July through September, 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

JULY 2010

Welcome to a sign of summer in our area...

... followed by another sign that is real, but not good!

Italian parents love to spoil their children, and often give in to their incessant begging for a dog. Once the family goes away on summer vacation, however, the family dog is often left off on a country road or worse, on a superstrada, to fend for itself.

More times than we can count have we seen an emaciated dog sadly meandering down a road alone, the look on its face one of mournful loneliness. This is a sign of the underbelly of Italy; below the lovely façade is a growing importance of Caniles (dog shelters), where concerned people nurture an ever-expanding population, supported by private donations.

July 1
It's a lovely day, but you could not tell by me... Call it shingles or the more romantic sounding Fuoco di San Antonio. I'm lethargic and pain persists, although I try to sit under the shade of the wisteria on the terrace and read.

Dino works more on the shutters, and calls around to cancel our Sunday festa for our Italian friends to celebrate the 4th of July and annual build the hamburger fun. This malaise has us cancelling all kinds of activities, although I will venture out for the first time tomorrow for a pedicure.

Today is one of the first really hot days of the year, and we spend much of it inside with shutters closed. On hot days, it's still lovely to sit on the terrace after the sun moves West during the late afternoon ...

But as if on cue, the damned cicadas commence their "clickity-clacking" to remind us that they rule when the sun is hot.

While it's still light outside, Dino takes out a piece of the iron fence, for the electricians will need the space to rewire for our new intercom system. They'll do the work, speriamo (we hope), on Saturday morning. Now if we could only get the promised permits from Roberto, our geometra, who puts us off day after day...

July 2
I leave the house for the first time in weeks for a pedicure, but am so tired that I can't wait to return home before pranzo. It's good to be out, just the same, and we pick up a light for the new entrance while we're out.

Permits move like snails here...it's always "another week" or "tomorrow"...and then some. Good for Dino...he keeps after the geometra. Today we hear that the people to take away the final asbestos panels above the loggia will arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday to take a look. Only after then will a preventivo (estimate) be written.

Tomorrow morning a new electrician will arrive to look at wiring the new entrance and intercom. Dino found photos of the original wiring, and they will make this job easier. We keep construction photos on file, and they're a good idea.

Tonight Dino puts two more hooks into the outside wall above the balcony doors; the wisteria have already turned the corner on either side, soon to meet above the center of the door opening. We're imagining having to hack it back in due time...perhaps Dino's next birthday president will be a machete.

Don Salter arrives for a visit before going to cena at Duccio and Giovanna's in Bomarzo. We're invited but sadly decline because I'm just too tired. It's good to hang out with Don just the same, as sweet breezes cool us off while we sit in front of the wisteria. He always brings such good books to read!

This next week is the Umbria Film Festival, and we'll miss it, thanks to me. I'd like to attend, and to cover it for Italian Notebook, but that's not to be. Might as well relax and rest. Maybe next year...

July 3
A new electricista, Stefano, and his father, Enzo, arrive to look at the cancello (gate) project, and after viewing the options, decide to do a simple trenching directly to the gate. The father will do the work in a couple of weeks.

Tomorrow the father and his wife leave for a cruise around the Mediterranean...joining about six thousand others. Can you imagine the roar during meal times - 6,000 Italians eating/talking at the same time? What a raucous time they will all have!

I'm still dragging; this malaise is amplified by today's warm and humid temperature, although it's heavenly to be here. Dino wants to drive to Viterbo to exchange the intercom system and do some errands, and am I ever fortunate to have such a gadabout kinda guy. I'm so weak that I can only smile and agree.

Later this afternoon we're going to a concert in Amelia at a grand palazzo. Invited by new friends we like a lot, I want to attend. Let's think positively.

We download the cd that includes pieces to be sung by our Coro during Ferragosto next month. No wonder Giovanna does not like them...they are difficult and not easy to sing on key. Depending how I feel this evening, I'll attend church tomorrow and return to Coro practice this next week. Having said that, I don't think I'm ready...We'll see.

While continuing to do research for the Molise church project, I can't help thinking that the grotesques made famous by the artist Fabullo and then raised to an even finer art by Renaissance masters, perhaps led to coining the adjective "fabulous", for his art was truly incredible. I find that reference nowhere, but am sticking to the possible derivation of it.

Today's NYT online:


Can you imagine staying overnight at a previously mafia owned hideout in Sicily? We have yet to visit Sicily and want to, but don't imagine we'd feel relaxed at any of these. If you're adventuresome, you might be intrigued...

We forego the concert in Amelia and I am sorry, but can't seem to drum up enough energy. Thunderstorms erupt in the far off Rieti Valley, but here...just a few clouds.

July 4
Dino attends mass without me, and the women roll their eyes when hearing about my Fuoco di San Antonio. He agrees with them that it has a slow recovery, as witnessed by two bouts of tiredness a day. Enjoying the sleeping in the middle of the day with the shutters closed, I admit these are the lazy days of summer.

Earlier, with Dino out, I read on the terrace and marveled at the lushness of the wisteria, the shade on this once too sunny spot. I don't write much these days, for there is little activity, little extra thought. I don't have the energy to finish painting the boys' shoes, so my earlier estimate that the painting will be finished by Ferragosto (August 15th) is probably on track.

We celebrate the U.S. Independence Day with grilled cheeseburgers and potato salad; otherwise it's just another lovely day.

July 5
As I continue to slog on through the days, happy but weak, Dino is his old self, clipping (soon to be hacking:) away at errant wisteria, sanding a piece of wood, and then leaving to take Don to the train station. I suspect it's been a mixed week for Don without Mary, and hopefully we've been able to add some fun in between. We look forward to his, and later Mary's, return.

I paint for an hour or two and yes, the painting of the two boys will be finished before Ferragosto. I'm waiting to receive one more book before contacting Marco for advice about Belle Arte. Wonder what there is online. Nothing helpful... We'll have to wait for more explanation from Don Francis to move forward.

With the worst of my malaise behind us, we meet with new friends Giuseppe and Steven in Amelia, and then follow them to their new digs outside of town. It's a marvelous place, with a lovely view of the town; one Dino would call "the chocolate view", aka "yummy".

We'll not see them again for a month or two for they'll soon return to their other digs in England, and perhaps by then our pizza oven will be ready, so we can entertain our friends here in the evenings. No one really eats pizza here before sunset, although it is made of pasta(flour) and Italians consider pasta to also describe what one eats when munching on a cornetto (croissant) with their cappuccino in the morning. Go figure...

Confused? Remember that Italians use words or phrases for different meanings. For instance, this morning we read a manifesto (poster) for a sagra della Fregnaccia and Giuseppe tells us that the word means "little nothing". We thought it meant yet another way of fixing pasta.

I'm intrigued, so look it up on the net, and here are descriptions of two local fregnaccia sagras with very different offerings:...
"1" - Descrizione: Sagra della fregnaccia primo piatto tipico della civiltł contadina locale costituito da pasta sfoglia condita con ragŁ di carne o formaggio pecorino e pepe.
Description: Festival Fregnaccia: first course of the local peasant culture that consists of puff pastry topped with meat sauce or cheese and pepper.

"2" -Descrizione: In questa sagra viene offerta la degustazione della buonissima ed aromatica frittella dal gusto dolce/salato: la Fregnaccia.
This festival will offer a tasting of delicious pancake and aromatic taste sweet /salty called the Fregnaccia.

Il termine "fregnaccia" Ć divenuto di uso comune per indicare un'affermazione imprecisa e stupida e non tutti sanno che Ć anche il nome di questa gustosissima frittella! The term Fregnaccia has become customarily referred to an inaccurate statement that is also stupid... and not anyone knows why it is also the name of this tasty pancake.

Let's find one and attend!

Ah. Let's go to Montecampagno, where the poster advertised cenas from the 8th of July for a week or more. We've been there before, but can't remember what we ate. Sagras are so much fun and an inexpensive way to get together with friends and eat outside and not have to clean up afterward. What's better than that?

Now that I am feeling good, Rosina wants to talk with me and asks me if I have the CD and music. Yes. Coro is tomorrow night and also dopo-domani (the next night), and we think we'll attend the sagra on Thursday, so tomorrow I'll return. In the meantime, I tell her I'll study the music. Boh! Might as well...

July 6
The heat wave continues, or should I say it's summer as usual here in Central Italy?

I'm feeling better and will attend Coro practice tonight. So might as well study the music...I've not heard it yet.

Outside everything in the garden seems to take the heat in stride, although we eat pranzo inside these days, watching a segment each day of the marvelous DVD set of Mussolini given to us by Don. We're really learning a lot about the history of 20th century Italian culture, as well as the evils of Fascism.

Did you know that in the 1920's, the Italian government gave special concessions as well as prizes to families who had many children? In one of the segments, men and women are seen with Mussolini, proud as can be. It probably had quite a bit to do with the numbers of people still alive, in their 80's and 90's. When we study our genealogy project for our village, it is so in little Mugnano as well.

Well, the 2nd World War changed many things. There was so much poverty in Italy that until the Allies took over, women were asked to turn in their wedding rings so that they could be melted down for the war effort. Many women purchased inexpensive gold rings and donated them, then wore the iron rings that the government gave them in exchange, hiding their real rings until after the war. Ah. The Italian mind is so inventive...

Immigration challenges abound in Italy, and today's Italy has to deal with a two-edged sword...their young won't do the menial work, but in order to get people to do the work, they need to allow immigrants in.

That reminds me. We're still waiting for our citizenship to be approved and no, we don't want to work. Our "work" consists primarily of the things we do for our community, and we like it that way.

We're researching software to do the proposal for the church in the Molise, and in the meantime I'm deciding what painting to do in connection with it. The painting of the boys is finished after today's work, but will stay here to dry for another month before it leaves the house to be shown at Ferragosto in the village.

Full stop! I listen to the pieces we are to sing at Coro practice, and am so unfamiliar and the notes are so low that I fear I will have to drop out. These are really heavy-duty pieces for serious singers. I'm just a country bumpkin!

Dino is out visiting a site and I'll discuss it with him when he returns. He thinks I should stay with the group, and as soon as we begin to sing tonight, I agree with him. Everyone thinks the pieces we'll sing during Ferragosto are difficult, but we're all willing to "give it a go".

July 7
Closing the shutters is what we do each day, except for the kitchen, which has much shade from the wisteria bosco (forest). Yes, it's filling in thickly, but not time for the machete...yet.

I'm thinking of reworking a few of my larger paintings, especially Gino, whose face is too red. But I really hope the book on grotesques in church art arrives, for while Dino investigates software to use for the presentation, I need to be clear in my mind how to portray the grotesques in a sample. It's a wonderful project.

Tonight I return to Coro practice, and everyone except Rosita and Anna attend. Everyone wants to know how I feel and yes; I am feeling better. In the little church we sing each piece a few times, and I'm comforted to know that the pieces sound better when we sing them together. I'm no longer worried about staying with the group.

Franco walks over while we are waiting for Federica to arrive, and tells me he's feeling better. Earlier, Maria Elena called me and said that he'll mend slowly. She calls them often. He's a wonderful man, and it's good to see him walking around.

Federica is an excellent choirmaster. She knows the music and knows how to massage our voices into some kind of order. I stay for only an hour, but feel that I've learned a lot. The special bond between the members of the group is a wonderful thing; Dino is right...belonging to our little community is a reason why we're here. It's not enough to just live here.

Sofi seems to have hurt her back, for she hardly moves, so tomorrow we'll take her to the vet. She's such a dear....

July 8
Hot weather continues, so I rise early and enjoy the sweet air in the garden for an hour, raking leaves, feeding roses, picking up loquats (most have fallen) and we never did do anything with them when they were at their best. Those we picked up and ate were delicious just the same. They're never available in markets, and we wonder why. Perhaps there's so little fruit for the weight that it's not sensible to make them a crop.

Because there was a surprise rainstorm for a few minutes last evening, it's not so hot. But later we expect temperatures to rise to the 30's C (90's F). Dino rises and putters after breakfast, then leaves for the bank in Attigliano and then Viterbo. He likes to be out doing errands and I like to stay home to paint or sew. It makes us both happy, for we spend so much time together that we're each doing our own personal projects when we are not together.

Sofi is also feeling well, following me out in the garden early; then sleeping while I sew a blue patterned cloth for the garden table. I'm mad for material, but it's difficult to find cotton cloth to make everyday tablecloths, etc. here that are not overly carina (cute).

I'm fantasizing about pizza cenas here, and in the late summer our Swedish and Norwegian friends will be here to party. In the meantime, we have work to do to install the pizza oven and the roof over the loggia.

The pizza oven has arrived at the marble yard, so next is the coordination with them to deliver the oven and the re-cut peperino table for the corner of the kitchen.

They've been instructed to deliver them with a gru (hoist) and have agreed that if it reaches our terrace, they'll move the giant 5-meter castagno(chestnut) beam over the two beams supporting the wisteria.

Lorenzo has made handsome iron bar straps to secure the beam to the columns and Dino painted them the same color as the rest of the black iron.

But when will the asbestos be removed? The men are to arrive by today and forward a preventivo (estimate) to our geometra. Once that's done, Stefano really will be pressured to spend time here, although tells us that he can't begin until after the end of August.

Above us, Rosina practices her music, and I realize that we all think the music is difficult, but it is our music, and we are all up to the challenge. I'll study the music daily, and if we don't attend the sagra tonight, I'll return to Coro practice.

Dino returns at l'ora di pranzo with two small envelopes, personally addressed to each of us, along with the regular mail. Inside each is a notice from the Prefettura di Viterbo dated 28 giugno 2010:

"La S.V. Ć pregata di integrare la documentazione consegnata a corredo della sua richiesta di cittadinanza italiana e di voler trasmettere idonea certificazione attestante lo stato di famigla e la residenza legale per il periodo previsto dalla legge.

"Si ringrazia e si resta in attesa di recevere la predetta documentanzione".

Here's the translation:
"The S.V. is requested to supplement the information given in support of his application for Italian citizenship and to convey appropriate certification stating the family status and legal residency for the period provided by law.

"Thanks and looks forward to receiving the aforementioned documents".

Well, at least our applications are not languishing in some dusty pile on someone's desk...

Dino calls to see if Signor Ivo is at the Comune. When he is there, we will drive up and see if he can help us. Just this morning I was thinking of the grand festa we'll have when our citizenship applications are granted. Perhaps that will be sooner than we thought. Stay tuned...

I return to sewing another set of curtains to hang below the kitchen sink, and two smallish tablecloths for the kitchen table, all in a wonderful cloth we found in Viterbo but made in Spain. No, we don't need tablecloths for the kitchen table, for the new top is made of marble, but I like the look of a cloth. Come no?

The energy I feel is amazing. In between painting and sewing I'm ironing summer clothes and reorganizing them. It is as if I've been given an "upper"! I think it's just a natural high, since the shingles seem to have gone on to bother someone else. Addio!

Dino tells me that the geometra will have permits ready for us tomorrow. Which ones? He tells us different information each time we ask, but no matter.

Candace and Frank come for a visit on their way back from Frascati. They'll be extras in a movie there on Monday. What fun!

Next week we'll have another movie night, and it will be in Orvieto this time. We love movies, especially those we don't get to see here.

Since we won't be going to a sagra tonight, I'll attend Coro practice. There is so much to learn, and it's easier to learn when we're all together. While I change into long pants I hear Rosina practicing again. Should I feel guilty for not practicing? No.

I cannot imagine not being a part of Mugnano's Coro; not after standing in the little church in the borgo with the other members and feeling the emotional pull of each piece. There are no "laggers"; every last woman wants to feel the music down deep in her soul and to express it out loud. No matter the complexity of the music; we are one and we could not imagine it any other way.

Nights are so lovely here; I begin to walk home and just in front of Italo's house, Dino drives up and he and Sofi take me home.

July 9
Although three efforts to pass by the geometra's office are unsuccessful, but,

Signor Ivo at the Comune gives us the formal stamped certifications that the Profectura in Viterbo need as what we hope will be the...or one of the last steps toward Italian Citizenship.

We drive on from there, and once we find a place to park and walk down the ancient cobbled streets of Viterbo, we find the office and deliver our papers, where a woman stamps them and marks them, telling us we're close...very close. It's close enough that we're beginning to discuss the party and who we will especially invite, other than the residents of our village.

The weather is hot, really hot, but an air conditioned car and a lovely house with shutters drawn to keep out the hot air and sun keep things mellow.

We decide that if the proposal is accepted for the paint restoration of the church in the Molise, we will take out all the furniture in the guest bedroom and store it someplace, then we'll pick up a set of scaffolding and I will work in that room. The canvases will be nailed to large boards.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There is much to do. So let's begin drawing St. Michael, who can be depicted in quite a dramatic way, and he will be the focus of the painting that I submit with the presentation.

Here's some current press news. The first has me perplexed. We read about it this morning while having cornettos and cappuccinos at Bar Quadrofoglia (four leafed clover).
This latest news makes absolutely no sense. I'm trying not to steam...

"Vatican 'to crack down on women priests' Ordination of women will join three top 'crimes' - sources 08 July, 18:37

Vatican 'to crack down on women priests' (ANSA) - Vatican, July 8 - The Vatican is set to crack down harder on the ordination of women priests, making it one of the most serious crimes under its canon law, unofficial Catholic sources said Thursday.

According to the sources, a new version of the 2001 document Delicta Graviora ("major crimes") will add the ordination of women to the three gravest offences punishable by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, heir to the Inquisition.

Those three are "attacks against the Eucharist", "attacks against the sanctity of Confession" and sexual abuse of minors.

Ordaining women has been punishable by automatic excommunication since 2008 but inclusion among the Delicta Graviora would be seen as an extra deterrent, religious experts said. The updated list is due for publication next week and will also include heresy and apostasy as formal crimes for the first time, the sources said.

"More restrictive procedures" on paedophilia will also feature in the update, they said.

The Vatican has staunchly opposed women priests under the late pope John Paul II and the current pontiff, Benedict XVI, while many Anglicans have 'returned to Rome' after the Anglican Communion OK'd the ordination of women in 2008.

Despite the Vatican ban, a number of organisations of Catholic women have named 'women priests' in recent years, with the United States and northern European countries like Germany and Switzerland leading the way.

These associations argue that Vatican dogma about Jesus not wanting women to be priests or deacons is wrong.

They also say women played a much more prominent role in the early Church than is acknowledged by Rome.

This view has been supported by several religious historians, including some Catholic ones.

The priest issue is a complex and sad one. I wonder sadly why priests can't be married. There is also a dearth of priests wanting to stay on board, so the issue is a practical one as well.

Archbishop Levada is in charge of the Doctrine of Faith, and he was last working in San Francisco, so I would have thought he was a more open-minded kind of guy. And as for women priests: if women are supposed to be more thoughtful and family oriented, why wouldn't the idea of having women "minister" to us be a wonderful change? It gets my vote, not that I'd be asked...What do you think?

(ANSA) - Rome, July 8 - Rome's Borghese Gallery and three Rome churches will stay open all night on July 17-18 to let Caravaggio fans admire his works on the 400th anniversary of the Italian Baroque artist's death.

The five famous Caravaggios in the Borghese have been joined for a current hit show by four masterpieces from three other top Roman galleries: Judith Beheading Holofernes; Narcissus; and two of his eight John the Baptist paintings.

The three churches keeping their doors open for the night are San Luigi dei Francesi with its Martyrdom of St Matthew, St Matthew and the Angel and the Calling of St Matthew; Sant'Agostino with the Madonna di Loreto; and Santa Maria del Popolo with the Crucifixion of St Peter and the Conversion of St. Paul.

Here's one that makes great sense....
Italians unveil anti-ageing 'super tomato' Square variety also helps prevent heart disease, say farmers
Italians unveil anti-ageing 'super tomato' (ANSA) - Rome, July 2 - Italian farmers on Friday presented a square shaped 'super tomato' which they say can help slow the ageing process while giving people's taste buds a treat at the same time.

Farmers union Coldiretti said the new variety's anti-ageing properties stem from its high concentrations of lycopene, a red pigment that is one of the most powerful antioxidants known. Antioxidants are strong neutralizers of the free radicals that often damage human cells. The tomato was grown naturally by farmers' cooperatives in the northern regions of Emilia Romagna and Lombardy, Coldiretti said, stressing that genetically modified organisms were not used in its development.

The union served it up for the first time in delicious, lycopene-rich pasta sauces at a Rome presentation Friday.

Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti, Agriculture Minister Giancarlo Galan and Labour Minister Maurizio Sacconi were among the first to try it, washed down with some fine Italian red wine, along with the governors of Emilia Romagna and Lazio. ''The anti-ageing super tomato is also effective in helping prevent cardiovascular diseases and tumours,'' Coldiretti added in a statement.

Indeed, several scientific studies have said lycopene may help combat heart attacks and prostate cancer, as well as strokes.

In the first case, for example, lycopene is believed to block the oxidation of lipids and consequently reduce the formation of plaques which cause cardiovascular diseases.

Tomatoes have always been a key part of the low-fat, high-fibre Mediterranean diet, which is considered one of the best recipes against a variety of health problems, including arthritis, obesity, diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease.

Earlier this year scientists from the Naples National Research Centre presented another 'super tomato' which they said can help keep cancer at bay, in part because it too has a high lycopene content. That tomato, the Maxantia, was not a GMO either, but a simple blend of two existing varieties: the San Marzano, famed for its taste and anti-inflammatory properties, and the Black Tomato, a purple fruit high in antioxidants.

Look for a tomato diet book on your bookshelves ...subito!

The bookseller in England emails me to say that the book I ordered from them should be here by now...There is a strange occurrence in our village, in that the postman, or postwoman in our case, delivers mail addressed to a stranieri (foreigner) to another stranieri if they can't figure out the address. If it's a person doing vacation duty, they may be confused that there are three buildings with the same address as ours...although our mailbox indicates our names clearly. Tomorrow we'll have to go to Bomarzo to ask them....

Well, the amiato (asbestos) removal is costly, but we need to do it right. So we've approved the work and now need to convince our muratore to give us some time in advance of September.

Since our pizza/bread oven will arrive in the next week or so, it's time to research the best pizza dough recipes. If you'd like to share any, we'd love to try them. Now we'll look in restaurant supply shops for more tools...especially the real wood paddle that the pros use.

July 10
Clear sunny skies greet us, and we're ready for another hot day as we say C'e reviddiamo (see you again) to Annika and Torbjörn's daughter Anna, son in law Mark and nipotini (grandchildren), Travel and Jane.

Later in the evening, Annika and Torbjörn come for a last visit, and it's so hot at 7 PM that we sit in the kitchen to try to cool off. Yes, hot. It's 90°F when we walk upstairs at 9:30.

They spent some time in the early years in Dar Es Salaam, and we learned that the country (Tanzania) is famous for its cloves (ciodi di garafano). I think there are other spices there, too, and that name, Zanzibar, crops up again. I've wanted to see it, to learn about its mystery, since I was a girl. Will we ever go? Better go soon, if at all....

July 11
Blah, blah, blah (hot, hot, hot).

This morning in church I am welcomed back (Bentornati.) and respond that it is good to be back (Betrovati!) It feels good to know that I have been missed, even if some of the neighbors are just curious.

We have colazione (breakfast) at the bar in Bomarzo; then drive to Il Pallone for our traditional Sunday shopping. On the way, Dino takes photos of a house I think is worthy of a dream or two, as well as corn growing in the nearby field. He has also taken photos at these two spots last week as well to see how much they have grown in a week. I almost wrote, "in a week's time" before I realized I'm not in England...Ha, Don.

I am so weary of potato salad. Isn't there something else I can prepare that we can use for more than one meal? I love to fix watermelon and feta and mint salad, so prepare that, but on this day also make a farro salad. Farro is similar to rice, but more similar to bulgar wheat or couscous. It cooks like rice, and the salad is very tasty.

Dino has given up on the Ferrari club in Giove, so until he straightens out the Formula-1 program on tv, he'll follow it on his Formula 1 iPhone app. Sorry.

I think there is a Coro practice in Attigliano at the Choir Director's home in the afternoon, and I agree to attend. In the meantime, I take a look at the painting of old Gino, after making some subtle changes to his face, and he looks more convincing.

Tomorrow I hope to spend some time with him, now that I am more confident of my ability to paint hands and faces. This is an amazing revelation, and now I want to paint more and more people. Let's begin with San Pietro Martire (St. Peter the Martyr).

After studying the internet for different depictions of the saint, I begin to draw him. How do the parishioners imagine him? To me, he would be holding the side of his head as he stares at me, daring me to throw off a migraine attack, as if to say, "Hey, my head was split open with an ax; what do you have to be groaning about?"

In my mind, St. Peter will always be the patron saint of migraines. If that is so, perhaps if I am chosen to do the work in "his" church, he will cure me afterward...I'll wait...

Dino has had problems with his arches for decades. Italy has a more inexpensive and excellent solution to the U.S. variety of "orthotics", so take it away, Dino...

"I have an arch problem on BOTH feet. I have high arches and have worn orthotics for many years. Dr. David Hannaford of Terra Linda and SF originally prescribed them. They worked for many years, but in the last few years one of them (the left) bothered me a lot.

"I went to my doctor here (GP) and he gave me a prescription to go to a "store" to be fitted for new orthotics - they cost much less than the ones that I had made in the U.S. AND they WORK!!

"You can find these "stores" in every city in Italy - including Perugia - they are called Ortopedia or Ortopedia Sanitaria. They are the kind of store that sells orthopedic shoes, canes, crutches, etc....

"They have a fantastic system: You stand on an electronic mat and it reads foot/arch characteristics; a week later your orthotics (plantare) are ready".

Thanks, dear Dino. Cura ut valeas...When you feel good, I feel good. Are you thinking, "Oh, so that's what it means..."?

With Lewis Hamilton on the podium after today's Formula-1 race, he's still the leader, and our favorite, although he came in second. We still cannot watch the race on our tv...

With our Italian citizenship looming, we download the Inno di Mameli (Italian National Anthem) and practice singing it. Dino is surprised at the lyrics, until he realizes that national anthems are usually fight songs. Would we die for Italia? I'm not so sure, but we'll make great citizens, don't you think? We translate the lyrics, and there is no way I would sing this now...

We drive to Attigliano, but are early, as we find out by calling Tiziano. His mother is the president of the Coro. This is a reception for the Attigliano Coro director's daughter, who was married yesterday. No practice. So we drive home. Social events are events for us to do together, and since we don't understand everything in Italian social situations, it's not much fun.

