April through June, 2012

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

April 1
Palm Sunday - Domenica delle Palme

By the time you read this, we will have returned from our trip to Languedoc, France. But first, there's a bit for today, our last day in Mugnano before driving off with Sofi and Dino.

The day begins with fog, and we walk up to church with Dino's confraternity costume in a bag. I wear black and take my Coro scarf, but keep it in my pocket. I don't think I'll need it. But I do not take any music, thinking incorrectly that every Sunday the music appears printed in front of us with the weekly prayers and bible readings, but today is different...

Sorella Grande ("Big sister") is not particularly friendly to me, her eyes seemingly avoiding my gaze. I don't know why, but that just means I need to be even kinder to her, and am a bit sad. I ask her about Anna, who she tells me is feeling better after her fall, but won't be here today.

There is plenty of chattering among other members of the group. Vincenza and Augusto are here, and it's wonderful to see them. I'm told to sit in the front row of seats, and Vincenza sits next to me, holding her music and happy to share it with me. I know most of the words and music, but it's helpful to have them nearby. Vincenza is a lovely, lovely woman, always kind to me, and I so appreciate that.

Don Angelo is our priest, doing a fine job of the special mass in honor of Palm Sunday, especially leading all of us from the little church in the piazza to the main church, where most of the mass is held. Dino tells him about meeting his brother, but the priest does not have much to say in response. Va bene.

The highlight of the morning is the Tiziano and Alessia family, including twins Rachele and Erina. Here are some photos:

We walk home and wait for great friend Don, who will check on the house while we are in France. He arrives a bit later. In the meantime, I weed around and cut up branches, but Dino does not want to burn anything today. I suppose that's safer, but the burn pile will have plenty when we return on the 15th of the month. No matter.

I fix a pasta with sauce made from the sausages Dino picked up yesterday. The sausage and grapes I fixed yesterday were so tasty, but remember to make them with red grapes if you do fix them yourself. The blend of the two is certainly memorable, if the grapes are left to cook down to a kind of syrupy consistency before serving in bowls. Yum. Dino loves today's pasta, and that makes me smile.

May Elin and Olav are expected this afternoon for a brindisi (toast) of prosecco, but she does not feel well. He arrives and stays just a minute or two. We'll see them next time. Hugs to you, dear friend.

We finish catching up with you for last month's post and Dino works on projects outside. The tomatoes look fine in the serra, and I love the new coping tiles on the roof. Yesterday, Dino had trouble opening the door of the tiny building, and when Stefano arrived he asked him what was wrong. The door was finally opened and Stefano ran his fingers across the top of the door. Construction dirt! They both laughed. The door is fine. All is well. Va bene!

April 2
Those of you who read the journal on an ongoing basis, know that we love visiting Southern France and take driving trips there once or twice a year. It's a change from Italian life, just a bit, with plenty of choices of food. There are also daily markets in the different towns, and we so enjoy driving to a different one each day, coming back to fix and eat pranzo (lunch) a bit late and drink the local rose wine; then snooze till the mood strikes us to get up and take a walk, or just read.

We leave early for Languedoc, France (the region west of Provence) this morning, stopping tonight in San Remo, Italy, to break up all the driving on the trip. Dino drives all the way, for he loves to drive, and as you know, I love to dream, with Spring's finest following us right outside the window.

We reach Villa Sylva, where we have stayed several times, and are given Room 23, facing front, with a tiny balcony and view of the water, about a block or so away. In the nearer view are tall trees and beautiful villas, with immaculately groomed gardens. Tonight, there is so much wind that we snuggle under the down comforter, feeling wintery cold.

April 3
We're awakened by the sound of cuckoos and can't wait to be on our way. We'll surely have breakfast somewhere in France!

Yes, we stopped for croissants in France and they were divine, but the coffee, which are called noisettes, are tiny cups of coffee, pretty watery. I think we could order espresso, and I'll be sure to do so next time; or will I remember?

We realize that we left one of Sofi's favorite toys at the hotel. She probably knocked it under the bed and we didn't notice it when we packed.

We drive to the Camargue, out to the end of one spit of land called Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and feast on moule frite (mussels in a broth and a side of french fries). Yes, Dino reminds me, in France they just call them "fries", hence the word frite.

On the drive, we actually see live flamingoes standing in the water. I want to send a card to my dear friend, Joy, telling her she must come here to ride the magnificent white horses; they are for rent everywhere around this area. Even at 4 PM when we leave, we see several horses already staddled up with no place to go and no riders.

Roadside stands offer good things to eat, and we pick up a few jars of things to snack on later, as well as a bit of wine. We love rosé wine and by the time the trip is over we will have picked up an assortment of it to drink back home in Italy. Italians make their version of this wine, but it is not as tasty to us.

In the town of Aigues Morte on the way back to Caunes, we see our first French tulips at a stoplight; they are tall and regal and yes, Dino tells me the French just call them tulips.

April 4
We stayed last night in a place not far from where I am to paint this morning with an expert. The town is on the way to Caunes-Minervois, but too far to drive to our gite (rental house) first.

There was a bit of mist last night, perhaps even a bit of rain. We drive to Lodeve for breakfast, for I'm to have a painting session with David McEwen and see if he can figure out what is not going right with my painting of Cesar with his backpack of sunflowers for his mother. We've brought it along in a box, sitting in the JetBag on the top of the car.

This afternoon we'll drive on to our rental house in Caunes-Minervois. I'm thrilled to say that David thinks my work is quite good, and shows me with a ruler how to measure different features on my blowup of the image and see how they relate to what I have painted on the canvas.

I leave with just what I need to move forward, and perhaps I'll even paint a bit on this trip. The canvas sits in a box that Dino built for this size canvas and that box fits in the JetBag on top of the car, so it will be safe, and there is even room for things to buy on the trip. Good for Dino for coming up with the idea.

We love our little gite (rental house) in Caunes Minervois, located in the Haute Languedoc. Ingrid, the owner, has marvelous taste, and the atmosphere shows. The house was built on three levels and we think it's the best place we've stayed in France so far.

She's arranged for us to have a catered meal at home for this first night, and we choose beef bourguignon, a dish that we can eat again on another day. It's reasonable, and a good idea after a long drive.

April 5
Although there is a market in Caunes-Minervois this morning, it is pretty much a bust, with only a stand or two of local vegetables. Let's drive on to an adventure!

After checking our a few small markets, we wind up in Narbonne. Narbonne, one of our very favorite towns, was the first Roman settlement outside Italy a few thousand years ago.

We thoroughly explore the market and then buy some goodies for lunch at the inside permanent Marché. We head back to Caunes-Minervois for our lunch and a nap.

April 6
We're up early again, for a drive to Limoux for their market. Today's croissants are a disappointment, as are the noisettes. I really must remember to order an espresso...

The market is not bad, but there is no fabric of note to purchase. This is Cathar Country, with a quite interesting color of rocks on the hills, a kind of peachy orange, more peach than orange. Limoux is known for its sparkling wine. We purchase one in a pinky color to take home plus a few bottles of a local rosé.

After Limoux, we drive a bit further to the famous Templar village of Rennes-le-Chateau for a brief visit.

Back at home in the gite, we feast on the chicken in a spicy sauce that came from the caterer the night we arrived. I fix a rice from the Camargue to go with it and the rice is a bit sticky, although the combination of the rice with the spicy sauce and chicken and olives are delicious.

There is plenty of reading matter here, and I pick up Phillipa Gregory's The White Queen, having enjoyed her other books, and we settle in for the evening after watching a bit of tv and a taste of Pineau de Charentes, an aperitif to serve over ice or not. It's quite good and I feel very mellow afterward.

The house works wonderfully for us all; even Sofi uses the little gravelled courtyard to "do her business" and we don't have to worry about her out wandering the streets.

April 7
We stop at the local bar for croissants and noisettes, but the croissants are all gone. So we'll have them later. Perhaps that means we should buy our croissants first, before entering the bar...

We're up early again. Today we drive to Carcassonne, the largest totally walled city in Europe. It's a bit like a fairy tale and we're treated so very well here. We did not buy much at the market, but later found a lovely shop with a woman who specializes in calligraphy and had her make up a few things for...can't tell you. It's a surprise.

We walk around, and have lunch at Le Jardin des Templars.

On the way back, we stop at a pottery artisan's shop and find a bowl at half price; it has a crack, but I think it can be fixed. If nothing else, we'll keep fruit in it. I love it just the same.

We ask a local about Easter services, and are told about a church outside of town. But it's Saturday, and we discover that there is a vigil service right in the Abbey in the town tonight, and the Abbey is just a block or two away from our place! Formidable!

Sofi sleeps in the car while she waits for us, for she's used to that, and we walk on to the Abbey for a 9 PM service. As we enter, we are each given a tall candle. In a bit we proceed outside under a mist, walking over to the cloister then back inside with the traditional candle lighting, where we light each other's candles. The service is long, but very joyful and with much singing. We even try to sing along. Everyone is very kind to us, making us feel welcome and at home.

April 8
On this Easter morning it's very cold, but we go to the bar in town for noisettes. The words faux paux fit brilliantly here, for we buy croissants first at a nearby boulangerie, only to find that there are plenty of croissants sitting in the bar ready for us to buy to eat with our noisettes! We have made a very bad impression as we enjoy our own breakfast at a table, trying to hide from the stares of the men standing at the bar. They're probably saying we're stupid Americans.

We set off for St. Chinian and on the way, change course for Bessan because I had heard and read that the Bessan Marché is great!

It's a long drive and the market is just so so, perhaps we set our sights too high.

April 9
We decide to drive on to Mirepoix. Yes, it is a very beautiful town. If you like Languedoc, it is said to be the prettiest town in Languedoc. The market is large and very good with many vendors.

We're home again for a late pranzo. Weather is bad, but no matter. Just as we sit down to eat, Ingrid knocks on the door. She's just back from a trip to the U.S. and is very tired; we'll see her tomorrow. We tell her about the leak in the wall going downstairs from the top floor and she'll see what she can do then. We still love the house.

April 10
We walk to the café where we order noisettes and their croissants, and under overcast skies again we drive to Olonzac for their market. We have no luck finding characteristic fabric here, for things in the stores are quite expensive, but we do find two inexpensive stone pots for the garden. Va bene.

I make what Dino thinks is a marvelous omelette with blue cheese, crème fraiche, carmelized onions, and even eggs (!) from the market. Then it's time for an afternoon snooze.

Later, about 6 PM, thunderstorms arrive just as we're back from scavenging for wild pieces of marble, so characteristic of the area.

I've been wanting to visit the hill where the famous marble is quarried. So earlier this afternoon we drove up there, and like Lucy and Desi in the movie, "The Long, Long Trailer", we picked up numerous shards of pink rock to sit in the garden...for free! They're just sitting in open areas against the hills. No, we don't pick up any huge stones, but it's been a great adventure hunting for the best pieces!

April 11
Today's market is in Lezignan-Corbieres, and we drive there after having croissants and noisettes in the bar. I'm still on the prowl for French fabric, and still can't remember to order espresso.

It's a good market, but don't find much, and it's fortunate. Later, we drive to Carcassonne and find the best place for fabric! The shop is a marvel, with even a few samples and other pieces on sale. It's called Comptoir des Tisseurs, if you want to find it.

We drive home in the drizzle, and I make a really good squash soup with cr¸me fraiche, served with a wonderful crusty bread, bought at the market along with a big piece of squash in Lezignan. We have now learned to ask for a pain compagna (country bread) in France, and it's very crusty and delicious when eaten with the soup, or with just about anything.

Languedoc is know for its prolific production of wine, as evidenced by the hundreds and hundreds of vines growing in rows and rows on each side of the road as we drive along. It may not always be the best wine you've ever tasted, but if you do a few tastings, you'll certainly find what you like, and there are tasting rooms all over Languedoc. Enjoy!

April 12
Dino has wanted to take a boat ride up the Midi Canal, and although we think we're going to Narbonne for their market first, we learn that there is none today. Instead, we walk around Les Halles and eat at an outdoor café after picking up a baby gift for little Alessio, new son of Mario Fosci and Fulvia Cozzi.

We hear there is a boat trip at 2:30 along the Midi Canal, so drive to Homps (the H is silent) for a two hour tour up and down the Canal, with Sofi on my lap. The ride is slow and ever so lovely, with the Canal flanked on each side by those gorgeous plane trees.

Back at home, we arrive just as it begins to pour. It's been another less than perfect weather day, but lots of fun, and we spend the evening at home in front of the tv watching old movies.

April 13
Dino wants to return to Carcassonne Basé and I want to return to the fabric shop. The town has a number of shops with reasonable things for sale. We also visit a special foods shop, La Ferme, where Dino goes to town! So we pick up a little of this and that and return to the house.

Ingrid has questions for me regarding painting in oils, so I spend a couple of hours with her in her studio, never picking up a brush myself; the painting of Cesar still in the box. It's been a good session, and I'm hopeful that Ingrid has gained the confidence she thinks she needs to try other subjects.

I think she'll succeed masterfully, and perhaps begin to paint her wonderful gite scenes, for renters to buy to take home as a remembrance of their stay in Caunes-Minervois.

Dear Sofi has never really settled in here, often afraid we'd leave her behind. She even had a bad experience in Carcassonne, when a woman tripped and seemed to lunge toward Sofi. Sofi ran up to her and pulled on her pant leg before we could pick her up. And that's not all...

Sofi seems to have more insecurity about herself, and worries that we'll leave her. So Dino wants to find a place back at home where they can work with her to help her to gain confidence. I'll call Angie Good to see what she has to say, for Angie is a wonderful dog sitter, and knows all sorts of things about relating to these wonderful creatures.

Ingrid and Christopher invite us to join them in nearby Citou for a midday meal, and it's lovely! They know the owners and it's a good time for Dino and Christopher to talk about TV work they had in common while Ingrid and I laugh and talk about painting and all kinds of things. I do hope we can SKYPE together, and that we can maintain a sweet friendship. I really enjoy her company. It's difficult not to!

April 14
We're out of the sweet house and on our way back to Italy by 7:40 AM! All is well, thanks to Dino's great packing of the little car. We are on the autoroute, not able to find a post office that is open before 9 AM where we can buy stamps and mail the last of our postcards.

At what we think is an AutoGrill on the highway, it's instead a French place to eat with pastries that are truly formidable! We see bags of special French country bread flour that are arranged at a display, but when we pick one up and try to pay for it, a woman yanks it out of my hands and tells me they are NOT for sale. Oh. It's only a display. Too bad.

We get back into our car, mindful of so many tourists at this stop, all piling out of long buses. Now to find a post office where we can buy stamps and mail four post cards. Beziers is the place, and Sofi and I wait in the car while Dino walks into the first post office we find. Now that it is 9:20 AM, we're in luck.

For pranzo we stop in Provence at the waterfront location of La Ciotat.

We sit outside at a café and order moule frite (mussels in a broth with an order of fries on the side). One drops from my hands onto the pavement. Since Sofi is at my side, she lunges for the shell and I am worried that she will hurt herself on the shell.

Dino stands up and walks around the table to Sofi, trying to brush the shells out of the way, but she is waiting for him, and bites his finger as he moves his hand too close. The bite punctures his finger just a bit, but there is a lot of blood. I pick her up by her harness and one by one pick up the fragments of shells while she lays limply at my side.

Drama continues as Dino goes into the bathroom to wash his hands. As he comes out, a worker asks him if he was hurt by a shell and Dino confesses that it was his dog who did the damage. We drive to a pharmacy, where he buys extra strength bandaids and he and Sofi continue to keep their distance from each other.

Oh, the food was quite good just the same, although we walked somewhere else for glacé (ice cream) cones before returning to the car.

We return to Villa Sylva after counting 27 tunnels from the Southern France border to San Remo, Italy, and are given the same room at the hotel where we stayed ten days earlier.Va bene. It's good to be back in Italia.

Dinio looks under the bed and voila!, Sofi's little red dog toy is there!! So much for the housekeeping staff.

We have cena at a local restaurant, pasta, of course, and return to the room to rest.

April 15
We counted 120 tunnels, plus or minus, to Genoa, and check out at 7 AM with breakfast on the autostrada. On this last day of our vacation, we're driving to Lucca to have pranzo with good friends Betsey and John Cutler from our Mill Valley days. They're here for two weeks, staying at a marvelous top floor flat with a balcony and view of Lucca and the countryside.

Today and yesterday are the monthly antique market days for Lucca, and after we arrive and meet up with our dear friends, we take a walk around the various stalls, where Betsey picks up a set of fish knives for a friend and Dino buys six wonderful old glasses to use at home for prosecco. Afterward, our friends serve a wonderful simple meal on their terrace of wine and local delicacies.

The views from their terrace are wonderful...

It's so much fun catching up with them. Soon, we hope, they will visit us in Mugnano, for they leave for Rome after two weeks in Lucca and will take the train up to visit us then, speriamo (we hope).

We find a metano station on the way, and are home before dark; finding nothing on the property is out of whack and the wisteria and ranunculas and peonies and ceanothus are all blooming wildly. Even the large peony plant we thought Sofi had wrecked last year when chasing a lucertole (lizard), has lots of blossoms, soon to be in full bloom.


April 16
We thought there would be lots of rain today, for it was in the forecast, but we have none, other than a bit of it last night while we slept. Other than unpacking, what is there to do?

Sofi and I take our walk around the loop, running into neighbors here and there who welcome us home. We have a simple pranzo, take a nap, and do a bit of gardening.

Early in the evening there is Coro practice, and everyone is in attendance. It is back to the same old, same old, with women talking loudly and giving their individual opinions about most everything. The pieces for our May 5th and 6th San Liberato holiday weekend are decided, as are the pieces for the concert in which we are to participate in Bomarzo the night before. I sit in silence, zoning out while the others work it all out.Va bene.

I walk home with Giovanna and Rosina, who seem to be in good spirits, and recall that Rosita was especially mellow during practice. Now that she's a nonna (grandmother), she's so content that she smiled sweetly when the discussions seemed to take a turn tonight, offering suggestions but not acting as forcefully as she used to. I think she is much happier, and that pleases me.

April 17
Dino drives us to Viterbo after breakfast, and we stop at Baletti, the shop where Dino had his orthotic insert made for his shoe a couple of years ago. They agree to make a lighter weight one for summer, after checking his walk on a moving walkway connected to a computer.

I then show him the problem I have with burning between the little toe and the next toe of my left foot. He is sure that part of it is that my shoes are all flat, and I need a bit of wedge. I show him the little silicone piece I have been wearing between the two toes and he tells me that is the solution for the rest of my life. No operation needed!

I am so relieved. He sells these pads for my toes, and I switch to those. I have worn them before and like them a lot. They then show me a shoe to try on that I would wear everyday and I now have new shoes that are better made for my feet; shoes that are sporty and not old woman-ish. There is some discussion of my father and his chain of shoe stores in Boston when I was a child, and we're given a discount on everything. It's the owner's dream to travel there. What a small world.

Here's a photo of him with me, and if you're in Viterbo, do stop to see him and his family, who run the store. They're very kind and helpful, and do tell them we sent you.

We stop at LIDL, the doctor's office for a prescription, a shop for a special pill for me, and then home, where we fix pranzo and wait for our dear friend Giuseppe who arrives a bit later for dolce (dessert). Neighbor Dani arrives for a visit on his skateboard, so it's to be a busy afternoon.

After our dear friend Giuseppe arrives, I fix and serve Ciobar (a chocolate sweet baked in a porcelain cup, soft in the middle), served with sliced strawberries, while we sit under the wisteria and gab and eat, ducking from the huge black non-stinging calabrone that feast on the wisteria pollen and flowers above us. I'm told they're not calabrone, but they are large and black. So if you know what they are, do let us know. Sun continues and it's a lovely afternoon.

After Giuseppe leaves, I catch up with you. We are very sorry that we are taking so long to post this month. We had fun and hope you did, too!

April 18
It's a partly overcast day and a day at home to garden, so I pluck a number of tufts of what I call lamb's ears, soft greenish gray leaves that multiply by themselves and look wonderful drooping over the side of a bank or a pot. I've always loved them. I read that I need only to plunk them into soil somewhere else, so we do that and water the area, but they lose all their energy, as if they're not going to make it. I then have an idea.

We have a number of tiny biologic pots made of peat moss, and I fill eight of those with good fresh soil and make spaces for the cuttings in them, then water them from top and bottom, but not too much. Since they sit in a larger saucer, I notice later that they seem to drink up water from the bottom. So I'll water them from the bottom and keep my eyes on them. How wonderful they'll be draped over the large planters on the front terrace!

The pomodori plants remain healthy, and we hope to plant them in the ground within the next two weeks.

The best news of the day is that three of the Mann children arrive for a visit with Sofi. Here they are with her, sitting on the balustrade right in front, under the wisteria. We just love them!

April 19
We're up early and drive to Guardea for breakfast, then on to Don and Mary's to pick them up and drive them to Fimucino Airport (AKA Leonardo DaVinci Airport) for their flight home to Newcastle, England.

Sofi and I are big fans of Mary, and after everyone helps her into the back seat of our little car, Sofi and I join her in the back for the drive, while Don sits in front with Dino. I love them both and feel a loss when they've left each time, although they remain close in our hearts. Our prayers are for their safe flight and return home.

We drive to Roma Est to the Apple Computer store, where Dino has an appointment for his laptop computer. The type of computer is called vintage (which means too old to deal with...probably more than 4 years) and so we're now searching for an iPad at a good price to take its place. In the meantime, we're not going anywhere, so won't need to use a computer other than our regular one where we write the journal.

We stop for pranzo at one of the eateries, then drive home with little Sofi in my arms, after Dino walks into a Leroy Merlin store to replace the faucet for the summer kitchen. He comes out with something, so perhaps the sink will be working again soon.

Back at home it's overcast again, so it will be a week or so until we're expecting a run of good weather. In the meantime, there's lots to do!

April 20
It's Dino's birthday! He's spending the morning in Viterbo, for he's made an appointment with the FIAT dealer there for our car's 100,000 km checkup. Yes, Dino drives a lot of kilometers.

Weather is overcast, but no matter. Sofi and I meander outside with a box of rose food and feed each rose on the property within the gates. Later we'll feed the roses on the far property and on the path to San Rocco.

I've been wondering about a few of them; will I be able to figure out their names? Thanks to the journal, I can go back in time with the archive one day and hopefully do a plot map with each rose in its place...but not today.

Skies darken and I'm pretty sure we'll have rain. So I catch up with you, wondering if we'll post for the first part of the month today. Yes, we are late again. Since Dino is the family technician, it depends on what he wants to do on this, his birthday.

I told him this morning that I'd fix anything he wants for pranzo, but since he's in Viterbo now, waiting for the car to be serviced, lets fix him a chocolate cake in the shape of a heart, at least.

This Sunday is Earth Day, and my dear father died on what I think was the momentous Earth Day in 1990, when 200 million people in 141 countries were mobilized and the status of environmental issues were lifted onto the world's stage. for the first time. I imagine him rising up to heaven on that day, as people all over the world joined in wonder. He's in my thoughts often, as is my mom.

Dino arrives home with sausages and red grapes, and since that is one of his favorite dishes, of course I'll make it! The most time is spent opening up the grapes and taking out the seeds. It really makes a marvelous dish; see the recipes on our site for the recipe if you'd like to see for yourself.

April 21
Today is the day of our grand daughters' first Holy Communion! We're able to watch it, as Saint Cecelia's Church in San Francisco has cameras that capture activity inside the church through streaming. That will happen tonight, and we're so sorry we could not be there in person. Perhaps you'll see something later tonight...

Stefano arrives this AM to pour the cement for our water storage tank. So we're a bit closer to solveing our lack of water problem that we have been plagued with during the mostly rainless months of summer.

Overcast skies continue, but we feed most of the roses and I fix an osso bucco for pranzo to serve with wide noodles, known here as pappardelle. It takes more tan two hours to cook but is really an amazing dish, and we have chocolate cake with homemade butter frosting for dessert. There is enough for tomorrow, too.

Click here for the recipe:


Of couse we're ready for a nap, but while Dino sleeps, I research finding a special foot for the sewing machine; one that will make gathered ruffles around a pillow, or on a dress. The grand daughters will love this new feature, and they will have dresses with ruffles once I figure out how to work the attachment.

Since prices in the U.S. are much cheaper than in Europe, We buy one and have it sent to Candace and Frank, hoping it will arrive before we pick them up this next Monday. If it does not arrive on time, Penny and Bob will bring it in May. That means I can slow down, and can return to painting Cesar with his sunflowers. But not today...

Tonight we sit at the computer and watch (streaming) Marissa and Nicole's First Holy Communion ceremony at St. Cecilia Church in San Francisco. Dino is able to capture shots of each girl with the priest as they are given their first wafer and sends it right away to Terence and Angie. They are able to see them right after the ceremony ends, thanks to space age technology! Sorry we could not join them at their house for crepes and a big celebration afterward.

April 22
Hello, dearest Dad. You know you are in my thoughts often. I hope I am living the life you've hoped I'd live. You passed on 22 years ago today. Bless you.

We drive up to church, as it's going to rain at any moment, and Don Daniele is our priest. We do all right with today's music, and leave at the end to drive to Il Pallone for café and grocery shopping.

On the way, each scene we pass in the car is a painting. Grass growing everywhere is incredibly green, and a plethora of cows grazing on the hillside once we reach Santarello reminds me that I'd love to paint cows grazing under these lovely trees. On the way back, Dino will take some photos.Magari!

