Felice has much to say about the lemon tree. First, he told us the pot was too small. He was right. It overwhelmed the terra cotta pot that held it for the winter in the sheltered space behind the house under the bathroom. Now that it is in a new bigger pot, he tells us we should feed it sapone (soapy water). Today, after we tell him that our neighbor thinks we should graft it, he thinks we should give it a major haircut. There are no blossoms but plenty of leaves. So I agree and Roy hands him the thin Japanese saw. Felice knows just where to cut. Now the tree is much shorter, but he assures us this will work. The leaves are relegated to the compost pile.
I am so proud of the tomato seeds that have sprouted in the guest bedroom window, that I take one of the containers out to show him. He laughs his gravelly laugh and his eyes light up. We promise him two plants, from two different varieties. In one or two weeks, after the last danger of frost has passed, they will be ready to plant outside. This morning, Felice slowly walks to the compost area, nearby the spot against a new tufa wall where the tomatoes will grow, and prepares their bed. He weeds, turns the soil, and I stand and imagine fifteen or so heirloom tomato plants - our very first vegetables ever! .
Today we went to our first funeral in the village. Village funerals are very important in Italy. Everyone, yes everyone, in the village attends. Those who live in the village part time, former residents, everyone attends. It is an important aspect of Italian culture. .
The man was the father in law of our Vigili Urbani (local policeman). We did not even know his first name, nor could we have recognized him on the street. Young by Mugnano standards, the man was 78 and had been ill for ten years. We heard of him from Lore and Alberto, who told us that he had been a very good muratore and was the first friend they had when they arrived in the village 25 years ago. .
The sun was hot at 1:45 pm when the bell of the main church began to peal. We walked down Via Mameli slowly, our feet touching the pavement in time with the mourn of the bell. Half way down the block, a neighbor descended her staircase while stretching the jacket of her knit suit over her head and shoulders like a descending parachute on its way to earth. Usually she wears bright red. Today, she was dressed in a claret color. She looked over at us and asked solemnly if we were going to the funeral. We agreed and walked slowly with her. .
Up in the village square, we could not help noticing an eerie silence. Hushed tones and hugs, glassy-eyed stares at invisible distant points, people were anxious. It was obvious to us wherever we looked. They are always there for each other, just as upon their death these same people will be there for them. Five minutes before three pm, Don Luca drove up in his black station wagon, followed by the hearse and then another station wagon with the family of the deceased. .
We stood by the fountain next to the tiny church in the main square, allowing friends and relatives room inside. We stood and talked with Lore and Alberto during the service, and afterward followed near the end of the procession to the cemetery. We ended our involvement near our house, along with a few others. A few minutes later, as we stood on the street talking with Maria, shiny lights shone through the trees on the edge of the road going up to the cemetery. The lights were the reflections of cellophane covered flower arrangements in the arms of family after family, who walked to the final resting place of the deceased. They appeared like jewels in a moving necklace behind the trees, silent but purposefully paced in time with the drone of the voices of the villagers in loud prayer. .
Alessandro is our insurance broker in the next town. There has been much gossip about him, but then Attigliano is a gossipy town. He tells us about his partner and partner's wife, who have divorced. She worked in the office and we liked her very much. Evidently the people in the town talked about her behind her back and for over a year she was very unhappy. She has gone back to a nearby town to live with her family and we wish her well. .
In Attigliano on a day or two before or meeting with Alessandro, a man of 72 shot two women and then committed suicide. I will have to get the story from Michelle, who keeps close to all the news of the town. When we drove home from Attigliano later in the afternoon, we drove by scores of people in the street, just standing around, talking and staring. A few minutes later, as we passed by the entrance to the cemetery, we saw three hearses followed by hundreds of people descending the path from the hill of Attigliano. Everyone turns out for a funeral, no matter the cause of death or closeness to the deceased. .
Alessandro tells us a story of the new young woman in his office, who he thinks is quite "clever". We would never think of describing a person as "clever" unless they were particularly resourceful. .
The Italians like to use the word "clever". It makes sense. Many, many Italians are clever. An Italian makes a hobby of skirting around the Italian "system" and finding a way to get what he wants. He tells us of the difference between working for the state and working for a small company. In a small company, the owner watches over your shoulder. "What are you DOING?" .
When working for the state, he describes your job as follows: 8:30 AM - buy two papers, the pink sports paper and the regular news paper. Put one under each arm. Go to the office and get a cup of espresso. You must digest your coffee, so sit down and open a paper. Read one until 10 AM and it is time for your coffee break. After the break, digest your espresso by reading the other paper. At about eleven AM, do a little work. At twelve, look at your watch and it is almost time for pranzo. At quarter to one get ready to leave. At one leave for lunch and so on and so on. .
Alessandro also tells us that employees of the state take anything that is not nailed down. Well, sometimes they take things that are nailed down, too. Every two years, offices are re-outfitted with new desks. If you like your desk, it can somehow disappear from the inventory. Also, staplers, paper, pencils, every kind of supply you can mention winds up in the homes of the employees. They are all very "clever". .
Before going home, we cross the street to the jeweler, who has taken our new brass ID marker that goes below the doorbell on the pillar to be inscribed with our names. She calls it a "banana" because it is curved...like a banana. It will be at least two weeks before we can mount the "banana", because the front gate has to be installed and the electricity finished first. We are still hoping to be done with the project by May 3rd, the start of the weekend of our village festa. We will see....
Stefano and Luca prepare the fiorieras (tufa planters) and set them on top of the tiles looking down upon the parking area. They are quite wonderful. It starts to rain, so we will plant the roses and rosemary in them in a few days. We hope Stefano will return on Monday to finish the rest of the work. It should take about another month. .
Mario arrives with a special shovel. It has a metal rod on the right side that he can put his foot onto, pushing the shovel into the earth firmly. Roy is covetous and impressed. Roy and Mario work the soil on the terrace until it is at the right level for the boxwood and gravel. He plants the roses and rosemary in the fiorieras. Then he asks us if we will plant grass on the terrace. He hopes so. Roy tells him, "We will have gravel." Mario puts his index finger into his cheek with a sign of disdain. "You can think grass, but it will be gravel." Mario shakes his head in agreement, a little downcast. After he leaves, we put the climbing roses in the ground where we will later plant them: two by the rose arch and four below on the path. Stefano needs to finish the pointing of the wall before we plant below, and Virgilio must install the iron fencing before the rose arch is finished. .
The satellite dish stopped working last night, but luckily we had an appointment this AM with someone to move the dish, so they came and fixed whatever was not working. The dish is now almost totally obscured from view behind the laurel tree, which seems to have grown enormously this past winter. This wonderful tree will give us lots of lovely shade in the heat of the summer. Duccio arrives for pranzo with guests from America. We give them a proper Italian pranzo and the n walk through the village. It is a beautiful day. And then an afternoon wind whips up from the west and tells us a change is in the air. .
It is overcast in late afternoon, after a day of clear blue sky. The clouds come quickly in Italia, so quickly that a sunny day can turn into a whirling windswept storm scene followed by claps of thunder and rain in less than half an hour. Today the clouds are delicate, except for one hovering dirty grey mass. After church and watering and feeding all the roses, we drive to Giove to see a little dog who turns out to be not so little and visit with new friends. From there we drive to Montecchio. Why, you say? Well, we have never been there. .
Home late afternoon and now that it is daylight savings time we have until about seven PM to garden. We take the square handmade screen, bound in long tiny branches from the plum tree, which was used to dry the nocciole (hazelnuts) from the fall harvest, to the new property. Roy moves a wheelbarrow left by the previous owners next to our raised planting bed, and we begin a joint project to sift through the soil and rocks and weeds that tumbled down from the tufa wall cleaning last week. .
The day is beautiful, cool and clear. Roy goes to Terni to have the car serviced and I sleep in a little. I turn on CNN to hear what has happened in Iraq overnight, eating a delicious cherry youghurt while leaning against the marble sink. Are we liberating or conquering Iraq? After some young soldiers get a dressing down by their officers for raising American flags from their tanks upon entering Baghdad, the situation calms down a little. .
After taking some fresh wash out of the loggia to dry, I come upon Felice, who appears at the top of the stairs. Startled, I almost drop the laundry and then we both laugh. He tells me tomorrow late afternoon we will plant the tomatoes in the ground, and goes to get his hoe from one of the tufa caves to ready the holes to plant. I can hardly contain myself I am so excited to show him our terra buona. He laughs his Felice laugh as we bend down to take a handful each of our prized soil. "Buona!" He is very impressed. I then show him the sifter I have made and motion what we have done. He laughs again, but I can see him beam with pride. His students are doing good work. When I ask him what he thought about last night's rain, he smiles and says it was not really much rain. He shrugs his shoulders, in that way Italian men do so well. .
Roy comes home around noon, not very happy. Because of the rain, Stefano will not be back to work on our project until possibly next Monday. Even more bad news. Virgilio will not be ready with our fence and gate until the second week of May, after the festa. He has hurt his back and has much work backlogged. It is a disappointment, but we are so used to the property in turmoil that a few more weeks are not a really big deal. I feel badly for Roy. He so wanted to have the project done for the festa. .
I have made a fresh red peper and fennel sauce this morning for the polenta that I cooked a few days before. Roy grills the polenta with a brush of olive oil and adds some grated Parmegiano after it is turned. Just as we sit down with the polenta and a green salad, there is a knock on the door. .
It is Don Luca, the priest, with Livio. They have come to bless the house! I can hardly believe it. I have heard such things happen in Italy, but only upon request. I don't really know what to do, so I just swim along with the tide. They come into the kitchen and I offer them pranzo, which they decline. I am so glad that I made a real Italian meal for pranzo. Don Luca puts his head over Roy's dish and smiles. "Polenta, eh? Buon pranzo!" Of course we do not eat, but follow him around the house as he blesses it room by room. When he is upstairs, Roy brings him back again into the guest bedroom to show him the tomatoes growing in the window. It is only later that Roy tells me that he wanted to make sure that Don Luca did not think we were growing marijuana! In fact, Don Luca blessed the tomatoes, after we told him we would plant them domani. .
They smile, shake our hands and leave. It all happened so quickly. Then Roy sits down to eat and says, "Where were we?" It is a truly great meal. All the while, My head spins thinking about Don Luca here in our house. Our house is now blessed! .
Everything is bursting with blooms here. It is all quite amazing. We are at a time before all the mildew and black spot and spider mites appear, so everything is fresh and beautiful. All the birds are back. I cannot imagine not being here at this time of year. All the fruit trees that bloom in the Bay Area in February have just bloomed (pear and peach and plum wherever we look). And the iris is in full flower on the path below. We replanted most of the iris that was in the garden when we moved here in a windy row along the edge of the path facing the street, and it is quite a remarkable site. .
Felice just arrived to tell us that we will not plant tonight. We had frost last night and we will try again in four days. .
I call Alberto in Rome. He is sleeping, because it is after pranzo. Si certo! I tell Lore I have called because it is the feast day of Saint Alberto. She is so amazed that I know. "You are so Italian! How did you know?" I admit the name appeared on my planting calendar. Italian people take their saints very seriously. After a morning of phone calls, Alberto has had enough and has retired to his room. He will surely reappear in time for some celebratory spumante. .
School was cancelled for the day. We decided to drive to a town north of Perugia, to look at some marble sinks and outdoor tables and furniture. We are now sourcing antique garden statuary, mantels, old wood beams and floors, antiques, etc. for Jim Bolen, an Interior Designer in San Francisco, so took advantage of the bad weather..
We returned through Chiusi, and went to Vivai Margheriti, one of the largest Vivaio's in Northern Italy. We had been looking for boxwood, and were unable to find it from Michelini in Viterbo. This vivaio has 150 hectares of land. It is an amazing place. We found the 12 boxus sempervirins we needed, and had just enough room in the trunk. When we arrived home, however, we realized we purchased the wrong boxwood. There are a few kinds of boxus sempervirins, and we needed "linearfolia". So tomorrow we will return them and hope they have what we need. .
Roy is in heaven. We went to a huge store called Gran Casa, also north of Perugia, and he found the metal piece to attach to his shovel, similar to Mario's. It is a guy thing but he is very happy. I am happy. .
We had a great lunch at Il Restoro, a trattoria on a back road on the way to Chiusi, where we were served tiny gnocci al sugo and frito di mare on plastic bowls and plates. What a wonderful meal. To order, we stepped into a little room to tell them what we wanted, but to eat we sat under a huge heated canopy, closed on the sides. Almost every table was taken. The rain pounded on the roof of the room, but everyone seemed happy inside. The rain was so loud we could almost hear, "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down!" We left as the rain took a breath. Dark, dark clouds followed us all the way home. .
We took another detour to look at a run down farmhouse in Chiusi, which new friends David and Alexandra are in the midst of buying. They asked for our opinion. Looking up to it from the main road is very impressive. It is three stories tall, on a high hill. Once there, however, all the windows and doors were open. It is an enormous project. Once finished, it will be a great place for people to stay, with lovely views and close proximity to the train station and all of Tuscany and Umbria close by. Chiusi is at a crossroads at the bottom of Tuscany. They intend to rent it out (There will be three apartments and they will live in one and rent out the other two.) It is a good thing they are young and adventurous. We look forward to bringing them picnic lunches and giving them advice and hugs. We are not so sure we will be able to do any of the hard labor they will need. .
Back to Chiusi. We returned the boxwood, but were not able to find the size of the kind we needed. So we bought dinky little ones, which will take a year or two to amount to anything. We have time. Hopefully at least 30 years. So waiting and clipping for a year or two is not a big deal. .
It is SO COLD here. On two different nights, we had a cold, hard frost that did some damage to buds and leaves on both caki trees and a hydrangea bush, as well as a few new boxwood. The tomatoes are definitely staying inside. I feel like an over-protective mother who is demanding her children go out in Michelin-man winter jumpsuits with long woolen mittens that clip right inside the sleeves. No way are those tomatoes going to be subjected to frost. .
It is time I give credit where credit is due, to our dear pal, Peggy Murphy. On Saturday, September 8, 2001, Peggy joined us to go to the Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival in Napa County, CA. The day was gorgeous, the sun as ripe and full as a tomato ready to burst it's skin. By the time we were ready to go home, we had tasted at least 25 varieties of tomatoes and had bought seeds of those varieties we liked the best. We also snuck a few seeds from particularly delicious tastings in napkins, and Peggy labeled them secretly in her purse. Three days later, tragedy struck in New York. The seeds, which we have begun to plant here in Italy, are all called "Innocence". That weekend, we believe, was our country's collective loss of innocence. We hope to preserve even a little of that day, and that time, in the growing of these wonderful heirloom tomatoes. Right now they move to and fro on the table in the guest bedroom, depending on the sun. The tallest ones are at least 6 inches tall. Watch for photos soon. .
It is Palm Sunday, and we go to church to see how the local Italians celebrate the mass. Inside, no one is in the church, except for two women who don't go to church often. After a few minutes, someone comes in and tells us we need to go to the other church in the village for the procession. The other women each have olive branches. We did not know, and feel silly that we did not bring ours. .
We walk down the narrow street to the bigger church, which has been closed for some time because it needs restoration, including a new roof. Our village is a poor one, and has not been able to raise the €50,000 for the roof. Its front steps are covered with beautiful plants, as though the people are saying to the derelict building, "We love you anyway". .
All of a sudden, dozens of people arrive, including Don Luca and the new priest. Some have olive branches, but there are plenty of branches on a table next to the steps of the church. These are passed around by the six men in red and blue cloaks who are special members of the church, called the confraternity. They are called upon on special occasions for manly kinds of things, like carrying the life-size statue San Liberato through the streets. Roy and I each are given an olive branch, prayers are said and we walk in two lines to our church. Religious events are about the only ones where Italians agree willingly to fall in line. .
We are two of the last people to enter the tiny church, and are sure that we will need to stand. An amazing thing has happened. Our two seats on the aisle remain empty! Every day we have more and more to be thankful for. This sign of our acceptance by the villagers thrills us. .
After the service, we walk home and get into our gardening gear. There are many things to do. We are reminded that days follow one upon another, each one the same except for Sunday, when we begin our day with mass. So we are back to sifting the dirt. After church Felice tells us that he is sure that Monday night we will plant the tomatoes at 5 P M. It is a long but rewarding day of gardening, and we plop down on the couch in the kitchen just before 7 P M, thankful that we have a pot of lentils and sausage from Friday that we can heat up with a salad. .
Felice showed up at 5 P M with long bamboo poles and a huge piece of nursery cloth to protect our precious baby tomatoes. He looked "way cool"...His white long underwear shirt showed under his cobalt blue pin down collar shirt, rolled up at the sleeves, and slacks. Italian men of a certain age always wear slacks, no matter how old, whether there is or has ever been a crease in them. He had no idea he could have been right out of an ad for Ralph Lauren. Felice is the last man on earth you would suspect to be stylish, or concerned with style. But he has a personal style all his own. .
He got right to work while Roy and I ran upstairs to get the three pots of plants. Fashioning a border of bamboo about six inches above the ground on the lower side, he laid long bamboo poles at angles to reach the top of the wall above the compost area, where the tomatoes will grow. We call it the compost area, but really there is lots of room. A few days earlier he weeded and dug holes for the tomatoes, instructing Roy to water the holes the day of the planting. He attached the bamboo poles with string, making knots in just the right places. He had done this before. .
The actual planting of the tomatoes was easy. He was so gentle with them. Roy brought bucketfuls of our terra buona, fresh from our sifting piles. A big green watering can stood nearby, full of cool water. We called Felice our "insegnante" (teacher) and he teased me about being nervous. Then he gingerly scooped each tender shoot and put it in its place, adding terra buona and tamping down the soil just so. I wrote the type of tomato on a yellow stake and pressed it down into the cool earth in front of each row of plants. Altogether there are about a dozen, with two more for Felice, one for Michelle and one for Catherine. Others I thought were budding tomatoes were just weeds. Almost every seed "took". .
Felice had woven strong string all around the piece of cloth he had brought, folded neatly nearby until it was time. He showed me how he looped a carefully folded bunch of string through the cloth and around the bottom-most bamboo pole, weaving in and out. When he was done, Roy stood above and fastened the cloth to the top of the short wall with pieces of terra cotta tiles to weight the fabric down. .
Instructions were to lower the cloth down each morning, and let the tomatoes get full sun. At night, we need to put the cloth up again in its original spot. In a week, the danger of frost will be over, and the cloth will have done its job. Then it goes back to Felice. .
We kept two plants for him in a pot, just under the cloth, until tomorrow morning when he goes to his "contadina" to plant them. He wants to bring us two tomatoes of his own. Si certo! We will love this. There is room for about four or six more plants. Perhaps we will grow something else there. .
When he left, Foce was standing in the alley between our property and his garage doing the most amazing thing. He had a single metal bed, leaning against his garage at a strange angle. The mesh in the bed was small, but not small enough for the job he was doing...sifting dirt to get terra buona! His system was to throw a shovel-ful of dirt onto the top of the bed, watch it either go through or fall down to the bottom. Then he'd take the earth again and throw it up again. What he had on the inside of the bed against the garage wall was pretty good looking soil. A strange process, but then again, people who work the land have their own ways of doing things. I will say that at that moment the new round metal strainer we bought a few hours earlier with handles, and a mesh shaped like a funnel, looked awfully sophisticated. The mesh was smaller in diameter than my handmade strainer, but much sturdier. .
A day in Rome. We had not gone to Rome for at least six months. It was time to go to the dentist and do some shopping for fabric and a Catholic missal in English. W need to compare the English and Italian language missals side by side to figure out what is going on in church. We must conquer this language thing. This will help. The teeth cleaning is easy. €65 each. The round trip and day pass with all busses and subways is €8 each. One bag of brown sugar at Castroni. A birthday gift for Loredana. We are done shopping early. Pranzo and then a train home. We drive up to our house to find the pavement cement starting. The workers finish as it gets dark, with Roy's work light hanging down over a fioriera to help. Tomorrow the tiles will be laid. .
We are on the path in front of the house, watching Giovanni do a masterful job paving with the terra cotta roti in the parking area. We still do not know the name of our neighbor who loves to wear red. She is coming down the hill with a box tied with string. She holds it in her right hand. I ask her if they are potatoes to plant and she opens the top of the box to take out one of about four chickens! It is so beautiful, a grey-white with black spots. My mouth just hangs out. I realize she is taking them down to her contadina to wring their necks. She laughs sweetly at my horrified expression and we let her go on her way. .
Roy has an epiphany. He tells me he knows why there are so many clothes-pins on our property near the tufa wall. Every time someone walks by and looks up at Maria hanging out her wash above us, they talk to her and, being a friendly sort, she answers, dropping the clothes-pins from her mouth. Or so Roy thinks. He is so busy figuring out all these things. .
Magari (ma-GAR-i) is a word I have heard Stefano say for weeks. I finally think to ask Roy about it. We look it up and the meaning does not translate. We ask friends, who tells us it translates most closely to "if only that were so". The word fits as a response for so many things. Try it and see....
The electricians were here this morning to finish their installation work on the project. Just as Luca was about to hammer a big hole in our beautiful tufa wall right next to the stairway, Roy hollered "Attenti!" Evidently they wanted to put a huge plastic box right at eye level as a safety gauge for the septic system. Those of you who know me know just how I would respond. I stood at the top of the wall with my arms crossed in full battle formation, and moved the index finger of my right hand like a metronome, left and right. That is the Italian signal for "no". It is a movement that looks more to me like a silent "bad boy". After a few minutes of haggling, the box was put away. Roy is now assigned to watch their every movement. .
We planted the four climbing roses on the path, in mezzo-lune planters. The flowers are quite large, about 3-4" across, a pale yellow with dark green stems and leaves touched in red. The contrast is remarkable. We will string wire to guide the roses across the wall in a few hours. I learned how to do this in one of my rose books. Instead of letting a climbing rose just grow up and up, I clip off the plastic guards on each plant, letting the branches shake themselves out. Then I find which way each branch wants to follow and guide the branches low and out across. It makes so much sense. One strong branch stays erect, at least for now. We will see if it works. .
I leave Roy to do some shopping and secretly to buy him a bocce ball set for his birthday, which is on Sunday. On the road over the hill to Uno Piu, I am slowed down by a tiny cinque cento, the old model Fiat 500. I could practically hear its engine rasping, "I think I can. I think I can", as it worked its way up the Bomarzo hill in front of me. .
Instead of speeding up and passing him, I turned on the music (soundtrack for The Pianist) and glided up the hill behind him, imagining that I was watching an old Italian film, with the little car as its star. The piano keys tinkled, the Fiat puttered, the birds sang away and my hands relaxed their grip on the steering wheel. Around a corner in front of the farmacia, a car darted out without looking. The driver in front of me threw his hands up in the air. No words were necessary. Then we moved forward, down a road lined with huge elm-like trees, their branches reaching out to greet each other way above our heads. I could now make out the shape of the driver's head. He had more ears than head. I knew this because his ears stuck out on either side of his head-rest. The hair on his head appeared like peach fuzz. At the turn to Viterbo, he took a left and I imagined him enjoying the rest of his trip in his lovely little car with the old ROMA license plate. .
Later in the day the electricians try to finish hooking up all the lights. It is 7 P M and they are still working. I stand over the sink to shell and clean the gamberoni (shrimp) for a quick pasta sauce with fresh asparagus. The electricity is turned off and on, off and on, and we all finish our projects as the sky dims. Then up the street to church and the solemn Good Friday mass. Smudge pots light our way on this silent walk. .
A statue of Jesus is laid out before the altar, with his feet facing us on a large bier. The confraternity of about a dozen men, dressed in their crimson and blue long robes, stand just in front. A friar from Vitorchiano joins Don Luca in the mass. Young Tiziano does most of the readings. After the main part of the mass, we are led out the church in a procession in two lines, led by four of the confraternity. First the women, then the priests, then Jesus on a bier held by the remaining confraternity, then the men. .
The priests lead us in prayer and voice down the hill toward Giustino's house. At the top of the rise just above our property, we follow back around and return to the church for communion and the end of the mass. The friar cautions us to return to our homes in silence, but this is too much for Roy, who thanks Tiziano for doing such a wonderful reading. We walk home under a bright oval moon past the smudge pots, thankful for living in this little village where the traditions of hundreds of years ago still remain. .
It seems like a holiday today, except that the electricians and Stefano were here again. The electricians finished their work, including stubbing off for a future fountain outside the living room window and putting lights in Roy's office, which was the former gardener's cottage. Roy is a lover of tools and puttering. Later today we strung guide wire for the roses nearby and he had just the perfect tools for each job, almost right at his fingertips...One day last week Stefano needed a tool for something he was doing and Roy had it right at hand. Stefano called him MacIver...That was so funny that Italians actually watch American television programs. MacIver, I'm told, is a man who always had lots of tools, or at least knew how to patch things together. Stefano may not speak a word of English, but he still knows American TV. .
I attended a yoga class this morning in the next town. Catherine Lombard is the yoga instructor, and I have always wanted to take yoga but was always intimidated to try it before. The classes are small, spoken in both Italian and English, and I am learning names of parts of the body in Italian as she gives her instructions. Every muscle aches these days, from bending and moving undisturbed muscles during garden projects. Soon I hope to feel more limber. I look forward to these Saturday morning sessions, and don't even want to look at my watch. The sessions are over before I know it. Catharine teaches joyously, and I am constantly amazed that after stretching one leg in these exercises, that leg seems longer than the other. .
We were invited for Michelle's birthday lunch today. Spending time at their house is always a wonderful way to pass an afternoon. Everything is so relaxed, no matter whether they entertain two or twenty-two people it always appears easy to do. .
Roy's birthday, Loredana's birthday, and Easter, all rolled into one. It is starting to rain, so we drive to church. I wear a pale blue hat like a boater. An Easter bonnet. An American tradition I am not ready to relinquish. I am the only woman in the church wearing a hat. Oh well. Everyone else is dressed in winter garb, for the weather is not friendly. .
Later we drive Lore and Alberto to NonniPappa, our favorite restaurant, for a birthday celebration. The sun clears. The restaurant is small, with big windows overlooking a campo sportivo, or man-made fishing lake. At first the restaurant is very noisy. It is difficult to talk over the din. Later, many people go outside to smoke, the children outside to play, and we can relax. A strange and wonderful philosophy exists in Italy regarding restaurants. There is one seating per meal. A bill is never brought to the table unless the customer asks for it. That would be considered rude. Lore tells us that she can cook every bit as well as a cook in a restaurant, so the reason to go out is that she will not have to cook and clean and serve and she can relax. We are told that waiters are paid more in Italy than in America. No wonder. It is a wonder restaurants can stay in business. .
Tonight Michelle and Claudio, their two sons and Claudio's two sisters arrive to bring Roy a birthday present and sing to him. The gift is two cd's of Italian folk music, chosen by Giordano, their son, who has downloaded them. It is wonderful to have them here. We open an Easter Colomba (special Easter cake, shaped like a dove) with tea. After they leave, we watch the opera Tosca on TV. It has been a good day. .
It is rainy again today. Too bad. Today, Pasquetta (the day after Easter), is traditionally a day of picnics for the Italians. Last night Roy covered the tomatoes, with after a warning by Claudio. This morning they all look fine, including the two that were not doing so well. We have been invited for pranzo at Lore and Alberto's, and bring a Tre Marie Colomba for dessert. .
One of the dishes is capreto, and a discussion about these baby lambs ensues. We discuss that we are eating "Spring lamb", so this delicacy is, of course, only offered in the Spring. "The capretti do not have much to look forward to", says Lore with a little laugh. I am confused. Does that mean that all lambs are born in the Spring? Roy says that the mothers cross their legs at other times of the year. I ask if there is a moment that all the adults do "baci, baci" and we determine that the date must be around Valentine's Day. Since St. Valentine was from Terni, a city near us, Alberto nods his head that that must be so. This is a very strange conversation. "So how old is a lamb when it becomes a sheep? "asks Roy. "Five months, I think," responds Lore. .
"So if you are a lamb and you hide for five months, then you are safe?" Lore: "Yes, the sheep have important jobs to do. They have wool that we shear from them, milk that we squeeze from them for cheese, to say nothing about their merde, which is used to fertilize the roses". .