I've contributed to the bridal gift, and that's enough for me. It will also be easier for them, since they won't have to explain anything to me. Yes, it is not easy to be a straniera (stranger) if I don't participate often in conversations, even with our neighbors. The day is only so long, but I do want to develop a relationship with someone I can speak with every day...

Instead, we return home and watch the World Cup, then go to bed. I do not know much about soccer rules, so most of it escapes me, but we do enjoy watching a game now and then, especially since Dino cannot watch Formula-1 at home.

The players' bodies must be made of rubber; how else could they sustain the knocks? I admit I do like the camaraderie between players of opposing teams; when one crashes into another, he helps him up and pats him on the back.

July 12
Dino has his first physical therapy visit at the hospital in Orte; then drives to Viterbo. His prescription was only valid for one month, although it took two months to get an appointment, so he has to find Dottore Stefano and have him write a new prescription after the fact. That's bureaucratic Italia for you. Boh!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
Although temperatures are close to 90 degrees F, I tackle the mountain of laundry waiting to be ironed. Waiting for Dino to return, I then try my hand at repainting Gino's face again in a more realistic tone, while Sofi intends to find a lizard in the loggia, but I won't let her get in behind the baskets.

I return to the house from the loggia to paint, and notice a lizard inside, yes inside, against the frame of the front window. I open the window and let up the shade, then try to whisk him out with the handle of a paintbrush. Instead, he falls on the floor, stunned. If Sofi were in here right now, she'd race toward it...

With Sofi outside I call Dino to the rescue, but he is still in Viterbo, waiting for the doctor to return to his office. Wanting to be sure Sofi does not get to the poor lizard, I close the door and at least the lizard is safe, so to speak.

Now, what would I do if Dino were not expected back? Well, I'd pick up a big jar and corral it, then release it outside. But with Sofi so near, it's not a good idea. At least I can keep Sofi out of the room while Dino attempts the same when he returns for pranzo. That is, if he can find it...

Sofi was bred to be a hunter, so it is her instinct, as well as her curiosity, to study and sometimes "play" with little creatures. That's all I'll write...

I stand outside on the terrace, under the shade of the glorious wisteria, and look up to see the medieval tower looking down at me. Well, there is a lovely open carved space pointed toward us, just below the top of the tower, and although it is open to the elements, what we see is buio (darkness). I think of it as a kind of man in the moon; the tower personified as a protector, along with Saints Liberato and Vincenzo.

Don Francis tells me in an email that he thinks St. Peter of Verona was a very manly guy, and perhaps the saint's vision of the world was not particularly open-minded. How's that for a description? Remember, I don't have to revere him particularly to want to paint him.

I have been thinking of St. Peter Martyr at the moments just before his death, and with his all-encompassing vision of reverence for his own somewhat strict beliefs; see him looking up toward God instead of toward the man later known as Carino, who strikes him dead with a pruning knife, first in his head and then in his heart and his side. It's right out of a romance novel...his last breaths have him writing the Creed with his own blood on the ground.

Dominicans wore habits I'd love to paint, with two full cassocks, called mozzetta in white (and that means many folds of dark and light to paint), covered by an upper garment, called a cappa magna, in black trimmed with white. I don't think we know of any Dominicans near us, but perhaps I can research their garments online. Wouldn't it be wonderful to find a real live model?

Thanks to Don Francis, who emails me that the mozzetta is the white cassock, the cappa magna is the black cape. But these are only for the vesture of a high ecclesiastic, which St. Peter Martyr surely was.

Giuseppe Bellachioma died yesterday, he was the father of Antonella Bellachioma Cozzi.

and his funeral is today at 5 PM. Dino and Enzo will be the Confraternity members at the funeral, and as the afternoon wears on, it is steamy and hot, with thunder but no rain. I'll take our choir book, in case the choir sings.

Well, we do sing, and it is a simple and lovely mass, with the church full, including the sindaco and Comune workers.

Just before the start of the procession, Dino walks back to me to tell me the SKY truck is at our house to install a new item on the parabola. We cancelled the appointment this morning, but it's just as well. I leave the procession before it begins, and reach home before the procession in time to bless Giuseppe as the hearse slowly drives by, surrounded by mourners.

We now can record anything we want on our tv for future use and yes, it's taken Italy a while to catch up with the TIVO phenomenon in the U.S. If only SKY could straighten out it's Formula 1 spat.

Dino arrives home soon after the technicians leave, and it's still steamy hot, somewhere in the 90's F (30's C). Tonight we SKYPE with our grand daughters, and it is great to speak with them again. I'm really looking forward to doing sewing and art projects with them later this year.

The temperature cools down quite a bit, and Dino begins to dig a trench in front of the house for the electricians tomorrow. I'm inside drawing images of St. Peter Martyr, tweaking out the scene for the painting I am to do soon, and then change for Coro practice. It will be really hot in the little church tonight, but no matter.

July 13
The electricians arrive tonight to channel into the ground between the side gate and the house, and Dino wants to do the trenching before they arrive.

But first he drives to Orte for his physical therapy treatment. While he is gone I putter around, thinking about the drawings for the painting of St. Peter Martyr, while Maggiolini brays to welcome Pepino in the valley down below.

Don Francis emails us that a friend loves the Italian National Anthem because he thinks it sounds like a circus march. Come no? The actual words are horrendous, as the song is about the Italian intentions to conquer North Africa!

It was said that Mameli, who wrote the song, was a nasty Freemason and the words reflect that. Think Aida.

What is so interesting is that we don't think the Italian National Anthem appeared during the World Cup, even though they were the former world champions, who turned over the trophy. Now that I think of it, I don't think they did. I think a FIFA head did the presentation. There was some talk about changing the words for this venue. Well, at least the words weren't used, even if the anthem was played.

Perhaps there should be a change to the words in the anthem, anyway. Remember a day or so ago I wrote about the anthems as being fight songs? At the time, I naively did not connect the music with Italy's Colonial push toward North Africa. Since the world is changing, how about changing the national anthems to reflect love and friendship? No? Perhaps we should just lobby to change the name of our street, Via Mameli. Boh!

With that fomenting in my mind, I fix a cappuccino and a peach and sit outside with Sofi. I'm thinking of my neighbors who do not hang out Italian flags. And then I realize that there's no way that I'll sing the Italian National Anthem at our celebration festa for our new Italian citizenship.

I'm reading the book Help, while sitting outside with Sofi, for she does not like to be alone. Help is a book written about one white woman and two black women in the "South" (Jackson, Mississippi to be exact) of the United States during the 1950's and the stories they tell.

Obviously, we're talking about domestic help and how the "help" see themselves and their relationship to the world. It is all to clear to me why Italians won't sing their National Anthem, and why they have taken on Va' Pensiero as their chosen one, for the message it brings. Remember; Italians are a loving people.

There's no need for me to go to Afghanistan...we can make a difference right here in Mugnano.

I'm happy to share the words of Va' Pensiero, the chorus of Hebrew slaves; it recollects the story of Jewish exiles from Babylon after the loss of the First Temple in Jerusalem. If you are not familiar with it, it is the music from Giuseppe Verde's opera, Nabucco.

I learn this on the net:
Some scholars initially regarded it as an anthem for Italian patriots, who were seeking to unify their country in the years up to 1861 and free it from foreign control (the chorus's theme of exiles singing about their homeland, and its lines like O mia patria, si bella e perduta / "O my country, so lovely and so lost" was thought to have resonated with many Italians).

However, much of modern scholarship has refuted this concept; it fails to see connections between Verdi's 1840s and 1850s operas and Italian nationalism. What about Verdi's take on all this?

"Verdi composed Nabucco at a difficult moment in his life. His wife and small children had all just died. He had contracted with La Scala to write another opera and the director forced the libretto into his hands.

Returning home, he happened to open to "Va' pensiero" and seeing the phrase, he heard the words singing. At first rehearsal "the stagehands shouted their approval, then beat on the floor and the sets with their tools to create an even noisier demonstration".

Let's get off track for a minute, for there has been a new Etruscan discovery nearby:
This in from ANSA:
Etruscan home 'unique discovery' Archaeologists hail find of beautifully preserved house

(ANSA) - Grosseto - Archaeologists have unearthed a beautifully preserved Etruscan house in western Italy in the first ever discovery of its kind. The 2,400-year-old building, uncovered at the archaeological site of Vetulonia near the Tuscan coast, is one of only a handful of Etruscan homes ever found. Nearly everything known about Etruscans has come from their extensive network of tombs. The remarkable condition of the house makes the discovery even more exceptional, say experts.

"These are the best remains ever found in Italy of an Etruscan home," explained Vetulonia Archaeological Museum Director Simona Rafanelli. "It is the only case of its kind in Italy. What we have found will enable us to reconstruct the house in its entirety.

"It offers a wealth of interesting new evidence".

"Following an initial excavation of two weeks, the archaeological team revealed details of the earliest discoveries.

"The building's walls were made of blocks of dried clay, the first ever example of Etruscan-made brick, said Rafanelli. Clay plaster was also found, along with a door handle and the remains of bronze furniture. Of particular interest is the basement of the house. Built of drystone this was apparently used as a cellar for storing food supplies. A massive pitcher which stood in the corner of the main room was used to hold grain.

"Other finds include the original flooring of the house, made of crushed earthenware plaster, along with remains of vases, amphorae and plates painted black.

"A large quantity of metal nails in the house, along with their placements, indicates the main room might have once contained a kind of mezzanine level built from wooden beams. Six Roman and Etruscan coins discovered on a small alter inside the structure suggest it collapsed in 79 BC, during a period of war sparked by the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla.

"Experts believe the building, which was used both as a home and for commercial activity, belonged to a wealthy and influential family at the time of its collapse. The variety of styles discovered so far indicates it was extended and renovated several times during its three centuries of existence. "The building was part of the ancient town of Vetulonia and is much older than other sections of the town uncovered so far," said Rafanelli. "We also want to work towards transforming this building into an open air museum," she added, promising the excavations would continue".

Good friend Wendy is back this summer to work on the archaeological dig in Carsulae; her husband, Danny, found an ancient coin in the midst of it all. We have not seen them since their party over a month ago, for the work consists mostly of difficult and painstaking manual labor, not leaving much time for socializing. We'll see them after they're through, unless we take Tiziano for a visit to the dig.

In addition to the electrician, we're expecting the truck with a gru (lift) to deliver the shortened piece of pepperino for the kitchen, the new step below the new side gate and, of course, the pizza/bread oven. We're also going to have them lift the huge beam, and Stefano will try to be here when they arrive.

There are changes, as usual, for the electrician will begin to do his work tomorrow, and the pepperino pieces and the pizza/bread oven arrive in a truck with a large gru. The large beam is lifted first, and the men make it look so easy.

Federico seems to be the boss of this company in Amelia, and he and Dino work out how the gru will lift the three remaining beams for the roof when Stefano is ready to return to work, and how they will be put in place, for the gru won't reach the back of the loggia. It's obvious that the two men love this kind of planning.

Stefano does not arrive, but Dino is able to drill through the largest beam and affix the two iron rods made by Lorenzo. He uses a heavy duty drill; one that I have not seen before. Hmmm. Later in the evening Dino is able to merge the two latest wisteria, as they meet each other along two bamboo poles that hang between the two last columns.

Dino wants to have the pizza oven installed and some minor work begun, but I want to wait until Stefano is ready. We've waited this long, and we want his attention.

Oh. I need to email Annika that the pizza oven has just been delivered, but no pizza will be served tonight...

Rosita calls down that Coro practice will not take place tonight; tomorrow we'll return to the church to sing. Va bene.

July 14
Thanks to good friend, Bobby "The Pen" Kalsey, we're able to share with you the latest crime syndicate information here in Italy:
Associated Press:
Italy nabs 300 mobsters, reveals new mob structure
Tue Jul 13, 7:02 pm ET By Associated Press Writer Colleen Barry
MILAN - Anti-mafia prosecutors claimed a major victory over the powerful and growing 'ndrangheta crime syndicate, infiltrating intimate weddings, baptisms and other events to gather information that led to the arrests Tuesday of 305 people, including top bosses, and the seizure of more than €60 million ($76 million) in cash and property.

One of the most significant revelations to emerge from the investigation was that the Calabrian mob had a tight hierarchal structure like that of the Sicilian Mafia, and wasn't just an association of clans as previously believed. While expanding its economic reach into the wealthy Lombard region in northern Italy, the 'ndrangheta (en-DRAN-geh-tah) is also concentrating its power in its native Calabria, exerting tight control over all strategic decision-making, anti-mafia prosecutors said.

The operation began before dawn with the 4 a.m. arrest of Domenico Oppedisano, the crime group's top boss, in the small coastal town of Rosarno in Calabria.

But the investigation owed its success to investigators' ability to infiltrate events like the 2009 wedding of the children of two crime bosses in Calabria, attended by thousands of well-wishers, where Oppedisano was named to his post, said Calabrian anti-mafia prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone.

Prosecutors emphasized that wiretaps were a key to the 'ndrangheta investigation, but declined to speculate on how a proposed new bill that would limit the use of electronic eavesdropping might have affected their work.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has been stung by some embarrassing disclosure in published transcripts of private conversations mostly unrelated to investigations, is pushing the measures through parliament.

While terrorism and mafia investigations are exempt from the proposed restrictions, magistrates complain that big probes often stem from low-level criminal cases. Passage of the law, they say, will give criminals operating in Italy protection.

The restrictions include a strict time limit on wiretaps, which prosecutors say is insufficient, and a level of proof needed to obtain permission to launch the wiretaps that investigators charge is tantamount to evidence needed for a conviction.

Bobby tells us to "lay low 'till the heat's off"...Tanks, Bobby.

Sure, it's hot, but Dino drives to his appointment with the physical therapist in Orte.

Sofi and I stay at home, and I fix him a great panzanella (bread salad) for pranzo, with tuna and cucumber. I remember how good it tastes with thick slices of day-old bread marinated in olive oil, minced garlic, red wine vinegar and honey and baked for a few minutes after it is topped with grated cheese; then cooled to room temperature and cut into pieces and served with slices of great tomatoes and rucula (rugghetta) and vinaigrette. Yum.

Dino asks me to read a chapter of Flyboys, the book he just finished about eight flyers during WWII in the Pacific, but it's so sad. The whole story of the Japanese is so incredible, that I find myself face-to-face once again with the whole idea of Colonialism and people's never-ending penchant for war and for conquering other countries to change them to meet their own ideals. Of course this never works...

What do history teachers teach these days about people's inhumanity to man? It is in the history courses of grade and high school students where young boys and girls can learn about the past and, with their anxious exuberance, vow to change the world forevermore to one of love and peace and mutual respect.

I thought I was doing my share of that as a freshman in undergraduate school, participating in a sit-in outside the Chancellor's office, and I've never really changed. That was the mid 1960's, and I was hopeful then. I am still hopeful.

The electricians arrive, and Dino has dug a narrow trench in front of the house after moving back the gravel and nursery cloth. Soon we'll have a new entrance on the side of our property. But last night, Luigina's husband told Dino that the night before, at around midnight, three men drove slowly around the village in a white FIAT, as if they were casing the place....He called the Carabinieri, but we'll be most watchful. If one of you reads the journal, do know we're all watching...

Just think of us as "we never sleep Mugnano".

July 15
Last night, Coro practice was fun, but very hot, in the main church. After an hour I left, for as one of our neighbors tells me, "When Roy is waiting, you must come". He and Sofi waited for me just outside the borgo itself, for cars are no longer permitted there, and talked with Paola, who just won a motorino at work.

Antonio, her husband, walked by, asking about my health. When I joked with him about the fuoco di San Antonio he waved and turned his head away from me. "Don't blame me; it's just my name!" Paola tells us that her father, Pepino, has heart trouble, and so he must give up his asini (donkeys). I am sad for him. We ask about the name for the latest little one, a female, and her name is Frida. Pepe must be careful; his life is changing. He is a man who works so hard, and seems to love every bit of what he does. Perhaps it is time for him to slow down and let younger members of his family take over. That's not as easy as it sounds...

Dino continues his physical therapy work in Orte each morning. Today he'll cover up the trench and restore the terrace with its gravel. For the first time in ages, I sit outside to get some sun and read a very emotional and interesting book, Help. It continues to amaze me how badly people treat one another, whether in one's own family or relating to people from other parts of the world. It's on my mind every day.

Tonight we'll have "movie night" at Candace and Frank's, and we'll bring panzanella(a bread salad). We'll meet them at their campo, outside the borgo, for prosecco, so perhaps we'll bring our borlotti bean dip and chips as well. Do try the dip; it's really tasty, the next time you need to come up with something easy. http://www.lavventuraitalia.com/experience/food-antipasti.php


My Italian Notebook story about "The Colors of Giotto" is published today; here's how to reach it:


I'm working on the painting of Saint Peter Martyr for the presentation, and this is the first time I've composed a subject from scratch. So I'm drawing and scanning images to see how they'll work together. It's not so easy.

Dino is smarter than me; after pranzo he takes a nap. I fix the borlotti bean dip. A rested and somewhat relaxed Dino takes Sofi and me to Orvieto. We stop at Candace's orto, below the town, and Sofi is in heaven, rollicking about.

Candace shares the orto with other Orvietani, so we sit in front of the little house and enjoy cocktails, then drive up to town to their house for cena and a movie.

Here's Candace with her tomatoes...

...the ones in the hanging buckets are an experiment in growing them "upside down"!

While Frank stirs up a very tasty shrimp risotto, I put together our panzanella salad. Recipe for the salad:


We wind up not watching a movie. We've puttered around and gabbed from place to place and now it's late, but no matter. We'll return soon and watch a movie...first!

It's been another wonderful day, so a tired threesome drive home to Mugnano and are soon catching zzzz's.

July 16
Dino's 5th (of 10) session takes place in Orte is this morning, and he returns home before noon.

I work on the drawings for most of the day, off and on, and it's too hot to venture outside. Dino does a little drawing, himself, mocking up the balustrade we'll have made for the pianorotolo (landing outside the front door).

Balustrades are a commonplace thing around here, with several people in the area who will fashion them out of pepperino, a local grey stone. I'd like to watch them being made. It might make an interesting Notebook story.Come no?

There's Coro practice tonight; it's so hot that I'm hoping the session will be short. It is, and it is fun. On the way out I have a chance to give Vincenza a hug, and also Silvana, who's back in the village for part of the summer. I like them both so much...

July 17
The Tuscia in Jazz Festival begins tonight in Soriano, and of course we'll attend. It lasts until August 1st, so there will be lots of great music playing here until then.

Rome, Italy (CNN) -- Actor George Clooney testified Friday in Milan, Italy, at the trial of three men accused of fraudulently using the Hollywood star's name to promote a fashion line.

I admit I'm a fan of George's, but especially like the fact that the skin on his face no longer looks taut. In his television commercials, he looks as if he bathes in the Fountain of Youth. In the shot in this story, his cheeks look drawn. You see, I study faces quite a bit, now that I'm drawing my own people to paint. He's still one good looking guy; that is, after Dino.

Yes, it's hot, but no matter. Dino rose early and spent an hour or two puttering in the garden and tells me some pomodori are almost ready to eat. It's a good thing, for today's tomato bought from a store is not very good in our caprese (pranzo salad of sliced tomato, buffala mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil). Soon, very soon...

One of the electricians is here today, and soon they'll both finish their work. So our side gate will soon be electrified, although we won't use it much. Like the cemetery plot, it's good to have. I almost wrote "handy to have" and then laughed to myself.

I sit in the kitchen and work on St. Pete, or at least I think I'm going to, and then I turn and take a look at ole' Gino. His expression is finally right, and I'm happy that I've had the time to work him over a bit. He's still smiling.

Tonight is the first night of Tuscia in Jazz, and I check in with Grace Kelly to see if she'll play here, but she will not. Only 17, she's really someone to watch, and her schedule has her playing all over New England this summer, after she returns from a gig in Poland. We loved meeting her and her family here in Soriano last year.

Stefano the electrician finishes his prep work, and Enzo his papa will return next week to finish the speaker and new gate job.

Tuscia in Jazz will go on for two weeks and hopefully we will attend every night! The Jazz Fest is held in Soriano Nel Cimino which is on the east slope of the Cimini Mountains. In this photo the yellow "X" marks the spot!

We drive to Soriano, and while Italo is on the mic, talking about the four years of the festival, we check and yes, we have gone to all four years, at least once each year. But there was something troubling in his words...It appears the festival has a four-year contract with the town of Soriano...He did not say if they will return. Stay tuned...

July 18
There's plenty to sing in church this morning, and I know the pieces so well that I don't need the music. At Bar Nando we're able to return to our favorite glassatas, and later, while shopping at Il Pallone, although the parking lot is mobbed, we find all the things on our list.

On the way back, Dino takes another photo of the corn growing, this time wanting to get the "hair" on top of each shoot. He's been taking photos of them each week. What's most noticeable is that all the earth is dry, and the green only shows around the edges, unless it's a corn plant, which is fortissimo (very strong).

There are the most beautiful chestnut horses at the training center located near the Superstrada, and if we have guests or visitors nearby, perhaps they can ride there. We'd like to know more about the place. Perhaps it's only a private place to keep horses and do dressage there.

Back at home, it remains very, very hot, so the rest of the middle part of the day is spent inside. I've received a couple of emails from GB regarding my Colors of Giotto story. He changed some of the copy, and as a result I've taken a hit or two by people who want to challenge what was written. Sigh. He's sorry, and I understand completely. It's like getting stung by a nettle, just the same. Wouldn't you think I'd have a thick skin after all these years?

It's too hot to draw, to paint, or do anything but lie in front of the fan. See you later...

We attend the second night of the Tuscia in Jazz festival in Soriano. It's a lovely way to spend a warm evening and listen to some good music. Tonight, the opening group was a group of high school jazz students touring Europe; they're from Berkley, California - Jazz School Studio Bands.

July 19
Dino continues his PT in Orte, and I hang out with Sofi, doing research on a trip to Provence. We've gathered a lot of material; now it's time to figure out what to keep. We love the daily markets there, and today I update the list of which markets are in different towns and their schedules.

The afternoon is so hot again that we can only hang out. I'm in nervous mode; it's not easy to draw figures that will be painted on canvas that are totally realistic, and that's my desire. I keep myself busy drawing and drawing, enjoying the effort just the same.

Outside there is not a sound. Inside, it's just Sofi's sleep murmurs and the gyrations of a fan. Later, there is Coro practice, and since we now have new software for our SKY programming, we can finally record programs we'd like to watch later (like TIVO). Italy is behind in many technology advances, but when it catches up it makes up for it.

Coro practice is an interesting time for me. It appears that it is important for all the women involved, feeling this is a time they can escape from their usual schedules to be with people who share some of their inner spiritual feelings.

Tonight, neither Don Renzo nor Federica attend, but Laura does something interesting. Instead of chatting for twenty minutes or so while we wait for someone to lead, she dives right in, turning on the cd and getting ready to sing. Those who are gabbing stop in mid-sentence, while the rest of us begin our... "Madre di Dio...prega per noi..."(Mother of God, pray for us).

By the time the hour is up (I leave then, no matter, with the others remaining), we have sung each piece several times and some of the pieces from our regular songbook, as well. Brava for Laura. She took this on without saying a word of preface, and we quieted down almost right away. It's too late to drive to Soriano, so we miss a night of the festival.

It is a difficult sleeping night, for the weather remains warm. Perhaps it is also because we've received an email from our good friend, Catharine Hooper, with an obituary for Marilyn Smith, a great and good friend from Mill Valley.

We're sorry we won't be able to attend her memorial on August 6th. It should be quite an event, befitting of this tiny but larger than life woman, full of ideas and the strength and persistence to carry them out; at times with a lack of support until she proved the naysayers wrong with her unbridled optimism.

We loved Marilyn for who she was as a person; she taught us a great deal about life and the importance of pressing on through adversity. I'd say her glass was usually full, brimming and still asking us to keep the tap open. Kisses to you, dear one.

July 20
Dino leaves early for Orte after watering plants in the middle garden while it is still cool. He wants to call this "the secret garden"; a garden one has to walk between two giant cypresses and through a gate to enter.

I love his idea, and wonder after we are "gone" whether the whole place will become overgrown and a secret in itself, of sorts. We also wonder if someone of our next generation will someday take it over. We can only hope.

For decades before us, this property was thought to be such a place. Perhaps it was meant to be a place of joy and also of quiet rest between caretakers. We feel we are caretakers here, and take our roles in a serious but somewhat sentimental way.

This morning, while closing the shutters above the middle garden, I saw flashes of blue hydrangeas peeking through a tall loquat tree; a tree that we can almost touch from the window. It was a lovely sight.

Downstairs, I sit outside on the terrace while drinking a cappuccino and take in the sun. I notice that we have a profusion of white roses in the tufa planters above the parcheggio (parking area).

These roses are the "Medilland" variety and the very best behaving roses we own; there are almost a dozen of them, and they bloom all summer to greet the passers by, with bursts every couple of weeks. I take a bucket and deadhead these lovely roses. It's an excuse to remain out in the sun longer.

Dino arrives home with the book I ordered three weeks ago: Grotesques in Church Art. Although I purchased it online, I was not aware that it was a first edition.

I begin to shake as I take it out of the wrapper; then lay it down on the marble tabletop. Dino is chatting, but I don't really hear him. I see that it is a hardback, but of course it would be. Written in 1899, there were just 400 copies printed; this one is number 336.

I slowly open the book, page by page, and it is so unused that a little bug lies on one page as if it is a fossil. Dino stops talking and bends down to inspect it closely.

This book contains the history of grotesques, including the fact that many centuries ago, they were carvings inside grottos, or caves. Brought to life during the Renaissance, when Raphael and others re-discovered them, the artists were lowered down (to study them) inside Domus Aurea in Rome, a Roman era pleasure palace where Fabullo painted the fanciful figures for his client. I often wonder if the derivation of the word "fabulous" came from him. Come no?

At any rate, I can hardly wait until pranzo is over, when I'll read every word...

I don't mean to treat Dino's raccolta (harvest) of our first gigantic pomodori (gigantic variety of tomatoes) with disrespect, for although they are not so big, they are beautiful. What do you think, Sofi?

The tomatoes just picked need another day or two to ripen, and that's fine, for the buffala mozzarella that Dino purchased today from IPERCOOP is not a great batch. Usually, it's very creamy. Today's has no taste. That happens...

