July through September, 2009

To read the CURRENT month, go to ITALY JOURNAL

We post to the journal several times a month, so if you'd like to be notified each time we post, send us an email: evanne@lavventuraitalia.com

JULY 2009

July 1
We think estate (summer) has finally arrived, with temperatures rising almost to the 30's (almost 90 degrees Farenheit). Va bene?

According to my feeble memory, we're about a month late for these temperatures, but no matter...

A profusion of birds sitting in the surrounding trees create a cacciarata (chattering); how strange that this "noise" can make a person feel so at peace. The sound is a virtual symphony, as if the air about us breathes in and out while the smells of the fragrant lavender and herbs warmed by the sun dance about. Although stiffness in my shoulders tells me that a migraine is not far behind, I choose to ignore it and close the shutters to the sun, as if that will help.

I'm pleased to hear that the Obama administration appointed Lynn Rosenthal its adviser on violence against American women. She ran a shelter herself, so knows firsthand how sad and unnecessary this violence can be. The fact that a national advisor has formally been appointed is a great step forward; perhaps one day she will have an influence on women's issues around the world.

Joe Biden deserves credit for this, having written the Violence Against Women Act. Yes, women have perpetrated violence against men, but the numbers are so small in comparison. Let's just say that violence of any kind is not just. I've learned a good deal from Middle Eastern women about this...in order for things to change, there must be respect for all people.

Dino wakes up early to work on the pomodori; the plants have flowers and fruit, but are not robust. He does not know why. This is his domain, so I don't interfere. Two of the three "giganti" (huge) plants in the front orto have lots of fruit; each day we hope they'll turn red. Now that the hot weather is upon us, they surely will. Get out those tomato recipes. Time to feed the plants, too.

Dino lost some of the photos he took yesterday at Pepe's wheat cutting, but we have a few days to return to take more if we need them. It seems he loses photos when he changes batteries.

While I write this, he's changing the door to the refrigerator; this is the frigo we brought in from the outdoor kitchen when our old one conked out. Am I crazy, or do appliances not have lives as long as the ones of my youth? Dino soon realizes he needs to buy a part for it...Does this signal the end of this frigo, too?

Speaking of refrigerators, my mother always squirreled away things in the frigo when I lived at home, a little bit here, a little bit there. One day, I found a cartoon in which a woman said to a young man, "I have things in my refrigerator older than you!" and for years she kept that on the door of her frigo with a magnet. Just the thought of it makes me smile. Hi, Mom.

PARIS, France (CNN) -- "Al Qaeda threatened to "take revenge" on France "by every means and wherever we can reach them" because of a debate in France over whether the burqa, a traditional Islamic woman's covering, violates French law, according to a statement posted on radical Islamist Web sites. "We will not tolerate such provocations and injustices, and we will take our revenge from France," said the statement, signed by Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, calling himself "commander of al Qaeda in North Africa." "The problem of the burqa is not a religious problem. This is an issue of a woman's freedom and dignity. This is not a religious symbol. It is a sign of subservience; it is a sign of lowering. I want to say solemnly, the burqa is not welcome in France," Sarkozy said. "The right of Muslim women to cover themselves is fiercely debated in France, which has a significant Muslim minority but also a staunchly secular constitution." So is Sarkozy right? Many women want to wear the burqua, or chador, depending what country we are speaking about. It offers a kind of nest, a cocoon, in which women can hide from others around them as they float by.

The issue, as you know, is much larger than the fabric the women wear. It is the fabric of culture and civilization in which they live that is the issue. We're talking about fear; fear of a man losing his masculinity and power, fear of a woman's continued oppression by men in those cultures where the burqua is traditionally mandated by law.

I agree about a woman's right to choose what to wear and how and when to wear it. But we're not there yet. So again, it cannot be a man/woman issue, for women will surely lose. In order for it to be successful, economies need to prosper and men need to let up on their grasp of power over women. It is when women and men can treat each other with mutual respect that everyone will be successful.

I don't think good things have ever been achieved by mandate. Can you imagine someone coming up to you and telling you that you cannot wear something that you choose to wear? Where is this world heading?

So now that the US is formally "out" of Iraq, are we still seen as the oppressor? Initially we surely were. But now that the Iraqi military seems to be strong, we're hoping that their people can lead lives free of oppression; our soldiers stand by outside their cities in the event they tell us they need us.

Where does that leave the US? We're up to our neck in debt to China and other countries because of our insistence that people of the world live in freedom and without oppression. Isn't that a mess?

So we're going to become a second rate economic power. Does that mean that other countries, like France and Germany, will take the lead in fighting oppression moving forward after not having "skin in the game" throughout the Iraq war?

How do we regroup as a country? That's up to younger and smarter minds to figure out. We have enough challenge here just keeping our tomatoes healthy. That reminds me; we need to feed our crop a general fertilizer (biologic, of course) again, and Dino has increased watering to the plants. Soon, very soon...

I paint for a while, working on different parts of the canvas. Layer and layer are added here and there, and the change is subtle but definite. I'm not in any hurry, but love the process.

Thunderstorms erupt, and we spend the evening inside. But when I walk upstairs to bed the air is fresh and the storms have passed. It's so silent there is not even a bird chirping; they are probably trying to dry off.

Oh. The rain is back. No matter...

July 2
Only the date at the top of each day's post tells me what day it is. The days run together and it does not matter, but I feel my head is spinning when I can't seem to figure out whether this is a Tuesday or a Wednesday or a Thursday.

Perhaps this morning it is because I woke up before dawn with a migraine. After my cocktail of meds and several hours of sleep I'm back among the living. I am full of love and life, blessing my existence as Dino drives off to pick up a friend from the train and I lean out like a bowsprit to close the front shutters, drinking in the sounds and the fragrance of our gardens.

Since we have a new big frigo in the summer kitchen, there is room to add a big bowl of potato salad for Saturday's 4th of July dinner here. That day is the only time we hang the American Flag and eat only American food. But why do we call these things "American" when the two continents are North and South and the North also contains Mexico and Canada? Sounds pretty elitist to me.

In today's New York Times, I read: "The Vatican is quietly conducting two sweeping investigations of American nuns, leaving some fearful that they are the targets of a doctrinal inquisition."

I curse out loud in the name of the Lord when reading that the Vatican has chosen to investigate the lives of Nuns living in the United States! Cardinal Levada, formerly of San Francisco and friendly with our very own Don Francis is the head of it, in his role as Leader of the Doctrine of the Faith.

Cardinal Levada sent a letter to the Leadership Conference saying an investigation was warranted because it appeared that the organization had done little since it was warned eight years ago that it had failed to "promote" the church's teachings on three issues: the male-only priesthood, homosexuality and the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church as the means to salvation. Go ahead. Blame it all on the poor nuns.

So here we are again. Are women around the world to be treated differently from men, and even singled out because they are "different"? Perhaps this is just a housekeeping thing, but I am wary, very wary, especially since a number of nuns want to be accepted to the priesthood. Hmmm. Is there a connection?

While we're at it, why don't we include research into the belief of many that priests should marry? I've long spoken about this, especially since the years during which I was a member of the Orthodox Church in America, where parish priest were told that they must marry in order to be able to knowingly advise families about family issues.

Is this too rational? Since the Church will be shaking the trees, why don't we really shake things up and see if this will be a way to halt the sexual abuses of priests? Oh. The article does not say that. It clearly says that it has done little to promote its teachings as they currently are...

I see. Now the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the Clinton administration is to be the secret behind closed doors of priests who don't do as they are told and are ferreted away to new dioceses instead of being helped or asked to leave the priesthood.

> This all has me simmering, so it's a good day for my Gelato and Granita story to appear on Italian Notebook:


Poor Don Francis. We'll pick him up at the airport next week and he'll endure a whole ride with me quizzing him on his defense of the Vatican's beliefs. Perhaps now that he's practically pensionato (retired) he'll side more with us.

We're happy for him that he's going to live in his house in Isernia, in the Molise, and we will see him more. If you recall, he is responsible for me becoming a Catholic, ministering to me while we lived in Mill Valley, and also performed our Italian Catholic marriage ceremony in Scarzuola in 2003.

There is news that Don Luca has been transferred! A meeting of the two confraternities of Mugnano and Bomarzo is to be held on the 11th, and we'll be very sorry to see him depart. He is a rising star in the Church, and it won't take long for him to become a Bishop, I suppose, although I don't know what it takes to become one. I only know that one does not have to be a priest to become Pope, as told in the wonderful book written by Ray Flynn, The Accidental Pope.

Thunder rages outside, and I'm thinking of requesting Dino to cover the pomodori during the hottest hours of the day 10AM to 3PM. Since they are his babies I should not, but after visiting there this morning to pick basil for our caprese, I noticed that some of the flowers are dead. I'll find a way to suggest it...Felice counseled us to do that years ago when the temperature soared. Oh, how we miss him!

I have painting to do, and there is a possibility that Fortezza will be sent to Washington, DC to be auctioned on behalf of Ariana Outreach.


Sadly, Ariana Outreach's URL no longer exists, so I'll have to find out where the new information about it is located and let you know. Oh. It's


We subscribe to truthout.org, and in today's post, people of Pakistan were asked how they felt about Obama's goals. 93 percent agreed with the view that he sought to impose American culture on the Islamic world, and 90 percent supported the notion that he wanted to weaken and divide the Muslim world, the survey showed. We need to step back and take a look at the broader picture. What are we missing?

There are problems with the American culture, I admit (one of the reasons we've chosen to live here), but what are we trying to impose? ...Our ability to speak out ?... our ability to vote?...our belief that people are equal under the law? Or is it the way we treat each other that they see depicted on television and on the internet?

There's so very much to think about...

We're donating my painting "Fortezza" to Ariana Outreach in Washington, D.C. to be auctioned off for the women and children of Afghanistan. I may also paint an Afghan woman, but for now we'll research sending this one. If you'd like to purchase it, with the proceeds going to the organization, let us know what you'd be willing to pay and if the price is fair, you can write your donation off to the extent allowable by law and we'll work out shipping it to you. They really need your help. Thanks for considering it:


Dino drives to Tenaglie for a client meeting, while I paint in the quiet solace of the house. There's been enough rumbling for one day...

As we're SKYPE-ing with the grand daughters. Fabrizio comes by to tell Dino that our priest, Don Luca, is being transferred to Montefiascone and will be replaced by Don Renzo, the Franciscan priest who we like a great deal. There will be cenas (dinners) this month to commemorate the change.

My ruzzole story originally published in Italian Notebook appears today in an Italian magazine called The Roman Forum. Take a look!


July 3
Chatter, chatter, chatter... There's always so much to write about. Now I can add The Roman Forum to my resume. Come no? I hope this means more good things for GB...he's one great guy and has done excellent things with his Italian Notebook.

Italy is not just a pretty face...The country feels strangled by immigration. Here's the latest:
"On Tuesday night 89 migrants, including nine women and three children, were rescued from a dinghy 30 miles off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa and taken back to Libya, the main stepping-off point for most immigrants. The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg reiterated his criticism of the policy Wednesday, saying it made political asylum request ''practically impossible''.

"(ANSA) - Rome, July 1 - Italy came under fire for its controversial immigration policy again on Wednesday as it returned another boatload of would-be migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean back to Libya.

"The commissioner said that while Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and Interior Minister Roberto Maroni were ''absolutely right'' that not everyone who arrives in Italy has the right to asylum, ''they certainly have the right to ask for it''.

Yes, immigrants are able to do the work that Italians don't want to do. As the years pass us by, we'll need more and more immigrants to work in Italy. So what will that do to the national character of the country? In the meantime, we'll enjoy every little bit of it, while we can.

If we're fortunate, we'll be citizens in the near future and will feel a little more secure then. Now when driving to the grocery store at Il Pallone, men with their shopping carts full of handkerchiefs and socks and table cloths for sale remind me that we are immigrants, too "There but for the grace of God, go I". Iolanda, Dino's mom, said that often.

This morning I'm anxious to pick up hamburger buns for tomorrow night; no, there is no such thing as fresh out of the oven rolls for hamburgers here. LIDL sells a brand with sesame seeds that is pretty good, and there is a "fresh" batch, so we're able to pick up almost all we need.

After a lot of research, we determine that burgers taste best cooked on a griddle. That's good for Dino, who can cook in the summer kitchen. Everyone we've invited, especially the Italians, look forward to this cena on July 4th each year, and so do we!

The weather is quite warm today, and although Mario thought the pomodori plants did not look well this morning when he came to weed whack, Dino fed them. They are his babies now, so although I suggest that he cover them during the hottest parts of the day, he's not interested. I pick several San Marzanos as well several smaller heirlooms, the first of the season. I was not aware that we had any small tomatoes.

We're very unhappy with the way our shutters turned out, so the person we ordered them from will be doing Provencal shutters for a client, and since they'd work better with our house than the original ones and be a more simple design, we'll see what we can work out with him to have them replaced.

I'm going to wait until tomorrow morning to make the cherry pie, but otherwise we're ready for the festa. In the morning we'll hang the American Flag at the back of the garden pergola.

The news about Afghanistan is not good. The Administration of the US government always seems to get caught up with the wrong players, and although we want to leave a better Iraq than we found and a better Afghanistan, with fertile land and ample water, things look bleak.

The arm of the United Nations that is the WFP or World Food Program seems to have credence, and we know some of the people in Rome. They're certainly not ready to go to Afghanistan until the Taliban are scared away like cockroaches, moving "within the walls" to another nearby country to rest until things look safe for them to return.

We've begun to research sending a painting or two to Washington, D.C. to Ariana Outreach for their September gala, and I wait to hear back from Humira with some photos I can use. Perhaps Gretchen knows of some Afghan women in Rome who can sit for me? I email them to ask.

In typical Dino fashion, he reads to me about a woman in Capri who died and her dog was the only mourner following her casket to the camposanto (cemetery, or church yard). He reads this to me while I'm on the computer and he's in bed, cooling off after pranzo.

I open up the Italian/English dictionary. Yes, the word is there. But the word "campo" is used for many things. Here is a sample: "campo" is a field, camp, ground, tennis court, golf course; center (e.g. for refugees), but "campo addestramento" is a training camp; "campo d'aviazione" is an airfield or airport; "lasciare il campo" is to retreat; mettere in campo is to bring up; "piantare il campo" is to pitch camp. Now if you're like Dino, this is a way to learn the language that can be fun.

Do cypress trees ever stop growing? When we moved here, the tallest tree in his view from the bed reached just below the horizon of the far hills. Today, 7 years later, it appears to have grown one and one half to two meters. Is it fun that we now speak in meters instead of feet? Perhaps we're like the Italians who "think in lire but spend in euro". We "think in inches and feet but measure in meters".

Some time ago, I wrote a story about the Italian Cypress for Italian Notebook, but it has not yet appeared. Dino thinks that people in Italy just call them Cypress, just as he thinks that in Egypt they just call Egyptian cotton "cotton"... Funny guy. I email GB, who tells me that he thinks he never received it. So I send it to him again. You may see it soon in your email from italiannotebook.com

Don Francis arrives at the Fiumicino airport on the 8th in the afternoon. We are picking him up there, for there is no way he should attempt to travel through Rome itself on the day Obama will be parading through the streets on his way to the G-8 meeting in L'Aquila. I'm sure he's relieved.

I work for several hours on Moona Lisa, and when Dino returns from his meeting, I call him upstairs to see what I have done. I am always inspired by Provence, and today I turn Moona's dress into colors inspired by Van Gogh! I did not think I was an impressionist painter, but there is something in his use of color that impresses me.

When visiting Roussillon, the colors of the clay in the earth were so full of life that we brought back several jars of the natural powders, but have not used them yet. Perhaps I'm going into my impressionist phase...I'm not sure, but love the colors. And oh, I'd so love to return to Provence.

We move a couple of tables and look forward to tomorrow night's celebration here. Wherever you are, hope you have a marvelous day.

July 4
Dino drives to the butcher in Lugnano for the hamburgers, while I attempt a buttery piecrust. I've never been successful in making one yet, but don't like the pre-made crusts available in the stores. We have plenty of bottled cherries from our tree in a kind of jam with full fruit that we made last year, so it will be great for the filling. Keep your fingers crossed.

While in the kitchen freezing the butter chunks for the piecrust, I watch Al Jazerra in English on the tv. This is the station of choice for us for news, and has an interesting perspective. I am sorry that people around the world don't take advantage of this station...the US stations seem so insular, have such a strong point of view, that I believe its viewers suffer. To understand the point and the plight of people different from us is such an important thing. Give it a chance and let me know what you think.

I've put the dough in the freezer, and have at least succeeded in the recipe up to this point, for the first time. Now I'll put the bottom crust in the freezer to be sure it holds up when put in the oven for it's first bake, before the cherries are put in. Enough said about this...You want to know about our Italy life...

I don't like the recipe for the dough, and the finished pie looks, well, artigianale. I've carved out leaves and an apple for the top and they are all right. It looks amateurish, but perhaps with ice cream the taste will disguise the crust. Magari(If only that were so...).

Today is hot, very hot, and after a simple pranzo, Dino picks up Duccio and Giovanna's son, Francesco, at Orte to take him to Bomarzo. Duccio is not doing well, and will return to Rome and the hospital, driven by his son. Our prayers are with him.

I want to return to painting, so now that most of what we have to do is finished, except for some weeding that we can't do in the heat of the day, I do. The cow's clothing is certain influenced by Van Gogh's colors. Since this painting is my impression, I might certainly change the wheat field, one that looks too flat, to something more like Van Gogh's. It's a good departure from my former style.

Tonight is full of fun, friends and good food. All the regulars from past years are here, and Paola and Antonio and Mario and Fulvia invited this year add to the fun. It begins warm and humid, but the air settles down and a cool breeze and an almost full moon add to the festive air. Sadly, Dino takes down the flag at around midnight as we clean up, putting things away for another day, another year.

July 5
What is freedom? Last night, Dino and I spoke with Mario Fosci about it, for he was interested in learning about the origin of Independence Day in America.

My heart still swells at the sound of any patriotic American music. After learning more deeply about cultures around the world that are so different from ours, I bless our freedom. No, I do not take this gift, this honor, lightly. Telling the story of America's independence is not easy to do over a glass of wine before cena, but Dino and I give it a try.

Mario wants to know when America gained its independence, and how long it took. What was the date 1776 all about, anyway? It's an enjoyable talk, and has current applications in countries as diverse as Honduras and Iran. This is a good day to be proud, but not complacent.

ROME - Many archaeological sites will be been opened to the public, perhaps one day a week. There aren't enough custodians to monitor these important archaeological sites, and so they are mostly off limits to the public.

With the exception of August, when it's too hot, money has been found to provide staffs for five monuments in the heart of Rome that are usually closed. Nighttime visits to the Colosseum and free after-hours concerts in the museums that house the state's collection of ancient Roman art will also be possible.

Rita Paris, the director of the Palazzo Massimo, wants to get people off the street to come into the museum. "People have to stop thinking of museums as stuffy institutions." We drive up to mass, and as Dino plunks a bag of bottles into the recycling, a bee zooms out and stings him. "Punto!" is a sting, and does it hurt! Evidently they were buzzing around the huge igloo looking recycling dome, as if lying in wait for him...

There is a christening today at noon, but first we have the regular church service. Don Luca arrives, and seems preoccupied. He rushes through the mass as if he is speaking while riding an exercise bike. We like this priest a lot, and will miss him, but sense that his mind is already focused on his next mission, and possibly the politics of it all.

At what point does a parish priest become a member of the establishment? Their ongoing tasks are difficult and often lack the support to help them to thrive, I'm thinking. This man is strong; he can weather any storm. So let's watch what his next assignment in Montefiascone brings his way.

In the meantime, there is hope that we can resurrect the Three Tenors of Mugnano, for Don Renzo loved the idea when we spoke with him about it years ago. Today, Don Luca waits at the end of the mass for someone to begin the closing hymn, and then silently walks into the sacristy to change. But then, singing is not his most favorite task...

We visit Maria Elena, who needs help hanging a heavy mirror, and tell her we'll see her later. Dino returns to the church for the christening of Claudio, Carla's grandson. He'll take photos and make a montage for the family. I remain home with Sofi who has been left at home alone while we were out. She's so happy to see us.

Here is the happy family: Elisa, baby Claudio and Danilo.

Tonight is a birthday cena for Kathleen in Montecchio, including Paolo and Caterina (Paolo was born and grew up in their house). "Alla Romana" is a meal in a restaurant where the bill is divided by the number of people present; each pays their equal share. "Alla Genovese" is a meal in a restaurant where each person pays for what they eat. Tonight's is "alla Romana". Va bene.

Last night, Antonio and Paola and I spoke about the Mugnano family tree project, and he thinks it should be painted on a wall inside the building where events for the village take place. Dino impresses upon me that it should be painted on canvas or on boards, so that it can be moved. Antonio loves, loves, loves the idea. It certainly will take place under the umbrella of Ecomuseo di Mugnano.

A light "bings!" inside my head. Why not walk around the cemetery and write down the names and dates of birth and death of those there for a part of the research? All these people should certainly be included in the tree. But for others, how far afield are we to go? We'll certainly ask Don Luca before he moves on, what records he has that he can share with us. Of course, we'll also visit Sr. Ivo at the Comune.

I'm checking something on the internet and the Metropolitan Museum offers some helpful information regarding the process of painting frescoes for the Mugnano family tree:
"The technique of painting, known from antiquity and especially popular in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, was used to decorate the walls and ceilings of churches, public buildings, and private dwellings.

"The bare wall was first dampened and coated with a layer of coarse lime plaster, called arriccio, on which the design was drawn or brushed in red earth pigment (sinopia). The overall composition was painted in sections known as giornate-Italian for a day's work. Each of these sections was composed of a smooth plaster layer called intonaco. Pigments diluted in water were applied directly to the wet plaster to ensure the permanence of the painting.

"Embellishments applied to a dry wall-fresco a secco (secco is the Italian word for dry)-do not have the same durability, as the paint tends to flake off over time. Because fresco is vulnerable to moisture and may be damaged in a cool, damp environment, the arid Mediterranean climate is favorable for its preservation."

Yes, dear Dino, I hear you loudly and clearly. It will be a canvas, or painted on (why not) wood?

The forecast changes when we return from church to...rain. We are able to wash and dry all the tablecloths from last night, but not more. There are thunderstorms after pranzo, and while Dino has a dolce fa niente (nap), I work on the wheat fields of Moona Lisa. Thunderstorms continue.

By the time we leave for cena, and stop at Tony and Pat's to give them advice on a new project, the weather is sloppy and humid.

We eat cena in Montecchio outside under umbrellas, but there is no rain. Instead, bright stars light the dark night as we toast to Kate's birthday, which will take place later this week.

July 6
Last night at cena, I sat next to Chris, who lives with her husband, Peyton, in San Francisco. She asked me if I had close women friends here in Mugnano, and I tell her that I do not, and perhaps that is what I most miss about living here.

I've become more reflective, more interested in art as the years go by, and with a treasured relationship with Dino, I accept life as it is. Yes, I miss my women friends a great deal. Perhaps one day I'll have a few women friends here, but I will need to embrace learning the language more thoroughly to relate more closely with women in our village.

Yesterday, when looking around the church, I saw only one woman who was less than sixty at the mass. What does that mean for the future of the village? There are a number of women in Mugnano who do not attend church, or not often. Will that change as we all grow older? Perhaps with Don Renzo, the new priest whom we all know and love, there will be more impetus for more people to attend.

While Dino works with a idraulico (plumber) in Tenaglie this morning, I do some deadheading and weeding in the garden and on the terrace. It's hot and a little steamy, but I hang a wash load of laundry out just the same. It feels like summer, and I walk in a slower pace, deciding not to paint this morning.

This afternoon we attend a tea at Kate and Merritt's in Tenaglie where we meet the woman from the castello. She's lovely and friendly, a tiny wisp of a woman, and it's a treat to meet her.

After tea, we drive to Viterbo to pick up some things for our client, and Dino meets with another client after dropping me off at home. He has another small ongoing project...Va bene!

We'd surely love to help the Signora sell her house, a marvelous castello, Palazzo Acajani, with six bedrooms. She's invited us to come by soon, and perhaps we shall later this week or next. After speaking with her for a while about it, we agree that it would be a fine campus for a university or private school. Time to do some brainstorming...


July 7
Dino has work in Tenaglie, meeting a plumber and new elettricista (electrician) and muratore. I fix a crumble for desert that we can also serve tomorrow for Don Francis's short stay.

Friends arrive with Don Francis' car, and stay for pranzo. It's one of those languorous summer afternoons, with breezes dancing around us as platters of caprese and cold chicken and a fruit dessert are served until we've finished them all.

When we walk into the kitchen, the woman looks up at my painting of Hildegarde, and before I say anything she exclaims, "Hildegard of Bingen!" What?

She tells us that Hildegard of Bingen was a 12th century mystic and saint. I had no idea, although recall hearing the name somewhere, somehow...

We take them to Orvieto and return to see Augusta and Luciana slowly walking toward our benches. It's been so long since they sat here, and today they're inching their way down the street.

I welcome the two women back, telling them I've missed them, and while they sit and chat I weed a little nearby, then take Sofi upstairs. I notice three little red plants on a table, left from the 4th of July festa, and put two of them in a plastic sac and take them down to them as little gifts.

It feels like a silent prayer that they'll stay well and be able to walk down here each afternoon as they used to. I love seeing them here, seeing them chat with each other as they have for probably 70 years or more.

These benches are a welcome to our neighbors walking up or down the hill; they beckon them to stop and rest along the way. We have such love to share with these folks; oh the stories we could hear if only we made the attempt to learn the language more thoroughly. Somehow I can't bear to get serious about that, but might take a verb or so a week and practice its different uses...

Let's change the subject and go up to bed...

July 8
We leave at ten, for we have an appointment with the Genius Bar at the Apple store at Roma Est, followed by a drive to Fiumicino Airport to pick up our good friend, Don Francis.

The bar and torrefazzione in Orte sells the best coffee beans since San Francisco! We stop for ground beans and cappuccinos and then drive to Rome Est for a problem with our IPOD. We remember the word for coffee grinder from our San Francisco days, when we'd smell Graffeo's beans roasting in North Beach. So the word "torre-" (tower) farre

"doer" really means coffee grinder.

Yesterday I saw a program about sudoku, the brain training game in which numbers 1 - 9 are used in columns and rows, only one in each. We pick up a couple of books of the game, now I'll need to look up the instructions on the net. It sounds like fun, but perhaps frustrating. We'll see. I'm aware of an ongoing loss of memory, so this might help. Magari!(If only that were so...)

I ask Don Francis about Hildegard of Bingen, and yes, she was a remarkable woman. Where did I hear of her? Later, after Dino fixes us shakeratos (iced coffee in a shaker with sugar), I look her up on Al Gore's internet. Now I understand where I heard of her before...She suffered from great headaches during her life and is the patron saint of...migraines! My head is spinning...

Tonight Don Francis' friends come to the house and we all drive to the next town for pizza under the stars. Sofi loves the place, for she can bound around on the grass with the little children while we sit and enjoy each others' company.

It feels like old times, with friends sitting around a dinner table while Sofi gambols about nearby. The difference is that we are living in a different country than America, with friends we will see again. Yes, this is how we imagined "it" would be.

The bird right outside our bedroom window seems to be saying something just to me. Don Francis has just left, to settle into his new life here in Italy, after breakfast on the terrace. Dino has also left, driving to Tenaglie for a meeting, and I've closed the shutters facing South.

Up above, Pasquale's wife is shaking their sheets, the sound of a sail facing into the wind. They've returned to Mugnano, probably for the summer months.

Sofi and I are alone, and it is silent inside the house, except for the sound of the keys on the computer while I write. I'm feeling pensive, as if a page in the book of our lives has just been turned. The reflection of pignole (pine nut) flowers on the tall cypress we planted more than ten years ago faces me on the open window. What will I orchestrate next?

Yes, these days are ours to choose, and yes, these are the best days of our lives.

The G-8 summit takes place in L'Aquila as I write, and the leaders don't seem to be coming up with much of import. Berlusconi appears the boffo host, with more emphasis in the news about his actions as a peccadillo.

Carla Bruni, wife of President Sarcozy of France, was born in Italy and will spend her entire time in L'Aquila and the surrounding area, giving time and emotional support to the quake's survivors.

The pope has issued his latest encyclical, and feels that there should be a world authority based on ethics. The pontiff said finance without ethics had derailed the real economy, provoking the global economic crisis. It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall when the Obamas meet with the pontiff on Friday.

ANSA "In what appeared to be a further rebuff to the UN's capabilities, the pontiff went on to suggest there is an ''urgent need of a true world political authority'' that would be universally recognised and vested with effective power on a number of issues, including finance and security.

"The authority, the pope wrote, was needed to ''manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration''.

Now the Islamic militants agree with this, with the only difference being that they should be the world authority. This is the basis of their quests.

We've decided to use coffee grounds scattered around in the garden. They're acidic and high in nitrogen, so should help almost everywhere. Let's see what changes they will make...

I also convinced Dino that we should put coffee grounds on the tomato plants, and need to cover them in the middle of the day. Many of the flowers have burned, negating the possibility of future fruit. With all the work we have done on these plants, we surely can't stop now...

Firewood is delivered by our regular supplier mid afternoon, and Sofi and I look out from the balcony to see Dino helping to unload the wood, thankfully wearing gloves. Now his task will be to stack the wood against the inside wall of the parcheggio, until he brings it up to store around the back of the house. Firewood in summer? Si, certo. This is the best time of year to have firewood delivered, for it will certainly dry out in time for our winter use.

While out on the balcony, I'm facing what Pietro calls "hysteria", and that it is, indeed. Our wisteria on the front of the house seems to be marching to its own drummer, now reaching up and out on the balcony. It appears a good deal of it has reached it's optimal end, so I suppose it's time to pinch it off, encouraging more lateral growth. Can you hear the house groaning over its future power?

Dino has yet another meeting in Tenaglie, having successfully helped a client to open another bank account in a more friendly town. The devil is certainly in the details.

Speaking of details, I have begun to insert people's names and dates of births and deaths into an excel chart for the Mugnano family tree. I have more than twenty down, but the concentration to get details right means that I can't do more than this in one sitting.

By the time it's Ferragosto (August 15th), I hope we'll have added all the names we have now as well as those in the local cemetery. Can you just see us moving from spot to spot around the burial ground with our computer? Well, that's just what we are going to do, then double check the records with Signor Ivo in the Comune.

The more we have finished, the easier it will be to get others to contribute. But then, won't we have it almost finished? Think of it. Only those people who were born in Mugnano and have not died will not yet be included...

(ANSA) - Rome, July 8 - "United States first daughters Malia and Sasha Obama became Italian ice-cream makers on Wednesday as their mother Michelle wooed Rome's elite.

"Accompanied by their grandmother, the daughters of US President Barack Obama, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, donned the regulation shirts at historic Rome gelato parlour Giolitti, near the Chamber of Deputies, to become ice-cream makers for the afternoon.

''They made the blackberry flavour and the banana flavour,'' said parlour owner Nazareno Giolitti, who said he had been contacted by the US embassy to offer the Obama girls the behind-the-scenes experience. ''Then they ate them with great gusto and they took some away to offer it tonight to their mother Michelle, who is passionate about genuine products,'' he added.

Earlier in the day Michelle immediately won over Italian President Giorgio Napolitano's wife Clio, who described her as ''outgoing, friendly, sparkling, very lively and down to earth''.

We're proud to have this great family leading America in so many things. I'm especially pleased that Barack and Michelle brought their two girls with them on this trip. What memories the girls will have!

The night is humid, and Pia's son arrives with her across the street and takes out their weed wacker to whack the front of their property, but it is almost 9:30 at night, pretty late for this. Luckily it does not take more than about ten minutes.

Otherwise, all is calm as Sofi and I get ready for bed. Dino watches movies downstairs until he thinks he can sleep. Upstairs the electric fan keeps us cool. We don't know what we'd do without it.

July 10
I so want to paint them...It appears that from two to three million people in Pakistan have been displaced by the war, and now that the area of the SWAT valley has been "secured" by the army, residents can now return. The Taliban have left, but hang out in the mountains and countries beyond, waiting like the cockroaches they are to return, once the armies to protect the residents have left.

A sea change in my mind has occurred after listening a few days ago to an interview with Eve Ensler about family dysfunction and its aftermath. Even in my 60's, there is so much for me to learn about becoming a better person and now, I intend to shake the mantle of it that has weighed me down all my life. The details are private, but I look forward to reading this months and even years from now to see how effective the knowledge is in relating to what is left of my family.

I wake with a terrible migraine early in the morning, and after taking my cocktail of meds, return to bed for a while. There is a sweet breeze playing with the gauzy window curtains, and the birds tell me I'll soon be fine.

"Six of one; half dozen of another..." This is a phrase I've heard all our married life from Dino. It occurs after I suggest a way of doing something that is different from his. This morning, we agree that we'll put the coffee grounds from breakfast into the soil beneath the tomato plants. He wants to bring in an empty coffee can and save the grounds, letting them dry and scattering them on a few plants at a time.

I want to use them immediately and on one plant each morning. "Six of one, that's you, " I joke with my somewhat stubborn dearest one. "Half dozen of another, that's me." How interesting and challenging are the compromises of married life!

"Come vuole (as you like)" I relent with somewhat of a bewildered smile.

