Our favorite antique mercato takes place on the first Sunday of each month in Campello Sul Clittuno, near Spoleto. If we're adventurous, we'll drive to Arezzo for the giant mercato the day before. Arezzo is the largest antique market in Italy, with over 200 stalls and many shops open along the route. But this one is still our favorite. So we leave the house before 9 AM and drive up past Spoleto, parking on the shady side of the road.
Sofi does well for most of it, but we hold her for the rest when the heat and hot pavement get to her. It is very warm today, and difficult for her on any day that is warm. She's happier back in the air-conditioned car on the way home.
We run into Maggie, whose lovely house in the countryside outside Spoleto is for sale on our site, but don't run into anyone else, although we are sure other friends have taken our advice and will visit today.
We must be back before 2 P M, for today is the French Grand Prix, and Dino always tries to watch any Formula 1 race. Today will be no exception.
We find one modo di dire plate, one embroidered dress for €7 and one piece of embroidered linen for €5 to make a camisole out of for the summer. The dress is more like a pink slip, but I can wear it as a dress on a hot day. It's amazing the amount of work that goes into these embroidered second hand cotton and linen pieces.
We love the walk; love the variety of interesting things for sale. There is always something to pick up. And the mercato is very popular.
At home for pranzo we eat a saffron ricotta torte that I made at 7AM this morning, knowing that we'll be eating in front of the T V. We have leftover peppers, more watermelon salad with mint and feta and a green salad. Just in time. It's 2 PM and for the first time I watch the race myself. It is quite exciting after all.
I've fashioned the loops for the linen kitchen curtains, and we try them out before I sew them. I'll sew them in the next days, now that we're pretty sure that we'll have a new pergola and new shutters by Tuesday.
Tomorrow the shutters will be installed, starting at 7:30 AM, and Dino will be driving to Tenaglie to work with the electricians and possibly the plumber, so I will be on my own. Fa niente. There will be two workers here, and they can take care of themselves.
We're going to a sagra tonight in Colicello di Amelia, and Don and Mary and Merritt and Kate will join us. We call Ruth to ask if we can make reservations, and we cannot. So we'll all meet in Lugnano and get there early. I'm looking forward to this new sagra, liking the tiny town very much.
We lead our friends over hill and dale across Amelia, and when we get out of the car in Collicello they ask where in heaven have we taken them?
We are at the edge of the town, and walk up to where the sagra will take place. Unfortunately, we have to wait to get in, although it is early, possibly because it is early. When people are allowed to enter, the push is Italian-style, and I dislike this custom so very much. It is so brutta figura....and uncivilized.
We do find a good table, although it takes us a while to get waited on. The head of the committee comes over to ask if everything is all right, and by then it is. The sky is a soft pinky blue, and it turns to my favorite bright navy while we drink the local wine and feast on bruschetta and cinghiale and polenta and tozzetti for dessert with Vin Santo. Tozzetti are tiny little square cookies with an anise flavor, tasty when dipped into the Vin Santo.
Yes, one is supposed to dip the cookie into the wine. Tonight we have traditions and customs and Galateo's rulebook all rolled into one. It's really good.
Ovidio calls to say he'll be late in the morning to install the shutters, but now he is well trained. Dino gave him hell for not showing up last week and not calling. And we fully expect him to show up on time tomorrow.
Duccio also calls, and this time he calls Don, for Don called him yesterday to see how he and Giovanna are doing. Duccio gives him the very sad news that Orsino, Donatella's beloved dog, is dead.
How can one say it is a good thing all around for that to be the case? The dog was badly treated by Ingrid and her husband, and there is no excuse for that. It appears he died while in the care of the vet, and never regained his strength. How very sad.
We drive home under a very full moon, and after greeting Sofi she has her bout outside barking at the cats under the moon. But she's ready for bed, and we come upstairs, ready for another busy week, Italian-style. I give her an extra scratch and an extra hug before getting into bed, and bless my stars that she is well and ever by my side.
Birds are singing and it's already warm at 8 AM. Dino is in Soriano getting a blood test and will then meet the electrician and hopefully also the plumber in Tenaglie. Sofi and I will wait for Ovidio, who is to arrive at 10 AM to install our new shutters.
I'm weary of making lavender wands, but work on them, as the remaining lavender in the garden is ready to be clipped and is dark purple in color. If I get bored, there's always the canvas to prepare for class. I have a sheet of carbon paper to trace the image, but may wait for class. For Marco has a giant sheet of the stuff, and it will be easier there. Now that I've written it down, that's what I'll do.
I seem to be a bundle of procrastination this morning. So let's get up and enjoy the day!
Dino returns because there are no blood tests given on Mondays... But I have my art workshop with Marco, and that goes well, for I have begun a large painting with three women and have worked on it for quite a while this past week.
Here we are:
Ovidio and his workmate arrive late in the morning, but at least they arrive. After many false starts, they are finally here.
The shutters are really beautiful, and at long last we finally have new wooden shutters, in a pale blue-grey. Well, they're more blue than grey. "Wow they're bright!" Dino exclaims as he looks down at them on the top of Ovidio's car from the terrace. But when they are nearer, they are not as bright after all, thankfully.
They're still here when we're ready to have pranzo, so invite them in for bruschetta, a frittata and salad and granita. Ovidio does not eat much of his granita, so we have found one person on this planet that does not like it. "Fa niente", as dear Mary would say.
They continue to work until five, and then ask if they can return in the morning, and we have no problem with that. But after they leave we leave for Viterbo, and I am unable to latch the kitchen shutter...the latch is too high.
Dino thinks Ovidio can remount the latch lower, so we'll ask him tomorrow. I even need a stepladder to reach the lower latch, but such is life.
In Viterbo we have another smaller blowup of the virgin copied, this time 40cm high. The center figure is 60cm high. So there will be three women, with two flanking the center figure in the distance. They each step out from beneath an arch. I'm itching to work on it.
We look for a polystyrene head, and are directed to a beauty supply place, but it's after 6PM and it's closed. On Monday I intend to dress Marco's skeleton in more than just the gauze fabric. Since there will be a party and barbecue after class, this will be great fun for everyone.
Marco does not know it but I will also paint the fabric on the three women before returning the canvas to his studio. At home Dino wants to keep the canvas in the kitchen on the cavaletta (easel) so that I can continue to look at it and think about it.
Tonight there is a program I love on T V. It is called Poterie di Genio (the power of Genius), and tonight the subject is Van Gogh. The narrator does not mention San Remy, but he did spend important time there near the end of his life, and I was certainly inspired by the outskirts of the town, and the town itself, this past April.
Although I'd like to return to Provence in September, we think we'll take a trip to Puglia instead. Candace and Frank are there this weekend, and are taking the train to Oltranto and then meeting friends. While I watch the program on Van Gogh, Dino studies the map book, and begins to plan our fall trip.
We've been invited to a Fourth of July party by an American couple living part time outside Orvieto. But there is so much going on here that we don't think we'll be able to make it. I somehow don't have an interest in celebrating the holiday any more. Dino feels the same.
Most of the day is spent skirting around Ovidio and his partner, who continue to work on the new shutters. Earlier, Dino ran into Maria Elena, who asked if Provence was the inspiration for the blue shutters. Si certo!
There is much wind today, and the temperature is mild. We spend the day enjoying the weather until Dino realizes that the filmy curtains framing the balcony window have been blowing to and fro and now there is blue paint on one of them. He spends a while trying to take the paint off, and then we wash them in the machine, but are out of luck. We'll need to replace them.
I don't really care about the curtains, but Margaret helped me to sew them the Christmas she and Pat were with us many years ago. So for that I am sad. I can hear Margaret trying to make me feel better by telling me it's time to move on and get over it. So I think of her and smile. I'm sure Pat is full of thoughts of dear Margaret, and consider myself blessed to have known her.
Ovidio leaves mid afternoon after telling us they'll return tomorrow afternoon to finish installing the shutters. So we take the opportunity to drive to Tenaglie and meet Kate and Merritt's houseguest and then inventory the remaining tiles. We still have to work out tiles for the Piano Terra bathroom and kitchen backsplash.
There were two short extra beams left downstairs in the Piano Terra when the work began, and they were old and beautiful, but too short to use as a fireplace mantel. We used one this week as a beam over one of the windows in the little bedroom on Piano Terra, and it looks really beautiful. The room may be small, but it is a treasure.
Zenni is inside the bathroom on Piano Terra, and we agree on the intonico for the wall inside the shower. There is an existing inset in the wall, and we'll take advantage of that when we tile for the shower. Va bene. Otherwise, the room is quite small. The good news is that it won't take a lot of tile, and we probably have enough left from the upstairs rooms so that we won't have to buy any, at least for the bathroom.
I am still hoping to use some antique tiles in the kitchen, and in the next days we'll pick up a few samples. The weather clouds over, and we leave Tenaglie for home, for we're expecting Don and Mary in less than two hours and we have to put something together to serve.
Back at home, there is Norwegian salmon, cream cheese, good bread for bruschetta, garden tomatoes chopped with basil and olive oil and a little garlic, marinated mushrooms, Sicilian red and yellow peppers in a tangy marinade, and my lemon torte for dessert. With a bottle or two of prosecco, it's a tasty night of snacking under the imagined pergola.
We've moved the table away from the house, and like the placement better. Lorenzo has put us off again regarding a date for the pergola installation, but we'll bug him every day until he succumbs. Every week I think..."This week for sure!" Now I'm not sure at all, but we don't have any major events coming up, so when it arrives, it arrives.
We're not completely happy with the shutters, for the quality of the paint job is not particularly good. The shutters should have been finely sanded before they were painted, and there are places where there is not enough paint. Dino tells me he'll touch them up after Ovidio leaves, but that's too bad. We'll work it out; we're just disappointed.
The night is lovely and mellow, and we eat outside on the terrace with Don and Mary. It is always a treat to share stories and good times with these good friends, but we'll take them to the train tomorrow, sad that we'll not see them again for a couple of months.
Sofi brings two of her toys outside and entertains us silently while everyone gabs. I steal looks at her now and then and realize that she is very funny tonight. After awhile she comes over and lies by my side, disappointed that her tricks with the deflated soccer ball have not engendered any particular interest.
After our guests leave Sofi lies by my side on the couch and wags her tail when I ask her if she's ready to go to bed. This is one sweet dog, and I just adore her.
We sleep in until 9AM, and with all the shutters open and the sweet smells of cut grass and no weed-wackers, I am in heaven. The birds even seem mellow.
An email arrives from Mitch Woods and I am in disbelief. We see him now and then, for he plays often in Europe, but he tells us that he played for the opening performance of the Mountain Play on Mount Tamalpais above San Francisco, and my mouth drops open as I read. This year's play is HAIR and I think, "Jim Dunn certainly got his way."
HAIR is one play I never thought would have been played at the Mountain Theatre, but as I think about it, Mount Tamalpais was a hippy haven during the 60's and 70's. We lived there for more than ten years before moving to Italy.
And I imagine myself sitting at a board meeting of the Association when the play selection comes up for a vote. Only if you were on the Board of the Mountain Play would you understand the dynamics. Ha ha. We hope the play is a resounding success. "Let the sunshine in...."
There is no word from Ovidio all day. Yesterday he told us he'd be here to finish installing the shutters this afternoon. Sigh. And we stop at Lorenzo's to ask him in person when he will come to put up the pergola.
"90% I'll be there on Tuesday" he tells Dino. And Dino responds, "90% is good enough for me!" He's put us off for weeks, but we do love his work.
We drive to Viterbo to check out a second hand consignment shop to see if they'll take our old metal shutters and they will. I can't wait to get rid of them. Sorry, Nana, to use the word, but I HATE them. I have hated them since the first time we looked at the house in September 1997 and my eyes were drawn to them like a bullet careening through the air.
I like our new wooden shutters very much, and also like the color, although the craftsmanship leaves a little to be desired. Dino will do some sanding and repainting and they'll be fine.
Early this morning Rosina leans over her balcony and tells Dino while he is watering, "Bellisima!" She likes the color of the shutters, too, although Dino chooses not to respond that the blue was inspired by a trip to Provence.
We eat breakfast outside on the terrace, and this is a big deal. Dino always wanted to eat breakfast inside before, for some reason or other. Now he likes sitting outside at the table, especially under the shade of the persimmon tree. But he knows that in the next weeks he'll need to get up in a ladder to clip the thousands of hard fruits that occasionally boink! down upon us.
Later in the morning we pick up a small water heater that we will have Enzo install under the kitchen sink to help us to receive hot water faster after we turn on the tap in the bathroom or the kitchen.
Now Dino can call him to make an appointment, for Enzo will also run gas to the stove in the loggia, now that it has been relocated from the kitchen. We are really getting this little house the way we like it, bit by bit.
We also talk about reroofing the loggia, and I suggest that we bring in Stefano the muratore to see if we can do some of the work if we can do it for a good price. I'm all right with the roof being made of wooden planks instead of wooden beams and mattone.
I do want to get rid of the asbestos covering the loggia over the bamboo, and want the room to be water-tight. It may not cost very much if we're not changing the structure. So I recommend that Dino talk with Steve, who has worked with him on installing an irrigation system and is a good worker. The two of them could do the roof in a week under Stefano's guidance.
Right after pranzo, we drive to Tenaglie to drive Don and Mary to the Alviano train station, but stop first to pick up a few tile samples at the house. Tonight we'll finalizet the design of the tiles in the Piano Terra bathroom for our clients, and tomorrow first thing we'll meet with Alessandro at Orsolini to finish any ordering and talk to him about taking back some tiles that we could not use because they were damaged.
I hate saying goodbye to Don and Mary, for it means we won't see them for two months. We always say that "next time we'll spend more time together", but somehow we only manage to sneak in a couple of visits when they're here.
This afternoon we stack the old shutters on the luggage rack of Pandina, Dino's Panda, and tomorrow after we get home from our meeting at Orsolini we'll drive to Viterbo. I'm sure we'll be feeling as if we're characters in Grapes of Wrath, lugging our belongings in an overloaded car.
Dino wonders out loud if he should have a "trasport0 eccezionale" sign on the front and back of his load, so we'll see if we get stopped on the road.
I spend a couple of hours painting in the late afternoon, and the main figure of my three-figure painting is almost finished. I'll paint the two smaller women before Monday, and then Marco can guide me in painting filmy layers of fabric on top of the gowns I have painted, and also recommend a few other touches.
I think I'll take the painting back home and will finish it next week. So perhaps we'll work on the faces and hands, too.
Yes, I really want to paint farmyard chickens, and will sit at the Gasperoni's henhouse soon to sketch their hens and chicks. I'm really looking for chickens with elaborate headdresses, but the simple hens and chicks are still incredible looking. What amazing examples of nature they are!
It's a cool night, and we turn in early. Tomorrow we'll have a busy morning, and tomorrow night we'll attend another sagra, this time in Montecampagna, outside Amelia, with Steve and Darcy whom we took language lessons with five years ago and Kate and Merritt. If I can, I'll sneak in a little painting, too.
We arrive at Orsolini early, and Alessandro greets us warmly. We show him the tiles that will not work with eachother, because they have been made incorrectly. Because they are made by hand a little curve here and there is expected. But these tiles cannot be used because the corner pieces do not match up.
Dino brings the boxes in and Alessandro will have to contend with the rep. If the rep declines to take them back, we'll talk with the boss at Orsolini. We will not be deterred...
We drive back home in the Alfa and, with Sofi still at home, get into Pandina and slowly drive on the Superstrada to Viterbo. Dino gets help unloading the shutters and even if they do not sell we are rid of them. That sound you hear is me slapping my palms as if to brush the dirt away. E fatto!
We're at home for most of the afternoon and I make a lot of headway with my painting. The border is well on its way to being complete in a very dark blackish green...the three women walking forward under tall arches. I finish for the day in time to change for tonight's sagra. Sadly we won't be able to take Sofi.
We drive to Lugnano, meet Kate and Merritt, and the four of us drive in our car to Montecampagno, where we meet Steve and Darcy in front of the reviewing stand for tonight's crowning of Miss Montecampagno.
It is like the out of town tryouts for the Palio, but instead of horses, it's the precursor to Miss Italia. In a way, it's similar; the women parade around in little bathing suits striking sexy poses, each one trying to out-step the others in an "attitude takes all" contest.
We watch the rehearsal, where the judges give pointers to each contestant (does this look rigged to you already?) and then decide to eat, where the real evening's festa begins.
For the next few hours we sit and eat and drink and talk, and it's a delightful evening under the stars. Merritt and I have a chance to get to know each other better, and I realize that I almost forgot that he and Kate were committed to buying a place in Italy years before taking their immersion Italian course in Perugia, where we met them.
The meal over, we stop back at the contest and this time each contestant is wearing the same little gold slinky dress. We don't stay until the finish, but recall that each girl looks strangely like one another. Is this a Stepford Wives moment?
At home without us, Sofi experienced some kind of event herself, turning everything over that she could in the kitchen, seemingly trying to chew her way throught Dino's new wooden shelves under the sink to get out. Poor Sofi.
What to do? We need to find a way to leave her now and then and have her not be traumatized. Dino wants her to sleep in her cage, but after five minutes of having her look out at me, I open the gate and let her sleep in her regular bed tonight.
It was warm last night and it is warm this morning, but it looks as if we'll have a beautiful day. I do a little sewing of a piece of embroidered fabric bought at a mercato, and turn it into a summertime camisole. I like wearing these on summer evenings and like the idea of refashioning something from an antique mercato.
We drive back to Viterbo, with Sofi in tow, and pick up flat bamboo mats to cover the pergola and a few other items. Back at home, we spend the afternoon on projects; with me sewing and drawing and Dino working on repainting the bathroom and putting up a swinging towel bar in the kitchen.
Sofi remains docile, happy to be with us. We ran into Maria Elena and her husband this morning, and they will join us at the Sipicciano sagra this evening. These sagras are so much fun, so inexpensive, and a wonderful way to spend an evening without a lot of fuss in the kitchen. Our friends are here from Norway for a two-week vacation, spending most of it in their garden at the far end of Mugnano.
Tonight we'll take Sofi, partly in honor of Donatella, who lived in Sipicciano and loved dogs, and partly because young Christopher will be with us, and he loves Sofi. I don't look forward to another evening finding the kitchen topsy-turvy and the little dog out of her wits. There must be something we can do.
Maria Elena wants to drive, and drive she does to Sipicciano. The sagra takes place in the town's Poggio del Castagno, or hill of chestnuts, but there are no chestnut trees here, just grand old oak trees.
This is a sagra delle lepre, or wild hare, and although I think I like the taste of it, I really don't. Since I have been having trouble at night after eating at these sagras this past week, I eat only a green salad and a couple of fries. Sofi polishes off a few mouthfuls of lepre, and is so happy to be here with us, sitting under the table while we eat and chat.
The music won't start for another hour, so we decide to leave and stop at Walter's for his famous gelato; then drive home for prosecco on our terrace.
We park just under the tower, and on the way up to town are disappointed that the tower is not lit. Is something wrong? Evidently the light turns on depending on the darkness outside, so just as we step out of the car it begins to cast it's light on the symbol of Mugnano, the thousand-year-old tower.
The bus stop is filled with people, all staring at us as we walk down the street. Sofi rushes over to greet a few pals, then is frightened by a couple of small cats, cats who are just afraid of her as she is of them. She rushes home and plays on the terrace, while we sit under our imagined pergola and sip prosecco.
The night ends with thoughts of mellow days and nights ahead in the continued mild weather. The weather really is extraordinary for this time of year. In past years we've been melting at our lavender festas, spending most of the days and nights inside, cowering from the heat.
Soon we'll have our pergola and cover from the midday heat. But now the nights are cool, the days warm and fresh with plenty of breeze, or brezza.
It's one of those perfect Italian summer mornings, with the sound of birds but nothing else to disrupt the peacefulness of this tranquil spot.
Dino's set to paint the bathroom, for he's a constant putterer, and after we walk back from church will finish the job. With the paint on my most recent painting drying a little so that I can put a measured wash on top of the garments to give them a gossamer glow, I'll not paint today. Nor will I sew, for the latest camisole was finished last night and there is nothing to work on for the moment.
The garden needs work; it always needs work, but perhaps I'll start on a major cleaning project instead, setting aside things we don't need and simplifying our space. I've wanted to do this for some time. And now that there's a place in Viterbo where we can get rid of anything we don't need, there's a reason to do it.
Last night there was talk about the need for speed bumps on our street, so we'll ask the Gasperonis if they know if we need a petition, or what to do to have a couple installed; one in front of Giustino's just over the rise of the hill and one at the bus stop. This street has become a speedway, and even Francesco, the Vigili Urbani, has killed a cat. But he loves to speed up the hill, so will not be of help here.
We walk up to mass and it's the smallest group we recall. But among the people today is a man who is involved in the restoration of the Duomo, and after Don Luca presides at mass, he and Livio and Mauro walk to the Duomo to decide what color/s to paint it.
Tiziano and Dino and I follow them up the street, and see that there are about six different colors. I love our neighbors, so won't comment on the choices. So we'll see what they pick on August 15th, when the Duomo is to be unveiled.
In the meantime, there has been no meeting regarding what the Festaroli gifts will consist of. I suppose Mauro will tell me when it is time...hopefully soon.
In the meantime, today is the giro for this year's committee, and Carlo comes to our house while Dino is out shopping. He tells me that of the 17 people chosen to work, only three or four actually work. Sounds familiar, What I like is that they have split Mugnano up into neighborhoods, so no one has to walk the entire village each month. Good thinking.
Dino is intent on watching Formula 1, this week's race is in England. But he dozes off and misses the exciting beginning. It's an exciting race just the same, although I don't watch much of it.
With a little sewing, a little cleaning, a little organizing, the afternoon passes by before we know it. After the race, Dino climbs up into the persimmon tree, which is huge this year, and begins his annual clip. When he comes into the house to change for dinner, he shows me two wasp bites. Or at least I suspect they are wasp bites. He's not concerned.
Today is Kate's birthday, and they have asked us to join them for her birthday cena at a local hotel. We're looking forward to it, and this time Sofi will stay in her cage in the dining room while we dine, safely away from anything she can anxiously bump over or chew. She seems to like her cage very much, so we're hoping this will work for her.
Tonight we join Kate and Merritt at Il Palazzetto in Tenaglie for a special birthday dinner for Kate. The building is impressive, there are seven guest rooms, but is the food ever mediocre! I am sorry for Kate, for she was looking forward to a special dinner. It was a pleasant evening anyway, for we had a little room all to ourselves and enjoyed the continued dialog.
We return home to a happier Sofi and climb into bed, looking forward to a cool night.
It's migraine time again, this time brought on by the red wine we drank at dinner last night. It took just two small glasses to ride me over the top. So Sofi lies in her bed watching out for me while I sleep it off until 3 PM.
Dino's already traveled to Tenaglie, met with the muratores and the clients, and reports back that we'll not have an incaso armadio in the cantina where the old tiles recorded a doorway that was closed up.
Arshi knocked out stones and grout and was only about ten inches in when he reached...the neighbor's property! So he quickly sealed it up and we'll keep the doorway bricks in place but have one less incaso armadio.
The clients leave in less than a week and Kate wants to meet a beekeper before they leave, so Dino asks Lorenzo the fabro to see if he can set something up with his uncle.
My weekly painting workshop starts late today, and I'm feeling somewhat better, so Dino loads my current painting into the car and drops me off.
Marco is impressed with the amount of work I have done, but not happy at all that I have added two figures fully dressed. I have had trouble figuring out the placement of their hands, and Marco tells me once again that to paint a figure it is important to understand the basic skeleton of the body and arms and legs. Without it, it is very difficult to tell where the hands should be place.
I am very sorry, and tell him "Mai ancora" (never again), but my choice of words is not correct. He understands, and places a sheet of tissue over one of the two figures, drawing the basic body parts on top. He takes it and tells me he will study it, and next session he'll show me how to do the hands. This is a real lesson to be learned.
I show him the anatomy book I have been studying, and also the hands I have drawn, but what I have done is not enough. This next week I'll do more drawings, and concentrate more on the anatomy.
I am now recalling in The Agony and the Ecstacy how Michelangelo spent hours and hours studying bodies and forms, and this is what I must do. It's strangely rewarding and inspiring.
There is a barbecue tonight at Marco's house, and about fifteen of us enjoy a non-traditonal Italian meal. There is no pasta served here, nor is there salad, but there is a remarkable escarole pie with pine nuts and olives, grilled thick steaks, roasted eggplant with capers, black olives, oregano, roast potatoes, an exquisite cheese cake and our watermelon granita.
I'm still not feeling well, but it was good to get out today, and it is good to get into bed.
I'm somewhat groggy, and sleep in, but after I've had a shower am ready to rework one of my previous paintings, the magenta cape and bird, while Dino returns to Tenagle to check on the status of the restoration project.
Once the clouds have been reworked on the large cape painting, I can set it aside somewhere to dry, and move on to painting a chicken or two. That means I should go to the Gasperonis' to study their animals.
In the meantime I will take out my drawing pads and do more drawing. It appears that I need to understand the human body more, so I will draw some female figures, especially with their arms outstretched. That will help me to work on the painting that is at Marco's. But first I need to deal with the magenta cape.
This has been a difficult undertaking. First, it was that I picked a translucent paint that would not cover the cape and then I had trouble enhancing it with light. Dino was unhappy with the clouds, and each time I worked on them could not get them just right.
Today I add a dark blue to the middle of the cape as a profound shadow, expand upon the lights, and work on some of the clouds. Dino likes the cape, we both love the bird, but it is those pesky clouds at the bottom that need work.
I rework the clouds, making them less defined, and am ready to call it a day with this one. I then set it aside, ready to begin work on at least one chicken painting.
Dino arrives home from the house with a loaf of Merritt's homemade bread, and we make egg salad sandwiches, using some of the tarragon in a plant we brought back from France. Tarragon is really tasty in any egg dish.
Enzo and his assistant arrive soon after pranzo and hook up gas to the stove in the loggia, then prepare the little water heater under the sink so that we can get hot water instantly. There is a piece missing, and Dino can fix that himself. These are two projects we've wanted for years...
Late in the afternoon we drive to Viterbo to meet with our good doctor, Stefano Bevilacqua. He's always relaxed, always happy to speak to us in English. We've been of the notion that it is critically important to have a doctor who speaks your language in the event there are nuances to problems or treatment. He is a real gem of a doctor, a gem of a man.
So he agrees that I have migraines, and agrees that I should be taking Laroxyl drops at night. Last night Alessandra told me that she took her drops at night and it helped her to sleep. Now that is magic to my ears, for I spend most nights dozing, and would love to conk out.
I'm "upping" my dosage of Laroxyl, and also retaking the medicine for acid reflux. He's not concerned that my condition might worsen, and I'll take the medicine every other day at first, to see if I need it more often. Less is more. Sorry for boring you, but remember this journal is a documentation of things we want to remember...
Our good doctor laughs at my concern about short-term memory loss, and about Kate's insistence that I take folic acid for it. He tells us that most people get enough folic acid in their diets, and that it certainly can't help memory loss. I think folic acid is one of those medications that one either believes in or not, and if someone thinks they are getting better with it, so be it. I am not one of them, so defer to our good doctor.
Dino's blood tests come out perfectly, but he's advised to purchase a blood pressure monitor, for his blood pressure is high. We pick one up at a Viterbo pharmacy, and Dino is instructed to take his pressure about ten times during the next month when he is relaxed to see if he really needs to change his medicine, or if his pressure is really lower after all.