For me, it still does not make sense. So if anyone knows the answer, please fill me in. This is all enough to make one a vegetarian, no? .
Stefano and Luca only work until pranzo, because this afternoon is the rehearsal for the Palio in Bomarzo. They both live in Bomarzo. (Duccio calls the people who live in Bomarzo "Bomartians" and we laugh. We don't think the people of Bomarzo would understand his little humor, even though he is one of them. He has such a dry wit.) Bomarzo is like a big sister to Mugnano, three kilometers up the hill toward Viterbo. .
Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St. Anselmo, the patron saint of Bomarzo, and April 25th is Liberation Day (the anniversary of the day in 1945 that WWII ended in Italy. If we were ever to fly an American flag at L'Avventura, April 25th would be the day. Roy wonders if people will thank us on Friday. .
April 25th is also the day of the Palio in Bomarzo. So the workers will not return to our project until Monday, April 28th. Do you remember that May 1 is also a holiday? Many Italian workers take what they call a ponte or "bridge" and so from Easter through the beginning of May they don't work. Well, if our workers won't work this afternoon, neither will we! We get ready to go to the rehearsal of the Palio, because we want a good parking space. We decide to get to the track where it is being held 30 minutes early. We arrive at the track, which has been engineered and graded specifically for this annual event. The location looks like a ghost town. No one is in sight. Are we in the right place? .
There are two sets of bleachers and one raised area with the ubiquitous white plastic chairs. Shelly told us that this event is one of the "practice" events before the real Palio in Sienna. The winning horses go on to compete in Sienna in July. We stand at the rail and wonder where they got the red dirt until it dawns on us that we are talking about the Sienna Palio, so of course the track is the color of Sienna, a brownish terra-cotta. .
We have no idea where we should sit, and are reminded of the time we went to the Duomo in Bomarzo for the festa for the Italian cosmonaut. We arrived early, sat in front and were thrown out just before the event because the important people of the town were going to sit there. The sweep that took place at that time made us think of a television drug raid. This time I thought, "We won't go near those chairs until more people come." .
Roy wants to sit down. He thinks it is safe to sit there, because although he looked up and saw numbers on the chairs, at closer glance the numbers were not in sequence. Happily sitting in seats 4 and 87 in the first row a few minutes later, we are reassured by the emergence of our new friend and mayor, Stefano (not the same Stefano who is our muratore). He greets us and tells us the permit for our work will come next week. Or at least that is what Roy thinks. This is the same Mayor Stefano who is willing to go to jail if something goes wrong with the original permit. Ah, Italia. .
People start to arrive, and it is now 3PM. Francesco, the Vigili Urbani, arrives, greets the mayor, "Salve, Sindaco!" and Roy tells him, "It's Salve, Signore Sindaco." Both men laugh. The mayor leaves and I ask Francesco in my quivering Italian, "A que ora...".
"Preciso, NO! Non preciso in Italia." He has no idea what time it will begin. At around 3:30, you guessed it. We are thrown out of our seats for the dignitaries. By now, the stands are half full. We find good seats in the regular stands on the aisle, and Roy goes to get peanuts in their shell, to give us something to do. Italian snack food is not like snack food in the U.S. Dried fruits, nuts, even olives! .
Two hours after the stated time of the Palio, the contest begins. This event is similar to events all over Italy during this season. The reason for the "practice" is to determine pole position for Friday's race. There are four mini races, each with four horses. Some of the riders ride in more than one race, but there are sixteen horses. All horses are ridden bareback, just as in the famous Palio in Siena. .
The Palio in Siena is held twice a year, once in July and once in August. In Sienna, 100,000 people crowd into a center oval while around them horses and their riders race to a hair-raising finish. Each rider rides for a neighborhood, or quartiere. .
Today, the "Pro Loco" (local chamber of commerce) volunteers, in their yellow vests, ready the track. A tractor pulling a strange contraption with four huge rectangular stones weighing down what looks like wrapped up wires and hay, drives across the track into the center area. This is Bomarzo's answer to an American Zamboni machine, cleaning the ice between periods of a hockey game. Between every race, the driver makes an entrance and drives his rig around the track three times, each time moving farther across until he has completely cleaned the track. .
For each race, the riders of the horses, who have chalk numbers on their rumps (not the riders, the horses), are told which horse gets the "pole" position, and the next two in sequence. The fourth rider and horse are held back, until the first three are lined up. When this happens, the fourth dashes across a rope and the rope in front of the other three horses is dropped. A shot is fired and they are OFF! .
For the first race, a rider is thrown and his horse continues the race without him, keeping up and almost winning. .
For the second race, a horse is disqualified. He is spooked by something, and won't line up. .
All the while, the people in the stands are relatively quiet. No "hoo-hoo-ing", no yelling out of any kind. But the excitement is real. There is a hush over the crowd each time a race begins. .
Once the last race is over, people get up and leave. It is all very civil. Let's see what happens on Friday...We have invited Tia, since Bruce is in the U.S., and she will bring her brother and sister in law, who are visiting from Finland. .
We have no idea when the road tax for the car is due. We think it is some time in April. Roy drives to Viterbo today to the nearest ACI (Automobile Club of Rome), where we have a membership. The women there behind the desk are all beautiful, dressed so well that he is sure they compete with each other as if a daily prize is offered for the most beautiful and stylish donna. .
Bella figura (to make a good impression) is very important in Italy, especially in the cities. Lore tells us a story of a woman who wakes up from a dream and is so horrified she has to tell her best girl friend. "Tell me! " her friend demands, leaning forward to hold her by the shoulder. .
"Well, I was walking down the street naked." .
"How terrible!" her friend responded. .
"Not that! I was wearing a hat that was last year's fashion!" .
We are lucky that in Mugnano there is no fashion to worry about. No competition, unless it is for the best homemade wine. .
Back to Viterbo, Roy pays the tax with no problem, but when he returns home we discuss the women. We also remind each other that the women behind the counter at Salute (the place where we pay our medical fee each January and get our annual blood tests), dress fashionably and are impeccably groomed, even at 7:30 in the morning. Bella figura counts at work, we surmise. Not being working sorts any more, this kind of competition escapes us. .
Roy drives to Continente/Pianeta/Le Clerk (every year the name is changed) to buy his favorite scotch. Standing in the line for "less than ten" items, he is reminded by the check-out woman that he is the last in line before the line is cut off. The light above him turns to red. I am reminded of those lights at the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza in California, telling the driver which lanes are open. .
A woman comes to stand behind Roy. He is not paying attention. He turns around to see her, and tells her in his best Italian that he is the last in line. This is an important duty, and Roy has the power to dismiss anyone who thinks they can stand behind him. .
She answers, "Si" as though, "Poor slob, he must be demented." She stands firm. Roy cannot dissuade her. A few minutes later, the check out girl clues her in. "Via, via!" Why is it that even when we speak Italian, strangers know we don't have a clue? Or even when we do, they just can't believe it? .
Later in the day, Roy works on the new screens. Pull-down screens come in kits, for the equivalent of $45 per window. This is a great price, until Roy realizes he will have to hacksaw off a piece, and get through the convoluted directions. An hour later, a screen is up in the bedroom window. I am thrilled. No more two-part screens. The vista is now what it should be. And tonight at 11:30 we will watch the fireworks from Bomarzo from our bed. It doesn't get much better than this....
Liberation Day in Italia. It is a grand day, with tractors in parades and the Italian flag proudly displayed. The Italian flag is almost never displayed as the American flag is in the U.S. To be safe, we only fly the bandiera of the festa during one week of the year. Blue and a reddish-rose, we will take our three bandieras out in a few days. The first weekend in May is our first of two village festas each year. .
Last night we had an incredible view of the fireworks. A warning bang! went off around 11:45. The actual fireworks started sometime after midnight. With one eye open each, we watched the spettacolo from our pillows. How incredibly decadent. .
This morning, we drove to Montecastrilli, to attend an hour or two of their festa. Thanks to Roy's great parking karma, we parked next to the tent where the little animals were displayed. This is the most popular part of the mercato. From one end of the tent to the other are stacked peacocks, roosters, hens, chickens, baby chicks, rabbits, song birds, tropical birds and feed. .
People with box after box leave the tent, with poke-holes that remind me of our neighbor's chickens. I wrote a few days ago that they took their last ride when Luigina(Felice told me today that is her name) passed by our house a few days ago on her way to her contadina. The lipstick red of these cock-combs, the wide range of colors and textures of the chickens and hens and roosters, made for a great show. It was only when I looked at the frightened eyes of the rabbits that I realized how macabre this tent is. One lovely fawn colored rabbit struck me as being particularly beautiful, his eyes staring straight ahead, seemingly resigned to his fate. .
We left the tent, across an area filled with a tractor driver's dream. Wall to wall tractors and farm machinery in red and yellow and green. One truck bed was angled back, almost two stories tall. Dozens of men strolled by, kicking tires, I suspect. .
About a block further on we found the flowers and plants we had heard so much about. Tia had told us to come here to buy the tiny plants for our verdura garden. We bought two kinds of thyme, 6 zucchini (we will probably only plant one), 5 spring onions, 6 lettuce of a type I hope is capuccia (butter lettuce), presemelo, 6 red peperoni, and a hydrangea plant. There was no rughetta (a sweet tasting arugula). We will look for that in Viterbo. .
Driving back through the back roads of Umbria, we stayed on the road all the way to Bomarzo to get porchetta sandwiches for lunch. .
Tia arrived with her brother at 3PM to look over the garden, and then we drove to Bomarzo to attend the official Palio di San Anselmo. It was a mob scene, but Roy dropped us off on the end of the road to the stadium. We bought reserved seats and after Roy arrived went to a vendor for peanuts and dried apricots to eat in the stands while we waited. The parade was due to start, back at the Duomo, and would finish in the stands. Since we had reserved seats now, we left to go to watch the parade on the main street. Having reserved seats reminded me of working at the performances of the Mountain Play...It all seemed so long ago. .
The town band played, but the stars of the event were the citizens of the five neighborhoods of Bomarzo, all dressed in medieval costume. Velvets, brocades, silks...boys and men wearing tights and floppy hats, looking macho as can be. The people of Italy take these festivities very seriously. I cannot imagine a teenage boy in America so dressed. This is a serious procession, a kind of theatre, and it is customary to look straight ahead, without paying attention to the people watching. .
Many bandiera (special flag) bearers appeared throughout the parade, and those from Viterbo and Orte put on a show at the stadium after the end of the parade. Strangely, there were no horses in the parade. They were all pacing "backstage", behind a huge door where they would take their entrance. .
We thought it was strange to see so many Carabinieri (state police), all dressed in their best uniforms). Later we would understand why. .
There were five horses, one representing each contrada or neighborhood in Bomarzo. The trials a few days before determined which horses would race. We thought, well, this won't be much of a contest. And were we ever surprised. .
A gun shot off around 6pm, as a warning that the contest would soon begin. The horses and their riders took a few laps around the stadium, each rider in the colors of his contrada. As before, it was predetermined who would get "pole position" (as Roy calls it). The announcer told us what sequence the horses wouldline up behind the rope. .
There was much neighing and bucking. Remember that these riders are riding bareback, and need strong control of their horses. The horses are very spirited, and do not want to get into line. .
Three different times, the horses and riders are told to line up. Three times the first two horses refuse to stay in their starting spots. The horses go round and round. Each time the announcer tells them to start over, and they take a minute or two to get reorganized. .
The way it is supposed to work, four horses line up, and the fifth horse stays back until the others are lined up in the same direction. The announcer lets him go forward, and as soon as he steps over the back rope on the ground, the front rope is dropped and they're off. .
Unfortunately, there were two false starts. And then, the announcer called the start of the race before the fifth horse had crossed the back rope. People were screaming, "Via, via!" The man on the fifth horse stopped in front of the announcer, thinking it was a false start. It was not. He went wild with anger, shaking his crop at the announcer. He took a ride around the track, but it was no use. .
The rider in front was an Ichobod Crane type of rider. He rocked back and forth as though he was riding a mechanical horse, pulling the reigns and leaning back as though he was going to lie down, then bouncing forward again and again. His lurching gate was effective, if not much to look at. The other two riders could not get around him. .
There were four laps, and for each lap the same rider kept up the pace. He won easily. At the end, the man riding the last horse jumped down, let his horse go, and charged into the stand where the announcer was in his box. .
The rider flailed his arms, all the while his horse ran around and around the track, as if he wanted to show us all that he could have won. He was stopped half way around the track and led back to the other horses. .
Here is where the Carabinieri did their work. Our friend (who took our stolen stereo report months before), who is the Commandant, was first to grab the rider. He was telling him to take it easy. He and two or three other Carabinieri had the rider in their arms. They were very gentle but firm with him, and let him go after a few minutes. This race was all about honor, and to protect his honor the rider had to do SOMETHING. He chose to attack. He wanted the race called. To no avail. .
Three of his friends from his contrada took over and told him everything was ok, that he did a good job. Everyone left the stands. We ran into Felice on the way out. He thought the race was terrific. Tia and her brother loved the race, but we all missed Bruce, who was traveling in the U.S. .
Roy got up early to spread compost over the planting beds before Felice arrived at 9 A M. Roy then took some of our terra cotta pavers and placed them as steps crossing the length of the planting bed. We decided to plant roses and columbine against the tufa wall, place mattone pavers loosely in front in a kind of path, and our vedura garden in the front. The herbs and some of the flowers would be planted in front of the loggia. .
Felice arrived right on time. He brought a pail of baby lattuga to add to our planting, as well as a big bunch for us to eat. We showed him what we had ready to plant, and he took on his "insegnante"(teaching) role right away. .
First we had to dig the holes. Earlier I had watered and the earth was wet. Roy and Felice marked off where each plant would go. He instructed us that the measuring had to be very precise. Roy used a metal rod to measure and there was enough space for everything we wanted to plant, including leaving space for the rughetta and radicchio. Everything fit just right. .
Roy then got up into the planting bed, I held the containers of plants, and Felice took them out one by one to hand them to Roy. The peperoni wound up going behind the steps at the edge, in front of my planting shed, but they fit well there. .
On to the front of the loggia. We planted a white hydrangea, two white flowering bacopa, one thyme, one lemon thyme, a salvia given to us by Signora Fosci, twelve tiny basilico, two kinds of parsley, an Herba di San Pietro, and a violet plant given us from David and Alex's Giove garden. .
Roy did a masterful job. Felice is proud of his ragazzi (students). Perhaps Roy will start to eat his veggies....
We went to Viterbo to buy rughetta and radicchio to plant, and then on to Vetralla to buy another screen kit. In the afternoon, Roy put a new screen on the kitchen window. It is amazing how wonderful the new screens look, without that cross piece which had cut our view in two. We also bought some old boards of castagno wood, that will serve as a counter over the low freezer and refrigerator(frigo) in the loggia. We will use the wide blue and cream striped material we bought in Rome to make curtains to cover the front of the appliances and go under the sink. These are all projects we enjoy. .
Church this AM. With both the Italian and English Missals, we are learning what is going on. Because it looked like rain, we drove up and I read the gospel out loud in the car as we sat waiting to go in. Roy read the same in Italian. During the mass, we used both missals and are starting to understand what is going on. Today, Livio passed out little blue booklets, with the weekly hymns. This time, there was much singing in the mass. We really like to sing the hymns, and are starting to understand what they mean. .
After church, Valerio stood on a low balcony across from Ernesta's Tabacci and read off the winners of the lottery. Loredana won a bowl and a box of papparadelli noodles. As each winner was announced, everyone in the crowd roared with laughter. No big gifts this time, but it was fun. .
I am reminded of the festa last year, when the Montibove man who lives with his mother won a delicate gold necklace. Everyone laughed out loud and someone put the necklace on him. He was a good sport. Who knows what happened when he got home and his mother saw what he was wearing....
Lore and Alberto came to see what we planted on their way back to Rome. She likes it that we planted flowers and herbs together. I suppose that is not Italian, but it surely is pretty. .
The sun decided to come out, and we spent the rest of the day on projects around the house. I made curtains to go under the sink in the loggia and can't wait to put them in. .
Cocktails in the loggia, with the borders of the room framing the view. This is called a "cornice"(pronounced cor-NEE-sha). It is interesting that having a "frame" so changes the view. We take delight in the smallest pleasures. .
The days just fly by. Joyous days and nights. A flash of sun is heavenly. The birds sing nonstop, and their singing is like a cornice, framing the sounds of the valley. .
I silently sing myself awake, as I do most mornings. The birds outside make such a noise that it is impossible to sleep. Instead, I lie there singing to myself and thinking of the garden or neighbors or laughter at one of Roy's musings. .
It is easy to get up to go out into the garden. I water the lavender garden side this morning, including the tomatoes. While I am readying the hose, Luca shows up for work and I warn him about the roses on the path. I know that today he will put the final cement on the tiles on the top of the wall. The new roses are hugging the wall just below. Roy has warned me that we should not plant yet, but I have seen the aphids and black spot spreading on all the roses and knew last week that we had to get the roses planted and shoots joined to the wires right away. .
Luca tells me not to worry. I know better. An hour later, while I am spraying the roses near the lavender with soapy water to get rid of the aphids, I go down to the path and am really sad. The farthest rose on the path is covered with cement. I spray and spray and am able to get almost all of the cement out. I wash the leaves one by one. I think the plant has been saved. .
Mario shows up a day early, and Roy gives him instructions on what to do. We want him to cut the grass on the land next to the church, and prepare the land above the lavender for more planting...zucchini and onions and tomatoes and perhaps an eggplant or two. There is plenty of room, and we are told the zucchini takes lots of space. Mario thinks the new peach tree should have been given a haircut, for its branches are too long. He thinks we should leave the caki trees alone, that they will come back after their frost bite. .
He refuses to move the boxwood back to the front terrace. I sigh a big sigh. This is primary growing season, and he thinks they will not survive a move. I agree that we will wait until fall to move them. In the meantime, what do we do about the terrace? We agree to return to Chiusi to buy 28 tiny boxwood, to match the 12 that we bought ten days ago. At the end of the day, Mario plants most of them. Roy measures the spaces precisely. .
We are now accustomed to to the farmers' insistence on "preciso". Felice this morning finished his little house of bamboo for our tomatoes. I asked him if we could cut the bamboo a little shorter so that the view would still be wonderful looking across the valley. He agreed, pointing to the spot where he should cut. When I nodded "Yes", he clipped off the end of bamboo, and used it as a precise guide to cut every other piece of bamboo. The farmers are so proud of their craft. And he is a wonderful teacher. .
We drove to Chiusi for the boxwood, and took the long way home, through the Tuscan towns of Cetona and San Casciano di Bagni. These are two wonderful towns, worth going back to. Coming down a windy hill, we just missed a flock of sheep and their shepherd, who had crossed the road about fifteen seconds before we arrived. I read the other night that if you come upon a flock of sheep in the road before you, you should drive into the center of them slowly and then they will separate for you. Do not wait for them to pass. .
Roy tells me that the other day on one of his jaunts, he came across a flock of sheep crossing the road. Directly traversing the white line was a huge Maremenna dog, guarding the road so that cars would not disturb the sheeps' journey. So we have no idea whether we should have the right of way or the sheep should. Say "sheep should sheep should sheep should" three times. .
We stopped for a little foccacia and glass of beer at San Casciano di Bagni before returning home to plant. An incredible vista is across the street in front of the parked cars, with restored and unrestored farm houses and scores of cypress trees lining strada bianca (white roads not paved but covered with gravel or local stone). Funny that often the parked cars have a better view than people sitting outside in the cafés. Perhaps this is their reward for waiting for us. Below, field after field of grass. It is so green now at the end of April. In another few weeks it will all become a Tuscan brown. Right now the landscape looks more like Umbria. Lovely. .
On the way back, we stopped in Viterbo to pick up the low copper pyramids we had designed for the tops of the four pillars. We also asked for some copper wire. The owner had never heard of using copper wire to keep snails out of a garden. We had read this in one of our garden books. Instead, he gave us a science lesson. He said that all copper is "positive" and other metal is "negative", and if you put one piece of metal wire and one piece of copper wire in water, you will get electricity, or the ability to electrocute the snails. We will see. .
We arrived home to a whirling cloud of smoke. Mario had set the brush on fire that he cut and the wind was blowing it wildly across our property toward the village. Two neighbors walked by as we got out of our car and I apologized. And then I saw the rose on the other side of the front walk covered with cement. Luca had finished for the day, and I spent the next half hour or so feeling sorry for myself and washing the rose, leaf by leaf, with a sponge and pail of water. Some days are more perfect than others. .
We met again early this morning with Alessandro, our insurance man, in the next town. We are buying supplemental medical insurance, so that we can have a choice of where to go if we are really sick. The state picks up most everything here, but there is a long, long wait if you need to go to the hospital. Most important of all, we will now have insurance when we travel back to the U.S. .
We hear more each time from Alessandro about "the Italians" and they way they try to get around "the system". We think it is a national pastime. He tells us that no Italian will buy insurance until they want to use it. In Italy, each car is insured separately. He tells us that that is because the Italians think they can only drive one car at a time so why pay for insuring more than one car? I think he is telling us that Italians take license plates off one car and put them on another. Don't shoot the messenger. I am only telling you what he told me. In Italy you buy insurance for a car, and cannot buy insurance for more than one at one time on one policy. Go figure. .
We return to Mugnano to see Giuseppi on his tractor and we wave to each other. Giuseppe works for the comune of Bomarzo (public works) and is clearing the road of overgrown weeds to prepare for the village festa this weekend. Yesterday, lights were strung over the street to welcome San Liberato. We told him that we missed not seeing him at the Bomarzo parade. He plays the drums as part of the Polymartium Band of Bomarzo, but that day he had to work. .
Roy cuts down some bushes hanging over the street below our house, and it is timely, because tomorrow trucks will come to sweep up and take all the brush away. We are all getting dressed for San Liberato. .
It is too bad that our project will not be finished for this weekend, but that is fine. Today I checked out all the roses and there are hundreds of buds ready to explode. A few more hot days and we will be ready. I will feed them on Thursday again, and see if I can encourage them to pop out early. .
The sky is cloudy and the sun is in a bad mood. It is warm, 25 degrees, and feels oppressive. This morning Stefano cemented the numbers on our pilasters (columns) and attached the "banana" nameplate below the doorbell. Felice was walking by and we laughed that there are three "Numero Uno's" on the street...San Rocco, L'Avventura, and a strange modern looking little number just before Giustino's building. This last one has the number painted next to the door, so perhaps it's official number is different. .
No matter. The postman knows us. He drives a motorino and wears a bright yellow helmet. When we drove up the hill toward Bomarzo this morning, we met him coming down. He waved to flag us down. Oh, oh. Roy stopped and signed for, yes, yet another driving citation from Rome. December 20th. We hope this is the last of them....
I have always had a fascination for postmen. Mine have always been very kind and friendly. The one I remember the most was George, who was our mailman in Quincy, MA, while I was growing up. I remember him delivering mail for more than 20 years to my mother, who gave him a glass of water while he handed her the mail. Whenever I was away and send her a postcard, George read it in advance, and commented on what a good time I was having. So for years I remember putting "Hi, George" on the back of any envelope or on any postcard to my mother. .
This postman is that kind of person, who beams when we greet him. I look forward to offering him a glass of water when he delivers our mail. One day we were in the street below our house as he drove up and Roy crossed his arms and frowned in fun, saying that he did not want any other parking tickets in the mail. The postman dipped into his box on the front of his motorino and smiled. "Rosa!" he exclaimed as he handed Roy a late birthday card from Uncle Harry and Aunt Elaine. .
Stefano told Roy that we could drive into the parceggio today, so we went out to buy a melanzanie plant for the ground and groceries for us. Tomorrow is a big holiday and the stores will be closed. .
While we were out, we went to Il Pallone, near Viterbo, to get groceries. Nearby is the most wonderful vivaio for peonies. Only peonies, as far as the eye can see. We were not able to stay long, but will certainly go back this week for a long stroll. The peonies are in full flower, and since they only bloom once a year, now is the time to go. .
We drive home, right into the parceggio! And there are even 4 or 5 centimeters to spare before the gate! .
This is a state holiday, honoring workers, and we spend most of the day in the garden. In the afternoon, we decide to go to the festa in Porchiano. Yesterday we saw Maria in the next town and she told us to be sure to go. The festa is held under a grove of trees, and the main attraction is a dance floor where people of all ages dance to disco or to the accompaniment of accordion players. The dance floor is crowded. We go to the top of a knoll to look down. I love the music. It is a mix of old Italian folk songs and more current tunes I cannot identify. Mario and Maria are on the dance floor, at the opposite end of the outside room from our vantage point. Maria looks up and waves. In a few minutes, the music changes. Everyone moves in unison. Each person dances alone. The steps are very familiar, a dance I vaguely remember from my first years in San Francisco. I cannot place it.
A few minutes later, as we leave, we are greeted by Mario. I ask him what the dance was and he beams, "The Allegalle." "Allegalle" The letter "h" is not in the Italian language...The dance is the Hully Gully. I am really getting old. .
We find the peony garden near Viterbo. Giovanna, Duccio's wife, told us about this place, Centro Botanico Moutan in Pallone, but we had no idea that it would be this grand. Hundreds of varieties of peonies, marked off row by row. Every twenty rows had a marker, designating row numbers and the name of the particular variety of peony. We especially liked Rosa Ziao, a multi-petaled white. We were not able to stay long, but vowed to come back within a week. This is peony season, so to view the best display, we must return soon.
Roy has made an appointment with Vezio to come to get to know us and talk about his possible purchase of San Rocco. For weeks we have been nervous, "preoccupato", thinking that if he is a sculptor in stone he will be very noisy.
Instead, we learn that he works only in bronze. The foundry that he uses is in Milano, so he will not have any machines in his studio at all. He is very mindful of the noise. We are very relieved.
I am sorry that I have missed going to yoga for another week, but this meeting with Vezio is important to us. We also learn that he is trying to get the Comune to fortify the little strada in front of our house that leads to San Rocco. They are positive. So are we. This will be a good relationship.
He is not in a hurry to obtain San Rocco, and we will see how the process all unfolds. We ask him about the tree which is growing into the back of San Rocco, damaging the apse. He is going to ask Giuseppe of the Comune to look at it and possibly cut it down.
Later in the day we go to Viterbo's flower exposition, an event that takes place once a year all over San Pellegrino, the medieval section of the city. I'd like a blue hydrangea, to put in the old pot left at L'Avventura by the previous owners. The pot is quite old, perhaps more than 100 years, and stands as a sentinel inside the side gate.
One of the displays has many hydrangeas, and a man asks us where we are from. When we tell him Mugnano, he smiles and says, "bellisima...piccola, piccola". An old woman takes my hand when I ask "meliore?" (the best) and brings me inside to a cool room, filled with hydrangeas of many colors, safe from the day's hot sun. We find the one we like and she seems happy that we have bought one of her favorites. As we leave, we see a little black dog with a plastic flower pot hanging from his mouth. He is wagging his tail, and wiggling over to his owner, who appears to be working at another display.
Down a side street and we come upon display after display of red and yellow and blue and pink and white...flowers everywhere. Viterbo is an especially beautiful city to display flowers, with many cascading over centuries-old walls. We truly have smelled the roses today.
Tonight there is dancing in the village, but we stay home. Instead we watch the fireworks of Chia from our bed. This weekend is a festa for them, too.
Roy asked me early today how I felt and I answered, "I feel lucky to be alive." I meant it.
Today is an important day in Mugnano. It is the feast day of San Liberato, our patron saint. I get up early and go out to water the flowers and plants. When I am through watering the front yard, I walk out the side gate to the street to see if any houses on the street are flying their bandieras for the festa. Last night Alberto told us that August is when they are flown, even though we remember flying them two years ago in May. We love our bandieras. We had them made in California just after we bought L'Avventura and were disappointed last night to learn that we might not fly them.
