January through March, 2008

To read the CURRENT month, go to ITALY JOURNAL

Evanne's first one-woman show!! - For those of you who missed the Opening on December 30th - The paintings will be on display at Omaima in Orte thru March 2008 and perhaps thru April! If you can't make it or to see the address and hours - click here:
Art By Evanne / paintings


January 1
We walk up to mass at ten o'clock, for today's service is later than usual. Perhaps the Catholic Church agrees that it's difficult to get up on time after a late night celebrating the start of a new year. It is quite cold, but warm in the sun, so it's at least above freezing...

I take the little program home from today's mass, telling myself that I'll take a few words or phrases from each one each week and use them when speaking. Perhaps that will be a gentle way to learn more Italian.

I'm also going to review the dictionary list I copied years ago, thinking that by writing the words down that they'd become more familiar and easy to recall.

One day at a day at a time. So let's see if on this first day of the year that I can learn something new...Ascoltaci! is a word that is often used in the Sunday service, and it is used today. I see it often, but am not sure of it. Ascoltare means to listen, so that's a very good word to begin. So about that "ci" tense...Let's see...

I'll get out that verb's time to pay attention to the tenses...all fourteen of them! To listen, to learn, to put...these are three verbs I'll be working on this week.

I'm interrupted by fixing a leg of lamb, stuffing it with garlic and other herbs and roasting it, basting it with red wine a la Jamie Oliver and all that. It comes out fine, but the chocolate cake is a literal flop...Dino puts it in the oven in the loggia and when he takes it out of the new pan (a glass bottom and Teflon sides), the cake flops out onto the floor.

We survive it all and the cake is repaired, so we each eat a piece and then throw the rest out.

Tonight, after a dolce fa niente (afternoon nap) to sleep off too much red wine, we're watching a James Bond film when the doorbell rings.

It's Livio and his son-in-law, Giulio, here to ask if we'll translate a tourist brochure into English for a Viterbo church, San Crispino de Viterbo. Dino refers the project to me, and of course I will. It will be fun to do. Someone has made a first attempt, and our task is to clean it up. We'll do it this next week. We're pleased they asked...

With another day tomorrow when no workers will be available at the house, we'll be keeping things mellow. If I don't hear from the painter from Orte, I'll find her phone number and call her. A new year is perfect for a new beginning, a more detailed effort to learn the nuances of classic painting. And I so want to learn to be a serious classic artist.

January 2
Brrr! On this cold morning we drive to Viterbo and pick up a couple of things that we cannot find nearby. On the way into Viterbo from the Superstrada, I mention to Dino that we have yet to find out where the crematorium is in Viterbo, where we are to be incinerated (gulp!) after our deaths.

There is a sign to the right of the cemetery, so we drive down the road and while Dino and Sofi sit in the car, I march right through the back gate and find an office. I'm seeking information, and a kind young man zipped up in a winter parka tells me what to do...

First, one of us dies. The surviving spouse calls the priest and the funeral home. They arrive at our house and lay the body out (usually in the living room...funny it's in the LIVING room) for a day while the neighbors drop by. Everyone sits around and stares at it decked out on a bed in dress-up clothes. Then the body is taken to the church in a regular casket for the service.

After the service, the funeral home takes the body in the casket to the crematorium in Viterbo, in this case. Usually, people are buried in the ground in the local cemetery, or their caskets are slid into those stone boxes along with their neighbors in the same cemetery, in a kind of post office box configuration along a wall.

In our case, I suppose the funeral home makes provisions to return the ashes to the surviving spouse, and hopefully they're the correct ones.

But in order for this to happen, our wishes must be written in advance and filed at the Comune, we suspect with Francesco, our Vigili Urbano (local policeman) who also serves as overseer of the cemetery in Mugnano.

It all fits. The charge by the Funeral Home now makes sense, for there is a regular casket, there is a regular service, and then the funeral home delivers the casket to the crematorium.

It's not completely a "fa da te" (do it yourself) process, and is all rather civilized. So we'll write up our wishes, have Tiziano look them over, and file them in the Comune. E fatto! ( It is done!) Well, almost...

Now those of you who don't know us well wonder why we're including this in the journal. But it is the journal of our lives here in Italy, and perhaps it will be helpful to other stranieri who settle in Italy and don't know "how it's done".

This morning I call Els, the painter I met on Sunday in Orte, and we're to meet on Monday in Orte at the bar, to discuss my next art training. In the meantime, I'll call Marco and tell him I am going to take a hiatus for a few months from his bottega to get some training from an accomplished painter who speaks English. He'll certainly understand.

Dino drives off in the afternoon for a haircut, and I walk upstairs to do some writing. Outside the West-facing window I see a fire on the hill near Shelly and Claudio's and immediately pick up the phone. Neither their telephone number, nor the cell, works. I cannot even reach Dino.

He returns home in a few minutes and I send him up to see if there is really a fire and if it is out of control. He comes back to tell me they are just burning leaves. That's good.

But one never knows if a fire will get out of control, especially if the wind picks up. Perhaps it is our ten years living on Mount Tamalpais above San Francisco and it's dangerous location during fire season that has me on alert.

"She's daft, she's really daft," you're probably thinking after reading today's entry. Perhaps you're right...At least you never know what I am going to write about next...

So I have not done much to practice my three verbs, but at least I have taken out the verb book. Sigh. Tomorrow while Dino is in Tenaglie finishing the kitchen installation I will do the translation of the booklet and take a look at the verbs. But tonight, I'll make a cece and pasta soup.

The soup is really delicious (see the recipe elsewhere on this site) and we sit around for the rest of the evening, watching U S election coverage on T V. Being so far away, I admit I am an election news-junkie. Unfortunately, the choices to watch are only CNN and FOX. Puor troppo!

January 3
Michelle emails me that Claudio and Dani were burning olive cuttings last night, from their many trees; hence, the flames. They've pruned them, as it is fine to prune olive trees almost any time of year. Perhaps that's impetus for us to prune our own. Dino is in Tenaglie while I write this and we'll have to see how he feels about it when he returns...

I'm very interested in the Iowa caucus, although I do agree with the commentator who voiced his opinion that we make too big a deal of Iowa; there are so few people who actually caucus (one in fifteen?) and the state does not have that many people anyway.

The day continues to be so cold that neither Sofi nor I have any interest going outside, even for a minute. Dino makes a fire, which is restoked during the afternoon and evening. I cannot imagine a house without a real fireplace, and we're so pleased with ours. Even though we have a stufa right nearby, we hardly use it. I think that's because we have lots and lots of wood.

With this break of a week or more without painting, I'm looking forward to sketching and painting again, so while Dino is out tomorrow morning getting a haircut, I'll begin sketching again. There'll be lots to watch on T V about the Iowa caucus, for it won't be decided until we're long asleep, and that old news will be new to us.

January 4
While we were in the U S on our annual trip during November, our local airport, Viterbo, was chosen as Italy's newest major hub. It's choice as central Italy's third airport after DaVinci (Fimucino) in Rome and Ciampino will be a boon to local business. Ciampino is the current airport that the low-cost carriers fly into, and Viterbo, located north of Rome, will be expanded to take on some of that traffic.

That's the good and the bad news. Viterbo will become more of an important hub of commerce, more people will want to purchase property here, we'll have more opportunity to help people purchase property or take on restorations, but that's where the good news ends.

Italians love to emulate the United States, and we're afraid that urban sprawl and a loss of character will become a fact of life in the surrounding area of Viterbo. Sigh.

Many Italians cherish their history, their art, and work diligently to protect it. But then greed steps in, and the opportunity to make money changes people's perspectives. We are not all that concerned about little Mugnano during our lifetimes, but after our deaths, who knows what this area will look like?

Tuscany has turned into Chiantishire. It is over-restored and precious, although the handsome landscape remains. Locals are having trouble making ends meet with the high cost of living there. Umbria is a mix of old and new, with Todi leading the pack as a location to rival towns of Tuscany. So every province is changing.

We take our friends to more undiscovered towns and cities in Umbria and Lazio whenever possible, to discover Italian charm and a characteristic way of life.

So what's to become of Alto Lazio? The Etruscan heritage is strong here, as is the interest in preserving ancient monuments and works of art. We see it as an excellent real estate opportunity, especially with the ease with which one will be able to travel in and out of Viterbo.

I have faith that the annual festas and sagras and feast days of towns and cities all over Italy will continue, and that their popularity will increase. The converse is too terrible to contemplate.

I'm back sketching again, in preparation for returning to painting lessons, this time with a teacher who speaks English. I miss Marco already, but will hope to return to him later this year.

Sofi is ill this morning. Her nose is cold, but she shakes underneath the oven, crying out to me. We are able to feed her a little Enterogermina in a demitasse cup, for I can hear her stomach rumbling.

She's huddled in her little bed while I write, trying to hide. It's quite cold outside, so while Dino and Pandina dance around the countryside, she and I stay inside.

So about last night's caucus in Iowa... The turnout was enormous, and I'm hoping that means that young people want their voices to be heard. Hillary is a person who is either loved or despised, and I fear she will not be a unifier, or a motivator, which we sorely need.

Obama seems to have come out of nowhere, and although I believe that people don't even know what he wants to do, they yearn for someone who has the ability to motivate them and then get them to act. If he can prove that he has substance to back up his words, I remain hopeful.

But it's too early to count anyone out...yet. And on the Republican front, McCain will probably emerge, so it will be a long and windy road ahead for both parties, and for the American people.

I read a daily blog by Beppe Grillo, and his comments make me shiver:

"One of those who spoke at V-Day in Bologna was Massimo Fini. He expressed a concept summed up by Charles Bukowski: "The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting."

Beppe continues...
"If representative democracy is the best of all possible worlds, its degenerated Italian version is the worst of the best possible worlds. In Italy the citizen counts for one, but is worth nothing. "

Dino returns and Sofi scurries under the stove, where she remains huddled, crying out to us. I get down on my hands and knees and give her my hand, which she kisses, but she's not about to come out. Her cries continue, but she has a cold nose.

We interrupt a simple pranzo to put on our coats, when she rushes out and wags her tail. In fifteen minutes we're waiting in the "sala de attessa" (waiting room) of the vet. Soon afterward, Sofi's checked out, but the vet can find nothing. So she gets an anti-pain injection and we drive off.

She's well enough to come with us to Tenaglie, so that I can see the new copper countertops and give my opinion about the fabric curtains that I will make to put under the sink. The kitchen people will return on Monday, so there are adjustments to be made first. But the space looks wonderful.

Tomorrow Dino will work with a new plumber on the leaking radiator, the sink faucets, and with Lorenzo on measuring the stairs for a safety rail. Since our clients will be renting their house out, they want to forego the clean look of the open side of the staircase, in favor of safety. Lorenzo to the rescue...

On the way out, I'm taken by the quality of the work done by Lorenzo on the iron gate. He has a way of finishing a project with details that are understated and yet elegant in their simplicity. He remains a treasure to work with, as well as to know.

On the way home, Dino tells me that when Daniele was cutting his hair this morning, he asked him about those sheep in the meadow that seem to line up in front of a makeshift tent.

I've written about them before, and Daniele has the answer: it's a milking stand! Could it be possible that one can get one and one half liters of milk per lamb per day?

Well, why do people want to own sheep? For the wool? No. For the meat? No. They really want to own sheep for the milk that is turned into...cheese! Pecorino! Peccora = sheep. Well, the answer has been right in front of me all along!

I feel much better about that now. The thought of them lining up for their death was more than I could bear, although I should know better...

January 5
Although it's Saturday, Dino is up and out to meet the plumber in Tenaglie. Sofi and I loll around a little, for it's too cold for a walk outside.

The new plumber arrives to take a look, but he won't do the work until Tuesday. So the kitchen installers have been rescheduled.

It's been raining all day, and after pranzo I'm not feeling well. It's another migraine, but one so strong I have to take my regular medicine again after four hours. Sofi and I spend most of the afternoon napping, and that means that I'm up after nine, wanting to watch TV and learn about the latest election news in New Hampshire. There's not much to report about, so after midnight Sofi and I turn in.

January 6
It's Epiphany, one of those strange holidays that ends all of those "Auguris!". The kitchen witch is big tonight, for candies are given out to children on this day in a strange tradition that shows people in cities and towns getting out their ugly witch costumes and giving prizes for the ugliest.

Tonight is also one of my favorite church services of the year, the blessing of the reliquaries (relics). "Prega per noi" or "Ora pro nobis" (pray for us, the second in Latin) is chanted by all of us in response after each saint's name is chanted by dear old Vincenzo. I can't imagine this mass with anyone else doing the chanting.

Dino wants to attend mass this morning, so attends by himself. I'm feeling better, but think one mass tonight will be enough.

Instead, I take a look at the west garden and try to imagine it with more gravel, fewer plants. There is a succulent variety I like quite a bit, and its name is echeveria. So I look it up on the web, and come up with a number of varieties that I like.

I'm also imagining a stone wall around three quarters of our big olive tree, with level stones at the top so that we can sit there. The only new plant we will introduce will be types of echeveria, but there will be multiples of them. We may add some lavender, strategically placed, for not more than a dozen of ours are left.

This will be a more draught-tolerant garden, with much less maintenance. I'm hopeful we can get Mario to do the heavy work. I'm not completely sure of the design, but it will be reminiscent of the dry stone gardens of Provence...I'll check first with Sarah Hammond to be confident that she approves...

With a light rain outside all day, we're inside by the fire, but at just before 5 PM we walk up to the borgo for tonight's special service. Dino has his confraternity costume, and I'll sit with Candida or one of the other older women as he stands up front. There will be much incense tonight, and this is about the most formal service we have all year.

There is a small turnout, but it's a sweet service, with Dino and just a few of his brothers taking care of the reliquaries. For this service, Don Luca sits in front of the altar facing it.

Mauro is chosen as the confraternity member to raise each reliquary or bust containing a relic high up facing the people sitting in the pews. Dino and Fabrizio and Mauro help each other with the relics.

We walk home to see the lights on our tree for the last time this year. With the season over, we'll turn them off and put them away.

Now there's a much more interesting project on our minds, and that is the agreement that we'll consult with Pepe and Stefano, the muratore, and build a classic wood burning oven in the corner of the loggia.

This will happen in concert with the new roof of the loggia, and it might as well happen this year. So we'll be able to roast meats and have pizzas whenever we want. That will be fun, especially in warmer weather.

Perhaps later this week we'll begin some pruning, and so the cycle of getting ready for plants and flowers in the spring has begun, if only in our minds. Although it's very late, Dino will turn the soil over and plant the fava bean seeds this week, too, where we like to grow our tomatoes.

We're reminded that we had no tomatoes at all last year, and the jars of tomato pulp and puree from 2005 will be gone in another week or two. We have the seeds to begin planting in a few weeks, and are hopeful that we will have an abundant crop. Time will tell...

January 7
Under an overcast sky I drive to Orte to meet with Els as a potential painting teacher who speaks English. I decide to stay with Marco instead. Perhaps in the future I'll take a one-week course with her, but on an ongoing basis have decided to stay where I am. She is certainly talented and with her command of the English language can help me a lot. So we'll see...

I take my violin and a photo of me taken the first time I held a violin in my arms. It's for Lucia, who loves the photo. I also take the 5 meters of silk taffeta purchased on our U S trip. I give Lucia the photo, and later Dino takes a few photos of it to give to her so that she can paint the violin in her own style.

For me, I take the opportunity to sketch the violin and bow, leaning it back against a mussed up measure of silk taffeta. Marco loves to set up backgrounds and subjects for his students, and this is a good exercise. I spend the entire session drawing the violin leaning back at an angle, as well as the taffeta scrunched below and behind it to show light and shadows. It is a daunting task.

Earlier I took out the book, Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain and did a few exercises. In it, I read about people who are left-handed learning to write with their right hands, and about exercises to tap the other side of one's brain used for writing. Something stirs deep inside me...

When I was a young girl, I practiced reading upside down and backward by sitting on the floor in front of a mirror. I am able read upside down now, and give friends a laugh whenever I demonstrate. Will this strange ability serve me well in drawing?

We strike the set and bring the violin home, while Marco recommends that I continue to practice drawing during the week using fabric and still life compositions. Still life is referred to as "natura morta" in Italian.

January 8
Yesterday Dino discovered that one of our electrical circuits is out, and it is the one that serves the parcheggio gate and the septic tank that is pumped into the village sewer. Without getting into detail, I'll tell you that both tanks are full.

So we're expecting Viterspurgo to arrive after pranzo to pump them both out. After that's done, Silvano and Enzo Rosati have a long-term solution. In the meantime, we must conserve water. Enough said.

We call upon Mario to come and take a look at what we need him to do for us in the garden. Although we're really too late, we want him to prep the tomato garden and plant favas.

We don't care about eating the favas, just want the soil enhanced. Mario rolls his eyes but agrees to do the work, if Dino will set a fire in advance and burn what needs to be burned in its place.

Dino has taken out a lot of the lavender, for most of it is too dry to save. We are left with a dozen plants, growing here and there. So with the idea that we want a more draught-tolerant garden, we orchestrate a plan in which the path to the far property will be used primarily as a height guide.

The flat tufa paving steps to the gardener's cottage will be removed and soil dug up from that area to the border where the lavender garden begins. Where the lavender garden "began", we map out a winding path for the grading and gravel.

There are many tufa bricks left to build a short wall around three sides of the base of the huge olive tree. The wall will be strong enough to sit on.

The upper row of boxwood hedging on the path will be removed, and those healthy plants remaining will be used to fill in those that are not doing well on the bottom row. It's a good first step.

Once that is done, we will take a look at what we need to replace or replant, what we need to change. The rest of the area will be graded and nursery cloth and gravel will be placed there. We are hoping we have enough gravel, left from previous projects.

Dino and I will do all the tree pruning, and will prune the big olive tree just enough to allow sunlight to filter in for the climbing rose that has not done very well these past two years and remains growing into the center of the tree. I feel it has suffered from neglect.

Poor Lulu the scarecrow will come out of the tree and will be given a burial. She was a big hit with our grand daughters, but by the time they return they won't remember her. We'll also prune the other olive trees.

It's time to begin pruning the roses and cutting back the fig tree (a lot) and the large loquat tree. Year after year, I tell myself that we'll take out the cherry tree, but each year it flowers and produces cherries that make great sour jam. The tree will remain for one more year...

My dream of two apple trees on the front terrace will remain a dream for now. It's time to get out the books to review what to do with the roses, and in the next week or two I'll begin that annual task. There's no money to spend on luxuries, so I'll just continue my dream.

We've offered Giordano and Goury a wedding present from our site, and they want painted tiles for their kitchen. So we'll meet with them soon and figure out something appropriate. I have some bisque (unpainted) tiles and Elena will dip them and fire them, once I have the design worked out. It's the dipping I don't want to continue. A painting project now and then on ceramics is fine.

I'm looking forward to seeing a new design unfold in the side garden, and to having a more draught-tolerant space. Dino spends so much time watering during summer months that I'm hoping this will change all that. We'll be laying down additional irrigation lines, hoping that we'll have made less work for us in the very hot summer months.

I still want to include some echeveria plants, but am not sure where they will work. Echeveria is a very draught tolerant plant, a succulent that I find very attractive, and we're going to figure out some groupings. They'll look very good against the pale gravel.

Viterspurgo takes no time at all to clean out our tanks, so Dino burns some dried brush to ready the area for Mario while he waits for Silvano and possibly Enzo Rosati. It's such a warm and sunny afternoon that Sofi and I spend time in the garden, too.

There are roses and roses and more roses. The roses against the front fence will come out, probably replaced by plumbago. The existing plumbago does so well that more of it along the front of the property will be more of a unifying design.

These roses will be moved, I'm not sure where yet. But they get tangled in the metal fence and are a waste of effort where they have been growing. Before the afternoon is out, I've cut back four or so roses. If I can do that each day, in a couple of weeks they'll be done.

Am I the only person worried about our ships on the Gulf of Harmuz? With Al Queda urging terrorists to welcome George Bush with fireworks of their own, I'm surprised that the media is not picking up on it other than mentioning it as an aside here in Europe. As little as I like George Bush, I like Cheney even less, and surely don't want his finger on the proverbial "trigger".

In the U S, the election is taking center stage, especially Hillary's moment of emotion, and we're weary of it all. Yes, I think the moment was genuine and no I do not like her. At first I could not get enough election news (our resources with CNN and FOX are so sparse that we're often watching Al Jazeera for another point of view).

I suppose that in the U S people are tired of the coverage, and wonder if people are really taking the election seriously. So many people vote for the candidate they "like", instead of the candidate who would do the best job. I really don't have the answer, and have no idea who I will vote for. I don't think Dino knows, either.

Dino's gone to the geometra to give him hell about the muratores' lack of quotes for work not done, for bills for work done not covered in the original bid. The geometra has been raising his shoulders in a "who, me?" response. Being a project manager for a restoration project in Italy is not easy. The geometra is responsible for keeping the muratore in line, but this one is not particularly forceful.

On another front, the kitchen supplier is also building the medicine cabinets for the bathrooms. The cabinet for the cantina is not ready, for they cannot find the mirror we gave them. This is the same mirror we could not use upstairs, and to be sure it fit with the downstairs color scheme, I painted half of the leaves silver so that the design is now gold and silver instead of gold and dark blue.

It's quite beautiful, and the situation is quite nerve wracking. At the 11th hour, they seem to have lost it. I fear they have thrown it out by mistake. So I'll recheck the journal for November and December to see if I mentioned it. Ah, Dino returns to tell me he found it at the house and dropped it off to be mounted before returning home. That is a relief.

Dino is attempting to replace the muratores at this late date with a handyman-type, and tomorrow will make the rounds to see if he can find one. The remaining work to be done is piddly, and the geometra told Dino last night that the muratores are in Albania for the rest of the month. So they obviously don't have an interest in finishing the work.

Do they want to be paid? I roll my eyes, wondering what new property owners from other countries do to get their projects finished. It is a thankless task, but somehow Dino thrives on making things work out.

While the men stand around the septic tank in our parcheggio, Dino figures out that the pump is fine, but the lever that moves the pump up and down has a break in the plastic, and water has been leaking in; hence the inability for it to function.

In the next day or so we'll have the correct part and will have it functioning again as it should. I should say for the first time, for the light on the pump never worked. It gave us the impetus to plan to have it pumped out every three years. The cost was €250, which was not too bad.

We're continuing to do laundry and running the dishwasher at night, for we are on an energy-saving program. It seems to work, although I haven't seen a bill for a while.

As the weeks move along, Mario will come when he can to do his work, and it will be interesting to see how the project progresses in the garden. He is a great worker, and winds up costing less although his hourly rate is more. He works like a bull, with his head down. Va bene.

January 9
We went to bed long before the votes were counted in New Hampshire, but a win of Obama and McCain were expected. A surprise win by Hillary changed the dynamics. My reaction is that the media gave her the win, after castigating her for her emotional response to a question.

This morning, while Dino returns to Tenaglie, Sofi and I take it easy. A headache returns, for I'm not all that interested in drawing today.

There is an owl out there, or at least one owl, and it is LOUD. Even with the double-paned windows closed we can hear him hooting, morning and night.

Silvano and Enzo Rosati's crew arrive in the afternoon to work on the septic system, and the culprit is a faulty lever. One of them volunteers to be lowered down into it, and they're all in good spirits figuring out what to do. Everyone has an opinion. Luckily, Dino has a good head on his shoulders, and figures out who is correct. On Friday, Silvano will return with the part we need and finish the work. January 10
Dino gets me up early, very early, and we're at the house in Tenaglie before 8:30. The kitchen supplier arrives and finishes the installation of the cantina kitchen, and refits the upstairs kitchen for metano. Previously, we hooked up bombolas for the house, for the gas did not arrive until this last month.

Just before they leave they help Dino move the new sofabed downstairs, and after they leave we get a chance to see how beautiful the downstairs apartment will be. The sofabed is just an extra in the mono-locale living/dining room/kitchen, facing the big stone fireplace. There is also a lovely stone-walled bedroom overlooking the olives and an ancient ruin, so this lower apartment can sleep four friends.

I imagine myself as a writer for a moment, wanting a retreat for a year to write a book. If that's you, write it here! Merritt will surely rent the cantina to you. Email us and we'll connect you with him. They've signed up with at least one rental company, so get your bid in soon!

We spend the entire day at the house, and Sofi watches and snoozes a little while we keep busy. By the time we leave the lights are installed in the bedroom, and task-by-task, we're checking off details that are so important at the end of any project.

At home we hear from Shelly that they are all a tizzy about Giordano's wedding tomorrow. Yes, we can lend them chairs. Yes, Dino will make sure Stein's house is ready for their relatives to sleep there. It's raining this afternoon, and although the weather forecast is not for sunny skies, I can't help but hope that it's good luck for this young couple.

January 11
Silvano is expected at 8AM to work on the electrical pump for the septic system. He calls to ask about the weather, and Dino tells him we have another project inside for him to work on. Silvano has become increasingly adept at solving electrical problems in the ten years we have known him.

Shelly and Claudio agree with us, and this past week he worked at their house on various projects, helping them to get ready for lots of wedding guests. Giordano is to be married today.

This morning, Silvano and Dino redistribute the power going to various parts of the house. Since our new stove takes lots of power, he's changed the circuits for that corner of the kitchen to have a circuit all its own.

By the time the two of them have finished checking and redistributing power, Silvano is ready to work on the septic tank switch. We need to purchase a few items for the project, so he'll return on Tuesday. Now Dino knows why Enzo originally recommended a verbal alarm. We will return to that concept if Silvano cannot find the switch that has shorted.

We've signed up for daily rantings of Beppe Grillo. A friend we respect a great deal responds to our question about how he feels about him: "He is the kind of dangerous buffoon Italians are likely to love immoderately.

"Not a Mussolini or a Hitler, but a potential foe of our shaky democracy. Our Parliament and its members do not deserve much praise, but alternatives, as Italians should know, are even worse".

If you want to find out for yourself, the site is:

We spend this rainy afternoon taking things down from the storage loft and continuing to look for the blue striped fabric we have not been able to find for two years. When we're through, Dino takes a number of things to the dumps, and sets some aside to donate and some to take to the consignment shop in Viterbo.

We're still overwhelmed with "stuff". We don't buy anything anymore, but our shady U S past as consumer junkies proves that that was not only the case. No, we have not gone through a twelve-step program, we just have a small house and limited funds, and won't go into any more debt.

The night ends with us taking Stein's keys to houseguests of Claudio and Shelly and showing one of the young men where all the lights and locks are. They'll only spend one night there. Tomorrow will be a big festa at NonnaPappa that we'll attend in honor of Giordano and Gowri. We're looking forward to it.

January 12
The rain continues, but today is not particularly cold. I work on a drawing of St. Matthew and the angel. The more I draw, the more I enjoy the work. The original painting sits in the French church in Rome, .....and again I'm drawn to the tessuti, the fabric, of what he is wearing.

With all this rain, we are unable to connect with the internet. I suppose that anyone wanting to reach us from afar can always call.

Just after noon, we drive to NonnaPappa Restaurant, for the wedding reception. Giordana and Gauri have taken over the entire restaurant, and it's a warm and friendly crowd. We especially enjoy getting to know Gauri's parents, who are here from Ohio.

Dino later tells me I made him laugh when I asked her father if he thought he had a Cincinnatti accent. Well? Why is it that we never think WE have accents? Perhaps it is that we are so used to hearing our own voices that we don't pick up on that.

Here are some photos of the people at the reception:

January 13
We wake to light rain, and drive up to mass. Afterward, we drive to Il Pallone, our favorite Sunday supermarket. It's full of customers, and an almost celebratory feeling is in the air. Men are here, and children, so it's not a day for serious supermarket shoppers.

At home, we watch Bush's speech from Dubai, and then turn on Al Jazeera to get a different kind of commentary. I've long thought the American view of Middle Eastern governments has been simplistic. Democracy in Lebanon and its last elections led to Hamas-led power, so what do you think of that, George?

We're looking forward to driving to Rome with Don Luca to pick out an altar service for the Duomo. I'd like to make a side trip to the Causes of Saints, to review the page of the book about the various San Liberatos. The caption below a photograph of men standing on a boat referred to another San Liberato, but since "our" San Liberato was set out on a barge that was set on fire, I later began to think that the description under the photo was incorrect.

It's also time to review our options to get into the Vatican Library itself. There were only two books we were shown in the Causes of Saints building, and I can't imagine there aren't other sources. So who can help us dig about?

Perhaps our own dear friend, Don Francis, is the answer. Let's see how he responds to our nudge. He's always enthusiastic, so we'll hope we can extend his positive attitude to this research in Rome.

On another front, we continue to dream about a restored roof and new bread oven for our loggia, or outdoor kitchen. Have we forgotten that there are programs with ENEL, the local power company, to sell them power (!) from solar panels on our roof?

There are specifications, so Dino will visit his good friend in the Soriano office. We'll get their bid, then see who else can give us bids. With that information, we'll obtain a quote from Stefano, our favorite muratore, and see if we can move forward without a great expense. We keep going back to this project, and I don't think it will go away.