Tonight is lovely and cool, and I look forward to a good night's sleep, especially after taking a few drops of Laroxyl an hour or two before turning in. I eat hardly anything, and the drops and no food to speak of should help me to sleep. Wonder if it would help Dino to sleep, but he takes different medications, so probably wont.
Last night I had the best night's sleep I've had in ages. I wake up as though I've been hypnotized and just snapped out of a trance. Well, yes, I am somewhat of a drama queen, but the change in how I feel is really dramatic.
I now feel so silly. For some reason I did not remember when I started to retake Laroxyl to take it at night. And now I remember that the good doctor in Perugia asked me if I had trouble sleeping and told me that the Laroxyl at night would help. It's a good thing Dino doesn't mind putting up with my absentmindedness.
Dino drives off to Tenaglie to check up on the plumber and the muratores, and I'm so full of life that I put some material I've never used in the washing machine to pre-shrink it to make tablecloths with, and then paint two small chicken paintings before pranzo. I am bursting with energy!
When Dino returns he is knocked out by the paintings, and it is then that I decide that I may do a series of chicken and hen and rooster paintings. I look up at the bishops' plates on the wall of the kitchen and think, "Perhaps it's time to take those down and replace them with a series of farm animals. But I'm not ready to just take the plates down without a place for them. We'll see...
After pranzo, we all drive to Tenaglie, and sit with Kate and Merritt. They agree to my design idea of making the cantina a mono-chromatic color scheme of washed white cabinets, white intonico, pale travertine, and the white handmade Sicilian tiles which are left over from the kitchen.
The three walls that will have exposed stone will have a pale grout, and the feeling one will hopefully get will be one of tranquility.
I am not for "splashes of color", jolting the eye when coming into a room. The beams are so dramatic that they will be the focal point, as will the fireplace. The basic design of the fireplace will be similar to that of the upstairs, but instead of laying mattone on the raised hearth, we will stack the tiles sideways for an Umbrian detail. Tomorrow we'll return to our favorite tile yard to choose the designated tiles in a yellowish tone.
Tomorrow when we return to the house we will remeasure for the kitchen tiles, now that the opening for the kitchen window is finished. Poor Ovidio has had the worst luck with this job, but with the new windows already on site, perhaps he won't have as much trouble installing them. He's due at our house on Saturday to finish our work.
Dino and I are a duo definitely not to be daunted. Although Lorenzo has now put our project for a pergola on our terrace on some kind of hold, telling us that he has other projects with greater priority, we string guide wire between the poles imbedded in the huge terra cotta planters so that the wisteria can grow along the front of the pergola.
We have the upright poles, just not the rest of the structure that reaches and is attached to the house. It begins to rain while we string the wire, but it is thrilling to see the wisteria stretching out and out and out, loving the wire and hugging it as far as it can reach. Yum.
With another lovely day greeting us, we're up early. Dino waters each morning, but I'm wishing he'd put more plants on the irrigation system to make it easier on him. Perhaps he likes the activity.
He leaves in Pandina for Tenaglie, for he has to give the hydraulico some instructions and wants to do it on site. Then he'll meet me in Viterbo, where we'll drop off the Alfa for some service.
I make a dessert for tomorrow's pranzo, and since the canvas I'm about to work on is still wet to the touch, I design a summer dress that I'll make out of some fabric we brought from the U S. We have a lot of it, so first I'll make a long tablecloth for the terrace. That Laroxyl certainly works when taking it at night!
I take one of the Nadia Salerno violin cd's and play it in the car while driving to Viterbo. I so love violin music, and now that it's pretty definite that I won't be playing the violin again, the music causes me to dream. Dreams are good, and I'm pleasantly resigned that any violin music I hear won't be my own.
Dino arrives just after I do, and we pick up some canvases from Klimt and food at IPERCOOP, then drive home. I make the excuse that I'll be cooking this afternoon instead of driving to Tenaglie in Pandina with Dino, for I'm not really in the mood.
I fix a cheese torte for tomorrow's appetiser and a lemon torte for dessert, poach chicken for tonnato, and I'll finish the rest tomorrow. It will be an easy cold pranzo.
We take a short walk when Dino returns home, but it's just a walk on Via Mameli, and all is quiet. It's so quiet here at night, and tonight is especially beautiful, with a brezza (breeze) and a promise of a cool night's sleep.
Kate and Merritt leave tomorrow, and today they'll come with a friend for pranzo and a little goodbye. They have been the most perfect clients anyone could imagine, and we're hoping we'll have the Piano Terra finished for them before Ferragosto (August 15th).
I explain to our guests at pranzo that although we love Italian food, during summertime our guest menus are more, well, American. What I mean by that is that the meal is served cold or at room temperature, with no hot pasta, and possibly no separate insalata course.
No one seems to mind, and my old standbies that you can read about in the food section of this web site are well received. So I have no complaints.
We drive to Viterbo to pick up the Alfa at the dealership after our guests depart, and then I drive the Alfa home, following Dino in Pandina. At home we all get into the Alfa and drive to Tenaglie, where we look over the latest work.
Most incredible is the little back bedroom, all in stone, and although I'd like it to remain that way, Dino is sure that the wall where the bed will lie should be intonico. This is not a battle I'm interested in fighting, and the clients don't seem to care. They just want it done.
We leave them and drive home, and I'm thinking about finishing that dress. But I need a zipper, so tomorrow we'll find one and I'll see if I can really design and sew a dress all by myself. I find the possibility quite amazing.
We watch an old movie on TV, and before we know it it's after 11PM. So it's time to turn in, for we're expecting Ovidio to arrive early tomorrow to finish the shutters.
It's Saturday, and Ovidio arrives and fixes a shutter or two, then takes one that is already warped and tells us he'll return with it on Tuesday. Dino has a long project ahead of him, sanding and repainting the new shutters. We're disappointed with the work, but will be able to fix anything that is not just right. They're mostly all right, just not what we expected.
After he leaves we all pile into the car and drive to Viterbo to have a chicken design copied onto larger paper and take a frame purchased recently to Klimt to have them show us how to strengthen it with the little wooden plugs it came with. It's easy to do now that the owner shows us how, and is a good idea for any frame we purchase to give it added strength.
We drive by the consignment shop, and three sets of shutters have gone, so we have them almost half sold in just one week. We drive on to Tenaglie, look at the recent work and sit with Merritt and Kate, whose faces show their reluctance to leave this paradise. We so know the feeling.
They'll leave this afternoon, staying at a hotel near the airport for their early morning flight back to Boston. But the restoration of the cantina will continue, and perhaps this next week the plumber will return and will finish the upstairs bathroom and lay the pipes for Piano Terra so that we can close up the floor and set the pavimenti.
After pranzo, I work on a large gallo (rooster) design, for the background is now dry. This morning I had an hour to work while Ovidio was here, and traced the design onto the canvas with carbon paper, then began to paint. In just a short while I was able to paint the face of the gallo, and he's quite dramatic.
We have agreed to meet Dan and Wendy at Carsulae, so I only work for an hour or two on the painting. It's to be called, "Gallo nero steps out". The next canvas, of the same size, will feature a white rooster, the two canvases painted as a pair. Within the week, we'll have all the paintings on the site. Speriamo. I think things are slowing down and there'll be more time to work on the site.
We're ready for a new project, and hope one lands in our lap soon. Dino is so good at it, and really enjoy restoration work. I enjoy the concept of introducing strangers to life in Italy, helping them to navigate the sometime rough seas and holding their hands when they need it.
With Sofi staying at home, we drive off to Carsulae for a 6 PM lecture and show-and-tell at the archeological site. Dan and Wendy meet us at the top of the hill at a restored building, but there are so many people inside that we wait outside for the talk to end, then join the others for a review of the work at the site. It is remarkable.
The site closes on Tuesday, and probably no work will be done on it until mostly the same group returns next summer. Wendy tells us that most of the funding came from participants, who paid to be included in a sort of Earthwatch-type project. A light goes on in my head and I am thinking of telling Tiziano about the concept. It would be a way for the dig in Mungnano to be reopened.
We leave the group and drive home, thinking we'll have a beer and pizza at Oktoberfest, but the pub has been moved outside to a large kind of tennis-court kind of area and a loud band is tuning up. No, grazie. So we pick up two pizzas at Girasole and eat at home with Sofi, ending the evening watching a movie and relaxing.
It's hot this morning, so I take my fan to church. There is a good-sized crowd and everyone is in a festive mood. After church Dino drives to Il Pallone to shop, and I finish making my sundress, which is quite cute. I'm amazed that I could actually sew a dress, with a zipper and no pattern, all by myself.
With newfound energy, thanks to taking laroxyl at night instead of in the morning, I'm completing projects, putting things away, as if I'm a squirrel getting ready for winter. Now and then I glance at the gallo, and this afternoon I'll return to paint it.
I also need to draw the torso for the painting I am working on at Marco's. It's the painting of three women, and he's not happy that I drew and started to paint the figures in their draped gowns before drawing the forms of their bodies.
Tomorrow night we're invited to cena at Shelly's, and it has been almost a year since we have spent any time with them. Perhaps I'll wear my new dress.
Dino drives off to Tenaglie, and Sofi and I sleep in a little. But it's too lovely outside, so we're soon up and ready to embrace the day.
Well, it may be lovely, but it is very hot. We learned early on to open our windows and shutters early, let cool air in, then close all shutters and windows, keeping the inside dark and cool during the heat of the day. Outside the temperature reaches and probably passes the 100 degree mark (37 degrees centigrade).
I draw this morning, female figures, studying female anatomy in preparation for my workshop with Marco this afternoon. I'm thinking about Michelangelo now, remembering how important it is to draw and study before setting about painting a person or an animal. He is not happy with my figures for my most recent painting in his studio. So let's see what kind of progress I can make today with his help.
The temperature is opressive all day, and Dino notices that as he pulls out of the parcheggio to take me to Marco's that it is 44 degrees Centigrade (about 105 degrees Farenheit). Marco's studio is cool, but after awhile the heat sneaks in there, too.
I work on the three women and, with Marco's counsel, make some headway. He suggests that I take the piece home to work on, especially the green/black border. At home I work on the border for an hour, then change to drive to Shelly and Claudio's for cena.
We eat outside and there is a lovely view, but the bugs, oh the bugs! Last night we had a lot of them at our house, too, probably enticed by the light. Now we're learning to keep the shutters closed before the end of the day so that we won't attract them. I'm beginning to feel that they're imprisoning us, but it's probably normal this summer, since we've had so much rain and such a mild winter.
I grimace during cena, and Shelly brings out a shirt for me to put on over my sundress to protect me. Claudio brings out a bug zapper, an electric light with a volt attachment that fries the little critters.
I'm not a fan of those machines, but there are hundreds of these little flying ant-types...but enough about that. The dinner is simple and delicious, just the right amount of food for a summer's night.
Earlier, Dino told me that he ran into Francesco today. We are to drive to his office in the Comune in Bomarzo tomorrow morning to determine the exact amount we will owe for our cemetery plot. My heart sinks just at the thought that our cemetery plot is now becoming a reality. I know it's important, so very important, to finalize the arrangements, but admit I am fearful. Dino asks me why, but I am not able to articulate my feelings.
Separately, I hope we will ask the mayor if the money for our plot can be used to repair the path in front of our property that was damaged a few years ago by excessive rain. It's worth a shot.
I'm sorry I was so silent at Shelly and Claudio's tonight. I suppose I'm preoccupied. The crickets drone on as I write this just before midnight and I am assured that in time, this fear will pass...
It's going to be another hot, hot day, but inside it is still cool. We drive to the Comune in Bomarzo and meet with Francesco, who speaks a dialect so profound that it is almost impossible to follow him. Dino later tells me that Enzo the hydraulico is now easier to understand, so that is saying something!
Francesco does not have any information, although he looks through the papers on his desk, and leaves us to gaze out the window above Duccio and Giovanna's house toward the Sacred Grove of Bomarzo, Orsini's Renaissance forest while we wait for him.
When he returns, he writes down the amount, which is less than we thought, and tells us that after we pay it at the Post Office and return with our receipt, Sr. Ivo will work up a contract. Ivo is away for ten days, so we have a little time.
We ask if we can plant a cypress tree, but he's not happy about that. We'll walk through our cemetery and through the Bomarzo cemetery and take photos where there are trees. It's not imperative that we plant a tree, we just think it would be a nice touch.
So we want to meet with the Sindaco to ask him if the money we pay can be used to repair the path to San Rocco, if we can plant a cypress tree on our cemetery plot, what it would take to install speed bumps on Via Mameli, and lastly, if he can help us to apply for citizenship early.
We are told that those persons who do work for the community can sometimes obtain citizenship early. Hopefully we can get some movement on at least one of these items.
We drive to the house, take measurements for the tile for the kitchen and Roberto, the hydraulico, arrives while we are still there, telling us he'll work today on the things he is to complete.
While we are there, Maria stops by with another neice to see when Tani can begin to rebuild the pathway between Don Salter's house and hers. If the hydraulico does his work when we need him to at this house, perhaps we can sacrifice two men in ten days if things proceed on schedule. We'll see. If not, Maria doesn't want them to do the work until the end of September.
Stefano the gardener stops by and we pay him for the melograno tree. He asks us where to plant the plumbago bush or two that Kate wants, and we tell him we want to wait to decide. I don't want to just plunk a plant down. It must work with the rest of the space.
As we talk, I see it growing up against the South-East corner of Kate's studio, cascading East toward the house. But I'll need time to think about it, and we probably won't get them planted until fall, anyway.
Late in the day we return to the house to meet Tani. We drive to the house where he is staying to look at a possible mantel beam for the downstairs fireplace, which is beautiful, by the way. It is a bit smaller, but just as beautiful as the fireplace upstairs.
We stop in Sipicciano for a gelato on the way home, for now it is about 100 degrees. It is a good thing Sofi stayed at home. Walter is at the bar, and tells us that he named the chocolate flavor with hazelnuts after Donatella, for it was her favorite.
There is a small poster next to the door announcing a kind of wake in honor of Donatella next week in Bomarzo. We'll surely show up, and since it is the night before Duccio and Giovana leave for a month in the country, perhaps they will attend as well. We'll find out when we spend the evening with them on Friday in Todi.
We stop at a ferramenta (hardware store) to research door locks, and while we are there see tongue and groove planks of wood that would be perfect as the roof of our loggia. We ask for a price, and Dino will figure out what the material will cost.
Earlier in Bomarzo Dino located Stefano the muratore and asked him if he'd put another hole in the house for one more support for the pergola. We are going to extend it in one direction about one meter and a half, so that the pergola will extend the entire length of the house from the front door.
He tells Dino he'll make the last hole in the front of the house this week, and when he arrives we'll ask him for a preventivo for the loggia roof. Perhaps we can afford to do the roof earlier than we thought. It would certainly be wonderful to have a rainproof roof for the loggia before winter sets in.
Tani tells Dino that the old plank cost €50, so that 's an excellent price. He has it on the back of his truck when Dino drives over there after watering at home this morning.
The plumber is nowhere to be seen (sigh!) but the workers keep busy, repointing the stone walls and finishing the fireplace. Dino tells them the bathroom walls on Piano Prima have to be painted before lights are installed, so that will proably be done in a day or so.
With the extreme heat these days, the workers arrive around dawn, then leave at around 2PM, for the house faces west and it's too hot to work inside in the afternoon. We don't blame them. When Dino arrives home for pranzo at around 1:30, he's very hot.
This morning I worked on the painting of three women wanting it to be dry before Monday for the velluta treatment I'll give it under Marco's direction. Paint must be dry in order for this treatment (a kind of wash with white paint mixed with paint thinner softly painted over the surface).
Dino picked up the last pole for the pergola support in Viterbo early this morning, and Stefano will install it soon. It will allow us to extend the pergola all the way to the end of the house closest to the loggia. This will offer us protection from the early morning sun, which can be quite hot.
We're confident that it will be built this summer, but when we are not sure. It may not be finished before September, but we'll enjoy sitting under the structure all year long, so what's the hurry?
Dino will take Candace and Frank to the woodworker in Bassano this morning, then we'll all have pranzo in Guardea at Dino's favorite fish restaurant. After that, we'll take them by the Tenaglie house to show them what has been done since they've last seen it.
The sky is an invisible color this morning, so we know it will be very hot. Dino put a new sprinkler in motion (ha) last night, and it sends a light spray over everything in the lavender garden from its temporary post on a gravel path. I'm not a fancier of watering plants from above, but am so grateful that he has an interest in watering that I succumb to his wishes.
Hot, hot, hot...We're thinking about Kate and Merritt telling us that they want lots of light in their restored house. But in summertime it is so hot that everyone keeps their shutters closed. We know the drill, and it's a pleasure to snap the new closures on our shutters each morning to close them and each evening to open a couple of them.
Dino gets a price from Nando, his friend in Bassano, for the wood we'll need for our loggia roof. Candace and Frank have a good meeting there, too but will probably stay with the supplier they have.
We all drive to Tenaglie, show them the house and talk to the crew, then drive down to our favorite fish restaurant. Three of us have sogliole (sole) and it's roasted and incredibly delicious. It's always fun to get together with our good friends, and Sofi rests under the table after having her pranzo. The restaurant is air conditioned and we are all happy to be out of the heat.
We say goodbye to our friends, drive to Viterbo where IPERCOOP and LE CLERQ are both open. That is so strange, for food stores are supposed to be closed on Thursday afternoons. We have no idea what this exception is, but are happy to slip in to pick up a few groceries and then stop at KLIMT so that I can pick up some more paints.
. At home, Dino relaxes while I paint a donkey under a tree. I've just taken a photo out of a magazine that I like, and will see if I can reproduce it accurately. It's a difficult subject, and I'm not sure I can master it. After a while, I stop for the night and will take the painting up again in the morning. It's the nuances of the donkey's expression that I'm wondering about.
"You amaze me, simply amaze me!" Dino tells me as he watches my face while I paint. I suppose it's my lack of fear that strikes him. I love the challenge of painting something new, the challenge of turning a subject into something that looks real.
I'm not deterred about this donkey. If I can't figure it out I'll take it to Marco on Monday. The three women painting is wet, for earlier I finished the background, and I'll work on it again on Monday. For the next several days the paint needs to dry, so that I can use a velluto treatment on the women's gowns. What fun this all is!
The night is warm and humid, and I turn in early, probably to read. I am reading a ghastly book, In The Hand of Dante, but have this strange obsession about books...If I pick one up and begin to read it, I must finish it. I suppose that dates back to a childhood promise I made myself...to finish anything I start. It's a long story...
We're to drive to Todi with Duccio and Giovanna tonight for a concert in which Giuliano will be playing, and we're looking forward to it.
I paint another little painting, this of two ducks, but it's just too hot to do much of anything. Dino leaves early to do a few errands for the house and returns needing to cool off and relax.
At 7PM we leave to pick up Giovanna and Duccio and have grand evening in Todi. Dino loves to drive, and is happy to chauffer us for the hour or so it takes to get there. We don't realize how very hot it will be, so are not dressed in our lightest clothes.
In the theatre we wilt, and I have forgotten to bring a hand fan, so Dino fans us with a program while we watch the entertainment. Duccio and Giovanna's son Giuliano is a fine piano player, and accompanies about half of the entertainers in a very enjoyable show.
Afterward we have pizzas at an outdoor restaurant in the midst of Todi, and arrive home around 1 AM. The heat in the theatre worked on me, and I fear a migraine is right around the corner. So I take an imigran tablet, and it really knocks me out.
The imigran tablet really worked, and although I'm groggy, the headache did not turn into a migraine. What a relief.
Dino spends part of the morning working on sanding and touching up shutters, and we're not surprised when Ovidio calls to say the shutter that had warped needs a few more days in the oven to cure.
The tomatoes don't look very promising, but we have not done the proper tending of them anyway, so we're blessed that we have any. It's just too hot to do much work in the garden.
The property still looks good, so the abundance of gravel was a really good idea. Most things are surviving, and we're just not worrying about the five or six lavender plants scattered around that have not been pruned in their prime. We'll cut them in a week or so, but the lavender is not worth keeping. I like the idea of not obsessing about every last plant. We'll surely plant a few this fall, but not replace every one.
The afternoon is quiet, and we work on the budget for our clients, now that their project is nearing completion. We end the evening with a short walk to the bus stop, where about a dozen men congregate each night, and drop off our recycling while Sofi sniffs about.
We have not seen Ennio for a while, and on the way back ask Rosina, who sits with her relatives in front of Donato's house. "Altro ieri" (the day before yesterday) he had a quadruple bypass in Terni. His hospital of choice is Orvieto, but the Terni hospital has the best technicians, so everyone knows that Terni is the best place for major surgery in the area.
We are sad for Ennio, and hope he is back at home soon.
We can tell that today will be another hot one. The colorless sky appears flat against the horizon of deliciously undulating green trees, and even the birds' warbling is slow and measured.
We take a hand fan to church, and I'm busy flapping it between Dino and myself all through the mass. The air seems to pause as if to anticipate hearing a sound...and there is none. Don Luca happily plods along, the mass taking the usual 45 minutes. Afterward, we spend little time greeting our neighbors, then walk home in the hot sun, dreaming of cooler clothes and of standing in front of a fan.
It is so hot that I don't feel like painting. I feel like reading, the less activity the better. Dino drives off to Il Pallone to pick up food for pranzo, and we're thinking of attending the jazz festival in Soriano tonight....if the temperature cools down.
Dino really wants to go to Soriano, so we leave Sofi at home and drive off. On the way we talk about how much fun we have when we go out at night, but it takes a push, for we're just as happy at home.
Soriano is the most beautiful town at night. The brightly lit fortress that guards the hill town stands like a sentry as we drive up the hill. Dino knows just where to park, and it's early, so we arrive before Steve and the rest of his jazz group tune up. They are to be the "warmup act" for the main event, but the audience likes them a lot. So do we. Steve is a great contrabasso player, and he's tall and reedy, almost a caricature of himself alongside his beautiful instrument.
Marco is also in the audience, and comes by later in the evening to say hello and to tell us that later in the week will be two marvelous groups. We're thinking we might come back every night.
The music is free, and we sit outside in the main piazza at little cocktail tables with pink tablecloths and order drinks while we listen. It is all quite civilized and really an enjoyable way to spend a very warm evening. These nights are warm, warm, warm, and we can't endure sleeping without the fan on full blast.
Soriano is such an extraordinary town, with many of its buildings seemingly five hundred years old or more. Under tall streetlights, it's a thrill to walk beside these buildings, their shadows casting spells as we walk along their ancient alleyways toward our car.
At home Dino walks up the steps before me and sees what he thinks is a badger on the front terrace. He doesn't tell me until Sofi is outside greeting me, so when she runs off in the direction of the badger I shriek, "SOFI!" so that she'll turn around and run back. I then pick her up in my arms and rush inside.
Meanwhile, a very frightened Dino takes his big Maglite flashlight and walks around the back of the house, where he sees the critter trying to hide. Luckily he comes back inside. We are not a very brave bunch after all...
Upstairs I look up badgers and "how to get rid of badgers" on the internet. Here's what I find...
"You may be able to annoy them. Badgers don't like bright lights and noise, and some people have had success with lighting the area. Of course, bright lights and music all night long might chase you out first. The FBI doesn't seem to have much luck with this technique."
Oh, brother. Tomorrow Dino will check out the property, and we're told that if there are big holes all over the property, we have badgers. Wonder how they like gravel...
What a way to end an evening!
Dino searches for the tasser (badger) behind the house, but cannot find him. Instead, he finds one hole. I'm thinking, "So what would you do if you found him?", and perhaps this will not be the end of it.
The sky looks promising. What I mean by that is that although it is without color, clouds seem to be forming. The forecast is for more hot weather, so we'll continue our summer schedule of staying indoors during the heat of the day.
Dino tells friends that the only time he can do anything outside is in the early morning hours. That means that our garden has to take care of itself. So it is a good idea that we have a lot of gravel and no grass to speak of, other than the wild variety in front of the gardener's cottage and on the far property.
I think I'll groom a few roses before we take off for Tenaglie and then Roma for a dreaded visit to IKEA for Kate and Merritt's chair and sofabed for the cantina.
The trip to Tenaglie is cool in the air conditioned car, and we'll return home to drop Sofi off before driving to Rome. It will be too hot for her to wait in the car, and she'll be more comfortable at home.
We stop at Lorenzo's to find a sign that he's on vacation for a week. So we stop wondering when he will get back to our project...
Inside the house the hydraulico works along, but the muratores have not arrived and it's now past noon. At 1PM we leave, knowing that the muratores will be at the house any minute.
After stopping at the house, we drive to IKEA and purchase the sofa bed and some material for me to make curtains under the sinks. I like this kind of simple sewing project, and it will give our clients peace of mind to have the curtains up before any renters use the house or cantina.
Wherever we drive, we see patches along the road of burnt grass, the result of careless cigarettes being tossed out of car windows. There are so many of them that we wonder if smokers have any consideration of the danger of casting a cigarette out a car window. It is a sad commentary on the oblivious nature of many Italians. But is it any different in the United States?
Earlier while driving to the Tenaglie house we passed two Corpo Forestale men alongside the roadway, peering off in the distance toward plumes of smoke. Their jobs can't be easy.
At home, we walk up the stairs to find the final pergola pole sitting firmly in cement, stabilized between two iron garden chairs. This is MacIver at his best, and Dino wonders if Stefano took some lessons from Dino to come up with this ingenius solution to keep the pole stabilized. Dino waters the cement, knowing that tomorrow it will be solid.
we sit down for a cold pasta salad and the doorbell rings. It's two young friends of Pietro's from Norway, stopping by to introduce themselves. They come up for a visit and we've agreed to take them to the Tuscia Jazz Festival with us tomorrow night.
We sit outside with a jar of fresh plums between us, and chat away while I look out of the corner of my eye at Sofi, making sure she does not go to the back of the house. I am very fearful of the badger, fearful that he has not left the property, but there is no evidence of him.
After they leave, I begin to look for recipes on the internet for plum jam or chutney. There are so many plums on the tree that I might as well cook up a batch. Tomorrow afternoon will be a good time to make the jam, and by then we'll have plenty more from the tree. We admit that their fruit is so tasty just plunked off the tree that it's difficult to find a better way to eat them.
It's Terence's birthday, and we'll be sure to call him later.
Meanwhile, Dino leaves for Tenaglie and Sofi and I stay at home. The oppressive heat continues, and I'll do a little painting in the kitchen, safely out of the hot sun.
The wisteria is taking off, sending its tendrils out into the air, some reaching toward the house just as we'd hoped. So how long will it be before the pergola is installed? I'm optimistically thinking August 10th, since Lorenzo won't e back at work until Monday the 30th. Let's see how close we are...
Dino laughingly shakes the plum tree, sending more than 100 plums to the gravel. If I didn't have to pick them up I'd think it was funny, too. I feel I'm on the receiving end of the game "52 pickup".
Dino does an inventory of our little glass jars, and tomorrow he'll buy tops for them. Tomorrow night we'll make the jam, and I'm thinking it won't be until about 10 P M. It will be just too hot much earlier, but the plums are so ripe that we can't just wait.
I suppose since I "got off" easily because we had no cherries, it's only fair that I make a batch of plum chutney. I think I'll make a chutney instead of a regular jam. There is so much jam around, that unless it is the marvellous figs, it's better to do something more exotic for winter and for presents when we stop by to visit friends.
Tonight Dino calls me out to look at the long shadows on the land directly below us. I think it's Pepe's big orto, always immaculate and a joy to watch.
We're taking Maryanne and Andrew, Pietro's friends from Norway, to the Soriano Jazz Festival tonight, and it's so hot I can't think of anything to wear that will be cool enough. A while ago we called Pietro to tell him that we miss him, and we'll see him in less than a month. He's arriving early, and will be here all fall. What a treat!