I am not sure if we should fly our bandieras. If we should fly them, I am not sure which way they should be faced, blue on the left or right. In Italy, often the Italian flag is flown upside down or backwards. Flying the flag in Italy does not have the significance it does in the U.S.
After I walk out the gate I walk up about 10 feet and see a few bandieras flying. I keep walking up the street toward the village, because I want to know which way to hang them. One house has the blue on the left facing out, the next house has red on the left facing out. As I reach Luigina's house, someone has come out to go into his cantina. He is familiar to me, but I don't know his name. I know he is one of the Mugnano Confraternity, so I am confident that he is the right person to ask.
"Un domanda (a question)?" I ask. He looks out the doorway half asleep. I ask him which way to hang our bandieras. Blue first or rosa? He looks at me and shrugs. "No importante." I thank him and go home to hang the bandieras over the wall between the roses on the path. The wires we have strung to guide the roses are perfect to keep them from blowing away.
At 9 AM, cars with musicians from the Polymartium Band of Bomarzo begin to arrive and park across the street from our house. This is one of the only days of the year that cars can park across from us. The street is only wide enough for two cars, so if cars park on one side or the other, the few cars that come and go have to beware. Today, there is a policeman, who stands right near the entrance to our parcheggio. So we feel fine leaving the windows to the house open when we walk up to the mass and solemn procession.
We are both out in the garden early in our grubbies, and take a break to walk to the bus stop to sit and wait for the band to march by. Sr. Lagrimino sees us and walks purposefully over to us and sits down kitty-corner across from us. He is all dressed up with a light blue shirt, matching light blue socks, a jacket and slacks and tie. Pretty spiffy. Poor old guy. The people in the village don't pay much attention to him. He is a little dotty, but wouldn't you be at 95 years young?
Band members walk to and fro with their instruments. Roy said about these musicians, "Did you ever notice that individually each musician plays very well, but when they all get together...well.." I would say it is a kind of cacophony when they play. I never had great expectations of any marching bands I have seen. I only half-listen, and instead get caught up in the wave of nostalgia they create. This band plays some marches I do not know. Today, they will also play solemn music.
We go home to change, because these fellows will not begin for a while. When we are having breakfast, we can hear them above us. They started to play a few minutes ago just below our house and will march and play through all the streets of the village. It takes them about half an hour, and then they mill about until eleven, when the mass begins.
Roy looks so handsome in a spring sport coat and slacks and straw hat. I look up at him as we walk past the bus stop on the way up to the village square. The tiny church is transported outside, carpet and all. Not only are San Liberato and his bier stationed on the right of the altar outside, but a second bust of San Liberato, all in bronze, stands right in front of the altar. His skin is black in this bust, and the metal looks quite old. No one we ask knows how old it is. This is the first time we have seen this.
Almost a hundred people mill around. We greet Felice, who is not with his wife. He makes a sign with his index finger in his cheek to indicate that she is home preparing pranzo. He looks excited in anticipation. We heard she is a great gnocci maker. I will see if she will give me a lesson some day. I really love her. She is so sweet and laughs at all Felice's jokes. After 50 years with him, that is a good thing.
Felice has an important role today. He and Giovanni, our sidewalk superintendent, are to take the wreath to the fallen soldiers to the memorial just down from the square in a few minutes. Roy tells me that Felice spent most of the war in Sicily. Perhaps that is why he laughingly refers to us as "mafioso". I wonder how many years we will have Giovanni and Felice to do this. I hope many.
There are two sets of confraternities, those of Bomarzo and those of Mugnano. The confraternity of Bomarzo are dressed in parchment colored long coats with short terra cotta colored capes that reach to just below their shoulders. Rather elegantly trimmed in gold cord, they are a serious bunch. This is a serious occasion. Our confraternity of Mugnano, dressed in rose and blue, aren't as elegant, but they look very special to me. A number of the women wear blue scarfs with special initials. They are the female equivalent of the confraternity, if that is possible. Rosita is dressed in a red suit with the blue scarf. She looks very handsome. While we are waiting to begin, Don Luca zooms up in a new black motorino and black motorcycle helmet. He is quite a guy .
The procession to the caduti (fallen) begins before the solemn mass. The young Bomarzo choir sings throughout the mass. Then the procession of a hundred or more of us begins with Don Luca, Stefano Bonari, the mayor, first the Confraternity of Bomarzo, then the Confraternity of Mugnano holding San Liberato on a bier, and then the rest of us. We end half-way, because we have reached Giustino's building, and go home from there.
Paola Fosci comes by for a prearranged visit at 3PM with a school friend of hers. We sit inside in the living room because it is very warm outside. Paula gives us our first lesson in the Mugnano puzzle. This is quite wonderful, because now we can relate names to the faces. This is what we learn:
We start with her family, the Fosci family, which is very important in Mugnano. Paola and her family live on the North side of Mugnano, around the corner from Santa Maria, the church we go to on Sundays.
Rina is the tall white haired lady who spends time in the garden next to us with Paola's grandmother. She is Paola's aunt, but we think she is the sister of Paola's father. She also sits in front of Roy and over one to the right in church. Paola's grandmother is Candida, who we see often in the garden. She sits on the other side of the little church on Sundays. Candida's daughter (Paola's mother) is Serena. Serena and Candida are from Montecastello di Vibio, a little town near Todi. Paola's father, Giuseppe (called Pino or Pepe) is from Mugnano. There is an uncle, also Giuseppe, who we see with Pepe and Ubik(the dog) when they are out on the tractor.
Giuseppe the uncle is married to Giuseppa. Giuseppa sits directly in front of Roy in church. Giuseppa and Luciana and another woman(next lesson?) walk by our house often and look up. Some weeks ago we invited them in to see the property and Luciana told us then that there were pigs kept in one of the grottos years ago. Augusta is Giuseppe's sister and is the mother of Mauro, the mechanico, not Mauro, the muratore.
Paola has a brother around her same age whose name is Mario. Mario's girlfriend is named Fulvia Cozzi. Now we go to the Filiberti/Cozzi family...
Fulvia and Livia are sisters. Their mother is Vincenza and father is Augusto. Their grandmother is Leontina, who I have referred to as Dina. Dina's sister is Marsiglia, wife of our dear Felice! Leontina is married to Italo Filiberti.
Back to Fulvia, she is a distant relative to Vincenzo Cozzi. Vincenzo is the handsome white haired man who has the first Contadina as you make the left turn to come to the village on Via Mameli. He also is the reader in the church on Sundays. We think he may be a very learned man, for his diction is impeccable. Paola tells us that he studied for many years in the seminary. That makes sense.
We learn for the first time that Vincenzo's last name is Cozzi. We know his daughter is Anna and that he lives with her across from the old big church that needs a new roof. Their house is covered with flowers. It is quite lovely in any season. But what we now learn is that Alberto ( the friendly man who works for the telephone company and told us the other evening to fly our bandieras in August) is Vincenzo's son! Alberto has another sister, who lives in Bomarzo, named Luisa.
Now, Paola Fosci has a boyfriend named Antonio who we know of as Tonino. He has a sister named Rosalba and his mother is Giuseppa, the wonderful woman who takes the collection at the church.
We end our lesson by learning that Giovanni, who we call our Sidewalk Superintendent's last name is Ruco.
That is the end of this lesson. So now I will refer to these people by name. Perhaps some day there will be a Mugnano family tree....anything is possible.
Today, Ernestine Campagnoli and her two daughters, Joy and Julie, are coming for pranzo. They toured Rome with Karina and then went to the Borghese Gardens. Today they will drive to our house and then on to visit other friends in Umbria, near Umbertide.
Roy does the watering today, and I work on the pranzo. We are having grilled polenta with a red peper sauce, spring lamb and crusty potatoes, a salad with Felice's lettuce, ruggheta (arugula) and pears and a dessert of a torta with tiny berries. I cooked the polenta yesterday, so that we can slice it and cook it on the grill. Yesterday I also made the peper sauce, a red sauce with big red pepers and red onions.
This morning, the black metal base of the cancello is installed, and we concede that the bruto (ugly) yellow flashing light will go on the front of one of the pillars. Roy said, "This is a prime example where function wins out over form." It is sad that we have put so much time and detail into our project, only to see it scarred by a piece of unattractive modern necessity.
The roses come out to meet the girls. Everywhere are flowers. It is very hot and the roses love the heat. We are shielding the new hydrangea. It cannot live in the pot by the side gate, but looks great next to the laurel tree right at the edge of the cornice (frame) made by the loggia walls and roof.
We have a wonderful time, and eat until almost four. I take a picture of Julie and Joy on our high bed facing San Rocco and another of all of them on the balcony. It is as though Leo and Iolanda were here with us. We used Roy's grandmother's plates and her crystal at lunch and took Ernestine around the house to show her anything we had that she might remember. The day was very nostalgic.
I was watering the white seafoam roses by the front path when I looked down to see Felice slowly walking up the hill with a bamboo pole strung over his shoulder. On the pole hung a plastic bag with vedura. I called out to him and he waved.
A few minutes later, he arrived through the front gate, and came over to see if he should water. It is hot. Yesterday he said that it was 25 degrees in the ombra (shade) and 30 degrees in the hot sun. Today it is just as warm. He asks about the tomatoes and we go to look. He bends down and stands one up tall, pinching a few little buds away. I think he is saying that that will make the plant stronger. When the plants are a little taller, we will tie some of the thin green rubber cord we have around them to help support them against the bamboo poles as they grow.
Roy comes out to say hello. Felice refers to him as "padrone" with a laugh. I tell Felice that I found a wasp nest in a lavender when I was watering. They want to see it. Felice bends over and knocks it off, then tries to clap his hands together over the wasp that has flown out. I gasp and run to the other side of the cherry tree. Wasp nests need to be caught when they are small. Then, they can just be knocked off. It is when they get bigger that they are a problem.
I ask him when we should plant the ground cover where the seafoam roses and the marble top table and iron chairs are located. I show him the box of seeds. He says, quindici maggio (May 15th). Or possibly the 15th, in the evening. It all has to do with the phase of the moon. Perhaps tomorrow evening we will plant the zucchini and onions and eggplant.
I take him to the lemon tree to show him with pride that we have another blossom. He is very pleased. Up above, our neighbor calls out to Felice. We learn now that her name is Rosina. Rosina is the woman who called the geometra to complain about our wall going too far out into the street... She tells Felice she thinks the weeds on the bank below her house but above ours are bruto. So do we, but that is a big project for another time. They are mostly obscured from our view by our laurel tree, so piano, piano. No need to rush. They will only grow back....
We go to the raised vegetable bed and I show him some shoots that do not look like weeds. He thinks that seeds from the earth from above sprouted zucchini or melon. We will let them grow a little and when we figure out what they are we will move them to the other growing garden above the lavender.
I ask him to give my regards to "Signora" and he tells me he is going to go home and give her a big hug. So sweet. I give him my biggest smile.
Soon we will do a diagram of the property and see if we can get that on the website. Yesterday Julie told us for a while that she stopped reading the journal. I had not posted for some time, so she forgot about it. Now that she has been to Mugnano, she wants to read every entry. All the references will begin to make sense.
I feel that this journal is running away with me, but it is a good exercise. This is a good answer for the question.... "Whatever do you DO all day?" There is always something going on.
Yesterday Stefano told Roy that he thought the little strada in front of our house is dangerous and needs a railing on the outside, possibly of castagno. This is the responsibility of the comune, and we think it is a good idea, especially since they will rebuild the part near San Rocco for Vezio. We hope that they will agree, and that it will not be bruto.
I went over to look at how the vedura garden is doing and had a strange thought. I think the lettuce we have planted called "cappuccia" is really smooth cabbage. The leaves look thicker than Felice's lattuga planted just above it. I go into the house to look at The Edible Italian Garden, and under cabbage, it says, "cappuccia!" Lord! We have about a dozen! Roy says, "Pull them all out!" I'll ask Felice and we'll go to the nice man in Attigliano near Sapore Uno to see if he has the lettuce we want. I think if we plant it on the 15th of May we will be all right. Live and learn.
We have been sitting in the loggia for cocktails before dinner on our canvas sling chairs. Roy muses that he wonders if the tiny bird on the telephone wire is listening in on a conversation. It strikes me as funny and I laugh until I wipe my eyes and realize that I have put peperoncini in the pasta sauce and my eyes are stinging from that hot little plant.
This morning, very early, we drove to Soriano for blood tests. Dottoressa Ofelia wants to check my liver and also check Roy to see if he can discontinue one of his medications. She has given us prescriptions to get our tests. Salute, the Health office, is a wonderful newly painted pink stucco building in this old and very interesting town.
While I am registering, Elizabeth comes over to greet me. She has been on duty all night here and is just going home. We are invited for pranzo today, and to enjoy the pool. Perhaps later in the month she will go before a judge and he will demand that she yank out the beautiful pool she has put in this past year. It appears she did not have the proper permits, although her town told her she could go ahead. What happens here is that once a local community gives someone the go-ahead, they usually have to send the paperwork to the Italian government, and if there is no response for 60 days they can go ahead. Not everyone succeeds in going around the system, and poor Elizabeth seems to go around with a cloud over her head. She needs some better luck.
We take tickets to wait for our turn to get our blood drawn. While we wait in the hallway, we watch people milling around holding cotton in their inside elbows while they gab. One particular pair of women is greeted by old friends as they come out of being jabbed. Everyone smiles as if to say, "Isn't that nice!" I notice that an old woman has not taken a number and guide her over to the machine.
"Miracolo!" Roy exclaims. We have just given help to an Italian!
Later in the day, after a pasta primavera pranzo with Elizabeth and three of her four children, we take her to Terni. We do not know this city well. From our standpoint, we think it is brutto. It was a steel factory town during WWII, and was heavily bombed. As a result, a lot of modern cement buildings were built in the 50's and 60's. Somehow, we are unable to call a 50 year old cement building charming, unless it is overgrown with flowers so that the faŤade cannot be seen.
Today Elizabeth shows us a different Terni. Very fashionable, a few lovely tree-lined streets with centuries-old buildings. A few very interesting houseware stores and a store for me to buy a linen dress. Blaunotte, a hip store started by two women in their garden, now in Madrid and London as well as locations in Italy.
We also go to a fabric store, a very interesting one. She buys canvas material to recover pool chairs, and I buy linen to make a cool summer dress in the style she is wearing. We return to Orte and go to her dressmaker, who takes my measurements and in a week or two we will see if I have a wonderful new dress.
School today. We have not had school for three weeks, because April 17th was Easter week and the next Thursday was May 1st. When we arrive in the office, Elettra gives me a big hug. It is good to see her. Since we no longer have homework, we do not dread class so much.
Today we talk about wood. We are confused about the many words that refer to wood. Il legno refers cut wood, or a piece of furniture. Legna refers to firewood and legname refers to timber, or beams. Il tagliatore is a person who cuts wood. Il Corpo Forestale are forest rangers. One forest ranger is la guardia forestale. La foresta is a grand forest, like the Amazon. But a bosco refers to trees. Then il boscaiolo is a person who works in the woods.
But, pizza boscaiola is pizza with fungi and salsiche. And tagliatelle is cut pasta. We are still trying to figure out the difference between pesca and pesche (peach and fish). Elettra tells us we close our mouth to pronounce pesca (fish) and open it to pronounce pesche (peach). I am imagining a big K sitting on a luscious peach. "ch" is pronounced "k", so that association works for me. Roy is still not sure.
We next go onto exercises with verbs, but enough of that already. There is so much to learn!
We arrive home to find Enzo here replacing the pump in the parking area. Later, we find that he was not familiar with the pump, and the new one does not work either. So he flushes out the first pump and it works. Then we ask them to test the alarm, which we have reduced to a small red light in the kitchen. It works, but will only go off 20 seconds or so before we have to close the house down and call Enzo. Thanks, Roy, for your eagle eye. So Stefano and the electrician will move the switch down further in the ground. We will have plenty of time when the pump malfunctions to get Enzo here.
It was a messy job, and it is very hot at 6PM, so we give everyone a beer. Except for Felice, who has arrived to check things out. He makes a face when he is offered a taste. This is the first time I have seen him grimace. He has his blue shirt tied in a knot on his waist. If Ralph Lauren only knew.
Yesterday was sultry, and we slept with both windows open. Just before seven, the wind started up and a sweet rain fell for about half an hour. With a menacing sky overhead and showers here and there, we do not have to water today. It is cooler than it has been for a week, so today we will be tourists. I will take Roy to Civita di Bagnoregio, near Orvietto. Although I have already been there five times, Roy has not been. It is good to go on a cool day, because once you leave the car there is a steep walk over a narrow bridge. On a hot day it is blistering. I can speak from experience.
Roy has a wonderful attitude about parking. He never parks at the first lot that is offered. He waits until he is close to where he wants to be. If it looks crowded, he will look for a space or even backtrack. But first he wants to get a "lay of the land". Today is no exception. He finds a place right at the entrance to the bridge.
It is slippery underfoot but there is no rain. We do not take an umbrella, but take each other's hand. The bridge is very narrow until the very end and so incredibly steep that there should be steps. It goes up and up and up and don't dare look down. Civita shoots up from a cliff and the bridge taking us there is sturdy, but those of us from California are mindful that if there is an earthquake it is all over...We try not to think of it and laugh instead, all the way up. I want to stop to take a breath and Roy wants to keep going. It is dizzying, so we stay as close to the middle of the bridge as we can.
Civita is a lovely forgotten village. We have no idea how anyone could live there. It is a village in decay, however, there are many lovely old homes there built of tufa rock and a spectacular view from every direction. A view not unlike the Grand Canyon with trees! Strange rock formations jutting up from green, green vegetation. We have no idea how anyone could get groceries or a piece of furniture up to the village or down. When we walk back an hour later we watch a muratore in a little "put-put" maneuver down the rain-slicked bridge with his partner in the truck bed in the back. We walk faster because he is gaining on us, but we reach the end before he does.
After a memorable lunch at the hosteria at the foot of the bridge, sitting on the terrace with a clear view of the village, we leave to see five nuns in inky-black glide up the bridge, habits blowing in the soft wind. It is a photograph I will long remember, especially since I don't have to return. Taking that walk six times in a lifetime is enough for anyone.
Back at home, Felice arrives to plant in our planting bed above the lavender. He and Roy ready the earth with terra buona, and he digs furrows with his old tool, making mounds where the plants will make their homes. Three zucchini, one eggplant, and I remember we have a package of tiny red onions. He picks them out and separates them, so only one shoot per planting, even though they came sometimes two and three shoots to a plant. There are fifteen, but before he is done we have more than twenty. Enough to feed the village. It is not possible to buy only a few of these, as they come in little Styrofoam containers for €1 or €2 each.
It's time to view the tomatoes, and it is as if someone shot them with a miracle drug while we were gone. We are sure they are several inches taller today. We tie rubber string around them to guide them up the bamboo stakes and pinch leaves to give each plant more room to grow.
There are so many roses in bloom that I make a bouquet for Signora and send him home with a little surprise for his love. He gets a kiss from me for all his great work and waves c'e veddiamo (see you again). After he leaves, Roy shows me eleven tiny lemons on the lemon tree, which Felice had shown him. They are microscope-tiny, growing where the flower buds were. And so fragrant it is impossible not to take a huge breath and sweep the fragrance up to my face with my arms.
I recall two memories of our festa last Sunday that I did not write about. The first happened during the mass. We were all outside sitting on wooden benches that had been dragged out of the little church. Sun and shade, we had the best of both worlds. Overhead the ucelli chirped away, so tiny we could not distinguish one from another. We remember that most of the birds in the village are a taupy-grey, the same color as the centuries old Orsini Palazzo to our right. The mass droned on, with young singers from the Bomarzo choir aiding Don Luca from passage to passage. Almost everyone on the right side of the "church" sat down as though we were being lulled to sleep. About three minutes later, the young Don Luca looked over and said to all of us with a grin, "Are you tired? Stand up!" We had a laugh at ourselves. Everyone on the left side knew to stand. There we go again.
Tonight, however, we go to six o'clock mass at Misericordia, a tiny chapel in Bomarzo. We will be in Rome tomorrow, so want to go to this service, which is held each Saturday evening. It is a jewel box of a church, around the corner from the giornali, half way up the steep Bomarzo hill past the parking spaces that are aimed toward that breathtaking view of the Tiber Valley. Again, the cars have the best view.
During the mass, Don Luca asks what word is used to describe the Catholic Church, in connection with other Christian worship. Roy knows the word is "universal" and later in the mass when we are asked that again, Roy speaks the word out loud. His altar boy training has come in handy once more.
The other memory of the festa on Sunday was of the extraordinary vista we have of our village's fireworks. It is hard to describe them other than breathtaking. Sitting in our loggia at 10:30 at night, the fireworks pop up from the valley below us and burst right in front of our eyes...not high up in the sky but right directly in front of us. If anything, the view is oppressive. It is hard to miss these "in your face" fireworks. The village dogs hate them, and for the rest of the night howl away. For now, John Franco and his guests on their patio above us laugh and we can hear an occasional "Guarda!" "Che bello!.
But now it is Saturday, and I am back at yoga. Kees is here for the first time, telling Roy later, "I ran out of excuses..." Keess' wife, Catherine, teaches the class. Roy wants to see what he is missing and next time he will go with me. I tell Catherine and Shelly that we have capuccia for each of them.
Later in the day, we move the two capuccia we have left, the fennel and the red onions to the planting bed above the lavender. The phone rings and it is Tiziana, asking at the last minute if we can come to see her tonight. She is playing her violin at a baroque concert in Lugnano, the town on the other side of Attigliano. Of course we will go.
We have never seen the inside of the church at night, but the old white stone building is lovely when lit. The concert, with music by Rossini and two Bach's, is perfect in that location. Above the altar is a kind of dome, under which three young men played baroque trumpets. Roy loves brass instruments, and we both enjoyed the concert a great deal. Afterward, we spent a few minutes with Tiziana.
We learned that Alberto is restoring a tiny church in Orte, but it is dangerous work. He is doing muratore work, and unfortunately there is not money to pay him. He should be working on his thesis, which is due in September. They will come for a visit in two weeks, and we look forward to seeing them again. We miss them.
On the way to Rome, the sign just before the toll booth tells us that there is an accident between Orte and Magliana Sabina. The road looks clear, so we decide to chance it. A few minutes below the Orte exit, traffic slows, but we see the flashing blue police lights ahead. They must be clearing the accident. It probably happened a few hours ago. We are all in a coda (queue), and in Italian fashion, many people get out of their cars and start up conversations with each other. No one seems bothered by the delay. Fifteen minutes later, we are able to move forward, now in one line, instead of three. Sadly there has been a death, and we leave the scene just behind a hearse. We can see the body bag inside. The hearse with its signature cross on top is led slowly away by a blue police car. No need for them to hurry now.
The road is clear. There is an eerie silence and although earlier there was a lot of traffic behind us, we are able to drive forward almost alone on the road. We reach Lore and Alberto's apartment in about an hour.
Today, they are taking us to a famous garden in Rome. It is called the Giardino Comunale, formerly a Jewish cemetery. Paths are designed in the shape of a menorah, and the garden is full of hundreds of kinds of roses. This is their month, so the blooms are everywhere. Although there are signs on each plant, stating the name, provenance and year the type was introduced, I am able to pick out many of the roses we have at L''Avventura and also at other homes we have owned.
Lady Hillington, Mary Rose, Madame Alfred Carriere, Iceberg, New Dawn, Baron Rothschild, I can pick those out and a few more. Today is Sarah Hammond's birthday, so it is a perfect day to be in a special rose garden. I must email her later to tell her we will bring her here if she comes sometime in May or June.
After the garden, we walk across the street to the Giardino degli Arancia, a garden full of orange trees and a great view. Next to the garden is the Chiesa Santa Sabina. The huge church is getting ready for a solemn high mass, with thirteen priest standing in their inner doorway, peering out and joking with each other. A sour-faced woman walks stiltingly toward us and then turns an abrupt right into the area where she will sit. We are sure she has sat there every Sunday for decades. And probably in the same outfit. Dressed in '30's garb, her red velvet flat hat sat on her head like a cakebox. She was dressed in black, with a black and white dot narrow pleated skirt and plain black top. Her hair was yellow-white and short. She must have combed it a few days ago. Lore looked at her and whispered, "Look who came out of the tomb!"
Alberto went to get the car, and Lore explained that this was one of the many churches that were built with columns and other artifacts from different Imperial Palaces. It was kind of a mish-mash, but there were some wonderful marble reliefs on the walls.
A block down the street, in the Piazza de Cavallieri di Malta, we were treated to a strange sight...We queued up behind a line of about ten people taking their turns peering into a keyhole!
When it was my turn, I pressed my right eye against the hole and saw...St. Peter's! There is a lovely gravel path that leads to the end of a cliff. On either side framing the view are green hedges holding hands overhead in an arch. The site is picture-perfect. And this is a site people come to see and wait in line to peek through this famous keyhole.
From there, we drive to Capitoline Hill, to look over the Forum. Then a walk to Piazza de Campodoglio, which was designed by Michelangelo. Lore tells me that it was formerly a big pit, and Michelangelo was allowed to design whatever he wanted. The star shaped pavamento fans out to several buildings, but what caught my eye was the women. The Italian women, especially the Romans, dress in a certain way. Well, not the way Lore dresses. She puts her head down and looks at me over the rim of invisible glasses, to show her disdain. Words are not necessary.
There were three brides on this day, the first with her new husband in cutaway coat, posing in front of different rose bushes in the Giardino Comunale. What struck me as odd was the choice of the roses she chose to stand beside. Each was yellow, but the petals folded back in a way that made Lore exclaim with a laugh, "Guarda! They are all disheveled!" The petals folded back like a jacket freshly sat upon. The bride had no expression, except for her "formaggio!" pose waiting for the shutter to click.
Later, when climbing up to the Piazza de Campodoglio, I spotted a woman in a white chiffon dress, designed flamenco style with a graceful flow to her ankle. She wore her grey hair tightly back in a bun. The give-away was her tiny white bouquet of white roses. Roy and I debated whether her husband was young enough to be her son. She wore her dress brilliantly, walking with a slight swing of her hips as tho she was dancing to The Gotan Project softly playing one of their slow tangos. When first spotted, she was sitting on her husband's lap for the photographer to snap.
So about the Italian women. They dress for sex. Or at least the allusion is that that is what they are after. They remind me of female birds searching for a mate. There is a style of dress here that confounds us. When worn, the dress looks fresh from an attack, with a hem slashed from hip to foot. Or if they are dressing conservatively, the slash goes from knee to foot. The shoes are higher than the foot is long, and the heel so slim that they appear to totter. Around each of them, a mist thick with perfume. Roy's favorite Italian piece of clothing that he has seen is a pair of jeans, with dirt spots designed right into the fabric. I guess that is casual wear, and what we see today is definitely something else.
Another strange site to me is the choice of clothes people wear to daytime weddings. Long silk and chiffon and beaded dresses. The men seem to dress the same, wherever they go. There is a wedding taking place at a church next to Piazza de Cavillieri di Malta, and the bride, the third we have spotted within an hour, is wiping a tear from her cheek when we pass by her Mercedes.
I have a large brimmed straw hat to shield me from the sun, but it is not enough. I am starting to fade from the heat, and I can just feel a migraine coming on. Back at Lore and Alberto's wonderful apartment, where the terrace outside covers more room than the inside, we are treated to another of Lore's great meals.
I sneak a pill and have a glass of water, but it is too late. Through the meal of bresaola with ruggheta and shaved parmesan, then stuffed tomatoes with risotto and oregano, then roast veal and peas and dessert of semifreddo, I quietly behave myself. I take one sip of the spumante and one sip of the Orvietto Classico, but that is all. We decide not to have salad of gallinella, a tiny leafed lettuce which Lore loves, and she gives it to us to take home in a bag, with instructions on how to clean and dress it.
At about four, we leave and I rest in the front seat, with a blast of air conditioning aiming right at me. It is 31 degrees outside. An hour later we are home and I go to bed with an icepack. Roy putters outside and reads in the loggia.