Ha, ha. After all the trauma of obtaining the book, it contains the worst writing I have ever read. Here's the first sentence:
"The designs of which this book treats have vast fields outside the English church works of which it has been thought good to limit it".

So did the other 399 owners of the books roll their eyes as I did? Well, there is some helpful information here, even though it focuses on English church art. What did I expect?

The book is interesting enough, but what I need to do is to get into the head of Rafael, who elevated grotesques and arabesques into a high art....

We're expecting a shower or two, but will attend the jazz festival just the same. We're in luck; there are no showers and the sky in Soriano is clear and beautiful. You know, that dark Italian blue sky that's more like one of my paint colors than dark blue...

We arrive home to an email from a family who we might exchange houses with next Spring. Theirs sounds magical... but what about planting the pomodori (tomatoes)? Can we plant ours in the ground in advance and get the irrigation all set before we leave? I suppose anything's possible. Now if we could only locate the supplier of these gigantic tomatoes...

July 21
I'm awake first, before the harp sounds a wakeup alarm from our iPhone. It's a lovely morning; one that Sofi and I will spend waiting for Dino as he goes through his physical therapy at the old hospital in Orte. Then we'll drive to Viterbo. It's time to blow up half of the drawing of SPM that I will soon begin to paint.

Orte is not a town you'd think of when planning a trip to Italy, but it is full of history. Dino kindly parks with the front of the car facing the main square, and Sofi and I sit in the car and watch the normal morning goings-on as we wait.

We're right outside the office of the Vigili Urbani (local police), and just after Dino leaves us, two of them walk out into the square. One wears the traditional police cap; the other wears a baseball cap with the colors of the uniform. Huh? Somehow I don't imagine either of them getting ready to call out: "batter up!"

Just in front of us, walled in by local marble and just high enough to sit upon, is an ancient cisterna (well). It's located where cars have to jog right and then left to drive around it to get through town, although nothing else is located in the middle of the square itself.

The marvelous Basilica of Orte faces it in one direction; a tabacchi (stamp and cigarette shop), a café and a few offices rim the space, including that of the police. I don't suppose the city planners could have relocated the cisterna...but then, this town was planned in the Medieval Ages, and horse drawn carts were the largest vehicles used at that time.

Orte is not a particularly car friendly town. One needs to have a good feel for the car they are driving to meander through the borgo's labyrinth of streets with any ease, and they all run one-way.

The star of this part of the town is the panificio (bread shop), and it's quite popular, with folks walking out into the square eating their pizzabianca for breakfast. The nearby café is also quite good, and it's possible to order a hot chocolate made with melted real chocolate and very thick here. Think cold winter morning.

It's so good to see Dino's smiling face as he walks toward us, and we all drive to Viterbo to buy an inside antenna (yes, we're still trying to get Formula-1 broadcasts) and to a copy shop that makes oversized copies. I try a couple of different blowups of drawings of Carino, who is the man who killed St. Peter Martyr; now I'm ready to tackle drawing the Saint himself.

We drive on to Tenaglie to make sure that the apartment is ready for renters who arrive this weekend, and it is, but there has been no word from them. We're still home early, and there is plenty of time to fix pranzo before watching one of the recorded programs on tv. I know. It's difficult to wean oneself off it, especially now that we can watch programs on-demand.

Manifesti (posters) are out, announcing that the Guardea Gnocchi Sagra begins this weekend, and we're full of things to keep us busy: Jazz festival, Coro practice, Gnocchi Sagra...

We run into Tony and Pat as we're walking out of Aste & Fallimenti (Overstocks and Bankruptcies), the nearby shop that stocks something of everything. The place must be a gold mine. Today, we find ten pizza plates for €2 each, and after doing comparison shopping in Viterbo, know that these are just right and a real bargain.

Now, we have the oven; we have the plates...but there's that little detail called the structure around the oven that includes the roof of the loggia that is holding us back. It's a good thing Annika and Torbjörn won't be here for a couple of months, or they'd be stopping by to ask... "Is the pizza ready yet?"

Earlier, while stopping at Bar Quadrifoglio (four leaf clover) in Bomarzo, we ran into Tiziana, and told her we may have our citizenship within the next month or so. She smiled and asked us if we'll be flying the "tricolore"(Italian flag: red and white and green stripes) from our window. Si, certo! I confirm with her that Italians only fly the flag at sporting events, and she laughs and nods. We have the flag ready...just the same.

While Dino is resting after pranzo, Enzo the electrician calls, to say he needs the muratore to close up the walls so he can finish his work. Oh. Dino calls Stefano, who agrees to stop by in an hour or so. Perhaps we can get him to install the step outside the gate and do a few other things, while he is here as well. Dino is so good at squeezing a little work out of him here and there until he is ready to concentrate on our work.

Speaking of the work we have to do, Stefano's timing is probably right. When he's ready, we're hoping the amianto (asbestos) will have been removed and we'll be ready for him to build and install the roof and the surround for the pizza oven. We're still waiting for the cemetery permit, and since the earthquake in L'Aquila, now all construction permits have more rigid requirements. Everything takes longer than before to move through permit channels. Sigh.

Oh. It's 7PM and Stefano is a no-show. Well, perhaps tomorrow morning...At least Frank calls and he and Candace will join us at Tuscia in Jazz tonight. That will be fun, although it will be without Sofi. Sorry, little one.

Stefano does arrive, and I misunderstood. He's on time and tells us he'll come back on Saturday, but we don't know if the new more complicated criteria for building permits will create a long delay, even in the project we thought we'd be able to tackle subito (right away).

I've determined that what I really want to design for a good portion of the church consists of graceful arabesques. My mind first turns to the ballet days of my youth, when an arabesque was a smooth and lovely ballet step, with one leg finishing high in the air. But this is something else, or is it?

Encyclopaedia Britannica has a wealth of information.

The word comes from a style of decoration characterized by intertwining plants and abstract curvilinear motifs. Derived from the work of Hellenistic craftsmen working in Asia Minor, the arabesque originally included birds in a highly naturalistic setting. As adapted by Muslim artisans about ad 1000, it became highly formalized.

In Europe from the Renaissance until the early 19th century, arabesques were used for the decoration of illuminated manuscripts, walls, furniture, metalwork, and pottery. These designs usually were composed of either twining or sinuous scrolls of branches and leaves or ornate lines abstracted from such natural forms. Human figures often were integral to Western arabesque designs. Though the word had meant simply "Arabian" in 16th-century France, it was defined in a dictionary of 1611 as "rebesque work, a small and curious flourishing."

The earliest Western models inspiring the work of early Renaissance Italian artists were actually ancient Roman stucchi, plaster models found in Roman tombs.

Renaissance arabesques maintained the classical tradition of median symmetry, freedom in detail, and heterogeneity of ornament. The arabesque of this period also allowed the inclusion of a broad range of elements-human beings, beasts, birds, fishes, flowers-in imaginative or fantasy scenes, usually with copious interlacings of vines, ribbons, or the like.

L'Arabesque is a high expression of elegance. There cannot be arabesque without visual grace and refinement... The arabesque entered into art as floral and geometric patterns in architecture.

But where are photos of the designs? I have some, but would love to find out where there are more...I'm pretty sure we saw some years ago in the castle adjoining Ostia Antica, but the photos were stolen with the camera years ago in Barcelona.

We're off to Tuscia Jazz tonight with Candace and Frank, and some great music.

July 22
Buon ascolta (happy listening)! That's the phrase that is repeated several times at the Tuscia Jazz Festival each evening. Last night was no different. We heard the best jazz yet; already the judging for individual awards has singled out a few. We'll definitely try to attend every night we can. It's such a great way to cool down after a hot day.

Meanwhile, down in Orte, Dino is not sure his physical therapy is working, but while walking back to his car, he stops to enjoy the wonder of the town. Here is Dino's take on what he sees on his walk.

Yes, it's just another day in paradise, beginning with a prima colazione (breakfast) of a sliced peach and cappuccino while seated on the terrace for me, while Sofi continues her never ending search for lizards nearby. Dino will have one more physical therapy session after today, but is not feeling much different. Perhaps there will be another round of visits next month.

It's back to the drawing board for a lesson to determine the correct proportions for SPM and his assassin. Self-teaching can be a challenge, but when conquered, such a reward!

I've come across a great sight for learning to draw the human figure. If you'd like to learn, here's the site:


I've done the tutorial, and realize that, as thousands even as adept as Michelangelo practiced, it's drawing, drawing, drawing that will help me to improve.

But if a certain fellow who markets weeklong art courses for artists in Provence emails me is correct, I'm wasting my time. What? Can't blame him for trying to close the deal, as it appears that the internet is how they sell these courses, but he appears a little snippy, don't you think?

Buoyed by a friend's compliments about the painting of the boys: "Sempre Amici - Always Friends", I'm moving forward to put the details of the grotesques and arabesques in place as they would appear on the church walls. He tells me that I might use transparent paper in large sizes to draw out the designs, and that sounds sensible and workable.

We'll start researching in Viterbo for the paper source, but may also try shops in Rome if we don't find what we need. I need to draw up the walls on a small scale, first, and that's a big gulp of a project. I suppose I should start with imagining how I'd like the place to look when entering the front door...

We're waylaid by an afternoon nap to escape the heat, and later there's some figuring out of arabesque designs. Good friend Don emails me about a site with plenty of gargoyles:


I can hardly believe my eyes. There are wisteria flowers blooming under the pergola in the secret garden! I find twenty-two of them; they're smaller than the first blooms but blooms nonetheless, all from one plant. The other nine wisteria plants (gulp) must be laggers. ha. Here's proof!

It's another evening at Tuscia Jazz, and some wonderful music. We stay for the end, and the winners to be announced for tonight, and agree.

July 23
The heat seems less oppressive this morning, and a bird jumping from one giant loquat leaf to another on the tree outside our bedroom window seems happy, as am I. Dino drives to his last physical therapy appointment, and Sofi and I stay home.

I work on the drawing of SPM's assassin, and soon will begin to draw Saint Pete himself. Once they're both drawn as well as I think I am able, we'll blow them up side by side to the size of the oil painting, and then I will transfer the drawing and begin to paint. I'm looking forward to that, and it better be soon...

It's an interesting process to have a project that is complex but must be done by me alone. With painting and drawing, I find myself pushing through, instead of wanting to put the effort off. So let's move to SPM first, then revisit Carino (the assassin) later to tweak him some more.

There are two articles today in the NYT online about free will, and I find them fascinating. Do you remember the analogy on an earlier date about the gravestone marker?

Well, the dates of your birth and your death are inscribed upon yours after you die with a straight line in between...What you do with that line is up to you. It might be interesting to use the pieces for a discussion during a relaxing visit with friends:


Did I tell you that cicadas no longer bother me? I must be in a world of my own these days, for I have to think of them sometimes to even hear them now. This morning in a walk to the secret garden to wonder at the wisteria blossoms, I hear them for the first time today. Yes, I'm at peace.

Naps in the afternoon help, especially when it's hot outside. I return to working on SPM this time afterward, as Dino drives to Viterbo again to see if someone can help him with a data drive. We have two backup drives and he is not worried, but I'd surely hate to lose hard drive information.

It's beyond my control, so I draw and redraw the face of Saint Peter Martyr (SPM) and wonder, is he frightened as his assassin gets ready to strike him, or is he ready to die, wanting to be in heaven instead?

I read about his life and he seemed preoccupied with life in heaven. Is it correct to say that he lived to die? If so, in the throws of imminent death, is he at peace or is he in great fear?

Dino suggests that I draw the sample grotesques and arabesques on foam core for the presentation, and that sounds fine. But now that I'm working on the drawing to use for the painting of the saint and his assassin, also for the presentation, I want to stay with this until it's ready to paint.

That means a trip to Rome soon for the canvas, and perhaps a trip to Ostia Antica, where grotesques and arabesques are beautifully painted on the walls and ceiling near one of the entrances.

There is a warm breeze, and it should be another balmy evening at the Jazz Festival, weather wise. We see folks there who attend year after year and nod; we are in a kind of a club, I suppose. Each night, I turn to tell Dino the name of each piece being played after a few notes, and I'm pretty good at it.

All those days and nights listening to jazz records as a young girl had plenty to do with it, and on the drive home tonight I smile as we listen to Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing on our iPod.

He's my favorite jazz artist, ever since a bad experience at a club in San Francisco with Stan Getz, when he refused to answer a simple question about one of his earlier albums. The summer before, I saw him at a concert with a trio, and he hardly played.

I suppose he was not a happy fellow, but the notes he played on his sax were the sweetest I'd ever heard. I always felt transported to another place when listening to him.

We enjoy the jazz tonight, well part of it. We leave at 11:30, in the midst of the last set. There is some excellent music played tonight and some mediocre. Overall, it was enjoyable.

July 24
Happy Birthday, dear Terence. Dino put together three things as gifts for him, one of which was hidden and wrapped in a closet. When they were on the phone last night, we thought that Dino would tell him to go into the closet and tell him where to find it. But in the conversation, we learn that he found the wrapped box at tax time. It's still not opened, we think. Yes, we think of him all the time.

Stefano is not coming today to work. He is behind, and at least we know he is not coming. The day starts full of clouds, but by 9AM it is sunny and clear.

Dino works on the tomatoes, clipping leaves to give more sun to the giant orbs to help them to ripen. The green tomato that fell off a few days ago sat on a table to ripen (magari...as if that were so), but it did not. Will I fix a fried green tomato? We will see. It depends on whether there is another tomato or two ready to pick.

I embark on a final internet photo research for SPM, and am now ready to do the final drawing for the painting of him; the finished drawing of his assassin will be used as a template for SPM's size and positioning. Keep chugging along, Evanne...

Dino does a trial installation of an outside antenna for the tv. Let's hope he will meet with success before the summer series of Formula-1 has passed. What a guy!

Another day... another pomodoro. As July progresses, so do the tomatoes. I pick a couple this morning to slice for pranzo, and notice that, as if a conductor points to... "you, and to you, and to you..." that they ripen one by one. In August, it will be more like... "You two, oh, you four, oh, you seven!" What tasty fun! It's definitely one of the joys of summer. But the peaches are still not ready to eat...

Dino returns to Attigliano...twice. It's not easy to self-install an outside antennae, as he realizes. I can only smile at him and silently work on the drawing of SPM. He kindly advises me about where he thinks the saint should be placed on the drawing, and then I work on foreshortening both arms. Yes, I make things more complicated, but if I succeed, what a personal triumph it will be! That way, if I fail a little, I won't knock myself on the head over it.

Sofi thinks she has found the trace of a lizard outside, but as much as she loves following them, she returns to me and waits by my side instead...What a lovely soul she is!

After a tasty pranzo, I return to the drawing and yes, I will make my self-imposed deadline of tomorrow. I could finish it in an hour or so if I had to, but want another day to go back to it and caress it a little more. Then we can blow it up just a little, and by Wednesday we'll have the canvas and hope to transfer the drawing onto it.

I think I'll delay that a day or so after having the canvas in hand and paint the background a pale yellow...It's better to have a color instead of white, I think, for a background and it may facilitate the rays of sun behind the trees in the background of the painting. Let's hope Don Francis approves of the design and yes, I'll email it to him to gain his response. Speriamo di si (we hope he'll agree).

Tonight it's the Guardea Gnocchi Sagra and then Tuscia in Jazz. We're picking up Tony and Pat for cena, but don't know if they like jazz. We'll drop them off at home if they do not. But Dino calls me from Orvieto to warn me about the laundry...it is raining there and will probably rain here, too.

The sky is overcast all of a sudden, so I do take in the laundry, but will it rain here, and on our parade? Things clear up, and by the time we are ready to leave, things look better.

The night time sky is good to us...it remains clear until we hop into bed some five or so hours later, with a jolly moon rolling around in the heavens.

We picked up Tony and Pat earlier, and for an hour or two sat in Guardea at the annual gnocchi (potato dumpling) sagra. After dropping them off back at their home we drive across the valley to Soriano, and although it's almost ten when we get to the square, there are a couple of tables left.

We're not crazy about the first group, The Feeling Trio, but the second consists of a fourteen year old boy, Tommaso Perazzo, at the piano and a base player and a drummer who have both played with other groups and are excellent. The boy has his own style; he asks the bass player to read the music in front of him!

He's a Scott Joplin, stride piano kind of boy, and sticks with the old favorites, which he plays without any music. Of course the audience is wild for him. Here's a photo of him playing an encore with Italo Leali, the Director of the Jazz Festival, leaning back and beaming at him as he watches the boy play.

We drive home and on the way Dino plays an NPR program, Fresh Air, with Terry Gross. A man talks about being at peace with himself, and I'm thinking that if I can make something of this drawing and the presentation, it may be just what I need. Otherwise, I'm more at peace than I've ever been. I think Dino feels the same way, based on how we are with each other.

I look forward to tomorrow and to what it might bring, and hope you do, too. Life is just too short to let it pass us by...

July 25
On the way to mass this morning, at least two of my Coro buddies ask me where I have been this past week, for I did not attend any of the practices. "Tuscia in Jazz", I respond, and no one seems to know about it. After all, Soriano is two towns away...I don't imagine that anyone from here enjoys jazz anyway. That's ok, too.

The church is really crowded, and it may partly be because it is in honor of Ennio Farina, who died last year. The Farina family is the largest in town, by far.

It's also possible that it's summertime, and summertime visitors who live in Rome during the rest of the year love to visit Mugnano in the summer. Va bene!

On the way to Bar Nando for glassatas and cappuccinos, we talk about the tree project, and Dino has a great idea to simplify the project. But Ecomuseo would need to procure a computer for it, and Dino is happy to build the database (way to go, Dino!).

The tree that I will paint will be simpler, and only the cognomes (family names) will appear, in a symbolic way. In order to see an entire branch of a family, one will sit down at the computer and type a name in...they will be directed to the entire family.

Dino has plenty of work ahead of him before we lay out the tree and paint it. So I will continue on my church project for Don Francis, and that's what I do for the rest of the day.

While Dino watches Formula 1 on his iPhone and takes a nap, I take out a new sheet of thick paper, measure it out and then begin to redraw Saint Peter the Martyr and his assassin (Carino).

I finish drawing Carino before it's time to change for the jazz festival, and will finish the rest of it before meeting with Marco, hopefully tomorrow afternoon. I will show him both versions of the drawing. Today's has Carino in an ugly expression, for in a second or two he will kill the dear saint. It's all quite dramatic.

Dino calls me outside in the afternoon and takes me over to one of the newest wisteria to show me something. He prefaces by saying that Candace will not be happy about it. What could that be? Oh.

The very newest wisteria has a blossom! It's late July, and although the ticket on the plant says that it is a late bloomer, I can hardly believe it. We'll take a photo in case you don't believe me, either.

I'm really tired by the concentration this afternoon on the drawing. I've changed it somewhat, and although I think Carino's expression is fierce, I think it's too fierce. Tomorrow I'll take another look.

There's jazz tonight, and that's where we'll be.

July 26
I love our home here, especially the pentimento (layers) of it, revealing that the house was once pink, and once a kind of manila color. Manila...what does the word come from? The dictionary tells me that it's a beige color...if it's made of manila paper; must be a kind of hemp.

Today the wisteria seems to love it, too; winding its way up and around the balcony, framing the shutters and the door.

I find myself drawing for most of day, while Dino fixes pranzo so that I can finish as much of the piece as I can before meeting with Marco at 5.

Marco does not figuratively pound me over the head, as I feared, letting me know that he thinks the characters are reversed; that SPM should be in front and larger, with Carino further back and smaller.

It all makes sense, especially that I should draw and draw and draw again, and next week we'll meet again to see what I have learned before doing the final blowup. So we drive to Viterbo and I pick up two drawing pads of the kind of paper he uses, and that will be my main focus for this next week. It's better that the drawing is excellent than it is done soon. I'm really enthused. Thanks, Marco.

Tonight is more jazz; with Massimo Davola. We take Sofi with us as a trial, but she is so frightened by the sound of the instruments pounding away, that Dino walks her to the car in the nearby lot. After Dino returns from taking her to the car so she can wait in quietness until we return, we continue to enjoy a set of very well played jazz.

Massimo's sax hits a riff that is pure magic; it is not often that the sounding of just a few notes in sequence is pure magic, but this is.

I wonder how many people are as conscious of this as I am. I'm inspired, as I often am at this festival; it is the expression of one's creativity through the relationship one has with his instrument that strikes something way down within me.

Since the musicians are friendly and like talking with people in the audience, also mingling and sitting in the audience with friends; we'll tell him so the next chance we get.

We're home before midnight, slipping into bed for some sweet dreaming.

July 27
Today is a road trip to Rome. Well, more specifically to the ancient port of Ostia Antica to take photos of grotesques in the castle of Giulio II.

We're directed first to the superintendent's office (Soprintendeza per I Beni Archeologici di Ostia) for permission, but he is on vacation. We ask for his secretary, and she calls down on the telephone, not even interested in speaking with us in person. "No, you need a permit to do that...definitely not".

"Send a letter on Italian Notebook stationary with your request and we'll see". Our hopes are dashed, for I recall that the grotesques are really beautiful, and aside from a story for Italian Notebook, I want to photograph them for the presentation.

We take a few photos of the Ostia Antica borgo for a story about that, and drive to Rome to pick up a canvas from Raoul in Trastevre. This is the canvas I will use to paint SPM and Carino.

We return to Mugnano and a little rain in the late afternoon. But we are not deterred. Tonight we attend the jazz festival with Candace and Frank and their friends Ike and Albert, who also enjoy jazz, and the program is marvelous, not ending until 12:30 AM.

For me, the star is Eddie Gomez, and his forte is the bass. Sounds emerge from the instrument; sounds I've never heard before...somewhere between a mournful cry and a cello. He also plays it with a bow as if it is a cello, and that sound is divine. I'm thinking of dear departed cousin Pete, and wonder if he's enjoying the music on high.

Later, we're able to speak with Eddie, and he's happy to talk, grateful for the crowd of eager listeners. When introducing one of the last pieces, he tells us all in English that many of us can relate to the lyrics. "You don't know what love is" is the piece, and those low notes speak to us.

Any of us who know the lyrics nod silently to ourselves. And it is with this that the evening ends, quite cool with thoughts of the unsung lyrics in our heads...A domani (until tomorrow).

July 28
We drive to the AUSL (State health office) to renew our medical permits with the State, but after waiting our turn we are told to come back next week. Although our permits end on Friday, we can't renew them until August. What?

We visit Dr. Bevilacqua to talk about the physical therapist's recommendation for ten more visits, and he writes Dino up for them, but they both conclude that it's not going to do a lot to alleviate his pain. They each shake their heads and agree to give it another try just the same. At least he can talk with Paola the technician in English, who we ran into while at the AUSL office.

We drive around the ancient Viterbo wall, and I'm struck by how beautifully the walls have been restored. Yes, I could paint a wall of stones like these...perhaps one day.

Will we reach IPERCOOP in time to pick up our favorite Franzia mozzarella? Nope. They are often out of it, and no one else around stocks it, purtroppo (too bad). The brand we buy tastes like processed American cheese. Sigh.

Earlier I took medicine for a migraine headache and wonder...is the new way of holding my head up straight responsible? I have had no migraine headaches for almost a month!

I want to begin sketching, but there appears to be so little time. Yesterday while driving back from Viterbo before pranzo, I was drawn to the cloud formations above; they seemed like marshmallow balls, ready for the campfire, or soft pillows, although their base is straighter than straight, obviously formed by the wind patterns. Yes, I should learn more about them; about what kind of clouds they are and how they are formed.

In this existence, I am still full of projects in my everyday life, many on hold until I pull them up one by one for an hour here, an hour there. Most of all, I am sure to take on anything slowly these days, for it is in the doing of them that is the joy...

I'm beginning a short story to submit when it is done, for I have the framework, but it's not for publishing here yet. Add that to the list. Dino is also always doing something; whether it's in the garden or a project, he's not someone to spend a day in front of the TV. This afternoon, it's pranzo and an hour or two resting and reading; we love doing this as the sun turns hot each afternoon. Will we need jackets again tonight? Hard to tell, but the daytime weather is decidedly cooler this year.

Dino and I play around with the two newest wisteria, now merging in the center below the large beam on the terrace. Perhaps Stefano will return this week to do just a little work. Now that it's almost August, he'll begin to work here in just a couple of weeks...speriamo di si (we hope so).

When Dino clicks the tv coder to record a few programs for later tonight, "Il Cocodrillo" plays in the background and we're beginning to learn the song. This winter we'll teach the girls, and when they come for a visit next summer they can sing it with the locals...

Tonight, Dave Liebman is the star, and plays the most remarkable clarinet and sax in recent memory. Most of the audience even gives him a standing ovation at the end, albeit prompted by Tony Monaco, seated at the table just in front of us. Dave and the group return for an encore, and we don't remember that happening here before. What a night!

July 29
Dino asks me to go out for colazione (breakfast) with him, and we return to Bar Quadrofoglio (4-leaf clover); then drive to Il Pallone to shop. Sofi is with us, so she and I wait in the semi-shade while Dino shops in the market. She is such a sweet dog and so loves to be with us, that it's difficult not to take her places, although she's frightened now and then by a lot of noise and of course cannot go into food markets. At times I look down at her and just wonder how a creature could be so dear.

The sky is partly cloudy, and there is a great deal of wind. It's a strange feeling, surrounded by wind in the middle of the day. The forecast is rain for tomorrow. Now the cicadas are working overtime. They've moved to my subconscious so no longer bother me, and it's a good thing. For summer and cicadas are an everyday occurrence here in Italy when temperatures rise above 25° Celsius.

Back at home I spend an hour or more sketching, but I'm a little antsy: there's a short story I want to write, tablecloths to sew with fabric I love, boards to buy for the presentation and grotesques and painting of them to do, the drawing for SPM and Carino to finesse...all in addition to regular everyday things in the kitchen and around the house, all to be done in a semi-relaxed manner. Well, I enjoy it all. So a little here and there, and keeping up the journal daily, helps me to keep things in perspective.

This morning while driving home, I looked out the window and marveled at how happy we are. This is surely a life beyond imagining.

The wind continues, so after a dolce fa niente we decide to work on the wisteria growing up and beyond the balcony. The two front corners are bare, so Dino unweaves strands underneath the structure and feeds them to me, so that I can weave them just a little and use little ties to secure then until they latch on to the iron themselves.

Sofi sits on the balcony, looking out of the openings near the corners that bow out, and I realize that this is a lovely place for her to sit and rest. If I could do something on a little chair I could join her here, which is what she wants, for after Dino and I finish I return inside to let you know what we've been doing, and she follows.