As you probably know, a great thrill of mine is to view life from an artist's lens. I seem to take snapshots in my mind so very often on these country roads. There are hundreds; perhaps thousands, of scenes I'd love to paint. If there were but enough time.

I am so thankful for this gift, and Dino seems to have it as well, noticeable since I began painting here several years ago. Although the cows are no longer feeding and grazing when we drive back with our groceries, Dino will stop some morning when he drives there for groceries. No matter. There is so much to do, and I love all of it!

Today is a Formula-1 race, and after pranzo Dino sits and enjoys the race, while I catch up with you and Sofi snores by my side. With a gloomy sky above, there is no reason to garden. And since we're growing older, there is no rush to do almost anything these days. What bliss!

Tonight we watch a previously recorded movie, "Postcards From the Edge". I'm somewhat overcome with sadness, for I identify with enough of the relationships in the movie to be thankful that they are hidden in my past. Is it only when one grows closer to the end of their life that they are able to shed these anxieties? One can only hope and move on. Sempre avanti!. (Always forward!) the older neighbors respond when I ask them how they are.

April 23
This morning after breakfast, Dino places the reserve water tank on the dry cement pad. Now we're ready for Enzo (plumber) to hook it up!

I hit my head yesterday on an overhead cabinet in the kitchen, and a headache persists. Trying to ignore it, I organize recipes in three recipe binders in the kitchen, completing a project I've thought about doing for years. Not feeling well enough to take a giro with dear Sofi, she sits nearby just the same. What a dear doggie!

With his mind all about Formula-1 racing during the season, Dino doctors a photo we took a few days ago in a shopping center in Rome. Sorry Sofi was not allowed in the center, so remained waiting outside in the car. Have a laugh on us!

(I love his little hands gripping the steering wheel, don't you?)

It's a mellow day, but one where I'll return to painting Cesare, now that David has given me some good advice. I find it interesting that measuring can make all the difference in realist paintings. Dino brings the canvas up to the studio and I can see the difference, but I'd like to have a clear head to take out the oil paints. I am encouraged, just the same, as his expression is now more alive.

I so enjoy painting people, especially drawing out an expression that personifies them as I think they really are. It is that moment in time that interests me, as if it's a surprise to the person; perhaps a moment of truth? I read that paintings tell something about the artist, so what does that say about me? Perhaps you can tell me....I have no idea, but would love to hear your ideas.

Agretti, Spring's gift to vegetable lovers here, is on the menu, but we are also growing it from seed for the first time. It's not ready to pick, but will be soon. We have store bought agretti today with grilled meat, and the rest of the fresh strawberries for dessert. I'd like to fix Crema Catalan for dessert, but that can wait until tomorrow. The strawberries won't.

After a long nap with an ice pack, I get up to find Dino tending the glicine (wisteria) all across the front of the house and summer kitchen. It really is a wild plant, but the pink ice color is lovely.

There is Coro practice at 6:30 P M, and I walk up just before it begins, so in love with this place, the strangeness of it all. Yes, I am certainly a sogniatrice (dreamer), perhaps recalling something from the book, Green Mansions. It's time I read the book again, to recall what it was about the book that I loved. I really can't remember, except that I so enjoyed it at the time, perhaps even fifty (!) years ago.

I love the strangeness of this village. Perhaps that is why I did not feel strange while sitting in the little church while my buddies chattered loudly; each one wanting her voice heard above the rest.

I recall the year I was first in college, chosen as a cheerleader. There was a regional cheerleading competition, in which twenty-two universities competed. We came in twenty-second but had the best spirit by far, and everyone loved us. I wonder if it will be much different if we are ever in a Coro competition, for I don't know if we're the best singers, but we do have a lot to say...at least the others do.

Walking home tonight, my favorite part is the short distance from Giovanna's to our property, where it is so very silent until I reach the gate and hear my darling little Sofi whimpering just inside the inner gate. A dreamer's life can be a dream, if one wants it so...and I do, although life is very special these days, made oh so much moreso with Dino and Sofi. I am blessed, and thankful.

Tomorrow there is practice at night in Attigliano with Angela, so Dino will drive Vincenza and Rosina and me. That means there is a performance ahead. Sigh. I'll let you know.

April 24
During the night, winds blew so strongly that the iron bells hanging in the tree below our bedroom clunked away. Since a window was open, we could hear both the wind and the chimes, but we both slept off and on, mostly resting.

This morning at 8 AM, right on time, the cannons explode in Bomarzo, signifying the beginning of the festivities of the feast of San Anselmo, always held on the 24th. It gives Sofi a fright, but once I fall out of bed and pick her up in my arms, she is fine.

We are ready to paint the front of the living/dining room, now that it has been replastered. Dino sands the lower walls around the window and it is up to me to paint. Va bene.

I'm a bit worried that Enzo, the hydraulico, will arrive to put the heater back up under the window where we are to paint, but Dino tells me not to worry. If/when he comes, he'll just take a look at the work to be done and leave to get any supplies he needs.

He's from Bomarzo, and the next couple of days are holidays here, so no one from Bomarzo works then. There's plenty of time to sand and paint. Knowing us, sanding and painting will be finished this morning.

I do a bit of work on the internet, asking our pal Al Gore about what kind of paint to use to paint on glass. Oh. I'm into a whole new medium here, since we have wonderful glass wine bottles from Languedoc.

But what I learn is that I can paint on just about anything, and I'm looking forward to sharing this craft with Marissa and Nicole, our grand daughters, when we visit them in November. Wonder if I can use the same paints I use to paint on silk? No, that does not make sense. I'd love to fill the trip painting things for and with the family. Stay tuned...

I look up at the canvas of Cesar and love it, realizing it will take a long time to complete, but no matter. Let's not begin until I finish painting the bottom of the room downstairs.

I'm allergic to dust, and Dino wants me far away from the room while he sands the walls. So this morning while I wait to paint, I look over the list of songs we'll sing soon in Coro at a performance or during a special mass, so change what I'm doing to find the pieces online and print them out in order, before tonight's prova (rehearsal) with Angela in Attigliano.

Is it possible that the older I become, the fuller my head is with creative ideas to implement? I'm inspired by classical music, and listen to it on SKY, our internet provider's classical station when I'm in the studio.

It now will be a couple of weeks until the ruffle attachment arrives for the sewing machine from the U.S. to make the ruffle edges on a few of the pillows for seating on the terrace. So let's put the sewing projects away and concentrate on Cesar's painting. Before I know it, I'll be downstairs and we'll be putting the room back together again after all these months.

We hardly ever use the dining/living room, but it's nice to have, and will be even nicer to use as a dining room with friends eating here, unless it's pizza, when we'll be eating outside on the terrace.

Fireworks explode overhead, and it's a bit silly, don't you think? Those Bomartians (ha!) are a bit silly and full of fun and can't wait to party.

That's not all...An email comes in offering us a special price for researching our family heritages on a monthly basis. We're researching our family trees and it will be very helpful, I'm sure, but where will we find the time? Will you ever imagine either of us sitting on a bench just gabbing with our neighbors like the people our age do? No, I don't think you will, as long as we have our health. "Sempre avanti!" (Always forward, as the neighbors tell us when we ask them how they are.) Are you doing the same?

Dino takes out the paint after pranzo and I finish painting the lower window walls and corner of the room, but is it the correct shade of yellow? Dino finds the book he used to record all the colors we've used here, and it appears the old color has become more dull. The newer color we have will work fine, I think, so we won't drive to Viterbo to have more paint mixed. I'm turning the rest of the painting project over to Dino, for it entails paint higher up on a couple of walls than I am comfortable with. He's very good at these details. Plan to read that we're finished before the end of the week. Speriamo!

I put all of the sewing things away, for Candace and Frank have postponed their trip again, and it may be a month or more before the attachment arrives for the sewing machine. We'll miss seeing them next week, but will set their tomato plants aside for them, nonetheless.

With warmer weather forecast for the end of the week, although rain will continue off and on, we'll be able to plant the tomatoes here in a couple of weeks. Then Dino's work will begin to irrigate and plant (With Cristina's help) them.

I want to return to painting in oils, so tomorrow morning there's nothing preventing me from painting right after we have a small breakfast.

I've found a few old songs from last year for coro, so tonight I think I'll have all the pieces we'll need. I can't say that I look forward to the prova (practice), but it's a part of life here and I can't be a complete hermit.

Whereever I look, there are projects to pickup. Do they keep me/us young? I don't feel guilt about it, but would like to see everything completely organized. Bit by bit, we're getting that way. The coro music is all organized, so check that off the list.

Every day I'll try to organize one more thing, in addition to working on projects and doing plenty of dreaming. Speaking of dreaming, I'm going to join Dino in a nap or reading in bed for a bit. It's late afternoon.

April 25
It's a big holiday in Italy, similar to the 4th of July in the U.S. We stay at home all day, gardening and sewing and painting the salone/dining room. I want to paint in the studio, but there does not seem time, and it's too late for good natural light when I do have the time.

We've ignored the big procession and Palio in nearby Bomarzo, but are sure it was fun. The horse race itself takes less than two minutes, but all the folderol before it takes hours. Look in the archives for previous years on this date if you want to read and see about it.

Dino asks me to repair the madonna piece from his mother's house that hangs on the wall. I have only to paint the nicks in the painted brown plaster background. Upstairs, I mix a terra ombre naturale and a terra di Sienna bruciata and liquin, add more terra ombre and the color is quite good.

After it dries for a day or more I'll see if any other touch ups are needed. I'm tempted to paint some gold touches, but probably won't. Then we'll hang it back up in its usual spot. Hello, Iolanda up in heaven. Hope this brings a smile to your dear face.

April 26
We're up early, for it's a beautful day and there is plenty to do if we want to serve pizza for John and Betsey, who will arrive here on Saturday. This will be the first pizza of the year for us, so I'll have to take out our pizza file and make sure we remember how to make it!

Raking leaves is on the agenda, but first I want to clean up the nespola (loquat) tree on the terrace. I dislike the tree a great deal, and would love to replace it. When I walk over to it to begin to clean the dead flowers off the branches, I notice a number of shoots coming up from the ground and realize they are from the plum tree growing nearby; one that produces the most delicious oval fruit later in the year. Va bene!

Let's let the shoots grow, and Dino seems to agree with me that this fall we'll remove the loquat tree, and hopefully it will be replaced by another plum tree with delicious fruit. Speriamo.

I move the shorter ladder and carefully climb up to clean up the dead flowers from the lower branches of the nespola tree at first, moving the ladder as I go, while Sofi sits and cries out nearby, worried that I'll fall. Luckily, I don't, and stop after finishing the bottom part of the tree, an hour or so later. The tree is clean enough, for now.

Dino sees a man wearing an old leather hat walking up Via Mameli who appears to be Marie's father, Michel. They talk, and before we know it we've invited him inside, given him a tour of the outdoor space and bring him inside for coffee and to see Joy's pictures on the wall of a cabinet facing the kitchen table. He remains until noon, and it is a wonderful visit. We look forward to seeing him any time he is here.

Michel will leave with Marie and the children on Saturday, driving back to Paris, where they live most of the time. We look forward to seeing him on his next visit. In the meantime, we'll add him to our list of folks who enjoy reading the journal from afar. If you have not been added to the list we contact when we post and want to be, just email us and let us know.

So most of the morning has disappeared, but no matter. The sun is high in the sky and it's a lovely day. We feel energised, and Rosina calls out to me that there is a practice tonight at 7 PM. Come no? Sofi sits by the old dog house and thinks a lucertole is underneath. Will I pick it up to show her? Dino tells me not to...it's heavy.

I'd like to appease her, but then I'm a soft touch, so instead catch up with you on the morning's activities and then bake the pasta dish for pranzo. This afternoon I surely hope to paint a bit on Cesare's painting, then rake leaves until it is time for coro prova.

Well, I am able to do both, as well as greet Helga, who comes to use the sewing machine to repair something for Stein. They leave tomorrow for Rome to celebrate his birthday, and when she returns to Norway at the beginning of the week, he will return here.

Just after Helga began her sewing in the studio, Dino recommended that I stop raking leaves. I am allergic to dust, and had difficulty breathing and my throat began to swell. So that was it for me, and there are plenty of other things to do to clean up around here before Saturday, so after Helga leaves, I stop to catch up with you and then want to find out why the lemons on our tree have tiny brown spots. Let's ask Al Gore...

The best information I can find is to spray it with liquid copper. We'll ask Bruno, for he'll know what to do, taking a lemon to show him. We don't eat the lemons anyway, as they have thick skins and not much fruit. Since the lemons have flowers this spring, perhaps we should pay more attention. We'll let you know, when we know. Or if you know, do fill us in! Thanks.

I'm encouraged by the development of Cesar's painting, so perhaps I'll try to spend an hour or so a day on it; that is, after this Saturday. In the meantime, I must catch up on our pizza prowess...and then walk up to coro prova. It's such a lovely afternoon, with a forecast that tells us that winter has passed and spring is really here. Temperatures are rising a couple of degrees every single day. How fortunate we are! Hope it's lovely where you are, too.

April 27
We both work in the middle garden and on the terrace with Dino blowing leaves after I do a lot of weeding. It's a first step, for we surely can weed afterward, and hopefully all or most of the weeds were airborne and their roots aren't able to penetrate the nursery cloth below the gravel.

For me, there is pizza prep, which takes a while, and after the dough rests for 30 minutes or more, it is put in the frigo for overnight resting. Tomorrow it will be taken out to rest at room temperature before making the pizza itself.

April 28
We're up really early, for there is a lot to do here before our guests arrive. John and Betsey are picked up at the train station in the next town while I do the last minute pizza prep.

For four people or ten, there has been a lot to do to prep for pizza, but it is fun. For today's event, I cut up the strawberries to serve with a just made chocolate cake and marscapone cheese for dessert, then move onto the main event. The cake is cooked and stored in a cake server to keep it from drying out.

I shave fresh asparagus spears, cut the mozzarella up into small pieces, grate the Parmesan cheese, cook and slice the potatoes (then broil them to get the moisture out of them), sauté the sausage meat in one pan; sauté the mushrooms in another to take their moisture out before putting them sliced on the pizza to bake, and on and on. For soft things like the gorgonzola cheese, they remain in the frigo until we're ready to use them.

I think I like to overdo it to make pizza more creative than the traditional mozzarella and tomato sauce and grated cheese, but that is good, too, especially with fresh basil. That reminds me: we do need to buy several basil plants and plant them near the balustrade outside the front door for use all summer. Let's remind Dino.

Everyone arrives, and John is especially interested in knowing how the whole process works. But will he ever have a pizza oven in Mill Valley? We doubt it, but no matter.

Dino fired up the oven hours ago, and I prep the pizza by taking a round out of the tray where they are resting under a damp cloth. I hold it at ten o'clock in my left hand and two o'clock in my right hand, rotate it around a bit, then lie it on the marble pad that has been well floured. I roll it out until it's quite thin, always in one direction, and Dino expertly slides the pizza paddle under it and then slides the paddle onto the clean floor of the pizza oven.

He jerks the paddle out, perfectly! Bravo! The pizza stays inside, and Dino uses another tool to rotate the pizza around so that it cooks evenly. Soon he takes it out and puts it on a wooden board, where it is cut in pieces and placed in a basket, where we use them to spoon up bean dip. The recipe for the dip is on this site.

All afternoon we hang out on the terrace while Dino does the pizza cooking in the oven and I do the design work for the pizza, adding the elements for each one.

Sausage and Mushroom and Mozzarella, Shaved asparagus and blue cheese; carmelized onion and on and on. If you visit us on a pizza event, you'll see for yourself. After the pizza (3 versions), we serve gooey chocolate cake with marscapone and strawberries, marinated in French chocolate pear liquor.

We have lots of fun, so love having John and Betsey here and spending time with them, although I have overdone it as usual and am met with a migraine later. I am able to work full out and then it is as if I'm falling off a cliff; I just sink into my chair and Dino does the rest. Luckily, it's just serving coffee and taking our friends back to the train station so that they can return to their hotel in Rome for the rest of their trip.

It's been a beautiful day, with a cool and lovely evening. We're so thankful to be alive in this heavenly spot, but don't take it for granted...ever.

April 29
We walk up to church this morning, for Dino has a giro to collect for the festaroli, and Don Angelo is our priest. Don Daniele tells us just before mass that he has a baptism; that is why he won't celebrate here today.Va bene

Behind the altar, little Andrea Perini looks seriously at Don Angelo during the mass; he appears more mature than last year in his altar server costume. All except Federica and Anna and Vincenza are in Coro this morning, although Vincenza attends the mass with Augusto and I remember to wish her a buon compleanno as she smiles her lovely smile.

Friends of Maria Elena are here, and one is sitting on her balcony when we walk by. I invite them to come by later.

Skies are grey and blue, and we're surrounded by gusts now and then. The locals tell me we'll have rain, but I'm hopeful it will be blown out to sea by the wind.

While Dino does his giro, I walk home, where Sofi does a fare una festa (makes a party) when I open the door to greet her, rushing around the front terrace with joy. She remains content, happy to lie on her little bed in the studio while I catch up with you, and I love having her nearby.

Our roses continue to bloom, and it's time to take out the alcohol and water and a squeeze of sish soap to spray the roses. At least the Paul Lede roses are loved by black beetles, and that saddens me. I love those roses. I now realize that the second Chapeau di Napoleon rose is the rose that grows in a large pot right behind the fountain in the secret garden. When I did the inventory the other day I thought we had two of these roses (one is on the terrace near that dratted nespola tree), and now I know that we do. Va bene

April 30
Today is Alzamaggio, the "planting" of the tall tree cut down in the forest outside the village and replanted just outside the borgo. It's a sign of fertility and also that warmer weather is surely here. But tell that to the weather gods, for it remains overcast, although sun really tries to break through, as if it's giving birth. "Come'on! You can do it!" we silently cheer. Yes, we'll surely have sun, for I see it streaking in the studio window.

I inventory the heirloom tomato plants, grown from seed, and we have six types and fifty four plants. We'll know later this week when Dino and Cristina plant ours to know how many to save for Candace when they return a couple of weeks from now.

I fix an omelette and a salad, along with slices of chocolate cake for pranzo, for salsicce (sausages) will be served for cena in the borgo, perhaps in the ex-sculoa.

Showers are in the forecast for tonight. When I catch up with you, those morning streams of sun have disappeared; it's become a gray afternoon. Take heart: there will be plenty to report after thisafternoon and tonight's festivities, to which we'll contribute chocolate mint brownies that I'll make this afternoon, using fresh mint instead of peppermint flavoring. Let's hope the use of fresh mint is not a mistake.

It's a good thing there is one more day to the month. Hopefully we will be able to post tomorrow. I'll not say that word, "magari! (if only that were so) out loud just yet. Let's be positive.

Dino is out, but where are the tomato sign sticks? I saw them so recently, but there are so many projects I work on that they could be here anywhere. At least I've segregated them and written on each one by variety for planting. They appear later, but in an obvious spot; one that I can't remember now.

What varieties will we plant? Well: 1. Black from Tula
2. Brandywine
3. Aunt Ginny's Purple
4. Big Orange
5. Vintage Wine and
6. Galina Grande.

We have no giganti variety, purchased each year at the Montecastrilli market, but we think we know where to buy them, for Dino kept the information from the grower in Umbria in his records. We do love these huge sweet ones for salads, sliced thin and served with fresh basil and locally pressed olive oil. Is your mouth watering?

We still have iris to open, and they are a bit exotic, planted in the raised area outside the salone. Today the first one opens, a pink one, with more to follow, including one in a fascinating shade of velvety brown. Take a look at today's miracle!

When walking up to watch the Alza Maggio May Pole happenings, we encounter little Alessio and his beaming nonni (grandparents), Vincenza and Augusto.

I read that the first of May, May Day, is an old pagan holiday where young maidens dance around a big Maypole in a rite of spring. Here in our little village, the afternoon before is one of the most joyous traditions of the year. So we end the month with a gallery of photos of the afternoon and evening's happenings in our little Mugnano.

As afternoon turns into evening, as many men as the village can muster troop down to the valley to cut down a tall tree (60 feet or more), line up in single file and carry it on their shoulders back up onto Via Mameli to the tight turn just below the borgo. Then it gets complicated....

The tree is then maneuvered to stand and then slide into a deep hole they've already dug. Three ancient ladders have been used to prop up the tree until it's done, in three different sizes, and the men move on command (Francesco's...1-2-3!) to raise it bit by bit until it's slid into the hole and sand is shoveled in around it.

Of course there have been at least several stops along the way for the men to be fed by grateful neighbors. Perhaps even a sip of wine is drunk. Ha!

Preceeding the men is a band of eight children who pull a mini tree, perhaps as a rite of passage, and it is planted in a spot very near the tall one.

Sofi stays with us for the tree raising, but Dino walks her home afterward. Each twenty steps or so as they walk down Via Mameli toward home, she'd stop and turn around and look sadly at me. I hate seeing her leave, but the commotion afterward would have been too much for her.

Once the Mugnano red and blue flag has been attached near the top of the tree and it stands proud and tall, the men and the children gather for a mighty meal, fixed by the ever hardworking Ecomuseo, and led tonight by Renata, our village's prized chef. Neighbors are invited to participate by prior reservation, and for €10 each, there is: pasta, sliced pork with sauce, potatoes, plenty of local bread and desserts made by the locals.

Of course there are bottles of water and local red wine at each table that are replenished often. I fixed frosted chocolate mint brownies earlier, but saw not a one when it was time for dessert. Fa niente
. There were plenty of sweet things to go around. Walking home under the stars, we are met by a joyous Sofi, and end the month on a very high note. Hope you did, too!

May 1
It's time to dream of Gelato!!!

Today, we eat a bit of gelato (ice cream) from the freezer, but will surely have some of that wondeful gelato artigianale soon. With temperatures rising a bit each day, the weather is heavenly.

Our tomatoes planted from seeds are doing fine in the serra (greenhouse), and I check them once or twice each day to be sure there is enough water in the saucers for the plants to drink. Next week, they'll be planted in the ground for sure, especially since Mario has turned the earth over in the tomato garden. We'll plant fewer basilico this year, and will have at least a dozen or more tomato plants waiting for Candace and Frank when they return.

There's plenty of weeding to do on the terrace and middle garden, even though we have lots of gravel, but this is the season when life seems to burst out of the ground wherever we look. Our special colored Iris continue to appear one by one, arriving after the tulips have had their day. Let's remember to pull the bulbs out and separate them this July.

Beginning in April, there is always something springing up in the garden or on the terrace, including that giant peony plant on the front terrace in a big copper pot and the petti d'angeli in two spots in the middle garden.

May 2
There's a pedicure appointment with dear Giusy today, but she also is trained in reflexology, and massages my big toes for the first time. I am a believer that this can have strong implications, as afterward I'm not myself and lie down with an ice pack for a headache after pranzo. Either I should see her a couple of times a week at first for sessions or not do it at all. I do take a medicine cocktail first before lying down.

There is Coro practice tonight in the village, and perhaps because I'm not at full strength, I'm weary of all the arguing. "Seconda me...!" is what Laura begins to say about what we are to sing. Rosina does not even have a preface, and with her deep voice commands that others listen.

Dear Federica tries to keep everyone calm, and when I say something to her quietly about suggesting that she keep the practice to an hour with the actual singing first, then letting all the chatter happen afterward, she smiles at me and nods her head. Somehow the session ends.

I walk home and the weather is lovely. There is time to begin the dough making before Enzo and Maria arrive for a Festarolo committee meeting with Dino. Elizabetta cannot come, so as her mother Maria arrives, telling the men how many wonderful things the prior owners had here in the house.

Perhaps she is referring to the original owners, for the last owners were Tunisian and Jehovah's Witnesses and seemed to have little money. Those owners told us an aunt or uncle gave the property to them. We knew the husband was a house painter by trade. Anything's possible...

Enzo the idraulico arrives to check out what he has to do for us and leaves, just as Dino surmised. His son and a helper arrive later to begin the work behind the house installing the water tank.

I finish mixing the dough for Pizza Romana (a tasty thin crust), and it is the dough we always make for pizza, liking it more than any other we've tried. I let it sit out in the summer kitchen for 30 minutes, then put the large bowl covered with plastic wrap in the frigo overnight.

I soon go to bed with an ice pack, but have trouble sleeping. At this time of year I seem to have a sequence of headaches, perhaps even migraines, so it's nothing new.

May 3
What day is it? I've skipped writing for a day or so and will try to figure out what we did at the beginning of the month. A dull headache persists, but no matter. With Mario cutting the grass and water to be shut off for the day by the water company, it's time to get up early.

I check out the tomatoes in the serra, which are all growing fine, give them more water and do a bit of weeding, with Sofi by my side. Our little dog is full of life and loves it here, as we do. Dino counsels me to slow down and stop weeding, and I do, without much energy left to take a walk with dear Sofi. Sorry, little one.

Annika and Torbjorn and Ingela and Stein are to arrive early for pizza tonight and then I have a Coro prova at 9:15 P M in Attigliano. Sigh.

Fabrizio arrives to work on the water issues, and Dino tells me the new water tank will help us to function just as we'd like it to, when there is little or no water here. Va bene. Speriamo.

I don't feel well today either, taking a medicine cocktail (difmetré plus 1000 mg. of tachiprina), and lie down with an ice pack again. Earlier I de-seeded a large bunch of red grapes and they'll cook down with sausage meat I cooked earlier for one of tonight's pizzas.

The water has still not been shut off at 2 PM, so I have no idea what that means. Perhaps Talete, the water company, will not work today after all and we'll have the same notice for another day.