We decide to check on Virgilio, to find out the status of the cancello. I am not prepared for what I see. It leans against a wall as if smoking a cigarette and is more beautiful than I had imagined. Their faithful execution is a wonder. Tomorrow afternoon it will be installed. The gru and the rest of the project will come later. No matter. Virgilio will call Stefano to make arrangements for him to be there. We anticipate that cement will be poured in the pilasters and the copper tops installed soon afterwards, for the binario is quite heavy and it will need support.
I hear voices of men outside. Il Capitano. That voice is low and unmistakable. He is talking with our neighbor, the retired shoe man, on the street below us. It sounds right outside my window until I realize I have the balcony doors open because I have hung our down comforter over the railing, Italian style, to breathe in the fresh air. Roy has gone to Viterbo, and I am changing linens.
A few years ago, we purchased some lovely white cotton fabric in Viterbo, with a simple embroidered detail about 20 cm from the bottom. The curtains flow from just below the ceiling to the floor. Today, they dance in the breeze. I walk out to the balcony to see who is there and I am hidden from view by the caki tree, whose leaves have grown almost overnight, pushing the few remaining frost-bitten leaves out of the way. There are so many leaves they seem to be pushing each other out of the way for the best view. This tree, this tree. It is difficult to speak of the tree in an unemotional state.
I hear the unmistakable horn of Franco's fruit and vegetable truck. He has the most wonderful vegetables. I forgot that it is Tuesday, and he is right up the street. I put on my camp royanee "play with your food" shirt jacket and walk down the stairs to get my wallet, only to discover I don't have any money. Franco comes on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and I always miss the Saturday delivery because of yoga. It will be another week until he returns.
The phone rings and it is Roy. "Write this down. Canile Municipale. This is the Italian version of the "pound" and I want to see if we should get our dog here." It is in Bagnaia, and he has found out about it by stopping at a pet food store in Viterbo, our provincial capital. He will go there on the way home to be sure it is the kind of place we should go to find a dog. We have not heard back from the breeder in Rome, so perhaps it is not meant to be.
In the morning, we go to Bagnaia to find Canile Municipale. It is the saddest place. Over 305 abandoned dogs, all big ones. We ask to see if they have any small dogs and they will keep our name on file. The one small one they have is still too big for us. The women are saints. They plead with us not to buy a pedigree dog. The Italians just abandon the dogs they are tired of dealing with. That memory will stay with us for a long time.
Dopo pranzo L'Avventura is a busy place. Maria, who cleans our house, arrives first with a friend who works with her. Close behind is Mario, her husband, in his ape (a three-wheeled tiny truck ). He is going to clean the fireplace, and she will tape it off so that soot will not create havoc inside. He brings a huge ladder and tries to open it up on the front wall. After a few unsuccessful tries to get to the roof, he determines that the way to go is from the roof of the bathroom, so moves around to the back of the house. This works.
Stefano and Luca arrive to prepare the pilasters for the cancellos. Mario gets up on the roof, only to find that the chimney cap has been cemented by the previous muratores. What good luck to have muratoes on site. Luca gets his tools and climbs up to help while Stefano gets more sand to mix with the cement.
Aldo and Virgilio arrive with their open back truck, the big cancello lying across it, magestic in all its blackness. The front gate is also there, with its new automatic lock. We will need to sand and paint it, after it has been installed. Anthracite is the color we use. It is not quite black, and we have lots to "touch up" all around, thanks to Virgilio's masterful iron work.
For the next three hours, the house sings inside with the laughter of Maria and her friend, and outside with two muratores, two ironworkers, Mario and Roy and I. Mario finishes his chimney cleaning and Luca fixes the chimney cap. Down below, in the parking area, it is determined that the light on the column above the gate does not have to move. We measured well. So well that we have at least 2 cm. clearance above the spiking arrows rising from the gate.
Have I said that I am really proud of Roy? His mastery of the Italian language is more than just "I can slip by". Today, Virgilio needed to mount the top piece of the gate, which holds the channel and Teflon rollers in which the gate slides. The light was possibly in the way, and he wanted the mounting to be centered on the pilaster (column). Roy figured that out and told him it must be mounted "off center". Contractors universally think of their work as art, that function is "art", but we know better. By mounting it off center, the light could stay right where it was. Otherwise, the light would be off center, "catty-wompus" to use Roy's word.
Later, I hear the word, "mafia!" and know it must be Felice. I go down to greet him and we have a discussion about the volunteer cetrioli or melons, jutting out between the lattuga. He shows me the difference in the leaves from the cucumber plant. You could have fooled me. When they get a little taller we will replant them up above with the zucchini and eggplant. I take him to see tiny flowers on the pomodori and Maria flies out to see if I will help her, breathless and eyes full of fear.
A Japanese artist bought a little house in the village years ago from Loredana and Alberto. The artist has died and his relatives are coming in June. Lore gave them Maria's name and they called her to see if she will clean for them before they arrive. She is afraid to clean, thinking that she will get SARS. Mario does not want her to clean. She is "paura" (afraid). Imagine that she is coming to me for advice. I can't really figure out that it is SARS that she is afraid of, nor can Felice, so we all march down to see Roy, who of course figures it out right away.
Roy tells her to wear a mask. Then I remember that Maria, the Romanian woman who takes care of Giustino, would like to get some work cleaning. Maria goes to see if she will do the work and we are alone again.
Karina came today for a visit and will stay tonight. She has been our lucky charm since the day we came here to buy L'Avventura, and we love having her see all the changes. Tonight we are planning to start to design a couple of unusual Rome tours with her. Well, she is really going to be doing the tours, we are just helping her to walk around and give her ideas regarding what works and what doesn't. She has a great following of people from the U S who have taken her behind the scenes tours in Rome. So we welcome hooking friends up with Karina if they want to see Rome in a wonderfully personal way. We love her stories and her grasp of history. But most of all we love Karina. She is a joy to be with.
This is Stefano and Luca's last day here until the sewer hookup, when they will also do the paving of the loggia. The pavement of the bottom landing inside the front gate is finished, as is the tile work on the top of the pilasters. Roy will affix the copper tops in a few days with silicone. I think that means that the two of them will not be here on Saturday, when the front gate and the cancello get electrified.
While Roy stood across the street watching Luca work on the top of the pilasters, Celestino Natale's niece walked by, and told Roy our property looked like a "fantasy". I think that means she likes it. Months ago, she told us that her uncle built our house in 1935, and we are still meaning to invite her for a visit. If we are fortunate, she may even have a photo or two. The only photos we have are two we took of Celestino and his wife years ago from their headstones in the graveyard.
We were robbed! I woke up a few times during the night. The last time I woke, around 6:30 AM, I walked downstairs to get a pill for my migraine headache. The kitchen floor was filled with things. "Why would Karina leave her things all in a pile in the kitchen?" I thought until I looked closer. Karina had stayed last night and was asleep in the guest bedroom. My shoulder bag was open on the floor, Roy's shorts on top. Around them were the contents of my bag, and Roy's wallet. The new screen window was wide open.
I called up to Roy and opened the front door. The "key prison" where we keep our keys was open, and when Roy came down he went outside to see the new cancello open and the car gone!
They were professionals. They came in through the side gate, opened the screen window above the sink, opened my purse, and actually came upstairs, opened the bedroom door and walked around the bed to get Roy's shorts and wallet hanging on the back of the chair! I am a light sleeper and amazingly did not wake up. They stole our two cell phones, but did not take our checks. If I had woken, would they have shot me/us? We later learn from the Carabieri that they must have "gassed us" so that we would continue to sleep, allowing them to walk right into the room without us hearing them.
When the Carabinieri finally arrived just before 9am, they said that these men were not Italians. They knew this because they asked me if they had eaten anything. I said no. They did not take our bancomats, or our credit cards. Nor did they take the TV or stereo. They were obviously professionals, and the exact same robbery had taken place in a nearby town. Cash, cell phones, the car.....Later we realize we had just put four new tires on the car, Roy's prescription sunglasses were in the car, and our digital camera is also gone.
Karina and Roy have gone with the carabinieri to make a formal report at the station in Bomarzo. I am here to guard (ha) the house. We have always called Karina "our lucky charm" and in a strange way, she is. She has made the calls to the carabinieri and insurance company, and accompanied Roy to the carabinieri headquarters. Without her, Roy would have really had to work overtime. I know he would do a great job explaining, but he does not need the extra stress right now.
On the way out, the thieves left the second set of keys in the parceggio. They could be in another country by now, with Nora, our car. The police did send out al all points bulletin on the car as soon as Karina called in around 7AM, but we could not report the claim to either insurance company until after 9AM.
I am calmer than Roy. These things are not important. They are just things. Roy told Pepe Fosce, as he walked up to his garden, about the robbery, and he was very upset. He thinks we should have a gun and should shoot them, even if there are five of them. That would be a lesson and would tell them not to return. I don't think so.
"In Roma, in Milano, in New York ok, but not in Mugnano!" He felt personally violated as well. This is a tranquil village, and this sort of thing should not happen here. Welcome to the new world.
I want to be quiet, not to talk. So I go out and pick tiny weeds from the orto (food) garden. Keeping busy is a good thing now. I hear footsteps on the side path and it is Felice, looking so sad.
"Cara Signora." Mi dispiace (I am sorry.) I tell him, "Non importante. La vida continua. L'Amo continua. Nessuno importante. (Life continues and love continues and that is all that is important.")
Luigini comes through the open parcheggio gate and up the new steps. "Mi dispiace. Mi dispiace." I thank her and give her a hug. Marie looks down from her balcony and tells us that John Franco looked down at 5:30 AM and saw the cancello open and no car and thought that was strange. It was only hours later when the carabineri arrived that he connected his thought with what really happened.
In the meantime, Karina and Roy have been driven to Bomarzo to make a formal report. It takes both young officers to take the report, one to do two finger typing and the other to hold the mouse. I learn later that the image on the mouse pad is Sharon Stone sitting in her famous "Basic Instinct" pose.
They are fighting with each other. The one who types makes many mistakes. A few minutes later the Capo comes in and pats one of them on the back of the head. "How are we doing? Did you remember to call Telepass in Roma?" The Capo is the man who took the police report when our stereo was stolen some months ago. He is tall and strong and majestic looking in his black uniform. A decorated hero, he served in the Kosovo war and I imagine his picture in the dictionary under the word, "hero". Roy wonders what he did or did not do to get such a sleepy assignment. And then he questions, "Who took my pen?" Pens and paper are not wasted in Italia, and often one pen is shared by several people. There is some confusion regarding the car, as it appears that two cars have the same ID number. We must get the VIN number from SARA and that will probably help. In themeantime, they claim an "all points bulletin" is out on the car.
The carabinieri are sure the theft was done by more than one person, and that the thieves were Albanian. No credit cards, no checks, no identity papers were taken...These fellows were after cash and a car. A similar theft happened recently in Soriano and the car was found nearby. Let's hope our car will be found soon.
At least an hour later, Roy and Karina return with Shelly, who joins our group and drives us in Frigo(our former car, an old BMW) to Viterbo to make the claim and hopefully rent a car. At SARA, the insurance company for the car, we give the claims person the carabinieri report and he asks for the papers for the car. We said, "They are in the car." and he responds, "That is not in the report. You must return to the carabinieri to have them include it in the report before we will open a claim." No goading deters him from his powerful seat behind the glass partition. He is every nightmare you can imagine. He take his job of "bureaucrat" seriously. We have hit a wall.
We walk across the hall to ACI, our version of AAA, to see if they will get us a rental car. We are brought into the boss's office. He will retire in a few months, and nothing seems to phase him. It is now 12:30 PM. He looks at his watch and it is almost time for pranzo. Shelly convinces him to call the home office in Milan, When he does, they tell him we need to fill out a claim form and fax it back and they'll negotiate a car rental. The form must be faxed to us, and the office is now closing. It will reopen at 4PM, but he will be gone for the rest of the day. Karina gives her cell phone number, and the person in Milan is to call her back regarding faxing the form right after pranzo. We have no idea what time that means.
The manager of the office then tells us we have to report the claim to SARA, and to get there we go out the front door and into a door about ten feet to our left. The woman there tells us the people who work on claims are in next Tuesday, so come back then. They are closing for pranzo.
We decide to have pranzo in Viterbo, and wait around. Shelly decides that the form we need to fill out can be faxed to the restaurant, Il Labyrinth, where we are having pranzo. We wait and wait and it does not arrive, even after two calls back to Milan, where the clerk swears the fax was sent. We decide to leave the restaurant and buy a cell phone, but the place Roy wants to go to does not open until 3:45. When it opens, we decide not to buy a phone there. The clerk is a young gum-chewing woman who flashers her long fingernails and shows us a few phones, but does not give us any information. She stands and looks at us blankly, waiting for us to choose. That infuriates me.
Instead we return to the SARA claims office. Karina has called the Carabinieri in Bomarzo who think the claims man is crazy. We get back to the SARA claims office and it is closed! On the door it says it is open from 2PM to 3:30 PM. It is 4:15. A man comes out and says the office is closed until tomorrow and they cannot help. Karina goes back to the SARA general office and the woman agrees to help. We are trying to find the VIN number for the car. She does not know what a VIN number is and asks if we are sure that the car was really stolen. They do not consider a car stolen until after 60 days. The woman agrees to walk over to the SARA claims people, who claimed they are closed, and they agree to talk with the Carabinieri, but refuse to do anything until we get the amended report. We will see if we can get a rental car today anyway.
We go back to ACI and one of the young women agrees to help us. Roy says about the women at ACI, "After their one-year reign as Miss Viterbo, the winners get jobs at ACI. The costumes the women wear are not to be believed. On this day, one of the supervisors, Angela, wears tight bright red pants and a tight white t-shirt with the numbers "22" embroidered in spangles. Another young woman is dressed in faux pirate garb...black and white tight, tight pants that only go up to her hips, a black tight top and glitter on her stomach. Another woman wears a black top so transparent that Shelly suggests to us that she wear clear plastic straps on her bra. Donatella, who takes on our case as her own, is dressed conservatively....Beige denim tiny skirt the size of a postage stamp and jacket and t-shirt, with pointy-toe cowboy boots which rise to her mid-calf.
Karina is trying to get the form we need from Milan faxed to ACI now. Roy and Karina are out in the hallway, and Karina is trying to call the man in Milano. Her phone goes dead. We return to ACI and to Donatella, who invites us to sit in her office while she calls Milan. "You need the fax? You need the phone? Tell me what you need." Now we are getting somewhere.
The person she calls in Milano claims the form was faxed and she said, "I have four witnesses standing here. There is no fax." It takes another hour, and Angela comes back and calls the big boss in Milano. She stands in front of Donatella's desk, in full view of us. Her eyes widen. Her nostrils flare. Her right hand grasps the phone while her left hand holds a cigarette, which she smokes quickly between blasts at her boss's boss at the home office. The air fills with smoke. Shelly moves closer and takes out a cigarette. Donatella takes out another Chesterfield and lights up. I move to the other side of the room near Karina, who is perched in front of a water cooler, to get away from the smoke. The boss agrees to fax the form himself.
Angela admits, "It should not be this way." She is sorry. She tells us that the boss in Viterbo is getting ready to retire, and does not care about the business. And the people at SARA in Viterbo never work. We are learning unfortunately that her words are very true.
The fax arrives, we finish and fax the form back, and in the meanwhile Donatella arranges for a rental car for us.
We arrive home tired and hungry. I am able to make a frittata and prosciutto and melon. We go to bed early, but are unable to sleep. We keep hearing sounds....
Yesterday was Nemo's birthday. I hope he is doing well, and can't help but think that if he were here we would not have been robbed. Then again, he always slept through the night, so may have slept along with us through the robbery.
Karina stayed with us one more night, and now that we have a rental car, she will go with us to the Bomarzo Carabinieri to pick up the amended police report and then go to Viterbo to start the claims process again.
At the police station, we pick up the amended report and know we will have to get another for the house claim, but Karina needs to go back to Rome soon, so we can deal with that later.
At SARA/ACI, the same officious man is behind the counter. He barks something out at us and then sees exactly what he asked for in front of him in the new report. We are sent back to Maurizio, who turns out to be one great guy, in stature and in manner. The ACI people think he looks like Bud Spenser. Evidently Bud and Terence Hill were two detectives. All we know is that he is huge and hugely helpful.
He speaks not a word of English, but has a picture of one of his ten bloodhounds on the wall next to him. He also has 5 basottos (dachshunds). He has never been to Mugnano but thinks it is a wonderful, beautiful place. We tell him that the car has not been able to be traced, because there are two cars with the same ID number. He cannot find any information on our policy. We tell him to call Signore Ronca in Rome. He calls to find out that all the files were sent to Viterbo. He assures us he will fix everything.
We follow Maurizio next door to the ACI office and Angela looks up with her huge made-up eyes and is sad to see us for our sake. We sit at her desk. Maurizio tells her there are no records of our car in the computer. Before she "wipes the floor" with Ronca, she wants to take a look around the office. A few minutes later she finds the documents, and it is Viterbo's problem. They never filed the paperwork because there is a THIRD number attached to the car...the one from the original owner in Germany. She agrees. "We will fix it."
While we are waiting, Maurizio says to me, "Do you paint in Mugnano?" I answer, "Yes, but only in my mind."
So here are the three "targas":
1) our current one that we have been driving with
2) the temporary one issued by the dealer to get us to Italy, and
3) the one given the original owner. We never saw this one, because the dealer kept the original plates, issuing us the new temporary ones instead.
Angela then altered the original documents, with our approval.
Maurizio offered, "They will leave the country if we do not fix it!" I answer, "Mai!" (never).
We are asked again why we are filing so soon. It will be 60 days before they will pay. Now we realize that if we file and they agree to pay and the car is returned, it won't be ours anymore. We are wondering if we should file now and also wonder what we are to do when our insurance renews next month. Angela then tells us, "It seems strange to tell you, but the thief is insured. If he kills someone, SARA will pay." We are assured that the thief is insured on our policy! So Angela "blocks" the car, but when the car is found we will have to activate it immediately. The car is "blocked" so that we will not have to pay for this period, but assures us that we are covered if something happens to the car now.
Donatella walks by on her way out and says, "I hope I never see you again unless it is in a bar!" We agree.
Angela is taking good care of us. She makes the list of the contents of the car. When we come in on Tuesday to deal with the claims persons, we must make sure the complete list is there. Then, we do not have to return for twenty days.
We will return next week to get the correct ownership papers from Angela and Maurizio. We think that Maurizio will also take us under his wing and help us to file the claim himself, instead of coming back on Tuesday. We go back to Maurizio and thank him, telling him we'll see him next week. He knows a judge in Orvietto who breeds the basottos we are interested in, and will give us the information then. We are ready for a dog. One that barks.
Sara pays 60 days after the claim is filed, which will be next Monday or Tuesday, minus 10%. We have a free car for 30 days from ACI, then we are on our own. We agree we will have to start to look for a new car. I'd be happy with an old cinque-cento, but know Roy wants a big car. We will see.
Now Angela must finalize the ownership documents, which were never finalized, due to the tree targas. Karina comments, "This is Kafka-like". We will return on Monday.
Back at the Carabinieri's office, we are ready to redo the police report, adding all the new items we realized need to be included. Karina shows me the Sharon Stone mouse pad. The photo looks innocent enough, unless you have seen the movie.
We take Karina to the Orte train station, then stop at a bar for a tremezzini and sit outside. On the way back, we try to find our vet, who also owns a dog training school nearby, but no one is there. At pranzo time, streets are deserted. Everyone is home.
We know that the rosary is said every day at 3:30 in Mugnano, and decide to go. Before we do that, we print out the prayers in Italian. In church we sit in our regular seats. As the rosary is chanted, we take out our sheets of paper and are able to follow along pretty much. It feels good to be here. We fell comforted.
Back at home, we are exhausted. A few neighbors come by, and I know I must call Lore. She is so upset she cannot speak. She ends the conversation by saying, "I embrace you." It makes me cry.
We have another restless night. We keep waking up. Roy is more shaken up than I. I feel as if I am watching a bad movie. Aldo arrives to electrify both gates, and it takes him the entire day. I take the rental car to Orte to have a pedicure. It is a very good experience and I now have a new friend, "Giusy", who does not speak a word of English but gives a great pedicure.
While spraying the roses on the front path this morning, Paola Fosci, then her mother, then her father come over to give us kind words. Later, while I am gone, in the space of less than two hours, Rosita and her husband, Enzo, Giovanni, Lore and Alberto, all come by to talk with Roy. Clearly the word is out.
Duccio comes by to give us an invitation for a reception tomorrow night at the castle in Graffignano. I give him the news and he is shocked. He reminds us that we must miss Nemorino at a time like this.
Roy calls Christian in Germany, the man we bought the car from, and Christian will research whether it is possible to track the car through the navigation system. The carabinieri think not. I attempt to research it on the internet, but cannot find what I am looking for.
Roy polishes the copper caps on the pilasters and the gate closes easily. The project is finished except for the sewer hookup, the tile in the loggia and the cement pad behind the house. We are happy to be here. Catharine comes by with a hug and we show her around. She tells us the women of the village report that I am out each morning in the garden tending with my garden gloves. They approve. We send her home with roses and thanks for her friendship. We will both go to yoga next Saturday and look forward to that.
Lore and Alberto come by, and we go inside for some Spumante. Later, we have a quiet evening, and have our first rughetta from the garden on grilled flank steak with shaved parmesan, olive oil and lemon. It is wonderful to be able to just go out to the garden for our food. During the night I have a nightmare that someone is trying to shoot me. Roy gets up once during the night and walks all around. He thinks he heard something.
The garden looks wonderful during the cool morning hours. We water and go to church. I read the missal in English as we wait. Candida greets me and asks me if I am fine. I tell her yes, and that is partly true. It is good to be there. After reading the gospel in English, I understand a few words of the homily. I can tell Roy is not doing well. I hold his hand. At the end of the mass, while the pigeons outside are cooing, everyone sits and sings. The hymn is a mournful one, and Rina starts the second verse. We sit as if in a trance, and are comforted by the words we do not know. Somehow they reassure us.
Outside we see Modesta, who is the mother of Ernesta (who owns the tiny store in Mugnano). She is 93 and very jolly. Lore gives her kisses. She had broken her arm and we have not seen her for many months. Lagrimino is there with us after mass, as are both Rositas, and Lucia. When I see the people whose names I now know, I remember to greet them by name. A few people now look at us and stare, afraid to greet us. It is important for us to give them some reassurance that we are not bringing evil people to the village.
It is quiet here today, and I want to look ahead. I am starting to plan my annual Lavender Ladies Lunch. This year, Corpus Domini will be on Sunday, June 22nd,. The lunch will be held the next Saturday, June 28, so that Karina will be able to attend. We will have an excellent crop, and there will be plenty to give to the people of the village. That is very important to me. It feels like a healing activity. The smell of the lavender while I run my hands up its "spaghetti" in the morning when I water is full and rich.
Tonight we go with Lore and Alberto to an art reception in the castle at Graffignano. Actually, it is more a fortress than a castle, built to house soldiers more than several hundred years ago. It was purchased recently by the comune of Graffignano, but needs much work. Duccio's sister Donatella is somewhat of an impresaria, usually seen smoking a Tuscany cigar in all her blonde tinyness. Tonight, she is showing the work of an Italian named Cecci. It is monstrous work, a dream of drugged nightmares. Something inside me wants to scream out. The figures have their skins removed and what appears are swollen bodies covered with red veins, witnessing nightmares.
Clara is there with Duccio and Giovanna in the courtyard when we arrive and walk over the bridge. We walk around the second floor with Lore and Alberto, and then run into Michael and Stefanie, from Bomarzo. Stefanie is walking their standard poodle, and I am reminded after hearing two little dogs yipping that we really must move forward to find a little one for ourselves. Lore tells me she would have kept Nemo, but Duccio defends us, reminding her that Nemo was very unhappy in Mugnano. This poodle is a new dog for them. Recently their poodle was poisoned and died after two days of horrific pain. Michael, who speaks fluent English but is Russian, does not want to find out who did the poisoning of his dog and others in his neighborhood. He feels compelled to kill the person if he is told...
It was difficult to sleep. I woke up several times, the last time thinking I heard a chair scrape the terrazzo floor in the kitchen. I think it is a gray morning, but the birds chirp away. When I get up from the desk and look out the window, I see blue, blue sky. It will be a lovely day.
After we have watered everything and had breakfast, we are outside and I see Candida, bending down over her orto garden next door. I sing out to her, "Candida! Buon giorno!" She sees me and raises a fist of green in greeting. The next thing I know, she is coming down her steps to me with bunches of lattuga for us. I tell her "No, grazie." We have plenty. She will not be deterred, nor will Ubik, who wags his tail and comes over for a scratch from me.
I show her the 20 lattuga plants growing with gusto in the raised bed near the side gate. No matter. She digs her narrow fist into the wet earth between our plants and plants five more. "Un momento!" She goes back FOR MORE! "Basta! Basta!" I plead, but she does not listen. She returns with five escarole, pronouncing them "Molto buona." She laughs, saying that when our lettuce is finished, we can have hers. I am sure she does not know what to say. Roy comes over with the watering can and gives the new lettuce some water. We surely have enough now to feed the entire village.
Escanio comes by with his condolences. Roy shows him our orto garden. He is so kind and tells Roy it is good. Escanio and Giovanna have the huge orto garden on the way up to the village. It is like showing a vintner a grape....
During a trip to see Maurizio in Viterbo regarding the car claim, with greetings to Donatella and Angela in the hallway, we learn that we must wait until Friday and call him. He promises to call us with information on the Judge in Orvietto who breeds basottos, and we go to Montefiascone to buy another wallet for Roy.
On the way to get the wallet, we drive around the town of Montefiascone. It is quite a remarkable old town, with a beautiful view of Lake Bolsena. In the center is the Basilica e Cattedrale di Margherita. We knew nothing about it in advance, but as I stepped over the threshold I looked up and felt emotionally blown out the doorway with what I saw. I have never seen a church like it. Frescoes everywhere. A round dome with so many paintings on each facet that I could not focus on any one. I stopped and turned around to warn Roy. Once he looked inside, he rushed out to note the times of the masses. We will surely return. And oh, how incredible a concert would be in that cattedrale! We must take Don Francis.
Back at home, Alex and her visiting mother from England and brother and tiny girls, Tomasina and Iseult come for a visit. It is 6 PM, and I set up a proper tea in the garden with tiny plates for each little girl and cookies under a food tent painted with strawberries. Alex's mom is great fun, and knows all the roses by name. We agree that one must have an affair with the roses. Roses need constant passion....embracing and worrying over...otherwise, it is folly to even bother planting them.
I agree, and tell her that I visit each one at least twice a day. Each one is watered every day, and at least once a day I go around joyfully to pluck a sick leaf, deadhead a flower, cut them for vases, or spray them with soap and water. Once a week or so, depending on the situation, I might even use a mild insecticide. During this growing season, they are demanding, but in return burst with delicious fragrance and bloom. Even the soft noise of the dropping petals on the table makes me smile. Roy loves them as well.
Roy calls Marielisa, the basotto breeder in Rome. She has a dog for us, but it is only 4 days old, far too soon to tell anything about her personality. There is also another litter coming in a week. So in the next month or so, we will be able to see if she has a dog meant to be ours. In the meantime, we will also look for a mutt. Either way, we will have a dog before August. We know it will be a female and Roy wants her name to be Sofia.
I must not forget to mention that Angie sent us an email this morning. It is always wonderful to hear from her. She reminds us that the night of our robbery, Terence had a terrible nightmare that they were being robbed and the robbers were right in their house. He woke up at 4AM and I am sure was shocked when Roy called him that same night to tell him. What an amazing coincidence. We miss them very much and wish they were here with us now. That does not seem possible, so we will have to wait until November and in the meantime talk to them often. We are so proud of them.
Today we ate our first lattuga from the orto garden. The other night we ate some of our rughetta (arugula) but for pranzo today we made a big salad with one head of Felice's lettuce. I cut it off at the bottom, and now know it will not grow back. Catherine Lombard thinks if we cut the lattuga off higher up the stem, leaving the bottom leaves, it will grow back. Felice says no. We will try one and see. Anyway, we take herbs from around the garden to add to the salad with a little cooked ham and a little cooked turkey and we are in heaven.
