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It's a lovely day, although cool. We expect a mild and sunny day. Dino drives to Tenaglie, followed by a worker from Tessiccini to polish the terrazzo floors.
Instead of working on the painting, Sofi and I take a drive to visit Marsiglia and Felice. Marsiglia has something wrong with her hands; they are swollen although she tells me they are better than they were yesterday. She is always sad these days, and although they have many visitors, she is at a loss regarding how to deal with her husband.
Felice does not recognize me until I give him a hug and show him Sofi. He always smiles, but these days he does not seem to focus on anything. But before Marsiglia has time to tell me the latest in her ongoing saga, their son Renzo arrives, and it's time for Sofi and I to return home. I am sad to leave them this way, but realize that for their whole family, there is more of this to come.
Dino arrives home and we leave with him, stopping at an Autogrill for a plate of pasta, before driving on to IKEA in the outskirts of Rome to pick up a sisal rug for the living room and two boxwood trees. "Trees at IKEA?" you say. Yes, two little healthy ones on sale for €13.99 each.
At home, Dino repots them and they now flank the front door. Because we have a covered pergola, they will fare well during the summer with the added shade. Usually things by the front door bake during summertime.
While Dino is out buying more connectors for the irrigation system, I pull the rug inside, open it and lay it down, moving the furniture myself. It's not really a difficult job, although Dino shows his amazement that I could do it by myself. I still have some life left in me after all...
Dino continues to work on the irrigation system, and Sofi and I spray the roses with our first of the season mixture of denatured alcohol (about a glass full), two or three squirts of dish soap and water, in a spray bottle.
This mixture is a perfect match for the little aphids and other "animali" that damage the roses. The mixture kills any of the cocoon-like mites that make the leaves stick together and eventually kill all the leaves.
If you read the journal, you'll know that I keep after the roses religiously (what a strange word to use here, but it is accurate) each spring, spraying a few times a week, especially after rains, when the critters seem to flourish. It's worth the work, for the roses remain healthy.
This year I will hope to remember to pay attention to the pruning experts, and do some mid-season pruning after the first bloom of repeat-flowering roses. This keeps the plants from becoming leggy.
While on the path spraying the Lady Hillingdons, I note that the plants are really robust. I really recommend this rose for anyone who wants a rose to grow against a wall. The flowers are good sized, pale yellow shaded to a darker yellow and quite beautiful.
The rose flowers all summer. The dark reddish-green leaves create a lovely contrast to the flowers. Look it up on our site under garden photos to see what they look like.
There is a hazy sky, but it seems warm. I make an attempt to plant a single unusual variety of hydrangea against the bay tree, but cannot move the sack of earth, so Dino will help me when he returns from Tenaglie.
I'm not in the mood to paint with our trip so close at hand, so work on last minute projects and put the paints away. Dino returns and plants the special hydrangea that we picked up last year that needs a home. It is planted next to the Bay tree on the terrace, and I'm hoping it will receive some shade.
We drive to Rome to pick up Don and Mary at Ciampino airport. This certainly is a civil little airport, and we're surmising the proposed Viterbo airport will be similar. Don bounds out the arrivals security door alone; and Mary follows lugging the cart and all their luggage.
We know that Mary uses the cart to help her navigate if she does not have her cane, but shortly Don rushes back and moves the luggage, while Mary and Sofi and I hug and wait for the men to bring the car around.
Before picking them up, we looked around a huge nursery just across from the airport. More than that, we turned the car around right at the entrance to the original Appia Nuova (Appian Way), and it looks delightful. Perhaps if we take them back to the airport in a few weeks we'll stop afterward with Sofi and take a walk.
My upper back and shoulders are in a lot of pain again. Earlier, we applied a couple of douses of Biofreeze, and that helped; I also returned to the course of pills for the back pain, to be taken for ten days. Is this to be a common recurrence? We hope not.
Dino asked if I thought the pain was caused by moving the new rug into the living room, and I told him I thought not. I don't think it was that heavy, but perhaps that's all it took to return me to the ranks of the pained.
Back in Tenaglie, Maria walks up the steps with hugs for her neighbors, and I translate a few phrases for Mary. While Dino helps Don start up his "Ferrari" (a red cinque-cento with right hand drive, brought from England), I cut a few tulips and dogwood out of Kate and Merritt's garden for them. Fresh flowers and plants work wonders in a house that has been closed up for months.
With a red sunset in the sky, they'll have a lovely view tonight, and Don will undoubtedly make a big fire in the fireplace to warm them after their long trip. We'll see them tomorrow. It's always a joy to know they are not far away.
Lorenzo has reworked Candace and Frank's poles for their terrace, so Dino will pick them up first thing from Lorenzo and take them to Orvieto. I'm hoping he'll be home to spend some time in the garden with me, but he also has to check on the paving project, which has stalled. Tani is having trouble locating the correct pavers.
With a profusion of birds chirping in diverse cadences, Sofi and I are anxious to return outside. I fix some coffee and sit outside with the Provence maps and see if I can match some towns to the calendar I've done that includes markets on different days of the week.
We love the markets, and Sofi will enjoy the people and the different smells of the fresh herbs and fruits and vegetables, as well as all the exercise she'll get with our many walks.
I note that our friend, Virginia, has been chosen as a possible delegate from Democrats Abroad. She's a great woman and very active with the Rome group. Good for her! I'm sure she'll "do the right thing" in Denver, for by now Hillary's candidacy looks remote and she's an Obama fan.
Right now, Italian campaign signs are being hung in every town and village, and even Mugnano has space for twenty of them. I think the Italians have it right. Political posters here are not a blight on the landscape; they're hung together in specific areas of the towns, and if Italy can call itself civilized, this is a good example.
We spend a lot of the day in the garden, and Dino performes a major surgery on the front loquat tree. I imagined that it should be no larger than the plum tree next to it, so by the time he is through, it is. There is plenty of light passing through it, and more important, the Fantin Latour rose in a big pot on the front corner of the house will receive more sun.
I ask Dino to use the special vacuum cleaner for the yard, and he hates it. It's heavy and awkward. But then, the dirt from the spent blossoms on the loquat tree makes a real mess. Let's see if he goes along with me. The new gravel in the middle garden looks so pristine that the gravel on the front terrace stands out like a sore thumb. Isn't that a great phrase?
Don and Mary invite us for cena to thank us for yesterday, so we meet them at I Gelsi in Alviano, and it's a great place. Strangely, this restaurant specializes in fish, although it's in landlocked Umbria. Go figure. We all eat pizza tonight, and they make some of the best pizza around.
We're back early and Dino waters plants on the front terrace, then we turn in. With two days to go before our trip, we've lots of little projects to finish, but nothing major to do.
I have a pedicure appointment and a hair appointment today, and in between I'll help Dino with the garden chores. It's cold this morning, with sun on the far horizon but a stubborn blanket of grey, underlain with more clouds, telling us it looks doubtful that we'll have sun today.
Sun does break through, but there's no time for the garden before Dino takes me to Giusy for a pedicure. It's always a joy to see her.
Mid-afternoon, Pietro picks me up and we drive to Nick's in Narni, where we're both pampered and transformed. Back in Mugnano, Helga has been working on our cena, and after we return home, Dino and Sofi and I drive down to Pietro's.
Cena begins with a broth and narrow ribbons of an omelet with herbs, followed by pieces of reindeer that have been cooked slowly and served with boiled vegetables and potatoes and a wonderful sauce. The meat was frozen in Norway and brought by them on the last plane trip.
We're home to see stars in the sky, and it's almost time to leave...
The day is filled with projects in the garden and the house, for tomorrow we leave for Provence and our new friends arrive for two weeks.
The roses are sprayed and everything is fed. I can see buds on the Paul Lede roses and the Lady Hillingdons on the path are already in flower. Dino uses the blower and the place is ready for inspection...
We hope to leave at 6 A M, but it's 6:30 when we drive out of the gate. Taking Yan's instructions, after driving up the coast of Italy, we take the slow route from the border of Italy to Nice, and it's lovely, but curvy and long, and we're ready to get settled.
We arrive in Cotignac and love the house, with its four floors facing the plaza next to city hall. Before we settle in, the boulangerie is open around the corner, and we buy a small citron tarte and split it after we demolish a round of Brie with a little baguette also purchased at the boulangerie. Ah, the bread! Of course, we also conume a bottle of a local "rose" which is quite good.
The house was built in 1650 and we love its quirkiness, although my fear of falling downstairs has me cringing and hanging onto the walls while navigating between floors. It's a dream of a house, and this house exchanging is such a good idea. Although we live at the edge of a village, we are really in the country, and here we're in the very midst of a town. The views from the house - of the square, the enormous plane tree and the cliff behind - are quite spectacular.
We return to the boulangerie for croissants, just in case, but instead of looking for a bar in town we drive out to begin our jaunt across Provence to Bonnieux, where my list tells me there is a market today.
The drive takes forever, on little back roads, and once we arrive in Bonnieux we are told there are no markets in Bonnieux any more. It was written that this is a town of potters, but can only find one, so we drive on to Roussillon.
Just outside the town is a museum explaining the natural colors developed from the earth. We do not take the tour, but inside the bookstore find a wealth of information, including books of the region, and we pick up one that includes some wonderful photos.
Once in Roussillon we realize this is a tourist mecca, but take a walk just the same. On our right is a store that sells the natural pigments of the region, and I am so inspired that we pick up several containers of a dark French blue that is almost cobalt, a bright yellow and a few ochres.
I recall Marco showing us some of these colors in the same powdery form at his bottega months ago. We'll bring them to him for a show and tell, but now we walk to the top of the town, and take in the view.
There are too many tourists here, and we are tired, but drive on to find the vivai between Roussillon and Gorde, where we are told we can find the simple pots we're looking for.
The vivai is a wonder, a marvel of color and selection. It must be one of the largest in Provence. We pick up a little Echeveria plant, but leave wanting to return to Cotignac. We've had enough "eye candy" for one day.
We see that there is a way to take highways for most of the trip, so take the A7 and the A8 and return to Cotignac. All the stores are closed, for it is Monday, and we drive on to Barjols to find a little store for eggs and cheese and a leek or so. The boulangerie is closed, so we pick up a package of bread that needs to be finished in the oven, and eat that with another bottle of rose, some cheese, and later an omelette.
Dino channel surfs with the TV, but we're tired, and turn in, looking forward to staying in town for Cotignac's Tuesday market. Other than Wednesday and Sunday, we'll stay nearby on this trip, and hang out.
I have an idea for a painting, and it is a simple one, so we'll pick up a couple of brushes and paints and canvas in San Remy tomorrow and I'll work in Joan's studio on the ground floor, with windows facing the street. It's a dream of a vacation, and I'm inspired. Dino and Sofi are inspired, I'm not sure about what, but they love the town and Sofi loves the trip. She scampers around like a puppy.
It's market day in Cotignac, and although the weather is dreary and overcast, we're excited to visit our first market this year.
Dino and Sofi head for the boulangerie, while I put on the coffee. Oh, those boring croissants, again. They are just divine; don't quite know how else to describe them...flaky and buttery and light as air.
The market is a good one, even though the weather is not. It's cold and at times drizzly, but dry enough that we pick up the most beautiful beets I can recall, more beautifully presented vegetables of all kinds, olives (of course), chevre and morbier cheese (we have not eaten this type of cheese since our Mill Valley days, and love it), as well as a roast chicken.
Dino and Sofi wait outside while I enter SPAR, the local market, and its offerings are as fine as that in the outdoor market: I pick up a container of thinly-sliced cucumber in a kind of sour cream and notice that in the meat section that there are very beautifully and not so expensive cuts of meats and chicken.
It is a delight to shop here. On the way back, we shop at our favorite boulangerie and pick up another citron tarte and another baguette, this time a multi-grain.
Back at "home", it remains cold and dreary. While opening the bags of groceries, everything looks so beautiful that I just have to show it to you...
Our plan is to hang out for at least half of the trip, and the weather remains overcast. While walking around town earlier, we entered an antique shop and saw a young man fixing the hands on a clock. I remember one of the first things I learned in high school French: "Quelle h'eur e 'til?" I ask the man.
"Ten minutes of eleven..." he responds in perfect English. Why, I NEVER! We laugh and he introduces himself as Simon. Peter, his partner and owner of another antique shop nearby, stops in, just as an English woman comes in and stares at two quite good paintings of fruit on branches, against a side wall.
She sees me look at them and just has to have them. After a little wrangling, they are hers. We leave in the midst of the confusion of payment, and when we walk by again, they motion to us that they did indeed sell them.
"We must have brought you luck!" we tell them and they answer, "Come back tomorrow!" We're sure we'll see them again while we're here. Earlier, Simon confirmed that the type of ceramics we're looking for is probably at Biot on the coast. Perhaps that's as good a reason as any to make a day trip there. That is, if the weather turns sunny.
When Dino takes Sofi out for a little walk, he runs into two women who are friends of Joan and Yan's, the couple who own this house. He finds out that on Friday evening there's an art opening in Cotignac; we're invited. The tempo is picking up...
It's San Remy market day, but we're visiting Salernes and Aups instead. They're nearby, and since the overcast weather continues, we decide to learn more about this region, the Haute (Upper) Var.
We find a mirror of Joan's ceramic dish at Pierre Basset in Salernes, then drive on to Aups and take a walk around. While driving the back roads, we agree that we'd like to have a rock or two for our newly reworked garden in the Provencal white and orange-ochre.
I begin to laugh, thinking about Lucille Ball and the movie, "The Long, Long Trailer", where she collects big rocks until Desi almost loses the trailer on a mountainside as the load shifts. It's still funny thinking about it. Well, we're only thinking about two..."
Under an overcast sky, we drive to the coast, to Biot and then have pranzo at Antibes, for the moule (mussels) we have missed.
The coast is a disappointment, although Biot is somewhat charming. Yes, the pots I thought would be here are here, but the finish is too "practiced", and some of the other pots I thought we'd find are not here. That's all right with us.
After pranzo we drive North to Grasse, but although it has some interesting architecture, it has too much ugly architecture and is too touristy for our taste. Instead, we find a huge building supply store and Dino buys a new Gardena controller for one of our irrigation systems.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, there has been a lot of hooting and hollering. In case you did not read about it, here is an interesting report:
We drive back on the A-8, which is very good way to travel through Southern France, and are back in Cotignac before 6 P M. We meet Zoe, a neighbor of Yan and Joan's, who is having a photo opening at a gallery around the corner tomorrow night, and we will surely attend.
We wish her a "in bocca al lupo" (in the mouth of the wolf, for Italians are a suspicious lot, and do not say, "Good luck!"). The proper response is, "Crepi lupo!" (and that the wolf dies.) Zoe tells us that the proper French saying for "good luck" is "Merde!" (poop).
Zoe explains that during the 19th century, people would ride their horse-drawn carriages to the theatre, and if there was a lot of poop out front, the performance would be a good one. The proper response is silence...
Once at home, I make a Provencal tarte with tomatoes and cheese and fresh parsley and olives and herbes de Provence and sliced radishes thrown in for good measure under grated cheese we purchased yesterday at an outdoor market. The crust is one rolled up in a package in the Casino market in the town.
It comes out remarkably well, and we eat it for cena, along with a half bottle of rose wine. We are really getting to like rose, for it is a drinkable wine that does not give me a headache, only a slight buzz. So now that rose is an "in" thing, we're back in style...
We love this house and all its quirkiness and talk about what kind of people we'd like to exchange houses with in the future. Mature people with an artistic sensibility, that about does it. So young couples with children are not ideal, for them or for us.
We end the evening early, for tomorrow we have a long drive to Carpetras, a famous market that we think may be a French counterpart to Arezzo in Italy. The difference here is that Carpentras has an award winning outdoor food market, and we look forward to all of it!
Well, Roy drove for 400km today, and that's more than we think makes sense for one day. So for most of the remaining days he'll drive much less.
For most of the day it's been overcast, but we don't really care. On the way to Carpentras we stop at Noves, a favorite art supply store is there, and meet a woman named Lois who hand-makes little aprons for children. Of course we picked them up for our granddaughters' birthday in June, and Lois kindly wrote a little note to each of them.
Lois also helped me with paints (mine are at home with the rest of my art supplies) and gave me some information on mixing the precious paint powders fromRoussillon with linseed oil.
"It's like making bread", she tells us, putting a drop of the linseed oil in the center and surrounding it with the colored grains, then using a paint spatula to mix it together bit by bit until it is of the right consistency. This takes time, but the colors are really worth it.
We left this morning before 8 A M, but don't arrive in Carpentras until almost 11:30. It remains overcast and even a little drippy, so dear Sofi waits in the car while we meander around the town.
Most of the purveyors have packed up, for the weather is not good, but we have a taste of it. Although it's a huge market, and the produce is spectacular, we don't feel a need to return next Friday. Instead, we'll explore places closer to Cotignac, and perhaps we'll even hang around town. I'd love to get some painting in.
We drive around looking for a place to eat, and Dino pulls into a shopping complex, thinking we can find something here. We find a huge store called Alinea, and it's a French type of IKEA. The difference is that it has a gourmet café.
I hold my breath while Dino orders steak tartare, but he somehow survives the rare meat and the uncooked egg. He loves it, so although he feels a little queasy later in the day, he's fine.
Alinea has about twenty stores, and we pick up a catalogue. We don't need anything, but are still looking for the correct beads to hang in front of the front door. The longer we wait, the more I like the ones we have.
Back in Cotignac, we attend a photography opening at a local gallery, and speak with Zoe and Kerry, the two photographers. Kerry is a human rights attorney, on her way back to Africa, and one of the photographs is of a young girl, painfully looking at the camera with more than a little pain, mixed with hope, in her eyes.
Kerry asked her what her dream was, and she answered "A sewing machine". So without being asked, we give her a donation toward the sewing machine, and Kerry will try to find her. I do think that it is a woman's responsibility to help other women in the third world improve their lives. Whether you agree with me or not, that's up to you. But if you do agree, please do SOMETHING to further that cause. Thank you.
We walk around Cotignac for a little while; then return "home" to a bowl of soup and fresh baguette, as well as a glass of rose. I have not had a headache since arriving here, so am a convert to rose wine.
It looks as though it will be a good day with clear skies, and after coffee and croissants from our favorite boulangerie around the corner, we drive to Barjols for their market. The market is pretty small, consisting of flowers and vegetables. I pick up two white turnips, just because they are beautiful, and will cut them up, boil them till they're ready, then mash them with butter and blue cheese. The taste of turnips is pretty sour, but this idea may save them.
Dino feels fine, with no after-effects from yesterday's steak tartare. Strangely, here steak tartare is sold at most local markets in a sealed package, so who knows how fresh it is! We look for the artisan galleries in town, shops that emerged after the town abandoned its leather tanning businesses years ago. We drive to the section of town where they are, but everyone seems closed.
On the way back we see a sign for an antique collective, so walk around and buy a linen dress that appears to be handmade and hand embroidered. Since it's second-hand, we pick it up for €30 and it is a perfect fit. In cases like these, I wonder if the woman who owned this first died, or if she made it herself...What IS the story behind the dress?
We drive to Pierre Basset outside Salernes, for Joan tells us she picked up a number of plates there, but we don't like any of them. They probably change their inventory seasonally, and we're out of luck for this period. We'll probably stick with the ones we have, unless we find treasures at tomorrow's brocante (antique) market in Il Sur-le-Sourge.
We hang out at home for most of the day, and I even paint; It's a painting of a tiny woman holding Sofi on a long leash in one hand and a big sunflower in the other. I'm not convinced it's good enough, but may work on it again another day. It's not my style; almost too "carina". It appears that either the weather or the location have dulled my interest in painting on this trip.
I meant to mention the bauxite again. The colors have me wanting to return to this area instead of the San Remy area, for our next house-swap. I just love the color of the earth.
I've worked on the powders to turn them into paints, and the result is excellent. I'm even able to make an acceptable green out of a bright blue and a bright yellow. Somehow I'm not inspired to paint here. I'll probably wait until we return home.
We take a long nap, for this is a lazy vacation, without a schedule packed from end to end.
We're up early on our way to Il Sur-le-Sourge, the wonderful Sunday market. It is indeed wonderful, an eye-candy town, with more than a hundred vendors. It's a long drive from Cotignac, so we take the A-7 back, and are surprised how quickly we return to the town we love.
The soup in the frigo has held up surprisingly well, especially with dollops of cr¸me fraiche, and it's a good thing. I don't feel like cooking, although I'm inspired to cook here. Am I inspired to paint? No. Perhaps that's because this is a town house, and not a house with a garden.
The fruits and vegetables are worth painting, however, although I don't feel much like painting. I feel more like sleeping, especially in this colder weather. I sound like a real drag. Somehow Dino remains content, watching movies on satellite-tv.
Dino is set on stopping by the side of the road and picking up a big stone or two in that amazing ochre color, a color that is more rust than ochre. The soil here is an almost unreal color, and the earth looks really difficult to plant in.
We'd like one or two stones to put in our garden as a memento of this Provence that we have fallen in love with. No, we don't want to live here. But we do love to visit; we love the difference from our lives in Italy.
We drive to Barjols for their Monday market, and it is a long drive to the coast, but their market has been changed to...Tuesday. So we eat mussels and scallops at an outside restaurant and drive around the lovely seaside town, imagining the lives of the people who live inside the grand estates facing the ocean.
Back at home we watch an old movie...The Blue Dahlia, with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, and what a terrible directing job! We're sticking around tomorrow morning, so it's fine to stay up late.
We stick around for the excellent Tuesday market in Cotignac...
Back at home I fix dinner and then Sofi and I turn in, while Dino watches T V. Tomorrow will be a long day, with a drive to the Wednesday San Remy market. We aren't looking for anything, for after looking at market after market, our favorite treasures were purchased right here in Cotignac at Marguerite's, and at low prices.
Earlier today we ran into Pam with her very sweet dog, and we all agreed that Cotignac has the best small town market (Tuesday mornings) and the most charm of any spot in Provence.
That's quite a statement, but once you've spent any time in Cotignac, you'll understand why. The town is just the right size (about 1,000) people, with shops, bars, markets, restaurants and plenty of shops, but not the urban sprawl that many towns now have.
Tomorrow night we'll meet Madeline and Tony in Salernes for Dinner. They're here with the Mediterranean Garden Society. Although we're invited for lunch on Friday, we've decided not to attend any of their events because of Sofi. She's more important to us than other gardeners, and every day we are thankful for her. She is a joy to be around.
I go to bed feeling tired with the beginning of a flu, and wake up tired, too. But we don't want to miss the San Remy market, so I sleep on the way, and although we don't arrive until mid-morning, Dino has no fear of finding a parking place. He always finds a good one.
We've agreed that we'll eat at the Vietnamese restaurant, which our recollections tell us is quite good. Who knows if we'll buy anything...anything at all...
I'm tired from last night's bout of the flu, so after walking around for a couple of hours, we agree to forego the Vietnamese pranzo and drive to nearby Eygalieres for a light pranzo. We love the town, but today is not the day for exploring, sadly. Instead, we drive back early afternoon and spent the rest of the day doing...nothing.
Sofi seems to have eaten something that did not agree with her either, for she is sick at night; so badly that we hear loud groans from inside her little body that sound like phantoms as she gets sick...at least several times. Finally, she's able to sleep.
Sofi seems better this morning, but later in the day her symptoms return. We attempt to drive out for an excursion, but she leaves evidence that she's still sick, so we return to the house and I make a beet and cr¸me fraiche soup with fresh dill for pranzo that is really tops, while Sofi rests.
The beets here are sold cooked in packages, and the taste is every bit as good as the fresh ones I cooked last week. These are easier to puree cold with cr¸me fraiche, and then heat, and the consistency is much better.
Dino also wants a steak sandwich, so why not. I'm not up for eating much of the steak, but he's happy. Afterward, we think we're all feeling better, so drive out to Le Thoronet, toward Draguignan and then to Lourdes. Le Thoronet is charming, and we stop for tea; then drive around the town.
We've been told to visit the Abbey of Thoronet, so stop there and walk around. It's an amazing place, but the batteries in our new camera won't hold a charge, so you'll have to take our word for it. While in the main church, a woman with a group stands by herself up at the front and chants, and the sound of her voice reverberates around the room as though she's ringing a gong. We have to stop and stand there, silently watching until she finishes.
The rest of the Abbey is amazing, but the strangest coincidence happens next door, where the Sisters of Bethlehem Community have a shop selling religious items. Inside are sold statues of wood and also of a polymer. A number of years ago we purchased a similar large statue for our garden just north of Umbertide from an abbey that purchased them from...here! We don't find the same statue, but a kind nun smiles and asks us if we'd like to purchase another. I thank her and tell her that having one is "special"; two would be just "good".