"It's not as if we were trying to liberate the Kurds," Paul, the musical director of the Mountain Play in Mill Valley, CA would say. That was twenty-five years ago, and said when a small challenge came up regarding some issue we were attempting to resolve... At that time, the Kurdish situation seemed hopelessly insurmountable, their people so badly treated.

Today, the Kurds in Iraq have put together their own constitution, separate from the Iraqi government, declaring the oil fields in their region their own separate entities, giving the US leaders who have worked tirelessly to free the people of the country from oppression a punch in the belly. It forewarns another dictatorship, with no checks and balances. Did not we all see this coming?

I've closed the shutters on the front of the bedroom to the sun, while watching the open window to the West and the gauzy curtains wave back and forth, birds singing all the while. This will be a good day, I am sure.

NYT: "Al Qaeda's affiliate in North Africa has carried out a string of killings, bombings and other lethal attacks against Westerners and African security forces in recent weeks that have raised fears that the terrorist group may be taking a deadlier turn.

"Attacks linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have increased sharply in recent weeks, posing a new level of threat to Western interests and African security.

"American and European security and counterterrorism officials say the attacks may signal the return of foreign fighters from the Iraq war, where they honed their bomb-making skills.

"The attacks also reflect Al Qaeda's growing tentacles in the northern tier of Africa, outside the group's main sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal areas, the officials say."

I hear an earthmover nearby, and wonder if the land surrounding the possible agritourismo near us has anyone to guide its work, carefully checking for Etruscan treasures. We recall walking over the land years ago, with its Etruscan caves, and now think so many treasures are being turned to dust.

There is some talk that the Italian government is so needy of income that it, for a price, it may allow land formerly zoned solely agricultural to be turned into "edificabile" or build able land. Oh, the Americanization of this rich cultural land, turning it into "boxes made of ticky-tacky"...remember Woody Guthrie's lament?

So Pakistan's Taliban leader, Mulla Omar, is willing to talk with the United States at the bargaining table. I'll remain hopeful, yet a bit skeptical. Since the war can't be win militarily, it's a promising step.

I've finished the two hundred year tree of Gigliola's family, with seventy-five entries. It's a great start, and we'll continue to move forward on this, possibly with a trip to the cemetery soon. Yes, only three or so family names emerge so far.

Tonight we're off to our first sagra of the year, between Orvieto and Viterbo in the town of Sugano. This is a new town for us, and they do not take reservations. We'll let you know....

Sugano is a sweet town, but didn't you think it would be with that sugary name? It's well organized, with young children doing the serving and acting so very professionally. Alberto, our server, does a fine job. There must be a local soccer league and this could raise money for uniforms and such. We'll certainly come again. There are six of us tonight, and the evening is full of laughter. We walk back to our cars under a starry sky and hug our good friends good night and wish one couple good travels until we see them again.

July 11
I've decided to publish CNN's entire story here about a Saudi woman activist; it's worth reading and considering:
"CNN) -- Wajeha al-Huwaider picked up her passport, got in a taxi, and headed from her home in eastern Saudi Arabia to the nearby island kingdom of Bahrain -- a 45-minute drive that many Saudis take to get away for the weekend.

"Wajeha al-Huwaider says women face too many controls in Saudi Arabia. Despite having a valid passport, Saudi authorities at the border sent al-Huwaider home. That's because in Saudi Arabia, a woman needs permission from her male guardian before she can leave the country.

"Al-Huwaider -- a vocal women's rights activist in Saudi Arabia -- knew before she left that she would be turned away at the border. Her attempted trip was simply to make a point about the Saudi guardianship system that she says "controls all aspects of women's lives."

"Either you treat us like mature citizens or let us leave the country (permanently)," she told CNN. She's urging all Saudi women who are tired of "being oppressed" to go "to any border and try to cross it without permission from their male relative."

"She wants to end Saudi Arabia's strict guardianship laws in which women must get permission from their husband, father, or closest male relative before doing the most mundane of tasks -- including working outside the home, going to school, maintaining a bank account, or leaving the country for a weekend getaway.

"Saudi Arabia is conflicted when it comes to women's rights. Women are not allowed to vote or drive, but earlier this year Saudi King Abdullah appointed Nora al-Fayez as the kingdom's first female deputy minister of education as part of a massive Cabinet reshuffling.

"Many consider Abdullah to be a reformer and the move was hailed within Saudi Arabia as a great step forward for women's rights. But al-Huwaider sees it differently, claiming even a woman as powerful as al-Fayez "isn't really in control of her life."

"If she wants to travel is not up to her, it's up to her male guardian," she said.

"Human Rights Watch has criticized the Saudi government for not living up to commitments it made to the United Nations Human Rights Council. HRW issued a report last year detailing the negative impact of the guardianship system on Saudi women. It said Saudi officials have asserted that such guardianship requirements do not exist.

"The Saudi government is saying one thing to the Human Rights Council in Geneva but doing another thing inside the kingdom," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director. "It needs to stop requiring adult women to seek permission from men, not just pretend to stop it."

"Efforts to reach the Saudi government for comment were unsuccessful.

"HRW issued a report last year detailing the negative impact of the guardianship system on Saudi women. It said Saudi officials have asserted that such guardianship requirements do not exist.

"Last month, al-Huwaider tried three times to cross from Saudi Arabia into Bahrain on her own and without permission from a male guardian. She was turned back each time but she said she'll continue going to Saudi's land borders and its airports in an attempt to gain "her rights."

"She has even protested on the side of a major road, the King Fahd Causeway that connects Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.Al-Huwaider insists this campaign is different from previous ones she's been involved in.

"It's not about just sending messages and petitions anymore," she said. "We're not going to send any letters to anyone. Saudi women have to find someone who will take them to an airport or a border and say that they don't approve of the system and that they want to leave."

"She said that her mission is more than just an act of civil disobedience. Most of the people think I'm doing it just to allow women to travel without permission," says Al-Huwaider. "But I keep telling women that it's the whole system that needs to be changed."

And so it goes...

Dino has an early meeting, and Sofi and I pick the first crop of San Marzano tomatoes to bottle. This afternoon we'll do our first batch in the summer kitchen.

There are ripe pears, so I fix another crumble. It lasts for several days in the frigo and a small amount served with ice cream is always treat.

The twenty-eight San Marzanos make two pint jars...but there is no extra water and the jars are very pulpy. We are thinking of only bottling the San Marzanos this year, and ate our first "giganti" tomatoes today at pranzo. Most of the heirloom tomatoes are quite small. After all the work done to raise them from seed, I'm quite disappointed, but we have a couple of summer months ahead of us to recoup.

Dino has his "farewell Don Luca" Confraternity dinner tonight in Bomarzo, so Sofi and I will have a girls' night. We'll probably watch a movie or read in bed. Or perhaps we'll read in the "amaca" (hammock) in the garden.

I'm really tired, and a "dolce fa niente" (nap) is in the cards for this afternoon....

The Italian news agency, ANSA has a quote from Berlusconi too funny to ignore:
"Turning his attention to his own personal relationship with the American president, Berlusconi said ''my rapport with Obama is very cordial. Last night we sat next to each other at dinner and our conversation was very friendly''.

''He told me about his private life and I told him about mine. We initiated a dialogue which could bloom into a rapport of esteem and friendship, which I believe makes relationships easier between all leaders,'' the Italian premier said."

I'm imagining Obama hearing things about Berlusconi's social life that he just does not want to know...

After a long nap, I watch a documentary on the SKY Current channel, called Citizen Berlusconi. I don't watch it all, for I arrive when it's halfway finished, but what I see is so typical. Berlusconi is one of those "jack in the box" characters, albeit in a business suit.

There is a segment in which he's brought before a judge regarding a conflict of interest and the camera is partly behind him. He's seen wiping the top of his perspiring head with a handkerchief. But the result is good for him, as it usually is. He's found innocent.

A later scene in the Italian Parliament shows a raucous and animated group, with its members standing up and shouting, or ignoring what is going on while they read the paper, half-heartedly pushing the vote button without engaging.

A member stands up and speaks eloquently against Berlusconi, only to be overruled. Yes, you know what happens now. The man throws his hands up in the air in disgust, and spurts out a diatribe.

Sofi takes advantage of Dino's departure tonight to spend the evening hunting around her doghouse for lizards. She's so full of life after her long nap; for once she does not want to come in. When the darkness descends, I'll call her again.

But for now, she continues to sniff around, while sounds of grilli rubbing their sandpaper legs together come in through the open window. This drives the birds and I crazy. The birds are silent, or are they drowned out by the less than enchanting noise?

Dino returns to say that the dinner was fun; next time I'll be invited to the final, final arrividerci to Don Luca. Va bene.

July 12
We have a house I love in Guardea to show to a client, and pick up Sofi after church to meet with the woman. I love this house; I love its style, its shape, its garden, and the 300 square meters of space.

Oh. The woman drives toward Napoli, in the opposite direction and gets lost, so we'll have to show it to her another time. Meanwhile, we drive to Guardea anyway and walk along the town's Sunday market, which is fun.

We stop along the side of the road, for I will write a story about girasole (sunflowers) and should even paint one or two. I hate to say they are ubiquitous, but in July they are everywhere; on hills, on flat land, in various stages of growth.

Dino is happy because it's a Formula 1 day, with a race soon after pranzo. He's happy with the race, happy with the results. Sofi and I spend the time upstairs, with me working on the Mugnano family tree and Dino sleeping after the race is finished.

I want to go to the cemetery to begin documenting all the births and deaths, and Dino wants to go, too. Dogs aren't allowed in the cemetery, so Sofi stays home. But when we arrive, Ida is there with Basquia, the little male dog that likes Sofi. Next time we'll bring her.

Ida is the widow of Ennio Farina, and seems to feel at peace in this place. Basquia is, too, for he runs around licking the water from the base of the flowerpots. Silly dog...

Maria Teresa Romoli and her husband arrive, and we tell them about the tree, asking them if they'll write down what they can about their family's genealogy. She tells me she can only go back to her grandparents (nonni) and we tell her that's fine. We want everyone with connections to the village to get involved in this project.

Earlier, Miriam gave us her list of the Pannucci and Farina families, and there are many of those. I've entered all of Gigliola's, going back 250 years, and now Dino wants to know who is the first recorded person in Mugnano...He always has a funny take on an idea.

We walk around and Dino calls out the names and dates while I write. We finish most of the newer part, and will return soon to continue. Just before we're through, Ida and Maria Teresa and Alvaro sit on the bench in front of us, telling us who is an uncle, who is a cousin.

Then the fireworks begin...Ida calls out,"Don't include HIM! In the tree! Don't include her, either. Neither of them were born or died in Mugnano!" The two others nod their heads in agreement. Their name is Porcelli; he was a carabinieri (policeman), and yes, we take their names off the list.

"How about us?" I ask. "Do you think we should be buried here? "Yes," they all agree. It's a good thing, for we already have the last available plot of land in the cemetery, although there are cement boxes still available to slide caskets into, in rows four high. Soon they'll have to open up another section on the back of the hill. We're safe, regardless.

We've been good; good enough to drive to Sippicciano for gelato. It's so delicious...

Back at home, Gigliola and Livio arrive with a few corrections and additions to their list for the Mugnano "family" tree. There were two words used here and there on the headstones..."ved" and "in". The words are the same, and indicate that someone is married and has another cognome (family or last name).

The cemetery needs a little maintenance...just weed wacking, but the weeds are high. Livio and Gigliola shake their heads when we mention it. Giuseppe and his sidekick who are the maintenance workers for the Comune can easily do it, but don't get around to it unless it's just before Ferragosto (August 15th) or November 2nd (Day of the Dead). Dino tells them he'll call the sindaco next week and straighten it out. Ahem!

We call back home after 10 PM to a family party in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it's good to talk to relatives. We'll see them this fall, but it's good to talk to them, just the same. These days we embrace our families more; it has something to do with Italian families being so close and loving. Yes, it does rub off.

I have another headache, perhaps from all the detail work on the computer, but no matter. It's a cool night and we're excited about our latest project. I'm thinking of painting a really beautiful tree on large boards that will be put inside the Mugnano clubhouse.

We have lots to do before we get there, but I'm thinking trunks of trees, and leaves, and even flowers. It may even be a plane tree, for I so love them, and they flank the road out of Bomarzo toward the Superstrada.

Outside on Via Mameli, people are walking and talking. The villagers love to be outside at night when it's cool. Inside the borgo, with the noise of more summer residents and the close quarters, it's probably difficult to get to sleep until at least after midnight. So each night there is a late passagiata (walk) past our house. Everyone seems content in this little village and why not?

July 13
We sleep in; then do much of nothing for the morning, other than fix a pasta with Dino's favorite sugo.

In the afternoon, Dino leaves for a meeting in Tenaglie and then shopping in Viterbo. All the stores are closed in Viterbo each Monday morning, so for those unaware, it is quite a shock.

The weather is warm, and I want to read in the amaca (hammock), with Sofi wagging her tail and then jumping off and chasing lizards. She's a happy girl today, and so am I.

I have a number of paintings I've completed that I don't like at all. So today I determine that I'll repaint each of them and change them until they look good enough to display and of course, sell. Not particularly interested in painting today, I'll read later.

Now I'll do some research on trees, for I'm figuring out what the Mugnano tree itself will look like. I'll begin by studying the paintings of Pisarro, and perhaps the tree will emulate one of my beloved plane trees. It will work well geographically, for two rows of them flank the road leading outside Bomarzo to the Superstrada.

We've taken photos of the trees while in Provence, and perhaps I'll take a crack at painting one as an example. They are similar to the Sequoia trees we knew in California, their roots sticking up above ground like gnarly feet.

It is said that the plane tree is also the tree known in the time of Ancient Vesuvius, and has the largest girth of any European tree. The bark of the plane tree is mottled and, frankly, gorgeous.

Sun lowers in the sky; I make a banana cake with three bananas instead of two and it winds up a bit soupy. Fa niente (It doesn't matter). Most of it is just fine, and I don't want to continue to bake it. Serves me right for making an American recipe.

Dino arrives home and spends time watering and walking around the garden and terrace. I think this relaxes him. I do research on a couple of stories to write, stories in which dear Pepino will figure prominently. We've learned quite a bit about farming and planting from him, not that we know all that much before.

Did you know there is a difference between straw and hay? Think of Mary and Joseph and the Christ Child in the manger. Straw lay in the manger on the ground; hay was what was used to feed the animals. Straw consists of just the stalks of wheat that are used as "beds" for animals.

Hay is green grass that is cut and then dried. Straw is generally "baled" in bundles (bales). Hay is usually stored in large stacks along roadsides where farmers can get to them quickly. Hay lays on the floor...straw is used on the roof. I'm more confused than ever...

July 14
Seth Jones has a new book, and it appears to be worth reading. Here's what he says about the U S failure in Afghanistan:
"...the result of the failure of the Rumsfeld Pentagon and the Bush White House, which were preoccupied with Iraq, to listen to "seasoned diplomats and military commanders in Afghanistan" who were calling for more resources and troops.

"It was also a failure, Mr. Jones reminds us, to learn from history; after all, "past empires that have dared to enter Afghanistan - from Alexander the Great to Great Britain and the Soviet Union - have found initial entry possible, even easy, only to find themselves fatally mired in local resistance." Which is why that harsh and mountainous country has become known, in the words of his book's title, as "the graveyard of empires."


So summer continues, hot and dry. Cicadas are here, and I'm trying to ignore them. Dino is, (where else?), in Tenaglie, after picking up Don from the train station. They both come back for pranzo, and it's so hot we eat in the kitchen with the lights partially off and the shutters closed. I'm thinking we should be whispering.

I slice one of the gigantic tomatoes, and it's enough for caprese for the three of us after a baked pasta dish. These are Italian varieties that never fail, or at least have never failed us in the several years we've planted them. I'm not really happy about the tomatoes in the hot sun, but Dino agrees to put the covers on them that Felice made years ago if I'll help him tomorrow morning. Si, certo! Hooray!

The rest of the day is quiet, but I'd like to return to the cemetery, so Dino and I drive up there for some more jotting down of names and dates. Sofi comes with us, but since Basquia is also there running around, she winds up back in the car. A cemetery is not a place for dogs running around. And I don't want Sofi to get a bad 'rap".

Back at home, it's a mellow night, and that's how we like it.

July 15
Here in Mugnano on this warm morning with sunny skies, Sofi and I roam around the garden, weeding and puttering. Dino has driven to Tenaglie and will return for pranzo.

I spend a couple of hours painting Moona Lisa, and she's appearing in more depth. I'm not about to rush with this painting. One of these days we need to find out what it will cost to ship the painting of Fortezza to Washington, D.C. I'm sorry I can't attend the gala in Sept, but am happy to send this to the people at Ariana Outreach for their work in Afghanistan. Yes, I really am serious about finding a way to help.

Liberato Nardi was born in Mugnano in 1744. He's the oldest person we've found so far in our Mugnano family tree search. We're up to 325 names, and as we walk around the cemetery, new names pop up at every stop. Many, many years ago, Mugnano was even larger than Bomarzo, and more important. So the tree may be groaning with fruit by the time I'm ready to pick up a paintbrush and commit it to wood...

I like this next story, one that was printed in the New York Times, which you've probably read, and it's by Thomas L. Friedman. It tells a great deal about the Iraqi people:
"After Saddam was ousted in 2003," said Deputy Provincial Council Chairman Rebwar Talabani, "there was an elderly citizen who wanted to write a letter to the new government to explain all his sufferings from the Saddam era to get compensation. But he was illiterate.

"As you may know, outside our government offices we have professional letter-writers for illiterate people. So the man told the letter-writer all of his problems. 'In the '50s, they destroyed my house,' he said. 'In the '60s, they killed two of my sons. In the '70s, they confiscated my properties,' and so on, right up to today.

"The letter-writer wrote it all down. When he was done, the man asked the letter-writer to read it back to him before he handed it to the governor. So the letter-writer read it aloud. When he got done, the man hit himself on the head and said, 'That is so beautifully done. I had no idea all this happened to me.' "

"Talabani's joke seemed to have been directed as much to his fellow Iraqis as to Admiral Mullen. My translation: "Everyone here has a history, and it's mostly painful. We Iraqis love to tell our histories. And the more we do, the better they get. But with you Americans leaving, we need to decide: Do we keep telling our stories, or do we figure out how to settle our differences?"

"And that is my take-away from this visit: Iraqis know who they were, and they don't always like it, but they still have not figured out whom they want to be as a country. They are exhausted from years of civil strife and really don't want to go there again.

"Yet on the big unresolved issues - how will power be shared in Kirkuk, how will the Sunnis who joined the "awakening" be absorbed into the government, how will oil wealth and power be shared between provinces and the central government - the different ethnic communities still don't want to compromise much either."

I have another headache, probably because of the computer work to input the more than 300 names and dates of Mugnano folks so far. While putting names and dates in the document, I'm thinking of the people who have died and wonder if they're looking down on me, watching us proceed on this project for the village. If so, I hope they're smiling. Who knows...when we're gone we just might meet a lot of new/old friends.

Oh, it's time to post the Journal. Tomorrow we'll take a woman to look at a property; she knows the woman in Capri whom I met on the street and liked a great deal. That reminds Dino to call the sandal place in Capri; they have still not sent my sandals but say that they will do so at the end of this week. Magari! No wonder there are negative comments about them on tripadvisor.com. We remain hopeful.

For the past several days, we've eaten caprese (sliced tomatoes with sliced buffala mozzarella, basil and olive oil) using our own heirloom and gigantic tomatoes, but over all, the crop is a real disappointment.

We've covered the tomatoes beginning this morning, we've fed them and water them consistently with a drip system, but they don't seem particularly happy...or tasteful, even though we've planted basil between many of them.

The seeds are not new this year, but from now on we'll buy new seeds each November when we are in California. Knowing that a stress free life is what we're choosing, we'll eat what we can fresh, bottle the San Marzanos, and wait until next year for a great crop.

With our indoor serra for early Spring, we're sure we'll begin well. Let us know what you've found with your tomatoes. Perhaps this is just not a good year for crops in general.

July 16
After another headache last night, I'm feeling better. In the reflection of an open bedroom window, I can see the pignoli "flowers" on the tall cypress trees standing on the terrace. The trees are marvels, and soon I imagine they will be at their full height. But what do I know?

I do know that the humming of the cicadas surround us, so we might as well enjoy them. I suppose that when they stop that we'll think we're missing something, as though we'll feel emptiness in the air.

Dino shops for pranzo, and this afternoon we'll meet a woman and take her to a property we love. Is she here just to see it? We will find out.

In the meantime, let's paint a little...

Today's New York Times has me cheering! I read the most amazing story of women seeking asylum from abuse who are located in countries around the world; it has me speechless.

The story continues... "Any applicant for asylum or refugee status in the United States must demonstrate a "well-founded fear of persecution" because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or "membership in a particular social group."

"The extended legal argument has been whether abused women could be part of any social group that would be eligible under those terms. Last year, 22,930 people won asylum in this country fleeing all types of persecution; the number has been decreasing in recent years.

"Because asylum cases are confidential, there is no way of knowing how many applications by battered women have been denied or held up over the last decade. The issue is further complicated by the peculiarities of the United States immigration system, in which asylum cases are heard in courts that are not part of the federal judiciary, but are run by an agency of the Justice Department, with Homeland Security officials representing the government.

We'll see how this shakes out, but it is a hopeful sign; hopeful for perhaps its emphasis on treating women respectfully around the world will receive more than a modicum of support in the developing countries which rely on our support.

We meet Santa and Vincenzo, who live in Naples, and are not sure if they are really looking for a weekend place or not, but enjoy spending time with them. We show them both properties in Tenaglie, and one is lovely but too small and too dark and the other is very good but too much money...too much money?

Is this a trait of Napolitani? I think so. The price is as low as we can get it, so either they love it and have to have it or they don't. No matter. We suggest an overnight at Diego's Castello Santa Maria, and guide them there. It's a lovely afternoon and they'll surely enjoy the pool and dining room.

Diego welcomes Dino's call, and when we arrive Serena is walking up from the pool! It's so good to see her back; she arrived yesterday. So tonight she'll cook and since Santa is a food writer and journalist, we're hopeful she will write a story about Serena, whose resume includes study with Paul Bocouse in Lyon, work at The Ritz in Paris, work at Harrods in London...and a summer at a 5 star hotel on the Amalfi Coast.

We stop at Walter's for a piccolo gelato and then return to the cemetero for a page worth of names to add to our tree. Every name counts, and we'll soon be at 350. Will we be at 500 when we're done? That will add a real new dimension to the challenge, but we look forward to whatever it brings. These days, I'm actually content to be walking around the place.

We return home to a welcoming Sofi and look forward to a quiet evening as the temperature begins to cool. Summer it is, with temperatures in the 30's (90's F). Let's take it easy...

Dino printed a photo we took of Diego Costaguti's family tree, one that goes back to the 1600's. I think there are too many disks on it, where the different relatives' names were printed. So I'm continuing to map out the Mugnano tree in my mind.

Al Franken of Minnesota has taken over Senator Wellstone's old Senate seat. Senator Wellstone died in a plane crash in 2002 and we were so sad at the time, for he was the special honorary Senator for Camp Royanee.

If you knew us then, you'll recall that he even wrote us a letter on Senate stationery regarding our naming a ridge after him where our spiked watermelon speed spitting contest took place each year. He was a senator for the little guy....Hats off to you up there, Senator...

As Wellstone said, "Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people's lives. It's about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and the world. Politics is about doing well for the people."

He'd be happy that it appears that a comprehensive medical care package is moving along through the Senate. Let's hope so. When a second rate country like Italy can have one of the best health care programs in the world, what's wrong with the U.S.? I'm preaching to the choir, so let's talk about Italy...

When it's bed time, the cicadas continue their heavy breathing exercises, and perhaps they'll lull us to sleep...magari (if only that were so(!) July 17
We're having cena at the Swedes' house tonight, and we're to bring a dolce...What will that be? Dino wants original Toll House cookies, with Stracciatella (chocolate chip) gelato, so that's what we'll do. I think there is only one ottimo(best) recipe, the original one, but we'll add walnuts if they are not included.

Hot, hot, hot...I am sure that's what today will become. Shutters closed, fans cranked up; that's how we survive the dark days inside when temperatures rise to the mid thirties Centigrade (90's F).

Somehow sweet, these days are so pleasant that Dino can drive in his air-conditioned car, La Giallina, to shop for pranzo. He loves to be out in the car, no matter the weather.

There's a project for Dino afoot in Tenaglie for another client, and this time it's related to a pool on their deck (?). Stranieri (non-Italians) often have a difficult time adjusting to the ways of Italians in this country, loving the place but missing their particular creature comforts. This time, the clients want to sit in their pool any time of year while looking out at their marvelous panorama. Va bene.

He is also about to do another project for another straniero, researching and supervising the installation of a swimming pool. He has built a store of resources and tips on what not to do regarding pools, for we know many people who have shared their tales of woe regarding piscinas (swimming pools).

Why is Dino such a great person to take on projects for stranieri? He knows the locals, knows how to cajole the workers to do what they have previously promised with one eye shut to their clients. He also loves the work and would rather take on project management work than sit around and read.

Our personalities are so aligned that we sometimes have friction, but mostly our lives are in perfect harmony. These days, I can paint, I can read, I can garden, I can dream...with Sofi always by my side, while Dino putters or shops or takes on projects for others. So we are loners in a sympathetic way and love our time together, as if we were one.

Perhaps there will be a little time this afternoon to revisit the cemetery to take down more names. I do want to push forward, and this weekend will see if Antonio will be able to add to my list. Then it's on to Sr. Ivo at the Comune and Don Luca to see what information they have to add.

In the meantime, there's the Moona Lisa painting to be finished before the first week in August. It needs to be fairly dry to move it to the ex-scuola for outdoor events.

Next on my painting list will be paintings of three young boys: Salvatore and Andrea from Parma and Andrea from Mugnano. The painting of the two Andreas is from a photo of them a few years ago, sitting on a step with their arms around each other. I'll see if their current expressions will be those I will use instead.

I am not sure of Salvatore's; perhaps his holding of a rope during the tree raising. Those will be fall and winter projects, but spending time with the three of them in advance will be fun.

Dino shops for gocce(chocolate chips) for the cookies for cena, while I catch up on this journal. I awoke with a headache, so don't think I will paint today. What a luxurious life we lead, just the same...

July 18
What a strange night! Wind banged against the windows until Dino closed them, and we woke up to a profusion of clouds in the sky and more wind. The forecast is mostly cloudy, although this latest bout of wind popped up without warning.

It's a good day to do outdoor projects, like stacking the firewood, but wind brings on headaches if I'm not careful, so I return to painting.

We meet a new friend while showing her to our clients' rental units in the afternoon, and tonight will take our friend Don to the opening night of the Soriano jazz festival. We've invited her as well.

Don arrives and he and Dino travel off to the jazz festival, while I finish making a couple of loaves of pane Pugliese and wait for Michelle. She arrives from Firenze, after driving there to pick up her lost luggage, and we drive off to meet Don and Dino.

Parking karma intact, Dino has found us a parking place in the full parking lot, and we're at the festival in time to hear a couple of pieces from a jazz high school band from Philadelphia - Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra (PJO). They are really something, and will return tomorrow night, and so will we...

Michelle has GPS, so we are reminded how a navigation system hampers people from being aware of places around them. We had such a system in our first car in Italy, and although it could navigate the smallest most complicated cities, we did rely on it too much. Now that we don't have one we're acutely aware of scenes as we drive by.

Tonight's festival reminds us how much we enjoy sitting outside under the stars to watch performers get together and riff on stage. The performers are almost always excellent. When we arrived, Dino told us that Italo Liali, the festival's producer, welcomed him back. It's like old times...

July 19
Sofi loves to have guests, and wags her tail as she scampers into Don's room to greet him first thing. We're all up and gabbing while trying yesterday's bread, and the loaf that was unseasoned with oil and sun dried tomatoes is perfect for toast.

Don joins us in church, after spending the night, and it's Don Renzo's first service as our priest. He is quite serious and studious looking as he tells us he's here now for us. Salvatore arrived in church with his grandmother and great grandmother, and frowned a little as he was cajoled into serving as altar boy.

But during communion, when Don Renzo looked down at him and smiled, he beamed. This is an important day for Don Renzo, and possibly also for Salvatore. Will Salvatore become a priest one day? It is possible.

After mass, we take Don into the sacristy, for he wants to see my painting of San Vincenzo and take my photo in front of it. Va bene. We also have a chance to greet Don Renzo and to tell him how happy we are to have him here among us.

Don Luca has done such fine work here; the people of Mugnano certainly appreciate the many things he has done for them. Now we are embarking on a new chapter with a new priest. Don Giampietro will also leave next month, to return to his work in South America, and for that we are truly sad...

We pick up Sofi, staying at home for just awhile while I deadhead white roses on the fiorieras, and then it is time to meet Paulette and her friends.

We wait at the bar at the exit from the A-1, and Pepino and Antonella arrive for coffee. After greetings and agreeing to join them next month in Canepina for a sagra, I ask them if they'll do a genealogical list for us. Si. They are both Fosci's, and tell us the name goes way back in Mugnano.

That is, until we tell them that Gigliola's family tree goes back to 1744. Pepino stares blankly. I'm not so sure that he can do all that...Is there now competition afoot in Mugnano to see whose family goes back further? We'll see...

Don drives ahead to Guardea and meets with the caretaker of the house, telling him we'll be a little late. Va bene and thanks to Don. We arrive and Sofi and I take a short walk in the Sunday Guardea market, while the others walk through the house and garden.

When Sofi and I arrive at the house, we walk right out to the garden, and the breeze billowing through the curtains at the French doors leading from the entryway to the garden remind me that this house is right out of a dream.

One of Paulette's friends sits in the garden munching on plums, in the shade below a grape covered pergola. Sofi loves this garden, and the caretaker helps us to give her a little water. The temperature is quite warm, but breezes keep the garden fresh.

I'm hesitant to walk through the house, for I'm enraptured by it. But I walk upstairs with Sofi in my arms, for both of Paulette's friends are from Afghanistan, and you know what that means...

One of her friends is someone I want to speak with, and the poor woman stands against a doorway while I pummel her with questions and sighs, telling her it is my mission in life to help the women of her country. Yes, I am certain that is true.

We lead the women to the Alviano train station, and it is a 12-minute drive. It's time to say goodbye, for now. We all have homework to do.

Speaking of competi (homework), this morning we greeted Norena Natali, leaving a house adjacent to Ivo's just off the square. She also owns this house, and tells us so as she locks the gate and descends the stairs.

I ask her if she knows about the Mugnano tree project, and if she will write down her family genealogy. She had heard of it, and agrees to it. Now why do I ask everyone we meet?

A very important part of this project is the involvement of all the people of the village; only when the inhabitants embrace the project will it take on real meaning for them. So their writing down of what they know is so very important.

Yes, we can probably come up with what we need from official records, between the cemetery and the church records and the commune records, but the Mugnano tree belongs to all of us. Each of us has something to add. Yes, that's me...the dreamer.

For pranzo, we find our way to the back door of an Autogrille, where we pick up two bagels "porta via" (to go). Autogrilles are visited as stops on a toll road and we are not..on the toll road. There must be some deal between the company and the Italian highway system.

We park where the employees park, and find our way to the front door. Because we're suckers for these bagels, we enjoy them at home with a caprese made with one of our gigantic pomodoris.

Earlier, while deadheading the roses, Marie from up above comments on them, telling me she loves pomodori. We later give her one of these, so that she can save the seeds and plant them next year. It's the neighborly thing to do. Come no?

Walking back from her house, Nando sits in the shade braiding onions. It's a picture perfect moment...but the pic was corrupted in the camera. We leaven the onions for a few minutes and walk up to the borgo to find Paolina. She speaks English and I want to verify some of the details about her father's story...hay, straw, wheat...when to cut, when to plant....

Her car is there, but she and Antonio are nowhere to be found. Pepino and Nonna Candida want us to come in for coffee. Ahhh. It is so hot, what is there about drinking espresso on a hot day? Mille grazie, ma no.

On our way back, Dino picks up the onions from Nando in his cantina. I recall that it used to be Giustino's cantina, but these days the little old guy sits on a chair in the shade of his garage with his head back and his mouth open, until we call out to him.

Giustino is still one scary guy, even though he's 97 or so, and I can just imagine the trouble he gives Maria, his caretaker who has returned from Romania, and this time with her daughter, we think.

Do you remember the trouble Giustino used to give me when he still had his sight, clicking along with his bamboo cane and trying to make a pass? I think I saw a photo of his wife in the cemetery the last time I was there, and she did die a long time before him. He probably wore her out...

We don't visit the cemetery today, but I will tomorrow for sure. The list keeps growing, and that's a good thing. I also need to return to painting Moona Lisa, for it needs to be dry for Ferragosto (The iron days of Summer, usually August 15th).

Tonight we attend the Soriano Jazz Festival (tuscia in Jazz) by ourselves, and arrive later than usual, after watching the British Open (golf) on television.

I don't remember when I've sat in front of a television to watch a golf championship, and this is an interesting one, with the weather a challenge and Tom Watson losing at the last hole in a sudden death playoff.

He is crestfallen; totally heartbroken. The winner is not particularly circumspect, only to say that Tom has won it 5 times. These are dark days for Tom (59 years old), and most of the golf-watching world feels for him, too. Let's get back to Italy...

We sit around and as usual, gab with someone at the next table, who was born in the US but has lived in Soriano for...probably 60 years or more. We're into listening and it is loud, so talking is not easy here. So we enjoy the music until we do not; tonight is the first in the semi-final competition, and we leave before the second set is through, arriving home to a starry sky and a very happy Sofi.

