Journal Archives
April through June, 2005
APRIL 2005

April 1
The day dawns bright and we're out in the garden, getting ready to design and install the new focal point for the lavender garden. For the princely sum of €10, we're able to finish the entire project. Once the tufa tiles are stacked, Roy measures off the space and has me agree on exactly where the tufa will be set.

We have a light garden umbrella, and need it because the temperature actually gets very warm before noon. It keeps Roy in the shade while he kneels down to methodically dig channels into the earth so that the tiles will fit perfectly. We use the plumb line at first, but then he brings out an interesting big "T" square that he has fashioned, and it works very well.

I realize that the polka rose in the raised planting area above the parcheggio will have to be moved for Stefano's serra and tufa wall repair, so think that if we find a reasonably priced big pot, we'll move the rose into that for the foreseeable future, and place the pot in the middle of our new gravel area in the lavender garden.

While Roy digs for his stones, I continue the never-ending weeding and hoeing project. Rocks sprout up from nowhere. The more I take away, the more appear. Especially after a good soaking rain.

More blossoms are out. This time, the plum tree on the front terrace sports lovely little white flowers that look like Christmas lights when night falls. But the boxwood is also in "flower" as is the huge bay tree. Roy tells me he thinks this is the best time of year in the garden, at least the best weather time of year. We have cool mornings and there is plenty of breeze in the late afternoon. Midday is still very warm. But it is nothing compared to summertime, when the temperature can reach into the 90's for weeks at a time.

Late in the afternoon, we drive to the bargain shop in Attigliano that sells garden pots, but can find no bargains in the correct size for the rose. So we drive to Pinzaglia, in Bassano, and find a perfect pot at a very good price. Before it gets dark, the pot is placed in the spot of honor and big stones are placed in the bottom, as well as a big bag of terra buona. Early tomorrow morning the rose will be moved. If all goes well, it will be happy in its new spot. It will take weeks until we know for sure.

I had no idea how sick the Pope has become, but before the day is out, his condition is reported as "gravely ill". Only a week ago I thought his condition was much better. Italian news agencies, wanting to get the story first, announce that he is dead, but then reverse their story. We spend most of the evening checking in on the latest information, but the Vatican doles out news in teacups, when the world wants it delivered in huge buckets.

Perhaps Peggy will be in Rome when the conclave and choosing the new pope will take place. We do know that for fifteen days after the Pope's death, the cardinals from all over the world will travel to Rome, and after that fifteen days, they will be locked in the Sistene Chapel until their choice has been made. But for now we wait and wish the pope a sweet and painless passing.

April 2
The pope hangs on to life by a thread, and his spokesman, who is also a medical doctor, tells the press that there is no change. But there IS a change, because this morning he is not able to participate in the mass, and falls in and out of consciousness. Last night thousands stood silently at St. Peter's Square in Rome, the noiselessness of it all an emotional miracle in itself.

I cannot sleep, and when I check on the little seedlings this morning, I can see a couple more. So we'll be up to about two dozen when we are ready to plant them outside at the end of April or beginning of May. Along with the row of San Marzanos that we'll share with Felice, that will fill up the space we have allotted to plant them in, so it is working out well.

The day is fragrant and although the sky is clear, it is not hot. So I'm back to hoeing and weeding in the lavender garden. This project feels endless, but the result is worth it. Roy drives off to pay the last payment for the serra and check on the finished pieces, and does not like the attachment to keep the window open. He prints out a picture and I don't have a problem with it. Soon, soon I hope.

I'm already thinking of buying delphinium seeds and getting them going. I love blue flowers: hydrangeas, delphinium, plumbago. And they all look wonderful in our garden. I'll have to ask Peggy to bring a package of dill seeds. Dill is not grown in Italy. The closest is wild fennel, but it is not the same. Having an honest to goodness greenhouse has me thinking of all kinds of things to grow.

Pia has hired a couple of men to work on her little tufa cottage across the street, and she weed-wacks while they mortar away. Roy is surprised that we don't see any rebar while the bricks go up. Pia is a great worker, who has no end of energy. She can weed-whack with the best of them.

Now weed wacking is something I am adamant about not letting Roy even consider. We are told that unless a person really is careful and knows how to use it, it is very dangerous to life and limb. I agree. So we call Mario whenever we need it done and he comes by subito! Perhaps next week we'll give him a call.

I notice that we have white irises in the far property, edging a path at the front of the tufa outcropping. I also see that our new plum tree and the new apple tree are beginning to flower. Again, only the Easy Going roses refuse to enjoy the light of day. Judith emails me not to worry. So I'll not expect anything from them this year. There are more blooming irises, this time the purple ones on the front bank. But they are dangerous to cut, because the bank falls off right...there. That story is an old one that we have no solution for...yet.

The day cools off sharply at about five, but we want to fertilize the roses and move one to a pot. So I do a round of nitrofosca gold, followed by a round of dried horse manure, and Roy follows around behind me with a long hose. The count is more than fifty roses, so that takes quite a while, and by the time we're both through we're both exhausted.

I sit down to watch TV, and catch the middle of one of my favorite movies, Door to Door, a 2002 made for TV movie in Italia translated into: The Real Bill Porter Story. There really is a Bill Porter, for at the end of the movie it says to check out the website: I don't know if the movie is rentable, but if you don't know about it, try to rent it and let us know what you think.

It's early, but I can't wait to get into bed. As usual, I overdid it in the garden with the hoe. The lavender looks so beautiful when it has been manicured to a fare-thee-well, and with the new focal point in the middle, I think it looks great.

It is difficult not to think about the pope tonight and to say a silent prayer. The news is spotty from the Vatican, and I am wondering if they are really giving us the real story. The politics of it all is almost frightening, especially to think that of the three men in top contention to be the next pope, the Cardinal from Milan is very close to Opus Dei, the Cardinal from Germany is already 78 and the cardinal from Nigeria is a wild card.

Some say this next pope is planned to be a transition pope, whatever that means. John Paul II's reign was 26 years, too long for some. What is that all about? Transition pope? Opus Dei? Yikes! I heard the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. give a sermon tonight about the Pope, and gee he sounds like he'd probably be a great pope. But what do I know?

And then the final bell peals. Just after 9:30 PM our time John Paul II is dead.

April 3
Roy and Sofi and I awake before the alarm chimes, and are able to take a train from Orte to Rome before 7AM. We will certainly attend the outdoor mass at St. Peter's at 10:30AM, along with thousands of other pilgrims, and are well on our way. The crowds so far are non che male (not too bad), and we notice that there are throngs of young people in their teens and twenties. I think John Paul II spoke to them. He always loved young people.

It feels like another day, until we reach the street of the Metro closest to St. Peter's. A wave of emotion descends and rises up the long stairwell like it is borne by the wind. I take a deep breath and my eyes fill with emotion. All around us are people all walking in the same direction. We are here to tell the spirit of John Paul II that we love him and send him on his way with a kiss.

St. Peter's square is enormous, but before the mass is through it is filled with "thousands" or "a sea of pilgrims" depending on which news channel you watch. We have no idea how many are here, but it is silent, silent, all around us.

We arrive just before 8AM, and find a spot at the section of the square where the curve starts on the right facing St. Peter's. Here we can lean on one of the white painted fences, sectioned and held together with huge iron screws and bolts. We find out why later, when workmen come with tools to unbolt several of them to let out women who appear to be having some kind of heart attacks.

Accustomed to these events, teams of men quietly move forward with stretchers or wheelchairs or little buggies to drive them if they are needed. The two women we see decline the little cart. One is carried on a stretcher by two men, Another would rather be taken in a wheel chair. Both look ashen.

Because we are standing by these fences, we are able to take communion right where we are located. Roy tells me that about one hundred deacons dressed in long white robes move quietly to different sections of the square. We take communion from one who stands in front of us on the other side of a white wooden partition and then give up our places, making room for thousands of others to partake.

We can see the goings on better on a huge TV screen close to us than the real events on the entrance to St. Peter's. Or at least I can. Roy can watch the actual goings on, but there are too many people in front of us for me to see myself, until we walk to the base of St. Peter's Square and I can turn around to get a better vantage point. The scene is remarkable.

All around us people are calm and silent. Sofi does remarkably well throughout all of this, finding her best spot on top of one of the fences, held snugly by Roy. Her little narrow body lines up along the top of the fence, and she is quiet, happy to be with us.

The mass ends, and we all walk forward toward Castel Sant' Angelo, where masses of media vans and equipment are staged. Many have been on this "pope watch" for more than ten years. Jim Bitterman of CNN, formerly of NBC, has been stationed here for 26 years, the same length of time as the pope.

We have a light pranzo at an outdoor cafe of homemade pasta and bruschetta, and then take a train back to Orte, where our car is parked. I'm not feeling well. For the day I have had one of my headaches, and go up to bed while Roy takes a walk up to the centro storico.

The pavement is finished, and Livio thinks cars will be kept out until after the festa next month, He tells Roy we were missed at church, but thinks it was a good thing for us to go to Rome. Earlier in the morning he walked down to tell Roy to wear his Confraternity clothes to church, but saw our car gone.

All about people are mingling, for voting is taking place today in the former school. When Roy walks back, he sees Lydia and Giovanna playing cards while sitting on the edge of two benches at the bus stop. Life goes on.

April 4
It is a quiet day here, with a purple haze hanging over the distant Tiber valley, pink light at dawn and dusk, bright green on the meadows, sheep grazing nearby, and the sound of a tiny bird that I find on an iron rod right under the roof of the building above. His shrill songs sound as though he is looking for a relative. "Where are you? Where are you? Where are you?"

Roy is gone early to get a blood test in Soriano, and I slice off the homemade sunflower seed bread made on Saturday and grill a few slices. I've made a big bowl of camomile tea for the tomato seeds, and there's enough for a cup for me, with a spoon of honey.

It's a little cool, so I put on a light sweater and rake some nespola leaves that have been nesting between the boxwood on the terrace. But I am tired from yesterday's headache, so don't get much more done before Roy returns.

I start a roast leg of baby lamb, and it is done for pranzo with potatoes and zucchini. Spring lamb with minced fresh mint is wonderful. And this dish, made with a last minute glaze of chopped anchovies macerated in a little juice from the roast and cooked over a double boiler is a winner, especially when a few chopped sage leaves and fresh rosemary and fresh minced garlic are added.

Pope John Paul, who yesterday at the mass was christened Pope John Paul the Great, left no specific instructions in his will detailing where he will be buried. That is strange to me. He was so precise about so many things. He even approved of the requiem mass we attended yesterday, to be said whether or not he was still alive. The only change was to add "The Great" to his name.

Roy thinks there were at least a couple of hundred thousand joining us at the mass, and it is expected that over two million people will descend on Rome in the next week or so.

We receive an email from the California State Government with tourist instructions to people traveling to Italy. It is full of great information regarding things to look out for.

Here are a few helpful guidelines, worth saving if you're coming to Italy:

Italy has a moderate rate of violent crime, some of which is directed towards tourists, principally for motives of theft. Some travelers have been victims of rape and beatings. There have also been incidents of drinks laced with drugs being used by criminals to rob, and in some cases, assault tourists. Many of these incidents have occurred in the vicinity of Rome's Termini train station and at major tourist centers such as Campo de Fiori and Piazza Navona, as well as in Florence and Naples. Criminals using this tactic "befriend" a traveler at a train station, bus stop, restaurant, cafe or bar in tourist areas, then eventually offer a drink laced with a sleeping drug. When the tourist falls asleep, criminals steal the traveler's valuables. There have also been instances where the victim was assaulted, either physically or sexually.

Americans are urged to exercise caution at train stations and airports, and when frequenting nightclubs, bars and outdoor cafes, particularly at night, because criminals may make initial contact with potential victims in such settings. Individuals under the effect of alcohol may become victims of crime, including robbery, physical and sexual assault, due to their impaired ability to judge situations and make decisions. This is particularly a problem for younger Americans visiting Italy, where the age limit on the sale of alcoholic beverages is lower than in most U.S. states. If you are a victim of such a crime, please file a police report and contact the U.S. Embassy or nearest Consulate. There are also in-country organizations, which provide counseling, medical, and legal assistance to certain crime victims.

Petty crimes such as pick pocketing, theft from parked cars, and purse snatching are serious problems, especially in large cities. Pickpockets sometimes dress like businessmen so tourists should not be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that well-dressed individuals are not potential pickpockets or thieves. Most reported thefts occur at crowded tourist sites, on public buses or trains, or at the major railway stations: Rome's Termini; Milan's Centrale; Florence's Santa Maria Novella; and Naples' Centrale and Piazza Garibaldi. Travelers should also be alert to theft in Milan's Malpensa Airport, particularly at car rental agencies. Clients of Internet cafes in major cities have been targeted. Tourists who have tried to resist petty thieves on motor scooters have suffered broken arms and collarbones.

Thieves in Italy often work in groups or pairs. Pairs of accomplices or groups of street urchins are known to divert tourists' attention so that another can pickpocket them. In one particular routine, one thief throws trash, waste or ketchup at the victim; a second thief assists the victim in cleaning up the mess; and the third discreetly takes the victim's belongings. Criminals on crowded public transportation slit the bottoms of purses or bags with a razor blade or sharp knife, then remove the contents. Theft of small items such as radios, luggage, cameras, briefcases, and even cigarettes from parked cars is a major problem.

Carjackings and thefts have also been reported from occupied vehicles waiting in traffic or stopped at traffic lights. Vehicles parked near beaches during the summer have been broken into and items stolen. Robbers take items from cars at gas stations often by smashing car windows.

In a scam practiced on the highways, one thief signals a flat tire to the driver of another car and encourages the driver to pull over. Often, the tire has been punctured by an accomplice, while in other instances, there may, in fact, be nothing wrong with the vehicle. When the driver stops, one thief helps change the tire, while the other takes the driver's belongings. Use particular caution driving at night on highways, when there may be a greater incidence of robbery attempts. There have been occasional reports of break-ins of rental cars driven by Americans when the precautions mentioned above were not followed during stops at highway service areas. (An idea is to keep your cell phone with you in the car, and if someone points to a tire and warns you, shake your cell phone at them, letting them know you are calling the police, even if you do not.)

On trains, a commonly reported trick involves one or more persons who pretend to befriend a traveler and offer drugged food or drink. Also, thieves have been known to impersonate police officers to gain the confidence of tourists. The thief shows the prospective victim a circular plastic sign with the words "police" or "international police." If this happens, the tourist should insist on seeing the officer's identification card (documento), as impersonators tend not to carry forged documents. Tourists should immediately report thefts or other crimes to the local police.

Organized criminal groups operate throughout Italy, but are more prevalent in the south. They have occasionally resorted to violence to intimidate or to settle disputes. Though the activities of such groups are not generally targeted at tourists, visitors should be aware that innocent by-standers could be injured.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Lost or stolen credit cards present risk of identity theft and should be cancelled immediately. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

We're going to have to wait a long time to do the little addition to the house, so I'd like to landscape the front of the area to the right of the little iron gate leading to the lavender field. Right now the area is full of gravel, with nursery cloth underneath. This is where we store our extra gravel. So the front of it has two little steps going up, and we'll add a pot of boxwood on either side and perhaps iris and blue delphinium at the back, tiny box at the front, and a planting area in the middle that may be transitional.

I notice that white petunias are available all summer, so they'd fill in well in the transitional area. We'll take a trip next week to a wonderful private nursery in Lazio with Tia, and may find something unusual there. I'd also like to add a couple of nepeta (catmint) amid the tufa, because I notice on a walk around this morning that last year's two pots of it have come back to life. They emerge from the midst of a pile of tufa rocks by the bench above the parcheggio like crocus sprouting through snow.

We hear that Terence and Angie's au pair, Julia, is wonderful, and are so happy for them. They are just the best parents and Julia is a great help to them. In an email from Angie tonight, she tells us:

"It's amazing that you're part of a historical event with the Pope passing. In 20 years you'll be the grandparents telling the story how you were there and where you stood and what the crowd was like and how you were there firsthand."

We are both moved by her message and her thoughtfulness, and know that we are missing important milestones in the girls' lives. So when they are old enough to email, we'll look forward to notes from them. Now we look forward to their photos, and to hearing little vignettes. On the phone yesterday, one of them spoke in the background a mile a minute. Roy thinks he heard her saying actual words. How amazing life is.

April 5
We pick up eight more tufa bricks for the little flower area just before the gate to the lavender garden when we get to Tufitalia in Civita Castellano, and try the Colorobbia shop in town. We can find the 20cm square tiles in bisque, but not the large jars of transparent glaze.

When we look at the little jars they have, we realize our glaze was too thick. This glaze looks better, so we buy a small jar. I won't do any painting until we see how the first tiles come out. Nor do they have a kiln, nor recommend anyone near us who does.

We drive back through Orte, and I have a pedicure, then we come home. The sky is partially obscured by clouds and it is windy. But all except the new roses are thriving. The Jude The Obscure roses on the balcony show a tiny black bug, not much bigger than a dot, and a few leaves are curled up.

Tomorrow morning we'll spray with our special biologic mixture: 1 liter of water, 2 spritzes of liquid soap and one small glass of denatured alcohol. The leaves of all the roses are incredibly healthy looking. I feel as if I'm in a magazine garden. But before I know it, little "animali" will wreak havoc. So now is the time to spray with soapy water.

Because it is cloudy, we won't spray tonight, just in case it rains. But tomorrow first thing we'll do most of the roses before we drive to Amelia and Terni and then to pranzo with Tia and Bruce at their favorite Indian restaurant.

We can see the leaves of the potato plants poking up a few inches, near the fava beans. This will be our first crop of fava beans, and although neither of us like them, perhaps they will be an acquired taste this spring. We know that fava beans are an important crop to plant to regenerate the soil, especially where tomatoes have grown, so we'll take this all in stride. I imagine us sitting with a big basket of pods, breaking them open and sharing them with guests, alongside shaved pecorino and glasses of local vino.

There is a panificio in Orte that makes the best rosetta rolls we have ever tasted, and we take advantage of that to make tuna salad sandwiches with potato salad and cold zucchini with sprinkled fresh mint and juice from a lemon. Now we really know spring is here.

Felice comes by for his forbice (cutters). He wants to make a scopia (broom) from branches in the valley. While he is here, the doorbell rings, and it is Rosina. She has dropped a metal pot from her balcony, and Roy finds it for her behind the loggia. I show her around the garden, and when she apologizes for disturbing us, we tell her it is not a problem.

We also ask them both who won the local election. They think Stefano Bonori has won again as mayor but do not know who won for the local Consigliore, whether Tiziana or Carlo. There are hand-written ballots that must be counted. So we'll probably hear this afternoon.

Fabrizio stops the car and wants to know why we were not in church on Sunday, so Roy tells him that we were at St. Peter's Square. He tells Roy they are going to organize a bus trip to St. Rita's. I wonder if that is a "guy thing". No matter. Sofi and I always have plenty to do.

Roy drives to Viterbo to get the rest of the tubes he will need to run the water line behind the house and around behind his cottage to the lavender and olive gardens. A couple of weeks ago Enzo shut the line off in the garden. There is no pressure there. So we have to run the line from the other side of the house. He'll begin tomorrow or the next day, and thinks he'll finish without needing help from anyone.

While he is out, Augosto rings the bell and delivers the top to the frying pan we purchased in Rome from Fulvia, his daughter. She is in Rome, with chicken pox. No, she is not pregnant, so it is not dangerous. But he is impressed that I know this bit of trivia. Although he and Vincenza live in Rome most of the time, he thinks it's a good idea not to be in Rome this week.

When I tell Roy about Fulvia he tells me "Turn about is fair play." Mario, her new husband, was sick for weeks with a broken leg, and now it is her turn to be taken care of. She is very sweet, so we hope she is not suffering too much.

April 6
Today is the day we dine on Indian food. This is a real treat, because everything in the restaurants is Italian. We meet Tia and Bruce in Terni at The Maharajah, and since we don't' know a lot about Indian food, they help us to order. Nothing is too spicy. When Bruce orders, he tells them he is from Mexico so he expects his to be made "really hot". The sweet waiter smiles and serves him just what he wants.

Roy and I work on the water pipe project for the garden, and it is clearly a "do it yourself" project, but will work well. I admire him for his efforts and enthusiasm, and all the time he spends thinking about the best way to do something. These days I wear my overalls that match his, ones we bought in Southern California a couple of years ago. I really like wearing them in the garden, especially since the weather is not too hot yet.

In the afternoon, I take out a large sprayer and make a formula to spray all the roses, The process works so much better with a large container fitted with a pump, and it does not take long to do more than fifty of them. Although the roses look very healthy, healthier than they have ever looked, I know that tiny animali will latch onto them soon, and hope that we have sprayed in time. I'm hoping this will be a banner year for everything.

Lynette Evans emails me that my story will tentatively appear in the Living Section of the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday, April 27th. Since an editor has not contacted me yet, we are not sure.

April 7
Rome is starting to implode with all the pilgrims arriving for Pope John Paul II's funeral. Tomorrow no cars will be allowed in Rome at all, and today the streets around St. Peter's Square are jammed. It is a good thing we traveled to Rome on Sunday to pay our respects. First reported that they expected 2 million people in Rome this week, today's report is closer to 4 million. No. Five million is the number in a new update. There are not even 4 million inhabitants of Rome, so those numbers are startling.

Roy gets a message on his cell phone: " Prot. Civile...Xenorme sfflusso, da mercoledi h 22 chiuso accesso code x saluto Papa. Venerdi x funerali stop traffico Roma, area S, Pietro piena: Schermi in piazze e Torvergata." We heard on TV that a message would be sent to all Italian cell phone users, cautioning people not to come to Rome and we could not imagine that it was so. But here it is.

Here in little Mugnano, the work continues on the garden. Roy wants to finish his irrigation project, but he's been set on a new course because he realizes that a band-aid fix will look bruto. We stand at the gardener's sink, and now look at how we will have to change the fittings and the plumbing and the whole top of the structure to accommodate the irrigation system, and I agree that I have changed his little project into one of grander proportions.

Last night he was not happy with the work that we did behind the house, and I tell him that he won't be happy with the work in the garden if he proceeds. He understands and somewhat agrees. We may have to bring in Enzo, the hydraulico, but first we will design the plan. And while we are at it, I am trying to come up with a design for the ceramic tile surround that I will paint.

Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a local teacher, or an oven, to bake the ceramic tiles in. Perhaps later we will drive to Guardea to try to find Signora Spighetti, who Maurizio tells us is a ceramic artist. We have not been able to find a Colorobbia shop with an oven and a teacher who can guide me nearby. Looks like I'll have to teach myself. Fa niente.

Mario comes by for a visit with Roy. Earlier today, Roy called him to ask him to come to weed whack the weeds and spray the tufa bank, to keep the weeds up above to a minimum. Weeds on the bank help to bring the bank down, and Mario knows how to protect it well. But the big question is how much Mario will charge.

Three years ago his price per hour was reasonable. Last year the price went up by €2. This year he tells Roy it will be another €2 an hour. Mario must think we are rich stranieri, but he could not be farther from the truth. Roy has always been generous with him, but now has to rein him in. While Mario debated Roy on the phone, Roy realized speaking on the phone wouldn't work. Mario arrives to talk, and Roy invites him to sit down on a bench with him.

So we are back at the art of the conversation. Could it be that Mario doesn't necessarily want to be paid the most money he can squeeze out of Roy, but that he wants the relationship, the dance of words? Roy is up to the task. We cannot afford to pay him his new rate. We have been doing a lot of the work we'd hire him to do, but Roy knows he cannot weed-whack himself. So at least for that we hope that Mario will accommodate us. Speriamo.

I walk inside the house, so that the two men can speak frankly without me listening. Oh. And Sofia hates him. He's handsome, and does great work. He's a hard worker, too. But he's too direct with her, and she just does not like him. It may be that scent thing. Or the noise he makes with the moto-sega.

They agree on a price, and he'll arrive tomorrow at 7AM to weed whack. We both think his rate is still too high, but will be more aware of what he does and the time he is here. That's really too bad. Mario must have plenty of work, so justifies charging more.

We drive off to Guardea in the late afternoon, with a drawing of where we can find Maria Spighetti. Her shop is no longer at the spot Maurizio described, but a woman at a nearby shop tells us she now works out of her house, "the first beautiful stone house on the way to the old cemetery".

When we arrive, we don't know which side of the house she lives in, but on a walkway at the side of the house, an old man, an old woman and a child sit on a stone bench. We pull the car up close, and Roy gets out and bids them all a "Buona serra!" The woman gets up, holding a dead chicken in her left hand, and walks over to greet Roy. "Maria lives on the other side of the house." She turns around and goes back to the man to talk, plucking feathers all the while of a pollo freshly morto. We are no longer of interest to her.

Maria is not at home, but her daughter greets Roy at the gate and takes our card. We hope she will call us, since she has a studio in her home. I would like to have a relationship with a creative person who lives nearby, whether she speaks English or not.

We drive home through Alviano, and stop for a coffee at the bar in Alviano, since it is too early in the season for a gelato. The views from Guardea and Alviano are lovely, and as we drive down the steep road to the Tiber Valley, a lavender haze sits like a filmy blanket on the land as far as we can see.

At home, Roy has found a new solution for the irrigation project, and can't wait to install the new pipe for the sink. Sofi and I get out of the car just before he parks, and walk over to the twin boys whose grandparents live directly above us. Cristian and Eduardo are very very cute boys, about four years old. Wonder if there'll be a romance with our girls in ten or fifteen years....

Just before we get to the gate, I can see that Pepe is still working in his orto, so Sofi can't wait to run up to him for a hug. I follow her, and his orto is a real mess. He has been working on it all day, and Mario has worked on it for a number of days. They have had plumbing and leaking problems.

The orto sits right on top of Pepe's garage. But Candida loves her roses and her garden, and they'll do all they can to make the garden workable subito! Ubik, Pepe's dog, sits and looks down his nose at Sofi, but she races around the dirt, sending up clouds of brown earth, before stopping for a big scratch from Pepe. Then she's ready to come home.

Up in the garden, Roy installs the faucet, and steadies it with some quick-drying cement. Tomorrow Roy will continue to put the pipes in place, buried in the earth. He has a way to engineer the project now without drilling down through the sink and the tufa bricks. Bravo, Roy! He takes his time with these projects, and usually finds the best solution by looking at all the options.

The night ends with a call to Karina to check in, and we find her in the midst of some kind of emergency. She'll call tomorrow. So we hang up, wondering what story we will hear from her when she calls from the heart of Rome.

April 8
Mario arrives before 7AM to start his weed-wacking, and in the midst of his work on the far property, tells Roy he can cut down a tall tree that is causing damage to the tufa bank. He does not calculate correctly. The tree topples down upon the middle olive tree on the highest bank with a loud "crack!". Roy comes in to tell me and I am...angry.

"How stupid!" I exclaim as I stand at the top of the stairs to the far property, with Roy standing one step below me. I have my hand on Roy's shoulder, and we are facing Mario, who is cutting the tree up with his moto-sega. I am hoping he can hear me. I turn around and walk back to the house. I don't want to see him again today. He leaves just before

10AM, when the pope's funeral is about to begin on television.

Roy tells me later that the three volunteer trees on the highest bank were shoots from trees that Mario thinks were over 200 years old when they were cut down. So he recommends that we cut the other two trees down and plant better new trees next fall. We will see. I can't help imagine what the original trees must have looked like when they were at their best.

Inside, we watch the funeral, and the pope resting in an exquisitely simple but detailed and closed cedar box. More than one hundred and fifty thousand people either sat or stood in the square as well as the surrounding streets. The lines of people stretched all the way to the Tiber River. We are told later that large screens were positioned in Circus Maximus and in major tourist areas throughout the city so that people could watch the funeral from wherever they were.

At the end of the ceremony, the wind whips up as the afternoon approaches, and we imagine that John Paul II was greeted by the angels.

Tonight we are invited to dinner at Rita and Felipo's house, and Giordano comes along to make sure we are all able to understand each other. We do just fine, and enjoy getting to know them. Felipo was a very good friend of Augie's, and we thing responsible for Augie settling in this area. But this is the first time we have spent any time with them. We look forward to seeing them again.

Before the evening ends, we are invited to Filipo's studio around the corner, and are very impressed with their post production studio. We are invited to watch a 35mm print of The Recruit, with Al Pacino and Chris Farrell. Thinking that we'll just watch 5 minutes to see how great the sound in the studio is, we find ourselves watching the whole movie and driving home at 1:30AM.

There is some talk of some work Roy might do with Filipo and Rita, and this might be excellent for everyone involved. They will continue their talks this next week.

April 9
We forget to watch much of the Royal Wedding, but when we do, we get a big boot out of the variety of hats the women are wearing. The mad hatter had a field day at the cash register. It looks as though everyone enjoyed himself or herself. This is a welcome break after all the sadness of the past week. Now in years to come, no one will remember the day of the wedding, since all the mementos have the wrong date. Charles and Camilla were to be married yesterday, before the funeral of the pope was announced.

For us, we drive to Amelia to pay Silvano the last payment for the serra, and to arrange to pick it up on Monday. Stefano and Luca will attempt to pick it up in Stefano's tiny furgone, a doll carriage of a pickup truck. Unless it rains, and we may well be in the midst of a rainy, rainy April.

I am ready with a big sprayer of my favorite biological rose remedy, 1 liter of water, 1 small glass of denatured alcohol and 2 spritzes of liquid dish soap. As soon as the sun comes out, I'll rush out to spray all the roses, or they'll be in big trouble.

We return through Narni Scalo, and order the policarbonato panels for the roof of the serra, and drive on to Spazio Verde, where we pick up a flat of tiny boxwood. I have always loved the tiny box, but we have never purchased any. This time, we'll use it on the raised area of the front terrace, just before the iron gate to the lavender garden. I'll enjoy clipping it into tiny rounds before it is planted. We also pick up two larger box, that will flank the tufa steps leading up to the area and be planted in the pots we purchased last week.

It's too rainy to work in the garden, so I continue painting my latest ceramic tile design, and we'll see if there is a forno in nearby Porchiano where they can be fired. While in Amelia earlier today, we stopped at a shop that sells ceramics made by disabled people, and were told that a woman named Ivana (!) runs the shop and will return on Monday. We think Alice's boyfriend works at the place in Porchiano as a social worker where the disabled people also do crafts. So this is another avenue to explore for my new hobby.

On the way home, we speak about the small steps we take on so many of these projects. Bit by bit, we learn new ways to do things and old ways to fit into the local culture. Everything we do takes on new meaning, and it is a rich life. Back in the U.S., everything is so available and things are accomplished in such a rush, that we think we did not appreciate the journey when we were there half as much as we do now.

We speak with Angie and Terence tonight and wish them all well tomorrow at the baptism of the girls. Angie tells us that in the Eastern Orthodox faith, the babies are baptized nude, and it is the Godparents who are responsible for toweling them dry and dressing them. The Godparents are the same godparents of Terence and Angie, so this tradition is a really important one for them all. Thanks to Julia, Terence and Angie can enjoy the getting ready and the day even more.

We hear that the cousins are having a dinner in San Francisco tonight in honor of the baptism, and it sounds like fun. I think we did not give our family enough credit for its continued closeness, thinking that when Leo and Iolanda died that the family would drift apart. Instead, Terence's generation is picking up the baton, and arranging all kinds of get-togethers. We are really proud of them all, as Leo and Iolanda must be looking down at them.

April 10
Today is an important day in our family. Not only is it the christening day of Marissa and Nicole, but it is also the feast day of San Terenzio. We are sorry we are not able to attend what is to be a wonderful christening, but look forward to seeing the photos. Roy looks up the history of St. Terenzio, and the poor fellow was beheaded because he would not give up his love of god. So we wish every good thing for Terence, but hope he keeps his head about him.

During mass today, Don Luca asks everyone what his memory is of John Paul II. We do not understand the question, so when he walks down the aisle toward us and asks the Americans how we will remember him, we don't know what to say.

After mass, I ask Tiziano what Don Luca was saying, and he laughs out loud. Now that I know, I will make sure to tell him when he comes to bless our house later this week. I will remember John Paul II as a man who had strong beliefs and stuck by them, no matter what the people of the world thought. The pope needs to be a man of strong convictions. I did not agree with a number of his beliefs, namely, celibacy for priests and birth control, but admire him for defending his beliefs and never wavering.

In an interview today, an influential catholic priests said that these things that I disagree with will not be issues in the distant future. At some point, they will become a part of the Catholic belief system. Fancy that. Turning those corners would make a remarkable difference in the way a majority of Catholics in the English-speaking world view their faith.

If I were a betting person, my bet on the next pope would be the Cardinal from Nigeria.

Shelly comes for tea this afternoon and fills us in on some Rome trivia. There is a funny phrase that translated says, "I will when the pope dies." And that refers to things that hardly ever happen. The example Shelly uses is Italian women who don't want to sleep with their husbands. When asked they respond, "I will when the pope dies." So during these days, all kinds of remarkable things are happening.

We heard the phrase with a little twist a few days ago. That had to do with things not going well. The response is not to worry. Things will change when we get a new pope. But those figures of speech came about before there was a pope who stayed around for twenty-six years. I wish a long and productive life for the next pope as well.

Rain, rain and more rain. No need to water, but I want to be outside spraying the roses. So I work on painting ceramic tiles inside instead. I love this new craft, and tomorrow if it rains Roy and I will travel to Amelia to meet Ivana who may unlock the key to the firing of the tiles and my education as an artist. If it does not rain, Roy and Stefano will go to pick up the serra. So regardless, tomorrow will be a good day.

April 11
Rain continues again, a feathery light rain, but rain nonetheless. So after a little ceramic painting I concentrate on cooking a spring lamb, thanks to a recipe of Marcella Hazen that worked out well a week or so ago.

In the meantime, we clean, clean, clean because tomorrow or Thursday Don Luca will arrive to bless the house. Each year at this time, our priest blesses each house and apartment in his parish. When he is here, we will ask him to bless our little tomato plants and also introduce him to Gina, Lulu and Vito. I wish we could have a camera out to catch the expression on his face when he meets our new house-mates.

If you have not been introduced to them yet, click on Garden Art inside the Photos section of this site. Not until May or June will they be introduced to the garden.

The serra will not be delivered tonight. I fear a month or more of rain. That is good for the plants. But I'm not so sure it will be good for the roses. This is the time when the little bugs take hold, and there will have to be some hours or days of clear weather for me to spray to keep them away.

So we drive to Amelia after five pm with one tile, to see if Ivana will allow us to fire our tiles at her place in nearby Porchiano. But there is no one at the shop. I call Alice, who tells me that Fausto is the person who is in charge of the ceramics at the place in Porchiano, and he knows about me. So on Wednesday, when I am at Alice's, we'll call him to see when Roy and I can drop by.

I put the rest of the tiles in a box. In the next week, we will surely have some answers. So we drive on to Narni, and pick up the policarbonato panels for the roof of the serra, and some special silicone. The momentum is surely building about this long, long term project, soon to be a greenhouse as well as a working studio for me.

April 12
Clouds drift by but there is sun, glorious sun, and we don't have a minute to waste. So we're up early and out in the garden.

I heat the lamb up again on the stove, adding a handful of fresh thyme and a little water. Then I cook up celery root, which is just about my favorite food. I finish sautˇing the agretti, and lunch today is even better than yesterday. We realize that the best and tastiest baby lamb is from the section near the ribs, so the next time Roy drives to Sgrina in Giove, he'll know just what to order. I am sorry that the celery root probably won't be around for much longer. But then there will be something else wonderful to try.

At about 3PM, Felice comes by to tell us that Don Luca will arrive at any minute. He seems a little disoriented, but tells us that his house was blessed this morning. Right now, Don Luca is blessing Giustino's house. I return inside to straighten up a few things, so don't see Felice walk to the raised vegetable bed and pull a few weeds. But he reappears just before Don Luca and Livio arrive, with his arms full of weeds. He tells us he will take them and drop them somewhere, and Roy asks him if he wants a bag to put them in. Felice tells him no.

Then Don Luca comes up the walk and we lose sight of Felice, who we know is leaving. But what we do not see is Felice, dumping the weeds around the corner of the house. This is indeed a strange thing for him to do. We are worried about him.

Sofi loves Don Luca, who appears in full dress...his black formal habit buttoned all the way down to his feet. I'm remembering a wonderful Botero painting of a priest, with a funny flat brimmed hat (probably a Spanish priest). Sofi can't stop sniffing Don Luca's shoes, and tries to sniff under his long habit. I try not to laugh.

Here we go: Don Luca blesses us at the top of the stairs just outside the front door, and Roy asks him if he'll bless our Madonna statue after he blesses the house. Yes, but let's do the house first. Before we know it, he's in the door (he's the only Italian I've ever known who doesn't have to ask permission to enter a house) and stands in the entryway. Roy takes him to meet Gina and Lulu and Vito and he and Livio smile broadly. They are somewhat surprised and we think don't really know how they are supposed to react.

Don Luca asks if they have anything to say, and we tell him they are great guests. Don't eat. Don't speak. Just sit there quietly. He blesses the room and shakes his incense a few times. We bow our heads and pray together. All the while I'm trying not to laugh at Sofi, who is moving her nose just under the edge of his garment, wondering, "What is he wearing under THAT?" and sniffing.

We don't need our "cheat sheets" anymore. We know the Lord's prayer in Italian and also the version of Ave Maria that is said here. But we have them in our hands, just in case. Then we follow him up the stairs and he asks if the room to the right is our room. Yes. "The bed is high!" he exclaims. Roy tells him it is for the view, but I tell him there is a secret and lead him back to the bedroom to show him all the storage under the bed. He smiles a broad smile. We have no idea if he's thinking we are crazy Americans or not, but before we know it, we 're out in the garden and Roy leads him up to our Madonna.

He leads us as we all make the sign of the cross again, and this time say the Ave Maria a few times for Maria. He turns around and looks diagonally across our property toward San Rocco. "Ah, our church!" "Complementi!" Roy later tells me he is not sure what Don Luca is complementing us about, but everything looks pretty good, so I am relieved.

On the way back down the path, I stop him, and address his question that he asked to us on Sunday during mass. I tell him that his question was very important to me, but that I did not understand what he meant when he first asked the question about Pope John Paul II.

I then tell him that when I think of the pope, that I will remember him as a man of strong beliefs, and his never wavering stance. Although I did not agree with many of the things he believed in, I respect him and think it is very important for the Pope to have unwavering beliefs.

