There were no ghosts last night in the castle, and when I got up a few times to go down to the bathroom near the kitchen, the lights remained on and I hardly needed my flashlight.
We agree to not stay around, but to head back home. Before going to bed last night, Clark asked us to stay today for pranzo and seemed disappointed that we would not. So he offered to fix us a big breakfast. We are ready to get going, and it is a good thing, for when we leave just before ten AM, there is not a sign of either Clark or Liz.
We leave with three tiny lanterns that we purchased as mementos of our visit and drive out of the same huge iron gate, the car filled with people and luggage and coats. With only a stop at a nearby bar for café and cornettos, we drive straight through to Chiusi, where we stock up with groceries for the evening meal.
Nearby is a restaurant that Roy and I have wanted to try, Locanda Del Ribbollita. We agree to eat there, even thought they will not allow Sofi to enter and the manager is rude as can be. Pranzo is exceptional...housemade pastas and ribbollita and antipasto...and then we get into the car for the short ride home.
Once at home, we spend the next few hours relaxing on the terrace. Luigina and Enio and Alda and Baschia call down above us, asking when the bocce court will be ready. We don't know, but accept Luigina's kind complements about our gardens, which are just beginning to show their spring beauty. The trees are in blossom, the fields are tilled and weeded, and everything smells fresh after the rains.
Phillip sees an old motorino on Pia's land just across the road, surrounded by tall yellow wildflowers. She is there with her son to weed-whack, but Phillip and Donna walk over and ask them if they can stop and let Phillip take photos of the motorino. They agree, looking somewhat perplexed, but Tia beams when Douglass gives her one of their calendars and she realizes that the motorino will be the focus of an upcoming postcard. We will be sure to give her several.
Felice comes by, and is very confused as he is introduced to Donna, "le donna". How can a woman be named "woman?" he wonders. We thank him for tilling the field for the tomatoes, which looks wonderful and he laughs with us and shows us the new flowers on our lemon tree before departing for home.
A few minutes later we have a real spring rain, and Phillip sits on the front steps with a cup of tea, just enjoying the scene. Inside I prep for cena, Maria Callas serenades us from the living room, Sofi plays with her dirty toys while Douglass photographs her and Donna reads.
All the while, Stefano and Luca have been inside hanging Maurizio's pepperino headers. I love the way they look, dark and old. When they have been cleaned up they will appear somewhat lighter, but they look wonderful. Stefano will return on Saturday morning to finish, and then Roy and I will spot paint around the headers.
After Stefano leaves, we light all the candles in the kitchen, and start our meal of bruschetta, followed by gnocchi in a tomato sauce, then grilled veal chops on beds of rugghetta, homemade olive and rosemary breads hot from the oven, poached pears with gorgonzola, fruit and brutti e buoni cookies. We love having our good friends visit, and especially love these three, who have experienced so many changes in this house with us in the three times they have visited.
It is so good to get into our own bed tonight. Even Sofi welcomes her old cage.
We're up early again, because this morning I have an appointment in Viterbo for my EKG, as part of the ongoing quest for solutions for my migraine headaches. It takes less than 30 minutes from the time I pay (€11,62) to obtaining the actual EKG and its results, which we will later take to Dottoressa.
While we have been gone, the power goes out as Phillip uses the hairdryer while the dishwasher is on its cycle. So while Roy is on the phone to Donna, they figure out how to get the power back on. We are so used to the Italian power system that we are not fazed. Donna tells Roy that Phillip needs to go to the doctor, so we get back home by 9:30 and Roy and Donna and Phillip go on to Chia to visit Dottoressa. Douglass and Sofi and I stay home and listen to the opera while the fog clears and the blue sky opens up a glorious vista of the Tiber Valley.
Phillip and Donna and Roy return with praises for the Italian medical system, and Dottoressa in particular, who impressed Phillip with her kind and helpful manner. Roy tells me later that she was particularly gracious and refused to accept payment for the visit.
We are able to relax on the terrace for a little while, and Donna offers to give me a shoulder and neck rub. I sit on a little stepstool in front of her, and we agree that my problem is some kind of degeneration in my neck and upper shoulders, that holds stress until it turns into a migraine. She remembers that my neck and shoulders were especially tender at the castle, when she offered to massage my shoulders during my last migraine. She asks me if I am worried about the brain scan I will get next week and I am not.
We are sorry to see these dear friends go, but have a quick and tasty pranzo here before Roy takes them to the train in the next town. When Roy returns, Dino and Mario are here and are sitting by the marble table on the terrace, relaxing and waiting for him. They have installed Dino's arch for the gate to the olive terrace, and it is beautiful. Once they have been paid and leave, we realize we need two more roses for that cancello as well as the two additional Paul Lede roses to finish framing the new stairs, so drive to Michellini in Viterbo to complete our purchases (magari!) for this year.
We are able to buy their last two Paul Lede roses, and tell Tiziana that we want a companion rose to the Mermaid that will not have spines, because two of them will get caught on people going in and out of the gate to the olive terrace. We settle on Rosa Banksia, a small white ancient rose that flowers in clusters. We also buy two small teucrium, plants that have grey leaves and beautiful pale lavender flowers that we will clip into rounds later this summer. Tomorrow I will organize the pattern of how all the new little plants will be laid out between the big rosemary bush on the wall and the lavender field.
Roy paints the four stakes on the new stairs black, and tomorrow we will plant everything that remains in pots. This past week we have been able to stay outside longer, now that our clocks have been turned forward, and the extra hour of afternoon daylight makes it easier to relax before our evening meal.
We wake up to thick fog and Stefano arrives around 9AM to finish the pepperino headers. He thinks it is going to rain, but I am happy to report that it does not. Instead, the fog clears and we have a partly overcast day, perfect for working in the garden. Rocks, rocks, rocks, where ever I dig in the lavender garden.
Before he leaves, Stefano goes over the plans with Roy and me, and gives us some very good ideas. We give him the OK to speak with Roberto Pangrazi next, and we will approve the final plans for Roberto to take to the commune for permit. That should take three or four months. No hurry. In the meantime, we will plan and put in the irrigation for the gardens, and he will bring in a tiny Bobcat to clear the land in the back of the house for a cement pad.
"The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, 'In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!'"
John F. Kennedy
While the Bobcat is here, he will clear the land next to the living room window. That means it will be time to either relocate or chop down the large nespola tree, which by now is almost as tall as the house. I should ask Tia if she wants it...She'll just have to find a way to take it out of here. If we keep it, we will have Mario and a couple of other men work with the Bobcat to dig out the root and carry it over the garden to the upper olive terrace. If it survives, that will be wonderful. If it does not, we will have a lot of firewood. Either way, we will have a much better view of the gardens from the living room and from our bedroom windows.
Felice comes by, and tells us that, years ago, he participated in the Holy Friday event in the village as Jesus in chains. He mimicked the sound of the drums beating as he took each step. We ask him how many years ago and he tells us "tanti". There was a big deal in this village then, and we hope that the procession will be resurrected, with so many adults participating in events in the village on weekends, even though most of them live in Rome during the week. We remind him that the procession and benediction is tomorrow morning, news we confirmed today when the church bulletin arrived in our mailbox.
Tonight we go to an expat party at Alan Briggs' house, hosted by Alan, Tia and Bruce. We bring appetizers, my favorite salmon and green olive tapenades with crostini, and enjoy seeing so many friends who are back in town this week. We do not mention tomorrow, Roy's Confraternity Benediction, but Alan later mentions how moved he is that the village has accepted Roy. We come home and go to bed with visions of little people wearing red cassocks in procession like the children's book, Make Way for Ducklings.
This is Roy's big day. We wake to fog and claims of showers this morning and sun in the afternoon. A few minutes before we join the procession inside the centro storico, I am sitting outside on the top of the stairs with Sofi and she starts to bark. Mauro is at the gate. He has come to let us know that the procession is early today, in case we did not read our church bulletin. We think he is Roy's mentor in all this and tell him we are on our way.
Once up in the square, members of the Confraternity begin to walk up the hill and down the narrow streets with their vestments in their little plastic bags. Roy has his in his own little bag. The members of the Confraternity enter the little church and put on their red and dark blue costumes. Roy stays outside with me near the steps, waiting for his cue.
We watch the women appear, one by one, with their olive branches, rather than palms. Today is Domenica delle Palme, or Palm Sunday. Almost everyone in the countryside has an olive tree, or access to one, and for those who do not there are plenty waiting outside the old church where we are to begin our little procession.
The momentum builds. Don Ciro arrives and dresses in a red vestment embroidered in gold thread and stands in the now open door of the main church. We see Don Luca arrive and when he comes out of the church tells us all to walk to the front steps of the old church to begin the ceremony.
We all file down the narrow street and there are people waiting there already in the misty morning light. The two priests stand on the steps behind the table of olive branches, and Don Luca tells us we are here today for two things...one is the benediction of the olives and one is the benediction of a new member of the Confraternity.
Whoever does not have an olive branch goes up to take one from the bunch sitting on the top of the little table in front of Don Luca. We have ours that Felice prepared for us yesterday in our garden. I have an extra one and give it to Marsiglia.
Without mentioning Roy's name, Don Luca looks over at Roy, who is standing behind me in front of Vincenzo's house. Mauro comes over and asks for Roy's costume. He takes it and holds it as though it is a priceless treasure in his outstretched arms and returns silently and expressionless to the left of Don Luca, facing him. Don Luca tells Roy to come forward and stand at his right.
I am reminded of a picture of Roy taken on the day of his first communion. He was dressed in white shorts, white socks and shoes, white shirt and white dress jacket without lapels. He looked so sweet and shy. Today Roy looks sweet and shy, but is really serious. Earlier I told Felice and Marsiglia that Roy was "come sposa" (like a bride). I am so proud of him.
A few days ago when Livio spoke with Roy about today, and yesterday when Mauro spoke with Roy, they both asked about who would be there to take pictures. Roy assured them that I would do the job, so I pretend no one is around and move up to take pictures of Roy nodding to Don Luca, Roy putting the red gown over his head, Roy adjusting the dark blue cape and red cintura around his waist...all with the help of the Confraternity members gathered around him.
Roy is not blessed by the priests but we are feeling surrounded by blessings. We all walk to the main church, Roy behind Don Luca and Don Ciro. Following Roy are two carabinieri we know...One is the man we call The Little King (who looks just like the children's storybook character in his ermine trimmed red cape) and the other is one of the two carabinieri who arrived at our house the day of the robbery last May. They must consider Roy important "property" worthy of protection.
Once in the church, Roy sits on the altar with the priests. When the prayers are repeated, he mouths the ones he does not know and I am silently smiling. He does not fake this well, but everyone knows he is trying. Gianfranco, as capo of the Confraternity, stands in front of the San Liberato banner and statue. The other members of the Confraternity are seated in the front pews.
During this whole process I am calm, and during the mass I watch Roy, who catches my eye a few times and smiles with his eyes. I wish his mother could be here to see this, but know she is watching and so very proud. When the few hymns are sung, I notice how wonderful the acapella voices reverberate up and around the apse, like a profusion of tiny bells. At the end of the last hymn, the familiar one we sing at the end of each mass, a wave of emotion comes over me and I silently weep.
" Deh, proteggi fra tanti perigli i tuoi figli o Regina del Ciel."
The mass ends, and I walk up to the front of the church. Lucia takes my arm and congratulates us. I kiss her and thank her, telling her this is "piu importante per noi". She responds, "Bravo!" It is time for a posed photo of Roy with San Liberato, and then he changes while I wait outside.
Marsiglia and Felice are there to greet us, and Tiziano and Rosita and Ennio and Mauro and Livio and Gioliola and Leondina and Italo......By now the sun is shining and we return home on a cloud of joy.
Once home, we scoop up Sofi and get in the car to drive to the antiquariato mercato on the first Sunday of each month just north of Spoleto. It is time for a quick walk through, and then we'll meet Dick and Pat Ryerson in Montefalco, here for a couple of weeks at their villa on one of their first trips after buying the house.
We remember they bought their villa after barely looking at it a few years ago, and we drove up after they were back in California to take pictures all around for them. Once we emailed the pictures, we heard back, "I didn't know we had a balcony off the master bedroom...I didn't know we had that...or that...or that!"
All these comments were uttered with delight...a delight that continues each day they are here. They have made many friends in Montefalco and the surrounding areas, but then again, they are exuberant themselves and express a joi de vivre so pure that it is difficult not to be drawn to them.
It is quite sunny and warm when we reach the mercato. This is our favorite one. We like it better than the huge Arezzo mercato on the same weekend of the month. Prices are not cheap, but there are some really special pieces. Last year, Roy passed up a metal bocce ball player that was too expensive, and this trip the woman who sold it later to someone else remembered him.
Further up the line, we see a carved frame of a tiny two-seater bench, beautifully restored and ready to be reupholstered. We don't have a place for it, nor a client yet that can use it, but it is a real find.
Roy buys a kitch ceramic of two basottos in love, I buy an excellent book on Giotto, and we buy a crucifix with a black wood cross that Maurizo tells us later is at least two hundred years old, for not a lot of money. There are two pieces we'd love to buy but cannot afford: one is a framed watercolor architectural drawing of a garden done by a landscape architect, including descriptions done in Italian script. The design is geometrical, Italianate and quite old. The paper has been folded and the folds are yellowed. The edges are not square.
The other piece is an oil painting of a young Roman. It is beautifully painted, and although I'd like it better without the frame, the price of €1,200 is more than we can spend. There is always something special at these markets. So whether we buy something or not, we love exploring and learning about old pieces. If our business takes hold, we will buy these kinds of things in the future for our clients. Soon our website will have a blog for photos of items like these. For now, we just enjoy them for the moment and move on.
Sofi is hot and we must leave for Montefalco. We pick up a lug of fresh strawberries to share with Pat and Dick at a roadside truck parked near our car and drive the few minutes to meet them in the town square.
We are taken by Pat and Dick for pranzo at a nearby trattoria, which we fall in love with. Patrizia, the owner, speaks very slowly and we are able to understand everything she has to say. We are shown to a table downstairs where it is cool, and have her homemade soup of ceci beans and broth, a creamy egg and fresh asparagus sauté, bruschetta, cicoria, cheeses and mostarda, lots of local wine and a special sagratino after pranzo drink to have with biscotti.
We leave with full stomachs and a bottle of the sagratino. We will surely return. Patrizia and her husband have a special friendship with Dick and Pat and we think that they will be sorry when their kitchen is finished and they won't have to eat out all the time. But we really want to see their kitchen, which will be finished in a day or two.
Their kitchen turned out really well, and we see them having many fun meals cooking and entertaining at home. It is fun to see the house now, and the changes they have made. Sofi likes it, too, and races all over their back lawn through the freshly cut grass.
We drive home very tired, but are not back at home for ten minutes before the doorbell rings and it is Maurizio and Umi, coming to see how the pepperino headers look. They come in for a drink, and over wine and cheese and sliced hard salami they inspect today's purchases at the mercato and tell us about the latest news in Giove at the restaurant. It definitely will not open before Pasqua, but we agree to all go there together.
Once they leave, we are so tired that we feel like just deflated balloons, and close the book on a very memorable day.
The morning is overcast, and we sleep in, because we are not expecting anyone. After we do get up, we start to faux the kitchen in the areas around the pepperino. When it's time for pranzo, we have finished three coats of paint. It will take another day or two to finish, because the work is best done in morning natural light. We will leave the living room as it is, until the room itself is painted. We are not in a hurry for that.
Sixty-one little pomodori plants grow happily in the guest bedroom window. Fortified by a tall piece of white Styrofoam to bounce the daylight back onto the plants, we notice their changes daily. Felice has done such a good job turning over the earth in the tomato field, and is such a good teacher, that we are assured of a good crop this year.
In another week or so we will transplant the growing plants into larger pots, and only at the very end of April or beginning of May will they be transported outside. These tomatoes do not seem to grow as quickly as those planted last year. We are not in a hurry. Last year we had so many, and they were all ready at the same time. Perhaps we will plant them in stages, one group a week. Stay tuned...
Outside in the garden, we notice that the roses are really thriving. A good dose of food and ample rain has helped. Now it is up to me to watch to make sure that the rain and not enough sun will cause the roses to attract unwanted pests. So I'll begin spraying with a mixture of mild soap and water soon and pick up the few yellow spotted leaves I find.
The beginning of April marks the beginning of spring in a way, because Pasquetta, Easter Monday, is the traditional day for city-bound families to head out into the country and have a picnic. We see people everywhere busily getting ready for Pasqua. But we are sure not to make plans for Monday, because the roads will be jammed. Instead, we will have a picnic of our own here in Mugnano.
Mugnano will be flooded with relatives and part-timers from Rome this weekend. On the afternoons, scores of them will walk by our house on their afternoon passagiatta and we are sure to have some visitors. The neighbors are acting less tentatively with us, and this weekend we will probably even open our gate in welcome when we are out in the garden.
On Sunday, we will have abbacchio, baby lamb, which is another tradition in Italy. I won't go into it because it will likely turn me into a vegetarian, but let's just say it is excellent and only available in Spring. Roy drives to a special butcher in Giove who raises his own animals and orders a leg of Spring lamb, to be ready on Saturday afternoon.
On the road to Amelia this morning, we pass a man getting into his car on the side of the road with an enormous handful of wild asparagus. Everywhere, Italians pick this remarkable, very thin and delicate looking green. I tell Roy to take Felice for a drive some day to learn where to go to find it and how to pick it. Judith tells us they thrive in ditches where there is rain runoff.
I do know that it is lawful for people to walk onto other people's property on the side of the road to pick fresh herbs and vegetables, and recall last summer that on a ride from Lake Vico that there were cars parked outside professionally grown hazelnut orchards and people picking up fallen nuts that had fallen by the side of the road. We are yet to eat our hazelnuts from last year's crop, but they have dried enough and we will use them soon.
Time again to see Danieli about my hair, and we arrive early, in case there are a lot of people to get their hair done for Pasqua. I am the first. Danieli does not make appointments, so if I am not first I may have to wait awhile. Luckily today I do not.
While doing my hair, Danieli tells me that he will be in this Friday's Pasqua program at the local church. For the past ten years, he has taken on the role of one of the two evil men hung up with Jesus on crucifixes on Good Friday. He does look a little sinister, and for now does not have any bleached strips in his hair. We are sorry that we cannot see him, nor can we witness the other extraordinary procession in Orte, because Roy will be in our procession on Friday evening in Mugnano. From now on, when there is a Confraternity event, he will be here.
I am always struck at how the young Italians take on the mantle of tradition in their home towns. Not cool, would be the thinking in the US. Not so here. Young boys dress up in tights and costumes for elaborate processions, and in this case take on roles of historical figures with pride.
We drive to Amelia for work for Judith, and then come home for pranzo. It is so cold that we do not go out in the garden this afternoon. Instead, Roy drives to Viterbo to find two faucets for Judith (the ones ordered with the sinks are wrong) and Sofi and I stay home and take a dolce fa niente (afternoon nap).
Roy is especially good at this project management. We are determined that we can pick up the slack if a supplier does not give us what we order for a client, and this is a good example. The kitchen supplier kept the faucets from us instead of letting us know that the faucets that came in are not the same we ordered. We only found out when we asked for them to talk with the plumber about them before the sinks and counters are installed tomorrow. We like the supplier and will use them again. We are always vigilant and will continue to be so.
Judith is about out of time. She leaves on Thursday to visit her relatives south of Rome and will only be here for one day after her visit to them before she flies back to California. Tomorrow, Roy will hang sconces, work with the electrician, the plumber, the marble installer, the kitchen installer, to make sure everything is just right. In between, he will hang pictures, curtain rods, chip a little wall away in a closet to make room for a cabinet and do whatever else she needs.
I am on the phone and see Felice walk by the kitchen window. Roy goes out to see him and I follow in a few minutes. He picks bietola for us in the raised bed above the parcheggio, and I will make a soup with it tonight. While he is there, he bends over and plucks weeds. This is a never-ending project. He laughs when I tell him that I spent two days picking rocks from the lavender garden and think they have grown back already.
I walk him over to the new steps and ask him if he likes them. He does, and we walk up the seven stairs to see his potatoes sprouting...We count them off and find all 27. It is as if we are his grandchildren, and he is showing us a new treasure. When I ask him what the people in the village think of Roy as a member of the Confraternity, he tells us it is a good thing. Roy is now a paisan and I am a paisana. He could tell me we just won the lottery and I could not be happier.
Roy leaves at dawn for Amelia, and lazy Sofi wants to stay in bed. We do get up, and I look around for all my medical files, to take to Dottoressa. She has office hours in the village on Wednesday mornings, and I leave Sofi at home in her little cage for an hour and walk up to the centro storico.
Today is market day in Mugnano. It is a silly excuse for a market, with Big Tonino sitting outside Ernesta's Tabacci behind stacks of shoes, a porchetta and meat truck and a table of clothing. Yesterday the fruit and vegetable truck came to town, so there is something coming almost every day to this little village.
Dottoressa and I discuss all the latest findings and agree to wait until the last tests are taken and we return to Perugia to make any final determinations. I come home and Sofi and I work in the lavender garden for a while, digging up those pesky rocks.
Roy arrives home for an hour to have pranzo and get more tools. He will spend the rest of the day back at Judith's, supervising and working on various projects. While he is gone, Sofi and I work outside some more, and then come inside to change for cena. Judith is taking us for dinner at NonnaPappa, in Orte.
Roy comes in with Judith after dark, and they are both tired. All the work is done, or at least all that can be done today. We will return to the apartment tomorrow while she is visiting her relatives for Pasqua and I will see the results then. There is still work to do, and we will probably do that when she is back in California. For the first trip, she has made remarkable progress. Roy tells me that her apartment is really looking lived in.
Fidelia, who is the chef and owner of NonnaPappa, loves Sofi. So does her Jack Russell Terrrier who loves her a little too much. Judith brings Bianca, her dog, and the dogs are given free reign of the restaurant, along with a couple of other dogs of Fidelia's. More dogs hang out outside, and in people's cars. After dinner, there is a cacophony of howling when we go to our cars. We even run in to Jill and Mario and her mother and her mother's friend. Then it's time to take Judith and Bianca to Amelia before returning to Mugnano under a bright egg-yolk of a moon, low in the sky.
Today there will be two medical appointments; one with Dr. Lucchetti, the bone specialist for my shoulder and migraines, and later the brain scan at the big hospital in Viterbo.
Dr. Lucchetti is very forceful. When he asks me if I have gone to the fisiotherapia in Orte, I say yes, but Roy tells him I went five times (instead of the prescribed ten). I thought they were a waste of time. Instead, I have been going to Alice for massages, which have really helped. He is not happy with me that I did not follow his instructions to the letter.
Regarding my headaches, I show him the x-ray of my jaw, and he comes around and presses hard at the top of my jaw on either side of my head. "Does it hurt?" Of course it hurts, I think he is practicing "tormetare" with me.
He tells me I need a mouth guard, and asks me where we live. When I tell him, he wants me to see Dr. Fagioli. I tell him my doctor is Dottoressa, but he pretends not to hear me. I must go to Dr. Fagioli, for he is a specialist. Boh!
Driving home, Roy agrees that we should see Dottoressa first, and she has office hours this morning in Chia. When I do go to see her, she looks at me and rolls her eyes. If I do go to Dr. Fagioli (also known as Dr. Bean), the mouth guard will be very expensive. Very, VERY expensive. In other words, both doctors may be members of the same good old boy network. Instead, Dottoressa give me a prescription to go to the orthodontist clinic in Viterbo.
In the afternoon, we drive to Amelia and install a couple of simple lights in Judith's bedroom, while Cupido and his assistant re-channel walls in the living room and install the bigger sconces. They are so beautiful. I remember that they were the first items we found after taking on this assignment in December. The curve of the metal below the shade is the same gold curve on the edges of the ceiling frescos.
The room takes on an added elegance, which will be further enhanced with the addition of the beautiful tall carved mirror we found for her a couple of weeks ago. She agrees today that she wants it, and the antique restorer can deliver it on Tuesday, after having a beveled glass inserted in its carved wooden frame.
From there, we drive to the hospital in Viterbo. This huge hospital looks as though the building of it went to the lowest bidder. The cement faccia looks old and dirty. The floors are bumpy and duct tape and bumps are everywhere we walk. The building seems clean, just badly built. But when we find the room we are to go to, the space-ship looking machine for my brain scan looks very up to date. In five minutes, I am through, and the results will be ready next week.
On the Bomarzo road, we are stopped by Marshallo Zamponi, the head Carabinieri in Bomarzo. He wants to see a copy of our original Telepass contract. Roy tells him he will bring it in to the office tomorrow. We are never stopped by our "pals" for them to look at our documents...They always wave us on. We later find out why...
Today is Holy Thursday, and we have time to go to mass, so we drop Sofi off before driving into the village. At communion, we are given wafers dipped in wine. When it is my turn, I am somehow quite moved. The church is so silent and solemn this evening. There is time to sit quietly and think after returning to our seats. We read the gospel in our English missal and somehow time stands still. We are transported thousands of years back in time.
Don Luca does not arrive until the very end of the mass, so that traditional foot-washing of the priest does not take place. The older priest who we like very much performs the service, but we still do not understand all his words. The priests and Livio do take everything down from the altar, and light special candles on the floor. The mass ends silently and we return home, having time to think of the magnitude of this day and this weekend.
I feel a silence when I get up that hangs over us. Perhaps it is the overcast sky. Perhaps it is the day, Good Friday, known in Italy as Holy Friday. Tonight Roy will participate for the first time in the mass.
Roy takes the Telepass document in to the Carabinieri in Bomarzo, and Zamponi shows Roy a thick file on his desk. Going through it, he shows him document after document...."Diner....Diner....Diner...." We have no idea what is going on, but their file of our robbery last year is about all the action they are getting these days...
Roy also brings in an article from a local newspaper all about a ring of Albanian robbers who break into homes and take cars and cell phones and money...sound familiar? He tells Roy he does not think these men are the same who robbed our house but knows about them.
Today there is rain off and on, and the highlight of the day is a visit to Alice in Amelia for a massage. I have not seen her in a couple of weeks. During a conversation, we figure out a number of things: 1) a mouth guard will not really help me...2) she can work on the muscles of my face above my jaw and aleve stress there instead...3) I will also go to another friend of Tia's who is a doctor specializing in herbal medicine.
It is imperative that I find a way to stop taking Imigran for my migraine headaches...Now that I have the translation of the report from the hospital in Perugia, I realize that I am at risk for heart problems unless I stop taking these meds pronto...We agree that this Dr. Lucchetti does not give the Italian Medical System a good name. Of course my head hurts when he applies too much pressure on the sides of my face above my jaw line....So although I'll keep my appointment next Wednesday with the clinic, I don't see a need for anything else from them.
I can't recommend going to an expert massage person enough. The pains in my shoulder
and my neck are remarkably better, and I call Tiziana to say hello and to let her know I am ready to take violin lessons again. Roy comes in for the end of my session and Alice gives him some pointers so that he can begin to give me a bit of a massage himself.
Later in the day he tells me that he wants to try to go to Alice for his back problems when he stands. I am hooked on her, and think it is a good thing that Roy tries her as well. At €20 for an hour-and-a-half session, she is irresistible.
I want to make pasta with little clams using a tiny pasta in the shape of a cup, called orrechetti (ears). Once I cook the clams, I take a tiny set of tongs for ice and instead use them to de-shell the cooked clams. Once that is done, I can dump the pasta in the sauce and we can have it while it is still hot. Being served pasta with clams never is a great success, because by the time I take the clams out of their shells the pasta is cold. This pasta is especially wonderful, because the juice from the tiny clams sits in the bowl of each piece of pasta. With home-made rosemary and olive oil bread hot from the oven, Roy is fortified for his debut as a Confraternity member at tonight's church program.
Well, it is raining as we drive up to church, and we don't know what this means for the procession. Roy takes his little bag into the sacristy and dresses with his "brothers". When they all come out, Roy sits in the front row between Mauro and Enzo, Tiziano's father. But there is to be no procession tonight, so Roy has no job to do.
At the end of the mass, Roy and I drive home and Roy takes out the list of holy days where he will be dressed. The next day will be April 24th, which is the feast day of San Anselmo. San Anselmo is the patron saint of Bomarzo, our town. (Mugnano is a frazione of Bomarzo, which is something like a neighborhood.) This will be the day before the Palio in Bomarzo, and we will certainly be there.
Holy Saturday begins with an overcast blanket of clouds above us again. We surely are getting lots of rain for the garden, but are hoping that we will have some sunny days soon. Tiziano comes for a visit, and we sit around the kitchen laughing and talking in front of the fire. Yes, we have a fire today, although we thought it was time to put all the wood away. The weather is cool and a beautiful fire in the fireplace takes the edge off the cold day.
We are learning more names of the people, and names of the Confraternity members, but mostly talk about Tiziano's archaeological finds and his quest to find a suitable place in Mugnano to house them where they can be on view for the public. We also share some ideas about how wonderful it would be to have a little bar in the village, for coffee and as a meeting place.
We all agree that our bocce court, if it is built, will be a wonderful addition to the village. We are still looking for someone to design the court and give us guidance before taking the plans to the local town council.
We then spend a few hours working in the garden. Those rocks just seem to grow. Today is the third day I have raked the soil around the lavender, and I swear there are new rocks where yesterday there was beautifully raked soil.
We also agree on a design for a mattone border between the lavender and the tufa wall where the huge rosemary plant grows, and drive to Gadi in Attigliano to buy the mattone. At home, Roy starts the job, and we rig up a string for a plumb line. You would think we knew what we were doing...
Mass is late tonight, and although we are tired we go anyway. The mass is long, but it feels good to be there. I am frustrated that I do not know all the words, but we have read the missal in English to review the basic information. Tonight, there is the candle lighting, and a tiny fire is built outside the church, where the first candle is lit. From there, we all enter the dark church, and from the rear of the church candles are lit, and then the light is passed from person to person until the whole church is lit by candle light.
I miss Father Rossi's Easter masses at San Rafael's in California, but by next year hope to understand the language well enough to be comfortable with the homily and the mass itself here. For now, we know most of the responses and prayers and our four hymns by heart.
Walking home, the dark sky is clear and the stars glow overhead, making the universe seem so very big. We think about the Resurrection, and I wonder about what life must be like for people who do not believe...Without hope, without something out there to believe in, life must be very empty.
We walk up to Easter mass, and it does not rain, although the sky is dark and the air feels damp. A neighbor calls out, "Auguroni!" (which we later figure out is a great big greeting.) Adding "oni" on the end of the word makes the word much bigger, as adding "ini" makes it smaller.
Don Luca is here for mass, and I am impressed. This is his littlest church, but he gives us every consideration. He darts back and forth from Bomarzo to Mugnano in his motorcycle or his black station wagon like the wind...He is a great, great priest and we are so fortunate to have him. Although he appears quite young (under 40), he speaks and sings with conviction and really knows what to do at every turn.
Today, the church is full, and we see friends we have not seen for a long time here, including Stefania, Claudio's sister. She is lovely, and sadly is losing her apartment in Mugnano. It has been sold. We see her walk with Dani by our house on their way to Claudio's after we return home. By then, Sofi is outside and barks to let them know she is boss...at least until someone comes in the gate for a visit...
We spend most of the day in the garden, after finishing the painting in the kitchen. Roy is willing to let me step up on the ladder, and I remember the coaching we received years ago from the Day Studio about doing paint treatments on walls...Sponging in a drift pattern, using a random direction, works wonders.
We are able to finish three layers in less than two hours. Since we have a very small space to cover, we feel great satisfaction when we step back and think Patsy Braebent, who did the original wall treatment, will approve.
After pranzo, I go back out to the garden to rake rocks and rocks and more rocks from around the lavender. This cool weather is a blessing after all. Roy completes the mattone project, and it really looks beautiful. We will plant the rest of the roses, santolina and teucrium tomorrow if it does not rain. In between raking, I take kitchen scissors and trim boxwood. I like this approach instead of using big clippers. The result is more natural, less like a crew cut... The garden is looking really great....REALLY.
Tonight I'm too tired to make the big Easter pranzo we planned, so we defrost a lasagna and tomorrow I will make the pranzo we planned for today. After dinner, we get out cards and play Scopa. We are not very good at it, but it is fun, and it is better than sitting around watching TV all night.