Our friends from England, Sweden and Finland call or email to say their weather is dreadful. Pietro has given up on trying to wait it out and will be here soon. Annika calls to say her daughter will be here tomorrow to water the plants and can we give her a ride from the train station (si certo!). We'll see Annika and Torb in September. Don and Mary email to say they're out of the worst of the English weather, but then Don is always upbeat.
He's very excited about the progress on his project that Dino is overseeing...a new walkway being built by the Qoku brothers. For a day the brothers have all been there, but mostly the project will consist of only two men...the others must finish Merritt's house.
It's been a pull and tug, with Maria saying that if the work is not done by August 5th it will have to wait until the end of September. We're worried that at the end of September the muratores may move onto other projects or return to Albania and there will be no one to do this project for them.
The muratores return to Merritt's house to finish the wall intonico, and it is only after the walls are finished that the floor pavement can be laid. We're playing a kind of game with the hydraulico, for he claims he'll be gone for all of August, and we'll need him to finish installing the plumbing, which certainly won't be ready for him before August 1. He wants to be paid, so perhaps we can get him back early.
Maryanne and Andrew stop by for a short visit, and we send them back to Orvieto to do some shopping for local specialties to take back and to relax and enjoy the town on this their last night in town. The day after tomorrow more friends of Pietro's will arrive, and we'll surely see them, too.
The heat continues, and tonight we'll stay at home. But tomorrow we'll return to Soriano to the jazz festival, which we enjoy very much.
When guests arrive and we sit around in the kitchen I'm conscious of my paintings everywhere, and want to return to them. Perhaps tomorrow. I am sure that painting is what I enjoy the most.
Writing is becoming somewhat of a plodding activity for me, and my thoughts are elsewhere, usually on the painted canvas, so this journal contains less and less of the flavors of our lives these days. I think the heat has left me feeling lethargic, without a real interest in writing about our daily lives.
Why is that? I believe I'd rather you experience the magic of being here in person. So when you arrive for a visit you'll see the magic of the place firsthand. Until then there will be snippets here and there.
The three galli (roosters) sit partially painted on the caviletto (easel) in the kitchen, and I want to return to the canvas. I'm just fascinated about bringing these animals to "life", wanting to be sure that I capture their expressions, their eyes, their positioning, in a realistic fashion. I like having the painting "sit there" for a few days so that I can think about it, instead of rushing through the process.
I read the latest issue of the Mediterranean Garden Society and think about our garden, about the craft of the gardener. We are not gardeners. We want to have a beautiful garden, an Italianate sculptured garden with a little wildness here and there. But we don't sit in the garden, other than on the front terrace. We really do have a very nice garden.
If we wanted an ideal place to in the garden, I think I'd want to sit somewhere facing San Rocco, so where would we sit and what would we change? Perhaps this fall we'll think about that.
Now I need to return to the kitchen to cut the plums and make the chutney. I hear a groan from Sofi in her little bed beside me, and even she wants me to return to the kitchen. So that's enough ruminating for today...I never do get back to the kitchen and the plums. They'll have to wait another day...
Tonight we return to the jazz festival in Soriano. It's another mild evening with wonderful jazz, especially the warmup act of young musicians, so full of life and each one brilliant in their own way.
On the drive home we spot a fire just about 50 meters from the roadway. It appears as a bright light and takes us until we've driven past to realize what it is. With the high fire danger all around us, we know we need to check it out, so turn around and pull off to get a good look.
Yes, it's a brush fire, so Dino calls the numbers he has on his Palm. First it's the Corpo Forestale, or forest rangers, but they tell him to call the fire emergency number in Viterbo instead. When we reach them, someone else has already called and they thank Dino just the same.
So we drive to the entrance of the Superstrada, turn around and wait for them. Another man pulls up beside us and it appears he has also called, so when the fire trucks arrive we lead them to the fire.
There are two trucks, and we wait a few minutes to watch some kind of chemical being sprayed in the area of the fire. It safe to drive home, knowing that we've done our good deed for the day...and it is only 12:15 A M!
O.K. So what. Hot, hot, hot.
Dino drives to Tenaglie and he and Tani put the chimney cap on Don's chimney. The muratore crew is split between this project and Merritt's house for a few days. The stairs are poured and look great.
Back at Merritt's, Zeni prepares the bathroom for intonico, and hopefully tomorrow that will be finished and they can lay the flooring. Everyone wants to get the work done, espcially the hydraulico, who announced that he will put off his vacation for one week, in the hopes that the job will be finished and ready for him to install the bathroom fixtures.
I have to laugh. He's unreliable, and now wants to push the muratores to get their work done subito!
We pick up Ingela from the train station, for she has a day off in Rome from her tour business and "comes up to water the plants and see the house", or so her mother tells us on the phone.
The trees and flowers on their property are fabulous examples of planting correctly and the owner not babying them. Our friends leave at the end of June and don't come back until September, but everything always looks great.
The plants and trees in our garden are such wimps that we have to water every day, or for some things at least twice a week during the summer. I'm convinced that we need to work toward getting a garden that mostly takes care of itself. You can tell that I'm bored with it, would much rather paint.
So paint I do, and enjoy the detail of the three roosters enormously. The 50 by 50cm almost finished, but I may paint in a plank of grained wood for one of them to stand upon. I'll see what Dino thinks. He's my advisor on what I paint. I sometimes even take his advice!
Dino comes home from taking Ingela back to the train station and doing some errands and tells me that his conjecture regarding last night's fire was correct. He drove into the area where the fire was, and there was a burned out mattress. So he told me that he thought it was caused by a prostitute, or her "john".
"I haven't caught the "perps", but I am sure of the reason for the fire, he tells me proudly. I'm still so angry with people who throw lit cigarettes out the window.
There is a T V ad that I saw today about fires, and the person merely tells the watcher to call 1515, the Corpo Forestale, or Forest Rangers. But we know by now that the people to call are the local fire department. Now if only Italy will take that concept further and remind people that their cigarettes cause most of the summertime fires....
There is more bad news. The kitchen will not be ready to be installed until sometime in September. The kitchen supplier was reminded several times to get the order out, and when we called yesterday to find out where it was they called the factory who wouldn't listen to him. Boh!
Dino's not concerned. We won't need the muratores to install the kitchen, even though we'll need them to install the tiles. So we'll hope that they'll be around if we need them...
Tonight we attend the jazz festival again in Soriano, and the music is the best yet. Jimmy Cobb on drums, George on piano, on sax, on base...we so love this venue, and it has become as important to us as the Guardea Gnocchi Festival. That means, count on us for attending at least several times during the run...
Every day or so we look at each other and say, "THAT belongs in the journal". But by the time we're at home and at the computer, we have no idea what THAT is...
Here's one that Dino helps recall: This morning, we stopped at one of Don's neighbors to find the telephone number of a young Romanian woman who Don thinks will travel to England for a visit. Anna, who is also Romanian, happily gave us the number, and when we left and told her to have a great day, she replied, "Altrettanta!"
Now my Italian is meager at best, but I asked Dino if she was correct. I had thought that the correct expression is "altrettanto" meaning, "also to you".
Dino responded that it is not a good idea to take Italian lessons from another stranieri (foreigner). After musing about this for a few minutes, I agree with him.
We visited Maria and walked down the steps from Don's property to hers, and Tani and his brothers have done a fine job so far with their work.
We stopped at Angelo's store for a few pomodori for pranzo, and he had three kinds to choose from. When I asked him which one was sweetest, he said they are all good. "It depends on your taste."
I paint for a few hours in the afternoon, and the painting of the three roosters is just about finished. I'll take it to Marco's on Monday to let him take a look. The background consists of planks of wood and that is new to me. So I'll ask Marco if he has any pointers.
Tonight we stay at home, and Sofi is so animated and full of life that she gambols between us on the couch, so happy that we are at home with her.
Telecom Italia calls in the middle of the morning, for they have copied the annoying American system of telemarketing. Usually, they begin with a roll of words so rapid that it sounds like an Italianized version of antidisestablishmentarianism...
I have my pitch..."Parla Inglesa?" I respond. The parry stops short, just over the net.
"No...a little"...and there is a silence. This is my cue...
Thankfully, these calls are few. We're hoping we'll have some time before other companies grab onto that dreaded American way of soliciting business on the telephone.
Dino drives to Orsolini in Pandina, to pick up the remaining pieces of the Tenaglie order. We have room in the parcheggio for Pandina as well as the Alfa, so we'll lock it up inside the gate for the weekend. When workers are at the site on Monday, he'll drive the remaining items up then.
It's better to stay inside today, so I paint, this time a hen with a few chicks. After studying the three-rooster painting, I may replicate it with no background. The current background of wood is good, but it takes the drama out of it.
Frank is not feeling well, but Candace wants to join us anyway at the jazz festival tonight. So we meet her in Bomarzo after we stop in at Donatella's art showing.
Evidently there is an outdoor space now called the Donatella Valori Museum, and artists she has mentored have their work there. There is also a lovely garden, and the spot is adjacent to the restaurant Piccolo Mondo in Bomarzo. We've not been to the restaurant in years, but it is a good restaurant and we'll go back soon.
The festival's music tonight in Soriano at the jazz festival is the best yet, with a very talented Joey DeFrancesco on organ raising the excitement level to a fever pitch. First, a young group of musicians did a set, and they were excellent with a lot of spirit.
It was clear that Joey is well liked amoung his peers. Every time he performed a solo, people in the audience hooted and hollered. The evening ended at around midnight in a jam, with Joey bringing up other musicians to add to the mix.
Since this is a notte bianco (white night, meaning the music goes on all night), stores were open, the local bands paraded in the streets along with Soriano's five contradas and their members in regal costumes. Flag throwers and drummers were included in the processions, and Candace and I were very pleased to note that most of the drummers were female this time, which is unusual for conservative Italia.
Even the cynical headliners stopped their drinking and chatting to take photos of the processions. It is very clear that this is an incredible venue for the performers. Soriano is a wonderfully characteristic town, and the opportunity for accomplished musicians to get together with their peers and jam, as well as take in some local color, makes this a festival some may think is better than Umbria Jazz in Perugia and Orvieto. The venue is more intimate, the organizers are not as difficult to deal with, and there is a quaintness and lack of sophistication that is indearing.
Italo tells the audience that the festival will continue in Soriano next year, and it will be bigger, so we certainly look forward to it. But for now there is another week to go, and tomorrow night we'll return with Duccio and Giovanna.
We're both really tired, but walk up to church and join the summer group of residents for mass with Don Ciro. Afterward we speak for a minute or two with Tiziano, and then greet Felice, who is sitting over on a bench in the shade. We missed not seeing him, or Marsiglia, in mass, but he seems fine.
I don't think the plums will find their way to little jars of chutney or jam...it's just too hot. We eat a grilled pork loin and cold pasta salad, then work on our clients' budget until our phone meeting later in the day.
It's still quite hot after 7 P M, but we're going to pick up Duccio and Giovanna, so try to cool off for an hour or so in front of a fan. We don't have any air conditioning, but somehow keeping the house cool and using fans seems to work. It's not perfect, but we're not ready for noisy air conditioners yet...
I write my autobiography for the Arte & Benessere group in Bomarzo to display alongside my art, at their request, and Tiziano tells me that he'll help translate it. This time, there is nothing at all about my work life included, only my schooling and art education and training. It's an interesting exercise.
I am still thinking of painting flames at the bottom of the painting I'll finish with Marco. It currently lacks drama or purpose, and the addition of flames will give it more of a metaphysical feel. I believe that art, when at its best, creates questions in the eye of the beholder and elicits comment and conversation. So...come no?
As a full moon rises over the rocca of Soriano tonight, we watch tonight's jazz festival with Candace, Phil, Carol, Duccio and Giovanna. We surely love the atmosphere...and the music!
There is a fair amount of wind this morning, for open windows here and there slam shut as I'm getting up. Dino is already up, has finished watering and leaves for Tenaglie with Pandina.
This little car is really a workhorse. The wrapped package containing the glass door to the shower in Piano Terra of the Tenaglie house looks like a kind of sail on top, and in this wind I'm thankful the car is full, or perhaps Dino would sail across the meadows of Sipicciano on his way. He's bringing the last items to install in the Tenaglie house restoration.
Tonight we return to Soriano for more jazz, and Marco and his friends join us in a sheltered spot. Wind has picked up and it is actually chilly. Perhaps the summer heat will turn cool for a few days. We are hopeful.
Back at home, it is past midnight when we open our emails. So about that wind thismorning, slamming doors shut. It was the sounds of death...
We had not walked up to the village for days, nor have we looked at any death notices. But Ennio, Basquia's master, has died, and we only find out when his funeral bier passes in the late afternoon with the cortege of mourners from the village. His death seemed to come so quickly. It was only a few weeks ago that he entered the hospital for a heart bypass operation.
In the procession leading the funeral car, Rosita walks just behind Rosina, and we ask, "Che e?" She tells us it is Ennio, and then the casket passes, followed by Ennio's son, who looks over at us, gently smiles and nods. His wife follows as a passenger in their old red panda. We make a sign of the cross and lower our heads in silent prayer.
Basquia, Ennio's little dog, is also in the group, pulling on his lead, with Marina holding the other end and trying to keep up. We are so sorry we did not see the notice, for we surely would have attended the funeral and joined the mourners.
But it is tonight's email that jolts me as if someone is holding me by the shoulders and shakes me...hard. Cousin Cherie's husband, Pete, has died of liver failure. He died more than six weeks ago, but it is only now that she has the strength to email us to let us know.
Tears run down my cheeks, and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness covers me like a veil. We pick up the phone to call Cherie, but she won't answer. There is only a message machine. So I leave a message but cannot seem to finish. I want to hang on, hang on, hang on. I am jolted by a beep and then silence. The air feels like lead.
I wake to the sound of buzzing in my ear, and the air about me feels so very heavy. I mourn the loss of a good man, and as the day continues Pete is ever in my thoughts.
I go about the day as if in a fog. There is a pedicure with Giusy, and information about places to visit on our Puglia trip in September.
There is a trip north to Dan and Wendy's in Niccone, above Umbertide, and a friendly pranzo inside a local cantina, where we run into Carol and John, who we have not seen since Provence last September. Carol is on crutches, nursing a knee accident, but it is good to see them, if only for a minute.
The meal ended, we stop back at Dan and Wendy's house, which now looks lived-in and full of character. They have done a masterful job, especially with the garden. I feel strangely out of sync, but welcome the diversion with these good friends. They're to spend a few days travelling in Italy before returning to the Bay Area for a month or two.
Their aubergines and peppers and tomatoes look so healthy that I am sure that we must move our tomatoes closer to the house on little raised beds next year. They are too "out of sight", and we are so distracted that we don't tend them properly. So what we are able to pluck in our own garden is paltry, the vines surely overgrown and untended. Puor troppo!
We say goodbye until September, and return via Todi to check out a tile yard for specific tiles for the driveways of Don and also Kate and Merritt. Their prices are very high. So we'll stick with the supplier that Tani has found.
We stop at Todi Castle to meet Kathee and her husband and family, who are there for a family reunion. The castle is wonderfully "over the top". The family has taken over most of it for their reunion. What a storybook location! Who would know that a place like this really exists. Look it up at: www.todicastle.com
On this night of a full moon, we consider it an auspicious sign that we met new friends today and look forward to getting to know them. Kathee is a realtor in Mill Valley, and we may join forces to seek out new adventurers from the San Francisco Bay Area who are interested in property and property restoration in Central Italy.
Earlier tonight, while visiting Kathee's family, I spent a few moments with her mother in law, Mrs. Burke, who had gathered her family together in Italy for a reunion. Various members sat with her around the dining room table playing a card game and perhaps talking about their lives...
With thoughts of my own family on my mind, I spoke with her about the importance of family, recognizing myself that there were so many things about my mother and my father that I did not know. If only I could sit around the dining room table with them and ask them about their own lives, about how they felt, about what life was really like for them growing up...
And so we both acknowledged the shared vision that this rite of passage, this questioning about the lives of loved ones, is a knowledge that is lost with a breath and can never be regained.
There are treasures to be explored in every relationship, especially among family members. And if they are not, they are left like Tiziano's cherished Etruscan archaelogical dig, covered over with earth and perhaps left for future generations to uncover...or turned to dust, the mystery of them vanished forever.
We end the month with an homage to Peter Mann, who graced this earth with his presence and brought such joy to dearest Cherie and their extraordinary son, Eli.
Although we did not find out about Peter's death until last night, we hold his other loved ones in our hearts and wish them peace.
Here's what Eli had to say about his father, who died early in June....
"Serenade for A Father's Journey
In this age of reason, our culture has a colloquialism that is used in times of anguish, whence adversity is conquered, hurdles are leapt and trials and tribulations are circumvented. "You can't keep a good man down."
What if the person one were addressing was not a "good" man? My father was not a "good" man; his mind, body, spirit and vocabulary far surpassed and transcended the word "good". He was an extraordinary man.
So what can't you keep an extraordinary man from doing? It seems that extraordinary men are able to rise above being down, being out, being under, being below par and are beneath nothing and no one.
My father was a 'modern renaissance man', beyond being brilliant, well-read, well-traveled, playing numerous musical instruments with proficiency, being a gifted writer, artist, conversationalist, story-teller, thinker and doer, he was, in my mind, the perfect father.
He became the man I aspired to be, the mind I aspired to have, the words I sought to attain, the knowledge I desired to acquire and the love and compassion he instilled in me. An extraordinary man cannot be a "good" father.
Nor was he what society would consider a "traditional father". We didn't play catch, we went to museums. We never shot the shit, we went to the movies. We didn't have projects we worked on together, we went on road trips. He didn't give fatherly advice, he helped me find my own answers.
We took many road trips when I was younger, I saw San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Big Sur. I saw Las Vegas, Orange County and everywhere in between. The one thing you really see on road trips are the people you're riding with. You see them at their best, you see them at their worst. You see their worst flaws and their most wonderful qualities.
On the road, I met my father. Rather than sitting in silence, or drowning our words with song, I learned who my father was, where he'd been, what he'd done and who with. And the more I learned about Peter Mann, the more I admired him. Not just as my father but as a man.
The more time we spent together, the more we knew about each other. He taught me to think for myself and to develop initiative and reasoning. A good man could probably tell you who you are. But an extraordinary man knows that you are who you were born to be and allows you to be that person while guiding you along a moral and fulfilling path.
He taught me to question things because you want to know. He taught me to appreciate creative endeavors, art, music. He taught me to suffer with dignity. That there is no such thing as useless information. That compassion and understanding can be fulfilling in and of themselves.
He showed me all these things and countless others that I could go on relating ad nauseum. But I won't; not because I can't, not because it would bore you, or even because they may not mean anything to you. But because they now become our unspoken bond.
They are now words and wisdom that I carry silently without a reciprocant. Its certainly true, 'You can't keep a good man down', but if you were to ask me what you cannot keep an extraordinary man from doing, I couldn't think of a thing."
Bravo, dear Eli. You are an extraordinary young man. I feel honored to know and love you.
We spend the day on the budget, then take a break and attend the Soriano jazz festival. The festival is winding down, and tonight we hear a chanteus who is less than enthralling. In fact, after about twenty minutes Dino asks me if I want to leave, and I am relieved.
So arrividerci Tuscia in Jazz for the year. C'e veddiamo next year.
This morning is fun. We drive to the house early, then to Montecchio to meet Kathy and her husband, Peter. They are good sports, sitting in the back seat while we show them around Tenaglie, zeroing in on one of our properties and then showing them the restoration.
Since our clients want to rent out their house when they're not there, we tell Kathy that, and she's very interested to rent the house if she and we can do some business together.
We take her on to Dierdre's beautiful house in Capitone. Diedre is a very interesting woman. When we thank her for showing her house at the last minute she responds, "My dear! I am a seller. I will show my house any day, any time, and will cancel any previous plans..." Kathy and her husband are impressed with that, and so are we.
So we've shown them a sample of what we can find for Kathy's clients, and she has some pondering to do. We'd love to work with her. We drop them off and wish them a safe trip back to Mill Valley.
Since it's late, we stop at our favorite restaurant, Il Gelsi, and I of course eat sogliolo (sole). Dino orders his seafood appetiser and linguine vongole. This is such a great restaurant. Sofi all but inhales her pranzo at our feet and then stretches out under the table. She is growing up, easy to take with us, and she's happy to be included.
After last night's less than stellar performance at the jazz festival, we've decided to forego the rest of the week, planning instead to concentrate on the Guardea Gnocchi Festival. Dino reserves a table for Sunday night and calls Claudio and Shelly to see if they'd like to join us. Si, certo.
The night ends with Dino turning the outside lights on to hopefully scare the badger. Earlier he called Tiziano and Enzo for advice, and they think that lights may scare it away. I surely don't want to come upon it, nor do I want Sofi to be surprised by it. "Vaia con Dios, ma vai!" (Go with God, but GO!) That's Spanish, but you get the picture.
We're up early and take Sofi to her groomer in Viterbo, then take advantage of the time alone by zooming off to Rome. First we stop at IKEA to exchange a sofa cover for our clients. We're there when it opens, but it takes 45 minutes to wait in line and then be waited on.
That done, Dino wants to drive in to Rome to see two or three art stores and then walk on the Corso to a mega bookstore. Of course I agree to all of it.
Dino is a driving machine. He loves to drive, loves to navigate in Rome. I know. I know. He is one unusual fellow. With rapid-fire precision, he loops around Rome, taking one turn and then another. We wind up just where he wants to be, near Piazza del Popolo, and of course finds a parking place. Again, he has incredible parking karma.
We find the art stores, and inside there is a magical book of Leonardo Da Vinci's anatomical drawings. There is an entire envelope of them on card stock, quite amazing, so of course I have to have it. There is a sale on stretched canvas, so we pick up two of those, as well as a tavolloza da foglia. That last one is a pad of artist paper that one uses to dollop paint upon.
Each time I paint I use a fresh sheet, and throw that out when I wash my brushes. Yes, I am faithful to my brushes, washing them out every single time I use them. And there are fifty or so sheets, so the pad will last a while.
Walking down the Via del Corso, we stop for juice and a suppli, just across from the giant bookstore, Mondadori. A suppli is a rice-and-tomato and mozzarella filled oval ball, wrapped in breadcrumbs and fried. This bar makes very tasty ones, still hot when we plop them into our mouths but not too greasy.
With renewed energy, we scour the bookstore for books on Puglia and also art books. I find two, and we find one on the families of Rome. I'm inspired by Rome, by the color, by the buildings, by the architecture, by the feel of the place. It's a magical city, one that we never tire of. But then, we've hardly scratched the surface.
We call Karina to see if she's free for coffee, even look for her at her favorite bar, Rosati, but she sends us a text message that she's on her way to Naples with Barbara. That girl can write! Can you imagine a text message that goes on and on and on?
We drive up the S2, the Cassia, past Olgiata, past Capranica, past Vetralla and before we know it we're at the groomer. Sofi runs around me, so happy to see us, and so happy to be with us again. She is a beauty.
We drive to Tenaglie, take a photo for Don of his project, and see Alessandro outside his house, looking up at the sky. With no forecast of rain, the sky is very dark and wind whips across the hill, telling us that rain will arrive anyway.
We stop at the house to look around (the workers have gone but everything looks great), then on to Guardea to make a reservation for the gnocchi festival on Sunday. This is the second weekend of the festa and we have not attended once!
Rain greets us at home, but it is a short shower, cooling off the almost 40 degree day. We're happy to be home, and although I want to paint, I am too tired. Tomorrow, tomorrow....
It's time to paint after lolling in bed for a while, and Sofi and I get up. Dino is already up and on his way to Lorenzo's to see if he can do some of the work on the pergola to nudge him to work on our project. Lorenzo is a one-man band, and an excellent craftsman, so his clients have to wait for him. It's worth it.
It looks as though it will be hot again today. I close the shutters as the birds outside serenade us. Feeling somewhat lazy, I paint for a while, then fix pranzo. This feels like a really lazy summer day.
Dino returns to tell me that Lorenzo is moving in the next few months to a much larger space in Guardea. He will have an assistant, and part of the reasoning is that he does not like to have his clients wait so long for his work.
Dino spends about an hour there, watching the process of Lorenzo bending the heavy iron bars that will be framing for the roof of our pergola. It is a timestaking process, and now we have a better understanding of the time it takes to work in iron. If we are lucky, he'll be here on Friday. We've heard that before. Perhaps this time it will happen.
It is so hot here while I hang up the laundry outside, that I'm noticing that the entire garden is wilting in this oppressive sun. This fall there will be some major changes to the garden. We're just too tired of having it look dried out. Even the box is showing signs of heat exhaustion.
The badger is still on the property, but Dino is psyching him out. He thinks he knows where the critter is hiding, and is blocking up suspected areas with mesh. Each morning Dino investigates. This morning there was only one big rock moved. We're hoping he will move on...
Tonight Dino drives off with Mauro. There is a procession and dinner in Vignanello for the Confraternita. That means Sofi and I have a girls' night in. I'm reading a good book, The Falls, and love the idea of getting in bed and reading. Sofi loves hanging out by my side.
Dino returned late last night and this morning recounted the evening:
"Eight Confraternity members from Mugnano park at the upper end of Vignanello, and walk in costume to the Duomo. There they are joined by four other Confraternitas (Grotto Santo Stefano, Vignanello plus one other) plus "tanti genti" (many people) from the town.
On this night, the celebration is for their two patron saints, San Biagio and Santa Jacinta, who are carried through the town on their respective biers by big strong facchini (porters). The men, dressed totally in white, wear red belts around their waists and red scarfs wrapped around their heads, struggling all the while under the great weight of each bier."
To Dino, this is reminiscent of the Macchina di Santa Rosa in Viterbo held on September 3rd each year. Perhaps this night is a dress rehearsal. Tonight there are six facchini holding up Santa Jacinta and twenty or so carrying San Biaggio. In Viterbo on September 3rd, when the magnificent Macchina di Santa Rosa takes place, more than one hundred faccini transport their patron saint, Santa Rosa, through the streets.
Dino continues, "The procession up and down the streets of the town ends at the steps of the Duomo in the main square, opposite Castello Ruspoli (Ruspoli castle). At a certain point (there's that "a certo punto" again...) the square is darkened. There is a hush from the crowd, a silence, and then fireworks erupt behind us above the Castello."
"At the front of the roof of the castle, placed every 15 inches, white rockets blast in unison, setting off a waterfall of sparks covering the entire front of the castle and spilling into the grand moat surrounding the castle. This lasts about five minutes until all rockets have been spent.
"Still more fireworks explode over the square. There is a pause, and then the two saints are carried back into the cathedral and returned to their respective places. Our work here is done, so we leave." As I'm hearing this, I'm reminded of the classical music concert we attended in the garden of Ruspoli some years ago, ending with a spray of fireworks from the roof. Every town has it's own celebration in honor of their patron saint, ending with a display of fireworks, called a "Spettacolo". But it is only when one attends a Spettacolo in Vignanello that one understands the real meaning of the word, "spettacolo". As we leave the gate this morning for mass, the sound of Pepe's tractor fills the air. We wave, and then Dino walks over to our dear friend, sitting high on his tractor seat. He asks if Pepe has asini (donkeys).
"Si!" Pepe responds. "Due!"
The other day we passed Pepe, plus Natalino in his car, Spaccese in his vehicle and another car, at the foot of the Mugnano hill leading into the village. They were trying to corral Pepe's donkeys, which have a practice of escaping and running into the nearby bosco (woods).