It's back to the translation project for the Bomarzo Comune, and with Spring and the Palio not all that far away, I spend a few hours on it. Will I become a translator? With the small Viterbo booklet translation under my belt, why not? The little brochure I translated a week ago gave me a bit of confidence. It might be fun.

Kees arrives for a visit and to drop of Stein's car key. He and Catherine are settling in to their lives in Holland, and they are missed.

We drop him off at the house of friends and continue to Omamia in Orte to see Francesca, and look for two kitchen stools for the cantina project and visit our paintings on the gallery walls in the back.

We also look for the stools at Asti & Fallimente, but don't find what we like. I'm thinking we should just order them, even if it takes a month for them to arrive.

January 14
There was no mention of the Blessing of the Animals at church yesterday, and I'm beginning to think we'll skip it this year. For the first year or two of Sofi's life there was a blessing in Mugnano, but for the past few it's been a chaotic meeting up in Bomarzo.

On this cold and dreary day, I do some research about San Liberato, one of our patron saints, and discover that he was martyred under the reign of a king of the Visigoths. I also think that he is the patron saint whose remains are buried in a lovely church in Bracciano, near Rome, so it's worth a trip there to learn more about him, and the history.

I spend the session at Marco's working on a drawing of St. Matthew and the Angel, an enormous painting by Caravaggio and housed in Rome at Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi , the French church in the piazza by the same name not too far from Piazza Navona. Tomorrow we'll obtain a blowup of it and I'll copy it onto canvas and begin to paint it.

Dino picks me up early, and we arrive home before the sun sets, so that I can see the fog laying low in the valley as if making a bed of it. It is a wonderful sight, peaceful and calming.

January 15
Dino drives to Viterbo to pick up the electrical box and other items for the project he is working on with Silvano. But after Silvano arrives they realize that the specification that Silvano gave to Dino was incorrect. Dino agrees to drive back to Viterbo to pick up what they'll need.

Sofi and I stay at home. These days I've been drawing quite a bit, and it is important to master the principles of design in sketches before moving on to painting.

I have a wonderful set of drawings, originally done by Leonardo da Vinci, and spend several hours drawing a hand...just a hand. I'm drawing the muscles and tendons underneath the skin. Once I understand these basics, I'll hopefully become a more accomplished artist. I have loads of exercises ahead of me, and look forward to every one.

I find it interesting that at my advanced age that I'm serious about learning. Well, perhaps the creative side of me is, but the side that is responsible for language comprehension just shuts off. I'm becoming somewhat of a hermit, so perhaps it does not matter.

January 16
Dino leaves early for Tenaglie and Sofi and I sleep in. I have a migraine, and it is a test. I ate potato chips last night, and thought that the salt may bring on a headache. It did. The medicine works, and after an hour I'm feeling better.

The weather continues to be overcast, and so we work on projects in the house. I admit I spend a lot of time researching houses to exchange in Provence. It takes a lot of time, and by the time the night is over, we have only a few real places to consider. It will be interesting to see who replies.

January 17
Dino and Sofi and I drive in the rain to Tenaglie, and I work with Dino on projects to finish the restoration. We finish around noon, and when we drive home the drizzle continues. It continues all afternoon and evening.

Looking around the kitchen, I continue to draw still-lifes, or what the Italians call natura morta. It's good exercise, and these days I'm less driven to paint, more interested in drawing well. Before moving to the natura morta, I finish drawing a second hand, including the tendons and muscles underneath the skin. Will this really help me to draw hands? It's good exercise, anyway.

January 18
We've kept our journal up for more than five years, and sometimes I just don't want to keep at it. So on these sleepy January days it's difficult to be motivated to do it. What day IS today, anyway?

Mugnano continues to be bathed in a mist and we begin to talk about a house swap with someone in Provence for April. Will it happen? I'm not sure.

I'd like to be outside working on the roses, but it's just too cold. So sewing and drawing take up my time. Dino is always up to something.

We stop by to see Shelly and Claudio, and there is talk about the solar panels and selling electricity to ENEL. Sound weird? Well, there is some strange rebate program whereby we'd buy the panels, finance their purchase through a bank, then sell the solar power to ENEL after they're installed on the roof of the loggia.

It's a very long-term program, but I think it will mean that we won't be paying for electricity at some point. Shelly and Claudio are doing most of the research, and we'll take their counsel, as well as do some of our own.

Roy reminds me that we were hoodwinked by Elizabeth and her solar panel friend. They assured us that we would be able to use our existing panels to recoup a lot more than the ability to heat water. So we'll tread slowly on this one.

January 19
We've purchased an Italian version of scrabble, and Dino beat me soundly at it last night. So now we're back to wanting to play it in English, so purchase one online. We're trying to stay away from television at night. With all the Italian vowels, it's almost weird to figure out how to put words together in Italian. But it is good practice.

Wonder if it's easier to play scopa?

We take a trip to search for chandeliers for our clients, but the choices are all over-designed. It may be worth returning to Pienza to the shop we know. Perhaps this is a good time of year for a trip, so perhaps we'll drive there next week.

It's still too cold to garden, so the roses will have to wait a little.

January 20
We decide to drive up to mass, for later Dino will drive to Il Pallone to do grocery shopping. Sofi is with us and will stay in the car. She seems to be happier waiting in the car than in the house when we are gone.

One of those black and white notices is posted, and it's for Vincenzo, who died yesterday. At first I think it's Vincenzo who helps with the mass, and then Dino tells me it's Carla's husband. They live above Ernesto's store, and for a few weeks we've seen him at the window, not really making much of it.

The funeral mass is at 10AM, and that is unusual. Usually funeral masses in Mugnano are in the afternoon. So we walk up the steps to their apartment, and it is full of people.

Vincenzo's casket is closed, and we think that's unusual. Perhaps it's because it's almost time for the funeral mass. Carla is overcome with grief, and holds me and wants to tell me how great her loss is. I am so very sad for her. Her son and daughter in law are also there.

There is a second priest serving at the mass in addition to Don Luca, and Dino thinks he is a Capucin or a Franciscan. He performs half of the mass. Since Vincenzo is not from Mugnano, perhaps this is the priest from his town.

Maria tells us that he died of liver cancer, and later we surmise that he died quickly. There is a big turnout from Mugnano, including Pepe, who spent a lot of time with Vincenzo. Often we heard Vincenzo grinding the grain with a noisy machine in Pepe's garage, sitting on a stool in the open doorway. Vincenzo was a mild and gentle soul, and we think of him as a part of the very fabric of Mugnano.

I remember that on the one or two times we had the blessing of the animals in Mugnano, Vincenzo would bring a lamb to be blessed. We also remember that he and Carla were part of our medieval group who participated in the Soriano castagno festa, and Vincenzo contributed his tasty cheese, made from the milk of his sheep.

We will miss Vincenzo, miss his sweet smile as he drives by us in his ape, or in his car with Carla by his side. He was a giant of a man, towering over little Carla, and with him, the passing a little of the soul of our dear village.

While we wait for mass, we walk up to the Duomo, and the doors are open. A team of restorers is working on the floor, and we're able to step inside and get a glimpse of what will be the final look of the Duomo.

We are inspired. Little cherub statues have been replaced over two sections of the main part of the church. We were told some years ago that thieves stole all the cherubs and angels in Mugnano. These must be replacements, and they are beautifully crafted in stone.

There are no paintings, but places for at least three of them. I'm surmising that the original San Vincenzo painting will be installed behind the altar, and perhaps Don Luca will not want ours, but we can probably exhibit it for the opening.

So what is San Vincenzo's feast day? It is the 22nd of January. Well, feast days are celebrated at different times, depending on what's easiest for the city or town or village in question. I don't believe there will be a celebration of San Vincenzo this year, although he is one of our patron saints. Perhaps that is a good thing.

I consider us fortunate to have owned our property in this village for at least ten years, and fortunate to have had the experiences we have had with our neighbors, neighbors we miss who are no longer with us:

We remember bright blue-eyed Gino who lived above us with his wife. When we were first here, we watched her sit on the back of Gino's rig, hanging her legs over the back, a babushka tied over her grey hair. She died before Gino, and we recall him standing in front of her headstone in the cemetery on the Day of the Dead, polishing it and telling us how much he missed her.

Gone is Leondina, Italo's feisty and fun wife, who sat outside her door greeting everyone who came by. Often she'd take me by the arm and walk me into the kitchen for coffee. When people would ask if Mugnano had a cafˇ, we'd answer no, but if you come to the village Leondina would be happy to invite you in for coffee and to talk. We remember hearing of her sudden death, and moments later walking into their little house, seeing her laid out under a filmy cloth.

I loved her and cried when I saw her, holding her daughter tight and weeping with her at her back balcony. Gone is Anna Farina's husband, who loved dressing up with her for our annual festas in medieval costumes.

These people and more were all a part of the fabric of Mugnano, characterized by its simple way of life, and who we remember fondly. They will be joined now by dear Vincenzo.

As the years pass us by, we'll continue to watch the fabric of the village change, and surprisingly, the news is not all bad.

Earlier today, Arduino told us that he loved the new pavement in the borgo. The Duomo will soon be inaugurated. The old school is much improved for village events. The dusty and decrepit look of the village has been changed by many restorations in addition to our front wall, and yet the character remains.

We loved the old. We hold the villagers in our hearts and are so thankful that we are embraced by just about everyone here. Was it so long ago that we were told that when the old people die that Mugnano would be turned into a ghost town?

Today, while waiting for the hearse to begin it's slow journey to the cemetery with Vincenzo, Don Luca acknowledged us and walked over to us, letting us know when he'll be ready to travel with us to Rome. We believe that in the next posting we'll be able to tell you about that.

I hear a dog howling above us, a kind of plaintive wail. Perhaps it is Brik, or another dog, crying out for Vincenzo. Today is a sad day for our village.

January 21
Dino and Sofi and I climb into Pandina for a trek to Tenaglie, and we work on installing stained shelves and lighting in the cantina. When Ovidio is able to return to install the remainder of the windows and doors, we'll be close to the finish. But the studio and the walkway are still unfinished, and we're hoping the muratores will return from Albania at the end of the month to tackle those two projects. Then the restoration will be finished.

We are at home for enough time for me to fix pranzo, then Dino and Sofi drop me off at Marco's with The Dancing Lesson. Yesterday we picked it up from Omamia, where is is on display with many other pieces. It's not finished, and Marco does not approve of my work on the maid's gown. I tend to agree with him, and this afternoon I spend the entire session on it.

By the time Dino arrives to pick me up, I'm still not satisfied, so the painting will remain at his bottega for another week. Before we leave I show him the drawings I have done this week, and when he points to a hand I have drawn in detail, he tells me, "Hands and feet, hands and feet.." as if to tell me that I need to continue to practice, practice, understanding them and drawing them in detail.

This week he wants me to draw the skeletons of the hands and feet, as more practice exercises. So I am able to learn classic skills from Marco, even if it is by my own persistence and will to learn.

Before driving home we drive to Viterbo to price wood for bookshelves for our bedroom. Wood is very expensive in Italy, but after comparing the prices of Centro Legno an OBI, we agree that Centro Legno is the place to get the wood. They're about to close, and our favorite paint store is also closed, so we are unable to pick up the stain we'll need. Tomorrow Dino will pick everything up.

January 22
Sofi and I sleep in for a bit, then I spend the morning going over papers and documents. How much paper we accumulate!

Yesterday we re-measured for the curtain to be hung inside the front door of the cantina, so I re-pin it and sew it. Once we hang the rod for the dispensa and measure, I can hem that panel and the sewing will be finished for the restoration. I have sewn a couple of panels for both sinks, and the choices look great.

I am so in love with fabric, that I can't help dreaming of buying more fabric when we're in Provence in April. I love making curtains to hang under the kitchen sink and tablecloths. Every ten days or so we change them, and I'm looking forward to more choices and to making tablecloths for the table under the pergola, too.

I take out the box of seeds and fertilizer and C-spray and read the instructions. Since we've just had a full moon, I'm going to plant the seeds tomorrow. It's early, but the more time they have the better chance they will have to thrive. Last year I planted them on February 1, but it's all about the moon, and now is the best time of the month to plant.

Dino brings up a folding table and we lower the grow light. I soak the seeds in lukewarm water enhanced by C-spray for several hours, then dry them off. We have thirteen varieties of tomatoes, and I will plant six seeds of each tomorrow, after drying them. It's too confusing to separate each variety, so we'll match up the photos of the ones we don't know with those on the web site after they're ripening on the vine.

Mario has still not shown up to rework the earth for the planting of the tomatoes, and we have not planted the favas. So we don't know if that will happen. Dino will call him tonight to see if he can put a fire under him. When Mario works, there's no one like him. It's getting him to show up that's the problem.

January 23
After at least ten days of continual fog, we awake to blue skies and sun! Last night I went to bed with a headache; a headache that remained until early morning. At about 7 A M, I took a Difmetre and 1000mg of Acetemol and by 9 A M, after lying in bed, I rise with no headache but am a bit shaky.

So what's with the headache? Is it barometric pressure due to today's sun after days of fog...or something else? The causes of my migraines remain a mystery.

Today is planting day for the tomato seedlings, and Dino has assured me that I'll be mixing the peat and soil and getting the pots ready at the outdoor table. Otherwise, it will be a real mess. The seeds have been soaked and dried, so here we go...

Well, I've mixed the coco-peat, let it sit and fashioned some rectangular tubs with gravel. This year, we'll water the tomatoes from below to see if it helps.

They're now planted in pots upstairs in the guest bedroom window, with our traditional grow light (a fluorescent tube) shining down on them from a few inches above. With 36 pots, I've put two or three in each pot, equally spaced, for they never all pop up. Once the good ones begin to thrive, I'll separate them and put each of them in their own pots. I think that will work. One never knows...

Dino wants to move full speed ahead with the bookshelves flanking our large armadio in the bedroom, and since he has the wood, he stains it the same color as the armadio. Then we work side by side to put them together.

By five P M the lovely warm sun has left, and we're shivering in the shade. But the bookshelves are finished. So it's been a fai da te (do it yourself) day all around. What a wonderful use of space the back bedroom wall will be. They really look beautiful.

We're enthusiastic about exchanging houses now, and want the house to be really a treat for our guests in April (or anytime!). We're beginning to look for a September exchange, again in Provence, and there are a few options. People who exchange houses and love it, just love it. I'm hoping we'll join the list of devotees, for it's a very good idea.

I'm feeling so very organized, and we like to be organized. So the translation project is on my mind and beginning tomorrow I'll work on it quite a bit, hoping I can almost finish it by the beginning of February.

Don Luca confirms the date in Rome and we're thinking of taking Sofi with us. It may be an adventure all around. I'm so happy with the bookshelves that I feel like celebrating.

Since every day is a celebration here, we relax for the rest of the day and keep warm by the fire.

January 24
It's time to prune the wisteria, and since it's a lovely sunny day, today's the day. I read on the internet to cut the leader stem back to one half to two-thirds its length and then train it so that the side shoots grow where we want them to on the pergola.

This afternoon, after pranzo, Dino and I will go over the four plants. Some people say to cut the wisteria back "hard" the first year. What is "hard"? I think the suggestions mentioned above will be hard enough. Sarah, of course your suggestions are always welcome.

We still have many, many roses to cut back, so perhaps I'll work on some of those. With Mario coming tomorrow to begin to work on the short wall around the big olive tree and grading the area for the planting of more gravel, there is a lot of work to do.

So about that translation document...It's too lovely a day to work on that. With a spring trip to Provence this year, we'll hopefully visit a few gardens where there is gravel and get more ideas.

I've just read my garden article printed in the S F Chronicle again (May 11, 2005) while cleaning out our files, and it's time to fall in love with the garden again.

Remembering vividly the years when the land was too much work, we'll hopefully pare down the needy sections and add more irrigation lines. I really do love the lavender, just would like it placed in a more random fashion, so we'll pick up some more lavender, now that we're down to less than twenty.

Echeveria is a plant I've fallen in love with, so we'll pick up some of those, too. Will we pickup the lavender and echeveria in March so that the garden will be lovely in April? I hope so...

A headache looms, and I try a mild cure, but it does not work. So this afternoon I'm back to the difmetre and 1000 mg. of Acetamol. I should not fool around when coming down with a migraine. I pretend it is a headache and that it will go away and instead I am hit over the head with a continuous "boink!" that should sound like a hammer against metal. Sigh.

Dino and I prune the wisteria, and I prune the four roses flanking them. I prune the roses back "hard", knowing they'll flower beautifully. There are so many roses yet to cut back...

Dino has his mind set on attacking both the caki tree and the bay tree. I agree that he will cut back a major branch as a start, and once that's done he moves the three-story ladder over to the bay tree. But I've found a bird nest on a branch near the house, and he's not sure how to proceed.

He begins at the center of the tree, sawing off slimmer upward facing shoots. They crash down as if they're made of lead. He works his way out to the side branch where the nest is, but does not move it. While he's working away, a bird flies by, and I sadly think he'll never return, any tiny eggs will be abandoned. I fear this is what happens when pruning a tree, and although have heard about people moving a nest, don't think it will work.

With Mario due early tomorrow, Dino calls him to bring his tallest ladder. Mario hates to climb into trees, so Dino will do that work while he works on the garden. I'm not very happy about Dino on the ladder, but he is careful and I "foot" the bottom rung of it to help steady him.

I'm sorely wishing we had the money to move ahead on a new roof of the loggia and the bread oven. If we did, both trees would come down and then I would not have to worry about Dino in the trees.

It's a "man thing", I fear. So I let him have his way with the trees, knowing they'll grow back and hopeful that we'll cut them down before they do. How things have changed! This year the bay tree is so enormous that it stretches right over to the house, and far surpasses the roof in height.

I'm researching roses, planning the changes to the garden that aren't all that costly, and am really sick of the mermaid roses flanking the west fence. They don't grow well, and their thorns are dangerous. We'll have Mario take them out, and plenty of the earth around them. I've learned that when replacing roses that every bit of the earth surrounding the previous rose must come out, or the new rose won't survive.

I'm thinking of a climber, and have researched a few. A good idea is suggested: to plant the roses on the far side of the fence so that it cascades over and inside the fence, instead of the other way around.

To do that, we may have to plant the roses in the ground below the fence, but if we have a luxurious climber, the several extra feet to get it going won't be a problem. I like the idea a lot.

So do we travel to our friends at Michellini in Viterbo? I try to research the roses online in England at Peter Beales, but they don't always ship to Italy. We had a nightmare receiving roses from the Netherlands a few years ago, so we'll try Viterbo first and see what they suggest.

We're going to pull up all the roses against the front wall. There are four icebergs and at least two Pierre d' Ronsard. We'll make a little rose garden nearer the lavender, and it will work well.

Plumbago will be planted all against the front wall in their place. We have one plumbago on the near side of the front wall, and it behaves beautifully from mid summer until the first hard frost. So several more will do even better!

I've asked Dino if we can put a search feature on our site, and he will work on that. That way, when I want to recall when we have done something, or if you want to, we can call it up and refresh our memories.

January 25
So the bay tree is almost gone...How did that happen? Well, this morning Mario arrived to turn over the soil for the tomatoes to be planted at the end of April and plant the favas. We know it's too late to plant favas, but by planting them they will enrich the soil for the tomatoes, and that's all we want to do.

While Mario is taking care of the favas, Dino continues to selectively cut the branches of the bay tree, convincing me that we will have a tree with vertical growth until we put the new roof on the loggia.

I help him move the cut branches until Mario finishes with the fave. He walks up to us with his motosegas. Sofi and I leave at that point, after agreeing to a major cutting back.

In five minutes Dino calls and asks me to return. They want to cut the entire tree down, piece by piece. I can see them drool. It's a man thing...a liberation thing. It reminds me of riding the rocket on Mr. Strangelove.

Mario does advise Dino that the bird's nest is empty. It won't have eggs until Spring. So it's taken down, and after a great deal of work, one particular bird will be very unhappy. Sorry.

I agree with Mario and Dino's counsel that the tree can come down, with the proviso that this year we'll replace the roof and add the solar panels. "You'll be able to see the houses up above, you know..." he warns. At some point we'll see them anyway. Perhaps we can buy Rosina a more attractive curtain for her balcony. It really doesn't matter.

Now that they have my agreement, they flinch and keep one lateral grouping of them, so that it still looks like a tree, albeit a much thinner one. I am pleased that they did. Dino has, then, committed to the new roof.

The sooner we get rid of that old asbestos sheeting on top of the loggia, the better. Unfortunately, we cannot have it taken away without protecting the loggia with something else. That means a new roof.

So I content myself with my new project and the sewing machine while outside in the sun the two men breathe in the beautiful winter air and continue their symphony.

I cannot sew the material after all, for it has not been washed. So tonight at 7PM, when our power cost is drastically reduced, I'll plop the material in the wash for at least a rinse and dry it before sewing again.

Dino takes Mario to Pietro's to look at his oak trees that need to be cut down or drastically pruned. He can't return until after February 1st, he tells us, then later tells Dino next Tuesday. Va bene!

I fix an early pranzo and then Dino walks the cut bay to the far property near San Rocco bit by bit to burn it. He asks me to draw out a plan for how I want our new garden to look, and while he's in Tenaglie getting the windows and doors worked on this afternoon I do just that. It's very exciting.

I'm so enthused that I order three climbing roses from Peter Beales in England, and they're to ship in February, which will be perfect timing. There are two Madame Caroline Testout and one Lady Silvia, both climbing roses said to be quite prolific. The Carolines will be planted outside the fence between the osmanthus to grow over and into the lavender garden and the Silvia will be planted inside, where the central mermaid rose was planted, to grow up and out. Yes, Sarah, we will remove all the old soil when we take up and throw out the old mermaids.

The Italian government has collapsed yet again. Prime Minister Prodi has resigned after twenty months of fighting with the opposition, so the president, Giorgio Napoletano, has to decide if he'll call new elections...He must be so familiar with this by now.

This in from the Financial Times: "Unfortunately, Former Prime Minister Berlusconi tinkered with the Italian election law just before he left office, to allow more fragmentation of political parties, not less. Since Prime Minister Prodi lost his confidence vote, Napoletano should appoint a caretaker government to change that law, which is in nobody's interest." Why can't the warring factions get along? Is that why nothing gets done in Italy? Will Berlusconi rise again? Purtroppo!

Well, some things did get done under Prodi's tutelage, amazingly, and we're sorry things did not work out for him. He seemed the most honest and straightforward of the lot.

The Financial Times continues: "The present Chamber of Deputies - the lower house - consists of 39 different parties, and Mr Prodi's coalition contained nine of them until the latest defection. In spite of that arithmetical nightmare, the government has performed surprisingly well over the past 20 months.

"Tax evasion has been sharply reduced, and a budget deficit of 4.4 per cent of gross domestic product left by the former centre-right government of Silvio Berlusconi has been cut to about 2 per cent. The upward trend in Italy's swollen public debt has been reversed. Although growth has been sluggish in eurozone terms at 1.9 per cent, unemployment is down to a 15-year low of under 8 per cent."

Speaking of politics, we're hearing there will be some kind of tax rebate for U S citizens, but the program does not make sense. Aren't there some forward-thinking folks in the U S who can convince the lawmakers to concentrate more on innovative ideas to bolster exports and small business?

Every few weeks we receive an update from the U S census department. I don't know why, other than when there is a warning for U S citizens overseas it's usually distributed by the census folks in a friendly email. The census department must be one of the many departments organized under Homeland Security.

I wonder what Harry Truman would have thought of all this? Just now the census dept. tell us that "The Nation's International Deficit in Goods and Services Increased to $63.1 Billion in November from $57.8 Billion (Revised) in October, as Imports Increased More than Exports. Now do they think we can't read from the beginning to the end of a sentence? What the American public does not need is a stimulus package to turn us into drunken sailors. When we wake up, we won't even remember if we had a good time.

January 26
It's Saturday, and I'd love to spend it in the garden, but Duccio and Giovanna have invited us to take a trip with them to Sienna, so the garden will have to wait. We drive up the A-1 to Bettole/Sinalunga and take the scenic route to San Galgano. Even from a distance, the sight of the abby is a marvel. In 1218 work began on the remarkable building we see today, albeit without a roof or windows or internal structure.

The site is incredible, nonetheless. Before its decline in the 15th century, the Abby was a thriving monastery, its monks responsible for the design of an important acqueduct, bringing water to Sienna from the Val De Merse. The church remains one of the most important examples of French-Gothic-Cistercian architecture in Italy. Today we're able to walk inside and all around the enormous edifice, and it's reminiscent of a visit we took to Lisbon, Portugal many years ago, where a number of the major churches were open to the sky, the remnants of their inner walls and altars on view as chunks of pale weathered stone.

Today, the guidebook tells us: "the temple has a meadow for a pavement and the sky for a roof". On this warm and sunny winter's day, Sofi leads us in a romp through the building, our eyes joyously lighting on corbels and open widow ledges and shadows and niches as if we're butterflies.

Here are some of our favorite vistas:

We return to the car for a short ride almost next door to the chapel of Monte Siepi, the site of what many believe to be the origin of the Sword in the Stone legend. Let's see what the guidebook says about the legend...

"Galgano was a young knight born a few kilometers from the city of Siena, in Tuscany, in the year 1148. The legend says that one night Galgano had a vision of the Archangel Michael. The archangel was guiding him down a narrow and difficult path to Montesiepi where he was eventually greeted by the twelve apostles in front of a circular-shaped temple.

"Galgano interpreted this vision to be a sign of the divine wish of God. In fact, some time later this isolated place became his new and definitive residence as a hermit. History tells us that he went to the hill of Montesiepi, abandoned his past as a knight and drove his sword into a stone. The sword was driven so deeply and with such great force, that only the handle, appearing in the shape of a cross, remained visible on the surface of the stone. That sword is still there and has served as a symbol of an incorruptible conversion for the last 800 years.

"Aside from the sword, there is another extraordinary aspect to this story. This is the possibility that the myth of the sword in the stone, tied to the saga of Britain's King Arthur, could have originated right here in Tuscany and later have been exported to France to become the famous legend of King Arthur. Some factors make this hypothesis a plausible reality.

Both the Cistercian Abbey and the chapel dedicated to Saint Galgano are of the same time period of King Arthur's tomb in Glastonbury. We know that the Cistercian Monks were propagators of King Arthur's story." So, were the monks responsible for dispersing the echo of Arthur's legend in Tuscany or rather, was the story born in Tuscany and later adopted into the history of Britain? I'm sure our good friend Don Salter will have plenty to say about that...

Take a look at the remarkable inside of the chapel and its ceiling, a ceiling we think that Christo Risorto in Bomarzo could be patterned after. What do you think?

It's time for pranzo, and a crotchety woman in an apron wants to close the little souvenir shop next door. When we ask her where we can find a local trattoria, she tells us we can eat across the road, where we viewed a sign for paninis. We ask her about Chiusdino, a nearby town on a hill, and she glares at us.

We decide to drive there anyway, and other tourists walking through town lead us to our pranzo destination, an excellent trattoria called Il Minestraio. No, they don't have any zuppa, or minestre, but their pasta and other dishes are just fine with us.

Sofi even entertains us with her version of eating pasta...I hold one end of a long noodle and she begins to eat from the other end. I lower the noodle down, down, down until it's gone and her tail wags that she'd like another.

While walking around town - I spot this colorful laundry:

After a walk through town we come upon San Galgano's house, as well as the church where at least part of him is supposedly buried. (Remember the reliquaries the Italians are so proud of? It makes me think that no one was buried completely with all digits attached. So I'm somewhat skeptical...)

We're in the car again, this time to drive to Massa Marittima, a town with an extraordinary Duomo. Inside is a Madonna and Child painted by Duccio, and Giotto's style of painting is certainly evident from this painting done by his mentor.

Also inside are sarcophagi carved in extraordinary detail, as well as a number of important paintings. I'd love to spend more time sketching a few, but that will have to be another time. This is a truly beautiful church, worth a special side trip when traveling from Sienna to Grossetto.

When driving back near Grossetto along the Tuscan coast at the end of the afternoon, we turn up an exit ramp from the Superstrada. Up ahead, Duccio remarks that there are "un sacco de polizia" (a sack of police, as if they're all dropped into a big burlap sack). That has me thinking. I love the way Italians use the phrase "un sacco de..." to describe "a lot of ..." anything.

A discussion begins with a favorite: "un sacco de cosi" (a lot of things). I'm realizing that we can converse in Italian using many popular phrases, and I try on, "altremente no" (otherwise, no).

Giovanna is such a dear person. She waxes enthusiastically about the Italian language, as well as our feeble efforts to express ourselves in Italian. More often than not, she explains what phrases mean, and gives us different ways to use them.

So I try the "c'e veddiamo" on her. Now if you're regular readers, you'll remember the correct way to say "see you again" is "c'e reveddiamo". She tells me they use the shortened version in Rome, but when I ask her why she responds, "I don't know". So if Giovanna uses it, so can we, and so can you. It is a familiar usage, a little sloppy, but correct, nonetheless.