We did not go to church this AM. Today is Pasquetta, but puor troppo, it is not a day for a picnic. The traditional day for picnics will have to wait. We are told that in Italy,
"Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi" (Christmas is for the relatives, but Pasqua is for whomever you want.) Perhaps that is why Mario and Fulvia and Paola are here in town without their parents for the long weekend.
The rain continues all day. I cook for most of the morning, including a chocolate cake, spring lamb in a lemon-egg yolk sauce, roast potatoes and stuffed baked carciofe alla Romana. Served with a big red wine, I am happy to sit down when the cooking is finished.
I will cook this meal again, and will vary the recipes. Too much broth in the lamb, potatoes cooked just a minute too much, artichokes not baked long enough. But Roy seems to like it all very much, and there is plenty left to eat for another meal. And the chocolate cake is just right.
The lamb and the artichoke recipes are old Roman recipes, and I am taking a risk. I will make this meal for Lore and Alberto, who are not only Roman but extremely knowledgeable about good food. Lore and Roy share the same birthday, so I want to cook a birthday pranzo to celebrate all our birthdays...Alberto's in late February, mine in mid March, and Lore and Roy's on April 20th.
It would please me so if I could cook a successful Roman meal for them. I remember cooking lemon risotto for Claudio to rave reviews, so feel pretty confident that I can pull off this meal for our dear friends next week. We will see...
We hear from Pat and Dick, and may see if we can help them with a septic challenge. We think we are Italian experts on septic tanks. They leave for California on Wednesday, and although they were here for two weeks, we were only able to connect with them once. We look forward to seeing them again when they return in June.
After pranzo, Sofi and Roy and I walk up to the village in the soft rain. Sofi wears her little raincoat, and shoosh-shooshes as her little legs move against the little lined red coat. On our way back, we pass Lydia's and she tells us that the lottery will be held in a minute in the village square.
We walk back up with her, and about thirty minutes later, the lottery takes place in the old school. Luckily we do not win anything. There is a stuffed dog that looks like a giant Sofi, an alarm clock, a suitcase, some clothes, food...and we have another opportunity to see some of our neighbors and practice our Italian.
Back at home, we play some more scopa and end the day quietly.
I tried not to dwell on it over the weekend, but this morning we return to Amelia to the eyeglass store for a retest. Saturday we had a disastrous experience when going to pick up my glasses. Not only were they not tinted the correct color, they were bifocals instead of progressive lenses, and worst of all the prescription was wrong.
The young woman chattered away at me like an angry little bird until I went outside to bring Roy in to talk with her. I was determined to have a successful outcome. Without the correct tint, the glasses are merely ordinary. And of course I must be able to see correctly through them.
When we enter the little store today, she looks at me and beams, while reaching out for my hand. It appears that over the weekend she came to her senses. She tells us that she has worried about the situation and now wants it to work.
I show her my old glasses, and she checks them against the old prescription. Yes, they are progressive lenses after all. She agrees to resubmit a correct prescription, this time for progressive lenses in the correct shade of blue. When Roy asks what time tomorrow they will be ready, we all laugh. Next Tuesday, magari!, they will be ready...
After several requests from friends and relatives for information, here is some background on the Confraternity of San Liberato, and Roy's introduction to it:
Roy was first asked to join the Confraternity in our village after he made such a big hit as Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) at Christmas time. And that "gig" came because Roy was asked to be "Babbo" in a nearby much larger town, Orte, where my violin teacher lives and performs musical events with the children of the town. When asked by the local senior member of our church here in our village why he was doing this in Orte, Roy responded, "Because I was asked!"
So then Roy was asked to be Babbo here in Mugnano last Christmas Eve and then I think they naturally thought he was a volunteering type of guy. The Confraternity gig came from that. Eat your heart out, Mountain Play!
Roy is one of 25 members of the Confraternity of San Liberato the Martyr (San Liberato is our patron saint) in our village. At least fifteen of the Confraternity members do not live here full time. They were either born here or have relatives here or live part time either here or in Bomarzo, the town of which our village is a part.
There are only 52 households in Mugnano, and around 80 people live here full time. Most of them are at least 70. During feast days, the town swells to about 130. On those days, you have to get up early to take a shower, because by the time 8 AM rolls around, there is no water pressure....
Here's some Confraternity background: In Italy, there are men in every town and village who act as silent workers to help the priest on special days (feast days, holidays, etc.) On many of these days, there is a procession, and the men carry the town or village's saint on a bier, or a huge crucifix or the Confraternity banner, or other items.
Their role is solemn, and in their special costumes lead the men and women of the village in a huge procession following the priest. If you have seen any old Italian movies with processions, you can imagine us in one of them and that is what it is like.
There are also processions for every funeral, every wedding, but the Confraternity does not participate in them. We participate in all of them because we are part of the fabric of the village and want to be as much a part of the village as we can. There are about five funerals here a year, and the processions go from the little church in the village square, down the hill to Via Mameli, past our house, further down the hill and then up to the cemetery.
As a matter of fact, the Klu Klux Klan has patterned their hooded costumes after Confraternities in Spain, which are similar to those in Italy. The white hooded costumes are used only on Holy Friday, and larger cities and towns have white hooded men dressed to carry the crucifix in a procession on that evening. Our village does not have the white hooded contingent. The Klan took the idea of the costumes and changed them to signify whatever it is they do for totally different reasons. The Costumes of Confraternities are colorful, and generally do not include hoods.
We hope this information is helpful. We continue to research what the Confraternity means, and this is yet another subject for us to learn more about.
The rain finally stops, and we walk out in the dark to the lavender garden with Sofi before going to bed. Up above the potatoes growing in the upper garden, we hear an owl, or a loon, or some kind of winged creature, calling out as though it has lips and is forming a long "ooooooooooo" sound. Wish we knew more about identifying birds, and owls...Let's add that as yet another subject to learn about. So much is new to us, so much of life is a mystery...
Rain again, and it's time to visit the orthodontic specialist at the hospital in Viterbo. Just as I thought, he checks out my jaw and writes a prescription for me to get a mouth guard. I bore him, and take him away from reading today's paper. Instead of making an appointment for the mouth guard, I file it away and we go home instead.
Alice will work with me on the muscles around my jaw, and I think this will be much more effective than a guard. I have another session with Alice and wish I could go to her every day. The results are remarkable, and she gives me exercises to do for my neck and jaw.
We cannot resist little gifts for our grandchildren, two girls who are expected in the middle of June. The shop we find in Viterbo, Prima Sogni (First Dreams), is delightful, and of course we come away with two dresses and tiny slippers with butterfly bows that we will mail to our angels.
The weather finally clears, and we are able to plant three roses and do some weeding. An email comes in from Marilyn Smith that she is planting her heirloom tomatoes. Ours will not be ready to plant for at least two weeks. Although we planted our seeds two weeks later than Marilyn, she has been working overtime to get them going like Jack's beanstalk.
I can finally spray the roses. That means a mixture of: 1 litre of water, one small glass of denatured alcohol and two spritzes of liquid soap, all in a spray bottle. We have so many roses that I have to remix this potion at least three times, but am able to find a few leaves curling up with critters inside. The liquid works wonders. I do not want to resort to chemical means. The Lady Hillington roses on the front path are already blossoming.
When Felice comes later in the afternoon, I take him around to show him our latest handiwork. But up in the potato patch, I see that the peach tree has curly leaf disease.
Felice tells me I can use the same potion that I used on the roses, so I mix up a batch and he and I spray the tree. He assures me that it will be fine.
Below us, Sofi bounds all around the lavender garden, throwing her head back and tossing her little stuffed dog in the air, over and over again. She darts back and forth, loving the running and the company. In less than an hour, it begins to rain again, so we go back inside to a warm fire and the couch in the kitchen.
Diego called us a few days ago, and we miss not seeing him. We want to see how his new construction project is going outside Orvieto. He has purchased two old casales and is completely restoring them on spec, hoping to find buyers. We are interested to see them because he is a good friend and also has such good taste. We also think we should be aware of them in the event we come across anyone who might want to purchase one. At this point, if someone buys one or both of them before they are finished, we can work with the new buyer to help them get their homes finished as well.
We drive to Diego's first, and it is raining. We drive to the location in his fierce old Fiat, which can get up the hill with no problem. He has driven over 500,000 kilometers on this car, and it is still going strong. It is a good thing that Sofi is at home, because a construction site in the rain is a real mess. Today is no exception. But the first house, which has three-bedrooms, should be ready by July. It is really a work of art. The views of rolling green hillsides are beautiful from each room. Driving up, we are flanked by 100 cypress trees. Diego really knows how to frame a location. We will have pictures of the house on our site soon.
We ask about his daughter, Serena, who we like very much. She is studying to be a chef with Paul Boucuse in Lyon, France, and was home for a few days. When we ask about her old boyfriend, Diego tells us that that relationship is finished, and he is happy about that. Enrico is compared to a piece of Baccala, a stiff piece of dried fish. Funny, coming from Serena's father, a young 72-year-old. I think Serena is 19.....
A call comes in from the eyeglass shop in Amelia, and they need to take another measurement. We drive up, and on our way hear from Tia that it is time to put their old dog, Ivy, to sleep. Try as she might, she is unable to find a vet to put Ivy to sleep. So the daughter of a neighbor, who is a vet in Rome, will do this on Monday. Ivy can hardly breathe. It is sad for Tia and Bruce, but Ivy is probably relieved.
Italy is a strange place when it comes to pets. They love them, but abandon them without a second thought. And they don't kill them, or have them neutered, just let them fend for themselves. There are numerous places that have hundreds of unwanted dogs running around, called Canile Municipales. This country is in the Stone Age in this respect. We remember going to a few of them before purchasing Sofi, to try to find a small dog. It all worked out for us, but we cannot forget the sad site of so many abandoned dogs.
On the way to Amelia, we stop at the Giove castle, to find out when the restaurant will open. John Band is there, the owner from California, and he invites us to come on Sunday, opening day. We will drop by to see what it is like, and will probably return for a meal with Tia and Bruce or Maurizio and Umi.
Don Francis calls from Padova. He is leading a religious tour from San Francisco, and we think we will see him in a week or so. We tell him about the Palio on April 25, Italian Liberation Day, and perhaps he and Cornelio will come for a visit and sleep over. Looks like we should plan a big dinner after the Palio, with Alan, Tia, Don Francis, Cornelio at least...Roy will be in a procession in Bomarzo the day before in honor of Bomarzo's patron saint, San Anselmo. And then the Palio, Sienna's out of town tryout for a few of the horses will take place on the 25th. Tia can't wait for a repeat performance. We are sorry that Bruce will miss it again this year.
This rain just goes on and on, day after day. We see a program on TV about Global Warming, and perhaps that has something to do with the very weird weather. For an hour or so the rain stops and Sofi and I go out in the garden...she to romp in the lavender field and me to clip more boxwood. I am amazed that we now have 91 individual boxwood plants, each shaped in a ball. How did this happen?
Well, Sarah first put in forty at the end of 1998, twenty on either side of the front stairs. When we began the front wall project, we extended the front wall. Those boxwood on the side of the stairs that were affected were moved closer to the lavender. When the wall was completed, there was room for twice as many boxwood to complete the design on the front terrace and it was not safe to move the boxwood back.
So we had twenty from before that were moved to another part of the garden, and we also planted eleven taller oval boxwoods as a kind of wind break between the lavender and the front wall, in addition to the forty new boxwood and the original twenty. We also have four short boxwood hedges.
I really love boxwood, and now clip them with small kitchen scissors, instead of the larger Felco shears I used to use. This way they don't look as though they have crew-cuts. But it takes much more time. I use this exercise as a kind of meditation time, clipping only a few plants at a time. My mind wanders, I clip, I stand back, clip a few more...This is one of my recurring activities.
Tonight before going to bed, I hear the owls calling out loud and long, even through the closed bedroom window. After the rain they seem especially loud. I feel they are guarding us, always calling from the same spot above the olive grove. Otherwise, it is so silent here.
We think the attendance at mass today is at an all-time low. There are only twelve of us in the church at mass time. But no priest. We hear some rumblings outside, and Don Ciro appears, followed by about ten parishioners. So we have a small group, but everyone sings loudly and it is good to be here.
After mass, we pick up Sofi and drive to the outside mercato in Viterbo, held on the third Sunday of each month. It is cold, but the rain has not reappeared, although the sky is menacing. I find a tiny old modo di dire plate from DeRuta. We have been collecting these little plates for years, but gave away a lot of them for gifts before finding out that they are no longer made. So finding them is part of our ongoing treasure search. It cost all of €6.
From Viterbo, we drive north to Montefiascone, overlooking Lago di Bolsena. Today is the end of a ten-day antique mercato, and we are able to pick up a very old framed piece for the kitchen at a rock bottom price. Perhaps it is because it is raining and also is the last day of the mercato. Perhaps it is because I use my negotiating trick of naming a price and looking and smiling, without saying another word. We take 1/3 off the price and Roy looks at me amazed that the seller actually caves in.
I am rather amazed myself, liking the experience more than the actual piece. It is a still life, well done, but not particularly important. It will complete the back wall of the kitchen. Some day we will replace the little painting with a better piece and will restore the frame. But it looks fine for now, and we like it.
Unfortunately, it means moving a sconce from the side wall near the fireplace to the other side of the painting, which will create a mess on the back wall and we will have to repaint there. Roy is not happy and we spend an hour or two sulking...Roy about opening up the wall to run electrical and me because he wanted to just use an extension cord....
We can't stay angry at each other for long, and wind up in the garden, weeding as the sun comes out. Sofi runs around on three paws, her front right paw hurting somehow. I cannot find anything wrong with it, but know she is not pretending. A few hours ago, when spraying the roses on the front path again, Baschia and his master walked by and we took both dogs off their leads so that they could play. Sofi did not run much, mostly laid down by the front path. We will take her to Dr. Cristalli tomorrow if she is not better.
Roy and Sofi and I sit on the bench in the lavender garden to take a break, and in about five minutes we hear noise at the front cancello. It is Felice, so we all move to the front terrace and sit with him in front of the living room window. For about half an hour he talks away, and we figure out some of what he is saying.
There is one particularly interesting segment, in which he tells us that every leap year, the months of March and April are cold and rainy, so very little planting is done in those years. That may be correct, but he thinks Leap Year is every five years. It feels good to correct him, and he nods and responds, "Ah, Beh!" with a roll of his right hand, as though scooping up a handful of petals right in front of his chest.
He is always a happy man, but complains today about the village festas, held on the first weekend of May. Each year, a new person is in charge, and lottery tickets are sold in advance, but the prizes are cheap and not very good. Our favorite prize one year was an entire prosciutto, which sat on a chair while the band concert played in front of it, as though it was watching the off-key musicians. Chairs were at a premium, and most people stood. So the chair seemed to laugh out loud at the people congregating around it, like a tuba, "ho, ho, ho"...
Felice tells Roy that Marsiglia thinks Roy should be in charge of the festa. Groan. I tell Roy later that when the bocce court is ready, he can be in charge and we will christen the court then. That should give us a few more years to stall....
Sofi is not better, so we drive to Terni, and Dr. Cristalli's associate, the tiny young Dottoressa is there. She once drew blood by mistake from one of Sofi's nails when we asked her to clip them and does not like that exercise. So when we show her Sofi's paw, she tells us that one of her nails is roto (broken) and has to be clipped back further than the break. Yikes!
Who is more upset, Dottoressa or Sofi or me? Sofi's little body is shaking like the machine in a paint store that mixes the cans of paint after the formula is done. I can feel myself turning green with Sofi in my arms. Roy seems like the only sane one. Dottoressa calls out, "uno, due, TRE!" and then Sofi follows right behind... "WHHOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
A little iodine, a cotton swab and a bandage, and we are done. This visit is free. Yes, free. She even gives us some iodine to take home to swab her paw tonight.
On the way home, Tia calls and we all start to laugh when I explain that we have just left the vet because Sofi broke a nail. No wonder she is sometimes called Principessa. Sofi feels much better, although sleeps most of the day, probably because of the shock in the vet's office.
And yes, it rains again...On a quick trip to Amelia to finish a quick project for Judith, we come out of her place to see the rains of Ranchipoor. I am imagining Tia, thinking, "All this rain, and nowhere to store it for the summer. Drat."
This is Roy's turn. It is his birthday, and yesterday I bought a ripe avocado, called a Mango in the local Coop market (!), quasi-sour cream, green onions, nacho chips, ground meat. Roy is hankering for Mexican food and a few weeks ago bought a Taco kit. I will make guacamole and salsa and we will have chips and then make tacos. You have no idea how exciting this is to Roy, after five months straight of nothing but Italian food. I suppose even paradise gets old after awhile....
The meal itself is lots of fun. I make a chocolate cake in the morning while he is out doing errands, and do all the chopping and prep work for the tacos. The actual meal is like a party. Although I was never a fan of Mexican food, I admit it tastes quite good.
This afternoon Roy drills through the back wall of the kitchen...It is 50cm thick. He has the tool...a 60 cm drill...and wants to get the other sconce moved in time for pranzo on Thursday. Lore and Roy share a birthday, and she and Alberto will arrive in Mugnano on Thursday for an extended visit. I will make another cake then, probably a Sacher Torte, and baby lamb and artichokes Roman style.
The sun comes out for a brief visit this afternoon, but it remains cold. Amazingly, it does not rain. The sun decides to stay out, the temperature warms up, and several hours after he starts the project, it is finished. An admirable job, drilling out the back wall of the house and in again. When he finished, we look at the wall and it looks as though the wall has always looked that way.
We watch another Italian film tonight with English subtitles, and I am getting used to the format and cadence. The language is beautiful, and the more I hear it, the more I understand.
The night sky is clear and so very beautiful. Sofi and I go out to the garden after the movie, and the air smells sweet. Tomorrow should be a beautiful day, the first without rain in over a month.
Today is just gorgeous. I can't breathe in enough of the fresh spring air. We spend a lot of time in the garden...weeding, planting the rest of the roses and santolina and teucrium, clipping boxwood. When Felice comes by in the early evening, the garden looks so good that he decides he does not have to work. I think he is tired. With the first good weather in weeks, he worked overtime in his plot of land below us in the valley and he obviously is not in the mood.
Earlier this afternoon, Gino calls down to us from Via Porta Antica above us. We cannot figure out what he is saying. So before we know it, the bell to the gate rings and it is Gino. We invite him in, and he wants to climb up the front stairs by himself. A young 96, he sits on the bench in front of the kitchen window chatting away. He tells me to sit with him, and Roy brings over a chair and faces him.
He declines my offer for a drink of water, and then tells us all about his land, how someone in Rome "left him behind", that he was born north of Orvieto. Pia comes by a few minutes later to borrow a newspaper. She is burning weeds on her land across the street. I invite her up, and she sits with Gino on the bench while I get the paper.
They are sort-of relatives...His granddaughter, Laura, is Pia's sister in law. Laura is married to Francesco, our vigili urbani (local policeman). We know Gino is getting dotty because he does not even know who Andrea is. Andrea is Laura and Francesco's son.
Evidently this visit from Gino is going to be a daily occurrence, for when he leaves he tells us he'll be back tomorrow.
Before we know it, Aurora arrives for a visit. We walk around the garden and take a look at the tomatoes, then go inside to hang out until dinner is ready. A bottle of wine, lasagna, a salad, homemade bread hot from the oven and cookies make up this simple meal.
We spend the evening reminiscing and talking about how Italy has changed her in these few short months. Part time, she is working with a very well respected realtor, and his name sounds familiar. I think Sarah Hammond spent a day with him when she came to visit one June. Now Sarah owns a second home in New Mexico. It is funny how the years change our plans....and our ideals.
We think we may find a way to work together...she on her real estate sales and Roy and I on our project management. We tell her about Diego's properties, and will introduce her to Diego next week if her boss is interested in representing Diego.
After Aurora leaves, we walk outside under the stars to take a look at Roy's great planting. The santolina and teucrium look beautiful, even in the dark.
I wake up with another headache, but Lore and Alberto are coming for pranzo today, so there is no time to hibernate. The weather is clear and fresh from all the rain. Roy cleans outside with the aspiratore, cleaning up all the fallen leaves and petals and sweeping the two sets of stairs.
Inside, I prep for the meal, including cooking and frosting a Sacher Torte and readying the artichokes. By the time l'una comes around, the meal is ready. It is warm outside, clear enough to sit on the terrace under an umbrella and sip spumante before coming inside. We start with bruschetta with tapenades made of: pepperoni, artichoke, black olive, green olive and fegato (chicken liver), served on a hand painted ceramic platter from Cami in DeRuta with a bottle of San Faustino Merlo from Amelia.
The next course is abbacchio (baby spring lamb) with roasted crusty potatoes and artichokes alla Romana (baked with garlic, breadcrumbs and olive oil). Roy serves a special bottle of wine from Tuscany, Madre, from the Poggio Antico winery in Montalcino. I then serve a salad of mixed baby greens with gorgonzola and walnuts in a mustard vinaigrette. This is finished off with the Sacher Torte as well as a crostada brought by Lore and Alberto, and then café with tiny glasses of Sambucca.
I think the key to all this is to only eat a little of each item. At first nervous, I am pleased with the way the meal turns out, pleased enough to put a few of the recipes on the web site soon. I am behind at updating parts of the site, and have set a goal of May 1 to include a lot more on the places to visit, foods, etc. blogs. Magari!
While sitting around, Lore gets a call from Stefano, who is working on the restoration of the house next to theirs, which they now own. They must leave to meet him. Roy drives to Amelia to meet with the contractor who is to clean up Judith's roof, but Sofi and I stay home. The headache, which has persisted all day, sits over me like a blanket, threatening to smother me. I take out a sling chair and Edith Wharton's Italian Gardens, thinking I will read under the shade of the persimmon tree and an umbrella.
Roy comes back and we have a quiet evening. Tia calls to tell us that Ivy has passed away, and I encourage her to keep busy. Tomorrow we will go to the annual mercato in Montecastrilli for vegetables, and we encourage her to join us.
The evening ends with the wind picking up and fog returning.
We drive to Amelia to check in with the contractor, but he is nowhere to be seen. His worker is standing under Secondina's balcony, using a huge gru (crane) jammed into the tiny street between the two buildings, and won't begin on Judith's roof until tomorrow.
The gru looks like a science-fiction monster, its claws grabbing the steep incline and the treads on the bottom cocked at a dangerous-seeming angle. The worker stands in a little cab, which angles out just under Secondina's balcony. He is applying a finish coat of plaster and the quality appears first-rate. When asking Secondina how big her house is, she laughs and tells us that there are sixteen bedrooms. Some of the palazzo is beautiful, some of it is ugly. Perhaps one day we will be allowed in for a tour. She does not even know how old it is...14th century? 16th century? She is not sure.
We speak with Secondina for a few minutes and then drive to the mercato in Montecastrilli. Tia calls us later and decides to come then, after we give her the early report: come today. There are no crowds, and although all the stalls are not yet open, there is plenty to buy. We pick up two zucchini, six or eight san marzano pomodori plants, sedano, presemelo, a couple of sweet peas, five peach colored geraniums for the steps to the parcheggio, and are finished before eleven. The prices are amazingly cheap.
We are almost home before I remember that we did not buy rugghetta (arugula). But they did not have cappuccia (butter lettuce) either, and so we will look elsewhere for that as well. We did not buy their lettuce, because it is not the kind Roy likes.
My headache will just not go away. It drones on this time for it's second day. So we come home, and I retreat for most of the afternoon with Sofi by my side. When we get up, Roy has planted the geraniums and then I encourage him to go to the time trials for the Palio, which he does. He reports back that he watched five rounds of trials, and there was only one small mishap, with a horse crashing into a fence. No injuries. He buys our reserved seats for Sunday, and comes home.
Tia has warned me to not let Sofi out alone at night because of the owls. She thinks that they swoop down up on puppies, and I am alarmed. Remember all the lyrical thoughts I had about the owls? So I email Marilisa to ask her advice and she tells me that as long as Sofi does not go far from the house she will be all right, and to go out and call for her if she is gone for more than a few minutes. For the past few nights she has wanted to go out in the middle of the night. I am not a heavy sleeper, so think I will go out with her, watching where she goes. If she stays right by the house I won't worry.
Yesterday was Earth Day. There was no notice of it here, but my father died on Earth Day fourteen years ago. I still think of him fondly, and wonder what he is thinking when he looks down upon his children....
There is no procession this morning in Bomarzo, so for the second time, Roy's premiere has been postponed. We are sure next weekend he will be in full dress at our village's own festa, the Feast of San Liberato the Martyr. Roy finds out when Tiziano calls if we will have our "dig" this morning. It is foggy and Roy tells him no, let's try next weekend. Tiziano asks his father for the confraternity answer, and there will be no procession.
Roy calls to check in from Amelia. The workers will not start until later this morning. And after he hangs up, the fog starts to clear. Although the screen is on the front door, Sofi spends her time near me instead of roaming around the garden. I spend some time out there, but the light is too much for me.
I have turned the corner on medicine, deciding not to take any any more for my migraines. The medicine is so powerful that it may be having side effects. So I am trying to go "cold turkey", instead trying to study my records to find similarities between the headaches, weather conditions, food, etc.
By late afternoon I am feeling much better. We drive to Orte to see Tiziana's children's orchestra concert. This is an important concert for Tiziana and her sister, Simona, for this is the first time that they have received funding from the Province of Viterbo and the Italian government for their work. Tonight is the first of two concerts. The second will be tomorrow in Viterbo, but we have the Palio to go to in Bomarzo, so will not be able to attend.
It is good to see Tiziana's family again. We really miss not seeing them. After kisses outside the lovely little church, a beautifully restored Chiesa di San Francesco, we walk in and see Laura in the back. She leads us forward and we all wind up sitting in the front row. This is dangerous, because the cellists are right in front of us and we are very close.
Laura and Roy and I keep laughing silently. We have to lean back away from the musicians and toward Roy, every time there is an "up bow" in the first or second row. I suppose it is the musical equivalent of trying not to be gored by a silent bull.
The children are interspersed with professional adult musicians, and the program begins with Vivialdi's Four Seasons. The littlest ones stand in the center looking forward. The older children saw away at their cellos and violins on either side. The next piece, Rossinis's "Barber of Seville" is a little more animated. By the time the third piece, Borodin's Polovetzian Dance is under way, the group is really fired up. So when they play a fun piece written just for them, they show their obvious joy.
Tiziana is a remarkable teacher. The children love her. So playing is a joy for most of them. After the finish of "Oh, Susanna", which even I can play well, the audience demands an encore. Tiziana goes into the audience and brings up a three-year young girl with the tiniest violin I have ever seen. She stands there frozen in the center of the group as they play, and in the midst of the piece her eyes start to water and she walks over to her father. After the piece she is brought back to a great round of applause and she starts to smile. So when there is a second encore, she stands there and smiles. The parents really love these performances, which do so much for the confidence of the children.
After the concert we walk to a local pub for pizza with Laura and Renzo and Tiziana. Finally we have agreed to begin violin lessons again. We are not able to set a date until ten days from now, but my shoulder is better and I am more than ready to begin again. Perhaps this summer I will be one of the ragazzi sawing away on their violins in one of Tiziana's concerts...
There is a funny email from Austin that the people of the village call him Maestro Lindo, more commonly known to Americans as..."Mr Clean!" He is bald and Scandinavian, so the similarities are there. We now call him "Maestro!" Roy thinks it is funny that our neighbors have nicknames for the people in their village...We wonder what ours are?
How sad. We awake to rain...The sky is really overcast. By the time we connect with Don Francis, he and Sal are buying their train tickets, so we do not tell them that the Palio has been cancelled completely for this year...Instead, Roy drives to the Bomarzo Pro Loco and he is given his money back for all the tickets. He then calls Tia and tells her to come anyway for dinner. He also calls Alan.
Father Tiso and Sal arrive and we give them a late pranzo and sit around in front of the fire. When they arrive the sky is threatening, but there is no rain. So Roy gives them a garden tour. Father Tiso has not seen the completed project, although Sal came to see us about a month ago with friends.
They have a dolce fa niente (afternoon nap) and I get food ready for the evening meal. We invite Lore and Alberto to come for a drink after dinner. They love Don Francis and want to see him again.
The evening is a great deal of fun. Alan arrives with Tia. Sofi is in heaven with all her good friends around to kiss. And although Tia is very sad, missing Ivy, Sofi spends a lot of time in her lap to cheer her up. I tell her about asking Marielisa about helping us to find her a great dog breeder in Italy for Brittany Spaniels. We love Tia and want to do all we can to help her to find two new little puppies to love soon.
It is so good to see Don Francis in our home again. He is such an interesting fellow, so knowledgeable and full of life. Lore hangs on his every word. Roy and I stay up after everyone has left to finish the dishes. I think we have used most of them, and somehow kept the little kitchen from becoming a war zone with eight people and a five-course meal...
We wake to a gorgeous day. Not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature is mild and sweet. Sofi and I are able to do our drill of spraying the roses with denatured alcohol and a little soap and water before everyone wants to take off for a little adventure.
We toast some of the Biscotti di San Anselmo, a specialty of Bomarzo that has an anise taste to it, but it is like a big dry sweet bagel. Toasted with a little honey it actually tastes pretty good.
Felice comes by, and is able to meet the boys. Noreena also comes by when she sees Sofi and I on the walk spraying the roses, so I call out to Don Francis to come down and meet her, thinking he'll come back with some stories we do not know about her uncle, Celestino Natale, who built our house in the 1930's. Nothing new, but she will tell the entire town that we had an Italian-speaking priest as our guest.
There is not time for Don Francis and Sal to see the Monster Park in Bomarzo, a must-see, so we drive up to the old tow n of Bomarzo itself and walk around. The Church of San Anselmo is open. ( It is only open a few days a year) We are also able to go into the duomo so that they can look around.
We come upon a local, Enzo, who lives in Rome but waxes ecstatic about Bomarzo, the place of his birth. When he sees Sofi his eyes cloud up...His dog was poisoned to death a few months ago in Bomarzo. The person who has murdered all those dogs has still not been found. We remember Michael telling us that one of his big poodles also died this way.
We have a little time until their train, so drive then to the Orte train station. On the way, we drive up to the medieval center of Orte, and are able to take them into the little church that Alberto finished restoring. He and his friends did a really admirable job. Don Francis is able to read the inscriptions on the floor as well as one crudely done one on the back wall.
We learn that not all priests really are conversant in Latin. Many of them just take a crash course so that they can perform masses when they need to. Otherwise, many of them do not learn the language. Don Francis knows it so well that he is able to decipher arcane phrases. He is quite a guy. We hear that he is in the running for a very important assignment in Washington, DC, so he may be closer yet to his first love, Italia, very soon.
We are sorry to see them go, but spend the rest of the day doing a few errands and then working in the garden.
We take a ride to Terni on a quest for irrigation supplies, and we find most of what Roy wants at Spazio Verde. It is a beautiful day, but somehow I have a sore throat and am tired. I'm hoping this won't last.
At home, Felice comes by and readies the pomodori patch for the first plants...the eight San Marzano long Italian pomodori that we purchased on Friday from Montecastrilli. The rest of the tiny pomodori plants are far from being ready to plant. Roy moves the whole composting operation out to the olive orchard area. Not a big fan of the whole idea, I am hoping he will be more enthused about it in the new location.
Roy and I lay the black rubber hose from one end of the land to the other. We read that the hose needs to lay out in the sun for a few days to make it more pliable. I am hoping that Roy will call in Steve and Darcie to dig the trenches for this irrigation project. They traded us a day of work in the garden for two sinks...a fair trade all around.
Tonight after midnight, I am to get a call from Boston. The Valhalla, Inc. Shareholders' meeting will take place at that time, 6:30 PM Boston time. I'll be taking the minutes, so Roy sets up the computer and speaker phone for me downstairs. I am looking forward to it being over.
The meeting was not as bad as I had feared. Although I was conferenced in, the reception was so bad that I could not hear much of the meeting. I did hear that I was reelected to the 3-member board, and that my brother had some good ideas about possibly turning the upper floors into artist lofts/condominiums. Everyone's spirits were up and people were very cordial. I am relieved.
We drive to Amelia and pick up some more garden irrigation supplies at a very good place. The people at the agrigarden store are very friendly and give good advice. We are worried about our peach tree, but Felice tells us there is a lot of fruit budding on the tree, so we will do a little spraying of a non-chemical kind and see what happens. This negozio has both the Sant'Anna lattuga and rugghetta (arugula) that we have been looking for, so we bring them home happily.
