April through June, 2010

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

Recent News from Italian Notebook Periodically, we post capsules of news about people and places in Italy. Following is news from the past few weeks, from ANSA. If you'd like to skip past it scroll down to the end of the italics.

Recent Elections in Italy
Regarding the recent regional elections, in which Berlusconi's party triumphed, the Prime Minister commented: "Once again, love has triumphed over envy and hatred," said the 73-year-old media tycoon-turned politician.

The campaign was bitter amidst a corruption probe involving a key Berlusconi aide, investigations into the premier's alleged attempt to muzzle TV talk shows critical of his government and the exclusion of the PdL from the race in the Rome area.

The League too brushed off reports that its strong showing would cause rifts in the coalition, as some pundits suggested.

Simplification Minister Roberto Calderoli, a League heavyweight, said: "Berlusconi and the government come out stronger. Berlusconi's insurance is the League strongbox of voters".

Ancient Pompeii painting restored
House of Small Fountain fresco gets makeover Ancient Pompeii painting restored (ANSA) - Naples, March 31 - A 2000-year-old fresco in the ancient city of Pompeii reopened to visitors on Wednesday following an intensive restoration project.

The three-month renovation of the mural, which adorns the walls of the once luxurious House of the Small Fountain, has removed dirt, brightened the colours and reinforced the surface.

"Returning this extraordinary work to Pompeii and to all those who love art and this utterly unique site fills us with pride," said Ledo Prato, head of the private cultural organization that funded the restoration, the Cittitalia Foundation.

Pompeii Emergency Commissioner Marcello Fiori, who attended the inauguration, thanked the foundation for its valuable contribution and stressed the growing need for private and public bodies to join forces in order to "make the most of this extraordinary heritage". The fresco has a decorative border at the top of the painting and a yellow base running along the bottom.

The central painting depicts a landscape next to the sea, with many of the original details still visible. The precise brush strokes used to describe tree leaves, small people and even the architectural features on tiny porticoed colonnades are still clear. Prior to the renovation, the mural had come away from the supporting wall in various parts, largely as a result of movement in the underlying stonework. In addition, damp had penetrated the wall from the outside.

This was not only causing the plaster to start crumbling at various points but also resulted in small spots of mould and mineral deposits.

A third problem for restorers were sections of cement plaster added in the 1960s to provide additional support but now causing distortions in the painting.

The operation, carried out by Francesco Esposito under the supervision of the Pompeii Archaeology Superintendent's Office, not only restored the colours but also dried out the mural, reaffixed it to the wall, proofed it against further damp and removed the cement plaster. The House of the Small Fountain was one of a series of elegant homes not far from the forum originally unearthed during excavations in 1827.

The villa, whose wealthy owner remains unknown, was built in the middle of the 1st century AD, about a quarter of a century before the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius smothered Pompeii in larva and ash.

The house takes its name from its exquisite garden fountain, decorated with statues and brilliantly coloured mosaics.

This next story is particularly a proud one for the people of Mugnano, for many of the tiles made for the Colosseum were made in kilns in Mugnano and moved by barge down the Tiber River to Rome. Our dear friend, Tiziano Gasperoni, unearthed the kilns and is trying to raise money to put a roof on the precious site. If you are interested in getting involved, email us and we'll connect you with Tiziano.

'Consortium' for Colosseum clean-up (ANSA) -
Rome, March 31 - Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno is putting together a consortium of firms for a major restoration of the Colosseum.

Alemanno said Wednesday the firms would work in stages on the various sections of the project, unveiled earlier this month. "Each entrepreneur will take a part, a ring of the Colosseum, to contribute to the 'relay'," the mayor said.

Alemanno said he was thinking of an all-Italian consortium but did not rule out "possible international aid" to fund the 50-60-million-euro project.

"From a technical standpoint we are ready to go, so now it's a question of sitting down with the businessmen after Easter to see who's going to take on what stage".

The project aims to restore, protect and permanently illuminate the 2,000-year-old symbol of Rome.

Speaking on March 10, the mayor said the dingy and precarious state of the monument had been a "daily worry" for him.

The complete restoration of the almost 13,000 square meters of exterior walls will take an estimated year to complete.

As well as the clean-up, unsightly barriers between the lowest arches will be removed and replaced by protective fences like the ones set up around the Roman Forum some years ago.

Then the monument, which is already lit up occasionally for special events, will get a permanent illumination system designed by a leading 'architect of light', Alemanno said.

The project will follow work under way to open up and make safe the Colosseum-topping attic, the third tier and, far below, the underground network of tunnels that took gladiators and wild beasts up to the arena.

New fire and security systems will be installed. There will also be state-of-the-art metal detectors which, like the fence, will be positioned "at some distance" from the monument.

Alemanno called the project "epoch-making" and said it would make the monument "safe for years to come". The Colosseum would make ''a leap" that will stave off all conservation concerns, he said, likening the scheme to the one that restored the Sistine Chapel from 1984 to 1994.

The Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheatre (its proper name) is perhaps the most attractive archeological venue in the world with some four million visitors a year. Construction on the monument started between 70 and 72 AD under the Emperor Vespasian.

It was completed in 80 AD by his son Titus, who financed the project from the booty his armies seized in the war against the Jews in 66-70 AD.

Same-sex marriage ruling put off
Activists relieved it won't be 'exploited' in regional vote
Rome, March 24 - A ruling on gay marriages was put off Wednesday to the relief of activists who feared it might be exploited in the last days of campaigning for regional elections.

Sources at Italy's top court said it would decide whether to examine a suit about same-sex marriages after Easter.

Police seize Vasari papers
Precious archive 'sold to Russian holding company,' lawyer says - 26 March (ANSA) - Rome, March 26 - The writings and letters of Renaissance-era art historian Giorgio Vasari were seized by police on Friday in the latest twist in a long and tangled story of an aristocratic family's fight to sell them.

The heirs of the late Count Giovanni Festari have been trying to offload the precious collection of letters since last fall when news that an unnamed Russian gas magnate was willing to put up 150 million euros for them horrified art lovers around the world.

Ownership of the archive has been an item of contention since November, when an Italian collection agency seized them and put them up for auction to pay for around 800,000 euros in tax debts left over by the Festari estate.

Count Festari allegedly arranged for their sale just before his death last summer, but neither he nor his Russian buyer would live to see it go through.

Festari died in July and the magnate two months later, just weeks before he was scheduled to sign off on the deal, according to a Russian lawyer who claims to have represented him.

Arezzo authorities, meanwhile, asked the culture ministry to intervene after lawyers told them the state had six months to match them offer before the sale went through.

But culture officials were unconvinced that the offer was legitimate and asked Rome prosecutors to investigate.

The Vasari papers are in any case bound to his historic home in Arezzo by a culture ministry statute that makes their ownership largely symbolic. They cannot leave the Tuscan hilltop town.

Cusolich claimed the supposed Russian buyer understood the papers couldn't be moved but wanted to buy them anyway.

Vasari (1511-1574) is best known for his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, a series of biographies chronicling the lives and careers of Italy's Renaissance masters.

The work became a canon of western art history, overshadowing his work as an artist and architect.

A highly acclaimed painter in his time, Vasari also designed the famous loggia of the Palazzo degli Uffizi in Florence, one of the city's most celebrated landmarks.

Toads may have predicted Abruzzo quake
Reseacher says mating males 'vanished' days before tremor (ANSA) - Rome, March 31 - The common toad appears capable of predicting an impending earthquake, according to a British researcher who was studying a toad colony in central Italy when a tremor devastated the central region of Abruzzo and its capital L'Aquila on April 6 last year.

Rachel Grant of the Open University told ANSA that five days before the earthquake, 96% of the male toads of a colony she was observing at a pond from 74km from L'Aquila suddenly vanished, abandoning the female toads at the height of their reproductive season.

When the earthquake struck several days later Grant said she and her team understood that the disappearance had not been a coincidence nor did it have anything to do with possible weather changes.

Grant had been observing the colony at the pond for the previous four years during the mating season. After the accidental discovery that toads appear to predict earthquakes, Grant set about trying to explain why.

In an article published in the Journal of Zoology Grant wrote that some animals appear to be endowed with mechanisms which allow them to detect seismic waves or anomalies in the Earth's magnetic field.

Her research led her to reports from scientists who the time of the L'Aquila quake detected disruptions in the uppermost electromagnetic layer of the Earth's atmosphere, the ionosphere, which Grant believes the toads may have felt.

Another possible explanation, the researcher said, was that the toads may have been able to 'sniff' the earthquake coming.

Toads and other amphibians, Grant explained, are extremely sensitive to changes in the chemistry of the environment and significant amounts of gases and charged particles are known to be released ahead of an earthquake.

More than likely, Grant said a combination of these and other factors may determine how toads can predict earthquake.

She has now shifted the focus of her research to this phenomenon and away from the effects of lunar cycles on the reproduction habits of toads.

But who, we ponder, will study the effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) among the female toads, left to ovulate while they wonder, "What's it all about?"

With that bit of folly, we welcome you to our journal for April:

APRIL 2010

April 1
We're greeted by wind in a cloudy sky, and the mild temperature is somewhat challenged by windows slamming shut. No matter. We're beginning a new month full of thanks. With Salvatore so much on my mind, I realize that his name translates to "Savior", and wonder if he will become a priest.

This boy has an innate kindness to him, not afraid to walk up to me and speak when he sees me. When our granddaughters were here, although he could not speak with them in English, he tried to make them feel at home. And it is with this in mind that I continue yet again to frame his expression on the canvas.

We watch a program on CNN called International Correspondents, and Dino speaks to me about the role of the cameraman/journalist turning full circle. With a renewed emphasis in doing more with less expense, networks are turning to correspondents once again to do everything themselves.

Since Dino's background is in the motion picture laboratory business, where news and films were shot in film and processed in the laboratory, he formed friendships with the very people who shot and edited and reported themselves, decades ago.

His father was a pioneer San Francisco cameraman during the earliest days of television and founded Leo Diner Films in the 1950's. Dino remembers receiving the eyewitness footage of JFK's assassination from the FBI in San Francisco at the lab. It was brought there to make a copy for the FBI to analyze. Patty Hearst's kidnapping and so many other events took place with the lab in the center of the storm. Were those "the good ole' days?"

While Dino shops for groceries, I return to painting, but not before looking out the bedroom window at the tops of the glicine (wisteria) growing on the terrace pergola. Are those flowers I see?

Yes! At least twenty-five mauvy-pink blossoms are beginning to flower from two plants. Since the four plants were purchased at the same time from the same vivai (nursery), I am hoping that means that the remaining two will flower, perhaps in another year. What a good omen!

Clouds overhead signify the grand texture of life to me; I sing silent hymns learned in Coro practice to myself. Do you sing to yourself as you move through your day? Or is there a silence inside you? Does that make me a positive person? These days I am surely at peace.

Sofi meanders outside for a minute or two, but is happier by my side, snoozing as we listen to classical music while I paint.

I make a kind of suppli (rice ball) of the risotto, forming balls of the stuff from the frigo, rolling it first in beaten egg and then in fine breadcrumbs. Dino will then fry them in girasole (sunflower) oil in the wok in the summer kitchen for us to eat for pranzo.

We make enough for two meals, but instead of freezing the rest, store them in the frigo to fix for a quick meal in the next days. I'll re-dip them in egg batter and breadcrumbs, for often suppli is made with twice-battered rice balls. The official suppli has a nugget of mozzarella cheese inside, but ours has roast chicken and peas here and there instead.

Sofi indeed has a tick under one arm, and we have a debate about whether to put cream on the tick and wait until it unlocks itself from the skin or to put alcohol on it with a swab. We do both, and Sofi remains mellow about it all while Dino swabs the bugger with denatured alcohol while she lays in my arms.

Dino asks me to research what to do online, but I'll freak out at the photos of the bugs. So he can do it if he wants. We'll keep watch on Sofi, for these days she loves roaming our garden, where it is possible ticks hunker down ready to pounce on unsuspecting basottos (dachshunds).

I return to painting until it is time for Holy Thursday mass, when I'll sit with Dino, for there will be no music. Or at least that is what I think...

Well, four of the Coro member sit near the back of the church, and when we enter, Livio asks Dino to sit on the altar, where many chairs are set in a kind of oval, continuing down in front of the benches. We both walk up, and are the first to sit on the altar.

Gigliola sits beside me near the front of the benches, and I tell the women around that I am a bit paura (afraid) of what might transpire. This is the ceremony where the Last Supper is discussed, and I ask Gigliola who is Gidua (Judah). She laughs and tells me "no one or every one..."Speriamo di no (I hope not).

When it is time for communion, Don Angelo sets up the wafers and wine, and asks us to form a line and take a wafer and dip it into the wine before consuming it. There is a woman we don't know on the altar next to Dino, and she begins. It is an interesting process. During the mass a few hymns are sung, and we sing along where we stand, although the Coro is seated near the rear of the church.

As we near the end, the priest tells us there will now be a tiny procession in the church, and the woman tells us to take the candles on the altar and follow him. Dino takes one and I realize I am to take the other. We follow Don Angelo, who proceeds to the side altar and each place a candle on either side of the tabernacle.

This is a very long mass, with Dino standing for a long prayer. I walk over to him and encourage him to sit down in the back, but he is all right. After the mass finishes, we drive back home to little Sofi.

I take a peek at the painting of Salvatore and Mauro, and look forward to returning to the painting tomorrow, after the fresh paint has set a bit. I'm still enthusiastic about the painting, and the long weeks painting it has only helped me to love it more.

April 2
I am somewhat overwhelmed by the world today, especially thinking of the day's significance historically. Perhaps the long and moving mass yesterday had something to do with it. For the first time in memory, I decide to fast, and only after prodding by Dino and a neighbor do I eat an orange in the afternoon.

I work on the roses on the front path, as though in a daze. Dino burns weeds and grass in the far property, even though there is some wind.

Maria Elena stops by with Giovanna after taking flowers to the cemetery and I give her a nursery book to identify plants and trees. Earlier, Sofi and I visited her at her Mugnano house and she told me about her adventure in her garden and that she wants to plant a fruit tree there.

When she and Giovanna leave, I tell her the book is competiti (homework), and tomorrow when she joins us for pranzo we'll talk about trees she'll want to have planted in her garden.

There is a mass tonight, and although I painted this morning, I have no idea whether my work was good or not. I continue to feel out of sorts. So let's just say I'll write again tomorrow, on what I hope will be a normal day.

It is six or so hours from the writing of the last paragraph, and we've just returned from the Venerdi Santo (Holy Friday) service. Included was a procession along Via Mameli, with stops signifying Stations of the Cross, and we were all quite cold.

The temperature was not so bad; it was the wind that chilled us to the bone as the procession weaved its way down Via Mameli and back to the church. When arriving back home, everything felt so comfy, even though there was no heat on inside the house. Go figure.

April 3
It's sunny...and not so sunny, but mostly so. What? It is really a lovely day, although the afternoon winds up mostly cloudy.

Dino and Sofi and I drive at 8 AM to the macelleria (butcher) in Lugnano to pick up the abbacchio (shoulder of Spring lamb pieces) and they are on special, for most people order roasts. When we arrive we watch the butcher slide his knife through the meat ever so gently as though it is butter. He slices down through the meat as though he's a violinist, moving his bow across his violin. The process is pure magic and he smiles thoughtfully with each slice.

That done, we drive to Nando's for glassatas and cappuccinos and then to the market for a few things. On the way back we stop at a florist and pick up a little azalee (azalea) for the table in the garden and two lilly stalks. I love their heady smell and the look of them in a tall glass vase. Today, I add big white stones from the garden to weight the vase down.

Maria Elena arrives for pranzo, and Dino thinks this simple spinach and egg and bacon and melted gorgonzola salad is the best he's ever eaten. Prepare to read about this more...when we find something we like to make and to serve, it becomes a staple, and Dino just loves spinach salad.

With a hot chocolate cake cooked in individual pots oozing with hot chocolate, whipped cream and sliced fresh strawberries, it's a happy finish to a simple and wonderful pranzo where we can all spend time hanging out instead of in the kitchen. I like these easy meals the best.

After some of our French rose wine that we love (I know, we continue to have this Provence love affair), we're a bit lazy, but after Maria Elena leaves, we take off to do grocery shopping for the next two days and to pick up a few things for Stein (who arrives tomorrow) and Don and Mary (who we pick up in Rome on Monday).

Markets are closed for both days, so we pick up milk and Pasqua (Easter) bread and fruit for each of them and drop it off in their respective houses as we turn on the electricity to get their houses ready for their arrivals.

We also stop at a client's garden where cement has been poured, and a top-of-garden pool will be installed next week. We find out from the contractor that he'll hook up the electricity, but the pool installation will be up to Dino. What? Dino seems prepared, so we drive home for an hour or so before walking up to mass at 9 PM.

Don Angelo is the priest, and he's brought a group of people to sing and play a guitar. But he did not introduce us to them, or them to us, and they begin to practice one piece by themselves on the left set of seats (The Coro sits on the right).

What's to do other than let them have their way? We follow the music where we can, but surprisingly, it appears to be their music night. Some of us smile and afterward, agree that tomorrow morning we'll sing the songs we have practiced, regardless of who shows up. If Don Angelo is there and brings them again, I tell Dino I will speak with him, for he understands English, and speaks it, too.

No, we're not judging him or them, but since we practice and love singing and are the Mugnano Coro, wouldn't you think the priest would speak to us about what he wants to do? I like him a great deal, but am definite in wanting to be sure that we are allowed to sing our Pasqua hymns tomorrow morning that we have been practicing.

It's not necessary that I attend mass, especially since Dino will be home watching the Formula 1 race at 10 AM, but why not? I'd love to sing our hymns during the morning Pasqua service. Yes, it is fun to sing, and our Coro is made up of wonderful women.

We're home after 11 PM, so it's time to turn in. A domani (until tomorrow).

April 4
Buona Pasqua! (Happy Easter!) This morning, there's intermittent rain, and Dino and Sofi drive me up to the borgo so that I can attend mass and sing with my Coro buddies. Dino and Sofi stay at home to watch the Formula-1 race.

Don Renzo arrives, and Laura follows him into the sacristy. When he comes out from the sacristy for Easter mass, he seems preoccupied and very serious, not what we would expect. Rosina, next to me, comments that Don Angelo bringing his own Coro group was fine, but it would have been proper to introduce us, and not ignore us, and our role. Thankfully, we laughed with each other last night about it, although we had hoped to sing what we had practiced.

Things have a way of working out. Today we have the capo (boss) in Don Renzo and are able to sing our hearts out with the very music we have been practicing.

After mass, we drive to Nando's for glassatas and cappuccinos, but there is no shopping today or tomorrow, so we return home and I begin to cook the abbacchio (pieces of shoulder of lamb in a lemony-egg broth). This is an Easter tradition, but Pietro will not join us. He's sick in Rome. We'll fix it anyway.

The veal is very tender, and falls off the bone, so when we are finished, I take all the bones out and we store the sauce. Tomorrow I'll make a pappardelle pasta with this sauce, perhaps adding a little more lemon and some grated cheese and minced Italian Parsley (here in Italy we just call it presemelo:).)

Frank and Candace arrive for a visit after Frank picks Candace up at the airport mid afternoon. We snack on whipped cream and strawberries and Colomba (traditional Easter cake in the shape of a dove) and vino.

Just as they leave for home, Annika and Torbjörn arrive, and they've been in the car, driving from Sweden. This is the second set of friends arriving and we expect plenty of joy all around for the next few months. Perhaps even Pietro (Stein) will come for pasta and abbacchio tomorrow after he takes the train here from Rome.

There will be a picnic in Mugnano tomorrow, organized by Ecomuseo, and although we don't think we'll participate, we may walk by to see what new information for the Mugnano tree that we can pick up from visiting family members.

This evening the rain picks up, and there will be plenty of water for our plants and flowers and trees overnight. Tomorrow is Pasquetta, a traditional day-after-Pasqua picnic celebration. Since it usually rains on the day after Pasqua, tomorrow may be a soggy picnic day as well, purtroppo (too bad).

April 5
It rained last night, and a mist continues as we drive off to Rome to pick up our dear friends Don and Mary from their hotel close to Ciampino Airport.

On the way, we listen to podcasts that Dino has downloaded for our driving entertainment. One segment on Fresh Air with Terry Gross is quite frightening. We had no idea how effective the Tea Parties have become in the US, and now we hear that there will be a tremendous demonstration from the Right on April 19th in various parts of the U S regarding guns and individual rights.

While Bush was president, that segment of the population seemed to have gone underground, but now that the Democrats and liberals are in power once again, we fear a great backlash.

The more we hear, the more we feel perplexed about the situation in the place we proudly called home until 2002. Could there in fact be a civil war brewing? Before you tell me I'm nuts, read ahead...

We're so much closer to other parts of Central Europe and Asia that we pay attention to the wars and civil strife in various countries not so far from us. Democracy seems to have fueled anger by those who have had the right to vote and speak their opinion, and now it seems people want more and more. It is as if a little power is a dangerous thing.

I'm like a snail, burrowing inside our shell in little Mugnano; not wanting to deal with the strife prevalent in the minds and hearts of people living in the United States. Now that we're here full time, I look on the situation somewhat with horror. So I retreat, and wait until the fear subsides...

With overcast skies, our dear friends return to their Tenaglie house with us, and take in their baggage. Mary is not well; the MS she has lived with for decades, has left her stanca morta (dead tired). We tell them to sleep for a few days and then we'll get together again. For me, it's just a treasure to hold her hand in the back seat as we drive through the Pasquetta traffic. She's just the dearest friend.

A minute before we reach Mugnano, we reach a deserted gas station at the intersection. It has been abandoned for ten years or so, and on this overcast day, three carfuls of people tailgate on the broken cement. It is possible that with all the rain, the picnic at nearby Montecasoli has been cancelled.

Pasquetta is the traditional day for picnics all over Italy. Food is so much more important than the setting; these folks just can't wait for a pretty setting. Don't even think of telling an Italian that food is not important in their culture.

Under overcast skies, we have pranzo at home and then I return to painting. I am sure I can capture Salvatore's expression better, now that the painting is almost finished.

April 6
It's a lovely day, and we spend the morning in Viterbo, after having cappuccinos at the bar we like in Bomarzo; Alberto Cozzi is there with his friends having a merenda (snack) and we greet and congratulate him. He is in the winning party for the sindaco (mayor)'s race, and may become vice mayor. He's very happy, and agrees that it is a good sign for Mugnano.

We research washing machines, and decide on one that will be delivered tomorrow morning. The spinning action on ours has stopped running. Then we visit our pals at Michellini, the wonderful vivai (nursery) at the edge of town, where we pick up one glicine (wisteria)macrobotrys and two white (yes, that's their name) roses to replace at least one that has died in the cleaning out process in the tufa planters that sit above the parcheggio.

They love Sofi and let her run around, which she loves to do, among the plants and trees. We stop on the way home to join the Pro Loco (like a Chamber of Commerce) of Bomarzo, so that we can get reduced prices for insurance. Dino was told earlier that there were some available, but when we arrive they are sold out.

So we speak with Mario, the new President of the Pro Loco, and he tells us not to worry...there will be plenty more next week. Va bene. We have one insurance policy renewing at the end of the month, and the savings could be 20% or more.

We drive to Attigliano before having pranzo, and learn that the Parucchieri (beauty shop) that I want to go to will be open all day. So we return there and for €40, my hair is colored and cut; this would have cost more than $100 in the U S, so some things are a great value.

Back at home, it is too late to do any planting, so we decide to do it tomorrow, and possibly to buy the two glicine we need for the front terrace project on the way home from pranzo tomorrow with Dan and Wendy in Montefalco.

April 7
Is San Francisco the only American city with Universal Health Care? Dianne Feinstein tells us so when she emails us to tell us she's supporting Gavin Newsome for Lt. Governor. Is that really true? If so, perhaps other cities and states will follow. For Americans, I hope that will be so.

The rose we have known merely as "white" is really White Mediland; I just read the tag on one of the plants we purchased yesterday. Remember this name, for it is a wonderful rose, growing close to the ground or in a planter, it's dark green leaves a great compliment to the white flowers. The flowers bloom all spring and summer and into fall. I think it's one of the "must haves" in a garden.

We wait and wait for the washing machine to be delivered, and after the men bring it and take away the"dead" one, we drive to Montefalco to meet our friends Dan and Wendy at L'Alchemista.

If you're including Montefalco in your plans, don't miss this marvelous enoteca in the square. We eat outside, for it is a glorious day, but their downstairs dining is wonderful, too. I can't begin to describe the unusual treats that chef Patrizia serves up daily, but know that she picks local fresh vegetables and local meats (today we included carciofi and asparagi in our dishes).

After saying c'e veddiamo (see you again) to our good friends, we drive across Umbria to Ripabianca to order two more big terra cotta square pots. While we're at the forno (there are several excellent pot makers in this town, but the first one, Lazzari, made our four glicine pots two years ago, and now we've ordered two more. They'll be made tomorrow, and it's a coincidence, but we can't pick them up for twelve days or more.

I decide Gino, Roberto's father and the Maestro, is a good subject for an Italian Notebook story, so look for one in the next months. I have to write it, first.

After a stop at the ironmaker and a client's project in Pozzo Ciulino, we're home just in time for me to feed Sofi and before it's time for Coro practice. Why is there a practice again tonight, I wonder? I missed both Monday night's and last night's. Their response is, "Come no?" (Why not?)

We wait and wait for Livio, who has keys to the church, but he does not arrive, so we get keys to the ex-scuola and practice there, instead. We are a jovial bunch, and after singing a piece we all love, I ask if the women pay attention to the words. Instead of just singing the words, how about singing with heartfelt emotion?

"Credo in Te, Signore. Credo te me ami." (I believe in you, Lord. I believe that You love me.) I sing these words for them with real joy, lifting my head, raising my arms and smiling with profound emotion...perhaps a little too much emotion. The women nod as they laugh at me... or is it with me?

Federica is our leader, and she decides what we will sing. There is a new piece, one I don't really like: "Benedetto sei tu Dio", for its notes and rhythm are all over the place, but once we are able to sing it correctly it is kind of cute. Dino and Sofi wait for me, and bring me home.

On the way out, Laura asks me if I drank too much wine at pranzo. Earlier I told them that we drove to Montefalco for a marvelous pranzo. Perhaps I am more animated tonight than usual. I tell them I am drunk with love for little Mugnano. So we all have a laugh at that. It is surely true.

April 8
We're worried about our friend, Humira, who is the founder of Ariana Outreach, in support of the women of Afghanistan. She's now in Kyrgyzstan. Her email to us is alarming:

Dear Friends,

I am in the midst of severe riots in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan where the people are attempting to overthrow the government. I am just now watching thousands of people on the streets through my window and hearing gun shots from everywhere. Buildings are being set on fire and hostages have been taken. The country is in a state of chaos. The reality on the ground is being concealed and media is censored. Houses are being looted. Will keep you updated.

It's been difficult to find anything about what is happening there, but the Christian Science Monitor has something, which was published on truthout.org. Will this be the start of something much larger? (To skip this, scroll past the information in italics.)

Kyrgyzstan Opposition Takes Over in Bishkek. What Happens to Manas?

Wednesday 07 April 2010

by: Dan Murphy | The Christian Science Monitor

With opposition leaders claiming they've formed their own government in Bishkek and reports that Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has left the country, What will happen to the US use of the Manas air base?

Violent protests in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan - a vital US ally that hosts Manas, the only American air base in Central Asia - appear to have pushed the regime of Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to the brink of collapse.

Mr. Bakiyev was reported to have flown out of the country on Wednesday, and Russia's state-owned news agency Ria Novosti reported that the opposition is declaring victory over the president, who was widely perceived as corrupt and authoritarian.

"We went into the government building for talks; [Prime Minister Daniyar] Usenov wrote a declaration stating the government's resignation," opposition spokesman Temir Sariyev told Russian journalists. "Bakiyev left the building. It is not known where he went. He is not in Bishkek," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday the government declared a state of emergency.

Bakiyev rose to power in the so-called Tulip Revolution of 2005 amid high hopes that he would bring democratic governance and a stronger economy to the former Soviet republic. But in the years since, opponents claim his family and friends have siphoned off hundreds of millions in foreign aid and US payments for its military bases, even as the economy and basic living standards have steadily declined. Some analysts say the last straw was an increase in electricity prices earlier this year. Many Kyrgyz citizens believe that the Bakiyev family controls the electric company and much of the revenue that flows through it.

"I think this is the end of the government," says Alexander Cooley, a politics professor at Columbia University in New York who studies central Asia. "The speed of this has caught everyone off guard. But it really shouldn't have, given how quickly the government collapsed in 2005."

Mr. Cooley, whose 2008 book "Base Politics: Democratic Change and the US Military Overseas" looked at the politics behind the US Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, argues that Bakiyev's corruption, alienation of important donor and neighbor Russia, and the taking of an increasingly large chunk of Kyrgyzstan's small economic pie for his family left the regime on extremely shaky footing.

US Rent for Base Tripled

In 2009, Bakiyev threatened to shut Manas - something that would have pleased Russia, since it has an air base of its own in the country and views the US military presence as impinging on its sphere of influence. After US protests, the base was allowed to stay open with its name changed to the Transit Center at Manas and with a more than tripling of US rent for the facility, to $60 million annually. Recently, Russia pulled $2 billion in loan guarantees from Bishkek.

"Everyone knows that electricity is controlled by the ruling family and the government was getting a lot of negative publicity in the Russian media, in part because Moscow felt it had been double crossed over Manas," Cooley says. "At the end of the day, there was no one willing to to go to the mat for Bakiyev. There weren't sufficient numbers of troops and they weren't sufficiently committed to putting down the protesters, who themselves were pretty well-armed."

Cooley estimates that the US base, which he says passes about $170 million a year in fuel charges and fees through Bakiyev-connected companies, made the president feel secure - American backing would preserve his rule. Cooley also argues that while many states are corrupt, they usually do a better job of spreading the wealth around to key constituencies and power brokers. Kyrgyzstan had come to resemble something more of a kleptocracy, he says.