July 20
Dino is a project management machine this morning, with a meeting in Guardea at 8:15, more meetings and more phone calls and a trip to Amelia to the water company, where he runs into Diedre and later, Ruth, who both have homes for sale on our site. Things are quiet all around.

I leave Sofi on the terrace for the first time in perhaps a year or more, and walk up to the cemetery to do more work on the Mugnano tree project before the heat is too oppressive. Sofi's not happy, and I hear her bark now and then, all the way to the cemetery.

I'm alone when I walk through the cemetery gate, but feeling as if I'm among friends, knowing we're doing a good thing for the village and including all of them in it.

After transcribing forty or so names, including some confusion and numerous "veds" and "ins", I realize we'll have to recheck these names closely. It's also quite hot, even though it's not even 9:30, so I stop, and as I leave, Antonella Fosci and Rina arrive in Antonella's car.

I am quite hot when I arrive home, and Sofi cries when she sees me. So we hang out the laundry and sit inside until Dino returns from his many missions....

The word "appenna" means "as soon as" or "hardly" or "scarce", so when Dino texts Don Luca to ask him for a meeting with Don Renzo and himself to talk about the tree project, he receives a response that it will have to be in a couple of weeks, with that word as part of the message.

Let's hope we can meet before August 15th...Perhaps that means we'll visit Sr. Ivo at the Comune after finishing entering all the names from the cemetery before we meet with them...

Oh. Dino finds out that the abbreviation "ved" means vedova "widow" or widower, and "in" means "married to", so they both mean the same thing as noted on a gravestone. Huh?

Now listen up: Dino tells me that the name after the word "ved" is the person's married name and the name before it is the cognome (last name)...of the woman? We've never seen it associated with a man's name, so it is not commonly used, or is that true?

Dino thinks 90% of the time in the Mugnano cemetery, the man has died first. Don't shoot the messenger...I'm just writing what he tells me from the bed as he reads his book with one eye as I sit at the computer.

We hope we can involve Salvatore and Giulia and Federico as well as Ester and Erica in this project, asking them to work with us to verify the information. I was always too afraid of cemeteries before, but know that they are not places to be feared. We are hopeful that this project will help the five of them to learn more about their own heritage.

How many times have you heard that people only know their heritage back as far as their grandparents? It's such a shame. A cousin on my father's side has traced the family back to the Ukraine, but on my mother's side, the town she was born in was burned down and all records destroyed, or that's what she told us. So we don't know much about her side of the family.

How about your heritage? Perhaps this is a good reminder to check a few things out about those who preceded you. It can also be an interesting project for school age children. Research is so much easier these days, no matter where you live.

We attend the jazz festival tonight, but after last night I recall that not every night is a "winner"; however, we love being there when a real jam takes place and the music is fine.

July 21
It's time for an appointment with Giusy again for a pedicure, and she's just returned from Saint Petersburg with an incredible brochure of the place. Yes, we should go; the paintings in The Hermitage Museum are spectacular.

If/when we do travel there, we'll also try to fit in a visit to Kiev/Lipovitz and Warsaw, to see birthplaces of my father and one of Dino's grandfathers. Perhaps this year is the year...

Summer is really here, with temperatures above the 30's Centigrade in the middle of each day. That means covering tomatoes, closing shutters and windows and staying inside or in the air-conditioned car. Today we drive from Orte to Soriano to locate a special panificio for bread; then drive on to Viterbo for a few things. The panificio is a disappointment, but we have a good chicken salad for pranzo at home, anyway.

This afternoon, I think we'll meet a client regarding a house offer, visit a possible new client and spend an hour in the cemetery before returning home. The jazz festival is not in the plans for this evening.

I've agreed with Dino that we will take the four roses out of the pots on the front terrace. They compete with the wisteria, and when anything competes with wisteria, you know who wins.

Instead, we'll use echeveria, which don't need much water but like sun. The ones we have I love, for they are a pale blue color, rimmed in pink, and look great near the house. I don't know what we'll do with the roses, but they're not our favorites, so they may just disappear.

I felt a headache last night, and this morning did not feel much better. After my usual cocktail, I'm feeling too well...It's as if the difmetre is a kind of drug, and I don't want to be dependent on it.

I also have had some gastrointestinal problems, and the internet tells me there is a cause and effect relationship between migraines and the intestinal track. I've surmised this as such for a long time, and will bring the subject up with our doctor, whom we will meet with in about ten days. He's on vacation.

I continue to be disappointed with our heirlooms, but the gigantis are great; very meaty and tasty when eaten with buffala mozzarella and basil from our garden.

Mid afternoon we leave a sad Sofi and visit a property a client has asked us to review; it is a dump, and that's putting it mildly. Worse, there are two pieces of property adjacent to it also for sale, so the buyer will need to purchase the properties or lose most of its view. Since the properties are lower on the hill, it won't be better to build on one of those pieces of land. But it's a good due diligence project since Dino offers "boots on the ground" service.

We sit with another client in their kitchen to discuss a possible offer, and leave with homework to do. There's time to visit new friends who may become new clients at their job site, and the view is a marvel. So is the house, which they are bravely living in for a week or so, while work has stopped.

There's no time to visit the cemetery, but the wife we visited tonight gives me a great idea regarding the tree project. She uses it for taking medical histories. Family by family, we may use a circle for each female and a box for each male, then draw lines to indicate prior generations and marriages.

We stop to visit friends at a new construction site; they planned to move in before the work was finished. Will Dino work with them? We don't know. But as the sun descends, we realize they must see incredible sunsets. From different windows I see scenes ready to paint. That reminds me...time is running out in order to finish Moona Lisa before Ferragosto. Moooooove on!

There is so much work remaining to be done on the Mugnano family tree project before I begin to design the tree on large wooden panels, that Joan's idea is a great addition, and a wonderful test. Dino answers a "come vuole" (as you wish) when I ask him if he'll drive me to the cemetery early tomorrow before the morning heat arrives.

Back at home, there are emails to send, and hugs for Sofi. I really miss her when she's not with us. The night is so very beautiful; the sky is covered with stars, and I wonder about tomorrow's lunar eclipse in Asia. Will we see anything here? We'll let you know...

July 22
"And that lucky ole sun, he has nuthin' to do, but roll 'round heaven all day..." With the sun comes a visit to the cemetery to continue taking down names and dates of births and deaths.

"You can only be you, and I can only be me". ("Lei non pu˜ che essere lei, e posso solo essere me".) I've been thinking that I'm the same person I was as a child, and wonder, at what age did I become so passionate about doing something to better mankind?

This Afghanistan mantra I sing silently these days becomes more real by the hour. The film "Lions for Lambs" is on television; it was released in 2007, but is very timely. If you have a chance to rent it, you'll see what relevance it has today regarding the war in Afghanistan.

We spend a little while at home, then let Sofi guard the house while we meet a new client and a property fit for a dreamer...It's a castle on top of its own little village. We meet one of the five sons of the last owner, who died a few years ago. Included as part of the castle, is a restaurant, one that was closed five years ago.

On the way back, we finally find Pasquale, and no, his house, the one that sits above ours in Mugnano, is no longer for sale. That probably means that his grandsons and our grand daughters are bound to meet one of these visits....What a scary thought!

The weather continues to be what my brother would call "brutal", and I'm thinking of him because a card and letter and photos arrived from his new wife, Marti, who I recall from our days at Thayer Academy. It's time to reconnect, and one of these days they'll even visit. Come no?

We'll not attend the jazz festival tonight, other than to pick up the preventivo for our cemetery plot that will be left at the bar for us.

On the way back from the Castello, we drive through Narni Scalo and see that the Narni Opera is no longer, but has been replaced by the Narni Open Air Festival. Va bene. This is probably a more popular and less expensive venue. We'll have to see if Giovanni is still involved.

We've thrown out four rose plants...the ones sitting in the wisteria planters. It's evident that roses and wisteria aren't very good companions in large pots. Instead, we'll move some of our blue echeverria, which are succulents and love the sun. The roses were never happy there, so addio....

I'm always thinking of Afghanistan, even if only in the back of my mind. If the insurgents are like chameleons and change according to our strategy, why don't we change our strategy to adapt to theirs?

The NYT has a good article about what we are facing there, and it's a long road, all based on counter-insurgency and nation-building. Unfortunately, crooks make lousy fence makers. I remember hearing advice to "keep one's friends close, keep one's enemies closer", and that seems to be what we're sliding into.

I'm logging more names from this morning's cemetery visit while thinking that Pasquale told Dino this afternoon that no one's tomatoes are good this year. It seems to be a regional malaise. I suppose that makes us feel a little better. Our persimmons have not flowered either, so that means no steamed persimmon puddings this Christmas. Sorry.

Candace and Frank arrive with house guests, and Candace appears to be the one holdout with great tomatoes. She put hers in late, and perhaps that was the charm; she missed the spring rains...

We do drive to Soriano to hear one set of the jazz festival. "I Crickets" perform, but don't be deterred...they may win the entire competition. The group, from Sicily, consists of a pianist extraordinaire, a drummer and a base player. Each is exceptional in their own way. We'll see next week who wins.

The preventivo from Il Paradiso is at Caffé Centrale waiting for us, and we're thrown for a loop. Why should it cost more than €8.000 for a couple of pepperino boxes for our cemetery casas? I suggest that Dino speak with Franco from Tessicini, for he may have a clue. Although the pepperino is 10cm thick, we can't figure out why...It appears this project will drag on...

July 23
Last night, Frank reminded us that he wants to take Sofi while we're in the US later this year, so perhaps we'll take him up on it. Right now, it seems to be the most logical option.

Dino leaves for appointments and projects; Sofi and I remain home and yes, it's time to work on Moona Lisa. With Ferragosto, the "iron days of August" (around the 15th) only a few weeks away, I must finish it in time to dry somewhat, before it's exhibited with the three contadini(farmer) paintings the villagers like to have join them during festa meals. It's as though these three never left...

We have plenty of tomatoes ripening, of different sizes and colors. Why are we so complacent? I have no idea, except we thought we'd have lots more. Many of the plants never flowered, but the ones that have are wonderful.

Every day, there's caprese (sliced tomatoes, sliced buffala mozzarella, chopped basil, covered with local olive oil and grindings of salt and pepper) as part of pranzo. It never seems to get boring.

This afternoon it's time to return to Daniele for my hair. Yes, it's long, and I like it that way. But he calls just before the appointment to change it until tomorrow. Va bene.

Tonight we attend the jazz festival for one set, and the young players are excellent technicians, but lack any rapport with the audience. Judges sit in the audience, so we wonder if they're "grading" them down for that.

Dino tells me he likes the drive through the hills of Soriano, likes the twists and turns of the road; a road he used to hate. I thought age brings on an inability to change...but we seem to thrive on new ideas, new ways to do things than those with which we've grown up.

July 24
It's Terence's birthday, and we're missing him. The girls will probably plan something special, and we'll surely speak with him later.

Dino leaves after breakfast and will return before pranzo. It's time to see what it's like to lie in what the Italians call the ammoc (hammock) and read for a bit. So about trying something new...

We suspended the dark blue and white striped "ammoc" between the smaller persimmon (still without flowers or fruit!) and nespola (loquat) trees in the middle garden a year ago, but never really used it. It looks so welcoming, so why put it off any longer?

Now, I plan to lie in it, possibly even with Sofi on my lap, and confidently sit and then roll into it...only it continues to roll and find myself on the ground, my left shoulder hitting the ground first. Darn! Ow...

I "Get myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again..." This time, I move into the center more slowly and lie back, my feet stretched out in front of me. Yes, this is marvelous. Time to read a bit, while Sofi chases lizards nearby.

So what's the big deal about living here? Well, although we embrace the Italian culture, which we love, enough of those creature comforts and other things we were spoiled with in California are still available here.

Cypress trees, gravel, roses, boxwood, olive trees...this could be a garden in California. What's missing here in the countryside is the breathless noise of radio and tv blaring, fast-paced commercials, big fast cars zooming by, the smell of new leather as we'd imagine buying: a new car, a new house, a new entertainment center. Then the Scarlet O'Hara "I'llthinkaboutittomorrow" mentality of paying for it all later...then the worry about working to pay for what we've just purchased....then the food at the upscale grocery store which cashes our checks, encouraging us to buy still more...

No wonder we're stressed when we travel back to San Francisco once a year! We own our house here, live mostly on Social Security, eat more simply, dine out almost never, entertain simply, and day trips now and then take the place of more expensive "vacations".

It's the medical care that is the real kicker. Our only medical insurance premium is an umbrella major medical that is usable world-wide, insurance that we choose to buy but is not mandatory.

We're on the state medical system as residents, which we like quite a bit. How does Italy manage financially to pay for this? Well, for one, there is no minimum wage. I don't know enough about the economics of it, other than to say we think the medical care is equal to, or better, than the care in the US, at an incredibly reduced price.

C'mon over! You can lie in your own "ammoc" here for real.


Back at the Mugnano family tree project, taking down and then entering the names is fascinating. We're at just under 500 names so far, and I'm estimating there will be another 100 or so names before we're through. Then comes the hard part...Let's hope I can finish this next week so that we can enter church and Comune records prior to Ferragosto (August 15th, when most of the families are here).

It's the mosquitoes at the cemetery that are so difficult to deal with. Since cicadas don't make their racket below 25 degrees, perhaps mosquitoes bite less when it's hotter? There is shade in the part of the cemetery where I am working as of yesterday, so after a hair appt with Daniele in Sipicciano, Dino drops me off there. But it's still hot.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is the one candidate who has a chance of forcing President Hamid Karzai into a runoff in Afghanistan. I am hopeful, as I read this in the NYT online. I like what I read about him and will read more. Hope you will, too.

Michelle (a Tenaglie renter) arrives around 8PM and we take her to the jazz festival tonight. And we eat pizza first in Soriano, trying Sofi out at the jazz festival. We like the Taverna quite a bit, and the pizza is "ottimo"(the best we have had in Italy). Of course, we will return to the restaurant, as well as the festival.

Sofi does better at the jazz festival than we anticipated, wagging her tail at the many people around us, and resting on the old cobbles of the street below our table as the night wears on. The loud music does not seem to bother her.

We send Michelle back to her apartment, armed with Isabella, her GPS. She's a brave woman, not afraid to tackle new things or to try things out for herself. The other night she even dined alone at an outdoor restaurant in Montecchio, even though other diners stared at her, wondering what a woman was doing dining alone.

We know what it's like being stared at in this somewhat parochial country; we're even guilty now of being two of the people who stare...How funny a person's role in society...and the changes that take place when one moves from one country or society to another...

July 25
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -" The war in Afghanistan may no longer be forgotten but the true victims always are. Having been denied healthcare and education under the Taliban, Afghan women are now training as midwives.

"Women and children in the landlocked Asian country have continuously paid the ultimate price throughout the decades of conflict and war. It is their lives that are considered not precious enough to save.

"A woman here dies every 29 minutes due to childbirth complications, according to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) -- one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. One in four children die before they reach the age of five because of the lack of health care and medical facilities in their cities and villages.

"But ignorance is also deadly. Misguided cultural pride prevents men from allowing their women to see a doctor, merely because the doctor could be male.

"And in many cases, it's not just women who die from childbirth-related issues. It is young girls forced into marriage before they even reach puberty. Their still-forming bodies cannot handle the complications of childbirth.

"But there are women in Afghanistan stepping up within the crowds of the forgotten and pushing past the barriers. They are training as midwives across the country to help bring change and save lives." A woman can help a woman more," midwifery student Fariha Ibrahimi told CNN.

"We have to introduce them with what to do, what foods to eat, how to take care of themselves."[We] tell their husbands how to treat them. There are some husbands who beat their wives to the point where they can no longer even get pregnant."

"At the Ibni Sina Balkhi Midwifery Training Center in Kabul, dozens of future midwives study and practice in the hope of bringing a brighter future to their countrywomen.

"It's very heartbreaking," Ibrahimi said of the situation women face. "Afghanistan has gone through so much war and most girls were not allowed to get an education, so I want to study and bring forth something new."

"Sympathy for Afghan women is the strongest motivating force among students in this field: Many know personally what is like to live in a society where pregnant women are ignored and forgotten.

"We live in an area where we are far from any clinic or hospital and there are a lot of difficulties there for pregnant women," Nourzia, a student and mother, told CNN.

"It's very difficult for them to reach a hospital. This is why I was so keen in learning this profession and helping these women; so in the future they are in less danger."

"All the women here are training with the permission and support of their families. They are leading the way to a brighter tomorrow for Afghan women -- one that may one day catch up with the rest of the world.

"The world is moving forward and he didn't want me to sit around jobless," said future midwife, Maurina whose husband is supportive of her new career." He wanted me to push ahead in this field, especially a field in which our people need help in."

"There are still many obstacles left and these women are still in the minority. According to the World Health Organization there are only about 2,000 trained midwives servicing Afghanistan's population of just under 33 million.

"But that is a giant leap from just eight years ago when most women were denied an education, medical care and the basic necessities of survival under the Taliban regime.

"It will take many years to change mindsets instilled by decades of brutality. But these women prove that maybe, just maybe, the next generation can fix the mistakes of the last."

By now, if you've been keeping up with the journal, even if you don't pay attention to news about Afghanistan otherwise, you will have learned a bit about what is happening to the country and its people. This appears to be a promising sign...

I awake with a migraine, then sleep in late. But I rally before noon and want to add to the midwife story that if you're interested in the story, pick up the book The Red Tent. It's an historical novel, and a very interesting one as well.

An oppressive heat descends, and now we're surely in the dog days of summer. It's too hot to finish the work in the cemetery, so we'll see if we can do it tomorrow evening before leaving for the jazz festival. Yes, we're hooked on it.

That reminds me. Italo Leali, the director of the festival, walks over to us, stands right in front of Dino and shakes his hand. Dino asks him who will be first on tonight's performance schedule and he does not know yet.

It appears some performers don't show up on time and he has to regroup. He completely ignores me, does not even look my way. Is that his thanks for the story that was published last year to publicize his festival?

I don't really care, but we met Grace Kelly earlier and she is scheduled for the first spot tonight. We'll attend the Guardea Gnocchi Festival first, so will arrive late, and we'd love to hear and see her play. She lives in Watertown, MA and we'll let you know more later...

Ovidio arrives to look at the terrible shape of our wooden shutters. We purchased them through him last year. Not one of them closes correctly. Sigh. He's here to do a couple of projects for clients, and Dino walks with him to measure. He takes one set with him to dip into paint remover and some kind of solvent, to see if he can straighten them out. My glass is half empty regarding that one....

Another client arrives for an appointment at Sasha's warehouse, but Sasha is a "no-show" and we drive on to the gnocchi festival in Guardea to meet them as well as our good friend, Don Salter. Summer is fun, especially at night, and we're ready for fun!

Later, Dino and I drive to Soriano, and are in time for the first act. Grace Kelly and her group perform second, and at midnight, she wins a final spot for best saxophonist and the group is nominated for best group.

We walk behind the stage, and when she sees us she is surprised, thinking we'd not come tonight. There is plenty to celebrate, and we'll see her again next week. Any of you in the Boston area should look her up. She is a performer to follow...

July 26
We sleep in late, thinking we'll go to Giampietro's mass in Bomarzo, but change our minds and quickly get dressed to go to the mass in Mugnano. Don Luca attends, and afterward we see him on his motorcycle, and tell him why we want to meet with him and with Don Renzo. He counsels us to be aware of the privacy laws in Italy; we are not looking for any private records. Va bene.

We stop at the cemetery, take down the remaining names and drive to Attigliano for shakerati


....these come "correto", with a jolt of Kahlua, and boy are they good! The mix in the cocktail shaker is with full ice cubes, so a couple of partial cubes pop into the glass as well. Wow, this is a great summertime drink!

Dino drives me home and leaves to meet Patrick and Joan and take him to Sasha's. I stay with Sofi, fixing her pranzo and putting together a salatone (big salad), for Dino's return.

He arrives just as the Formula 1 race in Hungary gets ready to begin, and we watch it together, pleased that Lewis Hamilton from England wins the race.

In a few hours, we'll attend the cena in Bomarzo for the Confraternity officers and their wives/girlfriends/findanzatas. We'll not attend the jazz festival tonight, for Dino has an early morning meeting tomorrow.

The evening is really fun, and I find myself sitting next to Don Giampietro, the honored guest, with Don Luca on his left.

This is such a special man. I'm able to tell him so, and listen to him talk about people in need and the sadness in the world. When Don Luca takes the portable microphone around, he comes up to us. Dino makes a grateful statement, and I tell the group I'd rather speak privately to Don Giampietro, which I have. He'll say one more mass in Mugnano before he returns to Chile.

During the evening, when children run around and one is in tears, Don Giampietro calls him over and very gently consoles him. Since it has to do with other children, he gets up and walks over to the group and stays there until there is friendly banter.

When it is time to seranade him and for funny antics, the children gather around him and love the fun almost more than Don Giampietro, if that's possible. He serenades all of us in Spanish and there is such love in the air that it's impossible for people not to have a good time.

July 27
Ready for continued hot weather, Dino leaves very early for appointments, and Sofi and I sleep in. By the time Dino returns at noon, I've returned to painting, and am enjoying the progress. Feeling somewhat inspired by our Provence trips, I make her dress a little "impressionistic", using some of the extraordinary colors of Provence. I could be finished by this weekend, which will give it plenty of time to dry by Ferragosto.

Will we return to Rome for another canvas this month? We're not sure. We're still nowhere regarding the building of our cemetery casas. Dino agrees to talk with Franco, and perhaps that is next. Why are these two thoughts written in the same paragraph? I suppose their high on my priority list.

We return with Sofi to the jazz festival tonight, and it is a wonderful performance, with tonight's group of four augmented by two other greats now and then. It's a two-hour jam, followed after we leave with an all-night jam at the taverna.

We leave just after midnight, with Sofi spending a lot of the time in my lap. She's been a very good dog, and except for the loudest trumpets blaring, during which she hid her head under my arm, she enjoyed all the activity, especially the people.

July 28
Roy seems to enjoy processing the tomatoes, so he picks about 30 San Marzanos, and we add six or so gigantis and are able to process them all in five large jars. While they are processing in the water bath, we drive to Tony and Pat's to lend them five or six ice cube trays.

Ice is not popular in Italy, so trays are not easy to find. Mary Jane's note today in Italian Notebook talks about summer drinks, and I respond to remind her that if one asks for giaccio (ice) in one's drink, they'll be served their drink with one cube floating on top. Nowhere can one find a bag of ice in the super market. Boh!

On the way to Lugnano, we pass Tony, who tells us that last night they waited until 9:30 at night for their contractor to appear to finish a few small things and to get paid. Not a call, although they expected him early in the day.

Dino asks me if I think this is an Italian idiosyncrasy; often we make appointments with Italians and they don't show up, nor do they call. On Sunday morning, for instance, Dino called Sasha after waiting with clients for an hour the night before at his maggazino (warehouse), and Sasha told him he was in bed with a fever. Boh!

Speaking of the word, "boh!", which is about the most common word used in Italy, Dino told me that he heard a three-year-old use this in response to his father asking him a question. It must have been funny at the time.

So, how would we translate or explain the word's usage? In the Italian/English dictionary that we use on the desk, it does not appear; the word appearing where it should be is "bola", which means executioner! Boh!

But in Al Gore's Internet, look at this! Google to the rescue:

"Boh, non ne so niente io..?(espressione perplessa) "Translated: "Boh, I do not know anything". It also can be used as the ultimate answer to the fundamental questions about life, the universe and everything.

Here's even more fun to read:


Dino gets another couple of little projects from a client, and he's very happy when he's busy. So that makes me happy.

I make some changes to Moona and yes, she'll be finished by this weekend, for sure. Speaking of paintings, we have not shipped Fortezza to Washington, D.C., for I have an auction, to benefit the very worthy charity, Ariana Outreach. More on this later...

Nigerians are concerned that the effects of Western Christianity could change the way they view their religion and their lives. Many who are Islam see Western Christianity as a kind of frat party, its members: liberal, spoiled, self-centered...

So is Christianity for everyone...evidently not. It's time to step back and look at a broader picture, one where people of different cultures aspire to different goals and have differing beliefs. It's the peaceful and loving aspects, where people respect other people's differences where I hope that we can find common ground. But it will be a long time coming...probably not in my lifetime. Magari(If only that were so...)

We stay home tonight, other than to take a walk up to the borgo with Sofi. July 29
Obama's administration continues to spend money as if it is as easy as just printing more, choosing to ignore how to pay for it. No, I'm not a "Republican", but at a distance I wonder why...it is as if he's doomed, and will be remembered as a man who cared...

Am I much different? I don't spend money these days, but never had much respect for it. Perhaps that is why living a simple life brings me great happiness.

Dino is "on a mission"...working on a new client's list of things to accomplish, and will probably accomplish most of them by pranzo.

I had a bit of a dizzy spell earlier, but am fine now, feeling just a bit strange. It's a very warm day, so with the shutters closed it's as if we're in a cocoon.

I spend a bit of time looking a Moona, figuring out if there's something basic to change about the painting. Dino returns to his projects after pranzo, meeting renters in Orvieto and taking them to the house in Tenaglie. Tonight we meet Candace and Frank and Don at I Gelsi, one of our favorite trattorias. Don and the renters join us at a table outside just for cena, and it's a fun time.

We then move on to the jazz festival, a big jam and 75th birthday festa for Ray Mantilla. We have seen him at this festival before, and he is so much fun. Wearing red shoes and a white shirt and pants, he has more energy than any of us in the audience, jumping up and down, moving to different drums to whack with his sticks, and telling us to clap to the beat each time he holds up his stick, Simon Says style.

Just before the end, he jams with two drummers and another congo player, and many of us want to get up and wiggle around. Frank tells us that it is the best jazz he has ever heard. What a night!

July 30
Antonio Viva has a sandal shop in Anacapri. We purchased handmade sandals from his shop in mid-May, where the workers all spoke English. Wanting a cushion added, we agreed to wait a week to have them sent.

They arrive today, 2 1/2 months later, possibly only after a telephone call. The person answering the phone verified the entire order without prompting, including cushioning. So although they say that Sofia Loren buys her sandals from him, don't take their word for it. It's fine to purchase sandals from them, just don't rely on them to ship anything to you or to make anything to order.

I know this is harsh, but we are loyal people and would endorse them highly if the order came in correctly, even if it was a bit late. Since we have not experienced being taken advantage of in this manner in the years we have lived here except once, it's worth noting. If you do visit Anacapri, don't hesitate to use my order as an example...vergogna (shame) on them.

That reminds me of the only other time I remember being taken advantage of here...We were at an outdoor mercato (market) at Castiglione del Lago, and found the tablecloths we wanted almost right away. We had seen a vendor at another mercato several days before without enough of the cloths, and he promised to have them for us at this mercato on this day.

We went up to a vendor who displayed the tablecloths we wanted, and asked for the man: to be told he was not there on this particular day. Since he had the correct tablecloths and we thought this was his stall, we purchased five of them, only to find the man who promised them for us further down the road at another stall.

I returned and went over to the vendor and shook my finger at him, chiding him with the word "Vergogna!" (shame on you!) so that the potential purchasers would know he was not to be trusted. He just shook his shoulders as if it was not big deal.

What's the lesson to be learned from this? Well, I'm not sure. If one does not trust anyone at all, they'll miss the journey, which is what counts. I suppose, expect to be taken advantage of once or twice, but learn from each experience and perhaps it will not happen again. If you're fortunate, it won't be an expensive price to pay.

Remember, it's all about the journey...

Don arrives early this morning, for a jaunt to the Abbazia di Farfa (Farfa Abbey), a Benedictine abbey of some note historically. Although we did not see it today, the oldest library in Europe exists here in this remarkable place.


Secretly, I'm hoping to come across a monk who will agree to talk with me; after reading the book, Dakota, I'm fantasizing about staying at one of their Benedictine monasteries one day.

Don tells us a funny story. A group of monks agree to a vow of silence, and they are only allowed to say something every ten years. Ten years go by and one monk stands up and utters, "The porridge is lumpy!" Ten more years go by and he stands up again and says, "The porridge is still lumpy!" Ten more years go by and he stands up again and says, "The porridge is still lumpy!"

As he does this, another monk stands up and utters, "I'm leaving! There's too much complaining going on here!"

The marketplace at the abbey is open the first Sunday of each month, and in addition to a number of very good artisan shops, there is an antiquariato mercato and also a trattoria. The ceramicist is open and his pieces are very good and unusual. We'll surely return, either in August or September.

For pranzo, we eat at a simple place in the next town and it is good; even Sofi enjoys herself on the terrace overlooking the valley of Sorate. Later, we drive up almost to the top of Sorate to the town of San Oreste, where Roy and I recalled having an artisan gelato some years ago.

Yes, the shop is still there, and yes, the gelato is still excellent. We're home by 4PM, enough time for Dino to take a nap and for Don to drive home and have one as well. On these days, it's good to take a nap during the hottest part of the days, although I seldom do.

While Dino and Sofi sleep, I jot down a few things, then attempt to call the sandal maker again...

Giancarlo is his name, and he agrees to speak with his father. I'll call back in a couple of days and will let you know in the next posting...I confirm our conversation in an email, for they have a site on the internet. Stand by...

I watch a program on CNN called Witness to War, in which six reporters talk about what they have witnessed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I continue to be moved by the people, their struggles for peace and survival. What can I do?

Yes, I would give my life if I could make a difference there. Is it too preposterous to think that sitting down with moderate Taliban could really result in Afghanistan and Pakistan at peace? The West, especially "America", is thought of with such disdain.

I learned that the US took its "eye off the ball" 30 years ago when Soviet troops backed away from Afghanistan. I don't believe in looking back, unless it will result in something positive looking ahead. So why can't we rise up and get the reporters to supervise the delivery of food and medicine there now? We'd see firsthand where the supplies were delivered, and the coverage would be popular propaganda.

Here's what the online dictionary... Encarta(r) World English Dictionary (c) 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
describes about propaganda: n
1. information or publicity put out by an organization or government to spread and promote a policy, idea, doctrine, or cause 2. deceptive or distorted information that is systematically spread I'd see it as the first option, where we'd see what was being done. Sure, it's probably too na•ve, but let's do something.

It's really warm tonight, so the jazz festival will be a good place to sit outside. We'll take Sofi and let you know how she does. These nights are pretty wild, with the professionals really having a great time. We won't attend the midnight jam sessions this year, but perhaps next year will take one in...

We all really miss Mary, and I tell Don about Eva Cassidy's song, "I know you by heart", and suggest that's what he do regarding missing Mary. We so look forward to seeing her in September.

July 31
We may use ebay to auction off my painting of La Fortezza, with the proceeds going directly to Ariana Outreach. The proceeds will be used to help the women of Afghanistan. Currently, Ariana Outreach is raising money to create a center in Kabul where literacy classes will be offered to women and a place where they can sew curtains as a means of work.

Here's what the painting, La Fortezza, looks like:

And here's something about her, to give you an idea behind the painting's subject:

We'll be emailing you soon to let you know when the auction has been set up if you are on our email address list. To be sure, email us to let us know you'd like to know more about this worthy nonprofit and the painting. The minimum price is €500 or $700.

If you are interested to buy it before the auction begins, email me a price you would be willing to pay; if the price is agreed upon, you would send your money directly to Ariana Outreach in Washington, DC, and if the price is a fair one, we will circumvent going to auction. The prospects are very exciting and of course your donation is deductible as prescribed by law.

Dino has just left for his latest round of projects and I'm about to work on painting the last bits of Moona Lisa. Yes, this painting will be completed by the end of the weekend.

First it's time to feed the roses, and Sofi scampers with me, even on the front path. Later, Dino will water the plants by hand to make sure the food sinks in. Are there ever weeds!

While feeding the roses near the San Marzano tomatoes, I see that we have figs; not as many, but we have figs. In a month or so we'll have plenty, but I'm not sure we'll make more fig jam. There are also peaches on the nearby tree, ready in a week or so. We'll see...

What's next when Moona is complete? A painting of young Salvatore from the village is probable, with his father leaning over at his side. They stand at the ropes of the tree raising held in our village at the end of April. This finished size will be smaller than the three contadini paintings; we're not sure of the exact size yet. Let's get back to Moona...

But before I'm able to paint, the doorbell rings, and it is Renzo with a hand delivered preventivo for the cemetery plots. I don't have to open it, for the bad news arrived by email a few days ago.

I invite Renzo in, wanting him to look at the painting of his father, Felice, up close. He comes into the kitchen and looks at me instead of the painting; this man is shy, or does he not show emotion? I recall the talk I had with his mother, and he seems to stiffen. So I let it go, and let him leave, thanking him again for delivering the envelope.

When I comment on how expensive the preventivo is, he gives me a "don't' shoot the messenger" rise of his shoulders. He's a kind man, and I regret any discomfort he may have at our expense. Each time I look at the painting of Felice I miss him more. It's a good thing to have him here with us, just the same. I can only smile when remembering this dear man, who touched our lives so.

Before returning to Moona, there are towels to hang out and sheets to wash. As soon as this painting is finished, in the event we don't pick up more canvases, I have work to do on Hildegarde's face and two other canvases that have not come out just the way I'd like.

It's after 11AM before I get back to Moona, but so what? Just as I'm about to pick up my paint brushes, I check out our emails and one arrives from truthout.org that confirms all my concerns about what we are doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Do read it; it may give you a new perspective on what the U S is doing wrong. It makes me quite sad. Read it anyway. Thanks.