We wake up to an overcast sky, but the tomatoes are so happy. It is time to nestle the tallest stalks again against the bamboo. Every plant looks happy, except one cabbage that has given some bug a very big meal. Candida's lattuga is pretty droopy, but in another day it will probably sit up tall. Later today we will pick up 4 San Marzano tomato plants. Funny, but with all the tomato plants we have, they are all heirlooms, and we have no regular tomatoes to cook with. The San Marzano are the variety the Americans call Roma Tomatoes, long bulbous fruit and famous for their ability to produce great taste in any cooked dish.
We keep thinking of our Telepass, the medallion that is attached to the window behind the rear-view mirror of our stolen car. We think we can check if it was used by the robbers. So we call Telepass and are told to go to Orte to their office. When we show up and give them the information, they have nothing on file. There is no record that the police called. I start to cry. So we file a report and Roy asks the last time the Telepass was used. It was in Caserta, just above Naples, at 6:21am...a few hours after the robbery. He then asks when the car entered the A-1. We were told it was Attigliano at 4AM. The carabinieri were right. The robbery took place around 3:30 AM.
We buy a VIACARD to make it easier to travel on the A-1 and go to the Carabinieri in Bomarzo to read them the riot act about not making sure that Telepass had filed the report. I am about ready to burst and tell Roy, "I have never wanted to know how to speak Italian more in my life."
We arrive and one of the young Carabineri who first answered our call is at the front gate, removing something from his car. In a burst of fury, we both fire away at him as though bullets were flying from our mouths. He looks at us calmly and confirms that the call was made to Telepass. We ask for the Capo, and he is not in. We give instructions for him to call us.
It is cool and I am so wired up that I decide to cook polenta. It takes 30 minutes to stir after the water boils. The polenta is very, very hot with bubbles that burst like molten lava. This is dangerous work. I must wear a long sleeved shirt and long kitchen gloves so that I will not be burned. By the time I have made a red peper sauce to go with it, we are ready for a good meal. This is great therapy. In the midst of the meal, the commandante from Bomarzo rings the doorbell. He comes to see how we are, and addresses me. I start to cry again, and answer "Male". "Per che?" He is such a pro at this. In another minute, Roy has Karina on the phone and hands it to him. In another five minutes he has calmed us all down and is gone.
It is so difficult to just sit around with out accomplishing anything that we decide to try Canile Municipales in Umbria and to make arrangements to get the rest of the gravel we need in Narni. They remember us at the gravel quarry, although it has been five years! That done, we drive through Narni and stop at a pet store to ask directions. We learn that Narni has their very own Canile, and this time we arrive at a very clean and organized facililty.
We almost fall for a white very sweet 4 month old puppy who is part springer, until we realize that she will jump our iron fences in a heartbeat. The one small dog we like is owned by the manager. This is a good experience. We will go to Terni tomorrow or the next day to try theirs. Perhaps Umbria has more funds than Lazio to take care of their abandoned dogs.
On the way home, Alessandro calls to say the insurance company will pay the whole house claim. We will meet with him tomorrow, as our house insurance renews on Thursday. It appears our car insurance claim will not be so easy.
While we're having cena, the doorbell rings. It is the carabineri, specifically, the young man we hollered at earlier and one of the more senior officers. The older man is a dead ringer for The Little King. Remember him in his ermine coat, bald head and goatee? This man is The Little King, sansa ermine cloak, blown up by about 60%. He is BIG.
They report that the word has gone out on the car all over Europe, and thank us for our information earlier about Caserta. It is obvious that we have made them look like bumbling idiots, and they are trying to reassure us. After they leave, Roy tells me, "That act of yours this morning really worked!" I admit that it has taken five days for me to react. My emotions have come on like a tornado, but thankfully I was calm all the days that I needed to be.
We go out for a beer at a nearby Octoberfest pub, after locking up the house like a fortress, and have a Turn & Taxus Export, from Regensburg, where Roy was stationed in Germany. I think I can handle one without getting a migraine, but we shall see.
Dottoressa gives us our second tetanus shots in a series of three. This is because of the roses. Evidently some diseases can be spread through thorn pricks, so we are covered. She speaks some English, but in her case, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. We laugh, because she calls everything a foot. "Give me your foot (for the injection). Put it under your foot (some homeopathic liquid we want to take that is to go under your tongue). She forgets to bring a sample of new migraine medicine and wants to write herself a note. I tell her to write it on her foot. We all laugh.
In a meeting with Alessandro, he tells us that there will not be a problem with the claim, but when the claims person comes next week, he will come as well. We show him the policy on our automobile that we have with another company, and he tells us that the claim must be paid in 30 days, not 60 as they told us. He shows us on the policy where it is explained. The auto insurance we bought last year was €600 cheaper, but now we find out that they will only pay 90% of the insured value at the time, minus 10%. Alessandro's insurance would have paid 100%. So live and learn. We like his Alfa, and may look for one soon. It is really probable that our car will not be returned. We will probably not buy another German car. They seem to be sought after by those who steal cars....
Stefano and Andrea showed up to electrify the front gate. We are now so conscious of safety. As they hooked things up, I swept the stairs going down to the parceggeio and the parceggio itself. It is a very Italian thing, sweeping the steps, and felt dreamy in the gentle pre-dinner hours, a kind of slow dancing thing.
Stefano told us that the mailman's name is Marcello and the Commandante of the Carabinieri is Sebastiano Zamponi. Stefano lives in Bomarzo and knows everyone.
Last night, I sat in a sling chair in the loggia, looking across Orte toward a mountain range. I did not remember that it turned shades of pinky-purple at dusk. "...purple mountain's magesty" was right before our eyes. An incredible sight.
This morning, I woke up early and even reading for an hour did not help me get back to sleep, so I got up and watered the whole property, checking out every plant and enjoying puttering in the quiet, with just the birds to interrupt the tranquility of it all.
At around 7am, as I pulled the hose up from the front wall, where I had watered the roses on the front walk, the huge daily bus to Viterbo drove down the hill below me. I waved, and the driver stopped and opened the door to say, "Buon giorno, Signora!". What a wonderful way to have the first conversation of the day. We now have a new friend.
Today Roy will plan where we will go to see the Mille Miglia race. We may go to Terni tomorrow, or to San Gimini and then on Saturday to Viterbo.
We are not ones to sit around if there is a task to do, so we set our minds on going to Terni to see if we can find another canile municipale and also start to look for a car. Can you imagine, buying a car and searching for a dog in a strange land. Well, we are opening ourselves up to really experiencing life in Italia, this time the bad and the ugly.
At school, we tell Elettra that we want to work on understanding the insurance documents and then just can't take any more class. We leave at 12:30 and go to an auto dealer in Amelia who has nothing for us. Then off to Terni, having a good pranzo somewhere on a back road between Narni and Terni. We find the canile municipale on a back road. It is very organized, but only open on Saturday for one hour in the afternoon.
We look at cars, and Roy wants to go to the upscale dealers, thinking that they will have better used cars. We also look at a few new ones, and there is an Alfa that we like. We go to a Mercedes dealer, and he has good used cars, but nothing for us. We know this will be a long search, but we won't have money for at least 30 days. We will have done our homework.
Stefano and Roberto Pangrazi and Shelly met with us to go over the final bill for the project. It was all very civil. We all laughed because Roberto told us that the actual permit to start the job will be finalized next Tuesday. Can you imagine...We started the process at the beginning of November, were told by the Comune that they approved the plans on November 15, but the real permit will not be ready until May 27!
In the afternoon we took Lili to the dressmaker in Orte, where we both have dresses waiting. She is very sweet, and we will bring her more material next week for another dress. In the evening we will travel to Sangemini to see the Mille Miglia and meet Tia and Bruce.
The race is remarkable. We have no trouble getting to Sangemini and park right outside the wall. We are able to sit on a planter in the city square, right at the first curve. We wait for a while, and a few advance cars come first. Then a Ferrari, a Lancia and a Bugatti. We think the newest car in the race is a late model 1950's, and there are 350 cars entered, so this should be some fun!
Before each car makes its entrance into the town we can hear its engine. About fifteen teenage girls with "mille miglia" flags, are stationed to our left and greet them before we do, waving and screaming. The cars aim right for us and have to make a wide turn in front of us. Some of the cars are very hard to steer and it is a good thing they can use both lanes of the road. Most of the cars have a navigator and a driver, so the navigator usually waves and throws their hands in the air. Sometimes the driver waves, too. It is clear that those who are on the tour for the first time are excited and want to wave to us. The more experienced ones don't always acknowledge us. We wave and applaud and yell anyway.
After the turn, the cars go through a narrow lane packed with people on either side, the old stone walls behind the crowd rising about three stories. The drivers downshift and depress their gas pedals, making a lot of noise and goading the crowd to roar, which they do. Often they are asked to stop for pictures.
Of course there are Ferrari's, very old and old, but there are also Alfas and Bugatti's, Mercedes and Lancias and some cars we cannot identify. Roy now wants to ride in a mille miglia, so this is a project for him. There are many California owners of these cars, so who knows?
Tia and Bruce arrive about an hour after the start, and we stay another 45 minutes, before going on to the restaurant. The race is about over by then...a long day for the drivers that started at 6am and will end after midnight in Rome. Tomorrow it is back to Brescia. What a thrill.
Roy goes with me to yoga for the first time. He seems to enjoy it, and it will be very good for his back. Then on to Terni, to the first canile, which is only open for an hour. We almost weaken for an 8 month old Yorkshire/Poodle mix, until the dog snaps at Roy. The dog's hair has been shorn almost completely off. It arrived at the canile all matted a few days before. The dog is also a male, and I really had hoped for a female. Since these dogs are abandoned, each of them has a "past". We must be cautious.
We drive to Cesi, a very old city on the hill near Terni. We have wanted to go there for a long time. It is very, very sweet and quiet. Just the spot for a gelato on a ridge overlooking all of Umbria.
Then back to Terni to another Canile. This Canile is a real mess. The man who comes to the gate has no front teeth and does not like us. He thinks we are German and won't let us have a dog because we do not live in the province of Terni. Luckily we have an appt. with a vet who arrives a few minutes later.
There are no small dogs we want. When we leave we decide to test drive an Alfa, and on the way into the city of Terni my eyes start to itch and I start to sneeze. Somehow I must have caught something at one of the caniles.
The dealership sends us to another part of Terni, where for two days a special team of people from Alfa Milano are giving test drives as a kind of promotion. Roy has a very bad experience with one of the staff. Roy asks him if he can move his car so that Roy can park where he is supposed to. Max replies, "We can speak English, or we can speak Italian. But we are in Italy, so we will speak Italian!" Funny, but the promotion is entitled, "Feel Rouge". Roy really felt "red"...he asked him his name and tried to report him.
Later back at the dealership, he went though the experience with the salesman, who called the head of the promotional team, rattling of a list of words I had never heard before. I could, however, easily identify his unmistakable motion of hitting the inner part of his left elbow, which faced up, with the outside of his right hand.
We're tired. Very tired. At home there is cold chicken and polenta to grill and it is all we can do to sit down and eat.
The church service is sweet, and now that we have the hymns printed out, we can sing. Many people in the church now sing. Each church has its own hymns that it sings, and we really like ours. They are easy to sing, although the hymns are not always sung in tune. No matter. We feel like a family.
After church, we speak with Dina, Felice, Marsiglia, Rosita...the usual cast of characters. And then home. Later in the afternoon we drive up to Sippiciano. They are having a festa, and there is a dance floor and a D J in the square. We get a gelato and watch a transvestite in a bright green spangly dress. He is wearing a "fall" down to his shoulders, and black pumps with 2 inch heels and bracelets around his ankles. There is a ribbon in his hair. They style is one I wore in the '60's. He shakes his head in that saucy way to get the hair to sit behind his shoulders. He is the "MC!"
It looks like a rehearsal, but the D J plays nonstop. Fifteen little girls, about the age of eight, wearing jeans and matching baseball caps, get up and sing and dance. They are not very good, and the MC is behind them, tapping his toe. Two women are down front, holding up a huge piece of paper with the words to the songs on them. One mimics the dance and arm movements that go with each song. We see Danieli our hairdresser and wave, but this is all too much for us, and we go home.
When I walk out to the front wall, I see Felice coming out of the gate of the chicken coop across the street. I ask if Signora is still ill, and it is so. The man and his wife are always together. She on her two walking sticks that support each wrist. He is smaller than his wife, but they are both very gentle people. They do not speak to us other than to say, "Buon giorno" or Buona serra", but they come there faithfully twice each day to feed their chickens. If they see me, they greet me with a warm smile. I think they are very shy. I am so sad to think that we may be taking the walk this year to the cemetery for her. We will certainly participate. In the meantime, I will ask Felice their names, and we will go over and speak to them when they return.
I open the front gate for Felice. "Sempre chiuso?" he asks. Yes, our gates will now always be locked.
Felice loves our cherry tree, which grows to the right of the lavender, and it appears the cherries are maraschino, which is a very tart but juicy cherry. He picks one off and eats it and laughs. Then in another minute he cannot resist, and takes another. It will be a week or so before they are fully ripe. This time, we will pick them and eat them and I will make a jam and a tart. Last year I waited a day too long and the birds had a royal feast at our expense.
Today we will try Catherine's suggestion about the lettuce. I cut off a head a few inches above the ground, leaving the bottom leaves intact. We hope a new head will grow in its place. Tia tells me this works, and it is only the third time or so that the lettuce becomes bitter. These are salad days for us, today with eggs, thin asparagus, rughetta and perhaps a little shaved parmesan.
For the third night in a row, Roy awoke last night to a sound in the garden. He got up, turned on the lights outside, and checked all around, before coming back to bed. I emailed the details of our robbery to John Murphy, who is the editor of The Informer, an expat. internet newsletter, as a warning to his readers. We have become friends by email. He emails back that he is sorry, but responds, "If it's any consolation, I think it would be hard to find an expat who has never been robbed of something. Often without insurance cover."
Why are we all so vulnerable? Do we think living here is some kind of dream?
Roy speaks with Gianni, who is to deliver our gravel. It will arrive this afternoon. The paranco (hoist) is not ready, but we have the perfect spot in the parcheggio for the gravel to be staged. It is a cool day and Roy is ready to move the gravel.
He calls Sonia from SARA, and pleads with her to fit us in today with the claims people who come to her office on Tuesdays. No luck. Roy then asks if we can go to another city for a meeting, and amazingly we are offered Amelia! Amelia is the town where we take our Italian lessons, and we are encouraged. The file will be there tomorrow. So Roy calls Simona, who owns the school and translated for us before. But she is sick, very sick...So Roy calls Jaimie, her husband, who is happy to jump into the fray. He will go into the office to make an appointment. He calls us back that we will meet with SARA tomorrow afternoon.
In the meantime, I check out this month's issue of The Informer online, and see a warning that some insurance policies cannot be cancelled unless there is more than 30 days notice...There is a sample cancellation letter offered online, and we will take this to Jaimie to make sure we can cancel our auto policy. We have no intention of renewing with SARA...especially for a car that probably is long gone. It may seem absurd, since the car appears to be history, but we will follow through on this letter, just in case. The insurance renews less than one month from tomorrow.
I am finally able to go to see Franco today, and his truck appears on the street at about 11:20 am. Cieliegie (cherries)! I ask if they are dolci and he gives me a taste. Yum. Roy loves cherries, so I buy more than I should. I want to give Roy a sweet surprise. This morning when I was watering the zucchini I spotted the first two zucchini flowers. When Roy came out to water, Felice was coming up the front steps, and I sent them both to look, not telling them why. What a treat!
Roy is preparing space behind the zucchini for melons. Melon leaves have sprouted up in our orto garden, between the lattuga. There are many, and we must move them where there is more space. Tonight they will be moved.
"Awww-hoo-hoo...Hoo-hoo...Hoo." The sound outside the front bedroom window stirs me as I descend into dreamland. After a few minutes, I think it is an owl. Not on our property, but on a nearby tree. I suspect that the off-and-on heavy rain drew him out. And then I think it is someone who has come to rob the house, signaling to his partner like an Indian over a campfire that we are ready to pounce upon.
I lay in bed, not knowing if Fear will appear in our hallway. But dreamland overtakes me, and I drop deeper and deeper, like a hypnotist's patient.
In the early morning hours, the oppressive heat wakes me. While I turn on the hall light and go downstairs for an icepack and a migraine pill, Roy gets up and turns on the fan. Several hours later we awake, ready to begin a new day.
During mass, I think of what strangers we are, and how comfortable I feel as a stranger. I like this kind of anonymous feeling, not having to get too close to people for awhile, hear their expectations. The risk living at the edge of the village that we are somewhat isolated appeals to us for now.
Lore asks us what we have been doing, and is surprised we have had two sets of guests yesterday. "How do you know so many people? Are they Italian?" I suppose we seem like waifs to the people of the village, with no family here to share pranzo and holidays with. We surely miss our family, although have relished the quietness of it all during recent weeks.
After mass, when questioning Lore and Alberto, who came to the village for a few days, and Marco the muratore, no one knows anything about the American University or the Faculty who we are told are going to come to Mugnano. We will hope it is a bad rumor.
Watching sports on T V has changed from the San Francisco 49'ers to the Mille Miglia, then Giro d'Italia, the bicycle race in which Simoni, who is on the Saeco team, appears to be way ahead. Roy will email his former partners to let them know that their client has won the race....I think tomorrow it will finish.
Now we must switch to Roy's absolute favorite, Formula One. Today is the Monaco Grand Prix. It seems strange. The streets are so narrow that only one car at a time can traverse the windy narrow streets. I remember while watching the Giro d'Italia that in certain locations the crowds could even reach out and touch the riders. Scary to watch some even being slapped on their behinds for good luck. But this course is so dangerous, that there are stands set up high above the course. Accidents, serious accidents, are expected.
Michael Schumacher drives for Ferrari, but his brother, Rolf, drives for BMW and Rolf had the fastest qualifying lap, so is in pole position. Barrachello also drives for Ferrari. Ferrari almost always comes in 1-2. I think that the rules are changing, to give some other car teams a fighting chance. But everyone loves those red Ferrari's and the red costumes of the drivers. "Michael, Michael, Michael!" the men all scream, not unlike girls in the 60's insane over Elvis or the Beatles. There are two lanes, and the cars are staggered. At the tenth lap, no one has changed positions, but one has hit a wall, and has lost his entire back end and two wheels. This is a very dangerous course.
When it is all over, Michael has come in third and Rolf is far behind. Barrachello arrives eighth. Juan Montoya wins the race, proceeding to squirt a magnum of champagne over the beautiful girls standing as bookends next to him for his photo opp. The race was pretty civil, but the road so curvy that racers found themselves virtually unable to change positions. I watched the whole race inside on TV with Roy, as outside thunder and lightning danced all around the valley. The roses must be very happy.
"Salve, Claudio, sono Roy. Come sta?...Bene?...Si, bene. So Claudio? Are you entertaining anyone from the House of Savoia today?" I cannot help but laugh out loud in the background. Today is Festa della Repubblica, honoring the day in 1871 when the King from the House of Savoia took Italy back from the rule of the Pope. Another national holiday and time for the Italians to celebrate. It is all the same to us, but we have a little celebration of sorts of our own, American farmer style.
In a kind of American "twist", the cherry tree in the lavender garden determines its cherries are RIPE and ready to be picked. Catherine wanted to come over and pick, but by the time she was ready at 9 AM we had finished. We saved some for her, which were not yet ripe, so that she could come in a few days to pick her own. She likes to do that. Kees, her husband, is Dutch, and could not quite understand the George Washington, "I cannot tell a lie. I cut down the cherry tree" story. Is there an American who does not know the story?
I wake up before 7 AM to the sounds of the birds noisy as ever and think, "Oh! They are going to attack the cherries before I get to them!" and bound out of bed. Last year we waited a day too long, and found the ground full of messy berries. This year, the cherries are almost translucent and the vivid contrast between the juicy red-red of the berries and the sultry, dark green leaves enhance my joyous state as I pick. God must have smiled on us when choosing us as caretakers for this tree.
First, I bring an old chair from the loggia...dusty and pale terra cotta colored wood with a well worn out rush seat. The chair was an orphan, left in the grotto by the former owner, and I enlist it for the picking along with a big blue bucket and position them below the tree. The overcast sky is a blessing. It rained off and on for two daysso there is no need to do the usual heavy watering. Instead, I start with two-handed picking of the beautiful ripe cherries, and find that I am able to pick as well with my left hand as with my right. The cherries come right off in my fingers, and I systematically move from branch to branch, letting the fruit plop into the bucket poised on the chair right below, like a farmer milking his cow, dreaming away.
I am prepared for a real red mess, and dig out a 1994 camp t-shirt, the design the one we all painted on at the Mountain Home Inn so long ago. By the time Roy comes out to join me to pick the cherries I cannot reach, I am covered with tiny black things, some of which Roy thinks are alive. He brushes me all off like Walter Matthau did to Elaine May in A New Leaf and sends me to the shower.
After the shower, we have to figure out what to do with the cherries. I want jam, so we purchased a bag of pectin and sugar two days before at Sappori Due. It won't be enough, and Shelly recommends we get some quince jelly from her to use as a natural pectin. Sounded good to me. The stores are all closed.
While I pit the cherries in the sink, holding each cherry in my left hand and squeezing the seeds out to my right, Roy looks over the cookbooks to figure out what ratios to use....cups...liters...quarts...dry measure...Roy is the family chemist. Let's hope what he learned in The Lab will translate. No luck. We need a scale. So Roy goes to see Michelle and Claudio and returns with Claudio's antique scale, a brass and marble and wood design, worthy of a museum.
I wear an apron, one of those wipe off ones, which we purchased one year at an airport in London, over my jeans, looking very "haus-frau". The doorbell rings. It is Giuliola and Giuseppa, collecting for the seminary. Half an hour before, two men from the church came to ask us if we wanted to participate in the weekly lottery, to raise money for the festa in August. Si certo, we agree to both.
But when Giuliola and Giuseppa arrive, we havr no idea what they want, and bring them over to the lavender field to see the garden. Giuseppa has been a farmer all her life, and we show them our vegetables and herbs, telling them it was "la prima volta". They are very kind and complementary, but Giuliola huggs me and speaks something about being an "Americani". Is she saying that we are doing for Americans? She thinks her words are funny, so I politely smile in my "deer in headlights expression." I pick a little lavender for them to take away, telling them that we will give the lavender to the people of the village again this year, as there will be a good crop.
We have no idea what most of their conversation consists of, but it seems pretty friendly. We take them into the house to show them what we are doing with the cherries, and they tell us the fruit are not cherries, but something else. Looks and tastes like sour cherries to me!
We bring out the bulletin to try to figure out what they are doing here. Do they want us to go to Viterbo with them this week for an event for the seminary? Giuliola has an empty plastic bottle and a bottle of olive oil in a plastic bag. I bring her an empty plastic bottle, which she does not want. Ah...they are collecting for the annual mass in Viterbo on June 6, where the sacristies of all the regional churches will be given their sacred oil for the coming year.
We wish them well, and they return to their door-to-door project. Later in the day Giuseppa returns with a huge bunch of scallions from her garden. I had asked her when our onions will be ready to eat and she thinks July. How kind of her. When they come up the stairs earlier in the day I embrace Giuseppa, while Giuliola cries out, "What about me!" and huggs me. Giuseppa tells Roy that I have always greeted her in a special way, even at the beginning. Perhaps she is saying, "She won't leave me alone! Get her off me!" Who knows?
We are alone again, and I go back to pitting, this time at the table with the colander and two bowls. The pitting and the chopping in the blender are preliminaries for the main event ...the cooking in a sugary witches brew, foaming around and around and stirring like polenta until it is thick enough to spoon into the boiling glass jars.
We make four batches and Roy labels them. Each batch is a little different. The store-bought pectin is used in the first two batches, but the second two have quince pectin only. We later taste from the first batch, and it is really good. Each batch also has Couvoisier as an added flavor. We have no regular brandy on hand, so this will have to do.
I think today will be a "nothing" day, but Donatella calls Roy to say that the PRA will be ready after 2 PM. Of course we are there, knocking on the door because the office is closed. We are now like family, and give her a big Italian kiss. She lets us in and introduces us to Marco, SARA's computer whiz, who proceeds to pull our computer records out of the general queue in Milano and process the final document we need to present before getting paid. As luck would have it, Sr. Mangini is working next door at 4PM...Tuesday is his day in Viterbo. So we wait around and give him the papers and the remaining keys. Next Wednesday we will go to see him in Amelia. We hope to be paid the week of the 16th, which will be one month from the claim, but that may be wishful thinking.
On the way back from Viterbo, we stop to see Dottoressa Ofelia. Her office hours are in Bomarzo on Tuesdays. After almost an hour wait (you have to wait your turn...there are no appointments in the Italian state medical system), I ask her if she will prescribe Vioxx for my migraine headaches. She insists that I speak only in Italian to explain what I want, and I a, able to muddle through. It is a good exercise.
After Bruce's suggestion on Saturday, I research taking Vioxx on theinternet and find that Vioxx works often for migraines that start in the neck and shoulders. First Ofelia takes my blood pressure, which is elevated. So I have to go back in a week to see her. But tomorrow I start Vioxx and we will see. I like this idea, because I will take one every day, and not just when I have a migraine. It's not that I like taking medicine, but I am so weary of all these headaches.
Before we arrive home a thunderstorm rages, and our clothes out on the drying rack are soaked. So we leave them out. We will deal with them...tomorrow.
Roy calls Marielisa, who confirms that she has at least two female dogs we can choose from. One, a red female, was born a few days ago. The other is a few weeks old. When Roy asks her how we can tell if one is "dolcissima", she responds that she only keeps her dogs for eight weeks or so, and that is not enough time to tell. We will go for a visit in a week or two, although she tells him that the little one looks like a little mouse with her eyes closed. I am looking forward to having Sofia (Sofie) in my arms soon.
I cannot sleep, so I get up in the fog and walk outside to water the pomidori and zucchini and meloni and peach tree. Although there has been a lot of rain, I want to make sure these treasures are well taken care of. I notice a second green tomato one one of the heirlooms, more zucchini flowers and a flower on one of the melons...
Roy takes me to Danieli's for my 6-week hair do, but after an hour-and-a-half wait (not unlike waiting for Dottoressa), Roy returns and we agree that we will return early tomorrow morning instead. While I wait, Roy meets Giannni at the house, who delivers a new load of gravel, this time the right size. The load is so big, however, that although half of it is dumped in the parceggio, the other half is on the street, blocking traffic. Roy calls Mario to come and help him shovel it all inside later.
We go to Terni to see if we are able to convince Mario at the Alfa dealership to hold a car for us until sometime after the 16th. Mario is very happy to see us, although we arrive just before pranzo time. Not only does he agree to get the car we want, he agrees to hold it for the week of the 16th. His price is better than a price Roy is able to get from a dealer in Viterbo. We give him a deposit and sign a contract, after agreeing that he will return the check and rip up the contract if the Passat is returned to us before we get paid for the claim.
Back at home a few hours later, Mario, the gardener from Attigliano, arrives and he and Roy shovel away. They bring the gravel into the parcheggio with wheelbarrow loads, dumping it right below where the paranco will be installed. They work like buddies, and take a break with bottles of icy beer. Although it is after 6 PM and the sun has faded, the temperature is still hovering around 25.
Felice is across the street feeding the chickens with the gate open, so I take the opportunity to go over and look around. The coop is so sweet, and five proud terra cotta feathered chickens with red hats strut around, while Felice leans against the chicken-wire wall and tells me about Signora. She is at home in Rome, but is having trouble with her blood and with her...I don't know. I try to understand but the words are words I do not know. He tells me some story about onions and laughs, so I laugh back but don't have a clue.
While I am inside the house, Mario and Roy talk away. Mario asks Roy if he is tired. He responds, "Si, ma sono vecchio. Sono sesanta due." Mario is very surprised. He tells Roy he is 54 and thinks Roy is 55. Roy tells him he is, or was, seven years ago. Mario is built like a bull. He is made for this kind of work. Roy is not made like a bull. He is not made for this kind of work. Sitting around and laughing and doing a project or two is more to Roy's liking. He enjoys some of the work, but some of it is just too too.