Family Power Grab Blamed

For instance, last fall Bakiyev named his son Maksim to run the newly created Central Agency on Development, Investment, and Innovation. The agency controls all international aid and loans received by the government, and also controls most of the country's energy and mining concerns. The opposition charged at the time that the move had effectively given control of most of the country's capital in the hands of the Bakiyev family, beyond the reach of parliamentary oversight.

Roman Muzalevsky, an international affairs and security analyst on Central Asia and a contributor to the Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor, agrees that corruption is foremost in many Kyrgyz minds and that electricity prices were probably the spark.

"One of the major causes of the protests right now relate actually to high utility prices and increasing frustration on the part of the population with the incumbent regime which has been promoting family and clannish interests," he said. "Of course many opposition leaders had been jailed, but some of those opposition leaders have been released recently, some even during the protest."

He said it seemed "apparent" that the government was at risk of being toppled, but cautioned that nothing was yet certain.

He points out the close ties between the regime and the US, which developed under President George W. Bush and have continued under President Barack Obama, will have Washington watching closely for what kind of new government might emerge.

In addition to Manas base, which is used to support the US war in Afghanistan, cooperation has deepened under Obama in other areas. Mr. Muzalevsky points to the announcement in March that the US would build a $5.5 million anti-terror training center for government forces in the province of Batken. That announcement further enraged Russia.

"In the past couple of years, Bakiyev ran that country as his own personal criminal network... everyone else was left competing for scraps," says Cooley.

Almazbek Atambayev, leader of the Social Democratic Party, is one rumored successor to Bakiyev, says Cooley.

What does the near future hold for the US there?

"I don't think anyone is going to want to rock the boat by evicting the Americans, but No. 1 we're going to see a renegotiation of a lot of Bekiya-related contracts," says Cooley. "If this goes in the right way it will be more transparent, it will go to the budget. If it goes the wrong way, then the new person and the new group taking over will install themselves as the guarantor of these things" and be much like the last regime. "

"There's a lesson here that when you enter deals with corrupt authoritarian governments, the stability of the arrangement is going to be called into question. After the Manas [base renegotiation] there was a tacit agreement on criticism; US leaders became completely silent. It took the [US] embassy three days to issue a tepid statement after the [2009] election, one of the most rotten they've had. We are almost in the perverse situation now that Moscow can criticize the government for its democratic shortcomings more than the US does."

The Monitor's coverage of the 2009 election described it as "Soviet-style." It delivered 74 percent of the vote to Bakiyev.

Insightful analysis by Chip Pitts of Stanford Law School on the economic crisis and how corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles could have stopped it.

Kleptocracy...will it be a new word in the English lexicon? It certainly fits the situation and sums up the basis of the entire article in one word, don't you think?

We're expecting showers in this colorless sky, but there are bits of pale blue aching to shine through. Below us, Maggiolino honks (is that the sound a donkey makes, when it brays?)

I look it up under "tools", and it not only is the sound that a donkey makes, but it is the sound of someone speaking with a harsh voice. Oh. That is what makes Sofi bark: people who are otherwise kindly but seem to bray at her. I've been trying to describe her reaction, and this is it.

Time to get up, for the weather is warming, and birdsong calls us. Don and Mary will arrive in a few hours for a simple pranzo...probably a spinach salatone (big salad).

I love the concept of adding "o-n-e" to a word to signify that it is a big one, or "i-n-i" as a little one. So the father in the film, "Breaking Away" did not "get" it; he referred to anything Italian as "idi". Tu recordi (Do you remember?)

"Se alza!" (Get up!) The day's a wastin'...

When we purchased our lavatoia (washing machine) yesterday, we were reminded to keep the register receipt as a guarantee for one year. That's a good thing to know if you purchase an appliance for a property you own here. I recall American Express offering something like that when something was purchased with their card.

Who was first with the idea? I don't care enough to find out, or as we say here: "Fa niente"... (for nothing, or it is not important). This is also Mary's favorite Italian phrase. I remind her that when she speaks it, she sounds like a real Italian.

We roam around the garden with my cappuccino (Sofi and I), noting the tree peony is in flower, as are two of the glicine (wisteria) macrobotrys in the middle garden. Other roses stand by ready to take their turns in the ballet. On the front terrace, thirty flowers show their heads in various states of preliminary bloom; from two of the four plants.

Our dear friends arrive, and it's somewhat complicated for dearest Mary, who tries to negotiate over the gravel. Don is a great partner, right there whenever she needs him. I'm sure there's a place reserved for him in heaven already. Speriamo.

Pranzo is simple and fun, with Don singing and me singing and all having fun. I sit next to Mary, cherishing the visit and her. Life is difficult for her, and before they leave she admits she is tired. She'll take a nap and feel better before nightfall.

After they leave, I help Dino clean up, but there is nothing said between us. I feel a heavyness in my heart thinking about Mary, and Sofi seems to understand, staying by my side as I walk from room to room. When we're outside, the little dog lays in my arms to comfort me. There is really nothing that can be said.

Although the wind picks up a little and the sky turns gray, the temperature remains mild. The white tree peony is in full flower and beautiful as ever. No other peonies bloom, so we're expecting to wait another five years or so before anything happens to them. It does not really matter.

I take a good look at the box, clipped into rounds on the front terrace and also in the middle garden. Hope you're sitting down, Sarah. Dino wants the box to grow into hedges, and I'm about convinced that he's right. It does take a long time to manicure each of the sixty or so box rounds. Do we really have that many?

A good number of them are in pots, so perhaps that means that in the fall, those remaining box will be planted in the ground. I think that even garden experts like Penny Hobhouse give way to simplification after reaching age sixty.

There are flowers on the apple tree and on both plum trees, as well as the peach tree, so we'll have fruit, speriamo (we hope so), as Spring turns into Summer.

Dino and an expert of some kind meet with Pietro regarding a combination heater/air conditioner. Now that he's here for a few months, he'll want to make his homeeven more comfortable.

April 9
Dino is on the march, so to speak, visiting two work sites and driving across the valley to Viterbo. Back at home, Sofi and I sit in the middle garden for a bit, then come inside to paint.

Clients/friends arrive for a short stop, then we drive North to Chiusi, where Margheriti Brothers stocks an amazing supply of glicine (wisteria). But no, they have no Pink Ice, even though the four we purchased were from their vivai several years ago. No, we don't want another type for our terrace.

They think we're crazy, telling us that glicine is not in flower during these days. But you'll have to tell our glicine that...three in the middle garden and two on the terrace are in flower. I counted thirty blossoms this morning on two plants!

The macrobotrys in the middle garden are sporting even more...Could it be that we are South-facing, and it seems warm here even in winter? These folks tell us it will be another month or two before we should see any buds.

So why does the vivai in Viterbo have flowers on some of its plants? We'll return to Michellini when their pink ice is in flower; we no longer want to purchase glicine that is not in flower.

We take a walk in the town of Chiusi and have our first gelato of the year from an artigianale (artisan) maker of gelato... Quite good.

Back at home, it's too windy to spray the roses, but with the rainy weather returning, the spraying of soap and alcohol and water will begin as soon as the wind dies down.

Yes, Coro is tonight, Marieadelaide confirms as we pull into the parcheggio. She and Augusta sit on the stone benches in the afternoon sun. It's good to see them return.

Coro practice has become a special time for the nine of us. There is much joy in the singing, and not that much disagreement. What there is consists mostly of whether we should sing the Padre Nostro (our Father) during mass or not.

Except for Monday nights, when Don Renzo appears to guide us, we're led by Federica to begin each piece, and refer to Marieadelaide to help us with the older pieces to figure out the notes. Some weeks we practice on several nights. I can tell that everyone loves to be there.

I won't write much about it in the future, for it's a time we can be together without distractions of children or other family members and a bit of privacy. For several of them, it's a luxury and a refuge. It's like our own circolo (club of which one must be a member to attend). We usually leave the church singing joyously.

April 10
Let's talk about the "white Meidiland" rose. It's 4" white blooms are lovely, and appear on a dark green leafed plant. It's also called a ground cover, and what a spectacular ground cover it is, easy to grow and mostly resistant to black spot and other diseases.

It likes full sun, for a minimum of 5 hours a day. We planted it with rosemary in our tufa planters above the parcheggio and it's about the best behaving rose we've ever grown.

With no luck at the giant Margheriti Brothers vivai yesterday, we'll return to Viterbo to our favorite vivai (nursery), if not today, early next week. We looked for pink ice wisteria there last week, but it was not yet in flower. I think we'll ask them to give us a jingle when theirs begin to flower. The pots for them won't be dry (they were made yesterday) for another two weeks, so the timing is fine.

We're surprised to see another lovely day, but grateful for it. Dino drives off early to supervise the installation of an above-ground pool for a client, and returns when Don and Mary are here for a visit.

I'm upstairs painting when Sofi rushes down and cries as if something has happened to her; when I walk down, there are Don and Mary, coming across the gravel on the terrace.

It's always wonderful to be in their company, but after awhile it's too hot to sit outside. So we move in to the kitchen for the remainder of the visit. I invite them to stay for pranzo but they decline; probably have a date with Duccio and Giovanna in Bomarzo.

I hate to see them leave, and just before they do, Mary and I sit on the cold stone steps inside while the guys chatter away about cars. She loves the spot, and tells me that next time they come she'd like to hang out here with me. Va bene.

After pranzo, it's still warm, and the amazing glicine continue their frantic pace, almost growing as we watch.

Later, Dino and Sofi and I return to Pozzo Ciulino. He tells me that at the rate the pool is filling, it will be 11AM tomorrow before it's ready to swim in it. Better check this afternoon to make sure his calculations are spot on.

Sofi and I both have stomach problems, but I'm worried about her. We give her a vial of Enterogina in her water dish. It's for humans as well as four-legged pets. We turn in early, leaving Dino to watch a movie by himself. Sorry dear Dino.

April 11
Sunday, Sunday...We have mass with Don Angelo as if nothing had happened. I see a more severe side of him, but still like him.

Afterward, the ride to Il Pallone is rich with eye-candy: my favorite black and white cows graze against the tufa outcroppings on our left, while later on our right, the pale yellow cows, some with horns famous for...well, let's not make them feel squeamish. Think pranzo.

After, glassata and capuccinos and shopping, we divert with a trip to Pozzo Ciulino to check on the level of the client's pool. It's still not full, so Dino turns the water off and will check it tomorrow.

There is no painting today...I'm tired, perhaps a malaise caused by the gloomy weather. Rain, rain, rain continues all day. We sleep the afternoon away, then stay up late watching the Masters, where we root for Phil Michelson to win... and he does win, embracing his wife afterward for so long it's impossible not to tear up. On his hat he wears a pink ribbon, for breast cancer survivors, of which his wife and mother in law are members. Oh, how he loves that woman.

April 12
Dino sees Rosita walk by, who confirms Coro practice is late tonight. Va bene.

With no rain and sun shining, I mix the first batch of rose care: denatured alcohol, water and dish soap in a spritz bottle with a pump.

Then, Dino masters tying up the Madame Alexander Carriere rampicante rose growing against the side wall of the loggia, and it will be beautiful this year. All the roses are ready to pop, although it is still quite early in the season. After speaking with the folks at Margheriti Brothers in Chiusi, I realize we are far enough South that warmer conditions also mean earlier flowering.

I notice a sea change in Dino...he loves the garden, loves puttering in it these days. That makes me so happy. With less stress and probably my agreement to turn the box rounds into hedges, he realizes we can enjoy puttering here without become slaves to it all.

I had put off spraying the roses, but it is a sweet process and does not take all that long to do. Clouds gather overhead, but since there is no rain and no wind, it's important to do. Once it rains, we'll have to do it again, but that's not a problem. It takes less than twenty minutes to spritz them all and be sure they're not overrun with tiny rust colored "animali".

We gather up Sofi and drive to pick up Don and Mary. Today we'll have pranzo at one of our favorite places, Il Caio, overlooking Lago di Cobara. They are open, but we are the only people there. No matter; we sit at our favorite table and are served by a woman from Moldavia.

Local antipasti, pappardelle del Ragu, dolce de la casa, plenty of local red wine...we've learned not to overeat. That way, we enjoy the meal and ourselves afterward. I sit next to Mary, with Sofi between us, waiting for things to conveniently drop from the table. We don't feed her this way, but the woman brings out a tin dish so we put a little pasta in it and Sofi eats her pranzo and then a bit of ours.

I can't get enough of Mary. Putting clothes on and off are a chore for her, and I come up with a new idea: I put my hand into an empty arm of her jacket through the cuff; then tell her to grab my hand. She does, I slide the sleeve up over her arm, and move onto the other arm. Making a bit of fun of it has us all trying to think of something else.

A borrowed warm sweater this time will let her zip up the front pretty easily; I'm thinking it will work better for her than the one she loves but has to pull over her head. That's much too difficult these days. We're living too far away from each other, so I take what I can get. A meal here, a visit there; they're like stolen golden nuggets I hide in an inside pocket to treasure later when I'm alone.

As we leave, I tell her about my eye-candy; it's everywhere I look around me. Driving out of the parking area, we pass a good-sized pen with an ostrich, a peacock, strange looking horned goats and other exotic creatures. They move toward us on the fence line, perhaps thinking we'll throw food their way.

I encourage Dino to take a photo or two, but he does it unwillingly. They're gentle creatures, and I imagine myself sitting on the ground inside, befriending them one by one. Oh, what a dreamer!

We've dropped our dear friends off and said goodbye for now, so that they can take a power nap before going out with a neighbor to Porano to visit friends. This visiting will be somewhat difficult for Mary, but she is a wonderful sport. I wonder how I would survive having Multiple Sclerosis for three decades or more, but she manages it brilliantly.

These days, she's more tired; she's more willing to have things done for her, and that's fine with us. We've conjured up a surprise with Don; her daughters are arriving on Wednesday and we'll pick them up at the airport, then drop them off right on time after Don and Mary are seated at our favorite local restaurant, I Gelsi. It will be a complete surprise.

The girls will be here to visit with them for three days; even if Mary does not handle the weather well, her daughters will be here to cuddle her and they'll spend some wonderful time together. We're thrilled to be a party to the secret, and they'll be here for a brunch before the girls leave.

It's cool at home, but there is plenty of birdsong; I can now look down upon the glicine on the terrace and watch the glicine (wisteria) flowers grow. The plants grow during Spring and Summer as if they're shot with steroids; perhaps they'll even provide us with shade this year.

Skies darken, and there is a shower while I am singing with my Coro buddies in the little church in the borgo. Don Renzo does not appear, but we have a tape of him singing two of the pieces we are practicing, so we pretend he's guiding us. We're quite disciplined, just the same, and I'm "sung out" after an hour. Time to go home and wind our clocks down, down, down.

April 13
This arrived from Truthout.org:


"But if socialism means the US would go down the path of being more generous with our babies, our children, our working families, our pregnant mothers and our sisters and brothers across the world, I think we could all appreciate it".

The details in this piece are chilling. Could we step back for a moment and take a look at the bigger picture of our lives?

Here in Italy there is a pride, an adoration of sorts of one's own life in the countryside. Taking Pepino as an example, he shares all there is to love in life with his family and simple pleasures of the earth he tills, the animals he tends, the borgo he loves...

The other day we stood on the street as he chugged up the hill in Antonio's ape, stopping to give Sofi an embrace and to beam at all of us. With no one in Italy in government to look up to, the family is indeed king... with Pepino and with others all over Italy. Perhaps that has something to do with our view of the American political system...not that the Italian one is much better.

You know by now that I'm a dreamer's dreamer, but don't think I'm not proud of being an American. We choose to live here in Italy for many reasons, and the book I'm reading now, Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright, certainly speaks to me. It was written seventy or so years ago, so does that mean I'm of another age?

I'd like to share a bit with you from the book about the people of this Utopian place called Islandia...

"They argued a little, and I found that what interested them was the effect upon a certain view, rather than the value of the wood. They were in exact agreement as to the end to be obtained though differing as to the means, and that end was the intrusion upon a spacious composition of a complex tangle in the foreground. It came to me quite suddenly that they looked up on their whole farm as a great living canvas, whose picture changed from moment to moment and hour to hour, and to which they as artists made only little changes from time to time; for the larger picture was painted mostly by nature and by generations of Stellins before them".

No wonder this book fostered a kind of cult following, although I came upon it quite by accident as a teenager. Does each of us have an inner imagining of a Utopian life? I suppose the one or two of you who are avid readers of this journal share some of those beliefs...if you are one, email me; I'd love to know.

I wake with a headache this morning. Giovanna rings the bell and tells me Coro practice later this week is at a different time; three practices a week are a bit much, but it is as if its nine members look upon it as an oasis from their daily lives...perhaps each of us is a bit of a dreamer, not content with life as it is. On that count, I don't share the opinion, embracing each day and each person I meet with a joie di vivre.

The rondine (local birds) fly low and in circles over the land...is there rain in our forecast? Yes, showers are expected tonight. I ready a sugo for pranzo, letting it simmer until Dino lets me know if Pietro will join us. Meanwhile, birdsong takes on a warning tone, with one doing most of the chattering. When Gemma is here, perhaps she can help us to identify it. In the meantime, the rondine continue to circle.

Pietro does arrive with Dino for pranzo. He has spent the morning with Dino, riding shotgun and just reveling in the adventures driving from supplier to supplier, shop to shop, to find just the right wood for a client's decking. Yes, Dino is great company.

With cloudy skies overhead, the rain holds off, while we loll the afternoon away clipping a boxwood here and there and reading.

April 14
Thick fog gives way to sun, and we're replacing some of the fencing in the middle garden. It will be easy, but perhaps we'll get Germano to come for a morning to turn over the soil for the future tomato plants and work with Dino to replace the fencing.

I steady the ladder for him while he climbs up into the giant olive tree to clip it as if he is the tree's parucchiere (hairdresser). He does not care about the olives on this giant; but it's look will be Pugliese (round and beautiful). Somehow, those Pugliese are able to harvest great olives, too. Underneath, the oak leafed hydrangea grows exponentially; it loves its shady spot near the trun of the tree.

Elsewhere, we tie up bits of the glicine, languishing several feet above the pepperino table. How lovely it is. Now we see new buds, so the flowers will continue for at least a couple of weeks. Magari!

Dino wants to visit Warsaw, to see if he can find out more about his father's father, who was born there. We're exploring our family trees as well as those of our neighbors these days, and for me that means a trip to Lipovitz, Ukraine, for records of my father and his ancestors.

Will some of the women look like me? Is the town like Mugnano, with everyone related and many sharing similar expressions? If we go, we'll take the ancient photo of my father and his brothers and sister in little ceremonial garb, taken around 1910.

We're off to Rome to pick up Mary's daughters, Gemma and Lucy, at Fiumucino Airport and then drop them off at the restaurant as a great surprise to Mary.

Sun cooperates, and it's a happy day, especially ending it with a reunion between Mary and her daughters. I've said it before, but there is nothing I would not do for this woman. She's the best!

April 15
We leave early for Viterbo to shop for any food we'll need for tomorrow's little festa, one we're calling a brunch and will begin at 11 AM. But on the news there is a strange event, one that you know all about by now...

Erupting volcanos in Iceland are spewing ash toward the rest of Europe, causing countries to shut down their airports. Our dear friends who just arrived from the North of England will undoubtedly have to extend their vacation with their mom, which is a good thing.

On the other hand, friends who are trying to get here are stuck, probably not able to come at all this month. Will any of our dear friends be able to return to England in the next days as planned? No one really knows, with all the car rentals and trains booked.

Is my head monitoring the activity in Iceland? I sure get a migraine, and Sofi and I lie down for a bit after a small pranzo, while Dino drives to Orvieto for an MRI. Our good doctor thinks there is some cause for his leg pain, and this may show what it is. We look forward to the results in a week or so.

I fix two frittatas and roast yellow peppers to marinate them in oil and oregano and later vinegar. There is a kind of angel food cake to make; one that will be topped with whipped cream and plenty of strawberries, but we are out of eggs and that will have to wait until early tomorrow morning.

Tonight we are invited to Annika and Torbjörn's house for cena. There is also Coro practice, but I'm not feeling all that chipper. So Cena will take precedence over Coro, although it will be interesting to see if Rosita skips as well. We know the music, so I don't think it's a problem if we are not there.

The cena is fun, hosted by Annika and Törbjorn, our Swedish part time neighbors. Little Sofi is with us, and spends much of the time at Torbjörn's feet, hoping she can convince him to slip her a treat.

I've never seen Rosita so animated; she really is charming tonight, offering lots of special ideas for our neighbors regarding local trips.

Rosita and I both miss Coro practice, so I'll attend tomorrow night, for I've missed two practices in a row...

April 16
With very strange weather in Europe, due probably to the volcanic eruptions in Iceland and winds heading Southeast, one Norwegian friend emails us that the big worry is that this "little" eruption may disturb a much bigger volcano on the island.

With airports shut down and expanding country by country as the hours press on, our brunch guests keep returning to the subject. Some worry, some are stoic, some want to ignore it. It is a worry.

Don and Mary are here with Mary's two daughters, Lucy and Gemma, and we're able to eat under the pergola in the garden, where wisteria blossoms gently sway in gentle breezes. We're happy to be able to eat outside on this, or any day.

One of the frittatas, an orange one, is quite interesting. Yes, we'll put it on the site later this month, if I remember. Hoping that Gemma will have some time to help us identify the local birds, there is so much else to talk about that we just don't get to it. No matter.

We have lots of food, plus mimosas, champagne, and great conversation. Here are a few photos:

The sky is cloudy, but temperatures are warm, so while we're chatting before we eat, Lucy and Gemma are able to scramble over the far property and sneak into Chiesa San Rocco for a look. It really is a wonderful church...if only the village could work on the restoration...Add that to the dream book....

We want to post, as there are a growing number of people who read our journal regularly, but first, more Italian news. If you want to skip it, this is the end of the first half of April's journal...More at the end of the month.

More Italian News:
Vatican posts new pedophile priest rules
Benedict 'will defrock directly' in most serious cases 12 April
(ANSA) - Vatican City, April 12 - The Vatican on Monday posted new instructions on dealing with pedophile priests, making it mandatory for cases to be reported to the police.

The Church has been rocked by widening scandals with the pope personally coming under fire for allegedly stalling, for the good of the Church when he was doctrinal watchdog, on a self-confessed US predator's request to be defrocked in 1985.

Berlusconi indictment sought
Second film-rights case also involves son Pier Silvio 09 April, 11:03 (ANSA) - Rome, April 9
Milan prosecutors on Friday filed an indictment request for Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on charges of tax fraud and embezzlement in a probe into alleged irregularities in the sale of film rights to create slush funds.

It is the second film-rights case involving the media-magnate-turned-politician.

Also involved in the case are the chairman of Berlusconi's Mediaset media empire, Fedele Confalonieri, and its deputy chairman, Berlusconi's son Pier Silvio, as well as another nine persons.

The premier is accused of tax fraud involving Mediaset's Mediatrade unit to the tune of eight million dollars and the embezzlement of 34 million dollars.

The alleged tax-dodging occurred between 2005 and September 2009 and the embezzlement between February 2003 and November 2005.

The charges are not covered by Italy's statute of limitations but the premier is expected to take advantage of a new 'legitimate impediment' law allowing him to ignore hearings if they interfere with his duties.

However, Milan prosecutors are expected to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the new law, which lasts 18 months.

Berlusconi is already involved in two Milan trials, in a related film-sale fraud case and for bribing British tax lawyer David Mills, but those are expected to run out of time this year.

Berlusconi's lawyer Piero Longo reacted to the indictment request, which made front-page headlines Friday, by saying: "We were expecting this. It was inevitable, after the closure of the probe".

Longo and Berlusconi's top lawyer, Niccolo' Ghedini, said the film rights in question were bought at market prices and Mediatrade's balance sheets and tax records were clean.

Swallows get high-tech trackers
'GPS-type' device to map bird movements 08 April, 18:50 (ANSA) - Rome, April 8 - Swallows kitted out with miniature GPS-type devices will soon help a team of Italian scientists map their migratory movements and develop conservation plans.

The project, which brings together researchers from several organizations, will involve capturing around 200 swallows and fitting them with tiny microchips weighing less than a gram. The birds will then be released back into the wild for two years. In 2012, they will be recaptured and scientists will remove the tracking devices, which will be used to create a detailed reconstruction of the birds' movements. The devices should allow scientists to map their precise migratory routes and wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa.

This information will then be cross-referenced with climate change data, to assess the potential impact of warming on the birds' travels. "The application of this state-of-the-art technology to a migration study will finally allow us to make significant steps forward in understanding the biology of these migratory birds," said Professor Nicola Saino of Milan University's Ecology Department.

"It will also help us understand the causes of the recent sharp fall in their numbers, which may be attributable to climate change".

Swallow populations summering in Italy have fallen away in recent years, particularly in the Po Valley, where numbers have dropped by up to 50%. A recent study by the Milan and Bicocca universities, which are overseeing the current project in conjunction with the LIPU bird protection league, reported a 40% drop in some parts of northern Italy.

The current initiative hopes to combat the trend not only by identifying reasons for the decline but also by involving farmers in the battle. Starting in 2011, farmers in spots popular with swallows will be encouraged to adopt best practices aimed at assisting the birds, such as allowing fields to lie fallow for several years or by growing herbs favored by swallows on spare strips of land. In return, LIPU will provide them with nesting boxes which can also be used to collect bird guano, a rich, cost-free and organic fertilizer. Ecology Professor Danilo Mainardi of Ca Foscari University in Venice said this aspect could be critical in helping reverse negative population trends.

"This is a very important project because it will allow us to study the migration of swallows in an innovative manner as well as helping conserve the species," he said. "But the real strength of the project lies in its interdisciplinary approach and the strong involvement of farmers working in relevant areas".

ANSA: Italy makes 'biggest-ever' mafia seizure
Police take 700 million euros of assets from Casalesi clan 08 April Italy makes 'biggest-ever' mafia seizure (ANSA)
- Naples, April 8 - Italian police on Thursday seized 700 million euros of assets from the Camorra in what Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said was the largest assets seizure from a mafia group ever.

The assets taken from the Casalesi clan near Naples included apartments, farms, land and firms including a plant that once belonged to the Cirio food giant.

They were seized from the heirs of Dante Passarelli, a Casalesi associate who died in a mysterious accident in 2004 while on trial with the then top bosses in the clan.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Justice Minister Angelino Alfano and Maroni all hailed the operation as hitting the mafia where it hurts.

Maroni, who has made assets seizures the linchpin of a new anti-mafia plan, said "today is a day for all honest people to celebrate" and estimated the full worth of the seizures could run as high as two billion euros. The National Anti-Mafia Directorate said the Casalesis had been brought so low financially they were "finding it hard to pay their members". The Carabinieri said "the clan's treasure chest has been seized".

The Casalesis' criminal empire was spotlighted in Roberto Saviano's 2006 bestseller Gomorrah, later made into a successful film of the same name.

The journalist and writer has been under round-the-clock police protection after receiving death threats from jailed Casalesi chieftains.

That's it for now, folks...

April 17
What chaos has been created all over Europe for travelers! The ash from Iceland is expected to arrive in Central Europe...already many airports are closed. Our dear friends in Tenaglie are huddled there, stressed and wondering how they will ever get back to England.

Mary cannot sleep, the girls are tense, and Don shoulders most of the stress, head down, "Sempre avanti!" (always forward). Our neighbors use this phrase when we ask them how they are, but it must be Don's mantra these days...

Skies are partly cloudy, but there's some reason to believe the ash-covered skies north of us are heading south...no matter. Livio weed whacks his little plot next to Pia, and Dino visits Pietro to make sure the installation of his heater/air conditioner is well done. He returns happy and we walk around the garden, amazed by the glicine's growth.

As he begins to sculpt the teucrium hedge beside the garden pergola, I search on the net for Paul Lede roses, hopefully in pot form. This is my very favorite rose, but unfortunately it does not come in bush form. We'll probably choose another rose to replace the Iceberg roses that probably did not survive transplanting into pots, and in a call to our friends at Michellini to verify that they have the glicine (wisteria) that we need, we confirm that we'll visit them on Monday.

Our lives go on as usual, although we listen to the news and check flights online for our friends...especially for Don and Mary, and we are concerned. It does not seem probable that they will be able to fly on Monday. We can only hope, for them. It is disconcerting to not know.

I've sprayed the roses on the front path, and they are loaded with little aphids. It begins to shower while I am spraying, so I make quick work of it and will return later.

Lore and Alberto arrive for Prosecco in the garden, and although I love to see them, I'm not a person to guide people around smugly, waiting for their compliments. The idea of it horrifies me. I'm hopeful we can sit under the pergola and talk, just the same.

I've worked on the painting for a couple of hours, and now am ready to leave a lot of it as it is and work on the background to bring cohesion to the overall work. I must finish it in the next week, for Alzamaggio takes place in a couple of weeks, and the painting needs to dry somewhat before we display it. This time, we'll give it to the family right away to take home with them.

April 18
The skies are overcast, and with it I have a migraine attack. With meds, it's easier to move about the day. We drive up to church, and sing with five of my Coro members at a Don Renzo mass. Afterward, it's the lovely back road drive to Il Pallone for glassatas and cappuccinos.

There is the group of black and white cows on the hill to the left, but the tawny colored cows I look forward to seeing on the right are somewhere else on the land. This is such a sweet drive.

I paint a little, but much of the day is consumed with wanting to help our friends return home to England. I'm really tired, so get into bed and read with Sofi by my side. Dino remains outside, puttering around the garden.

The girls have spent the day in Orvieto online, and have gathered reservations on trains routed through France. Good for them! For Mary and Don, however, it's another story. Better they stay put for a few days, for the cloud of ash seems to be dissipating.

When I get up, I'm delighted by the sight of pink ice wisteria growing over the terrace, with more than twenty blooms cascading down above the front steps. I can see them from our front bedroom window. Now we really want to pick up the two more, and in a call to our friends yesterday at Michellini, they have them but are closed until Monday. Va bene.

April 19
Clouds are very prominent against a bright blue sky, and although the airports are closed all over Europe except for Spain, we're off early for caffé and a trip to Viterbo to pick up two Pink Ice glicine (wisteria). This is the first year that Michellini has stocked the pink variety, so Tiziana asks me if we'll take a photo for them. Si, certo!

Sofi just loves the place; loves bounding around the different plants and being cuddled by the people who work there.