Felice plants the eight pomodori and readies the earth for the other 60+ that will be planted outside in a few weeks. Roy has transplanted all the little seedlings into larger pots and we will have quite a harvest.
I have a sore throat, but agree to go to pranzo with Lore and Alberto, Tia, Alan and Roy at the Giove castle. This is a remarkable place. Although the castle/restaurant has only been open a couple of weeks, the meal is quite good. Yes, some of the dishes are not good, but overall we recommend it. The price is not cheap...it was approximately €35 per person for pranzo with wine.
The location is what is remarkable. The restaurant is in the ground floor of a huge castle in Giove, a nearby town. Meticulous restoration has taken place, with our friends Maurizio and Umi playing a major role. We admit that the furniture is not remarkable. Alberto is not pleased. But then his taste is for museum-quality furnishings. A few of the touches are "Hollywood", as is the owner, a California movie producer named Charlie Band, but the carpets are fine and the ambience is excellent. For once, the lighting is not too bright. And we are surprised that there is plenty of heat in this otherwise very cold building.
What do we eat? I eat ceci bean soup and a side of agretti, the green I like so much. I do not feel much like eating. But Roy eats a housemade pasta with asparagus and then a sausage dish with hot grapes that tastes wonderful. Other people eat lamb, veal medallions, flank stake over rugghetta...We start off with mixed bruschetta, plenty of wine and finish with a baked apple in a pastry crust that is really excellent.
The salads are the biggest disappointment. The wine list is large, and expensive. We have a Tuscan wine and then, in deference to Alan, a very good Australian import. Alberto likes the Tuscan, the rest of us seem to like the Australian. But overall, we give this a B+ rating. We will definitely come back.
How could I forget? At 4:30 we get a call that my glasses are ready. We rush off to Amelia and agree to take them to try them for a week. The color is correct, but the progressive lenses are less than perfect. Because the size of the lenses is smaller than those of my previous glasses, the space for the short distance measurement is very small. I will see if my eyes can adjust to these. If not, we will go to a technical specialist in Terni. These glasses really look great, so let's hope they work!
I wake with a headache, but try to be relaxed, because we will be off to Rome to the dentist in an hour. We arrive at the dentist and there is no place to park, so Sofi and Roy stay in the car and I walk in first. I want to speak with Dr. Chiantini first about my jaw xray, have my broken tooth repaired and then a cleaning. We agree that I need a crown for my tooth. Porca Miseria. €800. He agrees that if I continue to get my jaw massaged, I can do without the mouth guard, and he does not think anything from my jaw is necessarily causing my migraines. But he has me go through a series of contortions with my jaw to test it just the same. Ouch!
By the time I am through, it is time for pranzo, and Roy reschedules instead of getting his teeth cleaned today. We will have to go back next week for my second appointment, anyway.
With all the jaw testing and work on my mouth my head is pounding. I have a fever and cannot wait to get home. At home, I go right to bed. Before the next few hours are through, I have been sick five times and my headache is worse. Somehow the night ends and I am still among the living.
I am getting better, but am weak for the whole day, and spend most of it just sitting around. Roy paints the tiny iron lights we bought at the castle in Bologna a month ago, and finishes just before a pelting rain chases us into the house. Later, Roy hears that Ivo took pictures of hail in nearby Chia that were the size of ping pong balls....
Roy and Sofi walk up to get the free porchetta sandwiches at the festa truck in the square. I wait at home quietly. I fantasize about walking up to the dance with Roy later under the stars, gliding under the beautiful lights hanging over the tiny streets of our village in the design of a heart flanked by curlicues. I imagine myself as Kim Novak and Roy as William Holden in the movie, Picnic. I must have a fever. Instead we stay at home and watch a movie on our DV D.
Sofi and I go up to bed and before I know it the fireworks begin outside. But the location is different. The flashes and spritzes and halos of sparks burst forth closer in to our little valley. I can see them from my pillow, looking out the front window of our bedroom. It is only later that I realize that these are the Chia fireworks. This is Chia's festa weekend as well as Mugnano's, and tomorrow night is the night of the Mugnano fireworks. Sofi rushes to the side of my bed and cries out, so I bring her on top of the bedding for a few hours. She bounds around on the soft down comforter and then settles down between us, nodding off to dreamland.
At 8AM sharp, canons roar, and the real festa begins. The sky threatens, but the Polymartium Band from Bomarzo arrives on time at 9:30 and tunes up outside our house. For the next hour, they prance up and down all the tiny streets of Mugnano, playing with gusto, if not flair.
Sofi takes to her bed and we walk up to the centro storico. Cars are parked even below our cancello. This is a place that people who were born in Mugnano and moved elsewhere all come back to on this day.
The benches of the little church are moved outside when Roy and I reach the centro storico at 10:30AM, as is the altar and bier and statue of San Liberato. But before the mass the benediction takes place to honor the caduti, or "fallen"...these are the war dead. Roy and the members of his Confraternity are also part of the first procession.
Felice and Giovanni take the wreath and place it in front of the statue in the park at the entrance to the centro storico. This is a very moving moment, with Stefano, the Bomarzo mayor in full dress, saluting the statue and the band playing the Italian National Anthem.
Both Felice and Giovanni are in their eighties. They are here because they fought in WWII. Yes, they fought against us, but the Italians are known as lovers and not fighters. I have tried to read the writings of Malaparte, an Italian philosopher, about the Italians during these years, and perhaps it is time to take another look at them.
The mass begins next, after we have taken our seats in the outdoor church, and Roy is stationed behind San Liberato, flanked by his "brothers". Gino and Valerio are the newest members of the Confraternita today, and in a little ceremony in front of the crowd they are dressed and stand behind Don Luca and Don Ciro. Roy is already "seasoned", because his introduction and public blessing and dressing took place a few weeks ago.
During the homily, I can understand, or think I understand, that Don Ciro tells the congregation that just because Mugnano is a tiny village, don't discount it or its people. The people of Mugnano take their religion seriously. He speaks about San Liberato the shepherd, and what a fitting saint for this little country village. Anyway, that is what I imagine he is saying. Lore seems to agree with me.
As Lore has said, "Once a year, San Liberato takes a walk."
I have my camera with me, and stay back behind the women and then the men in the procession, who walk in front of the Confraternity. I want to get good pictures of Roy. So I follow at the end with the stragglers, but am able to capture him again and again on film. We hope to have a little slideshow of his procession on the photos page of this site soon. I am very proud of him. He is made to feel so welcome by everyone in the village.
But what's this? I think Roy will just stand behind San Liberato. But no. He will take turns actually carrying him with three other men. This statue and stand are very heavy. Soon after he takes one place, he is taken off, because he is too tall, and the statue leans over too much on its opposite side. He moves back and front and takes a place when there is a man his size on the other side to balance him.
Here is Roy in his first procession as a member of the Confraternita di San Liberato Martyre, stopped in mid-walk to watch the explosions in the valley at noon to honor the saint.
Whenever we see Giustino during these days, whose eyes are constantly rimmed in red, we ask him how he is. He responds always with the same phrase, "Piu avanti!" (Always forward!) In the old days, he even acted that way with gusto. He really scared me.
Poor old guy. My peace of mind is improved with his diminished ability to move quickly and reach out to give me a hug when Roy is not looking, but I do feel sorry for him.
Later in the afternoon we walk back up to the village. There is a band concert, which we skip, but think we are returning in time for the lottery. We miss it, but do not have any winning tickets. I am relieved. Instead, we arrive outside the tiny converted school to hear a comedian telling crude jokes. The people of Mugnano are not a sophisticated bunch. Give them someone who tells jokes anytime to something more serious. Their favorite are the medieval jesters and jugglers at the August medieval festa but they laugh at this fellow just the same. It is good to see so many people out enjoying themselves, so we take a walk around the village and then walk home.
At 10PM the fireworks start. These fireworks are so "in your face" incredible, because they are directly in front of our terrace. Because there is a valley down and to the right of us as we face southwest, the sounds of these fireworks are deafeningly loud. Sofi is really frightened. Roy wants her to take a look and see how she will do, but after two or three bursts I have to take her inside and we sit on the couch and hug until it is over about twenty minutes later.
We go up to bed and I settle in, thinking that we have weathered yet another village festa, met some new people, and look forward to introducing Terence and Angie and the angels to the neighbors at another festa, perhaps even next year.
As the day wears on, the sky begins to clear. But some of the locals have hoarded some fireworks and let them off periodically to tormentare little Sofi. Otherwise, it it so good to be outside and enjoy the terrace and garden.
I am thrilled to report that I started violin lessons again this morning with Tiziana. If you have played a musical instrument and loved it, you will know what it feels like. Heavenly. The sound from Uncle Harry's violin is beyond any earthly sounds. I have nothing really to do with it...I just move that magical bow.
Tiziana and I play our simple scales and tunes together, beaming as we move along each bar of music. From now on, we will have a violin lesson on Monday mornings, and then I will go to Alice for a massage on Monday afternoons, until she leaves in mid-June for an extended vacation.
So any stress on my shoulders from the bowing will be eased out. I can hardly wait to practice. Whatever did I do before I played the violin? Now that my shoulder is fully healed, the sound is better, I am more relaxed, and am really relieved that this wonderful instrument is no longer sitting alone in its case...waiting, waiting....
This afternoon, Roy and I meet Aurora and her new boss, who also sold Tia and Bruce their property in Amelia. He also showed Sarah Hammond around two years ago, and uses Fabiana Togandi as his notaio on his projects. We have a lot in common and perhaps will do some work together, handling projects for his clients. We have agreed to introduce them to Diego to see if they can market his property successfully, and take them there to look the place over. We want to go anyway, to take more pictures for our web site. We will post them soon.
Diego's project consists of two properties side by side on a mostly private knoll very close to Orvieto. Actually, the driveway is 2.5 km from the Orvieto exit to the A-1. We don't imagine actually becoming realtors, but are becoming quite savvy about local properties in our new business project management venture, so welcome hearing from people who are looking for property in Central Italy.
Johannes and Aurora and Roy and I meet up with Diego and take another tour of the property. We drive back to our car agreeing that we have to spend some time with Diego talking with him about next steps on the project. We also hope to see some other properties for friends and prospective clients coming over in June and are trying to schedule a trip around Umbria next week.
At home, the ground is really wet, but the roses are hanging in there. It is just too wet to spray.
I take out the violin and lay it on the bed, practicing at ten-minute intervals during the day. That way, my shoulder is not taxed and Sofi is not completely freaked out by the noise. I remember that Brinkley loved the sound of the violin. I am not so sure what Sofi thinks of it yet.
Outside in the garden, the roses are trying to hang on for deal life, despite bouts of rain. The lavender is thriving. Although this is their first year, we see the stems shooting out and the outline of the lavender blossoms. I think the flowering will be another six or more weeks away, but it is too soon to tell. Ideally, we will have our harvest shortly before Corpus Domini, so that we can distribute lavender to our neighbors on that date. But if the lavender is not ready, we will do it later in July.
We meet with Diego to talk about his project, and really want it to work for him. We are hoping we can give him some helpful guidance so that he can sell his two homes soon. Look for photos on our website in a few days. No, we do not want to be in the real estate business, but we want to help Diego. He is a good friend.
This weekend his daughter, Serena, will arrive home from Paul Boucouse cooking school in Lyon, and we will have dinner with the family and hope to spend some time with Serena. We are sure that Diego wants her to take over the kitchen at the castello subito and what a wonderful thing that she shares his enthusiasm. She will leave in ten days for a hotel in Provence for the summer. Perhaps we will visit here there, too.
Tia calls and invites us to dinner on Saturday. She is cooking for Jeremiah Tower and his personal assistant, Charles. They are going to take over a restaurant in Amelia that is part of a famous tiny hotel and will be setting it up soon. Not one to be intimidated, Tia decideds to grill...We discuss a few side ideas and I'll bake a little chocolate cake. This evening should be fun.
Yes, it is raining again when we awake early. This is an important day. My appointment at the neurological department at the hospital in Perugia is at noon, and we want to go north to a monastery in Umbertide before the appointment, to look for a religious statue for a niche on a wall in our garden. Don Francis told us about a group of nuns who are artisans who craft beautiful religious statues. He first saw them at Lourdes, and was impressed by the quality of their work.
We find the monastery at the top of a very rocky road on a kind of mountaintop, and it takes us so long to find it that we can only stay a few minutes. We will return for a tour of the monastery. But while we are there we find a lovely statue made of a polymer material of the Madonna and Child. We are told it can stay outside all year and the size is perfect.
We arrive at the hospital in the rain, but are not late. Then we wait over two hours before seeing a doctor. It is worth the wait. While we wait, we turn in all our research documents and test results. That information is tabulated and given to the doctor who we eventually see. The purpose of the previous meeting two months ago was to begin to collect data. This meeting today is to speak about results and next steps.
We learn that the very best hospital in the world for the study of migraines is in London, but this hospital in Italy is second, followed by the Mayo Clinic, a hospital in New York City and one in Arizona. This doctor has spent time at all of these facilities. He also studies sleep depravation. We are really in the right place. And he speaks a little English!
What we learn is that only about 10% of all migraines are attributed to food reactions, and migraines are genetic in nature. I do not remember anyone in my family who had migraines, but perhaps I am the first. No matter. That makes sense. I have detailed records of everything I have eaten since February 7th, and cannot find any parallels to food.
He recommends that I keep a consistent diet. What that means is to not make any sudden huge shifts in my eating patterns. So he actually encourages me to drink a little bit of red wine each day with a meal. That way, when going out socially, the chances of me getting a hang-over or migraine are much less, especially if I don' t drink a lot.
He likes the idea of my weekly massages, and we agree that much of my migraines are stress related. Because many of the headaches occur at night, or before dawn, and I do not sleep well, he comes up with a drug that is excellent for stress, sleep depravation and migraines. It is called Loroxyl, and is taken in drops, one hour before bed time. Starting at two drops a night in water, I will increase to six drops a night and continue on that until I see him again late in August. He also likes the idea of me taking Vioxx for ten days a month. Vioxx is a muscle relaxer. When taking it, I have a feeling of well-being, and seem to get fewer migraines.
I think we are on the right track, and we drive to see Dottoressa in Chia to tell her so. She is encouraged, and agrees that the doctors in Viterbo are not very good. She trained at the hospital in Perugia, so if we have anything serious to be done, she will make sure that we are taken to Perugia. Makes sense to me!
We come home for a small dinner and I begin the medicine...subito!
But as we drive up Via Mameli, we see two very large tufa blocks at the base of our property. Roy investigates, and the tufa has fallen from the top of the embankment, just below our property on the village-owned path. There has been so much rain that the bank is starting to come down. Groan.
Roy calls the mayor, and we have his cell phone number. It is just after 7PM. Roy apologizes for the call but tells him about the problem. Stefano tells him they have no money to do the repair, but that he will get someone out tomorrow to look the situation over.
Our approach to him from now on will take on a different tone. In the next few days, we will compose our first letter, followed up with a barrage of meetings and warnings. Because our property is located above the only street into the village, if the embankment comes down the entire village will be...marooned!
While we were gone today, Felice came and worked on the eight San Marzano pomodori plants already in the ground. Now they sit in mounds with gulleys on either side of them. Our little heirloom pomodori inside are still weeks away from being able to plant....Perhaps we will have a late harvest...end of August or even September. Michelle Berry is expected in September, so we hope to have some still here for her.
Today, we return to the dentist in Rome to measure for the cap for my broken tooth. The rain continues, but on our way out of the village we do not see any additional tufa blocks fallen on the road.
The dentist does a good job of prepping for the cap, Roy gets his teeth cleaned, and we return by way of IKEA for a few things.
At home, we see no evidence that anyone has come by to check on the damage to the path. We will be sure to get a letter prepared this weekend....
We're up at 6AM, because we must drive to Viterbo to get in line outside the Questura to renew our Permesso Di Sojourno (residency permit). Only the first fifty people are taken each day and it is impossible to get a number until the door opens at 9AM. The other day, we arrived around 8AM and there were about 75 people in front of us. We did not find out that we were too far back in the queue until after the door opened.
So today we are hoping we can nose up closer to the front of the line and that it will not entail a wait outside in the rain...Well, it will be a long wait; let's just hope it is not raining. We still have ten days before our permesso expires. It should renew for four years and then we can apply for citizenship. It is amazing that we have owned our property for 6 1/2 years....It seems like yesterday that we were little scardy-cats, dipping our toes into the big pond of Italian life...
So we arrive at 7:30 and the weather is clear. Roy walks up to the outside door and there are about 25 people in front of him. During the next hour, people come and go and he gets nervous, because people are saving places for others. We seem to be the only "old folks" in this queue.
Sofi and I sit in the car and I am able to watch the goings on. Roy disappears completely, so I assume he is standing by the inside wall. I can see the front door open and three policemen hold the crowd back. I can see the crowd pushing forward and then Roy appears, leaning in toward the open door. Somehow he gets in the door, I think before the numbers run out.
I close Sofi in her sherpa bag in the car and walk up the staircase to the office. Inside is pandemonium, but Roy is standing second in line at one of the windows. I walk over to him. The man in front of him finishes, and the man behind the window asks Roy for his number. Roy has no number. The policeman told him he did not need one. The man rolls his eyes, takes Roy's papers and walks over to a policeman behind the window. We are then told to go to another window and wait by a door.
We move over and a man comes out of the side door and speaks to us in English. He tells us to wait a few minutes at the window for European citizens. It is only then that we realize that this whole queue we have been doing for six years is probably unnecessary. The lines appear to be for people who are trying to get work permits.
When it is our turn, we give the man in uniform who appears to be the boss, all our papers...passports, Italian ID cards, previous residency permits, and the bolos, or stamps, that are required. He tells us to come back to another building in August to get fingerprinted and that this permesso will be good for two years. Roy asks him why, if the last one was for four years, but he tells Roy that the law has changed. In two years, he adds, the law will probably change again.
I nudge Roy to ask him, and he tells the man that his grandfather was born in Lucca. How long will it be until he can file for citizenship? The man's tone changes, and he tells Roy to go to our municipal Commune in Bomarzo and apply there. Once Roy has been accepted Roy can file for me. Could it possibly be as simple as proving that Roy's grandfather was born in Italy? We have his certified birth certificate. Next week we are sure to follow through on this and see Ivo, who is also president of the Bomarzo Pro Loco...
The rain dumps bucket after bucket on us all day. At times the sun comes out, and we are hopeful, only to see a bank of clouds whip overhead in no time at all and another rain shower explode like the puncture of a huge balloon.
We drive to Terni to take Sofi to get her nails clipped at the Vet, but we are too early, so do a few errands and return in an half hour to find the waiting room full of dogs and people. I am shocked to see a very ill Doberman lying on the floor, one of his paws soaked in blood. I turn around and we hightail it out of there. Sofi can get her nails clipped another day.
We come home and make plans for Tiziano to come tomorrow morning for a meeting. We need to write the mayor a letter about the bank below our path, which is falling...Is this déjˆ vu? Weren't we just here last year? We are sure the weather will not be clear enough to do any digging with Tiziano on the old Porta Antica at the top of our property. That will have to wait for another day.
So I get out a packet of lieveto and start a loaf of bread with raisins and cinnamon and brown sugar and crushed hazelnuts that we will have when Tiziano gets here. I have no idea if the recipe will work. It is our standard bread recipe, more sugar, raisins, cinnamon....
Sun appears, but there are clouds standing by like cymbals, ready to clap. I put a loaf of bread in the oven and it comes out after Tiziano arrives. This is not one of my best attempts. The lievito has a little sourness to it, so I think there must be a different lievito for baking sweet bread...I will ask Serena when we see her later this weekend. Because it is hot, the raisins and sugar and cinnamon help it to taste good anyway. But this is not a recipe to repeat. No matter. Roy encourages me to try new things, and the next time I make bread, I will remember what worked and what did not work with this recipe.
We speak for a while about Tiziano's projects and about the neighbors, but most of the time is spent working on our letter to the mayor. We have written the letter in English and then translated it through Google. Tiziano then works with us to rewrite it properly...
Dear Stefano becomes Egregio Sindaoco, Stefano. Lo siamo becomes L'abbiamo....and on and on. I especially like, "Si sono verificati movimenti di terra in almeno due punti della scarpata." The words take on such a dramatic tone...:L'area soto al sentiero...invadedendo ulteriormente....I can just hear the menacing music in the backgroud as the mayor reads the document and his eyes roll...
On Monday we will take the document to the Comune and have it stamped in officially. We will also make an appointment to meet with Stefano...this time by ourselves without a translator. "Speriamo" is my new favorite word. It means, "I hope". I have heard the neighbors say this so often that it has now crept into my tiny vocabulary. When I am hopeful, this is a good word to use. When I am cynical, "magari" (if only it were so) is the word to use.
We make a date for next Saturday to do the dig if the rain stops and we have a few days of sun. Speriamo!
Tiziano leaves and I prepare pranzo. We have not used the fresh peas from the market in Rome. So I sauté garlic in butter and olive oil, take out the garlic, add the peas and a little water and cover the pan. I heat a pot of water for orricchette (little round shaped "ears" of pasta).
While the pasta is cooking, the peas are almost cooked, then I add a few asparagus tips that were steamed yesterday after taking out the remaining water, add a little more butter, slice a tiny dry salame into matchstick pieces, add generous grindings of salt and pepper, minced fresh mint from the garden, fresh cream and raise the temperature.
The cream thickens, the pasta is drained and added to the pan. Topped with freshly grated cheese, this dish is a big hit. The pasta cups sit on the peas like little rain hats, and the sausage and mint add a wonderful flavor to this quickly prepared dish. I think this makes up for the bread this morning.
I sew a curtain for the area next to the armadio in our bedroom for extra storage with a piece of fabric we purchased last year. There is time to practice the violin and also to do some clipping in the garden and make a chocolate cake for tonight's dinner. Again, I have never made chocolate frosting, so experiment and the result is good. We will take the cake to Tia and Bruce's tonight.
Sofi stays at home, and I sit in the front seat, balancing the freshly frosted cake on a footed cake plate in my lap. We drive up through Lugnano over curved and rutted roads, and laugh remembering the old Mercury Marquis television commercials with the diamond cutter in the back seat as the driver negotiates through midtown Manhattan. As we take a curve, I balance the cake in the air. The road to their house is strrada bianca...a really rough strada bianca...but we arrive unscathed, even though the rain has begun again.
Tia and Bruce's other guests are Katherine, Jeremiah Tower and his assistant, Charles. Katherine has purchased the Il Carleni hotel in Amelia, and Jeremiah Tower is taking over the restaurant. In the Bay Area, you would know him from his restaurants: first an association with Chez Panisse, then Santa Fe Grill, Stars, Balboa Café...He now lives in Cozumel and, recently, Amelia. We look forward to his newest restaurant endeavor.
The evening is fun, as are the stories of fitting in to unfamiliar cultures. Food, wine, bureaucracy, robberies, terrorism, air travel, furniture, languages, pets...There is so much to talk about. We hope they will enjoy living and working in this beautiful town. They ask us where we live, and when we tell them there are about eighty people here Roy fantasizes on the way home that they ask him to name each of them. He starts at our house and is able to name almost every person on our street. What fun that we are able to say a few words with almost every neighbor we meet, and that we know their names.
While walking up to church, the sun shines through scattered clouds, and the profusion of
flowers on the front path is a joy. Our Lady Hillingtons are still strong. Their blossoms are remarkable, even after two thinnings out in the past few days. All along Via Mameli we remark that every house displays bright flowers, from Giusino on down to Vincenza. Even the roof of Francesco's cantina is covered in red poppies. The bank across from Dina and Italo's is covered in red poppies and yellow wildflowers.
Before mass, Marsiglia comes over to me for a hug, and afterward Valerio tells us that he and Elena are returning to Rome but will be back next weekend. Roy gives him the photo he took of Valerio and Gino as new Confraternity members last week and we agree to see each other again then.
At home, we greet Sofi and look forward to a relaxing day. We are able to do some planting in the garden and cleaning up. I am back about the boxwood, clipping here and there and also doing some spritzing. We take a turn at the roses on the front path, and this is the third day in a row that we have clipped flowers. There are so many that it hardly shows, but now that the older blossoms are gone, there is more room for the newer ones to open up.
The Paul Lede roses are finally opening, and they may be the most beautiful ones yet, big pale pink flowers with a very fragrant perfume. I can imagine them growing over the pergola going up the stairs to the Madonna and the vegetable garden. With a few more days of sun, the entire property will be an explosion of flowers.
Giuseppa comes by with Antonello late in the afternoon after a short shower and also brings his mother. Antonello is now about two years old and loves Sofi. He calls and calls out to her, and we invite them in to the garden. Sofi loves him and is very gentle with him. He laughs out loud at her antics, running around him like a wild dog, racing back and forth, in and out of the balls of lavender, seemingly with a smile on her little face.
We must go to the Comune...Now that we have the letter edited by Tiziano and also a lead on applying for Roy's citizenship, we have no time to lose. Roy calls the mayor, and makes an appointment for Thursday. I'd like him to check out the citizenship possibilities then with Ivo, but he wants to wait until his mother's birth certificate comes in from Adrian.
This morning I have a violin lesson, and I have been practicing often, at twenty minute stretches. This way, I do not get too stiff. And it is a good think that I will have massages after the lessons on Mondays. We are really getting into a good program. When I go to Alice, she also gives me exercises to do after I play.
Next week I will bring my violin to show her the contortions one must do with their left hand and arm. I want to be sure to be limbered up before June 16th. That is when Alice will travel to Seattle for more than two months. Somehow Tia and Bruce and I will have to survive without her this summer.
The jig is up? We received an email from Ivo, who is in Parma. He has visited our web site, and perhaps by now there is someone in the village translating all my journals...Perhaps this is Mugnano's own version of a reality show...
Tia calls to tell us that Jeremy Tower has reneged on his deal with Catherine to take over the restaurant at the Il Carleni. He will stay and write cookbooks instead. I suppose that is a lot less pressure for him. But it is too bad for Catherine, who now will need to find someone to take over the restaurant, which seats only about 40 people. They did not signal anything on Saturday. We are all wondering if it was something we did...
Time to go to Danieli again at the square in Sippiciano for my hair. Then this afternoon we will meet Aurora and Johannes to look for properties for Suzanne. We have a pretty good idea what she'd like, and hope to find something really special, with frescoes and a great terrace and view in a lovely old town for a reasonable price. Although we don't want to be realtors, if we can help her to find something, that will make us happy.
Three things have happened today that have me thinking about immortality. An email arrives from Karen Holmes of San Francisco State, telling us that it is judging time again for the annual Leo Diner Film Scholarship. We hope that Leo would be proud that this scholarship has continued for almost fifteen years since his passing.... I am reading Mark Helprin's book, A Soldier of the Great War, and read: "You live on not by virtue of the things you have amassed, or the work you have done, but through your spirit, in ways and by means that you can neither control nor foresee."
That has me thinking. An email has also just come in from my Boston attorney, telling me that my nieces will probably refile their lawsuit against me, which was dismissed because their lawyer neglected to file a brief on time. Yes, the suit is also against my brother and the building, and I am caught in the crossfire because I am also a shareholder. I will take the high road, let's leave it at that, but am so disappointed in my brother as well as the girls for the ways in which they choose to view the world. This lawsuit is certainly unnecessary.
We drive to Todi to meet Johannes and Aurora and fall in love with Montecastello Di Vibio. We especially like a two level apartment there with lovely views. This would be a great town for Suzanne. A tiny theatre is located in the town and it appears there is also an art school. From there, we view two places in and around Todi that we nix, and then are captivated by apartments in a town called Torre.
We will see some additional places in Lazio near Rieti on Saturday, and will also check out Orvieto. Whether Suzanne is interested in any of these places or not, it is a good thing for us to know about them for people interested in buying in Central Italy. Our Project Management work will come from leads like this, we believe, so want to be aware of properties out there.
I make an appointment with Giovanni, a doctor in Amelia, who Tia refers me to. I am doing everything I possibly can to get to the root of these migraines. I have no idea if he can help, but will meet with him tomorrow.
Yesterday there was no rain, and this morning is lovely. The birds are happily singing and we putter around in the garden. The Paul Lede roses are finally opening, and they are the most beautiful ones yet. Also ready to open are the white roses in the fiorieras and the iceberg roses by the front fence. The Cornelia roses near the olive trees are blossoming, as are the Buff Beauty roses at the top of the stairs near the giant rosemary bush. The Lady Hillingtons on the front path continue to explode with color, rain or no rain. These are really remarkable roses. All is well.
I am so happy to be able to play the violin again, and in this weather the instrument just seems to sing on its own. Roy tells me the sounds are stronger and more assured. I am not sure, but dearly love playing. Sofi even likes it now, and cries downstairs until I let her come upstairs with me. She sleeps while I practice. When I am through, we walk downstairs to find Roy just awake from a nap. Evidently I can put anyone to sleep with my playing.
Outside I clip a few more boxwood and move one of the benches at an angle just below the huge olive tree, to face more of the garden instead of the valley below us. I so enjoy sitting there and noticing the garden change from hour to hour. Today the temperature is quite warm. I feel like an old dog asleep in the sun, although my nap only lasts a few minutes before we have to leave.
I am glad that I went to see the doctor in Amelia this afternoon, but he does not know anything about bio-identical hormones and, all in all, is too eccentric for my taste. He gives me a shiatsu massage, and I feel better after Alice's massages. But he does give me some good guidance on how to sit and stand and hold my body to move pressure to the center of my body. I will probably not return to him.
He also shows me how to bend my knees slightly while playing the violin to relax my muscles. It works! Before I leave, he tells me to make a tea from stinging nettles, which grow all over our garden. He thinks it will take all the impurities out of my system, so I will try it.
While I am having my session, a rainstorm rages down so fiercely that ping-pong size hail stones pounce down upon the cars, ping-pinging like bullets. I think there are some phantoms looming above Italy, casting doom and rain below, week after week. This is still a really beautiful country, and in our little part of it I cannot imagine paradise any better.
This is the third appointment with the dentist in Rome, and we arrive early. There is not much traffic this morning for some reason. Because we are early, Roy takes a new route, and we traverse across Rome, around the Borghese Gardens, through some of the older residential areas, and the buildings appear like frosted cakes, lemon and peach and chocolate, some with licorice colored balconies. This is really eye candy.
Interspersed between residential areas are fallen-down ruins of the Roman era; tufa-colored squares and rectangles and arches still waiting for the return of their masters. Pines with natural crew-cuts, bobs of spindly foliage reaching out to the tops of several stories-tall buildings, stand together in Italian precision, reminding us that Rome was proud through the centuries, not just around the time of Christ.
We must return again for another visit. Dr. Chiantini wants to add a little porcelain to the crown, and Roy makes the appointment for next Thursday. After leaving the office, we drive to the Aventine Hill, close to the Tiber River, and our eyes take a glance at Circus Maximus and the Colosseum, before we arrive at our destination, the Garden Communale of Rome. Unfortunately, the garden will not be open to the public until Saturday. So we will come next week, and linger then over hundreds of varieties of roses, immaculately cared for, with provenance described at every new variety.
Originally built as the Jewish Cemetery of Rome, the garden was designed in the shape of a menorah. The cemetery itself was later moved, but the design has been meticulously maintained. So the neatly manicured paths wander around, some under canopies of black iron to hold the rampicante varieties. The bush roses stand alertly on their own, so vivid that on our visits we often see new brides and grooms arranging themselves for photo ops, as tho they just happened by.
At home, we putter around the garden, clipping more roses. It has rained again while we were gone, and the spring air is humid. Big, blowsy roses on the front path that have unfortunately blossomed are just too tired to hold on to their blooms; they droop mournfully, heavy with raindrops.
We take them out of their misery, dropping them one-by-one into a round wicker basket, and I pick up handfuls of their petals, breathing in their heady aroma and wondering if there is something I can do with all that spent beauty. Colors are pale pink and pale peach and darker peach and rose and more colors of pale yellow and peachy yellow.
Hundreds of birds surround us, clamoring for attention. The garden has been theirs alone while we were gone, and a remnant or two swoop away when I walk into their chosen area, singing all the while.
