chair, not making a sound, even though an old dog waddles around and barks at the moon, all the while wagging her tail.
Sofi looks longingly at several children, but no one comes over to pet her. Sofi loves children and loves to play. So she sits quietly, and when the pizza cools down I give her a crust to play with.
Church today is crowded with part time people in addition to the regular cast of characters. The same old priest that we had last week performs the mass. He really enjoys giving the homily. I wonder about Don Luca, and how he seems to come up with priests to do the mass for tiny Mugnano. Occasionally Don Luca flies down on his motorcycle to do the mass himself, but he has three churches in Bomarzo to minister to, so Mugnano must be low on his list.
Today, the village is gearing up for our festa. The statue of Maria on a bier, surrounded by white light bulbs, is on the priest's right. The light bulbs are lit, and hanging from Maria's outstretched hand are several sets of rosary beads. Pearl necklaces hang from her neck and pins with the crucifixes are attached to her gown. I am reminded of visiting Don Francis in Isernia several years ago. In the Duomo, during the feast of Saints Cosimo and Damiano, the busts of each saint were festooned with the most fabulous jewelry. Literally hundreds of pieces, from pins to rings to necklaces weighted them down.
After today's mass, we hear that the first event of the festa will take place in the square tomorrow night. Comedians will perform. Lore reminds us playfully that if people speak during the performance she will complain, and we tease her that we will pretend we do not know her if she does.
Roy explains Andy Warhol's comment that everyone gets 15 minutes of fame. Lore's will be dolled out in one-minute increments. She gets applause when she stands up and complains when people talk during a performance. Since she can't sing, we tell her that this is the second best way to get attention.
Tonight Lore and Alberto go with us to Guardea for the gnocci festival, which continues until August 14th. They have never been to Guardea, so we delight in showing them yet another new place. This couple is so knowledgeable about Italian history and culture that we continue to be surprised that we can come up with places to go to or things to do that are new to them.
They agree that the Guardea festival is well organized...so well organized that our table is number 317...No matter, once Roy queues up and pays, the food and drinks come promptly. A family at the next table watch Sofi on the ground beneath me, and the husband comes over with a piece of cooked pork for her. We thank him and for the next ten minutes or so she is engrossed in trying to eat the cube of meat.
The gnocci is wonderful, as usual. We come back to Mugnano and to their terrace to have a little drink and enjoy the evening breeze. We pass by Felice and Marsiglia, who are sitting with the people who have the chicken coop across from us and Sofi is again a charmer. When we walk back to our car later, people are still out all over the village. It is too hot to be inside.
There is a spirit to the village, a knowing feeling of friendship and camaraderie. We walk by the wooden stage set up outside Livio and Gioliola's house, in preparation for tomorrow night's comedians. This will be the first event of the festa. We wonder how much of it we will understand, but no matter.
We sleep late, and wake to the sounds of a tractor clearing land. It is Marino in his tractor and Francesco Perini's sister, clearing her land directly below us and across the street, next to the chicken coop. By pranzo time, most of the entire area is cleared. We think that no matter what they build they will not harm our view. At the end of the day, we see her leaving and ask what she is going to do.
She tells us she does not have her permit yet, and hopes to have that by the beginning of September. She tells us that she lives in Soriano, where she has a big house with many trees and a beautiful garden. This will be a pied a terre, made of the local tufa, with parking on the street level. We are somewhat relieved. Roy is more than relieved. If the little house is a nice one, we may see if she will rent it out to our friends who come to visit.
Roy spends much of the morning grading the gravel on the raised area outside the living room, under a huge loquat tree, for the portable swimming pool. If we keep Karen's, it will cover most of the area, Her pool is approximately two meters by one meter. He lays nursery cloth out over the gravel and then works on pumping up the pool.
He goes out to try to buy chlorine, but can only buy it in the farmacia, and the farmacist does not know how much to tell him to buy or what ratio he needs. He leaves without buying any chlorine. He finds a conversion on the internet and we will go out later to buy the chlorine.
Yesterday he spent over an hour trying to repair one of his sandals that came apart. Today he drives to Soriano where he takes the sandals to see if he can get them fixed. He is directed to a little man in a tiny doorway. There is no sign. There is no equipment, just a little man with a few tools repairing shoes and handbags.
Roy leaves him the sandals and wants me to go with him tomorrow to see the shop for myself. Soriano is such an interesting town. We love finding these little slices of Italian life, and I am thankful that Roy wanted to share this one with me.
We have trouble converting Italian measurements to our equivalents. I am lost in trying to do a recipe, or buy something at the market, which prices things in kilos. I think in pounds and ounces. So I keep on trying, and know I will get the hang of it eventually. I am starting to get used to the temperature in centigrade...now if I could only get used to grams and kilos I will be less stress about it. Roy has found the answer on the internet. If you want to convert anything metric, you can go to the site: www.convert.french-property.co.uk.
We drive all around this town, and back through Vallerano, which also looks wonderful, then on to Vignanello, where one of my favorite gardens, Ruspoli, sits behind a moat and castle.
While in Soriano, we find a store that has a child's wading pool, and decide to purchase it to cool off in during these sweltering days, since Karen's is just too large for us. We return through Viterbo, and find the chemicals we need to keep mosquitoes out of the pool while at Obi. Outside, we run into Ula, whose apartment in Bagnaia is almost finished. Ula and Diego's daughter, Serena, is going to France to study cooking with Paul Bocouse (sp?)
We are thrilled, as Diego must be, that she wants to take up the craft. I wonder if all her time at the castello has given her the impetus. Ula does not seem to connect the two, saying that Diego only wants her to be happy. We like Serena very much, and hope that this is a good thing for her.
We also run into David and Alex and their daughters Tomasina and Iseult. This couple is the one who bought the property near Chiusi. They must wait until September for their deal to close. This is a grand undertaking, and we wish them well. They tell us that they will camp out in three rooms there with a wood stove, while they repair and rebuild the rest of it. It must be "expat" day at Obi. Obi is a mini Home Depot, so sooner or later everyone winds up there.
We come home and Roy sets up the little pool. We do not add the chemicals yet, but he rigs up an umbrella to block the afternoon sun, and we sit in the pool, which we have positioned in the raised area outside the living room, under the huge loquat tree. Sofi plays around us, and we are able to enjoy the view and the cool water, in total privacy. Today's temperature reached almost 110 degrees. Perhaps tomorrow I will cook Sofi's breakfast egg on the sidewalk....
Later, while Roy is watering, we hear church bells ring. We wonder if another person in the village has died. We will find out tomorrow when we go up to the village to see Dottoressa.
Here's this week's Sofia picture, happily keeping out of the sun in her dog house. She is 13 weeks old.
She has also given me a prescription for an eye exam, which will be preliminary to possible eye laser surgery. The medical treatment in Italy is so amazing and so inexpensive. We go to the farmacist in Bomarzo, who calls to make an appointment for me.
At around noon, someone from the village comes to collect for tickets for the performance on Sunday evening. This will be another play, but it will be spoken in the local Bomarze dialect. A few nights ago, we took Sofi up to the village, where another play was taking place.
We could not understand a word, and walked home later. On the way we ran into Maria, who asked us if we left because we did not like the play. Roy responded, "We could not understand it. It was not in Italian!" (The play was spoken in the Napolitano dialect, which is difficult for most Italians to understand.) She agreed with us and later Roy roared with laughter just thinking about the conversation.
About ten days ago, while we were sitting on the terrace having cocktails, we saw a helicopter with a bucket taking water from the Tiber. We thought there was a fire in nearby Orte. A few days ago, we found out that the fire was right behind us, but the wind blew in the opposite direction so we had no idea where it was. On the side road to Sippiciano, or the back road to Orvietto, the hillside is charred like a side of beef. We were shocked to drive by and see it, and realized that this was what the helicopter was working to save.
The heat continues over 100 degrees today. After yoga, it is all we can do to change our clothes in front of the fan and drive to Amelia to meet Tia and Bruce at their house. The house looks really wonderful. It has been worth all the trouble they have had, and they are almost finished with the work. We meet their friend, Katherine, and another couple who are new to Penna in Teverina, Mario and Jill.
From there, we drive to Al Ponte for their Thursday fish special pranzo: alice (marinated fresh anchovies), prawns, calamari, Spigola, Orate, risotto, a lemon sorbetto... These dishes are all very fresh and tasty. The people in the restaurant treat Sofi like a princess, letting her fan her tiny legs out on the floor and walking around her to serve us.
I apologize and lean down to move her and they want her to stay where she is. When Roy takes her out for a little walk during the meal, two people in the kitchen come out to greet her. I give her a little taste of spigola and a taste of orato and she loves it.
Sofia behaves herself all day, even after being scared out of her wits by poor Ivy, Tia and Bruce's nice old dog, who lets out a huge "Rrrrffff!" when Sofi noses around in the kitchen of their house before we go to Il Ponte.
Later in the evening, just before ten, we decide to walk up to the village to see what is going on with the dancing. On the street, we meet up with parents and several children, not more than four years old, who are delighted with Sofi. Sofi returns the joy by racing around as far as the lead will take her, in and out, between us and the parents and gleeful children, who scream with delight as she darts toward them.
Back at home, while emailing back and forth with Dorothy Slattery of Mill Valley regarding her fall trip to Italy, I am unable to send her a reply. That is strange. An hour earlier the line worked just fine. Roy calls up to me to say that there has been a massive power shortage in most of the Northeast United States, just reported on CNN Europe.
So I shut down the computer and go down to watch the goings on in New York. Our online service company is located in Toronto, so even we in tiny Mugnano thousands of miles away are affected. We are unable to get or send email...for how long?
The little house with the handpainted "1" on the door, is full of relatives. The village picture becomes clearer. Dina and Italo's son and his wife come out of the door, as does a woman Roy thinks is her mother. We know this woman as Francesca, who we met when she was here during the May festa.
We are "bundling up" a whole group of people in our Mugnano "family" tree...there is clearly a large percentage of the population related to these two families alone. Now if we map out these two families, and Giustino's family, it is possible we will have half of the village accounted for. Now Roy thinks Francesca is not the mother, because why would she have a house here? Unless this is how Dina and Italo's son met his wife? "We will get to the bottom of this!" Roy exclaims when he puts on his sandals.
I'm getting dressed and take a pair of light walking shoes out of my side of the big handpainted armadio in the bedroom. Before I know it, Sofi has one shoe dangling proudly from her mouth, prancing around the bed with it. "Returno la scarpa!" "Dietro!" Roy scolds her while she wags her tail at him. She is so sweet. It is impossible to get angry with her. Sofi has the most wonderful disposition. All we have to do is re-channel her interest and she is a push-over.
I finish getting dressed and Roy goes out to check the water pressure in the garden before we go out to the tour of the Soriano castle. Last night, while watering, Roy noticed that the water pressure in the hose was very low. We don't know if that is because the village is filling up with relatives or we are really getting low on water. Let's hope it is the former. Otherwise, we will have a real problem.
We drive to Soriano for a tour with Tiziano Gasperoni, the young archeologist, in the castle and tower at the very top of Soriano. Walking up and up and up some more we come to a big closed gate. It is just after 10 AM, and we think he will be here for tours at 10:30. Roy plays with the gate and is able to move it to the right, so that we can go in. Is this all right to do? We do not know, and we also do not know where we are supposed to meet Tiziano. Everything is locked. We call him on his cell phone and he is just parking below.
We walk back outside the gate and sit under a peach tree, full of luscious fruit. We bite into a couple of peaches, and they are perfectly ripe. There is a small fountain on the wall of the castle, and we are able to wash the peach juice off our hands and arms while we wait.
Tiziano arrives perspiring, but refuses to take a towel to dry off. He goes inside to unlock the castle, and we wait a few moments for a young woman to arrive to take over the office. We are given a private tour of this fortress that, for one hundred years, operated as a prison. Only in the past twenty years or so has the fortress been converted into condition it is now. This is Sofi's first (and perhaps last?) visit to a prison.
Outside the first room, which is the oldest, we are shown grotesques, which I am able to identify as similar to those we saw on August 1st in Ostia Antica. This building was built for Pope Nicholas III, who was immortalized by Dante in The Inferno, because he let all his relatives take over this castle, and gave many of them commissions and work.
Back to the grotesques, I was so pleased to be able to say that the grotesque style was patterned after those found in Nero's tomb, which was uncovered around the year 1500. I learned this from our tour of the castle at Ostia Antica.
The building is really not very special inside. It's beauty is seen from the outside, and when we are taken to the top of the tower and look toward Mugnano, we are unable to see our village. Tiziano tells us that that is why Mugnano was saved from many of the marauders of medieval times. This high promontory served Popes and Bishops, who seemed always to be in a conquering frenzy.
At the end of the tour, Roy asked Tiziano what he could tell us about the Mugnano water pressure. Tiziano's father is a retired Corpo Forestale worker, so knows all about the water in the area. The water is fed from a spring, back in the Tiber Valley. There is no problem of running out, but there are many leaks in the pipes which the commune knows about and turns its head from instead of fixing. On weekends like these, when many, many people come into the village, the water pressure becomes very low. "Next Monday, " he promises, "The water pressure will again be just fine."
Tiziano wants English lessons, and we agree to have him come by sometime this next week to begin. We will also invite young Dario. Tiziano does not think inviting Stefano Bonori, the mayor, is a good idea. During the last election they were on opposing sides. I offer that they can debate in English against each other and he steps back, raising his hands in mock horror. We agree that we will see Stefano by himself. We will get together this weekend to make arrangements for our first session with Tiziano and Dario. Since Roy and I want to learn Italian, it is clear that we can both win here.
Roy and Sofi at the top of the Orsini Palace in Soriano
Even those houses that are only inhabited once a year are filled. There are so many children around the age of three or four that our village should be intact...by the time these toddlers are adults, they will replace those of us who are past our prime and ready to move on...
On the way to the village for the mass and procession, we pass by Alide, who has a birthday cake for Constantine. Constantine just became one year old and we are invited to have cake at Alide's house after the procession. Roy replies, "perhaps", but does not want to go. It is difficult and awkward to go to these kinds of events until we know the language better.
The mass is wonderful, given by both Don Luca, who arrives in his black motorcycle and helmet, and a monk, who has been with us before. The women and men are separated in the procession, and Lore walks behind me, knowing all the words. I remember a few, and am mostly silent, taking in the sites of the tiny white lights on the balconies, smudge pots placed strategically on the ground on either side of the street, and the women in front of me, droning on in unison with the priests.
Later, Roy tells us that behind Don Luca, the men do not form lines. Instead, they walk forward Italian style, with no order, in a kind of pack. Alberto and Tiziano bring up the rear.
When the mass ends, we decide to go home to let Sofi out of the bathroom and enjoy the terrace by ourselves. Earlier in the evening a short thunderstorm brings a fine mist, which dries before it lands on the gravel. It also brings a cool breeze, so although I use my fan often during the mass, the heat is not as bad as it was last night.
The festa continues for two more days. We realize that for three days at 7PM, there has been a mass. So no one has died. Those church bells at 6:40 PM signify that a mass will be soon.
We drive to Viterbo, but most every store is still closed. We are able to buy Sofi a little collar with a tiny bell on it. She now is very easy to follow. The heat follows us wherever we go.
Tonight there is a medieval marketplace in the village, and a taverna. Francesco, the Vigili Urbano, is high atop tall stilts in a medieval costume. He enjoys this role, and it is only when he lowers himself on a tall barrel for a cigarette and a beer that he breaks character.
The retired shoemaker sits over a barrel with a piece of leather, repairing shoes with ancient tools. There is a capreto, hiding in a corner of a wooden barricade. There is a stock, in which Sofi is put for her prison picture. There are displays of handmade baskets, fruit and vegetables, small copper objects, honey and unprecious jewelry. People standing by the stalls are dressed in simple medieval costumes. This is a very simple village. Straw is strewn all over the plaza, and Sofi gets her nose in as much of it as she can, adding straw to her already expansive tiny beard.
Sofia, the medieval dog....
Close by, a truck with a pizza oven attached is blazing, and pizza and beer are served under a medieval looking canopy. Across the plaza wooden benches and tables have been set up, and Felice and Marsiglia are among those who sit and watch the goings on. Felice takes great pride in taking Sofia from me on her lead and walking her around.
We move on down the side street to the taverna, and are able to order from a preprinted form. We pay and sit at a table at the end of the street in a kind of courtyard, just under the 10th century tower. This is a lovely spot with an ancient olive tree in the center, surrounded by little flowers and a raised stone curved "bench". Lore and Alberto, Roy and Sofia and I sit where there is a cool breeze, and are served prosciutto and melon, antipasti, exceptional large raviolis stuffed with ricotta and spinach in a tomato sauce, cold potato salad, bread, panna cotta, wine, beer and water.
