Was it just a few hours ago that we nodded off to dreamland? Today is bright and balmy. This is one of those shirtsleeve days, when the sun, lying low overhead, gets the birds singing early. Sofi and I walk happily, and there is some superstitious thing about the first man one sees on the first day of the year....Once outside the house, it is Marino, smoking a cigarette as he slides out the cab of his truck on the driver's side, just in front of the bus stop. Good thing I am not in the market for a man. This would not be a good year for me....
Back at home, Suzanne and Roy are having coffee and cookies. We drive up to mass, because it is late, but the church is locked. We remember some notice in last week's bulletin that mass will be at a strange time today. Yes, it will be one hour later, Giuliola reminds us, as she leans like a bowsprit out her top window. Later in church she gives me un gran abraccio (a big hug), telling me not to worry that I forgot the time.
When we walk up to church at 10:15, we encounter a very different scene. Walking gives us the chance to see all the spent wine jugs and paper wrappings of the fireworks from last night near the caduti monument. We heard and saw the noise at midnight, but wonder who actually participated in the silliness of the local fireworks.
Before mass, we have a chance to greet people one-by-one to wish them "Auguri!" and "Buon Anno". We remember to pronounce the double "n" in Anno. Otherwise we are referring to someone's behind. I especially like this day, with hugs and double kisses to people in the village we want to greet in a friendlier way. Week by week, month by month, we are welcomed more into the fabric of the village. It is as though we are not dangerous anymore. Neighbors now know they can hug us without the fear of anything evil happening to them.
Today, we give Rosina the Babbo Natale gift for her grandson, Federico, and she smiles so warmly I think the ice has gone from her face permanently. She asks us to come for coffee, "Prende un caffé?" and we will surely do that soon. Elena comes in wearing her New Year's Day mink coat, and Roy gives her the photo of her with Babbo, placed discreetly in a white envelope. The bell rings for mass and everyone takes their seats.
After mass, Elena thanks Babbo for the photo. We introduce Suzanne all around, and she walks back with Lagrimino, who she finds out is Gino. This old guy must be close to 97, but is very upbeat. Today he has more reason for spring in his step. What a way to begin a new year with a beautiful young woman on his arm!
Yes, we have lentils and salsiche for pranzo. It is an Italian custom to eat lentils for the first pranzo, because lentils resemble coins, and it is said that if you eat lentils on the first day of the year, money will come your way.... It is also custom to wear red on New Year's Day....especially red underwear...and Suzanne and I comply. I also wear a red sweater and scarf and Sofi has her red collar and lead. Roy wears a red checked shirt. We are covered...
Tonight we drive to a Capodano (top of the year) concert in Viterbo at Santa Maria Della Verita, a huge stone church located right outside the wall. This concert is a performance of the Orchestra Sinfonica Giovanile di Viterbo, and there must be 50 members, seated at the front of this lovely church. Tiziana and two of her friends, Daniela and Simona, who are first violins and violincellos, are seated in different locations in the orchestra. They must be guest members.
The conductor, or Directtore, is Sergio Magli. He is slim and stylishly bald, but what we notice is that he flays his arms and beats his fists in the air like a man possessed. At one moment, he even folds his arms tightly against his chest like a cartoon chicken (Squak!) No wonder...Verdi's Nabucco, Mascagni's prelude to Cavalleria Rusticana, Wagner's Lohengrin Prelude....plus lots of Johann Strauss are featured in the program. These are heady pieces of music with lots of noise and drums and tympani. Rather a classical music concert for a non-classical audience.
There are so many encores that they start to repeat the encore, Strauss's "Washington Post", twice ...(This is the waltz during which the audience claps to a specific beat and is known as a standard New Year's piece anywhere in the world.) Afterward, we get together with Tiziana and her parents, Renzo and Laura, and invite them for pizza at a favorite nearby restaurant in the medieval quarter of Viterbo. Over pizza, we learn more about the romance between Simona and Giorgio and Suzanne and Tiziana are able to speak as musicians. We hope they will put together a concert for children some day.
For two days, my migraine headaches have returned, and I go up to bed with an icepack. Earlier in the day, Sofi slept by my side as I tried to sleep this latest round of aches away. Soon I will go to Perugia to the national headache clinic there, so for now I will try to remember everything I eat and any stresses that might have triggered this latest bout. I will later remember a peaceful and joyous start to the new year.
Loredana calls us early to wish us a happy first wedding anniversary...It is a good thing, because we both forgot. Was it only last year that we were married in the tiny chapel at Scarzuola...our second marriage to each other but the first in the Catholic church? Lore remembered because she and Alberto were our witnesses. What a day that was!
Suzanne's plane for Paris leaves today around 3pm, so we decide to drive her to Fiumicino. The connection from Orte is too slow by train. Once there, we kiss her c'e veddiamo and stop at IKEA on the way back, where we have pranzo and pick up hangers, a new tiny rug for Sofi and crispy cookies. It takes us less than an hour to get back home. The sky is dreary and it is very cold. On the way down, the pouring rain could have turned to sleet. The temperature was no more than 36 and we were lucky. Our once-a-year snow day will have to wait.
Luigina comes down the street when we get out of the car in the afternoon and asks us if she can pay us for two more photos with Babbo. Of course we tell her no, we will not accept money, but Ja she can have the photos tomorrow. It pleases us so that we are able to bring little joys to our neighbors.
Roy and I feel like the walking wounded. He has a cold that won't quit, and my migraines won't go away. It is a beautiful, clear and cold day. When Sofi and I take our walk, we see Terzio jump down from a shortcut up above with an empty plastic bag. He goes across the little road and onto a field, to pick we don't know what. The temperature is very cold, but with my headache I am welcoming the frigid air, and even keep my coat open. Roy meets us in the car on our way back up the hill and we go with him to Attigliano and Bomarzo to do the shopping for today's pranzo with Mario and Jill.
When we return home, the terrace is veiled in bright sunlight. For most of the rest of the middle of the day, it is warm and beautiful. We have a three-hour pranzo before the fire, and when Jill and Mario leave, the cold has returned. We will have a quiet night and tomorrow go to Lili's for a holiday pranzo after mass.
Sofi has so much energy today; she acts like a little jumping bean. She is frisky on the walk, frisky on the terrace, so I open the gate to the olive tree terrace and she bounds around like a little bird. It is soon time for mass, so she goes back into her cage for an hour or so.
We walk up to church, and Roy remarks on the cold. The sky is clear, and when we greet several people in the church, their hands are like ice. A little musical chairs session takes place, because Rosita comes in with yet another coat, this time pink wool with a mink collar, and she sits right in front of me. Dio mio, the woman who usually sits there has put her wallet on the bench in front of where she usually sits and is at the front of the little church, talking with the young woman who leads all the choral singing.
When she walks back toward her regular seat, there are exchanged glances and several people move in and out of their rows. Rosita has definitely upset this woman's plan. No matter. Giuliola comes in late wearing a mink coat, and flips it up in the back before she sits down. I envy the wonderful conversations between friends and relatives and neighbors in our village before each mass. How long will it be before we can really participate?
After mass, we have breakfast and I prepare a dish for pranzo at Lili's. It is similar to the French potatoes Anna, and is hot out of the oven, just as we leave for her house with Sofi.
At Lili's house, we meet many new friends. Around the long wood table at pranzo are more than a dozen friends, none of which are 100% Italian. French, Belgian, Italian, English, and even Chinese is spoken on this day. Lili asks me how long we have lived here and makes fun of my meager Italian.
We meet two people who saw Mitch Woods at Umbria Jazz, and loved his show and his music. So before the visit is through, we arrange for a party back at Lili's next week for Mitch. While we are having cocktails, a piano tuner works away. So we know the piano will be in tune.
It is very cold when we leave Lili's house around 4:30, and we drive to Chia to see the living presepio. We come upon so many people with the same idea that we are amazed. Roy and Sofi and I park and are not so sure where we are going, but hand-lettered signs lead us down and down and down narrow stairs and paths. We come out at the end of a very long line of people that snakes back up the hill. Lights flicker above, and the line groans slowly. We decide to stay, perhaps because it is warmer in the middle of all these people.
Once we get to the top of the last set of stairs, we see lights ahead of us for at least a mile, meandering along tufa cliffs. The sounds of choirs of children singing holiday tunes envelop us from speakers hidden in the hillsides. Hundreds of citizens dressed in costumes dating back to the time of Christ are interspersed along the way. This unique landscape is so familiar to us; the ancient tufa outcroppings a backdrop on which local people for more than two thousand years lived and toiled and loved and died and were born again in the spirits of their children and their childrens' children.
We follow along a narrow path, protected by wooden railings and lit by tiny lights strung above our heads. Cave by cave, people are working as potters, sewers, cooks, bakers, lace-makers, wine-sellers...No one pays attention to the onlookers, who crowd around each cave and hut as the line moves ever so slowly forward.
Sheep, goats, burrows, cows, chickens...it is all here. People thrashing in pretend-fields, children making goat-cheese, men whittling flutes of wood...this is a truly remarkable sight. We have been told that this is the finest living presepio around, and we agree. One hour later we are through, and walk up the hill with the light of the moon filtering through the bare branches of the trees, and the frost from our breaths leading our way.
I cannot sleep. I want time to stand still, the visions of what we have seen in Chia tonight to remain with us always, as a kind of watchdog. The distracting trappings of consumerism, so rampant in the United States and slowly creeping into the vernacular of Italian culture, are like a Satan to me. I think, "I wish we had ADSL for the computer." And then I realize the computer is not important at all. I think of getting into the car to go to church and remember that, no matter how cold it is, the church is less than a five minute walk.
I no longer think of buying "things", unless they have to do with repairing the house or grounds. I am taking my first stab at making bread this week. We have complained that we don't like the bread we buy, and I think I can come up with breads that will taste wonderful. It will be fun to learn.
We are learning to distill life down to its most simple components. The simpler they are, the more we cherish them. I drift off to sleep with the smell of freshly baked bread in my subconscious.
I still cannot shake my migraine headaches. Day after day after day they hound me. Perhaps it is the cold weather. We do not go for a walk, and it is very cold...-3 degrees (the mid-20's). I let Sofi out onto the two terraces to run around and then we drive to Giove to meet with the kitchen people about Judith's apartment.
I am wearing warm polartek-like pants to keep me warm, but back into a space heater at the negozio while we are waiting for the plan to be printed and bam! The back of one pant leg melts right through at the calf and luckily does not catch on fire. I feel like the walking wounded, in a daze from all the medicine.
Back at home, Sofi and I go to bed to try to sleep it off for a few hours, while Roy drives on to Soriano to renew our medical certificates for this calendar year...€350 for the two of us.
Stefano comes by in the afternoon to survey the smoke damage above the fireplace. The Ceiling is dirty from soot that has come out of cracks above the fireplace hood. I noticed it for the first time two nights ago, and Roy is alarmed. For all these years, Roy has also been worried that the wooden beams holding up the second floor will buckle and need to be replaced. Stefano tells us that the beams are indeed iron, so no need to worry. He wants to put an oval metal sleeve in the chimney to repair that damage, and will return on Wednesday to see if he can get a sleeve that will be a proper fit.
We will talk with him about making the firebox deeper as a separate project. There is room outside the house behind the fireplace to do this, and I am hoping we can do it for not a lot of money. Right now we burn fires in the corner, but think that if we have a deeper firebox the fireplace will work much better for us.
While Roy is outside, Felice stops by for a chat, and tells us to buy our lemon tree soon so that it can be planted in the big pot by the end of January. Luigina comes up the walk with seven freshly-laid eggs for us. How wonderful. I do not find out until after she has left, so cannot thank her. What a treat. Sofi will have an egg tomorrow for breakfast. Roy bought some thin veal medallions when he was out, so we will probably have cotolete Milanese (breaded veal with an egg on top and an anchovie on top of the egg) tomorrow night. Roy loves this dish...It is reminiscent of the three years he lived in Germany.
Today is Epifany, but the children know this day as the Day of the Befana. Children receive stockings filled with candies from the Befana, or ugly witch. Tradition has it that the Magi stopped at her hut on their way to the manger after Christ was born, but she refused them hospitality, so they moved on. She then thought better of her decision and tried to find them, without success, and so she continues to search for them, and the Christ Child, year after year.
Speaking of the Magi, when Roy showed Mario our presepio a few days ago, Mario laughed that the Magi already stood proudly outside the hut where Jesus and Mary and the Christ Child are displayed. So not only do we need to hide the Christ Child until late Christmas Eve, we need to keep the Magi hidden until late tonight....Then tomorrow the whole display comes down for another year.
There is a mass this morning, and tonight there is another mass. Tonight's mass is to celebrate the special reliquaries owned by our tiny church. When Don Francis came to visit last year and performed a mass, he was shown these treasures, and was very impressed.
Today we have pranzo with Tia and Bruce at Antico Borgo in Bassano-in-Teverina. They are just back from the holidays in India, where it was foggy and not a lot of fun for them. But before they arrive, Mauro and Federico's father come by to speak with Roy. I think they are collecting for another raffle, but no. They are asking Roy if he wants to become a member of the Mugnano Confraternity! Gianfranco is the priori, or head of the group, and it was thought that Roy is a member of the Confraternity of Orte, because he participates in the processions and also acts as Babbo for the town. No, Roy responds, I am just a friend of the man who runs the Pro Loco office.
Roy does not accept right away. He is not sure his Italian is good enough. But Mauro tells him to let him know when he is ready. When Roy comes in to tell me, I am sitting cross-legged, organizing our CD's on the living room floor. I am so proud of Roy! He is surprised that I am so excited, and we talk about it a little. This means that now we are really accepted as an integral part of the village. I must say that I never EVER thought this would happen.
I think Roy will change his mind, and spend the next hour imagining him in his red and blue robe, participating with the others in leading the processions during feast days. January 25th is the next feast day of the village, San Vincenzo, so I hope he will decide soon. He will have to buy the medallion that he will wear around his neck, for €25, and we will find out if I need to make his costume. Roy slowly gears up like an old sports car, but once his engine gets going, he will embraces his role with great gusto!
Last night the mass was an amazing experience. The reliquaries in our church are quite spectacular, but we are not sure what they actually are. Is it possible they are actual parts of bodies of saints? The Confraternity and Don Luca participate in the benediction, and a member of the Confraternity hands Don Luca each one. While he holds it up to the congregation, Vincenzo chants something that relates to that particular reliquary. Our priest gets very emotional, and his arms are raised on high as he extols the saints, whose reliquaries surround him. The little church is full, and children enjoy participating in this seemingly pagan ceremony. Roy watches the members of the Confraternity closely, to see what their roles are. Before he agrees to anything, he wants to speak with young Tiziano, who can tell him the plusses and minuses of joining this group.
This morning, it is very cold for the walk. Both Sofi and I enjoy these morning walks very much. I am not a lover of cold weather, but somehow I look forward to walking with our little dog. Each day, we see something new. Today, while she nuzzles something on the path outside one of the chicken coops, I notice how it has been made with found wood and wire.
The country people are a resourceful lot, and I am feeling guilty about some of the food that we cook that goes to waste. Of the cooked food that is not right for compost, we throw out more than we should. We work on not buying too much, but I think I can make food for us without even going to the store for a long time, except for perishables. I am going to see how independent we can be, and perhaps even make a game of it.
Pat and Margaret sent a bread recipe with their holiday card, and I make my first loaves of bread this afternoon. I alter the recipe to add chopped rosemarino. It does not rise as much as I think it should, even after letting it rise twice the amount of time specified. Perhaps it is the little package of lievito that we use for yeast. I will make bread again in a few days, this time with olive oil instead of butter. It is so easy to do that I want to venture into more elaborate breads...I'll post the recipe on the food page, in case anyone wants to try it. Thanks, Pat and Margaret.
Speaking of friends in the US, say a prayer for Donna Pizzi, wife of Phillip Thompson, living in Portland. She is going through some medical tests, and we lit a candle for her in church yesterday. She has been ill for too long. Let's hope this is a good year for her.
We have a leak below our new sink, and Enzo's assistant, Fabrizio, comes by and changes a small part, in about twenty minutes. I am sure it will not cost more than about €10. We are still waiting for Enzo to install the towel warmer, but that can wait.
Roy calls about the dishwasher, and the new price is a good one. It will be installed either Friday or Tuesday. The dishwasher is really the only real luxury we afford ourselves these days...I really love dishes, and using lots of them. So having a dishwasher is very helpful.
I take out the Modo de Dire book (book of Italian proverbs) and try to study it. We go to Dottoressa this afternoon for our third tetanus shots, and while we are in the waiting room I read some of them out loud to a captive audience, who take turns re-pronouncing the phrases and nodding their heads in agreement. We find out that the shots will last us for ten years. So no fear in the garden with the roses any more...well, for ten years or so. I wonder if Roy's handheld computer will be able to note ten years hence...What ever will life be like for us then?
We drive to Sipicciano, and when we get out of the car, Danieli and Duccio's sister, Donatella, have their heads down, talking seriously with each other, next to the caduti monument. Everything is gray: Daniele's clothes, the sky, the air, the monument, the pavement, except for Donatella's bright blond hair and red lips. The proverbial Toscani cigarette hangs out of her soft jaw. Her eyes light up at the sight of Sofia.
Daniele goes into his shop, and we ask Donatella how she is. Not good. She is Duccio's sister, and their uncle, who they love, has died. And now, the mayor of her town has been recalled and there is no mayor. I suggest that Donatella become the mayor and she responds, "This place is like the Taliban. No room for a woman here." When I remind her that Tiziana became mayor of Bomarzo, she replies that Bomarzo is far more civilized than Sipicciano. Sipicciano is a Frazione of Graffignano, where the big castle sits like a bucket of mud in the middle of the town. Donatella uses the rooms of the castle to show off the artwork of her many undiscovered artist protégées. And now, without a mayor friendly to her cause, she is probably without a proper venue for her work.
Daniele does my hair, while Roy and Sofi wait in the car. Sofi cries and cries, so they come in and sit next to the heater while I am finished. Afterward, we drive to Orte and I leave my name for the next appointment at the rehab. clinic at the hospital. It will probably take three weeks to begin treatments again on my shoulder.
The rest of the day is quiet, with a pot of lentils and salsiche on the stove.
Jill wants to buy raspberry bushes, and Alan recommends that she go to Pinzaglia, the Vivaio in Bassano. We email her to not go there, offering to take her to a few vivaios in Viterbo instead. We do not like Pinzaglia. They do not take good care of their plants, and we have been taught well by Sarah Hammond to buy the best quality and they will prosper and live the longest. Nothing we have purchased from Pinzaglia has ever done well.
I call Jill to check in with her, and when the window people finish their appointment with her, she will meet up with us. Roy is in Terni getting the car serviced and paying for the auto insurance. He'll be back late morning so we'll have time. If we go to Michelini, they are holding a rose for us. I want to check out Lopez before going to Michelini, to see what they have. Their prices are very good, suggests Tia, and we will check out their quality. They may only have trees. We will see.
January is an important time to plan gardens. The ground is wet and bare root planting is done now. I stand looking out the window at the new fencing. It is without character or charm, except for the handmade clasp on the gate. We will plant osmanthus down below in front of the wall, with a few mermaid roses. I think I'd also like a rambler on the old tufa short wall perpendicular to the new wall. Some kind of rose that will give us hearty blossoms with strong stems, probably peach in color.
We're gearing up for a party on Monday night at Lili's for Mitch Woods. He arrives from Rome on Monday and we will have dinner and jazz at her country house. It will be fun. In the meantime, I check in with Prue, to learn that she has her dog, Dizzy, back after her several week trip to the US, and is seriously training her.
The fog outside our window is reminiscent of an English moor. The air is so fragrant and full of sound that I hear what sounds like hundreds and hundreds of little birds, hiding in the bushes in the street below. The walk goes quickly; I put the hood up on my long coat and feel as if Sofi and I are in another country.
Jill arrives soon after nine while we are having coffee and toast, and joins us for a little cup. We no longer drink out of big cups. Coffee stays hot longer in the pot, and we fill the cups up when we finish our first set. I especially like the thin lips on the little cups, and the tiny spoons. Feels like a doll house treat. I am so happy with little details.
Jill wants to go with us in our car to the Viterbo vivaios, thinking that if she buys a plant or two it will be a small one. She wants little raspberry bushes and will try to plant them today, before she goes back to Strasbourg, where she and Mario live for most of the year.
We drive up the hill to Bomarzo, and at the stop sign where we turn left there is a big poster outside the giornali with today's big news. MAXI FURTO VIVAIO MICHELLINI! A big theft! We are wearing our raincoats and are ready for some investigating...We will find out the details right from Michellini himself in less than an hour.
Off we go, first looking for Vivaio Lopez, which Tia stumbled upon weeks ago. Roy thinks he knows where it is, but we cannot find the sign. We drive almost all the way to Vitorchiano and turn around. Then we see a little blue sign, only in view from one direction.
The vivaio is next to a modern house, and next to Michellini it is rather pedestrian. No matter, winter is no time to judge a vivaio. Jill finds two tiny plants for €5 each. Now it is on to Michellini.
The owner of Michellini, Tiziana's husband, meets us as we get out of the car and we ask him breathlessly what has happened. A bobcat was stolen, some other equipment, some cash. Later, when we speak with Tiziana, she is not too concerned. Life goes on. Strangely enough, Italians are used to theft. Everyone we meet has at least one story to tell...
Tiziana kindly takes Jill all around the property, showing her plants that will do well under oak trees. Jill does not know how much space she needs to cover; Roy asks Tiziana how long the path is in front of the office and she bounds off, pacing all the way to the front gate. When she returns, we agree that Jill will map out what they need and Tiziana will write out a preventivo for her to work with.
We find just the right olive trees we want. At first, the ones we want are too expensive. Then, in another part of the vivaio, Tiziana finds us trees of the same age and approximate height for less money. We will come back in a week to place the order and have them deliver them to us. Their lemon trees are expensive...We will look elsewhere to see if we can find one at a better price. If not, we will get our lemon tree from them, as well.
We come back through Il Pallone, and show Jill our favorite supermarket, SuperConti. Sofi gets sick in the car on the way home. She ate a few olives at the vivaio and it is not a pretty sight. We get home, pack up Jill with her new plants; she bought two from Michellini as well, and will see whose plants do better. We agree that we will visit Jill tomorrow before going to Alan and Wendy's for pranzo.
After today's pranzo, we pick up Tiziano at his home and drive him to the archeological museum in Amelia, after showing him Judith's apartment and checking on some details there. On the drive, we tell him that we went to the living presepio in Chia and were impressed. He makes us laugh by telling us that the people from Chia are called Chianese. They are not thought of as very smart people. There is a mean joke that people who are stupid are not called stupid, they are called Chiano. So I ask him what people from Mugnano are thought to be. He said they are thought to be sleepy and tranquil and slow to move, like snails. For the rest of the visit, we joke about being sleepy and slow. The reference is fine with us. No wonder everyone refers to Mugnano as being "sempre tranquillo".
Also on the way to Amelia, Roy asks Tiziano what it means to be a member of the Mugnano Confraternity. Is there some rite? Some secret bond he would be pledging himself to? But no, it is an honor, but an honor to serve the priest during feast days and other religious celebrations. An honor to wear the blue and red vestments and medallion, to lead the people of the village during processions, but otherwise nothing.
I joke that there is little or no conversation between the members of the Confraternity, and we all laugh. That part will be easy. Roy jokes that he needs to find the right plastic bag to keep the costume in. All the men walk into the church holding plastic bags with their costumes inside, and get dressed in the little anteroom right off the altar. On some days there are twenty of them...I suggest that Roy brings his on a hanger, but he will have none of that.
Roy is confident that he can now accept, and will tell Mauro tomorrow, after church.
Today's lesson is all for Tiziano and is conducted entirely in English. He wants to learn how to give the whole museum tour easily in English. We learn a great deal as well, and are very impressed with the museum. Week by week, we are learning more about the Romans, and even more importantly, the Etruscans.
It is very possible that there are some items in Mugnano that date back to the Bronze Age, and together we will see if we can help him find some. My father must be so happy;
he and I dreamed that we would go on an archeological dig when I got out of college. That never happened, but the dream is still alive.
On the way back, Tiziano gets us dizzy with the names and connections of many more people in the village. Roy wants to draw a street map, putting the different families in each location. I want to do a family tree for Mugnano, and am feeling quite confident. I think we know at least 60% of the names of the people who attend church.
At home, we make a chocolate polenta cake, with polenta instead of flour and not much sugar, but five egg whites. The cake comes out tall and lovely, but droops after a few minutes. Who knows how it will taste. We are taking it to Alan's tomorrow and will see.....
Guns sound off, but it is Sunday. On Saturdays and Sundays the hunters are out early. Sofi and I hear the birds on this lovely clear day, but perhaps they are warning each other to beware.
Roy and I walk up to church. I comment about Tiziano's watchful eye. He notices so much. Yesterday, while waiting for Roy to lock the door to Judith's apartment, he looked across the tiny street and found four small brown catapult balls, embedded as part of the old wall. We could have looked at that wall for years and never noticed them. During his tour yesterday at the museum, Tiziano showed us photographs and actual segments of old walls, with pediments and beautiful carvings as part of the walls themselves.
Roy asked if those were accidents; if they were pieces of carved stone left on the road that were used to add to the wall. Yes and no. The builders of the wall also added them for beauty. He has a trained eye for those things. We will now be watchful, training our eyes on ancient walls to see what treasures we can find.
I remember visiting museums with my father on Sundays as a young girl. Dad especially liked the artist, Durer. He hid his initials in the midst of his drawings and paintings, and we had a good time finding them. Many years later, I gave my father framed Durer prints to put in his bedroom, but they disappeared along with many other things. I still have that memory, and now will think of him when discovering little "finds", like the four catapulto in the ancient Amelia wall.
Below Judith's apartment, in the square, Tiziano took us over to two important measurements on a wall, also on yesterday's visit. They were 66cm and 36cm in length, and were considered the official standards of measurements for mattone (bricks) of the day. He told us this measurement was "Medieval". Today, while we are walking up to church, Roy comments, "Medieval. What is that? A 1,000 - year leeway? The Italians are funny. Medieval, more or less... A certo punto...He thinks even their word "preciso" is "piu o meno".
On a paper in his pocket, Roy has written a few sentences in Italian, accepting his role in the Confraternity. He is memorizing them, to say to Mauro after church.
"Sono onorato dal suo invito congiungere la confraternita...Accetto, con onore, il suo invito essere un membro della confraternita....Sono onorato."
He will use some or all of this when approaching Mauro.
After church, we stand outside greeting Felice and Marsiglia, and when they turn to walk home Roy decides to go back into church to speak with Mauro. I stand outside, facing the old tower. Two windows face me from that distant spot, and they look like round mouths, saying, "OOOOO...I know you are there."
A few minutes later, Roy comes out. He has accepted, modifying what he memorized. Anyway, he accepts with honor. A discussion ensues with Giuliola about his costume, but Mauro needs to write up a document for Roy to sign first. The costume, and Roy's medallion, will come later.
Next Saturday is the feast day of Saint Antonio D'Abate, the patron saint of animals, and there will be a benediction for the animals. Si certo! We will be there with Sofia. Perhaps the Confraternity will be present. Will this be Roy's initiation?
Today we go home to spend a little time with Sofi before we leave her again to go to Jill's and then Alan's for pranzo. Poor Sofi is left at home. I am afraid there will be too many dogs and people and opportunities for her to get lost.
We find Jill and Mario's sweet pink house easily, and cannot imagine it is only 20 years old. The way it is situated on the land, the shapes of the rooms, the design of the fireplace all seem more country French than Italian. Roy and I love the house. There are some large cracks in the walls, but there is a plan to deal with them soon. I can imagine the house in years to come. It will be magical, I am sure.
She shows us telephone lines that they want to have buried underground, and I remember that Alan did that as well. Good idea. If we can have two buried that stand on the street below our property, the view will be even more beautiful. We will remember to ask Alan how he did it and find out how much it will cost. Perhaps we will do it when the rest of the major work is done in the spring in the village.
Jill gives us two just-laid eggs for tomorrow's breakfast, because she will be leaving early tomorrow to return to their home in Strasbourg. We look forward to her next visit, and to getting to know them both better.
Jill has spoken with the man who sold them the house, who is a capo of the bocce courts in Penna. She told him we were looking for a mentor to advise us about putting in a court in Mugnano. Si certo! He would love to help, and looks forward to Roy's call. We will call him this next week.
Two neighbors come by, and we all walk down to Alan's house. Alan's house is big and broad with lots of grass and plenty of room to walk around. It is one of those gorgeous warm winter days, and we are able to sit outside at a long ceramic table before we eat. I walk around the garden with Tia, and we talk about garden plans, and commiserate about our Glorie di Dijon roses, which we both love but are not happy.
Wendy asks me if Roy has joined the Confraternity and I am shocked that she knows, until Alan tells me he knows all about it from our web site. I am always amazed to hear that people actually read it. She asks Roy later and he thinks I have told her. It is only in the car later that he realizes I did not.
Simona sits next to Roy at the delicious buffet pranzo and rolls her eyes when she hears that Roy will become a member of the Confraternity. She has lived in Amelia all her life and does not think much of the whole Confraternity thing. I suppose she thinks of it as an old boys club, or comprised of "squares" who are ex-altar boys. No matter. We are stranieri, and the fact that Roy was asked is a real honor. It is really good to see Wendy. I ask her when their six house guests are leaving, and offer to spend a day with her before she leaves again. That will be fun...just the two of us.