We bid her goodbye and drive on to Lorgues, where we walk around and are thrilled by the huge plane trees and love the town until Sofi gets sick on the sidewalk and I am worried enough that I want to take her to the nearest vet.
What to do? We have seen vet signs in every town we've visited, but now don't see any. So I ask Dino to stop at a pharmacy, and we're given directions to the nearest vet from him. The vet is very kind and gives Sofi a little injection and tells us she'll be fine tomorrow. He checks her out and thinks we should not worry. On the way home she sleeps in my nap, then goes right to bed.
We do want to return to Lorgues; its plane trees alone are enough to make me weak in the knees. Not this trip; we think visiting here is better in September, at least for the weather.
We're too involved in our garden in May, and then June is just too late to leave it at all. We're prisoners to our garden; but then, it's the joy we receive from the garden, and from having visitors who love it as we do during the warm months, that keeps us happy at home.
I'm not feeling all that well, so jump into bed with Sofi in her bed just next to me and read an historical novel called Courtesan that keeps me interested while Dino returns to watching movies on the large screen T V. Hopefully tomorrow we'll all be well enough to try another market or two.
Still not feeling better, I stay in bed all day, while Roy and Sofi take little jaunts outside the house. Sofi is a little better, but not completely. The skies are dreary, and rain arrives in the afternoon. It's a good day to finish the book and I do. Vacations are for resting and reading, too, so we have that part of it "down pat". What does "down pat" mean, anyway?
On this last day before we leave Provence, we decide to drive off to what the English call a "car boot sale", in Le Cannet des Maures, and with the Provencal ombre colored clay soil underfoot, sink in as we romp through muddy paths to reach...a gypsy paradise. There are about thirty "vendors" here, selling trinkets that represent memories for them, perhaps better forgotten. For the first time in memory, we leave with...nothing, other than mud on our shoes.
With a cleanup at the house, we stop at the local SPAR to pick up the last of the French treats that naturally include Brie and a baguette. After turning in early with books, we nod off to dreams of Dino's birthday and a trip home tomorrow.
Yes, Dino turns...today, and he's going to spend it doing what he loves best: driving and eating. The car is packed, with Sofi regally perched on her wicker bed high up on the back seat. But first, one more look at my favorite - the plane trees in the main square of Cotignac.
We leave Cotignac around 8 A M, and arrive at Monterosso al Mare just after 2PM. We're no longer gauging speeds and distances anymore, but we believe we have "made good time", an expression used far too often in this crazy "speed-em-up" world. We believe that this is the easiest of the five villages to drive to.
In characteristic Dino style, we see cars parked along the road on the way into the town, and although the guidebooks tell us to park here, he will have none of it. Parking karma is something he has plenty of, as evidenced by what happens next in the only parking garage.
We drive up to the entrance, and the attendant looks out and tells him they are "pieno" (full). Dino stares at him and raises his shoulders as only Italians know how to do, and the young man responds, "Well, there is space for ONE car..."
I can only shake my head in disbelief. Dino becomes a Cheshire cat for a moment or two, then maneuvers his way around to the "spot", which magically opens up as two couples walk inside the lot to leave.
We walk down toward the water, and at the only full restaurant right at the edge of the beach, lines form outside. By this time it is late for even a late pranzo. Dino walks up to the waiter and is told to wait. Sofi and I take a walk, and when we return, we find Dino sitting at a corner table outside under the awning, as if he is Don for a Day.
Mussels and swordfish are what we want, and they are excellent. The wine from the region around Cinque Terre is known to be quite good, and we drink a bottle of white, which is quite dry and a perfect accompaniment to the fish.
Sofi sits by my side and eats a strand or two of spaghetti and some of my swordfish, as well as her own food. She's quite svelte these days, so a little extra food now and then are fine.
We walk around town, but there are SO MANY PEOPLE, and it is only April. So this is a place to skip in the height of summer, but we'd love to see more of it. We begin our walk up the hill to the parking garage, and Dino turns around and asks me, "Isn't that your old boss?"
I turn around and Dino calls out to a group hiking down into the village, "Bob? Bob Riddell?" So it's been almost twenty-five years since we've seen each other. He hired me the year Allen & Dorward, a San Francisco Ad Agency, became MOJO, and was my boss. This prince of a man remains one of the all time great bosses of the world; and even that is an understatement.
The Riddell family - Dad, Mom and their two adult offspring are on a Walking Tour throughout Northern Italy.
I'm not surprised that Bob's still at Hoffman Lewis Advertising in San Francisco, even if he's been there for twenty years. Yes, Bob Hoffman is still there, as are many of the others, who left after the chaotic merger with Chiat/Day and joined other Allen & Dorward regulars at Hoffman Lewis.
Bob looks at me, after I tell them that we live in Italy now, and responds, "I'm jealous!" to which I can only respond, "Don't be jealous...move here yourself!"
This is as good a time as any for me to mention my old refrain, "Find your passion; dream your dream; then don't be afraid to dare to just do it...Be bold enough to take that chance and to live your dream...You have nothing to lose."
Those of you who know me and/or have worked with me know full well that that was always the case for me. Yes, I'm a dreamer; I have always been a dreamer. I was never the best boss, but I surely knew how to dream, how to choose to do things a little differently than anyone else and hopefully how to inspire others to follow their passion.
I'm wondering now how many of those people I worked with so many years ago have followed their dream. If you're one of them, I'd love to hear from you. I'd even love to hear from you if you have not followed your dream, but wish you had. Life is just too short.
If you're still not convinced that it's time to move on, I'd like to quote a real estate sign posted on Union Street in San Francisco years ago..."If you think this is not a good time to buy a house, wait until next year."
We purchased our property here in 1997, when a dollar cost 60 Italian cents. Now a Euro costs costs $1.60....and it's just ten years later. Luckily, we paid cash for our house. That is the good news. The bad news is that we live on dollars. Somehow, we're managing to survive; what's more important is that we do have peace of mind.
A few days ago, Dino received an email greeting from a great friend in Mill Valley, who shared that her health insurance is more than $1,000 a month for single coverage. We find that shocking, especially since we pay less than €200 each a year for full coverage, and have no complaints about the Italian medical system. For added protection, we have a major medical policy, good world-wide, for another €500 or so a year. So if we need emergency surgery, we can choose from any private hospital. We think we're on the right track.
Back to our trip...
We drive down the coast to Montalto di Castro and inward past Viterbo toward home. It's not quite dark and there is a full moon, so we get out of the car and can't wait to walk across the terrace to the garden to see what has happened in our absence.
Everything is beautiful! The wisteria has grown FEET! In two weeks! There are no bugs on the roses, and every rose is ready to burst. The Lady Hillingdons on the front path sport a profusion of yellow blooms, with hundreds more ready to flower.
Under the moonlight, we drink in the smells and the sounds and embrace each other, so happy to be home. No matter what goes on in the world around us, this little spot of earth is paradise to us.
It's a joy to climb into bed and dream about waking up to the birds tomorrow...
It's an overcast day, but here and there the sun tries to come out. Sofi and I walk around the property while Dino drives off to Guardea and Tenaglie. He's back by noon.
After a quick pranzo, Dino drops me off at Marco's, where I begin a new painting and also show him the pigments we purchased in Roussillon, France. I am disappointed. I thought he'd be excited to see them. Instead, he tells me how difficult it is to mix them, but if I want to experiment at home, that's fine with him. What?
He shows me a book that indicates the different properties of the different colors of pigments, and what I'll have to do is so complicated that we agree that I'll mix them with acrylics instead of oils (he'll show me how) and that will be easier to do. The colors are so vibrant that I'm truly disappointed. But there's not time to dally, for I'm going to work on a new subject, a female warrior-type in flowing layers of fabric as her gown.
Dino picks me up and we drive to Pietro's to meet two Norwegian friends and have a brindisi (toast) with spumante. They are a very interesting couple, and we hope to see them again. After a short while, it's home to walk through the garden and plan for tomorrow.
On this, the anniversary of my dear father's death, I think of him, and it is fitting that Dino chooses to spend any free time today in the garden. My father died on the first Earth Day, but my only recollection of him outdoors, other than on the boat, was on the walks I took with him as a young girl.
He was enamored with rock and stone, and was able to cite volumes of geological data, explaining about strata and types of rock to me as we walked along a path. Many years later, while Dino drove him from Los Angeles to San Francisco after he visited with relatives, he voiced obvious amazement at the desert around them.
"What an upheaval must have been created to cause this!" he exclaimed, and Dino was at a loss to reply. A year or so later, on a different visit, we took him to Yosemite, where he was given a lifetime membership in the U S Park System.
We happened to arrive in Yosemite Valley just after a major earthquake struck in nearby Coalinga, and as we rounded a bend, we were stopped by a forest ranger with a walkie-talkie to his lips, staring up at the cliff above us.
"When I say, GO!, I wouldn't hesitate to drive on quickly, if I were you..." he cautioned, to which my father hollered with laughter; Dino and I sat bare-knuckled in the front seat holding our collective breaths.
Pietro has invited us for cena, and we spend the evening with him, eating special Norwegian treats, mostly fish. His house is really lovely, and he takes care with each space he creates. The house has never looked so beautiful.
We say good night, and Dino reminds him that in the morning he'll return with Silvano to work on electrical problems and to hang up kitchen lights.
Dino leaves the house early, under a foggy sky, and Sofi and I begin to work on the garden. But I'm deterred by the painting, so spend a few hours working on the folds of the woman's cloak, until I need to adjust my eyes. It's time to stop and work outside, especially since there is now plenty of sun.
Beginning with the path, I spray all of our roses (more than fifty of them) clipping off any spent blossoms. The path is so full of flowers that I just have to share them with you...
Dino comes home to tell me that our festa will be a week early. Since there has been little activity initiated by this year's festarolo committee, perhaps they're setting the stage to make it easier for any future committees. We hope so.
Dino just can't get enough practice cutting away at the big caki tree on the terrace, so he takes out the big ladder this afternoon and I "foot" it. Afterward, he burns the cuttings as well as some old raffia containers for the big glass jeroboams. Well, they're probably not jeroboams, but are beautifully crafted jars, and Dino washes our supply out (we have about eight) and places most of them in the cave where we have our holiday presepio. They look wonderful.
While we're at it, we clean the loggia out and put up the blue and white striped fabric and hang some more baskets. We're ready for the summer!
Tomorrow I'll feed and spray the roses, and we'll continue work on the garden. But I'm hoping to spend a couple of hours painting, as I'm working on the part I like best...the long and flowing cloak.
Dino continues to work on the middle garden, pulling out the row and a half of box and moving the healthy box to other spots in the garden. Lavender will replace this box on the lower side.
We pick up Don and Mary in Tenaglie and take them to Ciampino Airport outside Rome. It's always a pleasure to be with them, but we do wish we could see them more.
In the back seat between us, Sofi leans her little head on Mary's knee. Mary is the only person she allows to stroke her big ears, and she lies there, content, while we gab away.
We notice the really lovely Rosa Banksia Lutea espalied against the front wall of Don's property; it is in full flower. We recall the memory of a profusion of tiny yellow roses planted years and years ago in the alcove between our house and the Janigian's in Mill Valley, California. These are the same roses, and we have the white variety now, growing over the arch leading to our far property and San Rocco.
Before entering the airport, Dino takes a detour of about 50 meters and takes us to...the Appian Way. We're able to drive upon this ancient road, but it is so rocky that we turn around almost immediately; sometime soon we'll return to walk here when we're taking a trip to Rome by car.
After leaving them off, we return to the nearby vivai and pick up a dozen lavender and six lobelia. Lobelia needs to be planted in early spring, so that by summer time, it's cascade of blue flowers will fall over our tufa walls in dramatic fashion. Dino plants them in the front of the small planter in front of the loggia.
We're expecting a shower or two, but lots of sun in the next two weeks. It's more fun to work in the garden now, but I'd like to put in a little more time painting. So that's just what I do, until we've lost most of the sun.
Dino wants to attend the prova today of the Palio in Bomarzo, but I'm not really interested. I'd rather paint. He drives up to the town, but we've just had a rain shower and I don't want to stand around in the mud.
He returns not long after, while I'm painting away, to tell me there will be no prova. We don't know how they determine which horses will ride; perhaps we'll find out tomorrow.
We're having friends come by for cena after the race, so Dino drives off to pick up groceries. I continue to paint, and my latest painting is taking on a more well-developed form. It's a joy to paint, especially since I don't spend more than a couple of hours a couple of times a week painting, other than the Monday sessions.
This latest rain has left a profusion of grandine (hail) around the garden, but there is nothing damaged. Tomorrow I'll hopefully spray the roses. After a rain it is important to renew the spraying of roses, for the soap and denatured alcohol and water bath is washed off with rain.
Today is Liberation Day in Italy, commemorating the accord signed in Milan to end the Second World War. It's a day to be spent with family and friends, and the roads are full of people. It's not a good day to take any sort of drive.
With guests here after the Palio, Dino plants the lavender and straightens up the garden, while I fix coleslaw and a lemon torte and a borlotti bean dip.
After a quick pranzo, we return to last minute touches, then Annika and Torbjorn arrive and it's time to leave. Sofi stays at home to guard the house, for she is afraid of drum sounds, and there will be plenty today.
The weather looks promising, and we drive off to Bomarzo. Dino parks the car on the side of the road leading back to Mugnano, for we know there will be a lot of traffic after the Palio ends.
We walk up the hill, and our timing is good. By the time the procession begins, with five contradas represented, each with their own drummers and dressed in their contrada colors. Many, many people are in costume, and in addition to the contradas, there are people dressed as famous figures in Bomarzo history; of course the Orsinis are well represented, and some of the costumes are spectacular.
We decide to watch the procession near the bend in the road at the top of the hill, and encounter Anna Farina and Carla, watching from Carla's sister's house, right on the road facing South.
We introduce Annika and Torbjorn to them, and when they hear that these Swedes have purchased the "white house" in the valley, Anna can't wait to tell them that her great grandmother lived there, with animals living with them on the first floor...
I hold my nose and they laugh, and then Anna tells us the names of the women in her family. Olga is one, and the others I can't recall...I'll try to ask her again. These neighbors love to tell stories about Mugnano, and we love to hear them. These days, we're able to understand a few of them, which makes life more interesting.
After most of the procession has passed, we walk with the rest of the group between two different contradas. This way, we're able to take our seats and watch the end of the procession in the stadium.
Our seats are amazing; Torbjorn with his camera and long lens is able to sit front and center just as the horses and their riders will charge forward facing him. The rest of us are seated around him. Pietro and Nora found us before the start of the procession, and Tia and Bruce arrive while we're seated.
The procession finished, flag wavers give us an exhibition, and although the sun shone most of the day, we see clouds forming toward Mugnano, and hope the rain will hold until after the race.
The usual excitement builds right in front of us, as the four horses and riders line up one by one in the order in which they were chosen. The fifth horse and rider hold back until the preceding four are lined up correctly. This takes some doing. Then the fifth starts its charge, and as it reaches the others the designated gun explodes and the rope drops.
One rider falls off halfway across the track, but his horse continues to finish the race. The rider is able to get off the track by himself, but has some minor injuries. We are sorry, for he is wearing the colors of the contrada of the Borgo as well as the colors of Mugnano.
Dentro wins the Palio; Dentro is the location inside the borgo, which includes Duccio and Giovanna's house. But no one tarries, for the skies are very dark and as we leave the rain begins. We're able to reach the car before the downpour, but now we won't eat outside. Puortroppo.
Roy forgot his camera today, but our friend Torbjorn has a sophisticated digital camera with a telephoto zoom lens and get's some amazing shots - which he has given to us on a CD. So thanks to Torbjorn for the following photos recapping this festive day!
The evening ends as we go to bed to the twinkling of rain on the windows.
It's Saturday, Duccio's birthday, and we're invited for pranzo. With work to do in the garden, we are able to enjoy the sun and continue our weeding and spraying the roses.
Before we know it, it's time to drive to Bomarzo, and Sofi is also invited to join us. Outside their house, the Dentro banner flying, and even Duccio is happy about his contrada's win, even though he does not enjoy the Palio.
We're honored that we've been chosen to share Duccio's birthday meal with them; a delicious stufato of beef, a tender baked dish with delicious broth and roast potatoes and carrots, following a tasty cannelloni.
It's always fun to share time with them and even Sofi is honored...she gets to drink out of Orsino's bowl. Orsino was Donatella's dog; they both passed away not so long ago. Now Sofi considers the bowl her own...at least when she's here for a visit.
After pranzo we do some grocery shopping for tomorrow's pranzo at Michelle's and then return home to enjoy the garden. But we have an art opening to attend in Narni; both Rita from our bottega and Patricia Smith are exhibiting, and Pietro wants to join us.
Pietro arrives at six and we drive off with Sofi guarding the house. There will be a procession with drums, and so our girl will have to stay at home, sadly.
Narni is a wonder of an ancient town, it's remains date back to the second century A D. We walk up past the traffic light to a medieval festa; booths are set around the main square with copper and wood artisans, and then we walk into the palazzo, where many, many artists are exhibiting in different rooms of the upper floor.
I'm always taken by Patricia's work, and spend what time I can in her room, while Pietro and Dino take in the displays of the other artists. I take a quick walk around, then return to her room, where we agree to get together soon.
Patricia's work is so realistic that I'm sure some of the pieces are photographs; but then I know better. So it's enough for me to stand and study them. I realize that I am not a realistic painter; Marco has taught me the value of interpretation and that's what I like best. But Patricia is an extraordinary craftswoman.
We are all hungry, so find one of the tavernas open and eat a small cena, then take our coffee at a bar on the main street. It is a good thing, for as we're finishing our coffee and grappa, the procession begins with more than thirty cities and towns in Italy represented; each in their medieval costumes.
Yes, there are more drums, and the procession takes our breath away. Florence is represented, as is Faenza and Forli and Orte and towns and cities all up and down the boot that is Italy. Some of the costumes are so elaborate that they are of museum quality; at least twice we applaud the costumes and the wearers as they proceed by.
Just before we leave, Pietro draws our attention to the side of the church, where the remains of the original church still stand. This is a place to return to, and a place to study. Perhaps Pietro and Dino will return here with the tour group next week.
We return home to memories of another truly rich evening of Italian history and character. How honored we are to be able to take in this richness, and how hopeful we are that these traditions will continue.
It's another birthday celebration, and today it's Michelle Noon's. On this sunny morning, we walk up to mass at the smaller church in the piazza with Don Ciro, and then walk home to make fruit salads to take with us.
With no grapes anywhere to be found, we use a pineapple and kiwi, plus the usual oranges and apples, adding slivers of candied ginger, mint, and sprinklings of castor sugar. On the second salad we use sliced strawberries and bananas with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.
Sofi attends the pranzo with us, and loves rolling around in the grass. There is a lot of grass, and that means foxtails, so I pluck a number of them off her during the day, then realize she'll need a good brushing tonight or tomorrow. Foxtails are dangerous for her; they dig into her skin and well, you don't want to know the rest...
We leave Michelle's present: a basket with a pot of three heirloom tomato seedlings, wonderful garden gloves and a package of napkins with tomatoes painted on them. We hope she'll be inspired to baby the tomatoes, for their orto is extensive.
Speaking of ortos, theirs is near the drive at the front of the house, built up with tufa bricks and able to get to it from both sides. It's also irrigated, so they should have plenty of vegetables this summer. We're hoping our tomato will find it's way there.
Late in the day, we leave to pick up Karina at the train station; she had a tour this morning in Rome, but just wouldn't miss her best friend's party. She's a vision in a lavender shawl, offsetting her pale blond hair and blue eyes.
It's good to see her, although we leave not long after returning to the party, agreeing that she'll come by for coffee tomorrow morning and to see the garden before she returns to Rome for another tour in the afternoon.
As many of you can agree, Karina gives the best tours in Rome, and if you want to contact her for one for yourself, just let us know. She does not have a web site, but we'll be sure to help you reach her.
We're back at home to work in the raised orto above the parcheggio, and while Dino plants the sedano (celery) and pepperoni (red and yellow bell peppers) and pepperoncini and cetrioli (cucumber), I take out all the little bulbs (I'm sick of them, their flowers don't last, and the leaves turn yellow and don't add to the luster of the garden. One is supposed to leave the spent greens for six weeks, but they look terrible. So out with them!
I also take out about half of the wildflowers (dark purple tiny blossoms on grey stalks, quite beautiful) to make more room for the vegetables. Dino mixes in three sacks of new earth, and we realize we've planted seeds for dill, for three spindly stalks have appeared in three separate places. Now, when did I plant these seeds? If I want to take the time, I'll find out in the archives, but that's for a rainy day...
It's growing chilly, so while Dino waters, Sofi and I go inside to fix raviolis for cena. We eat them with the usual butter and sage and freshly grated cheese, and then watch a movie, this time Hollywoodland, before going to bed. It's be a fun day.
Perhaps tomorrow I'll see Karina, but Dino will be off with Pietro to do a tour with several Norwegians. These two do enjoy their tours, and Pietro is a wonder, with Dino as the driver...
It's chilly but sunny, and Dino leaves early to pick up the van, while Sofi and I putter around. I'm not going to paint this morning, and will put the painting in the back of the car after pranzo to take to Marco's.
It will stay there tonight, for tomorrow there will be a "makeup" session, and by then perhaps the entire figure will be complete, with just the background to be painted. I really must begin to sketch the painting for the school, to be taken to Boston next January...
Dino calls me just before pranzo time to tell me the guests have landed at Fimucino and their adventure is about to begin. Here at home I make a tuna panini and prepare to take the latest painting to Marco's.
With Dino and Pietro taking a tour group around, Sofi and I are at home by ourselves, and I spend this morning sketching my mother's face. I've decided that she is to be the heroine of my latest painting.
We have a photograph of her taken at around the age of twenty. She was quite a beauty, a Jean Harlow looking blonde, born in 1913. The photograph is just of her face, for the rest of her is covered by a black velvet drape.
She looks straight at the camera with the slightest smile on her lips. It is obvious she is a strong woman, and a captivating one at that. So for this Renaissance-era painting, with the subject draped in flowing cloaks swaying in a breeze, I know it will be her.
How do I know that? She is striking a dramatic pose in the painting, with one arm up pointing at the sky and the other outstretched just below her hip. It is a classic Hildegarde pose, at her most dramatic, and this is a complete coincidence. Now I know that I must paint her face accurately.
At Marco's, he and the others at the bottega are enthralled by my mother's photo, and they all agree that she must have been an actress.
"A casa, si!" (at home, yes!) I tell them. She was a woman capable of the most dramatic attitude, and she loved striking this pose as a funny thing to do. So of course it will be her.
We agree that the carbon drawing of the face is incorrect, and that the size of the drawing I have done is not large enough. So Marco advises me to blow the drawing of her face up by slight percentages, so that we can agree next Monday and then I will copy the outline of her face and then he'll spray it with fixative (strong hair spray) before I begin to paint it.
I drove to class today, and at home the painting waits in the car for Dino to return and bring it upstairs. It's a little too unwieldy for me to carry.
Dino arrives and we sit around talking about his day, and about mine. I don't know what he thinks about my decision to paint my mother, but he tells me we can scan the drawing and blow it up on our computer ourselves.
There is a chill in the air, and sleeping is good. But it's time that the warm weather returns, so perhaps tomorrow we'll have weather to cheer about.
Tonight is the annual tree and flag-raising in Mugnano, and it is a wonderful sight. Dino's tour continues, and I'm invited to Diego's for cena with them, but I'm skeptical if it means missing the tree raising.
I paint more of my mother's gown in the morning, and at about 11, Sofi and I drive to Walter's in Sippicciano to pick up homemade gelato for the tour group's dessert. Dino calls me to tell me they are late, and our ice cream fest will not take place until about 4PM. I'm assuming it will take place after that, and wonder if we'll be able to attend the tree raising after all. Well, perhaps Sofi and I can leave the group, even if Dino cannot. Puortroppo!
The weather is cloudy, and tonight will be cool. The group returns for gelato and there is plenty of it. Sofi loves meandering around Pietro's property, and Helga and a few of the others take a walk around the borgo while waiting for the tree raising. We're invited for cena at Diego's at 8:30, so there is some time.
Sofi and I walk home, and at the fountain we encounter Enzo Gasperoni, waiting with his tractor and two jugs of wine for the tree carriers. It's 6 PM, but the tree is nowhere to be found. We all gather on Via Mameli a while later, and the tree has still not arrived.