It is time to drive to Bomarzo, so Sofi gets a solitary hour to contemplate whatever dogs contemplate when caged in by their masters. We are able to drive up and park in the centro storico, but the Comune office is locked. We wait a few minutes and an artist appears through he doors of the Orsini Palace, next door. He is there to show a group of ragazzi (students) through the building, and we stand leaning against the front door of the Palace with him, talking about Bomarzo. He is a kind of PR person for Bomarzo, but admits to us that this borgo is semi-morto. We think it is a rather extraordinary place.
Roy calls Stefano, the mayor, and he tells us someone will be there to open the door. A young woman arrives and ushers us in, date-stamping our letter to Stefano and recording it into her big ledger book. Stefano arrives a few minutes later, and we join him at his big desk. We choose not to have a translator at these meetings, instead, work very hard at understanding what he is saying.
Today, he reads the letter intently, nodding his head in agreement with us. He tells us that Francesco came to look at the path the following day after Roy's phone call to him. What we learn is that the land that is falling down to the street belongs to the University Agraria, not the Comune. The Comune owns the narrow path between our wall and the hill.
So Francesco has spoken with Antonio, and the Universita has agreed to cut down the bushes and trees that bend in the wind and then fortify the bank with castagno. They will then also put up castagno poles for a handrail. We will try to speak with Antonio this weekend, for the project should start in about a week.
Stefano then tells us that Bomarzo is under the umbrella of the provincial capital, Viterbo, who gets the lion's share of all the money for public works. Since Bomarzo is small, it is a kind of errant stepchild, and gets little of the funds it asks for. Mugnano does not even exist in the eyes of Viterbo. If Bomarzo gets a pittance, Mugnano gets a handshake. Stefano reminds us, and we agree, that he is always there for us.
Just before we leave, Stefano tells us that he has read our web site. My mouth drops open. How did he know about the web site? We now know that somehow some one is translating this journal to the people of the village, and also to people of Bomarzo. He knows how much we love Mugnano, and that we are proud to live here, regardless of our sporadic bureaucratic woes.
The day ends with a walk out into the garden, taking in the fresh air, breathing in the fragrant perfume of the blossoms, and smiling up at the starry night.
It looks like sun this morning, spediamo (I hope), and Italo's fish truck calls out to us with its silly singing horn as he drives up the hill below us. Roy and Sofi and I walk down the street and pick up fish for tonight for all of us, including a small container of marinated alice (fresh anchovies).
Marie wants to walk over to greet Sofi while waiting her turn, but her voice is so loud that Sofi scrunches up, trying to disappear. Marie moves forward and a small sewer tile bounces off the pavement, uncovering a narrow, deep hole. Roy tries to replace it, but it continues to sit precariously. Marie's voice gets even louder. I pick up shaking Sofi, and when she is close to Marie she stops shaking and Marie cuddles her.
I tell Italo and Marie, our audience, that Saturday is Sofi's birthday, and they both wish Sofi, " Auguri!" Marie asks us if Sofi will have a torta (cake). I reply, "Si, torte di formaggio!" and everyone agrees that is a good idea.
We turn around to come back home and meet the other Italo, this one the husband of Leondina. He is walking up the back path from his giardino, in his tall rubber boots. In one hand he has a big bunch of fava beans, still in their shell, curled and gnarly. In his white plastic bucket are many, many small artichokes. He hands us all the fava beans and insists we take them, as well as four artichokes.
Fava beans are an acquired taste, the shells broken open and the beans popped in the mouth like nuts, followed by a bite of sharp pecorino cheese. We'll try these tonight. Italo is very kind, as are all our neighbors, wanting to share their bounty with us.
I am able to do a little sewing, and then it is time to drive south to Poggio Mirteto to meet Maurizio, the Technocasa agent who is going to show us two possible apartments for Suzanne. We love Poggio Mirteto, but there is nothing in the town for sale. Instead, we are taken to Rocca Antica, and this is a long drive.
The apartment has not been lived in for decades, and despite its profusion of frescoes and great view, we pass on learning more about it. The frescoes are not very good, the restoration to be done is excessive, and the drive to get there makes the ride from Rome take as long as it takes to get to our house.
The next appointment is even more remote. It is a more expensive house, very large, with some beautiful very old steps, one lovely partially original stone wall and a very attractive stufa (cast iron fireplace). Otherwise, it is a restored jumble of bad taste. The man who owns it as well as a neighbor who speaks a little English wax ecstatic about it, which makes the tour even more dreary.
We leave Maurizio and Sergio, his associate, and drive toward home, looking for a place for pranzo. We come across a road-house, Taverna Tibertina, and are served spaghetti vongole and penne with a sauce made of cream and chopped scampi and a kind of nutmeg seasoning. The penne is great. The spaghetti should have been cooked about four minutes more. But we are so hungry we don't send anything back, and then have espresso with profiteroles before getting in the car to come home.
Rain, rain, follows us every time we get in the car. We left the house in bright sunshine, with enough sun in the morning that we took out the tomatoes for a two-hour test. Each day we will take them out for an additional hour. Next Tuesday or Wednesday we will plant most of them. I am hopeful they will be ready to plant.
But when we arrive home it is pouring, and we put the wet hanging laundry back in the washing machine for a rinse and spin before hanging it out again. In less than an hour, the sun reappears, but the ground is too wet again for a dig tomorrow with Tiziano. Instead, we will go to his house tomorrow evening for another Italian/English lesson. Then we can speak with his father about the Universidad Agraria project which will start, speriamo, next week.
Today is both Sofi's first birthday and the anniversary of our robbery....So much has changed in our lives in this one year...
The sun shines and it is a beautiful day. We hear such great news from Don Francis. He has been given a very special new assignment in Washington, D.C., starting July 1. "Associate Director for the Secretariate for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Dialogue" at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is the fancy title, and it is indeed a very important position. I email him to ask him what exactly that means. He must be levitating about now...
Roy installs the Madonna and Child statue in the grotto in the garden, just below the huge fig tree, and it is so lovely. In honor of Don Francis, we will have a special prayer for him there later today.
In the meantime, because it is Sofi's special day, I take out my violin and try to pick at the notes for "Happy Birthday." I have figured out almost the whole little ditty, but am unable to figure out a few of the notes of the last line. I call Tiziana to help, and cannot reach her. By the end of the day, I am sure to have the notes, and we will play just for our sweet little girl.
It can't be that difficult. I pick and pick at the notes and finally have it. So I call Roy and he comes and sits down in the bedroom, where I am practicing. Here we go..."Happy Birrthday, Little Sofi, Happy Birthday to you." Sofi is so excited that she jumps up and down. I continue to practice and each time she looks up and wags her tail. Now this surely is her song...only Sofi's song.
The sun continues all day. I can't figure out where to sit...there are so many places in the garden full of life. So I take out my little scissors and clip away at the boxwood and santolina and teucrium globes here and there...Every day I clip a few more and there are more than a hundred all together. They are so happy, drinking up the sunlight after all that rain.
Finally the Paul Lede roses are blooming. I am able to clip a few and bring them inside with a couple of Polkas, a few Madame Alfred Carrieres and even a couple of white icebergs. The salvia is flowering, so I clip some to add to the arrangement of roses. I remember seeing a variety of roses in Sarah Hammond's kitchen and remarking how beautiful they looked mixed together.
We go to look at the house above us, which is for sale. It surely has a lovely view, possibly in two directions, North and South. Pasquale meets us at the bus stop, and we walk with him up to Porta Antica. His house is at the end. Maria comes over to greet Sofi, but she is too animated and scares her, running at her and taking Sofi's face in her hands. Maria is a kind woman, so I think Sofi will warm up to her on another day.
We first look down at our garden, just below the house, and Roy takes a picture of the garden. But the house itself is small and the floor plan is not good. Although it is not much money, the roof needs replacing and the entire house will have to be restored. Built in 1933, we cannot find anything distinctive, except for a plaque on the side of the house, naming the year it was built. It was built around the same time our house was built. There is no land attached, but he is including a garden, which we do not go to see. It is down the hill from the property.
On the way back, we want to find out where the other landslide occurred in Mugnano and are sure it is in Aqua Puzza, on the loop Sofi and I used to take for our walks. So we take the loop, and find the tufa blocks that have fallen. Part of a tiny building has caved in as well, but the road appears passable now.
After our walk, which Sofi loves, we leave her in the house to meet with Tiziano at his house for a language lesson. We speak about the project and he asks his father about the land. His father, who was a member of the Corpo Forestale (similar to a park ranger) before he retired, tells us what he thinks is going on between the Comune and the Universita Agraria. We will have to speak to Antonio to find out what he knows.
We always laugh with Tiziano, and he gets to speak some English while giving us some explanations to Italian phrases. We brought a bunch of roses with us to give to his mother, Rosita, but feel so silly when we drive down the driveway. It is banked on either side with grand profusions of roses. My little bunch, although pretty and fragrant, is dwarfed by these roses. She accepts them graciously, anyway.
At home we make a pizza with very fresh buffala mozzarella. Using Angie's baking stone, the pizza comes out crispy. And we think of them in California, getting ready for the birth of their twins in a few weeks. We will call them tomorrow.
Lore and Alberto are in town for a few days, but we do not see them until they join us in our pew at mass. Afterward, Lore tells us that they bought a house next to theirs, although they don't know what they are going to do with it. We tell them about the new Madonna in our garden, and they agree to stop by to see it, and to wish Sofi buon compleanno.
We walk down the street with Vincenzo, who is walking toward his garden, where he spends most of every day. We ask him what he grows there, and he tells us: fava, cipolla, aglio, pomodori, insalata, cappuccia, zucchini, etc, etc. Before we know it, he is at our gate with a bag full of fava beans. How kind of him. So we invite him in to meet the Madonna and see our garden. This is his first time in our garden.
He is very kind, giving advice here and there. A little more water on the pomodori plants, which are taking in some sun and shade on the table in the terrace. We think they will stay outside for about six hours today. We are hoping we can plant some of them on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Just as we are finishing showing him around, Lore and Alberto come. Vincenzo leaves for his garden and Alberto asks us if these are our DNA pomodori. Which one is Evanne and which one is Roy? I guess the whole project is rather silly, making a big deal out of some old seeds. But when they are ripe, we know it will be worth the time and effort.
Lore goes right to the Madonna, and tells us she is sure the Madonna is French. That makes sense. We realize that although we bought her from the Monastery in Umbertide, the nuns were probably from France. They think we have done a good thing including the Madonna in our garden, and Lore tells me that when their project is done, she wants a rampicante rose on the front gate. I offer to help her pick one out and we agree to go to Michellini next winter.
They leave for Rome and we putter around the garden, stopping to say hello to Pepe, who is weed-wacking the path between our cancello and his garden. Paula comes by, and I ask her if she and Antonio will come by later to talk about the path. She tells me that she has spoken with Tiziano and knows some of what is going on. I hope they will come. We need to find out what Antonio's perspective is. He is the president of the Universita. If there is to be some delay, or a problem, he will tell us.
Roy shells the fava beans from Vincenzo and Italo, and the inside of the casings open up, looking like beautiful pale green little velvet caskets. We cut up some pecorino into tiny chunks, cut up a sweet pear into tiny chunks, add salt and pepper and oil and fresh lemon juice. Roy adds some dried salami to his, cut in tiny chunks. We have that with some leftover egg salad from yesterday and I make a little blood-orange and fennel salad as well. The three salads make a really delicious pranzo on this warm day.
The rest of the day is spent puttering around the garden. Sofi is so hot that I take out another little bowl for her, and put it under the olive tree. She puts her front paws in it to cool off and I put her back paws in it as well. As soon as the pomodori are planted, there will be a few bigger plastic tubs, just a few inches deep, and one will be filled with water as a tiny little wading pool for little Sofi on a hot day. Her long narrow tongue just hangs out the side of her mouth and she welcomes any time we spend in the house.
I finish re-sewing all the curtains for the loggia. They evidently shrunk when we washed them. Luckily there is plenty of room to re-sew the hems. They look better, faded a little. We hang them up and our "summer kitchen" is ready for entertaining.
Late in the day, we drive to Penna for a concert in the church. Simona, Tiziana's sister, is singing a baroque concert. But we miss the concert, for it took place at six and we arrive for a nine o'clock concert. Tiziana apologies and we agree to go to the next one. No matter. Concerts take place often in almost every town in Italia.
I get up looking forward to my violin lesson, and Tiziana laughs when I tell her about figuring out how to play "Happy Birthday" for Sofia on Saturday. I play it for her, as well as the concerto I have been practicing, and we play it together. Her lessons are so much fun. She plays with me, and it is a joy to play with her.
Roy and Sofi come to pick me up, and Tiziana tells us that her father's uncle has opened a macelleria next to the Pro Loco office in the town. He lived in Grotto San Stefano for many years, but we think was originally from Orte. We think this is the only macelleria in the centro storico, so hope he will do a good business.
We walk over and introduce ourselves. The butcher is very kind, and even gives us two tiny bones for Sofi which he tells Roy are approved by veterinarians. Later I give one to Sofi and she spends most of the afternoon and evening on the front step with the bone, no longer wanting to be by my side every minute. Perhaps she is growing up.
Alice gives me a massage late in the afternoon, and works on the base of my skull, as well as my lower back. She gives me exercises to do for my lower back, to be sure that I am not in pain for the rest of the week. But she does not give me exercises for my head, and later I am sorry for that. It is an excellent massage, just the same.
Roy and Sofi and I take a little walk up to drop off some garbage next to the bus stop, and greet Rosina and Federico, who wait for the school bus. Sofi wants to play, but Federico is still shy. Sofi loves going for a walk at any time, and loves to greet people on her way.
We turn around to walk back, and meet Steve as he drives up for his day to work in our garden. He and Darcy are trading two days working in our garden for two sinks that we gave them a few months ago. They are not able to work on the same day, so we will have something for Darcy to do on another day.
Today, Steve and Roy are going to attempt to put in an irrigation system for most of the roses and the pomodori. Roy has worked out a plan, and thinks he has everything he needs. Roy takes out the pomodori and they spend about six hours in the sun and shade. Felice tells Roy that he will be here to plant pomodori on Friday evening, but I don't think that more than a few will be ready. Perhaps this is a good thing. Staggering the planting means, I think, that we will have them to eat later in the summer.
I have a headache. I forgot to take my medicine last night, and yesterday Alice's massage centered on the base of my head, so I think the combination has set off some kind of alarm. I take the medicine after breakfast, but it is too late. A migraine looms up like an undersea monster, and although I want to watch Steve and Roy's progress, I am unable to be outside for more than a few minutes at a time.
Instead, I make a chocolate cake and lasagna for pranzo. The cake is easy. But the lasagna is much more complicated than I first imagined. I make a quick meat sauce, and also a béchamel sauce, which will be combined when building the layers of the dish.
I cook the pasta, about ten strips at a time, and next to the pot have a bowl of cold water, to stop the cooking of the pasta. Then I lay out cloths to dry the pasta on, after it is rinsed in cold water and the oily coating is gently wiped off.
While the water is heating for the pasta, I cut up some chicken and add celery and tarragon from the garden and mayonnaise and pieces of walnuts. I also make a small salad of strawberries and kiwi. Steve has brought a mackerel and pasta salad, so we will have lasagna, salads and chocolate cake.
By the time I have all my ingredients lined up, there is so much pasta that I make two containers full, cooking one for today and saving one for our next guests. Roy tells me that he needs more pipe, so he and Steve drive to Attigliano, and then to Giove, to pick up what then need, and then it is time for a break.
We linger for an hour at pranzo, and then it is time for Roy and Steve to connect the pipes and see if they work. They do, and by the time Steve leaves, the little trickles of water around the roses and pomodori are working perfectly. Sofi is very taken by the project, and wants to drink water from one of the connections near the side path to the olive grove. The trickles make noise, and she jumps forward and back, sticking her tongue out and licking the drops that are meant to feed one of the roses. I don't worry about her. She is not a destructive dog. But she loves drinking water from any hose, or any thing that water comes out of.
When the sun has set, I walk around the garden, amazed at how lovely it is, and that I took part in making it a reality. I think that the end of May must be the most beautiful time of year for this garden, but that is because it is the time of the first bloom of the roses. I am hoping that some of these roses will bloom all summer long. But then, we have the lavender, which will bloom in less than another month, so June will be beautiful here, too.
Roy has done a masterful job today, and although I miss not spending more time with him, go to bed with an ice pack to see if I can sleep off this headache. He follows me soon after, tired from the physical labor, but gratified that the result is so good and that it will save him at least an hour a day watering during the summer months. He gets in to bed too tired to even read his favorite book about Michelangelo.
There is a haze overhead when we wake up. A strange silence. We hear no sounds below in the valley, except for the constant cacophony of the birds. At about ten-forty, bells peal at the church, and this is our first notice that there is to be a funeral. As we become more acclimated to life and yes, even death, here, the days upon days are a reminder that as the sun follows the weeks and weeks of rain, death also follows the lives of the people in this village.
Roy needs to go to Dottoressa in the village to renew some prescriptions, and he takes his cellulare, to let me know if Gino or anyone else we know has passed away. He calls to tell me that a 77-year-old woman has died, but we did not know her. She was born in Viterbo and lived here. She owns a cemetery plot in Mugnano, and so the car upon car upon car that drive by our property on the way to the village mark the passing of a woman who died only yesterday.
I decide to walk up to the village anyway, without Sofi, and take a hat to shield my head from the increasingly warm sun. On the way up, I see the funeral message, the lonely white poster framed in black on the first of the 21 notice boards supplied for advertisements of the upcoming national elections in June.
I stand on the steps outside the Comune Agraria office, where Dottoressa and Roy are chatting. The village square is full of people, and the church across from where I stand is full. I greet the few people I know, and turn around to go in to join Roy and Dottoressa in her once-a-week office.
Giustino and Gino sit on the steps in front of Ivo's house. Roy wonders if they are waiting their turns. The woman died yesterday, and we are amazed at the ability of the Italian people to drop what they are doing to attend a funeral, no matter how far away the town is.
We walk back home and Sofi and I clip and deadhead roses. Roy wants to work on the trench outside the front cancello, but will wait until after the procession has passed. I hear the droan of the voices of Don Luca, leading the voices of the women, and then the men, in the procession...
"Ave, O Maria
piena di grazia,
il Signore e con te.
Tu sei benedetta fra le donne
e benedeto e il frutto
del tuo seno, Gesu.
Santa Maria, Madre di Dio,
prega per noi peccattori,
adesso e nell'ora della nostra morte,
This is chanted as though the chanter is rocking back and forth, all in a monotone voice. It is hypnotic at the very least. All over Italy this hymn is chanted whenever there is a procession. It is a good thing to learn. Otherwise, I will have my little printout that I will follow, and how silly will that look?
Sofi starts to bark at the corner of the iron fence facing the procession as it nears our property, and I run over and pick her up, standing silently with her in my arms as the people pass below. Rosita and Luigina look up and nod in greeting. About a dozen women form two lines behind the priest, each carrying a big bouquet of brightly colored flowers, wrapped in cellophane. The casket follows Don Luca and the women and the casket are followed by the men. After the men come the cars, silently inching along after the walkers.
The rest of the morning is very quiet.
In the afternoon we drive to Narni, to continue to look for a great apartment for Suzanne, and to get better acquainted with the real estate market. We look at four places, and like two. One we like a great deal. It is a magical old world apartment, with only the kitchen to redo and many wonderful antiques and pieces of furniture that we are told the woman may agree to sell.
Along with the apartment is a wonderful garden plot. I'd love to design a boxwood and gravel and rose garden there, little maintenance and big rewards. We will see. We also have other places to show Suzanne, and as we think of this I think of her flying back to Boston for our 40th high school reunion at Thayer Academy. I don't think Ellen will go, but Suzanne always goes. I sent the alumni association the picture of the three of us at the going-away party for Roy and me two years ago when we moved to Italia, and wonder if they have done anything with it. That's about the amount of attention I can muster for my high school.
At home, the garden looks better and better, but we see signs of stress on the roses on the path. It appears the hot sun after all the rain is taking its toll. While walking around, I notice that some red tiny mites have tried to smother some rose blossoms, so it is time to spray again. Just when I think the garden looks great, it takes a turn. But this is all a learning experience, and we really enjoy the learning.
This is my last appointment at the dentist for now, and the crown is finished. We drive to the Rose Garden, and this time the garden is free. This is the first week it is open, and we are also lucky to be able to go to the second, adjoining, rose garden. The second rose garden across the street is only open in May, and is set up for the annual rose competition. Each year, people from all over the world submit their roses, and the roses are taken care of for two years by the gardeners. When it is time, they are entered into the competition, and the finest roses of many types are chosen.
Tia was right. There was a heavy downpour last Friday, and that did some damage to some of the roses. But most of them are remarkable. Sofi loves the walk, and wiggles around on the grass, scratching her back, but not bothering any of the roses. The main garden will stay open until August 8th, including evenings, and we certainly encourage people to visit.
We eat pranzo at an outdoor café near Circus Maximus, and then drive to Ponte Milvio to Mondi, the famous ice cream parlor, for a gelato at the Vecchia Flamminia. Our first of the season on this very warm but breezy day is a happy ending to another visit of this remarkable city. Roy navigates around Rome brilliantly, and even enjoys the challenge of getting from one part of the city to another. When we try to locate a specific place to see a wall bed for Judith, he uses his great sense of direction to lead us right to it.
When we get home, I am so disappointed. The pomodori plants were left in the shade in the loggia, but many of them look curled up and ready to give up. Roy waters them but I am worried. I don't know what happened here today. Was it very windy? Very hot? At this rate, none of them will be ready to plant tomorrow.
Roy is not as disappointed as I am. Instead, he goes out and picks up eight zucchini blossoms, many of them attached to tiny zucchinis. He saw a cooking program where the chef used ice water and flour as the batter, so encourages me to do that. I do, after stuffing the flowers with fresh buffala mozzarella and anchovies, and dip them into hot oil in a frying pan. The coating comes out a little like tempura, but lighter. I think I like the beer batter better. But the taste is wonderful.
We start to hear from strangers, that they are fans of the journal on our web site. One new friend finds us while searching for information on Ruspoli Castle. We have written about this a few times....So we start to wonder who is actually reading it. Please take a minute and send us an email telling us who you are and where you are from. We'd like to try this low tech approach to figuring out who actually cares what we write....Thanks!
Mario arrives in his little white ape at 7:30 AM to weed-wack, dressing up in goggles and his oilcloth apron that reaches to the ground to protect himself. This is dangerous work, and I hope Roy never gets to do it.
Roy leaves for a trip to Dottoressa regarding his red eye. I wonder if he has a cataract, but he returns with drops. It appears he has an allergy to something in the garden. That is a relief.
Mario finishes his work and Sofi and I go out to rake some of the grass, but the ground is too wet. So I come in and practice the violin instead. Playing Uncle Harry's violin is such a treat. Sofi stares at me from the chair until I play "Happy Birthday, Little Sofi..." and then runs around and around, wagging her tail.
We drive up to Orvieto to check out all the realtors, but first walk over to visit our friend, Chiara, at her pottery shop. She squeals with delight to see us and why not. We bring her tons of business. We ask her if she knows anyone who has an apartment for sale, and she brings us to another shop owner, who takes us down the street to a quiet neighborhood. We look at an apartment, but it is not one we recommend and is very expensive. We thank her and move on.
Before we are through, we visit every realtor in town and discuss many properties, none of which we choose to visit. So far, we have seen several apartments in other towns we like better than those offered in Orvieto. But we share our information and hope to get to know some of these realtors better. Our project management marketing is an ongoing process.
We stop for pranzo at L'Asino, a tiny restaurant in a little alley that we have been wanting to try. Sitting under an awning, we start with delicious crostini of fava bean and pecorino puree and something else with onion I cannot quite figure out. We have beautiful green salads with anchovies and capers, and are surprised to see the waiter bring out a bottle of Diego's olive oil! We learn that Diego is a friend of the owner.
Roy orders a pasta with chicken livers and Sofi is happy. She has chicken livers for pranzo, and since I won't have anything to do with liver, is lucky Roy will feed her some. I have a tiny ball pasta, like gnocci, stuffed with ricotta and fava beans. These beans are at the peak of their season. Wonderful. We share a chocolate budino for dessert with an anise flavor and the three of us walk to the car content...
At home, we check out the pomodori plants, which have been out all day. They look much better, and are ready for Felice at 5:30. We decide that seven of them are ready to plant, and take them down to the pomodori garden. By the time we are through, Felice has pulled out many branches of the eight existing San Marzano pomodori that have been growing for three weeks in the ground. In a recent email from Marilyn Smith, she tells us that Bob told her to pull the leaves growing out of each plant's "armpits". Tonight, Felice does the armpit "pull", although I see him pull from more than just the "arm pits".
He and Roy plant seven of the heirloom tomatoes: one Green Zebra, three Black Russians, two Black French Tulas and one Juane Flame. With the irrigation system in place, they will get a good watering all day. Felice tells us the weather will change tomorrow, so these will survive, spediamo!
Here's a couple of pix of Felice and Roy being assisted by Sofia!
Felice tells us a story about a 120-year-old woman and we wish we could figure it out. Something about not worrying about the little ones too much. And yet, while later engrossed in the book, Soldier of the Great War, I read that when a person gets older, "...with age you receive the gift of friction. The less time you have....the more you feel, the more you observe, and the more slowly time moves even as it races ahead." Ah, life here at L'Avventura.....
This morning, Sofi and I went to see Italo at the fish truck and picked out a nice piece of spada (swordfish) for dinner. While I cook rice, Roy marinates the spada. With melted butter and garlic and lemon and presemelo and a squeeze of lime just as it is served, the grilled fish is the best we have had in memory.
After dinner, it is time to sit out in the garden. First we sit on the terrace, but then move to the bench in the lavender garden. Squish, squish. The irrigation system is getting acclimated, and Sofi cannot keep away from the plants, the tiny drips of water are so tantalizing. When she finally tears herself away, her snout and little beard glisten in the dark.
Roy and Sofi and I drive to Tia and Bruce's in Amelia to rendezvous with them and drive to their secret vivaio. We cannot tell you where it is, but they have let us into their inner sanctum. We can now go to this vivaio ourselves, as long as we make a reservation in advance. Don't ask us to take you there....
Tia and Bruce and Marnie and Michael, one of their garden consultants, drive in their car, and we follow in ours, expecting that they will buy plants, even if we do not, and need room in the cars for the gems...
We realize the steps Tia takes to avoid taking the A-1, when it takes us about an hour and a half to get to a location we can drive to in less than thirty minutes. No matter. We love Tia and this is an excuse to smell the roses along the way on a really beautiful drive. Although we have driven on many of these roads before, our destination is one we do not know, down an unmarked drive.
I am not a plant expert, but the quality and variety of their plants are exceptional. The woman who owns this vivaio has worked on it for twenty-five years, and still manages it herself as a labor of love. She tells us later that we need to call her to come back in a week or so, because she will be out of town. "Ferie?" I ask her. This is the word for vacation. "No, lavoro e ferie per me." She responds. Work is vacation for her.
We are looking for one very specific, sculptured tiny tree, to go inside a planter, but she has none of those. We are also looking for something to replace a hydrangea, which gets too much sun in the planting area with the herbs. Don't see anything perfect there, either. But we walk by extraordinary bearded iris. One is a chocolaty terra-cotta color and nearby is an extraordinary pinkish brown. We can't resist, and buy three, for the corner of our house leading to the garden. They may stay in pots. We also buy two little cerastium, the white plant that grows over the sink in the garden, cascading down the tufa wall.
Tia, on the other hand, goes to town buying roses and a variety of very colorful perennials. I have not seen many of them before, so am unable to name them. This is truly an extraordinary place. There is a small plant that has an arching flower with tiny blue flowers, cascading downward that I can't get out of my mind. It cannot take full hot sun, so we decide to pass on it. But afterward I am sorry, thinking that in the spring and fall we will put it in a pot and it will be a transition plant, which we will showcase as the weather changes from season to season.
We will return for a couple of these plants, as well as six small willow trees. These are not just any willow, but a special willow that we will group on the highest terrace at an angle facing the house. They have done extraordinary work weaving the willow right from the ground. Roy wants to take this on as a new hobby. He will weave this willow as it grows to make a grotto for us, as yet another seating area. This may take a few years, but the effort will be truly remarkable.
The weather is a mixture of sun and breeze and shade, not too hot, but Sofi wears out sniffing around and around and is very happy when we decide to leave. We drive to a nearby restaurant, another of what Roy calls a "road house". I'd better not tell you about this either. It is just too close to the vivaio. But everyone loves it.
We all share antipasto, with bowls passed around of mussels, marinated zucchini, marinated eggplant, zucchini flowers, beans, peppers...Then on to tagliarini with lemon for Marnie, grilled Orata for three of us (which is an extraordinarily tender and fresh fish, caught this morning near Pescara), grilled meats for a few, and I am getting tired just writing about all the food, washed down with a respectable house wine.
They agree to take the A-1 back, and we lead them out, stopping at a place we know that is only open on weekends. It sells junk and antique garden things. Sometimes it has treasures. We leave there empty handed, except for Michael, who actually finds an old drafting table that he will return for.
Leading them home, we know why the Telepass is such a great device. Telepass is similar to Fastpass in the Bay Area. When we get to the Orte toll plaza, we sail right by, but it takes Bruce and co. almost thirty minutes. The machines are not functioning properly, and we actually drive off after not seeing them for twenty minutes, expecting to meet them at their house.
Their garden looks lovely. This is a very complicated garden, with beautiful roses and many, many varieties of plants, placed artfully in groupings wherever the eye journeys. Tia's irrigation people are expected to finish within the week. This should save her an enormous time watering every day. What an undertaking!
We drive home and Roy gets to spend an hour working on the little irrigation system for the roses on our front path. Our property is a postage stamp compared to Bruce and Tia's, but the irrigation system is still a necessity for us.
We change clothes and I put together an arrangement of roses from our garden that is white and pale yellow and peach. The colors of the roses remind me of Elena, our hostess tonight, and when we give them to her and she holds them up to her face, the sight is a painting. She is a lovely woman, who is healing after major surgery for the veins in her neck. She is a Filiberti, and her father was Italo's uncle. I am talking about Italo of Italo and Leondina...more pieces of the Mugnano family puzzle fit.
We drive up to the village square, and Roy thinks he remembers where they live from his role as Babo Natale on Christmas Eve. But we also remember their front door open during the summer and thinking that was another address. We find them after ringing the wrong doorbell and being greeted by sounds of an angry dog and then looking around the corner for their stairway.
At this dinner are: Elena and Valerio, the host and hostess, and: Gino and Miriam (Valerio's confraternity buddy and his wife), Rosita and Enzo Gasperoni, and Loredana and Alberto Roverselli. We are shown their house, which has been totally restored and is quite modern. Two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and one large kitchen and family room combined and a small bathroom. The room is big enough for eight people to sit comfortably.
We are still learning about Italian entertaining. First we sit near the fireplace, waiting for the last guests to arrive. And then we sit down at the table. The television is turned on, and plays the entire evening, turned to a channel with a variety show format.
The food is plentiful and very good: lasagna, risotto with black rice (very interesting) and tiny shrimp, cold roast sliced pork, cold stuffed artichokes, fava beans in their shells to pick, served with pecorino, and a prune torta, followed by coffee ice cream, coffee and after-dinner-drinks. Wine is served throughout, and spumante as one of the dessert courses.
Lore and Alberto sit on either side of us, and Lore translates when we cannot figure out what people are saying. This is an excellent opportunity for us to practice our Italian speaking and comprehending, but we cannot understand everything. We still have an enormous amount to learn. Everyone at the dinner, however, is kind and helpful, although only Lore really speaks and understands English.
Tonight is Lore and Alberto's 38th wedding anniversary. A story is told about a couple from Mugnano years ago who celebrated their 50th one evening. After going to bed, a number of men went to the house and serenaded them outside the balcony. The husband went outside on the balcony, and somehow locked himself out. His wife was almost deaf without her hearing-aid, so was not able to get back in the house...
An hour or so after Lore and Alberto leave, Gino and Valerio and Enzo walk over and knock on their door, serenading them. But they can both hear, so no one gets locked out.
We are at home in dreamland, settling in after a very busy day.
After mass, the eight of us from cena last night and Tiziano, Enzo and Rosita's son, gather in front of the church and laugh about last night. It is then that we hear about the serenading of Lore and Alberto.