"Like Bush!" he responds with a positive shake of his head.

"No, never!" I respond, and then realize that Bush sticks with whatever he believes in, so then agree with him. Later I tell Roy that the difference is that Bush is an elected politician of a democratic society, and if enough of us are against his views, we don't reelect him. The pope does not face this challenge. He and Livio leave, with many more houses left to do.

Roy and I return to the new garden plot, and the watcher to worker ration continues at 1.5 to one (Sofi and me vs. Roy) He repots the two new box, finishes the middle border and lays the nursery cloth and gravel down, and we decide that the little black ornamental border we purchased a few weeks ago will be just right. So we'll wait to plant the tiny boxwood until after we drive to the private vivaio later this week to see what else we'll put in there.

For the summer, the middle area will be filled with white petunias. Petunias live while many other annuals die in the hot sun. For the rest of the spring, we'll plant annuals, many of which will be raised from seed in our new serra! Stefano and Roy agree that they'll pick the pieces of the serra up tomorrow afternoon. I am dreaming of blue delphinium, foxglove, sweet peas....almost all to be grown from seed. I am itching to begin, and am already saving little plastic pots.

April 13So we're off to Alessandra's, but don't know exactly where to find her. Her vivaio is located somewhere within the borders of Rieti and Viterbo and Terni, near the Santuario. But Roy has a great memory for directions, and vaguely remembers "a hairpin turn here, a strada bianca there, a left turn at a bar..."

After a few "giro giros" (round and rounds), Roy stops at a cafe and asks the local policemen who say, "Sure, follow us!" and they lead us to the end of her road, an unmarked pockmarked ferris-wheel of a drive, the car spewing dust like it's Pigpen's blanket. And then we arrive at a locked gate, with no way to reach her. She does not really know to expect us. Tia and Michael and Alan are inside, we are sure doing a lot of "damage" to their pocketbooks.

After a few phone calls and much honking of the horn, Alessandra arrives at the gate; so kind and gentle and a genuinely "happy to see you" kind of person. Once we're in, Sofi bounds from the car and all is fine until Tia lets Charlie and Gioia out of the car and finally they call a halt and all the dogs are put back in their respective cars to settle down. It is as if the three of them are children, told to sit in the corner.

We have to wait over an hour for our turn, but it is worth it. Alessandra specializes in willow, which we do not buy but always think of things we'd like to fashion with live willow branches (shade seats, benches, arbors...") But willow needs to be purchased in autumn, and planted then so that it has acclimated to the earth before the warm weather arrives.

She also offers so many unusual plants that we're delighted to walk around, seeing plants that are delicious to look at. Even if not for us, they're just beautiful. This is definitely an "eye candy" kind of place. Before we leave, she gives us this season's sheet of mercatos she will exhibit at, and we add them to Roy's Palm Pilot, giving them the same importance as the antique mercatos we love to attend during the good weather.

Alan buys an entire car full, packed so expertly but so full that Michael has to ride back with Tia in her station wagon. Tia makes a big dent, too, but not as big a dent as Alan. Alan always does things in a big way, but is so happy with this garden project that Michael is designing and orchestrating that he can't wait to really live here more. We'll drop by in a few days to see the progress, which we hear is remarkable. Bravo, Alan. Bravo, Michael.

We don't buy all that much, but do pick up three iris to match the three we purchased last year (very unusual bearded iris in both a chocolate brown and a pink) and then a couple of teucrium (which we want to try on the balcony that will cascade down). And oh, yes. I've always wanted a fragrant lilac bush, this one a pale pinky violet. Two delphinium, two lobelia and a Starchy's big ears. I learned years ago from Sarah Hammond that the "big ears" can be divided easily, so we buy one with many little shoots, which we can use at the borders of the new gravel path.

The annuals will also be placed in the new little garden area around the side of the house toward the lavender garden. So we did not do all that much damage. But now we rush home because Stefano arrives with Luca just after 2PM to pick up the serra from Amelia.

Roy drives first, leading the way, and they return home in a little over an hour with the serra expertly angled and tied like hands in prayer. Luckily, there is no glass here, just the metal frames. The whole thing is leaned against a wall in four pieces in the parcheggio, with a "speriamo!" that they will be able to return to install it before Peggy arrives.

Felice arrives in a few minutes, and he and I have a merry old time, just yakking like two old fuddy duddies. I even understand a little of what he has to say, and have some things to say in return. He listens to me intently, and even when I have to repeat myself he tries to understand.

I show him the peonies that we have moved, three plants that are so happy in their new location. But he does not know what they are, wondering if they are weeds. I spell out "P - E - O - N - I - A. He repeats these letters after me and still does not understand until I bring out the brochure from the peony viviao and show him the word and the pictures. Now he understands. But when we ask him what the word is for lizard, he gives us some kind of dialetto, but does not know what the general Italian word is. Roy looks it up, and it is "lucertola".

Meanwhile, Sofi is determined that "Larry" (we refer to all lizards as Larry", as in "Where's Larry?") is somewhere either under or behind her little dog house, and spends hours digging behind it and all around it. While she is in the midst of her dig, she scoops the gravel and earth backward with her little paws, making long narrow indentations in movements so rapid that before we know it her little water dish clouds up with dust and whatever else Sofi pushes behind her.

Larry is nowhere to be found. She has dug all around the little house, a little "trough" about three inches wide. She is just narrow enough to fit between the back of the doghouse and the front of our house, and when we walk by we see her either sitting at the corner of her house looking up at us and waiting, or her tail knocking back and forth while she scurries behind it.

Although I am not sure if today is in the right phase of the moon to plant seeds, I plant three types of flower seeds in pots and place them in the guest bedroom window anyway. The types are forget-me-nots (non-ti-scodar-de-me), and two sizes of bucca leone or lion's mouths, which I think are the same as sweet peas, in a variety of colors. I take our lunar calendar upstairs to study and translate, realizing that I now need to document each thing I plant, what phase of the moon, how long it takes to come up, etc. Do I use a notebook or computer? I like visual documents, so may have Roy work with me on a chart. In the meantime, I'll start a notebook.

Tiziano arrives for a visit, bringing a big jug of homemade wine that he is sure has our handprints on it (because we picked the grapes), and after a walk around we show him the tufa outcropping on the farthest property that is clearly visible now that a tall tree has been chopped down. We note that ancient castagno bracing appears near the top of the ridge, and all three of us want to learn more, hungry to find out if there are any pre-Roman artifacts to be found on our land.

We agree that in the next week we will don high boots and take shovels and climb up to it with a ladder to explore with our cameras and notepads. I envision a kind of "Dr. Livingston I presume" kind of process, with Tiziano pointing ahead, Roy chopping brush with a machete and with me behind snapping photos as we go. Well, maybe Roy won't have a machete, but he will have a big stick and probably also a big shovel. Don't ask...

Back in the kitchen, we celebrate Tiziano's victory. He has just been awarded a three-year research project covering the pre-Roman to medieval countryside consisting of land bounded by Chia and Orte on our side of the Tiber River and from Giove to San Vito on the other side. We offer, and Tiziano accepts, to help him in whatever way we can during these next three years. We have so much to learn about the countryside, and he is so much fun, that we will really enjoy helping him with this grant.

In the back of my mind I am putting together details for the book I have started to write, which will be a quasi-historical novel based on fact, paralleling characters in modern day Mugnano with characters in pre-Roman times. It will take many years to complete, but we have nothing if not time.

We finally learn that his cousin, Tiziana, and Stefano Bonori, won the local election for the next five years. So now we know. We also learn that one of the Carabinieri in Bomarzo has a kiln and paints ceramics as a hobby. He is one of the Carabinieri who came to our house after our robbery. The list of people to contact regarding ceramics is growing. We forget to call Fausto this afternoon, so will have to wait until Friday afternoon to try him again.

Tiziano leaves and it is not yet dark, so Roy and I take apart the dog house, Leaning the roof on our outdoor table and turning the rest of the house on its side. There is nothing beneath, nothing behind, but for the next twenty minutes Sofi races around and around, in and out of the little structure, until she is satisfied that Larry has left, at least for the night. On these beautiful days, Sofi spends hours chasing him and never tires of it. Who knows what she'll do if she ever catches him...

April 14
I can't wait to get out of bed. With the early morning mist on the valley all but disappearing, and a bright haze settling in below a pale lavender sky, I open the window and hear the birds telling me to hurry. There are so many birds making so many sounds that it takes the jolt of an old cinque-cento puttering up the hill toward the village to get me to take a shower.

This is a garden day, a puttering day, with many projects but no deadlines. I remember taking Felice up to the peach tree yesterday. As he bent branch by branch to look closer through his cloudy eyes as though peering through a lens, he showed me how to find the tiny peaches underneath each spent blossom.

His old gnarled fingers formed a cup. Using three fingers and a thumb, with the soil of the earth rich and thick underneath his nails, he gently slipped the cover off a spent bud, revealing three tiny egg-like knobs, fuzzy and frightened, all huddled together. In a few weeks when they have grown some, we'll pinch them off here and there to allow more space in between and encourage bigger fruit.

I can just taste the peaches now, fragrant and fresh from the tree on a summer's day. Was it years ago that Sarah and I dined on ripe peaches at the big double sink? We laughed out loud as we made messes of ourselves in our sleeveless dresses. allowing the red juices to run down our arms all the way to our elbows. We leaned in as if we were trying to take a bath in their juices and looked guiltily out the window toward the valley to see if anyone was watching us. This year, speriamo, Roy and I will dine on the peaches from our own tree.

Tia told me last night that Alessandra told her that she has had no luck this year with her seeds. Perhaps that is why we have so few tomatoes growing in the next room. But I am hopeful, and by the time the serra is installed, we'll have plenty of seedlings of tomatoes and now flowers to celebrate my new workshop.

I rush to make breakfast with our homemade ciabatta bread, Shelly's apricot jam and of course peanut butter for Roy. There is the requisite espresso in a little cup for me, a mug of it for Roy, and a clementine, and perhaps now we can move outside.

Roy adds new gravel to the area just behind Sofi's dog house, and we rearrange the little wooden structure, leaving the top halfway open. She loves her house, with its tile "cave canem" (Latin for "dangerous dog") and perhaps will use the house more this year. We are hopeful of many things.

I spray a few of the roses again, pinching off a few tiny worms and a few curled up leaves. I will be relentless, checking each leaf of each rose every day or so to be sure they are free of mites and other bugs.

We see early signs of buds on the Philadelphus, also known as mock orange. This is a good sign. We have not seen flowers on these old plants for years. The rosa banksias shows signs of early blossoms, and even a Paul Lede rose shows us a bud or two.

But the new roses still show no signs of life. I feed them nitrofosca gold, dried horse manure, clip off the dead wood, and the plants become smaller and smaller. Judith tells me roses are hearty plants, so don't give up.

Roy leaves to find dottoressa to go over the results of his last blood tests. On the way, he drops off an old bidet and an old broken ladder at the dump in Bomarzo. Sofi and I stay at home and clip boxwood and start another loaf of ciabatta. We have lots of the flour, and it won't keep forever, so I'll keep making it every few days.

The third dish this week made with leftover lamb is the best yet. I make a red sauce, starting with olive oil, a minced onion and a garlic clove in its shell. I have a new way with garlic. I leave the cloves unpeeled, and squeeze the garlic out soft and sweet after everything is cooked and add it to the sauce, I add chopped celery, several anchovies chopped finely, a bottle of our San Marzano tomatoes pressed through our ancient Foley food mill, pepperoncini flakes, some chopped green olives and their juice,

It cooks down awhile, and I lower the temperature to a slow simmer and add the leftover lamb and its sauce, and some fresh minced thyme from the garden. While this melds, I make a salad dressing with our vinaigrette, add a little milk, chopped feta cheese, sliced green olives, fresh thyme, a half of a ripe avocado, a little chopped celery and salt and pepper. There is still bread from yesterday, sour and chewy and still soft inside, perfect for dunking in the red sauce. As we finish this meal, Roy fills me in on his tooth ache.

The next thing I know, he has called Dr. Chiantini and we prepare to drive in to Rome for a 6:30PM appointment. It is just as well. The sky is clouding up and it looks as though we might be in for some rain. I take one last look around the garden, inspecting the roses for bugs and curled leaves, and return to the house to change.

The whole trip takes just about four hours from the time we leave the house. Included in this is one detour to the kitchen shop near the Vatican to pick up a 24cm frying pan. These frying pans are not expensive, and the large one we purchased three weeks ago is a real winner. So it is time to retire the little pan we purchased on our first trip to Mugnano over seven years ago.

Roy has an infection in his mouth, so Dr. Chiantini takes a photo and shows it to him right away on a huge monitor. So he's to inject a gel on his gums for the next week or so, and if he has pain, take more tachiprina (an Italian moderate pain killer that works quite well).

Sofi and I sit in the car. I'm reading a Donna Leon mystery novel, and don't get very far before Roy returns. The weather in Rome is lovely, and we drive home to a blue and then purple and pink sky, framed by those gorgeous pines of Rome.

Roy deserves a treat, so I broil a couple of bananas with brown sugar, a little rum, and butter, and a spritz of whipped cream on top. It's a good thing we don't eat dinner anymore. And we're all happy to be home, nestled in our little house.

April 15
We don't worry about the tax man here on April 15th, because we have until June 15th to do our U S taxes, since we no longer live in the U. S. So I open the shutters to find the house shrouded in thick fog. It is then that I hear in my subconscious, the eerie sound of a flute playing the signature piece from a favorite opera, The Pearl Fishers by Bizet. I don't know why I love the music from this opera so. But I know almost every note from the first act. Yes, the first act. The opera goes steadily downhill from there. Perhaps that is why it is not often performed. But the first act. Oh, the first act.

The music I hear in my head is a flute soliloquy (Can an instrument play a soliloquy?) at a range so high it mimics the sounds of the birds outside our window. I will have to tell Angie about the opera. She plays the flute lovingly, and sometimes takes it out to play for the girls. Recently she took the violin out and the girls stopped in their tracks to hear the music. We are so proud of Angie for wanting to introduce the girls to music at an early age.

A few weeks ago I said to Roy, "What music do you hear in your subconscious as you wander through the day?" He had no idea what I was talking about. I have always heard music playing in my head, as a kind of an undercurrent to whatever I am doing, Often it is the last piece of music I hear playing somewhere.

Yesterday, it was "Cheek-to-cheek". I can still recall the incredible dancing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire as he swung her over his knee in her frothy feathered gown and they dipped and tapped perfectly in unison in a piece so sublime that I can still hear him now, singing, "DANCE! with me! I want my ARMS about you, the charms about you, will carry me through to....Heaven. I'm in heaven, and my heart beats so, that I can hardly speak! And I seem to find the happiness I seek. When we're out-to-ge-ther-danc-ing-cheek-to-cheek."

This morning after breakfast, the day is still cool and foggy, but it's time to dismantle the chicken coop. I start wearing a light zip-up sweater, but take it off after only a few minutes. Roy arrives with a blue plastic bucket full of the tools he'll need: a hammer, a chisel, metal cutters for the chicken-wire, plyers...

Bang! Bang! There is something so satisfying to Roy when he whacks away at the rotten wood, pulling back old rusty nails with the back end of his hammer. I notice that some of the nails are very old, with rectangular tops, and they're all very rusty. So one by one they are dropped in the blue bucket.

Before we are through, all the mattone, all the tin from the roof are down. The sheets of rusty tin are wound up and tied. The mattone is stacked against a side wall. The tufa bricks are laid on end on top of the raised planter for later use. The two castagno poles, partly eaten away at the bottom, are taken out and saved for a later project. The chicken wire is clip, clipped and then the whole mess is folded neatly and set aside.

Roy stands up on the raised planting area, beside the lattuga Romana that grows happily at the front, and chisels and hammers away the tufa blocks that must come down. We'll finish as much of the prep work as we can, so that Stefano's job is smaller, encouraging him to help us sooner rather than later. I am really hoping it will be done before Peggy arrives on the 27th.

We have not forgotten about the ceramics that need to be fired, so Roy tries to reach Fausto on the phone a couple of times and finally reaches him. We'll go to see him on Monday. The woman in Guardea arrives back on Tuesday, and we'll get in touch with her, too. So hopefully next week we will see some finished tiles.

I make fresh bread crumbs from the ciabatta bread and use them to coat the persico fillets Roy buys from the woman in Attigliano. We have not seen Italo, the fish monger who comes to Mugnano in his truck each Friday morning, in weeks. Does he still come to Mugnano?

Fabrizio rings the bell before pranzo, and brings us the information on a special pilgrimage to St. Rita's at the end of the month. It will be a bus trip and Don Luca will officiate at a special mass. We'll certainly go, once we find someone to take care of little Sofi.

In the afternoon, we drive to Viterbo to research how to build the shelves and countertops for the serra. I am distracted buying packets of seeds, and now will come up with a way to catalogue all of them, and to document what I do, what works and what doesn't work. I'd surely love to plant peas, but it's the wrong time of year. So I'll make up a calendar of my own for things I'd like to grow.

We do find tiny plastic rings; the kind I'll need to make the Roman shades in the greenhouse out of a kind of soft muslin; something that can be washed easily. I'm not ready to stitch them up yet, because I'm not sure of the dimensions. But since the pieces of the house are here already, it won't take any time to measure.

We can't imagine what it must be like to work five days a week in Italia and get anything done. Any project we take on takes weeks to complete, and we are known to be pretty resourceful folks. So when we arrive back home and survey the rubble covering what will be the floor of my greenhouse/studio, we have to laugh.

The back wall of tufa bricks is more than six feet high. It hangs out there like the back of a bombed out building. So tomorrow Roy will move most of the rubble to the bottom of the path, readying the area for Stefano. Perhaps when he drives by the mound of rubble and sees it he'll be reminded and convinced to put someone off for a day to finish our little serra. Magari!

This just in: My garden story for the San Francisco Chronicle and photos have been rescheduled to Wednesday, May 11th. Speriamo (I hope so)!

April 16A constant rain continues until early afternoon. We take advantage of the wet weather to do errands, and return with two beautiful small rhododendron plants from Spazio Verde in Terni. Better yet, we are able to drop off two ceramic tiles to be fired. A woman at Spazio Verde named Ivana teaches ceramics and art and we've seen her there on several occasions. On this visit, Roy asks her if she's willing to test fire a couple of my tiles. She is.

I'm looking at seed packets nearby, and hear Roy call out to me. Distracted from studying the time of year to plant specific flowers, I walk over to meet a new friend. Ivana is a delightful woman, who does not try to sell me any art classes...or anything. When I tell her that I'm teaching myself how to paint ceramic tiles, and that my love is the ancient Italian design of the grotesques of Raphaello, she agrees with me, and takes out an incredible tile that she has painted herself, with some of my favorite figures boldly lighting up the square.

I take a deep breath and smile broadly. "Yes, that is the type of design I'd love to paint. But first, I need to see if the technique I have used so far will work." She tells me about a spray called "Crystallina" that she uses on top of each piece before it is fired. The result is shiny, although I prefer an opaque finish.

But Roy comes over and tells her that he thinks the shiny finish is better, especially for tiles to be used outside. So I compromise. She tells us where to buy the Crystallina in Deruta, and also in Terni. But a 25 kilo container is very expensive, and it is difficult to buy a small amount. She thinks the Colorobbia place in Civita Castellana might have it.

Best of all, she looks at the two tiles we have kept in the car for just such a spontaneous meeting, and tells us she'll fire them for us and have them ready on Tuesday. On Monday, we'll drive to Porchiano to meet Fausto, and next Tuesday Ivana from Guardea will be available again. So I am hopeful that next week we will learn a lot more.

I am resigned to the fact that all the work I did on our first tiles might be for naught. The glaze I put on them is probably too thick, and the design won't show through. So we'll see what happens with our first two tiles, and will take two of the latest tiles that do not have a glaze on them to Fausto on Monday, to ask his recommendation for glaze and see if he'll fire those for us. I'm anxious to do more painting, but must wait until we have more results from the first two sets of samples.

Something profound has occurred. One of the reasons we live in Italy is my love of Italian ceramics. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be talented enough to paint them myself. I think that my first two designs were not bad at all, and as my confidence grows, I think I'll love pursuing this new craft.

While this proceeds, on a parallel plane, our relationship with Tiziano and my interest in writing a book also continues apace. The idea of an ancient piece of tile made from a kiln in our very own valley becomes more dramatic as the story builds in my head that will find its way onto the written page. Perhaps there will be an artist who painted on these tiles from Mugnano.

Years and years ago, my father's counsel to me was "Learn everything! It will all fit into place. " And now all the things I love are taking root. It amazes me that I must steal time away from other projects to play the violin, but my passion for this place takes many forms. And of course there must be time to clip the lavender and boxwood and tend the roses. And now there must be time to plant the seeds and tend the flowers and vegetables.

With Roy by my side, I cannot think of a better life.

Pranzo has finished, and the sound of Sofi barking outside draws me to her. Giuseppa walks down the street below, and looks up and waves with her umbrella. Valerio and Elena walk up the hill toward the village at the same time and also wave. I'd love to invite them in for coffee, but there is much to do this afternoon.

Earlier we called Loredana, who is very busy, as usual, but is mostly happy with the results of their almost-finished house. They are unhappy with Stefano, our favorite muratore, because he hates to say no to anyone and takes on too much work. That means that any project takes longer, as he steals a little time from one, and then another, and then another. He is like a juggler who has too may balls in the air. We can't imagine using anyone else, so wait our turn for him. So although we want the serra finished in another week, it may take a month until we can get the time from him.

It is difficult to be upset with Stefano for long. He never takes time off, and if he is not working on one project, he is working on another. So we look forward to attending the mass for the christening of his daughter tomorrow. We will take a photograph of them coming out of church and then place the photo in a frame for them as a little gift.

Tomorrow will be the day of two special masses. First, at Christo Risorto in Bomarzo, will be the 50th wedding anniversary mass of Escano and Giovanna. And then, in the Duomo later in the afternoon, will be the mass for Stefano's daughter, Corrin. In between, I'll find the time to cook a leg of spring lamb. And of course spray the roses, which will really need it after all this rain. Will we have a spring this year? Or will spring rain turn into a summer heat wave with no sweet and warm days in between? Fa niente. Every day is lovely here.

Roy drives off to Il Pallone to find Mexican beer. We are invited to Tia's tonight for a Mexican meal. We call Tia and ask her how many will have dinner, so we'll buy enough. Bruce is out of town. I ask if she'll have ten people. She responds, "You can buy enough beer for ten, but there'll be three of us!" Sofi is definitely an invited guest at Zia Tia's house tonight as well. So Sofi and Charlie and Gioia will be doing their usual romping around while we get together with Tia.

April 17
It is Noah's ark weather. We sleep in a little, because mass is at 10:30 at Cristo Risorto in Bomarzo. It is a mass in celebration of Escano and Giovanna's 50th wedding anniversary. We keep our camera with us, and during the mass Roy takes a few pictures of the handsome couple.

The mass is a rousing one, celebrated by Don Luca, with many children singing and leading the procession at the start of the mass. There is someone at the church with a guitar, an organ plays, and some kind of hand cymbals clang during the most animated pieces of music. The hymnal next to us is quite large, but we have no idea what hymns are sung, or when. Everyone in the church knows each piece, for it seems the entire congregation is performing for a t v audience; they raise their hands, clap, and sing OUT LOUD, at full throttle. It's an amazing spectacle after our modest little masses in Mugnano. The sounds are all amplified by the dome-shaped mattone-tiled roof and hard walls.

After the mass, Escano tells Roy he wants us to join them for pranzo. We don't want to intrude, but decide to attend. First, we drive home to pick up Sofi and print a photo or two for them and place one of the photos in a quasi-gold frame. After all, this is their 50th, and gold is important on this day.

We get directions to the restaurant, located on the way to Tuscania. In Italy, directions to places out of town are given as kilometer markers. This restaurant is at km 11 of Strada Tuscanese. So we don't have trouble finding it.

Escano stands right at the door, and is so surprised and delighted by the photos that he and Giovanna show them around to everyone at the party. Before we are through at about 4:30, we have each eaten: one antipasti, two pastas, one segundo (mixed grilled chicken and meats), roast potatoes, salad, dishes of strawberries, a cake made with amaretto (gold colored liquor in honor of their golden wedding anniversary) and then coffee. We have learned to eat the Italian way, with just a little of everything. But it is still a lot of food.

We meet the Pizzi's, Michelle's next door neighbors who we have never met, and sit with them and with Michelle and Claudio and Giuliola and Livio. Giuliola is a lot of fun, and she and I have a great time, though we don't understand everything each other is saying. A lot of hugging and laughing goes on just the same.

Oh. Before we sit down, prosecco and salty snacks are served. Livio takes a spoonful of peanuts in his hand and tells us they are noce Americana. We cannot figure out why until we realize that Jimmy Carter is a peanut farmer. And we ask them if that is how they came to call the peanuts noce Americana. They agree.

During the meal, there are a number of shouts of "baci, baci!" so Escano and Giovanna, who are seated at a tiny table by themselves, facing the rest of us, kiss and we all applaud. At the end of the meal, people stand up and salute them with glasses of spumante, and holler, "Discorso! Discorso!" (Speech! Speech!)

But this is a sweet and somewhat shy couple, so they don't have anything to say. The whole thing is so very sweet, and they are the kindest couple, hugging us and thanking us for being there. We thought we would feel like intruders, but they made us feel a real part of the day.

The rain just won't stop, and when we walk out to see Sofi, who has waited in the car for us all this time, she runs around a little, but just wants to be with us. So we drive home and as we get out of the car, Pepe comes by with some greens that sound like lupine that we are to cook in a frittata. He gives Roy specific instructions, which he partly gives to me. I will make a frittata with it tomorrow to go with the lamb, I suppose. We purchased a leg of spring lamb yesterday to have for today, but it will keep until tomorrow.

I have much to read about the phases of the moon and so much to learn. The grow light has been kept on in the guest bedroom window for two days, lighting up the seedlings during all the rain. I must jump in and learn the planting instructions, read eight different articles and find a way to understand them all before planting any more seeds. But we have lots of seeds, some given to us yesterday by Tia, as well as some we have purchased during the past two weeks.

Now I am wondering if we'll be able to use the serra at all during the next month. Stefano is so behind schedule that I don't put much faith in him being able to install it before June.

And oh, we missed his daughter's christening. We just could not walk out on Escano and Giovanna's. We were not missed, as they did not expect us anyway. We did hope to appear to take a photo for them, but am sure that other friends were there to document the day.

April 18
The sky is clear, at least for a little while, so I rush to get dressed and Sofi and I spray all the roses. Even if it rains again, we'll have protected them from today's onslaught of bugs.

We drive to Porchiano for our appointment with Fausto. Fausto does not look at all the way I thought he would. He's more of a Fabio, with a gentle mane of long sandy hair, tied back with an elastic band. All around him are students dressed in white lab coats. They are all male, and have various disabilities. We don't see people with physical disabilities here, so perhaps they have learning disabilities. It appears this studio is funded by a grant from the Italian government. We also meet Francesco, a man who also seems to work there as an instructor.

Fabio, I mean Fausto, is very sweet with me. We learn that the crystalline that Ivana spoke about on Saturday is a spray used to produce a shiny finish on the tiles, and he shows me how the process is done with a pump sprayer. He finishes one of mine over a stand at the sink, and then gives me the pump to do the second one. We have brought two without a finish, and two that have the opaque finish that I fear is too thick. On Saturday, we gave two similar tiles to Ivana in Terni, and hers will be ready for us to pick up tomorrow, as will these.

While we're learning what is to be done, a young man can't stop talking with us. He wants to talk about California and tells me he knows a song about California. Then he tells us a name we know as Luke Perry on Beverly Hills 90210. A man sitting down speaks a few words of English. We think all the men are fairly young in age, and they work around the room making ceramics with clay. These are the same ceramics we saw at the little shop in Amelia a week or so ago. If I were more knowledgeable, this would be an interesting place to volunteer.

We'll return tomorrow afternoon when Francesco, the other fellow we spoke with who lives in the countryside below Giove, will be there. That will be after we pick up our tiles from Ivana in Terni. So we will have had experiences with two of the three people we have heard about in the area who know about tiles. Then we will have to figure out which person I will work with. Sometime this week, we will make an appointment to meet with the woman in Guardea as well.

I think I am going to fix a leg of lamb for pranzo, but we cannot find it. Roy looks everywhere, until he finds the car. It has been there under some towels for two days. So we throw it out, sadly, but still have the lupino from Pepe, so I clean and cut it up in a marvelous frittata. The lupino has a spicy taste, strong as mint but with a different flavor. With a little prosciutto cut up, an onion, a couple of San Marzanos from a jar on our shelf and freshly grated cheese, this is our best frittata yet.

The sky is overcast, but Roy plants the rhododendron, which are ready to burst with flowers. I also notice an old white azalea that has decided to flower. We purchased it a couple of years ago, but it has not flowered after its first blush it's first year. And this year, after three or more years in the ground, the violets look as though they will flower as well, under the shade of the huge bay tree.

I take photos of the three Easy Going roses, and will email the photos to the vivaio in the Netherlands. They stand out like sore thumbs, in the midst of a profusion of happy flowers and plants. C'MON! They are not all dead, but look as though they are in shock.

Roy plants the four little rosemarino prostratus that will one day replace the huge monster of a bush above the lavender. Rosemarino prostratis does very well here. It's cascading down the walls of the parcheggio right now with a profusion of pale blue flowers.

I begin to journal my seedlings and flowers and plantings in a new little book, hunting back in older journals for details of dates and conditions. Now Roy is out doing errands, and it's time to sit down and sift through the information on phases of the moon and pick up some needed knowledge.

I love the Litany of the Saints, sung in Latin. Watching the beginning ceremonies in the Sistene Chapel, I hear a lone voice singing the names of each saint. The voice is difficult to describe, and the fellow who sings reminds me of a bird who always sings the same sweet high notes. " San-ta-Ma-ri-a..." And then the response from all the cardinals is, "Pray for me, Maria."

What's this? Silvio Berusconi just resigned as Prime Minister and will form a new government. Boh! He is one strange man, but like butter, always seems to slide off the plate without getting hurt. This time, he is reforming a new government, which is a thing that Italians do to ward off immediate elections. But this time, he has much less support. So there'll be a jelly-mold on the plate for some time. But don't' rule Berlusconi out. Although he did not manage to keep his office for the full five-year term, he knows how to put on a good face. And "bella figura" (making a good impression) is all-important in Italia.

April 19
We have a new pope. Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Ratsinger of Germany. We watch some of the goings on on TV, but are so busy in the garden that we don't watch the whole thing.

In the afternoon, we drive off to Porchiano to pick up the tiles that have been cooking in the special clay oven. Francesco greets us, and I hand him a chocolate cake that I made for the students and teachers as thanks for letting me cook my tiles. The cake is quickly taken out of the room and completely disappears within the next ten minutes. That pleases me.

When we're back near the oven, Francesco takes out the tiles for me, and they are still quite warm. I can tell that the glaze is not too thick after all, but my technique needs some work. While I am waiting for the tile to cool, a man heads into the room toward me, and comes up to me and takes my arm, bending it up from my elbow. At that moment, he is grabbed from behind and taken out of the room. All the other young men ignore what has just happened. And at that moment I realize I will not be coming back to this place to fire my ceramics. What just happened was a taste of what it is like to work with the mentally disabled. And I am not trained, so it is better that I look for another source.

Now that' I'm reviewing the journal days later to post, I just can't remember what else we did today.

April 20
Today is Roy's birthday. In his honor, I fix spring rolls with shrimp and vegetables from scratch, a special Asian cucumber and sesame oil salad, then make a tasty chicken stir fry and rice. Since we hardly ever have a chance to eat anything other than Italian food, this is a real treat. It is so much food that he has his dessert hours later, a kind of "castle" in a huge wine glass, as Lore calls it, made of: chocolate cake crumbled up, fresh whipped cream, strawberries in Grand Mariner, homemade cherries in Couivorsier, walnuts. Groan.

Later in the evening we walk to Lore and Alberto's for spumante. Today is also Lore's birthday. But the best treat is what I find when I open up the computer when we arrive home and find a copy of an email that Roy sent to our good pal, Bob Kalsey.

Roy's humor is a kind of "sit down" humor. His message is worth including in the journal. It made me laugh out loud. If it offends you, probably you should stop reading the journal. Have a good day.

Here it is:

"I am sending this message in Roy's computer as mine is "in the shop" getting all kinds of new Papal software installed.

I understand from Roy and Evanne that you have been ill - so what, it's part of God's Divine Plan that we all suffer a little to earn the right to ask for absolution for our sins. But, more humanly, I hope that you are feeling better.

There has been a question on a lot of people's minds since they've seen me on TV in my new Papal wear; How does he, so quickly, get a Pope Hat to fit so well? I'll let you in a little secret - the Pope Hats are "one-size-fits-all". They have a little plastic (papal grade) adjustable strap, sort of like your American baseball caps.

I would hope that, in honor of my new papacy, you and all that you know, will have Eggs Benedict in the coming days to celebrate my new job, as a matter of fact, have XVI of them.

Kind regards from Citta di Vaticana and also from your friends Evanne, Roy and their silly dog Sofia Maria.

Yours in Christ, Bennie XVI"

April 21
The sun comes out for a while, and we continue to work in the garden.

Roy really makes a difference with the tufa wall that will be the side wall of the greenhouse, knocking out a canal where one metal wall of the serra will fit. Oosten walks by on the street below the house, and he helps Roy to lift the metal wall including the door. They lean it against the back wall, supporting it with a couple of tufa bricks. It's very exciting and very, very close to being a reality.

I watch him hack away, knowing that he's hacking away at a stone facade that is thousands of years old, created by an eruption of lava before the time of Christ. What an amazing place we live in.

Roy calls Stefano and no. He can't help us install the serra before Peggy gets here next Wednesday. But he does think we'll have it finished within the week. Magari!

Because it did not rain this morning, Sofi and I are out spraying very early. We find those little bugs on the rosebuds, and I shoot the rose spray on them, almost hearing them cough from the alcohol. Most everything looks fine. But two of the carciofe plants are being chomped on by some animal. Sofi has been with me, so could it be a cat? Or a rat?

That reminds me. Roy found a big mouse in the loggia yesterday, or rather Sofi found it, sniffing close to it. I hollered for Roy, who came with a shovel and heaved it across the street over an old wall.

I make two huge trays of potatoes Anna, and after we tuck Sofi into her cage at 7PM, drive down to Rome for a birthday party for Karina, Shelly and Sergio. We have not seen Sergio since the year we purchased our house. He is a film director, probably about eighty. and I'm probably close to the top of his list for people he hates most in the world.

The week we bought our house, Sergio wanted to cook us a dinner. We were trying to accomplish an enormous number of things in two days time, and showed up twenty minutes after 7PM for a 7PM dinner at Shelly's, rushing to get our bed installed and some last minute items. He was not pleased. As we sat down to dinner, he pulled out a pipe and said to me, "Do you mind if I smoke?"

I don't know what possessed me, but I replied, "As a matter of fact, Sergio, I do!" At that, Karina and another woman stood up and cheered and he steamed. From then on, he has had nothing to do with me. Until tonight.

Halfway through the evening, I walk up to Karina, telling her I want to wish Sergio a happy birthday. I need her to go with me for support. When he turns around to face me, I say, "Do you know who I am?" He stands up and kisses me on both cheeks. I say, "You hate me. You really hate me." He sits down and tells me he can't possibly hate me. I respond, "Do you remember me?" He answers, "No. I don't. Who are you?" I tell him and he just looks at me with a start. So I respond, "See? I told you you hated me. But I want to wish you a very happy birthday, anyway. " And he just sits there stunned as I walk away.

The rest of the night is fun, too. Peter, Annie, Alex, Karina, Barbara, Shelly, Claudio, and Giordano are all there, as well as a number of new friends, including Clara and Stefania. Clara is Karina's new protegee giving the Angels and Demons tours, a voluptuous and charming young woman from Hungary who Roy refers to as Zah Zah. Roy asks her what she does for a living. She replies, "I am a broker." Roy then asks, "What do you broke?" thinking he is being very funny. She bounces back, "'s hearts."

If I could dream myself decades younger and slimmer, I'd wear what she wears: slim jeans on the bottom with heels, a black lacy camisole cut straight across and a low cut black top that looks as though it could double as the top of a ball gown. The ruffle is fashioned of a kind of silky taffeta, and the rest of the long sleeved top is black jersey. The ruffle stands up against the back of her neck, and frames her face and her bodice like a dream. Her peaches and cream complexion and blonde hair complete the look of a total knockout. Clara shows off a rollicking sense of humor, returning to joke with me after each cigarette.

Stefania is another wonderful young woman we meet tonight. She has a dream of moving to Barcelona to live for a while, and just after I speak with her I meet Clara, who has just arrived here from...Barcelona! So before the night is through, I manage to hook them up together. Her goal...her closer to reality than she thinks. And I love being able to put them together.

We are used to going to parties in Italy where we are two of the only people who speak English, so many of the evenings are a real effort. This night is different, with as many people speaking English as Italian. As much as we want to immerse ourselves in Italian culture, until we learn the language better it is so refreshing to be able to go out to socialize and just relax.

Several people at the party are German, but I am surprised that there are so many people without good things to say about the new pope. Italians say that if you're not happy with the way the pope is handling things, wait a while, and there'll be a new one. Perhaps that is why a pope so elderly was chosen. I don't know. But I'll try to not to judge him, In the meantime, we're telling everyone to go out and eat Eggs Benedict in his honor.

Silvio Berlusconi is in really hot water. Now that the no-confidence vote is over, President Ciampi has to decide if he'll let him continue to run the country. Berlusconi has offered his resignation, as he must, but he thought he could just put together a new coalition and things would be the same. Not this time. So we'll see in a few days what the fate of Berlusconi will be. He is a slippery character, and usually winds up on top, smiling that George Washington toothy smile. Today, there is no smile on his face as cameras capture him at the same conference table with Ciampi, acting like a schoolboy gone bad.

April 22
It's Earth Day. It's also the fifteenth anniversary of my father's death. We have a spectacular visit at Landriana, a famous garden south of Rome. Today, there is also a mercato, a very upscale mercato, with the most unusual plants, scores of roses and herbs and trees and peonies and annuals and perennials...The whole nine yards.