Pepe tells us that when we passed the other day, they were trying to get the donkeys back from the woods. We asked their names and he responded, "Priscilla and Maggiolino". We look forward to meeting them.
This is great news, for we think there should more animals living in the countryside around the village, especially at the time of the blessing of the animals in January. Perhaps now we'll be able to convince Don Luca that it is time that Mugnano has its own blessing again. For several years we have had to attend the mass in Bomarzo, but it's not the same.
I look forward to painting Pepe's new animals, once I am more comfortable painting horses and donkeys in general. This weekend I am working on painting a little boy on a horse, led by an older man.
The subject is taken from a photo that we took one morning in early May in Marta, a village known for its festival in honour of the Madonna del Monte, called Festa delle Passate, which is often called Barabbata. This painting is an exercise suggested by Marco, and when all his students are finished with our paintings of the event, there will be an exhibition in Marta.
A call comes in from Candace and Frank, and we're invited to cena at their house tomorrow. Candace's garden is a great success. She spends quality time there, enjoying the time more than we do in our little orto. It pays off.
Next year, next year... It's time that we get serious about our orto again, and this fall there will be a major change in the garden as well as in the orto. I'm repeating this mantra often enough in this journal that hopefully it will come true.
Tonight we attend the Guardea Gnocci Festival, and have invited Lore and Alberto, Michelle, Claudio, Ilaria and Gemma and Ilaria's husband. It's the end of the second weekend of the festa, and amazingly tonight is our first visit.
Apparently, approximately 600 people will attend tonight, for Dino has surveyed how many reserved tables there are on the street next to the piazza. The gnocci is good, very good, but the sugo (the sauce) is excellent, with just a hint of pepperoncino.
The dark blue sky is so clear that stars appear as far as we can see. Claudio tells us that they went to the observatory near Bagnaia last week for the program set up by Bomarzo's Arte e Benessere to view the stars close up. Perhaps next month there will be a program, and we will definitely attend then.
As we arrive home there is talk of Mariaadelaide, who apparently suffered a stroke last month. She is the voice of strength during mass, leading us in our acapella rendering of the four hymns each Sunday. But today we noticed her shaking hand, and Dino notices that there is some change to the side of her face.
There is so much that we don't know about the village, about the people who live here. We float along the edge, making polite conversation. And after all we think this is the best way to know our neighbors. We view them as if through a veil.
And I think of the conversation recently with Duccio. Italian families smother eachother, but are always there for them. I wonder if that is better than families who ignore eachother. But for now we'll remain along the edge, prefering to mostly keep to ourselves.
Today is strangely cool. I notice a change in the temperature when closing the shutters, and the change reminds me that September, and fall, are not far away.
Dino leaves for Tenaglie, and I'm left to ponder two paintings in midstream. It's better not to paint this morning, for I'll paint for four hours this afternoon. So I'll resketch the young boy's face until I think I have an accurate representation of his expression.
Thisafternoon Marco tells me the surface of the painting of the young boy is not good. I had thought the canvas was "ready to paint", but it is not as smooth as I need it to be for the minute details. So I set it aside, agreeing that I will begin another with a smoother surface.
Instead I work on the women, and realize how long it takes to paint a complex painting. By the time Dino arrives to pick me up there is still work remaining. So next week I'll plod on. I do love to paint, finding the results amazing, thanks to Marco's great tutelage.
At Candace and Frank's tonight, we meet his former boss and wife and sit under the stars having cena. It's a beautiful night and the company is fine, with Dino sharing memories of St. Cecelia's with Mike's wife. The name St. Cecelia's grammar school pops up often in conversations with people who spent their childhoods in San Francisco.
Mike is a search consultant, and tells us about a search for an Executive Director of the Sonoma Film Festival. We give him some leads, for this is an interesting job, even if it does not pay much. Life in the Bay Area seems so very far away...
At home a headache rages, sigh.
My headache continues, with ice packs and Imigran not doing much to contain it. Last night Frank was adamant that his cure found on the internet is what I should take. So we'll take the information to our good doctor to see what he thinks.
Dino travels to the house to wait for the IKEA delivery and put up some towel bars. Don's project is just about complete, with the boys continuing to do a little work for Maria. At the main house, intonico continues. Today the electrician promises to return, and after he's through the massetto can be laid down and then the flooring.
I took an Imigran last night before going to bed, and it did not seem to do anything to alleviate my headache. So at around noon I took a Migralgine (these pills we purchased in France but are not avlb. in the U S or in Italy) and it worked. It's full of caffeine and codeine, so I'll probably be up all night, but since it took the pain away, I'm not complaining. The medicine is made by McNeil, probably in America, but it's only available in France...wonder why?
Early this evening Dino cuts a large branch from the plum tree that will be in the way of our pergola, and Dino climbs a ladder and plucks the rest of the plums. They are so very delicious, but he's not interested in having me make plum jam. Perhaps tomorrow he'll pick up some more glass jar tops and will reconsider. We just can't eat them all, so why not?
Tomorrow morning Lorenzo will arrive before 8 AMto install the pergola, and we are very excited. We have unwound any wisteria that will be in the way (several inches of metal will be cut from the top of each pole) and look forward to guiding the wisteria and also setting the bamboo sheets on top of the structure for the rest of the summer.
The terrace will have an all new look, and perhaps we'll eat our meals out there, finally...In the meantime, Dino plucks the first two peaches from our tree. They are not quite ripe, but will ripen in a day or so if we place them in the sun. Yes, Sarah, I'll think of you when eating one, the red juice running down my arms as I stand at the kitchen sink, looking out the window...
A gallo (rooster) crows under a macchiato sky. Heavenly blue peeks through clouds stained with grey, and I think I hear a second gallo, or is it just an echo of the first? Since I love to paint them, awkwardly thrusting out their red-hatted heads in a "pick-pick-pick-a-little" motion, I'd love to see them close up.
So how many roosters are there in Mugnano? I'll ask Enzo, ask Pepe, ask Luigina, ask Vincenzo; they'll surely know. Can you see it now? ..."Step right up, and get your rooster painted here...." My latest fling works its way down my arm to the brush held in my hand and I'm singing, singing the song of a happy woman.
Dino's awake first, and when I'm out of the shower he's already outside, watering, watering. Lorenzo's expected within the hour to install our pergola...It's a day to celebrate and we don't want to miss any of it.
Lorenzo arrives with Angelo, his helper, an older man who does not seem as knowledgeable as Lorenzo. He's a kind man, and Lorenzo is such a dear man that it's a good thing he's picked someone with a similar temperament as a helper.
As the morning wears on, Dino moves back and forth as a third pair of hands, and when I ask him if he'd like to be Lorenzo's assistant he responds that of course he would. I think Dino's itching for another project, almost any project. Like his father, he can't sit still for long, unless he's napping on the couch during a Formula 1 race.
The structure is up, it's enormous, undulating and gorgeous, but we now look like an agritourismo...There is a possibility that we'll look for plexiglass sheets for the top instead of bamboo, and only when we price them with our friends in Narni Scalo will we know if this is a good idea.
The structure looks a little English, but then Dino tells me that all of these structures look English. It will provide plenty of shade in the summer, protection from rain and wind in the winter.
What do you think?
We've decided not to pursue the plexiglass sheets, and will have bamboo mats or nothing on top of the structure. When we arrive home from the sagra it feels as if we've just walked under an architectual masterpiece. It's a new look, and tomorrow we'll work on the wisteria first thing, helping it to curl around the metal rods and delighting in its growth spurts.
Sofi's so happy that we're home, and on this cool night we've seen the big dipper and countless other stars in the sky on the way to our car from the sagra.
This sagra was an unexpected surprise. It's probably one of the best we've ever attended, and it is a good thing we went tonight, for it's the last night of the sagra for this year. Next year we'll have a whole list of sagras in Italy on our site, at least in Central Italy, in the event any of you want to come over and sample the local celebrations.
I'm not a fan of foccaccia, thinking it's a dense, doughy bread. This foccaccia is light and looks like a cross between a pita bread and a thin crust pizza bread, folded over with stuffings from caprese (tomato and mozzarella), to fontina cheese and rugula, sausage, tuna, and on and on. There is also pasta, prosciutto and melon and lots of desserts and of course local wine.
Now this is a tiny town, so the people come from miles around, and by the time we leave at around 10:30 it is packed, the dance floor rocking and people of all ages doing the hully gully (the Italians pronounce it "ally gally"). Italians love this dance, a line dance that never seems to go out of style in Italy.
At the table with Chubba, Kay, Candace, Frank and John, we sit around and gab while we eat and somehow the subject of animal sounds comes up. Candace tells us that Italians make different animal sounds than Americans do.
"Make a sound like a chicken!" I ask her. She tells me she does not know how Italians imitate chickens, so I'm tempted to turn around and ask someone at the next table.
In the next days we'll be sure to ask Italians and see what they have to say. Candace thinks that people from different countries make different animal sounds of the same animal. That's a very silly but perhaps interesting study...so where is our tape recorder? Stay tuned...
It's cool this morning, and we greet the day by glancing out at out new pergola, the wisteria ready to be wound around tall poles at the front of the structure. Plant by plant, we pull out the bamboo supporting poles and gently wrap the plant around the black poles. For the two middle plants, we also have roses to wind around. For the outer plants, the roses cascade down from the sides of the planter.
How long have we wanted a pergola and wisteria? A long time. So while Dino waters the four plants, I sneak off in the Alfa for Viterbo, so that Sofi won't notice I'm gone. While Dino drives to the house in Tenaglie, I'm going to pick up a few things from Klimt, my favorite local art store, and on the way back, a roast chicken.
It feels so strange to be alone in the car by myself. For all these years in Italy I've relied on Dino. Perhaps I've felt that since we no longer have a BMW, I've lost my interest in driving. It feels good to drive, and I put on a Nadia Salerno Sonenberg violin CD.
Back at home, Dino arrives soon after I do, and we have a leisurely pranzo and then decide to see if we can find a special sink for Merritt and Kate's cantina. So far we're disappointed with the choices. There is a large showroom about a half hour from us, so we call to make sure they're open and then drive down with Sofi to see what we can find.
We meet with Luca, who I like very much, and he finds us a sink that is close to perfect. The price is somewhat high and our budget is very tight, so we are going to drive to the factory tomorrow to see if we can work a miracle and purchase the sink directly.
The factory is south of Deruta, so it's worth a try. If we go back to Luca for the sink, they'll be closed until August 25th, so we have a little time to see what else we can come up with. Unfortunately, almost everything is closed for these next two weeks.
I have four paintings that I want to show in the mostra, and early tomorrow morning we'll drop them off in Bomarzo, hoping they'll take all four. The mostra will be in Attigliano on Saturday during their festa.
We eat cena at La Fossate, just pizzas, but mine feels like lead afterward. We walk up to the village, where entertainment is being offered and paid by the Comune, including a seven piece band and singer and a comedian/singer.
Dino helps Francesco and Mauro and Carlo bring benches from the ex-scuola, and we sit in back watching, although Lore and Alberto have offered to get us chairs to sit with them from their nearby house.
We watch the entertainment for a while and talk with the neighbors, then decide to leave. As we walk through the crowd, Pepe asks if we'll have something with him and I agree. We think we're going to his house, but he takes us into Ernesta's Tabbacchi. I have an iced tea and Dino eats an ice cream. All the while, we're talking about Pepe's asinos.
Pepe always talks with a voice of authority. He tells us that asinios (d0nkeys) are much more intelligent than horses. They are not quite as big as mules. Priscilla is eight years old and her son is Maggiolino. We're invited to meet them sometime this next week. I think I'd like to take photos of them and then paint them. Pepe thinks it's a good idea.
We walk home and greet Francesca, here with her family from Parma. She tells me that she wants to see my paintings and I respond that I'll be in a mostra on Saturday in Attigliano. I suppose I should invite people into the house to see them during the holidays, so after Saturday we will. Sounds as thought I should get a batch of cocomero granita ready...
Today feels like a Saturday, perhaps because it's the start of Ferragosto, or the traditional "iron days of summer". But the weather is more like April weather with cool overcast skies and rain here and there.
We have four paintings to hopefully exhibit at the Attigliano mostra, but no one is at the Arte e Benessere office in Bomarzo in the morning.
So we drive on to the tile yard, hoping we'll find someone to transport the floor tiles. No luck, but they'll be open tomorrow morning, so we tell Tani and Arshi, who can pick it up then.
From there we drive to Civitella d' Agliano, to our favorite panificcio for WWF bread, and then on to the house by way of Baschi. Paolo is at the house with a geometra and another man and although we think it's strange, Arshi and Tani stay with them as they walk around the house.
Paolo is very proud of the house, for some reason. Of course he was born and grew up there, but the change in the house is major. The men tell us that they like the house very much, and Dino tells the geometra, who approves of the work that has been done, that he's looking for another project, so if he knows of a stranieri who needs a project manager for a restoration, let him know.
About ten minutes later, Dino's phone rings, and it is the geometra. He has a house in Guardea and wants us to see it. We leave soon, as there is nothing much to do, and the massetto is drying on the Piano Terra, so we can't walk inside.
We drive to Guardea and outside the building looks plain. What a surprise we find inside! Gorgeous slowly sloping marbe stairs, and two plus floors of magnificent structure and wonderful furniture. This was obviously the home of very well to do people, left almost abandoned for about three years. In the last years of his life, a man lived in the house, but it obviously has been neglected and needs some TLC.
The house could be split into two apartments, four apartments, or left in tact as a two-story home. We'll have it on our site soon. This is a home with a lovely view right in the center of Guardea, a characteristic town, between Orvieto and Amelia.
The geometra owns the property, or owns it with his mother, who we meet later and are invited in to see their home next door. The woman takes us around her house and the property behind it...mamma mia how lovely! They have an ancient oak tree that must be two hundred years old, an expansive lawn and lovely view "all the way to Mount Sorate".
We've kept another couple waiting, so can't stay, and drive on to the next house, but make an appointment for tomorrow. The owner is a huge man with a tiny wife. We'll see them tomorrow.
One thing we know is that we have almost thirty-five really wonderful properties for sale, most of them on our site. We are not getting enough traffic to our site, so it is time that we offer a generous finders' fee for anyone who refers someone who later buys a property from us. Do give our properties page a look, and let us know if we can help you or your friends find wonderful properties in Central Italy.
After pranzo, I return to paint the little boy on the horse. Marco told me on Monday that the canvas was too rough to paint detail, so I should abandon it. Instead, I am able to work out the detail myself of the young boy and the older man, so want to take it to Marco on Monday and show him that the canvas is all right as it is.
I take my time, but as I recall his technique of applying different paint colors to represent skin color and tone and light and shadows on faces, I'm able to emulate his technique quite well. I'm rather amazed that both faces look real by the time I'm done for the day.
In between, we've taken four finished paintings to Attigliano to the mostra, and Dino is able to hang them in prime positions, visible right as people glance in the glass front window.
There will be a lot of traffic there this weekend, for this is the festa of Attigliano's patron saint, Lorenzo. We're sending friends to see the mostra, including Vincenza, who we meet on the street outside our house as we return home.
I tell her that next week we hope to purchase the cemetery plot next to her and we hug eachother and laugh. "Casa Eterna!" she exclaims. "Before we were dead tired. After we were just dead!"
We've had several bouts of rain today, just enough for droplets to hang from the iron pergola. Gee we love it. Now we think we'll not put anything at all above it. It's just too lovely. We never sit outside there, anyway, unless we have guests. Now I think we will, if only for us to gaze upon it.
We spend the rest of the evening at home by the T V, and Sofi and I turn in early. It's wonderful sleeping weather, and I'm happy that we won't have to sit outside the mostra in Attigliano this weekend. Joining this group has been a wonderful thing for me. It's one more place where my art can be seen.
Do I want to try to exhibit in San Francisco or Marin this November? I'm not sure, but it would help my resume to have one of those places added to my resume....I'm not sure of how to go about it, or how awkward it will be to transport canvases. But for now, I'm tired. So I'll think about it tomorrow...
This morning surely does not feel like summertime. With the air full of moisture and clouds obscuring the sun, it's no wonder Priscilla and Maggiolino, Pepe's donkeys, are howling, or whatever it is that they do when they open their mouths and let out sounds.
Someone is also weed-wacking, and that is so weird. With the ground soaking wet, whoever it is must look like Pigpen, the blades of grass blowing all over them...and sticking.
We travel to Guardea to look at another house. The locals like us for some reason, and feel better about listing their houses with us than with the many realtors who knock on their doors. It seems that wherever we go we are met with cordiality and enthusiasm and hopefulness. Now if only more of you would contact us to see properties that are not listed with local realtors...
As we enter the driveway we can see a grand peach tree, with no sign of the "peach blight" we seem to get on our tree each year. We use a biologic spray, but the peaches don't look as perfect as these. On this tree, each one is a painting. No wonder I like to paint peaches!
"Il Cristiano non va mai in ferie." (The Christian never takes a vacation") is what we're greeted with when we arrive at church and pick up today's written pamphlet for today's mass. The little church is almost full with loyal churchgoers.
We like to attend mass when we are on vacation, for every community, every church, seems to celebrate at least a part of the service in their own way. There is strength in singing the same hymns, with the faithful enthusiastically belting out the notes, many of which land off-key.
Today we see the familiar faces of summer, those people who consider Mugnano the destination for their summer holiday. Tonight there will be ice cream in the piazza, and an opportunity for people to get together.
After mass there is a "pesca", what we think of as taking chances to win prizes, all of which are wrapped. This is translated into "fishing for treasures", or pesca (fish), for €1 each. Carla stands at the doorway of an open cantina, with women gathered around, hoping for something special.
Luciana tells Carla, "Make mine special!" as she gives her €3 for three tickets. I don't know what her prizes are, but for our €1 we receive a perfect gift. It is a portfolio filled with colored pencils, colored markers, scissors, eraser and even a ruler. I tell Dino that this is the first thing we'll pack for our September vacation to Puglia. What a wonderful surprise!
There is a sense of excitement in the air, for families are gathered together in this village for good meals and good conversation for Ferragosto, translated into the iron (hot) days of summer. Mugnano is such a friendly place, markedly different from nearby Attigliano, where locals eye others with suspicion and gossip fills the air.
Perhaps Mugnano is also the same, but we don't see it. In this little village most people are related. Since family is very important in Italian life, perhaps that is why people in Mugnano seem to get along. If you read the journal regularly, you will recall Duccio's words about Italians taking life into their own hands, with no faith in the government and faith instead in the family unit.
"I would do ANYTHING for my family," he told me a few weeks ago. "My family comes first, the government a distant second" he seemed to say. That is why Italian laws are ignored, the favorite pastime of Italians seemingly to find creative ways to get around the tens of thousands of Italian laws. But for family... Duccio expresses it as almost a smothering, overbearing characterization. He loves the sense of family, and so do we.
Today is a breezy but very warm day, with most of the clouds cleared away. For the next week we may attend mass several times, one each day from Monday through Wednesday in what Dino tells me is the "trideum". He will walk in a procession on Wednesday evening, and I'll follow behind with the women.
At 11AM a rooster crows nearby, and I'd love to take a look at him, love to paint him. He seems to be somewhere on the hill near Shelly's. Instead I take out my paints and work on two other roosters on a prepared canvas.
Giovanna walks down to show us a bandanna for Ferragosto, and wants to know if we want to buy one that she and Luigina have made. It's lovely, and of course we do! We'll hang it tomorrow on the parcheggio gate, and leave it up until the end of the day on Wednesday.
Other houses on "Via Piana" (the old name of the street before Mameli became so famous that Mugnano changed the street name to honor him) will have the same banner. We'll display ours proudly.
We've taken a drive to Attigliano, and the little storefront where my paintings are supposed to be displayed is...closed! The three rooster painting stands against a wall inside the door, the three capes hidden around the corner. But nowhere are the two remaining pieces.
Either they have been sold (probably not) or whoever displays her quilted lace squares in prime view of passers by determines that mine are not to be hung above hers and has moved them. Miffed? Dino doesn't understand why.
I suppose I'm fortunate that they've agreed to let me display mine at all. How's that for taking the high road? With time passing, I really don't want to sell one of my paintings, the first rooster I painted some time ago. I hope it has not been sold, and will keep that aside if indeed it has not. The rooster is such an expressive character, and I'm hoping to learn more about them.
Tonight we drive back at around 9 P M, and the storefront remains closed. After our time in Mugnano at the "piano bar and gelato fest", we'll return, and hopefully pick the remaining pieces up, except for the Three Capes, which they can continue to display at the gallery in Bomarzo.
I'm sitting at the desk and outside one of the donkeys bays. It really sounds like a "hee-haw". "Ah, Priscilla!" I respond. Sofi is upset at the sound, and runs outside to let her know. All is silent after her first cry, and I wonder what's bothering her...
Giuseppa tells us that Brik had been run over by a car. He has a way of sleeping in the middle of the road and we think some old dodder didn't see him. His chest and side are shaved, and he's been to the vet for an injection. Poor old guy. We're walking up to the borgo in a few minutes and will try to find out what really happened.
We pick up the paintings from Attigliano, and no wonder nothing sold. I'm happy, for one of them I want us to keep. The others I don't care about, and one of them will be returned to Bomarzo to put on display.
Late in the evening, while Sofi sleeps at home, we walk back up to the borgo. There is a kareoke type singer with keyboard, and a light show reflecting off the pavement, where the children jump around and dance.
This year, there are more children than ever before. A set of twin girls, about eight, are here, as well as many other children who look vaguely familiar. Everyone gets along, and it's obvious they do by the way they act joyously together. It's exciting to see children during these holidays, for we see them as the future of Mugnano, and the future looks bright. It's difficult not to love this place.
Vincenza tells us about a place in Castiglione in Teverina that is going out of business who is giving ceramics away free. We'll drive there tomorrow, but I'm really not interested in doing more ceramic painting. I do, however, volunteer to give a painted plate to the festarolo committee as a lottery prize. Tomorrow we'll pick one out and bring it to Vincenza.
It's a lovely day and Sofi and I sleep in, lazy and content, while Dino drives off for a cappuccino at Sisters' Bar and then a checkin at the work site.
He arrives home to tell me he's met the neighbor and has also called the geometra to schedule a meeting tomorrow to discuss...a water leak that the neighbor thinks was caused by "our" property or our workers...
We're concerned about the property line based on his discussion of who owns what, who has rights to what, but are sure that we have access to the driveway on the East side of the house as well as ownership of the back garden.
In Italy, if someone has been given the right of access to a piece of property for many years, it is not possible to take it away from him. So even if there is another owner of a piece of land that our client thinks is theirs, they still have access to it. Nevertheless, it is disconcerting. We've told the client they need a surveyor to determine exactly who owns what, but let's see what we come up with tomorrow...
Inside the cantina the pavimenti will be laid shortly, and we think we'll be ready to install the kitchen by the end of the week. Our muratore will not take off for Ferragosto, for they need the work. Oh, I forgot. The kitchen is in the warehouse and won't be able to be delivered until the first week of September...
Dino takes Pietro's car to the mechanic, so I pick him up, thinking we'll drive right home. But he wants to drive to Viterbo to look for sportellos (cabinets) for the gas and water meters. So we drive to a quiet Viterbo (Italians are mostly at the beach during this holiday week) and it is only when we are through shopping that I remember to remind Dino that I have Marco's workshop this afternoon.
I spend the afternoon at Marco's, and get "high fives" from him. Well, he gives me a "Molto brava!" and that's good enough for me. I have been watching him paint the shadows and lights on faces, and he likes the little painting of the boy on the horse very much, especially the faces.
I work on the faces on two paintings today, feeling much more confident. At home Dino agrees to work on preparing canvases for me to paint...I'll be ready in a week or so to begin another large painting. There is another Cezanne still life that I want to adapt, so it will be a companion painting to the one I began in Provence this April and finished with Marco in June.
There is a mass tonight, but I don't feel much like attending. So we stay home and watch a movie. The night is cool and we're looking forward to turning in.
It's foggy this morning. I hear a rooster crowing and the "cat lady" above, chattering away to her daughter. Dino is meeting with the geometra and the neighbor at the house in Tenaglie.
It's mostly good news from the geometra, and the next-door neighbor is friendly with Dino. So when he tours the house, Dino does not feel as if he's imposing. The house is for sale, and it is a two bedroom with mostly eastern light, located in between Sr. Piva and our clients, neither of whom wish to buy it. So if you're interested, let us know and we can tell you more. It's not listed on this site.
I spend most of the morning painting, completing the painting of two roosters. With paints still on my palate, I paint one of the little birds that I love, sitting on a branch.
While Dino is doing errands, he comes across Antonio driving by in his ape (a little three-wheeled put-put of a vehicle, common all over Italy) wearing a t-shirt and tie. His wife, Paola, stands behind the cab of the tiny ape with young Salvatore and friends.
Later, Dino tells me that he wants me to have business cards printed for my paintings, and we sit at La Fossate having pizza, while I tell him what I'd like the cards to look like. Back in Mugnano, Francesca tells me on the street that she wants to see my art, so I tell her she can come by tomorrow or Thursday.
By now, the paintings are hung on easels, on walls, and are propped up against furniture in the kitchen and dining room. There are so many things I still want to paint, my mind filling up with more and more images and ideas. Each new subject brings up challenges and new variations. While at first enamored with painting light and shadow in fabric, I'm now drawn to making flat surfaces appear round, and as Marco guides me, am more and more enthused about painting people, particularly faces.
There is pizza being cooked and served in the borgo tonight, but there are so many people who order it that the wait is long. We'd love to give them our order, but instead eat in Attigliano, returning to walk up to the borgo while Fabrizio plays his music on a stage in the middle of the piazza.
What is new is that the Festaroli have set up plastic tables and chairs in front of the palco, or stage. When we arrive, tables are filled with people enjoying the music, and even dancing. It looks like a cabaret scene, under the stars.
We have fallen in love with this village all over again. The piazza is beautiful, lit on this night with little white bulbs framing the church and Livio and Gigliola's balcony filled with flowers cascading over the side as if they're women leaning over to speak with their neighbors.
Familiar faces surround us, as well as new faces, perhaps people who have not returned to Mugnano for many years. We are sure they are surprised by the change. The only sad face tonight is Livio, for he tells us that the Festaroli committee is selling "OUR" shirts, shirts that were promised to us last year by a confraternity member from Sienna, but did not arrive until this week.
"Fa niente!" we tell him. All the proceeds go to the church, anyway. It is not worth getting upset about. And speaking of money, we still have not met with Don Luca to decide what gifts our festaroli group will purchase for the Duomo that should be restored later this year.
We sit with Laura and Mauro, and after awhile Laura stands up to clean off the table. I tell her that our year on the Festarolo committee is over, so don't bother to clean up. She puts the paper down and sits with a thud, happy just at the thought that there's nothing to do.
Mauro and Laura and we smile at each other, and no words are necessary. Being members of the Festarolo committee last year was wonderful, but plenty of work. It is so good to just enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor for a change.
A short while later, the present committee walks around with trays of pizza bread folded over containing...Nutella. Boh! Dino tries one and it's quite good. I think Italians spread Nutella, that chocolate spread, over most everything. No, grazie!
We walk home to a Sofi happy to see us, and she's even happier to be upstairs with us, sleeping away after Priscilla, or is it Maggiolino, honks or he-haws, causing our little one to bark out loud before returning to sleep...
Hot weather has returned for these, the iron days of summer. Today is the official day, Ferragosto, and while we're enjoying espresso on the terrace this morning, Dino muses that today is one of the only Italian holidays that don't signify much of anything. Italians have nothing to do on this day, unless they are devout and celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin, so most of then drive to the beach. No grazie.