What's on the agenda for tonight's pizza is:
* Pizza Margherita
* Sausage and grapes
* Gorgonzola and sliced pears
* American Apple Pie
There will be plenty of beer, which the Swedes like, plus wine for Stein, aka Pietro.

With Coro practice in Attigliano at 9:15, our guests arrive promptly at 6, and the first of four pizzas is stretched and rolled out and cooked soon afterward. There is much wine drunk, including two bottles from our recent trip to France.

Our pizza finale is what we call American Apple Pie: sliced apples already sautéed in butter over mozzarella, cinnamon and sugar. It's a little invention of ours, but quite tasty and easy. If we had the whole evening to hang out, we'd serve it with ice cream, but that's for another time...

Dino drives Rosina and Vincenza and me to Attigliano for practice, and I'm plunked right in front of the front row. Franco gets a solo for one verse of one hymn, and comé no? (why not?), although the others think otherwise. Angela and Raffaele perform masterful work with us, with Angela mimicking some of us who sing with their mouths wide open and drag their notes.

I'm careful to sing with my mouth cupid style as if it's round and not open too wide. The sound one makes when singing that way is very interesting. We'll see what happens on Saturday, when we sing as part of the concert in Mugnano.

I consider dropping from Coro, but each week decide to stay just a bit longer. I do love being a good citizen of the village.

May 4
Speaking of that depressing word, I am still not an Italian citizen, although Dino has been one for months. We drive to the Questura to ask this morning, and the same beautiful woman we see every time is especially kind to us, but tells me to stop by next week in the morning, when someone will make a call on my behalf. She thinks two years is about the right amount of time to wait. Magari (If only it were so...)

We do a bit of shopping and come home with a roast chicken, one that we have with rice for pranzo. I return to bed with an ice pack, rising late in the afternoon to do a bit of weeding outside. Dino asks me to stop weeding again, and I'm happy to.

May 5
Under growing clouds, this weekend's festa celebrations may have some challenges. Today we do laundry and weed in the garden, especially cutting the spent flowers from the majority of the glycine (wisteria) plants growing under and around the front pergola.

The final two glycine plants are about ready to blossom, and they are located in front of the summer kitchen, next to the glorious Alister Stella Gray rose, also known as Golden Rambler, but these two wisteria plants appear to be more of a deep lavender color.

We don't mind that they are not the pale pink and white of the rest of the wisteria growing against the front of the house, although we think they might have been mislabeled. Life is too short to worry about it, and the color is lovely.

I fix brownies for tomorrow morning's snack for the Bomarzo band after the procession, but will there be a procession after all?

Dino takes the brownies up to prep for the rest of this weekend's events with the rest of his other Festaroli pals and there is much discussion about my brownies. All I can say is ha, ha, ha. Italians really take their food seriously.

Tonight's concert is in the little church of Mugnano, and I can't figure out why. Will the turnout really be small? Perhaps so, with our Coro doing part of the concert. The rest will star an accordionist. Boh!

I'm so looking forward to it being over, and perhaps that is why Sofi and I slept for three hours this afternoon. I read that getting enough sleep is a good thing for migraine sufferers, as is ice massage; hence the ice packs often under my head when I sleep.

I have a laugh to myself, for I imagine that based on past years, most of the neighbors will stay outside during the concert, with the children playing games right in front of the church. Perhaps the accordionist will play outside. Comé no?

I am surely mistaken, for the accordionist is really talented, performing classical as well as modern pieces, and there is not a sound in the church, which is quite unusual for an Italian crowd. Our little Coro sings several pieces quite well, we are told. Outside, skies are overcast, although there is an almost full moon guiding our walk home.

May 6
Last night in bed I again needed an ice pack for my head, and since this morning's mass is at 11AM, Dino rises early for his festaroli duties but Sofi and I sleep in and I walk up later. Mass is long and quite serious, with both the bust of San Liberato in front of the altar and the restored full figure of San Liberato on its stand, facing the members of the congregation and guests.

Thoughts of this martyred saint strikes a chord in me as Don Daniele gives his homily. The saint's story is a sad one; he was an abbot who gave up his life for his love of God in the 5th century somewhere in or near Tunisia, Africa. Would I have the inner strength to give up my life for my love of God? I would hope so.

Participating in the choir is an honor I cherish, even though I sometimes think I'll stop. It's the reverence I feel surrounded by the religious trappings of the Church that remind me what a dreamer I am.

With rain refusing to let up, there is no procession this morning after the mass, although almost everyone is expecting it. The Bomarzo Polymartium Band plays a piece inside the church, to appease the assembled group, probably sad they'll not have a larger outside audience this morning.

Don Daniele, our wonderful priest, walks home with us, as his car is parked right outside our gate, and I think to ask him if he'll say a prayer that I'll be granted citizenship status soon. He is quite surprised to hear that I've waited more than three years, and although he is originally from Aquapendente, he knows someone at the Prefattura in Viterbo and will call her for me. How dear of him to offer!

Later as planned, the Fanfara Bersaglieri from Viterbo arrive and even though the weather is not good, these stalwart musicians and soldiers find a way to continue their music.

I stay at home and later Dino calls me to fill me in. He tells me that everyone huddled into the tiny church in the piazza while the Bersaglieri almost literally "blew the roof off" with the sounds of their playing.

Afterward, there was plenty of food in the ex-scuola (no, we still don't have a name for the building), and Dino tells me he'll be home after they put things away, so relieved that it is the last of his festaroli duties for another ten years, and perhaps even forever.

So are you wondering, what are these Bersaglieri, anyway? Click below:


Each Bersaglieri unit of soldiers had a band called a "fanfara", who played their instruments at the run while on parade. The "fanfara" does not contain percussion instruments, only brass. Today only the Garibaldi Brigade, Ariete Brigade and 7th Bersaglieri regiment retain a "fanfara", although what we have on this day is the brigade band from Viterbo, playing appropriate music at the traditional fast pace, and it's quite wonderful; that is, if you don't lose your hearing while listening to it in the tiny church. I wonder if the word, "fanfare" comes from this?

Encyclopedia Brittanica explains the word fanfare as follows: originally a brief musical formula played on trumpets, horns, or similar "natural" instruments, sometimes accompanied by percussion, for signal purposes in battles, hunts, and court ceremonies. Well, that makes sense, doesn't it?

While waiting for Dino, I hear some of the band members playing their horns and trumpets as they walk toward our house on Via Mameli to their cars. What a funny bunch of fellows they must be!

From the studio window I even hear someone play a bit of what sounds like snake charming music, followed by another who wants to play some notes of his own. Bravo, tutti! I am a bit sorry I missed the full impact of their performance, but many others did not, and that's a good thing.

May 7
Even after a medicine cocktail and an ice pack resting below my head during the night, I awake with face pain this time as a headache. Sigh.

Dino drives to Tenaglie under rainy skies to check out a friend's property for the arrival of a renter. The forecast is for a rainy day, and perhaps that has something to do with my malaise. No matter. I'd love to paint this morning but that won't happen. Just as I check in with you, a shaft of sun streaks through the threatening sky; in another minute the same sun is hidden by a cloud.

May 8
With all the talk lately about marriage equality, a different reality has galloped across the centuries here in Italia, with little changed over the centuries. Here, men and women are not really equal, especially when it comes to individual power over decision-making. Although Dino and I own our property as equals, I am more often than not treated as a dear person who is best waiting in the background while Dino conducts business on our behalf. Sigh.

Dino has had his Italian citizenship and related passport for months, and although we filed our papers on the same day in February, 2009, I am still waiting for my citizenship to be approved. We decide to see what we can do about it today, so drive to Viterbo and see the lovely woman at the Questura who told us last week to come one morning and assured us that someone there would make a call on my behalf.

We arrive after almost everyone has been taken care of, and she takes my Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit to Stay, which is to be renewed later this month). After conferring with two other colleagues in the office and making a phone call, she tells us to return to our Comune in Bomarzo and have them officially acknowledge that we are married!

It appears that if the husband is an Italian citizen, the wife can remain in the country. Boh! That has not much to do with citizenship, but we drive to the Bomarzo Comune and meet with Signor Ivo, who is the Anagrafia (keeper of vital records) and knows us.

We provide an Apostille (verified certification in Italian) that we were married, and a copy of the marriage certificate from San Francisco City Hall. With that, he puts data into the computer, prints out a simple document, signs and stamps it. We must then return to the Questura with it for some kind of document, but the word Sollecito comes up, and that has to do with an action that must happen immediately. Tomorrow we'll try again, for the woman we are to see, Signora Altissima, does not work today. I'm thinking we'll next need to meet someone in Rome.

So do I think our house, L'Avventura, (The Adventure) is well named? I'd say so! Dino seems to think that my being an Italian citizen is not a big deal, if it won't have an impact on our lives here. I wonder how he would feel if he were in my place?

We arrive home to see our dear friend Stein sitting on the bench next to the gate. He does not have his key and we keep a copy of his, so invite him for pranzo and we have the luxury of his company for an hour or more, while I fix a meal and we sit and enjoy each others' company.

Later in the day, Dino drives Stein to pick up his car at the mechanic in Attigliano.

While waiting around this morning, I continued to read the book, Green Mansions, and enjoy it quite a bit. Tonight we're invited to Peppi and Steven's place in Amelia for cena, of course with little Sofi, for she and the little dog Luna who lives next door adore playing together. This is one dog friendship where two females get along just fine.

The adults get along fine, too, although don't expect all of us to behave like adults.

We love these two, and so enjoy their company. I wish they were here more often from their regular home in England. Sorry, Peppi, no photo of you this time!

May 9
I sleep in until 10 AM (!), but Dino has been up for at least two hours. I read that to avoid becoming over stressed, sleep is important, so I'm trying my best to sleep all I can.

Outside, Cristina prepares the tomato field, with Dino's supervision. Once I'm up, I work out the planting sequence and labeling of the tomato plants, which will be planted in two long rows this time, closer together than I would have thought. It's an experiment, and the plants are planted on their side; then the stalk is anchored upright by the surrounding earth and a type of tall wooden stick. That way, we think the roots will be extensive and the plants very healthy.

The good news for Candace is that we have two dozen tomato plants left for them to plant in their orto, and I'll pamper the plants until our friends arrive, with a date now moved to June 11th. In the meantime, we'll pick up Penny and Bob from Rome's Fiumucino Airport next week, and Dino is hoping they'll have his new iPad and iPod in their luggage. I'm hoping they'll have my sewing machine attachment, too. I'd love to return to sewing more cushions for the terrace...

I walk out with Sofi and do my bit to help Dino and Cristina, then realize it's past noon and fix a simple pranzo. Cristina will probably return in a week or so, but perhaps Dino and I can anchor the bamboo poles by ourselves, hopefully quite high so that Dino can work and walk in between the rows with no problem.

I have a brainstorm, helped by tomato ladders for sale on the internet, and will talk with Dino to suggest that we make them ourselves out of wire. I wonder if coated wire is expensive? He'll know, or we'll check at OBI in Viterbo soon.

Although each year I am responsible for growing the tomatoes from seed and tending them gently until they are planted in the ground, this year I agree to help Dino during the planting season with them. That means getting up no later than 7 AM, when the best work is done during warm or hot weather.Va bene.

I catch up with you while Dino takes a nap and Sofi does as well, resting in her little bed near the desk. We're invited to have cena with Annika and Torbjorn tonight at their house, and that should be fun. Stein is invited there, too!

I research finding a gite (place to rent) in September with Candace and Frank, but don't find the perfect one. The one we wanted is booked for all of September. Perhaps next year... We all agree that we'll stay here at home this September after all. It's so lovely here and our finances are such that it's better we stay put.

May 10
The sky looks lovely, and before we leave for our next round of bureaucratic wrangling, Dino waters the bowl of earth surrounding each tomato plant now in the ground, while I steady the hose, standing above him.

Now it's time to return to Viterbo to the Questura. Sigh. With copies made of our documents, including one from Signor Ivo certifying that we are married, we fill out paperwork that allows me to stay in Italy for another five years, as Dino's dependent. But we now need a certification from the American Embassy in Rome. I feel like an appendage, and as you can imagine am not particularly happy with my legal status.

There are calls being made on my behalf, we think, and will look at an option in Rome with dear friends if we have not heard anything positive in the next ten days about my pending citizenship. Here's what laws issued more than fifty years ago declare:

Hague Apostille Convention of 1961

Official documents that are issued in a Country and must be used abroad (e.g. an American birth certificate to be used in Italy) need to be legalized or "authenticated" by the appropriate authorities in the originating Country to prove that the document was issued by a competent official and that is genuine and not fraudulent.

Since the U.S. and Italy are part of the Hague Apostille Convention of 1961, Hague Apostille Convention of 1961 , both Countries will accept an Apostille stamp on the certificate or official document concerned, as proof of legalization.

We have a couple of sets of these, and use one this morning at the Questura. A HA! There is a problem. Our Marriage Certificate has my name as Evanne Alexandra Brandon, but all my other identification, passport, etc., has my name as Evanne Brandon Diner. (Keeping the name Alexandra, made my name too long). We are told that a certificate is needed from the American Embassy in Rome certifying that Evanne and Evanne Alexandra are the same person!

At AUSL, which is the health care department of the government, I renew my healthcare permit. The effective dates correspond to the Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit to Stay) dates. We take the certificate they provide to us to our good Dottore Bevliacqua's office, and drive home with dear Sofi for pranzo. It will be another week until we're next in Rome.

Pranzo is late today, for renters have just arrived in Rome for their rental holiday in Tenaglie, and Dino meets them and shows them the way, as well as walks them through the property. At home, Sofi and I are so happy to be here that we don't care how late Dino and I eat. We catch up with you with an open window to the studio and a birdsong serenade.

Here are some recent photos of the garden, not including three pots of lobelia, hopefully to grow down from planters on the front terrace. Yes, I love blue flowers.

I've continued to read Green Mansions and mostly enjoy the book a great deal, except for the few places where there is too much detail given about a snake or two. Any detail is too much detail of that for me.

I feel a bit groggy while waiting for Dino, so perhaps I have needed more sleep, and more sleep has helped keep headaches at bay. I'm almost tempted to take a nap while waiting for Dino, and if our hammock had been put up, we (Sofi and I) surely would. Wonder where we stored it?

Before leaving Viterbo this morning, we stopped in to see our vet, and asked him for a name of a dog behaviorist for Sofi. He gives us the card of one, and we hope to meet him soon. I am sure that her problem is insecurity; that she is too afraid in certain circumstances, resulting in her lashing out at someone. At all other times, she is sweeter than sweet and loves to show us that she loves us dearly. We want her to be happy and content, and will not rest until we can help her.

I forgot to talk with Dino about building cages for the tomatoes, and will this afternoon if we remember. He wants to drive to Rome tomorrow to go to the American Embassy for the certificate I need from them, postponing our giro with Stein for a week. We are not able to get an appointment at the US Embassy, so we take the first available date, next Thursday afternoon. So we will spend the night in Roma, because we are to pick up Penny and Bob at the airport the next day. Stein now has a guest arriving tomorrow, so we'll have a peaceful day instead.

I read that Italy has surpassed Germany in the number of solar installations, with the price of panels made in China dropping. Perhaps it's closer to being time to install them here. I don't like the idea of free installation and a contract to purchase the electricity from the owner of the panels for 20 years. So when Dino comes home, we'll start the conversation again.

I forgot to tell him about the cages for the tomatoes, but will surely remember later. I do remember to take a nap this afternoon after doing some internet research. We're happy to stay here in September after all, especially with all the shade from the wisteria on the front terrace.

May 11
Birdsong and sun greet us early, and it surely will be a wonderful day. Dino calls the embassy in Rome and we cannot go there without an appointment. Va bene. We'll go when we pick up Penny and Bob from the airport.

Friend Emanuela emails us to correct our grammar. Here's what she has to say about the Italian translation of the word "sausage" and a few other related things. Thank you, dear one.

One comment on the Italian words: salsicche should be salsicce (no H), as this letter of the alphabet is used to make c strong, like the K sound (as Italian alphabet has no K). Examples of words: bruschetta, ponte vecchio, chiuso, which should be read as if there were a K. This is a very basic, easy rule and has no exception (rare case in Italian grammar!). So, it is salsicce, with its singular salsiccia (if you write salsicca it sounds like salsikka!).

Dino drives off to shop. If you're a woman sitting there sighing as you read this and thinking, "Why doesn't my husband shop for us?", it may have to do with early childhood training. When Dino was a boy, his mother worked in the family business (a motion picture laboratory as office manager), and so Dino was given the job of shopping. He's a great project manager, too, and does/has done this for other people/companies, so I suppose giving your young children a sense of responsibility can't hurt.

It's rose cleaning up time, so from now on I'll be cutting off spent rose blooms (back to the next five leaf, Sarah, unless they've been growing from a central stem:), and do a bit of tending with the glorious Alistar Stella Gray rose arch and encourage a bit of morning sun to warm my face.

We've already watered the tomato plants in the ground and I have watered the remaining two dozen in the serra waiting for our friends' return. I have to laugh, for the first pass at my writing here had incorrect grammar, and it sounded as if our friends were returning to the serra!

Outside, there is plenty of action, with Peppe and other farmers calling out to each other from their ortos. Today, there is no sound of weed whacking, but we were up early anyway.

I talk with Dino about my idea for a metal support for the tomato plants, and after telling me what the challenges are that he sees, he agrees to take me to Castorama in Terni and Spazio Verde in Narni to see what we can find that might work. We agree that if we purchase a big roll of the metal mesh, we can open it upside down and lay it out to get the roll out of it and then fold it to our specifications. We'll see what we find later this afternoon.

In the meantime, Dino has made arrangements to meet the renters at a place in Montecchio for pizza tonight. I look forward to meeting them. Of course, Sofi will join us, so lets hope she is a good doggie.

We cannot find what we need for the tomato plants in any of the shops I mentioned. Perhaps it's best we rig up the same bamboo support system the farmers use. We'll see...

To give us a bit of freedom tonight, Sofi stays in the car in the shade with windows partly open, and spends the evening in her Sherpa bag. We enter La Locanda in Montecchio for the most unusual cena in recent memory. It's worth a special trip there with a reservation and asking the owner to surprise you. For €50 each you'll have the meal of your life...an amazing assortment of the most delicious small tastes of a myriad of items including all courses...at least eight!

It is fun to get to know Emily and Mike and learn about their lives. She is a book editor and yes, I would like to write a book about living here, if she thinks it would be worthy. If you think it would, email me and let me know. Thanks.

Afterward, there is a fare una festa with Sofi (the dog makes a party on seeing all of us). I of course take a medicine cocktail upon returning home, for there were many different wines and tastes tonight, both sweet and tart. We highly recommend the restaurant!

May 12
Duccio calls to say they would like to come tomorrow afternoon for a visit instead of today. I'm happy, thinking we have lots to do to clean up in the garden today before their visit, until Dino tells me he wants to drive to Viterbo for a concert late this afternoon. Sigh. If we do go, and we probably will, I want Sofi to stay at home instead of wait for us again in the car. It is cool here inside the house when it's warm outside, and I worry about her.

This is a lovely warm and clear morning, and Sofi and I spend most of it on the front path. It takes more than an hour to cut back the spent blossoms from the first Lady Hillingdon rose plant; there are four others further down the path!

Since these roses continue to bloom happily all summer against our front wall, it's important to keep up with them. The neighbors love to see them as they drive by, as evidenced by Maria and Alberto as they wave and beep.

Earlier, before breakfast, Dino watered the tomatoes in the ground while I held the length of the hose up above him. They look great, as do the tomatoes in the serra for Candace. Birdsong is everywhere!

The last two wisteria plants are blooming on the front terrace. The color of the blossoms is a deep purple, but so what? They look lovely, just the same, and if they continue to bloom later than the rest of the wisteria on the terrace, we'll continue to have blossoms from April through May. There is almost always some thing to delight one's senses here.

I've been out in the full sun for a couple of hours tending the roses, and am feeling the impact. Dino agrees that tonight we'll skip the concert, and I'm so relieved.

We both take naps this afternoon, and I do return to the painting of Cesar with the sunflowers, hearing that he and his parents will stay here until the fall. One of these days, I'll probably show the boy what his image looks like to my painter's eyes.

Dino tells me to stop, and I've been working on his eyes and forehead for three hours! Yes. Of course I'll stop for the day. Somehow my sense of concentration puts me in a kind of a stupor when I paint. Now that I've stopped, I feel a bit woozy. No wonder that painters are not to paint for more than two hours at a time before resting their eyes!

I wonder if all the sun this morning had anything to do with it. Yes, I'm still trying to slow down...

May 13
This morning before church, we stand in the little piazza while Don Angelo walks up to us from his car. He seems to like to speak English, although we try to speak Italian to him. He would like to visit with us, and we'd like that, too, and I ask him if he'd also like to come for pizza. Yes, he replies, but first tea! I think he's thinking English style, at 4 or 5 in the afternoon: how proper!

After we tell him we moved from San Francisco he is very surprised. "Why did you move HERE from THERE?" he asks. Of course you know if you read our journal, but we tell him that life is too complicated for us in the United States, with everyone working very hard to earn very much money so that they can spend even more money buying things and then the cycle goes on and on. Here, life is tranquil, and for this dreamer at least, it's all anyone could ask for, except not having loved ones around.

After church in Mugnano, we drive to Il Pallone for caffé and food shopping. All the while, I'm wondering if our sweet peas will re-flower, especially since the big round bulbs they grow from stay intact.

I read that sweet peas are like repeat flowering roses; they actually perform better if you remove the blossoms. It also indicates that annuals, such as dwarf sunflowers, cosmos and snapdragons, also re-flower quickly. I think we have some snapdragons, flowers I thought were sweet peas, and we'll see if they re-flower as well. What a wonderful way to enjoy the warm weather even more!

After we return from shopping, Sofi greets us happily and I pick up spent blossoms from the snapdragons and sweet peas. Life is so joyous for us here, especially for Dino today, for there is a Formula 1 race, and he loves to watch the race. Sofi and I do not, so I'll surely paint while Sofi snoozes nearby.

Duccio and Giovanna are expected this afternoon for a visit, and hopefully there will be no rain. It is expected for tonight and perhaps tomorrow, when we'll drive to Montecastrilli to buy four Giganti tomato plants. The grower is there each week, and we always want to have a sample of those wonderful salad tomatoes on hand during the summer.

After a pranzo of involtini (this time chicken wrapped around sausage and ricotta cheese and sage leaves, very delicious on the grill), Dino watches a Formula - 1 race, in which poor Lewis Hamilton is moved before the race from pole position (1st place during qualifying) to 24th (last) due to a mistake made by his Mercedes team. How sad for him. He did nothing wrong.

On that sad note, Sofi and I return to the studio, where I paint again, tiny bit by tiny bit, on Cesare's expression. The tiniest alteration can make an enormous difference, good or bad. I'm feeling good about today's efforts, but spend less than two hours, for Duccio and Giovanna are due to arrive for a visit.

On the SKY Classical station, one of my very favorite pieces plays, and it is so like a dream. It's: A. Piazzolla - Oblivion - Sinfonia Ensemble Strumentale Scaligero. Do try to listen to it when you have a chance and let us know what you think.

Rain is on the horizon, skies are dark; so what's up? It does not rain, but is overcast when our friends arrive. It is good to see them and to catch up with them,

I am on my own with respect to my pending Italian citizenship, so it's important not to let it get me down.

We stay at home for the evening, and I notice as I catch up with you that as the paint sets on Cesar's facial features, he seems a bit more mature and his features appear better defined. Piano, piano. (Slowly, slowly.) There's no need to rush.

Roy sees Mario walking his little Alessio as they pass our gate...

May 14
After a series of dramatic and complex dreams, I awake early and Dino takes Sofi and me to Montecastrilli to the Monday market to buy four pomodori giganti (Gigantic tomato) plants. They need to be planted in the ground...subito! (right away) We love them, and one of them is almost enough for an entire meal; that is, if you add buffala mozzarella and great olive oil and fresh basil.

But just as Dino get out of the car, a man parked next to us gets ready to leave, and the grower whom Dino spoke with yesterday hits himself on the head. "Porca Miseria!" (Pig misery!) he exclaims, and walks over to the driver and tells him we ordered four of the plants he has in his car. Thankfully, the man gets out of his car and returns the plants, which are moved to the back of our car, and he is paid back in cash for the plants which are now ours.

This is proof that timing is everything! It is a good thing we did not arrive even two minutes later! Yes, the grower had plenty of the plants, which he told Dino on the phone yesterday that he had, but the man purchased all of them, probably to resell them somewhere else. What a relief!

We stop in Tenaglie to check out the property and to pay Ricardo for his excellent gardening work, then drive home. I am strangely tired, and Sofi and I nap for an hour before pranzo, after checking on Candace and Frank's two dozen tomato plants in the serra, which are all fine. Now there are four more, this time for us, hopefully to be planted today or tomorrow.

I need to spray the roses (with a mixture of denatured alcohol, a spritz of dish soap and water in a spray pump bottle), but the day is too windy. Once the wind dies down, I will certainly spray, for the rainy and windy weather has destroyed many of the rose blossoms and encouraged mites and other destructive critters. It does no good to fret; there are still many lovely things to appreciate here.

Dino shows me that there is a Giro di Italia, American Style, in California, with the uncharacteristic title of Amgen Tour of California. He's happy, for he's asked Terence to pick up a t-shirt of the race. Unfortunately, Terence did not see the message until it was too late. Life goes on.

After a long nap, I realize I really must spray the roses, so I do, but most of the spritz winds up right in my face. Basta! I return to the house, for it's pointless to do any outside work now.