I feel an itchy humidity, and the forecast has changed; showers are expected tonight, but we are not deterred. Unless it really rains, we'll drive to Soriano. After a night like last night, we don't want to miss a minute of it.

I also want to ask Shawnn Monteiro if she ever sings the song, "Mad about the boy", for she'd do it justice, and with all the young guys so crazy about jazz at the festival, she'd win them over big time. We'll see if she's there tonight. She's Jimmy Woode's daughter, so this festival is important to her. The Jimmy Woode award is the big award given on the last evening of the festival on August 1st.

What's that? Grilli (cicadas)? They seem to pant in the humidity, but don't bother me any more. Grazie Dio!

July 30
Rain! What a surprise, although I admit it was in the forecast. We wake to clouds and sun and in a little while hear the tinkling of drops on loquat leaves. The leaves in their upward growth as if they're arms raised toward heaven welcome the drops, and then the heavier rain. It does not last long, but is surely welcome.

I return to drawing, and spend too much time drawing three chubby angels playing in the clouds next to a big tree. I'm copying images from a book to practice, although I need to spend more time drawing from real life. Patienza (patience).

Hi, cicadas! You don't chatter when it rains, but now seem to be clearing your little throats.

There's a jolly tomato, just picked by Dino, big and full of sweet fruit to serve with mozzarella and basil and local olive oil. Mozzarella is not all creamy and delicious; we're searching for a brand that meets our expectations other than Franzia, which is available only at one place in Viterbo. Surely some of the local brands must be good, for Italians are so particular about what they eat.

We hear from my wonderful cousin, Cherie. She hopes to come to France next June. We know nothing about the area she wants to visit, but love learning about new places, and the area seems perfect. Add another dream to the list, and look at places in the area to visit, markets to saunter through...

Showers are expected tonight? We don't know. A few hours pass and we think we'll have great weather. But Tuscia Jazz is rained out in the square. What happens to the performances? The jam session begins early at the nearby trattoria.

We eat very tasty linguine vongole at the Taverna dei Frati, where service couldn't be worse, the young water wandering around with just a plate in his hands, as if it is a pillow with a ring on top. We're eating outside under a covered and only partly leaking top, but I love it there; love the view of the trees and hills as if we're peeking out under a raincoat over our heads.

After we're through eating pasta, we walk down to Caffé Centrale for gelato. With the place empty and sad looking, we walk back up the hill to the car and return home. There was no rain, but the stage and square are too wet and the square looking soggy. Purtroppo.

July 31
Birdsong tells us it will be a sunny day. We drive to Guardea and Tenaglie to check on a property and then drive home. The weather has been lovely except for the rain; the temperatures cooler than we ever recall.

We eat one of the pomodori fresh from the garden, but it is not as flavorful as in other years. Perhaps it has something to do with all the rain this spring?

I draw for a couple of hours after pranzo, and tomorrow I will begin to draw the figures for the final painting. I've been drawing from Marco's book, but today in the mail came another copy, bought on ebay from someone in Italy. It's really helpful, but since Marco tells me it's always better to draw from a live model, I'll bring my sketch pad tonight again and draw some of the people in the audience.

August 2010

Here is another "sign of Summer" in Mugnano - friends passing time....

August 1
Mild weather continues as we begin a new week, a new month.

I spend every minute I can on the drawing, thinking that tomorrow we'll do blowups of different sections and hope to arrive at the final design before visiting Marco again to have him take a practiced eye.

The jazz festival ends its stay in Soriano, moving next to Civita di Bagnoreggio, Tonight there are many awards to the students, and we agree with most of them.

August 2
Waking to sun just peeking through shutters, I have mixed feelings about waking this way. We do sleep longer and perhaps more gently with the room mostly dark, but I do adore waking to birdsong and sun streaming across the bed.

We drive to Viterbo to renew our Italian health card; last week we were turned away because it was too early, so here we are again. We then blow up copies of the drawing to work on them later.

I decide to finish the drawing by myself, with counsel from Dino. It's when I take my own counsel that paintings turn out better these days, and it is Dino's perspective that is most important to me, although I appreciate Marco's counsel.

Italians, notes Professor Altomonte, are among the world's heaviest consumers of bottled water. "Do you know why? Because the water in the tap comes from the government."

August 3
Another lovely morning finds us driving to Orte for a pedicure with Giusy and Dino purchasing Orte's fresh rosettas (rolls) while he and Sofi wait for me.

We return home and I work on the drawing a bit; now the saint kneels in the foreground, ignoring the assassin who is about to strike him from behind. Dino agrees to take me to Viterbo later this afternoon to blow it up to the final size, and I will finish the drawing in a day or so.

I did not realize until yesterday, but the people to approve my proposed designs for the interior of the church are the church elders, which makes the success of my efforts less promising.

Perhaps I can win them over in person, especially if the presentation takes place after our citizenship papers arrive. Each day Dino opens the mailbox with hope; each day he is disappointed. Today is no different.

Stefano had agreed to come today to finish the small project to get ready for the larger one, but cannot. That's the bad news. The good news is that he may be ready to begin the main project sooner than the end of August. Wouldn't that be wonderful? Speriamo di si (we hope so).

The geometra tells Dino that the amianto (asbestos removal) people don't return from vacation until next Monday. He spoke with the tecnico (engineer who is responsible for approving any permits) regarding one of our projects (the one between our property and Pepino's garden), and that should be approved next week...or was it about the cemetery project? Either way, we have no news.

Stefano and his very carina (cute) daughter, Corinne, drive up to the geometra's office in Stefano's little truck and we run into them (figuratively) as we are leaving; he'll come by tomorrow or the next day. We're like someone trying to get an old car to start ...rrrr....rrrr....rrrrrr, gently egging the muratore onward.

My memory is certainly lagging. That is why posts for some days are so short. If I don't sit down right away to tell you what's going on in our lives, the information floats off like a farfalla (butterfly) and I cannot call it back. Sigh.

With the blowup even larger than the canvas, I can figure out whether to have more blank space at the top or the bottom. So I'm anxious to draw the rest, although the natural light is not optimal at 8 PM. Until tomorrow...

August 4
I've just looked over the July posting, and notice that we're not much further along on the construction front today than we were a month ago. Our geometra should have a song written about him, but he's a nice man and is probably thinking, "Don't shoot the messenger!" Yesterday he told Dino that the amianto removal people are back from vacation NEXT Monday.

Warm weather continues, but I stay inside to finish the drawing of Saint Peter the Martyr, hopefully, for the church in Isernia, Molise.

We have day-old bread, purchased specifically yesterday for panzanella, the characteristic bread salad of Italy, and the recipe is on the site. The change I would make is to put the minced garlic in the marinade and then sprinkle olive oil on the top with a fine pourer instead of brushing it. Put cheese on the pieces before putting them in a baking pan. Oh heck. Why don't I just change the recipe?

Dino wants tuna in the salad, so va bene. It's easy to vary the ingredients, and I even put in chopped celery for extra crunch. There I go again. Oh, and a few special marinated olives.

Stefano comes by at 5PM to talk about the projects, and now wants to finish one project completely instead of just starting another with more to do, so he'll begin on Saturday or Monday latest.

He has an idea for the pianorotolo (landing) outside the front door, so as soon as that's laid we can get a quote from Franco and then choose him or the man in Soriano to make the peperino top and balustrade. Yes, we'll finally have a balustrade, but it will be small and not seen unless you're already inside the gate.

Perhaps next week we'll get crankin'. Oh. The fifteenth is Ferragosto, which marks the iron days of summer. It's on a Sunday, so workers won't work the day before or the Monday after. It's another ponte (bridge), which Italians craftily fashion to make vacations out of a day here, a day there, added to a weekend. By the time we post this, Ferragosto will have come and possibly ended...

Rosita walks by and calls up to me to tell me that Coro practice in Attigliano will be Thursday instead of tonight. Bummer. Well, I won't attend, for we'll attend the Cerreto sagra tomorrow, probably the best of the year.

I finish the drawing and email it to Don Francis for his comments. Will he approve? Will he want changes? I have no idea, but I can paint the canvas pale yellow while I wait to hear the news.

August 5
A new Todis grocery store has its grand opening today in Attigliano, and we stop by after a visit to the bank to renew my bank card. Something to remember: When someone's bank card expires, they need to return it to the bank for the banker to destroy, otherwise it's impossible to get the new one without a lot of folderol. With so many changes happening in this country, the situation may change, but for now it's the rule.

Deciding not to begin the painting of the canvas until I hear back from Don Francis, I resurrect the many stories and photos we have not yet completed for Italian Notebook. It's not a rainy day, although the forecast tonight is for rain in Viterbo, it's pretty cool; cool enough that Dino works after pranzo on the front steps.

We're happy to learn that Pino is the new owner of the Todis store, and his Attigliano butcher shop is closed, just today, so that the employees can all enjoy the celebration at the new location. When we leave with our groceries, the cashier asks where we are from. Surely the Todis people are there as well to train them. Good for Pino! Dino picks up a porchetta sandwich or two to bring home, for they're offered free to "opening day" shoppers.

Content that a local owner will gain new prosperity; perhaps even Gianni will do more business. Magari? If it brings in new business to the town, everyone can benefit. I learned that from my father. Short term, it will probably not be easy for Gianni. He's a very nice guy, and we'll shop at both places to help both succeed.

Confident that Stefano will be here to work by next Monday, Dino and I confirm the length and width of the front landing, and he takes off three tiles and the underlying tufa stone on each side of the front staircase; a staircase we really don't use anyway.

Laughing at a paragraph in a new Donna Leon novel while resting after pranzo, Dino reads it to me while I'm trying to unravel old and uncompleted stories I've partially written for Italian Notebook.

Although I'm really not in the mood to write these stories anymore, I realize how much fun they are to research and write while updating the unfinished ones. Perhaps we won't stop after all. Amazingly, I've submitted one hundred to date!

Frank thinks that one of the best sagras of the year is tonight in Cerreto, near Orvieto. Their sagra is based on a type of bread that looks somewhat like a homemade pita bread, albeit larger and thicker.

Candace and Frank and some of their friends join us in weather that is sprinkled with drops of rain at first. We have a couple of umbrellas with us, but after we sit down on the somewhat wet benches the weather clears.

I have missed the Coro practice in Attigliano tonight and am sorry for that, but hopefully I will practice the music and we'll have another rehearsal soon.

August 6
Skies are cloudy. It is as if there is a ceiling above us made of the clouds, flat on the bottom and all at the same layer. Since becoming more aware of design, I see that the further away the clouds appear, the lower they appear on the horizon. Instead of forming an arch, however, the line is straight. It's as if God is pressing his hand down upon them, and it feels as if the sky is quite close and perhaps even tipping. What?

Viewing the world with a painter's eye is an interesting thing to do. One does not have to be a good painter to look at the world in this way, and it opens up one's vista immensely.

While waiting to hear from Don Francis about the drawing, I'll work steadily on Italian Notebook stories, for there are 150(!) of them either already sent or in stages of development. Let's try to clear the slate of at least a dozen in the next week, unless I hear good things from our good friend down South.

In case you think these are a lot, remember that the Notebook is almost three years old. Multiply 5 by 50 (include vacation) by 3 and you get more than 700, when including a few extra weeks every year. So GB and his pals have to come up with lots of stories to keep the pipeline streaming. Bravo, dear GB!

Clouds bring rain while I'm deadheading the white Medilland roses on the tufa planters standing above the parcheggio, but no matter. Sofi continues her watch at the mouth of one of the caves nearby. Old planks of wood and pots keep her out, but there is some overhang, so she stays sheltered from most of the drops and waits...for what, we don't know.

We eat Paola's frittata di maccheroni for pranzo,


as it's a recipe for leftover pasta, in the form of a frittata, with: yesterday's meatballs cut small, mozzarella, olives, parmesan cheese, chopped pepperoncini in an oil sauce, a couple of eggs, a couple of anchovies and a small can of tomatoes, and of course yesterday's leftover pasta, topped with a tablespoon of olive oil or butter. Buona! So, cooking a whole box of pasta at one time gives us a day or two more for the same basic work. Just remember it's 5 eggs per box of pasta, so if you have less pasta, use fewer eggs.

A dolce fa niente (sweet afternoon nap) is what we have in the afternoon, for it is cool and windy and we lie upon the high bed while watching the cypress trees dance and clouds move swiftly in and out of our view. It's heavenly. Rain moves somewhere else, and Dino remarks, "Might as well get up and do an hour's work, the regular day's work of an Italian". Well, some Italians work really hard; some not lifting a finger.

I work some more on Italian Notebook and there is a ton of work to do to clear up what I've started. Let's send at least a couple of stories off tonight.

August 7
How sad... Thomas' English Muffins' "nooks and crannies" recipe may no longer to be a trade secret, although it is one of the things we miss from the US. Dino prints out a copy of what he thinks is the recipe and yes, I will try to make them. They are not for sale here in Italy.

With rain not expected for a week, and intermittent clouds on the horizon, we've the shutters open as we enjoy the sunlight.

Waiting for Stefano until Monday or so to return, Dino has put a board at the edge of the steps and covered it with gravel to give us a feeling of what the landing outside the front door will look like; at least the amount of space we'll have. It's what I've always wanted here.

There is pizza in the borgo tonight, as the first in ten days or so of events put on by the good folks at Ecomuseo for the people of the village. We'll take our binder full of family histories to add more from folks here on their summer holiday and perhaps Dino will speak with them about the next steps in what we are going to do for the people of the village.

Will we take the new painting of the boys, "Sempre Amici" (always friends) as well? I'm not sure, although Ivo and his family are here from Parma, so both boys will see it for the first time.

Great friend Don sends us an article from TIME magazine, dated July 5th, in which it speaks of Italy living off the savings of its citizens. The writer believes that the country's economy is based upon protecting privilege, not expanding opportunity, and has not kept up with changes in the world's economy.

A gradual erosion of living standards is expected here, but I'm not a futurist. Yes, I believe Italy needs a financial overhaul, but Berlusconi is not the man to do it, and Prodi could not gain the momentum he needed to make it happen when he was Prime Minister.

We're left with the cicadas and naps in the cool afternoon behind shutters before returning outside to enjoy the terrace and the garden. Are we fiddling while Rome burns? What could we do to make a difference, other than continue to recycle and live our lives simply?

Roy visits the Post Office, but lines are too long, to obtain the abonomento (special form) to pay for owning a television. He's told we must do that before we can get the hookup for Formula-1 from RAI, the state-owned television company.

Here's some news from Italia:
Winnie Pooh phone betrays mobster
Fugitive arrested in Brussels after calls to wife
(ANSA) 05 August,
Naples, August 5 - A mobile phone registered to Winnie the Pooh helped police track down a fugitive Italian mobster in Brussels, it emerged on Thursday. Coded telephone calls between Vittorio Pirozzi and his wife eventually led Italian police and Interpol to the Belgian capital, where the 58-year-old fugitive was arrested on Wednesday night.

Pirozzi, a member of the Naples-based Camorra crime syndicate, had been on the run since 2003 and was on Italy's 100 most wanted list. Throughout his time in hiding, the boss remained in close contact with his wife, arranging meetings using a complicated code of numbers and letters, according to Naples flying squad chief Vittorio Pisani. An exercise book since discovered at the wife's home contained the complex code the pair had developed, he added. But while Pirozzi changed the SIM card in his cell phone every two weeks, his wife always used a card registered to the name of A. A. Milne's fictional bear, Winnie the Pooh.

Etruscan necropolis yields fresh discoveries
Rare plaster walls, Tarquinia's oldest painting discovered
(ANSA) Rome, August 5 -
An Etruscan necropolis in central Italy has yielded up a string of fresh discoveries this summer, after archaeologists set their sights on an ancient royal tomb.

Tarquinia, one of Lazio's richest Etruscan sites, is home to dozens of tombs but this is the first time archaeologists have been given the opportunity to excavate the 'Queen's Tomb' in detail.

Created in the mid-7th century BC, the crypt is thought to have hosted someone of royal rank although no remains have ever been found. Instead, archaeologists have uncovered elements of decoration indicating the settlement had much wider links with the outside world than previously realized.

The first stage of the excavation revealed a wide, imposing, open-air staircase leading down to the crypt's entrance. After entering the tomb, archaeologists discovered the walls were covered in a form of gypsum plaster, using techniques common in the ancient civilizations of modern-day Cyprus, Egypt and Syria.

This is the first example of this technique found in the central Italian region of Etruria and is believed to have been created by specialists from the eastern Mediterranean area. This theory is further backed up by the design of the crypt itself, which appears to be modeled on a style common in Cyprus, particularly in the ancient city-state of Salamis. The fact a royal tomb was created by a team of foreign architects and craftsmen is strong evidence of a solid network of ties and trade with other cultures, archaeologists said.

We hear from Ecomuseo that the pizza fest originally scheduled for tonight will happen next weekend.

There is a death in the village, so it is not a night to celebrate. Alberto Filiberti died today and his funeral will take place in the village tomorrow morning at 10 AM. We'll arrive at the church at the regular time just the same, Dino with his confraternity costume and me with my hymnbook, for the Coro sings special hymns at funeral masses.

Dino told me that he saw a Fazioli vehicle drive into the village earlier today, but was in the middle of doing something and forgot to tell me. I hope my memory lapses are not contagious. Fazioli is one of the local undertakers.

August 8
The night is cool and sleep is sweet; we awake early to have our glassatas at Bar Nando before mass. Already at 7AM I hear the puttering sounds of apés and I notice someone in the distance burning in his campo. I suppose because it is early the person does not suspect he'll be caught by the Carabinieri.

But where are the donkeys? There is not a sound from their lair down below us, and we suspect they have left. Peppino told Dino they're too much work for him, and yet he and we miss their honking; seeing them graze from our bedroom window. We're sad for dear Peppino, and for us.

We drive off stealthily, as if we're not supposed to be on the lower road on this funebral day. Why can't I make up a word; a word clinging to the smoky mist above Alberto's silent body lying stiffly on his bed in the last hours before his funeral mass?

Sun streaming low from the East catches the fields of pale blue daisy-like wildflowers, staring toward the light from their spattered earth, stretched all over the hills on our drive toward Il Pallone, and it's as if there's a beam just drawing us to Nando's bar, the pallone of the bocce game a symbol of this place, for this supermarket is the one people flock to from miles around on lazy Sundays, when that last minute shopping before pranzo may even include a pair of slippers, a dish or two, clearly not on the list. Today, it is too early to shop, and we don't need anything anyway; trout purchased yesterday will be poached with a sauce of tomatoes and olives after Alberto has been lovingly slid into his last resting place.

Yes, we've been listening to fiction podcasts from NPR on our iPod as we drive, and I want to write to you; to write of inner things as if they're slipped between two pages of a book held in your hands. There are so many things I delight in doing these days: drawing, painting, writing in journals and stories for Italian Notebook, clipping roses, sewing wild and crazy things for the grand daughters, laughing with Dino, delighting in Sofi, talking with our neighbors, singing in Coro...

This morning we add a poignant memory to our bank; yet another Mugnanese dies, and when driving through Bomarzo note that three death notices from the little village of Mugnano overwhelm the death notice boards here, with nary a notice of a Bomarseze, or Bomartians as Duccio calls the residents.

Dino is confused; Alberto does not show up on any of his family tree information for the Filiberti family. So he folds up the data and takes it with us as we walk up to church for Alberto's funeral mass.

We pass another Alberto...Castori this time, as he leads a bunch of boys and men to their camping overnight for the next couple of days. He's sorry there are no girls, but I think it's better this way...Sorry we don't have our camera with us to share the scene with you. Dino will try to capture them with his camera on their way back.

Rosina does not sing with the Coro, for Alberto is her brother. Since she has been widowed for decades, Alberto was probably like a father to the then young Fabrizio; she sits with Alberto's family. I look over at them and yes, these are the people I would have imagined as parts of the family. It appears that Italo, Ivo and Vincenza are a part of another part of the Filiberti family, although they are all related. Confused? Sit with us and we'll try to unravel the mysteries for you. Dino is becoming quite an expert.

Dino holds the portable PA amplifier for Don Renzo's microphone, and a very sad Fabrizio stands on the other side of the priest, his head down for most of the procession to the cemetery. This photo was taken shortly after the birth of his newest grandchild, Matteo, a little over a year ago.

Outside the gate of the cemetery, I notice that the cemetery is surrounded by cedro (cedar) trees; their thin pine needles make a soft bed for anyone who enters. Yes, these are Mugnano's trees, and it will be a gentle one that I paint for everyone to know it is theirs, as soon as we have all the information we need for the albero genealogical (Mugnano family tree).

Once Alberto is safely inside his tomba (tomb), surrounded by friends and relatives, Dino and I walk over toward our space, and he takes off his confraternity robe and cord before we walk home together. Soon we're safe inside the cool dark rooms of our little home.

Poached trout with a tuna sauce is on the menu for pranzo, but I'm hungry for cocomero (watermelon). So we'll have caprese with the trout and plenty of cold, cold cocomero (how about a song about it?) on this hot, hot day.

The cocomero dessert does not take place, for we watch Lessons of Love on TV, which we've previously recorded, and we can't take our eyes off the screen. We'll surely have cocomero later, Dino thinks, as he puts it back inside the frigo in the loggia.

I can only take a nap, full of wine and overwhelmed by the film. It's a good day to rest in the cocoon behind blue shutters and closed windows, with a fan making the best of the air recirculating inside the room.

Another story is dashed off to Italian Notebook, and a stream of them push their way through the pipeline. Since it's cool by the fan in the bedroom, I chug along with Dino posting the related photos. GB is on vacation, so should return to a bundle of them and after we've done another spurt of them we'll retire from writing them for a few months...

It's a day to be pensive, and I'm thinking of Rosina on this day, who appears sad, indeed. Perhaps tomorrow morning I'll walk up and see how she's doing.

The asini (donkeys) are still here, and I can make out Spillo, Maggiolino and Priscilla. So at least for now, they're still part of the Mugnano landscape. Missing is Maggiolino's honking to welcome Peppino.

A few clouds and plenty of breeze surround Mugnano on this day. Otherwise, there seems to be a sweet sadness in the air, for Alberto seems to have been very much loved.

We wake up after a nap and feast on big hunks of cocomero (watermelon) while sitting at the table in front of the kitchen, shaded by a roof of wisteria. Sofi seems to smile as she sits nearby, looking up toward possible lucertole sightings.

Dino wants to clear the gravel away from where the landing will be built soon in front of the front steps. It's an exciting prospect.

A full-on headache strikes, but it's been a while since I've had one, so that's not too bad. I end the night with a migraine and meds, while Dino sits on the sofa and laughs at an old Steve Marin movie. I love to see him laugh.

August 9
Stefano wakes us early while standing at the front gate, to say that someone will probably be here sta pomeriggio (this afternoon) to work, but he cannot find Mario, his helper, so will try to find his cousin to work. Stefano is an angel of a man who is surrounded by so much work it seems to make his head spin.

We're all awake, so get up anyway to a blessedly beautiful day with haze on the hills behind Orte in our view from the front bedroom window. There are so many trees in the Mugnano valley, and they appear shaded in black on their west sides, as their east sides are joyously bathed by the sun.

A couple of women appear below the house on the street, chatting to each other on their daily walk to the cemetery. I can make out Norena and another woman. When this house was built in the 1930's, Norena played here, for it was her uncle Celestino's house, but today she is helped up the hill after their visit with a cane. She remembers our house fondly, but sadly has no photos.

Rosina is on my mind, for I am worried about her. Sofi and I walk out on the terrace, and while Sofi sniffs around on the gravel looking for her friends, I look up to see if Rosina is at home. She is, for the clothes lines in front of her balcony are loaded with laundry, hanging out to dry in the bright morning light.

I lift up a large basket with a handle and Sofi walks with me to the tomato orto below the secret garden, where I pick up an entire basket of tomatoes plucked from just two plants! I lay them out on the table in front of the kitchen, but don't return for more until Dino knows the status.

We'll need to bottle tomatoes in the next day or so. It depends on whether Stefano works today or not, and whether or not Dino is in the mood to take out the processing machine and the rest of the paraphernalia we use to do it. It's that time again.

I take two large and lovely tomatoes from the table, wash them off and put them in a little basket, nestling on a red checked cotton cloth, a cloth usually used to wrap bread to keep it from getting stale.

Leaving Sofi at home with Dino, I close the side gate and walk down the parcheggio stairs, then down the street, past Donato sitting with his arms folded on the wooden kitchen chair in front of him, past Giovanna and her brother and Franco, who stands sanding a door for Francesco, the neighbor who lives across the street and next to Luigina, past Nando backing into a space in front of his open doorway, around the corner past Marina leaving her car with a plastic bag full of tomatoes, past Marino opening the cantina for her, and up the hill to Piana Antica. I am just past Tommaso's house when I hear Rosina's voice coming from the open door at the corner and turn around. It is Alberto's widow's house, and Rosina sees me as she parts the fabric that acts like a screen in front of the open door.

I walk toward her, and she asks me whom I am coming to see. Rosina starts at my response and smiles, telling Ida she'll bring her bread to her later. "No! Now!" Ida responds, and Rosina asks me to wait a moment, while she opens the gate and hands her the bread she earlier asked Rosina to pick up for her from Ernesta's store in the borgo.

We walk on to Rosina's little house; one that is attached to Gino's on one side and Gianfranco's on the other, and she opens her door with a key and welcomes me inside. Her shutters are closed to the sun, and we sit in her sitting room while she opens a cloth towel and thanks me "Ringrazio tanto!" for the two orbs, as I lay them in front of her.

"I have been worried about you," I tell her. "In America, when someone dies, it is a tradition to bring food to the grieving family's home". That's not the case in Italy, but she thanks me just the same. She did not plant pomodori this year, so I know she does not have them.

We talk for a while, and she remembers that Dino's brother Jim died not too long ago. She has a good memory. Alberto was her brother, and she was close to him, especially since her husband died twenty years ago. Dino knows all that, for he's the expert on Mugnano family trees.

Soon, Gabriella Farina opens the door and slowly walks in, helped with a cane with a plastic grip to help her to lean forward onto her arm. We sit together talking for a while, and it is only when her neighbor leaves that I tell her that it is when Rosina is alone that I worry about her.

I don't tell you the most personal details, and you know all that, but these people are so dear to me, and to us, that I want to hold them figuratively in my embrace, and that's what I do on this morning, and then suggest to her to come to Coro tonight only if she wants to.