We come home and wait for Paola and Antonio to come by. It is dark when they arrive, but we walk over to the stairs just above where the campo di bocce will be built, to show him the plan. Back in the house, where we sit having coffee in front of the fireplace, Roy goes over our idea with them.
Antonio and Paola will start to ask people in the village if they have an interest in being involved in building the court and if they will play. Our job is to find someone to design the court. Antonio will see what kind of interest he can drum up within the Universidad di Agraria, of which he is president. We will pay for the design and materials, and he will see if he can get a group of people together who want to volunteer to build it. There will be a gate to the court that will be open to the people of Mugnano, for them to use anytime.
We tell Antonio and Paola that the sindaco has promised us that in the spring, when the main reconstruction project is done in the square, that they will build up the bank below and put in a handrail on the little public walkway below our house that leads to San Rocco, and the proposed bocce court.
Antonio tells us that he likes the project very much. He wants to be involved in the meeting where we show the man from Penna the site and speak about it. Roy wants to make sure that the court is made just right. There is no room for error in a bocce court. In the towns around, there are only men who play, but Paola thinks it might be fun to have women, too. In Amelia women play by themselves, but never with the men. In Mugnano, anything is possible.
After they leave, we call Elizabeth and make final plans for tomorrow night's party at her country house. Steve and Darcy will come, and Steve plays the double bass. Darcy plays the sax, but may not bring it. Two friends of Elizabeth's play recorders, which are like flutes, and of course there will be Mitch at the piano. In the kitchen, around her long table, we will eat simple food and drink wine. Catherine and Kaas, and Aurora from Orvieto and Mitch will all go with us. Prue and Steve and Darcy will meet us there. Elizabeth's children and a few of her friends will also be there. I will make a big baked pasta dish and it will be fun.
There is always so much to do....and we are enjoying almost every minute of it!
I wake up to the sound of Mario opening up the front gates and bringing up scaffolding to trim the bay tree. Dino is behind him. I get dressed and take Sofi for a walk. When I return, Roy and Dino are supervising Mario, who is way up in the tree. By now, the bay tree on the front terrace is almost as high as the house. In the years we have owned this property, the tree has changed from a tall slim specimen to a big and blowsy and full tree. A few years ago, we had Mario cut the tops of many branches, and now it gives us plenty of shade. But it needs to be trimmed. Above, Rosina and Marie and Gino are happy, for it will give them their great views back.
By the time Mario and Dino are through, I think they have cut too much, but I see that the tree needs a pruning every year. Dino is really masterful, and I want to be sure he is involved in any other tree pruning. The terrace is full of branches, and they take them off to the bocce court property to be trimmed, the big branches cut for firewood and the rest burned. They make a great team. They will return in two weeks to work on the rest of the trees and, before spring, will redo the little steps leading up to the potato field, where we previously grew melanzane, zucchini and cappuccia.
Karina comes by for a cup of coffee, and we convince her to stay for tonight's party. I come up with some makeup and lend her a blue scarf to match her eyes and she is all set. She sits in the kitchen with me while I make a baked penne with béchamel and grated Parmesan cheese for tonight. We have pranzo and then leave while Maria, who is Mario's wife, comes to clean. Mitch arrives on the train at Orte at 5 and we take a quick tour through the old city of Orte and then come home to get ready to lead the caravan of friends to Elizabeth's just before 7.
We drive to Orte in the dark, but the car knows its way down the rocky strada bianca to its destination. The party gears up quickly and before it is through several hours later, more than 30 friends arrive and eat and drink and boogie to Mitch on an old upright piano and Steve on bass. They play jazz and boogie-woogie in an ante-room off the living room that is a perfect size. Aurora joins them on cymbals and those of us old enough to have it in our bones do the twist.
Courtesy of Graham Hunt, photographer, here are Mitch and Steve in Elizabeth's anteroom off the living room.
Karina is a big hit, dancing rock-n-roll with Catherine, swinging her around and weaving around the floor. Later, Karina tells me that she and her sisters learned to dance together, and she always played "the boy's part". So when she later really danced with boys, she had trouble leaning back and letting them lead. Tonight, she is masterful and full of life.
As usual at Elizabeth's house, lots of countries are represented. Almost everyone speaks English, but then there is: Italian, French, Belgian, German...Her house is large and open and there is plenty of room for everyone, who congregate mainly in the living rooms. We leave happy and tired and ready for a good night's sleep before tomorrow's escapade through Umbria and Tuscany to show Mitch Perugia on the way up and then wine towns on the way back. This time, Sofi will be with us all the way. I missed her tonight.
Roy and Sofi and I leave with Mitch around 9am for a day of exploring. First we drive along the E-45 to Ripabianca to see Carlo about getting one more mezzo-lune pot for the front walk. Mitch can't resist getting a house tile made, and we will save it for him when he comes back to play Umbria Jazz in July. The pot sleeps like a croissant in the hatch-back, with plenty of room for wine bottles to nestle inside.
Before we leave, Carlo's brother, the one who actually designs the pots, invites me to go with him to his house next door. When we arrive at the front door, he turns a switch and his whole front yard is lit with tiny lights and hand-crafted terra cotta figures and buildings...a masterful presepio with hundreds of pieces. He tells us that his wife created each piece and designed the entire project. How kind of him to share this with us!
Then it's on to Perugia, where we walk around and show Mitch the various venues where he will probably play. We stop in at the Umbria Jazz office, which we find across from the main fountain and up three flights in an elevator so small that Mitch and Sofi and I just about fill it up. Roy meets us as the elevator door opens, taking the ancient spina di pesce steps up to the top.
It's time to be on our way across the north side of Lago Trasimeno to Tuscany. We arrive in Pienza for pranzo before 2pm, and have a walk in the town and a light pranzo at a trattoria, sharing several dishes between us. We are served feather-light flat noodles with porcini sauce and a baked pecorino, a house specialty. I don't think I have ever tasted such wonderful pasta. When we want to thank the chef, we are told the chef is "mama" by her two sons. We can't resist drinking a bottle of wine with the meal and then it is time to drive on to Montalcino, the home of Brunello wine. But first a stop at a cheese shop for a piece of pecorino and some flavored salsa to serve with it later at home.
We each have a wine book, and decide to search out a few tiny wineries for Brunello. One that was recommended is not only hard to find... a woman is down on her knees in the middle of a rose garden when we do find the gate and doesn't feel like getting up to talk with us about their wine. "Call for an appointment" is all we can get out of her.
Getting lost is a fun thing to do in the country. You never know what you'll stumble across. While trying to find this winery, we drive right up next to the vines on a dusty strada bianca, vines which are so exquisitely trained that they do not look real. We call Poggio Antico, another highly respected Brunello winery, and they agree to see us. Do we go before or after the Fortezza in Montalcino? Let's go before...the light is starting to go....
We arrive up a drive flanked by about one thousand huge cypress trees. This winery is also a restaurant, and although they are not a huge wine producer, their operation is very sophisticated. After some searching around, Roy finds Alberto, who speaks some English and charms us with his bright blue eyes into buying more than we had planned. No matter, this is a very helpful stop in our education of Italian red wines. He also gives us each a wine map of "Brunello country" and a booklet. We have much to study...and to learn...about this heady wine.
Outside the little showroom, the dark sky has a blaze of red shooting across it behind the cypress trees. Mitch takes some footage with his video camera and Sofi darts around on the lawn. I am feeling mellow and looking forward to a sleep in the car. Instead, we drive to Montalcino. It is dark when we arrive outside the fort, after one wrong turn and a drive down a deserted dirt road to nowhere. Back up the hill, Roy finds his way to the right down a tiny street, which eventually leads us to the parking lot we have been looking for.
Inside the Fortezza the enoteca is getting ready to close. They send us outside to an enoteca across the street; one that in turn sends us a few blocks around the corner and to the right. Roy and Mitch find the enoteca, and get started tasting. They sit happily in the back room, surrounded by hundreds of bottles of Brunello while Sofi and I take a walk and a glance inside an upscale kitchen store.
To have a Brunello tasting, there is a cost, sometimes €12-15 or more for a particular year. If you imagine that the bottle costs a minimum of €25, that is very reasonable. While the wine sits in three Riedel glasses each, they are served a tiny plate of toothpick-plunked prosciutto and cheese hors d'oeuvres with tasty flaky crusts. Roy seems to play with his three glasses, and I almost imagine him trying to play a tune with them. He does not take this experience very seriously, but then again, we can always go back.
It is inky black outside when we finally return to the car, but still a mild 12 degrees. We arrive home just before 8:30, and I start to make risotto Milanese with chicken and a first course of pecorino with apples and pears and spicy conserves (pear and pepperoncino and onion) and local red wine. I toast some of my homemade cheese bread to serve with the risotto and we serve a bottle of Brunello that Mitch bought at the enoteca for us to drink at dinner. More than three hours later, we drag ourselves up to bed.
It is so much fun having friends sit around and gab and listen to music.
I do not want to get up. I drag myself out of bed around ten, and Mitch and Roy have the same idea. Sofi is an angel, just waiting. No walk this morning, but we do all go on a grand walk of the village around noon, in time to buy porchetta from the truck for a snack before Mitch takes the train to Rome. He has his video camera, shooting footage and talking into the machine, scaring all the natives. The man who has a little booth selling jeans and polyester clothes and underwear on Wednesday mornings asks Mitch if he is from CNN. He then looks at me shyly and asks me about Suzanne. I think he has been dreaming about her, for when I tell her she has gone, he looks sad, and continues to pack up his boxes in his truck. It is time for pranzo.
Sofi and I take the loop for an extra-long walk but the boys go home. Shelly comes by for coffee and to return a book. Before we know it, it is time for Mitch to go. So goodbye until July and then we'll pick up with him where we left off.
Today is so clear and warm that I open the kitchen window wide when I get up and leave it open. When we go for a walk, I wear only a thin sweater. After Mitch leaves, I sit on the steps looking toward San Rocco. Roy comes back from the train station and I hear his footsteps on the gravel behind me. I lean back to welcome him and see a lone bird flying way overhead above me. The sky is so blue for as far as I can see that it feels like a blanket, enveloping the earth in its sweet warmness. Roy sits down beside me and we quietly watch Sofi bound from terrace to terrace.
I look on the internet to see when the opera Aida will be playing at the Arena in Verona this summer. We will give the dates to Angie, and when she tells us the dates that she can sit for us and take care of Sofi, we will return to our favorite tiny inn and to see this signature opera of Verona.
I want to start gardening outside, but am too buzzed from all that red wine yesterday. So I will let it go for another day, and sit here writing while Sofi snoozes on a pillow next to the computer.
Late in the evening, Sofi gets sick. After a day of joyous bounding around, she seems like a different dog. By the time I take her up to go to bed and put her in her cage, she acts like a drooped daisy.
In the 22+ years we have owned dogs, Roy has never allowed a dog to be on our bed. Tonight, Sofi gets sick in her cage two times before midnight. The last time, I turn on the light and bring her to bed with us. Roy does not say a word. I place her on the edge of the bed and lie in the middle, holding her. She lies quietly.
The night ends with Sofi getting sick one more time. I stay awake for most of the early morning, but after dawn we both sleep soundly for a couple of hours. Instead of going to yoga, we take her to the vet in Terni. She is unable to eat a little scrambled egg, and just lies on the sofa in the kitchen until we leave, her sad glazed eyes like little M+M's; her beard sour.
At the vet, we have to wait more than an hour, but do see Dr. Cristalli. While we wait, she lies in my lap, covered by my winter scarf, and shivers while I stroke her back. We cannot figure out what caused her to be ill, and he seriously checks her out and then gives her an injection of antibiotics and a prescription of pills for us to give her for eight days. Her temperature is just a little above normal.
Sofi is lethargic back at home, and after a small pranzo, she and I go up to bed and sleep for a couple of hours. She lies on the bed next to me while I read Mystic River, and then we nod off soundly until the light outside turns navy blue and Roy comes in to see how we are. As the night descends, she sleeps quietly on the couch and then stretches out on her bed upstairs. Usually she sleeps curled up like a croissant, but tonight her long tiny body reaches all the way across the cage, sighing that her energy will return.
Sofi had a much better night, only getting sick once. She gets up slowly, and is able to eat a scrambled egg. Her spirits are good, and the cold air outside and the breakfast invigorate her. She is happy now, if not a little weak. Last evening we gave her a new toy, a soft, white lamb. I am reminded of being sick as a child, and of getting a toy or another small present after a trip to the doctor.
I go upstairs to add to the journal, and she whimpers downstairs. Roy lets her come up, and she slides across the terrazzo floor in our bedroom to me, wagging her tail and almost smiling.
Hour by hour, Sofi comes more and more back to life. She is able to eat both pranzo and cena, and when Angie comes for tea, whimpers and wiggles and sits in our laps and kisses us. Angie so loves the animals, and we talk about the festas this weekend and which ones she will go to. She suspects there will be chickens and rabbits and sheep and horses in addition to the usual suspects...the dogs and cats.
Roy goes out to Viterbo and to take photos of the bonfire at Bagnaia. This weekend is the feast of Sant'Antonio Abate. Here's what we know from Father Francis Tiso about that:
"As for Sant'Antonio Abate, throughout rural Europe he is the patron of the domestic animals, not St. Francis. In many barns you will find his picture, protecting animals from demons, because envious neighbors launch spells against the animals and against the fields and St. Anthony was the master of combat against the demons, if you read his biography by St.Athanasius you will see why.
To keep St. Anthony happy, the contadini would raise a pig communally, feeding the one pig from everyone's leftovers for several months until just before Lent...sometime say between Christmas and late February, they would slaughter the pig and have a communal feast. Very totem and taboo my dears....! His feast is Jan 17, and that is the day to bless animals and barns. The bonfire is just plain winter time paganism, eviva eviva.
There may be some confusion between St. Anthony's fire and St. Elmo's fire, which is the mysterious light that appears at the masthead of a ship in a lightning storm, presaging the death of a sailor, but I am not sure. Certainly there is an element of the battle between light and darkness (winter theme...now the solar power is starting to return and the nights are getting noticeably shorter), good and evil. Siamo sempre lą, nel Tibet, carissimi!"
Here is a picture of St. Anthony's fire...a re-enactment in Bagnaia.
Roy takes this picture just before the piazza fills up with smoke...He tells me that before the fire is lit, there is a bandiera flown from the top with the local crest. It is taken down, and men pour gasoline on the logs from above. Then a long pole with flames at the end is shoved into the bottom of the pile. The whole mound explodes in flame to the delight of the crowd, which by this time numbers in the hundreds on this cold night. Sofi and I are safely at home by our own little fire.
Bravo, Don Francis, for this description, and for being a spiritual mentor to us all these years. Speaking of Don Francis, he calls today to check in with us and update us on his upcoming house purchase in Isernia. It will be a sale between friends, and next week he will be moving his 3,000 books from his apartment in the centro storico.
We offer to help, and will drive down early Monday morning, spending the day moving and unpacking books for him. He is a dear friend and we are ready to help. Sofi will get many blessings in the next few days...first from the San Antonio blessings on Saturday in Mugnano, and then one from Don Francis on Monday. She will surely be at 100% by then.
Today is the day of St. Antonio, and Sofi is back at 95%. She has plenty of pep on our walk, and back at home is full of life. Lore and Alberto have arrived back in the village, and Lore calls to invite us for pranzo tomorrow. Si, certo, but does she know about tonight? She can take Felix the cat with her to the blessing of the animals. Felix is an almost wild cat who loves her and waits for them by the door, no matter how many weeks they are away from the village. He sits on a step in the kitchen and sleeps when they are here and she is quite enamored of him.
Tia arrives and we take her to Michellini for her first visit. It starts to rain on the drive, and when we get there it is so wet that we decide to leave Sofi in the car. The wind starts to blow and we are unable to do much of a walk around the roses. But Tiziana spends time with us inside the office, looking at photos and giving me ideas of what to buy to plant above the low tufa wall in the olive terrace and on the walls above the lavender in the lavender terrace. We agree on Choisia, or mock orange, in addition to some new roses. Sarah Hammond has lots of Choisia in Bolinas, and I love it. I think Sarah will approve of it for our garden, as well.
On all these walls, we want the roses to cascade down, but on the wall above the lavender and to either side of the stairs to the potato field next to the huge old rosemary bush, we want the roses to grow up. So we will plant Paul Lede to grow up and Buff Beauty and William Richardson to grow down. These are all a combination of creamy/yellow/peach in color.
In front of the ugly cinderblock wall topped with tufa that reinforces the new fence in the olive terrace, we will grow osmanthus interspersed with mermaid roses, the same combination we have growing on the tiny street at the other end of our property.
My favorite roses are the Jude the Obscure and Lady Hillingtons. The Judes are on the balcony above the door, and the Lady Hillingtons are in the mezzo-lune pots on the front path going up to the front gate. I thought I liked the Glorie di Dijon, but our three are wimpy little buds, that don't even bear cutting, although they are beautiful buds. We also have a lovely but also wimpy Despues Jean, which I also like very much but has not grown much in the four years it has been in the garden between the Madame Alfred Carriere climber and the David Austin Mary Rose bush.
We are going to move those four roses and see if they are happier in other parts of the garden. In their places will be Paul Lede, Buff Beauty and a William Richardson. When we have the next sunny day, I will go out and start to cut back our existing roses, taking off all the leaves and working on all the weak canes, and those that are not growing in the right direction.
We will purchase the new roses in the next month or two. In the meantime, we will move the four roses that are not happy and prepare the soil for new plants. We'll be checking out our compost situation, and learning where to get the best food for the roses and other plants. In the U.S. it is easy, but not so in Italy. No one seems to know what fish emulsion is. Someone told me to get fish heads and make it myself. I could probably put fish parts in a bucket with a closed lid, but we would have all the neighborhood cats....I will do some research first, but Italo, ,the fishmonger, will surely give me what I need...
On the way back from Michellini, we pass La Quercia, Bagnaia and Bomarzo, and each town has its bonfire still burning, the gray embers below distant memories of last night's conflagrations. The bonfire in Bomarzo was blazing early this morning on the way up, and we have no idea why it would burn without any ceremony. Somehow all the fires keep burning, although it is windy and drizzling. We are happy to get home.
Sofi eats chicken and rice and does not get sick, but then again she sleeps for most of the rest of the daylight hours. We want her to be healthy for tonight's blessings.
It is not very cold when we walk with Sofi up to the village at 6:15. We pass by Dina and Italo's door, and she comes out. Roy bids her "bentornati!" and she invites us in for coffee after giving me a kiss. We decline, telling them that we are on the way to the benediction of the animals, but will come some other time. They are expecting guests, so cannot join us. But we will see them again soon.
There is no sign of a bonfire on the plaza outside the church, but the women start to gather. We see Vincenzo, the shepherd and Carla's husband, standing outside his little white car that is parked by the fountain next to the church. He is waiting. Enzo Gasperoni, Tiziano's father, is there with out any animals, because he does not know if there will be a mass or only the benediction for the animals. Valerio and his female hunting dog come over, and she snaps at Sofia. He takes her away, apologizing, and tells us he is going to Attigliano. He does not think there will be a benediction.
After he leaves, Don Luca arrives. We have all been asking each other if there will be a mass or a benediction. Felice tells us that Sofia is not allowed in the church. Don Luca tells all of us that indeed there will be a benediction, outside the church, and no mass.
We tell Enzo and Vincenzo, who drive off quickly to get their animals.
"Where is the bonfire?" Roy asks. Don Luca raises his eyebrows and looks over at Livio. Livio leans his head down with respect to the priest and rushes next door to his house, coming back with a 3-footed stufa base and a votive candle. Tonino's wife, Renata, walks purposely around the church, behind the fountain, and up to her house to get some kindling. She returns with a tall armful, and Felice breaks it up, making a proper fire.
People stand around the entrance to the church, framing its front steps and hugging themselves to keep warm. Brik comes by, following Baschia with his master. Baschia and Sofi sniff around each other and Brik growls, no longer Sofi's protector and main squeeze. Felice snaps the wood, breaking it in lengths short enough to sit on the little three-footed stufa base. The wood is dry, and the tiny kindling catches quickly. Don Luca nods his head in appreciation to Felice and to Livio and to Renata.
We hear the sound of little cars coming up the hill and it is Enzo with one dog, the female who has recently borne Brik's litter, and Carla and Vincenzo, with two ten-day-old lambs.
Don Luca gives the benediction and, because the lambs are so tiny and frightened, the shepherd backs his car close to the fire and opens the hatch back, where the two little ones are crying.
Here's a shot of Don Luca and Livio, during the benediction. Livio holds the reliquary of San Antonio D'Abbate. We in Mugnano must have at least a dozen reliquaries, and thankfully San Antonio is one.
After the benediction, Don Luca comes over to give Sofi a hug. Roy tells him, "Before the benediction, she was Sofia. Now she is Sofia Maria!" Don Luca laughs and thinks her new name is just fine. Roy takes photos of all the animals together and we all agree that next to Bagnaia, this is a silly little fire. But the fire, and the ceremony, are sweeter than Bagnaia, and that is fine with all of us.
Church this morning is full of life. Lore and Alberto sit with us, and Lore and I gab until the other Vincenzo rings the bell near the altar to begin mass. "Don't forget l'una!" Lore reminds us, as we walk home. At l'una we arrive at their house, with Sofia left at home. We are served zuppa of lentiche and riso, involtini of vitello with mortadella and broccoletti and roasted potatoes with fennel and olive oil, followed by panettone. We drink an interesting red wine from Giove, and will remember to pick up a few bottles the next time we drive up that hill toward Amelia. It probably costs all of about €2 or 3 a bottle.
We are able to speak, and to understand, more Italian each time we visit with them. They are purchasing a nearby cantina from Giuliola, and will begin reconstruction of the house across from them this spring. The transformation will be interesting to watch; their vision of places in which they live that respect the old Italian traditions is masterful.
While walking home, Roy suggests that we pick up Sofi and drive down toward Isernia this afternoon, instead of early tomorrow morning. After doing a little searching on the internet, we agree to drive as far as Cassino, and stay at Hotel La Pace. In the morning, we will go to the famous monastery at Monte Cassino, and then on to Isernia to begin to help Don Francis move to his new house.
The rain starts almost as soon as we get in the car. Once past Rome, the rain comes down so heavily it is hard to see through the windshield. I don't know if the drive is more difficult for Roy as the driver, or for me as the passenger. No matter to Sofi, she sleeps away on my lap.
We arrive at the hotel at 6PM, and later go out for a small dinner. Unable to go to the one good restaurant in town because we have Sofi, we elect to go to a pizzeria, and that works out fine. We return to our room and read and watch TV. What's that smell? I don't realize until later that it is not a non-smoking room. Unless you are in a big hotel, it is unusual to get a non-smoking room in Italia. It was not so long ago that tobacco was one of the main crops in Italy, so for Italians, giving up smoking, and the related laws, are slow to catch on. The hotel is newly renovated, however, with new bedding and bathroom. We would stay here again...
Sofi and I take a short walk, because it is still overcast and rainy. Just before nine, we drive up to the monastery and it really pours. Sofi stays in the car, and we take a walk around. Unfortunately, we are unable to see much of anything, because tours are only given to groups. The basilica is open, but it is up a tall flight of marble stairs outside, and the rain is coming down heavily. I have a fear of falling down stairs, so don't go. But Roy takes a walk up, and reports back that it is remarkable, and worth visiting again in nicer weather. Perhaps we will return on a Sunday and go to mass.
While I wait for him at the bottom of the staircase, I see two huge statues...the one to the right is Saint Scholastica and she is balancing something on her hand. I don't know until a day later that she is balancing a dove on her hand. What I do know is that four white doves coo outside a tall window several stories high up in the monastery. It is raining hard, but the doves seem happy sitting outside, perched on netting in a window above a marble balustrade.
Once we reach Don Francis in Isernia an hour or so later, we spend the next two hours packing and moving boxes, climbing up and down three flights of steep stairs and loading a small van. It continues to rain, and Sofi and I stay inside. Each time I go up or down stairs, I pick Sofi up, so I can only help with one arm. She bounced down one flight of stars once by herself, and realized that was not a good idea. All the men took a trip to the new house with the van, and Sofi and I stayed at the apartment.
The apartment is one of those narrow, steep staircase places, with few windows and those looking over rooftops and old, rundown buildings. Because we do not live there, the neighborhood seems characteristic and charming, especially on this gloomy, wet morning.
Just before pranzo, three of the men come in with groceries, and I watch, leaning against a wall, as a long discussion ensued about how the meal will be cooked. That decided, it is agreed that Sofi will have some plain pasta as well. The meal starts with an antipasta of two kinds of cheese, olives, prosciutto, bread, wine, followed with penne with a tomato and tuna sauce, followed by sautéed sausages and potatoes with fennel and rosemary. The meal lasts almost two hours. No matter that we have a job to do, nothing is as important as pranzo.
Danilo and Giovanni are friends of Corniglio, who is staying with Don Francis. They all have a journal called Sophia, so of course Sofi is treated like the principessa that she is. Danielo's family is from Pietralsanta, the birthplace of Padre Pio, so most of the conversation revolves around coming up with some kind of spiritual seminars or retreats to offer in the town. Now, there are millions of people who go to the town, but all they find there, in addition to the tour, are memorabilia. These four men are trying to come up with some kind of spiritual offering, and their timing seems excellent.
After pranzo, we fill up the van a second time, and Roy and Sofi and I follow in our car to the new house. It is a wonderful little house, and perfect for Don Francis. We leave there after goodbye hugs and promises to see each other again soon, hoping to drive all the way home, and are able to do that with less fuss than on the way down.
It is good to be home, and I make a simple vegetable broth for risotto with peas before we close up the house and go to bed.
We are able to take our walk before it really rains, and then Roy and Sofi take me to Orte to get my monthly pedicure. While I am there, they drive to San Liberato, to check out the agritourismo there, coming back with rave reviews. We will eat there and then add it to the website if we like it. Also today before pranzo, we visit another agritourismo in Bomarzo, down the road from the Parco de Mostre...This looks really beautiful but won't be open until March. Stay tuned.
Tomorrow I start the second rehabilitation of my right spala (shoulder), and tonight we go to see Dottoressa, to obtain a prescription for that. The way the state medical system works in Italia, to go to a specialist, one must have a written prescription from their doctor to begin. Tomorrow we will pay a fee, probably around €36 for ten sessions, and then go upstairs to the clinic to visit my old pals.
While I am in Dottoressa's office, she gives me a confirmation of my appointment with the headache clinic in Perugia. This is a national clinic, which happens to be in another province. Ordinarily, one must only see doctors in their own province. The appointment is March 17th, so I'll be sure not to drink too much red wine on my birthday, the day before.
Rain, rain, we need so much rain. Gloomy days, gloomy nights; we hope these days will be harbingers of a lovely fertile and green spring and summer, not like last year.
There is always enough time for our little walk in the morning, unless it is wildly raining. But after we return this morning, Roy and Sofi take me to Orte to the hospital to begin the repeat treatments on my shoulder. I am able to have a stilted conversation with the cashier, and I think this is partly because I feel comfortable with the process of going up to pay, know approximately what it will cost, and there is nothing much to worry about.
While she waits for my payment to slip to print (about €17 this time, perhaps a repeat is half-price), she asks me about America. Italians think America is a gossamer land of happy people who have everything. When I tell her that Italy is better, she does a double take and then smiles with pride.
Upstairs again, I greet Paola and Rosella, who tell me I have the wrong documents. Dottoressa wrote out a prescription for an X-ray, and I did not even look at it. They will let me have a treatment today, but I must either bring the old prescription for the ten sessions tomorrow or have Dottoressa rewrite the prescription. No wonder it was half price.
During the session, the electro-magnetic machines pummel my shoulder. I forget how strong the current is. When I am through, I go out to the car, and we call Dottoressa. She is in Bomarzo, so we drive there and I go in and wait my turn. When I see her, I realize that she does want me to have an x-ray, and I convince her that I need two, one for each shoulder. She rewrites the prescription, and tells me that she wants me to see a certain orthopedic doctor.
I return to the hospital, make the appointment with the same cashier, and then go for the x-rays. I have to pay again, but it is only another €17. With those x-rays, I will go in three weeks to the orthopedic doctor, and we will work out what I need. It is important to me that I will be able to play the violin, and to garden (especially the hand-clipping of all our little boxwood), so I am happy that she has agreed to do this. The sessions upstairs with Paola and Rosella will have to wait...
It is cold, but clear. On clear days, we are able to work happily in the garden while the sun is out wearing only a sweater. I love these days. Today, I take off all the leaves and start to prune the roses in the fiorieras. There are eleven of them, and it takes me about two hours. Sofi stays right near me, until she hears people on the street. She dashes down the steps to the parcheggio, and just as I feared, jumps through one of the circles in the sculptured iron cancello after Brik.
Luciana and Augusta, thewoman who sits in front of me in church, yell out. I rush to the front door for the key, and down the front stairs. When I open the front gate, I see Augusta holding Sofi up by her shoulders, like a dead rabbit. Sofi hangs there like a limp rag.
I scoot down and put my arms out facing her and she puts Sofi down. It takes about two seconds for Sofi to race up the walk and into my arms, her ears flying and flapping, her tail wagging, her mouth open showing a tiny noodle-of-a-pink-tongue. We all laugh, and I take her back inside the gate, promising to get Roy to put a black mesh across the bottom of the cancello, subito!
Stefano comes by and tells me that he will return tomorrow with Virgilio to open up the back of the house. Felice comes by, and steadies the rose arch with a piece of bamboo. I later read that it is not a good idea to buy a rose arch made of hollow metal, because the pieces rust from the inside. No wonder. And no wonder it cost €12.