There is plenty to eat. We could also order bresaola, spedini, other meats, salads...the menu is extensive. We are impressed by the food, as well as the service. Young people from the village serve us in medieval costumes. As we eat, others in costume come by and parade for us. One young woman on tall stilts takes Sofi in her arms and dances around with her.
We finish eating early, and instead of standing around and waiting for the comedy and then the belly dancers (yes, belly dancers), we go home. It is very hot. We are tired from the heat. As we walk home, people continue to arrive in their cars, parking all the way down the road. We are told later that the square was packed with people later in the evening. It is good to have our own protected parking spot.
We put Sofi in her cage in the bedroom when we walk up to church. I tried to put her in the cage last night, but she cried and cried. This morning, she is starting to get used to it. We keep the door of the cage open and she even ventures inside now and then.
On the way down the walk, we see the old wall across from us is starting to fall down. There are cracks all the way up the short wall, and we remember that yesterday people were sitting on the wall. Tonight we will tell Francesco about it.
We do not want to be blamed for a wall collapse from trucks at our construction site earlier in the year. The wall will come down...soon. We want to see if the commune will repair it as an old wall before it is too late.
Don Luca arrives in his motorcycle for mass, and by the time we walk home many cars have left the village. The water pressure is low, but we are hopeful that tomorrow things will be back to normal.
We arrange to meet Lore and Alberto in the plaza for pizza tonight before the play in the square. This is the last night of the festa. We are sure we will not understand tonight's play, but it will be a good idea to go. Lore tells us that last night she and Alberto sat for an hour in the plaza with Pepe Fosce, and got to know him better. This is a good thing. We are putting more pieces of the Mugnano puzzle together. We ask Lore if Vincenzo and Giustino are brothers. She tells us no. Then how are Silvana and Giustina related?
Lore tells us that Giustino's sister is Silvana's mother. Silvana's sister is married to Vincenzo's son. When we can figure out how to do it, we will put the Mugnano family tree on the web site. That will take some time. At home, we try to map some of them out on an excel chart.
Tonight we will not take Sofia. Roy puts her in the cage in the bedroom with her toys. She is quiet as we leave, and we are grateful for that. When we arrive in the square, someone asks where our "lion" is, and we tell them she is guarding the house.
We put our order in for pizza at eight o'clock. There is plenty of time to eat before the performance. Alberto comes down a few minutes later and tells us that Lore is waiting at home, and we should take our pizza there and eat with them before the performance. The pizza ovens are set up outside the old school, with tables in front. It is possible to get "porta via", or take-out orders. This confuses everyone.
Eight fifteen...eight thirty...eight forty-five...nine o'clock, and still no pizza. There are many people in line, and somehow the orders have been all mixed up. At nine fifteen, Lore arrives and tells Francesco that we will eat after the performance. That settles that. I am so frustrated and can imagine how difficult it must be for the volunteers who are working. Paola apologizes to me and has no idea how they could have mixed everything up so much. To begin with, there is a very lengthy menu. We are even able to order Pizza Mugnano, which consists of tomato, gorgonzola and asparagus. But getting the order is another thing.
We walk back up to the square, which has been transformed into an outdoor theatre with a raised stage, lights and plenty of white plastic chairs. We have purchased tickets in advance, and go right in. The play, The Paper Hat, is very good. We understand a little, and Lore translates it all for us later.
I think the old man steals a prosciutto, and instead he hits someone over the head with it and is arrested. I think the baby is four months old, and instead a young woman is four months pregnant. It is very easy to confuse what is going on.
I am unable to see the performance as a comedy, although the characters sometimes act boffo, because there are airplane noises overhead and guns going off. The play takes place during WWII in Bomarzo. I sneak looks over at Giovanni and Felice, who fought in the war, but cannot see any particular expression on either of their faces.
Everyone seems to like the play a lot. This is the second play this week for Mugnano, a village where most of the older people did not attend school after the fifth grade. There are many people outside the village who attend this festa, but it is the people of the village and their relatives who enjoy the events the most.
Tonight, while waiting for the performance to begin, we speak with Tiziano Gasperini, who stayed last night in the square after we left. He said that the comedy act and the belly dancers were wonderful. We see posters wherever we go for festas all over Italy, but nowhere do we see performances or belly dancers like the ones we see in Mugnano.
Roy and Alberto pick up our pizzas after the play, and Lore and I meet them at their house. We enjoy the food and Lore and Alberto walk us home afterward, because they have bottles of water in their car, which is parked near our house.
On the way down the hill the live band is still playing, and a saxophone is wailing...Wait! We can't really believe it. Y M C A....Roy has five pizza boxes under his arm and puts them down on the street at his feet when they get to the chorus to show Lore and Alberto how to "do it"...Y...M...C...A..........Y....M.....C.....A...... The Italians have trouble with this dance, because there is not a Y in the Italian language, so they don't know how to do a "Y"....It sounds fabulous! The music is bouncing off the medieval walls of the village. Surely no one will sleep for hours.
Sofi bounds out of the cage and plays around for at least half an hour after we arrive home. She is so happy to see us. It is now 1:30 AM and we think it is time to try to go to bed, even though it is still very hot.
Today there are high, thin clouds, which are deceiving. I think it will not be so hot today, but by noon we are dragging. Stefano and Luca have come to make a platform for the security planters by the side gate. The gate is open, and Roy encourages me to bring Sofia out. She is so excited, and wiggles all over Luca and Stefano and Pepe Fosci...but Ubik will have nothing to do with her.
Pepe tries to get them together by bringing her close...by bringing him close...by taking Sofia on the leash and saying "goodbye" to Ubik. Nothing works. It will take time. Sofia is oblivious. We go back through the gate and she gambols all around the terrace.
Sofi is back to her paw splashing antics in her water bowl, and I think this is because she is very hot. I pick her up and put her in one of the two basins in the sink and get her completely wet. She loves it. She loves the big towel I dry her off on, too. She hides in it, plays with it, whatever I want to do is fun for her.
I have made two big containers of granita, watermelon and nectarine with Courvosier, and more tomatoes stuffed with rice. The whole morning has slipped away, and I am in kind of a heat coma, just dragging myself in front of a fan.
Sofi is growing, at least that is what neighbors are saying. Her back looks longer, but she still has a puppy head. Tonight, she is full of energy, and bounds into the open cage because her toys are there. She is not afraid of it, and we will use it from now on if we go out without her. I keep forgetting to take the tape measure and measure her from head to her tail. She was three months old yesterday, so think she is past her fastest growth spurt, but we don't know. She is still very tiny.
A drive to Viterbo and a walk around some of the medieval section of the city highlights our day. It is cooler for parts of the day and there is some rain. We are hopeful the worst of the heat wave is over.
Early in the morning, I take Sofi down to the front wall on a lead and dead-head and thin out the roses on the path. This is a complicated undertaking, because Sofi wants to run and play. She soon learns how far she can go and switches her interest to low-growing leaves and weeds, all the time wagging her tail. Amazingly the roses continue to grow. Roy has taken over most of the watering in the evenings, because we have a new larger diameter hose, and it is difficult to handle. Perhaps Roy is practicing for a job as a volunteer fireman.
I have not checked on the upper orto garden for at least a week, and there are two enormous zucchini lying in wait that could be used to defend an entire army. How is it possible that a vegetable could grow so large without steroids? Two in the garden are longer than Sofi!
Basottos are known as diggers. Our front terrace is not friendly to the "digger" in Sofi, because as soon as she has dug through a spot in the gravel, she hits a stone wall with the nursery cloth. She is unable to penetrate it, and looks up at us in frustration. Spot by spot she sniffs, digs and gets nowhere.
So it is not surprising that an opportunity to get into the bed where we have the herbs, or the bed where we have the plumbago and baby bouganvilla, are heaven-sent to her. She causes havoc, dashing back and forth. If Roy has just watered, she manages to give off a "Pig-pen" effect, mud flying in the air, dog zipping through the fragrant lemon thyme, sage, basil...tail arcing back and forth like a windshield wiper gone amok.
In times like these, we chase her till we catch up with her, put her in the sink and get her all wet, rising off the dirt. Then we dry her off in a big towel to get rid of the mud and sit her next to one of her soft toys or a nylabone. Puppies live lives of careless abandon. Thankfully she wants to please us, so if we catch her pulling string from a gauze curtain or eating a corner of a rug, we can divert her and she is just as happy.
Roy picked some of the San Marzano tomatoes this morning. I thought we'd have enough for at least five more jars, but Roy found too many ants and threw most of them out. We have covered them to shield them from the heat, but some of them just burst before we can pick them and these are the tomatoes that the ants race to get to before we do. We will keep the ones we picked today and tomorrow more will be ready. We feel comfortable with our process, and will repeat most of what we did before.
The loggia, or outdoor kitchen, serves us well. The inexpensive camping hotplate is perfect for this. When we are not using it, it folds up and is stored underneath a counter. It is fueled by a butane tank that sits next to it. Some days we feel like farmers of old...some days we just feel old.
Roy really loves to drive. He wants to go to the coast to look at the beaches, so when Maria comes in the afternoon to do her twice a month cleaning, we take off through Viterbo. Tuscania,Montebello, Vulci, Lido di Tarquinia...We stop at Montebello, but it is too hot to walk around. We stop at Lido and take a walk up the street.
Roy is starting to change his mind about not liking beaches...especially Italian beaches. These beaches are not wide. There are cabanas and lockers and showers and beach chairs to rent and umbrellas, a very civilized scene. Only fifty or so feet ahead is the ocean itself...murky looking but with a definite breeze and lots of surf.
What we thought were Italian beaches were dirty huge expanses with wall-to-wall people. We're sure many beaches are like that. But the two that we see today, Lido di Tarquinia and Montalto di Castro, are nice enough that Roy wants to return for a day at the beach.
I am amazed. In the 22 years I have known him, he has NEVER wanted to go to the beach.
We have dinner tonight at the little trattoria in Chia (pronounced KEE-ah). You can see Chia from our front terrace. We sit outside at a corner table and right next to us is a raised garden. Sofi sits on both the pepperino ledge and the grass, which is about five inches below. She is happy until she turns around and sees the side of one of Snow White's seven dwarfs. She yelps and jumps back at us. Then she sits and stares, waiting for it to move.
The Italians have a fascination with Snow White...really with the dwarfs more than her. These gnomes are everywhere. We even found six of them on the property when we bought L'Avventura. Luckily Sarah found a grotto in the back of the house and they sit there (one dwarf was missing...we don't know which). Roy loves them.
Stefano comes early to finish the side wall planter project, before he leaves for a week's vacation in Sardinia. Pepe and his uncle are in their orto garden next door. Talking away, I hear "magari" a lot. Something about a door and next week. A year ago I would not even be able to decipher that. Piano, piano. I am now working on learning the vocabulary at least 30 minutes a day by myself. When it is practical, the grammar fits in where it belongs...using a particular tense, knowing the basic forms of the verbs is a help.
The bathroom is leaking, but we do not know where. After an exercise where I put a bucket under the tub and run water into the bucket and then drain it, Roy figures out that both the sink and the bathtub tie into the same drain, and it appears the drain itself is damaged. Enzo is called but he is on vacation until next Monday. We can wait.
In the meantime, Roy takes all the tiles off the end wall of the tub, because he thinks something is broken there. We have no spare tiles, nor do we know where to get them. So if some are damaged we will have to replace it all...Let's hope not.
We are sitting down in front of the fan after pranzo, keeping out of the heat. Roy tells me that he took Sofi into the panificio this morning in Orte to pick up a couple of rosetta baguettes while I was getting a pedicure. The owner of the bakery liked Sofi so much that she almost got to go behind the counter and see what was going on backstage. Roy picked her up instead. This was a "never in America" moment.
Italians love their dogs, and welcome them almost everywhere. Other than the supermarket, we are able to take Sofi wherever we go. Occasionally a restaurant will not admit her, but generally we ignore the sign, if there is one, and find that the people in the restaurant can't wait to get their hands on her to cuddle her.
If you are not horrified yet...Roy tells me that the other night when he went to get beer from the stand at the festa, the man pouring the beer into the plastic glasses actually blew off the foam before handing the glass to Roy. He was not sure he was seeing correctly, until the man did the same thing with the second glass of beer. The man thought he was doing the right thing, with the very foamy glass.....
All over Italy, people are resourceful. So resourceful, in fact, that they ignore the law when it suits them. If caught, they can usually squirm their way out of it. I am thinking about the mattone that was stolen from San Rocco recently. Probably someone wanted old mattone for a floor in a house, and it was easier for the muratore to steal it than to go out and buy it. That is the sad reality of living in this paradise.
It is amazing that any laws are obeyed at all. I don't know where the line is drawn, but somehow people know when it is going too far...We raise our shoulders in a "what can I do?" pose when we have to go along with a particular custom, and do our best to obey the law. Although I see Roy slowing down and not stopping sometimes at a Stop sign when there are no cars around....
Roy wants to go to Vivaio Margherita in Chiusi to buy the evergreen plants for the new fiorieras. He has agreed to water them in their pots for a few weeks until it is cool enough to plant them. We want lush evergreen plants with long spikes that will foil would-be intruders and the fiorieras to plant them in are now mounted against the side wall.
These evergreens will be planted along with white mermaid roses, which also have long thorns. We will also have a row of iron spikes, the same as those on the top of the cancello, mortared into the top of the side wall. We have suffered enough. BASTA!
We drive to Attigliano to the post office to mail our requests for absentee ballots for the California election. Roy comes out to tell me that it should not take long. The same man waited on him who served us pizza at the festa. Ha. Ha.
We approach the A-1 and there is an electronic sign that tells us there has been an accident between Attigliano and Orvietto, so we take the back road to Orvietto. It is really lovely. On the way, we look over at Diego's hill and see a huge red crane looming over the partial construction. The gate is closed off when we reach the bottom of his hill, but we will check in with him soon to see how he is doing, and if he has sold either or both of the two properties. They should be very interesting.
We arrive at the vivaio and no one is there. It is open, but so quiet. Everyone is on holiday, si certo, or has no interest in planting. So they welcome us warmly. I have seen pyrocantha with yellow berries in their catalog and we ask about them. I am amazed that I would actually want to buy this ugly evergreen. The manager answers that they have them, but also suggests that we consider Ozmanthus, a stiff-leafed evergreen with lovely white flowers.
We look at both and the pyrocantha they have only have red berries. We agree that we don't want pyrocantha, but they are out of the size plant we want of the other. We will go back in two weeks, when it comes in. Instead, we drive up to Chiusi for a lemon soda and sit outside in the park under a huge chestnut tree. We so appreciate any cool breeze.
We decide to take a drive, and stop at Citta della Pieve, where there is a big mercato going on. It is not an interesting one, and there are so many people in the town that Roy is unable to get any food for Sofi in any alimentary. Lines are too long. So we leave and drive some more, through wonderful old cities like Monteleone d'Orivieto and Montegabbione and stop at a trattoria outside Ficulle.
We have a lovely and simple pranzo, finished with fresh fruit served in a bowl of icy water and local pecorino cheese. Sofi is fed pieces of bread, pieces of my chicken, and a grape. She has a full belly and sleeps on the floor at our feet.
We drive home, stopping at Orvietto for a walk around town and a gelato. Everywhere we go today, other than the vivaio, is mobbed with people. This is the Italian holiday, and everyone is out having fun. Those not at the beach are at the interesting towns.
At home, I lie on the couch and pick her up and she is in one playful mood. She jumps on my head, kissing my nose and all over my face and hair, all the time wiggling and wagging her tail. This is no time for a nap. Roy fixes the seal in the bathroom with caulk and the leak has stopped. Bravo Roy! No need to call Enzo on Monday.
A few hours later Roy calls up to me while he is watering the boxwood on the terrace. Maurizio and his wife, Ume, are coming up the walk. They look fresh and ready for a Saturday night date. But then again, it is Saturday night. We sit on the terrace with them for a while, and Maurizio tells us funny stories which we somewhat understand. He is a very good mimic and very animated. He even makes Sofi jump around.
While he is telling stories, Sofi is lying under the huge hose reel at the corner of the terrace. The end of the hose is aimed downward, for Roy has just finished watering, and she lies just below it, drinking the water that drips out of it. She zips around shaking her head, and we realize that her head is soaking wet. I wipe her off and she looks like she has a crewcut, with hair standing out all over her head.