The tree is cut from the banks of the Tiber, and as we look way off to the right, we can see a bunch of them sitting on the ground. There' s no use waiting...it will be along time before they arrive.
We gather together and drive off in the 9-passenger van, with Dino expertly at the wheel. Pietro has forgotten something, so he walks home and we agree to meet him at the White House in the valley. On the road he steps into the van, only to realize he has left a large vase on the outdoor table and it will surely fall over in the wind. So again we drive toward his house, and turn around in front of Maggionlino and Priscilla while he rushes nearby up the hill.
Mette is a wonder, as she wants to feed two small tomatoes to the donkeys. Everyone gets out of the van, and here is Mette with Priscilla and Maggiolino.
"Everybody out! Let's take a picture!" At least we are able to document a part of the tree raising...
Diego is always the star of his show. He's in cook-whites tonight and serves all of us around a rectangular table near the entrance to the huge dining room. As usual, there is a lot to eat, and by the time the coffee is served, Dino and I look forward to going home. With the others on a tour of the building and the church, we drive home in the van and get into bed, thinking it will be a quiet night.
At two A M, there is a great commotion outside the house on the path, and a lot of singing. The doorbell rings and rings and we think it's just a bunch of rowdy young people cavorting about and ignore the noise.
It's impossible to get back to sleep, as the group continues to sing, and we can hear the opening bars to "New York, New York", so perhaps it's the tree raisers. Dino does not want to get up and acknowledge them, although we laugh and Sofi barks....
As the month ends, will we find out who was creating a commotion on the street in front of our house?
Dino continues on his driving tour today, and Sofi and I stay home in the garden. It's mild and cloudy, just the right weather to clip some of the many box on our terrace.
The doorbell rings and it's Vincenza, here to collect for flowers for the church for this festa weekend. When I open the gate I ask her if she heard all the noise late last night and she replied, "Si! Una seranade per te!"
I thought this might have been the case, and how sad that we did not get up after all, even if it was 2AM, to stand on the balcony and wave to the revelers who rang our bell and sang and sang. Vincenza is clearly tired, for she joined the merry band last night, and who knows how long it lasted?
Nanda has closed her showroom, and tonight Dino will meet me in Orte to bring back all my paintings in the rental van. She is hopefully going to open a showroom in Rome. Her current location was not a good one, and we wish her good fortune in finding a better one.
We don't know if any paintings have been sold, but she has not paid us anything, so it is doubtful. I suppose we'll have to set up some kind of a gallery here. Perhaps the rooster paintings will be hung in the stairway leading to the second floor.
Nanda told Dino that if the exhibition were in Tuscany, that the roosters would sell in a minute. So, where to exhibit? The rooster is a symbol of Tuscany; consider the Gallo Nero, the DOC appearing on many red wine bottles.
During a walk around the garden, I note that the fava beans are not quite ready to pick. I'm somewhat anxious to begin planting the tomatoes, and to do that we must turn over all the soil where the beans are growing. Not being a fan of these beans, I don't care if we pick any, or just turn them all over.
Since Claudio has planted faves, it does not make sense to give them to them. We'll ask this weekend if anyone wants any. Otherwise, it's the "heave-ho" with them. We really grow them just to augment the soil, anyway.
I'd like to begin to plant the tomatoes this next week, two dozen or so, with more in about another ten days. We'll have about fifty plants, so that means 36 where the fave are growing and another twenty or so in the upper garden. Some plants in the guest bedroom window are still small, so this week we'll begin the process of "hardening them off", that is, putting them outside in the sun for an hour one day, two hours the next, and so on.
We should have a spectacular harvest of heirloom tomatoes of all colors and sizes this summer, and it's worth all the work. Our neighbors are somewhat amazed by the strange colored orbs, but agree that they are really tasty. What we don't eat, we'll bottle, and that should keep us in tomatoes for a couple of years...
I meet Dino at Nanda's in Orte, and we pack up all the paintings and bring them home. Since Dino is still "on a high" from his four-day tour with Pietro and a number of Norwegians, he wants to eat out. So we drive to Giove and eat pizzas at Da Piero, our favorite local pizza "joint".
The sky is sunny, and the temperature rises until it's almost hot by noon. Sofi and I putter around the terrace and middle garden, picking up a little wild finocchio in the far land for a potato salad.
But at noon the loud noise of fireworks resounds through the valley, for our festa weekend has begun, and with it Sofi's cries. She disappears under the bed, hiding as far away as she can.
Dino spends the morning in Tenaglie on one of his final details for the project, fixing the front door lock. We find it quite amazing that this project has dragged on for another year.
I take the big red and blue festa banners out of the closet, to be hung on the balcony and the front wall before the end of the day. They are somewhat faded, and perhaps next year we'll have new ones made. Now that I think of it, the fading adds some charm, so perhaps we won't.
Other than projects or tours now and then for clients, we don't pay much attention to time or to checklists, for we really are slowing down, and encourage you to do the same. That sound outside our window is the cacophony of a myriad of birds. How many of you don't even hear the sounds of birds outside your window? Stop for a moment and just listen...
Dino comes home for a pranzo that is rather American...grilled hot dogs and fresh potato salad. Dino loves potato salad, and although he's on a search for the perfect one, I'm encouraged as I am today by his compliments. The secret today is the addition of snipped wild fennel fronds. Sure, just yank a bunch from your sidewalk...
We hang the three banners, and now we're set for this weekend's festa, a festa we think will be quite modest. It is a holiday weekend for many, so we expect to see lots of relatives and friends in town, and that will be fun.
Dino returns to Tenaglie, for a specialist is cleaning the terrazzo floor of the master bedroom. For years it has been spotted, and it takes an expert an entire day to renew it. Dino is impressed, as is Angelo, the owner of the little store across the street, by the big machine, which Dino has to help the man move up two flights of stairs.
Sofi and I decide it's time for a short nap, especially since I feel a headache coming on, so after I pop a Difmetre into my mouth we lie down for an hour. I'll meet Dino at 6PM at the church, for he's to wear his Confraternity garb and stand at the altar tonight. I'll sit in our pew with Candida or other friends.
Dino calls to say he's called Mauro to get a replacement for himself at the mass, for the man finishing the floor has more to do. By the time he has finished, the man has also floated a kind of grout over everything to seal the tiles, so that they'll be in excellent shape for years. Va bene.
I walk up to mass by myself, and am home before Dino arrives. We water and work in the garden until dark, and then relax the rest of the evening away.
Sofi howls as fireworks erupt in the valley at 8AM. She's not happy, and stays close to me all morning. We drive to Terni to Castorama to pick up a few sacks of a volcanic stone for the garden. We tested it out and it works miracles to keep weeds away. These round balls of stone somehow let water in and keep weeds out. We'll put it wherever we have plants and no gravel.
We return via Spazio Verde, where we pick up Osmocote, a solution that Tia swears makes her roses fuller and healthier. It's worth a try, although ours look pretty good as they are. We also pick up a medium-sized teucrium and a long stemmed rose plant. None of our roses are of this variety, and I was inspired yesterday at Pietro's as he snipped long stems of a blowsy rose for a tall vase in his living room. Most of our roses have short stems, and I leave them on the plant instead of snipping some for tables inside.
This will be a good change, and we'll plant it on the East wall of our property next to the little side gate above the parcheggio. Now we have an ancient pot with a crack in it, which we'll repair and use as a vessel for this new plant.
On the way home we stop in Bomarzo at the Post Office, but it has closed. We think Dino's camera sits there, for it was sent to the manufacturer to repair a defect. We'll pick it up on Monday.
After pranzo, we walk up to the borgo for the latest event, a marching band from Monterotundo, near Rome. In the midst of the people here to watch them is Maria Elena, here with two girl friends from Norway. So the mention by one of the Norwegians with Pietro a few days ago that they heard a woman speaking in Norwegian, relates to Maria Elena and her friends.
With great hugs we welcome our dear friend back, and invite them to our house to see the new garden and have a prosecco. The music ends in typical Italian fashion...no crescendo, just a stop and then the people put their instruments away and walk to the little ex-scuola for a snack before entering the bus and returning home.
Weather is lovely this afternoon, and we take the girls on a tour of the garden; then sit under the pergola on the front terrace for prosecco. In a tour of our living room, which is now a very busy exhibit room for my paintings, the women look around and one of them picks out two paintings. I tell her to take them back to Maria Elena's to be sure that she wants them. Many of our good friends now own my art, and that's a thrill for us.
Dino takes his Confraternity costume out and bids us a c'e reveddiamo, for I am not sure that we will attend tonight's mass. But after a short while one of the women wants to see the church, so we leave Sofi to guard the house and walk up to church.
Standing in the back by a side altar, we watch the mass. I'm moved by the women of Mugnano. They take their church and their patron saint, very seriously. As they sing the hymn in honor of San Liberato, our guests are visibly moved by the voices of the women, totally unprompted to sing.
I'm quite moved by the mass as well, for the women of Mugnano are so proud of their church, and sure of their faith. Whatever your belief, this is an excellent example of Italian country life; the people are simple and love their God and their land. Without many of the trappings of city life, the beautiful weather, the birds, their ortos, their families and their Church, give them full lives of which they are truly grateful.
After mass we realize we have not ordered our pizzas for tonight's cena, so walk down to the school to do so. We know there will be a long wait, and there is. But in the meantime we stand around and talk with friends, and then our pizzas arrive. They are very good, and we sit on long tables with our Norwegian friends and drink beer and water. Strangely, there is no wine to be purchased.
We walk home under a clear sky to an adoring Sofi, and end the night thinking of tomorrow's mass and procession.
Bang! Firecrackers explode in the valley and Sofi cries. It's 8 A M, and time to wake up.
At 9:30 the Bomarzo band arrives and begins to serenade us while we enjoy a small breakfast on the terrace. How wonderful those memories are of the same sounds during our first visits here so many years ago. Soon afterward we leave Sofi again and walk up to the borgo; first to the laying of the wreath in front of the statue of the war dead, and then the mass.
With Dino at the altar in his Confraternity garb, along with about fifteen others, Tiziano and I stand at the back corner of the church, while scores of people file into the little church. The mass is at 11 A M, but at 11:30 people are still arriving. There is hardly any room to stand, and the side doors are opened at the entry to the church, for many parishioners stand in the little square in front of the church, unable to fit inside.
The weather is warm, and as we walk in two rows, with me standing in the center of the women carrying the banner, I recall the first time I walked with this same banner. There is a cadence to the music; to the walking; and the tuba keeps the beat like an elephant blowing his nose in short spurts. My eyes well up with tears, as I'm again honored by this task. Dino later recalls that I was asked to carry this banner last San Liberato as well.
We're at home doing a little puttering in the garden and then it's time for pranzo. With Pietro and Helga here for a cena of abbacchio brodetato tonight, I spend most of the afternoon cooking. A dish I have not made for years is a kind of a cold pea salad, with tiny frozen peas blanched and cooled, with fresh mint and feta cheese added, along with a kind of a vinaigrette. That will work for part of our pranzo...
When our guests arrive later, we sit around the table on the terrace, and light candles, although the sun has not set. Over the next few hours the darkness descends, and Prosecco and cold asparagus wrapped with prosciutto are followed by the brodetato (pieces of a lamb shoulder, very tender, in a lemony-egg-yolk broth), served with parsley potatoes with a lemon zest and then fresh pineapple with lemon sorbet.
It's almost ten o'clock when they leave for home, after coffee and grappa, and at any minute our fireworks will descend...The fireworks are set off in the property just below Pietro's, and I can't imagine how loud or scary it must be to view them from such a short distance.
"Sofia non trovato!" (We can't find Sofia) Dino calls up to Rosina after the show, and she tells him to look "sotto il letto" (under the bed).
The fireworks company is new this year, for the building and company the village used last year from nearby Civita D'Agliano exploded in a terrible accident, and two couples were killed. I have mixed feelings about fireworks, just as I do about horses in parades. There are some things that just do not make sense in this world...
Tonight, Dino and I watch the fireworks from a bench on our terrace, while Sofi quivers under the bed. In past years I'd hold her I my arms while sitting inside as she shook, but this year I decide to have a look at the show instead. Afterward, Sofi appears from under our bed, wagging her tail and seeming fine. With the Gasperoni's dogs howling away, I can imagine how stressful fireworks are to animals.
Earlier, when the Bomarzo band pranced down Via Mameli, the wild cats that live in the garbage bins raced down the hill away from the noise. I'm sure they were not happy with the disruption to their daily antics.
Now while writing this note, everything around me seems so silent. Earlier, Dino explained that what we were seeing in the midst of the fireworks was partly caused by retinal fatigue. Duly impressed, I ask him to explain. As an ex-film lab exec, he explains that this retinal fatigue is what smoothes out movies, for they are shot in 24-frames per second, and what we are really seeing is a myriad of shots, run together. It would be interesting to know who discovered this bit of trivia, and how they discovered it. I'm sure Bob Kalsey can tell us all.
How is he, anyway? We surely are so out of touch with our old friends. These days, friends consist of local people who don't speak English other than Pietro and sometimes Helga when she is here. I suppose that's why I enjoy the silence of spending most of my time at home painting. I really do enjoy the silence, and we both love the tranquility of this wonderful countryside.
It's as if giant egg whites have been painted across the pale blue sky above us, and it's cool. So I mix a biologic fertilizer and spray the leaves of the pomodori; this week we'll begin to "harden them off", which means take them outside for an hour one day, two the next, and so on.
We'll plant somewhere between three dozen and fifty, and look forward to long, leisurely lunches this summer, featuring these tomatoes, worthy of a painting. Of course, you know I'll paint them.
It's too windy to spray, but if the wind dies down I will return to spraying the roses. So far, there are not insects on any of them.
I am able to spray the roses on the front terrace, but then we have a shower and my work has been for naught. So I put the sprayer in the loggia and return inside. After a quick pranzo, Dino drives me and the painting to Marco's bottega, where I work on it all afternoon.
By the time Dino picks me up, I've painted a first layer of Hildegarde's face and some of her hair. At first I thought it was a good representation of a woman, but not my mother; but by the time Dino arrives I think I'm getting closer. There is nothing easy about capturing the details and especially the expression of one you've known and loved.
Before we leave, I tell Marco that May 29th is the anniversary of my mother's birth, and he tells me that it is his birthday as well. Don't forget JFK! His birthday was the same day. So there are three very complicated personalities born on this day, and I'm confident that I can finish at least the details of my mother's face and hands by that date. I have a great fondness for each of these three...
I leave the painting with Marco, and want to be fresh to work on it next Monday. If things are slow this week I'll do another painting or so; I'm not sure what, but probably a still life (natura morta).
We drive to Viterbo for a few errands and then stop at Pietro's to check on his internet connection. We'll return tomorrow night to say c'e reviddiamo to Helga, who will return to Norway on Wednesday.
Back at home, Maria Elena and Elsie come to the gate to tell me that yes, Elsie has agreed to keep the two paintings, one of a rooster and one of a chick with the Mugnano tower in the background, and they will take them back with them to Norway tomorrow.
If we do get to Norway this summer, we'll surely see them both. Maria Elena will be here for the first of June, and that's not far away. I look forward to spending time with her...soon!
With sun in the sky we wake up to the sounds of birds, while soft breezes flutter the gauze curtains and Sofi hangs her beard over the side of her bed, just waiting....
Dino takes me to my scheduled pedicure, but we are early, so stop at Marina Fa Mercato in Orte to look for an umbrella for our clients. I'm drawn to a blue and white striped hammock, that is so well made and so inexpensive, that Dino agrees to rig it up between the caki tree and the loquat tree in the middle garden. I'm already dreaming of lying there with a book...
He and I measure a metal structure to install in the parcheggio. This one is 4 meters by 3 meters, and I let him twist my arm to buy it after measuring at home. The space is perfect for it, and it almost covers the entire car.
So this space in the summertime won't be as much of an oven as in past years...Sometimes we'd get into the car and the temperature would measure 45 degrees C! Think 110F or more...Dino assures me that the white fabric cover will reflect light and give shade where we most need it.
We're at home for pranzo, after stopping at the geometra to pick up plans and budgets for another client; this tiny property behind San Rocco will be rebuilt as a vacation cottage and it will be fun to supervise.
Friends Diego and Luciana ask us to help them with a letter to be sent to tour operators to help them get more business. Castello Santa Maria is the name of the restored monastery in the countryside outside Orvieto and we're happy to help.
I ask Dino during pranzo on the terrace to cut back the first section of bamboo over the pergola, for the wisteria is growing so fast that we have to keep up with it. By mid-summer we expect to have removed the bamboo mat entirely, speriamo.
He wants to return to Tenaglie to finish the front door lock, but wants to work on the pergola, so while he does that I work on the letter.
What do I like the best about Castello Santa Maria as a place to stay? Well, it is entirely tranquil. The vista from the beautiful pool of the calanques is breathtaking. Diego's attentive service and abundant meals are a given there, and the location is beautiful.
There is a separate building with a major kitchen that can accommodate cooking tours and a couple of separate cottages where people can self-cater if they wish. Within ten minutes of Orvieto, it's a great location.
So take a look: www.castellosmaria.com/ I think it is a great location for a weekly cooking school or a quiet few days of rest during an often-hectic Italy trip.
I'm sitting in our room after pranzo with the windows open, and it's difficult not to want to walk outside to play in the sun. I look over to my left to see little Sofi asleep with one long ear resting over the soft side of her bed and the rest of her lolling against it with her eyes closed until I cough or make a sound. What a dog!
Oh, heck. I'll pick this up later. Let's hang the hammock and give it a test drive!
Another lovely day greets us, but as the morning wears on, clouds develop. With Candace and Frank arriving for pranzo and a look at the new garden, I work in the kitchen and then spend an hour on the roses, mostly on the path with the Lady Hillingdons. These roses bloom all summer, and I'm amazed that when I deadhead each one, I can see evidence of new shoots not more than several inches away on the first succeeding set of leaves, or the next.
Sofi is on the path with me, but I can see her little tongue hang out and she is very hot, so scampers up the stairs where it is cooler. I join her in a few minutes, after spraying the roses, and they will take care of themselves, other than with the daily dose of dripping water from the irrigation system so masterfully designed by Dino.
When Candace and Frank arrive, we test-drive the hammock, referred to as an ammoc in Italian. Frank falls out, Dino plunks down but then steadies himself, and then I easily slide in and show them how to balance themselves. Once I'm there, I just do not want to get up. This little enhancement to our garden is a marvel, and I'll be back in it later this afternoon to try it out with a book.
Pranzo is fun, and we send them home with a big bag of fave beans from the tomato garden. We just don't like them, although Dino managed to eat a few with pecorino before our main course today. When they're small, they are tender and not bad. But I'm not about to work up recipes for them, for those I tried last year came out with the beans tasting like metal. No thank you!
We've been serving fresh pineapple these days and I love it, but always hesitated to buy it because it is such a mess to fix. Now I cut the pineapple with a large sharp knife from the leaves to the core in four equal quadrants, then slice the fruit in an arc and then slice it across, so that each serving has triangular shaped slices sitting up against each other. It's now easy to pick up each piece and eat it with one's hands. I suppose one could eat it with a knife and fork as well, but we're pretty relaxed and don't see the need to use a knife and fork for this. Of course, if you are our guests we'll always serve them anyway.
As Frank and Candace leave, we see Giuseppa walk down our hill, and I ask her if she has the beans in her orto. Si, certo. I'm sure she does not have heirloom tomatoes, so ask her if she'd like a few. She agrees, but I don't think she really wants them.
We'll drop a few by, for if anyone can grow them, she can. Since we love them so, eaten sliced with fresh mozzarella and basilico and Diego's olive oil or any old way, we think she'll like them, too.
Our tomato plants still sit in our guest bedroom window, but these days at least the window is open and fresh air streams in. Beginning tomorrow, we'll take them out for an hour a day and then some. Now summer does not seem that far away.
After our guest leave and we finish cleaning up, we take a short nap, for it is warm and it's time for a dolce fa niente. When we wake up the sky is filled with clouds, but there's work to be done in the garden, so I wonder if that snooze in the hammock will have to wait.
The sky is clear, and for a few days we'll have sun. But next week we're scheduled to have rain for four days! This is certainly not typical spring weather, but I think we'll be able to plant at least the first of our tomatoes by the end of the weekend...
This morning I take them downstairs to the terrace for a brief bit of introduction to the outside air...one hour today, two hours tomorrow, and so on. We'll move them to the living room window for the next week or so.
Now that the weather will be rainy next week, I'm pondering whether it will be too wet to plant them...With the moon inching up on fullness, we see that we're definitely not any match for Mother Nature. Let's see if She wants our tomatoes to survive...
I drive to Il Pallone to do some food shopping, stopping in Bomarzo on the way to visit Felice and Marsiglia. Well, I mostly visit Marsiglia, for Felice is in a perpetual state of fog, the poor man. I don't know if he recognizes me, but he's friendly, and sits on the couch while Marsiglia and I whisper in the kitchen.
Things have not changed, but Marsiglia has her faith, and that's helping her through. Before I leave Marsiglia shows me her beautiful garden, mostly pots all in flower, and many, many roses growing against the wall. This really is a perfect property for them; if only Felice were aware enough for them both to appreciate it.
I drive on to Il Pallone, and do love the drive. The countryside is beautiful, and I take my time on the road between Mugnano and Il Pallone. The famous peony garden is located just meters away from the market, but we never seem to take the time to stop.
April and May are the months for their blooms, and I notice that Marsiglia has peonies, dark purple ones, that are only now coming into bloom.
After Dino returns from a few hours in Tenaglie (yes, the project still lumbers on), we eat pranzo on the terrace and then, because the sky begins to cloud up, I take photos of the terrace and garden. It's been three years since my story ran in the San Francisco Chronicle, so perhaps it's time for a revisit.
So here are some of the latest photos,
There is a chill in the air, but no rain, as Dino drives to Daniele for a quick haircut, then we visit Marina Fa Mercato in Orte to order our parcheggio cover.
We decide against ordering it, but drive to Viterbo to OBI for options, where we find a great alternative at a much lower price. It consists of two pieces of triangular fabric, about 3 meters in each direction, that will be placed over each other to make a kind of rectangle and be bolted into the sides of the tufa columns so that they will pretty much float above the car, letting wind pass through.
There won't be much of a design, so we think it will work very well to keep the heat and sun out of the major part of the parcheggio. I tell Dino that I envision a blank slate; the car is taken out of the parcheggio and we lay the pieces on the ground and determine just where they should sit.
Dino agrees, and he knows the angle at which they should be hung. This is a perfect project for him. So in the next few days it will be soaring above the car, somewhat like San Vincenzo soaring over Mugnano in my painting...
We're visiting Danny and Wendy in Nicone, above Umbertide, for pranzo, and are bringing a big bowl of Macedonia (fresh fruit) for Danny, hoping that his medical ills are subsiding. He's on a special diet, so this should help.
I do want to put the pomodori out for at least two hours, so we'll see...by the time we leave for Umbertide, they have had a sun bath of more than two hours. Va bene.
The drive is long, but we arrive at their property up a steep stradabianca and it is so good to see Danny standing in the garden with a hose in his hand. He looks good, and feels much better. Morghan, one of their daughters, is here, and Wendy puts together a wonderful pranzo to eat on their side terrace under an umbrella.
On the way back we find ourselves trapped in some kind of automobile rally, and the cars in at least this section are all Alfa Romeo's. So we pull off to take a look, and then drive on as if we're one of them. We love our Alfa, and just before arriving home the odometer reads 190,000 km. We hope we can keep it for many years.
It's growing dark when we pull into the parcheggio, and Dino wants to move forward on the project hanging sunscreens over the car. Tomorrow morning we'll hope to install the entire thing. I know Dino will stay awake just dreaming about it...
There are a few clouds in the sky, but it is warm, so we change into summer clothes and work on the parcheggio. By the time we're ready for pranzo, the project is finished...almost.
Here are a few photos of the project, from start to...almost finish. By the time we finish pranzo and Dino finishes watching the Formula 1 trials on TV, he tells me that we need, "...Just one more section". I agree, for the late afternoon sun will reach the part of the car where I sit.
So before we drive to Candace and Frank's to work on their terrace project, Dino wants to drive to Viterbo to pick up the last section.
Although I don't believe in forwarding messages, I forward this to Don Salter, who is a university instructor in England. He responds that he will do what he can to look into the issue and let me know. I am hopeful, for I cannot fathom the real reason for the change.
There are more clouds in the sky mid-afternoon, but we've had such a lovely morning that I really can't complain. Well, I'm going to complain about one of our roses: Fantin Latour. It's leaves look sickly, the blossoms turn brown and fall off, although there is plenty of water. On the internet I read that it takes full sun and can manage with less than perfect soil, so what's wrong? I'm ready to get rid of it, but Dino persuades me to hold on until mid-summer.