May 15
Is it already the end of the first half of the month? Is it time to post, or it will be after today. Skies are bright gray. Huh? There is a bit of hazy blue sky as well, but bad weather is on the horizon. Might as well spray where I can and also pick any good-looking roses for vases that will be inside. We've lost so many blossoms due to the recent rain and wind, but that's the windy side of life, don't you think?

With sounds of weed whacking in the fields below, I spray where I can and also cut back to a five-leaf juncture on any roses that I can reach. After a couple of hours, it's time to take a break. Birdsong is everywhere, and it sounds a bit frantic. Are birds fighting for their turfs, or anxious about the weather?

Tonight I'll make the pizza dough and put it in the frigo for an overnight rest. We're to have guests tomorrow night, and since there will be six of us, I'm thinking I need to make a batch and a half: four pizzas won't be enough for six people.

In the meantime, Dino has trouble with the water pump and has called in the cavalry. We'll see what they can do. He'll leave just after an early pranzo to watch the Giro d'Italia, which will pass by this area. Am I crazy, or does it make sense to stand for a long time on the side of the road to cheer riders by? I know the riders appreciate it.

On the world's stage, the European Union is at a crossroad. Will it continue as it is; will Greece secede; will it fall apart and return those of us living in Italy to an Italian currency? Since we live on dollars, it seems this is good for the dollar, although I favor Italy being a part of a democratic body in which all parties help one another.

Today's swearing in of Hollande in France may be a good thing. He favors growth, while his new partner in Germany, Angela Merkel, favors belt tightening. There is an hilarious cartoon of the two of them; let's see if I can find it for you...


I fix one of my favorite pastas with yellow bell peppers and butter and cheese and fresh basil over pappardelle noodles and Dino drives off to find the Giro d'Italia, wearing his pink shirt from another year.

With painting on my mind, I return to the studio, but after a while return to the kitchen to prepare prosciutto and melon for a visit later this afternoon by Stein and Titten, his latest visitor. We'll invite them to join us tomorrow night for pizza, comé no? (why not) and I'll come up with a couple of extra toppings.

Dino and I are in some disagreement regarding pizza night (Sofi's birthday celebration) on Wednesday. He thinks four pizzas will be enough, whether we have six or eight people. I'm going to double the recipe, giving us eight pizzas, and he gives in, realizing that I'm doing the work, so I should make the decision regarding how and what ingredients I will use. If we don't fix all the pizzas, there will be two for the next day, since the pizza oven will still be warm.

Stein and Titten come by, and I've fixed bite sized pieces of melon, wrapped in prosciutto and held with a toothpick. It's a great accompaniment to prosecco, and we enjoy it while seating on the terrace. It's not cold, and these friends are so much fun. It's too bad Titten is not here more often. She's really delightful and so easy to be with. Stein is always a joy.

After they leave, now that we've invited them for tomorrow night and they have accepted, I make two batches of pizza dough, let each one sit out for thirty minutes and then put it in the frigo overnight. We'll have enough for eight pizzas, and tomorrow will shop for the fixings in Viterbo, other than the sausage and grapes for one pizza and sliced apples sautéed in butter and cinnamon and nutmeg for another that I cooked tonight and will store in the frigo until tomorrow afternoon or so.

May 16
Happy 9th Birthday, dearest Sofi! Let's wear party hats tonight to celebrate!

This morning, we first drive to Viterbo for metano for the car and to shop for ingredients. The dough remains in the until we return.

One of the things we pick up is a setacchio spargifarina automatic (automatic flour sieve) to use while rolling out the dough. We also pick up paper hats and streamers and lots of things for pizza toppings: feta cheese, zucchini flowers, red grapes, sausage meat, and lots of other surprises. We expect to cook eight large pizzas plus one mini pizza for the birthday girl, cut into eight pieces, so that she'll have a piece of her pizza when we each have a piece of one of ours. Comé no? (Why not?) There's an email from Shelley that our water is not drinkable for some reason, so we pick up plenty of bottled water and hope for an early solution. There's too much to do for tonight, so no time to worry. Sempre Avanti! (Always Forward!) is a favorite expression we hear when we ask our neighbors how they are, so that's what we do...

The night is a blast, with Emily and Mike (Merritt's renters), Merritt and Kate, Stein and Titten and Dino and Sofi and me gathered around the table, wearing our hats, drinking and feasting. Here's a capsule of the evening's events. Enjoy:

May 17
We awake quite tired after last night's extravaganza for dear Sofi. Today is the day we drive to Rome for an overnight and to pick up our friends from the airport, so let's get going!

We do a last minute watering of the tomatoes, both in the ground and in the serra and drive off with an excited Sofi thinking her birthday celebrations are to continue. Comé no? (Why not?)

We drive to a Bed and Breakfast near the entrance to the Vatican Museum (actually across the street), and the room is not bad, although there is only one window and it is quite high off the ground. There is a small kitchen and a recently renovated bathroom with a shower, so we'll be fine.

We've had pranzo at an Autogrille on the way, and have an appointment at the American Embassy at 2:45. With the Jetbag on top of the car, we think we'll have trouble finding a place to park, but the garage worker guides us in, and Sofi waits in the cool garage in the car while we wait outside the Embassy.

Dino is allowed to enter the Embassy with me, and a very helpful woman tells me what I need to write on the declaration. I do, she stamps it, then tells us to find someone to write the translation down on the lines below what I have written, although it has already been stamped. Va bene.

With a finished translation, we'll be able to take the document to Viterbo so that I can become an appendage (sigh!) of Dino's. He's now an Italian Citizen, but I still wait for mine to finalize, and since my Permesso di Sojourno (Permit to stay) has expired, I am told I need to either pay €125 and fill out new forms for a Permit to Stay with a two year expiration or can become Dino's appendage (since he's now an Italian Citizen) for the next five years for free.

We agree on the latter. It costs $50 for the document from the American Embassy, so this is proof that nothing formal is for free. I'm beginning to feel like a third world "mail order bride". It doesn't feel good, but let's be practical...

With that document finished, we walk to Piazza Argentina, the area where most of the tessutti (fabric) shops are located, and choose the shop facing the ancient archeological dig right in the center of the square.

It takes no time at all to find a blue and white striped fabric for the outdoor bench cushions that will match the color of the shutters, and we find the same fabric a bit narrower that costs just a little more for twice the amount of fabric.

With a special sewing attachment for my sewing machine that will make gathers easily (coming with Penny and Bob), I'll be able to make an outfit for each grand daughter with the remainder of the fabric, with more left over for a pillow ruffle or two for the terrace.

We walk back to our room and take a nap, then find a good place for cena that will allow Sofi to join us. It's a remarkable place, with only one other couple in the dining room on this night. A certo punto (At a certain point...), Sofi barks out at the waiter, and it's a huge embarrassment, with me holding her back with my hand on her harness.

What has happened to our dear doggie? I am sure she lacks confidence, and was surprised by the waiter coming over to us, able to see just his feet. We do need a "Dog Whisperer" to help her, and are told there is one in our area in Viterbo, so will contact him soon. This must change. I am so very sad for her.

Afterward, we walk down the street for a gelato, for this is ice cream heaven, and walk her back to our room while we eat cones filled with heavenly ingredients.

I have one of the best night's sleep I've had in memory, but sadly for Dino, there is no place for Sofi to sleep but at the foot of our bed. Life goes on...

May 18
Our parking space must be vacated before 9 A.M., so we are up and out, driving across Rome in plenty of time to pick up Bob and Penny at Fimucino Airport. We don't know if their plane is on time, but once we arrive at the airport, see that their plane is late. Everyone is happy, for Sofi spends the return drive on Penny's lap, with her head against Bob's arm. They are already missing their little dog, and Sofi makes sure they have their doggie fix, staring at me until she falls asleep. All is well.

They settle in at their place in Orvieto, we all have pranzo together next door, and we leave our friends to drive home for a nap, under growing cloudy skies. Dino is thrilled to have his new iPad and iPod and Kindle, purchased by him online and delivered to us by our friends, along with my sewing machine attachment. We really appreciate it.

Enzo the idraulico calls just as we've settled in for a nap, and arrives to tell us our water pressure problems are still not completely fixed, but gives us a temporary fix until he returns on another day with a part. That means several days, but no matter. We trust him, and are happy to be here.

The tomatoes are all doing fine. Unfortunately it appears that several days of storms are on the horizon...We have a lot of trouble connecting to the internet.

We so love it here and are happy to be home.

May 19
Skies are clear and temperatures are mild, so after a quick breakfast I work in the garden, clipping roses and pulling weeds. Sofi gambols about nearby, and all is well. Dino sets up his new electronic devices. He so loves his toys!

After an hour or two, he asks me to take it easy, so I return inside to catch up with you and to email two friends here to ask them if they will translate the paragraph into Italian that the American Consulate requested yesterday. We'll then take that to Viterbo early next week to obtain a new permit to stay for me. I must admit I feel like an indentured servant, but Dino takes good care of me.

Rest In Peace, Donna Summer. I loved her record, "Hot Stuff"; it always made me want to disco dance. I've confused her with another Diva, Darlene Love, who appeared on the David Letterman Show on the last day before Christmas each year, singing her wonderful "Christmas: Baby Please Come Home!" How I love those Divas!

Speaking of hot stuff, I'm slowing down, no longer able to rock at the fevered pitch of my twenties. No matter; I can still rock it in my dreams, darlin'; in my dreams. It's good to be a sognatrice (dreamer), for I can still imagine wonderful sights and memories and dream all the day long.

There is an Italian company called Mamma Mia! It makes prepared pasta dishes, and their products are really delicious. Today we enjoy cannelloni with spinach and ricotta filling, easy to heat in the microwave for four minutes. I add more Parmesan cheese before cooking it, and serve it with prosciutto and melon.

Skies cloud over and rain is on the way. I've not sprayed the roses recently, so it's a waste of time this afternoon. Better take a nap instead.

May 20
We awake to rain, and it is just as we expected. It's not a lot of rain, but skies are dreary.

We drive up to church, and I am the only member of Coro in attendance today, of the eleven of us! I do admit that we are avid church goers, and it would take quite a bit for either or both of us not to attend each Sunday.

Livio takes his time passing out the programs containing the service and the music, and by the time he hands one to me, the service has begun, and it is too late to sing the first hymn. Sigh.

I am able to lead the music and singing for Communion and at the end of the service, and Dino tells me I did well. Va bene. That's kind of Dino. It was good to be there.

We drive to Il Pallone for caffé and shopping, and run into Papa Tiziano, who is there to shop. We called him earlier to say that his name was in the paper for leading a nearby archaeological tour and he laughs; the tour was this morning and he was called only this morning to be asked why he was not there! He had no idea there was such a thing happening, telling us with a smile that the group was fine but not well organized.

Back home, I'm going to make my version of chicken soup for Dino's cold. It has chicken broth, pieces of chicken, Arborio rice and Swiss chard, together with a separate broth of lemon juice and eggs. Dino raves about it, and afterward tells me it causes him to sweat, which is good. It does not do the same for me, so I'm thinking it's truly a good cold medicine.Speriamo.

We do the dishes together and then take a dolce fa niente (afternoon nap), and it is a long one. Sleeping the afternoon away and reading are on the agenda.

I awake to check in with you just after reading about a political situation in the US that is very upsetting. It's the newly watered down Violence Against Women Act, and you probably know all about it. I'm certainly not against men; moreover, I believe that every person should be treated with respect. So abuse of the powerless is wrong, wrong, wrong. Please don't stand for it, and if you agree with me, make your voice heard. Thanks.

May 21
Almost all stores in Viterbo are closed on Monday mornings, so although I'd like to go, hope we'll wait until this afternoon or tomorrow. Perhaps I can convince Dino to work with me on the bathroom ceiling and walls. They need a cleanup and another layer of paint.

It rained and rained all last night and we wake to a soggy morning. After a while it clears some, and by the time we're driving to Viterbo, we can see evidence of blue sky behind masses here and there of dingy gray. It's a good sign.

On this busy morning, we arrive at the Questura and after an hour or so; the lovely officer who always waits on me takes the documents she earlier requested from Rome. She then tells Dino she needs a copy of his Italian Citizenship Passport. I wait inside while he has copies made downstairs, then she tells us to wait at home: someone will call us. That's it...or at least we think that's it. So I am, or are soon to be, an appendage of Dino's. Let's hope for him that I am not an albatross!

Since my pending citizenship status has not changed, this is a separate item, or we think it is separate. Let's hope I become a citizen before the five years are up (gulp).

We bounce around picking up a few items at UniEuro, return the SKY box, pick up another, and then drive home, for pranzo and a long nap. Dino stops at Stein's and whatever he needed to fix has been taken care of, so we're invited for a brindisi (a toast of Prosecco) tomorrow night, Titten's last night, and all look forward to that.

I spend some time working on painting Cesar's eyes, and they are better, but late afternoon is no time to paint. The natural light at this time is not great. Time to relax downstairs for the evening.

May 22
Kate wants to visit KLIMT, the art supply store in Viterbo, but she and Merritt have no idea how to get there. So Dino to the rescue; he arranges to meet them at the turnoff for little Mugnano and hands them a map, so that they can find their way back home afterward. With the internet (Yay! Al Gore!:), it's easy to put in a destination and a starting point and print a map with directions.

Dino then leads them in little Giallina, and although it's overcast and raining, I'm sure they'll all find the place soon. I have things I want to pick up at KLIMT, this time paint to use on glass, but there's no need to pick them up today. I have so many more projects here at home that I can flit around like a butterfly from one thing to another, having a great time, not needing anything to keep me busy for weeks.

Sofi remains content to be by my side, curling up in her little wicker bed like a croissant. I'm not sure if she's sleeping or just waiting, but think she's just waiting, for when she's asleep she makes little noises. I so love her.

We're to eat involtini for pranzo, and it sits ready to cook in the frigo, so I spend more time painting Cesar's eyes and the rest of his face this morning.

I find it strange and wonderful that after letting the painting sit overnight, it seems to change in a positive way; not at all like the Picture of Dorian Gray. I look over at it while I catch up with you and his features have begun to come alive. What a joy it is to paint a face.

I've ordered a book online about portrait painting, for I'm mostly self taught, and this time want to understand reflected light as it's bounced off a person's face. Sometimes I figure it out; sometimes I don't. Let's find out from a master how it's done, but I don't think I'll ask Ben Franklin or Leonardo DaVinci, although I'd love having them around...

We visit Stein and his guest, Titten, for we're invited for a drink in Stein's wonderful house. Sofi loves Stein, and loves all of us, so it's a fun visit, including plenty of luscious strawberries and other fruits and cheeses and prosciutto. The weather is still damp, so we sit in front of a lovely fire.

Stein will be here for another month or more, so we'll surely see more of him. We're so happy that his health is fine again. Titten leaves tomorrow, but we look forward to her next visit. Speriamo.

May 23
With the beginnings of a sore throat looming, perhaps from Dino's cold, I ignore the signs and walk out to the garden to check on what's happened during the recent rains.

With a greeting to my sorella grande (big sister, Rosina), I try to weed in the graveled area below her balcony. But this is a project waiting to be analyzed and attacked with fervor. The dreamer in me sees the two large rectangular stone carvings just waiting to be used as little bench tops. We have plenty of tufa blocks as supports, and as soon as we clean up the area of roof tiles and Stefano's scaffolding, there is a perfect spot directly behind the serra to make another little outdoor room with stone seating. How sweet it will be to sit there in summertime.

Our outdoor space has many rooms; many more than inside. This morning, Rosina asks me what is my intent this morning. I tell her it's to pulire (clean...in this case weed). I can tell she appreciates that we work in the garden quite a bit. It adds to her view, so come no?

I walk inside to find Dino, and bring him over to the space to tell him what I have in mind. He's a project "guru", and instantly dons his project manager hat. I tell him that now there is too much earth under the gravel in that area and suggest that we remove the gravel and the right amount of earth, build up the area so that it's flat, add nursery cloth and gravel, then make one step to delineate the area from the rest of the garden in that part of the property.

He agrees, but tells me we must clean the gravel before using it again there. Yes, that makes sense. This summer, expect to see another project finished. Magari!(If only that were so.)

What is especially wonderful about the space is that there is an ancient, possibly Etruscan, cave (not more than two meters deep behind the pillar) and feeding trough there. Imagine cows and pigs snorting away on this very spot many hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Phew!

This is the area where Gianfranco installed the old tiles and covered the pillar for us with stucco. Years ago before we lived here, he fashioned a bare tufa brick pillar there to hold up a room that he extended above it, with the agreement of the former owner, but without a permit. He did the work for us last year to help him to apply to the Comune to make it legal.

Now that we have installed a light inside, the space is lovely at night, and will be especially so to sit and enjoy a prosecco on a warm summer evening with friends. Come no?

Yesterday, Dino agreed to reapply to ENEL to have our electricity moved. We've done this before, with no positive result, but this time have new ideas to simplify the project, especially since two properties to the left of us facing the street have no above ground wires and have evidently applied to have the wires buried some time ago. Our view is lovely and will be even more so without that one telephone pole and extended wires. Stay tuned.

After breakfast, Dino leaves for Tenaglie, for our friends have noticed paint flaking off the back of their house and he'll oversee the project to fix and repaint it. Since Dino has a number of resources in the area, he'll enjoy this.

Back at home, I catch up with you and return to Cesar's painting, having some disagreement with David McEwen's drawing of how his nose and mouth need to be drawn in. This is a painstaking process, for even a millimeter can make the difference between the real image and an awkward one.

It appears his head looks better facing toward us just a millimeter or more, and sometimes the brush takes over, determining the best angle. I'm showing just a bit more of his mouth and teeth, and that's where it becomes especially challenging. After about an hour my head feels a bit cloudy, so let's stop and see how the painting changes this afternoon.

The little guy speaks to me, as if from his subconscious, and my subconscious seems to speak back to him. So let's let them talk for a couple of hours or more and see what happens. What a joy painting is for me! I seem to delight in the tiniest things. Perhaps I see something of the soul in him. He is a kind young boy and always seems happy. But now the angle of his body will need to be changed a bit, too.

Am I beginning a headache and cold? Let's ignore it, at least for the morning. The weather forecast has changed for the better here, and the only showers on the horizon are for next Tuesday; otherwise it is clouds and sun, with higher temperatures and higher humidity. Let's not forget to spray the roses this afternoon. For now, breaded chicken is on the menu. Let's fix pranzo.

After pranzo and a long nap and a DayQuil cocktail for an emerging cold, I see an article on line by Maureen Dowd that is worth reading, especially if you care about women's rights:


I'm not suggesting that you agree or disagree with her, or with me, but it's a good column for debate. I'm all about respect, especially a woman's right to choose. The Catholic Church takes a strong stand against a woman's right to choose, unless it is in their direction. What do you think?

I think that I am a good Christian, and a good Catholic, but wonder how my beliefs stack up in the real world, especially since I don't agree with some of their beliefs. This is not a good forum for either of these subjects, but I hope that bringing it up gives you pause to think about what you do believe, and why. It's good to take a step back occasionally to think about the bigger picture of life. Do you agree or disagree? I'd like to know what you think. Thanks.

I'm feeling a bit groggy, even though there is blue sky outside and the prospects for good weather here are all around. I'm not about to garden tonight.

Instead, I look over at Cesar's face, and like the painting now turned a bit closer to the viewer, although he continues to focus his gaze to my left. Each day he looks a bit more real and I enjoy the effort more. One day I'll have Cesar look at his image and see what he thinks. He's a sweet boy, and hope he likes it.

May 24
It's Thursday, and a beautiful day at that. With temperatures rising higher than they have at any time this year, I sit outside in the sun for just a bit; because there's no possibility of a peeping Tom looking down or over at me, I'm down to my underwear to get my first rays of sun for the year. I still have a bad cold and am loaded up with DayQuil, so after a half hour or so I give in and return inside.

On my mind has been dear Peppe's email after reading the latest post. He can't seem to find Astor Piazzolla's "Oblivion" anywhere, and I've written about it haunting me in a captivating way. So I look it up, and think the version I heard was by Miles Davis, but can't find it, although I can find my favorite album of his, Sketches of Spain, which is a knockout!

While bopping around on the internet (Hi, Al!), there is a nomination for the saddest song in the world. Here's what one person selects:

Stephen Giles: "My nomination is Astor Piazzola's 'Oblivion.' The bandoneon is gloriously anguished in its expressiveness; and in the hands of Piazzola, one is swept along the boulevards of Buenos Aires to a place of existential angst."

Sorry. I can't translate the word bandoneon for you.

"Gabriel's Oboe" from the film The Mission is another haunting piece, but I'm still trying to figure out if Piazzolla's influence is somewhere in Davis' Sketches of Spain. Can't find it.

I do find a CD named "Chris Botti Impressions" and buy it online, for Oblivion is on it and there is other interesting music as well, and violins are included in the instruments used. But even better, I look it up on YouTube and listen to the piece by lots of different groups.

For a full orchestra, listen to A. Piazzolla 'Oblivion' - Wurttembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn and no, you don't need to know how to spell it...just cut and paste it, silly. Another choice here: Joshua Bell plays violin with a person playing an accordion. Until about ten days ago, I had no idea an accordion could play such sophisticated sounds. This one is luscious.

A little request (ha!)...When they bury me, please play this over my grave.

Yikes! My eyes are heavy and it's time for a nap. Hope I did not make you sad.

May 25
Ignoring my cold, I wash my hair and we take off for Viterbo for a doctor's appointment for Dino. Dottore Stefano Bevilacqua is indeed a fine doctor. Even better, he studied at Yale and speaks perfect English, so describing ailments is quite easy. We are so fortunate.

I take a book, and Dino has his Kindle app, so we read while we wait an hour for him to arrive, although we are the first patients he'll see. Regardless of the timing, he takes all the time he needs to be sure that Dino gets what he needs. That done, we leave and do errands, then stop at the farmacia for prescriptions before driving home.

Dino stops at the geometra's office, and asks if we can build a little casaletto on the far property. Perhaps. He is also told that what he needs today for a client will be emailed to him shortly. Magari! It's now two hours later, so perhaps he'll send it by the end of the day. Speriamo.

Dino calls and the paperwork is ready, so he drives up to the geometra's office to pick it up. He makes copies and will meet with the muratore and May this weekend, while she is here. It will be great to see her. Hope Olaf is with her.

Dino feels better; my cold is about the same. I try NyQuil before going to bed while Dino stays up to watch a movie.

May 26
Tax implications for ex-pats and residents in Italy will have serious implications for all of us under Prime Minister Monti's cabinet. Here's a general idea of what to expect if you live here:

IMU - This is our old friend ICI under a new name. The change comes in force from January 2012. This municipal tax will now be due on all houses, including main residences, prima casa, holiday homes etc... That means if you own any property in Italy you will now need to pay the new IMU. The rate of tax on a prima casa is 0.4% of the valore catastale of your house. These values are themselves set to rise by 60%. The rate on second and further houses is set at 0.76%. However, these are only the national rates - each Comune has some leeway to vary the rate as it sees fit.

Alert for all those with Italian residency with property or financial interests overseas. The Italian tax authorities have introduced two new taxes on overseas assets: one is on property, so is bound to catch any foreign nationals who maintain properties "back home". The rate of tax is 0.76% of the value of the property, either as stated in the purchase documents or, failing this, at market value. This means that someone with a house which they bought for the equivalent of €150,000 will be required to pay €1140 a year for the privilege.

A second similar tax applies to any financial assets held abroad - e.g. shares, bonds, even savings and current accounts. These will be taxed at 0.15% on the value of the asset in the current tax year. Again, a person holding a nest-egg of €150,000 in an overseas account will be required to pay €225 to the Italian tax authorities.

As the taxes are retrospective in effect, they already apply to 2011 and will therefore be included in the next tax return due in June this year.

IVA - another increase is on its way. IVA will rise to 23% from the second half of next year. The 2% rise will also apply to the 10% rate.

Tax on luxury - not a major worry for all of us, but if you do happen to own an airplane, helicopter or particularly flashy car, the Revenue is planning a special tax just for you.

Petrol - no surprise to anyone, but tax on petrol is due to rise from January 2012.

Limit for cash payments - something of an inconvenience for many. The maximum amount of cash you will be able to pay (or receive) in any transaction is to drop to euro 1000, forcing most people to take out credit cards.

Pensions - there will be an increase in INPS contributions for the self-employed (non-mutuati, INPS commercianti, INPS artigiani).

Tax advisors will be busy this year, reconciling the new rates for their clients. We'll have to line up to figure ours out. Sigh. Let's see what our Comune (Bomarzo) has to say about local taxes...

This afternoon is a concert in the Orsini Palazzo in the borgo, and we'll surely attend, with Sofi here to guard the house. What a good doggie!

I'm feeling a bit better, and the sunny sky above beckons me. Time to sit out and read a bit, don't you think? While checking out the wisteria, I see old Italo walking with a cane and call out to him. "Sempré forte!" I call out, and "Forte, Papa!" is what he responds with a laugh. His laugh sounds like, "HA!" Yes, just like that. What a dear man.

Dino draws out May's plan for her casaletto, especially since the geometra told him that she can have an additional window. How wonderful it will be for her! Dino has sent her a message, and hopes to hear back from her soon, so that they can have a meeting while she is here.

I look over at little Cesar, and now wonder: do I have him looking too far left? Since he's facing quite away from us with his head turned partly in our direction, how far does his body need to turn? Let's study the photograph again, but not now. It's better to let that sit and spend a bit of time in the sun.