Maurizio and Ume evidently have no plans, for they have invited us to go to their house to have a dinner of pidgeon, which he has caught and strangled right outside his house. No thank you. We are going to Graffignano to the chingale sagra for dinner. But by the time they leave and we get ready, it is almost 9 PM. Graffignano is very crowded. We decide to eat at Oktoberfest back in Attigliano, because we can sit outside and have a beer.
Kenya and her daughters and husband greet us warmly, and after we are finished eating pizza and beer, they come out to talk with us. One of the young girls has been roller blading around the terrace, and she walks Sofi around, pretending she has a new dog all her own.
Kenya tells us she has been reading our website and wants to buy our tomatoes! Perhaps next year. She encourages us to plant fall and winter vegetables, and if the weather cools down somewhat we will surely do that soon.
We do not go to church this morning. Instead, we drive to Narni, where the monthly mercato will take place in the town square. First, we have coffee and pasta (a pastry is called pasta in Italia). We sit inside, because the sun is already blazing over the outdoor tables.
I hear a scratching at my feet and it is Sofi. The counter next to our table is covered with a mirror, and she thinks there is a dog there to play with. She tries to nose underneath it, and can find no dog. When Roy pays for our breakfast, he learns that yes, there is a mercato on the fourth Sunday of each month but today there will be none. The man at the cash register has no explanation.
Instead, we take a stroll through this very beautiful town. The aqueduct outside the town dates to the second century. Here are some of the very oldest buildings we have seen in Italy. We will have to do some research before we return. We really want to learn more. This is a town to walk through, the curving streets and passageways are cool and the buildings marvels of detail.
Back in the car, we drive around southern Umbria to Calve D'Umbria, another wonderful town. We stop for a cold drink and get a message on Roy's cell phone from Karina that she would like to come up for the day. We agree to meet her at the Orte train station in an hour. In the meantime, we drive into a tiny hamlet called Poggio. The short dead end street is so narrow that I hold my breath as we have to back the car out.
People sitting out in a tiny piazza overlooking the countryside turn their heads to stare at us. We drive down below the village and there is also an entryway there. We are unable to drive very far here, either. Before we get to the village there is a very steep road that leads to the cemetery. Roy wonders if the people of the village perform the ceremonial ritual of following caskets after a funeral up this very steep slope. The people here must be very hearty souls.
We pick up Karina and take her to our very favorite restaurant, Nonni Pappa, at the edge of a Campo Sportivo (man-made fishing pond) between Orte and Penna. Fidelia, the owner, and her daughter, Carlotta, are getting out of their car just as we arrive. They are so happy to see Sofi again. Fidelia asks us if we have seen Dottore Christali, the Vet in Terni that she recommended. We thank her for the recommendation and tell her that yes, he is now Sofi's vet.
Carlotta and her little cousin, who are both about six years old, cannot take their eyes off Sofi. They follow us on a little walk around the pond, taking Sofi's lead and carefully guiding her. It is too early for pranzo, so we sit under a pergola at a table, while we watch the antics of Sofi and a male Jack Russell Terrier puppy a few months older than Sofi, named Filippo, or Pipo. He pins her down and then she rallies, jumping up and biting him on the ear playfully. The two girls and a young boy start to cheer. "Sofi, Sofi, Sofi".
After about ten minutes, Roy calls a time out and tells the young boy, "Venga su angolo con Pipo." (Go to your corner with Pipo.) The children love this. They continue to cheer for Sofi, and when we are ready to go into the restaurant, they pick Sofi up and cheer again, declaring her the winner.
Pranzo consists of: saccottini with pears and ricotta, bruschetta, spiedini of local fish, spada (grilled swordfish with herbs), a bottle of cold Orvieto Classico and desserts of budinos and light puddings with sweet berries and café. There is no need to eat tonight after a wonderful meal like this.
During the meal, I give Sofi little pieces of bread and spada (swordfish), and later at home give her her regular pranzo. She is still so tiny that it is important that she have three meals a day.
Karina needs some help with a document for an assignment she is working on, so we sit at the computer and work it out. She has taken a temporary assignment working for an impresario who has been asked to find a movie star to present the crown to Miss Italia on TV next month. George Clooney, who has just purchased a house in Northern Italy, is the target.
Karina is to send an email to George's agent, enticing them. This is a strange assignment for Karina, and after this is finished tomorrow she will return to the work she loves the best, tour guiding. Of course, we will watch "Miss Italia 2003" on TV each evening from September 11 to 15 to see if George "bit" the bait.
Michelle and Claudio come by for a drink later. They have just returned from the Pronto Soccorso (emergency room) in Amelia. We learn that this is the best emergency room in the area. Claudio dropped a heavy gate on his toe yesterday and this is the second trip to Amelia for them in two days. They took Dani to meet a group at the train station this afternoon.
Now they will have a week's vacation while he is on a trip with some other students and chaperones. It is good to see them and we sit on the terrace and drink cold beer and chat. We have agreed to meet again tomorrow to figure out how to get better internet connections from this tiny village.
For the second morning in a row, Sofi and I take a passagiata around the Mugnano loop...straight on Via Mameli, down to a street we call "Aqua Puzza"(dirty water), where there are plots of olives and grapes and vegetables owned and tended by the people who live in the village, and back up. I take a plastic bag with us to pick up refuti (garbage), which has been carelessly dropped along the side of the road and ignored.
No one is out, until we reach Italo and Dina's house, where Marsiglia, Dina's sister, is stepping out the door with the help of an old wooden cane. It is eight o'clock in the morning, and she still looks beautiful. Italo and Dina come out, and we all greet each other.
Sofi and I walk with Marsiglia to the Y intersection, and she takes the left up to the village to go back home while we go down the hill toward the little plots of land and cantinas. I am sure that she walked down with Felice, who now must be in his garden. We will see.
Sofi does not want to walk this morning, and keeps stopping and looking back up the road. She wants to go home, and to be picked up, but we both need the exercise. And them Brik trots by, in all his maleness, ignoring us. He stops to take a dump by the side of the road and Sofi perks up and wants to race toward him.
We are ten feet away when he darts out down the road, leaving poor Sofi in a trail of dust. The road is dry from all the heat and lack of rain. She sits in the middle of the road and can't figure out what happened.
We get going again and it is cool under the shade trees. There are sounds of chickens and birds and I am just starting to see things left on the side of the road for my plastic bag. The more we walk, the more we find.
Felice and Giuseppe are just ahead, with a big white bucket each, full of produce from their gardens. Sofia races toward Felice and he gives her a laugh and shakes his cane at her in a playful way. I show him the bag and the refuti, and he acts as though it is not a big deal. Felice is not bothered by much of anything.
This is my chance. I hold up the index finger of my right hand at the level of my chin and move it left to right and back again, like a metronome. I am scorning the practice of dropping paper on the side of the road. I shake my head in silence. It feels so powerful.
He lowers his head, He knows I am right. We wave "C'e veddiamo" and smile, then continue on our walk. By the time we are back on Via Mameli, the bag is full of plastic wrappers, cigarette boxes, Kleenex and a few plastic bottles.
We run into the young Swedish man, who lives part time in the village and is jogging down the hill. He stops to greet us, especially Sofia. Giuseppa is walking down the hill on the way to her garden, and I show her the refuti. She shakes her head. There is no need to speak.
We walk down Via Mameli past our house to take the bag to the garbage, and see Candida with Ubik coming toward us. Ubik takes a sniff at Sofi from a distance and moves away. Candida laughs and greets Sofia. The little dog has been spurned again. We really need to find a little playmate for her.
Late in the day, we are in the car and see storm clouds overhead. We pray for rain. At home, a wild wind whips up from the West. The rose arch sways back and forth and Roy ties it down with a rope, securing it to the iron fences. Thunder and lightening roll over the sky like warm-ups for a bowling tournament. We sit on the bench underneath the kitchen window and watch.
Rain starts to fall, a rain so light it almost asks the pavement if it may drop. The temperature has cooled at least 20 degrees.
Michelle and Claudio and Giordano arrive for a visit, and over glasses of granita we discuss our satellite dish, reception, and the need for ADSL lines for our computers. Michelle thinks that Alberto, who lives in Mugnano and works for the telephone company, thinks the commune in Bomarzo will get a line soon, and if they get a line, Mugnano will get a line. We have heard this kind of story before.
We go to bed praying for rain. Roy did not water tonight, hoping that a cool evening and rain would dampen the plants. I am sure they will be fine tonight.
We meet up with Donatella, Duccio's sister, at Danelli's salon early in the morning. She wants to speak English, and we have a long talk about Italian workers and the unions. I think her daughter is a union organizer. At least she works with the unions. We speak about her latest art shows, and I tell her that Maurizio is a good friend of ours, who was in her last show.
Right now she has agreement with the sindaco (mayor) of Graffignano to have a young artist do a performance piece in the city swimming pool. He works with fire. That should be interesting.
We go to Michellini in Viterbo for ozmanthus plants, and their prices are much better than those in Chiusi...€15 for a plant almost two meters high. We buy 6 and Roy can't wait to get them planted in our newly placed security planters by the side gate. He drops us off at home and goes out for soil.
At home in the afternoon the doorbell rings, and a courier service has delivered an enormous box from my cousin Cherie. The letter tells us that these are things she has collected for us since my birthday in March. We take out a notepad and count over forty items. It is like camp.
Some of the articles are: rolls of toilet paper, a dream catcher, my favorite scented candles, garden gloves, a set of wind chimes with a beautiful porcelain bird at the top, ten tiny boxes of matches, a container of Comet, a magnifiying glass, a rhinestone collar for Sofi, a set of bungie cords, ten notepads, a queen size set of Southwest Indian patterned flannel sheets, three embroidered dish towels, a current Sunset magazine featuring an article on California gardens, on and on.
I am so touched by this gift. I know Cherie well, and can imagine her coming across these items, "Evanne will need this, " "Everyone needs at least one magnifying glass..." Cherie is the sister I never had. We are thicker than blood. She is in my thoughts the rest of the day. I keep smiling just thinking about her generosity of spirit.
Late in the afternoon we go to Viterbo to the clinic so that I can get checked out by the eye specialist. We are trying to rule out eye problems as the cause for my headaches. I also want to see if I can be a candidate for laser surgery. This is covered under the Italian medical system.
Doctor Mocini examines me...for less than ten minutes. I have no eye problems and I am too old for laser surgery. I don't think he knows what he is doing, but agree that my eyes are not the cause of my headaches.
Back at home, Roy gets to work preparing the planters. Sofi and I stand near and guide him, and he does the dirty work. In less than an hour he is done, and they look great, 2 in each planter, surrounding one white mermaid rose. Before the winter is over, we will have a thick hedge with roses growing out of it. Robbers beware...
After a late dinner, we walk the garbage down the street and a big party is going on for Ivo's 51st birthday. We are invited in and sit between Lore and Alberto outside at a long table next to the little house at the other Number 1 Via Mameli. Sofi falls asleep on my lap. We heard the commotion from this party from our terrace, especially Italo's laugh, but did not expect to be invited in.
We had a very good time, highlighted by Alberto reading Italian poetry. We have no idea what he was reading, but everyone laughed. Italians really love to laugh. Not to be outdone, Pepe recites a piece of poetry himself. Ubik is there and sniffs around Sofi without getting too close. She ignores him, more interested in sleeping on my lap than putting up with this hard-to-get doggie.
We love the stories about early Mugnano (before Mugnano was isolated from the rest of the country, except by ferry, in the 60's). Tonight we hear about Ivo's birth, 51 years ago. It seems that doctors did not trust having babies be delivered in Mugnano, in case anything went wrong with the delivery, so Ivo's mother, Leondina, was put on top a donkey and rode up the steep hill to Bomarzo. If that is not enough to induce labor, don't know what is. So we called Dina "Maria" and Italo "Giuseppe" and everyone laughed. Well, we are not sure about Dina.
We receive an email from Margaret and Pat Flaharty, a Jon Carroll article in the S F Chronicle about Mt. Blanc closing and global warming. Here's my response:
Thanks for this. If the little heat wave for ten days in France has done this, can you imagine what havoc has been caused in Italy, with three months of near or over 100 degree heat?
There are no statistics published here. We know that the Italians are a loving lot and family is so important to them that they would not allow this to happen. It is a sign, however.
We still don't understand the French bashing. Living in another country certainly gives one an interesting perspective.
Have we been gone so long that "The American Perspective" seems alien to us? Unfortunately, Americans sound like isolationists. We are sure that is not the intent. Being surrounded by many countries is very helpful to get a more global perspective. I keep hearing Bush's words in my ear..."Are you with us or against us?" I don't think it is that simple.
A walk before 8 AM with Sofi, and we're back in time for yoga. Sofi stays at home, and when we return piddles all the way down the stairs she is so excited to see us. About ten minutes later, Angela Good arrives to meet all of us.
Angela is a house and dog sitter. This is her business, and she is warm and friendly and easy to get along with. Sofi comes right up to her and wiggles around her toes. This is a good start.
After a tour, we sit in the kitchen. It is before noon, but too hot to sit outside. We have iced tea, fruit and pastries from the Sardinian bakery in Bomarzo. Angela tells us about a few of her house-sitting escapades, always with a jolly laugh. She is English, from Devon.
After single handedly managing several horses, several dogs (one in heat), pigs and sheep on one assignment, when her only rest was on the tractor, we felt she could sit for us this winter with her eyes closed. Sofi will be too young to travel, and Angela comes with the highest recommendation from Tia and Bruce.
She will also do a one-day sitting of Sofi at her house in Rome in about a month, when we go into Rome for a special event. We are very relieved. Not only will the house be safe, but Sofi will be able to stay at home with a new friend while we are gone.
All the news about looking for Mars in the night sky is a wonderful thing. It gets many people who don't even look up to take a minute to enjoy a beautiful evening and take in the star filled wonder of the inky black night. Perhaps it will get them to stop a little more and breathe in the wonder of living on the planet.
Pia comes over from the plot of land across the street when we are on the tour to ask if we'd watch out for the property while they are at pranzo. There is not much to watch, other than some tufa bricks piled at the entrance and a cement mixer. Pia's brother is the local policeman in the village, so it would be strange for anyone to try to run off with anything from there. We agree, although it takes Angela to translate what Pia wants.
The wind comes up before dawn, a wind so powerful that it wakes me up thinking we are on a pirate ship jostling about on the open seas, our gauze drapes billowing into the room like furled sails. Still no rain.
After breakfast, we drive to Orte for an appointment with Alessandra Clini, who is a cranial osteopath. We have gone to her off and on for several years, and she is amazing. In the United States, these professionals are not regarded highly...It is almost as though they are performing some kind of voo-doo, although they have extensive medical training. We always go to her to figure out the source of any pain we are having.
Now that I know where my stress headaches come from, I want to see what she can do to help me keep them from starting. I also have had dull pains in my right shoulder and arm for about six months. She will tell me what is causing that.
We arrive and she meets Sofia, who sits in the car with Roy in her driveway. The perilous drive up to her house is so difficult, that I tell her it is a testament to her exceptional skill that people agree to even make the trip. She laughs. I also tell her what it means to "holler Uncle!" I do that several times, while she is working away at my limbs and torso.
I finally tell her I have concluded that she is the enemy and is torturing me, and I have decided not to admit it. We laugh out loud, and then I get teary, because it really starts to hurt. When we are through, I feel so much better. She thinks that the pain in my shoulder and the headache pains in my lower skull are not due to anything in my skull or my shoulder. The causes are in my internal organs, which she prods and rubs through my skin as though I am a lump of pastry getting ready for the rolling pin.
Before we moved to Italia, I went to Barbara Newlon in San Rafael. She was also good. What I like about these people is that they do not prescribe medicine. They find the source of pain and work with patients to understand how their internal organs work and how to make them work at their optimum. I would not say they were like chiropractors. I believe they have more advanced medical training, and deal more with organs than with bones. I will go back to her in another fifteen days, and she has given me exercises to do on the locations of my two scar tissues.
From there we go to Terni, to get Sofi's last vaccination. She cries like the puppy she is, but rallies. We agree not to find another vet closer to our house, because during an emergency finding a local vet may take just as long as locating Dr. Christali. And we like this vet a great deal.
It is 34 degrees when we arrive home at l'una, and the wind is wild, wild, wild. Dust blows in every direction. The dirty sky sends us inside right away to hide in front of the kitchen fan.
I've decided to take a travel writer's course by mail. We need to start making some additional money, and this will be a good exercise for me. Who knows where it might lead?
Last night's wind storm caused a few water pipes which are located on the back of the house and are connected to the solar panels on the roof to disengage. Roy will take a ladder and see what he can fix when the temperature cools down.
This is the Labor Day weekend in the United States, and it completely escaped me until I heard a news story on CNN Europe. I'm dreaming of blueberries and lobster. I cannot imagine eating a lobster unless it is from Maine, which limits the possibilities here.