In the meantime, three of our newer roses are a joy: one Lavender Lassie and two Chapeau de Napoleon. The Lavender Lassie is healthy and full of beautiful blooms. The Chapeau is so much fun: its three-cornered "hat" is pushed off by the blossom, which opens to show a really lovely flower. I have no idea why we wound up with two of these Peter Beales roses, but have no complaints.
Take a look:
Looks like we'll miss church this week. Tonight we'll be at Candace and Frank's.
We drive to Viterbo to pick up the last section of the parcheggio cover, and then through the countryside to Orvieto. This is another beautiful drive, past Bagnoregio, and the land is lush and oh so green.
Dino and Candace work on the iron rods that form the brace for their awning, and it is difficult to get them plumb. What a strange word...plumb. Before dark, we think all the pieces fit well, but Dino does not have a key tool to install the rod over the outdoor dining table, so he'll have to complete that another time.
We sit outside under candlelight for a light dinner, and then drive home under the moonlight, entering what feels like a garage instead of our usual parcheggio. The new fabric installation is indeed a success.
We're up early, for this morning we'll visit Tiziano's archaeological dig. The sun is out, with lots of thin clouds, for tonight and tomorrow we expect rain. But this morning is a perfect day to visit what Tiziano affectionately refers to as Il Buca Nera (the black hole).
The purpose of this dig is to uncover and do research regarding the brick kilns that were in operation in the Mugnano Valley around the Time of Christ. The last kilns were active during the second century A. D. These kilns were important in Italian history, as they made tiles used to construct the Colosseum and the Pantheon in Rome.
Those tiles can be identified with stamps visible on their walls even today. At the time these structures in Rome were built, the tiles were loaded onto barges on the adjacent Fosso Rio and traveled down the Tiber River to Rome.
Pietro arrives, followed closely by Duccio and Giovanna, and we leave Sofi and walk down to the fountain where we meet Torbjorn, who wants to come along.
Dino checks in with Tiziano, who is waiting for someone from Viterbo, and in a few minutes a caravan of about ten cars drives by. Since we know the way, we get into Duccio and Giovanna's car and follow them to the campo.
We follow the group along, and it is an interesting group, with each person fascinated by the subject as well as the location. There is another part of the tour today, of the pyramid in Bomarzo, but we do not attend, choosing to be dropped of by Duccio, where we spend the rest of the morning enjoying the weather.
We've had a tour of the dig in English, and have visited a couple of times. So we're here to support Tiziano. Perhaps at some future date, there will be a program and fundraiser to help him raise the funds he needs to reopen the dig. The dig is covered over for who knows how long. If you'd like to know more about the dig, or how you can participate in raising funds for its continuance, just email us.
The sun remains, and Dino grills chicken and pineapple and gets ready to sit by the T V to watch his beloved Formula 1 race, this time in Turkey.
With skies clouding up, I do a tour of the garden looking for mites on roses, but all is well. The forecast for the next ten days is terrible, either overcast or rain, so the April and May blush of roses is headed for a dreary end.
Dino installs one last piece of the parcheggio cover, and we are prepared for the hottest sun. But where is it? We end the evening with a visit to Pietro; a visit that turns into cena with a guest from Norway.
There is no rain, but the sky is overcast. It's a perfect day to paint, and I'm looking forward to my latest project. By the time we leave for Marco's there are a few rain showers, but the covers over the parcheggio really do work. We're able to put my latest painting in the car with no fear of it getting wet.
Marco tells me that I have progressed a great deal in the last year, and I agree with him. I still have so much to learn. By the end of the session, I think I have my mother's expression portrayed quite well, but I'll continue to tweak it, and add huge boulders behind her in the background for context.
Earlier in a call from GB, I learn that my latest piece on Barabatta, a local celebration outside Marta, is published today. It's fun to see it "in print", even if it is on the internet, and GB is great to work with. I will have another piece, on the Mille Miglia, published later in the week, for the race is this next weekend.
GB adds an Italian phrase to my submission, "Non importa!" It translates to, "It's nothing"...or, "No matter". I've never seen it written or used quite like this, but then there is so much I do not know. Non importa!
If you are a lover of Italian life, do check out the blog: www.italiannotebook.com . You can have a free daily subscription and why not? One of the contributing writers is...me!
With rain off and on all day, the garden flowers are a little soggy. I'm not able to spray, for the rain washes off the soap and alcohol base, so perhaps tomorrow I will. I did put the tomatoes out for three hours or so this morning, before the rain showers began. They're looking good.
Tonight Pietro and his houseguest arrive for Prosecco, and the guest and I drink iced tea, for he does not drink and I'm nursing the start of a headache. Difmetre to the rescue... It probably has something to do with the weather, although I have been concentrating so intensely on the painting at Marco's that that could have contributed to the stress in my neck.
Dan and Wendy arrive for an early pranzo, after dropping their daughter, Morghan, off at the airport. With Danny still watching what he eats, I fix chicken tonnato, and he can skip most of the sauce. We love this dish, and prepare it often in the summertime.
After a wet walk around the new garden this afternoon, Dan and Wendy drive home. We take Jurgen to Viterbo to walk around San Pellegrino, then up to San Flaviano and the Duomo in Montefiascone and on to Bolsena to the church of the Miracle of Bolsena. There is some drizzle, but it doesn't deter us. These are three of our favorite places to visit in the area.
Don't forget, I remind Dino, that we must renew our Permessos this week. Yes, it has been ten years, and this fall we'll apply for citizenship. But since the office in the Questura is not open in the afternoon, we'll try to visit on Thursday morning. We believe it's best to show up late...around 11:30 or so, after all the numbers have been given out and the rest of the waiting people turned away. We'll let you know...
Yesterday, GB published my second story about the Mille Miglia, and soon we'll also put those stories on our site, in the event you don't wish to subscribe (free) to italiannotebook.com.
I'm enjoying writing the quips, and have a few up my sleeve. But today I'm going to paint the background for the painting I'm currently working on.
First, Dino asks me to go with him to Tenaglie, to do an inventory. That done, we drive to Viterbo, but it's too late to visit the Questura, so we'll do that tomorrow. We stop for a roast chicken at IPERCOOP and drive home, where we eat pranzo on the terrace, to the sound of muratores working at Pia's property across the street. It looks as though she's going to have some kind of storage room built next to her little house. We don't need binoculars to see what is going on in the valley below us...
Dino returns to Tenaglie, where the muratores are doing a really great job paving the walkway with square stones that look like cobblestones. Yes, we are almost done...While he works on a few small projects on the house, I paint the first pass of the background of the painting featuring my mother in Renaissance garb...or is it Medieval?
I am painting mountaintops and hills for the first time, and liking it a lot. By the time Dino returns home around 7 P M, I am bleary-eyed. Tomorrow I won't paint. We'll definitely visit the Questura late in the morning, after he drives Jurgen and Annika and Torbjorn to the train station.
"If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves." -- Thomas Edison
My mind is racing, even though I awake with a headache. I knew yesterday afternoon that my extended and intense concentration on the painting stressed my back and neck. That's all it takes for a headache to follow.
When I look at the painting this morning, although I am excited by it, I don't have the strength to paint today.
Outside, Mario turns over the fave to prepare the soil for irrigation and the planting of the tomatoes. He thinks our plants are puny; we'll show him that every year they succeed just the same. What should we be doing to help them to grow strong? I'm just not sure.
I email the folks at Golden Harvest Organics in Oregon for counsel, but it appears that we'll just have to jump in and hope for the best. Each day this week we've taken the pomodori out to sit on the terrace to acclimate themselves, so except for periods of rain now and then, they're outside for most of the sunlight hours. It will take until next week or at least Sunday, for the irrigation to be put down, and then we'll begin with the largest plants.
I like planting basil between the tomatoes and think it might enhance the flavor, but Dino purchased tubing with 40 cm between holes, so I don't think our previous scheme will work. It also appears we'll be able to plant fewer, for the previous distance between was 30cm. So where will they all go? I'd like to get fifty in the ground, so that means thirty below and twenty above. We still have more than sixty plants, but some of them are very small and probably won't survive the transition. I'm willing to keep them around to see if they'll grow on their own in pots, so we'll see...
We're eating outside these days, and it's what this dream is all about. In previous years, we continued to eat mostly in the kitchen, for it was either too hot or too cold or rainy or...
It helps that the garden looks great. I drop a note to my contact at the San Francisco Chronicle to see if she'd be interested in a story update, but whether she does or not, I'm not concerned. I'm not concerned about much of anything these days.
Earlier in the Questura in Viterbo, we stood in line to renew our Permesso di Sojournos (don't know if that's the correct grammar, but you get the point). We quipped about how very frightened we were ten years ago when first applying. In those days, we'd stand in line at 7 A M and at 9 A M, 50 numbers were chosen, the rest of the applicants told to come back another day. Only after a few renewals did we learn the trick of coming in later in the morning when things calmed down.
But today we are told that the regulations have changed. We are to go to the Post Office and pick up a packet. When we've completed the very complicated form, we are to turn it in to the post office and get a receipt. This afternoon we do some research to see where we can go for help, and there is a Post Office in Orte where we are told we can go.
Since our permits expire this weekend, we're going tomorrow morning, and expect it to take the entire morning, at the very least. I think we have thirty days more to renew, but am not sure. I'm still not concerned.
We must renew our permits before applying for citizenship, and since the registration in our local Comune is in September, we will not be able to apply until then. We can, however, get our documents translated, and we'll travel to Amelia to Eurolinks for that. They're always helpful.
We'll post the journal tonight, so stay tuned for the end of month posting to find out if we're able to ride this camel of a bureaucracy across the desert of misinformation...
While in Viterbo yesterday, we saw a sign above a little shop across from IPERCOOP, "Buongiorno Napoli Pizzeria", and Dino wanted to check it out. It is a little restaurant and pizzeria, but from the outside it looked quite interesting. Dino stepped out of the car just as a worker walked up, and a chef opened the door for them.
They are not open yet, but the chef handed Dino a big piece of freshly-made bread, made with salt (yay!) and rosemarino. It was so delicious that we devoured it in the car on the way home. We'll definitely return...subito!
After writing about how perfectly healthy the roses are, aphids and other critters seemed to descend on almost all of them in just one day. So a major spraying with denatured alcohol and soap and water takes place, but on this overcast morning I'm thinking that there is a war on between the animali (little critters that we know as bugs) and the roses.
I have not slept well, for my headache continued all night, and as a result Dino tells me to stay in bed while he drives to Orte for advice on filling out the forms for our permanent visas.
He returns mid morning to tell me that after some running around he found someone helpful and now is finishing the paperwork to submit it before pranzo. Our anniversary renewal date is this weekend, but the woman who helped him told him not to worry.
I'm not going to paint until Monday, and my mind is racing about the next painting. This will be a major undertaking, for I'm going to create the design instead of using any previously painted models, if I decide to go through with it.
The subject includes my father and his dear friend, Jim Hart, who were responsible for buying a derelict building in the inner city section of Uphams Corner, Boston in 1979. The building is now being restored and refurbished in connection with its new tenant, a charter school.
My father and Jim talked for years about this idea, about creative use of the building and an opportunity for local citizens to improve their lives within its walls. But it has taken a great deal of effort and creative thinking on the part of Jim's son, Charlie, and Linda Webster to make this dream a reality. If all goes according to plan, the school will open next January.
Now that I have painted my mother as a subject in a painting, it is time for my father to have his chance. I have excellent photographs of the building, and perhaps the two main characters will be depicted as angels, sitting on the roof with their feet dangling over the edge, joking and laughing with glee as the students look up to see what is happening above them.
Back in Italy, dreary skies and chirping birds continue, with flocks of rondine circling about. We're not able to connect to our server, and it's probably the grey skies.
We're not able to watch the Edith Piaf movie, for it is in Italian with French subtitles. Well, we could watch it, but 9 P M is not a time to have to concentrate. So when we return to the U S we'll rent it. Non importa.
We're up very early, for drive to Viterbo to find our spot to watch the Mille Miglia before the arrival of their first cars at 8 A M. The group left Rome at 6:30 A M, or that was the time planned, but when they reach Viterbo it's closer to 8:30.
We're at Porta Romana, and just before the first ones arrive we realize that we're at the wrong place. So we move quickly down to San Pellegrino, the medieval quarter, and we've missed the first few cars. But in a few minutes we find the best place to watch, at a corner where the cars must slow down to navigate a turn. Those cars with low bodies don't do well on this ancient pavement, but the drivers and co-drivers are a spirited lot and expect some of this. One car leaves a trail of oil behind it, purtroppo!
Here's a selection of photos to see some of the cars. If you would like to read my story that appeared earlier this week in Italian Notebook, visit our Italian Notebook section of this site. It includes all of the stories I have written for them to date. But for a daily quip about all things Italian, sign up for the free short blurbs and photos at: www.italiannotebook.com
We've seen cars from Argentina and Mexico, Ferraris and Bugattis and lots of Mercedez Benz and Alfas and BMWs. But this year there are less of the really old cars. Is that because we are watching on the last day, and some of the oldest cars have not made it past Rome?
Back at home, we sit under an overcast sky and enjoy pranzo outside, as we do almost every day now. I think Dino is convinced that the sun is high enough in the sky to roll back more of the bamboo covering over the pergola, even though it's the first real year for the wisteria and it's not completely covering the edge. In years to come we'll laugh about wanting it to grow faster.
Today is the day to prepare the soil for the tomatoes, and Dino and I do it alone, although the other day Mario turned over all the fave to enrich the soil. I'm somewhat nostalgic, remembering those years when Felice joined us, mentoring us all the way. Here's a photo of him looking proudly at our first attempt what seems so many years ago.
I'd love to have Felice see what we have done, but sadly he would not understand. So we'll think of him with love and be proud that we are able to master the laying of the irrigation and laying and tying of the bamboo supports all by ourselves. Dino does a masterful job; I'm just his "step'nfetchit".
"How about pizza tonight?" Dino asks me while we're finishing with the last ties. Sounds good to me. We have enough space to plant 33 tomatoes and 6 basil plants in the lower area. We have not begun to tackle the upper area, where we could possibly fit another two dozen.
The plants are still not growing; perhaps they need to be in the ground. But this overcast and off and on rainy weather is not good for them. So I don't know what we'll do. We'll think about it tomorrow, and possibly plant a small number of the largest plants and some of the basil tomorrow.
With showers, rain and thunderstorms for the next three days, and little sun in the long term forecast, I don't think we should plant tomatoes until later in the week. Perhaps we'll begin with the basil, and see how that does. In the meantime, the irrigation system works fine, dolling out its drops in each spot where a plant is to grow. Here are a few hints I've uncovered from the internet that we're going to follow, from two different but comparable sites: "Planting your tomato plants deeply will give them a head start on growing a strong root system. Bury them in the ground two thirds of the way down or to where the stem begins to thin out. They will send out roots from the stem and begin their top growth more quickly as well as anchor them in to the soil. More roots mean they can feed themselves faster." "Tomatoes have the unique ability to grow roots along their stem, so as much of the stem of the plant can be buried as possible, leaving the top two sets of leaves exposed above the ground. This may seem strange at first, but the plants will grow to be much sturdier than they would otherwise." So we're not as worried about the fact that some of our tomatoes look puny.
Dino stops watering the tender plants as it's begun to rain! Aaagggghhhh! We've never had so much bad weather in the Spring. Let's not dwell on it, let's just plant those tomatoes lower in the ground next week and let them take care of themselves...
We wake up to rain and wind, so drive to church. The storm continues with our priest, Don Bruno, whose voice is raised at such a decibel that the old church seems to rumble. His voice is so loud that it is impossible to understand him, and it angers me.
I think of our dear friend, Don Francis, and of how the hierarchy of the Church is so very strict, and will accept nothing other than its one very narrow path to follow. Is God so rigid in His instructions to His Church that there is no room for love and understanding unless the followers are rigid in their beliefs?
With people continuing to leave the Church in droves, what is wrong with this pope? His chosen path is so narrow that only the most devout, and those with blinders on, can be true to the Church. In little villages and towns all over the world, I would hope that priests would be more loving, more understanding, of human frailty. Perhaps I am just na•ve.
During the mass, the wind is so fierce that I am wondering if the bamboo supports for our tomatoes have flown down into the valley. But at home all is calm, if not wet. Even the tarps over the car are fine, dripping as they are supposed to do. Remember they are for the sun, and only secondarily for the rain.
We'll have a fire in the fireplace today. How strange, in the middle of May! It's a day to watch T V, if the satellite connection behaves, and a day to work on ironing and moving summer clothes. Dino wants to plant basil and a couple of tomato plants that we purchased a few weeks ago.
Well, the sun comes out and for the rest of the day we have warm temperatures and cloudy skies. Forget the fire in the fireplace; we're going to plant the tomatoes!
Dino begins with the dozen basil plants, and although we'll need more, they are spaced after every two tomato plants. We plant basil with the tomatoes because it is supposed to enhance the tastes of the tomatoes. And beside, I love basil in the summer time, and there is never enough. Now I can pick a whole bunch for a meal of buffala mozzarella, basil and tomatoes, with Diego's olive oil. I can make a meal of that, so with a chicken breast or something else that is simple, we'll be ready for summer eating at its best...from the garden.
We wind up planting 33 tomatoes, 11 in each of three rows in the lower garden. We talk about the upper garden, for we have about twenty or twenty-five more, and we'll plant them in two rows, with a kind of teepee of bamboo supporting them. Here we'll have a couple of basil plants on the side, as the space is strangely laid out. That project will have to wait a few days, although there is a full moon tonight.
Dino folds back another section of bamboo over the pergola, for the sun is high in the sky, and we'll train the wisteria up and across to fill in the front sections. It's really doing well.
The next project is the front door "screen", and we finish it before dark. I don't really like it, but we don't seem to be able to find anything better to keep mosquitoes and flies outside. A screen door won't work, for Sofi needs to be able to come and go. So we're trying our second set of strings that have wooden beads at the bottom.
But since the structure is tall, we have to move up each bead, make a knot and burn the bottom below the bead to reach the correct length. There are 218 of them, Dino asked me to count them, and now we can open both doors when we are at home. I wish there were other options, but this makes Dino happy, and sometimes relationships are all about compromise.
Earlier I walked the tomato "patch" and everything seems to be doing fine. Even the tiniest plants seem to have taken to their new surroundings. We've put root innoculant in the hole beneath each plant, and special organic fertilizer beneath each plant and over the top once it is positioned in the ground.
We're hoping for overcast skies for the next few days and no thunderstorms, to help the tomatoes to acclimate. Perhaps on Wednesday we'll set up the upper planting garden and plant the rest of the tomatoes there.
It's been a good day, with no rain after this morning's dousing, so we go to bed hoping for mild weather and no storms for the next week or so.
Ugly weather continues, and we keep the remaining tomato plants inside. There is a shower in the morning and overcast skies all day.
Dino travels to Tenaglie, and the only work left to complete is the gravel for the back yard and the mattone (paving) installation inside the studio. Tomorrow afternoon, Mari will clean and we'll do a check to make sure the inventory is up to date and everything is in place for the renters who arrive this weekend.
Dino drives me to Marco's with the painting, and I change the background, finishing only a part of it during my studio time, which is about 4 1/2 hours. I'm now studying rock formations, especially on steep cliffs, and Marco wants me to finish the cliffs and deep gully while the paint is still wet.
The painting will be finished by May 29, which will have been 95 years to the day of my mother's birth. So I plan to work a lot on it this week.
While I'm painting at Marco's, Dino drives to Viterbo and we are given health cards for another six months, at no charge. We need the official permessos to obtain the annual certificate, and Dino wants to wait until just before the 6 months are up to return. He brings copies of our certificates to our good doctor's office in Viterbo, then picks me up.
Back at home, Dino takes a walk to look at the tiny tomato plants, and reports that all is well. If we don't have excessive sun or thunderstorms in the next couple of weeks, I think the plants will do well. It will be Thursday or so until we are able to do the work on the upper tomato planting area, and with bad weather on the horizon, don't know if we should move ahead with planting these last plants now, or wait a few weeks.
We turn in early, for tomorrow will be a long and busy day.
At about midnight we have a thunderstorm, with rain lasting for most of the night. I want to get up and turn off the irrigation system, thinking the tomatoes have had too much water, but Dino tells me not to worry.
He's up early to meet the electricians at Tenaglie, and first walks out to check on the tomatoes, reporting that they all seem fine. With all the rain I am surprised, but perhaps planting them deeply as we did saved them. If we have some clear weather I'm hoping they will establish good roots and be healthy. But it's not up to us now...
I must paint this morning, but doubt some of the work done yesterday at Marco's. The tone of the painting has changed, but I think once the painting of the rocks has dried I can put another layer on them to take out some of the definition.
We've invited to Nanda's in Rome for pranzo, so drive down in the rain. I've been thinking about finding a bookstore near the Trevi fountain that has art books at great prices. Marco has shown us a few, and I'm looking for inspiration for my current as well as the next painting. Marco makes a big deal about not inventing a subject. If I'm to continue working at his bottega, I must follow him...at least listen to him.
In my mind, I'm intent on repainting the areas he's directed me on that are of the landscape; I want trees and he's encouraged rocks. Our view toward the valley is of trees and trees and more trees, and I'll work on them this week at home.
We don't have enough time to find the store before pranzo, so drive instead to Testaccio, a neighborhood of Rome near the ghetto. It's pouring rain as we find a parking spot that we think is just around the corner. Regardless, we cannot find her address. Dino calls her on the cell phone and she's looking out the window.
"Turn around and look up!" she tells him, and there she is, leaning out her bedroom window that is four flights up. Sofi has been in our arms all this time, and is happy to be back on the ground and scurrying around the beautiful wood floors of Nanda's flat. It's charming.
Over pranzo, we talk and talk and talk some more. Dino takes Sofi out for a walk and by now we've polished off a bottle of red wine, drunk a glass before of white, and now dip into another bottle. I comment to Nanda that it's only when a host offers to open up another bottle of wine that the guest knows they are truly welcome.
We leave with big hugs and descend into more rain. With our Rome map book and Dino's great navigating sense, we find the bookstore, and he parks down the street and waits with Sofi while I walk inside. Purtroppo, there are no bargains of art books that are helpful to me, but I've been in the shop a long time. So when I return to the car, Dino and Sofi let me know that they have truly been worried. I promise to keep my cell phone with me, even when we are together.
We drive home to find Mugnano in the same condition as Rome. Rain, rain, rain...will we need to begin building the ark?
Rain continued all night, and each time I woke up I could hear the patter of it. Early in the morning I hear the birds, so think that perhaps the rain has stopped.
Dino checks on the tomatoes before returning to Tenaglie and tells me that they are all alert and healthy. It's a miracle. The forecast is for continued rain, and the extended forecast is for more of the same, but there are no thunderstorms in the picture, so perhaps the next week we will see the rainbow.
I'm going to paint today and tomorrow. Think green leaves and hill after hill of trees against a mountain background. I have an idea of how to do this, and we'll see if it works. I recall the counsel of Patricia Smith to experiment and to work and work and rework ideas in layer after layer. So let's begin!
Sofi snores in her little bed, not interested in even coming downstairs. Va bene. The rain has picked up, and in an hour or so I'll begin a pasta and cece soup, but for now let's paint.
Dino's gone, and we have no cece, so instead I make a pasta and bean soup with some tomato sauce and borlotti beans and tiny pastas in the shape of shells. It's so good that I'm not sorry we did not have cece. Cece are garbanzo beans, in case you wondered.
Dino wants me to drive with him to Tenaglie to do an inventory and look at the latest changes, so we all drive over the hill and the pavement on the walkway looks really good, the pavers similar to those ancient cobblestones, and in this case they'll be laid with a cover of sabbia (sand) to keep them in place.
Mari is here to clean, and we're in her way, so leave to do some shopping and agree to return another day. A few pesky details remain.
So has there ever been a more conscientious project manager on a restoration than Dino? I doubt it. It's as if the property is his, he is so meticulous with the smallest detail. The client does not read the journal and will probably never know, and that's all right with us.
It's clear this morning, but the forecast is for rain, and although we drive to Viterbo to do errands and there are clouds in the sky, can't believe it will actually rain...but it does. There's that rainbow, but the shower continues.
Dino measures for the tomatoes in the upper garden, and lays the irrigation. There is room for about two dozen plants, and that's about what we have left to plant. I am comfortable planting these little plants now, for we plant them deep in the ground and the ones we planted several days ago are healthy and we think thriving. There's not a droop among them, although we've had rain and rain and more rain.