So about the studio, where I sit now to catch up with you: Is it chaos, or merely full of lots of projects, many in midstream? I so love them all: sewing, drawing, painting in oils, writing, dressmaking...

With Terence and Angie and the girls coming here next June, we are all searching for good airfares; but there are none just yet. With the dollar doing better against the euro, perhaps it is better to wait.

Skies cloud over, so will we have thunderstorms this afternoon? Showers are expected. There is a concert at Palazzo Orsino and I'm sure we'll attend, although I'm tired and would just as soon skip it. Let's see what Dino thinks. We do attend, and it's quite good, but very, very long (3 hours, including a talk by an author of a local book, who is quite knowledgeable).

This Sunday, also known as tomorrow, will be the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Dino and I took the walk to the Bridge on its 50th, and there were so many people that the bridge flattened out, which was a scary thing, but there were no problems. Wish we were in San Francisco right now, to celebrate with our family, but we'll encourage them to go. They're probably already planning to attend any festivities.

May 27
Overnight, a headache turned into a migraine, so intense that Dino tells me to stay home instead of going to church with him. I agree, changing ice packs for my head, taking difmetre in the hopes that it will change what is going on with my head.

Dino attends mass, and everyone is aware that there are no Coro members today! Don Daniele is not happy, and Dino tells me he leads the congregation in singing even more verses of hymns than usual. I don't judge the other Coro members, but wonder why more did not attend, especially since they are almost all in the village. No matter.

Dino returns after I get up and shower at 11 A.M., feeling a bit better. We have an early pranzo, so that he can watch his beloved Formula-1 race in Monaco on TV, uninterrupted. He grills cheeseburgers and they are at one messy and delicious, cooked perfectly and juicy.

I spend the most delightful time in the conch shell, with a pillow for my head while I read. The sights and sounds and lovely breeze are heavenly. Birdsong is everywhere, but nowhere is it angry or combative. Or at least that is what I think.

I'm reading Thomas Hardy's Desperate Remedies, and enjoying it quite a bit, although wonder if I am in a fog because of the migraine or if I am just in heavenly bliss about this place. It is truly a dream to be here.

I read in the NYT that divorce is rampant in Italy, but here is one case that seems absurd, courtesy ABC News:

A 99-year-old Italian man filed for divorce from his 96-year-old wife of 77 years after he found letters from an affair she had 60 years ago.

The man, identified in court papers as Antonio C., discovered the letters exchanged between his wife and a former flame in an old chest of drawers days before Christmas, according to the Telegraph . He confronted his wife, Rosa C., who reportedly admitted to the affair, and tried to convince him to stick with their marriage.

But despite the nearly eight decades that they spent building a life together, a scorned Antonio C., moved ahead with the divorce. (Guess he never heard of "let bygones be bygones.") The letters were the latest woes in the couple's long marriage during which they had five kids, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild together, according to UPI.

Originally from Sardinia, Antonio C. reportedly met Rosa C. in the 1930s while he served as part of the Italian in her native Naples. The Italian press pointed to the couple's southern blood as the catalyst for the breakup, the Telegraph noted.

Once Antonio and Rosa C.'s divorce is finalized, they will become the oldest divorcees, according to the Telegraph, taking the title from fellow Brits Bertie and Jessie Wood, both aged 98, who called it quits in 2009 after 36 years of marriage.

There is a lot of news in Italy to report on an ongoing basis, so if you're interested in all of it, perhaps look up the ANSA site on the internet. I only include a few items here that I think might be interesting or fun or could be of interest if you're coming to Italy for a trip. Here is a bit more:

ANSA.it > ANSA English > News
Baby gets world's tiniest artificial heart in Rome

First operation of its kind 21 May,

(ANSA) - Rome, May 21 - Doctors in Rome have successfully implanted the world's smallest artificial heart into a 16-month old, reports said Monday. The operation, the first of its kind, used an 11-gram device to simulate heart palpitations before a real heart was later transplanted last month. The child is reportedly in good condition.

> ANSA English > News
Italian beer getting just desserts at home and abroad

Big brands winning fans overseas, craft-beer scene thriving - 02 May, 14:29
(ANSA) - Rome - Italians are not famed for being a nation of great beer makers or drinkers.

But Italy's brewers have developed a proud tradition of producing fine beers over the last 200 years which is finally getting its just desserts at home and abroad. If you had asked people what their favourite Italian drink was a few years ago, for example, the most popular tipples would have been a drop of Chianti or Barolo, or perhaps a tot of a spirit like grappa or amaretto.

Nowadays, the answer is increasingly likely to be an ice-cold glass of a beer such as Peroni, Nastro Azzurro or Moretti. On the home front, Italy's rich variety of crisp, refreshing pale lagers is even starting to rival wine as the nation's most popular accompaniment when Italians dine out.

Indeed, beer is neck-and-neck with wine as the favourite choice to go with dinner at weekends, according to Italian beer-producers' association Assobirra.

And around two-thirds of that beer is made in Italy, says Assobirra, whose members produce 98% of the nation's brews. The international success story is impressive too.

Spearheaded by Peroni, which was taken over by London-based brewing giant SABMiller in 2005, Italian beer exports have doubled over the last five years.

''For over a century our light lager with a relatively low alcoholic content has accompanied the Italians and this type of beer continues to be the most popular with them,'' said Assobirra Director Filippo Terzaghi.

''But we are pleased to see that Italian beer is increasingly becoming synonymous with lager abroad too. ''Our companies export over 1.7 million hectolitres a year, twice as much as five years ago, and it's being appreciated more and more in nations with great beer traditions - Great Britain, France and the Netherlands in Europe and countries like the United States, Australia and South Africa further afield.

''We hope this trend can continue''. Foreigners are probably most familiar with brands such as Peroni and Nastro Azzurro, which belong to the same group, and Moretti with its distinctive label featuring a mustachioed Alpine gent in a hat.

They are all smooth, well-balanced drinks, but there are plenty of other fine ones to enjoy. Menabrea, produced at the northern town of Biella in Piedmont, is one of the best with its distinctive, slightly sour aftertaste that has helped win it a host of international prizes.

Another top northern beer is Forst Premium, a zestful brew that its producers from the mostly German-speaking South Tyrol near Austria promise ''offers a sense of freshness and joie de vivre''.

Other great lagers include Trieste's Theresianer Premium, Sardinian brew Ichnusa and Friuli-Venezia Giulia's Castello. All the aforementioned beers are pale lagers, but Italy also produces a big range of dark 'red' lagers that have a stronger, more bitter flavor and higher alcoholic content.

Examples include Moretti's La Rossa, which has a caramelised flavour and the aroma of roasted malt, and Forst's Sixtus. Italy has a thriving microbrewery scene for those seeking something different too.

Good Italian craft beers include Almond 22, whose flavor is enriched by honey and spices, the Baladin company's Isaac and its punch-packing Elixir, and the herb-hinted Admiral, one of the highlights of the range served by the 32 Via dei Birra brewery.

Views of beer are changing so much that some Italian chefs are encouraging Italians to drink it with more dishes than its traditional food partner here - pizza.

''I often recommend a lager for cold, more delicate dishes, especially when it's hot,'' said Sandra Salerno, a personal chef and foodblogger. ''It can stand up to being paired with salami, Parmesan and other rich cheeses.

''I tell the skeptics to try it with artichokes, squid and shrimp and then see what they think''.

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Rome's famous gelato finds new ways to tease the taste buds

Italian capital is heaven for ice-cream lovers

(ANSA) - Rome - Dripping with chocolate, covered with strawberries or laden with cream, there is a gelato to tease the tastebuds of every ice-cream lover. It's no surprise to learn that thousands of foreign tourists who come to Rome take time out to scour the cobbled streets of the Italian capital in search of the perfect gelato.

Historians seem to be divided about whether it was the Greeks or the Egyptians who pioneered the icy delight. Some even claim that Alexander the Great had holes dug along his ancient battle routes that were then filled with snow and fruity flavors, while the Chinese are rumored to have had their own version of flavored ice.

But most experts agree that the Italians have perfected the art of gelato making and have exported their expertise around the world. Giolitti (Via degli Uffici del Vicario 40, near the Pantheon) was established in 1890 by Giuseppe and Bernadina Giolitti and is a Rome institution. After three generations it still delivers the same authentic flavors today and attracts thousands of children and adults.

Among the gelateria's legendary ice creams is the Coppa Giolitti, a sinful blend of chocolate ice-cream, custard and chilled zabaglione, all topped off with cream and hazelnut shavings. The more eclectic customers can be seen mixing classical flavours such as rich stracciatella with a scoop of lemon or chocolate combined with strawberry.

Across town exhausted tourists leave the Vatican Museum and line up outside The Old Bridge (Viale dei Bastioni di Michelangelo 5, just off Piazza Risorgimento). This tiny gelateria makes truly delicious ice-cream, dishes out generous, creamy portions of caramel, nutella, coffee, pine nuts and refreshing fruit - all for less than two euros. And, since it's made with cream and not milk, it won't even drip.

The highly-recommended La Gelateria dei Gracchi (in Via dei Gracchi 272), offers luscious combinations such as peach and fig, apple and cinnamon as well as pear and ricotta cheese. An alternative to the traditional aperitivo is their popular Cubano, made with rum and chocolate ice-cream. The popular Italian food guide, Gambero Rosso, recommends La Gelateria del Gracchi as well as Il Gelato (Viale dell'Aeronautica 105) in the EUR district in the south of Rome.

The latter offers over 100 flavors, even catering for those with more exotic taste, offering eccentric tastes such as celery and peperoni or an espresso and sambuca ice cream. In the trendy San Crispino (Via della Panetteria 42) back in Rome's historic centre tourists will find no cones as the ice cream is always served in coppe, or cups. Service isn't always with a smile and it's a little more expensive, but it is a still a legend and prides itself on its quality and home-made ingredients. Established in the 1800s, it is said that the preparation of the ice-cream still follows the secret traditions of an ancient recipe once popular with the 16th-century Italian noblewoman and French Queen consort, Catherine de Medici.

Al Settimo Gelo (Via Vodice 21, close to Piazza Mazzini) produces a range of exceptional ice creams and sorbets. Sorbet flavours include chestnut, date, mandarin and even hibiscus flavours. Apart from their popular tiramisu and a Sicilian cream gelati, this gelateria creates chilli chocolate, bergamot, ginger and cardamom flavours and an unusual Iranian ice-cream, made with saffron and rose water. The Gelateria Artigianale Corona (Largo Arenula 27, Piazza Argentina) is also regarded as an ice-cream innovator serving refreshing scoops of lemon and basil and even biscuit flavors.

For a taste of Brazil, you can try their Pitanga, made from bittersweet Brazilian fruits or their dark chocolate gelato, made from Amazon nuts.

Other popular gelaterie include: Vice (Via Gregorio VII 385) specialising in ricotta, orange and chocolate mixes and Fata Morgana (Via Lago di Lesina 9) with its irresistible Muller Thurgau wild strawberry and Kentucky chocolate (sprinkled with coffee, liquorice and tobacco) flavours. According to the Istituto del Gelato, a staggering 95% of Italians have a soft spot for their national dessert, and 56% confess they eat it at least once a week in summer. In 2010 some 589 million portions of take-away cups and cones were sold throughout Italy (an average of around 4 kilos of ice cream for every Italian), with more ice-cream sold on Sunday than any other day of the week.

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Alfredo's, Rome eatery with heroic past, delicious present
Owners helped Jewish families during World War II

Bottom of Form (ANSA) - Rome - Italians named Alfredo often hear the glib exclamation Fettuccine! when they introduce themselves to foreigners, especially North Americans.

Alfredo Di Lelio, a Roman chef and restaurant owner from the early 1900s, may not have invented pasta al burro (pasta with butter), but his interpretation, the iconic Fettuccine Alfredo, carries his name and has been savored worldwide since the 20s.

Millions of recipes are floating around, including one in the classic US cookbook Joy of Cooking and many believe that the creamy sauce is an invention of Italian Americans. ''Not so,'' the current owner of Rome's famous Vero Alfredo restaurant, Isa Di Lelio, granddaughter of Alfredo I, told ANSA.

''My grandfather Alfredo's pasta, made even richer with three parts butter instead of two, was prepared for his wife when she was pregnant with my father, before he added it to his restaurant's menu in 1908''. Yet Alfredo's rich and nutritious creation went on to feed much more than his wife and the paying public.

''We went underground in 1944 when occupying forces in Rome began to round up Jewish families,'' one of those people, 84-year old Donatella Limentani, told ANSA. ''We had no game plan, no extra food supplies, we just knew that our only chance to live was to go into hiding''.

Alfredo's son Armando, later known as Alfredo II, was a long-time friend of Limentani's uncle Bruno and did not hesitate to help the family, along with many others in need. ''The risks were not only imprisonment, but torture and even death. Regardless, they made sure we had food,'' recalled Limentani, her voice wrought with emotion after more than 50 years. ''In the worst of times, they may have only had two spoonfuls themselves, but one went to us''.

Before the war, Armando and Bruno had been the classic, bon vivant friends, arm-in-arm, reveling in the finer side of Rome's social life. It was, after all, a time when Hollywood stars flocked to the city and entertainment poured from the city's many venues.

As early as the 1920s Hollywood personalities began to frequent Alfredo's. Among the first were Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, who gifted the golden fork and spoon to Alfredo that have now become part of the restaurant's logo. Upon returning to Hollywood, they gushed about Alfredo's culinary finesse so much that the restaurant became a ''must do'' on the list of stars and VIPs visiting the Eternal City.

Some 90 years later, the significance of the golden cutlery has become even more symbolic. Eliana Pavoncello, daughter of Donatella Limentani, told ANSA: ''I had been working with the restaurant for events, looking at the logo every day and seeing their cutlery, then, one day at my mother's.

''I realized that the knife I was about to set the table with was the same design as the one used at Alfredo's - identical to the original gift from Pickford and Fairbanks,'' she said, smiling. ''It was like a bulb lighting up. One of the cornerstone symbols of the restaurant came from my grandparent's store, Limentani's.

''Our families were somehow bonded even before they knew it''. To celebrate the daily sustenance they received as children in hiding, then 14-year old Limentani and her seven-year-old brother wrote a rhyme they would sing when their aunt Margaret would return from Alfredo's restaurant with their daily bread. ''It is a children's song,'' she reminisced. ''But it was part of our ritual that kept us hopeful. It let our minds feel free... hunger is a physical sensation, but also the lack of freedom was insatiable.

''In a time when it was hard to know who was truly your friend the proof of one family's friendship came to us every day wrapped in a checkered table cloth''. Di Lelio said simply that: ''my father was a generous person. I am moved by stories I hear about him to this day''.

Fettuccine Alfredo is a ubiquitous part of Italian cuisine worldwide. Just as the restaurant on Piazza Augusto Imperatore, with its volumes of guest books and snapshots of stars, politicians and personalities spanning 10 decades, is engraved into Roman culinary history, so will Alfredo and son remain in the unwavering memories of the families they helped save.

Rhyme by Donatella Limentani while in hiding, 1944: Dring Dring Dring Di chi e' la suonatina Che sentiamo ogni mattina? E' la tua Margaretina Con la borsa col faggoto Tu di corsa entri in cucina E ci porti da mangiare Con amore Margaretina.

Translation: Jingle jingle jing Whose is that ring... We hear every morning? It is yours, little Margaret. With your purse and tiffin... you rush to the kitchen, and you bring us our food. With love, little Margaret.

Illegally Obtained Church Documents

(ANSA) - Vatican City, May 25 - Sources confirmed to ANSA Friday that the suspect arrested for allegedly leaking illegally obtained reserved Church documents was Pope Benedict XVI's servant Paolo Gabriele.

The Holy See's spokesman said earlier Friday that a suspect was being questioned by Vatican magistrates. Earlier this year the Vatican was hit by a leak of sensitive Church documents to the Italian media, who dubbed the scandal 'Vatileaks'. The documents included letters to the pope and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone from the Holy See's ambassador in Washington, Maria Vigano, who was the deputy governor of Vatican City when they were written. The letters contained allegations of corruption in the management of Vatican City.

ANSA.it > ANSA English > News
Mafia will come to an end, Napolitano says

President in Corleone for slain trade unionist's state funeral>

(ANSA) - Corleone, May 24 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said Thursday that he believed the mafia would not be around forever. "We never thought that the mafia was finished, but we think that it will be," said the head of state. He was in Sicily for the state funeral of Socialist trade unionist Placido Rizzotto, slain by the Cosa Nostra mafia in 1948 for fighting for land reform. >

Rizzotto's remains, which were identified in March, were discovered in 2009 in a cave outside Corleone, a small town near Palermo notorious for mafia activity and made famous by the Godfather films. Napolitano was in Palermo Wednesday for the 20th anniversary of anti-mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone's death.

Back here on earth...

Roy meets with May Elin and her sons and the muratore (contractor, usually mostly a stone mason) about a project in her garden, and it takes quite a while, but they come here for a brindisi (toast of prosecco) afterward. Her sons and grandson have something less bubbly, and it's good to get to meet them. The grandson is full of fun and tries to play ball with Sofi. It's a sweet visit.

Our dear friend has asked me to weigh in on design issues and ideas, and it will be fun. I'll do it as a gift of love to her. She is a very kind and gentle woman, whose friendship I cherish.

May 28
We pick up another dear friend, Stein, aka Pietro, and drive with Sofi to Norcia, stopping first in Ferentillo so they can take a tour of the preserved mummies (I'm not kidding) on display there while Sofi and I wait in the car. I took one look at them years ago and ran out of the place in horror. Today, a woman takes the men around for a tour, and they don't have a chance to leave before she is finished.

I try to research the story I wrote a few years ago and can't find it, so perhaps it was not published. Stay tuned.

I do know that the mummies were preserved naturally and are on display in a museum there. You can look it up thanks to Al Gore, of course, who we all know invented the internet magari! Or if you subscribe to Italian Notebook, you'll see my original story soon.

From Ferentillo we drive to Visso, where Stein and I enter the church to see a magnificent image of San Cristoforo, perhaps twenty feet or more in height. Stein is quite amazed by the image, and I'd like to share it with you, although I think we have also shared it several years ago when first in the church.

While Stein and I are visiting the church, Dino and Sofia go for a stroll. Dino has a thing about clocks with Roman numerals (note the 4), but has never seen both Roman and Arabic together.

This one (two) is on the City Hall. He supposes it is so more people who are "clock challenged" can tell the time!

We drive on to Norcia, which is a wonderful place to visit, and the center of truffle hunting in Italy. Dino hates truffles, but there are many stores selling salamis and prepared meats and cheeses all over town.

We have made reservations at the Granaro del Monte restaurant, where Dino and I have eaten before, and meet the owner, Anna, who treats us royally, especially when she realizes I write a popular journal of our lives here.

This is Umbria's oldest restaurant, dating back to 1850,The hotel, Palazzo Seneca, of which the restaurant is a part, is a member of Relais & Chateaux, and we're given a royal tour, so impressed with its rooms as well as its food.

Follow this link to find out more about their hotels and restaurants:

Sofi has stayed in the car, so Dino picks her up while Stein and I wait for them with a young man in their sales department, who shows us around some more. It appears we ate at the normal restaurant, which, as Umbria's oldest restaurant dating as far back as 1850, is used to serve busloads of visitors.

Dino knew enough to ask to be seated in the smaller room where the forno a brace (open grilling fireplace) is located. In customary fashion, I am seated with my back to the wall, for I do have a suspicion that I was a member of the mafia in a former life. How strange is that?

The drive home appears much shorter, although we have traveled across the bowl of the region, where in a few weeks wildflowers will cover the hillsides and valley. Cornflowers and poppies and little yellow flowers are everywhere along the side of the road.

We doubt if we'll travel there again when the flowers are at their peak; that is, if my citizenship does not arrive in the next couple of weeks. I have promised Anna that we'd return to celebrate, and indeed we will magari! Keep your fingers crossed.

Dino noticed this cheese in the window of a shop, but was fearful of trying it in public...

Sofi is very happy to be home, and so is Stein, whose company we so enjoy at any time. So is Dino, who, although he loves driving, admits today's jaunt is a bit much.

May 29
Happy Birthday, Mom. You would have been 99 today.

Here in Italy, we have been called from the post office to say that something is wrong with the package sent to the grand daughters for their birthday. Dino drives to the post office to straighten things out. Oh. There was no list of items inside. Let's hope it arrives there soon. Bravo, dear Dino.

Sofi has a rumbling stomach, so chicken soup is on the agenda. She hid under a bed earlier, but now stays by my side as I write. While fixing pranzo for us, she rallies, full of life and happy to eat the tiny pieces of chicken and broth in her dish.

It's sunny outside, and now that my extended migraine headache is a thing of the past, at least for now, I'd love to be outside getting some color on my sick looking face. I manage to sit there for a snooze for about twenty minutes. There's always something to distract me.

I've been studying Cesar's face, and glazing techniques, thinking I'll do a bit of glazing to see if I can change the muddy tones to more clear ones. I'd love to become adept at that. Why not?

Yesterday, Giovanna came by to tell me there is a Coro cena on Wednesday, and I respond, "Grazie, ma no." I don't enjoy the meals, for it's not fun for me, so why do it?

She tells me she does not want to attend either, so worried is she about Nicola, her brother, who had an advanced stage of cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy and luckily he does not look much different, except for some gonfia(swelling) on his face. I send our good thoughts to him through her.

Dino returns, and just as we are sitting down for pranzo, Enzo arrives to tell Dino that tomorrow's cena is for the most recent Festaroli group, as well as for the Coro, so Dino tells him we'll surely attend after all. Oh.

Later, after a nap, Dino drives to Tenaglie to meet with an idraulico (plumber) about a stopped up drain, while Sofi and I continue to snooze and dream.

We have not felt any aftershocks from the earthquake near Parma, but some say it is the strongest quake in centuries. I wonder if it is the ghost of my dear mother, shaking things up on the 99th anniversary of her birth, hopefully smiling down at us.

Emails come in from friends in the U.S., worried about us. No need to. Everything's fine here. We're even expecting a thunderstorm tonight or tomorrow. Is it my dear mother in heaven, still loving to shake things up? Hi, Mom!

May 30
With earthquakes continuing across Northern Italy this past week, emails come in from friends to ask if we are well. We are fine, with nary a noise or bump in the night here. Friends in Parma, however, are fearful of what might come their way. We email them to send our hugs and wishes for their safety.

We hear back from Ivo and his family that they are all ok, but are frightened. Let's be hopeful.

The Italian government has declared a state of emergency in the quake area and set June 4 as a national day of mourning. In addition, an extra two-cent tax will be added to gasoline to help finance the recovery effort, a statement said.

During the night, many nightmares shook me, including a sequence of bad dreams in which I found myself to be a woman wearing a headscarf, living in the Middle East and a prisoner of sorts of society. Was it my subconscious, or was it the series of earthquakes and aftershocks North of us?

I've been wondering if the subject of my first infatuation while a freshman at Thayer Academy, Art Assad, could possibly be related to Bashir Al Assad of Syria. I couldn't imagine it; Art was the kindest possible young man. So what is this Bashir all about? Will he be the cause of military intervention by countries around the world who value peace but defend Syria's people from oppression? The country's people need our prayers.

Here in little Mugnano, fog gives way to sun. Unfortunately, I have another migraine, so take a medicine cocktail and a cold shower to hopefully banish the heat waves rising from my head.

By 10 A.M., skies are clear, my headache a bit better, but I'm going to refrain from sitting in the sun. In an hour or so, I'll readjust Cesar's angle, facing him closer to us, so that more of his right cheek and a bit of his left front shirt show. It's a good thing I don't have a deadline, for I will continue to work on his skin and expression until I am satisfied. Only then will I work again on the flowers themselves and the background, which will include the tufa wall to his right, facing us.

Is it time to show you the work in process? Come no? Hopefully you'll realize there is a lot left to bring to life.

With rain on the forecast off and on for the next week or so, no wonder I have a migraine headache. Let's hang out and read and put painting off until this afternoon at least.

Dino leaves to meet Merritt and go to a Notaio with him in Terni. Dino can now sell the property for Merritt on his behalf. Email us if you want to know more about this sweet property for sale.

Tonight we drive to Soriano to Taverna dei Frati for pizza with the combined Coro/Festaroli Committati (Choir and village party committees for the 2011-2012 year), of which both Dino and I are a part. It's an apt way to end the month.

What I did not expect was that the smokers of the Coro convinced me to join them outside near the end of the meal, and gave me a cigarette. They all agreed that my not smoking was indeed the reason I have not been granted citizenship, for it is very Italian to smoke. Boh!

Since I was quite mellow at the time, although I do not smoke and think I am allergic to smoke, I did relent, and even did a dance while they all laughed at my antics. I'm a bit chagrined to say, here I am:

Here is a photo of the group as we end the night. I thought it was the end of the month, but there is one more day to go.A domani...

May 31
Fog greets us on this, the last day of May, 2012. I'm thinking practically as I lie in bed, planning to get up. Perhaps today we'll work on the bathroom, doing a major cleanup and paint, as well as get rid of things we've stored in the bathroom cabinets for years and never used.

People who advise hoarders tell them to go through their things and get rid of things they haven't used in one year. I make up two bins: things to definitely throw out and things for Dino to check; then donate or throw out. Have I ever used a sample given by a store? Hardly ever...

I've finished my part, then return to catch up with you and see that the fog has cleared completely outside the studio window. Neighbors are droning on with their mowers. We don't complain; they keep the neighborhood looking lovely.