I walk back around the corner, past Franco and now Francesco, both sanding Francesco's door, past Donato with his hands on the chair Otello is now sitting on, past Otello's wife, Caterina, who is Donato's sister, and back home, where Sofi's little narrow tongue licks between the squares of the side gate at me and she whines and wags her tail to welcome me home.

Dino tells me that Sofi could not tell where the sound of my voice was coming from, and since Rosina's balcony is very close, it is no wonder.

After a very tasty pranzo, I return to write to you and to work on Italian Notebook stories, while Dino reads his book nearby. I am distracted by reading my emails, which includes the NYT online, and a story about faith and philosophy:

Faith is not a like-for-like relationship of equals, but the asymmetry of the like-to-unlike. It is a subjective strength that only finds its power to act through an admission of weakness. Faith is an enactment of the self in relation to an infinite demand that both exceeds my power and yet requires all my power. Such an experience of faith is not only shared by those who are faithless from a creedal or denominational perspective, but can - in my view - be had by them in an exemplary manner. Like the Roman centurion of whom Kierkegaard writes, it is perhaps the faithless who can best sustain the rigor of faith without requiring security, guarantees and rewards: "Be it done for you, as you believed."

Thanks to Simon Critchley for these words, who is chair of philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York, and has piqued my interest.

I'd like to read some of Kirkegaard's works, but when will I have the time? I order a book anyway, for existential thought is something I'm interested to explore.

I come upon the next quite by accident. I slide into bed beside Dino to read, and in the book I am reading, Mediterranean Winter, a Journey Through History, Robert D. Kaplan writes: Thus, the rebirth of Greece in the fifteenth century would depend upon an intellectual order that was compatible with, but separate from, the Orthodox Church. This fact is relevant today not only in the Orthodox world, but in the Islamic one, too, where religion has degenerated into an austere ideology, stifling independent thought.

Those aren't my words; they are Kaplan's. But in thinking about the practice of religion, I'm not so sure most people don't just go through the motions in church, and it is only when facing death themselves or the death of a loved one that they contemplate the bigger picture and their place within the order of things. This little village is probably full of such thought these days, with the death of Alberto, who was dearly loved.

And it is with this that I wait to hear back from my priest friend about the message we want to convey in my painting of Saint Peter the Martyr as he faces death.

Dino asks if I have picked all the pomodori, and will he ever be surprised when he takes a basket down to pick the rest. He's willing to process our pomodori tomorrow, for Stefano won't be here until Mercoledi (Wednesday) to work. We'll get things ready tonight. What do YOU think of all this, Sofi?:)

While Dino dozes, I decide to read awhile, and I'm in a reading mood. Writing and submitting more than two stories in a day will drive me batty, and life is meant to enjoy, come no (why not)? We take a popsicle break as the heat continues, and later I'll attend Coro practice. But first, I take a big basket and pick all the gigantic pomodori, and there are a lot of them. They are not optimal, for with all the rain this Spring there is probably a lot of water content in them, but we'll see.

Tonight before Coro practice, Dino asked me if I'd mind walking home by myself, and I do not. Actually, I arrive early, and sit alone in the piazza without a soul to join me. It's a lovely evening, and the borgo is silent, but only while its inhabitants eat their cena (supper); before we're through with Coro practice the yellow bricks will be full of people outside enjoying the warm but not too warm evening.

All my Coro buddies laugh at me. They've never seen me alone without Dino driving me and picking me up, and they tease me. Afterward, we all walk down around the medieval hill, where others ask if I need a companion to walk me home. No, I am not afraid. More laughter. On the bench below where Giustino lived, four neighbors sit jammed together, and I stop to talk a moment. But soon I'm walking alone to the house, as Sofi sits inside with Dino. It's good to be home.

August 10
We've movie night tonight with Candace and Frank, and will bring snacks, for we'll watch movies this time first. Otherwise, we never get to watch them. Oh. It's San Lorenzo's feast day, and that means there will be shooting stars out tonight, so we'll join Candace and Frank to watch them, and perhaps have movie night tomorrow instead. Va bene.

This morning, we'll process a bunch of tomatoes, for too many are ready to eat now, and there are just two of us. Might as well save some to actually eat in salads.

Sturdy and not so sturdy Mugnano campers return from their overnight mid morning, and Dino snaps them as they walk up the hill past our house. I had thought they'd camp out tonight, but perhaps last night they were able to see shooting stars where they were camping.

With just a modicum of the usual annual stress, Dino realizes he does not have enough new caps for the bottles, and rushes out for more in nearby Attigliano. Purtroppo (too bad)...San Lorenzo is Attigliano's patron saint, and everything is closed in the town on this day to celebrate. He drives up the hill to Giove, where he finds what he needs and returns to a shaky Sofi and me.

Sofi is shaky because she's afraid of the whirring and grinding noises that the processing machine makes. Does the noise bother her ears, or is she afraid that she, or we may be hurt by the machine? Either way, she hides under the sink in the loggia to watch until we are through.

We've strained the tomatoes to have more pulp and less water in the jars. I remember one year that a muratore (not Stefano) wagged his finger at me when he looked at the water settling in our tomato jars. Back then, we processed heirloom tomatoes, grown from seeds bought in Oregon, and it was definitely brutto figura (a bad impression) that we made to the Italian contadinis (farmers) who were too proud to process such an "inferior" tomato.

We're finished by 11AM, and I use some of the leftover tomato juice to make chicken Parmesan, although I'd rather use it for Bloody Marys. That's our tradition, anyway, with Candace and Frank when they process their tomatoes here. That should happen soon.

I think of our grand daughters often, as well as my two nieces, who are daughters of my brother. How can I slip under their skins the desire to ask those of us a generation or two older than they, what we were thinking when major events happened in our lives? Unable to ask my parents or older relatives the same questions, I so wonder...

These days, when reading about dates or happenings decades ago, the events don't seem so distant. The 1960's, for example, seem like just yesterday and yet, to someone not born then, the dates seem ancient. One's perspective changes so, as Tom Lehrer sang, "soon we'll be sliding down the razor blade of life". Ouch!

So today is San Lorenzo's day, and on this night, shooting stars are supposed to be seen crossing the constellations, or something like that.

Here's the story you may read again later in Italian Notebook; they're on vacation all month and no stories are published in August.

The night of August 10th is the best night of the year in Italy to watch the skies for shooting stars. It is the night of the Perseides, known poetically as the Lacrimas (tears) de San Lorenzo (tears of Saint Lawrence), and all around the country people gather for star watching and wishing. If you believe in wishes, be sure to make your wish before the star you are watching disappears.

The Lacrimas de San Lorenzo is a tradition dating back to the III century when, according to popular belief, San Lorenzo was burned at the stake. The falling stars are his tears of suffering. Actually, San Lorenzo was decapitated but the burning is a better story, in keeping with the drama.

Although stars fall at a rate of no more than two or three a minute or so, it's a wonderful excuse to pack up a picnic, find a spot out in the countryside with as little artificial light as possible, and even if you do not believe in making wishes, it's a heavenly sight.

Actually, the stars are the sad remains of the comet Swift-Tuttle, entering the atmosphere at very high speed, disintegrating right in front of us.

The most popular wish among Italians is for lasting love (49%), followed by wealth (32%) and then success (27%). We meet Candace and Frank in the early evening, and follow them to Alberto and Ike's lovely house near Fabro. Our friends have a boutique winery, and we begin the evening with a tasting of two delectable white wines before sitting down to fondue on their terrace.

Alberto and Ike then lead us to a friend's winery, Cantine Ravazzi, in Palazzone, where we think we are going to do star gazing, but there is an enormous party underway, and in true Italian fashion, people are more interested in laughing and enjoying each other's company than looking for shooting stars.

We arrive home just before midnight, not having seen one shooting star. Because I don't believe in making wishes anyway, I'm not disappointed. It was a lovely evening with friends we enjoy a great deal, and the adventure continues...

August 11
5 kg of San Marzanos for €5! We'll bottle them today, and let's see how many 5 kg makes...

Stefano and his cousin Angelo and a young helper arrive, and before they leave for pranzo, the cement is laid over rebar and stones and Angelo gently puts Sofie's paws in cement, writing her name across the landing. Dino adds the year.

We discuss the pepperino and the balustrade and Dino wants me to see the pepperino pavement laid in Bomarzo in the area of the Comune (city hall). Va bene. We have one quote for the work, but would love to give Franco a chance to bid.

Stefano smiles broadly. It's wonderful to see him happy, as he is working here all morning, laughing with his cousin who he tells us is Italy's answer to Mr. Bean. Signor Fagioli?

By tomorrow he'll have closed up the electrical work and we'll be able to get the electrician back to finish the installation of the gate. This afternoon, Stefano's crew is working on the step outside the main gate. Soon we'll close up the front stairs with a wall, and have more privacy.

But when will all the permits be ready? We still don't have a permit for the work on our plot in the cemetery. Next week, tomorrow, in two days...it really does not matter which one you pick; the permits we are waiting for aren't ready.

While watching the trial in the Hague of Charles Taylor on CNN, especially the movie star testimonies about the blood diamonds, I'm reminded of an event that took place decades ago, while I was in my twenties, when I agreed to travel to Washington, D.C. with a Philippine diplomat for a weekend from Boston, where I lived at the time.

We were wined and dined at the Philippine Embassy, and although I succeeded at keeping the man at arms' length all weekend, he had me count out seven one hundred dollar bills to a fellow countryman whom I was introduced to by first name only. When I questioned the reason, I was quietly told that this was payment for arms for the Philippine Army from an American company (to remain unnamed). The exchange took place at breakfast one morning, and all weekend the man kept his briefcase at his side.

At the time I thought to myself, "What drama!", but looking back now realize that I was really naive. Should I have done anything about it then? If so, what? I do admit I had quite a few adventures while I was young and single; perhaps that's why I'm content to live my life out quietly here in this village. But its memory jogs my mind back to the events, and I hope I don't lose my memory...for things I'd like to revisit in my mind. This is one.

We call Franco at Tesiccini and he's in the office, so we drive there after looking at pepperino pavement in Bomarzo. Franco is a wonder of a man, and we'd so love to use him. His plant is closed until the end of August, but he tells us we'll have the first pepperino slabs on Sept. 1, so Stefano the muratore can install those first, and only then will we decide upon the fascia of the landing and the balustrade.

He also told us where we should buy the individual round turned pepperino balustras directly, and tomorrow Dino will research them, in case some of the places are not on ferie (holiday) till the end of August. No matter. I love the landing, and Sofi does, too, even though it is unfinished.

I love our simple life here so much I can just hold up my arms and holler, "Hooray!" but there's no need to. Tonight there is a meeting below the ancient tower, where the residents will do some brainstorming about the future of the village. What an amazing group this Ecomuseo is! It's an honor to be a part of it.

August 12
It's somewhat of a gamble, but right as Stefano and his two workers arrive, Dino takes me to Attigliano to the parucchieri (hairdresser). I've been to this place twice so far, and the method and style of using color in one's hair in Italy is definitely not like that in the US. I don't blame them; it is just an adjustment, and after eight years I still don't have the answer. Sorry. Skip ahead a few paragraphs, but this is my journal, and with a continued erosion of my short-term memory, it's important for me to document the details.

After four hours, Dino picks me up, and I'm holding my breath. The woman who owns the shop tried masterfully to please me. I told her that perhaps it is the Italian water, for she used the same solution I've used in the US with dear friend Leah in Mill Valley, and still the amount of natural pigment in my hair causes her to worry. It will take a couple of days for the color to settle in, and so we'll wait patiently and hope.

While I was there, Dino and Stefano and Angelo worked to close up walls, patch intonico (plaster), and take out the wooden cement forms for the landing. I so love the landing; so love Sofia's name and her tiny footprints, as if it's our version of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

I want to do something different with tomatoes; the usual has become boring. So I slice the tomatoes thickly, very thickly. Then I dip them in French breadcrumbs (very crunchy, but only found in France) after dipping them in egg beaten with chives, presemelo, salt and pepper.

There was batter left after dipping lean maiale (pork) cutlets and sautéing them in butter and olive oil. I used a new pan for the tomatoes, but add butter and olive oil. They were especially delicious, and we have a couple left to eat cold for another meal.

When Dino and Sofi picked me up, Sofi's left eye was closing, as though there was something inside her eyelid. Sweet little dog; I put drops in her eye, before and after pranzo, and the eye looks better, although she is looking a bit sad. After a long dolce fa niente this afternoon for all of us, I'm hoping she'll rally as she usually does. Stefano won't be back until tomorrow morning.

We sleep for an hour, and Sofi's eye is better. I was quite worried. Poor thing, we left her here while we walked up to mass, but returned in an hour or so and she was especially mellow after a full tummy of crocanti per cena (dry food for dinner).

Tonight I walk up to Coro practice, for this one is a major practice with Rafaelle and Angela from Attigliano, to prepare us for our debut on Sunday evening. Dino and Sofi will walk up later so we can hang out while the kids are doing a treasure hunt in the borgo.

We need a light for Raffaelle's portable organ, so I call Dino, and he arrives with a book light, which is perfect. He walks in the door with Sofi in his arms, and she's so excited to see me that tears come to my eyes. Dino takes her back outside, for she can't calm down. Practice continues extremely well and the light is just right.

August 13
Last night we came across Paola, who agreed that tonight we should bring our painting of the two Andreas, "Sempre Amici" (Always Friends) to exhibit outside the entrance to the school building while we're all having pizza. We're considering bringing it back to San Francisco with us this winter to exhibit it somewhere. What do you think?

Although it's Friday the thirteenth, the day is nothing to worry about in Italy; it is Friday the seventeenth that Italians worry about. Today the sky is hazy; devoid of color. Might as well get up.

Stefano is expected to finish some work, but calls to say it will be on Monday, and Dino wants to process more pomodori; the San Marzanos are expected to arrive at the little Bomarzo supermarket today. Dino has learned a trick: at this time of year when all the plentiful pomodori are ripening; markets sell them at really low prices, to get rid of them before they become over-ripe.

We drive to Viterbo with Sofi to shop, and run around a bit, but do find a great place to have the balustrades made, and the owner is there, although the place is on vacation. We'll return on Aug 30th or so and Dino is already the owner's friend. Perhaps I'll do a story about how artisans fashion balustrades. Dino tells me the process is interesting; somewhat like the way woodworkers fashion turned legs of wood.

By the time we reach the Bomarzo supermarket, the few tomatoes the grocer had were sold. No hurry.

We have a late pranzo and take a nap, only to wake up at ten minutes before mass at 5PM! I rush up by myself, while Dino gets up and puts the painting in the car. We've had bouts of rain off and on, so he drives up and has an umbrella with him. Good thing. Bravo, Dino! Outside the church afterward it's pouring rain, but like Gene Kelly, he escorts me along the puddles under a big umbrella to the car.

He backs up to the gate of the school and takes the painting in under the umbrella, while Francesco and Mauro are putting the basic pizzas in the pizza oven, cooking them 30 seconds or so and they'll be cooked to finish them tonight for lots of us.

We'll probably be eating inside, and it will be hot, but the painting sits high upon a stand probably meant for a TV and it will be fun to see people's reaction to it. Francesco told me he already saw the painting on the internet! Va bene!

Back at home we relax for an hour or two before going up for pizza. Dear Sofi is alone again, and we walk, as the sky seems pretty clear.

What? The manifesto said that the cena would be at 9 PM, but it really began at 8:30; when we arrive the tables and benches are full of people outside. There is room for us to sit across from each other next to Claudio and Michelle, so that is what we do.

Cipolla (onion) pizza is what there is a lot of, so that is what we have, served plates of them already sliced. It's quite good, and the type of pizza we think we will serve at home when our oven is installed.

I look about us and see so many people we have grown to know over the years. It's difficult to sit down; time and again I pop up and walk over to someone else to talk. Many times they follow me inside to look at the painting.

The evaluation is that the painting is good, especially of Andrea Perini, although Andrea Filiberti does not look as real. I think I used a little blue on his face, as artists do when using orange paint (it's a complimentary color), but did not on the younger boy's face, and that has made the difference. Will I alter it later? I'm not sure. The painting stays in place for a day or so until the rain lets up.

I show Erica the painting, and ask if she'd like to paint with me. Yes, she would, so I bring her out to see Luigina and tell her that Erica and I will do the painting of her with her granddaughter Michela later this year. It will be fun to spend time with Erica, and is another thing to look forward to.

We walk home and are in bed at just about midnight, although the joyous Mugnanese continue well on into the night.

August 14
A continued colorless sky looks more so behind the vibrant black and dark yellow-green bosco (forest), standing below us in our view. The temperature is cool for an August morning, but all the tiny showers and mist occurring now and then add to the heaviness of the air.

We sleep in a little, then after breakfast leave Sofi for an hour to spend with Ivo and Nadia and Andrea in their home in the piazza. Ivo knows more about the people in the village than almost anyone, and while we are there shows us a very old photo album of family members and friends of the Filiberti clan in Mugnano. Within its pages, I'm struck by the image of an old man, dressed in a striped suit and posing for a photographer. I'd like to paint his image, so add that to the list. Dino takes his photo:

We don't know the name of the man, and perhaps never will, but that won't deter me. What will deter me is the growing list of characters that I want to paint. I think it would be fun to have someone living in Mugnano from the 1800's represented. Come no?

I look up at the shadow box of memories framed on the wall next to me from our first year of marriage; one where Dino and I are each shown as young children. Wouldn't it be fun to do a painting of us together as young children...Dino with his arms folded looking out and frowning...to me on my knees making castles in the sand, and as I look up at him my face lights up. I'm not ready to show you the photographs just yet.

When leaving the square to return home, Gino walks up to us and tells us he thinks the day is "come Autumno" (like fall). I respond, "il mio bicchieri Ć mezzo pieno" (my glass is half full) and he nods, in agreement.

I fix a different salad of tomatoes and marinated thinly sliced red onion in wine vinegar, calamata olives, chopped celery (especially the leaves) and a hunk of buffala mozzarella with drizzled olive oil to eat with the breaded pork that is covered by a fried egg and anchovy. Dino loves pork fixed this way. Va bene!

He works on the Mugnano tree in the afternoon, and before we know it, it's time for mass. Four masses in four days are a lot, but it's good to be in church, surrounded by people we know. How life has changed for us in these past twelve years!

We're early, and wind picks up, although at the moment we do not expect rain. MarieAdelaide and Rosina and I are the only Coro members at this afternoon mass, allowing me to sing with gusto and joy to encourage the others to join us. Some even do.

But during the mass the wind is very strong, and while he's seated, Don Renzo looks skyward as if to wonder if something profound is about to happen.

Afterward, Elena agrees to sit with us at the little square next door, although she and I are a bit struck by the enormous wind; a wind that seems to form funnels here and there. At one point, she looks up to the tower and to clouds quickly moving behind it, as thought the clouds are still and the tower is moving. It is a frightening scene, and our mouths form "O's" as if we're in Kansas one hundred or so years ago. "Where are you, Auntie Em?" Elena knows some of the information Dino is seeking about her ancestors, and when he's through, tells her he'll print a copy of her family and ask her to ask other family members as well as see what documents she has in Rome that might help.

The piazza has many people milling around as we reach it, and many of them look confused and windblown. Dino tells Augusto and Vincenza that it is all their cacciarata (gossip) that fuels the cyclone of wind about. Vincenza puts her head back and laughs.

Dino asks Augusto a couple of questions about his family, the Cozzi's, and he adds a few more names. Even here in Italy, it is difficult for people to remember back past their own grandparents.

On the way home, Dino admits this project is tiring him; it is like pulling teeth, family by family, to acquire more information. Perhaps it is time that we return to the cemetery with out printouts and see if we can glean anything new.

In the meantime, perhaps he'll speak with the Ecomuseo Board to talk about them furnishing a computer to access all the members we have already found. The number is creeping up to that 1,000 mark!

We have blue sky after we've been home for an hour or two, with billowing clouds, mostly in the distance. Tonight I have Coro practice, and there is a gastronomia of dolce (sweets); one I've not contributed to this time. Time is just getting ahead of me, and I don't want to stress. But then, there's no need to.

Here are a sample of cakes and people enjoying the tasting and eating of sweets, along with Annarita, who wins first prize with a dessert very much like the dessert I make from a box of Cameo(!) lemon torta mix.

At around midnight, Chia's fireworks erupt, and they're visible from out bed. Evidently their budget is small...not even Sofi minds the noise much; it's over soon after it has begun.

April 15
It's time to hang out our blue satin bandiera in honor of Maria, and mass and the formal procession will take place late tonight. There's no mass this morning, so we get up when we want to and drive to Nando's for glassatas and cappuccinos.

There's plenty of sun and just a whisper of a cloud, so perhaps the rain has stopped for a while.

I'd like to weigh in on the prospect of a Muslim Center close to Ground Zero in New York City. Following the Muslim Imams of Canada who remind Muslims everywhere that Islam is a religion of love and not a religion that endorses killing of others, if Muslims everywhere profess the same beliefs, respecting their fellow man/woman everywhere, I'd endorse the center. It's not yet time. There have been so many decades of hate and proclamations against Americans, no matter their religion, and that need to be overcome.

There's that respect for one's fellow man/woman again. It's difficult to forget the signs of hate toward Americans for decades shown in the news. This morning in the car we listen to an interview with Barney Frank, Congressman from Massachusetts, who, with Ron Paul of Texas are endorsing lowering the military budget and closing bases in friendly countries and bringing the boys and girls home as well as reducing the deficit by a mile.

Americans complain a lot. That's what recent studies show. Perhaps it's a sign that we have the right to express our views. This concept of Barney Frank and Ron Paul appears radical, and perhaps that's just what we need.

Lets hope the committee organized to find ways to eliminate the deficit in ten years place some importance on this idea. Sorry. I don't write much about America any more, for I feel so far removed from it all, but that's precisely why these ideas take hold in my mind and in my heart. I still love the place where I was born.

We're early arrivals at Bar Nando and Il Pallone Superconti on this day, for there is no mass on this morning; instead there will be a mass and procession tonight. I'll wear a white dress, and that's not exactly the dress we're asked to wear. We're asked to wear white tops and black pants or a skirt, but I want to wear this dress. But should I? We'll see.

It's another nap afternoon. I walk up to practice at 8:30, forget my scarf and turn back around. By the time I reach the church again, I'm hot and feel as if I'm red-faced during the service, although it is a lovely one, with us finishing our singing with a Gregorian Chant (Salve Regina) to Maria, led by Don Renzo.

Two men seem to guard the scatola (box) containing the precious cocomero (watermelon), and it is as though the whole bench is filled with cocomero; some frowning, wearing slacks and sport shirts, some in their natural green and white stripes with no expression at all...a funny sight.

Mauro lifts the striped orbs one by one and slices them "just so" as though he's a butcher and these are his prized fillets. Left standing on the table, soon the space is empty, as we in no assigned way pick them up one-by-one. There is one black bag, gently folded over the back of a chair to accept semi (seeds), but except for one man who stands right over the bag as if it's his very own, and me collecting the seeds from my piece one-by-one and sliding them into the bag, everyone else in the piazza seems to swallow theirs.

We talk awhile; then walk home to have tall drinks under the moon and return to bed around midnight again.

August 16
A few thin clouds, as if a moving brush has painted them lightly, find their places up above, and except for an occasional dog bark and a car every five minutes or so, it's very quiet. Even the birds are tired of chatter.

Sofi seems better; so much so that she wags her tail as if it's on a spring and stands "this close" to a round clipped box, sniffing and moving her nose just a little too deep.

"Be a good girl!" I warn her from the bench, where I read in the sun, and she moves along the gravel; this time to the base of the caki tree, where she always thinks her friends are hiding.

Dino has returned to his physical therapy in Orte, and although he wears his brace as much as he can, he continues his morning treatments for another week or so. After a walk up to Annarita to learn more about her family's history, we drive to Viterbo to the vet and to shop. Sofi needs her shot, and I'd like one of them to take a look at her rear where there may be something to watch.

Oh, Sofi has an abscess. That drained, we're given instructions to wash the spot with salt and water and then apply a salve of Gentalyn Beta, which we have, for several days. It's a good thing we took her to the vet. Back at home, we all take a nap.

There's a cena at Sasso Quadro tonight. We did not attend last year's event, because we did not know that we could drive and Dino cannot do any strenuous hiking.

After directions on Dino's iPhone and counsel from Enzo, we drive to Bassano and take an unmarked stradabianca (white road). When we see three women walking we stop to ask, and the directions are typical. "Sempre dirito" (always forward); after taking the first left. So of course we come to a fork in the road and then what? If Yogi Berra were here, he'd tell us to take it! Boh! The road is Via Bassano Mugnano, <

...and Dino thinks we should turn left. So we do, and a certo punto (after a while), see Francesco's car parked. We sit there for another while, and Dino tries a couple of paths, but none are the correct one. Later hikers arrive and we see that there is a place where we should have taken a right into a field to park. So at least we've arrived.

Hikers lead us to the spot, and it is a marvel, lit up with judy bulbs on a wire above a rock formation from which we can take photos of Mugnano...and our house! About one hundred or more gather here for the cena (dinner), at €10 per person, of and melon, grilled sausages with bread, borlotti beans in a tomato sauce, lots of wine and bottled water, and at our table a tasty moré (pronounced more-eh, blackberry) torte with lots of whipped cream.

Here are photos of the event, during which Dino takes out his binder and is able to add more names to the Mugnano tree.

There is one photo not shown when we post for the first half of the month, although it's a bit late. The photo is here, with Gabriele lovingly holding Susie in his arms.

Susie was one of those abandoned dogs we wrote about last month, who appeared in the village as if it was destined that the little female would remain in Mugnano, loved by its residents as a protector of sorts. Now that Brik has died, Susie is our new special dog. Earlier, she and Sofi met in the square and did their customary sniffing, but there was no angry repartee, so we are hoping they will become friends.

But as we left Sasso Quadro in the car on that night, I was heartsick; worried that the dog would be abandoned again, as it appeared that the boy's mother did not want to take her home. Somehow it all worked out, for the Mugnanese are a friendly sort. Look for more photos of Susie and Sofi soon.

August 17
Dino returns to his physical therapy in Orte, and Stefano and Angelo return to work on the main gate and finish a few small things. Tonight there are games in Mugnano, and Stefano will bring his daughter, Corinne. They install the top step, but now we'll want to install a lower step, somewhat like the landing we have in front. That will wait until the little path is completed.