Earlier we ran in to Stefano the muratore, who counseled us regarding planting them in pots. We'll pick up the pots in a week or so, but Tiziana tells us to let the plants acclimate for another month or so in the pots they are in. Good idea, for we have no idea when the big pots will be ready.

It's now time to make arrangements with the men in the moon suits to take away the asbestos roof of the loggia. Since Pietro has several items as well, Dino will see if we can do them both as one trip. Moon suits...I wonder what it is like to work in such a dangerous field....but not too much. We are thankful that we will be rid of this curvy roof, covering the loggia for many years before we purchased the property.

We've called around to see who will want Palio di Bomarzo tickets, and the event is this next weekend. Let's hope for sun. While waiting to hear, a storm cloud appears right over our heads and rain pours down. How weird! Five minutes ago it was beautiful!

We're off to pick up Don and Mary to take them to the British Consulate in Rome, where a bus will take them back to England. Yesterday I found a bus they can take from the British Embassy, and after worrying for a bit, Don and Mary thought it was a good idea and booked passage. What an adventure they will have, with no planes flying there for days...perhaps weeks.

We'll be staying overnight in Rome ourselves, for we have an appointment at the American Consulate on Tuesday, and Dino wants burgers from Hard Rock Rome for his birthday, a day he shares with Loredana, and...Adolf Hitler!

The British Consulate is an imposing place, right inside the ancient wall of the City, and on this evening plenty of carabinieri(nattily dressed police) are on hand to guide the huge gate and monitor people arriving for the 30-hour bus ride back to London.

Mary, in her wheelchair, is given priority, and Don in his jaunty cap, positive as ever, waves as we drive off. The folks in line appear friendly enough, but then Don is so cordial that I see him roaming the aisle telling stories and singing songs to assure everyone keeps a stiff upper lip. What a guy!

Dino and Sofi and I find an amazing parking spot, where we can park until 10AM tomorrow for €4. The hotel is fine, and Sofi is delighted, for she gets to sleep on the bed. After a walk around on this lovely and warm evening, we stop at a café we know and eat, while Sofi whimpers under the table until I feed her bits, which I hate to do. Yes, on these public occasions, she has me wrapped around her little paw.

Here are a few photos of Rome as we see it tonight:

April 20
It's Dino's birthday, and after breakfast in the hotel, we check out and drive to the Apple store on A-24, East of Rome. But purtroppo (unfortunately), they are out of IPhones, so Dino is unable to return his. The recent ash movement in the skies over Europe cancelled an incredible number of flights, so it will be another day or two before more phones arrive. His phone has many problems.

Dino has his birthday meal just where he wants: at Hard Rock Café Rome. I am thrilled to have my first vodka and tonic of the year and it tastes marvelous. I don't drink much, so every drink is special, especially this one on a sunny day in Rome. Yes, the burgers are a treat, and Sofi's comments are drowned out by the traffic.

It is a scene out of a Fellini movie as we watch passers-by "bella figura" (to make a good impression, something all Italians rate right up there with eating a great meal) in full view of my favorite plane trees, which flank both sides of the wide Via Veneto. No, it does not get much better than this!

I am early for my appointment at the American Embassy, where an attitude-crazy woman notarizes my documents, and then we mail them off at a Mailboxes Et Cetera, not knowing when they will reach their destination. With the ash all over Europe, planes are grounded. Later, the tracking tells us that the envelope is at least "in the air"....some where in transit...

We drive home and are very tired, so hang out for a bit before we and climb into bed...early.

April 21
It's a lovely morning, and I spend an hour with Giusy having a pedicure, then we drive to Orvieto to obtain the results of Dino's tests. He makes an appointment with our doctor to discuss them, and we drive home for pranzo.

I'm very tired for some reason, so have a dolce fa niente in the afternoon, with Sofi on top of the bed while birdsong lulls me to sleep.

When I awake, Dino learns that his phone is ready, but it's too late to drive to Rome tonight, so we make plans to do so tomorrow morning.

April 22
I've just about run out of time to finish Salvatore and Mauro's painting before the Alzamaggio on April 30th. It may arrive at the ex-scuola still a little wet...

I work on it for an hour in the morning, then we drive to Roma est (East) to the Apple store to pick up Dino's replacement iPhone 3GS.

There is eye-candy everywhere. A few days ago, on the back road from Orte, a woman wearing a house dress and apron helped her husband start his tractor in high grass below a grove of olive trees. Carina! (pretty)

Today, on a ridge overgrown with trees and bushes against tufa cliffs, we watch a young man on a motorino race up a steep hill and across the land, his energy at a fever pace. Wherever we look there is something characteristic to take in and enjoy.

Dino's iPhone is fine, and we take advantage of the Centro Commerciale (shopping center) by eating at a Japanese restaurant. They don't have our favorite bento boxes and a young man who serves us suggests a mixed sushi platter instead. He speaks to us in English.

"How many languages do you speak?" I ask him. He replies: "Four: English, Italian, Cantonese and Szechwan..." Remember, we are in a Japanese restaurant....

As he leaves the table, I call out, "Origato gozaimas! (thank you in Japanese). He turns and blushes, but does not know what to say. I learned this phrase decades ago, wanting to give respect to our waitpersons whenever we were served in a Japanese restaurant. Inevitably, the person beamed.

Welcome to Italia!

We're back home and Dino learns from a neighbor that there will be Coro practice tonight. Va bene. Tomorrow afternoon, the giant bay tree just in front of the loggia will come down, and I encourage Dino to have Germano cut the wood and take it around back for firewood storage before he's through. Dino will work with him and of course I will document it; that is, when I'm not upstairs painting...

Tomorrow morning we'll drive to Montecastrilli, to the annual agriculture market where tractors are sold, as well as chicks, rabbits, flowers and lots of veggies to plant. The "giganti" pomodori are what we want to plant, now that we don't have heirlooms. That is, if no one is selling them. We also want to pick up six "cielo fiorita" plants, a kind of succulent with dark blue flowers.

This is the market we look forward to each year, and hopefully Germano will prep the tomato garden for the plants. I'm a little concerned, for we have no real compost, and did not overwinter broad beans, known here as fave (fava) beans, to add nutrition to the soil. We're getting slower as we age, and just can't do as many things as in the "old days" of our youth. Part of it is the slow lifestyle, although we never seem to slow down...

Today is Earth Day, and it is also the twentieth anniversary of my father's death. Hello, dear Dad. You are in my thoughts often...

April 23
Cielo fiorita is the name of a flowering quasi-succulent that we are trying to find. But we have no luck at the regular places. Perhaps we'll find them today at the big Montecastrilli market.

We stop in Orte to double check, but the plants are not there. So it's on to Montecastrilli, and it is raining; we don't expect every vendor to be there. If the tomato vendor is there, that's all we really care about.

Our friend is there, and we purchase ten giganti pomodori plants, plus two nera (black) and two yellow tomato plants. We're thinking the last four are heirlooms. The last are from Russia, or so we are told when we ask.

Is it strange that in this tomato-loving country that various varieties are not a big deal? The old standards, some of which present fruits empty in the centers (!) are here. We also purchase a dozen basilico plants, to be placed between each two tomato plants, for flavor and to make sure we have plenty to eat with mozzarella and sliced tomatoes.

We look for the cielo fiorita plants, but the closest we find is one large lonicera plant. No one has heard of the plant we ask about, and on the way back through Amelia we ask a few more vivais, with no luck. No one has small lonicera plants, either. I'm also looking for pale blue lobelia, but neither the market nor the vivais have them. I'm always searching for something, so we'll see what we can find.

I fix a cacciatore for pranzo with olives and pepperoni and mushrooms and it is very tasty. What's better yet is that there is plenty for at least another meal or two.

The sky remains overcast, with birdsong reminding us that we are in a kind of paradise, just the same. I continue to paint with gusto, changing the background of the painting and looking forward to a week from today, when it must be finished. Soon, you'll no longer read about it at all, as after the alzamaggio event, the family can take it home with them.

Tonight there are two Coro practices, and I remind myself that this is an important connection with the people of the village. So my inclination to behave like a hermit is shoved aside, as it should be.

But when I walk into the little church, there is a buzzing and a scowling and finger pointing and eyes rolling...every single woman is molto arribiata (very angry). Each woman takes her turn displaying her anger with a rhetorical question and answer, unless Serena answers herself. That is, except MariaAdelaide. I ask her if she thinks it is better to be silent, and she agrees, although offers that she shares the anger.

Don Angelo is at the center of the controversy, and his lack of respect for members of the Coro has everyone up in arms. Serena is considering offering an ultimatum... If he does not come around, she suggests we all leave the Coro after our festa weekend, next week. What do I do? I certainly agree that things need to change, but abandon singing? Won't we be punishing ourselves?

Practice ends early, for there is another practice in an hour; this time in Attigliano with the Coro Master of their large and noteworthy Coro and the pianist, who will practice with us. What a treat!

When in the little practice room in Attigliano, we change the way we sing a few of the hymns just a bit, and they sound...better! Federica is encouraged to stand in front of us and she does, although she is not too comfortable taking control. She will grow into it, and she will be fine. It is important, we learn, to sing as one voice.

I'm thinking a la "Il Pensiero", the quasi-Italian national anthem, from the opera Nabucco. If you do not know it, it is worth listening to. In this piece, as we recall from the time we saw the opera in Verona, 150 people sang the piece on stage and we heard just one voice. It was an amazing experience. We have a long way to go until we can do the same, but we are enthusiastic... and loud!

We will practice these pieces on Sunday and return to Attigliano on Monday evening to practice some more. But will Don Angelo be the priest at mass on Sunday, and will there be a confrontation?...

April 24
There is a mist this morning overhead, and skies are gray. So perhaps the tree will remain for a while. But we can hope...

Germano may show up soon with his father to take down the laurel tree, so I've asked Dino to take before and after shots of it. Gee, you're probably thinking, what a shame to cut down that beautiful tree. We're thinking how wonderful it will be, for its demise makes way for a new roof for the loggia and will eradicate the terrible mess the flowers make each Spring.

Piero is Germano's father, a shorter brut of a man, arriving dressed in green coveralls. He's about as different a person as possible, in looks and in manner, from his son.

Roy's frantic on the internet when they arrive, buying Ryanair tickets online for an upcoming trip. As we stand in a rainy mist waiting for Dino, Germano tells me they'll have the tree down in no time; don't worry about the rain. Yikes!

Dino tells me he must be there to supervise, so I tell them to wait for perhaps five minutes, but before I can turn around, Piero is up on the ladder, zooming away with his "motosega" (chainsaw).

It's a scary operation to watch, but in an hour most of the tree is down, except for about three feet of trunk and the root; Germano spends most of the time chain-sawing and readying the wood for fireplace burning. We have a good spot behind the house where it is stored, and Dino thinks it's good wood to burn.

I was just thinking yesterday how many fires we burned during the winter, and then all of a sudden the fires stopped. We have not had a fire for a week or more, and may not have another until fall.

Everywhere around us, things are bursting into bloom. Even the huge loquat outside our bedroom window, which may come down some day, is loaded with pale green leaves.

I'm thinking green these days, for I've changed the background of the painting completely, and I work on this as often as I can; an hour here, an hour there. Time has just about run out...

There's a lot of silence outside, so I stop what I'm doing to check on them with Sofi in my arms...She spends her time either in my arms or on the other side of the gate, but is mostly frightened.

Why is she frightened? Well, at 8AM, we heard the first burst of cannons or fireworks (each is loud) for the announcement of the start of the Festa di San Anselmo. Anselmo is the Padrono (Patron Saint) of Bomarzo. The loud BANG! was followed by a cry from Sofi. At 11AM more fireworks shattered the quiet.

Well, it was not really quiet, for Piero and Germano made a lot of noise on their own. Rosina waved her arms from her balcony to tell me how happy she was; the loss of the tree was a momentary thing, followed by lots of light.

I ask her if she sees the growing Madame Alfred Carriere rose growing on the outside wall of the loggia below her and she tells me yes, but soon our entire garden will be in flower.

Remembering the lovely photos we took last year on the day our garden was open to the people of the village, I muse that perhaps this year our garden will not be open, but we will agree to take photos of neighbors below the rose arch.

We love doing things for the village and its people, but these days we're hopeful that we'll be able to garner more names and more genealogical relationships. Although I have more projects to work on, the tree looms large on the horizon. I think it will be another year before it is finished. Yes, it is a grand project.

The air is humid, and I want to return to the painting, but it must dry overnight before I do more. I will surely be painting right up to the time we take it up to the school.

What about our projects? Well, the permits for the cemetery plot and the new loggia roof should be ready on Wednesday, or so Roberto the geometra told Dino a few days ago. That means we can have the asbestos roof taken away; that is, if Stefano is ready to begin work on the new roof.

The terrace in front of the loggia is a mess; it's covered with bay flower droppings, a tarp with lots of dirt, huge pieces of tufa taken from the planter in front of the loggia where the tree stood, and big pieces of the tree, cut and ready to be stored for next winter's fires in the fireplace. The wood is really beautiful where it is cut, and it is so hard that it surely will keep us warm this winter, while glowing in the fireplace...

After a break for pranzo, the men return for one hour, and then they are finished. Germano tells Dino it is too damp for him to prepare the pomodori garden for the plants. Perhaps he can do the work on Monday, and then we can plant the tomatoes.

Our purchases stand near the cypress tree on the other side of the terrace and yes, this place looks like a war zone. It pleases me just the same, for it means that the project we have wanted to do for years will finally commence.

Rain off and on for the rest of the day portends a cancellation of the Palio di Bomarzo tomorrow. I am almost hopeful that it is cancelled, for taking a chance that we won't be caught in the rain tomorrow is not something I look forward to. What's worse; it will be dangerous for the horses. I can't imagine it will take place, and for that I am sad for the people of Bomarzo.

Dino drives to Bomarzo and to do food shopping, but the race has not been cancelled...yet.

April 25
It's Italian Liberation Day (end of the war, 1945 in Milano), or as Frank tells us, the day celebrating the end of Fascism. With all the rain, the Palio track may be muddy, and I'm hoping the event will be cancelled; it's just not fun when the weather does not cooperate for the race.

We attend mass, and wonder who the priest will be. The Coro as a group, and individually, is upset with Don Angelo for his lack of respect for what we do. I joked the other night that he thinks we are schiavi (slaves), but none of my colleagues laughed.

He is our priest today, and stops to shake my hand on his way to the altar. I mistakenly tell him that the keyboard next to the altar is to accompany us, after we practiced the other evening in Attigliano. But I am wrong. The setup is for a wedding this afternoon, the bride having lived here only as a child. No, she is not included on the Mugnano tree, for her family is no longer represented here.

There are only four of us this morning in Coro; did the others stage a silent sit-out? Dino told me afterward that we were loud and sounded good, even if we kept looking at each other to make sure we began at the same time.

With Sofi guarding the house, we drive on the back road to Il Pallone, and have our traditional Sunday colazione (breakfast), then shop at the market, which is open although today is a holiday.

Back at home, we eat outside on the terrace for the first time of the year. There is filtered sun, and it is a beautiful day, albeit humid. The Palio will take place after all, and on our drive back the signs are all there of people gathering and the traditional carnival stalls setting up.

Dino tells me that their fireworks last night were wonderful, and lasted almost half an hour. Where was I? Oh, I was asleep, having a terrible nightmare. It was about the worst ever, understandingly followed by a migraine, but after medication and reading for a while, I slept. Today I am fine.

For the first time in memory we'll attend the Palio alone, but it will be fun and we look forward to it after all. One friend is ill, so does not join us, but another takes her place, and joins us after we have seen the corteo and moved through an enormous crush of Italians (not particularly fun) and found our reserved seats.

A word about Italians and lines...they ignore them. Just as Italians find ways around obeying laws, they take great delight in looking straight ahead and just moving...similar to the way they drive a car. So we do the same, and eventually find our way through.

Mauro is at the gate, and blows me a kiss. He knows the painting will be displayed Friday night and is joyful. Candace calls us to tell her she's near, so we tell her to find a tall handsome bald man and ask if he is Mauro. She does, he is, and son Salvatore guides her to us, where we give up the ticket. Yes, it pays to be friendly with those in control.

During the wait in line, I offer that attending the Palio for several years is enough; next year, I'm hoping Dino will want to sit it out, and he agrees...sort of. We'll see next April.

This year, during the corteo (procession of people in costume), a pair of oxen is included. They seem so docile, anchored to that oh-so-heavy bar holding them together. Although they do the work of ten men in a field, the idea of tethering them in this manner must be inhumane.

The two stand in the middle of the field with two small men, while the flag throwing and fencing and jousting take place. But when a warning gunshot is fired, they are spooked. Their trainers try to calm them down, but the duo race up the hill toward the members of the corteo sitting on rows within the center of the track, and the people are led away, while men from all corners rush forward to corral the wild duo.

I tear up, telling Dino and Candace that I want to go over and hug them (bad idea) and find a way to get them out of the kind of noose. Someone else does that, or they break free from it, and they agree to be led out. The corteo returns to the steps and their assortment of discarded plastic water bottles to watch the race. Allora.

Allora. It's lesson time: This word is used as a break in the action, so to speak. The definition is: "then", used as an adjective or adverb; also, "at that time" in that case. Da allora means "ever since". Da allora in poi... "from that time on"; fino allora "until then", or per allora "at that time".

But here's an interesting one: riposare sugli allori means to rest on one's laurels, for alloro is the masculine for laurel, what many of us know as bay. Thanks. I learned something new, looking that up. Dino makes a habit when he looks up a word in the Italian/English dictionary to look at the word following the word he is looking up. It's a kind of game, but a good way to learn, don't you think?

The actual race is short, and in Italian fashion, the event just ends. Many events in Italy are quite long and spectacular to a fashion, but end like a drop off a cliff. They're just over, with no finale. This is one.

Although the winners of the raffle are read off somewhere afterward, we can look results up online, so drive off to have pizza at Il Gelso with Candace after picking up Sofi at home, who is delighted to be with us all.

Here's a photo recap of today's events:

After pizza and beer and wine, we return home after showing Candace the easy route for her drive home to Orvieto, and settle in. It's a beautiful night, and we look forward to the week ahead.

April 26
Dino drives to Tenaglie on a project, and Sofi and I sleep in. We spend the rest of the morning outside. I read on the terrace under dappled wisteria, and the feeling is heavenly. There is plenty of sun, but I am somewhat shielded by the rapidly growing leaves and flowers. Tiziana at Vivai Michellini in Viterbo told us last week that this was the first year they have sold wisteria "pink ice" and asks us for a photo. Si, certo! We certainly recommend it.

Interrupted now and then to show Sofi that the lucertole (lizards) she wants to chase are no longer in the spot where she first saw them, I enjoy reading, serenaded by birdsong and the wrenching but comforting sounds of a nearby tractor now and then.

The temperature is warming up and it is humid; there are showers ahead in the forecast. When Dino and I sit on the terrace eating pranzo, we discuss the new project, and the symmetry of the plants in relation to the roofline. There is always something to consider, and as yet, we have not determined the actual planting location of the middle glicine (wisteria).

We have time, for we're told not to put these two in the ground until after they have flowered...or if they don't flower, at least for a couple of weeks. We need to call Lazzari Terrecotte in Ripabianca for our pots, to see if they are dry enough for us to pick them up. There are so many baby steps to take on any project, and we enjoy almost all of them.

This morning, Dino went to find out about our citizenship, but it will take two years at least, so we need to renew our permessos (permits to stay). That game will begin in the next days. It's always a hassle, even though we know the people, but we seem to know how to make the process not terribly difficult...speriamo di no (we hope it will not).

Dino visited with our doctor regarding his report, and the doctor recommends surgery, and that will include a hospital stay of a few days and then recuperation. He has another appointment on Wednesday in Narni, and we'll see after that appointment what he should do. We're leaning toward doing the procedure.

There is Coro practice tonight in the main church with the choirmaster of Attigliano, Angela, and the keyboardist, and we all look forward to that. What fun it will be to participate in our festa this weekend.

Dino leaves to supervise a project in Tenaglie, and the humidity continues to rise. I'm not going to touch the painting for a day or two to let it dry before proceeding on the last details.

Germano should arrive to prepare the tomato bed for planting...but he does not come after all. It is more humid by the minute and I spray the roses (denatured alcohol, dish detergent and water in a spray bottle) again. I will try to get up the energy to feed them, for we're expecting a bout of rain tomorrow and perhaps Wednesday.

Why spray when it is going to rain and I'll have to spray them all over again? Well, there are little rust colored animali on them here and there and I want to get rid of them and also offer some protection to the roses against more critters, even if the rain begins. I will spray after the rain stops anyway.

Black beetles love the Lady Hillingdon roses, and I get rid of some, but for some it is too late. Yes, they are living things and it is all part of nature's scheme.

Philadelphus bushes in two areas of the middle garden are about ready to burst, as are many of the roses. With luck, the garden will look good for festa weekend this weekend, not that it matters much. There is nothing planned in the garden, and in this sleepy village I like it that way...

Coro practice in the main church is quite good, although everyone fiddles around to figure out who will stand where. I find myself in the middle in the front of the grouping of the nine of us. Don Renzo is here, and he's prone to singing the most wonderful pieces; pieces we've never heard, and thinking we can learn them like that.

We'll practice again in two days, and it will be great to be a part of the Sunday service, amid the pomp and lots of friends and family members returning the to village life for the weekend.

April 27
Rain, rain, rain begins the day, and for the third morning in a row I wake with a migraine. Wonder if it has something to do with changing weather or barometric pressure or stress. I have a stressful thing I'm dealing with, and it has nothing to do with Italia, but we're hoping that will end very soon. Sempre Avanti (always forward, the favorite Mugnano mantra) I tell myself.

Dino returns from a work site and stacks firewood in a new place around the side of the house. We also agree to try to plant lettuce and rugghetta (rucola) in long pots, instead of putting them directly in the ground. If it does not work, we'll go back to our normal planting. It's good to try something new.

Speaking of new, Candace is going to plant most of their tomatoes upside down, telling us there will be a better volume and perhaps even better fruit. We'll do ours the old fashioned way, and when the rain stops, Germano will till the soil and then plant the tomatoes and basil in the usual spot with Dino.

I still remember dear Felice showing us how to string the bamboo poles and tie them up and pinch the branching leaves of the plants. We miss that dear man. Kisses to you, dear Felice in heaven.

Germano also wants to buy Pandina, the 1986 Panda we've owned for a couple of years, and Dino wants to sell it, for he has not driven it in a year. We work out part cash, part hours' work, so it is a good deal for everyone. If Dino has a back operation, Germano can take over for Dino in the garden for the couple of weeks he will be getting back to health. We'll know more tomorrow if he will have the operation.

Rain continues for most of the day, and I spend a couple of hours in bed in the afternoon, trying to get rid of the nagging migraine that won't seem to go away. Sofi joins me on top of the covers and is happy just being by my side. What a sweet dog!

I can't help returning to the painting, and except for one painting detail, it is finished. I will do that tomorrow, and it won't be totally dry for Friday night's Alza Maggio (annual tree raising) and cena in the school, but that's ok.

April 28
Dino is learning SMS shorthand for his phone. Italians love messaging through their phones, and I'll let him tell you some things he's learned. Take it away, Dino...

It's hard enough being in a constant "learn mode" when living in a foreign country, and now there is even another layer, "sms speak"...in Italian.

A few weeks ago I sent a reminder SMS to a falegname (woodworker) to make sure that an order that I placed months ago was on schedule to be completed soon. His initial reply was "K 6?" ??? What is he saying to me? I figured it out...pronounce it (in Italian) K 6? = >b>Che sei? = "Who are you?" He didn't remember me!!!

Some others: when a price is quoted per each: example - the price is €16/each = €/cad. 16

"passare in ufficio x conferma", the "x" is used as the math symbol which means "per" in Italian. In English it means "for' or "to" - "Come to the office,to confirm."

As I find more, I'll let you know.

We drive to Lorenzo's to discuss the design for our new side gate, and then to Narni for Dino's consultation. If he does have an operation, we think it will be at the hospital in Narni. How funny it will be to see me driving him!

The doctor is a conservative one, and prescribes physical therapy, instead. Our main doctor, Dottore Bevilacqua, will have to write the formal prescription, but we know that for now, Dino will be able to drive; and for that he is so very happy.

I am near the end of a fascinating saga, a 1,000 page epic called Islandia about a utopian island, and it is a great summer read if you have lots of time. There are many similarities to our lives here, for we are not indigenous; and yet the locals do all they can to make us feel at home.

Here in Italy, a person born in the next town is known as a straniero (stranger), and, well, I won't give the plot away. Better read it and let me know what you think.

We drive to Viterbo, and tonight there is Coro practice in the main church. But I have a fever and can't wait to get home to bed. Sorry that I'll miss practice, but hopefully I'll be back at full strength in the morning.

As the afternoon turns into evening, I feel worse and worse, with a kind of flu mixed with a migraine. Before the night is over, I've taken another dose of meds. Good thing a day is only 24 hours long.

April 29
Dino drives to Tenaglie for a meeting, and returns just after Sofi and I arrive downstairs. Sitting under the wisteria, it's shady while we have capuccinos together and by mid afternoon I'm feeling a bit better.

Thinking about feeding the roses, that is what Sofi and I do, while Dino works to clean up the large tufa bricks in front of the loggia.

Mike and Angela arrive for a visit, staying in her sister's apartment. They'll be here for several more weeks, so we'll see more of them. Yes, they'd like to attend tomorrow night's cena.

I make some finishing touches to the painting and sign it. Dino does not want to tape the sides of the painting, as Marco recommended for shows, since it is unframed. Va bene.

At mass tonight, there are four of us, and Don Renzo is tonight's priest. We sing away, and I'm asked where I was last night. Oh. They understand once I tell them what was wrong with me.

A couple of hours later we have another Coro practice; we wait almost half an hour for Federica to arrive, but sing away in the little church and gab. I run out of steam and leave them at around 10:15...too much cacciarata (small talk, gossip) is too much for me.

August 30
We sit under the glicine while we have breakfast, and it is a joy to enjoy the outdoor space while being protected by some shade. Yes, this is what "it" is all about.

Dino has an appointment with our doctor regarding his results, and here is our good doctor, whom you should know because we talk so much about him.

He is able to read the prescription written by the Narni doctor, and it's such a scrawl we're amazed. It must be "doctor speak". Indeed, the Narni doctor is conservative. Dr. Stefano was surprised Dino was not given a cortisone shot for his shoulder at the time.

I speak with him about a problem and he will research specialists for me. It's really not interesting to write about, other than to say that our doctor can help us to understand and treat any medical problems that we have. Yes, we believe in socialized medicine...

Tonight is alzamaggio, the annual raising of a tree in our village, and although we'll both be in church for an hour during the middle of it, we'll take the painting up beforehand. Afterward, the family can take it home with them. I consider it a gift of affection and appreciation.

The event begins at 4PM, when the men meet and then take a big tractor down to the valley to pick out and cut a tall tree (22 meters or more). It's brought back to the fountain at the beginning of Via Mameli, where the road turns to the village. The men carry it on their shoulders up the hill from there. Everyone in the village comes out to watch.

It's a wonderful evening, and after the traditional raising of the tree, complete with banner, we all move inside for a grand festa. The painting sits above everyone on a stand perhaps originally built for a T V. But tonight, it's a painting in honor of the annual event, Alzamaggio, commemorating the real beginning of warmer weather, with a little abundance and fertility thrown in. Come no?

Before we leave at around midnight, Salvatore walks over to ask me when they can take the painting home. It's no longer ours, but there for the family to enjoy, so as long as they are careful (it's not completely dry), it can travel home with them, even tonight.

It's been a dear and special end to another treasure of a month in Mugnano.

A presto!

MAY 2010

May 1
The town of Bagnoreggio is more than it's famous vicolo (neighborhood), Civita di Bagnoreggio. On this day, we visit the flower mercato, wondering what we will find.

We're thinking of purchasing a tree with roots that don't spread wide for the raised planter above the parcheggio to lend shade in summer to that intensely hot area, and come upon a vendor selling bougainvilleas, and what better idea!

No, they don't provide much shade, but we're often led astray by new ideas...There are two salmon-pink plants flanking the assortment near the entrance, and we take them home with us. Before the day is out, they are planted and already look carina (pretty).

The walk through the mercato is fun, and Dino takes photos of the little side streets and passageways and open walkways for a future story. He likes to have a "mission" and this is a good one. I'm content enjoying the many things in view and Sofi sniffs away, especially liking spots other four-legged ones have discovered before her...

I'm still feeling a little woozy, after six migraines in a row, but work outside later at home with Dino to do some weed cleanup of senape (mustard) plants, growing wildly and quickly around the tall green bottles. They're pulled out by their roots and left in one spot, to cut and burn later. Skies increasingly form an anthracite colored roof over our heads, warning that rain is due, unfortunately, for many days in succession.

We do not attend mass in the afternoon. Instead, Sofi and I rest awhile and then work outside some more with Dino, including planting the tomatoes. Well, Dino does the planting of the tomatoes and basil, but I hand them to him while Sofi putters to and fro, wagging her tail. Afterward we sit inside, feeling tired from all the earlier walking. It's been a good day.

May 2
Just before the cannons erupt at 8AM, Sofi is plunked on top of the covers with me. Then noise, which erupts while I am in the shower in a succession of bursts, shakes Sofi to her very core.

We dress and all leave for our traditional Sunday drive to Il Pallone, and find the café almost deserted at 9AM. The market is bustling; its parking lot full. This weekend is a getaway weekend for Italians, with yesterday noted as the celebration of the worker.

Back at home, we change and walk up to mass while Sofi guards the house, holding umbrellas as insurance against showers that our patron saint, San Liberato, arranges to hold back for our ceremonies in his honor.

Angela from Attigliano, who is indeed an angel, and her husband, work inside the church guiding the Coro with last minute suggestions. Outside, the band plays and there is a ceremony for the caduti (fallen) from the wars.

At the appointed time, the front doors of the church open, the Confraternities of San Anselmo (Bomarzo) and San Liberato (including Dino, in front with a lantern) walk in.

The bust of the real San Liberato is displayed upon a pepperino base in front of the altar, while members of the Mugnano confraternity arrange the bier for the full-sized statue we revere and take around town for his once-a-year walk.