I can't really believe it is over, but we finally replace the stolen digital camera. Research junkies that we are, we hash and rehash every model known to man, including doing comparisons on the internet, and visit six stores at least two times each before settling on a Pentax 330GS from a store in Terni. Just before we pay, there is some too-do about the lithium battery, and how to charge it. After Simoni, whose family lives in Mugnano, runs all around the store to find a battery charger that would fit, with no luck, Roy looks at the small print on the battery that reads, in English, "DO NOT RECHARGE."
We feel as wrung out about this process as we do after getting out of the rain-soaked car. A flash flood of a storm greets us as we leave the store. We run laughing to the little rental car, steaming up the windows and watching the temperature dive from 32 (when we left the car ) to 18 when we return in a matter of a few minutes.
Earlier in the day, Roy calls Stefano to remind him for the thirty-second time about the paranco. While we are in a store in Terni at 5:45 PM, Stefano calls to say the paranco has been installed. When we get home, the cement is setting on a patch of earth big enough for a 1,000 pound paranco. Roy gets an iron tool and digs out where the boxwood and fence need to go. Otherwise, we think the paranco will be fine.
In a call to Virgilio and Aldo while I am getting my hair cut, Roy learns that the fence will probably be installed on Saturday morning. Magari!
In school this morning, Simona asks for testimonials from us for the school website. I decline, telling her that to be real, a testimonial has to come without prompting. We have a good conversation about why we probably won't return in the fall, and she considers making some changes based on recommendations. We may reconsider.
Felice and I have each been up since before 6. I am sure his work has been far more productive than mine. Catherine did not come for the cherries, which Felice reminds us are moraschino, not cherries. I want to have some cherries in brandy to serve some time, so pick the rest of the fruit off the tree and drop them in the blue bucket.
We hear music coming from a truck at 9 A M and it is Friday, so the fish truck must be lumbering up the hill. Roy and I walk up to the truck, which by this time is stationed below the medieval tower, and we wait our turn. Before we pick out perch fillets for tonight, we watch each woman clamor for the best fish for the lowest price. It is a game, but two women pretend not to have coins and the fish man rolls his eyes and smiles as one woman after another tries to get him to drop his price by 20 cents or 40 cents. One woman buys €10 worth of gamberoni. She and her husband are always at Dottoressa's on Wednesdays but we don't know their names...yet. She will cook the gamberoni for pranzo today with pasta and peperoncini.
The fish man asks us if we are German. Roy cannot figure out how he knew we were not from Mugnano...He did not realize his shorts were a dead giveaway. All the women smile as we tell him that we are Americani and live in Mugnano sempre. We will return to America, "solo per vancaza". Everyone loves this. They look at us as though we are their children, patting us on the top of our heads with their eyes as we walk by.
Felice is coming up the hill slowly, slowly, sweating away. It is very hot for so early in the morning. He stops at the gate to the chicken coop across the street and tells us that he came to see us yesterday while we were gone but forgot to bring his key. He follows us in and goes up above to weed around the vegetables. Before he leaves, we give him a jar of new marmelade and a few handfuls of freshly picked moraschini, which he loves. He thanks us again and again.
I speak with Tiziana, and she will come tomorrow night for dinner. I ask her if there are any music concerts on Monday or Tuesday to take Suzanne Ciani to, and she is giving a concert with her children, singing famous Italian songs accompanied by a full orchestra. We will surely go. I call Suzanne at her relatives' house, but she is at the seaside. We think she is coming on Monday for a few days but are not sure.
Virgilio and Aldo arrive right at 9 AM. It takes them more than four hours, but when they are through, all the rest of the iron fencing is cemented in place, including the new little gate under the rose arch. When I see them place the last piece of iron fence in between the laurel tree and the rose arch, I am overwhelmed with joy. I turn around so that they will not see me wipe the tear from my cheek.
We drive to Viterbo after pranzo (in Italy, almost everything is scheduled either before or after pranzo) to see a dog exhibition and to look at dogs we might be interested in. When we drive into the parking lot of the exposition hall, it starts to hail, huge stones. The temperature drops from 31.5 to 19 degrees in less than ten minutes. We wait for about fifteen minutes in the downpour. Roy switches the windshield wipers on high, to try to protect the windshield from being shattered. The hail stones are that big.
The rain slows down, but does not stop. We make a run for it, and inside everyone smells like a wet dog. The basottos must have just finished, because we see several of them around. We speak with one breeder who had her male basotto with her. She tells us he is a world champion. He is very cute. Another woman sits with her basotto in her lap. We go up to talk with her and find out that her dog was purchased from Marielisa in Rome. The woman tells us that Marielisa's dogs have great temperaments and are not high strung. We are relieved.
Later in the evening, Tiziana and her parents come for dinner. We have really missed them and sit around the kitchen because it is too hot to eat outside. We have a wonderful time. They even like my cooking, and ask me if what I am cooking is Italian. Renzo thinks the salad is "fresca". I'll take that compliment. Our salads from our own orto garden really please us. We look forward to adding our heirloom tomatoes to the mix soon.
A steamy early morning, and I'm up around 6 AM. Outside a zucchini flower greets me when I turn on the hose. Several of the melons that Roy moved days ago look like they are going to make it. The days have been so hot. I do not blame them for wilting. Down below, the pomidori are acting like they are on steroids. Even Felice is surprised to see the size of them. No real color on them yet, but they drink right up as soon as the water hits the gulleys dug for them.
Today we are going to lay out the black nursery cloth on the front terrace. It is painstaking work, because we have to make cutouts for each boxwood plant, the iron fence posts and the caki tree. The cloth is five meters wide. We bought a large roll of the stuff several years ago, in anticipation of buying more property and adding more gravel. Today is the day.
Suzanne Ciani arrives tomorrow for a couple of days, and Carol and Ren Holding later in the week, so we'll try to get it all done this weekend. Virgilio tells us that the paranco needs to sit in cement until Monday or Tuesday. We'll give it until Monday morning. Then we'll see if Roy's experiment will work. If it does, we will push a button and hoist up wheelbarrows of gravel for the terrace. If it does not work, we'll be having bucket brigades, going up and down the stairs to the parceggio to the spot where the new gravel is waiting.
The heat is really something, although we start on the project before 8AM. We stop at 9 to go to mass and are back at it before 10:30. By the time we go inside for pranzo at 1 P M, we have cut and laid one huge piece of cloth. There are two more pieces on the front terrace to be laid, two on different paths in the lavender garden and one long one which goes from the rose arch on the terrace to the side gate.
By the end of the day, we have laid out all the cloth on the front terrace, cut three more cloths and laid one of them on the longest path next to the lavender facing San Rocco. We have also moved some of the old gravel from the front terrace to one of the paths in the lavender garden. I am quite enjoying raking the gravel and smoothing it out. And I am headache free, an amazing occurrence. Perhaps the Vioxx is working.
A few hours earlier, while Roy and I gently pull the heads of each boxwood through the cloth on the front terrace, I ask him if he feels like he is dressing a little dancer for her dance recital. He can not relate to it. But the image I have of a little one holding her arms straight up while her mother places the costume over her head and pulls out her arms reminds me of dancing recitals at John Hancock Hall in Boston, and the excitement while each of us wait to be dressed by our mothers.
Today, it is so hot that I take a small umbrella and move it from spot to spot on the terrace, to shield us from a sun we cannot see through the haze. We measure with precision, and it pays off. When we are ready to actually lay each cloth, the cuts we have made are right on target. Bravo, Roy!
The wind comes up and the temperature drops at least ten degrees in the afternoon. We hear thunder in the distance, but there is no rain. We are sure Lore and Alberto's big pranzo with his relatives here in Mugnano was a big hit. We think they are expecting almost twenty people, seated outside at three round tables. We send our big sun umbrella to help. No rain, so their prayers are answered. We will hear all about it tomorrow.
Felice comes by to tell us he went to a big festa today given by Don Luca, in honor of local people who have been married, 5,10, 20, 25, 50 or more years. I think he and Marsiglia have been married for 50 or 55 years. He had a wonderful time, and agrees when I tell him today is not a day for him to work.
We look forward to the day when people from the village will look up and not say to us, "Sempre lavoro". We have never worked so hard or been so happy.
The roses are a strange bunch. Some days they burst into song and sing all day long. On other days there are no blossoms, no flowers. After all the rain we have had, we don't have as many as we might. So we have switched to our precious Maxi from Sarah to feed everyone from the standard Italian brand. Maxi has seaweed as an ingredient, so we will attempt to find that the next time we go to the big vivaio in Terni.
The heat is oppressive at night, and the fan goes on non-stop. It reminds me of days of my childhood in Quincy, MA, when the only respite was the wind blowing through the trees in the lower garden. I can just taste that lemonade now. Later I will make watermelon granita, which will be a tasty dessert when Suzanne arrives from the train.
Roy goes to Soriano to see if he can buy longer screws to put the paranco together. Otherwise, we are ready to spread the gravel on the terrace. We are in luck, as Roy returns with the makings of bolts. Since he has all the tools known to man, he quickly makes the bolts with his saw and workbench, under the shade of the caki tree.
Suzanne arrives on a train early evening. Back at the house, we have grilled polenta and veal chops, then go to Orte Scalo for Tiziana's music concert. Under the stars, the stage is decorated with paper sunflowers. Some of the orchestra members look familiar. We are sure they have played with Tiziana before. Tonight, Tiziana is the impresaria. Dressed in a 1920's long beaded dress, she looks much taller than her tiny 5' frame. The children obviously worship her. For the next two hours, children from the ages of 3 to 12 pay attention and have the best time performing for their parents and anyone who will watch. Suzanne is so impressed with Matteu that she'll consider him for a song in her next CD.
The music is based on an annual contest in Bologna of songwriters for children's songs. Although we don't understand all the words, some of the children are so funny that we laugh out loud and applaud wildly even in the middle of a song. When not singing in front of the mic, the children sit cross-legged on the stage. They sing along when they can, otherwise pay attention throughout the entire concert. It is an amazing thing to see. After the concert is finished, Tiziana tells us that she has only had two months to rehearse for this concert. Some of the children have only had 4 or 5 rehearsals. Remarkable. We are very proud of her and Suzanne is impressed. So is everyone in the audience, who applaud loudly for her.
We are all tired. We arrive home around midnight and go straight to bed.
We are up early, early and get started with the paranco while Suzanne sleeps away. Everything works like a charm, and we are able to bring up eight wheelbarrows full before it is just too hot.
We go in around 11 and Suzanne awakes. In a little while, Stefano rings the bell. He is so impressed with the paranco that he wants to see it in action. We are very proud and think he is, too. It will take several days, but we will have the gravel finished before the end of the week.
Carol calls and we think she and Ren and their daughter Carolyn will come for theweekend. That will be so much fun.
Later in the day we go to Amelia to the SARA office, but Mangini is not there. There has been a mixup. He will not be in Amelia until Thursday, so we will go in before class. We take Suzanne up to the Cattedrale at the top of Amelia and I convince a caretaker to open up the permanent presipio. It is a remarkable assemblage of moving parts, depicting the life of Christ.
From there, we drive through Lugnano and on to Orvietto. Of course we take her to see Ciara and she buys a lovely plate. Then a tour of some favorite spots and on to dinner. It is still warm and we eat outside. We agree not to eat dessert, because I have made watermelon granita and it is at home in the freezer. Although the meal is very good, the granita back at home eaten outside under the stars in parfait glasses with long spoons is a perfect end to a lovely day.
Today the temperature soared past the 100 degree mark...38 degrees in Italia. Although we were up early to water and weed in the garden, we quickly ran out of steam. Instead, we hung out with Suzanne in the kitchen by the big floor fan and gabbed.
Late in the morning we drove to Viterbo for some errands, and returned to Il Labyrinth for pranzo. Suzanne, who spends a lot of time with her relatives in Mirabella, near Naples, is sure that the pizza here is the best she has ever eaten. We agree. The crust is as light as a cloud and very thin. Roy had anchovies on his pizza but Suzanne and I took the puritan route and went with the Margherita. Although not on the menu, they agreed to make me a caprese salad with wonderful fresh mozzarella. For dessert we came back home to watermelon granita, which couldn't have been more refresing.
While in Viterbo, we stopped for a caffé in the San Pellegrino neighborhood and ran into a glass artist, who opened his studio for us, although it was just after pranzo. I think he was enamoured by Suzanne. Suzanne bought a lovely small glass plate in a seafoam green, and agreed to come back in October to play a mini concert in conjunction with the local artisans in Viterbo. This was a fun adventure.
We take her to the train in Orte. This is good, because she can get a train right to Naples with out getting off at Rome Termini. It was great to have her company.
A few hours later it has cooled somewhat and we spend almost two hours with the paranco, moving gravel onto the front terrace. One more evening of this and we will be done with the main part of the terrace. It already looks great.
Amelia to see Mongini. He had plenty of time to review the documents, but just as we imagined that this was the end of the line and a check might be issued today, he comes up with another thing he needs from the Carabinieri before he can process the claim. At first, he leads us to believe that the claim will not be paid at all, because there is nothing in the report that states that the car was locked. Now he tells us that we must return to Bomarzo to the Carabinieri and have them issue an addendum, stating that the car was locked. He tries to be helpful, but we are not happy. Roy's knees start to shake and the muscles in his forehead look like a roadmap. Mongini tries to call the Carabinieri himself, and the office is closed. He gets Viterbo instead. No luck. As a compromise, he agrees to go to Bomarzo himself at 9AM to tell them what he needs. We are to go to Bomarzo after 10AM with the original report, ant they will issue the addendum, which Roy will sign.
We agree and now need more days with a rental car. So we drive to Mario, the Alfa dealer in Terni, hoping that he can get us a loaner car until the check is issued, Mario is delighted to see us, and does not have a problem keeping our new car for a week or so. The car has not been delivered to him anyway. But he cannot locate a loaner car. We drive home dejected. Tomorrow we will see if Donatella can extend our rental contract.
We are soothed by working with the paranco on the terrace, moving the gravel up and spreading it all around. We work for almost two hours, until we agree that we can't keep up with the lights outside and the almost full moon. Some granita and on to bed. Today's temperatures soar to 38 and then some. The night time temperatures do not drop more than ten degrees.
At six thirty I wake up and go out to water. Several more zucchini blossoms quiver in the morning breeze and taunt me. The melanzanie plant looks sick. Its leaves are mottled and it stands as a lonely sentinel between rows of healthy onions and melons. I water the compost as well as the tomatoes below the lavender field, and the growing plants are amazing. We will have a big crop of tomatoes. That is a good thing. The early frost means no loquats, no plums, no figs, no olives on the big tree and no caki on the small tree. We will still do fine with the nocciole, cherries, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, herbs and salads. The big caki tree on the front terrace survived the frost and daily small hard fruit boink! off the tree, bouncing off the gravel below.
It takes us over an hour working together to water everything in the morning. And tonight we will water some as well, because of the extreme heat. The roses in the fiorieras look like paper. The heat is killing off any flowers that dare to peek out. This sun is plunderer mean, burning everything it casts its molten eye on.
Roy and I move the bench that sits between the cypress trees on the terrace to a place just under the kitchen window. In its place will be the marble table and black iron chairs formerly in the garden room below the roses. We were never able to eat where the table was first placed, because of the bees that buzzed around the loquat tree above us. We think this new home between the cypress trees will encourage us to eat outside more....when it is not so hot. We have a very difficult time moving the table. The marble top is very heavy, and we are able to lift it off its base, but I can't really move it very far. Roy gets several planks of wood and we roll the top slowly over each plank until we are at the place where the table will sit. It will not sit straight, and one corner of the footing needs repair. Roy calls Maurizio, who agrees to come tonight at 6PM to do the repair and mount the table top securely to the base.
We putter around the garden until after ten, when we drive up to Bomarzo to the Carabinieri. Signore Mongini arrived earlier, and our name and what he needs on the police report is spelled out on a large yellow post-it note on his desk. Some twenty minutes later, the hunting and pecking on the computer are finished, and we sign and walk out with the document. Then on to see Donatella at ACI and to drop off Mongini's report with Sonia at SARA.
Sonia drops Mongini's envelope into his mail slot, and we go in to see the girls at ACI. Both Angela and Donatella are dressed all in black. Donatella is so tiny! She is wearing a black linen sundress the size of a handkerchief, with low cutouts at the bodice that are very strategically placed. Her shoes are beige cowboy boots with pointy-pointy toes, gold metal tips, and high, high heels.
Angela looks great in tight black jeans that stop at her curvy hips and a black shirt tucked in, revealing nothing of her midriff. Is this what we mean when we say that the imagination is more powerful than the real vision? We were expecting so much more from her today. She is dressed very conservatively. When I ask her if she is nervous about her wedding, she laughs as if it is no big deal. But she is concerned about Donatella seated nearby, who tries to hide her sadness...She later tells us that six years ago she met Ezio and they were friends. She married someone else, got divorced, and then the relationship changed to something more. Now it looks as though the relationship may have to end. He will be in France for at least two years. Donatella has never been out of Viterbo, except possibly to go to the beach, or to our house in Mugnano.
We think we are partly to blame. Do you remember Ezio, her friend who she brought to our house a couple of weeks ago? Well, evidently the advice we gave him helped. He got the NATO job and is on his way to Aix-in-Provence. Although Donatella tells us he is a friend, Angela describes him as her "amoroso". He left the office today just before we arrived, and during the first fifteen minutes of our visit he sends her three steamy text messages on her cellulare. Sending text messages on a cell phone are very popular in Italia. It is not unusual to be interrupted in conversation with someone while they glance at their little phone and have their secret thoughts right in front of us.
Donatella is unable to extend the rental agreement on the auto, although she tries for thirty minutes to make calls on our behalf. She is told to go to Hertz across the street. We follow her out the door. She is unable to take big steps, and appears to be leaning slightly forward as she walks on the balls of her feet. She has a beautiful tan, and against the black dress her skin is truly abbronzata.
The man at Hertz appears to be waking up from a nap at his desk, although two people come out of his office as we arrive. He checks with his computer after Donatella tells him about the ACI rental contract which will expire tomorrow. He has no cars, but do come back later. I don't like this idea. There is no promise that a car will be available later. He also tells us that we are not covered for theft. There is a €1,200 deductible if the rental car is stolen. We are upset, and refuse to accept this moot point, although there are no cars.
We decide to go to Europacars on the other side of Viterbo, because our present rental car is from there. We will just take out another contract with them.
Goodbye for now, dear Donatella. Hugs all around. She tells me I am very sweet. I am worried about her.
We reach Europacars just before they close for pranzo. It is cool inside, until someone closes the sliding door and we are surrounded by warm stale air as we wait for the woman to type out a new contract. This contract also has a large deductible if the car is stolen, and €16 a day add-on if we want to purchase that. We decide to take a chance without it and hope that Mongini has a check for us on Wednesday and we will be able to go right to Terni to get our car. Now we think...this anti-furto provision was probably on every rental car contract we have ever had in Italy. Beware.
We stop at Ipercoop, one of the huge supermarkets on the way out of town, and have a salad and a chicken sandwich at one of the concessions. The food is better than we expected. Inside the market, we shop for the whole weekend.
At home, although the temperature rises above 35 degrees, I stay in the kitchen with the fan, cooking for most of the afternoon...Stuffed zucchini....tiny meatballs...Tomorrow it will be very hot again and for pranzo we won't want to cook.
Maurizio arrives at 6pm with his new wife, a lovely Asian woman who appears to be his apprentice. She watches him intently as he cements the base of the garden table into the ground, crouching in perfect balance on her haunches.
Maurizio and his wife work for about an hour. While they are working Felice arrives, and I introduce them. I take Felice into the kitchen to show him the beautiful fireplace that Maurizio crafted when we first purchased the house. He does not know what to think, but I watch him take it all in. I explain where Maurzio lives, where all the sculptures are near the Attigliano train station, and he nods in acknowledgement. He acts surprised every time we introduce him to something new. After all, he is OUR teacher. He considers it his job to teach US, his little ragazzi (students/children).
I ask him about the melanzane, and he thinks it will not survive. He asks me what about the zucchini flowers? I tell them they were delicious and he responds by showing me that I should not have picked them. Leaning over, he picks off the baby zucchini and hands them to me. In several places, where I had broken off the zucchini flowers, he snaps off the zucchini and breaks them in two. They are no good. I don't know how it is possible to get zucchini flowers. I guess we will have to rely on him. I promise to not pick any more. Bummer! So the first zucchini of the season are given to Maurizio's wife, who is very pleased.
A real breeze from the South cools us off. When we are alone again, we return to the gravel and paranco project, and finish the front terrace. It looks great, except for the gaping hole in the middle of the terrace by the corner of the house where the sewer will be hooked up. Earlier in the day, Roy called Stefano Bonari, the mayor, who agrees to see us Wednesday at 12:30. Roy tells him we will have a big festa and the sewer connection must be finished by the 27th. He thinks it will not be a problem.
The oppressive heat continues, and we water everything early. Carol calls from Rome. She thinks they will miss the train because they have been standing in line for 20 minutes to get tickets. Roy tells her to go to a newsstand in the terminal and get three 100 kilometer tickets. She calls back in fifteen minutes. "We are on the TRAIN! What a brilliant idea! It was perfect!"
Less than fifty minutes later, they are waving from Binario 3 at the Attigliano train station platform. Then down the stairs, under the tracks and up on the near side along side dozens of Romans here for their weekend escape from The City. We are reunited with my dear friend Carol Holding, her husband, Ren and daughter, Carolyn who, in the years I have known her, has grown taller than her mother and exudes an almost angelic countenance. As the day wears on, she grows lovelier and lovelier. This young woman has a presence about her. She glides as she walks in an unaffected but statuesque way. Her shoulders hold her lovely head and face as though they are in adoration. This is a one in a million young woman.
Back at L'Avventura, we take a quick tour of the garden. It is too hot to spend more than a fleeting minute or two outside. For the next three hours we sit in the kitchen, cooled by a floor fan waving cool air at us. I want to serve the stuffed zucchini but they are in the frigo in the loggia. Roy has an idea. It is so hot outside that he takes a sheet of aluminum foil, takes the dish out of the frigo and puts it on the newly-cemented marble table on the terrace to "cook", covered with foil for 20 minutes.
We start with cold melon and proscuitto and lots of water. It is too hot for wine, so we drink jugs and jugs of Levissima bottled water. No plastic on the table for me, so the water is poured into ceramic pitchers from Cortona and Montepulciano. We follow with simple and tasty food; a big salad with a today's picked head of butter lettuce and ruggheta, tomatoes, cucumber and a big spoonful of cottage cheese, my strange and wonderful addition just before the vinaigrette. First we serve the stuffed zucchini, which by this time is at room temperature, and then the green salad. We forget to have bread, but for dessert there is my home-made watermelon granita and macaroons from the local bakery. The granita is so cold that we have to scrape away the ice with a fork. We eat it in curved glasses with long spoons. One can't have enough granita. It is my favorite summertime food. Carol plops down a couple of Roy's coffee candies, and she will be "wired" for the day. Carol thinks that coffee relaxes her. It is wonderful to have them here.
At around 4pm, we drive to Viterbo. It is good to get into an air conditioned car, with the girls in the back, and Ren and Roy leading the way in the front seat. We take the back road, going through Bagnaia and pointing out Villa Lante and then La Querce and its lovely church with three original Della Robbia friezes over the doorways. Next it's Viterbo, the medieval walled city where the popes resided during the thirteenth century. I am anxious to show them the gate in the San Pellegrino section that our cancello is copied from. We park in a real spot, but Roy is unable to get the machine to work for the parking ticket, so we trust our luck.
Before we see the square in San Pellegrino where the gate guards a medieval home, we stop at Rosario's glass jewelry studio, where Carolyn buys a necklace to give her girlfriend...unless she just can't part with it. She will see. He is working on a stained glass piece for a church. His work is extraordinary. I love his looks. His hair is black and curly, almost reaching his shoulders. His face is Botticelli-like. He looks like an artist of 500 years ago, except for his dark t-shirt. He asks me about Suzanne, and we talk about the concerts she will give in October. It appears he would like to see more of her. We will see....
We walk around San Pellegrino, see the gate, and return like wilted lettuce down the street until we see a gelato sign. Gelato all around in tiny cups. Someone spots a female police officer, who is giving tickets. He runs to her but it is too late. Another police woman on a motorino has give us a ticket and sped off. Roy tells her the story about the machine that will not work and she shrugs her shoulders in that Italian way. Roy goes back with his camera to take a picture of the machine. He will at least shake the photo at the people in Viterbo when he goes to pay the ticket...€37.
It is now almost 6PM, and the Orsini Palazzo which is also our town hall in Bomarzo is open for the festa of St. Anselmo. Some restoration work has been done. We park around back and hike up, first calling Duccio and Giovanna to see if they will join us. Their windows are open but there is no answer. When we arrive at the front door we see them just in front of us. For the next hour or so Duccio and Giovanna walk around introducing us to all the artists whose work is being shown. All the sculptures and paintings are very modern.
Donatella, Duccio's sister, is there and she invites us back to Graffignano next Sunday for her next exhibition. We agree to go.
Once we finish the tour, which is a disappointment, because some of the frescoes had not been restored, although the walls had been painted and the floor of one main room re-tiled with handmade mattone. We walk around the village and hear a tune played by about eight old men. They finish their piece and stop. That was nice. We are in a big square facing Mugnano, and Carol is able to take a wonderful shot of our village. Some young girls giggle and yell out "Hello. What is your name?" Giovanna cannot resist. She is a teacher. We encourage them to come over and we speak a little. All except of of them will go to high school in Viterbo next year. They all live in Bomarzo. One girl is the grand daughter of Vincenzo, from Mugnano. Carolyn is two years older than the girls and I tell the girls she is very old. They laugh. We say good bye and c'e veddiamo. We will see them again.
At half-past eight, there is a free stand-up dinner of porchetta, two kinds of beans, local bread, pasta, water and wine. It is served stand-up style, so we walk down a street and sit around a corner on a quite staircase in the shade. It is still hot, but there is a wonderful breeze. Roy goes to get more wine and Lucia from Mugnano walks down the street toward us. I say, "Buona serra." She cannot place me. When she realizes who I am she is thrilled. We see other people from Mugnano as we walk around, and we think they are as happy to see us as we are to see them.
We go home and set up chairs and benches in the lavender garden, after having granita and a little Lemoncello in the kitchen. Fireworks start at 10:30. Ren and Roy are so polite, they offer Carol and I the lounge chairs, and we put them in the spot where the marble table once lived. Carolyn sits on a sling chair in the path, Ren has his own bench, and Roy has another chair behind Carolyn. We lie back and gab. Carol thinks she is tired and will go to bed until the first fire works start. They are all mesmerized. These are real fireworks. The show lasts almost 30 minutes. It is difficult to know whether to look toward Bomarzo at the fireworks, or to our left over the terrace to the full moon. We feel like proud parents. Earlier, Duccio asked Carol if they came just for the festa. Carol spoofed back, "Yes, but the charter plane was full. We had to come on our own."
I am up before 6am, and am able to water the entire garden before 8. Roy is still asleep. Carol gets up just as I finish, so we make some coffee and go out to our lounge chairs and gab for an hour until it is time for a breakfast of melon and coffee and toast with honey and our new cherry jam. There is time for a walk around the village, and we see Lucia coming out of her doorway. Her daughter invites us in to see her newly-tiled apartment. We see the signora who has been in the hospital and I give her a hug. She is sitting on the steps of her house holding her metal canes and she looks quite good. We welcome her back to Mugnano. We have missed church this weekend, but it is the first weekend we have missed church in months. No one seems to even notice. Everyone we meet is genuinely kind to our guests. Dina nodds as we pass her doorway on the way home that we are sure to have a wonderful pranzo. Pranzo on Sunday with guests is a big deal. Unfortunately, our guests have planned to go back to Rome. So we pack them up and say c'e veddiamo at the train station.