As if I don't have enough projects, I take out our photos, separate them and Dino and I write names and dates on the back of each one. We really should put them in albums; but for now they'll be classified in boxes with tabs.

There's been a response from Don Francis, but he wants to give the painting questions some thought; for now, that project is on hold.

I have a different idea for Marissa and Nicole...It has to do with sewing but not quilts. There is a kind of ruffle made with wire, and I want to make yards and yards of it, to add to normal things to make them more special; more French. A few days ago we watched Lady Gaga for the first time, and I'm enthralled by her costumes; I have some ideas for things I can make for the girls, and that means more tessuti (fabric), that perhaps we'll buy in France.

Although it's not at the level of previous years, the heat is still enough for us to want to take a nap in the afternoon...or are we just enjoying ourselves? Take your pick.

We take a walk up to the borgo and visit Loredana and Alberto on their terrace, where we all have bicchieri di vino (glasses of wine) and biscuits and admire their lovely view. Sofi admires the space, too, meandering all around and sniffing for her friends.

But there is no cena to celebrate the end of summer, so we walk home and enjoy the evening.

August 18
While Dino spends time in Orte, Sofi and I sit outside and I read while she rubs her back against the boxwood plants and searches underneath for friends.

Dino returns and picks me up to drive to meet Don Renzo in Bomarzo to photograph him. He does put on the garments he will wear in the film, but we will also go on site to photograph him in context. Before then, I will do a number of sketches, and will go over them with him. I'm thinking a tall canvas, not particularly broad, and the painting should not take as long as other paintings. We'll see.

Tonight we take a borlotti bean dip, taco chips, and black chocolate cupcakes. Candace prepares a wonderful quiche, and there is plenty to eat and drink while we watch a movie. We're home just after 10 PM, and make plans to go with them to visit Bambi at the wildlife shelter next week. The shelter is a good subject for a story, too. Dear Bambi...we are told she will be reintroduced to the wild and that is what these people do.

Look for the story on Italian Notebook. But then, if you subscribe, you'll have the story delivered right to your email address. IN is on summer hiatus in August, but beginning again in September, stories are published five days a week. What? You don't yet subscribe? If you have fears about the subscription, email me with your concerns and we can talk about them. Otherwise, click here to go directly to Italian Notebook and sign up. Thanks.


August 19
I'm looking forward to drawing Don Renzo and by the time we see him again I hope to have a number of sketches finished. That is, unless Don Francis gets back to me and we can come to an agreement about the San Pietro Martyr painting. Context and one's emotion at the moment the painting captures a person's expression is what I am seeking. More knowledge brings more complexity with it, and for that I am so very pleased.

Unfortunately, after viewing the photos we took earlier this week, there are none that are really useable. Don Renzo is a master at the pose, but unless his expression is his own, and has something to say, I'm not really interested. Capturing one's moment is what I really enjoy doing. I will do a number of sketches, anyway, and during the filming of the project in September we will take some more.

The morning is cool and clear. It's certainly not similar to August days in past years. Dino's trips to Orte each morning continue for another week or so, but on the way back he stopped at the geometra. Bad news is that the permit won't be ready until Monday for the cemetery. Good news is that any muratore can do the work, so Stefano can do it for a much better price, we are sure. That means, get on his schedule.

Earlier this afternoon, Dino received the photo for Alberto who died on August 7th, so look at the posting of August 8th for his photo. Thanks to his grandson, and to Claudio, his son, for the fine photo. Again, our condolences for the entire family of this very much loved man.

August 20
Don't know if I told you, but I'm so happy to see Susie, Mugnano's little dog, here and happily playing with the children.

Today should be hot, and while Dino is in Viterbo I work on Italian Notebook stories, not going downstairs for cappuccino until 10:30; outside a loud tractor groans away and I think it's Enzo's, for the sound is near his house. I close the front shutter of the bedroom, to hold the room in the cool morning air.

Using the incredible and crunchy breadcrumbs from France by the company Tilipak, I bread a piece of persico (perch) and cook it in a padella (pan) on top of the stove. What we eat is moist inside but so crunchy that even Col. Saunders would approve!

There's time for a nap and before we know it we pick up Helga and her friend to take them to the Folk Festival in Orvieto.

We park down below and find ourselves climbing a couple of flights of stairs, instead of an escalator, as they have in Perugia. When we find the space, there is a stage similar to the stage in Soriano for the Jazz Festival, and sit at the long tables while listening to music. One group, the group from Northern Umbria who we have heard before, played and danced, although the audience did not join in. I think Orvietani are a sophisticated bunch. Now if they played in Mugnano, that would be a different case.

When a group of Italian folk musicians played, children danced and ran around in front of the stage, and that was fun to watch. Food was fair, beer and wine were better, and before driving home we walked to a gelateria on the Corso for dessert. The night was practically balmy, with no need for sweaters. We like it like that.

August 21
Dino and I both work on Italian Notebook stories, and our number is closer to 175 (!) in process or submitted. I'd stop for a while, but with a long list of them not finished staring at me, we both work on them and hope to send several more in this weekend. It helps to have hot weather; that way, we find reasons to stay inside during the hottest hours of the day.

Dino drives off to La Quercia to take a few more photos for a particular story. When he's concentrating on something, nothing gets in his way. He's a great photographer, and in charge of the photos that bring each story to life. Yes, he's one great guy. While I wait for his return, I do some sketching of Don Renzo. It's good to draw and I love it.

We've taped Chaplin's "The Great Dictator", made in 1940, and although it's described as a comedy and social commentary, I can imagine millions of people at the time offended by it. It's quite an interesting film, with some innovative touches, but it is somewhat sad to watch. Dino kept his eyes open for most of it, then we stopped the tape; it is for times such as these that taping a program is such a handy thing. Time for a nap!

Dino waters outside after the sun lowers in the sky, and we watch the end of the film. It's not on my top ten list; but there were some very interesting parts.

Today's humidity continues high, and the grilli (cicadas) won't let us forget it. I think I misunderstood them all along...they're complaining about the heat and the humidity; otherwise they enjoy the day and stop their yakking. We have not heard them much this year, but tonight they seem quite angry. "Take a Milltown!" my mother would say.

August 22
Ants, ants, ants...I suppose it's the time of year. Luckily, they're only in the kitchen sink, and there aren't so many of them.

Weather continues to be hot, but under the wisteria it's as if we're in another world.

We eat our last tomato from the garden, with excellent buffala mozzarella and basil from the garden. Remember that all mozzarella is not buffala. Containers marked mozzarella are not necessarily the creamy variety that melts in one's mouth. Some have no taste and are springy in one's mouth.

Sketching, fixing pranzo and naptime are a daily occurrence here. Tonight there is a South American themed festa at Castellio di Santa Maria in San Michele in Teverina, hosted by Serena. The family are friends of ours, and have been for eleven years, ever since we followed signs to the castello (castle) one September morning and met Diego, Serena's father.

Tonight there are six of us to join the group: Helga and her friend, Ana, Frank and Candace and us. What's with the expression so many Americans use when speaking about their friends..."Me and so and so..."? What happened to English grammar in the schools? Yikes! Dear friend, Donald, you'll certainly have an opinion on that one.

Serena is really beautiful tonight, but then she is a lovely looking young woman. Surprised by the large turnout of about sixty people, sitting around the pool and feasting on her menu without even a hint of pasta, she seems delighted.

I ask Helga, who has stayed at the castello and also has eaten a number of meals there, what the service was like, and she told us that it was excellent. I know that Diego is a very serious man, wanting to make sure that his guests are treated in the kindest manner. She gives the place very high marks.

Do remember that if you want to have a meal there if you are not a guest, you must reserve in advance, for it is not officially a restaurant. Serena and Diego will create a menu for you, or will serve you something of your choosing...one Thanksgiving while Serena was still studying with Paul Bocuse in France, Diego made a turkey for four of us, although tacchino ripieno (stuffed turkey) is not on any Italian menu.

It's worth noting that Italians are a warm and friendly lot, happy to welcome stranieri (strangers) to their country who make even a small effort to speak in their language. Showing up after being invited is another matter.

Bella figura (to make a good impression) is important to them, although showing up after being invited to an event is not as important as attending one that might have better food, or better conversation. We'd call that brutto figura (making a bad impression), and it's a recurrent theme in Italy. Italians don't want to say "No". So they believe it's better to say "yes" and not come, if a better invitation arrives for the same day.

Tonight's view of the calanche (gorges) from poolside is memorable, and I write a story for Italian Notebook about them. Hopefully, Serena will provide photos and we'll give her photo credit, so that people around the world will look at the castle's web site and consider staying there, or at least having a meal there. Here's the web site. Take a look:


The music afterward is excellent, mostly South American, with a guitarist and an accordionist, whose beautiful squeezebox is smaller than most. I was hoping for some music from Naples, for that is where Diego is from, but tonight's music is excellent, just the same, although a request for a tango reaches deaf ears...

Serena's classical training shows clearly here (Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France; the Ritz in Paris, and a couple of summers at 5 star Italian resorts) and the focaccias are the best taste and the lightest in consistency in memory. Surely I'd love to do some baking with her...

August 23
Dino returns from Orte with groceries; we've been outside to get a little sun and for Sofi to chase a few lucertoles. Maria Elina arrives with her friend Olaf and looks lovely, as usual, in a long flowing sundress. We welcome them back and agree to have pizza soon poolside at Hotel Umbria, where Girasole has a second location.

Dino has an idea that he wants to talk about to Lorenzo, our ferramento(iron worker god). He takes measurements and also wants to stop in Tenaglie before coming home and taking Germano with him to Maria Elina's garden to talk about the work not done.

The NYT has an interesting commentary about what's wrong with the Muslim communities in the Middle East, and how the U. S. found itself thrust into a quagmire because it wanted to help one side. It's worth reading.

How to help warring factions put down their guns and live in harmony with each other won't happen in our lifetimes, I fear. It is worth taking a brave stand, President Obama, and begin by reading Tom Friedman's commentary written on the 21st.

Sofi sits with me on the landing outside the front door while I read sitting in the sling back chair we dyed dark blue earlier this summer. The canvas looks a little worn, the color a faded dark blue. Our first attempt at dying in the washing machine was a hit. Even small changes give us a thrill; bit-by-bit, everything gets done. So why not work for a while on another story or two?

On this warm evening the moon is so full it can hardly contain itself. I wonder what goes on up there when the moon is at different stages. But I don't wonder for long...it's too humid tonight and the grilli just won't stop yakking.

August 24
Short post today. I've come down with a virus, as well as a monster migraine not felt since the days of icepacks and cold showers. A cold shower this afternoon helps, as do the ice packs. Two doses of migraine medicine, one mid day and one mid evening, will hopefully calm and cool my system down. Groan.

Soriano in summer time (2 towns away) means the beat of drums after dark. At the end of September is their Castagno (chestnut) festival, and they're practicing for their roles in the related opera of sorts. I hear them and then don't; hopefully they end earlier than usual. The sound is that of the beat of American Indian tribes heard in Old Western Movies. Yes, the old spaghetti westerns as well, for which Italy is famous.

Here's some info. From the www about spaghetti westerns:
During the 1960s and 1970s, a revival of the Western emerged in Italy with the "Spaghetti Westerns" or "Italo-Westerns". The most famous of them is The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Mostly low-budget affairs, their locations (the desert region of Spain, for example) were chosen for their low crew and production costs as well as their similarity to landscapes of the U S. Spaghetti Westerns were characterized by the presence of more action and violence than those made in Hollywood. Protagonists usually acted more out of their own selfish motives, (with revenge or money the most common) than in the classical westerns.

What is a Spaghetti Western? Basically a Spaghetti Western is an Italian-produced Western, or an Italian-Spanish co-production - Italian financed with the principle cast and crew being for the most part Italian - although these films in fact attracted stars of all nationalities.

While much of the filming was done in the Italy, usually at the Cinecittà or Elios studios in Rome, the movies were primarily filmed in the Andalucia region of Spain and, because of this, many of the supporting cast and extras where Spanish. Andalucia was used (in particular the Tabernas desert around Almeria) due to its striking resemblance to the Mexican border, even down to the whitewashed villages.

This is also regularly reflected in the film story lines, usually featuring Gringos and Mexicans, but rarely the Native American Indians associated with the western plains.

Due to the international cast, and on-set language barriers, the films where usually dubbed afterwards regardless of the language of distribution.

It is because the films are primarily of Italian origin that the critics adopted the phrase 'Spaghetti Westerns', initially as an expression of derision.

August 25
Dino returns from Orte and picks me up. Sofi guards the house as we drive North to pick up Candace and Frank for our appointment at the Formichella Wild Animal Recovery Center in Poranno, not far from Orvieto, at 11 AM.

Bambi is one of the reasons we are there, and after calling Perugia in advance for an appointment (it is not open to the public unless reserved in advance) and telling them I'd like to do a story for Italian Notebook, we're greeted by several people and asked if we'd like caffé.

No, thank you, we're here for the animals! Italians are so very friendly, and remember how important it is to offer guests something to drink. Getting to know one another is really the bond that makes any time spent with people we don't know is best begun this way...

Oh. Sure. We're Americans. We jump right in. This time it's already quite hot and they all seem a little weary of the sun as well. So the tour begins at the Fallegnameria, the woodworking shop, where everything from signs to furniture to doors to aviaries are made here. Dino wonders what kinds of things the wife of the woodworker has at home...It's beautiful work.

The story of our visit is in tomorrow's journal...

I want to paint a civetta (little owl) for them, from a photo we're taking, as thanks for their attention and kindness this morning. Add that to the top of the list.

I'm really not feeling well, and Frank tells us that it's food poisoning based on my symptoms. He tells me that I could be eating the same food others are eating and it will only affect me. Let's look at it this way. If I'm the only person who became ill out of the sixty or so people at the castello, that's not bad.

I do not take a nap in the afternoon, and Dino wants to know if we want to go to Viterbo with him this afternoon. There are sheets to buy for the rental house in Tenaglie and things for Sofi, so sure.

I feel ill a couple of times, but arrive home feeling all right. The night ends with a moon that just won't give up its fullness. Any seeds planted around now will be healthy, healthy. So what about the rucola? It's the second day, and still nothing appearing on top of the earth in the planter. Can you hear those seeds sprouting as you read?

Today is the anniversary of my mother's death, twenty-one years ago. Almost daily, I find a trait that I did not know that I had of hers. These days it is the strange cough, strung out like a taut rubber band, although I've never smoked except when I was nine...that's another story. She's here with me, not judging, and I give her a hug as I write. Good night, Mom.

August 26
It's a lovely day and I'm feeling all right. Days begin here at around 7 AM in Mugnano, with the bus moving up the hill in low gear, a tractor puttering down hill, and several women getting ready for their daily walk to the cemetery.

I think the cicadas sleep in late, for at 8:30 they're still silent, although plenty of birds chat away while I close the front shutters of the bedroom, in anticipation of another hot day.

I check last night's laundry, hung out just before dark, to keep us on track by using less electricity and gas during daytime hours. It's almost dry; the new towels hung out and soft to the touch. We'll take them with us this weekend to the rental house, when checking to make sure that both units are ready for their renters.

Rosina calls down to me, smiling; she utters a phrase I can't understand as if she's speaking to a friend, who is really the air, and includes the name "evanne-y", perhaps it is her sopranome (nickname) for me. Dare I tell her that when I was a child my nickname was Peachie? Uncle Herb named me that the first time he laid eyes on me. He told my mother I had skin like a peach. The Italian pronunciation of a peach is pesco, which sounds pretty harsh. Let's let that be our secret, at least for now...

I work on the story of our visit to the animal recovery center yesterday. Here are some names for you, in the event you plan to be outside in the forests of Italy and come across some birds you'd like to identify:
Poiana = baby duck hawk
Barbagianno = barn owl
Civetta = little owl; barn owl
Pellegrino = peregrine
Mufflone = mouflon sheep
Poiana = adult female duck hawk
Gheppio = kestrel, or small falcon
Falco Pellegrino = type of falcon
Gufo or Barbagianno = owl
Cervo = deer

I'm a bit stuck on the pellegrino...so let's learn a little Italian...
pelle - skin or hide
a fior de pelle - slightly or superficially
essere nella pelle di - to be in the boots of
fare la pelle a - to bump off (!)
non stare piu nella pelle-to be outside oneself with joy
pelle pelle - skin deep, superficial
...while we wait to speak with Enzo, who is a former Corpo Forestale (forest ranger).

To think of it, Italians really are resourceful, and their use of language is an ideal example. Let's compare a sentence using the word 'skin':
"I've got you under my skin..." translates to:
"Ti ho preso sotto la mia pelle ..."

Well, if you sing the words quickly, you can fit them all in. How would the entire stanza sound?
"Ti ho preso sotto la mia pelle .
Ti sento, nel profondo del cuore di me ...
Quindi, nel profondo del mio cuore, sei veramente una parte di me.
Ti sento sotto la mia pelle ".

So sing THAT to a person you love.

Now I ask you... Isn't this a more enjoyable way to learn the language? Stick with me, not that anyone will be able to have a philosophical conversation with you in Italian. But then...

Boh! I've just seen the word pegamolde, and no wonder it's such an ugly word. It means imitation leather. Who comes up with these?

Pasta is on the menu here today, for several of the jars of tomatoes did not seal correctly, so we'll be using them soon. I'll use a bit of the tomato passata in the borlotti bean dip to make later for cocktails in Maria Elina's garden. First, she has an appointment with Dino and Roberto, the geometra. When they're there, perhaps Dino can wrest a permit approval or two from him. The beat goes on...

Another hot day... another nap. This time I'm full of energy, reading away while Dino snoozes, or tries to. Maria Elina picks him up, and while they're meeting the geometra I fix the always popular borlotti bean dip and feed Sofi.

There does not seem to be a good cream or ointment for mosquito bites here. We use Sarna from the US, but I'd like something stronger. Our pharmacia does not have anything that will cure the feeling I have of crawling out of my skin. That's why I stay inside during the early evenings, when zanzari (mosquitos) seem to flourish.

Maria Elina's garden is also a secret garden, and it's a little jewel on the backside of the Orsini Palazzo. We take our dip and chips in a wicker basket and a little dish for Sofi's water; then spend an hour or two drinking champagne and munching on dip and chips.

The weather remains very warm, and the walk back home a treat, with a breeze to help us move along. We'd like to see Ivo to wish him an auguri(congratulations) for his birthday, but he's nowhere around.

Sofi has so many foxtails from the garden; although it's normal, I pick up ten or more from her coat. She lies next to me on the sofa and licks my hand while I gently search for them and pull them out. Tomorrow morning, Silvia will check her coat and cut her nails while giving her a once-over stripping of her fur. Va bene! I don't think it's easy being a dog...especially a little dear one like Sofi.

August 27
Silvia arrives at 9 AM for Sofi; what a treat to have her parucchieri (hairdresser) come to us! It does not cost more than to take her to Viterbo to a grooming salon, so does this put Sofi in the class of movie stars, especially since her paw prints have been imprinted in cement on the front landing? Her coat has grown quite a bit in just two months, so it's a good idea. I admit it's also a chance to have her nails clipped, a process of which I'm a little afraid, since her nails are black and I don't know how far back to clip.

Maria Elina arrives at ten while Dino is still out, and it's a chance for girl talk...something I hardly ever do these days. It's not that there aren't other women friends around; it's that it's difficult to conduct girl talk in Italian. I never thought I'd look forward to this silly endeavor.

After Silvia and Maria Elina leave, Dino wants to pay Pietro a visit, so we all drive down there and right away the prosecco is opened, while Sofi searches for lucertoles, ignoring a bit of the bubbly spilled on the pavement. It's really good to have our dear friend back home, and he'll be here until after we leave for the U S late in the year.

I'm writing a story about cement, used first by the Romans, and come across a word pozzolana, but can't find a translation for the word, even after asking Al Gore.....

We're back to Italian lessons again, so here's some mighty interesting information regarding the word pozzo: A pozzo is a well or a shaft, pozzo artesiano is an artesian well, but you knew that. A pozzo dell catene is a chain locker on a ship; pozzo di scienza (that's me) is a fountain of knowledge...now if only any of it were useable...pozzo di ventilazione is an air shaft; pozzo nero is a cesspool; pozzo petrolifero is an oil well; pozzo trivellato is a deep well, and last but not least: un pozzo di is a barrel of...

I suppose you're not really interested in singing again; this time "Oh, we ain't got a barrel of money..." so I won't translate. Try to use the pozzo words in conversation this week and see how impressed your friends are with you.

Duccio and Giovanna stop by for a visit before we all drive to Girasole in the Hotel Umbria for pizza. The place is located just below the pool and the pizza is identical to that served porta via(take away) from their first location in the Attigliano square.

We meet Mauro, who is a young waiter who lived in London for a year or two and now lives in Giove, and little Lorenzo, who brings the water dish for Sofi out himself and also tries to feed her a little. Since he's three, it will take him a while to feed Sofi without fear. But not long...

We're back home before 9:30 and sit outside on the terrace for a while and indeed it is lovely, especially in the fresh air.

August 28
It's my grandmother's birthday and possibly also cousin Cherie's, so I blow kisses to you both...Nana in heaven and Cherie in California. Nana, I should roll a quarter along the floor for you, ha ha.

We drive to Guardea with Sofi, and sit outside Bar Giubbini for colazione (breakfast) so that she can be with us. A group of ten or more bicyclists stop as we stop, sitting near us outside the bar. They are not young...only one appears to be below fifty, but that one walks inside to buy a liter bottle of Coke. One may be as old as seventy or more. The others order caffé, and wash it down with Coke, so they'll have the caffeine hit with Coke and also a jolt of coffee.

At the rental house, we check the inventory and also make sure everything is in order. It is. When we leave, Mari arrives, who is the cleaner, and does a wonderful job making sure everything is just so. The rentals are really good units and you can check them out at VRBO.com:




Back at home I'm not well again, and the heat has knocked the wind out of me. So we decide not to attend the annual ancient music concert this afternoon in Celleno...our memory tells us the room is quite warm. We will, however, attend the Cinghiale (wild boar) sagra tonight in Guardea.

While checking out the music concert in the archives, to see if we were there last year, I come across my great recipe for peaches from the garden with Amaretto and fresh cream. My recollection is that it is a signature dessert. We'll try to remember to serve it soon...

Dino could not sleep last night, worrying about the design of the balustrade. So he and I stand on the landing and discuss it and agree to a few changes to simplify it still more. We'll rush to the man who is fabricating it first thing on Monday morning. Hopefully we will reach him in time.

That means that the peperino slabs will arrive next week as well for the stairs and border of the landing. I still do not know about the front of the landing...

On the way back from Guardea this morning, we stopped to see Tony and Pat's bar, near their pool, which has just been completed. It is a masterful job, done by Salvatore, and we'd have him do the roof of our loggia, except that he gave us a price so much out of sight that we had to omit him from the potential list of muratores (stone masons) immediately.

He's a creative sort of guy, so leaves lots of room in his bids to add work the client has not even imagined, and this leaves the client over the moon with delight when a project has been finished. Since we plan everything out just as we'd like in advance, we'd like the creative ideas to be ours, and think we save lots of money this way. That's also why Dino is such a great project manager. If we had more money, we could probably do wonderful things working with Sandro, but that's not the case these days.

Maria Elin and Olaf arrive at 7 to go over ideas for their trip back to Norway by car via France, and then go together to Guardea to the sagra de cinghiale (wild boar dinner). The town of Guardea goes all out for its sagras(public dinners), and this side street is lit as we walk along. It looks like Christmas, with white bulbs gleaming above us, as if we're royalty. We find out table and explain that this town is the place where Dino got his name.

Pappardelle al cinghiale (wild boar) is a specialty in this region. The sauce is served either white or red, and we all choose red, and it's a bit spicy, but a compliment to the strong meat. Afterward Maria Elina drives us to Walter's in Sipicciano for gelato, and then home. Sofi has behaved quite well, and loved being with us, especially because I fed her under the table (bad Mama).

August 29
Dino tells me it's like clockwork; the weather temperature drops at the beginning of September, about one degree a day. It's not yet September, and yet the nights are a bit cooler. You could fool me; I'm still feeling strange, and even see double during the new priest's homily. Even after blinking my eyes, they play strange tricks on me. Luckily, my eyes seem better after mass.

Rosita asks me when I can teach the Coro the hymn for Don Renzo. I tell her tomorrow night, if there is Coro practice then, and I'll make copies of the music and play teacher for a part of the evening. Va bene!

When coming back from shopping, the malaise returns, but perhaps it's a little virus. At least it's not a headache... and I don't see double any more, at least for now.

While Dino watches the Formula 1 race on tv, for the first time this year, I sit in the kitchen and draw cupids on a balustrade. I'm going to do a painting of them playing together, one hanging its legs over the side, as an additional part of the presentation.

I found a book that I did not know that I had that showed dozens of them playing around a long balustrade, and if they want me to paint the ceiling of the church in Isernia, this is an option. There could be a balustrade painted around the borders and the sky opening up to heaven with Saint Peter Martyr in the center. Come no?

If I can pull it off, it will be a sweet painting that I can also sell. Yes, everything on the site is for sale except a couple of pieces I want to save.

Pietro and Helga come by for prosecco, with sliced peaches from the garden in each glass. It's a lovely way to sit and watch the purple sky and clouds against the setting sun. Helga will return at the beginning of October and perhaps by then we'll be citizens.

August 30
Dino wakes me up early, for we need to reach the marble yard where our balustrade will be made before they begin the work. Today is the day the workers return from ferie (vacation), and I want to write a story about turning them, using our project as an example of lavoro artigianale artisan work.

At the yard, the two men are Stefano and Stefano, although they are not related. We are welcomed into the office at the top of a staircase, and Sofi sits with us, on my lap, her nose resting on the edge of the desk as we decide the details.

When they are ready to turn the individual balaustre (balustrades), Stefano agrees that he will call us so that we can document the turning of each one for you. Outside, blocks of peperino(gray volcanic stone) lay in different heights, as if they're women waiting for their parrucchiere (hairdresser). The temperature is decidedly cooler, and when we arrive home the wind picks up markedly. It's an "O-oooooooo-O" chorus, wrapping the house as if it's a veil. There is movement everywhere as we look through the window. At this time of year, leaves are especially sinister, for they're drier and the sound is wraithlike.