Today is quiet. Sofi has been given her first tennis ball...really two tennis balls connected by a strong narrow fabric that is about a foot long. She is in heaven, although it makes her more aggressive. I have to calm her down after she has bounced around a while with them.
We finally figured out why Sofi dips her front paws in her water dish. The little paws are hot from walking on the terrace gravel. Poor Sofi. She never complains, and we're impressed that she is so resourceful. Thankfully, each time she has done this I have taken her to the sink and cooled her off all over, dipping her paws in cool water. Now I know.
It is difficult to enjoy the beauty of this country in this heat. I find myself clipping individual stems from the tiny new boxwood plants at night, afraid to groom them in the heat of the day. Most of this clipping will be done in the fall, after the primary growing season has passed. They are doing remarkably well, considering.
We talk about planting 6 olive trees in the new property, but in order to do that, we need to be able to get to the property easily. That means that Mario and his brother will need to build a retaining wall and steps from the lavender garden area to the new land. We will need to replace the fence on that side of the property as well...probably chestnut poles and simple silver colored chicken-wire. We will need a gate as well, and will research a way to do it inexpensively. Otherwise, the olive trees will have to wait another year.
Tiziana calls from Calabria, where she is performing in a concert. She will return tomorrow, and wants to see us. I think that means we will begin the violin lessons again. I am delighted. Her family also wants to invite us to the Orte festa, next week. Roy had a role in their festa last year as a mercanto, but this year has not been asked. We are grateful, because it will be too hot to wear those heavy velvet cloaks in this heat. The festa begins on Monday.
All the weather forecasts tell us that the temperature is going down. Then why does the thermometer not agree? Almost everyone waits outside church this morning until the last moment. Roy has gone inside, but I know the air will be deadly still. So I prefer the breeze on the front steps.
We can hear Don Luca driving up the steep Mugnano hill from a distance on his motorcycle. Lore thinks most people would not believe this young man is a priest. He is a fine priest, and I am so pleased that he chooses to enjoy himself in this way.
Don Luca maneuvers around some iron posts and rests his macchina next to the huge watering trough to the left of the little church. Next, he takes off his Darth Vader helmet and greets people one by one and shakes their hand. I get a big smile and a handshake.
Don Luca then tells all of us standing on the steps that he does not feel like saying mass today. "What?" I think to myself. "This is insane!" Instead I ask "Why?" but before he has a chance to respond, a white car drives up and parks and it is the young priest who often says mass for us.
Don Luca has played a joke on us all. He goes in and stands by the door to the altar until the first prayers have been said, and then leaves. He has mass to say in at least two churches in Bomarzo this morning. I hope for his sake that he was just joking.
Inside the church I take out my Chinese fan, called a ventilitore in Italian, and it is as though a bird is flapping its wings wildly in the back of the church. That is me. Madonna mia this is oppressive.
Outside the pigeons begin their cooing under the wooden eaves of the church, and inside everyone is handed little blue pages containing the four hymns we sing each week. Roy and I have kept our copies from past masses in the front of our Sunday missals, and each week sing these hymns with gusto.
How wonderful the sounds these villagers make with their almost on-key notes. Speaking of notes, these hymns are remarkable in the limited number of notes that are contained in each hymn. No real high notes, no real low notes. So everyone can sing. There are many people in the church this morning, and the sound of the singing of these simple hymns seems to crawl up the side walls of the church until they reach the windows, then clang out like a metal bell, loud and louder and a little tinny, but joyous and heartfelt. We all love singing these hymns. "O te Signor, leviamo cuori, o te Signor, noi le doniam ...."
After church, Roy wants to go to a mercato in Campagnano di Roma, a town between Viterbo and Rome on the Cassia. We have not been here before, so after mass we return home and change and release Sofi from her cruel cage. She is excited to see us and of course loves the thought of leaving the house for a trip.
The Cassia is a beautiful road, rimmed with many old pine trees, and the countryside is very green, despite all the hot weather this summer. We arrive at the town to find it in full festa gear, but no mercato is in sight, with the exception of one stand selling nuts and dried fruits and another selling aprons with the image of a nude woman's torso on the front.
We walk beneath a huge stone arch and as we do, the sound of John Phillip Sousa blares from trumpets on the narrow street right in front of us. There is a marching band, complete with young girls in white long sleeved costumes piped in red, the Italian equivalent of majorettes. They are playing "The Stars and Stripes Forever March", just as we emerge from under the arch, and there are about fifty of them, girls in front and musicians in back. In my head I am singing, "Be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck may be somebody's mother..." Is it a coincidence that this is the Labor Day weekend? They seem oblivious. We think there is a long parade...
Sofi is frightened by the loud sound of the batteria (drums), and Roy picks her up and holds her in his arms, his hand resting under her tiny chest. Before we know it, the group has passed, and that's it! It is 11 AM and we have heard the start and the finish. We walk down the little street to a café. There are tables in the shade, all taken up by the men of the town, who even sit right in front of the opening to the bar.
I walk around them with Sofi in my arms and part the rows of blue glass beads hanging down in front of the door. Roy has already ordered coffee and is picking out a big pastry for himself. Cappuccino is more than enough for me. Sofi just hangs on my arm like a rag doll, waiting for someone to come up to her and want to play.
After walking around a little, we begin to admire the buildings, which are painted bright colors and are decorated in a Sicilian style, very Baroque. This looks like a southern Italian town. We like it, but then again, what's not to like?
We get back in the car and it is almost time for pranzo, so drive to Nepi. We love the water from Nepi, which is sold in green glass bottles. The water is a combination of frizzante and naturale, with very little friz. Just enough. We want to eat in a trattoria in this town, because its architecture, especially in the town square, is really beautiful and unusually Baroque.
There are no trattorias open in Nepi today. Instead, we are guided to Trenta miglia, a trattoria in a nearby town by the same name. We park and the place looks great, but they will not admit us with Sofia. Bummer. We drive on to Ronciglione and the same thing happens. We find a little trattoria with tables outside, but all the tables are occupied outside and we cannot eat inside with Sofia. This is the first day this has happened...and it has happened twice!
Instead, we drive to Lago di Vico, and stop on the side of the road at a trattoria with a large outdoor dining room, which is empty. They agree to seat us, and we wind up having a wonderful meal all to ourselves in a very pretty pergola covered garden. Sofi and I especially like the fish, Spigola, which is grilled and then boned and decapitated for us. Roy has lasagna and we both have melon.
We enjoy our meal, but don't think we'll return. Instead, we drive around the lake and scope out another restaurant right on the lake that we will return to. This is one of Roy's favorite things to do. He loves to scope a place out. When we drive into a town, he never parks until he drives all around it first, to get a lay of the land. Then he decides where we should park.
Finding a restaurant is a similar project. We have quite a list of trattorias to try in the future. We also have a long list of towns to research and return to. This has become a full-fledged hobby. Perhaps the idea of becoming a part time travel writer is not such a bad thing.
On the way back home, we drive through San Martino al Cimino, another town just below Viterbo, that we love the looks of, and want to know much more. There is a huge cathedral, which is closed. We notice at least two trattorias, which we will be sure to try.
We learn later from Loredana that this town was owned by a Borgia princess, who was very rich but not well liked. She lived in this town during a plague, and as a result there were not many men to work for her on her estate, which took up most of the surrounding land. She built little homes for all the women in the town who survived and bit by bit the women married and then the men worked for her.
She was a greedy woman, and sounds as though she is right out of a children's fairy tale...You know, the wicked witch or someone like that. We'll have to read up on that. Interestingly, the big cathedral seems to look down on all the little houses on either side of a wide street. Now that I think of it, the facade seems to be leaning forward in an almost menacing way; it's ornate stone carving appearing almost top-heavy. There goes my imagination again.
Back at home, this is the first afternoon in over three months that we could sit on the terrace without the sun beating down upon us. It is now after 4PM, and already shady here, blessed with a lovely strong breeze. We sit here for a while, and just before 5, Marie starts doing some wash in her loggia above us. On the road below, we can hear Giustino with his cane tapping along, and another woman talking to him. It is time for the daily passagiatta to begin.
Lore and Alberto come tonight at nine for spumanti and granita on the terrace below a starry sky. The reddish light of Mars is visible in the distance and it is now a light that we look for each night, like a new friend. Roy and I move the bench that finds it's home under the kitchen window to the place where we love to sit to the left of the big caki tree.
Our wooden and fabric sling chairs are not easy to get out of, and Alberto is much more comfortable on a hard backed bench. We place cushions on the bench, and with a few citronella candles to keep away the mosquitoes, it is very comfortable.
Bit by bit, we are learning about the Etruscans, and the influence that the Etruscan culture has had on Italy. I am reading a very enjoyable book, Etruscan Places, written in the 1920's by D. H. Lawrence. I think it is fun to take a cursory drive around an Etruscan site, but then want to study it before we return to understand it fully. We look forward to getting to know this civilization in depth.
There is so much Etruscan archaeology to see in our area of Italy, and we know that a good foundation of knowledge about these people and their times will be a help in understanding their history and art and culture. We have much to learn and much time to learn it.
Lore and Alberto are so knowledgeable about all these things. Tonight we talk about Tarquinia, Ceveteri, Vulci, Nepi and the Etruscans being wiped out by the Roman Empire. Lore's take on the Romans and the Etruscans is that the Romans won the wars, yet the Etruscan people became part of their civilization. Their people did not just die off; instead, they became homogenized into the Roman Culture. That is certainly a kindly take on the disappearance of a civilization.
Lore is not happy with me, because I do not call her enough. I apologise and promise to be better in the future in calling them. They return to Rome on Tuesday, and I really must do that. I don't like to bother them when they are in Mugnano, and am not sure when it is proper to call.
Without knowing the language better, it is difficult for Alberto to communicate with us. So I am spending at least an hour a day trying to learn the vocabulary, and this week we will have Tiziano come for a visit to practice speaking. He wants to speak better English, and we want to speak better Italian. So it will be good for everyone.
Lore tells us that there is a couple from India who have settled nearby who are growing vegetables biologically. Unfortunately, that practice is unusual here, and we want to be biologic farmers as well, so will find a way to seek them out. In the meantime, our pepperoni are still growing, and the celery is doing fine, along with a few radicchio. Other wise, everything is gone, thanks to the hot sun. Soon it will be time for the fall planting. We will begin again soon.
Is it my eyes, or is it the dusky light of the pre-dawn hours? The drone of a weed-wacker sounds right outside the window. I sit up and realize the sound is coming from lower on the hill, a piece of property that faces the town on the strada bianca going up to Claudio and Michelle's house.
Sofi is making her little morning sounds and wiggling around below the bed. I look over and it is just after 7AM. I shower and think it is a good morning for a walk. After feeding Sofi, I slide on her walking collar and lead and down the path we go.
No one is outside on Via Mameli, until we are in front of the open door to the other Number 1. Francesca comes out from the garden and tells me they are leaving today. Her husband comes out to say goodbye. I ask when they will return and they say next year...They think that it is too cold in the winter to come to Mugnano.
I respond, "It is too cold in Parma!" and they laugh and agree. It is evident that they love Mugnano for the warm weather, but for the cold weather it must be cozier for them in Parma. We bid them c'e veddiamo.
As we approach Dina and Italo's door, further down the street, I see her in the dark, right inside the hallway. I greet her. "Buon giorno, Dina!" and she comes to the door, inviting us inside. Well, she asks me in to have a cup of coffee and how could she say no to Sofi?
This is the first time I have been inside their little house, and it is only a few steps to the back of the house and the kitchen. The table and chairs are set against the wall. There is room for three chairs, and she sits me down on one facing the wall. Ivo comes in and sits facing the door, holding a mug of tea. Dina pours me a tiny cup of espresso and offers me cake, sticking the knife into the cake and sliding the cake closer to me to cut for myself. I take a tiny slice and can tell she would like me to take more.
The phone rings and it is Ivo's sister calling. Dina tells her Ivo and "Ivana" are having coffee, as though we have done this all our lives...Ivo and I complain about the heat, but Dina does not think it is even hot. She tells us she only goes from the kitchen to a chair outside the front door, so what's to be hot about? They ask me about Roy and remind me the word for getting up is alzarse...to get up. I remember that word, and now will not forget it. I get up and excuse us. She tells me to come for coffee any time the door is open.
We walk down the hill and around the curve and there are two ladies waiting for a ride from one of the husbands, who is driving toward them up the bumpy road. We talk about Sofia, who rushes over to greet them one by one...or rather all at once, bounding back and forth.
"Calma, calma!" I cry out to the little dog. She so loves to greet people. They sympathize with Sofia that Ubik and Brik do not like her. "Findanzata?" one asks with a laugh? "No, magari!" I respond. Sofi is neither dog's girlfriend.
On we go. Then it's to Giuseppe's chicken coop, where Sofi stands frozen and fascinated by all the racket. Giuseppe unlatches the gate and comes out to greet her. We move along and Felice's gate is open. She races up to Felice, who by this time is wiping his brow with his handkerchief.
We discuss his orto garden. "What is that?" I ask, pointing to a bed of tiny green things..."Lattuga...ma male" He has tiny little bugs dancing around them, destroying them. He has to get medicine from Attigliano. That means chemicals. His beans look fine. I am not sure how much of the land is his, and don't think I should ask.
We bid him "c'e veddiamo" and don't see another person until we are walking and then running up the big hill just below our house. By now Dina's espresso has kicked in and I am full of life. Half way up the hill a man Roy calls Elmer "put-puts" down toward us, waves and bids us good morning. We arrive back home just in time for Roy to want to go to Ripabianca to buy the two last pots for the area right outside the side gate. He has called Carlo and two pots of the correct size are waiting for us.
It takes just under an hour to reach Carlo, and he and his son load the pots into the back of the car. The price for them is even less than last time. I want to go home, so although Roy already has the map book out to plan another venture, he agrees to turn around. We stop in Orte for little rosetta rolls for pranzo, and arrive home just after noon. Roy and I debate the height that the planters will sit on the wall, so he will not set them up yet.
We now must buy four more osmanthus plants and two more mermaid roses from Michelini. I notice something wrong with some of the leaves on one of the crespuscule roses on our rose arch. Yellow spots, but no tiny mites, and no black spot. We will take a sample of leaves with us when we go. Otherwise, all the roses look pretty remarkable, considering the heat.
Lady Hillington roses on the front path, miraculously surviving and thriving after three months of 100 degree temperature.
Tiziana calls, asking us to come to Orte tonight to try on costumes for the corteo (procession) next week. I thought they had passed us by, evidently not, so we wait until it is cool and drive up to the center of the town. Roy lets Sofi and I off near the square, and we meet him at Tiziana's school. She has just bought the apartment upstairs, so now owns the whole building. This is excellent for her school, for now she has places to give lessons privately, and can also rent out the apartment on weekends.
We meet Renzo and Laura outside the building, and go to the square to meet up with Fabiana, who is in charge of all the costumes for Tiziana's contrada, San Sebastiano. We follow her away from the square, then left and right down narrow streets barely wide enough for a cinque cento, the tiny Italian car about the size of a VW Beetle.
At the end of one of these narrow lanes, she opens a heavy wooden door and we follow her down and down to a cool room, with racks of at least a hundred costumes, all hung up and protected with plastic bags. Nearby is a large box containing photographs of each costume, worn in previous years, detailing the hats, shoes, belts and any other accessories needed for each costume. They are very well organized and we are impressed to be involved with this wonderful group of people who so love their town and its history.
We hope to find a pair of costumes to wear together, but are out of luck. She finds a magnificent one for Roy, dark medium blue and black and white...the costume of the priore, who is a type of mayor or head of a contrada (neighborhood). The costume is velvet, and the matching hat is perfect. Roy's response, with his palms facing upward, "What is my motivation?" Everyone laughs; even Sofia wags her tail at him.
I try on a few things, but they are either too long or too small. There is a possibility I can be a nun, but the decision won't be made until tomorrow if there will be a group of nums in the procession. I hope they find a different costume for me, because they are brown and dark grey and very, very thick wool. In this weather, I will faint before I am out of the building. Fabiana promises me that next year we will have matching costumes to wear. That is enough for me.
We had hoped that Sofi could wear a kind of medieval collar, pleated and in matching colors to match our costumes. We are out of luck. No dogs are allowed in the procession. Alberto is at a family dinner, but he is in charge of all the costumes for the procession, so he might be able to find me one from another contrada. Instead, we go to a trattoria behind the Duomo and sit outside on benches at a long wooden table for dinner.