This statue is one of a generic abbot, but we revere him just the same. Don Renzo assures us that this is a natural thing to do. Some year, some year...I say to myself, we'll make a "man" out of the bust in front of the altar, fantasizing flowing robes below his spectacular chest and shoulder and head, where he wears a gold abbot's hat.

We in the Coro are joyous, and sing our hearts out, with Federica leading us. Angela also supports all of us, turning around to lead the congregation in song whenever it is appropriate. It's difficult not to love Angela, or her husband, whose great tenor voice and piano augment the high notes we don't really hit. Just the same, we receive many complements.

The procession near the end of the service reminds me of the many in which we have participated since 1997, this time with Dino and Donato at the lead carrying the lanterns, followed by Enzo and Otello taking turns carrying the huge wooden crucifix.

Earlier, while sitting with the Coro facing the side of the church, with Dino facing toward me at the side of the altar, I looked out at the many friends gathered, and was reminded how at home we feel in this special place. I could not imagine living in any other place in this world.

Do you participate in the town or village or city in which you live? It seems for us the most natural thing; to give back, to belong to and work for a larger cause...something to believe in.

We eat a simple pranzo, while I wonder about the huge pranzos being served all over the village. Hopefully people will be awake at 4PM, when magicians arrive for the children and then at 5:30 for a gospel concert in the chiesa (church). It will be good to watch this time, although I'm quite tired and would rather rest. This morning's events were very emotional for us, and it takes time to "come down" from them.

The magician arrives at the ex-scuola, and he is quite young, perhaps even a teenager.

There are enough children to entertain, but it's not a venue we're particularly interested in, so we walk around and then drop Sofi off at home before returning to the church for the gospel concert.

This group is from a nearby town, Attigliano, and with the marvelous Angela at their helm, we're entertained joyously. I sit in the front row with my Coro buddies, and at the start of the performance, Angela laughs toward me and asks the Americans to not pay attention to their pronunciation. I quip that we won't, as long as they don't pay attention to any mistakes we make when speaking Italian.

It is a love fest, with people joining hands and doing "the wave" and clapping. Even Rosina, seated next to me, smiles sweetly as I take her hand to join in with us. I look at her when singing a refrain, and she joins in somewhat shyly. Later, I tell her friends that she speaks excellent English. Again, she smiles but nods her head in a "magari" (if only that were so) mode.

At the AMEN chorus at the end, Angela calls our coro up, and I find myself in the center of the first row, singing joyously just the same. Here we are....

We're back at home for a bit, then drive down to Pietro's for a celebration of sorts while the fireworks display bangs away. Sofi is frightened, si certo (yes, of course), and I hold her in my arms while sitting on the couch; sneaking a peek at the explosions of color through the distant doorway now and then. Her comfort is more important to me than the show, but it's always fun to spend time with our friends.

The fumes and smoke are a bit much for Dino, and we offer to host it next year at our house, which is higher up on the hill. Pietro thanks us, but tells us he'll always view them at home just the same. Va bene.

Looking back upon the day, it is clear that we are a part of this place, as important to it as the threads in a colorful tapestry. As we get ready to take up the banners, their muted tones, once bright rose and blue, remind us that it is their pentimento, or change, that enhances their character. No, we will not have new ones made this next year.

May 3
Dino takes off early to do the rounds of Guardea, Tenaglie, Amelia, and before he returns home, Sofi and I have spent the morning together in the garden and also at the computer, doing research about Paris.

I'd love to take a painting workshop, but since my medium is oil, it's impossible to take whatever I produce back with us. Do I take a lesson in pastels? That way, I can spray the efforts with lacquer and pack them. Or will I just draw?

I'd love to do a still life of something we pick up at a daily market, but until we spend more time in one place, it won't be realistic. Perhaps it's best that I seek inspiration by visiting galleries and museums and browsing in bookstores.

Before beginning the painting of the two Andreas, I want to "fix" several of the paintings of which I'm not satisfied. Fortezza is the first, and she looks better now, her eyes more well-defined. Next will be Gino, whose rosy complexion will be toned down a bit. Then it will be Hildegarde, whose face needs a bit of doctoring; her eyes made more grey. I enjoy the time, the lack of anxiety to rush a piece.

After pranzo, we drive together to Viterbo for errands, but accomplish little. Some days are like that. Under overcast skies we return, garden a bit, and that is that.

May 4
We need to renew our Permesso di Soggiorni(permits to stay) in the next couple of weeks. Better get the ball rolling.

With a forecast of rain, we wake to very heavy skies. It feels as though we are being choked with wetness, just waiting for the rain to begin.

We drive to Viterbo in the middle of the morning, after prima colazione (breakfast) in Bomarzo, and our first stop is in Viterbo Sud to ask a supplier we've used before about the pizza oven. He does not have what we want, nor does he sell skylights (Pietro wants one for his workshop), so we drive through back roads and get lost but have fun.

After many twists and turns on country roads, we return to civilization, still in Viterbo, and park at the Questura (state police) while Dino walks up the stairs of this oh-too-familiar building to ask about the renewal of our permits to stay. The drill is similar to the last, beginning with a trip to one of the selected post offices to pick up 2 kits, one for each of us.

After a few more errands, we return home, eat pranzo, and prepare to return to Franco's to meet with a man about the outdoor pizza oven. This morning, we stopped at a place in Orte Scalo, but the person who waited on us tried to sell us an old one that appears to have sat outdoors for ten years or so. I silently steam, and when we return to the car say to Dino, "I know one thing. We will not buy our oven here, no matter what he has"...

"Why?" Dino asks. "...because he treated us with such a lack of respect that I want nothing to do with him".

We meet in nearby Lugnano with a man we believe is Franco's brother, Tulio. When we introduce ourselves, he tells us his is an ancient Roman name. Should I tell him that my name is an invention born of a fight between my mother and father, neither wanting to relent to the other? My father's mother's name was Eva; my mother's brother's name was Calvin, whom we lovingly refer to as "Calvinwhodiedinthewar". Bah DUM bum. Tulio, on the contrary, is proud of his name and smiles as he repeats it to us.

Yes, Tulio can order just the right bread/pizza oven we want, and at a much lower price that others have quoted. It is good to develop relationships, and to business with those one knows. Perhaps that's one of the reasons we make stranieri (foreigners) happy when Dino does projects for them.

It is being a stranger that often makes one feel uncomfortable in a new land. We remember that vividly. Although there is that certain something about being somewhat different, or foreign, that appeals to us here, we're not expected to be involved with families in their daily rituals and can live our own lives just as we want. To us, it's an ideal way of life.

As we drive home under rainy skies, Dino reminds me that we have to stake the tomatoes in the next days, but each day is so wet...Perhaps we'll do it in the rain, for the temperature is mild.

May 6
Last night in bed, the third nosebleed in a row for no apparent reason strikes, and I lie in bed for the rest of the night wondering what it means. Later we'll make an appointment with our doctor, but he probably won't be able to see us until next week.

Rain, rain, rain, covers us and follows us wherever we go. This morning we drive Pietro and Helga to the chiropractor in Viterbo, a man who speaks good English. It is good to know of one nearby, just in case.

We stop at LIDL afterward for the latest bargains: this time a bread maker for Pietro and a lawn chair with just the right scrim for me, both at incredibly low prices.

Dino receives a call that his appointment in Amelia at the hospital is earlier than originally scheduled, so he drops us off at home and drives on to a falegname (woodworker) in Alviano Scalo for a consultation about our kitchen table. We want the top removed and the rest of the structure strengthened; afterward we'll secure the new marble top. Tullio told us yesterday that it will take about a week for them to deliver it to us. That's plenty of time.

Rain, rain, rain continues, and everywhere the countryside is lush; so lush, in fact, that I'm wondering if our ripa (bank) will slide down onto Via Mameli. We don't own the ripa, nor do we own the walkway to San Rocco; it's a mini war between the Comune, who owns the path and the Università Agraria, who owns the bank, as to whose responsibility it is to repair the 800-year old wall of ours that has fallen down.

This damage is due to the Comune's lack of maintenance of the path. I imagine a new wall built up from the street, covering the ripa, with a fence at the edge of the path, a stabilized path and a repaired wall to hold in our land. Yes, that's me, the dreamer. Now that we have a new mayor, perhaps it's time to revive the original request.

Whoa! Thunder! How long will this last? Sun tries to break through as there is a knock on the door. It is Roberto Pangrazi, the geometra, here to take photos and measurements of the proposed second (!) bathroom. I thought one could not add more than 10% to their existing footprint, but Roberto seems upbeat about it, telling me he'll do the calculations and let us know.

Before he leaves, I ask him about the ripa and if the new sindaco will possibly be able to respond more positively. He gives me one of those looks. Boh!

After he leaves, thunder returns. We see no letup in the forecast, and plan to leave on Monday morning for Paris for four days to visit our pals Bob & Lindsey. Rain in Paris is fine, and we're prepared. I like the idea of sloshing in the rain a la Gene Kelly.

Oh, Roberto forgot to leave the name of the moon suit people with me who can remove the asbestos roof of the loggia. Dino will call him when he returns from Amelia, there to schedule therapy for his back. I can't be trusted to remember much of anything these days.

I used to be a whiz regarding music...I could usually name a song in three notes...and was quite good at trivia...but these days, who knows?

Dino wants to take the kitchen table to a new falegname (woodworker), and we have trouble getting it out of the front door...then we can't fit it into the little yellow Fiat. So Dino drives the car to Pietro's to borrow his station wagon, but it won't fit in there, either.

Dino returns and moves the table into the front entryway. Tomorrow, if it's clear, we'll mount it on top of the Fiat. One thing is for sure. We'll be able to get it back inside easily, for the top will be taken off and the table base will be strengthened. In the meantime, we'll use sawhorses and a table top from the studio where paints have sat.

I take out the sewing machine and re-sew a new shower curtain liner to the correct length, and wonder when I'll begin the quilts for the girls. Perhaps we'll pick up some wonderful trinkets to add to them in gay paree.

As the rains continue, I research St. Peter of Verona, after emailing Don Francis to ask him more about my upcoming assignment. Since he was martyred by having the top of his head hacked off with an axe, I wonder if he is the patron saint of headaches, but he is not.

There is some relationship between migraine headaches and nosebleeds, but I learn that I need more Vitamin K as well as magnesium. Do I believe any of this? I'm not sure, but we need to up our intake of broccoli. There is plenty of broccoli in Italia, but it's a pretty boring vegetable.

It's chilly enough for a fire tonight with all the rain drumming down outside, but I go to bed early instead. Rainy nights are great for sleeping, but I do miss the bird songs...wonder what the birds do when it's raining?

Will we ever slow down? I'm tired just reading the things we've done day after day. Didn't we come here to have a relaxed life?

May 7
We're traveling to Paris for several days next week and that is exciting. In addition to drinking up all the eye candy treats in art, I'm thinking we can hear some gypsy jazz, a la Django Reinhardt, and note some cafés where we can take it in.

If you don't know the name, Django was a fixture in underground jazz during WWII in Paris, and played with Stefan Grapelli (on the violin) as forerunners of The Hot Club of San Francisco, who play in the Bay Area (or at least they did when we lived there in the early 00's).

Here in the village, dappled sun tries to break out; Dino decides we need to put the car out in the street before plunking the table on top, so that is what we do. It is sunny enough for him to take off for Alviano Scalo, where a woman woodworker (say that three times, fast) will take off the top of the table and secure the legs.

I'm dreaming of doing a white wash on the table once it is back; soon we'll find someone to make a slipcover for the sofa in the kitchen and the look will change to blue and white and yellow. It's not inconceivable that we will turn the room into more of a gypsy-French style. Just because we live in Italy, we don't have to adhere totally to Italian style. Can you imagine Dino with a Provencal bandanna tied around his head? Ha ha.

It's a good thing that the people of Italy are so welcoming and the place is so charming; or we'd be living in the French countryside. It's the people there, especially in Paris, who tend to behave as if they're they retired NBC peacock, if you know what I mean.

I hear from Don Francis, and since he wants one of the paintings I'll do for his church to include clouds opening up to reveal a religious inspiration, clouds become a focus of my vision, and there are plenty to study.

Today's weather is not very mild, and although there is birdsong outside the window, it is as if it's a drowned-out kind of slow chatter. Do birds gargle? These seem pretty waterlogged after another night of rain.

I'm going to begin the painting of the two Andreas in a minute, but am fantasizing a gypsy French kitchen, inspired by the colors of Roussillon, in Provence. We have some pure colors from there in a bright dark blue, a terra cotta and a yellow, but don't know how to mix them to use with oils.

When I attended Marco's bottega, he did not want to help me to mix them, saying instead I should just try. I bet I can find some one who speaks English in Paris who will teach me. Oh, I can hardly wait!

With the Euro down to €1.26, from a high of €1.60 (!), life is a bit easier for us, but we're hoping it will continue to dive for a while. There is still support for the dollar when other currencies, like the euro, show signs of strain.

It is difficult to believe that when we purchased our property in 1997, the exchange rate was $.60 to €1. Well, the euro had not taken over at the time, but that's what we paid and yes, it was a great investment. Best of all, it was an investment in our peace of mind. These days, we hardly listen to the news anymore, just a NYT online glance, interested instead in the daily life of our village.

Dino staked the tomato plants by himself after pranzo, after visiting a client site. All is well and the tomatoes look great.

I've just received an email from a woman in Foligno, who is a faux painter (she is probably not faux, but does the technique:). Formerly from Mill Valley, she'll travel anywhere to do commissions. Email me if you're looking for someone like her.

I replied to tell her to not let work cloud her perspective. Networking is what we don't do these days, although we certainly know a lot of people here, as well as there (San Francisco Bay Area).

Yikes, the idea of networking horrifies me. Imagine that it was what we did all day every day before we moved here. My heart is racing, so let's talk about the garden...

This place is like a symphony: first the peonies, then the pergola full of rosa banksia and the wisteria, then the brown and peach colored iris, and the many roses, which bloom off and on all summer. Well, the Lady Hillingdons are just gorgeous now leaning over the front path, like bowsprits (haha Sarah..)

Everything is lush, especially the two philadelphus, which are enormous. Dino now tells me he wants a little lawnmower and sure, as long as it's not a weed-wacker, that's fine. Those things scare the heck out of me. Perhaps he's enjoying the garden, which he tends beautifully and conscientiously.

I admit my short-term memory is so bad that he can't rely on me to remember small things. Today I spent the entire morning painting the staircase surrounding the two Andreas and forgot completely about the laundry. Sorry, dear Dino. It's who I am these days.

Dino wants to move the bread oven in the plan of the new loggia from the first place we agreed, and shows me. It makes sense. I then show him my design of the new bathroom, and don't give him much chance to redesign it. It's what I want, no matter how long it takes to do it, although he smartly recommended that it be on the bedroom floor, instead of the bottom floor.

When we go to bed, all is soggy outside. Purtroppo....

May 8
There is a cannon blast at 8 AM, so another village in the area must be having a festa. Dino tells me it's nearby Chia (pronounced kee-ya). Sofi moans for a minute, but then settles down. The loud noise frightens her.

We're surrounded by fog, but I don't imagine it will clear to sunny skies. We can only hope. After breakfast, we return to Alviano Scalo and meet Laura the woodworker and her husband. They are working on the table when we arrive, and fifteen minutes later, it's ready to take home.

After dropping of the table, we drive to Viterbo for errands and to pick up a roast chicken and return home for pranzo.

We're excited about the wisteria over the front pergola, and it has grown so much that the pergola is almost completely covered and the tendrils reach way up into and on top of the balcony. Dino and I walk out there and rework the growth and tie it up to encourage the growth. Since I've read that one should cut wisteria twice a year, think we should do that soon. The coverage is enormous.

The table still needs to be stabilized, so Dino nails and glues a panel of thin plywood, 1 cm thick, to the top. We're thinking once the piece of white travertine marble is placed on top, it will be quite stable. Franco confirmed that the table will be fine. We test the height of the table once the marble is put on, and I can sit comfortably at it. Things are looking good.

We put a pale wash on the table legs and base and drawer, with Dino painting and me rubbing the paint out lightly with a wet cloth, and it looks wonderful. So we'll put a clear satin finish on it and later we'll pick up gold paint and I can do some detail work on the legs. Dino thinks he will then put another clear coat over the gold. Va bene. By the time the tabletop arrives, we'll be ready.

While reading the NYT online yesterday, I learned that a so-called expert defines creativity as the ability to combine novelty and usefulness in a particular social context. I would never have imagined that the definition was so mundane, thinking creativity bore little resemblance to anything particularly useful. But then, what do I know?

I spend two sessions painting today, and love the red pants that one of the Andreas is wearing. Painting shadows and light as the colors show dark and light is a particular love of mine; I'm always amazed when I can paint it realistically.

Each time I attempt this style, I become a little more proficient. So I have an image of a woman in my mind, shown from the back with a towel draped around her mid-section, and will paint this for our new bathroom.

I say "new", but the room is only a dream at this point. We're waiting for Roberto, our geometra, to draw it out and tell us what we can and cannot do. Now even Dino wants to sit in the tub I've proposed. What have I created?

May 9
It's Mother's Day in Italia, and we're going out for pranzo. Not a good idea really, for everywhere will be crowded. But we've wanted to have pranzo with Helga and Pietro before she leaves for Norway. So we'll chance it.

Don Angelo brings a new priest from Sierra Leone. Not only is he a new priest; this is his first mass! He's a delightful man, Padre Augustin, and Dino takes his photo after mass. We tell him about San Liberato and yes, he'd like to have his photo taken with the statue.

We have sun for a change, and drive to Bomarzo for cappuccinos; then home for projects until we leave for pranzo. We love the pranzo at Il Fontanile in Alviano Scalo. There is so much window space that the verdant hills and nearby scenes are visible, especially from our room, the one where the pizza oven is housed. The food is great, too.

Back home, the first pass at the painting looks great, especially the red/orange pants, and I look forward to doing some painting later. The table downstairs also looks good, and Dino makes a support piece for the bottom before putting a clear coat on the legs. But time runs out and I never do return to painting. It will have to wait until at least Friday.

We spend time in the garden, and Candace and Frank arrive for a visit. I'm worried about Sofi, but we work out a way that she rushes out with them while I stand back, and before she knows it, she's in the back seat of the car.

I know she will have a wonderful four days with her godparents, who love her a lot. Nevertheless, I hate to see her stressed in any way, and today she acted especially needy.

May 10 to 13
We're in Paris for four days, so don't expect any Italian news while we're away. We'll be back on the 13th, so will write about life in Italy again on the 14th. In the meantime, we're looking forward to lots of eye candy, great food, good friends and inspiration.

C'e reviddiamo!

Paris is a very special place to us. We've been here before, but not in a place with friends where we can cook and hang out.

Before, we stayed at a hotel, and this visit is especially delightful, although Bob can't join us at the last moment due to a sudden job. He'll arrive next weekend. In the meantime, we have Lindsey, Bob's wife, to spend time with; it's their friend who has the flat where we're staying on L'Ile St. Louis.

For four days, we walk and walk,

although pick up five-day passes which allow us to take the marvelous Parisian subway system whenever the mood strikes us. After one day, we think we're pros.

I don't find a person or the right shop to discuss mixing French powders to paint on canvas, but am sure I can find out online what to do. So this mission is not a big deal, and we mostly walk to take in the local scene.

There is an enormous antique market while we are there, and the three of us see it all; Lindsey and Dino walk it together, while I take another route and silently take in a visual panoply of treasures on my own.

I find Lindsey after an hour or so, for they have split up by then to find me, and all works out well. We have bought...nothing, although continue our quest for a stone angel for our cemetery plot.

Our dream of buying Coquille San Jacques (scallops), olives, cheeses and artisan bread (oh!...the bread!), tartlets and wine comes true, and after a long walk one day, this meal is divine. There is an orange piece attached to each scallop, and the fishmonger tells us that this is a specialty available only once a year.

After research on an internet cooking site we agree to sauté it in butter for one minute on each side in a pan, then add two glasses of champagne on top before serving it in bowls. The result is beyond, beyond...Take a look!

Another night, we have roast chicken with olives and bread (oh! The bread!), cheese and fruit, and after dinner we put the carcass of the chicken in a pot with celery and onion and carrot and peppercorns and the next day we have chicken soup for lunch. Of course there is always more wine and cheese and olives and....

We eat out once, at a little brasserie, and on another night, Lindsey replicates the amazing eggplant dish she is served. She's an expert at cooking eggplant, and for some reason I am not. I pledge to myself that I will learn this recipe, as well as gain knowledge of cooking divine dishes with this purple-colored vegetable, one beautiful enough to capture on canvas. Yes, I am missing painting, but so what?

There's a trip to the Pompidou center to view a Lucien Freud exhibit, and it is quite bizarre, with its huge nude men hanging out on the canvas. His is a technique of painting oils in dark and light grades to present a somewhat angular but lifelike image.

I'd like to give the technique a try. So Dino sneaks photos (one is not allowed to photograph the exhibit) and I'll study them later. Thanks, Dino.

By the time we go to bed at night, we're so very tired. Our feet and legs are really feeling strain, but we are exhilarated by the outdoor activity. Spending time with Lindsey is a joy; we love the flat and it is really rather grand, with a view of the Seine and a lovely garden across the street.

Each day, Dino takes "the dog" (a canvas tote on wheels), and it's a wonderful way to shop when one is on foot. We're always in the car when we shop in Italy, so this cart won't really work for us at home.

We leave Lindsey in the afternoon of the last day, and travel by subway to the place where we'll catch the special bus to the airport, where Ryanair will take us back to Rome.

No, we've nothing negative to say about this carrier: they are straightforward about what they offer: a cheap way to fly. It would be good if they would alter their inability to let a passenger rebook at the same cost if unable to take a flight due to circumstances beyond their control. But I'll leave that up to the traveling public and Ryanair to sort that out.

We're home at around midnight, and it appears it rained for the four days we were away, just as it did in Paris.

May 14
Yes, we're tired, but up early for a doctor's appointment in Viterbo. He laughs when we show him the photo of him in the journal from our last visit, and tells me he wants me to do a painting of his daughter. Si, certo, but we also want them to come for a visit.

I'd like to learn more about her before determining how I would paint her. Bit by bit, I'm getting work, and now I have a list of paintings to do, and it's everything I've dreamed in the way of feeding the creative urges inside me.

I've really missed little Sofi, and we arrange to meet Candace and Frank and take them to Il Caio for pranzo. Sofi remembers me, yes she does, and stays right by my for the rest of the day.

We love Il Caio, a hunting lodge near Lake Cobara, and it is our new favorite destination. Candace and Frank like it, too, although it is pouring when we drive there and back, the rain not letting up much all day.

Back at home, it's time to unpack and put luggage away, spend some time talking about the new ideas we have for the upstairs addition, and then I leave for a cena (dinner) with my Coro buddies to thank Angela and her husband and Don Renzo for helping us learn the music we sing in church.

It's a fun evening, more fun than I imagined, but the food this time at Il Fontanile is a disappointment. Their pizza is interesting, but the antipasto is not, nor is the dessert. Meals with groups hardly ever seem worth the effort in a restaurant, and this one is more of the same.

Now that we love Il Caio, Il Fontanile will find its way back down on our list of places to visit for a meal. It must be so difficult to own a restaurant, for attendees are such a fickle lot, including us...

I arrive home to the saddest news imaginable; Dino's brother, James Paul (aka J.P., Jim), had a massive heart attack at work and is in a coma...a few hours later he is dead.

So we end this night with a prayer for Jim's safe travel and a reminder of the difficulty one has being so far away when family tragedy strikes. It is the price we pay for living here. Telephones and SKYPE and email help, but they are no real substitution for an in person hug, which is what I imagine doing with all our loved ones in the San Francisco Bay Area on this night.

Good night, dear J.P.

May 15
Dino is so very sad, but there is nothing much to say. Rain overhead continues, and he gets ready to drive Pietro to a wedding on Lake Bolsena this afternoon. I put on a Steve Martin movie, which brightens his spirits, and fix an early pranzo with some of his favorite things, before he leaves. I am hopeful that Pietro will console him on the drive, for he is so very experienced handling family tragedies as his role as a Lutheran Priest for all his career.

Sofi and I rest, and take a nap while birdsong and the sound of gentle rain on the pergola whispers outside the open window. It is a day of quiet meditation.

Dino arrives home before we know it and tells me that we are invited to cena at NonnaPappa by Pietro, including dear Sofi. We don't realize until we're ready to leave the restaurant that today is Sofi's 7th birthday...Seven years ago tonight we were robbed mightily but on this night all is well. "Sempre avanti!" (...Always forward), our neighbors remind us...

May 16
A friend from San Francisco emails us to tell her that she heard from the woman whose house they rented in Italy a year or so ago. Her husband was in a bicycle accident recently and was deemed brain dead, so she finally agreed to have the hospital "pull the plug".

She is devastated and our friend wants to send a contribution in his honor, but does not know if it is appropriate to do such a thing in Italy. We'll have to ask.

Our feelings are a bit sensitive due to Jim's passing, and I am surprised that the woman was able to issue that kind of directive. Italians don't believe in euthanasia of any kind. It is even extremely difficult to find a vet to put an animal to sleep here.

We have directives in our wills, but don't know if they will be followed if the time comes. One can only hope. Tiziano assures us that it is indeed appropriate to give a donation to a favorite charity in some one's honor. That's good to know, and we pass the word along.

The forecast is for showers today, but sun is expected to return tomorrow for the following ten-days. I look out our bedroom window and the pomodori look good, so hopefully we've not lost them to all the rain. It appears they have not grown, for they need sun, so perhaps the first fruits will not appear for a while. Fa niente.

Don Angelo is our priest, and today's Coro consists of MarieAdelaide, Rosina and me. We forge ahead, including one of my favorites, Symbolum, during Communion. At the last minute I slide past MarieAdelaide to participate.

Before mass, there is a grand cacciarata (lot of talking) in the church. Augosto sits next to Dino, and tells him that his father wanted to name him Liberato, but his mother insisted that since he was born in August, his name must be Augosto. If he did have his father's choice of name, he and his wife would be a wonderfully named pair, in honor of our two patron saints, Vincenzo and Liberato.

They are quite wonderful, just the same. Augosto continues that his father served in the war (WWI or II?) and was injured. After the war, it was too difficult to live in this little village, so he moved to Rome.

At that time in the borgo, ropes were lowered carrying pitchers to fill with water from the well. I recall someone saying that animals lived on the ground floor of the houses until the 1950's, hence the "first" floor in Italian houses/buildings, is what Americans refer to as the second floor in Italy. It all sounds carina, but not very hygienic.

As the months continue, we'll learn more and more about circumstances in our village, as well as the names and relationships between families. We hold this place in our arms in a tender embrace, so very thankful for the gift we've been given that allow us to live in this very spot. How lucky we are.

Yesterday, we received the Mediterranean Garden journal for April, 2010. We are members, but I admit I hardly ever read it. Today I do, and would like to share a little with you:

Caroline Harbouri, the President of the Association writes about "...the importance of personal choice and the absurdity of rigid rules". She continues to say that "open discussion encourages thought and that thinking about what we do or don't do in our gardens is the first step towards a potential reassessment of things we have perhaps simply hitherto taken for granted.

"That water is a very precious resource is something we all know...But how much, if any, water we are justified in using is a different matter.

"To get back to political correctness: the question of water use is so fraught with moral connotations...that many people somehow feel somewhat defensive in the use of water in their gardens".

What is "right" and what is "wrong" is bantered about, although Caroline feels that it is healthy to have a number of views on the subject. I applaud her for that.

There is a suggestion regarding the process for the monitoring of average annual rainfall, but it's too paranoid an activity for me. The association is an excellent one for folks all over the world, just the same, so we endorse its membership highly. We also enjoy attending the events, to get together periodically with others who share an interest in gardening.

We return to Il Pallone for cappuccinos and glassattas and then shop for food; we eat early so that Dino can attempt to watch a Formula-1 race on the computer, but he cannot. Sky TV has not altered its relationship with the organization, so at least for this year, Dino will be out of luck...and to make it worse BBC5 radio has lost the broadcast rights also!!!@#$$!

Since it's cool and dreary, it's a better idea to get into bed for an hour or so and hug. We're both feeling vulnerable, but enough said...

May 17
With our permits to stay running out, we take our papers to ASL, the arm of the government that monitors health care, to renew our medical cards. If you do not recall, we endorse the Italian medical system highly. Let's see what we think of it when we stand at a window for an extension of our health care...Once we are citizens we will not have to pay!

Well, I am amazed; I am just amazed. There is no problem at ASL, although we arrive an hour early and return again after picking up a number.(One almost always has to pick a number from the red machines near the door for anything bureaucratic. Not knowing or forgetting puts one at the back of the long line...again.)

Anyway, the new regulations are in my favor. For residents over sixty years of age, there is no ticket fee! Unfortunately, while we waited for them to open we went to a CUP (window where one makes appointments and pays a small fee for them), we paid about €24 for an appointment for me with a doctor tomorrow. Dino will see if he can get a refund. Ha! Magari (if only that were so...)

We're able to get an appointment tomorrow at Bel Colle, the main hospital in Viterbo known more as Brutto Colle (ugly hill, for it appears on the outside to have been built by the low bidder with inferior work, the stains looking as though it has survived a flood). But not knowing better, we pay for the ticket.

Rain off and on continues all afternoon, while Dino drives around and around the city, knowing every shortcut and finding a plumbing part here, an electrical part there, metano at the local station...We return to tell our good doctor about tomorrow's appointment, for he will call the doctor he wants me to see, to tell him to show up.

Now the Italian medical system is a wonder, but it takes knowledge to maneuver within it. To have tomorrow's doctor's visit covered by a specific doctor takes some doing. Usually there are a group of doctors who participate in any given type of care; it is not possible to ask for a particular one. Well, it is possible to ask, but impossible to know which doctor one will get. That is, unless the doctor knows in advance and shows up and requests that he/she takes a particular patient.

Dino walks into our good doctor's clinic and sees him. He tells the doctor about my appointment late tomorrow morning, and the doctor tells Dino he'll call his friend from the car in the morning...he's going to play golf.