The roses are a mess, drooping and dropping leaves right and left, but after some pruning on the terrace decide I'll let them go until the rain stops. I try to look up the local forecast but cannot use the internet. Dino speaks with ARIADSL and they agree that we need a dedicated line to send out emails, so that's what we'll do.
Bit by bit, we find ways to navigate the difficulties of this sometimes third-world country. And now Dino tells me that our Prime Minister, Berlusconi, has decreed that ICI tax is no longer to be charged on a person's first property.
Our ICI tax is €7 a year...but many people have large ICI bills. Ours is predicated by the purchase price of our house and its value, which strangely has not changed in the eleven years we have owned it. Va bene!
Berlusconi also decided yesterday that his first cabinet meeting would be held in Naples, determined to rid the city of its garbage mess. He's made sure there is a lot of publicity about his action, but will he be able to change the way garbage is treated in Naples?
There is a processing plant being built nearby that we hear has mafia connections, and its completion date is uncertain. Berlusconi commits that it will be completed this year. Berlusconi vs the mafia? That's an interesting battle of wills.
A nearby geometra trusts Dino, so gives him the name of a woman in Florence who wants to sell a property in Soriano. We have a client in Rome who is looking for a weekend place, and the price seems great. So Dino calls the woman and we hope to see it soon.
I've spent a couple of hours on the painting, but must be having a bad day. I can't fathom the rocks that Marco tells me belong hanging below the cliff, and later just paint them out. Painting from top to bottom after the main figure has been completed, I'm happy with the sky, happy with the distant background, and it's the foreground that I have to wrestle with. I enjoy the challenge, but have to put things away, for we have guests coming for pranzo tomorrow and I have cooking to do.
Outside, after the rain stops, Dino lays irrigation for the tomatoes in the upper garden. We hope to plant these last of the tomatoes (about 24 of them) tomorrow, in the late afternoon, after our pranzo here with guests Frank and Penny and Bob from Orvieto.
There is fog all morning and some wind, so we decide we'll eat pranzo inside. Dino weeds outside while I continue to cook. By the time our guests arrive at 12:30 we're ready for them.
Penny and Bob Weiss are spending their annual month in Orvieto, and arrive with Frank for pranzo. The more time goes by, the more unreal life in the United States becomes. We hear about local news, but it is as if we left there decades ago. But it is really great to see them again.
We're missing Candace, but she's on a cruise with her mother and sister. In her absence, Frank has been invited to festas all over town, and the people are gossiping about them. He's given them something to gab about, for Frank is not one to decline a fun invitation.
After our guests leave, Dino wants to plant the rest of the tomatoes, so we plant two dozen more in two rows up above the former lavender garden. These will be staked teepee style and there is plenty of room for plants of basil on the edges. They're all planted deeply, with root innoculant and biologic fertilizer to help adapt them to their new homes. This year, we have 57 plants, probably the most ever.
With another day of bad weather, we're no longer worried about the tomatoes. For the next couple of weeks they'll be starting new root systems in the ground, and it will not be until the second week of June that we will begin to worry if they are not creeping up toward the sky.
Corpus Domini is tomorrow, and we've decided not to have an altar in our parcheggio. That way, I'll be able to be included in the whole procession, which I enjoy quite a bit. We'll have photos...
Frank wants us to come to Orvieto, for Corpus Domini is a big deal in Orvieto. On the first Corpus Domini in 1253, the Pope happened to be living in Orvieto and the miracle for which the day has its name took place in nearby Bolsena. Orvieto took the credit for it, some say. Regardless, Orvietans make a big deal out of it, and I recall there are two separate processions...one of the women and one of the men, on two different days.
This weekend is also the weekend of the Formula 1 Monte Carlo race, so today at 2PM for an hour and tomorrow at 2PM for a couple of hours, Dino will be glued to the T V. That's fine with me; I'm finessing the background of my latest painting and want to be clear about what I want to do before Monday.
Antonio is on the street early, cutting the trees on the path that hang over the road. He's mindful of the Corpus Domini procession tomorrow, and a few minutes later walks up onto the path with his cutters to cut more down from above. I think when he's through that we'll have stubs, but we're not concerned. There are dozens of wild red poppies flanking the bank, as there are in fields all over Italy at this time of year.
The Universita Agraria owns the bank, and strangely the Comune of Bomarzo owns the path on the bank. Since it was considered a street before, Via Piana I think, the Comune is responsible for its maintenance, but do nothing. That is why the earth has sunk, and that is why a section of our 800-year-old wall has fallen onto it.
We have saved the giant rocks, making a temporary sculpture in our far property with them, but wait and wait and wait some more for the path to be rebuilt and our wall to be rebuilt. The sindaco (mayor) agrees that it is their responsibility, but tells us there is no money to fix it.
We are hoping that Oystein will be able to force them to fix it, for the path is the only way to get to his property, and by law we would imagine that the Comune must give him access. We'll see how that drama unfolds, as we begin managing the restoration project for him of his little house.
Sun tries to break through the fog, and I think it will. But by then Sofi and I will be in Tenaglie, helping to ready the place for its first renters, who arrive this afternoon. It's like getting ready for a wedding, with a lot of last minute fussing. I offer to rake what Kate calls the rose garden, for the grass has been cut, and the muratores are to finish the layer of sand on top of the cobblestone path.
There is sun in Tenaglie, which is a frazione of Montecchio, and Dino and I rake and clear the brush and weeds. One day this will be a lovely garden, but now it's full of crabgrass and not very nice under foot.
The roses are another matter. Each of the six or seven bushes is in great flower, and Dino asks me to remind him to bring some glass jars so that the renters can have roses inside as well as out. We bring out a wooden table and chairs for them, and will return this afternoon to greet them and show them around the apartment they have rented.
Sofi and I drive home, and I think she is finally getting used to me driving the car. There are plenty of clouds but there is plenty of sun, and some wind. I'm hoping we'll have some good weather for a change.
Today is the day of the trials for the Monaco Formula 1 race, so we'll eat by the T V while Dino gets his fix. He really loves this sport.
After pranzo eaten outside in our new favorite dining room on the terrace, we prepare to return to Tenaglie, when the renter calls, lost, in Aquapendente. So we tell them to drive to the A-1 and follow signs from Orvieto to Rome and take the next exit, Attigliano, and we'll lead them from there, which we do.
Once inside the front gate I ask the woman, "Which color roses do you prefer, pink or yellow or red?" When she tells me red, I take our cutters (do you know that Tenaglie means cutters or forbice in English?) and snip five beauties, then put them in a glass jar of water for them while Dino continues to show them around.
They thank us and we leave, returning home to a quiet evening and a beautiful sky. Now all that is left to complete is the installation of the back yard gravel pad and repair the side fence, which we'll do after the renters leave, presenting a finished property to the clients, who arrive a few weeks later.
On this Corpus Domini we have hazy sun overhead, and I'm looking forward to enjoying the ceremony in our little village. Dino readies his Confraternity costume and we walk up to the village. This is the earliest Corpus Domini in seventy-five years.
The idea of it is quasi-pagan, for it takes place 9 weeks after Easter. When is Easter, you ask? Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox. There. I thought you'd want to know...
It's memorial day in the United States, but just another day here in Italy. I could not sleep last night and filled my fantasies with the new world order...China and Russia taking over much of the power, with India not far behind.
With a kinder and gentler Premier in China, and Russia looking seriously at democracy, I fantasize other countries than the U S taking up the slack and making the world more a place where people can peacefully coexist. What if we did not take the lead, and our former "enemies" became our overseers, gently balancing the world so that we could all live in harmony?
Crazy, you say? Well, I know it's crazy, but dreams do come true. If you know me well, you will know that I am a dreamer, and for me...all of my dreams have come true...well, almost all of them. The ones which have not come true are not really that important after all.
This morning I water and spray the roses on the path and the front terrace. They need work, for with all the rain we've a lot of bugs. But with sun ahead we think we'll have some beautiful roses, and I intend to take care of them.
I spend several hours at Marco's today on my mother's painting, and will put it on the site on the 95th anniversary of her birth...May 29th. It does not seem possible that she would have been 95.
We stop at Pietro's on the way home for a visit, and Maria, the neighbor from Sardinia, is there in the garden giving Pietro advice. She brings our attention to a kind of cactus plant that blooms every one hundred years. It is blooming now, cascading ivory orchid-like plants, and is really lovely.
Has it never bloomed before? It seems improbable that a plant would only bloom once in one hundred years. On the same plant is a stalk that looks like the remnant of cascading flowers. So perhaps she's pulling our leg.
After she leaves we sit on the terrace with Pietro and drink an Orvieto Classico while listening about his trip to Scotland. I have Scottish heritage, my grandmother was a MacFarlane, so Dino thinks we should research the family plaid. Va bene.
Back at home we muse about how humid the day has been, and settle in for a quiet evening. I am soon to find out that Orvieto Classico does not agree with me and during the night it's time for a difmetre to shake off the imminent onset of another migraine.
The sky is a silvery-white, and we're sure we'll have our first hot day of the season. Shortly before 9 A M the sound of earth-moving equipment drones on below Shelly's house. Someone has purchased the property just under the power lines below them, and we think it may have important Roman remains, as there are grottos on the land.
Perhaps we'll take a walk there today to see if we can meet the new owners. Years ago, friends were interested in the property, but not interested enough to plunk down their euros. Except for the power lines, it is a wonderful property. We'll let you know...
While the sun beats down, Sofi and I move around the property, feeding the roses. I'm using Osmocote now, with Tia's recommendation, but mostly use the local food for roses and other flowering plants. By 10:30 I've covered all but seven of the roses, and will handle them later.
The grass is high, so we keep the gate locked to the far property, and hope that Mario will come this week to cut. With all the rain, everything including the weeds is growing wildly. Dino tells me Mario will be here tomorrow at dawn to cut.
There is a breeze, and this afternoon we look seriously at the wisteria, with the thought that we'll do some pruning of the side shoots. All the internet advice tells us to keep one main branch, and cut side shoots.
I'm looking for an old photo, and spend a couple of hours going through all our printed photos. This is one of those rainy day projects, one that I've picked the hottest day of the year to conquer. The photo is not found, but we're well on the way to having every printed photo organized in boxes. That's one project we won't have to keep thinking about...
This afternoon we drive outside Vallerano to look at a property. It consists of about three hectares of land with a little house. The house is not worth much of anything, but the land with hundreds of vines, more than two hundred nocciole (hazelnut) trees and the most beautiful old oak trees in a bosco have me dreaming.
We decide not to list the property on our site, and I am sad. The man clearly needs to sell, and we have no one who would spend the money he tells us he wants for the whole thing.
What would it be worth to someone who would probably clear much of the bosco (woods), demolish the house and start again? €200.000? He wants much more than that, and although he needs the money and we'd like to help him, we decide to decline.
The egg yolk sun drops down on the horizon as we drive home, mostly silent. We love putting people together, love turning some of these lovely country sides into places of charm, but this space is not to be.
We drive up the lower road to Mugnano and I tell Dino that I am probably sad because I came across some of my father's letters to me this afternoon. He wrote so brilliantly, and with so little thought about what he was writing, but his words were jewels. How about...
"...use the check for some gossamer item, without any especial intrinsic worth, just something for a joyous moment."
I am transported back to the 30's and 40's as I read them, and his words were the stuff of love songs sung by Cole Porter. How could a man who called his daughter "Lovely" be anything but "swell"? Oh, Dad, forget the painting about the Charter School. I'll do one about YOU!
Now that Hildegarde's painting is just about finished, it's his turn. I'll probably see him sitting around the temple as Jesus comes upon all the learned men, and he would have such profound things to say...Yup. That's me, the dreamer...Sweet dreams, Dad.
It's overcast but quite warm, and probably we'll have rain. But it will hold off until tomorrow, and Mario arrives at dawn to weed-whack. We asked him to come last week, but this is Italian time...
He tells us we've waited too long to cut the grass and in the midst of it all tells us his "wacker" is "rotto" (broken). As we stand there with him looking over the old contraption as if we're at its funeral, he tries to pull the starter string a few times and then his face turns red. It springs back to life and he returns to finish his work. Another emergency averted.
We've waited to have breakfast until he's finished, and then sit on the terrace with our espressos and cereal. We take time this morning, and it is not like us.
I muse that this is what life is all about. This year we'll begin to sit around and do nothing, Italian style. But this moment soon ends, for he's going to use a strong insecticide to kill the crabgrass on the front path by spraying it. I hate the idea of it, but also don't fancy the idea of crabgrass taking over the world...
When he's through, we work on the wisteria. We have four plants, and except for the far one that was clipped off by accident a few weeks ago, they are all working feverishly to push out new shoots. We see new growth every single day! The shorter one is doing its best, and I think will catch up in time.
After studying the internet, we're selectively lopping off branches on the way up, then guiding the leaders in the direction in which we want them to grow. And now there is a debate about what is clockwise; what is counter-clockwise. We read somewhere that our wisteria is to wind clockwise, but Dino thinks we are guiding it in the opposite direction. I show him the growth pattern on one, and make a circle with my hand to emulate the hands of a clock. Dino must have his way. He responds, "I am standing over a clock. I see it moving in the other direction."
We end by letting the wisteria grow whatever direction it wants, but decide to guide it in the direction we want it to go. With a little help from little green-coated wires, we're giving it a little help.
I then cut back side branches here and there to thin the plant out, cutting back to the bud, as I read that the bud is where next year's growth and flowers will come. It is still so confusing. Sarah, where are you when we need you?
Dino wants to continue picking up the old tiles and rocks from the house, as the client does not want them around, so leaves to pick up another load, while not disturbing the renters.
I'm hungry for something exotic, but we won't go out together until this afternoon to shop, so instead find a way to make ricotta out of fresh whole milk while Dino's on his errand. We have some wonderful bread to toast to serve with it, so let's see what I can do by heating the milk, adding some lemon and standing by with cheesecloth and a strainer.
It's terrific! I open a jar of Mostardo di Cremona, and take tiny slices of toasted bread, spread on the ricotta and spoon on a little mostarda. What could be better?
I'll finesse a recipe and put it on the site, but basically I put the partial container of whole milk in a pot, heat it up slowly and while it heats squirt the juice of a good-sized piece of lemon on top. I stir it and watch it bubble and separate. Remember the old "curds and whey" of your nursery school rhymes? Well, it is like that, only better.
After about fifteen minutes I take it off the stove, let it sit a few minutes while I chase around to find something that resembles cheesecloth and put that in a strainer in the sink. I pour the entire amount on top of the cheesecloth that sits on top of the strainer, and watch as the liquid pours out and the rest remains.
I am so excited that I've opened a treasured bottle of Mostarda di Cremona and taste the ricotta with a tiny spoon of mostarda on top. It is so good I slice some great bread in small pieces, toast it, and use it as a base. I can't wait for Dino to arrive home to try it.
It's a marvel, and one that will simply boggle your guests' minds as you give them a glass of wine in the kitchen and plop a container of milk in a pot while you talk, stirring away. No matter what dishes follow, you'll be remembered for being such a magician!
So what's with the ricotta anyway? We know that ricotta cheese is widely used in Italian cooking in everything from appetizers to desserts. It is a very soft, low-fat cheese that is actually a by-product of cheese making. Made from the whey that has been separated from the curd in the process of making cheese, it's actually not a cheese but a dairy product.
The word "ricotta" translates as "re-cooked". Originally made in Rome by a cook who discovered that the whey could be reheated, then strained, thereby getting it's name. One can use any type of milk to make ricotta, but in southern Italy either sheep's milk or goat milk is most widely used.
For you, and for me, let's use what is readily available to us, which is whole cow's milk. Don't use nonfat milk, or the result will taste like rubber.
Today continues on its warm streak, and on a trip to a nearby market in the afternoon, the temperature is above 30 degrees (think the 90's if you're in the U S). It's cool in the car, and Sofi stays at home, for a warm day is no time for a dog to sit around in a car.
Pietro is expected at 6PM and brings ice cream; we fix a pot of artisan ravioli that was purchased this afternoon and serve it with sage and butter and grated cheese. Let's not make a big deal out of the meal...the more relaxed and simple, the better...
On this, the 95th anniversary of my dear mother's birth, I present Hildegarde...
With no information regarding the school, I've decided to paint my father as one of the learned men in the temple at the time of Christ instead. I'll begin research this week, but am still not sure of my mother's expression in her painting. It looks like her as a young woman, but needs more drama in her face, more power. I'll see what Marco thinks I can do with her expression next Tuesday.
There was a rollicking thunderstorm last night, and this morning the air is heavy with humidity. There are different sounds from the birds, and the scene feels tropical. Is it possible that birds chirp differently during rain? I just heard one, seemingly shaking his head to get rid of the drops settling there. They chirp at a lower decibel today. It's as if there's a cover over them, the sound filtering through. How little we know about these little creatures!
Dino is in Viterbo, taking an old bicycle and a few other things to the used furniture shop. He's in Pandina, the car that carries the loads and does the heavy work when it's needed. It's 22 years young, and will probably last our lifetimes. Speriamo.
Last night Pietro talked about the fiords of Norway, and the fishing. Norwegians have a love/hate, mostly the latter, of Swedes, and we're told that Swedes have poisoned all the rivers and streams of Norway and there is no salmon to be found.
They used some kind of aluminum-based bait to catch their fish, and it has poisoned the water, killing the fish. With little fish in Sweden, they've gone to Norway and now for the next five years there will be no fish!
It's so interesting to learn about the different cultures in Europe and how the world is affecting them. Europeans care about the different cultures, and I wonder if Americans feel the same. It's as if we've bought stock in America at its peak and now are watching our investment plummet as its place on the world's stage does the same.
Tiziano comes for a meeting, and we've begun to chart his dream for restoration of his dig and fund raising for it as well as San Rocco. I agree to take on part of the San Rocco project, and he agrees to write up his dream, which will include several projects. He's a wonderful and talented young man, and we could not have a better expert on our village and its environs.
Today, Italian Notebook is publishing my story about Corpus Domini. In the event you don't subscribe, there's a new section on our site called Italian Notebook. So each time a story of mine is posted, you'll be able to see it on our site. I understand that some of you don't want to receive a quip every weekday about Italian life. So those of you who aren't already overwhelmed by the volume of my writing can see my quips.
The sky is overcast, and we expect a little rain, but hear from the tenants that they are leaving a day early to catch a plane early tomorrow. So we drive over to do an inventory and throw out any perishables.
What a nice surprise! The visitors were immaculate, and even left a few things, including three beautiful wine glasses. We forgot that people often leave books and other things. In this case there are spices and other things that the next visitors can use. What nice people!
We notice that the two cherry trees have fruit, and I tell Dino that we/he must pick them...today or the birds will finish them all off. Tomorrow I'll make cherry jam for the clients and also the two brothers who sold them the property. Dino eats one and it's not really sour, but not really sweet. It will make great jam. The canning season has begun!
We stop at Gianpiero's house to say hello, and they've just arrived from Rome for a week. His legs are not good at all, and after a hospital stay in Rome is told that there is no cure. He's such a kind man, that we are sad for him and for his sweet wife, who greets us and gives us some Crodino, a red colored soft drink.
There is a three-casa project, probably connected, that will be developed by a man Dino met a few weeks ago. It is to be built in characteristic style with old stones on the surface, so we all muse that perhaps it won't be ugly to look at. Speriamo.
We drive home and take in the laundry before it rains. And after pranzo Dino drives me to Daniele's house, where he is to do my hair. He no longer has his salon, and since Nick cannot take me for another week and a half, I'm going back to Daniele. Now, Daniele has never done my hair the way Lena did it in Mill Valley, although he has the recipe. So today we are about to find out if he's willing to do it "my way".
While I'm at Daniele's, Dino will pick the cherries. We also talk about the bamboo stakes that we need to finish the tomato ortos, but none of them are high enough to require staking, so even though Monday is a holiday, we can wait until next week to finish. Remember, it's all about the journey...
Dino picks me up with a barrel of cherries, and tomorrow morning will pick more, while I stay at home and pit what we have. Pitting cherries by hand, even with our "pitter" takes lots of time and it's a sticky job, but the jam is tasty and it's worth the effort.
I'm thinking I'll return to Daniele permanently. He does a good job on my hair and his rate is much less than Nick's, whose process is much more complicated. I'm a simple countrywoman these days, so simple is good. Thanks anyway, Nick.
We stop at Pietro's and he's reading a book on his terrace. On the way we run into Enzo and tell him that Pietro needs his counsel on how/when to cut the grape vines on his terrace. He wants to thin them out and does not know if he can at this time of year.
Enzo arrives about an hour later with Rosita, and tells Pietro he'll arrive tomorrow morning with a pump container of rame sulfato (copper sulfate) to take care of the malatia that is beginning to damage the leaves.
While they're there, we tell them about the property visit yesterday, and they laugh at the proposed price of the land. Enzo thinks that one hectare of land including grapes and nocciole (hazelnuts) is probably not worth more than €80000 at most. So the price of €500000 for three hectares is ridiculous and he understands that we don't want to list it on our site or to deal with it.
As we've driven around today, we've seen plenty of abandoned casales in the countryside, although more and more, they're fronted by real estate signs. Are Italian realtors trustworthy? Yes and no. If you choose to work with them, just be careful and don't take their word for important details. Get the details you are concerned about in writing.
We remember that when we considered buying our property, we were worried about the septic tank and asked the man at Technocasa if it was fit to use.
"Si!" he responded, "She seats twelve!" He meant that it was engineered for twelve, and indeed it was. However, the former owners never installed it, using the permit to have the bathroom put in with no septic system (leech lines). It took us years and lots of money and machinations to solve the challenge.
Now we have both a septic system and are connected to the village's water. Would we have still purchased the property if we knew? Yes, but we would have dealt with the issue right away.
I'm getting ready for bed and hear the sound of a gun going off in the valley. It's dark outside, so I have no idea why the gun was fired. We'll perhaps never know, but the sound of gunfire is very unusual where we live, even if there are hunters around. There is no need to fire a gun at 10:30 at night, not matter what.
On this final day of the month, Dino drives to Tenaglie to pick the rest of the cherries, while Sofi and I stay at home and I pit cherries in the kitchen sink.
Dino returns home with another bucket of cherries, and I'm so tired from pitting the ones we already have. By the time we are through, with Dino stepping in to do some of the work, we have 8 kilos of pitted cherries and have spent more than six hours pitting them. That's a lot of work and a lot of jam.
We take a break before cooking them up, for Dino left his back brace in Tenaglie, and we get in the car to pick it up. But it's just 6 P M; the church bells ring and ring and ring and Dino sees Don Luca drive up the hill on his motorcycle. Has someone died? I think it's a strange time for a funeral.
We quickly change clothes and Sofi stays in the house while we drive up the street. There are no death notices on the notice board, and we see Giovanna and Franco walking toward us, so we ask them who died.
They both smile and tell us that no one has died. It's a 25th wedding anniversary celebration and mass in honor of Alberto Cozzi and his wife. No wonder there are folks all about, dressed casually and driving their tractors and sitting around gabbing. Not many of us were invited, but that's fine with us.
We're so relieved that no one has died. Giovanna reminds us that deaths are announced by church bells sounding in a different and slower cadence. We nod, recalling the sound. Now we can go for a drive before finishing making the cherry jam.
As this month draws to a close, with less than one hour to go the sky is ablaze with fireworks, we think to honor the Alberto Cozzi and his wife ......The celebration must be taking place in their garden, which is part of the Orsini Palazzo in the borgo. Since we are not political, we send them many happy returns.
We are sure that the uninvited folks at the other end of the political spectrum are grumbling. It's too bad that there is bad blood between two families in Mugnano, but it's probably impossible for any village to be completely devoid of animosity.
Italy is full of schisms. I feel I have done something unforgivable; I've returned to my former hairdresser, obviously crossing the loyalty line. Once someone goes to a particular hairdresser, they are bound for life, and it is only because neither Danieli nor Nick live in Mugnano that I think I will be spared.
I like my hair, so for the near future, Danieli has my alliance. I am a loyal sort, and since I went to Danieli first, it's just that I return to him.
The decision is based on cost and availability; the cost is €25 less and every euro counts. But we both like Nick a lot, and hope we can keep up the friendship.
We cook up four kilos of cherries in the outdoor kitchen after dark and bottle them, although there are another four kilos yet to cook. We chop those up in the food processor and leave them covered overnight. Tomorrow after mass we'll finish them.
