AN ITALIAN EXPERIENCE - Journal Archives
April through June, 2007

APRIL 2007

April 1
Very early morning fog clears, and we're walking up to church without coats...it's that warm. I've had an hour or so earlier to paint, and the magenta cape with a little bird is finally coming into its own.

There is a little procession between the two churches, and a sharing of olive branches (Italy shares olive branches instead of palms on Palm Sunday...should we be calling it olive Sunday?) in a little square before the Duomo, for the duomo is bathed in gauze and scaffolding. Next year we'll probably be having mass in the Duomo...

Dino wears his red and blue costume, and stands on the altar with his pals. After mass, I'm particularly thrilled that Mauro agrees that we'll not have a giro...We have enough reservations for the Pasquetta pranzo, and at this point who cares how many people come? Yes, we're all very tired of this Festarolo business, and there are only five weeks to go until the end of my (our) year....

At home I spend at least another hour on the painting, and it will sit in the kitchen for a few days until it's dry enough to be put on the wall. I also work on the three young girls, and that painting is almost done as well. One by one I'm finishing all my projects in time for the May festa. I will have plenty of things to exhibit. If the weather is good the next few days I'll get going on the ceramics dipping. Yes, it's back to that old nightmare.

After pranzo we take a walk to Mai Elin's garden. She is not at home, nor is she in the garden. But Stefano has done a good job so far, and a lot of cement has been poured for the walls, so if he continues to work for her this next week she might be able to have a Pasquetta party there after all.

Back at home it is quite warm, so I feed roses, do some clipping and weeding, and notice that there are some beautiful roses already in flower: the Paul Lede and Snowball are the first, and the tree peony is ready to flower.

Dino moves Felice's bench down to the front path, and Augusta, Maria and Giuseppa sit there while Sofi sniffs around and Dino readies the ground for the tufa feet and stone step. The women leave for home before we're through, but the benches look great. And the location is a wonderful place for the neighbors to sit and enjoy the view and the afternoon light.

I paint a little more and the put the paints away for the day. Perhaps in the next few days I'll begin to paint the dishes for our Provence trip. Later, during a phone conversation with Kate and Merritt, I ask her what kind of painting she wants to do when they're here for a month.

"Im doing pastels right now, but I'd like to do ceramics," she muses. I respond with a "Boh!" telling her she has no idea what challenges lay ahead of her. "Have you ever read my journals where I've talked about my smalto disasters?" I ask her. Well, I suppose it's a good idea for her to find out for herself...She can take a few lessons in Terni while she's here. That might even be fun for her.

It's a cool night, and I look forward to turning in, and to another busy week ahead.

April 2
Another headache rages, and I'm in bed almost all day. But Dino is very busy, beginning the day at the Tenaglie house burning olive branches. He forgets his boots, so he comes home really wet. While he's there, Pietro tells him he usually wears boots to cut grass, and always burns in the afternoon. How silly Dino feels, but he's a stranieri, so he's not expected to know...

He also signs up Pietro and Mara's house, a beautiful villa style stone building of 120sq. meters per floor...360 in all. It needs a little work to make it comfortable, including taking down some non-load bearing walls, thereby making the rooms larger. There is also land, the same wonderful view, a large cantina and some garden equipment and the possibility of a terrace on one of the upper floors. Oh, did I forget? There are also olive trees. It's on the site at €275.000, so take a look.

The roof is just about finished, so by tomorrow the workers will move inside the house and begin more demolition. Kate and Merritt like the idea of reusing windows and frames as "in-caso" armadios, possible because the walls are so thick. It also frees up floor space, which is a good thing.

Today is beautiful, and I'm so sorry to be sick...I really love being outside on these lovely spring days. Sofi, however, loves to be by my side, and no matter how long I'm in bed she'll stay in her little bed, just watching. She is a treasure of a dog.

Dino takes Mai Elin and her son to Narni Scalo to the gravel pit where we bought our gravel years ago. He warned her that if she does not show up to be sure that she is getting the correct gravel, the wrong gravel could be delivered.

So off they drive, and Dino brings a small bucketful of ours, to make sure they pick the correct gravel. They arrive and two men in the office remember him, as well as the costly mistake they made four years ago when we ordered our second batch of gravel, the mistake theirs and a second batch of gravel delivered at their cost.

That done, Dino and May Elin pick up black nursery cloth. This cloth must be laid under the gravel to allow drainage and prevent weeds. So they think they are all set, until tomorrow...

April 3
I'm feeling better, so we drive South to Orsolini to order more bathroom tiles. Once we're through we drive to another supplier to see if we can find better prices. This specifying takes loads of time, but we're good at it.

We stop at Mai's Mugnano garden after pranzo and talk with Stefano, who is doing a miraculous job. But the gravel will not arrive until later this afternoon...

We drive to the house in Tenaglie and meet with Tani. The roof is beautiful and some of the window openings are being changed as we asked. But when climbing to the upper floor we meet the oldest brother for the first time, and he makes me nervous.

I don't know what it is, but he tells Tani the measurement should be larger than we've asked, and it takes us to confirm the measurement for him to realize that he's cut the hole too large. He's full of self-assurance, and very different from any of the others on the team. He must be a handful to manage.

It's a gloomy afternoon, so Dino decides not to burn any of the remaining olive branches lying in the field. We drive to Sippiciano instead so that Dino can get a hair cut.

He's thinking of getting a crew cut. I agree, if that will make him happy. He comes out of Daniele's a few minutes later with his hair close cropped on top, but the cut does not look much different. He's happy, so I'm happy.

Back in Mugnano, you guessed it. The wrong gravel has been delivered. We notice it sitting in a big pile across from the fountain, and walk over to Mai Elin's to talk with her about it. After a call to Stefano, we learn that he'll call the yard and the truck driver to get it worked out. The gravel is too big to walk on. So it's probably another fiasco for the gravel pit...

We stop at Stein and Helga's and Stein has painted all the tall poles on the terrace a dark graphite color. It's amazing what a little paint can do. Inside we stop for tea, and Stein presents me with a Durer book from their Florence trip. I see many things to paint and so appreciate his generous gift.

It's raining again, so we drive home for a few hours before going to Livio's for a Festarolo meeting. It's still raining, so we drive up, and meet a young man who books entertainment, and pick a group for Sunday of the festa weekend that will be a lot of fun. There will be a manifesto (poster) printed, and we're close to being finished with determining the events of the weekend.

This Monday will be our final meal to serve as members of the Festarolo committee, a pasquetta pranzo, and the count is now more than fifty. It won't be too difficult, and then the festa weekend will be our finale...for at least five years...

I've painting on my mind, and Dino wants me to not overdo it, but I have things to paint for our Provence trip, things to paint for the May festa. It's been agreed that there will be a mostra artignale for the Mugnano artisans, and I am one. So we'll meet with the Barberini sisters to make sure they will let us use their downstairs room and cortile, and I think I'll be ready with plenty to show and to sell.

But the subject of San Vincenzo comes up, and it is only then that Gigliola mentions that there is a painting in the sacristy of the Duomo of San Vincenzo...

"What is the painting?" I ask her. "Is he in the clouds, and is Mugnano below?"

"Yes, I think so...." she tells me, and it is then that I figure that my painting will hang in our house after all...It is the same painting....We'll be able to get into the sacristy this week to look at it, and I'm wondering what it will look like...

Life is funny. We never thought that there would be a large painting hidden in the Duomo. The little painting on wood that we have copied from was obviously copied from the original. And now we wonder if the original is better crafted than the copy. It will be so interesting to see it....

April 4 I'm making a dessert for Easter pranzo, to be held at Panis and Helen's, and am thinking of Pashka, the traditional domed Russian cheesecake. But after a fitful search on the internet realize the dessert is a real pain to make.

I don't know what is more difficult; the recipe or surfing on the internet. Are you as frustrated as I am trying to find recipes? It really takes work to find a good recipe, and the ads that are thrust upon us in the meantime are really annoying.

That's pretty funny, considering my paychecks and consulting checks came from advertising and pr companies for so many years...Life surely has a way of biting us in the backside when we're not looking...

Dino is at the house in Tenaglie, and I've reminded him to talk with Tani about the downstairs beam to be covered. He'll also meet with the geometra about Kate's studio and about the rebuilding of the fireplaces. I'm staying home to paint.

"How would you like to take a drive to Perugia?" Dino phones and of course we'll go. We need to find special beams to cover a steel beam and Tani tells us we can find them in Perugia.

He thinks they're not discernable as "fakes", but are hollowed out, so that one long one may work in the piano terra. The paint is wet on two of my paintings, so I might as well stop for the day.

Sofi and I happily pile into the car and we take a long route to Perugia; then have pranzo along a little lake. Afterward the stores are open, and the store with the beams is an amazing store, full of "do it yourself" things for the home. That phrase is known as " fa da te" here in Italy. That's another phrase to make you sound like a local...

We drive back through Todi, and stop at the Tenaglie house, and determine that the beam won't work. So we don't know what we will do to cover the steel beam. In the meantime, there are other decisions to be made.

We're up in the new master bathroom, deciding how thick the new wall will be (very thick) and how high up the "in caso" medicine cabinet and mirror will be hung. Now that we have a thick wall, I ask them to insert a prayer niche on the bedroom side. It' s those little details that really make a difference.

Out in the garden the peonies are in bloom, and there are two sets of peony bushes, both looking like tree peonies. So we clip a bunch, and here they are, sitting in our kitchen. It's another reason for Kate and Merritt to move...they are that gorgeous.


Back at home, our peonies are getting ready to flower, but are much smaller. We have six plants, ranging from puny to an exuberant tree peony. I know that peonies take time. The best thing to do is to forget about them for years, and one fine day they'll make up for all those years they weren't ready...

A second pile of gravel meets us in the village, and we can't help stopping at Mai Elin's garden to see how the work is progressing. Stefano is doing a masterful job with his crew, and by tomorrow the cement will be dry and they can lay the nursery cloth and then the gravel. By the end of the week she'll be able to party...what a wonderful Easter present for her!

Stein's guests from Poland have arrived, and we stop just for a minute to say hello and have a glass of prosecco. We'll see them on Friday night, but love seeing the house full of light and laughter and energy. Stein seems to have a halo around his head...He's just like that. With big hugs we drive home...

We have measurements to finish of the master bath to get ready for a meeting tomorrow morning with the geometra and Tani. Dino works away, asking me my opinion as he snaps his tape and draws the coordinates out on his graph paper. He's really good at it.

It's time to draw up the second kitchen for the ground floor apartment and we should be ready to order that this week. I have a good idea of what it should look like...very simple and rustic with no overhead cabinets but two large "in caso" armadios, built into the thick stone walls.

Time for bed. With the foggy weather, I still can't dip any ceramics in smalto. Unless the weather clears in the next few days, we'll miss our deadline of having ceremonial plates for our Provence vacation....

April 5
We're both up really early for a meeting at the Tenaglie house, but the weather is still not cooperating. We'll visit Elena later this morning and see if she can fire the plates next week...

After a stop for capuccias and a hello to Italo the fish- monger, we arrive at the house and talk about the master bathroom. We leave and drive to Orsolini to work on the bathroom orders, and before we know it it's time for them to close for pranzo. So we leave and have a quick plate of pasta in Soriano at a rest stop and drive home.

The clouds have disappeared and it's a beautiful afternoon, so we're going to get the ceramics going again. Dino stirs the smalto and I dip the four plates for Provence, only to realize that there is a lot of sand that is sitting on the plates, mixed in with the smalto.

The plates are almost ruined, for they won't cook. So Dino wants to wash them off and let them sit in the sun. Tomorrow I'll smalto them again, and perhaps we can save them.

But we have to sift the smalto, so Dino takes out two lengths of wood and sits the sifter on top, pouring pitcher by pitcher of the smalto through the sifter and into another container. Once that's done, we clean up the sifter and then pour the sifted liquid back throught the sifter again into a cleaned out larger container.

The sediment is thrown away and we drop the densitometer back in the smalto. Dino thinks the reading is fine, so I sponge off and dip sixteen little Mugnano plates, for the mostra during our festa weekend, a larger plate for a stema for Stein, and two plates for the girls. Tomorrow I'll re-smalto the four plates for Provence.

It's a painting kind of day, and Dino decides to return to Orsolini to order the remaining bathroom items from them. While he's gone, I finish one small painting, work on a second small painting, and add lots of magenta to the large cape painting. Since the large cape painting will take three days to dry to the next step, which I hope will be the last, I hang it on the back kitchen wall where we can look at it and discern what needs to be changed.

Tomorrow I'll have a painting workshop, and will take some time to see if Marco has a book that I can look at to find a subject for the painting to be done in Provence. I think I want a painting to hang in the kitchen, possibly even a large still life of fruit in a bowl on a table. That might be fun to do.

In advance, I'll need to mock up the painting and draw it out on the canvas, so that when I'm in San Remy I can concentrate on painting.

Dino returns with news that he's ordered all the rest of the bathroom fittings, now all we have to order are the towel bars and the kitchen on the first floor. It looks as though next week we'll have to get that done...

Mai Elin's garden is finished, and Dino and I give her a call. We want to see the garden and decide to walk there anyway. We call her and she is already at the garden. So we walk on down, and the garden is behind the borgo.

All the gravel has been used; the larger gravel on the long path leading to it and the smaller gravel on the two level areas. It is a lovely job, and we're all thrilled to be a part of this adventure. Now all she needs is a gate and a Private! sign when she's not in town.

April 6
It's Good Friday, and tonight we'll attend the solemn procession in Orte instead of the one in Mugnano. We know that the procession is a somewhat frightening one, with hundreds of men dressed in hooded costumes in the black of night. We have read and heard about this dramatic reinactment of the first Holy Friday, and tonight we'll see it, probably for the first and last time.

But this morning we drive to the Tenaglie house, and then need to buy new geraniums for the parcheggio. The azaleas sitting now on the steps have blossomed and now are languishing, so it's time to replace them. When the weather is hot, geraniums are the only plants that will survive the stifling temperatures. So we might as well buy them now.

Facing us is the daunting realization that with all the fun we've made of Grande Fratello (Big Brother) in Alviano Scalo these past months, we did not remember when we realized that he existed in his perch in Alviano Scalo, the direct route to Tenaglie from our house. In the mail is a green envelope. That means a speeding ticket...so when did we realize there was a speed trap there?

It is possible that our entire fee for restoring the Tenaglie house will go to pay these speeding tickets, for they are €150 each! What a catastrophe! This ticket is for December 10th. Perhaps a glance at past journals may lend some help, or we can wait with dread for the mail each day, wondering, wondering....

I tell Dino that I think the solution is to talk with Italo, the fish monger, who lives in Alviano Scalo. Perhaps he knows someone. I remember that my brother knew a judge in Boston and when he was in his twenties paid the judge with a case of scotch to nix any speeding tickets. With the Italian love of skirting laws, there must be a way.

Dino tells me that when he drove to Orsolini yesterday that he stopped at the used car lot in Soriano and found a Panda for €500. It was not worth considering, but the owner of the lot thinks he will have one next week.

With more speeding tickets due to come in, it will be some time before his Panda dream becomes a reality. In a search of our archives, with all the writing I do of our days, I did not document the first time we discovered the speed trap. It is now up to the mails to let us know...

Today is a beautiful day just the same, and we'll be going to the house, slowly, slowly through Alviano Scalo...After drinking our capuccias (cappuccinos) at Sisters Bar, we learn that there is only one "grande fratello" (big brother) speed trap on the road to Tenaglie.

There are two machines, but the town has only paid for one, so they rotate the one they have back and forth. We still have plenty to worry about, but there is no ticket in today's mail.

We talk with Tani about putting in a structure above the front door, similar to ones we've seen all around lower Umbria, made of wood on the bottom and old coping tiles on top. They are beautiful architectual details, and have a practical side as well. For in incliment weather, they are a protection from rain. He'll get a quote from a supplier in Spoleto on Tuesday, when he picks up some other items for the project.

"While you're at it," we tell him, "price an old beam big enough to cover the steel beam on Piano Terra". He'll carve it out to enable it to surround the beam. Tani thinks the prices where he's going are very reasonable. Magari. Speriamo....and all that.

A little while later in Viterbo at Michellini, our favorite vivaio, we pick up three blue clematis to grow over the gardener's cottage and two cascading rosemarino to replace two that are either dead or quasi-morto.

We've wanted to replace the viburnum balls on either side of the front door. They have not grown in uniformly and look straggly. So we want an option. After looking a larger box (expensive in the size we'll need), box trees with balls on top and other evergreens, as we are getting in the car notice viburnum trees with plain trunks and an ample round form of branches and leaves and white flowers on top. That's what we consider the best option, and if we still think so, we'll pick them up soon.

We began our visit with our friends at Michellini with Sofi meeting a new two-month old female Jack Russell Terrier, Lucrezia, and the puppy is quite animated. Sofi is gentle with her but wants to play. Lucrezia will have none of that, and wants to get her own way. They are fun to watch for a few minutes, but we're intent on figuring out which wisteria we'll want to buy.

Every bit of advice has been to purchase wisteria when they are in bloom. We want pale blue wisteria, and none are in bloom, just those boring pinky-purple ones. I forget which kind Sarah advised us to get, but think she has advised us to get Macrobyotis, and those don't look very blue...

We'll go home to research what we want and pick them up next week, too.

. We stop in Bagnaia and have tremezzini (little half sandwiches with the crusts cut off) sitting outside in the square. Then Dino takes me to my painting workshop, where I work for four hours on the angel wings, and end the session not much further along than I began.

Marco tells me to take the painting home and work on it over the weekend, especially the feathers on the angel wings. He thinks I can finish it before the May festa, but that means I'll be working on it at home, too.

While I'm there I research what painting I will do in Provence, and come up with a few options. Next week (this will be a busy week, I am sure), we will have the photo enlarged to the same size as the canvas and draw it out with carbon paper. So that when we arrive in San Remy I have only to begin to paint. I'm thinking of something to put in the kitchen, but hope it will have a little Provencal flair.

We come home and change and tell Sofi she needs to guard the house, then drive off to pick up Helga and Stein and his house guests and lead them to Orte to the Holy Friday procession.

The procession is an elaborate pageant, inky black night, burning torches, men dressed in black, grey, red, blue and white and white costumes complete with head masks with holes cut out for eyes.

The procession takes more than an hour, with more than four hundred men holding torches or huge crucifixes, It ends in front of the Duomo with a funeral bier containing a body wrapped in muslin, which is obviously Christ. But Stein thinks the structure looks as though it's Louie XIV and we chortle about it.

With all the pagentry and exquisite detail taken by the men of Orte, and the women dressed in black mourning garb standing at the end of the procession, there is no real finale, no crucifixion, merely the men and then the women filing out in single file beside the Duomo.

It's been an interesting sight, just the same. But next year we'll drive to Bagnaia, where we are told there will be a major procession but also a reinactment of a crucifixion.

Now you may wonder why we want to witness such a horrible thing. I have no idea. Earlier tonight Stein told us that some years after Christ died, Arabs overtook Jerusalem and Christians were no longer able to reinact the Easter events each year. So in towns and villages outside Jerusalem, Christians reinacted the Holy Weekend of Easter, and that is how the tradition began, and how it exists today.

"Why do we have to witness such a horrible thing?" Dino asks. And I answer, "So we will never forget it, never forget what it means."

April 7
Today begins with fog, but clears and is warm and beautiful. Where have I been? It took until today for me to notice the Rosa Banksea starting to bloom, the cherry tree in full flower and at least one of the six peonies ready to flower.

I must smalto the four plates for the Provence trip, and Dino helps me to turn the tub on an angle, for we are running out of smalto and I don't really want to buy more.

That done, I organize my painting supplies and stand in the loggia in front of the turntable. I paint the four plates and four napkin rings with our names on them. So at least that is done. I see Stein's large plate waiting for his stemma, and perhaps I will paint that just to have it done. All that's left are the sixteen or so little Mugnano plates for festa weekend.

Tonight we walk up to mass, and Helga and Stein are already inside waiting in our pew. The lights of the church are on, and Don Mauro is early. Helga and I discuss the fact that the lights should be extinguished. We wonder what to expect, especially after last night's strange procession in Orte.

The mass begins and yes, the lights are turned off, but first the parishoners are told to each take a candle and walk outside. Once there, Don Mauro leads us back in and one by one the candles are lit and the mass procedes.

After mass, we walk down the hill with Stein and Helga, and say goodnight and "Auguroni" (very big good wishes) to each other then walk home and turn in.

April 8
On this Easter morning we don't have to get up to go to church, instead I make a cake for this afternoon and we drive to Tenaglie. Giancarlo is at home with his family, so we pick some peonies from the garden and take them to them in a bucket.

The sun is out and they are grilling their pranzo, all sitting outside to enjoy the day. We spend some time with them, speaking about the house, and tell them that when it is finished that they'll be invited to visit.

They are somewhat sheepish and somewhat sad, remembering so many years spent in that house. But they agree that it will be a good idea, and we bid them a c'e veddiamo (we'll see you soon) and walk back to the house and pick some peonies for Helen and for us.

We meet up with Frank and Candace and lead them to Panis and Helen's, where many people have already gathered outside. For the next few hours we have a chance to speak with Monique, here from Paris, and her friend from the U S, Susan, who is kind enough to speak with me about painting. She is an accomplished painter, and has painted all her life.

It is a wonderful gathering, very relaxed, with a lamb cooked on a spit. Sofi is the only dog, and rambles around and seems to enjoy herself. Just as we are about to leave the skies cloud up and it begins to rain, as though it is a cue to "leave on a high note". We bid Helen and Panis goodbye and tell Frank and Candace we'll see them on Friday.

At home I'm ready to paint, and paint a dozen Mugnano plates for the May festa, before it's time to go to bed. They will be taken to Elena on Tuesday morning, and that's one more thing I won't have to do when we return from our trip.

April 9
Today is lovely, not at all what pasquetta has been for the past several years in Italy. Since our committee is putting on the pranzo, we're thankful the day will be warm, and hoping we can eat fuori (0utside).

There are almost sixty people at the pranzo, and although Dino and I lobby for eating outside, the others want to set up inside. So we do both. Amazingly, almost everyone wants to eat inside. Is it because they like the look of the new interior, or they are afraid the weather might change? We set up two tables outside, and several of the men here without spouses congregate at one table, and we at the International Table congregate at the other. Dino has brought our two big umbrellas, so it is comfortable, although the sun is bright.

At our table are: Helga from Norway, Annika and Torb from Sweden, Mai Elin and Caer and Christopher from Norway and Dino and me from America. We are a jolly group, and Dino and I bounce back and forth between courses to eat with our friends.

These meals in Italy are meant to take a long time, so we have to stage each course. The food is really remarkable, from the same caterer from Viterbo, and we receive many, many complements on the food and the event. There is plenty of food, plenty to drink, and what's most fun is that the neighbors crowd around inside chattering, chattering and loving the chance to get together.

Several of the guests talk about our "ultima cena" (last supper) and commiserate with us. But we tell them that this has been a wonderful experience, one that has made all the difference in our integration into the fabric of Mugnano life.

It is made even clearer in a converstation with Catherine and Kees, who are moving to Puglia and looking for a community in which to settle. They have sold their Giove house, and we agree that they may feel better renting at first, until they are sure that the community is one in which they will want to participate in.

Today, Kees (known in Italy as Giovanni) sits with the men at the outside table and loves the cameraderie, the laughter. We hope that they find a place to love, as we do our little Mugnano.

At our table, I am quick to tell Mai Elin in private that she must change her name...subito. Yesterday, Loredana told us that her name means "little pig". After a big laugh, she is all ready with her new name, Maria Elena. She was named after a grandmother and an aunt, so today we begin to address her in that way.

After the pranzo has finished, we clean up and pick up Sofi and walk down to Maria Elena's garden, where they wait for us with Annika and Torb to have some spumante and wind down.

After several hours alone in the kitchen, Sofi is thrilled to be outside with us. So we let her lead us down to the garden, and are sorry that our friends will leave early tomorrow morning. The garden is a wonderful spot to gather in. We agree that we will spend many hours there reading and gabbing.

At home I paint the last remaining plates, and Dino will take them all to Elena tomorrow morning. I have work to do on the angel wings of the San Vincenzo painting, but a pedicure will get in the way mid morning. I have competi (homework) to work on the wings, but may not spend much time on them. My workshop is in the afternoon.

The days are beginning to move at a very rapid pace, and before we know it it will be Friday and we'll be gone. So I'm taking my time, but wanting to get more painting in, especially to finish the cape painting.

We go to bed early, feeling good after a gratifying day with our neighbors. But just before I walk upstairs with Sofi in my arms, I sign our U S tax return, for it is that time again. We really have until June as expats, but might as well write the check and get the bad news over with...