Dino shows me the photos from last night and we agree that one of me has a striking similarity to that of my mother when she was about my age, including my hairstyle. I do think of her lovingly, recalling how sad she was that my earlier life was full of challenges. I can say on this morning that it was worth it, painful though many situations were. Life for us is very good for us now; more than that, it's wonderful.

I need to write down some information to give to Don Daniele about me; he promises to call someone to find out why my citizenship has been stalled for more than a year, as though the file has been overlooked or misfiled. I'll give it to him on Sunday, and so appreciate his offer, no matter the outcome.

Dino helps me and we finish the document, then lay it aside to bring to church on Sunday. Earlier today, we cleaned out the cabinets in the bathroom, and many of the things we've stored there are thrown out. It feels good!

With a Facebook note from niece Sarah I'm so pleased she is staying in touch, even though I don't care much for Facebook, liking the intimacy of email more. No matter. I love her photos and quips about her own little world.

Right now, just after pranzo, it's time for a nap. That extra rest and a bit of sleep these days really keep the headaches from gaining intensity. Since I'm a dreamer, afternoon naps are actually fun.

Right now I'm surrounded by birdsong right outside the studio window. Wonder if those tiny brown birds with white face markings ever get laryngitis? Earlier, two sat on a telephone wire and stared back at me, without making a peep. Wish I knew how to say hello so that they would understand how much I appreciate them.

And so the month ends, peacefully and quietly. Hope it's been good to you.

Hey crows - stay away from my peaches!!

Dino saw this sign the other day at ENEL, the electic company. He was pleased that it appeared that they were embracing all of we stranieri. He asked the agent helping him about it, who said that the sign has come in advance of the capability! ?? Viva Italia!

June 1
A bit of fog greets us this morning, surely to dissipate soon. With the idea in my mind of working to repaint the bathroom ceiling and upper walls this month, we dress for breakfast in our usual casual garb. There's no reason to fret...about anything.

We drive to Viterbo for a number of reasons, the first of which is to buy supplies for me to use to paint on glass. We've been saving attractive glass bottles and I'd like to see if I could add a bit of my own painted design on them, to give as gifts.

At KLIMT, we are given a bit of counsel and pick up a brush, several paints and a glass dish to use as a first attempt. I'd love to teach the grand daughters (and yes, they are grand!) how to do this when we are in San Francisco with them in November. Come no?

We also drive to OBI, where we buy a bottle of acidy-liquid to use to break up the concrete backs of a few previously painted tiles. I've already set aside tiles for three tabletops, to be used as end or coffee tables; that is, when we find legs and a tile base for each of them.

Your eyes may glaze over, but I am excited at the seemingly never-ending plethora of fun and somewhat artistic projects ahead of me. I do love doing things for others. Oh. Cesar looks out behind my left shoulder as if he thinks I'll not return to painting him on a nearby canvas. I surely will.

Dino picked up information in Viterbo regarding taxes that all people residing in Italy will need to pay in June. He thinks we can figure ours out without meeting with a commercialista (tax accountant). Speriamo. We do have a commercialista we trust, and will visit him if we can't figure the tax out ourselves.

June 2
It's Festa della Repubblica today (after 85 years of Monarchy, Italians voted to become a Republic on 2 June 1946), so Dino hangs out an Italian flag. Wonder if anyone else in town is doing the same. No matter.

We look over a number of hand painted ceramic tiles, figuring if we'll make tabletops for them. Many I don't want to use, and am happy to give away. For the ones I/we like, we study taking cement off the back of a few that we tried to use a year or so ago with no luck. We do a bit of scraping, and that works better than the product we purchased at OBI yesterday in Viterbo.

This morning we drive to nearby Asti & Fallimenti(Overstocks and Bankruptcies) for a table base or two for the tiles, but find nothing. We'll drive to Deruta next week. There, someone will certainly sell just what we need, for Deruta is home for the best ceramics and ceramic artisans in this part (if not all) of Italy. We put the tiles away in a secure box, giving us room again in the summer kitchen to work on other projects.

Outside in the front garden, I see butterflies of one type. perhaps it's just one farfalla (butterfly). Here is a photo. If you know what kind of butterfly it is, do let us know. Thanks.

Elsewhere, Sofi gambols about, rummaging here and there for lucertoles (lizards). She stays by my side, running inside whenever I do. Yes, she's my little pal, although someone commented the other day that she's a bit small to be considered my "shadow".

It's a grilled burger day, American style, for pranzo, and I make a big pot of pasta salad, to make the meal a bit Italian. Dino likes his mushy, so we add more mayonnaise and vinegar to suit him. I don't especially enjoy it, but as long as he's happy, I'm happy.

Time for a nap? Tonight we drive to Tenaglie, for the three of us have been invited for cena at Merritt and Kate's.

It's a lovely evening weather wise, and Merritt and Kate's house is perfect for enjoying a lovely evening under the stars. I did not remember how very beautiful their view is.

Sofi is treated like a princess, with lots of hugs and kisses from Kate, and big smiles from Merritt. The food is fine and plentiful and it's wonderful to see how much they are enjoying their house here. In a few years, they expect to stay here for half of each year or so, which should be fun for them, since Merritt has chess buddies here and has a better grasp of the language and Kate will have more time to experiment with her art. We're happy for them.

What's missing for them here is that they have not used their pizza oven, nor do they know how to prepare and cook pizza. So we set a date of next Wednesday evening. I'll prepare the pizza dough the night before, Dino will stop by in the late afternoon to help Merritt get the fire started, then we'll return later and supervise the two of them doing the work themselves, so that they'll learn how to do it when they are by themselves or with other friends.

I'll also give them the recipe for the pizza dough, but it's too complicated to do it all at their house for their first attempt, since the beginning of the process takes place the night before, with the dough sitting in the frigo all night.

June 3
Don Daniele is not in church this morning, for Don Angelo is here to celebrate today's mass. We drive the document to his house in Bomarzo and drop it off in the mailbox, making sure our cell phone number is included. It will be interesting to see if he really does call his friend and what transpires. Right now I'm just Dino's appendage, with the right to live here for five more years. I'm hoping you won't have to read about this for much longer.

We drive to Il Pallone for caffé and then food shopping, while Sofi waits for us at home, where it is much more comfortable for her. Outside there is quite a breeze, although the temperature is warm.

At home we turn on the TV, where in London Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee (60 year reign) with thousands of folks from all over the world. Later this afternoon, after our naps, we'll watch the ceremony itself.

I remember being 6 years young at my grandmother's apartment when the young woman became queen, but don't remember if Nana had a television then. How exciting it was for me, even then. I am sure that I couldn't help thinking about what life would be like if I were a real princess.

The English are a stalwart bunch, for it is pouring rain as 1,000 or more boats straddle the River Thames, with the grand queen watching from a boat with her closest friends and relatives. Dressed all in white, she is quite glorious, appearing a bit overwhelmed but thrilled with all the pomp and ceremony.

June 4
The day begins quite cloudy, and we are expecting rain. Surely I'll paint Cesar today.

In the studio, I study the boy and determine that I have angled his left shoulder incorrectly. So after moving his left arm about on the canvas, I stop to research some painting books to determine how to draw/paint his right shoulder in the background when looking toward the left.

I find a painting online by Salvator Rosa, Lucrezia, at a similar angle, and her right shoulder does not show at all from the front. What's interesting is that her facial pose is almost the same as Salvator's Self Portrait, but he is obviously sitting facing just off to our left.

Let's do some more research. If you want to follow along with me, a recent iteration of Cesar in his painting appears near the end of last month's journal posting. Is he looking too far to the left for his figure to look natural? Is that my main frustration? Let's find a couple of good examples to follow. I'm pretty sure I can find something in one of my books.

David rings the bell, and needs some help with May's project. He and Dino drive to the Comune in Bomarzo, and while he's at it Dino will check there for the IMU tax we are to pay this month. It's a new tax, and part is determined by the State and the other amount is determined by the Comune, so let's ask them directly!

Francesco at the Comune helps Dino regarding a new property tax, and figures out that we owe €00! Even though a lot of people are looking at a tax increase this year, the new law provides a substantial deduction for Primary Residences and that is why we will pay €00 this year. Surely we can afford that. For our friend's project, Dino receives more information and emails her back with it.

I've found what I think is a wonderful drawing tutorial of the human body online and have ordered it. It may take several days or even weeks. No matter. In the meantime, I experiment with Cesar's shoulder line and place it further back than before and voila! it looks great. Since I had moved the angle of his face a bit, of course it makes sense that his bodyline would also change.

Thunderstorms are expected tonight, but I see beautiful blue skies and white puffy clouds. Is that possible?

June 5
It's a lovely morning, with no sign of thunderstorms, nor do I think they rained down while we slept. We're early for my pedicure, but I am the first client, so Giusy takes me right away. Later in the day I notice a place on one of my big toes where a tiny bit of polish has been rubbed off. Darn. Will anyone notice? Will I return to have it fixed? Don't know...

Earlier, we stopped at Vivai Pinzaglia and picked up ten small petunia plants for the front terrace, in white, rose pink and dark purple. We'll plant them tonight when the temperature is cooler.

Birdsong is everywhere, and it is loud! Down the street, there is a clanking noise, and it is a muratore crew, putting up scaffolding to re-stucco Guistino's building. He's been dead for years, but a relative owns it now. We'd love to see the side facing us re-stuccoed; it's looked ugly for decades, we are sure. The first time we looked at it in 1997, it looked the same as it does now. Later in the afternoon, there are signs of scaffolding as far up as the third level, but no workers. Perhaps tomorrow.

Dino calls Merritt, to remind him that he can cook the bread he wants to make on Wednesday, after we've finished using the pizza oven to cook the pizzas. It appears he had not considered the timing of his bread nor of purchasing the flour and lievito (leavening). Now he knows.

We're unable to find the zucchini flowers I'd like to use to make the one pizza we'll prepare ourselves to bake. Tomorrow we will surely be able to find some, or if not, I'll come up with another idea for pizza toppings. I'm preparing the dough for all the pizzas, too, and will bring that, along with the recipe for making the pizza dough when we drive there tomorrow night.

Our role tomorrow night will be as teachers, guiding them in the actual work. Since they have the pizza oven, it's time for a new Italian experience that they can relive over and over year after year.

Dino tells me he had a dream that we showed up at their house to find lots of people standing around, all waiting for their pizza! Our thinking is that there will just be four of us. Let's hope that will be the case...

Soon after we arrive home at about noon, Enzo the idraulico (plumber) arrives to check out the work he will do on the water tank behind our house. He'll not stay, but wants to see the area where he will work. He'll return later this afternoon.

Sofi knows him, and he's always kind to her, but she is angry and tries to nip at his heels, just the same. I take her inside with me; perhaps we should have warned her that someone was coming. Dog Whisperer, where are you?

We've just begun our afternoon nap when Enzo returns, and Dino watches him work while I take a nap and read a bit. It does not take him long to finish, and perhaps now the water pressure in the shower will function better. Speriamo.

Dino draws out the plan for May's property again with the changes, and since it's not even 6 PM, I decide to paint a bit, at least figuring out where Cesar's shoulder should be placed.

This is as good a time as any to write again about our feelings about the stress level of friends and relatives who don't live here. On a drive with Dino I notice men riding on tractors, taking their time on the roads while they enjoy the country view, as if they're on horses. There is a sense of place here that Italians seem to have in abundance. No matter that people in fast cars may have to slow down when following behind them on these curvy roads.

When we're asked why we live here, it feels as if the person asking us is just waiting for us to smile that contented smile and reassure them. Reassure them? Their expressions mostly seem wistful. I'm not feeling smug, just a bit sad that not everyone is willing to live his or her dream, no matter where it takes him or her.

Do the skies seem bluer here? Do the white clouds seem to dance more above us? Or is it our viewpoint? Do write and ask us about it if you think you'd like to take a step our way. We're happy to help.

In a while, I'll take out the lievito, put it in warm water, let it sit a bit, add the flour and mix it, then put it in the frigo until tomorrow afternoon. Dino tells me that we'll take our pizza making tools with us, for he's pretty sure that our friends have nothing to use to put the pizza in the oven or even to roll out the dough on a non-slippery board. Good idea!

With the dough mixed and sitting in the frigo, it's time to turn in. The moon is so full tonight it seems as if it's about to explode, but it is beautiful. I've been thinking and thinking about young Cesar, and hope that tomorrow I'll figure out his arm's relationship to his head as he looks off behind me to my left. It's looking much better already.

June 6
I'll be able to stuff the flowers before we drive to Tenaglie tonight. Good news!

Today I've only to make the béchamel sauce and stuff the zucchini flowers with buffalo mozzarella. Tonight half a slice of anchovy will be placed to the side of each flower in the event the person who is eating the slice does not like the taste of anchovy. We think the pizza taste will be a bit mild without the little bite that the anchovy provides. Perhaps I'll add finely chopped garlic to the béchamel sauce. Good idea!

This first of the night will be a pretty pizza, for the creamy colored béchamel sauce is a lovely background for the ten zucchini flowers, and the thin slice of anchovy (slice a fillet down the middle the long way and use one half for each flower) next to each flower adds just a touch of drama. Sam, a friend of Merritt and Kate's, will be there as well, so each pizza will supply two pieces for each person.

Changing gears here; while out in the garden, after clipping spent Lady Hillingdon roses on the front path, Dino and I agree that we need to find a substitution for the roses on the path, especially since we no longer use the front gate. We'll come up with some easy thing to plant there against the long wall instead this fall. Any ideas what we can use there? Do let us know. Thanks.

Soon, we'll also dig up all the iris bulbs on the path, separate them to make even more flowers and plant them somewhere up on the property where we can enjoy them. Life is all about simplifying our tasks and enjoying life as much as we can. Come no?

I've been thinking that the beautiful yellow color of the loquats on those two messy trees can be put to better use, so research and modify recipes both for Loquat Crumble and Loquat Upside Down Cake. I'll fix and doctor them for you later this month, while so much of the fruit is still ripe. Speriamo. Peeling the outside of one and sucking on the fruit, throwing out the seeds, reminds me the fruit is mild and delicious. I offer to prepare a dessert for tonight, but Dino discourages me. Va bene. I already have plenty to do.

New friend Sam drops by for a quick visit, with his sweet female dog Alicia, for he's going on a trip in a week or so for a few days and has nowhere to leave her while he is gone. We offer to let her stay here, thinking she'll be a good pal for Sofi, and when everyone is here the dogs appear each in their own world, pretty much ignoring each other after the first sniff or so. What more could we ask? We all agree that the dogs will be fine together and that it will be a good temporary place for Alicia to spend a day or two sometime in the future. We'll also see Sam tonight.

After pranzo, Dino drives to Tenaglie to coach Merritt and Kate on firing up their pizza oven. There are no tools there, so he brings ours, and perhaps will be given the task of buying a set for them to use when they are here.

Sofi and I remain here, and I even work a bit on Cesar's painting. I've stuffed the zucchini flowers and sent them with Dino along with the pizza dough in four balls left to rise a bit before we turn them into pizzas. We think our friends haven't a clue about what to do tonight, so it will be interesting to guide them, as we watch them try.

I recall what it was like the first time we tried to make pizza dough and cook pizzas in our pizza oven. These days it's pretty easy for us. For them, we see it as an integral part of their Italian experience, one it's special to have under their belts.

There's béchamel sauce to make, with butter, flour and milk, but we don't have a lot of milk so I'll try to cut the recipe down. Speriamo. I find just the right recipe, and the béchamel sauce comes out fine, with enough to use for another pizza of theirs, as well as the one we will make. We have all the ingredients for our pizza ready to go, and pack them in the car, along with all our pizza making utensils.

The three of us drive to Tenaglie, with Sofi welcomed with big hugs from Kate and smiles from Merritt. After Dino works on the fire a bit and I help our friends in the kitchen, we wait for Sam to arrive.

A number of the items they have purchased to be used for pizza toppings won't work just as they are. What were they thinking? The zucchini and onions and mushrooms are still in the bags from the store. So after my encouragement, they wash the vegetables, then slice them and sauté them on the cooktop. It's fine, for Sam has not arrived yet.

Sam and his lovely dog Alicia arrive, and I give the men the task of setting the nearby table. They had planned that we'd eat upstairs, but we convince them otherwise. The up and down and in and out of it would be too chaotic; the pizzas too cool once everyone sits down to eat. We commandeer a table from the garden, move the chairs, and about an hour after we had thought we'd begin, we begin.

Dino stays at the opening of the oven, preparing the wood and coals for the arrival of the pizza. Luckily, Merritt had already cleaned out the oven. At a pizza night, it's imperative to have everything ready before cooking the first pizza, for it only takes a few minutes at most for the "firing" of the pizza. We had also brought some wood, and wind up using about half of it. It was a good thing we did, for the oven is still not quite hot enough.

I take out one of the four dough balls laying under cling wrap, flour the bread board and show them to hold the ball with both hands, as if they're at 10 and 2 o'clock. Imagine doing it yourself, with your left hand at the 10 and your right at the 2 of an imaginary clock.

Slowly, I act as if I'm massaging the dough, moving each hand in turn to the 12 of the imaginary clock. The dough stretches as I guide it; then I place my fists, one by one, under the dough to stretch it some more. It's time to lay it on the board and work it out with the rolling pin until it is quite thin, Roman style, turning it over and adding a bit more flour now and then to keep the board from sticking. I make sure there is plenty of flour on the surface of the rolling pin, too, before I begin.

Just before turning the dough over for the last time before it is topped and slid into the oven, I spread a bit of semolina (polenta flour) on the breadboard; it will wind up on the underside of the pizza. This gives the pizza a bit of added crunch and helps it to keep it from sticking.

With the dough now fully prepared, I brush half of the béchamel sauce on top; then place each flower down with its bulb end near the center of the pie. There are five of us, and ten zucchini flowers, so each person will be served two flowers. Imagine the flowers fanning out from the center, equally spaced, with a piece of anchovy in between. Plenty of grated pecorino cheese is sprinkled on top. I then lift up the front corner and slip under a bit more semolina, to help ease the paddle underneath.

It's Dino's turn, and everyone stands back to give him room to maneuver the long handled paddle. I stand next to the pizza pie, for it may need a bit of help. Together, Dino and I ease the pizza onto the top of the paddle, for the entire pizza does not land entirely on the paddle with his first slide. Perhaps the ingredients have made it a bit heavy. Now it's perfectly placed.

Dino backs up, slides the paddle quickly into the mouth of the oven, and once he has reached the spot where he wants it to cook, he jerks the paddle back and the pizza remains on the oven floor. Perfect!

We have a tool with a curved top, and it is used to move the pizza around inside the oven when needed so that all parts cook evenly. Everyone takes his or her turn watching the process, with the wood continuing to burn to the left of the pizza. All is well.

The pizza slides out just fine, it is moved to a board to the right of where the pizza is prepared, and Dino uses his pizza cutter, cutting the pizza into five pieces, with two flowers for each person. Since the table is so close, we serve everyone and sit down to eat subito!

That was the easy part. Now Kate and Merritt take their turns, with Merritt taking a very long time to eat his pizza, as though he's postponing his job as long as he can. I can't blame him. It can be daunting.

The three balls of dough are rolled out and fixed with their ingredients by Kate and Merritt, one by one, as we stand back and let them enjoy themselves on center stage. All three pizzas are delicious.

Kudos to Merritt for his handling of the pizza paddle; he moves it as if he is an expert, swiftly and sure of himself. Kate, to her credit, begins to relax and laugh along with us, decorating the pizzas and commenting all the way.

Remember when you make pizza yourself, that it's all about having a good time. Don't take the process too seriously. What's the worst that can happen? If all else fails, Sofi waits nearby, happy to scarf up any ingredients...

Sam has brought dessert, and we've had plenty of good red wine to drink with our wonderful meal. The evening comes to an end as we pack up our tools and drive home under a beautiful full moon. Yes, it's been another Italian adventure.

June 7
After breakfast on this lovely morning, we decide to drive to Deruta to find a source for steel table making. We have plenty of hand painted tiles that will work very well in the garden for end and coffee tables.

It appears I am too optimistic. We search every source we have and come up empty, so drive to dear Lorenzo to ask him to make a table base for a low table to support nine 15cm tiles on top. It's not inexpensive. So we ask him to make one as a campione (sample or champion) and he's backlogged; it will be weeks before we move to the next step. Let's not fret.

Next week we'll take a trip to Rome and perhaps can find some place there where we can purchase the table bases. Now if only we knew where to look...Our last hunt to people who cell ceramic tiles in and around Deruta came up empty.

June 8
I look in the archives to find the day we met little Sofi, and it was June 16, 2003. She was actually born on the day after our robbery 9 years ago. To say that something good always comes out of something bad, that is surely an understatement!

So when will we celebrate her birthday? It appears we already celebrated it last month, although her godparents, Frank and Candace, were not here for the pizza party in her honor (see the archives for last month). So we'll celebrate again after we pick up our dear friends from the airport in Rome next week. Good idea.

That thunderstorm that was promised has not appeared yet today, although there is plenty of wind. Dino drives off to shop in the late afternoon, for tomorrow is Corpus Domini and we have invitations for both Sam and Lisa's housewarming in the early afternoon and Cena at Vincenza and Augusto's. There'll be no need to cook anything special for days...

Earlier Sofi and I took a walk in the middle garden and saw almost no cherries. From my archive search a while ago I saw that cherries arrive in early June. No wonder. Why didn't I check the first time we saw them in the stores? It did not dawn on either of us, so there'll be none of that great sour cherry preserves this year, and no work. Yes, that's a smile on my face.

June 9
Happy Happy Birthday to our dear nipotini Marissa and Nicole in San Francisco. They are 8!!! today and are camping with Mom and Dad at Fallen Leaf Lake, near Lake Tahoe.

Other than that, we have no memory of what we did today other than Dino watching the Formula 1 Qualifying in Montreal on TV.

But we do have this photo that we took the other day ....

...is it waiting for a farmer to rest his weary bones, or is looking for a new home?

June 10
It's Corpus Domini, and although I'm a member of Coro, I have no idea what I should wear to church. I'd love to wear a cool white linen dress. So I do, and everyone wears different colors, so it's not a problem. I become a focal point of Coro, for I might as well be an altar server; my dress is to my ankles, reminiscent of a Middle Eastern merchant, but all in white, with tiny pleats and tiny covered buttons on the front. There is a laugh here and there, but I decide to stay where I am.

On the altar, little Andrea is the altar server, along with the young novitiate and Don Daniele. This little one is quite serious, and Dino takes a few photos of him. His mother, Laura, who is in the Coro with me, wants a photo of him standing straight. So Dino complies after the service: Here he is:

There is something different, a bit special about this lad. I think he sees life a bit differently than the others, and look forward to seeing him as he develops his personality.

The service and procession are lovely, although there are only about 30 people in the procession. I suppose with 80 residents here, the number is about right. It seems small to me; usually many relatives congregate here in summertime; we're interested to see see how the numbers of people change as spring turns to summer.

After the procession we run into Tiziano, Alessia and the 6 month old twins:

.. and the Gasperoni nonni!

We walk home, greet Sofi and feed her, for soon afterward we all leave to meet Merritt and Kate and lead them to Sam and Lisa's mini housewarming. There are just six of us adults, plus two dogs, but all is well, and we enjoy the tour of their wonderful house and getting to know them better.

By the time we leave a few hours later, we've agreed that Sam and Lisa will stop by our house on their way to the airport on Tuesday. We think our pergola and wisteria will be good additions for them to consider on their property, which overlooks Alviano Scalo, the calanche (eroded cliffs), and could use some shade in the afternoon.

It's time to return home for a nap, for tonight there is a cena at Vincenzo and Augusto's. Sofi will stay at home later, where we are sure she will be more comfortable, and we won't have to worry about her.

After Sofi's cena and a bit of fun, she hangs out while we walk up to Vincenza and Augusto's for a meal of our own, joined by dear Peppino of our village. Vincenza is a wonderful cook, and has prepared a stuffed and rolled sliced tacchino (turkey) with herbs inside. Served at room temperature with a warm broth of the meat's juices, stuffed zucchini, string beans and plenty of salad, then her own plum torta. For the first time in memory, we are able to converse in Italian with our dear friends and actually understand almost all of it. There are no pregnant pauses, and for that we are grateful.

No one treats us as the stranieri we have always felt we were...that is, until Dino became an Italian citizen.

Yes, there is talk about my wait for citizenship of my own, and a laugh or two about my present status as Dino's appendage. Ha! If you recall, Dino filed for me to be his dependent for five years, during which time we surely hope my citizenship will come through. I sometimes feel as if I should be wearing a burka, but fa niente (no matter).

We walk home under a lovely moon to a joyous Sofi and turn in for the night.

June 11
Today is the day we drive to pick up our dear friends, Candace and Frank, who arrive from San Francisco in the afternoon.

This morning, we garden a bit, I give the tomatoes in the serra (which will go to them) the last of their water from here. They've been lovingly cared for and are ready for planting. Candace will be so relieved.

We find ourselves on the road driving across country to the coast, and then south from there. On the way, we stop for panini (sandwiches) at an Autogrille, and then spend a bit of time at the two shopping centers near the airport. We pick up a pair of sandals for me that add a couple of inches to my height, and it's a bit strange for me to not look up at dear Dino as if he were a giant next to me.

There are a couple of places at Fiumicino airport where we can park for free for thirty minutes at a time, so we do just that and take a few spins around, until we hear that Candace and Frank are on the ground.