Then I ask her about the strange word, "insomma". It's used often when we ask people how they are. It means, among other things, "no sense in complaining". Usage is usually a bit less than positive, sometimes even a bit melodramatic. There's always so much to learn...

Although we left this morning at around 9 A M, its 6 P M when we drive past Viterbo on the way home. We're all tired, especially Dino, who had his fill of driving...perhaps six or more hours today. For someone who loves driving, that's even a bit much.

January 27
Sofi hides under the bed, for today is the festa di San Vincenzo, our second patron saint, and cannons roar in the valley, possibly in Pepe's field. I have no idea who is responsible for these resounding booms on festa days, but whoever it is seems to have quite a time with it.

By the time he packs up and leaves, at least six shots have rung like the liberty bell, bouncing all the way down the Mugnano valley, way past Tiziano's house and back again.

Neither Dino nor I pay much attention. It's really too bad. A day in honor of one's village or town patron saint is to be celebrated with thanks and even a prayer or two, for in this case a fallen martry.

Poor Vincenzo was from Saragosa, Spain, and I believe he was drowned after his enemies chained a heavy ball around his ankle after he refused to give up his love of Christ. We found a photo of a painting on the internet, and perhaps I'll paint him again one day.

The one painting of him I have finished shows him levitating over Mugnano, an angel holding a wreath of laurel above his head. It remains on display at the shop in Orte, along with the rest of the paintings.

We're so out of touch today, that although the mass does not begin until 11 A M and although the Bomarzo band arrives and serenades everyone in the town, street by street, we don't pick up on the fact that there will be a procession. So I forget my A C blue scarf, and Dino does not think to bring his Confraternity costume.

We have to stand at the back of the church with Tiziano, for it is packed with Mugnanese, the Bomarzo Polymartium Band and the Bomarzo choir and about seven confraternity members all dressed in garb. A few people walk up to Dino to ask him why he did not "suit up", and he's visibly unhappy, wondering why no one told him.

Since it's our patron saint's day, I suppose everyone assumed that Dino would dress up. If it's any consolation, several other members did not dress up, either. Lore and Alberto are here, and after the mass we greet each other before beginning the procession with the other women.

Dino follows behind with the men, and we stop as they turn around just below Giustino's to continue home. Poor old Giustino...He's practically sightless, yet knows what's going on and leans over his balcony on the third floor to take in the sounds, at least, of the procession.

Don Luca tells us that the reopening of the restored church will take place on Sunday, March 9th. That should be a wonderful event. This Thursday, we'll be driving to Rome with Don Luca and Tiziano to pick out the altar pieces, gifts from our Festarolo year.

The sky is overcast, so we don't do as much work in the garden as we'd like. It's cold, one of those buttermilk sky kind of days. Dino moves most of the bay cuttings to a spot near San Rocco and lights a fire. There is plenty to burn.

We putter around in the garden, and I tell Dino where the transplanted peony will go. I'm holding my breath, for we have to move it. It will be in a corner spot of the front garden in front of the caki tree, near where the iceberg roses are to be taken out. If we are in luck, it will live.

Sofi and I watch from the bedroom window as Dino selectively cuts long branches from the nespola tree, which hide a lot of our garden view. Those are put in the fire as well, and as Dino cuts we watch an extraordinary sunset, red and orange and purple and gray, seemingly moving in drifts behind San Rocco.

January 28
Dino does not drive to Tenaglie this morning. The sky continues its cloudy pattern and he takes the Alfa to Giorgio to see if we need a new battery. On Saturday we had to rock the car out of the parcheggio in the morning to get it started. Giorgio does put in a new battery. Otherwise, the Alfa is fine.

We hear from the Golden Harvest Organics people, and think our new watering pattern will be successful. They are a great company and we appreciate their quick response. No seeds have "hatched" to date, but I am hopeful.

I spend the entire session at Marco's on one dress, a foot and the hands of the two women. But three of the women at the bottega are painting nude women and they are really tremendous: Rita paints a new set of breasts, Giovana works on nude figures based on Marco's earlier works, but the one I like the best is Michela's.

It shows a woman from the back, and she is outside in front of a row of trees, lying naked and leaning toward the trees. The painting is marvelous. I can't help telling Michela that I love what she has done with the woman's rear end, and we laugh.

I now have an idea for a partially clothed woman, and it will be the subject of my next painting. But for now we've taken "the dancing lesson" home and I plan to work on it this week and bring it back so that Marco can oversee the finishing touches.

Will Mario and his brother arrive to do the work in the garden? Dino hopes it will just take one day. No matter how long it takes, I am enthusiastic about making simple changes to the garden. I'm not as enthusiastic about moving the peony, but Dino tells me that we must.

Since we have uncovered an almost abandoned peony that we seem to keep stepping on each year, we now have six plants. So hopefully we will still have six when it's blossom time. We'll let you know.

January 29
We see a seedling! One tenacious heirloom tomato seed has poked its way out of the soil after six days in pots in the guest bedroom window, and each day we hope to see a few more. This is an exciting exercise, peeking into the room each morning to see if there is more life.

If they all "take", there will be eighty-four, but that is highly unlikely. I did, however, soak the seeds first for the first time, so perhaps they will after all. By the end of the day we have four; no, eight!

Mario and his brother did not come today, perhaps they will arrive to work in the garden on Friday or next week. It's very cold and overcast this morning, So Dino drives to Viterbo to pay the renewal registration on Pandina and I do a little painting on The Dancing Lesson. The sun has just come out, the fog has lifted, and it's a cold but sunny day.

When Dino returns, he tells me that ACI was mobbed with people, even the second time around after he did some errands. Deadline for registration is Thursday, and Italians love to do things at the very last moment. So he found out from the Italian version of DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) that the renewal can be paid at any post office. With post offices remaining open until 2PM for those people who work, we often pay bills at the post office between 1 and 2, when all of Italy is at home with mama eating pranzo.

We continue the cutting back of trees and bushes, and today we have a delicate move two of the peonies. Peonies do not like to be moved. They are somewhat temperamental and like to be ignored. Some peonies practically disappear for years at a time, then emerge one spring and flourish. Just when I think our peonies will do just that in April, Dino tells me we must move two of them.

Resigning myself to the fact that they may not survive (if one is to move peonies, it should be in September or October), we use a transplanting medium as an additive to the coco peat, the same we used to plant the tomato seeds with, and move them to two corners of the front section of the garden, in front of the side caki tree and the loquat next to it. They'll receive plenty of sun, so they will either live or die. We'll see. There are many buds on one plant, only a few on the second. I'll "keep my fingers crossed"...

For the third session I work on the Madame Alfred Carriere rose, growing along a wire fence. It is definitely prolific in its growth of leaves, even if the flowering is sporadic after it's first generous bloom each season. Perhaps this year I'll figure out how to tie it back accurately and prune during the season to keep the blooming more regular.

Dino had to make a trip to Orsolini to buy two more shovels, for two broke today while transplanting the peonies. They're quite old, but I thought very sturdy. I appreciate that he takes good care of his tools...and he has many of them.

I'm finally finished with one of the Madame Alfred Carrieres, and the other won't take long. It's been in a spot in front of the gardener's cottage that does not get enough sun underneath, so it wisely found its way over and up on top of the cottage, and plenty of growth appears there. The two roses almost kiss each other from each side of the cottage when they're in full bloom.

I've begun to cut back the four Iceberg roses in preparation for their move at the center of the former lavender garden. They will grow in a rectangular spot alongside the two Pierre d'Ronsard roses.

Otherwise, the remaining lavender orbs sit in different spots in the existing space, to be surrounded by gravel and roses in pots. The look is inspired by our trips to Provence, with an interest in turning the garden into something easier to maintain.

Just in is a letter and article from dear friend, Don Salter, from England. The article is called "Storm clouds over Sienna; trouble in the air". The formerly tranquil countryside outside Sienna is to be overtaken by an airport meant to serve the low cost airlines.

Now you're probably saying, "Tch, tch..." and all that, thinking it's a bad idea, unless you live in England and want to fly to Italy. If you do, of course you will seek out those low fare airlines, for a trip lasting not more than two hours or so. The result is an airport to serve you in lovely Chiantishire. Thank you very much.

For those of us in Alto Lazio, we're faced with a similar situation. We think the low cost airlines flying into nearby Viterbo will make it easy to fly to cities all over Europe on the cheap.

For those of us in little Mugnano, we think we won't be located under the path of any airlines, but can't be sure. The resulting urban sprawl will certainly change the landscape. So for now we continue to love our little village, knowing that year-by-year the character of these little towns and villages and the surrounding countryside will change along with our lifetime? Probably. Puor troppo.

January 30
Seventeen shoots have sprung up, and six of them have even formed leaves. Even Dino is thrilled with the count, checking with me as though we have them in an incubator, which I suppose you could say we do.

Just after pranzo we count 29 shoots! Where or where will we plant them all if they all come up? Luckily, that probably won't happen.

With an overcast sky, we're continuing to cut back in the garden, and now the main caki tree is pruned for the year. I continue with the roses, and this year I am going to tackle two Cornelia roses that have been almost swallowed up by roving Bermuda grass. They sit in big plastic tubs, I suppose because we did not know where we were going to plant them, and then the grasses took over.

Silvano is expected to finish the electrical project he began with Dino a few weeks ago, and then we'll drive to Viterbo and donate a bunch of clothes.

It's 9 P M and we now have 33 shoots. We're doing something right. After less than two hours, we're at 40!

January 31
We're on our way to Rome with Don Luca, Livio and Tiziano. Sofi's under my arm, and we hope to visit the Causes of Saints building adjacent to St. Peter's, but the main mission is to purchase the altar pieces for our newly restored church.

There's a minute to check on the pomodori, and Dino counts...50! But when we return from Roma at 3:30 there are...61 out of a possible 84. By bedtime, there are 63!

The visit to Rome becomes complicated, for Mauro and Laura and Livio and Gigliola want to come, too. So we have two cars, and Don Luca rides shotgun with us with Sofi and Tiziano and me in the back.

We park on the Janiculum hill at the garage, and it's Dino's new favorite parking place in Rome. We're merely steps away from St. Peter's.

We stop in one shop for Don Luca to look around, but find everything he wants at a shop a street or so beyond the other side of St. Peter's square. We're impressed. Don Luca asks our opinion, but agrees that everything should be classic in design. The festarolo gifts purchased today are the objects needed for the altar.

We come away with many things, but there is also a preventivo for Don Luca to consider the additional purchases needed. We're happy to say that our festarolo committee contributed €5.000 to these investments. Va bene!

We eat at the Janiculum trattoria in the garage, on the 5th level, and it really is not bad. We're back in Mugnano before 4 P M, saying "a domani" to Don Luca. Tomorrow is the service that is the blessing of the throat.

Earlier, at around noon, most of the troup looked in a bookshop while Dino and Sofi and Tiziano and I walked to the Causes of Saints building, to do some more research on Saint Liberato.

Dino had to wait outside with Sofi, sadly. Tiziano and I took the elevator to the third floor. The same sister who helped us last year agreed to make more copies for us of pages of information regarding San Liberato. Tiziano wisely asked her for information on San Vincenzo, too, for he is our other patron saint.

Don Luca wants to have a booklet to pass out for everyone on March 9th, the festa celebrating the re-opening of the newly-restored church in Mugnano. But the booklet will also have information on Saints Liberato and Vincenzo, so I'll be kept busy for a few weeks figuring it all out, luckily with Tiziano's counsel. I'm very happy to do it.

We end the month with misty skies and pomodori seedlings just popping out in record numbers. There's so much to look forward to.


February 1
We begin the day with 64 tomato plants beginning to appear. That's remarkable out of a possible 84, sprouting up in just over a week, don't you think?

By the time we leave for the blessing of the throat in the afternoon, there are 70. We'll now have to do some serious planning to find the best place to plant at least half of them. Last year we planted our tomato seeds on February 1, so we are ahead and hopefully most of these will survive...

Earlier today we worked on the cantina at the Tenaglie house, and we're close enough that we'll be able to take photos tomorrow. It really is a special place to rent. We might stay there for a night to write up all the instructions and the inventory, so that Mara can take care of administering to the renters.

We take a short drive to Montecchio to the Friday market and pick up a few things for tomorrow's little photo shoot. On the way home we find the two stools they'll need, and will take them with us to the house tomorrow. We also find a few pots that we can use when moving around some of our roses, but don't pick those up yet.

This afternoon is the mass of the candles. It is a sweet mass, during which the young altar servers light our candles. Giulia, Federico and Salvatore are dressed in their white cassocks banded in red. When it's time to kneel down and pray, Dino sees Federico and Salvatore sitting on the floor of the altar, playing some kind of game and ignoring the mass. Italian children really are spoiled, but they are cute, and Don Luca just lets them "be".

While our candles are lit, Don Luca speaks about "illuminating the world", and I wonder what would happen if each person on earth held a candle today and prayed for a better world. He tells us after the prayer to extinguish our candles, and with it I become visibly sad. I have so much hope for the world, and my hopes are dashed with just one blow.

Sofi has rested in the car during mass, and we take her with us to Viterbo to pick up some things we need to take to the house in Tenaglie. Tomorrow we'll stage the cantina and take a few pictures.

While at Ronchini, a fellow behind the counter wants to speak a few words of English to us. We are there to purchase special knobs for the shutters. The shutters from Romania have lovely catches, but nothing on the inside to pull the shutters closed.

It's a strange quirk. So Dino has come up with this addition, both for Merritt's house as well as ours. We'll install them at their house tomorrow.

But the word "bugiardo" (liar) comes up, and I ask the fellow behind the counter to tell us the difference between that word and the expression an Italian uses by pulling the skin under one eye down with an index finger; one that I think means the same. He tells me that that expression means "furbo" (sly).

He asks us what expression we'd use in English, and we tell him that we have many more words to express ourselves than Italians do. For them, one word or phrase could mean several things.

Again, all commerce stops for a friendly conversation; a conversation that two men behind the counter and one other customer partake in with us. The actual work can wait. Welcome to Italia.

We drive on to OBI, and pick up a few things there, including a set of three plastic storage boxes, one inside the other. Laura is our favorite "checker", and something is wrong with the bar code on the largest box.

I return to the stack, for she tells me the bar code is for only one box, and we think that all the boxes have boxes inside them. I return to the register and Laura decides that she should shut the line down and walk back with us to find the boxes and another bar code, happy to help us.

We as "Italians" are often made to feel like sheep. Yes, there are plenty of Italians with bravado, but mostly Italians just let things be, willing to stand and talk with a stranger next in line while at the front of the line nothing much is happening.

Today, at least, the people behind Dino move to other registers after ten minutes or so. We almost feel honored. Usually we're in back of a line, tapping our feet and wondering what the heck is going on.

The weather is not cold, but the sky is dappled and gray. At home it's already dark, so we can't work outside today. I'm thinking of moving the large pots by the front door to the lavender garden for roses. The two box that we moved there this summer never made it. We knew we moved them at the wrong time, but since we had to plant the wisteria in May, we had no choice.

I don't see any need for big pots by the front door. The pergola expanse is ten meters across the front of the house. There is a large square planter on either side of the front steps containing wisteria and roses, so we don't need these other pots by the door.

One and possibly both will be used for Cornelia roses. These two roses have been overgrown with Bermuda grass and I intend to pull them out of their big plastic tubs (we never did replant them last year) and get rid of every shoot that is probably strangling the roses. That will happen...subito!

Our tomato seedling count is 72 as I turn in to bed, with two looking as though their leaves are not very strong. We only planted 82 seeds, so even if no more rise to the surface, we'll have a challenge finding enough space for them. But oh the tomatoes we'll be able to put "up"!

February 2
With a seed count of 72 holding steady, I'm wondering where we'll plant them all...I think Dino is in denial, but once they start to thrive in their little pots, it will be time to make some decisions.

Today we're packing up a lot of things for the house, including drapes I've sewn, food to use for photos, two stools to be located at the end of the peninsula, and of course, Sofi.

We stop at Sisters' Bar for a cappuccino, then arrive at the house while the sky can't quite decide if it will rain down on us or just tease us with drops. I cajole Sofi inside with Gemelli, two little stuffed animals sewn together, and we begin the day's job of hanging lights, towel bars, wiring the chandelier, hanging memorabilia and two special framed certificates given to the original owners as children, and left behind for our clients.

Over the bed, we place an elaborate framed certificate of the marriage of the original owner of the property and his wife. It's very sweet, and so is the room. We think it was the first bedroom of the larger house, and the sons tell us that each of them was born there, in a bed that we have put away in storage.

The former owners left a bag of things behind, telling us they weren't important, so the new owners want these certificates hung on the wall to honor their family. We are sure that when we invite the sons in that they will be quite moved, as are we, just thinking about it.

It takes us an entire day to get ready for the photo shoot, so tomorrow we think we will be set. Tonight I take a few photos of the vegetables we purchased at yesterday's market in Montecchio, sitting on the copper countertop next to the sink. The combined colors and textures are delicious. What do you think?

We return home after 7 P M, and are tired. Tomorrow we'll be back at the house again, with the intent of emailing any photos of the inside of the house to its owners in the U S by the end of the evening.

Just before turning in, I'm deciding to write about my disappointment with Bill Clinton. His actions are so strange, lately. Is it just possible that he wants Hillary to lose, even if his wish is subconscious? Why else would he act that way?

February 3
The new friends with whom we will be exchanging homes in April email us from San Francisco that they're looking for puntarella seeds.

Puntarella is a kind of chicory, a bitter relative that is used in salads and sautéed with garlic and oil. We're pretty confident that we can find the seeds here and will pick up a packet and leave them for them here. Perhaps we'll even pick some mature puntarella ourselves and try to make something with it. If it's bitter, Dino probably won't like it, unless I mix it with anchovies.

The new priest who occasional holds mass here is in great form today, and the mass runs about twenty minutes longer than usual. He is full of joy, a chatty soul, and even gives everyone a blessing of the throat, a la Saint Biagio, so we won't have to go to church tomorrow, the real day of this saint.

Poor Argentina is really not doing well. We can see a big red bruise on her forehead, so she must have fallen. The priest walks over to her sitting down after blessing everyone else, and as he puts the crossed candles to her throat she tries to take the candles from him. Yes Iolanda...there but for the grace of God go I.

It's raining a kind of mist when we leave the church, but it is warm, so the walk home is actually fun. We decide to have an early pranzo. Afterward, we'll travel to the house to take interior photos. The weather really won't matter.

The number of pomodori seedlings is constant, so we might not have more than 70 or so to plant in the ground. Even at that number we will have trouble finding places to put them all. This week I'll begin the camomile spray.

While setting up to take photographs in Tenaglie, Dino lights a fire in the fireplace. Because it is a newly built fireplace, we expect a little smoke. But it takes Dino to push the fire to the very back of the box for it to draw perfectly. The pictures come out just as we had hoped, although a few appear smoky...Once we have figured out the draw of the fireplace, Dino is able to take more.

We sit at the table in the corner for a glass of wine and some cheese and enjoy the room and the fire. Yes, if we were renting a place for a vacation, this is just the kind of place we would love. Sometime soon we'll stay overnight to do a test, and inventory everything for Mari, who will probably handle the rentals. Sofi enjoys the space, likes sitting at the top of the stairs at the bedroom door, looking down at us.

We pack up our things and drive home, wondering if we'll take a nap and get up at midnight to watch the Superbowl on T V. I decide not to and stay up to watch some election coverage. Dino takes a nap, for he'll want to watch the game. Va bene.

Sofi and I go up to bed after 9 and Dino is already napping...he'll definitely watch the goings on beginning at midnight our time.

In boca a lupo (in the mouth of the wolf)....

February 4
Dino fills me in on the happenings last night on the Superbowl. He was unable to watch the U S commercials, and instead watched Italian commercials. I wonder if Italian companies paid a premium to have theirs run during prime time.

We can only watch Fox (yikes!) and CNN for U S coverage of the aftermath of the contest, and CNN doesn't have much to say. So Fox commentators discuss their favorite commercials, and we're able to watch a snippet of Justin Timberlake being catapulted and dragged and slammed. It makes me so angry I could scream. Gratuitous violence again is made popular...again and again and again. Commentators laugh...I steam.

By now you know I am a pacifist, and against violence of any kind. I've thought a lot about Bill Clinton and Hillary these past few days, and after reading some blogs about them, believe that most of them are wrong.

So Bill grew up in a house of violence. So he has some deep-seated emotional challenges. Now he's acting them out on the campaign trail. Notice he uses the words, "she" and "her" instead of using Hillary's name.

She's not totally innocent, for she's become a master enabler. When asked about what role Bill would take in a Hillary presidency, she affirms that the presidential decisions would be hers and hers alone, and that he would do a good job canvassing the world on a variety of topics. She's beginning to come around.

I am hopeful that the enlightened voter will realize that Hillary is indeed our best hope, and that taking Bill to the woodshed or telling him to take a walk is what she needs to do to make the presidency that she has long dreamed of a decisive one.

She'll be a wartime president, and her legacy could be oh so much more relevant than Bill's. We're all beginning to realize that she just might be able to finish what he could not, and so her legacy will be that much more palpable. You go, girl...

Today we have thunderstorms and lots of rain. I wake with a headache and go back to bed with a difmetre. After awhile I'm better, make breakfast and then pasta and cece soup, before traveling to Marco's to finish The Dancing Lesson.

I spend the entire session working on the painting, and by the time Dino picks me up I think I can finish it at home. The rain stops just long enough to put the painting in the car, but the rain continues in waves, so strongly that we can see it moving across our windshield in sheets. The painting stays in the car, and we'll not take it out until we are sure there is no rain.

Perhaps tomorrow we'll be able to do some gardening. The soil is so damp that it will be easy to work in the ground; messy but easy. No word from Mario, but we're hoping he'll begin work this week.

February 5
With rain pouring down as if we're going to be looking for an ark, Sofi spends some of the night at the foot of the bed. This morning, fog gives way to a partially sunny day.

Each month I have a pedicure with my friend, Giusy, in Orte. She speaks no English, and yet we are able to have the most remarkable conversations. Today the talk is about ethics!

For cappodanno (New Year's Eve), Giusy went to Assisi for a conference, and will return there later this month for an update. The conferences are all about ethics, and moral issues. I applaud her for her continued quest for the truth, which is what her search is about.

Somehow I understand most of what she has to say. When I ask her how she feels about the pope, she thinks he's a good man, and speaks highly of him. She sees the look on my face and admits that he is stern and inflexible. She tells me that he is brilliant, and his resolute demonstrations of faith are what's needed in this world of people who don't really care.

So if he won't really communicate with the people of the world except by edict or lecture, how is he to gain the support of those who don't follow him? I respect her opinion, but believe he is not furthering the cause of a more inclusive church, and how else will he gain the Catholics who have fallen away, and convert others?

Enough of that. We drive to Tenaglie and measure for furniture, and after pranzo drive to Marina Fa Mercato in Orte, where we pick up a variety of very good pieces for our clients.

We unfortunately still have a few things yet to puchase on their behalf from IKEA. I admit I am bored with their selection, but their prices are good and there are a few things we can't find elsewhere for the same price. Depending on the clients' response, we may drive there tomorrow.

Mario is not coming today or tomorrow, but Dino thinks he will surely come on Thursday with his brother. We spend a while in the garden, mapping out the design.

We also come up with the idea that we should use gravel instead of tiles for the walkway from our clients' gate to the area behind their house where they will one day have a pergola.

We price the gravel (gaia) and it will cost around €100 plus €120 or so for the delivery. For delivery, Dino calls Alessandro, the George Bush look-alike trucker, who has an American Flag hung upside down in his cab. We really must take his photo in the cab and at least send it to David Letterman.

Back at home we both vote on line, and it is quite easy. We're considered a part of the United States 51st state in terms of voting, and have until the 12th to vote. It feels good to vote, although we understand the candidate won't be determined until at least the Pennsylvania primary in April.

February 6
We're up and out before 9, and drive to IKEA to pick up a few last things for our clients. We're back home and in the garden by 3PM and spend a couple of hours on the roses and cutting the fig tree back some more. The tree is pretty hardy, so we may have a tree with fruit we can actually reach this year. If the tree goes on scopero (strike) this year, we're sure it will come back.

The Madame Alfred Carriere rose to the left of the door of the gardener's cottage will be moved to the east side of the loggia. With the bay tree seriously cut back there will be plenty of sun. This rose has never been given the attention it deserves, and perhaps this year it will shine. If not, no matter. The giant Madame Alfred Carriere that grows on the right side of the cottage, and is cut back hard each year, shows no sign of slowing down.

We'll move the other rose tomorrow and add some transplant medium and coco peat to the ground, while Mario and his brothers are doing the heavy work grading the garden.

We walk up to the mass of cenere (ashes), and little Andrea Perini, who looks and walks more like Charlie Chaplin than Charlie Chaplin, wants to be an altar server. He's in his Marines jacket, standing by Salvatore's side. Salvatore is dressed in his white cassock, and takes Andrea by the hand to show him the "ropes".

Don Luca is the priest, and has to keep from smiling a big grin at the two of them on this serious day. Afterward, Dino walks into the sacristy to speak with Don Luca, and while he is there, congratulates Andrea and shakes his hand. He also praises Salvatore for his teaching skills. It is very sweet.

Dino asks Don Luca if the original painting of San Vincenzo has been restored. It is wrapped up and we are not sure. Dino tells him that if it is not and they want our San Vincenzo painting, that's fine with us.

Don Luca tells him that even if the painting is finished, they might want our painting for the sacristy. We'll pick it up tomorrow in Orte when we bring The Dancing Lesson back to Omamia, and will make it available to Don Luca whenever he wants to see it. I would be honored if they wanted it in the church, or the sacristy, whatever.

While we waited for mass, Livio asked Dino if he'd go to Rome to pick up something they forgot to pick up for the church when we all went a week or so ago. We will.

Gigliola and Rosita also let me know that there is a white car with men inside, scoping out houses to rob while they drive around the village, so these women remind us to keep our house closed up securely. What a travesty that people look for houses to rob.

Almost everyone has a story to tell. At least the robbers are not armed, as they usually are in the U S. It could be worse. We have enough familiarity with being robbed that we're going to keep our house as secure as we possibly can. But we're not going to obsess about it.

February 7
Where, oh where, is the blue and white striped fabric for the loggia? The first blue and white striped material we purchased years ago turned grey, and we've continued to use it. A few years ago we purchased a blue and white striped material to replace it, material that we were told would not fade.

We used it for a season and put it away, but we cannot figure out where. We've scoured the house and every conceivable hidden corner, but cannot find it. So when we travel to Rome next week to pick up the item for Livio and Don Luca, we'll return to the fabric store in Piazza Argentina and buy more.

The couple that will exchange homes with us in April write about puntarella, a kind of chicory that is available in the markets in winter. We've never picked it up, for Dino thinks it's probably too bitter.

But now we're intrigued, so we pick up a packet of seeds for them (amazingly they are planted twice a year, the first time in April). Today at the market in the next town we'll look for it, and will make a salad of it with Joan's recipe. Here it is, in case you can find puntarella where you are: "...all one does is strip the leaves & shave the stems so they curl. Gather these on a plate & serve with a simple anchovy, garlic, lemon & olive oil dressing. There might be another way to serve them but this is how we always ate puntarella". Thanks, Joan.

This morning has been one of the most wonderful mornings of our marriage. Why is it so? Well, the blue, blue sky and fragrant air help.

Mario and his brother, Silvano arrive just after 7 A M to grade the area where we are going to extend the existing gravel, and Dino and I work side by side all morning on the roses, taking time to stop and marvel at the changes in just a few hours.

It feels like a slow dance, working together on cleaning up old growth while the brothers move carriolo (wheelbarrow) after carriolo of dark rich earth to a mound near the apple tree in the far property.

By the time they leave for pranzo, there is a new seating area around what is now a very big olive tree. Tufa bricks have been laid in an arc around the tree, with plenty of space for a planting bed of seasonal flowers, as well as a rose or lavender or two.

The tiles are wide enough that we are able to sit on the top row. There are little "v's" in between the tufa tiles where we will plant fragrant thyme and possibly here and there, lower on the wall, blue star creeper, also known as isotoma. What a difference the space makes!

We need to purchase about fifty more tufa bricks for borders to contain the gravel, but now we are seriously looking at making the area more flat instead of rising gently here and there. We're to call them back when we've organized what we want to do and they will pick up the tufa bricks, which don't cost much.

Dino is so enthused, that he decides to shovel some earth himself. He likes the work, and will probably do the rest of the grading himself, which we both think is a great idea. After the brothers lay the rest of the tufa bricks, we'll put down nursery cloth ourselves and will spread the rest of the gravel. We're hoping you approve, Sarah.

We drive to Tenaglie to meet Lorenzo to install the last stair rail, and there is a mistake, so we'll finish that next week. But while we are there we look at the possibility of using gravel on their walkway and the area behind the house where they want to put the pergola. We do love gravel...