Tiziano asks us if we want to join Lore and Alberto and him in a visit to a pre-Roman wall at the edge of the Tiber River. We do, and he picks us up, driving us to a part of Giove under the autostrada. We have Sofi with us, and, while we view the extraordinary wall and hear about the discoveries found at this site, each of us walks off on our own to try to see if we can uncover new treasures left behind.
It begins to rain and then pours. Roy has brought an umbrella for me, and we all run under the base of the A-1, where Tiziano shows us some very old construction, built under the road. He is an incredibly knowledgeable young man, and we invite him in for tea upon our return.
Yesterday we had planned a trip to Ninfa with Michael, who told us that he knew the owner of this famous garden, but he is unable to connect with anyone to gain access. So we do not get together with Tia and Marnie and Michael.
Instead, we spend the rest of the day at home, relaxing. After pranzo, during a sunny period, we walk over to the area just before San Rocco, and are able to find a perfect place for Roy's willow grotto. We will return soon to pick up the trees and put them in the ground. Fall is the season when the first work on the willow is done. I know it will rain again, and take a few minutes to feed the roses on the path and the roses on the rose arch. Once the rain begins, the food will soak into the ground and I am hoping will restore their healthy growing period.
It rains for most of the day, and Roy is glad, for he does not have to work on the irrigation system and we can watch the Grand Prix at Monte Carlo. I watch a little, but go upstairs with Sofi to take a nap. The day ends quietly.
The forecast is for rain, but it is sunny. With the windows open the birds wake us with their chattering and we look forward to getting out in the garden. Yesterday's rain makes some of the roses look sad, but I am hopeful that that sun will change all that.
I have a violin lesson in Orte, but Tiziana calls after we have left, so I wait for an hour and then meet Roy and Sofi in the square. We come home and I practice for an hour instead. We get Tiziana's message that she could not get back for the lesson and will reschedule.
The rest of the day is spent in the garden. Oh, how we love to be here! Clipping boxwood and santolina, deadheading roses, inspecting the Mary Rose and noticing that it is the fullest and healthiest it has ever been. In a day or two it will begin its profusion of blossoms.
The fiorieras are packed tight with white roses, spilling over the sides like a buxom woman in a low cut dress. The cascading rosemarino slide down the side like a slip under these whites. Beyond, the osmanthus continue their upward climb, somewhat stifling the mermaid roses entwined in them. This is now a thick hedge outside the side garden, warning would-be intruders with their spikes and thorns.
The orto garden is settling in.
What a beautiful night last night! Cool and clear with stars and stars and more stars and a sliver of a moon when I take Sofi out after dinner to see if she will "do" anything. Not a chance...she is like a camel...but seems to love rolling around in the grass. Now we have a little grass...below the big olive tree and near the front of the property behind the iceberg roses.
This morning, we drive to Spoleto and have an appointment with Carolina at Bonfacci, the same real estate agency we dealt with in Narni, but this is a different office. We think these offices are franchises.
Once in the door, the scene is right out of Glen Garry, Glen Ross, but this one is badly in need of Kevin Spacey. Facing us, in a dark blue suit, white shirt that looks out-of-the-box-new and diagonal striped tie that could be clipped on under his collar, Nino is Jack Lemmon. He is busy gluing two business cards together back-to-back, and setting them on a tiny metal chair placed on his desk. He glues one to the other "just SO!" and daintily arranges the card like a bathing beauty on a chaise lounge. The top of his desk is otherwise empty. His short black hair stands on-end, thanks to pomade. His head jerks side to side like one of the birds Aunt Bea's father kept in a cage at his pet store in Allston, MA. He looks everywhere and nowhere.
A young man in a sporty zip-up sweater stands up but does not move from his chair to greet us. He acts as though if we want him, we can go get him. He appears to have nothing to do.
All the action is to our immediate right....This woman definitely is Al Pacino. Her name is Carolina, and she is dressed to kill in a dark brown pin-stripe suit, cut down in the front "to here", and beige pointy high heels, so pointy they could do serious damage if someone crosses her the wrong way. Her auburn shoulder length hair bounces back and forth as she gets up and down from her chair, moves to the copier, takes €500 from a client in front of the desk, ushers him to a conference room to sign the papers, moves back in front of her desk to speak with someone else, and in the same breath welcomes us and tells us she will be with us subito. We tell her who we are. We nod and stand and wait.
Five minutes later, she ushers us in to the conference room. We think we have an appointment with her. But Roy did not speak with her on the phone. Evidently he spoke with another woman who did not speak English who told him her name was Carolina.
The woman never told Carolina about us. No matter. She apologizes in decent English.
Before we are through, we agree to let Nino show us two apartments. She agrees to work with us, but cannot show us anything right now. She also gets us to agree to let him show us something early this afternoon, and after that we will meet her back in the office. We are here, so what do we have to lose?
The first apartment is gorgeous. The front of the building is Umbrian pink with white trim. The original building is probably 300 years old. The restoration is only partly complete, and an ascensore is about to be installed. The apartment we are to see is on the fourth floor. Walking up and up the building is beautiful all the way, although everything is covered with construction dust and the stairs get steeper as we rise from floor to floor. Roy assures me that this means that the ceilings are very high. Spediamo! But when we reach the apartment itself, we enter to find a tiny kitchen with a not very high but beamed ceiling.
Everything else is grand, including the loggia on an upper floor with a stupendous 360 degree view. A fresco on the wall will be done in a week or so, with a painting of a balustrade and balcony, opening up the room even more. We see the fresco on the apartment next door and this one will be similar. The stairs to the loggia are not in yet, and Nino climbs up onto the loggia and reaches down to pull Roy up. Sofi and I stay one flight down. Nino gives us a price, and we later learn that he is off by €100,000.
We pass on the next apartment after seeing it, and the third is one Roy likes the best. It is part of an old palazzo, but does not have a kitchen. The palazzo is being converted, and the back of the building has been turned into another apartment. This apartment will need a new kitchen but otherwise is in move-in condition. The owner is a pediatrician who calls himself a dilettante, who plays the guitar in a blues band in Spoleto. He invites us to go to see him, and we will probably introduce him to Mitch Woods when Mitch gets here in July.
We visit another realtor, this one recommended by Joan Papi. Luigi, the owner, greets us, and we see one apartment that we pass on and agree to see another one after looking at the photos. We want to make an appointment to see it. The owner lives in Rome and we will wait to see it until Suzanne arrives in a few weeks. It looks spectacular.
In between appointments, we decide to leave the central storico in Spoleto, and have pranzo at a restaurant we like very much. It is called Ristorante Tipica da Piero, and is located outside Spoleto, on the road to Foligno.
The outside dining room is ready, and we eat there in a huge loggia. The ground is covered in gravel, and the woman who greets us shoos away a cat sitting on a nearby table when we walk in with Sofi. For the rest of the meal, two cats taunt Sofi, but otherwise keep their distance. Sofi sits quietly at our feet. Before pranzo, we fed her chicken and rice and she is full and happy.
The meal, oh the meal! We start with crostini fegato for Roy and misto verdura (grilled vegetables) for me, that is heavenly. Then I am served a housemade ravioli stuffed with eggplant and a simple tomato sauce. Roy has strongozzi pomodori. And a carafe of wine. Then café. Just the right amount of food and we're off to Spoleto again.
By the time we are through, we have met again with Carolina and agreed to show Suzanne two apartments. We would like to work with her again, so agree to call back and make an appointment soon.
Then we are off to Orvieto. Although we are told it is very difficult to find interesting places in either Orvieto or Spoleto, we have found two in Spoleto and upon seeing this next apartment, will have two in Orvieto as well. This apartment faces west, and is incredibly interesting. There is a terrace and garden outside and a garage for one car.
Inside, the apartment has not been opened for twenty years. It is extremely unusual and the fact that it has been abandoned for years really shows. This experience feels as though we are going thorough an Alice-through-the looking-glass experience. An artist, perhaps an eccentric, lived here. There are inlaid wooden panels used as decorative treatments right under the ceiling in two rooms. There is a painted armadio in the second bedroom that we hope stays with the apartment. The lighting is gorgeous, but we are told the owner is a rich man from Milan who will probably not sell any of the items.
The kitchen tile is very unusual. It is handmade and is like nothing we have ever seen. The bathroom has a tiny sitting bath on two levels. The walls in the sojourno have fabric wallpaper bordered in upholstery trim. The price is great, but we are sure this delicious gem will be gone by the time Suzanne gets here. I love this place. It has a kitchy but elegant feel to it. If I had the money, I would buy it in a second.
We have had a very good day. We return to Chiara's shop, Giacomini, to thank her for introducing us to a friend yesterday, and agree to speak with her son-in-law, who is a technico and geometra in Orvieto, very soon.
At home, we see that Felice has come by and has tilled the lavender garden, turning over three rows of dirt. Perhaps tomorrow morning we will get to do some more gardening before driving to Orvieto sud to meet another realtor to see a special town in Umbria.
We end the day with a call to Terence and a report that Angie is doing well and her delivery date is still planned for June 15th. The delivery room will be quite crowded, because a team of four people is scheduled for all regular births, but now four more will be there because twins are expected. Don't forget to include Terence!
Terence's business is going well, and we are so proud of him. He has a solid perspective on business and is making excellent business decisions. He is a real entrepreneur and seems to thrive on it. We really miss him, and I think Roy is comforted by the fact that Terence talked about them building shelves together when we are there in November. I can see that he really misses his son.
The sky is overcast and it is cool, so we sleep in a little. Sofi and I go down to deadhead the roses on the path and spray. Most of the first bloom is gone, but since the feeding the other day, we see new reddish growth and lots of buds. In a week or so the profusion of blossoms will return to the path.
Before we know it, it is time to drive to Orvieto. At the appointed meeting spot, Carlo gets out of his Mercedez SUV and he is a charmer. I really want Suzanne to meet this man....
We follow him and get lost. On the way, we pass Lago di Cobara, and because the sky is cloudy and there is no wind, the lake looks like glass. The reflections of the trees and houses on the edge of the lake are mirrored in the lake, and it is a beautiful sight. We love this lake.
Regarding Carlo, this is his first time seeing the location, a tiny hamlet near Todi. We finally find it, and it is comprised of fifteen condominium units, fully restored, including a swimming pool and shared gardens. This is a great spot for a single person or a couple to escape to several times a year. But it is not large or luminoso enough for Suzanne, so although it is incredibly beautiful, we pass on it.
Winding our way back to Orvieto on the Cobara Road, we stop at Ristorante Scacco Matto on the side of the lake where we ate a meal years ago. Roy has seafood fried in a batter and fries, and I have a grilled local fish, Coregone, which is wonderfully sweet and delicate. Sofi gets little tastes of the fish, and we enjoy sitting at this quiet lakeside spot for an hour or so.
On the way back, we discover a new spot for antiques, and we have been looking for this place. It is where the painting in our kitchen came from, the same painting we bought at the mostra in Montefiascone. Adjoining this showroom is a huge room used to restore furniture, and we can see that they do an excellent job. We take a few photos, but leave empty-handed. We are sure we will return.
Then we drive up to a town we have been wanting to see, at the top of a hill. It is Civitella Del Lago, a restored medieval hamlet. We ask around and run into the only person who sells real estate here. He usually is found in Orvieto, but was born here and is here today to visit his eighty-five year young mother. He takes our card and agrees to call us. The views of the lake from this tiny place are remarkable. The people seem friendly. We will certainly return, and take the information for the only restaurant in town.
In Orvieto, we return to the Coop, and are able to purchase some difficult to find items. Then we're finally going home. The sky has been overcast all day, but it has been easy to walk around and not be bothered by the heat.
At home, Roy is thrilled by his irrigation project. He tested the systems, and they are working fine. He still has a lot of garden to water, but this cuts the time down to less than an hour on really hot days. Tonight on the iron railing by the front steps we notice a hoard of tiny flying bugs. They are not termites, but Roy sprays ant insecticide on them and tomorrow will check out the earth nearby. There must be a nest of something.
I am not good at these creature projects, and find myself very busy doing other things while he works on these. Earlier today I spotted a bee's nest, and he swatted it away. We have found about five of these in the past week. I don't have the heart to knock them down, but don't want them around me, either.
Today is Angie's birthday. We are excited for her this new year. What changes will take place in her young life! Can you imagine what it is like to be on the verge of having your first child, and then having it be two baby girls? We are getting used to the names Nonno and Nonna, for that is what we will be called.
Our property is baby-proof. We installed iron fences for Nemo almost two years ago, and whenever Terence and Angie want to come, we will be happy to have them. And as for the neighbors... Oh, the neighbors! First, they thank us for the lavender. Then they accept us for having real vegetables growing in our gardens. But when we introduce the babies to the village, the church bells will almost ring out, there will be such joy in Mugnano. Italians are crazy about babies. All we can do now is pray for Angie's health and the health of the babies. Everything else will fall into place.
Today is the last day of the auction preview at the Giove Castle. We have been inside, but only for a concert, so want to see the auction items, but really want to see the inside of the castle. We leave Sofi at home and take our camera.
We first buy a catalogue, and then take the same path the horses and carriages took hundreds of years ago to get to the main floor of the castle. The flooring is ancient, covered with old stones, and it is rocky underfoot. There are three floors of items, and I would guess that there are somewhere between €500,000 and €1,000,000 worth of items. Thankfully there is nothing we fall in love with. We have no interest in going back for the auction itself. These items are mostly beyond our reach. The things we can afford we think are expensive for what they are. We think the prices are the minimum opening bids.
The sky overhead is menacing. It is a View From Toledo sky. Sorry I know that is a Spanish painting, but I think of that when I see a menacing sky. An hour ago, the sky was very different. Pink clouds, right out of a religious painting. And dirty white clouds that look smudged, as though God opened a Photoshop program and wiped the cloud across a part of the sky.
At home after cena, we sit outside with a glass of wine and are having such a great time that we move from bench to bench, looking at the different views. We are like school children at a new museum exhibit. Focusing here and there and then here again, we are amazed at how much we love our gardens and the land around us. Earlier tonight the sky just above Orte was clear, although Orte was dark and rainy. The different levels of the valley below us show us different levels of sun and rain, all in the same view.
Outside the window I hear a rousing clap of thunder, and I must shut down the computer. When it storms in Italia, it is not kidding. This is "burn up your hard drive" country. See you later.
Today is my mother's birthday. I suppose it is apt that it was ushered in by a tumultuous thunderstorm. The sky is clear, however, and the air mild. Everything outside smells pretty stinky, because Felice spread little pellets of food for all the plants when he knew the rain was about to fall. In another day the smell will be gone.
I had too much fun with the wine last night, and of course that one extra glass of wine has done me in. So I am "laying low" today, although Angie the dog sitter comes by for a visit. Sofi and I walk up to take a bag of garbage to the container next to the bus stop, and when we walk back we see Angie on the road. She turns to us and Sofi can't wait to see her. There is a little puddle following her for the last ten steps or so. Angie kneels down in the middle of the road and the two have a joyous reunion.
Back in the garden, Angie wants to see how different the property looks in full flower. She stays here in November and early December, when all is quiet. Sofi leads her from garden room to garden room, unless she is distracted by a lizard, or an ant, which happens often. Later, when we are sitting on the front terrace under the caki tree, Sofi goes wild in the midst of the plumbago, just sure she is going to catch a lizard this time. I have no idea what she would do if she actually caught one.
Angie cautions us regarding snakes. We have heard of a sighting or two in the valley, but all our grasses are clipped short. She advises us to get a little bell for Sofi to wear on her collar. The snakes are deaf, but hear the vibrations from the bell and move away. With that suggestion, I'm thinking of wearing a bell, myself.....I think I'd faint if I ever came across one....
Pia and Francesco are working on their little plot of land below us across the street. It looks as though they are putting in a cement rise to the property. Last year, they tried to get the boat that they store there out, and it took them forever to maneuver it into the street. This year, it should be easy. We have no idea when they will start work on their little vacation house.
Roy measures off in front of the loggia for the new roof. We have gone back and forth regarding what we are going to do when we take off the asbestos sheeting that covers the loggia. We are told that the asbestos is not dangerous, as long as it does not chip. But we can't wait to get rid of it. Men in moon suits will come to take it away and dispose of it properly. We then will need to find an inexpensive and attractive solution. Roy wants to use a wooden understructure and a tin roof. I'd rather it be done correctly, with castagno and mattone, so we'll get quotes.
Whatever we finally choose to do, we've agreed that we'll bring the roof out above part of the terrace. We will build it around the laurel tree, which by now is gorgeous and full, spreading branches outward to shield us somewhat from the blazing summer sun. It will come out a little farther than the depth of the fiorieras, and will touch the house.
We will have room for a big table, which we can use almost all year long. The flooring will be the existing gravel. Since the main entrance for the house is the front steps, we can leave a table out all year. When coming up from the parcheggio, we will have a narrow path through to the front door. But for us that will be fine. We will have lights overhead as well, running from the existing lighting in the loggia.
The way we are designing it, the herb garden will stay, but we may replace the herbs with blue hydrangea, which love the shade. The blue hydrangea that we keep in the loggia that does not get direct sun is doing beautifully. I envision banks of it. The loggia we now have will remain as it is, with the exception of the roof. On the sides, there will be a gap where the existing old tufa bricks stop, because the roof will be higher, at least at the rear. That gap will either be left open or will be replaced by glass.
It is so beautiful here today that we don't go to the ceremony for the restored little church in Bomarzo. We don't hear back from Tiziana, so won't go to her concert, either. We'll just stay home and sit out under the stars and listen to the birds. I can take that...
For the past few days, Roy has been up in the caki tree, cutting off blossoms. When people walk by and call out to him, they all agree that caki is "sporco" (dirty) and laugh at him up in the tree like an owl. I clipped what I could reach with a step stool, but instead rake up the blossoms from the gravel and put them in buckets, to go to the compost.
Before church today, we wait for Don Luca to arrive and Livio asks us how things are at our house. We tell him that in our part of Mugnano, things are fine. We call it, Mugnano Basso or Contrada San Rocco, but Rosina comes by and calls everything Mugnano centrale. Everything. The people in our village are such a friendly group that they don't think of where they live as a part of the village. W are quite taken by that. But I do like the idea of living in Contrada San Rocco...
We take a walk after cena to drop off the garbage and come across Giovanna, who is watering the plants outside her little house. She calls out to her husband, Franco, and offers to show us their cantina, down a walkway next to their house. It is lovely, the walls covered with old tufa bricks, and the back wall is done beautifully, with stones and pieces of mattone and brown grout. The room is quite cool. We see them here on weekends, enjoying themselves. For the rest of each week they live and work in Viterbo.
We hear that Carlo bought two more little houses on the street and a garage. She tells us that Carlo and the Roversellis are buying up all of Mugnano. We think that is funny. When we wish her c'e veddiamo, she tells us she will return on June 2nd, because that is a national holiday.
We pass Serena in front of their garage, and she is shooing Brik away with a bamboo stick. Brik is molto geloso of Ubik, who prances down the street next to Serena, taunting Brik. Sofi ignores both dogs. She gives them some of what they give her...a turn of the nuzzle...and bounds back to our path.
While I am getting a massage, Roy buys 25 bamboo poles to use as stakes and as part of the structure for the pomodori. We have at least that many at home, but this planting is more than twice the amount that we have ever done. So more bamboo is needed.
Roy clips more caki, but since Felice is due to arrive here later to supervise the planting of the pomodori, he works for most of the day on the planting area, cleaning it of rocks and weeds, putting down a green plumb line to make sure the planting rows are preciso, turning the soil and soaking the earth.
He paces off for each plant, and sticks a green post in the spot where each plant will go. He marks off spaces for 17 in the front row, 17 in the next row, and two more in the back row. We already have planted eight San Marzano and seven heirloom tomato plants. The San Marzanos are tall. They were planted three weeks or so ago and the heirlooms are holding their own after ten days in the ground.
I sit at the computer and draw up a grid. Then figure out which plants will be planted in the first planting tonight, which ones in the second planting in about two weeks, and which ones will be given away. We will give away twelve. One to Tia, but the rest to people in Mugnano, so that they can start the heirloom planting tradition here in Mugnano. We do not have room for more.
While we wait on the steps for Felice, Oosten comes by and we invite him in for a chat. Sofi loves him, and cuddles with him, while we talk about what's new. He will take a plant and grow it in his little orto garden behind San Rocco.
Felice does not come tonight. It is quite windy, so we think this is not a good night to plant. We are sure he will come tomorrow. Roy is ready to plant, so we can do it without Felice. But it would not be the same. We love Felice and it is important that he guide us in these baby steps. We love our garden and love Felice's role in it.
It rained last night around midnight, and the sky is overcast when we wake. The temperature is cool, and I notice when I put on my socks that it is very humid. Outside, the air is heavy, and when Sofi and I walk down the steps to spray the roses on the front path, I feel a mist in the air. Tiziano's grandfather put-puts by in his little motorized truck, waves and gives me a big "buon giorno!", smiling with an old wizened face that gave up the teeth in its sagging mouth years ago. He is a very sweet man.
It is time to plan the festa in honor of the lavender harvest. It looks as though it will take place during and after pranzo on Saturday, June 26th. As before, only women will be invited to the pranzo, but men and children and pets are invited around 4PM. Corpus Domini takes place on the previous Sunday, but there will not be enough lavender to give to the people of the village. The lavender plants look wonderful, but this is their first year, and we will hardly have enough crop to fill the baskets in the house.
Instead, I am thinking that we will have a great deal of heirloom tomatoes, and many of them will be ripe for Ferragosto, our village festa in mid-August. Our village puts on a medieval fair, with stands of sheep cheese, olive oil, wine, local ceramics, handmade baskets, the kind of things that were available locally in medieval times.
Perhaps we will ask if we can have a table for the heirloom tomatoes, and give all the money to the church, or to the town for the next festa. We love giving something back to the village, back to the people who make us feel so welcome and a part of their family.
I am always concerned about who is invited to the festa from the village. Lore will not be here. She and Alberto leave for Ischia the next day, and will be at home in Rome, packing. She tells me not to invite a few women from the village, for the other women will be angry that they are not included. We will ask Tiziano on Saturday what he thinks we should do. Now that we have lived here for two years full time, I want to invite at least five or six. We will figure out what to do in the next week.
We take a walk around noon to the bus stop to drop off a bag of garbage, and see Pepe and Valerio outside Pepe's garage when we walk back. Pepe greets Sofi and Ubik just lays there, not jealous, just bored. Valerio is just back from his garden, with a tale of woe. Last Sunday we sampled the cherries from his garden, but this morning the entire crop was wiped out by the birds.
Pepe always has a story, and this time tells us about some big pipe and some crop that was wiped out by birds. Roy wants to put an empty plastic bottle in one of our trees to scare off the birds, and asks me which one. I can't think of any. I'd rather hear the birds than see the ugly plastic bottles bobbing to and fro.
Just after pranzo the winds pick up, and we take in the pomodori. A few of them look a little battered, but they are all fine. Roy closes the heavy blue cloth half-way on the front of the loggia. We hardly ever close the loggia off, but this material, which is tied back otherwise, does an excellent job. We love the loggia, or summer kitchen, and today dry our clothes there on a rack. Rain could come at any moment.
Duccio calls to invite us to drive to Castelluchi with he and his sweet wife, Giovanna, later this week. The lentiche flowers are in profusion in the meadows, and it is a glorious sight. We have not seen them for months, and look forward to this adventure.
This time last year, the very hot temperatures had been with us for over a week. This year the weather is very different. We will probably actually have some rain this summer. I think I welcome the rain. Last year's heat was oppressive, and lasted for three months.
Felice comes by after five and Roy is not here. I show him the wonderful work Roy has done in the tomato garden, and he opens his eyes wide with amazement. The entire area has been transformed into a thing of beauty...The black irrigation pipes snake up and down the three rows, there is new soil on the areas where the new plants will be inserted, and all the soil has been turned. In addition, Roy has measured off the entire area with a plumb line, and has placed tall green sticks precisely where each new plant will go. It is a work of art.
Felice scratches his balding head. I can see that his eyes are not what they used to be. It appears that he has cataracts in both eyes. But he never complains. "Sempre Felice" he responds when we ask him how he is. "Always happy".
But now, he does not know how to break it to me. Three rows are not a good idea. It is important that a structure be built out of bamboo poles that is strong, to hold the growing plants and also to make sure that it is not blown over by the wind. I offer that two rows can have a structure that work toward each other and the third row can have a separate structure.
By the time Roy arrives, we agree that they will build a kind of a house out of bamboo, with tall bamboo poles securing each plant and cross pieces holding the structure together.
Here are Roy and Felice building their "fort pomodori"...
See the pictures under "Doggie Diner" to see Sofi directing the work....
I have designed a grid, naming each heirloom plant, and direct which plant goes in which hole. We agree that we will plant 24 tonight. Ten days ago, we planted eight San Marzano tomatoes and seven heirlooms. In another ten days we will plant another dozen or so. That will fill up the entire space, and hopefully give us enough room to walk in between the rows. We will not have to go down to water, as the irrigation system will take care of that. Now we will hope that all tonight's plants survive the next step.
Roy's back is hurting, and he comes in very tired. The life of a contadino is never easy.
The sky is overcast again this morning, and it is humid. Before the day is out, it rains a soft, gentle rain. This is not enough to do any damage to the tomatoes, but it is strange to see so much overcast weather so late in the year.
Tia calls to say that she had a great time in Paris and that she will not be able to come to the Lavender Lunch. I am thinking of changing the date to a week later. First Lore and now Tia cannot come. They are both dear friends, and I'd love them to come. I think putting it off a week will be a good idea. We will see.
Felice comes by tonight and gives us four eggs, "One for each eye". I do not understand the significance of that, but am thrilled. He brings some bamboo poles, and he and Roy finish the building of the next phase of "fort pomodori".
I am upstairs on the balcony with Sofi, tending the Jude the Obscure roses, and Roy calls out to me. We go out to see him and he and Felice are up in the potato garden. He tells us to come up. Felice has his big trowel, and digs into the earth in the back row of the potatoes, and digs up seven potatoes, in addition to the original piece of potato that was used as a "starter" to get the potatoes going.
I love these potatoes! They are our first! I will boil them and we will have them with butter and lemon zest and Italian parsley. Tonight, I pick eight more zucchini flowers, more than half of them with zucchini at their ends. We have more buffala mozzarella and anchovies and serve them after prosciutto and melon. I don't remember melon tasting this good in California.
The rain came down in torrents last night, and two of our latest pomodori seedlings did not survive. When we finish our last planting in about ten days, we will replant in those two spots. Otherwise, everything seems tutto opposto. But then I look up the spelling in the dictionary, and the translation of opposto is, "to the contrary". I mean that everything is fine. We will have to ask why the translation does not make sense...
We spend the day with Duccio and Giovanna Valore. Roy drives and Duccio sits in front. Giovanna and I sit in the back, with Sofi between us, nodding off now and then. Giovanna and Duccio sing us an old folk song along the way that was written years ago by partisans, and I am determined to learn it. When she gives me the words, I will put it on the site, in case you want to learn it, too.
See Places to Visit for details of our day trip. We recommend it to people wanting a day trip from the Orte/Bomarzo/Amelia area.
Duccio tells us about an old farmer, Silvio, near their house in the centro storico of Bomarzo. One day, Duccio is on the balcony, and Silvio tells him to come down to see what he has in a huge bottle. In it are two snakes. One is almost two meters and one is much smaller. They are harmless garden snakes.
He stuffed them in the bottle, but they could not get out. So after he shows them to Duccio, he puts the bottle down and breaks it with a hammer. The snakes slide out of the bottle and down the road, back to the forest.
A few days before, he bragged that he killed nineteen porcupines (porcospini). When Giovanna told him that the porcospino is a protected animal, he said, "My potatoes were not protected, and they ate every last one!"
Duccio tells us that the American Embassy is warning all Americans living in Italy to be on high alert. Bush is here to visit the Pope and Berlusconi, and most of the streets in the centro storico of Rome have been closed off. He also tells us that while on a recent US trip, Berlusconi met with Italian-Americans and told them that he likes their flag, especially the strips and stripes...
There are elections on the 12th and 13th, for the European Parliament. First, one chooses the party they want, and then they get to choose two or three from the slate of that party for membership in the Parliament.
Berlusconi is listed at the top of the Forza Italia party, so if he does not get many votes that may be a no-confidence vote against him. I think he and George Bush have something in common. There appears to be a groundswell against both Bush and Berlusconi. It is not an endorsement of their opponents, just a voice against them. These are strange times.
We don't think we have a lot to worry about in Mugnano, but will lay low for the next few days. I could go on and on about how I feel about the terrorism situation, but think it would fall on deaf ears. At least we hear that Bush tells the people of the Middle East that he believes that all people fighting against the Americans are not terrorists.
We receive an invitation to Matthew and Terri's son's christening next month in Amelia, and that should be fun. By then, we will be grandparents. In the meantime, we hear of two more people who cannot come to the lavender festa on June 26th, so will postpone it a week to July 3rd. Although Lore won't be able to come, we think most everyone else will.
This is a big mail day. We also receive an article about the Mountain Play, and wish the association all the best. My Fair Lady is certainly an expensive play to mount, and we wonder if that was a wise choice. For so many years we lived the Mountain Play during May and June, hosting parties at our Mill Valley house after each one. We loved those days, and the winding down afterward. But now that it is over, it seems as tho it was so long ago...
The days continue to be overcast, with high humidity. Everyone seems to move at an even slower pace. The barking dog in the valley, however, continues his ceaseless noise. Tiziano thinks that it is Gianfranco's hunting dog, and despite suggestions from Enzo and others in the village, Gianfranco ignores them...and the dog. I think he goes out to hunt on weekends. That seems to be the only time the noise lets up.
In Italy, it is impossible to do anything about a barking dog. We are also reluctant to complain, because we know people have been known to feed poison to dogs for strange reasons, and want to protect Sofi. So we try to ignore it.
That reminds me. Years ago I thought there was a cuckoo clock somewhere nearby, and only later learned that we have cuckoos in the area. We hear the cuckoo again, and I smile, just thinking about how na•ve I am.
Italo's truck bounces up the hill playing an Italian folk song, and the three of us joyfully walk down the street to catch him at his first stop below the tower. Before he sees her, Italo calls out for Sofi. But Baschia is at the bus stop, crouched down and waiting for her. Ennio lets him off his lead and he runs over to greet his girl. They play around and then it's time to look seriously at the fish.
Roy loves Italo's marinated alici(anchovies). We then pick out salmon trout fillets for us, and Italo gives Sofi a thin slice of spada (swordfish), which we will fix for her pranzo and cena. There is a large group today, and Rosita is here in front of us, wearing an apron. She buys so much that she must be having a festa. It is time to seriously study the different fish. She buys ten of one that I cannot identify, and some baccala (dried cod).
I imagine Michelle Berry visiting here this September, walking to the fish truck with us, meeting Italo and the neighbors, and cooking. She so loves to cook. Her health is getting better, and we look forward to a week with her, sitting in the garden, taking walks with Sofi and enjoying the beautiful weather.
Ellen Wolfe, aka Tosca, is also expected here later in September. She is also getting better, and what better place to recharge your batteries than L'Avventura? When Roy and I drive down the hill from Bomarzo I often think of her. Telling us that she can hike with the best of them, we remember the look on her face on her first trip years ago, when she arrived home here after climbing the Bomarzo hill. I don't think she will be doing a repeat this time.
Did a potato ever taste this good? I boil potatoes for a salade nicoise at pranzo today, and these are the first potatoes picked from the garden. Once out of the water, the skin slides right off. And this time, I fix Roy's salad with Italo's marinated alici. Roy's comments upon starting his salad slays me. "Aren't vegetables wonderful?" When I pick myself up off the floor, he responds, "Well, our vegetables, straight from the garden."
Tonight we will have more zucchini flowers with tiny zucchini, also from our garden. This is the way to eat zucchini, before they grow into huge ornaments of torture that make people groan just looking at them.
There is live coverage on television today of George and Laura Bush with the pope. After the speeches, there is a long line of Americans in the entourage, who each receive a small box and a handshake from the pope. There must be fifty of them. Fewer than five people receiving a gift from the pope kiss his ring. Is it possible noone spoke to them about protocol? The others sheepishly look over at him for their "photo opp" and shake his hand. It all seems so awkward. The pope is so frail, he can hardly move.