Here in Mugnano, many family members of full time residents have arrived, at least for the day if not for the rest of the month. This morning we walk up to Vincenza's and give her a little hen painting for the Festarolo committee to present as one of the prizes for the raffle.
Back at home, I put together a polpetti (meatball) and pasta and cheese dish to bake in the oven. Yes, it is hot, although Italians love their pasta and eat it every day of the year.
Tonight's entertainment includes the picking of the lottery (raffle) winners and later a mass and procession in honor of the blessed virgin. It is very hot at noon, so at 6 PM the streets will be baking. With the shutters closed it is comfortable inside, and we'll stay inside until it is time to walk up to the borgo.
We finish a current inventory of paintings for the web site, and there are currently sixteen different subjects. The ceramics are another thing. I don't really want to sell or give them away, since the supply is dwindling, thinking they'll be better kept as mementos of a time in my life when I enjoyed this craft.
As time passes, I enjoy looking at them, but have no interest in returning to ceramics, enjoying instead the craft of painting with oils.
I wish my mother were alive today, so that we could talk together about painting. She had no fear, about anything. So painting was easy for her. I fantasize that it would be fun to paint side by side with her, but in a way that is just what we're doing when I paint.
I do believe she is always with me. She painted landscapes, I paint still lifes or animals or people. But I think her guiding hand is always with me. Thank you, Mom.
We walk up to a borgo filling with people anxious and hopeful, with fantasies of winning prizes on their minds. Elena is the most interesting of the lot. She does not bring her tickets with her, telling us that if she wins, she can find out later after comparing the number on her ticket with the winning list. Perhaps that is what everyone else thinks, for no one is present to win any of the six prizes, although the piazza is filled with people holding tickets.
I don't know who won my little painting; perhaps we will find out later. We walk back home for a few hours, returning to the borgo without Sofi after nine.
Dino has hooked up white lights on the terrace that surround our iron fence. They echo our neighbors' houses on Via Mameli, many of which display lights, candles and banners in honor of The Virgin. The characters "W" "M" are drawn on each banner, but there is no "W" in the Italian alphabet. We later ask what the significance of the letters is, and are told very matter-of-factly that it means, "Viva! Viva!" Maria. Now why did we not know that?
As you may know, the Italian alphabet does not include the following letters: j k w x y; however, they are "borrowed" from other languages for some Italian words. So - "W" (double u) is pronounced "doppio vu" in Italian. The letter "V" is pronounced "vu". And so the "W" used in the paragraph above is actually "vu vu" hence "viva viva". And yes, their pronunciation of the abbreviation for "world wide web" is "vu vu vu".
Tonight is hot, and there is precious little breeze. I'm wearing a long white linen dress and black and silver Moroccan-type slippers, so the procession should be comfortable walking.
Livio asks me if I'll walk holding the "Azione Cattolica" banner in the procession at the end of the mass, and I think, si certo (of course)! I have only held the smaller banner in previous processions, but this can't be much different. Magari!(If only this were so)....
Thankfully, the mass is held outside in the piazza, with the wonderful statue of Maria held up by heavy wooden poles. Her face is turned to look up at the sky, and she wears a white dress and pale blue sash. Boh! Perhaps that is why Don Renzo comments about my white dress.
Is he wondering if I think I am a virgin? Is a white dress a disrespectful thing to wear in this procession? Who knows? We constantly wonder which faux pas we are committing in this land full of symbols. At least he is smiling, so whatever it is, it can't be too bad...
The borgo is packed, with people sitting in pews transported from the church next to it for the occasion as well as standing on every available space. It is a blessing that the service is held outside on this warm night.
At the end of the main part of the mass, I follow Livio inside to pick up the banner, while the members of the Confraternity enter to pick up their various objects to carry.
Dino is smart. He's the first member to enter the church, taking one of the two lanterns that are used to lead the procession. He has told the others that he is unable to be one of the men who walk carrying the statue on his shoulder, because of this bad knee and back.
The work of the statue carriers is similar to that of the more than one hundred facchini who carry The Macchina di Santa Rosa every September 3rd through the streets of Viterbo. But then Santa Rosa is more than three stories tall...
Dino leaves tonight's heavy lifting to the younger men, thankful that he can say he is too old for this task. For our description of the Santa Rosa event, see the archives for September 3rd of 2003 or 2004.
I am handed a shiny metal pole with the banner, and am surprised at how tall, and how heavy, it is. All right. I can handle this. "I think I can...I think I can..."
There is silence in this dark borgo, as hundreds of people line up as instructed by Don Luca at the commencement of the walk. Dino and his partner Donato each carry the lanterns, followed by Otello carrying a huge crucifix supported by a leather harness. These three men lead the way, followed by the women who walk in two single lines, maintaining a space of six or more feet between them.
This is as good a time as any to note that Italians know how to form lines, as they do without question during a procession. But give them a door or a window with a person behind it with something to sell, and they'll turn into crazed lunatics, each one claiming loudly that he or she is first.
Back to the procession...
There must be at least one hundred women participating tonight, and the procession is long. Livia, one of Vincenzo and Agosto's daughters, walks in the center in front of me holding a small banner. About fifteen feet behind her, I'm beginning to feel as if I'm holding a heavy crucifix, dragging myself to an untimely end.
Without even a handkerchief, I'm feeling drops of persperation form in places I did not think possible. I put my head back to catch a breeze, but it's pointless. Might as well just take in the moment. It's really an honor to carry a banner in a procession.
When the procession is finished, and the banner put away until next time, I walk down the church steps into the cool night and meet Dino, who is happy to be rid of his vestments as well.
Lore comments that the scene of me holding an Italian banner in a religious procession is one to behold. Italian? It is then that I realize that along with the religious banner is the same red and white and green grosgrain ribbon that mayors and other officials wear across their chests on state occasion. The fact that I was asked to be the "standard bearer" of this procession is at once odd and well, endearing.
To say that we have been accepted into this community is an understatement. This is yet another vote of confidence. Again, we are moved by the manner in which we are treated here. We are not unlike Brik, the dog whom the borgo has formally "adopted", we only miss the collar around our necks...
It's home to a thankful Sofi, a cold shower and big slices of juicy watermelon under the stars, blessing this holiday and thankful for so many things.
It's already warm when we awake, a little later than usual, but so what? Dino kindly helps me to stretch a linen canvas and then cut out a section of the little bird part of a painting of mine that I just can't seem to fix.
The painting is of a large cape, one that I've worked on off and on for months. I love the bird; don't like the cape at all. Marco will show us how to stretch this little painting, so we don't even try to stretch the painted and dried canvas over a stretcher ourselves.
We then drive to Tenaglie to check on the restoration's progress, but we're not able to drive all the way to the house, because a procession in honor of San Rocco is already in progress. The tiny San Rocco chapel stands above a steep set of stairs just across the street from the house.
Undaunted, we drive around Montecchio and reach the house from the other end of the road. We park and Dino leads the way across the street and up the stairs, with Sofi in his arms. At the top, we arrive right in front of the chapel of San Rocco.
At that same moment we come upon Paolo's wife, Caterina, who gives us a hug and stands with us against a wall, watching the very front of the procession. She also hands me a little "holy card" of San Rocco with a prayer to him on the back.
The priest arrives first, followed by Pietro's son, Claudio dressed in procession garb and then several men bearing a beautful wooden statue of San Rocco and his little dog.
The little chapel is so small that only a few people can stand inside at the same time, so an altar is set up outside while blessings are given. Then the statue is returned to the main church of Tenaglie, followed by a corteo of local residents. San Rocco is a patron saint of Tenaglie, and we know that is so because Caterina knows the sacred hymns of the town and tells us quietly how much this saint is revered.
Maria's family sits around a long table under the pergola outside their house. We greet Nazzareno, who appears quite frail but happy to see us. The rest of the family sits with him, except for Maria. We find her nearby. We want to make sure that if something happens to Gaedano that she lets us know. This is a sad request, but one that we don't want to forget.
Dear Gaedano. He was the first man we met in Tenaglie, on the first morning we pulled up in the car to be shown Fernanda Piva's house, a house we later sold to our good friend, Don.
Gaedano (the man) was Tenaglie's version of Mugnano's Brik (the dog). He could be found on any day of the year sitting outside his house with a big smile on his face, reminding us a bit of the little gnomes some Italians put in their gardens. Always alert and happy to see us, he would walk down the little hill outside his house to greet us each time we arrived.
Without being nosy, he let us know that he was happy to welcome us. So we feel a palpable sadness when we pull up on these days, for the street is empty, and he is nowhere in sight.
Since the main reason for our arrival today is to check on the present state of the project, we walk down the driveway and find Tani working on the fireplace in the cantina and Zeni applying more intonico on a back wall of the house, located just outside the kitchen.
Arshi is not around, and Tani and we agree that we hope he will return to the job site on Monday, so that he can take on the senior role of laying the floor tiles in the main room and in the bathroom.
With factories closed for the rest of the month, we're unable to install the kitchen, so there's no great rush. But the more these muratores finish, the easier it is to pinpoint the final areas to be completed.
It will be ten days before the factory that makes the sinks we want to research will be open, so we might as well take the time to look over the project "with a fine tooth comb" to make sure we have not missed a thing.
With not much to do and Sofi really breathing hard in the heat, we drive home for pranzo. Yesterday I baked a pasta dish with meatballs and fresh mozzarella, and it tastes even better today than it did yesterday. Dino is one of those men who loves "left-overs". I'm happy to know that, and we're both happy to eat this easy pranzo.
Stefano and Luca arrive just after we finish eating. They are here to close up the eight holes on the front of the house made for the insertion of the pergola ridge-poles. We give them a beer while they also take a look at the proposed loggia roof project. Stefano is so very good "on his feet", giving Dino excellent ideas to improve the project visually and financially.
We are not in the practice of asking Stefano for a preventivo, for his work is excellent and very reasonable. But for this project we really don't have any money, so before we move ahead we need to have a general idea of the cost to figure out how long it will be until we can afford to move forward with it.
Tonight the Festarolo presents "Fritti Mugnanese"; plates of fried vegetables and pizelles and suppli served "porta via" (take-away), food that residents are able to enjoy at home.
While we're waiting in line, Sofi scampers over to a man we have not seen before, and he leans down and scratches her back, as if he has known her for some time. We hear him speak to her in English, so walk over and introduce ourselves.
The man is Gilberto, and he and his partner are the new restorers of the Mugnano Duomo. Born in South America, he has lived in Rome for twenty years. A professionally trained architect and restorer, he has good things to say about the project, and lovely things to say about Mugnano.
He'd like to own a little casaletto in the area, and tells us that Livio is guiding him in finding one. We'll see if we can help him as well, for he seems to be a person loyal to the architectual integrity of the village and interested in preserving the local culture. We could do worse than to have him as a neighbor.
Next week he's invited us to enter the Duomo and look at their work. We'll certainly do that, and invite them for cena one night as well.
After cena at home, we return to the borgo without Sofi to watch the games. It's almost ten o'clock, and the games have just begun...
There are so many children that we can't begin to name them all. So with a little help, here are the four teams with each member identified and hopefully their names are spelled correctly:
One by one the children are called by name, after which they walk up to sit on the chair. Francesco places the hat above the child's head and calls out the team he/she is assigned to, starting with Griffindore. As each result is called out there is a cheer...
The games begin with an egg walk, where an egg is balanced on the spoon of each contestant, held between his or her teeth. Members of each team walk to and from the stage, one team at a time. Great hollers and cheers erupt from the audience, sitting on benches flanking the piazza.
Valerio kindly cleans up the egg spills on the pavement, while we wait for the next game. His job is not unlike the unlucky fellow who is chosen to follow behind a horse just after a meal...Wonder how he was chosen for this task...
The next game is one we have not seen before. Now pay attention: Long cords with metal circles at each end are given to each team at the same time. For each team, their cord is woven inside: each member's shirt, down and out from under their pants, and so on, until the entire team is attached to one another by the cord. That done, the two ends of the cords are fastened to a padlock and the padlock is snapped shut.
Each team captain then rushes to the judges' table, where they locate four keys. The captains are NOT attached to the cords. Each captain is allowed to only take one key at a time. Rushing back to his team, each captain trys to see if that key will open the lock. Once the correct key is found and the padlock unlocked, the team captain runs back to the judges' table to see who arrives first. Phew! < p> As you can imagine, there is much yelling and hooting all the while. This is a truly great game, one that would have been perfect for Camp Royanee...those were the days...
The next game is a truly Italian treat. Two people face eachother, sitting on opposite sides of a card table. They are blindfolded, and each person is given a jar of Nutella and a spoon and told to feed the other person.
We are not sure what the object of the game is, but it is another hollering and applauding event. We think this game has no winners - unless one really loves Nutella...
Another game consists of about ten plastic water bottles set up on the pavement, and each contestant is given the chance to kick the soccer ball into the bottles. It's like bowling with a soccer ball.
The final game is a game of darts, and we have no idea how that is set up, but the children all seem to enjoy it...well, there are a few tears, but every last child participates.
Here are photos of the games.
We leave at about midnight as the games start to wind down, with one or two little ones overtired and weepy in their parents' arms. Time to get home to Sofi and bed...
All through the games Dino takes photos. As we look them over at the computer before turning in, we realize we have quite a few to share tomorrow night, as well as in the journal.
I hoped to rise early, but I oversleep, and it is after 8 AMbefore I'm downstairs to prepare our peaches for jam before we leave for Fimucino to pick up Pietro. He arrives around noon from Norway for about six months. What fun it will be to share our lives with him until we travel to the U S!
After we pick up Pietro, full of stories to tell, we return along the coast and the two men and Sofi drop me off at Marco's while they drive home for a few hours.
Dino finishes the peaches and Pietro unpacks and looks over his garden, while Marco staples my bird painting on another small wooden frame. Once we have the woman from Amelia make an outside frame for the piece, it will be quite lovely, the staples nowhere in sight.
But today Marco is concerned, for at the edges of the basic frame the paint cracks. One must do this work delicately. I watch him closely, so that if I need to do this myself in the future I will know how. Marco is a treasure. I am able to learn so much from him, soaking up what he has to impart like a sponge, later experimenting at home on my own.
For the rest of the session, I work on paintings of both the boy on the horse and his leader, as well as the three virtuous women. Marco really likes what I have done with the young boy's face, and when Dino and Pietro arrive, Pietro is very moved by the soulful expression I have painted on the man leading the horse.
I work next on the three women, feeling more confident about the faces, and making changes to the larger central figure's face. Marco likes what I have done. I am learning quite a bit from him, and the next painting I do will have a person in it, perhaps combining a still life with a person sitting on a chair next to it.
I work alone inside the studio, with four or five others working outside. Marco and I talk jazz, and he plays a number of old albums on his turntable, I'm thinking mostly for our enjoyment. I think the others would just as soon listen to Italian pop music. I've not finished the playlist cd for Marco, but will bring it as a surprise in ten days, when the next workshop takes place.
It's time to leave, so Dino drives us to Alviano, where we hoped to see a corteo. But it is not to be, so we drive on to Montecchio to have cena at Locanda Crispini, owned by neighbors of the Harrisons.
Tonight Pietro eats oxtail, and we admit that we have never eaten oxtail before. It is quite tasty, although the thought of it makes me queasy.
When we enter the restaurant we think we'll be practically alone, but are joined a few minutes later by a big table of people from...Mill Valley!
Tonight is the birthday of one of the daughters, and we later see the young girls dancing in the square after dinner, flying their pink balloons above them while a school band plays on. We've walked up here from the restaurant to have coffee and perhaps some grappa for Pietro.
After espressos and a cordial for Pietro at Bar Selba, I walk outside to watch the band, and am followed by Pietro. Dino stands talking with a man who we later realize is the technician at the Orvieto hospital who gave us our...colonoscopies!
When Dino first saw him he thought, "I know this man, but where do I know him from?" The man thought the same of him. "Where do you work?" Dino asked. And then it was that both men realized where they recognized each other and laughed.
We're all tired, so we drive Pietro home and then pick up Sofi and walk with last night's photos to the borgo, where we show them around. People are so very appreciative, and we tell them we'll make duplicates tomorrow for a few of them who ask.
It's a lovely morning, warm with a breeze, so we sit on the terrace enjoying breakfast. Then Dino works on preparing canvases for me while I edit the journal. How is it possible that I find so much to write about? My eyes glaze over as I try to reread it before Dino posts the photos and copy.
I've begun to paint a black rooster with feathers on his head that are very cool, standing up straight. It's from a book we purchased on chickens and roosters while in Provence, and appears to be a special type of rooster found in France. The next time we travel to Provence we will try to find them.
Why am I so enamored of these birds? Take a look at our paintings and you will see why...they are perfect subjects. It's time I take up Rosita and Enzo's offer that I study their chickens.
Before we know it, it's time to pick up Pietro and leave to meet our new friends, Debra and Aldo in Guardea at the Cinghiale sagra. Now that Pietro will be here for five months, he's considered a member of our family, and each time we go out we invite him to join us. Come no?
This festa follows and somewhat mimics the Guardea Gnocchi Sagra, held on the previous two or three weekends. This time, because it's to support the soccer club, the young players are the servers, taking their jobs very seriously.
Debra and Aldo bring their children and another couple, and we spend a delightful evening under the stars while eating a special dish of cinghiale (wild boar), cut in small pieces and cooked for hours in a pot with tomatoes and pepperoncini and other spices. It's really tasty. A few of our friends choose to eat it over pappardelle noodles.
We'll see these friends again, for they're trying to put together a group of investors to buy a local borgo and restore it. Debra will be the architect and perhaps Dino will be the project manager. If you'd like to know more, email us and we'll fill you in.
Oh, that demon red wine...on occasion, I drink a variety of it that makes me ill. This is one, and I'm sick for the entire day and night.
Dino walks up to mass, and for the rest of the day putters around and watches T V. Sofi stays with me, as usual, and later in the evening we get up to watch a movie on BBC Prime, The Other Boleyn Girl. I've read the book, as did Angie, and we both liked it very much. The movie is excellent, and just before it begins we call our dear friend to let her know. She's in Rome and looks forward to watching it, too. In less than a month she'll be here, watching Sofi and taking care of the house while we travel to Puglia.
I'm somewhat better, and am well enough to paint a background for the black rooster while Dino drives to Amelia to do some errands. The sky is overcast, and we're expecting rain and possible thunderstorms this week.
Enzo Rosati stops by to perform his annual checking of the water heater. This maintenance is required by law, and his work costs €85. We also pay him for the plumbing work he finished a few weeks ago. Dino affirms that the work of hydraulicos is the most expensive "trade" work in Italy, but thinks that Enzo's prices are not out of line.
Stefano, our favored muratore, phones to tell us he's referring a man in Bomarzo who has a house to sell. We look forward to seeing it. How kind of Stefano to refer us!
I sadly pick most of the tomatoes left in the garden. The nearby space is overgrown with weeds, the ten or so plants providing sparse, if any, tomatoes. The best are the "giganti's" that we purchase from the Montecastrilli market at the end of April each year.
Perhaps we should have ten of those! I'm still not ready to give up on the heirloom seeds that we bring back from America each December, however. Next year, next year...
Dino is having trouble stretching linen over the wooden frames, and perhaps that is because I don't like to see staples on the sides of the frames, even though they are framed when the painting is finished. It's difficult to wrap the linen all the way around to the back, he tells me. So we'll unstaple at least one of them, and try it the easier way. Some things are not worth worrying about.
I'm anxious to paint faces now, and this week I will work on at least one. I like working on some pieces at home, but want to begin another major piece at Marco's next Monday. Will it be another still life, or this time will there be a person seated or standing next to the table? This week I hope to figure that out.
I've prepared a panzanella salad for pranzo as an appetiser, and it is such a delicious dish that I hope you'll try it when you have tasty tomatoes. The recipe is on this site. Let us know what you think!
We take a walk at around 5PM to take the garbage and come across Vincenza, who tells us that all day yesterday she had a headache. Ah! That barometric pressure again. With great amounts of wind and some rain, it's bound to trigger them. I'm somewhat relieved to think that the barometer does have something to do with the headaches.
On the way back we see that Maria, the Romanian woman who takes care of Giustino, has returned. She thinks he's doing well. He'll surely outlive us all...
Pietro arrives later for some panzanella and we'll probably also have some of his salmon, caught in Norway a few weeks ago.
The smell of fires slithers in through the open windows like a snake. There have been so many fires this year that the situation is shocking; it is as if we're living in the midst of evil. Last night's winds have brought the scent closer than ever, even though we cannot see evidence of fire, we know it lurks in our midst.
Last night while we sat on the terrace sipping Prosecco with Pietro, we watched a helicopter carrying a huge bucket of water from a nearby lake to drown out a fire. And a corpo forestale truck drives by, heading up into town.
So Dino wants to tell him about the nearby smoke that we see in the valley across from us, and he does. They already are aware of it and drive out to Chia, the hill town on the other side of the valley facing our house to see if they can get closer to the location of the fire.
We drive to the Tenaglie house this morning, and Dino meets with the elettricista and his partner in a "come to Jesus" meeting, that does not go all that badly. After they leave he stops working on the door and the lock, vowing to finish rebuilding it soon. For now, the old lock works fine.
Tani arrives, and we stand on the balcony, asking him what's up. He and his brothers have not been here for two days. We're all overcome by sadness at his tale...
Two days ago, he and his cousin Vinny were stopped during a regular roadside check that the carabinieri perform all over Italy. When they discovered that the boys were Albanian, they took them to the police station in Amelia and questioned them there for three hours, then sent them to the Questura in Terni for an entire day. It's called profiling. You know what that is.
We're horrified at the thought of it. Yes, there have been many robberies that we're told were done by Albanians in the Viterbo area, and the police are on the lookout for them. Yes, many Albanians are wild, out of control, without conscience, but more than that number are honorable people.
It is a strange, very strange, situation to be a stranieri in a strange land. Are we "profiled"? Are Italians more racist than Americans? Do Italians view Albanians in the same category as terrorists?
When we were robbed and gassed in our home more than five years ago, the police asked us two questions when entering the house: 1) Did they eat anything? (No.) THEREFORE, they are not Italian; 2) Did they take any of your documents? (No.) THEREFORE, they are not Romanian. THEREFORE THEY ARE ALBANIAN....
Albanian soldiers, we are told, have been taught to mix gas to use on the enemy during wartime. So soldiers know how to use a mixture of chemicals to keep people asleep during a robbery.
We're still sad, and talk about the fact that we'd vouch for these men if asked...we only know them with respect to the quality of their work, their kind and gentle manner, their unconditional pleasant demeanor, their honesty with respect to every single aspect of their work and the house.
We leave and Dino tells the boys he'll be back tomorrow, hopefully to see Arshi start on the paving of the main part of the cantina. Tani spends the rest of the day on the pavement of the front of the fireplace and the coating of the huge beams with transparent glaze to protect it.
After pranzo at home, we leave Sofi and take Pietro to Viterbo. First we drive to Klimt and pick up supplies for us to make a few Ikons; these won't be the genuine kind that take more than six months, just to prepare the background.
They will be what Pietro calls "falso", and we'll use old wood to see how we can do with these, before starting on genuine ones. Pietro tells me he does not have the patience to do a real one. I think I do, but want to see how these come out, first.
We do a number of other errands, and call our good doctor, Dr. Bevilacqua, for Pietro has something wrong with an eye, something that he thinks has something to do with low blood pressure. I am quite worried, and we're able to make an appointment for him tomorrow at 1:30. Dino will take him then.
On the way home Pietro asks us if he has trouble in the middle of the night if he should leave his gate open for an ambulance. We tell him no, that we have a key. So he is worried enough that we're also worried. Tomorrow we'll find some answers. He's like family to us, so anything we can do for him is what we want to do.
The night is cool and it is strangely quiet when we turn in.
I sleep in, and when I'm up Dino has already left for Tenaglie. I'm thinking that some of the riper tomatoes we picked two days ago would be good in a baked pasta dish. So although I'd rather paint, this morning I'll make a pasta dish. Dino and Pietro have to leave Mugnano at 1PM for the doctor, so I'll need to prepare something early.
It is a cool but sunny morning, and a feeling of fall in the air. Later today we'll meet a new client who has a house to sell in Bomarzo.
It takes most of the morning to make the pasta dish, but it's ready for Dino when he arrives. Not much work has been done at the site, but when he comes back he tells me that the weather is turning humid and hot.
Later in the afternoon we drive to Bomarzo to meet the bank manager and see his house. It's quite lovely, and yes, we'll put it on our site. There are some very ancient details of the house. Part of it he claims was built around 1200 (!) and there are many, many ancient olive trees, as well as fruit trees on the property. But the price of more than one million euros is not for the bargain hunter...
The weather continues to be humid, and a headache sneaks up on me, so as soon as we're home I take one of the very strong pills from France. By the time we go to bed it's still with me, but hopefully with an ice pack it will subside.
Speaking of ice packs, Dino gave himself a nasty gash on the top of his head when watering tonight, hitting it on a branch of an old rose bush that stretches all the way over the gardener's cottage. With an ice pack and some neosporin he's all right, the gash not deep.
More than ever, I want to simplify the garden design. So when an email arrives from dearest Sarah Hammond, telling us that she thinks the pergola design is spectacular, I clue her in on what we want to do.
Tomorrow I'll call Carol, who used to be the Executive Director of the Mediterranean Garden Society in Italy, to see if she knows of a garden designer in Puglia who we can visit when we're there. A few nights ago we watched a garden design show with a couple from Puglia, who had the same kind of idea in mind when designing their property.
Now if I can only find out who they are and how to reach them... they own an agritourismo in Puglia and will surely agree to let us take a look at their property.
We're planning to have Catherine and Kees and Pietro for cena tonight, but the weather is not promising. Early, we drive to Tenaglie, but there is no one working, nor is there any sight of anyone around. While looking around, a woman peeks her head in the door, and she is a neighbor, looking for the boys for a possible bit of work for them.
She is one of the many Giubinis', the prolific family with roots all around the Guardea and Tenaglie area, and a sister of dear Gaedano. More than that, she has a house to sell, and it is the property on two levels above Angelo's store.
She takes us over, and we take a look. "It's ready to move into!" she tells us, with new floors, new windows...but her price is quite high. Her son in law agrees with us, and it not a good day for photos, so we tell her we'll return, and perhaps in the meantime she will lower her price.
We drive home and the wind is crazy. During the afternoon there are bouts of wind, and when we drive to Viterbo for some errands mid afternoon, there are signs of downed trees near the cemetery.
We return by way of Bomarzo and have a short meeting with Stefano Bonori, our sindaco (mayor), who is quite cordial on this sultry day. We give him our idea for fixing our road and wall, and he tells us that there will be a team working on the road below Mugnano in September, and they will fix our road then. We're not sure what that means, but we're hopeful.
We take the opportunity to ask about citizenship, and he calls in Sr. Ivo, who gives us a story other than that we have learned in Viterbo. So soon we will return to Viterbo to get the straight scoop. We're pretty sure we need our documents translated, then it is up to the mayor to shepherd our papers through. He seems willing to work with us.
On the way out, we notice some broken roof tiles lying on the street, so the windstorm today could have been quite dangerous for anyone walking below. We walk down the hill to our car and drive home, where the power is off. Luckily, I made the dessert that is in the loggia refrigerator, an hour before the power went off. So I think it is going to be all right.
We don't cancel our cena plans, realizing that our guests are all adventurers, and we eat outside on the terrace with candles. The meal works out, even though the dessert is a little waterlogged.
The freezer defrosted while the afternoon drew on, but after pouring out a pool of water, the lemon torte is fine, even if it is somewhat lower in altitude than I had planned.