Since there is already cement there, as well as a grade, there will be runoff and the cement will contain the gravel. It will work marvelously, and will save them a lot of money. In addition, we won't need a muratore to do the work. Mario and Silvano can be hired to spread the gravel, after a truck drops it at the top of the drive by the gate.

We look at restorations as if they're work being done at our house, and perhaps that's why they work out so well. There's another small job to do in a nearby town, and Lorenzo is involved in that one, too. The more we work with suppliers, the easier it is to use them. Dino really loves this work, and I love seeing him so satisfied. It's a good life, don't you think?

This afternoon while in the car I mention that we need to write our letters to the Comune to tell them that each of us wants to be cremated. And that begs a conversation...

"Why is it that we want to be cremated?" Dino asks. In Italy, the funeral is the same, the casket is the same, but afterward the body is taken to a crematorium instead of to the cemetery. We already have our plot, so we'll just need to modify our design of the vault...

That is all it takes. We're now giving up cremation, for a more characteristic burial in the cemetery. So there's nothing to be done except tell our attorney our wishes. I'm feeling very good about our decision.

February 8
It's cold this morning but the sky is clear, so we're up early and leave for Viterbo. Most important is the purchase of an electrical box, to see if Dino and Silvano can figure out why some of the circuits in the house won't work. Last night Dino tried using extension cords to test area by area, with some positive result, but no certainty.

Before driving to Viterbo, we stop at our favorite falegname yard in Bassano, but they don't have the wood we need for our headboard. What they have in castagno would be pieced together. So we'll try our friends at OBI and then Centro Legno in Viterbo, next.

We have a carved wooden piece that fits the head of the bed exactly and is beautiful. We picked it up almost ten years ago at one of the monthly antique mercatos in Arezzo. But we hang it high, so now we're going to place it at the top of a headboard, and want to find a 3cm thick piece of wood in the width we need and will stain it to match the carving before attaching them together and installing the new piece.

We pick up the electrical box in the industrial park right outside Viterbo, and also pick up a few paint colors and a fine grade canvas for me at KLIMT, then blow up a photo for me to paint. At IPERCOOP we run into Brooke Smith, and her parents will arrive tomorrow, so we'll try to attend her basketball game in Viterbo on Sunday evening.

On the way home we stop at Paolucci in Bomarzo, where Dino orders a pallet of tufa bricks (56 of them) and they will be delivered by mid afternoon. He places a call then to Mario to tell them to return soon. In the meantime, Dino will probably regrade the rest of the area himself.

Back at home, Silvano arrives and tests the circuits, but there may be a humidity problem, for everything works. So we'll just have to wait until something goes wrong again.

Dino and I work outside in the afternoon on the garden. We have sixteen box that we purchased a few years ago as tiny little things. They've grown into little plants, their shape about six inches in diameter. So it's time to put them into pots. By the time I'm through I've planted them in a dozen pots, so of course a few of the larger pots have more than one plant. They look great.

A transplanting medium arrived with the pomodori seeds, and I mix a small amount of that with the last of the coco peat that was recently mixed with water. I know that box does not like to be moved, and I'm sure it does not like to be transplanted to pots, but I've done that anyway.

A few days ago Mario and Silvano told us that the box hedges that looked questionable when we bought the house and have stayed yellowish for years just need more water and they'll come back.

So we'll put them on the watering system. For the ones in pots, we'll work that out, too. We're planning more irrigation this year, and are hoping to do far less work, especially in the very hot summer months.

A truck arrives mid-afternoon with the 56 bricks of tufa, and an old man and Dino have to unload them, one by one. It's interesting how pale they are when new, and how dark they become over time.

By the time Dino leaves to get his hair cut, he's mapped out a curved area next to the circular wall around the olive tree, and the steps to the gardener's cottage will ascend from those. The project looks better by the hour...

Dino travels to Daniele's house for a hair cut, and Daniele asks him whether Hillary or Osama will be the next president. We think that's hilarious. Sadly, it may be closer to the truth. We never know what nightmare may lurk around the corner.

Dino is tired, and I don't blame him for wanting to sit around for the rest of the evening. I've been working on The Dancing Lesson, wanting to finish it and wanting to change some details in a tug-of-war with my mind. Regardless, it will be returned to Omamia on Sunday and San Vincenzo will be returned back home.

That means I'll begin a new painting if nothing else comes up. It is a bunch of grapes, magnified many times, and should be fun. I may complete it myself, without Marco's tutelage. At his bottega, I intend to begin something new on Monday. I think it will be a partially nude woman, with her arms and hands exposed, draped with fabric. I know the photo is around here somewhere...

February 9
There is a book exchange in Otricoli, and I'm looking forward to seeing friends we have not seen in a while. I also want to talk with Pat Smith, who is hosting the swap, for she is a wonderful artist and paints some of the same type of subjects I'd like to learn to paint. Since she speaks English, perhaps she can give me some guidance. But today is probably not the day to talk about it.

The day begins with a bright, clear sky and sounds of weed-whacking in the valley. Yes, we hear those sounds here in this part of tranquil Italy, too. When living in the U S, the sound grated my nerves. Here, it becomes a part of the fabric of country life, and I even enjoy it. The sound conjures up images of paisanis working in their fields.

Dino's already out in Pandina, doing errands and picking up a few more tiles to border the stairs going down to the lower pomodori planting area. I'm thinking of Peggy who visited a few years ago just as we planted our pomodori in late April. She may return in April. We look forward to seeing her; I really miss her.

We arrive in Otricoli and Pat Smith could not be nicer. I ask her if we could chat when she has a minute, but she tells me why not now?

She tells me that she is mostly a self-taught painter, and offers to have me come for an afternoon and paint with her and she will give me some pointers about how to achieve the marvelous effects you can see yourself on her website:

Dino likes her husband, Gangia, a lot, as well as a few other people we meet today. The book swap is just that, and we're encouraged to take at least the same number of books away that we brought. The object is to have no books left at the end of the swap.

There are more than enough to choose from. We bring about two dozen and take away twenty. It's practically impossible to find books here in Italy that are written in English, and so a books is a precious commodity. Those we don't need to keep are set aside for these events, from which everyone comes away happy.

There is an emotional but positive discussion about Hillary Clinton, and I'm happily surprised to hear that women here are taking Hillary's side, wanting her to have her chance in the White House.

This afternoon there is a conference call with Bill Clinton and the Democrats Abroad. Before we conference in, I wonder if anyone will bring up the fact that he's been over-zealous on the campaign trail. He's been like an angry bee, buzzing around the hive...

The conference call is late because Bill is late, and his voice and his words are hardly motivational; to think that I used to be such a fan. Although there are listeners from all over the world conferencing in, only Bill and a woman from London speak. I'm left with a "so what" feeling about it all, even though we want Hillary to win.

Dino has returned to the garden, this time laying steps to take us up to the gardener's cottage. We won't need Mario and Silvano to return, for Dino seems to want to tackle the project himself.

I think the challenge will be to grade the space so that it's mostly flat. The space itself slopes, so without putting in a step or two here and there, we'll have to figure it out. We know that there are a few "dips", and Dino thinks we need to build the earth up in those spots, so that overall the area will be uniform.

What helps will be a few pavers that will be cemented in at the top of the stairs to the lower pomodori garden. They will hold in the gravel and we'll allow a place for water to drain.

We end the evening watching the repeat of an old movie. We're not fussy when it comes to movies or programs on T V, realizing that there are few first-runs shown in Italy; it's more like watching "also-rans".

February 10
I've finished painting The Dancing Lesson as much as I'm going to, and we will return it to Omamia and pick up the painting of San Vincenzo. It appears the painting will wind up in the newly-restored church. We'll find out in a week or so.

The inauguration of the church will take place on Sunday, March 9th, and it should be a wonderful event. Perhaps we'll even see Bishop Lorenzo, who we don't think has appeared in little Mugnano for anything in all the years we've been here.

The new priest is here again, and is so genuine in his love of the church that I can't help falling for him. He does not do his sermon from the pulpit, instead walks down to the center aisle in our little church and finds a way to reach each of us.

After mass, while I'm chatting away with Tiziano by the door, he comes over and shakes hands with each of us in a genuine expression of joy. Tiziano thinks he's like an American priest, even though he has never seen one...We don't know his name, but the next time he comes to Mugnano we surely will.

Dino is so jazzed about our garden that he cannot wait to get out there and dig. Va bene. By the time I call him in for a pranzo of roast pork and carrots sautéed with brown sugar and potatoes roasted with the pork, he's ready for a break.

Annarita and her husband tell us about a special garden program on Thursdays on RAI TV. Tiziano also tells us about it, so we'll check it out this week. He thinks our garden should be featured on the program. I respond, "Prima le photos, dopo i ladri (thieves)!"

Sofi searches for her springtime friends, the lucertoles (lizards), but it's too early, so she sniffs around in the garden and then just sits.

We leave in the late afternoon for Orte and then for Viterbo, to watch Brooke Smith in a basketball game and greet her parents, who arrived yesterday for a couple of weeks. It will be good to see Alison again; she joined Brooke at the start of the season. Today she's taking a motherly role, as Brooke has come down with a fever and doesn't think we should get together after the game.

Vincere! Brooke and her teammates play Parma and they win, a decisive game. It is fun sitting in the GESCOM (sponsor) seats and chatting with Alison and Jan. Brooke plays, even though she is has a fever, and makes a great contribution, including 9 points. Brava!

I do, however, come down with a migraine, so it worked out that they could not have cena together. Tonight I have a date with difmetre and the pillow...

February 11
We never made it to Omamia yesterday, so on Thursday we'll try again. This morning Dino works more outside, and we agree that we need Mario and his brother, Silvano to come to excavate the rest of the area. It's too much work for one person to dig and also handle the carriolo (wheelbarrow), and I'm no help at all in taking the carriolo down the stairs to the far property.

We're having plumbing problems with the faucet in the kitchen, so Enzo sends his assistant to fix it after pranzo. By then I'm on my way in the Alfa to Marco's bottega.

Today I do a study (sketch) of a little girl, and Marco finishes it off in white chalk. Next week I will return to painting again, but it's very important that I pay particular attention to drawing first.

Back at home, Dino is not here, nor is Sofi, so it's a little strange going into the house and hanging out by myself. They arrive soon after, and we spend the rest of the evening together by the fire. When I left Marco's it was 1.5 degrees Centigrade, and the temperature rose to a mellow 4.5 Centigrade by the time I arrived in Mugnano. I suspect it will be very cold tonight.

While at the house in Tenaglie, Dino met with a muratore who convinced him that the slope is too steep for gravel, so we are back to the original paving, a job that will cost more than the client wants to spend. We don't blame them. We're still waiting to hear if the original muratores will return this month to finish their work.

February 12
Mario and Silvano arrive to dig dirt, and in four hours do all the digging we need, and have time left to grade the path in the far property.

While they do their digging, Dino continues work on the tufa borders. We've agreed to take one step up to the area that was formerly the lavender garden. We also drive out to a local shop that sells garden pots, and find the perfect one for the peony. Dino drills out the bottom of the pot, digs around the plant leaving a 40cm round hole, and digs down so that the pot can be partially submerged in the soil.

I don't know what Sarah will think, but we think it will work fine. Dino takes a photo of the project to show the midpoint in our rework and here it is.

In the next days we will lay nursery cloth over the dirt, then rake gravel over the nursery cloth, hoping the result is good. The broad expanse is wonderful, and I look forward to doing the plantings in the lavender area that will bring the whole project together.

We envision placing pots around the peony in its pot, and a few groupings around the surviving lavender. Dino wants to move a bench here, but I like the sparseness of it, thinking instead that we can sit on the tufa bricks.

I study a book on drawing, and think I'll increase the amount of time I spend on drawing in the future, trying to complete a few pieces each week. Right now, I'm also painting a bunch of grapes, and will probably take it to Marco on Monday to work on there. I appreciate his practiced eye.

Tomorrow we'll drive to Viterbo in both cars, and the Alfa will get serviced while we mosey around the city. Dino thought we needed to buy stain for the headboard, but I think it should be stained in castagno (chestnut) and we have some of that at home.

Earlier today we drove to Tenaglie and met Lorenzo and his assistant, Federico. They finished the stair rail and Dino gave Lorenzo an outdoor light, asking him to fashion a plate to be installed below it. Now our clients will have a light at their front gate.

The project continues, and on Thursday the furniture and other items we purchased will be delivered. There are windows to be installed and a few doors, and perhaps the same muratore will be able to complete the last items on our punch list. We love the look of the house, but want to finish it and move on.

Tonight before turning in, Dino finds the blue and white striped material that we have looked for all over the house for two years! He finds it under a bed in the guest bedroom in a box. How could that be? I thought we looked at least twice in every box in the house. No matter. We'll put it back up in the loggia before we leave for Provence in April. Now we won't have to buy new material in Rome after all. Va bene.

February 13
I have a lot of respect for Robert Reich, and think what he writes in the New York Times about the U S economy makes a lot of sense. Take a look:

So we're not the only ones worried about money and our future. At OBI this morning, where there are bins for picking out nails and screws, one takes out a little bag, weighs the ones one wants and presses a key on the scale that corresponds to the letter designation of the item.

A man next to Dino "c'e lo un sacco (has a bag)" of screws, but only needs a few. He weighs the three or four of them, then checks the price against the big bag, and tells us he's buying the big bag, for the price is better. Now he'll never use them all in his lifetime, but for a centime or two he's going to buy the bag.

There are some people who live that way. I suppose if we would change our way of living to something similar, we'd do better financially. But we just can't obsess about little things, although Dino is quite perturbed that a big service station chain that was previously the lowest price of gas around has increased their price by two centimes per liter. In the whole scheme of things, I suppose that's not much, even if one buys a whole tank of gas. But it's a beginning.

Italians love the use of "un sacco di..." (a bag/sack of...) and one thinks of a story to tell when hearing this phrase. There is always a story, and people always laugh, about what the Italians think is the funny story of life's little passages.

Today is cold, and Sofi and I drive the Alfa while Dino drives Pandina to the Alfa dealership. It's service time, and before we're through we've spent almost €400 on new brakes and other things. Dino tells Fabio (yes, that's really his name and yes, he really is Fabulo) that he never uses his brakes, so he's never had to replace them in the several years we've owned the car.

I'm somewhat suspect, especially when I follow him home and his foot touches the brakes fourteen times from the beginning of the town of Bomarzo to Via Mameli...

I am conscious, very conscious, of using the brakes, and recall my brother giving me driving lessons in the car we used to call the ragged dragon. It was a red VW convertible, and the top was pretty ragged. I think I took my driver's license road test in it. He taught me how to downshift; how to make turns using the gas only when driving out of a turn.

So I have a love of driving sportscars with manual transmissions. Anyone who knew me when we lived above Mill Valley on Mt. Tam in Northern California can attest to the fact that I loved to drive fast in my BMW, around the curvy mountain roads. So although I don't drive often, when I am behind the wheel I love to work the gearbox. Dino is still a great driver, so I give him some leeway...

We take Sofi to the vet for her rabies shot, and she's somewhat sleepy for the rest of the day. So when we drive in Pandina to Tenaglie she sits quietly while we hang curtain rods and drapes and talk with Mari, who is at the house to clean the cantina.

It's still cold when we arrive home, so Dino makes a fire and I consider making fresh bread. Earlier we picked up some fresh lievito and some German bread mix at LIDL. I usually begin making bread early in the morning, but perhaps tonight I'll see how it works to let it rise during the night.

I'm drawing a lot more these days, and we pick up some wonderful sheets of various colored papers to draw on with pastels. I agree with Michelangelo and with Marco: it's so important to draw, draw, draw.

Drawing is almost more important than painting, for the ability to draw a subject well always almost means that painting the same subject will be easier and more accurate later. I love it all...

In the afternoon we drive to Tenaglie, put up a window rod in the bedroom and a set of drapes while Mari cleans the cantina. Tomorrow we'll return to wait for the furniture to be delivered for the cantina.

A big package arrives from Peter Beales Roses, but they forgot to include the roses we ordered! After a call and an email their apologies arrive and a confirmation that the roses will be sent out tonight, speriamo. We did receive some rose food that we ordered, and look forward to the roses, two Madame Caroline Testout Climber and one Lady Silvia Climber.

The three will flank the wall facing San Rocco where the mermaids were originally planted. One will rise on this side of the wall, and two on the other, planted between the osmanthus, growing over and toward the house. The rose on this side, growing up and over toward San Rocco, will not be planted in the same spot where any of the mermaids were.

You know that if you replace a rose with another that you must take out all the surrounding dirt and replace it with entirely new soil. Va bene.

February 14
It's Valentine's Day all over the world, but here in Mugnano, every day is Valentine's Day for us. Late in the morning, Stefano arrives to cement a few tiles on the stairs to the lower tomato garden so that we can bring the gravel up higher in that spot. When Dino wishes him happy day, he tells us no, that he is not with his wife anymore. How sad. He is one of the sweetest men we know, and are sad for him.

Before noon we drive to Tenaglie, and I fix a Valentine's Day pranzo for Dino of ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach and served with butter and fresh sage. Then his favorite salad, made with iceberg (!) lettuce and some pepperonicini and then hot chocolate cake.

We're trying out the oven as well as the cook top in the cantina, and everything works. This is a mini test of the space, although we'll probably spend a night there before we're through, including doing an inventory for whoever handles the rentals.

Today we're primarily here to wait for the new furniture pieces to be delivered, and they arrive right on time. We install the bed, hang up two wooden coat racks and are back at home by 4:30 P M, in time for Dino to do a little more work in the garden.

We cut the nursery cloth, but it's so cold that we agree to wait until tomorrow to lay it out. I'm thinking about the irrigation systems, and we agree that we'll make our final decisions about any lines to be laid before installing the cloth and gravel.

I'm upstairs and Dino calls out to me to take a look at something in the garden, so I call out to Sofi who's lying in her daybed by my side. She scurries out to run down the stairs so quickly that she slides into my outstretched foot and tumbles down about six stairs, lying stunned for a moment on the landing.

I'm in shock, but she's happily wagging her tail as if it was a game. I pick her up and hold her in my arms like the wimp that I am. Then she scurries out to Dino in the garden and all is fine. What a relief!

February 15
During the night Sofi cried and I put her on top of the bed, but she is in obvious discomfort and cries when I put her back in her bed. Later while we're having coffee she scurries under the stove and cries some more.

During the day she seems to pick up, especially when Dino and I are out working in the garden. I put Enterogina into her water dish, but she will not drink. By the time Tiziano arrives around 7 P M she's full of pep and eats her crocanti right away, even wagging her tail at us. She probably had a stomach virus or ate something that disagreed with her.

With a stiffness in my shoulders and a ringing in my head, I take difmetre to make sure that a migraine does not follow. It does not. What an amazing drug!

Out in the garden, the cold morning turns warm, and before we realize it there is so much sun that our coats come off. We finish laying the nursery cloth and cutting it, then Dino gets out his roofing torch (why, do you ask, does he have a roofing torch, especially with terra cotta tiles on the roof?) and puts it to use on the cut edge of the nursery cloth.

Very smart; the cloth consists of a kind of plastic webbing, and previously we've had a devil of a time with the frayed edges popping through the gravel. Now that won't be an issue as Dino waves the torch back and forth about five inches away from the cloth.

Back to Dino and his roofing torch...Dino bought one after we visited Bob and Marilyn Smith in Glen Ellen and Bob used his to get rid of weeds as a kind of zapper. Being a tool guy, Dino was sure that it would eradicate weeds in Mugnano with a whiff. But now he tells me, "It will only work if the weeds are dead, and if they are dead, why bother?"

We have a more pressing problem...putting up the paranco (hoist) to bring the remaining gravel up from the parcheggio. We manage to get it hooked up and the rest of the gravel poured out of one of those brilliantly styled wheelbarrows onto the nursery cloth in about a dozen or more cycles, with me running the switch and Dino moving up and down the stairs, shoveling the gravel into the wheelbarrow, then sliding it over the low fence and wheeling it to the spot, then dumping it out on the nursery cloth. The gravel is a lovely tawny shade of brown, and it seems to turn lighter with time. It looks great next to the tufa bricks.

I have a phone meeting and Dino comes inside as it's now dark outside. Tiziano arrives for a meeting about his archeology pursuits, and we want to help him get some grants or sponsors for his dig. So after we talk for an hour or so it's time to eat. With no time to cook this afternoon we agree to go out for pizza instead, and drive to the next town to La Fossate.

Sofi waits for us in the car. While we're getting ready to put our coats on after eating our pizzas, Dino asks Tiziano, "Do you know if dogs have a sense of timing? We were told that a dog can't tell the difference if its owner has been away for a minute or five hours." He's not sure. Tiziano knows the answers to a lot of things, but not this one.

It's around freezing when we drive home and say goodnight to our dear friend. We're looking forward to driving with him to Guadamelo and San Vito in a week or so, to help him take photos of a few things for his doctoral dissertation. Amazingly, he thinks he has 800 (yes, 800!) settlements to include, from San Vito to Bomarzo.

February 16
(ANSA) - "Vatican City, February 14 - A top Vatican cardinal complained on Thursday that Catholic priests are becoming worldlier, less obedient and increasingly reluctant to wear a cassock." Wonder what they'd think of Don Luca's black motorcycle, and Don Luca flying down the Bomarzo hill to Mugnano astride it to deliver mass.

He continues..."Absorbing the values of western society, priests are also less and less interested in prayer and community living and more interested in personal freedom," said Cardinal Franc Rode in a conversation with ANSA.

There's still more...''A drift towards bourgeois values and moral relativism are the two great dangers that weaken religious life,'' said Rode, who heads the Vatican department which governs monks, nuns and priests not attached to parishes."

We've just become familiar with the site, and it is available in English. The info above is an excerpt. So if you're hankering for all sorts of Italian news, you might give this site a try. We imagine the cardinal who made these comments standing at attention smacking a ruler against his palm and tapping his foot. Poor fellow.

We are interested in learning more about a newsbar that we noticed when tuning in to CNN (we have the choice of CNN or FOX for American news on TV) that a Nazi was jailed in Italy, and look for it on ANSA.IT. But here is the info. From CNN:

"ROME, Italy (AP) -- An 83-year-old former SS prison guard who was sentenced to life in prison in Italy for Nazi war crimes was jailed near Naples Saturday, hours after he was extradited from Canada.

"If someone is willing to host him, the former SS officer eventually could be allowed to serve his sentence on house arrest because of his age.

Seifert, known as the "Beast of Bolzano," was convicted in absentia in 2000 by a military tribunal in Verona on nine counts of murder committed while he was an SS guard at a prison transit camp in Bolzano, northern Italy.

At his trial, people testified that Seifert starved a 15-year-old prisoner to death, gouged out a person's eyes and tortured a woman before killing her and her daughter. So what do you think? How would you like to have him as a guest in your home? Brrrr.

For most of the morning we've been outside in the garden. I've been raking gravel and cutting fruit tree branches to save for fire starters. Dino tells me that it's a good idea if I cut them in moderate lengths and place them "preciso" in the plastic lug. This is very Italian. Dino claims that this will enable us to put more in each lug.

Yes, bella figura (to make a good impression) thrives in Italy, as noted by stacks of wood outside homes that are so precise that they look as though they were factory-cut by a huge machine. each case, someone spent hours arranging them "just so".

Dino is chided by Miriam when he takes a load of rose cuttings to the trash bins on Via Mameli. Franco, the owner of the produce truck, is here selling his wares out of the back, and Dino stops to buy a head of lattuga (lettuce) for part of our pranzo.

"Why don't you grow winter lettuce in your garden?" she chides. This is very bad. Dino has lost face. We're sure the rumblings will travel around the village in minutes, for as you know, "L'aria parla" (the air talks).

Fa niente. We're back out in the garden after I send a few emails to friends to see if we can find a place to stay for a young woman in the village who is graduating from medical school this month and will travel to New York City in March for two weeks with a couple of friends.

The sun continues, and Sofi is back at full strength. We've cut back the rest of the fruit trees, and if the wind dies down we'll spray them with a biologic treatment. Fruit trees, especially peaches, experience a kind of leaf blight each year. We always forget to spray in February. Perhaps this will be the year we'll have great peaches. We always have great plums, or almost always.

There are two pesky roses growing in low oval pots on the front terrace, roses that were planted by Sarah and Alush nine (!) years ago. They have never been taken out and repotted, so this is the year. One is full of what we call Bermuda grass, or crab grass.

It takes almost an hour, but we manage to cut them both way back, take out all the soil, and repot them with transplanting medium mixed with water and plenty of fresh soil. They should be fine.

We're running out of gravel for the side yard, but have enough to cover the front part of what used to be the lavender garden. It's now set one step up from the rest of the area in front of the big olive tree.

We may have enough gravel to finish the back part, too. The center space is taken up by a mound of dirt, with a rose in a big pot poised in the center and four iceberg roses planted around it at its base. But now I'm taking a hard look at all the box that is not the original box planted by Sarah and Alush, and there is quite a bit of it.

Since gravel is running out, I think we'll plant mounds of box together at the back in front of the fence to the right of the gate, hoping it will grow into something we can train as mounds. It will be put on the irrigation system and will get more water than before. We are hopeful. Who knows?

We're still trying to find lodging for a neighbor who just graduated from medical school who wants to visit New York City for the second half of March. She and a couple of friends need a place to stay, so we've emailed around but are not sure we have a solution.

We run out of steam as the sun lowers on the horizon and the garden is bathed in shadow. Tomorrow we'll see what else we can finish and hope we can spray the fruit trees. It depends on the wind, or hopefully the lack of it.

February 17
A headache erupted during the night, so at about dawn I take difmetre, the miracle migraine drug. I'm not feeling well, so Dino walks to church without me.

I take a look at the photo of our recent work in the garden and wish that the paint we used on the shutters was not so bright. In the hot summer sun they will undoubtedly bleach out a bit, so I'm looking forward to more of a weathered look. They look good, just the same. I do love what is happening to the garden space, and when Dino returns from church we'll be back out in it again, perhaps to spray the fruit trees first. I'm feeling somewhat better.

He does spray four of the five fruit trees: a plum, an apple, a peach, an amarena (sour cherry) and later realizes he missed the plum on the front terrace, the one with the fabulous oval shaped plums. Tomorrow he'll fix all that.

He clips back the second cachi (persimmon) tree. This is the tree whose fruit is allowed to ripen, so that I can make everyone's favorite...steamed persimmon pudding.

I never make it out to the garden, for there are curtains to sew, and things to put away. Don Luca will be here either Tuesday afternoon or Thursday morning to bless the house and study the San Vincenzo painting for possible use in the restored church. There is a lot of cleaning to do...

We drop The Dancing Lesson off at Omamia and pick up San Vincenzo. It's 6 degrees Centigrade, and we think that's cold. With Candace and Frank's car to pick up in Orvieto, we stop an an Autogrill for plates of pasta and then make our way to the parking garage near their house.

What happens next is a comedy of errors. Their car won't start. Sofi and I are parked outside the garage, but we do not know that one can enter from two directions, on two different floors, but it's not possible to get from one floor to another. We brought jumper cables, but how do I get into the garage without a ticket?

Dino directs me another way in, but the machine is out of tickets. He finds an emergency number and we finally reach someone who agrees to come down to put in some more tickets in the machine. It is only then that I can drive our car over to theirs and Dino can start it up. After that, I follow him home and we park the car on the street until tomorrow, when we will drive to Fimucino airport to pick up our friends.

At home I notice the bulletin that Dino brought home this morning from mass. The restored church is referred to in the church bulletin as the chiesa parrocchiale; if Mugnano were to have a Duomo, this would be it. But what IS a Duomo, anyway?

The dictionary calls it "a cathedral in Italy". The dictionary calls a cathedral either a church that contains a bishop's throne and is the most important church in the bishop's diocese, or a large, important church.

We think that a Duomo is the most important church in a town (or village, in our case). It appears that the church we are referring to is neither a cathedral nor a duomo, but a simple village church. Dino tells me that when people in our village refer to the church as the Duomo that they are referring to it with "tongue in cheek".

Funny. Slide your tongue aside toward your cheek. I ask Dino, "What's this?" looking at him with my tongue slid over to my cheek. He responds by pulling the skin down under one eye and laughing.

Tonight we drive to Viterbo to watch the Gescom Women's Basketball team play Napoli. Alison and Jan are there and we all route for Brooke, who plays masterfully, and for at least half of the game is Gescom's highest scorer. The final score is a very respectable 78 to 64. It is an excellent win for this team, who has won almost every game since gaining a new coach midseason. The players are working harder and enjoying it more.

Afterward we celebrate at Il Labyrintho in San Pellegrino, a trattoria in the medieval section of Viterbo, and Sofi joins us, sitting by my feet and calmly eating strands of spaghetti, fed by me one strand at a time. The table next to us is filled with a student participant of the team and her family, and all the women love Sofi. It's hard not to.

There are some hand motions during the game that we don't understand. One, in which the players or the coach put their hand out flat on the top of their head facing sideways and tap their head a few times. We think that it means, "Slow down. You have plenty of time to shoot." There is another where a player takes their malieta (t-shirt) and pulls it out near their shoulder and shakes it. We know that's another. So we ask Brooke to clue us in.