When Roy comes back from Terni, where he went to have some squeak fixed on the car, I have plenty to tell him. Lore and Alberto come for a short visit and glass of wine, and they are going from our house to see Rosina, Tiziano's mother, below us in the valley. We tell them he is coming here in a few minutes. It is a small world.
They bundle up for their walk down the hill and bid us c'e veddiamo, and I start to wash and cut the vegetables for the swiss chard and rice soup for tonight's cena. While I am cutting the swiss chard, Tiziano arrives for our next lesson. We spend the hour or more talking mostly of archeology, and of Mugnano and its importance in Etruscan history. We offer to be his "slaves" if he chooses to do any "digs" in the Mugnano area. We really mean it, and love these sessions with this remarkable young man, during which we find something to laugh at ourselves at every turn.
Luca arrives and opens up six places on the outside of the house where turnbuckles and iron rods are imbedded in the house's framework. Unfortunately, one is in the inside, inside the bathroom wall, because the room was added in 1995. We have to take off some wall tiles, but the place he needs to reach is behind a cupboard, so it will not be visible. He leaves after about two hours and lets us know that Virgilio and Stefano will come by in the afternoon. We drive to Amelia to the vivaio and farm store Darci and Steve and Tia told us about. No lemon trees, but Roy is able to buy a maximum and minimum thermometer to keep outside. Good thing. It is really cold today, even in the sun.
We stop at Unopiu to look at their metal arches, but don't like what they have to frame our roses. They are too big. So on the way home Roy has a brilliant flash...We will have Dino make the arch. He is a fabro, and a wonderful one at that. Virgilio has so much work that it would take several months to get one from him, but we are sure Dino can make a perfect one for us in a week.
Aldo, Virgilio's son, comes by around three, and goes up to try to looses a bolt in the back of the house. He is alone, so Roy offers to help, by getting up a ladder in the front of the house and holding the front bolt, while Aldo loosens the back bolt. Roy is able to get the bolt off, and Aldo tells us he is going to take it away to fashion something to go with it. It will take at least fifteen days. In the meantime, the house has been opened up in six places, and we are without a bolt on the front corner of the house where our bedroom floor is located. We agree to walk softly in our bedroom.....
Later, we notice that a whole role of floor tiles have been uprooted by the corner turnbuckle, which now sits right up on the floor in the middle of the side window. Under the desk, where the floor tiles had shown a separation for all the time we have owned the house, the separation has disappeared. But closer to the door it is still there. It is only later that Roy tells me that the floor has always looked that way. Heaven knows what changes we will see when their work is finished. I am hopeful.
I clean up the two seafoam roses in the pots on the front terrace, and work on the herb garden in front of the loggia. Doing a little at a time, we will have all the pruning and cleaning done in the next few weeks...plenty of time to prepare for the spring planting. Roy works down below on the cancello, making a prigione (prison) for Sofia by backing the bottommost part of the cancello with black mesh.
Lore and Alberto come by to get some fresh sage, broccoletti, rugghetta, lattuga, and radicchio. Roy thanks them; the more broccoletti they take away, the less he will have to eat. I cut up a lot of lattuga and radicchio that has seen frost, and make a bucket-full of greens for compost.
I convince Roy to go over to the compost area with me, and we have a big barrel almost full of compost for the roses that has been "cooking" for at least six months. Today's new batch will go into our staging area, which unfortunately has a plastic cover that snapped in the freeze. We will replace it soon. He gets a pitchfork, and mixes the greens with the leaves, and as they say in the books, compost "happens". I don't think he is really into the whole compost program, but the results are very good, so I will continue to encourage him and hope he stays with it.
Don Francis calls from the airport, telling us that the session with his notaio was very strange, but that it all worked out and the house is now all his. The people who owned the house before him are happy that a priest is coming to the village, and it appears someone already has some land they would like to donate for a chapel. He can go home dreaming of his home in a village even smaller than Mugnano. It does have a pizzeria, however, something Mugnano cannot boast.
Roy has to go back to Terni this afternoon...The other day the Alfa dealership did not do the work because they were out of the part they needed. So for the past few days the car has sounded like an old rattle-trap, although it is not much more than six months old. I am reminded of Terence's old "Dukes of Hazzard" TV show, with the Dodge Dusters, I think they were called, gliding down the street, bouncing slowly as they went. We like the car very much, and this is the first problem we have had with it.
I am thinking about Stefano, and grateful that he was able to figure out what is wrong with the front part of the house. Two years ago, when we hired Alberto Parka as an engineer and then his crew to put on a new roof, they felt our problem was something else. In addition, they added so much weight to the roof that more cracks have shown up. Simply by figuring out that the second story has steel rods inserted in the flooring that can be cinched up, we have saved ourselves a lot of agony. I must not speak too swiftly...the end is not near. But with a small effort, we can see a real difference. Bravo.
Some of the workers in this country are indeed brilliant.
Pino finally comes with the new dishwasher. He arrives mid-afternoon, but Roy is back in Terni. The parts for the car have arrived, and fixing the car is a high priority for him. Luckily it is fully covered on the warranty. Anyway, Pino comes and is pretty intimidated that I do not speak Italian fluently. It is a good thing, for I convince him to take the old dishwasher away with him for no extra cost. Roy thinks we will see it sitting outside the dump in Bomarzo. No matter...It is gone.
The new dishwasher has very simple controls. Better yet, it has a place to put sea salt inside each month to counteract the calcium in the water. If the old machine had that, we would not be in the market for a new one.
I make an onion gratinee as a side dish for cena, which turns out to be a disaster. It is from a recipe in the back of One Thousand Days in Venice, a book I liked very much about an American chef who fell in love with an Italian man. The dish is too rich, and the taste is not special. Roy praises me for trying it, however, and that makes me feel better. While he has gone to Terni, I make a big pot of minestrone, which we will put into containers and freeze them for use when we don't want to cook or want a hot meal. I use the Williams-Sonoma copper stock pot my mother gave us years ago and it is one of the few things we shipped when we moved. I love using it.
The day ends with very cold temperatures...below freezing. We expect to discard our lemon tree, which has shown no lemons for another year, and it is outside. The tiny kumquat tree is inside the loggia for the winter. Otherwise, we are not too worried about our trees and plants. They should all be able to withstand temperatures below freezing, as long as the low temperatures don't continue for an extended period.
It is cold, cold again. I make a potato bread, and freeze half of the dough. The bread comes out crispy-hard-as-a-rock on the outside, soft on the inside. The recipe was from One Thousand Days in Venice. While Roy is gone, I tie Sofi up to the front gate and work on the two roses on either side of the gate, slowly stripping the leaves off, while keeping the shoots intact.
I am not sure about that...I mean, when to prune the roses. A few years ago, I attended one of Walter Branchi's rose pruning classes in January. His classes are held each Saturday in January at his rose garden on Lago di Cobara. Anyway, he seems to cut back his roses during January. But when I clipped the roses in the fiorieras last week, Felice told me not to...to wait until at least February because of the freezing temperatures.
Today, while working on the roses on the front path, Giuseppe walks up Via Mameli from below and looks up at what I am doing, chastising me by shaking his index finger back and forth in that characteristic Italian way. Not now. So I quickly tell him "solo folia", or only the leaves. He nods his agreement, as though he has some ownership in our property, and what goes on here. He walks up the hill satisfied that he has challenged me and I have taken his counsel.
It is so very cold, even in the bright sun, that I stop, unable to reach the highest leaves. There are two more roses to finish on the path, but they will wait for another warm day. In the meantime, the two roses on either side of the gate look like they are out of "the forest primevil..." I will continue to research pruning techniques and hope that I am doing the right thing.
At just before 6:30, we drive up to church, for there is a memorial mass for Mauro's brother, who died of a brain tumor at age 36 one year ago. Now we see who the man's wife and daughter are. Augusta is the mother, and it appears that she had three sons, the Basetta boys: Gianni (who Roy knows from the gas station at the entrance to the Autostrada), Mauro, and the deceased man.
Don Luca arrives at the little church, and performs a very sensitive service. After it is over, Roy and I drive to Roscio, to meet Wendy and Alan for dinner. Roscio has come a long way, in the six years we have lived here. They still have the fireplace in the corner, where mama cooks "a la brace" on coals pulled forward from the fire in the back onto a large grill. But now the dishes have more trendy touches; Wendy has a creamy polenta with melted cheese and mushroom salsa, Roy has a fillet, Alan has something grilled and I have orata, a grilled fresh-water fish. The meal is finished with torta alla mama, a rich dessert with creamy custard and caramel and crushed amaretto cookies. Divine.
We agree that they will pick us up tomorrow at 12:30 to go to Diego's for pranzo, and it is -2 C degrees as we drive home.
This is the feast day of San Vincenzo, our second patron saint. I think he is not our primary patron saint, whatever that means. I wake up early and at 8am am fixing breakfast for Sofi when fireworks go off in the valley to welcome this feast day. Sofi starts and shivers, but I keep her occupied, and she is more interested in breakfast than the outside noise.
When we go out for our walk, the noise has stopped. I check the thermometer outside the loggia, and it reads -2 C. It feels very cold. The walk is hasty, and I open up the two side terraces when we come back up the stairs to encourage Sofi to run and play some more.
At nine, the Bomarzo Polimartium Band arrives and starts to tune up just below our house. While I take a shower, Roy takes Sofi up to the village, to follow the band around. They begin at the bus stop and walk and play what sounds like Neapolitan marches and folk tunes up and down all the streets of the village. Sofi loves everyone, bounding down Via Mameli and going over to Italo and Leondina with kisses to welcome them back.
By the time I am dressed, Roy puts Sofi inside and we walk up to mass. Inside the church, we scrutinize the costumes of the Confraternity closely, noting how long the red cloaks are, how the top cape falls over the shoulders...The costume is complicated enough that we will have the woman in Orte make Roy's; she is the woman who made a couple of dresses for me last summer. Alberto has used her to make costumes for the Orte processions, and she is a pro. This must be an excellent job.
The reliquary of San Vincenzo stands in a place of honor next to the altar. It is exquisite...a silver cross with the relic inside behind a glass front, held up by two angels. While waiting for all the Confraternity to arrive, new song sheets are passed out with hymns especially for today, and Don Ciro gives us all a dress rehearsal, leading us in song with the choruses of several of the hymns. He is a good coach. His voice is strong and clear, and everyone sings; each person pretending he knows the notes anyway.
I particularly like the refrain from "Guarda questa offerta"...
Nella tua messa la nostra messa
nella tua vita la nostra vita (2v)
Eight members of the Confraternity participate in today's service (all together I think there are more than twenty) and all the banners and lanterns are taken out of the sacristy, crowding Don Luca, Don Ciro, the deacon (who is also the village comedian during festas) and Vincenzo around the altar.
In front, seated at their regular seats, at least eight women are wearing blue bandannas around their shoulders, with the initials A.C. emblazoned on them in white letters. These are the women leaders of the church, but I do not know what their roles are. We will have to find out.
The mass finishes, and Elena and Rosita each take a pole...Elena with a beautiful banner with a Madonna and child and Rosita with special blue and white flags. Don Ciro leads the way, followed by Elena and Rosita and half of the Confraternity; the women file out and then the men. Women form two lines, single file, followed by Don Luca, Stefano Bonari (the mayor); Tiziana, (the former mayor); then the men and the rest of the Confraternity.
While I am walking down the hill in the midst of the procession, there is time for me to take in the sounds and the music and our places in all of this. We belong here. The tinny horns of the band sound out the melodies and we are characters in an old Italian movie. How many times have I seen a film of a village where the inhabitants participate in a procession? And now art has become life. I lean my head back to catch the tears, but I am too late. So I look out at the Tiber Valley and quietly raise my hand to wipe away the streams running down both cheeks. I don't want anyone to see my reaction, my joy at being so at home here.
The band is behind us, and we step in time with their music. After a song, they stop, and Don Ciro leads us in prayer. We walk down the hill almost to our house, then turn around and walk back to the church. This is not the whole procession, but it will do for San Vincenzo. On the feast day of San Liberato, the procession follows down every tiny street of the village. It is very cold today, and we all file back to the church, where Don Luca gives a blessing and ends the service.
We are just in time to walk in front of the band and as we are reaching Giustino's, we see Alan and Wendy getting out of their P T Cruiser. So we get in, along with Rusty and Short Stuff, their two dogs, and drive off to Diego's.
We just missed Matthew, who had to take a plane back to London today. This is our first opportunity to meet Terri, who is here at Diego's Castello Santa Maria with her nanny. She is full of life, and after four months of maternity leave, will return to London as a stock trader in a week. Roy and I seem so past the work stage, that we can hardly remember what it was like to be stressed, motivated, fired up...those words have been eliminated from our vocabulary. We listen to her as though the conversation is alien, so thankful that after pranzo we will return to our normal snail's pace. She is young, and has many productive work years ahead and we wish her well.
Diego has outdone himself: a risotto with a kind of lobster, appetizers of a kind of smoked fish and also a sliced rolatini of duck with foie gras with crackers, bruschetta, bollito misto of manzo, vitello, pollo, tongue and pig's feet with his own mostarda, made of clementines and another mostarda of chiles, and an assortment of other mostardas, and green bean bundles wrapped in proscuitto. Following are hot chocolate cupcakes with whipped cream and his own delicious heated orange marmelada, biscotti and vin santo. Of course, Diego's red and white wines. Diego also sends Roy and me home with lasagna and two bottles of marmelada. He is a dear friend.
While Diego is taking Terri and the nanny and Wendy and Alan on a tour, Tia and Bruce sit with baby Sebastiano and I have a talk with Ursula, who helped serve today. Roy and I are very interested in daughter Serena's life at Paul Boucuse's cooking school in Lyon, France. Ursula tells me she loves the course but is very lonely. She is going to visit with her this week, and I send our love and good wishes.
When Serena apprentices this summer in Provence, we will take Sofi and go to visit her. She will be at an agritourismo, and this will be our first opportunity to visit Provence. June is a very busy month for us with our garden, but we will see if Angie or Karina can come for a few days before the lavender has to be harvested.
On the way to Diego's, Alan and Roy take turns telling self-deprecating stories of crazy forgetful things that they have done...all connected with driving. Alan putting a case of beer on the roof of his car, driving off and not remembering for blocks until it slid off and crashed behind him...Roy leaving his Handspring (personal digital assistant) on top of his car, driving out of a parking garage and the man behind him stopping to pick it up as Roy turns a corner and disappears from sight, only to return it to Roy a day later...Alan putting a ping-pong table top on top of his car and having the rope snap and it fall off while he is driving, finding it in perfect condition...Roy buying sheets of garden lattice, strapping them on the roof of the station wagon, only to have them sail off on the freeway, crashing in the middle of traffic...At the end of the day, Alan cannot find his car keys. Wendy is worried...he is always forgetting his keys...Alan looks around and around and around and finally finds them...right on top of the car. If it were not his car keys, we surely would have driven off, forgetting yet another thing on the top of the car....
Sofi greets us lovingly, and gets a very big mid-afternoon meal and lots of hugs. I really missed not having her with us. Before we know it, the doorbell rings, and it is Mauro and Livio with Mauro's Confraternity garb for Roy to have copied. I am upstairs at the computer, researching San Vincenzo, to see if I can find a story of his life in English. At church, we were given the story in Italian.
What I find is a story of St. Vincent Saragossa, who lived in the 3rd century and was born in Spain. I can only find a description of his torturous death, but did find a description of a later San Vincenzo, who was born in Rome in 1795 and his actions on behalf of the poor and underprivileged are legendary. It is said that he died from a cold, which he caught on a cold, rainy night after giving his cloak to a beggar who had none. This week we will work on Don Luca's translation and see who is our village's San Vincenzo...
When I come down the stairs, the three men are discussing Roy's Confraternity costume, where to get the red cord sash, and we take advantage of the opportunity to figure out a few more names. Livio is from Montefiascone, we know. He is married to Giuliola, who has one cousin, in Viterbo. Otherwise, she is not related to anyone in Mugnano.
Mauro is married to Laura, but has a sister named Laura and one other living brother, Gianni. Laura and Mauro are friends of Giuliola and Livio, not related. And Livio is so busy overseeing the maintenance and well-being of the church, that he does not have time to participate in the Confraternity.
Mauro confirms that Roy will be Confraternity member number 25. The bronze medallion was made by Ezio, our friend and bronze artist who almost bought San Rocco, in his foundry in Milano. Roy makes sure that Mauro knows how much becoming a member of the Confraternity means to him. Mauro and Livio seem very pleased that Roy will be a part as well.
The cold, cold weather continues, and we end the day in front of the fire, after Roy tries on Mauro's costume and looks at himself in front of the mirror; wearing his brown work pants and slippers underneath, his stomach out, striking a silly pose.
As soon as Sofi and I leave the front gate for our walk, Mario drives up in his ape to do the tree trimming. Before reaching him, we greet Italo and Brik and Ubik, who are all in front of Pepe's open garage door. Inside, in addition to Pepe, is his cousin, Silvano Spaccese. Pepe loves Sofi, and goes over to give her un gran abraccio, while Ubik looks on with disdain. Ubik does not think much of little Sofi. Italo tells me that he is going out with Pepe in the tractor to bring back firewood. When I ask him where they are going, he points with his work-glove somewhere down in the valley.
We finish our walk and watch Mario pruning the big caki tree on the front terrace. He remembers that Roy wants there to be plenty of umbra (shade), so does not over-prune it. Roy has him leave all the cuttings, because they are great as kindling in the fireplace. He brings out a lug and his cutters, and cuts the suckers in place, dropping them right into the lug while Mario moves on to cut the plum tree. The blossoms have finished on the loquat tree next to the plum, and I ask Roy to have Mario clean up the dirty spent blossoms. Mario is so good with us; he tells us not to clean them until they fall to the gravel because if we do that now, there will be no nespola fruit, which is delicious.
In the next garden, the smaller caki tree is pruned, but the fruit tree in the front, which has never borne anything, is morte. So he will return with his chain saw and cut it down. Roy does not want to replace it, but I want a place for the Glorie di Dijon roses to grow and have some shade. So we may plant a pear or peach tree there in its place later in the year.
On to the sour cherry tree, which is half-dead. I think that was the same story last year, and yet we had enough cherries to make some wonderful tart marmelada. He cuts some of the dead branches, but we will just hope that it survives. We may plant another cherry in the back corner.
The big olive tree in front of the gardener's cottage has already become too tall. Mario does a major pruning, and later asks Roy if there have been any olives this year. When Roy tells him no, he replies that that is because the tree was not pruned heavily last year. So we agree to a regular pruning of this tree from now on. He cuts it back, leaving an open cup in the middle for sun.
A trim of the big fig tree and then he gathers the olive and fig branches and moves them to be burned. Olive and fig are not good to burn, he advises. Roy will clean up all the rest, lug by lug, as he does each January. The wood that he gathers each January supplements that which has been delivered in the fall. By the time next winter comes around, this winter's cuttings will be ready to burn. He is into the symphony of it all and I can tell is proud of his work, as am I.
This morning, Roy made a drawing of our proposed rose arch, with dimensions, and gave it to Mario before he left. Mario thinks that Dino will make it in a few days. We know it will be just right.
I really like our broccoletti, so Sofi and I go out and pick a basketful before pranzo. In the kitchen, I put some of Tia and Bruce's olive oil in a sauté pan, a clove of mashed garlic, two anchovies and swirl the anchovies around. Then I add a tiny pepperoncino, the washed broccoletti with its stems pulled off, add a cover to steam it for a minute, turn the greens over to coat them with long kitchen tongs, and add a little lemon juice, salt and pepper. It really is delicious, and even Roy likes it with a little freshly grated cheese on top. He loves the minestrone and potato-bread toast, taking seconds so I won't put more greens on his plate.
Yesterday, Roy stopped in to see Roberto Pangrazi, our geometra, who told him to come back on Thursday for the plans and preventivo for the work for the back of the house. This is separate from the chimney work and the foundation work that Stefano is doing off and on for us. We will not be able to do a lot, but hope to get an idea of what it will cost.
Roy also went to see Virgilio to get the bolt back for the front of the house. He is nervous, as am I, in having the bolt undone for these two weeks or so. I can hear him outside, cinching the bolt, and strangely feel more secure. Later in the evening it clouds over and begins to rain.
I have been thinking about Tia's comments to me on Sunday about my glasses. She asked me to try on Wendy's and also hers, to see how I looked in narrow frames, and commented that they made me look ten years younger. I agreed to go to Amelia with her soon to get new frames. And then I realize that I am no longer interested in the latest fashions. I am, however, missing girl trips, getting together with other women to just laugh and joke. Tia really is so much fun. Perhaps I will get a pair of frames as my new spring wardrobe...
The rain stops and we are able to walk. I notice that the hour between 8 and 9 am is the clearest time of the morning at this time of year; often after our walk we are surrounded in fog or rain.
Today continues very cold, but Roy really wants to get his confraternity garb finished. We go to Viterbo to the fabric store next to Obi, but they do not have the right material. When we get home there is a reminder from our vet that Sofi needs a rabies shot. So we will go soon to Terni to take care of both Sofi's shot and the material. We do some more research for lighting for Judith's apartment, and find a good shop in Viterbo for sconces. Their chandeliers are really gaudy, but the sconces we find are just perfect. We stop at a gastronomia and pick up food for tonight...saltimbocca ready to sauté and chicken sausages for tomorrow.
Roy calls Ariston to ask about a problem with our washing machine, and a service man will come tomorrow morning.
It's warm this morning, and our walk is fragrant and fun. Back at home, the Ariston repair man arrives, and it is bad news. We need to replace our washing machine. I have never liked it...it always seemed to be going through an exorcism during the spin. So after not much more than six years use, at least four of which it was seldom used, we must dig deep again in our pockets for another.
This time, we do research on the the internet, specifically, sites in Britain where the same models are sold. We are looking for one with the highest spin ratio at the best price. In the meantime, we do a load of washing and it comes out without much of a spin...the clothes are soaking wet. It will cost us almost as much to repair the existing machine as get a new one. And washing machines are so strange in Italy. The wash cycle takes almost an hour. Sigh.
Roy drives up to our friends at Sgrina in Giove, who work out a very good deal on a new machine, which will be delivered subito! We will have our new machine tomorrow.
Sofi and I arrive back from a cold, clear walk and our new washing machine arrives a few minutes later. Roy convinces them to take away the old one. We try out a load of towels, and are very pleased. Let's hope this machine, which is rated better than the old one and costs more, lasts much longer. We know it has higher revolutions per minute, and because it takes forever to wash a load, this is a good thing.
We drive to Terni, or at least we think we are driving to Terni, but the police have closed off the first exit and we see many cars just parked on the off ramp. Further down the road, we see miles of traffic and the next exit is blocked as well. Other cars turn around on the superstrada and, what the heck, Roy does so, too. We'll go to Terni another day, and instead stop in Amelia to shop for food and return home. Later, Tia tells us that she thinks there will be a big general strike tomorrow, at least in Rome. Perhaps they are trying the strike out in Terni, first.
I have had this crazy idea about adding a little sitting room off the existing living room leading directly into the garden and turning the main living room into a dining room. We hardly ever use the living room as it is now. What I'd like to see is an open arch where the window facing the garden is now, and a small room, about 10' x 12' with French doors facing the garden. We'd walk out right into the garden, just before and to the left of the olive tree. I know I'm crazy and we can't afford it, but having a real dining room would make the house a lot more comfortable for entertaining, even in the hot summer months. I think we would use the little sitting room more, too. The existing kitchen table can be moved to the dining room...it can expand to twice its size, and we can find a small table for the kitchen.
So Roy and I walk the room off outside, and when he goes to see Roberto Pangrazi, our geometra, later in the afternoon, Pangrazi tells him the proposed back room where we are going to put storage and a bathroom off the main hallway will be called something like a magazino for the hot water heater and other things like that. So it will not even be classified as a room. He could not print out the drawing because his printer is broken, but we will get the drawing in a few days. No rush.
We remember that when we first asked him about it, he told us that putting in a magazino, or storage room, was not possible. Then we talked around and around and he said that we could put in a bathroom as large as we want. Giro, giro, there is almost always a way if you know how to massage the system. Bella figura, or making a good impression, is always important in getting what you want done in Italia.
When Roy asks him about the proposed new room, he thinks we can put in approximately a 10 X 10 X 10 room and will ask at the Commune tomorrow. We'd like to have something drawn up in the event we can find a way to do it. This permit concept is so very strange. The Italians have an odd way of dealing with permits. They like to deal with people they know and like. And in Tobias Jones' book, The Dark Heart of Italy, he writes that, "Everyone feels so badly treated, everything is so legalistic, that people feel justified being a little lawless." I especially like Jones' line, "Here, laws and facts are like playing cards: you simply have to shuffle them and fan them out to suit yourself."
He describes another word, clientelismo as the culture of looking out for your friends and family. So now that we have good relationships with people like Roberto Pangrazi and Stefano Bonari, the sindaco, we find that we are usually not shut out when asking for something. We expect anyone to say "No!" when we first ask, but after awhile of talking around and around the situation often changes.
Tia tells us that it snowed in Amelia this afternoon...more than two inches. Roy goes out to check on the ice situation with all the rain, and there is plenty of wet mush sitting on the window sills and steps. We could not really call it snow...Perhaps tomorrow we will wake up to another January 30th snow on the ground....Last year there was a blanket of snow on this date...our one snow day a year day.
We agreed to get up early today to go for our annual blood tests in Soriano. Leaving the house around 7:30, it is cold but there is no snow. But what's this? Driving down the hill we see the hillsides of Lugnano and Amelia covered with snow. And driving up to Bomarzo there is snow there, too. Across the superstrada toward Soriano we encounter at least an inch on the ground. The closer we get to the town, the more snow we see. Italians are not used to snow. The usual driving fools are like old dotty old men today...driving at 5 mph, their hands frozen on the wheel, eyes locked straight ahead. We pass a car stopped right in the middle of the road, its driver putting on chains. We have chains as well, but hope not to have to use them.
It is so cold. There is not much sun yet, and there is a layer of ice on every road. We park in the town near the café we like. Plows have been out, and we drive over mounds of hours-old packed snow, about eight inches high. Across the street from our parked car, I am taking mincing steps, so afraid of falling. I admit this is my greatest fear...falling. After two major falls in my adult life, I am not very brave when I do not feel solid ground under my feet.
Roy is behind me, putting money in the parking meter. A man meets me at the top of the hill and tells me it is very dangerous to walk down that hill. Where am I going? "The hospital." He shakes his head and asks me if I want him to accompany me. What a gentleman. I don't ever remember being spoken to so chivalrously by a complete stranger, but tell him that my husband will be right along. Thank you.
I hold my left hand out to gain balance from the medieval wall, and take tiny steps along a protected sliver of walkway just next to the wall. Roy arrives. We are not prepared with
the correct shoes. I am wearing very warm boots, but they don't have traction. Roy is wearing athletic shoes with his red jacket that makes him look like The Michelin Man.
It takes us almost 20 minutes to walk down the equivalent of two blocks. We arrive at the hospital and it is toasty warm inside. A man who speaks a little English, the same man who took my first blood test a year ago, greets me in English. A woman in the hall asks what we want. How kind of her. Blood tests? Not today. Every day but Friday....
I don't ever remember ordering it before, but want hot chocolate when we climb back up the hill to the café. It is delicious, made with Perugina chocolate, but very rich. Roy eats two ciambellas (little donuts). We feel we need rewards for surviving.
Sofi has been sleeping in the car, and joyously greets us. We drive to Terni, to do the errands we were not able to do yesterday, stopping first to get her rabies shot. She is brave and sweet, and the doctor trims her front nails as well. While we wait to pay, we ask where Via Ospedale is. Near the hospital? No, it is near the old hospital.
I love this. Getting directions from Italians is such an important task. They take it SO seriously. One man who is there with his cat, the man who sells the pet supplies across the hall and Roy all lean toward Dr. Cristalli's wife, who is standing next to them in the hallway, giving directions. I swear the three of them all lean toward her at the same angle, reminding me of the day Roy and I went bird watching at Point Reyes. Have you ever gone bird watching? All the "watchers" lean at the same angle toward the bird they are watching, as though leaning on one foot like a flamingo. They are SO interested.
We find Via Ospedale, a tiny street in the middle of the centro storico. The beauty supply store does not sell any of the products I am looking for. When I ask them about Framese, a company in Milan that manufacturers what I want, they tell me that Framese sells in Emilia Romagna, or around the world, but not in the rest of Italia. So I have decided to change what I use to something I can find here. I am not about to be a slave to American products any longer.
We walk next to the fabric store for Roy's Confraternity costume. They have what we need, as well as a wonderful plaid for a tablecloth and under-sink curtains. I spend part of the afternoon sewing away, and then go downstairs to start on the osso bucco. I have never made it before, but no matter. It takes two hours to cook in the oven after preparing it, so we will eat late. The fragrance the oven emits while it is cooking is incredible.
Roy sits at the table finishing The DaVinci Code. He is about the last person to read it, but is so engrossed in it that he really cannot put it down. Friends here talk about it. Mary Magdalene married to Jesus... Her visage next to Jesus in DaVinci's Last Supper... Opus Dei. There is so much to talk about...so much conjecture.
It is finally time to eat and we open a '97 Barolo. Good thing. The food is remarkable. I cook a rice with beef broth and squash with brown sugar to accompany the osso bucco. All the different foods on the plate meld and it is a waltz of smells and textures and tastes. I will surely make this for Lore and Alberto. But probably not with rice on the same plate. The Italians serve rice as primi, or first, followed by the meat. No matter.