April 10
It's another beautiful day, with a pedicure to signal it's sandal time...But I have the date wrong and that will be tomorrow, so today we drive to Daniele's in Sipicciano for a hair do.

He's almost an hour late, and there is a woman standing in front of his shop when we arrive, so I don't finish until after eleven.

With the San Vincenzo painting hanging in the kitchen as a reminder, I think I am going to spend a little precious time working on the angel wings, but there is no time. This was to be my competiti, but we have been buzzing every day and night, with no time to paint, and the time I did have was given to painting the ceramics for the trip and the festa.

We reach Marco's around 2PM, and he's very simpathetic about my homework, or lack of it. For the next four hours I'm alone in the studio with him. It is a gift, without the usual cacciarata (chattering of gossip), just the smooth sound of jazz played on Marco's cd player and the chirping of birds outside.

I'm able to make good headway on the painting's angel wings, concentrating on feathers and the thinnest of brush strokes. Once that's done, I spend the rest of the time painting the hill near Mugnano and the walk up the hill toward the tower and the Orsini palazzo.

We leave the painting to dry for ten days, and when I return I'll draw the gold lines of the sun's rays. Now we drive to the art store to pick up the correct pencil and some more paints, as well as tracing paper for Stein's stemma. I'll paint that upon our return from Provence.

Back at home Sofi has been patiently waiting, and can't get enough of us. We're home for the evening, or at least we hope so, depending on who wins the Festarolo lottery. If you recall, the lottery is won based on a national pulling of numbers on Tuesday evenings at 8PM.

Two sheets of numbers were sold during Monday's pranzo...Roma and Napoli. So if the Roma number picked tonight is 8 and the Napoli number is 42, for example, the people who purchased those numbers will win. This time we're giving away two prosciuttos again.

I'd like to go to bed early, but have to wait until we hear from Mauro. He probably wants us to go with him to present the prosciuttos to the winning participants. I'm secretly hoping they're all either in the borgo or out of town so that we won't have to go.

When we were in the printing store getting a blowup of a photo I will paint in Provence, Dino notices a note pinned on the side of the counter advertising a Fiat Punto for €300! He calls and calls but there is no answer. For that price, he's willing to put up with some problems. If it's meant to be, it will...

While I jot down some notes Dino works away in the kitchen on drawing up the plumbing specifications for each bathroom and kitchen in the Tenaglie house. The plumber will arrive on site tomorrow and needs to have the specifications finished for the work to begin.

April 11
The weather is lovely today, with just a little fog in the morning. We're able to spray a few roses and Dino's able to do some more planning for the plumbing portion of the Tenaglie house. We now have specifications for each item to be installed in the house. We are hoping that it is coming together nicely. There don't seem to be any hurdles that we cannot handle.

After I have a pedicure in Orte by my dear friend, Giusy, we drive to the house to meet with the muratores, and Arshi is back on the job again. It is good to see his smiling face, and Tani seems to be happy his brother is back, too. We make some decisions on the spot, and it appears we arrived at the perfect time to decide how high the "cakerack" in the bedroom will be, and how high it will be located.

There is a question whether we should take out the back wall of the bedroom right above the stairs and rebuild it, but we decide to leave it, and make it thicker inside the bedroom, instead. Now the wall is only 8cm thick.

The shower wall is up in the bathroom, and we decide not to go all the way to the ceiling on the bathroom wall. Just in time, again. Nothing compares to being on site during a construction project, for so many details need to be decided, no matter how thorough the drawings are.

Kate will be happy to know that the little anteroom outside the master bath is wider than we first thought. It's a good place for a desk, or for a wardrobe, depending on how much clothes they have.

Back at home for a few hours, we rework the electrical and plumbing for the top floor, and return this afternoon to meet with the plumber for the first time on site. We'll also drive to Amelia to our favorite framer, and leave two pieces that we'll pick up after we return. They will be ready for the festa mostra.

The day is very warm, and while Dino works in the kitchen on the restoration drawings, Sofi and I are outside spraying roses and clipping those nasty worms that curl the leaves and wreak havoc with our precious roses. I do notice that the Madame Gregory Staechlin rose will blossom for the first time...while we're gone. More white peonies are in bloom, and rose by rose the plants are getting ready to show their first and healthiest blooms.

I realize that this is an important time to work in the garden, for when we are gone it does not make sense to have Angie, the house and dog sitter, spray roses and fiddle with them they way I do.

Tia and I agree that when we return from a trip there is always work in the garden due to our inability to monitor everything while we're gone. I'm not going to worry about it.

This year, I'm taking a lassez faire attitude about the garden. We still have not put down the extra nursery cloth, and the lavender plants are growing so rapidly that soon it will be too late to do so before they bloom.

We drive back to the Tenaglie house after pranzo and leave new drawings for the hydraulico, who is to arrive later, and find Tani jackhammering through the kitchen wall. He finds black soot on the back of some stones...was there a fire in the back of the house some years ago?

We'll return tomorrow, for there's not much to do here right now, and drive on to Amelia to our favorite framer. She'll make frames while we're gone for the ceramic demilune and also a drawing of a monk that I've completed and will offer at the mostra in May.

But the news of the day is all about Panda. Panda is Dino's "new" automobile, a 1986 Panda with 140,000km on it. He makes a deposit on it and will pick it up on the 23rd when we return. He's very happy, so I am happy, too.

He found the car at a used car lot near the Amelia wall, and the owner is a former motorcycle racer and restorer and collector of antique racing cars. He and his son own the lot, and he is one of those characters one would hope to meet on an Italian visit. We'll get to know him better, and hopefully for good reasons.

His reaction to Dino's asking about the condition about the car: "It runs really well, but as for the body you can see for yourself". That means there is a ding in each door, and the seatcovers are pretty seedy. The color is a kind of gunmetal grey, and it's probably the best investment we'll ever make in Italy. (I suppose that doesn't say much for us, does it?)

We drive to Sgrina to design the kitchen for piano terra, and before we are through Dino calls the Pro Loco in Bomarzo to find out if the tickets for the Palio are ready. They are not, but Ivo tells Dino he'll save seven tickets for us. Bravo. Now if he'll remember we'll be fine.

Tomorrow we'll drive early to Chiusi to Margheriti Brothers, the enormous nursery, to see what wisteria choices they have to offer. I am wondering if there is such a thing as blue wisteria after all.

April 12
We're up and out very early, driving to Chiusi to Margeriti Brothers vivai to find our blue wisteria. It is very cold, 4 degrees, and everything is being watered overhead as we drive in a golf cart with an employee to find what we are looking for. She is not happy, putting her coat over her head and taking out a long specimen with no flowers.

She found the Macrobotrys and also the Issai, but could not confirm that they had any that were blue in color. "Come back mid-May" she told us. That's when they will be in flower." So we thank her and leave. When we return from San Remy later this month we'll begin our search again.

We visit the house, make some decisions that help the muratores, and also agree that driving to the house sometimes twice a day really makes a difference.

Our plates are not ready at Elena's, so Dino will pick them up first thing tomorrow on his way back from the supermarket. We drive back home and work in the garden, pulling out the passion vine in front of the serra and replacing it with a beautiful clematis. Now I have wanted a clematis for a long time, and now we have four of them. The other three will be planted in the pergola in front of the gardener's cottage.

The frustration over the wisteria continues, and Sarah Hammond responds to my feeble request last night that Geisha is the blue one. On the internet I find that some nurseries show a lavender Geisha, and also a very blue Issai.

As we have been counseled before, we'll wait a few weeks more and then see what the Issai looks like at Michellini and also perhaps take another visit to Margeriti Brothers, who have much larger specimens. It is all so confusing.

We spend a few hours on the plumbing and electrical plans for the upper floor of the house, and tomorrow afternoon we'll meet with the geometra and also the electrician. We think we are in good shape to leave for a week, with the geometra stepping in and a call to the muratore each day. There is always something....

I have to remember to draw out the design for my "Cezanne" painting and copy it onto the canvas with carbon paper before we leave. I'd like to be ready to paint as soon as we arrive, but will wait until I meet with Pascale to make sure that I am getting started correctly. I'll be sure to call her tomorrow before we leave.

April 13
Italians think that Friday the 13th is nothing to be worried about. It is the 17th that they are superstitious about.

The day begins with clouds, and things are frenetic. Dino shops first thing, our ceramics are still cooling at Elena's, and the rest of the last minute cleanup takes our attention.

This afternoon we return to Tenaglie for a meeting with the geometra, the electrician, the plumber and the muratore brothers. We are finally able to take a photo of all of them all.


The day warms up, everything at the house goes swimmingly, and we are back at home in time to put things together before leaving for eight days.

Annika arrives for two hours until Angie arrives, and she is somewhat out of touch, thinking we can sit and chat...So we tell her to relax while we buzz around and then we're ready....

For the next eight days, we travel to Provence, and since this journal is all about our Italian days, I won't cover it, except to say that we love Provence, love San Remy, and look forward to returning there every year. April 21
We love travelling on the sea, especially in a boat big enough to let us gently fall asleep. The sea is calm, and although a headache remains, I'm looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. We don't dock until 3PM in Rome and Roy has scheduled a massage for me in the ship's tiny salon at ten. I go to sleep dreaming about it...

April 22
I sleep in, and Dino has breakfast on deck, then joins Frank and Candace. He returns to guide me to the salon for the best massage I've ever had, and afterward I'm feeling so much better. We return to the room and loll around the ship until noon, when we meet our friends for our farewell pranzo, this time with a little pasta to welcome us back to Italia.

The boat docks early, and we're home before Angie expects us. She is beautifully tanned, and tells us it's been hot as Hades this week, so she and Sofi have been cooling off inside during the day. Sofi is so dear, she welcomes me home and I have so missed her.

We get high marks from Angie for Sofi's trimmed body and her good manners. Well if loving a dog is what does it, then so be it. I think she was born a lovely dog, no credit to us.

We take a short jaunt to see Don and Mary, for we think they leave for home tomorrow, but they'll be here until Wedensday. As usual, they have presents for us, and very thoughtful ones, at that. It's always Christmas when Don and Mary come around. So no use complaining...

We take a short look at the Tenaglie house and it looks fine. Tomorrow early we'll return to go over things with the geometra and the team. We've taken a photo of a fireplace to give them for guidance, for the one they've built is not suitable.

Back at home we say thanks and goodbye to our dear friend, Angie, and settle in for a quiet night. Dino drives to Bomarzo to pick up the Palio tickets, and other than that we're just happy to be home. The garden looks really luscious, if a garden can look luscious, but the three clematis just have to be returned. They're dark purple instead of blue. Dino tells me Michellini will gladly take them back. Good thing.

I've painting on my mind, and for these next two weeks I'll paint every spare minute. The new vetrina is in, and will probably be delivered tomorrow when I'm at my painting workshop. So perhaps we'll try to stage the dining room to get ready for the two large pieces, which we'll then have to paint.

We spend some time in front of the TV, for the two final candidates have been chosen for the French presidency, and now we're interested in what goes on in France. I can't say I think the woman makes a lot of sense, although she does want lots of good social programs for the people. But who will pay for them? It appears Sarcozy will win, and that may be fine. We'll have to see. Politicians always have good ideas. It is in the doing that things seem to fall apart.

April 23
It's another beautiful day and we're up and out early. Sofi spent half of the night in our bed, and is having real adjustment problems. It makes me so sad to see her hiding and hunkering down, especially since we know she has a wonderful time with her dog sitter and she has much more exercise than we do when we're here. In a call with Angie, she does not know why either. Hopefully she'll rebound tomorrow...poor sweet girl.

Don walks by to see us when we're getting out of the car in Tenaglie, and we'll see him tomorrow night with Mary. Now we enter the house and since there is no handrail between the first and second floors, Dino takes the walk up the plank alone.

He returns and tells me that there has been a great deal of progress. But in the meantime the geometra has arrived and we discuss the fireplace design. Tani is not particularly happy that we don't care for his design, so he'll rework it just as we map out for him. We also have a photo that we want him to follow. So we'll have the beautiful and characteristic fireplace we've designed, and we'll be there each day to make those little on the spot decisions that are needed on every job.

We drive to Montecastrilli, and wait for the young man who waits on us each year. Yes, we buy three "giganti" tomato plants, plus three other tomato plants that should have large and sweet fruit. The pomodori plants in the greenhouse are looking so puny. It will be at least a month before they're ready to be planted in the ground...

It's on to Amelia, and Tia meets me in the parking lot of the used car lot where Dino is buying his Panda 750S. Tomorrow he'll bring the final paperwork and will be able to drive it away. Later in the day, while I'm at my painting workshop, he finds a new right-hand mirror for €19 and is really happy. The car only has a left rearview mirror.

We rush home for a speedy standup pranzo, then drive to my workshop and Dino drops me off. He returns home and Sasha arrives with the vetrina, in two pieces. It is a huge piece of furniture, and is beautifully crafted. Now we'll have to stain and paint it, so Dino wants us to drive to Bonucci in Viterbo to buy the correct paint.

We also need to pick out a couple of colors of paint to stain a piece of wood for the shutters. Once we pick out the paint, the shutters will be painted and installed. No, our house has not been painted yet, but we were able to get an excellent price on new shutters, so we decided to move ahead with them anyway.

In class I work solely on San Vincenzo, and we take the painting home after class. I'll work on it all this next week and hope to finish it in class next Monday. The following weekend it will be exhibited at the mostra during our village festa.

Marco has an exhibition in Viterbo the following week, and ahs asked me to enter something that I have done from scratch, without copying anything. That means one of the cape paintings, so I'll decide in a week or so which one. These will be my first two mostras, and they'll be in succeeding weekends. The second will continue for a week. I think I am happy about it. Come no?

We drive to Viterbo after Dino picks me up, looking for paint samples for our shutters, which Ovidio probably has sitting in Amelia. I've begun to think of a darker color for the shutters than the previous pale blue-grey.

The person at the paint store tells us that the color fades after a year or two. We've agreed on a lucido finish, instead of the satinato I'd prefer, for its wearability. So we'll be mindful of that when we choose the color.

We've seen so many beautiful colors in Provence, and now are wondering if the color of the house should be a closer match for the tufa wall. That decision will come later. But now we'll test three colors, and will know more from that.

April 24
We begin the day in Attigliano, paying for the insurance for the Panda. Alessandro talks to us about the nests growing under the eaves of a nearby building, and when we tell him about Franco shooting the pidgeons in their back garden with an air gun, he tells us that in Italy the pidgeon is a protected species!

Well, in the cities and towns they are protected, but if one is in the country he can do away with them. That probably has something to do with the spirit of hunting, which is very popular in Italy. How strange!

With his insurance ready, we drive on to Amelia to give a copy of Dino's Permesso to Domenico Caripoti, who is selling him the panda.


A call comes in from the electrician at the Tenaglie house who has questions, and we tell him we'll be there soon. Sofi and I follow Dino across the countryside of Amelia and Lugnano and Guardea, the hamlet of Pozzo Ciulino and finally Tenaglie.

Don Salter comes by to say hello when we get out of the car, and then we're in the house. The fireplace is now back in the design we originally conjured up, and Dino goes over the electrical plan for the Piano 2, making a couple of additions. We move the position of the Piano Uno chandelier, and leave knowing that things are proceeding nicely.

Sofi and I drive home and Dino stops to do some errands. After a cool salad, it's too hot to work in the garden, but we need to plant the new roses, which have been sitting in the loggia. In the meantime, I sew a tablecloth with material from our trip and Dino works on the computer.

The weather cools and the afternoon wind picks up. We plant two of the roses, and the third will be planted tomorrow morning.

It's time to drive to Guardea to meet Don and Mary for pizza, so a sad Sofi sits on the sofa with her little animals and we tell her we won't be long. In Guardea, we eat at a little pizzeria and the woman who waits on us is a joy to behold.

Her purple blouse offsets a coppery colored halo covering her brown hair, her lips outlined into a kind of bow. It all seems to work, for her joyous expression upon seeing Don again makes us all feel at home.

Her use of the word, "perfetto", so perfectly clipped after we order our simple pizzas, makes me wonder if she is really Italian after all. Knowing that we are stranieri, she chooses her words carefully. This is very unlike most Italians, who seem to speed up their conversation when coming across people who regularly speak other languages.

We miss seeing our good friends, and they'll leave tomorrow, but will be back in June. Then I'll have more use of a car and Mary and I will go off on our own then for a visit. That will be fun.

The night is beautiful and cool. But after we're in bed Sofi cries out. She must know something...We put her in bed just as the fireworks begin in Bomarzo. We have a clear "shot" of them from our bed, which faces West, toward the town. After the commotion settles down, we're off to dreamland...all three of us.

April 25
It's a national holiday today, Liberation Day, and in our town, Bomarzo, they're celebrating the Feast of San Anselmo as well, although the actual feast day was yesterday. We're going to the Palio this afternoon, and it is always silly and a lot of fun.

But first we have work to do in the garden, and painting for me will have to wait...

Roses are thriving, despite my inattention. Spectacular for the first time are the Madame Gregory Staechlin roses climbing on the wall between the lavender garden and the far property. Each generous rose appears to be wearing a "coat" of a darker color, the affect quite amazing.

The nespola (loquat) tree outside our bedroom is already taller than the house, and the Madame Alfred Carriere roses loom long to get out of the tree's shade's reach. Above the gardener's cottage they spread, and I feel sorry for them.

So I ask Dino to cut a few branches and he gets a little carried away, creating a large pocket that makes the roses happy but makes the tree look a little naked. The tree is so enormous that I can't really worry about it. I would like to lose it one day, and replace it with a room that I can use as a studio. That will take a long time. So we'll enjoy its shade in the hot summer months until then.

We measure again for the pergola, and will find a way to move forward with that this summer, even if we don't paint the house, once we find the correct wisteria. It must be blue, or it will be white. Tomorrow we'll take the clematis back to Michellini to exchange for white ones, for their "blue" is really dark purple. No thanks. We'll look over their "Issai" wisteria, which they say is blue. My research tells me that there are several versions of Issai, only one is blue.

Candida calls and tells us she'll come by herself to the Palio, for Frank is at home in a conference call. Stein arrives for his first Palio experience, and we drive on up the hill, parking above the street for the Monster Park. Cars are everywhere, and it is a lovely day. So walking uphill is fun, if we take our time.

Candace arrives and we stop in the shade to watch the procession. Again I'm amazed at the Italian teenagers, wearing tights and very silly hats and acting oh so macho. It's a real privilege to be a part of a corteo or procession of one's town. And the boys take it seriously, especially those who have drums to beat.

Stein is amazed at the costumes, and wants an excuse to wear one. "We'll be in costume in a procession one day, and I'll take your hand and we'll look straight ahead, in full dress..." he tells me. Wonder what he thinks Dino will be doing. I don't think Dino is as enamored with the costume thing...

Perhaps that's because he's done it twice in Orte, and was not so happy about it. The people from Orte take their processions very seriously, and would not let Dino wear his glasses. So he told me later that he finished the whole thing in a kind of a fog. He did look elegant, just the same.

We have our tickets, and once the procession has finished we walk to the arena built just for Bomarzo's palio each year. Once inside, we find Tia and Helen and a friend and then sit in our assigned seats, near Laura and Andrea and Salvatore and Serena and Mauro and a few others from Mugnano.

Tia and Helen want to bet on the horse that will win. There are five contradas in Bomarzo and each contrada has a horse and a rider. Since the colors of the Borgo rione (neighborhood, or contrada) are the same as Mugnano's (blue and red), we pick that one, but have no interest in betting.

Before the race, the participants of the procession file into the center of the arena, around which is the horse track. Beyond the horse track are the three sets of bleachers, and then there is standing room for those who don't want to pay. There is plenty of room for everyone to see, whether they have a ticket or not.

There is a set of bleachers also inside the arena on the grass, which is quickly filled up with costumed revelers, all happy to be done with their long walk uphill.

There are flag-throwers from Orte, quite accomplished, and we think also flag-throwers from each contrada in Bomarzo. They perform for us while the horses get ready and then about a dozen Carabinieri ride in on beautiful chestnut horses, single file, and stop at the viewing stand where the mayor and other dignitaries hold court.

After some deft maneuvering with their swords, they turn in single file and trot around the course until they reach the starting line of the race. The lead carabinieri holds his sword out and hollers and then they all take off in full gallop, their arms outstretched, their swords straight ahead...

But what's this? The leader gallops across our field of vision and where's his sword? He's holding out a white-gloved index finger but has dropped his sword. It takes him most of the course to retrieve his sword, which is run across the arena by a young carabinieri who knows he must deliver the sword subito to its owner. That done, the Carabinieri trot off the course and soon the announcements of the arrival of the horses and riders begins. Again, the Carabinieri are fodder for jokes...

There is a drawing of straws, and Francesco, our Vigili Urbani from Mugnano, takes the envelope, after holding it up like Johnny Carson's "Karnac" and hands it to the starter, who reads out which horse will start on the inside, which horse next, and so on.

Our horse, an Appaloosa (beautiful grey), and rider are called out fourth. But it takes about ten minutes for the first four horses to line up correctly. The fifth horse is spiritoso, and his rider holds him back until the other horses are somewhat in order. And then...BANG!

Our horse falls behind, or at least we think that is what's going on. Dino can't see a thing, for he's determined to capture the race on his still camera. We think it can take all two minutes or so.

What's this? Our horse noses its way inside and on a turn slides like butter into first place, where he stays for the rest of the race. It's a very exciting two minutes or so, and for the first time in recent memory, all horses finish. Later, when Dino plays the race back, I can hear myself screaming, "Go, go, go!" when I should be screaming, "Vai, vai, vai!"

We walk out of the arena downhill, and as we reach the bend just below the street that turns up to the Borgo, we turn around to see the winning contrada members parading down the hill with the winning horse. Dino is out front and takes another photo or so.


Stein comes back to the house with us and we sit around eating favas from the garden and pecorino with glasses of red wine. It's a relaxing finish to a fun day. And we have a movie to send to Bruce. He's never here during the Palio. So at least he can see what he missed...

April 26
It's another sunny day, and we're wondering if we'll have any rain this spring. We water, including the pomodori in the serra, and they are really puny. This may be a very small harvest.

Dino takes his car to Alessandro to have it checked out and a few minor things done, and Sofi and I follow him. It's fun to drive, after all this time. But the car will take some time, so Dino leaves it and we drive on to Tenaglie, where the door to the bathroom is cut and more of the window openings are finished.

After a trip to the bank and back, we look for Lorenzo, the fabro, but he is not in his shop. So we'll have to see if we can see him tomorrow, to get him started on some of the projects, at least on the pergola.

We drive to a discount tile yard that we've discovered, and find tiles to replace the ones in the guest bedroom. We hoped we could save the floor, but after trenching for electricity, we are unable to find the same tiles. So we find nicer ones, for a very good price. And the muratore will pick them up in his truck.

We stop at a new bar and pizzeria in Bomarzo, but the pizza is really terrible. It is only much later that I find out that the pizza was not made to order. So we'll give them another chance.

Dino takes me home and Stein picks him up. They drive to Viterbo to get Stein's permesso, only to find out that there is a new law after the 11th of April that states that any European can just show their passport at their Comune and can pick up an Italian identity card.

Sofi and I stay at home and paint, and I'm able to finish most of San Vincenzo's cape while sitting on a stool under a garden umbrella, while Sofi searches for lizards, her favorite pastime.

Dino comes home and we drive off to Vitriolo, where there is a wonderful yard making handmade tiles. I remember that Shelly took us there a number of years ago. Today we find tiles for the fireplace and detail tiles for upstairs.

Dino is not sure about a measurement, so he'll return tomorrow with Panda and this will be his first test in his "new" car, to see how it does transporting heavy things. Well, we have not ordered all that much. But it is a good test just the same.

We're home for the night, and Dino is impressed with San Vinenzo's cape. I am noticing a number of things that need fixing, so if I can finish his gown before Monday, we can work on the finishing touches and then the painting will be ready for the Mugnano mostra during festa weekend. That will give me five days to spare!

April 27
It's Stein's birthday. I'm going to refer to him from now on as Pietro, as the translation of his name into Italian is Pietro Cittabella. What a wonderful name for a wonderful man! Tonight I'm fixing abacchio brodetato for Pietro and Duccio (whose birthday was yesterday) and Dino. We'll have a little festa. Why not?

Today I'm sending Dino out on errands, for I want to make a lemon torte and cook the abacchio, but I really need to paint.

And paint I do, almost finishing the painting, although I'd like to make changes. I hang it up on the back kitchen wall and now that I take a good look at it I want us to keep it! It has taken me six months to paint, and the Duomo has the original painting after all, so perhaps we shall.