Gee, pitting cherries and making jam is a lot of work. Although I don't really enjoy the task, we like having the jars ready to take to friends when we visit. The last time we made cherry jam was two years ago. Last year the birds picked the cherries in our garden before we got to them.
The cherries from our own tree are sparse, and are not ready. Since we took a major branch out of the tree this winter, we did not expect many cherries. So we may not even make the jam from them this year, letting the birds feast on them instead. We'll see...
Take a look at a few changes we've made to the site: first, we've added a button for my pieces published in the Italian Notebook.
Next, we've begun to add a few locations to Places to See and Places to visit. We're behind on updating that, and this summer will try to add quite a few.
We've updated the description of our roses on the Garden page, and added a few recipes.
We almost oversleep, but leave the house in plenty of time for church. I love the restored church; I love silently meditating while the sounds of the mass waft softly above my head.
Today's priest, Gianpietro, loves his vocation; loves Mugnano and joyously celebrates life and our places within it. He delivers his homily in the midst of us, and if I concentrate really hard I can figure out what he is saying.
On this day, I muse about how frightened I was of the language when we first lived here. "Piano, piano!" our neighbors would reassure us, and they were correct. It is almost impossible not to pick up the vernacular after hearing it so many times, said in so many different ways.
I imagine myself back then, and the same words that frightened me are clear; it is the quick stringing of words together that was so daunting. "Pick up the jist of what is being said..." they told me, and that is just what I do on this day. Verbs, pronouns, all pop into place.
After the mass, we learn that today's mass is in honor of Gino Pannucci's deceased mother. Miriam tells us that there were six siblings, and one of her brothers was Giustino! Giustino is still with us, pacing his balcony like an old lion, but still strong. Panucci, Filiberti, Romoli, Fosci, Monchini...that makes up more than half of Mugnano with those five families alone!
I check the long-term forecast and it is not that good; showers and rain and clouds. But the forecast for San Francisco is sun, sun, sun. It is as though we have switched places; last summer we had nothing but sun, and San Francisco had plenty of its usual clouds and fog.
The air is heavy, and we walk up to the borgo to Paola and Antonio's to give them the results of our research for their trip to San Francisco, the Grand Canyon and the Wine Country.
With a national Italian Holiday tomorrow, people are out in the street, walking about. Giovanna wants to know if Maria Elena is coming; she is expected today. So we call her but there is no answer, and her shutters remain closed. Perhaps she will arrive later tonight. We look forward to seeing her.
On the way home, we see an amazing critter that looks like a kind of butterfly, with black wings. It hangs onto a rose leaf for the few minutes it takes us to get our camera and return. Is it a butterfly? A dangerous moth? A bottle of wine to the first person accurately identifying it!
Now it's a lumbering sound, and I open the window to see there is plenty of activity in Pepe's orto down below us in the valley. Three men gather around a tractor and move sections of wood. But no, there's that sound again, and it is on a wild property across the street in one of the untamed parcels of land.
Today is the anniversary of Italy's birth as a republic, in 1948. The country voted against keeping the monarchy, three years after the end of the war, and it is this day that the Italians use as another excuse to escape to the countryside.
I'm wondering if it's a day of guilt, where errant land owners practice country skills with their weed-wackers, tractors, mowers, and on this humid and overcast day, mosquitoes will have their pick of humans to taunt.
We've decided to hang my paintings on the wall, and before the night is upon us the kitchen is finished. I'd like less on the walls, but then it feels good to have them around. Every last one is available for sale, except for the cape, my very first attempt.
"What will we do if one comes off the wall?" Dino asks. "I'll paint something else the same size in its place!" I respond. These days, we've finally settled into our life here. After six years, we do spend some of the time doing...nothing. I'm less obsessed with painting, more interested in listening to the sounds of the birds.
Yesterday at pranzo, all was so quiet. Even with the village full of part-timers and visitors, at this time of day it is silent outside, with everyone inside chattering and eating. Eating is the Italians' favorite pastime, with the exception of talking on the telephone. No wonder an Italian invented the telephone...
The long-term weather forecast is dismal, with thunderstorms on the horizon and cloudy days when it does not rain. Sigh.
Sofi and I drive to Tenaglie to help Dino systematize the upstairs, to "get it ready for the cleaning lady". What a strange phenomenon! Sound familiar?
We move bedroom furniture from room to room, as the newly repaired floor looks great. Now Mari can come to clean. We've agreed to show prospective renters the two spaces, for they're here, and they'll see it tomorrow during the late afternoon, after we've taken our pranzo guests to the train station.
Who are our guests? They're Ed and Sue Barberini from Burlingame. I didn't know them well, but Dino lived near them when he lived in Burlingame with his former wife and son.
They'll come up from Rome tomorrow morning by train, and are finishing a long cruise. They're staying at Hotel Barberini in Rome, natch, and we'll be sure to introduce them to the Barberini sisters of Mugnano when we drive them to Mugnano from the train.
We've hung two paintings up in the living room, and the rest of my completed paintings are stacked beside furniture in the living room-soon-to-be-dining room. Well, perhaps that won't happen until fall, for we eat most of our meals with guests outside until the weather changes from hot to cool. What? It's cool and rainy these days, so perhaps we'll have use for the room as a dining room sooner than later.
Earlier at Marco's I worked on the background of Hildegarde's painting, for it will take several weeks to bring it to the point where I'll be satisfied. I'm enjoying the landscape part, although I admit I have not done many landscapes.
Marco and I agree that the next painting will be of my father as one of the learned men in the temple at the time of Christ. He'll be sitting down, and his figure will be larger than that of Mom's, as he'll be closer. The canvas size will be the same, 80cm by 100cm, but it will be done horizontally.
It is possible he will be the only figure in the painting, but perhaps there will be a column or two. I think it will be a few weeks before I begin, which will give Dino plenty of time to stretch a big piece of linen and prepare it for painting.
It is a good thing we are not going to Rome tomorrow; the rainy forecast decided that. But tonight we received a call from the Barberinis, and they'll join us tomorrow for a few hours. Dino is looking forward to it. I don't really know them, but anyone Dino wants to invite is fine with me.
Dino wants me to travel to pick up the fresh ravioli with him in Bagnaia; he'll pick our guests up at the train station. Pranzo will be simple, as simple as I know how to make it, I suppose.
On this morning, we pass fields of what look like grain, covered with red poppies. Some fields are deep red, completely covered with flowers. Sometimes they are covered or dappled with poppies, but not always. We don't know the name of these other wildflowers, but will ask.
We have learned that the plants we see all over the region are soya (soy), and that is because the farmers are subsidized for growing this crop. Earlier we were told that farmers are also subsidized this year for growing girasole (sunflowers), but we see none.
So don't expect to see fields of these beautiful flowers if you're here this summer. Farmers are a practical lot; so look for fields of green instead.
With the world focusing on Rome these days with a conference of leaders there to discuss the problems of food shortages around the world, we're mindful of that. I did not realize until a few years ago how vital grain is to the world.
Being in Europe, it seems that we're more aware of global perspectives on economic matters; when living in the United States the news was so slanted toward a U S perspective that it was difficult to get one's arms around the views of people of other countries. Am I biased? Sure. I'm also sad that I've grown up with an unreal perspective of my fellow man.
The New York Times has an article about red wine possibly delaying ageing...no wonder the people of our village live to such old ages!
I'm somewhat philosophical about Obama winning the nomination last night. We're so far away from the reality of American politics, that I can only think wistfully of a woman who went so very far.
Ed and Sue Barberini arrive today for pranzo. They're friends of Dino's from his first marriage. I don't know them well, but look forward to the few hours we'll spend with them. Dino is excited about it.
Dino drops me at home with the fresh ravioli and drives in Pandina to Tenaglie to look at the back garden, which is now marked off and marvelously level. The boys will lay the white cloth on it and fasten it and then tomorrow Dino will lead Tani to the gravel yard to pick up a truckful.
By the end of the day we can return and begin to organize the space for them, including a giant wooden tub filled with soil and...sooon...planted with lettuces, arugula seeds and herbs.
Dino stops at the Attigliano train station to pick up Ed & Sue. They haven't changed a bit in 25 years.
When Renata walks on by, I tell her that Renata is the best cook in Mugnano. One day, perhaps we will learn why. After a walk to the tower, we walk back to the road to take them to the train and encounter Pepe.
After an introduction, Pepe takes our photo, and then I tell Pepe that we have 57 pomodori plants, but need a consiglieri to make sure we know what to do, especially about the cavalli (shoots that Felice told us to pull out).
We're not sure which ones are the ones to be plucked, or when to pluck them to assure the plants are growing the way they should, and so Pepe nods in his very kind way and agrees to step into the fray. He actually beams, so we're sure we have the right mentor to take over for dear Felice.
We drop off Ed and Sue at the Attilgiano trains station and then drive to Tenaglie to meet possible renters for next year. This is a favor to our clients, and we're happy to oblige. While Dino shows the couple from Australia around, Sofi and I play about on the very level ground behind the house, where tomorrow white cloth will be laid and then gravel, to make a wonderful place to sit.
Once the gravel is laid, the giant wooden tub will be moved to a corner and we'll fill it with rubble part way and then cover that with good soil. In the next few days we'll plant lettuces, arugula seeds and herbs, so that our clients will have a real feel of what it is like to live in Italy, including being able to eat from their own garden.
We call the shop in Viterbo that is making our door cover, and they're confused with the order. So we drive on to them after a stop for gelato at Walter's in Sippicciano and confirm what we want. It will be ready tomorrow afternoon. Va bene.
Back at home the sky is dark and dismal. Rain is expected, but the long term forecast is finally for good weather, after we get by the next couple of days. Finalmente!
Feeling a bit nostalgic about Hillary, here's an article from Susan Estrich, in case you are a fan and have not seen it:
We're up early and drive to Sisters' bar for due cappuccini and to meet Tani. Dino is here to take him to a gravel yard he does not know about; a gravel yard with the perfect gravel for our client. Dino comes with a sample jar of the gravel, to be sure it is correct.
Here's another example where Dino knows more than some of the local muratores about sources. Here's a photo of Tani at the gravel yard next to his truck as it is loaded.
Back at home, I putter around while Dino takes Pietro to Roccalvecce to meet Diego Costaguti, one of the owners of the Costaguti palazzo. Pietro deems the place "over the top" and will consider it for tours.
Dino arrives home just before our guests. It is windy, but we hope to eat outside. The guests arrive, Lief and Kari, but rain begins. There is just enough time to show them the garden and we're inside for the rest of the meal.
What a crack of thunder! We are sure it is right below the house and are relieved we did not take the hit. We are too low for it to be probable, anyway. But the rain continues for an hour or so, and we're all relieved to be inside. What a crazy June!
After good food and good conversation, our new friends leave and we will see them again before they return to Norway on Sunday.
Rain has stopped; we clean up the kitchen and drive off to Tenaglie, to see if it has rained there, too. The gravel on the back pad is more beautiful than we imagined. Now it's up to us to right the huge barrel and fill it with soil and then with herbs and lettuces for our clients' arrival. That will happen either tomorrow afternoon or early next week. They arrive on the 14th.
We drive on to Viterbo for errands, and it's 8PM before we return home, thankfully to blue skies and just a few clouds. With birds chirping around, we're hoping we've had the last of the rain for a while.
It's almost 10 P M and the drummers are back. We hear them over the hill to Bomarzo, possibly they are in the industrial area near the Superstrada. The drumbeats remind us of the seriousness with which young men take the heritage and customs of their towns. Would your son wear tights and an elaborate costume to walk down the main street of your town and be thought of as macho?
We are having trouble with our email system; it may be the bad weather, but we are unable to send outgoing messages. So technicians are hopefully working that out. Otherwise, everything here is "tutto a posto" (everything is in its place).
With conflicting information coming in regarding ICI, the Italian property tax, Dino is determined to visit Sgr. Curzi, the tax man, to see what the real story is. Right now, we pay a whopping €7 per year, €3.50 each. We're happy to pay it. So before the day is over, we should know what the story is, at least for us in the town of Bomarzo and village of Mugnano in Teverina.
On May 28, Sr. Curzi tells Dino, the law was passed that abolishes ICI tax on first homes for Italian residents. But if you own property and are not a resident, not so fast; the law does not apply to you.
Everywhere we see a type of succulent with a tall group of white flowers. We're told it's a "100 year" plant, but there are so many of them, it sounds like a fallacy. Will we remember to look at them next year and see if they bloom? Probably not, although Pietro has one. Perhaps we'll remember, perhaps not. No matter.
Candace and her mother and sister come by for a tour of the garden and a visit, and Candace takes them to the airport tomorrow morning. It's always fun to meet the parents and siblings of friends, and I like them, especially her mother, a lot. Too bad Dino is out and about and won't meet them.
After pranzo on the terrace we drive to Tenaglie and attach the white cloth (tessuto-non-tessuto) to the inside of the big wine barrel. It's placed on the new gravel in a spot where Kate & Merritt can get to the center from any side. Dino will fill it with soil and we'll plant herbs and lettuces in it next week for them. They should enjoy this visit a great deal.
Earlier, Dino and Tani the muratore, visited our new friends, Lief and Kari, to work out a swimming pool and deck installation that Dino will manage in their absence this summer. We hope Tani comes in with a good quote, but first Lief, who is an engineer, has to refine the plans. Dino will probably manage the project anyway. It's a good project for him.
The post person, "la postina", delivers a piece of mail to me that I must sign for. It's from the Questura, and they are looking for more information regarding our permesso renewal, and this time the information is sketchy and difficult to figure out.
We call Simona from Eurolinks, and pay her a visit. She will translate our official wedding documents, but we've agreed that for the rest we'll go to our local Comune for one, and back to the Questura for the rest to see what they need.
We've been so fortunate for a number of years to not have to be ensnared by the Italian bureaucracy. We know enough people to find our way through the minefield without getting tense. But now, I'm worried.
What will we do if we can't get our permessos renewed? I just don't know, but keep that to myself. Simona will email us the translation of our marriage certificate on Monday and then we'll return to the Questura before I'll really begin to worry.
With thunderstorms overhead and more expected for the weekend, our trips with Pietro will be muddy; let's hope the forecast is wrong...that's possible. Each day the extended forecast changes. But for now, the rainy and cool weather continues.
Pietro shows up to tell us of his latest adventures. Yesterday, while we entertained guests in our kitchen, I recall that a loud thunderclap sounded as if it was right next to me. Actually, we now learn that it hit a pole right adjacent to Pietro's house.
His water heater is out of commission and Dino follows him home to make sure that is all. What a fright! He told us that the house shook as it happened. It's a good thing we are around. He'll return tomorrow morning for a shower and breakfast here before we leave for Pienza. Thunderstorms are expected tonight and all weekend, purtroppo.
It's cloudy overhead when Pietro arrives for toast and espresso. We take off at 10AM to Orvieto to drop off Sofi with Candace & Frank, then drive on to Pienza to meet Anne Bauer at her wonderful estate for a tour.
We're only there for an hour, then drive to Pienza for a so-so pranzo at Trattoria Latte di Luna (milk of the moon), which we don't recommend. Afterward, we drive on again to Seggiano to Castello di Potentino for a wedding as Pietro's drivers.
The castello is a private home, but is rented out for weddings or occasional weekly get-togethers. The owner, Charlotte Greene, tells us that since it is a private place, they only rent to people who will accommodate their wishes; that is, no room service, no lugging of people's suitcases up the stairs, etc.
Charlotte gives us a tour while we're waiting for the guests to arrive, and tells us that they are expecting a week-long group of water-colorists. The location seems perfect for artists.
As we're taken around, Charlotte tells us they have owned the property since 1999, when it was pretty much a ruin. As we walk from room to room, she points out the careful restoration, and we are impressed. I love it that they have used natural pigments on the walls; that some of the painting details are so well crafted that it is impossible to tell the original from the new. It's also not over-restored, and plenty of what I call the pentimento, a sort of soul of the house, shows through.
Here's a few photos of our pal Stein (Pietro) officiating at the wedding...
We arrive home at midnight or so. Rain ceases while we're on the A-1, and it's clear in Mugnano, but there is rain in the forecast and also thunderstorms ahead. Boh!
We drive with Pietro to pick up Nina at her house in Santa Marinella and then on to Subiaco by way of Anagni, to help them figure out an itinerary for a Norwegian tour in October. We love Nina's house, and offer to swap houses for a few days this fall. She likes the idea. But on to today's adventures...
They are considering Anagni, so we drive there first to see if it should be included on the tour. The church is quite beautiful, and we're told that if we return after the mass that Pietro and Nina can arrange for a special tour of the crypt for their entire group.
Do you remember that one of the things guides tell you is to never order off a menu? Well, we're thinking the waiter is friendly and after telling us what the pasta is, tells us to wait a minute and comes back to tell us they can make us a special homemade pasta with truffles and asparagus and porcini mushrooms. It sounds fine, so we have that, and it is delicious. First there is an antipasti, and we have house wine. We skip salad and he brings out a small tray of desserts, and then espresso. The bill comes to €130!
Dino walks back in to the restaurant and is given an itemized list of what we have ordered. Needless to say, we will not return, nor will we recommend this place to eat.
We have had a lot of rain on the drive, and as we continue on to Subiaco, the rain continues. I'm somewhat tired, so at the two monasteries decide to stay in the car with Sofi. While we snooze, they visit both monasteries, and come back with books and tales of wonderful sites. They will definitely include this in their October jaunt.
Here are a few photos of the monastery where San Benedetto started the Bendictine order.
Pietro is always a treat to travel with. He is so full of stories and history. We are sorry that he will return to Oslo this next week. The good news is that he will return at the beginning of August.
It's another terrible weather day in paradise, and the extended forecast is for more and more and more. Dino begins the day with a visit to Pietro to meet with Enzo the plumber. Silvano has to come first, to fix a part in the water heater. He is the local electrician. Only then can Enzo return to see what else should be done.
I make a pot of cece soup and Dino returns for a quick pranzo, after which he takes me to Marco's bottega. He returns to Mugnano for the arrival of Mario and his friend, Dino, to look over two projects; one is to make a bocce court, Norway style (on grass) and the other is to rebuild a cantina. Pietro loves the work these two men do, so even if he has not hot water for the present, he's happy.
At Marco's, there are the usual funny stories, but Mauro tells me that it does not matter who wins Italian elections. He uses as an example the children's game where there is one less chair than the number of persons, and when the music stops, everyone rushes for a chair. The person not sitting has to exit the game.
In Italy, Mauro tells me, there are the same number of chairs as there are people in Italian politics. So it does not matter what happens when the music stops; there is always a chair for each person. In other words, everything stays the same.
Dino picks me up as it begins to pour. Lightning strikes somewhere in the distance as we drive home, and we are unable to open the gate. Some of our power is off. So Silvano will arrive tomorrow morning to see what he can do.
Don Salter sends me two articles, neither of which add any good news to our day. The first is worth looking up on line. It's entitled "Hating Hillary; the ugly truth about American sexism" by Andrew Stephen and is published in the May 26th edition of New Statesman. I'd like our friends who do not like Hillary to read it; perhaps it will take the edge off their bristly comments about her.
I'm just plain sad about what has happened to her, but am encouraged that someone has articulated the sorry state of sexism that fueled her loss.
The second is closer to "home" here in Italy. It's also in the same issue of The Statesman, but is entitled :Is Italy flirting with fascism?" Boh! This one is just plain creepy, and puts me in a bit of a funk.
Today is our grand daughters' fourth birthday, so we call them and Marissa is willing to talk, but Nicole is too shy. "I'm fine with people my own age", she tells her mother... "But I'm shy with older people".
Angie tells us they're winding down from all the presents and their birthday party yesterday. Yes, we're sad we are not there with them, but here is a picture of them that we're happy to share with you.
Dino picks up some herbs, and we pick up some more on the way to Tenaglie to plant in their big planter. We know of a vivai that is not easy to spot, but is on our way. So we stop there, and after purchasing a geranium, a mature lettuce and a couple of herbs, the man gives us three begonia as gifts. They'll fit perfectly in a pot near their bread oven and will be a nice surprise for our clients when they arrive on Saturday.
Now it's on to Viterbo to see what the Questura is asking for. First, we stop at the Comune to see Sr. Ivo and to pick up our "Nuclear family" document, which is one of the things we're expected to include. Sr. Ivo is helpful as usual, but as we wait outside while he talks to the "capo" of the local carabinieri, we chat with one of his men, who knows us well.
We ask him where we can obtain our local police report, and when I jokingly tell him that our report will only be about furtos (thefts) in our home, he tells us that he remembers we've also been robbed in Barcelona. We're surprised that he remembers, but then, there's not much for the police to do in Bomarzo.
He tells us to go to the Hall of Justice, and of course we're too late for today. One can only visit there in the morning. Perhaps tomorrow we'll try to do that.
At home, when looking across the street, the property next to Pia's sports a for sale sign, we think listing a house that can be built for 400 mq! It takes Pia and Dino to look at it together. Fa niente. Nothing to worry about, the sign says that of the 900sq.meters, 400 of them are buildable - whichs means that the house one could build on it would be about 40sq. meters (about 430 sq. ft.) , about the size of their former chicken coop.
Our extended forecast remains dreary. Dino drives to Tenaglie to work with the electrician on finishing touches and to plant the begonias, while I recover from another headache.
Dino has a headache of his own, for he is unable to reach the electrician and after two hours gives up and drives home. We're so close to the end of this project, and are stymied by the lack of responsibility of this last contractor.
Yesterday we stopped at the supplier of our gate control, but were referred to a service technician, who assured us he'll try to come today. Dino returns home from Tenaglie and the gate is still not fixed, so we drive to Viterbo to knock off some more items on the Questura's list of things we need to submit to receive our carta di sojournos.
A carta di sojourno is different than a permesso di sojourno. The "carta" is a permanent permission to stay in Italy. The "permesso" is renewed every year or two, depending on the whim of the government at the time of expiration.
So a "carta" is more difficult to obtain, but since we've been residents here for ten years and have been model citizens, we feel there is no reason we should not obtain them. Once we do, we'll be ready to apply for citizenship. That step will take place this fall.
First, we drive to the Hall of Justice, where we're given some new papers and told to return with copies of our old permessos and "bolli" or stamps to affix them to. Bolli are government stamps bought from a tabacchi, and tabacchi's are found all over Italy.
Originally, tabacchis were open to sell tobacco products and salt. Now, they also sell lottery tickets, postage stamps, post cards and a variety of other items that vary from location to location. Look for a sign with a giant "T" to find one.
We make copies of our documents at a nearby shop; then walk across the street to the tabacchi. Today's purchase of bolli costs us more than €42. The man behind the counter stands there when we walk in with a portfolio in his hand. He's ready for us. We speak to him in Italian, but he responds before we are through with the carefully practiced phrase, "I do not speak English".
Is this all this man does? He seems to have cash registers reflecting off the lenses of his glasses as he slowly opens each page and tears off what we need and takes our money. Perhaps it is not only the pharmacists in Italy who make lots of money...
That done, we return to the man at the Hall of Justice, who tells us that the requested documents we're requesting that affirm that we do not have criminal records in Italy will be ready by Monday morning. We already have the FBI reports from the U S.
Since we're doing so well, and it's still before noon, we drive across town to the Questura and return to our friend at Window #1. There is only one person ahead of us, and we know we will be waited on, for the door was open when we arrived, although all new people must be inside the door before noon. Va bene.
We show the man the letter that was received last Friday, as well as the documents we have been able to drum up. He takes a look at the letter and cannot figure out what the first requirement is; we all think it was a "typo". He looks over the documents and approves all of them, or at least we think he does. With the document remaining that will be ready on Monday, he's ready to talk with Dino.
Dino did not receive a letter, but in his file the same requirements are listed on the first page. We have no idea why he did not receive a letter, but at least he is here to offer his documents.
We leave thinking that things will work out, and tell our friend that we'll return on Monday. But will our documents be accepted? They are to be reviewed by the capo, sitting in the back corner near the window. Unlike our friend, he does not know how to smile.
We are hopeful, but who knows? We have only to return with the missing documents on Monday and if the gods are with us, we'll receive our cartas soon...how soon we do not know.
At home, the steamy weather continues, with the thermometer hitting 30 degrees centigrade. Thunderclaps arrive in the afternoon, but are followed by sun. I suppose we are to ignore the threat of bad weather and know it will not persist for long. Even a rain shower this spring is short lived.
The parcheggio technician arrives and needs another part. So he leaves, and Dino leaves to track down the electricians in Guardea. The gate technician will return tomorrow afternoon, and we will be home from taking Pietro to the airport by then.