"Each team has their own plays, but there are several names that are called: 1) 2) maglieta 3 4 5) Each team uses the words for their own plays, and each is unique, yet all teams use these names. Go figure...

We agree that Brooke and Alison and Jan will come for pranzo on Friday, then we'll take a walk around Mugnano, which will take about fifteen minutes. We give them some ideas for day trips tomorrow, and look forward to seeing them at the end of the week. Alison tells me that Laura Adler actually reads the journal. Way to go, Laura!

We arrive home to temperatures below freezing, and even Sofi looks forward to hopping inside to her warm bed. Tonight has been fun, and we are more and more enthused about the team. The game next Monday will be televised, and we'll watch it on TV. Well, Dino will watch it and I will see some of it after leaving Marco's bottega. I really cannot miss two Mondays in a row.

February 18
Under a cold, clear sky, we wake and begin to put the house in order. With all our projects taking up every conceivable space, it's time to make some sense of it. While Dino takes on an errand for the clients' work, I organize the guest bedroom.

Oh, but it's a beautiful day. I last about an hour, then Sofi and I return to work on the roses. An insert in the previous Peter Beales Roses writes about pruning...

"There are no hard and fast rules concerning the pruning of shrub and old fashioned roses. In the first year it is important to prune them, including climbers and ramblers, to about six inches from the ground after planting."

Hmmm. Those roses in the square pots planted with the wisteria look delicious and are healthy, but the two climbers in the center pots have really climbed. Since they were purchased last year and planted in May, they need to be cut back severely. So snip, sip.

The reason for this is to secure a strong and healthy root system...this makes sense. I know that many roses left on their own survive for years, and it is those that we pamper who must be watered daily during the season.

Also in the short document is an idea about planting roses in spots where other roses grew previously. Now I've mentioned that one must take out all the previous soil and replant with new soil, but what do you think of this alternative suggestion?

"Instead of changing the soil, it is worth using a bio-degradable cardboard box which should be no smaller than 1 cubic foot in size. The box should be sunk into the ground in the position where you wish to plant each new rose and filled with good virgin soil or compost. Plant your rose or roses in the center of each box at normal planting depth."

I remember that I have not pruned the Lady Hillington roses on the path, so Sofi and I work on them for about an hour in the warm sun. Luigina and Vincenzo walk by and we speak about how beautiful the day is, but how cold it was last night. When we drove into Mugnano at around 10PM, the temperature was -.5 degrees Centigrade. I think that's cold.

Today is Felice's birthday, so before we leave for Rome we'll stop at his house and bring him a plant for their garden. It's difficult to know what to bring to him. We surely miss him, and each day we spend in the garden we think of him at least once, remembering how we loved seeing him and treasured his advice, which he always gave with a smile and a little story, followed by a laugh.

Sofi saw her first lucertole (lizard) today, and is over the moon, sitting facing the long wall on the path and just watching...Spring can't be that far away!

I call Marco to tell him I can't come to his bottega today, and he tells me that I can make it up. That's wonderful. He's really a kind and gentle man. I had thought I would just lose the session. So I'll bring the painting of the grapes to him next Monday. I'm just not sure what to do with them, after painting a base coat, and won't be able to get together with Pat before then. The busy season in the garden is upon us, and now I find myself stretching to put in even an hour of drawing here and there.

We leave mid-afternoon, after I put cuttings from our garden herbs and a primula (primrose) in a wicker basket with a ribbon for Felice on his birthday. I can't think of anything he'd like more, and they have room in their garden for all of it.

When we arrive he knows who we are, and remembers Sofi's name. Otherwise, Marsiglia tells us he's a different person. He talks with her as though she is someone else and tells her "when my wife was here..."

Marsiglia is in tears and sits close to me, holding my hand and almost whispering about her brother, Gianino, who is quite ill but the doctors can't find out what is wrong. And then the conversation changes to her anguish about what has happened to Felice. It is clear that she still loves him very much.

When we leave, she tells us she'll walk us out and we hug Felice, then tell him c'e veddiamo (see you again). When she and I are in the hallway she begins again, and for fifteen minutes tells me more than I can possibly absorb. I tell her, " Io non capito tutto, ma io penso abbastanza" (I don't understand everything, but I think I understand enough). Whew!

In the car I place a call to Angie in Rome to ask if she can call and find out if what I thought I heard was true. Angie visits them when she is here to take care of Sofi during Thanksgiving, and agrees to call, using the excuse that it is Felice's birthday. I thank her and we call her when we arrive in Rome.

It's as I thought, and Felice is probably not getting enough blood pumped to his brain, so is suffering from dementia. We are so grateful to Angie for doing this, and we'll see her when she's near us next. But Marsiglia and Felice's sad states remain in my mind...

We're on our way to the autostrada and I ask Dino if he ever thinks about what it will be like for us when we are their age. He does not want to talk about it, saying something positive about enjoying life. The subject comes and goes from my consciousness almost daily.

In Rome, we drive to the vestment shop near Saint Peter's, and Dino drives around the block while I walk in and exchange the altar cloth for a completed set. The fellow is expecting me, and although I speak with him in Italian, he responds in English.

I hope it's because Livio called and told him that stranieri would be exchanging the cloth. I certainly hope it's not because of my pronunciation. We'll never know...

We decide to navigate across Rome using the Tiber River as a guide, thinking it should take us to the airport. We are on Via Portunese, and indeed it does. We so love Rome that Dino tells me we need to visit Rome once a month, just to experience it.

That's fine with me, although at the end of the day with the cacophony of all the traffic we're usually anxious to arrive home to our peaceful village. What country bumpkins we have become!

We arrive at the airport early, and so does Candace and Frank's plane, so we're back in the car after a number of machinations with Frank's painting, in a box the size of a bicycle box for an airplane. It's funny, but when they checked in the counterperson just marked it as a bicycle and never asked what was in it!

We're packed in the station wagon, with Dino driving and Sofi and I in the front seat, Frank and Candace sitting on either side of a big suitcase and the painting sandwiched in through the back. Candace keeps opening the window, afraid that we're getting carbon monoxide fumes with the back hatch open. But the box with the painting inside takes up so much of the space that hardly any air can come in from the back.

We arrive home and say goodbye, only to see them back at the house within an hour. They left one of their backpacks on the ground next to the car and in a frantic search Dino found it, after driving to the toll plaza and back and Candace calling from their house in Orvieto and then driving back to us. So over a glass of wine we catch up, and then the two of them leave, and hopefully get a good night's sleep. They've been traveling for almost a day.

February 19
It's cold and clear, and this morning we're zooming around the house with a vacuum cleaner and cleaning and organizing the little house, room by room. We have so much to donate or take to the second-hand store in Viterbo, that Dino packs up his car and takes it there mid-morning.

By the time he returns the house is clean, and we eat pranzo and then work outside in the garden, hopefully until Don Luca and Livio arrive. We hope they will come today.

But they will not. I'm cutting wood for kindling with our incredibly easy to use Swiss shears. It's cold, but I last until just after 5PM, with two more lugs almost filled. Dino leaves soon afterward for a meeting with the geometra and Tani, one of the senior muratores who have returned from Albania.

I stay here, for just before 6 P M I walk up to the borgo for a mass for dear Vincenzo. His wife, Carla, seems to be doing a bit better, and Don Luca arrives to perform the mass. I give the altar cloths to Livio, and after the mass he and Gigliola ask about Dino. It's all right that he is not there, but they want to make sure that he is "tutto a posto" (everything in its place, or feeling good). I assure them that he is.

It is a cold and crisp walk home, and while I'm walking down the hill, looking at the deserted street ahead, I'm thinking of what it was like here even ten years ago. We are so fortunate to be here, to be accepted members of this little community. And oh how it has changed!

Dino returns to say that the meeting was a nothing meeting, other than to agree that on Thursday Dino and Tani and Canale, the geometra, will return to the house to remeasure. In Italy, prices are determined by measured calculations. So preventives will only be available once the measuring is redone.

Muratores charge for work they have done. So we also ask for preventivos for painting each side of the house and for the driveway rework. We're hoping that won't take long to calculate, and that our clients agree to move ahead.

February 20
We wake to a new, cold day, the sky partly sunny. We drive to Bassano in Teverina to meet new clients, who are very cordial and show us the perfect Italian "dream" property, asking us to help them sell it. Here's my sense of it:

Down a 3km mostly strada Bianca (white road), we drive on to find the property at the very end. As we enter the gate, there are a number of immaculately maintained rows of grapes, all irrigated from above, and we are told they are grown in a completely biologic manner, as is everything on the property.

The grapes produce white wine of approximately 180 liters and red wine of 50 liters each year. The winemaking equipment is also included in the price of this property, as is a cantina in the town, where the wine is fermented and bottled.

We are assured that the owners have agreed to instruct the new owner, if requested, regarding the growing and caring for vines and the making and bottling of wine in the present manner. We have tasted the white wine and it is excellent.

So it is possible that someone who wants to learn the craft but knows nothing about it can find himself/herself with a precious opportunity at no extra cost, literally on their doorstep.

However, if one likes the property and does not want the grapes, they can be pulled out and a swimming pool can be built on the space presently used for the growing of grapes.

There are fifty-five mostly quite mature olive trees on the property. We are assured that the yield is approximately 120 liters of oil per year, depending on the weather.

To the right of the fence line are rows and rows of mature olive trees, and although it is possible to extend the present boundary of the property we are there to see, nothing can be built on it. The property adjacent to this property is zoned as agricultural land only.

Within the space stand: two fig trees, a huge apricot and a small apricot tree, two cherries and a melograno (pomegranate). The apricot trees were in bloom today, and we are assured produce a great volume of fruit.

From the kitchen, French doors open to the garden, where a beautifully maintained orto (kitchen garden) is planted with lettuces and vegetables, surrounded by ample artichoke plants. Everything on the property is immaculately maintained.

From the house, we followed one of the owners to Bassano in Teverina, where we were taken to the cantina, consisting of shelves of winemaking equipment, including a press, many empty bottles, and all the equipment needed to make the wine from grapes produced on the property.

The house was a former shack, torn down and completely reconstructed with heating, (GPL) and water from the commune. There is also a pozzo (well), which supplies water for the garden.

The house is small, but perfect for a couple, comprised of approximately 70 sq. meters of a bedroom, living room, bathroom, sleeping loft. Outside the land consists of approximately . The house is in move-in condition.

Across from the property is a grove of young olive trees, many of them, planted in customary precise fashion, providing a lovely vista looking North. We are told that this land can only be zoned as agricultural; that means, no buildings can be built on the land. So no obstructed view will be possible in the future. This is not part of the property for sale.

The property is far enough from the town of just over 1,000 inhabitants to insure tranquility, yet convenient to nearby Orte, which sits at the crossroads of the A-1 and E-45 from Lazio to Umbria on the East and Lazio to Tuscany on the North. Orte is thirty-five minutes by train to Rome's Termini train station.

View the property on our site at:

After pranzo, Dino drives me to Nick's in Narni, for a hair appointment, and it is good to see him again. I love his work, and enjoy getting to know him. He tells me that he enjoys doing people's hair, but what he really enjoys is getting to know a variety of new people. He's excellent at taking care of both, although I advise him to work on building up his personal business instead of bringing business to his salon.

Italy is a strange place in which to work. Artistic people work for very little money in Italy. Well, most people work for very little money here. I suppose it's the price for living here. So if Nick works out of his home, at least he can keep the money himself. "Chairs" are not rented out in Italy, as they are in England or the U S. The drop-in business is not very good.

It appears that Italians are loyal, and building up a book of business is not easy, especially when people count as clients those they've grown up with. So stranieri don't stand much of a chance. I think he is so good that he could build up his business with friends of friends, which he's trying to do. I know Tia and Helen and Panais think he's great, as do I. So we'll just continue praising him to our friends, and hope they'll give him a try.

We pick up a new bed for Sofi at the good pet store across the street, and when we get home she's so thrilled she doesn't want to get out of bed. What a dear dog. We love to see her happy.

February 21
Today is the blessing of the houses in Mugnano, so we wait for Don Luca to arrive, and since the house is clean, I make a pot of homemade apple sauce while Dino putters in the garden.

I'm finished and beginning to clean up when Don Luca and Livio arrive, walking right into the kitchen. Don Luca sees the painting of San Vincenzo right away, and walks over and studies it, confirming that he's also seen it at Palazzo Orsini in Bomarzo.

He tells us he wants it for the sacristy of the restored church, possibly to be hung between the photos of the pope and our bishop, Vescovo Lorenzo, whom we've never met. Now I think I'd call that a prime location, wouldn't you?

Don Luca presents us with a lovely card, with a prayer for the home on the back. It is a crucifix with many saints as well as Jesus, but he does not know the origin or where the original lies. Va bene. He blesses the house, San Vincenzo, and Sofi, who lays in Dino's arms.

We all say the lord's prayer, of course in Italian, and they're out the door without venturing into any other rooms. Some years he makes the rounds, some years he does not. I think he is in a hurry, for he only has this morning to bless all the houses in Mugnano.

After they leave we leave ourselves and drive to Viterbo. On the way we talk about how confident Don Luca is, and how serious. He's quite a priest, and we're not surprised if he has political ambitions within the church.

I'm now thinking of one of our favorite books, The Accidental Pope, by Ray Flynn. It's a story of a fisherman from New England who becomes pope. Don Luca is young enough that I suppose it is possible. Anyway, read the book if you're so inclined, and let us know what you think of it.

We're looking for those Italian bead things that Italians hang in front of their front doors during good weather, to keep out the mosce (flies). We stop at five or more places, but they're either expensive (€150) or very flimsy and ugly. Most shops tell us it's too early, but we find one for €24 in a size that will work, but it's an ugly pattern of brown and beige diamonds, so we'll wait.

Dino wants chicken risotto, so of course I fix it for him. Today's is really rich, so after a salad I'm ready for a nap. Dino starts to burn some cuttings from the garden in the far property, then has to leave for a meeting with the muratore and the geometra at the Tenaglie house. After all this time, they agree on an accounting and preventives (quotes) for unfinished work that is not in the bid.

I'm on the terrace cutting wood for kindling (don't think Daniel Boone, I'm using our Swiss cutters to cut the thinner pieces and putting them into plastic lugs). My cell phone rings, and Dino tells me he forgot the keys for the house. So Sofi and I take them and drive part way to hand them off to him.

We're back by 4:15 or so, and I work more than an hour on the terrace, cutting away, and finishing more than one whole lug. Tomorrow morning we'll be in the garden, readying the soil for the three roses that arrived today from Peter Beales and other plants that we are moving around. I'm looking forward to it.

Have you signed up for Italian Notebook? It's free, and consists of quips each day about something Italian. I am a contributing writer. Today GB mentions something that makes me smile. He tells us that there is no Italian word for privacy. As the neighbors say, "L'aria parla" (the air talks).

When Sofi and I returned this afternoon from meeting up with Dino and giving him the keys, the usual women from the borgo were sitting on our benches on the walkway, just staring at me, as if to say after our short jaunt, "What was that all about?". We get out of the car and I tell them that Roy forgot his keys.

That makes them feel better, and I suppose it makes me feel better, too. Yes, they want to know what's going on in our lives. But since we don't get together with them socially very much, we have the luxury of privacy somewhat. Even if there is no word for it in Italian...

February 22
Brooke and her mother and stepfather will arrive for pranzo today, a roast pork, home made apple sauce, salad of puntarella and persimmon pudding. After working outside in the morning, we're ready for it.

It's fun to spend the afternoon with friends from "the old country", and this family loves Italian food. They are fun to have here, interested in everything. So of course we walk them up to the borgo, which Jan has never seen.

Alison seems to remember all about it, and people are out and friendly, wanting to meet our friends. The young boys tell us they know about "basket", and now there is a famous athlete in their midst.

They leave so that Brooke can get to practice on time, and Roy promises he'll watch her televised game on Monday on TV. I'll be at Marco's, but will try to leave early to see some of it.

I'm writing this entry a day later, and can't remember what we do for the rest of the day. Hang out? Or do we return to the garden? Yes, we put down nursery cloth in the front part of what used to be the lavender garden. Things have changed...

How could I forget? We have cena plans in Orvieto with Candace and Frank. They take us to Priscilla, one of their favorites, and Sofi sits by me and shares some agnello (lamb). The food is wonderful, and it's good to see our friends back from their trip to the U S.

We're really tired when we get home, and it's good to turn in.

February 23
This is another wonderful garden day, although we have had no rain in a long time, and I've put my work gardening gear on for the first time this year. We're working with the passino, a kind of bowl-shaped metal cone that sifts dirt from the gravel. We have gravel from our first delivery so long ago, and move wheelbarrows of that, sifting passino after passino for the raised area in the center garden.

We've already laid nursery cloth down for the front area and Dino wants to take a ride to see if we can find more of the gravel we want nearby. There are several yards around, because we are on the edge of the Tiber River, and gravel yards are found near rivers.

Dino thinks he saw mounds of gravel the color we want last week, and today we take stradabianca (white road) after stradabianca until we drive over the A-1 and see mountains of it. It's now about noontime, and Dino takes a coffee can of our gravel to a man standing outside the office and three other men come over to look on. It's the same stuff. So we'll find Dino (from Attigliano) and see if he can deliver a load from his small truck, one that can dump the gravel once he's in the parcheggio.

From there we drive to Dino's in Attigliano, and his wife finds him for us, sitting quietly in his orto. Dino is not well. In January he had a major hernia operation, and is still recovering.

"Can you drive your little truck?" my Dino asks the other Dino. "That's about all I can do."

"Va bene. Lunedi mattinia..." and so we'll have more gravel, plenty to do all we want to do and some left over. So I heat up yesterday's pranzo and we continue to work in the garden.

Today we move the four iceberg roses, roses that have grown by the front fence for the past eight years. They've never done well, for they've grown through the fence and become unruly. I think they belong in pots, or at least in areas where they can spread out.

So they'll be planted in four corners of a spot in the middle of what was formerly known as the lavender garden. A large terra cotta pot sits on a mound of earth in the center, and the iceberg roses will surround it.

The exercise of digging the roses out, cutting them back hard and replanting them and adding special transplant mix takes the rest of the afternoon.

We've run out of soil, so Dino drives off to buy more, while I clean up and stage the front area with pots of healthy box in different sizes. We're so very tired, so call it a day and watch a movie on T V, then sink into bed.

February 24
We're up early, for Tiziano and Duccio and Giovanna will be here at 8:15. We're driving to Guadamelo, so that Tiziano can study something at a church there. We'll all attend 9 A M mass. So about Sofi...Dino wants her to stay here.

I relent. Yesterday I felt a mind-altering shift. I sadly don't believe a woman will ever become president of the United States. While Barack Obama treats Hillary as if she's not even in the room, I'm hearing men all over the U S sniggering and singing, "Hello, Dollie. Well hello, Dollie. It's so nice to have you back where you belong."

It is devastatingly sad for women who hoped in their hearts that a woman could attain the highest post in the land. I think now that there is no "glass ceiling", no ceiling at all. There's just no way for a woman to break through. I'm sad. The feeling is beyond angry.

Here in Mugnano, the sky is bright grey, turning blue, and we're expecting our dear friends, Duccio, Giovanna and Tiziano to join us for a jaunt to Guadamello. Sadly, Dino wants Sofi to stay at home, so she'll wait in her cage until we return in the late morning.

We drive off in Duccio and Giovanna's car, big enough for all of us. When reaching Guadamello, Tiziano leads us through the winding streets of this tiny village to the church, which is locked up tight. He walks down the street to a nearby door and rings the bell, while we wait in the sunlight and look at the view of the Umbrian hillside.

A young woman answers and responds to his question that the mass will be held at 9:30. So we wait and chat until a priest arrives and unlocks the door, then we walk inside to help Tiziano take photos and measure an ancient Roman carved marble piece that looks somewhat like a flower pot.

Nearby are ancient bases for columns, and wonderful frescoes on the walls. A larger-than-life statue of San Rocco stands by the door, his dog holding a big roll in his mouth. If you recall, the dog saved San Rocco's life by stealing bread from his master and feeding San Rocco, who had nothing to eat and laid nearby, quite ill.

Of course we'll include a statue of San Rocco in our little church, if we're ever able to take it over and restore it. That's just one of our long-term adventures; one that Tiziano figures in prominently. But that's for another time.

People are so very friendly, welcoming us and speaking with Tiziano about different things in the church. Sasha's girlfried Adelle arrives and greets us, and later he arrives and stays for the mass. Afterward, the two of them guide us to San Vito, a nearby village, where Tiziano is in search of two sarcophagi; Sasha is sure they are not in the church.

We stop for cappuccinos and a cigarette for Duccio, before walking around the little village. I find Tiziano taking measurements and photos of a doorway, and help him Vanna White style, holding the measure while he snaps the camera.

We're back home before noon, and let out an anxious Sofi. I clip a head of Tuscan black kale for Giovanna, who tells us she'll make a soup tomorrow in Rome. Duccio hates vegetables of all kinds, so thanks us for the opportunity for him to have pranzo outside.

Tiziano has already left for home, and after our friends leave we return to the garden, repotting, moving roses, and spending the rest of the sunlight hours moving ahead on our restructure of the central garden. While Dino takes rubbish to the garbage containers down the street, I sit with Sofi and marvel at its transformation into a Provencal garden. We love it more each day.

Shortly before we stop for the day, the wind picks up. It's a wind familiar in the summertime, but not at this time of year. We're quite warm by this time of afternoon, so welcome the breeze. But where, oh where, is the rain?

Earlier, while walking around San Vito, Tiziano told me that he wants to do the weed-wacking in our garden and on our paths. He's not a gardener, but once he finishes his thesis at the end of next month, he'll need money, and we'll be happy to train him.

Now this is a wonderful bit of news; I've often wondered what we'll do if Mario won't come, or what to do when we're not able to do most of the work in the garden. Here's a solution right under our noses. It's a chance for him to make some money, and I think he'd really enjoy the work.

Even Mario likes coming here; the last time he worked here he asked us if we'd change houses with him: he loves the garden.

We rest awhile, for we want to stay up to watch the Academy Awards, and they don't come on until midnight. Unfortunately, the commercials consist of a couple of young Italians debating what's going on with the actors and movies, all in Italian.

Earlier, when Dino worked down on the front path, Pepe returned from his orto in his big tractor and presented him with a big bunch of something that looks like broccoli rabe; he tells us it's not, it's Ravisona. I can't wait to try it. He tells Dino to boil it and use olive oil on it before it's served. We'll let you know...

February 25
This morning Sofi and I drive Dino to the bottom of the hill, where he meets up with Attigliano Dino and drives in his small camion (truck) to a nearby gravel quarry. But what my Dino does not tell me until later, is that the gravel put in the truck is not the smallest size, but is a variety of sizes.

I think he sees the gravel we want while on the way out of the pit. Puortroppo. When I find out I tell him I'll sort it, and he then wants to return for another load of the gravel we originally wanted. Let's see how it looks once it's up from the parcheggio.

We're moving ahead on the garden restructure, and today lay out more nursery cloth, then cut and burn the edges so that they won't fray. It is truly looking the way we want it to...

I fix a hasty pranzo and drive to Marco's. Dino stays in the garden, for late in the afternoon he'll watch Brooke Smith's televised basketball game against a team fr0m southern Sicily.

I take a canvas to Marco's that I've begun of a bunch of grapes, magnified many times, and a few leaves. I work on it with Marco's guidance for a few hours, then leave while it's still light, hoping to see some of Brooke's game when I return home.

I'm in time to see Brooke make a great shot, and some action, but there is less than five minutes to go. GESCOM Viterbo wins by about 25 points, perhaps their greatest victory of this season. We'll try to attend more games, now that Alison and Jan have returned home to California.

Although there are Italian commercials and lots of Italian commentary, we watch the repeat of last night's Oscars, and it is enjoyable. We have only seen one of the nominated films, but now hope we can rent the others. I'm struck by the amount of violence in the winning films. How sad that violence is a fact of life in America.

February 26
I wake with terrible pain in my neck and upper shoulders. Perhaps I slept wrong last night. Not even a hot shower helps, but as the day wears on, the pain subsides.

Dino is back out in the garden, cleaning and installing more gravel, but he tells me not to help. So I stay inside and paint the grapes, while watching news.

An hour into the news is the story about the New York Philharmonic in North Korea, and I'm amazed to say that CNN shows their entire concert live. When the American national anthem is played, I start to cry. Dino comes in to watch a few moments of it, and he is moved as well.

He returns to his gardening, but I am riveted to the set. A piece of Wagner's, from Lohengrin, is followed by Dvorak's New World Symphony and then the 9th Symphony. By now I'm crying like a baby, as the cameras pan the audience.

A blonde woman is bawling into a big white handkerchief, and it is only later that we see her more composed. Amazingly, Loren Mazell is composed and confident. I'm sure this is an experience that none of the orchestra members will ever forget.

Dino thinks something is wrong with the Alfa, so I drive it to Giorgio's while he drives Pandina, and we leave the car so that it can be checked out. We pick up some homemade ravioli and other things for pranzo, and arrive home under a still overcast sky. It remains warm, and Dino returns to the garden.

After pranzo, Enzo Rosati calls, and he's finally ready to fix Pietro's water leak. Dino will open the gate for him, and will stand by while he fixes the problem. Then we'll email our dear friend, Pietro, who has been ill in Norway. He'll probably not return for the reopening of the church, but whenever he comes, we'll welcome him warmly. We do miss him, and look forward to his return, whenever it is.

I take a few minutes to do some internet research. I don't remember what a few of our roses look like; those that have not flowered for various reasons. They are: Fantin Latour and Ferdinand de Lesseps, as well as Chapeau de Napoleon. Look them up online if you want to know what they look like.

We've repositioned all of them, so perhaps they'll fare better this year. I think one never flowered and we disposed of it, so until the ones we have blossom, I won't know which ones we have, and which ones we don't.

I'm really tired, but work on the grape painting, and enjoy how it's coming out. I'll take it to Pat's for some ideas on how to finish it to make it appear more real.

We drive off to meet with Silva and Sonia at their home, then drive to Giorgio's to pick up the Alfa. The car is fine, with a few adjustments, and Sofi and I drive home together while Dino follows us in Pandina.

When we are in the car without Dino, I play French music on the CD, dreaming about our upcoming trip. I am even able to recall what a few of the lyrics mean. After all, I took 2 years of French in high school. Who said someone can't learn a third or fourth language when in their 60's? Now if I could only remember where I just put something...

My neck and back are aching, and Dino tells me to stop painting. He thinks that sitting without moving for hours on end while I paint can't be good for my head or my neck or my back. I do love the painting, and with a few pointers, hopefully from Pat, I think I can make the grapes look real. We'll see...

Time to turn in early, or is it? The clock tells me it's almost 10P M. A domani (until tomorrow...). I ask Dino if we're having plumbing problems, and he thinks that perhaps it is a problem with the Comune. If there is problem with the local water pressure, the problem may not just be on our property. We'll have to ask neighbors tomorrow...

February 27
When Dino finishes his shower, he warns me that our water pressure is very low, and investigates. A few minutes later, he tells me that the problem is an open faucet in the far property. He calls Enzo to tell him that he (Dino) is "non troppo intelligente." He left a faucet in the garden open. So all is well, sort of.

The aches in my shoulders have subsided, and this morning under a blanket of clouds, the hills in our view to the south stand out as though they're right on top of our property.

A bank of fog lines up behind the furthest hills and the reddish leaves on the hundreds of oaks facing us on the first hill look so close that I can almost reach them from the window. One day, perhaps we will walk there, if Maria the Sarda or someone else who knows what they are doing will lead us. For now, it's a mystery.

Pepe comes by with six bottles of what I think is red and white wine. But it is not. It is vinegar. A few days ago, Dino told him that we kill weeds now with a spray bottle filled with vinegar. It's an amazing solution.

Pepe asked where Dino got his vinegar and scorned him when he said that we buy it. So now we have vinegar. And to think I was going to serve it to Dino with his favorite cece and pasta soup!

Pepe. Now he's the person to take us exploring the nearby hills. I still want to paint him walking up the stradabianca with pickings from his orto peeking out of a handmade basket held by a bamboo pole over his shoulder.

The day remains cool, and there is no sun, so we'll wait until we have a little sun for Dino to paint a topcoat on the headboard and then install it. It feels as though we're getting ready to put the house up for sale, when we're only getting ready to trade it with a couple in Provence in April.

I'm really tired, or is it the dreary weather? So with the excuse that I'm looking up something on the computer, I wind up getting into bed and inviting Sofi to join me on top of the covers for a nap.

Two hours later Dino calls up to me to tell me that Babel will begin on T V in ten minutes. This is a film that neither of us has seen. Over a cup of Chai tea I begin to watch it, but the violence turns me away. This is definitely a Dino film, and Sofi and I return upstairs after I take a long, hard look at my unfinished painting of grapes and determine that I like it a lot.