Duccio and Pietro arrive, and they get along famously. So before we know it the evening is through, and I'm realizing I don't have the stamina I used to. I look forward to more painting, and to the house project in Tenaglie, and spring and our family coming in June and...everything!

April 28
We're up early, for Mario is here to cut the grass with his noisy weed wacker, and it's a beautiful day. We have an early appointment at the kitchen supplier's office to finalize the second kitchen in the Tenaglie house, and we'll present it to the clients on Sunday by email and telephone.

On Sunday May 6th, the center of Viterbo (a city of about 23,000 people!!) is being evacuated to remove a WWII bomb from the Santa Lucia neighborhood. It's a reason for the Viterbese to come to Mugnano to our festa, or is it?

That reminds me. Last night, Duccio told us that Viterbo, Civitavecchia and Orvieto all are named "old city". The Italian language has experienced many changes over time, so it is not impossible to imagine. So what is Mugnano named? I believe it has to do with the Maeonaize (I am not kidding. The people of Maeonia were called this.) and where they settled. I'll have to get back to you on that...

We visit the Tenaglie house and drop off some beautiful mattone for a fireplace detail and notice the large beam that will be used as a mantel. It has been pressure steamed and cleaned up. It will be one of the focal points of a beautiful fireplace, we are sure.

This afternoon we travel to Terni to pick up birthday presents for the nipotini and to look for a new stove for us. It's a long story, but the old one will be used in our loggia/summer kitchen. We find the model we want in a shop in Terni, and our friends in Giove will be able to locate it and obtain it for us at an excellent price. It certainly pays to have good relationships with vendors.

There is a chill in the air, but flowers are blooming, and Mario has done a masterful job weed wacking. So we'll be ready for the festa next weekend. We also pick up a new little greenhouse support for the lettuce and tender plants on the way home.

This support is the same support we have used each year and purchase from LIDL. It will be planted on top of the raised planter in front of the serra, and this next week we'll begin our spring/summer planting. But the little pomodori seeds are really looking meager.

Mario will return in ten days or so to pluck up the fave and ready the ground for the pomodori. He'll also put up the stakes, or at least work with Dino to do that. But we won't have more than about eight plants. All the rest are at least a month away from planting.

We've picked up my two framed pieces from the framing bottega, with complements from the framer for the quality of my work. He and his wife are very kind people, and charge so little that Dino thinks that the man does all the work and his wife doesn't pay him. What's up with that?

It is so inexpensive to frame things in Italy, compared to the U S. The two pieces we picked up cost €10 each, less than one third of what the price would be in the U S. We're having them make a mirror for our client, one that will face a medicine chest to be buried in the wall above the Piano Terra bathroom sink. It will be beautiful, we are sure.

April 29
For motorcycle riders this is a magic village, for the rough strada bianca on Aqua Puzza and the surrounding hilly terrain is perfect for an adventurous ride. It seems that on Sunday mornings at 6:30 or so, at least one motorcyclist arrives to terrorize the village.

I lay here in bed imagining all kinds of things that locals could do to thwart these insensitive thrillmakers. I'm reminded of dear friend Catharine Hooper in Mill Valley, who'd take a long stick with her on her walks on Mount Tam, holding it out across a path when bikers careened down the hilly mountain. Here, it would have to be something far more solid.

I give up after about fifteen minutes, for the culprit is gone, leaving all of us somewhat awake and cranky. It's foggy outside, but the weather promises to clear. On an internet search about the weather this week, it appears that toward the end of the week we will have mostly cloudy weather. What does that mean for our festa weekend?

It's too early to worry, and there is much to paint to get ready for the mostra. So I sleep in for about an hour and then it's time to get up to get ready for church and our "ultima giro". I'm feeling a celebration is not far behind.

This has been a wondeful and yet very taxing year for our committee, and we look forward to five years before Dino's turn comes up. He thinks that perhaps he'll be too old, at seventy, for such machinations. Magari. Let's hope there are some younger people ready to get involved.

After mass, there is good and bad news. Mauro and Livio did a giro a week or so ago, so we don't have to take several hours for that. But the bad news is that the manifesto is finished and it does not include anything about the artiginale mostra.

Let's say we're both a little miffed, and after some discussion I just want to be out of all of it. I walk slowly home, and Dino stays to see what he can figure out. The morning is warm and lovely, and I don't want to get too close to this possibly messy situation.

Dino arrives home and there is some momentum. Franco and Giuseppa and Livio will join me as artisans, and we are not sure where. Perhaps our mostra will be in the ex-scuola when the porchetta is given out on Saturday night.

But Mauro arrives some time later with a solution. We will have our mostra in the courtyard of the Orsini Palazzo, and although there will be another mostra inside with people from outside Mugnano, we will hold court, so to speak, as people come in.

At this point I really don't care. Dino surmises that the reason for the mixup was that we still do not understand many nuances of the Italian language, and also, we were not here for the last two weeks, when many of the decisions were made.

It's not really important after all, for I'll continue to paint, and the better my art becomes, the less I want to part with any of it.

Sofi and I take a snooze after pranzo, and later I do a little painting. It's good not to be rushed. And in the next few days I should decide which piece or pieces will be entered into the mostra in Viterbo.

The sky clouds over and we have a very slight shower, but otherwise today is another beautiful day. We end the evening with windows open and silence all around, except for a few birds.

April 30
On this last day of the month, we wake to fog, but know that we'll have sun before long. Dino is out doing his morning watering of plants that are not on the irrigation system, then takes off in Panda for his trek to Tenaglie. He'll have a meeting with the fabro to organize the beginning of the construction of the pergola in the back yard of the property.

When he returns, he'll take Pietro to the Comune in Bomarzo to get Pietro's identity card. This month the law changed, and any European can now use his passport to get an Italian identity card, without going through the Permesso di Sojourno complications. I think that means a lot less work for the government, and better cooperation with other members of the European community.

I have plenty to paint, but with the new change in plans for this weekend, I'll not be showing everything, so there's no need to rush. This afternoon I'll take San Vincenzo to Marco's to work on final changes before it is finished.

After a quick pranzo, Dino takes San Vincenzo and me to Marco's, and Marco really likes the painting. What's not to like? He does not want to change the sunstrokes, or the size of the angel's head, but otherwise agrees to help me make a few other changes. Before our time is up, we're all satisfied that the painting looks very good. It looks so good that he wants to include it in his mostra in Viterbo, one that will continue for a week.

I think each person in class gets to submit something, and he agrees to take San Vincenzo. But he also wants to show my chalk drawing of three capes. Both Dino and I are surprised, but happy that he likes that piece enough that he'd like to have it in his show. He tells us that it's a truly original piece, so that's enough for us.

His mostra begins on the 12th of May for one week. We're to be there for the afternoon of the 15th. Each of us takes part of a day to attend. I have no idea what that means, other than we'll be there to answer questions. Let's hope that on the 15th there are no questions...

We arrive home in time to walk up to the borgo for the tree raising. We call Pietro but there is no answer on his phone. He and his guest are out, and perhaps we'll see them soon.

We take Sofi and arrive to see Pietro and his friend also waiting. So for the next hour or so we all wait for the men lugging the tree, the tree of life, the annual tree raising of Mugnano.

Each year on the evening of April 30, for perhaps hundreds of years, the men of Mugnano and their friends have cut down a tree at least 20 meters in length from the Mugnano bosco and carried it up Aqua Puzzo and Via Mameli to the curve in the road below Palazzo Orsini, where it is lifted up and stands until the next tree is raised the following April 30th.

I remind Dino to tell Francesco that there should be the Mugnano bandiera flying from a top branch, and this is both good and bad news. It's good news because it's important that the flag is flying. And it's bad news because they have forgotten and before the tree is hoisted in its final resting place, Antonio has to run off to find a proper bandiera.

Both Dino and I think at the same time that next year I'll sew one. Perhaps by that time it will have a stemma on it of the village. But the finish of that project is probably a long way off. Let's settle for the bandiera in the proper colors for a start...

Stein (Pietro) and his guest Ingrid stand with Sofi and me to watch the antics of the locals, pulling three heavy iron ladders, with heavy ropes stretched out from the tall tree as though it's a May pole. This tree is more than twenty meters in length. But before the men take the turn below the borgo, about eight children from Mugnano run down and are given a little tree of their own to pull up. It's great fun.

It takes more than two hours for the entire process to be complete, and as the men stop to catch their breath at various places on Via Mameli, we're reminded that these men have carried on this tradition all their lives with the same men. Tradition is a wonderful thing, and Pietro remarks that there is nothing contrived about this effort tonight.

There is nothing false, no elegant ceremony, just a simple act of love and tradition. Afterward, we are sure there will be a lot of wine and a lot of grappa drunk, for tomorrow is a national holiday, the workers' holiday, and there'll be plenty of time to rest.

Here are a few photos taken by Dino before the battery in his camera shuts down for the night...


...and the children of Mugnano got into the act with their own tree (branch!)

MAY 2007

May 1
We think we're being lazy bums by sleeping in, and then the phone rings at 8:30 and it's Angie, here to pick up some things she left last week. It's a beautiful morning, so we bound out of bed and share coffee and fresh strawberries with her before she leaves for her next assignment north of Florence.

We spend some time in the garden, planting three new clematis plants in front of the garden shed, and drive up to the Tenaglie house to look things over.

Pietro and Ingrid come by for a visit later and we toast eachother with a cold bottle of prosecco. Tonight is cool, very cool, so we have a fire in the fireplace. Will this be our last fire of the season?

This is surely strange weather for early May. Wonder what that means for this next weekend. Perhaps there won't be much to accomplish during our final weekend of the Festarolo year after all...

May 2
We leave the house in a light drizzle, and drive up through Giove and into Amelia to see if the man Dino purchased the Panda from has another set of keys. No, but it's easy to locate another set from Fiat.

It's still overcast, so makes no sense to pick up the castagno (chestnut) ladder in Fornole. So we drive home and I fix zucca risotto, which is very tasty on this gloomy day. We even have a fire in the fireplace. How strange this late in May! Even Pepe agrees, when I walk into his garage to give him a kiss to thank him for his gift yesterday.

"I'm sorry about my beard," he tells me. "I'll shave it off tonight!" I tell him that if he's comfortable, he shouldn't worry. He's such a kind man.

We drive to the house after pranzo. This morning's rain has stopped and the sky begins to clear. The ramp over the stairway has returned, so I can maneuver upstairs to monitor the restoration's progress, which is remarkable. Arshi has returned to the site and is cleaning up the guest bedroom floor, for it has been trenched and pipes have been put down. Soon new tiles will be laid over all the repair work.

In the master bathroom we're told everything will be closed up tomorrow, so take a careful look around to make sure that all the small details have been taken care of.

We spend some time talking about the stair landing, and want to make sure there is enough room for Merritt so that he won't have to lower his head when he steps down from the landing. The clearance looks fine at this viewing. So we're ready to leave.

We drive on to Fornole and pick up the ladder. We have a plan for it, one we can't reveal until the end of the project...

Back at home, it's cold and overcast. So I check on the internet for the forecast, and it appears that we will have rain on Saturday...There goes the mostra and our plans for dancing outside have been all but dashed...

May 3
Rain continued for most of last night, and this morning the air is very humid and the sky overhead is heavy with a thick cloud cover. If it rains this weekend, there will not be much of a festa, nor will there be a mostra of the artiginale of Mugnano in Palazzo Orsini's open courtyard. What to do?

Mauro and Livio have worked it out; if it rains, our mostra will be held in the ex-scuola. Va bene. I really don't care if we have it or not, I just want to paint.

This morning we have capuccinos at Fedora's bar, deplete the bank account from the bank for the festarolo committee, drive to the Tenaglie house and look things over. Everything looks good, and on Monday the pressure steam cleaning of the internal roof tiles and beams will begin.

We drive to a different tile yard and pick up handmade tiles for a special secret project, drive on to Viterbo for one more paint sample for our shutters and to the lamp shop to pick up a sample applique (sconce) for the dressing room.

An intermittent rain continues, so I stay home and paint while Dino walks up to mass with his confraternity garb. Tonight is the first of the Tredium, or three masses said in honor of San Liberato's celebration this weekend. Valerio is the second confraternity member to serve with Dino.

Just after the mass begins, with Don Renzo officiating, a loud pop, like a gunshot, reverberates around the little church, followed by a strange silence. Don Renzo hesitates and then returns to the mass.

Later, Dino tells me that one of the lights on one of the chandeliers popped, followed by a gasp from the women when it occurred as if they were all lifted up in unison to meet the little bulb.

Back at home, we sit at the kitchen table and begin to work the puzzle that is the configuration of the tiles for the master bathroom. I am mindful that the client wants some complication in the design, and likes tiles set on the diagonal, so begin to map out the design for the floor.

The bathroom tiles will not be set for a week or more, so in the meantime we will draw elevations for each of the walls and each floor. We both look forward to supervising the laying of the tiles, and wonder....what have we missed?

May 4
Rain, rain, rain all night, rain all morning. It's useless to be upset about it, but when will it end? The rain is a strong rain this morning, and we hear a solitary bird near the window, who seems to like it. Wonder if he smells like a wet dog?

We drive to Orvieto in the rain to help Candace hang a light, stopping at a café for cappuccino with a new friend. But I'm losing my short-term memory so rapidly that this journal takes on added significance.

What did we do this afternoon? Some days I just don't remember. Not to worry, I'm told, until I completely zone out the way our first Brinkley did, staring at light fixtures for hours.

At Candace's, Dino begins a small light project, one that he'll finish next week. With Franco left already for SF to sell his building, she's alone for a week or so. So she'll probably join us in Mugnano for part of this festa weekend.

We drive on to Tenaglie, and have some concerns about the hydraulico (plumber), for he works fast and doesn't seem to pay attention to his drawings. In one instance, he began to spray paint a huge number 11 on the south stone wall, near where a radiator will be located. We catch him after he paints his first "1", and then he shows us that the spray paint can be easily rubbed off. We think we'll have to watch him.

All else seems to be moving fine, with two stair landings set and the baseboard for the cement underlayment of the stairs almost ready to be poured. This is very exciting. "But how can they climb the stairs when it's drying?" I ask Dino. They'll have to climb the outside scaffolding and enter through the windows". Fine.

Speaking of windows, the shutters have arrived and on Monday Dino will check them out to approve them before they are accepted. They're being housed at the house the muratores are renting in Guardea until it's time to install them. Things seem to be moving swiftly along, with three weeks to go until their penalty phase begins.

But we have already asked them to do more things, so we're sure the date will be a bit flexible. That's fine, as long as our clients can move into a house that is finished, at least on the top two living floors.

The pavement for the Piano Prima needs to be laid soon, so we drive to the supplier after a short plate of pasta at a nearby favorite restaurant. We think most of the things we have ordered from Orsolini are at their warehouse, so we'll find out in a day or so if the things we'll need next will be ready to be trucked over. It all sounds so pragmatic and simple.

We drive home under a partially clear sky, hoping that on tomorrow and Sunday we'll have weather clear enough for our activities. I'd really like to have our mostra in the ex-scuola whether it rains or not, instead of in the Orsini courtyard, but we won't know until tomorrow. For now, Dino has packed up all the ceramics we will show, and tomorrow will move them as well as the paintings up to the borgo. Can it be that this festa is finally here?

May 5
Today is the first day of our festa, and in less than forty-eight hours our work will be OVER! At eight o'clock the gun blasts sound off to notify the village that we're ready to celebrate. Wish the skies were in agreement.

I'm hoping our mostra will be moved to the ex-scuola. With showers expected both this morning and afternoon I'm worried about the paintings being damaged. Dino is confident that we'll have our mostra in the school building.

We drive off in the early morning rain for capuccinos at Fedora's bar, then on to Viterbo Sud to look at handmade Sicilian tiles. We find some that will be perfect for the main kitchen, and while the owner and I chat, Dino calculates what we'll need and we place an order.

Now the owner tells us that the tiles will be ready for delivery in approximately 15 to 20 days. That makes me laugh... silently. We won't be surprised if it takes more than 45 days, if at all. Wonder why I don't believe him? We've also pushed him to deliver the tiles at the same time as the clawfoot tub.

That is a good idea. Since the tub is already in his magazzino and he wants to be paid, he'll do all he can to rush the tile order, so that he won't have to make two separate deliveries to Tenaglie. Let's hope he doesn't have the last laugh.

While I write this it's after 2:00 P M, and thunder crashes overhead. Dino has walked up to the borgo to see what is going on with the mostra. Why would anyone want to walk around a wet borgo to view...anything?

We've decided to put our artwork in the ex-scuola, and when we drive up there we are completely alone. We set up on a long wall, and it takes more than an hour for Giuseppa's daughter and grand daughter to arrive to set up her lovely crewelwork and embroideries.

Livio arrives and decides to show his baskets alongside us, so there are now three local artisans in the mostra. Rain pours down and the porchetta truck drives up right outside the building, so at least that will bring traffic.

During the next few hours there are plenty of people, and as Dino comments, it's a good thing for me to have a mostra, even for the experience. The idea warms on me, and by the time the D J arrives to set up outside on the landing, I'm actually enjoying myself.

With free porchetta sandwiches for everyone, there are plenty of people, including Lore and Alberto, who we have not seen for a long time.

As the band sets up, Mauro and Dino agree that there will be no dancing inside; it will be outside. The rain has stopped, and the music maestro does a very good job getting people interested in the music.

There are about a dozen children running around and dancing, but it is Andrea Perini who takes our breath away. He is a Charlie Chaplinesque figure, moving around with smooth strides and original footwork, happy to be dancing by himself, but comfortable with his friends. He is a boy to watch.

People continue to arrive, and there are many comments about the mostra. Giuseppa's daughter and we decide to put our things away until tomorrow afternoon. Livio keeps his beautifully crafted baskets on his table, not worried about them.

The evening builds to a crescendo with a group gathered outside around the stage that take turns at the microphone, performing karaoke-type singing. For two hours they continue to sing, and Dino lets me steal away around midnight to go back home to be with little Sofi. With fireworks in nearby Chia going off, she will surely be frantic.

Back at home Sofi greets me with kisses, then is ready to eat her dinner and go upstairs with me to wait for Dino to come home. The moon is big and yellow and almost full, and as I get into bed I realize how very tired I am and how much I am looking forward to this festarolo year coming to a close tomorrow.

May 6
It's hard to believe it's here. Yes, the real Festa of San Liberato for 2007. Guns crack through the silence of the early foggy hours, and with Sofi shaking it's time to get up.

We think the overcast weather might mean there will be no band, but I can hear its music begin to play just above our house on Via Antica, just when we are sure it will not.

The silly music breaks through the fog and sun begins to appear. With the parade of the band over, we walk up to the caduti monument for the first ceremony of the war dead, and then it's time for the mass.

We are sure the mass will be held inside, but just as Don Luca arrives he tells his confraternity fellows that there is not room enough for all the people for mass. He picks up the end of one of the wooden benches and looks to the others for them to follow his lead outside.

What to do? In less than five minutes, the real bust of a very black San Liberato and the entire contents of the main part of the church have been moved outside.

We're ready to begin and the sun is with us!

With more than sixteen members of the confraternity, including Dino holding up the San Liberato banner, mass takes place with Don Cirio and Don Luca and the coro from Bomarzo.

At the end of the mass I wonder if there is anyone to take the Accion Cattolica banner in the procession. I walk inside an almost empty church and see no banner around. Inside the sacristy I see Serena, who takes out the banner and I start to return outside.

"We'll share the banner," Serena tells me. "I'll take it one way and you can take it on the return." So it is that I walk a few steps from her in the midst of one line, and when she turns the banner over to me we change positions for the walk back.

It's a great thrill for me to carry the banner, but there is no thrill like the first time I held the pole of the banner in my hands that winter morning a few years ago, standing in the midst of the women in the procession, staring silently and seriously ahead.

The mostra is held again in the school, and I am more relaxed this time, speaking now and then about the work, but mostly just being there, witnessing it all. The entertainment arrives, and agrees that they can work in the midst of the mostra in the center of the two big rooms, if it rains.

This group is like a modest circus act, with a clown, a juggler, a face painter, two people on stilts, and the entertainment begins with music and cymbals and the clown blowing long colored balloons for the children, shaping them into flowers and dogs and swords with handles.

Children are mezmerized by the face painter, and at least ten children run around with colored designs on their cheeks and foreheads. Rain continues off and on, and the clown performs magic tricks, while bringing a few people into his act. As the weather clears they all move out into the streets of the village, meandering through every alleyway and through each street and passageway, playing tunes and dancing and singing.

The group is a big hit, and we're relieved that we could finish this part of the weekend on a high note. Now all that's done is to make the cena (dinner) for the Bomarzo coro tomorrow night.

After cleaning up the hall, we close up and Dino moves my pieces back home, except for two, which will be taken to Marco's tomorrow for my next mostra. Let's keep the momentum building!

I must admit I am very tired. So tired in fact that I go to bed early, and wake up with...another headache.

May 7
With the morning fog I'm haunted by another migraine looming overhead. I just know it's coming, and by the time we arrive at Marco's for an art workshop it's in full swing. Of course it must have to do with the pressure of this weekend's mostra and the slowing down afterward. So what can I learn from this?

This morning Dino drives to Tenaglie, then takes Pietro to the Comune to get his Italian identity card. Pietro must be feeling more and more like an Italian.

The house is shaping up nicely, with sandblasting due to begin today. After the mess created, they'll be ready to install most of the windows.

We bring the painting of San Vincenzo and also the framed pastel of the Three Capes, for the mostra in Viterbo to Marco. We will meet Marco at the mostra site on Friday to help him hang the show. I'll let you know more when I do.

Sofi and I go up to bed at 6PM, and Dino walks up to the ex-scuola to help put on the dinner for the Bomarzo Coro without me. This is the last activity of the festarolo, and I am sorry to miss it. My headache rages and I am unable to attend.

But when Dino comes home he returns with tales of gaiety, spontaneous singing by the coro and then a walk up into the village to serenade the residents. I'm especially sorry to miss their singing of Il Pensiero, the haunting melody from Nabucco. What fun!

May 8
We're greeted by a little fog but lots of sun, so we get up and feed the hydrangeas and tiny tomato plants. Let's forget about the headache. After fourteen hours of rest, I'm tired of it all and want to have fun.

We work on the Tenaglie project, mapping out tile designs for the bathrooms and kitchen. While I continue, Dino calls ENEL to order gas for the client, then drives to Vitorchiano to contest a speeding ticket, one that he proves he paid three years ago.

Vitochiano is like a lot of small towns in Italy, making money on the follies of others by setting up speed traps and cameras for unsuspecting drivers.

Now, in addition to tickets received months later in the mail, is a form that the offender can fill out if he wants to prove that he was not the person driving when the offense took place. For some time, the giving of points toward speeding tickets was suspended, but now there is a way around it.

After pranzo we drive to Tenaglie, to talk with a client who has a little house to sell, and to meet Franco at the house to measure for window sills. The project is moving along rapidly now, and the stairs should be poured tomorrow.

We spend some time downstairs, amazed at the size of the main beam holding up the house. It is really gigantic, and with the floor dug up and lowered, the size of the main room on the ground floor, previously known as the cantina, will look much larger.

The back wall is really covered in a kind of slimy substance, and the muratore just wants to paint it. I want to expose the stone beneath it, instead. There's no use covering up a mess when for about the same cost we can have one of those beautiful exposed Umbrian stone walls.

We stop on the way home for a gelato in Alviano scalo, then come home to relax.

May 9
It's a beautiful day, and Sofi and I enjoy the weather at home, while Dino and Pandadina (the little car's new name) go out for a whirlwind of activity: revisiting a house listed for sale and taking new pictures in the sun, buying paint and delivering it to Ovidio in Amelia so that he can paint our shutters, helping Candace put up lights in Orvieto, checking out the house in Tenaglie.

"I'm enjoying this car!" Dino remarked yesterday when we were driving out of the village in the Panda. The car has been a great investment, and we'll have it forever. It is really a solid little vehicle, and even Sofi likes it, hopping from the front to the back seat during our jaunts.

So a flu creeps up and before noon I've now come down with it. After pranzo I return to bed for most of the afternoon, while Dino drives off to Amelia and Tenaglie and returns pronouncing the new stairs in excellent shape.

Now I know nothing about forming a cement staircase, but Dino tells me that most muratores make them completely of cement, and they are quite heavy. Tani instead uses those hollow bricks for the form, so the final look is the same, but the structure is much lighter, creating less stress on the frame of the building. Good job.