The meal is so great we turn off the movie and just talk. Roy is obsessed with "what if's" based on his reading. "What if Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child? What would that do to the Catholic Church today? " We go round and around and have fun with it. But he remains obsessed and wants to find a photograph of the Last Supper. "Is there one chalice or thirteen?" We go off to bed with lots to think about.
Yesterday Roy could not wait to get going on his Confraternity costume, so he called Delfa in Orte from the car and drove right there to have her begin to sew it right away...Well, we almost drove right there. He is so enamored with Skippy peanut butter that we just had to stop at LeClerc in Terni to pick up a stash...
Just before sitting down to pranzo, the doorbell rang and it was Dino, to ask us questions about the rose arch. He will work out a way to sink the posts in a little cement, but will leave lots of room for the roseroots. In a week, he will return with his little masterpiece and install it.
Later in the day, Roberto Pangrazi gave Roy good news. The little sitting room can be built, it will be just under 10' x 12', but he wants us to have a peaked roof. We will work out what it will do to our view from the bedroom window. I suspect not much. On Tuesday, he will have all the plans drawn up and ready for us that will include the magazino (storage room) and bathroom in the back of the house and the little seating room. Who knows when we'll be able to afford to move ahead, but we can dream, can't we?
I woke up in the middle of the night with a roaring migraine, so we did not go to get our blood tests this morning. Instead, when Roy got up he found that we had no water...Pipes froze last night. Piano, piano, he goes back to bed to finish The DaVinci Code. Later he tells me that with his new thermometer he could tell that the temperature last night was -5 (mid 20's).
Later in the day, I take Sofi for a walk and Roy drives to Viterbo to buy insulation for the water pipes and heater. He measures the box on the front walk where the water comes onto the property, and when he returns he opens the box and puts in a Styrofoam-type of insulation. Felice walks by and tells him he'd be better off jamming an old wool sweater in there. Ha. Ha. Felice is probably right. Time will tell.
We leave around 5 to go to church in Bomarzo, because tomorrow we will go to the Museo Civico in Viterbo to meet Mary Jane Cryan and have a tour. We have not been to that museum, but it is an Etruscan treasure trove, so we are looking forward to it.
We drive first to Attigliano, past the local carabinieri who are doing a traffic stop, pulling people over with their wands. They never stop us. But then they are friends, feeling sorry for us after our terrible ordeal in May. Last week at Diego's, when making faces over the pig's feet at pranzo, we learned a funny translation. Remember the Capo of the Bomarzo Carabinieri? He is quite tall and handsome and his Armani uniform fits him to a "T". Anyway, we found out the translation of his last name...Pig's Feet.
At Misericordia, the tiny church on a back alley in Bomarzo, Roy is the only man there tonight until the priests show up. Tonight there are two priests and three young seminarians. What is remarkable about this group of parishioners is their age. There must be several older than ninety, and two who dotter up to communion must be over 100. One who sits near us has a tiny wooden chair under a little staircase, where she looks out at the scene like a frightened little bird.
The temperature drops from 7 down to 2 on the drive down the hill from Bomarzo, and we can't wait to get inside by the fire and finish last night's osso bucco, bidding the month of January arrividerci!
On this clear, cold day, I somehow do the walk with Sofi with another migraine. I have no idea what the cause is. It feels good to be out in the cold, and I sit on the bench in the lavender garden while Sofi bounds around, chasing little birds.
We really want to go to the museum tour in Viterbo, so Sofi goes upstairs for a rest and we drive off. The museum is the Viterbo Municipal Museum, and is housed in a group of buildings that comprise Santa Maria della Verita, the museum itself situated in a cloister founded in the 12th century.
Viterbo was the first city to begin collecting Etruscan finds and exhibit them to the general public, as early as the 15th century. We hear from Mary Jane Cryan, who has invited us, that the group we are with is made up almost entirely of people from Vetralla, her home city. Many of these people have never gone to a museum before. She and a few of her colleagues and friends have embarked on a program to educate the local Italians on the important artwork right under their noses. They hope to instill a civic pride and an interest in preserving these important works.
When asked if she has any Etruscan pieces of her own, she responds, "Yes, but everyone has at least a few little things." I find this a remarkable statement. To think that 2,500 years later, we are able to uncover pieces in our own back yards tells me that this whole area is a treasure trove, mostly undiscovered and rich with promise. We are sure that our interest in local archeology and friendship with people like Mary Jane and Tiziano will encourage us to learn a great deal about the ancient history of our village and the surrounding area.
In the next few years, she expects that Viterbo will become well known around the world, for the many treasures of the Etruscan civilization, which predates the Romans and the time of Christ, are only now being recognized internationally. On the Places to Visit blog of this site, there is a background story of the Etruscans. As time goes on, we will study these people in greater depth, and pass along information about them as it relates to our area.
We hope to come back to this fine museum with Tiziano, and recommend it to anyone who plans a visit to the area.
I spend most of the day sleeping off my headache, with Sofi sleeping nearby. Later in the evening Roy begins his training with Sofi. He is teaching her to give him "high fives" or "cinque!" as he calls it. He also needs to work on training her to come when we call. She does not do this, but is a very smart dog. Now is the time to train her, and Roy gets out his clicker and treats, to get started.
Today is the feast day of San Biagio. Trained as a physician during the third century after Christ, Biagio was encouraged to go into the hills to treat the sick. Found in a cave surrounded by wild animals, where he was curing the animals around him, he was imprisoned. While in prison, he saved the life of a young boy who had a bone stuck in his throat. Biagio was beheaded and later sanctified.
He has become the patron saint of throats, and each February 3rd is celebrated in masses around the world where parishioners go to have their throats blessed. Since I woke with yet another migraine, I am hoping that San Biagio, or Saint Blaise as he is known in the U.S., can work miracles on migraines....We will go to mass this afternoon, and I email Don Francis in California to ask him if San Biagio was the first person to use the Heimlich Maneuver.
We have been invited to Aurora's in Orvieto for pranzo...all of us including Sofia. We go to her apartment in the town, and meet her two wonderful black cocker spaniels, one is blind and one almost deaf, both ten years old. We think this will be a real treat for Sofi, but she is a little afraid of them, and once they check her out they aren't very interested in her. So she hangs out with us while we eat and talk.
It looks as though Aurora will be getting a job with an important real estate company in the area. We think she'll do really well selling to English-speaking folks looking for property. She'd like to work with us, referring English-speaking people living in other countries to us who want help to get their newly-purchased properties ready to move into. We're enjoying working with Judith Ciani on her wonderful apartment in Amelia, and look forward to taking on some more projects.
Just in on email is a message from our pal, Bob Kalsey..."Enjoyed your blog this afternoon. Actually, there are no chalices at all in Da Vinci's "Last Supper." Maybe it was a dry town. There were just a few hunks of bread spread around the table and some mostly empty plates. I think they were still waiting for the waiter to take their order.
"There is another famous painting of the last supper in Galleria Borghese, at the Vatican in Rome which has only one chalice -- a glass one, actually, with a glass pitcher next to it. It is by Jacopo Bassano and is said to be the inspiration for Da Vinci's masterpiece. This earlier "Last Supper" was recently restored, revealing quite striking details. See the attached detail from that remarkable painting. Note also, that this painting was also of the scene "before" dinner; in the full version, which you can see at http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/ bassano/last-supper/ the tablecloth is very clean, nobody has yet touched (let alone broken) the bread, and they are about to have some hors d'oeuvres consisting of a sheep's head."
Bob's depiction of the Next To Last Supper....
When I email Bob that it's clear that Mary Magdalene was at the last supper, he sends such a wacky response that I have to include some of it here...
Bob writes, "Yes, Mary Magdalene definitely was at the last supper. In fact, she was
the one who made the reservations. She had a bad day on the street and she was not about to cook for Jesus and his buddies again, so she told him he should just take everybody out for the earlybird special at the local trattoria. They didn't take credit cards, but Judas said he had some cash, so it was "on him."
We return from Orvieto just in time for mass and to get blessed by Don Luca with crossed unlit candles at our throats, as it continues as the Feast day of San Biagio. With three masses in three days, we are really getting the words down....
Back at home, Stefano calls to tell us he will begin work on the chimney repair tomorrow. We have been using the fireplace every night, and so far nothing more has fallen down from the inside of the chimney. But it is only a matter of time, so we are relieved that he is ready to start. Outside, Roy works on the rose arch, and the roses are going to thrive, I am sure. Tomorrow I will work on it with him, weaving the branches in and out. I think it's just about time to cut back the weaker branches.
My latest migraine is gone, so I'm hoping today's blessing helped and that this string of headaches is over.
We have been using a little retractable garden barrier on the stairs to keep Sofi from running up and down. Stairs are not good for the backs of these little dogs. For two days in a row, she has nosed around the edge of the barrier, opening it just enough to wiggle through. Undaunted, she is now on my lap, causing me to hunt and peck while writing, holding her with my left arm. She is stares at the computer keys as they bounce up and down, then sighs and rests her long nose on the edge of the old wood table we use for a desk.
Stefano and Luca come, and it is time to begin the work on the chimney and the shoring up of the house. Stefano looks up the chimney and he and Roy decide that they'll go to Viterbo together tomorrow to purchase the chimney insert together. In the meantime, Luca will be digging into the walls, to prepare for the installation of huge steel beams.
Roy and Sofi and I drive to Bomarzo to talk with Virgilio about the design of the braces that will go on the outside of the house. Yes, outside. There is no alternative. We will see three braces on the front of the house. I want to be sure that they are not ugly, but the design Virgilio shows us is bruto. I tell him no, that there must be an alternative. We have brought a design taken from the base of the lights on either side of the front door. The design is a modified S shape. Virgilio tells us the "S" is not strong enough. He modifies it some and it looks a little better, so we ask him to make one for us to approve. In the meantime, I am sure that we have seen good looking ones, and am sure that we will come up with a workable option subito.
At home Roy calls Maurizio, to ask him to come to look at the work we are having done. We want him to design a modest pepperino header over the kitchen and living room (soon to be dining room) doors. He will come tomorrow morning. Roy and Stefano decide to go to visit him to talk about the structure, and come back to tell me that Maurizio acted strangely. Stefano is leery of him. Roy tells Stefano that Maurizio is brilliant, albeit eccentric. We trust his design sense. We cannot pay much, but think he will come up with a great solution tomorrow.
We have our lesson with Tiziano, and it is at his house. These lessons are always fun. We tell him about our visit to the Museo Civico in Viterbo, and he'd like to go there with us to practice his English. That's wonderful. There is so much more to learn about the Etruscan art, and he is so much fun. Roy wants to know why a little street in the centro storico is called Via del Ghetto....
Until about forty years ago, pigs and sheep were kept in the centro storico, in the first floors of some of the old houses. This little street was a place where the people threw, well, let's just say it smelled. I think that about the time the bridge was built over the Tiber in the early '60's, connecting Mugnano with civilization, the people of the village were told they had to get these animals out of their homes. So they put them in fields down below, and cleaned up the street. Via Del Ghetto became an alley with houses on either side. When viewing them recently, they looked as old as the oldest buildings. So at least the architecture outside is characteristic...
Back at home, we take down things from the walls and get paper thin plastic tarps out to cover everything on the ground floor. Tomorrow at 8AM the place will look like a war zone. I hope the weather is good. Then I can keep Sofi outside in the garden with me while I work on the roses.
We're up early, and out for our walk before the boys get here. Things are organized and put away, so well that Roy uses a plastic bottle that held some vino for cooking instead of the bottled water we drink to make coffee. When he pours it into the paper cups we will use today and takes a taste, he makes a face and we laugh, realizing at the same time what he has done. When he goes to Viterbo with Stefano, he can have caffé then.
Stefano and Roy leave for Viterbo, and I take Sofi outside to work on the roses. The windows are open and I can see a fine layer of dust wafting outside. When I go inside for a minute, Luca is on the ladder and we both laugh. I feel as if we are in Pompeii.
Roy and Stefano return, and they have had to order the parts for the fireplace. It will take a week. The doorbell rings and Roy goes down to speak with a man who has a notebook and wants to come in and give us a price to clean the house. Roy tells him no, we don't want any help. I am very suspicious. We don't let anyone we don't know on to our property. There are so many stories of "cons", that we aren't about to take a chance.
The day progresses, and Maurizio and his wife arrive. He makes a drawing for the headers we want made out of pepperino to be placed over the kitchen and dining room doors, and will get back to us in a few days with a proposed design. He can finish it in about three weeks.
Just before pranzo, Stefano and Luca stop working and start to clean things up, "for pranzo". How amazing. In the US this would not happen, but pranzo is the daily national holiday for all Italians. We tell him we will not eat at home, so not to worry, and he and Luca are on their way to their own pranzo.
Later in the day, the house really looks like Pompeii. A fine layer of dust covers everything everywhere. I try to keep Sofi with me, but when I come inside without her she cries. I suggest to Roy that he go to Virgilio with a design I found in a book last night for the tirante, the face plate to cover the iron cinch for the front of the house. He drives up to Bomarzo to meet with him and Virgilio has finished the mockup and first tirante for our approval. Roy brings it back. It is bruto. He will not fabricate the one I want. He tells Roy it is not strong enough.
At home, I am holding Sofi in my arms on the front terrace, and Luigini waves as she walks up the hill from feeding her gallenas, asking us what is happening. Roy tells her that we are fixing big cracks in our walls, and she sees that we need some good news. She brings me four fresh eggs, explaining that they have not been washed as they are fresh from the coop. I can clearly see that that is all she has in her white bucket. What a generous gift. Roy takes them from me and puts them "backstage" in the back hallway, where they will be protected and kept cool.
When Stefano is finished for the day we show Virgilio's proposed tirante design to him. Roy has laid it out on the floor of the parcheggio, and the three of us stand at the iron railing, looking down on it. Stefano does not say a word, but looks over at me. He knows it is bruto, and suggests that we look at a design on a building in the centro storico in Bomarzo and also talk with Pangrazi, the geometra (a geometra is like an engineer) to see if he has any ideas.
We drive up to Bomarzo right behind the workers. The light is fading, but there is a menacing full moon. This has been such a strange day and I am wondering what that moon portends...
The phone rings, and it is Terence. We are to be the grandparents of at least one baby girl, and Angie is doing fine. They are certainly up to date parents-to-be, and have registered at babiesareus.com. This is such an exciting time for them and we are so happy for them.
We get out of the car right outside the centro storico and walk around, looking for the palazzo with an unusual tirante. Right in front of us are Michael and Stefanie, who are measuring the doors on their medieval palazzo. We are taken for a look around, and their building is huge. It looks as though it is three or so apartments in one. The view is magical. There is a lot of work to do, but they are enjoying every minute and it is fun to see them at this stage of their renovation. The roof is finished, and is beautiful. The rest is yet to come. Piano, piano. Everthing takes time. Stefanie is an artist, and the plan is to get her studio ready next, complete with a tall opening that she can move her paintings out from the third floor...how ingenious.
They give us a suggestion of a place to go in Viterbo to have the tirantes made, and their suggestions and ideas are beginning to make sense. We may have a very plain catena made, with a design to cover it. Tomorrow we will drive to Viterbo to see what they can do for us.
We come home to feed Sofi and to clean for an hour or so and then go for a little pasta nearby. It is too daunting to cook at home. Everything is so topsy -turvy that I realize I have misplaced the telephone. It is a battery operated cordless one, and while Roy was gone I ran to answer it and somehow I put it somewhere. We call our phone from the cell, and the battery is dead. The day ends with that big fat moon laughing at us, as we hide under our down comforter and hope to dream of a simpler day tomorrow.
I like the look of the still unfinished repair work done on the wall above the doors in the kitchen and the living room. It gives the house character, a hint of lives lived and stories worth telling. This is one of the features I like so about old houses. Ours is a young house, just under 70 years, and now the "new" patina gives the house a kind of elder statesman or better yet, older generation stature. Once Maurizio's pepperino headers have been installed, we will feel very secure as well.
Outside, on one half of the front of the house just under the window, the top layer of stucco added within the last several years comes off too easily, practically in one piece. Underneath, there are dead roots, evidence of moisture and weeds growing inside, snaking in through tiny cracks and finding a home here. Now that water no longer seeps under the house, and we have had a very dry summer, we are much more confident that we have solved one of the mysteries of this house...
With the front wall partly open, we notice a blue plastic pipe coming from the radiator, which we will reroute around the corner to the future sitting room. That is good news. It is good to see the positive side of these little nightmares, and we are reminded once again later in the day that it is important to think this way...The hot water keeps turning off, and Enzo comes to tell us we must replace the thermostat. Next week, he promises to return to install the heated towel bar in the bathroom.
What is the big deal? He keeps putting this little project off. Is there something we do not know about regarding heated towel bars? We are ready for most anything. Not a person to put off projects, Roy drives right out to pick up a new thermostat. Let's hope this is the last one we will have to buy...the last one could have been installed when the house was built...
In the morning, we leave Stefano and Luca here to dig out the front foundation, which we see consists of huge tufa blocks but nothing else, while we drive to Viterbo to research catenas and tirantes. I am not ready to give up on the design, and cannot understand why Virgilio won't help us to come up with a more attractive way of finishing it off. Roy finds the cintura, or cord belt, for his Confraternity costume and we buy two new telephones. We think we threw out one old handset with the weeds yesterday by mistake and Roy wants to replace the old phone we have been using upstairs. We need to have one that will continue to work if the power goes out. They are not expensive, and we find two that will work well.
But we have no luck whatsoever regarding the tirantes, which are the face plates for the catenas, or long steel pipes that "cinch" the second story of the house together. We go to both factories on Via Tibertina, and they appear to be suppliers to people like Virgilio. One has books we can look through, but we cannot find anything we like. I do not understand that if the existing ones will work, why a decorative element placed on top of a newer but same structure won't work.
On the way back home, Pangrazi is not in his office, but we meet him on the road to Mugnano, so Roy will drive up to see him later. If we can't find an answer, we will just use the same type that is there, fill it in with stucco and paint it the same color as the house. We have not even begun to talk about painting the front of the house yet. Until we get all the repair work done and the two rooms added, I don't want to even think about painting.
Felice comes by in the afternoon to do some weeding of the lavender garden, and swears when we bring him inside to show him what repair work is going on. He shakes his head and to make us feel better tells us stories about Mugnano before the second world war and the trouble kids would get into playing in the dirt on this property before the front wall was put up and the original cancello installed. He agrees that all the old homes had tufa foundations.
Roy comes home to tell me that the design I'd like to have on the tirantes has been approved by Pangrazi and Virgilio has agreed to it. But Roy draws out a design that is not what I had asked, and I show him why. The design is so important that it will be an eyesore if it is not executed correctly, so I tell Roy to make me the Bad Guy and go back to Virgilio to make a modification. This is one of the few times that I really have to put "pedal to the metal" and stay on top of it. Poor Roy. He also came back with a thermostat that looks like it is right out of the Jetsons..a big shiny white plastic contraption that will go right inside the front door. Looks like it will have to go back...
I have yet another migraine, but am confident that I am only five weeks away from the start of a cure...This has certainly started off as a very weird month...
On our walk at around 8:30, Luigina leans out her front window to talk, and the younger men (40's, 50's, 60's) are dressed and meeting up and getting into cars to go hunting. The older men in their 70's and 80's stand leaning against the walls in their front doorways, looking out at the younger men somewhat sadly, perhaps thinking of other days and younger times. It is Saturday morning in the village. Later, Franco will come with his white vedura truck and the women will line up to see what he has to offer them.
Sofi is somewhat afraid of Carlo's beautiful black and white cat, who sleeps on the doorstep of the building next to the bus stop. The cat sits and stares. Sofi moves a few steps forward, a few steps backward, but the cat's stare is like a laser and Sofi hops away, not ready to confront this scary animal.
Last night I could not sleep, and the owls kept me company. I can hear them through the closed windows. In another month or two, the owls will be followed by the little birds, singing from midnight on. It is time to begin painting again, and to finish the painted storage piece in the kitchen that I started a few years ago. Yesterday we bought some paints and I will work on repainting the leaves and adding the little medallions at the top of each bundle.
This is the time of the year for indoor projects, and I have sewed two aprons for Loredana and finished off a couple of tablecloths (tovaglias). I have so many, but love every one. I collect wonderful material to make tablecloths with matching curtains for the sink, or finished ones, but cannot have too many. I collect them the way Roy collects shoes or tote bags, and change them often.
I think I love the feel of material in my hands, and wish that I could be a more adept seamstress. I am able to perform simple tasks on my machine, but am befuddled when it comes to more complicated designs. One year I attempted to make a slipcover for a wing chair in the bedroom. Margaret helped me to make a pattern, but even then I could not get the seams just right. So I gave up, and a pair of white duck-like curtains are hung over the chair and tied on the sides. On top are two off-white damask fringed pillows, which are just the right size for the backrest and the seat cushion. I like the look, and Sofi likes to curl up there when I am upstairs.
It's time to make some more minestrone, and I have soaked some beautiful small white cannellini beans and some pink speckled borlotti beans overnight. I will use a little pancetta to start, but will take the pieces out after they are sautéed. The little flavor of the bacon adds a richness to the soup that we like. And I think the process is so much more fun with the beautiful big copper soup pot from my mother.
It takes the rest of the morning to wash and cut and prepare all the vegetables for the soup, and while I am at it also make a big pot of red pepperoni sugo for pasta. Sofi loves the mess in the front of the house, with mounds of black dirt in front of the door and pits running the length of the front of the house on either side of the stairs. She takes all her toys out and, as if that is not enough, goes into her dog house and takes out some more. Then she drags them all around until they look like Pigpen in the Peanuts comic strip. When Roy comes back, he shakes his head at the chaos but sees Sofi dashing back and forth with great gusto, so smiles and lets her be.
Roy comes back with the same thermostat, and I agree to it. He comes back without another phone, however, after a big discussion with the store. They do not have another telephone that would work for us, and agree to "try" to find one. In the meantime, we have a store credit. Stores in Italy will not give refunds. In the meantime, we have a telephone that works.
Today is very quiet. I wake with yet another rousing migraine, but we go to mass anyway. Once back at home, I spend the rest of the day trying to sleep it off. Downstairs Roy putters. Outside it is a beautiful day, calm and clear and warm. I take a walk outside and find him behind the house, cutting small branches into smaller pieces for firewood and setting them in plastic lugs.
Luca walks back to us to say, "Sofia soto!" She has fallen under the grillwork of the French drain, wagging her tail. We go to the front of the house and lift her out. Because the front of the house is open, she has somehow fallen down into the gulley and followed the drain around to the spot where we are talking. She is one funny dog.
The day ends with wonderful news from Terence and Angie...They are ready to announce that Angie will probably have twins, and Angie is feeling better, much stronger than during her first three months. Adrian reminds them that Iolanda lit candles and prayed that she would have twins, and on this the sixth anniversary of her passing, we are sure she is looking down at all of us, smiling.
This is a beautiful day. Sofi and I take our walk and Stefano and Luca jackhammer under the front of the house on the foundation project. Giovanni comes up the path to make some excuse to talk with Stefano. He is the quintessential sidewalk superintendent. Before long we are sure that he will come up the stairs and supervise.
Roy and Sofi and I have driven all around the area...Bomarzo, Attigliano, Giove, Amelia, Lugnano...and have seen no tirantes for the front of the house that we could consider except oval ones that we have seen outside the carabineri building in Lugnano. This morning, Roy asks Stefano if we can just use the plain ones but stucco over them. I want this challenge to go away, and suggest this as a simple option.
Stefano tells Roy that will look ugly. I then agree to the oval design, and Roy and I drive to Virgilio to ask him if he can make them. He agrees, and they will be ready by the end of next week. Stefano is not thrilled by the continued delay, because that part of the work is very important, and really should be done before the rest of the foundation work. He and Luca continue jackhammering on the front of the house. We trust him that it will work out. Perhaps the chimney parts will arrive soon and they can move to that part of the work while Virgilio makes the tirantes.
The birds are so happy today. My head is starting to clear, and I am looking forward to spending at least part of the day outside. Sofi is just happy being around people, and she loves Stefano and Luca. When she goes over to them to play and I follow her and pick her up, Stefano hugs her and says, "Fa niente"(It is nothing).
Felice comes to prep the area where we planted zucchini last year for potatoes. He does a fine job, the dirt is blacker than black, and there are three rows of nine holes each for the potatoes. There is room behind the potatoes for a path and behind that for three zucchini plants, which we will plant in April. The potatoes will be ready at the end of the summer, we suspect. We are beginning to keep a log. Better yet, we'll add a blog to our site to document actual plantings.
A major reason for this journal is to document events for future use. So the mention of migraines appears unfortunately often. And again, I woke up in the middle of the night with a roaring migraine. I did get some sleep, and it was a good thing. Stefano and Luca started jackhammering at the front of the house just after 8am.
Starting this week, I am doing an excel chart of medicines taken, headaches, food eaten, weather conditions, in preparation for my appointment next month at the headache clinic. I have no idea what the doctors will do, but in case they want to check food records, I'll have them. This is a tedious project, but probably helpful.
We drive up to Amelia to go to the bank and do a walk around the town. This is a sleepy place during the winter, especially on weekdays. Even though its property values are very high due to foreign investors, there remain many buildings that appear not to have been inhabited for decades. In the next few years, we expect all that to change. Judith probably made a very good investment.
We drive back through Penna and stop to order Judith's kitchens. We will have to return to the apartment with them tomorrow to verify their measurements. In the meantime, Luca and Stefano continue to jackhammer the front of the house and replace the front part of the French drain with cement. They replace our little motor on our paranco with Stefano's big motor, but it causes the paranco to be unsteady, so he ties ropes to either side of it like the mast of a sailboat. He jury-rigs a ramp off the side of the end fioriera for the full wheelbarrow of wet cement to glide down, and I turn my head as we leave. Stefano knows I don't want to see what he is doing.
The cement is mixed in a cement mixer outside our cancello and brought by wheelbarrow below the paranco, where it is hooked on and lifted up. The weight must be more than 150 lbs, for our motor will handle that much. I need to change the subject. It is not a good idea that my mind lingers on the possible dangers of what they are doing. But I trust Stefano implicitly. Good thing.
Back at home, Felice is just leaving with an empty little plastic bucket. He has planted all the potatoes...27 of them. We are disappointed. We wanted to watch him do that. So the next time he comes back , we'll have him dig one up and show it to us. We don't know what he has planted. Is it a piece of a potato in each hole?
We drive to Amelia early on this cold morning for kitchen measurements, then walk across the street to pick up some tiny brushes and paint colors so that I can begin to work on repainting the leaves on the kitchen armadio.
It is early, so we drive to Lugnano to pick out the granite countertop, and make an appointment with Franco to measure next week. We find a wonderful granite slab, mostly white with jet black and a tiny bit of grey-brown, from Sardinia. I remember growing up in Quincy, MA that that city was known for its granite quarries and two presidents. I had no idea granite could be so interesting or so varied. The city always seemed so dreary to me.
On this dark and cold day, Sofi and I stay inside while Roy drives around to find the proper vent pipe. There is so much going on outside the house that we decide it's time to have Stefano vent the stove outside. We are having trouble finding a pipe of the correct dimension...Utility yards in Soriano, Attigliano, Vitorchiano, Viterbo....Roy knows them all.
It was good that we were out of the house all morning, for we return to find no front step, but a well in its place filled with iron rods and wet cement and a wood ramp leading to the front door. There is a spritz of rain, but that is all, and that is a good thing. The front terrace is full of mounds of dirt and broken concrete. Stefano should be ready tomorrow to work inside. This will be another mess, followed by the chimney insert project and then Maurizio's installation of the pepperino headers above the doors. They leave with a moat of cement across the front of the house, no front steps and a wooden plank.
Tia calls and reports great success at Walter Branchi's rose vivaio in Cobara. I want to go back there to see how their crepescule roses are doing on the building, but am loyal to Michellini and we'll buy the roses from them soon. I am looking forward to working out in the garden again.
What a beautiful day! Today is clear and warm, and when we go for our walk we come upon Luigina and her grand daughter, Marica. Marica is crying, until she sees Sofi and Carlo's cat. The cat sits like the cat in Alice in Wonderland, leering at Sofi. Sofi is afraid of it. She jumps forward, then darts back, never getting closer than three feet. I give Marica a small dog treat in the shape of a drumstick and she throws it in the street. Sofi eats it, all the while staring at the cat. It's time to move on.
On the way back up Via Mameli, the shadows of the old tufa one-room casales used to keep farm implements stretch all the way across the street. The sun is very low in the sky, and behind the shadows the sun is bright, telling us that spring is just ahead. Time to get the roses pruned....
Stefano and Luca finish the front of the house in front of the kitchen, replacing the dirt, nursery cloth and raking the gravel. Then they work on the cement faccia below the living room window. The front steps are now cemented in place, but it will take another day for them to dry. So we use the plank to walk in and out.
Roy goes to Giove to work on Judith's kitchen order, and Sofi helps me sharpen my Felco pruner and cut back the roses. She is never far from my side. I am reminded of a lesson a few days ago with Felice in the garden. At around noon on that day, I walked out with a little basket to pick some broccoletti for pranzo. He saw me take all the leaves from one of the plants, and showed me to pick them differently. I am used to picking larger leaves off a plant, whether it is lettuce or celery or broccoletti. Why, I don't know.