Our doctor is obsessed with golf. His work is so stressful that I'm happy he has a hobby that takes him away from his work. When we visit him, he is like a laser beam, knowing just what to do, what to recommend. We're so very fortunate to be in his care.

During all the running around a migraine surfaces, and by the time we arrive home I'm in no shape to attend Coro practice late tonight. MarieAdelaide sits on the bench outside the parcheggio (parking area) with friends, and Dino walks down to tell her not to expect me.

By the time Sofi and I go up to bed, I'm a bit dazed by headache free.

May 18
We wake to a colorless sky (how many times have I written that this Spring?) and wonder if the sun will ever appear again. But by mid-morning there is plenty of blue sky, dotted with clouds to remind us that paradise is not all perfect.

I have an appointment at just before noon at the main Viterbo hospital, and keep my mind busy so I won't be nervous. Because you all want to know what our experiences are like, I'll describe this one...just a little.

The doctor's appointment is with a proctologist, and I don't know if we'll get the doctor Dr. Bevilacqua knows, or if our doctor forgot to call and is on the golf course anyway. Fa niente (No matter).

The hospital is a brute of a building with two sides that don't seem to be on the same levels. We enter a side door (there is no formal entrance, just a lot of doors) and approach an elevator.

We are instructed to go to level (-1), which one would think would be su (down). But we are really on level (-3), so ju (up) is the direction we're seeking. Luckily, it is spelled out in Braille and in numbers, so we can see the correct floor and press the number.

Our paperwork tells us to go to Sala 19 (room 19), so we meander around and around and find it, only to have to stand outside until someone opens the door. Others stand around, and usually one asks the others, "Ultima?"(Who is last in line?) But these people are waiting for the room that updates pacemakers, so I'm alone outside Sala 19. I tell Dino I can do this myself, so he tells me he'll wait in the waiting room.

I'm feeling a bit confident when a woman attendant opens the door and ushers me in. The doctor behind the metal desk is Emanuele Piccioni (Manny Pidgeon). He is young and friendly, and even speaks a little English.

After I tell him why I am there, we speak in both Italian and spotty English and then he tells me that he must examine me. There is an examining couch in the same room, and the reason I tell you this is that he puts on a glove and tells me he must "visit me"!

I laugh out loud, and when it is over, tell him that there is another way to say what it is he needed to do. We all laugh. Should I have responded, "Prego!" ? That is what one responds when a person stands at the door and wants to politely ask, "Permesso?" (if they may enter.) Another response could have been "Accommodati" (make yourself comfortable), but then I'm interested in my comfort, not his...

The rest of the visit is unimportant, other than the doctor's last name is the same name as a friend in Mugnano, Valerio Piccione, also from Vallerano. He tells me there are many pidgeons from Vallerano, but he does not know this one. Dino and I have a good laugh when I tell him what happened as we leave the hospital.

While I've been with Dr. Pidgeon, Dino returned to the CUP, where money is paid for treatment, and shows the woman the paper I now have that enables me to obtain medical care for free. Yes, free. So she refunds the money we paid yesterday for today's appointment after we provide the paperwork from the doctor. This is one amazing country in which to live.

On the way around Viterbo to look for a "Flymo" (small lawnmower), I look up at the sky and marvel at the wonder of life. Have you ever looked at a cloud in a blue, blue sky? The ones we see today are lovely, and I'll certainly paint beautiful ones for Don Francis' church. I'm sure that it is impossible to look at a cloud seriously and not be filled with wonder.

Maria Elena will arrive this afternoon with her friend for a visit and glasses of Prosecco. Earlier when we saw them talking with Maria the Sarda and Rita, they were trying to figure out her friend's name in Italian. His name is Olaf, named after the famous Norwegian king, so Dino recommends "Rei" (king). Maria wants to call him Rosa, thinking it's a beautiful name. Sorry, we'd have to be Sardinian to understand that one.

After pranzo, we garden (I pull out weeds while Dino tends the wild wisteria and yes, Pietro, hysteria is a better name for it). Sofi gambols about.

Maria Elena arrives with a Norwegian friend for Prosecco and a chat, and we sit in the middle garden. I miss her, and she is not here often from Norway, but every time I see her I feel happy.

I think often of mortality these days, with Jim's recent death on my mind, and everything I see appears clearer. I seem to embrace things in my mind as well as study them, wanting to hug them and thank them for being where they are in our midst.

Dino ties up a water-soaked Lavender Lassie rose, full of flowers and buds, while I take in the empty glasses and plates from the garden. We settle in for a quiet evening as we're surrounded by birdsong and I thank God for giving us another day.

May 19
We spend most of the day riding around Viterbo, looking for a daybed for the loggia and steel-toed work shoes for Dino, as well as a Flymo-type lawnmower. Yes, he is a contadini and I am proud of him. We return home with a Black and Decker. Although we are from consumer-crazy America, we realize that finding things in Italy is quite different. In addition, we want to shop around to be sure we've seen what the choices are before we make a major purchase.

More rain and more clouds, and an afternoon of sleeping fill up the day. I know I need to return to painting, but not today. It's a day to be lazy, and why not?

May 20
We have coffee in Bomarzo, and see a truck with the word "NICE" on it. That's the maker of our electrical gate, and Dino asks around until he finds Tiziano, the driver of the truck. Tiziano agrees to come to our house tomorrow to look at the problem. Va bene!

We spend much of the day in the car, traveling to and fro... Dino needs to make an appointment at the Orte hospital for rehab on his back, and Sofi and I wait in the square while he finds out that it will take a month or more to begin. Since I received treatment there years ago for the shoulder pain from violin playing and thought the people there did a fine job, I'm sure he'll do well there.

But then, there is the thought that this rehab won't do much, but we have to do it just the same, as it is what the specialist in Narni recommended. There is a doctor in Rome that does some kind of magic surgery where he pushes the disc back in place, but that surgery is in the future, if at all.

From Orte, we drive to Ripabianca to pick up our pots from Lazzari. The maestro is there and he's gruff with his men, wanting to get involved with everything. So we say hello and the young men pick up the pots and Dino and the maestro determine which way each one will slide into the back of the little fiat. They both fit fine, and Sofi can even squinch back there when she wants to.

Now we used to buy our pots from Carlo, also in Ripabianca, but his are not large enough for the size we need, so we've looked around and this bottega is full of artisans and produces just what we need in the size we desire.

If Deruta is the place to buy hand painted pottery, Ripabianca is the place to buy pottery grezzo, or before it is painted. Yes, I see you noting this in your book of sources for all things Italian...

Before we moved to Italy, we had lots of files, jam packed with notes about places to visit and people to consult with, as well as sources for different materials. These days, Dino keeps it all in his handheld computer, and is a whiz at keeping it up. I sit and daydream as he plunks in the details. Thanks, dear Dino.

We drive back home and Dino works with a piece of wood as a ramp and a triangular dolly to put the pots upside down, where he can cut out most of the bottoms of each one. Yes, it can be daunting, but he's good at what he does and he wants to undertake this. Afterward, Stefano and one of his men will bring the planters upstairs, where they will sit in place and the wood and base of the wisteria plants will be sunk inside them.

I fix pranzo; then we drive to Amelia for me to have an exam (ecocolordoppler) about my circulation. This appointment has taken four months to get, and when we are in the waiting room we are told that she takes people in the sequence in which they arrived; it has nothing to do with the timing of the actual appointment on paper. Boh!

We paid for the appointment before we knew it would be free, so Dino tries to get our money back, only to be told they need the doctor's actual paperwork. It's after 5PM and the cashier has left, so the doctor gives us her paperwork and tells us to bring it to her next Thursday when she returns to Amelia.

There's not much wrong with my circulation; nothing that medicine won't cure...so our good doctor will prescribe yet another type of medication and I don't have much to worry about. I don't know what I expected, but she used a kind of laser with a gel on the veins in my legs, and that is how she made her diagnosis.

We have a very windy afternoon, and arrive home to pink and purple and dirty-colored clouds in a partially blue sky. When will the sun ever return?

The two new wisteria plants are growing, sitting by the cypress trees on the terrace, and a couple of the flowers have fallen off in the hard rain. Purtroppo but at least one will flower, and at least we know that next year it will flower again...

May 21
We drive around looking for a daybed and for work shoes for Dino; he purchased his lawnmower, a Black and Decker, yesterday morning, and in the afternoon Mario arrived to weed whack. Mario was impressed, and finished the edging of the little grassy spot in the middle garden. The lawnmower does not do edging, so perhaps there will be some little gadget to do that, too. Whatever makes less work, that is his goal.

He finds perfect work shoes outside Amelia; then we drive across and above Orte to Vallerano to Agora, to see what they have in the way of daybeds. They have something, but it's expensive. Tartuaga, near Unopiu has one, too, and it's also expensive. Perhaps there is a better way...Or we'll take the Aurelia and see if there are any stores that sell outdoor furniture there at a good price.

Dino calls Stefano to tell him we're ready to begin part of the work and I can tell Stefano is groaning. He always has too much work to do. But he'll arrive Monday morning and that means we're on our way.

Did I tell you that we've agreed to wall up the front gate? Since we won't be changing the front of our property at all that way, we won't have to wait a year for a permit. Indigine (people who are born here) is what we're becoming, if that's possible. We're learning to maneuver the ways of the Italians, and it can be fun, as well as solve a bureaucratic problem.

Tiziano the electrician calls early, and arrives to look at the gate. Yes, a storm did damage the electrical system, and he'll return with the parts. Dino talks about installing our intercom system at the new gate, and he can do that as well. So we just need to pick one out and let him know. Perhaps he's a good electrician, and we are always on the lookout for one. Dino adds that contact information to his list...

We have pranzo, and then I decide to return to painting. The weather looks cloudy, and the forecast is for showers. What a weird Spring we're having!

We take a nap instead and wake up at 5 pm to work in the garden. Without a care in the world, I don't worry about finishing a painting. There are no deadlines as yet...so for now I'll relax and paint when I want to. Dino feels the same way.

With happy and good financial news, we take a bottle of Prosecco to Pietro's to celebrate. We'll now be able to take on a few projects around the house and build our cemetery crypts, si certo!

May 22
Blue skies overhead tell us it's a day to be merry. We continue to look for a daybed for the new loggia room, and find a sofa at an amazing price that we'll put in out kitchen, and the old one will be moved to the loggia instead. Come no?

The covers on the new sofa are a creamy-white, but we're told we can take the covers to a Tintoria, where they can be made into a darker color. Yes, this will be yet another project, and we're unable to find one this morning that will qualify. There are six cushions and one cover piece, so they'll need a big machine...

Pagina Giallo (Yellow Pages in Italy, without Wally Segap, remember him?) gives us seven choices in Viterbo itself for Tintorias, so we'll check them out. In the meantime, the store will keep the sofa for us until we're ready to deliver it.

I'd like to give the work of covering the old sofa, which will move to the loggia, to Daniela, who lives in Mugnano and is a great seamstress, or so we are told, but don't know the level of her expertise. We'll try to locate her this next week and find out.

Dappled clouds do not turn to rain, so this afternoon I work with Dino on the pomodori to set up the irrigation system. Is it amazing that there has been so much rain that we have not needed it until now? Unfortunately, that means that the plants have not grown, and perhaps many of the flowers have fallen off in all the wetness. Let's be positive!

I'm researching St. Peter of Verona and immersed in a dialogue with Don Francis regarding the paintings I will do for his church, and perhaps even grotesques. We'll drive to Fornelli, near Isernia, next month to study the space and confer with him. We also need to research adhering canvas to the ceiling after the paintings have been completed.

This is a monster project...one that could take as long as a couple of years to realize. I can't think of a better project to take on as I slow down...Oh. Don't forget there's the family tree project for the people of Mugnano to complete...quasi subito.

When we arrived home for pranzo today, there were letters waiting for each of us to invite us to the Questura in two weeks regarding our citizenship! We are to bring our Permessos and our passports. Don't get excited...it's too soon...only fifteen months when it is supposed to take two years. Perhaps the letter from the sindaco (mayor) helped. If it comes true, get ready to party!

Oh, I'm too excited to paint. So I fix an eggplant Parmesan for movie night here with Pietro...we'll watch a Fernandel movie about Italy and have some laughs, for sure. I feel lighter than air!

May 23
I've written the story about Pentacost and the festa of the Palombella, and today we'll take Pietro to Orvieto to see it live at noon. First we'll go to mass and pick up Sofi and Pietro just afterward. I'm expecting a lot of noise when the dove in its protected cage sails down the wire to the front of the Duomo and a shaky Sofi in my arms, as Dino takes the photos for Italian Notebook. Do you want to know the story?

Celebrated in Piazza del Duomo at noon on the day of Pentecost, the 50th day following Easter, the feast of the Palombella commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Madonna and the apostles in the cenacle. This secular tradition has been celebrated annually here since the end of the fourteenth century.

In 1524, Giovanna Monaldeschi della Cervara left her estate, the Castello della Sala, to Orvieto's Opera del Duomo in her will, together with her wish that this festival would continue to be celebrated.

The Palombella was originally held inside the Cathedral until the Lateran Roman Council forbade the use of fireworks inside churches and places of worship, and the ceremony was transferred to the piazza outside the Duomo in 1846. A tabernacle in Gothic style with the figures of Mary and the Apostles was placed on the steps in front of the central portal of the Duomo, representing the cenacle.

At 12 p.m. the Bishop of Orvieto waves a piece of white linen from his Palace in front of the Cathedral. At this sign, the Master Mason lights torches placed around a sound proof cage that protects a dove from the noise of the fireworks and is tied with red ribbons. This cage slides rapidly along a wire toward the Cenacle erected in front of the main door of the Cathedral.

When the dove arrives at the Cenacle, a round of fireworks explodes and the red flames, of which the Scriptures speak, light up on the heads of the Madonna and the Apostles. People draw good or bad omens for the agricultural year from the outcome of the ceremony...and, according to the ancient tradition, the Bishop gives the dove to the latest bride in the town as a sign of peace and fertility.

Well, the real thing was just like that, except that Sofi and I hid in Chiara's amazing ceramics shop, Giacomini, located diagonally across the square from the Duomo while all the ceremony and a lot of noise and fireworks took place. Here we are after the fireworks finished and people begin to look for places to have pranzo...

Well, all is as the story is told, except that the master mason wears a dark blue t-shirt and a red plastic hard hat, certainly not in keeping with Giovanna Monaldeschi della Cervara's memories of the event.

Then it's time for pranzo with Pietro and Roberto and Renata (aka Bob and Penny from Mill Valley) at Il Coco, and it's fun, especially catching up with our once-a-year pals who will be here for six weeks.

Always by my side, here is Sofi under a chair, waiting for the pieces of pasta that I sneak to her. The little squeals she makes to get attention cannot be heard above the din of the restaurant, but she loves being with us, no matter where. Even while the fireworks and drums and trumpets blared earlier, she stayed in my arms and soulfully waited with me until relative calm returned.

Oh, the dove survived, so it should be a good year for the local crops. Cue the local vineyard owners of the Orvieto Classico...

Back at home, clouds appear after a glorious weather day, but they stay for only an hour and while we're visiting with Maria Elina and Olaf at her garden, the clouds disperse. She tells us that a William Pear tree is just what she wants to have planted there this fall, so let's make it happen for her!

We don't expect to see her until the end of August, but loved seeing her having fun with her new friend. Yes, he's fallen in love with little Mugnano, too.

We settle in for the evening, and while Dino downloads photos and sets them up to send or use in the journal, I stand in the guest room and iron. It seems too late in the day to take out the paints, so delving into the pile and making a dent makes sense for a little while.

As soon as I tire of it, I just stop. With no "have to's" in our lives these days, an ordinary activity can actually be fun. When it is not, why not stop?

Yes, this life is a dream. We hear that our priest, Don Renzo, will have a concert Saturday night, and of course we'll attend. I'm thinking of a surprise for him, so read on and see if it transpires...

May 24
There is a piece of music that plays on the SKY classical music station that stirs my soul. The lyrics are simple, but combined with the music are a wonder as they build to a crescendo:
"I believe in Heaven, I believe in love..." Dino tells me that if he puts his IPhone up to the speaker he can find out what the name of the piece is, and who wrote it. But I'm never sure when it plays.

In the meantime, I'm going to teach the Coro the words and music to Summertime and also Amazing Grace, as a surprise for Don Renzo. What fun! Take a look at the words of Summertime...and imagine 8 or 9 of us singing it...in Italian. What?

E la Livin 'e' facile,
I pesci sono Jumpin ',
E il cotone alto

"Oh, il tuo pap ricco,
E guardando bene la tua mamma ',
Silenzio che ti fa
Non piangere

"Una di queste mattine
Stai andando a salire il canto
Poi ti apri le tue ali
E ti porta al cielo

"Ma fino a quel mattino
C' a'nothing pu farti del male
Con il tuo pap e mamma in piedi da

'E la Livin 'e' facile
I pesci sono Jumpin '
E il cotone alto

"Il tuo pap ricco
E guardando bene la tua mamma '
Silenzio che ti fa
Non piangere"

Yes, you're telling yourself. I'm really nuts.

This morning we've a doctor's appointment, to fill him in on our latest visits, including Manny Pidgeon wanting to visit me. He'll check out the journal. In the meantime, he tells me to take a little aspirin every day for my circulation and ignore what the Dottoressa prescribed. He thinks her recommendation is ridiculous.

Peggio (worse) is a word Stefano our dear muratore uses when telling us about a problem in his family. He's really such a kind man, and we look forward to having him work here. First, he'll pick up the chestnut poles to sink into the planters so that we can plant the wisteria/hysteria/glicine in the two new planters. That is, after he cuts the bottoms out of them with the exception of the four corners, which Dino has marked.

What will the terrace looks like when Mary, our Mill Valley neighbor, visits us next week? With another place in the middle garden to eat at outside, it's not a problem. What is a problem are the slipcovers for the new sofa. They're not 100% cotton, which means they will shrink when dyed a darker color.

After consulting with four tintorias, we give up, and I'll make a kind of a tunic cover for the new soft for the kitchen. Yes, we can put it in the lavastovoglie (washing machine), but a white sofa is no fun to keep looking good. Take out the sewing machine, Evanne...

That means either buying material to sew, or look for slipcovers online, or have someone make them. Online we can't be sure they'll work, and most of the designs are right out of a college dorm. So we're on the prowl, remembering a place on the way to Dan and Wendy's near Umbertide that had a large selection. Or Rome...the heart of Rome.

Let's put that aside for today and paint a little while Dino works in the garden or sleeps by the tv (a little of both).

I work on the painting, with new eyes. It seems that I grow with each attempt, and I'm enjoying working on my own, with classical music playing and Sofi sleeping at my side. After a couple of hours, we join Dino in the garden.

First, we take a look at the new bathroom and sitting room off our bedroom that we are hoping to build. The geometra is working on it to see what we can do. So we think bigger, and have a new idea for the path for the middle garden...between the two huge cypress trees! I love the Philadelphus growing there, but perhaps it will agree to move to another spot.

With a little inheritance money now in hand, we can do a few thing around the house and pay some bills. Nothing extravagant, just adding a little comfort.

Dino puts the summer cover on the parcheggio while I deadhead roses, and a truck lumbers up the hill with Luigina and Giovanna hanging off the back, laughing and waving. Stefano Ippoliti walks by with little Lorenzo, who waves and gives me a kiss, while Sofi barks. "Bow Bow!" he tells her back.

It's been a glorious day, and tonight we have Coro practice. Don Renzo helps us to learn a kind of Gregorian chant, and he's a wonder. A fantasy of mine is that we will change to become a Coro that sings only Gregorian chants, but that's not likely.

I bring a surprise; two songs to learn, and although I think the idea will be fun, get mixed response from the other women. Better to let them be, and if they want to learn them, fine. Otherwise, it remains just another dream of mine.

We bid c'e reviddiano to Maria Elena and Olaf and at least she will be here at the end of August. If it pleases her, we hope he comes, too. We really like him, and of course adore her, so look forward to spending more time with them...

Outside, there are a couple of birds that chatter late at night, and their sounds are unique; perhaps one day Gemma will visit and teach us how to listen and to understand the different calls and be able to identify them. One day, one day....

May 25
We hope Stefano the muratore will come by this morning...and that he's ready to work on the new roof for the loggia room and to sink big poles of castagno into the planters. Then we'll be able to plant the two remaining pink ice glicine (wisteria/hysteria).

The men in the moon suits are taking something out of the village in the next day or so, so the geometra tells Dino he'll ask them to take our piece of asbestos, too, covering the loggia roof. I can't wait to get rid of it. But today is not the day for the moon men, and Stefano may not return with the huge castagno poles until the end of next week.

Dino and Pietro have a men's morning in Viterbo, looking for a camera for Pietro among other things. It's a good opportunity for me to continue to paint. I'm happy, very happy, with the way one boy's legs look. The more I draw, the more I learn about muscles and tendons and how they appear under skin. There is so much to learn, and I'm enjoying every minute.

I'm looking forward to clearing out the loggia in anticipation of the new roof, but Dino warns me that we don't want a mess while our dear friend Mary is here next week. I love getting rid of things, and some of those jams we made years ago are past their prime. Via! (go!)

Fog everywhere clears by mid morning to a hazy sun, and I'm going to fix pasta carbonara for pranzo. Dino likes anything cooked with bacon.

Here's a link to our recipe for Pasta Carbonara:


In the meantime, I return to painting to the sounds of birdsong in the joyful valley. Realizing how important the knowledge of muscles and tendons are when painting the limbs of humans, when I finish I see the legs appear just under the skin. Now it will be my task to add a thin layer of paint to represent the skin. What an amazing thing to learn, by accident!

I'm wondering about the beautiful pure pigments purchased from our trip to Provence, and look up the instructions on the web about how to mix them. I find a very interesting site, and learn about a man who learned to replicate nature in a very interesting way instead. How does his premise relate to the shape of a credit card? Read on, thanks to: http://www.renaissanceconnection.org

Background Leonardo Fibonacci was a Renaissance mathematician who generated a sequence of numbers that represent a "natural" order. The Fibonacci sequence is generated by adding the previous two numbers in the list together to form the next and so on and so on: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55... The Fibonacci sequence can be found throughout nature. Look closely at a cauliflower and you'll see two spirals running in opposite directions. Count the number of florets in one of the spirals and you will find they follow the Fibonacci sequence.

Divide any number in the Fibonacci sequence by the number before it, and the answer is always close to 1.61803. This is known as the Golden Ratio. Ratios are pairs of numbers used to make comparisons. Ratios can be written in different ways: 1 to 1.61803 or 1:1.61803, both meaning the same thing: the Golden Ratio. Like cauliflowers, snails too are touched by nature's golden ratio. Draw a rectangle in the proportions of the golden ratio, then draw consecutively smaller rectangles within it. Join diagonal corners with an arc. The result is a perfect snail shell.

Renaissance artists used the Golden Ratio to determine beautiful proportions in painting compositions. The proportion of land to sky in landscapes was figured using the Golden Ratio, and rectangular paintings were planned using the Golden Ratio to determine the sides of the rectangle: 1 to 1.61803. The composition of the Adoration of the Shepherds (Giovanni Agostino da Lodi) conforms to the Golden Ratio, where the width of the painting equals 1 and the height of the painting equals 1.6. If a perfect square is determined using the measurement of the width of the painting, you'll see that the figures occupy the square while the landscape in the background occupies the portion above the square.

The beautiful proportions of the Golden Ratio are still used today. If you measure a credit card, you'll find it is a perfect golden rectangle.

I fix the pasta carbonara for Pietro and Dino and myself with a simple green salad and strawberries and yoghourt and brown sugar for dessert. It is warm to eat outside, but the view of the wisteria arch from the kitchen is delightful.

Afterward, I return to painting, while Pietro returns home to play with his new camera. I still can't find suitable instructions for mixing pure pigments with linseed oil...

Tiziano the electrician has fixed the electric parcheggio gate, finishing just after Dino and Pietro returned, and we'll see him again after we put in our new intercom and install the new main gate.

It's such a lovely day, that Sofi and I want to play outside with Dino after an hour or so of painting and relaxing. To prepare the loggia for the new roof project, we take down all the jars of preserves that have been sitting on shelves and are amazed at how many we have that should be thrown out.

There's a lesson learned here...use it or lose it. Agreeing to save only what we've put up in 2008 and 2009, we're amazed at how many jars that date back to 2004! We must have had a good time putting them up.

I especially like the idea of not putting up anything but tomatoes this year. It's really a lot of work. Dino takes the jars and jams to recycling after cleaning out the contents, and the shelves are almost bare.

May 26
Sofi and I join Dino on his jaunts all over Southern Umbria. It is a kind of "day in the life" with Dino, and I can see that he is like a juggler...keeping all the balls of open projects up in the air and smiling all the while. He enjoys the work, as well as the interaction with all the suppliers. Yes, a friendly conversation goes a long way when needing to get a project done.

We stop at Franco's in Lugnano and next week will return some morning to document a story on their marble processing for Italian Notebook. It's quite amazing. So is he.

We order our bread oven, large enough for seven loaves or seven pizzas at a time (what a party!) and drive to Terni to find material to cover the white-ish new sofa. I know how to make a kind of tunic for it, but the grand store in Terni has nothing we can use.

Italians love complicated patterns, and there is no such thing as a simple stripe. So that means a trip to Rome to the area around Piazza Argentina, where all the tessutti (fabric) stores are located.

We're back for quick cheeseburgers and a salad and then return to meet a muratore.

After meeting Salvatore and giving him a key so that he can make an adjustment in a client's bathroom, we drive to Lorenzo's to discuss the design of the gate, which he is fabricating based on our design. We love his work, and his sense of design. After agreeing to a detail, he responds, looking at Dino, "La donna non ho convinta"(the woman is not convinced), and he wants to be sure I am happy. Yes, I am.

There is a shop in Attigliano, right down the street from the Attigliano offramp of the A-1, called Aste & Fallementi (overstocks and bankruptcies). There is always something there that we cannot find anywhere else.

Dino finds a hose reel to replace one on the terrace, we find a taupe matrimonial sized quilted cover that will work perfectly over the new divano (couch) in the kitchen, so our trip to Rome is not necessary, at least for now. We also find a white painted two-piece wooden storage unit with glass panels on the top and two doors on the bottom that will be perfect in the loggia for storage. We've been looking for just this kind of piece for over a year. And the price is lower than low. It is delivered immediately at no extra cost, with one of the workers following up the Mugnano hill in their camione (truck)

Cleanout time in the loggia continues, with the white pieces in need of another coat of paint, at least a clear coat, and the existing metal cabinet is moved to the gardener's cottage.

We decide to give the green sofa in the kitchen away, and Germano tells us he'll come to see if he wants it. The new one will be delivered subito (right away), and the piece for the loggia will come tomorrow morning. Yes, we know how to keep things moving...Will Mary enter a whirlwind when she spends a couple of days with us next week?

Despite the never-ending nightly parade of snails, I want to plant more lettuce, and this time we'll use broken eggshells again to keep them at bay. I hear that they don't like to slide over the sharp surfaces. We'll pick up more this weekend. But we have arugula seeds, so I'll plant them tonight, and that should surface in a few days.

Here's a recap of news around Italy from ANSA (scroll down past the italics to return to the regular journal):

< News in English > News
Italian priest arrested for alleged child abuse Fresh blow to Church after series of scandals 26 May, 15:38

Italian priest arrested for alleged child abuse (ANSA) - Rome, May 26 - An Italian priest has been arrested for alleged child abuse in a fresh blow to the Catholic Church, which has been shaken by a series of pedophile scandals.

Domenico Pezzini, 73, was detained by police in Milan earlier this week on suspicion of having sexual relations with a boy, who was 13 at the time of the alleged abuse. He is now 16 and living in a home for children needing special care and protection.

Child pornography was found in the home of the priest, who lives and works in Milan even though he answers to the Dioceses of the northern city of Lodi, police sources said.

"We are deeply saddened by the news of Don Domenico Pezzini's arrest, which took us completely by surprise," Lodi Bishop Monsignor Giuseppe Merisi said. "We are waiting for more details to help us clarify the nature of the affair, which we will look into with rigorous respect for Canon law and with faith in the criminal prosecutors".

Pezzini is well known on the local gay scene, having been involved in groups of homosexual Catholics since the 1980s. The Catholic Church does not view having homosexual impulses as wrong, but it does believe it sinful to act on those impulses. The news is another big knock after child sex abuse scandals hit the Catholic Church in the United States, Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Germany and Italy.

Young adults 'forced to stay in nest'
Italy 'risks losing a generation. Rome, May 26 - More and more young Italian adults are living with their parents because they can't afford to move out, according to a new report that prompted a top sociologist to warn Italy faced the risk of "losing a generation".

The proportion of Italians stuck at home out of necessity rather than choice has tripled since 1983, national statistics agency Istat said in its annual report.

The statistics appeared to contradict a contention voiced by several ministers in Premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right government, most notably Civil Service Minister Renato Brunetta, who have accused young Italians of being 'Bamboccioni' or Mamma's Boys who choose to stay in the nest to make their lives cosier, rather than trying to make their way in the world.

On the contrary, said sociologist Chiara Saraceno, the risks posed by a 'lost generation' with no prospects is "Italy's real emergency". Only children "who are lucky to be born into the right family" can be sure of avoiding the trap, said Saraceno, an internationally renowned expert on welfare systems.

"Young people with more qualifications and with a well-off family behind them go abroad, and get along. All the others are left behind".

Tanzi sees 10-year sentence confirmed
Parmalat founder must pay small investors 100 million euros

(ANSA) - Milan, May 26 - An appeals court here on Wednesday upheld a ten-year sentence handed down against disgraced Parmalat founder and former chairman Calisto Tanzi for market-rigging in connection with the collapse of his food multinational at the end of 2003.

Tanzi was handed the sentence last December after he was found guilty of feeding false information to the stock market on the state of his company and misleading stock market regulators.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the court also said that Tanzi will have to reimburse some 32,000 Parmalat share and bond holders for a total of about 100,000 euros.

Italian 'Harry Potter' eyes world crown
Teenager takes his country's first national magic championship 24 May

Teenager Luca Bono is eyeing a career as a professional illusionist and a crack at the world title after becoming Italy's first national magic champion.