We walk inside the terminal, which Sofi loves. Everyone is greeting each other and the scene is festive, so she does a lot of tail wagging. Our friends arrive and then little Sofi is over the moon happy to see them.

We take our friends home to Orvieto. Their renewed automobile insurance permit has not arrived, for it's not fun here to be stopped without current papers. Tomorrow we'll bring the tomatoes and the current insurance certificate, which should come to us by fax or email in the morning. Speriamo.

June 12
On this lovely morning, clouds move by above us as if they are on a rolling conveyor belt. There is plenty of wind outside, and the gauzy curtains in the studio dance around in front of an open window. It's too windy to put the tomatoes outside for Candace and Frank. Once the renewed insurance certificate arrives for their car, we'll print it out for them and take everything to them in Orvieto, including their car.

There's no time to paint, although Cesar seems more real by the day. Soon, very soon, I'll be back painting him on the canvas.

In the meantime, it's time to think about summer sagras, those wonderful evening meals highlighting a special town and a special ingredient to eat. Here are just a few examples: carciofi moretto (specializing in an heirloom variety of artichoke), focaccia, marinated eel, ciliegia (cherry),castrato (castrated veal) ouch!, torta al testo with all the fillings imaginable, tagliatelle with mushrooms or truffles, and after the end of summer, Stufato di Cinghiale or wild boar stew, a fall favorite. There are many, many more. Just look for signs along the road announcing when and where they are and what the featured food will be....

We receive a call from Stein, midmorning. Dino took him to the train station in Orte earlier, and now they are stopped at the station in Poggio Mirteto. The train has broken down, which means no trains will be able to travel south past there until the train has been repaired purtroppo! (too bad)

Dino determines that it would take almost an hour to get to them in the traffic, then an hour and a half to take them to Rome from there, so they'd miss their flight back to Oslo. He calls Stein back, to hear that the train is now moving.

Living in the Italian countryside is not for everyone, for in characteristic fashion things sometime move strangely slowly here. Take things with a grain of salt, roll with it, and you'll do just fine. I think people may live longer lives here in the countryside, for no wonder. But in large cities, even in Italy, perhaps there is more stress. For us, we would not live anywhere else, although we do miss our family in San Francisco a lot.

Speaking of San Francisco, here are a couple of photos of our grand daughters, Marissa and Nicole, wearing some of the French birthday garb we picked up especially for them on our last trip to Southern France. The sunglasses are a particular favorite. We'll SKYPE with them soon to hear and see more. Enjoy!

Here's some recent news:

ANSA English News -
Another quake in Emilia-Romagna after death toll rises to 26 -
No major damage in 4.5-magnitude earthquake near Ravenna
(ANSA) - Rome, June 6 - Emilia-Romagna remained on edge on Wednesday when another big quake hit the northern region on the day after the death toll from two earthquakes last month climbed to 26.

Wednesday's 4.5-magnitude quake, the epicenter of which was near the coastal city of Ravenna, woke many people up in the region in fear, but no major damage was registered.

The death toll from the May 20 and May 29 quakes rose from 24 to 26 on Tuesday when two people died of the injuries they suffered in them. The quakes have left thousands homeless and brought the region's economy to its knees, with the damage estimated at around five billion euros.

Trevi Fountain loses pieces from façade - Rome mayor looking into sponsors for restoration

(ANSA) - Rome, June 11 - Water infiltration from last February's snowfall and spring rains have caused damage to Rome's famous Trevi Fountain that lost several small pieces off its façade over the weekend, Rome councillor Dino Gasperini said. Gasperini said that there was nothing "worrysome" about the slight damage and that the stone laurel leaves that fell from the top frieze would be restored soon.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said on Monday that the city is looking into the possibility of a sponsor to cover restoration, as was done with the Colosseum and other archeological monuments of the city.

The Trevi Fountain was imortalized in Fellini's classic film La Dolce Vita in which Anita Ekberg cavorts with Marcello Mastroianni in the fountain.

Berlusconi, codename 'Betty', a 'father figure' to showgirl -
Witness says she was being groomed for politics
(ANSA) - Milan, June 8 - A woman who attended one of the alleged sex parties hosted by Silvio Berlusconi testified on Friday to referring to him as codename 'Betty' on bugged phone calls and said the ex-premier was grooming her for politics. Responding to a prosecutor who played back police wiretaps, showgirl Barbara Faggioli said that "shoes" was code for money and "Betty" was code for the ex-premier.

"Berlusconi always gave me help as if he were my father," she said, referring to money and rent payments he made for her Milan apartment, "which he still makes today," she added. Berlusconi is currently on trial for allegedly paying for sex with an underage showgirl named Karima 'Ruby' El Mahroug, a Moroccan-born runaway, after several of the parties at his villa at Arcore outside Milan and allegedly coercing police into releasing her after an unrelated theft claim to hush up the fact.

Several young women have testified to being offered money and to witnessing groping and stripping at parties Berlusconi has called "elegant" affairs, similar to "burlesque". Faggioli said that he gave her jewelry, such as the necklace she was wearing in the courtroom Friday, which she said was a birthday gift.

"It's just the way he is, he is very gentlemanly," she said. But she denied that such gifts to her and other women were payment for sex. Faggioli also said that sex acts never occurred in the so-called 'bunga-bunga' room in his villa, which had a dance pole. "We danced and sang, there weren't any stripteases, but I saw shows," she said.

Rather than take advantage of Faggioli, Berlusconi was trying to talk her out of show business and into going back to school so she could become a "candidate", she told the court. "He talked about it because the premier believed in me," she said. "It was a future prospect. In the meantime I was attending meetings, even at the regional council with (Nicole) Minetti".

Minetti is Berlusconi's former dental hygienist, who is now a Lombardy regional councilor for his People of Freedom (PdL) party, and is one of three people on trial for allegedly supplying the premier with prostitutes. Faggioli's name came up in a deposition earlier this year when Imane Fadil, a Moroccan model, said Faggioli told her that Ruby "had very compromising videos and photos of the parties".

Fadil also said she witnessed Faggioli and Minetti, dressed as nuns, perform a sort of "sexy dance in the bunga-bunga room," wearing "black habits with a white cross on the headdress". Prosecutors say Berlusconi had sex with 33 prostitutes at his villa over the course of several evenings.

Berlusconi has stressed that both he and Ruby deny having sex, and has quipped "33 women in two months is too many even for someone who likes pretty girls, like me". He claims to be the victim of biased prosecutors who have allegedly been conducting a witch-hunt against him since he entered politics in 1994.

The charge of having sex with an underage prostitute carries a jail term of up to three years, and abuse of office 12 years.

The Ruby trial, which opened last April, is expected to run for years, with dozens of witnesses called by the prosecution and defense including George Clooney and soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.

ANSA English News -
As violence worsens, Italy weighs upping commitment in Syria -
'Self defence' measures on the table, Terzi says
(ANSA) - Rome, June 6 - Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi on Wednesday met with the parliament's joint foreign affairs committees to discuss the potential "genocide" in Syria and the possibility of increasing Italy's role in the UN mission. "The strategy of Damascus risks producing a genocide if there is no swift intervention," Terzi said. "Damascus's strategy is clear: it means to defend its own survival through an escalation, in ever more direct and brutal forms, of terror against the civilian population and by artificially fuelling internal conflicts among the different components of Syrian society".

As helicopters and tanks continued to pound rebels near the Mediterranean coast, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tapped a stalwart from his Baath Party as premier Wednesday in a sign he would make no concessions to the 15-month-old uprising against his rule. Terzi echoed Italy's support for UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan but said he doubted its ability to ensure lasting peace. "We do not have absolute faith that it can work," he said.

"Up until now, the results have been extremely modest". The plan enforced a ceasefire across Syria since April but effectively collapsed at the end of May in the Houla massacre when 108 people were killed, including 34 women and 49 children, who the UN says were "summarily executed in two separate incidents," most likely at the hands of pro-government militias.

Italy wants increased pressure on the Assad regime and has called for an "alternative solution" if the current climate persists and Syrian security forces continue to violate the ceasefire. In the meantime, Terzi said Wednesday that the Annan plan "is what we have and what we need to make work".

He added that Assad and his family would likely play no role in a transition government.

"It's difficult (to imagine) that President Assad, his brother and his relatives could play an acceptable role as part of the opposition in Syria's political transition," said Terzi, who will attend a snap summit in Istanbul Friday with foreign ministers from western and Middle Eastern countries to discuss a strategy for diplomatic transition.

The foreign minister said that the goal was to see a "Syria-led political transition, one that is not imposed from afar, but one that is shared by the broadest spectrum of the Syrian population. In the meantime, Italy is considering increasing its commitment to the United Nations supervision mission in Syria, including the possibility of taking self-defense precautions.

"We are discussing the possibility of strengthening the operation with a larger number of observers with a greater ability to operate in Syrian territory, even with the possibility of self-defense," said Terzi, who stressed the deteriorating circumstances in the country. "The conflict has caused more than 14,000 victims, including over 1,000 children, plus an enormity of wounded," he said, citing "reliable" though not official numbers.

ANSA English > News -
47 Camorra arrests in six regions -
Clan hit in Campania, Abruzzo, Calabria, Emilia, Lazio, Lombardy -
(ANSA) - Naples, June 6 - Italian police on Wednesday arrested 47 suspected members of a top clan in the Neapolitan Camorra mafia in an operation across Italy.

Police said the operation "destroyed the new structure of the Mallardo clan," which had been reorganizing and linking up with other Camorra outfits after a string of veteran bosses were jailed.

The arrests took place in six regions. The suspected members of the Mallardo clan were detained in Campania, Abruzzo, Calabria, Emilia-Romagna, Lazio and Lombardy, police said.

Seized assets included a yacht and a supermarket, totaling about three million euros.

ANSA English News -
Weddings in crisis, priest offers money to help -
500 euros to tie the knot

ANSA - Volania, June 11 - A priest in a small, Adriatic town near Ferrara has offered 500 euros to young couples who would like to tie the knot, but are discouraged by economic difficulties.

Father Giancarlo Pirini, a parish priest in the tiny community of Volania, said that he was surprised when he discovered that the church's registry was half-full even though it dated back to 1955.

Even more discomforting was the continual drop in numbers, from 17 in 1960, down to zero for 2006 and none so far this year.

"I imagine that many young people today want to marry, but hesitate because of financial difficulties," said Pirini.

The idea, said the priest, was not completely his. "I got the idea from another parish some years ago that was offering incentives for baptisms," said Pirini.

Workers can choose honeymoon date says top court -
Appeal from firm that sacked employee turned down
(ANSA) - Rome, June 6 - Italian workers are free to choose the date of their honeymoon and employers can't sack them if they don't take it immediately after the wedding, Italy's top court said Wednesday.

The Cassation Court, whose rulings set precedents, turned down an appeal from a Naples-based aeronautical firm who fired a worker who went on honeymoon 10 days after getting married.

ANSA English News -
Funding shortfall threatens regional trains -
'Only thing we can do is stop service,' says CEO
(ANSA) - Rome, June 11 - Italy's regional train services may grind to a halt next year unless central and local government bodies come up with the necessary funding, the CEO of the Italian rail company warned Monday.

"In 2013, unless the budget is met, we just won't have any regional service," said Ferrovie dello Stato managing director Mauro Moretti. "I don't know what the (transport) authority plans to do but the only thing we can do is to interrupt service.

"We'll be reported to the courts, we'll see how it turns out".

ANSA English > News -
Arts guide: exhibits in Italy
MILAN - Palazzo Reale: Mimmo Paladino, 50 works including 30 large canvases, sculptures and installations; until June 26.

- same venue: Impressionist Masterpieces From the Clark Collection; until June 19.

Museo Diocesano: 'The Eyes of Caravaggio', formative years from Venice to Milan with works by Lotto, Tintoretto, Titian the young artist would have admired; until July 3.

OTRANTO - Castello Aragonese: Andy Warhol, I Want To Be A Machine; 50 works, until September 30.

PAVIA - Castello: Leonardeschi, From Foppa to Giampietrino, 22 works loaned from Hermitage, many of them believed to be by Leonardo until end of 19th century; until July 10.

PERUGIA - Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria: Luca Signorelli, 66 works in biggest show ever on Tuscan Renaissance master, featuring loans from Italy and abroad; until August 26.

ROME - Palazzo delle Esposizioni: 100 works from Stadel Museum in Frankfurt including Tischbein, Corot, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Redon, Munch, Ernst, Klee, Picasso; until July 17.

TURIN - Reggia di Venaria: La Bella Italia, celebrating 150th anniversary of Italian unity; 350 works tracing various ex-capital cities including Florence, Turin, Milan, Genoa and Naples as well as Rome; plus art giants like Giotto, Donatello, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, Tiepolo, Canova, Bernini; until September 11.

VENICE - Ca' Foscari: 'William Congdon in Venice (1948-1960): An American View'; until July 8.

- Punto della Dogana, Francois Pinault Foundation: 'Praise of Doubt', 60 works by 20 contemporary giants including Maurizio Cattelan, Jeff Koons, Jeff Bauman, Adel Abdessemed, Marcel Broodthaers, Dan Flavin, Thomas Schutte and Charles Ray; until December 31, 2012.

June 13
Last night we took the two dozen tomato plants, grown from seed in the serra to Candace and Frank. The insurance permit for their car arrived online, so I followed Dino and Sofi in their car to Orvieto. Once there, we sat around and gabbed, then gabbed some more over plates of hot pasta with carciofi (artichokes), olive oil and parmesan cheese, in addition to glasses of red wine from Frank's store room. It was like old times.

Sofi and Dino and I arrived home later, happy to be home and back in touch with our dear friends.

Intent on finding tax information for the separate plots of land for Stein as well as ourselves, Dino drives to Viterbo this morning, while Sofi and I stay at home.

I'm doing a delicate grooming of the boxwood growing against the front wall, when Cristina arrives for a surprise visit. It's good to see her. We do a walk around, I give her some fallen flowers from the melograno (pomegranate) tree, and we agree that Dino will call her to come for a morning of garden work. With three of us working together in the garden, we're always able to complete quite a bit of work. That should happen very soon.

Regarding boxwood, dearest Sarah Hammond counseled me years ago to groom the boxwood by hand by just pinching the leaves. What has been left after Dino's good hedge clipping are rows of boxwood with burn marks where clippers have clipped off parts of tiny leaves all over the surface of each plant. So now it is my job to go back by hand and remove the partial leaves off each tiny branch.

If I pull the leaves back against the stem, they come off easily. The activity takes a lot of time. That's what we have lots of these days, and doing work in the garden surrounded by birdsong under blue skies and dancing clouds is so very joyous, especially with Sofi gamboling about nearby.

This afternoon, after a nap, we find ourselves back on the terrace, each working on our own projects. I've returned to the boxwood, slowly and delicately snipping off any leaves burnt by the recent clipping. It's very slow work, but on this lovely afternoon, surrounded by birdsong and a neighbor's voice now and then, I'm happy to see the result.

Sarah, you would be proud. There are many boxwood plants that have not been clipped recently, and I will work on them by hand in the next days. I'll try to do so tomorrow morning, catching a few of the sun's rays at the same time, while Sofi gambols about nearby.

Tomorrow afternoon we have an appointment with our new commercialista (accountant), for the new Italian taxes that must be paid this month can be somewhat confusing. We're also going on behalf of friends who live in Norway but own property in our village. Yes, we like to help.

I've reminded Dino again to contact the Dog Whisperer in Viterbo for Sofi, and he does just that, by email. We're hoping he can rid dearest Sofi of her insecurities. We're hoping to see him soon, too.

Otherwise, the days continue to be beautiful, so beautiful, with breezes strong enough to make the cypresses dance. There are so many things to do and it seems so little time. Perhaps it is partly because we have slowed down, or at least I have, not getting stressed about much of anything.

Years ago, a friend remarked: "Don't sweat the small stuff...and it's all small stuff." It's a good perspective, don't you think?

That comment, in addition to my recently adapted refusal to judge my fellow man/woman, certainly has brought joy and a sense of contentment to my life. You might want to give it a try...

June 14
Flag Day - USA!!

With lots of sun this morning, I return to grooming the boxwood on the front terrace, while Rosina (big sister) asks me from her balcony what I am up to. I tell her I am delicately trimming the boxwood and she gives me a blank look, but a smile. We agree that the weather is splendid.

Before 10 AM, our friends Kari and Lief from Bergen arrive for a visit; one that includes breakfast, although they are so modest they tell us they don't want to disturb us. Disturb us! They're on the top of our agenda today...let's celebrate together!

With tasty croissants and American caffé for the three of them and espresso for me, we have a wonderful visit and talk about lots of things. I surely wish they were here more. I'd love to get to know Kari better. She is a dream of a woman. It's obvious that Lief adores her, and comé no?

After they leave we eat an early pranzo of grilled burgers and caprese (sliced tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper). There's still time for a short nap in the cool bedroom before we leave for Avigliano Umbro to meet our commercialista (accountant).

I'm worried about Sofi in the car when it's hot, so she stays inside the cool house when we leave, and seems to be content. Speriamo.

The drive is lovely. We are thrilled with our accountant, and he's not difficult to find. If you know Amelia, drive just past it on the way toward Terni and there is a road sign with a left turn to Avigliano Umbro. He's right past the center of town and speaks marvelous English.

On this day, we determine that he charges too little money for his great service, and try to tell him so. We've recommended him to at least five or six very satisfied couples, and on this day have him do the property taxes, which are due this next Monday for two other clients, as well as ourselves.

At €30 apiece, it's much easier than trying to fill out the IMU long form and figure it out ourselves. The government does not help its residents to do this; they merely expect us all to comply on our own. June taxes are due by Monday.

Here's a photo of our dear commercialista, and when you hire him, tell him we sent you. We're about to send a letter to the owner of his firm to recommend that he give Alessandro at least a bonus for all the new clients he has brought in to the firm. I'll let you know what happens.

In the meantime, if you need an Italian accountant for any reason for your Italian taxes, let us know and we'll forward his information to you directly. Thanks.

The ride over the countryside to Avigliano Umbro is delightful. Outside the town is the site of the petrified forest I've written an Italian Notebook story about:


We don't stop, for we've been there before, and look forward to returning home to dear Sofi, who's been in the cool house waiting for us. Yes, she does a fare una festa (the dog makes a party upon seeing us, aka, gets very excited). We're excited to see her, too!

Dino thinks its time to trade the car in for a new one, and tries to find Mario in the white pages, but his name does not show up. He calls someone in the same town with the same last name and voila! It's his mother! While we're on the phone with her, who should walk in her door but Mario!

Tomorrow we are to meet a woman who wants to sell her house and property in Tuscania, and since Mario is there, too, we'll also meet with him, and probably also meet his mother, after our appointment. We look forward to it!

June 15
We're up very early. Dino waters the tomatoes and finds two pieces of snakeskin when he walks down to water the tomatoes by hand with a hose! Snakes shed their skins each year, as you probably know, but I'm now very worried about Sofi that she'll come across this one. I stay inside catching up with you while Dino is gone, then I sit outside to catch a few of the sun's rays and read while hopefully Sofi does not find anything larger than a lizard.

Dino wants burgers for pranzo, so shops for hamburger rolls with sesame seeds in the next town. In the meantime, I'm on the terrace, grooming more boxwood in the morning sun. It feels great to have some sun on my arms and face, especially with a breeze now and then cooling things off.

With no tomatoes in the serra to water, we've only to monitor the giganti variety in the two planters outside of the summer kitchen. Each day, there is visible growth. This is an amazing variety, so delicious sliced and eaten as they are, or with buffala mozzarella and fresh basil in the classic Italian caprese.

We decide to leave in the early afternoon, so rest just for an hour, then leave Sofi at home where she'll be cool inside and drive to Tuscania, hopefully to find Mario and talk about cars before our appointment later in the afternoon.

We meet Mario, as well as his mother and father, and they are such a wonderful family. We would really love to get to know them all better. A la prossima volta (Next time).

Mario tells us to wait until September or October when new models come in to see if there is Zero financing this year. He does not know. We have a lot of kilometers on the yellow Panda, and perhaps we should trade it in for something else this year. Or not...we don't know. Now Dino wants a FIAT called a CUBO, which looks like a box but he and Mario think will be wonderful for us. Sigh.

We leave and meet a new friend, with a delightful and sun-filled condominium to sell. It is one of six in the building, with three bedrooms and one bathroom plus a very large living room, a new kitchen and enough storage downstairs to possibly set up yet another apartment. Here is a photo of the main gate to the borgo. We see it as a marvelous part time place so close to Lake Bolsena, the beach, lower Tuscany, and just a few hundred meters walk from the ancient borgo of Tuscania itself. If you're looking for an Italian pied a terre, in a great location and a reasonable price, let us know. This may be it!

June 16
We still haven't posted, but not because we did not want to. Our lives are filled with so many activities that it's difficult to stop to concentrate on the posting...perhaps we will later today - or not. Thanks for your patience.

The whirlwind began this morning when we woke up early, put in a load of laundry, drove off to Vivai Pinzaglia to pick up flowers for the planter at the top of the former stairs on the front terrace, drove to Attigliano to shop for pranzo and returned home...then hung out a load of laundry and put in another...all before noon.

Dear friends Candace and Frank call around l'una (one o'clock PM), just as we're eating, and we invite them to come by. They have just visited with our wonderful accountant. Soon they are lost on the way, but do arrive here and we put together something for them to eat while we all gab away.

Once they leave, we take a short nap, then Dino drives to Il Pallone to shop, for we'll be taking Sofi to her "dog whisperer" tomorrow after church and won't be able to shop for groceries then. Do you know that hardly any grocery stores are open in Italy on Sunday? This one does a landslide business, and no wonder!

Have I told you that on our drives in the countryside here I feel like I'm a camera, snapping "shots" one after another in my mind as I focus on a particular scene, a particular person we pass? Just this morning I am sorry Dino did not stop right away when we saw an old man in a tractor pass by with an open trailer behind it. Inside the open trailer, next to a huge bale of wheat, was a young man wearing a cap, his shirt open, lying down, face-up, I think fast asleep. I'd love to share the image with you, so I suppose it's best you use your imagination...Thanks.

When Dino returns, the sun will be lower in the sky and we'll be able to plant our new flowers against the back of the former front gate, facing the house, in a long planter.

We love our front terrace so very much, especially with the shade the wisteria vines have made possible. Soon, very soon, we'll have another pizza night, enjoying it all with friends who have not experienced pizza here at L'Avventura yet. Why do we name our house L'Avventura? Well, it's simple. Everything connected with our purchase of this house and our lives here has been an adventure!

Here are the latest flowers on our terrace, against the house.

June 17
It's Father's Day, at least in the U.S., and we wish everyone a happy day. An email photo of Terence with his two girls arrives, and we'd like to share it with you.

Here in little Mugnano we drive to church, and I'm reminded how much we love the people of our village so much that it often brings tears to my eyes. Before mass, Don Angelo arrives and shakes my hand. He speaks excellent English, and I ask him if he'll join us one night for pizza at our house. Yes, he responds, in July. Va bene!

After the mass finishes, we stop to greet Signora Norena, whose uncle Celestino Natale built our house. She tells me she is not well, but does not explain why. We'll encourage her to walk to our house some day soon to see that we've taken excellent care of her family's home. Perhaps it will bring her a bit of joy, and that will be music to our ears.

It's time to pick up Sofi to take her to a kind of a dog whisperer in Viterbo. It is a man and woman who live and train there, and I'm not sure about them.

Sofi and we spend an hour there, the man is quite a talker, and we've signed up for a training session in a few days. In the meantime, we've purchased a book they recommended, and it's our competiti (homework). The book has been downloaded on one of our Kindles, and is all about calming signs. It's very interesting, and already we understand more about how and why dogs react as they do.

Perhaps we'll give you a few pointers; that is, after we've done a bit of homework. Right now, it's time for a nap. We've been watching the U.S. Open Golf Championship in San Francisco on SKY TV. We record it and watch a couple of hours each day.

Later, we surely expect Torbjorn and Annika to come by, for they're here for a bit, living in the white house in the Tiber Valley below us, at the bottom of the hill toward Shelly an Claudio.

Instead, we drive to the countryside outside Guardea to begin to help Sam and Lisa with projects for their unfinished house. That done, we drive home to a waiting Sofi to enjoy the beautiful evening.

June 18
Each morning the temperature on the gauge in the bathroom rises a bit. This morning after my shower I see that it's at 24.5C. Outside, Dino waters the tomatoes, but I can't seem to get my head around grooming more box.

I do spend a bit of time pinching some of the longer shoots, as dear Sarah recommended so many years ago. It's a thoughtful way of grooming boxwood; meaning one can do a lot of dreaming all the while. Come no?

We have a discussion regarding the lavender, which looks wonderful, especially the older ones, which are at full strength and definitely ready to cut back. I don't have the energy to do that today, although last night I told Dino I'd get up at dawn and begin the annual clip. We agree we'll take out the old ones this fall and replant those areas with smaller new ones.

It's a somewhat lazy day, with us spending most of the afternoon watching golf on TV. In the midst of it all, our new sofa cover arrives, and in just a short while we're sitting on the couch again; this time on top of the new slipcover. It's just about perfect!

June 19
It's a special pranzo day with Candace and Frank, beginning with very warm temperatures, even at 8 AM! These days we keep the shutters partly closed to block out the sun, and no wonder.

Will Sam arrive before we leave later this morning to drop off his keys? No matter, what we're all about now is the "Calming Signals for Dogs", of which I've made a list for you to learn if you have a dog of your own, or want to learn more about dogs and how they interact with people.