Dino returns for pranzo. He's visited with Franco at Tessicini, who has told him where to go in Celleno for a better price for our cemetery plot.

He's also been around to a number of suppliers for a client and has promises of preventivos to come. Now he has to stay on top of these suppliers to be sure everything comes in early and within budget.

I take a nap in the afternoon and read, for it is very hot outside; too hot to do any work.

Tonight, we drive to Vitorchiano for their sagra; Pepino invited us a few weeks ago, and we have been looking forward to attending with him.

The borgo of Vitorchiano is a lovely place. We're happy to share photos of the sagra in progress:

The pasta is made with flour and water only, no eggs or anything else. The strands are long, and are cooked in a sauce of pomodori and finnocchio (wild fennel). The past is called Cavatello.

There are about ten of us tonight, with Pepino and Antonella and Roy and I the only ones from Mugnano. Others are all friends of Pepino, and very friendly. A man from the committee in Vitorchiano takes our order on a little piece of paper...eight pastas plus two more, six faggiolini (beans in an olive oil), six bracciole (grilled pork slices), eight pattatini (fries), acqua leggermente frizzante (water a little carbonated), vino nero (red wine) and vino bianco (white wine). Afterward, there is biscotti to dip in little plastic cups of red wine.

"Io non fame!" (I'm not hungry) is a remark Dino likes to make, but it's not particularly polite. Va bene. Here the people are mostly country people, used to "fare un scarpetta" (making a slipper) with their bread and mopping up the pasta sauce. Perhaps that's why two slices of bread are included alongside each packet of plastic utensils.

Afterward, ragazzi (children) bring huge garbage bags around so that we can throw out our disposables. Children everywhere work happily at these sagras, for the benefits are usually for childrens' programs, mostly calcio (soccer). Sure. Write a story about summer sagras...Dino has plenty of photos...

We thank our host and Antonella, who are buying lottery tickets on a new red motorino as we leave. Thankfully Dino does not buy a ticket, and we walk off to the car and drive through the back roads to nearby Soriano.

We arrive at Caffé Centrale, and all the outdoor tables are taken. But Aldo and Pina (Giuseppina), who we see here each year, ask us to join them. Va bene.

Dino gets hugs from the fifteen-year-young Romanian boy who played piano here last year, and also Bobby Watson, who is the star tonight. Bobby is Dino's new best friend, but did not find the earring he left on stage a few nights ago. He's a macho kind of guy, but really a friendly man, who appears with a great white hat with the brim turned up in front. He's a character from Kansas City we're looking forward to getting to know.

The music is, well, a blast, with his friends joining him on stage, but he is tonight's star. Bobby plays an alto sax, and it is on fire tonight, as are the drums. Dino thinks the sax has more control over Bobby than Bobby does over it. Huh?

Earlier in the evening, an eleven year young boy sat at the piano and played several pieces that were clearly so advanced and so full of emotion that the audience was wild about him, Who would not be? Italo puts his arm around the boy as he gets up to take his bow and tells us that in the future, kids aged ten and under will be able to attend the summer music sessions for free. The festival realizes how important it is to encourage young musicians. Well, of course they'll have to audition...Va bene!

We're home 'round midnight, with Sofi happy again under the stars as another sweet month and another great Tuscia in Jazz comes winds down.


August 1
The weather is really hot, and shutters remain closed for most of the day. Dino forgot to uncover the pomodori (tomatoes) yesterday, but va bene.

I came home with the beginnings of a migraine last night, but the pills worked their magic while I slept. Now I am fine.

We take Sofi with us when we drive to Celleno to meet Franco and Fabrizio Papalini, the marmiste (marble workers) who specialize in cemetery work. Franco is the father, and is located at his work site by himself. He and his son work together, as many fathers and sons do in Italy.

This is the place Franco from Tessicini recommended to us, and we step down into his little cell of an office, where he opens a little cabinet and takes out dozens of plans for cemetery tombs. "Solo per due" (only for two) Dino tells him, and I add, "Semplice, semplice" (simple, simple).

After opening blueprint after blueprint, each one opening up about six folds wide, he shows us a simple one and Dino takes a photo of it. We ask for a preventivo (bid), and he tells us we can have it right away. He gives us a price and I take a deep breath...It is much less than the place in Soriano wants to charge, but it's still a lot of euro.

"Troppo?" he looks at me, concerned. He comes down some more in price, and then I realize this man just has to make the resting places for us in the cemetery. He's a little man, with gentle hands and the kindest face.

Before we can proceed, he tells us that we have to return to our local geometra, Roberto Pangrazi, to have him draw it up and apply for the permit. "Seguire a me" (follow me) he then tells us, for the Celleno cemetery is nearby.

We follow him and find ourselves in a funeral cortege, heading for the same place. I'm somewhat over-whelmed, and as we all move slowly forward, with those walking in front and behind the hearse just a few cars in front of us, it's as if I'm watching my own funeral.

We enter a separate entrance than the group, and he leads us around to show us samples of what we might choose. After we agree on one and Dino takes the photo, Franco sees the undertaker in charge of the funeral, who walks down the path toward us, shaking Franco's hand. He has nothing to do now, since the ceremony is taking place, and his men in short sleeved blue shirts and black slacks do all the heavy lifting.

It's time to greet prospective clients...and he tells us he knows Mugnano well. Dino asks Franco when the man leaves if this is Franco's Sala di Mostra (showroom), and of course Franco gives him a big smile. He takes us around to show us a few special touches, which he'll add at no extra charge, and then we say goodbye for now...

We stay to walk around a bit, for this is a remarkable cemetery, with some beautiful gravestones and one carved sarcophagus right out of Roman times. Take a look:

Here's another I find endearing...

A woman nearby bids us a "Buon giorno!" and stops to talk, while she waters the plants in front of her family's large vault. Franco is a good man, she tells us, and he'll do some work on her family's crypt soon; work that is needed because of rain damage to the borders of the pavimenti (pavement). Inside the front door stands a beautiful planter, full of Echeveria, a succulent plant similar to one we have and I love. It's just what I would do...

We drive to Viterbo for some errands and to pick up a roast chicken for pranzo, but Dino has a hankering for pasta salad. So while he does another errand after dropping us off, I feed Sofi and make the pasta and then the salad.

Late this afternoon we visit Duccio and Giovanna, on their way to Northern Italia for a month. But first Dino and I and also Sofi lie down in the darkened bedroom for a "dolce fa niente" (sweet nothing, or afternoon nap).

Dino feels somewhat groggy but rested afterward, and I'm fine. We drive to Bomarzo and find Duccio and Giovanna walking up their hill on the way home from Saturday afternoon mass. Va bene.

Giovanna is still worried about Duccio, and I don't blame her. I wonder if Italy sells one of those "I've fallen and I can't get up" buttons. Earlier, he took a walk outside without telling her, and wound up escorting two women around the borgo, while Giovanna waited for his return, very worried. Yes, getting older does weird things to our brains.

We give him a book to read while in the North of Italy for a month that we hope he had not given to us earlier...Dino thinks that when we grow older we can keep giving gifts back and forth, for we won't remember either way.

We bid them a "tanti cosi" (good things), which is a shortened version of "tanti belli cosi" (all good things), meaning something like, 'We send you off with wishes for all good things to happen to you". Remember, don't take Italian lessons from another stranieri!....

From Bomarzo we drive to Soriano. It's a "Notte Bianca" or White Night, when shops stay open all night and tonight jazz music will be played in several different venues. Sofi remains in the car while we have a pizza; then while I walk ahead to save a table, Dino returns to Sofi and she leads him down to me.

For the next couple of hours, we sit back and enjoy jazz, with Sofi spending most of the time on my lap. Tony Monaco is someone we want to see, but he is not on until midnight, and by 11 PM we're somewhat bored. A Notte Bianca crowd is not a good one; they spend their time talking to those around them and mostly ignore what is happening on stage.

We leave the square, walking around with Sofi and running into Alex, who is selling little items with childrens' names on them. Her husband has a jigsaw and cuts the wood out right on the spot.

As a woman who also suffers from strong headaches, she gives me a hug and writes down the name of an acupuncturist in Viterbo, one who has cured her of her headaches. He's Greek, and deals in homeopathic medicine. I've tried acupuncture once in California, but perhaps we should try again. Thanks so much, Alex.

We drive home as the weather cools down quickly; so quickly that as we drive down the hills, the windshield fogs up, and Dino puts on his windshield wipers. "Perhaps that means the cool weather will come on August 1 instead of September 1. I don't think so....We're sure to have plenty of hot weather ahead. But one can only hope...

August 2
We bid ci rivediamo (see you again) and "La gioa continua" to Don Giampietro, whose two-year stint with us comes to an end and he returns to Chile, to work with the poor. We will miss him a great deal.

At the end of the mass, Tiziano walks up to the altar with a large sheet of paper and talks for five minutes about how the community has appreciated the good works of this wonderful and joyous priest.

We cannot really understand the words, but on Tiziano's way out of town, he stops to give us a document from his father and tells us that the gist of what he said was, "Bye!" As Dino repeats often, "Beware of an Italian with a microphone"...this is a great example.

Last night's fog gives way to hot sun. We walk down from Church with Rosina, who tells us a thunderstorm is expected tomorrow. Our online reports for Viterbo indicate none of this, but we rely on Rosina and Marie, both living above us, for the real story.

We take Don to the train station and then return for a cool pranzo of salads and a quiet afternoon.

Oh, the commentaries about fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan get bitterer by the day. In Pakistan, which is mostly Muslim, fires are set on Christian homes, for an alleged desecration of pages of the Koran at a Christian wedding ceremony. Yes, President Obama, it is stupid. It is more than stupid. How could one blame Muslims for their outrage?

I consider myself a devout Christian, but respect the rights of others to think and believe differently from me. The people who destroyed pages of the Muslim sacred book surely knew there would be repercussions. What were they thinking?

I see Afghanistan and Pakistan as very similar in tone, although the conditions are surely not the same. We don't really understand the conditions in these countries, and only now are people speaking about what is really needed there.

Someone from the House of Commons suggests that what is needed is safety and security, the opposite of what they are getting from us as we kill indiscriminately while sending drones in to kill militants.

I'm thinking that citizens of the U S should have a kind of internship in a foreign country for at least six months, to give them an idea of how the world works. People in the U S surely do not "get it". Sitting here in Italy it's very sad to watch, with billions of dollars and thousands of lives going up in a poof of smoke.

Think of yourself as one of the people you watch on the News. What would you want? What are you getting on a daily basis instead? How safe are your lives and the lives of your family? Is there any wonder you'll follow someone who treats you well, no matter their hidden agenda?

While you're miffed with me, here's another idea to add to your bucket. It's the scary word, socialism. Think of your current medical system in the U S, and particularly your own story. Then study the medical system in Italy.

Oh. The government controls it. Isn't that social medicine? What? You pay little, if any, premium? Prescription drugs are free or cost €1? Doctors' visits are free, as many as you like? Surgical procedures are free, except for administration fees of under €40? Is the sound I hear that of you sizzling?

We begin the evening festivities with Tony and Pat Lauria's 50th wedding anniversary at Hotel Umbria. Cocktails around the pool lead to cena (dinner). Most of their family came from the US to help them celebrate - except their two oldest grandchildren who had to stay in the States.

Later, it's a return to Soriano to meet Candace and Frank at the finals of the jazz music competition. We're rooting for Grace Kelly of Boston, the only American in the competition.

We're not surprised that Grace wins, but are so happy. Do see her perform, if she is in your area.


Her stage presence is unforgettable, the joy she shows while playing truly infectious. It's difficult not to stand up and cheer. Her prize is a bottle of grappa - one of the sponsors is a Grappa distillery!

Dino had focused his camera on Grace to see her expression when she won, but she was so excited he could only get the back of her in the shot as she jumped out of her seat to fly to the stage.

It's only sad that all the winners were not asked to play something together as a finale.

August 3
The situation in Afghanistan is such a mess. Take a look at what the destruction of the poppies is doing to the people.


Yes, plowing money into the economy and keeping supplies in the hands of the people are the only way for the people of Afghanistan to live respectful lives. I have no idea how to do that, other than with a kind of UN AID program, where irrigation projects are undertaken, and people are helped to work the land and to gain their own self-respect. It will not be easy. But war will do nothing, other than to chase the people into the arms of the Taliban. It's all so sad.

We drive to the doctor, who tells me not to worry about my dizzy spells; they have some connection to my medicine. Last night I forgot to take my drops until almost 2AM this morning when we returned from the jazz festival, and by 6AM I had a migraine, so took migraine medicine. He tells me I should have some dizziness for about 24 hours. My blood pressure is fine: 120 over 70. Va bene.

Dino's redness on the top of his head is nothing to worry about either, other than to wear a hat when he's in the sun, especially when working outdoors. Dino knows all that, and perhaps now will do what he is told by our good doctor.

Today is Dottore Bevilacqua's return from ten days vacation, during which he played golf all day, every day at his golf course at Sutri. If my brother and his new bride come to visit, perhaps they can play together; it would be fun for Mike and also for Stefano.

Back at home, I decide not to paint, regardless of my goal of finishing Moona by yesterday. There is not much to do, and so what? Sofi and I take a snooze after pranzo. Since there is plenty of wind and a warning of thundershowers, if they materialize we will not attend the Sagra in Cerreto tonight with Candace and Frank.

NYT: "Watching people look at art rekindles a question: What exactly are we looking for when we wander museums?"

I recall a sense of sadness while visiting the very first room of the Vatican Museum some years ago. Dozens of statues on display in that room alone did little to tell the story...sculptors hundreds of years ago whose art was purchased by the Vatican, only to be placed along paths where thousands of visitors each day would breathlessly walk.

If the statue and its creator were fortunate, a person would stop and click a photo and take a mental image. Little did the person think of the hundreds of hours it took to refine this work of art, or to appreciate it for its own merit.

What am I looking for when wandering museums? I am looking for the soul of the creator of the image; what he or she has to say about what they have lovingly fashioned. How can one breathe that in when gliding by, giving an image or a statue a mere glance?

I applaud museums that provide benches for people to sit upon while pondering the work sharing a room with them. Otherwise, I imagine I am alone, ignoring those around me and stand at one until I am read to move to another piece.

I admit that means that I miss many pieces; it does mean that those I admire receive loving attention. Like taking a hasty travel tour, I tell the pieces I miss that I will return one day to give them their due.

Tonight we attend the Focaccia Sagra in Cerreto. Focaccia is bread; usually focaccia is thick, but tonight's is alla Toscana, or like a flat pita bread. Each serving is one half of a round, folded over once again to enfold one or more of a variety of delicious options: sausage, caprese, tuna and the ubiquitous mayonnaise, braciole, cheese and rughetta...The bread is incredibly delicious.

Erika asks me, "Are you a writer? Do you paint and have a journal?" I don't know her well, but respond in the affirmative. She tells me that she found herself on the internet in a posting I wrote about the same sagra we attended two years ago!

Everyone laughs, especially Chubba, who thanks me for spelling his name incorrectly. I like this spelling, so for the future he will remain Chubba to me. Don't imagine a jolly round fellow in Chubba; this one is handsome and thin, with white curly hair and a personality full of life and fun. It's not possible to escape falling in love with this man or his wife, Kay, so the evening is wonderful, spent across the table from these two.

Sofi remains with us, underfoot and under the table, quickly swallowing bits of sausage and focaccia and formaggio.

It's a lovely drive home, under a moon almost pieno (full) and the air is fragrant and cool. No, it did not rain tonight, although the sunset of pink and lavender included plenty of grey clouds trying to push each other out of the way.

We love this sagra, and will be sure to attend next year, too. While looking up our post from two years ago, the description tells it best, so here it is:
"This sagra was an unexpected surprise. It's probably one of the best we've ever attended, and it is a good thing we went tonight, for it's the last night of the sagra for this year. Next year we'll have a whole list of sagras in Italy on our site, at least in Central Italy, in the event any of you want to come over and sample the local celebrations.

"I'm not a fan of foccaccia, thinking it's a dense, doughy bread. This foccaccia is light and looks like a cross between a pita bread and a thin crust pizza bread, folded over with stuffings from caprese (tomato and mozzarella), to fontina cheese and rugula, sausage, tuna, and on and on. There is also pasta, prosciutto and melon and lots of desserts and of course local wine.

"Now this is a tiny town, so the people come from miles around, and by the time we leave at around 10:30 it is packed, the dance floor rocking and people of all ages doing the hully gully (the Italians pronounce it "ally gally"). Italians love this dance, a line dance that never seems to go out of style in Italy.

"At the table with Chubba, Kay, Candace, Frank and John, we sit around and gab while we eat and somehow the subject of animal sounds comes up. Candace tells us that Italians make different animal sounds than Americans do.

"Make a sound like a chicken!" I ask her. She tells me she does not know how Italians imitate chickens, so I'm tempted to turn around and ask someone at the next table.

"In the next days we'll be sure to ask Italians and see what they have to say. Candace thinks that people from different countries make different animal sounds of the same animal. That's a very silly but perhaps interesting study...so where is our tape recorder? Stay tuned..."

So much for asking Italians about animal sounds and listing sagras...we'll try to remember to do this next year. I'll ask Dino to make a reminder next Spring to do the research. Sorry I missed including you on the original posting, Erika.

August 4
It's very cool this morning, with skies full of clouds and signs that we've had rain overnight. Va bene.

As the morning wears on, humidity rises and blue skies try to peek through an abundance of clouds. Dino makes two bottles of tomatoes with a mixture of San Marzanos and Gigantis and heirlooms, and I agree to make a pasta for pranzo, adding what's left of the tomato passata that would not fit in the bottles. It's amazing how many tomatoes it takes to fill a bottle.

Yes, we're gearing up for winter, like chipmunks gathering nuts. That reminds me...hazelnuts (nocciole) have fallen under the arch toward the garden, and I set them aside for later harvesting. We never seem to eat them. Perhaps this year...

We take afternoon naps, for it's overcast and...why not? Later, I work on the Mugnano tree project, looking forward to sharing the information with neighbors and adding more to the list, which is now at 584 souls...

August 5
Blood tests are on the horizon, so we're up early and in Orvieto at the hospital outside of town by 8:30. Getting blood tests in Italy is not difficult. Here is the sequence of events:

1)Ask for and pick up a prescription from your Italian doctor. It will be printed on a white sheet with red writing and boxes.
2) Show up at the scheduled time at the place where you want to have your blood test taken.
3) Take a number for the Cassa, where you will pay. Ours cost €11 for me and niente for Roy due to his advanced age of more than 65.
4) At the same time, take a number for the blood draw. This will save a lot of time, for when you've paid you'll still have to wait for the test itself.
5) When your number is called for the test, walk up to the door of the room where the blood will be drawn
6) Give the papers to the technician. They will sit you down and before you know it your blood will be taken. Ask when the results will be ready (from one day to one week, usually).
7)Pick up the results and take them to your Italian doctor, after which time you'll keep the results. Doctors in Italy do not keep your medical records. You are responsible for those.

Dino unfortunately signs his form, to indicate he is over 65, before getting to the window at the Cassa. "Cattivo!" (bad!) The woman tells him the form is not usable, for he must sign it in her presence. So he calls the doctor's office and will pick up another duplicate prescription this afternoon and we'll go through the whole process again for him tomorrow or in the next days. Luckily, my form was fine.

I'll try to remember to document any procedure we go through, for many of you are considering moving here or owning property. The bureaucracy is not difficult if you understand it. Really.

We think €11 is an incredibly inexpensive price to pay for a blood test. Let us know how much one costs in the U S or other parts of the world. I'll try to document the differences whenever I have the information. So many of you tell us you want to know.

We drive up to Candace and Frank's and Dino works out a cover for their terrace dining during pranzo. He'll install it next week. That's Dino, always thinking of the most logical way to get things done. He is a treasure, that's for sure.

On the way home, we stop at an Autogrille and pick up bagels (porta via- takeout). The bagels always come with a slice of cooked ham and cream cheese and rugghetta inside, plenty of sesame seeds on the outside, and if they toast it, it comes out warm with toasted sesame seeds. We'll toast ours ourselves at home.

Dino has an appointment at the Tenaglie house with an electrician, one who seems to be extremely attentive and on time. Let's hope he knows what he is doing. Dino found him installing a gate for someone in the area, so this will be a better source for him for an electrician than Crisanti of Guardea.

Crisanti is a great guy, as is his partner, Franco, but for ten months Dino could not cajole them to finish the major work they did on the restoration.

I'm characteristically tired, probably because it's warm again and it's a sleepy afternoon, so Sofi and I snooze and I continue to read the book The Island, which I like quite a bit and takes place in Spinalonga (long spine), an island off Crete that had a leper colony at one time. The island does still exist, but the story is probably fiction. I suppose that means that they did find a cure for leprosy...

We're doing some work on the search feature of our web site, for although it's possible to do a search, it's not foolproof. If you're looking for something o our site and can't find it, email us and we'll find a way to help you.

Enzo Rosati, the idraulico (plumber) calls and wants to come by to check the heater. Each year by law, he comes to each house in Mugnano and collects a fee for this. Va bene. Enzo is a lovely man who speaks such an impossible dialect that no one can easily understand him. Imagine the FEDEX man in the old ads speaking in Italian dialect, as if he's pedaling as fast as he can on a bicycle while he's speaking. I'm out of breath just thinking about it.

Enzo arrives a little while later, and as he checks the caldaia (heater) behind the house, he tells me that a topo (mouse) got in there and built a nido (nest) aaaaaaaaaaaaaahh. Being a great guy, he cleaned out the inside of the case and we're good as new. I think the little mouse chewed a few wires but everything is fine now.

Enzo repeats this controllo (checkup) each year, and it costs €80 each time. This checkup is mandatory by law. It's something to remember if you own property here; not a big thing, but good to know.

As Enzo leaves, I watch Obama on TV talking to the American people about the work Americans have to do to bring the economy back. "We're defined by our work," he states, and we couldn't agree more. "What do you do?" is a question most asked by Americans of people they meet.

Here in the Italian countryside, people are defined by their ortos. What they grow or tend in their fields is how they are defined. That is probably why the neighbors thought we were a little crazy when we moved here until we planted tomatoes and other things in our ortos. Now we understand. If someone asks us what we do, we don't always know what to answer.

Dino has been out all afternoon at meetings and Sofi and I welcome him back. He's very serious about what he does for people and sometimes it's as though he's back at Diner+Allied. At least he does not have to wear a tie.

August 6
Dino leaves early to meet with the electrician and his crew in Tenaglie, and if he's through in time he'll have his blood test in Orvieto.

With birdsong in the garden and a blue sky, we're up early and enjoying the summer air and blue sky. Yes, mountain ranges the farthest from us are pale, and as the ranges closer to us appear darker, I'm seeing the landscape with a painter's eye.

Dino told me that he sees things this way as well, after watching me paint. Opening one's eyes to see things always in one's view but usually ignored, is a luxurious thing. We live in luxury these days, "costa niente" (costs nothing) and how good is that (as Penny would say)?

I reach out to close the front shutters like a bowsprit as Vincenzo walks by down below and call out to him. "Buon giorno, Vincenzo!" to which he waves the bamboo stick he uses to steady himself and smiles.

I have to check the desk calendar to figure out what day it is, for the days seem to roll together like a gently rolling ocean. Birds and more birds appear in the garden along with the butterflies, which love to pluck at the lavender and lantana.

Dino clipped the newest lavender some days ago and it appears fresh out of the barbershop, ready for summer spurts of new growth.

I lay in the amaca (hammock) for about twenty minutes while finishing a book, but can't seem to lie still. So I return to the tree project, matching up husbands and wives to see how they relate to the different families in Mugnano.

This incredible bit from Truthout.org:
"First to Fight" is but one of many video games that the US military has availed itself of on an extensive scale to indoctrinate, desensitize, dehumanize and ultimately recruit young people into the vocation of legitimized violence in the name of heroism and patriotism.

"When veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan gathered at a Winter Soldier event to share their stories and experiences in the occupations with the media, Kristopher Goldsmith, who has served in Iraq, spoke to Truthout about what influenced him as a youngster to want to join the military in order to kill people.

"It might sound crazy to anyone who is not a veteran, but video games and movies, especially recent ones, make death and dismemberment seem like ordinary things. You are desensitized to them."

Egad! I found myself horrified last year when little Marcello brandished a toy gun in our village. Mauro told me that Italian boys don't regard guns the way Americans do. Now I know that Italians try to emulate Americans whenever they can...why I don't know.

I also know that it's just a matter of time before guns in Italy will be used for the wrong reasons. How could children not be desensitized by guns; the way they are portrayed in movies and videogames is too seductive to ignore.

Later in the afternoon, with Dino in Viterbo, I lay down with a beauty of a migraine. After lying down for a while and taking medicine, I'm somewhat better, but relieved when Dino tells me he does not care if we travel to Nepi tonight to the jazz festival.

Instead, we watch a couple of movies. Just before turning in, Sofi finds a tiny white lizard under her wicker bed; Dino thinks it's almost an embryo. He takes it away and Sofi settles down. Wherever did it come from?

I'm back to monitoring the exact dosage of my drops at night, so with the lower dose it affects my sleep and I lie awake for most of the night, resting. I suppose the afternoon naps compensate. No matter. The sounds of the crickets are like the rolling of the ammock, back and forth. It's better than counting sheep.

August 7
Dino remains at home this morning, waiting for a call from a repairman who is to repair a dishwasher for a client. He cannot sit still, so putters around doing little things.

My headache remains a bit, probably because I sat in the sun for a while yesterday. Cicadas return, and they remind me of the wasp who zapped the back of my ankle yesterday as I walked by the table on the terrace, probably protecting his nest underneath. When Dino arrived home he sprayed, but we know that this table seems to be a magnet for nidos (hives or nests).

We have several peaches and plenty of little yellow heirloom tomatoes, so I'll make a gazpacho with peaches, for I've found an interesting recipe on the internet. I'll probably make it this afternoon and we'll have it tomorrow. It's best sitting in the frigo for at least several hours after all the ingredients are added. That depends on whether Dino can find all the ingredients.

Back at work on the Mugnano family tree, we talk about getting the residents involved in any additions. Since we don't have all the residents listed who are living now, there are many to add, for we have those who have been buried here, but not all those living. That work is still to come.

I love matching the married names and seeing which families are related. There is much cross over, so once we have the names, verifying their dates of entry into Mugnano will be next. We don't care when someone is born if they were born outside Mugnano, only when they entered Mugnano. So we'll be added in 1997. The adventure continues...

After pranzo, Dino returns to Tenaglie to meet a repairman. It's too hot to do anything outside and we need more ingredients to make the gazpacho. Depending on what Dino returns with, I'll make a modified one. For instance, the small hot peppers (not the pepperoncini) are difficult to find. Rome has everything in its outdoor markets, but we're not planning a trip there, unless we drive down to pick up more canvases.

Let's wait for the art supplies. August is a bad month in Italy to get anything done, and I have other canvases that I want to alter. I'm not in a hurry to do much of anything, although I would like to move forward on the tree project.

August 8
While Dino is in Viterbo to pick up supplies for a project for a client, Elisabetta arrives to ask if we want to attend the pizza cena tonight in the village. We cannot, for we'll be in Guardea at the gnocchi festival, but will return later and come up to the borgo. Tonight, Lore and Alberto will join us, and we'll pick them up. Sofi can come, too. I think she'll behave and will have a good time.

I ask her if she'll write down her family's tree, and she's a little confused. So I ask her who was the first in the village, her mother or her father. She tells me it was her father, who was from here. Oh. What is his cognome (family name)?

It is Fraticelli, and I know that in our chart, someone in the family married someone of the Delfini family, who in turn married someone of the Pannucci family. If you recall, before the 1960's, Mugnano was cut off from most of its neighbors, who had to ferry across the Tiber to reach other villagers. No wonder so many families are connected.

When Dino comes home he is treated to an excellent gazpacho. It really is quite good, and there is more to save for another meal.

We spend a few hours during the afternoon taking naps, for it is hot outside and I have another headache. This morning I sat in the kitchen with the shutters closed and the overhead light on, doing a colored pencil drawing of a banana in a bowl. I don't draw often these days, but really enjoy drawing, so try to see if I can make a drawing look almost real. It's a challenge.

Tonight we pick up our friends just outside the borgo, for no cars are allowed inside, and drive to Guardea, where a table is waiting for us at their gnocchi sagra. Tony and Pat also join us, as does Paulette.

What kind of gnocchi is this? We believe it is pasta with potato, made in long strips that are cut with a knife. They are not the little morsels turned with a fork and no, I have still not made gnocchi. Four of us have our gnocchi with castrato, or a sugo made with castrated lamb, which is quite tender. I know, the thought of the process makes me ill and is a great endorsement for becoming a vegetarian.

The night is lovely and we have a full moon as we drive back through Sipicciano for a gelato at Walter's. My gelato story has still not been published, but perhaps it will be before summer is through.

We drop Alberto and Lore off at the entrance to the borgo, then walk over to the ex-scuola, where people are dancing to disco music. Antonio is the D J, and makes an announcement regarding the folks who have not submitted their family genealogical trees to us.

We ask Antonio when we should unveil Mooca Lisa di Mugnano and he tells us tomorrow night. We'll try to stand it in Livio and Gigliola's grotto in the corner of the square.

Tomorrow night is a contest of desserts, and Paola tells me I should submit something. So it will be either chocolate cookies or brownies. She tells me to be sure to enter. Va bene.

Sofi has been very good tonight and is quite tired. Earlier at the cena Dino gave her a glass of beer mixed with water in a plastic cup. I hope she has sogni d'oro (golden dreams).

August 9
All is well with little Sofi, who does not appear to have a hangover. We attend church, full of neighbors and summer visitors. As Giuseppa walks around taking the collection, I glance across the aisle and, as she moves from bench to bench, I silently reaffirm my deep affection for the people of our village.

This is Don Bruno's last mass here, so afterward we remain to say goodbye and thank him for his good work as an occasional priest. A few minutes later we walk behind him as he nears his car, and we think he tells us he's moving to Le Marche. He tells his friends who have come to the mass that he doesn't think he'll be in a town as lovely and full of devotion as the people of Mugnano. Sweet.

After a short visit at home, we have a meeting with a client in Guardea and take her for a drive up to the somewhat restored castle and, in the distance, the remains of what was the original town.

In ancient times, because it was impossible to get water up to the town, it was decided to move the whole town down to a more realistic level. That is probably why the existing buildings are not medieval, although at least one dates to the 1500's. The story makes sense, but it would be wonderful to know what the original town looked like. It was probably a village. No one seems to know.

We fantasize about the grand property our client is considering as a B & B and later send along our thoughts. I sometimes dream about this house, its French doors to the garden open and drapes blowing as we enter the front door. The house breathes life and good karma. "Can we visit you one day?" I ask somewhat sheepishly, for I strangely imagine myself there.

Back at home, Dino twists his ankle walking down from the wood shed. The pile of wood remains in the parcheggio, and he earlier told me if he takes one piece of wood up each time he comes home, he will be finished by the end of the month. Perhaps this was not a good omen.

I spend most of the afternoon working on a torta for tonight, as Dino rests his ankle. The result of my efforts is too realistic, and I'm not happy with it, but no matter. I do like the tiny fig leaves coming out of the top of the tower, and enjoyed making the butterscotch frosting for the buildings. The tower is chocolate and the rest of the tufa buildings are a pan di Espagna soaked in liquor and peach jam; the walkway tiny minced pieces of (nocciole) hazelnuts.

Tonight, we take Mooca (Moona) Lisa up and stand her at a corner near Ivo's house. At least Mooca is a success.

This is a good spot for her, as she looks across at the long tables in front of the Universita building, later to hold 22 tortas in masterful designs.

There's not a doubt that Vincenza wins the grand prize...a plaque commemorating the event.

Her round white cake appears covered with snow, but it's fresh coconut, shredded with a beautiful pink peonie striking an artful contrast.

Many, many folks in Mugnano turn out...including summer residents, relatives and plenty of children. There is D J music from the Universita Agraria and since this is an Ecomuseo event, Alberto, Francesco and Antonio have a lot of fun working it out. Ribbons are given to all the children and adults who took the bicicleta (bicycle) journey this morning as part of today's summer events.

We're both struck with the number of children, mostly grand children of residents, who indeed constitute friends of Babbo Natale (St. Nicholas) if they visit often. This community will surely grow, full of life and love. Although I brought my chart tonight for the Mugnano family tree, hoping to talk to people about it, none are interested. Tonight is all about the food and the children, and that's just how it should be.

I take a moment to walk over to Luciana to apologize for upsetting her last night when I asked her about her departed husband; I wished to find out for the tree project. This has weighed on me since last night.

I find her taking a drink from the ancient water fountain next to the little church in the piazza, but when I apologize, she cannot even remember that she was sad last night. So we both laugh and I tell her I am happy that she cannot remember.

"Is there more you want to know about my family?" she asks me. "No", I tell her. "For now, I have all I need". I'm still reeling from seeing her eyes well up with tears at the memory of her husband, who died years ago.

Mooca Lisa di Mugnano, our latest painting, watches the whole evening unfold and spends the night at Paola and Antonio's. She makes the children laugh and the adults smile. Someone tells me it reminds him of an Andy Warhol. Good! We'll pick her up tomorrow.

August 10
Except for a few birds in the valley, all is quiet, for so many sweets were consumed last night at the festa that we imagine a lot of groggy neighbors.