The prodigious 17-year-old from Turin has been dubbed the Italian magic world's 'Harry Potter' after upsetting more experienced magicians to take the crown at last weekend's Masters of Magic Gran Gala in the northern resort of Saint-Vincent.

He dazzled the jury with his strong stage presence in a four-minute routine featuring card tricks and spectacular 'quick-changes' of costume in front of the audience.

"Magic is still a pastime for me, albeit a very demanding one, but I make no secret of my desire to turn professional," Bono said. "It won't be easy. I'll need lots of luck".

'New' Michelangelo work in Rome
Bas-relief of wind god centerpiece of Palazzo Venezia show
(ANSA) - Rome, May 21 - A beautiful but little-known sculpture has just made its first appearance as a confirmed Michelangelo work at an exhibition in Rome. The bas-relief carving is one of 35 marble and bronze artworks in a show at Palazzo Venezia paying tribute to Renaissance sculpture, which opened on Friday.

The exhibition looks at key artistic developments between the 1460s to the 1520s, leading to the emergence of new trends in sculpture. It focuses on the output of Donatello, Andrea Bregno and Michelangelo, featuring both established works as well as little known pieces, but also includes works by other artists.

The centerpiece of the event is the Michelangelo relief 'Eolo o Vento Marino' depicting the Ancient Greek god of winds, Aeolus.

The work was designed for the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena in Capranica Prenestina, a small town around 60 kilometres east of Rome.

For years scholars had tentatively attributed the sculpture to Michelangelo but until recently had been unable to confirm the creator's identity with any certainty. Now, following several weeks of investigation, a Michelangelo academic has produced definitive evidence of the master's involvement.

Using the church's logs, Stefano Panecuccia tracked every recorded pastoral visit on the part of prominent churchmen over the centuries. Each visit included a detailed inventory of the church's existing assets, along with a description.

Panecuccia discovered that the relief in question was consistently listed as a work created by Michelangelo ever since its first appearance in the early 1500s. The relief was finished in 1520, as part of a major restoration project at the church ordered by the local lord, Girolamo Capranica.

Panecuccia's research further confirmed that Michelangelo was brought on board thanks to the impression he made on Capranica's wife, Marta Porcari, in the course of a previous project.

Marta's uncle commissioned one of Michelangelo's most famous works, the Risen Christ, in order to adorn an altar Marta had previously donated to Rome's Santa Maria sopra Minerva Church. Michelangelo apparently chose Aeolus to signify the breath of new life and the town's rebirth thanks to Capranica's renovation.

Although the Michelangelo sculpture is the focus of attention, the exhibition contains many stunning works. Other pieces expected to thrill visitors are a large-scale horse head by Donatello and a rarely loaned collection of 14th-century sculpture by Mino da Fiesole and Giovanni Dalmata from the Vatican.

'La Forma del Rinascimento' (The Shape of the Renaissance) runs at Palazzo Venezia until September 5.

May 27
Today is windy and warm, with soft clouds wafting across the sky as if they have been painted with a soft brush. Dino drives to Viterbo early with a photo to see if Moviusato wants our sofa. No, they have too many sofas now, so we will have the drivers take the old sofa back with them when they arrive this morning to bring the new one.

The other small piece of outdoor furniture will be delivered tonight. Dino works on the hose reel and we move the sofa outside, while we wait. Right on time the truck arrives with the kitchen sofa. Yes, there are a few changes here, thanks to a small inheritance, and Dino knows how to move each phase along on our own projects, too.

The sofa is much more comfortable than the last. After pranzo I finally return to painting while Dino drives to Amelia to return the test to Dottoressa, who only works on Thursdays. He won't, however, tell her that our doctor thinks her prescription was not a good one, and that reminds me; I have not taken the daily pill he prescribed to take after pranzo. Oh, that's my short-term memory you see flying slowly out the window...

Daily there is rose tending, with hundreds of spent flowers to deadhead back to the next five-leaf grouping on each flower stalk. That is, if the rose is a five-leafed rose. I know. It's complicated. Thanks to Al Gore, there is now everything you want to know about how to clip a rose on the internet.

That reminds me. Facebook is taking a beating for its lack of privacy protection, and since I don't like Facebook anyway, that's fine with me. I'd rather receive an email or a letter or a phone call and think that people spend too much time entertaining themselves online on the computer, instead of learning about the world around them. Enjoying the simple natural pleasures that each day brings is a joy for us.

Yesterday in the car we listened to a NPR (American National Public Radio) story (podcast) about the difficulty of making a difference in Haiti. Are the NGO's (Non Government Organizations) doing more harm that good, by setting up local and national programs, only to deny their ongoing participation when funding comes up for renewal?

Is it really that difficult with all the money pledged to Haiti to bring about a simple infrastructure... one that can be built upon as time progresses? So much money is wasted while we are paving the road to hell with our good intentions.

Back here in little Mugnano, I enjoy keeping the journal up for us to read later, but Dino is adamant about keeping it public. He thinks the people in the village also like to read it, translating it on Google after I post on an ongoing basis.

Learning how strong willed the Mugnano women are through my involvement in the Coro, I do not want to impose our will on anyone here. Life is fine just the way it is. So when Rosina tells me when she leans down over the balcony that she and perhaps others don't want to learn the hymns in English for Don Renzo that he loves as a surprise, I understand.

I also understand that if my pin design is not chosen by the Coro it does not matter. I'll continue to paint and sew and garden and enjoy life with dear Dino and Sofi just the same.

With the marble top for the kitchen table the only delivery not in the pipeline, we settle down on the new sofa that is so comfortable and enjoy the evening; that is, after Dino works on putting together new hoses for the irrigation system.

May 28
It's back to painting for me, at least for an hour or two, and I'm still loving the process. Dino works on the irrigation system and checks the tomatoes, which are all doing fine.

Elsewhere in the garden, the older lavender is, well, enormous, and we expect it to flower any day now. So when Mary arrives next week she will be able to walk through a sea of it's fragrant blossoms.

I thought Lantana was an annual and did not re-flower. But one near the central garden pergola shows signs of rebirth. We'll wait and see.

Deadheading roses is an ongoing process, and it makes me a little sad, since they are so lovely in bloom. Still, there are plenty of blooms left, even if the Paul Lede's aren't all that productive.

Tonight we drive to Orvieto to have cena with Candace and Frank and Penny and Bob, at a restaurant we have not seen before. It is a little trendy, quite unusual and delicious, but we're the only people there, except for one couple who arrives after us. The restaurant business must be a passion, for otherwise how could anyone have the stamina for it?

Sofi waited in the car while we ate, bounding all around after we all return to her for a little walk. Then it's home under a full moon and a sweet sleep serenaded by birdsong.

May 29
It's the anniversary of my mother's birth. She would have been 97 today, and at that her mother still would have outlived her. I keep my mother in my thoughts as we go through the day.

There are books to review to get ready for the book swap in another ten days or so, and plenty to clean and put away, but first we drive to Viterbo for errands and are back before noon, in plenty of time for me to make potato salad before pranzo.

Tonight there is a concerto by our priest, Don Renzo, and Dino calls Duccio to see if they want to attend, but they do not. What do they know that we don't?

Skies are partly cloudy, with lazy wisps of clouds meandering straight across our view. When I look out the window to describe them, there is a vapor trail shooting skyward almost directly vertically...someone is having a good time above us.

I have a pedicure this afternoon with Giusy, and we'll attend the concert tonight, but in between we'll garden and paint. Come no? It's quite humid, leaving us lethargic and not wanting to do much of anything that we don't have to do.

Earlier this morning at KLIMT, I noticed that there are jars of pigment powders, so many others must wonder how to mix them for a good result. But I don't ask, thinking I'll try again to research the internet for advice. On the way home we stop to price castagno poles for the roof project, finding this supplier 20% lower than the supplier that our muratore uses. So we'll ask him later, but when we run into him I only ask for a photo of his daughter, telling him I'd like to paint her for him. He is so shy and beams, nodding his head. Next week, it seems, he'll begin our work...magari (If only that were so...)

Giusy and I agree on the color of my toenails, and it is the same color as our wooden shutters....Here's a hint: think of Provence...Wonder how long it will take Dino to notice?

May 30
Today is a bit humid, but warm; skies are mostly colorless. Don Angelo is the priest, and Maria Adelaide and I agree that it does not matter who our priest is; he's a messenger. With that in mind, I participate willingly.

But what happened last night? We ask and MarieAdelaide tells us that she received a call last night that Don Renzo was ill and not able to perform. We reply that "La aria parla, ma non fuori muri del borgo" (The air speaks, but only within the walls of the borgo).

The coro members sit touching each other on the bench, like sisters: MarieAdelaide, Evanne, Rosina and Anna (with her right arm in a sling from a recent fall). Serena arrives a bit late and sits behind us.

Afterward we take our usual drive to Nando's bar and then shop at Il Pallone, and they will be open morning and afternoon with regular hours on Wednesday. It's another national holiday.

Italians love what they call the "ponte" or bridge. When a holiday falls in the middle of the week during warm weather, many take a few days before and after and not much gets done on the days they work. You'll find them all at the spiagga (beach)...

At home, I paint and enjoy the boys, who seem to jump out of the canvas at me. Our neighbors are strong willed, and want just what they want. I'm not sure they really want my paintings of them. So I'll will them to the neighbors to not make them feel awkward and enjoy or sell them while I'm still here on the planet.

There is gardening to do, especially deadheading roses, and there is a lot of it to do. Pietro arrives for drinks on the terrace and falls in love with what Dino calls my conch shell...Pietro and I sit inside and look out, putting our feet up on the matching table and laughing.

May 31
On this last day of the month, there is news on the pending citizenship front...but don't get ready to party just yet...

This morning we had an appointment at the Questura regarding our Permesso's (permits to stay), and although we also have appointments next Monday regarding our citizenship, that meeting will take place with the Signora's collegue after she is finished with us.

We're quite mellow, but in a look around the room there is fear in almost every eye. It is not easy to obtain a permit to stay any longer, and those who are trying to work here and bring their families do not have an easy time of it.

Since we've been applying for permits to stay for a dozen years (at least six times), we're not nervous. But we do need to show that we will not be dependent on the State financially.

We did not think we needed that today, so when the U S banks open again tomorrow, we'll wire money here and the local bank can put their official stamp on it. What we need is called a redito, but I'm not sure about the banking certification. We'll find out...subito and let you know.

After a short wait, we're asked to go through a door and sit with a young man who asks us questions and fills out each form (0ne for each of us) by hand. His handwriting is very small and not very legible, and that makes me wonder why the form is not computerized. But we're happy to sit with him just the same.

No, we are not questioned in separate rooms, like the young man who wanted to marry an Italian woman twenty years his senior. Thinking this was a ploy to become "legal" the quick way, the couple was questioned separately about such things as: "What side of the bed do you sleep on? And "What did you eat for cena last night?"

The questions are not difficult, but I am told that my citizenship may show my maiden name as my cognome (family name) instead of Dino's cognome. The feminist in me thinks that's grand, but it really doesn't matter.

It's always good to have guests that stay over night, for we're cleaning like crazy to be sure Mary is comfortable. It's also time to make a few cosmetic changes, and since we're going on a gita (tour) tomorrow, we're finishing our cleaning tonight.

We end the month with a big jolly moon in a navy blue sky, and since we won't be home tomorrow, the moon men with their moon suits won't be able to take away the asbestos roof on the loggia. It will have to wait a week or more.

But Roberto the geometra ran into Dino while driving down the street in the village and told him that the men were ready subito. Let's hope Stefano will be ready soon to make the roof out of castagno (chestnut) beams and wood.

JUNE 2010

June 1
This morning we pick up Stein, aka Pietro, and all drive together in Pandina to Nemi, which is quite an interesting town.

We drive down to the museum on the shore of the lake of the same name to see the two pleasure ships that were built in the first century AD and used by the likes of Caligula and Tiberius, then sunk, and not brought back up until Mussolini ordered the lake to be drained in 1927. They're now in a museum full of antiquities, quite interesting.

For moreinformation on the "ships of Lake Nemi" follow this link:

We have Pranzo in the next town to the North, Ariccia, under sunny skies, and we return home to more gardening and watering. Tomorrow we'll drive to the Port of Rome to pick up dear friend Mary from her cruise, landing in Civitavecchia.

Here's information for those of us who live abroad but vote in the US and are Democrats. To skip past, the information is in italics...

Voting in the U S elections while overseas is important to know. Dear Democrats Abroad Member:

The MOVE Act directly affects how YOU exercise your right to vote. Signed into law by, President Obama in October 2009, MOVE takes effect after your state's primary and before the election in November. MOVE both expands your rights as an Overseas Voter and requires you to request your ballots more often.

Here is what Democrats Abroad wants you to know about this important legislation that we lobbied Congress for years to pass.

- Requires ALL states to provide voter registration applications online

-For the November 2010 General Election, ALL states must provide for the electronic transmission of the blank ballot 45 days prior to the election

- This means YOU should submit your FPCA again, making certain to mark the "electronic" option for receipt of the ballot and include your email address

- It eliminates all Notary Requirements

- Expands the opportunities for use of the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) in all Federal Elections, including primaries & special elections

- This means once you have registered and requested your absentee ballot (by mail); vote the FWAB. When you receive your official state ballot, vote and return that too by mail. The state will only count one.

We admit we cloud over after reading about the elections, but they are important. That is one of the reasons we want to gain citizenship in Italy. Yesterday we learned we'll have longer to wait...

June 2
We drive down the coast to pick up Mary from her cruise, and find her wandering around looking for a little yellow FIAT Panda. It's so good to see her smiling face.

The forecast is for fog and rain, and we eat at home while more rain waters the land...ravioli with butter and salvia...Of course we have to serve something Italian. With the overcast weather we're all exhausted, so nap in the afternoon and wake up to drive Mary to Orvieto for a cena at Candace and Frank's, including Penny, aka Renata, and Bob, aka Roberto, all from Mill Valley. Well, Candace and Frank are new home owners there, so we want to get them all together.

Sofi loves them all, and they love her back. It's no matter that the weather does not cooperate, for we eat inside and have lots of things to talk about. Mary fits right in, and we're thinking of what we'll do tomorrow with Mary, who loves history and archaeology.

June 3
We're greeted by fog once again, and drive to Attigliano to meet at our bank with the branch manager, who agrees to verify our signatures. We are here to set up a new account transfer for money from the US, and it's cheaper to transfer euro than to transfer dollars and then convert them here, we think!

While we're at the bank, Sofi and Mary check out the weekly market in Attigliano, and it's a good one. Several folks are here from Mugnano, and of course we greet them all. Neighbors love to be introduced to our friends.

Then we drive down to Otricoli, to see Tiziano and the site that he is excavating. It is a privately owned house built on a ancient Roman ruin and the owner is required to have an archeologist (Tiziano) supervise the project to make sure that no artifacts, etc are damaged or taken away.

From there, we drive to Narni, walk around the amazing town, including the Duomo, pick up sausages from a local macelleria (butcher) and drive home to fix pranzo of sausages and grapes, a recipe from Artusi, the famous author of the cookbook bible for all Italian women.

The book is passed down from generation to generation, and I have a secret confession. There was one printed in English in a short printing, and I purchased it online. I just had to have it, and it's worth its weight in gold, if you know what I mean.

Yes, the meal is great, and because we ran into Pepino earlier and heard that a new donkey was born to the Mugnano clan of asini (donkeys) on May 21st, we agree to visit them after pranzo.

Let's see if Pietro wants to greet her, too! Si, certo! We walk down from Pietro's, with Sofi on the lead, and visit the asini(donkey) family, especially the new female, with no name as yet. Mary captures one on film jumping in the air. We'll post it when she sends it to us from home...

Tonight we drive to Soriano for pizza with Mary at La Taverna. The weather is still overcast, but so what. On the way, however, we see a rainbow, and follow it until it disappears in the hills right outside Soriano. So I guess you could say that we ate under the rainbow. Wonder what that means?

Here is a photo of the rainbow over Mugnano>

June 4
Mary still wants to walk around the village; when she and Russell were here in 2002, Mary and I did not take the walk, but Russell returned with lots of good things to say about this place in which we live. While blowing kisses to Russell as he looks down upon us, we reach the borgo and Gigliola tells us Livio will open the church in ten minutes so that Mary can see my painting in the sacristy.

Mary tells me that when one walks into a church for the first time, they are accorded three wishes...Outside the church, neighbors walk up to greet us, and I'm reminded that Coro practice is tonight. Va bene.

We drive Mary to Rome and walk to her hotel; then walk around the corner to have pranzo near Via Condotti. Mary will stay in Rome for several days before returning to California, and has reservations at the Borghese Gardens and the Vatican. Otherwise, there's so much to see.

We bid her a c'e reviddiamo (see you again) and return home, then sing for an hour in the little church in the borgo at Coro practice. Sunday is Corpus Domini, and no, our hydrangeas are not blooming in color, so we will not have an altar in our parcheggio.

Corpus Domini is the day when flower petals are used to make religious designs in the streets, and after the procession around the village, the flowers are swept away. It's a wonderful ceremony, although we're expecting warm temperatures. Finalmente!

June 5
On this lovely sunny morning, Sofi guards the house while we drive to Civita Castellana to the expat book swap at Alison's. We take seventeen books, and return with plenty more. Alison is a great host, and we are able to run into people we hardly ever see except at these events.

Pat Smith is one, and we talk about painting. She tells me to get a book from Amazon to learn how to mix the pure pigments from Provence, so that is just what I do after pranzo.

We have introduced Pat and Tiziano through email, and since he is overseeing a dig below her town of Otricoli, she'll meet him in person this next week. Since she loves archaeology, they should get on famously. Why not?

Plenty of sun follows us wherever we go on this day, and we're so unused to clear weather that we don't know what to do next. So Dino takes a nap and I research painting. I still have not returned to the boys...

I research pods on wisteria plants, for Dino wants to cut them off. I tell him to let them grow for now. In a search on the internet, I discover that the pods explode with a pop when weather is hot and their seeds are flung far and wide. That does not sound good.

There is Coro practice tonight, and we learn that Don Renzo still has bronchitis. We're hoping he will be well enough to give the mass tomorrow, and that he is feeling better.

Rosita returns the pin and photos I gave to her; shaking her head to tell me that no, they won't want these pins. I'm just as happy this way, knowing that I did research but don't care if she and the group decide to do something else.

I'm stanca morta (dead tired), and don't talk much. After we've finished singing many of our pieces to everyone's satisfaction, Serena and Laura want to practice singing Amazing Grace. What?

I thought they did not want to learn it, but they do, so I stand next to Federica and walk them through it. Would seeing the words in Italian help them to understand? Yes. I'll bring them the words at the next practice. Then we'll surprise Don Renzo in September, when he least expects it.

June 6
It's the day of Corpus Domini, and streets are filled with flower petals used to make religious symbols and designs below our feet. They welcome the priest and the procession following the mass, a weekend in which many folks return to this village to spend time with relatives.

The group in the church this morning is not as large as I would expect, but there is much chatting before mass. Don Renzo appears, and we're hoping he is feeling better.

There is a good turnout of the Coro and of the Confraternity, as well as a part time deacon who is a Cozzi. Yes, that's an important name in the community.

So many of the pieces we have practiced are sung today, and we're told we sound well. Federica takes her job of Choirmaster seriously, and guides us in singing. I like smiling while I sing until she looks at me and smiles back at me. She has a lovely smile, and it's infectious.

Although the women in our group are all strong willed and love to speak their mind, the group all follows Don Renzo or Vincenzo or Livio, laughing together when we're led astray.

Serena tells me that because of the singing we did last night of Amazing Grace, she sang it all night, coming into the church laughing. Va bene! When she reads the Italian translation, she'll understand what a wonderful piece of music it is.

The procession through all the streets of the village is hot, but there is a breeze. Several altars are beautifully set, and Don Renzo and the confraternity stand and bless each one.

No, we do not have an altar this morning in our parcheggio. The hydrangeas are not in full flower, and it's a lot of work to put one together properly. Let's enjoy ourselves and not become crazy.

There is a mix-up, for the procession in Orvieto takes place at the same time as ours, so Pietro will miss it, as will we, although he watches the procession in Mugnano. Candace calls and calls to see where we are, and it is only when we are at Il Pallone afterward to shop for pranzo that we realize. Sorry, Pietro.

There is a wine tasting this afternoon, and after we drop Pietro off at the train station, we meet Alison there. She tells me I can participate in the fall art course if I agree to do some work. We'll see. I don't know much about mixed media, but have plenty of ideas and things to use.

I'm reading about the wisteria pods online and if you want a laugh, look up "controlling wisteria". I read that the plants can grow to 1,000 pounds, can uproot chain link fences and poison cattle. So yes, cut off the pods before they burst and cut back the plants several times during the growing season. It will still flower. Fare una festa, Dino (have a party)!

Here's a very funny story from someone who posted it online. Enjoy:
True story...cross my heart. My grandmother had an old wisteria that she had kept trained up as a tree. It was beautiful!! As she aged, she didn't keep after it as she once had. It sent out a shoot that managed to reach the space to the house...about ten feet. It then managed to wiggle it's way around the window screen and into the living room. Then it headed for the floor lamp and start twinning around it. By now, I was curious to see where it would go. It went over the top of the lampshade and was waving about one foot in the air. I have no idea what would have happened as my grandmother finally felt like trimming it. ZAP!!

I need to find the translation of Amazing Grace into Italian. Did you really want to know? If not, skip past the italics...

Amazing Grace! Come dolce il suono
Che ha salvato un miserabile come me.
Una volta ero perso, ma ora sono trovato,
Era cieco, ma ora vedo.

E 'stata la grazia che ha insegnato il mio cuore per la paura, E grazia mi solleva dalla paura.
Quanto preziosa mi apparve quella grazia
L'ora ho creduto.

Attraverso molti pericoli, travagli e insidie
Ho gi venuto;
'Tis ha grazia mi ha portato fin qui sicura
E grazia mi condurrà a casa.

Il Signore ha promesso il bene per me
La sua parola la mia speranza;
Egli sarà il mio scudo e di essere parte,
Finché dura la vita.

Sì, quando questa carne e cuore verranno meno,
E la vita mortale cesserà,
Io sono in possesso entro il velo,
Una vita di gioia e di pace.

Quando siamo stati lì diecimila anni
Splendenti come il sole,
Non abbiamo giorni in meno di cantare la lode di Dio
Rispetto a quando abbiamo cominciato prima.

I can't imagine we can pull it off singing it in Italian; we'd sound like lawnmowers, for we'd have to put so many words into the same few notes...

After dropping dear Pietro off at the train station, we drive to 30Quercia, an agritourismo near Lugnano where there is a wine tasting. Not only that, but both Alison and Elena have tables there...Alison for her gorgeous bound journals and Elena for her ceramics.

We pick up a couple of bottles of Merlot, quite good, but the big amazement is the view as well as the comfort of the outdoor areas. It's a new place to recommend, so why not?


Back at home, we sit in the big wicker clamshell and Dino stays there for half an hour before getting up to putter around. Sofi sniffs behind us, ever on the lookout for her friends, the lizards.

Dino and I have agreed that he's going to work on the wisteria on the terrace, clipping it to keep it in line. Ha ha. We now realize we have potential monsters on our hands, ten of them (gulp!). He asks me to point out big tendrils that point up on those growing right above the front stairs, so that he can take them from below and reroute them. Good luck!

Ovidio agrees to return on Tuesday, now that he is back from vacation in Romania, where he is from. It's so tiring to have to hassle him, but he has at least agreed to return with shutters he has repaired and to re-hang all of them. Magari...

With thunder menacing in the distance I bid adieu to about eight houseflies. Sorry but it's an ongoing activity.

That reminds me of Don Renzo's homily today, in which he spoke about the role of spirituality in the center of one's being. He has such a lovely way about him, and I realize that on these holidays he preaches to an unknown choir...hoping to motivate them to spend more time thinking about the importance of religion in their lives.

I also think he speaks about the importance of giving Confession, and this is what makes priests think I am a caffeteria Catholic. If priests are God's messengers, why do I need to confess to them? It makes no sense to me.

God and I know my failings, and my conversations with Him should suffice. Inspiration from priests is wonderful, but to me they can't take the place of the silent conversations I have with Him.

I will ask Don Francis about confession when we visit him soon. Surely he will be very unhappy with me. It does not bother me, for I do work on being a better person every single day, and although I fail a lot, I keep working on it, and what more is there?

There is an email from Paula Treu, who tells us what Vivijo is all about. It is a nonprofit organization that helps causes in Rome and the area just above Rome.

But in her information about the organization, she mentions the problem of wild cinghiale (wild boars) in the area just North of Rome. See? Those nasty Romans from 2,000 years ago were probably reincarnated as wild boars. I really don't know much about them, but will find out and let you know.

I did not realize, but today Alison asked me if I wear gloves to wash my paintbrushes. I used to, but stopped wearing gloves. Now I understand that toxins can seep into my skin, so from this day forward I will be certain to wear gloves when washing the brushes. Yes, all activities I love are bad for me in one way or another...playing the violin, painting with oils, and I'm sure there are others.

An amazing find in Northern England of gladiators, well, their cemetery...


There are those brutto Romans again. Luckily for us, the only Romans we know are quite civilized.

June 7
We have finally seen a forecast for sunny warm weather, and the extended forecast is for sun, sun, sun and temperatures as high as 25°C and as low as 13°C. That'll do...

We hear our gate is finished, but Lorenzo is not there when we stop by a couple of times. So we call him again and we'll drive there tonight.

As we back into the parcheggio, a car stops and Laura, in the back seat, opens her window and tells me that I am free tonight...there will be no Coro practice. "Libero!" she calls out as she flails her arms with a laugh. Va bene!

We have purchased a box of blue dye for the old chair covers from Unopiu and will follow the instructions and dye them all blue...They show their age as well as spots here and there, so blue is better than white. With the dye we are also to include one box (1 kilo) of sale grosso (salt in large crystals). Dino will hose the covers off on a drying rack and they'll be washed first, then again to set the dye. Sounds ominous.

We're going to visit Don Francis at the end of the week for two days, to get an initial impression of the church for which I am to do several very large paintings, located in Fornelli, outside Isernia in the Molise. Saint Peter the Marytr is the focus of the church, so you'll hear lots more as the days progress. There's always something new, isn't there? Just when I thought I was slowing down...

Stefano arrives to measure for the castagno beams for the new roof of the loggia, and we'll soon have that dreaded asbestos roof taken away. Time to visit the geometra again and have him connect with them. The roof project begins next Monday, speriamo (we hope). In the meantime, perhaps he'll bring the castagno beams and cut out the center of the planters so that we can put the last two wisteria in the ground.

I'm thinking of the enormous size of wisteria when left unchecked, and with ten(!) on our property, envision the entire plot of land raising up as if levitating due to the mighty strength of the plants. Hopefully when that happens I'll be viewing the scene from on high...but what a coward!

We return to Lorenzo's again to view the gate, and it is as if we're viewing a baby just born to a relative. With a few changes, it will be fine, and we expect to see it on Monday or Tuesday at home.

June 8
We wake to clouds, but perhaps it's merely fog and will clear later. No matter. There is no rain in the long-term forecast and for that we are thankful. Well, it puts pressure on Dino to finish the irrigation system, but otherwise we're happy about it.

Thanks to Dino's astute thinking, Stefano comes by to talk about the re-measurements for the castagno (chestnut) beams that are to arrive, probably on Monday. On one side of the front of the new roof, the roof extends to the iron poles holding up (ha!) the wisteria; on the other side, there is nothing for it to meet, other than sky and roses. So the measurement of the main beam traversing the front span of the roof is different on one side than the other. Capito?(Do you understand?)

If you do, you would respond, "Ho capito" (I understand). Often Italians use this "capito" word in conversation even among themselves, as if to say that they'll explain it again if you did not understand it the first time. Sometimes I'll respond, "Quasi..." (sort of), but you know what that means, eh? That's another cue for them to repeat what they have said, or say it in another way. It's all so friendly here.

Looking out the guest bedroom window as I open it to get ready to paint, I see Pepe's orto, and there are not many tomatoes, but plenty of onions and garlic. I wonder why there are so few?

I take the opportunity to say a goodbye to the asbestos roof of the loggia, for hopefully it will disappear...soon. It's the last piece of asbestos on our property, a holdover from the decades after WWII, when asbestos was a popular (think inexpensive) way to cover a structure here.

There are specialists (think expensive) who arrive in moon suits to remove them, although we've seen some people cart them to the dumps, or leave them on the side of the road for someone else to take. Brutta figura! (making a bad impression)

There is an ugly underbelly in this country that just might be caused by the spoiling of children, who don't care what they throw out the window, for Mama or Nonna will clean it up.

Italy's numbers are far smaller than those in the U S, so hopefully each of us will do what we can to make this a better world, by picking up papers and things that lie on the roadways and put them in proper receptacles.

Although Italy is late in embracing ecological solutions to the country's garbage, its towns and cities appear to have embraced it, in the form of colored plastic receptacles put out on particular days, depending on the type of garbage indicated, and picked up by the Comune. Perhaps it's an European Union order among all its members, and Italia is one.

Mugnano has a full system, although Dino chooses to take the garbage in different bags to one of the main centers on the way out of the village; he's often driving about. It's easier than remembering what day to put out plastic and aluminum, what day to put out paper, etc.

Clouds remain, although blue pokes through here and there. Dino putters in the garden, while I finally return to painting. There's that birdsong again, near every open window.

I put in at least three hours of joy today, and now that I'm painting the faces of the two boys, I see their expressions evolve and even though they are at least a year older than the photo taken for this canvas, the similarities remain.

Dino leaves for errands, and the geometra tells him to come back later this afternoon. We are still waiting for permits and for him to call the asbestos folks.

I sit on the terrace in one of our newly tinted blue sling chairs, and love the color, love how comfortable the chairs continue to be, after at least eight years...

Almost all the evidence of their continued summer use are gone, and today I sit and read a very good book while Sofi meanders in and out of the boxwood globes at my feet.

What will happen when the box become a hedge? I don't think things will change for Sofi, other that she will meander between the plants. When she thinks she sees a lizard, her tail wags back and forth, and her activity of looking for them is here again. She's so happy here, especially if I sit outside when she wanders about. Otherwise, she wants to sit by my side.