Calming Signals for Dogs

Dogs are conflict-solving animals. No wonder the dog is man's best friend! Here are signals to watch:
* Licking their tongue when camera faces them; they're uncomfortable with this;
* Dog's head turning away, or holding his head to the side for several seconds -he's uncomfortable with this, too;
* Turning one's head tells an approaching dog to calm down;
* Dog should approach one another in a curve;
* If a dog approaches head on, other dog won't like it;
* Humans turn their heads in another direction if approaching a frightened dog; it will calm the dog;
* When 2 dogs meet happily, they first turn away from each other; it's a good sign;
* Not looking straight on calms a dog; softer eye contact is more friendly to them;
* Many dogs have difficulty with direct facial contact;
* Turning one's head away decreases a threat to a dog;
* If a dog jumps up at you, turn away; he'll stop;
* Turning one's back on a nervous dog calms them down; they'll probably come up to you happily;
* Dog quickly licks tongue to calm situation;
* Dog freezing in position tells he is not a threat;
* Slow movements in dogs can have a calming effect;
* Humans jumping and yelling often get dogs to slow down to calm them (the humans);
* If you want to put a leash on a dog, approach him slowly in order for him to stand still;
* Anger in one's voice causes dogs to slow down, and not respond;
* Dog bowing is a calming signal, often an invitation to play;
* Human stretch toward ground calms a dog;
* Dog turning its back while sitting down or sitting down when another dog approaches, is signaling discomfort;
* Human sitting when dog is stressed and can't relax, and having guest sit down when unknown to dog, calms them (the dogs);
* Don't EVER use strong voice when speaking to dogs, normal voice results in positive interaction;
* If dog barks when it comes toward you, sit down;
* Dog lying down with belly to ground is calming act;
* Sit down when dog is stressed and trying to get attention;
* Lie down on sofa when new dog approaches nervously;
* Dogs yawn to calm humans down during fighting among humans, or when they're held too tightly;
* Use yawn when dog feels uncertain, is scared, stressed, or you want him to calm down a bit;
* Human standing still and yawning can calm excited dog; repeated yawning often a good thing to do;
* Dogs may just open mouth instead of yawning; for the same reason;
* Sniffing when other dog approaches, when someone walks straight at him, or when another dog suddenly appears too close, indicates discomfort;
* When facing your dog and calling annoyingly, he may sniff several times while coming; feels nervous;
* If your dog sniffs, try sitting down, pretending to scratch the grass, or examine something on the floor; it will help to calm him;
* When barking dog approaches, if your dog slows down and sniffs the ground, other dog will probably stop barking;
* Slowing down and curving is an effective intro.;
* Using a wide curve around when approaching another dog calms it down;
* Dog physically putting its body between dogs or people is a signal to avoid a rising conflict;
* Dog can wag its tail when human loses temper to calm human down and be nice again;
* Dog crawling toward owner while wagging tail means it's trying to get owner to calm down;
* Avoid putting dog in a situation where he experiences hunger, thirst, heat or extreme cold;
* Closeness, touching, lying close together, massaging - all without force, provide stress release for dog;
* Stop ALL force, punishment, aggression and anger toward your dog. Stop threatening, instead use these calming signals;
* When training a dog to lie down or sit, don't bend over him; bend knees or stand upright;
* To get a dog to come to you, don't stoop toward the dog; stand upright, perhaps with your side to the dog;
* Making a smacking sound, giving praise and a turn to the right gets the dog's attention;
* Dogs react better when their leash is not taut;

We've learned so much recently from these seemingly simple suggestions about our relationships with dogs, and thought you would enjoy reading them, too, whether or not there is one living with you. I can't imagine life without a dog to love and be loved, and wonder if what I had thought as their "unconditional love" had something to do with it.

Back to Mugnano, it is almost noon and no; Sam does not arrive, but that does not matter. We're off to meet our dear friends Candace and Frank and Penny and Bob at a restaurant they call "Grumpy's". I roll my eyes as I ponder how the man at the place will treat Sofi, although we've been assured there is outside seating and that's where we'll surely be seated. Wonder if Sofi will use some calming signals with him?

Need I tell you that it is really hot outside?

All works out perfectly at the restaurant in the hills outside Orvieto, Il Conte, and the man known as Grumpy is not all that bad, although he does not speak with us. A waitress takes care of us, and we eat and drink bountifully. Sofi sits by us, noses around a bit, eats her pranzo that we have brought, and enjoys our company. Penny and Bob, and Candace and Frank join us, and it's a wonderful afternoon.

We drive home and the temperature is still really hot, so we return to the house, turn up the air conditioners and fan and take a nap until it's cool enough to venture outside.

Oh, how we love summer nap time!

June 20
We think that Silvia is expected to arrive at 9 AM to give little Sofi her stripping to cool her off during these hot summer months. She hates the stripping but is so happy after it's over, and Silvia is very sweet with her. With all the shade under the wisteria pergola, it will be a comfortable spot to do the work. Dino and I will stay far away, probably inside, to keep from distracting Sofi.

An hour after she is due to arrive, Dino calls her and no, she is not to arrive until the end of next week. So all the anxious moments were for naught. Va bene.

A migraine headache looms, so I take a difmetré cocktail for it and take it easy. Dino does a bit of gardening until it is too hot and then we both stay inside.

It's not until late afternoon that we all drive to Viterbo to do some shopping and meet with the new dog trainer, Luca. We take a refrigerator bag with us, pick up a few things first; then drive to the place between Viterbo and Montefiascone where Luca and Lisa live and breed and board as well as train dogs.

I am somewhat skeptical at first of Luca, but he brings me around. Sofi wants nothing to do with him. He asks me to enter the pen and then Sofi begins to react positively. If we see no positive response today, will we still continue the training?

I work with them for five minutes or so, then leave them inside while Dino and I sit on a bench nearby. I have difficulty watching, for Sofi does not seem particularly happy, trying to get out of the pen and staring at me. I turn my head away from her and try not to cry as they bring one dog in the pen at a time to see how Sofi reacts. She does not want anything to do with either of them, including a much larger basotto.

All is well, we are told, although Sofi needs more socialization. That is evident, as we're almost always by ourselves; Sofi has become quite content keeping active in the garden and searching for lucertole while Dino and I do other things nearby.

They will board Sofi near the end of the month for a night and a day and do some training then, and in the meantime, whenever we are in Viterbo we are to drop her off for an hour or two so that she becomes more comfortable there, where she can follow them around and meet other people and dogs who are there or come by. Good idea.

The weather is quite hot, and the air conditioners at home are turned on when we are in the room. Sorry about the ozone layer. It's 90°F or more during the day, and despite keeping the house closed up from the sun and the shade from the wisteria, the air is too hot to do almost anything without it. Oh, for a pool! But then, caring for a pool is a real drag, and for us not a good idea. We love the season and the surroundings here just the same and could not think of living anywhere else.

With a good night's sleep thanks to the air conditioning again (sorry), we're feeling good and spend a good deal of the morning outside in the garden. Dino and I are like two sides of the same coin: I approach everything positively while he works on everything that needs work or help. I suppose I will always be a bit of a Pollyanna, for I grew up with too much stress and sarcasm around me and do all I can to create and maintain a happy situation these days. I do wish people around me would be happy, or at least content. Have I been, or should I, use some of the calming signals included above?

It is HOT! Dino leaves before noon to do grocery shopping in the next town. (I don't know if he shops because he likes to drive or likes to keep busy, but has done the shopping since he was a boy, shopping for his Mom then.) I suppose I'd rather dream, but do like to shop as well; just not as much as he does.

I'm always ready to come up with something to cook, and on this day we'll spend the rest of the day inside; at least until after nap time. Later in the evening perhaps I'll clip enough lavender to stand in a vase in the kitchen, after it has dried on a long table outside under the wisteria for a few days. Its scent adds a freshness to the air, and most people, including us, enjoy having it around.

Thanks to Nancy Brewington, a journal subscriber, who emails me to tell me she thinks the butterfly I asked about when we posted in the last day or so is a Swallowtail.

I'm still wide eyed at the response from people around the world who love to follow our somewhat mundane activities here in Central Italy on our journal, but grateful to each and every one. It makes my heart soar! If you want to be notified each time we post and we have not added you to our list, email us and let us know. Thanks to you!

After pranzo there is much wind about, and we look forward to snoozing, hopefully not having to turn on the air conditioner in the bedroom. Birds must like the sun, they're singing all around us as they hop from tree to tree. Outside our bedroom window is a view of three cypress trees, dancing back and forth. What a life!

June 22
Summer is surely here, for it's too hot to remain outside until late afternoon when we are mostly in some sort of shade on the front terrace. I do confess that we use the air conditioning units in our bedroom and the kitchen when we're in either room during the hottest hours of the day. With temperatures in the 90's F, can you blame us?

With most of the day spent inside, I do a chart of all Italian Notebook stories I have written. There are a number of them still to be polished off, but if I finish them all there will be more than 150 stories for dear GB, the major domo of Italian Notebook since it's inception in 2009. Piano, piano (slowly, slowly); there's always so much to do, and all of it fun.

At around 7 PM, I plant all the new petunias in the wisteria planters on the terrace. Until recently, I had no particular fascination with these plants; now I love them. I especially love the fact that they bloom all summer, with just a little care, a little plunking off any spent blossoms.

Dino follows me with the hose, and by the time we return inside to watch a movie, they're all planted and watered. Take a look:

June 23
Birdsong, ever birdsong, delights us again early this morning. I walk to the window, partly closed by the latched shutters, and look down, where a tiny dark bird lights on a bunch of loquats on the tall tree as it hits it's ever high "c" note. How loud that tiny bird can be! What kind of ears do these birds have to withstand the noise, as if a loud horn blasts right nearby? I love the sound, just the same.

It's just past eight in the morning, and Peppe's tractor is active in the valley. Very hot weather is here again, with a dazzling sun so bright the sky to the East looks almost colorless.

On this Saturday, we begin to assemble photographs for Ecomuseo's photo competition of its people. The first one we choose shows Felice with his left arm around his dear Marsiglia, a bunch of our lavender, his hat and gifts to take home for them to open together in his right. They stand just inside our former front gate at the foot of the stairs. How we miss them!

We surely have more photos to submit for Ecomuseo's competition, for Dino is ever clicking! But oh, how I hate competition! No matter. If we have great photos for them, I love the idea of sharing them with them.

This morning I do some weeding on the terrace and middle garden, while Dino takes a shade cloth to stretch over the pomodori stakes to protect the plants from today's very hot sun. Yesterday he told me these plants were suffering. He tells me he's not ready for me to help him, and after doing some laundry and chores, I see that he's put the cloth we have over the row nearest the front fence, but there is no shade for the plants in the back row.

He admits we need more cloth, so will pick some up this morning, I'm hoping before noon, so that we can cover the back row. I've babied them so from seed that I'd hate to see them waste away before we can enjoy them in summer salads. No matter. No reason to whine. I return to catch up with you and stay out of Dino's way. When he's concentrating on something, it's not a good idea to bother him.

A wasp finds its way inside the screen of the front window in the studio, and wimp that I am I find a way to open the screen and nudge it out. All is well, although it is too hot to keep the window open. Our shutters have a feature of not closing all the way but latching, giving us some light in the middle and at the top and bottom, whether or not the window is open. That is what I write about when I talk about latching them.

Although it's hot inside as well, I boil potatoes for salad, grill slices of turkey and plan to have a cold salad for pranzo with lots of other things, including roasted peppers in oil, garbanzo beans, carrots, celery, cheese...

Later in the afternoon after a nap, Dino decides to return to the tomato garden and with more fabric to shield the fruit from the sun's hottest rays mid day he'll figure it out. I'll be right there to help him if he needs it.

Finally, I return to painting for an hour or so, blocking out the background behind the boy's head. I'm going to see if only painting for an hour or so a day makes a difference. Before, I painted until I was bleary eyed, and headaches often followed. When I'm painting, it's easy for me to go into a kind of trance, as if I'm in another world. Let's stay in this one and be headache-free.

I'm pleased with the shading in the background; it makes him seem more alive. But there is work to do in the garden, so that's it for now, Cesar.

I follow Dino out to the tomato garden, and we set up cross poles made of bamboo and rig up a cover for the tomatoes to shield them during the hottest part of the day. It's now shady there, and with a breeze the air is delightful. So is the view!

I came up with the idea to attach bamboo poles to the bottom of the cloth, so that we can lift it off fr0m the front of the plants after the hottest part of the day has ended, leaving them uncovered until late the next morning. This will be a daily endeavor of ours, speriamo. These heirloom tomatoes are so very tasty when ripe, that it's a shame not to take care of them as they grow.

June 24
Dino rises early and works on the tomato plants, then comes in and changes for church. He's added bamboo to the bottom of their sun screen and we'll roll it up this afternoon after he finishes watching his beloved Formula-1 race on T V from Valencia, Spain.

Church is fine, and my worries about wearing a sleeveless dress are for naught, for lovely Vincenza shows up wearing a beautiful brown sleeveless dress. I'll not worry again about this.

While Sofi continues to rest inside our cool house, we drive on to Il Pallone to have breakfast and shop for groceries. The new big store has not opened yet, but when it does we'll be able to approach the parking lot easily.

We drive on to the regular shop, and notice that the stock is running down, perhaps because they don't want to move a lot of their stock to the new location. So for the next couple of weeks we'll not have the regular choices, but fa niente.

Back at home, I unlock the door and remember not to pay much attention to Sofi, to get her to calm down, although I love making a fuss about her, which I have learned is not a good thing. It's better to keep her on an even keel.

I help Dino to roll up the shade screen, and it's not too difficult when we both do it. So each day we will roll it down before noon and roll it back up later in the afternoon. At least that's the plan for now...

In the last few days we listened to a Fresh Air interview on an NPS podcast. Terry Gross interviewed Doris Day on her 80th Birthday. Dino wants me to choose one or more Doris Day songs to download, for he loves her voice. I choose a couple, including "It's Magic" and yes; it reminds me of the earliest days of our courting, when life did seem like magic. After more than thirty-one years together, it still is wonderful, and we love being together. How fortunate we are!

In a bit, I come across one of my favorite recordings ever: "Today I Met The Man I'm Going to Marry" by Darlene Love. I suppose it brings back so many memories, and I have plenty of wonderful ones these days.

Cesar's painting looks better and better with some of the background now colored like the sky, and the areas between the sunflowers filled in a bit. I like not being in a hurry. It does not matter if it takes another year to finish it, although I'd like to have him see it and to pose for us to take another photo to see if there's anything I'm missing.

Marissa and Nicole have picked up their talking bunny card on their father's computer, so we'll find out what they think of it soon.

Dino pounds out some chicken breasts and I batter them with egg and French breadcrumbs, then sauté them in girasole oil. We eat them with caprese while we wait for the Formula 1 race in Valencia to begin and are finished right on time.

I watch almost an hour of the race, but do not enjoy watching a sport where people can be badly hurt, so Sofi and I return upstairs for me to catch up with you and read a bit in our air conditioned bedroom.

Fernando Alonso won the race, and since he's from Spain, that worked out well for the Spaniards. Va bene.

Dino works outside on the tomatoes, then comes in to rest for the evening and we watch a movie on T V.

June 25
Yes, the heat continues, with a fan or the air conditioner on when we most need it. This morning Dino drives to Viterbo. He tells me he has things to do, so we add ingredients to his shopping list for tomorrow night's pizza night, in honor of Catherine and Kees and then he's gone.

Sofi and I spend time in the garden. I weed while she putters nearby, sad that a dead lizard lies in the path of my weeding.

After a while, I find myself so hot I'm dripping, so stop this activity and return inside to work on an excel chart for tomorrow night's pizza judging. I like having guests judge the ingredients and the pizzas themselves. It helps me later, and we're told guests think it's fun. Tomorrow there will be eight of us.

There will also be a pizza night on Thursday, with a day trip to La Scarzuola near Montegabbione, Umbria with the Mediterranean Garden Society on Wednesday. Color me busy. I love La Scarzuola; we were married there in 2003 for the second time in the Catholic Church (the first time in the American Orthodox Christian Church in San Francisco).

Some years later, the ceremony was repeated yet again in another place we love: the church of Castello Santa Maria. Third time's the charm? We've been deeply in love with each other since the first time we met in 1980, so it's been a joy to renew our vows. But enough of that!

Telling myself to take it easy, for there is a lot to do, I cool off near a fan. When Dino returns with the ingredients, we'll determine which pizzas to fix on Tuesday, and which on Thursday. I laugh to myself that I don't remember who is coming on Thursday. Surely Dino will know.

There's a lot of blah, blah, blah on the news about the political situation in the United States, this time something about Obama's healthcare possibly becoming unconstitutional. Bicker; bicker. I'm sure the major players have reasons for doing what they do, but wish they could get along in a more cordial manner. What...you say? That's not what politics is all about? Perhaps that's why we stay out of the political scene, except to vote.

Is it possible that Italy beat England in the Euro 2012 Quarter Finals (soccer - football as it is called here) to advance to the Semifinals against...uh...Germany? Bravo, team Italia! We'll be eating pizza here on Thursday evening as a very strong German team tries to turn the Italians into dust. Maybe we won't watch after all.

In the news, 33 Syrian army defectors, including a general and two colonels, have fled to Turkey, Turkish state news reports. The situation in Syria is so very sad. It's beyond comprehension to understand the hunger for power of which some humans can't get enough.

Earlier this morning, the bells of the church pealed slowly. That is always sad news. Dino called Tiziano, and his mother Rosita called Ernesta, who owns the only shop in Mugnano and knows everything.

Giuseppe Ruco, whom we knew as Zio Peppe died this morning. He was married to one of the dearest women in Mugnano, Giuseppa Fosci. With no information regarding the funeral, I can tell you that he had been ill for some time, but we had seen him recently sitting at the top of the stairs on Ernesta's front landing. We'll surely attend, and our hearts go out to the family.

Since we have two pizza nights here this week, it's time to begin to get ready. We go to bed around midnight, but have prepared two batches of pizza dough and they will sit overnight in the frigo. I've sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, pears and apple, each separately in its own pan, and they are ready to put on top of the pizzas, sitting in square Tupperware type containers, also in the frigo.

With eight of us tomorrow night, and almost as many on Thursday night, we're on a roll, although I will need to make another batch or two of pizza dough on Wednesday night, after we return from a visit to La Scarzuola with Duccio and Giovanna.

June 26
Dino tells me to rest this morning, while he drives to Guardea and Amelia on errands. I take his advice and with the help of an ice pack lie down for awhile, for after sautéeing thinly sliced red onions and marinating them in balsamico, there's nothing else to cook in advance of making the pizza, and I feel the stress of a headache looming. I take a headache cocktail and lie down, while the dough stays in the frigo until afterpranzo time.

Outside skies are clear and almost colorless...it's quite warm. We're thankful to have the protection of the wisteria on the long pergola in front of the house; from the balustrade everything looks mellow.

I paint just a bit, enhancing a few sunflowers on the canvas, knowing I'll add many layers before they look as real as I'd like them to. The combined studio and guest room is a riot of color and activity; I'm like a bunny rabbit, hopping from project to project, although not as rapidly as before.

While I'm preparing for tonight, Dino takes Sofi to Silvia and Luca's for an overnight and an opportunity for her to spend more time socializing with other dogs. We think she needs more of this, since she's always by my side or alone in the house waiting for our return. We've not done this before with these dog trainers and breeders, so it's an opportunity to see how she relates to them. We're hopeful, but I'll miss her.

It's a fun evening tonight, with lots of pizza and good neighbors at hand. Guests include former residents Catherine and Kees, part time residents Torbjorn and Annika and full time residents Claudio and Michelle.

It is good to have Catherine and Kees here again. They've been gone a long while, so tonight is a happy reunion with Claudio and Shelly and a meeting with Torbjorn and Annika, who bought their property nearby after Catherine and Kees moved to Germany, just across the border from Holland.

June 27
This morning we pick up good friends Duccio and Giovanna Valori in Bomarzo and drive to La Scarzuola, the folly garden we love in Umbria. Outside Montegabbione, it's a fantasy of a place, and since there is a Mediterranean Garden Society event there late this morning, followed by pranzo in a nearby trattoria, we have invited two of our closest friends to participate.

Brian Pentland is still there, and remembers us. He gives us all a wonderful tour, and we recommend the place highly. If you want to go there, call to make sure you can have a tour in English if you don't understand Italian, and they will tell you when the next tour is planned in your language, and if you can follow along.

We ask a friend to take our picture in front of the altar where we renewed our marriage vows in 2003.

If you'd like a private tour, I suppose you can take it for the price of the lowest group tour, which is probably around €80 for the minumim group, but you'd have to ask.

Il Gatto Giallo (the yellow cat) is the name of the trattoria where we later eat, and the meal is quite good. It's about a five minute drive from the garden.

We drive our friends home, then on to pick up Sofi, where Silvia tells us she has behaved perfectly. We're a bit surprised but so happy. She seemed to do well there, although was surely happier to be by our side, driving home.

I spend the evening fixing ingredients on the stove for tomorrow night's pizzas, then mix the dough for the pizzas, let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so, then put them under plastic wrap in the frigo to continue the process until late tomorrow afternoon.

It's 2 AM before I'm ready for bed, and oh, how tired I am! It's a happy tired, just the same.

June 28
I wake up when Dino calls me at 8 AM, and slowly get ready for the day, including slicing the remaining peaches for cereal. I'm a bit groggy.

After going over my new ideas for pizza tonight, Dino adds some things to his list and then drives off for Viterbo, where he'll pick up more mozzarella and other things we'll use tonight. I am so tired that I catch up with you, then take an ice pack to bed and Sofi and I dream until Dino returns a couple of hours later.

Tonight is fun, and with most of the work done in advance, especially cooking the toppings one by one in a padella (sauce pan) on top of the stove. We're so organized that we've even set out ingredients, pizza by pizza and printed out scoring and naming sheets for the pizzas by the guests. Dino is concerned that he thinks that it appears that I am looking for praise by using scoring sheets, and I am sorry for that, for it is not the case at all. I am looking for suggestions to make the pizzas better each time. How sad just the thought of that makes me.

The pizza eaters tonight are dear friends Penny and Bob who are retuning to Mill Valley after their annual stay in Orvieto, Frank (Candace is in Paris for a few days with friends), and Brian and Antonella. So the whole group are Orvietani!

For this group, naming the pizzas has been an added activity and it is fun. Here are a few of the names: ?? Can't find the sheet with names, so here are the ingredients, you name them...

1. garlic béchamel sauce, mozzarella, anchovies, zucchini flowers, parmesan cheese

2. "pizza" boscaiola (woodsman), mozzarella, sausage, mushrooms, & wild fennel.

3. marinated grilled zucchini, feta & parmesan cheeses, mint leaves, pine nuts

4. pear & gorgonzola dolce, walnuts, chopped chives

5. carmelized onion, mozzarella, chopped pancetta, edamer cheese, thyme, parmesan cheese

6. apple, mozzarella, cinnamon, nutmeg, walnuts, ice cream ala mode

We end the evening cleaning up after our guests have left, and Dino is so good at organizing that when we wake up tomorrow morning there won't be any cleanup to do.

Bravo, dear Dino!

June 29
Today is a day of rest, although not for dear Sofi, who is groomed and stripped of her wiry hair growth for the summer. Wire haired dachshunds are "stripped" several times a year, for their coats grow quite thick and it's more comfortable for them...at least after the fact.

Silvia is the woman we love who drives from her house outside Civitavecchia to groom Sofi and brings her portable table and tools. Since it's cool under the wisteria pergola, Dino helps her to set up there and we disappear inside so that our dear one won't be distracted. Silvia tells us that Sofi is quite an actress, molto drammatico (very dramatic) when we emerge to greet our little one a couple of hours later. She looks beautiful!

We've otherwise spent a quite day inside, with the help of air conditioning in our bedroom while we rest.

Later, there are tomato plants to water, but otherwise we spend a quiet evening in front of the TV.

June 30
Could it really be the end of the month? The time seemed to float aloft one of those tiny birds that light on our trees and sing to us when we wake each morning. Could there be a more romantic place than L'Avventura? For me, it's everything I could dream about, and then some.

I do some weeding; then stop because it's so uncomfortable. Mario could vacuum this all up in less than an hour, and the gravel would be really clean. I recommend this to Dino so that he won't have to do it. He disagrees, telling me he'll do it. I wonder what that means?

I hate to have him do the work, for it's dirty and noisy. He does not like the way I rake, telling me I move too much gravel when I do. It's more of a reason to use that nasty blower for an hour now and then, but he won't let me use it. Let's not whine, but isn't it worth bringing Mario by early one morning to do just that? Let's be patient, and as Tom Maxwell sagely said some years ago, "Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff!"

Sofi was a bit sick last night on the bedroom rug, and Dino thinks it was hairballs from her grooming, combined with stress. Dear girl, I will make sure she is better today. She seems fine, albeit quiet.

Tonight is the annual Ecomuseo membership dinner, but for pranzo we'll have saltimbocca (jump in the mouth, or sautéed pounded veal with sage leaves) and the usual caprese (sliced tomatoes with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil).

Dino has posted a wonderful apartment for sale in Tuscania, just a few hundred meters or so from the ancient medieval center. Here it is!


Tonight's dinner is delightful. We both have a wonderful time, perhaps because the longer we live here the more we understand and can communicate with our neighbors, whom we revere so.

Here are some photos of the evening, and what more could we ask for to end another sweet month in this tiny village?

We walk home under a lovely waning moon under the spell of a mellow breeze and thank our stars that we live here.

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