We're up at the regular time, and don't hurry to get to the hospital in Orvieto for Dino's blood test. This was not a good idea. He walks ahead to the Cassa to pay, and there are hardly any people around, so when I walk over to take a ticket there are...none!

At first I am very happy, thinking we'd not have to wait at all. And then the woman at the Cassa (payment window) tells him he is too late; tests were finished at 9:30. It is now almost 10. Evidently, the lines are usually so long that it takes until about 11 to go through everyone in line. We do not remember that the hours stopped at a certain time.

Since this is August, Italy's favorite holiday vacation time, hardly anyone is around. So the woman tells Dino to walk back to the department and call her...she'll ask them to take him.

Va bene. It all works out, and then we drive up to Candace and Frank's so that Dino can finish a couple of projects, with all of our help. Frank and Candace are both in the kitchen doing prep work when we arrive, and the pranzo is very, very tasty.

Meanwhile, Dino's ankle is a bit better, since he purchased a special ankle brace and put it on. Now if I can only convince him to wear a hat... The projects work out fine, Sofi is happy as can be to be there, and we all enjoy pranzo while sitting inside, even though we've worked for at least an hour to put shade on the outdoor table!

We have a meeting with the Bomarzo geometra at 5PM, so Sofi stays home while we sit with Roberto and tell him what we need for our cemetery plot approval. He agrees, and tells us it will just take a week for the permit and drawing to be finished.

He also tells us about a great property for sale, and we drive out to see it, although no one is around to speak with. Dino has the names of the owners, so will call them soon. What a gorgeous plot of land, in full view of the Etruscan calanques! Have we piqued your interest?

On the way home we re-measure our cemetery plot and think there is a mistake in the calculations. The geometra will work that out, and if we have to pay a little more, it's not a big problem...We are serious about finishing this project...subito (right away)!

When Antonio and Paola arrive back from the beach, they call up to Dino, who drives up to the borgo to bring back the painting of Mooca Lisa di Mugnano. I love the painting, but am interested in selling it as well as just about every other painting, hoping I can work on some new things. It's time we returned to Rome for more canvases.

August 11
We sleep in very late for us (ten AM) and I don't remember sleeping in this late before. But Dino has a cold and a sore throat, so perhaps that has something to do with it.

His ankle feels much better, and he wants to shop for pranzo, so drives to Orvieto, which is only one stop North on the A-1, and will stop at the Autogrille on the way back and pick up two bagels with cream cheese and sliced ham. Is it possible that Italy will adopt the bagel as part of its eating vernacular?!!! How weird and wonderful is that?

Sure, eating a bagel is one of the things we miss about not living in the U S., but except for missing our families it seems to us as though the U S is on another planet. This morning we watch a program on BBC about honor killings of women, and I wonder if people in the U S are as conscious of them as we are in Europe and Asia and Africa.

Although our web site is all about what it's like to live in Italy, consciousness of our fellow man seeps into every pore of our being. Respect for one's self and one's fellow man is at the core of my personal belief, and anything I can do to encourage others to feel the same way is what I will continue to do.

It's little cousin Isabel's birthday, and she's so very sweet that I take a minute to tell her so. Isabella dear, I look forward to sitting with you and your mother and sister and quilting this November. Do save me a seat at the table!

MICHAEL R. DOVE writes an Op Ed for the NYT, published today:

"President Obama's late mother, Ann Dunham Soetoro, was famous for the good cheer and optimism that she preserved in the face of a complex and challenging world. Her personality went hand-in-hand with her career as an anthropologist in Indonesia and Pakistan, where she studied and worked with village craftsmen, slum-dwellers and countless others".

I'm sure President Obama has read some of her studies, and that she helped to shape the person he has become. So what have our parents to do with our view of the world and our places within it? It's worth giving the question some thought...

With the death of Eunice Kennedy Shriver today, that's another example of how one's life and its influence within one's family can impact the world. She helped the word "special" give a new meaning to many, whose characteristics make them unique instead of just "different".

"(ANSA) - Livorno, August 10 - An exhibition of the 'faces of Italy' by controversial photographer Oliviero Toscani are on show in the unusual surroundings of a Tuscan winery.

"Around 180 photos of normal Italians taken by Toscani for his Human Race/Italy project are on display at the Petra winery in Suvereto, near Livorno, where entry to the show is free.

"Toscani and a team of collaborators spent a year traveling throughout Italy in a camper van to document the differences and similarities in the faces of both Italians and foreigners.

''Are the eyes of someone from Alto Adige any different from those of a Sicilian? The cheek bones of a Roman from those of a Lombard?'' the project's manifesto asks.

''(Is) the posture of someone from Lecce... (different from) that of a Neapolitan? The mouth of a Sardinian (from) that of a Tuscan? What is an Italian type of face? And what about the new Italians?'' Galleries of faces snapped by Toscani's team in 27 different places can also be seen online at the project's website, www.razzaumana.it.

"Francesca Moretti of the Petra winery said they had wanted to host the show since ''the vineyards, like the faces of Human Race/Italy, speak to us in their... differences, of a strong territorial identity''.

I think this notion is so bizarre, but then...
I'm first struck that people who come into a community from the outside and marry obviously have an impact on their offspring, in Italy or anywhere in the world. I'm put off so by the idea that I think of taking a photo of all the people of Mugnano to show them they are wrong.

Then I think of my genealogical tree project for the people of Mugnano, and there have been many, many people from outside the village who have added their particular genes to the resulting progeny. So within it all, would we find a particularly characteristic "Mugnano in Teverina" face?

I do think that people of certain towns, including Bomarzo, have a similar characteristic. I'll give it some thought. Is there a similarity between the faces of Felice and Vincenzo and Gino in my paintings, for instance? I'm obviously partial to them, but think each one of them had a sweetness, a kindness, in their expressions. But then I feel such tenderness toward all of them...

I still have not called the sandal place, feeling somewhat sheepish about confronting them. Perhaps tomorrow....

Tonight, Dino works on bids for a client's pool installation; then we walk up to the borgo. We are not sure if something is going on tonight, but we like walking up to "Mugnano Alto" during the summer months, just to take in all the life in the borgo, with people sitting around talking with each other, children riding bicycles across the spina di pesce (herringbone) pavement and forming small groups. Individual children here feel powerful and free enough to come over to Sofi and pet her.

On Via Mameli, the street where we live, a group of women sits playing cards, another larger group sits in an oval in front of Italo's house, and yet a third sits in the darkness by the fountain across from the bus stop where a few men cooling off in their undershirts can always be found at night.

Paola tells Antonio that I will come tomorrow night with our computer so that people can walk up to me and tell me their family tree information. "Some people you have to push," she tells me, and this way it will be easier to get the information.

August 12
With Hillary Clinton's trip into darkest Africa, to the Republic of Congo, she brings a message that violence against women cannot be tolerated and good governance is needed to take the country out of the dark ages. Good for her. Good for her.

I did not imagine that she would emphasize the rights of women as strongly as she has; is it her cause, or is it the cause of Obama? I think some of both. No matter. It's incredible.

Dino meets with a pool contractor for a client and I sleep in a little. When I awake, the cicadas are already hard at work, sawing, sawing....The asini (donkeys) howl down below in their field as if to laugh at Pepino, who is surely with them.

Tonight we'll take our computer to the Mappa di Mugnano at the tower and I'll enter names that we do not have while the details of the questionnaire are talked about. Last night, Paola told us it would be a kind of exam for the residents. Perhaps the cicadas are chatting among themselves about what the answers will be...

Gazpacho is on the menu for pranzo. I like its crunchiness, but Dino wants something else as well. He'll grill a couple of burgers and while he does, I'll have him slip on some aubergine (eggplant) slices and pepperoni (peppers).

After pranzo and a snooze, we walk up to the first of two events in the borgo, a bicycle gimcana (gamesmanship), including an obstacle course. Dino thinks it's only for children. Before we leave, I ask him if he thinks Sofia can compete. He answers, "Yes, if it's an existential game..."

Here's Sofi, being guided by Dino, as she tests out the obstacle course.

Almost twenty ragazzi participate, some are so young they use training wheels on their bicycles. That's not a problem, for there are adults at each obstacle to guide them over and thru each one.

There are two rounds: the first is for agility, and includes two ramps and a stop to throw a basketball through a plastic tub with its bottom cut out, then walk their bicycle through or around several big tires, stop for a beverage break, a water hazard and finally ride over a see-saw. The second is for speed, and with a watery section just near the end, it's like dressage on bikes.

Here they are!

and the winners: Mattia, Flavio and Giulia!

Sofi stays by my side during these antics, and we walk home for a rest before returning after dark for the Mappa di Mugnano. Sofi remains at home tonight.

We take our computer and set it up at the entrance to the tower garden, where tables are set up and people congregate to talk about what their dreams are for Mugnano in the year 2020. There is much discussion, but not many additions to the family tree. No matter. Our turn will come. It's a robust group!

August 13
Dino's cold continues, and we begin the day with a mug of hot water, lemon, ginger and honey for him. He leaves for a visit to the bank in Guardea, while Sofi and I veg. at home.

From the internet: "We really don't have to worry, since I've heard a rumor that Osama bin Laden has developed a heart condition that needed an operation, but the physicians made a mistake and put in a peace maker."

Also from the internet, from CNN regarding why some Muslim youth turn to violence:

"Jones says the appeal of terrorist groups taps into an even deeper yearning in many youth, no matter their religion or culture: the desire to give one's self to a transcendent cause.

"Jones, who joined civil rights demonstrations in the South during the 1960s, says he knows how exhilarating it can be for young people to join a cause that they believe demands some form of sacrifice.

"Any effort to turn Muslim youth away from violent groups must make a similar appeal, and come from fellow Muslims, Jones says.

"We need something that has an equal amount of passion and moral seriousness that makes them believe they are making the world better," he says. "We need something with those elements but something that's more constructive than blowing yourself up."

After all my writing about Afghanistan and Pakistan, are you beginning to understand the direction we need to pursue? I feel the same exhilaration.

Dino spends the afternoon in bed, but seems better. Summer colds are really difficult to shake. Not possible to make the special drink of hot water, grated fresh ginger, fresh lemon and honey, a Candace special for sore throats, we'll have to wait another day and see if we can find the fresh ginger tomorrow.

Client challenges on a couple of fronts reminds us that one cannot have a better "boots on the ground" than Dino; even when he's ill, he's able to move forward on projects. It's interesting that stranieri don't fully comprehend how to deal with local craftspeople; there is a knack to it, even if it means a contract will be cancelled for non-performance. In Italy, even if a contractor tells you yes, you're often not sure if he means it.

So Dino confronts one, whom two clients have been waiting over a year for; after a few excuses admits he has no intention of doing the work. The word, "no" is always better than "maybe". At least with a "no", we can find out why. "Maybe" is nowhere.

Late this afternoon we have an overcast sky and thunder, but nothing materializes. Tonight there is a walk through the countryside around Mugnano, but we're not ready, nor are we interested. We do hear laughing in the valley below as the group continues their walk. Instead, we sit around, for a while on the terrace and then in front of the TV.

For some reason, we did not understand that people could drive or walk to this event, which ended in Bassano in Teverina with an outdoor picnic with prosciutto and melon as well as grilled sausages and bracciole and plenty of local vino and desserts. It serves us right for not talking about it to our neighbors beforehand. We are truly sorry, and will make sure that we fully understand a notice the next time it is posted. It sounded like great fun, and we are told that least one person called out, "Dove le Americani?" (Where are the Americans?) That means us...

When I'm ready to close up the house and go to bed, the night is so lovely; the air seems to breathe in and out with the timing of the crickets. What a paradise this is!

August 14
We take Sofi to Viterbo for her shot, which is overdue, and after a wait meet one of the partners, Massimiliano, aka Dr. Max. In the years we have gone to this clinic, this is the first time we have met Dr. Max, and although she is skittish, Sofi warms to him and we like him a lot.

He recommends that we bring her back in October for some tests against Leishmania, a mosquito carried disease that can kill dogs and occurs in our part of Italy. He does not see signs of it on her; it is fortunate that most of our land is covered with gravel and that she sleeps inside. But we're aware of it, and will have the blood test to be sure. Good for him for alerting us!

I watch a special program with Christian Amanpour about the children of Afghanistan and Gaza, with great interest. Once I finish the Mugnano tree I will concentrate on helping the women and children of Afghanistan.

The woman who runs a nonprofit in Washington, D.C. that I would like to help has not given me information I need to help her and her group, so perhaps I will contact another charity through CNN. My need to help the women and children of Afghanistan continues unabated.

Here in Italy, we do love all our medical experts, and I comment as much to truthout.org on a story in Bill Moyers Journal. To my surprise, it is posted! Here's what I say: We live in Italy primarily Fri, 08/14/2009 - 13:44 - Evanne Brandon Diner (not verified) We live in Italy primarily because we could not afford the health care in the US and moved to Central Italy in 2002. We don't understand the slamming of the single payer system; we don't understand what everyone is so angry about regarding socialized medicine. Here in Italy our health care is every bit as good as it was in the US, in some ways even superior. We can choose from hundreds of doctors as our primary care physician, and can change our primary care doctor if we are not happy. Prescriptions are free, or cost 1 euro. A colonoscopy costs nothing every five years, and in between a colonoscopy costs no more than $60. Email us for questions about living here vs. US: evanne@lavventuraitalia.com Evanne Brandon Diner I wonder if that means we'll receive a lot of angry emails. I'll let you know. Someone suggests I write a story for Italian Notebook about the medical care here. We'll see if GB wants a story. Now about the photographs we'd use for the story...

We walk up to the borgo and the volleyball game has been rescheduled, but on the way out we see Don Renzo, who was here for tonight's mass. He's full of joy and will be a great addition to Bomarzo and Mugnano. We'll see him tomorrow at the procession.

Somewhat later, we walk back up to the dancing and live entertainment; I don't feel much like dancing, but it will be fun to sit around and talk with our neighbors and watch Valerio and Elena and the other regulars float across the floor.

Here they are!

August 15
Yesterday was the anniversary of the ending of WWII, and it almost slipped by our attention. I wonder sometimes what kind of psychological trauma the living veterans carry with them. A story today tells us the bad news does not disappear. How sad for them. Bless them, every last one.

There is no mass this morning; instead there will be a major mass and procession late tonight. We sleep in, and why not?

Yesterday, I took down the painting of Hildegarde and want to make a few changes to it. It's almost just right. But then there's that word, "almost".

It feels good to return to painting, and we'll drive to Rome soon to pick up some more canvases, including some gesso boards.

A couple of weeks ago I thought of a novel I kept by my side but never read for years: Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright (Hardcover - 1942). It was lost along the way, but I sometimes thought about it and wondered why I never read the whole thing.

I thought I purchased it recently online, but unfortunately purchased a poem by the same name instead. Not to be deterred, I looked it up again and found a used hardback copy of the real thing and purchased it still again. It will wait for me in San Francisco in November, as the supplier won't ship it to me here. If you like to read, here is what one reader said about it on Amazon:
"...the novel was also about individual choice, and ultimately John Lang has to choose between return to the high-stress, high sensory input industrial society from which he came, and a commitment to Islandia as an agrarian culture of deep and rich values but less "motion" in life--a quieter, if in some ways very satisfying, existence. And Wright does not pull punches about the difficulties of the choice. That is a choice many of us face now in the modern world--between a more inner directed life of values and contemplation, or the outward directed life of events and action in a high-stress environment. This book is brilliant in drawing the distinctions, in framing the choice, and I suspect that is one reason why it has appealed so deeply to many of those who have read it".

Since I've always been a dreamer, no wonder I picked it up as a teenager to begin with, always intending to dive into it but never did. If you're disillusioned with your life in a complex and materialistic society, perhaps it's worth a read.

This morning I brought the painting of Hildegarde upstairs and worked to adjust a few of the features of her face. One eye and the basic structure of her face is good, but the face is too long and the nose too narrow. Since I've had such success with Moona Lisa, a painting done completely by myself and praised by a number of the locals, I feel confident that I can do justice to her. If my brother wants it, I'll deliver it to him in November in Atlanta on our way to San Francisco.

Yesterday we watched "Charlie Bartlett," a movie about high school students that I liked quite a bit, especially the lines from a song: "If you wanna sing out, sing out..." I keep singing it's silly lyrics, which aren't really silly after all.

This afternoon I paint more, while Dino sleeps. I think I am learning to produce better work, and look forward to continuing to paint.

It's really hot outside.

Tonight we have a mass and procession in honor of The Assumption of Mary, and have hung our special handmade banner onto the parcheggio gate in her honor. The letters on the banner are VV and M which stand for "Viva Maria!".

I love the statue of Maria in our church, wearing a white dress and rosary beads draped around her by thankful citizens. She's flanked by a blue and gold carved wooden headdress with a halo of "judy bulbs" with a design right out of Naples at the turn of the 20th century, or perhaps even earlier.

So what is a "Judy bulb"? Dino tells me it's a term named after Judy Garland, and signifies light bulbs around a mirror. Well, what do you know!... As opposed to...What do you know?

It's kind of a joke, but we decide to buy two Italian lotto tickets. The winner will get the equivalent of $240,000,000. Or two hundred million euros. That's enough to bolster the economy of Afghanistan!

Dino asks me what I'd do with the money and after paying our bills I'd set up a foundation to help the poorest people in Italy find opportunities to do well economically. Of course I'd also do something special to help the women and children of Afghanistan.

Dino tries to buy tickets, but no lottery tickets are sold today, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, more often known as Ferragosto, or one of the iron days of summer. Monday, he and millions of others will try again.

August 16
Hot, hot, hot...What else is new?

We drive up to church, with Sofi safely behind in the cool house. What a commotion takes place on the walk from the piazza to the church near the tower!

First, we walk by Paola and Antonio's house, and the couple is barricaded inside by two heavy wooden bars. Wonder if they were robbed and are having their locks changed? There's no sign of them. Brrr!

Next we come across little Gregorio, sitting on the ground; he wants to stand up to pick up bricks from a nearby carriolo (wheelbarrow). This is strange. Why would this carriolo be left outside?

A large stack of bricks stand next to Rosanna's door, and a few doors down, Alberto and Marina Castori's door is bricked up at least five feet high.

Someone played tricks on their friends last night; this is customary in this village during holidays, when not a lot is happening. Last night, Mauro the muratore bricked up the entrances to two houses and barricaded a third (Paola and Antonio's) with two heavy wooden bars across their front door.

He probably had a lot of help. Usually children like to play tricks on their parents after the parents have gone to bed on holidays, and Mauro is like a child, always ready for an adventure.

Take a look; everyone laughs, especially those who were the subjects. But Dino thinks the ringleader is...


... He probably shouts his commands thru the toilet paper roller that he is holding.

Inside church, Don Luca performs the mass, and afterward we stay behind to ask him about the really beautiful carved podium on which he reads the bible. Last night he spoke about it, but we did not grasp what he was saying. He kindly repeats it so that we understand...

He tells us it's called an ambone, which in English is an ambo, but we are still confused. Why isn't it called a leggio (lectern) or a pulpito (pulpit)?

He explains that the leggio is the altar top piece that supports the missal, similar to a short music stand, and the pulpito is the podium on high in Romanesque churches from which the priest reads the gospel to the people. What we call the stand is called the ambone.

I love our statue of The Blessed Virgin Mary. I love everything about it. I also love the shades of pink and blue in the flowers, including the pale pink color of the antherium. It is all such a throwback to the 40's or even before. It is so out of style that it is chic, don't you think?

I feel guilty about not taking the Accion Cattolica banner and carrying it in the procession last night, and tell Livio I did not because he did not ask me. He tells me it is not his place to ask, but not to feel badly. I tell him it is an honor, so if he thinks it's a good idea that I carry it in the future. Va bene...unless anyone else in the organization wants to. Now tell me...how would I possibly know?

After church, we come upon Ida Cleri, and ask her if she'll write down her family information, for she is only here during the holidays. "Let's sit beneath the tower and I'll tell you now," she responds, so that is just what we do.

Maria Teresa Romoli gives me the notes she has written about her family tree, and back at home Dino makes a chart for the Romoli and also for the Cleri families. Tonight we'll bring them to ask for clarification. The Romoli chart needs lots of work, not much of which we are able to do ourselves.

On the way down the lane from the church, we stop to see how Paola and Antonio are doing; their door is open and they are pouring coffee (espresso or American) for friends and invite us in. Of course we drink the espresso...

Tonight there will be a treasure hunt (caccia di tesoro) in the borgo, and participants need to sign up. But we have lots of information to gather about the tree, so will probably bring our computer up, instead.

The tree project is changing. It's appearing more like a bosco, or forest, with trees for each of the major families, probably with the tower looking down upon it. The totality of it is dizzying.

We spend the afternoon inside with the fan blowing, working on the family charts and cooling off. Dino even does a bit of reading, but then he is a self-proclaimed, "voracious reader!".

There is so much going on today and tonight that we decide to post after tonight. We want to include as many Mugnanese in the journal as possible, especially since many people read the journal when they are not here. There is no excuse for not knowing what goes on in our village, except if one cannot understand English.

Sorry, dear Ivo, I don't think I'll be able to write in Italian in my lifetime so that you can understand it.

How about some young person volunteering to translate the journal into Italian? It would be a great way for them to learn English. I don't hear anyone knocking on our door, but we'd love to mentor anyone who is interested. Let us know...

Tonight we bring our clipboard and a few drafts of family trees to the borgo, but the action is all about the caccia a tesoro (treasure hunt). There are four teams: white, green, red and yellow. We're happy to stand on the sidelines but many, especially the younger inhabitants and relatives, are full of energy and...a love of competition!

While the treasure hunt continues, we sit first with Iolanda Mariani and then Anna Maria Farina and her husband, to take notes about their family histories. I give the draft we have finished to Ida Cleri, asking her to share it with her family.

The draft of the Romoli file I keep, for Maria Teresa spends the entire evening running after her grand children, who run from one end of the borgo to the other and back again. The children's mother and Maria Teresa's daughter is busy on one of the teams; Maria Teresa is a splendid Nonna, but probably stanca morta (dead tired) by the time the games finish.

There are several rounds in the treasure hunt, and in one we see that the task is to draw four lines connecting all nine dots. Dino and I remember this from team building exercises, and the key, if you do not know, is to go beyond the dots and come back in order to connect all nine dots.

It is frustrating for almost all, well it is for all, until one by one the answer is found. We share our knowledge of the concept with Alberto, "Non stai indentro linea" (Don't stay within the lines) and he nods his head and smiles. A few groups take a penalty for completely giving up on it.

Other parts include coming up with: containers, flash lights, a rope, box of matches, a copy of Dante's Divine Comedy, and making a teepee with matches as well as other items. Did I ever tell you that Italians call boxes of matches "svedese", because they are made of wood and most wood for Italians used to come from Sweden? So there!

Here are photos of the antics. We left at midnight, but think we stayed for most all of it...

August 17
We think it's very hot, but it's only in the 90's F. Earlier summers hung at or around 100 degrees F, so we're having an easy summer, comparatively.

At noon, I walk up to the upper garden for some wild fennel to put in the potato salad, and pick four big peaches. There are plenty more on the tree, and they are beauties. I surely must paint a few.

I spend most of the morning re-arranging Hildegarde's face in her painting. Here face is too long, and that means if I shorten it her neck will be too long. So I finesse it until I think I have it about right.

But I need to set it aside, for Humira wants my write-up about Fortezza, so that she can send an email blast to all the followers about the painting. As soon as we have a price to ship it to the U S, we'll be able to put it on line. By the time this posts, we should have already done so. Let's hope we can raise some good money for the women and children of Afghanistan....

I am trying to understand the ruling situation in Afghanistan, and in the NYT there is an editorial written by Selig S. Harrison that is helpful...skip it if the subject bores you..sorry:

"Pashtun kings ruled Afghanistan from its inception in 1747 until the overthrow of the monarchy in 1973. Initially limited to the Pashtun heartland in the south and east, the Afghan state gradually incorporated the neighboring Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek areas to the north and west.

"It was understandable, then, that Pashtun leaders tried to make the last king, Zahir Shah, the president of the interim government that ruled from 2002 until the first presidential election in 2004. The king, revered by the Pashtuns, was to have limited powers, with Mr. Karzai, as prime minister, in day-to-day control.

"The Tajiks, however, objected, and on the eve of the national assembly that set up the interim government, the Bush administration's special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, sided with the Tajiks and had a bitter 40-minute showdown with the king, who then withdrew his candidacy.

"Pashtun nationalism alone does not explain the Taliban's strength, which is fueled by drug money, Islamist fervor, corrupt warlords, hatred of the American occupation and the hidden hand of Pakistani intelligence agencies.

"But the psychological cement that holds the disparate Taliban factions together is opposition to Tajik dominance in Kabul. Until the power of the Panjshiris is curbed, no amount of American money or manpower will bring the insurgency to an end.

"Selig S. Harrison is the director of the Asia program at the Center for International Policy and a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars".

I spend some of the afternoon painting, and some writing about Fortezza for Humira's email blast announcing the selling of the painting for the benefit of Ariana Outreach, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Let's get this going!

Tonight, we all walk up to the borgo, where a Simpsons alla Italiana show is projected on a sheet against the wall; a wall we fantasize will be a part of the Bar Dedalus one day. The show is all in Italian, naturally.

There are four teams again, but with children and teenagers this time. It begins with a sack race, and about a dozen youngsters take part, in three different races.

Next is the egg race, where raw eggs are placed on spoons held in the mouths of the contestants, and three sets of four are chased to the table and back again. Does this sound like camp royanee?

Next there are ropes with cables and locks attached that have to run inside and through and out of each team member's clothes, essentially locking them into each other. When the rope has run through all team members' clothes, the team captain (who is not attached to the rest of his group), has to run over to the carriolo, which is full of sand.

Digging down into the sand are four keys, and the captain has to take one at a time and run back to his team and hope the key unlocks the lock. This is a lot of fun for the participants.

Next is a two-person team race in which one person at a time runs with a carriolo to a table in the middle of the piazza, around it and back again. What's remarkable, is that the carriolo is full of sand, covered tightly with a burlap sack, and once the person is ready to go, Mauro places a tiny live anitra (frog) on top. The second person runs by the carriolo.

Each time the frog jumps out, the second person of the team has to chase the frog and place it back on the carriolo. Then the two persons run up to and around the table and back.

Screams from the children and some of the adults ensue, with many people jumping up and down and cheering the teams on.

Once Marina and Laura, the wives of Alberto and Francesco, are teamed up. Laura is very afraid of the frog, but is a very good sport, chasing after it just the same. Halfway through the race the women change places.

Last is the tug of war, with children pitted against children and then three men against about seven women. Rope burns ensue, but everyone is a good sport. It's been great fun, and we leave at about midnight, not knowing what else takes place.

The excitement of the evening has Sofi an emotional wreck; although she stayed by our side all night, the screaming and running around frightened her, so just as the games are about to end she gets sick next to a huge hydrangea planted outside the door of the Orsini Palazzo. We're there to clean it up and to pick her up, then make our way to the street leading downhill. Sofi wags her tail and happily jaunts home.

August 18
During the night, Dino experienced severe pain in his right foot, severe enough that he wants to travel to Narni to the Pronto Soccorso (Emergency Room) there. Narni hospital is the place to go for any bone injuries. They perform many sports medicine treatments there, and are very good at it.

Dino of course wants to drive, and tells me he can. When we arrive, we are taken right away, and then taken to Radiology where his foot is x-rayed. When the results are ready, we walk back to the first office and are told that there is no injury to the bone. If Dino continues to have pain, he should return tomorrow. Since we are visiting our good doctor this afternoon in Viterbo, anyway, we'll see what he has to say.

Back at home, Dino sits while I serve pranzo, and then give him an ice pack for his foot.

I've been thinking about another way to leave Sofi in the house without being in her cage, and realize that we can put the folding gate up against the door to the bathroom, and she can have her toys and bed there and run around some without damaging any doors. Dino takes a look and will modify what we have. But now I'm feeling much better about leaving her alone.

Now if I could only figure out how to help Dino. Yes, this is an important day for us. From now on, anything we do will be done with the possibility that I might be doing all the watering and manual labor. He walks with a cane today, and hopefully his foot will be better really soon. But it's never too soon to be prepared for eventualities.

I've reached out to my brother, and hopefully we can build a good relationship again. Although he's somewhat skeptical, I realize that life is too short, and I try to reach our two nieces and send them an email. That email was sent yesterday, so I have no idea if they will respond, but hope so.

One of the reasons for this reaching out has to do with the research I am doing on my painting of Fortezza. Before we put the painting online to auction it off for Ariana Outreach, it's agreed that I will write up the background of Fortezza, for I feel the subject can be one of inspiration to people everywhere, especially the women in Afghanistan. While reading about fortitude and conquering the difficult challenges in life, I learn that other virtues are exemplified by men, but this virtue is exemplified by a woman.

Those of you who read the journal on an ongoing basis know of my desire to help women in war torn regions of the world, especially Afghanistan. Fortezza is shown wearing a helmet, with a lion by her side and a spear in one hand. The other hand has its fingers holding open the mouth of the lion. Fortezza has an expression of strength and inner calm on her face.

It is only by the inner strength of the women of Afghanistan, as its central family figures, that the country's people can better themselves. She wins her respect, not by killing or hurting others, but by looking death in the eye and gently taking control.

As we all know, wars do not create peace. Peaceful existence must be won by mutual cooperation. Once we are able to bring in security and safety to Afghanistan, and money to provide for essential services to be returned to the country and new ways of work, I am hopeful that the relationships between men and women and mutual respect will create a enduring way of life for these people.

So fortitude is what is needed for me personally, in taking on the challenges of my side of the family. By the time this is ready to post, I hope to be able to share more with you.

In the meantime, Dino tells me that he thinks that a few people are somewhat curious about what we intend to do with the information we cull for the family tree project. Enrico asked him last night, but it is not until this afternoon that Dino shares this information with me. I am dismayed.

The Mugnano family tree is not for me; it is not for us. The tree, or the group of trees, is meant as a gift to the people and extended families of Mugnano. For the future, its young people will hopefully have knowledge about where they came from, who their forebears are, and how they relate to the history of this marvelous village.

Tonight, we're hoping that Alberto and Antonio will make a stronger statement of what we are doing as our part for Ecomuseo and especially the people whom we have grown to love.

Paola stops by on her way home from work in Rome, and tells us not to worry. People in the village are supportive of the project, and we all realize it will take a year or more for the tree, or group of trees, to unfold, so lets relax about it. Va bene.

There has been so much going on each night in the village, that we'll stay home and not watch the Flamenco Dancing that is tonight's entertainment. Alberto and his family have left for the beach, and the rest of the ringleaders are "stanca morta" (dead tired).

Earlier, Dino and I went to Viterbo for an appointment with our doctor to show him our blood test results. My test scores are better, and Dino's are fine. I still won't take cholesterol medicine, even though my numbers are high. When the weather cools down a little, Sofi and I will return doing our walks around the village.

Dino gets better by the hour, and after a dose of Fortidol, he's almost back to normal. We do, however, put up a batch of San Marzano pomodori, and perhaps this will be the last of it. Sadly, we ate what we think might be our last meal eating tomatoes of the year. That will mean we will slow down on the buffala mozzarella, which our doctor will be happy about.

He tells us that the Mediterranean diet is contributing to our good health; Dino tells me that we'll always be Americans and can't bear to ignore some of the bad foods we've become accustomed to. We can only try...

It feels great to stay home tonight, but the temperature is really warm.

August 19
Dino wants to return to Narni to the hospital. Yesterday, we were told that if his foot is not better that someone in another department will take a look at it and talk with him about what he should do next. This place really seems to have its act together.

Sofi guards the house while Dino drives, and at the hospital we take a number and prepare to wait a while. The current number is 35 and his number is 41. That's not too bad. We find seats nearby and take out our books, prepared...The wait is more than an hour, long enough to have to put more money in the parking lot machine.

We are used to the waits that are customary in this country's medical system, but the treatment is so excellent that we don't mind. We have no complaints, as the cost of our medical care is so inexpensive, compared to that of the U S.

While the people and the politicians continue to wrangle in the U S over a policy that will probably not come to fruition, we happily go about our lives knowing that when we need it, the proper care will be here for us.

While waiting, Dino comes across the word "dago" in a book he is reading.

According to http://www.answers.com/topic/dago "dago" is an alteration of Spanish name Diego. As a slur, it was originally directed at those of Spanish descent. When and why it was redirected to Italians is anyone's guess.

"According to a 2-hour documentary on Italians in America, many of the 1st immigrants could barely speak the English language. Therefore, many became cheap laborers. Day-Laborers they were referred to; then, those Day-o's became Dagos!

"The word 'dago' is a derivative of the Spanish name 'Diego', which means 'James'. It was originally coined in the 17th century by British sailors to indicate Spanish or Portuguese people, especially sailors. Despite the Hispanic origin of the word, in the 19th century the word 'dago' became more commonly used in the USA as a derogatory term for Italians, due to the large immigration from that country. However, it is still used to indicate Spanish or Portuguese people as well, but rarely the French."

"The word 'wop' is derived from 'without official papers', which was a comment that was written by US immigration officials in their records, with reference to poorer Italian immigrants who entered the USA without passports or any other means of identification. It then became a derogatory name for Italians or those of Italian origin in general, within the USA. Rarely used in other English speaking countries".