Here in the village the people who come here on weekends from Rome arrive early. They can't wait to get away from Rome with all the security precautions and closed streets. We are happy to have them and look forward to seeing many new friends this weekend here.
There are clouds today in the blue sky, but the temperature is mild. As the day wears on, it becomes warmer, and after Sofi and I are out for an hour working on the roses, it actually feels hot. There has been so much rain recently that it is necessary to spray every rose plant and bush. Little red aphids have attacked every one.
Later in the day, there is a new battalion of bugs, so we spray again. I have a spray bottle, and in it I put a small glassful of denatured alcohol, two or three spritzes of dish soap and fill the rest up with water. This is my ammunition, and I take off with it like it is a machine gun. Over my arm are a few generous pieces of paper towel, that I use to rub down the buds of the plants, wiping the wet bugs off and spraying again. I am relentless. How dare they!
Across the street, Roy hears Pia and her son and a lot of noise. It is time for them to take the boat out, the speedboat that has been stored on the property all winter. Last week, Pia's brother, Francesco, who is also the Vigili Urbano (local policeman), cemented the rise up to their parking area so that they could drive the boat on its boat trailer up the hill, then turn it around and drive it out of town. I think they take it to Lago di Bolsena.
Today, Pia's son is trying very hard to drive the boat out. But it is a difficult maneuver, and there is a cement ledge that is keeping him from getting past the last few feet. Gino walks by, and stops to help. He knocks a section of the cement away, and it is just enough. The boat comes out, with Roy and Pia behind it steadying it to make sure it does not go right through the cancello.
The boat is ready for another season, and later they return without it. So it surely sits in the water, waiting for them to return to take it out for some fun. Pia invites us to be her guest at an event during the first weekend of July, so perhaps we will drive up to Marta, where the event will be held, and stop by to see her. We are getting to know her, bit by bit.
While Sofi takes an unwanted nap at home, Roy and I drive down the hill to Tiziano's for our sometimes weekly language session. Tonight's takes place at his house. We discuss his latest projects, and agree to stop at his dig in Amelia to see what he is doing next week.
He also advises me regarding the lavender lunch, and we make a list of about a dozen women in the village to invite in addition to all my regular women friends. He assures me that I can do this without getting all the other women in the village in an uproar. He understands that we cannot invite everyone. I now have to come up with something in writing to give to the invitees so that they will understand what I am inviting them to.
He also tells us that in a conversation with Don Luca, that there may be enough money to begin to restore the large church in Mugnano next to the tower. There are national funds for repairs and restorations of churches, and if Don Luca has pulled this off, he is a master. If the big church is restored, the little church will be the winter church, and the big church will be used for the rest of the year. I think I have that right.
We tell him about Thursday's trip to Castelluccio, and about Ferentillo (See Places to Visit, Day Trip One). He is happy that we went to Ferentillo, and tells us that it is the little creatures that keep the bodies mummified. I don't ask for an explanation, and don't want to know.
For the highlight of our session, we go to his office and show him our website and the valley of Castelluccio. Really, we show him the picture of the trees in the shape of Italia. He can hardly believe it. And then we show him the trees in the shape of North America, Africa and Australia. His father spent a great deal of time in that area while a member of the Corpo Forestale, and he will ask him how long the trees have been planted, and if there is a story behind the planting. There must be. But what fun to show this to an Italian!
Tiziano agrees to take an heirloom tomato plant from us when he comes for our next lesson next Saturday at our house. He laughs at the idea of Mugnano becoming the heirloom tomato capital of Italia, but bit by bit it may come true. We will give several plants to friends who have gardens in the village, and will distribute some seeds in the early spring....
The priest is from the Veneto. Lore goes over to him while he is getting into the car after mass. She is also from the Veneto. But we still do not know his name. He is full of joy and we like him very much.
Earlier, we meet him outside the church before mass. We do not think we are particularly early, but we are the first people arriving in the church, followed by the priest. No one else is around.
I ask him if the mass will be private, with a big smile on my face, and he looks at me as though I have two heads. He then ignores me, walking up to the altar, kneeling down, and fixing his sight on different areas in the church...the stations of the cross, the cupids on the painting on one wall, the red flowers on the altar...and it is as though he is looking at them for the first time. We are thinking that it must be special for a priest to be alone in a church, at peace with his thoughts.
Later during his homily he speaks about the church as a special place, and the items in the church as spiritual affirmations. At least I think that is what he is saying. Just when I think I can figure out a sentence, he speeds up and the end of the sentence seems to fall off his tongue like a marble rolling downhill. Drat.
Before mass, I want to figure out that "tutto opposto" phrase that I wrote about a few days ago. Oh, my. It consists of three words, "tutto" "a" and "posto". Well, Lore tells me that it is not "opposto", meaning opposite, but " a posto", meaning "in order" or "tutto a posto" meaning "everything is good".
Now, the meaning goes even further than that. She tells me that the term "a posto", when said either with a smile or a frown, can indicate that one likes what someone else is doing, or that one really does not approve. Furthermore, "al posto di" means "instead of", and "quell posto" means "seat of the pants". I remember that "posto in piedi" means "standing room", because we bought standing room seats for a Milan opera several years ago, and I will never forget the experience, not how my feet felt nor how captivating the sets and music were.
But something goes awry with the whole mass today. There is no singing before the mass starts, and this has not happened before at any time we have come to mass. Mariadelaide is not here, and perhaps everyone is waiting for someone else to start. There is no singing while the offering is being taken, and I have just about decided to start to sing myself, when someone starts to sing during communion, and it is a hymn I do not know.
This is compounded at the end of the mass with the singing of another hymn I do not know. It seems Marieadelaide made up a song sheet of four songs to be sung at mass that are always passed around and we have learned them. But since she is not here, it is a good excuse to sing something else. Something we don't know.
After church, I ask Elena what happened, and she just shrugs. No one seems to want to say anything, although before and during the mass frowning heads look around, but no one wants to pick up the invisible microphone.
After church, we take a few minutes to look at the restoration work being done on Lore and Alberto's new little house, on the path leading to their main house. Stefano is the muratore, and as usual, the quality of the work is exceptional. There is much work to be done, but the cement pads for all the floors are finished, as is the roof.
Lore walks us around, explaining where the stairs and the bathroom will go. They do not know whether they will rent out the house or use it for a guest house. Either way, it will be beautiful.
We pick up Sofi and drive to Clitunno, where our favorite mercato is held on the first Sunday of each month. There are so many interesting old pieces on sale here each month. Some are valuable, many are not, but we come away with a pair of candlesticks, a lovely old footstool that needs restoration, and two door knobs.
We have a reservation at our favorite local trattoria, Da Piero, and sit outside on the covered terrace. They are not sure of the weather and ask us if we would like to eat inside, but we do not. Before we are through, it rains...a beautiful, fragrant rain. Roy moves to the side of the table to keep away from the raindrops, but otherwise we are "tutto a posto".
At the next table, we overhear a woman on the phone using the phrase, "come mai?" So what does that mean? Roy looks it up in his Handspring, and he comes up with "how come". Since "mai" means "never", a fog starts to cover my head, the same fog that covers my head when I try to make some sense of the Italian language. Perhaps I will learn by playing mind games. I will try to use "come mai" a few times this week and perhaps that will help me to remember it. I should not expect it to make sense.
We have wanted to see Bevagna, a town situated between Spoleto and Foligno, and decide to drive a little further on to the town. It is a beautiful town, and we cannot drive in. So we park the car and, well, I will save the description for next time. There will be a next time very soon. It is a treasure of a town, and we will write it up in the Places to Visit blog shortly.
We drive back near Montefalco and because we are right at Casale, take a 3km detour to see how Pat and Dick Ryerson's house is doing. The road to their place is in worse shape than ever. The spring rains have rutted the right side of the strada bianca and it really needs work. This is definitely country, and this is not unusual for country roads.
The views of the mountain ranges from their house are really spectacular. I remember driving there in the wintertime, and with the mountains covered in snow it is an unbelievable sight. Today, Roy goes in the gate and takes a few pictures, so we can email them to Pat, and we drive home. Their roses are gorgeous, weaving in and out of a wooden fence.
The phone rings, and it is Terence. Nine days left until the babies are born, and Angie has her last ultrasound on Wednesday. She seems to be doing fine. The white wicker bassinet in the babies' room is truly an heirloom. It was purchased for Adrian 65 years ago, and the babies will be the 50th and 51st babies to use the crib.
Every Diner/Donohoe has used that crib, plus a variety of relatives and close friends, with the exception of Ryan, who was living in Seattle at the time. The list sits under the bottom of the bassinet, ready for new names and dates and to be passed on again to...Chris and Bernadette?
I have a violin lesson early, and it is the first one in three weeks. Tiziana has had to cancel, and I missed not playing with her and seeing her. I have been practicing, but now Tiziana gives me some new challenges. I really love to play, even if it is a lesson on scales.
From there, we drive to Amelia to see Alice. Roy's back has been bothering him since he and Steve moved some large beams a few weeks ago. Alice agrees to give me a shorter session and to see Roy.
While I wait for Roy, there is a dog outside the car that belongs to Alice's neighbors, a sweet big dog that jumps up on the car and tries to get in. Sofi is frightened, so I get out of the car and walk the dog around the old well a few times until her rope is shorter than the distance to the car. That seems to do it.
Roy comes out feeling a little better and we drive home for a quick pranzo before driving to Orvieto to meet someone from another agency to take him to see Diego's project. It is not Carlo, but another man, Rolando, who thinks he is going to show us a place in Baschi. He passes us and then we pass him and take a right and he beeps his horn.
Well, of course there is a mix-up, but he agrees to follow us up to Diego's. Once there, we come upon two huge cement trucks, which are dropping wet cement through pipes for the workers so that they can pour the foundation for the back terrace. Quite a bit has been done since our last visit.
The house is situated on the property of an old casale, and is located on a hill between our house and Orvieto, but just three kilometers outside Orvieto. The houses are on the back side of the hill, with a gorgeous view of the valley, and of Lago di Cobara. There are two homes, really.
The one that is almost complete has three full bathrooms and two half baths. There is a bathroom on every floor and three full bathrooms on the top floor where the three bedrooms are located. The first floor, entered by the side, is the kitchen. The second floor, entered by the front, is the salon, a dining room, living room great room and a half bath. Up the stairs are three bedrooms and three full baths.
The second house will be smaller, and the foundation will be poured in the next few weeks. There is some finish work to be done on the first house and some landscaping, but for someone wanting a compound, with a private, elegant entrance framed by 100 cypress trees, this is a magical spot. The price for the compound will probably be a little over €1,000,000. We think it should sell to one buyer, because the houses are close to each other. The second house will be smaller. We will have pictures on this site soon.
We hear from Judith that the carpenter over-charged her for the wooden cabinet we asked him to make for her. He gave us a much lower price and we will go to see him tomorrow. If Roy had been there, she would not have had to pay this much. It is outrageous how he took advantage of her.
We leave the house early, and arrive in Todi before nine AM. We meet with Paola and two friends, and look at four delicious properties. We agree to bring Suzanne to see three of them next Wednesday. A famous dancer and choreographer from England greets us in one. He is so delightful that I ask if he'll be around next Wednesday. Unfortunately he will not, but if Suzanne wants to buy it, he will surely make a point to return to meet with her.
We come home and later drive to Amelia to welcome Suzanne and Judith. Judith is happy with the work done by the carpenter, and does not want us to speak to him about the price he charged her. She thinks his friendship is more important than the extra money.
It is great to see Suzanne, who is resting in the apartment upstairs. We see Michela and her husband, Cesare, who has been moving furniture with Judith, and take off for home, wishing them a great trip to a family wedding south of Rome. We must pick up the rest of the bamboo poles and meet Felice at home by six.
No poles are to be had, despite Bruno's insistence that they would arrive today. So we drive to Giove and Roy is able to locate some, and stuffs them into the car. Gee, they are dirty, with tiny bugs busily scurrying up and down the bamboo. Sofi and I squeeze in the front seat next to the poles, which at this point are sticking somewhat out the back of the car.
We arrive home and Felice is already working on the land. He and Roy finish building the bamboo structure, which looks like a fort, before the pomodori are planted. It is late, and he leaves, giving his students instructions on planting the last set.
Before he leaves, I ask him about copper sulfate, and he tells us that it gets rid of the bugs and we should get a pump and spray them during the middle of the day when the plants are wide awake. They should also be sprayed after each rain.
At this point, I have done enough research to know that copper sulfate is a mineral. It is not a chemical, so we will not harm the tomatoes by spraying them with this. Last year, the plants that did not get sprayed were full of bugs and came out with black ugly spots on them. We will spray, as long as we are not spraying with chemicals.
Once alone, we take the rest of the plants down to the planting field, and I have my chart in front of me. I have worked out an elaborate diagram, but in the final analysis, we plant the strongest plants that remain. That leaves fourteen plants to give away. I am pretty sure I can document every plant except one that we are giving away. We will make signs for them at the top of the poles...later.
I am planning to give two to Pepe Fosci, at least one to Tia, and we'll scatter the rest among the friends in the village who also grow tomatoes. Felice does not seem to want any. We will give him tomatoes when they are ripe, instead. We are hoping that these will be welcome new additions to our neighbors, but don't know. Many of them are old world folks, and think, "What's wrong with an Italian tomato?"
Today was quite warm, over 85 degrees, and at the end of the day the wind picks up for a few hours. We welcome the warm weather, and tonight Roy gets out the standing fans for each room.
I am thinking of Angie and Terence. I am sure Roy is, too. This must be such an overwhelming time for them, and our prayers are with them. By next Tuesday our time, we will be grandparents, and our lives will change. Roy is already planning that the girls will come over and take care of us in our old age...
Outside it is warm, and the owls and the dogs are making a ruckus after dark. Could it be that the planet Venus is driving them all crazy with its visible positioning today, the first in over 100 years?
I awake early, just knowing that today will be really hot. By the time we are both having breakfast, it is 8:30, far too late for hot weather gardeners. We agree that we will get up earlier on these warm days. Fa niente.
Roy plants a new boxwood plant in the hedge to replace an one old one that has died. We weed, I clip box and santolina, dead-head, and spray the roses before 10 AM. While I am clipping the box on the front terrace, Luigina walks by and calls up to me. She has a cold, and I tell her that in America we take "chicken soup" for a cold. She responds, "Buona medicina!"
Then it is too hot to stay outside. Roy drives to Viterbo to find a tall "picking" ladder at Obi, and I come in to move the furniture around in the guest bedroom and play the violin. We have happily returned to our summer schedule, and have lots to do in the garden this week.
Next week Suzanne will arrive, and we will have little time to be in the garden. She is the first of our summer guests, followed by Pat and Dick Ryerson at their house an hour away, followed by a hoard at our Lavender Lunch on July 3rd. Ned and his wife, Jean from Boston will be in Tuscany in a few weeks, and we will meet them there for pranzo. No time then for them to come for a visit. That's it for the next month, until Mitch Woods comes to play at Umbria Jazz.
It is noisy outside, with one tractor going at full tilt and plenty of birds. I can take that kind of noise. Roy returns with the ladder, a very elaborate one that will let him climb up into the caki tree like a monkey, at a very good price. He will lock the ladder when not in use, to discourage human "monkeys" from climbing into our bedroom window and robbing us. Once a life is enough. Look in Journal Archives for May 16, 2003 if by some chance you did not know about our robbery last year. It seems so long ago....
Today continues to be so hot that we take on projects inside the house. Roy works on the technical side of our web site and we comb through files, throwing out things we don't need. The breeze is lovely, however, and after he leaves on an assignment for Judith, Sofi and I go outside and play in the garden.
We are tired and go to bed early, but are awakened at 11:30 by the call we are waiting for. It is Terence, full of joy, letting us know that at 1:21 P M California time, Angie gave birth to twin girls, Marissa and Nicole.
Roy is in tears, and can't get back to sleep, so he makes phone calls and sends emails. Finally he calms down and is able to get back into bed. Sofi sleeps through it all. What a thrilling way to end the day.
I cannot sleep, just dreaming about the two little angels born hours ago to Terence and Angie. So I get up and creep out of the room to go out to tend the roses for an hour and dream awake. Sofi follows soon afterward, probably crying that I left without taking her.
The day is warm and fragrant with morning mist. We go down to the front path and wave to the bus driver who makes his morning trip to the village at 7AM. It is a good time to spray the rose plants, and for about an hour I tend roses that need special attention.
It is hard to imagine what is going through Angie's and Terence's heads. We try to call Angie's parents, Milicia and Nick, but there is no answer, so perhaps they have already left to drive north.
What great names. Angie's wonderful parents must be over the moon, both with the news that she is healthy and the baby is healthy, but with the names of the girls. What a special tribute to them. Since Angie's best friend is Mary, I cannot think of better choices for names.
When Sofi and I come back inside, there are streams of congratulatory emails, and one photograph of the girls from Roy's brother, Christopher. There will probably be a special site for photos of the girls, so when we know what it is, we will post the address.
We have an appointment to look at a potential apartment in Narni for Suzanne, and it is quite wonderful. While we are looking through it, we see Giovanni walk by and Roy goes out to greet him. This is a really chance encounter. We met at the party we gave for Mitch Woods at Lili's house, and we have wanted to get together with Hermelyn and Giovanni.
Giovanni is a friend of Caesar, the man who owns the restaurant, Il Pincio, on the ground floor of this wonderful building. He takes us down to the bottom level and we walk inside to meet Caesar. He is charming. The room in the rear of the restaurant has a built-in grotto as well as a magnificent wine cellar, reached by descending down a circular staircase. We make reservations to eat pranzo there on Monday with Suzanne.
Giovanni is interested in the top floor, as well as the apartment we are looking at, and tells us that there is a potentially beautiful but overgrown garden on the top level. The top floor is being restored, and he does not know if the woman will sell. He invites us to his house a few miles away, and we agree to visit after an errand in Terni.
It is around 7PM when we finish our errands in Terni, and he wants us to come anyway. We arrive and are taken around a wonderful complex of ancient buildings. The one they live in actually has an olive press in its cantina.
After a tour of the land, full of luxurious fruit trees and meandering paths, we are taken inside for a tour of the lower house, where they live. The original sink and cook top remain in the main room, and Giovanni has done a masterful job on the plank wood ceilings and beams. We love these old houses, reminiscent of sepia toned movies set in Italian countrysides. And the work we are now doing helping English-speaking folks buy and restore houses in Central Italy allows us to take a glimpse of history now and then, and we love that.
Back at home, we place a call to Uncle Harry and Aunt Elaine, in the event they do not know of the two new members of the family, and then it is time to call Angie in the hospital. Terence answers the phone, and Angie's parents are also there. Terence has just emailed us a couple of early photos, and one of Terence holding Nicole has us welling up at the sight of it. The birth of a child is truly one of life's great mysteries. She is so tiny and he is so tall, but he holds her with the grace of a man who has done this for years.
Angie sounds excellent, and we speak next with Milicia, who just takes everything in stride. We are sure she and Nick are very excited, just the same. They will stay at a hotel down the street from the hospital until Angie goes home this weekend. We know Angie and Terence are in masterful hands...
Just as the dinner is put on the table, we hear, "Roy....Roy!" It is Livio and Giuliola at the front gate. We invite them in and luckily our dinner is a cold one, so we ignore it and have a short visit with them.
They want us to join them tomorrow morning on a jaunt to the countryside outside Graffignano to pick ginestra and other wild flowers for use on the Corpus Domini flower designs in the main piazza in Mugnano. I have been thinking about making a dove out of white rose petals, and now Giuliola asks me to do it. I agree, telling her, "spediamo!" I hope I can figure out the correct shape. And then, when we are trying to think of the word for dove, she tells us it is colomba.
Ah. The Easter cakes are called colombas, and are shaped more like crucifixes than doves, but the shape is rounded. So if I cannot figure out how to draw an excellent dove with chalk on the street, I can make one up that looks more like the colomba cakes. It will all work out. We agree to meet them at 8AM by our front gate, and go to bed so that we can rise early.
I drag myself out of bed at 6:30, and somehow we are ready to go at 8AM. We do not take Sofi, because we don't know if there will be tall grass. I do not want her encountering any viperi.
We follow Livio and stop on the back road to Graffignano, a town toward Orvieto but past Sippicciano. Ginestra covers the hillsides like rolling blankets of fog. I have been thinking that we are going to cut "scotch broom", which in California is deadly for its ability to catch on fire in hot weather. This ginestra is definitely not the same plant. Close up, the flowers look like tiny yellow orchids, with at least ten of these flowers on each stem.
We see Giuseppa get out of the car wearing a short sleeved dress above her boots, and happily going over to a ginestra bush, stripping the stalks with her black rubber gloves as tho she is milking a cow. I follow her lead after putting on my boots. Each of us strikes out in a different direction, with a bucket.
While I am stripping the blossoms, I am thinking that it is impossible to put a price on this moment. In the background I can hear the motors of tractors in the field below us. Closer are the sounds of hundreds of birds in their daily activities. And right where I am the sun shines heavy and I feel a loving warmth all around me.
I have walked 20 yards down a path, to reach a bush right at eye level, and Giuliola is to my left right at the end of the path. I can hear her singing, but so quietly that I cannot determine the words or the melody.
I start to sing myself, starting with "Take my hand, I'm a stranger in paradise...". Later, while I am up on the road, I start to sing, "The moon belongs to everyone. The best things in life are free..." Later Roy tells me that when Giuliola and he and Giuseppa worked near each other in a shady grove, she was singing the partisan song that we heard from Giovanna and Duccio over a week ago on our trip to Castellucio. I really want to learn it. Perhaps we will all sing it at the Lavender Lunch.
After three hours, I am so hot that I fear sunstroke, so Roy and I stop. Livio and the others will stay just a few minutes more, and we say goodbye, telling them we will see them on Sunday morning at 7 AM in front of the church. It is time for a haircut for Roy in Sippiciano and then home to Sofi, our little angel.
Sofi and I are up and out at 6:30, clipping roses on the front path and spraying them. It is quiet and cool now, and I love being outside in the early morning hours. I hear someone behind me coming up the path and it is Marsiglia! She walks with strength, holding her wooden cane, and comes up to me, giving me a big hug.
She speaks for about five minutes, and I am able to figure out a little of it. She tells me that it is so hot that she tells Felice, "Quando caldo, andiamo a casa presto!" or something like that. I can see her shaking her fist at him and then smiling. They are a joyful couple, and we love them. She continues on her morning walk down to the intersection where Via Mameli meets "Aqua Puzzo".
I find two bees' nests, and tell Roy about them later so that he can knock them down tonight. It takes over an hour to finish the five espaliered rose plants on the front path and the big polka rose that is planted next to the vegetables above the parcheggio. We see lots of new growth, so the little white and red bugs are ready to attack.
When we are done spraying and clipping dead blossoms and leaves with black spot, it is time to take a shower and get ready for Tiziano. But we don't have a meeting with Tiziano this morning, after all. He will come tonight as originally planned.
We receive a funny email from Don Francis. He wants to know about the dove we will make out of white rose petals. We will craft this on the street in front of the church tomorrow as part of the celebration of Corpus Domini. I emailed him to ask him if the colomba shape would work if I can't find a picture of a dove. "Well, a colomba IS a dove, so... good luck- what, so it's gonna look like...one of those clunky cakes with the sugar crystals on top?! Oy."
I think Dani's catechism book might have a drawing, or I'll look it up in Peterson's Bird Book. Don't want to be too preciso....
Yes, there is a drawing of a dove...it even has an olive branch in its beak. So we'll bring an olive branch as well as lots of white rose petals from the Iceberg rose plants early tomorrow morning. We have to arrive there at 7AM because the mass starts at 9:30 and the whole design of the procession in front of the church must be done before mass. Bags and bags of yesterday's plucked ginestra blossoms will form the border of the procession, and other flowers will be used for different designs within it. We'll have pictures soon...
We really have to fix our shower tiles. Water sprays up above the tile line and we've been talking about doing this since we bought the house. We only need a few tiles, but don't know if we can match the ones that are there.
We drive to Vignanello, and there are three huge places to select from. We get nowhere with the first two and somehow drive around to the back of the third. A man takes us right in to the warehouse and we find something simple to use as a border and buy a box of tiles. Roy claims that he has what he needs to install them, spediamo, and we drive home through Orte, stopping at a little market and buying another melon.
Have I written about the melons? They are so sweet, that it is practically impossible to pick a bad one. In fact, the man and woman who own the shop laugh at us when Roy takes the melon inside from the display. He raises it next to his face and sniffs it. They both tell us that ALL their melons are delicious, and it is impossible to tell if a melon is fresh by a sniff. I quite agree. Every time I pick up a melon, I sniff it, and can hardly ever smell anything.
Today, however, I do smell a sweetness. If this was an American melon, someone would probably have invented an injection machine to spray in something to make it smell sweet. Boh!
Paola calls up to Roy this morning while he is high up in the caki tree, and tells him she will come by this afternoon. He is about as high up as he can get in his new ladder. It is a good thing, because today the little caki flowers he cuts down have turned into tiny caki, and they "boink!" down like little missiles. I don't know if he will be able to reach the tallest ones, but he promises me that he will not take any chances by climbing too high on his new ladder.
The gravel on the terrace looks like a minefield, although I have a long rake and Sofi and I work at picking them up and putting them in buckets to burn. Since they have become missiles, they are too hard to put in the compost bin.
I remember that last evening, while Roy was still out in the car, Felice came by to check on everything. The day had been hot, and Sofi and I stood at the doorway, in front of the screen, waiting for him. His steps were measured, and he put his left hand on his knee, as if to help him climb the familiar stairs.
"Caldo!" he spoke. Yes, it was very hot yesterday. While we walked around the garden, I walked up to a nespola tree and plucked a few. I walked up to him with an outstretched hand and he opened his palm, smiling as I plunked two down upon it. I raised the one still in my hand in a kind of glass-clinking exercise, and we stood facing each other, peeling the fruit with our fingers and smiling at each other while feasting on the slightly tangy fruit.
"Ah!" he exclaimed. And I reached down to give Sofi a piece of the skin of my fruit. She ate it, looking up for more, so I gave her a little piece of the fruit, still not expecting her to like it. But she did, still looking up for more.
"Quando io mangia, Sofi piace..." And then Felice bent over and handed her a taste.
This afternoon is very hot. I am tired after rising at 6:30, so walk up around 4:30 with the freshly laundered sheets from the drying rack on the terrace to the bedroom. After making the bed, I lay down to read, feeling the fresh coolness of the sheets below me, and I am now almost at the end of Soldier of the Great War.
I love this book. In a few pages I will have finished the almost-eight hundred-page tome. Why did I wait so long to read it? I can't thank Avery enough for prodding me to buy it ages ago. I flash back to reading the Wizard of Oz in the third grade and the idea of reading a really big book is heavenly to me now, as it was then. I can get lost in it, like plopping down on a big feather bed. And I nod off to sleep while the birds sing outside the shuttered window, the book falling to my side as if taking a nap.
Before I know it, Roy calls up to me that Tiziano is here. We sit outside with him, and he brings a bottle of "bubbly" to celebrate our new roles as Nonna and Nonno. It is a kind of apple drink, with low alcohol content, but is fresh tasting. We sit around having our regular speaking session, and Tiziano gives us an invitation to an event next Saturday at the Palazzo in Bomarzo. He is the first to speak at the event, and will have twenty minutes to speak about his thesis project, the ancient kilns of a family in Mugnano, dating back more than 2,000 years. We will certainly attend.
This evening ends with a call to check in on Angie at the hospital, and Terence answers. There is crying in the background, and Roy tells me the sound is a precious one. Angie will go home tomorrow and Milicia will stay for a few weeks to help everyone get settled. Bravo Milicia. We want to thank her more than we can say.
It was too good to be true. While Tiziano was here last evening, Roy asked if I was getting a headache. I was rubbing my temples. It crept into my consciousness, then blasted me with a fury when I went to bed. The good news is that somehow my patch fell off, and that was the cause of the headache. I replaced the patch and by dawn I came to life.
Before 6AM, I get up and Sofi helps me to pick white Iceberg rose petals for our Corpus Domini assignment of making a dove for the procession. By 7AM, the roses have been picked, and they sit in an old handmade basket waiting to go "on stage". We also pick petals from the geraniums.
Once up in the plaza, we see a flurry of activity. The ginestra forms a long procession on the black asphalt in the middle of the piazza, with a huge heart near the beginning and the host further along in front of Giuliola and Livio's house.
We ask where the colomba goes, and are given a space to work with. I found a picture on the internet last night and Roy brushes aside the ginestra. I then draw the outline of the dove with a broken piece of mattone from Livio. I worried needlessly all day yesterday about finding a piece of chalk, but Livio's solution is much better. Roy works by my side, and when we realize we forgot the olive branch for the dove's beak, drives home to get one from a tree across the street.
When he returns, and we spray down the petals with water, we are done except for the dove's eye, and Giuliola gives us some coffee grounds in chunks and one works for the eye. When we are through, Giuliola gives us the Italian version of a "high five" and tells us "bravo!" But what we see in front of us looks more like a turkey.
"Come tacchino?" I ask as Francesco's wife walks by and looks down at our contribution. She just looks back at us and keeps walking. The locals will probably think that since the national bird of the United States is thought to be a turkey, making a turkey out of rose petals is as close as we can imagine to a dove.
Roy picks me up and we walk up to church. On the way, we pass house after house, with each family's best linen draped over the side of each balcony. There are clouds in the sky, and some wind, so the linens wave at us as we walk along. It is a good thing that Roy has been spraying down the flower petals on the work all of us have done on the square, because the wind is picking up.
By the time we reach the church, the doors are open wide but not many people are around. Donato's brother-in-law, a member of the Confraternity, stands with us, and tells us that it is raining in Montefiascone, a town above Viterbo. The sky is threatening. The word, "spediamo" is on everyone's lips.
Roy changes into his red and blue garments, and I wait for him while practicing my meager but growing vocabulary on anyone who will listen. I notice that when I can think of something to say and I am around Roy, I blurt out the phrases like a gust of wind. I notice that people look at me as though startled. Now the scene is out of "High Noon", with the square almost totally empty, the sound of the wind the only sound I hear.
It is like that before mass on Sundays. Not a sound, not a soul around. And then, two minutes before the start of mass, people come out of their houses toward the church as though waiting for the LaMans race to start. That reminds me. The Le Mans race took place yesterday, and Roy kept telling me about how the start of that race was so unusual. But on this particular day, the LeMans race was no different than the others.
Roy told me that in years past, the cars lined up, and the drivers lined up a distance away. When the gun went off, everyone ran to their cars. I imagine chaos, people tripping over one-another, and perhaps that Keystone Kops scenario is the reason for the regular start of the race.
I enter church and stand by Felice's side on the aisle next to the back row. Don Luca and two men are standing talking with each other, right where we usually sit. So after ten minutes or so, Felice moves over and I sit on the aisle next to him.
After mass, the members of the Confraternity, led by Roy this time, leave the church. Roy is carrying a tall elaborate lantern, and Enzo, Tiziano's father, is carrying the second one. Donato's brother-in-law carries a huge crucifix with a kind of curved awning over it. It is so heavy that he wears a leather support that hangs down over both shoulders and meets at his waist, where the base of the crucifix rests.
The women follow the Confraternity in two lines, on either side of the ginestra path. I am in front of Norena Natale, the niece of the man who built our house during the 1930's. Don Luca steps out of the church and the procession moves along.
I like Norena's voice very much. It is clear and pleasant. She speaks distinctly, as though the words have great meaning to her. This is a serious procession, but people are friendly and smile at each other. I remember most of the words we have to say, and am in a good spot in the procession. I am able to take many good photos of Roy.
We proceed down every street in little Mugnano, and wherever we come across a little altar with a religious figure and draped cloth, Don Luca stops and prays. When Roy and I walk home later we plan to have our beautiful Madonna on a table at the end of our path next year, surrounded by hydrangeas, so that Don Luca will stop there and give a prayer. Every year we learn a little more. And every year these village events take on special meaning to us.
I know we must pick the amareni (sour cherries) from our tree, because the birds will destroy them if we do not get to them soon. So I walk out to the tree at the edge of the lavender garden with a bucket. Roy picks the high cherries and I pick all the rest. The tree sits on one corner of the lavender field, and I pick the fruit while Sofi sits beneath the tree.
Once inside, I clean and pit the cherries in the sink with a cherry picker. This activity takes three hours, although we don't have more than twelve cups of cherries, once they are cleaned and pitted.