Carol is a writer and we talk about writing in different tenses. I tell her that I like to write in the present tense because it is more "of the moment". I notice that when we walk with people and have conversations about other times, I find myself interrupting to point out a doorway, a flower, a window, the sound of a bird. Being "in the moment" is really what life here is all about. I find great comfort in stopping what I am doing numerous times during the day to listen and look. I feel so blessed to be alive.
Breakfast today outside on the round marble table between the cypress trees. It is hot, but there is shade from the loquat tree. Special K tastes different here...crunchier. We have it with fresh sliced peaches and coffee. But today is not a day to dawdle over breakfast. We are going to meet Sofi...I have been dreaming for days about dogs..little black dogs, little brown dogs...Brinkley...even Huntley. Now it is time, and we drive to Marielisa, the breeder near Lake Bracciano above Rome.
We arrive to a cacophony of sound. Marielisa breeds at least five different kinds of dogs, all barking at once, but we think these Basottos are her favorite. She has bred them for over 20 years. There are three litters, with puppies from two weeks to five weeks old. We agree on a female whose mother is cingale in color (black and brown and grey). Her markings are very even, and she kisses me with her tiny pink tongue. I am smitten. We have a chance to pick up at least five or six females to choose from, and one pees on Roy's white polo shirt. We decide against that one. Yes, the one Marielisa recommends is going to be just fine.
Roy gives Marielisa my codice fiscale number, so it appears Sofi is about to be registered to me. I tell Roy this is a joint thing, but he has chosen her name and also chose the litter, so we both feel connected. We are invited back to visit often, but in one more month we can take her home. Roy takes a few photos of us, and likes one where Sofi's beard is beginning to show. OK No Italian woman jokes about facial hair, Bob.
We leave and take a long way home, stopping at Anguillara Sabazia to have pranzo at La Caleta on Lake Bracciano. I have posted the description on the "Places to Visit" tab on this site. We love the meal and the location, and drive a new way around the lake and back home. First we stop at Calcata, a town we have read about. Tosca will love it. It is an artist colony, complete with a vegetarian restaurant. It starts to rain, so we don't walk as much as we'd like and return to the car. The temperature stays over 30 for the entire day.
At home, we are too tired with the hot steamy weather to do any garden work, so watch TV and read. Well, we start and fall asleep for a nap. Later we have cocktails in the lounge chairs left from the other night when we watched the fireworks. We face the lavender, and love having cocktails here. The property feels like a B and B...we have so many spots to sit and eat and watch the birds and the scenery. We eat outside again for a small dinner, and just love eating here. The location of the table provides us with a lot of privacy and we have a breeze at last. Roy surprises me with a just picked zucchini, which is popped on the grill, brushed with Diego's olive oil and mint. A simple grilled chicken breast and we are full.
We meet with Stefano Bonori, the mayor, this afternoon, and decide to meet without translating help from Michelle. He is late and out of breath, but very attentive, as usual. He has just come from a meeting with Vezio in Mugnano about buying San Rocco.
We leave his office fifteen minutes later not knowing a great deal more about when we will be connected with the village sewer. He calls Roberto Pangrazi, our geometra, while we are there and is unable to reach him. He will speak with our muratore, Stefano, later today and perhaps tomorrow we will know more. Roy stresses that we are having a grande festa next weekend and hopes that will make a difference. We are not sure. We are also not sure if we will have to pay to have part of the street torn up. When we ask him how long it will take to get the work done, he tells us a week to ten days. Roy responds that one week is all right, but ten days is not acceptable. The mayor throws up his hands. He says, "This is magic! Do you know how long it takes to get things done around here?" Ezzatto!
We also ask him about the American university that someone from Tecnocasa has said is coming to both Bomarzo and Mugnano. He replies that there has been some talk, but no action. I believe him and we are relieved.
It thunders and rains later, but we are weary of these hot, hot days.
Anger is not the word for it. Arribiatta. Sounds like spitting bullets. That is how we feel when we step out of the wet doorway at SARA in Amelia to find that Mognini is not there today. Tomorrow afternoon. After he told us today. We push and push and Maria calls someone. Our paperwork is all done, but Mognini has to have the boss sign off before the policy can be liquidated. The boss is in Rome. We cannot go there. Mognini is in Terni. We cannot go there. It is not open to the public. We are told by Girardo that it will be next Tuesday in Viterbo or at the very latest next Thursday afternoon in Amelia when we will be paid. And we have no idea how much we will be paid.
We do not like Maria, the woman at the front desk. She is not friendly. What is worse is that she has a disgusting habit of biting her nails and well, you know, snacking, while she is on the phone. Her iridescent white nails are not well groomed either. I want to reach over the desk with both hands and shake her. She raises her shoulders and rolls her eyes while someone speaks to her on the other end of the line. Maybe next week. I-I-I...."Non posso e non posso!" How do you like that! I somehow figure out how to say "It is not possible that it is not possible".
We realize that we were not covered for collision on our Passat. None of the Italians are. No wonder the policy was €600 cheaper than Alessandro's. How scary. So we ask Giovanni to give us a preventivo (quote) for the new car to include collision. It is more than €2,000 a year. What is more is that before he can sell us the policy he needs authorization. This is a very risky policy to issue. If you remember what Alessandro told us weeks before, Italians do not get insurance unless they think they will be able to get the money back in a claim? This is one weird way of doing business. And to think it is universal in Italy.
To add insult to injury, Girardo tells us that next week is very early to get paid on our claim. The way the policy reads, payment is 30 days from receipt of all the paperwork, and last Thursday was the day we finalized the paperwork. We go through the roof. Mognini had us go back to the Carabinieri four different times to get the report written the way he wanted it. We were ready on May 16th with everything we thought we needed. Don't go there, Girardo. He tells us that he does not blame us if we take our insurance somewhere else. I think he is saying in Italian, "Don't shoot the messenger".
Back at home, we take out our aggressions on the gravel. The paranco stands tall over the parcheggio, and wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of the sandy colored stone is lifted and then raked over the dark nursery cloth on the terrace. It is after eight P M, and the sky turns lemonadepink in a can.
Above us everything quickly turns dark, and a wholloping storm rises from the Northeast. The sky is a clear blue and then layer upon layer of clouds slither up and over the back of Mugnano like a serpent. I lean forward and put my chin on the end of the old wooden-handled rake. I feel like a farmer, assessing the weather for tomorrow's schedule. I am transfixed and cannot move. I have never seen a sky like it. Above the sky is menacing and ready to rock and roll. Below the sky is clear, clear blue. And in between the setting sun turns the sky pink and purple. This is a one in a lifetime sight. It may all end tonight and I will have witnessed what must be the finest sunset of my life. I cannot imagine a sky to top this one.
I go into the house and pick up the new camera. Outside, I look toward Bomarzo over the lavender field, and take photo after photo of the lavender field under a pinky-purple sky. I do not know the vagaries of the camera yet, so shoot, shoot, shoot. Tomorrow when we download the disc into the computer we can see what adjustments we need to make. But now there is no time. I capture everything I can before the sky turns inky blue and the birds tell us to call it a day.
Across the valley a bolt of lightning shatters the quiet. Rain comes fast and hard. The temperature drops and we move into the loggia to silently witness a rollicking thunderstorm.
The last session of school is this morning, and we play a game with Elettra, using scrabble pieces. She asks us to take out ten and then has us call out the letters, while she writes them on the blackboard. Next we make as many words as we can, using the letters. And finally we make sentences using all the words. The first set has a Q and 4 E's. We make up a story of an old man going fishing and cutting his hand. The last set includes Mussolini (duce was one of the words) quoting something about a taste of fine wine is like god's light. This exercise is really fun. We wish we had done more of this in earlier sessions.
In the afternoon we go to Narni to meet with Alessandro. These meetings with people are really tiring, because we decide to have face-to-face meetings to persuade people to move forward on things they would just let sit otherwise. He tells us that the "home office" has refused to give us our lower rating. The mistake is his, and we are having difficulty not comparing Italian insurance with American insurance. In America, he could be forced to get us the reduction, because it was clearly his fault. In America, a lawsuit would quickly be "in the air". But here, it is a different story.
We convince him to ask for the rate reduction another way. We position the story for him, giving him more ammunition (clients since coming to Italy 6 years ago, loyal, very well versed with American insurance but had no idea about the insurance practices in Italy...on and on...) We have him convinced and he writes up a new request. We will hear tomorrow morning.
It is SO HOT and humid outside. We drive to Amelia to Teatro Sociale for a jazz concert with Romano Mussolini (Il Duce's son, who by now must be in his 70's), Rick Pellegrino and his Group and an extraordinary musician, Lino Patruno. The concert is put on by an Italian women's professional organization, and Roy quickly calls them N.O.D., or the National Organization of Donnas.
Our seats are in box 6 on the first level. The theatre must be 200 years old. We are told the La Fenice theatre in Venice was patterned after this one. It has been painstakingly restored. We love the red velvet seats in the orchestra. The numbers are on the backs, which is so funny. People have to lean over the front of the seats to figure out which ones are theirs.
It takes an hour for the crowd to settle down and give awards. There is not much of a crowd, although each box is occupied. The women are all made-up and mostly beautifully dressed. They clearly love to see each other and can't wait to go up to one another and gab. The concert takes a back seat until almost an hour after the suggested starting time of the performance. Awards are given out, one to a well known TV personality dressed in a black dress with a poufy skirt that was designed with the same design as the background drapes. Another award to Romano Mussolini ... and so on.
The drapes open and we see a huge black piano. We are on the correct side of the stage to watch Romano, and lean forward on the brass rail of our box. We see a bass fiddle lying next to the piano, a set of drums and two guitars, as well as several chairs. The stage is raked and the floor a chestnut colored wood planking.
Lino Patruno, a man who resembles Harpo Marx, with curly white hair and round cherubic face, comes on from stage right with a violin that has been wrapped with some kind of elastic to cover the speaker mounted to its bottom. He is dressed in a big white shirt and white pants. He stamps his brown shoe on the stage hard as we hear a down-bow on the violin in unison that is so loud we cannot believe it is a violin. He is Django Reinhart and then some. Summertime, Lime House Blues, the old standards sound so clear and, well, different. His strokes are so bold that a wrong stroke would be so bad. But there is not one bad stroke until almost the end of the evening, and by then there is so much going on it does not matter.
He calls out the performers one by one and plays off their instruments, in a delicious harmony. There is no warm-up. The musicians are "hot". The little theatre really rocks. Romano plays a Gershwin medley, as though he has played it dozens of times before. The whole repetoire is one we are sure they have played time after time, and yet it sounds fresh. Lino plunks two notes, Eddie Palermo on one guitar plays off that, and then the base, and then the drums, and then Romano on the piano. The other guitarist, Rick Pellegrino sometimes picks up his 70-year-old Dixieland banjo. When they all get going, there is no stopping. They play for about ninety minutes straight.
And then it is over.
Out in the humid night, we walk up ancient cobblestoned alleys to our car in a nearby piazza. I feel like eating fish, and we drive to Il Ponte, on the side of Amelia near Tia and Bruce. Bruce is back in the U.S. on business, and we had purchased a ticket for Tia but she was having trouble with her workers on their house remodel and could not come. We call her from the restaurant, however, and she can not resist. She comes for drinks while we eat and helps me polish off a seafood risotto. The main course is grilled fish, Spigola, lobster, prawns, octopus. This is a really great restaurant. We sit outside under a tent set up across the street, overlooking some trees and behind the trees a man-made lake.
It is not so hot today. We leave the house around ten, and stop in Bomarzo to check out the new Sardinian pastry shop. It is really good. Tiny lacelike pastries, amaretto cookies, tortas and other delicacies... embroidered linens and hand-woven baskets... cakes and wine and crackers and jams...all from Sardinia. We will certainly have some sweets from here for the lavender lunch next week.
We next visit Roberto Pangrazi, but there is someone in his office, so we go back later in the day. First, its time for coffee, and then a trip to the computer store in Viterbo to order a hard drive backup for the computer.
After the computer store, we are off to Michellini, the great vivaio in Viterbo,. We are intent on finding bushy plants with big thorns to put next to the wall to prevent anyone from climbing over it. Tia tells us, "Get something with big, big thorns and no one will climb over them." We love the idea, and settle on Mermaid roses. Tiziana shows us one growing up the side of their building, very old with a vine not unlike the grewia we loved at our Mill Valley house, but with large cream-colored flowers. We come home with one very tall and two short plants. Roy and Stefano and possibly Mario will figure out how to plant them above the tufa.
We are both so security conscious now that I don't even have to remind Roy to take things out of the car like keys or today the computer if we are leaving the car someplace and going into a store. The backup is a really important addition. We will have it all set next week.
At home, Paula Fosci rings the doorbell to invite us to stop by their house on Sunday afternoon. Her brother Mario is getting married to Fulvia who also lives in Mugnano, tomorrow at 11am. We will go to the church but probably stand outside, because the church is tiny and they are sure to have many guests. We will take our camera and take a photo that we will print and put in a frame for them when we go to Pepe Fosci's house on Sunday afternoon.
Just before we leave in the afternoon to go back to Viterbo to the computer store with the computer, we stop at Pangrazi's and he tells us that he has called the company in Viterbo who is to cut up the street for the sewer and it will be done next week. Magari. He has not been reliable when it comes to bringing someone by to look at the asbestos panels, so we will see. I am hopeful but ready that we might have a gaping hole in the middle of the terrace for the lavender lunch.
Earlier in the day when we are in the pharmacy picking up a prescription, Roy waits outside for Stefano the muratore to come out of the bank to ask him what the status of the sewer job is. I am inside and the pharmacist actually tells me that I speak good Italian. He is impressed that we know both Stefanos (the muratore and the mayor). It makes me laugh. I think my Italian is terrible, although I feel much more confident talking with strangers than I used to.
Sunday is Corpus Domini. I am getting nervous, because the lavender is ready but it must be cut and put into little bunches with ribbons for the people of the village. It is to be distributed on Sunday. I think the service will be at 5pm until later when John Franco tells us the procession will take place after morning mass. Tomorrow we will get up at 5AM to cut enough of the lavender for me to make 150 bunches. It will take me all day. We will see. We will stop for the wedding and perhaps then we will find out the actual hour of the procession. No matter. It is an excellent crop and we want the people of the village to have the lavender.
Tonight we finish the gravel on the side of the property next to the parcheggio. John Franco sits quietly on his terrace and watches. We must be fun to watch.
Up at 5AM and it is cool and clear outside. We get olive green lug boxes from behind the house. Roy sets up several next to him on the path next to the lavender. I watch him cut the first plant and take the lavender and a lug to the marble table, where I set up my assembly with a spool of 100 yards of thin lavender ribbon, scissors, clippers, gloves and a big bucket for the trimmings.
After stripping several hundred shoots, my index finger blisters. I switch to gloves, and the process moves much less painfully. This is a labor of love, so I listen to the birds and think of the different characters in the village I don't know well and wonder how they are related to one another.
I finish about thirty an hour, and at about nine I stop at the count of 75. It is so hot you would think I am a beehive, I am surrounded by so many bees buzzing around my chair. Looking down at the olive green plastic lug, I see the lavender bundles nestled neatly inside. There is room for the entire 150. I hope to finish before mass tomorrow.
It is time to get ready for the wedding. I put on one of my new linen dresses and we walk up Via Mameli as far as Vincenza and Augusto's, the bride's parents' house. They live next to Dina, who is Marsiglila's sister and Vincenza's mother, and although it is ten minutes before the scheduled start of the ceremony, the door is open and at least sixty people mill around.
We see Vincenza, the mother of the bride, who is lovelier than ever. She is tastefully dressed in a black and white silk crepe flowered dress and white corsage. She sees me and stops what she is doing to come to take my hand and lead me inside. Inside the tiny house we are taken right ahead to the living room, which is packed with food and drink, people from the village and not from the village. We do not eat, and stay just for a moment, so that Roy can take photos outside.
We watch from the street to see Felice dressed in a dress white shirt and tie, walking out the front door. Marsiglia sits in a chair by the front door, right next to her sister Leondina, who is grandmother of the bride. Roy takes a picture of them with Felice standing by Marsiglia. After the picture is taken, Felice leans over to kiss his wife and say, "My heart." Mamma mia this is some romantic moment. I hear music in my head and my eyes fill up. This is a proud day for Mugnano. A Mugnano boy marries a Mugnano girl and the lineage of the village remains intact.
We think there will be a procession up the hill with the bride and her father, but Roy wants to be at the church to get photos as they arrive. We walk up to see cars parked as far down the street as our house, and dozens of people milling around outside the tiny church.
It is dark inside the church, so we walk in and take a few photos while the singers practice singing Ave Maria next to the altar. We see the former bank manager of our bank in Attigliano, so the singing will be excellent. It is part of the choir from Attigliano.
Pepe arrives with Candida on his arm, and just as we are about to take their picture in front of the church, someone shoves a cell phone in Pepe's ear and he talks while we set up the shot. Ubik is nowhere to be found. Serena enters on her son Mario's arm, dressed in elegant coffee brown silk pants and top, covered by an exquisite flowered jacket. Paula arrives in a vivid red and black dress and top, very bold and festive.
I am reminded that people who attend weddings usually wear strapless gowns and rhinestones, as though the wedding is an evening affair. Today is no exception, although the service is at 11 AM, and at the fashion show outside the church, black and chiffon predominate. Chairs are set up in front of the Orsini palazzo across from the church, and villagers in their simple dresses and villagers in their finery gather for this special occasion.
Fifteen minutes or so later, there is a groundswell of applause and Fulvia arrives walking up the hill on the arm of her father. She is dressed as tho she just stepped out of a page of a bridal magazine. Her dress is pinky-beige, strapless, with the top in the form of a bustier, laced up the back. The skirt is full with a drape to the side and a train. She wears her black hair back, and I can see that she is so fair that this color suits her complexion better than a white gown would. The veil is net, very simple, placed on the back of her head. She wears a huge silk rose the same color of her dress at her neck as a choker. Her father wears a handsome black wool suit.
We wait outside the church, because there are so many people they will not all be able to fit inside. After the ceremony begins, we walk home to download our pictures and return before the end to take more photos.
We are handed cups of paper confetti by Francesco's daughter. She is dressed in blue, and for the first time I see her as a young lady. I am reminded that Loredana and Alberto met Francesco when he was about this young girl's age, 30 years ago when they first came to Mugnano. So we are witnessing the growing up of a new generation. We remember her five years ago, so young and shy. Now that she is growing up, she has gained poise from her sessions as reader in the church and membership in the Bomarzo children's choir, the Baby Coro.
It is so hot inside that people walk inside and out, looking for a breeze. Felice comes out in his starched white shirt, looking so uncomfortable. He goes back in before the end of the mass. At the end, the bride and groom are the last to leave the church. We are able to snap a shot of the confetti flying in the air as they step shyly outside. How sweet.
Later in the evening at home, Roy gets out the aspiratore and vacuums the leaves off the new gravel on the terrace. Meanwhile, I am back at the marble table, making the lavender bunches. I enjoy making each one, thinking of the people in the village who will get them. I don't want to stop, because the going is slow now and the mosquitoes are hovering, but my feet are getting bit and I must stop. We are up to about 90.
We are up before 5 AM, I'm back at the marble table making the lavender bunches, and am able to finish 125 before we have to go to work in front of the church at 7:30 AM on the flower designs on the street. Towns all over Italy have processions on Corpus Domini with flower petal designs on the streets and young girls with baskets, dropping petals as they go from street to street in the middle of the procession. The procession will take place after the 9:30 mass. We take a lug of lavender, and aren't sure what we will do. We decide to create a path with lavender in the middle, surrounded by yellow ginestra(scotch broom) petals, The two colors are bordered by green frond and bay leaves. Our contribution is quite lovely. Next year we will be better prepared and will bring the petals already cut. We will also plan a specific design. Timing is everything, and we finish at 9AM. I have brought my white linen dress, and go into the priests room at the back of the church to change. I feel like superman, I am done so quickly, but I would rather not meet Don Luca here in my underwear.
Outside, Don Luca and the other priest come up the hill, and Livio tells him that we want to give the lavender to the people of the village. Don Luca thinks it is a very good idea and tells us that we will do that after the mass and procession are finished. Livio has lent us one of his beautiful handmade baskets, and the lavender in the basket are placed right in front of the altar, for all to see.
I remember back to the first time we gave the lavender. It was several years ago, with another priest, but Roy was not with me and the people in the town were genuinely thrilled with their little presents. This year is no different.
The procession moves through all the streets of the little village. First to the old church that is waiting for a new roof, then back to the main square and down the hill to Guistino's building.
What's this? Livio has rushed to the front of the procession to talk with the Confraternity and Don Luca. Before I know it, the procession has gone all the way to our driveway. I cannot believe my eyes, which by this time are filled with tears. Roy is right behind me, and when I turn around I can see that he is overwhelmed, too. The people of this village never cease to amaze me with their generosity of spirit. We are now officially "on the map".
We finish a very, very hot walk. I am only able to sing one song during the procession, for it is one of the songs I have the words to on the little blue paper handed out each Sunday at church. There are so many songs and responses that the congregation is familiar with. I wonder how they can remember such a wide repetoire. Perhaps it is because the same songs and responses are said every year. It is still new to me.
At the end of the mass, Don Luca talks about us and about the lavender. He says that we are Americans AND Mugnanese, and have lavender gifts for everyone in the village as thanks. Lucia is seated in front of Roy, and, while still looking ahead, her right arm goes out to grasp my hand, which is leaning on the back of her pew.
Don Luca calls us up, brings us up in front of the altar, and Roy holds the basket while people line up and I hand each person a fragrant bunch. There is plenty to go around. I remember some of the people's names and it is a wonderful few minutes. We have some left, and leave the church looking for people who do not go to church.
We remember that there are two old women sitting nearby in the shade. One woman never smiles, and is forgetful, so I walk right up to her and she is amazed. She looks at Roy as if to say, "Who is THAT??" The other woman with her must be at least 90. They don't know what to think, but take the lavender anyway. Marsiglia and Felice did not participate in the procession, so we walk up their steps and call out. Felice peers out the door, but Marsiglia is already half way down the stairs. I give her extra lavender and a big hug. Felice comes down for a hug, too, and then its back down the street with the basket.
A few people are standing around in the square who did not come to church, and we pass out bunches. Then to the car, and down the hill to the bus stop, where six neighbors sit in their t-shirts. I get out of the car and hand out the lavender. A few doors down, I see the artist cleaning his car. I give him two and ask about Luigina. He tells me she is at home, so I call out and go up the stairs. She comes out and wants me to come in for coffee. Another time.
We are back home, and can't wait to stand in front of the fan in the kitchen to cool off. It is finally officially summer, but you could have fooled me. I thought summer began a month ago. Later we will go to Pepe Fosci's for the wedding reception with a "just off the printer" wedding photo framed for the new couple and lavender bunches for the family members who were not at church.
It is now just before 6PM, and we take some lavender bunches for the Fosci family who were not at church (Candida was there, si certo!, she will never miss a mass. Mario Fosci is the new bridegroom). We also take the framed photo, wrapped only with white satin ribbon and a few lavender shoots, of Fulvia and Mario coming out of church.
We are able to park in the square, and as we get out of the car there is no one around. It is still very hot. A cool breeze rushes across the piazza and we turn around to see Fulvia standing there, all alone, below the tiny community building. Fulvia is dressed in a long white denim skirt to her mid calf, red sleeveless top and fabulous black sandals, which have wedge heels and tiny straps that lace around her ankles. She is radiant, still in the glow of her wedding day.
We walk over to her and hand her the photo. She hugs us and then looks. Her eyes open wide and she exclaims "Mi dio! La prima photografia! Grazie! Mille grazie!" Just then, Mario show up and she can hardly contain herself, she is so excited, and shows him the photo. We explain to Mario that we will put the other photos on a zip disc for him, and he thanks us warmly. We remember how much the people of the village appreciate these little spontaneous photos, and that thrills us.
We have not been to the Fosci house before. It is around the corner from Santa Maria, where we go to Sunday mass. Stefano, our muratore, has done a great deal of work there, for it is five stories high, built into the side of the tufa cliff, facing north.
As soon as we arrive, we are met by Serena, who takes us on a tour of the three lower floors. This is an amazing house. We look out a window and imagine Stefano hanging over the side. The drop down is about eight stories. But the elaborate reconstruction work is exceptional. Serena and we agree that Stefano works "from the heart". Not only is his work extraordinary, he does it with care and with love. We later see him outside tonight with his new girlfriend, and learn that he is divorced after one year of marriage. Both Stefano and his girlfriend are very shy, and take big plates of food out to the terrace to sit by themselves and eat with their heads down, whispering to each other. We like him so much and hope that this new girlfriend brings him much happiness.
We love this party. It is open to all the people of the village, and we see them laughing and eating and drinking and looking around. There are benches on the side of the first room where food is served, and Dina (grandmother of the bride) waves us over to sit with her. She introduces us to her son, Ivo, and tells him to get us porchetta sandwiches. Pepe Fosci is slicing a huge porchetta at the table. That must have been some pig.
Lucia walks oh so slowly in front of the table to the door, holding the lady on her arm who sat outside church this morning. I ask Lucia how old she is. 94. Lagramino is 95 and Ernesta's mother is 96. So there are at least 3 people in Mugnano in their mid-90s. Perhaps the local water is not so bad after all.
Dina lowers her head to whisper to me that this is not Ivo's first wife who is standing near the table. She is his second wife, a young blonde. His first wife died at age 33. At least I think that is what she is telling me. This all takes place in a gossipy tone, as though she is telling me a secret I must not divulge. Of course we are the only people in Mugnano who do NOT know.
Everyone tells us to eat. EVERYONE. We tell them "dopo" (after). I don't really like eating at these buffet festas. It is difficult enough to pay attention to people who speak in a dialect and to try to understand even a little of what they have to say.
Vincenza, the bride's mother, comes over to talk with us. There is something so very special about her. She has a presence about her, a softness. She seems to want to get to know us. It is difficult, although we speak to her in Italian. We do not say a lot. In time this will get easier, but we are reminded that festas and family dinners are especially difficult. It is the small talk that is so trying when there is not a great command of the language. We are encouraged by Vincenza and Serena, who go out of their way to get to know us. I suppose you could say we have unspoken friendships.
Paola, the Fosci daughter, spends time with us, speaking in English. Her English is excellent, learned years ago when she was an au pair in England. We are so relieved. She introduces us to Dario, the son of Valerio. Dario is very shy and does not want to try his English. He tells us that he will speak to us in August. We try to tell him that our Italian is so bad that he should not feel awkwardly speaking to us in English. But we know how he feels. So we will meet with him when he is ready.
We bring up the subject with Paola about the fascination the Italians have with the beach. She agrees, and tells us that it is all about la bella figura. They want to look "bronze". It is all about the look. So that is why they go to the beach. We ask Paola why one cannot get the same tan in Mugnano, and she shrugs her shoulders. We ask her how she feels about being from Lazio. "Those Umbrians!" she exclaims, "They don't even have a beach!" Umbria is land-locked, perhaps the only region in Italy that is. Now we, the Laziale, have something we can say about the Umbrians. It feels like a tennis volley. "Aha!"
We don't stay all that long, because we are so tired. We do not go to Donatella's art reception and instead go home and collapse in front of the kitchen fan.
We get a call that our new car is at the dealership, and Roy wants to pay it a visit. We also need to have Mario requote us the insurance, adding kasco, the complete coverage. I'd also like to go to the big Vivaio nearby, because we need to replace two hydrangeas. We also need to go to Ripabianca for big pots for the new roses on the side path.
While we are driving toward Terni, Roy thinks we should go a little further and pay Pat and Dick Ryerson a visit in Casale, just south of Montefalco. We stop at the dealership, give the car a once-over, and find out that we cannot get the car by the end of the week. Groan. It takes three days once we give them a certified check to get the plates on the car. We hope to be paid on Wednesday afternoon. At least that is what Mognini tells Roy on the phone. We will have to go to the bank on Thursday morning, get a cashier's check, then take it to Terni. Mario assures us he will work something out.