Enough trivia for today!
A very kind female doctor greets us, and she takes her time looking at Dino's exams and talking about what he needs to do. "What is your name?" Dino asks her, for we want to tell you how impressed we are with her. It is Dottoressa Elisa Cecchetti. I notice that her name is fourth in the list of doctors in her department.

I point to her name and say "Le donne sempre ultima" (the woman is always last) and she shrugs, as if it is the Italian way. It's another chance for me to spread the word about helping the women of Afghanistan, and she sees she has a kindred spirit. We ask her if she is in private practice, but she is not. So if you need to visit the Narni hospital for any reason, she is one to remember.

Earlier, on the way to the hospital, we looked across the gorge at a beautiful Abbey, and determine that we want to visit it, but how can we get there? It seems surrounded by a bosco (forest) with no sign of a road.

We drive up to Narni after leaving the hospital, and a policewoman tells us we cannot even park where she is standing, until Dino tells her that he wants to speak with her. In that case, she acts as if it's fine to park in the prohibited zone!

"How does one get to the abbey on the other side of the river?" She directs him, and as we drive down the hill, see the sign and the road to San Cassiano. We'll return, possibly with Pietro, for a visit.

Back at home it continues to be hot, so after pranzo it's time for another "dolce fa niente", or afternoon nap. I first take a look at the painting I have been doing these last few days, and the face of my mother needs more work. It is like the picture of Dorian Gray, changing with each session. In this case, the painting resembles my mother more and more.

The act of painting a person, especially one's face, is an incredibly revealing undertaking. It is as if I am delving underneath the surface, discovering bits of what it is that made her a singularly unique woman. As I continue to age, when looking in the mirror I seek those minute things that bind me to her and wish I had a photograph of her at my age with which to compare my face.

Two days ago, I contacted my nieces by email and on Facebook, wanting to connect with them after many years of discord. Dino tells me not to hold my breath for their response. He asks me if I thought when I wrote to them that they might take my writing as a sign that I wanted something from them.

This could not have been further from the truth. It does mean that if it is not to be, it will not be. I continue sending loving thoughts their way, even if we will not be reconciled in our lifetimes. But what a shame that would be!

I have not finished writing the piece about Fortezza, for I'm thinking long and hard about what it means to have fortitude. Answers.com tells me that fortitude is "strength of mind that enables one to endure adversity with courage". So with that, I surmise that this is a trait that I must have in spades. Yes, my mother had it as well, and it is that trait that remains one of her most touching.

Livio and Tiziano stop by to ask me if I would make a hand painted ceramic plate for Don Bruno and also possibly one for Don Luca. I have not worked in ceramics for a few years, so I recommend that they ask Elena, the ceramicist in Bomarzo. They think she will be expensive.

Since I'd have to purchase the plates, pay Elena to dip and fire them, paint them myself with the wording specified and the image of the village and the tower...I'm frightened at the prospect that one or both might not come out perfectly, which would then be a disaster.

So I recommend that they go to Elena with a budget, and see what she can do for that. I have no problem volunteering my time...but this sounds like a nightmare all around. I am really sorry.

Later, we walk up to the borgo for pizza, and sit with Vincenza and Augusto. I spend some time with Gigliola and Livio to be sure that things are all right regarding the plate request, and he smiles, confirming that he will visit Elena tomorrow regarding ceramic plates for the priests. I hope everything goes well. I really do.

As we are about to leave for home, we walk inside to thank Antonio, who is out back with the pizza ovens. A young man cooking with him asks me to wait, and hands me a box; inside is one just-made crispy focaccia with rosemarino and olive oil and salt. We're really touched.

The weather remains very hot, but we're looking forward to driving to Rome tomorrow to pick up two more canvases. Fall is just around the corner...

August 20
We awake to find a lovely email from niece Sarah; and to read that her older sister, Liz is getting married. How wonderful it feels to be in touch with them after years of separation.

We leave for Rome, and find our way to Trastevre, where the art shop is located, and this time the canvases we choose are the same width as before, but shorter, 80cm wide by 110cm tall. We leave with them ready to paint, and since we know the subjects, we'll refine the photos, have them blown up and I'll be ready to go. That means it's time to finish Hildegarde's face first, which should not take more than a few days.

Back at home, it's really hot, but we have...pasta! The stove in the loggia (summer kitchen) is heated up while we chill out and watch tv. After pranzo, it's time for a nap until the weather cools off.

Back to learning about what is happening to women in Afghanistan during the election:
CNN "Women's votes were seen as crucial after an especially repressive period for women under the Taliban when they were stripped of rights. But in some polling stations Thursday, women voters were greatly outnumbered by men".

At least numbers of them were voting...

While Dino snoozes, the doorbell rings, and it's Gigliola and Serena, collecting for the gifts for Don Luca and Don Bruno. I of course give them money and ask if Elena will do the plates. Gigliola seems a bit sheepish. I suppose it's because by the time they collect from everyone, they'll have hundreds of euros to spend with Elena...All is well.

August 21
We're expecting a few more weeks of hot weather, but no matter. After keeping windows and shutters open at night, we close them each morning and keep floor fans working inside the darkened rooms.

Dino has returnrf to 100% strength, and drives to Montecchio and Tenaglie. When he returns at around noon, I've finished writing the story behind my painting of Fortezza. As soon as we receive the pricing for shipping it to different destinations, we'll put it on ebay. If we have you in our address list, we'll let you know when the auction is ready to begin.

This morning, Sofi and I picked nine enormous peaches from our tree. Some of them are not quite ready, but they are so heavy that we don't think they'll stay long on the tree before falling. The taste is really delicious. It seems a shame to cook them in any way, for the "fresh off the tree" taste is the very best.

These days we love to read in the afternoons, with shutters closed and the fan moving the air around; the luxury is quite divine. We no longer think of bringing lots of books back from our winter trips to the US; it's easier to have them sent to us here, one by one.

With stories we're reading set in Russia these days, we think we missed not bringing Land of the Firebird with us when we moved. I truly love that book. So we've ordered it online. One of these summers we'll take a tour to Russia, including St. Petersburg, where we'll hang out at The Hermitage for days, just drinking up inspiration...

There'll also be a visit to Warsaw and a visit to the Ukraine, for historical searches for our relatives. Perhaps we can include it all in one trip. For now, we'll continue to concentrate on visits around our beloved Italia.

Time to paint; let's see what we can do with Hildegarde...After a couple of hours there is still work to do, but not today.

We take Tony and Pat's anniversary present to them and stop by for a visit. There's time while they're still here for another cena, so we'll meet again soon.

August 22
After a headache and 4 AM cocktail, I wake feeling better. Yesterday I knew something was about to happen, and now I can celebrate that the headache has passed.

With the sound of a tractor in the valley and a weed-wacker, I'm aware of people out working their land, and feel at peace. Now, if I were in the US, I'd be somewhat miffed at the noise; here it is a sign of life in this tranquil spot. I suppose the feeling is similar to the difference here between the sound of a cricket and the sound of a grillo (cicada). These days, even the sounds of cicadas don't bother me.

Dino drives to Viterbo and tells me he'll return with a roast chicken. With his foot and his cold better, he's back at his projects with gusto.

After pranzo he watches Formula-1. Tonight we'll meet Candace and Frank in Piazza del Popolo for a summer folk concert.

August 23
We drive up to church, and afterward have a conversation with Germano, who is cutting trees and cleaning up the property next to Pia. No, it is not yet sold. Tomorrow afternoon, after we pick up Pietro from the airport, Germano will meet with Pietro regarding some projects our Norwegian friend needs. Pietro's back here for a few months, and we'll be happy to see him again.

Dino will work on a few projects around the house today. Earlier, after leaving church, I walked over to Vincenzo who sat amid his flowers in the little shady plaza outside the church. He agreed to write his family tree, and I'm sure he'll do a fine job.

Earlier, while waiting for church to begin, I asked Tiziano if everything was all right with Livio. He assured me that it was, for I want to be sure that Livio understands why I am the wrong person to make and paint the plates. He laughed when I told him that Gigliola and Serena were later collecting for these gifts, and responded that they'll have lots of money to spend when they're through. Va bene!

Don Renzo arrives late for mass, but it's good to see him here. He will settle down; but now he seems very serious and stern about his work. We know he is not a stern person, and when he is more comfortable, we will see his sweet smile return during mass.

Scene change to Afghanistan, and news from the NYT: "In a region the Taliban have lorded over for six years, and where they remain a menacing presence, American officers say their troops alone are not enough to reassure Afghans. Something is missing that has left even the recently appointed district governor feeling dismayed. "I don't get any support from the government," said the governor, Massoud Ahmad Rassouli Balouch.

"Governor Massoud has no body of advisers to help run the area, no doctors to provide health care, no teachers, no professionals to do much of anything. About all he says he does have are police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for "vacation."

"Local administration is a problem throughout Afghanistan, and many rural areas suffer from corrupt local officials - if they have officials at all. But southern Helmand has long been one of the most ungovernable regions, a vast, inhospitable desert dominated by opium traffickers and the Taliban.

"Frustrated, Governor Massoud said his "government is weak and cannot provide agricultural officials, school officials, prosecutors and judges."

"He said he was promised 120 police officers, but only 50 showed up. He said many were untrustworthy and poorly trained men who stole from the people, a description many of the Americans agree with. No more than 10 percent appear to have attended a police academy, they say. "Many are just men from the streets," the governor said."

I continue to write about Afghanistan, and about women's issues in underdeveloped countries, so if you want to skip by them, I'll post them in italics. I do hope you will take the time to read, and certainly email me if you'd like to give me your opinion about any of it.

These issues are a passion of mine, for some reason. Something at the core of my being reminds me that my emphatic support is the very reason I was chosen to be here....

Scene change again to an interview in the office of Hillary Clinton with her, regarding women's issues: "Q: In your confirmation hearing, you said you would put women's issues at the core of American foreign policy. But as you know, in much of the world, gender equality is not accepted as a universal human right. How do you overcome that deep-seated cultural resistance?

"Clinton: You have to recognize how deep-seated it is, but also reach an understanding of how without providing more rights and responsibilities for women, many of the goals we claim to pursue in our foreign policy are either unachievable or much harder to achieve.

"Democracy means nothing if half the people can't vote, or if their vote doesn't count, or if their literacy rate is so low that the exercise of their vote is in question. Which is why when I travel, I do events with women, I talk about women's rights, I meet with women activists, I raise women's concerns with the leaders I'm talking to.

"I happen to believe that the transformation of women's roles is the last great impediment to universal progress - that we have made progress on many other aspects of human nature that used to be discriminatory bars to people's full participation. But in too many places and too many ways, the oppression of women stands as a stark reminder of how difficult it is to realize people's full human potential.

"Clinton: By making the arguments that I am making here - that so-called women's issues are stability issues, security issues, equity issues. The World Bank and many other analyses have proved over and over again that where women are mistreated, where they are denied equal rights, you will find instability that very often serves as an incubator of extremism.

"A woman who is safe enough in her own life to invest in her children and see them go to school is not going to have as many children. The resource battles over water and land will be diminished. This is all connected. And it's an issue of how we take hard power and soft power, so called, and use it to advance not just American ends but, in advancing global progress, we are making the world safer for our own children."

Since I voted for Hillary before she lost to Barack Obama, she affirms that her mission is not yet over, suggesting that she'll run for President again. If and when she does, I'll be behind her.

In the meantime, the health care issue in the US reminds us again why we are here. I could not imagine living in the US when comparing the quality of care and the price in Italy versus the United States. Write to me anytime with your questions.

Dino is happy because the Formula 1 race is in Valencia, Spain, and he can watch it on TV. After the first few minutes, Sofi and I are bored, so take a snooze and read. It's a day to finish the painting of Hildegarde, so I do.

Why not change things I'm not happy with on other paintings? I change one painting from three virtuous women to one, and in a few days will finish it, as well.

We look for Mauro later tonight, to see if we can get him to pose with his son, Salvatore. I'm looking forward to working on that one, and it may be called "Salvatore and The Tree Raising". I may also work on the second painting, to be called: "The Two Andreas".

Only a few people sit on the benches in the piazza in the borgo, so we take a walk around and then turn back home. We can take Mauro's photo anytime.

August 24
We drive to Fimucino to pick up Pietro and also Nina, who is nursing a knee operation. So we drive her back to Santa Marinella, a lovely beach town not far from Rome, and stop at a tavola calda for a quick pranzo. We're back home in Mugnano by 3PM, so that Dino can drive to Tenaglie for a 4 PM meeting.

I'd love to be taking walks with Sofi, but it's still too hot. Perhaps in a week or two the temperature will drop, and we can return to our daily giros, which she loves. Now she'll love them even more, with dear Pietro at home, always ready to give little Sofi a treat when she bounds in through his gate.

I return to painting, and perhaps "One Virtuous Woman" will be finished earlier than I originally thought...but not today.

Today is the day our little nipotini have their first day at preschool in San Francisco, California. The family has chosen St. Cecelia School, and it is the same school Dino attended when he was their age. Here they are, in their uniforms...

We miss the family a great deal, but thankfully SKYPE allows us to speak with them and to spend time with them often. If you're a friend of Angie's on Facebook, you can see lots of pictures of them, too.

August 25
During a pedicure with dear Giusy this morning, she tries to convince me that the current pope is a good man; his focus is just an intellectual one. The next pope will probably be different. I still feel that the world is in such a precarious state that the current pope needs to take a major role in turning people from hate to loving respect for one another. His eyes seem blind to most of that.

The weather is warm and windy, with forecasts of cooler weather by at least five degrees in the next days. As the days grow shorter, I feel that summer has raced ahead and fall will soon be upon us. It's too soon...too soon. Soon I will be sewing clothes for the nipotini's(grand daughters') dolls. I plan to bring some real surprises to them.

This afternoon, Germano is to meet with Dino and Pietro regarding projects at his house. Sofi and I remain here, for I have painting to do before beginning on the next project. Yesterday, Franco from Celleno called, and Dino put him off for at least a month. I'm wanting to hold back the fall...I'm not ready to 'gather my nuts for the winter'.

I've been thinking a lot about my mother lately, perhaps because I've been working on the painting of her. She died twenty years ago today, and it is late tonight that Senator Ted Kennedy dies. Hildegarde shared more than this with the Kennedys; her birth date was the same as JFK's.

August 26
While closing the shutters in the bedroom, I see Ivo walking up the hill; he's probably just visited his mother in the cemetery. Perhaps we'll be able to take a photo of his son Andrea with Andrea Perini to restage the photo of the painting I will begin shortly of the two boys.

Right now Dino has appointments, and I put another coat on the two panels that flank "One Virtuous Woman". I have not determined if I will turn the painting into a pop art piece. I'm still not happy with it, although feel good about the figure in the center of the painting.

We have some plums, given to us by friends, so before Dino returns I turn them into a "crumble" to have with ice cream. Perhaps we'll take it down to Pietro's for dessert to share later. His son and fiancŽ are here for a visit. Whoops! We're having cena with Tony and Pat tonight...perhaps tomorrow.

Elections in Afghanistan are a mess; I so wish the U S could exit, but then, what about the people we'd leave behind? It's clearly a mistake for the U S to take the lead in international crises, for we do not have the manpower or resources to save the world.

France, Germany, Russia, China, where are you in all this? There is a grim quote by Tom Lehrer..."Soon we'll be sliding down the razorblade of life"... and I'm not my usual positive self these days.

We were going to visit the fossil forest in Avigliano Umbra on Friday, and so I do the research and write a draft of a story for the Notebook. Once we take the photos and do a few edits, we'll have another story to submit. But it's too hot, and there will be no shade. So we agree to put the visit off for a couple of weeks.

Dino returns, and although the day began with the entire village surrounded in fog, we emerged Brigadoon-like by mid morning. The rest of the day continues to be hot.

We research B&B's near Don Francis, for we'll visit him and attend his first mass in Fornelli. How wonderful this is for him, and we're so happy to be sharing the moment with him in his new parish.

We have a lovely cena with our friends Tony and Pat at I Gelsi, which is our favorite local restaurant. There's a breeze, so we eat outside. I have not eaten Spigola for a long time, and it is sweet and tasty...once the woman cuts off its head...I'm afraid of looking at the eye of a fish as I'm about to cut into it...We drink the best wine I've tasted in ages, A Salviano Orvieto Classico. That means a headache for sure later.

August 27
Serves me right, but the wine really was incredible. It takes the entire morning to get rid of my headache. Today is hot and steamy and uncomfortable. With Dino out at appointments, Sofi and I hang out.

This afternoon he has more appointments, so we hang out some more. It's too uncomfortable to do much else. I'm looking forward to cooler weather.

Tonight we take our plum crumble with gelato to Pietro's to share with him and with his son and fiancŽ. Sofi sits near us on the terrace, watching out like the good watchdog that she is, while Pacha barks incessantly from the neighbors' house.

Back at home it's still warm, and it seems the summer is not ready to end after all.

August 28
It was my grandmother's birthday on this date, and she shares the day with dearest cousin Cherie; they are two of my favorite people of all time....

Dino and Pietro drive off to Viterbo to renew car insurance and do shopping, while Sofi and I stay home. I've fallen in love with our second room downstairs, a room we had thought we would turn into a dining room, but with two lovely and tall windows I love to sit here and read with the shutters and windows open and a birdsong serenade from the garden. Let's not do anything about that room yet...

I dream about all the projects we could do here, but they will probably remain dreams; it's fun imagining them just the same.

It's a pomodoro-processing day; earlier Dino and Pietro visited the morning market outside Viterbo near Ferrento, picking up a lug full of San Marzanos. Before pranzo, we process a dozen bottles, and later we'll process a dozen or so more. We have the process down to a kind of science; here's a smidgen of what goes on...

Vincenzo and Augosto dropped by this morning to invite us to pranzo tomorrow; Vincenza looked more beautiful than ever, in a periwinkle blue linen sheath. Sorry I did not have a camera with me.

We process a total of 22 bottles of pomodoro passato, or tomatoes ready for sauce. It's a long process, but now that we've had the correct equipment for a couple of years, I think Dino even enjoys the process.

While Dino is in the loggia, I walk out to the middle garden to pick the last of the San Marzano pomodori, and see what I think is a fox! Its snout is longer than I thought a fox's snout would be; it almost looks prehistoric. But it must be a fox, just the same.

Sofi goes wild and I scream her name, but thankfully the fox whizzes down the steep steps to a gate we don't even have a key for, off the front path, and disappears. It appeared more frightened than we were.

I am a bit shaken, but climb the steps to the upper garden, pick the last of the pomodori there and see a profusion of peaches. They are huge!

It is a good thing that I have a lug, for there are about ten huge peaches to pick, and about ten more on the ground. I wonder if we should rig up a kind of a net below the tree's branches next year to catch those that fall. They are so large that they are damaged as soon as they hit the ground.

The two trees growing against the telephone pole across the street are cut down as we watch, for they are within the property lines of the piece of land next to Pia. Dino wanted the live one left; I'm happy they're both down.

Now there is a reason to rethink and reapply to have our power redirected to us from Via Antica, the little street above us. Then Pia can have the poles buried underground and we'll all be happy.

Except...and this is a big except. ENEL denied our request a few years ago, telling us wires can only be moved if there is an important reason, such as the line getting in the way of newly approved construction. We'll have to think of something...

We're both a little sad, for the chicken coop has also been demolished. We have sweet memories of the old couple arriving twice each day to pick the eggs and feed their chickens. We're pretty sure the couple has passed away, but did not know their last name, although they lived next to Francesco in the borgo, at the top of some steep stairs. Now that we have the list, we'll see if we can find out who they were. Their little plot of land is for sale, so perhaps we'll have a new neighbor...

Something happens to Dino's glasses, so at the last moment he drives back to Viterbo and the shop near IPERCOOP glues back whatever came apart. He's back in about an hour, even before the stores close.

We've not had rain for a while, so he waters outside on the terrace, although the forecast for tomorrow is for thunderstorms. It gives him a chance to putter, and that's good.

Inside, I've taken up the painting of "three virtuous women" and have painted out the woman on each side. I work more on it, until it becomes "one virtuous woman". Dino does not know what to think of it, but he thinks it's good.

"What am I to think of it?" he asks, and I respond, "Whatever comes into your head". I tell him that the clue is the last door.

It's just about finished, so take a look and let me know what you think after looking at it. It's fine if you don't like it; I'm hoping it will encourage the viewer to think...I don't care about what. Isn't that what art is all about?

It now replaces the earlier one on the site:

August 29
I hear Noreen talking below us on Via Mameli, and she's probably talking with Lydia. It's early and the air is fresh, so they are probably walking to the cemetery.

Yesterday there was a fire of cuttings across the street, but with Pia there, we are sure the fire will be tended. There is still a high fire danger, and this is the first fire we have seen in months.

There must be a nido (nest) of birds in the garden, for we can hear the peeping of little ones. Soon the air will be cooler, and soon we'll spend more time in the garden. These days, it is still too hot to do much of anything there.

The weather has changed, and there will be no thunderstorms today. Instead it is quite humid and the air is heavy. Dino has an appointment to deal with a water leak for a client, so he leaves for a few hours. All is still here, at least for now...

He returns to tell me that the trip was a waste of time. The muratore had no intention to work today, just intended to look at the work.

We have a marvelous pranzo at Vincenza and Augusto's with Lore and Alberto and Ivo also at the table. Roy falls in love with a cold rice salad, so of course I tell him I'll come up with one...subito (right away)! There is also prosciutto and melon and peach, fried battered persico (perch), a lovely salad, cocomero (watermelon) plus an ice cream cake; then coffee and liquor. One of the liquors is a lemoncello with chocolate and now Dino wants to make liquors. Watch out, Lindsey!

The subject of altar boys comes up during the meal. We're told in no uncertain terms by our hostess that an altar boy is a "chierico". Remember "ch" is pronounced "k"...no wonder there is no letter "k" in the Italian vernacular.

Later at home, I look it all up: in addition to "chierico", "clero" stands for clergy, but the word before it in our dictionary is "cleptomane", which is a kleptomaniac. While we're at it, "clemente" is indulgent. Dino loves words, and I admit I have fun with them, especially when learning them this way.

Wonder what kind of lessons we'd give. Well, at least there'd be lots of laughter...Warning...the Italian accents over the words have been omitted in this journal...remember never to take Italian lessons from another straniero (foreigner)!

After walking home to poor Sofi, we all drive to Bomarzo to visit Duccio and Giovanna and bring them an enormous peach from our tree; it's so good to see them again, and Duccio looks slim but happy.

We spend the evening at home watching Ted Kennedy's funeral and movies on tv.

August 30
With the memory of Ted Kennedy on my mind while watching his funeral, I'm reminded of a quote of JFK's; one that Ted spoke more than once: "We should all do something to right the wrongs we see".

I do have a feeling that I have been given a task from on high, but I'm not sure just how that tassk is to be articulated...yet. This Kennedy quote has something to do with it, I am sure.

Ever interested in learning more about art, especially anything relating to the South of France, I come across the paintings of a French artist named Andre Derain. He was a character, but unfortunately not a particularly nice one. Rather a dandy, he was a great influence on art in the early 20th century, just the same.

I particularly like his landscapes, and one may be inspiration for the "bosco" (forest) that was originally thought to be the project of the Mugnano family "tree". There is so much information already collected for this project, that the albero (tree) really does seem more like a bosco. Ah, Bosco....

Bosco Von Bale was the first dog I ever had as a child. He was a handsome Boxer, although by the time I was born he had become a skinny adult and acquired the strange habit of eating...rocks. He loved rocks and Chinese food.

The sweet dog died when I was still young, but I was told that my brother Mike and I rode him as if he were a horse. He participated in a 4th of July parade with my brother as Tarzan; my brother dressed in faux leopard skin, with Bosco pacing beside him as a lion. Now when hearing or seeing the word, I always think of my first best friend. "Howdy, partner...Havanothah egg roll".

I know. I know. This journal is supposed to be about our life in Italy. Now that I have reconnected with my brother and my niece Sarah, as well as my new sister-in-law, memories of my childhood that may be interesting to those who outlive me have me digressing.

Back to Italy: Our new priest, Don Renzo, will begin his role after next Sunday, when the Pope arrives in Viterbo for a visit and mass in the middle of the morning. The bishop is busy with all the arrangements. (There will be an outdoor mass near Porta Faul in the hot sun with no cover for anyone but the pope and probably the bishop). Dino has declined to attend, although some of his confraternity brothers will.

This happens three days after the annual Viterbo Macchina di Santa Rosa, and we'll not attend that, either. I've written an Italian Notebook story about Santa Rosa:


There will be an exhibition relating to the latest iteration of the Macchina, the design won by a local man whom we have met, and held in our Comune in Bomarzo. We'll certainly attend that one. Every five years there is a competition for a new design, so visitors will see this design for the next four years. It's a magnificent sight to take in...once in a lifetime is enough for us.

August 31
After mass with Don Luca, we drive to Il Pallone to shop and to have cornetti glassata at the bar. I've made a Mediterranean "Insalata di riso" (rice salad), full of things available almost anywhere, and certainly available in Italy. Since Dino loves hearty salads, he's happy. We've put the recipe on the site for you, too. Enjoy the tastes of the end of summer...


I write a story for Italian Notebook on Farfa Abbey, and note that it is open on the first Sunday of each month, and that means that it will be open on September 6th, for those of you who are local and looking for a Sunday jaunt experience on that date.

Tonight we are invited to Matthew and Terri's extraordinary place in Amelia for pizza, and are treated to a gastronomic treasure trove of different delights. The company is fine, as are our kind hosts, and sit by the fireplace adjacent to the pool and have plenty to talk about while listening to Tom Waite's great music.

We leave before David takes out his guitar, but he and Gillian will be here for a year, so there is plenty of time to get together with them in an intimate setting and enjoy each other's company.

As the clock strikes twelve, Dino turns to me in the car as we drive up the Mugnano hill and utters, "Rabbit! Rabbit!"...We're safe for another month. That's another of my superstitious sayings, said just after midnight as the new month begins.

So as we end the month, there is a lot to think about, and a lot to look forward to. We hope it is the same for you...


September 1
One Virtuous Woman is an altered version of an earlier painting, one that spoke virtually nothing to me when I first painted it. I then left it aside to think about it later. This finished painting now speaks to me and I hope to the viewer. Instead of telling you what my reasoning is behind the painting, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Email us and let us know. Thanks.


I'm ready to begin Salvatore and his father's painting, but need a new close-up of his father Mauro's face. When I have another close-up or two of the two Andreas, I can begin that one as well. I'm looking forward to working on the two canvases at the same time.

Dino is out all morning, meeting with suppliers. Since August is a month where Italians usually don't work, artisans are only beginning to get back to work.

One of the problems he tells me about is that when bidding on a project, especially a construction project, muratoes (stonemasons, also acting as contractors) don't all play by the same rules. Although an architect or geometra carefully spells out specifications, muratores and other contractors often ignore them, making the analysis quite difficult.

I wonder why there is not a simple bidding process with standard specifications, as there is in the US. Anyone who can simplify this task would be a wonder, but Dino does a great job analyzing bids. Deciding who is the best bidder to use is always a task.

One muratore, for instance, bids very low, and everyone wants him to do their work; but most of his clients wait over a year for him, and still he cannot get to the contracts he has agreed to honor.

In one case, Dino confronted this particular muratore, who told him he had no intention of doing the work anyway. So the lowest bidder in Italy is not always the best one. Be forewarned...

I see more flowers on two of the gigantic tomato plants, and more fruit, the largest ones just beginning to turn red. So we are not yet at the end of the season, although we have put away all of our bottling and processing equipment.

While checking on the peaches, and there are about ten in the kitchen in the process of ripening, I pick about six figs. Although Dino and Mario cut the tree back severely last winter, we still have figs. But no, I don't want to bottle any. We still have plenty from last year. I suppose if there are a lot of them I should. Let's not deal with that today.

The weather remains hot, although the forecast has the top temperature sliding down one degree each day. So this week the top temperatures will probably not rise above 30 degrees (the 90's).

September 2
We awake to the sound of gunshots, with hunters hiding in the fog, shooting birds but probably not cinghiale (wild boar); the wild boar season extends later. Ping! Ping! Now that September is upon us, we'll see hunters but probably no cinghiale on our property; we've made it impossible for them to wander in.

Hunters are a strange lot; by law in Italy they can enter any property if an animal they are chasing enters it. Sometimes hunters enter a property if they think there is something to hunt, using the excuse that they are chasing something.

So people who are not hunters don't speak well of the hunters or their brazen antics. Hunters, however, are fearless and decidedly thick skinned. Sigh. Fall has come early and summer recipes become earthier, beckoning the fruits of the season. Those remaining tomatoes will become a part of a sauce; the summer caprese (sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil, dressed with olive oil) only a memory.

With Dino and Pietro in Viterbo this morning, might as well paint...

I've taken out an abandoned canvas of a woman's head and shoulders, and it's a good time to get to know her again. I spent a lot of time drawing her, the colors in tones of sienna and ochre. On the canvas, I decide to divert from the modern technique of lights and darks in the same colors and revert to the more traditional lifelike tones.

Outside, an angry woman yells at a contadino, while a dog barks by his side. I can just imagine the scene, right out of the Montagues and the Capulets (remember Romeo and Juliet?) In Italy, families foster centuries old angers between themselves, arms crossed, foreheads squinched. This morning I can hear Tomasso's voice. Is he an innocent bystander, trying to quell an argument?

I hear him call out "Ciao!" as he walks away, to the sounds of three gunshots further down in the valley, followed by still more. The birdsong is muted, as though a muffled whisper, and I imagine the birds covering their beaks with their wings as they warn their feathery neighbors. As soon as the shooting stops for a moment, the air becomes strangely silent; then a motorino whizzes by below us. Vroooommmm!

It's still tranquil here, and in the afternoon butterflies light on a white lantana, which falls out over a terra cotta pot. I'm in cleanup mode, wanting to yank out any yellowy plants and get ready to begin again. That reminds me...

Our plumbago still looks lovely, and I'd love to plant lots of it for next summer. Although its flowers are sticky, it flowers all summer in a profusion of sassy buxom pale blue, and looks great with the colors of the house and shutters.

I have a fierce migraine, and have no idea what caused it, other than possibly too many pretzels last night (the salt). It takes a cocktail of meds plus a freezer pack against my head, a two-hour rest and a cold shower to bring me back to the living.

Dino meets Luigi, a new muratore we have not yet used from Bomarzo, and travels to Pozzo Ciulino with him to talk about a project for a client. He's a new one to add to Dino's growing list of sources, and Dino likes him a lot.

September 3
Dino spent a lot of time on the website yesterday, and now wants photos to go along with any of our recipes. It's a good idea, beginning with the latest

"Insalata di Riso".

Today is the official unveiling of the latest Macchina di Santa Rosa in Viterbo, and that happens tonight after dark. I have attended The Macchina di Santa Rosa once, Dino has attended twice and that's probably enough for a lifetime. It is so crowded, although so incredibly moving that it's difficult not to be reduced to tears as she arrives around a bend in the road and floats by, carried by almost one hundred facchini.


We're in Bassano in Teverina to stop at a falegname (woodworker) to make a change in an order, then drive to Viterbo. On the way, we see a "scorciatoia" (shortcut) on a white road to Vallerano, and decide to take it. Dino was warned not to take it in the Alfa, but now that we have a Panda the car is perfect.

It's five km. of amazing road, including an archeological wonder, and I'll write about it for Italian Notebook. Once in Vallerano, we stop at a furniture maggazino and find some things for clients, then drive on to Viterbo.

The vet agrees to see Sofi to cut two of her nails (what do you call the "thumb" of a dog's paw?) and takes us right away. Don't ask...

All is well, we do our other errands and see that the "Macchina" is covered in advertising logos on a cloth that prevents seeing any of it. We'll see it next week when it resides outside the church of Santa Rosa for a few days.

Back at home, Dino walks up to the borgo to talk with Ivo about taking another photo of his son, and to Mauro to give him instructions about the photo we'll take of Mauro and Salvatore later tonight. Salvatore beams at the thought!

After pranzo, Dino takes a nap and I work on the painting of a woman I call Vanessa. I have nothing to go by, the original photo is lost, but she is elderly, so her skin has lines and wrinkles. Using what I know, and drawings done by Leonardo DaVinci to show muscles and facial structure, I work layer by layer and by the time I'm through today she looks a lot older. Self-teaching art is an interesting process, and I have no grumbles about it. It's a wonderful challenge, and if I don't like the result, I can paint over it.

I look forward to 7PM, when my young subjects and Mauro will get together in the borgo so that we can retake a couple of photos. We'll take a few more; close-ups of their faces, so that I can use them for details. We have the canvas, so as soon as Dino can help me Photoshop the images where we want them, we'll return to Viterbo to blow them up for the canvases, 80cm x 110cm each.

Once that's done, I'll trace the images using carbon paper over the canvas and the blowup on top. This is called a cartoon, and the process has been used for centuries. With a coating of hairspray to hold the carbon lines, I'll be ready to paint...

Photos are somewhat happily taken; Andrea from Parma thinks his old photo was taken "a sacko di anni fa" (many years ago), when in fact it was taken in 2006. But then, considering that they are still young, this is a matter of perspective. We have them sit on the steps in front of Livio and Gigliola's house in the main piazza, while Francesco, the other Andrea's father, watches directly across the piazza on a bench.

Francesco's son is adorable, and in these past three years has hardly changed; that is a good thing regarding the painting. We may use Photoshop to doctor the two photos, for there is something good in each of them. Tomorrow we'll take the doctored photographs to Viterbo to blow up. I'm looking forward to beginning anew.