I'm taking a syrup called Lintos for the flu, and Dino suggests that we both also take Vitamin C. Let's hope this flu is a short-lived one. Sofi stays by my side just the same, and this afternoon is even treated to a snooze on the bed. Tonight she's back in her little wicker bed, and we're all in bed hoping for a quick recovery.

May 10
I spend most of the day in bed again, with Sofi by my side. The flu refuses to go away. Dino races around and spends time at the house, this time watching Luciano on his tractor mowing the field around the olive trees.

May 11
I'm determined to get up and am feeling better, so we drive on to Tenaglie, where I'm simply amazed by the progress. The ground floor of the house looks as though it has been taken over by Pigpen in the Peanuts comic strips...

The door to the room facing the street as one walks down the path to the house is open and clouds of dust waft up and forward, indicating that sand blasting has commenced on the ground floor. A terrible droning noise from the machine stops and we think we'll be able to see inside.

At a break in the action, Arshi appears wearing a greyish paper suit covering his body and his head, as well as a mask. He invites us to see the extraordinary result of the blasting of the beams and ceiling. The largest beam is so enormous that I am sure it can hold up the house all by itself. Several inches of fine sand temporarily cover the floor.

We are not sure of the composition of the beam, but it appears to be a chestnut or other hard wood, and the color after sandblasting is fairly light. Dino thinks the beams are all castagno (chestnut).

I am itching to move forward on the kitchen design, but nothing can be done until they dig down into the bowels of the house to lower the floor. When finished, the floor will be at least 30cm lower than it is now and there will be plenty of ceiling height.

Upstairs, with the sandblasting of the Piano Segundo ceiling finished, the beams and old tiles are really beautiful, the height of the ceiling and open window spaces bringing the blue skies in and the glorious views a part of the feeling of being at one with the earth and sky.

Uri is working on the fascia of the fireplace, and it will angle back and be covered by intonico. Right now the wooden bracing is anchoring it while the intonico dries, and the whole fireplace is coming together just as we had hoped.

We hear a voice from the path and it is Paolo, one of the brothers who formerly owned the house and now a good friend. We take him through as though it's his first time here, and can tell the visit is one of sadness mixed with many happy memories. We introduce him to the workers and tell them that Paolo was even born here. The young men clearly appreciate being in on the story of the house.

When we ask Paolo about the fire that took place, evidenced by dark staining on wood in the ceiling and at the back of the house, he can remember none of that, but tells us that under the stairs supplies were hid for the Marshallo during WWII.

It is now that we learn that this family was a family of partisans; with images of the danger they faced hiding supplies and perhaps a person or two during the war race across my subconscious and I see the house in a new light. When the construction has been finished and the new owners here in June, we'll be sure there'll be a visit with all of them and more stories to enter into the memory book.

May 12
Today is the inauguration of my second mostra, this one in Viterbo, and this particular mostra will continue for at least ten days. Yesterday, Dino drove to Viterbo to help Marco "hang" the show, and Marco has picked "Three Capes" to be hung on the wall at the end of the red carpet, the best place in the house. I am honored.

After a visit to Tenaglie and then to Candace's in Orvieto to put up a light for her, we return home to do a little gardening and then get ready for the show.

Pietro arrives and he and Dino escort me to Viterbo, where we park and walk to the deconsecrated church where the mostra will be held. It's after 6PM, and already the location is full of people.

The location is well lit, and Marco walks out to greet me, telling me I look as though I've arrived from Hollywood. I'm wearing sunglasses and a long white tuxedo shirt over black linen pants but of course I'm thrilled by the attention.

My name appears in the middle of a group of names, and it is difficult to imagine that my work is really here at all. What may be more difficult to imagine, is that my work holds up among all the other work, although I've only been painting in oil for eight months. Yes, I admit I am happy and honored to be here.

Tiziano Gasperoni arrives almost right away, followed some time later by his parents. San Vincenzo receives a great deal of attention by friends as well as strangers, as do the capes.

Candace arrives after Dino finds her lost somewhere nearby, and after the visit we drive to Mugnano where Stein hosts us for eggs and smoked Norwegian Salmon under candle light, Sofi at our feet and prosecco in our hands, celebrating another special day.

May 13
I can tell the fog will break, at least during mass, so we walk up to find the sun streaming through and a beautiful day ahead.

But when we reach the little church we are alone in the piazza, bathed in a warm morning light. In just a minute or two, Franca walks across the pavement toward us, telling us that she has opened the church this morning in Livio and Gigliola's absence, and that the church is a mess.

Rondine (swallows) have entered the church and begun to build a nest for the arrival of their babies. This is not good news, for their messy droppings are evident on the altar cloth, on the floor. One of them swoops down and then remains mostly near the sunlight approaching from all sides of the little cupola, where a nest is evidently being built.

What to do? Now if you have been reading the journal lately, you will remember that it is against the law to interrupt or kill rondine. As Don Cirio speaks his sermon many of us in the congregation watch the sole bird, swooping and then resting far above the priest's head. The priest ignores the activity, concentrating solely on his mission for the morning and his sermon, which we of course cannot understand.

After mass, we encounter Enzo Gasperoni, a former forest ranger, and ask him his solution. "A carabino (rifle) shot will do the trick," he tells us in Italian. But it does not make sense. In the way of the Church, it is against doctrine to end a life, and shooting inside the cupola will also probably break a window, allowing more birds to enter...this time from the top. It will also break the law... What to do?

The priest has nothing to say, other than earlier, when Lore and I asked him, he confirmed that this weekend is probably Don Luca's seventh anniversary as a priest. Lore tells us that on such occasions it is normal to clap for the priest at the end of the mass.

I've been thinking of Don Luca, because I've told Dino that it's important to know what things of importance are needed for the soon to be restored Duomo in Mugnano. I've agreed to ask Mauro what he has found out, but Mauro and Laura have probably joined Livio and Gigliola in Montefiascone, so the encounter will take a little longer before we decide what to do with the Festaroli money we've collected.

Back at home, I repot a few tomato plants, ones that are ready for the ground, and add new soil. I'm hoping Mario will come this week and work with Dino to prepare the soil, including taking out the fava plants and building the framework for the tomatoes.

Inside the serra the tiny pomodori plants are really puny. I will mix up some special solution purchased last November and see if it will kick-start them. Otherwise, we'll have a very small crop, and much of it will not be ready for eating until late August or early September.

But I'm not going to worry about any of it. My thoughts instead turn to the wisteria we are to plant, and this week I'll convince Dino to take me to Chiusi to see if we can find blue wisteria after all.

As Dino watches a Formula 1 race, his favorite Spring and Summer activity, I sit upstairs and write, feeling very tired and that another headache can't be far off. Sigh.

After a short nap, Duccio and Giovanna come to take us for a drive, a kind-of dress rehearsal for tomorrow. Duccio hates crowds, so he tells us that tomorrow morning he'll be home "making the beds", while the rest of us scamper off to witness the Barabbata right outside Marta.

Well, the locals don't call it that, they call it the Passeggiata, which also means "the walk", or the stroll, which also signifies the daily activity that takes place at around 5PM in every locale in Italy, where people walk and gossip and talk about each other.

It is a clear and warm day, and Duccio drives us all while Dino plays navigator for a change. The church, which is the location of the end of the procession, is decorated with fresh laurel and big apples and vegetables. It's quite a remarkable site, as is the view from this high position on the hill above the town.

After a look inside, we drive to Gradoli, where we visit an exposition. I'm still looking for the right "bee" design for Kate's iron bee that Lorenzo will fashion. Yes, it is here. The bee is the symbol of the Barberini family, just as the fleur de lis is the symbol of the Farnese.

Within the display are a few mockups of designs for painted plates that were never completed. Evidently the Farnese and Barberini families were to have a grand banquet together and special commemorative plates were to be made and painted just for the event.

But the families quarrelled, and the event never took place. Never to get along again, the designs were never implemented. But I do find examples of the bee, and Dino takes a photo. It's not the perfect rendition of a bee after all, but I do now have a lead...Tonight I'll do an internet search for the Barberini bee...

With a stop at the "Re di Gelato" king of gelato at Capodimonte and a stroll among the vendors selling trinkets at the side of Lake Bolsena, we drive home and say a c'e vediamo to our friends, (until tomorrow).

May 14
We're up early, and the sun is bright. After checking on Pietro and his guest and picking up Giovanna in Bomarzo, we drive on to a country road outside Marta, near the shore of Lake Bolsena, and look for the perfect parking space. Now we'll wait.... Here's the story....

Each May 14th, regardless of the day of the week, there is a celebration of the fertility of the earth here. Some call it a peculiarity between the sacred and the profane, but as Giovanna tells it with a shake of her head, "No matter!"

Pietro and his friend drive right behind us to reach the outskirts of the town of Marta, with a grand view of Lake Bolsena. With Giovanna's expert counsel we position ourselves near the front of the church, at a place where we can see the entire procession that winds its way up a steep hill to the church. Well, it runs in a straight line but it sounds more poetic to "wind", so work with me here. Thanks.

After waiting more than an hour in a combination of sun and shade, throngs of people begin to arrive and the procession begins with men on horseback coming up the road and taking off their hats right as they reach us. Looking past us toward the front of the church, they hold their hats in their upswept hands, John Wayne style and yell, "Viva Maria!"

Everyone around us claps and then they're followed by huge oxen that don't want to move, especially up a steep hill on a hot day. They bring the first float, and as the animals groan Sofi starts to shake in Dino's arms and it only gets worse for the poor dog. She spends most of the next hour in the shade by my feet or walking with Dino around the church as people arrive and arrive and arrive...

There must be one hundred floats, and it takes until almost noon for them to all find themselves in the square in front of, or behind the church. In Italian fashion, the event just ends, with more people streaming up the hill to jam theirselves into the church.

We know better and when there is a small clearing we walk down the hill to our air-conditioned cars and drive on to Purgatorio, the restaurant on the shore of Lake Bolsena where we wait for Duccio to make his entrance and let Sofi meander around.

What follows is one of the best pranzos we've had in recent memory, with corregone (the special lake fish of Bolsena) served both as an appetiser pickled in aceto (vinegar) for Dino and roasted with wild fennel for the rest of us.

Of course there are many Rome stories, for everyone at the table loves Rome, and Pietro and Duccio have many stories to tell about the grand city that we've only heard a couple of times but laugh at them again and again.

We leave our guests and it is only 2:30, so I ask Dino if we can drive to Chiusi to see if we can find the blue wisteria from Margheriti Brothers. "Come no?" (why not?). About an hour later, after the most beautiful drive through parts of Lazio and Umbria and also Southern Tuscany we reach the huge vivai. There are hundreds of specimens there, as well as a huge poster showing various kinds of wisteria, but there is no blue to be had. We open two books and can find no real blue in either of those books, either. What to do?

I switch my plan after seeing a specimen called Pink Ice. It is pale pink with touches of white and very pale yellow centers. Dino agrees, we find four hearty plants, and stuff them into the Alfa, driving down the a-1 toward home.

After a stop at the Tenaglie house to check on the progress and answer some questions, we drive home and are followed closely by Lorenzo the fabro, who measures for the wisteria pergola he will make in conjunction with Dino (Roy) and also Stefano the muratore.

We're going to find a way to make our pergola without it costing a ton of money. But since the wisteria is here and we need to plant it in the ground in the next weeks, we'll meet with Stefano in the next days to put a plan together.

Did I tell you that the wisteria is not in flower? Well, when we went to Margheriti Brothers a few weeks ago they were not in flower and we were told to come back during the middle of May. So here we are and nothing is in flower. We'll have to take their word for it, and won't know if it will flower, or when it will flower, for perhaps a few years. In the meantime, we'll watch the plants grow and get the structure started.

Yes, it is all an adventure. What's the worst that can happen? I suppose we will see we have three or four colors of wisteria, none of which I like. I'll worry about that...then.

May 15
We're up early. I mean early. By 6AM Dino is in the shower and we're dressed and ready for Mario for the first time...ever.

Mario arrives at 7AM, and he and Dino will pull up all the fave plants, turn over the soil and put up the structure for the pomodori plants, then plant the few plants that are ready for the ground and hopefully plant basil plants in between each one.

I don't know where I read about it, but last year we planted basil and tomato plants this way, and the tomatoes tasted wonderfully fragrant. So we'll do it again this year.

But we have no basil plants, nor do we have sedano (celery) to plant, or any lettuce or cucumbers or anything else, except for two zucchini and some herbs. While the guys are working on the tomato orto, I'll drive off to Bruno's in Attigliano to see what I can dig up there (sorry for the pun) for them to plant, too.

I can't find any basil or any lettuce or anything else at Bruno's, so drive to Giove and at least pick up 17 basil plants. Later this week we'll pick up whatever else we need.

While I'm gone, Mario reworks all the tomato orto, digging up the fave plants irrigating with plastic pipes, and they plant ten pomodori plants. When I return, they plant all the basil.

Mario takes a look at the puny pomodori plants in the serra and tells me it's been too hot in the serra, so move them outside where they can get air. Then water them twice a day. Half of them are still alive. So we won't have a big crop this year.

It doesn't' really matter. There will be plenty of tomatoes, and we have about two years' worth of backlog in processed tomatoes from previous years. Now I know what to do. It is a shame, particularly since I planted the seeds on February 1st.

Both the plum and peach trees have lots of fruit, so Mario tells us to pinch off every other one so that we can have a better and sweeter yield. All right. Why is it that year after year we still feel like neophytes in the garden?

There are several volunteer zucca (squash) plants in the raised bed, so when Mario reworks the orto bed near the peach tree he plants six zucca, telling Dino to start to pinch them out once they take hold. We will have tons of zucca this year. Perhaps we'll even have a few zucchini.

Mario will return in a week or so to put in a gravel path to San Rocco on the far property. Until this winter the apple tree will stay put. Then it will be moved to the side, so that there will be a clear path of gravel. The path will be edged in tufa bricks, and in spring will be flanked by artichoke plants. Come no?

There's lots more to do, but all Sofi and I get done are the feeding of most of the roses and clipping back of dead blossoms and leaves. We really need a simpler garden, and I think we'll be getting rid of some of the roses this winter. The older we get, the easier the garden must be to take care of.

After an early pranzo, Dino takes me to Marco's for a short session. It is a very good one, and before I'm through for the day, Marco tells me that he wants me to do a figure with folds of fabric for my next project. He picks one out of a book and wants me to draw it first, then paint it in oils.

I love this idea, for it is my goal to be extremely accomplished at painting folds of fabric and people wearing drapes of elaborate material. Marco is an ideal instructor, not forcing his interests on his students, but listening intently to what they want to learn and really helping them to learn in a very practical way. Bravo, Marco.

After the workshop, it's our turn to babysit at the mostra in Viterbo, so Dino and Sofi and I spend three hours in Viterbo, then treat ourselves to pizza in San Pellegrino. We're all tired, so drag ourselves home.

While I was at the workshop, Dino drove to Tenaglie and met the new gardener, then worked out some kinks in the orchestration of the work. He wants to meet with the electrical contractor, who never seems to be around when Dino needs him. But all is still on schedule...

May 16
It's Sofi's birthday! Or was it yesterday? The little dog continues to be the most incredible companion. As the day moves swiftly by, she spends most of it waiting for us, and each time we come back to her it is as if we have been gone for days, the joy is so intense.

The day is filled with trips to the house, to Terni to look at towel bars and possibly order made-to-order screens for our client, to Amelia to revise our mirror frame order for the Piano Terra bathroom, and then ends with a trip back to the house.

As we drive over the Tenaglie hill we can see a hole that could have been made by a guided missle. The demilune opening for the window above the roof of the next house is now a reality.

And inside the size of the hole is evident, with big stones covering the stairs and floor, and Tani full of dust.

We've missed the electrical contractor again, but Dino has spoken with Tani regarding a few "not to forget" details. Inside the tiny Piano Prima bathroom it's difficult to comprehend that this will be a functioning space. There are many electrical details, just the same.

We knew we had little room to work with, so Arshi makes a funny sweeping jesture to confirm that the room will be used in case of "urgency". Well, this added room is a luxury, one that we think will be just large enough for occasional use. Do you remember the tiles we purchased for the guest bedroom floor? They were to replace ugly tiles that were damaged when channels were dug into the floor for electrical cables. So today Arshi lays the tiles.

But before he begins, I remember that the client likes tiles laid in a complex fashion, at least on the diagonal, which means a lot of cutting. So we agree on the design. But that means they may need more tiles.

We continue on our day and return to the house before returning to the discount yard to see if we can find more of the same design. Arshi is just about finished, and will need every last tile we have. But he may have enough to finish.

Dino tells him, "I have one tile in my car!" and we agree that he may need to leave it. We'll see tomorrow how close our estimating has come. And I'm reminded of my father, who did a little estimating as a hobby, estimating the stock and value of shoe stores going out of business, his estimates almost always right "on the money".

May 17
So there's an email from Pat Flaharty, and sad news that Sue Mulcahy passed away suddenly this past week. I barely knew her, but she was the wife of one of Dino's best pals growing up. We send our condolences to the whole family.

Losing a friend long distance is, well, is it more difficult? Without other friends to get together with in person to share stories and memories with, it's different. Despite countless reminders to Francesco, we are still not sure if the cemetery plot we've asked for is available for us in our village cemetery.

This is a reminder try to get it done before Terence arrives next month. No one wants to talk about it, but we really want to get the business done, hopefully far in advance of any need.

While I sit here writing this I'm jolted into reality by the loud sounds of chirping outside our bedroom window. There is a tension in the air, and it feels as though birds are jealously guarding their turfs.

A thick fog gives way to sun, and I bless the day, bless the small moments of life, and confirm to myself that it is these little moments that are so precious. I feel thankful to have spent twenty-six years so far with a man I love deeply. That's not so long compared to Will and Sue, but a very long and rich time to me.

We're bouncing around in Pandina today, with Sofi bounding into the back seat when she's to sit and wait for us. It's a cool day, so not uncomfortable for her.

At the house, there are three tiles left from the paving work on the guest bedroom floor! Arshi has done an excellent job, and I look forward to working with him on the rest of the paving work. Speaking of paving, where are those tiles we've ordered?

Today our salesman from Orsolini is "not in", so tomorrow we'll hound him to get more answers. The last we knew, he wanted to deliver the tiles we need a week from tomorrow. We're ready for them, so we want them...subito!

May 18
This morning, Dino spends time at the Tenaglie house, for the folks from ENEL are to arrive to either move the gas line or to look the work over. He'll take the opportunity to do some other work there, and Sofi and I will stay at home.

I'm hoping for two things this morning : 1)good weather to work in the garden, especially with all the roses, and 2)time to paint Pietro's stemma and work on painting the plates for our grand daughters, who'll arrive in less than a month.

Yesterday on the road I ran into Paolo, the grand father of the boy twins. I asked him how they were and he responded that they are little terrorists, rolling his eyes. I told him about our little angels, and that there will be a "gemelli party" in the square on the 17th in the afternoon. He confirms that he'll invite them to come. I don't know if I'm happy or not about this, but I do like these two very spirited boys.

The weather cooperates, and I'm able to spend a couple of hours in the garden as well as paint all three plates. This afternoon Dino will take them to Elena to be baked.

Duccio calls and will stop by on the way to the train station to pick up Giovanna. He wants the Valori stemma for his daughter and that pleases me. Bit by bit, I'm honing down the remaining ceramics, and soon we'll have a place to store them.

After pranzo, we turn the bottom piece of the newly built and delivered vetrina on its side and Dino stains the inside in a castagno (chestnut) color. It looks quite good, and we think we'll be able to use it within the next ten days or so. The finish work that I am to do can be done after the piece is in place. I'll be doing a three-step antiquing job on the outside, and will probably leave that for a summer project, when it's too hot to work outside.

Tonight Sofi will stay at home and we'll drive to Narni to see the Mille Miglia, the 1,000 km auto race of antique sport cars. Dino loves this event, but this year the "race" will not drive through San Gemini.

Dino thinks that Narni is a better place to view it, anyway, because of the curves and also because the cars will be driving uphill (a kind of revving thing, I suppose) as they whiz past.

I'm particularly reminded of a couple in a convertible car last year, dressed in leather driving gear, including goggles, all quite fantastic as the car swerved around the curve arriving at San Gemini's main piazza. As they waved I imagined how much fun it must be to participate. But Dino is the one who really, I mean REALLY, wants to participate some year. I can see it in his eyes.

We plan to meet Dan and Wendy Hallinan and then have cena at a very good restaurant in town, thinking we'll communicate by cell phone. Parking near the restaurant, we walk across Corso Garibaldi and end up at a bar with a great view of the scene. There is a table, so we take it, and not long later Dan and Wendy arrive.

The first cars zoom by, and after a few minutes we think we can find a better viewpoint. So we walk up the hill a little and around a curve, where we can watch the cars come almost straight toward us before making a turn.

I'm into the scene now, waving at each car as it drives by. Most people wave back, and it is obvious that they are enjoyng the adventure. Only a few scoul as they pass. Many wear leather goggles and caps, for it is cool and most of the cars are convertibles, strangely enough.

My favorite is a duo of two women in an ancient cream-colored BMW. Of course, any BMW is all right with me. I still wax nostalgic whenever thinking of those eight years in Mill Valley, driving two BMW's up and down Mount Tam, the throaty sound feeling as if it's rising somewhere from deep within me.

After about one hundred of them pass (0ut of about 350), we've seen enough, and walk to the restaurant, where we sit in a fabulous grotto, just set for four. Since Dan and especially Wendy are budding archeologists, this is a special spot. Pandina takes her first night ride with us, and it's a good ride. She is a very good car, and brings us home safely. Tonight's been fun, but we think Narni is not the place to see the Mille Miglia. Next year, we'll view it from another town...Stay tuned to find out where...

May 19
We stop at Shelly's to give her some guidance on a project she wants to talk with us about, but we're all about helping people to settle into Italia, so give her a few names of other people who can perform the work she needs.

Dino wants to stop at the house, and we're a little disappointed by the tile work at the bottom of the demilune window. Dino will speak with Tani about it. He's sure Tani is not happy and will fix it next week.

Inside, the travertine for the upstairs window sills is almost all at the site, and by Monday afternoon it will probably all be in place, ready for windows.

The tiles for the Prima Piano floor and the Piano Due bathroom are expected to arrive on Wednesday, and I've asked Dino if he minds if I take on the master bathroom tile project myself, laying out the design and working with Arshi as he does the actual installation.

He actually seems relieved. I'm jazzed by the idea, taking inspiration by the guest bedroom tiles, which look better than they should! There're that good looking!

We drive to Viterbo, stopping at our favorite bread bakery in Civitella D-Agliano for WWF bread, and buy more paint for the vetrina and the first of our orto plants...sedano (celery) and six plugs of a nondescript lettuce. The lettuce we like the best (Sant' Anna) is nowhere around. So we'll look for it soon.

I think we'll also start a little orto garden in a big pot for Kate and Merritt, so that they'll have some things to eat right from the garden when they arrive in less than a month. Dino promises to plant the first orto produce later today.

We've installed a new screen for the front door, and this consists of six panels, that we think will work better than the screen we used last year. It's better than nothing, and we want Sofi to be able to hop in and out easily. So it's worth a try.

I'm thinking about the new shutters, which may be installed this next week, and with the new wisteria vine, perhaps we can get away with not painting the house after all. The inside front of the dining room needs work, however, and we'll have to visit the folks at Techno-Asphalta in Vetralla, for moisture has done a job on the inside walls.

We think we've cured the moisture problems in the house, but must repair the damage done for decades before we came upon the scene. First we'll speak with Stefano again, hopefully at the beginning of the week.

Last night Dan and Wendy told us about a festa in a town in Northern Umbria for fabros (ironworkers) and we think we can find the chandeliers for the house there. But after a call to the town today, we're told the sindaco (mayor) decided not to have the festa after all this year. And it appears there is only one fabro in town, so we'll have to continue to look. I'm thinking our best bet is Pienza, the town with the most incredible pecorino cheese....Time for a drive?

I have a ceremonial plate to smalto and a few smaller items, then will throw out the rest of the smalto and perhaps retire that hobby for good. At least I'll retire it for the near future. There's too much going on to spend much more time on it in the near future.

Pietro returns from Rome and arrives with a birthday present for Sofi, a windup mouse that she loves but can't seem to figure out. She chases it around the kitchen but won't get too near it, barking out and jumping with joy. Pietro is very dear to have thought of his little friend.

Dino decides to begin painting the vetrina, as it sits on two sets of sawhorses in the dining room. He finishes two coats of chestnut colored stain on the inside of the bottom piece, and finishes most of the first coat for the inside of the top piece. Tomorrow he'll finish the staining, topping it with a clear coat of varnish. And then the more elaborate painting will begin on the outside...