The best leaves are always the tender little ones in the middle of the plant. So I need to stop worrying about the life of the plants, and pick the very best for each meal. Felice shows me how to open up the plant to find tiny bunches of leaves, and pick those. Forget about the outer leaves, or take them off and put them in the compost. I sauté his leaves, and he is right. They are truly delicious. Grazie, insegnante!
After pranzo, Stefano comes in to work on the kitchen vent project. Roy has prepped the area, using a long steel rod as a drill bit and drilling all the way through the side wall of the house (about 18 inches). Bravo. He has cut a neat hole in the side of the cabinet above the stove, and he and Stefano work together. We are not able to eat pranzo in the kitchen because everything in the cabinet is sitting on the table. So I clean off the marble table between the two cypress trees, and we eat there, so happy to be able to eat outside once again, even tho we are surrounded by cement, wheelbarrows, mounds of dirt, shovels, hoses and plywood.
We leave mid day to go to the hospital in Orte to the orthopedist for my shoulder. The appointment is at 4, but I am told to get there at 3. At the appointed hour, I wait in line to pay for the visit, and about eight women are there in front of me, all gathered around the doorway. Finally it is my turn and the visit costs around €13. And now the wait. About an hour and a half later, they call out my name, and Roy and I go into a big room. We are introduced to Doctor Luccese, a very nice man seated at a desk. I show him the xrays, but he is much more interested in talking about life in Stati Uniti. He then asks us about the public health insurance in the States, and we laugh.
Finally he gets around to me, has me sit on the edge of an examining table, cracks my neck, then turns me into a windup doll as he flails my right arm around in huge circles until I holler "Si!" "Si!" "SIIIIII!" He looks at the x-rays and tells us I have bone degeneration in my neck. He writes out two prescriptions for pills and powder to take twice a day for fifteen days, and also a prescription for me to go back upstairs for ten more electromagnetic treatments with my pals. While this goes on, Roy asks him if I am a candidate for surgery. Luckily I have no idea what he is saying until later. Surgery! Thankfully the doctor thinks not. I'll say!
Almost as an afterthought, I ask him if the shoulder and neck pain has any relationship to the migraines. He stops, brings me back over to the examining table, and puts his hands on my jaws, from behind. He tells me to open and close my jaw several times, and boy it hurts! Then he writes another prescription for another x-ray to take tomorrow. After the x-ray, the treatments upstairs and the medicine, he wants me to go back to him. Perhaps this will coincide with the headache clinic in Perugia. Hopefully we are making headway.
Roy and I walk toward the car and see Alberto's parents on the street. We greet them and ask if he has had his exams yet in Florence. Not for a few weeks. Now he is at work restoring Saint Peter's church on the way out of Orte. We drive over to see him, and the difference in the look of this tiny church from our first visit last year is amazing.
Alberto is faux-ing a frame around a painting above the altar. He shows us around, and before we are through brings out an amazing sculpture of St. Peter, carrying a cross. Well, it is St. Peter's shoulder and arm and the cross. Alberto found it stuck inside one of the walls, in between two big pieces of tufa. They have made a wonderful niche for it, to be covered in glass. The church is to be finished in about five weeks, and we hope to go to the inauguration on March 20th. We tell Alberto that Roy is now a member of the Confraternity di Mugnano and he asks which Confraternity. San Liberato, si certo! He calls up to a friend up on a ladder to let him know Roy is now an important man in the village.
He asks Roy what his costume is like, and the color. He then asks if there is a hood. No. In Orte, the members of the Confraternity have white hoods, which they don on Good Friday. We have never seen their procession, and hope to this year. It sounds pretty frightening, reminiscent of movies of the KKK. If you do not know, the hoods were a part of ancient traditional white costumes used on Good Friday to escort a funeral bier in the town's annual procession. It was centuries later that the KKK adapted this costume for their barbaric rites. I am thankful that Roy will have no hood to wear, and that his costume is red and dark blue.
We are out doing errands and come home to find the front terrace restored to pre-construction condition, and the vent almost complete. Stefano has added a copper faceplate outside the house, and that will wear to a fine patina. Stefano has also worked on the stucco inside over the door to the kitchen. There is a little more to do inside, but perhaps the material has arrived in Viterbo for the fireplace, and they can move to that tomorrow, or Monday at the latest.
Roy finishes the vent work inside. Later we drive to Tia's for a light supper and then take her to Penna to a jazz concert in the church, Santa Maria Della N eve. The concert is put on by a friend, Cesare, who is also a doctor in Amelia. This is not the first jazz concert of his we have attended, and he always finds good musicians. Tonight, there are: a pianist, drummer, base player, trombone player, and someone who plays both the clarinet and the tenor sax. The music is excellent, and we like most of the arrangements.
When we leave around eleven, it is so cold we cannot wait to get to the car. We get home by midnight and it is just about freezing. We have not had any really cold weather this winter, but hope that we won't have a hard frost. This is a dangerous time of year...if there are a few very warm days followed by a hard freeze, as there was last year, we will lose most of our fruit. We can only wait and see.
It is another very cold day, and so cold that we do not take our walk. Instead, we laze around for an extra hour and then drive to Viterbo to do some furniture searching and check out the Museo Civico for design suggestions for the pepperino headers that will go over the kitchen and living room doors. During a visit to Maurizio yesterday, we did not agree on the design/s he will carve on the stone. We think we may find some elements to copy at the museum.
We don't find the perfect ideas in the museum, but do find some excellent lighting ideas and sofas and chairs for Judith in shops in Viterbo. Later in the day, at two antiquarios we know well, we find more furniture, and will email Judith with our finds tonight. At home, Felice comes by and asks Roy if he has brought me flowers. We don't celebrate Valentine's Day, other than to have a good meal at night. Every day is Valentine's Day to us...
We ask Lore and Alberto what the big deal is about St. Valentine's Day, and they tell us that this is recent, a commercial cultural update borrowed from the U.S. St. Valentine is the patron saint of both nearby Penna and Terni. So there is some excuse for making a big deal out of the day.
We oversleep, and it is cold and foggy outside. So we drive up to church, putting the bag for Lore with her finished aprons inside the car. She and Alberto will come from Rome for a short meeting with Stefano, who is about to begin the roof on their new building in Mugnano. In case they arrive early and also attend mass, it will be ready for them.
Inside church, while we wait for mass to begin, the regular folks trickle in, each taking his regular seat. It reminds Roy of the ending of the first Oceans Eleven movie, with the actors filing silently into the pews at the funeral home. After Mass, Rosita asks us for Tiziano what day our meeting is this week at our house. He is probably at home, sleeping. We tell her Mercoledi, sempre Mercoledi, because if we schedule a meeting on Tuesday, he thinks it is on Thursday. And when we schedule a meeting for Thursday, he thinks it is Tuesday. So sempre Mercoledi. She laughs.
After mass, we file out and see Felice coming across the little plaza toward us, a bottle of his homemade wine in his arms. We ask him if it is breakfast, and he laughs. It is for pranzo. I ask him if he had a little taste of it in his cantina on the way here. Later Roy sees him coming out of the chicken coop across the street and walks over to talk with him. We think Felice goes there every day to feed them...The couple who owns it are both sick, we think, and staying in Rome. I think it would be good to have a little chicken coop, but Roy is not interested. I'm a little squeamish dealing with them anyway, so it is just as well for now.
After breakfast, I clean off the front of the front door and see Paola on the street. I invite her up for coffee and to see our chaos, and she spends a while with us. For the first time, we learn that her grandmother, Candida, fell a few weeks ago in her home in Rome and broke two bones in her lower back. I have been missing her and am so sad. We will not see her until perhaps May. She must be unhappy that she cannot tend to her garden. We also find out that Paola's great uncle, Pepe, is also ill, and needs to go to the hospital. Since it is not an emergency, he will have to wait a few more weeks. He needs an operation, we think, on the arteries close to his heart.
Now we are amazed that we do not know this already, but Giovanni's sister is Giuseppa, Pepe's wife. We have never seen them together, but it makes sense. And Augusta is a sister as well. No wonder these two women sit next to each other in church.
Once a week, Paola has an English lesson in Rome, and today before she leaves Lore and Albert come up the stairs. When she hears Paola speaking English, she scolds me, "You will NEVER learn Italian this way." Paola makes a polite but hasty exit and Alberto and Lore sit down in the kitchen with us. The table is piled high with illustrated books about Italy. We are trying to figure out what Maurzio should carve on the pepperino headers over the doorways.
About half an hour before they came, Roy drove up to the village plaza to take a photo of the inscriptions over the Orsini palace. There is a leaf pattern that I like, and it is one of the designs we are considering. When bringing up the subject with Lore and Alberto, they were sure that they could come up with the perfect thing for Maurizio to inscribe on the pepperino. And now they are here to tell us what they think:
Alberto writes down three or four phrases that we can use. The two we like the best are from Cicero, and one was said at the beginning of each Senate meeting during his time and one at the end. They are in Latin: "CURA UT VALEAS" (Take good care of yourself) and "SI VALES BENE EST EGO VALEO" (If you are well, I am well). The first will be installed in the kitchen over the doorway, with a lavender bunch carved on each side. The second will be installed over the present living room doorway. We think these are very good choices. Tomorrow we will drive to Maurizio to give him the details.
This afternoon, I take out paints and go to work on the front of the painted cabinet in the kitchen. When finished, the leaves become fuller, and lighter in color. I think they are a little bright, however, and might tone them down with a white paint and water wash tomorrow. I also paint a border with gold leaf paint in the inset. I never liked the dark green leaves that I painted a few years ago, and enjoy taking on these little projects. I even manage to clean up without making a mess. It is too cold to prune more roses, so I am hoping that tomorrow will warm up. While Stefano and Luca work on the fireplace, Sofi and I can be down on the front path, getting the roses ready for spring.
It's a beautiful morning, and somehow I sleep later than usual. When I get up to take Sofi out, Roy tells us he is going to Terni to have a squeak fixed on the car and do a couple of errands. Sofi and I go for our walk and the fog clears, warming up the front terrace when we return. So we go out to prune the roses on the front path, and before we are done, Roy returns. I will need him to work with me on the taller branches, and to add a row or two of guide wire. These Lady Hillington roses are really wonderful roses, happy hugging the tall tufa wall, facing south.
Stefano and Luca return dopo pranzo to begin the fireplace project. Roy and I have covered the fireplace front with plastic. When they arrive, Stefano tells us they will begin by knocking out part of the wall in the guest bedroom, right where the fireplace curves. We all go up to watch him, and the hole he hammers out is about three feet square. We can just smell the smoke from the fireplace as he takes out brick by brick.
We drive to Maurizio's in the next town to take a bunch of lavender and our diagrams of what we want him to inscribe. He and his wife, Umi, like our ideas very much, and will use our bunch of lavender that is tied with a wire ribbon for a template. By the end of the month, it should be finished. The pieces will be 25cm high, so they will be bigger than I thought. I am certain we have designed the right pieces and look forward to having them as part of our home as headers over two doorways.
Later, while I am in our bedroom with Sofi, Roy comes in wearing his workpants and camp royanee shirt to tell me that he has just taken a picture of Stefano with his legs hanging down the inside of the fireplace like a stuck santa. Five minutes later her returns, beaming. "Stefano took my advice! I told him to connect the two pieces of the fireplace insert from the top instead of the middle, and he thanked me. I am now not just a pretty face!"
Stefano and Luca rig up a board to get from the roof of the bathroom to the roof of the house. The old chimney cap comes off and is lowered down by rope. The new oval pieces of inox (aluminium) for the insert are pushed down from the roof, and the fit is good and tight. After the inox is in place, Luca mixes argila (clay), which looks like cement with little round pebbles inside. They bring buckets up to the guest bedroom to fill in the hole. The principle is that it will go in as a kind of liquid form and will expand to fill all the holes.
In the meantime, much of it plops right down into the fireplace. I take Sofi into the bedroom so that she will not get into the middle of it all. Earlier in the day, after Luca finished his work on the roof, he was afraid to walk down the steep thin plank from the roof of the house to the roof of the bathroom to get down. I hear about this later, and am glad I did not see what that looked like. Somehow I see him on the terrace, so evidently Stefano found a way to get him back down safely.
The day cools off quickly after five, with the sun low on the horizon. There are surprises every day, but then we have learned to..."aspetta quello che non si aspetta"...
Stefano and Luca arrive just after Roy and I have "tarped" the whole kitchen again. Instead of coming inside, Stefano and Luca go up to the roof to finish their work there. It is cold this morning, and I don't realize how very cold until I am half-way to the bus stop with Sofi. So I put the hood up on my long coat and hope that the sun follows us along our path. When we come back up the hill I look up on the roof to see...ROY! I am not happy. He comes down a few minutes later and gets a good scolding, promising me never to go up on the roof again.
By the time we leave around 9:30, Luca has climbed out of the fireplace, where he stood inside to take down the wooden frame that had been inserted the day before to hold up the fireplace lining. When he comes outside, he is wearing a heavy bag that was made to hold cement, which he has cut arms and neck holes in. I compliment him, asking if his new creation is Armani. He really looks cute.
Stefano finishes the coating on the outside of the fireplace cap, which is quite tall now. He has inserted a mesh lining to keep out birds, and once it is cemented in place he can come down to work inside. We leave with him still on the roof.
Roy and Sofi drive me to Amelia to meet Alice, a woman who is going to work on my back and neck. She has been giving massages to friends and Tia encourages me to try her. Alice is very simpatico, and sits me down on a couch to talk before she starts to work on me. After she works on me for a while, she comments, "Your neck is in crisis!" I begin to believe her when lazer-like pains shoot up the sides of my neck as she runs her hands down one side and then the other. We agree that I will go back in a few days for another treatment. I notice the difference later in the day. My shoulders feel more relaxed.
We arrive back home dopo pranzo, but the boys are gone. They did not work inside at all. Roy goes up to the village to find them, and they will not return today. They will return tomorrow with Virgili's tirantes for the front and back of the house, and will work on the patching over the door just before Maurizio comes back with the headers.
Later in the day, Roy tells me that he is going to knock out the plaster above the steel headers himself. This revelation comes after Catherine and Kaas come by for a drink and Kaas tells Roy it is easy to do and Roy can do it with a box under the door frame to collect the plaster so it won't make as much dust as Stefano would with his jackhammer.
By the time Catherine and Kaas leave, it is too late to go to the store, so I make a pasta sauce with whatever I can find. That means: a piece of chopped pancetta, a red onion, a little garlic, pepperoncini, a can of tomatoes, a cup of white wine, chopped black olives and chopped parsley, a little sugar and a little cream, and the rest of the roast pork, cut in short julienne strips. The pasta is a kind of thin twisted noodle called Castaricci. It is spicy but very good. I serve it with homemade cheese bread right out of the oven. I really enjoy making our own bread.
Stefano and Luca arrive early, bringing the oval tirantes and threaded bolts for the outside of the house. But when Stefano climbs up a tall black metal ladder to test a bolt, it won't fit. There is something strange about the bolt size...It fits at first, but deeper into the bolt the rod won't thread. Aldo measured and took one of these bolts back to the shop himself weeks ago, so Stefano and Luca take everything back to Virgilio and Aldo. I am hoping that does not mean that everything has to be remade.
I console myself by trying to translate a lemon torta recipe, and it is little consolation. Roy and I both try to translate the recipe, and our results are spotty. So I go about making the recipe in my usual fashion...reading it and then ignoring most of it. The result is good, somewhat dense and delicious. I add more lemon and walnuts, and as we taste it we make suggestions for varying it next time. This is the fun aspect of cooking for us.
I have been thinking about Catherine since her visit here yesterday. She is a masterful yoga instructor, and I have wondered what she does for mentoring. She has a yoga site on the internet and downloads new poses, but in the Italian countryside, knowledgeable yoga professionals are rare. Catherine and Alice are taking Japanese tea ceremony lessons, and it is good to hear that she has someone who she can go to to learn something meaningful.
Soon Catherine will go with Tiziana to Rome to buy a violin. While in Ireland years ago, she learned to play the fiddle. We bought some fiddle music in the US this past trip, and I am looking forward to doing some fiddling with her. I am so looking forward to playing the violin. Period. Hopefully Alice's treatments to my shoulder and neck will allow me to start again soon.
Virgilio arrives late in the afternoon to try the bolts on the front of the house, and goes back to his studio. We have not idea what will happen, but the tirantes themselves are here on the terrace. So at least that part of the job is fine. Roy goes up there with one of the side pieces for the inside of the fireplace to have it straightened out. It warped last winter. Virgilio makes an excuse for why the bolts are not correct. No matter. They will work it out.
Our domain site is now fixed. So if you have sent emails to us and they were returned in the past day or two, try to send them again. We are back in business. The renewal of our domain, lavventura.net, expired, and the former email address they had for us was not longer valid. Funny, I thought they would send the renewal notice to our domain site. I guess I was wrong.
When Stefano was here yesterday his cell phone rang, and it was a woman in the village hollering at him. Evidently they were doing some work near the church and broke into the sewer line. So they spend most of the day fixing the problem. We don't expect to see them back until Virgilio's work is fixed.
It is cold and rainy today, an excuse not to take a walk with Sofi. She hates the rain. I put on her little red raincoat, so at least she goes out for a minute or two. She is a good sport. I hear loud bird chirping in the kitchen, and it sounds as if the birds are right in the top of the chimney. Now we saw Stefano bend and insert mesh into the cap a few days ago, so we know none are caught in there. But when Roy comes back from checking it out, he confirms that the INOX that was installed in the chimney is so "bright" that sounds reflect off it's surface. Birds are in the nearby bay tree. So we will really hear birds now.
Roy builds a small fire in the middle of the fireplace, and it draws beautifully. We have never had a really good fire in the middle of the fireplace before. On this rainy day, we enjoy a fire while we watch old movies. I talk with Tia to thank her for referring us to Alice, and we have a discussion about the rose pruning. She advises me to cut all the branches of the climbing roses that are vertical back to the second or third bud. I will do that at least with the Lady Hillingtons on the path. I am not sure about the rose arch. The more I read the more I think I have to learn. Everyone advises something else. I think we will go back to Michellini soon and I will speak to them to get their advice as well.
Roy has a very bad cold, so I fix him Acquacotta, a wonderful soup with cabbage and cannellini beans and tomatoes. I have never fixed it before, and it is a little complicated because after it has cooked for a few hours it goes into the oven with pieces of textured bread in the bottom, then the broth and vegetables, then poached eggs and grated cheese on top. Just reading this I think the recipe is really weird. But it is really tasty. The recipe is from a Marcella Hazen cookbook, one of my favorites. I love trying new things. Especially when we have things sitting around. It is amazing what unusual things can be done with ordinary ingredients!
Donna and Philip call us from Portland, and they will come for a visit in a little over a month with Douglass. This will be their third visit, I think, and we love having them. We will meet them north of Bologna and stay in a castle there with them for one night. They probably have a photo shoot scheduled. From there we will drive back here, and they will go on to Rome after they leave us. We miss all of our good friends, and so look forward to their visits. Yesterday we used a serving knife that Adrian and Jed gave us as a wedding present and Roy said, "Wouldn't it be fun if they were just sitting here at this table with us?" Indeed it would. We look forward to that.
Stefano and Luca are here today with Virgilio and Aldo. Finally the tirantes are put in place and they don't look all that bad. Actually, the stucco on the outside of the house has been so damaged that we will have to restucco and paint it within a year or so. At that time, we can paint out the tirantes if we don't like the look. In the meantime, we will see if we can have the electrical and telephone connections made from the street above us, and complete any wiring we need to do first. Alberto Cozzi is a telephone repair man, we think, and we'll ask him for his advice regarding having our telephone connection come in from the street above us.
At night, Tiziano comes for his/our lesson, and we begin by hearing about his new job. Finally he has been given a job that corresponds to his fine education as an archaeologist. There is a dig behind one of the old churches and he is assigned to that. He is very happy.
I ask him to help us translate a recipe for a torta in a box mix we bought at the store. It is a mix to use as a base for nine different cakes. A few days ago, I made a lemon torta, but we had so much difficulty with the recipe that I wanted to know what it really said. Once we go through the translation, Roy and Tiziano each have a piece, and they tell me they will rate me on a scale of 1-10. Tiziano takes a bite and raises his fork, exclaiming "10!". I tell him the difference between the recipe and what I actually did, and he sweetly recommends that I write in to the company to suggest the changes to their recipe.
We all agree that we should go to the commune in Amelia on Sunday to a reception and then a tasting of local food. There will be a woman there from Perugia who will explain about the ancient frescos, and we will take photographs of Judith's frescos to see if she can tell us anything about them.
We finish the lesson with the beginning of a chart of the people of Mugnano. One day we hope to do a kind of living history with Tiziano, and to begin want to figure out who is who and who is related. We finish only the houses on the other side of Via Mameli and it is time for Tiziano to go home to dinner.
A pot of lentils and sausages is simmering here on the stove, and we end the evening with a small fire, built and working beautifully in the center of the firebox.
Roy has had a bad cold and last night I came down with it. For most of today, I feel like the walking wounded. We drive to Amelia to put up a mirror in Judith's apartment, and the front door of the commune is open, so we walk in. Tomorrow will be the reception at 5pm, so we will try to attend.
At home, I don't do much, but Roy finds a small grill to fit inside the firebox of the fireplace, and it helps to circulate air around the logs. We are using much less wood burning this way, and finally have the fireplace the way we want it.
We drag ourselves to mass, and realize that this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. We visit the antique dealer in Attigliano near the train station who is only open about two hours a week. She called a few days ago to tell us that she would be there today for two hours, so we go to see if we can find something for Judith. We don't see anything special, but after we come back from Amelia there is an email from Judith that she wants the dining room table we told her about, so we are able to put a deposit on it and arrange to have it delivered on Friday. It is really beautiful.
I am not able to stay up, so go to bed around 6:30. Roy does not feel much better, but stays up to watch some movies.
Stefano and Luca arrive early, and we are really not feeling well. They work until pranzo, cleaning off all the repaired stucco on the front of the house and repairing all the tiles that were moved for their work in the bathroom. The work to repair tiles in our bedroom and two on the kitchen floor remain to be done. We are almost finished. Stefano asks us if we still hear the birds in the fireplace, and we do not. That is because the soot from the few fires we have had these past days in the fireplace has blackened the INOX, giving it a non-reflective coating. I am almost sad. I loved the crazy chirping coming down the chimney.
Felice comes by in the afternoon and helps Roy plant the new lemon tree in our big pot. He likes it very much, and tenderly ties each laden branch to a bamboo pole. The tree is fed and watered and, magari, he tells us that it will be healthy and strong. Now there are more than twenty lemons...Two have fallen off and we will test their flavor tonight, squeezed over sautéed agretti, an Italian grass-like green that Roy actually likes.
Rina is over in her garden, planting tiny cippola. We need to plant ours soon. I ask her about Candida and she agrees that Candida is still in pain. I miss not seeing her, and don't think she'll return for a month or more.
The wind whips up and Sofi and I spend the late afternoon inside, while Roy drives to Terni for some project management. He is quite a guy, telling me to stay home and rest. Sofi does not understand all this sneezing, but stays close to me just the same.
We're out in the cold, overcast morning, and return to see Salvatore, Don Francis' friend, at the gate. He and two friends have been traveling all around central Italy and stop by to say hello. We invite them all in. He is with his friend, Olga, and her mother from Russia, who does not speak either Italian or English. Olga speaks both Italian and English, and we have a fun afternoon.
There are lentils and salsiche to heat, and with their dried sausages and tomatoes and carrots and our freshly-baked rolls from Orte and cheese we are able to put together a good and relaxing meal. They stay for a few hours in the midst of our confusion, and it is clear enough outside for us all to spend some time in the garden. Before they leave, Olga kindly tells us that we have a little paradise. It is hard to disagree with her.
Luca works through all the confusion and is able to finish their work...repairing floor tiles and finishing some wall spackling. As soon as Maurizio finishes the pepperino headers and installs them, we will be through until or unless we decide to go ahead with the new project. It will be good to get the house back in order again.
It is cold and rainy again, and we make a loop of Orte, Civita Castellana, Viterbo, Bomarzo, Soriano and then finish with a kind of figure-eight, driving down the E-45 to Amelia and back home through Giove. We visited a craftsman's factory who makes ceramic tabletops with pepperino and painted tops with wrought iron bases and chairs, our favorite hand painted ceramic factory, a bath store to order Judith's shower surround, pick up some cipolla rosa to plant this week, drive over to the Cassia to a large hardware store we like for some round table bases, have pranzo, go to Judith's to do a little work and then come home.
Today is Ash Wednesday, and Don Luca is dressed in purple vestments in honor of this time of the year. Our mass is late in the afternoon. As a fairly new Catholic, I imagine coming home with ashes on my forehead. Instead, Don Luca sprinkles the ashes over the top of each person's head. While he is giving the homily I am struck by the wonderful presence of the holy person in a community whose primary mission in life is to guide his flock. A world without their guidance and all of us aimlessly wandering about would certainly be a different place.
Now I know there are scandals right and left in the Catholic Church. I only know that for us, we take from the religion what is a help to us. And for this we are grateful. It is why going to church faithfully each week, and each holy day, gives us a spiritual nurturing that is tremendously meaningful to us. We choose not to be cynics about it. And when we look around at the rest of the congregation on these days, we see that the other people in the church derive something special from it as well.
Giordano comes by after we are back at home for some help with his resume, and it feels good to be able to help him. He is a talented young man with a diverse background, and I enjoy helping him to put his background in written form so that he can find work. I am sure that he will be successful. He has an edge over Americans living here in Italy. The Italians won't issue work permits for people from other countries, because they want Italians to get the jobs first. So Giordano has dual citizenship and doesn't need a work permit.
There are jobs in Italy that cannot be filled for teachers who speak fluent English, unless they are citizens or have work permits. So as soon as we can find out more about the jobs, we will tailor his credentials and cover letter. He speaks both English and Italian fluently. Wish I could say the same...The longer we are here, the worse our English gets....but learning Italian is a slow slog.
Our colds are much better, but don't seem to want to leave us. We spend some time getting the house back to order, but it will take some days....Roy does some chipping away at the headers above the doors downstairs to get ready for Maurizio.
The day ends quietly.
The day begins overcast and cold, and we look forward to the visit of Tiziana from Michellini to advise us about our garden. But just before she is due to arrive, she calls to say she will come in the afternoon. It is rainy, so just as well. We take advantage of the time to drive up to Perugia to a place we have been to before for ceramic tables and antiques. Nearby there is a very big store that specializes in housewares. Unfortunately, we do not like anything at either place. So at least we have ruled these places out for an upcoming trip.
On the way back, we stop in Orvieto at a tavola calda, and Sofi is very happy. Seated beneath my chair, she shares a chicken cutlet, a piece of parmigiano and part of a roll with me. For the rest of the day she bounds around, happy as can be. While we were at the two stores she was kept in the sherpa bag in the car and was not happy.
At home, Tiziana calls and she will not come this afternoon either, because the weather is not good. This is bad. She promises to come the next good day. Magari. Just before five, the sun blazes between the clouds, there is a huge rainbow over Orte, and I cross my fingers that the good weather will continue for another day.
Pino finally comes by with the new heating element for the burners of our SMEG stove. We've had the stove since November 1977, so I suppose replacing this part is not a big deal. Strange that everything seemed to conk out around the same time. Slowly, slowly, everything is getting back to normal.
We have an extra drying rack for clothes. The first one we purchased six plus years ago was a heavy plastic. We did not know better. Now we use lightweight aluminum ones, so want to get rid of the heavy one. Roy puts it out by the cancello with a sign, "libero!" and goes out to get a hair cut. Within fifteen minutes the doorbell rings and Maria from Sardinia and Maria from Romania and her friend are at the front gate asking about the rack. I tell them it is free and they are very happy. It goes to Maria from Romania. Maria from Sardinia asks why we don't want it. I tell her we have two others. I don't know how to tell her it is too heavy. Funny that she wants to know what is wrong with it before she recommends Maria to take it. They walk away excited with their new free "find" and we are happy as well.
Roy gets a call from Delfa that his Confraternity costume is ready, but she will not be home this afternoon, so he will have to wait until tomorrow morning to pick it up. I think he is so excited he might want to wear it to bed, so I am happy he cannot pick it up right away. In no time at all it will be Pasqua, and we will experience another incredible holiday with our beloved neighbors. It sounds strange, but we do love them. Being here among them is at once so strange and wonderful and exotic.
We begin a kind of spring cleaning, washing the gauzy window drapes, taking the bedskirts to be cleaned, moving boxes around, and open the windows wide for about an hour until it is too cold. The fresh air after the days of rain feels wonderful. Saturday is supposed to snow! Freezing weather is returning, and that is bad for the plants. We'll cover the lemon tree and hope that the cold won't stay for long.
Tomorrow we will pick up some more soil and plant the heirloom tomato seeds given to us on our last trip to the U S from Marilyn and Bob Smith. We are doing a joint experiment. They are planting seeds in Glen Ellen, California and we are planting the same varieties of seeds here. We will compare notes. Yesterday we bought tiny little plastic containers, one for each seedling, in big containers holding about twenty each. We will mix the new soil with our compost, and see what happens. Stay tuned.
We call Tiziana first thing, but she is not at the Vivaio and we cannot reach her. By the time she reaches us it is pranzo and we cannot see her this afternoon. Her visit is rescheduled for Monday morning.