I'm feeling "out of it", so perhaps I'll get a good night's sleep, the sun will come out tomorrow, and it will be a sunny day all around.

February 28
I've made up my mind to finish the Bomarzo translation without the help of Tiziano, who is busy with his thesis, so perhaps today I'll take it on and see if I can complete it without help. My, that's an ambitious undertaking, but why not?

So of course I have a migraine this morning. Yesterday's two hour nap was a reliable precursor. The magical difmetre takes care of it in it's customary one hour and I'm feeling very good again.

Dino does not use his zappa (hoe) today, for he is transplanting a rose and two box. Well, we know that box does not like to be transplanted, but as we say about Hillary, "If not now, when?"

Originally, we planted eleven tall oval box in a row as a wind break for the lavender, but since our configuration of the garden is now quite different, we're able to move one sickly box out of the row and one very healthy one to a place next to a large viburnum. I recall groupings of three or five as ideal anywhere, so place a pot in front of these two hearty plants, for future planting of a bush rose.

Originally, a rose called chapeau di Napoleon sat in a planter in the middle of a mound of four white iceberg roses, recently transplanted. But the rose is too big for the pot, and never did well, I think because it was not planted deeply enough. So with its home in a much larger pot (one of the two flanking the front door) and transplant food, we're hopeful.

We still have not moved the second Madame Alfred Carriere rose to the front garden on the east side of the loggia, but if we don't move it soon I think it will die. So before the end of the week, I'm hoping we can make that a priority.

I'm not painting today, believing that Dino was right; hour after hour with my head in one position while I concentrated on the painting caused neck pain, which was followed by a migraine. This afternoon I'm going to work on the Bomarzo translation instead.

Pietro tells us he'll come to Italy early in March and will stay in Rome for a matter of days until it's warm enough to come to Mugnano (his house has no heat). We'll surely pick him up at the airport and look forward to welcoming him then.

Today is overcast, which is not particularly good for the staining of the headboard, but there is some patchy sun, so Dino puts on a top clear coat of varnish. I'm thinking we should also put a topcoat on the carved wood piece that will be attached to it from the top.

Do you have lots of projects to do in your home, or are we just magnets for projects? I keep telling myself that this reiteration of our garden and house is the last one, but as soon as the words are out of my mouth I have to laugh at myself.

We plant the dozen tiny plugs of canasta lettuce, which I don't particularly like but is the only winter lettuce that does well in cold weather. They're planted in front of the loggia in the raised bed, and we'll have rugghetta (arugula) and lettuce and a few herbs for our use, as well as for our friends who will be here to enjoy the house in early April. We plant most of our spring and summer things at the end of April, after the Montecastrilli market.

Dino puts the top coat on the bottom part of the headboard, and screws it into the wall with five big screws after it dries. We'll look for five iron studs to hide the screw heads. He then puts a clear coat on the carved wooden top on saw horses on the terrace; this is the piece that started this whole shebang. It has to dry and we put it in the living room, for in this weather it will never dry.

Dino runs into Luigina who asks, "What's with this weather? If we have rain, fine. If we have sun, fine. But this in-between is a bore." We agree. It's dark, so with a flashlight I follow Dino and the bare rooted Madame Alfred Carriere rose to the front terrace, to be planted in soft earth on the East side of the loggia. It's at least six years old, with two main branches that are each quite long.

Amazingly, one arches toward the rose arch and the other leans against the tufa wall on the side of the loggia. Tomorrow we'll clip it back. This rose should be a show-stopper, if it does as well as the first one has for years in the middle garden.

The Bomarzo translation drones on, and I give up for the night and go to bed.

February 29
I'm intent on finishing the translation, so spend the entire day on it, but at just before 7PM I'm not through. So tomorrow I'll finish it, and just have a few questions for Duccio or Tiziano, then will turn the disc into Ivo in the Comune.

Dino clips the rose we just moved, putters around, and then goes out to shop. He loves to drive around and shop, so va bene!

Sofi is an angel, lying by my side in her little bed, her head hanging over the side, just waiting...

With a break for some ravioli at pranzo time, I'm tired, but don't want to give up on this project, a project that has hung over our heads for months. Will I submit it in time for it to be printed before the Palio on April 25th? I don't know, but I'll finish it before Monday and then Ivo can decide what to do with it.

Dino returns back with iron studs to cover the screws in the headboard, and they are just right. I try to feign good health, but he can tell my shoulder hurts. So on Tuesday we'll probably visit our doctor in Viterbo to see if he'll prescribe treatment.

It hurts when I paint. It hurts when I work on the computer. It hurts when I work in the garden, unless I just stand there. I no longer play the violin because it...hurt. So what's to do? I'm not going to give up painting, so let's find someone to work on my shoulder.

The month ends with Dino driving to the next town to rent a DVD, and with me pledging to finish that translation project tomorrow, so that we won't have anything hanging over our heads.

We're pensionata (retired), so there's no need to worry about anything...except, of course, the dollar, which is having a devastating affect on our finances. With 72 pomodori plants springing to life in the next room, it's a good thing we're living the simple life...and it's a happy one... We hope you're doing the same...

MARCH 2008

March 1
On this nothing kind of weather day, I continue on with the translation document and finish it five minutes before our dear friend Tiziano arrives to give me some help with certain passages that are challenging me.

I'm in a great deal of pain in my shoulder. It's as if I've been playing the violin again; the pain is that bad. How can writing with a computer keyboard bring this kind of pain? I've also emailed our good doctor, to see if he can see me on Monday morning. So far, there is no response.

Dino drives off to Viterbo, and one of the things he does is stop at Terme dei Papi and make an appointment for me tomorrow morning after church with Lelo for a massage. It's been more than a year since I've seen him, and hope he can do something to ease the pain.

Sofi continues to be a dream all day, wanting to lie beside me. Outside Dino pulls out a couple of huge rosemarino plants in the tufa planters. We'll replace them soon. He also picks up a sage plant. Thanks, dear Dino.

March 2
We attend church this morning, and yesterday heard that we are to bring our painting of San Vincenzo to the restored church on Tuesday morning. Furniture will be moved in there on Monday. Tiziano thinks our painting should be hung in the main church, but Dino thinks all the paintings there are huge. We'll see.

When we arrive at church, Livio speaks with Dino and he tells me he'll take the painting to the church while I'm at Marco's bottega tomorrow. Nothing doing! He sheepishly tells me that when he picks me up from Marco's that we can take the painting then, instead. He'll be helping Livio hang things in the church and sacristy in the afternoon just the same. Va bene.

It is a beautiful day, and at home we decide to work in the garden. I'll mostly stand around while Dino digs, then we will work on reviewing the Bomarzo translation document when the sun drops and we're covered in shadow.

Earlier in church, I told Rosina that this spring she'll have a beautiful rose to look at. She's full of smiles, telling us everything is wonderful if the sun is shining. What a wonderful attitude!

After a number of applications of Biofreeze to my neck and shoulder, the pain has somewhat subsided, but I think the massage is a good idea. Lelo is happy to see me and asks when I'll bring him a painting when I tell him that painting is probably the cause of my pain.

I respond," oltre volta" (another time) and then think that I'll bring him a drawing that I've done of a hand or a shoulder or a leg. He seems to act as a kind of automoton when he gives me a massage, and when I think about it, I think that's a good idea. I don't think I'll have to return in the next days, but we will see...

After my massage with Lelo, I intend to clean up the translation document and take it to Sr. Ivo in the Comune on Monday morning. It has turned out to be a very large document. I'm happy to do the work, happy that it is finished.

On Saturday evening, we'll have a short procession, taking the Madonna and the statue of San Liberato (boh!) to the main church. The celebration service will take place on Sunday morning. We tell our friends that the real San Liberato will arrive later, and this one will be a "place holder".

We see Lore and Alberto getting out of their car, and they confirm that even if they are not in Mugnano this week, they will return for Sunday. What a joyous day it will be for everyone in Mugnano!

We are able to clean out the front tufa planter above the parcheggio, but it takes so much time that the other planter will have to wait a day or so. We'll be clean and spiffy for next weekend, when all of Mugnano will show itself proudly to Vescovo Lorenzo (our bishop).

Dino makes me laugh. He thinks Lorenzo will see my painting and commission me to paint other religious paintings for him. My answer to that is a very big "Magari!" (if only that were so).

Dino tells me he does not want me to do anything to tax my shoulder, so I walk around the garden like an invalid, knowing that in a short while I'll be inside working on the translation document and taxing my shoulder. Hopefully I'll only have to look it over and then it will be finished.

Sofi and I return to the house from the garden at around 5PM, and Dino remains outside on the ladder (gulp!), clipping osmanthus and mermaid roses on the side path. Rosina and Rina walk by on their way back from the cemetery, and Dino tells them that the plants are to act as "anti-furto" (ant-theft) devices. Rosina laughs, telling him that a robber is afraid of nothing. Dino continues to cut...

I finish the translation document a few hours later and of course am in pain. I am sure that I cannot have the task of this translation hanging over my head, especially if there is to be a new book printed for this year's Palio.

Dino decides to get involved, and puts the document on a disc. I am thankful that he is involved, thankful for all his gentle caring.

March 3
It's a gloomy day, and the forecast is for more gloomy weather, including rain and even snow later in the week. We'd better cover any delicate plants at night...

Dino wants to spell check the translation document, and that's fine with me. He calls Sr. Ivo at the Comune, and we can't take the finished disc to him until tomorrow. So he'll do more checking later today.

Dino also calls our good doctor, who is concerned about my pain and agrees to come in especially for me at 1:30. We'll drive from there to Marco's bottega, unless he tells me otherwise. The pain continues, and there is a numbness in part of the middle finger of my right hand.

My dear husband is now out in the garden, ready to plant new rosemarino plants in the tufa planters to replace the old ones, so wants to visit Bruno, the local agri person in the next town to find them. If not, he'll pick them up in Viterbo later today.

I've come to my senses, and am leaning toward Obama, although we have months to decide. Good friend Avery has sent us something that Toni Morrison has written to Obama, and in case you have not read it, it bears repeating:

"Dear Senator Obama,

This letter represents a first for me--a public endorsement of a Presidential candidate. I feel driven to let you know why I am writing it.

One reason is it may help gather other supporters; another is that this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their peril. I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it.

May I describe to you my thoughts?

I have admired Senator Clinton for years. Her knowledge always seemed to me exhaustive; her negotiation of politics expert. However I am more compelled by the quality of mind (as far as I can measure it) of a candidate. I cared little for her gender as a source of my admiration, and the little I did care was based on the fact that no liberal woman has ever ruled in America. Only conservative or "new-centrist" ones are allowed into that realm.

Nor do I care very much for your race[s]. I would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it might make me "proud."

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates.

That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it.

Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as "we," not "they"? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?

Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.

There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Good luck to you and to us.

Toni Morrison"

After reading this letter again a few days later, I realize that I cannot support him after all, if Hillary is still in the race. She continues to be worthy of my support. The pain in my shoulder accelerates, and after a plate of ravioli with some sage from our new plant, we drive to Viterbo. With us is our good doctor's golf painting, and he decided to hang it right over the bulletin board next to his desk. That way he can dream of golf while on the telephone.

He comes around to our side of the desk and begins tweaking me at various pressure points, and it hurts everywhere he touches. "You don't have to squeeze so hard!" I babble, and he tells me that all of my pressure points are highly sensitive, and he wants me to have an MRI.

I might have a hernia somewhere. He gives me a prescription for twenty pain pills, one to be taken each day. In the meantime, he thinks I'll be able to get an appointment somewhere for the MRI.

We drive on to Marco's, but I'm in too much pain to really paint. So I ask him if he'll give me some counsel for five minutes, then I'll work at home. I also tell him about the inauguration on Sunday, and if he is around, he will come.

We drive to Mugnano and Sofi guards the car right outside the borgo while we walk back to the newly restored church. It's been ten years or more since we've been inside this church, and the change is enormous.

Once inside, I look up at the back wall and the expression freezes on my face. Behind the altar hangs the original of the San Vincenzo painting, much larger than mine and painted oh, so differently. If I had only seen this painting before painting mine, mine surely would have come out very differently.

Dino drives home to pick up the one I painted, and when he returns we study it with Livio and Gigliola against the much larger original on the wall. Mine was painted based on a Xerox copy of a small wooden painting done years after this original was painted in the 1800's. The original is more sweeping, more expansive. But then the original does not have the village of Mugnano below it; instead an angel floats on by in Mugnano's place.

The angel's body is too long, but the various parts of the angel are painted adeptly. It appears that if an artist begins to copy a study or another painting and does not move from one side to the other in proper succession, there is a tendency that at least one object suffers. In this case, it is the angel below San Vincenzo. It's legs are too far from the rest of its body, appearing to stretch like a rubber band below its gown.

So mine is taken into the sacristy, and until the rest of the furniture arrives as well as the picture of the vescovo, it is not determined where this painting will be hung. I have reservations...oh I have reservations. If I took the painting back, I could make some alterations and...

Forget it. I spent six months on the painting, and just don't want to work on it any more. Instead, Dino walks around taking photos, and here they are, giving you an idea of some of the features of the church.

Money ran out before the restoration of our main church was completed, so we have to raise money for the rest of the restoration work, but that is another project for another time.

We leave the church and walk to the square, where we find Lore speaking with someone outside Livio and Gigliola's house. Since we have not seen them for a long while, we walk over and she beckons us up the steep stairs to see the work being done on their newest house.

Earlier in the day, Lore placed a call to their good friend Galliano in Bomarzo, a retired muratore. "Get me a boy!" she tells him, to do some minor work. A man arrives who we recall as one of the laziest men in Bomarzo, seen always on the street or in Fedora's bar, just hanging out.

Tall Alberto holds up a wheelbarrow, in which he puts boxes and boxes of tiles, then brings the wheelbarrow around the back way while this man unloads the tiles.

Lore told us that when the man arrived, Alberto said to him, "Where is your nephew?" I look over at him and the old guy is wearing jeans, but did not zip up his zipper. He is that lazy. I take Lore aside and tell her that in America one would say to a young boy who did not zip up his zipper, "XYZ", which stands for "examine your zipper!"

Lore responds that the Italian retort is, "La bottega e aperto!" (the store is open). I then ask her, "Are you going shopping?" and she responds, "Not even if he wants to bring me a present!"

I think back upon this and realize that this is a good example of how the Italians love to laugh at themselves. There is always a funny story, always something to laugh at in Italy. An Italian is at his happiest when he is laughing or telling a story.

On the way to the car, we come upon Carla and Snoopy, her tiny little puppy, whom Sofi sniffed at earlier and then looked away as if she was bored. This little dog means the world to Carla, and it is dear to see them together, the tiny dog pulling at the fringe on Carla's black scarf.

It is 5 P M, so we drive to Vezio, the pharmacist, and pick up the pills for my pain. We also see if he can obtain an appointment for the MRI for me on his computer...He comes up with...May 22nd! So tomorrow we'll make the rounds of Attigliano and Orvieto and even make some calls to Rome. We're hoping to find an appointment for an MRI in the next two weeks, before the pain medication runs out.

Dino takes us home and then drives to Attigliano, but the Comune, where he'd see where in Umbria he can find an appointment for me, is closed for the day. So tomorrow we'll return, either before or after we meet with Sr. Ivo about the translation document.

Dino wants to continue to do some checking of my document, and I'm happy to have him look it over. I'm happy that he's interested in the document.

I take a nap, for the medicine worked almost right away, and after Dino stops work on the document we have a little cena, then I'm back to bed. The pill is strong, so at least I have no pain. If there's an appointment to be had, we'll find it tomorrow.

March 4
It's time to take the Palio book translation to Sr. Ivo at the Bomarzo Comune (our city hall). He thanks us and then we ask him if there are any new developments about our citizenship. He opens up his computer and looks up our names.

For the first time, he tells us that our ten years of residency will not end until September. We realize then that although we applied for our first residency when we were in Bomarzo in May of 1998, the paperwork was not done and we did not register it with the Comune until September of 1998.

We'll continue to get our documents translated, and will recheck with the Procura in Viterbo to find out if there are any changes. We have no idea how long it will take for the documents to be completed, and Sr. Ivo confirms that it could take up to two years.

With the weather strangely continuing its overcast run, we're trying to ignore it all. We drive to Attigliano to the Comune to see if we can find a place somewhere in Umbria to have the test given. (We live just over the Tiber River in Lazio.)

In the Comune, a very kind woman tells us there's been a change, and all appointments are now made in the pharmacy downstairs. Downstairs, a woman opens her computer on the other side of the counter and asks us if tomorrow morning at the hospital will be all right! Meraviglia!

We have the choice of appointments, so pick the first one at 8 A M, knowing that the later in the day we have an appointment, the longer we will have to wait. We pay the €18 for the procedure (!) and take the paperwork home that we will need tomorrow.

This is proof that although the wait for a procedure within the Italian medical system is sometimes long, if one understands how to maneuver around it, there's no reason to pay for private care.

We have superb medical care here in Italy, and cannot speak highly enough of how we are treated. For now, we pay just under €400 for us each year. I think that when we become citizens that we will pay nothing, except for the small fee (see the charge above for the MRI), under €20, for any procedure.

If you do choose to come to Italy to live, we do encourage a private major medical policy as an umbrella over the state coverage. That is a protection in the event of a major illness or need of surgery that is worth carrying, for approximately another €500 a year.

Later in the day we drive to Tenaglie, and meet with Tani, going over a few things he needs to do. Tomorrow night Dino will meet with the geometra and Tani to agree on where the project stands, and a course of action. We're also waiting for the door and window fellow to return to mount the remaining doors and windows. We think he'll be ready by next week.

So in typical Italian fashion, the workers have returned after a hiatus of more than two months. After meeting Tani at the house, we drive first to Terni so that I can pick up some hair products at a special shop, and then return by way of Narni and Spazio Verde.

We pick up a floor lamp for the clients and some plants for us, also at Spazio Verdi near Terni, including our first Echeveria plant. I've mentioned that I love them; now we'll begin to grow them. In addition, we pick up several succulents that look more like greenish-gray flowers, not unlike the shape of Echeveria.

The pains return by mid afternoon, so I look forward to returning home, where I pop today's little pill in my mouth. With the Italian version of a MRI tomorrow, we hope to find solutions to my pain problems. But for today, there's nothing to do but relax. Va bene.

March 5
Dino tells me when I'm out of the shower that Hillary has won Ohio and Rhode Island and probably Texas. We have a few minutes to watch last night's coverage, and she has, indeed, merited the slogan of our little village, "Percussus elevor" (even if you strike me down, I will rise again).

We're early for the MRI procedure at the hospital in Orvieto, and Danilo helps me to answer a questionnaire, then waits for me to change. I'm asked to lie on a cushioned table and a motorized rig moves me into a chamber for the procedure.

"How long will it take?" I ask Danilo, and am relieved to hear that I will be in the chamber for not more than about fifteen minutes. Because I'm prone to claustrophobia, I am happy that he gives me something to hold in my hand to press if I'm in a panic.

I close my eyes and tell myself that I'm with Kurt Dullea in that old space film (2001 Space Odyssey?). I don't remember any of it, other than seeing him in a space suit, but imagine that he and I are floating through a door until...

Loud, louder, loudest sounds reverberate around the chamber, and it's as if my head is at the level of the road and a jackhammer is working right under it. The boink (!) sound that happens when someone is being let through a closed door buzzes at an extremely high decibel, "ZZP! ZPPP! ZPPP!" "CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!" is followed by the sound of a washing machine going through its rinse cycle, and then the loud noises continue.

There are three iterations of these noises, and then after what feels like at least fifteen minutes, I'm rolled back out, and Danilo helps me to slowly sit up. I'm back outside with Roy at just after 8:30, so the fifteen minutes inside that machine was about right.

We're to return on March 12th at noon for the results. In the meantime, I have the pain medication to continue and we have cappuccinos at the bar upstairs while I wait for the ringing in my head to cease.

There is a big agricultural store in Orvieto, so we stop there for Dino to look for some parts for the irrigation system, and in a nearby vivaio (greenhouse), we pick up some more little succulent plants, all looking like gray-green flowers. I'll have to figure out what they are called.

These will be planted near the Echeveria at the edge of a gravel border. We agree that we'll draw out the irrigation system first, then pick up whatever parts Dino will need to finish it. I love seeing him work out these intricate projects, and he enjoys the work, too.

After a little shopping, Dino drives me to Orte to Giusy for my scheduled pedicure. Since Giusy knows all kinds of unusual medical information, I ask her if there has been any change to my skin or my feet that might have something to do with my back pain. Remember, this is my journal, so the following information may be more than you're interested in reading...

She shows me that the area around my bunions is red, although I do not have bunion problems, and that the skin just on the tip of my toes is a little violet in color. Giusy tells me I have a circulation problem, and advises me to show my feet to our doctor when we return to him with the test results. Good idea.

Back at home, I whip up a tasty pranzo, then will paint for a while. Dino is assured by Paola that Mario and Antonio will pick up the gravel this afternoon. So perhaps in the next days Dino and Dino will be able to pick up a new batch of the correct colored gravel, and we can finish the work on the garden. Well, we're never finished...Dino is soon told that Antonio will pick up the gravel...tomorrow.

The sky continues to be overcast, and later this afternoon Dino drives to the house and then to Guardea for the meeting with the muratores and the geometra.

I'm not happy with the bunch of grapes I am painting until I work a treatment on the background that helps the grapes to stand out more. I'm just not sure about how this painting is turning out. If I can't figure out something before, I'll work on it with Marco on Monday. No word from Pat, so I guess I am on my own for a while...

The weather continues rainy and overcast all day. We need the rain, but hopefully will have sun by the end of the week. It will be a shame if we don't have our procession on Saturday, although the mass on Sunday morning will continue regardless.

Dino returns with positive news about his meeting. We hope to have preventivos and that the workers can begin work again so that we can finish the project before we leave for Provence.

March 6
Blustery winter weather continues, and we long for those warm days of February to return. No matter. Dino and Antonio shovel the gravel into Antonio's ape in two trips, and now we think Giuseppa will have a gravel path in her campo. We hope she likes it.

We take Pietro's car to Georgio, the mechanic, and pick up sausages so that I can fix it with lentils for pranzo. We purchased orange lentils some time ago, and although they look wonderful in the vetrina, I fix them with the sausages today. They may not come from Castelluccio, but are very tasty.

This afternoon, Dino and Dino pick up another little truckful of gravel, and before we visit Tony and Pat in Lugnano, we bring up seven wheelbarrows full of our new gravel from the parcheggio. It's the perfect color and size. Tomorrow we hope to finish bringing the rest of it up, as well as the rest of the wood, stored preciso fashion against a side wall.

After a visit with Tony and Pat, we return home to a fire in the fireplace and a night in front of the T V. They will be asking our assistance to sell their property in a year or two, after Tony's 80th birthday and more summer enjoyment of their pool overlooking the Umbria valley and the lovely hilltop town of Lugnano.

If you're looking for a property with a panoramic view, a view that you can ponder from the swimming pool of your own home, with five bedrooms and plenty of olive trees, let us know and we'll take you for a look when you're here.

After a number of hours painting this afternoon, I'm feeling fine. The painting of the grapes is taking on a different look, one I'm going to enhance next Monday at Marco's.

It's time to begin looking at a few roses, this time of the bush variety, so we'll definitely visit our friends at Michellini, even possibly tomorrow. Dino wants to shop at LIDL in Viterbo, so might as well see what our friends have to offer now. This is an excellent time to get the roses in the ground, where they can settle in and spread their roots before their main growing season begins.

March 7
The sky continues its overcast menu, and the temperature is cold. It even rains off and on, so we bundle up and drive to Viterbo. It's no day to look for roses.

Back at home, the lentils and sausage taste even better than they did yesterday. We think the excellent sausage has something to do with the taste. On a cold and dreary day, this is a good pranzo.

Just before leaving for a haircut with Daniele, Dino and I stand at the front door and look out at everything, getting a fair dousing of rain. He takes a big sack of Nitrophosca Oro and feeds the box and just about everything else. This is an excellent beginning of the seasonal food for plants. Our friends at Michellini, the rose vivaio we love, recommend it for roses, too.

I can't wait to get back out in the garden to finish the gravel, but we'll just have to. So we finish our ad for The Lady in England instead.

The day ends with us in front of the television and a cold and windy sky outside. We're hoping that the weather will clear tomorrow and the temperature will rise. The procession to the restored church tonight to deliver the Madonna and San Liberato will take place, and hopefully the weather will cooperate.

March 8
Sun tries to break through, but it is almost noon before we see any of it. With work in the garden facing us, we bring up the rest of the gravel and spread it around the center garden. At least for now, we have enough.

In the raised tufa area below the olive tree, we plant plugs of lemon thyme with tiny grates in front to catch the earth as it rains. We think the grates won't be seen once the thyme catches on. For the next few weeks we'll water it with a spray bottle.

I can imagine us sitting on the top row, putting our hands down and feeling the soft plant, then taking a sniff of the lemony fragrance. It all depends on whether the thyme "takes", and whether the rains that are forecast will be torrents or merely showers.

Serena walks up the path and invites us for cena at the ex-scuola. We're to bring an appetizer or pizza. Of course we can bring a dessert. So I make a chocolate cake and we'll bring bruschetta with toppings of artichoke and tartuffo. First, we'll have the procession from our old church to the new one, to bring the Madonna and San Liberato. It is an important weekend for our village, and the weather seems to be cooperating.

Ivo is here from Parma with his wife, Nadia, and Luciana has returned from her winter in Castiglione in Teverina. Many cars have been zooming up Via Mameli, so there will be plenty of people around.

Earlier, Dino saw Francesco at Giorgio's and asked him about obtaining a mirror so that we could see cars coming down the hill from the borgo. He told him it was our responsibility, but that we should write a note to the Comune of our request. Let's get that done before someone gets hurt...

We finish bringing up the gravel, and then the remainder of the wood stacked in the parcheggio, wood that is then neatly stacked in the little wood shed on the side of the house. After we return from Provence we'll buy more for next year, but we have plenty now.

The weather continues to cooperate, although the temperature is dropping rapidly. We get changed to go to the procession, and then will return to make the bruschetta for the village cena. Excitement is in the air...

March 9
The sky is overcast, but no matter. We walk up to the church, and it is thirty minutes before the beginning of the mass, but already many of the seats are taken. My usual seat is taken by Marcella, the Romanian woman who takes care of Rosita's mother in Giove, and I can tell that she has no intention of moving. She has been given a reprieve for the day, as other relatives have come to visit Rosita's mother in Giove, so she joins Rosita and Tiziano and Enzo at the mass.

Gigliola sits in the back row next to Rosita, so I sit there, next to her. Dino is dressed in confraternity garb with a dozen others from the village, standing near the altar. Renzo, Felice and Marsiglia's son, is here representing the Confraternity of Bomarzo with several other men.

The church fills up, and the procession begins, led by Vescovo (Bishop) Lorenzo of Viterbo and followed by: Don Luca, Don Renzo, Don Ciro, the bishop's assistant, the sindaco (mayor) and on and on... Dino tells me later that he counted about one hundred and fifty people in the church.

Seated to my left, Gigliola wells up with emotion, and I feel the emotion as well, but can't begin to imagine what this day is like for Livio and especially Gigliola, who was born in Mugnano and spends every day of her life in homage to her Church.

Vescovo Lorenzo seems to be a warm and gentle man, as I find out after the mass when I am introduced to him by Don Luca. Don Luca stops the bishop on the way out of the church to tell him that I am the person who painted San Vincenzo.

He stops to speak with me, and complements me for the painting that is now hung in the sacristy between photos of the pope and himself, just as Dino bounds across the church and snatches the camera out of my hand to capture the moment.

Don Luca finishes..."And this is her husband" as Dino flashes away. The bishop wants to know about us, how long we've been here, where we are from. Dino adds, as the bishop is being swept out the door, "And our last house is in the local cemetery!" to which the bishop opens his eyes wide in horror and responds that he hopes it will be a long time before we move there.

Earlier, sitting next to Cristian, one of the twins who will turn eight later this month, I told him that he will remember this day for many years to come. He agrees, and puts his arm around me. Our grand daughters will surely meet these boys one day, and I can't begin to imagine what the experience will be like. But that's for another day, another time.

After the mass the Confraternita poses for a photo:

Sun flashes through clouds as if heaven has lit the little village with light, where a reception including brindisi (toasts) with spumante as well as things to eat laid out on two long tables on either side of the newly-restored building, follow the mass.

Inside, sun streams through windows high above us, and with the creaking of its wooden doors during the service, the building lets us know that it is not used to hosting so many people.

The church was last used in 1989, when a piece of the ceiling fell on a group practicing for communion, and everyone was rushed out of the building, afraid the ceiling and roof would collapse. Restoration has take at least three years, but for many years before that there was no money to restore the roof or the damage inside.

During the mass, while the bishop speaks slowly and clearly, I can understand..."Io sono la risurrezione e la vita; chi crede in me, anche se muora, vivra; chiuque vive e crede in me, non morira in eterno." (I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, even if he dies, will live; whoever lives and believes in me will live forever.)"