Since there are three elaborately painted panels on the doors of the bottom piece, I will begin working the design on paper and then use carbon paper to transfer the design on top of the finished painted piece.

But first there are to be several layers of paint, a cream color, a darkish brown color that is quickly wiped off, followed by another watered down coat of the beige. Probably a bit of sanding happens then, and only then do I work on the details of the molding and the intricate design of the front door panels.

Once everything has been painted, we will use tiny nails or brads to affix gold cord, which will be used to hold in the glass. Now what we don't know is if we will install handles or knobs. I would like to use magnetic catches, instead. So we will try those before using knobs or handles. If we use handles, the ones we have purchased for Merrit and Kate's kitchen might work well. We really like the design.

I love the idea of having a vetrina, and while watching Dino paint on the stain, could imagine my bigger trays sitting right inside the bottom piece. It's a luxury in this little house to have a place to store things we love but don't want displayed all the time.

What I love most is the idea that we'll finally have a real dining room. Unless you've never had a dining room, you won't appreciate its appeal. But because we love to entertain and cannot always entertain outside, this is an important room for us. We think it's more important than having a living room, for most of our time is spent in the kitchen. And in a little house, one must pick their options.

I'm also thinking of the wisteria pergola outside, framed in pale pink roses. The wisteria we've finally chosen is pink ice, and the roses are pink as well. In probably a week we'll have the darkish blue wooden shutters installed. That probably means that after thinking of a yellow house for all these years it will probably be painted a light pinkish color, with some brown in it.

I'm holding out before deciding on the color until the wisteria takes hold instead, wondering if the pentimento colors on the old house will look wonderful unpainted, with the blue shutters and green foliage covering most of the sins, the pinkish-yellowish-brownish colors showing through here and there.

I'm getting weary of a complicated garden, and we're even late planting our orto, except for seven squash plants thriving in the upper garden and ten tomatoes growing in their sacred spot below the lavender, with basil plants in between.

I'm liking the lavender after all, especially the wildness of it before it is cut, framed by boxwood and gravel. So we'll have more gravel paths, but possibly more wildness, and of course the round boxwood globes. These days, two of the largest globes frame the front door.

I'm getting ready to have the cachi tree cut down. Well, not yet, but possibly during the fall of 2008. By that time, the wisteria will have taken hold pretty much. Practically speaking, if we take out the tree and extend the pergola, perhaps we can even open up the terrace, get rid of the roots and some of the metal things we threw inside when building the front wall, and put in a cantina below the terrace, to be reached from...the parcheggio!

We were foolish not to think of putting the cantina in when we built the wall in the first place. It will be a great place for more storage, which we have precious little of, and I don't think will be a big deal to build. We'll just move the gravel and nursery cloth, dig up the tree and what's around it, and put everything back, covering the top with a layer of cement, with a border of earth for the boxwood.

Dreams are so much fun. And very often they even come true. We are certainly living examples of dreams and dreams and more dreams. But then again I'm told that Americans are dreamers...I was told that by a cynical Italian.

So what does that make Italians? Disbelievers, I suppose, cynics at the very least. I suppose with fifty governments in as many years and broken promise after broken promise from their politicians, no wonder Italians shrug their shoulders so much and raise their eyebrows...You must admit the Italians have superb body language...

Tonight we take a bottle of prosecco, a loaf of WWF bread from our favorite panificio and a round of pecorino cheese to Pietro and sit on his terrace talking about life. He'll be gone for a few months in two short weeks, and we'll miss him terribly.

May 20
It's a really lovely day, and Don Luca officiates at the mass, after which we receive the financial statement from the Festaroli committee. We've made over 4,400 for the year, after expenses, and that is a substantial amount to contribute to something special as part of the Duomo restoration project. Later this week we'll meet to decide what to purchase.

I see that Livio has slipped in 1,ooo for the purchase of two benches for the inside of the Duomo, so we have made even more than that!

Outside the church, Dino offers an "auguri" to Don Luca (congratulations) on his seventh anniversary as a priest. He asks him if that is so, and Don Luca looks at him in amazement, then breaks out in a broad grin.

"You are the only person in Mugnano who remembered!" he replied and then said to me, "Marito stupendo!" Of course, I agree.

Dino points to his Palm and responds that everything is inside it. He continues to enter bits of information in the Palm and now has all manner of information literally at his fingertips.

We're moving along on the vetrina project and expect to be finished by this weekend. That depends on how many emergencies we'll have in the meantime.

Dino finishes all the insides of both pieces, except for a top coat, and also puts a first layer on the outside. But Marco wants us to come to collect our pieces at the end of the mostra tonight, so we leave Sofi and drive to Viterbo.

Just as we're getting ready to help Marco close the show down the phone rings, and my painting of the four zucca (squash) has been sold to Paola and Antonio. When I tell Marco he is visibly proud of me, as I am of him. He had a lot to do with the painting coming out as well as it did.

As other students gather around me to congratulate me I tell them it is "beginner's luck", but there doesn't seem to be a translation that they will understand. Marco does tell us that we arrived just a little too late to meet an architect who loved the three capes. It's a very commercial looking piece, and I think it will sell soon.

Is it strange that I worry that all my paintings will be gone before I can paint more? Magari ("if only that were so") is a fitting retort to my silly musing.

Tomorrow night we'll visit Paola and Antonio to see the piece on their wall, and I look forward to it. I'm so pleased that my first painting will be sold to people I like a lot.

May 21
"Faccio una squillo" (I'll give you a ring)" Stefano replies when Dino calls him this morning to remind him to come by. We will be figuring out how to plant the iron rods in the planters for the pergola. The wisteria continues to thrive and it's time to move on to that next phase...

Dino also calls Orsolini to arrange to have more things added to the Tenaglie delivery on Wednesday. Since it takes so long for them to make a delivery, we'll find a way to store things we're not quite ready for. Veloce (speedy, fast, fleeting) is a good word for this stage of the project...We're loving it.

Like jugglers, we're also preparing our house for the arrival of our family. The vetrina will be ready, we have benches to clean up and restain for the summer, and perhaps we'll finish a few of those, too.

I'm looking forward to painting this afternoon at Marco's, for I really like the painting that I started in Provence. Someone told me that an artist usually likes his most recent work best, and this painting is a good example of that. I love the undulating fabric, the fruit, the sweep of the images. Will it be ready before the family arrives? I don't know.

For now, the "Three Capes" will hang in the front hallway, and "San Vincenzo" on the back wall of the kitchen above the sofa.

Tonight we visit Paola and Antonio for glasses of a walnut liquor and coffee, while discussing where the zucca painting should be hung on the back wall. It really looks perfect in the setting, and I'm particularly happy that this painting is now owned by two very wonderful young people in our village.

On the way home, Dino tells me that I should paint more paintings of things from the orto. We know of two Mugnano families who also wanted this painting, so perhaps I can paint something equally characteristic for other families as well. It would be fun to have more people in the village enjoy my work. We'll see...

May 22
Stefano is expected at 7:30AM to talk about the pergola, and Dino tells me not to worry about getting up. I'm usually awake at that time, anyway. Stefano arrives on time and once he leaves Dino tells me that we'll be able to plant the wisteria and roses this week, the initial part of the project ready to implement.

Stefano will affix four "pencils" of rebar to anchor the corners of each 55cm square planter into the gravel and earth below, cut out one-third of the bottom of each of the four bases; fill two-thirds with earth and plants (one wisteria and one rose in each and one third of cement, with an iron pole 2 meters 10 tall for each wisteria and rose to hug as it winds its way up the structure.

At two meters, the structure will meet poles coming from the house beginning at a height of 3 meters 40cm. It's all a very simple affair, with Dino working with both Lorenzo the fabro and Stefano to keep this a modest undertaking. Magari....It sounds as if we're building the Eifel Tower...or four of them?

Today is the hottest day we can recall this year, and the flowers are feeling it. Hydrangeas droop, roses look burnt, and we keep Sofi inside in the cool kitchen while we drive to the Tenaglie house to take more measurements for their pergola and have the kitchen on the bottom floor measured.

Tani brings to our attention that there are two types of old tiles on the ground floor, but we are not worried. It will be a few weeks before they have taken up all the tiles and dug down 40 cm or more. In the meantime, we're ordering the kitchen, have worked out the details, and now it appears the project will not be on time after all.

Well, the client will be able to live in the top two floors, but unfortunately the electrician and plumber are behind schedule, and the tiles for the guest bathroom are back ordered by a few weeks. We'll have a backup plan, just in case.

On SKY, the satellite Discovery channels have a show called Grandi Projetti. It's on almost every night, and although the projects are much larger than ours, they're always, always behind schedule. Try as we might, we're unable to secure a finished project this time, no matter how detailed or persuasive we are.

On the way home, we stop to pick up four plumbago plants, and then Dino goes to work readying the earth on the raised bed above the parcheggio for our spring and summer orto. The area behind the orto itself, which we can't reach easily, is usually full of weeds with all the watering.

So this year we're hoping that big blowsy pale blue plumbago plants will starve out the weeds and look beautiful in front of the tall tufa wall. It's worth a try. We put together two tubular covers for the lettuce and herbs and celery, and I arrange a planting for non-sensitive plants flanking the curve.

Tomorrow I'll pick up a couple of verbena plants that we saw today when picking up the plumbago, to add more vibrancy to the area. I plan to drive to Tenaglie after Dino calls me to tell me that the shipment from Orsolini has arrived. I'm itching to work on the tile placement for the master bath. He'll be at the house for most of the morning waiting for the first big delivery of finish materials.

The first items to be installed are the shower pans, then the tiles in the bathrooms. Well, the master bathroom, anyway. While I work on the bathroom with Arshi, I'm sure Dino will be working on the tile for the Piano Primo.

Although the kitchen is ready to be delivered and installed on that floor, it cannot be delivered until the pavement is in and set. Then the base cabinets of the kitchen get installed, then Franco comes back to measure for the travertine sink and counters, then the counters and sink get installed, then the tiles are laid on the back walls, and only then can the mensola and upper cabinet can be installed.

It's rather a nightmare, for the room is out of plumb as are most old houses, but everyone is cooperating, so we're hoping to have the kitchen done before June 15th. We do have a backup plan for our client, but let's hope we won't have to use it.

Dino plants most of what we have to plant, and tomorrow I'll pick up some rugghetta (arugula) seeds and plant them. They take no time at all to become plants, and I really love this plant in summer salads. The rugghetta in Italy is much sweeter than that found in the U S. Perhaps it's the soil. And it's almost tomato time, so before the end of June we'll have our first orto insalata, if we're lucky.

We've remeasured for the pergola for the Tenaglie house and think it should be smaller, so drop by to tell Lorenzo and that's fine. In another day or so we'll pick up the iron for our own pergola, and plant the wisteria and roses. Everything seems to be coming together.

I put a couple of coats on the doors for the vetrina, and it's a more complex job than I first thought. Tomorrow we'll sand the doors a little, to see if the antiqueing really works. And only then will I transfer the design with carbon paper and then paint an intricate design on the front panel of each door.

We also have to buy the gold cord as a detail holding in the glass for the three double windows on top. Here, cord, called cordolo, is purchased from shops called mercerias; shops that sell thread and buttons and sometimes underwear and sometimes tablecloths. It's an imprecise designation. I recall that a shop in Orvieto near the theatre has a good selection.

That reminds me. We stopped at Candace and Frank's house today to water for them. They really have a beautiful collection of plants in their garden, but it is an elaborate mixture, and a lot of work. Between them, they always seem to keep up with both that garden and the orto on the outskirts of Orvieto. Who thrives more in the summertime, Candace or her orto? I think it's an even comparison.

May 23
Dino's out early, and it's going to be another hot day. We water the tomatoes, which are still puny but working their way toward the sun. The planted tomatoes are doing fine and there are ten of them, so we'll have tomatoes...

I work on sanding the fronts for the vetrina and painting another coat or two, then move on to the design. But there is so much else to do that I'm not able to stay with the project. Perhaps later.

Dino orders the pergola to be inset over the front door of the Tenaglie house, and the wood frame will be finished next week. The muratores will install it and add the cotto tiles to the top. It's an attractive and we think necessary detail.

We cover the orto with a large umbrella, for it is going to be another hot day. In a day or so, Dino will fashion a cover, one that we can pick up to work on the little plants as they grow. And I'm reminding myself to plant the rugghetta seeds...perhaps tonight when it is cooler.

I fix a roast chicken salad with tarragon, a cucumber salad with red onion and mint, and we'll have those with the potato salad from yesterday. We love summer salads, and until the tomatoes are ready, will content ourselves with salads such as these.

We have no time to linger over pranzo, for we'll return to the house after pranzo to deal with the deliveries and begin the installation of at least the first floor pavimenti. Sofi stays at home in the cool kitchen for a few hours. She's enjoyed chasing lizards, fixated by them, all morning. Sometimes she sits and waits for one to appear, staring at the last spot one was seen. She's a happy dog.

At the house, we take out some of the tiles for the master bath, and agree with Arshi on how the tiles will be laid. With a minor change in the design, we think the result will be beautiful.

All four brothers work on repointing the stone wall next to the stairs. It is beautiful. "Where is Uuri?" I ask. He's in Albania for the fourth birthday of one of his children. It must be difficult for the brothers to have their families in Albania. I suppose they choose to work here, that life is better here. But they never complain, are always upbeat.

We are sure there is a story to be told here, and it is another example of immigrants making new lives for themselves. There are so many facets to the subject of immigration. So when we hear the wranglings in the U S about immigration, we have to laugh.

We stop at Bruno's on the way home and he will make simple bases for the appliques we have designed. We'll be ready to market them in a week or so, for a very reasonable cost.

Tonight we'll take our first trip to Oktoberfest for a beer, and pick up a schedule for the week our family is here. With temperatures over 100 degrees, we're already feeling the opressive heat and walking at a slower pace.

Perhaps before the summer actually begins we'll have a pergola. That would be amazing, and a good thing, for we face south and every ray of the sum seems to sit on our property.

May 24
When we were in Provence, I fell in love with a pair of simple sandals in a shop with a black flowered print detail. It was only when they came out of the box that I learned that they were...Birkenstocks! Never in my life have I owned Birkenstocks, for reasons too numerous to mention.

I recant this, because today I looked over at the serra (greenhouse), a structure so hot in the summer that it's like a desert inside, killing just about everything. All of a sudden it dawned on me that cactus plants would thrive there. And there are several varieties that I like.

So when I mentioned this to Dino as he finished planting in the raised bed in front of the serra, he responded, "You never cease to amaze me...first it's Birkenstocks. Now it's cactus. Whatever will you come up with next?"

There are so many things in my life that I detested, only to grow to like and even love, that I surprise even myself. I suppose fava beans are a good example. So these days I look at things I think I detest and wonder how long it will take, if ever, for me to change my mind. Or am I just going out of my mind?

Tonight we pick up Pietro and drive to Oktoberfest for our first Turn and Taxus beer of the season. With temperatures over 100 degrees for two days in a row, it seems like a good idea. We sit inside by a window, while all around us people scream at the finals of football between an English team and Milan.

I think Milan won tonight, for there were screams of joy, the last goal played over and over on a giant screen, and then the place emptied within about a minute. For Italians, when something is over, it's really over.

We have little more than one week left of our dear friend, Pietro, before he returns to Finland for the summer. We'll be staying at his house while Terence and Angie and the girls are here in the middle of June, so that they can have our house to themselves. Pietro's house is like a paradise.

May 25
"Tutti Italiani sono bugiardi!" (All Italians are liars!) Bruno calls out as we step out of the car at his agri-store next to Sappori Uno. We have been waiting for special nursery cloth to cover the raised orto, using a big umbrella to shield the tender lettuces and tiny rugghetta and herbs that were just planted. We'll continue to use the umbrella for a few days. Fa niente.

I'm not so happy with the tomatoes that grow in the ground. The leaves are turning white, so there is some kind of nutrient they need. I ask Dino to talk with Pepe or Candida to ask them to take a look. We look for them, but by their orto next door is silent, with no one around.

We all drive to the house to check on the work, and the floor of the master bath is finished and looks better than we imagined. The piano doccia sits nearby, waiting for the hydraulico (plumber) to reorient the drain before it is laid in place and the tiles added to the walls.

Then its on to Orvieto to water at Frank and Candace's and wait for the men to deliver "Bob". Bob is Dino's name for the three-figured stone statue Frank found when we were in Provence. It doesn't arrive until 2PM, so we eat outside at dell'Ancora under a vine-covered pergola, imagining what it will be like sitting and eating under our pergola at home...

No one we know recommends this restaurant. It is a little on the expensive side, but is one of the only restaurants with outside eating not on the street. Our pasta dishes are very good, and that's all we have. Sofi has her little packaged "Caesar" pranzo by our feet. Earlier, we picked up a new harness and lead for her. She looks very cute, but isn't it time for a stripping? She's looking a little straggly, and is in need of a summer clip. We'll see if we can fit one in this next week or so....

We continue to work on the vetrina, the insides now ready for a top clearcoat over the stain, the doors painted and the design sketched on each by tracing over carbon paper. Dino has done all the work inside the vetrinas himself, with me doing the design work on the front of the cabinet doors.

Taking the design of the leaves from the dining room slipcovers (the slipcovers have found their way to Italy and we love them) I've found an elaborate design that is what I think is an "arabesque" form, similar to a grotesque, but without any figures) and take out my oil paints.

I began the painting work yesterday, in between our other projects, and last night worked until late to finish one. Pietro came by for a visit and suggested a few additions, and tonight I made the changes and moved onto the second door.

Each day we've made at least one trip to the house, more likely two visits, and things are shaping up. Yesterday, Arshi worked on the west side of the outside of the house, opening up cracks in the walls and filling them. Yes, we'll have to add paint to the project, so pick up a sample and match the paint at a shop in Guardea, where we meet Angelo who just happens to come in when we are there. We have never seen him before, but he speaks with us as though we are old friends. I look forward to running into him at the gnocchi festival, which we attend several times during its run each July.

Pietro joins us this afternoon "to be a fly" as he recants it, following us on our daily rounds and watching us. This afternoon we drive to Bassano in Teverina to the wood yard and fallegname who is to make the portico over the front door.

But the man we're working with isn't there, so we agree to return tomorrow morning. As we leave to get into the car there is a short rain shower, so light that it barely covers anything except the car. Dino loves to have a clean car, and complains, but somehow forgets and leads us on to Marino Fa Mercato in Orte to have a look around and show Pietro. We're beginning to look for a dining room table.

With nothing remarkable but a confirmation that we can pick up bath towels here and the client can find dishes inexpensively, we drive on to the framer in Amelia. Pietro wants to have two sets of watercolors framed, and of course we introduce Pietro to our favorite framer. Amazingly, she agrees to frame the pieces before Wednesday. She is really an amazing woman.

She also shows me the beautiful pieces of wood for the Piano Terra bathroom medicine cabinet, but thinks it will be another week before the beveled mirror arrives for it. Only then will we take it to our friends at Sgrina to mount on the medicine cabinet that is to be imbedded in the wall. We have time, for the excavation work has not even been begun on the bottom floor.

In Tenaglie, we walk into Angelo's to pick up a few bottles of beer for the crew. But as we walk toward the house we see them leaving. We give them the beer to take home, thanking them for their great work.

Lucia arrives to look at the beams inside Piano Terra. Yes, they have termites, and she has the machine and the solution (gas and chemicals) to get rid of them. It takes one treatment and then another treatment in fifteen days. She can begin on Monday and we can have the work done before the client arrives, so we'll call her this weekend after our weekly meeting with the client.

But after we leave to drive home we're realizing this is dangerous stuff. So if the client wants the work done, it will be done after July 15th, when they have returned to the U S. Is there an option? We don't know. We'll have to do some research...

We drop Pietro off, agreeing to meet tomorrow night and attend one of the first sagras of the year, somewhere in lower Umbria.

Earlier there was a phone message from Candace. A friend in Orvieto was robbed while she slept, and we call the woman to find out if she is all right. Yes, she is all right, but we think it's strange that her two dogs did not wake up and bark. So she must have been gassed. We act like experts, and recant some of our story, which is now four years old. We still smart at the thought of being gassed and robbed while we slept peacefully in our bed in this tranquil village.

There has been a rash of robberies in the Orvieto area, and an increasing robbery rate all over Italy. Italians think it is the fault of the stranieri, raising the rate of xenophobia in this country.

"Did they eat anything?" Dino asks our friend. "Yes, as a matter of fact they did" the woman replies. Look up the details of our robbery on May 15 and 16, 2003 to read the details. But we can tell her with surety that the robbers were Italians....

The rest of the night I paint on the second door, while Dino watches T V. It is midnight before Sofi and I go upstairs to bed, and there is more painting to be done on the second door. Each day I do a little more. And Dino tells me that it is while painting that I seem my most relaxed. I think he's right.

May 26
We're beginning to feel like zombies, with so much to do before our client and our family both arrive on June 15th. We've decided to postpone or cancel meetings or events before then, for there is just too much to do.

Is it strange that we are enjoying every bit of it?

This morning the birds chatter, a tractor clatters in a nearby field, and the sky appears bright enough to make us squint. We are sure it will be very warm.

We return to our friend Nando in Bassano, who sits with a sheet of paper and draws out the ideas we have in our heads until we are all in agreement. First he draws out the in-caso armadio idea, then sketches the shelves that will be made of castagno, curved at the top edge and flat on the bottom, but cut so that the front lip is wider than the rest of each shelf.

Then, when we are on-site, Dino can sand down any shelf that may be a little too large. The shelves will have a look as though they are imbedded in the intonico, when actually they can be taken out and moved. There will be four of these shelves, including one of the very bottom of the piece.

Really, we're thinking the piece in the kitchen will not be "in-caso" after all. For we want each shelf to be beautiful visually, and if the client wants doors later, we'll keep the original windows for them to use then.

That done, we return to our original idea, one that we cannot divulge until later. We think he likes what we want to create, and since he is an artisan, he'll be a collaborator in the process. Come no?

Nando keeps the frame of what we have in mind, and he'll have it on Wednesday with everything else, not really comprehending our deadline but we're happy with that, very happy.

Stopping at Elena's on the way back through Bomarzo, we pick up three plates: one each for Marissa and Nicole and one for Pietro. Well, I've done it again. I've used a rame (copper) color for the most important part of the work, mistakingly thinking the dark crystals were black.

When using rame, the colors always smudge. So what we have is an interesting and ancient looking stemma (coat of arms), but a finished design not at all similar to what I expected.

Fa niente. We'll give the piece to Pietro tonight, and I'll suggest that he use it as a plate for fruit, just enjoying it. I don't know if it deserves to be hung on a wall. I'm so tired of painting ceramics, that once I finish three pieces that wait to be smaltoed, we'll throw out the rest and retire from this medium for the forseeable future. Basta!!!

It's on to the house, and we take a few photos of the wall and talk about possibly carving into it below the demilune to add more light. That is the client's wish. This is one of those cases when the client really needs to be on site to understand the reasoning.

We do a test, for it is noon, and the sun is about as high in the sky as it will ever be during the year. If the demilune is altered, carving out the stone at an angle, the amount of additional light brought into the house is not very much, certainly not enough to justify the amount of work to be done to accomplish this change. So we'll talk with the client tonight and see if they change their minds. Speriamo.

Upstairs, Arshi moves along tiling the east wall of the master bath. He is doing a fine job, cutting each tile just a little to make up for the "out of square" dimensions of the room. He shows us what he is doing, and the change is so slight that it is barely detectable.

It is a good thing we are there at this particular moment. For his measuring is one row off in terms of a change in color of the tile, and since the grout is fresh he can fix the five or six tiles that he has just affixed to the wall.

We tell him that by Monday morning we will have decided on the placement of the top detail tile, meaning how many of them we want to include in between the white tiles. I am thinking less is more. So whatever is left, Kate can make a tile outdoor table top for the garden.

Earlier, we stopped at Bruno's and he has the green mesh to cover the orto plants. But it is not at all what I envisioned. We purchase it anyway, and I'll see what Dino wants to do with it.

We bring a leaf from one of the giganti tomato plants, a leaf that is showing strange large spots of white. He tells us to spray rame sulfato (copper sulfate) on the plants, and since it is not a chemical, I agree to do just that. But he also comes up with a package of something that has a variety of little bug illustrations on top. I'm sure it's a chemical, and tell Dino he is not to use it. I throw it away as soon as we get home.

Perhaps later Dino can ask Pepe what he thinks. We'll be home this afternoon and evening, and other than a call to our client, we'll stay at home. I can also continue painting the second door to the vetrina. We're hoping that next week it will be finished and ready to be stocked with the many pieces of ceramics I've been storing all over the house.