We are allowed to take Sofi on the tour, and she behaves really well. The garden tour, which we take before walking around the mercato, is made up of twenty-five or more "rooms", one winding around to another and another. The tour takes just under an hour. Now this garden is moving to the top of my list of favorite gardens. I love the meandering way it has been designed.

We break down and buy one Pat Austin blowsy rose and several herbs. Then we stop for a quick panini and drive on to Villa Aldobrandi. This is a surprise. We decide to drive home by way of Frascati, and find out that this villa is open today, Friday, but not on the weekends. So of course we take a stroll around, and like this garden very much, too! It has a little of Caprarola, a little of Lante, even a little of Bomarzo. It needs a lot of work, but we like the unfinishedness of it, too.

On the way home, we stop at Castorama, a huge garden and hobby store, and find some very inexpensive wooden shelves made of pine slats, that will be perfect in my greenhouse against the back wall. Again, Sofi has been a dream of a dog all day, not complaining when we leave her in the car here and there.

April 23
We're up early and out, first to pick up my glazed tiles from Ivana in Terni and then to Montecastrilli to the spring mercato for the tomatoes and herbs.

Ivana is really a lot of fun. She's willing to give me some guidance and some inexpensive lessons, which take place any day I want to take them, right in the shop. So the next rainy day Roy will drop me off. I'm looking forward to it.

At Montecastrilli, we're old hands now, so know to park at the top on a side street right near where we pick up our tomato plants and herbs and vegetables and flowers. The prices are so inexpensive that we're happy to stock up.

We want San Marzano tomatoes, mostly for Felice, but these are called bananas. They're longer than the regular San Marzanos. Next to the bananas is a newspaper article about the gigantic tomatoes an old man grows and sells at the mercato. We buy two, and hear later from Tia that they are fabulous. She tells me that one tomato can serve four people with buffala mozzarella. They are very pulpy with very few seeds. Can't wait. She calls them Black Russians, but we do not see that name near the plants.

We also buy tomato plants in the shape of hearts (the leaves are that shape, don't know about the fruit), beefsteak tomatoes and one other kind. They'll fill up the row against the tufa wall next to the potatoes and fava beans.

Up above we'll plant our heirloom tomatoes. Tonight the Earl of Edgecomb variety is looking pale and yellowy. I'll see if the food we have will work for them.

We also buy two zucchini plants that are expected to have a large amount of flowers, and some flowers and herbs. And one blue hydrangea. I have a weakness for blue hydrangea, but we don't have a lot of room for shade plants.

At home we quickly eat pranzo and then spend the whole afternoon planting in our new garden area and in the raised area in front of the greenhouse. Many of the seedlings are planted in big planters, because we don't know if there will be a mess when the greenhouse is installed.

The word is that tomorrow should rain, perhaps we'll even have thunderstorms. So I tell Roy that San Anselmo and God and I will have a private service here at home, while he drives up to Bomarzo to take part in the mass. If it rains, there will be no procession, but the Duomo will be mobbed, and I am so tired. I look forward to doing some inside work tomorrow morning to get ready for a dinner Monday night here and then two days of fun here with Peggy and Mary Louise, rain or shine.

April 24
Today is the Feast Day of San Anselmo. San Anselmo is the patron saint of our big town, Bomarzo. At least that's what Fabrizio calls it after today's procession. Fabrizio is one of Roy's confraternity "bro's" and they are awed by the size of the crowds and the size of the procession. The all begin their walk at 10:15 and do not arrive at the Duomo, where Augusta and I wait for them with hundreds of other folk until almost noon. That's a lot of walking, especially with the end of it a veritable "cardiac hill", leading to the Duomo.

I am able to garner a seat on the aisle. Well, Roy drops me off before he walks up to Cristo Risorto, the church where the procession begins. And when I arrive at the Duomo, Augusta is there because Mauro dropped his mom off when he walked up to meet Roy and the others. So of the first five people in the church, I know three. The other is Enzo Rosati, our plumber, who just had to come in to give a prayer to his patron saint.

When Augusta sees me, she asks me if I'd like to go up to meet the saint. I do not remember that he is actually buried behind the altar. So there he is, in repose, with a strange mesh in the shape of his face. His actual face looks like a soufflˇ ten minutes after it comes out of the oven.

Anyway, I am taken by the shape of his nose, or rather the shape of the mesh. Augusta and I confer and she confirms that yes, it is a Bomarzo nose. With a start, I realize she must be from Bomarzo. And a few minutes later, she tells me that her mother was born in Bomarzo. I like her a great deal. For most of the almost two hour wait, we sit quietly in a pew and now and then speak to each other.

I have a small paperback in my hand, one that I kept out of sight until I think I might as well give it a look. It is a transplanting guide, all in Italian. I am so amazed that I can actually figure out about half of what it is saying. That's a remarkable achievement, considering how little I could understand even a year ago. The language does seep under our skin. These days, when the TV is on an Italian program, if we concentrate we can figure out most of what they are saying.

So the bishop participates in the mass, and also the procession, along with eight, yes eight, priests. Don Luca performs a fabulous job, as usual. At one point, when communion is given by several of the priests, he knows just what to do and how to reroute one priest so that the line will move more quickly. I am reminded of the communion at St. Peter's a week before, with 100 deacons or priests surrounding St. Peter's. Is this kind of orchestration something that is taught in Jesuit training? I see it sometimes as a kind of performance art.

After the mass, Fabrizio shakes Roy's hand and tells him he'll see him on Saturday. Oh. the tree frolic. Fifty or so men find a tall tree (last year's was more than 24 meters) and Pepe puts it on his truck and brings it to the fountain at the curve coming into Mugnano. Then the men carry the tree all the way up the hill to just across from the Orsini Palazzo. Negotiating the curve is a major event, and then they figure out a way to get the tree to stand up and "bury" it in the sidewalk, hopefully with a Mugnano flag on top. Usually they forget the flag until it's too late.

We drive home and stop to feed Sofi. Then we pick her up and drive to Tony and Pat's for a farewell pranzo. Their house is starting to feel more like a home to them, though there is still a lot to be done. We're not sure Tony is really happy with their decision to buy this house. One of these years, we expect it to be put on the market.

Speaking of houses, we receive an email from a good friend of Betsy and John Cutler's in Mill Valley, CA. She is looking for someone in Italy to swap houses with her for five weeks starting the third week of May. Her house swap situation outside Orvieto fell through. We're not able to help her, but hope she can work something out. We don't think we'd be candidates for a house-swap, but some people seem to like the idea.

The sky remains overcast all day, but we drive to Il Pallone, which is the market on the way to Viterbo that is open on Sundays, and then drive back through crowded Bomarzo, which has a fair taking place, and later a procession, but no Palio this year.

Down at the intersection to the Monster Park, Alberto Cozzi in his volunteer uniform signals us to drive "forte". He is also the priori for the Confraternity in Mugnano, so has been busy all day long.

" 'Remind you of Mountain Play duty?" Roy asks as we drive down hill. It surely does. We have our little projects here that we volunteer for, but none of the day-long tasks to compare with volunteering at Mountain Play performances. We do have unforgettable memories of those experiences. Some things just can't be repeated.

I'm making spring rolls again tomorrow night and also chicken sate and a cucumber salad. Tia will come for cena and also Alan will come. Bruce is still out of town and Alan leaves the next day to go back to Kuala Lumpur and Australia. We know this food is something he's probably tired of, but he's willing to come just the same.

The peanut sauce and the marinade for the chicken come out wonderfully well. As usual, I do an internet search for recipes, print out a couple and then take ingredients from all three. We'll see how it comes out, and if it's good we'll add it to the Food part of this site soon.

There is a message on our cell phone, and it's from Peggy, checking out her cell phone from the airport. So we call her and she's so funny that we can't stop laughing and can hardly wait until we see her on Wednesday.

Fireworks start at about 11PM, and we're up anyway watching an old Woody Allen movie. So I go over to the couch and keep Sofi occupied so she won't get crazy from the noise of the fireworks. After they're over, it's time to "hit the sack".

April 25
This is a real holiday in Italy. It is Liberation Day. So on this day, Roy feels that Americans are treated especially well. It marks the liberation of the Italians from German Occupation and the end of WWII in 1945.

We're usually feeling pretty liberated, and today invite Tia and also Alan to come for an Asian cena. The weather is partly overcast, but Roy fiddles around in the garden, weeding and cleaning up to get ready for guests. I spend a lot of the time in the kitchen. Sadly, there is no Palio in Bomarzo. The word around town is that the track is too muddy from all the spring rain.

Mid afternoon, the doorbell rings and it is Paola. We invite her in, and she's followed by Fulvia and Vincenza, so we invite them all in for tea. Of course, they meet Gina and Vito and Lulu, our spaventapasseri, sitting silently in the living room, waiting for better weather. Roy tells me that the fruit trees are starting to show some damage due to bugs and humidity.

We all sit down for tea, and Vincenza is pretty amazed by what I am preparing: spring rolls. They call them rolatini privavera. We have many kinds of tea, and she asks for green tea. Boh! We have none of that! She tries a ginger lemon and tells us that she likes it, but perhaps she is being polite. Paola and Fulvia, being a younger generation, are thrilled at the chance to try different teas. Fulvia, fresh from a bout of chicken pox, is feeling much better and can't wait to talk about Mexican food. I show her a little pot of cilantro. A couple of days ago, I bought a bunch at the tiny international store in Viterbo. There were a few roots attached to the cilantro, so I took a chance and potted the bunch. Almost half of them actually "took" and we'll put the pot out in the garden soon.

Since Tia and Alan are expected in less than an hour, they bid us goodbye. Now it is time to get back to work. Tia arrives with both dogs. I take a relaxed view of them, closing them in the front terrace. Before the night is over, Gioia has climbed up into the herb garden in front of the loggia and dug a big hole with her long paws. Tia tells us Gioia is a devil, but they just love her. She is really cute, playing Alpha Dog with Sofi, but they get along really well. We'll just buy some more little basil plants, and the herbs will be fine. Charlie stays quietly outside for most of the evening.

Well, the peanut sauce and chicken sate are really great, and the spring rolls are good, but I did not cook them in a hot enough oil. They took too long to cook. I'll know next time, because the ingredients were wonderful.

We finish the night with Tia's homemade peach pie and it's delicious. Then everyone goes to their cars while we stand and wave at them under a full moon. It's a beautiful night.

I know that fireworks will start soon, so when I hear a rumble, I go over to the couch in the kitchen and sing to Sofi, keeping her attention off the noise. Roy stands at the kitchen sink and cleans up, then tells me when the fireworks are over. It's time to turn in. And we're all tired.

April 26
Roy and I drive to see Danieli in Sippiciano early this morning, while it is still foggy, and both get our hair done. Roy also gets his beard trimmed. He looks pretty terrific.

Stefano comes by this afternoon, and is happy that the serra job will be easy. So he tells us they'll finish it on Friday. That means Peggy and Mary Louise won't get to see it finished, but I'm excited about Friday anyway.

We're both really excited about seeing Peggy. Yesterday she called to tell us Mary Louise just served her a welcome Prosecco. Today she calls to tell us she's in heaven. The two of them are walking all over Rome on this beautiful day.

Roy drives off to do an errand, and Felice comes by while he's out, ready to plant the tomatoes. I tell him the other member of his squadra, or team, isn't home. He agrees to come back tomorrow at 2PM. I think Roy won't want to plant then, but secretly think it's terrific. Peggy was with us in 2001 when we picked up the very seeds we have germinated this spring. So right after pranzo, we'll watch Roy and Felice build the bamboo support and plant the fifteen tomato plants we bought on Saturday. Peggy's tomatoes are still in the guest bedroom. They won't be ready to plant outside for at least a couple of weeks. But she'll be thrilled.

Tonight I cook a baked fish for tomorrow, make a homemade loaf of ciabatta, a chocolate cake, and heirloom tomato sauce to go with the fish. So tomorrow when the pals come, there won't be a lot of work to do for pranzo.

The moon is still full, and the evening is beautiful. When we have a lovely day, it's almost too wonderful to bear.

April 27
We pick up Peggy and Mary Louise at the Orte train station, then drive through Orte, and arrive home for an early pranzo. Roy preps and lays the irrigation tube for the tomato area for fifteen tomato plants, while I chatter with the girls. Felice arrives at 2PM to begin our annual planting of the tomatoes. Mary Louise (or ML as she is often called) dons my coveralls and garden hat, after asking if she can do the planting. Wow. Is Roy ever thrilled!

Felice points out the holes, Roy gives ML a pot of terra buona to scoop and some fertilizer for the tomatoes. I hand her the plants, one at a time, while Peggy captures it all on film. Roy is incredibly relieved that he can stand up all through this, because of the pain in his leg. ML appears happy to be working in the garden, fitting right in. She takes my cutters and even gives me some advice on the Easy Going roses. We agree that two have made it. There may even be some growth this year. Now that's a miracle!

Beginning our tomato planting is very significant while Peggy is here, because she went with us to the Kendall Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival on September 9, 2001, where we picked up some of the seeds that we've used to grow this year's tomatoes. Those plants are still in the guest bedroom window. They'll take another month or so until they're ready. But the idea of it all, and ML's wanting to participate, makes the event even more special. Sofi noses around everything to inspect, but is still more interested in chasing lizards.

After we're done, ML and Roy drive off to Viterbo to find a bicycle shirt for her son. Peggy and Sofi and I stay home and rest. Once they're back, we take a leisurely walk through the village, meeting local folks and discussing the mattone in the borgo. It's possible that cars won't be allowed. Wouldn't that be wonderful! Now that our eyes are used to it, it is as if the square has always been paved that way.

Back at home, we eat little treats of this and that, and chat over homemade fig jam and cheese and prosecco cocktails made by Peggy and ML of macerated basil, Gran Mariner, Prosecco, scotch and ice, served in champagne glasses. What a treat. We're all off to bed under an almost full moon, the air sweet and mild. These are two fabulous house guests, open and relaxed and fun to be with.

April 28
One by one, we get up and greet a lovely day. We eat homemade toasted bread, both ciabatta and a rye, with our homemade sour cherry marmelada. "M.L." wants to market my jams to the U S. I'm happy that she loves the taste, but don't really have an interest in making a big deal out of it. It will never pay for itself. At least I'm realistic about that. And perhaps things taste better in Italia. We remember visiting Italy some years ago, and thinking that was true then.

Peggy and I get to do our walk to the cemetery, a walk we have each dreamed of since we took our walks together on mornings in San Rafael three years ago. The morning is warm and sweet. We take Sofi along, while Mary Louise stays home, downloading her photos onto a cd. Now she can take hundreds more.

Arm and arm, Peggy tells me that she often thinks of me when stepping out her front door to go for a walk. I really loved the time with her that last year before we moved. I think of her often, too, when Sofi and I walk around the loop below our house.

Dogs aren't allowed in the cemetery, but the iron gate is open, so I take Sofi in my arms. She is always compliant, liking the rest on my hip while I walk around. I introduce Peggy to the five family names in the cemetery. Almost everyone in the village is related to at least someone in these five families.

Before too long, we've arrived at the angels. There is one standing with a basket of flowers, and to it's left is another angel embedded in the design of a marble cross. We notice a freshly painted green bench right across from them, and sit. Peggy takes a few photos.

We talk about the angel at the cemetery in San Rafael that we used to visit, and I talk to her about possibly having an angel to watch over Roy and me after we're gone. We have the right as residents to two cemetery plots here. The "plots" are boxes near the center of the cemetery.

I ask Peggy where she thinks we should be, and she suggests to the right where the white marble boxes are. We'll just need one, for our ashes, and space in front for an angel. I used to think this talk was maudlin, but we need to make sure that Terence and Angie don't have to go through a lot of turmoil when it's our turn. I hope we go together.

We continue our walk, and read the names of the people and look at their photos. Each time we come, I recognize more photos. Noticeable are the number of young people who die in their teens and twenties. We see their photos in the prime of their lives, and remember how much pain is held in this sacred place. We also note how beautifully kept it is, and how many fresh flowers adorn the different areas.

Each day, I wave at women walking to the cemetery. This is characteristic of all Italian towns and villages. The respect for the dead is profound. I recall visiting the cemetery on November 1st, the Day of the Dead, where there is a mass said each year. We see Felice smile then as he dusts off the spot where he will rest one day.

Before we are through, we've seen every grave and every photo, including the one of Celestino Natale and his wife (the couple who built our house in 1935). We walk down the hill and take the loop back around on the strada bianca. We see that yes, Felice really has abandoned his orto. I show her Karina's old house, now owned by a Norwegian minister, and we walk up around the corner, stopping at Felice's cantina to see if he's there. It's locked up tight, so we continue our walk back home.

We walk through the garden and then get ready to drive to Orvieto. Roy has to drop us off, because his usual parking area in the back is blocked off. This morning the vegetable and fruit vendors are there. So we walk around and agree to meet Roy at Giacomini's ceramics shop.

Peggy and ML love to shop, so we take our time. Roy finds us on the street, and we have to encourage our guests along if we're to make our pranzo reservations on time. We stop at my favorite little church, San Giovanni's, and then find our way to Chiara's pottery shop. I tell them not to bother at any other shop. If the stores close at 1PM, not to open again until 4, they can get the best quality and prices at this shop. They agree, and make a substantial dent in Chiara's inventory, having their pieces shipped back to them in Marin.

Then we're off to Asino d'Oro for an incredible meal. Roy and I each eat a primi of pork jowl. It's a kind of bacon that is incredibly delicious with a sprinkle of olive oil and fresh sage. ML eats tripe, and we all have a taste. It's the first time for me, and I think the last. Perhaps it's an acquired taste. Peggy has pasta. I can't remember what else we eat but it is all wonderful and trendy and non typical.

We have time to walk a little before taking them to their train. They'll be back in Rome in time to do plenty of walking around. But before we know it, we're saying c'e veddiamo at the station.

At home, we work some more on the pergola by the big olive tree, but it will take more than a few hours to complete and we need some more special screws. So the project will continue...

April 29
Stefano and Luca arrive just after 8AM. Before he starts his work, he tells Roy that a young man who lives in the paese of Mugnano was killed yesterday in a motorcycle accident. I think he is Simone, the same young man we met in Terni when we bought our camera two years ago. He seemed like a gentle soul. We are sad for his family.

I call Tiziano and leave a message for him, asking if he'll find out if it's the same Simone we met and where he lived. How strange that yesterday Peggy and I walked to the cemetery, reading the cemetery markers and speaking about the photographs of young people who died early, mostly in automobile accidents. Could it have been at the same time as Simone's death? How eerie.

Luca and Mario set up a short brace of scaffolding behind the tufa wall of the serra for Stefano to climb up upon, and Stefano knocks a few spots of tufa off the ancient wall above with his wide angled chisel. Roy looks at the chisel longingly, telling me his is too narrow. Stefano then slides a short panel of wood into a groove to hold three rows of tufa bricks that will be built above it. We have designed a specific height for the tufa wall. All the tufa bricks are reused from bricks that Roy dismantled when we took the chicken coop apart a few weeks ago. Now the wall will be stabilized. Buon idea.

Mario is a good addition to their little team. We do not know where he is from. Stefano has so much work to do for people all over Mugnano, as well as Bomarzo, that it's critical that he has more help. People are impatient with him, because he is forced to flit like a farfalla from one job to another, keeping everyone waiting just a few hours, or a day, or three days. He has many, many "balls in the air". So he continues to concentrate on the creative and difficult work, and his two workers back him up, mixing the cement, spraying the water, and all the time carrying on conversations.

I fix a pot of coffee, and bring it out with some breakfast cookies. When they stop for a drink, I tell Stefano this serra will be my "office" and he tells me he thinks it will be my "sauna". We all laugh, and he is probably right. We'll have to rig up a fan, in addition to the fluorescent tubes for the lights.

Stefano wants to put a short ramp up to the door, and build the structure up a little. That is a great idea. He has so many great ideas. Within three hours they are finished with the back wall, and leave for a few days while the cement hardens in the sun. Roy will water it a few times a day. Stefano hopes to return on Monday afternoon for the next critical part.

In the meantime, Roy will go out to look for different paint and we'll paint the metal. Right now, the serra has an undercoat of dull grey, which I like very much. The topcoat that Roy tries looks pretty shiny and blue to me. So he'll look a little more, and we'll decide on the color this afternoon, painting it all before Monday afternoon so it will be ready to assemble as soon as Stefano is ready. The little seedlings are itchy for their new home, lurching out toward the rays of the sun from their perch inside the guest bedroom window.

I love wearing my Carhartt tufa colored overalls, but they are a thick material, and we'll look for something light-weight for the summer, like the ones Stefano wears. Perhaps Orsolini in Soriano will have something. Stefano's makes him look like a garage mechanic. They are a medium grey with red top. I'm holding out for something, well, more blue...

I clip boxwood while we watch the workers, and then Roy gets the copper sulfate ready to spray the fruit trees again. We're not sure if this is what we should be doing, but last evening when it was still light, I worked on the peach tree and noticed its leaves were getting "curly leaf", a characteristic disease of peach trees. Roy also sprays the two plum trees and the apple tree. We're no longer afraid to use rame sulfato (copper sulfate) spray, knowing that it is biologic.

We've put the baby gate back on the bottom of the stairs, and we've also staged a box to sit on the chair in our bedroom. So now Sofi can't jump up on the chair, and I carry her when I walk upstairs and down. That warning a few days ago at the Orte train station by a man who owned a basotto frightened me. I don't want something to happen to Sofi's back. She's such a sweet dog.

There is a lot of noise this morning from trucks. The broken water pipe and the construction trucks repairing the street and the electrical wires have all but stopped traffic. Italo arrives in his fish truck, and has to maneuver around a backhoe. Don Luca arrives in his Darth Vader outfit on his motorcycle, and asks us if he can park near our driveway. I wonder if it has something to do with yesterday's death. He leaves after twenty minutes and waves a c'e veddiamo to us.

Trucks making deliveries to Ernesta's (the only store in Mugnano), the construction trucks, Italo's fish truck, Elio's school bus, are all propelled in a kind of dance, moving back and forth like toy cars in a carnival ride. Now and then a car tries to travel up the hill, but waits its turn patiently. By 11AM, they are all gone. The air is silent except for the hundreds of birds. Did I tell you that yesterday, Mary Louise heard the cuckoo?

We eat tuna salad for pranzo on crusty bread, and I'm anxious to go back outside, clipping boxwood, spraying roses and listening to the birds. Roy joins me while Sofi bounds around looking for lizards. He does not have to hack away at any tufa under the serra, because Stefano will arrive on Monday with his little jackhammer. Roy will love that! So he waters the wall to help harden the cement and we drive off to meet Maria Antonietta, the ceramicist in Guardea.

But first we stop at the TittiBar, where Roy picks up a present that Angie has left for us. It is a remarkable watercolor of a Basotto Nano puppy that looks strikingly like Sofi during the time Angie sat with her more than a year ago. After we drive to Guardea, we'll backtrack to Amelia and have it framed, subito!

Maria Antonietta is a dear woman with a long mane of straight grey hair flowing down almost to her waist and bright blue eyes. She welcomes us in to her little house. After showing us a few of her ceramics, we agree that it will be a good idea for me to take a few private lessons to get me started on technique. She has an oven, so I can also bring the tiles that are waiting to be fired.

We walk out to her little studio in the back, and make a date for me to return at the beginning of the week. I tell her that I want to learn how to paint grotesques of the Rafaello school, and she understands. But first, she'll help me work on my painting technique. I'll start with a test so that she can see how much help I'll need to get started. I bring her a couple of finished tiles and she commends me on the detail. I don't think they're that good, but the vote of confidence helps boost my spirits.

Back at home, we work on the pergola in front of Roy's garden shed, and it takes until the sun goes down for us to make any progress. We'll continue working on it tomorrow, until we hear the noises of the men coming up the hill with the village tree...

April 30
It is true. Simone was the young man in the village we knew to say hello to who sold us our camera two years ago. Now he is dead. Our entire village is in a kind of shock. There will be no tree raising today. There may be a cancellation of the entire festa, scheduled for next weekend. His funeral will be in Orte, tomorrow. We are all so sad.

Felice arrives early, just after nine, because the sun is warm today. He wants to take his zappa out of the garden shed and weed the lavender field. "Non troppo lavoro," we tell him. He wears wool slacks and a v-neck sweater over a shirt with a collar. But no hat. He declines any offer of water.

Before he leaves, we stand under the shade of a loquat tree and he is philosophical about the death of Simone. He tells us, "When you're dead, you're dead." He agrees with me that life goes on. Everything around us is green and fragrant. We can hear a tractor below us in the valley. The birds work overtime, chattering all around us. And then we hear a motorcycle and are jolted into thinking of Simone. The people in the village must be heartsick at that sound.

We are able to piece together fragments of what Felice tells us about the young man. It appears Simone was almost abandoned as a child, the sad byproduct of a divorce. But he lived above Mauro and Serena in the borgo and his grandmother cooked for him. He came here to Mugnano for meals almost every day, and was 26.

When he died, he was riding his motorcycle, somewhere outside Viterbo. Since he worked with the husband of Tiziana, Ernesta's daughter, his death spread over the entire village like a filmy cobweb. Simone was Giovanni's nephew. Wherever you are in Mugnano, someone has had a connection with this young man. On the phone with Lore just after pranzo, she tells me that the whole village is crying.

I sit upstairs at the computer, and hear motorcycles in the valley below, buzzing and buzzing like angry bees. Their sound is especially poignant to me today. Are these people riding for Simone? Roy wonders if the tree will be raised next weekend instead of tonight, and if it will be raised in honor of Simone. But Italians don't think the way Americans do in terms of memorials. That probably won't happen.

We drive to Bomarzo for mass, because we'll be at the gardens of Ninfa, south of Rome, tomorrow morning. On the way back tomorrow, we'd like to stop off and see Peggy and ML's apartment in Rome. I'd also like to attend Simone's funeral in Orte, but don't know if we'll get back in time.

Duccio stands outside the little church, smoking a cigarette and leaning against a steel handrail. He tells us Giovanna is inside, so we enter and find her right up front. Why not? We walk up to her and sit with them for the mass. Don Mauro is the priest, and he seems to love the little church. It is filled with women in fine voice. The woman behind us is someone we have seen often as we drive up the hill through Bomarzo. She has a magnificent voice, and since her hair is dyed jet black, we have no idea if she is fifty or ninety. Somewhere in between sounds about right.

Giovanna speaks quickly, and anticipates everything that is said. She also is a reader at the mass, reminding me of Iolanda, who took on this role so often in church. So between her and the woman behind Roy, we can do fine without any cue cards in mass. When Don Mauro does his homily, he asks, "What is the Holy Spirit?" As he attempts to answer his own question, a tiny girl toddles up and waddles all around the altar. She fancies stepping up behind him while he speaks, and taps her little feet on the wooden frame ledge behind him.

At one moment, she leans down to pick up the offering, which sits in a basket in front of the altar. Her sister runs up and takes it from her, but no one in her family seems to mind her antics. Don Mauro doesn't either, making a comment about what an angel she is. But she must have theatrical designs of some kind. For she runs back up to dance behind him again.

When it is time to shake hands during the mass, she is lying on her stomach facing us. So Roy and I lean down and shake her little hand. The women in the church whisper among themselves about the girl's behaviour. But after the mass, Don Mauro is seen speaking with the family, and seems delighted. Perhaps they are relatives. The scene truly is one we'll remember. We wonder what Don Luca would do in a similar situation?

Duccio and Giovanna are expecting company, so decline our offer of a drink at our house. So we tell them we'll see them next weekend, and drive home to paint a first coat on the serra. Or Roy paints, while Sofi lays in my arms and we watch him. He does not want to take a second brush out, or is it that he does not trust me with the meticulousness with which he has to proceed? We've decided on a light grey paint, which will complement the tufa bricks surrounding the structure. The paint is thick, so we'll have enough time to put on a second coat if it needs it before Monday.

MAY 2005

May 1
Today is a big holiday in Italy. May Day. This is the workers' day. Last night, Lore warned me to be careful on the road. This is a day of picnics and trips. Since it is too soon to go "to the sea", which is the favorite pastime of all Italians, thousands of them drive off to parks and picnic areas to celebrate.

We leave the house at 7AM for Ninfa, a garden known to Italians, but not to too many people outside the country, unless they are garden aficionados. It is located about one hour south of Rome. On a website describing the garden, we read that 1.000 to 1,500 people come to this garden on one of its few open days each year. The garden opens at 9AM, and we arrive there 15 minutes early, after a slow winding trip on many unmarked roads.

Italians hate to queue up, but today they oblige, for it is the only way to gain admittance to this paradise. We are about 50 people back in line, but by the time we leave, there are almost 500 people waiting.

Once we buy our tickets, we enter another queue, and a guide takes about 40 of us before closing off the gate for the next group. During the next hour or so, we are transported to a quiet garden of perhaps fifteen or twenty acres. There are wonderful low waterfalls, with water rushing from a lake. The water in the lake is clear as a spring, with tiny plants moving languorously with the current. Hundreds of birds in countless trees welcome us.

Roses are abundant, but this is not a rose garden. It is a wandering garden remarkable for its centuries-old ruins, and its trees and plants that grow in concert with it's fragments of what is left of walls, scattered like playing cards strewn across the landscape.

Although there are forty of us, and the guide speaks very loudly, the tone is tranquil. The garden style is relaxed, with lavender flanking several paths but no rigid clipping of the plants. It has more of a haphazard design, perhaps even a random plan. We even see weeds here and there, a sign that the plan is not a meticulous one.

There are plants and trees here from all over the world. Among these are huge banana plants and the most enormous bamboo grove I have ever seen. We are told that the bamboo grows 10 to 12 cm a day! No wonder they use so much bamboo around the grounds for braces. We also see many Japanese maples. But mostly this is an Italian garden. Later, on the phone, Shelly tells Roy that Ninfa is ten times better than Landriana. I'm not so sure. These are two very different gardens, each one special in its own right.

One of the more ordinary plants we see is a vivid blue ceanothus. We have been speaking about planting a ceanothus on the far property at the top bank, and as we leave see that a few of them are being sold. So we purchase one, as a remembrance of our day here. Sofi waits quietly in the car, parked in the shade under trees. Now we drive nearby to the town of Sermoneta, perched high on a hill overlooking the flat plain of Latina.

We eat a simple pranzo at a restaurant with a shaded garden, and Sofi is able to sit by my feet. Then we get back in the car. We want to see Peggy and M L, but cannot reach them by phone. And I think it's very important that we attend the funeral of Simone in Orte. So we leave a message for Peggy that we won't be able to stop by, and are able to reach Orte just before the start of the mass.

Outside the church, there are two funeral cars lined up in front, just to carry the flowers. We don't ever remember seeing so many arrangements of flowers at a funeral, almost all in clear stiff cellophane wrappers. One catches our eye from the Terni Motorcycle Club.

Ten men lift the casket from the hearse and we follow it inside. The church is quite large, but there are so many people that some are left to stand on the side aisles. Most of the people are under thirty. We find places next to Valerio and Elena, right behind Giuliola, Livio, Mario and Laura. Many people from Mugnano are here and we all nod at each other or grasp hands for a moment, silently. When we take communion, we file by the casket, and I lay my left hand on its cool surface just for a moment, a kind of goodbye to this young man.


After the service, we stand on the steps until the two hearses full of flowers and the one carrying Simone slowly glide along the main street. Behind the hearse is a woman in a black leather jacket, a man with a tan suede jacket, and two young men, all arm and arm as if holding each other up. Many friends follow them. We are not sure where the cemetery is, but when we reach our car to drive home, we see all the hearses set up in another parking lot down the street. Perhaps there will be a funeral cortege of cars. We know of a cemetery on the way to Bassano in Teverina. Perhaps he will be buried there.

At home, we are strangely silent, until Roy calls Terence and Angie and is greeted by a gaggle of sounds from one of our grand daughters. And the cycle of life goes on.

May 2
I hear Felice ascend the front steps before I am finished dressing, and walk out to speak with him in a few minutes while Roy is in the shower. Felice pulls weeds today, from the lavender garden. When I reach him, we stand next to the Paul Lede rose arch, and he stops to talk. I love these moments, when Felice philosophizes about life, and I attempt to do the same. I tell him that we attended the funeral yesterday and he nods his head.

He tells me that when you are born, the page of your life is already written. I agree, and say that for Simone, his page was too short. He is pleased that I understood him, and that I responded in kind. I'm so happy to see him each time he visits. I consider each visit a great gift, wishing I could save each conversation in a little box. So I savor it, while it is happening. That is the best thing to do, I think.

Roy nurses a bad cold this morning, and drives me to Guardea on a back road to my first ceramics lesson. I have no idea what to expect, but take some of the old tiles to have them fired, so we can see what things I need to change.

Maria Antonietta greets us at the gate, and Roy and Sofi drive off to Orvieto, once again to attempt to retrieve the results from Roy's colonoscopy, while I paint. Her studio perches on wooden supports, a few wooden steps up from her back garden. We ramble through high grasses and weeds to get there. She promises that next time I come the weeds will be cut down, and Roy can park close by and sit in the garden while he waits. Fa niente.

The time flies by so quickly that I don't realize almost two hours have passed. We have a finished plate to show for my efforts, complete with a little leaf design in the center. It will be fired this next week. When we have a break during the middle of the session, she walks to her house and returns with fresh strawberries for a little snack.

She tells me that I do have talent, and that many of the people who come to her do not. I thank her and tell her that I believe I was born again when we came to Italia. My mother was a painter, so perhaps a few of those genes rubbed off. But I have a great deal to learn before I can attempt to paint ceramics in the grotesque style from the Renaissance I love so much.

Roy and I walk through these days with a newfound satisfaction with the level of understanding we have acquired about life here. The language is sinking in. Today, I manage to do quite well with Maria Antonietta. She speaks no English. In past years, I would have been frustrated beyond belief with my lack of understanding.

Today, we laugh with each other. "Courage!" she counsels me with a broad grin, as I place the brush on the clay plate. I whirl the tiny table below it with my left hand, while balancing the little finger of my right hand on the plate, all the while dipping the brush down onto the plate and watching the color whorl into a circle.

Roy's eyes light up when he sees the plate. I surely want to return, and next Monday we'll have another lesson. In the meantime, I have lots of "homework" to do. I'll practice, practice, practice painting the lines and shapes and leaves. And it's time to pick up one of those tiny round tables. We'll drive to DeRuta in a few days, where the prices will be low and we'll also pick up a few plates to paint and some paint in powder form.

While we drive home, Roy surprises me with a great decision. Not only is he going to run electrical current to the serra, he is also going to run water, with a rubinetta, or faucet, right inside the door. Meravigliosa! What a studio I will have! He has the results of his colonscopy, and since they found a few polyps, he's to schedule another one next year. That's fine with him. I am so relieved that we have good medical care and caring people here to take care of us.

We return to Mugnano to see the street in front of our parcheggio all torn up. The road project continues. Actually, it is a project to replace some of the electrical lines that were damaged in a storm a month or so ago. We ask the workmen what they are going to do, and they are going to replace the very pole we want to have buried underground.

What to do? He tells us he is just doing what the Commune tells him to do. So we call Stefano Bonori, the mayor, and before arriving home for pranzo, Francesco, our Vigili Urbani, arrives to look the situation over. He tells us it is ENEL's decision, and that nothing can be done. Boh! For now, a new pole will be installed across the street. Perhaps we'll have our electrical rerouted from the street above us. We'll tackle one thing at a time.

Enzo arrives to fix a plumbing problem and also to look over the hookup he'll do for the greenhouse as well as clip off the water meter in the garden. He gives Roy a "bravo!" for the plumbing work he did to reconnect the water.

We wait for Stefano, our muratore. And wait. Perhaps he'll come back on Wednesday. That's if the ENEL people aren't working. He needs power to work. And the ENEL people are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Maybe the serra won't be finished for the festa, but perhaps the pergola will be. Roy picks up castagno poles, and he and I will work on the pergola tonight, replacing all the bamboo poles with castagno.

I hear a noise down below, and it is Oosten, using a scythe to cut the grass. Since his garden is around back of San Rocco, he wants to do this. So we speak a little and it is good to see him.

Tonight is windy, but the air is so sweet that I can't help staying outside and clipping boxwood. I venture around to each rose, noticing that there are more than a hundred buds just waiting to pop open. Surely with a good week of mild weather we'll have a luscious garden for the festa. Already the Lady Hillingtons on the path are in full bloom.

Worms that curl the leaves pop up, and I continue to spray. But at least six or seven leaves a day curl up and must be pinched off and put in the garbage. Yes, roses take a lot of work. But they are worth it.

And tonight I see buds on five of the six iris from Alexandra. So within a week those will be in bloom. The bearded iris growing on the path have already finished blooming. Now it is the new iris's turn.

Roy and Sofi and I take a little walk outside in the navy blue moonlight, standing under the nocciole arch and drinking in the cool night air, with Sofi in my arms, turning her head to give each of us a kiss and wag her tail. There is no place on earth we'd rather be.

May 3
Felice arrives early again, before 9AM. This is the sweetest time of day. For the past week the days have been very warm, unseasonably so for early May. So I wake before 6AM, wanting to be outside as soon as I can. Is this why many Italians sleep in the afternoon? I don't want to miss a bit of the day, but don't get to bed much before midnight these days, and don't do all that well on 6 hours sleep. When I do that, I slog through the day in a fog.

Today I'm full of pep, and love our little talks while Felice stands with his arms folded over his ancient hoe. This morning, I am cleaning up the roses on the front path when he saunters up the walk, and he complements me on the profusion of buds and flowers in full bloom. Their blossoms are so vibrant, one could surmise they could be on steroids. But they're not. Unless Shelly's horse, Victor, takes them.

Felice continues to weed, and Roy and I really appreciate that. I'm so busy with my other projects and clipping the hundred or so boxwood and the hedge and tending the 50 or more roses, that weeding gets neglected more than it should.

The word is out about our garden article that will appear on May 11th in the S F Chronicle. We're like anxious puppies, not wanting to wait. But it's taken more than six months to get this story to print, so another week or so will fly by.

Across the street, the workers get ready to plant a giant cement pole, four times the diameter of the one holding up the electrical wires. Woe is me. We'll just live with it, at least for a while. I have to laugh. There are three of them, two with shovels and one with the little backhoe, one that digs away at the hole they need to dig. Then they install a huge concrete cube, and the concrete pole fits into that. But they have not gauged correctly. So when they lift the pole with a hoist, it doesn't clear the present electrical wires. Didn't they realize it was in the way? So now they have to lower it and move it a foot up the hill before putting it back in its concrete support.