We drive to Amelia and the dining room table is delivered at Judith's, looking as though it was made for the room. A great find. Tia arrives and we show her around. She loves all the frescos and the high ceilings, and we leave Roy at the apartment while we go off for a "girl visit", starting first down at the bar at the edge of the walled town for spremuta (fresh squeezed orange juice - delicious). The first eyeglass store opens just after we get there, and the young woman shows us Versace, Chanel, Fendi...and on and on. Some of the frames are quite wild. I find a Max Mara that we both like very much, but Tia recommends that we try the other store before we decide.
We cross the street and go behind a building, taking a short cut to the other side of the little town. Being a neighbor, she knows all the stores in Amelia. The woman at the other store is very helpful, and after she sees Dr. Bob Anderson's prescription, wants to take me in back to check my eyes. It has been over two years since my last exam. So she tests me and rewrites my prescription, not understanding the one I have given her. We don't find anything we like better than the first pair at the other shop, so offer to pay her for the prescription. She declines, and by now there is a long line behind us of people waiting to be helped. So we thank her and leave.
When we reach the other store, the young woman cannot understand the new prescription, so takes me in back and retests my eyes. What she comes out with is a prescription very like Bob's. However, she thinks that I don't need bifocals...I can read just fine without glasses. So I save tons on the prescription, and my new glasses will be ready on Wednesday.
Tia drops me off at Piazza Marconi, just under Judith's place, and Roy is waiting there in the parking lot. He finished doing his work at Judith's. Sofi has been at home all this time, so we go home to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening happily with her.
Roy leaves early to meet the electrician and plumber at Judith's in Amelia. The electrician, Cupido, is a no-show, no matter how many times Roy calls him. The plumber is one of three brothers, two of which are plumbers. It is our luck that the third brother, who is an architect, is the one who shows up, but knows how to do all the things Roy needs him to do. Now we must locate Cupido, who is probably out slinging an arrow somewhere. I cannot wait to find out what he looks like. Roy thinks he will look like Richard Simmons. I think he will have black, black curly hair and rosy fat cheeks.
Today is Felice's 80th birthday. We want to take Felice and Marsiglia out for pranzo, but want to take Tiziano as well, because of the language challenges, but Tiziano is not often available. So today Roy goes to the jewelry store in Attigliano and picks up a lovely silver frame, and we print out a picture of Felice and Marsiglia taken just before Mario and Fulvia's wedding last summer. We have little notecards with a basotto drawn on them, so add a card. Roy takes the present up to them, but Felice is not at home. Roy goes in to speak with Marsiglia, who is baking cake after cake in the kitchen. Dina and Italo are there, and they all speak for a few minutes, but Roy leaves without seeing Felice. We will wish him buon compleanno tomorrow at church.
The rain continues off an on, sometimes even bringing thunder and lightening. It is also cold, so the new lemon tree is shrouded in a huge blue plastic bag. We still can't shake our colds, so stay inside and read. We wish that we could see the Oscars this weekend, but don't think they will be broadcast on any channel that we can get. So hopefully Bruce will tape it and we can see it next week sometime.
Roy picks up two bags of soil and tomorrow for sure we will plant the tomato seeds. We will do the work in the loggia and keep the seeds germinating in the guest bedroom. Marilyn Smith emails us that their son, Mike, has built a greenhouse for them, and her seeds will germinate in their very own greenhouse. Since we have the same seeds, it will be fun to compare notes. I am sure she will have enough tomatoes for all of Glen Ellen....Bravo, Marilyn and Bob! They were here for pranzo one day last summer when we were overflowing with heirloom tomatoes at their perfect ripeness. Although we love the Italian red tomatoes, there is nothing to compare to the sweetness of the heirlooms from good old California.
I am sorry to say that we still have not planted our seeds, but hope to within two days. Today the time just flies by. First, I awake to a sunny cold sky and just have to take Sofi for a walk. When we arrive back home, the sky is overcast. Coming up the walk, I stop at one of the rose planters to fold a long shoot underneath a wire. While I do that, the keys to the house fall into the planter. I see them there but am distracted. When we come up the stairs I cannot find the keys, so ring the bell for Roy to let us in. While he goes back upstairs for a shower, I leave Sofi and go for a second walk, tracing my steps. It is only when I am coming back up the last hill that I remember dropping the keys in the rose planter and laugh to myself. It is very cold, but feels refreshing to do the walk twice.
We walk up to church, and Felice comes in by himself and I turn around to wish him buon compleanno and give him a big kiss on the cheek...well, both cheeks. He smells of after shave, an uncommon thing for Felice. Ordinarily he has a Don Johnson stubble. He looks very happy. After church, he tells us that he and Marsiglia will come by the house at eleven.
We walk home and the wind whips across the valley chasing us almost all the way. Roy lights a fire in the corner of the fireplace, and I make a pot of coffee. Mauro comes by for another donation for the festa, and Roy asks him how to tie the cord for his Confraternity costume. "Ask Mario Foce, he knows how." So we'll do that and return Mauro's costume soon. It arrived from Delfa's smelling of smoke, so Roy is airing it out upstairs.
Felice comes by himself a little while later with two bags of goodies. In one is a big bottle of his homemade wine. In the second is one of the cakes Marsiglia baked yesterday. On top of the eggs in a little plastic bag tied with a plastic tie are six fresh eggs.
We insist that he stay for coffee. He tells us how much he appreciates the wonderful photo and frame, but even more how much he appreciates us and our friendship. We are really moved. We do not know everything he is saying, but are moved just the same. He refuses any cake, but we each have a piece, and when he leaves tells us that he has seen the lemon tree from the street and is very happy that we have covered it.
He is a good teacher. It is not possible to put into words how much we care for this man and appreciate his part in our lives. If our garden sings, it is because of him. His sweet old craggy face lights up when we see him and we are sure the birds and the flowers do the same when he passes by.
After he leaves, I make a frittata for pranzo with his fresh eggs, and then Roy and I get to work painting over the doorway in the kitchen and patching over all the white spots on the walls that have been repaired and replastered in the past few weeks. It has been several years since Patti fauxed our kitchen walls, but we get out her paints and after a few hours we have really made progress.
Roy does most of the painting under my direction after I mix the paint color. He does not want me up on the ladder. When it is dark, we stop for the day and put things away. We hope to finish tomorrow, with three more coats...pale yellow, then gray, then yellow again, all with a sponge and a tiny paintbrush. All colors are watered down and work beautifully with the rest of the walls.
Tia calls to tell us that the Oscars will be on tonight on one of the SKY channels, starting at 2AM. Bruce will tape them for a show later at their house, but we'll set our alarm and get up to watch them. We then have to be ready for Tiziana at 9:30 AM in the garden, and pranzo in Amelia with Tia and Bruce and Jill and a friend of Jill's. The seeds will probably have to wait until Tuesday.
We roll out of bed at 2AM for the Oscars, taking little Sofi downstairs with us to watch the show. In the midst of it, we open the front door to see huge flakes of snow coming down...our first snowfall of the year. One half hour before the end of the show, the satellite goes down and we miss about fifteen minutes near the end of the show. I want to see Sofia Coppola's acceptance speech, but otherwise we see the whole show. We are so happy that we did not miss it.
It is hard to go back to sleep, so after an hour or two Sofi and I get up to get ready for Tiziana. But of course she calls, afraid to come in the snow, so we reschedule for tomorrow. We get to work again on the kitchen wall painting, and after three or four coats of different colors, we are closer to the result we want. We need good light, and morning light is best for this room. This process will take time. We will return to this tomorrow, magari!
We stop at noon, to get dressed for pranzo, and all drive off in the snow. By this time, the roads are clear, but it snows off and on for the rest of the day. Pranzo is fun at an agritourismo outside the town of Amelia, but the food is nothing special. Jill comes with a friend from Toronto, Bruce and Tia and even Matthew shows up. Sofi stays in the car, but is full of life when we drive Matthew and Tia back afterward. Bruce leaves early to get back to work.
We drive up to Judith's to meet Cupido, and this time he actually arrives. We go over the electrical work we want him to do and agree on a day next week that he will do the work. The people who are to deliver two sofas are lost on the road, and Roy drives out to meet them. Once the sofas are delivered, we close up and drive home in a combination of thick fog and very wet snow.
We are so tired we go to bed early, not knowing what to expect of the weather in the morning. The snow is so beautiful in the countryside, and even in the little towns, turning the red roofs of the little medieval buildings white.
A shower invitation arrives today for Angie's babies' shower at the end of March, and although I cannot attend, we have ordered gifts to be delivered on time. This will probably be the first of a number of showers for her. Terence and Angie are a very smart couple, and have registered at babiesareus.com. It is easy to go on the "net" and see what they want, instead of buying them things we like that they might not. We really miss not sharing this time with them, but they seem to be doing quite well. Roy calls Terence to check in. He just needs a "Terry fix" and hangs up feeling much better. We are so blessed to have such a good relationship with them. As of today, they know they will have one girl, but the other baby is hiding, so we don't know if there will be one girl or two. No matter. We wish them every happiness.
Tiziana comes this morning from Michellini, at long last. Although it snowed last night, and snowed quite a bit in Viterbo, by the time she arrives it is warm and not a drop of snow remains. It is fun to take her around the property, and she is very pragmatic in her recommendations, advising us to move two of our Glorie di Dijons under the big olive tree and one more under a big bay tree to give them shade. They do not like the full sun and hot Italian summers.
Instead, we will take out all the soil where they have been staying and replace it. ( It is necessary to take every bit of soil from around a rose if another rose is put in the spot where another rose once lived.) We will add new soil and compost and replace them with Buff Beauty roses at the top of the steps, Paul Lede at the bottom. The steps will be rebuilt, and covered with an iron pergola, (3 arches) that Dino will make for us in the next month or so when they rebuild the stairs.
On the front terrace, the plumbago does so well in the corner by the cypress trees, that we will add another plumbago next to the hazelnut trees and some little white flowers in between. I like the plan very much. The property is maturing, and this summer the new fence will begin to be covered by mermaid roses, but we will leave plenty of room to view the olive trees and San Rocco beyond. Who knows when the bocce court will be built, but we are not in a hurry.
In the meantime, the rest of that property will begin to take on a more finished look, with a hedge of Osmanthus against the new wall between the lavender garden and San Rocco, three Cornelia roses on the far curved bank just before San Rocco, and two more Cornelia roses on the side bank next to the new wall, cascading down to the second level.
Maurizio is having trouble carving lavender on the pepperino header for the kitchen, and I download a number of photos from the internet for him to use as examples, along with a beribboned bunch that we took him last week. He and Umi will come by later to talk with us about articulating what we want.
There is time in the afternoon to have my hair done, and when we arrive, Danieli is at the bar, playing a video soccer game. I am the only customer in the shop when he reopens, and we finish in record time. That is a good thing, because Danieli asks me if I like snakes. He has a new pet snake. I remember now that Roy told me that when he went for a haircut last week. The snake is in an aquarium in the corner of the room, so I am happy I don't have glasses on and look the other way. "Creepy" is all I can think of the scene. But he does a great job. Let's hope he keeps it in its "cage" whenever I am there.
When we get home there is a call that my new eyeglasses are ready, and we drive to Amelia to pick them up. Later I realize that they did not tint the lenses, so will take them back the next time we are in Amelia. Otherwise, they are just great.
An email arrives from Roy's brother, Christopher, forwarding an article on Il Cenacolo, a group of Italian afficionatos who have been meeting once a month for decades. Their father was a member, and a dear friend, Ernestine Campagnoli, was interviewed for the article. I wept while I read it. I could not help it.
Ernestine and her two daughters were here last year and we made sure that we visited with her when we were in San Francisco last Thanksgiving. She is an extraordinary woman and brings such joy to our lives. They could not have picked a more wonderful woman to interview for the story, which appeared in the S F Chronicle on February 29th. Thanks, Christopher, for forwarding the article.
On the way to Viterbo this morning, Roy asks, "Is Umi's name short for "umido"? Umido is the word used for wet or humid weather. Umi is Japanese, but speaks Italian very well. She is Maurizio's new wife, and a talented sculptor in her own right. "Where did that come from?" With Roy, one never knows. God bless his off the wall sense of humor. Even Sofi wags her tail at him.
We have had an appointment for months to get an x-ray of my jaw. Today is the day, and we arrive in Viterbo at the old clinic. I anticipate antiquated machines, long lines, but am only partly correct. We arrive 45 minutes early, pay, and then go to another building to another counter and am asked to sit and wait. Just before the appointed time I am ushered into an immaculate room and stand in front of a very sophisticated machine, one that moves all around me, taking some kind of photos or x-rays as I stand in the center, teeth tightly holding a piece of plastic. The only thing I am asked in advance is whether my teeth are mine.
In less than 30 seconds it is all over, and I wait for two minutes in the hallway, when I am told to come back tomorrow afternoon for the results. See, that was not so bad. Roy and Sofi are out in the square, and you would think I had been gone for days. What a welcome!
We drive over to Michellini to check out the things Tiziana recommended yesterday, and before we are done do a lot of damage. We wind up with about fifteen roses (Mermaid, Paul Lede, Buff Beauty, Lady Hillington, Cornelia,) four osmanthus, two olive trees, a plumbago, a choisia, several cerastium and a few other assorted treats. Everything will be delivered in about a week.
In the summertime, it takes us over an hour a day to water our plants, and it is time to put in an irrigation system, I think. Roy agrees, and will plan it out, then have Mario come and do all the digging. Enzo will hook it up at the end, but Roy will oversee the whole project. We will run water from the source behind the house, across the area behind the lavender garden and into the new property.
Sarah Hammond has always advised us against it, because these systems can be undependable, but it will be far easier to go out and check it each day, if necessary, than to deal with two 50-meter hoses. We can spend our time weeding and cleaning up and pruning and enjoying the garden, and isn't that what it is all about? Currently, the water pressure in the lavender garden area is terrible, and we will fix that as well.
Although it is cold in the morning, by the time we arrive home the weather is just gorgeous. We are out in shirtsleeves to do some additional clipping of the roses on the front path and laying guidewire for the last Lady Hillington rose, which we will plant in another ten days or so. Roy chips into a little tufa at the base of the front wall where it will go.
This part of the path is narrow, due to the front bank, which is eroding. Stefano Bonari, our "lord mayor" tells us that the bank will be fixed this spring, and we will hold his feet to the fire to make sure that happens. Can you believe it is almost spring? The birds are sure of it, and our favorite, who we call Bing Crosby, is back, loud and warbly as ever.
When in Viterbo, everyone wanted to talk about the snow and bad weather. Here, in little Mugnano, we have a kind of paradise. It is never as cold, or as rainy, or as snowy, as places all around us. Amelia, Lugnano, Bomarzo, Viterbo...all experienced at least 5" of snow. To look outside this morning, you would never know it had ever snowed.
Tonight Sofi and I walk outside for a minute, and the sky is clear and navy blue and cold, cold. The stars are out, but the configuration looks strange. Are my eyes deceiving me, or is the big dipper farther west in the sky than it was when I was a child? I wish my father was around to explain the cosmos to me in an understandable way. Are we so far away from the U S that what we view in the night sky is a different night sky? I have been thinking that the world is so small, but perhaps it is not. I'll have to email Bob Kalsey. He is our guru about lesser known facts, but then again, perhaps everyone but me knows the answer....
I wake with a migraine, and by the time I am up Felice is coming up the front steps behind Michelle. Michelle invites us to pranzo and Felice is here to do some weeding and planting of the tiny red onions we purchased last week. Today is a really beautiful day...sunny and warm and smelling fresh and clean after the snow and rain and cold weather.
When I walk outside twenty or so minutes later, Felice has prepped the raised vegetable bed and he holds the tiny Styrofoam container of thirty or so little plugs while Roy makes a hole for each one. "Preciso!" I remind Roy, and he nods in agreement. Italians are very precise about how they plant in rows. These little red onions will grow and grow, and will probably be ready to pick by early summer.
Behind them are rectangular pavers in the dirt, to make a path for Roy to walk...I am not very good at heights...or at coming down from them, so his job is to keep the back part of the raised bed weeded and clean. I can handle almost all the front half. We are a team, with Felice looking over what we do as our insegnante (teacher).
I make a large loaf of Rosemary bread to bring to pranzo, and it is ready just as we leave, hot out of the oven and sitting on parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet. I pick up Sofi in one arm, a bottle of local red wine in another, and Roy balances the hot tray while he opens the car for us.
Michelle has an enormous white Maremenna dog, Tex, and Sofi befriends him, jumping up to kiss him and romping around the lawn. Tex is very gentle with her, and we are encouraged to let her off her lead. The horse, Victor, has been put on the hill right in front of us. His paddock and area are being cleaned. I have to chase after Sofi, because she doesn't realize that Victor may not like her as much as she'd like him. So she comes back and her lead is hung over a handle of a wheelbarrow near the table in the field where we eat.
This is one of those lazy afternoons that seem like a weekend. It is 24 degrees and although the sun is low in the sky, we are in shirtsleeves with our heads raised to face the sun. "Shelly" has a great view of Mugnano, although she lives on a hill just across from our little village. Actually, she is right above the graveyard. She shows us how she is going to plant roses to grow up into three huge almond trees and they will frame their view of Mugnano like a cornice (kor-NEE-shay, or picture frame). Our little house is directly in their view.
After we leave, we go home to put on warm clothes and drive to Viterbo so that I can get my x-rays from yesterday. But no one is in the hospital building where I am supposed to retrieve them. The sign says that they are closed...open from 11:30 to 1:30...I misunderstood yesterday, thinking that they were open at 3:30 in the afternoon (15:30) instead of 11:30 to 13:30. Just when I think I am into the rhythm of telling time Italian style, I trip myself up. No matter. We do other Viterbo errands and come home to relax.
We were able to finish painting the kitchen before we left for Shelly's, and when we get back and have another look at it, we like the result. Tomorrow we will touch up a few areas around the doorway, but otherwise think we have done a masterful repair job. Roy gets most of the credit. I mixed the paint and directed, but the Roy was the real hands-on guy, not wanting me to get up on the ladder. We'll have to send a photo to Patti Brabent to ask her what she thinks. She painted the kitchen originally a few years ago when she and Glen were here. I think she'll be proud of her pupils.
I go upstairs to put some laundry away and when I come back down the TV is blaring but both Roy and Sofi are sound asleep on the couch...the "clickers" resting on Roy's stomach, Sofi next to him with her head resting on a little bone toy.
It is not too cold when I get up, and I intend to take Sofi for a walk before we drive to Amelia for a massage from Alice. But Roy wants to finish chipping away the wall above the kitchen door where the pepperino header will go, so he asks me if I'll eat breakfast with him before Sofi and I jaunt around the village. Si, certo! After we leave, he barricades himself with plastic dropcloths and a big ladder.
On our walk, first we come upon Carlo's cat, sleeping near the bus stop. She does not want to wake up, but Sofi is very curious. She darts forward and back until the cat sits up and spits at her. Italo comes over, because we have stayed at the bus stop for a long time. He makes his silly high pitched noises at Sofi, and she can't decide whether to jump up at him or dash at the cat. The cat takes a hike and she tries to follow, but the cat is now under a car. So I drag Sofi along and then she gets distracted and jumps like a little rabbit down the street in front of me.
Around the bend, we greet Marsiglia's sister-in-law at her front door, and then we're alone until we reach Felice's orto garden. He's bent over and does not hear us at first. The gate is open and he invites us in. He has planted fava beans, and they have been in the ground for about a month. It is too late for us to plant them, but they are wonderful crops to plant to regenerate the soil every other year. Felice tells me, "next year".
As we get close to the house, I hear a pick-axe sound, and don't want to disturb Roy, so Sofi and I romp around in the new land. I imagine the five new roses on the banks and they will be wonderful. We play around until it is time to go to Amelia and Roy gets down the latter and cleans up. He looks like Pigpen without a blanket in a cloud of fine dust.
Alice works wonders on my upper back and neck and shoulder. Although the hospital in Orte still has not called me back for my next ten sessions, Alice works wonders in helping me get rid of the pain.
Afterward, we come home and Roy finishes his work in the kitchen. Then we clean up. While everything is still topsy-turvey, Maria from Sardinia comes to the gate with the loveliest tiny bouquet of wild flowers, fresh from her walk. I can recognize the violets, but not the tiny blue or white flowers. She does not have a name for them either. Also in her little bag are four violets with their roots intact...more gifts for us.
I invite her in but she declines, asking me if I like mimosa, the wild yellow flowers that grow on the hillsides...Yes, and she will bring some by tomorrow. We know them as acacia...a curse in California but they are so beautiful here. I ask her if I can walk with her during the spring and she agrees. It is good that her foot is better. I remember seeing her walk all over the valley when we were first here and these past months she must have missed those walks terribly.
Tiziano cancels our meeting tonight, and we earlier decided not to go to Rome to Stefanie's art opening, so we'll have a quiet evening. Tomorrow is our big trip with Jill to Arezzo to the huge outdoor market held the first Sunday of each month and the previous Saturday. Jill has never gone, and it will be a chance to look over the loot to see if we can find anything for Judith. We'll have a camera to take pics and will take Judith next month. With over 200 stalls of antiques and assorted other items, it is quite a day.
The sky is overcast, but we dress and meet Jill and Mario at the Tittibar. Mario drives off to do errands but Jill joins us on our Arezzo adventure. Sofi clearly is smitten with Jill, for she wiggles all around in the back seat and snuggles beside Jill before she calms down. The rain starts, but for the rest of the day we have off-and-on showers. This is good weather to see the Arezzo market...not too cold and not too hot. Roy estimates there are about 125 stalls. Later in the year there will be more than 200. It takes us just over an hour to reach the town and the parking lot where we leave the car.
Once we are at the central part of town where the mercato begins, we first come across Brian from Scarzuola, pouring over religious embroideries. He acts shocked that I recognize him and we speak for a minute, then we're on to the rest of the market.
About an hour later, we run into Frances Mayes, accompanied by Mark Rothko's son, we think. We introduce her to Jill and find out that she is "in town" for six weeks. This time, she is sizing up furniture. Frances is becoming more of a household name than Martha Stewart...She is here to find special furniture pieces to take pictures of or to buy for Drexell Heritage to "knock off".
She now has a new line of furniture. I ask her if she has creative input, and she affirms that she does. I then ask her if Drexell-Heritage is the same company that has a line of furniture for famous writers like Ernest Hemingway. She responds by saying that that is a lesser brand of Drexell's...Roll over, Ernest.
An hour or so later, Roy runs into the same woman he spoke with three months or so ago at the Lucca mercato. He remembers her because she lectured him then about not letting Sofi go up and down stairs. This time she repeats her same mantra, so he responds by, "I remember you. Didn't we meet in Lucca a few months ago?" Soon afterward, Sofi encounters another basotto, this time a larger one with short hair. We strike up a conversation with the owners, and find out that they are going to Bracciano tomorrow to look at a female puppy of Marielisa Zanmatti, Sofi's breeder.
Jill is stunned. Wherever we turn, we seem to run into someone we know or have something in common with. Roy loves running into people, and the Arezzo market is just the place to do that.
Jill buys two paintings, at incredibly low prices. The first painting is one she spots at the very beginning of the mercato, and it is still there when we walk out to go to pranzo. It is meant to be, and the man writes up a receipt and hands it to her with her painting. A few minutes later, we spot a number of little paintings in a box, and Jill is able to pick one up for €10, including the frame. Again, she gets a receipt.
Roy and Sofi are waiting for us at the next intersection, and Roy is approached by a man who shows him a badge and asks what we have bought. He is from the most feared branch of the Italian police...the Guardia di Finanza, or tax police. It is against the law to purchase something or have a meal in Italy without getting a receipt and taking it out of the store or restaurant. In many places, this is ignored, but in Arezzo the police are in plain clothes but are out in force. Jill is able to present receipts, and they let us go. Roy is shaken by this, because the vendor and Jill could have each received very hefty fines.
We come away from the mercato with one old handmade basket for €15 and a walking stick with a bone dog's head handle for not much more. Most of the things at this mercato are very expensive, but as Frances confirms, you will see things here that you will never see elsewhere. Some of the furniture is exquisite. The carved iron garden pieces are extraordinary. There are tables of old embroidered linens, watches, jewelry, chandeliers, on and on.
We have reservations at Il Cantuccio, a restaurant in the center of town...the same one we attended with Lore and Alberto over a year ago. I remember eating agretti there, and it is on the menu again. Today I have a small cup of ribbollita and a veal carpaccio with the agretti. Even Roy likes the agretti. I will find out from Felice if we can grow it. Jill orders minestrone and prosciutto. Roy has zuppa de faro and polenta with cinghiale sauce. It is an excellent meal, and Sofi stays by my feet, being fed tiny portions of bread and ribollita and veal with shaved parmesan. She is a real Italian dog.
We take the long road home on Route 71 until we get to Fabro, and then the A-1 for the short distance home. Once we get to Jill's, we go in to see Mario and have a little tea. We meet Max, the cat, who Sofi wants to play with, but Max disappears to parts unknown instead of encountering our little dog. Jill's paintings are perfect in their house, and we leave promising to stop by tomorrow with a gift from Roy...a copper tube specially fitted as a blowpipe for their fireplace.
We are able to stop in Giove at the agricultural negozio just before they close to buy special biologic concime (food) for our olive trees. We still have not planted the tomato seeds...Perhaps we will tomorrow after we return from the monthly mercato just above Spoleto...
We arrive home to find a big branch of Mimosa poised over the bell next to the front door. Maria must have come here, or at the gate, and Felice probably brought the branch to the door. Roy comments that this would never be appreciated in California, but Italians love this yellow flower, and I make two arrangements of them for the kitchen. We laugh at how much we have changed in so short a time.
It is raining, and we cannot make up our minds whether we should go to Spoleto after church or not. The last time we went to the monthly mercato just north of Spoleto, it was drizzling and many of the booths were closed down because of the weather. When we walk outside to lock the door, I see two other sprays of Mimosa, hanging artistically down from the iron catches that hold the shutters open outside the living room window. We did not notice them yesterday. Maria must have been very busy.
Once at church, my eyes start to water and I realize that the arrangement of Mimosa on the kitchen table is not agreeing with me. Perhaps we will put it in the loggia when we get home. Felice and Marsiglia arrive, and Marsiglia goes over to sit near the heater. Felice sits directly behind me, and we turn around to ask him if he brought the mimosa up from the front gate. "No, they came from my garden! I thought you would like them!" How funny. I have no idea if Maria came by or not. But we will definitely not be able to get rid of the mimosa now. I am hoping that my eyes are swelling because of the weather instead of the flowers...
Today's church bulletin has an invitation for people married 1, 5, 25, 50, 60 years to attend a service in a few weeks in Viterbo. Felice and Marsiglia were married 50 years last year, and Felice told us that they were treated royally when they went to the mass and
later a pranzo celebration. I am having a hard time not laughing. This is our first wedding anniversary in the Catholic Church, but I don't think it will be a good idea for us to attend. our 25th actual wedding anniversary and then that will make sense.
Roy returns Mauro's confraternity costume, and we agree to stay home today. That is a good thing, because we have washed every curtain in the house, and all the gauze curtains need to be hemmed. I spend about four hours on them today, and hope to be finished tomorrow. No, we still have not planted the seeds. Now Maria will come to clean on Tuesday afternoon, and I think we should wait until Wednesday to plant. I have the guest bedroom all topsy-turvy with the sewing machine out, fabric all over the beds and drying racks by the window in this bruto weather.Can you imagine what people will think in Mugnano if they think Roy and I have only been married one year? Better left...By the time it is 2006, we will be able to celebrate
I just read that yesterday was International Women's Day, and that the Italians celebrate by giving sprays of mimosa to the women. That Felice is one cool guy...two of the sprays he brought to me decorate a front window of the house and the other remains in the kitchen. I am starting to feel guilty about not planting the tomato seeds...
It stars as a very foggy day, but as Sofi and I finish our walk and turn the corner where Via Mameli meets "Aqua Puzza" at the water fountain, the sun laughs out loud and the clouds disappear. Halfway up the hill we hear a loud sound, and we turn around to see one of those big signboard trucks, concave at the top with photos of furniture and an ad for an arredamenta (furniture store) in Viterbo. The only sound we hear as it passes by is the diesel engine chugging its way up the hill like the little engine that could.
But after it passes and stops where the road levels off, it begins to play Percy Sledge, singing, "When a man loves a woman, yea, yea, yea..." One man gets out and starts to put flyers on car windshields. But up above on Giustino's balcony, Maria and Constantine, Giustino's young Romanian caretakers, just stop what they are doing to gawk. Maria stops hanging the laundry on the edge of the balcony, but Constantine just leans over and stares. They don't say a word but watch the man's every action, seemingly in suspended animation.
I hear the chickens across the road today, almost hollering out, "Hey! HEY! Its springtime!" They are making such a racket that something must be going on...
While I sew the hems on the last of the gauze drapes that we use on all the bedroom and living room windows, Roy preps the soil for the heirloom tomato seeds. Today is finally the day. We have wonderful compost, and he mixes that with newly purchased healthy soil. Then he sets up all the little plastic plugs in their temporary beds and fills them almost to the top.
He takes out a squirt bottle, filled with water, and dampens each little plug. Out come all the packets of seeds from the freezer, and we choose eight varieties, planting ten seeds of each kind. Roy pens the names on little white plastic Popsicle stick-like tags, and we begin the ceremony outside under the kitchen window.
When we are through, he moves all eighty of the little plugs up onto a folding table in the sunny guestroom window. The sun shines brightly, the birds sing away, and Sofi and her little toy, Goofy, sleep in a sun-shadow next to the bed.