Although autumn does not arrive for almost a month, the sounds are a warning. Better get ready for winter, the little imaginary bird cries out! Today there is not even a sound from the cicadas, who are probably whipped around by the wind. Yesterday, Dino found two of them making whoopee on top of the sheets set out to dry. He whisked them away.

Dino has left to meet the first renters of the day, and to take them to the rental apartment. Later in the day, the second group arrives, so he'll make two trips today. He so loves meeting new people and helping them settle.

Sofi needs to be taken to the vet; the spot on her behind looks infected. We'll drive to Viterbo while everyone else is having pranzo, for that's the best time to go.

I print out copies of Amazing Grace, both in English and in Italian, for that is the gospel song that my Coro buddies want to learn. Laura rang the doorbell last night to make sure I'd bring the music. Si, certo! (Yes, of course!)

We'll begin by speaking the words, so that their pronunciation will be correct. I usually don't want to interject anything American into the Italian culture; this time I've been asked to do so. Tonight will be fun.

There's another story in the New York Times about buying guns for militant groups around the world, and I'm reminded of the story I wrote to you about on August 11th. I have always been an idealist, and if I had known what I was doing before the fact, I never would have agreed to count out those hundred dollar bills four decades ago for Alberto Lumauig, then the governor of Ifugau, a province in the Philippines, who is still alive and in the Philippine government. Am I worried that someone will come after me? No. If it's my time, it's my time. But if I suddenly disappear, you will all know why.

Perhaps that is why a raging wind continues to warn me; I am not deterred, even if the cicadas are.

Tonight, Coro is lots of fun. We practice Amazing Grace in English and there is a lot of laughter. Piano, piano (slowly, slowly). We'll take on two stanzas each time. We do, however, rock back and forth like Gospel Singers. Oh, how I wish we had robes to wear...Come no?
Sleeping weather is delicious, just cool enough to snuggle. Buona notte. August 31
Pietro takes Helga to the train; then picks up Dino for his help in some sort of car registration renewal in the next town. Dino knows his way around the Italian bureaucracy well; he's that kind of guy...

Yesterday, we listened to an NPR story while in the car, about the history of management consultants, and in a way their beginnings were a bit of a sham. We know the sweet book and movie, Cheaper By the Dozen, and it is this elimination of wasted motion that Dino espouses.

He confesses to me that he goes about his life in this manner, accomplishing more than one task at once. I, on the other hand, love to smell the roses these days, finding myself happily watching a butterfly when I could be dusting a chair in the garden.

Would you believe that I was a management consultant for years? I feel so far away from it, as though I have washed my hands of the work. Yes, I love to help others, but the daily drudgery is something I do by rote. It's really not drudgery, so what am I saying? Snapping freshly dried sheets in the air over our bed to make it, writing to you, cooking a meal, inventing a new recipe...it's all a joy.

Then there's that memory thing, that we choose to laugh at, for what it means we'll deal with...tomorrow.

I do love the organization thing; moving papers off the desk as if they're lines on a "to do" list; organizing photographs and recipes, but there's always more to do, and I think of unfinished business joyfully these days. My glass is almost always full, now that my family business nightmare has come to an end.

On this last day of the month I smile as I think of cousin Cherie, whose birthday IS today, and I wish her sunshine and lots of smiles.

Across the street, Pia and two men arrive to weed-whack their little plot of land, and to cut firewood. But there are still no cicadas; devoid of the sandpaper sound they make, the air is strangely silent, until a taut string is pulled and the wacker makes its "I'm coming to get you!" sound...the grass shuddering in its wake.

We're having excellent success growing lettuce - probably because we have sprinkled broken eggshells on the soil...(lattuga, commonly referred to as insalata) in planters:

...and this way snails and other critters don't get to it before it's ready to eat. This is another of Dino's many ideas, so keep them coming, dear one!

Pietro joins us for pranzo; he's brought amazing figs from his garden and I'm about to conjure up papardelle noodles with gorgonzola and figs. It's a heavy pasta, but over the moon delightful.

We have plenty of peaches, so why not a plain green salad and the Amaretto and whipped cream and peaches in sorbetto glasses for dessert? Of course we have prosecco and wine... This afternoon will definitely be snooze city around here.

Well, Sofi warns us that the electrician is here to finish the wiring work for the new gate and intercom system. He's alone, without his father, who has just returned from the hospital. Life changes, and life continues... Sempre Avanti! ...the neighbors tell us.

As Dino helps Stefano, I bring the journal up to date, and perhaps tonight we'll even post...or perhaps not.

September 1

Little birds! Fly away to safety! At dawn the hunters lift their rifles toward the sky, their dogs drooling in anticipation...

The first day of September is the beginning of bird hunting season in Italy. For at least the next two months, birds are not safe here. No wonder birds migrate South!

This adapted from justlanded.com:
The hunting (la caccia) season in Italy extends from September until February for most animals and until March for migratory birds.

Game is considered public property; one can hunt almost anywhere, if you're at least 100m (328ft) from a house and don't damage crops. There are an estimated 800,000 regular hunters in Italy, although it's believed that they are mainly in Tuscany and Sardinia.

Most use shotguns, and popular prey includes wild boar, rabbit, hare and many species of birds, including songbirds, many of which are protected in other countries.

Hunters are a powerful group, although hunting is controversial and many protests take place on the opening day of the season; however, to date the pro-hunting lobby has managed to overcome all efforts to have it banned.

If you take part in hunting, you must ensure that you're aware of the regulations governing which species can be shot. Enthusiasm for hunting has resulted in many animals becoming rare, endangered or extinct, and new laws have been introduced to provide greater protection for many birds and animals.

In recent years, further measures have been taken to protect animals in regions hit by fires and drought. Campaigns against illegal hunting are led by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Animal Rights League; for further information about hunting in Italy, contact the Federazione Italiana della Caccia

(www.fidc.it ).

We are out for most of the morning, but sadly hear the sound of guns when we return home just before pranzo.

We've been to Tenaglie, to adjust something for a renter, and for me to meet them; tonight we'll meet them at Il Gelso for cena.

On the way back down hill, we stop to visit with Lief and Kari and their son, here for a week from Norway. This is a wonderful family, so very generous with their hearts. It's good to see them here, in the house they love.

I have the malaise I had about a month ago with shingles, so after a simple pranzo lie down for a rest. Later we leave to meet new friends for cena, and laugh over bottles of wine and pasta. The night is lovely, and we're able to eat outside on the restaurant's large terrace.

The cool and fragrant evening ends with us back at home feeling mellow.

September 2
Where did THAT come from? A major nosebleed has me back in bed, lying there until Dino returns from Attigliano. The day is warm, and I'm feeling all right.

Thinking I'd sew Pat and Tony's material up while they wait, Dino and I realize that's not about to happen. There's no rush, so I'll finish the little task later today, if I'm still feeling good. They arrive with no thought about having the curtains finished right away.

Dino leaves after our guests and drives to Franco's to discuss the change in the peperino we've already ordered. Hopefully it will arrive this next week. Only then will we be able to order the balustrade, for measurements must be exact.

Yesterday at the door place, there was a big discussion about waiting to give the door order until the space for it was cut. We think that's nuts, for being without a door to the outside for a month is not a good idea. Will Stefano the muratore be able to cut accurately with a door already on location? Dino will have to ask him.

More friends arrive this afternoon for a visit; Lief and Kari and Krister arrive and we sit under the wisteria on the terrace. I make homemade caramel/butterscotch sauce to serve with fresh peaches from the garden and ice cream. The recipe is very easy...the sauce would work with a cake as well, and it's a good thing to know when having people around for a chat and a little sweet...or a lot of sweets.

Take a look:


While they are here, Stefano the electrician arrives to work on the new door electricity and the intercom. He's working when I show our friends the painting of the two boys, and before I'm finished Stefano has seen all the others, too. He asks me if I'll paint his young children, so why not? He'll bring them by on Saturday and I'll let you know all about it.

September 3
Oh. It's Friday morning. That means the incessant horn of the flower vendor, as he speeds up the hill on Via Mameli. Fridays and weekends are times when people are most apt to visit their loved ones in cemeteries...hence the popularity of little chrysanthemums.

I'm reminded of the fresh flowers in our home when we first spent time here; sometimes chrysanthemums joined other varieties in vases, and it was then that I learned that those are the flowers of the cemetery, never to be used in the home in Italy. Add that to "life's embarrassing moments", and there have been plenty.

There are emails with Don Francis, and he's thinking big again on the painting project for the church, more Baroque in feeling, so I'm going to slow down on that presentation, until I understand more of what he wants to convey. In the meantime, we look forward to Stefano's return to finish the electrical project tomorrow; he'll bring his two young children so that we can photograph them.

I'm a bit lazy this morning, so Dino drives to Guardea alone. I do want to finish more stories so that I can set new ones aside for a month or two and concentrate on other things. It's up to Dino now, for he is the photographer, and photographs are important to compliment each story.

In reading the NYT online this morning, I'm taken by a quote about Obama: "he's abandoned the heroic narrative inseparable from the American sense of self". Yes, that's what all Americans have in the back of their minds as they ponder new politics, new strategies... It's not so easy to attain the heroic when the economy is tanking, as Tom Lehrer sang, "Soon we'll be sliding down the razor blade of life".

That nosebleed yesterday has me really tired today. I press on, writing notebook stories, but have little energy. This afternoon is a sleepy one, and Sofi is fine with that. With the cooler weather she seems to sleep more. The weather is so very beautiful; how could I forget that some of the most beautiful days in Italy occur in the fall? Usually, I see the year as at an end in the midst of winter, but not this year.

I remain very tired; so tired I can't wait to lie down after pranzo. The lethargy remains all afternoon.

While Dino is outside chipping cement from huge old tufa blocks, Stefano the electrician arrives with his wife and two young girls. I show the wife my paintings inside, and Dino then takes photos of the dear little girls sitting in different parts of the garden. Only when I think we have captured their expressions in photographs will I be content to paint.

After they leave we download the photos, and there is a wonderful one of the older girl. Unfortunately the photos sitting on the little step in front of the middle garden are not just right. We'll let Stefano know tomorrow that we'd like the girls to come again. They are so sweet.

I can't wait to go back to bed; so Sofi and I return upstairs early, just after dark, and the sound of crickets and a lone barking dog serenade us. I feel as if two hands are pressing down on my shoulders, so it's a good thing we don't have plans for tonight.

As I get into bed, the sound of a screeching owl joins the cacophony; wish I knew what he looks like.

September 4
We sound better in church this morning; at least Dino tells me so. There are seven of us today, so the larger number helps. Church is full, so perhaps families are stretching out their summer, staying longer in Mugnano with its lovely weather.

The painting of the little girls is on hold; none of the photos Dino took are just right. The family will return soon, possibly even today, for another round. I look forward to that. When we're in San Francisco later this year, perhaps I will do a painting or two. It may be time to do a painting of the grand daughters, unless someone wants me to paint for them. If not, there is plenty of sewing to do, a la Lady Gaga, and what fun we'll have!

I do look forward to afternoon naps, unless we're working on projects. I'm reminded that I need help translating Amazing Grace into a document that will show the women how the words are pronounced phonetically. Let's see if Tiziano can give me 20 minutes or so. I'd surely mix up the "e's" and "a's"...

Tonight Maria Elina and Olaf pick us up and we drive to the next town for pizza, sitting outside and greeting a number of neighbors; they're dropping in here for pizza "porta via" (take-away). Weather is mild and the evenings are lovely, with Dino trying to convince me to order something other than pizza Margherita.

Maybe next time.

September 6
It's certainly cool weather, and clouds surprisingly cover our little village, growing darker by the hour. We have a bout of rain, twenty minutes or so, and Dino won't have to water the terrace, although rain was not in the forecast. The surrounding wind wrecks havoc with the tall cedro (cedar) trees; one huge branch near the play area is dashed to the ground.

Later, we drive to Viterbo and Dino picks up a pair of shoes that will thankfully replace the giant red ones he wore so lovingly last year. Dino wants a grill top to work inside the summer kitchen, and friends Tony and Pat purchased one recently. I think it's a good idea, so the shopping begins, hopefully with a practical eye. I suggest that he draw out the space, and see where one will fit.

We're back home without seeing even one grill in Viterbo or on the road to Montefiascone. Tomorrow he'll want to drive toward Terni, and I agree to join him on the search.

But tonight there is Coro practice, and Tiziano kindly wrote the phonetic (for the Italian ear) translation of Amazing Grace. See if you can see any familiarity with the first verse:

Emeizing greis hau suit ve saund
Vet seivd e rech laik mi
Ai uans uos lost but nau em faund
Uos blaind bat nau ai si

During practices, I've tried to emphasize pronunciation; it does not seem to work, although my girl friends are all anxious to learn the hymn. So let's let us have their way. The next time you sing Amazing Grace, think of them...

All of a sudden, when I least expect it, there is a mix-up, and some anger about the translation of Amazing Grace. I cannot believe it! I tell the others that unless we all want to sing it and agree to how it should be sung (I think perfect enunciation is not necessary and would rather the locals could enjoy singing it than wrestle with American pronunciation), we should not attempt it.

We sing it several times and I can't wait to sing something else. Let's let the calmer heads prevail...I ride home with Dino feeling very sad that I could have anything to do with angering even one person in this place. Perhaps I'll paint a little acquarello (water color) for her.

September 7
Lovely weather continues, following a Brigadoon-like morning as we drive to Bomarzo and up through the fog. Soon the skies are clear, although not without clouds. We're expecting a big rainstorm and wind tomorrow and Thursday...no matter.

We run into Giovanna and Franco at Bar Quadrifoglio in Bomarzo, and Franco convinces me to try acquarello (water paints); this time using 600g/sm (about 160lb) paper, that will absorb the paint. Sounds good.

Dino is intent on buying a countertop grill, so we do our usual round of several locations, from Terni to Viterbo, before driving to Bagnoreggio to the place where Tony ordered his. We order the same one and it will be in the shop....tomorrow.

There's time to return through Viterbo and purchase the paper Franco recommended, and I'll do a campion (example) with a small piece of paper he has given to me for that reason. This makes so much sense; I'll be able to easily paint each afternoon after we're through with the markets all around our area of Provence (the Haute Var) when we travel to Southern France.

This afternoon we're supposed to meet up with Don Renzo, who perhaps will be in the main church for his movie shoot. He's agreed that I should draw/photograph him there and then, as the original photo shoot was not adequate, and I really should concentrate on this painting, before I have too many on the back burner.

With no answer on his phone, we walk up to the church in mid-afternoon. We find Livio in his dark cantina, but there is no sign of Don Renzo. He's expected, so we can wait, but we drive to Attigliano to speak with Pietro's mechanic, but he's not there. So we return again to the borgo to find...no one, and return home for an hour or so. Tempo Italiano...we're used to it.

On the way home, we come upon Andrea Perini (remember him from the painting?) and a friend, playing Captain Hook with the fallen branch from yesterday.

We're becoming more Italian by the day...after an hour at home we return to the church to find everyone there on the set. Don Renzo will not be in today's shoot, so he walks outside with us and sits on the front steps while Dino takes a few more photographs.

"I'm interested in your anima (soul) for this painting; what is it you are thinking?" I say to him. As a practiced actor, this is both a good and a bad motivation, but Dino takes a number of shots and I now think I'll have what I need. We'll buy a long canvas and it will work well with his tall slim persona. He's a really lovely man, and I look forward to the painting. Buying the canvas the correct size won't be too difficult...or will it?

Walking to the car from the church, we come upon three of our favorite Mugnanese: Italo, Vincenzo and Augusta. Italo and Vincenzo are the two oldest Mugnanese. They are both 90! I've written about all of them, so they are probably good friends of yours by now...Come no?

We then drive to Georgio's; he's the mechanic in Attigliano working on Pietro's car. It's not ready; he needs a part. But just as Dino calls Pietro on the cell, Pietro and his friend are walking down the street from the train station toward us! What joy to greet them!

Since it will take a few hours after Dino buys the part in Viterbo tomorrow for Georgio to do the work, Dino lends the two men the old panda for a day or two, and Pietro's friend loves driving it...he owned one just like it!

It's good to be home...for an hour or so, and then Sofi guards the house while Dino and I meet Tony and Pat for pizza at Girasole. This time I tell Dino I'll try a new pizza. Come no? This time it's Boscaiolo (from the woods, including mushrooms and cheese on pizza-bianca) and I wonder why it has taken me so long to try another variety?

Ken and Pam are here, and yes, we'll try to get together with them before they leave. This is such a lovely time to be here.

We so enjoy an evening out with friends, especially when we are able to converse with them easily. Tonight with Tony and Pat we feel as if we've delved into another layer of our friendship; Pat is always welcoming and interesting and Tony ever the storyteller and remarkable mind. We say good night, knowing they will return to the U S soon, and perhaps they will return for Christmas, which is always a special holiday here for us.

As we drive up the Mugnano road, crickets surround us, and we wonder at what time of night they stop rubbing their legs together? Perhaps we'll let you know...and perhaps not, that is, if we're sound asleep at the time.

September 8
There's a pedicure in Orte Scalo with Giusy this morning, and it's always a joy to see her. Her life is good, and she'll vacation with friends to Ischia soon. It seems a little late in the season, but she wants to rest, and it will be tranquil. I'm happy for her; she is a really dear person and it's a pleasure to know her.

We agree that I need to consult with an Orthopedic doctor about my feet, and tomorrow when we meet with our good doctor in Viterbo, we'll ask him for a prescription for one. We also need a prescription for Dino in Capranica for an ongoing skin rash, so the five minutes or so we take will be well spent.

Dino's grill is ready to pick up, but first we drive to Viterbo and run around to find the part for Pietro's car; as if we're a dog chasing its tail. We return to the first place and speak with another salesperson, a man who finds what we want on a shelf right behind him. So when Dino tells him they must have been out of stock half an hour ago when he first inquired, the man sheepishly apologizes. Va bene.

Now it's time to pick up the grill in Bagnoreggio, so on we drive, and return home for a late pranzo. In another couple of hours, the rain returns, but Dino takes the part to Giorgio, who tells him Pietro's car will be ready at the end of the day.

I think it's funny that so many of you really do want to know what fills up our days. So here it is. I've acquarello (water painting) on my mind, so while it's still light this afternoon I want to paint my first, and hopefully give it to Rosita to let her know that I was very concerned about her feelings the other night.

Dino calls the balustrade artisan, who tells him he won't be ready to turn them until at least Friday. So on Friday we'll see if we can watch him work. That should be worth documenting, don't you think?

September 9
Cool, cloudy, a bit humid, delightful...it's a lovely day. In an email, Don sends me a paper he wrote for his students about memory. I respond with my new favorite poem:
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve;
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Christina Rossetti, "Remember", 1849

Yes, it is a bit maudlin; I don't want friends or relatives to feel any sense of guilt about their relationship with me, so remembering me/us with a smile will do...

We are so far away from friends and relatives in this wild country called Italia, that I sometimes think that our distance creates memories that begin to dim; I hope they are good ones, for if one has a memory, it's best that it be a good one. Come no? (Why not?)

I do my very first acquarello (water paint), and it is for Rosita, for I do feel so badly about her feelings on Monday evening. We'll take it by on our way out of town and I do hope she likes it.

Here it is:

Enzo is at home alone when we drop off the present for Rosita, but accepts it with pleasure and a hug. On we go back to Viterbo; this time to pick up a set of real watercolors and a few brushes. Will I do one a day, as Franco and a man in Provence do? I'm not that obsessed, and still love painting in oils. But now I've Don Renzo's to paint, as soon as we pick up the canvas....

September 10
We don't need to close the shutters on the front of the house any more this year...Now the sun warms us, not that we need the heat in the middle of the day. It's difficult not to love life on days like this.

We drive off early to colazione (breakfast) at Bar Quadrifoglio in Bomarzo, returning for Enzo's visit. This Enzo works as the hydraulico (plumber) for the Comune (city government) and a lovely man, although he speaks in a dialect only a mother could love. Well, we love him, but it's as if we're listening to him gargle when he speaks. Dino can figure out the gist of what he is saying when he comes here once a year to check the water heater and collect a fee.

Yes, Mama, I'm reminded of an old saying of yours, "Once a year the salt man comes here, and boy, do we have salt!" Since salt was once taxed, bread in these parts is made without salt, and it takes getting used to, although most panificios (bread shops) sell a bit of bread with salt.

Speaking of bread, Pepino is outside his garage with a loaf of stale bread for his asini (donkeys), and Sofi rushes into his arms as soon as the car stops and the door opens.

Pepino loves Sofi and she loves him, but on this morning she's coveting the loaf of bread. He pulls off a big chunk at the end and she wags her tail while he holds it and she chews it. There's no getting it away from her, so we shrug our shoulders and let her finish the piece. Pepino tells us its good for her teeth, and so...Va bene! (It's good!)

I'm going to paint my second acquarello (water color) today; this time a larger one, and I'm going to alter an image I saw and loved a few days ago and experiment with it. Rosita calls to thank me for the one I did for her; I hope that she is not just being polite. I do like her; we like the family a great deal.

What's particularly fun about the latest watercolor, is that I'm going to paint it upside down! If you know me well, and read the journal, you'll probably recall that I can read upside down easily. The image shows a lot of trees, but I see them as branches of a single tree instead. Dino asks me if that means I will paint while standing on my head. No I did not train at Cirque du Soleil...

In the photo, the branches grow upward toward the sun. If I paint upside down, using the same mode of brush stroke, they'll grown down as do the branches of the cedro (cedar tree), and perhaps it will be the campione (sample) for the giant Mugnano tree that will be the culmination of all our research for the village family tree. Yes, I'm fearless when it comes to painting...Instead, I think: 'What fun!'

It's an up and down result for the 2nd acquarello (water color) painting, for I'm getting used to using the brushes and paints and paper, but I have much more to do on it, so as time goes on, I hope to learn instinctively how to gauge when enough water on the brush is just enough.

Dino returns with a cover for the firewood storage, and has restacked most of it. Now that we'll have a bread/pizza oven this fall, will the load last the entire winter? We have no idea...

It's difficult not to let tomorrow's date get in under one's skin. 9-1-1 is the phone number in the US for any emergency, so whomever thought up the plan for that date knew it would be imbedded in our memories forever. News every hour carries something that relates to it, and we receive a warning from the US Govt. about Americans living and traveling abroad. Enough said...

We hear that our balustrade will be ready at the end of the month; we'll return there after Stefano installs the edges of the pianorotolo (landing), and no, I have no idea why it is called such an unkind name.

Let's post tonight and try to post three times each month. I'm hearing that I write so much that it's probably easier read in smaller chunks. I'm simply amazed that so many of you choose to follow our lives at all!

September 11 to 20
We've been on a road trip to France and back for the past ten days, and it has been a joyous one. Even I take a break now and then, and although it is said that a diarist must write every single day, I did not on this trip.

Here are some of our recollections of a marvelous sojourn to Southern France and back, including an overnight stop south of Milano and also in Rapallo on the Ligurian Coast:

Dino experienced an amazing event while we were gone; but one he'll not hurry to repeat. This event took place at the Monza racetrack during Italy's Formula-1 race on September 11th. Fifty years before, to the day, he and a fellow soldier attended the Formula-1 race in Monza, on leave from their tour of duty in Regensburg, Germany.

I'll leave it to Dino to tell you about the day. Previously, we had agreed to stop at our favorite agritourismo outside Milano, Cascina Caremma, and although Saint Pietro Martyr was buried in a crypt in Milano that we thought we would visit for my art project, I offered to Dino that it would be a good chance for him to experience the race again instead.

With Sofi by my side, we ate paninis (sandwiches) with him for pranzo; then Sofi and I took a long walk through a lovely park to a quieter part of town. A couple of hours later, Dino emerged, having determined that the races are better watched on tv. Here's Dino's take on the racetrack, and the experience:

Dino writes here......I have longed to go to another Formula 1 Race since my last one in September 1960 at Monza. Well, as Eva has already told you, we decided while we were on way to Milano on the 11th, that we would go to Monza and see if we could get in to see the Qualifying for the staring lineup for the next day's race. As we approached the city of Monza (a suburb of Milano), we could hear the droning of racecars as the drivers took their Prova Libera. (Here they race the clock to improve their knowledge of the track as well as their own lap times).

We finally found a space to park the car and walked the 1km or so to the track. As we approached the track we encountered a man selling earplugs. Did I tell you that the closer we got to the track the LOUDER the droning became? We said "no thanks" and he countered that perhaps we should get them for Sofia! We did buy a pair (€2).

Near the gate we saw a man resting on his bicycle holding a few tickets. (Was he a scalper?) Yes! The tickets he had were for the weekend and he wanted €400 for the pair of tickets - which is a good price! I told him that we only want tickets for the Qualifying today. To make a long haggle short, we bought "walk about" tickets for €50 total.

Surprise! The tickets passed the security check and we entered the Autodromo, grabbed a couple of panini and drinks. Eva decided that it was potentially TOO loud and she and Sofi walked back to the car and waited for me...

I walked around a bit and bought a few T-shirts for Terence and me. Then I made my way trackside, as the trials were about to begin! If you want to see the cars and you have these "walk about" tickets, you must stand at or near the fence! Not only are you toooo close to really determine what car just passed you (at 300km per hour), the noise, even with Sofi's earplugs, is the loudest thing that I have EVER heard - it's really painful and of course potentially damaging!!!! After about 10 or 15 minutes of this - blurred cars (see the photos) and my head full of 17,000rpm Formula1 engines...I left and returned to the safety of my loving, generous and tolerant spouse and Sofia!!!

So every 50 years you should go to a Formula 1 race or more often if you have a TV. Fortunately in 50 years, I will be long gone from this life!!!

September 21
While we were gone, I made a drawing for the owners of the flat we rented. Since the flat is named "Van Gogh", I thought it appropriate to do a study based on one of the artist's drawings. It's included below, and I so enjoyed doing it.

It's so good to be back home. While I'm waking up to the silence of our little plot of paradise, Dino is ready to drive off to Micci Peperino in Vitorchiano, where the artisans have fashioned peperino into slabs of it to cover the borders of our pianorotolo (landing) outside the front door and the balaustras...seven of them. Only when Stefano the muratore and his assistant have cemented them into place will we be able to measure the height of the two pillars...one at each end.

While he is gone, Stefano and his assistant arrive, and it is a good chance for me to figure out the camera and intercom of the new main gate. They enter, asking for Roy, who most of us now know as Dino. Just then, the phone rings, and it is Dino. He is at Micci, doing a soft shoe routine Italian style to keep the trucker with him who is to transport the peperino slabs and balaustras (curved individual pieces). The top shelf is not ready.