Yesterday in Orvieto we purchased nine meters of gold cordoni to line the edges of the glass in the top section of the vetrina. Once the piece is completely painted and stained, we'll install the panes of glass and rim them with gold cord and silicone to seal them.

Dino wants Sacha to see the piece when it's done, but I'm not so sure I'd like to detail these large pieces for people in the future. I suppose it depends on whether the work will be fun and if we can make enough money doing it. I suppose anything is possible.

We have a phone meeting with the clients, and they're remarkable people, so appreciative of our work and trusting of our taste and recommendations.

We tell Merrit about the connection with Susie, the Episcopal priest in Orvieto, and right after they arrive we'll get them all in contact with eachother. 'Arrison may be able to do a mass or two during his month-long stay. That will be good for Susie, good for 'Arrison, and good for the congregation, all of whom speak English.

Happy dreaming, dear Kate and 'Arrison.

I work on detailing the second and third doors to the vetrina this afternoon, while Dino repositions two more boxwood and does more planting. Stefano will be here Tuesday morning to begin the work to install the four large terra cotta planters on the terrace.

Once they're secure and the iron posts are set in cement, we'll plant the earth and wisteria and roses. Then Lorenzo can come to measure and finish off the rest of the pergola with Stefano and we can top it with thick bamboo until the wisteria has filled in enough to give us shade all by itself.

With Ovidio expected later this week to install the new wooden painted shutters, we'll have lots to celebrate when our family arrives on June 15th, including shade from the very hot summer sun we are expecting for the next three months.

Regardless, there is to be no lavender lunch this year. It's just too hot to host a big pranzo in the summertime. Like Camp Royanee, those lavender festas are now a distant memory; something to look back on in this our getting older age...

May 27
The temperature cools down and it is humid. We walk up to mass and Marsiglia and Felice come over to us for a kiss before the service begins. It has been weeks since we have seen them outside their little house, and Marsiglia whispers to me that Felice is not well. He's smiling, but appears a little disoriented.

Don Renzo is our priest today. We love seeing him, wishing we'd see him more. As Marsiglia and Felice wander home afterward, it's difficult not to be sad watching them. It's as though they're moving in slow motion.

There is painting to do at home, so while I work on the third cabinet door, Dino stains more of the inside of the vetrina. We'll be ready to put the glass and cord in around mid-week, and then we can begin to move my ceramics to this piece, clearing up spaces and making a little extra room for my painting supplies.

Just before pranzo, we drive to Orte to meet Sacha, who shows us a really great property in the borgo. We love Orte. It is a town with real character. And the house itself is small but freshly restored with new bath and kitchen tiles and good detail throughtout, including beautifully restored beamed ceilings. The view has a southern exposure.

If one wanted a place in a real borgo, with a view and easy access to the train and Rome, this is it! See our property listings page for more detail and photos or email us. We don't think it will be on the market long, for it is an excellent value in a prime location. We'll be showing it tomorrow to a client. I'm interested to get her reaction.

Sofi keeps blinking her left eye, and I cannot find anything. I put a drop in her eye, and we agree to go to the vet in Viterbo first thing tomorrow morning if she is not all better. Tomorrow is a busy day, but Sofi is more important that anything we have scheduled. As she lies in her little bed by my side, I say a little prayer that she will be fine in the morning.

We're all tired tonight, and go to bed ready for a busy week ahead.

May 28
It's Memorial Day in the U S, but a regular day here. With dark clouds overhead, we decide to take Sofi to the vet in Viterbo. Dino drops us off, and by the time he returns after the car wash, we're outside walking around the grass. She has a little infection, nothing contagious, so we have a prescription for salve to pick up from the pharmacy to use several times a day.

In Italy, vets give prescriptions that are filled at regular pharmacies. I think I recall that in the U S, vets usually kept supplies and it was another profit center for them. Here the vets are very kind and mindful of costs. So a visit usually costs 20, but today there was no cost. If she does not show improvement by Thursday, we'll return and there will be a fee then. When I ask the attendant when I should pay, she responds, "Come vuole" (when you wish). How civilized!

We drive from Viterbo to Tenaglie, assessing the weather and views for our clients, who we'll pick up at 2PM near Viterbo. The storm clouds move quickly. When we are in Viterbo, the weather in lower Umbria is sunny. When we are in Tenaglie, the clouds move to upper Lazio.

The electrician is a no-show, as is the plumber. So tomorrow we'll raise Cain if they don't appear. We have a meeting then with ENEL and the geometra, so I have my fingers crossed. We're moving, moving along but the deadline does not move...

We drive to Roccalvecce to pick up our clients and arrive there in a downpour. We walk to the first house, which is a good value, but is too damp. It is a good thing to see properties on a rainy day, for they are at their worst. If a property passes muster on a day like today, it will be glorious on a sunny day. But then we are optimists...

We take them by a couple of properties, but stop at the Tenaglie house to show them what an unrestored property can become. And they fall in love with it. Now they tell us that they would be interested in a property that could use restoration, if the price is right. So we begin to swith gears.

By the end of the day, we realize they don't want a property in the countryside at all, but would feel good about something close to a town or village. If it is in a town, the property needs to have lots of light. We have a clearer direction now, so when they return in a week from visits around Central Italy, we'll see what we have up our sleeves.

And then it hits us. There is a property near Tenaglie that we have only seen from the outside, but I remember loving it. Dino calls and it is still available, and the price is right. So we'll definitely take them there in a week or so and I'd be surprised if they did not fall in love with it.

Tomorrow when we meet with the Tenaglie geometra, we'll ask him to go to see the house with us this weekend, giving us some ideas of what can be done for the price they can afford. Some properties just click with people. And I'd be really surprised if this does not sweep them off their feet.

Back at home, sweet Sofi's eyes are much better. But we'll pick up the salve, anyway, and see if it cures her completely with one or two treatments.

I'm too tired to paint, and need to get away from it for a few days. That reminds me. I forgot to call Marco, forgot to go my art workshop. Dino tells me not to worry. We're sitting in a café in Orte when I remember and Ellen has ordered hot chocolate and is eating it by the spoonful, eyes wide. Hot chocolate in Italy is just that. There is no milk. So a cup of hot chocolate is so rich that I'm sure she'll be awake all night. But it is tasty, just the same.

We've had a full and enjoyable day, meeting two new people we like a lot and hope that we can help them pursue their Italian dream...

May 29
Today is my mother's birthday. I remember it each year, although she has been dead for more than ten. I should do something wild and wonderful in her honor. As the years go by, I think of her differently than I did when she was alive.

The other day, we mentioned my mother's passing to someone and how we told my father that she had died. He laid in his bed in a nursing home, and Mike and I each took one of his hands in ours. His response: "I never understood women. And I never understood your mother." We had to hold back our laughter then, and I smile to think of it now. Hildegarde, you are truly unforgettable...

After a difficult night's sleep to thundering and bucketfuls of rain outside, some wanting to come in, in, in....we drag ourselves out of bed and leave the house as soon as we can. There are a lot of important details to cover today.

At the house, the clawfoot tub is delivered, along with the handmade tiles from Sicily. Yes, I admit I thought they would never come. But they are not exactly what we ordered. We ordered a crackle finish, and the finish is not correct. They'll work, just the same.

So we accept the order, although seven plain tiles are missing. We've ordered some extra, so perhaps we'll be all right. But the missing tiles from the order will come...in due time.

The peperino stair treads are installed, slowly, slowly, by Tani and his cousin, Vini. When Dino questions a measurement, he is assured that once the intonico is laid on top of the cement stairs, the measurement will be exact. That's more like it.

Dino climbs up the scaffolding to check on Arshi's tiling of the bathroom, but he tells me that in the rain I should not follow. So I remain downstairs, in the midst of two electricians, two brothers and a lot of dust.

Antonio, the geometra, arrives for the meeting with ENEL Gas. The meeting is a bust, you could say, for although they agree to move the gas line two meters, are sure that it cannot be done before the clients arrive. So Antonio assures us that they can live just fine for a month using two bombolas. We'll get that rigged up for them, one for the caldaia (water heater) and one for the stove.

Ovidio still has not arrived with the windows and shutters, but Dino is not worried. Tani thinks he will arrive on Thursday.

The electrician is not very organized, so we have to watch him, and he moves with his drill like a bull, crashing into the wall to make channels for his pipes. When we tell him where we want him to install the internet and phone connection he complains, but we tell him that a week ago when we told him he told us that was fine. So he sheepishly moves on.

It's raining, raining, raining, and we can't get upstairs easily while the peperino treads are installed, so we decide to drive to Viterbo to pick up some things for the bath and bedroom and look for a sofa that can be delivered in time.

We'll have to return to the shop that has good towels, for we think they have a perfect color to match the blue tiles for the bathroom, but otherwise find some decent things. After a stop at OBI for hardware and another at a local lamp shop for appliques for the guest bath, where a woman mixes and matches to give us exactly what we want, we drive home.

May 30
Stefano has still not arrived to start working on the pergola on our terrace. He wants to come when he has a bucket of cement mixed, but with all the rain he has not been working outside. I'm anxious. We're coming dangerously close to D-Day, on June 15th, to have our house ready for guests and the Tenaglie project ready for their new owners.

Dino and Pandina run around all morning on the restoration project, and I drive off in the Alfa, first for a pedicure and then to pick up plants for the client's terrace and pranzo for us.

In the afternoon, we're able to climb the new stairs at the house and talk with Arshi about the bathroom tile, which looks really wonderful. After making a few changes, we've agreed on the design and if the plumber comes today Arshi will tile the shower and we'll be ready to install everything else in the room. Most everything will be delivered on Friday.

We've not has as much luck downstairs, as the inside window ledge above the kitchen sink has been measured incorrectly, and is about 3cm off. So Arshi and Tani remove it and Dino and I take it back to Lugnano to Franco, who promises to have a new one cut first thing tomorrow. As soon as that's installed and dried the window will be installed.

The window installer keeps "stalling". First we expected him last Thursday. At mid day, he had not arrived, and we think he'll be at the house on Friday. At that rate, he'll have to install all the windows on that day. We're not as worried about the shutters, or of the screens.

We just learned that Saturday is a national holiday in Italy. June 2nd is Independence Day, and no Italians will be working. Luckily, our muratore brothers are Albanian, and they will be working. Since we've only two weeks until the client arrives, the top two floors must be ready to move into.

We've located four excellent kitchen chairs at a remarkable price, and now we have a kitchen table and chairs. We've not had as much luck with the living room furniture. All Italian sofas are modern and ugly, unless one wants to spend 2,000 or more. And at that, there is a long lead time. So IKEA is becoming a reasonable option for moderate priced sofas.

Upstairs, we're thinking that a glass chandelier on a long chain would be incredibly beautiful in the master bedroom. So we'll probably go to Arezzo on Saturday and Pissignano on Sunday to see if we can locate one at either antique mercatos.

I have not painted for days, so perhaps tomorrow morning I'll try to finish the three panels for the vetrina. If we're around, I'll paint the molding for the upper piece this weekend. Time is running short, but we're not in crisis mode. We're working diligently to make sure that does not happen. So far, all the workers are in good moods. Let's keep it that way.

With not many people working on Monday, we're expecting Tuesday to be quite wild. The bottom cabinets in the kitchen will probably be installed first, then Franco will rush over to measure for the travertine sink and counter. We'll have to wait until his crew cuts the counters and fabricates the sink. Then they will be installed, the back tiles will be installed, and only then can the top cabinets be installed.

Will we finish on June 14th, or at the very latest, June 15th at noon? Barring a major snafoo, we'll make it. Keep positive thoughts.

Back to today's snafoo about the travertine window sill, somehow there was a miscommunication regarding the peperino stair treads as well, and no landings were included. So we measured and gave Franco the order for the peperino stair landings as well. That will work out after all.

Stefano will come tomorrow morning to begin our pergola project, and I'll be here to watch and also to make a lemon torte for tomorrow night's dinner. We're invited to Pietro's for his last night in Italy until September, and a Norwegian friend who has been his guest for his last days here will be cooking. We'll really miss our dear friend.

May 31
What a wild month! Penny and Bob just arrived for their month long stay in Orvieto and Pat and Dick Ryerson also called a few minutes ago, so this is the beginning of lots of friends from the U S.

There is some merit to the journal after all, for they all know we're in the final stages of a restoration and also expecting our family, so there are no expectations to see us just yet.

Dino drove off early to pick up the base for the door pergola and take it to Tenaglie and also take the recut piece of travertino for the kitchen windowsill.

How could I not mention that it is a beautiful day? We've had such cold and rainy weather, that this morning is a treat. So Sofi and I sandwich in a little time to clip roses. Perhaps tonight we'll do some feeding.

The tiny tomato plants are back out in the sunlight, so in the next week they'll be planted in the ground if we can see that they might make it. There will probably be about a dozen of them, but we don't expect to see any tomatoes on them until September or so. Fa niente.

We so miss those days when Felice would come by and counsel us, telling us not to worry about any of it. Somehow his craggy hands worked magic, and nothing ever perished.

I make a lemon torte for tonight's dessert, and hope that the dull pains in my shoulders and neck go away. I took two pills this A M, and have a suspicion that blood vessels in the back of my neck may be the culprit of my headaches, at least some of them.

Is it possible that there is some constriction that does not let blood flow easily, causing swelling? Armchair doctors are the most dangerous, and we're too busy to take the time to really analyze it.

While hanging the laundry, Rosina calls down a "buon giorno!" and I tell her about our family arriving in a couple of weeks. She confirms that we are getting ready for them, and by noon all of Mugnano will know. We know that when the family is here she'll find plenty of things to do out on her balcony. We like her, so Angie especially will enjoy the friendly watchdog.

This afternoon we have a meeting at the Comune with Francesco regarding our cemetery plot. It appears it is ours, and that he wants us to sign a contract. How about getting an agreement from the Comune that the money we turn over be used to repair the wall and path in front of our house? It's worth a try, since the sindaco has told us repeatedly that it's important, but that they don't have any money.

While hanging out the laundry on the terrace this A M, Giuseppa calls up to "Signora Ivanna" while walking down the hill to her campo. This time she's headed for the cemetery. She tells me that in this lovely weather she feels as light as spring, and I can see it in her step. She almost dances.

I'm wondering if I should take this opportunity to tell her we're going to have a cemetery plot this afternoon, then decide against it. My exuberance at the thought of it may seem macabre to you, but it's a surety that our son won't be put in a difficult situation if something happens to us. Yes, I act as if we're "going" together.

Our next adventure is to decide about the plot, and about the angel. So whenever we visit an antique mercato we'll look for one. When the time is right, we'll find the right one. If all goes as planned, tonight I'll email Peggy to tell her about the cemetery. Peggy and I walked together often on the last year we were in the U S, and talked a lot about angels in the cemetery in San Rafael.

I run out of time this morning, so there is no time to feed the roses today, nor is there time to paint more than a redo of one of the borders of the front door panels. We refuse to let ourselves get "crazed" during these next two weeks. Piano, piano. We'll get done what we get done. I think we'll accomplish a great deal, with no fanfare. But we won't be scheduling in any get togethers in the meantime.

That said, we'll have a goodbye dinner at Pietro's tonight, but I miss him already, so could not imagine missing this evening with him.

In the meantime, there's enough time to fix a pasta for pranzo and a lemon torte for tonight. After pranzo we drive to the house to meet Lorenzo, who measures for the iron railings for the staircase. He tells us that the stairway looks dangerous, for there is no railing on the north side, with just an iron rod planned against the exposed stone wall on the south side. We like the openness a lot, and it reminds us of the open staircases outside the medieval houses in Viterbo.

There is some question about the design of the appliques we've asked him to fabricate, and after we meet with him at his shop, I'm still not happy with our decision. So Dino will call him to make an adjustment. There is still time, and we've asked him to make a "prova" or sample to be sure.

We drive first to the cemetery and look at the site. Yes, it is just what we had in mind. Then we drive to the Comune, but Francesco is nowhere to be found. Nor is the sindaco. In Ivo's office, a young woman knows about what we are trying to do.

We ask her next steps and she tells us to measure the space and go to the post office to pay for the site, then come to the Comune to meet with the sindaco to sign the contract! No, we did not just fall off a turnip truck...

We return to the cemetery and measure the site. It will not be cheap, but it is the correct place for us. So we'll speak with Francesco, and with the sindaco, and look at the contract...first.

When we walked out of there, I express my disappointment and Dino is surprised. "After all this time, " he tells me, "did you really believe that we would walk out of here with a contract?" I suppose I took it for granted.

We stop at a shop to pick up two special gifts for the grand daughters. I tell Dino that it is our right and obligation to spoil the and he barely nods. When he sees them, he'll be the one who wants to spoil them. Just wait and see.

We drive to Pietro's with Sofi and his Norwegian friend helps him to whip up a very delicious dinner. Norwegians always seem to serve boiled potatoes with their skins on at each meal, served with fresh parsley. It is such a good dish, and pares with just about anything. Tonight it's pared with veal in a light mushroom and cream sauce, very tasty.

The springform pan I used for my dessert sprung, just as Pietro was moving it to the refrigerator. I was outside, so did not see what happened. But I did know that the dish warped. So when it is time to serve dessert he and I stand in the kitchen laughing while he tells me what happened. It all works out and the dessert is really tasty, even though its presentation is less than perfect.

We end the evening early, for they must pack and we must get ready for a long day tomorrow. On this the last day of May, I recall that the month was full of adventure and learning and look forward to another month full of the same and then some.

June 1
Although we begin the day with a hazy sky, I'm too optimistic, for rain returns with showers off and on all day. What strange weather we have had this spring!

We're up early and at the Tenaglie house before we finally reach the correct person at Orsolini to tell us how much to pay the delivery person. The delivery is delayed again, but we cannot hang around. We have to drive to IKEA to pick up some basics for the clients.

Why is it that everyone in Italy shops at IKEA?...probably because it's really the only game in town. For basics, it's hard to beat. But so much of it is "carina" modern and Scandinavian that we're hard pressed to find classic styles.

It's after 11AM when we arrive at the IKEA in the outskirts of Rome. Three hours later we're leaving and on our way home. We'll return next week to rent one of their trucks to take a sofa and chair to the house, for we do not trust IKEA's delivery system. They do rent out their trucks, however, and you know how Dino loves to drive...

We stop at the falegname (woodworker), who has made some mistakes with our order, and we'll have to return early Monday morning to go over the design with him again. The shelves were measured incorrectly, and are 2cm too large. Sigh. Either people don't write correctly or don't read...

At the house the massetto, or subflooring, is being laid. It is made of a mixture of sand and cement and the boys are "working their way out" the door. Once the floor is done, it cannot be walked upon until it is dry...at least 12 hours and maybe more.

We have a budget meeting with the geometra, and are soon joined by Tani and Arshi to explain the overages. This is not a fun meeting, and now we understand why architects do not like geometras.

We like our geometra, and he is a very smart and likeable man. He answers questions and knows the technical aspects of our job very well. But he's not on-site often, nor does he second-guess the muratores' work. That's left to Dino, and I suppose that's all right, too. Dino's "on site" usually twice a day.

We stop at Sgrina to pick up the mirror and medicine cabinet for the master bath, for I want to paint the blue of it over in silver. The shade of blue is too dark for the bathroom tiles. When we arrive, we are in shock, for the cabinet is 27cm deep, not 17.

So we take the mirror off and we'll measure at the house tomorrow. But we're sure they'll have to have the back of it cut off by as much as nine centimeters. There's that devil again, in the details. We'll have another mirror ready this next week for the bottom floor bathroom, so this time they should be able to fashion it correctly.

Arshi asks if the clients are really arriving on June 15th. We remind them that they need to be finished with any jackhammering on the ground floor before that date, as the clients are looking forward to a rest...

It's late when we leave the meeting and pick up the mirror, so we stop to pick up pizzas at Girasole. Sofi is in heaven on the way home, sniffing, sniffing at the boxes. She's been so good today, waited so long for us in the car, that I share a little of my pizza with her. It's the least I can do.

June 2
It's raining again, off and on. What else is new?

We drive to the house, and I admit I'm somewhat sheepish, not knowing how the muratores will act after our meeting last night. I have mixed emotions.

We have a meeting to look at a new house in Tenaglie first, and it is a beauty. For a very reasonable price of €90,000, someone can turn this old stone house into a very special property. We'd love to do the restoration, now that our present restoration is winding down. We have a client who we hope to show the property to on Wednesday.

Everyone is fine at the house, and the sub-flooring is almost finished. There are wood planks across the floor, and we're able to to walk over them to get to the stairs. We've brought a colleague with us, and he's duly impressed with the quality of the work and the property.

It has been a cold and rainy day, with patches of sunlight here and there, but as the day ends there is more rain.

June 3
We walk up to mass in enough rain for me to use an umbrella, but just barely. Don Mauro is the priest, and we always think we're rushing through the service with him, except during his homily.

Tiziano is not at church, but his parents tell us that he is working. His dig has been closed up due to a lack of funds, so he is working on another project. We'll bring him with us when we drive to Carsulae later this month to see what Wendy is up to. She begins work at the dig again on the 11th.

I take the Alfa while Dino returns home, and drive to a vivaio to pick up a number of cactus plants for the serra. I like a few of them, but not the angry spiny varieties. Cactus is the way to go for plants for the serra. It is hot and dry in there during the summer.

From there, I drive to the market that is open on Sunday in a neighborhood of Vitorchiano called Il Pallone, and it is mobbed. When will Italy catch on that people love to shop on Sundays?

We return to the house and remeasure for the bathroom medicine cabinet in the afternoon, and there may be just enough room to leave it as it is. If so, the clients will be able to store an enormous amount in that cabinet. The measurement may work to everyone's advantage after all.

Back at home, we spend the afternoon doing bookwork for the restoration project and I spend time musing about repainting our three vetrina doors...

June 4
Dino leaves early to supervise the laying of the floor tiles on the Prima Piano, and I wake up to the sounds of owls and birds. The weather continues to be less than perfect, and the weather report is for continued inclement weather all week. Yesterday, I thought it was cold enough for a fire in the fireplace...on June 3rd? How strange.

I paint this morning, and expect to drive myself to Marco's to paint this afternoon. It's the vetrina doors that I spend my time on, adjusting the background colors and changing the colors of the trim, just a bit, to work better with the fabric on the chairs.

I'm somewhat preoccupied by our clients' concern about aluminum. For the first time, we hear that cooking with aluminum is dangerous, so some of the things purchased last week may have to be returned. But how far does this go?

The clients also don't like teflon, or teflon coating. So we'll switch to wooden cooking implements, and look for those old cast iron pots and pans. Will we find them here in old hardware stores?

With all the rain we've had, the lavender has blossomed very early. The cherry tree also blossomed so early that the cherries were gone before we were able to pick them. I'm somewhat relieved, for I don't really have time to make cherry jam.

In a visit to the house late in the day, we see the pavimenti laid and it is quite beautiful. It looks like stone, and is very much like travertino in color. The crew is working on intonico, what is used in Italy as a kind of plaster, and the quality of their work is really exceptional.

Stefano, our Mugnano muratore, tells Dino he'll be here tomorrow to pour the concrete into the planters on our terrace. In another day we can plant the wisteria and roses, and then Lorenzo can come by to affix the metal rods to the house. Ovidio is expected on Monday to install the new wood shutters, so we may have quite a bit done before our family arrives.

June 5
Let's not talk about the weather...I'll let you know when there's something good to talk about...

Today I realize we're both working full time and then some to get their house ready for our clients to live in for a month. The last days are the most exciting and frustrating of any project of this kind, and today is no ... What's this? I can't seem to find the words..." There it is ...no exception." Either I'm tired or stressed, or what? Am I starting to "lose it?"

There's no time to ponder about whether I'm going a little daft. I have to sit and calculate every purchase and enter it inot a chart for the clients. I rather enjoy this detail work, but want to be sure it does not get ahead of me.

We woke up quite early and were at the house by 8 AM. The electricians spent most of the day running wires, and the kitchen supplier spent about half of the day putting the bottom cabinets in place. At first they were delayed because the pavimenti under the kitchen was not quite dry.

Then we had to replace several of the inexpensive tiles that were laid in the corner of the room where the cabinets will be installed, for we all forgot that the sink and sink cabinet are to be laid indented toward the wall where the window juts back toward the back of the house.

If you've been in our kitchen here in Italy, the shape of the counter and sink are similar. It works very well, giving us workspace on either side of the sink that is easy to access.

With the kitchen supplier finished, we called Franco and convinced him to arrive at 9AM tomorrow morning to measure for the travertine sink and counter. We'll be pushing, pushing him for an extraordinarily quick turn-around. He has been warned, and we think he'll do what we ask, for he's known about this deadline for several weeks.