The power returns while we're having dessert, but by this time, who cares? Since our stove in the loggia is powered by gas, we are able to use it to prepare any of the food.
The night is now clear, and it's about midnight before we turn in.
Tomorrow we'll pay for our cemetery plot and then we'll be on our way to finalizing the details. In a week or so we'll visit the funeral folks in Soriano, then we'll have to determine how and what to build on our little plot. It's a little more involved than we thought, but we're intent on finishing the project...soon.
Dino drives to Tenaglie to work on the door, but the crew does not show up. He has a meeting with the geometra later in the day, so perhaps he will learn more then. It is so strange that we have not heard from anyone. We hope that they are all right.
I move my paints outside, and Dino calls to say that Enzo and Rosita will bring some dahlia plants by. After working for half an hour or so it begins to rain, lightly but the air is very heavy.
I move the canvas, easel and paints into the front entryway, and the doorbell rings. It is the woman whose car I hit in Viterbo a couple of months ago, with her husband. I let them in and we sit on the terrace while he shows me papers that say that Roy denied responsibility of the claim. What?
I look at the papers, and can figure out that the claim was denied. So I call Dino on the cell phone, he calls Alessandro, our excellent agent, who calls right back. I hand the phone to the man, and evidently they filed a claim naming a different date than we did, so the company denied the claim. On Monday Alessandro will straighten out the mess and will deal with the man directly.
I have to laugh. While the man stands at the table talking on the phone, all the while shaking his hand at an imaginary insurance adjuster, his wife sits demurely behind him, offering bits of information that she thinks will be helpful.
He glares at her, waves her away as if she's a fleck of dust. She looks at me and rolls her eyes, and we both have to stifle laughs. We both understand that women are treated as second class citizens in Italy, as if we don't have brains.
The matter cleared up for today, they leave and I return to painting in the front hall until Enzo arrives with the plants. They look wonderful, and we'll plant them today or tomorrow. How kind of them to want us to have them!
Dino drives to the Bomarzo post office to pay for the cemetery plot, but he is directed to the Banco di Brescia. So when he steps inside, his friend from yesterday helps him. We think he is the manager, but the regular teller is on vacation. So we have the receipt, and next we'll meet with Sr. Ivo to draw up the contract.
We will be concessionaires at the cemetery, for noone "owns" the plots, they are considered caretakers, and for that we pay a fee. The fee is not as much as I had feared, but enough that we consider the cost substantial.
Back at home, Dino picks out a little plate for Sylvia and Nicole, for their wedding reception is tonight at Palazzo Orsini, and we'll give them a little token of Mugnano, as well as participate in a gift with the neighbors. Yesterday, Luigini walked by and asked if we wanted to join them in presenting a bigger gift and of course we do.
The weather stifling, we eat pranzo inside and I wrap the gift, while Dino returns to Guardea for a meeting with the geometra. Perhaps he will have some information about the whereabouts of the boys.
We have floor and wall tiles in the bathroom to be laid, and floor tiles in the main room, but otherwise are prepared to stop the job until the kitchen is finished. We remain worried about the boys...
Dino returns to say that Leonori thinks the boys will be at the house tomorrow. Speriamo! We'll have to drive there to see... But tonight we dress and walk up to the Orsini Palazzo to join the rest of our neighbors to salute Silvia and Nicola, Ivo's daughter and her new husband, at their reception.
Lore introduces us to a couple from Sydney, Australia, Cheryl and Paul, who are renting an apartment in Soriano. We'll surely invite them for a meal while they are here this next month, but sadly for them, they will miss the Soriano Castagno festival at the beginning of October.
There is talk with them about the Monster Park, and we tell them that it's a place for them all to see, not necessarily with a tour guide. The paperback guide in English is sufficient, we think.
This is a night of headaches, for the weather conspires against many of the women, including Francesca and Paola and me, who all show strains of the barometric pressure...
The most fun tonight is telling Vincenza and Aogosto that we have purchased our plot, and she takes us over to the two sets of people who own the plots on the opposite side of them. We all laugh, and Aogosto tells us he hopes we won't need ours for thirty or forty years...
Enzo and Rosita are here, and Dino asks Enzo about the plants. They are not potato plants, but are white flowers with bulbs. I don't think they are dahlias, either, but who knows what they really are? We'll plant them, anyway, in a good spot and see what turns up next year...How kind of them to give us these wonderful plants!
We don't stay long, and walk home for a few quiet hours before turning in. I'm jazzed up with medicine containing caffeine and codeine, so who knows if I'll sleep at all? At least I have a good book to read...
It is so darn humid! I'm feeling better, thanks to a dose of Imigran before I went to bed and ice packs during the night.
Dino decides not to go to Tenaglie, for Tani calls him and tells him they'll all be at the site on Monday. That will work out fine, as Arshi is the main person we're looking for. He is the master tile layer, and it is then that the main floor tile will be laid, followed by the bath tiles on the floor and walls.
Yesterday, Sr. Leonori told Dino that the muratores would be working today. He's probably on top of them, wanting them to fix the cracks in his walls before he returns to Varese.
This man is characteristically Italian, pushing to make sure that HE gets what he wants, before anyone else, no matter who has been waiting longer. It's somewhat reassuring, strangely. I like knowing who people are, what motivates them. It's the unknown that I dislike so much.
What is so strange about my character, is that this very thing that I claim that I hate, the unknown, is that which makes my mind soar in my dreams.
Just this morning I wantch a program on my favorite Discovery television show, Grand Projects, or Grandi Projetti, here in Italy.
The program features the restoration of a deconsecrated church somewhere in Europe as a future home for a family, and as the program builds I realize that my greatest dream sits right next to us. Of course we want to own San Rocco!
With our eye on design and project management skills, a new dream entails finding money from somewhere yet unknown to buy it and then the restoration of the church. It could be a place for us to live, and then we could rent out this house. Why not?
If we can find a way to buy it, it will be gorgeous whether we put a dime into it or not. And if the money materializes, it will include a masterful design, soaring up into the sky, underfloor heating, long, long thin windows and the restoration of San Rocco, who even now peers out ever so slightly from the apse. If we don't live there, it would be a marvellous place for a studio, and a gallery...
We do know that under Italian law we have the first right to buy the property, even if someone bids for it and is a successful bidder. So I will continue to build upon my fantasy, and if it is meant to be, we will one day have our own San Rocco.
While there is room in my head for this new dream project, a more current project is the design and orchestration of the angel and structure to house our funerary urns in our newly "purchased" cemetery plot.
One is unable to "buy" a cemetery plot; instead, one pays a one-time fee for caretaking rights to the given space for eternity. That's good enough for us. We're enthused about this, and why not?
It is somewhat funny that once one reaches "retirement" age, the thought of cemetery plots is no longer one to fear. It is the younger members of our family who "freak out" at the mere mention of it.
We pick up five yellow and copper colored lantana plants for the parcheggio, for they will thrive in the hot weather, as long as they are watered each day. They look great, and are a welcome change from geraniums, which I really dislike. Although they will not tolerate frost, we'll cut them back, take them inside, and replant them next spring.
Dino is happy at home, for today is the trials of the Formula One race in Istanbul. Tomorrow is the actual race. Later this afternoon, Pietro and his houseguest will arrive for a visit, then tonight we will attend the sagra in Foce, a tiny town on the other side of Amelia, with Candace and Frank.
I may even have a little time to continue on the painting of the woman's face this afternoon. I find it interesting that working on it requires me to gaze at the unfinished work, until an idea of the finished design appears as if through a veil.
This reminds me of one of my favorite paintings, McIver's Morning Cart at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It is only when one gazes at the painting for some time that the details of the cart and the flowers come to life through the mist.
Life is so full for me, and I am simply amazed that it took so long for me to discover myself. I do believe that the phrase we used so often when asked about our decision to move to Italy, "Dare to live your dream..." provided a conduit, and now I feel that there is so much in life to explore, there are so many things that I want to paint, that there cannot possibly be enough time left for me to do much more than scratch the surface. Va bene.
While reading a capsule of the New York Times online, I come across an article about the spas around Viterbo, our local capital. Inside is a quip about Mario and Ann Bracci Devoti's club and spa. If one likes these sulfer baths, it's worth joining. We still have not found the charm in them, but will have to try them again.
I am painting my first real person, a figure from my imagination. On the third day of it, Dino is shocked by the realism. I admit I am as well, but all I have been doing has been following the steps that Marco has taught me.
I do admit I do a lot of staring at my art, during the process. Today the woman's character shows a glimpse of itself. I'm so looking forward to taking it to Marco on Monday, to see his reaction. And in a few minutes Frank and Candace will arrive, for our trip to Foce outside Amelia to tonight's sagra. It will be interesting to see if they react to it at all.
Earlier, I watched an amazing documentary, My Architect, done by the son of Lewis Kahn, the architect, who has been dead for at least ten years. I came in in the middle of it, so will watch it around midnight tomorrow night when it is rerun.
Kahn designed large and small buildings around the world, the largest a twenty-five year project of a government building in Bangladesh that is at once inspiring and shocking by its universal use of cement.
But what was most amazing about this man is that he led several lives; he had several families, not so far from one another. What a strange story, and what a very sad story for his son, who never really had his father's love.
What's that to do with our lives in Italy? It has nothing to do with it, except that the buildings were inspirational in their soaring and breathless scope. Perhaps this is a sign that I should design an inspirational spot for our ashes in the cemetery, instead of plunking an angel down on the ground.
For years we have talked about an angel watching over us. On walks with Peggy during that year that we lived in San Rafael, we'd try to walk to the cemetery and have our talks at the foot of a favorite angel. Now I'm inspired to think of something more interesting...
With the cooler weather that we hope will arrive soon, we'll visit cemeteries for ideas. But today the heat is so intense that we feel we are melting in the heat while we put up Dino's new screen in front of the front door.
Excellent work, Dino! We're hoping we can take it down in the fall and that we can put it up again next year. In the meantime, I think it is perfect. Let's hope we can remember where we store it away. We still can't find the beautiful blue and white striped fabric that we use to make our loggia curtains...
Candace and Frank arrive and we drive off to Foce, on the other side of Amelia, for their sagra. Their specialty is a kind of guanciale, (the tender inside of a pig's cheek), and when it is served, it is sliced like very thin bacon and is delicious, almost crispy.
We've been watching a T V program featuring Anthony Bourdain, the famous chef who travels all over the world in search of new tastes. Called No Reservations, we've seen him try some amazing things, and since we've sampled guanciale before and liked its flavor and its taste, we're willing and eager to experiment with this, too.
The night is warm, and when we come out of the tent we can see and hear the locals doing their "ally gally" (hully gully). This is probably the national dance of Italy, and especially during summer nights, when it's too hot to be inside, Italians of all ages can be found learning the dance.
Then, when they think they have somewhat mastered it, we see them step back and forth around the dance floor, side by side like waves lapping the shore.
Back at home, the four of us sit on the terrace with glasses of lemoncello and dishes of frosty lemon sorbetto, while we watch an almost full moon. We talk about their building project, a kind of proscenium just under the huge tufa stone wall that stands at the back of their property. And then it is time to say good night...
Don Mauro is our priest for today, and after the mass he tells us that he is returning to The Veneto on September 10th. We applaud, and thank him for the many services he has held here. We like this priest very much, for he is always full of joy.
But on this day he forgets the part of the mass where we all greet eachother, so once the mass has finished, people walk around shaking hands and offering, "Peace!" to one another, with no prompting from him. He must be distracted...
There will be an archeological walk outside Orvieto at 5 P M, so Dino asks Tiziano if he wants to join us, and he does. Perhaps afterward he can see Candace and Frank's grotto...
It's another very hot day, and it's good to be back home. Marco called last night to put off Monday's regular workshop until Thursday. I am sorely disappointed, for want him to see the woman, and think I will leave the painting alone until then.
I am sure that many figs are ready to be picked, but there will be no time to pick figs until at least tomorrow. Will we make more fig jam? Probably. Our standard recipe of figs with lemon and ginger is a favorite of most of our friends, so we'll put up some jars...probably before we travel next month to Puglia.
It is so very hot that when we drive down the Mugnano hill the temperature is 110! It is a good thing that the air conditioner is working. But at the site the weather is brutal.
The site is truly amazing, with a mixture of Etruscan and also Roman evidences of stone, burial crypts, buildings. But it is very hot, so we leave and take the old road back, stopping in Sipicciano for gelato at Walter's.
Tiziano comes up to the house when we return, to take a look at my latest paintings. He's another fan, and I'm happy to get his feedback, letting him know we'll come down this week to study the chickens and give his mother a painting. Although they don't have any roosters, I'm sure there will be interesting hens and chicks.
Having said that, I'm turning to painting humans, finally, and work a little more on the woman, then set it aside until Thursday. It's a hot night, and almost a full moon. So we had better plant that black Tuscan cabbage soon....
This morning is incredibly hot, so we close the windows early. Dino drives off to the house, and Sofi and I take a walk up to see Marsiglia and Felice, bringing them a Mugnano plate to remember the village by. They plan to move to Bomarzo in a few weeks.
I'm worried about Marsiglia, for she cried yesterday after mass, and although we weren't able to spend much time in the borgo, I want to see her privately this morning. She loves to see Sofi, as does Felice, so we pay them a visit.
There are more tears, for she has lived all her life in this borgo, but they will live in Bomarzo, close to their son, and right near Anselma and Galliano, with a small private garden, all their own.
She remains worried about their steep stairs, thankful that their new apartment will be all on the ground floor, and tells us that they will probably move on the 20th of September. Angie will be here then, and we'll see them in Bomarzo when we return from Puglia a few days later. We think this is an excellent decision, and promise to visit them there often.
Back at home, Dino returns with the news that the boys have not returned but will this afternoon, with Arshi beginning the paving hopefully tomorrow. He also brings me two canvases from a store in Amelia, and I am moved by the gift. In a very short while I'm painting on one of them. It's called, Woman in Gray. Tomorrow I'll paint Woman in Blue.
Frank and Candace drop by and Dino advises them about an iron pergola they want to have built behind their house on one of their balconies. Dino tells them he needs to review it in person, so they invite us for pranzo tomorrow. Sounds good. Sofi loves visiting them.
Pietro and a house guest stop by later for glasses of wine and grapes from their arbor. But bees buzz around the grapes, so we're happy that we did not decide to plant grapes under our pergola. All our guests love the new painting, so perhaps I'm going in a new direction. There is so much I'd love to paint, and now I'm very interested in painting people, especially people with fabric draped around them. Oh, the drama!
We're bummed by the fact that many people cannot reach us by email, nor can we send return responses to all the emails that come in, and think that something is wrong with our server.
Just yesterday we were unable to send a return mail to someone inquiring about one of our houses. Dino spends some time on the phone with Virgilio, with no luck. I think something has to do with sending emails overseas.
We heard last night from Tiziano that we need to submit our design for the work to be constructed on our site in the cemetery, and that Pangrazi will submit the designs to the Comune. Sigh. So we'll come up with something soon, at least a basic concept....and it will include a cypress tree.
There is a full moon tonight, and I can look up out of our bedroom window at it, seemingly watching over us. Windows in older homes in Italy are quite wonderful...they are tall and placed high on the walls, so that there is an immense view of the sky from almost every one.
Earlier tonight, Priscilla and Maggiolino he-hawed, but right now there are only crickets and a few birds chattering. Oh, and the fan in our bedroom. We don't have air conditioning here, deciding instead to live with the help of floor fans.
I suppose you're thinking, "Now, isn't that quaint?"
Yes, life here is "quaint". Earlier, when asked about the price of covering a beam in our clients' cantina, Candace asked, "Is that the stranieri price, or the real price?" Yes, we've become a bit cynical.
We're very good at sourcing, at establishing relationships with muratores and other suppliers so that they give us what you might call, their "brother-in-law" price. But there really are two sets of prices in Italy. Remember that relationships are everything in Italy. So to keep us from taking cynicism personally, we take great care in establishing and building relationships.
I've been nagging Dino to stop at an "agri" place to pick up seeds for black Tuscan cabbage plants. With a full moon tonight we'll have to plant them right away. You know, the pull of the moon and all that. Italians really take the phases of the moon seriously, as do we. We need every bit of help we can get...
On a sourcing trip above Todi to find a travertine sink made of resin, we stopped in Marsciano at a little store. There were plenty of colorful seed packets by Bavicci, the famous seed seller. But no Cavolo Nero.
Luckily, the owner had Cavolo Nero plugs already about eight inches high. Growing from plants is a much safer idea than starting from seeds. So we purchased six and tonight Dino planted them where the lettuces were planted in the raised bed above the parcheggio.
I know that the black cabbage is used for ribbollita, the famous Tuscan bean soup, and have wanted to grow it as long as we've been traveling to Italy. The first time we rented a house in Tuscany, the owner of the place fed us with bowls of the hearty soup and big chunks of bread, torn off a huge oval loaf. This fall and winter we'll be making ribbollita, and of course will put a tested recipe on this site. Until then, help us to cajole the little plants into becoming big healthy black-leaved specimens, and plan a trip here to taste the soup where it is meant to be eaten...
We were invited to Candace and Frank's for pranzo, featuring a kind of cauliflower and thyme and cumin and tumeric dish, with flavors unfamiliar to us but delicious. Afterward, we went upstairs to measure for a covering for their terrace at the back of their house, looking over a majestic tufa natural amphitheatre, some five stories high.
Sofi loves visiting them, loves running up the stairs ( I know, this is not good for her) into the fragrant herb garden to chase lizards. She is such a sniffer that on the way home I find little burs on her little beard, just under her mouth. She hates having them taken out, but I do it gently, and she kisses me all the while, knowing it hurts me just as much as it does her.
"What do you want to do now?" Dino asks me on the way home.
"Paint, of course..." I respond, and while he's watering and planting, I paint a companion painting to yesterday's woman. This woman is "woman in blue". On Thursday I'm sure Marco will roll his eyes at the three paintings I bring to the workshop.
He's not been around for almost three weeks, so he'll just have to deal with the attention I'll need...I'm going to ask him to give me guidance in delineating eyes. I understand noses, but it's the eyes that need work...
I love these exercises, love learning how to paint new things. Paint, paint, paint... I'd paint all day and all night if I could...
Priscilla and Maggiolino wake us up, and it's difficult not to smile when we hear them. They're probably greeting Pepe, who takes them breakfast each morning. Yes, we'll make sure to visit them this very week and will take photos to show you.
We're ready to have our paintings framed, so will drive to Amelia soon to order the frame material and then take the paintings in when our friend is ready to frame them. The cost of framing in Italy is about a third of what Americans charge, even at the "do it yourself" bottegas.
Dino wants me to go with him to Tenaglie, for Arshi has started the pavement laying. We stop at Sisters' Bar in Alviano Scalo for a capuccino and then arrive at the house to look at the latest work.
The floor looks just great. We found the perfect flooring, it looks like stone and is very inexpensive. The muratores like it, too. That decided, we take a look at the detail on the front of the fireplace and again, we've decided well. It's beautiful, with only one more detail stone to finish it off.
The challenge will be for the laying of the tile in the bathroom. Some weeks ago, Dino and I counted the inventory after some of the tiles were used for Piano Prima. We came up with a design to use what's left, so the client wins out by not having to purchase another bathroom of tiles. I sit in the upstairs salone and work out the design, then we go over it with Arshi, mapping it out color by color. if I had my way, most of the bathroom would be white. But the client does not want white floor, and loves colored tiles. So we have an option that will be attractive and classic.
Paolo stops by. He's like a kid, wanting to come over and hang out. We love to see him, and he gives Dino some guidance regarding the nextdoor neighbor's gripes about stains on his ceilings. We're not concerned and it all works out.
We'll return tomorrow, probably with the ghisa for the fireplace back. But for today we're going home and preparing for cena for Gilberto and his partner, the men who are restoring the Mugnano Duomo.
I have a little time to paint in the afternoon, and in the midst of it, Pietro stops by and tells me he's been thinking about my women paintings. I should uncover one breast, I should add blood, I should take the expression off their faces...Now that Pietro is no longer a priest, he's starting a new life of wild abandon, and I appear to be one of his guinea pigs.
Dino and Pietro have great fun advising me. I respond respectfully, then go about painting in the way I began...I do admit I love to have people talk about my paintings. But taking their advice...that's another matter. Let's see what Marco has to say tomorrow about the women. I'll wait and decide then if I'll vary the subject...but blood and baring of breasts...I'm not convinced that that is what I want to say...
Gilberto arrives alone on his motorino. His partner is tired. So the three of us have a delightful cena outside on the terrace, and learn about him. I offer to volunteer to work on the restoration of the Duomo if he needs help, and he tells me that if there is to be any detail work that he'll let me know. That would be very interesting work, I'm sure.
The night is mild, and there is a cool breeze. It's wonderful to be outside tonight. By the time we say good night, it's almost midnight. With an interesting day planned tomorrow, including a morning meeting with Sr. Ivo to draw up the contract for our cemetery plot, I've plenty to dream on...
We wake up to a heavy sky, leaden down by the smell of fires and a thick layer of smoke just hanging around. Later, Dino drives by the spot where Pietro told us he saw the Chia tower in flames. 24 hours later, the tower is safe, and a hillside is charred, as is the side of the road as we turn toward Chia. As of now, both Bomarzo and little Mugnano are safe...
We drive up to the Comune, stopping at Duccio and Giovanna's for a short visit. Duccio actually accompanies us to Sr. Ivo's office, for he's concerned about something that happened the day before, and Ivo tells him "fa niente"...everything is fine. It s smart to stay out of Italian politics, and Duccio and we practice that closely. We sometimes have to tread water in the middle, but can't imagine taking sides. That is REALLY dangerous.
That reminds me...Yesterday while in a shop, we ask a question and the man turns to his wife and identifies us as the "straieri". We're not even in Bomarzo or Mugnano when it happens. In America, no one would ever think of referring to someone as a "foreigner".
Tonight I ask Dino if he has ever heard of an Italian identifying another Italian, even an Italian from the other end of Italy from them, as a "stranieri". He has not, and he is sure that that just would not happen. So are these Italians being rude? Probably. Intentionally? Surely not...well, speriamo di no.
So, this is a very important day for our family. And now we're in Sr. Ivo's office in the Comune. He is the President of the Pro Loco, or local Chamber of Commerce, as well as the documentarian in charge of all records.
We present him with our receipt of payment for the cemetery plot, together with copies of the original request and photo of our plot. We want to be absolutely sure that we are obtaining the plot in question.
After some finageling on the phone regarding the price, he gives the information to the secretary, who types it up and stamps it. Sr. Ivo signs it, writes in the diagram of the cemetery where our spot is, and...e fatto! (it's done!)
We drive on to Tenaglie and I must not forget to tell you that Sofi was with us the entire time and laid on the floor by my side, happy to be with us. We're getting more and more comfortable taking her almost everywhere with us.
At the house, Arshi has laid the floor tiles in the main room, and is working away in the bathroom. The floor is finished, and it's a great match with the other floor tiles in the main room and the entryway to the bathroom.
Now he's working his way up the walls, and we confirm the design, and confirm that we have sufficient tiles to finish the job. When we return tomorrow he'll probably be finished with the bathroom tiles, then we can install the sink and bidet and toilet and shower.
We think we are making great progress until we try to tackle the possible change in the kitchen sink. There are a number of options, and we're close to presenting a very different option to our clients.
Unfortunately, we're told that the kitchen won't be ready for installation until the end of September. We're a little miffed, until we realize that we need a little more time to work out the sink and counter details...va bene.
The crew is told to work on the cement pillars to reinforce the Piano Prima bathroom, and by that time we'll be able to move forward on a few other small projects. In the meantime, the crew has taken on a small job in Alviano, and Paolo wants Tani to possibly do their roof in Guardea. So the timing is working out well.
Back at home there 's chicken tonnato for pranzo with bruschetta, then Dino takes me to Marco's along with four canvases for him to look over.
It's quiet at Marco's, and we talk about the canvases. We wind up taking them all home and I'll work on them this next week or so. But in class I work on the little boy on the horse, and almost finish it. But the stone wall needs to dry a little before I point it up, so we leave that at Marco's.
We stop at Arte e Benessere in Bomarzo, and are told that there will be a mostra in the Giove castle for two weekends, starting September 7th. We're to show up on the 5th or 6th to all agree on what's going to be shown.
This group is not very well organized. It is a kind of anarchistic operation, with each person moving each other person's art out of the way so that THEIR art can take center stage. If we're all there when the decision is made, Giulianna tells us we'll avoid all that. But is this silliness necesssary?
She acts quite sheepish about my paintings being taken off the wall and moved out of site during the Attigliano mostra. So perhaps this mostra will be more democratic. I'm thinking of just putting one or two pieces in it this time, and giving Giulianna photos of my other paintings in the event someone is interested in seeing more.
We like Giulianna and her husband, and realize that they are providing an important outlet for artisans, so take it in stride that there are still a few bumps in the road...
Tonight Dino thinks there's a festa di pannocchia (corn on the cob), and since this only happens once a year, he wants to go there at least once. But we have the week wrong, so we walk next door for pizzas instead.
Vitorchiano has a jazz festival tonight, so we check it out. But the stage is tiny and the group for tonight (really a singer with backup) is late and won't start for at least an hour.
Dino turns to me and murmurs, "I'm bored." So am I. So we drive home under a cobalt blue sky to Sofi, and try to cool off on this still warm night before going to bed.
It's another oppressive day, but by planning our time wisely we stay out of the hottest sun. Skies are overcast, but the heat just hangs on.
We drive to Amelia to visit our favorite framer, and go over the list of paintings we have to frame. I have a concept of two about what the frames should look like, but she's unable find just what I've been thinking about.
We take a few samples home to view against the paintings, but none of them seems just right. In my mind I have a type of frame I'd like to see, and envision each painting with the same type of frame.
There I go again, dreaming, dreaming....
We drive to Tenaglie, and show Arshi the black rooster painting, which we happen to have in the car. He stands it up against the lovely fireplace in the cantina, so we can see that it would look wonderful over a mantle. But that is not to be. So we return the painting to the car.
Both sets of neighbors are around, so Dino goes over the plan of the gate with them, and each husband has an idea of how he thinks the gate should be affixed. Since each neighbor has to agree to the gate, we take their advice to heart, and will have a conversation with Lorenzo, as well as our clients, to see what next steps should be.
Arshi has done a masterful job laying the tiles for the main room, as well as the bathroom. The tiles in the shower are really fabulous. Once the mirror and other fittings are in, this will be another wonderful bathroom.
We drive to Viterbo for errands, and wherever we go, except for Klimt, the art supply store, there are notices that they will be closed until after Monday, September 3rd. September 3rd is a holiday in Viterbo, in honor of Santa Rosa, its patron saint. When in Aquilanti to do some research on kitchen counters and sinks, Tiziana tells us that Viterbo treats The Macchina di Santa Rosa the way Siena treats The Palio. That's a wonderful analogy.
If we did not have to stand in the crowds on the street, I believe we would return to see it again. But the crowds are enormous, and the wait is several hours long. So for this year, we'll continue to sit that one out...
We visit our friends at OMAV, who are copper fabricators. A number of years ago, they fabricated the copper pyramids that were installed at the top of our tufa columns to keep rain out. They still look wonderful, having developed a bronzish patina.
Although they tell us they do not work with individual customers, we go over a possible plan and they give us an excellent price. We are fascinated by the idea of using a copper countertop in the cantina kitchen. Tiziana at Aquilanti agrees, although she has never seen one installed.
We're convinced that this cantina is so beautiful that it needs special finishes to give it the respect it deserves. And we don't want to duplicate the marble sink and travertine counter upstairs. So let's see what the clients think...