I put Stefano on the phone, and he is driving to Viterbo; returning to possibly work this afternoon...or is he going to recommend two workers to do the work? Dino thinks its fine if Stefano supervises.

Dino returns while I'm catching up on emails and soon after the truck arrives with the peperino...Take a look at Dino and Federico, the trucker, who is able to do the entire work by himself with the portable console that looks like the gadgets one uses on the bank of a lake to propel a toy boat. This time, the gru maneuvers thousands of pounds of peperino stone, fashioned into curved balustras and flat pieces of stone.

Dino calls the geometra, who has put off the amianto (asbestos) removal of the loggia roof until Stefano is ready to begin the work. It sounds as if Stefano continues with his usual overbooked schedule, but we'll know more once Dino speaks with him on the phone.

In the meantime, Dino removes all the sheets of bamboo from under the sheets of amianto above the loggia, and tells me he'll burn it. I've learned to pick my battles, and can only hope the burning will take place when there is no wind. He wears a hat and gloves, realizing that it is the dust and particles of the asbestos that are dangerous. Since these pieces of amianto are still in sheets, I'm hoping there is no residual danger. I can only hope.

Silence reigns this morning, with no birds and only an occasional dog bark. The temperature is cool; sun squints through lofty layers of clouds as I hang a load of laundry out to dry.

Don Renzo is on my mind, and it's time to refine the drawing of his face with an altered expression, and then to blow up the cartoon and buy a tall canvas in Viterbo so that I can begin to work on the painting. This is a gift for him and a labor of love.

One evening while in Southern France, we feasted on a meal of hot boiled potatoes sliced and laid over a bed of butter lettuce. On top, a layer of smoked Norwegian salmon starred as the main course. Today we'll have the same for pranzo, and the potatoes are skinned and sit waiting in a pot of cold water.

Dino is back in project mode; a mode he loves. There is a call to the geometra, and the project for the cemetery has been approved. Stefano arrives and we all talk about the work to be done; he will return with two other muratores to do the work tomorrow morning sometime; that means the work will be done quickly. Is that possible?

I stand at the door while Dino places the individual balustras on the front landing. We have eight and I'd like us to use five. We can use the others as table bases. Tomorrow we'll probably be able to measure and order the columns on each side of the structure itself. We can hardly believe the work will be done...we've waited so long.

I breathe in the cool morning air; so in love with this place that I have to keep taking deep breaths to convince myself that this is real. A distant crow-like sound continues in the distance; otherwise there is not a sound.

For pranzo I fix the meal we loved to have in France. Over a blanket of buttery lettuce, I place sliced warm potatoes that have been skinned and boiled. On top are several pieces of sliced Norwegian salmon. Fresh tarragon leaves from the garden are chopped and add garnish. A squeeze of lemon, a drizzling of olive oil, a few grindings of pepper, and the dish is heavenly. Since we keep packages of sliced smoked salmon in the refrigerator, this is a good meal to serve when you don't have much else.

It's time to return to painting, so after pranzo I look up the photo shoot we did of Don Renzo earlier in the month, and pick an expression to alter the painting of him. That done, it's time to redraw his face.

Dino tells me that the people at Micci were thankful for our little gift of a drawing of Maurizio working yesterday, and it's something I like to do for artisans as a little thank you. I so appreciate their work, even if they drove Dino a little batty this morning when he had to wait for the work to be finished.

We've done laundry, although the sky is a bit dreary. Will we have rain? We don't really care. Earlier Luigina looked up to me to welcome us home from our trip, and I confirmed to her that there is no place like Mugnano, and it's wonderful to be back home.

She agreed, throwing up her arms in delight as she passed by below us when walking down Via Mameli to feed her chicks. Yes, the painting of her is the next on the list, but there are more urgent things to paint first...

Sofi is happy to be home, too. For the first time since we left, she snores next to me. The little sounds she makes are a joy.

We experience a little shower in the afternoon, and I take a look at the longterm forecast. Now that our muratores will begin tomorrow, the forecast is for rain...Che peccato (what a pity)!

Back in Mugnano, and after a rest, Evanne returns to Coro practice...and back to her journal...

Coro practice reminds me that these women all feel a kinship, and a lack of tension with each other, now that the Amazing Grace misunderstanding has been solved.

Federica is more beautiful, if that is possible on this night, with her growing pregnancy, and seems happy with our progress singing the hymns.

When it is almost 22:00 (10 P M), she turns to me and the women ask me to lead them in singing Amazing Grace. I comment that we should probably sing the first three stanzas and then the last, and we all agree. There is no discord; we sing the piece several times and then I bid my friends a "buona notte" (good night).

At home, we're all tired, and sleeping weather is as close to perfect as it could be. I read a page or so in my latest book and then the pillow draws me in...

September 22
Muratores (stone masons) arrive before 9 AM and we are surprised to see them. Guarino and Cesare are the head muratores, and Angelo and Michele are the two who remain with us. Stefano is not around.

Dino tells me we must stay around for their activity this morning, so I fix coffee and the morning proceeds with Dino acting as one of the muratores, under Angelo's lead. I love Angelo's face and yes, I think I will paint him. He is aptly named; he looks like an angel...

It's time to travel to Viterbo for Don Renzo's blowups and purchase of his canvas. I've seen a lovely natura morta (still life) of tomatoes in a book we've picked up in Provence, and when the picture is blown up there will yet be another to paint. But that will have to wait.

In the meantime, I research the making of true French Bread, for the bread in France tastes so very different from that in Italy or even the U S. After printing out a recipe, I'll try it in a day or so and let you know. If it works, it will find its way onto this site. Come no?

But then there is Julia Child's dozen-page counsel, and I read that, too. Somewhere in the middle we'll find the answer and no, I did not think about buying flour when we had the chance to last week in France.

We've agreed on a modified spina di pesce (spine of the fish), or herringbone design for the center portion of the landing, and will have Franco's people make the peperino tiles for Angelo to set in place at an angle. Dino wants to wait until the five pieces of peperino have been installed to order them. Va bene.

Well before pranzo, Angelo and Michele have the five pieces plus the five balustras affixed to the cement frame. No, we are not going to use seven pieces, and now have three for a mini-balustra somewhere in the garden.

Dino measures the sides and the height that the two columns will need to be, and tells me we'll have Franco make them, or at least give us a price. Soon Angelo and Michele will return to secure them and we'll be finished with yet another project at L'Avventura.

What's next? Well, I want to have the front steps pulled out and used to fashion a fountain in the middle of the middle garden. We've looked and looked at fountains, and since the front stairway will be covered and the front entrance walled up, the only cost will be that of time for the muratores to move the heavy (are they basalt?) stone steps.

Now that we have our angel for the cemetery monument (purchased in France) and the permission has been granted, we'll need to get a copy of the plan from the geometra and design a top piece that will enclose the angel in a way that robbers will not easily steal it. It's not particularly valuable, but would be a shame to lose, especially if we're sleeping under it...

Many years ago, we were told that a profusion of angels decorated Mugnano, but they were stolen in the dark of night and no one knows by whom. By the time we moved here, angels were a distant memory. We never saw them, although paintings in the little chiesa had plenty of them.

Angelo's face may be used for two paintings; one of him, and his face for one of the little putti (cherubs). There are so many angels I want to paint, that perhaps I'll experiment with watercolors, so that I can do many of them that way. Although...there's nothing like oil, and the one of Angelo as a muratore will certainly be in oil.

While the men were here, I showed Angelo the painting of dear Felice, and he told me that he knew Felice. Yes, his son Renzo is probably someone Angelo knows well. They both live in Bomarzo.

We're ready to take the measurements to Franco, and do that after making the rounds in Viterbo. Yes, I'd love to paint Franco, as if he were living 500 years ago. We ask him if he dresses in costume for the Lugnano festa (August 10-15) but he probably does not have the costume that would work.

He is a friend of Maurizo, and that is how we first heard about Tessaccini. We are all sad to hear that Maurizio is not doing well. He is so very creative that perhaps it has driven him a bit mad. I suppose I am fortunate that I am not THAT creative, even if I am a bit mad...

We meet Don and Katy and Julian and baby Lilli Grace at Girasole, Hotel Umbria's new pizzeria, and Sofi sits on the banchina(bench) with me while we all feast on pizzas. Lilli is an amazing young girl. Below are a few photos. I hope to do a drawing of her soon.

I admit I really miss Mary. It is good to see Don, who will be with us this weekend, but next month he will return with my dear pal, Mary, and I just cannot get enough of this dear woman. Hoping that her MS is not progressing, it's a joy to see her any way at all. That's something to look forward to. In the meantime, here are some photos of tonight's cena.

September 23
The NYT online writes about things to do to marry liquor with fresh fruits. I love the idea, and also the idea of a romtopf, but my timing is off. For a romtopf, begin in June with a large crock, add freshly picked fruits and sugar and rum and continue as new fruits come into season. By holiday season, it's ready to eat.

Another person suggests smaller containers of fruit, by type, and also adding spices. She then serves the fruit in a large bowl and lets guests nibble the pieces, probably with cocktail forks. You can now take out those stored away fondue forks, or have you just given them over to a garage sale?

Check yesterday's NYT for other ideas. Perhaps I'll ask Dino to set an alarm for next Spring, to remind me. It took a couple of minutes just now to remember the word, "fondue", and I tried an association by picturing the activity; finally the word came into focus. Sigh.

Dino drives to Franco's; during his typical sleepless night, churning activities in his brain, he thought of a small detail to account for two pieces of peperino coming together and overlapping at a corner, making the lengths of each remaining piece slightly different.

Now, if they can be cut in the field to size, why worry? Oh. The pieces must be longer if they are to be cut; otherwise it's not going to look just right where the stone meets the intonico (plaster) at the house. Bravo, Dino!

Morning light casts shadows against the pavement just as I've dreamed it would. Think of the movie, Enchanted April. That's how the sound of the gravel, balustrades and the whole romance of Italy began for me. How about you?

It's a lovely morning, and in the studio I trace the cartoon of Don Renzo on the canvas. Sofi snores nearby. I wish we had the antidote for stink bugs, for they've returned, and that subtle gassy smell makes me wonder what we can do about it, other than to mask it with a room freshener, which seems a waste. Puzzo is the word for smelly, and I'm sure there is a diminutive to name these bugs in Italian, but I'll have to let you know...

I've been dreaming about bread we've eaten in France, whose bakers produce possibly the best bread in the world (Sorry, San Francisco, but it's true). Here's one of the reasons: the protein content of French flours is calculated differently from US flours. Flour listed as having 11% protein in the US would be listed at approximately 12.8% protein in France. French bakers actually use flour that's around 10.5%, calculated the French way, so it would be something like 9% calculated the US way. Is that your snoring I hear?

If you're awake, the next time you visit your grocery store, do look at the label of their packaged all-purpose flours, and be sure the analysis is for 4 oz.; some brands give the protein analysis for only 2 px, so multiply that number times two to get the correct percentage. Bay Bread Bakery in San Francisco may be one to trust, so when we're there in a few months, I'll check them out. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, do visit them and let me know. Thanks.

My research here for flour has not ended, but for now it's time to return to painting...After translating Don Renzo's image to canvas with the help of large carbon paper, the blowup and a pen, I make changes to the image and spray the pencil marks, and the carbon marks, with strong hairspray, then leave it to dry.

It's Thursday afternoon, so many shops are closed, but Pinzaglia Vivai (nursery) in Bassano is open, so we pick up two little ciclamini (cyclamen) for the wall planter and a pink lantana for the top of the giant herb pot. It's good to have a little color as we turn into fall.

I'm thinking about finnocchio (fennel), the wild and the non-wild varieties, and think there is not much difference. So Dino agrees to dig out a big plant growing near the peach tree and we can see for ourselves. I love cooking with fennel, and will let you know how it goes.

September 24
On this lovely fall day my thoughts go to stink bugs! Yes, they are here, too. This morning I told Dino we just must do something about them, and although he vacuums them from the screens, I just read that that won't do anything to get rid of them for long term.

The latest idea is to use a spray bottle with dish soap and water. I'd put in some denatured alcohol as well. Let's see if that helps. I don't like using spray scents. Perhaps this is a reminder that we do not live in paradise after all...

I'm going to sponge the background of Don Renzo's oil painting, and then fix chicken risotto for pranzo. When Dino returns from his many visits to Lorenzo and the geometra and perhaps Viterbo to look at another solution for the roof of his workshop, I'll ask him what he thinks. I ask Sofi and she just looks up at me from her red plaid cushion with one eye, as if to say, "Are you looking at me?"

We receive the round-robin emails that others do, but don't believe in them. The latest has a lovely message, so I'd like to share it with you. There's no need to forward it, even if you are the superstitious type, unless there are women whom you cherish and want to share the message.

Wishes...there's that word again. For every time you want to "wish" for something, try thinking instead of your own strength and free will and give yourself a little praise. Here's the message:

"May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us." During pranzo of a risotto with caramelized onion and chicken and sage and a rose wine, we toast each other at the start of our 29th wedding anniversary weekend. The date is Sunday, the 26th. Dino wants to spend the day in Rome, but it depends on the weather. Tonight there is rain.

September 25
Today begins with scattered clouds, followed by rain that begins at noon, but no matter. Don arrives for a pranzo of risotto and a bread pudding. I forgot to tell you that I made a loaf of bread this morning, thinking it was "French", but the results disappointed me.

I'll next try Julia Child's authentic French bread, whose recipe is about ten pages long. I'm on the prowl for bread that tastes as good as those dreamy baguettes we purchased each day of our recent trip, no matter the town or village where we were, in Provence.

Tomorrow Dino wants to drive to Rome to celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary. We may be walking between the raindrops. Sorry we missed the marriage last Saturday between two Mugnanese, Roberto and Cristina; Gino comes by to give us a wedding memento and we are sorry we were not here to share in the joy.

It's Formula-1 trials this afternoon, and we are able to watch them for the first time this year. Finally, Dino is happy, although he tells me he really thinks we should go to Rome tomorrow to celebrate our wedding anniversary instead of staying home and watching the race. Perhaps he can record it?

We see Vincenza and Augosto walking by our cancello (gate) and they tell us they cannot come up for a drink because they are getting ready for a festa in the Palazzo. It is Erica's 18th birthday, and I think I hear them saying that everyone in the village is invited. Since we did not hear anything directly about an invitation, we'll stay home with Sofi. It's not a problem.

September 26
Today is our 29th wedding anniversary. Dino wants to drive to Rome after mass and eat a special pranzo, then go to a movie. It is possible to see first run movies in their original language for their first two weeks or so at a couple of movie theatres in Rome.

When passing by one of these movie houses, it is difficult to tell what they are; there is no marquis, just a poster in the window and usually a hand written sign on the door to indicate the movie times. Today the movies all start at 4:15. There are three choices, and we pick Sophia Coppola's "Somewhere", giving her the benefit of the doubt. Although for me George Clooney can do no wrong, we can see him anytime, even on DVD. Perhaps today's film will be enhanced using a large screen.

After mass, Elder Peppe's wife Giuseppa tells me I look like a bride today. It is then that I tell her, as well as the women who walk by her side, about our anniversary, and they cry out, "Auguoni!" (big wishes). I tell them we are driving to Rome for pranzo and they all nod, as if to say it's a good idea. Va bene!

We drive home, pick up Sofi, and clouds guide us to Rome, where we park and walk toward the Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden of Rome). There is some rain, so the three of us (Sofi under Dino's arm) walk under an umbrella, and rain stops before we reach the garden.

It's a lovely walk inside; there is almost nothing as glorious as sun reflecting off raindrops after a rain. Imagine yourself walking on gravel paths under enormous trees, some from as far away as South America...

Once we've had our fill, we walk back and to the restaurant, Romolo nel Giardino della Fornarina, one which Pietro thinks is the best in Rome. We are seated in the outdoor garden, covered by ten or more huge umbrellas; sun trying to streak through now and then.

We are alone, and it is as if we have hired the place to eat by ourselves. A waiter shakes each umbrella, throwing any rainwater standing on the top, and there is plenty of shaking. But we're left by ourselves.

A very kind waiter comes over, only to be accosted by Sofi, who lashes out toward him from under the table, even as he leans down and gently puts out his hand for her to smell. He knows dogs, but Sofi does not like him. Purtroppo.

As minutes tick by, Sofi maintains her guard position, and the poor waiter is forced to pass plates to us behind my head and over my right shoulder. Sofi won't let him near the table. And so it is that we are left almost by ourselves; the diners arriving after us possibly realizing there is a rabid dog in the garden and it's better to eat calmly inside.

Sofi is cattiva (bad), and that's an understatement. Dino eats oxtail for the first time (it is a specialty here) and I am served roast lamb. Dino loves his oxtail, and that's a good thing. We have a bottle of wine, and drink a few glasses, but agree to leave to have gelato somewhere else.

Sofi's behavior is stressful, and that's not like her. The waiter tells us he hopes we'll return, without Sofi. We agree, and get into the car to drive to another part of Rome, where the movie theatre plays the film, "Somewhere".

Dino's parking karma continues, and we find a place just down the street from the theatre. After a walk through Galleria Sordi, Dino takes Sofi to the car while I wait for him outside the theatre.

After the movie we drive on to IKEA and this is a warning; never go to an IKEA on a Sunday. What's worse is that we drive there close to the end of the day. We're here for storage closets, and will need to return to finish the order after measuring at home. What chaos!

Dino just loves these projects; he'll measure and we'll return in the next days. In another month, we'll have a different layout for the upper floor; one that will work better for us. We're both happy to be driving home and happiest when here in the calm of little Mugnano. Sofi has returned to her calm self, giving me kisses on my hand as if to tell me she is sorry, but the restaurant was stressful for her.

We go to bed dreaming of a better layout of the top two rooms and thinking of giving away things we have kept and kept, year after year, and not used. We use so little these days, that "things" have lost their importance.

I'm dreaming of Terence and Angie and especially the girls, looking forward to playing and painting with them later this fall.

September 27
It's a lovely morning, and we spend it measuring and getting things ready to donate. We'll have the IKEA folks install the four cabinets in our bedroom soon, and in the meantime we'll be consolidating; something Dino and I do well.

I glance at the painting of Don Renzo, and want to return to it, but it will all happen in good time; with no Coro practice tonight, I have the day to play and reorganize and perhaps even paint a little.

I love these days, wondering if being almost like a hermit is a trait I inherited from my mother; she would often want to sit in her chair, holding her little dog, alone. I love having Dino around, doing his own projects nearby. But yes, I love not having to talk; that lets me dream and create ideas in my mind.

My brother and I are communicating again; I wish him well. He seems very happy with his wife, Marti, who sat next to him in high school homeroom and fifty or so years later finally "got her man".

Dino leaves for an hour or two to ferry Pietro to Orvieto and Don to Attigliano, then drives home for pranzo. How about baking the remainders of a risotto left from a couple of days ago? I place them in individual baking dishes, beat up an egg and brush it on top of the rice mixture, then sprinkle crunchy breadcrumbs on top and then a little butter and bake them in a 350 oven for 20 minutes. The result is crunchy and marvelous.

Wind continues, and it really feels like a fall afternoon. I spend the time researching rentals for next Spring in Provence, si certo!, and then let the requests settle a bit...

Dino picks us up and we drive back down to IKEA to order shelving units; units that will be delivered in about a month and installed by the workers. Yes, it's not worth the hassle of building them ourselves here in place. Now we can spend the time doing more cleaning out and paring down. Since there is little storage place here, the cabinets will be a real help...speriamo (we hope so!)

What a zoo! Fai da te (do it yourself) projects can really take the wind out of one's sails, and it takes several hours to complete the back and forth ordering and paying and making appointments with the trucking firm located just outside the huge store.

We're home way after dark, and return to peace at last; while walking up the steps we feel embraced by the place.

September 28
There's no time to paint; with a delivery truck expected at any time, there is furniture to move, books to take down and the guestroom/studio to rearrange.

Cool weather has indeed arrived, and although it is in the teens, a wind from the west has blown away all the summer warmth in the air...at least for the morning. With Dino gone to Tenaglie, I concentrate on moving books and staging the studio, where a lot of our bedroom furniture will be set up to give the assemblers space to do their work.

But then...I tell myself. Who knows how long that will take? It's possible it may take three weeks for them to arrive to do the work, for only when the boxes arrive can we make the appointment. Let's hope their schedule can fit us in soon...

There's no mention of the amianto removal or work on the kitchen in the loggia, for the outside building is the least of our concern. None of it is especially difficult, and it does afford us the opportunity to scale down some more. We arrived here eight years ago with much of the paraphernalia of our lives as American consumers; now we will continue to pare it down and down again.

Outside, there are men's voices and the sound of tractors in the near valley, and I'd love to be outside in the garden. Let's not think of that now...

We stop working mid afternoon, and drive to Amelia to catch up with Giuseppi and Stephen, here from England. After a cocktail or two, we follow them to their house and Sofi meets a new girl friend, Luna, a Jack Russell Terrier, who takes to her immediately. It's a dream to see them running and chasing about. Sofi is full of life and shows it. Perhaps she has a new real friend to play with.

Back at home we work marvelously as a team, and before we're ready for bed the big armadio has been moved and nothing remains on or against that side wall; our clothes for the armadio have all been put away.

Dino moves the phone connection and although the studio/guest room is a bit more crowded, I love having the desk there. Sofi does not fare as well. The commotion made her extremely nervous. She does not like change. We hope she'll be better in the morning.

September 29
Sofi is quite nervous and fearful this morning, but as the day progresses she begins to show her old spirit. We walk out to the fig tree and thankfully there are only about ten figs to pick...many of them are still ripening on the tree. I'm relieved, for making fig jam is really not what I'd like to do this week.

Instead, we have sliced boiled potatoes with a little butter, thin slices of gorgonzola and thin slices of Smoked Salmon with chopped chives and parsley, a drizzle of oil and a squeeze of lemon on top. We eat the figs cut up with gelato and a sprinkling of the chocolate liquor we purchased in France. It's a hit!

Afternoon finds Dino and the geometra measuring the space in Maria Elina's garden, and me looking at a new way to store art books and supplies. He comes back to say the measuring has to be rescheduled; someone else has the keys.

All our projects seem about ready to begin, except for some paperwork to be done by the fellows who will have one contract in their names. Confused? It's a long story. Stefano is finishing a job North of us, and tells us he'll be ready to work next week, or will it be the week after? Welcome to Italia.

In the meantime, Dino does what he does best...rewiring the telephones to fit into our latest design scheme. I'm left to ponder what to do with all our books...although we have plenty of book shelves, we have plenty of books and things stashed here and there.

September 30
We stop at Bar Quadrafoglio in Bomarzo for cappuccinos, and see a movie poster on the door that appears to be advertising the same Twilight Series so popular in the U S. The title makes us laugh: "Mordimi"...

The last day of the month is as good as any to give you another sometimes-zany take on the Italian language. This time it's a literal translation. Mordimi means "Bite me!" Mordere relates to bites of an insect, but abboccare relates to bites by a fish. Abboccare is not to be confused with avvocato, a lawyer, while bocca is the word for mouth. If one were to chiudere i boccaporto they would "batten down the hatches", while to fare le boccacce would be to make faces. Had enough? No?

You probably know that a bistecca is a beefsteak, while bisticciare is to bicker and bisunto/ta means greasy, and bitorzolo is a wart or a pimple, while bivaccare is to spend the night and bizfare le bizze is to go into a tantrum and bizzoso/sa means irritable. Just think what amazing conversations you could have when you are here if you only learned Italian from this journal.

I suppose one day I should put them all in a group under trivia, although the words are certainly not trivial...or are they? If any of them make you laugh, remember that Italians are a jolly bunch; that pleases me. If they don't, just don't tell me and you won't hurt my feelings...thanks.

Blue skies and clouds of cotton batten greet us as we leave for a trip to Terni to pick up some hair care supplies. The shop has giant bottles of the shampoo and rinse I use; I can find it nowhere else except in beauty salons in small bottles.

Happy that it will last at least six months or more, we talk about the city of Terni and Dino wants to photograph its civic art for an Italian Notebook story...it all relates to steel, of which Terni was at one time famous.

During WWII, bombs to prevent its factories from making war equipment toppled much of the city. Today, the city has been transformed, although there are reminders to make sure the suffering that took place here would not be forgotten.

Here is some of the art, and perhaps in the next week we will write a story to work with the photos for Italian Notebook.

We return through Tenaglie and Guardea, showing Lorenzo a staircase railing we'd like him to study. He thinks it's beautiful but not safe, so we give him the measurements and ask him to design something that will function and be aesthetically pleasing; otherwise, there's no reason to change what we have.

Back at home, Dino finally gets a key for a friend's garden, and later he and the geometra will take measurements. After pranzo we return outside to take out one of the old phone lines that Dino replaced yesterday.

As we're snaking around the house to take the wire out, Dino hears the geometra across the street talking with Pia. Is he with ENEL folks? Dino sees them walk down the street, thinking they'll look down from up above, so starts to follow them, until Pia tells him the man is not from ENEL.

It's time to re-approach ENEL again, so I take out the letter from four years ago and rewrite it, so we'll return to their office in Viterbo soon to see if the electrical line can now enter the house where the telephone line does, from up above. It makes a lot of sense, but we don't know how ENEL will respond, even if we will pay for the work. It's time to revisit the request just the same...

Gloomy skies now encircle us; sinister clouds warn of a big storm. Rain is expected for tomorrow, as well as for Monday and Tuesday. Dino has called Franco to press him for our peperino order, and it is not ready, nor will it be ready tomorrow.

Dino asks him to have the pavimento (pavement) tiles ready by tomorrow afternoon, so that they can be laid on the pianorotolo (landing) on Monday and he agrees. We're not sure if Stefano and/or Angelo will be here on Monday, but we'll be ready, no matter the weather.

Dino and Roberto, the geometra, drive to our friend's garden to measure for a project that Dino will supervise, while Sofi and I guard the house. I love the new setup of the office and studio, and although there is work to be done that must wait for the installers to arrive, I'm happy.

What's happened with painting? Sigh. I don't have much room to paint, so lets reorganize the paints and supplies to try to clear some room.

As the month comes to an end, we still have not been granted Italian citizenship, but are hopeful. We continue to love our little house and our lives here more every day, if that's at all possible. I look down to see if Sofi agrees, and she's curled up like a croissant in the little bed beside me, looking content as she sleeps, and that's enough for me.

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