We think to make a tart jam. Last year the jam was delicious. But this year I am so tired by the time the cleaning and picking has been done that we agree to put them in jars with either Courvoisier or Sambuca, as that is what we have around that will complement the cherries. I also find a bottle of white sauvignon grappa, with about four inches of liquid gone. I save the best cherries for this, and drop them in the bottle along with sugar. I think tomorrow we will buy some coffee beans to use in the jars with the Sambuca because, well, why not?
Paola and Antonio come by, and we walk them down to the path in front of our house. It seems that although the sindaco told us that Francesco told him that the Universita Agraria, specifically Antonio, agreed to cut down all the trees and fix the bank in two weeks, Antonio claims to have never heard of this. The association has no money, and if they are forced to rebuild the wall, will have to sell some land, which they do not want to do.
We want to find a way for everyone to win here, but the situation is difficult. We will have to meet with the sindaco again. Our next step is to meet with the local geometra and then the mayor again. We offer to give the group our heirloom tomato crop, if they want to sell the tomatoes and use the money to repair the bank.
Antonio gets a tour of the property, and tells us that we have the best combination of orto and garden in all of tiny Mugnano. When we show him the tomatoes and explain what they are he comments that the seeds may be what is called "terminator seeds", meaning that they have been genetically altered so that they will not produce a second year. We will have to ask Marilyn Smith to go back to the growers who sold us the seeds and ask them.
That will wreak havoc with my Mugnano project, trying stealthfully to turn Mugnano into "the heirloom pomodori capital of Italia"
It is really good to see them. While we are all sitting down on the terrace, and take out a little spumanti to celebrate, Paola's brother Mario and his wife, Fulvia, come by and join us in a toast.
This afternoon there is a huge storm. When walking home from mass, we meet Vincenza, out sweeping the street in front of their rose petal display. She told us a folk tale we have heard before. Good weather for the procession, and then rain to wash away all the flowers.
The storm is so heavy that thunder crashes and Sofi shakes in my arms. Later it clears, and the best news is that Roy does not have to water tonight. The bad news is that the rest of the rose blossoms in flower have been destroyed. We are both really tired and look forward to a cool night's sleep. But later in the night thunder and lightning reappears, and Sofi cries. So I move her little cushion next to my side of the bed and she seems to be able to sleep.
Suzanne arrives at her sister's apartment by noon, and we pick her up at 12:30 and drive to Narni to Caesar's restaurant for pranzo. Caesar is so much fun, and so friendly. The sky is a little overcast, but the temperature is a little cool, which is perfect weather for house-hunting.
Once in the door, Hermelyn is seated at the first table, along with guests who have come to stay with them for a week or two. One woman wrote the Idiot's Guide to Italian, and we think we should buy the book. Later when speaking with her, we think she wrote her book, which is coming out in a second edition, before all the Dummies books were written. Anyway, t he restaurant is otherwise empty.
Caesar shows us to the table we reserved in the grotto, and it is a wonderful and cool and private place, one we will remember to return to on a very hot day. We eat a special pasta characteristic of Narni, a lovely antipasto that includes zucchini flowers, and also a little wine.
Once outside, Suzanne and I walk to the main street and wait for Roy to drive up with Gloria. They show up in her new red Mini-Cooper, very sexy, and we walk to meet her at the front of the apartment. Suzanne likes a lot about the apartment, including the view, the tall doors and windows looking out to a wonderful view, and the antiques, which are also for sale. But once we are in the garden the rain comes down in torrents. We don't know how to get out, and Roy finds the top of a cardboard box and gives it to Suzanne and me. We then all run out and get into Gloria's car and she takes us to our car near the restaurant. Suzanne decides to pass on the apartment.
We later think all the cooking is done upstairs in the restaurant, because any time the buzzer rings, Sofi barks, but we think this must be because the food is ready and taken down by dumb waiter. We think this is so because later, when leaving the second apartment, Caesar's door of his apartment is open and there is a big fireplace where the grilling is being done, right in the room in front of us. He wants us to come inside, but we are late for our next appointment in Orvieto, and must take a rain check. Ha!
In Orvieto, we take Suzanne to 2 apartments, one of which is so quirky that she cannot help but be entranced by it all. But it does not call out to her, so we pass on those as well.
Once at home, I fix plates of melon and proscuitto and we are all too tired for more. We go up to bed to rest for another busy day.
We wake up early, and are thankful that one appointment has been cancelled in Spoleto The house was sold two days before. So we have a little time to walk around the property, spray the roses and enjoy the early morning.
We leave on time for Spoleto and love the first apartment. It is difficult not to love this apartment, but it is more of a pied a terre, although the loggia on the top floor has an exquisite view of all of Spoleto and the surrounding countryside. We are taken to two more, which we pass on. We had not seen these two, and if we had previewed them, would not have taken Suzanne to see them.
We take a break for pranzo at Da Piero on the Flaminia out side Spoleto, but first take a brochure from Nino about the Spoleto music festival in July. We have never gone, and think it will be a good idea to take a day trip for a concert. We will call for tickets soon.
The pranzo is wonderful as ever but with so many cats, Sofi is unable to eat the little dish of food I prepared for her earlier. She stands over it, guarding it, and the brave cats try to nose in on it, creating a ruckus. So Roy puts her in the car, which is parked in a shady spot. Then we drive on to Montecastello Di Vibio.
Once there, we meet Aurora and also Massimo. They have arranged that we first see the town's jewel box of a theatre. This theatre is the smallest wooden constructed theatre in Italy if not the world, with only 99 seats. Massimo tells us that the largest is in Prato, with 3.500 seats or so. Massimo gives us the history, and Suzanne is able to capture it on film before her battery runs dead.
Roy take photos everywhere, so we can recapture them for her. We thought he would take us to see other places in the town, but there are none available with views. So we spend a lot of time at the one we saw before, including looking at its plans. Suzanne likes this place the best, and we will find out all the related costs for her.
It is time to take Suzanne back to Judith's apartment. Later there will be a birthday party for a neighbor, and we come home for a short rest. Tomorrow we will pick Suzanne up early and take her to Todi, before driving her to the train station for a visit with her relatives south of Rome.
We wake to fog that clears quickly, and by the time we are out of the house at 8AM the sun is shining. We pick up Suzanne at Judith's in Amelia, and after a quick café right outside the wall, we drive to Todi and park at Porta Romana. Walking up the steep hill, we meet Paola, who takes us to see several pieces of property.
Each one is wonderful, but none are perfect for Suzanne. She seems to feel best about the property in Montecastello Di Vibio, one that she could finish to her liking. We will research closing costs, and connect with the woman who owns the art school, to see how quiet it is. If it is too quiet, that will not work for Suzanne. But the town has some very special characteristics.
We drive back to Amelia for a wonderful pranzo at Il Ponte, and their fish is really superb. Starting with a cold fish appetizer, really an antipasto of three different fish, we wash it down with a cold crisp carafe of the house white, which is similar to an Orvieto Classico. Then I eat a homemade fettuccine with clams and prawns and mussels in a light red sauce with fresh presemelo. Suzanne eats grilled orata, a white flaky sweet fish, very simply prepared. And Roy eats fried calamari, which he always loves.
We pass on coffee, because we want to stop at the archeological dig where Tiziano is digging with a woman who Suzanne and Judith met at a party last night in Amelia. Here we encounter the whole group, after finishing their pranzo. The owner of the property intended to build a house here, but some ancient objects were discovered, halting the construction and giving Tiziano and his friends some work.
Here is Tiziano, in the center with the brush, and his colleagues
At home, we are so tired. We rest for a while, and then there is plenty of gardening to do.
Giuseppa comes by, as we asked her to. She comes in with a pepperoncini plant, one that will blossom in many colors. We will plant it next to the pepperoni. Roy goes on an errand and I walk her around the property, after first giving her a Black French Tula pomodori plant. I tell her to keep some seeds and to plant them next year. I hope that none of these plants have terminator seeds, but we will see. I have not heard back from Marilyn Smith if they are....
Roy set his alarm for 6AM because Mario is coming to top the trees on the front path. I lollygag around until Mario actually arrives around 7AM. Roy brings his new ladder down to the path, but the trees on the bank are precarious because the bank just falls away where they were planted, so instead Roy uses his long red pole saw and fastens the hook end around each trunk and pulls it forward. Then Mario uses his hand-saw to cut the branches. They make a great team.
Sofi stands nearby, loving all the activity. The men walk down to the street and that is where the new ladder performs brilliantly. Mario is able to get way up into the trees from below to cut. When they are through and have dragged all the branches away, the result is wonderful. The trees on the path are still full and lush, but now they do not overhang the street. They also are much shorter, and we have a clear view of the inner Tiber Valley now.
The trees will still have to be taken out and the bank repaired, but this is a controversy between the Commune and the Universita Agraria that will take some time to resolve. We think we have eased some of the trauma by shortening the trees, but in the wind and in the rain there will still be danger of the bank falling more.
Sofi helps me spray and prune the roses on the front path, and it is still early. So we leave for a jaunt to Pittigliano in southern Tuscany to replace the hand painted "Sofia" bowl that I dropped the other evening when feeding Sofi. While I stood at the counter and looked down, I felt the bowl just fly out of my hand and crash on the terrazzo floor, as though it was snatched out of my hand by some invisible force.
We are able to find the ceramics shop after a long ride around Lake Bolsena. This is a wonderful time of year to go, before it is mobbed by tourists and vacationers. The weather is in the mid-20's, so it is not as hot as last year.
After leaving Pittigliano, we take a short walk through the main part of Sovano and then drive to Marta, where we have pranzo at a restaurant overlooking the lake. We drive home on that same road, which shows us some private-looking stretches of beach, to return to. And then the road leads us up to Montefiascone and down to Viterbo and home on the Superstrada. Once in Montefiascone, the clouds darken and a heavy summer storm is upon us.
It did not rain at all last summer, but this summer we think we will have some strange weather. The roses do not like it, and although I sprayed the roses this morning, by the time we are home and the rain stops, the bugs return with a vengeance and I go out to spray after a couple of hours have gone by for the plants to dry off some. In the morning I will spray some more.
While I write this, Sofi lies almost upside down on one of her dog beds. This one is currently next to my side of the bed. She moves it depending on her mood. And now, her little head hangs over the side and one side of her head lies on the cold marble floor. She is one very funny dog, growing sweeter by the minute.
Earlier we took a walk to take a bag of garbage down the street, and she and Roy did their running game on the way back, racing ahead and then stopping, and Sofi chasing back to me and then running back to Roy. When she runs her tiny back paws seem to fly through the air, but don't seem to move independently, instead they seem to propel her long body forward like a slingshot.
The sun comes up at five am, and we're awake, listening to the farmers who seem to rise while it is still dark. They are the smart ones. By the time it is too hot to work outside, they have completed a day's work and are able to have a dolce fa niente (nap, literally sweet nothing) all afternoon dopo pranzo. But now a weed-wacker is howling, the tractors are wobbling over rocks and mowing down everything in their paths, and the birds are singing as loudly as they are able to guard their turfs. All in all, it is a good reason to stay in bed in that kind of semi-awakeness where fantasies blossom without interruption.
At around 7AM I get up, and an hour or so later the phone rings while I am checking emails. It is Pat Ryerson, telling us that she and Dick arrived yesterday. Although they will be in Orvieto later at the bank this morning, they will be unable to see us today. We will surely find a way to see them before they leave at the end of the month.
Right after a small breakfast, I ask Roy to dig up potatoes for a potato salad at pranzo. Roy loves potato salad, and it is a way to get him to have a picnic. I know it sounds strange, but if Roy has potato salad, he is willing to take food and a blanket and go sit somewhere for pranzo one day.
I think I'd like to go to Lake Bolsena on one of the deserted stretches of black sand in a town called Marta. I have also seen picnic benches nearby, so perhaps we can do that one week-day soon. I love the sound of the water lapping at the shore, especially if there is no one around. On weekends the beach is a place to stay away from. The Italians adore beaches, and getting tans, and are seen wall-to-wall on any beach with even a tiny stretch of sand.
Just after 9AM, Italo's truck sings its way up the hill, and we all go to see him. First we encounter the flower truck, but its offerings are true cemetery fare...little mums, babies breath sprayed in bright colors, dahlias. I am hoping for white lysanthus, but he has none, so we walk along to the corner and there is Italo's truck, parked in the shade.
Italo is a tall, kindly man with very curly hair framing his face like a halo, bright blue eyes, and he greets Sofi immediately. First in line is Adriana, and she buys a kind of Halibut and pays, before realizing that Italo also has gallinella. Gallinella is a smaller and more delicate fish than the Halibut, and she is sorry, but she has already paid.
We all have an Italian conversation lesson, but they don't seem to be able to explain the difference between a gallina (hen) and a gallinella (little fish), except to say that they pick with their mouths. We will tell you later what we think of this fish...and of course we also pick up a little piece for Sofi.
Back on the path in front of our house, which looks luscious now that the trees beyond our front gate are shorter, Adriana walks by below us and sees us tending one of the roses. She comes up to talk. She tells us her name, and that she is a cousin of Norena. Her last name is also Natale, and she tells us how mean her aunt was after her uncle, Celestino, died.
Evidently a pot fell down from the terrace one day and she would not let anyone come up to the property. Or that's what I think she said. But I know that there was a school in our house in the room that is now the living room while the woman was still alive. So there must be much more to the story. And no, she does not have any photographs of the house.
Once upstairs, Felice greets us, and we can see that he is very warm. We agree that it is "umido", and he tells us that it might rain tonight. He has come to check on the pomodori, and two are morto. I think we have had too much rain and the roots are still delicate. So he tells us that when we plant tonight that we should make a kind of support around the tomatoes with little stones, to keep it still while its roots are growing.
We can do that. We have ten or more plants that we are tending that have not been planted. I want to plant another Green Zebra and possibly another Gold Medal. I will have to check how many of each plant we have in the ground. Roy walks inside and comes out chomping on a just-cooked little potato from the garden. Delicious.
Before Felice leaves, I ask him jokingly why there has been so much rain. He tells us that it is because this year we had a February 29th, and every fourth year this happens. He tells us it is every fifth year, but we told him before that leap year comes every fourth year. No matter. So remember this, wherever you are, if you are having strange weather...Felice knows.
Roy leaves for Viterbo, to meet with the installer who will put in the additional part to our satellite to get a type of ADSL internet service. It is a quasi system, and we will still have to pay for outgoing calls to connect, but the service incoming will be by ADSL satellite, I believe.
He will also pick up a pump and copper sulfate, that I now realize is a necessity for the pomodori. While he is gone, Sofi and I walk around and check on the roses to see if they need spraying right away. We walk up to where the potatoes are growing, and the peach tree (pesco), is amazingly growing healthy leaves. I don't see any fruit, but at least it is looking healthy.
We have our first photos from Shutterfly, and if you wish to see them, here's the place to see them on the internet: http://www.share.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=EeoN2zdu2bO5q We will have a special place on the photos album page of our site for the girls soon, but so far are unable to download from Shutterfly.
Wind picks up in the afternoon, and we replant two pomodori and do a lot of weeding in the tomato field. Roy will also build up each plant in mounds of earth, upon instructions from our insegnante, Felice. He is a great teacher, and of course we must do what he tells us to.
Last evening, Felice came by and instructed Roy on the use of copper sulfate. What Roy purchased came out in chunks, and Felice told him to mix it with water and also with cement, so that it will stick on the leaves of the plants. Huh? Soon, Roy will go to Bruno's in Attigliano where we buy some of our orto products, and also to the place in Giove, to see if there is a more sensible way to do this. Cement dust on the plants? I can't imagine it.
Then Felice walks slowly down to the pomodori orto and weeds until he is ready to drop. I have been taking buckets of rocks out of the area and dumping them behind the house. Remember that we have that huge hole behind the house where the original "septic" hole was, and it needs to be filled in. So the more rocks the better.
I try to get Felice to stop working, but he seems to be enjoying himself. Before he leaves, he goes up to the row of lavender in front of the oval boxwood, and ties three of the long "spaghetti" up like a pony-tail, so that he can weed around the plants. I try to show him a pony-tail by putting my hair up in the back, and Roy tells him, "coda di cavallo". He finally gets it and thinks it is pretty funny. He tells us he will return tomorrow evening to finish weeding the lavender.
Yesterday in Pittigliano, I bought some cord to use to hang a cross around my neck that we purchased at a medieval festa in Orte years ago. We found out that the cord is called coda di topo (mouse's tail) and it cost all of about 30 cents.
It did not rain last night. Instead, the air was fragrant and cool. When we walked down to take the garbage, the whole street smelled of night blooming jasmine, and this is the smell that reminds me of Mugnano; the same smell that made me fall head over heels in love with this village on the trips we took here before 2002.
This morning, Roy and I leave Sofi at home and drive to the palazzo in Bomarzo, to cheer on Tiziano, who is to give an important speech about the ancient tiles he found in Mugnano. On the way, we bring Duccio and Giovanna's picture of them on our Castellucio trip, and they are also going to the talk in the palazzo. We drop off the photo and tell Duccio that we will meet them there.
The palazzo is alive with people milling about, and although Tiziano's talk is not too well attended, the Mayor introduces the speeches by saying that he wants everyone in Bomarzo to appreciate the wonderful treasures of the town, and will do all he can to introduce them. He is clearly angry with the small turnout, and we give him credit for continuing to hold these events, hoping to raise the consciousness of the locals.
Perhaps he thinks that they are really "Bo-martians", a nickname we learned from Duccio some time ago. Sometimes the local people of this town seem as though they are from another planet. We wonder if they appreciate the treasures right in their midst. We surely do.
Francesco, our local policeman who works out of the Commune next door, takes us to a room in back to show us plans to restore both the tower and the Orsini Palace in little Mugnano. There is no money for either, but the plans are grand. In fact, the tower restoration includes a circular staircase going all the way up to the top of the tower with a telescope on top. We learn later that the mayor wants Tiziano's little museum to be housed there with his finds from the countryside. Our little Mugnano. Imagine!
This weekend is the Feast of San Anselmo in Bomarzo. San Anselmo is the patron saint of Bomarzo. And tomorrow Roy and the other members of the Mugnano Confraternity will march in a procession from the new church in Bomarzo to the Duomo. We will not go to church in Mugnano. Instead, we will take part in the procession and will go to mass in the Duomo. I will be sure to take photos.
Tiziano is wonderful, and the pieces he has found are extraordinary. Imagine, kilns making cotto (clay tiles) dating back several hundred years before Christ. And he has the knowledge and specimens to show us to prove it, right in the countryside around our own tiny village. These are the pieces to be shown in the tower as a mini-museum when it is restored.
We leave right after his talk and drive to Viterbo to buy a few plants. We wind up at Michellini, because they always have the best quality plants. We leave with a rose, called Douceur Normande, two nepeta (also called catmint, a lovely long stemmed lavender flower), one small blue hydrangea for the loggia and one tall night blooming jasmine, also called Rhincospernum.
The rose will live in the ornate clay pot in the corner grotto of the lavender garden. An old broken-down ladder will lean against it, and the jasmine will grow up through it, planted in the earth underneath. The jasmine will grow up over the old clay tiles on the roof of the little grotto. Once at home everything looks great.
The two nepeta are saved for a project I convince Roy to start...the building of a stone wall in front of the left tufa cave made with discarded old tufa blocks.
He starts at around 6PM and in about an hour is finished. It is a remarkable undertaking, without any mortar, the tufa measured and placed just so. When he is finished, I ask him to set the two nepeta pots in special places among the stones.
Here it is. What do you think?
While we are building the wall, Felice comes up the stairs. He tells Roy he has done a fine job with the stones, but that they might fall down in the winter, probably in a stiff wind. If we like the wall, later in the year we will rebuild it with iron support rods. For now, it is fine.
Felice leaves us to go to the lavender field to weed with his old hoe. He works so hard, and does not finish. But he seems to enjoy the activity. Everything looks so wonderful when he is through. So he will return in a day or two to finish. And while he is working, he ties up the lavender plants with long grass, one by one, as though each plant is a washer-woman, tying up her hair under a bandanna while she cleans.
After a tiny cena of melon and prosciutto, we take the garbage down the street. This is where we see most of our neighbors, who are out standing around and enjoying the cool night air.
Bastia and Ennio are there, along with the neighbors living in the strip of little tufa houses built stone by stone near us on the other side of the street. Alberto Cozzi and his wife stop on their way up to the free dinner in Bomarzo, and ask us to come along, but we are tired. How nice of them to ask!
Instead we come home, take another look at our "new" tufa wall, and watch the sun go down on another beautiful day in Mugnano.
Last night, Bomarzo's fireworks exploded in the night sky for twenty minutes or so after 10PM, in honor of Saint Anselmo, Bomarzo's patron saint. Sofi and I were asleep, with Roy sitting downstairs watching a movie. For the first time, Sofi did not murmur, or cry out at the sound of the fireworks. And they were LOUD!
Roy climbed the stairs to see if I was awake, and I lay there in bed and watched the scene from my pillow, with Bomarzo right in my view. How many times have I seen fireworks and wished I could watch them in bed, half asleep?
Saint Anselmo is the patron saint of Bomarzo, but he is also the Christopher Diner family's hero. For as long as I can remember, anyone in the family having a posed picture taken of them raises their right hand, as if to take the pledge of allegiance. That is just what Saint Anselmo did with his famous statue at the foot of the Orsini Palazzo that also acts as the Bomarzo Town Hall, or Commune.
This morning, Roy is dressed in his Confraternity costume and he and six of his "brothers" march in a procession from Christo Risorto to the Duomo in Bomarzo, following the Confraternity of Bomarzo. This is the fourth occasion this year for Roy to dress in his Confraternity robes, and when Roy encounters Mauro at Christo Risorto before the start of the procession, Mauro affirms that Roy is "Sempre presente" (always present), with a smile and nod of his head. I walk ahead with our camera, and am invited up to Duccio and Giovanna's house to watch from their balcony, a truly great vantage point to shoot the procession on its way up to the Duomo.
When I arrive at the Duomo, it is standing room only. But then I see Tiziano's mother, Rosita, in the last row and somehow am invited to sit with her and another woman who is a friend of hers. I sit in the middle of the row, and at the end of the row on the center aisle is a man who must weight 400 pounds. The skin under his eyes is so thick that his eyes look Asian. I am hoping that the bench is nailed down, or Rosita and I will be flipped over onto the right section of the church if the bench does not hold.
It is very humid today, but both Rosita and her friend use their programs to fan themselves, and I in the middle get all of the circulating air. I even remember some of the prayers that are recited at each mass, and am feeling right at home.
After mass, the Maresciallo seems to ignore me. I think he was embarrassed when I told him to say "hello" instead of "good-BYE" when greeting us. But otherwise everyone is very friendly. I am able to take many pictures, and here is one from Duccio and Giovanna's balcony of the procession.
The air is cloudy and a wind picks up, blowing many of the clouds into Umbria, which is fine with us. I rake the gravel on the front terrace, but that is a never-ending job to keep it totally clean. The roses are starting to come back, and Roy's new wall looks as though it has always been there.
Later in the evening, we speak with Michelle Berry, who will spend much of September with us, and her health is much improved. We look forward to having her spend a relaxing time here. Then we call Terence and Angie, for an excellent report on Angie and the girls. Everyone seems to be settling into a routine, and Angie's mother, Milicia, is doing a remarkable job. Bravo, Melissa! Nick is expected to join them for the July 4th holiday, and that should be a lot of fun for them.
We take our nightly walk with Sofi, and encounter Augusto and Vincenza. They ask us if we speak to each other in Italian at home. We do not, except to try out a word or two, or a phrase, but they are right. We will try to do this on a more regular basis.
We hear that they looked at our house before we bought it, and remembered that there were humidity problems. So we told them what we did to resolve that. We are nearing our second summer since the sewer was installed, and that seems to have solved those problems. Now that the catena and tirante have also been installed on the outside and the inside of the house on the second floor, the cracking seems to be settling. So this old house is slowly being restored to the state it needs to be. Spediamo.
The wind stops, and an owl hoots outside our window. It is time to say good night.
Luigina finally gets her pomodoro plant, a Juane Flame, and I take her through the gardens. She surely has the most beautiful flowers in all of Mugnano, and has a magic touch with them, for they bloom in even stormy weather. We clearly are in need of advice, for the polka and seafoam roses are behaving and happy, but every other rose does not want to flower.
We have fed them, watered them, sprayed them with denatured alcohol and soapy water to get rid of the tiny bugs that try to feast on new growth, meticulously taken off leaf-by-leaf that shows any disease, but somehow they all act as though they are waiting for some "cue". As far as I am concerned, the "cue" needs to happen within a week, for we will have fifty or more here for our festa. And if they don't bloom now, when? I have faith, and am giving them extra doses of concime, spediamo.
Today is cool and cloudy. The wind picks up, and it is a good day for the young people of the Church in Bomarzo to take their walk from Bomarzo to Mugnano. We think they will arrive at nine, so walk up to the square, but no one is about. We're told to expect them around eleven, so walk home and do some gardening.
Around eleven, we hear chattering in the hills, and like a swarm of locusts they arrive all at once, led by the amazing Don Luca. This is a priest like no other we have ever met. He is the lone adult, and leads 115 ragazzi up the hill in front of our house to the square.
These children have been promised pizza and coke and sweets and when they pass our house can almost smell the pizza, they are so close. There are three groups of them, separated by the colors of their t-shirts; one group in red, one in bright yellow and one in green. After they pass our house, Don Luca speaks to them as a group, telling them that they will go up to the village square and will be allowed to get their food in groups.
These children are amazingly well behaved. We sense they adore him, and who would not adore him? He knows how to command respect with a smile and gives them respect in return. He is dressed in a gray polo shirt, black warm-up pants and grey athletic shoes, and has a simple bamboo pole as a walking stick. Oh yes, he wears a black baseball cap, turned backwards, on his head. This is one cool dude. And have I ever said how kind he is?
We speak about him, and what an interesting parish he must have. Four churches, at least two schools, two towns...a population of fifteen hundred or so. Just enough to have a lot of variety but not too much so that he will have to have more full time priests at hand. Whenever he needs a second priest, he has Don Mauro and Don Cirio nearby to step in.
Our priest has the most amazing organizational skills. Roy tells me that when the two Confraternities lined up for the procession yesterday, that he knew exactly who would stand where, in which order, and orchestrated the participants in a clear but not overbearing way. We are so thankful that he is here with us, and look forward to getting to know him better as our Italian improves.
Once up in the piazza, long tables are set up with all kinds of food from panini to pizza to pies and cakes and cookies and water and cokes and other soft drinks. Roy takes a panini, but Sofi and I stand back, just enjoying the cacophony of all the voices. After greeting some neighbors, we walk home to get back to the garden.
Later in the afternoon, we leave to drop off photos at Tiziano's job site, and then drive to Terni to attend Tiziana's concert in Piazza Europa. This concert is in honor of the anniversary of the Guardia di Finanza, who Roy likes to describe as the most hated and feared branch of the Italian government.
The concert is one we have heard before, movie songs and instrumentals, mostly by Morricone, conducted by Francesco Falcioni. The one I like the best is the selection from The Mission, with a sole bleating clarinet that makes me want to stand on tiptoe when the soloist hits his high notes. I love the soundtrack.
Many people are quite dressed up for this concert, and because there is a large fountain in the middle of Piazza Europa, the conductor is placed between two banks of performers and musicians. From the back, he seems to conduct a stone wall, but somehow it seems to work.
But this evening is rather strange. We expect to see many men in uniform, but see many men in historic Guardia di Finanza uniforms, some with Tirolean-type hats with yellow feathers sticking up from the brim. One man wears a strange green uniform with a hat that looks like a top-hat in patent leather. These Italians are really something. I am often amazed at very virile looking men dressed in ridiculous costumes, acting as though they wear these garments every day.
When the intermission starts, about a hundred Guardia di Finanza soldiers march into the square, their pants tucked into their boots. No one is out of step, but the sound reminds me of old German movies with goose-stepping precision drills. I don't know what to expect. Some kind of maneuver takes place, some of the retired Guardia Di Finanza men parade along behind, and then the man who is the capo makes himself known.
His head is shaved. His blue eyes stand out because of a blue sash that he wears across his chest, strangely tucked in under one of the lapels of his jacket. On the side of his head is a microphone, worn Madonna-style, reaching out from behind one ear. He does a goose-step, smiles broadly in an "aren't I handsome?" smile, and walks around the perimeter of the center of the piazza, saluting everyone in his wake. He even salutes the audience, which is so funny that I can't really believe he is doing this. Peter Sellers must have come back to life and moved to Terni...
I can't really tell you more, because, well, I don't want to mess with the Guardia di Finanza. Let's just say that I am not the only person with the same reaction to the boss.
Sofi behaves herself. Before the concert starts, I tell her, "Silenzio!" and a very nice woman turns around and thanks me for telling her grandsons to be quiet. I think that is very funny, and introduce her to Sofi, and she laughs. We must attract twins these days, for the two young men to her right are twin brothers, around the age of ten. For most of the concert, Sofi sleeps in my lap, not an easy feat because my feet don't quite touch the ground.
We drive home to a beautiful night sky on this, the first day of summer . . . the longest day and the shortest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere . . . the summer solstice. Technically, the solstice began last night at 8:57 p.m. EDT.
Here's some trivia regarding the solstice:
The word "solstice" is of Latin origin and means "sun stands still." That's because the sun appears to stand still in the sky for several days before and after each solstice; its elevation at noon doesn't seem to change.
In some traditions, the night of the summer solstice (that would be last night) is known as "midsummer night," when, it is said, elves and fairies come out in great numbers. And you know what kind of mischief they can get into if you've read Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
No wonder tonight is the capo's night...It makes perfect sense...
"Why," you might ask, "is the first day of summer called 'midsummer'"? It's because on the ancient calendar, the day we call "the first day of summer" was right in the middle of summer -- the season that surrounded the longest day.
This morning is cool again, and it is time for a violin lesson. I have not practiced much this week, and apologise to Tiziana. By the time my lesson is through, I am so jazzed about playing that I want to go home and play some more. It is taking me SO LONG to be able to play, but what fun I will have when I can actually play something well!
We drive to Viterbo to do some errands, and don't have much luck trying to find out more about the satellite ADSL system we think we have subscribed to. We also don't have luck at ENEL, when we drive to their local headquarters to see if we can get an electrical pole across the street buried underground, either. We think we can return tomorrow and speak with someone in person then.
Most of the afternoon is spent in the garden. Roy wants to build a planting area near his new wall, and because it is shady most of the day would love to plant hydrangeas there. To do that, we will take out a Glorie di Dijon, a rose that is full of black spot and has never had a healthy day in its life for the several years we have owned it. We even moved it to a place where it would get some shade.
I am not sure that I like what Roy has done with tufa blocks near the area where he built the wonderful old tufa wall. It seems too modern next to the randomly thrown tufa bricks and beautifully crafted wall. But once he has finished, we hope to artfully install plants that will enhance the total view of the area. I am hopeful.
Tonight we drive up to Bellavista, the open air café next to the Giove castle, which has a view of lower Umbria and upper Lazio. We learned from Augusta and Vincenza the other night that we live in Alto Lazio, not upper Lazio. Excuse me! We meet Kaas and Catherine there, and while we wait for them Roy calls Prue to invite her up for a drink. She comes along and we ask her about her brother, Madison, who is working in Saudi Arabia. Our prayers are with him. We have no idea if he will stay there or leave. Prue admits he is nervous.
We give Catherine two heirloom tomato plants, a Prudens Purple and also a Black French Tula. We are sure that these plants will thrive with Catherine's loving care. She also brings us one corn plant (we gave her the seeds last year, a present from cousin Cherie) and a sedano plant, remembering how much we loved last year's sedano (celery).
We come home to a little melon and proscuitto and a beautiful starry night. It is good sleeping weather these nights, and we can't wait to find out...
Yesterday, while on our errands in Viterbo, we replaced two worn-out soft toys for Sofi. She does not chew on shoes or furniture, but loves to chew on the toys we give her. We also think she is ready for a new bone, for she loves the little round osso bucco bones we buy for her in the winter time. So we buy our food today at a wonderful gastronomia that also sells meat. We buy Sofi a piece of osso bucco and tell the woman behind the counter that it is for our little dog because she likes the bone. The woman replies, "sono contenta?" and we agree.