We have been assured that the longer we are here, the more we will automatically absorb the language. These words, in their context, are now so very easy to understand. Because we've been taught these words in English as children, it helps to understand what previously seemed so complex. What do you think?

At home the rest of our countryside seems full of clouds, but sun remains above the church and the borgo, as if a halo. After pranzo we return to the garden, puttering here and there, with memories of the morning on our minds like bubbles from the spumante on our lips.

Dino clears out the parcheggio, for it is now empty, devoid of gravel or firewood. When we leave late in the afternoon to attend Brooke Smith's basketball game in Viterbo, he tells me, "You could fit TWO pandas in here!" I just stare blankly at him, in a "You think so?" kind of look.

The rain begins, and conditions are not all that much better in the gym. GESCOM Viterbo, the women's professional basketball team, play Pomesia, and even though our friend Brooke Smith is high scorer, the team loses by three points.

Rain continues as we return home, and we're expecting conditions to remain gloomy for a few days. Tuesday should bring some light and life, with our dear friend, Pietro, returning for spring.

March 10
Rain continues, and Dino expects to work on the bathroom, finishing the painting and affixing the molding around the ceiling. He has also rewired the chandelier with classic wiring, and we look forward to seeing the room finished. But he's sidetracked by getting Pietro's house ready for his arrival tomorrow.

With rain outside, we're not going to work in the garden; while I'm at Marco's bottega working on the grapes, Dino will work inside. Sofi spends the gloomy day sleeping by my side.

Because Pietro arrives tomorrow, Dino turns on the heat at his house, and tomorrow we'll light a fire to welcome him home before meeting him at the train station.

Here's some information about getting to Rome from Fimucino airport. If you're coming to Rome at some point in the future, perhaps you should file this away. We think it's very helpful. "Don't take a taxi into the city (Rome) from Fiumicino airport. Even without getting stuck in traffic, it'll cost around 50 euro ($76). Plus, you'll get charged extra for bags. One option is to use the airport's Leonardo Express train to Roma Termini station in the city center. This costs 11 euro ($17) and takes 30 minutes. It's even cheaper ($8) to take the Metropolitana train from the airport to Tiburtina station. The train also stops at Trastevere if you decide to stay overnight in this historic quarter." At Marco's I continue to work on the bunch of grapes. Marco assures me that this painting is much more elaborate than it looks, so when I'm finished today I still have much more of it to do. This week I'll hopefully take it to the point where I can finish it before we leave for Provence.

I see another bunch of grapes in a magazine, and he tells me to stay with the painting scheme I have, and that later I can paint this as well. Perhaps it's a good idea to paint a second bunch of grapes following the first one.

If I finish both before we leave for Provence, I have been thinking that I'll paint a provencal landscape or two while I'm there. So sketching is an important consideration, and I'll have sketchbooks with me, some paints, and perhaps even the dreaded pastels. They make such a mess, but I should not give up on them.

Today is Marsiglia's birthday and we don't have time to stop, so tomorrow morning I'll visit her, since tonight I've cooked for tomorrow's pranzo for Pietro. It seems as though he's been gone forever.

On the way home from Marco's, Dino commented that the rain we are having is just what the plants in the garden need. Those recent transplants will really appreciate the rain, and if it clears up by the weekend, we'll appreciate it, too.

March 11
We thought we'd have rain all day. At first, rain is mixed with grandine (hail). Later Dino walks out in the garden and sees the pots filled with glass-like pebbles. But then before noon the sun appears and everything changes.

We pick up Pietro at the train station at noon, and he arrives for pranzo. He tells us he's very tired after his bout of pneumonia, but we think he looks fine. It's so good to have him here. We truly consider him family.

After he leaves for home, we work pulling out weeds in the raised orto bed above the parcheggio. We may put a cypress tree in the back corner, and tufa bricks in a kind of path, so that the plantings will be done in the front, and easy to reach.

After Dino leaves to reserve a van for this weekend for Pietro and his guests, I plant arugula seeds and then Sofi and I come upstairs to look at our emails.

I am shocked to find that the Democrats Abroad have accepted me as a potential candidate for a delegate spot at the Denver convention in August! So we've cancelled our Friday jaunt with the Mediterranean Garden Society and book a hotel room and flight to Brussels. I'll fly there early on Friday and come back Saturday night. Dino and Sofi will stay here. Dino and I go everywhere together, so it's a dizzying prospect.

In a phone conversation with Tony, the fellow who manages the Democrats Abroad in Italy, I learn that I have as much chance as a snowball in hell, but so what. It will be a good experience.

"What do people look for? What do they vote for?" I ask. "It's mostly a popularity contest. You don't stand much of a chance, for there are very few spots and there are "shoe-ins" who have worked a great deal for the Democratic party and will undoubtedly be chosen" he responds.

When asked why they chose me in the first place, he answered, "Because it's a democracy. Even if you don't win a spot you can go to Vancouver next month and run again." Because I have a little money from the golf painting we sold last week, I can pay for at least part of the trip with my windfall. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to spend most of Friday afternoon in museums and then just take in the experience of being in a caucus as a candidate.

If by some miracle I am chosen, I won't have to go to the next caucus in Vancouver next month. Tony tells me if I go to the convention in Denver in August, I have merely to raise my hand, for I'll be committed to Hillary Clinton. It will only be if the first round does not result in a candidate that the race will become wide-open. Because I am resolute in my support of Hillary, I feel positive that I won't change my mind.

With the attitude that I won't win, and that I'll enjoy myself immensely, I'm doing research on museums to visit on Friday. I'll return home on Saturday early evening, so Pietro's plan that we'll join his group on Sunday after Palm Sunday service in Mugnano will be fun, and a great jaunt on my birthday.

Perhaps tomorrow we'll ask Livio to let us into the church so that I can sign my painting. I don't know why I didn't sign it to begin with, but after more research learn that religious paintings from the past were not signed on the front. My name and the name of the work and the date are written on the back, so that is what it will be. We'll see if Pietro is feeling well, and if he is he can join us to see all the changes in the church.

March 12
Rain continues in spurts, and I spend most of the day finessing the bunch of grapes in my current painting. In the middle garden, I have an idea to move a few of the older oval box, and tomorrow I'll go over that with Dino, who is happy to comply.

We drive to Montecchio and Tenaglie, and turn over some money to the muratores, who are back at work, and go over a few details. One of the muratores is new, and his name is Uri. He is from the Ukraine, as was my father. I ask him if he knows where Lipovitz is, and he thinks it's near the mountains. I think my father told me it was near Kiev.

Someday, Dino and I will travel to Bendzin in Poland and Lipovitz in the Ukraine in honor of our parents and grandparents. Can't say that I'd go to Nixon, New Brunswick, where my mother was born, as 'herd tell the whole town burned down. It would be like my mother to be a part of such a tale.

Tomorrow the door and window person may arrive and we're hoping we can finish the studio and a number of the details that comprise the final push of the project. Will we finish by the time we leave for Provence in April? Time will tell. We later learn that there will be a further delay of another week...

We pick up the results of my MRI from the hospital in Orvieto, and there is some degeration to my spine, and related discs. There is also some loss of liquid, and I don't know what that means, but we have an appointment in Viterbo on Tuesday with our doctor, so will learn more then.

Strangely, I have no pain, but then I am continuing to take the pain medicine each day, as prescribed. I cannot imagine that an almost unendurable pain can be alleviated with just one pill, but am told to take it until there are none left of the twenty prescribed.

Dino works on the bathroom, and soon he'll be finished with the molding and the rewiring of the chandelier. We look forward to getting the bathroom back in order.

The tomatoes look wonderful, and are growing just as they should. We will be ready to plant them at the end of April, and Dino agrees that we'll plant many of them in the upper planting area near the peach tree.

Even if we give some away, we'll have at least sixty plants. That means many tomatoes to "put up", lots of fresh tomato and basil salad this summer. Yes, we'll plant plenty of basil plants between the tomatoes.

News from the Vatican is that the original 7 deadly sins will be amended to add a few more. Traditionally the Catholic church has had a list of seven deadly sins, of: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride established by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century.

Here are the latest ones, in case you don't know: pedophilia, certain violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments, genetic manipulations, abortion, excess wealth, drug dealing, pollution, social and economic injustice..."

Now if he'd just clean up his priesthood, now that he proclaims that all those priest will go straight to hell...

On another front, I praise Robert Scheer for his editorial on, writing about Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace. It's worth reading:

Spitzer did a great many things for the public good, before and during his tenure as governor of New York. I wish his family well, and that he'll find his way back, doing good for his fellow man somewhere in the private sector. I can hear you hissing now...

March 13
A foggy beginning leads to a sunny day, although I spend the morning working on the painting of the grapes. I finish just before pranzo, while Dino has been to Montecchio and the house before returning home.

After pranzo Sofi and I walk to Pietro's, and Dino drives, bringing his tools. He's to hang something over the door to the cucuina. Sofi and I love the walk, love the new work done on the stradabianca. But I forget the carrots for Maggiolino and Priscilla, who hang their heads over the wire fence and am truly sorry.

It's always delightful at Pietro's, and we sit outside on the terrace after Dino hangs the piece of art. It's so good to have our dear friend back at home with us. He and Dino make plans for Monday, when I will be in class and Dino will act as driver for Pietro's guests.

We return home to work in the garden for an hour or two, and the temperature at 5PM is still warm. Oh, it's good to be alive!

Dino paints molding for the bathroom and I put a few things together for my trip tomorrow. I have no idea what to expect, for the weather promises to be terrible, but no matter. I'm looking forward to going to a museum and also the antics of the Democrats Abroad.

March 14
Early Dino drives me to Rome for my flight to Brussels. He is nervous about me; concerned that I might have trouble navigating crowds or dealing with my suitcase.

In the end, two stewardesses on the plane help me with my little suitcase and heavy black coat; I have become a "little old lady". Va bene. In two days, I will become 62...old enough to begin to collect social security and entering a new phase of my life; might as well enjoy the ride.

I check in and like my room, but it is 1 P M, so leave right away and take a taxi to the only important museum in Brussels, itching to view paintings and get inspiration. Unfortunately, I am disappointed with the selection, but like two Van Meers and show some interest in the work of Rubens, especially his knack of painting heavy embroidered clothing.

There is no rain, and the weather is mild, so instead of taking a taxi back to the hotel, I spend almost four hours just walking. I fling the lapels of my shearling coat back, and take in the fresh air and the garden near the museum; then follow the main streets and enter a complex of shops across from the hotel.

I'm always looking for books; subjects I can paint or things we can read. But in the two or three shops that sell books, only one has books in English, and in that shop there is nothing I must buy.

Back in the hotel, I am very tired and consider not attending tonight's event in a Brussels beer hall, but change my mind and take a taxi to the complex of shops and open markets, finding my way through a maze of people to the location.

Once inside, the room where the reception is held is jammed; I suspect horsetrading is being conducted with brut force. Although I would like to be elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for Hillary, I'm not all that political, and want to see how things play out.

I stumble across Adrienne West, a new friend who is a jazz singer from the Netherlands, and for the rest of the evening we're chatting and then walking for an hour or two through the maze of streets back to our hotel.

Since Adrienne is a singer and her group is mostly comprised of people from Genoa, I tell her about the jazz festival in Soriano and give her a card with that information, so that she or her agent can check it out. She'd be a great addition to the festival, a festival we love to attend almost every night of it during the summer.

March 15
The meeting begins slowly, but I'm genuinely moved as everyone in the room salutes the huge American flag on the wall and then sings the Star Spangled Banner. It is difficult not to be emotional when singing that song.

Once the preliminaries are out of the way, those of us in Hillary's camp are told that the Obama meeting will take place in this room and the Hillary meeting will be on the 8th floor. We are outnumbered, so I suppose at the time that it is all right.

But once we all reach the 8th floor, the much smaller meeting room is cold, and chairs are set up all facing the front of the room. There are no tables, as there are in front of every line of seats downstairs. We're all in bad humors now.

The energy continues to dissipate and discord rises about how the remainder of the morning is to be conducted, but somehow we take our seats. What happens next is the highlight of the trip.

We are told that a special guest has arrived and really wants to speak with us. It is...Richard Holbrooke, a former Ambassador and hero of mine and Dino's for many years.

He's done incredible work to end wars and fighting all around the world, most notably in Bosnia, and is leaving for Pakistan right after he speaks with us for his next mission.

Holbrooke is inspirational, and solidly behind Hillary. Once Richard leaves, we at least make a positive move by rearranging the chairs in a huge oval. It's decided that the speeches will be next, and my name is called near the beginning of the list.

For the previous half hour or more, a wonderful woman named Gail, who is from Italy and has her laptop with her, helps me with an idea: we are trying to find Hillary's credentials and I am to deliver them to the group when it's my turn, as a number of my cohorts stand ready to cheer. Unfortunately, the search does not find the information in a form I can easily use during my three minutes, so I thank Gail and walk up to the podium.

During the next few minutes, I attempt to rouse the group, instead of talking about myself. So I doubt that I'll be chosen as one of two delegates, from a group of more than twenty, most of whom have worked tirelessly for Hillary, but I've done what I can.

When we break for lunch, I run into Virginia Volterra, whom Roy and I met five years ago and is a friend of Annarita's in Mugnano. The world is small, and even though she is an Obama supporter, we sit together and chat, agreeing to stay in touch.

Back upstairs there is a lesson about registering voters and then a break, after which the voting takes place. Remembering advice I heard years ago to "Always leave on a high note", I say goodbye and take a taxi to the train station, where a bus is to leave for the airport.

Although I leave the hotel at just after 3PM, it is 5:30 before I reach the airport, and a very long line snakes in front of me, even though the notice about the flight is that it will be closed at 6 P M.

I'm in luck as an airline employee calls out, asking for people on the flight to Rome, then whisks me to security. I'm searched and my bag is searched, but nothing is found. My adrenaline is pumping, but somehow I reach the plane. Before I know it, I'm on the ground in Rome and Dino and an exuberant Sofi are there to greet me.

It's been an interesting trip. At several times during the past two days I've mused that this is probably my last trip alone, with the possible exception of a trip to Boston, which does not really count. It is difficult to think of myself as separate from Dino. Although we have different hobbies, we are seldom apart for more than several hours at a time, and we both prefer it that way.

March 16
Yes, it's my birthday, and I agree with Dino's advice that the goal is to collect as many as we can. This is a significant one, for I have registered to begin to collect social security, and although won't begin to realize it's worth until May, I'm in a happy frame of mind.

Dino has been "hired" to drive Pietro and his Norwegian guests around for a few days, and today I am invited to join them. But first we walk up to Palm Sunday mass, and participate in a procession to the big church from the little one. Dino is dressed in confraternity garb and sits in front, while I sit behind with Candida.

After mass we scoop up Sofi and drive to Diego's Castello Santa Maria, where we pick up Pietro and his three friends from Norway, each of whom speak English and are delightful. The rest of the day is spent laughing and enjoying the scenery.

Although it is noon, Pietro wants the group to visit Villa Lante, so we change our pranzo reservation at Frenchy's Bistro to 2PM and the group walks around the very special garden of Villa Lante for an hour or so.

We are almost alone in the restaurant, but the food is consistently excellent, and we chat with the owners, who have one of the houses on our web site to sell; they want to move to Phuket to retire, where the wife is from.

A young woman named Isabella arrives for pranzo with the owners, and she is a trainer for Brooke Smith's basketball team in Viterbo. We talk with her and make plans to see them after the game on Saturday. We're to pick Brooke's sister, Whitney, up in Orte before the game and look forward to meeting her.

Since the day is cloudy, Pietro's idea to drive to Montefiascone is not as successful as we had hoped, and the Duomo is closed. Nor can we see the magnificent view of Lake Bolsena, so we drive them back to Castello Santa Maria and say goodbye. Dino will drive them again tomorrow, but Sofi and I will stay at home. It has been a lovely day.

March 17
Dino leaves to drive the group to Todi and Montefalco, where they are to search for the Sagratino de Montefalco, a wine some people compare to Tuscany's Brunello.

The weather remains overcast, but I'm able to sit outside and read and also to do some gardening, for the temperature is mild before pranzo. I am missing Dino, and look forward to seeing him after he has dropped off Pietro and his friends later today.

Sofi and I stay at home, and in the afternoon she joins me when I drive to Marco's and hopefully finish the painting of grapes. But when she follows me down the steps to the car, she lowers her tail and turns around, frightened. I don't really understand, so pick her up gently and put her in the car. But by the time we reach the main road she is in such distress, expressing such fear, that I turn the car around and take her home, leaving her in her cage while I drive to Marco's.

I am very distressed that she is so afraid when in the car with me. Since I am a cautious driver, it can't be about my driving. It may be because she cannot come to sit on my lap. But whatever the reason, she is happier at home in her cage with her stuffed animal than waiting in the car for me.

I still do not finish painting the grapes, but work on the background for the whole session. There will be a makeup session in a few days, and perhaps then I will finish it. I want the grapes to appear so real that one would think they could pluck one off and eat it. We'll see.

I leave early with apprehensions about Sofi, but she is fine when I arrive home, and later we welcome Dino, arriving with a bottle of Sagratino de Montefalco and linen towels. Montefalco is famous for both.

March 18
Dino takes the Norwegians to the train station in Orvieto, then drives to Tenaglie to meet with the muratoes. Back in Mugnano, Sofi and I walk down with carrots to feed Maggiolino and Priscilla. Pepe is there, and welcomes us to his orto.

For the first time, we enter his huge space to find that none of it is his! Aside from the area where Maggiolino and Priscilla live, there is a large campo owned by Rina, another smaller orto owned by Zio Pepe and another orto owned by Antonella Fosci. He works all of the land, and I am sure that the people owning the various plots are fortunate to have him around.

Sofi always loves seeing Pepe. He is a kind and gentle man, so in love with Mugnano and his gentle life here. Now when I look out the bedroom window I'll be able to distinguish the various plots in our view.

As each hour passes more sun appears from behind the lofty white and purple clouds, and we return to the garden, just walking about. But just before time for pranzo when Dino returns, the clouds return and wind picks up.

We need to decide which garden visits we'll take next month, for amazingly the French chapter of the Mediterranean Garden Society, of which we are members, is hosting a variety of tours, all in Provence.

We drive to Viterbo to the doctor with our MRI results. He's not concerned, telling me I don't need an operation, for my bones are simply deteriorating! He thinks I could benefit by sessions with a chiropractor, during which I would be hung by my chin!

We drive by the office he recommends, but it is closed, so we'll call and I'll let you know what it is like to be hung by the chin...

March 19
Dino is in Tenaglie with Ovidio today, hanging up doors and windows. Sofi and I take a walk to see if we can find Maria Elena, but no one answers her door. So we walk down to her garden, and she and her husband are there, enjoying the bright sunlight. Norwegians love their sun. So Maria Elena and her family are often found at this little paradise when in Mugnano.

While her husband enjoys the sun, I bring her to our garden, to show her what we have been doing, and to give her some inspiration. Her garden spot is mostly gravel, and I show her some plants that could thrive while she is not here.

She did plant several roses, but I think they'll do fine. Roses that are almost left alone seem to do well; they establish deep roots and almost fare better than those we spoil and feed and water every day, making them more needy.

It's time to write about the Colomba, a dove-shaped cake that is served only at Pasqua. People buy them and distribute them around to people as a kind of thanks, but only at this time of year, even though they are probably made months earlier... Marco served one on Monday at his bottega, and the taste is quite good.

I drive to Marco's by myself, leaving Sofi at home, for she's somehow afraid of being in the car with me. I won't take it personally; I'll just use it as time to listen to a CD I like and think about the painting I'll try to complete today.

I'm early, so stop at Marsiglia and Felice's, and sit with them while they're eating their pasta course. Earlier this morning, Marsiglia made batter fried squash and batter fried fish. The food sits on a plate near the fireplace, where a fire slowly burns. It looks as though there are enough things to eat here for several people. She insists I join them, so I nibble on a few of the squash fritters, but tell them I must leave.

Felice wears a "Don Johnson beard" (a two day stubble), and Marsiglia tells me Renzo, their son, is expected momentarily to take Felice to the barber to get a shave. Poor guy. He really is not the old Felice we knew, the Felice who taught us how to plant tomatoes, how to stake the bamboo poles, how to do so many things in the garden.

I miss his stories, even though I had no idea what he was saying at the time. But he always laughed and wiped his mouth with the cup of his hand at the end of the story. He wipes his mouth with the cup of his hand today, but we both know there are no stories to tell.

Marco's not feeling well, so he does not spend much time with me at his bottega, but that's all right. I need to find a way to solve the delicate challenges of my latest painting, a painting I've worked on for at least two months. By the time I'm ready to go home he thinks the painting looks quite good, but also tells me to work diligently on it until the next lesson, and I agree.

Back at home reviewing the grape painting on its stand near the fireplace, I am sure that it still needs more work. After working for four hours straight this afternoon, I'm amazed at how little difference I can detect. It is a work of what's known in Italy as "natura morta" or still life. Well, it's really not still life; it's just a bunch of grapes. Perhaps the painting of a still life is just around the corner.

Tiziano arrives for our meeting, and with the computer moved to the kitchen table, we rework his "C.V." so that I can help him to apply for grants in the U. S. He likes the format a lot, and tells me that in Italy people write their resumes with the schooling at the top.

He's convinced that he'll redo his "revolutionary" new "C.V." in Italian, once I finish it in English. Va bene. I would be so thrilled to help him to obtain grants to continue on with his dig in the Rio Valley of Mugnano.

March 20
Dino will serve at the mass tonight in his confraternity costume, and we'll attend this mass and Sunday's, although on Friday evening we'll travel with Pietro and Helga to the service at Bagnaia, outside Villa Lante. Last year we attended the service and procession in Orte, and think once a lifetime is enough for Orte's rendition of Good Friday. View last year's posting for our comments.

Did you know that this Sunday will be the earliest Easter Sunday we've had in 95 years? What's more, Easter won't fall this early again until 2228. Guess who won't be around to experience it?

We drive to Tenaglie, meet with Tani and he and Uri and Zeni begin the work behind the house. There will be a gravel pad and one day a pergola here. Cement work will be done next to the house and next week we hope to see them work in earnest on the paving of the path from the street.

We pick out the color of the paint to be used as a mud-guard and return home. It's quite cold (2.5 degrees Centigrade) when we leave Tenaglie and threatening to rain, or snow, or hail, or whatever. So we work on projects inside in the afternoon, then walk up to Ken and Pam's for a short visit before tonight's mass.

It's good to catch up with Ken and Pam. We think we're leaving to attend a 6:30 mass, where Dino will act as one of two Confraternity members behind the altar. But when we enter the church we learn that the mass began at 6PM! Dino sheepishly walks with his costume over his arm up the middle aisle and behind the altar to the sacristy to change. Enzo is already changed and seated behind Don Luca, who is giving his homily.

I love this church, love the scale of it, love the fact that it's not perfectly restored. We all seem so small within its walls, looking up at the altar and Don Luca.

After mass in the sacristy, Dino apologies for being late, saying that he thought the mass was later. Don Luca responded that perhaps Don Luca was wrong. He's quite a guy.

Near the end of the mass, Don Luca moves to the side altar, after Livio and Tiziano move several of the benches. Dino and Enzo follow while Don Luca blesses the altar and waves his incense. So for these few days, the altar will be here. The candles are lit on the new altar and we all leave in silence.

Since the vetrina in the living room/dining room has been completed, we've been using it as a display piece for the remaining ceramic pieces of mine. Now it's time to rework the interior of it to be more practical. I've wanted a place to store the many tablecloths we've gathered over the years, and in the next week will reorganize so that the linens will be closer to the place where we'll use them.

Dino is close to being finished installing the crown molding at the ceiling of the bathroom and the new electrical wiring of the chandelier. There are so many projects that we just move from one project to another.

I'm considering writing a garden piece to submit to The Chronicle as a "5 year review" of my "Special to the Chronicle" garden piece published in 2003. Strangely, this is also the fifth anniversary of the bombing of Iraq. Let's hope my article has better success. Our garden looks great, and by the end of April the roses and peonies should be in bloom, so why not?

I've carmelized onions and made a saffron and ricotta torte for tomorrow's pranzo at Candace and Frank's. Dino is supervising the building and installation of an iron structure for their back deck, so if it does not rain, we'll see progress there. Sofi loves Candace and Frank, so it will be a treat for her and fun for us to see our good friends again.

March 21
Dino drives in Pandina to Tenaglie, and I follow him in the Alfa. Sofi travels in the car with Dino, as I can't have her ride with me alone, until we figure out what it is that spooks her when I drive.

As I step outside the car at the Tenaglie site, it is cold; wind snapping cold. What an entry to spring! Poor little Sofi has been in Pandina the whole time, for Tani has brought his dog, F , to the site, and he's a big Rottweiller-type, very fast and we're both worried about Sofi's well being.

With all of us in the Alfa, we drive to Orvieto and later I drop Dino back at his car while he supervises work with the muratores. Amazingly, they're back at work, and we may even see the walkway finished and the house painted before we leave for Provence next month...or am I being too optimistic?

While in Orvieto at Candace and Frank's, it's our mission to sink four iron beams into planters, fill them with cement and measure for fabric to be hung above it. The muratore is late, and the weather continues to be cold and very windy.

When the muratore arrives, we decide to raise the buckets of mixed cement up by a rope. But the poles don't sit right; they were fashioned this fall and during the winter apparently did not all swell or shrink in the same amount, so the team is unable to put more than two of them together. Dino packs up the rest of the poles to take back to Lorenzo to fix or remake.

While the goings on take place outside, I pick up a book from the bookshelf, and it is yet another of those books by Americans who decide to put down roots in Italy. After reading a few pages, I realize why I don't want to write a book about our experiences: our lives are mostly sweet and tranquil.

But more than that, I'm really tired of listening to or reading tales by people who don't really want to settle into an Italian lifestyle; they remind me of German tourists to Northern Italy, who bring their caravans and televisions and icepacks so that they can watch German TV and eat German food while on their Italian vacation. Now, we miss international cuisine. But I can cook international food with most of the ingredients available here now and then.

"Where's my Starbucks latte?" one traveler said to me one day when we were first here. If one orders a latte in a bar in Italy, they'll be served a glass of milk.

Talk around the table at pranzo turns dangerous. Candace and Frank know we're Hillary supporters, and Dino softens the air by saying that we'll support the democratic candidate, no matter who it is.

Frank springs forth with a torrent of angry data, pointing his index finger in the air at an imaginary Hillary and telling the people around the table that she's dishonest, that in releasing her White House information there are people's names blocked out.

I sit absolutely silently. He is our host. It is pointless for me to speak about the woman I've grown to respect. Susan, a woman from Portland who has just purchased an apartment in a nearby town, tells us that she was swayed to vote for Obama by his speech earlier this week. Sigh. I'm sadly convinced that Hillary will lose, and it's because none of her advisors had the grasp of the complexity of their mission. She's not losing to John McCain. She's losing to a thundering, energized wave of people who were brilliantly organized, and who were given talking points that were clear and concise. So many women tell me they like Hillary; they just don't have the conviction that I do that this woman could become a truly great leader.

We leave our friends on the early side, for Dino is to meet the muratores in Tenaglie, and drive back there, where he and Sofi get out of the Alfa and I drive it home. I turn on CNN, to learn that Obama has just gained Senator Bill Richardson's endorsement. It seems I'm doomed to ever rally behind strong women who don't quite get the votes, and I think over and over again to myself, "If not now, WHEN?"

It's very cold outside, even at 5 P M, and I'm thinking it will be terrible standing outside for hours in Bagnaia while we watch a reenactment of Christ dragging the cross and then being hung upon it. The whole idea of it seems ghoulish, even if the person playing the role of Christ is not literally nailed to the cross. Easter is so early this year that it is just too cold for this drama tonight.

We're reminded that one of the perks of being American and living overseas is that we have until June 15th to file our American tax returns. Sounds to me that it's a bad idea to wait that long, especially with a simple life like ours. The sooner the bad news is out of the way, the better.

We're invited to Duccio's for a drink and also to Pietro's, but we're both really tired, so opt for Pietro's, where we sit in front of a lovely fire and drink tea. This cold and gloomy weather makes us all tired. Where are those sunny days of February? We hope they'll return soon. In the meantime, it's better to stay inside and huddle by the fire. But we have work in the garden, so let's get a good night's sleep and see what tomorrow brings.

March 22
Dino wakes early to watch the preliminaries of the Formula 1 race in Malaysia. He leaves for Tenaglie for at least the morning, so I begin to get ready for pranzo tomorrow, and hopefully Dino will pick up the lamb before the butcher in Giove closes for pranzo.

We'll have a variation on the torte I made for Candace and Frank yesterday, with more carmalized onions, then the abacchio brodetato, fresh asparagus, puntarelle salad and the last of our steamed persimmon puddings.

With at least one bottle of Sagratino de Montefalco and probably a Prosecco to start, we'll loll the afternoon away, unless we take a drive to Clara's in Bomarzo for a visit. She's in Bomarzo for a few days and Duccio and Giovanna will be there with her. We'll try to visit her tomorrow afternoon.