We take a bottle of Prosecco to Pietro's, and seven of us sit around on the terrace telling stories after dark under a really full moon. It's a lovely spot, and now that our good friend is back, we'll look forward to many evenings spent there under the moonlight. We drive home feeling the humidity; we really need that rain we've been promised.

September 4
We have to re-shoot the photo of the two Andreas, and drive up to the borgo right after breakfast to find them. They are both sitting together on a bench, and agree to a second shoot. This time, I ask them to be more serious.

What happens next is a series of fun photos, for little Andrea does not know how to be serious. The last shot is just right, so we thank them and return home to download the photos and print them up. First we run into Tiziano to ask him what he can tell us about the scorciatoia we took yesterday and the ruins.

He's babysitting this weekend, so perhaps tomorrow we'll take what we know of the story to him and he'll fill us in about what we don't know. It's another good story for Italian Notebook. While we're at it, he tells us he has a new job in Nepi working for the head of Belle Arte in the area, and I think of another story in connection with Belle Arte and its preservation of historical landmarks. Look for at least another one soon...

We'll drive to Viterbo this morning, and I wonder if we can drive to Santa Rosa to look at the "Macchina" first hand. Its procession took place at dark last night, under a full moon. It must have been a marvelous experience.

Each day the forecast promises that the high temperature will be lower by one degree. But to us, it remains hot and, what's worse, humido (humid). With my curly hair in a pony tail, we stop to drop off empty barratoli (canning bottles) to Luigina, as Dino only wants to use a special type of bottles for his tomatoes, and we have plenty of them.

She at first thinks we want her to give us bottles, and takes Dino into her dark and deep cantina to show him what she has. So she's happy to take them once she understands, and that means she'll probably come by with fresh eggs or something.

She's a very special woman; I remember her as the first woman who approached us years ago when we were robbed. I will never forget her for that, as well as for countless other kindnesses she's shown to us over the years.

On the way through Bomarzo at the first stop sign, we're drawn to a series of photos and the word, "VERGOGNA!" (shame). It appears that locals are not happy with the €98.000 (ninety-eight thousand euro) project to install an elevator alongside the ancient Palazzo Orsini, which is also our Comune (city hall). The modern structure is partially finished, and we have no idea why it was requested or built. But tonight we'll meet up with Duccio and Giovanna and will hear the real deal then...

The place where we blow up our photos to obtain the cartoons for my paintings is closed; it is the weekend of the festa of Santa Rosa in Viterbo, and many stores are closed for the celebration. We ask our friends at KLIMT where to go, and they direct us to a second place, near the Questura, which is open and also technologically better equipped to make our cartoons on a first pass.

The owner, Mauro (what other name is there around here?) presses a few keys and the images roll out of the machine and are just right. We'll certainly return here whenever we need a blowup.

We are able to get very close to the church of Santa Rosa, where the "Macchina" stands adjacent to the front steps. We park in a tow zone, for we're just like everyone else who thinks, "Just a minute...It won't take long just to take a look..."Meter maids and Carabinieri look the other way...

Sofi leads us up the hill, sniffing all the way, and here's what we see. Later tonight we'll attend the opening party of the exhibition in the Palazzo Orsini with the designer and his girlfriend, whom we have met. Duccio and Giovanna will attend with us, and of course we look forward to seeing our good friends again.

I have more painting to do of "Vanessa"; the colors on her face are drying and I have layers to add while the canvas is still wet; I'm not quite ready to abandon her yet. So after fixing pranzo I return to the little studio and paint.

Just before we dress for the mostra in Bomarzo, I want to share a paragraph with you from the poem, "Islandia", by Maria Negroni:

"As if a single voice pierced one of them, their hidden sides, sordid, their imprudence in remaining utterly ignorant of happiness, of postponing it, thus they live. They know the modesty of saying I, but prefer the amplitude of this night or the supposed song of the only nightingale they have ever heard or will hear, which does not differ from silence. They know, too, the exact measure of some riddles that they will not be able to solve: why certain parts of the body are like countries and others like prison cells, why courage and naivete form a constellation. In that discretion which is also a form of order (but less innocent) there is a flirtation with the implicit, the remote hope that, seen from afar, their gestures will be rounded into completion (meaning). In one gulp, they have swigged down summer. Suddenly, they seem tired. Something tells them rain is coming..."

On the way to Duccio's and to the mostra, we take a photo of the flyers voicing their unhappiness with the elevator that has been partly installed against the old stone walls. The elevator is located in a spot that doesn't allow entrants to go anywhere, so Duccio surmises that it's too much money for a project that is not needed and will ruin the views of Mugnano for many. Sindaco (mayor) Stefano Bonori must be taking a lot of heat from these, the opposition. It really is quite ugly.

We stop at Duccio and Giovanna's for a few minutes; then all walk up to the mostra. Arturo, the winner of the Macchina di Santa Rosa competition is there, with a quite young woman we do not know. He lives in Bomarzo, and Duccio calls his neighbors Bomartians, so I guess that is what makes him one.

Later, Arturo's mother arrives and talks with us, especially Giovanna, to tell her that she hopes Arturo will reconcile with the woman we know as Michelle. Michelle is in the US, we think, and we are sorry she is not here to witness another plumb in Arturo's pie.

We don't stay long, just enough to see some of the video of the Macchina di Santa Rosa and a part of the construction. It's a marvel, and one that needs to be seen at night, where on the 3rd, roses were strewn from the top as it turned and passed the City Hall. What a sight that must have been!

Since we're out, Dino wants to have pizza at the Taverna in Soriano, so it's as if we're on a date for an hour or so and sit while watching the tramonto (sunset), with Sofi still at home. On the way out of town, he takes out his little tripod and takes a photo of the rocca next to the full moon.

Back at home, Dino makes up a photomontage of the two Andreas, and we walk two sets up to the borgo to distribute to the families. Since both fathers are here, we have them mimic their sons' photos and sit on the same steps.

There's plenty of breeze, but plenty of humidity, so the night will be long and with the fan at full blast.

Here's another photo of the full moon, this one from Mugnano.

September 5
The weather has turned decidedly cooler, and we have adjusted to the season, welcoming the colors of the landscape and our cachi trees, with no concern over the dropped fruit, for there will be none this year.

Speaking of dropped fruit, Dino tells me there are a lot of figs ready to be picked. So if he has jar tops, I'll make a batch of jam with the customary ginger and lemony taste. It makes great local gifts.

I close the front shutter to see Germano taking the tin away from the property next to Pia, and perhaps even today they will light a fire to get rid of all the downed brush and trees. I noticed that there are rows of cut wood, set aside for fires, although the type of wood (pseudo acacia) is not good for burning in fireplaces. At least the property will look better...for a while.

A helicopter overhead, probably from Viterbo, reminds me that Dino has not picked up his Tshirts from the pro loco in Viterbo. The shirts are fun, but the stacks of Dino's ever growing collection, too numerous for the armadio, reminds me of the books my father would read in his bedroom, piling them up in stacks all around the room. He'd read several at the same time, not able to sleep he would turn on the light and revel in a page here, a page there, in the disparate subjects. What a guy!

I'm about to make the cartoon on at least one of the two canvases, so while Dino's meeting with the geometra in Tenaglie about a new roof on the front building that will encroach on a client's mezza luna (half moon) window, Sofi and I stay at home. See you later...

Dino and the client's geometra work out a solution, and remember that what is above the roofline belongs to our client, so the other party's geometra concedes. They work out a solution and Dino arrives home while I'm working on the cartoon for the two Andreas on the table in front of the kitchen.

A few wasps circle around, but Dino can find no nido (nest). So I continue and when I think I've finished I unveil the canvas to find that a few details are too light. Before the canvas is sprayed, I'll finish whatever I need in pencil or pen and then the hairspray will hold everything in place while I paint the images. It's really a lot of fun, although painstaking work.

There's just enough time to dry my hair, put on makeup and dress for pranzo at Lore and Alberto's. Little Sofi will remain here in her gabbia (cage), although I hate to leave her.

Lore and Alberto have almost finished their new terraces, and we take a walk on the different levels to admire Stefano's work and the lovely view. There is even a grotto for "La Regina" (the queen, aka Lore) and "Il Magnifico" (Alberto) to sit. The work is "ottomo" (the best) quality and really beautiful.

We are also joined for pranzo by Silvana and her sister, Maria, Vincenzo and Augusto. The cognomes of the girls are Amati, and their mother was a Pannucci, as well as being a sister of Giustino and Modesta. The women were two of four children, in addition to Giancarlo and Rosanna. Giancarlo is Anna Cozzi's husband. Rosanna lives in Roma.

Rosanna is the mother of Federica, who is the wife of Enrico Perini. Once you see the family names, you will be able to match people up. Give us time... I suppose the project will turn into a Mugnano board game. Come no?

We sit inside the kitchen of the newly restored house, and Lore has embroidered an elaborate linen tablecloth with many colored flowers and leaves. She is a masterful embroiderer.

Like us, she and Alberto use lots of plates; lots of glasses, although they do not have a dishwasher and later will have to wash and dry everything themselves. Purtroppo (It really is too bad) but they don't want help.

Cannelloni is followed by a carpaccio-thin sliced beef, sautéed in olive oil with rugghetta steamed on top; followed by a cold roast pork marinated in a red wine sauce, followed by red and yellow pepperoni in olive oil, followed by a lemon crostada and an ice cream cake, similar to the one we ate last week at Vincenza's.

Vincenza and I sit against the back wall, and when we take out our fans to cool ourselves off, we are named "Suki and Uki".

With Alberto as host, there is white wine, red wine and prosecco, plenty of it, as well as an after dinner grappa that looked more like brandy. Dino said that it was smooth and strong. The meal was beautifully presented and very tasty.

After three hours at the table, we excuse ourselves to rescue Sofi, and come home to our sweet one, happy to see us. For a few hours, we want nothing but to rest in a cool dark room.

That's not really to be, for I want to finish the cartoon of the two Andreas. Andrea from Parma is important, for they are returning to Parma soon. I finish his part of the painting, and after viewing a few other photographs, think I have what I need to finish one side.

As day turns to dusk, Dino advises me to stop, for the natural light is fading. I somewhat agree, putting the painting aside for now. I really enjoy reworking the images, even though it is properly done with pen and carbon paper first. Evidently, parts of it were not dark enough.

What I love about what is happening to the canvas now, is that I'm drawing in the details myself, from memory and from photographs. It's tremendously rewarding. The more I paint, the happier I am.

Now, we need to pack for the short trip to Isernia, and since it's an overnight, we pack as simply as possible. There are gifts for Don Francis and probably we'll take a notebook as well, so that I can draw when we're sitting around. Like Dino, I can't really sit still for long, finding myself looking for inspiration or for something to paint, wherever we are.

Today during pranzo, I found myself gazing out at the far hills while the others gabbed in Italian. We tried to explain the term "eye candy", for I see it wherever we are, and have no need to purchase the beauty that we see. But it's difficult to translate. Lore sees it as finding something to buy. I suppose that's true, too, but in my case I have no urge to "own" much of anything that we don't already have.

September 6
We're up and out by 7:30, and arrive in Isernia by 10 AM or so. Don Francis invites us to join him for a picnic pranzo at a nearby lake; he performed a mass here this morning for a large group under a big white tent. Shades of Elmer Gantry? No, not with this priest.

The picnic is in honor of the volunteers who work with disabled people of the area, and pranzo is free. By the time we arrive, most of the food is cold, but no matter.

We wait in line, with Don Francis refusing offers to move ahead, and gab while we wait for the food, which is all free, meant for the volunteers who work all year with disabled adults and children.

We're introduced to Pepino, an eighty-one year young man who plays a bagpipe called a zampogna. People who play this instrument are known as zampognari. Another man plays an ancient oboe known as a piffaro, and he's called a pifferaro. There are four men in the group, all great friends, who play these ancient instruments that are characteristic of the area. They would make a great Notebook story, but we're leaving that to our friend, Don Francis, who wants to give writing these pieces a try.

After we are serenaded to by the men, we walk to the edge of the nearby lake, which looks cold but beautiful. This really is beautiful country. Dino tells me it's the "real" countryside...ours at the outskirts of little Mugnano is much more civilized.

Don Francis is in his element. He talks with many people whom he either knows from his last stint in Isernia during the 90's or to whom he is introduced. Without a sweater I'm pretty cold, so we take him to Fornelli where his car is located, then drive quickly back to Isernia to change and return for his installation mass.

While Sofi patiently waits in the car, we attend mass in San Michele Archangel church at the top of the town. Don Francis is now in charge of all four churches in the town, and after a really moving mass, we're invited to "join the ladies" in the vestibule for sweets and cold drinks.

We decide not to have cena with Don Francis and his friends, for he has plenty to talk about with them and we've had his company for most of the afternoon. So we bid him a c'e reviddiamo a domani (see you again tomorrow) and eat cena at a little trattoria near our hotel.

We like driving out of town for special events, and enjoy each other's company so much that it's these infrequent "dates" that we treasure. We're back in our hotel room early and with its French doors open to the balcony, read to lull ourselves to sleep.

September 7
We have breakfast and meet Don Francis, who wants to see the rooms in the hotel; they are wonderful and very inexpensive (€70 for two, including breakfast!)

After he arrives, we have another coffee, and give him the gifts we had planned to give him yesterday. No matter. One of his gifts is a round painted platter with red pepperoni in the center; it's one of only three round ceramic platters we have left. Since I no longer work with ceramics, any pieces we have are dwindling.

We say goodbye and drive on to two wonderful abbeys. The Abbey of Casamari is first, but we don't feel like waiting more than an hour for it to open, so take several photos and tell ourselves we'll be back.

We drive on to Sora, where we get out of the car and walk around, then stop at Il Marshallo for a really good pranzo of fresh pappardelle, roast chicken and salads. The bread is a great surprise, for it's the best we've had in Italy, but although Dino races out the door to try to get to the paniterria (bread shop) before it closes, he's too late. If we return to Sora, we will be sure to arrive early and purchase their special bread, as sour as any we've had in San Francisco!

From there, we drive to Certosa di Trisulti, a Benedictine Monastery we will long remember as the finest we've ever seen. There is a long and circuitous route to get here, but it is certainly worth it. We'll definitely return with Pietro, and possibly also with Duccio and Giovanna.

Don Claudio, an eighty-year young priest whom I really want to paint, takes us on a tour. His face is a wonder. Don Claudio is joyous; he opens his arms to all of the people waiting (by the time the tour is finished there will be a dozen), especially the children, and walks along flanked by two of them.

The paintings...oh, the paintings!!! Every room is a story, every story a delight, and this priest loves to tell stories. He waxes in ecstasy over the treasures in several buildings, and we finish at an elaborate presepio.

While waiting for the others to finish looking at the presepio (We see so many around Christmas time that we're more interested in speaking with Don Claudio.) I ask him if I can paint him, and he takes my hand in his and looks down at me, asking me why?

It is only later that I realize that he is such a simple man that he is uncomfortable even with the subject. So we wait until we arrive home to see if we have taken any photos that I can paint, especially of him. He'll probably be happy that we have not.

We're home by 8 PM, in time to unwind by the telly until turning in. There are lots of photos, but none that I can use to paint this special priest. It's another reason to return...

September 8
The weather is really cooling off, although daytime temperatures are in the 80's F. Dino drives to Viterbo for errands and to shop, and I work on the two Andreas painting.

I've decided to work on the drawing on the canvas until it's to my liking before applying any oil paint. I spend three hours on it in the morning, and another couple in the afternoon, until my neck is sore and I have to put it away for the day. It's still not ready to paint, but I'm really enjoying the drawing part of the project.

A woman we have met named Lisa calls, and the pro loco (Chamber of Commerce) of Foligno has invited me to attend their big festa this weekend to write a story about it for Italian Notebook. Almost everything this weekend is late in the day, so we will either just attend on Saturday night or drive back on Sunday afternoon.

Perhaps there will be someone I'd like to paint at the Foligno events...Dino and I talk about how to take photos on the fly; photos good enough for me to be able to capture "that certain something" that defines them or what they express.

We need practice...I'm still sad that we don't have photos that capture the essence of dear Don Claudio, who we met yesterday. I love his face; love his countenance. Pietro wants to visit the abbey, so perhaps I'll have another chance.

Dino wants to visit Pietro, so we all drive down and spend an hour or so with him. It's so good to see him and catch up on what we've been doing these past few days.

Germano comes by to take a look at our kitchen ceiling, and he'll come back tomorrow to measure for the new chimney cap and grate. We realize his prices are reasonable, and the ceiling is in bad need of repair and paint, with many years of soot collecting from all the winter fires in the fireplace. It's also a good time to take everything out of the kitchen and do a major cleaning. "Sempre qualcosa (there's always something)" to do around here.

September 9
After a cool night, we awake to dark clouds...and sun! I'm anxious to return to the canvas, and Dino...

I stop after writing this line, knowing that I'll return to it later in the day. But before I do, Dino tells me he is very moved about what I wrote...If I'm returning to Dino, where have I been?

He spends the morning in Tenaglie and arrives home while I'm working away on the drawing of the two Adreas. This will have been the first time I have taken the cartoon to the final drawing stage before painting it. But I'd like to give a photo of the drawing to both sets of parents. I've also been told that the most important work in a painting is the initial drawing, so we'll see if that is true in this case.

Humira Noorestani, the Director of Ariana Outreach, tells me that she wants to add my name to their host committee. We still don't have a price for shipping the painting, but will put an emphasis on it in the next days. In August, it's virtually impossible to get quotes for things in Italy; most of the population is "at the beach".

You'll receive an email from us if you are on our address list, when we know when the painting will go online. If anyone offers €500, they can have it without it going online. Otherwise, they can bid when we're ready, which should be in the next week, but the bidding will start at €500.

Since I'm always painting when back in San Francisco visiting our relatives, I am able to take on a painting commission while I am there, and we're thinking it will be a good time for a Christmas present. So if you have a person you'd like me to paint, let me know. If I don't take on a commission, I will probably paint our grand daughters.

The day is really lovely. It's one of those warm fall days, and because the sky is full of clouds, today's warm weather is not oppressive. This afternoon, Germano comes by to measure for a dome for the chimney. He's a very friendly guy, and we'll use him now and then for small projects. It's how he'll make his living, I guess, and the work he has done in the village so far has been very good.

Dino stops me at around 5PM from working on the drawing, as the light is lowering and we're both fearful that I'll have a migraine if I overdo it. That reminds me. Dino told me this morning that today is European Action Day for migraines. Huh?

Here's what Al Gore's folks have to say about it:
"Awareness of the pain and prejudice of living with migraine, a neurological condition that causes disabling headaches, is to receive a rallying call when patient groups from throughout Europe join forces for the launch of the European Headache Alliance, on the first ever European Migraine Day of Action on 12 September 2006.

"The newly formed European Headache Alliance, made up of representatives from Europe's most prominent migraine patient advocacy groups, has chosen to combine it's official launch to the European Parliament in Brussels by supporting their first initiative, the first ever European Migraine Day of Action. The EHA is the first and only Pan-European patient association specifically dedicated to migraine.

"Migraine patient advocacy groups from across Europe are calling for improvement in the current level of public and professional understanding and tolerance for their condition with more effective management. "Despite increasing recognition of migraine as a complex neurological condition affecting at least 10% of Europe's population - more prevalent than asthma, diabetes and epilepsy combined - it is apparent that many patients still feel that their migraine is not being recognised as a debilitating condition and therefore suffer stigmatisation and discrimination as a result" explains Audrey Craven, President of the European Headache Alliance and President of the Migraine Association of Ireland."

Should I be comforted that Joan of Arc and Monet as well as Elvis Presley suffered with migraines? Well, the first site I looked up had a flashing advertisement to the right of the initial box of information, and if that is not a signal that will give someone a migraine, I don't know what is...

Germano tries to climb up to the roof with our two-story ladder, but it is not tall enough. When I look out the window at him he tells me he is Babbo Natale (Santa Claus). No way! Babbo is standing right at the foot of the ladder. Don't tell ME who is Babbo Natale!

Germano does find his way to the roof and measures. I think Dino wants a copper onion-type dome that rotates with the wind. One of these days...

While he's up there, he tells Dino that the fireplace needs to be cleaned out, so if he can find the proper brush, he will do that. We do know that since we put a sleeve in the chimney it might be an easier job to do...but not one for Dino.

Tomorrow morning I'll finish the drawing of the two Andreas, then with hairspray to hold all the lines in place, I'll be ready to paint. Perhaps I'll stay in this mode, instead, drawing Salvatore and his father on the second canvas. I'd like to be able to work on them side by side, so will prep the second canvas with the carbon paper and pen and then the pencil to fine tune the figures. I so love to draw and paint!

Tomorrow we'll also photograph the drawings, and will post them for you to see some of what the process looks like.

Mauro drops by and he and Dino discuss Don Luca's final mass in Mugnano on Sunday; the three leaders of the Confraternity will wear their robes out of respect for Don Luca. It should be another wonderful mass.

September 10
Dino drives to Viterbo while I work on the drawings. The two Andreas are not finished until the end of the day, for I want to be happy with the detail. Unfortunately, one of the boys has such dark eyes that his expression is not right, so I'm counting on being able to bring the painting to life once I apply oil paints to it. We'll see.

September 11
I finish both drawing by the end of the day, and I'm not completely satisfied, but think the answer lies in the paints. So although I thought I'd give you a progress report...an idea of what the drawings look like, I'm not satisfied enough with them to post them.

Dino comes back from Viterbo with a funny t-shirt...one that he suggested an addition to that makes the shirt funny. Here it is...

..."magari" means "if only it were true".

The weather has changed for sure, and these days are possibly the most beautiful of the year. We don't close the shutters to the sun, for it is not too hot. Instead, we keep the shutters and windows open all day and night.

In the afternoon while Dino takes his daily nap, Sacha and two men show up at the gate to see him. I wake him after they tell me they'll wait for him at San Rocco...the little church down the path. Yikes!

Dino wakes up and walks down there. Sacha tells him he's brought a geometra with him and wants to buy it to turn it into an apartment building. I feel sick to my stomach, just at the thought. He asks Dino if he can purchase "just a little" bit of our land adjacent to it, and thankfully Dino responds, "Not even a centimeter!"

We ask for a meeting tonight with friends who can do something to deter the decision, and now the community has to make up its mind regarding whether it will purchase the church and restore it, or not. Ecomuseo...to the rescue? We really hope so.

To me, this September 11th will be remembered as a nightmare here in little Mugnano as well. I say a silent prayer for the thousands of people affected by the 2001 disaster on this date. This is a reminder that life changes and is full of surprises, both good and bad. So I'm reminded to make each day count.

Our friends cannot meet with us tonight, so we ask to meet them in the morning. We go to bed hopeful....

September 12
It's a migraine morning, so I pop pills in my mouth to knock out the pain and vow not to begin painting this morning. I can't help sneaking a look at the two canvases in the little studio whenever I walk by, just the same.

It's warm enough to close the shutters facing South, so September continues with its warm weather, although its not as hot here as it was last month. The weather is ideal, actually, for just about any activity.

After a simple pranzo, we drive to Foligno to meet Laura, who is shepherding us around the town to be sure that we get the best information about The Quintana, the great event that takes place today and tomorrow, following centuries of tradition. We're here to learn about the traditions of the Quintana and to take in the city's treasures, including remarkable costumes and buildings hearkening back to the times of the Renaissance. Of course, it's for an Italian Notebook story.

Happily, Foligno has changed mightily; the last time we were here, the city looked sad, as a result of the mighty earthquake of 1999 that destroyed a great deal of the heart of the town. Tonight we hear that there were not deaths, only buildings that were damaged. Its inhabitants ran out of their homes at the first sequence of shakes, and remained outside for the largest of them. So unlike L'Aquila, where many lives were lost, the city's inhabitants here were saved.

Can you imagine that there are ten contradas, or neighborhoods? Each one has its own colors and costumes, and we're given a tour of the buildings that house the costumes and introduced to several of the people in charge of coordinating this weekend's events.

We're able to see the beginning of the procession, but by now it's so dark that we take a few close-ups and tell ourselves we'll return another time. Sofi has been an angel, and we're able to arrive home before midnight...

September 13
Dino sat on the altar this morning along with Mauro and Fabrizio as Don Luca and Don Bruno participated in their final mass in Mugnano. Yes, Elena made the plate for Don Bruno after all, and it's carina (pretty).

Very early this morning I awoke with a migraine, but after the usual cocktail and a few more hours of sleep, I'm able to join Dino for the mass. Today, I'm asked to document the occasion, so why not? Here is a sample of the mass:

We stop at Paola and Antonio's after mass to talk about a local Ecomuseo challenge, and while we are there, Alberto and Francesco arrive to meet with Antonio. We are concerned about what is possibly happening with our beloved San Rocco, and Francesco advises us that it cannot be torn down and rebuilt as a modern apartment complex, for it is an important historical building.

Nonna Candida has been bitten by a vespe (wasp) and her leg is swollen and red. Paola is worried, and but the doctor is not. Is it a coincidence that Giuseppa and I have also been bitten lately by vespe and our bites have swollen and the skin turned hard? Both Giuseppa and I are now fine, but Nonna Candida is not. I missed not seeing her at mass.

Wind and dark skies appear today after pranzo, along with Lewis Hamilton's sad finish in today's Formula 1 race at Monza. He loses out just before the end of the race, and at the same time the skies turn stormy. We hide under the covers until thunder and lightening strikes repeatedly and close by; the storm ends more than an hour later.

Since it's cool, I think of making chocolate oatmeal cookies, and fool around with a few recipes. They are incredibly rich and tasty when hot; since it's a recipe of my own design, I suppose I need to include it under recipes. It's a choc-o-holic's dream. Va bene, but not today.

I work on a couple of Notebook stories, and really do need to get back to writing stories of places we've been. Yes, there is always something to do.

Poor Pietro arrives at the gate to tell us that something has happened to his car and it's down the hill across from Giuseppa's orto. He has just walked all the way up the steep Mugnano hill to our house in the dark. After a glass of grappa, we hear all about his trauma, and then Dino drives him home. Tomorrow they'll take the car to Attigliano while I return to, what else (?) painting.

September 14
Thunderstorms continue in the forecast, and are expected each day for a week except for this Friday...no wonder I wake with a migraine, after a night of anxious dreaming.

Dino drives to Pietro's to help him rescue his car. We're surrounded Brigadoon-like in fog, so prospects for Pietro's dried-out radiator are dim.

Leaves here and there begin to turn red and yellow. I'm wondering how the wisteria will look this winter, with no leaves covering our front pergola. Sounds of the asini (donkeys) below tell me they are greeting Pepino, and just the thought of the youngest asino's approaching birthday on the 27th makes me smile.

These days, we're reading books that hint of Russia, especially during WWII, and because they have a spot in each of our hearts, we're drawn to the place. Warsaw, in Poland and Lipovitz in the Ukraine figure in our histories, with Dino's grandfather and my father advancing the pulse of our hearts as we wonder about their early lives. Each of them lived there during the early part of the 20th century. When we visit one day, what will we find?

I'm working on a surprise that of course I can't tell you about, for as you know only one person can keep a secret...I'll tell you about it next month.

I feel a pull from the sun, high in the sky overhead, as it stubbornly begins to clear away the fog. In another hour, sun will return, but I'll remain inside, working on my secret...that is, if my headache melts away. Sofi remains silently and patiently at my feet.

I'm just beginning to understand the choice of many Americans to not want a public option to the future of American health insurance. It's not that they don't want the option, it's that they are afraid of the government taking away their free will to choose. They don't want the government deciding much of anything for them.

So when does one's belief that they know what is good for their fellow man move the culture from a democratic society to an autocratic one? If we had not moved here, outside of the "island" that is the United States, would we feel the same way?

I've been trying to articulate my thoughts about it, and Roger Cohen of the NYT describes it quite well in his comparison of the US proposed health system with the French health system:

Here are a few excerpts:
"Most would be shocked to hear about American social security, let alone Medicare and Medicaid, the government-run health care systems for the elderly and the poor that together form one of the largest publicly financed health systems in the world...

"The French health system uses a mixture of public and private funding, guaranteeing basic coverage through national insurance funds to which employees and employers make contributions. Most French people supplement these benefits by buying private insurance.

"...So beyond all the hectoring, the main French-American difference on health care is not ideological but a question of efficiency. Both countries use a mixture of public and private. France is at a very far remove from "socialism." The United States has already "socialized" a significant portion of its medicine. (Nothing illustrates right-wing ideological madness in the United States better than calls from some to "keep the government out of my Medicare!")

... "The real difference is that the French state mandates health coverage for everyone, picks up the tab where necessary (as for the unemployed), holds down costs through a national fee system, and uses mainly nonprofit mutual insurers even for supplemental private coverage.

..."These are real distinctions. But the "socialism sucks" Republican broadside on Obama's reform plans - with its overtone that the "cosmopolitan" president wants to "Europeanize" American medicine - is nonsense. It's nonsense because the free market is vigorous in France (and Europe), because there are all sorts of European approaches to health (within the compulsory coverage), and because the United States has already "socialized" aplenty without turning its capitalism pink."

I've written enough about my feelings regarding American perspectives of what the proposed health care legislation will do to them. I suppose I'm feeling "blue in the face" about it, so if you're living in the U S, do as you will. I'm just happy we won't have to deal with it again in our lifetimes.

Strange, but we use the term "American" loosely. What about Canada, about Mexico, about South America? We're only referring to the United "States" when we refer to America, so why is it generally referred to as "America" when it really is not?

This afternoon we drive to Viterbo for errands, and finally track down the woman at MBE (Mail Boxes Etc.) who will make arrangements to ship the Fortezza painting to whomever winds the auction. Tonight we'll put the painting up on ebay and if you're on our mailing list, we'll email you the info.

The painting is being donated to Ariana Outreach in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. "Ariana Outreach (AO) provides programs that improve the social and economic infrastructure of Afghanistan. AO pays special attention to women's empowerment, literacy, and cultural exchange between the United States and Afghanistan. "

If you read this journal on an ongoing basis, you'll know how important the women and families of Afghanistan are to me. So if you also want to help, you can bid on the painting on ebay and perhaps even get a painting out of it. We'll let you know when the auction is setup.

What a blip! Ariana Outreach has to post the auction and receive the money themselves, and tonight is their big benefit in Washington, D.C. So we don't expect anything to happen until we are able to regroup with them. Perhaps tomorrow...

September 15
With a migraine again this morning, that makes three mornings in a row of migraine headaches and the related medicine. The medicine is so strong that I don't like to take it, but it's the only rational choice. It has me moving through the day in a funk.

When my mind has partially cleared, I spend the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon on a drawing as a present. We'll mail it tomorrow. Tonight there is a dinner at the Gasperoni's, including Pietro, although I can't seem to shake this depression. Perhaps a nap will do.

The recent thunderstorms have again knocked the power out of the cancello, and technicians tell us we need a new part before they can fix it. Dino drives to Viterbo to pick it up and hopefully they can return tomorrow to replace it. That means we won't post until after the cancello has been repaired. Yes, I'm somewhat superstitious, but you already know that.

There is more rain this afternoon and while Dino drives to appointments, I take a nap with Sofi by my side. By the time we get up my depression has abated, and I'm once again happy to leave the house tonight for a cena at the Gasperoni's.

We pick up Stein, then drive to the pink house, where Rosita greets us at the ground level and we have cena in their sala di pranzo on the lowest level. The room is beautiful, and with the six of us, it's like a family affair.

We tell them we'll fix Sunday brunch for them before Natale, and they think it's a fun idea, especially Enzo, who is game to try new things.

Rosita has done a lot of work and there are many courses, all very good. I especially like the way she has roasted red pepperoni. She doesn't really roast them, but grills them on top of the stove on a grill, then the skins just peel off. When I fix pepperoni, after taking off the skins the red underskins always have a brown tinge here and there. Hers are bright red. So I'll try her idea soon.

Back at home there is a lot of rain, and a lot of thunder. While I'm writing here the computer shakes as a drumroll and crack of thunder rock the house. Dino tells me not to worry, that the thunder and lightning are far off. I have trouble believing him, but continue to write, just the same. He knows what he is talking about more than I do.

Time to get into bed...it's almost midnight.

September 16
Stein still has no car, so Dino takes him to the mechanic and to Bomarzo, where he'll meet his new Italian teacher, a twenty-something woman who will give him lessons at his house. No, we're not interested in participating...

I have yet another headache, perhaps helped by the local wine last night at cena. I usually take Tachiprina before going to bed when I drink even a little, but forgot last night; hence the headache. It takes until pranzo to get rid of it.

After pranzo, Dino has more appointments, so Sofi and I stay at home at watch a movie. While he is out, he calls to tell me that Giustino died this morning. He was 97 years old, and the second oldest resident of our village.

I'm feeling particularly philosophical, for Giustino was about the first person we met in the village in 1997. He's another character who takes many of his memories with him. The apartment building he owns, a Mussolini-like cement block, is an unfortunate blip on characteristic Via Mameli. Now what will happen to it? Maria, a Romanian woman, lived with him for nine years, and now she'll either take care of someone else or find another job in another town.

The Mugnano albero (tree) project is more important than ever, and tomorrow night we'll meet with the Ecomuseo leaders about it. Stories of the place and of the people are needed in addition to the tree (or probably a forest) as reminders, but I am not the one to record the stories. I'm sure Giustino had something to do with a great deal of them...I have a few including him to tell on my own...