Later in the evening, after I have boiled the meat, I give her the cut up meat and the marrow from the center of the bone. She is in heaven. Then after dinner, she gets the bone. It is like a birthday today for this sweet little dog, who is so easy to get along with.
During the day today, she is content to chew on her new bone, but seems just as happy to be with us in the car when we drive to Amelia to get more parts for the third phase of the irrigation project that Roy and Darcie will work on on Thursday. She loves to put her little head out the window, and I can watch her through the side mirror as the wind flattens her beard against her little shout.
We find a plumbago plant to plant by the cypress trees on the front terrace, but nothing for the new planter area. It is growing on me. Now I want to find white hydrangeas and another nepeta as well as a leafy evergreen or two to finish off the planting area.
At home, Giordano comes by to look at our computer and also call the telephone company to ask some technical questions about the ADSL line for us. After about an hour of getting bounced back and forth, Giordano finally talks with a bona fide technician, who tells him that they do not support the Macintosh platform. We also have a PC, but don't want to change our internet computer from the Mac. So we cancel the ADSL service. The cost winds up not saving us much money. So we will keep trying for other options.
While Giordano is on the phone, I see Sofi lying on the couch. She is so sweet, just laying there, so I go over to her to give her a hug. How cute. She has the new osso bucco bone in her mouth and she seems so quiet, not moving the bone. But wait. The bone is stuck around the bottom part of her narrow little snout. She has pushed it back over her two large canines, and the size of the bone is like a tourniquet. She cannot get it over her two large canines or out of her mouth! In fact, she cannot move it at all.
Roy and I are clearly worried. I tell Roy we must drive right away to the vet in Terni, thinking it will take more than a half hour to get there and then we will probably have to wait another hour to be helped.
But Giordano is mellow. He tries to open Sofi's mouth, but Sofi won't budge, even for me. She does want to stay in my arms, though. So Giordano asks Roy if he has a small hacksaw. Roy brings it in and takes it off its handles. He also brings in electrical wire cutters.
Then Giordano starts to saw away at one side of the bone. Sofi is lying on the kitchen table, her head on a pillow. I am still holding her, and Roy is trying to pry her mouth open. She salivates, and clearly wants us to help her. She lies there quietly, and it is all I can do to speak calmly to her. Roy and I are a wreck.
Giordano deftly saws away, keeping one of his fingers next to her mouth to make sure he does not cut her while he saws away. When he files halfway through the bone, he stops and takes the wire cutters. Then he reaches in and snaps the bone open. With just a little more sawing on the other side of her snout, he is able to snap the whole bone off.
Sofi gets up, wags her tail, and takes one of the pieces of the bone over to her little rug in front of the fireplace, and takes over chewing where she left off.
We are drained and completely at Giordano's mercy. Luckily he is a really good man and he and Roy speak more about the computer while Sofi and I go out into the pomodori garden to rake some stones. I do believe that the soil there is so rocky that I could rake it for years and still have rocky soil. So I stop after three bucketfuls and drop them into the hole at the back of the house that is almost full. But I am still a little shaky. Sofi is doing just fine.
It is time to do some watering, so while I deadhead some roses on the front path, Roy waters, and then we come in to wind down. We should go to bed early, because tomorrow Roy and Darcie will have a busy day in the garden. We are clearly exhausted, and can't stop looking over at little Sofi, so thankful that this was just a small trauma.
The month is just flying by. Darcie arrives early for the second of two-days of gardening given to us in exchange for two sinks that we gave them. We are already out in the garden working when she arrives. Darcie and Roy work together on putting in a new irrigation system for the fiorieras and also for the roses and osmanthus on the outside wall.
While they are in the midst of that, Roy continues but Darcie gets up on the new ladder to see if she can cut some of the dead weeds on the huge tufa rock behind our house. She does a masterful job. It is delicate work, because pulling the dead weeds will bring some of the tufa with it, so she cuts instead, and moves the dead growth forward and down, where Roy can catch it and move it away. Roy tells me later that he did not hold the bottom of the ladder for her because he did not want to be accused of looking up her dress. Ba DUM bum.
Later, she takes the ladder up into two of the nespola trees and cleans them out of dead leaves and dead flowers. Moving right along, she digs into the planter near the cypress trees on the front terrace, and tries to remove old ivy and roots. Some of the ivy's roots are dead, thanks to a previous soaking with Roundup, but the Philadelphus, which is now mostly a bunch of stumps surrounded by ivy, won't give up easily.
She digs down and cuts roots, but the root ball is very tight against the wall and its roots seem to be very deep. So we abandon that project for the next few weeks and instead have her plant the new plumbago. That way, plumbago will grow on both sides of the cypress trees. Eventually, we will cut out the philadelphus and replace it with a newer plant of the same type.
We stop for pranzo and I use some of the wonderful lettuce she brought. Her lettuce is about the most beautiful I have ever seen. Ours look so pitiful next to them. I cut rugghetta from the garden and make a huge salad with roast chicken, rugghetta, lettuce, cucumber, apples, walnuts and a mustard vinaigrette. In the middle of the big ceramic platter is a mound of my homemade potato salad.
Earlier I made a loaf of rosemary bread and a chocolate cake, so there is plenty to eat. We eat in the kitchen, where it is cool, with the shutters partly closed, and in the whisper-like light we are all able to cool off.
After pranzo Roy works on the irrigation system again, and Darcie finishes up with some weeding. We tell her to stop for the day, but she tells us she loves weeding, so who are we to tell her to stop?
We are thrilled that she wanted to come, and are also thrilled that we were able to give Darcie and Steve two sinks as a trade. They are both wonderful workers, and seem to like working in the garden as well. We say goodbye, promising to invite them by when the heirloom tomatoes are ready to eat later in the summer.
The front terrace is shady now that the sun is lower in the sky, and I work with Roy a little on re-cutting the plastic pipe for the irrigation system. He is really wonderful about finishing a project, and I can tell he is really hot. He stops often to cool off, but before he finishes tells me he must go to Giove to get more connectors.
Sofi and I stay at home and she sleeps while I practice a few new pieces on the violin. I can feel my strokes getting stronger and more confident, but if I play for more than about twenty minutes my arm starts to slide and the notes are not as clear. So I am back to the old routine of keeping the violin in the bedroom and keeping it on the bed, so that I take two or three stabs at practicing during each day. Sofi always joins me and sleeps on the chair until I close the case and pick her up to go downstairs. Today I practice for almost an hour, and forget to stretch my arms when I put down the violin. Later I will pay.
Late yesterday there was a phone call from a woman who wanted to know if she could come to the lunch. I could not figure out if she was from the village or not, and stumbled around in Italian until I asked her if she spoke English." Yes, she said, I am French!"
I asked her if she is a friend of Mary Jane's. No, but she knows Mary Jane. She is a friend of Donatella, Duccio's sister, and lives in La Quercia, near Viterbo. Yes, I would be delighted to meet her. The list grows and shrinks like an accordion. Every time it shrinks Roy tells me, "That's one less chair we'll need." But when we hear that friends will come, no matter the number, we are sure we will find a way for everyone to have a place to sit.
I know it is Friday, but I ask Roy to take me to Danieli to get my hair done. We arrive early enough that I am his first client. Just after ten I am finished. He has done another wonderful job, and again the price is one third of what I paid in Mill Valley, CA.
We remember that we are on a quest for folding chairs for one week from tomorrow, and are having a difficult time tracking any down. We make calls, and Roy comes up with a man in Viterbo, who agrees to see us on Monday afternoon. We will also need another table, but finding a folding table is not easy. We go to Orsolini in Soriano to price wood to make one ourselves, but it will cost us €150 just for three planks of wood...That is an option we won't take.
We drive to Amelia to pick up Tiziano at his archeological dig to take him for his birthday pranzo. We always have a lot of fun with Tiziano. Although we all agreed that we should get together once a week so that he could practice his English and we could practice our Italian, we have so much fun that the time just flies by. We take him today to our favorite local restaurant, NonnaPapa, on the road to Orte, to celebrate his birthday.
The scene is wonderful. It is on the edge of a campo sportivo, or fishing pond. The menu is very courageous, to use Tiziano's description, including unusual pasta dishes and game such as ostrich and kangaroo, in addition to a broad selection of regular meats and fish. We love Fidelia, the chef and owner, and she loves Sofi. Tiziano and I order their saccottini, tiny pasta sacks filled with pears and walnuts, in a parmesan and cream sauce. Roy cannot resist calamari friti. When it is on a menu, his eyes dart right to it. So of course he has it today.
Sofi is taken off-leash and has the run of the restaurant with Filippo, Fidelia's Jack Russell, terrier, and Rose, a black lab. This dog is so smart that she can open the big door with her nose and her paw when she wants to go outside. While inside, the dogs behave. Sofi stays near me for most of the time because she wants to have some of my grilled tuna.
After we take Tiziano back to his "dig" we drive home to collect our papers and leave for Bomarzo for our appointment with Roberto Pangrazi, the town Geometra, or engineer. First, we give him a photo of himself leading the Polymartium Band, playing the clarinet, followed by the whole procession walking to the Duomo on Sunday for the feast of San Anselmo, Bomarzo's patron saint. He shows us that next to him in the photograph is his fifteen year old son, who also plays the clarinet. We think his daughter is going to play soon as well. He is such a quiet man, but shows obvious delight when we speak of music or of his children.
We are there for three things. First, we don't know how much ICI, or property tax, we owe. We pay this tax two times a year. Since the property is in both our names, I get a bill for half and Roy gets a bill for half. But the bill is always blank, and it is up to us to figure out how much to pay. This June, we each pay €3,28. We ask him to calculate it again, but it is the same as last year. We will happily pay this tax at the post office on Monday, where most of the general utility bills are paid.
Second, we ask him about the plans for our next project, and they will not be ready until Tuesday. So we will return to meet with him then. The third subject is a great deal more difficult. It has to do with the path in front of our house.
We tell him that we met with Antonio Monchini, the president of the Universita Agraria, and that Antonio suggested that we get a denuncia. That way, either the Universita or the Commune will have to repair the path, and the ripa, or the hill below the path, and above the street. We ask him who writes the denuncia, and he tells us it is the Carabinieri.
We tell him that if the Carabinieri write a denuncia, that Stefano Bonori, the sindaco, will be very angry. Roberto agrees. We then ask him what we can do, because the work must be done. He agrees to go to talk with Stefano tomorrow himself, and he will let us know what Stefano thinks on Tuesday.
We think that the work should be done by the Commune, possibly with the help of the Universita, in August when the big paving job is being done in the village plaza. Somehow money has been obtained from the state to repave the whole piazza with old stones, similar to the wonderful job done in Bomarzo a few years ago.
Today at pranzo, Tiziano agreed with the idea of the timing of the job, suggesting that the Commune could build three terraces, with a short tufa wall on the first terrace, and then steps back to two more terraces. They could plant cypress trees on the earth. I tell Tiziano that I like his idea, and that perhaps people will think it is the way to the cemetery...We all have a laugh.
We are returning from another errand and see Stefano, our muratore, stopped at the side of the narrow main street in Bomarzo. We pull in front of him, and Roy gets out to ask him if he can come by to adhere the row of new tiles above the shower in the bathroom. He agrees and tells us he will come by on Monday or Tuesday evening.
In the meantime, while my window is open and Sofi is hanging her head out the window, a man comes over to me and says to me in English, pointing to Stefano, "That man is a lawyer."
I am somewhat confused, and tell him that Stefano is the best. I then realize that he meant that Stefano is a "liar". Evidently he wanted to meet us, saw the wonderful work that Stefano did for us on the front wall, and asked Stefano to introduce us. Stefano made him think that he understood English and would speak with us, but never did. This man's name sounds like Vito. He lives on the road going out of Bomarzo where Stefano and Luca have been for the last month putting in a cement pad and huge wall.
Vito tells me that his daughter, Gloria, owns the jewelry store and the gift store right on the little main street of Bomarzo. I tell him that we will go to meet her. Roy gets in the car, I introduce them, and then ask why he wanted to meet us. "Why not?" he responds, and we agree that he will come by for a visit one day.
Later, while in Sappori, the market in Attigliano, Roy speaks with a couple who are obviously American. They are from Ohio, and are living in one of the houses we have watched being built for the past two years on the road from Attigliano to Lugnano. We give them our card and invite them to call us to come for a visit.
It is like that with people who speak our language. Although we want to become a part of our village and learn the language as well as we know our own, we like to meet new friends and also to help those who are new to Italia, and to the area. That is how our business is starting to grow. But whether or not they become a client, we are happy to help them where we can.
Much later, after we have replanted two kinds of lettuce, canasta and sant'anna, weeded, fixed one of the irrigation pipes, clipped and deadheaded the roses and osmanthus on the side path and added more soil, we come in for prosciutto and melon and sliced peaches in red wine.
It is dark, but very warm, possibly the warmest day of the year so far, and we take Sofi for a walk to the garbage. Tonight the bus stop is full of people, and Sofi goes over to say hello and play with Bastia, but he has a little rubber chicken hanging out of his mouth and jealously does not want anyone to take it from him. So Sofi gets a snub. But different people call out to her and we let her off her lead. There is hardly a car passing by all the time we are on our walk.
We greet Vincenza and Giovanna, both here for their weekend visit, and then it is time to take Sofi home. Roy takes the lead and they run back, Sofi's little back legs flying in the air as though they are one...
We wake to photos of the twins from Angie and Terence on our email, and are so thrilled that we print them up for silver frames to be placed in the front hall. Whenever anyone steps one foot in the door, they will be greeted by the photos. We will start an album for the girls, and what fun it will be watching them grow...Roy thinks that Marissa will be the flute player, so that leaves Nicole to play the violin. One day, we hope to leave Uncle Harry's precious violin to someone of the next generation. But first, we need to encourage one of them to want to learn to play...
It is early, because Tiziano is due here at 8AM to start the scava work on our cave in the far property. Since Tiziano is an archaeologist, he is very interested in the cave, and the surrounding area. The subject of his master's thesis was the Etruscan clay furnaces of Mugnano, and he is a real expert on Mugnano archaeology. Before we set out, we have coffee and breakfast cake so that we are fortified. Actually, Roy and Tiziano will do all the work. I am the photographer and Sofi steps in to help here and there.
We spend about three hours at the cave, and Tiziano thinks it was a tomb, but that the tomb may have been robbed. The floor is definitely tufa that has been compressed, and there is a definite floor. The cave does not go back very far under the huge tufa stone. Tiziano thinks that the cave is very ancient, perhaps bronze or even iron age...and the black marks on the front ceiling of the cave indicate primitive excavation methods.
Here is a photo of Tiziano and Roy in front of the cave...
Tiziano leaves after spending time with us in the kitchen, and we show him our translation of Bella Ciao, the famous partisan song. He thinks that our translation is not correct, so helps us with the words in English. By next Saturday, I expect that I will be able to sing it with the women at thelavender festa. To see the words, click on the Trivia section of our web site.
Roy finally reaches the eye doctor by phone, and he agrees to see Roy on Monday at his office in Civita D'Agliano, the town near Diego's. I have been worried about his eye, for it has been red off and on for three weeks. In two different trips to Dottoressa, she has given him different medicine, but it has not corrected the situation. So he will go to this private doctor to see what causes the redness.
We take a quick trip to the vivaio in Sippiciano, and find two large white hydrangeas for the planting area near Roy's new tufa wall. They are big and full, but the flowers look tired from the heat. We are hoping that with some good doses of water and shade that they will recover. Spediamo! After a couple of hours and more water they still do not come back. We will give them until Monday and then return them. But since the young man did not give us a receipt, we do not know how much luck we will have.
We email Marilyn and Bob Smith every week at least with progress of our/their heirlooms, seeds bought at the same time from the same grower. Theirs are right out of Jack in the Beanstalk, they are so enormous and healthy, but that's just what I would imagine from Marilyn. She has massaged them, talked to them, and I just asked her in an email if she does not feel guilty eating them.
Today in the very hot weather a few of our baby pomodori plants drooped. But Felice tells us not to put a screen over them to shield them from the sun. "Dopo 21 Luglio, forse." (After July 21, perhaps). Whatever is there about that magic date? One month from the beginning of summer? I am a little suspicious, because he is the same person who told us that leap year takes place ever five years...but he is right on the mark with most things.
I think that farming, and growing crops, are almost a mystical practice. In addition to the sometime daily care and feeding comes a philosophical component. I think philosophers make good farmers. Or vice versa. So shrugging my shoulders when there is too much black spot on the roses (how much is too much black spot?), or a drooping tomato, or a wilting hydrangea, or a rose just won't bloom, helps me to carry on.
We ask advice, and then take the advice of those we trust. Some women in the town scoff at my formula of denatured alcohol and dish soap and water sprayed after each rain on the roses, but others thank me and try it themselves. Shelly told me last week to try to spray grappa. So THAT'S a good use of that firewater!
It is so hot today that I am hankering for A COLD BEER! We will drive to an Octoberfest pub in the next town tonight for some of Roy's Regensburg beer. They are having a beer festa, so although their food is just terrible, we like the people who own it and love the beer.
It is a few hours later, and we have just returned from Oktoberfest. Kenya is there. She is the wife of the owner and a journalist. I can't resist inviting her to the festa on Saturday. She will surely come and I look forward to introducing her to Elisabetta, who lived in San Paolo. Kenya and her husband will move to Rio this September with their children.
I like the lights and the setting for the beer festa very much. I like it because it is a festive atmosphere without being too crowded. Roy and I are able to sit at a table by ourselves for two hours, greeting friends and just enjoying each other's company for a little while. The waitress asks for Sofia by name, and we are sorry but she is at home. We miss her but like the freedom for a little while.
While we are sitting there, we notice that the tables we are sitting at are wooden folding tables....They are too narrow for our use, but by putting two side by side they will be perfect. So if we strike out with the rental people in Viterbo, we will contact them to see if we can borrow a couple for the day on Saturday. Somehow things drop in our laps when we least expect them. This visit tonight could be fortuitous.
At home, next week's festa seems to take on a life of its own. I hear from Mary Jane that the word is spreading about the festa, and Giada Ruspoli and Elisabetta will come. It is such a small world that these two women know each other. And the Contessa from La Quercia, a friend of Donatella Valore, also knows Mary Jane. So the group is growing and should be a lot of fun. I ask Mary Jane in an email: "Why is it that having a pranzo just for women is so liberating?"
I read last night's entry, and it is not that I feel a need to be liberated. I do miss my women friends in California and the exuberance of a group of women having a good time. In past years I felt some dread before this annual event on Saturday, but this year I look forward to it.
I can't seem to get up really early. I have never had so much beer. But I get up in time for mass, and we drive up because it is so hot and we want to leave right after mass to go to Vitorchiano to an antique mercato. We love these mercatos, and have never gone to the one here. Today we will see if it is worth keeping on our list.
We get out of the car and I see women peering out of their windows to see if the priest has arrived. They don't come to mass until the last moment. And I know why. The air is so still in this little church that the heat feels oppressive. Today, Don Bruno, the priest with one good eye, arrives in his Jeep Wrangler, and slides down out of the driver's side,
wearing jogging pants and a sport shirt. In another minute or two he will appear in an embroidered robe. I suppose there is no particular code of dress for priests under their vestments.
Marsiglia comes over to me before mass and whispers an apology for declining my invitation to Saturday's festa, something about her filio (son). I tell her "fa niente" (it is nothing), but I will miss her. Felice takes my hands in his when I greet him. These two people have really added a great deal to our lives here in Mugnano, and the more we get to know them the more we treasure their friendship.
Thehomily is more of a nightmare than usual, because Don Bruno speaks in two ranges. In one, he hollers so loud that his voice sounds like a bell pealing up in the belfry. And his speech is so rapid that he could give that man in the old Fedex commercial a run for his money. He speaks that rapidly.
But when he speaks softly, it is a lullaby. We understand very little of it, and because it is so stifling in the church it is difficult to concentrate. The homily is a long one, and we see the parishioners start to squirm after about ten minutes or so. There appears to be no end to his thoughts.
Marieadelaide is back, and she is so on the mark when it comes to starting the hymns, that she starts the hymn introducing the communion before Don Bruno is finished with his homily. She is not always in tune, but she is loud and clear and holds the notes, not letting us speed through the music. I thank her for that. It allows each of us to really enjoy the sweet hymns and pronounce the words, instead of slurring them all together in what I remember as customary in Catholic masses in the United States.
I note that on the back of the program is a mass listed for 7PM on Thursday in Mugnano.
There is no description, and after mass I ask Tiziano and then Elena and then the whole group assembled on the front steps what the mass is for. No one has any idea why. Tiziano tries to make something up, but we tell him that is not good enough, and then we ask his father, Enzo. Enzo replies with a smile, "Va BENE!" (That's good!)
Valerio then tells Roy that a few days ago he saw water squirting out of one of our rose planters on the front path. He first got a bath from it, then went up to it and cut and shortened the black tubing. We remember seeing the road wet, and could not figure out why. So we thank Valerio for his kindness and I ask him if it looked like the Fontana di Trevi. We find the silliest things funny, and everyone laughs.
It is c'e veddiamo for now, and we pick up Sofi and drive to Vitorchiano. The mercato is small, but a very good one. We find a chandelier for the living room at an incredibly low price, and a silver napkin ring with Marisa's name etched in it. Yes, our grand daughter's name has two "s's" in it, but we cannot resist having it, and when she gets older and comes to visit she will have her very own.
Now we need to find one for Nicole. We may have to see if any of our friends who go to French mercatos can look for one, for the derivation of the name is French, and Nicole is not a name common in Italy. The closest is the male derivative, Nicola, and that will never do.
Back at home, the new hydrangeas are wilting a little, but we have given them a lot of water and are hoping they will settle down. Nearby, I notice when I run my hands over the rose buds, that the spray is working, and any of the bugs appear to be morto. Upstairs on the balcony, the roses have a lot of buds. I am hoping the heat will slow their growth so that they will be at their peak on Saturday. Spediamo! I also see some small buds forming on the Paul Lede's.
The market in Il Pallone, near Vitorchiano is open on some Sundays, and we pick up a few big tomatoes for me to stuff with rice and cook and serve cold. I forgot what a wonderful dish that is, and will certainly add the recipe to the web site.
Pat Ryerson calls to say that they will leave in a few days for California, and we will not see them this trip. We will try to get together when they are here in September. Right now it looks as though all our friends and guests want to come in September, so it should be a month of fun and great activity. For now, we are concentrating on the festa on Saturday, then pranzo with Ned and Jean the following week, then a relaxing summer.
Today, we hide in the house behind partially closed shutters until the sun's rays are low in the sky. It is that hot. But tonight we will harvest some of the lavender and do more feeding and weeding. We are settling into our summer schedule. This is the third summer we will have lived here!
Last night, we sat with Peter and Annie on the terrace. They arrived here for a short visit from Rome. Annie will not be able to come on Saturday, but brought us a really beautiful porcelain mug with a lavender flower design and a top to keep tea warm. She is so thoughtful, and I will miss not seeing her. Karina is still in the U.S., and sister Barbara is in France. So we will not see any of them on Saturday. They will be missed.
Although no one can take Annie's or Karina's or Barbara's places, this is the first year that I have invited women who live in the village other than Loredana. I look forward to sharing the day with them. Last night, after returning from Octoberfest for its last night of festa di birra, we took a walk to Mugnano's centro storico.
First we came across Leondina and she asked me why Sofi and I don't come for coffee in the morning any more. We have not taken our walk for months, so perhaps this week we will start again. I am sure that Sofi will like it.
Then we walked up to the centro storico, and told the neighbors sitting in front of Ernesta's Tabacchi shop that everything was "tutto aposto" in Mugnano Basso. They laugh. No one differentiates between one part of this little village and the next. We walked toward the tower and saw Rosita, Elena, Gino, Rina and a few other neighbors sitting at card tables having soft drinks. We greeted them, and a discussion ensued about the Thursday mass. Still, no one knew why there will be a mass, but we echoed Enzo's, "Why not?" and he smiled.
We turned around and as we came across the people gathered in front of Ernesta's store, we wished them good night. Down at the bus stop, we told the men gathered there that we have been to "Mugnano Alto" and everything is "tutto aposto". This is such a happy bunch that they laughed and Sofi led us home while Giovanni called out, "Buona notte."
I wake just after 5AM, but it feels so good to just listen to the birds and other early morning sounds, that I stay in bed until just before 6. Then Sofi and I go out and play. First, I spray some roses. Then I take an old handcrafted basket with low sides and my clippers and start to clip the most mature lavender. I don't remember the lavender being in more than one stage of readiness before. Perhaps it is because this is the first year after planting; perhaps it is because they have been given plenty of water.
Fa niente. I slowly clip only the most mature lavender, and am able to leave every plant that I work on with plenty of not-yet-open buds. I am only able to finish five or six in an hour, but take my time. Sofi is just the right height to nose around under the lavender flowers, and when I sit on my little stool she comes up to me and gives me bacini (little kisses). I put the picked lavender on the long table in the loggia, hoping to work on it later in the morning.
At around 7, Sofi and I open the front gate. I hook the end of her lead on the gate, and spray and deadhead the roses. I can see that they are ready to explode, and think that on Saturday, unless it rains this week, we will have a profusion of color to greet our guests. Yes, I know. Speriamo. Roy tells me I have been incorrectly spelling this commonly used word. I have spelled it previously as spediamo, and the correct spelling is with an "r". Literally, it means, "we hope so".
A few months ago, while taking an overnight trip north of Bologna, we stayed with Donna and Phillip and Douglas at an old castle. The manager, who spoke very good English, chastised me for inserting Italian words into my writing. He thought it was a crude writing style. Fa niente. Ha!
If the people who read this site on an ongoing basis learn these simple phrases, they will be able to use them with confidence on future trips to Italy. And I write for Terence and Angie and for us to document our activities. We want to share our lives here with them, and also with our friends. We hear from people who come here that they can later picture the changes we make and after meeting some of the villagers the reading is fun for them. So I suppose reading this is similar to watching television. If you don't like the program, just click off the site!
I want to recommit myself to taking a little walk each morning with Sofi before the weather becomes too hot. So at around 9AM, I tell Roy we will return in twenty minutes, and Sofi bounds off in front of me down the front path on her 2-meter lead. Serena and her uncle, Pepe, walk toward us on their way to their car. Pepe is carrying an empty feed sack, and it is quite huge. They stop to talk and Pepe talks a mile a minute. Serena asks me if I understand and I tell her "Un po." He is telling me that she has agreed to take him to Bruno's in Attigliano to buy a big bag of feed, but he must not get her car dirty. So he brings and old empty sack to rest the new sack on, I suppose in the even that it breaks open.
Just before we reach Nanda's house, their black cat appears from under a car and leaps into the middle of the street right at Sofi. Sofi squeals in terror. The cat bounces back toward a car and then lunges out again at Sofi. The cat is almost as big as Sofi, and in attack mode must seem like a monster. I can just about hear the part of the score from,"Peter in the Wolf" where the bird loudly chirps, "Watch out!" the scene is so dramatic.
Sofi is not hurt, but Nanda and his wife warn us that the cat is protecting her little kittens. We continue our walk, this time with a much more subdued Sofi next to me. When we reach Lydia's, she is outside on a chair and warns us to stay away from the kittens because they have a sickness in their eyes. I don't think that will be a problem...
Leontina's door is closed, so we walk down the hill to continue our customary loop. Leontina and Marsiglia's brother's house is full of flowers on the front balcony. I understand why the Italians have bursts of color in their flower boxes. The summer sun is so hot that the white and pale yellow roses that I love seem to disappear. Norena tells me that ours on the front path are delicato, but the Italians prefer hearty colors, which appear alive and awake, no matter the temperature.
The strada bianca continues down the hill from there, and the road is really rocky. We reach Felice's orto garden, but he is not there. A little further on the right in a field is a red tractor and about a hundred big logs, resting in the sun like a herd of elephants. This must be our free firewood, curing a little before it is cut.
Later in the summer it will be distributed to members of the Universita Agraria. Now that we are members, we will be able to get free firewood. But Roy thinks this wood should cure for a year, so we will probably buy some firewood later in the fall.
I miss this walk, and the changes in the landscape that I see on these morning jaunts. There is some shade as we walk, although I am quite warm when we return. Roy is outside in the loggia and greets us when we come up the front stairs. He is preparing the chandelier to be rewired so that we can hang it up soon. Right after a short breakfast he leaves for Attigliano and the hardware store.
In the heat I am so tired, that Sofi and I go upstairs for a short nap. When we wake up it is just before noon, and Roy has already rewired and hung the chandelier in the living room. We have needed this light for seven years, and am so used to the emptiness in the room that the effect is disconcerting. But I like the light, and it work well.
It is so hot that we stay in the house until almost 3PM, when we have an appointment with a party rental company in Viterbo. Roy is unable to connect with the man again by phone, and we are unable to find his shop either, although we drive back and forth on the road and ask many people. We then drive into Viterbo itself to go to party stores for miscellaneous plates, etc., but both party stores are closed on Mondays.
We have time before Roy's eye appointment to drive to Orvieto and look for folding tables there. Everything we find is expensive. So we drive on to Civita Del Agliano, and we find a used table and benches for so little money that we must buy it. It looks just like the ones we sat at at the Oktoberfest festa, but are wider. So Roy manages to get the 2 meter table and benches in the back of the car and off we go.
His eye appointment was a success, and his eye problem is just a small irritation, so he gets a prescription for drops and tells me when we drive away that this doctor and his brother both drive vintage cars, and he might be able to ride with the doctor's brother next year in the Mille Miglia. What fun that will be for Roy to think about.
At home, we work in the garden until after 9PM, when it is just too dark to see what we are doing. Together we work at deadheading and clipping the Mermaid roses on the fence, and then he works on tying up the tomatoes some more and I continue with my meticulous clipping of the lavender. When we go inside I have finished about eight more plants. That leaves about thirty left to finish in the next couple of days.
I want to clip enough to put into baskets in the house, and if we have time want to make herb wreaths with our laurel and the lavender. Last December we purchased a number of metal rings, and now I can try them out. We gave wreaths at Christmas time that I made using these frames, and I like they way they hold the greenery. So this should be fun, especially in the heat of the day when it is too hot to go outside.
Roy gets up before me, actually before 6AM, and is out lighting a fire in the far property to burn clippings that will not work as compost. The sky is clear and there is no breeze, so the flames shoot straight up and no one complains.
By the time I get up at just before 8AM, he has been working weeding the front path and the garden path. They look wonderful. I am able to work outside in the lavender field for just under two hours before it is too hot, and although I work in the loggia with the just picked lavender, we still do not have two baskets full.
Roy takes me to Pinzaglia, a vivaio I don't especially like, but I am impressed. They have really worked the land and the plants look much better than last year, We are able to find about eight tiny plants and a planter to go in the kitchen window for Saturday. Then it will go outside.
Mario comes after pranzo to weed-wack the path, the far property, and the two patches of clover near the big olive tree and below the path leading to the lavender. He runs right over one of the peony plants, but they have not done very well anyway. It is not a great loss.
In the meantime, Roy replants a rosemarino plant, hoses off all the outdoor furniture, and rakes the work done by Mario. I am inside making cocomero (watermelon) granita. It takes me two hours, because we have a whole oval watermelon to work with. When I am through, there are ten tall bottles of liquid. They are now in the loggia frigo, and tomorrow or Friday I will make the granita in the freezer. Tomorrow we will buy peaches to make peach granita as well for Saturday.
Earlier in the day, Roy decided to put the old bicycle out on the path with a libero (free) sign. Mario sees it and tells Maria and comes back to ask us if he can have it for his younger son. We tell him yes, but that it should be for the older son, who has just had his 6th accident with his motorino. We are very happy that he can use it. We still have the bicycle that we brought from the U.S. Who knows when we will ever use it, but it is not yet time to give it up.
Giordano calls to tell us that he has the software to upgrade our Mac computer. We have traded our flat screen computer monitor that we cannot use for the upgrade. It is a good trade all around.
Tonight, I am able to clip more lavender. The little field really looks beautiful. I have been hand-clipping the most mature stems, leaving those not yet blooming. So on Saturday the field will not look as though the globes have been given crew-cuts. While I have been inside with the cocomero, outside a Paul Lede rose has made its debut, and it is really beautiful. I inspect most of the roses and there are buds on almost every plant. With luck, everything will be in flower on Saturday.