While we wait for the beer and pizzas, and a pasta for Roy and Renzo that is a local specialty, Renzo begins to talk about the ancient buildings in Orte. His face glows. For the first time I am conscious of the magnitude of his conversation. He is talking about buildings and streets that existed three hundred years after Christ. Just beginning to learn about these times is a remarkable thing.
He tells us that in 300 AD, there was a Roman road between Orte and Mugnano. It followed the Tiber River. As a matter of fact, in the 1960's, when the land was dug up to build the A-1 freeway, ancient artifacts were uncovered to substantiate this. Orte possessed the first aqueduct outside Rome at the time.
This family is a family that loves art and music, but it is more than that. They love Orte and are wound into the very fabric of it all. Simone and Tiziana are two young women who run a music school that teaches music and voice to all the children of the town. Wherever we walk in Orte, we are stopped and Tiziana is kissed and hugged by young girls who call out to her as if she is a rock star. The two young women have taught hundreds of children to play and appreciate music and to sing.
Tiziana is my violin teacher, and I love her teaching style. She is positive, direct, and happy. She insists that I "relax". That seems to be it. And in addition, she arranges concerts all the time for her students, and of course that has included me in the past. She wants me to perform with the other violin students in front of a full orchestra on Friday, but we will be unable to go to rehearsals at all this week, so I decline. I have not really played for almost two years, so until my violin is properly tuned and I get in some practice, the concerts will have to wait.
It is good to be back with them again. We have missed their company. Now that we are speaking and understanding a little more Italian, it is getting easier to communicate with them, although Tiziana speaks English and Laura speaks and understands a little.
Roy goes to get a blood test in Soriano and Sofi and I take our little walk. It is later than yesterday, and we don't see many people on the street. Sofi stops to stare at the chickens in their coop next to the lower road and runs in to greet Felice in his garden. Giuseppe is there, and he watches Felice pick up Sofi with one hand and gently play with her in the midst of a raised planting bed. Felice thinks that if she eats a weed or two in the morning, it is not a bad thing.
The rest of the walk is uneventful, but as we arrive back the gate is open and Roy has returned. He is washing the car and this is a cool morning, so the parcheggio is not too hot. Inside I print out an article about the Etruscans to give to Tiziano when he comes tonight for an English lesson. We will trade an English lesson for an Italian lesson and hope that we can do this on an ongoing basis.
Roy thinks his problem is comprehension. I am really proud of his progress. For me, I am a very slow learner of this language. I want to feel comfortable making simple conversation with the people we meet in the village. The meetings often feel strained. People are so patient and kind, but don't often know what to say.
Tiziano appears on his motorino, and drives it right up the front walk, parking outside the front gate. Sofia is in love with him and for the next hour and a half will not leave him alone...his backpack, his feet, but most of all his shoe-laces. She has never seen such wonderful things to pull. We agree that the next time he comes to visit he will wear "ciabatti"(sandals).
Talking with Tiziano is a wonderful experience. In the short time he is here, we learn more than we learned in a week of lessons in school. He is articulate, patient and fun. We ask him what he wants to accomplish with his language, and he tells us he wants to perfect his knowledge of English to the point that he will be able to speak rapidly and not have to stop and think what tense to use. One of his colleagues in the museum in Amelia is able to do that and this is his goal.
We learn some of the local dialect..."L'vista Anna?" for "Have you seen Anna?" and some helpful phrases..."Quando io ho qualque dubio..." for "When I have a doubt..." We also learn the word for "brat", monello, which is how we refer to Sofi while she continues to untie Tiziano's shoelaces. He is too polite to complain.
We also learn what we need to do to get free firewood from the village. There is a local village counsel, Utente della Communanza Agraria, with its president, Antonio Moncini, Paola's boyfriend. We need to write a letter to the counsel asking to be admitted. Admittance also requires a residency of three years and we have that. So this week we will see what we can do about applying.
The people on the council include mostly people we know to say hello to: Danieli (Gianfranco's son), Elisabeth (Maria and Marino's daughter), Tiziano's father, and the brother of Marsiglia and Leondina. Roy thinks the wood will be green, however, so we may need to buy firewood for this year as well, saving the new wood for the following winter. He has seen a place to buy the wood on the road between Chia and Soriano. As the skies become overcast this is a focus of our thoughts.
After Tiziano leaves, we eat a quick supper and drive to Castiglione in Teverina to our first Italian movie experience. The theatre there is very new and immaculate. At the refrestment stand is a wonderful kiosk with two new white microwaves, for American Style Popcorn. The graphics on the front of bucking broncos and cowboys raising their hats tells us this is indeed an Italian fantasy.
We buy the popcorn, and a young boy opens it up and puts it in the microwave, then gives us the bag, telling us in English that it is "hot!" €2.10. Tickets are €5.50, 50 cents more because we buy seats in the balcony. All together there are less than 20 people in the theatre.
The movie is "The Italian Job", we think a remake of a wonderful movie originally made decades ago. It is partly based on the old film, including the use of mini-coopers to speed through the streets, but takes place in Venice, Italy, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. We can't wait to get home to email Tosca to see if she has seen it. She has a new mini-cooper and the chase scenes are really fun. There is an intermission during the film, because the theatre only has one projector, and the film is not a first run film. We get the gist of it, although some of the dialogue escapes us.
This is an experience we will definitely repeat...when they have a movie with action and not a lot of dialogue....
Friends have asked us, "What do you do all day?" There is always something going on, or something to do. Just when I think there will be a day of nothing to write about, something happens.
Stefano and Luca come this afternoon to prep the tufa foundation for the last two planters on the outside side wall. While he is working, Stefano tells us that Pepe has asked him to do some work on our collective little "lane", making it more attractive and easier to use. I think he will repoint the old tufa steps, repair the back wall with tufa colored cement and perhaps level it off. It will not cost very much, and we are very pleased that Pepe shares our appreciation for detail and organization.
We mailed our absentee ballots this morning to California, in plenty of time for them to be counted. Although we are not fans of Grey Davis, we think the recall is a sham and is costing precious money that the state of California does not have. We are not able to vote here, that will take a number of years. In any case, we will certainly retain our U S citizenship and ability to vote.
It has been overcast all day and cool until mid afternoon. We are planning to go to the Macchina Di Santa Rosa in Viterbo tonight, without Sofi, and there will be lots to write about when we return.
I will write a piece about the history of the Macchina in the Places to Visit area of the website very soon. But today I want to write about last night's experience.
The Macchina di Santa Rosa is an annual procession in which an enormously tall reliquary is carried on a specific route to honor the memory of Saint Rose. Thousands jam the medieval streets of Viterbo to honor St. Rose and witness this amazing spectacle.
We think we are arriving early, 6:45 for a 9PM event. The closer we get to the walled part of the town, the more people we see walking. This is not a good sign. We stumble upon one small space in a closed gas station and the car just fits. Then we walk, with great anticipation.
Many people refuse to go to this event, including our muratore, Stefano, and gardener, Felice. They think it is dangerous. Years and years ago, the Macchina toppled over, causing a lot of injury. The fear remains. I don't know whether to be fearful or not. Will this be like the running of the bulls in Pamplona? We are not sure.
We walk past Porta Romana, the gate where the Macchina is waiting like a horse in the starting gate, and down the tiny streets of San Pellegrino, the Medieval neighborhood. Our favorite pizza restaurant, Il Labyrinth, is open, and we have beer and pizza before walking down to the Palazzo Communale.
It is 7:45 and we think we can find a good spot. The Piazza is jammed full of people, most of which act as though this crowd is a main player in the event. In a characteristic Italian way, groups of people push through, as if there are places for them closer in. I suppose in a way there are.
Roy thinks he has a plan. We walk down and around several streets to the other side of the Palazzo. I am sure we will not be able to find a spot, but after weaving in and out, we find one alongside a traffic barrier, stationed at the left of the platform for the media and dignitaries. I usually am out of luck at these crowded events, because I am so short, but amazingly I am able to stand next to a barrier behind six women who are even shorter than me, all leaning tightly against the same barrier. In front of us is a huge television monitor, and clips of previous Macchinas and film of this year's Macchina are shown while we wait.
On the monitor we are shown inside the church of San Sisto, where the bishop gives Extreme Unction: the sacrament taken on one's deathbed or before battle, to the Porters of the Macchina. We see close-ups of a few of the men, in deep thought and concentration. I suppose generations of men have knelt for this blessing over the almost five hundred years it has been held.
They are dressed all in whites with crimson sashes around their waists and white fabric draped on their heads like bonnets. At the last moment, they don red cushions on their shoulders that they keep in place on their backs by means of strings, held in place between their teeth. These cushions are numbered. Underneath the macchina their individual places are also numbered, in sequence for each man to kneel, and then stand when the construction is lifted.
The engineer/artist who won the design competition for this macchina is very tall and strong. He takes his place at one of the front corners of the Macchina. The announcer beckons each group of ten men, one by one, to run forward and get under the macchina in their assigned places. There is a roar as each group rushes to the macchina, arm in arm, until eighty of them are in place underneath.
Another forty form up outside with ropes to help on the uphill parts, emergency levers to put the machine upright again if it wavers, and stands for putting it down on at the resting places. Tall men are positioned in front, short behind, for the downhill part, and they reverse order for the uphill part.
Once they are all in place, the announcer tells them "Now!" and we all take a collective big breath. The statue is lifted. I think I hear a crack as though a beam is broken. A roar comes from the crowd. The anticipation is so great that the people standing all the way to the end of the procession are nervous. We all pray for the porters' safety. It helps to see the action on the big screen. The porters are now more than ten blocks away.
It is now dark outside, and all the lights of the streets and all the lights inside the houses are turned off. There is some kind of gas generator inside the very complicated structure, and the lights of thousands of tiny little bulbs and hundreds of candles light up the night sky. There is no other light.
The announcer yells, "Uno!" They step forward one step. And then, "Uno! Uno! Uno!" as the sixty meter high Macchina di Santa Rosa moves slowly down the street. Amazingly it does not topple forward. On this part of the trip, the taller men are in the front. Once they reach us half way through the trip, and stop for a rest, the shorter men move to the front, as the angle of the street rises.
It remains dark all around. There is one stop before us, at Piazza Fontana Grande, and it is now almost 9:45. In ten minutes or so, during which there are interviews with the designer, who has since given up his spot, and local dignitaries, we stand and wait. We are told that Prime Minister Berlusconi is there, but we are happy that we do not see him.
We hear "Uno! Uno! Uno!" and the Macchina is on its way. There is an eerie silence all around us, and from the corner of the Piazza, where the plaza intersects the street where the Macchina will come from, we start to see a glow dancing upon the copper rooftop gutters. Closer and closer. And then we hear it live...
"Uno! Uno! Uno!" Above the medieval buildings across from us glides the statue of Santa Rosa, translucent as though she is made of alabaster. She carries a simple crucifix. That is all we can see, and yet its simplicity gets us off guard. We are overwhelmed. And then we see the light. An incredible wave of emotion rolls over the crowd as it arrives, wavering a little but magestic and huge, so tall above the three story buildings.
When we can see it "full on", the porters actually turn it 360 degrees and the crowd roars. Most of us are crying with emotion at this point. At the base of the Macchina are four large golden lion heads. Above them are four angels, arms crossed, looking downward pensively, their wings gracefully framing their bodies, the tips meeting below their feet. More angels above, and a more modern design which arcs out over the angels and curves and is motorized, moves like angel wings as the macchina turns.
Hundreds of candles surround each layer of statues, and most of them remain lit, even as the Macchina turns. The statue of St. Rose is held aloft at the top, standing like a beacon in all her simplicity above the almost garish construction beneath.
We are able to take it all in, as it stands not more than thirty feet in front of us, for about ten minutes. And then it is time for her to go. "Uno! Uno! Uno!" The motorized curves come closer to the statue and she moves on down the last street to her destination, outside the church of the Clarissae.
We wait a few minutes, and the crowd disperses. Deciding not to follow her to her destination, we wade through flotsam on the street, consisting mostly of empty plastic bottles and lots of newspaper. As we climb the hill descended on by the Macchina just minutes before, we see a large garbage truck ahead, anxious to begin the clean-up of the town and set the stage for the preparation of next year's Maccchina.
Sofi is happy to meet us at home, and we sit outside under a cool starry sky with her, thankful that the weather has finally turned and grateful for living another blessed day in Italia.
Yesterday, Stefano finished readying the area for the last two planters, and he was impressed that we went to the Macchina. We think this will last us for many years, but are so pleased that we went.
We took a ride to Michellini to buy the last two mermaid roses and four osmanthus plants, and Roy couldn't wait to get them planted. They look wonderful, and neighbors laugh that we call them our anti-furto design. We will also add rows of iron points to the tops of these walls soon.
Tonight we go to Castello Sant' Elia, a town below Civita Castellana, for the summertime Baroque festival. The performance tonight is Stabat Mater, and the orchestra and chorus are from Viterbo.
The Basilica, where the concert is held, is 9th century, and another place we will return to in daylight hours. Some of the performers are excellent. We really enjoy hearing this music in such glorious locations.
On the way home we are unable to get on the A-1, as the onramp is being paved. No notice. A worker stops us and waves his hand up and down in a sideways motion as though this is a real mess. He thinks we should drive toward Rome to the next exit, which is almost 15 kilometers south. Instead, we turn around and drive to east to Narni, west to Orte and take the A-1 for one exit, then we're almost home.
Roy's fingers are itching to drive, so we decide to pick up one last pot from Carlo in Ripabianca for the anti-furto project and while we're in the area we will search for two mercatos in Marsciano and Izzalina di Todi. There is no mercato in Marsciano to speak of, other than two stamp collectors and a table of garage sale quality items. Izzalina di Todi is nowhere on the map, but we drive toward Todi, thinking it must be somewhere near that lovely tourist mecca.
We take the Todi exit and drive over a curving ramp. We see a sign for Izzalina di Todi, but at a fork in the road do not know which way to turn. Amazingly, a road worker is changing road signs right in front of us. We pull over next to him and he gives us great directions. Si certo!
Fifteen minutes later, after driving up and up and up we reach the tiny hamlet of Izzalini, which consists of an old church and some outbuildings, all transformed into a major junkyard and collection of vecchio items. To call them antiques would be stretching the point. This mercato is open six days a week, and we have fun meandering through it all.
We come away with an old copper colander, and drive down another hill to find a place for pranzo. There is a place clearly marked on the side of the road... a place that will not allow us to enter with Sofi. We are really hungry by now, and on the way out to the superstrada pass a place with a pergola outside and no sign. I tell Roy to pull over, and yes, it is a place to eat. A wonderful place to eat.
Antipasto of porchetta and prosciutto, pasta al ragu, chicken cacciatoria, faggiolino, homemade bread roasted with tomatoes and spices and some local wine and we are ready for a nap. No time for that, because we have to return through Amelia to lend Tia a catalogue from the huge Chiusi vivaio, Margherita.
After a short visit with Tia, during which time Roy rescues a plant from an unwilling pot and Sofi has a few scares from Ivy the old dog and the house cats, we go home and quickly change and feed Sofi, so that we can arrive in Orte before 6PM, when the children's concert begins.
We arrive just in time. I am relieved that I will not be playing the violin. Somehow Roy finds a great parking space, and we sit in plastic chairs in the little plaza outside the tiny archeological museum. This space is usually a café, but the owner begrudgingly gives up the room for the concert, thinking people will buy drinks. By the time the concert is over, he has unkind words to say to Tiziana, accusing her of taking business away from him during this one busy hour of the festa.
The concert is so sweet. The same forty-five children who played yesterday are here, some not even able to see above their little metal music stands, and they wait for Tiziana's direction. They rub their noses and scratch their heads with their violin bows, poke each other, make faces at their parents and move the weight of their tiny bodies from one foot to the other.
Several adults are interspersed in the group, each leading their particular section. One for the cellos, one for the flutes, three for the violins, one for the keyboard...Tiziana is really a master teacher. None of them look nervous. She gives many concerts with her children and they seem to take them in stride.
During the concert, in which selections are played from: Verdi (The Four Seasons), Massenet, Scott Joplin and a piece from a local composer, who also does a little conducting, we sit on the edge of our chairs, taking photos and loudly applauding. The adults are great musicians, and are able to play The Entertainer by Scott Joplin by themselves, as the little ones stare with their mouths open. Otherwise, the children are the stars.
Simona, Tiziana's sister, acts as M.C. and does a really inspired job giving out certificates to each student. The student comes up, bows, and then Simona tells the crowd something good or funny about each student. She holds the certificate back until the student takes a bow, and has a lot of fun with these young boys and girls. No wonder these two women are so loved by all the people of Orte.