Later, when we come back the auto dealership, we find out that Mario knows Angela and Donatella at ACI. In fact, he knows the man Angela will marry on Saturday. He is a carabinieri. We thought he was a car dealer. Who knows. Somehow they will all work out our deal. We later find out that Mario will lend us a car on Thursday, we will take the rental car back to Viterbo, and will come back on Friday for our new car. Magari.
We drive toward Ripabianca and will not get there to buy the pots before pranzo. So we go to Pat and Dick's house, only to find the gate open but no one there. We leave our card and go to Montefalco for lunch. After walking around, we find a great restaurant on a back street named Coccorone Restorante Tipico.
I ask for Caprese, because for the second time in a week this is not on the menu. When it comes, the presentation is very dramatic. Instead of cutting the tomato all the way through, it is fanned and the fresh mozzarella is slid into the openings. Basilico is cut very thin and sprinkled over the top under a generous dollop of olive oil. Soon I will be able to do this with our very own heirloom tomatoes.
For primi, I have papparadelle al Sagratino, wide housemade egg noodles covered with a wine sauce made with the famous local grapes. Roy has an antipasto with sliced meats, cheeses, bruschetta and prosciutto and melon and then strangozzi (local twisted pasta) with tomato sauce and local wine. We like the food very much and will certainly return.
We come out and get into the car just as Pat and Dick walk up the hill. What fun to meet them this way. We talk with them for about ten minutes and decide that they will come to visit us next week. I am sorry that Pat will not be able to come to my lavender lunch on Saturday. When they come next week, we will just "veg". Now Pat is wrestling with a bit of Italian technology. She wants to use her US cell phone with an Italian phone card, and is trying to figure out how to make it all work. Roy is not so sure it is possible but suggests that she call him on her phone to test it...Later.
We drive to Trevi from there, where Elettra told us she found a Mode De Dire book. We find the bookstore and the book, and return to Ripabianca through the rolling hills of Umbria. It is a wonderful drive in our little air-conditioned car.
At Ripabianca, Carlo is working away on his big pots, but stops to greet us. We want tall, big pots, because they will sit on top of the tufa and there must be enough room for the roots of the mermaid roses to grow. He only has one pot the size we want that is not sold, but will make two more. We put the one pot in the car and tell him we will return in two weeks for two more.
We stop at the Vivaio in Terni, but there is not much to choose from. There are no hydrangeas. We drive home through Orte, and go to Pinzaglia, another vivaio, who has no hydrangeas, either. I think we are spoiled. After going to Michellini and Margherita, other Vivaios are really not very good. We will try a few others tomorrow.
We come home through Bomarzo, and stop to get gas. Just as we are driving off, Pangrazi sees us in his car and backs up. He lowers the windows and tells us to follow him to his office. It is just before 8 PM.
He has the preventivo from the company from Viterbo, and it will cost just under €3,000, plus 20% tax, for them to dig up the street and put in the pipes to connect the sewer. Mamma mia. We are not happy. They will not begin until we sign and give them 30%. We take the paper and drive off, calling Michelle to see if we can go and visit her, so she and Claudio can look this paper over. We had no idea it would cost us so much to hook up to the village sewer system.
Coming down the Bomarzo hill, Stefano (the mayor) and the vice mayor are standing chatting right on the side of the road. Screech! We stop and back up and lower my window. After the usual "buona serra's", Roy shows him the paper and asks him if he has seen it. He indicates yes, and Roy gets Michelle on the cell phone. Michelle and Stefano talk, and we know Michelle is putting the pressure on. She does that so well.
Stefano is cordial and friendly, and finally agrees to take the paper and call the company in Viterbo tomorrow to get them to lower the price. We had no idea it would cost this much. In addition to this cost, we will have to pay Enzo Rosatti quite a bit to actually do the hookup on our property. We will go to Pangrazi tomorrow to see what has transpired.
I am resigned that we will not have a sewer hookup before Saturday. We will just work around the gaping hole in the middle of the terrace. No matter.
Lore calls to find out how she can help on Saturday, and we agree that she will make red and yellow peperoncini sliced thin in olive oil and will also make skewers of boconcini (tini fresh mozzarella balls), basilico, and small round pomodori. We will get the skewers and basilico and mozzarella). The rest of the menu is beginning to fall into place.
Serena comes by to ask where our white roses are from. We give her a tour and tell her about Tiziana at Michellini. I think she leaves and drives right off to Viterbo. She gives me un gran abbraccio (a big hug) before she leaves.
Roy drives back to the car dealership in Terni to meet with their insurance person, who is there today. He speaks some English. Roy calls me from the car to tell me he thinks this is the best choice for insurance. I am fine with that. I look forward to this all being over.
When we drive up the Bomarzo hill we almost drive right into Stefano Bonari's car. He pulls his car around next to us and asks if we have seen Pangrazi. So there is some decision. We go to Viterbo and stop to see Pangrazi on the way back home. The mayor was able to get a 10% reduction on the price. The company doing the work is finishing up a small job in Bomarzo today and may do the work in Mugnano tomorrow. We will see.
At home the sun is off the front path, and we work on tying up the roses with special rose tyes. These roses are remarkable...still alive after over one month of almost constant 90+ degree temperatures.
A few calls around to make final arrangements for the Saturday festa, and then the rest of the evening to relax.
I have wondered about this day for three months. That is how much time it has taken to get in to have a hospital test. Dottoressa thinks my migraines may be caused by my colecisti.... We have no idea what that is. IT sounds as though it is something near my liver. No matter. At the appointed time we arrive at the little hospital in the middle of Orte. There is a very short wait. Thankfully, the technicians speak English. I try to speak only Italian, but am flummoxed by the first phrase (take a deep breath). Sigh.
Five minutes into the sonogram, I ask the technician what the word colecisti means. He responds, "Gall bladder." I can hardly believe it. My gall bladder was removed in 1985! We are such thorough people but never thought to translate the word...He finds nothing, of course. The report we take when we walk out the door reads, "colecistico disabitato" (The gall bladder is not inhabited in the body.) When we go back to Dottoressa, we will all have a laugh.
We return through Bomarzo and Pangrazi is in his office. We take him the deposit check, and he tells Roy to give it to the contractor, who will begin to tear up our street tomorrow morning. We hope Enzo, the hydraulico, will also be there. If we are in luck, the work will be done before the festa on Saturday. If we are not, we will find a way to "make do".
At 4:30 the SARA office reopens in Amelia, and Mognini is sitting in the office waiting for us. He opens the file and pushes some papers around, frowns, squints his eyes and hands us an assessment of what the car is worth from a third party company. The figure is so low we should laugh, but we are in shock. It gets worse.
We thought Signore Roncha at SARA in Rome worked wonders. Rather, we had the wool pulled over our eyes. Instead of insuring the car for what we paid for it, we should have insured it for the value if it was stolen. We paid a higher premium for what we did. They did not pay attention. And the reason the price for the insurance was so good was that we were not even insured for collision! When we were told that the insurance was "frozen" at the date of the robbery, that was not exactly true. We thought we would get a credit/refund for the month between the date of the robbery and the renewal date of the insurance, which coincidentally is today. No. The robbers were insured instead.
We argue that there were many extras on the car...special paint, a navigation system, a 6-cd changer, etc, etc. That gets us €180 more than the initial amount Mognini comes up with. He tries to help, and calls the local VW dealer to ask what a navigation system is worth two years after purchase. He is told 50%.
A lesson learned. Guard your car in Italy as if it was your only child. And if it is stolen, don't expect much in return.
We leave with the check, because we do not trust that an interbank transfer will be completed tomorrow first thing. We will have to dip low into our own pockets to make up the difference to buy a lesser car. We will take the check to the bank in the morning and hope to be able to get a cashier's check, then take that to Terni to get the car processed.
Back at home, the terrace and garden look really wonderful. Mario was here for half a day today, and he cut enough of the lavender for me to fill baskets in the house, cut the front path, worked on our empty property next to us, and weeded around all the orto plants. Although it has been really hot, we think everything is coming back. Roses are blooming again, the peperoni are bursting and dark bright green, the pomodori are plentiful, and we found two melons sitting under leaves in the side orto garden. Every day is an adventure in the garden, and we look forward to the garden being our biggest adventure of the week. We are so weary of dealing with the theft.
This day dawns especially hot and "umido" and Roy is up even before me. We work in the garden for an hour, then have breakfast and are ready to go before 8 AM. Felice comes up the stairs with a bad cold. He is not his usual jolly self. "Piano, piano," he says. When he goes to look at the zucchini, he gives me that big smile I so love. I finish watering and we get ready to go to the bank.
At the bank, we have a new teller. He is quite smart, but does not want to transfer our money today. We have transferred money to our account with a check for six years here, but because the amount of the check is large, he wants 8 days for the money to clear.
We stamp our feet, cajole, plead, and finally the bank manager helps us to understand that they can't help. We get a cashier's check with our available cash. The teller has already stamped the back of the check for deposit, but we take it back. We will go to the bank in Amelia where SARA's account is, and hope to have better luck there.
We stop back at home to see if the contractor has arrived, and his workmen have, but they will not take our deposit check. We can't wait for Pangrazi to show up, so hope they will start the job. We drive to Amelia and have little trouble getting the cashier's check.
On to the auto dealer. It is hard to believe, but everything connected with Mario, the salesman at the Alfa dealership, has been wonderful. He agrees to take our personal check for the difference, and gives us an almost new Alfa to use for a day until our car is ready. We will take the rental car back to Viterbo tonight. The plates will be on the car tomorrow evening and we can drive away then, without having to go to a DMV type of place. God knows we have suffered enough.
I drive the car, which is a higher powered version of the one we will buy tomorrow. It is used for test drives, with large red lettering on the side, indicating the size of the engine and other numbers I cannot fathom. Men seem to have a secret code when it comes to automobiles and engine sizes. Around the world they all understand. All the men stare at the car, especially at the words written on the sign, with a vacant look...The car is a powerful machine, and I feel as though I am back speeding over the curves on Mount Tamalpais. Sometimes it feels good to just DRIVE.
We arrive home to see the street dug up right to our parcheggio...right across Fosci's driveway and garage where he keeps both his huge tractor and his car. We hope he does not have to drive in or out today. He will be out of luck.
Tomorrow is my lavender festa. We have not heard from Enzo, the hydraulico, so have no idea if he will come to hook us up to the sewer before the end of the morning tomorrow. We have looked at this open hole for so long that I expect it will still be there for the festa. But later when we go to Lore and Alberto's to borrow a few chairs and a big umbrella, Roy calls Enzo and lets Lore talk with him.
Enzo tells her he has very little work to do on this project, and the real person who is doing the hookup is Stefano. So Lore calls Stefano and tells him we will have tanti people in our garden and it will not be very nice for us to eat lunch while looking at an open sewer. Roy and I are amazed at how convincing she is, and laugh with Alberto as she convinces Stefano to come and fix everything before 10AM tomorrow morning.
Roy will then fill the hole up with dirt and we will gravel over everything in time for pranzo. You can see we are optimistic. But Stefano is trustworthy. He must get together with the electrician first, to move a switch on the pump before anything is connected. Alberto and Roy joke that Lore gets things done faster than Berlusconi, and I wrap the two sides of my tunic jacket to mimic Berlusconi buttoning his uniform, a double-breasted suit. We all laugh, and Lore is very proud of her accomplishment to day, as she should be.
On Via Mameli, the workers continue to dig up the street and put in the sewer box and
pipe. We cannot believe that these workmen can work in 100 degree plus temperatures. Yesterday, I parked the test car on the street, and when I got in to drive it to Viterbo to meet Roy with the rental car, the temperature in the car was 48.5 degrees, or 119! I-YI-YI! The temperature quickly moved down to 34, and by the end of the evening it was in the high twenties (the low 80's). Just now I checked the weather forecast on the internet and for the next ten days it will continue to be in the mid-90's, with temperatures at night in the low 70's. Perhaps the flowers and plants in the garden are getting used to this heat. We sure are not.
While we are out we spend an hour in Soriano, a wonderful medieval town near us. We have coffee outdoors at a café, and shop for fruit and vegetables at a local market. We buy more Santa Anna plugs for lettuce, as ours are past their prime, and will plant them tonight. We cannot find arugula (rughetta) except for seeds, so we buy a pack of seeds and Roy will sow the seeds tonight in front of the peperoni. That should be fun to watch. They are supposed to come up within ten days. Magari.
Roy leaves early in the afternoon to do some shopping in Terni before picking up the new car. I stay at home, in case Stefano arrives to work this afternoon. I cut up a watermelon to make granita for tomorrow. I am not sure how many desserts we will have, but it will be good to have something really cold just in case. It is not possible in Italy to buy bags of ice, so we have been making ice with ice trays for the last several days and storing the cubes in bags in the freezer. We will use them with a cooler tomorrow for cold wine. The two small refrigerators we have are full of food.
No sign of Stefano all afternoon, but Roy calls after 5 to tell me he has left the dealership with a new car. While he waited inside, the men readied the car and wrapped it in a big red covering, then presented it to Roy. I can just imagine Mario's big smile. If Alfa Romeo is to be criticized, perhaps it is for "form over function". They do such a good job on design and presentation. Unfortunately, the Italian auto dealers are not like the dealers in the U S, in that the car was presented to Roy with an empty gas tank. Roy asked "per che?" and Mario could only raise his shoulders in a "what can I do" expression.
Stefano arrives with Andrea to rework the switch in the parcheggio and leaves, after promising that he will return early in the morning. We think it will all work out but are not sure. We still don't know what to expect.
We bring up wheelbarrow loads of gravel with the paranco, and fill in where there are low spots on the terrace. I cut more lavender, because it is very hot and the lavender is almost past its prime in this heat. We work outside until we are ready to drop, and Roy grills two fillets from Sappori, which we have with cold rice stuffed tomatoes. We are almost too tired to eat, but the food is really good.
The day dawns hot, and we are up at 5 and out in the garden to water and clean up for the festa. A few of the roses are blooming, but the bushes are not full and lush. It is just too hot. After I water I cut more lavender, to make a lavender and ribbon bunch for each person at the lunch. Each lavender bunch is tied with a lavender ribbon, and the ribbon then encircles a white cloth napkin.
Roy brings up more gravel while I work standing at a table in the lavender garden under the loquat tree. He has tied a bandanna across his forehead and is clearly very hot. I want to tell him not to do so much but the work must be done. He tells me he does not need me to help him.
At 7:30, Stefano drives up and parks. He is truly an angel, and promises to be done before 10AM. He works alone, telling Roy that Luca is at home, sleeping. Andrea's assistant comes for a short while, but Stefano is alone for most of the work.
At around 8AM, Roy leaves to go to pick up the tiny round fresh mozzarella, the boconcini, from Castiglion in Teverina. I stay in the kitchen, making a big zucchini frittata. When Roy returns, he goes outside to grill the chicken seasoned with lavender.
The water was shut off around 9AM but now Stefano asks that we test it. Everything works fine. He finishes before ten, and thankfully shovels the dirt that we have kept near the grotto back into the hole. Roy waters the earth to pack it down and covers the area with nursery cloth. He rakes the gravel back over the dirt and the seven month project is finally finished!
We are too hot and tired to celebrate, and there is much work still to be done before the guests arrive at 1PM. I have swept the loggia floor, but the room really needs more work. All the food will be staged here. We put out four folding tables in a long row, under the caki tree. The tables reach out as far as two large umbrellas, which Roy puts up to shield our guests from the midday sun. Once the tables are set up, Roy and I lift the paranco out of its mounting and take it behind the house. It is very heavy, but we are able to manage it just fine. It is a relief to see that gone.
We have a long big checked pale green and white seersucker type cloth, which miraculously is long enough to cover the length of all four tables. I start to set the table, and Roy brings out the chairs and the cushions.
Lore arrives to help, and she goes inside to make toothpicks of cherry tomatoes, basil and little fresh mozzarella balls. The red and green and white look wonderful presented on a large painted ceramic tray. We cut up small squares of parmigiano reggiano and put a toothpick in each one. The cheese is put in the center of the platter. Although the kitchen is cool, there is no room in either refrigerator to keep the big round platter.
Lore brought a lovely tray of yellow and red peperoncini with chopped Italian parsley and olive oil. It is presented in a crosswork pattern, very elaborate and elegant. She goes home to change, because there will be work to be done at noon but not before, and I go outside and finish setting the table.
We continue to work outside. I go in to take a cold shower and change. I am red from head to toe, it is so hot. When I go back outside, Roy is still working with the gravel. He is starting to wilt, but will not stop. He has trouble hearing, and we are sure it is the heat.
Lore returns, and goes inside to cut melons. I give her more large ceramic trays and she puts the melon on one and lays paper-thin sliced prosciutto on the other. We work inside and Roy comes inside to cool off and shower and change. He still cannot hear very well and feels as though he is hearing underwater. This happened to him once before, but we cannot remember what caused it or what cured it. We are sure it is a sunstroke.
Duccio and Giovanna arrive at ten minutes to one, and bring pastries from the wonderful new Sardinian bakery in Bomarzo. Duccio is ready to whisk Roy away for pranzo at his house in Bomarzo. Roy comes down clearly flushed and tired. We hope he can just rest for three hours at Duccio's.
People start to arrive with all sorts of wonderful things to eat. Catherine with a potato frittata, Ula with Diego's olive oil and jams, Tia with a flaky onion tart, Michelle and Annie with a fabulous homemade lemon cake in the shape of a hat. The frosting is pink, and there is a pink grosgrain ribbon, a fresh pink rose and sprigs of lavender on the hatband. This cake surely must sit on our torte d'aeria(raised cake plate). Prue arrives with cold eggplant soup. Elizabeth calls to say she is coming and arrives about 30 minutes later. When she walks up the walk, Lore thinks we should all applaud. We do, and the party really begins. She has brought a melon, which has been hollowed out and filled with lemoncello ice cream. A piece of the top of the melon has been cut into the shape of a butterfly and affixed to the side. There are long flaky cookie tubes, which she later inserts into the ice cream. It is another delicious presentation.
Lore takes over, as she loves to do, and although we have moved all the food for the appetizer and the main course to the long counter in the loggia on a cloth adorned with olives and leaves, she decides that each dish should be presented. She gets up and one by one takes each dish around so we can each try a piece. This is such a good idea. It takes much longer to eat, but we are not in a hurry. We laugh and laugh and then laugh some more. Spumante and them white wine is served, as are pitchers of water. There is something about having a gathering of women by themselves, and everyone clearly enjoys herself.
I keep looking over at the space where a big hole took center stage on our terrace for 7 months, and it is full of beautiful gravel. At one point before the lunch, I take my chair over to the spot and dig the bottom legs of the chair into the gravel. It feels so good to sit there. It is so real.
Just as we are finishing the main course, the clouds, which have been looming overhead, start to break. Rain comes down, first in a fine shower. We all stay where we are, so delighted to have a respite from the terrible heat. And then it starts to pour.
We are all drenched and even laugh some more. We take chairs into the loggia and watch as the temperature drops by fifteen degrees. The rain gives no indication that it will stop, but Roy's car alarm goes off. I have no idea how to turn it off, so run into the house to call him. And the alarm stops by itself.
While I am inside I make two pots of coffee and get the desserts ready. Lore comes inside, and we take two garden hats and put them on, then go outside and do a waltz together in front of the loggia, laughing away. Of course, Lore leads...We go into the loggia and everyone is dipping into Elizabeth's lemoncello ice cream with cookie sticks.
The rain stops, but the table is soaking wet. No matter. It is 4PM, and time for the men to arrive for dessert and more spumante and wine. More glasses, clearing up some of the plates (we are grateful for a dishwasher) and with help we cool off and dry off and clean up the plates to get ready for a new round of food and drink.
Roy, Duccio, Michael, Michael's dog Chelsea, Peter, William and Jordano arrive, and Lore goes home to bring back Alberto. Once Alberto is here, it is time for more spumante, and he serves it in his wonderfully gracious way, tipping and holding the bottle with two fingers inside the bottom lip, his thumb outside. He taught us early in our friendship that the liquid is never to touch the side of the glass. Lore and Alberto are such fun. They make every day a celebration.
Spumante, coffee and Michelle's beautiful cake. Then watermelon granita and Giovanna's pastries. At 5:30, Joan Papi, her husband and youngest son come for a short visit, on their way to a concert. This is their first time here, and we make plans to go to see them in Spoleto soon.
People start to leave, but Lore and Alberto stay until almost 7PM. We agree that their umbrella is too wet to close up, so we will keep it here for them until they return in a month. We will miss them, but they will vacation in the Island of Ischia for two weeks, and during the last two weeks of July we will be getting used to our new puppy, Sofi. So time will pass quickly.
There is an hour or so after a big festa when the people of the house get to wind down and talk about the festivities. It is a golden time, taking a deep breath and exhaling out the joy of the day. When we lived in Mill Valley, little Brinkley loved this time. She was so shy. When the door closed after the last guest left, she would wiggle around and make her little noises as if to say, "Whee! What fun! We are alone again!" Just thinking about her makes me smile.
While we clear the table and wash some of the dishes, we talk bout my day and Roy's day. We have no more emergencies. We have no critical projects looming over us. The thunder and rain bring a change in the air and we look forward to a change in our lives. I look forward to getting my violin out and having a lesson with Tiziana. No school for at least two months. Just peace and quiet.
No need to water, because of yesterday's thunderstorm, so we sleep until almost 8AM. We drive to church, because it is very hot and humid. The church door is open, but it is so hot inside that the parishioners wait outside for Don Luca, who shows up as usual on his motorcycle. A few minutes before, Livio comes out of his house next door laughing, two little bottles in his hands. The bottles of oil and wine for communion seem to have frozen. We all have a laugh, because we know as soon as he steps into church that the bottles will defrost.
Later all is well for communion. Lore and Alberto sit with us, and after the mass they get ready to leave for their flat in Rome. By the time they pass our house on the way out of the village, we are inside cutting up peaches for our cereal.
The sky is overcast, and about noon the thunder returns and the skies open. We have storms that last most of the afternoon. During all of it, we change into summer casual clothes and drive to Alan and Wendy's house in Penna for our language school's summer party. We arrive late and park right in front, because we know we will not stay for the whole event.
Although Alan has a wonderful pool, everyone is inside eating away. Outside, part of a bank has collapsed and pools of mud slide down the hill. We know he must be very disappointed, but his house is a wonderful big house, plenty large enough to accommodate 50 people or more, even in bad weather. It is good to see Wendy, who is back in town after a long trip. We do not know her well, and tell her that we will invite them soon to our little house for pranzo.
Back at home the weather has cleared, and we walk around outside, pruning roses and picking up weeds here and there. I take a nap and as I get ready to go downstairs again, I hear Roy speaking Italian on the terrace. Two people from the village were standing at the foot of the stairs looking through the gate, and Roy invited them in to look at the garden.
We think they enjoyed the little visit, although we did not understand everything they said. We do not know their names, but they live near the village square, and want us to come in for coffee some time. We think they are only here on weekends.
After they leave, Roy and I go down to the path in front of our house so that he can show me where he mounted the mailbox. The mailbox is a silver box, shipped in the container last year and purchased at Smith & Hawken. Marcello asked that we move it, and the new spot is closer to the street. Roy did a fine job mounting it on the new tufa wall where we will grow the Mermaid roses.
We then take our pruning tools and move to the roses on the front walk to do some "training". I clip, take away diseased leaves, and Roy takes the rose ties (in the shape of "figure 8's) and meticulously guides the rose branches so that they will fan out on the wall.
Young Giovanna, wife of Alessandro, the artist, walks below us and we start a conversation. We invite her in to look at the garden, and have a very friendly visit with her. This is what it will be like...Piano, piano...Slowly getting to know the people of the village.
A few hours later, we take the garbage down the street and decide to walk up into the village since it is cool and the air is fragrant and we have no projects to attend to. People are out everywhere we walk, wishing us a buon passagiatto. Near the old church, we see Vincenzo sitting on a folding chair in front of his house, alone. He waves and when we leave the area, wishes us "buona notte". Roy tells me that it is proper here to say "goodnight" when taking final leave of someone. I have no idea where he learned this valuable insight. Another lesson learned.
We see Giovanna again on the way back down Via Mameli, and walk with her to her house. People call out to us again, asking if we enjoyed our walk. We ask Giovanna why the old people sit outside when it is so hot during the day and do not have fans in their homes. She makes a motion with her fingers to connote that they are thrifty. Roy responds, "Dead, but thrifty." Her shoulders lift into the air several inches and her eyes close. We know what that means. Some gestures are better left unexplained.
At home, we call Terence and Angie to wish them a happy anniversary. We surely miss them. They seem to be doing very well. Terence starts his new business in San Francisco next week and seems very happy about it. We are so happy for him and proud of him. He is such a good son.
"Fastido..." I absorb their words like a bee...flitting from one phrase to another. On both occasions that we showed our garden yesterday to people in the village I heard the word "fastidio". "I must look that up," I thought at the time. This morning, I open the dictionary to find the answer. Loathing or annoying. And all the time I thought they were saying that our garden was neat.
With yesterday's heavy rains, we do not need to water. When Roy goes out to meet with Pangrazi to pay his geometra fee and get help on figuring out the ICI tax, I stay home. The ICI tax is like a property tax. Each year the Italian government sends us a blank form, asking us to figure out what we should pay. We think this is insane, so Roy will ask Pangrazi to tell us what to pay. Roy will then go to the post office and wait in a long line to pay. Today is the last day to pay the tax, so of course everyone waits until today.
Here at home, I greet Candida, who is in her orto garden. She thinks it is a beautiful day. I think it is SO HOT. She asks if I like pomidori, and when I nod yes, comes over with eight or ten from the garden. I realize she has never seen the whole garden, so invite her in.
She is amazed, thinking that we just own the space in front of the parcheggio. So I show her the three orto gardens, and she tells me they are bello. When she goes down to see the pomodori, however, something is wrong in her expression. Serena has come to say hello, and so mother and daughter and I inspect the tomatoes. Candida tells me something I can't understand. I think she is going back to get us more tomatoes.
Serena and I walk through the garden and talk about Michellini, the vivaio we like so much. She wants to go there. Candida walks by us with a pail and a paintbrush. In a minute or two we look for her, and she is standing in front of the pomodori, flinging blue liquid onto the leaves. We laugh and call her Dottoressa Orto.
Inside I deflate like a balloon. I am worried that what is in the blue liquid is a pesticide. It is probably some kind of chemical. We see the beautiful shade of blue on many gardens where there are vegetables grown. She tells us it is because the leaves are curling up and are sick. I know she knows what she is doing, so it is another lesson learned.
As I walk them out, we pass by the loggia and Serena warns me about the asbestos sheets covering the room. I tell her we are having difficulty getting them removed, and she is worried. Two of her relatives died of asbestos related disease. She thinks her husband, Pepe, knows how to get rid of them. Magari. We will see.
Roy comes home to tell me that the ICI tax is 3.28 each. The tax in December must be more than that. No wonder the Italian government is in a financial mess.
After pranzo, we take the long drive to see Sofi at the breeder's home near Lake Bracciano. It is not a long distance, but we must drive on windy country roads and that takes about ah hour and a half. What a beautiful drive.
Sofi is everything we hoped for and more. A tiny little wiggly bundle with a long tail. A Don Johnson stubble on her chin and dark blue-grey puppy eyes. She was born on May 16th, so we cannot bring her home until July 20th, when she gets her next shots. When I take her and put her in my arms she quivers for a moment, and the young girl working there tells us she is "paura" (afraid). But not for long.
Before I know it, she is licking my face, nuzzling my inner elbow and wagging her tail like a dime store windup toy. We put her on the floor and she wiggles over to Roy. We are smitten. She loves to play and kiss and stays close to the three of us.
Her markings are so cute. Her stubby legs are tan at the bottom and all about the same coloring. Her markings on her head are even, too. She is one cute dog. Most of her will be what is called a chinghale color (black and grey) with some tan markings.
We leave after a too short visit, and glide home, laughing at how much fun she will be and how very long it will be before she will be able to get down stairs by herself.