But it is not quiet for long. Roy is in Attigliano to pick up bread for our tuna sandwiches, and the doorbell rings. It is Loredana with a friend who is visiting her from France. Sofi and I go down to see them, but they do not come up. They are having pranzo at the restaurant in Chia and then return to Rome. I make excuses for Stefano not starting her work, in case she wants to get angry with him, but she does not seem concerned. The scaffolding is up around the house next to them that they have purchased, but Stefano and Luca have been working on the road into Mugnano at Vittore's casale, adding a bathroom.
Roy comes back with a present from Gianni, who owns the supermarket in Attigliano, for me. A bunch of mimosa, in a shiny package marked "Feste le donne!" Roy tells me that Gianni and the butcher are giving them out to every woman they see.
We take Sofi and go to see Roberto Pangrazi, the geometra, because he tells us that he has plans that are ready for us. He prints out an auto-cad drawing that we take home. But first, we have many questions. First, he tells us that we cannot do both rooms at the same time. We cannot figure out why. Perhaps because they can get some more fees out of us. Secondly, the permit process will take about four months. No problem. We have no idea when we can afford to proceed anyway.
The more questions we ask, the more cooperative he becomes. By the time we are through, we realize that we can do the magazino, or storage room, and bath, in addition to the living room. At first there was a problem, but when Roy told him it was the Sala de Pranzo, you would have thought we were asking to put in the first bathroom. Sala de Pranzo! Italians are sure that this is the most important room in the house next to the kitchen. Somehow that turns the conversation all around.
So we agree to go home and measure, talk with Stefano about how the back room should be built, and will return to Roberto for the final drawing. We go home and measure, and the more we talk the better the little sitting room sounds. We will get to it through an opening in the dining room, where the existing window is now. There will be double doors leading right out into the garden. Both loveseats will fit, as well as a couple of side tables and the floor lamp. But not much else. It is just large enough to sit in, but more an access room to the garden. The roof will be peaked. We surely love to dream...
The moon is very full, and while I sit and write it hangs right out there and watches me. Sofi lays in her little cage, sadly and sorely at rest. Earlier, when Roy and I measured off the living room, she dashed all around with one of her toys and Roy stepped on one of her little paws by mistake. You would think she had the starring role in Camille. There is no damage but her right front paw is very sore. It is not tender when I touch it, so I know she will be fine. But it is sad when a little one has her first crisis. Before she seemed so invulnerable. When I put her in her cage early she does not complain a bit.
Twice last night, little Sofi cried out in pain. But somehow she calmed down and was able to sleep. We rise early and leave for Orte, my first of ten sessions at the orthopedic clinic. This time, Rosella works with me. First, massaging the tendons and ligaments in my upper arm, and then we have a session with an ultrasound machine. For the last part of the session we work with a laser machine, the last two machines no larger than a portable computer.
Both Rosella and Paola want to learn more English, and I want to practice my Italian. So everyone takes a turn speaking. The old women sitting in nearby chairs, with probes massaging calves and knees and shoulders look on in amusement.
Rosella wears a mimosa colored sweater, in honor of yesterday, and all the talk today is of the Festa della Donna. I don't remember it being such a big deal last year. Where is Hallmark Cards? For once they have missed their bet. But perhaps there is an Italian equivalent I have yet to hear about.
While working with Rosella, I tell her about a recent word I have learned, "tormentare", meaning, to tease. I think the Italians have such a wonderful way with words. The word "tease" seems meant for the "teasor", but the victim is clearly tormented. Rosella tells me that tormentare has many uses. It can also be used to bother or annoy....and, of course, to torment.
When she asks me to unbutton my shirt, she uses the word "sbottonare". A wordsmith would have a wonderful time with this lyrical language. I am finding that words are not as difficult for me these days. Although I don't have much practice, when a chance comes up to speak, I am able to muddle through.
I then have a massage with Alice, who continues to work on my arm and shoulder. She is not sure whether the machines will do all that much good, but between Alice once a week and the machines for ten days in a row I should be pretty much healed before the end of the month. I am really encouraged and plan to start back with the violin in about ten days.
We have a late pranzo in Amelia at a bar, quick tiny tremezzini with chips, and then
Roy buys tickets for an upcoming show of tango dancers, Tango Guappo, at the theatre in Amelia. Tia and I and the "boys" and Judith will celebrate Tia's and my birthdays with in a box...with tickets at a very reasonable €13 each. Why would anyone want to sit in a regular seat, with these cushy box seats such a treat?
At home, we continue our whirlwind cleaning of everything that is not nailed down. Those things will be left for Maria and her friend, who will come tomorrow. While we put things away, we realize that we really have no storage, and the "maggazino" in the back of the house becomes more and more important. Before the night settles in, we walk back outside to survey both the proposed little sitting room and the back bathroom and storage areas.
The area we are allowed to build will not be as large as we'd like. We will meet with Stefano soon to get his ideas. Soon, as a first step, we will have him pour a cement pad over the whole back of the house. That area is out of view of everyone except the neighbors directly above us, and even they can see very little of the space.
Felice comes by and asks Roy about agretti. He remembers that I asked him if we could grow it here, and if so, what time of year we should plant it. He does not know what I am referring to, and Roy looks at our Italian garden books to show him. But he cannot find a reference, so I look it up on the internet, and instead find an interesting site about growing tomatoes, which references using a fluorescent light over just-planted tomato seeds. Tomorrow while we are in Terni we will see if we can find the right kind of light to use.
Marilyn Smith emails me that they are using this technique for their tomatoes. Since our tomatoes are from the same source, we are comparing conditions and doing a kind of unscientific experiment, growing the same type of seeds in two different countries. For now, the little seeds rest in their beds of compost and new rich soil. In about a week, we will see the first tiny shoots.
Don Luca is due to arrive around that time, coming as he does each year to bless every house in Mugnano. I remember last year making sure he did not think we were growing marijuana when he walked into the guest bedroom. He blessed the tomatoes, anyway. I think what impressed him more was that I served a proper polenta with sugo, laid out at the kitchen table just as he arrived. Although Lore thinks we are cleaning the whole house for Pasqua, I think we are really cleaning it before Don Luca arrives for his once-over.
Sofi is not doing well. She daintily hops around with her right front paw in the air. When I try to find out if there is a tender spot I cannot find one, yet when I hold her a certain way she yelps out. If she is not better by tomorrow we will take her to the vet.
We stop at the Tittibar for coffee, and Maurizio comes out from the back of the bar and gives her a big hug. When I go over to her later to pick her up, she yelps in pain. For the rest of the day she is pretty quiet.
We do not go to Orte today, because the beds are being delivered at Judith's and Cupido, the electrician, will work there all day. So Sofi and I take a walk while Roy stays with
Cupido after the beds are delivered, and she does pretty well. We walk down to the eyeglass store, but my glasses are not ready...perhaps they will arrive before pranzo.
An hour later, Roy takes a walk and is able to pick up the glasses, but they are not right. There is supposed to be a light blue tint on them, and we wind up taking them back at the end of the day. I fret for most of the afternoon about what kind of drama I will get myself into, but the young woman who owns the shop agrees with me that they look "bruto" and takes them back. She will take them to another laboratory, to assure that they are completed just as we asked.
I am impressed. This is unusual. We are used to going into a shop to complain about something we have ordered and having the shopkeeper argue with us that what we have is just fine. I am so relieved.
The electrician and his young helper do a masterful job. They run extra conduit and are immaculate, not chipping one tile and repairing every wall that they channel into. They will finish tomorrow morning, (magari!) and then we will go to Terni to do some more work for Judith before she arrives. Her kitchens are scheduled to arrive at the end of next week, just as she does, and we are really on track with everything. The apartment is beginning to look like "home". It is a wonderful place to spend time. We hope that Judith loves the place, and Amelia itself, as well as we do.
Duccio calls and we have missed him. He has some English friends visiting who want to see our lavender garden, so we invite them for Friday mid-day. I am not sure that there is much to see at this time of year, but we will enjoy seeing Duccio and Giovanna anyway. It is always fun to meet new friends as well.
Rain, rain again overnight. Sofi wakes up crying with pain, so I bring her to bed for the early morning hours. We are up and out by eight AM and by nine are hanging a coat rack at Judith's, waiting for the electrician. Roy and Sofi take me to the Orte clinic and then we go right away to the Vet in Terni. Sofi has an x-ray but there is no damage, so she gets a pain injection and pills, and we are on our way. The electricians finish by the end of the day and it is too late to go back to Terni, so we will do that late tomorrow afternoon after our pranzo with Duccio and Giovanna and their friends.
Just before we leave the apartment, Roy steps on both of Sofi's front paws, and she yelps out in real pain. I don 't know who feels worse. We all are so upset that we go home and are very quiet.
An email comes in from Angie and Terence and they sound wonderful, so we end the day on a better note. Sofi seems all right, but not so sure she likes this cold, cruel world. I check her out and don't feel any damage, so we'll be extra careful and quiet for the next few days with her.
In the middle of the night I get a roaring migraine...
I don't go to rehab this am, but stay in bed for most of the day with Sofi and ice packs for the pain. Roy greets Duccio and Giovanna and their friends from England while Sofi and I stay in bed. They all go off for pranzo at Duccio and Giovanna's and Sofi and I get up in the late afternoon. It is a beautiful day, and Sofi and I sit outside for an hour or so. She does not walk very well, especially on the gravel, but hour by hour feels more confident putting pressure on her front paw.
I hear later that Roy had a discussion about some of the books he is reading. Now he's reading The Mystery of the Mona Lisa and enjoying it very much. Next, he wants to read The Agony and the Ecstacy. Duccio tells Roy not to worry, but the book is mostly agony. I love his sense of humor and am sorry I was not with them today...for more than one reason.
Roy comes home and we get ready to watch the first rerun of The Sopranos on Fox. I have never seen it before, and this is the beginning of a new season on Fox. The walking wounded spend the evening on the couch, and Roy joins us. What was all the fuss about? Gratuitous violence, which bores me, seems the cornerstone of the show. But we will watch it for a few weeks to see if there is anything interesting about the ongoing saga. We don't have much to watch here on an ongoing basis, and I almost miss that. The good news is that there is more time to spend outside in the garden, and that's fine with me.
We are out for the first half of the day but I cannot wait to return. The simple things about this property and the village are what I yearn for when we are not here. Late in the day is a delicious time. The sun is low in the sky. Shadows make faces on the gravel, and our neighbors and their guests walk by below the house, chatting away. The sounds are lyrical. When we see them, we look up from what we are doing and greet them. A greeting is such a simple thing. But it meant everything to us when we were first here and wanted to be acknowledged by our neighbors.
Roy gets out the paint and paints the rusty iron fence and fence posts holding up the iceberg roses. He looks a little like Tom Sawyer in his coveralls. This will be an ongoing project, because we have so much off-black colored ferro (ironwork) on the fences and gates. Roy thinks of it as a sort of Golden Gate Bridge project. (Once the workers finished painting the bridge, it was time to begin it all over again. I think it is more of a spring project, a fun thing to do on a good day. Roy seems to like it, too. )
Sofi does her three-legged romp, still favoring her front right paw, and Roy spots Brik down below doing the same thing, except he is running almost at a gallop. Wonder what happened to him. He is one tough old dog.
We spend this morning in Terni, now that city is less daunting for us. We accomplish some good scouting, and discovered some new routes in and out of Terni for future reference.
A headache returns, and Sofi and I take a nap late in the afternoon. She is in heaven, because I let her up on the bed, and is an angel, afraid to move thinking I will take her off the bed.
We walk up to church, and it is a lovely day after the morning fog dissipates. We joyfully garden and work on outdoor projects for most of day...clipping boxwood, Roy painting the iron fence, buying mattone to build a low wall around the iceberg roses and tomato planting. We receive a call late in the afternoon that Judith's kitchen is in and will be installed tomorrow early. The pace picks up and we are at the home stretch of this Amelia project...Judith and her dog, Bianca, arrive in three days. There is much to do, hardly any of it depending on us...We are hopeful that the workers will make us proud of them.
We drive up early to Amelia and the upper kitchen is installed, taking most of the day. I attend the Orte clinic and we return to oversee the three men work in the upstairs apartment. Each one has a specialty...one measuring, one cutting, and the father standing back and letting his two suns take the leading roles. They are quite a team...serious and yet friendly.
For the pranzo break, we drive to a local restaurant in nearby Montenero for a pasta with fresh asparagus and local olive oil. It is excellent. Sofi sits by my feet and has tiny nibbles. Outside, we feed her some of her dry kibble, but clearly she likes restaurant food better. She is learning to be very quiet, so we can take her almost everywhere. As long as I give her little bits of food, she is quiet.
Roy takes out the old sink in lower kitchen, giving it away to Steve and Darci, who we met at language school. We are relieved that it will gone before Judith gets here, only to find that the lower kitchen has not arrived. But we are soon in luck. Late in the day it arrives, and tomorrow the installation crew will install the lower kitchen. There is a bit of controversy regarding the granite countertops. Franco needs to wait till they're in to measure and wants to deal with us directly. The kitchen people want a cut in on the deal, but Franco tells them no, we were his customer before they came along. It will all work out. The kitchen people are doing a first rate job and everyone will win...Just not by our client spending extra money.
We arrive home in time to call Uncle Harry on his 89th birthday. He is quite a guy, doing fine, enjoying life with Aunt Elaine. We really enjoyed spending a few days with them in Borrego Springs at the beginning of December and will surely visit them again this year.
This certainly is one of the strangest birthdays ever. Most of the day is spent quietly, but busily, getting Judith's apartment ready for her arrival. The second set of kitchens arrives at the installer's, and we supervise the work as well as pick up last minute items (having glass rounds cut for table tops, buying an ironing board, mattress pads, etc.).
The word is in that are to expect two grand daughters, and we wish we could be with Terence and Angie now. This must be such a special time for them.
This morning, Rosella wishes me "Merry Birthday". In Italy, the word "happy" does not work as a birthday greeting. Merry is much better. Each day, during the ten-minute massage, we have a different word or phrase to laugh about. Yesterday it was "sole". Sole is used to describe the sun, but also to describe being alone. So we have a philosophical discussion about being alone, and how the sun cannot be alone, so "non sole sole".
I did not sleep at all last night, but this morning I wake very early and go outside to sit under the kitchen window and watch the sunrise over the foggy valley. The site is spectacular, with the undulating grey-green hills past our property, the fragrant cool air, the ucelli singing...Sofi sits next to me and enjoys it with me.
We leave for the hospital in Perugia early, stop in Ripabianca to pick up a monogrammed tile that Mitch Woods ordered months ago, and arrive at the hospital an hour before my appointment. The hospital complex is a maze of buildings. When we find the correct building, we go up to the fourth floor and wait our turn. Roy has parked the car, left Sofi inside with her little toy, and comes out of the elevator just as my name is called.
For the next hour, we spend the time in a consulting room, answering questions. The conversation is totally in Italian with a young doctor who looks under 30. She is very serious and seems to know a great deal about Neurology. This wing is filled with specialists in Neurology, and there is a great deal of emphasis on headaches. We see posters announcing upcoming conferences on headaches, so I am comforted that I am in the right place to find some answers.
While the meeting goes on, I get a migraine headache, and it is strangely helpful, for I am able to describe the symptoms just as they happen. By the time the meeting is through, we have a long letter to bring to Dottoressa in Bomarzo, requests for new medication to try and requests for prescriptions for both a sonogram of my head and a kind of EKG. We will return for an appointment at the beginning of May, and in the meantime will get the letter translated so that we understand everything in her report. We will probably pay Giordano to translate it. We leave Perugia before pranzo, and are able to get back to Amelia to do some last minute work before Judith arrives.
Judith is so happy with the apartment. She and Bianca arrive around 5:30, about five minutes after Roy has installed the last hallway light, and she pulls into the square just below her front window and is met by Roy, who is putting his tools in the car. Sofi and I open the window and wave down. It must be a fantastic scene for her...We have primroses in windowboxes, and with the wide open windows, she has a view of the frescoes on the ceiling as she gets out of the rental car...
When Judith walks up the short hill to the apartment, I am outside with Mikela's husband and Segundina, the elderly woman who tends the plants across from Judith's front door. I tell Segunda that this is "la prima volta" (the first time) Judith will be here after buying the apartment. We are able to introduce the two women and Judith is wide-eyed and ebullient...Is it the jet-lag or is she really thrilled? Probably a little of both with some real trepidation thrown in.
She loves everything, and invites us to stay for a glass of wine. We don't stay long, for we are almost as tired as she is. But we are so pleased that we are able to get her introduction to Italian living off to such a relaxing start.
Today is another beautiful day. It begins cool and foggy, but there is so much work to do in the garden and we have been here so little that I awake at 6:30 and go out to work in the garden for an hour before we leave for Orte. I am able to feed all the roses and the boxwood. The Maxi food for roses is now gone, but we still have some of the regular Maxi that we shipped from the US when we moved. It is impossible to find fish emulsion here, and I am not ready to make it, so we will make do with the local fertilizer.
Sofi and I wander around the terrace and lavender garden until we have to go. In Orte, I feel like a school girl, not wanting to go to school. These sessions aren't very good. Ten minutes on a lazer machine, ten minutes on an ultrasound, then a ten minutes massage on my arm and shoulder...It is hardly enough time to make any headway. I don't think I'll return, but am not ready to say arrividerci to sweet Rosella. Her massage winds up being fifteen minutes, and she even goes to her locker and brings back some Chinese tiger balm to rub on my arm. Roy wants me to clear this with Dottoressa before not going back.
From Orte, we drive to Amelia for my weekly massage with Alice. We are early, so stop at a bar for a spremuta (fresh squeezed orange juice, available at almost any bar in Italy). This one is made with blood oranges, sweet just as they are with out any sugar. Makes me want to go home and get out my grandmother's juicer and make spremutas in the morning. I remember Aunt Bea so enamored with this old fashioned juicer. It looks like a miniature water pump, just large enough for a half orange at a time.
Alice gives me the finest massage I've ever had. I leave there with my back and arms sore, but the muscles so elastic that I can move my arms up and around as though I am giving traffic directions. She gives me exercises for the next few days to make sure that my arm and shoulder stay limber. She is twenty eight, and tells me while giving me the massage that she wonders why she has not done anything with her life. I tell her that this ability of hers to work wonders on other people's sore bodies is one that she should be very proud of. She takes care of Catharine and Kaas and Tia and Bruce and by now her schedule is very booked. I am happy that she can fit me in.
After we are through, we stop in to see Judith, who has already taken a trip by herself to Spoleto and Terni this morning. She managed to buy a TV and DVD player, and somehow got it out of the car into her apartment. We stay for a few minutes and then leave her to go home.
For the rest of the day we work in the garden. The weather is warm and wonderful, and Roy lays mattone at the base of the front wire fencing in the lavender garden and also in the compost/tomato garden. We had trouble watering the roses for the past few years, because the water drained down the front wall instead of staying inside and sinking into the roots in the ground around the plants. So the mattone should make a real difference. Roy is in his brown worksuit, and it is getting "broken in". Mine is still folded on a hangar.
I am able to lean down to pull weeds, for the first time in months, and it feels great. Sofi is right by my side, happy as can be.
Today is Festa della Papa, or Saint Joseph's Day. We take out our St. Joseph the Worker statue, still wearing some dust from the time we buried him in our front yard in Mill Valley, but he looks great. If our house could have a patron saint, Saint Joseph would be it. He is wearing an apron and holding a big ancient type of hammer in his hand.
We drive to Chia to meet with Dottoressa to give her the results of my appointment at the hospital in Perugia. She is one hour late, but we are first in line, so get to talk to her before she tires out. She gives me prescriptions for an EKG and a sonogram of my head, based on the report from the Neurological Clinic, and new medicine for my headaches, and then we are off to meet with Judith.
For the next few hours, we show Judith some antique stores, an old furniture store and an auction-bankruptcy place. At the last place, she finds a storage piece for her bathroom. There are some finds here, interspersed between lots of junque. Roy then takes her to Uno Piu, while I start to cook.
I make pranzo for us, and before we know it, it's time to go back to Judith's to meet Cupido, the electrician, the kitchen installers, and wait for the shower surround to be delivered. I stay here with Sofi, because all the plants fromMichellini are to be delivered late in the afternoon.
After Roy and Judith leave for Ameila, the plants get delivered, but while the driver is bringing up the plants, a man walks up the stairs trying to sell me some dishtowels. I freak out, telling him, "No. Via, via!" and ask the driver if he will help me get rid of this man. I tell him I am paura (frightened) of this stranger, which is not an exaggeration, because the front door of the house is open and he is looking inside. The driver is nice to him but gets him to leave, and I lock the gate behind the two men. The stranger parks his car facing us at the top of the rise, and I stay on the terrace watching him sitting in his car, while holding Sofi on my hip with my arm around her. Another man gets into his car, who is probably selling things at the other end of the street, and about fifteen minutes later, they drive off.
I am very nervous because we were robbed last year, and am sadly suspicious. The front gate would have been locked if a delivery were not taking place. I think I am also overly-sensitive with all the news about terrorism sinking into my subconscious.
Sofi and I stay outside weeding, and there is plenty to weed. Michellini has delivered a few wrong plants, which we'll have to take back, but I go online to research one of the roses they have delivered by mistake and decide it will go back as well. I like the original roses we ordered.
Judith agrees to buy a storage piece of furniture for the bathroom that we found with her, and Roy picks it up and puts it in our car to take to her tomorrow.
The three of us pick up Judith and Bianca in front of her apartment, after dropping off her piece of furniture and drive her to Terni to show her some of the things we have found for her. For the next three hours we go from shop to shop, measuring, discussing, taking photos. We drop her off and give her some time to herself to think about what we have seen.
At home, we have a relaxing pranzo and Sofi and I take a short nap on the couch while Roy putters. Before we know it, it's time to get dressed for the theatre. Sofi stays at home tonight, and Roy and I pick up Judith to take her to Tia and Bruce's for cocktails before dinner.
There is always so much to talk to Tia and Bruce about, and we have fun over cocktails. We are just a few minutes from the restaurant, so drive back into town, park our cars and go into the restaurant. Bruce specially likes Carciofe alla Romana, a deep-fried artichoke, and four of us have it as an appetizer. Also, three of us have Scoglia, which is a kind of sea bass, and it arrives just before we have to leave for the theatre. It arrives on two platters, and Bruce fillets them beautifully for us. He is an expert, we recall, because he spent a year at sea on a sailboat, where he picked up all kinds of handy skills...Although we arrived early for dinner, and tell the waitress how long we have to eat, she ignores us and that is good. For we relax and have a wonderful meal, leaving still in time for the theatre, which is only a short walk from the front door.
The theatre is so much fun. We run into Diedre and Nancy Swig, who live not too far from Amelia, and Tia knows them both. It is a small world. Diedre came to one of my annual lavender lunches, and Roy and I met Nancy at the Ameila Coop months ago. Her husband works most of the year in the Orient, Sri Lanka, I believe.
The performance is excellent, somewhat boffo, and we are able to actually understand some of it. The dancing is just terrific, and Tia especially likes the show. The night ends with a "Dorme bene" to Judith at the foot of her building and to Tia and Bruce near their car.
We drive to Mugnano under a cold star-less sky, and Sofi welcomes us home with kisses and whimpers. We look forward to tomorrow, the first day of primavera.
We awake this morning to see 42 tiny shoots in the tomato plantings. Yesterday there were 28. The day before, there were 10. At this rate, we will have a TON of tomatoes this year. If they all come up, we will have 80 plants! Marilyn Smith emails us that hers are almost ready to be transplanted to 4" pots. Gee, last year we did not do any transplanting until they were ready to go into the ground. But then, Marilyn is probably going to "go to market" with hers. This project is so much fun to share with her.
At church, we learn that Monday and Tuesday are the days when Don Luca will bless each house in Mugnano, so we ask Tiziano if it is customary to give money. It is, and we will give the money to Livio when they arrive.
Before church, when Sofi and I are in the garden, I spot a little animal curled up below the big rosemary bush. I don't know if it is a rat, or a hedge-hog or what it is. So I close the gate, keeping Sofi away until Roy can get rid of it. Before church, we ask Felice what he thought it was, and he is sure it is a hedgehog. "Sometimes they curl up and sleep, and when you go back it may have moved somewhere else. It is harmless." Magari!
So when we go home, I take Roy to the spot and the animal has not moved. We agree that it is a hedgehog, and he throws stones toward it, to see if it will move. It will not, and he agrees to take care of it. He will bury it. "Deeply, I hope, because Sofi likes to dig."
Roy moves the fifth rose planter to its home on the lower path, and we plant the new Lady Hillington rose inside. Then we take more guidewire and nail it carefully along the front wall, helping the new rose to espalier. I move the mermaid roses to their spots against the side fence, and Roy moves the osmanthus plants to the other side of the new fence. Mario will come soon to plant the roses and osmanthus. It is time again for him to do the weed-wacking of the lower path as well as the olive grove, which today contains two new beautiful olive trees, the same size as the three on the upper terrace.
The temperature is warm early in the morning, and Sofi and I commence our morning walks. She shows no sign of injury to her front paw, and delights at hopping along, as happy as can be. The signora who lives across from the bus stop meets us near Leondina and Italo's house...She is coming up the back hill after feeding her chickens. Wearing a woolen scarf tied "babushka style", two brown sweaters and short boots, she is dressed for the cold weather. She laughs at Sofi, nose to the ground, smelling everything.
This woman and Luigina don't wear coats. They wear layers and layers of sweaters, but somehow don't believe in coats. Brrrr. It is very windy, and when we get around to Aqua Puzza, I feel the cold wind in my face. We are back home in no time and Sofi gets to play outside for a while, while I go inside to get warm.
Don Luca and Livio may come this afternoon to bless the house, so I finish cleaning the bedrooms and airing them out, Italian style. Italians love to open bedroom windows and hang comforters or blankets out the windows. This is a good day to do that, because it is very windy and the air is cool and fresh. Today and tomorrow, the Benediction della Casa takes place in our village. The priest goes to every house, and that includes ours. We stay at home doing projects, waiting until they arrive.
Roy is on his "Golden Gate Bridge project", starting with the front gate and moving down to the cancello, painting as he goes in an almost-black color. We have never painted the front gate, and it shows previous layers of black, green, salmon...By the time Roy finishes the gate, Celestino Natale's initials stand proudly. The gate looks wonderful. Roy is unable to stop, "Just one more..." until he is too cold to continue and Felice comes by to feed all the plants with an organic food we purchased last week in Giove.
Felice is really here to find out about the hedgehog, and what Roy did with it. "Un gran dormire" is Roy's response. I have no idea where he buried it, but he buried it...Felice then gets one of the big bags of concime and sprinkles it around every plant in the garden.
Late in the afternoon, the count is up to 50 tiny tomato shoots in the guest bedroom window. I cannot imagine that all 80 will sprout, but we will know very soon. We will probably buy some inexpensive larger pots, to transplant the seedlings until they are ready to go into the ground, and will use them next year as well. Marilyn tells us that she will repot when the seedlings get two sets of leaves. But we will not "go to market" with them. If anything, we will give extras away. Can you just see little Mugnano becoming the heirloom tomato capital of Italy?
Roy calls Maurizio this morning, asking where our pepperino headers are for the doors. Maurizio returns Roy's call late this afternoon, wanting to talk with us. We agree that we'll be there just after 18:30, in the event Don Luca and Livio come today.
At around 18:25, we put Sofi in her cage and get in the car to go to Maurizio's. We can't imagine that the priest will come now, but when we stop to drop off a bag of garbage and turn the car around, Roy sees Livio and Don Luca slip into Giustino's front lobby. We'd better get home quick and pretend that we've been there all the time.
Park the car, get up the stairs, quickly take off our coats, put the lights on, get Sofi downstairs and go down to take the chain off the newly painted front gate. Just in time. Don Luca and Livio arrive, get a kiss from Sofi and they are in the front hallway.
Don Luca asks us if we are happy. Come se dice "blissful?" and out of breath? He makes the sign of the cross, raises his holy water over our heads, says a prayer, and I am having trouble concentrating. Has Sofi gone into the living room to do a dump just before Don Luca goes in? Oh my, he's starting the Lord's Prayer. I stop him and he looks down at me, confused, but Roy runs into the kitchen to get our "cheat sheets". He tells us to say the Lord's prayer in English, but I tell him it is very important to say it in Italian. So we follow him around the house reading our little prayers and butchering the language. But we are enthusiastic, and that's a good thing.
When we are through, we are in the hallway between the two bedrooms. Don Luca congratulates Roy on becoming a member of the Confraternity, and turns to me and tells me that he is sorry that I cannot become one as well. I tell him it is not important. But in my mind I am thrilled that he is so sensitive and progressive. Remember that Don Luca drives a black motorcycle and wears a Darth Vader-type helmet. He is one cool priest.
Before we know it, they are gone. Sofi goes back in her cage for a short while and we drive to Maurizio's in the next town. He is having trouble carving the lavender into the pepperino...it does not make sense to him. So he suggest we use two very old rings, the kind used for horses to tie up to, but much smaller, instead on either side of the header for the kitchen. In the middle of the pepperino, in Latin, will be the phrase, "Take care of yourself (cura ut valeas)" A bunch of lavender, or a bunch of herbs, or a bunch of flowers, can be tucked into one or both of the rings. He draws it out for us, shows us the rings, and we like the idea very much. We are not sure that we will ever put anything in the rings, but the idea has merit.