We've taken a short trip to Deruta, to pick up the little potting wheel I need to practice with, and a few paints. Across the street from the shop are unpainted plates, and we pick up a few. Six of them of various sizes cost around €6 for the whole bunch. This is very exciting. So I'll be practicing, practicing, mixing the granules of paint color with a little water and painting leaves and curves and lines on paper, and then on a plate, before my lesson next Monday morning.

In the meantime, we need to cut and rework the wooden shelves for the serra and also to stain them. I offer to stain them and help Roy cut them. We won't put them together until the serra is built, not sure of the actual dimensions once Stefano takes a jack hammer to the floor.

We are also trying to bury the castagno poles in the ground for the pergola near the big olive tree, and Roy paints the bottoms of them first with a kind of black asphalt. He has trouble getting them in the ground, so calls Stefano and will borrow a tool from him tomorrow. Stefano does not know yet if he'll work here tomorrow. He'll need electricity, and ENEL may be here moving the electricity to the new pole.

I'd like to have an open house this Sunday, during the festa, to let the people of the village meet the scarecrows (Gina, Lulu and Vito), but there is so much to do that I think we'll run out of steam before Sunday arrives. We'll decide at the last minute. We still don't know if there will be a festa, or what the schedule of events will be, other than the church services. Roy will be on the altar with one other confraternity member and Don Luca on Thursday evening.

The giant viburnum plants flanking the front door have gone into some kind of shock. Last week they blossomed a profusion of white flowers, but today the white flowers have turned brown, as though the plant is drying up. Roy tells me he has watered the plants twice this week. Vibernum needs thirsty deep watering, so he'll water deeply again tonight. I get out the hedge clippers and clip away at whatever dried buds I cant take off by hand.

I love these bushes, but now they are looking a little bare. We'll feed them and hopefully put them on a better watering schedule. And so it goes in the garden. All of a sudden the master plan has a snag. The good news is that the Polka rose and the four Paul Lede roses are showing more blossoms than they ever have before. This weekend everything should be aglow with color. Speriamo.

We're busy with projects, so don't notice Sofi busy in the lavender garden. She is so busy that she decimates an entire lavender plant. I throw up my hands and come in to sit down and write; I am so disgusted. But it is only a plant. I leave her downstairs to howl, which she does, until she gets past the kiddie gate on the stairs and rushes up to lie next to me.

We can buy another plant. There's no use getting upset with her. I take her down to show her what she did, and then see that half of one of the fava plants lies on the ground. So Roy finds a short bamboo pole and we stake it up. I hate treating Sofi like a child, but she has taken this quest to find Larry Lizard a step too far.

All evening she lays quietly between us, not wanting to make a move. But when we take her upstairs, we hear drums outside, and wonder if any of us will sleep tonight. We close one window, and then another. Boom-boom-boom-BOOM. Boom-boom-boom-BOOM. Ra-ta-ta-TAT. There must be a procession this weekend other than in our village. In Mugnano, there are no drums in our procession. The procession is a religious one. These drums signify that medieval drummers are practicing somewhere in the valley. Dorme bene!

May 4
The air is heavy this morning. The sky acts as though it has a headache, grey and oppressive with no usual cacophony of birds chirping about. There is not much change all day. But the wind picks up, and it is not too warm. So it's a pretty good day to work in the garden. The suspected rain never appears.

An ENEL crew arrives to work across the street, and power is turned off just before 9AM. Stefano forgets to bring the tool Roy wants to borrow to dig the post-holes, but he'll bring it later. He checks the greenhouse wall, and it is ready for the next step. Hopefully, tomorrow they'll work here, if the power is turned back on. It is due to be turned off tomorrow, too.

Felice arrives again, and weeds a little more. Soon he can come just to sit. We have a conversation about the peach tree. The blight on the leaves arrives when there is wind and fog. A few of the leaves have the blight, but he tells me not to worry. The fuzzy little peaches continue to grow, day by day. If they survive until July, we will surely be transported to heaven with its juicy fruit.

I tell him what I have read about this week concerning this phase of the moon: During the last phase of the moon, do not plant. But weed and clean up. Any weeds you pull in this last phase of the moon will not return. He looks at me and shakes his head, as if I have taught him something new. I think this is amazing; to think that I have anything to teach this old soul about the garden. Now if the weeds don't come back, I will surely gain tremendous respect. Magari! (If only this were so.)

Before I know it, it's time to drive to Giusy for a pedicure. When we return for pranzo, we are nervous that we will have two poles facing us across the street. So when the crew returns a few hours later, Roy walks down toward them, telling them he is worried about the second pole. They tell him it will be taken down tomorrow.

I put a pot of sliced potatoes on the gas-lit stove, to make a warm potato salad to have with the panini, and while it cooks take out my paper and paints and start to practice. I am loving it!

All the staining is done on the shelves for the serra, but we cannot put them together until we know how tall the back wall will be. It depends on how much jack-hammering Stefano will do.

In the meantime, Roy has Stefano's digging tool, but it is a muratore tool, and gets all mucked up with earth when Roy tries it to dig the post-holes for the castagno. So he drives to Orsolini and comes back with an inexpensive augur to dig the post holes by hand. He tells me that Mario has the right tool, and when he comes on Friday to weed wack, Roy can have him dig the post-holes then.

So Roy drives to Giove to the hardware store, only to find that the bamboo grids for the top of the pergola did not arrive today. They tell him to try them next week. Groan. I lapse back into my American thinking: "That's not good enough!" and then laugh at myself. Why not? There are so many things to do that if it is ready next Wednesday, so be it. We probably won't be ready to have our open garden on Sunday, anyway.

Sofi is corralled in the front terrace when I am there. But she stays by the front door all morning long, as if looking up at a lizard behind one of the Viburnum bushes that I clipped last night. It takes until early afternoon to realize that there is a lizard there on the wall, and it has probably been impaled on one of the tips of the stiff branches of the Viburnum after yesterday's clipping.

I shake the plant, "Larry" falls down and bam! Sofi pounces on him. So I scream and Roy comes running. "Get Sofia!" he orders me. "Via! Via!" he tells her. I run up to her and pick her up. She does not know what to think. Roy returns with a metal spoon and throws the poor creature over the front wall. And then Sofi sees its tail, lying amid the Vibernum clippings like a lost earring. Roy disposes of that, too.

"Sofi, you'll get a notch on your collar! Now she smells the victory of the kill." He looks down at her.

"She didn't kill Larry. He was still alive!" I respond, protecting the little dog. When she looks at the remnant of it's tail, it ceases to have any delight. I think she loves the movement of the little creatures, and has no interest in hurting them.

Roy has given up on Stefano's tool, and continues around and around with his new apple green manual gyrating augur. It gets him nowhere, so he uses Stefano's tool to bore through some tufa in order to run the electrical and water pipes to the serra. He's quite an industrious guy, and like his father, just can't stop puttering around. There is always something to do. He has a summer garden hat that he likes and it is fun. We'll be sure to post a picture of him soon.

We don't know what's up with the festa this weekend, so take Sofi and walk up to the borgo. Yes, there will be a festa, starting on Thursday night with the Trideo, or preparation of San Liberato for the festivities during the following three days. Roy will participate in this mass.

Wherever we go, adults and children call out, "Sofi! Sofi!" She runs up to some, sniffs the toes of some, and ignores still others. When we pass by Rosina and Federico, near Giustino's, Federico shies away, afraid of Sofi, but when she sniffs at Rosina's open-toed shoes, he laughs out loud. Rosina bristles and arches her back like Nanda's cat. Sofi runs on. The other children yell for her loudly. Roy puts her in our wicker basket, and she sits there, compliantly. Livio asks us if we have fungi but no, we have a better treasure.

A little girl in a spangled t-shirt and tiny pig-tails, no older than three, wants to run to Sofi. But her mother keeps her away. Fa niente. There is so much commotion and now Eduardo and Cristian are screeching her name, rushing to pet her. Roy lets her out of the basket and she runs around and around with them, mostly trying to hide behind me. And then it is time to move on. Carla comes up to me and asks me if I'll buy a lottery ticket for this weekend's festa, and I tell her to talk with Roy, a k a moneybags. He buys €5 worth, hoping we won't win anything.

We walk to Lore and Alberto's and they are not there. Their newly-restored house looks really impressive, and we can see a kitchen table through a glass door, with legs shaped like a lyre, made out of castagno (chestnut). A blue and gold damask cloth covers part of it, and a wall light, known as an appliquˇ, sits on the corner of the table, waiting for Silvano Spaccese to come to install it. Lore has the knack for lighting in these Italian homes. Unfortunately, many Italians do not, preferring strong overhead lights that light up the table, "so that you can see what you are eating."

We call Tia and apologise but we cannot attend her dinner on Saturday. This is the village's festa, and surely we must be home for that. She understands, and we speak about our mutual garden woes.

On the way home, we pass Leondina and Italo's and she stands at the door like the Statue of Liberty and tells us to sit with her on the bench. "Why won't we come in for caffe?" We tell her again and again that we don't drink coffee after noon. So I agree to come there tomorrow morning for coffee. I have missed not seeing her.

And now that her son, Ivo, and his wife and son are here for a week, she is happy beyond words. Perhaps this weekend we will see the changes to his house, the building at the corner of the central square, where the former oldest woman in Mugnano, sat on her balcony, hunched over and smiling, watching the goings on beneath her.

As soon as we arrive home, Lore walks down the street toward us, waving her arms. They have just returned and yes, they'll come in for a glass of spumante. "Ad ogni modo" is one of Lore's favorite expressions. It means, "anyway..."

They fill us in on the latest happenings with their new construction. We hope to see what has been taking place there soon. Lore tells us if Spaccese finishes her appliquˇs (sconces) tomorrow, she will call us so we can come for a visit.

We go to bed early, because Roy will drive to Soriano early tomorrow morning for a blood test, and return in time for Stefano to arrive and perhaps even do some work. But the power will be turned off, so we don't expect much until late in the afternoon. For me, I'll walk down the street to Leondina's for caffe, then return to practice my ceramics.

Roy has called Mario to ask him to bring his machine to bore the holes for the castagno poles on Friday morning when he does the weed-wacking for us. So perhaps we'll have the braces for the pergola finished, then wait, wait for the bamboo crosspieces for the top. Then we'll slide the Madame Alfred Carriere roses over the top and our pergola will be in place.

We have another project. It is time to refinish all the benches in the garden. So while we wait, we have many things to do.

May 5
Like that "lucky old sun, 'got nothing to do..." I just "roll around heaven all day".

Some days it feels like that. Sure there are plenty of things to do. But no "have to's". We are a resourceful couple, and although we can just sit around all day, don't take the time to just sit and read. Roy does take a little time to look over the wonderful little book we purchased last Sunday at Ninfa. He shares the information with me while I'm finishing making a pasta sauce with our heirloom tomatoes, bottled last summer.

Earlier, before 9 A M, the crew arrives to work on the power poles across the street, shutting the power off before we're able to take out any tools. Pia arrives, too, waiting for a truckful of tufa bricks. Roy walks over to see her and she shows him that the room she has built is much larger than he thought. He takes Sofi and I over later and she shows us the plans.

We like Pia a lot. She has good taste, and the work will be well done. Because her brother is a vigili urbano (local policeman) and her father was a carabinieri, she understands how things work. When she wanted to get a permit for building, she gave up on Stefanini in the Commune, who stands with his arms folded and has the word, "NO!" down pat. Instead, she applied to the Region of Lazio, and was able to obtain the permits she needed.

We have a long talk about the ENEL problem with the ugly poles. Tomorrow, she tells us that a man high up in ENEL will come to see her, and she will talk to him about burying the lines. We are hoping that she can work some magic. In the meantime, we see that one of the poles that we wanted buried has been buried. Good.

But the pole right in front of us will be replaced with even a bigger pole. Bad. But the three or four power lines are reduced to one thicker one. For now, things are better and worse. But she does confirm that by law they have to bury the poles. The problem is that the local Commune can't afford to. We'll follow her lead.

We invite her up to see the garden, and this is the first time she has come for a visit. It is good to get to know her, and for her to know us. We look forward to having her as a neighbor.

After the power is restored and the old pole is taken away at mid afternoon, Roy calls Stefano, who promises to be here tomorrow morning to start the work on the serra. And Mario will be here at 7AM to weed-whack and bore the holes for the castagno poles. I keep Sofi on a short tether this afternoon, making sure she does not get into trouble. And I clip many of the round and oval boxwood and the round santolina and the boxwood hedges while she looks for Larry under every bush.

Each day I take a walk around every single rose bush. I look for little animali, curled leaves, black spot. If there is a sign of animali, I spray our biologic spray. I remove leaves with black spot or curl, one by one. And this process pays off. I count almost fifty buds on the triple rose arches alone. The Paul Lede roses on those arches are about my most favorite, and if it does not rain hard, we will have an explosion of color next week.

We receive emails from several photo and copy editors of the S F Chronicle, and the excitement builds about the story. I have no idea what the final shape of the piece will be, but feel as if I'm getting ready for a dancing recital, and the editors are working on the fittings of my costume. The steps are rehearsed, and I'm hoping they won't be changed substantially.

Roy asks me if I am stressed with all the projects I am undertaking. Is it strange that I am not? I love them all. I am sad that I have not made the time to practice the violin. For the present, ceramics homework, planting seeds and repotting plants, getting fabric ready to sew for curtains for the serra, staining shelves for the serra, writing the journal, working with the editors of the S F Chronicle on next week's piece, documenting the garden with photographs, writing a piece for a writing competition with a May 15th deadline, cooking, doing laundry, clipping boxwood and santolina, getting clothes ready for summer, all fill up my days.

And of course there is time for walks with Sofi and Roy. My days are about 16 hours long or short, depending how you look at them. Roy's days are somewhat longer, because he likes to stay up and watch T V, while I go to bed and read. He has many projects of his own: cutting wood, using his many tools, reworking the irrigation system. building things, taking things down, building them up again...And of course there are the countless little jobs I find for him to help me with. He also is the one to drive off to do errands. He loves to drive. Sofi and I like to stay at home as much as we can. We all really do have to start to rest during the afternoons.

Just before 6pm tonight, Roy and I walk up to mass, and I wait while the women finish the rosary. Roy takes the bag with his confraternity cloak into the sacristy. Don Luca arrives. The mass begins. Again, there is a bust of San Liberato at the altar. He is black. There is the tall statue of San Liberato on the moveable stand that is paraded around the village this weekend. He is white. Maybe this year we will figure out whether our patron saint is black or white. Does it matter? Not really, but I'd like us to be consistent. If he is black, shouldn't we be modifying our main statue? The mystery continues.

I keep standing up to look out first the front and then the side bedroom windows. The sky changes minute-by-minute. Shooting across the horizon is a thick stripe of smoggy grey. Above that, a dark grey delineation, one that rapidly changes to purple and then pink and then grey-white and then dark purple and then pink. The sky is a parfait. As the minutes pass, the purples change to pink and then a pinkish-flame. All of a sudden the brightness disappears, and night is upon us. The rain passed us by, but I see flashes of lightning near Orte and Penna. I hope the next few days are clear here in little Mugnano.

Below two young women walk up Via Mameli, and we all comment on the changing sky. Up above us, Rosina stands on her balcony and notices it, too. We don't know what she is saying but the sky is remarkable.

Inside, I slice freshly cut grain bread, still warm from the oven. I kneaded this bread by hand today, because we had no power. Not bad, I think. It is light and airy, with texture and crunchiness. Just fine to make crostini with rubbed fresh garlic and salt and Diego's fine olive oil poured over the top through a thin glass pourer.

Today the photos were resent to the Chronicle. Several people have been involved in putting this story to bed so far. Kim is the latest, who probably manages the photos. They're using four of the photos, and although they did not use any of the really great close-ups of the roses, their choices make sense.

Roy tells me that today is 5-5-5...The fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year of 2000. Will it be a day to remember? So far, it is the first day of the Festa di San Liberato, our patron saint. Roy is chosen to stand at the altar with Don Luca, along with Gianfranco. They are book ends, both at the same height with the same shaped grey heads of hair. Don Luca stands in the middle, his black hair parted today in the middle, with curls on either side. I don't think he pays much attention to his hair. He pays a great deal of attention to the mass. Don't even think of not doing your best job when he is around.

He speaks of Simone. It is difficult not to. We notice the space where the tree should stand, and it's empty spot is a silent memorial to that young man. The Italians have a great reverence for the dead, and this young man will not be forgotten.

May 6
We think the weather will be great, and can't wait to get out of bed. Mario arrives at 7AM to weed-whack and also to dig for the castagno poles to hold up the pergola. It's still a little wet. There was a little rain last night, but not enough to keep Mario from working. He and Roy dig for the poles, and he does it by hand. Roy thought he'd need a machine. Mario tells me he has arms of steel "bracci di ferro" and he's not kidding.

Fabrizio arrives to work on hooking up the water to the serra, rerouting a water line and fixing a bathroom problem. Later, Enzo arrives with a man we purchased our water heater from and they reset it. Our hot water does not turn on all the time, and we have to walk outside and reset it often. Now we hope it's fixed.

Luca arrives to dig a trench for the water and electrical lines, and also to carve out some of the tufa flooring for the serra, but leaves before pranzo and no, Stefano cannot work until Monday. So there will be no serra for the festa.

No matter, Roy is intent on finishing the pergola, and we spend most of the afternoon on it, deciding to put a bamboo cover over it, and driving to Obi to pick it up. It is what Michelle would call "cheap and cheerful", but we know it's also characteristic.

Pia did not arrive today, but when Mario was here, he and Roy walked across the street and cut the dead branches off the tree on the border of Pia's land. Felice gave us permission to do this. He knows the couple who owns the land where the tree is planted. They never come back to Mugnano anymore. I miss not saying hello to them when they used to come to feed their chickens. Like Felice and Marsiglia, their chickens have become pranzo.

May 7
A crack of fireworks explodes at 8AM, but it is not from Mugnano. Chia has its festa this weekend, too. But everyone in the village, including all the dogs hiding under the beds, know that something is happening.

We're on a countdown. The garden looks great, and although we have many things to finish, I want to open the garden so that friends can meet Gina and Lulu and Vito tomorrow afternoon. We have to finish cleaning up around the garden and also place our friends in their respective spots: Gina leaning Carmen style against an assortment of stacked tufa bricks near the apple tree, Vito sitting on a log holding an old walking stick and Lulu sitting on the roof of a little building near the peach tree with one knee bent, her foot leaning against an old wooden ladder. The weather has cleared, today is gorgeous with a little wind, and if tomorrow is the same, it will be a perfect unveiling of our new "ospiti" (guests).

Roy is really getting into the pergola project. I stand there helping him, thinking we are on the set for Stealing Beauty, the Bertolucci film we saw several years ago. The finished pergola will be caracteristico and rustico, but non troppo. Right now, we measure and cut the bamboo shades that fit over the top, and for the second time we've calculated incorrectly. So Roy drives to OBI again for another shade. Right now, the Madame Alfred Carriere roses flop over the sides like buxom women hanging over a balcony, waiting for their new lovers.

Earlier today we picked up a plant for Luigina and visited her just before pranzo. She is happy to be home from the hospital. Just as we were leaving earlier in the morning, her front staircase was full of neighbors, welcoming her home. Mugnano was not the same without this wonderful woman walking down the road and waving.

Her flowers are always the most prolific, and Alberto Cozzi's wife, Antonella, made sure that plenty of red geraniums filled the planter boxes at the top of the steps. What a wonderful surprise this must have been for Luigina. She tells us that her daughter, Paola, was behind it. Brava, Paola. Brava, Antonella.

Mass is at 6PM, but Roy really wants to finish the pergola, so I work on the roses on the front path while he is out and also make a chocolate cake for tomorrow afternoon. Mass will not be until 11AM tomorrow, so I have time to get up and make a loaf of ciabatta after letting it rise twice, and also it's probably a good idea to make another cake. We don't know how many people will stop by, but we keep running into friends and asking them.

When we arrive at church just before mass, there is a stage set up on the beautiful new square. Shiny black stanchions are placed at the entrance to the square. We learn that cars and trucks can only come in for deliveries, and there will be no parking. How wonderful. We are sure Lore and Alberto are not pleased, but the village looks wonderful.

The sounds coming from the stage are four people tuning up. What's that I hear? The sound of Django Rinehart? I see a young man playing a really unusual electric violin! Next to him are two guitarists, and on the far right is a base player. All four instruments are electric. The sound is right out of the 1930's. Stefan Grapelli and Django Rinehart, right here in Mugnano! Roy walks into church and I walk over to the stage, asking the young men, "Come Django?" (like Django?)

"Si!" I try not to swoon, and hug myself I am so thrilled to hear them in our own little village, the sounds reverberating off the ancient stone walls. In a few minutes the doors are closed, and I have trouble concentrating on the mass. Don Luca tells us, "It's impossible to teach someone how to love." I cannot figure out much else of his homily, but think about the subject just the same.

After mass, the musicians start up again, and Roy and Alberto walk to Alberto and Lore's house around the corner for four chairs. We sit in front of the church, just enthralled by the music. During the concert, they play a song for "Signora, who loves Django music", and it is All of Me. I can't say that that is my favorite piece of music, but with a Django interpretation, it sounds wonderful. The violinist plays his instrument hard, pushing the highest notes, shaking me to my bones. Oh, if I could only hold those notes, could only stop time for at least a little while. I feel misty. They remember and play a song for me. How kind.

They continue to play for over an hour, with enthusiastic response from their little audience. When they finish, we purchase a CD and are able to thank the musicians, who are from Grosetto. The porchetta truck near the Caduti Monument is passing out free porchetta panini in rosetta rolls, and we walk down for ours and then take them home. Sofi is happy to see us, but we think she is happier at home in the garden than going out with us on our trips these days. She seems a little lonely when we return, but happy to see us nonetheless.

We return to the village an hour later, leaving Sofi in our bedroom. Without realizing it, we find out that there will be fireworks tonight, after the next band. Sofi will probably hide under the bed. I'm torn, wanting to stay with our friends but also worried about Sofi. We stay for half of the fireworks, after a loud set from a different band, playing totally Credence Clearwater music.

Lore and Alberto sit politely nearby the stage. We are on the farthest side of the square, the music very loud. I ask myself, "Did we move from California to hear THIS?" And then the last song is played and I hear myself singing, "I wanna know. Have you ever seeeen rain? I wanna know. Have you ever seeeeeen rain?..."

The fireworks begin, and we are standing by the fence behind the Caduti Monument. This is a good vantage point, but I lose concentration after a few minutes and think we should be home. So we walk home, see Luigina standing by the bus stop watching the fireworks and give her a hug. Then we finish our walk home and watch the fireworks from the very best vantage point, our front terrace. After they finish, there is applause up above us, and Roy turns and responds, "Grazie."

Gianfranco, from above, leans from his balcony and tells Roy, "Prego." (You're welcome.)

Sofi comes out from under the bed, gives us big hugs, and we settle down for a few hours before the fireworks begin early tomorrow morning to announce San Liberato's big day.

May 8
Today is the most important day of the festa of our patron saint, San Liberato, and ceremonies begin promptly at 8AM. Fireworks sounding like bombs explode in the valley below our house. Sofi is really tired of all these fireworks, and again finds solace under the bed.

We've been up for at least an hour, working on the garden and getting it ready to unveil the spaventapasseri (scarecrows), Gina, Lulu and Vito. I spend almost an hour on the west property, raking the weed-wacked grass, while attempting to finish another chocolate torta and also start a loaf of ciabatta. While the ciabatta rises and the cake bakes, I move from project to project. Initially, we thought we could not be ready to invite people today. But the garden looks great and although the serra (greenhouse) won't be ready till next week, I announce to Roy that I think we should do it today.

The Polymartium Band begins their tuneup and march right under our windows at 9:30, meandering up and down every tiny street of the village. Just before 11AM we walk up to the centro storico. Roy has his Confraternity costume folded in a bag, and I have the camera. Sofi stays at home and guards the front terrace.

As we reach the newly paved piazza, we see that new black curved stanchions have been installed with a chain. That means that cars will only be allowed for quick deliveries. Bravi! There are less than 80 of us who live here full time, but on festa days that number rises substantially. We know because there is little water pressure when we want to take showers on festa days. That's another reason to get up early today!

We greet many friends and neighbors, and also are pleased that the pews of the little church, the carpet and altar have been transported outside. The bier of San Liberato that is carried in the procession stands off to one side, next to the Orsini Palazzo. And the bust of another San Liberato, a black skinned one, stands in front of the altar. I will try to make some sense of who is the real San Liberato later when we speak with Tiziano.

While Roy is inside getting dressed, I stand with Rosita and Elena. Rosita tells me that she asked the chair of A C, Azione Cattolica, in Bomarzo if I can be admitted. The woman was pleased, but suggested I wait for two months. Otherwise I'd have to pay annual dues for an entire year, owing another annual payment in July. This group is the woman's counterpart of the Confraternity, but our only "costume" is a blue bandanna to be worn around our necks on festa days with gold letters emblazed on them. "A. C."

My eyes open in fear. What will I ever talk about? And then I tell them, "Couraggio, Evanne. Couraggio!" They nod their heads and we all laugh. I already have an agenda. Will they be sorry they invited me? I want to know why the San Liberato we carry around is white, while our patron saint is from Africa, and is really black.

Rosita tells me something I'm not sure I understand. It has something to do with Nostradamus and having a black heart. Huh? Is that her explanation for the white skinned statue? I tell them that I think the present pope was not the best choice, and that I had hoped that the Cardinal from Nigeria was chosen. They tell me to wait a little bit, assured that Pope Benedict XVI will not be a long-term pope. I think I've stirred up enough for one day, so quietly take my place in the pew next to Lore. Alberto stands somewhere in the back.

Don Ciro is here, and Don Luca lets him preside. We walked up the last few steps to the piazza with him earlier this morning, and he tells us that he has been reassigned to Puglia, where he has family. We welcome him back.

While the mass proceeds, the Coro from Bomarzo sings the Hallelujah's. A great deal of commotion continues behind us, with old Gino on the bench in front of Ernesta's store egging people on. Don Luca sends Mauro back to quiet them, but Mauro seems to disappear in the crowd.

The consecration of the mass begins, and Don Luca is clearly beside himself. He stops the mass, speaking loudly into the mic on the altar. "Will all those people not taking part in the mass either be silent or leave the piazza for the remainder of the mass?" Later Roy tells me he is shocked that Don Luca would interrupt the consecration portion of the service.

Italians are a rowdy and very impolite bunch. Whenever there is a concert, you will find Italians who want to talk instead. These are the same Italians who don't understand why it is normal to queue up. Instead, streams of people converge at the last moment, pushing their way in and only backing off if someone clearly tells them he was there first. It is like Italian driving. Italian drivers only look from one headlight to the other. They drive as if they own the road. It is amazing how three marked lanes of traffic can hold five or six lines of cars.

The procession follows at the end of the mass. I follow behind Lore, who follows behind Rosita. Somehow two lines form as the procession winds its way down the street. I warn her that I will only walk as far as our house. I have so much more to do at home. Roy carries the San Liberato flag. He must feel like a house trailer. The flag in the strong wind today almost carries him aloft.

I leave the line, take a photo or two, and encounter Francesco, in uniform, standing by our parcheggio, making sure there is no traffic moving into the village while the procession continues.

Roy arrives home after not too long. We rush through a pasta pranzo, which is quite good, actually, and then rush out to the garden, setting up Gina and then Vito and then Lulu. Everything looks great, and we're expecting a few friends to arrive before the next portion of the festa begins at 4:30.

There is a small crowd of about a dozen. Others we have invited are working the tables at the wine tasting, so are setting up while we party, with glasses of spumante and pieces of chocolate cake. Then it is time to join the rest of Mugnano at the wine tasting, and for this we bring Sofi. Though wine tasting seems like a very California thing to do, the wines are local from the area, and we actually enjoy the experience, liking a wine from Fallesco the best, although it's high price, €33, will scare most Italians off.

We walk home, tired, and I'm starting a head cold. So end the night early.

May 9
Stefano will work here after pranzo, so Roy can drive me to my ceramics lesson.

He an Luca arrive and spend three hours with the jack hammer, carving out the tufa to fit the steel pieces, and fitting them in place. There is a section missing, and Stefano recommends we buy a 3cm by 2cm rod and insert it. Then everything will be fine. Because a susbstantial cut was taken from the tufa, the farthest polycarbonato panel will have to be reccut. Roy drives off at 6PM and returns at 8, with the new piece. Stefano and Luca will return tomorrow to continue.

In the meantime, Elena and Lydia come by to meet Gina and Vito and Lulu, and also to see the garden. After they leave, Augusta and Leondina and another woman come, and I invite them up. Giuseppa walks down the street and I see her, so invite her in. They all laugh at the sight of the three characters in the garden. I tell them that the birds are not afraid of them, but the people are.

My cold proceeds with gusto, and I can barely keep my eyes open while Roy and Stefano and Luca work away at the serra. I walk inside it, and there is more room than I thought. Stefano does not want to clean up the cement on the back tufa wall, telling us that the more cement, the more stable the wall will be. So I will probably cover the entire back wall in ceramics. Why not? It will be more attractive, and since the serra will also be my ceramics studio, the place is perfect for it.

May 10
Rain threatens and the air is so damp that we're wearing sweaters. I have a hum dinger of a cold and spend most of the day in bed. In the afternoon, I ask Roy if he'll bring in our three pals, because it should rain for the next several days. They can take the rain, but I'm not ready to subject them to it just yet.

Stefano and Luca are here for the morning, and do a lot of detail work on the serra. The top panel that is cemented into the tufa wall is attached, and more of the tufa floor is jack hammered away. They have more work to do, but we don't know when they will return. In the meantime, we can move forward with making the shades and ordering the countertop, as well as putting together the back wooden shelves.

I take a look around, loving all the roses in bloom or on the verge of blooming. A heavy rain for the next few days will change all that. Regardless, it's the most beautiful time of year to be here.

The day dawns like any other, but by the end of the day our ears should be ringing. At around 2PM I look online and see my garden story in print. Well, a garden story that I get credit for is in print, edited to a fare-thee-well, but in print, just the same. The photos look small, but we're pleased. We look forward to seeing the real thing next Monday when Carol and Chuck Podesta arrive for pranzo. We hear the photos are quite large.

I can hardly get out of bed. My cold is worse, and I feel as if I've been hit by a hammer. Roy does not feel much better, but his cold is one week old. Sofi lays by the bed in her little basket, just watching. But the sky is blue and no rain is in sight, so I open the window wide to listen to the birds sing. Roy was not happy to have to bring in the spaventapasseri from the garden yesterday, but they'll go back out this weekend, especially if it's sunny. Thank you, dear Roy.

At 3PM, the emails start coming. Peggy Murphy's arrives first. I'm sure she sat by the front door waiting for the "thwack!" of the paper hitting her front step. I can hear her yelling over here as she picks it up and opens to the story. What has been the most fun, are the emails from old friends we did not expect to hear from.

Late in the day I drag myself out of bed, and with Sofi by my side, we take a walk in the garden. The bugs have behaved, and the roses are all so happy...all except for those darn Easy Going Roses.

Here's a picture of a couple of the bearded iris we purchased last year from a special vivaio, starting to bloom. We have never seen such unusual colors before.


Roy picks up a piece of steel to fit into a space in the serra that did not quite meet. And it is the perfect excuse for him to get out his welding machine. Oh, god. That man loves his tools. He is not too happy with welding after all, telling me that there is a black scrim that won't let him see what he is welding very well. He welds and welds, and then takes out his grinder and grinds the edges away. Sofi and I keep our distance.

We are all in bed early, hoping to shake this influenza before it shakes us.

May 12
The emails just keep coming and it 's so much fun to read them all. People we know, people we don't know. People we don't know are interested in purchasing property in Central Italy and perhaps we can help them. People we know are probably chuckling over their Starbucks coffee, some of them remembering the areas I've described.

We get up and leave the house early, driving to Orvieto to try out a new insurance person, so that we can obtain quotes for the renewals of our house and car insurance. Is it really possible that I understand almost everything the young man is telling us? He miscalculates the square meters of our house, and gives us a premium that makes me laugh out loud. He looks up in shock, and then we all laugh as he comes back with a low number. That's more like it.

Before, we were insured and insured and insured again. Insurance is our most expensive cost, and we're thinking the Italian way now. Italians believe that you should only have insurance when you're going to have a claim. Otherwise, why have any? They underinsure for everything. Perhaps that is because insurance companies are terrible at paying claims.

We get quotes for the car insurance, too, and then will visit Alessandro, our house insurance person, to give him a chance to requote. No longer will we have kasko, which is 100% insurance on the car. They tell us it will insure us if we fall asleep and hit a tree while we're driving. We'll just be sure to keep each other awake and save a lot of money.

We receive an email from someone asking about Diego's lovely house outside Orvieto, and call him to make sure it is still on the market. It is, so we drive up there to take new photos. We are thrilled to see the garden around the main house covered with exquisite roses, in full bloom.

We are surprised to see the little house next door taking shape. Really, these two houses should be purchased together, as a kind of compound. Someone could live in one and rent out the other. The little house also has a very old cave as part of its construction. There are 100 cypress trees framing the long drive up the hill, and the views are, in a word, heavenly, from that high vantage point.

When we return home, we see that the "leak" in the road continues, right across from our driveway. It appears that the utility pole has sunk a little, and there must be a water leak right near it. Roy calls Enzo, and can't figure out what he is saying, so waits outside for Francesco to drive home for pranzo. When he drives by, Roy stops him like a traffic cop and Francesco gets out, scratches his chin with his hand and drives off. Later, Enzo stops by, but we still don't know what's up with the leak. We do know that it has nothing to do with us.

We drag through the rest of the day, with Roy continuing to work on the serra. I have little or no energy, but am able to repot some tomato seedlings. They may be ready to be planted into the ground in a couple of weeks. Next week, once the serra is really finished, we will take them down and "harden them off".

"Hardening off" a tomato plant is getting it ready to be planted outdoors. First, it must have at least three good sets of leaves. Then, the week before you're going to plant it outside, you take the plants out each day for a little longer time each day. Each night, they must be brought back inside. By next week, the serra and the light for it will be installed, and we can keep them in the serra and harden them off from there. These are the heirloom tomato seeds from California. We don't have all that many heirloom plants this year, perhaps less than 20, but we have sixteen or so Italian tomato plants, so we'll have plenty of tomatoes, anyway.

Stefano and Luca come by for a few minutes, and will return early tomorrow morning, I hope to finish their job. They add some brown colored cement, and I can't figure out why, but I'm hoping it will dry a lighter color.

While I'm finishing repotting tomatoes, I see Candida at the side gate, and Sofi and I rush over to give her a big hug. I really missed not seeing her at their garden next door. She tells me she is better, and I'm sure she'll be much better, now that she's back in Mugnano. This village takes very good care of its'own.

May 13
With a steamy day ahead of us, Roy gets up early to open the gate for Luca. He works by himself on the serra and on replacing some of the tiles at the top of the front stairs. My influenza has taken its course, speriamo, but Roy is not doing as well.

The garden is another matter. What did we do to produce such heavenly flowers? Just take a look!


Sofi and I check out all the roses, and they show no sign of bugs or curly leaf. That spraying at the beginning of their growing season must have done wonders. Could it be that we have a little "green thumb" after all?

Felice comes by, and tells Roy that the fava beans are just about ready. That's wonderful news. We'll let Carol and Chuck Podesta pick them fresh from the garden to have with pecorino and spumante before pranzo on Monday.

The emails keep coming in regarding the article. On Monday, I have a deadline for a writing competition, my first. Then I'll try the rounds of submitting some stories to magazines. I have never had a rejection letter, and can't really call myself a published writer without a bundle of them to call my own. I'm sure there'll be many.

But it's difficult to take this writing business seriously when looking out the window at the garden.

May 14
We are expecting humid and overcast weather, and perhaps some rain. Let's get on with it! The air is so heavy we move slowly about, like lumbering characters in a Saturday morning cartoon show.

There is a special garden show at Hortus Unicornus, located about half an hour from us. We remember the place well, because it sells peonies and Ulla took us there a few years ago. The owners were not around that day, but the garden was so immaculately groomed and spectacular that we walked around the grounds, hoping someone one would return. No one did, to our dismay.

Today, Alessandra Orsi is there, as well as dear Tiziana from Michellini and only two or three other flower and plant specialists. After greeting Alessandra, we spend some time with Tiziana, who tells us she does not have the plant she suggested to frame our Madonna. It is a rycospernum. We'll have to look around elsewhere and see if we can find one. I suppose we can purchase a couple of jasmine, but the ones we see are looking pretty lifeless these days. How funny. After looking up the word on the internet, rycospernum is just that: jasmine!

The grounds and house are a marvel. The taste of the owners is restored modern, not to our particular taste, but very tasteful. The main structure is an old stone casale, but huge one-way smoke glass panels have been installed, two stories high in some places. The property over looks the calanques, an amazing mini version of America's Grand Canyon.

On the lawn sits a huge square steel square, mounted to the ground at an angle, as though it is getting ready to do a cartwheel. When looking through the square, or cornice, one is able to see a spectacular real life scene of the calanques, with their magnificent garden in the forefront. I imagine that from the house the view through the steel square is perfectly framed.

We have loved teucrium, but never had luck clipping it back to globes. Instead, they have a huge undulating group of them, clipped back like a hedge on their lawn. That is a much better idea. Perhaps the four we have will be moved to the wild area near San Rocco. They also have huge tall specimens of ceanothus. Our little one from Ninfa will take decades to grow like this, but ceanothus is another plant that will thrive in the area near San Rocco. This fall, we will augment both selections, which we are sure will work well together.

On the way to Viterbo, we pass a wonderful panificio in Civitella d'Agliano. They sell World Wildlife Federation bread and flour. So we buy both a loaf of girasole bread and also 2 kilos of flour. Now I'll be able to make the bread myself, and we are excited to try it. The bread is better than delicious.

Once we finish a few errands in nearby Viterbo the rain arrives, but does not remain long enough for it to do anything but get windshields dirty and friz up our hair. Well, my hair. Sofi has been guarding the terrace, and sits sweetly at the gate at home, waiting for us. What are also waiting for us are two €80 parking tickets for the restricted area in Terni. We realized we should not be parking where we did in January, but by then it was too late. Let's hope the tickets stop at 2.