A friend of Pietro's comes by for Prosecco; she's visiting here and he's out of town for a day or so. I'll be conscious of speaking with Sofi while she's here.... "What do you think, Sofi?" If you read the journal, you'll probably remember the Norwegian woman who saw me speaking with Sofi and told Pietro she thought I was strange because I talked to my dog...

June 9
Happy Birthday, dearest Marissa and Nicole. You are in our thoughts and it was fun to SKYPE with you the other day.

One of the presents we sent to them was a 100th anniversary printing of The Wizard of Oz. I remember that this was the first book I read all by myself, and loved it so. I remember the smell of the pages, the feel of the book in my little hands.

Was that the beginning of my love affair with reading? It was a feeling of holding a dream in my hands and escaping any stress I felt about my situation in life that I recall so vividly, even today. So I'm not convinced that an IPad would appeal to me, but no matter.

During the night, one of my old migraines appeared, and I lay awake for most of it, hoping it would just go away. Somehow, the birdsong sounds more intense when I have a headache, as if it's a tiny mallet boinking the side of my head.

I have not experienced a headache for some time, and yesterday spent a lot of time concentrating on the painting. So the activity of painting must have something to do with this malady, and I am wondering if my concentration is so intense then that it may contribute to the pain.

Marco used to call me Eurostar (the fast train) when I painted with him. I did not think I was a fast painter; I just painted silently and intensely, not spending time to stop and chat during each session. I adore the craft of painting; it's as if I am soaring with my brush lilting softly after each touch of the brush on canvas. Classical music playing in the background inspires me even more.

While reading on the terrace under the shade of the wisteria, birdsong and a tractor sing their tunes as Sofi romps in and out of the boxwood, looking for lizards. It's a lovely morning, with Dino in Viterbo having Pandina serviced and the birds and Sofi and I here at home.

There are two long clouds streaking across my view, as if Someone is using the sky as a canvas and paints a couple of strokes diagonally from left to right.

A small housefly rests against a window screen, and I don't have the heart to destroy it...the morning is just too sweet, even with a headache pounding with each beat of birdsong.

Ovidio is expected to arrive to work on the shutters, magari (!) (If only that were so...) and the temperature is wonderfully cool; it's a wonderful morning to do anything except fret.

Dino calls from Viterbo, where he's having Pandina serviced, to tell me that no, Ovidio is not coming today. It's not a surprise...

I spend most of the morning reading about St. Peter Martyr of Verona, as tomorrow and Friday we'll drive to Isernia and Fornelli, studying the church and speaking with Don Francis about the paintings I will do to adorn the walls and ceiling.

I read this a few days ago in a wonderful book, and the quote is from Robert Browning. Although life is sweet for us these days, it really speaks to me:

If I stoop into a dark tremendous sea of cloud,
It is but for a time; I press God's lamp
Close to my breast; its splendour, soon or late
Will pierce the gloom: I shall emerge one day.

There's a little time before Dino returns for pranzo for me to begin to work on little Andrea's face. The older Andrea is mostly finished. My headache has disappeared, thanks to strong medicine taken early this morning.

After pranzo we drive with Dino, and for the next two and one half hours he stops at place after place after place. We're happy to be home at 5 PM while he returns to Attigliano to have new tires put on Pandina and their balance checked. Tomorrow morning we'll be on the road.

June 10
We're up early, leaving for Isernia at just before 8 AM. We know the route by now, enjoying the change in terrain as we drive through the Apennines, with wildflowers and lots of green in our views.

We stop in Venafro to pick up two kinds of buffala mozzarella and wine for our dear friend, one mozzarella, called "burrata", surrounding panna (cream) , making it very creamy. These are local specialties we always enjoy.

We drive to Don Francis' home in the Colle Croce district of Isernia, spending time and eating pranzo that he fixes in his new kitchen. We're happy to see the progress he has made and the details he has painstakingly followed.

Afterward, Sofi and Dino check into the lovely hotel, Antica Dimora, and are given the Puccini suite, with balconies in each window. We like this hotel very much.

A good deal of the afternoon is spent in the church St. Peter Martyr in Fornelli. Antonietta walks in the door to greet Don Francis and we are introduced. If I stay here for a month or so to paint, surely I'll want to stay with her. We connect immediately on some level, and hug before she returns home.

Photos, measurements, discussions with Don Francis are the keystone of our visit, and I'm loving the scene. He agrees that I'll come up with an overall design for the restoration, whether or not I'll undertake every aspect. Later, he tells me I looked decades younger as I walked through the church, giving him ideas. Yes, the experience was joyous, no matter the outcome.

Earlier, he and I sat in his kitchen, pouring over photos of things we've photographed and books with designs that might apply. In his conversations he's spoken about Romanesque design, but this is certainly a Baroque church. So I do not have as many photographs or books that are of the right period.

We are in concert, however, regarding the grotesques to fashion, and if you have read the journal for some time, you will probably recall that I studied and loved grotesques, in the manner of Rafaello, while I was still painting ceramics. So I have many samples, and it is these that he loves.

He leaves the church we are in to bless a woman who has just passed on, and Dino and I finish our measurements and close the front doors to lock them. We walk up to St. Michelle Archangel, his church, for a mass. There is a Coro, we love their singing, and I am able to sing a few of their pieces. Yes, it was meant to be that we would be here participating in the mass of our dear friend. Of that I am sure.

Afterward, we show him our hotel suite and then have cena outside at the restaurant Nabucco, although they do not have the music we love of the same name. Instead they play the local pop, but at least turn the volume down for us.

Dino and I eat tuna, and although it is prepared differently than that of which we are familiar, it is very tasty. Lorenzo the chef appears in a costume right out of an old painting, with a silly chef's hat. What do you think, Sofi?

We eat dolce in the square, and of course it is gelato, then walk Don Francis to his car and return to the hotel. It's been a dream of a day, for all of us.

June 11
We wake up and have breakfast, artisan cornetti and cappuccinos, at the bar connected to the little hotel. We have agreed to let Don Francis rest this morning, for his afternoon and evening are full of obligations, and we'd like to scout around for our cemetery angel before driving home.

He sends us to an antique dealer in Macchia di Isernia, and although the man has many things, including several wonderful grand pianos, he has no angels.

From there, we drive North, past Cassino, toward Sora. On our left in the distance is a giant scava (excavation) carved into the verdant green hills as if it's been raped. The color of the stone is pale, as is much of the local stone, so it's a two headed situation: one negative in that it's destroying the natural face of the earth, and positive in that it's giving people work and at the same time providing local stone for construction.

A local wind farm flutters on the ancient hills to our left, and when we reach Venafro we purchase buffala mozzarella from a shop aptly named "Peccato di gola" (gluttony or sins of the throat).

We arrive in Sora just before l'ora di pranzo (the hour of pranzo, or 1 PM), and rush to the artigianale panificio (bread store). Just inside the door is the German woman who owned the restaurant we ate at last time, but she's no longer there. She puts her arm around me and tells me that the bread is the best anywhere, which we tend to agree. The crust looks so sour I'd like to pull off a hunk right then and there. I purchase a loaf of integrale (whole wheat) and bring it out to the car where Dino and Sofi wait.

After we park, we walk to the same restaurant, now owned by Domenico, who takes good care of us. The food is quite good, and we notice on the way out that the street is a street of artisans, and if we arrived earlier or later, could have visited some of the artisans. A la prossima (next time)...

From Sora we drive to Avezzano, where we pass a vivai showing beautiful cedro (cedar) trees, and we're reminded of our project for the village. No we have not ignored it...we'll need interaction with the villagers who are in Mugnano for the summer to move forward. Piano, piano (slowly, slowly)...

In the valley of the Apennines, we pass by plenty of abandoned casales (farm houses) and yes, there is property to buy here. Under most overpasses are posters of Lidia Togni, a circus owner who must be decades older than the picture on the poster...she never seems to age on the printed page.

Dreamy little towns and borgos (hamlets) that we pass remind me of the book :Love and War in the Apennines, and it's another book I'd like to reread. One peak looks as if it has a wide trail traversing up the near side and there is snow on at least four peaks.

We pass over the River Liri (SS690) below Balsorano or Rocavivi, and meet the river again and again as it snakes back and forth under the roadway. There is a detour to Avezzano by an old abandoned church (a property for a stranieri ((foreigner)) to buy and restore?) on one side of a two-lane road (SS82) and a tall ancient arch on the other. We're in either Civita d'Antino or Civitella Rovetto. Is that you getting out your Italy map and dreaming of a new adventure in Italy? Come no? (Why not?) Remember the old adage: "Life is uncertain; eat dessert first!"

At the end of the detour, we drive past a property with a metal wall around it, and along the top of the wall is a grape vine. Yes, it's an easy way to take care of grape vines, don't you think?

As we leave Avezzano on the A25, we come across an amazing, truly amazing...set of hills. From our point of view, we see the torso of a huge woman lying on her back, as if we're standing on her stomach, one shoulder raised. What do you think, Sofi?

Dino recalls that the Mountain we know and love as Sorate looks like a man looking up at the sky...

...so we'll attempt an Italian Notebook story to tie them together. Come no?

At the Valle del Salto, we turn off toward Rieti, and I'm reminded of an old phrase of my mother's: "Once a year the salt man comes here, and boy do we have salt!" I suppose it was a vaudeville routine, but in "the old days" there was such a person in many countries around the world. On this day, we look as two men in a field load rectangles of hay, while another rides a tractor plowing through fields of wildflowers outside Borgoroso.

I sing to myself the hymns we sing in church as we seem to glide by poppies growing out of poured cement stanchions to hold back a hill below covered with chicken wire. Each few meters or so, we pass a bunch of mimosa or two, growing out of the dirt on this beautiful yet rugged countryside of hard working people, many of whom struggle to make ends meet, yet love their country and their lives so close to nature.

In house after house are lines of laundry hung out to dry, and I'm reminded of the time the G-8 leaders met in Genoa. Just before, Prime Minister Berlusconi ordered the people to not hang their laundry out, for it would be "brutta figura" (make a bad impression). As if to make sure this backfired on the egotistical leader, everyone hung out his laundry instead. Yes, this is one funny country, but don't even try to get the better of these wily people.

We pass the Eremo di San Cataldo outside Cattanello, as well as the castle nearby, which is for sale and we have seen it. If you're interested in owning your own castle and little hamlet, here it is...let us know.

We end our drive of the back roads past Rochette, a XIII century village, then cross to Magliana Sabina and 8 hours after we began, we arrive home, sweet home.

Dino takes some medicine for his sore throat and goes to bed, and we follow not long after. It's been a wonderful two days, but we're oh, so happy to be home.

Soon, very soon, we'll do the proposal regarding the church and work with Don Francis on it until it meets his every expectation. Then he'll send it on to Belle Arte for their approval before we can begin. Stay tuned for the story of St. Peter Martyr and his progress...

June 12
We wake to overcast skies, and Dino drives to Tenaglie to meet with a gardener for a client, while Sofi and I hang out. Stefano comes by to measure again for the castagno (chestnut) beams to hold up our new loggia, and we do a bit of gardening.

I've told Dino he needs a new pillow, so we drive to Viterbo to a shop that sells guanciale (pillows...this is also the word for pork cheeks) and we both come home with new ones. I think his allergies and sleeplessness may have something to do with his old pillow. We'll see.

There is a call from the Carabinieri in Bomarzo. The person on the telephone tells Dino that we need to come to their headquarters in Bomarzo for a meeting. ...about what, we have no idea. Can it wait until Monday? No? They ask if we can come in half an hour...Come no?

We arrive right on time, and Roberto sits with us as the newer Carabinieri stands at his side. Before we get into business, Roberto tells his colleague about the funny story of the telephone store that gave us the wrong box for our cell phone some years ago. Evidently, someone stole the telephone that belonged to the box and we were given the box because it was lying around.

The Maresciallo Zampone (a maresciallo is the head of the Carabinieri office, and the one at the time's last name translated to Pigfoot). I remember him walking up our front stairs vividly. He thrust out his hand to shake my hand and in a loud and authoritative voice, uttered (it was ten o'clock in the evening), "Good Morning!"

From there, one officer called out the numbers on our box to the other as he took down the numbers...one number at a time. This is "the Keystone Kops moves to Bomarzo..."

Just when the Maresciallo thought he had solved a crime, they were deflated. The numbers did not match. As they left, Dino thanked the Maresciallo for finding the box to his telephone. So this remained a joke in their office.

What was the reason for the visit?...to update citizenship application records for the town. That was it.

We return home to pick up little Sofi and drive to Dan and Wendy's home outside Umbertide. Although Lore and Alberto are giving a festa in Mugnano tonight, we've already agreed to attend this one.

While Sofi joyously meanders around and around the property looking for lizards or snatches of food, we enjoy the beautiful landscape and some very interesting friends, including a woman who runs the Umbria Film Festival. Look for a story in Italian Notebook soon!

We arrive home around 11 PM after a really enjoyable evening and great food and drink with our good friends. Wendy begins her work at the Carsulae archaeological dig at 5 AM tomorrow, and she tells us she needs to speak with Tiziano, for all of the tools she put away last year are gone. We'll ask him tomorrow after mass.

June 13
Skies are overcast, and the temperature is warm. Soft humidity fills the air. Last night we heard fireworks, so some town in the zone is celebrating. Not happy news for Sofi, she cries until she is put next to me on the bed, and follows me to the shower in the morning. Those noises frighten her so.

We drive up to church and it's humid, but not warm enough for me to use a fan in church. The Coro this morning consists of: Laura, Anna, Rosina and myself and we sing happily. Laura and her family will travel soon to Parigi, and asks us about the big markets there.

It is only when Dino and I drive afterward to Nando's that I realize that Laura's family will rent a place in Paris and wants to know what Italian things they can buy in the markets...It's a good thing they won't have to pack pasta in their suitcases, eh?

We do not see Lore and Alberto in church, but ask Tiziano if he attended their party last evening. Yes. He arrived about two hours after the start of the festa and could find a slice or two of dolce left. What a scene it must have been!

He reminds us that Wendy and her crew can find tools to use in the big Castorama store in nearby Terni. Their dig in Carsulae starts today. Previously, Wendy stored the tools, but in Italian fashion, local archeologists borrowed and did not return them.

We run into Paola and Paolo at Nando's, and they also order the glassattas we love. The market is mobbed, even more than usual, but this is the beginning of the warm, soon to be hot, summer weather and the Romans love to visit the countryside if they cannot be at the spiagga (beach). This is the only market we know that is open on Sundays, and people travel far to shop here.

We find wonderful blue plates for outside eating, and can pick up eighteen pieces for about €10 plus our 1,800 points. Come no? They are even microwave safe, so is it possible that we will pick up a microwave to use in the summer kitchen? Less is more these days, so we probably won't succumb to the temptation. Material things mean less and less to us.

Back at home, I fix a pasta salad and Dino fixes burgers. There are some memories of summer eating that we continue to enjoy. It seems as though we have the best of both worlds here. Well, at least we think so.

While I catch up on the journal, Dino waters plants outside on the terrace and checks the irrigation system.

A giant migraine surfaces, and it must have to do with the weather. The air feels oppressive. But after I take a full dose of migraine medicine, the headache disappears within the hour. Va bene!

I have been thinking of what it means to be an American, as we step closer to also becoming Italian citizens, and although I want to live out my life here, it does not mean that I am not proud of being an American citizen.

As our retirement continues, we think of the things we love to do for our little community. I'm hoping that those of you who are our age are also thinking about what you can do for your little corner of the world. We are sure that the spirit of generosity helps to give real meaning to one's life. There's still time to give more...

After pranzo we drive down to Pietro's for a visit sitting under his umbrella on the terrace. Two Norwegian women are visiting and he has known each of them since they were children.

He tells us a bit about his sailing adventures on the yacht of his good friend, taken earlier this week. We sit like flies on the wall, imagining how it would feel to come into port (Portofino, Amalfi, Herculanaeum) and not only to be surrounded by smaller boats, but having to take a skiff in to the port itself, for the enormous size of the yacht made it impossible to dock!

We offer to take care of any potted plants that he delivers to us before he returns for two months to Norway, and he already looks sad at the thought of leaving this little piece of heaven.

Lore and Alberto have also left, so we're sorry we did not see them at all this trip. We hope that their festa (party) yesterday was all they had hoped. The villagers certainly had plenty to eat, we are sure!

I'm happy with the new colors we are working with for the loggia and terrace. The shade of blue is more of a hyacinth than pure blue, and the plates will be so much fun to use outside. Better sew the tablecloths soon....

Maryanne, Stein's friend and artist, will probably walk up to see the paintings we have around the house. I'd be happy to have her comments on what I am doing, and look forward to returning to painting tomorrow while Dino drives off to the bank and then to the Questura in the morning.

If we're really lucky, Stefano will arrive to cut the pots and plant them beams in cement. That would mean that we could plant the two wisteria before the end of the week. I'm already looking for solutions for closing the room off with metal and glass doors, possibly with piano hinges. We're also researching copper for the roof. Yes, we enjoy doing something regular in an innovative way.

I'm also looking forward to sewing summer pants for me, using the template of the cotton pants we purchased at outdoor markets in Provence and the material we purchased yesterday.

The evening is just beautiful, and after looking at the growth of the wisteria on the terrace, am tired enough to go to bed. A domani (until tomorrow)!

June 14
Question of the day: "Will Stefano arrive and begin the project?" Dino calls him and he'll be by late tomorrow. The castagno beams are ready...and so are we! He has many details to finish in the borgo for a client, so will begin ours slowly.

Ovidio lets us know that we are his very next stop. Our shutters really need fixing...and he provided them, so admits they are his responsibility.

Elsewhere, everywhere we look, olive trees are laden with blossoms; so many in fact, that the leaves are hardly visible. Note this one at Dan and Wendy's...

Sunny skies and birdsong greet us all morning. Sofi and I move into the studio, and with the front window gauze curtains blocking the day's direct sunlight, I take up brush to canvas.

After about five minutes, Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain begins to play, and I am transported to somewhere in space. I love this piece; it's mournful horn achingly describing the scene. Oh, if I could hold on to the music; if I could wrap my arms around it and cause it to play on and on...but I cannot.

And yet the dreamy feeling continues as my brush gently adds flesh colors to little Andrea's face, the shadows and light emphasizing his joyous expression. This is a special young boy, one who lives in a space and time other than the present. One summer night, we watched him dance by himself, only grazing the herringbone bricks below him as his little friends danced near him and yet so far...

Here is the Italian translation of the paragraph, in case you'd like to learn the words...or at least read them to yourself... Eppure la sensazione sognante continua come il mio pennello aggiunge delicatamente colori carne a visino di Andrea, le ombre e la luce sottolineando la sua espressione gioiosa. Si tratta di un giovane ragazzo speciale, uno che vive in uno spazio e un tempo diverso da quello attuale. Una notte d'estate, abbiamo guardato lui ballare da solo, solo al pascolo i mattoni a spina di pesce sotto di lui come i suoi piccoli amici ballato vicino a lui, cos lontano ...

I want to take this paragraph to Laura, to try to speak of her son in the gentlest of ways. I don't know if we have Coro practice tonight, but if we don't, perhaps we'll walk up to the borgo and see the whole family spending a lovely evening with their neighbors.

Dino has a verified statement from our bank, so asks me to drive to Viterbo with him to present it to the Questura. On the way, we drive through Bomarzo and, under a pergola, sit a number of old men, happily talking away the hours. Where are the women? Well, they're probably at home fixing pranzo or cleaning...or sitting with their neighbors. This scene looks like a little club of sorts. Come no?

We are driving behind La Postina (the female mailperson) in her motorino. When first living here, Marcello and his brother ran the Bomarzo post office. Marcello delivered the mail after his brother sorted it, as kind of a family affair. These days, it is the younger folk who are more modern and sadly, less interested in knowing all the people.

When I was in college, and then out on my own, George was our mailman. He read all the postcards and commented on the messages to my mother as he delivered them. When I realized this, I'd write, "Hi, George!" on every postcard or envelope of a letter or card.

These days, I find that social networking is beyond my reach. Or perhaps I should describe it as the next step in the eventual replacement of man by technology. Is that the way the world will end?"...not with a bang but a mouse click?...

We enter the Questura and the room is mobbed with anxious foreigners. In another room, one with a glass window, Pietro sees Dino and walks out to ask him why he is there. Dino gives them our certified bank statements and he tells Dino he will take care of it.

On the way home I repeat my dream, or is it a fantasy, that I am in another life and just floating by the trees and flowers and caressing them as they move gently through my arms. I see these miracles of nature in that way, and in the dancing play of light and shadows as the world around me continues its dream state.

At home, after pranzo, I step out into the middle garden and am surrounded by many lavender plants, both old and new, in full peak of flower. No, I will not spend the days of stripping lavender that is required to clean them all off and make bunches to hang. Instead, I clip a bunch and put them into a vase with roses, to enjoy now.

Nor will there be the traditional lavender lunch, a party for women friends and women in the village. It's just too much stress, too much work. It's good to think back upon them, just the same.

Here are a few photos of the garden in flower.

Pietro's friend Marianne visiting from Norway stops by. She is a painter and I'm happy to show her my work. Perhaps she will have an idea or two, and since I am mostly self-trained, enjoy feedback from other painters.

I enjoy speaking with her a lot, and learning about her family's interest in collections as well as her art working with collections as installations. Soon she'll be teaching art in Norway at the Senior High School and University levels. Good for her!

It's so very warm and humid that we spend our time together inside in the studio with a floor fan doing its work. Dino sits at the computer and then, when the sun is off the front terrace, takes out a ladder and cuts back the rose arch to a manageable length.

Oh, sure, we know we're supposed to obey all the rose and lavender rules. But let him be happy. Perhaps tomorrow early I'll hang up bunches of lavender behind the house, or lay them on tables to dry, but we certainly won't obsess. Remember, "Life's uncertain; eat dessert first!"

June 15
Will Stefano arrive with the castagno beams to begin the summer kitchen project? Will Roberto the geometra finally be able to show us our permits? Will we be able to meet the man in Celleno and give him the go-ahead for our cemetery project? Will Ovidio finally do the work he promised to us?

So much depends on others, and it's a firm hand with a friendly demeanor that continues to push until each project is securely in hand. We're hoping today will be a banner one. Let's leave off the "magari" (if only it were so) and end with a simple speriamo (we hope so), and think positively.

Well, the person who gives out the construction permits is not working today, Stefano will possibly arrive with the beams tomorrow, Ovidio did not arrive but sent a message that he will be here in two days...but we met two wonderful men, Giuseppe and Steven, who came for a visit and are new friends, and that made up for all the fallen expectations.

Afternoon and evening rain contributed to the humidity of it all, but as the skies turn lavender I am realizing that Pietro was the smart one...he clipped his lavender yesterday and put them in bunches to hang up to dry.

Our older lavender plants are at their peak, but the weather will need to clear before we cut any of it. I took photos this morning before the rain, so at least you can have a look at them.

Thanks to Danny Hallinan for the recipe of the lemon torte. I made one this afternoon and it was good. I think it needs fewer egg yolks and more lemon and zest. So I'll put the recipe on the site once I rework it and make another one to be sure.

In our conversation on the terrace this afternoon with our new friends Giuseppe and Steven, there was some talk about the difficulty of Europeans gaining residency in Italy. The system works for some, and not for others, depending on the viewpoint of the person in charge at a given Comune (city hall).

Evidently, the woman in Amelia is not in favor of granting these permits often, although I 'm convinced that if there is a regulation it should apply across Italy, and not just at the whim of a particular bureaucrat. Stay tuned to hear what we discover, as we attempt to help one of our new friends gain residency.

Oh, there's another migraine after our friends leave and the rain begins. It's a cool and sweet rain, but my head thinks otherwise. After a dose of medicine the headache persists, so Sofi and I go up to bed at 9 PM. Sorry, dear Dino.

Earlier, Dino cut the screen for the balcony door to size. We purchased two more screens this morning in Viterbo and tomorrow we'll fit them where they belong. Now we will be able to keep the balcony door open for more fresh air, and that is a good thing. It has only taken us twelve years to make this happen...no need to rush.

June 16
Sun returns, as well as those clouds so prominent in Baroque paintings. Yes, I am studying Baroque painting style these days. The view looking toward Orte is a painting in itself, and I really should paint some landscapes...perhaps this one, as well as the view of the little "casa antica" below us, located near the campo where the donkeys live.

Rosina is out hanging her laundry on the balcony as I walk onto the terrace and raises her arms as if she's a priest saying the Lord's Prayer and frowns: "Sempre brutto!" (all ugly, referring to the weather). I respond, "Bicchieri mezzo pieno o mezzo vuoto? Mi sembra mezzo pieno." (Is the glass half full or half empty? I think half full".) She looks down upon me and smiles broadly.

Dino drives to the bank, while I decide to research St. Peter Martyr in Milano, for he is buried there. I'm dumbfounded by what I find online...while reading about his crypt in the Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio, in Milan. I read that he is the protector of people with migraines!

If you have shivers running up and down your spine, you are not alone. I have searched lists of saints and of what they are protectors, but never found this entry. As you know by now, I have suffered from migraines since I was a child...

So it was meant to be that I would find my way to the church of St. Peter Martyr, in Fornelli, and adorn his church with grotesques and paintings of his life. If you are a doubter that life has meaning, and that we were put on this earth for a reason, perhaps this will help to dissuade you. See the description of the ark of St. Peter Martyr in Milano, built by Giovanni di Balduccio in 1338 described below:

"Inside the wonderful Portinari Chapel in the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio it's possible to admire the ark of S. Peter Martyr, an extraordinary art work that is considered the masterpiece of Giovanni di Balduccio, sculptor, architect and author of other important works of art in Italy.

The ark, sculpted in 1338, is made up of a rich sarcophagus in white marble from Carrara, carved in bas-reliefs that recount "the scenes of the saint's life". The ark is held up by eight statues that represent theological and cardinal virtues. On the top there is a gothic aedicule where statues of Christ and The Virgin represent "Heavenly Glory".

The ark preserves the relics of Peter Rosini, known as Peter Martyr or Peter from Verona, who was the prior of Como. He was martyred on Palm Sunday in 1252, killed by two hitmen in the woods of Farga, near Barlassina in the Como region. It is said that he only had the time to say "I believe" into the dust and then died immediately. Declared saint for his martyrdom, he was chosen to be protector of those who suffer from migraines.

The above description is from the Tourismo Milano site online, and is in English. Surely we will visit Milano this fall on the way to Provence. I feel transported, as if beyond the real world...

Back on earth, a weed-whacker chops through grass and weeds nearby, as flutes dance to waltz music playing in the background from the studio.

With a soft breeze blowing and birdsong outside the window, I return to the boys, studying Andrea Perini as I move the brush lightly against his sweet face. Sun breaks through an abundance of dirty gray clouds, lit by the sun from above. I am drawn to the sunlight above, ignoring the dreary gray below. It's how I look at life, and so can you...

An hour has passed, and I'm sure I'm truly batty. I'll give a great prize to anyone who can tell me where on the journal I connected St. Peter Martyr with migraines before today. Dino is sure I told him that before, so with a connection so meaningful, I am sure to have written it.

I keep thinking of the movie Iris, where Judy Dench played a woman who lost her mind to Alzheimers. Perhaps I should write a book about losing my mind, documenting my demise as I age. Ha. At least I'm a happy spirit.

Dino works on a ladder, installing the screen door to the balcony, while Sofi sits demurely outside on the space framed with wisteria, looking up at him. White curtains measured to the floor float in the breeze, as if they are dancing, perhaps to continue all summer.

I'm so impressed with dear Dino, who takes the top of the screen frame down and cuts one centimeter more with his reciprocating saw. It's a handy gadget for a handy person, a battery operated saw with a fine blade, to get into difficult areas or to cut something finely.

Stefano calls while we are eating pranzo on the terrace, asking if he's interrupting us. No. Can he bring the tall beams of castagno by? Si, certo! Wind stirs up the trees, as if a storm is coming, but the skies say otherwise. I feel the kind of happiness that is usually followed by something sinister, so lets prove that wrong...magari?

Stefano and Mario arrive with the three beams, two uprights that will be sunk into the bases where the two remaining wisteria will grow, and one main beam. Dino is asked if he can help carry the monster beam that will traverse the front of the loggia room. They are 20cm by 20cm and that's very heavy, in case you don't already know. Both muratores really feel the weight on their backs as they carry them up the stairs.

Not able to do any major work for us until the end of August, Stefano tells us that he'll understand if we have to ask someone else. So we do, and another muratore will arrive domani sera (tomorrow evening) to look over the work to be done.

Knowing this muratore, he'll bring a crew of workers and the roof will probably be finished...subito! (right away). We'll have lots more to tell in the next post...Stay tuned. Is Stefano's inability to do our work now the "something sinister" I just wrote about? It's not good news, but not that bad, either. Let's keep filling the glass...

June 17
Clouds and sun, clouds and sun; weather looks good to us! Today's clouds are rumbling ones, ones that cast a swath diagonally across our view. Why is that? Well, the front of the house faces South and the cloud formations move from East to South. But today's dark clouds are not round...they form trenches in the sky.

Ovidio promised he'd be here early, but he arrives at eleven. At least he arrives..."Caspita!"(You don't say!) is what he responds when I tell him the painting he is looking at that I am doing is of ragazzi (children) of the village...

He is alone, and pretty silent as he takes off the shutters and reworks them. Now that Dino has finished the **&!#! screen door project, as he calls it, the air is fresh and sweet, and all the windows are open. We're surrounded by birdsong and an occasional tractor in the valley; all is well.

The sky looks like egglemon soup, you know...with egg whites floating across the surface of the broth. It would be a dreamy day, except for the whirring of the paint being taken off the shutters on the terrace by Ovidio to rework them.

By l'ora di pranzo, only one shutter has been removed...this will be a long process and we will not be home tomorrow, so watch this project drag on again. Ovidio leaves for pranzo to meet a friend, and one and one half hours later he has still not returned...

Dino wants to agree again on the pianorotolo in front of the front door and no, I have no idea what the word means. Pianoro is a plateau, with accent on the first "o". But "rotolo" is a roll, a bolt; or a coil. But "a rotolo" means "to rack and ruin"!... "a rotta di collo" is "at breakneck speed". Ha. That surely does not apply to today's worker...Oh. It's the expanse that will be built outside the front door at the same level as the inside floor. Capito? (Do you understand?)