The cost is not cheap, but he will do a fine job. Roy tells him that if he finishes by Monday, we will pay what he asks. If he does not finish on Monday, the price will drop by 20%. He agrees, then tells us what chaotic shape the Giove castle is in...The owner claims the restaurant will be open for business by Pasqua. Maurizio responds, "Of what year?" He is doing a great deal of work there, and we are sure it will be very unusual.
We drive home and look forward to getting into our warm house and giving little Sofi a big hug. She does not care if we are gone for five minutes or five hours...she is just as excited to see us. And so we settle down for the end of another magical day in little Mugnano.
You know you're really at home in a new country when...you've found a doctor, a manicurist, a masseuse and a hairdresser who are all simpatico and know what you like. Today in Orte, while Giusi, (pronounced juicy), gives me an exceptionally professional pedicure, I muse about all this. In addition, I get to practice my Italian on these poor folks, who don't even roll their eyes at me (or at least that I can detect).
We return a few of the delivered plants to Michellini just before pranzo, pick up the correct two roses and one large Viburnum to replace the two puny chiosia. The vivaio is just starting to come "into flower". It is as though everything was recently given a shot of steroids. We also pick up ten gray santolina, and I will clip them into rounds before they go into the ground.
We get a call from Shelly later that Mario actually showed up this afternoon to plant. He told Roy he was not available until Monday, so we were not around. Roy calls him later, cannot figure out what he is saying, but tells him when we'll be here. And we want to be here to supervise. Mario does a rapid-fire, machine-gun-like first rate job, but needs direction. I don't think he even takes a break, other than to stop to swig a taste of his homemade wine, which he keeps nearby. He is very generous with his wine, even expecting Roy to share it with him in the mornings when he works. As far as I know, Roy declines. Mario calls him "Capo" anyway.
We are also hoping that he and Dino will begin the stairs up to the potato orto garden next Monday. With the new roses planted and everything well fed, I am especially excited about the season to come.
A few calls come in from Judith, but she seems to be enjoying her experiences in Italy, driving all around and buying things right and left. We get a call that the marble people will measure her kitchens this afternoon and call her, telling her not to worry. We will be there to supervise. Although I really think Franco is first rate, he is unable to do this job, so the men at Sgrina recommend Enrico from Amelia, and he seems to know what he is doing. We watch him closely and find some discrepancies, so it is good that we are here.
Later I pick up my new glasses. They are tinted a very light blue, not dark enough but it is not worth sending them back again. I cut corners on these glasses, only getting half the prescription. Instead of bifocals, just get glasses for distance. I don't need them for close work. But am not able to keep them on and do close work. Roy is not happy with me. He thinks the extra €200 would be worth it. I may live to regret my decision, but hopefully will get used to what I now have.
Today is really quite "umido"...cold and wet, although there is no actual rain. I really want to get outside. So I catch up on phone calls, including a call to Loredana and Alberto in Rome, and learn that they will be here this weekend for a week. When Donna and Phillip and Douglass come for a night next week, they will come for a drink." It will be like old home week." What a strange American phrase, but Lore really enjoyed Donna and Phillip when they spent New Year's with us a few years ago. This will be Donna and Phillip's third visit. So much has happened here in the time they started visiting.
The tomato count is up just a little to 53.
The tomato count is up to 54 so we think we are just about at the final number of plants we will have this year. That is quite a number. Roy wants to move the compost area out past the new fence into the field where our main olive trees are, in order to give the entire area where we now do our composting over to the tomatoes. We will have to replace some of the soil, because we planted tomatoes in one area there last year. Roy wants to be able to walk on either side of the plants to water and take care of them. I have news for him. We will need at least four paths, and am imagining a kind of Green Mansions down there. Whatever have we gotten ourselves into? What would we ever do without Felice holding our hands? I am beginning to believe that this is like the" fish that swallowed Manhattan".
Today is Sofi's day for her "beauty treatment", but first we take a walk. I wake up and look out the front bedroom window to see a wall of marshmallow fog changing from covering the entire sky to the left of us to a blanket over Aqua Puzzo in the time it takes me to shower and get dressed.
Outside, Sofi is ready to go, and I put on my leather jacket. Once on Via Mameli, I realize it is cold this morning at 8AM, but the air feels fresh and Sofi is so happy I cannot possibly turn around. We wave at Mauro getting into his car, and then can't miss Giovanni coming down the side street on his noisy put-put faded red contraption that seems a cross between an ape and a tricycle. I can see him lean over as he comes around the bend. Cats fly out of the way, Sofi races to greet him, and he gives us both a smile as he passes, like an old cowboy on his trusted horse.
It takes no time at all to do the walk, and I am imagining picking up some discarded olive branches that lay at the corner of Aqua Puzzo and Via Mameli. We saw a wonderful arrangement at Tia's last weekend in a glass vase, and the olive branches will look fine on top of our painted cabinet in the corner of the kitchen, until our real flowers begin to bloom.
The branches are still on the side of the road. Sofi waits patiently while I pick up a few, then just as we turn the corner a light rain begins to fall. It feels wonderful on my hair and my face, but I think we should get home soon just the same. The hill we must climb is steep, but I do not stop to catch my breath. Halfway up the hill the rain changes its mind and roars down from the sky. Sofi looks back at me and wants me to hurry up. She does not stop to sniff a thing, and wants to be HOME.
We get in the front door and I call up to Roy to rescue his girls with towels. We are soaked. While he comes down the stairs he comments, "I was going to come and get you when the rain started..." I think to myself, "Huh?" Then, no matter. We dry off and get in the car for Bracciano, to the allevamento where Sofi's relatives are. We have an appointment with Irina for Sofi to get a haircut, bath, and have her nails clipped.
She is such a scardy-cat, crying through most of the session, but comes out looking like a different dog. Roy wants me to check her tattoo to make sure she is ours. While we wait, there are so many sweet dogs that look like Sofi, I am amazed. All the dogs there are happy and playful. The breeder has about eight different breeds of dogs, but tells us that the Basottos are her favorite. As Judith claims, "Everyone loves their dog". But we have not met a person who has not wanted to greet Sofi.
Looking forward to getting a blood test, I must be out of my mind. I have the world's shyest veins and historically became practically catatonic just thinking about that needle. Dottoressa wants a blood test to recheck my cholesterol, so Roy and Sofi take me early to Soriano for the jab. I take a ticket and there are about twenty people ahead of me.
Everyone wants to talk. Strangers telling each other their medical histories, commiserating, some overly dramatic when their turn is through, coming out with their arm raised high, holding a cotton swab against the inside of their elbow as though their veins are full of gold. The cost is approximately €18, paid in advance.
When it is my turn, one man remembers me. He even knows the year I was born. Huh? Another man asks me the date of my birth. "Mille novecento..." before I have finished the other man tells me in English the year I was born. "Ricordi?" I ask. Who knows the answer?
Everyone wants to know where I am from, and when I tell them San Francisco (this gets the most interesting response), each of them waxes ecstatic. They all act as though I have committed some terrible crime and have been banished to little Mugnano and want to know the details.
"Per la vida! Mugnano e meraviglosa e tranquilita." I say this in a robust voice, eyes almost closed, so dreamy that I cannot even feel the needle burrowing under my skin.
I have no idea what is going on but it is over, and I am told to return on Tuesday for the results.
We pick up Judith to go to the marble yard to pick out her countertop. She wants granite because it will not stain. She is fixed on the possibility of someone spilling red wine on her counters...We have had unpolished travertine for several years, and somehow have survived any real problem. Roy asks Enrico about the difference between using granite and other kinds of marble as countertops.
"Vino rosa?" He asks Enrico.
"Si, buono!" is Enrico's response. We all laugh. Enrico admits that travertine and other kinds of marble are more susceptible to stains.
Judith is first unwavering in her choice of granite, then as she looks at the choices, she relaxes a little and before she is through we take several samples, but she likes travertine the best. Enrico pours water on a couple of huge sheets of travertine, to show her what it will look like polished.
We go to her apartment with the samples and the travertine is the only one that really works. It looks wonderful with the brown cabinets downstairs and also works very well upstairs. With the existing window ledges already in travertine upstairs, we agree this is a good choice. We are very pleased that she is able to pick out this herself. This part of the project is a very personal thing.
She has been thinking about all the places we have taken her to and wants two old wingback chairs we showed her last week. She comes up with a lower price she's willing to pay, and we are able to negotiate a compromise on our way home from Amelia with the shop owner. I find an incredible frame, which needs a beveled mirror, and tell the shop owner to include this in his delivery. She can turn it down, but if she likes it he will have saved a trip. He agrees to deliver the chairs and frame tomorrow, after cleaning up the legs and the upholstery.
At home, it is cold and windy, but we are all outside in the sun to work. I clip the santolinas, in preparation for their plantings, do some more weeding (helped by Sofia running off with a weed at a time and shaking it in the air), and Roy goes back to work painting the iron fencing. On the little side gate he takes off the dog-proofing mesh at the bottom, and we test Sofi. She can get her head and one paw through one of the squares, but that is all. So we agree not to replace it.
Sofi and I come back into the house and Felice arrives to work with Roy in the garden, prepping the soil, feeding the plants, doing some weeding. Those men are hearty souls.
Earlier in the day, when driving out of the ancient Amelia gate, we looked over at a couple standing in the middle of the street. The woman is bent way over, holding onto a cane and shaking her head, as a white haired man talks down to her.
"Give her hell!" Roy calls out, and I am thankful the windows are closed. "Knock that cane out from under her. She can WALK!"
I think all this working outside has done wonders for Roy. He genuinely loves his life here. Not that anything was wrong with him before. We are each finding roots so deep here and loving our little plot of land so that it is difficult to leave, even for a few hours.
When I began to fix dinner last night, I almost cut off my finger. I thought I had worked out how to see right under my nose while wearing my glasses. I push them back as far as I can on my nose and look out from under the lens. All this to save almost €180. I was very wrong to try to make these glasses work. So tomorrow we'll continue this never-ending process that will take at least another week. I just can't get by without bifocals. The woman at the store tells me that the next time she sees me she wants it to be over a caffé at a bar...I quite agree. The glasses have to be totally remade, and even with a discount I am wincing.
Mario comes to start his work, and puts on a thick green apron that comes down to his ankles and big glasses. This weed-wacking can be dangerous work. That is why I have convinced Roy to not even buy a weed-wacker. When he is through, the land looks so beautiful. Everything is a soft green. He is very mindful of the iris planted around, and wacks on either side of them on the front path.
We have to go out a few hours later to deal with my glasses, and when we come back all the weed wacking is done, the two olive trees are planted, as are all the osmanthus and mermaid roses. He is truly a whirling dervish of a worker. Once in the midst of his wacking, he stops to come up and clean his glasses. He appears to be completely covered by a soft moss...it is the cut grass. There is an unmistakable smell wherever I turn. It is to me one of the best in the world... freshly cut grass.
While he cleans his glasses, he watches Roy bring a huge piece of granite over to the front terrace on his hand truck. He will use it as a base for the huge pot from England and the little kumquat tree.
"Trasporto eccetionale!" he laughs.
This is the sign trucks use when they are carrying an oversize load. Later, when we are leaving, Roy cautions Mario, "No trasporto eccetionale!"
It will be at least another week for my glasses. We almost turn back on the way to Amelia. There is a small bridge on Tia's side of Amelia, and it is closed down. Rocks have fallen (caduti) and we do not know until we reach the bridge itself. We see a hand painted sign with the word Amelia and an arrow aimed toward Lugnano on the road up, but think it is a hoax. The sign would have us drive in the opposite direction. Now we know better.
Being an intrepid soul, Roy finds a circuitous route around Amelia, and we come in from the north side about fifteen minutes later, after traversing in and out of the countryside. I would have turned around and gone home. So we order the new glasses and stop for a few errands and then come home. Later, Tia tells me that she has no idea when the road will be reopened.
When I tell her I almost cut off my finger, she tells me she almost did the same with the birthday gift we gave her. It is good to have a girls' laugh with someone who speaks the same language. I think that is the only thing I really miss about being here other than seeing Terence and Angie.
Mario arrives at 7 AM, so Roy gets up at 6 and Sofi and I drag ourselves out a little later. He is such an amazing man, that he finishes almost all his work in an hour-and-a-half, just after Roy leaves for Amelia to deal with the plumber at Judith's apartment. Moving plants, digging up a tree, planting, turning over soil, Mario works steadily and with gusto.
Felice had planted some strange kind of lettuce and bietole (swiss chard) by the soon-to-be new stairs near the lavender, and I ask him to take them up as well as a huge cardi plant. He looks at me dubiously, so I take the best of the bietole and use it at cena. There is more to plant, but we will wait until the stairs are finished, which may be as early as Tuesday.
When he leaves, Sofi and I go up to where the potatoes are resting under the rocky earth, and rake hundreds of stones with a big new metal rake toward the top of the stairs. These stones can be used for "fill" under the stairs. I notice that Felice is not bothered by the rocks and stones, and moves them around instead of removing them. I think this is the perfect time to get that area stone-free.
The sun is wonderfully warm overhead. This is a dream day. Or at least it starts that way, but the clouds move in and by the time Roy returns home at 11AM it is cloudy and cool again.
Roy has a "Leo" moment. He wants a 60-meter hose to reach to the farthest new roses on the olive tree terrace. During Leo's last year, he became fixated with pieces of rubber hose, keeping one in his pocket. When Roy asked him what that was for, he said, "Well, I'll put a fitting on here, and another fitting on here..."
"And then what will you do with it, Dad?" Roy responded.
"Gee, I really don't know.
In this case, Roy knows what he'll do with the new hose. I am hoping that he starts working on the irrigation project, instead of hitching all these hoses together. We go to Viterbo before pranzo, but cannot find the right hose. Roy buys a temporary one later when he goes out by himself. We are so tired after pranzo that we all take a nap and wake up two hours later.
Our new land is really amazing. For any of our friends who have visited, the latest results are better than we have imagined. The space works so well, the two new olive trees adding a softness, the new mermaid roses against the castagno poles blocking the view of the fence posts almost completely, giving us added privacy and safety without an overpowering wall to close us in.
What is really evident is Sarah Hammond's design of the curved gravel path in the direction of San Rocco. We have extended it, taking out two rows of lavender, and the result is an appreciation of the gentle curve of the landscape. We never stop appreciating Sarah for the lessons we have learned from her and her simple and elegant design. The garden truly has "good bones".
Ivo and his family walk down Via Mameli toward us, and we invite them in while we're doing some plant moving and feeding and watering. They are here to visit his parents, Italo and Leondina, until Monday but will return to their home in Parma in a few days. We love to see the children and grandchildren of our neighbors. Weekends become alive with the sights and sounds of laughing and talking. One day Terence and Angie and their girls will join us and we so look forward to seeing them here.
Today has been one of our favorite days since first coming to Italia years ago. Why? Because we have been made to feel so naturally a part of life here. During the mass, I hear Loredana speak loudly and distinctly next to me. I feel confident in pronouncing the words, even if I do not know what they all mean. When we come out of church we see Mauro with his receipt book, and Roy tells me to get ready to have them ring our bell for yet another donation for this year's festa, which will be held the second of May.
After mass, we walk down the hill and meet Vincenza, who walks across from their house into the sunlight. She greets us and invites us in for caffé. Roy starts to decline and I immediately say, "Si!" We sit in their little kitchen and I watch her every step. Roy is happy that I agreed so quickly.
She moves slowly and purposefully, fixing tiny cups for our coffee and big cups for her and also for Augusto, her husband, who comes in a few minutes later. She takes a piece of chocolate pound cake and slices it on a plate for us to enjoy with our coffee. It is important to always have something around to serve with coffee.
I imagine what I would do if we were serving caffé to them. I think I would do just fine.
We all sit and they are so kind in speaking slowly and clearly to us. Roy wants to tell funny stories, and thinks of the time we went to Lucca and walked by the cigar factory. Over the front door of the factory was the name of the factory, but just below the sign was another sign, "Non fumare!" (No smoking). Roy wanted to tell them the story and he told them he wanted to tell them some trivia, but did not know how to translate the word. "Banalita", responds Augusto. They love the story.
There is an Italian song called, "Parola, parola, parola"...It is a song of frustration. But for us the words are much more descriptive than the corresponding words in English. I love the word "banalita" almost as much as I love the word "tormentare" which is used to describe teasing.
While we are sitting there, we learn that Augusto and Vincenza met as little children in Mugnano. Augusto was born in Roma but Vincenza was born in Mugnano. Augusto is related to Vincenzo, who is the white haired man who takes care of the church and does the readings during mass. Last summer, their daughter Fulvia married Mario Fosci, another couple who are both from Mugnano. I ask Vincenza if she and Augusto were in love as ragazzi, or children, and she answers no. But she was married to him at age 23.
Before ten minutes go by, the doorbell rings and it is Mauro and his brother, collecting for the festa. Roy gives them some money and tells them not to come to our house to collect again today, and they all laugh. There is a discussion about the procession next week during Palm Sunday, and we ask Mauro if the Confraternity will be a part of the procession. He does not know but will tell us later in the week. We hear that Mario's leg is almost healed and that he will go back to work tomorrow. I am wondering where Roy's cintura is to go around his waist on top of the red gown. We are waiting for Mario to finish tying the special knots in it. The momentum is building...
We finish our caffé, thank them and leave for home. Sofi comes out with lots of kisses, and we change to go out to garden. Before we get very far, Maurizio calls and asks us to go to their house to discuss the pepperino headers he is working on. Subito! We drive right over. One of the headers is finished, and the lettering in an old Roman script is wonderful but huge. There is no mistaking that it reads, "Take care of yourself" in Latin (CVRA VT VALEVS). There is no room for the two old rings. But it is finished in a wonderful patina.
Maurizio is having trouble with the other header, because the lettering will have to be smaller. Magari. He recommends abbreviations but we want the phrase all spelled out. After much discussion, we agree that the lettering will be on two lines and that there will be no rings. Today is beautifully sunny, so he just might finish by the deadline...He must work out in the sunlight because he is carving into grey stone. I ask Umi if she would like to get together after their project finishes at the castle in Giove. She does. I look forward to getting to know her better.
We leave and go home and go back to the garden, but the phone rings and it is Jill. She is back from Strasbourg for two weeks and we invite here over in the afternoon. There is a message on the phone that Peter and Annie called, and they also agree to come after pranzo. Loredana and Alberto are also invited to stop by later with their friends who are joining them for pranzo. We think this will be the start of a wonderful season of visitors every weekend afternoon. I am in heaven.
We have a quick pranzo and get back to gardening. We feed more of the roses and string some more guide wire. Roy opens the hoses up all the way, stringing them from one end of the property to the other. Before he finishes, Peter and Annie come, and we stop for Spumante and Peter and Annie's lemoncello colomba cake. It is very warm, and we agree that it is almost time for the umbrella overhead.
After they leave, I take out small kitchen scissors and finally they are the correct thing to use to clip the oldest boxwood. I do this clipping about twice or three times a year. The boxwood grows very slowly, and there is a lot of new growth. I need to do a first clip and then stand back and do it again. I will let a day or so go by and then try again. Before I am through today, I have clipped all 20 on the right front side of the front terrace.
A few days ago I clipped all the newer boxwood on the other side of the front terrace. There are forty there. I still have twenty more boxwood in the lavender garden to do, and will work on them later in the week. I dearly love boxwood. They mimic the two ancient catapult balls at the top of the front stairs, and our garden is really patterned after these two orbs.
Rounds and rounds and rounds are placed all over the gardens, including forty five lavenders, ten santolinas, and sixty boxwood. That is not counting any roses, which number over 30, or the trees. This may sound like a lot, but we don't think it is, unless we have a water shortage this summer.
Loredana and Alberto and three of their friends come for a visit, and after they leave, Austin walks by and we invite him in for a glass of wine. Jill calls to say she will come tomorrow and we end the late afternoon suggesting to Austin that he apply for a job at the new restaurant in the castle in Giove. Right now he commutes to a hotel job in Rome.
Terence calls and we hear all about the two showers for Angie and about Terence's business. We are so proud of his entrepreneuring spirit. Angie sounds wonderful. Her doctor tells her that she is just sailing through this pregnancy, and we are thrilled for them both. The due-date is mid June, and right now everything is going fine. We wish we could be with them, but are there in spirit.
The day ends with a call from Maurizio that the pepperino headers are finished, and he will come tomorrow to measure. We will be here all day, starting at 7AM when Maurio and Dino arrive to start the new stairs in the lavender garden. We don't want to go to sleep, but know we must, so get into bed like school children excited about the day and about new adventures tomorrow.
It is easy to get out of bed when the birds are singing and the sky is clear. So before 7AM we are all downstairs walking around the property. During the night, I kept awake thinking we need two plastic pipes under the stairs before they are built: one for plumbing and one for electrical.
Once this is done and we take a photo, we will be prepared to run a water line and an electrical line across to the olive terrace. We know we will need water there soon, instead of running a 60-meter hose, and at some point may want to install lighting there. Roy agrees. So he goes to Orsolini in the next town to pick up the pipe while Mario and Dino are getting started.
Sofi and I go for our walk early, and it is still very cold. But as the day wears on, the weather warms up and the day becomes truly beautiful.
Before pranzo, the pipes have been laid, all the material purchased, the paranco set up and used to hoist the tufa bricks and sand. The cement mixer is stationed on the front terrace over plastic cloth, and the existing stairs are demolished. We approve of the footprint, and after pranzo they return to set the tufa bricks in place.
In the meantime, Maurizio and Umi arrive to make a final measurement in the kitchen and living room for the iron rods to be attached to the back of the pepperino headers. I mention to them about Austin being here yesterday, and they are not sure when the restaurant in the Giove castle will be ready to open, but will try to help him get a job there.
I am very concerned that Stefano will come across Mario and Dino tomorrow morning at 8AM, when he comes to install Maurizio's pepperino headers. I can't determine why we did not hire Stefano to do these stairs, other than he is always busy and Mario and Dino did the other stairs to the olive terraces. But we know that Stefano was not happy to see that someone else did some muratore work for us. Depending on how things go this afternoon, I will speak with Roy about dealing with Stefano diplomatically.
Maurizio and Umi arrive with the headers and Roy helps Maurizio bring them up. They are very large and the two men set them on the gravel next to the front stairs. We sit around and talk for a while, and while we do Felice comes up the stairs. He is full of life, especially so, today, and a few minutes later when we all go into the lavender garden to watch Dino and Mario lay down the tufa on the new stairs, Felice sits by himself on the bench, facing all of us. It is as though he is holding court.
Roy later tells me that he and Mario had a discussion about our lemon tree, and Felice defers to Mario regarding trees. Mario asks Roy where the tree came from, what the cost was, what pot it came in...and finishes by saying that he thinks it will survive. I have my doubts.
The property just sings with people around. Sofi runs around shaking her toys and greeting our friends. And then she sits in my arms and rests, hanging her long nose on the low neck opening of my camp royanee "play with your food" shirt.
Dino and Mario leave, saying they will return at 7AM tomorrow. I plan to be weeding in the garden when Stefano arrives. I hope it is not a problem. Maurizio and Umi are still here and we see the Carabinieri stop Austin on the street to ask him about his passport. I think he agrees to run home and get it. I know he has an European passport and will have no problem with them. The man who looks like "the little king" looks up and we wave. They wave back. I don' t know if I am happy or not that they know us well...
Maurizio and Umi leave and Roy tells me that Maurizio tried to drive his little truck onto the front path and got caught, one wheel hanging over the side. Knowing that the car has front wheel drive, Roy rocks the front bumper and they are able to move off the path.
We hope that tomorrow the stairs will be done, the pepperino will be installed and we can get back to normal. We do like all the activity and having friends drop by, and look forward to a sunny spring and lots of visitors.
Dino told us yesterday that it will rain today, and the sky is overcast when we get up. Maurizio also said that it would rain, because a group of houseflies were swarming low under the caki tree last night. They must take their moving instructions via barometric pressure...
It is a dreary day, but Dino and Mario arrive and start working by 8AM. We have to guide them some on the stair design. Dino does a fine job and Mario stands around and mixes the cement but otherwise acts like a clown. There is a row of mattone under each stair as a detail. It is not planned, but I want to see it instead of having it covered up with cement. They agree to clean it up and leave it as it is.
After pranzo, Mario shows up with a bottle of his homemade wine, and acts as though he drank his pranzo. Sofi does not like him, and when he plants the two Paul Lede roses on either side of the new stairs, he acts drunk and Sofi snaps at him. Perhaps she was a member of the Temperance Union in a former life.
I spend the entire day taking stones out of the lavender garden and pulling weeds. There are so many rocks (sabia), that I ask Dino if they grow by themselves. Before Dino and Mario get ready to leave there is a big pile of dirt that Mario assures me is "terra buona". I let him scatter it around the lavender, only to find out that it is full of rocks and weeds. So most of the work I did today is for naught. I am sure the land is better, it just doesn't look much different. Lavender thrives on rocky soil, and it is a good thing.
Roy gets the 2-story ladder out and paints the balcony the same black as the front cancello and all the ferro on the terrace. It really looks wonderful. In the afternoon, he leaves for Amelia to oversee Cupido's work at Judith's. She decides to buy an armadio we found for her at one antiquariato and an absolutely beautiful mirror we found at another. We are really pleased that these things will work for her.
Just before Roy leaves, Stefano shows up and tells Roy that he must keep working on Lore and Alberto's roof, because it is going to rain. He assures us that he is not upset that Dino and Mario are here, and Roy assures them that they are only doing a little job in the garden. When Stefano tells us that Dino can put up the pepperino, Roy assures him that no, this is a job for Stefano only. It is an important job. Stefano seems content when he leaves. Now if we can only get him to return to do the job...In the meantime, the pepperino sits on the gravel by the front path. It really looks ancient.
Sofi loves the new stairs, and rushes up to Dino to give him a kiss and tell him so. He will return on Friday to put the finishing touches on the stairs and we hope to bring an arch to go over the gate to the olive terrace. A few of the details look sparse, but once the roses begin to grow, the garden will take on a more finished look. Magari!
We leave before 7AM to pick up Donna Pizzi and Phillip Thompson and Douglass at the Bologna train station. It begins to rain when we arrive, after a very long trip via the E-45, a route we do not recommend. The road is full of potholes close to Bologna, and we will take the Futa Pass on the way back. A route that before seemed treacherous and monotonous now seems mild.
We locate our dear friends coming out the side door of the station and then stumble upon a restaurant that will take Sofi, Il Pirato, that is really quite good. Everyone eats fish, and Sofi shares my orecchetti and tiny clams, a dish usually made with linguine. I like the way the little cups of pasta soak up the clams and their broth and will try this at home.
Then it's on to Galeazza, the castle found by Donna and Phillip in Town and Country magazine. Located in the middle of the flat Po Valley north of Bologna, it appears at first sight to have been abandoned decades ago. Roy calls Clark, the overseer, on the cell phone when we arrive at the huge locked and chained gate, and he does come down and unlock the gate. Roy thinks he is disappointed that we actually show up. Once we are inside, we all look at each other and silently decide to view this as an adventure.
The building looms deep in the fog, surrounded by tall trees. It is the dark red brick so characteristic of that area. Inside I am surprised to see so many beautiful frescoes on the ceilings. Our bedroom has wonderful ones, in the center a cherub facing toward us. I am wondering if frescoes in bedrooms were meant to bring sweet dreams. I am feeling juxtaposed, thinking that the angel should face toward the window. It is as though she/he is looking at someone behind my tiny bed, which is warmed by an electric blanket under the flannel sheets to keep it cozy.
Donna and Phillip win the one double bed in a coin-toss, and Roy and Sofi and I sleep in the middle bedroom, where there are three narrow beds with hand-painted headboards set up facing the courtyard. There is evidence everywhere of Clark's good "eye"...displays of flowers or greens as focal points, including one masterful arrangement of branches outside our bedroom window in a round ebony pot.
Douglass sleeps in the most beautiful bedroom, a single, situated between our bedroom and the library, which is frescoed on the walls and ceiling. The library features floor-to-ceiling books and a wall heater as tall as the very tall doors into the room. Except for one very high chandelier, the lighting is not good for night reading. A few lamps on side tables would do wonders for this room, which is pleasant none-the-less with a large sofa and several wonderful old period chairs in all their shabby elegance.
I get into bed in the late afternoon to see if I can sleep off a migraine, and Roy and Donna and Phillip and Douglass and Sofi take the tour of the place, including a walk up into the tower. Roy later tells me that the phrase "taking a stand" came from the use of these defensive towers. The word is that, during times of attack, people went to the tower to defend themselves, believing that if the rest of the property was destroyed, they would defend themselves best at the tower.
That was in the days of catapult balls, lobbed from below and arrows shot from above. Somehow all that seems civil, compared to today's elements of war. I remain enamored of catapult balls, loving the two at the top of our front stairs that are the inspiration for all the clipped boxwood in our terraces and gardens. But back to the castle.
The deal with staying here is that the cost is a very reasonable €40 per person per night, which includes food, prepared and eaten communally. Other than Liz, a woman already there, and Clark, we are alone. Oh, except Romeo, the menacing-looking black cat so large I keep Sofi on her leash for most of the time.
Clark takes off for groceries with Liz and Donna and Phillip, and returns around eight with boxes and boxes of food. Everyone takes on a job, with Clark discussing the menu and guiding the ingredients. For the next four hours, we prep and cook and drink and eat and clean up and drink some more and laugh at each other's stories.
Once in bed, Roy later tells me that his coverlet is so heavy that he does not move an inch all night, but has one of the best night's sleep in a long time. Sofi sleeps in her sherpa bag on the third bed facing me, only whimpering a little at first. She is very tired after hours or running around and exploring.