Later the sun returns, and Roy is able to finish all five roof panels of the serra. Tomorrow we'll be able to finish the floor. We've decided to clean it up and use gravel there, which will be great to level the area and also provide drainage, when I need it for the plants. We've also decided not to use a backsplash on the counter, but mount the counter so that it backs onto the steel. That's fine with me. We'll finish that part mid-week.

I'm also committed to finish measuring and sewing the cloth panels that will work as shades when it is too hot. And then we need to install the fluorescent tubes for the seedlings and the narrow back shelves to store little flowers and plants. Hot, cold, sunny, foggy...could a project ever be more complicated? We have the electrical all wired in, the water is ready to go with an easy to reach faucet, and unless the temperature reaches into the 90's I'll be able to work there as a studio.

I have been remiss. This has been a strange week, with three days lost to influenza. My next ceramics lesson is on Wednesday, and I have not been practicing. Domani, domani. I certainly hope I can fit in an hour or two. But the scarecrows need to move back outside again, this time for real. As Iolanda was heard saying of her four young children so long ago, "In and out, in and out. Won't you make up your mind?" This makes me laugh. I wonder if she had any idea that her children would remember that mantra and repeat it to future generations. Gee we miss that wonderful woman. And she'd get a real kick out of Gina and Vito and Lulu. The neighbors surely do.

Pia's workmen work all day, and are able to finish the walls of her little one room weekend house. Both doors have wonderful characteristic arches, and the structure is not high enough for it to cause any distraction for us from a view standpoint.

But the leak in the street continues. Who is paying for all the lost water? A crew will probably show up on Monday, just as we're getting ready to greet Carol and Chuck for pranzo. Francesco, the Vigili Urbani and Pia's brother tells us "Monday, speriamo."

Our health is picking back up and perhaps the worst of the influenza that struck the two of us is past its fury. I look forward to being back out in the garden and the serra, enjoying these beautiful days of mild temperatures.

May 16
Two years ago, at just before 4AM, we were robbed and gassed here as we slept. Our car, cameras and cash were all stolen on that warm dark morning. It seems so long ago. Other than the fact that we were not physically harmed, our lives were temporarily jarred off kilter as if we were a couple of three legged chairs.

Thinking back, a wonderful thing happened at just about that same moment. Our little dog, Sofia, was born, miles away in an allevamento near Lake Bracciano, just north of Rome. Today, as I hold her in my arms and sing "Buon compleanno. little Sofi, buon compleanno a te," she licks my face and wags her tail. She loves to have that little song sung to her, especially when I also play my violin. Perhaps she wags her tail today in thanks that I am NOT also playing my violin. Yes, I am remiss. I really miss not playing my violin. But these are not guilt-ridden days.

Instead, I fill up my days with: writing, baking bread, gardening, growing seeds for plants and flowers, organizing the new greenhouse, learning how to paint ceramics, making scarecrows, sewing things for the house, learning Italian, getting to know the villagers, and spending lots of time with Roy and Sofi. When we can, we take day trips to some of the wonderful and historic towns and villages nearby. Roy is building up the project management business, and I help him whenever he needs it. Right now we're looking for a few new clients.

Today, one of our guests asks, "What do you do all day?" Later, when Roy refers to my violin teacher for some reason, she responds, "You do that, too?" It doesn't seem like so much to me. I don't rush from one thing to the next; instead I really enjoy each task while I'm doing it. Perhaps I don't do any of them all that well.

Chuck Podesta, one of our guests, has me itching to grow beans, the kind that weave around poles and hang down. Yes, I am definitely a "form over function" kind of person, if you know anything about architecture and design. I am such a visual thinker that I can't wait to grow two bean plants, one on each end of the long line of current tomato plants in the lower garden. They'll rise up and up, past the existing bamboo poles that the tomatoes will grow up and out.

Once they'll rise above them, we'll string a taut wire and train the beans around and around the wire. Roy will set the plants up so that I can guide them from the wall up above. A long row of oval boxwood sits on top of the wall, and facing north of that is the lavender garden. So I can lean down at the top of the wall and work my jack and the beanstalk wonders. I love beans. Roy hates them. Or at least he did. But now we are eating fava beans, now that they grow in our garden. Today we sit before pranzo, slitting open the long cases and inside the velvety jewel-box linings pluck out little green jewels before plopping them into our mouths.

Felice taught us how to open those little beans to find even littler, sweeter beans inside. We eat them with very salty pecorino. Today's cheese is not that good, but now we'll have to pick up some excellent pecorino, which we can find almost everywhere. The opening of a bean case of fava beans at the table is a ritual that, with a glass of wine and pieces of pecorino cheese is a simple moment to luxuriate over. Perhaps that is why I enjoy today's pranzo so much.

We like Carol and Chuck Podesta a great deal. Roy so enjoyed playing on Carol's bocce team in San Rafael the year before we moved here. Their children Bobby and Toots are fun, and the six of us sit around an outdoor table overlooking the Tiber Valley as though we do that every day of the year. When they arrive, they bless us with two copies of the S F Chronicle garden story. It is fun to see it in print.

Before pranzo, we take them for a walk into the village. Walking up toward the tower, we encounter my pal, Candida, talking with Giuseppa (Pepe the elder's wife), and an even older woman I can not recognize.

Roy tells me that she is the woman Don Luca spent time with after church yesterday, giving her sincere condolences. And it is now that I realize that she is Simone's grandmother, the woman who cooked pranzo for him every day in Mugnano before she moved last year to Orte. She holds my hand and I introduce myself. She asks me if I know Antonietta, her daughter. And that is how we realize who she is. I look forward to getting to know this sweet woman.

Walking back around the borgo, we are at the front of Giuseppa and Antonio's house, and on the ground we see a piece of the butterfly wing that we saw yesterday outside the church. The piece is not much larger than a business card. It is black and taupe and there is an unmistakeable white eye staring up at us. How eerie.

We walk around most of the borgo and then back home, before feasting on the freshly picked fava beans and cheese. Then it only takes a moment to cook the fresh ravioli from Bagnaia's fresh pasta shop, and serve it with butter and grated lemon zest and fresh sage leaves.

Roy then barbecues the mixed grill of lamb chops, chicken and sausage, to go with platters of zucchini and red roasted peppers in olive oil. After that, we have a green salad with greens from the garden and then coffee and chocolate cake with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. And of course lots of local red wine.

This is a good meal to serve outside, and does not take a lot of work, so we are able to enjoy our friends all afternoon. We look forward to going to visit them in their rental villa in Sinalunga in a few days. Of course, we'll take our bocce set. They'll have a bocce court right on site. It will be good to see Roy play again.

After they leave, we drive to Bruno's but it is closing as we arrive. Bruno takes us in the back way and hands us the box of beans I ask for. He calls Roy "Mister", and we realize it is his kind of nickname. He thinks it's funny. We like Bruno very much.

Back at home, Luigina is standing at Pepe's garage door, talking with him. So Sofi rushes to see her pal, Pepe, and I ask the two of them if they'd like to come to meet Gina and Vito and Lulu. Pepe tells me Serena told him about them, and we all walk to the far garden, to give them a laugh. I must admit I love seeing them there.

On the way back, we all take a look at the serra, and Luigina tells us about the people who built our house, whom she almost remembers. I say almost because Celestino Natale died in 1940 and she tells us she was born in 1944. Pepe tells us it was the "year of steel". Luigina is a strong woman, and she smiles and agrees. I will never forget how kind and thoughtful she was right after learning about our robbery two years ago. I stood at the top of the steps to the parking area, with the gate ajar, just looking out. It was around 9AM. At that time, Roy and Karina were in Bomarzo, filling out a police report. I stood there in a kind of shock.

And before I knew it, this woman who I didn't know well just pushed her way in, barged up the stairs and gave me a big hug. All the way up the stairs, she cried out, "I am so sorry! I am so sorry!" All the villagers we saw those next days acted as though the robbery was their fault. I will never forget them. But I will especially never forget Luigina.

May 15
It's cool this morning, and we're not sure if it's going to rain, so we'll wait awhile before taking Gina and Vito and Lulu outside. It's really time for them to be out for the summer. A bird outside our window teases me, "What are you worried about?" or that is what I think he's saying. Or is he taunting me? Last night a bird churbled on and on like a squeaky jar being screwed and unscrewed. There are so many bird sounds, and I know so little about them. The little brown ones are the ones that make the most noise.

The weather has certainly changed. When it is warmer, people stand outside until the last minute before going in to mass. When we enter the little church, it is empty.

Vincenzo pats me on the shoulder as he walks down the aisle toward the sacristy. He is a very sweet man, and although we don't know him well, would like to. Just before the start of mass I turn around and Marsiglia is walking right over toward me. She tells me that she fell in the plaza, but it was nothing serious. At their ages, everything is serious. But she looks lovely as ever. Felice stands back while we whisper to each other in the aisle like a cardboard statue, he is so stiff. And then he smiles, and I know everything is all right.

After mass, Rosita walks over to me and I can figure out a few words. They're ready to "install" me in the Accion Catolica, so as soon as the list comes out, she'll let me know. I respond, "Coraggio, Evanne!" and she smiles.

Turning around, there is the largest farfalla (butterfly) I have ever seen. It is mostly black, with some mottled taupe and a rim around it like the age rings of old trees. large dots, which appear like eyes, frighten me. The whole thing frightens me. It is ripped at the bottom edge, and looks as though it is hanging on. Tiziano tells me it appears "Someone wants to die". People congregating around Don Luca look, but he is busy giving sincere condolences for a relative of someone who just died. Could the farfalla be the spirit of Simone?

We don't have much energy, but spend the day working on the garden and also cleaning up the house some to get ready for our guests tomorrow. Annie stops by late in the afternoon for a short visit, and we introduce her to Gina, Vito and Lulu. After she leaves, I walk down to clip and groom the roses on the path, and Mario and Serena and Pepe drive to their garage.

Sofi and I walk over and invite them to see Gina and Co. Pepe is busy in his garage, but Serena and Mario walk right up with me and we all have a good laugh. It is difficult not to laugh at those three hanging around in the garden. Now Vito stares right down at people, but Gina has her regular "Carmen" stance with the flower basket, and Lulu...well, Lulu is in a world of her own sitting on the roof of the little outbuilding, one leg hanging over and resting on a door pull.

May 17
An overcast sky turns into a light rain. We start the morning with a meeting with Alessandro, our insurance man who meets us in his Attigliano office. After he goes over our house insurance renewal with us, we give him the preventivo from the agent in Orvieto, and Alessandro's premium comes in lower. He evaluates the other plan in what Lore would call "A proper way", without attacking it, and we agree to stay with him.

Roy turns to me and I tell Alessandro that the way he handled our insurance claim two years ago meant a lot. He showed up at the house soon after the theft with a representative from the insurance company and the man wrote a check out on the spot. It was like a State Farm commercial in action. We are told that Italians use insurance as an opportunity to make money, lying about things that are stolen and adding to the claim. We were conservative, sticking to the actual loss, and they realized we were honest. So took good care of us.

Our car insurance renews next month, and we are hoping that we can return to Alessandro. Right now, we are insured with the company that owns Alfa Romeo. With a new Alfa, they are difficult to compete with. But the car is now two years old.

Here is something to remember, if you are buying auto insurance in Italy. Italians don't insure for collision. Yes, that's right. They insure for liability, but if you are in an accident with your car, the insurance company will pay the damage of the other car, but not yours. We had no idea that was the case when we first came to Italy, and it was lucky that we did not have an accident. Oh, the car was stolen instead. Well, that's another story. But be sure to add extra insurance to cover your car if you are in an accident.

Our auto insurance renews next month. So we'll meet with him again to see what he can do to get us a much better price than we are paying now. Roy tells him, "This is our year to attack our insurance premiums." We pay more for insurance than for any other expense in Italy. The longer we are here, the more knowledgeable we are becoming. And the less money we have to spend. So every dollar counts.

We leave Alessandro and drive to Amelia to see Alice, and when we return the workers repairing the water leak on the road just below us are getting ready to leave for pranzo. What a mess! They found the leak, and patched it up, and now the street in front of our house is patched over with a big black glob of asphalt. At least the spring running down the hill has been contained.

We look down the hill to see a navy beret, dancing on the head of Giovanni, who walks up the hill with his John Wayne walk, lurching side to side, shaking his umbrella at them. He agrees they did "bruto lavoro" on our precious street. "Buon pranzo", anyway. "Altre tanto!" he tells us. The same to you. Nothing in the day is more important than pranzo, and it's just about that time.

Roy brings in poor Lulu. We sat her on the roof of a little building out in the far property, tied to the fence with fishline. The line broke in the rain and wind and she toppled over. So she's rather like Humpty Dumpty, without the broken shell. Now propped up in the chair in the guest bedroom, even the tomato seedlings lean away from her. She is one sorry sight. I'll fix her before the weekend.

Right now, I'm nursing a sore throat, and don't have much energy. Whatever energy I have is directed to my ceramics homework. Why is homework called "competi"? Some times I don't feel competent to press on, but Maria Antonietta is gentle and supportive, so those grotesque curves are coming along. I hope the weather clears before tomorrow. Her studio is damp.

Speaking of studios, Roy clears out the floor of the serra, puts down nursery cloth, and is covering the floor with gravel. He has ordered the glass panels, which will be ready for us to pick up tomorrow morning. By this weekend, I'll be in business, working in the studio to do the ceramics and work on the seedlings. Thanks to Chuck's magic elixer, we should be ready to plant the other pomodori in the next couple of weeks. I think that means that we'll have tomatoes well into October, if the weather holds.

Right now Roy's in Bomarzo, waiting to see Dottoressa, with the gaggle of Bomartian women in her cold waiting room. We hope she can give him something extra to take care of his cold.

May 18
I am really tired of being sick, and spend half of the day in bed with a sore throat and a head cold. Sofi lies nearby, just watching me. Roy drove to see Dottoressa yesterday and she gave him prescriptions both of us, including big vitamin C tablets. He's well enough to finish the polycarbonato panels on the roof, and they look wonderful. He drives to Narni Scalo to pick up the glass panels. When he arrives home he starts the glass windows and before he's through, realizes that two panels have been cut wrong. So he drives back to Narni scalo and returns the incorrect glass, coming back with two panels that are just right. They give him one-edged razors to use after the silicone sealer has hardened.

When I do feel better, the sky clears and we spend a little time outside. There is more rain, but the roses have all survived. The Paul Lede roses refuse to give up. Actually, everything looks good, under the shadow of an arcobaleno (rainbow). Roy is happy because he does not have to water.

May 19
I am one of those wives who does not begrudge her husband the many tools he just has to have. Actually, Roy gets his way because he tells me that each tool will be useful for a project we'll have coming up. And today, he uses a lot of the tools he has picked up over the years just for days like today. I think I'm winning because he does not turn me down when I have a new project for him to work on.

He has a skill saw, made by Makita, which has a tiny blade, and can cut into just about anything. I ask him, "Whom do you think of when you use this saw?" He answers, "Chuck Berg." Was it almost fifteen years ago that Chuck picked out that tool as a gift from the company to Roy for his fiftieth birthday? Or was it his 30th year with the company? Some significant year, I recall. I think it is one of the best gifts Roy has ever received. He uses it all the time, especially to cut difficult angles of wood. Today, he's cutting angle supports for the shelves in the serra.

But first he finishes installing all the glass panels...eight of them.

I'm determined that today is the last day the pomodori and flower seedlings will spend in the guest bedroom window. So while he's finishing the windows, I take the pots down one by one and stand them at the edge of the orto garden above the parcheggio. I use some of Chuck Podesta's magic elixer to water them. Twenty of them look as though they'll survive.

I am not sure about the other five. Chuck promises they'll come to life any day now, so we'll see. There is a full moon next week, so we'll plant at least a dozen of the pomodori in the upper planting garden in a few days. The other seedlings will stay in the serra for another month. So we'll have tomatoes well into October. That's if I don't destroy the seedlings before we get them into the ground.

There is plenty of sun today, and it is quite hot and humid in the serra. It is too hot in there for the plants. Yikes. I really have to finish the shade for the top part of the serra today or tomorrow. But Roy and I can't agree on whether we should have one shade or two shades or three shades or five shades...or ten shades.

There are five window panels at the front, facing South. I'd like Roman shades, but want to find a way to construct them that will not be a real production. The longer I spend trying to convince him, the worse things get. I walk upstairs to start to pin up one big shade to try. Do you remember the Bobby Short song, "Let's join the ladies and make one great big lady!"

I do some research on the internet, and realize we'll need one big wooden support at the top. The more I read, the more complicated the project becomes. So I print a couple of plans and Roy and I sit over cocktails and talk about a solution. Before I know it, Roy suggests the very thing I want to do. We agree to try one panel for the roof angle. Then we'll see if we can do one long shade for the five south-facing windows or five. We don't need any panels for the West facing side. I have some seam binding that we can use as strips to sew on the plastic rings. So Sofi and I move up to the bedroom so that I can start to at least pin the first set.

Earlier in the day, I made two loaves of the WWF sunflower grain bread, and it is wonderful. We'll bring a loaf tomorrow to Carol and Chuck's, as well as a chocolate cake.

We talk with Judith, who we might see on Saturday at the Carleni's opening in Amelia. We'll take Tia and it will be our first chance to see Kathryn's new project and this highly regarded little hotel and restaurant. This is the same restaurant that Jeremy Tower backed out of at the last minute last year. We'll see who her replacement is. Wonder if Jeremy stayed nearby to write his cookbook after all. One of these days, he'll surface. And then we'll know.

I am so sorry, but the seedlings are sitting on the new shelf in the serra, I'm sure frightened in the dark. This is the first night they have not spent with a night light. First, I left them outside for hours and now, they're shivering, I'm sure, in their little prison.

I really will get up early and sew that first shade. Then we'll see if we can rig it up before we drive North to visit Carol and Chuck and their family in Sinalunga. Roy already packed the bocce balls in the car...

May 20
These past few nights, I've felt such a sense of relaxation. And I realized on Tuesday night, while I lay in bed unable to sleep, that the window facing the lavender garden remained open. Heavy spring rains carry the scent of the lavender plants up to us as if to tell us that it's almost time for them to take over their starring role as focal point of our garden.

The plants are just full enough to show their long spaghetti tendrils, yet not mature enough to show their flowers, And yet, oh, and yet... They're whispering to me, coaxing me to come out and stroke them, their musty scent sticking to my hands. I brush a hair from my face minutes later, and the reminder of them still remains.

Today we drive to Sinalunga, in Southern Tuscany, to visit Carol and Chuck Podesta and their family. Our bocce balls sit anxiously in the car, packed last night by Roy as assurance that he'll get to play.

I remember, years and years ago, reading a big article in the S F Chronicle about the bocce league in San Rafael. Roy and I were both captivated, and wanted to learn more. Yet we did nothing about it, except to keep the article nearby, moving it from place to place, pile to pile, until Linda Sartorio picked up the gauntlet and announced she'd find out about it.

The next thing we knew, she signed Roy up to play on her team, after meeting Carol Podesta, one of the team captains of their Monday night league. Less than a month later, we were moving to San Rafael, our house in Mill Valley sold, our commitment to moving to Italy firm.

We looked at 35 houses to rent that weekend, and the one we liked the best was located in San Rafael. Yes, as Felice told me, when we are born, the page of our life has already been written. And we were destined to live in San Rafael for that year, and to build friendships there that would last a lifetime.

When Carol and Chuck came to see us here on Monday, Chuck spent some time looking over the space where our bocce court will be located. I remember him telling me that the space was not huge, but that it could accommodate a court. We are inching closer.

I suspect we'll have a court before it's time for me to participate on the village fesarolo committee for the May 2007 festa. I imagine, in my usual wild dream fashion, that a cornerstone of that festa will be the inauguration of the bocce court, and the first competition. That gives us two years to make it a reality.

Right now, Roy is on a "run" to Viterbo to pick up the rest of the supplies for the shades. When he returns, he'll probably have to park on the street. Now, there is no sound of work digging up the street again. Does "The third time's the charm?" work for this project? And all the while we're hoping they'll just bury the pole and the wires. For all the man hours they're spending, they could have buried every thing and be done with it. But this is Italia. The street will be dug up many times before we get our wish.

I'm inside marking and sewing the Roman shade for the inside of the roof of the serra, and it sounds like Louis Prima is outside chatting it up with his pals. For the past two hours, a trio of paisanos have chopped up the street, all the time chattering away in their local dialect. They sound as if they are from The South. Let's hope they don't pay much attention to us.

We give up on the shades for today. They are 1.5 cm out of 271cm off. So we'll re-measure tomorrow. Right now we leave to meet Chuck and Carol and their family at their rental villa in Sinalunga. The tomatoes will stay out all day today, and I hope there is not too much sun.

The trip to Sinalunga on the A-1 is short, less than an hour, and we love their place. It has a pool, several bedrooms and bathrooms and a large flat outdoor area with a wonderful view. There is plenty of room for Sofi to meander about and for Alexander, their 4 year old grandson to romp around.

Everyone pitches in for pranzo, and we eat it outside under the trees, with a little dappled sun for luck. The weather is kind to all of us today. Later in the afternoon, we drive to downtown Sinalunga. Chuck met up with his former bocce playing pals yesterday from a couple of years ago, when they rented the same house and played bocce every night. This year is different. He is only able to round up three of the fellows, but everyone agrees to

show up at 4PM at the courts. Because of the rain this spring, we are the first to use the court this year, and it is a clay court, so is not in great shape.

Chuck and Roy manage to beat the pants off the Italians, after Carol and Bobby and Lisa, Steve's wife, play masterfully. Lisa is the surprise. She tells me this is the first time she's ever played bocce, but used to play in a bowling league. We are all impressed.

But Roy's bocce balls are another thing. The Podestas laugh at him, telling him his balls are too puny. I am so sorry, Roy. I gave them to him as a present years ago, purchased from Unopiu. Tess tells me that the bigger balls are more accurate and heavier. I think this is a sign that we need to do more research, and hope Roy will want to investigate nearby Penna's league and their courts.

Sofi is not happy. After most of the day romping around and playing with the balls at the house, she is forced to stay on the sidelines and watch all those little round balls roll down the court. She's unable to chase any of them. It is so sad for her. When we are ready to leave, I look down to see her lying sideways next to me, with her head hung over a cement seat, just sadly looking out at the balls on the court.

She's much happier at home, but tired after an afternoon of running and chasing Alexander. We're all happy to be home. The tomatoes, however, are another story.. Many of them are white tipped, indicating they have been scorched by the sun. I gently take them into the serra and make sure they have enough water and Chuck's magic elixir. Tomorrow I will watch them closely, and make sure they are not out in the sun too long.

May 21
Our serra has me thinking of the Spanish song, "Que sera, sera."...serra! What will be, will be. Roy has taken on the project of the quasi-Roman shade for the inside of the top of the serra to a dimension I did not think possible. He surely is an expert project manager. I have no idea what he is talking about when he gets into the machinations of how the cable will run and can we have hooks instead of rings and on and on. Yes, the form versus function yin and yang of our personalities is very much in play here.

After measuring at least six times for all the hooks, instead of rings, and then sewing three sides, we wrap the top with a long piece of wood and staple it closed. A round dowel fits into the bottom pocket. Then eyelets are drilled into the top of the wood frame. Do we dare? Might as well. We carry our bundle of fabric into the serra, a k a sauna, and with only two minor adjustments, it actually works! The temperature is immediately ten degrees cooler inside.

We stop for a cold drink, amazed that we actually have a wonderful shade for the top inside of the serra. I don't think we'll need front shades for the summer. But when fall comes around, I think we'll line the rest of the material and make shades to help insulate from the cold weather.

The tomatoes have been moved to the shade, but show signs of too much sun. I gave them some of Chuck's magic elixir in water this morning, and think we have lost two plants. We'll watch them closely this next week, to see if we have enough to do a planting in the upper planting area. There'll be plenty left behind, to grow strong and tall in the serra, along with various flowers in stages of young growth.

The moon is almost full. Two days before the full moon is the very best day to plant. We'll miss that date, but will plant approximately a dozen heirlooms in the ground within the next four days or so. The rest, about a dozen, are not ready. I'll baby them and we'll see if they'll make it.

My cold is hanging on, but Roy seems to be doing fine. We change and spend a little time at Federico's sixth birthday party, before driving to Amelia and picking up Tia to take her to the opening reception at the Carleni.

Federico's party is at the little school just in front of the borgo. It's an ugly post-war building, but the rooms are just right for family events like this. And Mugnano is a family. We are happy to be included in the guest list, and stay for about half an hour.

Sitting all around the perimeter of the largest room, the adults eat goodies piled on the tables: pizza, macaroni and rice salads, salami sandwiches, cream puffs, chips and on and on. This is definitely a kids menu, and the Tom and Jerry theme includes lots of balloons, which get popped every few minutes. The children: Federico, Salvatore, Julia, Andrea, Marika, and almost teenagers Esther and Erika are all there, plus a few friends, when we leave for Amelia. We meet Clara, Rosina's daughter and Fabrizio's sister. She lives in Rome, and this is the first time we have met her. She is lovely, and has some of her mother's spirit.

We take a quick tour of Tia's garden, and she has some of the most spectacular plants imaginable. Now that she has lots of water, she's happy as can be. She shows us a passion plant and we're going to see if we can find one tomorrow at the special mercato in Montoro tomorrow morning, right after church. It will be planted on the left front corner of the serra, and will grow up and over it. Alessandra Orsi has them, if we are unable to find any tomorrow.

I was hoping to spend the day in the garden and working on ceramics, but this garden show is one not to miss. So it will be a happy diversion.

We never visited the Carleni Restaurant in Amelia before it closed a couple of years ago. Kathryn Thomas, a good friend of Tia's, has reopened it after doing a lot of renovation work. It looks great, and the restaurant is quite large. If the food served tonight is any indication, the restaurant will be a big hit. There are also rooms, but they were not open, so we cannot vouch for them. But we'll have a link on our site soon, so you can check them out yourself.

Judith Ciani met us there. She is thrilled, because it is right down the street from her apartment, and she'll go there often, we are sure. Suzanne arrives on Tuesday, and we look forward to seeing them both, possibly next week.

After dropping Tia at home, we drive down the Giove hill and stop for a beer at Oktoberfest Pub. I have wanted to email Kenya, who is now living in Brazil with her husband, Pino, and their two girls, Giada and Giulia. We miss them, and wonder if they'll come back for a visit. So we pick up their email address there, and will write this week.

That makes us think of my annual lavender ladies' lunch, which will probably take place either the last Saturday in June or the first Saturday in July. I'm hoping for June. It depends on whether the lavender will be in full flower. And now we wonder how many more people we can invite before the number gets out of hand. Piano, piano. We will see...

May 22
Summer is almost here, and the lavender is certainly growing. So it's time to start the list of invitees to this year's ladies lavender lunch. The date will be Saturday, June 25th, and the list is growing. We'll find a way to keep it from getting out of hand, but there will be more tables, more chairs, and more places to sit. I'm telling everyone to just bring her favorite thing to eat. Last year there were so many delectable dishes, with everyone getting a chance to taste a little of this, a little of that.

My favorite comment at the party last year came at 3:30. We had finished the main part of the meal, and desserts were staged in the kitchen. With men expected at 4PM, I asked if we should wait. A cry rang out from around the garden. "NO! Let's eat! They can have what's left!" Their blissful exuberance was thrilling. And with only women present, the mood was relaxed and joyful.

When 4PM came around, and the men joined us, the merriment continued, with plenty more to eat and drink. We look forward to this once-a-year festa in honor of our fragrant lavender, whose scent wafts through all the rooms of the garden and the house.

Today, as Roy and I walked out to Via Mameli on the way to mass, Luigina walked slowly up the hill with a beautiful bouquet of yellow and pink roses in her hand. "These are in honor of Santa Rita. Can you take them to the church?" Of course. Luigina is looking stronger these days, but not strong enough to walk up the hill to the church. So I take them in my hand and and Livio finds a vase for them when we reach the church. We tell him they are from Luigina.

Don Ciro arrives, and it is good to hear him again. We think he has been transferred to Puglia, where his family is from. He speaks slowly and reverently, with the smile of an angel. And the sound of his gentle voice dances around the cool walls of the little church like sprinklings of gold dust.

Sofi is so happy to see us after mass, and we scoop her up and take her to Montoro, to their third annual flower fest. This is not much of a festa, but the town is lovely, although very noisy, perched on top of the E45. There are very few plants, but we arrive just before Michael and Tia. So we all walk around together.

Tia and Michael decide to drive to Bracciano, or Orvieto, to a special vivaio, but Roy wants to see the Antiquariato in Orte scalo. So Tia agrees to look for a passion vine for us. She calls later from Orvieto that she has one, as well as a little cotinus, or smoke bush, and I agree that we should have it. It is a gentle bush, one that we'll sit in the herb area in front of the loggia. Tia and Michael will come for pranzo this week, perhaps on Tuesday or Wednesday. Michael wants to see the garden, and we have flour for Tia. She also wants to see the roses.

The antiquariato is large, but the booths are not very good, with a few exceptions. We run into Patricia Brennan at her booth, who tells us that Olivia spoke with a friend in San Francisco a few days ago. Olivia asked her if by chance she knew me, and not only did she know me, but she had read my story in the Chronicle. Whoever can that be? Talk about a piccolo mondo!

Patricia has purchased land in Penna near Alan and Wendy, so we'll be sure to see her again soon. We promise to call and stop by to see her new antique shop below her house soon.

Back at home, I call Tiziana to check in and tell them that we'll be thrilled to attend Simona's wedding. But calls to Loredana and Alberto to wish them well on their wedding anniversary are unanswered. We are sure they are out celebrating.

Felice and Marsiglia come by for a visit. Lulu has been inside long enough, so they watch the antics while Roy carries her out to a bench and I rearrange her so that her saucy expression mirrors the way she sits. Later she'll be moved to her regular spot. We sit around on the terrace and Felice tells us more stories, some of which we even understand.

He is wearing the most wonderful old-fashioned black leather high-top boots. He tells us they are for Sunday wear, and the style looks early 20th century, but the leather is not cracked. So we are not sure if the boots are old or just the style is old. He has small feet, as do most Italian men. That is problematic for Roy, who loves shoes but is unable to buy them here in most shops.

We mention that the moon is almost full, and he tells us that he does not go by the moon for planting. He just goes by feel of the weather and the shade. After years of testing his ideas, he thinks that's a better idea. Felice is the kind of guy who does not get shaken much by things. Other than the death of his good friend, Tito, we have never seen him shaken or upset by anything.

Whatever is wrong with me? I am so concerned about the pomodori plants getting too much sun. But I don't think about just leaving them in the serra. Roy thinks it is too hot in there, but with the new tenda (shade), the temperature is much cooler. We have the one window open facing front, and will leave the door open during the day. Let's see if that helps them to gain strength. We'll plant the hearty ones in a few days.

May 23
I look forward to my third ceramic painting lesson today. Although I have not practiced painting much, I do have a plate to go over with Maria Antonietta. I don't really like it, and ask her to dip it so that I can work right over it. I think it's the brush. I want to do more with fine brush strokes, and the brush she recommended that I use during previous lessons is too thick. She has two plates for me, my first two, and they are not bad for practice plates. Now I am working on the real thing, and taking my work seriously. This is a divine craft.

It rains while we are in her studio, a little prefab trailer of a room set up on wood blocks. It's just big enough for the two of us, two work-tables and the oven. At first, I seem to do everything wrong at today's lesson, but realize after a few minutes that I don't care for Mozart's music very much. All those horns. So she switches the music to Brahms and my painting improves markedly.

By the time I leave I have the beginnings of a very elaborate plate that looks great. It will stay in her studio until she can supervise me next week. I take another plate home to practice with. But now that my studio/serra is almost complete, I'll be practicing there.

Back at home, the plants are doing better in the serra. I keep the door open and there is plenty of air and light, without burning direct sun. I am hoping that most of the plants will survive.

Roy and I work on the back shelves for the serra for most of the afternoon. Then we replant all the lettuce and the red onions, under another portable serra that sits right on top of the raised area beside the steel and glass serra. It zips up the front, and we've rolled the fabric back. So when it is very hot, we can cover it, and uncover it for the cooler hours. We are getting into the very hot sun season, so we will be ready for it. We also have more room to plant more vegetables. We'll be giving the cetrioli (cucumber) a trellis to climb up. The two zucchini have plenty of flowers, the sedano (celery) is terrific, and so is the rugghetta (arugula).

We hear a scrambling and a peep-peeping right outside the serra while we are working, and there is a little bird on the ground, frightened to death. Sofi just noses it, not wanting to hurt it. It hops up and hides in the cave. It must have flown in and hit one of the glass panels and then fell. Sofi runs into the cave and just sits there, waiting.

A few minutes later, the fat little brown bird hops up on a tufa wall, takes a deep breath and flies across the street. That bird sound I heard the other day comes from that same type of bird. It sounds like a rusty wheel, turning quickly back and forth, and then slowing down and finally, stopping. Some minutes later, Sofi rushes to the front of the terrace, and either that bird returned or another arrived, and flew out again, with Sofi bounding right out after it. I don't think Sofi is a bird dog. And for that we both are thankful.

May 24
I have not tended the roses in the lavender garden for two weeks, so they are not happy with me. The gorgeous Paul Lede roses are at the end of their first spectacular bloom. I am hoping for more, and will feed every plant tomorrow. The Madame Alfred Carriere roses are still blooming profusely, although not as full as they were in their first bloom a few weeks ago.

The whites and the icebergs are happy and full, the seafoams are ready to burst, the rosa banksias have finished their single bloom, although their lush green leaves remain all year, providing us with a huge arbor on the steps leading to San Rocco.

The Polka rose is ready for it's second bloom, the first bloom of almost a dozen roses exploded all at once ten days ago. The Jude the Obscures fill the air with their remarkable perfume, and vases of them fill our front hall. Then there's the Mary Rose, pink and prissy and full. The Jean Despues flowered and flopped all at once, and never really took off.

The Pat Austin looks as though it's taking a rest between flowerings. The Buff Beauties are spreading rapidly and are well named, the Crepescules are happier in their new locations near the stairs leading to Felice's bench and our Madonna. The Alistar Greys are growing pretty well on the rose arch on the front terrace. We think one of the Easy Going roses will survive, but won't do much this year. The Lady Hillingtons on the front path continue to be stars of the show, smiling at everyone who drives by.

I spend about an hour walking around and clipping and spraying before Tia arrives to see the serra and eat pranzo with us. She brings two new plants: a cotinus or smoke bush, with incredibly graceful dark purple leaves and a passion plant, that will be trained up the front corner of the serra and then work its way over the top and onto the huge tufa outcropping.

Under the shade of a big umbrella on the terrace, we feast on favas and pecorino, then cold poached chicken in a tonnato sauce, a cucumber and sesame oil salad, cold broiled zucchini with mint, our fresh sunflower bread and wine. Then we eat Tia's homemade cinnamon rolls with cream caramel. I'm ready for a nap.

After Tia leaves we spend more time working on the shelves for the serra and Roy brings more gravel over in our old rusty wheelbarrow from the other side of the house and dumps it outside the serra door. With nursery cloth underneath, this is a logical progression of the gravel by the bench.

Tiziano comes by for a visit, and just after he arrives, Lore and Alberto also stop by. Lore and Alberto only stay for a few minutes, but it is good to see them. We will see them later this week to see the progress of their house restoration. Lore is very tired of the wait, but we are sure is pleased with the results.

Tiziano tells me that his mother did not understand my question to her weeks ago regarding whether our patron saint, San Liberato, is black. He tells us that she occasionally reads Nostradamus (not exactly easy bedside reading) and he predicted that after John Paul II there would be a pope with a black heart. I think I confused her when I told her that I hoped that the next pope would be the cardinal from Nigeria. That is probably where she came up with the Nostradamus information. I have not given up about wanting to change the figure of the saint that has become Mugnano's symbol to one that is more accurate.

Tiziano tells us about the progress he is making on his archeological research. It all sounds quite remarkable. Since he's working for himself now, he tells us that he wakes up early and is out doing his walks and surveys at the break of dawn. A handsome young man, he is what the Italians refer to as "bronzato". We have never seen him look so happy.

May 25
We plunk Gina in the back seat of the car and drive to Viterbo to visit Tiziana at Michellini, our favorite vivaio. We want to pick up Tia's rose plant, and also see if Michellini will have an interest in marketing our spaventapasseri.

While we wait for Tiziana to arrive, Roy pulls the car up to the shady spot across from the office. One of the women in the office comes out and does a double take at Gina, sitting in the back seat. We see her expression, and introduce her and the other women to Gina. They fairly squeal with excitement. The reaction is wild, to say the least. They have never seen anything like her. We tell them about Vito and Lulu, and that they can see them all on the cd we have burned for Tiziana.

Sofi loves trips to Michellini and everyone there loves her. She is smothered with hugs and kisses and can't get enough attention. When we walk through the vivaio, she is right near us, sniffing away and loving the place.

Tiziana arrives and a big smile breaks out on her face. She loves Gina, and comes up with a very fair price they will offer them on consignment to possible clients. There will be money for them, money for us.

We give Tiziana the cd, and show her photos of the roses in our garden that she can use with clients who are interested in purchasing roses, but want to know what they'll look like in the garden. There are over thirty photos, and she is very pleased. We also show here the photos of Gina and Vito and Lulu, which are also on the cd.

Then we show her the story in the S F Chronicle, and she is very proud. So she makes a copy for herself, telling us she'll study it later. She speaks very little English, but no matter. We like her very much and invite her to the lavender lunch, and she agrees to come. But then, Italians always tell you they're coming. And it is only at the last minute that you know if they will or not. It is bad form to reject an invitation outright in Italian.

They have the rose for Tia, a two meter tall one, and if Tia wants it, we'll pick it up by Friday. Gina sits in the back seat while we return home. We see at least one person do a double take when we are parked to do an errand. She is, I suppose, "larger than life".

Roy does more work on the serra, and I notice that the pomodori plants are coming back to life. Felice arrives and helps me to truss up the two giant pomodori plants. Tia reminded me that they are to only have two stalks, and I remind Felice that, and he seems all right with the information. The fava beans are close to the end of their working lives, so we'll have some tomorrow when Judith and Suzanne come for pranzo.