We run into Michelle Gordon, a painter from Chicago, in Klimt, for she hears Dino speaking to me in English and is surprised to hear him. She lives in Bomarzo. She invites us to a gallery opening tonight, but we're not able to go. Perhaps we'll see her again, since we're neighbors.
Torbjorn and Annika have returned for a month from their home in Sweden, and we welcome them. Then it's time to pay Pietro a visit, and when we stop by he's hosting Catherine and Kees.
I'm ready to take a major leap with my artwork, into something more risky, and perhaps this next month you will see some very different subjects, some more risky interpretations... come no?
It's hunting season, again. How do we know? It's not even 7 AM and we can hear gun blasts in the Tiber Valley below our house. Sigh. Who are the victims?... cinghiale (wild boar) and a variety of types of birds are the usual fare...At this time of year, it's probably mostly birds...Puor troppo!
The sun is bright, but with the arrival of September we're noticing decidedly cooler weather. We are interested to see Arshi's tile work, so drive to the house and are very happy. He has done a masterful job laying tiles in the bathroom and will finish the battiscopa (backsplash) on the main floor on Monday, speriamo.
While we are there, Dino introduces me to new neighbors who live across the street at #6, Renato and Luigina, and their young son, who proudly sports an arm cast from falling off his bicycle. We don't know his name yet, but his father is an idraulico (plumber) and we've asked if he'll be available if we need him when the kitchen is installed, in case Rober is not. He is.
We drive on to Orvieto,
At home, we note that the fig tree is full of figs. I'm tired, so tired, of making fig jam, that I purposely don't walk out to see which figs are ripe. The tree is a huge gangly thing, with trunks like an elephant. We'll cut it back severely this winter. Now do we cut it all around, or only on one side this year?
I'm willing to risk losing it, but for this next week we'll be sticky with fig jam on our arms and feet, surrounded by wasps if we don't pick early enough in the day. We do admit the figs are really delicious, just the same...
We're all excited about our garden overhaul, and Dino thinks we can do most or all of it without professional advisors. He's anxious to begin, and I caution him to not move any plants until later in the fall.
I want a French garden, full of gravel and evergreen bushes and trees. Yes, we'd love to keep plenty of lavender, but will redesign based on the lavender that is still healthy. We want meandering paths, plenty of shade, and an orientation toward San Rocco.
Well, we're really interested again in San Rocco, and are beginning a project with Tiziano to either rent or buy it. Not that we have any money...
We see a sign for a violin concert tonight in Orte, and call Tiziana to see if she's going. She is going to be in some kind of competition in Viterbo, but is sure that we should attend. This fellow is quite famous.
So we call Pietro, and he and his two young visitors will join us. But first, he tells us he's now in Orvieto at the Duomo. Since we're also in town, we walk over there and spend a little time with them, then leave for home.
Later in the early evening the three of them walk up for a visit, then we drive them to Orte. The concert does not begin until 10 PM, but we're told to arrive early, for the concert is free and there will be a lot of people.
We arrive at 8PM and are able to take over a table outside the bar in the square, with terrific view of the stage....that is, until people start to arrive. The entire center of the piazza is empty until it is filled up with people standing and milling about. Almost no one listens to the entertainment, but everyone has a good time.
The headliner is a wild-headed blonde fellow in stocking feet, standing on an oriental carpet, holding an electric violin over his shoulder. When he plays, the sound is at once magical and strange.
I stand up to get a better look and to watch him play. Since I began taking violin lessons, I'm entranced at watching talented musicians play this challenging instrument. How I wish that my shoulder would be more limber. I'm unable to play any more due to the pain and sincerely regret it. We think I began playing too late in life (age 54). Lars and Idun, Pietro's two young visitors, only have eyes for eachother, and they are so in love that we might as well be sitting at another table. But it's fun to spend a little time with them, and we all leave while the music is in full swing, so there are plenty of people who want our table...
It's a cool night, and at midnight we turn in...
It's quite warm when we walk up to church for a mass with Don Cirio, who arrives late and rushes into the sacristy to change in about the amount of time it would take Superman to get out of his phone booth...
After mass, Dino begins a conversation with Enzo, who is a retired Corpo Forestale Ranger, and he'll help us to put together a list of native trees for our garden.
I'm busy with Marsiglia, who tells us they'll not move to Bomarzo until the 20th. When asked if we can help, she tells us no, but thanks us anyway. This week we'll definitely visit them.
Lore and Alberto have left, probably for the Arezzo monthly fair and then back to Rome. We're back at home to change and then pick up Sofi and Pietro for a jaunt to Lake Bolsena.
First stop is Capodimonte, for a walk around the black sandy beach. Next it's a drive through Marta and then on to Purgatorio, our favorite lakeside restaurant on a long strada bianca.
Sofi sits patiently by my side as we eat corregone, anguila (eel) and cozzi (mussels). The mean is really excellent. Wind has picked up, and we watch the whitecaps on the lake and sailboats that drift by.
After pranzo we drive on to the little town of Bolsena. Pietro is interested to visit the church of Santa Catherina, where the miracle of Bolsena took place some 800 years ago. But the church is closed. So we have an excuse to bring him back, probably with Helga, who arrives Tuesday.
Frank calls to tell us there are some Open Studios today, so we dash off to their house, where Pietro wants to hang out and sleep in the sun, while we run around trying to find the ateliers in Torre d'Alfina and other remote locations. We're able to find two of the four. We admit that we are more interested in watching the live hens at one place than looking at the modern art, which is a little too, well, remote for us.
At one location the house and grounds are spectacular, well worth the ride. Candace and Frank are interested in purchasing a ceramic piece, one that is freshly crafted and will need a few weeks to dry before it is fired.
The artist will be exhibiting in Berlin this winter. Although Frank likes the piece a lot, Candace responds, "If it's around 6 months from now, we can look at it again."
We say goodbye to our friends, pick up Pietro, and drive home. Pietro goes home and we stop at home for a phone meeting with our clients, then walk up to the borgo with a jar of homemade jam for Ivo and his wife. They leave tomorrow to return to Parma.
But when we arrive in the borgo, it appears to be closed up tight. All the summer residents are gone, and even Ivo and his family are out somewhere for a farewell dinner. So we leave the jam on his doorstop, take a look at the newly painted Duomo and then walk home.
Mugnano is beginning to look like a very different place. When viewed from Attigliano, the Duomo now stands out from the centuries-old unpainted tufa buildings in a kind of pale peachy color. I'm not sure if I like the change, but after a year or two we won't notice the difference.
I pick a few figs and serve prosciutto and figs, as well as fresh peaches sliced in glasses of red wine. It's a lovely way to usher in the fall. Earlier we noticed yellow leaves beginning to fall, and soon we'll be making soups and thinking of the grape harvest, which is early this year.
I love the fall; the sun low in the sky, the breezes seemingly sighing relief after the hot days of August, the carefree feeling we feel when walking outside...
Dino works on the new garden, digging for the tufa wall around the olive tree, and I work again on the Three Virtuous Woman. After a rest from it, I make some changes, and Dino tells me it's becoming an important painting. We will see...
I work on the glossary of food terms. Unfortunately, I have to type in every entry. It's a good exercise, reinforcing my growing knowledge of the language. By now you will be able to use it, at least the English to Italian chart.
We have a meeting with the kitchen supplier just before pranzo. They are a dream to work with. I suppose it's a good thing after all that the kitchen was not ready to ship when we wanted it. For now we have made changes to the design, and this supplier is happy to go along with us, even if it means it lowers the total cost for them.
We're waiting for a final approval of the copper countertops from the client, and are confident that they'll agree, especially since we've found a way to give them the travertino recomposto sink they want, and also save them some money.
We have found some real treasures, saved from the first time we sifted through the things left from the former owner, and three of the pieces will be wonderful additions to the kitchen. I'm going to clean them up and polish them, even though we're way beyond the time we should have spent on the project.
We have a final visit with Pietro on this, his last night of freedom before his tours of Rome with more than twenty priests from Norway. He is so knowledgeable about places to visit in Rome, especially the religious spots. Sitting outside on his terrace, enjoying the cool night air, is the stuff dreams are made of. Sofi enjoys the terrrace, too, sniffing around but mostly staying by my side, especially at the thought of a taste of cheese...
Today is an important day, for we learn that we will be able to use ADSL. I can hear you snicker. For us, that will be a major leap from our existing fragile internet connection.
Dino calls and speaks with a woman who actually speaks English. She tells us that we only need to be in "line of sight" of Monte Cimino, or two other local hills where the towers rise like tall sewing needles from the earth.
We can see one when facing Orte, so think we will be fine. Tomorrow Dino will call back to set up an appointment for them to install the dish and then let all our Mugnano friends know...We are finally entering the 21st century!
Dino takes Pandina to Nando's to pick up the huge beam for the cantina and take it to Tenaglie. That little car is a real workhorse. At the house he'll wait for Franco to arrive to measure for the peperino treads for the stairs to the bedroom.
Here at home I'll paint, and also do a load of laundry, hoping that it will dry before the rains. We are expecting bad weather in the next few days.
Giuliana from Arte & Benessere, the local art organization, emails that they'll accept our two galli and three galli paintings for the Giove mercato. It's good to be represented where more people can see the work. On Thursday the exhibit will begin.
The cat lady chatters up above, and we are expecting that she will return to Rome before the cold weather sets in. Now contadini all over the region are worrying about their grapes, for a bad storm could mean mould and rot for the grapes. We have nothing to worry about.
Overhead, two passeri soar around us, and are soon joined by more, chattering and sending signals for us to beware. I'll close the upstairs windows, just in case.
This morning I awoke feeling really tired. That is a real sign that a migraine is on its way. But I don't pay attention to it until the afternoon, when a headache arrives with gusto. I take an Imigran and lie down, but it does not help.
Later, I take a Migralgine capsule and lie down with an ice pack, and in less than an hour, the throbbing in my head stops and I feel like a new woman.
This medicine is only available in France, although it is made in the U S by McNeil. I want to find out why, but first we'll return to our good doctor and have him see if he can find out himself. So I do not know if my headaches are migraines. I only know that the Imigran does not work, but the Migralgine does.
Dino speaks with the ADSL folks, and since we have a line of sight to Monte Guadamello, we've signed up and will probably have a dish installed at the end of the month. Like a town crier, Dino calls Tiziano, Michelle and others in the village who crave the faster connection. Until you are without a fast internet connection, you won't understand how important this is...
Sofi is in her usual spectacular form, choosing to stay by my side, no matter how long, no matter how boring. She's simply amazing. If I were stranded on a snowy mountaintop, I'm sure she'd reach me with a flask of brandy under her little beard to save me.
The night is clear and cool. No need to water tonight, for we've had rain this afternoon; a slow fine rain that gently caresses the plants. We don't expect the rain to continue, but hope that it was not enough to damage the local grape crop.
Brrr. We wake to temperatures around 15 degrees Centigrade, a bright blue sky with clouds that remind me of under-poached eggs, with wisps reaching out in all directions, their centers decidedly sporco (dirty).
My headache drifted off with last night's wind. We drive out of Mugnano and stop at Fedora's for cappuccini. Then it's on to Alessandro at Orsolini to order two rubinetti (faucets). Now that we understand the comedy of errors with our clients' piano prima sink, we order two faucets, and will replace one and install one in the cantina.
Behind us on the floor of Alessandro's workstation are the boxes of our returned tiles. Nothing is said about them, but we are sure that we have been given an excellent discount to make up for the change.
We like working with Orsolini, especially Alessandro, who is calm and ever upbeat, in a mellow sort of way. As we leave, we walk through their exhibit rooms, but do not find any copper countertops. They are probably not profitable for this supplier, so are not given here as an option...
We stop at the Arte & Benessere showroom, and Giuliana tells us that it is her dream to have a permanent garden in Bomarzo, aka Nikki San Phalle, with statues and works of art permanently on display.
Dino gives her the idea to include a kind of par course, with places for runners to stop and stretch. That would constitute the "benessere" part of the park. She had not thought of it, but likes it. She also talks about the area where she'd like it to be, and that is the bosco just beyond the molino in Bomarzo, on the main road to the superstrada.
That's all we know, for right now, but we'll keep you informed when we know more. It's an exciting prospect, even if it's not the right spot for my art.
We agree with her that we'll go up to the Castello tonight to help hang the show. Afterward, we'll eat at Oktoberfest Pub, for tonight is the start of the panocchia (corn on the cob) festa.
Dino walks next door to speak with the fellow at the ferramenta (hardware store). He worked for a long time to obtain a high-speed connection to the internet for Bomarzo, but is now disgusted by the whole thing.
When asked about AriaDSL, he knows of people who have it, but have not heard any complaints. Michelle had asked us to contact him to ask him. We'll also ask AcidMax...
Back at home, I'm finishing my homework, this time at the last minute. I'm to paint an eye, just an eye, and it's an interesting exercise.
At Marco's he shows me what I need to work on, and I paint one new large eye and also a set of eyes and a nose. Before we know it, four hours have passed and Dino arrives to pick me up.
We drive to Giove to the castello, and Giuliana stands inside the huge wooden doors in the entryway near the giant fountain. It is here that our pieces will be displayed.
She gives my rooster paintings prime location right inside the door, and we also bring in the little hen painting with two chicks. Even if these pieces don't sell, they'll get more exposure. Since everyone wants to be inside the castle, we expect large numbers. Dino even has backup painting in the event a painting or two is sold. He's more confident than I....
We are the only people in Oktoberfest Pub, and the pannochia is just all right. I suppose the idea of corn on the cob is more enticing than the real thing. Our days of enjoying American corn on the cob are a thing of the past.
It is really cold this morning, so it's time to put on long jeans. But I can't seem to find our winter clothes. They're around here somewhere...
Dino drives to Tenaglie for a meeting with the geometra. Sr. Leonori has filed a denuncia against our clients for their installation of a mezzaluna (half-moon shaped window) above his roof.
Our geometra is not concerned, for we obtained his advice before putting it in. Worst case, we will fill in the bricks and use little candles inside for effect. It doesn't do us any good to worry.
I paint this morning, working on the eyes and nose I painted yesterday, and will finish the three virtuous women before the day is out. With a nudge for Dino, perhaps he'll prepare another canvas. It's time to consider what to paint for my next major project. I'm sure it will include a person, as well as draped fabric.
The more I practice, the better I hope to become. Yesterday, when Marco told me that painting two eyes on one painting would be difficult, I responded, "Va bene!" I like the idea of tackling difficult things to paint and finding a way to master them.
He also told me that painting the little canvas by holding it in my left hand would be difficult. It's another exercise that I enjoy. I suppose that I enjoy it all...
The rain continues and the temperature is chilly. Yes, chilly. We discuss the fireplace, and agree that we need a chimney sweep, so Dino will find one and we'll get the fireplace ready for winter subito. In the meantime, he continues to bring up wood from the parcheggio and we have enough that we won't have to buy any this winter.
Tiziano arrives and we sit around having tea, while working on the Bomarzo book. It has been some months since we've worked on it, translating it from Italian to English, but now we've agreed that we'll move ahead with gusto.
I need to type in all the information and then do a basic translation. Then Tiziano will work with me to finesse it and change any of the incorrect details. We'll add in some accurate information of our own.
Tonight we also speak about San Rocco, and he tells us that what we need to do is form a nonprofit association to take it over, referred to as Onlus. We agree that he'll call Don Luca to set up an appointment to talk about moving forward, and Don Luca tells him that he'll look into what part of the Church has ownership. The more we speak about what we could do, the more excited we become.
Dino wants to put special tags below each of my paintings, so drives up to the castello to affix them. He likes the space where they will be displayed, and tomorrow evening we'll spend some time there. We'll check in with Helga to see if she'd like to join us. We may even eat at the taverna...
I've finished painting the "three virtuous women in hell on earth". Not a very nice title, but that's it. Time to set that aside and paint some more faces. But tonight I'll spend some more time on the Bomarzo translation project. We really need to finish that and move on...
By now, most of the figs have fallen off the big fig tree. We have picked some of them from the tree, but are somehow distracted, and most of this year's "harvest" lays in sticky array on the ground.
It's odd that one's interests vary from year to year. I think I'm so weary of putting up figs and tomatoes that this year we're taking a break from it. Perhaps I'm making excuses for the fact that I spend every possible moment painting...
This year I hope to paint when we're in San Francisco for three weeks. I'll take a few brushes, but cannot take paints on the plane. So we'll pick up a few basic paints and ready-made canvases in San Francisco, and I'll paint gifts for the family, again when I can steal time away. Since both Peggy and Jed are painters, it will be an excuse to spend time with each of them!
The sun is bright, but the temperature is quite cool. So we're considering all of September to be fall. Speaking of fall, Mary Jane emails us a list of things to do in the area, and reminds us that the Villa Lante flower and plant sale will take place the weekend we leave for Puglia. So we'll attend on Friday, if it will be open to the general public.
Today I have an appointment with our good doctor, Dr. Bevilacqua, at his office in Viterbo. We talk about my headaches and Migralgine, the amazing headache cure and get a prescription for a blood test to check my cholesterol. He thinks I have at least two kinds of headaches, migraines and tension headaches.
So he gives me a new prescription, but tells me to keep using Migralgine if it works better than anything else. I could be a product endorser for this miracle drug, so of course it must be dangerous. At least it is sold over-the-counter in France, so perhaps the French are not cautious when it comes to taking medicine...
He's moving his office and is sad that there won't be a lot of light. I tell him I'll paint him a painting, so what subject does he love?
"I'm obsessed with golf!" he replies, in excellent English. Next week he'll have photographs for me to study to find a subject to paint for his new office.
If I have time in the meantime I'll dash off something and show it to him. I'm thinking about fairways on golf courses and rolling knolls, with afternoon sunlight casting long shadows. I spent a great deal of time in my youth on golf courses. My mother and my brother loved golf. My brother was an excellent player, and my mother was not bad, either.
I never really had an interest in playing golf, except for one silly period soon after we were married. Dino and I thought we'd take up golf. I had a set of clubs given to me by an old boyfriend (long story) and he took his mother's set, a set she never used.
We went to the Presidio Golf club to the pro for lessons, and at first he took us up to a hill and gave us each a bucket of balls. We were to practice. First, he gave me pointers about holding the club. Then he stepped in front of me to work with Dino.
In about two minutes, I "whooped!" Turning around with a frown, he asked me what that was all about.
"I hit a great shot and wanted to share it with you!" I retorted, after which he clued me in that we don't raise our voices on the golf course, don't you know...
Three minutes later, I had no balls in my bucket. "Where did they go?" he asked.
"I saw no sense in practicing a swing, for how can you tell if it's a good swing if you don't swing at the ball?"
My recollection is that we never really played "a round" of golf after that, choosing instead to go to a driving range, which was somewhat helpful but not very interesting. And then we somehow lost interest.
We drive first to Amelia to bring the frame samples back to our favorite framer. They are not just right. I am thinking of plain gold with a row of tiny gold painted wooden "beads" on the inside border. She has many, many samples, but does not seem to have what we're looking for. Puor troppo!
So she sends us away empty handed, and we'll now try Candace and Frank's framer in Orvieto. Dino wants us to ask Klimt where to buy the material wholesale and buy it and take it to the wonderful woman in Amelia. I really hoped she could do our framing...
Tonight we attend the "Festa della Erbe" in Giove, where three of my paintings are featured at the mostra right inside the castle gates. We take Helga, who is staying at Pietro's while he's busy in Rome with his priests from Norway. She's here for a month, so we'll certainly see her often. It is good to see her again.
The weather is decidely cooler, and we wear jackets tonight for the first time this season. Once we arrive after parking around the corner, we meet Giuliana, who greets us warmly. There is just enough room for all the exhibitors, including a man with a loom producing remarkable weavings. I hope people pay attention to him.
Evandro's daughter is here, selling her "bijou" (costume jewelry), but she does not have the right cloth upon which to arrange her items. I'm wearing a plum colored silk scarf, quite large, and take it off and give it to her to use under her jewelry tonight.
She will bring something else tomorrow night and we can recover the scarf then, a scarf I like quite a bit. We purchased it in Florence some time ago, with the thought that I'd drape it and paint its luxurious folds, the dark appearing almost black, the areas reflecting the sunlight appearing luminous and bright. Tonight it performs an admirable service. Perhaps it will bring the young girl luck.
We're too early for any of the tastings, so drive to Amelia, where I think there might be a sagra. But we run into David and Jill, who tells us their sagra was ten days ago. So we return to Giove and eat at Da Piero.
We're finished before ten, and return to see people beginning to arrive. So we'll leave our scarf for tomorrow night and say goodbye to the galli, hanging on the wall. I'd be fine if they did not sell at all, for I like these pieces very much.
For some reason I am very tired, so we drop Helga off and come home. I can't get into bed soon enough...
Dino wakes up early and meets Tani to take him to Nando's to pick up the 5-meter long log of wood, which will be used to cover the steel beam in the cantina. It's every bit as large as the beam nearby, so once Dino distresses it a little they'll install it and it will look as though it has always been there.
I'm working on the Palio translation book, and tomorrow will see when Tiziano can sit with me to finish it. It's about time we get this done. We are about half-way through, but Tiziano wants to change some errors and add some important facts, especially about Mugnano.
Yesterday we purchased some bacon, and Dino thinks he'd like to have bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches for pranzo. He cooks up the bacon and it's very thick and salty. It makes pretty good sandwiches, but we're dreaming of the BLT's at Book Depot in Mill Valley, CA. In a few months, we'll be there to satisfy our cravings.
I make a peach dessert that is quite something, cutting out the centers of peaches and mixing it with macaroons, shaved chocolate, butter, apricot marmelade and sprinkling nocciole liquor on top before baking it in a hot oven. Although I consider adding the recipe to the food section of the site, it's really not that tasty, after all, so we won't include it here. It's just too heavy, too complicated.
I realize that I have two kinds of headaches, and today have one of them, so take a new medicine specified by our good doctor, and lie down while Dino watches the trials of tomorrow's Formula - 1 race in Monza. I'll get up in time to make the bean dip for Tia's festa tonight and we'll take it and chips with the rest of our watermelon granita, for Bruce to use for his daiquiris.
When I arise I feel much better, so perhaps the medicine will work. The weather is warm, but there is a cool breeze. The forecast tells us it will be about 81 degrees F. Sounds about right.
We leave Sofi at home and stop at the mostra for a minute, and then drive to Tia and Bruce's with two containers of watermelon granita. Bruce uses them for his daiquiris, which are excellent. We are able to eat outside by the pool, and there are a dozen of us, so it's the perfect number and the weather could not have been more wonderful, with crickets chirping and tasty food.
We leave in time to stop at the mostra, and tomorrow Dino wants to switch one of the paintings for the French gallo. It appears that none of the artwork of any of the artists has sold, but this is an opportunity for all of us to have our work seen by more people, and that's fine with me. I love all three of my paintings, so am fine if they are not sold. I suppose that is not a good attitude, but then they are like children to me.
With Don Bruno conducting the mass in an out-of-breath rush, I hardly have time for a tear to run down my cheek. I look over at Marsiglia and Felice, neither of whom really concentrates on the mass, and realize that this is the last mass in Mugnano we'll have with them. On Saturday we travel to Puglia and on the 20th they'll move to Bomarzo.
After the service ends, and I escort Marsiglia down the steps, we all hug. The news that Angie will be here on Saturday for five days makes Felice beam. He loves having Angie around, loves her visits.
On the walk home, we see three men pulling weeds and cutting away at the huge olive tree next to Pia's. They are cutting it down (!), for it encroaches on the road. The woman who owns the property is too old to come, and her son is here working.
I tell them later, after bringing a bottle of water and glasses for the workers, that we remember the couple fondly; they arrived two times a day to feed the hens and chicks while they could still get around and parked right at the foot of our path.
We're sorry to see the olive tree gone. Well, it's not really gone, but it chopped to about five feet tall, with two ugly arms. After watching a French program that shows trees cut this way but still alive and shooting out arms, I am encouraged. Perhaps the tree will flourish, after all. There is another dead tree on the border of Pia's property. I ask them if they will cut it down. Next time, they tell me.
Dino asks me if I know what that means. They have no intention of cutting it down. But that as much gives us permission to do it, so we'll tell Pia and she can have one of her workers do it; she does not want it, and neither do we.
Never about to give up, I reconsider our roofing project for the loggia, and tell Dino that we can get together with Stefano and the geometra to fashion a roof that will get in the way of the electrical poles on the side of the house, necessitating that we reroute our electricity from above. With no wire crossing the street, Pia can then have ENEL bury her wires underground. Everyone will be happy then. Now if we can only fashion a proper plan, regardless of whether we'll actually do the work...
Maria Elena is here, and we walk to her house with some jam to welcome her. But her car is nowhere around, so we're sure she is not at her garden, either. We'll check with her later...
I work on the translation project for Bomarzo, and Tiziano agrees to work on it with me on Tuesday evening. It's time that we put all our efforts behind finishing it. But now we know that there will be things to add and things to change, so it's not as simple as just doing the translations. Tiziano agrees to think of the kind of things he will want to include. Va bene.
Dino and I spend an hour or so cutting dead rose branches and cleaning up the planters on the path, but it's too hot and we're happier inside until pranzo. I am formulating a plan for the garden, and hope that a trip to Puglia may give us some more ideas.
Tonight we travel to Giove to stand around for an hour inside the front door of the Palazzo Ducale near my paintings, and Dino wants to switch out one of the paintings, so that will mean that four of my paintings have seen some public visibility this weekend.
Ugo is my first real model to draw, and he shows up at Marco's, undressing to his green "speedos" and posing as Marco requests. Later Marco stands next to me and tells me that "me sembra...", which Ugo himself translates: "to me it looks like..."
So once he finishes modeling for the session he walks over to look at what I think is a pretty feebel drawing. I do admit I worked mostly on his face, for I liked his fossetta (dimples) and Ugo translated that word for me as well.
He stands by my drawing and agrees that it looks rather like him, so I take out the tacks that affixed it to the wooden board and hand it to him as a little gift. I'm feeling some kind of sympathy for him, thinking that the act of posing is awkward. In a way I found myself looking almost too intensly at him, especially at his eyes.
Dino arrives and I leave, but the rest of the students stand around. It appears that I must have started something, for after I signed the drawing for him, the other students all seem to do the same.
On the way home we leave the painting at Arte & Benessere of the three galli (roosters). Giuliana and we agree that I will paint a capra (goat) and a lamb or a sheep next, as that is what an American woman wants who spoke with her at the mostra about my paintings. Don't know if we'll ever meet.
We'll take a few canvases to Puglia and I'll paint, so before I go to bed I do some research on the animals, finding photos that might help me to craft something interesting.
Trying to not spend a lot of time brooding over events of September 11th which make an indellible impression on my subsconscious, I watch a ceremony in New York for a while before leaving for a pedicure with Giusy.
I can't help smiling to myself as she and I communicate with each other in Italian philosophically, and this is very good practice for me. I'm learning to communicate better in Italian, but still have a long way to go.
We have an appointment to look over Leonori's house in Tenaglie, the little house connected to our clients'. I surprisingly like it; think it has promise and suggest that an interested buyer could consider a different floor plan, turning the main bedroom into a large salon, with a terriffic view of the countryside.
While Dino meets with Tani and Lorenzo about the gate and walkway, I leave with Sofi in the Alfa to pick up Don and Mary at the Alviano train station. It is always so good to see them!
We return to Tenaglie, and in a few minutes Dino and I drive on to Orvieto for a visit with Candace and Frank to discuss their balcony project. When we leave we have the measurements Lorenzo will need to begin soon.