I feel a sadness about Giustino, for he is one more neighbor we knew, and yes, the character of the village changes each time someone has left.

September 17
We're off to Rome and join the morning traffic on the Flaminia. Do you recall the phrase "all roads lead to Rome"? Thanks to "Al Gore's Internet", here's some interesting information:
"The Via Aurelia, Via Appia, Via Flaminia, Via Flavia and Via Fulvia were all "motorways" built from 300 BC until 80 AD. It was a time when passenger travel was by foot, and freight was transported by ox cart. The roads in the Roman Empire were the backbone of a society that left its traces all over modern-day Europe. But where exactly did these roads lead...? The coastal mountains are the reason why, during the Roman Empire, the main road to France and Spain was the Via Flaminia, not the Aurelia. "In the period from 500 BC till 100 AD Rome grew from a small village on the banks of the Tiber river to an empire that stretched from England to Syria. Besides a military superiority over its neighbours, the most important cause for this growth was Rome's unique form of government.

"Every year two persons were elected to perform the function of head of state simultaneously. In this manner a society was formed that did not give room for any corruption a la Mafia, as was the case in surrounding towns and countries. All expenses were aimed at the expansion of the empire. As soon as an army had marched into an area, a road was constructed for the transport of supplies and reinforcements. As a rule these roads were named after the person who took the initiative to begin the construction".

So why does the Italian government not return to that form of government? Ah, the mafia. There, that word appears again...the dirty underbelly of otherwise glorious Italia...

We leave the GRA(Gran Raccordo Annulare) and drive in on the Salaria. This is a major road to Rome, but what is its history?

The Via Salaria was known as the "salt road" and is one of the oldest roads in Italy. It was the route used to transport salt from the coast to Rome. Ancient Romans went to great lengths to promote and preserve the trade of salt in Italy. They praised the benefits of salt as a preservative as well as its many health benefits.

Salt took on religious and social significance in the ancient world, helping it to connect countries and promote friendship. Eating salt with another person created a bond of friendship. Throwing salt over your right shoulder would remove a curse. In some cultures salt denoted a position of honor and the placement of the salt cellar declared that person the "salt of the earth".

I love the road adjacent to the Tiber, called the Lungotevere, and while we're bobbing on it in traffic I look to our right and wave at St. Peter's, directly in our view. After picking up two linen tellai (canvases) at our favorite art store in Trastevre, we drive across town to our dentist, located near Piazza del Popolo.

What's this? There is so much work on the sewers and sidewalks that most of the parking spaces are...gone. Dino drops me off, but does find a space, of course, and in an hour we're finished, driving back home to attend Giustino's funeral.

It rains off and on all day, but when we walk up to the borgo with our umbrellas, the rain has stopped. Dino changes into his confraternity costume and I walk up to the church, deciding to wait inside.

With good words all around about Giustino, whom everyone thought was a "good guy", the funeral proceeds, followed by the usual procession to the cemetery. Don Renzo has returned to do the mass and procession, although he is in the midst of much drama: his father has died and if that were not enough, the Franciscan Fathers have not agreed to let him leave their order to become our parish priest.

We're not worried, for we'll find a way to have mass with whomever is sent to us until Padre Renzo (I suppose he is not yet "Don" Renzo) arrives for his years of service. Most priests serve for a term of nine years, although Don Luca served eight...perhaps he will serve nine after all...

Tonight there is an Ecomuseo meeting, and it's a real honor. The organizers and founders of the organization want my tree project to have a place of honor and its enthusiastic endorsement. "How can we help?" they ask.

We have brought a tin of our chocolate cranberry cookies, although the meeting does not need added sweetness. When embarking on a project that one thinks is important, how wonderful it is when a group of people calls a meeting to say, "How can we help?"

It's agreed that certain people within Ecomuseo will approach the Church and the Comune (city hall) to obtain the rest of the information. In addition, I stress that it is important to gain the inclusion and interest of the population, for the aim of the project is to educate young and old about their forefathers and to encourage them to revere their heritage.

This village has a lot for which it should be proud. So many of the people have been related over the centuries, that even those who do not get along have more of a bond than they think.

Oh. Perhaps we should all get together and break bread and eat salt together. I laugh to think the answer might be to alter the terrible local bread to include salt. Those cackles I hear from the birds outside the window tell me that even the birds think that is a bad idea.

September 18
"ROME, Italy (CNN) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said it would be "best" for the country's troops to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible after six were killed in a car bombing in Kabul.

"Berlusconi, speaking to reporters Thursday, gave no timeline for a withdrawal and said any pullout would have to be coordinated with Italy's allies.

"There is no idea," Berlusconi said about a possible date for leaving Afghanistan. "It is an international problem. It is not a problem that a country present there can take on its own. Doing so could betray the accord and trust of the other countries present."

I did not think I would say it, but "bravo" to him.

Dino is out, as usual, and will return for pranzo. I want to return to the paintings, now that I know what color Mauro's eyes are (we asked him last night before the meeting), but there are too many other things to do around the house.

Spectacular clouds and blue skies overhead are a welcome relief after days of thunder and rain. We have two or three gigantic tomato plants with fruit on them, so if sun returns for sure, we'll have tomatoes for another couple of weeks. Otherwise, it's goodbye to the buffala mozzarella until late next Spring.

There are beautiful fall colors, both on one of our hydrangeas and the cachi trees, so it's time to change our visual mindset to think of crisp autumn days, luscious grapes on the vine and walks around the village. Sofi will be happy with that, and why not?

Dino zips around with clients here; he really does manage his time well!

September 19
We wake up a little late, have breakfast and take a walk around the borgo. With a little more than a week until the painting competition (did I ever tell you I really hate competition? It makes me feel nauseous.), I want to study different scenes and different angles, to help determine the subject of the painting/s I will do.

Just as we reach the borgo, Mario and Danilo bring a truckful of dark, blue grapes to be pressed. A machine waits for them and Mario unlocks the gate, allowing the truck to drive in for five minutes. No cars or trucks are allowed in the borgo except by written permission. Va bene.

Here are some photos of the "pressing" of the grapes, the liquid running down a plastic pipe to a cantina underneath Carla's house. It seems early to crush, but we have had a strange summer. Since we've had some rain, especially a downpour yesterday, they probably want to do this before any mould gets to the grapes. I think it means a less than ottimo (the very best) season or year for wine.

Back at home we download the photos, and there are two that I think are all right, but none of them really please me. What I really want to paint is a fantasy scene, of a woman leaning against a tree wearing a flowing dress, her head resting on the tree, gazing out across the Mugnano valley and hills beyond. Perhaps I will do just that, and paint it quietly at home on the 27th, which is D-Day. I have not told Dino yet that I will not attend Don Luca's very last mass.

So the day has been chosen as the actual final mass of Don Luca and Don Bruno, but we have been there, done that. So we'll walk to the borgo to check in our canvases (we have two, just in case) and walk home to begin painting. Dino will be dressed in his confraternity garb at the mass, but I think I'll stay at home and work. Otherwise, there will be at least two hours lost.

Since I clam up at the mere thought of competition, I'll just draw and paint in a relaxing way, giving myself a full twelve hours to complete something. Perhaps I'll work on two subjects, moving back and forth on them...People have asked me if I'll enter, so I can't say no to them. Perhaps there will be something worthy of the village that they can have. If I am not a finalist or a winner I can take my work home, and work on it some more.

While we walk around, there are a few people who want to talk, including Rosina as we walk along Porta Antica, where she lives, wanting to see if there are any good shots of our garden from above. She and Tomasso are both from the Farina clan, and I think their parents are among a group of eight siblings. We'll see if they can help us to do their family tree.

Dino drives to Orvieto to meet renters for one of the Tenaglie properties, and I stay home and work on Mauro's face. I'm finally beginning the painting.

For the next couple of hours, I begin work on Mauro's face, and the new transparent white paint is an unexpected plus. By the time I stop two hours later, his face looks transparent and too dark, but it is as if I am under his skin, learning from the inside out. It is a wonderful process, although I'd like to have my subjects sit for me for a half hour now and then. I don't feel comfortable asking our neighbors to do this, so let's see what I can do on my own.

Tonight we're invited to Pietro's for cena, and that will be fun. We arrive after dark and gee, it really gets dark earlier and earlier these days. We have switched from summer to autumn, so like it or not, it's here. Luckily we love fall, love the way the air feels. There is a crispness about it, bringing about an interest in walking and walking and then walking some more.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I am absorbed in my paintings, and add the aspect of drawing a model that I will use on the 27th to paint with oils on a linen canvas.

Cena is lots of fun with Titten, Pietro's Norwegian friend and Pietro. Sofi is treated as a little princess, as usual, and loves being there with folks she loves. There is Norwegian Salmon, scrambled eggs, fresh spinach, lots of different wines, a cheese platter with figs and gelato for dessert. It's a perfect cena, not too much food and plenty of great conversation.

Back at home, the air is fresh and cool, although we keep the windows open and sometimes even add the fan.

September 20
Before church this morning, we walk to the church from the main piazza with Adriana, who seems to be doing quite well after the death of her brother in law, Giustino. She's wearing a sweater for the morning in the borgo is cool. It was not the same at home; there is sun early and the air was quite humid.

Dino asks me if I think we have come to yet another level of understanding and acceptance by the people of the village; it seems so. I feel an inclusion, one that is not familiar to me. Since I am a dreamer, I have never seen myself as an insider, although of many occasions during my life it meant everything to me.

I ask for nothing these days; I only want to give of whatever I have to others; and perhaps that is why the relationships with our neighbors feel so easy, so comfortable.

Our friends Pat and Dick (Larspur, CA) are here in Italy but leave tomorrow call, and we won't see them this trip. They are ready to sell their property in Umbria; they live in California for most of the year and the second house arrangement has not worked well for them, although they love the house. So having a property here is not for everyone. We'll help them in whatever way we can.

We're putting a link to a bed and breakfast in the borgo on our site; it is "troppo carina" (very cute).


We like the people, and perhaps they are the family to take over and operate Bar Dedalus. We'll have to speak with them. We are definitely not the people to do it, although we'll support it in whatever way we are able...

After mass Antonio asks me if I will participate in the competition on Sunday. He hugs me with great joy when I tell him that I will. I ask what they will do on Sunday night when I bring them a wet canvas, and he tells me that they are preparing the walls in the scuola to be ready for them; not to worry. Va bene.

After a trip to Il Pallone for our favorite cornetti glassata and cappuccini, we shop for groceries and stop at Pietro's before returning home. I want Dino to take photos of the tower from below his melograno (pomegranate) bush. Afterward, Dino will Photoshop the images to give me what I want for the subject for next Sunday's painting of a melograno bush with the tower in the background.

Don Renzo officiated at this morning's mass, and drew attention at the end to his ingresso (installation) as our priest next weekend. I do want to attend, and it is agreed that Dino will take photos, although he may be on the altar and unable to. Even the vescovo (bishop) will be here. So can I skip the mass? I am torn.

We recall that the ingresso of our good friend, Don Francis, a few weeks ago in Isernia was very special. Can I finish a painting in two less hours next Sunday and have it finished to my satisfaction by the deadline at 9 PM? Is the competition more important than Don Renzo's installation? Stay tuned for the next post to find out..

After pranzo I return to painting Marco's face, while Dino works on photographs on the computer. The weather becomes more humid and warmer. I rework Marco's face and turn to Salvatore's.

September 21
We wake to fog and cool temperatures. There is a message on our email from one of our nipotini (grand daughters) to remind us to buy something from a donation site that will benefit their school. But the school will receive less than 50%.

It's a lazy way to have a fundraiser and a sad one, to my thinking. Students and parents don't have to put much energy into the process, the company makes good money while doing nothing, and the school gets...something for turning over email lists...so very sad. We'll make a donation directly to the school, instead.

This is yet another reason we're not living in the U S anymore. Oh, go on, Evanne. Don't be a cynic. Let's talk about what is happening in our village.

Silence is broken by the now and then bark of a dog, passing of a car. Otherwise, surrounded by fog, it's as if we are in a duck blind, waiting, waiting...

I paint for a few hours, then fix a quick pasta for pranzo. Dino leaves to deliver a beautiful handcrafted table to a client and I return to painting.

Today, my obsession is with the eyes. But this morning I threw out what Marco has taught me and painted with a lighter touch and lighter colors, instead of beginning with an Indian red skin and lightening it. I actually wiped off all of Mauro's color and began again, feeling much better about it.

I'm so happy that by experimenting that I'm able to find my way quite comfortably on the path toward very good portrait painting. So with classical music playing in the background, Sofi sleeps while I stand and paint. It's a joy.

September 22
What a glorious morning! It is a painter's sky; the sun streaking through the tops of the clouds, and the clouds rolling as if they're sausages. In places, the clouds look like cotton candy. One looks as though it's the Pillsbury Doughboy; as if on cue, a rooster tries to crow, but sounds like a car engine that can't quite connect. Perhaps the rooster is old, like most of the folks in our village.

I'm feeling a little of it, so fall is really here. Muscles in my arms are feeling the beginning of cold weather, although temperatures are still mild.

During a pedicure with my dear friend, Giusy, we agree that we are beginning to look like Christmas trees, wider at the bottom than at the top of our bodies, so when we are through we laugh with her co-owners of the shop, the women who run the adjoining hair salon.

We have a casual pranzo, then Dino works with me on Photoshopping a couple of images to use for this weekend's painting session. I wind up not using them after all, but thanks, dear Dino, for your efforts.

Butterflies light on the lantana on the terrace, and warm weather continues. The forecast has thrown out any rain, and for the next week, we'll have sun, magari! (if only that were so, or God willing)

September 23
It's a foggy and cool morning, but sun is sure to arrive in an hour or so. Tony and Pat come for a visit and to say c'e veddiamo (see you again). I tell them about the auction for Fortezza, which has still not happened but will in a week or so, as soon as the receiver of the money sets up a Pay Pal account. Why does everything take so long? I don't really know, but it has me thinking that Dino's advance work really saves his clients money.

September 24
We post the journal and it's very late, sorry. I think to email Sarah Hammond about Giustino, for he was a fan of hers. So I'm sure she'll have something to say about Giustino, as well as the month she spent here during the second year we owned the house (1998). She and her team were just fabulous. Hopefully she has retired and now lives a peaceful life in New Mexico. I do miss her.

We take a drawing I have finished to Viterbo to blow up, and I wind up deciding on yet another painting to do for this Sunday's competition, instead. It takes most of the afternoon to finesse it, although I'll be starting from scratch Sunday morning. I do want to attend Don Renzo's ingresso, which also takes place Sunday morning, but that looks "iffy". I'm sure he won't miss me.

Dino's Palm has crashed for good, so its time to replace it as well as his phone with a "smart" phone. Knowing Dino, he'll research every single option before deciding. Whatever he wants, it's fine with me.

The copier place makes a mess out of the colored copy and wants to redo it, but we're not able to wait again. So I offer to pay them for the work they did and they tell me not to pay them, but give me the copy anyway. Back at home, I want to find a way to use it, and will definitely return there the next time I need a cartoon for a painting; having it in color would be a help. So they have my loyalty, that's for sure.

We ask the owner if he thinks the airport is going to be built, and he thinks not; the city is too confusing as it is. Dino thinks the infrastructure of Viterbo is improving, so whether or not the airport comes to Viterbo, the city is growing and providing more services.

I read a sad story about women in Italy and yes, I know they're treated as second class citizens here. In a shake of the underbelly of Italy, Berlusconi seems to own most of everything; he treats women as sex objects and tells a young woman who asks for his advice about a job to get married to a rich man.

Here are a few snippets:

"Where Are the Women? - Parts 1 and 2


Miren Gutierrez and Oriana Boselli, Inter Press Service: "Four ministers out of 21; 193 parliamentarians out of 952 (upper and lower houses); no party leaders. Why are there so few women in Italian politics?"

"Berlusconi's television "has disseminated a culture based on the obsessive valorisation of the woman's body," says Volpato. "It has imposed a model of a superficial woman. A woman whose main function is decorative. An object. A woman that doesn't exists for herself but through the eyes of men's... This model exists in other countries, but here it is the only model offered by mass media."

"Today Italy - one of the powerful economies of the G8 - sits at the bottom of the list of European nations in the latest 2008 Global Gender Gap (GGG) index, published by the World Economic Forum. Only Czech Republic, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have worse gaps between women and men in Europe.

"Men who are more than 50 years old occupy 55 percent of all positions in (Italian) Parliament, even if they are just 17 percent of the population," says Anne Maass, psychology professor at Padova University. "This concentration of power brings in risks by artificially reducing both the variety of issues confronted and the solutions proposed."

"A system that doesn't reward merit, but the ability to move in a masculine power structure only punishes women... For me, politics is the ability to negotiate and transform principles in collective actions. If politics is reduced to mere power fighting, there is only one group that has the resources to do that."

"Not women."

What happens twenty years from now? Will there be a sea change? I would hope so. Berlusconi would then be in his upper eighties...

So why are we here? I think we live in a little bubble, away from the sophistication and political arena of city life. We've done our fighting, taking our chances to speak out for mankind in a more forceful way. I'll continue to paint and donate my paintings to raise money and awareness for the women and families of Afghanistan, for giving back to society will always be a part of our lives. But that's about it. We will do whatever we can for our village and the lives of our neighbors. It's now up to the younger generations to take their turns.

I like the silliness of Italy. I like the fact that while waiting on line to be helped at a store that sells telephones, we wait patiently while the person being helped has a lovely and relaxed conversation with the store clerk. What's a five-minute wait going to do to change our day? The man leaves smiling, bids us a good day, and we bid him the same, really meaning it.

I look at life here as so much "eye candy", enjoying glances here and there, of everyday life, everyday scenes.

Here's an example:

It's a lovely warm day, so after two men arrive to fix the automatic gate, which needed a new part after a thwack!...from a lightning strike during a storm, I draw a little, write a little, and sit and look out at the hills beyond us, reminiscent of Dino's parents house in Carmel Valley, CA.

The next time you hear someone say "it's a crock!", remind yourself of this find near Naples:
"ROME, Italy (CNN) -- An Italian mafia boss used his pet crocodile to threaten people and extort money, authorities said.Caiman crocodiles are considered too dangerous to own as a pet.

"Antonio Cristofaro kept the 40-kilogram (88-pound) reptile on a terrace of his home near Naples and fed it live rats and rabbits, according to LAV, an Italian animal rights group.

"The crocodile was 1.1 meters long (3.6 feet), the Italian Forest Service said, and was capable of pulling off a man's limb with one bite. It lived atop Cristofaro's condominium in Caserta, less than an hour northeast of Naples, the Forest Service said.

"Cristofaro used the crocodile to intimidate people, notably entrepreneurs, to pay him more money, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.

"It was not the first time the Forest Service discovered an illegal crocodile at someone's home, the Forest Service said. In August 2008 in Naples, authorities found a 2-meter-long (6.5-foot-long) crocodile at the home of a man known for drug dealing, they said."

This next story is somewhat related...

"ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Italian authorities are investigating dozens of sunken ships, possibly containing toxic waste, that may have been submerged by a local crime syndicate.

"As many as 32 shipwrecks with illicit and highly toxic cargo could be lying on the seabed and polluting the Mediterranean Sea, Italian authorities said.

"Divers found one ship last week just where a mob informant had said it would be -- 15 miles (24 kilometers) off the coast of Cetraro, a southern Italian town in northern Calabria along the Mediterranean Sea.

"The informant referred to the ship as the Cunsky, the head prosecutor in the region, Bruno Giordano, told CNN. Underwater cameras showed rusty parts of the ship settled 487 meters (1,598 feet) deep. Prosecutors said they think it's been there since 1992 -- when the ship was blown up.

"The local crime network, called the 'Ndrangheta, was hired to get rid of the vessel and its cargo, Giordano cited the informant as saying. The informant, Francesco Fonti, also admitted to being one of the people who sank the ship, Giordano said.

"The scuttled ship could have more than 100 barrels of "probably radioactive waste," according to a statement from the Calabrian regional government. But officials have yet to identify the material onboard, the statement said.

"The deep-sea revelations have prompted officials to request that the national government identify two other sites that the informant said held the remains of scuttled ships, according to the statement.

"Calabrian regional President Agazio Loiero also called on the government's involvement in cleaning up any radioactive sites.

"The impact of the alleged dumping on public health is Loiero's biggest concern, he said. He also noted that tourism to the region could suffer.

"Although it is not clear who hired the 'Ndrangheta to get rid of the ship, Giordano said, he speculated that they may have been seeking to avoid paying the high fees necessary to dispose of its cargo properly.

"As a result, the crime syndicate's involvement in toxic dumping was lucrative, he said.

"The people that drove the "getaway" boat for the explosives team were paid more than $100,000, Giordano said.

"The waste business generates billions of dollars for the mob, author and parliament member Leoluca Orlando told CNN. Although he stopped short of blaming the government outright or any specific government officials, he said people in the "political system" aided the criminal network.

"Can you imagine that it is possible to happen without persons inside the system, inside the political system, inside the bureaucracy, inside the state, not being connected with these criminals?" he said. "I am sure that inside the official system there are friends, there are persons who have protected this form of criminality."

"It's not clear who would have wanted to get rid of the toxic waste in this way, said Francesco Neri, an official who works with the local anti-mafia directorate.

"This is the answer we want to have with the investigation," Neri said. "It's not just Italy that is interested, but many countries, including from the developing world, or even countries from the north that are also interested in this type of illegal disposal."

Dizz...gusting! There's that "underbelly of Italia", again.

September 25
There is a beautiful sunrise, reflecting off an open window. Our warm weather continues, and it's lovely all day.

I have decided on the subject of the painting I will do on Sunday, and am sure that it will not be a contender, because I realize the focus on the borgo is key to winning. The borgo in my painting is in the distance, but I like the composition very much; so what!

I paint this afternoon, working on the dark blue of Mauro's shirt and both pairs of jeans. Its fun, and that is what painting should be. I've decided that I am happy to take on painting commissions, and since GB offers space to me on Italian Notebook on a rotating basis, I'll give Moona Lisa a try, offering to paint her in any locale the client wishes. If you'd like a Moona Lisa all your own, email me and we can strike a deal. Moona can be painted against backdrops as diverse as Norway's fjords, Niagara Falls, the beach at San Tropez, your back yard, whatever...Let's have fun.

September 26
We watch the sun rise from the East, through the reflection of a bedroom window, and although I feel the beginning of a migraine, it's our 28th wedding anniversary and there's plenty for which to be thankful. I know it's not correct to have that dangling preposition "to be thankful for", so I write more of a convoluted sentence, but you know what I mean.

I jump up to take my medicine, and a little while later we're up and dressed, driving to Il Pallone for cappuccinos and cornetti "glassata" as a morning celebration.

After errands in Viterbo, including checking to see if the iPhone Dino ordered has arrived, magari (It has not...) we're back at home for pranzo and for the Formula 1 trials. Nothing gets in the way of Formula 1 on TV...

I'm determined to have a slow and easy day today and to get to bed early, for tomorrow is the day-long painting competition and I plan to paint for 12 hours or more, to finish at 9:30 PM our time. It's fine with Dino, for there is a Formula 1 race on TV.

I love the subject. I'm also sure that it will not be sufficiently centered on the borgo to qualify for a win, so feel no sense of competition. I'm painting for the love of painting and participating because we want to support Ecomuseo. There's no way I will win with my subject, so might as well enjoy painting with no worries.

"Mugnano: Love at First Sight" is the name of the painting, and it's about a young girl playing in the forest who climbs a tree and looks out, only to see Mugnano in the distance for the first time. Bathed in light as it rises from the valley below, the name of our village often results in people telling us they've never been, but oh how lovely it appears rising on a tufa outcropping when people drive between Attigliano on the flat and Bomarzo on high.

On this day, we recall the day of our wedding and also the first time we met. It was "love at first sight" for us then, and after seeing our property the first time in 1997, friends told us as we returned to our rental in Tuscany that we looked as if we had just fallen in love.

We never expected to fall in love with a property, but once we purchased this place and began coming here, our neighbors in this little village were and are so welcoming and friendly that we're still in love ...with them as well as with each other.

We could care less about the rotten "underbelly" of Italy, as long as it keeps its distance. Here, Natalino plows his fields, Italo takes his walk to oversee his various plots and ortos, Giuseppa spends the day in her ortos. Oh. It is Saturday. Today she and Pepino will be preparing the bread for their extended families for the coming week instead.

Dino runs into Pasquale, who asks him if he will have a vendemmia, and tells him that we do not have grapes. We have pomodori and olivi, but no grapes. When he tells him the bees(apes) and wasps(vespe) ...... Pasquale agrees. That Dino is one funny guy.

Now that there will be plenty of sun for the next ten days, perhaps there will be a good wine yield after all, for those grapes left on the vine. But what do I know?

The other day, people who came by and took a walk around our property complemented us on the amount of work we do here. The praise is mostly for Dino and deservedly so. It's too much work. It really is. So we'll continue to try to pare back this fall...or will we?

Dino tells me that with the new car's metano tank, he gets about 3.5 cents a kilometer, vs. 9 or 10 cents with the Alfa. The challenge is to time the metano purchases to the locations of the metano stations, but as Viterbo grows he expects there to be many more, especially since more and more cars are being made with engines that take metano.

September 27
No writing today, for the entire day is spent painting. Perhaps I'll catch up tomorrow, although Dino will pick up Don and Mary from Rome in the morning.

I check in at around 9 PM, for my painting is finished and logged in at the Universita Agraria office. All told there are about 23 entries, not counting the seven children's entries. I've painted for twelve hours today and am still feeling all right.

But I don't like painting this way. I am a person who takes a long time to paint a canvas, needing to spend time with the painting as it progresses. A painting can tell a story, and it is the goal of mine to bring something special out of the characters I paint.

Today, I used 25 brushes to complete the tellaio, a 60cm X 60cm stretched canvas. Mine is a story, and it is about a young woman, probably a teen, who hikes in the woods above Bomarzo and climbs a tree, only to glance out at a marvelous borgo for the first time. It is Mugnano, and the painting is entitled: Mugnano - Amore a prima vista (Mugnano - love at first sight).

Franco has completed a really wonderful painting of the borgo leading up to the tower. It is in monochromatic tones and quite beautiful, but there is no real emotion. There are a number of very interesting pieces, but mine is not one of them. I really don't paint well in this mode, although I taught myself quite a bit about painting trees today, as well as painting light and shadow adjoining each other.

When we bring the canvas up to the borgo, Salvatore calls out to me and asks me if I'm going to submit something. I don't let on, but the painting of Salvatore an his father will be completed within the next couple of weeks.

First, there is the treatment of the Mugnano family tree, due this Thursday night. I have a good idea about what to do, and run it by Dino while we're sitting on the terrace drinking wine and eating cheese and crackers. Yes, he'll help.

I'm really tired, so won't write more about today. It was a day of wonder for me, trying a couple of ideas out until I arrive at the final concept of today's painting. I surely do not wish to do this again. I'm definitely a slow painter, and relish every minute of it. Today's painting sessions that lasted twelve hours do not result in a headache; I'm just tired.

Earlier in the afternoon I stopped for a break and ate a wonderful local yoghourt that has a citrus taste, but otherwise smooth and simple. I share it with Sofi, that is, I eat it and let her lick the container clean. Dino thinks you should see her while she's cleaning up the cup.

September 28
We're out of the house early to drive to Rome to pick up Don and Mary. Why we ever do this in commuter hour traffic is beyond me. I offer that driving to pick them up at night could be easier for them, and for us. Since Dino is the driver, the decision is his.

It's good to see our friends and to welcome them back. Once in Tenaglie, their neighbor Maria is out to greet us all, and she and I walk Mary to the railing; from there she can get around by herself. We've agreed that they'll come to the house on Wednesday so that Mary and Sofi and I can hang out and Dino and Don can take the secret road to Vallerano.

The weather continues to be beautiful, and I'm returning to painting; this time at my speed. Earlier, we received an email from niece Sarah, thanking us for the drawing I did of her two girls for her birthday. It arrived in only a week; why do we think that's so amazing? Now I wonder where it sat; obviously it traveled by plane. Fa niente (that's not important).

September 29
There are some quite small flat green bugs here that don't sting...that are also referred to as "stink bugs", for their smell when squashed. Sorry. Anyway, they are like mini dive bombers, with very loud zooming sounds when flying about. Mostly lazy, we often find them lying around near windows on or ledges, as if they're waiting to meet their Waterloo.

One lurks around silently until I get into bed; then there's that sound again, making me wonder if I should hide under the covers. Sofi likes them, but when one lands on the floor she never seems to quite catch them; she'd rather chase lucertole (lizards) in the garden anyway.

We drive to Terni in search of the elusive iPhone; many locations sell it but none are stocked. We've put our name in at two stores, and one in Terni tells us it will be in late this week. Magari!

Later, during a phone call with Candace, we find out that she purchased hers last week in Rome; that's not a bad idea if these two locations don't have them within the week.

On the way back from Terni, we stop in Narni Scalo and Dino decides to replace his occhiale (eyeglasses) with new frames; they can use the same lenses. So in fifteen minutes he's ready to go.

Back at home, we have pranzo and I spend several hours working on Mauro's eyes in the painting I'm working on. After tomorrow I'll set it aside to do the treatment for Ecomuseo of the painting I am to do next Spring.

So what tree will I paint? A cedro (cedar), with long flowing branches and plenty of pods to represent the people of the village and their ancestors. There are already three outside the borgo, so the more we think of it, the better it sounds.

At 6 we drive to Pietro's for prosecco and Amerol, an interesting aperitif. There's lots to tell, with Pietro spending an evening next to the Queen of Norway at a dinner in Rome. He always has stories to tell.

Back at home, we think there are overcast skies and windy weather approaching...possibly also rain tonight.. But the forecast is for clear weather. It's quite humid, so let's see who's right.

We've done an ad for Italian Notebook, so let us know what you think of it.

September 30
With fog covering Mugnano dissipating by mid morning, Dino drives to Bagnaia to pick up cannelloni for pranzo. But there is none to be found; all local fresh pasta shops are closed on Tuesday, so everything is made from scratch this morning.

Don and Mary arrive and after tea Don leaves with Dino to take pictures for a story and to show Don our "secret" trail to an Etruscan settlement. Don't forget the pasta!

Mary and Sofi and I spend the late morning in the studio, with Mary resting and chatting with me while I continue to paint Mauro's face. There has been progress; his eyes are lighter in tone, but we're not there yet.

I so love Mary, love spending time with our dear friend. She is strong hearted and a treasure of a woman in a tiny body. Like a little bird, she makes her way around, sometimes with Don's help or the help of her cane, which folds up and stores in her purse.

After pranzo under the garden pergola, our friends leave for home in Tenaglie, and we're left to listen to the crickets and the solitary cars driving by. Earlier Dino saw an ambulance driving up Via Mameli below our house, and I called out to Signora Rosina to ask her who it was.

She told me it may be Giannino, but was not sure. She then waved down to me; perhaps she likes it that I called out to her as the person who would know. Perhaps she'll tell us later...

We send our ad in to Italian Notebook, and it will run tomorrow. So by now if you are on our list or subscribe to Italian Notebook, you'll see it for yourself. Let us know what you think and pass it on to anyone you think might be interested. Thanks.

I read about a word I love, pentimento, for it conjures up layers of paint, like layers of life, with each person growing in knowledge and life experience and the way in which it is shown. It's often how I see life.

Perhaps as a young girl I had a fascination with the idea of it...I loved looking at old people's hands. They told stories...So when Nana made tea for me with her loose Lipton tea, she'd turn the cup around three times on its saucer and tell me to make a wish while I watched her hands shake and the cup clatter.

Once that was done, we'd turn the cup over and see what the leaves left in the cup. "I see a tree", Nana would say, and we'd make up a story. How I loved that woman! Nana lived to be 100 and I spent many days and nights with her during my childhood, probably driving her crazy. She let me read Nancy Drew mysteries in church (Stoughton Street Baptist Church) and was always kind to me. Thank you, dear Nana.

Wikipedia tells me: "pentimento (plural pentimenti) is an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his mind as to the composition during the process of painting. The word derives from the Italian pentirsi, meaning to repent.

"Pentimenti may show that a composition originally had an element, for example a head or a hand, in a slightly different place, or that an element no longer in the final painting was originally planned. The changes may have been done in the underdrawing of the painting, or by the visible layers of paint differing from the underdrawing, or by the first painted treatment of the element having been over-painted.

"Some pentimenti have always been visible on the final painting with careful inspection; others are revealed by the increasing transparency that some paint acquires after several centuries.

"The term has sometimes been used in a modern sense to describe the appearance of the sides of buildings with painted advertising. Often they are painted over with newer ads and the paint wears away to reveal the older layers.

"The terms are usually treated as Italian words, so may be written in italics, depending on the style used in the individual context. The fully anglicised word pentiment (plural pentiments) is much rarer, though included in the Grove Dictionary of Art. The distinction between singular and plural is also rather flexible; some writers refer to a change of just one outline as pentimenti, whilst others treat each different area that has been changed as a single pentimento."

That's a long winded way of saying that one's life can be later revealed as pentimento, with skin lines and creases adding texture as an iteration of one's life experience.

"We're seeking transparency..." is the new buzz phrase of the government, but I see transparency in people's faces that show me the deeper layers of who they have become. Is that why I love to paint people's faces? I'm not sure, but I wonder...

I don't know if we're ready for October...I'm not a fan of cold weather and October means the start of wearing warmer clothes and a chill in the air. It's beautiful here in October...and in any month, so bring it on!

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