The rain continues all day and into the evening. Dino arrives home with reports of substantial progress made by the door and window installers. After pranzo we start our trek to Fimucino Airport to pick up Whitney Smith, Brooke's older sister.

We take the long route past Vetralla, after stopping in Viterbo to pick up a bunch of tulips and put them in a bucket in the back of the car. Once outside Vetralla, we stop at an ancient outdoor fountain, and Dino puts water in the bucket, so that the tulips will last until we arrive home around midnight.

This is a glorious route to the airport, and it takes about two hours. We ride along the ridges and fields of plowed earth, and everything is green. Rain provides us with a view of a blanket of luxuriant growth on every patch of soil. Once at the coast, we turn left toward Civitavecchia, and I'm longing to be on the ferry to Provence.

At the airport, Whitney's plane is one hour late, and we're so relieved that we are picking her up. The previous plan was for her to take the train or trains to Orte and we'd pick her up there; then drive with her to Brooke's game in Viterbo. If we had done that, we'd be waiting in Orte at around 9PM, and by the time we picked a very tired and stressed Whitney, we'd miss the entire game.

As it is, we miss the first quarter, but do see a substantial part of the game. Brook ties for high score, and their team beats Faenza by seven points. At one time during the game, they were behind, but managed to slog their way out of the loss. If they win their next game in Como this week, Brooke can return home to Northern California for a rest before she tries out for the WNBA team in Arizona.

Here the sisters are on the court after the game. Brooke takes Whitney to the locker room to share champagne, then we meet them at L' for pizza. Isabella is with her, and we learn that her family owns the property and restaurant where our clients and operate French's Bistro. That's why we saw her there earlier this week eating pranzo at the owner's table.

Sofi sits by my side and shares my pizza, knowing that I'll give her little pieces of my Margherita Pizza. After we leave the girls and drive home, we ponder what a special week this will be for Whitney and Brooke. They'll probably leave for Cinque Terra tomorrow, for with the win Brooke does not have practice until Tuesday. It's enough time for the two of them to get away on an adventure, an adventure this week they'll recall with fondness for the rest of their lives, we suspect.

At home, Dino dashes off stats and photos to Alison and Jan, and five minutes later there's a return email from her. Jan found a way on the internet to follow the game play by play, so we'll have to ask them how to do that.

We turn in after midnight, and look forward to church tomorrow, then an afternoon with our great friends, Pietro and Helga.

March 23
Dino arises early, for the Formula 1 race takes place early in Malaysia, and by the time I'm up and dressed the race is near its end.

With a quick breakfast of Thomas's English muffins, courtesy of Whitney, we're out the door under an overcast sky. I have an umbrella, and it's a good thing. For when the mass ends, we exit to rain falling fast and with gusto.

With auguri's all around, we feel so at home with this, our "new" church. It is a testament to the fine people of Mugnano, led by our priest, Don Luca, that this church has been restored.

Livio tells Dino and I that we are the only Mugnanese in the church as we enter. His residency is in Viterbo, and one by one shows us that most of the people in the church count their "residency" in another town. There really are less than eighty of us, after all.

On the altar, Alberto Cozzi and his father Vicenzo stand on either side of Don Ciro and Fabrizio and his son, Federico. Dino reminds me that on the altar are two sets of fathers and sons on this, the most joyous of family holidays. It's a wonderful thing to see.

Aogusto and Vincenza sit with us in our pew, and with the four of us facing forward, I remind them that we'll be facing this way together for eternity; their burial plot is to our left "facing out" in the cemetery. This certainly puts a new twist on the phrase "friends for life".

Don Ciro sings a great deal of the mass, and his voice is clearly that of an angel. He must be the most reverential priest we have ever known. Is it because he feels such joy in this sacred church, a place so many people worked for so long to realize?

Since I prepared most of the meal yesterday, I have only to make the abbacchio and heat up the torta. With a fire in the fireplace, I decorate the table and use things we love, including many plates, for each course.

Although I no longer make or paint ceramics, we have plenty of plates. In the back of my mind we may even have more in the future, for I am thinking of more ceramics from Provence, if we can find the really simple glazed pottery I'm imagining. That means, I just may do some more ceramics, so I tell myself to never say "never"...

The meal is a great success, and Pietro's bottle of Sagratino de Montefalco convinces me that this is a really wonderful wine, perhaps even more drinkable than Tuscany's Brunello.

During the meal, Pietro and Dino agree that they'd love to start an informal business doing guided tours for people, either Norwegian or English speaking. "In the footsteps of San Francesco and San Benedetto..." Pietro begins. I'd pay for one of those tours...Pietro is so funny and so reverent and so knowledgeable, and of course Dino would be the driver. Where would I fit in? I'm not sure, but look for information on our site soon...or if you can't wait, just email us and tell us when you're coming...

After coffee and grappa, Pietro wants to help clean up, so Dino shows him how he systematizes his dishwashing and drying, and Pietro is an enthusiastic learner. Helga and Sofi and I take a quick walk to the garden under an umbrella, but it's just too rainy to stay long. So we return and chat, until the fellows are finished, and then sit by the fire for one more glass of grappa until it's time for them to leave.

The clouds in the sky outside our window are reminiscent of those in my San Vincenzo painting, and I'm reminded of Pietro's stern warning "Not to change the left side of the painting!"...of grapes that stands on an easel in the kitchen. Stein loves to order me about when it comes to painting. I do love him, but hardly ever listen to him. After all, it's my interpretation that's important...unless he wants to buy it...

We so want to get back to the garden, but it's so very wet that it will be days and days before we can do that. In the meantime, we just may buy the roses and plants we need to plant, for with the soil so moist, it will be easy planting.

March 24
Today is Pasquetta, the traditional picnic holiday that takes place on the Monday following Easter, but with a forecast of rain, there will be plenty of alternative things to do. By midmorning there is a surprise: sun streaming out from dirty clouds, determined to help everything to grow.

We spend a quiet day cleaning and throwing out things we don't need, including the living room rug, which has to go. We were warned that sisal rugs aren't forgiving. So we rearrange the furniture and hope to replace the rug soon.

I make a dent in rearranging and filing the photographs, which are many, and it's a chance to revisit some of the places we've traveled to, some of the friends we've enjoyed as guests here. Perhaps in the next days I'll even update some of our albums. It's a funny task, especially when most of our newer photographs are on our computer.

Is there a need for photograph albums any more? Well, we do enjoy seeing photos of our family in frames. I wonder if picture frames are becoming a thing of the past, to be replaced by some magic gizmo that brings up old photos at the click of a mouse.

With sporadic sun and plenty of cold wind, Dino completes a great deal of the new irrigation system. I keep meaning to tell him to move two of the oval boxwood, and if it gets much later we'll have to wait until next year. Box does not like to be moved, and especially does not like to be moved once the warm weather arrives.

With a gloomy forecast, we're working on projects inside the house, and there are always plenty of those. But we would like to do more work outside. Perhaps tomorrow. If Dino drives off to Tenaglie in the morning, I have an idea for a new large painting, one I'll tackle all by myself with no help from Marco. It's about time I stop leaning on him...Since today is a holiday in Italy, there won't be a class until next Monday.

March 25
I'm musing that with new geological data suggesting a "potentially vast" petroleum resource of 400 billion barrels in the Arctic, it's possible for the free world to work its way out of its dependency on Mideast oil.

What new challenges will that create? Well, for starters there's a huge battle regarding "who" can lay claim to it. If one Las Vegas company has its way, and they have bid on it, they will own it. What will that do to the U. S. economy and our thirst for it? Will we become even more gluttonous if it is cheaper at the pump? Let's hope not. With the balance of the environment potentially at stake, I'm wondering if more sober minds will prevail.

Here in Italy, gas at the pump (why do we call it gas when it's really oil?), for us is about $8.00. We buy it by the liter, and by the time the price is converted to dollars, that's what it comes to. With Dino's love of driving, it's our biggest cost. If we could live like our neighbors do, we'd fare better financially. But then, what is life for, if not to enjoy a little of it?

There is rain this morning, although the sky is bright. Dino is meeting with the geometra today to wrest out final costs for the project in Tenaglie, and the end is in sight. Unfortunately, most of the work to be done is conditioned on clear weather, and we have none of that in sight.

We're putting in a gravel pad behind their house for an eventual pergola and sitting area, and that is to be worked on, as is the more important driveway path. When the clients decide which faces of the house to paint, we'll have to wait until better weather for that.

So we're thinking that the rest of the project will be finished in fits and starts, unfortunately, but we're confident that when they arrive in mid-June that all will be finished. That is, if the weather cooperates...

Although we've had rain all morning, sun pushes most of the clouds away in the afternoon. It remains cool, and somewhat windy, but Dino is single minded in his pursuit of a finished irrigation system. I don't blame him. Summertime here is so hot that it's impossible to water by hand every day.

It's a very good thing that we're going to exchange houses in April; we're working on little projects we've put off for years in anticipation of other people living here for a couple of weeks.

March 26
This just in from We recommend this site it for the English version of news in Italy. The story is about the current mozzarella scare, which Italy hopes won't become Italy's version of the mad cow disease. It's worth reading in its entirety, so here it is:

Mozzarella scare unjustified
"Farmers say contamination of cheese is very limited
(ANSA) - Rome, March 25 - Fears that mozzarella cheese may be tainted with carcinogenetic dioxins are unjustified, according to the Italian Confederation of Farmers (Cia).

According to the farmers' union it was important to keep these fears from developing into a global panic similar to the one over 'mad cow' disease, Cia said it welcomed the checks being made by health inspectors on herds in the Naples area, where some grazing fields are believed to be contaminated by toxic waste, and urged ''the utmost caution in managing information'' about the tests.

The organization recalled that real mozzarella is subject to strict quality controls and warned that a dioxin panic ''would harm production not only in the region of Campania but also in Puglia and Lazio'', where variation of mozzarella are produced.

''We intend to protect and promote buffalo mozzarella because we are convinced of the extraordinary quality of this product and we want to avoid an unjustified commercial panic which in a very short time could provoke wide-scale unemployment and losses of millions of euros,'' Cia said.

The farmers' organization issued its statement soon after South Korea and Japan announced that they were banning imports of the Neapolitan cheese.

According to a consortium of quality mozzarella producers, the farms where the dioxins were found were only a fraction of the close to 2,000 which produce mozzarella in the Naples are Experts have pointed out that the concentration of dioxins which have been found were not high enough to pose a health hazard.

Real mozzarella cheese has been awarded the European Union's Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) quality seal.

Mozzarella is a fresh, stringy textured cheese with porcelain-white colour, an extremely thin rind and a delicate taste. When cut, it produces a white watery fluid with the aroma of milk enzymes. Apart from its typical round shape, it is also produced in small bite-sized shapes and plaits.

The peculiarity of the cheese is entirely due to the technology used in its traditional preparation. It is produced exclusively from whole buffalo milk and, after drawing and moulding, may also be smoked.

Buffalo milk is not for drinking and is used exclusively for making mozzarella. It is so nutritious and rich in fat and cassein that it would be indigestible over the breakfast table.

Mozzarella-making is a very fast process. The milk is brought in, curdled, then drained to eliminate the whey. After this the curd is cut into small pieces, then ground up in a sort of primitive mill. At this point, reduced to crumbles, the curd is put into a mold and immersed in hot water, where it is stirred until it takes on a rubbery texture.

The cheesemaker kneads it with his hands, like a baker making bread, until he obtains a smooth, shiny paste, a strand of which he pulls out and lops off, forming the individual mozzarella (''mozzare'' in Italian in fact means to lop off). These in turn are put into cold water and then to soak in brine. The cheese absorbs as much salt as is necessary and has to take on consistency. In the end, it must not be soft and mushy when cut but fibrous and elastic, so that if poked it springs back to its original shape. Mozzarella, prepared in the evening, is ready the next morning.

Rich in calcium, high in protein and lactic flora substances, and with a high vitamin and mineral salt content, it is highly nutritional."

So there it is. We are not particularly worried about eating mozzarella, probably because we eat it in the spring and summer with tomatoes and basilico. We've just picked up our first basil plant, so it is probably time for mozzarella. We'll probably wait a few weeks to see what happens with the news. Perhaps that's bad news for the cheese industry.

Weatherwise, it's still overcast, with a little rain here and there. It is not, however, bad enough to deter Mario, who arrives to weed-whack the grass and weeds, which are getting high, and I'm worried about Sofi bounding around in tall grass. But we did not warn Mario, so in typical bull in a china shop form, he lops off one entire peony bush.

Well, at least it was the smallest one. I'm sad, but peonies survive, even if left abandoned for years. So after all the fussing I did about protecting them, this was for naught.

While at Michellini Vivai this morning to pick up a few more roses and plants, Tiziana told Dino not to irrigate the box or the lavender. So he'll rethink part of his irrigation system, but this makes things easier for him. He so loves this kind of project.

While he works at the irrigation, I make a first pass at a new painting, one more impressionistic than those before. Once the background dries, I'll plod head first into it. With no session with Marco this week, it's time to forge my way alone. I'll move on to the grape painting, probably tomorrow.

So what roses did we pick up? Well, we wanted to replace two Paul Ledes on one of the rose arches, for one has died and the other does not look strong. We'll move that one to a near wall. We have gambled with two climbers called Fleur a Despres Jaune for the other side.

Sarah planted one of these eight years ago, but it never caught on. I think it did not like it's home close to a tufa wall. We're assured this is a wild and generously covering rose, and agree to merge it with the Paul Ledes, these two on one side of the rose arch leading up to the upper garden. We know Sarah is always right, and she picked this rose for us, so we'll try it again.

We have two pots that need roses, so purchase one Lavender Lassie and one Felicite Parmentier. We're not sure what will happen with the two Cornelia roses, incredibly pot-bound with what we call Bermuda grass. Dino thinks he can wrest the grass away from the plant, so we'll work on that in the next week or two if we can. There is still life, and I hate the thought of giving up on them.

After walking around and looking at various evergreens to be clipped into mounds, we've purchased one senecia greyii, a plant "well known in the Pacific Northwest for its draught tolerance". I read that on the net. Huh? With all the rain in the Pacific Northwest, I don't understand what drought applies.

In ogni modo (in any case), we pick one up and it's quite beautiful, with grey-green leaves. We also pick up two lavender plants. Yes, two. We are down to about a dozen or so from fifty, so these will grow in the large expanse below the tall olive tree.

We want to purchase a number of plumbago, but they're not in season yet, so we'll plant them at the end of April or beginning of May, to cascade down the wall in front of the middle garden of our property.

I'm putting together a book about our garden, with sample photos of the different plants, and when we planted them. You can tell that I'm not overwhelmed with projects. But I do want to refer to notes on occasion, so this might help. Over the years we've taken out some of the roses and replaced them, so I'd like to note when and why.

We love our new middle garden, and look forward to spending more time in it this summer, as we look forward to eating under the pergola covered with pink and white wisteria on the terrace in front of the house. I'm dreaming about the heirloom tomatoes, and we'll have so many of them, in colors Gauguin would love to paint. So perhaps that's just what I'll do.

I'm writing when I hear a little clanging and it's Sofi, just returned from getting her hair cut. She's been "stripped", which is what wire haired Basottos (daushaunds) get twice a year or so, and so cute. She's very tired, I suppose because of the trauma of it all, and can't wait to sleep. That's a good thing, for we're going out to meet Pat and Tony tonight for pizza, and she will stay at home.

March 27
I read not to over water wisteria, that it's better to neglect it to have plenty of flowers, so don't know how to handle the roses that sit in the front of each planter. We were told that it is fine to have them in the same pot, but how to help them grow symbiotically may be a challenge. So I go to my friendly internet for counsel...

What I first discover is that wisteria sinensis twines clockwise where conversely, wisteria floribunda twines anti-clockwise. That's a good trivia question for gardeners, I suppose. Later I'll give ours a check, although they should be twining clockwise, if the tags were correct.

Speaking about tags, we purchased ours last year after they bloomed, so are hoping that the four of ours are pale pink. We had hoped for blue, but gave up after not being able to find any at all in Italy.

Dino plants a couple of the roses and little plants we purchased yesterday, then leaves for Tenaglie. The doors and windows should be completely installed by now, and the remainder of the work consists of two outdoor projects.

It's overcast, but sun finds its way through an abundance of dirty clouds. We're told that the weather this weekend will be sunny, and one can only hope.

I begin my spring project of spraying roses with denatured alcohol, liquid soap and water, and there are no black spots, nor is there a sign of any mites or other bugs on any of the leaves. I'm pretty consistent each spring with my spraying, but this year we'll not be here for a few weeks. Unless our houseguests are interested in a little work in the garden, we have no idea what to expect when we return. I'm not going to worry about it.

The birds, oh the birds, are here, and although they're not yet prolific, as the weather warms we expect a cacophony to wake us each morning.

Today is a day for risotto, and Dino wants it made with shrimp, so we'll use some frozen shrimp if we can find some wild fennel. Even if Mario weed-wacked some plants, we have not yet raked, so Sofi and I walk out to find some. If we do, we'll have shrimp risotto. If we do not, we'll have chicken risotto. Either way, it's my favorite thing to cook.

There's the most bizarre law to go into effect in June in Tuscany; dogs and other domestic pets are to be allowed in museums, art galleries, theatres, restaurants, post offices and beaches. Now, we love dogs as well as anyone, but don't think they belong everywhere. Why, you ask?

Not all dogs are well behaved. Italians are either neglectful of their pets or dote on them excessively. Either way, I can imagine dogs lifting their legs everywhere. Sofi is completely housetrained, but will she understand if a dog leaves its scent everywhere?

Rome and other regions are probably to follow. So if there is a disaster in Tuscany, perhaps more sober minds will prevail. This is a complete counterpoint to the life of pets in the United States, with laws, laws, everywhere and lawsuits by the pound.

The law, which is due to come into force by June and reverses a longstanding ban, was drawn up by the Greens on the centre-left Tuscan regional council.

Fabio Roggiolani, a leader of the Greens and head of the regional health commission, said: "We are knocking down the barriers that separate Man from his best friends."

To protect public health and hygiene, pets will have to have a veterinary health certificate, and dogs must be muzzled if necessary. Owners will have to guarantee that their pets will not disturb public order.

Mr Roggiolani said that "for obvious reasons" dogs and other pets would still be banned from the Teatro del Maggio Musicale, the Florence opera house. "We have to apply a bit of common sense."

In theory the measure applies to all domestic animals. "A taboo has fallen," *Corriere della Sera* said. "Fido can go with you to the trattoria, Sylvester the Cat can purr beneath Michelangelo's David, Tweety Pie can chirrup in his cage at the foot of his owner's hospital bed."

Franco Zeffirelli, the opera and film director, who has four dogs, said that the move "rewards the dignity of Man's best friends". He added: "Dogs and cats are rather like small children - they should stay where they are happiest. I would never take my dogs to La Scala. It would be torture for them."

Cristina Acidini, head of museums in Florence, said that she loved animals but was horrified at the idea of pets running riot in the Uffizi Gallery. "There are hundreds of paintings with dogs or cats in them, but I am alarmed at the idea of them being allowed into art galleries, which are overcrowded as it is," she said. "Museums are places for aesthetic meditation, not for pitbulls or dalmatians, not to mention parrots or goldfish."

Marcella Amadio, a centre-right regional councilor, said that she was concerned about allergies. "I distrust people who love animals more than humans," she said.

Ah, the Italian mind...

Rain continues all day and into the evening, so after a really wonderful shrimp risotto with wild fennel fronds from our land and lemon, we do what all good Italians do...we take a long nap after pranzo.

And so the day ends with more rain...

March 28
A gloomy start to the day ends "just like that" mid-morning, and it is as if the weather has always been this warm and lovely...

I spend most of the morning in the kitchen getting ready for pranzo for Candace and Frank, and Dino works on the bathroom and then plants roses in the garden near the steps to the upper garden.

At about noon I'm almost finished in the kitchen, so help Dino tie up a few of the roses. Before we know it our guests are here, and until they leave at around 4PM, we're in the kitchen chatting and eating. The new garden is a big hit, and I'm prodded to email the S F Chronicle for an update to my 2005 garden story. We'll see...

We have a new favorite dessert for guests...cannoli. Cannoli are Sicilian pastry desserts. The singular is cannolo, meaning "little tube", and its etymology stems from the Latin "canna", or reed. We purchased the shells some time ago, and for some reason I wanted to try to make the filling. I always loved cannoli as a child, asking for it at Café Roma in the North End when my father took me there after dinner at Giro's.

Today, I add orange rind, marscapone cheese and chocolate "gocce", or drops to the recipe. I fill about 18 of the shells and arrange them around an oval platter, with a bowl of the remaining filling and some of the broken pieces to dip into the filling, nacho-style.

If you come here for a meal, there is a good chance you will be served this dessert. It's a big hit.

Once Candace and Frank leave, we finish most of the dishes and then another set of friends stop by. This time it's Tony and Pat Lauria, who return to the U S for a few months on Sunday.

The afternoon is sunny and warm, and after they leave Dino drives to Tenaglie and then Amelia for meetings. Sofi and I stay out in the garden, and I rake leaves and take three barrels of them to the far property where they are added to the burn pile. Sofi finds a lizard up in the tree, and for an hour or so she's cemented to the spot at the base of the tree, waiting, waiting...

We return to the house and just after 6:30, an expanse of pink sits above an expanse of blue-violet on the horizon. Spring is so very beautiful here.

I do some internet research on camellias, for we are considering two tree camellias by the front door. I see that there are peony types that bloom for most of the winter, and they fare well with some shade. Once our wisteria takes hold, there will be plenty of shade.

But do we need anything by the front door? For now we'll do nothing, other than installing bamboo above the pergola until the wisteria takes hold. The reason for the wisteria is to shield us from the very hot summertime sun, and although there are buds on each of the four plants, unless they grow like weeds we'll need some shade if we are to spend any time on the front terrace this summer.

In past years, the sun has been so oppressive that we've stayed inside for the middle of each day, and that seems strange to me. I dream of a long shaded table with pranzos of sliced heirloom tomatoes in Gaughin colors and fresh basil and buffala mozzarella.

I'm not too worried about the cheese scare here, believing that it will sort itself out in the next month or so. The area where the mozzarella is grown is so protected that I can't imagine the crisis of overwhelming proportions that would take place if Italians could not eat their freshly made buffala mozzarella.

While Candace and Frank were here, I showed them our tablecloths and linens in the vetrina, freshly ironed and waiting for a good meal...I do love linens, and can't imagine a good meal here without a great tablecloth to set off the colors of the food or the flowers. I admit I'm a fabric junkie. There. I've said it.

Tomorrow Dino will be in Tenaglie for most of the morning. He's arranged with Tessacini to send a man to polish all of the tumbled travertine floors on the second floor. The floors have been stained from the time we first saw the house and with everything else looking great, this is definitely necessary.

Sofi is a happier dog these days, and we realize that although she looks very cute with a bushy coat, it does not suit her. She looked at me sadly as I brushed her this winter, and now I know why.

March 29
Dino's trip to Tenaglie has been postponed, so we work on the garden, instead. First, we install three of the bamboo sheets above the pergola, and the result makes all the difference. The plan is to cut away the bamboo, one by one section, as the wisteria grows up and over the iron. Now we have filtered sun, so are able to eat pranzo today under its shade.

The weather is quite warm and sunny, so it's a good test. We need to cover more of the pergola, for as the afternoon sun moves across the sky, we're back in sun while enjoying pranzo in front of the kitchen window. So this afternoon we'll travel to Viterbo to buy more bamboo. It's not that difficult to install, with Dino using wire to attach the panels to the iron every 50cm of width.

After pranzo we walk the middle garden, for the irrigation system is our highest priority. "Let's not begin any new projects before we leave," Dino suggests, and I quite agree.

Every time I return to the kitchen I'm reminded that I have not worked on the painting of the grapes all week. I may not have time before returning to Marco's on Monday. It does not really matter.

We drive to a few vivais in Viterbo, and purchase herbs at a place we like near the borgo. It's too early for lobelia or plumbago, two blue plants we like a lot, so next month we'll find plenty, we are sure. In a trip to OBI we pick up two more bamboo panels for the pergola, and Dino installs them after I clip wire in lengths for him to fasten it to the iron, back at the house. I plant all of the herbs we picked up this afternoon, including: thyme, lemon thyme, sage, coriander, tarragon and a few others. Nothing exotic. We think we'll find more unusual plants on our trip to Provence next month.

I awoke this morning with the start of another migraine, so take the magic potion and it's gone soon. But in the evening the strange feelings return, so instead of taking more difmetre, I put some gel on the back of my neck, and in a few minutes I can feel the difference. It's the change in the weather, I am sure.

Now that we've had sun, the inclement weather that continued like a bad dream for the past few weeks has gone. Each time the weather is markedly different, I migraine ensues. I'm not sure what that it the barometric pressure?

March 30
Little Lorenzo is baptized today in Mugnano. Is it a coincidence that the name of our bishop is also Lorenzo? As far as we know, there are no other Lorenzos in Mugnano. What we also know is that little Lorenzo represents the third generation of Monchinis in our village.

It is a thrill to see the extended family members in the church. Carlo has a motion picture camera and seriously captures everthing, even really close close-ups of Lorenzo asleep on his mother's shoulder. This is one mellow young boy. He sleeps through most of the mass, and when he's dipped, makes not a sound, Well, he's really not dipped, but his head does get wet.

Here are some photos in the church.

With the Italian elections on the 13th, there are blank numbered posters at the base of the borgo, ready for posters of smiling candidates, some of whom will have their hands thoughtfully poised below their chin/s. Boh! After the mass, we run into Tiziano, who is passing around Veltroni information. He's the mayor, or former mayor, of Rome, very handsome, but does not have much of a chance against slippery Silvio Berlusconi.

Dino wants to mock up photos of Lorenzo and "Photoshop" them as photos on the election candidates walls. I don't mean that literally. He's going to doctor photos to give to the family.

We change our clothes and are on the path working on pulling weeds and cleaning up the Lady Hillingdon roses when Alessandro stops his motorcade (he's the father of Lorenzo) and first in line, to give us a memento of the baptism, little Jordan Almonds in a blue-ribboned packet. They are really sweet people.

We continue on with the roses and the weeds until it's just too hot to work. I begin the pranzo while Dino meanders about. Once it's time for pranzo, the shade under the pergola is really wonderful, and although the temperature in the sun is quite warm, we're perfectly comfortable.

After pranzo we return to the garden, and later Duccio pays us a visit, without Giovanna, who is nursing a cold. We sit around the table on the terrace and listen to some of his very funny stories. For such a serious man, he is quite humourous. We're imagining that he and Giovanna will see our house guests while we are gone, since they have a good friend in Bomarzo. It's a very small world...

After Duccio leaves, I help Dino a little with the irrigation system, but it begins to chill. I'm amazed that it's 7 P M! With the clocks turned back an hour last night to "tempo legale", we're really in Springtime!

What is the fall time called when clocks are turned ahead in Italy? Well, it's called "tempo solare". I'm sure it has something to do with the Romans, but Don Salter will surely know. That's your cue, Donald...

March 31
I have had two weeks away from Marco's bottega, and during that time painted...nothing. So it's possible I will finish the grapes today, and possible I will not.

Dino and Oosten have a meeting this morning, so I'll paint a little. I'm not too concerned, so we'll see. Yesterday was so warm that I moved all of my winter clothes to storage and took out all my spring and summer things. Since we live so simply, there's not much to do.

I wind up not painting at all; instead walk with Oosten and Dino to Oosten's little place behind San Rocco. Dino is helping him to restore it. It's a lovely little area, with very old tufa walls. Roberto Pangrazi, the geometra, arrives to look the place over and take measurements. He'll get back to them this week to say whether the land is buildable. If it is not, well, let's face that if/when we hear from him.

We all get in the car after a quick pranzo with sauce of anchovies, raisins, pine nuts and tomato. This is a good dish to make when you have nothing fresh. It's a big hit. After dropping me off at Marco's, Dino takes Oosten to Viterbo for the long train ride to Rome. This train stops at "any village of more than one person...", so takes more than two hours, but Oosten wants to take it.

I do not finish the painting, make some changes, and I'll finesse it at home. It looks quite good. It's a good way to end the month, with a large canvas waiting for my ideas...will I do another bunch of grapes, of an even larger size? I notice when looking at some of the red grapes that they even have subtle veining, so it could look wonderful. Let's think about it...

We stop at Pietro's on the way home for a visit, and he and Helga love Sofi's new "coat". She is more delicate with less fur, and lies on the leather couch next to Pietro, who can't get enough of her. Each time we visit, Sofi dashes into the house to a roar from Pietro, and then the two of them dash into the kitchen, where he always has a treat waiting for her.

Pietro has done a masterful thing with the wood grate in the firebox. He stands it on end, with the logs piled behind it. We have the same grate at home, and will try it in the next evening or so. It takes care of the logs that move during buring, holding them back. There's always something to learn, and we're not finished with fires...yet.

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