We've given the design of the doccia (shower) in the master bathroom to Arshi, who loves his work, and by the time we leave at around 4PM he's well on his way and will be finished before they leave for the evening.

Back at home, I realize that Stefano will not be here tonight, so the pergola project will have to wait until tomorrow morning. We'll leave the cancello open when we leave for him in the morning.

My heartburn has returned, so we've made an appointment with our very accommodating doctor in Viterbo on Thursday at the end of the day. That reminds me....Pietro was operated on today for a hernia in Norway, and we hope he is doing fine. We'll have to send him our wishes.

We drive to Viterbo to do more shopping for the client, and by the time we return home we are really tired.

June 6
The days are filled to the brim, preparing for our family and preparing for the clients' arrival, both on June 15th. So there's not much time to write in the journal.

At the end of the day we meet with the geometra, and all the stories about buying and restoring property in Italy cloud my thinking. They are all true...or are they?

To throw out our American way of thinking about liabilities, and the American pastime of lawsuits, is to bring the legal system in Italy to the fore. Lawsuits are not common here, for it takes so long for a lawsuit to come to trial that a lawsuit is a seldom thing.

So the geometra's liability is usually vanquished with a shrug of his shoulders, a mournful glance upward as he admits some small error, then rationalizes the whole thing.

In this case, the geometra is sorry, but in the same breath blows a little pepperoncino toward us and toward the client. For aren't we all to blame? Yes, there is enough blame to scatter some everywhere.

The muratores aren't really to blame after all, for their bid was strictly set by the construction code, and we don't think any bidder came to the house before making their bid, which was all done based on square footage calculations. Everyone knew there would be surprises once the walls and roof were opened up.

Of paramount concern on our end, was that we found it impossible to extract estimates from the muratore on additions that we thought were common practice and easy to quantify.

It's the client's wishes, after all, that determine if we proceed to build the cantina and turn it into living space. And for that decision, we have to wait.

In the meantime, it's full speed ahead and tomorrow morning we'll rent a truck and drive to IKEA in Rome to pick up final purchases, including a sofa and chair, which we will then take to the house.

June 7
At least the temperature is cool, for the little furgone we rent from the Hertz concessionaire in Alviano Scalo is not air-conditioned. But as we ramble down the A-1 toward Rome, I'm thinking of Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie, Sofi lies between us on the seat and we all share an enhanced view of the scenery around us from "on high". Everything around us is lush and green.

At IKEA, well, let's just say that the only experience worse than visiting an IKEA in Rome is a second visit...

We accomplish our tasks, and I must say that without my clipboard I feel somewhat free. Rambling back, we stop in Amelia to pick up the mirrored frame for the master bath medicine cabinet, and it is really beautiful. We stop at Sgrina to drop it off, and in a few days it will grace the front of the medicine cabinet in Tenaglie.

We're weary, but know that for us the arrival of our clients and our family are near. With that thought, we turn in, and although the weather has been rainy and cool, it's easy to sleep.

June 8
A project done by Nando and his crew in Bassano is wrong, so Dino returns it, and although it will be ready this morning, we put it off for a day.

Instead, we return to the house and move the sinks and toilets, bidet and one shower pan outside the rooms where they are to be installed. That will happen tomorrow, or so we are told.

Arshi is putting white tiles on the floor of the little guest bathroom, but the tile supplier finally admits he has no idea when the rest of the tiles for that room will arrive. We are miffed, for we ordered them during the first week of April.

Amazingly, this is the only snafu we've had of things not delivered on time on this project. I'm suspecting our diligence has had something to do with it.

What to do? Well, the Piano Terra tiles were delivered early by mistake, and we have plenty of them, so we come up with a simple design based on those tiles, and it will work well.

We tell Arshi to take up the white floor tiles and that is easy, for they are freshly laid. He has the correct new tile to lay on the floor, and tells me that the wall tiles won't be laid until Monday. The plumber arrives tomorrow, and his work will take priority in both bathrooms.

There's plenty of shopping left to do, but we're unable to find a proper "juicer" anywhere. We find towels and a few more things before the stores close. And its now home to do more planning and checking on final details and scheduling.

June 9
Sun! Even the extended forecast show that the rain has passed. What a miracle it seems after all the dour weather during these past weeks.

Outside we hear Pepe's tractor ever-so-slowly chugging, chugging down the hill past our house. Everyone wants to be outside, and that includes us!

Birds! Birds! C'mon get up! Even the breeze tantalizes us. I'm not going to the house with Dino this am. Instead I have the clients' commemorative plate to paint. With a car all my own now, Dino drives off to the house while I paint and then drive off to a local store to pick up a few things for the client.

The plate is delivered to Elena after pranzo, who tells us it will be ready by Tuesday, in time for the clients' arrival. That done, we return to the house. The crew has left for the day, but we are able to see that the first coat of paint is up on the guest bedroom window, and finishing touches are what remain in all but the Piano 1 bathroom.

We don't think the guest bathroom will be finished before next Friday, although the pavement has been laid and we have the shower pan and fixtures. It depends on the plumber and his availability to take on the installation. We're pushing him, so we'll see.

With painting of the rest of the two floor yet to be done, the counters and sink yet to be installed, the gas line yet to be run for the bombola and hot water heater, the kitchen tiles behind the cooktop to be mounted, the mensola above the stove to be installed, we do not know if all will fall into place in time.

These next days are critical, and we drive to Viterbo to continue our round of purchases. We're whittling down the list, and have had great success, with only the decision on the bed and the routine kitchen and cleaning purchases remaining.

Since this morning I have had back pains and am not surprised that a migraine surfaces. By the time we're finished in Viterbo, I can't wait to get home.

It's on to bed for me with an ice pack, and a difficult night. Luckily Dino is just fine, and ends the evening watching the Formula 1 trials on T V.

June 10
No, I don't make it to the Corpus Domini mass and procession, for although my headache is better I am not feeling well. I am sorry for this, because I love this mass and procession. We don't have an altar set up in the parcheggio, either.

When Dino returns he tells me that it is a good thing that I did not attend, for the day is bright and sunny and it would not help my headache. I could hear the sweet drone of the voices below me and then up above me earlier and recall the annual extraordinary event of past years, the reverence and the pageantry.

He also tells me that he talked with Ernesta and Mario, and we are set for the gelato festa next Sunday afternoon. We'll be hosting a gelato "open house" for the residents of the village for two hours in the afternoon, as a kind of welcome to our family, and an introduction to the grand daughters, who are already well known in this little paese.

Yesterday Terence called from Sofia, Bulgaria, telling us that prices there are lower than in Bettole, Macedonia, where some of Angie's relatives live. They'll return to Bettole until they leave for Rome and a visit with us on Friday.

We've numerous painting and staining projects to accomplish today, and I'm hoping to finish the wood doors of our vetrina that surround the six glass panels today. Dino is working on the nightstands we've designed for the clients as well as staining castagno wood shelves for the clients' kitchen.

The nightstands really look good, and when they are finished we'll have a picture on the site. We've made a design change, but will be able to finish them in time. The clients know nothing about them, so we're hoping they'll be happy. It's a cost effective but beautiful solution to the nightstand dilemma.

The clients want to continue to work on Piano Terra after all, so we'll be working while they are there with hopefully a minimum disruption.

Let's talk about taking on a restoration project in Italy...

When dealing with older houses, it is difficult to ascertain what the budget should be. If you've read any of the books, you'll recall nightmare after nightmare. It's been our job to act as the client's advocate and to find a way to gently coerce the subcontractors to do our bidding.

We are fortunate that we have an excellent muratore crew, a crew that does not disappear from sight, nor do shoddy work. It is the geometra who is the weak link here. Although he is smart and friendly, he does not keep his eye on the ball.

He does not, as he promised in the contract, keep us abreast of any overages of significant amount. Nor is he there when we are asked by the muratore what to do when there is a decision to be made that takes the subject out of the preventivo.

On this next part of the project, we will manage it much differently, breaking down the job in mini components and seeing if we can take out a crystal ball to project possible unforseen problems, demanding preventivos before any additional work is agreed to.

With our family arriving for six days on Friday, we'll have to juggle the needs of the clients with our wish to spend as much time as possible with our family. We have arranged a mini festa during Sunday afternoon to introduce our grand children and celebrate their third birthday with the village.

Ernesta has agreed to give out free gelato for two hours in the afternoon from the Tabbachi, the only store in town, and we have arranged to pay for it. I'll also prepare special cupcakes, with help from the girls. We're so looking forward to their visit.

We planted the wisteria and roses, and they look wonderful. Perhaps we'll have the pergola and the shutters installed this week. It's dicey, but possible. The client has priority, but we'd like to have everything done before our family arrives. Speriamo.

June 11
I stay home with Sofi while Dino drives to Tenaglie, where he calls me and wants me to return there subito after pranzo. The design in the Primo Piano bathroom is troublesome.

So after a pranzo of cold salads, we drive over and by that time the design has been worked out. It's not our first choice, but will work well. Pat calls to say that she found the yellow bee towels for the kitchen in Montecchio, so we'll arrange to meet up some evening this week.

The nightstands that Dino is building, with the help of a couple of different fallegnames, are coming out really well. I can tell you about them now, for we won't post until after the clients arrive.

They were made from a hand carved castagno olive harvesting ladder, cut in two sections with hand made mattone as steps. Tonight or tomorrow he'll stain them and then they'll be installed. We still have not found the correct lights for each side of the bed...

At home tonight Dino stains shelves, cleans up one chandelier and one lantern light (one for the kitchen and one to be placed above the front door) and they'll be installed tomorrow.

We find the drapery rods, called "Americanas", for some reason, and we're re-using gauzy drapes that were in the guest bedroom. Instead of covering one wall, one will be installed for each window. Kate and I noticed them when they saw the house for the first time and we've kept them aside for them, washing them here and waiting until the room is painted.

The guest bedroom has had two coats of white paint, but may need a third. Tani tells us that the other rooms won't need this much work. He's moved on to the master suite, and hopefully by tomorrow he'll be finished painting the walls.

June 12
The boys from Sgrinia deliver our new stove, and there is not more than a millimetre or two to spare. But it works, and the old stove has been moved to the loggia, where we'll use it to cook fried foods, etc. It's thrilling to have such a fine stove to cook with, after using the tiny Italian stove all these years.

Dino drives off to the house after stopping at Bruno's to get some lamps rewired, and I drive to Sipicciano to get my hair done. Daniele reminds me that Donatella is in the small wing of BelColle Hospital, and we really must get there to see her. The hours are such 2 - 6 PM, that we are hardly ever able to get there during that time. But we'll just make it a priority tomorrow or Thursday.

I'm thinking of our clients arriving, and of how difficult the Italian language is for people who are not used to saying and hearing the words. I even find myself tripping over myself sometimes, at the simplest phrases. So what works for me is to take a breath and relax before speaking. Then the words flow more smoothly, even if I botch what I am saying.

June 13
Sofi and I drive to Viterbo and she gets groomed while I shop for the incidentals for the clients. Dino has shelves recut and rushes to the house to supervise the laying of the travertine counters and sink. Earlier, Franco said to Dino, "It will be a miracle if this comes out, it is so complicated...."

It's dark and shady in the area where I park to pick Sofi up after a round of grocery buying for the client. The sun is low, and I've parked too close to the car next to me on the left side. So I slowly back out after turning my head to see nothing but black....

And yes, I back right into a new Nissan Micro...black with black tinted windows. A woman was stopped directly in back of our car.

"Mi dispiace! Tanti dispiaci!" I cry as I get out of the car. She is quite a lovely woman, although very sad at the dent in the rear door of her new car. After the formalities, I back out and straighten out the car and walk over to pick up Sofi, who has just had a trim.

I've had a driver's license for 45 years. When I had my pink slip, before even getting my license, I hit a car that was coming out of a driveway. More than twenty five years ago, I hit another car, and that's about it for my dirty driving laundry. So it's not as if I'm a total lame brain driver...

We have to write a denuncia and I will do that tomorrow at Alessandro's office. He is the insurance agent who does a great job for us. He's not concerned, so neither are we. That's what insurance is for.

At the house, the electricity in the air is amazing. Electricians, plumbers, a muratore team of four, two window installers, two people from the marmista in Lugnano all converge upon this little house and it seems to rock from the rafters.

There are the usual hiccups, but by the time the day is done at around 8PM we are sure that we're going to have a house in good shape for the clients' arrival.

Everyone loves the lights we've designed. I think the nightstands will be just as big a hit. Everything seems to be falling into place. But with the client in first position, our shutters won't arrive until next week. We're given the date of Monday, and that way our family will see them. But I'm not counting on it.

I'll have to spend some time at our house tomorrow, trying to get it in shape. Right now it's full of the client's purchases, but tomorrow after the house is cleaned we'll be able to move everything to the client's house and tomorrow night we can clean our house...

June 14
Today is a round of crazyness, with the bombola in the house causing great concern and we are not there to take charge. The Sgrina brothers are not available today, so tomorrow morning we must rely on them to fix the solution. Mara came by as soon as she saw me return to the house at eight P M to tell me they were worried that there might be an explosion. But everything is fine after all.

With errands and rounds of installations and setting up things at our house, the day is filled with so much madness. It is a good thing the house looks spectacular.

Dino arrives about an hour after my arrival, during which time I unloaded the Alfa and quietly put things in place. We're stunned at the beauty of the house.

While waiting for Dino I silently stood and watched the sunset that many of us dream about but never see, over a verdant meadow, rolling hills spaced with the grey-green of olive trees and the darker green of evergreens. This site is worth the purchase of the house, and I see Kate and Merritt sitting on the terrace outside the front door as the day turns into scarlet and lavender and dark blue.

We're able to stay for two hours, then follow eachother home in exhaustion, only to commence a round of cleaning at our own house to prepare for our family's arrival tomorrow. We go to bed at around 1 AM, but set the alarm for 6, for Dino will have to meet the Sgrigna brothers at 7 to finish installing the mensola over the cooktop.

June 15
I had no idea how wonderful it is to be a grandparent until now. The previous trips to the U S to visit our family gave us an inkling, but now the girls are three and once they got over their initial arrival, they settled in as if they've always been here.

Earlier, Dino drove to the house before 7AM to supervise the kitchen installation and I drove to Civitella D'Agliano to pick up plants for the terrace and our favorite bread, both for us and for the client.

I arrive at the house by 9AM, and the crew is already working. Tani seems enthralled by the portico overhang, and when Dino drove over the rise earlier and viewed it from afar, he was amazed at the beauty of it.

This house certainly has special touches, and that is what we are so good at. Characteristic details, niches, stonework, set our houses apart from so many others. It doesn't have to cost more to have a truly memorable result.

We are on our second winds, and I assist Dino who puts in towel bars in the magnificent bathroom. For a small house, this room is beyond compare. I can just see Kate lounging in her clawfoot tub as she watches the sun set over the Tiber Valley.

I follow Dino to the rental car shop and he picks up a new pale blue Fiat Multipla. Then it's on to the airport for him, for Terence will arrive at the earlier time. And I'm on my way to pick up the client's Tenaglie stemma plate and then home to clean, clean, clean.

But first I have to make cupcakes, and fix a dozen of them. While they cook in our new grand oven, I move from room to room, cleaning as if in some kind of daze.

The clients don't call until 5PM, three hours after they were due to arrive, and by this time our family has spent three hours enjoying the house and eachother.

I think my favorite moment is leaning over while Nicole and Marissa eat their first loquats from a nearby tree. I split them in two, show them the four large seeds, and then peel the fruit.

The girls delicately take the pieces from my hand and silently raise them to their mouths. What follows is a big grin, and then they're itching to be picked up to plunk fruit for themselves, after I split the fruits open and show each girl how to suck the fruit out instead.

Sofi is angelic with them, loving them and loving their attention. After opening up their gifts in their room, they can't wait to change into their new summer cotton dresses from Provence and run out into the garden.

We're all settled in, but the client still has not arrived at 6:30, and we're due at Frank and Candace's at 7:30 for a sagra in Orvieto. We'll find a way to fit everything in....

Our clients did not arrive at our house until after 8 P M, so our plans for the sagra in Orvieto were cancelled. We guided them to their house and yes, it was a moving experience all around. "This is so much more than we ever imagined!" was their comment about our work and the status of the work. Although a number of things were incomplete, they will be finished this next week or so, and there were no complaints.

Exhausted, we drove home and stopped for a few pizzas, porta via (take-away) style in Attigliano on the way. Terence was still up, so the three of us sat in the kitchen and talked for a while. Then we drove to Pietro's to sleep and left them to get used to their new home away from home.

June 16
After a fitful night at Pietro's, we return to the house early. All of us walk up to church, and Angie and I sit in our regular aisle, with the girls in between. Dino and Terence sit nearby at the back of the church. Nicole sits quietly, eyes wide, to take in the view of the paintings on the ceiling and walls. But Marissa has trouble keeping still. Don Renzo is our priest today, and we are all relieved when the mass ends, so that we can leave the church and let the girls have fun.

Sitting around relaxing with the family is about the most wonderful activity I can think of, and we're thrilled that everyone seems happy in this new scene. The girls are in their tutus, playing on the gravel with their beach toys as if it's sand, their little table and chairs used as a home base from which they explore around the garden. A little while later we find them both under the pergola in the lavender garden, having a tea party.


And here they are meeting Lulu, the scarecrow made by us who lives in the big olive tree:

Although we gave them handpainted plates from Nonna, the girls loved their pink tutus the best of any gifts. Here are the plates:

For pranzo, we serve a barbecued pork loin, homemade cold applesauce, and then give in to the girls' request to sample cupcakes. Later in the afternoon they won't take off their tutus, so we give them little shirts to wear on top. Marissa especially has concerns about wearing just the right dress, the right shoes. And the number of shoes in their suitcases is really amazing.

Earlier, Terence and Dino take the girls down to see San Rocco, and they all climb in to see what it is all about.


Somehow we get organized and walk up to the piazza, where the twins hold court in front of the villagers. They are called "coppia" or copies, here in Italy, since they are not identical. They are also referred to as "gemelli falso", but that's not a very complementary sounding name, so let's stick with nipotini, or grand daughters.

Lore arrives just at the end of the festa when everyone else has gone home, for she forgot about the party, but makes up for it later by coming to the house and presenting the girls with really beautiful spangly shirts while we serve prosecco to all the adults.

Ernesta takes her role seriously at the festa, overseeing the choosing of ice creams from her icebox. At the end, she charges Dino a mere €31. So it is a very small price for a festa for everyone. Unfortunately, a number of people weren't here, especially some of the children, but at least it was a good introduction for the family.

Candace and Frank and Duccio and Giovanna stop by, and we all stand around eating ice cream. It's difficult not to think of future festas here with the family. We'll just take life one day at a time.

The girls are already loving their room and calling it "theirs", wanting to play there when it is hot outside, content to do so for hours on end. If only they would sleep during the afternoon while everyone else is having a "dolce fa niente"...

June 17
Terence and Angie take a train to Florence, and we're left to babysit with the girls. We're not very good at it, but the girls are somewhat at ease, and later we take them to Viterbo and put them in shopping carts while we wheel them around the IPERCOOP.

All day, we notice Sofi limping and acting subdued. I check her paws but cannot find anything, although she licks her front right paw often. Oh how I wish I could understand her...

We all pick Terence and Angie up at the train in Orte, and then Angie takes over with the girls, who are now somewhat anxious and don't want to go to bed.

We're exhausted, and look forward to getting to bed, even if it's down the hill at Pietro's.

June 18
This morning we return to our house from Pietro's and the girls continue playing outside. Late in the morning we see more than one hundred children walking up the steep hill to the village. They are from a church group called Grest and the walk from Bomarzo to Mugnano is an annual activity, with women from Mugnano preparing pizzas and panini and drinks and dolce for everyone.

Not many Mugnano children are at the event, but we walk up with the girls and they sit outside our little church with Salvature, trying to understand him. He's a very kind young boy and tries to communicate, but just does not know how. Perhaps next time...

Earlier Sofi and I drove to the vet in Viterbo, and the experience was much worse than I imagined. She had a foxtail imbedded in her paw, and practically jumped off the table as the vet tried to touch it, so he gave her an injection to calm her. Poor thing.

"Anche io?" (also me?) I ask, and the vet laughed. I was traumatized and pretty much a wreck. Somehow we finished the visit and came home supplied with medicine and bandages.

We eat pranzo at home, although I cannot remember what it consists of. While our family relaxes at home, Dino and I take a drive to see our client, then Tiziano comes to our house for a visit.

He agrees to escort us to his archeological dig far back in Mugnano, so we all pile in one of the cars and drive out to the spot for an amazing tour. Sadly he has to close the dig up this weekend and bury the find, for there is no money to do more work. We need to help him find some funding for this important project. Otherwise, it will be buried in layers of dirt, possibly never to be uncovered again...

We eat pizza outside on the terrace to end the evening, and it is as if our little family has always been here. What a thrill.


June 19
I've promised to take Angie to Terme de Papi for a massage, and Lello is available, so she gets her massage while I wait and read. Afterward, she confirms that she is really relaxed. When we arrive home, we all pile into the rental van and have pranzo at a manmade lake not far from us. It's hot, but the family wants to see Orvieto, so we drive on to visit Frank and Candace and then walk around the town to do some tourist shopping.

Here's Terence and Angie and Marissa and Nicole outside the Duomo.


Since they leave tomorrow, it's home to pack, while I whip up a risotto and lemon meringue torte. This is our last night at Pietro's, and we're getting used to it, although look forward to sleeping in our own bed. Thank you, dear Pietro.

June 20
We're awake at 4AM and take our last ride in the rental van, a very nice Fiat Multipla. We drive Terence and Angie and Marissa and Nicole to the airport, where they wait for a plane to Montreal and then fly home to San Francisco. It will be along day for all of them.


We drive home, but we're not at home long, for we have to drive to Alviano to drop off the rental van and drive on to Tenaglie to meet with the muratores and the clients.

Stefano the gardener is at the house in Tenaglie, doing a masterful job of cleaning up the near part of the back property. One tree has been leaning precariously, and Dino wants it taken out to give the clients a full view of their property. I'd like it to be the clients' decision. We leave the decision for later, for there is plenty of time to decide. But Kate tells Stefano she wants to plant a melograno (pomegranite) tree in memory of her mother, so he'll pick one up and plant it for her, hopefully soon.

Kate and we enter the cantina, and she and Merritt are to decide if the old sink is to be pulled out or saved as-is. Dino and Merritt want it to stay, but Kate and I think it's a waste of the space and can be reused at the back of the house for a potting sink. I imagine it quite lovely on top of a few tufa blocks.

Merritt agrees to let Kate have her way and I give her a "high five". That done, we move upstairs for a short visit, then drive back for a quick pranzo before my painting workshop.

While I'm painting, Dino is back at the house with the kitchen and bed supplier, who installs a second bed and mattress. There is still no word from Ovidio, who is to finish the installation of the shutters and windows.

But the missing tiles have arrived (Terence and Dino picked them up a few days ago) and tomorrow Arshi can finish tiling the downstairs bathroom. As soon as Ovidio returns we can install the window and we'll be done.

I'm loving my painting more and more, and perhaps I'll even finish this current one (Cezanne's ghost), the painting I began in Provence in April. It really takes a long time to finish a painting especially when I've only allowed four hours a week to work on it. I really have to get back to painting at home.

I will be painting chickens and hens next, courtesy of Tiziano's parents who will introduce me to their chickens. And of course I'll also do a painting for them as a thanks.

We're really tired, and return home just before 8PM. Dino waters the plants not on the irrigation system and we settle down for a few quiet hours before bed.

June 22
After a good night's sleep, we return to Tenaglie and check in on the muratores' work. It's amazing how deep they have dug, and now it's dirt, dirt, dirt that they uncover. The dirt is hauled away in a large truck owned by Mari's husband.

There's plenty of work to do, and part of the team works on the roof of the little back bedroom, while the rest continue to excavate. I think they'll be finished in time for the August break, a break that even these non-Italians will surely take.

We stop at Don and Mary's just as we reach Tenaglie, and Don is outside, hugging us and happy to see us. Inside we meet Mary's daughters, Gemma and Lucy, and the talk is all about tomorrow's wedding of Don's daughter in Todi.

We agree we'll have them come for a visit early next week, although Gemma will have to return on Sunday to England. We'll see her on her next visit. With big hugs all around, Sofi and I walk down the hill to the house, while Dino drives.

I don't know what happened to the morning, but it's time for pranzo and as we drive home all the stores are closed. So I put together some salads and again the watermelon is ignored. I really will make the granita; it will just have to wait, as will the lavender.