Bang! What a way to wake up...Last night an owl hooted and hooted the predawn hours away and at first light the hunters empty the barrels on their shotguns as fast as they can, as though they think the entire hunting season will end today.
The peacefulness of the valley now shattered, little birds have returned to hide in our trees and the coolness of the morning surrounds Sofi and me as we walk out on the terrace.
Roy and I walk up to church, and Livio greets us at the door. As Roy would say, "His face just lights up!" We tell Livio about Roy's role in the procession today and next Sunday, and he nods his head and smiles. Giuliola, however, tells us she is jealous. Why Orte? Why not Mugnano? I suppose there is some kind of rivalry between grand Orte and piccolo Mugnano. A reminder of the story, The little engine that could?
I am on the first step in front of the church and she is on the street just below me. I am able to put my arm around her and whisper that today is Sunday, and we are in front of the church. It is not right to be jealous. We laugh, but she is firm. Yes, she is jealous.
We also tell Livio that Roy dresses and performs the role of Babo Natale (the Italian equivalent of Santa Claus) in Orte at Christmas time. He asks Roy, "Why not Mugnano?" and Roy replies, "Because you did not ask me!" So now Roy has a second "gig"...we will keep it a secret from the children, but Roy will borrow the Orte costume this December, and will do a Babo Natale "thing" with the growing number of children who live in Mugnano or visit their relatives here on weekends.
Don Luca makes his usual loud entrance on his motorino. He has so much spirit, that although the congregation wobbles through the beginning of the first hymn, he gets everyone roused by the second verse. I notice that his voice is especially loud today. He is very effective in getting those old bones worked up of his "flock".
When it is time for the homily, he gets them talking and laughing. He is quite a guy. I have lit four candles today in church. One for the anniversary of Leo's death, one for Donna Pizzi, and one each for nieces Sarah and Elizabeth. I pray for Leo's soul, for good health and for understanding.
As we leave church, a woman I somewhat recognize comes up to me and takes me by the arm, telling me she wants us to meet her American guests. We agree and wait outside while her son runs to the house at the corner of the square and a woman peers out from behind a long white embroidered window drape. She tells us the woman is from Texas and we tell her half jokingly that if she is from Texas she is not from the U.S.
The woman comes out of the palazzo, and greets us warmly. Her name is Ginny, and she has lived in Rome for 20 years. Her son and Annarita's son are good friends. Separated from her husband, Ginny lives with her sons near the Via Veneto in Rome and is here for a visit. We are invited into Annarita's incredible home for coffee, and are thrilled. We have wanted to see inside this palazzo for as long as we have been in Mugnano.
We are told that the structure was built by Annarita's family in the 17th century! Her great great grandfather was born in Mugnano in 1810 and there are family portraits, including his, all around the great room at the top of the first set of stairs. Almost nothing has been done to the house, except a new roof. Frescos abound on the ceiling of almost every room. There are seven fireplaces and all together the palazzo covers 1,000 square meters (4,000 square feet). To put that in perspective, L'Avventura is 90 square meters.
Annarita's family has three surnames, we think Lucci is one and there are two others. We will find out about the others and with this group we will be able to really delve into the Mugnano "family" tree. Her husband's name is Roberto. He is a stranieri...We do not know where he was born. Annarita was born in the corner room of the palazzo above the great room. She shows us the room proudly and we are completely astounded by our surroundings. I think she is in her mid 50's. What a remarkable heritage!
After coffee we are taken for a tour. This fall and winter, the palazzo will be restored and broken up into apartments. She wants to rent them out, so asks if we have any friends who will want to rent by the week or the month. We answer si, certo! I don't think that Annarita and her husband, Roberto, have lived here for any of their married lives, except for a few days each year at festa time. Two years ago, they cooked a huge pig (porchetta) in their huge old forno on the bottom floor for the entire village of Mugnano.
There are boxes and boxes of letters and books and memorabilia, left behind by relatives who have lived in the house. Annarita is going to go through everything and will give some things away. I fall in love with a shade on a light in the hallway that she will dispose of, and tell her I would love to have it if she is giving it away.
We think we have seen a remarkable building, including a little bridge that goes over to another building which at one time was covered with a grape pergola. Now only the curved metal rods remain. And we are taken downstairs to the rooms originally built as a Frontoio, or olive press. The space and the equipment are so large, that the stones on the floor remain where the donkey was led around and around to grind the olives. These olives were put into the mill in the next room and a long pole, like a gear, was pushed by the donkey. She is imagining renting the space out to someone who will turn it into a restaurant. She already has a name, " Il Frontoio Vecchio". Fabuloso!
We must return to Sofia, but have agreed to keep in touch with Ginny, and with Annarita. Annarita will begin to come on weekends to oversee the project, and her fifteen-year-old son, Marco, is learning English. So we have someone else who wants to learn English and wants to trade English for Italian lessons. We are game. This is much better than going to school.
At home, we get a call from Peter Gutcher, who is in Mugnano for the weekend with Annie. They come by for a visit before pranzo, and it is good to see them again. Annie works for the organization of hunters in Rome, and I ask if she is busier now that hunting season has begun. She tells us that The Green Party in Lazio lobbied and won a reprieve for the animals...Hunting is against the law if done before October.
I ask her if she heard the gunshots this morning. She thinks it is impossible that people are hunting today. "So what will happen? Will they get a fine?" She cannot imagine that it is so, but Peter heard the gunshots with his own ears...Perhaps the hunters do not read the paper...We will see...
Roy takes a nap to get ready for his debut tonight in Orte. Storm clouds brew overhead and thunder rolls, but before we know it the clouds pass and we have another day without rain. After Roy's nap, he goes outside to water and think about his role tonight as the priori of the San Sebastian contrada. Sofi will wear my dark blue and black silk scrunchie around her neck again tonight. It fits her as though it was made for her and bunches up like a little pleated ruffle. I am not into dog costumes, but this is serious stuff. She wears it happily.
We arrive in Orte and Roy departs to get dressed and ready for his role. Sofi and I walk around for a while, then go to the Duomo and sit midway up on the front steps to get a good view. We are almost alone. But in the next half hour, the steps are full and Sofia takes her place lying down on the step below me, her head partially under the young woman's legs next to me. She is docile and perfect, lying on the step and not bothered by anything...until the drums start to beat. Tiziana and Laura see me and come over to sit with us.
Sofi's head bounces up like a Jack-in-a-box to see where the terrible noise is coming from. Barroom... Barrroom baroomm... Barrrroom... Baroom barroom. Sofi starts to shake and cannot hide far enough under us. I pick her up and she continues to shake, but there is no way I can pick her up and maneuver down the rest of the front stairs of the Duomo until every contrada has made one loop through the square. It seems endless, but the drum stop and people get up for a short break. Roy has come through looking fabulous. I cannot recognize him without his glasses, but Tiziana spot him and he waves while he is waiting to go "on".
Sofi stays in my arms until we are away from the drum noise. For the next two hours we walk around the town, listening for the sound of the drums from any of the contradas and walking in the opposite direction. Finally we see Roy back in his regular clothes, and we turn around and walk down the hill with him to the car. Sofi continues to shake until we are at home. Then she is full of life and happy again. I think she will not suffer any real trauma from this, but we will be sure to leave her at home next Sunday for the major procession at the end of Orte's festa.
On the way home, Roy rethinks his role in the Orte processions. He did not know anyone in the San Sebastiano group while he was waiting, and he offers that he will not perform in this festa again unless there is a costume for me and we can be there together. Sounds good to me.
Roy wants to see the Macchina di Santa Rosa up close during daylight hours. We enter Viterbo's medieval walled city at Porta Romana, where the scaffolding still stands walled around three sides like an empty embrace.
I imagine I am the Macchina as we drive down it's route toward the Piazza Fontana Grande and around to the right to the Palazzo Communale, where we stood just a few days ago. The rest of the route is blocked off by big iron posts in the street, which were removed for the procession and replaced the following morning. We drive down around to the left instead, and park outside the Chiesa di Santa Rosa, close to the Teatro. The last thirty or so meters are uphill...very steeply uphill.
There is a kind of plaza outside the church, and the Macchina sits in a corner near a three story house, dwarfing it by more than twice its size. Under the Macchina are huge sawhorses, set precisely level. Hopefully, it has proper engineering support s so that it will not tumble and take the buildings below with it.
Sofi and I stand at its base for a photo, to show you the proportion.
(Photo to come soon) The weather has definitely turned, and although Felice tells us the hot weather will return, we cannot imagine it any other way. It rained softly this morning, and Roy does not have to water. Instead, he takes apart the huge hose reel on the terrace and rebuilds it. Yesterday was the anniversary of his father Leo's death, and we agree that this is a kind of homage to Leo. In his last years, Leo was obsessed with garden hoses, and always had at least a piece of a hose in his pocket, attempting to change fittings for hoses that did not always exist. It takes some innovation, but Roy does a masterful job, rebuilding it with a wooden piece that supports the metal holding the hose reel. He is always busy doing something. For now, all the hose fittings he puts in his pocket have hoses to fix...
It is finally cool enough to make a pasta sauce, and I make Roy's favorite with red peppers, or pepperoni as they are called here. The air is fragrant and cool, and I welcome fall for the first time in memory. Felice comes and he and I rake part of the terrace together, I with the hand rake in between the boxwood, and Felice with the big rake under the nespola and plum trees, combing the gravel gently and scooping the leaves into an old bag. Sofi tries to grab the corner of Felice's bag and play, but we eventually get most of the leaves inside. Every day we rake again, but this is what fall is all about.
Rain again today. A lovely soft rain in the afternoon, which leaves the air fragrant and the terrace full of leaves. At around 5 in the afternoon we take Sofi out for a passagiatta. We run into Silvana and the woman who owns Baschia, a one year old male yorkie and terrier mix who is the only dog in town who will have anything to do with Sofi.
We walk with her up to the bus stop, and it is wall-to-wall Mugnanese. Every bench is full. Baschia is there on a lead, and the two dogs sniff around each other joyfully. Sofi jumps up and jumps under and rolls on her back until Baschia noses where he should not nose. Everyone cheers and it is possible Sofia is Baschia's new findanzata, because Brik comes by to see what is going on and Baschia barks and barks to let Brik know he is moving into dangerous territory. Brik backs off, and we go on about our walk.
Roy is the great animal trainer, and Sofi has the "sit" command down perfectly. Especially for a treat. She is so cute that when he has her sit and extends the time for her to sit, I cannot help putting my hand in front of my mouth to hide a proud "Isn't she wonderful" expression. We continue the walk downhill, and Catherine's car is at Karen's, so we go in and admire her garden.
She has a zucchini plant so prolific that it wants to take over. She takes one of Kees' metal ladders and extends it to a tree, looping the zucchini plant over it. She hopes he does not need the ladder for anything, for soon the zucchini will reach the tree and she will probably have hundreds of zucchini and a ladder not good for much of anything else except for use as a trellis.
This morning is so lovely and cool that I cannot decide whether to get up and go outside or stay in bed under the cool sheets and down comforter. But a look over at Sofi just lying there patiently tugs at me and up I go. We love the gravel on the terrace. Even after a rain it feels dry underfoot.
So unless Sofi jumps up into the herb garden and thrashes around under the basilico and lemon thyme, her paws stay clean. I take her out for a quick walk around before feeding her in her little handmade ceramic "Sofia" bowl, purchased on our last trip to Pittigliano.
After breakfast, we walk up to Dottoressa, who has hours today in the village. Roy continues to train Sofi to sit on command and to walk patiently by his side. I am a pushover, so the training is left to Roy, who takes his role seriously. Outside the little Commune Agraria where Dottoressa has an office about ten villagers congregate outside the porchetta truck. We call it this, but really it is a roving macelleria, or butcher shop.
The truck is the size of a camper, but it's side folds up and over the top and inside is a complete meat market. Every Wednesday morning it comes to Mugnano, fully stocked and immaculate, including a huge cooked pig (porchetta) that is sliced on demand for sandwiches, chicken, pork, veal, lamb, beef...
This man and woman are pros. They wield the old sharp knives with wooden handles with the skill of Japanese swordsmen. I watch the man cutting delicately away at a chicken, the slow deliberate strokes cut like butter against the soft flesh. When it is his turn, Roy buys some slices of porchetta magro (lean) for pranzo to have with a roll in the shape of a rosette and two chops to grill tonight.
It is difficult for people not to come over to greet Sofi. She is almost full-grown, but still tiny (sempre piccola). "Carina!" the women say when they see her. Ernesta's husband walks by and asks, "Pericoloso (dangerous)?" with a smile.
I do not need to meet with Dottoressa, but Roy has the results of his blood test to go over with her. They decide he should stay on Lipitor for his cholesterol, but one of his other tests comes out high. So he will take another test next month. We continue to marvel at the low cost of health care in Italia. We have not needed anything major, but have purchased supplemental coverage as well, in case we do. If we need it, we can go into first-rate hospitals. With this extra coverage we will also be covered when we travel to the U.S. So far it is working fine.
We hear that dear Isabel Collins fell and "hurt her wing" the other day in Berkeley. She made it to 90 without needing someone to live with her, but those days as a free bird appear to be at an end. We send our love to her and will definitely see her when we travel to the Bay Area this winter.
Currently on our minds is our lack of firewood. We will write the letter this week to join the commune agraria, but the wood we will get will be green (this year's, too young to burn). Roy remembers seeing a yard between Chia and Soriano, and we drive there to see if they have wood to buy. We find the yard, but they are out of oak, and will not have more this season. It is impossible to burn castagno (chestnut) in an open fireplace and castagno is all they have left. They do not know where to send us.
I remember that there is a wood yard in Bassano in Teverina, the town between Chia and Orte. It sells castagno for construction, but wood is wood. They should know where we can get firewood. The woman Roy approaches when we drive up is very friendly. She tells us to drive to the agritourismo in Orte, and the owner's father sells firewood. Buona fortuna!
The agritourismo, named Le Noce (the wood), is on a little back road on the way to Elizabeth's country house. We have never driven to it, but as we approach we see many ducks wobbling awkwardly on the grass and three huge ostrich, two gorgeous black and white ones and one ugly gray one, behind fences. We also see a peacock, penned in by itself. We remember that they are nasty birds that spit. So it is better to see them from a distance.
The man who sells the firewood is not there, but we get his phone number and are told to call tomorrow or the next day. We see the dry wood and it is covered. They have a truck, so it can be delivered. We may be in luck. The firewood we will get from Mugnano will be wonderful for next year, and we can store it behind the house to age.
At home after pranzo, I cut up apples and cook them with cloves and lemon to make apple sauce. This is definitely not an Italian recipe, especially with brown sugar purchased from Castroni from Rome at an exorbitant price. But it is a harbinger of fall, and when strained through my grandmother's Foley Food Mill and chilled it is a wonderful accompaniment to grilled pork chops.
Sofi lets out a bark. The smell of the apples and cloves cooking on the stove send her into rapture. She has no idea what she is smelling, but it surely must be as good as some of those decayed things she smells in the garden...
I hate to write this date. I do not think there is a person on this planet that does not remember where they were when those planes struck the World Trade Center in New York City two years ago. But then I hear a news story that the people of Afghanistan hardly paid attention to the event, thinking only about their lives and terrible living conditions in their country. When the attack took place, I was on a plane getting ready to land in Rome. Roy was in California, and by the time I left the airport with a driver, the airport had closed down.
Life will never be the same. Perhaps that is one of the reasons we chose to move to Italy earlier than we originally planned. It feels right to be here. We miss Terence and Angie very much but hope we will get to spend more time with them this winter and in the years to come. Especially sharing this house with them.
I am reminded again of the hymn I love so much:
Song of Peace (Finlandia)
This is my song, Oh God of all the nations
A song of peace for lands afar and mine
This is my home the country where my heart is
Here are my hopes my dreams my holy shrine
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine
But other lands have sunshine too, and clover
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine
O hear my song thou God of all the nations
A song of peace for their land and for mine.
An email arrived from niece Laura, and sadly for us, Isabel joined the angels yesterday, peacefully in her sleep. Roy wanted to go out to send her an Italian greeting card yesterday, and now there will be none to send. A memorial, we suppose, will take place, full of stories of this remarkable woman. We will always proudly consider her "family".
And of course the deviled eggs will be served. We don't know how it began, but Isabel always "brought the eggs" to any family event, including Mountain Play performances. Her eggs were special as only Isabel could fix them, perhaps because of the way she packaged and presented them with such joy.
When Isabel arrived, there was always some kind of fanfare. And a great exclamation from her in her high pitched voice and jolly cheeked smile, as though seeing each of us was a great surprise and a delight. But about the eggs...