Mail arrives, and there is an invitation to Marissa and Nicole's first birthday party. We are sad that we will not witness this special event, and this is the price we pay for living here. It is a small price, but a sad one. We'll mail their presents tomorrow, and hope that they arrive on time.

May 26

Outside the bedroom window, I think I hear a couple of rusty castanets clinking away, but it must be a bird. We have such a variety of birds and bird sounds that it could take years to figure them out. For now, I hope this ones gets a lube job....soon.

Earlier today, Mario arrived at 6AM. Roy jumped out of bed and took the next couple of hours to putter around in the garden. He is not used to this kind of schedule, and realized that this is the chocolate time of day, sweet and fragrant and mild and quiet. Roy tells me later that Mario did a double take when he came upon Vito, sitting on a long log holding his bastone, or walking stick. When he realized it was a scarecrow, he laughed.

I could not seem to get up, and he woke me before nine. I rolled slowly out of bed with a sore throat and was very tired all day. I must visit Dottoressa tomorrow.

Suzanne and Judith arrived for pranzo around noon, with Judith's dogs, Louie and Bianca. The dogs didn't pay any attention to Sofi, and she ignored them right back. She did show off her little swimming pool by stepping inside and pushing some water about, and on this hot day seemed to enjoy the coolness. The "pool" (a rectangular plastic bin) is located to the right of her little wooden dog house. Although the temperature was very warm, we ate outside under our big umbrella. Only a few caki flowers fell on us. Even as flowers, they can really give a "boink!"

"You just wait!" I can imagine Roy thinking to himself. They'll become little hard fruits in a couple of weeks and in July Roy and Mario will clip them all off in their annual war against the slippery and sloppy fruit. We have another caki (persimmon) tree from which we can pick fruit in November for our persimmon puddings. We enjoy the shade of our beautiful caki tree on the terrace for most of the year.

We now eat zucchini blossoms fresh from the garden, stuffed with fresh buffala mozzarella. Yes, stuffing them with anchovies as well as the cheese, and batter frying them is a treat. But we've done that so much that we seem to like this non-greasy version even better, especially if the mozzarella is fresh. And today's is very fresh.

We feasted on lots of food, mostly from the garden, and listened to good advice from Judith about the plants and the roses. Suzanne left her just off the press latest cd, and we'll enjoy listening to it soon.

After they left, I intended to rest for a while, but spent the rest of the afternoon taking out summer clothes and completely rearranging my side of the armadio. It's about time that I fix it so that it works for me, instead of using it as though it is a hotel storage unit. My clothes are getting big, so I suppose those comments from a few of the neighbors that I am looking slimmer is true. That is the good side of being sick. We also don't eat much in the summer time, with one meal in the middle of the day and not much if anything for the other meals.

Tonight I sat in my studio, painting a ceramic plate as homework, while Roy staked the cetrioli (cucumber plants) and watered. This morning, Roy finished putting gravel inside the studio/serra, and it looks wonderful. The plants are happy on the shelves Roy installed, and I have a long counter on which I can paint and also propagate plants.

With the door and window open, there is plenty of breeze, and with the shade installed up above, even on a hot day, it is not a problem to spend time here. In the next week, Spaccese will come to install the electrical plugs, and we'll put a fan in there as well. I had no idea how much I would enjoy this little space.

It appears that summer has arrived early. We talk about gearing up for another really hot few months. But on early mornings and evenings this little spot is as close to heaven as we'll find on earth.

May 27
With the second day of a sore throat looming, and a real sense of tiredness that will not go away, Roy drives me to visit Dottoressa, who has office hours today in Chia. She wants me to be tested, so on Monday I'll have a blood test in Soriano and the following week we'll have the results. I hope I'll be well before that.

I spend time in the serra today, painting a ceramic plate, and love sitting here, looking out at the valley and trees in the near distance.

Tonight is the opening at The Carleni. I don't want to disappoint Tia, so get dressed, although my throat is really bothering me. I have been drinking water all day, but don't seem to get better. She is thrilled with the rose plant we deliver from Michellini, and we're sure she will plant it tomorrow. Tia is a subito! kind of person.

We find a parking place not far from the restaurant, and although we are fifteen minutes late, we encounter Judith and Suzanne at the bottom of the steps leading to the restaurant. They also have a reservation. We all walk up and the door is locked, but someone arrives to let us in and we sit around drinking prosecco while Suzanne takes a turn at the piano.

We eat outside at two tables, and before we are through have met everyone at the other two tables in the small courtyard as well. They are all English speaking people from Canada and England and live nearby, in Amelia or in the surrounding countryside. So Tia wants to exchange phone numbers and get to know them. They are all very friendly people and we're sure we'll see them again.

The food is very good, although I only eat a small plate of housemade ravioli, filled with spring nettles and ricotta without sauce. Roy's fillet is beyond excellent, and everyone's food looks and tastes marvelous. The other dining rooms have people enjoying themselves, and we hope that the restaurant does well. We will post a link on our site to this restaurant and little hotel soon.

We arrive home at almost midnight, and know that we'll be getting up in just a few hours to go to the pilgrimage, so try to get some shuteye.

May 28
We're up very early and ready to attend our first real pilgrimage, this one to visit Santa Rita in the town of Cascia. The event is planned by the local Confraternita, and 59 people signed up to take the bus.

When we walk out our gate, Fabrizio is walking down the hill in front of our house, and we follow him to the intersection, where a tall bus backs up and waits for all of us to enter. It feels almost like going to summer camp. This truly should be an adventure.

The trip does not take all that long, but the route takes us past Spoleto on a route we decide we'll repeat the next time we drive to Norcia or the eastern coast of central Italy. Everything is lush and green, thanks to a great deal of rain this spring.

Once we reach the parking lot, we learn that the escalators don't work, so begin our climb of more than 300 steps. Piano, piano. Today is hot, and we're not in a hurry. Once we reach the top, we have to wait twenty minutes or so until our mass begins at 10:30. The huge church was badly bombed and rebuilt in 1943, during the midst of Italy's involvement in WWII.

It is a brutto church, modern and bright with angular figures painted in garish colors on the cement walls. Italian construction during and after the war was very big on cement. Today, there are five different areas of Italy represented by five sets of pilgrims. On a previous visit we took a good look at Santa Rita herself, or what remains of her, in a glass box behind a side altar. Today we stand in front of a huge column during the mass. All the seats have been taken.

During communion, five priests stand and deliver the communion wafers. Roy and I walk up to the front of the church. A short white-haired priest, in an effort to be very punctual, jams the wafer far back in my mouth as though it is a coin for a parking meter. I walk all the way back to where we stood at the column to dislodge it with my tongue.

The music is glorious. Sweet women's voices reverberate off the hard walls of the church, and as I hear them sing, "Eccomi! Eccomi!" (Here I am. Here I am.) I am overcome with emotion. Every last person in this church wants to be here.

Once outside the church, we are led to the monastery next door. Here we are again in the midst of a huge number of Italians. Every last one expects to move forward at the same time. There are no ropes to assure order, so at some places the lines are ten people wide, narrowing down to one at a time as we ascend the narrow staircase entering the front of the building.

When we arrive inside, we do see ropes organizing a queue, and that is helpful. Italians hate these. They'd rather push, as if to say, "just me, just me, let me in first". When they do this, their heads are always down, in a "don't see me" expression. It is not a very complimentary trait of these otherwise friendly and generous people.

We are led out one door and in another, after winding around a little courtyard. Roy then tells me, "This is just like Stu Leonard's Dairy!" Any of you who have been to Norwalk, Connecticut will know what he means. Once you enter Stu Leonard's front door, you are forced to walk completely around the store, seeing everything there is to see, before you are allowed to leave. What a funny reminder.

We are relieved to finally arrive outside, and are met by roses everywhere. Roses are important symbols of Santa Rita, and wherever we turn we are greeted by exquisitely cared for roses, without any imperfections or signs of any bugs.

We walk down some steps to a taverna, where we are led to a room set up just for us. Antipasto, two pastas, two meats, vegetables, desserts and we are ready to leave. Salvatore and Julia are the two children who are part of our group, and we notice how much these two, as well as all the other children of Mugnano are loved. Children of our village are happy children, given plenty of attention and plenty of love. What I notice most is that the children have lots of adults who they go to for hugs and attention. Mugnano is really like one big family.

This time we walk down the rest of the steps and the bus takes us to the place where Santa Rita lived, named Roccaporena. We decline the walk up to the lookout chapel at the top of a steep incline, and it is a good thing. A rain shower begins, and the group returns wet from a slippery and steep walk.

Most memorable of the day is the sight of Giuliola, smiling and walking toward the bus with a plastic bag fashioned as a hat on top of her head to keep her dry. Earlier, in the restaurant, she regaled us with her napkin folding. Fabrizio walked over to our table to ask if everything was fine just as she finished her napkin folding trick, and she whipped up her creation in the air in front of him, a....bra! He hardly knew what to say, rushing off to another table. His mother, Rosina, who sat to my right, laughed along with the rest of us. Giuliola, as usual, had the best laugh of all.

Guido, the experienced bus driver, leads us home down some very windy and wet roads. We arrive at home at 7:30 after a fun but very long day. Thunder and lightning struck all around us just after we arrive, and a few minutes later we walk out onto the terrace to see the beginning of an arcobalena (rainbow) to our left in Bassano in Teverina, and the end of the rainbow right in front of us at Chia.

Sofi sits at the corner of the terrace, happy that we are back home with her. We hear from Tiziano that he and she had an uneventful pranzo.

It is good to be home.

May 29
Our morning begins just after 6AM, when I look out the window at the foot of the bed and see that the day may be filled with rain. So perhaps we'll just stay in bed. I am really tired. But if it clears, we don't want to miss all the action. Today is Corpus Domini, an annual event celebrated in every city and town in Italy.

This day is characterized by flower petal designs on the streets and a procession of all the people of the town and village behind the priest, who blesses the various special altars set up on the streets, carrying the host in an elaborate silver and gold vessel and placing it on each altarina. I get up, and after I'm out of the shower see that the air is clearing and it will be darned hot.

Sofi and I take our harvesting basket and gloves and clippers and wind our way through the thicket of lavender to get to the Sweet Normandie rose bush, planted in the corner of the lavender garden. This rose has the brightest petals, so I clip off a small basketful, and then turn around to clip the long spikes from a couple of santolina globes.

Somehow I did not clip the santolina back two weeks ago before they flowered. Hopefully in the next couple of days I can clip all eleven of them back to round globes. But the spikes will work well in my design this morning.

I move two of the tall jasmine plants to the terrace, and by then Roy has joined me. My plan is to move the white oval table to the spot where the gravel path begins next to the cancello. We will surround the front base of the table with the five salmon colored geraniums that now flank the lower stairs of the parcheggio. A cream colored damask cloth will cover the table, and over that, Roy's grandfather's embroidered cloth.

Roy brings down the jasmine and two empty large pots. The jasmine sits just behind the white table, and he joins them in an arch to frame the Madonna. For two years we have planned the unveiling of the Madonna to the village. Roy brings her down, and we place her in the middle of the table. With two short red votives, the arrangement is beautiful.

But what's this? Serena and Mauro drive down the hill past us, stop, and then back up their white van and Serena lowers her window. "Sbagliato! Madonna non che!" (It is wrong. The Madonna does not belong there today.)

I thank her profusely. She is an important member of the Azzione Cattolica, or women's version of the Confraternita that I am to join this summer. She has saved me...Or has she? Perhaps she will speak with the other women and they will agree that I am not worthy of joining their group.

But for now, we have been saved a major embarrassment. This day is in honor of the body and blood of Christ, and the Madonna has no role here. The Madonna will return to her place in the garden. What a strange and also funny end to all this planning!

I've decided to stay at home with Sofi while Roy walks up with his confraternity costume to participate in the mass. I'll have the flower petals in the shape of a heart with flames rising from it finished and watered down before he arrives with the procession. Now what we do not know is whether the procession will come all the way to our gate. Most of the time it stops at Giustino's house, even though we live at the first house on the street.

Don Ciro drives up the hill toward the village and waves, followed a few minutes later by Don Luca in his Darth Vader helmet, riding his big black motorcycle. A few cars pass by. Mario Lagrimino waves and lets us know he approves of our altarino.

With Roy well on his way, I tie Sofi to a pole and get to work fashioning the heart with bright rose petals and a soft brush on the cement rise just in front of the altarino. The little tail at the bottom of the heart comes out right, and the santolina spikes shooting out the top work well, too.

I need something that looks more like fire, so the spent golden centers of the roses work well for that. I spot some bright ones in the mermaid roses on the outside wall between our property and Pepe's garden, and clip those off, fitting them into the design.

I find four matching little glass bud vases, and fill them with whites from the fiorieras. Two vases flank each jasmine bush and sit near them on the table. The Madonna is replaced on the table by Tosca's gold cross, holding two candles. This remarkable object was given to her by a friend, whose mother found it in what I was told was an abandoned church.

It is a quite remarkable cross, used I think as a kind of prayer font for the sick. There is a little spot in the front for holy water. It looks perfect, and when set back under the jasmine, completes this simple arrangement. I treasure this gift, and am thrilled we can use it today. I'll have to email Tosca to let her know.

Sofi and I have twenty minutes or so before the procession arrives, and walk up toward Luigina's house and Giovanna's house to see if they've made any flower arrangements on the street in front of their houses. From Giovanna's balcony hangs a beautiful bedspread, embroidered across the bottom. Donato's house next door displays the San Liberato bandieras.

Today is the day to hang out one's best linens on the balcony. The idea passes me by. We'll make a note for next year. In the meantime, I want to find out the significance of hanging these items from the balcony.

Luigina walks out with her big watering can and splashes off the center of the street. Giovanna walks out of her house and Luigina gives her a basket of ginestra. It is as if we are in a play, and Luigina enters from stage left, followed by Giovanna entering on stage right.

Luigina then sprinkles red and pink rose petals in random fashion on the center of the street. Giovanna follows her, sprinkling ginestra blossoms on top. The effect is sweet and caracteristico. Any cars that pass by do so gingerly. Yes, Mario passes by again, but there are only one or two other cars that drive by. Giovanna and Luigina walk down with Sofi and me to look at our altarino and assure me that ours is proper.

In a few minutes, Pia walks down the street toward Sofi and me, and we walk up to greet her. Marino and two other workmen are working on her building project across the street from our property. Her roof has been topped with a layer of cement, to prepare it for laying what we hope will be old roofing tiles, or cotto. It appears that now the workers will be clearing off the land around the little house. She tells me that they will also grade in the next couple of weeks for the swimming pool, which will be located on a lower level, we're sure out of view.

Best of all, she tells me that she is going to write a letter to ENEL about burying the pole. I remind her that we can reroute our electrical from up above. She is quite confident that she will prevail. Brava, Pia!

We watch the procession descend the hill, and then turn to the right toward Porta Antica before reaching us. Maria, the Sarda, can be counted on for an "over the top" display just after the turn. This area takes almost fifteen minutes to walk, and by the time we hear Don Ciro singing and the drone of the procession again, I have lifted Sofi onto my hip and aim the camera toward the group.

Roy walks toward us in the front row, holding one of the giant candelabras. I snap photos of them arriving closer and closer, and then move out of the way while the procession regroups under the olive tree across the street.

Don Ciro, the Confraternita and Don Luca, who is shielded by a gold damask canopy on four gold poles, separate themselves from the villagers. Don Luca walks up to the altarino and places the host on the table in front. Then he gives a blessing, says a prayer and the group chants along with him. I feel as though I'm a paparazzi, scooting down like Groucho Marx and leaning here and there to take the best photos.

Here are two of the photos. One is of Alberto Cozzi, the new Priori of the Confraternita with his official carved wooden bastone, standing silently at attention, to greet Don Luca and the rest of the group. The 2nd photo is of Don Luca et al.

The group moves on, and I "strike the set". Roy arrives back home almost thirty minutes later, filling me in on what he saw after he left home:

The whole plaza was ablaze with flower petals, the entire design orchestrated by Livio. A red carpet was brought out, flanked by ferns and ginestra and rose petals. There were five altarinos in all: the first near Alberto Cozzi's house, the next in the area near Luciana's house, the third in front of the Mother Church across from Vincenzo's house, the fourth was Maria's on Porta Antica, and the fifth was ours. He tells me that ours represents Mugnano Basso very well.

As part of the procession, little Salvatore and Julia were given baskets of rose petals, and told to scatter them as they walked. At one point in the procession, I believe near Alberto Cozzi's house, Roy heard Salvatore giggling and looked down to see his big shoes covered in rose petals. It's difficult not to smile at Salvatore.

Roy had an opportunity to suggest to Alberto Cozzi and Fabrizio about taking a trip to Macerata in Le Marche to visit the real San Liberato. Our patron saint's remains are buried there, and Roy agreed to do the research. That means we'll take a drive there in a week or two, nose around and come back with a report.

It will be very interesting to see the statue that is used to symbolize our patron saint. Will it be the same as ours? There is also a famous garden near Bracciano, named San Liberato, and we'll visit there, too. Now that we're serious about learning more about our patron saint, we're interested to know all that we can about him.

We are all grateful that Corpus Domini came early this year. This procession, when held later in June, can be exceedingly hot. As it was, the participants braved heat well into the 80's in the hot sun.

We spend the rest of the day quietly resting inside, and the evening planting jasmine, feeding and grafting roses, and trying to relax. The shutters are kept closed, and we are cognizant of another very warm summer ahead. But for today, we count off yet another treasured day in our memory book.

May 30
Yesterday, after a midday snooze, I woke up to find Roy busy out in the garden. The sky had just clouded over, the temperature dropped and he proudly showed me the Madonna, back in her original spot near Felice's bench, framed in an arch of sweet jasmine, with a painted cobalt blue grotto behind her. She looked happily out from her little grotto, as if to thank us for transforming her dry and lifeless spot into one of color and texture and fragrance.

Thanks to the plant propagation book that arrived with Carol, and encouraged by Judith, I clip off soft spring shoots from the Paul Lede and the Lady Hillington roses. I'm intent on learning how to propagate plants, and this is a good way to begin. I take out two dozen little plastic yoghourt cups, fill them with sterile potting mix. Then I place each shoot in water mixed with Chuck's magic elixir, dip it in Root Tone and place it in it's own little container. I finish a dozen of each rose, add a little water, and cover each set of twelve with a large plastic bag, folded over so that the little pots retain moisture. I note the details in my planting log.

In about four weeks, I'll be able to tell if any of them "take" and will repot the successful ones in larger pots. It feels good to open a fresh bag of potting mix and set my supplies up in the serra. The little building works so well. Most of the heirloom tomato plants that remain there are thriving. Some will be planted outside this week, and the rest will stay in the serra for three weeks or more, until they're ready to be planted in the ground. This is all very exciting.

Yesterday we finished picking and eating the last of the fava beans. I am thrilled that Roy now eats fava beans. Tomorrow we'll plant some green beans, and if he eats them, it truly will be a miracle. I've decided, however, that I love those beans, and even if he does not like them there's no reason not to plant some.

When Felice comes this week, we'll watch him pinch away at the tomato plants that are thriving in the ground, planted almost a month ago. The potato plants nearby are starting to show signs of weariness, and we'll be harvesting them in the next few weeks, then looking for a cool spot to store them in. I like them best fresh from the ground, their thin skins so tasty we don't even peel them. The other day in Cascia, we ate a cold potato dish, flavored simply with olive oil and salt and a little presemelo. Roy loved it. So we'll try some with our potatoes, probably today!

Early we drive to Soriano for my blood test, and then it is time for my ceramics lesson. I really look forward to these lessons, especially since they are conducted completely in Italian.

When I arrive, I do not see my teacher, but hear Brahms playing on her cd player in her studio in a remote and woody area of her garden. I call out to her and she arrives from her house, her angelic face lit with morning sunlight.

We work on the same plate we worked on last week. We also look at some of her books for ideas, and she has many. First she suggests that I use a pencil to mark off the designs, then agrees that I can do some of them freeform with the paint brush. "Couraggio, Evanne!" I tell myself out loud and we laugh. I am learning to relax and take in the sound of the violin and when I do, the paintbrush fairly glides in my hand.

Before we know it, almost two hours have passed, and we are still working on the same plate. So I take back the plate I worked on during the week, with some ideas of how to embellish it. This is such a joyous experience. And I love to paint in my little studio during the cool early evening hours, while Roy waters outside and Sofi meanders nearby.

Today I am so tired that I sleep for two hours in the afternoon. It will be a week until the results of the blood tests come back, so in the meantime I will take it slowly. But later, while it is still light, I deadhead many of the roses. Roy starts to plant the jasmine plants at the base of the castagno poles of the pergola outside his "office". We decide to unwind one all the way to the base, and then wind it up around the pole. The result is really beautiful. So in the next few days we'll rewind the other three as well.

Up above, the madonna's backdrop of an almosts cobalt blue paint covered tufa sets off her frame, and the two jasmine formed in an arch overhead look as though they have been there for years. I like having this very Italian caracteristico grotto, very unsophisticated and untrendy and sweet.

The tomatoes in the serra have come back to life, and almost twenty of them will be ready to plant soon. More than half of them can be planted in the next day or so, the others to follow in another ten days.

May 31
Haze gives way to an oppressive heat and clouds overhead offer only a temporary respite. Out in the garden, the fruit on the amarena tree is starting to turn color from a glossy cream to red, its sour cherries tart and delicious in the jams we make out of every one that we do not douse in Courvoisier or Sauvignon Grappa.

The tree will not be ready for harvesting until August. The figs on the fig tree are growing, as are the peaches nearby. With each day of hot weather the fruit adds natural sugar and each month this summer we'll have something new and wonderful to taste.

Right now, the lavender is so lush that Sofi is completely hidden when she scoots in between the plants to chase lucertole (lizards). I call out to her like a broken record. She is so entranced by them that she is unable to hear me. But when she peeks her little head out from between two huge mounds and sees me, she comes running.

On these hot days, she waddles slowly as if she is wearing a diaper. I can find her often with her paw in her water dish, trying to cool off. So I gently plop her into her little plastic tub and cup my hand in the water, bringing up handfuls to her head and long back. She stands there patiently, and then paws away at the corner of the tub, splashing herself, before she hops out.

Early this morning, the rusty gate hinge creaks, and Felice arrives to look at the tomatoes. I am anxious for a lesson, and follow him down to the lower planting area, handing him twist ties as he stakes the taller branches up and then breaks off the branches that will not encourage the best fruit. I am not sure which ones to break off, but by the time we are through, understand more of it. He takes careful note of any flowers, and makes sure that there is air around them to grow. Branches that get in the way get firmly snapped off.

Before he leaves, we tell him we are sorry for the death of his nipota, or niece, and he tells us that she was a relative of Marsiglia, his wife, and not his. In Italy, people are only related by blood. They are not related by marriage. Perhaps that is why women retain their maiden names instead of taking on the family names of their husbands.

Could it be that the Italians are more progressive in some ways than the Americans when it comes to male/female cultural differences? I never really understood the American custom of a woman giving up her maiden name when she gets married. It made me think of women as chattel, but that is another story for another time.

Later in the afternoon, Felice returns to help us to plant most of the heirloom tomatoes. He tells me not to worry about the date, that the phase of the moon only relates to planting seeds. So it does not matter when they are actually planted in the ground. That is a good thing. There are nineteen plants that have survived, out of an original 25. I thought I planted plenty of seeds, but many of them did not "take".

Roy calls up to me, and when I walk outside the two of them sit in the shade on a bench in front of the kitchen window. Roy tells me we should plant the tomatoes right there in front of them, in the shade. Felice laughs. He wears his old yellowed undershirt with short sleeves and a scoop neck. He's ready to go to work. Roy's ready for a nap. But with Felice here, he'll be sure to rally.

So we have seventeen Italian tomato plants of various sizes and types in the lower planting area, and today plant thirteen in a row up above, after Roy sets out the irrigation pipes, digs a long trough and inserts terra buona, or brand new potting soil. The plants are inserted at 30 cm intervals, the same as the little holes in the plastic irrigation system. The tomatoes will be tended on a drip system, and it is all very preciso.

After the plants are in, Roy and Felice thrust tall bamboo stakes into the ground one by one. Felice lobs each of them off to a point with what he tells us is his roncio, a very scary tool that looks like it belongs in a jungle. Our Italian dictionary translates roncola into a pruning hook, but I've seen that tool used on tv when men are cutting through bamboo and jungle brush. Roy and Felice then tie in bamboo cross pieces for strength, and now we have only to watch and wait.

Pepe sees us on the terrace and comes over with a plastic bottle of copper sulfate and another ingredient that we cannot determine. He tells us to spray it on all our plants to get rid of the animali and also encourage strong growth. We love our conversations with him, and look forward to the gate he will install between our two gardens at the end of the public "lane", so that we can keep the gates wide open between the two gardens and walk back and forth, sharing ideas and stories and even a plant now and then.

Now that many of the tomato plants are safely in the ground, I am turning my attention to propagating...lavender! Why not! I research the internet, and in the next few days will try two kinds of propagating: clipping strands and using root tone and also taking shoots at the edge of plants, staking them in the ground, putting more earth on the top, and waiting to see if they take root. I love all of this, and am so new at it that I'll try different things and keep the log going in my book for future reference.

So the new serra is kept busy, both with plants and with ceramics. There is plenty of room for both right now. I'd like to have some plants looking healthy for my lavender lunch on June 25th. But no matter, I am thrilled with the idea of being able to bring life from cuttings as well as seeds.

JUNE 2005

June 1
Roy walks up to see Dottoressa with the results of his recent tests. She is very thorough with him. The subject is his calcium level. So she wants him to eat all the dairy products that he wants for the next two weeks, follow that with no dairy for eight days and then have another test. One of his levels is high, but another is low, so it seems that this is somewhat like testing for cholesterol.

If the good cholesterol is high, it counteracts the bad cholesterol. Roy is happy. He will drive out to buy buffala mozzarella so that we can have zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella for pranzo. We'll eat light, because Simone and Giorgio's wedding is tonight in Amelia. We're sure there'll be a great deal of food.

Today is hot and very humid. While Roy visits Dottoressa, and sees Michelle in the waiting room, I sit in the serra and work on painting a ceramic plate. I surely love that little studio.

I clip roses for an hour, deadheading what seems like hundreds of flowers. The heat and humidity are oppressive. I hope we will have some rain and wind to wash the stale air away.

I am getting accustomed to short naps in the afternoon, now that I pass each day with a feeling of heaviness on my shoulders. Roy thinks it may be as a result of taking less medicine for my migraines. We'll see at the end of the month, when we return to Perugia. I am down to two drops a day from six. But I have had no headaches, nor any symptoms.

Roy puts on his summer suit. He has not worn it since we moved here in 2002, but it looks great. He tells me he feels as though he is getting ready for a high school dance. Instead, it is our first real wedding and reception we've attended since moving to Italy.

Sofi stays at home, and we drive up to the Duomo in Amelia in plenty of time. But no one is around. The ceremony is to start at 6:30, and at just before 6:30 people start to arrive, and congregate outside at the edge of the little park overlooking the hills and valleys below. We see no one that we recognize.

At around 7PM, a lot of cars arrive, and finally, Simona and her father, followed by Tiziana and her mother and grandmother. Giorgio has been waiting at the church since at least 6.

The Duomo is gorgeous, and on this mild but humid evening, the doors are open wide. We walk into the church, and no one is sitting on the left side. We walk up toward the front, and then see Laura, Simona's mother, who asks us where we were. Oh, now we see what happened. We were supposed to go to Simona and Laura's house before the ceremony.

We remember that when Fulvia and Mario got married in Mugnano, that everyone congregated around Fulvia's house before the ceremony. We apologize, and then see plenty of people filling in our side of the church. We sit in the second row, behind Laura and her mother and Tiziana. Soon Renzo will join them.

But now he is in the back of the church, and proudly and seriously walks forward with Simona on his arm. She is dressed in a cream colored lace topped gown with a long train. It is gorgeous, and she looks, well, radiant! She does not appear nervous at all. Instead, she is enjoying every minute.

When Renzo takes her up to the altar to Giorgio, Giorgio leans forward and kisses her hand. I think I am going to faint, the moment is so charming. Giorgio himself is charming, with his perfectly groomed black goatee, black formal jacket, gold satin vest and bow tie.

A mass takes place first, with Giorgio and Simona sitting on satin cushions before the altar. Near the end of the ceremony, which follows the mass, violinists and the organist play, and at the end of the ceremony, a choir of voices sing heavenly.

The couple does not leave the church. Instead, they sign the marriage book and then stay for photos. The rest of us wait outside for them, and people walk around handing out rice. We hold it so long that Roy quips, "Cucinato!" or (it is cooked!)

Finally they emerge, are battered with rice, and the procession down the hill following the bride and groom takes place. We are not so dumb as to do this, as the walk back up to the Duomo late after the reception will be a killer. So we drive down and park, then walk to Giorgio's palazzo.

And what a palazzo it is! We are told it is 18th century. The fa¨ade is pink, and the building is at least four stories tall. There is an apartment for Giorgio's sister, and Giorgio and Simona will live on the top floor. Giorgio's mother also lives in on the top floor, in another apartment.

After many appetizers and an oyster bar and spumante and fruit and champagne punch, we are led upstairs to the salon, where about 110 of us are seated at 11 tables, and then there is a little table for Simona and Giorgio. The room we are seated in is about twenty feet high, with white carved figures standing out from pale grey painted walls.

The bride and groom sit against a huge beamed door, which we learn is the front door to the palazzo. Tonight we were told to enter from the side street. Usually, this room is a broad hallway that leads to the different stairways and apartments.

After the main course, we are invited upstairs to their apartment, to view the gifts. The main salon is an oval room with the same enormously high ceilings. In this room, however, the ceiling is covered in mattone bricks. But the mattone bricks are elaborately painted, and there are beams also across the ceiling. The building is breathtaking.

We are told the Italian government restored the building this last year to the tune of €500,000. or at least we think that was the figure. The building was damaged in the 1997 earthquake, and since it is a landmark, was well taken care of. Giorgio tells us that there are cracks in the ceilings and more restoration work to be done, but it looks pretty fabulous to us.

We are then invited downstairs to the bottom level at the courtyard where we first entered earlier in the evening for more spumante, after dinner drinks, dessert, and an enormous sacher torte, which is their wedding cake. It is so enormous that four men have to carry it after Giorgio and Simona cut the first piece. But before the cake is removed, they each sing a little operetta to each other. Since they are professional opera singers, we have looked forward to this moment.

After a piece of amazing cake, Roy tries a drink called Choc, which is a chocolate liquor, served in little flaky cups to eat. I don't try it, because it is grappa, but Roy thinks it is divine.

We bid goodbye to the family, and then drive home. We'll have photos to look at to give them soon, and look forward to seeing them all again. We love their family, and miss not seeing them more often.

Sweet dreams, Simona and Giorgio. We wish you every happiness.

June 2
I'd like to say we sleep late, but today is the anniversary of the founding of Italy, so it is a holiday. And since Pia's workers are moonlighting, they're across the street working on the roof and making a great deal of noise at 6AM. Sofi is frightened of the noise, and after pretending to sleep for an hour, Roy gets up and takes her downstairs. I manage to sleep in a little longer.

We play around in the garden, raking leaves and Roy attempts to turn one of the pots of viburnum over by the front door to take the plant out, but it won't come out easily. So after we both work at it, we stop. It's too humid to do heavy work.

After pranzo, a big thunderstorm arrives, and we wait it out. Once we think it's finished, Roy attempts to roll the viburnum pot we're working on over onto a blue tarp to take it out. Good luck. After a lot of careful maneuvering, he pulls it out while I hold the pot on its side.

But now we need to take it in the wheelbarrow and get it out to the top level of the area just before San Rocco. Roy gets the plant out, but can't wheel it up the steep incline, so knocks a lot of dirt off it, hoping to lift it up himself. Finally he succeeds, and it looks better than I imagined.

Earlier in the day, I raked dead leaves from the loquat tree on the front terrace, and then moved over to rake up the hundreds of dried flowers that plopped down from the giant caki (persimmon) tree. After the rain, I pick up more than two hundred more! This tree must be on some kind of natural steroids. I have never seen so many blossoms on one tree.

Duccio arrives at 6 for a drink, and the wind has not calmed down. I had wished for a rainstorm and wind to blow the humidity away, and we have had that today in spades. So we sit in the kitchen. Giovanna is still in Rome. We always learn so much from Duccio and Giovanna. Tonight the talk is about the Italian referendum for this next week, and the new pope's nosing in on it.

Church and state are not the same in Italy, although the church sometimes thinks that they are intertwined. We think they're intertwined more like a weed. Referendums in Italy are strange. Vote yes on a referendum if you want the referendum to fail. And if less than 50% of the voters vote, it will also fail. This time, the referendum has to do with a woman's right to artificial insemination.

The local talk is about why Belgium is getting the blame for the Euro dipping its lowest in 7 months. We are thrilled about the dip, because we live on dollars, but spend in Euros. The Belgians aren't against the constitution per sea, but they are against the expansion of the European Union. As a small country, they want their voice heard. And the larger the Union gets, the less they will be heard. The French are another story.

Duccio believes that the problem with the European constitution has more to do with politics than anything else. People are never consulted or brought in at the beginning of new ideas. So the general populace does not really know what is going on. Duccio also believes that if the European currency's value came in at closer to the value of the lira, instead of almost two times that, that the currency would have straightened itself out.

Instead, he tells us that Europeans wanted a currency that would stand up to the dollar, or even beat it. And now the Euro is paying the price. Education and involvement at the beginning would have strengthened the European Union. But it is never too late to start. Duccio is an economist and has some interesting viewpoints. We even agree with a few.

After Duccio leaves, we move over to the jasmine plants, and reweave two more plants winding up the castagno poles under the pergola. The air is sweet and fragrant under the pergola, and we look forward to it growing and growing. A piece breaks off, and I dip it in root tone and plant it in a pot in the serra. We'll see if it sprouts roots. Stay tuned...

The viburnum is another matter. The new one that has been planted by the front door is sweet and pretty, but will take a few years to get to its normal height. The large vibernum looks marvelous in the far property, and its twin will join it, hopefully tomorrow. I think they'll do much better there, with no pots to constrain their roots.

The air is silent tonight, and we'll sleep well. The humidity is gone, and it is unseasonably cool. Tomorrow we'll work on the other viburnums and hopefully get those other string beans planted. This will be a good test, because it truly will be the wrong phase of the moon in which to plant.

June 3
We both wake up with sore throats, so perhaps are just playing ping-pong with the original virus. Otherwise we're fine, and the day remains lovely and a little cool. I'm going to do some work on my book.

Roy is determined to wrestle with the second giant vibernum bush by the front door. We realize that we have been unhappy with these bushes for a few years. They have looked too woody, and no matter what we tried to do, they just did not look very good. So we're replacing them in the same pots with much smaller plants, which will take a few years to develop their round and lush shapes.

Before we are through, I tell Roy that I compare him to The Old Man and the Sea and he responds, "Didn't the old man lose?" After the first hour of trying to wrestle the plant out of the pot, I tell him I'd rather save the big pot than the plant. He does not want to give up, and while he's wrestling, Felice stops by to check out the pomodori. But he does not get too close, realizing that this Vibernum project is a project to keep his distance from.

All the pomodori look great. We have several more to plant, but that will take place next week. We also take a look at the potatoes, and he tells me to pick them by the middle of the month. What we'll do with them is another matter. We need to find a cool place to store them.

Thanks to: clippers, a machete, a crowbar, a long iron rod, a blue tarp, two wooden planks and a blue bucket, we finally separate most of the plant from the pot. We lift it into the wheelbarrow and in another five minutes it is planted in the far property. Planting the new vibernum is easy, and now that ordeal is behind us.

Today has been warm, but with a breeze. The afternoon cooled off, with plenty of clouds, but no rain. I will say that the weather this year has been strange, with more rain, more heat, more up and down weather. The lavender seems to like it, because it will be ready to harvest before the lavender festa on the 25th. When Roy and I walk by the lavender field to take the vibernum out to its final resting place, we notice that the sour cherry tree is already turning quickly.

June 4
The sky is overcast, and it is a good day to be out in the garden. I realize that the rose arch on the terrace needs work. There are suckers coming out from the plant high up and robbing the roses of their strength. There is a lot to cut. Every branch with seven leaves gets lobbed off, and the plants are sprayed.

I check on the pomodori in the serra, and they're all doing well, but not growing tall. They get a bit of Chuck's magic elixir, and I look over the two dozen rose shoots that sit under plastic on a shelf. They are all still humid. Only one looks as though it will not "take".

Roy makes a bamboo trellis for the jasmine Tia gave me, and another for the passion vine. The passion vine is a scary thing. It grows visibly every single day. We'll train it up the very front corner of the serra. And then....

Pia's roof tiles are going up across the street, and they are pale in color and caracteristico. That is a great relief. I feared red plastic tiles. So for now, the vista across her property is still sweet.

We are invited to go up to Shelly's late in the afternoon for a drink, and to see her brother-in-law. I remain very tired, and we cancel our plans to drive to Spoleto and Todi tomorrow. Hopefully soon we'll have answers regarding my blood tests and can embark on a program to get my strength back. I hate not knowing.

June 5
At church this morning, I wonder if Don Luca will speak about the referendum to be voted on next Sunday. He says nothing, but when we turn to walk out, Livio is standing at the door. There is a poster hung up on the door and Livio passes out brochures and flyers to everyone. I am disgusted.

We see Elena, who left church before us, walking back from the little park where the caduti monument is located. She is disgusted also. She believes, as do we, that the Church has no business meddling in people's personal lives. This pope has a black mark against him as far as I am concerned, for telling Catholics not to go to the poles. Not to vote. I try to put the issue out of my mind for today.

I'm feeling better, so we pick up Sofi after church and drive off to Spoleto to the monthly antiquariato. It is warm, but the sky is cloudy, so it is pleasant walking the first part of the mercato. We find Meg, who can't wait to tell us what happened to her as a result of our conversation with her in Orte recently. Well! A man standing behind us listened to us speaking with her about her business, including the incredible religious objects that she sells occasionally. She loves them, as do we. It is as simple as that.

But later in the afternoon, the same man returns in a carabineri uniform and forces her to stand in front of a large blackboard . He takes her photograph, assigns her a number. He represents some form of Belle Arte Commission, and his job is to protect religious items from being stolen. He thinks her items are stolen. She is completely honest with him, and he demands documents that are impossible for her to retrieve. She offers to show him her book, and he does not want it. She is so upset that she determines that she will move back to England.