Can you tell we are a bit miffed? This shutter project has been a problem from the beginning. Yes, we have trouble with projects now and then, too.

Tomorrow we'll drive to the Castelluccio valley to meet with other Mediterranean Garden Society members, and have invited Candace, Frank, Renata (aka Penny) and Roberto as well to see the wildflowers in bloom. There is also a pranzo included in the town, but the place won't allow dogs, so I'd like to eat somewhere else.

June 18
Under cloudy skies, we awake very early and pick up Pietro to take him to the train in Orte and then meet Candace and Renata and Roberto nearby. Frank is not an early riser, so he remains at home. He'll miss a lovely day.

Castelluccio is famous for its wildflowers that bloom in June, and this is the first time we've come here at this time of year. Sadly, the display is not as dramatic as it has been in past years, possibly due to all the rain this Spring. No matter, it is lovely.

We're here with the Italian branch of the Mediterranean Garden Society, and Jon and Astrid are especially happy, for this is their last event with Jon as Branch Head of the Italian group.

Jon reminds us that our branch is fun-loving and although we're all lovers of gardens, we enjoy each other immensely and love the "get-togethers" and fun as much as the places we visit.

Cue the groan from the folks in Greece who run the show internationally. We're a little eccentric, or that's how we think they view us.

Madeline and Tony from Le Marche sit next to us at pranzo, and we do want to get to know them better. We've promised to invite them to visit once the pizza oven has been installed. Our house will probably become "Pizza Central", so I'd better learn how to make those wonderful thin Napolitano crusts...subito.

Sofi has a marvelous day, running ahead of us into the wildflowers;

We're thrilled with the flowers we see close up, although those who know the area tell us that there are hardly any flowering this year. Purtroppo (too bad).

Dino and Sofi and I leave right before the end of the meal; we're coming back early for a meeting with a new muratore. Sure, there's time for a stop in Visso for their artisan gelato.

Ovidio finishes his shutter installation, making sure each one fits and closes. It's been a long and unpleasant project, but is finished and we end with good feelings about each other, which is important. We admire him for sticking with the project...it has taken three years! For now, the shutters look fine.

Now we just have to decide if the color of the shutters is the final color or not. I'm thinking the color is fine, so perhaps we'll purchase more tomorrow and Dino will begin painting them another coat.

Sandro the muratore arrives for a meeting, and we like most of what he has to say. Dino has supervised his work for several clients, and he has a good sized crew, so if he comes up with a certified company to take the asbestos roof away at a normal price, he'll bring in a crew to put in the new castagno (chestnut wood) roof...subito (right away).

We'll decide in the next days if we'll use him, and I'm hoping that next week his crew will move like a" house a'fire", so let's see what the next few days bring.

I have yet another headache, mostly a stiff neck and pain in the back of my jaw (remember this journal is to document changes for later review, sorry.) Perhaps a mouth guard will help...There must be a way to get rid of these headaches...5 in 5 days..., not all migraines but the medicine works, so perhaps they are after all. Doctors tell me that the medicine would not work if I had a regular headache. "What do YOU think, Sofi?":)

June 19
While Dino sleeps in, Sofi and I awake and I clip lavender in the sweet early morning shade for an hour. I waited a day or two too long to cut, and there is no smell, or was it the rainy Spring that took their scent away?

Is this a right of passage, my lack of obsession of our lavender harvest? I feel a kinship with whoever is doing weed whacking nearby. Working the land during the early morning light is a treasure no money can buy.

Soon we'll return to Viterbo to pick up new paint for the shutters; I like the color they have turned, and we'll take a shutter with us to match. They all close now, so they're ready to be painted a second coat and hopefully that nightmare project that has taken three years will be put to bed. Ovidio has, to his credit, returned to rework them.

This weekend will be filled with the move of everything in the loggia to places inside and out in the garden while we pray there is no rain and the muratores build the new walls and roof. Yes, that's me the optimist, although we don't know if this crew will be chosen.

"Slow down, slow down!" I tell myself, as birds chirp their agreement outside the window.

We do drive to Viterbo and pick out a new color to paint the second coat of the shutters, for Dino wants to begin subito (right away). A shutter sits on the roof rack for an accurate match. The last color we purchased was not right. This time we are sure of the color.

At home, Dino takes out the sawhorses and puts up the first shutter to paint after moving the table that sits in front of the kitchen window. We'll eat pranzo inside. Va bene.

While he works away under the front pergola, there is a commotion up above, and Rosina and Marie stand out on her balcony while Dino asks them what's going on...They tell him it's a serpente (snake), and they've seen it in the walkway between our property and Pepino's garden. Rosina holds her arms out to indicate it's about a yard long and yes, it has a big head, which means it is poisonous.

Marie is all a flutter, and Rosina doesn't look all that calm, either. Dino tells me to keep Sofi in the front garden and that a snake won't move over our gravel. Above the supposed snake is a heavily grown wildness of weeds on Marie's bank, weeds that flower in abundance during the summer but also make a home for creatures I don't want to talk about.

After pranzo, Dino returns to painting, and soon after he calls out to me to help him move everything inside the loggia...it is raining.

Well, that's it for painting for today. Might as well take naps while the rain gives Mugnano a bath. When we awake, the rain has left and Dino checks on his work. It's fine.

He tells me he thinks the painting of the two young boys is a good one, and today I tend to agree with him. Who's next? Well, I have to write the treatment for the church restoration, but as far as the neighbors go, want to paint Luigina holding her granddaughter Marika in her arms next. Let's finish the boys first...

Tiziano calls to tell us there's a meeting in Attigliano right now about the biodegestore. It sounds ominous. He'll tell us about it tomorrow, so might as well enjoy the rest of the day instead.

We leave at 7 PM to attend a concert tonight with Duccio and Giovanna where their son Francesco will be playing piano. It's a location on the way to Rieti, and Dino drives.

The location reminds us of Mount Tamalpais in California, and the weather is colder than any of us imagined. We hear the band practice as we arrive, with Francesco bundled in a sweatshirt and hood.

After eating pizzas and pastas that are quite good in the area reserved for dining, Francesco tells us he'll understand if we leave before they play at 10PM. That is what we do, and all of us will remember this as a frosty adventure. Later we hear that Francesco's group did not perform until after midnight!

June 20
Today is another festa in Bomarzo for San Anselmo, their patron saint.

Happiest today is our friend, Stefano Bonori, no longer the sindaco (mayor) of Bomarzo.

Last night when we stopped to drop Duccio and Giovanna off, Roberto the Carabinieri, who interviewed us a week ago, walks over to the car and tells us to be careful how we drive; it could affect our citizenship. We all laugh.

This morning we awake to the sounds of weed whacking and a donkey, probably Maggiolino, braying. The ripa (bank) in front of our property is being cut back by Germano...perhaps Universita Agraria has hired him to do this. We see him as we drive out of the village after church and tell him we'd like him to spray the ripa behind our property and in another two weeks, cut all the hopefully dead weeds. Dino tells Rosina and she agrees that it is a good idea, perhaps more-so now that she has seen a serpenti (snake) nearby.

A continuing dull headache makes us think that the overcast weather has had something to do with it. I paint just the same, and miraculously, little Andrea's face looks just right. Once I finish painting his leg and the shoes of both boys, I can put the painting aside to dry until Ferragosto (August 15th, the iron days of summer), when it will be shown in the village. It's also for sale, so if you are interested, let me know.

Sofi and I rest in the afternoon, and Dino paints another of the shutters, in between rain spells. This spotty weather just won't quit, so he moves into the loggia to work.

Terence calls to wish his Dad a Happy Father's Day. Oh. Happy Father's Day, dear Dino. This holiday is not celebrated in Italy.

Annika and Torbjorn come by and we sit inside and drink a little wine together with them to welcome them back to their home in Mugnano. They arrived yesterday. We learn a little more about where they live in Sweden, and trace their driving path from there to here. One day we just may visit them. Come no? (Why not?)

June 21
Today is the annual GREST (Group Estate or summer program for children) outing, where everyone (more than one hundred in all, we think) is supposed to walk from Bomarzo to Mugnano en mass. But it is raining. So Dino and I drive up to the borgo and present Laura with a chocolate cake, cut in small pieces. Perhaps the walk will take place tomorrow (magari!) and if so, the cake will still be fine.

We walk over to see Stefano, who is working on a guesthouse for a Mugnano couple, and talk to him about how important he is to us, as well as how to keep the project moving. In the next days, he and Mario will come to put poles into the planters and add cement. Then in a day or two we will be able to plant the two remaining wisteria.

There are other small projects to do, and we will find a way to keep them moving, perhaps with Germano.

Earlier this morning, Silvia and her niece, Carlotta, arrived with their grooming table, and stripped Sofi while first located under an umbrella on the terrace and then in the loggia during bouts of rain.

We ask her if she will take care of Sofi for a couple of weeks this winter, and she probably can. We can drop our little Sofi off on our way to Fiumicino airport. It's a great solution, we think.

Rain continues all afternoon, so I work painting the boys' shoes, and then take a nap. It's a lazy day, even though birdsong serenades us. Rain does not deter them, nor does it deter the weed wackers.

Clouds overhead are thick, forming deep rolls, as if they're made of heavenly flour and water and yeast, left to rise until they're ready to explode. We've had quite enough rain, thank you.

Dino needs a very long drill bit to pierce the 20cm chestnut poles, so drives off to Giove and Amelia to try to find one. If not, tomorrow we'll drive to Orvieto to search there. Yes, it's another opportunity for him to buy another tool...

Sofi and I stay at home. I return to painting the boys' shoes, and they'll soon be done. It will be time to paint something new, and if Dino comes back with a permit for the new bathroom, I'll paint something for that room.

Nope. No permits yet. And there is another hitch. There was a new law passed on January 1 of this year that has to do with building on cemetery plots. We don't know the details, but that means that we'll be waiting on that, too.

June 22
This morning, I look as though I've been bonked in the forehead during the night, or is it just an insect bite? It changes the look of my forehead, and just as I'm wondering about it, the NYT online has an incredible story about Michelangelo's painting of the underside of the brain. I don't have permission to repeat it here, so go to the site or pick up the paper if you have not already read it:
In Vatican Fresco, Visions of the Brain By NICHOLAS BAKALAR Published: June 21, 2010

As an artist, and a dreamer, I'm fascinated. I also have to laugh at the cynic who looks at his glass half empty. I admit I did not particularly enjoy standing in the Sistine Chapel, for the art was too far away to study, the scene too complicated and full of different activity for me to absorb in the minutes we were allowed to stay.

Just the same, I love the idea of Michelangelo rolling up God's beard so that his neck would show more prominently. Had he just dissected the corpse of an unlucky fellow, the vision of it still clear in his mind?

On this morning, my half-full glass sees the sky as one clearing and lovely, the clouds light and moving as if they're dancing, welcoming sun to stay for a while. Amazingly, the air is still cool, so those oppressive summer days are still to come.

Am I imagining that my sight has been impacted by the bump on my forehead? What a drama queen I am. No wonder my mother called me Tallulah at times.

If you do not subscribe to Italian Notebook, and I hope you do, look up Anne Robichaud's delightful note on the Aqua di San Giovanni. Tomorrow night we'll gather the flowers and herbs and of course I'll write about it on Thursday after we've bathed in it.

Does that inspire you to go to GB's site?

Dino remains with his project of repainting the shutters, and we do like the color quite a bit. It's not unlike the color of today's blue sky.

We drive to Titignano Winery to meet Dick and Pat for pranzo for a "pranzo simplici", meaning: one appetizer, one primi, one segundo, dolci and caffé. Evidently they also serve a nine-course meal if one's really into gluttony.

The drive is a delightful and curvy one from Orvieto Scalo, past the Orvieto Hospital (Santa Maria delle Stelle) and on from there. Here are a few photos, for it's worth a drive just for, well, the drive, including a stop in Prodo. Prodo is an out of the way borgo surely worth a story, but I can find almost nothing about it online...

Titignano consists of: a restaurant, a shop for local wines and produce, places to stay, and those people we passed seemed intent on the quietness of it all.

We loved it, and loved getting together with our good friends, Pat and Dick, who live here just outside Montefalco part time and in Larkspur, CA, most of the year.

By the way, their four-bedroom, four-bath property, complete with vines and built in the sixteenth century, is for sale. Loving the nearby Enoteca L'Alchemista in Montefalco as they do, they have never eaten in the house, although put in a new kitchen a year or two ago.

Living in Italy is not for everyone, but for those who can't get enough of the Italian lifestyle, it can be heavenly. Their property is not on our site yet, but email us if you're interested and we'll tell you more.

We bid our friends a c'e reviddiamo (see you again), and drive home on another route...the road between Todi and Orvieto, and this time we pass Lake Corbara. Everything we pass is lush and green, as if we're driving past postcards...that is, except for the Mimosa, which Californians call Scotch Broom and its bright yellow little flowers are visible everywhere, in bush form.

Mimosa blooms are given to women here on Mother's Day in March, for it is an early bloomer, although it's not considered a desirable flower. That's pretty funny, don't you think? Do you think women say silently to themselves when given a branch or two, "Well, at least they remembered..."?

The sky clouds up, and in the evening the clouds are quite thick and dark, although tomorrow's forecast is for plenty of sun until the end of the month.

Dick and Pat told us about a "Colors of Giotto" tour in Assisi, where one can get up on scaffolding to watch while painters restore some of his paintings. We reserve places, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll also ask if anyone knows if there are any paintings nearby of St. Peter Martyr as well.

On June 19th I clipped lavender, and it's still sitting in the dining room in flat baskets. The remainder of it is still on the plants, or Dino has burned them with the weeds. For some reason I don't want to deal with the lavender sitting in the house. Perhaps that's subconscious. You'll read the real reason tomorrow, although as of now, I'm totally unaware...

I really want to paint; to finish the boys, and sneak into the room several times to see how the paint has seeped into the canvas. Just after painting one of the shoes, it looked unreal, but after being left for a few hours to dry, it looks better. Possibly one good session and I will be finished. Time to get serious about that proposal for Belle Arte for Don Francis...

June 23
We leave early for "The Colors of Giotto" in Assisi, and I'm hoping to get some ideas for San Pietro's church. After we arrive, we walk into the bookshop where I ask a monk if there are any paintings of St. Peter Martyr in Assisi. That's a normal question, don't you think, since St. Peter Martyr is an important saint in Italy? He responds in a huff, telling me to go to Perugia to find paintings of Dominican priests...!

There are grotesques to study here, and we have the location, so after our tour we find them and take photos, for research ideas for the church painting project. I'm not deterred.

My eye and forehead continue to swell, and there must be something wrong. Dino tells me we'll return home by way of Terni and the Pronto Soccorso (Emergency Room) will help. Speriamo.

The visit is a wonder. Of course, there are tons of people in the Basilica, and we first walk around to get a feel for the place. We've not been here since just before the earthquake in 1997, but it looks the same.

Happily, we're the only two people this morning for the reserved tour on scaffolding, so don our bright yellow hard hats and follow a woman who speaks very good English. The three of us walk up a low flight of metal stairs, and we're alone as we walk around, the figures looking at us, eye to eye.

At the third level, we're shown spots where the restoration has been completed, and it's outlined in white marks, to identify the restored patch.

Quite remarkable! Yes, Giotto's original colors were quite vivid, and his blue for the sky reminds me of the natural pigments we purchased in Provence.

We see a woman sitting on the floor just under the ceiling, and she's using a fine brush to paint a section of the sky.

I'd love to be here all day; to drink up the atmosphere would be a dream, but that's not possible. There is more of the exhibit left to see, so we leave and walk down the street to a virtual exhibit, very professionally done, that shows us the difference between the original, the un-restored, and the restored.

If you're going to be in Italy before September 5th, do plan to include a visit to Assisi and book a reservation. One ticket will allow you to return twice, and that's a good idea. So give yourself a little time to return before the end of the exhibit. http://www.icoloridigiotto.it/

Swelling seems to be more pronounced on my forehead and eye, and there is a dull pain on the side of my head. We arrive at the hospital in Terni, and Dino finds a place in the shade for Sofi to wait. She's such a dear dog.

First, in Pronto Soccorso (Emergency), we're told I have a double insect bite, and that I should be using eye drops twice a day. Then see a dermatologist...Yes, Capranica would be a perfect place to go. We walk out, and I tell Dino it will take months to get an appointment in Capranica, although I admit it is an excellent clinic for skin problems. So we return to Pronto Soccorso and are told to follow a white line on the floor and there will be someone to help us.

This is Italian style medicine, so we have to wait, and wait, and wait. Finally, when all the people who have waited all morning have been seen, we're let inside the room and two doctors pinch the space and pull up my eyelid, as if I'm a rag doll.

Is it shingles? We think not. It's an infection caused by the bites, and perhaps it's also an allergy. They proscribe Gentalyn Beta crme twice a day, in addition to eye drops twice a day. Have I been out in the garden?

It is only then that I realize that I have know for years that I am allergic to dust, and what is incredible now is that I am probably allergic to the dust of lavender plants!

Looking back, I realize that each June I break out in a kind of hives all over my head and body, and it is not a heat rash. I have never associated it with lavender harvesting, but it makes sense. All that's left is to find out that I'm allergic to oil paint...

In this case, I'm weary of all the work on the lavender plants, and if Dino does not want to put any of the lavender in baskets, we'll just get rid of it. We can buy a candle to have the fragrance of lavender wafting around the house. That reminds me: I don't recall the scent of lavender gently wafting into the bedroom windows this June...at all. What strange happenings!

Would you believe I'm allergic to the dust from lavender plants? It makes sense, that after I clipped a bunch a few days ago the reaction began, and only with the fourth visit today did we realize this was the culprit.

We arrive home and no water comes out of the taps.... Soon afterward, Michelle arrives for a visit and tells us that she has no water, either. Men are working on it, and the water in Mugnano should be restored in the next day or so.

Michelle wants to muster up more support for the project to police the biodegestore in Giove. There will be a lawsuit, and Michelle and Claudio are looking for a fundraiser to pay for legal costs. I should be able to come up with an idea, but my right eye tells me to stop writing for tonight. Dorme bene.

June 24
Wonderful weather is here, and although there are clouds overhead, the sun is sweet and warm, with a hint of just a breeze.

My eye and forehead look as though I've been whacked, and what damage a little insect can do! Dino think I look better, so I'll continue the drops and salve. Fa niente.

We pick up our dining room table in Viterbo, and it is grezzo (unpainted or unstained), so after we arrive home he gets right to work. He stains it a castagno color, and after it dries, we'll add a thin wash. Check that off the list...

I will finish the painting today; yes, I will. Since I've purchased books on grotesques, I soon plan to do a quick study before jumping into the presentation for Belle Arte. Work still remains on the figures of St. Peter Martyr and the other figures Don Francis wants me to portray.

After the boys look so good on the current painting, I'm feeling more self-confident. Caravaggio is an artist I'm continuing to study, for he is a master at painting light and shadow, and cloths wrapped around his figures are, well, magnificent; how light bounces off the fabric is something of which I intend to gain a mastery.

We're waiting for Stefano to return to sink the poles into the planters, and he promises to do this by Saturday morning latest. Va bene. That means by the beginning of next week we'll be able to plant the two remaining wisteria plants.

Did I tell you that one wisteria in the garden over the pepperino table is blooming...again? Is that possible? Well, whether it is or not, it has one definite cascade of purple flowers.

I read for an hour in the clamshell, stopping to peel a loquat for Sofi. Yes, that's you rolling your eyes. She tries to eat it but does not understand it, and I'd rather she did not eat the three big pits inside. She's very good to me, always watching by my side, so it's the least I can offer in return. So there...

Loquats are a delightful fruit to eat, although each one is small and full of several large shiny brown seeds, leaving little room for the fruit. What there is, is worth the effort of peeling off the skin and taking out the seeds before plopping it into your mouth. Since we have two large trees and each is full of fruit, there are many to enjoy at this time of year. We usually ignore them, not realizing how good they are. Not this year...

The rattan clamshell on the terrace is my new favorite place to read; it blocks out the sun's strong direct rays with help from the loquat tree and I am just short enough to be able to put my feet up. What luxury!

Salvatore drops by, and wants to know why he has not heard back from Dino. There is some talk between them, and I walk out and offer them a beer. It's ever so much better to have a beer while talking about why we won't use him. If he really wants the job, he'll return with itemized pricing, but that's not likely, unless he really wants the work...

The side of my head throbs, but it's not a migraine, so I'll take a large dose of Tachiprina after I finish the painting in an hour or so. These days Dino won't let me walk into the middle garden, telling me I'm allergic to it. The mere site of lavender languishing in the dining room to dry makes me feel ill...I wonder if he's kidding.

I'm worried after I look up the symptoms for shingles near the eye, for I'm sure that's what I have. So possibly no 4th of July party here, no church, no Coro, no day trips for me. Dino tells me he'll call our good doctor first thing tomorrow morning. I don't what to make an office visit, just want him to call in prescriptions and tell me what to do. If I'm careful and also lucky, it will go away soon. In the meantime, I'll be a hermit, so hope those books arrive soon.

The shoes of the boys need a little more work, but since I'm going to be a hermit these days, I'm happy to sit and finish them. Other than that, the painting is complete and I like it. Once I finish we'll post a photo of it here, and then it will dry for a month or two before we show it to the people of the village, especially the two boys.

Good night under a jolly full moon. Hope you're having fun, from wherever you watch it. Here in Italy folks are sad, for the Italian team lost their soccer match today to little Serbia, and will return home instead of continuing to defend its world title. Purtroppo (too bad)...Looks like the Italian flags flying everywhere will be rolled up and put away for the next important sporting event.

June 25
The morning is so clear that there is not a cloud in the sky. The extended forecast is for more of the same...but what about the peaches? Yesterday Dino spoke about working on the pomodori, but we have a large peach tree, and it should be full of fruit ready to pick. Let's go out and take a peek, Sofi...Oh, we have to drive to Viterbo, this time leaving Sofi at home where it's cooler.

I'm beginning to feel like a leper. Here's a romantic sounding name, "Fuoco di San Antonio"...After a visit to our good doctor he confirms it...I have a case of shingles...

What I have is not contagious, but I'm not a pretty sight. For three days I have witnessed a growing...no, I won't write about it. I have a prescription for pills (brivudin) to take, once a day, and eye drops to continue when I need them, but at least twice a day. After seven days, if the conditions do not improve, well, we'll visit him again. Let's be hopeful.

Paul and Glenda's daughter, Tamera, emails us that they'd like to stop to see us on their way to the airport tomorrow. Sure, but my face will look like an Archimboldo creation, although I am not contagious. Perhaps I can hide it under a baseball cap. I'm hoping to not scare the three children...or the adults. We have not seen Tamera in years, who lives with her family in Bejing.

I call up to Rosina, but she is not home. I'll let her bring the news to the villagers about my malady, who will talk and talk and talk some more about me, and about it. No Coro, no church, for at least a week...

I take a walk out to see the peach tree, but notice from a distance that the peaches are small and not ripe. The grass there is taller than it should be, and Mario arrives early tomorrow to weed-whack, so I keep Sofi out of there. We have no idea where the serpente (snake) has relocated, so lets be especially careful.

I try to pull a few weeds on the way back to the terrace, but it is hot, and Dino tells me to stay out of the sun. So I do dishes and write to you, and then return to painting the boys' shoes.

Stefano and Mario arrive before 3 PM, and before they are through for the day, a castagno beam stands inside each of the two remaining planters. Cement is poured with a barrier in the front of each. In front of the barrier, a wisteria plant and earth will live, with plenty of room below for the mighty roots to grow down as far as China.

Tomorrow morning, Stefano will return to install the new main gate, after cutting a larger space where the old side gate stood. It will be some time before we use it, but at least we're making progress.

Since I'll be at home for more than a week, we agree that he'll come with his little daughter, Corinne, for photos; afterward he'll choose one and I'll paint it. These two Stefanos (the other our good doctor) are men who have worked miracles for us, and a painting for each of them is the least we can do to show our appreciation. Come no?

Under a luscious full moon, Sofi and I go to bed early, while Dino watches movies on tv. My right eye is starting to bother me, but let's not dwell on it. Tomorrow is another day, and we're expecting great weather.

June 26
At 6 AM, Mario arrives to weed-whack, and is finished before 9 AM. In the meantime, Stefano the muratore arrives by himself, and Dino helps him to install the new cancello. Today, we'll be able to plant the remaining two glicine, and we've waited a while to be able to do this.

I weed as much as I can, but this eye thing has sapped my strength, so I'll take it easy. Dino is in his element, conversing with Stefano, providing backup and advice.

Dino leaves to visit Lief and Kari and to discuss their next project, while I read a little, do laundry and relax a little. Before I know it, Dino arrives home. I'm remaining calm, although the pain on the side of my head throbs, and take more Tachiprina.

Tamera and her family arrive for a visit, and here they are, posing in our clam shell...

June 27
Dino leaves to pick up cornetti (croissants) and shop at Il Pallone before mass, and arrives home just in time to drop them off before church. I remain at home, although think my condition is improving, telling myself its just chickenpox returning after almost 60 years...

My senses are particularly acute; my emotions heightened. The new castagno poles and wisteria frame another lovely view, and it is only the telephone wire that reminds me we are not in Paradise... As the morning wears on, I become so moved by the changes on the front terrace that my eyes tear up. I can hear birdsong more acutely than ever before, or is it my imagination?

Dino paints the new lock on the new main gate, and it no longer has that bright aluminum look. When we glance over at the new gate and rose growing in an ancient pot to the right of it, I can't imagine a better entrance.

Well, Pepino is not so sure he agrees. Shouldn't the main entrance to the property be more expansive? He does, however, agree on the basic design for the walkway between our properties, and Dino wants a couple of thick Pepperino steps below the entrance gate. Sounds fine to me...

I fix pranzo, and we eat on the terrace, under the shade of wisteria. I'm reminded that in past years, Dino never wanted to eat outside. This year it's so lovely here that we want to eat here whenever we can.

He finds a way to change our SKY subscription to include a kind of TIVO as well as the ability to watch Formula-1, his favorite, so tomorrow he'll drive to Viterbo to change our decoder box. It's important for Dino, so it's important to me.

After pranzo I walk up to our bedroom and close the shutters. This malady has me close to tears, although I try to disguise it. I think I am better; I hope I am better. Yes, I am feeling better...

June 28
I've mixed up the days, and no wonder. I'm not myself, although my bout with shingles seems on the mend. Later, we'll reconcile the dates on the journal with Dino and his calendar. He loves using his IPhone and loves gadgets and tools.

This morning, he's with a client and the client's geometra. The client does not have much faith in the geometra, nor does Dino. So they're probably wrangling about the bill for services that were probably not done, or not done well.

The morning is lovely and clear. I spend it inside painting, and found one of the reasons that one of the boys does not look real enough...his eyes are deeply set. I've done too much concentrating and my eyes are telling me to stop. So I do. Tomorrow I'll darken then, and then we'll see if both faces are done. It's taking longer to paint than I thought, but that's fun, too.

The books have not yet arrived from Amazon UK about grotesques, so I'll work on the boys until they do. I do love to paint!

Dino asks me if we'll have our annual 4th of July cena, and I'm not ready to cancel it. As long as it does not take a lot of work, it is fun. We'll see in a day or so.

June 29
I wake early to sun and birdsong, and although I'm aware of my eyes not feeling too well, otherwise I feel good. Dino and Sofi sleep on....

The doorbell clangs and clangs at 8:30 and it is Giovanna, here to give me a CD and music of the pieces we will sing on August 15th, also known as Ferragosto (the iron days of summer). For the first time, I'm able to study the music (we learn the pieces by singing them, over and over until we know them by heart). I'm happy to have the music to study, although the Coro members claim the music is difficult.

Sadly, Giovanna tells me that her husband, Franco, has a problem with a retina in one eye and he has been operated on for it in Sienna. He'll return to the hospital on July 2nd for laser surgery in his other eye.

This is quite serious, and at first he could only see black. Now he can see shapes and his vision seems to be returning. He is the best painter in Mugnano, one who loves to paint as a hobby, and I am so sorry. Giovanna and I sit on the top of our steps facing eachother, and since she does not drive, she tells me that they have had to rely on others to take him there and back.

An unspoken sadness clings to me as I wait for Dino to return. I will email Maria Elina today to let her know.

While checking the journal for grammar and spelling mistakes as we get closer to posting, I notice that on June 16th I wrote something chilling:
"Wind stirs up the trees, as if a storm is coming, but the skies say otherwise. I feel the kind of happiness that is usually followed by something sinister, so lets prove that wrong...magari"?

I am a superstitious soul, and this "fuoco di San Antonio" (case of shingles) that I have tells me to quit being superstitious or I'll drive myself nuts. I continue to hold Franco in my thoughts.

I fix pranzo as Dino arrives with Don, here for a week from England, but without Mary. We sit around for a couple of hours, and it is good to talk with a long time friend. We treasure these visits, and as our friendship grows, we share deeper thoughts. These are pensive times.

Torbjön & Annika arrive with a bottle of wine and we sit outside on the terrace, just after Germano sprays (weed killer!) the bank in front of the house and all the banks behind it, including the bank under Rosina's balcony. When he is finished, we invite him to join us for a drink, but all he wants is water. Va bene. In two weeks or so, he'll chop down all the brush that he has sprayed, and since it will be dry, that's a good thing.

I don't last much longer than our guests, realizing that I have no strength these days. The 4th of July festa here seems remote.

June 30
As the month comes to an end, I find not only the name of the piece of music I've been humming to myself, "Sanctus Deutsche Messe D872", but the English translation. I translate the English to Italian, and will take it one of these days to Don Renzo to ask him what he thinks about the Coro singing it in church. It really is a lovely and simple piece of music.

I continue to improve, but a headache remains. I laugh to Dino that the headache is nothing compared to the migraines I often have. Otherwise, all is well here.

It's really summer weather now, with closed shutters during daylight hours and meals inside on the warmest days. An exception is the ground floor, where wisteria provides shade from all but dappled sunlight, which is marvelous.

Tonight I close the kitchen window after looking out the front door at a sky filled with stars, and am thankful for so very much.

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