Earlier in the day, Isabel boiled a dozen eggs...no more, no less. She doused them in cold water, shelled them gently, and cut them just so. Then a mix of mayonnaise, chopped parsley (not too small), pepper and a little curry powder. She filled them and put each two sides together like an oreo and affixed them with Saran Wrap. Finally, a pink toothpick pierced each egg, and it was placed in its little seat in the egg carton.
When Isabel took the carton out of her purse, she was very serious about her presentation. No matter whether there was an elegant table or just someone's lap, she opened the egg carton, unwrapped each egg and used the toothpick like a tiny knife to gently separate each half.
She held the first half out as though no one had ever eaten an egg before. The first person to try an egg always swooned with joy. She presented each little egg to each of us with the same fanfare, so proud of her accomplishment and thrilled to share it with us.
How could anyone not love this woman? I remember sitting at her knee while she told us stories of her youth:...high school with Iolanda and Leo and Harry, her successful sport clothes line with J. Magnin, or the adventures. My particular favorite had me imagining her on that trip with John Huston at the bullfight, where she described the bulls being gored right in front of them, blood spewing up like a lawn sprinkler, Isabel chortling with laughter.
We will light a candle for her at church, tomorrow, and plant something special for her in a shady spot in our garden. We remember her sitting in her little garden behind her house under the shade trees, loving each little bulb and blossom. Our lives are lovelier for knowing her, and she will always be with us in our thoughts and in our minds.
Sleep well, dearest one.
Yesterday we went to Villa Lante to their once-a-year mercato, featuring a number of excellent vivaios (nurseries) and a smattering of little entrepreneurial ventures...a bookseller, a hat-maker, a soap purveyor, a dried flower arranger, and a breeder of Jack Russell Terriers! Good thing we left Sofi in the car....
We loved the displays, especially the centerpiece with bales of hay stacked geometrically with plants in between, arranged in a circle, like a medieval tower. And imagine...Villa Lante as a backdrop. Fabulous.
Tiziana was there from Michellini, as was a display from Walter Branchi Le Rose, but Walter was nowhere to be found. The woman who has taken over his business made some kind of reference to him gamboling about Italy, so we will have to email him and find out what he is doing these days. It is hard to imagine that we have been here fifteen months and still have not connected with him.
Yesterday, I started violin lessons again with Tiziana. My wonderful violin was sadly out of tune, but I was able to pick up almost where I left off once she worked her magic on it. It felt so good to play, and I look forward to adding practicing joyously to my daily routine. With the violin in the second bedroom, I can set up the music stand and keep it out all the time. I really feel as though we have settled in...finally.
The project to put in heavy fabric as a rain shield in the loggia has become more of a project than we thought. We found the heavy sailcloth fabric in a beautiful blue color to set off the blue and white striped material under the counters. The "curtain" will be made by an awning-maker in Viterbo, but we are deciding whether to put grommets at the top and lace the fabric in and out on a taut wire or put metal rings at the top of the fabric and string the rings on a black wrought iron rod.
Finding the hardware has been a real undertaking...Obi in Viterbo, Aquilani in Vetralla, and every hardware store in between. Nothing is just right. Now Roy has found the right metal to bolt into the steel reinforcing rod at the front of the loggia, so we are working this out one part at a time. If we were in California this project would be done by now...
Luckily it will only take a week to get the material fabricated. And Stefano promises to do the paving of the loggia before the end of September. Piano, piano, every little project takes so much time. And we have plenty of that.
I light a candle for Isabel in church this morning, and this afternoon we return to Orte for Roy to finish his role of priori in the city's medieval procession. It sounds as if we are taking this role of Roy's for granted. Not for a moment. We are gratified that he has been asked. Every day we feel more and more woven into the tapestry that is this incredible country.
After mass, Tiziano tells us about his ten-day archeological dig at a tiny Etruscan village south of Civitavecchia on the coast. He was able to uncover ancient tufa pavement from the 6th century before Christ, and some small pottery fragments. Next year, the most important finds will be included in a new exhibit at the local museum near the dig, along with other important items found over the last fifty years.
Years ago, I remember fantasizing with my father about going to an archeological "dig" and for a while, I was caught up with the idea of becoming an archeologist. I have no idea what happened to those plans, but the interest has lain hidden within me for all these years. I even remember the book I promised myself to read and never did: Gods, Graves and Scholars.
I kept it with me until just before we moved, and sadly lost track of it. Perhaps writing about Etruscan history and visiting the places will bring it all back. We enjoy reading about this ancient time and these Etruscans, and look forward to becoming much more knowledgeable about these people and their times.
The Italian Gran Prix is in Monza today, and we are able to watch a little of it before driving to Orte. Later, Roy tells me that while he was getting dressed in the San Sebastiano dressing room, the TV there made it possible for them to watch the game until 7 minutes before the end of the race, when someone tripped on the power cord and they could not figure out where to plug it in again.
Later we see the recap at home, with Michael Barrichello the winner. Secretly I hoped Juan Montoya would overtake him for the lead. At one point he almost did. There are only three points between the two with two races left. Michael has some humbling to do. He was fined heavily earlier in the season for running another driver off the track. We will see...
While Roy watches TV in San Sebastiano's "green room", I find a perfect place to take pictures, in front of a wooden barricade right near the front viewing stand. As usual, just before the procession begins, the barricade is moved and all of us are told to find other places to stand. I back up and somehow the guards let me stay there.
Tiziana and Simona and their children's dance classes perform a medieval dance before the procession, accompanied by medieval lutes and drums and helped by a taped cd.
After the dance, Alberto announces the start of the procession. Roy is in San Sebastiano, the first of seven contradas to participate. He looks spectacular and so comfortable with his role as co-big shot of the contrada (A priori is like a mayor of a contrada...Then what is the role of the other guy in the same costume walking with Roy? We never did find out.)
Afterward, there is an archery competition between contradas, but we are tired and miss Sofi. As interesting as the event is, we look forward to returning to our own quiet life at home.
We find the hooks for the cloth for the loggia in Giove, triangular shaped ones and we buy one, to try out. First we go to Virgilio to get the iron rod, but his shop is closed, so he must be out doing an installation. We will return later. As soon as we get the rod, we can go to Viterbo and order the cloth. We hope to have the new loggia floor and this weatherproof curtain installed before our next set of guests arrive for pranzo at the beginning of October.
The vendemmia is early this year...in some cases almost a month, due to the heat and lack of rain. We are told that the grape harvest will be a good one, albeit smaller than usual. We will want Mario and his brother to repair the wall between our lavender garden and our new land before we buy and plant the 6 olive trees, but we will have to take backstage to their involvement with the vendemmia.
At this time of year, it is impossible to get workers, because every truck and every man is hired to help with the grape harvest. And the trees must be planted in the fall. So it is possible that the trees will have to wait until next year.
After pranzo (everything in Italia is either referred to as before pranzo or after pranzo), we go to Virgilio and this time both he and his son, Aldo are there. Within ten minutes, we have the 3.40 centimeter rod we need for €10, soldered at each end. We agree to pick it up after we have done our other errands this afternoon.
We drive to Orte at 4:30 PM, the appointed hour to meet with the man who sells the firewood at the agritourismo. A woman out in the shed feeding the ducks tells us he is not there and does not know when he will return. We wait around and another car comes up and one of the sons gets out. After he finishes a cell phone call, Roy asks him and he gets the woman, who must be his mother.
She thinks the old man forgot. He is out in the field cutting firewood. We can go to see him, but Roy is not sure of her directions. I hear her say a blue truck. We drive out on the same bumpy strada bianca we came in on, and I see a blue ape (little three wheeled truck) sitting in the middle of a field, with a man inside doing nothing. Roy stops the car and gets out, going over to the truck. This is the man we are looking for.
Roy makes a deal with him, and he will bring the wood later this week, cut small and very dry. Roy gets back in the car and I ask him if the man will bring the firewood in his ape. He thinks so. He thinks he has seen him driving up the steep Bomarzo hill. It must take him forever. We wave goodbye and I think he goes back to sleep.
We drive to Obi in Viterbo, and the clips we want to buy are 35 cents each more expensive than the ones at the little store in Giove. Since we want almost 20 of them, we will not buy them here.
We are ready to order the material, and the young man at the small shop across from our friends at ACI take our order. Roy asks, "What time tomorrow morning can we pick this up? Little joke." This is a very effective way to get things done quickly. It will be ready Saturday morning. Wonderful. And at a very inexpensive price.
We drive back through Bomarzo and pick up our rod, just as Virgilio is locking his door. It has been a productive afternoon.
Yesterday and today, the movie "E.T." has been showing on one of the Italian movie channels. We sit and watch it to see if we can figure out the dialog. The best part is the scene where Eliott finds out that Drew Barrymore dressed E.T. up in her clothes. E.T. toddles around and points to the telephone, and then to the sky, saying, "Ahhh...Tea....Telefono....casa..." What a riot.
Our fabric for the loggia is finished already! Roy brings it home with the clips. Today he painted the rod and we hung it up in the loggia. All the measuring and research we did paid off. It looks great.
On his trip over the Bomarzo hill to Viterbo earlier this afternoon, Roy passed a fire close to the road. In front of him, the asparagus farmer pulled off the road and called the Vigili Fuoco to report it.
When back from a later errand, Roy reports that the fire has come most of the way down the Bomarzo hill and is threatening a long drive at the curve at the bottom of the hill. Big planes are swooping overhead to drop water they pick up from the Tiber. I think this is another of those careless cigarette fires.
Shelly and Claudio's hill is engulfed in smoke, and we call to leave a message to see if there is anything we can do. The fire is nowhere near them, but the smoke covers the whole Tiber Valley now like a dirty blanket. We close our bedroom window and wait to see what happens.
Time to do the fall planting, and we will start with more Sant'Anna lattuga (round), cetrioli (cucumbers), radicchio and rugghetta (arugula) tonight, purchased today in Orte. We are still unable to find rugghetta other than in seed packets, so will try to start them from seed again.
We will consult our September calendar for what else to plant. The pepperoni are still thriving and getting redder by the day. The basilico and presemelo and salvia are doing well in the herb planter outside the loggia. Otherwise, there is not much left.
The firewood will be delivered Friday afternoon. If this happens, it will be a miracle. We will write the letter this week to the Commune Agraria and have Tiziano look it over when we go to his house on Saturday for our follow-up conversation lesson. We have told the folks at Eurolinks not to expect us to return this fall. We will try spending more time having normal conversations with locals for the next stage in our language comprehension.
On a ride out this morning, we saw the results of yesterday's fire. The smoke has cleared, but charred grass is all that remains of most of the back of one of the hills going toward Bomarzo. Shelly calls early afternoon, in great stress. Another fire, 50 meters up the hill toward Bomarzo is ablaze. This is the third fire in three days. The Forestale (firemen) believe there is an arsonist at work. Three fires are in close proximity to each other.
She wants everyone to take a neighborhood watch with binoculars. Shelly and Claudio are at the top of one of the hills toward Bomarzo, and have a whole grove of old oaks on the side of the hill closest to the fires. I am skeptical that this will make a difference and ask what the Forestale recommends.
Unfortunately, the two fire stations that service our area are not close by...Viterbo on one side and Amelia on the other. I hear big planes and helicopters overhead. We will keep as close a watch as we can.
Across the street, an electrical box has been installed next to Pia's gate. It is an ugly thing, but hopefully Pia will have a tasteful cancello. She may put in a light, which would also light our path better. We do not know what to expect, but since any structure won't be tall, it won't have any impact on our view. Magari!
Last evening it was quiet here. A haze from the fires sighed over the valley and birds slowly returned to our terrace. Just before we went to bed, Claudio called our cell phone to ask if our phone lines are out. They are. His lines are out as well, but thankfully we give everyone our cell phone number. We will see tomorrow what has caused this outage. Luckily, other than email, it is not a great problem for us.
With no phone or internet lines, we decided last night that today will be a good day to take the train to Florence. Sofi's first train ride. We leave the house at 6:30 and drive to Orte, which has better train connections than Attigliano/Bomarzo, and arrive in Florence in two hours.
First stop is the tourist leather market at San Lorenzo, and we do our shopping there and then want to go to Ristorante Del Faggioli on the other side of the city. It is a lovely day, and we walk. It takes about an hour, through back streets and through lovely piazzas.
While we are in the midst of our walk, we stop on the steps of the Ospedale to feed her tiny pieces of cooked chicken that I had prepared last night. This huge building has nine original Della Robbias just above the loggia, each a baby in swaddling cloth. The hospital was built for abandoned babies several hundred years ago.
Just before we arrive at the restaurant, Sofi goes on strike. Plop! She is down on all fours, looking up as if to say, "Basta!" I pick her up, and for the entire lunch she lies on the tile floor, hardly moving. During lunch, there is not a peep from her. We put a little water in a clean ashtray and serve it to her at my feet, and this and a rest is all she wants. I give her a little piece of bread when we are almost finished, and she is almost too tired to eat it.
Pranzo at this restaurant is really special for Roy and me. We have been to this place a few times before, and are definitely not disappointed. Roy starts with liver crostini and then roast duck with an order of cannelloni beans in buttery olive oil. I order bruschetta with pomidori and basilico, followed by roast pork and the same incredible beans. We ask for a half liter of house wine. They bring out a big chianti bottle with raffia, and tell us this is their house wine. Not to worry...they will only charge us for what we drink.
"So what do they do with the rest of the bottle?" I wonder to Roy after the waiter leaves. We savor each taste, and drink more wine than we intended. We linger over an espresso and then we walk back to the mercato on the other side of the city. It is warm, about 80 degrees, and our feet are really sore and tired, so we walk slowly, taking turns with Sofi in each of our arms. She is totally pooped out.
With our errands done, we decide to take an earlier train back rather than sightsee. Strangely, we have never really seen Florence. Other than a few sites...the Duomo...the Boboli Gardens, we don't know much at all about Florence. We have things to do whenever we go, so never seem to be able to take that extra time to see museums or more churches.
We enjoy Florence, and will return again this fall, hopefully with no agenda. We really must try another place for pranzo, but like this one so much we look forward to going back.
There is still no phone service when we return home, so it is a good excuse to watch a movie and go to bed early.
We sleep late, and but get up in time for my violin lesson in Orte. After my lesson, Tiziana and I meet Roy and Sofi on the steps of the Duomo. She tells us we are invited for pranzo at the trattoria of the San Sebastiano contrada on Sunday, a traditional lunch for everyone participating in the procession. Roy declines, thinking that we are going to the opera in Spoleto in the afternoon and don't want to leave Sofi home for the whole day.
Still no phone service at home, and when we drive over the Bomarzo hill to Orte we are able to view the actual phone lines down and the whole side of much of the valley on the Bomarzo side charred from the fire. It could take a week or more for the phone lines to be installed.
"This is a perfect time to install ISDN lines to Mugnano," I quip to Roy, but we are sure they are not going to do that.
Later in the day we wait for the delivery of the firewood. Somehow I am doubtful. This process has been just too easy....
Of course the firewood was not delivered yesterday afternoon. An hour after the appointed time, Roy called to find out the status with no luck. He called again late last night, with a promise that the wood would be delivered this morning at ten. At eleven A M, the man is nowhere to be found.
We drive to his agritourismo, taking the same route he would take to our house. He is nowhere to be found. We are told he is in the field cutting wood, so we drive down the strada bianca and make a turn to find a blue ape, but not his ape. Another man tells us he is in Orte getting his truck repaired. We drive all around Orte, including the place where we thought he'd repair his truck, with no luck. So on to Narni, where Roy thinks there will be a mercato.
No mercato this weekend, but we are able to find a red harness for Sofi. We also meet up with another Basotto, amazingly from the same breeder but five years old. They are happy to see each other....
At pranzo time, we drive back to the agritourismo, the wood field, and back to the agritourismo, where Roy finally corrals Sr. Cercucci, who has our card in his hand. He tells Roy he was getting his truck fixed but will deliver the firewood today at 3pm. He arrives just before four PM with a larger truck and really good firewood. The truck is able to back in and dump it and Roy is stacking it in a "preciso" manner, just below the side wall next to the terrace.
We leave Sofi guarding the house and drive down to Tiziano's for our combined English/Italian lesson. What fun we have. This is such a confusing language. There are two words we want to concentrate on, "proprio (peculiar, characteristic, proper, one's own) and comunque (however, nevertheless). We learn that proprio is a good way of making an emphatic statement. The word is stronger than "molto". Serena and Vincenza tells me our garden is proprio, and Roy affirms that they think it is quite wonderful.