But will Pietro's plane be able to take off? President Bush is in Italy for various meetings in Rome, and will be joined by his wife on Thursday. No planes are allowed to be flown over Rome during his stay, and I wonder if that will have an impact on Pietro's plane flight to Oslo. I suppose we won't find out until...tomorrow.
Rain, rain, go away...We pick up Pietro and stop for cappuccini and brioches, then continue down the A-1 to Fimucino, also known as Leonardo da Vinci airport. I wonder why the airport was named after Leonardo, who spent most of his life in and around Florence, thinking Michelangelo would be a better fit for Rome's airport.
But the two men tell me that Leonardo was also a philosopher, architect, etc, etc and so I let them have their argument. Still, in the back of my mind, I wonder if the airport should not be named for someone else.
We drop Pietro off at the airport and it is busy; so we are assuming he will be able to fly. He thinks he's going to take the bad weather back with him. Bad weather or good, it's still paradise to us.
Earlier, when sliding the gate back to take the car out, Pepe walked over and asked Dino to help him to open his gate. Evidently the locking mechanism for his gate was also injured during the recent storm. Dino is able to get the gate up about a foot; tiny Pepe slides under it and is able to click the circuit breaker. It's so good to help a neighbor, and even better to be asked.
I fix a pasta for pranzo, but in the continuing overcast weather have little energy. I know I should feed the hydrangeas, feed the roses, etc, etc, but I have no energy. We drive to Amelia to pay for the translation of our marriage certificate, and have little energy for anything else.
Well, perhaps a gelato at Walter's in Sippicciano.
At home the automatic gate works, so we settle in, hoping that tomorrow Dino and the electricians will meet up to finish the restoration project.
As I enter the bedroom and look out the south-facing window, I'm struck by the sight of a gossamer fog, languishing over the valley as if it's a shawl shaken out and just...dropped. A cacophony of birds sing out, "Isn't it lovely?"
It's raining again, but appears that on Wednesday summer will begin with gusto, with temperatures around 30 degrees. We might as well enjoy the fog and rain while it lasts.
I'm having the third headache in a week, so go back to bed for an hour while Dino drives to Tenaglie, hoping to coax the electricians to the house.
While Dino's in Tenaglie, I'm hoping to paint. But first, I really must feed the hydrangeas and the roses. Everything is just so droopy. The big olive tree has grown so much that its branches almost reach out to the side path!
Since olive trees can be cut any old time, we want to trim it Puglia-style, without thinning all the branches to let sun in. The fewer olives, the better, we think, although there is a Daphne rose that grows through the tree and will need some sunlight. We love the trees full and round, and are prepared to shake this one and watch the olives fall out...when it's time.
How about crafting a very large painting of my father, draped as Michelangelo's Moses? I'm still considering different torsos, although he'd probably like me to have his feet showing. For a man who knew so much about people's feet and shoes, he had really ugly feet, short stubby things with pointy bunions.
He really empathized with people who came into his store with bunions, softening the leather of their shoes with the end of an old broomstick, slowly cajoling the leather to stretch in just the right spot. I'm dreaming again...
At least one of the older lavender bushes is ready to clip; I think about whether today is the day. Once they are cut, they must be hung upside down in a dark room to dry, before being put into baskets. We have a metal mesh hanging behind the house under the bathroom and it's cool and dark there. So that's where I'm thinking of hanging them, after tying small bunches of them with raffia.
This year we don't expect a lot of lavender, for about a dozen plants are new. But there are some quite old plants that are almost ready to be clipped, so perhaps we'll have enough for baskets in the kitchen and our bedroom. I'm not counting on more than that.
I also consider the project...can I say...boring? I put that in the same category as pitting cherries. So if I were a pessimist, I would say that at every season of the year there is something tiring to do. How sad that I would even think that for a moment in this little paradise. We really need some sun!
So, while it remains sunny, I clip the largest lavender plant in the garden and place its "spaghetti" in a large basket. In the kitchen, I begin the arduous process of cleaning off each spike and drying it in a cold, dry place. This year, with all the rain, I'm thinking the perfect spot is over Sofi's metal wire cage. As long as we don't have her waiting inside, it seems a very good location.
Dino leaves for Tenaglie, for perhaps his last time. The clients arrive this afternoon and there are only a few things remaining...things that can be finished after they leave in July. If the electrician had cooperated, we would be just about finished.
The sand that will sit between the cobbles in the walkway has not been completed, for we need continued days of sun, and certainly have not had any. For now, it can be used, so we're not worried. We just don't want to inconvenience the clients.
With a large basket of lavender to clean, I sit inside and watch the coverage of the Tim Russert memorials on television. He died almost instantly of a heart attack at work. For some, that is how they would like to go. For me, lying in a hammock reading a book would do.
Shelly calls to tell us about a young vet in Attigliano, so we want to know about him for Sofi, especially in an emergency. She also wants us to write a complaint letter to ENEL, offering Claudio's help in translation. Enzo Rosati, our plumber, thinks ENEL is responsible for all the outages we have had.
When Dino arrives home, I ask him to take me to Pietro's to clip his lavender, but just before we are about to leave, it pours. So that's it for today.
Instead I fix potato salad and tuna salad for pranzo, for I've cleaned all of the lavender for now.
We're expecting to attend Grotto Santo Stefano's sagra di fettuccine tonight with Maria Elena and her husband, but it's so soggy outside that I suggest pizza at Angelo's in Giove instead. Sitting outside in cool soggy weather does not appeal to me, or to Dino.
Everyone agrees, so pizza it is. In the middle of the room, we notice that there are families all around. So we are not alone in liking this simple place. Sofi waits in the car, which is easier for her than lying in her cage at home while we are out.
The weather is cool, but there are stars in the sky, so Maria Elina assures me that we'll have good weather tomorrow. Magari...
It's father's day in the U S, but not here. Men are treated like kings in Italy every day, so perhaps they don't need a day all their own...
With the death of Tim Russert of NBC yesterday, even the competitive channels are praising him as a good honorable man, who worked hard, did his homework, and treated his fellow man with respect.
In a letter to his son leaving for college he counseled, "Work hard, laugh a lot, and maintain your honor." He showed such reverence for his father, that on this day it's time to take pause and think a little about relationships between fathers and their sons and daughters.
What do children want most from their fathers? The answer is ...time. I understand that. When my father had time to give, he often gave it to me growing up. Later, when my brother was a part of the family business, I don't think their relationship was the same.
Was it right? Was it wrong? I don't know. But I valued those Sundays with my father more than I could ever say. Sure, my brother was never home. But I wonder what the relationship would have been if he spent more time with him...
I do know that Terence adores his father, and for me, I think that our trips to the U S are all about Terence; about giving him as much time as he wants with his father. Terence is a wonderful man, and it is with sadness that I think of him sometimes, sorry that we are so far away from him and from his family. He is the best son anyone could ask for.
This morning Dino drives to Bomarzo, for he's in the confraternity procession for the town's patron saint, San Anselmo. I stay home and clean lavender; get it ready for baskets and for wands. Last year, I sat outside under the bathroom at the back of the house, cleaning the lavender for days. It was a terrible and lonely chore.
This year, I clean the lavender in the kitchen, plant by plant, sweeping up the droppings each time I return for another armful to tackle. It's much more gentile, much easier.
On this morning, I watch the many accolades given in honor of Tim Russert, and am sad for his family, especially for his son and for his elderly father, who is in his 90's and still alive. That is not how it was supposed to happen, he must be thinking.
Dino returns, and after pranzo I work more on the lavender, while he works in the garden. Mid day, we walk to Maria Elena's garden, where I show her how to make lavender wands, while Dino sits and relaxes.
After a while, her husband arrives with Prosecco, which helps us to relax. The wands are really not all that easy to do, and we return home while I'm working on my second. It's been fun being with them just the same.
Back at home, Dino works more in the garden. He is such a great putterer, and with all the rain our garden is thriving incredibly.
I wake with another headache, and that means four in this last week alone. So is it because of the change in weather, the work on the lavender, or a combination of the two? We'll ask our good doctor soon.
We leave the house mid-morning and stop in Bomarzo for cappuccini. When we reach the Questura, we wait for the woman who understands English, but forget to ask her name to add it to the journal.
I would love to have a new section on our site, with photos of every Italian we meet whom we come in contact with, from the local policeman to the clerk at the Questura, somewhat similar to Rick Stein's Food Heroes.
Perhaps one day we will be able to do that. I'd love to have a photo of her in her uniform. "Yikes!" is what Pietro would think. He's so very afraid of women in uniform...
We ask her why we can no longer apply for a carta di sojourno, when for the past two weeks we were led to believe that we could. We are also here to be finger printed.
Dino has printed out the legal information in Italian and hands it to her. She is very patient, reading off the necessary documents that must be submitted, and they include present or past work documentation in Italy. It is clear that we do not qualify.
This fall we will apply for citizenship, and we decide to obtain letters of recommendation from Don Luca, our mayor, and other important figures. So we'll ask Tiziano to help us to draft a few, in the event any of them say, as Don Luca has in the past, "Just write it and I will sign it". I suppose it could be copied onto their letterheads...
She tells Dino that his file is up to date and finger prints him, asking him to depress his fingers, one by one, onto a little machine that records the particular characteristics for his file. Va bene.
We ask why I cannot have mine done today, and she tells me that my information is being added to the computer, but that it has been blocked for two days. So come back in several days for mine. Fegato macinato (chopped liver)...that's what I am.
My headache begins to wind down, and we drive to Orte to pick up our Swedish friends, whose train has changed. At the Orte train station we run into Cristian and Eduardo, the twins, and their mother Paola, who are waiting for Pasquale, their grandfather.
While we stand around, the boys are their usual rambunctious self, tormenting Sofi, yelling and rushing at her while she quivers in my arms. Paola and I speak about how Cristian, the twin who has been ill, is not as quick to learn as his brother.
We agree that it would be better for them to be in different classes, but in Bomarzo that option is not available. The school is too small. Next year, one of them will be as tall as me. How quickly they grow!
Our friends arrive, and we're back home in time for pranzo under a sunny and only somewhat cloudy sky. The temperature is close to perfect, and this afternoon Dino works on the pergola and the garden, while I mend from my headache before cutting more of the lavender.
Earlier, we met David, a new friend taking care of business at the Questura. He invites us to an art show this weekend in Sorano, and we surely will. Bit by bit we are meeting more artists who speak English. I would love to work at a bottega of artists in addition to Marco's, but one where some of the people speak and understand English.
Bummer. Tonight, after cleaning basket after basket of lavender, I stand at the kitchen counter to make crostini with smoked salmon and cream cheese and dill and lemon juice on small slices of homemade bread that I made yesterday. With our new bread knife, I slice into my left thumb.
Poor Dino. When he comes into the kitchen to see what I have just done, he is almost in tears. With some antiseptic solution on a cloth and a larger than normal sized bandaid, I'm fine, just sitting and holding my arm up. But is he?
I'm really fine. Tomorrow we'll have Daniele wash my hair and I'm finished with the lavender, at least for now. So don't expect to see any wands this year. About the baskets of lavender, it's now up to Dino. I'm going to lay low for at least several days.
That means I'll be reading a lot. I love the book I am reading, Empire Falls, and understand why it won a Pulitzer Prize. Although my serious writing days are over, I wonder a little if I could write a book.
But what about my finger printing? Will my left thumb show up differently? Better wait a week or so for that. There is always something to keep us on our toes...
Daniele is not working today, so we drive up to Bomarzo to see if the parruchiere (hairdresser) there can wash my hair. But she is closed, and does not post her hours. I wait while Dino picks up a speeding ticket at the post office, from April 20th, when we drove back from Provence. We were traveling 66 in a 50 zone. €148 is a stiff penalty to pay. That was an expensive birthday...Sigh.
"Io non conosciuto"...I didn't recognize you...is what Italians say later after they drive toward you in the car and don't see you as they drive by. Often we encounter friends who don't see us, and it is only later that they tell us they recognized us too late to wave. When driving up or down the Mugnano road, the men salute us in their cars by just raising their right hand ever so slightly. It's a kind of Mugnano handshake.
We drive on to Attigliano and find the parucchiere owned by Valentina and Sara open. They agree to take me right away and Sara washes my hair while Valentina dries it. I learn a new word...gonfia. This is the word used when blow-drying one's hair and wanting a lift to it. Gonfia means swollen.
What a language! I suppose the Italians understand context; they almost understand context more than Americans or English do. We're so spoiled with a word or phrase for anything.
That reminds me. An English professor is now compiling a list of new English words, and he's up to about 1,000. He expects to have 2,000 before he's through. Now what we do not know is whether he includes both the English and American derivations, such as: "while" and "whilst", "time" and "in an hour's time", and on and on. I admit when reading a novel and coming upon what we Americans don't think of as correct usage is a bit disconcerting.
Is one more correct than the other? Is "the Queen's English" something the Americans should use?... of course not. That's why we split from them a couple of hundred years ago. Is it not?
So is modern usage also taken into effect? I look up his site, but it merely directs me to other sites, so it's obviously a "search engine optimization site" or SEO. Learning about the vagaries SEO is certainly daunting...
We are expecting wind and showers, and before pranzo they arrive with a vengeance. The wind feels as if it's hurricane force, so whatever will happen in the garden? The shutters knock against the house and the rain splashes against the South-facing windows.
Later in the afternoon we drive to Attigliano to the local vet, a young man we have not met. He looks Sofi over and gives her her annual injection. Shelly had frightened me by saying that one of her dogs died of a mosquito bite, and this vet has an antidote.
He agrees with what we are already doing, so it is good she steered us to him. He does not have an antidote. It appears that in towns in Southern Tuscany the scare is real. Since Sofi does not spend her time chasing through fields, and is inside more than out, the vet is not worried, nor are we.
Mario calls, and he and Dino from Attigliano are at Pietro's, so we drive there to see what all the commotion is about. They have made a beautiful construction of the bocce court, fencing it in on three sides with metal mesh and castagno (chestnut wood) poles.
Mario has seeded the dirt with three packages of grass seed, but is upset, for there are tons of formice (ants) and they are eating all the seeds! We send him home for ant killer in a spray container, and they arrive with it; Mario sprays the soil as if he's playing an accordion.
In the meantime, Mario and the two Dinos agree that there is very little water pressure. We bring two watering tools; one is the old fashioned arcing type and one is a rain-bird knockoff. Between the two, we're able to water the soil sufficiently for now.
Now we know that there is too little water pressure, and it's possibly because some of the water pipes are rotten. So Dino will work with Enzo in the next weeks to figure it out. In the meantime, his rainbird will automatically water every day. This is what the grass needs to grow.
Back home, we sit for a few minutes in the center garden, and I'm wondering what we need to do to make it more comfortable in the heat of the summer. Pietro's terrace, full of grape vines, frames his view brilliantly. Our wisteria is beginning to do the same, but I'd like to see the center garden with more shade. Is another wisteria in our future?
We have appointments with our good doctor, Doctor Bevilacqua, so let's see what he has to say about my finger, my lack of cholesterol medication and Dino's aches and pains.
I'm sure he'll want me to have a blood test. Va bene. He has convinced me that my cholesterol is not worrisome, so I just stopped taking it. We'll see if that was a good idea or not.
Although we've been led to believe that we'd wait almost an hour or two to be able to see an Italian doctor, ours is quite organized and even gives out appointments. So we have no wait. But this morning, I have such a terrible headache that it brings tears to my eyes, and he is able to fix my problem "just like that!"
While we sit across from him at his desk, he rifles through his briefcase and takes out a panel of Tachipirina Flashtabs 500mg which he evidently uses for himself. It's a kind of aspirin, but this is a giant tablet that is placed under the tongue. This solution is because the other paracetemol he prescribed me to take in addition to difmetre tasted terrible when dropped into a glass of water. This tastes fine.
He tells me that what I have been having were tension headaches, and I agree with him, for they've begun in my shoulders and neck before pressing onto my temples. We agree that I probably have not had many migraines, if at all, and I tend to agree with him, for the drops of laroxyl at night are a preventative, and I take them faithfully.
I forget about my finger, for I think it will take care of itself, and Dino talks about the pains in his elbow. "Tennis elbow!" the good doctor calls out, leaning over the desk like a weeping willow tree (he is very tall) and plunking his grip right on the spot while Dino yells out "Yipes!" Dino is prescribed an elbow bandage and medicine to take for ten days.
I'm given a prescription for a blood test, and Dino is given a prescription for a test to tell if he has any artery problems due to his pain. Va bene. This is one kind and intelligent doctor. Bravo, Dr. Bevilacqua!
On the way out of his office he tells us that his seven-year-old daughter wants the golf painting I painted for him that sits near his desk, so I'm going to surprise him/them with another painting soon as a gift that they can share. We are so very fortunate to have such a fine doctor! Time to paint!
In the afternoon I clean more lavender, and then walk up to see Maria Elena to take her painting off the frame and put it into a tube so that she can take it to Norway and have it framed there. Dino walks to Pietro's where we are to meet him next. We visit with Kare while we do the work, then walk to their garden, where they are both putting furniture away until their return.
After hugs, she tells us she'll stop by tonight and I pick Sofi up and take her down the stairs, then put her down to follow her to Pietro. But I don't remember that I put the frame down when I put her down, so it's only when back at home that I remember, but have no idea where the frame is.
It takes for Dino to see Maria Elena bringing the frame to Franco's that I realize how silly I was. It's a great idea that he now has the frame, so when she arrives for a visit I confess and she takes it all in stride, sweetly.
She brings two beautiful white plants; plants that fit perfectly in the big terra cotta pot with herbs under the caki tree and a lovely crystal bear; it is the symbol of Norway. I am so moved, and we will cherish it. She does not want to leave, but must. We don't know when she will return, but whenever it will be, we will be thrilled to see her.
With a shower or two out of the way, it appears we will have nothing but sun in the next week, and we so look forward to that!
The day begins warm and clear, and by the time we have pranzo it is...hot! Dino has been espaliering the wisteria, and each day the four plants have grown. What an amazing plant! I love to see him gently guiding the first tendrils each day.
This morning he's been to Attigliano to get appointments for his procedure, to Pietro to work on the sprinkler system, and to Viterbo to take back a sprinkler part. Late last night we heard a whooshing of water, and thought it was Pia's irrigation system. But it was..ours! One section on the path was spurting out water.
This morning Dino called the Comune to talk with Francesco, Pia's brother, and he confirmed that when he drove out at 8:30 AM that the street was wet in front of our house. Pia has no irrigation system. So of course Dino repairs the system. He is a master of irrigation.
We take a "dolce fa niente" this afternoon, and I try out a few tachiprina to reduce the swelling of my shoulder muscles from cleaning the lavender. While Dino was out, I clipped another very large lavender bush and cleaned every last strand. So no wonder my shoulder is sore!
We drive to Tenaglie for dinner with Merritt and Kate, but are late so forego stopping on the way at a vivai to pick up four plumbago plants, to replace the four iceberg roses along the front wall in our center garden. This is a much better use of plants against the front fence, and I do love the blue color, although their sticky flowers often find themselves stuck to little Sofi while she's on her hunt for lucertoles (lizards). Perhaps we'll pick them up tomorrow.
I think summer has begun, for the sky overhead is a grayish white on the horizon, turning pale blue overhead. With not a cloud in the sky we wake up feeling hot, and overhead a military helicopter comes very close to the house. Perhaps the summer fires have begun.
Later in the day we notice that someone in the valley is burning. That's a big no-no in Italy and perhaps the owner will be fined. At least the regular folk wait until dark, so no one can catch them. This is rather bold. I don't know who it is, but hope the activity is not mirrored by other neighbors.
Dino picks up two plumbago plants, for it is all the shop had, so later in the day he plants them. We eat pranzo outside on the terrace, and while seated between the caki tree and the umbrella we're in the shade. We don't count on the wisteria providing any shade this year, although Dino claims he can actually watch it grow.
At around 5 P M, Duccio and Giovana arrive to show us their photos of Uzbekistan. What an interesting country! We enjoy sharing their trip with them in this manner, and Giovanna, helpful teacher that she is, counsels Dino that the plural of il photo is le photi. I roll my eyes, wondering if I'll ever really understand the vagaries of the language.
Tomorrow we'll drive Duccio and Giovanna to the Bolsena Flower Festival, picking them up early and having pranzo at Marta. Of course, Sofi is invited.
So it's the longest day of the year. It's also one of the first hot ones, and finally the extended forecast is for sun, sun, sun. We have been so tired of rain.
We eat a quick breakfast on the terrace and drive off to Bomarzo to pick up our good friends, Duccio and Giovanna and drive North to the town of Bolsena for the Festa di Hortensia (Hydrangea flower festival). This is our first time at this beautiful event, and the weather is perfect.
We begin in the square, then walk down the side streets until we reach the end; then return and walk down to the lake. In the square we purchase several small cacti, but they are succulents, and not the spiny variety one usually thinks of as cactus. I had never liked cactus, but now I am falling for them, especially with all our hot sunny weather and the lack of water.
We realize that in our raised planter above the parcheggio we have a perfect location for an assortment of soft (can you imagine this?) cactus types. Here is the assortment we purchased today, along with others we picked up earlier in the year. This is a good example of the phrase, "never say never".
How could I forget? Just as we cross the street to enter the festa, there is a large display of live galli (roosters). There are two women here who raise them, and we take the card of one, who agrees to let me go to her house and photograph and later paint them. I take a few photos through their cages and stare at them, trying to understand the different types of feathers, the different colors.
The street is lined with them on both sides. Duccio tells me that the bark looks the way it does because as the tree grows, it splits its bark and what we are looking at are different colors showing different ages. Oh how I love these trees, and of course I will paint at least one. Here we go again...
Dino and I will be planting two plane trees on the lowest level of the far property one winter. For now, we need the Comune to repair the walk and the ancient wall. Only after that can we plant anything. So let's be patient.
We walk back to the car and drive to Marta, where we have pranzo at Iolanda. Of course we would eat here. Iolanda was Dino's mother's name. There is seating right on the water and we have a lovely meal while listening to the water lap on the rocks at our feet.
Dino tells me he loves the sound; loves sitting by the water, and I have to blink; isn't this the same man who would not go to a beach, who hates sand? Well, "never say never" seems to come around again and we agree that we'll return often to Bolsena the town and Bolsena the lake, which is not all that far from us, even if the cost of gasoline is more than €1.50 a liter (over $9.00 a gallon!!!).
That reminds me. The truckers have announced that there will be a strike on June 30th, in support of the French and Spanish truckers. They, and we, do not know how long it will last. So Duccio counsels Dino to buy up gasoline early. I think that's funny. That works if Dino doesn't drive after he buys the gas. And this weekend is the Festa di Baccala in Bolsena. The four of us (five with Sofi) may attend.
Back at home, I move the succulents purchased earlier in the year to the raised planter, and when the weather cools off we'll plant them. We've also decided to plant geraniums in two slim wooden barrels. So next week, we'll do that.
One will be located on the stairway leading to the car and one at the bottom of the back wall of the parcheggio. Since the tufa planters leak, these plants will be well irrigated even if we don't water them often. Va bene.
Dino realizes that the trials of the F-1 automobile races will be rebroadcast later this afternoon, so tells me not to let him know who came in first and second. It does not matter, as Lewis Hamilton was penalized last week and will place 10th.
Dino loves these races, no matter who wins. I think it is a good opportunity for him to take a nap, for whenever I walk into the kitchen during the race, his head is lowered and he's asleep. I love the guy, so am happy to see him enjoying himself.
Gee it's hot. It must be over 30 degrees Centigrade. So in typical summer fashion (remember Summer began today?), the shutters and windows are closed, with the cool air from last night keeping us comfortable. Well, today is a day to also use a floor fan. We do not have air conditioning, nor do we plan to, so are happy with this old-fashioned way to cool off.
Summer is here, and so is the heat. With a blistering sky overhead, we walk up to church wearing hats; Dino sports a straw Borsolino and I wear a flax colored woven hat so large that it is reminiscent of something Audrey Hepburn would have worn in the 60's. Today, it really works.
Don Gianpietro meets us as he steps out of his car, and we walk together down the shady street that leads us to the church. Overhead Dino draws our attention to the Italian flag, asking the priest why it is only flown during sporting events. The answer coming from the priest is startling...
During WWII, fascists flew the Italian flag, and he tells us that it became a symbol of all they stood for. With the ordinary Italians in the direst of conditions during those years, looking at the flag represented repression for them, and worse. So the flag as a symbol disappeared for years, and only recently has it been resurrected as a point of pride. So if it's for sporting events, at least it is flown.
Do we fly an American flag over our house? No, we do not, even though there is a metal standard attached to the balcony where one was hung years ago. Who would have made this iron attachment to the balcony in the first place? Could it have been the Germans, who occupied this house during WWII?