She loves her house near Spoleto, and is torn between loving the house and dealing with the bureaucracy. After we leave her, we agree that to move to Italy to work is a real mistake. There are so many things wrong with the government that we live here in spite of it, just as we listen with one ear to what the pope tells us and then do our own thing.

We eat at DaPiero's, the trattoria we eat at almost every time we drive to Spoleto or Pissignano. They have several cats, but Sofi sits under my chair and they mostly keep their distance. Roy loves a dish that they serve called castrato. It is rather delicious. I love their grilled vegetables, and each time we eat them they are prepared a little differently. This time, one half of a tomato is served as one of the vegetables, cooked on a flat grill, with chopped garlic and olive oil and salt heating up in its cavity while it cooks. Quite tasty. The red peppers are also served hot. This is a nice touch.

Sofi had difficulty walking the mercato, and I picked her up part way back. The heat really gets to her and to her little paws. We decide to take a detour on the way back, to drive to Piediluco, a lake just before Terni. On a windy road we've never taken before, we first come upon a park that has of all things a villa overlooking an outdoor theatre.

We think of Marilyn Smith immediately. Sofi romps around and we get back in the car, driving to the lake. We park and walk down to the water, where there is a gelateria at water's edge. It is too good to pass up. Even Sofi has a treat: cool water in a gelato cup.

On the way home, we take another quick detour to the town of San Liberato, on the other side of Orte. We are interested to see if there is a church and if so, if there is a San Liberato. If there is, what does he look like?

Well, there is a church, a little thing with no name outside. The door is open, and a heavy velvet drape swings in the open air. I walk inside and there is a nun near the front of the little church and a woman sitting on a bench flipping pages of hymns. I ask her if she will please tell me the name of the church. It is San Liberato. Is there a statue of San Liberato? The nun tells me yes, and takes me to him.

He looks very much like the statue we have in Mugnano, but his skin is dark! Well, his features are Caucasian but he looks as though he has a dark tan. The nun give me a little prayer card with a Xeroxed photo and also tells me that there is a San Liberato in Rieti, too. She does not know about San Liberato's remains in Macerata, but tells me that the Vatican has the real scoop on him somewhere in its vast holdings. Time to go back to Don Francis and see if he can give me more background.

At home, I can't wait to change my clothes and clip some hydrangeas to do some propagating. In the American Horticultural Society book that arrived with Carol, I find out how to propagate the hydrangeas with cuttings. Since I won't plant them till tomorrow, the instructions are to put them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator first. So before we leave for my ceramics lesson, I'll plant eight or so pots of them and keep them in the shade for a month. Of course I'll note the details in my log.

It is a beautiful early evening, and Renata and Julia and Salvatore come calling for Sofi. So Roy takes her down and they all sit on the little stone benches next to the cancello while I do some ceramics painting in my studio. I love painting at this time of night, when it is still light and the air is cool. We put a thick towel down for Sofi, and after she finishes playing outside, she lays on the towel by my side.

We all do some rose tending of the Lady Hillingtons on the path, and then Roy wants to start working on the lemon tree. By now, the tree has plenty of new growth. He agrees that we need a better structure, so starts with seven bamboo poles, all the same length. The lemons and the branches lean against them. Tomorrow he'll add wire.

I'm asking for copper wire, so we'll probably drive to Viterbo to find it there. Copper wire adds an interesting detail, instead of the usual steel wire. I am informed that Roy refuses to roll the lemon into the cava during the winter, so he has an idea of how to tent it to protect it outside. Last year, the material we used did not work properly, and the leaves that touched the material became scorched by the frost. We're always learning.

After a long day, I'm feeling fine. This is the first day I can say that in a long time. I'm not tired at all. I wish I could say the same for dear Uncle Harry. Roy called Adrian yesterday to wish her happy birthday and learned that Harry and Elaine will not drive up for the girls birthday and stay in the wine country as they have every year. He is having health problems.

So we call him and he sounds good on the phone. He's 90 years young, and has had another bout with pneumonia and a few other challenges. Elaine sounds great, as usual. So we'll call again at the end of the week to find out how he is doing.

Outside, even at 11PM, we hear neighbors walking on the street and talking. On these warm nights, the neighbors are up all hours. We're inside, and ready to slip into bed. We love to have adventures, but surely love to be home.

June 6
An Italian referendum is creating such a stir. It was definitely not written by a woman. I read this on an AP wire: "As the date nears for a national referendum to void parts of the 2004 law on assisted fertility, politicians, institutions and interest groups are lobbying public opinion to vote yes, no or to abstain from voting.

While some top government officials in Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition have said they will vote 'yes', the Italian Catholic church, a strong lobby in Italian politics, has urged Italians to boycott the referendums to boost the chances they will fail to draw the quorum needed to make the balloting valid. "

This morning I take my tiles and plate to Maria Antonietta, and although I am not happy with the plate, she shows me how to turn the design into something I'll like a lot. Then we work on tiles, and I find myself painting easily, without my previous nervousness. She tells me that next Monday we will work on a difficult and complex plate. I can't wait.

When I give her an invitation to my festa on the 25th, she asks me if I know about the significance of the night of the 24th. I do not, and she tells me that it is the night of the strege, or witches. Evidently they do something with flowers under the moon. How apropos that the Ladies Lavender Lunch is the next day!

On the way home, we stop to see Maurizio and Umi. I want to thank him for telling me about my ceramics teacher, and also want to give an invitation to Umi. He tells me to go to Rome to get a book on grotesques and Raphaello. Since he is Roman, he thinks DeRuta won't have much. I almost agree. We want to visit the giardino communale to see the roses this month anyway, so perhaps we will also visit the museum.

This advice regarding using lavender to cure migraines recently came in from Lisa Levin, owner of Pharmacopia. See her site at I love her products and hope you'll try them. Many of them are sold at Whole Foods.

"You can use your lavender by taking the dry flowers and making a tea out of them. You can inhale the lavender steam, if steam feels good to you, or wring a washcloth in the warm tea and lay it over your forehead and eyes while resting. The essential oils can be rubbed on temples, back of the neck and wrists. In case you didn't know, caffeine is also good for migraines, constricting the blood vessels and limiting the pain. Try an espresso next time at the onset. "

Regarding my migraines, I'm down to one drop of Laroxyl a night in water, from a high of six. I'll stop taking the medicine completely in a week. At the end of the month we will travel to Perugia again to visit my doctor. He only prescribed Laroxyl for one year last June, hoping that I would "grow out of" having migraines. I'm hoping that I have, but like the idea of using lavender based cures in the event one looms its ugly head.

Isn't it about time I do something worthwhile with all our lavender? This year, it will again be given to the people of the village, probably on Sunday, June 26th. It depends on how many bunches I get done before the lavender lunch on the 25th.

Roy is working on painting the loggia in the next couple of weeks. Right now, it is covered in a dirty grey. It will be a Tuscan pink, not too bright. We've tested a color and it is not just right, so drive back to Viterbo today to test another. I suppose the paint on it now is a kind of whitewash, one that must be twenty years old. Since we can't afford to put the new roof and extended loggia on yet, this is a simple way to clean up the area.

We're still researching pizza ovens, and when we're ready to do the roof, we'll take down the huge bay tree, whose roots are beginning to move the room, and put on a tile roof to match the rest of the roof, after we install a pizza oven into the back tufa wall. The roof, and therefore the room, will extend out almost as far as the caki tree, and will provide shade during the hot summer months and shelter during the winter. It will also provide lots of shade room for the hydrangeas I am hoping to propagate.

Roy tells me that he thinks that our patron saint, San Liberato, and we have something in common. We have heard that he was a freed slave, hence the name Liberato, and we're so interested in finding out more about him. Roy thinks it's because we feel as if we were slaves to the American business ethic, and now that we are here we truly feel liberated.

June 7
We visit Alice in Amelia for the last time before she and her daughter, Anna, return to Seattle to live. This is a good thing for Alice and Anna, but for Tia and Bruce and me, we will miss her massages a great deal. I will miss her friendship most of all. But they will come for tea on Friday so that Anna can meet Gina and Vito and Lulu. I don't want to say goodbye.

After a short rain yesterday, we have a warm and lovely morning with a little bit of a breeze. Roy moves things from the loggia and starts to paint right after pranzo. He's better left alone, except for judgment calls that we like to share on where to stop painting.

We picked up the results from my blood tests in Soriano, and I do not have mononucleosis. Other than a high white blood cell count, I can't figure out anything unusual. But I'll visit Dottoressa tonight in Chia to get the rundown.

While walking out to feed some of the roses, I see that the butterflies have returned, and the plants are in the midst of their flowering period. I love to slide my hands up the long shoots and bring my hand up to my face, drinking in the heady fragrance of the lavender.

The midday sun is almost too bright, and yet the light reflecting off the butterfly wings is like stardust in flight. I find excuses to walk around, excuses to stand under the pergola in the shade. I know I should cut the santolina plants into globes again, but love the little yellow pompoms at their tops. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. Depends on the heat of the day after 6PM.

Tonight I will plant the beans. Yes, it is late. SO if they take, fine. If they don't, fine. The four seeds I planted in the tomato area have not taken. It has been a couple of weeks, and Chuck predicted they'd pop up in a couple of days. So I'll email him to find out what I'm doing wrong.

A wind whips up from the Southwest while I am painting in the studio, and every little thing that is not tied down rises up as if countless tiny magic blankets slip and slide in midair. I close the front window, put down my paints and latch the door, moving to the front table on the terrace to see what needs to be moved inside. Roy continues to paint with a concentration undeterred by all the commotion. When he stops, he stands back and proudly surveys his work. Later in the evening, he returns just to stand back and look at his masterpiece.

In the distance, on the Bomarzo side of Shelly's house, lightening flashes and cymbals clash in a gloomy sky. Sofi's big black eyes stare up at me, and I pick her up and bring her inside. This is going to be one of those wild summer storms, and it is not even summer yet!

We close the shutters as a purposeful rain descends all about. Minute by minute, the intensity of the storm magnifies. Inside, we're watching Great Balls of Fire, the Jerry Lee Lewis movie, on satellite. While he's setting a piano on fire on the stage, a mosaic flashes on the screen and our satellite stops working. Then a snap and there is no power.

Roy lights a candle, finds a flashlight, and trips the circuit breaker. We're back in business, but the storm continues. Sofi and I move upstairs and I hop in bed to read while she hides from the noise. The heavens settle down, I lose my place on the page and it is time to turn out the light.

June 8
I wake a few times after first light, but slide out of bed just before 7AM. When I am finished getting ready, I take Sofi downstairs and think we'll plant the beans. But Roy tells me we should probably wait until tonight. Good. That will give me more time to work in the studio.

While I'm painting, Roy calls out, "Did you see THAT?" I miss seeing Enzo drive up the hill in Tito's old tractor, with Rosita wearing a housedress and apron, standing behind him.

We drive off after dropping off a bag of garbage at the nearest bin, and meet Rosita as she walks from the side street toward Via Mameli. We stop to give her an invitation to our lavender festa. She and Enzo are working at Tito's apartment today to clean it up to get ready for the muratore.

I recall the days when another old soul, Gino Lagrimino, drove up and down the hill on his tractor, his little wizened wife sitting on the back with her legs dangling over the edge, wearing a black flowered babushka tied on her head. She died before I ever had the courage to preserve the images with our camera. She was close to ninety. When we visit the cemetery on the Day of the Dead in November, Gino stands beside her gravestone, telling us how much he misses her.

On the way down the hill we wonder out loud what Enzo and Rosita will do with the apartment. I think Tiziano should move in there, just as Paola Fosci's family is getting a little apartment in Mugnano ready for her. But Tiziano will probably not want to leave least not yet. Perhaps they want to keep the place in the event Tiziano ever gets married.

Years ago, when we first pondered what our village would be like in ten or twenty years, we were sure the village would become a ghost town. The opposite has happened. Young people are moving here. The village is vibrant and we see many promising signs of a healthy future. Speriamo!

We drive to Orte for coffee with Patricia Brennan at her ancient and wonderful palazzo. She meets us downstairs and shows us some of the very special pieces of furniture she is selling. The little antique shop is not yet ready to open formally for business. Everything she has is of wonderful taste. Some day, she will probably find our kitchen chairs for us. We are not in a hurry.

Upstairs, we tell her about Meg and Meg's trauma with the Carabinieri regarding her antique stall in Orte. Patricia tells her that all antique dealers in Italy have had dealings with these people, as well as the Guardia di Finanza, the dreaded finance police. She tells us, "You can smell them a mile away. They have a certain look to them. After awhile you know how to spot them."

Her husband comes in, and while we are talking about Patricia's latest purchase of land and houses in Penna in Teverina, Sofi plays "cat and mouse" with Ginger, Patricia's sprightly cat. I say "cat and mouse" because they are both a little afraid of each other, and chase each other around and then back off. Sofi wants to hide behind me, but Ginger meanly positions herself right under my chair.

I want to know Patricia's opinion about the referendum. She is very confused, and has spent quite a bit of time trying to learn about it. She has determined that there is a politician who she very much admires and respects, and he counsels his followers to vote "Yes." So she will do so. That means no. In other words, if more than 50% of the people vote "yes", the referendum will pass, and that part of the law in question will be repealed.

A few minutes later, I am in Giusy's salon for a pedicure, and Giusy speaks no English. This is great practice for me. Because I am a person of strong beliefs and opinions, I want to discuss the referendum with her. This is volatile, because my ability to speak Italian is very limited.

I love Giusy. She is kind and spiritual and a deep thinker. So I dive in. I tell her the pope was wrong (sbagliato) to treat Catholics like sheep (come pecora) to tell them they must not vote. She agrees that the pope went too far, but agrees that a life is a life, and the issue is a moral and ethical one, and not a political one. So for her, the Pope's wish is not the reason she will vote "Yes".

I ask her if she has spoken with her sixteen-year-old son about the referendum, and she has not. She has spoken to him about sex, but not about that. So I press on about that, and about the importance of sex education for young people. She agrees.

I tell her about the teacher in the U S years ago who instructed each student in her class to take a 20 pound sack of flour in his arms for two weeks, 24-hours a day. That exercise was an example for them to feel the burden of caring for a baby. Once the two weeks were up, the entire class had a very different perspective about the perils of having a child as a teenager.

I then carry this still further, proposing that only women be allowed to vote on this particular referendum. She thinks this is a great idea, but a dream. I agree. Since women are left to carry the burden in most cases if there is an unwanted pregnancy and a child is born, that would be a practical solution. Can you believe that I am able to carry on an entire conversation with this kind woman - in Italian?

All over Italy, the most wonderful thing is happening. This referendum is such a moral dilemma that millions of people are thinking about it and debating it. I don't see this as a political dilemma. And the fact that the will of the people will prevail is a good thing. Italians don't care that other countries are carrying on with embryonic research. This discussion is not over, but in the next few days we'll see what we can find out about how other people are reacting to this dilemma. I surely wish we could vote. But I am not sure which way I would vote.

Giusy is wearing funny and wonderful sport shoes, silver leather and mesh, with laces up the front. I complement her on the color and she tells me it is the color of the moon. I imagine her stepping on moonbeams on the way home, dancing and singing.

Roy finishes painting the loggia, but not until we return to Viterbo to buy one additional can of paint. Instructions on paint cans in Italy are to mix the paint with water, sometimes 50% water, which makes for a watery color. Roy uses less water, and he tells me that the paint "shrinks" so returns to dab a little paint in spots where the paint has definitely shrunk. This process is beyond me.

Little Sofi bounds up on the raised orto bed by first leaping on the planter in front of the serra where the passion plant is growing. Or is it? I noticed this morning that each day it grows at least three inches, a frightening thing actually. But tonight, she puts her tiny paws right on the middle of the plant, and I let out a yowl. She is put down on the ground in an instant, and gets an Italian looking "No!" by way of an index finger that moves from side to side like a metronome.

Roy finds a piece of dark green metal mesh, and fashions a scrim that sits inside the edge of the pot. Sofi, this is the end of this gambol for now...

Earlier in the day, we picked up five lobelia plants, and plant them in a row around the curve of the raised planter nearest to the serra. It will be wonderful to watch them grow over the side. I love blue flowers...of all kinds. We plant thirty bean seeds, after soaking them for a day and a half. The seeds that are left are kept in a plastic container with Chuck's elixir and water for a few more days. I don't know why, but may plant them somewhere else.

In the meantime, a columbine plant in another spot has spent flowers that are dry enough that I pinch one off and see many tiny black seeds, seeds that look like poppy seeds. So I make a mix of Chuck's elixir and water and they'll sit there for a couple of days, then I'll plant them in the serra in a pot. I really must document this in the planting ledger. How wonderful it will be if something I am working on actually lives!

In the serra are twenty four rose clippings under plastic, in the grotto in the loggia are more than a dozen hydrangea clippings under plastic. Six more tomato plants are ready to go in the ground and sit on a shelf in the serra. Assorted lobelia and forget-me-nots and snap dragons are hopefully starting to grow, also in the serra. I see assorted leaves, but no promising flowers yet. A few bean seeds in water, columbine seeds in water, and now that the tomatoes will be planted this week, I'll probably plant some more flower seeds.

Before we drive to Viterbo today, we drive to Pinzaglia, the local vivaio, but their hydrangeas are droopy and leggy, and there are no little flowers to buy for our loggia for the festa. Once June comes around, flowers do not do well in vivaios in our area of Italy. So it's even more reason for me to grow my own. Perhaps the hot sun does them in. Or perhaps it takes too much care for the small price they have to charge.

The weather today is very cool. We have a windy morning and a cool afternoon. So cool, in fact, that I shorten a pair of green coveralls bought at an agri-garden store for €15 and need a long shirt when I go out to spray and deadhead roses, it is so cool. The roses need a lot of work, because rain combined with wind brings on lots of tiny mites. I do them all in with my spray. Now I'm wondering if I'll be able to give them just the right amount of food so that they'll produce flowers at just the right time for our festa...17 days from now.

I put my hand on my cheek and smell the pungent earthy smell of the tomato plants, still on my hand. And all the tomato plants are doing fine, although there aren't all that many: 17 were planted in the ground at the end of April, 13 more were planted in the ground at the end of May, and 6 more are ready to be planted this week. In past years we've grown as many as sixty tomato plants at a time. I think we'll raise our number next year.

The cucumber plants are growing rapidly, with plenty of flowers. One long cucumber looks almost ready to eat. The zucchini plants produce flowers every single day. So buffala mozzarella remains on our shopping list each time we go out.

We have not fixed pasta for a long time, so if it's cool tomorrow I'll make pasta for pranzo with a yellow pepper sauce. Roy loves that. I'll probably get up early and make a loaf of ciabatta, too.

June 9
Roy wants to drive to Bolsena and Montefiascone this afternoon, so is working like a house-afire to get the loggia cleaned up. I lean over the side of the sink in the alleyway between the house and the loggia while he takes paint drops off the sink and wonder out loud why he wants to travel this afternoon. And then I realize he thinks that stores are closed this morning. They are closed this afternoon, so he deflates as though I stick a pin in him when I tell him. We'll drive there tomorrow morning instead.

The loggia looks great. This is another of the many projects we jump into. When they are done, we wonder why we waited all this time to do them. My eyes move to the soft Tuscan rose of the loggia walls to the bright blue lobelia on the raised planting bed outside the serra, and the spaces just come alive. All the fabric for the loggia has been washed and now that we have put it back up, we are ready for the festa! Well, sort of. The garden needs a lot of busywork. But inside the loggia, we still have heirloom tomatoes in glass jars, and they look wonderful with their pinks and yellows and dark reds against the backdrop of the painted walls.

Today is another lovely day, with temperatures not too warm. With clouds overhead, we're able to work outside easily. Roy wants to plant the remaining six tomatoes tonight. Soon we'll have to dig up all the potatoes and put them in the cava.

I'm researching Bolsena and Corpus Domini for my book. It appears that the first Corpus Domini celebration took place in Bolsena in the 13th century. There is also a tie-in with Orvieto, for as the story goes, when the miracle took place, Pope Urban IV was in Orvieto at the time. When he saw the stained altar cloth he verified that a miracle had taken place and decided that a Duomo must be built on the site of the miracle to house the cloth. So Orvieto also has a major Corpus Domini procession, as does Spello in Umbria. We hear mixed stories about whether the Duomo in Orivetto was built the, or the Duomo in Bolsena. Our bet is on Bolsena.

So what, you are thinking, actually happened in Bolsena? We'll tell you tomorrow, after we verify the information we already have.

I'm cleaning the outside of the washing machine in the loggia when hear a yell from the terrace. It is Roy, and he has just jammed his fingers in a lounge chair he was tightening the screws on. After some howling, Roy determines that we need to go to an emergency room. I say "an" emergency room, because there are several places we can drive to. The most obvious one is in Viterbo, at a hospital we refer to as "Brutto colle" instead of its correct name, "Bel colle" or beautiful hill.

Two other choices are the teaching hospital in Terni and the hospital in Orvieto. I suggest Orvieto, and Roy tells me he wants to drive. So he wraps his left hand in

a terry towel and keeps it elevated while he drives. Sofi sits on the terrace without making a sound. She is an angel of a dog, knowing something is wrong and staying out of the way.

The accident happened at 4:15 P M and we arrive at the hospital at 4:45. We drive up the ramp to the Pronto Soccorso, or Emergency Room, and as soon as we're in the door, a man in a bright orange suit opens a double set of doors and ushers us in to a room with three beds, closing us off in the farthest part. He looks like a little Blutto, with more hair on his neck than most men have on their heads. He looks rather like a pineapple in his orange suit and mop of curly hair.

Roy tries to be a comedian, but that falls flat, especially since he's very squeamish. He's afraid the top of his finger will come off, and the man I'll call Curly is not exactly gentle with his finger. I stand with my arms around Roy's black borsa, or purse, with one foot out the door and the other foot ready to run to Roy's aid. I am pretty squeamish myself.

It is a good idea that we picked Orvieto, because nothing much is going on, and the hospital is very clean. On the drive there, I ask Roy if he thinks he'll need a "Chem 7" (we watch reruns of E R on T V) and he tells me probably, but he won't need a tube down his throat. I tell him to practice deep breathing. That will keep his mind off the pain.

Another man with the same tailor as Curly walks in, and then a woman dressed in the same neon color, but wearing pants so tight we can practically read the label. She has shoulder length blonde hair and a great figure. She also wants to see what is going on, and comes in to tell Roy to be calm. The first act is to get Roy's wedding ring off his finger. Curly comes back with a pump bottle of soap and slides some green liquid around Roy's finger. He eases the ring off and hands it to me.

Then he cleans off the mess and a doctor arrives. The doctor is not concerned, and they won't have to take off the nail. So Curly gets to dress the wound, and wraps a

bandage around and around. Then he takes a long mesh piece and slides it over Roy's finger like a sausage casing. The mesh looks just like the string mesh that butchers in Italy use for roasts. But it works.

We're sent for an x-ray, and the technician comes out and tells Roy that his finger is fractured. So Curly gives him a metal splint, pinching it on his finger and the pain is Roy's worst yet. I stifle a gag. The doctor asks if Roy has had a tetanus shot, and he tells the doctor that he had a set of three shots last year.

Then the doctor looks down at me and tells us softly that just ten days before, a woman came in to their Pronto Soccorso with a wound from a rose...and DIED. I

told him that Roy's injury was caused by wood, and he tells us that it does not matter. Whether metal or wood, there are so many potential dangerous things in the garden, including insecticides and bugs and bacteria in the ground, that one can't be too careful. So beware, and get a series of tetanus shots if you spend time working in the garden. They don't hurt, and can save your life.

We drive home, and Sofi cries at the gate she is so happy to see us. We spend the rest of the evening quietly, looking forward to a couple of uneventful hours before we slip off to dreamland.

June 10
Roy wants to leave the house, and tells me he'll be less likely to do more damage to his finger if he's not at home doing projects. So we all drive to Montefiascone, where Roy cannot replace his little wallet, and then drive to Bolsena, to continue to research Corpus Domini.

We had no idea. We just had no idea the Catthedrale of St. Catherine was so, well, breathtaking. This is the place where the miracle of Corpus Domini took place in 1263. We are given a tour, in Italian si certo! And understand about a third of it. We are shown the framed pieces of marble where the blood spilled onto the floor, and are taken around the church on a mini-tour.

The little man is a kind of a docent. He shows us a side altar with an exquisite ceramic done by a student of the Della Robbia school, and I have my heart set on a special Della Robbia reproduction to be set in the stone of the loggia. So now we have something new to search for.

I won't explain all the things we love in the church right now, but it is safe to say that this church, and Bolsena itself, is worth a drive on a nice day. We look forward to returning to the Cattedrale to spend more quiet time here.

On the way home, we are back on the search for a little storage piece to store our outdoor furniture in behind the house. The cantina we are allowed to use next to our property is just too wet. We think we have found something at OBI that is close, but tomorrow will drive south of Vetralla to a place where Roy thinks will have the right one at a good price.

We arrive home and Roy sands the tops of the wooden furniture in the loggia, and then we put a coat of clear satin lacquer on top to seal them. It's time to put the washed material back on, and the place looks ready for a magazine shoot. All we need is a couple of more plants, but we're unable to find any blue hydrangeas anywhere. So I'm hoping my little propagating exercise will work, even if not for this month.

Alice and Anna come by for tea, and we take them out to meet Gina and Lulu and Vito. Anna is the most remarkable young girl, and we have tea and cake while she plays with Sofi, all the while telling me things she learned in a book about dogs.

She knows how to tell by looking at the nails on Sofi's paws whether she is bored or happy. And from her ears, whether she is upset or having fun. She tells me that dogs like Sofi like to have the end of their noses rubbed, and most remarkable of all, tells us that female dogs like names for themselves that start with the letter "s" and male dogs like names for them that start with the letter "r". Sofi loves playing with her.

Alice warns us that Anna has quite an imagination, and we know this to be true, because she walks outside and ten minutes later asks me to come to the door. She has made a lovely gift for me on an old floor tile, with tiny lavender flowers and rose petals shaped in a heart. I am moved beyond words, and set the gift by the fireplace, wanting to use spray glue to keep it intact. She is a treasure.

We don't say goodbye when they leave, but wonder if we'll ever see them again. We blow them kisses and wish them a safe trip on their voyage to Seattle and a new life.

June 11
We leave early again, and this time drive to Vetralla, in search of a great little wooden storage room to put behind the house for our garden furniture and cushions and chairs and other garden paraphernalia. We think there is a place where we can get one a great price, but both places we visit are too expensive. So we return to OBI in Viterbo to order one from them that will work well. Now Roy wants Stefano and Luca to pour a cement pad on the back of the house before we install it. That will have to happen after our festa on the 25th.

On the drive, we see a sign for a vivaio, and find ourselves on a back road in Vetralla. We come upon...a spaventapasseri! He is a gem, a farmer with a moustache and brown plaid shirt and funny hat. He's perched high up on a wall at the beginning of a little vivaio that also sells its own potting soil. We watch a man nearby with a conveyor kind of contraption where he grinds up soil and compost and other things to obtain finished potting soil. What an entrepreneurial endeavor! The man looks young and hard working.

In this little vivaio, the owner is also quite young, and he tells us he has owned this vivaio for three years. He is a sweet, gentle soul and offers just what we want: hydrangeas in smallish pots. They are mostly white, and one has a touch of pink. He tells us that he will give us food to turn them to blue, but to get the blue I want it will take a year or so, and feeding every week with a little concime universale. I remember hearing this before. The prices are so inexpensive...the pots are €6 each, so we buy five, as well as a hanging lobelia. We'll certainly tell Tia about him and will be back.

Next, we see a sign for another vivaio, but it is more of a commercial wholesale place that sells trees and perennials only. We want white petunias, to cascade over the balcony, since we are moving our Jude the Obscure roses down to the terrace. They have been a disaster and very unhappy on the balcony.

At Stefanoni in Viterbo, we find all we want, at the remarkable price of €2 each. So we load up the car, and drive home for pranzo. Roy is hooked on chicken tonnato, so I fix up a plateful for him with some fresh warm potato salad with just picked potatoes from the garden and some buffala mozzarella that is so good we eat it just by itself with black pepper and olive oil.

We move the rose plants in their terra cotta rectangular planters down to the terrace, on each side of a wooden bench. They look so good, and the planters have weathered. Why did we wait so long to do this? We are sure the roses will be much happier here. Roy finds two long terra cotta planters in the cava that will be perfect on the balcony for the eight cascading white petunia plants, and we'll plant those later today.

He hangs the two white hanging petunia plants on the front corners of the balcony. Soon, we'll have a caracteristico Italian balcony, with white petunias dripping down. For our festa, they won't be dripping far, but later in the summer they'll look great. I'll have to remember to water them each morning with bottles I'll keep just inside the door to the balcony.

Oosten and three friends from Norway come for prosecco after 5PM. The woman is his cousin, named Brita, and we hear that all three men are known by the name of Steen (sounds like Stein - that name is common like the name Joe in the U S).

Once we're all sitting around the table on the terrace, they tell me they represent the Norwegian mafia. We know this is a joke.

One of the men named Steen is a Lutheran minister, and arrives with a walking stick that looks like an Irish shillelagh. He tells us he is like a bishop, and I can't wait to tell him my San Liberato story. Everyone sits on the edge of their chairs as I tell them what I know about the statue in our village named San Liberato and our adventure. The minister will return at the end of August and will be here for the whole month of September. We look forward to spending a lot of time with him then. He is a wonderful man.

When they leave, we feed the hydrangeas; then do some watering and puttering around. These days have been cool, strangely cool. So it is easier to work outside. But the man at the viviao tells us the weather is dangerous for the garden, for it changes rapidly from a cold spring to a hot summer and the plants will have lots of trouble. We'll be extra vigilant.

Roy's finger does quite well with the metal brace on it. But it gets him out of dishwashing duty for the foreseeable future. He putters around while I wash dishes, as if he feels guilty. Between us, we get a lot of work done, and enjoy the garden tremendously.

June 12
I finally understand what the pope is trying to do by asking that people not vote. It has taken an email from Don Francis to spell it out. He is passionate about the sacredness of life, and believes that doing research on embryos opens up the possibility of cloning for less than honorable purposes. I would differ from him if we had a different world.

There are so many dangerous people in the world that I believe the world is no longer safe. So now I take a stand on the side of the pope. This is more than a political issue. It is a moral issue. Yes, it would be wonderful if we could do research for the future elimination of disease, but I think the cost will be too high in terms of misuse.

I think I am a liberal thinker. Does this mean I am no longer liberal? In my stubbornness to remain liberal, had I failed to see the issue clearly? I look over at a picture of the Madonna and Child by Filippo Lippi and think "No."

When sitting in church this morning, waiting for the priest to arrive, I look up at the statue that we think is not the real San Liberato and say, "Your days are numbered."

Roy then leans over to me. "Soon there will be a listing in the "want ads" in the Viterbo giornale. "Used statue, formerly used in Mugnano in Teverina, depicting San Liberato."

About ten minutes after the mass is to begin, Don Ciro arrives like a stiff breeze and sails right into the sacristy. He leads us in a couple of the hymns during mass, and I especially like the one sung while the sacrament is being consecrated. He raises his chalice while we sing, "Quel vino puro, che offer la chiesa, forma la gioia le nostro lavoro. Accetalo Signore, benedici."

Today is also cloudy and cool, and after the mass everyone wants to know about Roy's "frattura" of his finger. Yesterday at Sappori Due, the grocery store in Attigliano where we like to shop, the owner, Gianni, said to Roy, "What happened? Was it your wife?" Roy told him the story and he responded, "Better if it was your wife." A man behind Roy cringed while Roy described the wooden sides of the chair slamming down and pinching his fingers. Gianni also let out a silent howl.

Today, when Roy recounts the story, Enzo Gasperoni turns his head and cowers. Men universally have the same reaction. I admit I was once pinched by one of the same chairs and the pain was indescribable. I'm sure it is because the fingers are full of nerve endings.

We tell Tiziano that we went to the wonderful Santa Cristina church in Bolsena and he tells us that there are three local churches that have crypts: Bolsena, Sutri and a place on the other side of Soriano in the countryside. He is on vacation for the summer, so we ask him if he'd like to take a day trip with us to Macerata to help us to research the real San Liberato. He thinks that is a great idea, and we plan to drive there with him this Wednesday.

On the walk back, Lore and Alberto drive up, and she looks so bronzata (tanned) that I tell her I know she has been wearing her bikini. But Alberto looks very white, so I tell him I know he has been doing a lot of sleeping. They both laugh and agree.

Now that they are here, Lore tells Roy to come to borrow the eighteen white folding wooden chairs. They will not be around for our festa, but their chairs will. I would like to think that the only plastic on our property are the plastic containers that plants arrive in.

I realize I have not been misting the cuttings, so some of the rose cuttings are ruined. Fa niente. I will start again. I am hopeful that the cuttings for the hydrangeas may be all right.

Lore and Alberto arrive for prosecco after 5PM, and we're able to sit out on the terrace. Roy does not even consider sitting on the wooden and cloth sling chairs. We will not see Lore at the festa, because they leave on that day for their annual Ischia vacation. When they leave our house tonight, we promise we'll stop by tomorrow for a visit to see all the new work done on their second house.

The minute they leave, Roy races into the kitchen, and arrives just in time to see the start of the Formula-1 race outside Montreal. Sofi and I move upstairs. She sleeps while I write. I'm working on submitting a couple of stories. With one sold under my belt, I'm going to branch out and try some other stories.

Our lives continue to evolve in this magic place. Each day, each of us learns something new, tries something new. I cannot imagine being bored. Not ever. But now my pace of learning has an urgency to it. I want to sell some stories, and later a book. And there is so much else to do along the way.

June 13
I wake up early, but by time we leave for my ceramics lesson, it is 9AM. The drive to Guardea through the Tiber Valley is green and luscious, especially after all the rain. Who knows when the heat will arrive like a blast from a furnace, pummeling us for weeks at a stretch? In the meantime, we're able to work in the garden for most of the day.

A violin concerto by Brahms is playing on the cd player in Maria Antonietta's studio, and I so want to pick up my violin to start playing again. The tones from the solo violin resonate so deeply inside me that they envelop my every breath, and I find myself breathing in and out in concert with the movement of the bow. I am lost for a moment, looking out into space, and she sees my expression and smiles.

She critiques my competi, or homework, and is pleased with all the tiles I have completed with grain and leaf designs on a sponged background. I can't say I like the designs, but the exercise is helpful. This next week, she'll fire all my pieces, so next Monday I'll have many things to bring home.

Today, as promised, we work on painting a difficult plate. In the middle of the exercise, the music on the cd comes to an end, and there is silence. Something in me stops and yes, I'd like her to play the same music again. She is so correct. The soothing music of the violin helps me to relax and paint more confident strokes.

The plate is elaborate, with circles and flourishes and medieval curves and scrolls. This is such heavenly work. I imagine angels painting to the same music. I must be dreaming...

The time passes so quickly I don't want to stop. But she stops, so I must as well. She hands me a plate on which she has painted a base coat called an engobe, and my homework for this week is to practice painting very thin lines in circles. I can't wait to practice.

Roy's hand is in real pain, and by the end of the afternoon, he drives to see Dottoressa, who gives him stronger pain medicine for his finger and tells him the pain is normal. Next week, we will return to Orvieto to the Pronto Soccorso, or Emergency Room, for them to replace the dressing and take a look.

Later he tells me that when he stopped at Sappori Due earlier today, a woman in front of him saw his finger bandaged and started to tell him something that had happened to her. Gianni heard them speaking and told Roy, "It's ok if you talk about it, but I don't want to hear how it happened again." He huddles his body as if he's a turtle, trying to hide his head from their words. He smiles weakly.

While Roy is out, Sofi and I move to the studio, with Sofi resting patiently on a pillow near my feet. I take out a tile, and practice making fine circle lines with a pencil, called a matita. I start a design in the center, and then work out from there. Taking the paints out, I try to paint thin lines, but it is very difficult. I think I need a finer brush. But most of all, I must practice just aiming the brush tip toward the tile and not moving my hand. The turning wheel does all the work.

Roy asks me to help him maneuver the hose while he waters some of the plants. The irrigation system is not complete, and the 50-meter hose is difficult to maneuver around corners. I feel as though I am a fireman, maneuvering the hose while Roy aims the nozzle toward the base of the plants. He is able to work pretty well by himself, especially with the metal brace over his finger, but it remains sensitive to the touch. Enough said.

June 14
Less than 20% of the registered population of Italy voted on Sunday, so the referendum on assisted fertility did not pass. I think it worked out well for everyone in the long run.

The forecast today is for temporales, or thunderstorms, so I hurry to find research online about San Liberato. Once the thunder begins, we will have to shut down the computer. We will take Tiziano with us tomorrow on an adventure to Le Marche to locate our patron saint's remains and learn more about him.

But what's this? I think there is more than one San Liberato, or at least that is what I find on the internet. Everything I can find of relevance is written in Italian, but it appears that our patron saint is not the one whose remains are buried in Le Marche after all. Now we're wondering if we should take the trip. We'll call Tiziano and see what he says.

Stefano and Luca arrive to speak with Roy about pouring a cement pad at the back of the house before we have the little room delivered where we will store all our summer furniture. The cantina next door is just too wet. In the afternoon we drive up to see Danieli in Sippiciano to get a cut for him and the regular "do" for me.

Silvano Spaccese, the local handyman, is also to arrive to look at the electrical work he needs do in my studio. I look forward to playing Brahms violin concertos on cd while I paint and work with the plants. He arrives after the rain begins, and really likes the studio. Once Roy shows him the advance work he has done to make allowances for a grow light to hang down during the winter, Silvano is more impressed than ever. So his little electrical project will hopefully be done next week.

June 15
Just after dawn, Sofi and I walk out into the lavender field to take some new photos, but there is not enough sun. When we turn around to face the house, shafts of light stream just over the roof toward us. It is time to leave for our big adventure with Tiziano to Le Marche, and we are ready. Roy is feeling better, and when we arrive at the car Tiziano is already standing outside the gate, as full of adventure as we are.

We drive North past Spoleto, and the sky remains a blue-grey, with very few clouds. Perhaps we will not have the forecasted rain after all. It is not until we arrive in Le Marche, the province above Umbria, that the skies darken and thunder rumbles. We arrive at the first town of our quest, San Ginesio, and of course must sample the espresso in the main square before we begin.