We learn the difference between a joke (battuta...fare una battuta is to "crack a joke") and ferro battuto (iron forged). Il batuto di lardo refers to things cut up very small in cooking. Battuto means "to pound". So I ask if battuto di lardo could refer to what one does in a gym (pounding off fat) and we all have a big laugh.
Spaccato means "to break" (bread, with one's hands), whereas spaccare means to divide (as in wood). And tagliare refers to cutting with a knife. Will we every learn this involved language? Somehow we seem to get a little better every day.
On the way up to church, we meet Dina, Vincenza and Augusto. Vincenza tells me it is tempo ideale. This is a wonderful phrase, especially after the overuse of "c'e bella journata!" The priest with bad eyesight and three sets of glasses officiates mass, and must be in a great hurry. Mass starts five minutes early and in twenty minutes we are ready for the homily. Now he slows down, but the mass is still quick.
We walk home at 10:15 and as we pass Donato getting out of his Montebove truck, we ask him if his vendemmia was finished yesterday. He looks tired and happy. When we ask him if the vendemmia will be a good one, he tells us he will not know for fifteen days. Romeo, on the other hand, is sure it will be a good one. Vincenza thinks it will be sweet and "forte" (strong). He thinks not so sweet but very good. I suppose it depends on whom you talk to whether their wine is tasty or not.
We leave midafternoon to go to the opera in Spoleto, and Sofi spends the rest of the day in our room in her bed. The opera is La Traviata, and we are not knowledgeable about the libretto, so we open up Opera for Dummies, a paperback we have in the house, to read the plot. Violetta is the heroine and she is a reformed prostitute with tuberculosis. We look forward to the music, especially the drinking song.
Our seats are great, in a center box on the palco (first) row of boxes. This is an experimental lyric opera, so it is not "big time", but Simona, who is Tiziana's sister, and her boyfriend, Giorgio, are in the chorus, so we look forward to seeing them.
The first act is in a hall and when the drinking song starts, Roy turns to me and we start to laugh. And laugh. When Roy's mother died, we wanted to have someone sing an opera aria at her funeral mass. So we listened to a number of cd's with famous arias. The one we liked best was the drinking song from La Traviata.
When it was sung, Fred Campagnoli, who had been Vice Chairman of the San Francisco Opera Board and a great friend of Iolanda's, laughed out loud. We turned around and he told us he thought that was great. We had no idea that on top if it being a drinking song sung in a Catholic Church, the heroine was a prostitute. It took us until now to realize how really funny that choice of music was and how na•ve all of Iolanda's children and their spouses were.
The day continues to be funny, as the orchestra conductor conducts most of the opera with his right arm, his left arm leaning on the rear wall of the orchestra pit. Violetta, the heroine, sounds as though she has an advanced stage of tuberculosis in the first act. There is hardly any applause for her singing. Luckily she wakes up, or warms up, or whatever, because by the time she dies in the fourth act, she can really belt one out.
We come home to a beautiful warm night, and on the way up the hill see two tiny foxes. Every night we come home we see them in the same spot. I wonder how many of them are.
I have not written much about the telephone problems, but we may not have phone lines for another week. This morning before church, Dina tells me to be patient. I answer, "Magari! Sensa telephono Mugnano e tranquillo" I really don't care if we don't get our phone lines back for weeks.
Karina calls at the last minute and we decide to take a train down to Rome to be with her for the day. It is 9:30 AM and we are in Rome meeting her around 12 noon. Good timing, since we drive first to Orte to take the train from there and experience our first major truckers strike. All road leading to Orte are closed up tight...
Wall to wall trucks and men carrying flags and blue police cars and policemen everywhere. Somehow we are able to get off the A-1 just before they close the off-ramp. We manage to get through the toll plaza and take a road Roy knows around the town and arrive at the train station with hardly any wait. We are lucky. We have no idea what the strike is all about. Sometimes not really knowing the language is bliss.
Stefano and Roberto come to look over the cracks in the house. They are more pronounced since this summer. Is it because of all the weight on the roof? Is it because of all the water that had run under the house before we were connected with the village sewer?
Roberto will give us a preventivo (estimate) before the end of the week. He tells us we can put in a cement pad all along the back of the house as part of the original sewer project, but that if we want to close up the room under the bathroom we will need a new permit from Bomarzo. We might as well get that going, and will ask him to after we get the cement work done.
Roy and I also plot out that we will pull out all the dead lavender and have Mario till all the soil, get the patch above ready for planting potatoes in February, the soil down below cleaned up from the tomatoes, and the lavender garden ready for 40 new small plants.
We will get them from Michelini. There is plenty of room between the cherry tree and the old rosemary bush to plant more vegetables. Roy really wants to not have to water up above where the potatoes are going to be grown.
Pat and Dick Ryerson arrive for breakfast and a look around. They have not been here before. We are able to share stories, and it seems we had the same problem with our new water heater, purchased just after we bought the house. Some insects made a home in the vent, and when we took our first trip here, could not get any hot water. Enzo showed us the family who was living in the pipe, and Pat tells me she and Dick did not have hot water for three days. Dick does not believe the hydraulico who came to fix their heater. After a while, you figure out who to believe and who not to believe. We think the hydraulico was right. But that is only from our experience.
It was good to see them, and to learn all the news about our friends in Larkspur. After they leave, we get ready for pranzo with Tia and Bruce. Sofia is in heaven today. She loves people, and loves attention. I enjoy speaking with Tia about the garden and about planting. Perhaps someday I will even know what I am talking about.
Donna and Phillip ask us if they can use our web site pictures and use us as subjects for a documentary film on Americans moving to Italy. Si certo! It will be fun to work with them on it. And our phones come back on. We later learn that there are 31 new telephone poles, so no wonder it took a week to do the work.
Roy leaves before dawn to go to the skin clinic in Capranica, and Sofi and I stay in bed. I wake up after 7 and look out the South window to see the reflection of the sunrise dancing in and out of the clouds in the pink and blue sky on the right open window panel.
It is a dream to have the front windows open again, without the protection from shutters. During the hot summer months, they were closed all the time to keep the heat out and the coolness in. Now the fragrant air surrounds us, and the sweet sunlight is in full view from morning till night, when the lights of Chia across the valley twinkle in the dark.
I wake up and go downstairs with Sofi. I turn on Fox on the TV and watch the end of the California Governor's race debate. Not a clear choice among them. We have voted, but don't think there is a good candidate among them. We really don't like Fox news, but it is the only real American news. CNN is European news mostly, and BBC is, well, BBC.
After Roy returns, Tia comes by and we take her down to Gadi at the foot of the hill to see if she can find some large old furniture pieces for her house. We find a beautiful vetrine, a walnut armadio with very old glass front panels. She will bring Bruce back on Saturday to look it over. There are always interesting pieces there, and it is good to see Sasha doing so well.
Next, we take my violin to Viterbo to get three little metal tuners for the strings. Otherwise, we are at home for the rest of the day and evening. Catherine comes by to bring some rugghetta plugs, and to take what we thought were cucumber plugs...She assures us they are cauliflower! Roy will definitely not eat cauliflower, so it is a good trade.
We learn that she used to play the fiddle and I offer to ask Tiziana if she knows where Catherine can buy an inexpensive violin. Perhaps we can fiddle together. That would be fun. I am really enjoying playing again, although my right arm and shoulder are giving me trouble. I feel like an athlete, playing through the pain. It's really not a big deal.
Roy and Sofi and I putter around the garden, and when I am deadheading roses in the fiorieras I see something large and round and white. A mushroom! It is about two inches in diameter, completely white. I show it to Roy and pick it out, then walk with Sofi down the street to see if any of the neighbors know what kind it is, and if it is poisonous. The mushroom is obviously the result of a drenching rain yesterday. But what a surprise!
No one really wants to tell me if it is safe. First I ask Rina and Rosina and a young woman I think is Gioliola's daughter. Then Donato's mother. Then Marino and the tall young man who lives next to the bus stop. I see Bascia across the street with his master, and Sofi has to make a run at him. She behaves like a hussy around him, darting right for his face, nestling under his chest, bouncing all around. All the men love it.
There are several men sitting there, including Mariani, and no one really knows the provenance of this white orb. So we all agree that we will not eat it. We take it home and throw it out. Perhaps we should have taken pictures of it to take to Claudio. It is not important. There will be many mushrooms in our future...the rainy season is upon us.
Two days ago, we had Pat and Dick Ryerson for breakfast, and Tia and Bruce for pranzo. Sunday, it's Tanya who is a friend of dear Isabel Collins. Next Monday, it's Max and Diane Beere for pranzo, followed the next Monday by Dorothy Slattery and her husband, Charlie, and Kristin and Dave Amador. Two days later, it's Ding and Paul Young, and soon after that a visit from Suzanne Ciani and possibly her sister, Judith. Suzanne may stay overnight, and possibly Tanya as well. Otherwise, everyone is coming for pranzo. We will have a busy month, and we will enjoy every minute of it.
Today I cooked a big batch of red pepperoni tomato sauce and a second tray of peach granita, both at home now in the freezer in our loggia. We like having those things on hand, to make it easier to spend time with our guests.
Today is our 22nd wedding anniversary. Last night when we were having cocktails on the terrace, Roy sweetly said, "I can't even remember what it was like to not be married to you." We have no plans for today. Just another sweet day loving each other.
Yesterday I had a violin lesson in the morning, but otherwise spent a quiet and lovely day. Except for a visit to Dottoressa about my shoulder. I have pills to take for a week and then x-rays. We will see...
Today we did work on the garden. Roy finished making the perfect wood pile in the parcheggio and covered it with a tarp. With advice from Rina in the orto garden next door, he added two plastic water bottles, upside down, to keep the birds away from eating the lettuce.
Cherie's bird chimes made Rina laugh. None of the neighbors think they will do anything. But we like it there just the same. Along with the rughetta (arugula) which Catherine gave us earlier this week, our lettuce and radicchio are lined up like Revolutionary War soldiers ready for battle.
Roy stakes the pepperoni and it continues to bear fruit. The little loquat in the lavender garden blossoms and plenty of green fruit has appeared. Soon I will make some kind of preserves with the loquats...perhaps a kind of marmalade...the loquat is a little acidic and bitter but has an interesting taste.
Tonight Paola comes by with the seat assignments for our winter trip to the U.S. It is a lovely evening, and we sit on the terrace and laugh about how the people of the village are reacting to us. Her father, Pepe, stands in his orto garden next door and we can tell he would love to be here with us.
Pepe and Roy have a conversation tonight about our shared little lane. The area between our property and his garage and orto garden is owned by the commune, and has huge tufa outcroppings, including some low ones that someone carved steps out of to get to the cantinas in the back and our side gates.
So only three families use this "dead end" lane. The man we call "Capitan", who lives in Rome but also visits occasionally, (especially spending time with Gianfranco next to him) owns one cantina, Pepe owns the second. Pepe's gate to his orto garden is on the right and our side gate is on the left. Also, we have planted planters and spiny evergreens and spiny roses along our side wall as a kind of "anti-furto" protection, even though the area is just outside our property.
Well, Pepe thinks we should have a gate at the beginning of the lane. He has measured, and it would slide against the front of his garage. The design would be the same as our cancello, and built by Virgilio. Pepe, Capitan and we would pay for the gate and the installation, and there would be three keys, one for each family.
We think this is a great idea. It would be much more security for us. So we give Pepe the go-ahead to pursue it.
Serena and Vincenza appear at the side gate and I open it up with Sofi in my arms. They come in, and we talk about the birds and our plastic bottles. Then, we all go outside to the little lane, where the conversation between Pepe and Roy takes place. In the meantime, Serena tells Roy that her name means "mermaid"...Cirena...it is fitting that the rose on our little lane is named after this lovely woman.
Pepe is clearly set on "bonding" with Roy. He has come up with a men's walking tour ("Does Roy have a walking stick?" he asks. "Si, certo.") Roy has his grandfather's mushroom stick as well as a carved walking stick. Pepe knows of a hike in the valley to a hill with a 360 degree view, perfect for taking pictures.
In the next week or so this hike will take place. I am sure they will take food and drinks. Roy will come back with some real stories, I am sure. I am not sure, however, how he feels about this male "bonding".
It rained a sweet rain in the middle of the night, and even though our white duck lounge chairs were left outside, they will be hosed in the morning and dry off in the loggia. Last night we rented a film, "The Women" and I fell asleep before it was half way through. I think I had two glasses or red wine and they did me in. In the middle of the night I get up and have a headache. There is no power.
In the morning, there is no power and we are without power for most of the day. At 3PM it comes back on, as though it had been on all the time. In the meantime, Roy drives out to Attigliano to find out what has happened. It appears some power grid in France or Switzerland went out, and all of Italy is plunged in darkness. It was strange last night to see even little Chia plunged into darkness.
I make broth with stelline (tiny pasta stars) and dark bread with cheese and olive oil for pranzo, so we will not have to open the refrigerator, but burn the pads of four finger tips on my right hand on an aluminum plate. I fantasize in all my delirium that I have been fingerprinted and now must get re-printed, as my "print" will change. Is this how unlawful people disguise their identity? It is surely not worth the pain.
The sympathy, however, is gratifying, and when the power goes back on I take my rubber kitchen gloves upstairs to take a shower and wash my hair. I would have not made a good frontier woman. I am just a wimp, and an absent minded one at that. I often forget to turn the burners off on the oven or the stove. No wonder old people are not allowed to live alone. Perhaps I have a few years before that happens to me.
Tanya calls and Florence has just had its power turned back on, but she is advised not to go to the train station, because there will be long lines. So we invite her to come tomorrow, instead. She will join Max and Diane Beere here for pranzo and then we will all go to Orvietto. She may stay with us Monday night, but then will go to Lucca, where she has rented a house for a week. We have not met her, but she was a friend of Isabel's, and we think is bringing some of Isabel's ashes for us to scatter in our lavender field. We hope so.
It rains intermittently all day. For part of the afternoon, Sofi and I sit in the loggia and read. What a perfect place to sit in front of a huge "cornice" (picture frame) and look out over the terrace and Tiber Valley. The fog undulates in and out of hill after hill after hill, obscuring the far hills and delineating those at close range. It is gray-green and fragrant and lovely. Sofi sits on my lap and snoozes while I read Edith Wharton's Italian Backgrounds.
Tonight Roy and I take turns stirring polenta with the huge carved wooden spoon from Sorano. We eat soft polenta tonight, but will refrigerate it and grill it for tomorrow's pranzo. It will last for several days in the refrigerator and taste great grilled with red pepperoni sauce on top.
The day ends cool and fragrant, just as it began.
Tanya calls from Florence and will arrive just before pranzo at Orte. Roy goes to pick her up, hoping the train will be early. Instead, the train is 45 minutes late. He calls from the station and Max and Diane have already arrived, so he comes home and picks them up to take them with him to go back to Orte. No matter. Pranzo lasts all afternoon, the rain stays away, and we are able to eat and enjoy the meal on the terrace.
We have Isabel's framed picture on the table, and have our own mini memorial for her. Later in the day, after Max and Diane have left and Roy and I are in the kitchen, Tanya put some of Isabel's ashes in a little container for us and comes inside to talk some more about our dear friend. We plan to scatter the ashes over the lavender field when we replant the new crop in October. October...the month is almost here.
It feels so good to put on a sweater during the day and to sleep under a down comforter with the windows wide open at night. The days are shorter, but with none of the stress accompanying our former trips here, we are able to enjoy the smallest pleasures.
Later in the afternoon, before it gets dark, we take Tanya and Sofi to Viterbo. First we drive down our favorite secret area of Viterbo, with tufa "birms" as high as those we saw years ago in Wales. Then we go to San Pellegrino, the medieval district, and walk her around. The sky is cobalt blue and the sliver of a moon is a perfect backdrop for a photo of a medieval tower.
At home we make pizzas, after introducing Tanya to the indescribable taste of little slices of pecorino cheese spread with honey. We finally use Angie's Pizza Stone, which we have had since before we moved. It is a great tool, and the pizza comes out crispier than we could have imagined.
We sleep well, crooned to sleep by the local owl, who sounds as though he is sending signals across the valley. Hooo-hoo-hooooooo.
We decide to take Tanya to Orvieto, where she will take a train to Lucca. It has been fun to have her here. We drive to the train station, where she checks her bag, and look for Renzo, but he is not working today. Renzo is Tiziana's father, and the station master.
Although we like taking the funicular, we decide to drive all the way up today. There are a few clouds, but the sky is a brilliant blue. We walk around and go into a few shops, but take Tanya to the Duomo, where we say goodbye and come home.
We have a little rain, then a cloudy night. The neighborhood owl is on a hooting binge, and somewhere in the valley someone is practicing medieval drum beats. The sound continues till past midnight, when I finally...fall...asleep.