No one seems to know, although we often ask neighbors what conditions were like in Mugnano during the war. The more I think of it, the more I don't want to know. I can just hear echoes of the clicking boots on our terrazzo floors.
The church is almost empty as we arrive, and cool. So we sit in our normal places and welcome our friends as they arrive. What happens as the mass is said is a wonder...
Elena gives the first reading, and sits in the second row with her husband, Valerio. When Don Gianpietro recites his homily, he walks forward and addresses little Matteo and little Valerio, the grandsons. After asking their names, he asks them to join him at the altar.
Now, little Valerio is four..."almost five as the priest repeats" his words. The altar is taller than Valerio, so I can only see him here and there, as he hops around from foot to foot, head back in wonder staring up at this robed man.
Standing on the other side of the priest, older brother Matteo beams at his grand parents and then listens closely to the words. Here and there, we can see him mouth some of the prayers as he gazes up at Don Gianpietro.
It is after communion that Federica arrives with her newest baby, one-month-old Miranda. Matteo remains at the altar, but Valerio has had enough stardom for today...he back with his Nonno and Nonna and Mama. The grandparents seem to take it in stride, but are clearly proud.
After mass, when we're out in the sunny plaza in front of the church, Elena tells us it is the water that caused this last baby, with a laugh. I remind Federica that she told me she is happiest when she is pregnant. She does not protest. Now they have four, and she is probably not ready to end this giro. Va bene. She remains beautiful and radiant.
It is so hot that I do put my hat back on, and am relieved to have it while we walk home in the baking sun. When I put laundry out, I am sure it will all dry in an instant.
We're initiating a news blog on our site, so take a look. During the month, we add news that we think English speaking Italofiles will enjoy. Let us know what you think.
Dino looks forward to the Formula-1 race on T V, and we eat inside, keeping the doors and shutters and windows closed to keep in the coolness from last night. We were told that yesterday's temperatures in Mugnano rose to 39 degrees Celsius, and perhaps today's will be even higher.
Yes, the late afternoon temperature is 30, so the very hot weather continues. It feels every bit as hot as yesterday, but I really don't want to know...Dino returns to the wisteria pergola and has made a daily inspection to coax the tendrils up and up and up, and of course over to meet their neighbors. We have four planted in the middle of our front terrace, away from any structure, so huge trunks that we're counseled will form in the future won't do any damage.
We enjoy the wisteria plants tremendously, even with no flowers this year. From the kitchen window they form a cornice, or frame, of the Tiber Valley. The leaves form graceful arches that rustle in the breeze. This is a plant difficult to complain about, unless you're obsessed with flowers. We have no idea how long we'll have to wait for their flowering season to begin, even though I research everything imaginable. Perhaps next year.
We have two Alistar Stella Gray roses covering the rose arch toward the parcheggio, and although the first bloom was spectacular, I see no signs of blossoms on the long dark growth. I read that it is a repeat flowerer, so perhaps that will happen in the fall. It's quite healthy, just the same.
Dino takes a break to paint gesso di Bologna on my latest canvas, and we'll need a few coats for it to be as smooth as it needs to be. Tomorrow we'll drive to Viterbo to make a blowup of a drawing that I will turn into my next painting.
What about Hildegarde? I've almost finished it, and will bring that to Marco as well. There is just a border along the stradabianca that I am not sure about.
The painting of my father will have to wait. Duccio counsels me that Rembrandt painted learned men in the temple at the time of Christ, and I'll do some Rembrandt research. I have an idea of what to paint, just not the expression. It will come.
In the meantime, at home I'll paint more roosters, especially those photographed at the Bolsena flower show yesterday. Perhaps in the fall we'll drive to the woman's home who raises these beautiful creatures. They are really fun to paint.
Just before sunset, I pick two large lavender bushes, and are so bitten by little creatures that I stop before I am through. There will be more than enough to strip tomorrow morning for baskets, but tonight I fill a second basket with the dried lavender, and Dino will place it high in the kitchen over the stove.
The rest of the baskets don't really matter, and I am tired of lavender, although the fronds I pick tonight are a lovely bright lavender color. Will they stay as fresh looking? Probably not, but if I clean and dry them very soon, their color may stay at least for a few months. Speriamo.
Tonight we watch the calcio (soccer) match between Spain and Italy. Dino thinks we should watch calcio more, since it's such an important sport in Europe. But for the first ninety minutes there is no score. It will take getting used to, and tonight I'd rather read in bed. So don't watch the dramatic ending.
The sweltering heat continues, and I strip and dry lavender until we stop for pranzo, then Dino takes me to Marco's bottega to begin a new painting. Dino has prepped a large canvas for me, but the tape under the linen disintegrated.
Somehow Marco helped me to work with the tellaio (canvas), and I was able to copy the image onto it with the use of a giant sheet of carbon paper and a pen. I still think this is a funny way to get an image onto a canvas, but no matter.
By the time Dino picks me up, the face is almost finished, with the exception of the lights of the eyes that will be painted with a tiny brush when the paint has dried. The subject is La Fortezza, a woman with a spear in the back of the head of a lion, looking quite peaceful. She represents Courage (or strength), which we think is one of the four virtues.
The drawing is from a study of Lorenzo De Ferrari of Genoa during the Baroque period. It is probable that there was never a painting of it, but instead a fresco. So I attempt to find it on the internet with not much luck. I am curious, not that the information is all that important.
But in the event the other virtues are depicted in much the same way, I'd like to tackle them all. I seem to be concentrating on painting strong women. Painting a myriad of roosters...then strong women...wonder what that says about me?
When I begin my search for what I think are the four virtues, I find that there are more than four. In 330 BC, Plato talked about the four virtues, but in my later search under four, I see a list of...five. Huh?
Well, Plato listed: Justice, Courage (fortitude), Wisdom (prudence) and Moderation (temperance), although Piety slips in there, and continued by saying that they must always be used in concert with each other.
To really live well, powerfully, and happily, one must cultivate all four of these virtues. "If a person is easily made miserable by day-to-day interactions with others, it can often be traced to that person being deficient in one or more of these four virtues."
Christian virtues are listed as: Faith, Hope, Charity and Love. But the four that make more sense to me are: Fortitude (Courage), Temperance, Prudence (Wisdom), and Justice. After reading the earlier list, it seemed to lack fortitude, a strength to carry on one's life successfully.
So I'm looking for visuals that exemplify the virtues. Eastern thinking includes: Gravity, Generosity of soul, Sincerity, Earnestness and Kindness. Those sound good to me, but I don't think they go far enough...
Well, let's begin with fortitude, or courage, for I already have the image to work with. The others will surely follow...
At Marco's on Monday I was introduced to a visitor to the bottega as a "Classicist", meaning that my interpretations are more classic than modern or impressionistic, etc. I certainly agree with him, for I express myself more in terms of historical or allegorical references; that is one of the things that I enjoy most about the craft of painting.
How will I express some of the feelings I have inside me? It is the use of art that I hope will stand the test of time. So although I write the journal almost every day, it is not in the written word that I actually expect to express myself. How interesting, this life; and our ability to choose who we are and how we make an impression on this world of ours.
Back at home, we have shade in the garden and there is much more lavender ready to cut. So I spend an hour cutting a couple of large plants until I'm swollen with the bites of little animali. I pop in a few benadril but don't want to make a habit of it. Perhaps I need to consult our doctor with a better fix. Inside we have lots of lavender to strip and dry.
These days the dining room/living room has been transformed again into a workshop, with cloths on the floor and folding tables to dry the lavender. Shutters and windows are closed to keep the sun and hot air out.
Nights are cool, days are hot, and summer is here with gusto. For the next week or so I'll be consumed with the lavender. Now it fills two large baskets in the kitchen. It is too hot and the lavender dries too fast to fuss with lavender wands.
Instead, I'm concentrating on filling baskets in the different rooms, and in a week I am hoping that this will be a thing of the past.
I'd like to paint, but must work on the lavender, so while Dino returns to the clients to help them clear out their store room, I clean lavender at a table in the kitchen.
Dino returns, after meeting Enzo the plumber at Stein's and working out an irrigation problem there. We eat grilled chicken sandwiches and watermelon salad. It's too hot to eat outside. Perhaps once the wisteria fills in, we'll be eating outside. I hope so.
We're researching adding an Italian news component to our web site, but it may be another month before we're ready.
Each night, Dino walks the property and hand-waters different plants and lettuces and herbs. Yes, we are hopeful that we can irrigate more, water less. And yes, we are augmenting our regular plants with a succulent garden. So we're very mindful of the importance of water.
Dino brings back a long polenta board, one I am surprised that the clients do not want. Yesterday, he brought home two beautiful old pots, and we'll certainly use them in the garden.
I have cleaned all the lavender inside the house, but it is too hot to cut more, so I return to painting. I see a myriad of tiny holes in the tellaio, so instead of working on the painting of the images, I carefully paint a thin layer of white to cover any holes that remain, leaving the design itself almost fully intact.
Although both Marco and Dino told me not to worry about the holes, that people would not look at the image up close, it does not seem logical to me. So before I work on the image, I'll fix the holes.
Don Francis calls, and he'll come for a visit on July 1, staying over and then we'll take him to the airport on the 2nd. He's willing to sit in on a meeting about San Rocco, so we'll try to assemble the initial committee.
This afternoon, we visit a new friend who wants us to list his house on our site. He is the person we met last week at the Questura. What a beautiful house!
The property is situated on the Viterbo side of the border between Alto Lazio and Tuscany. Tuscany... So often we hear from people who "would just love to live in Tuscany". A house in Tuscany?...If one lived here, they could say they live on the Tuscany border in a borgo called "il Paradiso". Could that be true? Our new friend tells us that is his address, so one could say that these four houses literally constitute paradise....
We feel an emotional pull toward the property; it is so very quiet, with not a sound other than two large birds on a nearby tree. Trees include a large walnut tree, a quince, a peach, as well as many other non-fruit bearing trees. There is a stone built bar-b-q, which is good for those lazy outdoor meals.
He is interested to sell the house with everything intact; meaning all the furniture and fixtures. That is unusual, for Italians usually yank out their sinks and kitchens and leave the buyer with bare rooms.
More good news about this spot is that taxes are less in Lazio than in Tuscany. Take a look at the property and see if it might be your very own paradise...click on the link at the top of this month.
We drive home by way of the road to Torre Alfina and Orvieto, and it takes an hour. On the way, we stop at Proceno, the closest town, and it is a beauty, with stores, upscale restaurants and of course a bar. Aquapendente is just minutes away.
The more we think of the property, the more it grows on us. One neighbor is there a few days a week and the other three he tells us show up a day or two a year, if that. So privacy is certainly here in abundance. If we did not love our house so, I could see myself painting there in heavenly bliss...
We arrive home around ten, and a headache looms. So I begin with the paracetemol, then follow it with difmetre. Perhaps it was the glass of red wine. No matter...in a few hours it is gone, replaced by some vivid dreams...
We're getting used to the warm days, and Dino wakes up early, puts a few things in the Panda and drives off to Viterbo to the second-hand shop. I stay at home and do research on the internet about our site. Thank you, Al Gore...
Search engine optimization...click-throughs...How the world has changed. We sit here in our little village in Italy and in an instant are connected with most everyone in the entire world...
Italians are so in love with America, and all things American. A few days ago we were in a shopping center (shopping centers in Italy have grocery stores as key tenants) and were amazed how much they emulate those in the U. S.
The world has become so much smaller. The good news is that our village, and places like it, will never be influenced by the outside world...Here and there, we see throwbacks to bygone eras, and it is possible in some of our properties to be located completely away from modernity, other than being hooked up to the local water and sewer and electricity.
If you come to Italy, we can show you a Tuscan paradise, an Umbrian fortress, a palazzo in a medieval borgo...properties that you can have for your very own.
We can show you how to settle into your very own Italian paradise...how to maneuver through bureaucracies...where to find local products and services. No, there is no Starbucks, but there is much better coffee, at much lower prices.
What do we purchase when we take our annual trip to the U S? Clothes, books in English, glucosamine tablets, battery operated toothbrush replacements...but the things we missed at first are now almost universally replaced by local alternatives. So what is it that you're afraid you'll miss? Oh, movies....
We watch movies and TV programs perhaps a year after they're shown in the U S, on our satellite T V. We belong to a local stranieri organization that meets a couple of times a year that does book-swaps, so we recycle books we've read and pick up new ones.
Ooooooo...Al Gore. Can you imagine? He sent me an email... The inventor of the internet... I will cherish his email always, even if he is asking for money.
Hot, hot, so what. It's a lovely morning; Dino is playing again with the wisteria. What will he do when the place looks like Green Mansions, covered with the stuff? Today while he's up on his ladder, I stand at the crosspiece where the wisteria winds across the pergola toward the house and imagine the whole pergola covered with it. Dreamy...
We're featuring a property each month on the journal, beginning in June, and it's the property we visited yesterday.
Take a look:
We hear from a woman from Tuscany who I wrote to a month or so ago after watching a program about the problems she and her husband had restoring their property. She's written back, inviting us to come up for a visit, and bring Sofi, "If she won't chase the chickens."
Well, how will we know? They have a dog, so I think it's worth doing, and if we can fit the visit in on the day we visit Carol and Chuck Podesta who will be here for a week, that will be fun.
It's a quiet day, and we're inside for most of it, even having pranzo inside. Tonight we're going to a party in Umbria. We go out so seldom that it's an adventure for us, but Sofi will stay home. It's at an agritourismo, so we'd spend the evening following her about. I think she'd be happier at home, anyway.
We'd like Don Luca to come here for cena on the 1st of July, along with Don Francis and Tiziano to talk about the San Rocco restoration. But in a call earlier from Tiziano, he told him that on the 1st he'd be taking the Mugnano and Bomarzo children to Miralandia, a theme park just outside Ravenna.
I ask Dino how Don Luca will manage to keep everyone in line. "Easy," Dino answers, "Put the fear of God in them!"
It's early evening, and Dino is back on his ladder, fiddling with the wisteria. "What did you do all summer?" "I fiddled with the wisteria..."
We drive past Amelia to an agritourismo that has been rented out by our friend, Nanda, for a group of friends and family here to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of the women. It's a wonderful gathering of very nice people. Nick is there as D J, and we're honored to have been invited.
Here's Nanda and the birthday girl dancing the night away.
I do restorative work on my current tellaio, trying to fill in any remaining tiny holes with paint. Then I make changes to Hildegarde's face until I'm satisfied, and Dino hangs it up on the wall. I'm still not satisfied, so stand up on the couch over and over to make tiny changes. After a while I decide to leave it for now...
We eat salads for pranzo, and eat inside, for it's humid and very hot outside. Afterward, Dino works on the computer and I paint, still not satisfied that I have filled all the holes. In the meantime, I work on the warrior's face and become more and more familiar with her features. She's actually quite lovely.
We watch the Discovery Channel and there is a program about the building of highways, beginning with the original Roman roads. Did you know that the word pontiff means bridge, and that the pope was thought of as the bridge between earth and heaven? Try that on your trivia buffs...
Carol Podesta calls, and we'll see her in a couple of days. She's unable to reach the place they are to stay at and Dino finds the owner and then calls Carol to tell her they are expecting them. So Carol tells us when we come to visit to "bring the puppy". That means Sofi, and she'll be happy to be star of the show on Sunday.
The other day, Dino found bagels at the LIDL grocery store (German), so tonight we'll snack on bagels and cream cheese. If these are any good, that will be another U S product that we can now find here...
Dino begins his caki cutting, made more difficult by the installation of the pergola and growth of the wisteria, but possible with his fancy ladder. The fruit is hard now, and the sooner he get them all cut, the sooner we'll be out of the direct path of the boinking caki.
It's Saturday, and the tractors are out. We're up early and Dino leaves for a project in Tenaglie meeting with the muratore while Sofi and I stay home and I return to painting. With the shutters closed, all is mellow. Somehow the day seems happier than usual.
I spoke too soon. After spending most of the morning on my latest painting, I realize I will not be able to disguise the tiny holes remaining in the canvas, so set it aside. When Dino arrives I show him, and we agree to try again; this afternoon we will drive to Viterbo for linen and more supplies to make a new tellaio.
A registered letter comes in for me; I am to return to the Questura on a specified date in July, to provide them the documents they already have. Well, if that's the only problem, we can do that easily.
We watch a movie on calcio (soccer) "Goal - the Dream Begins", and with the European championship tomorrow, we're beginning to watch more games. It's pretty interesting. Not really interesting, but somewhat interesting. Might as well see if we can develop an interest in it, since the sport is so popular here.
Tomorrow we'll drive to Tuscany to visit Carol and her family. That should be fun. The children are looking forward to seeing Sofi, so it will be a visit for all of us.
This morning I fed roses and clipped some more lavender, but the bees let me know that I just must stop. So for today, I agree to do so. Perhaps later we'll fill another basket with dried lavender waiting for a new home.
We drive to Viterbo to pick up new linen, and find out that no shops are open on Saturday that will do blowups. So for that we'll have to return on Monday morning to Viterbo. Dino wants to take a photo in Tenaglie, so we drive there before driving home.
On the way, the sunflowers are out, and they are about two weeks late.
At the clients' house, I note that the plums are somewhat ripe, and we taste a couple. They're not as good as ours, but would make good jam. We don't think our clients would be interested in the process of making jam this year, but it's something for them to think about for the future.
Dino tells me that the Kate & Merritt want to sell the wonderful bottom unit. It's a beauty, even if the design was ours. We'll bring in a realtor friend of ours and co-market it. Next week we'll determine a price and will let you know. Take a look at the photos, in case you're looking for a small getaway (currently one bedroom), plus shared use of the back garden.
Dino spends more time on his beloved wisteria, criss-crossing some strands to encourage more growth sooner. The side shoots are really taking hold. Take a look:
We walk up to mass wearing hats, to shield us from the 9 A M sun. It's cool in the "big" church, at least until everyone arrives. One can tell it's summer, for the church is full, and we're able to say a "bentornati" (welcome back) to acquaintances we see once a year. There is always a nod and a "bentrovati" (it is good to be here) in return.
In Rome on this day it's full of people, for today is the festa (celebration) of Rome's patron saints, Pietro (Peter) and Paolo (Paul). That means, in Basilica San Pietro (St. Peter's basilica) and in San Paolo Fuori Muro (St. Paul's "outside the walls"), the mass will be celebrated with all its finest adornments. Tonight there will be tanti spettacolo (a big fireworks display), but much chaos, so it's a good idea for Romans to escape the city on this weekend.
While we're waiting for the priest, we all watch Livio change the colors of the various church cloths from green to red. I'm not completely familiar with the reasoning, so later look it up.
It's still a mystery, although certain celebratory saints days are honored using the color red. But then others are honored using the color...white. After today's mass, he'll turn them back to green, for it is the color used in Ordinary Time.
I'm still not sure I understand, but on Tuesday we'll ask Don Francis to explain. He's very conversant in the Italian customs of the Church, and loves to tell stories relating to anything we ask, so we'll let you know then.
There are so many fluttering fans in the church, including ours, that they appear like flittering butterflies as the mass drones on. Don Luca is the priest, and his piercing eyes appear more so in his red vestment.
Vincenza wants to know about the festa di lavanda, and when I tell her there won't be one this year because of the heat, she wants us to have one anyway, but a cena. So Dino thinks we should have one while everyone is here for Ferragosto, during the middle days of August. Va bene. We will put together a local group and work out the logistics with her the next time we see them.
Aogosto presents us with a program for Diego Costaguti's free concerts, for they attended last night, and we tell them that we have a program; that Diego is a friend. We surely need to attend soon.
Back at home, we all feast on a roast chicken that Dino picked up at Il Pallone after mass, then drive up to Chiusi and on to Panicale to visit Carol and Chuck and their family. It s so great to see them.
Fontenera, the estate on which their house is located, is a beauty, and before we leave we walk over to the pool, where a delighted Sofi races around on the nearby grass. For the past few hours she's chased lizards and rolled around on the grass, so she's so tired that she sleeps on the back seat as we drive down to Orvieto to Candace and Frank's.
The temperature has cooled to the high twenties, so Sofi plays in their back garden while we look at the wooden stage that has been built out of specially treated hard wood. It is beautiful, and we ask them if they've had a meal out here. Since the structure is all so new, they'll do that later.
Now it's time to watch Dino install the arm over the large round table outside their back door. Hanging wire and glass lanterns are hung from the arm, holding lit votives. It's fun to be involved in this new project for them. And on this night we celebrate the new lights and our new friends, David and Colette and their son John, who sit around the table with us, joined by Buzzy and of course our hosts.
There's talk tonight about the country of Cameroon, where Colette is from, and about FAO, where David works out of their Rome headquarters. FAO is an important employer in Rome, and more often than not we run into expats who work there. (I try not to use last names any more, for privacy's sake.)
"So is sustainable agriculture all about grain?" Buzzy wants to know. And so a conversation led by David ensues, during which it is hoped that in planning agricultural programs for developing countries is based on the needs and wishes of locals instead of expedient wishes of bureaucrats in the organizations masterminding the projects.
"We Americans are so insular. These Europeans are so expansive," Dino and I think and share our thoughts on the way home. As we are noting week by week, the ideas and wishes of Americans are noticeably put on the back burner, as America becomes more of a second-rate force on the world's stage. It feels like an out-of-body experience, in which I watch the world news unravel a different America, one that has lost its way.
And so the discussion about Obama and Bush ensues. Silently, although we will vote for Obama, I fear that these things will not change after the U S Presidential election, no matter who wins. "Beware" I say to myself. "Your hopes are held too high...", and it is then that I surmise that we all will face a terrible let-down, when the economy and the falling dollar continue their current paths after the results of the November election.
"Simplify, simplify," I tell myself. We hunker down these days, eating simply, not spending money on anything but necessities, even foregoing long distance auto travel except for preplanned trips to pick up Don and Mary and then Pietro from the Rome airports this summer.
It's midnight when we arrive home, and take a look at the wisteria, to see if it has added inches since this morning...
Dino waters early this morning, and drives to Soriano to meet with the ENEL woman to have her explain the latest registered mail from them. We'll need to pay the €600 plus bill for the months of February through April on a monthly basis, and he works this out before returning home for pranzo. She winds up telling Dino to pay for it in three parts, so we'll see what happens with that.
There's a session at Marco's today, and I iron out the newly purchased linen we washed yesterday morning, but it is as tough as if a sizing has been added. It does not iron out well, and only after Dino leaves do I find another piece of linen folded up in the vetrina; one that we can use on the wooden frame, after the latest disastrous painting has been removed.
We take all the linen to Marco's and he thinks this newest batch looks strange. So we'll wash it again, to make it softer, only to add gesso di Bologna to make it stiffer again after it's stapled onto the frame. What?
I decide that I will work my way around the remaining tiny holes in the current canvas anywat, so work on it at Marco's while we listen to "The Magic Flute" and I tell him that I'm the only person in the world who does not like Mozart's music. When he switches the CD to Carmen I thank him and kid with him that it felt like being in prison listening to Mozart.
I'm able to reconstruct the woman's face, and there are hardly any tiny holes in that part of the canvas. So I hope to finish it in a couple of weeks and move on, perhaps taking on another "virtue or two", or researching Rembrandt to see if I can find any information to use for my father's painting.
We drive to Viterbo tonight for groceries for tomorrow's cena, and for the first time in a very long time Dino takes me to Le Clerc, the IPER grocery store on the outskirts of Viterbo. I like the way this store is laid out, and it's easier to find things here than in IPERCOOP.
On the way out of town, someone tries to overtake Dino in their car, only to find themselves behind us as we turn right at the roundabout near IPERCOOP. The person beeps his horn, and I mention that hardly anyone beeps his/her horn in Itay. Dino looks at me as if I have three heads.
"People beep their horns all the time!" he responds, and I suppose I have not noticed it, or perhaps his driving when he is not with me is more erratic. Either way, it appears to be a trait taken from the U. S. Fortunately, we have not ever seen "road rage" here.
Perhaps that is to come, too, along with "mall cruising". Tonight we see scores of young people at the IPERCOOP mall, just walking arm in arm. The store is "mobbed" with people and I'm wondering if it has something to do with the very hot weather. Inside the mall it's very cool. Oh how sadly homogenized we are all becoming...
As the month draws to a close, what can I say about it? Well, summer has finally arrived and we're settling into our summer pattern. I do like this season; I love the fresh smells of early morning in the garden and standing under the growing wisteria pergola. I'm also satisfied with our more Spartan lifestyle, and realize that we don't seem to lack anything important, anyway.