Diagonally across from us stands the mother church of the town, The Collegiata Della Santa Maria Annunziata. This Romanesque church was built in the early 15th century, and once inside we encounter a friendly and chatty priest, Don Mariano, as well as Silvia, the archivist. Walls and side chapels are full of wonderful paintings, especially a Madonna and Child of the Perugina school.

The church is a mish mash of styles, but a wonderful mishmash, if we can take each piece by itself and just enjoy the journey. I find lots of my favorite grotesques framing some of the paintings, and one side chapel is exquisitely painted from the dome to the floor in Art Nouveau Liberty Style. I don't know if this style works in such an ancient church, but the craftmanship is beautiful by itself, nonetheless.

The circular chapel is covered with tall, lanky figures of women, embracing the chapel in burnished brown and rust tones. We have to stand back and breathe it all in, the quality of the painting is so well done. I can't help wondering what the paintings are covering up.

We want to find out anything we can about San Liberato, but Don Mariano can't really help us there. He does encourage us to walk with Silvia to the sacristy to see the church's archives. We cannot believe our eyes as she opens up the top shelf of a bureau drawer and brings out the oldest documents, letters from the fifteenth century! There are several documents in the folder, just lying one against another, and we are surprised at the little attention they are getting. She tells us she has thousands of documents to authenticate and catalogue.

Before we leave, we enter a side chapel directly across from the first side chapel, and the floor is right out of M C Escher. Roy pretends to step on the floor on the patterned tiles as if they are steps. The design of the brown and black and white marble, cut and installed in perfect geometrical progressions as if they are steps, are faux steps beyond faux. Looking at the floor from the doorway is a dizzying visual exercise. This church surely is "the Madonna Inn goes early Renaissance."

Rain begins as we walk to the car and let Sofi out for a walk, and now it is time to find the Santuario di San Liberato. We finally find it below the town, and drive in just as the skies open up and sheets of rain surround the car, moving us forward as if we are in a box enveloped in torrential rain. Roy runs outside the car to the archway to the Santuario and Tiziano follows. I am not far behind them. A tiny monk opens a heavy wooden door and welcomes us in. Sofi guards the car.

We follow him around and into the large main chapel, where Roy falls in love with a statue of San Liberato a Loro Piceno, a saint from the 13th century. He is truly not our San Liberato, although Roy wishes he was. His shoulders are covered with sweet birds, and he looks somewhat like St. Francis of Assisi. He is definitely a monk, not a bishop. We are taken down to see an altar, behind which are his remains, but the ceilings and walls of the crypt are so beautiful we stop to take more photos.

Now that we know that this is not our San Liberato, our quest for the day is through, but we have more places to visit, just for fun, and it is almost time for pranzo.

We drive down toward Sarnano and then across the Sibbilini Mountains toward Visso. But first we try to drive to Sassotetto (or top of the rock), which the map lists at over 1600 meters high. The rains have stopped, but we find ourselves at a place where the road just...ends. Workers are using heavy equipment to repair the road ahead, and tell us to just turn around and go back to Sarnano, where we can find another way up to Sassotetto.

So we do. And about a half hour later we are up above the clouds, driving across the most remarkable landscape. We get out of the car at a spot right out of Sound of Music and Sofi bounds across yellow and purple and white wildflowers.

We drive on, since there are ski lifts but no real town, and find ourselves driving down and down until we are 1,000 meters down from Sassotetto and arrive in a town called Cupi. A worker on the street tells us not to worry that there is no road on the map. We'll be able to drive on to Visso. So we take his advice and find ourselves in...Visso!

After a gelato stop, Roy and Sofi stay outside while Tiziano and I enter the Collegiata di Santa Maria, built in the 12th century. Against the left wall right inside the door is a painting of St. Christopher that reaches the entire height of the wall, some 10.6 meters! It is over 4 meters wide. He is a remarkable figure, standing in water up to his knees and rescuing a young girl and a woman from the river. Later we ask a shopkeeper how old the painting is, and he cannot tell us. He does tell us that the painting is of St. Christopher, however. We love it.

The sidewalls of the church have more wonderful grotesques, but many 14th and 15th century frescoes cover every inch of space. What disappoints us is the Baroque ceiling, one that does not fit at all with the rest of the church.

It is time to get back in the car and drive home through the gola (throat) of the Neve River, a river that empties into the Tiber. We have taken this road many times, but on this weekday afternoon are almost alone on the road. We arrive at home to find huge puddles everywhere, as reminders of the raging storm that stretched over most of Central Italy on this happy day.

What have we determined? Our San Liberato was born in the 4th century after Christ, died in Africa, and is not San Liberato da Loro Piceno. His saint's day, or the day of his martyrdom, is August 17th. Our quest for the real San Liberato continues...

June 16
The skies are clear this morning, and it's time to spray the roses and clip them. Roy works on staining a table and benches, and after I'm finished with the roses I attempt to work in the studio. But it is too humid.

Roy sees Valerio walking Dario's dog below our path, and walks down the front steps to invite him to pranzo on the 25th. Valerio looks at Roy's finger and tells him a story about an old woman years ago, who fell on a sling chair at the beach, as it closed on her hand, slicing off a finger. She was rushed to the hospital, but they did not have her finger, so someone rushed back to the beach to try to find it.

They located the finger, brought it to the hospital, and the doctors sewed the finger back on her hand. Is this story to be believed? We don't know, but it makes for an interesting Italian folktale. In the U S, everyone would want to find someone to sue. In Italia, people are more interested in the story it conjures up.

Before pranzo the skies cloud up, and I'm wondering if we're to expect rain for the entire summer. Pasquale walks by on his way to his orto while Sofi and I work on the roses on the path, and I ask him if there will be more rain. He said if God wills it, there would be more rain. I'm not a person who wishes for things, so I can only wonder if we'll have rain on June 25th.

Olivia calls from Dublin to tell me she will still be in Ireland on the 25th, so we'll get together after she returns at the end of the month. She has an apartment to rent in the countryside outside Vignanello, and for a single person is possibly willing to let someone to stay there for free for a few months. She wants it to be occupied. I tell her that we might have a friend who is a writer who we will email in the U S.

Roy and I have a little run through of all the things we need to do to get ready for our festa. He is making a list of his own of men whose wives are attending the festa. The men will have pranzo at NonnaPappa and return for the festa at 4PM. Good idea.

It rains this afternoon, not a lot of rain but enough to make me nervous. While it starts to come down Pia walks down the street and I give her an invitation to next week's festa. She tells me that she's written to ENEL and the power poles will come down. She does not know when, but she assures me that they will. We can only hope.

Tonight I notice a number of loquats sitting on the terrace. The rain storms must have blown them out of the tree. I pick up one and peel the strange fruit, with two seeds inside. I eat half of the fruit, and give Roy half. The taste of a ripe loquat is a strange and wonderful thing; a little tart, a little sweet, but very fleshy. Delicious.

I know that I am starting to understand the language when we purchase a copy of the latest Cucina Italiana and I can actually follow it. Now there is one less thing I want from the U S...Cucina Italiana in English.

We work on the ceiling for the loggia tonight, and before we know it it's 9:30 P M.

June 17
We drive to Amelia, and it's a lovely town to walk in, if a bit steep and hilly. On a warm day, the cool stone buildings keep the temperature down. Some kind of festa takes place in town, with booths from as far away as Sicily. We know because we purchase some cookies and are shocked by the price. The booth person probably tacked on his gas costs to get here.

We also purchased two handmade baskets from our friends who work with the disabled in Porchiano, and a little basil plant from Michael, who had a beautiful setup in a stone patio down the street from Judith's apartment.

We work in the loggia and finally finish the ceiling. Roy said, "This was the worst project I've ever done. I admit it was a drag, but the whole room looks better, at least for now, and it cost very little to do.

We stop at Shelly's to lend Vern our sander and drill, then take a short trip to Pinzaglia, to look for lobelia, but they have none. We find a couple of plants for Shelly, and when we bring them to her she give us Bucca Leone plants that she started from seed and also more columbine seeds. She also gives us a little sand, to mix in with the columbine.

I have failed miserably at the seed propagation projects so far, but won't give up. The hydrangeas did not take, nor did the roses. Shelly advises it's the wrong time of year to try to do anything with cuttings, and Tia agrees.

Bummer. I have a headache, which came on this morning in the hot sun. So I'll lay low tonight and tomorrow morning to see if it will go away on its own. Speriamo.

June 18
I cannot sleep. Something about the heat yesterday and spending hours with my head back working with Roy to put the new ceiling up in the loggia. Can't sleep. So I slide out of bed just after 5AM and am I every glad.

The morning is so sweet and cool. I plant all the little things we picked up yesterday and weed and also mix the columbine seeds with sand as Shelly recommended and plant them in the pots where the hydrangea cuttings did not "take".

I come to the realization that Shelly is a "gift". I don't know why I didn't realize it to the extent I do before. She is so honestly open and generous. A large planter full of wonderful flowers just on the verge of opening stood by their big outdoor table yesterday, and she found a big bucket and emptied the entire contents into it for us. Then she gave us a huge bunch of dried columbine flowers, putting them in a plastic bag and shaking them, so that hundreds of tiny black seeds fall out. We now have five terra cotta pots full of sandy soil and tiny black seeds.

The longer I work in the shade, the better I feel. When Roy gets up and we drive to Viterbo, we follow a man up the hill driving a huge tractor. This scene is poetry to Roy, and he describes how wonderful it is to see a man with his right arm over the seatback, gently bouncing up and down on the droning machine while he slowly drives along the secondary roads of Italy.

I recall that during the vendemmia, or grape harvest season, the roads are filled with farm equipment and trucks, bursting with their juicy loads of grapes. Now the equipment moves from one plot of land to another. With the first warm weather we see the bales of hay thrown across the landscape as if they were paint in a Jackson Pollock painting. More often than not, they are cylindrical in shape.

Years ago, we saw them stacked one on top of another. But in the last couple of years, we've seen them formed into large cylinders, looking like giant shredded wheat cereal. We were told that there are harvesting machines now that finish the process quickly and more inexpensively. We don't know how long they stay sitting in the fields, but they're dry, so they're probably not weather sensitive. There is so much to learn.

Tiziana at Michellini runs out to see me and show me the latest issue of Giardini. In it is a large article about spaventapasseri! The ones in the story are from Germany, and some are pretty cute. I admit I like ours better, and one of these days will finish writing the article and submitting it around.

I buy a pair of shoes today, a €6 purchase of espadrilles with two inch wedge heels and string ties around the ankle. I forgot how comfortable espadrilles are, and now that they're in style here, I splurge. And I feel so tall!

We buy some disposable cups and plates for the festa. Yes, I know. I make a big thing about hating plastic. But this pranzo will be so big that it's just not possible to use real plates and glasses, etc. I am taking many more things in stride as I get older. And I look forward to enjoying the day on Saturday, not working for the entire time.

We take a walk down the street tonight to drop off the garbage, and walk all the way to Leondina and Italo's, where we see them sitting on the bench outside their house. On the way, we've greeted almost twenty people, sitting outside enjoying the evening.

Earlier, while painting in the studio, I hear some loud voices, and it's country talk. Country people don't worry about speaking too loudly. I love the sound of our neighbors calling out when people drive by. I've certainly become a country bumpkin.

June 19
I wake up early again. Or rather, I tell myself to get up, because these early hours are the sweetest. By the time Sofi and I reach the garden, we have an hour to play. The rose arch is wide open, and we see lots of red shoots. Soon the arch will be full of flowers, we hope. This rose is the Alistar Stella Gray. It is supposed to consist of a hearty growth of leaves and many white flowers. So far, it looks spindly. I think the bay tree has been the culprit, giving more shade than it wants.

We water all the seeds, as well as the white petunias cascading over the balcony. In my dreams they are cascading, but we have only planted them a couple of days ago. Already they are reaching over the side. Sofi follows me out on the balcony and kisses me while I'm down on my knees deadheading spent flowers.

Our guests arrive just before l'una, and I am amazed at how much we serve today. For antipasti: tomatoes roasted with garlic and oil, marinated mushrooms, steamed long beans, red pepperoni, yellow pepperoni, just made ciabatta bread, prosciutto, salame and tiny boconcini mozzarella, plus our own olives and fresh zucchini flowers. All this washed down with Orivetto classico, that crisp white local wine I love.

Then for the main course, poached chicken breasts with tonnato (tuna) salsa and zucchini fritters. After that, a green salad with cucumbers and lettuce and arugula from our garden. Finally, those Sicilian cookies, slices of chocolate cake, and toll house cookies that the children made. These are served with plums and cherries and then a little coffee. But Pat tells me she loves kumquats, so I bring out a jar of marinated kumquats in brandy that have sat in the kitchen for over a year. The adults all try one. We ask Pat what she thinks and she tells us, "It tastes like a celebration!"

Who are our guests? Pat Gallagher, her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Pat wrote to us after seeing our story in the Chronicle. She went to school with Adrian, Roy's sister, and her son married an Italian woman and lives not too far from us on the way to Rome.

After pranzo, we walk up to the village where it starts to rain a spring rain that feels wonderful on this humid afternoon. They leave soon after we return from the walk. As the boys walk down the front path they see a snake curled up. I want to know if it is a viper, and Pia's friends are across the street.

Our guests leave and the men both arrive, one with a long metal pole and one with a shovel. The snake disappears into the hole and one man shoves the pole into the hole. There is no definitive answer whether this is a snake or a viper. If it is a viper, it is dangerous. If it is a snake, it is not worth worrying about. I hate the not knowing. Later I learn that a viper would not burrow in such a hole.

Fireworks blast tonight at 10:30 and Sofi seems resigned to them. In our bedroom, we can see them right from our bed. I remember the first time we ever saw fireworks in Italy was the first night of our first trip after we purchased the house. It was the end of April, 1998, and Bomarzo's festa di San Anselmo culminated in a spettacolo, also viewed right from the bed. Our village fireworks are best seen from our terrace. They are shot off in the valley, and our panorama is at the perfect height. If anything, they are too close. Sofi agrees, and always hides under the bed.

June 20
This afternoon, while painting in the studio, I see a man stepping off the land onto Via Mameli just next to Pia's property. The man tells me that the land is not his, but his sister's. We know that she and her husband are not well, and are living in Rome. I miss not seeing them every day, when they'd pull up in their little white car and get out to feed their chickens. There have been no chickens on the property for at least several years.

The man is vaguely familiar to me as someone who spends part time in Mugnano. His walk on this day is measured and heavy, as the steps one takes in a slow funeral procession. His head is angled down and he looks so very sad. I am sad just seeing him, although have a little conversation with him and let him know we're missing his sister.

Tonight the moon is almost full, and the cats are on the prowl. Local dogs are having a howling spurt, but there is not a sound from the birds. I think they sleep from first dark to about two or three in the morning. But tonight I don't think they'll sleep much. Sofi hangs her head over her little wicker bed, oblivious to it all.

This morning's ceramics lesson included taking many ceramics out of the kiln, still hot, and having a look at the work I've done in the past few weeks. It's not bad, and seems to improve as my proficiency increases. Soon we'll return to Deruta to pick up some plates so that I can begin anew.

I won't have a lesson again for two weeks, for my teacher is going for a vacation to Sardinia. So in the meantime she gives me a plastic bowl of smalto solution, which I will paint onto each plate or tile as a base coat. She tells me I'll have enough to do one hundred plates. So that will certainly take me a while.

Tonight I'm able to complete an entire tile, and set it aside for a couple of weeks out of the way. During my lesson I worked on a large plate, and I just love painting in the studio when the air is cool and the light is still good. On Wednesday, I think I'll have power installed and can play some classical cd's while I paint. That will be heavenly.

Roy works at cleaning and re-staining a bench on the terrace, and it looks wonderful. He's upbeat about his finger, and tomorrow we'll return to Orvieto to have it looked at again. But it's midnight and I have to turn in. We'll rise at 6AM tomorrow, as Mario will arrive to weed whack and then clip most or all of the lavender.

We have a plan to move the lavender by wheelbarrows to the rear of the house, where we have set up iron mesh under the bathroom to hang the lavender from. This area will become bee central. And in a couple of days it will be ready to put into baskets for the house. If I'm really industrious, I'll have all the bunches of lavender for our guests finished before Saturday. There should also be plenty for the neighbors to give out on Sunday at mass.

It's after midnight before I hop up into bed, but the moon is almost full, and sits right in our window. There is not a sound from the birds, yet the dogs are howling overtime. Sofi is oblivious, however, hanging her long nose over the edge of her wicker bed. In a few hours, Mario will be here, his weed-wacker throwing a hammer into the smooth glass of first light.

June 21
We've both decided to rise after first light and spend time in the garden. So we'll sleep a little in the afternoon to make up for it, we suppose. The hot water heater still does not work, but that convoluted solar heating panel system we installed several years ago seems to be working.

The water is not very hot early in the day when we need it, but later in the day when the temperature rises, we have all we need. So Roy will spend some time with Enzo to work out a system for not using the hot water, especially in the summer. After all, we went to enormous lengths to install the thing. The least we can do is figure out how to take advantage of it.

Mario arrives right on time at 6AM. He weed wacks and when he reaches Vito, just puts the old guy's legs up on the bench next to him. I have to remember to readjust his legs before Saturday.

Roy and Mario work as a team to cut the lavender, and Roy brings it to me in armfuls while I'm working at the back of the house. We installed metal grates under the bathroom, and I clean each of the lavender stalks and hang bunches of them upside down to dry on the grates. It works well, but slowly. Mario finishes all his work, consisting of: weed whacking, trimming three cypress trees, cutting most of the lavender plants with hand clippers and going back over the plants to clip them into rounds. I don't want to become a pain, so let them be. But I do see that some of the plants have been cut back too far. Perhaps they'll all be all right, after expected continued growth over the next couple of months.

When Mario leaves, Roy wants to leave, and I agree to cover the lavender to protect it from sun and change. We drive to Spazio Verde in Terni, and then on to Deruta, where we are directed to the Colorobbia store. Pat Ryerson recommends Colorobbia highly, but when we walk around the store, we are confused by the types of paints.

We don't want engobes, but don't understand what the clerks tell us. So we pick up two marvelous books on ceramic painting that includes grotesques, and quickly drive back to the place where we previously purchased raw plates and the paint store where we purchased our recent paints.

We pick up the plates, and are amazed by how inexpensive they are. But the paint store is closing, and the owner won't open up. So he directs us to a place to eat and tells us he'll be back at 2:15. We wind up driving up into the centro storico and eating at a good trattoria, where the woman at the next table has a dachshund, too. Later in the afternoon we meet the dog outside the woman's store.

Roy still can't have cheese, so he chooses a slice of mortadella sautˇed and sprinkled with balsamic vinegar. He tells me that it tastes wonderfully. I agree the taste is interesting. I'm just not a fan of mortadella.

It's time for Roy to face the music. We drive to Orvieto to go to the Pronto Soccorso to have his bandage changed, but first drive up to the centro storico, because there is a camera store that has the batteries we need. They are difficult to find, but we can always find them here.

That done, we drive on to the Emergency Room, and again are taken right away. This time, a deeply bronzed man in a green uniform takes us in to a room. He deftly begins to take off Roy's bandage as they both sit sidesaddle on the gurney. I won't go into the details, but once the bandage is off, the finger seems to be repairing on its own. So the bandage is redone, and we leave, without paying a cent. We are both relieved beyond words.

June 22
I'm up before 6 A M and just love this time of day outside. Sofi joins me soon afterward, and I am able to finish a lot of busywork and start to work on the lavender behind the house before Roy joins me.

He has set up two tables for me, and I stand facing the back tufa wall of the property, working at stripping each stalk of lavender and then hanging bunches of it tied with raffia on grates that we set up below the bathroom. So the area is cool and shady all day.

I finish about twenty bunches of lavender and realize it's taking me oodles of time to make any progress. So Roy suggests I hang bunches of it without stripping each stalk, and after pranzo I do that, managing to finish 50 large bunches before stopping for the day at around 8:30 P M. But the lavender lying flat nearby under a huge nespola tree looks as thought there has hardly been a dent.

While I'm making mounds of lavender clippings and leaves, Sofi lies close by. Soon she comes closer and lies on the lavender leaves, patiently waiting for me. I watch her and notice that her eyes remain open, ever vigilant. She is like a guide dog, very serious and assured of her mission: to protect me at all times. How can a human respond to such a natural attribute? With constant praise and delicious food and lots of hugs, I suppose.

We thought Maria and Luciana were coming to clean this afternoon, so we made sure we were ready to leave for the afternoon, only to find out they are coming tomorrow instead. So I took a nap for a couple of hours. That was helpful, for I'm able to stay up until midnight.

While sitting at the computer by the open window just before going to bed, I can hear a train traveling North. On most days, the air is silent. But when the wind blows a certain way, we can hear the trains traveling north from Orte to Attigliano and beyond.

We're not able to write much these days, because we're preoccupied with getting the garden and lavender ready for the festa on Saturday and for distribution at the church on Sunday. But there is always something that I want to remember...

I do enjoy my stint behind the house, while cleaning the lavender. I am able to witness a different slice of life in Mugnano, mostly about the people living above us. Usually, we hardly hear or see them.

I do recall that Rosina has a wonderful voice, but she does not sing much these days. When Sarah Hammond stayed at our house in 1998, she loved hearing Rosina sing in the early morning hours. What I recall today is her voice sweetly and slowly guiding her grandson, Federico, on some kind of numbers study. School is out, but it appears that Rosina takes her stewardship of this young boy very seriously. She clearly adores him, speaking in a gentle tone and guiding him though his exercises.

That sound is markedly different from the sounds of the grandmother who lives above us. I assume this woman is married to Pasquale, and know that she is the grandmother of the twin boys, Cristian and Eduardo. They are adorable little terrors, about five years old.

The grandmother opens the windows early each morning, and we wave at each other if I am out in the garden. She smiles sweetly. Often, she stands in front of their house looking down at me. She watches what I do silently.

It appears a very different woman moves inside the house, a woman who only speaks in a high-pitched scream. She is impatient with her grandsons, and they never seem to be doing anything right. Perhaps this is difficult work, taking care of two very energetic boys. But the contrast between her and Rosina is profound.

Old Gino lives above the loggia, and makes funny clicking sounds to try to cajole Sofi. This morning, he drops a small rug over his balcony, and his daughter, Franca, asks Roy if he can retrieve it for her as she walks down the hill to the cemetery. She'll pick it up on her way back up the hill.

Roy is up in the caki tree, on our tall aluminum ladder. He's clipping the caki, because some have boinked down hard on the table today. Before he's done, he clips hundreds of them. Pasquale walks by and tells Roy it's a good thing to clip them when they're small. I wonder if any of them will hit any of our guests on Saturday, who'll be sitting all around under the tree during pranzo.

June 23
It is easy to get up before six, and take care of the flowers on the balcony before going downstairs. I start some laundry, then check on my studio. But right inside the door is a little fat bird sitting on the gravel.

I'm not able to get him to move easily, and there is not enough room to get around him and encourage him to fly out. So I quickly go back through the gate to the terrace to keep Sofi away, and when Roy returns from an errand tell him about my new tenant. The bird does not live, so must have hit itself on the window while flying around, or traumatized itself inside trying to get out. I am so sad that this little helpless creature has ended its life on earth. Roy moves the bird, I know not where.

Before the day is over, I have finished about one hundred or more big bunches of lavender, suspended upside down from a grate below the bathroom to dry them straight before putting some of them in baskets for the house. I have enough lying under a big nespola tree to fashion a big wreath, and sit at the table on the terrace making it while Roy continues to clip away at the caki on his big aluminum ladder. Occasionally, I step beneath him and "spot" some of the hard fruit for him. We'd like to remove as much as we can before Saturday. The fruit is now rock hard, and a boink! from one of those could hurt someone. It is good that Italy is not a litigious society.

When I walk into the bathroom, a lavender scented breeze wafts toward me. It will be good to have the baskets all over the house for the summer months. Tomorrow I'll fill them. For the first time, using the area behind the house is a great idea. The area needs to be swept when I'm through, but for now it's a great workshop of sorts. Even though this is a little house, we seem to have fashioned plenty of spaces to work and relax.

Roy tells me that he's worked out how Stefano and Luca will do the cement pad at the back of the house. They'll bring in a ramp that will go from the back of the house to the front of the terrace. It will rest on the front iron fence, and the earth will be dropped to the path below, before moving it to Stefano's truck. Roy loves working out these logistics, and is very good at it.

Later, we take bags of cut caki flowers down the street to the garbage. On our way back, we see Donato's mother taking a short walk. She uses a wonderful big fat piece of bamboo for a bastone, or cane. The piece even has a little crook in it right where she holds onto it. So I stop and complement her on her bastone. She is a very sweet woman, as is her son, Donato. Sofi has just run up to Donato, who sits in his scoop undershirt and jeans at the bus stop along with Marino and Ennio and Ennio's dog, Bastia. Sofi does her mad woman run all around the men, especially Bastia, only stopping for a moment in front of Donato.

June 24
We're both up early, and the day is hot. The day ends with us both exhausted, but ready for tomorrow. What did we do all day? We worked in the garden on clean-up detail. The day moves by in a kind of buzz.

June 25
By the time Roy is up, I'm already in the garden. The morning flies by and we're ready when the first guests come up the front steps. We realize we can comfortably seat 60 people on our front terrace!

Today the number is smaller, but everyone has room to spread out. There is even a smoking table for the few who can't survive without a cigarette.

The two Japanese women arrive, and I'm happy that I can speak a few words of thanks. I know most of the other people pretty well.

Marsiglia is one of the first to arrive, on Gigliola's arm. When helping women to put their names on little flags for their food, Gigliola spells out her name for me and I ask, "Non come gigolo?"

When I sent out invitations, I asked the women to each bring her favorite thing to eat or drink. In past years I fretted about the menu, and when people offered to bring certain things and then wound up not coming, I was disappointed. So today, the idea works perfectly. A number of the women bring salads. They are very interesting salads, too.

We have grilled lavender chicken, which Roy cooked early this morning. I call it pollo diavolo, because it is charred black. Most of it is finished, so it couldn't have been too bad.

Of course there are many desserts. I think I like Shelly's best, a very tart lemony cake. I'll post the recipe later this week.

Roy is told by Mauro and Livio that he did not have permission from the Commune to drive in to pick up Lore's chairs. Since the plaza has been paved, it is off limits to cars and trucks. Now there is a new sign indicating that one needs written permission before he can enter. Mauro indicates that the reason for this is that if someone gets in, they may park their car and not leave. So Roy responds, "It's not a problem. I come in when Francesco (our Vigili Urbano) is asleep." Everyone laughs, until Livio responds, "In Mugnano, l'aria parla." (In Mugnano, the air speaks.) I love this Italian "modo di dire" (figure of speech).

People are asking about Roy's finger and his pinky. He tells me that the nail on his pinky finger is growing, so he doesn't think he'll lose it. His ring finger is much better, and he's ready to have it looked at next week after we return from Perugia.

I've still escaped any migraines, although in the hot weather I feel something starting in the back of my neck and take a tachiprina, a kind of simple pain-killer. Today, in all the heat, I do pretty well. So there won't be much to talk about at the doctor's office in Perugia later this week. It may be possible that I have "outgrown" them, as he hoped. Magari.

When guests leave, we give them each a bunch of lavender tied with a ribbon. There are some bunches left from today festa, and I save a few, mixing the rest with the others I have made for tomorrow. I bring the basket in the house. as a reminder for tomorrow morning. We are both so tired that we don't know what we'll remember.

June 26
The lavender is finished, and I rearrange it in baskets. There are about 75 bunches of it, tied with lavender ribbon. We walk up to church and give a few bunches along the way, to people we know won't be in church.

Giovanni sits on his front step and tells me "Brava!" when I hand one to him. Luigina is not around, so I'll save hers for later. In the square, we're still not used to the beautiful herringbone mattone on the pavement, but feel a sense of pride about it just the same. Roy stands the basket near the door on the edge of a bench. Livio asks us if we want the priest to say anything, but we do not.

We stand outside the church after mass has ended, and people come up to us and take one or two bunches each. By the time we finish in the square, and walk back down Via Mameli, we have two bunches left. So inside Giustino's garage we see him sitting with Maria and Terzo and a woman who must be a friend of Maria's. So I hand a bunch to Maria and one to Terzo and we're done.

Sofi is at the gate to greet us, but we are only here for a little over an hour. We feed Sofi early, and leave her on the terrace with plenty of water and shade. It is not fair to take her in the car in all this heat.

We arrive at Montefalco at the restaurant where we are to meet Pat and Dick right at 1PM. Before we get far, we are introduced to another couple, Dell and Keith, who are visiting from Newfoundland. Pat and Dick met them yesterday, and so we all agree to join them, putting two tables together.

Later, two women friends arrive who live nearby and are also ex-pats. All of us leave to go wine tasting to two local wineries. Dick hands out photos that he took last year, and he is treated like a king. We taste some wine at the first, and it is a family affair, but Roy and I don't purchase anything.

At the next winery, Perticaia, we are very impressed, and purchase a bottle of Sagratino, the wine that may one day give real competition to Tuscany's Brunello. We purchase a bottle for €17, and this wine will probably sell for around €60 in the U S. It is a complex wine, and wonderful to serve with antipasto. How do we know that? In the tasting room, which is new and set up with special glasses, we are served pieces of local pecorino and prosciutto.

This is such smart marketing. We like the couple very much, and the husband explains the process in detail, a process that Roy begins to understand. Being a former lab person, he likes the process. The rest of us want to sit down and stay out of the heat. Outside the window is a very old piece of farm machinery, called a perticaia, which the owner tells us is used for plowing behind a mule. The winery is named for it.

Dick and Pat live nearby, so we drive there for a few minutes and a glass of prosecco, before we have to leave. Little Sofi has been alone for 7 hours, and I hate leaving her that long.

Once we arrive home, she is fine. We change our clothes and sit like limp dishrags in front of the fan. This was another day of 100-degree temperature.

June 27
I'm really tired, but since we invited our new friends, Dell and Keith, for pranzo, there's no time to stay in bed. We have an 8:45 appointment with Alessandro about the car insurance and medical insurance, but as we're driving down the hill he sends us a text message on our phone that the other insurance company refuses to give up our policy.

We drive to Attigliano anyway, and are able to find beautiful long red peppers, yellow peppers, mushrooms, peaches, pears and also pick up sliced prosciutto Daniele, a piece of pecorino cheese, fresh tiny buffala mozzarella and a little chicken. So I poach the chicken for chicken tonnato, roast the peppers and fix them in olive oil and salt, marinate the mushrooms in fresh thyme and garlic and olive oil, make a loaf of ciabatta, which I started early in the morning, and then make the tonnato sauce.

We have fresh picked greens for salad, but there is so much food that we may skip it. With the zucchini flowers, we clean them and stuff each of them with a tiny ball of mozzarella wrapped with a piece of anchovy. So we have all the makings of a grand antipasto.

Dell and Keith arrive, and it is so hot that in addition to umbrellas overhead, we take out a tall fan. Although it is cool in the kitchen, we want them to experience a pranzo al fresco. So we start in the kitchen with glasses of spumante, then move out to start the meal with glasses of Orivetto classico, the fresh clean white wine from the nearby countryside.

Although we don't know them well, we want to give them an Italian country experience that will help them in their plan to buy a piece of property for living half of each year. I tell them that if they only figure out what things they don't want in a house or property, information that will be as helpful as understanding what they do want.

Roy made an appointment with Roberto Pangrazi at 4PM, so offers to take Keith with him to have him get a feel for what it's like to figure out property tax. Before we know it, they've returned. Our property tax for June is less than €7 €.

While they're gone, Silvano Spaccese arrives to finish installing the electrical plugs for my studio. I tell him Roy is not here to help, and he assures me it is not a problem. I introduce him to Dell, and he wants to talk about the weather. It is not that it is so hot; it is the humidity that is a problem. Either way, it is really hot and I'm wilting. The Orvieto Classico tastes really good, but I'm not used to drinking these days, so hour by hour my energy clock ticks down, down, down.

Antonio Monchini arrives on his vespa at 7PM, and brings us a bottle of cold prosecco and a dvd. We take it inside to play it, and what is on the dvd is a montage of photos set to music taken on Corpus Domini. I will try to see if we can somehow put it on the website. It is beautifully done, and we are the first to be given a copy. He is such a sweet man.

After he leaves, we are so tired that we can't wait to go to bed.

June 28
With temperatures over 100 degrees these past few days, we continue to rise early and get some special watering done early. Zucchini flowers continue to dominate as well as the zucchini itself. This morning, I notice a large one that must have escaped Roy's attention, and I am reminded of a story Judith told.

One Monday, she brought an enormous zucchini in to the office, thinking that someone would want it. One of the secretaries looked at it and snidely responded, "What happened? Did you go out of town for the weekend?" Only if you grow zucchini will you relate to that story.

We hear that Giuseppa has a way of fixing zucchini by slicing it julienne and laying it out in the sun on a kitchen towel. So I slice up a bunch, lay it out and salt it a little. I'm not sure of the next step, but in a few hours I'll take another look and come up with something. It shrinks quite a bit, but by the end of the day I'm still not sure what to do with it, so wrap it in a towel and put it in the frigo until tomorrow.

Roy drives to Viterbo to have a serious meeting with ENEL Gas. He thinks they charge us too much. So he reads the meter and goes over old bills before getting in the car. When he returns, he has a better understanding, but the bill will not be reduced.

I stay at home with Sofi and spend some time going over a major medical policy from Alessandro. We'll have to meet with him, but think it's a good idea, for not a lot of money, and the premium is guaranteed for ten years, we think.

Loredana calls from Ischia for a play-by-play of our festa de lavande. She also tells us that at this resort, in addition to wearing a bikini each day, the nights are all about "bella figura". That is about making a good impression. More than that, it is about looking particularly stylish, or elegant.

So she tells us that in the evenings, the major activity consists of everyone staring at everyone else. Roy hates the whole idea. I think it's really funny. Can you just imagine a whole room full of overly perfumed women just glaring at each other; then making polite conversation?

Roy is very happy to say that the bandage is off his finger and he is pretty satisfied that his activities will return to normal soon. I just loathe doing dishes, so especially look forward to having him resume that activity. For his sake, I am very happy that he will not have any lasting problems. As old Giustino tells us, "Sempre avanti!" or always forward...

Tomorrow we'll drive to Perugia for what I hope will be a good meeting with my migraine doctor. So far, so good. Miriam comes by to apologise for not coming to the festa, and we introduce her to Lulu and Gina and Vito. Then as she leaves we give her some lavender.

Now that there is electricity in my studio, Sofi and I spend time there this evening painting. I can play cds, and now violin music wafts out the window as I paint. During these hot days, I can't spend much time there except early in the morning and in the evening, when there is shade. Felice tells me this morning that the passion vine climbing up the corner of the studio will provide lots of shade later. It grows so fast that we'll have shade in no time.

June 29
It has been several months since our last trip to the hospital in Perugia for a consultation on my migraine headaches, but today is the day, and I get a clean bill of health. We'll return at the beginning of November. But for now, I remain headache and medicine-free.

Sofi stays at home, and she is alone for about eight hours. Left on the terrace with her bed and food and water in the shady loggia, she seems not to have moved for the time we were gone. The water and food remained untouched, yet when we return she growls while sitting over her food dish, making sure I do not take it away.

I hate to leave her alone, but hate taking her more. It is not fair to leave her in the car at all in this heat, and we are not assured that we can use covered parking wherever we drive.

While I paint in the studio, she lies near my feet. We're both happier at home, and content to be in our little workshop together, painting and watching the sun go down.

June 30
As another month comes to an end, I'm reminded that there are still so many things we do not know about life in Italia. Tonight we meet with Alessandro, our insurance broker. Roy reminds me that he has all of our business. But that was not always the case. For a year or more we moved our automobile insurance. But as of Monday, he has that policy as well.

He works to get our business, and to keep our business. And it seems to be a kind of a dance for him. When we leave his office in the next town tonight, I am sure he does not consider us as any more important than any of his other clients. And yet we value our relationship with him.

Tonight, we prepare a series of questions about a major medical policy before our meeting. Since the policy and descriptions are all in Italian, he kindly translates the information, as well as the fine print, for us.

Yes, we write that we are satisfied with the Italian state medical insurance, especially since it costs less than €400 a year for the two of us. Prescriptions cost €1. a box. But for major catastrophic coverage, we are nervous. So we agree to a supplemental policy, for around €500 a year.

Overall, we had a goal of cutting our insurance premiums in half. And we did just that. Including this policy. So we've become more knowledgeable consumers. And since the most costly expense we have in Italy is for insurance, we are satisfied that we are again thinking wisely.

Today's weather reaches 100 degrees, but it feels hotter than past days. I think it is the humidity, because the sky remains cloudy and there is no bright sun. After a drive to a newly opened IKEA on the Gran Raccordo Annulare outside Rome, we have a few baskets, a stool and a little storage piece, all for my studio.

On our return, we pick up the results of Roy's blood test and take it to Dottoressa. She is irritable and tired, so only gives us a few minutes and won't speak in English. She tells Roy that he must stay off dairy products for three months. The short test he did proved that his kidneys are working better.

She wants to send me to a gastroenterologist at the hospital in Orvieto for an intestinal problem, so Roy will try to make an appointment tomorrow in Attigliano for me. She gives me a prescription for some drops to take, and at the pharmacia our friendly pharmacist wants to talk about July 4th in America. Roy tells him that the borsa, or stock exchange, will be closed on Monday. He plays the stock market and likes to know when it will be closed.

So he asks us if we will eat corniglio (rabbit) on Monday. We look quizzically at each other until he tells us that we eat turkey at Thanksgiving, so why not rabbit on Independence Day? We tell him hamburgers and hot dogs and he thinks that's funny. But we tell him that we also eat cocomero (watermelon) and he thinks that's great. We tell him that we make cocomero granita and he makes a face. We will have to bring him some. As we leave, he and a woman who stood behind us tell us that granita is good flavored with caffe. Italians have such a limited palate!

Tonight I work in the studio until almost dark, coating "green" terra cotta plates with smalto, an undercoat, mixed by Maria Antonietta for me before she left for vacation. She tells me there is enough for 100 plates, but I am using it up quickly. The next project will be eight salad plates. I am still not sure of the design.

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