Oh, the lavender. I want to make wands, Dino wants to cut, but we're up and out each morning early, so there is no time. He'll have to cut on Sunday before church or on Monday morning.

Then we'll lay the lavender behind the house in the shade on long tables, and in a couple of days we'll stuff them into baskets. No longer will I manicure each stem, taking almost a week to prepare them. I think they'll look better in the baskets anyway. But I'm not sure how many wands I'll finally make.

Early this morning we drove to Bomarzo to sign up for the Art and Benessere association of artists. It appears I'll be able to hang at least one painting, probably the three capes, and in August I'll be part of a mostra in Attigliano, then in September in Viterbo.

"Am I a dilettante or a serious painter?" Giovanna wants to know. The people who work at art as a hobby are what the Italians call dilletantes. I'm a serious painter, then, for I do want to sell my paintings. I suppose that means they'll be exhibited on the main floor. I'm not concerned. We will see.

This afternoon, we do what Dino calls a "F.A.M." tour for Kate and Merritt, meeting them at a place in Attigliano where they will want to shop, and then taking them to Orte to another and finally to Viterbo to the place where we purchased their bath towels.

Shopping is very difficult in Italy, and by sharing our sources with them we hope to make their shopping experience less stressful. There is still more to buy for the cantina floor, and we make a few suggestions, then leave them on their own.

We drive home to Sofi, who has not pulled off her bandage, but we take it off so that it can get some air. She's feeling better and in a few days will hardly recall that she had this trauma at all.

We're "stanco morto" (dead tired), so she and I go up to bed early, and are sure Dino will follow us soon. We are behind on our sleep, and look forward to a more tranquil couple of months.

Thoughts of our family race in our heads, and we're already missing them. Terence calls to say that the trip back was uneventful, and that they all really enjoyed themselves. We can look forward to their visit every two years. That sounds like a good plan. And of course we'll see them in November. The time will fly...

June 23
Tonight will be a cena at Candace and Frank's, but first we visit the house to put up curtain in the guest bedroom window. The muratores are not here, but Dino talks with the new neighbors and learns the story of the nextdoor property: there are two sisters who will each live in one house with a pietra bianca (local white stone) arch in between.

One couple speaks perfect English. Before walking over to meet them, Dino asked Sr. Piva if he knows them and he does not. He's grilling a faraona and looking at the site out of the corner of his eye. After he sees Dino talking with the couple he trods over and introduces himself. Dino told Piva, "I'm just an ugly American, so I'll barge in on him and introduce myself. Sr. Piva follows his lead.

Meanwhile Kate and Merritt take a walk to Montecchio and get to know the owner of a café we had never been to.

June 24
It's a lovely morning and Sofi's just about healed. We walk up to church and Dino sits in our pew while I gab with Loredana and Alberto outside, hearing about course by course of yesterday's pranzo for a dozen of Alberto's former school mates.

Just as we get to the onions, I catch a glimpse of Marsiglia and Felice walking through the archway from their house. I stop Lore and turn her to see the handsome couple walking toward us, arm and arm as if in a procession. My arms wide, I walk up to them and embrace them, then take Marsiglia's arm to lead them to church and be sure they are sitting down before returning to hear about Lore's onions.

The bells chime for church, and Don Ciro arrives with a smile, followed close behind by Don Luca on his black motorcycle. Once inside there is a loud applause as Don Luca announces that Don Ciro's cast has finally been removed from his leg.

There is a small group in church this morning, but we are all friends, and sing along to the four hymns we all know well by this time. After mass, we return home to Sofi for a short while, then leave her again in the cool kitchen while we drive to Amelia to have pranzo with Judith at The Carleni.

We have not seen Tia for some time, so ask Kate how she is, but now Tia and Bruce are away on their June vacation to the U S, so I'll contact her in a week or so to check in.

The pranzo is beautifully presented, each dish worthy of a painting. I eat a roasted Orata, a lovely white fish, and we're almost alone in the restaurant. On Sundays most families either eat at home or at the big restaurants in the countryside, the din and clattering of knives and forks ringing around the room. The setting here is tranquil.

At home Sofi and I take a nap while Dino snoozes on the couch, then work a little on the plan for the downstairs bathroom in Tenaglie. We drive over to see Kate bent over by the little pizza oven, transplanting her flowers and happy with her hands in the fresh soil.

We eat cena tonight in town with Kate and Merritt, at a restaurant that is owned by...their new neighbors! Earlier Dino learned that they owned "the other restaurant in town". We only knew of La Perla, an unassuming kind of place that we can't recall liking or disliking.

This trattoria is more than good. It's ambience is rustic but stylish, the food exceptional. We are almost alone in the restaurant, and have a chance to chat with the owners, who are quite friendly and seem relieved that Kate and Merritt are such nice people.

We leave our friends at their house and drive home with Sofi under a clear and starry sky. Kate and Merritt are settling in, and tomorrow we'll return to hang another curtain and a mirror in their guest bedroom so that they'll be ready for their first houseguests who'll arrive on Wednesday.

Now that I think about it, I need to see if I can hem the living room and dispensa drapes in the next day or so and hang them...But we have Don and Mary and Mary's daughter and her husband coming the day after tomorrow, so perhaps they will be hung during the guests' stay....Nothing is worth stressing out about. Remember, this is Italia!

June 25
Dino gets up early and clips lavender, while Sofi and I sleep in a little. He drives on to get the revisione for the Alfa in Attigliano, and then drives to Tenaglie for a little work with the muratores and a little work inside the guest bedroom.

On Saturday, we were told that Tani stopped by to see if everyone was all right at the Tenaglie house. They did not go to Perugia this weekend, instead took a drive to Montecchio to hang out. How kind of them to stop.

It's warm, but not too hot to meander out to the garden in Dino's absence. Sofi joins me, feeling and acting better, and for that we are grateful. There are lavender plants waiting to be clipped, but a high mound of them lay on a table behind the house in shade. After a day or so, we'll put them in baskets in the house.

With guests arriving for pranzo tomorrow, we'll have cold salads outside under a big umbrella. The pergola is not ready, although I'd love to get the bamboo sheets ready. This week, the structure will be installed. And then we will have shade all summer, right where we need it.

But a very sad email arrives from Duccio to tell us that his sister, Donatella, passed away this afternoon after a bout with cancer.

Donatella. What's to say about this woman, a woman so full of life that it seems impossible that she's no longer with us? When visiting Daniele for a haircut, or in Sipicciano for a gelato, we always found her in front of the bar, or walking her huge dog, Orsino, nearby.

We have her house for sale on our site, as it was Donatella's wish to move to Tel Aviv. She was a Toscani cigar-smoking, bold woman, whose avocation as an impresario led her to tell us one day, "I can organize ANYTHING!...art events, exhibitions, even orgies" with no change of expression on her face.

A tiny ex-champion weight lifter and competitive runner, on occasion we would get a glimpse of a tattoo or two. Oh, what a life she must have had!

We are sorry that we could not sell her house for her during her lifetime. It is a very wonderful house, on four floors of a tiny medieval town next to a Baglioni palazzo, visible still on our site.

We're wondering what will happen to her dog, Orsino. But now our thoughts are with her brother, Duccio, and his wife, Giovanna, who will be left with a sizeable void in their lives.

June 26
After a fitful night with ice packs, I'm somewhat better, and Dino works doubletime to prepare the terrace and clip lavender. By the end of the week the lavender will all have been clipped, and my efforts to purchase nastro (ribbon) must take on a special urgency...Once lavender dries, it is impossible to make lavender wands.

Why ever do I push myself to complete these many projects? Each month there is something...and every project becomes complex...more complex than we would like. Making fig jam, for instance, from our own figs means harvesting the figs when they're ripe, cooking them down, preparing the jars, and if that were not enough, I have to design the labels as well...

I do like the lavender wands, and having plenty of them to give as gifts during the year. I'd like to make a few really big ones, so we'll see this week if that will happen.

But now there are things to prepare for today's pranzo, and although most of the cooking was done last night, there is granita to "fork" and tuna to mix with olive oil and lemon and capers for the chicken tonnato.

I like this pranzo, like serving it, for once everything is out on the table and is being passed around, I can sit with the guests and enjoy them. There's: cannellini beans with rosemary in olive oil, watermelon and feta and mint salad, string beans with vinaigrette and sliced almonds, cool grilled zucchini with a minty marinade, yellow peppers in a Sicilian sweet sauce, boiled eggs, carrots, marinated huge mushrooms...

And for those who need a little "meat", there's chicken tonnato with slices of lemon. For dessert there's watermelon granita, and yes I've repeated mint twice and watermelon twice. That's a no-no in proper cooking circles. But it seems to work, and it's not as if I'm being judged in some kind of cooking competition.

I've been thinking about my favorite thing to cook, and that must be lemon risotto. For all the lame things I've done in my life, cooking risotto is not one of them. I am as confident about preparing risotto as I am about my painting.

Fearless. That's what it takes to be a fine risotto chef. And that's also what it takes to become an accomplished artist. Now I'm far, far from being an accomplished artist, but I have no fear about my brush strokes, or about taking on complex painting concepts.

After a great afternoon, we almost follow our friends back to Tenaglie, but stop at the geometra in Guardea first. After walking around our clients' property and surveying the fine work done by Stefano the gardener, Stefano takes us over to a tree to show us a tiny bird in a nest. He tells us it's the mother, sitting on her baby. He tells us it's a cardalino, which is a goldfinch.

Yesterday at about 8PM, the workers in the next property were still digging with their loud tractors, and Merritt walked over and pointed to his watch, asking them to stop so that they could have a peaceful cena, saying "Basta!"

The workers were so embarrassed that not only did they stop; but this morning much of the roba (garbage) that Stefano pushed to the side of our clients' property was taken away.

We've found antique tiles for the downstairs kitchen, and Kate and Merritt want to follow us to see them in the next few days. That's fine, and if their house guests want to tag along, we'll also take them to San Pellegrino in Viterbo, the medieval quarter of the city.

Sadly, we receive an email from Duccio that his sister, Donatella, passed away yesterday. We liked her, for she was fun in all her kooky clothes and love of animals. We'll surely attend her funeral tomorrow in Rome.

Tonight, we drive home through Sipicciano and check in with Daniele, who will drive to the funeral tomorrow with several friends. We take in a big map to show him where the cemetery is. That's what we should be doing for Donatella. And Dino has another thing to do:

We walk into the bar, and Dino asks what Donatella's favorite drink was. It was Jack Daniels, so he stands at the bar and we salute Donatella while drinking her favorite Jack Daniels. Bravo, Dino!

It's finally cooling down, although this afternoon the temperatures were close to 40 centigrade. We're hoping to have a cooler summer. We stop at Lorenzo's to check on the pergola, and he tells us he'll be installing it on Saturday. Stefano our muratore will cement the steel into the house on Monday. And hopefully by then the shutters will have been installed. It's all very exciting.

Tonight we take a look at a pergola covered in vines on the way out of Sipicciano, and I remind Dino that once the wisteria covers the pergola, we'll have thick shade in front of the house during the hot summer months. In the meantime, we'll cover it with bamboo. Now we'll see if Dino will eat outside more this summer. Previously, he always felt it was too hot.


With Donatella's funeral in Rome at 9:30 AM, we leave the house two hours earlier and stop on the A-1 for cappuccinos and cornetti.

We arrive at the cemetery just north of Rome at Prima Porta, and the cemetery is so large that it takes us a while to find the Jewish chapel. Dino has a cap to wear, a handsome one that makes him look Middle-eastern. He's wearing a sportcoat and tie, and is one of the few men not dressed in casual clothes.

Ever the gentleman, Duccio gets out of his car and greets everyone around him, more concerned that everyone is taken care of than thinking about himself. Last night in a conversation he told us that it was not necessary for us to come. But to support our dear friends, of course we would be there with them.

Donatella's daughter, Sveva, reads something that Donatella wrote some time ago about the importance of understanding and embracing one's heritage. She felt that only when doing that would a person know himself.

A woman who felt strongly about her religion, the rabbi spoke gently and lovingly of her, and those of us standing around the simple room facing her casket, women on one side and the men on the other, could not help feeling a real void.

We leave while the rest of the mourners wait outside in the hot sun for the men to bring the machine to lower the casket into the ground. It appears the wait will be long, and so return home with thoughts of her on our minds.

Later in Tenaglie, Kate speaks about wanting a melograno (pomegranite) tree planted on their property in honor of her mother who has recently passed away. My thoughts return to our cemetery plot in Mugnano, and hope that we can sign the contract soon.

Tonight we have cena with Annika and Torbjorn and his mother, Sigrid, and his sister, Monika, all here from Sweden. It is a cool evening, and we suggest to our friends that we imagine it is a hot night, while eating our watermelon granita. We'll have cool sleeping weather tonight, even if the days return to temperatures of 35 degrees plus.

June 28
What a lovely morning! It's cool and fresh and even the birds sound mellow. There's the usual bout of laundry to put in the lavatrice (washing machine) with almost a two-hour wait until it's ready to be hung out on the drying rack in the sun.

Yesterday while at Kate and Merritt's we watched their lavatrice (washing machine) churn left and then right, while the two of them worried that they had done something wrong. No, there's nothing to worry about. It takes "that long" for a complete cycle.

So what's up with the Italians and their washing machines? Anyone who's come to Italy for a visit has expressed the same concern about the length of time it takes for a washing machine here to complete it's cycle.

Dino lowers the old baskets of lavender from the bedroom windows with a rope and hook, and it's time to replace the old with newly cut lavender that has been drying in the shade behind the house for a few days. There is more lavender to be cut, but no place to dry it, so we'll fill a few baskets and then he'll cut more.

In the meantime, we still have not found nastro, or ribbon, to use to make lavender wands. Dino thinks one of the general stores in Attigliano has nastro, so perhaps later we'll pick up what we need.

This morning I have a pedicure with Giusy, and later we'll return to the house to remeasure the Piano Terra, now that the sub-flooring has dried. I'm through early with Giusy, and we arrive at the house while Tani and Arshi are working on the roof of the little studio.

It's such a gem of a building, and surely turned my head when we first viewed the property. Yes, it will be hot inside in the summertime, but we'll find a way for it to work for Kate when they're here.

We remeasure the bathroom and the unico stanza and feel good about the design we've come up with. So now Dino will formalize the electrical plan and meet with the boys on Monday morning to go over it.

Earlier we found a merceria in Orte Scalo, and I purchased 22 meters of nastro (ribbon) for the amazing price of 2o cents a meter. I'll use it to make lavender wands; that is, if I can begin making them while the lavender is still fresh and pliable...

After pranzo we drive to Allerona, above Orvieto, to consult on a development project. It will consist of from ten to twenty-two homes on a ridge high above Allerona that reminds me of Mt. Tam and West Marin.

So soon you'll see some information on our site. We're not about to become property developers, but these will be complete homes from €250,000 up and we think will have access to a common swimming pool.

The person developing it has just finished another project that presold 23 units before construction began. So we're told he's quite good. We don't know much about property development, but will let you know more if you think this kind of property might be for you.

We're home early for the evening, and I've finished stuffing one basket with lavender for the kitchen. This year we'll have much more lavender in each basket, but with a smaller harvest will have fewer baskets in the house.

This afternoon we found a merceria where I purchased 22 meters of nastro (ribbon) to make lavender wands. Now if I can find the time to make some while the lavender is still fresh and pliable, that will be great. We'll see. Duccio and Giovanna are on our minds, and we're wondering how they are doing managing with Donatella's passing. If they come to Bomarzo this weekend we'll go there for mass on Saturday to be with them.

This Saturday is the Arezzo antique mercato, so we're recommending that Kate and Merritt take that on. If they go to Pissignano on Sunday, we'll surely join them for pranzo. And perhaps we'll suggest it to Don and Mary, too. We love that mercato, love walking it even if we don't buy anything.

June 29
Today is Terence and Angie's tenth wedding anniversary, so we hope they'll celebrate. With the twins visiting with their grandparents in Orange County for a few weeks, they'll surely find someplace to party tonight.

We're out early for a visit to a lumberyard in Viterbo, then a visit to the Vet for Sofi to check on her foxtail trauma and also get an annual injection.

Dino loves this lumberyard, a place of artisans where wood is cut to order while we wait. He then drops us off among six or seven groups of people and dogs and cats who wait for the vet to open at 9:30. He drives off to wash the car while Sofi shakes in my arms despite the commotion around us.

We meet some very kind people. Among them are Claudio and Tonia (yikes!) Claudio was born in Florence and Tonia (gulp!) in Australia. I just know Dino will roll his eyes at the thought of encountering another Tonia.

They are a very friendly couple who live in the countryside outside Grotto Santo Stefano and want us to pay them a visit. We surely shall, for we love to meet new friends, especially those who love living in Italy.

Giancarlo the Vet gives Sofi a kiss and tells us she's fully cured of her foxtail trauma last week. So he gives her an annual injection and asks us if we ever take her to the beach, Tuscany or Emiglia Romana. No, and that's a good thing. There are certain bugs and diseases she can catch there that have no cure. She also lives "inside" with us, and that's additional protection for her.

We stop at a local tile yard and find the perfect tile for the clients' Piano Terra. The price is more than amazing at the incredible €8 per square meter. They have an abundant supply, and the tiles are seconds, although they assure us that there is nothing wrong with the tile.

Finding the battiscopa (baseboard) is another thing. After much searching, we find something that will work, but don't have as much as we need. So we leave a deposit and drive to Tenaglie to measure to see if 17 square meters of battiscopa will work. I think it will, for we won't use it on the exposed stone walls, nor behind the kitchen nor under the fireplace.

Dino drops Sofi and I off while driving on to the bank, and we're inside while Merritt and Kate come in their front door. They have found some good things themselves (chairs, a towel rack) and we then have a show and tell.

Upstairs Kate and I stand at the bedroom window looking over the lovely view while Merritt lies on the bed watching us. And it is on this spot that I will remember them, slowly immersing themselves into their Italian lives.

Each time we see them they seem more relaxed, more at peace with their decision to be here. Kate shows me the melograno (pomegranite) tree that she asked Stefano to purchase and plant for her in honor of her mother, and it is quite perfect in its new home.

I ask Kate if she wants to see the tile for downstairs, and as we climb down, Arshi arrives with two ancient little items that he tells us are clocks. He shows us how they work, and they appear to be some kind of timer, perhaps used in the making of wine or olive oil. He also uncovers mattone when uncovering the roof of the tiny downstairs bedroom, and is sure they are two hundred years old. I am not sure of his guess, but they are beautiful just the same.

While we are here, we are drawn to the site of the little back room, which is now open to the sky. I encourage Kate to take photos of the room, shadows jutting down as the sun begins to move westward over the roofless space. It's a dream of a room, even if it is tiny.

Inside the main room of the cantina, it is very cool. We await the price of pointing up the stone walls before deciding whether to paint over them with intonico or to point them up. At this point, every euro is crucial. It also will affect whether or not we need more battiscopa.

We leave them to have pranzo, after promising to bring them bread flour soon so that Merritt can make some bread. The outside oven will not be finished before they leave, but he is itching to bake.

I think this house has fine bread karma, for the original owner was a baker and worked during his adult life for Mulino Bianco, a well known brand of bakery products in Italy.

We don't arrive home until after 2:30, but we have ricotta and basil and fresh tomatoes, so I fix cappellini and a fresh uncooked sauce with the remaining ingredients and add some olive oil and grated cheese. I love the result, but it is a little mild for Dino. Perhaps next time we'll add some garlic or pepperincino for a little liveliness.

Sofi is very quiet, and has not acted well all morning. At home she eats her pranzo, but is so tired that she hangs her head over the little corduroy bed in our room and mopes while I sit at the computer. I think the ingredients of her injection are strong for such a little dog, and that after a restful afternoon and evening she'll be fine.

This morning in Viterbo we blew up an image of a woman that I will use as a kind of template for my next painting, instead of moving on to chickens. I am thinking of a Gothic type of arch, under which light will stream toward us. Below and in front of the arch will be a tall willowy woman wrapped in a gauzy material, stepping out of the light.

Surrounding her will be darkness, a dark navy-blue-black kind of darkness. I don't know what Marco will think of it, but do I care? I suppose I do, and if this is not what he wants me to paint, I'll paint what he wants the next time.

I think he wants me to paint from a model, so I can bring some gauzy fabric with me on Monday and we can drape it on his mannequin to give me something "real" to paint from. I think that will give him what he wants, and will give me what I want.

He wants to give me the experience of painting from a live model, and that is a good thing. Now what I don't know is how to go about painting luminous almost transparent material. That is something that Pascal (my teacher in San Remy) is very good at. I so enjoy exploring new techniques, but always with voluminous fabric.

What is it that draws me so to this fabric? Is it the mystery of it? I do like the idea of mystery in a painting. I like the unknown, the idea that a painting can provoke different interpretations.

Today is mellow, with the temperature below 30 and a breeze, especially in Tenaglie. I'm not expecting mild temperatures, for once the heat arrives I expect it to stay all summer.

With the onset of July just two days away, I'm hoping the summer will be on the mild side. But with our new pergola to be installed, hopefully on Saturday, and a bamboo covering for the summer until the wisteria takes over, we'll be able to use the space a lot more. And that is wonderful news. Perhaps tonight we'll pick up the bamboo on the way to Frank and Candace's.

There's a fish dinner outside at Corsica, and there are more than a dozen of us. It's fun, there is a lot to eat, but I don't eat most of it, thinking the eight or so courses of fish are..too much. The Italians with their tradition of multiple courses are too much for me, especially at night.

But we meet new friends and chat with old ones, and will see them again next Wednesday at a 4th of July festa near Orvieto that should be fun. All the food will be traditional US fare, and we'll bring our homemade relish. For relish is impossible to find in Italia. And ours is quite good!

June 30
Yesterday morning, on the drive up the hill in Bomarzo, we ran into Don Luca and told him about Donatella's passing. He did not know her, but asked if he should say a mass for her. We responded by saying that we only wanted him to know. So perhaps when he sees Duccio and Giovanna he will speak with them and ask them himself.

We hear from Duccio that they will be in Bomarzo this weekend, so we'll join them for mass tomorrow night. But we're hoping that Lorenzo will arrive first thing with the pergola, and that Ovidio will arrive soon after with the shutters. At the latest, we'll have everything in place by mid-week. Lorenzo calls, and he won't be here until Tuesday, but we think Ovidio will come on Monday. Speriamo!

We have two baskets full of lavender in the kitchen, but not much more lavender for other rooms. I'm saving some for the lavender wands, now that we have purchased plenty of nastro (ribbon). Less is more, Dino thinks, so we'll have fewer baskets and more lavender in the baskets we have. Va bene.

We drive to Bomarzo and greet Duccio and Giovanna at their house, then walk down to Misericordia, the tiny church nearby. The service is at 6 PM, not 5:30, so we walk up to Fedora's bar for something to drink while we wait.

Giovanna asks me if I've heard what happened to Orsino, Donatella's huge dog. It appears that Ingrid, the woman we thought was her close friend in Bagnaia, was going to take the dog, for she and her husband had two other large dogs.

But they kept the dog for a week or so, and when Sveva, Donatella's daughter, called her to tell her that Donatella had died, Ingrid only wanted to deal with Orsino. "Orsini must go, or I will kill him." The coversation went something like that.

Sveva replied, or so I'm told, "Today I'll deal with my mother's death. Tomorrow I'll deal with Orsino."

Meanwhile Duccio and Giovanna thought they found a good home for the dog in Bomarzo. Donatella's vet, who was a good friend, agreed to pick up the dog from Ingrid. But the dog was near death, with sores all over his body.

So the dog is now in the Vet's care, being fed intraveneously. If he survives, there is probably a place for him to live. And it appears, no thanks to Ingrid, whom Donatella thought was her good friend. What a sad story!

After mass, we said goodbye to our friends, and drove up to Sipicciano where we found grograin ribbon to use as loops on the top of the linen curtains in the kitchen instead of the metal clips. Yes, that's another project for me. The curtains wait hanging over the dining room door until I'm ready...sometime in the next days?

We enter Walter's bar for a little gelato, and I find a chocolate flavor with whole hazelnuts called...Donatella! So of course that 's the flavor I have. I'm thinking back of the mass, and of how sad and silent Duccio appeared. He wears his grief like the consummate gentleman that he is. My heart goes out to him and to Giovanna, who are the kindest and most generous spirits. We wish there was something we could do.

We end the evening with Dino pouring over project budgets while watching Steve Martin's Pink Panther movie out of one eye, and Sofi and I hanging out upstairs getting ready for dreamland. This has certainly been an action-packed month!

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