When we're in bed, I remember to tell you how lovely the nights are here. In the fall, we hear drummers who must be practicing for the Soriano Castagne (chestnut) festival, a festival that takes place at the beginning of October.
Dino thinks the sound comes from an old warehouse near the superstrada. The drumming is a bum-bum-bum-bumpety-bum kind of sound that is clearly a sincopated rhythm. We don't mind it. In fact it stirs excitement, anticipation.
With the smell of smoke in the air, we're sure the neighbors have begun burning again. While in the car yesterday, we passed trucks and caravans filled with grapes from the harvest. The harvest will be a long one, lasting into October at least, and we don't expect much from this year.
Weather has not been kind to the grapes. Now the contadini are cutting excess branches from their olive trees in preparation for the olive harvest in November.
We're up early to take the Alfa to Viterbo for service. Sofi is fragile, knowing that we're going to leave her for almost a week. How do we know? She's quiet, mooney-eyed, and not interested in eating. We know that once Angie is here Sofi will enjoy the week immensely. I do love her and miss her when we're not with her. She becomes sweeter by the day.
Tonight we learn that Nazzarino Cleri died a few hours ago. We have just arrived to pick up Don and Mary for an evening out. They stand at the roadside, afraid that we'll get out of the car and greet them loudly and cheerfully. On this evening, with Maria's door wide open, they want to be mindful to respect the family. We are sad for Maria and her family.
Cena with Don and Mary takes place at a new pub in the centro storico of Alviano, a pub Dino drove by a few days ago. The food is all right, the ambiance good, and yes, we'll return.
While sitting around waiting for our meal, Don unveils their gifts for us in Santa Claus fashion from a flower-emblazoned tote bag. We're a little embarrassed by all the attention, but Don and Mary are so loving and appreciative of any tiny effort on our part, that they present their thoughtful gifts with joy and we can't think of a way to gently ask them to stop. So, like patient children, we accept each gift warmly. Yes, they make each visit seem like Christmas.
I make an effort to explain to them what sequence of events takes place in Italy after a death: as soon as the person dies, the family calls in the funeral parlor, who prepares the death notices and rushes them out to the local neighborhoods (in this case including the board right outside Angelo's little store).
Almost immediately after reading the notices, friends and relatives of the family arrive at the home of the deceased, and during the following twenty-four hours before the funeral, it is customary to sit with the body "as the soul finds its way to heaven".
The body is usually placed on a single bed, with a gauzy drape placed over the entire body during this time. Before the funeral, the body is placed in the casket, which is then closed, and pallbearers and people from the funeral parlor move the casket to the waiting hearse.
The hearse drives to the local church, where the mass takes place. Afterward, the entire church full of people walk in a procession following the hearse to the cemetery, where a muratore stands by after the casket is placed in the tomb and mortars it up. Flowers are placed around the site and family members are embraced, and then the participants return to their homes.
We drop Don and Mary off, and see the next-door neighbor's door open. Encouraging Don and Mary to walk down, we leave, intending to attend tomorrow's funeral mass if we can.
I wake up while Dino drives to Tenaglie, to prompt the hydraulico to finish his work. I need to paint, to make a few additions and changes to two canvases before getting ready for our trip and beginning to clean the house.
Don and Mary arrive for a visit and a cup of tea. Don especially wants to see what paintings I have done since his last visit, commenting especially on the hens. I love having them nearby, and wish we had more time to spend with them. When we return from our trip they will have returned to England. It is a good thing they come here often.
Although there will be a funeral for Nazzarino in Tenaglie this afternoon, Dino walks over to the house to convey our sympathies to Maria, he tells her that we won't be able to attend the funeral.
Back at home I work at cleaning and getting ready for the trip. Why is there always so much to do the day before a vacation?
Tiziano arrives for a scheduled meeting tonight, and we discuss the Bomarzo translation project, concentrating tonight on Mugnano. He talks about the history of Mugnano, how the village was sliced apart to form North and South sections, with the cut in between to allow people to get from one side of the village to the other easily to work in their ortos, similar to the way the residents live here, even today.
We plan the next steps in our project, and I give Tiziano the papers to take home. We'll meet in a week or so to continue, and look forward to adding some significant information on the history of our little village.
The night ends with me writing to finish the journal and Dino doing some vacuuming before turning in. We'll leave early tomorrow, after Angie arrives. But tonight I still have to work on coming up with play lists from our i-Pod, for the cd player in the car.
Today the weather is a bit cooler, and a few clouds pass overhead as we leave for Matera at the beginning of a one-week trip to Puglia. While in the car waiting to leave, we face the sad olive tree across the street. I'm sure it will rally this next year but oh how naked it looks, as though it's been amputated, which it has...
Speaking of olives, Catherine said of Puglia, "Just wait 'till you see the olive trees" and I now know just how she feels. The sight of them as we enter Puglia takes our breath away.
Mario cuts our olive trees for fruit each year. We want the trees, especially the grand one in front of the gardener's cottage, to grow thick and lush...for enjoyment. There aren't enough olives to worry about as a crop. And besides, when the olives have been eaten, what's left to enjoy?
This way, the trees will be beautiful all year. I really don't like the "champagne glass" look of Italian olive trees, even if they produce the best tasting olive oil. "To each his own", I suppose. Sorry, Mario!
We rush to Grottaglie, the ceramics capital of Puglia, with artisans all over the town. The ceramics are a disappointment. Each shop shows a variation of their famous rooster, but not much of real interest. I was hoping to find interesting shapes, designs. Perhaps what I've been looking for is in delicious southern France...
Now it's on to Matera to enjoy. Although the two restaurants recommended to us are good, every thing we eat is too salty, which is a real change for our spoiled Italian palate. One is the Trattoria Lucano. Lucano is the name formerly used to describe the area, which was changed to Basilicata after the Unification of Italy in the 1860's.
We love our hotel, and will list the places we're going to visit on this trip on our site on the "Places to visit" section. Tonight we take a long, long walk up and down and up and down the sassi (rocky steps). We're bushed by midnight. If you come here, wear good walking shoes. But do not miss this town.
It is a marvel, with houses carved out of their famous sassi (rock). No wonder Mel Gibson wanted this town as his primary location for his movie, "The Passion". It's as authentic a place as we've ever visited in Italy.
Last night we slept with the windows open, facing layers and layers of stone house built on top of one another on rocky outcroppings. It is as if we're looking at a presepio scene.
Our room is very private but faces houses built not unlike those we've seen in Greece, or even New Mexico! Tufa is everywhere here, but it is a pale yellowy-beige, and everything is made of it!
Our bedroom is not carved out of rock and has heavy wood-trussed ceilings, but it's of tufa nonetheless and is of recent construction. What a view when we awake!
This morning, right after a generous breakfast we walk up and down and up and down the sassi steps and "cobbles". We eat a mediocre pranzo at an outdoor trattoria, including caprese with a mediocre mozzarella. We remember the best mozzarella is from Campagna, south of Naples, so perhaps we'll pick up some on our way home next week.
We visit the Museo Nazionale, featuring an extensive exhibit of Carlo Levi, a famous Italian painter who lived in the early and middle parts of the twentieth century. It is interesting to see how his painting style changed as the century wore on.
A partisan during WWII, he painted very negatively of the people in power, who were occasionally seen in a corner of his paintings whispering together and staring at the population below.
From 3 to 6:30 we rest our weary feet and I'm tempted to soak mine in the bidet... But I'm itching to paint, so spend half of the time, while Dino rests, sketching a mythical figure holding a staff while he looks out at a formal garden. Tomorrow, or sometime later, I'll paint the background in a kind of mist, while he looks out.
We leave the room around 6:30PM and spend all but about an hour walking. There's an enormous scandal in Formula 1 Racing, but Alonso and Hamilton, the two leading drivers, don't seem to have been penalized. It's a mega-million fine to McLaren Mercedez, with all points toward the Constructors' Championship lost. Ferrari will now win it. Hope we can watch some of the race tomorrow.
Tonight is "notte bianca" or white night. It is the first in Matera. The town will be open all night with nonstop music and shops will be open late, late, past midnight, when we're back in our room.
After midnight we lie awake and read for a few hours. It's so noisy outside and all of Matera is in a party mood. Earlier we heard a tenor who hit all the right notes during his concert. But he lacked presence, lacked charisma.
We're thinking of Luciano Pavarotto who died last week. Whether one enjoyed his singing or his antics, he really knew how to infuse a piece of music with emotion.
Tonight's tenor is accompanied by an excellent violinist. We later meet her and learn that her name is Anna Giusto, and that she is from Matera. She plays an electronic violin, and it's the second time this month we've seen or heard one played. The tone is excellent, and we'd like to hear more. But the concert has ended..
We eat an early breakfast and then drive on through Alberobello and Martina Franca and stop for pranzo in Ostuni before arriving in Otranto. We stop at Martina Franca midmorning to the sound of a live band playing "Calabria in Festa".
We approach the Basilica di San Martino on this, his feast day, watching a uniformed band marching down the corso playing Wagner's "Aquila! March". The men and women in the band are dressed in pale blue short-sleeved shirts and red striped ties and dark blue slacks.
This characteristic Puglia town is notable for its lacy black iron balconies and Baroque churches. In Plazza Plebiscito, San Martino stands over the front door, flanked by Peter and Paul. The Chiesa della S S Trinity is the spot where everyone congregates for mass, and they're fairly bursting out of the church and filling the tiny plaza outside.
We drive on to Ostuni past kilometers and kilometers of trulli, the cone-shaped buildings found in the area. We're sure the little buildings are only for short people, but they are "carina".
Earlier, while in Grottaglie, a woman took us down a path to see a profusion of "fiori di India" growing out of cactus. They are reddish-pink bulbs with thorns.
Curious, we pull over at the side of the road to taste one. Dino puts on his gloves and "purloins" one. Just as he twists it off the cactus, which grows leaning over a fence, a black car pulls into the next driveway. Dino sneaks back into the car and we speed down the street before we're caught....
In Ostuni, on the way to Otranto, we eat pranzo at a restaurant called Porta Nuova. It is good. Then we walk up the hill through some of the town. The weather is hot and we're hoping to get back to the car before the Formula-1 race begins at 2 P M.
We're on our way to Otranto while we listen to the race, and drive around Lecce, but are not going in the direction of Rocca Vecchia, a town Tiziano said not to miss. It's hot and we're tired. So we're not going to go out of our way today to visit the archological site he recommends. Perhaps tomorrow...
Wherever we drive in Puglia the olive trees amaze us. We pass hundreds and hundreds and hundreds more of centuries-old trees with enormous trunks. No wonder Frank wanted to buy one from a Puglia vivai (greenhouse).
We arrive in Otranto and find the hotel, but unfortunately Frank told us the wrong room to reserve. We reserved room B-2 and it faces the town, while B-1 and B-3 have terraces facing the sea. We are more than mildly irritated, but the owner cannot accommodate our change. She owns a place right outside town, so we drive there to see the rooms for the same price.
But it's like a hotel, with door after door of rooms, and little charm. By this time I'd enjoy staying the countryside at a place with some of those huge olive trees, but we are too tired to drive around and around. So we decide to stay for one night at the place we've originally reserved.
We open our guidebook and read about a B & B in Gallipoli. Dino calls, and the owner has rooms with a view of the ocean. We drive there to see them and love the town and the room. So we reserve for tomorrow for two nights and drive back to Otranto.
Our room is a comedy of errors, with no hot water, no hair dryer and no view. But the evening is saved by cena at Zia Fernanda. It is the best meal of the trip, with cozzi (mussels) in a brodo that are beyond divine.
Everywhere, everywhere, are the giant olive trees, seemingly with darker leaves than ours, but perhaps this is because they are so dense.
We're up early and leave before breakfast. It takes us only 3o minutes to reach Lecce, where we are to meet our friend Isabella at the Duomo. We're early, so eat wonderful fresh cornetti and cappuccini at Urban Bar, then walk on to the Duomo.
We're still early and a little shop on the square is open. Inside a man paints an elaborate cartapesta (papier mache) frieze. I'm fascinated!
We are able to purchase one, unfinished, with the body fashioned out of a kind of straw. We choose a woman, sitting down, and her arms are able to rotate so that we can position her any way we want to. I'll ask Marco for his advice and make a gown or a robe for her and then paint it. Meraviglie!
After we meet Isabella I tell her our little figure will be called Isabella, after her, and she smiles broadly and nods.
Lecce has two Patron Saints. St. Oronzo is one, and we pick up a card of his church to send to Clara in Rome. We want to tell her that the three of us are enjoying each other's company and thinking of her with love. We met Isabella at Clara's house some time ago (she is Clara's stepdaughter). Clara is in Rome these days, working to rehabilitate her arm and leg after a stroke last year.
After hugs we say goodbye. We think we're going to the Museum of St Francis, but when we finally find it a Franciscan priest tells it it is closed until thet 21st and then it will be moved. The church 14 km from town that Isabella also told us to see is closed, so we drive on to Gallipoli.
But I'm so tired of walking I can hardly move, and Dino tells me to wait for him in the church of St. Francis. As I enter I look to my left and see the most wonderful painting of St. Bonaventura, whom we later learn is from...Bagnoregio (in our own backyard)!
It's a lovely day, and our room in Gallipoli at the far end of the town is grand, with a real balcony overlooking the sea in a quiet corner of the port, facing west, to watch the sunsets. It's time to eat pranzo a few doors down at Il Pescatore. Here's a shot of our hotel....
Earlier in Lecce we found a wonderful art supply store and the owner couldn't have been more delightful. We purchased a dark green paint, and it's just the color I need and could not find in Viterbo.
Dino takes a walk for two hours while I rest and read. After 5 PM all the shops are open and we visit the Cattedrale, St. Agata's, which is in the midst of a major restoration. Women sit in pews, wating for mass, or do they simply go there to talk?
All around us are scaffolding and areas cordoned off; this cattedrale is in the midst of a major restoration. I love the feeling of energy in this place.
Near the inside front door is a painting which contains a woman, painted from the rear, with a red fabric draped around her, a young boy holding her by her shoulder, with dogs and lambs crowding around her on her right. I ask Dino to photograph her.
So I wonder...Since St. Agata was the saint who had her breast cut off by soldiers, is she the patron saint of women who have had mastectomies? Cóme no?
We eat cena tonight at La Piranza, a place on the wharf close to the newer part of Gallipoli. I eat cozzi (mussels) again, as well as linguine vongole, and Dino eats seafood "fruitti di mare and spaghetti with cozzi".
We eat gelato later from a small gelateria and walk back to our room. Tonight the night is even more beautiful with the windows and shutters wide open on the balcony. Our bed faces the door, purtroppo! Isn't that a bad omen? We hope not.
We'd love to have the bed face the window and the view. We love the room just the same, with ancient frescoes on the ceiling. There are two frescoes on the ceiling with views of ancient Gallipoli, and the center fresco is one of a blue and cloudy sky. It's a lovely way to go to bed, looking up just before turning out the light.
It's Tuesday, and we eat breakfast at the hotel, then take a walk to the Cattedrale (Duomo) with my canvas. I sketch for two hours while Dino meanders around, then walk to the Diocesi di Nardo museum. It is excellent, and a young man speaks English and is there to answer our questions.
Most memorable are the statues in silver and gold as well as the large collection of antique vestments. I tell him about the forbidden stitch in China...It is possible that some women lost their sight while stitching the tiny stitches and elaborate embroidery in Chinese ceremonial capes. The stiching is now outlawed, but the memory and the antique embroideries remain a bitter memory... He thanks me for the bit of trivia and we wonder how many Italian woman have lost their sight, "in the name of the Lord..."
We'll have to tell Brian at Scarzuola about this collection. He probably already knows about it!
We eat pranzo down the coast a bit. The town is closed up for the season, but this one restaurant remains open. Fruitti di mare, cozzi and more cozzi..... We drive back up the coast to the hotel and walk back to the Duomo for more sketching.
This time I am able to verify the painter, one Nicola Malinconico, and the name, "La cacciate dei Mercanti dal Tempo" (Throwing the merchants out of the temple). The young man at the museum first gave me the name of the painting. The restorer tells me that this is the only place where the work of the painter, Malinconico, remains, but he was born in Naples. He's worth researching on the internet...
From the museum, we learned that from 1700 to 1741, Bishop Oronzo Filomarini commissioned my favorite painting in the Duomo which is located on the back of the front entrance ot the Duomo.
The church is called the "Cattedrale di Sant Agata". While sketching, I meet a new friend, young Samuele (he's about 8 yrs.old), who wears an orange San Francisco t-shirt. He tells me proudly that he was born in Gallipoli Vecchio!
We leave in time to return to our beautiful room where Dino takes these shots of the sunset.
I stand at the balcony listening to the waves lapping the shore, now that no one stands at the vista point across the street, a vista we look down upon from our balcony, where we don't appreciate the loud voices of the locals.
People from "The South" or the "Mezzogiorno" are a different breed. Their charm wears on me after five days...it is their harshness, their loud voices. It's time to return home to our sweet neighbors and the tranquillity of Mugnano...
Earlier I was so angry when we left the Duomo and watched 2 male dogs fighting over a female. The poor dog quivered against a wall, the crude men laughing at the scene. Bastards! I wanted to walk over to her and protect her, but I knew that as soon as I left that she'd be left to the attacking dogs...
Just before we leave for cena, young boys set off fireworks below our window. The boys are like the dogs - except for little Samuele, I suspect, who returned again and again to look at my sketch and ask if I would color it when I was finished sketching.
I pointed to the woman and the child and the animals earlier in the afternoon and asked if he could see them in the sketch. He seems very different than the other locals. I'd like to see him again, but we leave in the morning. Perhaps he will remember me and perhaps he will draw and paint these same figures one day...
Tonight we have cena at Il Capriccio in New Gallipoli. It's very good, but we feel as if we're in mafia country...The waiters and the local men who hang around are like characters in a Coppola film. Everyone is LOUD!
Tonight is our last night here, and we sleep with the balcony doors open. It is noisy but we can also hear the lapping of the waves against the shore. We'll be back...
We leave Old Gallipoli for Lucera by way of Lecce, so that we can take a photo in the chiesa of St. Antonio. The man in the painting is wonderful, and if he is San Antonio, which San Antonio? I am sure that I want to paint him. We wait around for a priest and find a friar rushing to and fro.
We take him to the painting and he tells us that the saint is San Bonaventura da Bagnoreggio! The church is La Chiesa di Sant Antonio. Oh, that makes sense.
We stop on the coast at Monopli, and walk to the Duomo, where there has just been a funeral. Stopping first at a bar for juice, we return to walk around the magnificent over-the-top edifice, covered wherever we look in ornate marble. The church is called the Madonna della Madre.
We exit the center doors and to my right lies a little branch of purple orchids, left from the funeral flowers. It's somehow a sad reflection.
And so it is that we enter the ancient city of Lucera, the car bouncing off its cobbled streets until we reach a building covered over with a kind of ivy. The buzzer rings us in.
We enter what I believe to be the perfect spot for a jaunt into history...
Rising up the steep marble staircase, Antonio turns the lock. Dino enters, and then I. "Come campo di bocci!" Dino exclaims inside the first room, and I think it's our bedroom, but wish the second room was ours instead. I enter the room where Dino stands at the door and it is the bathroom!
This suite is all ours for the night, and it is an amazing scene. The bedroom and bath take up more than the footprint of our entire little house in Mugnano! Frescoed ceilings belie a date of at least a century; two stories high in the center, with an iron bar reaching down to a chandelier at least ten feet long.
Covering each window at a distance of several feet inside the footprint of the window, float embroidered linen panels, flanked on either side and the top by wine colored drapes covering a cornice covered with a grecian drape.
There is a notice on the bathroom door that states that each piece of furniture is authentic, so please do't leave bottles or glasses on them. A punto!
Luckily, a glass-topped cart stands next to the horsehair and velvet chair on which I write these words.
We are very hungry by this time of day, so Antonio gives us a map of the town, indicating where three places are where we might eat.
All of them are closed, so we wander the deserted streets until we find an open doorway to a shoe shop. Simore is inside, and calls his "findanzata" (girlfirend) who works at a restaurant, which we later find is many blocks away.
We find it, Il Grottacella, and step down, down into a cavern of a trattoria, where we feast on prosciutto and melon, grilled veggies, a cacciota (local pasta with ricotta and fresh pomodori sprinkled with mild pepperonciini powder) and an involtini (roll) of proscioutto wrapped and baked with fegato (liver).
With cocomero (watermelon) for desert, we are full, but not looking forward to the walk back to the B & B. We finally find it and crash for a few hours, the linen window-coverings gently moving to and fro; the sounds of the city muffled outside the window.
And that is precisely where the charm ends...
The same handsome tiles are laid on the streets - big rectangular black ones worn down by centuries of feet and carts and by then, car tracks.
A strange wind blows us about from our back and it is surely fall here. We could be in Le Marche for all I know, except that the map tells us otherwise.
The cattedrale is tall and gothic, with an elaborate apse. The Diocesan Musseum is closed. Time to move on...
Cena is forgettable. Dino has one of his favorite caprese pizzas with 2 fresh eggs on top, but a too-thick non-tasting crust. With a chickpea and bean soup on the menu, I'm ready to compare it to mine, but there's no need to bother. A can of chickpeas is plopped into chicken broth with one piece of spinach and a bit of tomato. There is hardly any broth. I've lost my appetite.
After espressos at a nearby bar, we walk back to our room, where we read the night away, a night punctured with nightmares for each of us...
We're ready to return home...
We wake early and are ready for breakfast at 8. Guido is our host, and he shows us around the beautifully appointed place, including the nextdoor property, which will soon be restored.
In a year's time or so, there will be plenty of B & B rooms to rent, and we are sure that each one will be authentic and beautifully appointed.
We think we're leaving by way of Pescara, but Guido tells us there is a place to buy fresh buffala mozzarella on the way to Rome, so we decide to take a more direct route home. We drive through Campobasso, then Isernia, then Venafro, where we purchase our buffala mozzarella.
Pranzo is at Frosinone, at a wonderful enoteca, and then we drive home, and reach Mugnano by 4 PM. It is so good to finally be here.
Angie takes Sofi and me for Sofi's afternoon jaunt in Attigliano at the agritourismo, and it is a grand spot for the little girl to roam on her own. We walk around the duck pond and sit while Sofi chases lucertole (lizards), then drive home.
Angie leaves, and we check in with Pietro and Helga and their guests, paying them a short visit, and bringing a loaf of Puglia's famous bread.
We're home within an hour and ready to settle in with little Sofi. It's so good to be home.
Dino drives to Tenaglie, and I do laundry and also make a dessert and potato salad to have with pranzo. When Dino returns we all drive to Bomarzo to check out Marsiglia and Felice's new digs. We find them, and they are both very content, but Felice seems in another world. We promise to return soon, and will certainly visit them often.
I'm worried about Marsiglia, but at least they will be very near their son and his lovely wife, Angela. Angela is at their house when we arrive.
We drive to Viterbo for errands, and back to the house for a simple pranzo. I spend the afternoon transferring the journal to the computer, and Dino checks out all the supplies that will be needed for Monday's installation of the AriaDSL connection.
We drive to Civita D'Agliano to make arrangements for our anniversary pranzo, at a place recommended to us a few weeks ago. It's at the Mottura's inn, NAME HERE and we'll attend with Pietro and Helga and Pietro's son, Tomas, who will arrive for a visit on Monday.
The night is cool, and we've spent some time cutting caki from the tree on the terrace. There aren't nearly as many caki on the tree as last year, and I'm musing about losing the tree altogether. But first, we'll need the new roof on the loggia and to take down what is now an enormous bay tree.
With our plan of a Provencal garden, with gravel and trees and herbs and box and evergreens, including some lavender, of course, we're thinking we can begin to plan and design most of it ourselves. With no money to speak of to spend on it, we'll get to be very creative. We have plenty of time.
Trees, the native trees to our area, will be an important consideration, so we'll begin to study them in earnest. Dino comments tonight that we're in the midst of the loveliest weather of the year, so we'll have plenty of time to spend in the garden.
I go up to bed early to read, but am sure that I'll be asleep before long. Sofi is already sound asleep next to me.
With another migraine in the middle of the night, I wake up to take new medicine, and my headache is gone by the time we get up. Later we discuss that I was very tired last night. So being tired is evidently a precursor to a migraine for me.
Dino picks up my medical report from a recent blood test. My cholesterol is high, but our doctor is not concerned. We'll meet with him soon anyway, even if only to pick up golf photos he wants me to study in anticipation of painting a golf scene or two for his new office. I'm happy to comply.
We drive to Tenaglie in Pandina, and Dino surely loves driving that little car. I think it's more fun to drive than to be a passenger, but whatever makes Dino happy is ok with me.
We hear from Pat and Dick that they're in town for the Sagratino vendemmia, so we'll drop by to see them on Tuesday morning before going to pranzo at Noreen's. It will be good to see them. We still don't "get" the fascination of sagratino grapes. Perhaps it's an acquired taste. Montefalco appears to be the hub of this new grape growing region.
I paint this afternoon, and set aside the painting of Pan to dry before applying more paint. I finish the three women, then move on to the painting of a portion of "La Cacciate dei Mercanti dal Tempo". The name is a mouthful and the subject is complex, but I'm enjoying it.
Dino spends more than a little time with the two-story ladder picking caki from the big tree on the front terrace. I'm wishing we could afford the new roof on the loggia so that we could cut it down. Now that we have a pergola and wisteria growing profusely, we don't have the same need for the shade of this tree. And it surely is a mess.
Tomorrow is the farewell mass for Padre Renzo, and we will surely miss him. Dino walks up to the borgo and finds out that he will not be performing the Mugnano mass. Livio and Gigliola will attend the later mass, and perhaps we will, too. He is a real loss.
It's a beautiful morning, with whispers of clouds streaming across a pale blue sky. A headache has returned, so I arise early and take some medication. My head feels like a bowling ball, rolling around on my shoulders. I'm anticipating the full wrath of the headache in an hour or two, just when we're out and about. Let's hope the medicine takes hold.
Padre Renzo's farewell mass takes place this morning in Bomarzo, so we drive up early and walk over to see if Marsiglia and Felice will want to join us. We find Felice somewhat dazed, walking around in his garden. Marsiglia talks to us through her big open kitchen window at street level, and although they will not join us today, she is in good spirits.
We say goodbye for now and walk to Cristo Risorto, the big round modern church nearby. Padre Renzo stands in the sacristy as we enter, and appreciates the photos Dino has taken of him as a remembrance of Mugnano.
We attend the mass, during which Padre Renzo sits in an honored place in the center of the apse area, honored by the citizens as well as his friend, Don Luca. Renzo is moved at the words about him, but remains modest, concentrating instead on the seriousness of his religious role in the world. We will miss his lyrical voice, even when he speaks, and his friendly nature.
It is only today that we learn that Renzo is indeed a Padre, or member of a religious community of friars, as opposed to being referred to as "Don", which is the designation of a parish priest. This afternoon he drives to Frascati, the town where he is from, to live in a monastery nearby.
Just at the end of the mass, Dino stands up and walks to the altar, where he has another Renzo (now the Priori of the Bomarzo Confraternity and Felice and Marsiglia's son), Padre Renzo and Don Luca pose for a photograph. He is able to print the photo as soon as we arrive home and drive it up to them, just as Padre Renzo is getting into his car to drive away.
We drive to Jill and David's house near Amelia, which has just been finished, and it is a marvel. The muratore was truly a gem, and the house shows his attention to detail. Dino especially loves the iron treatment on the hearth, a treatment that was left to turn partially rusty and then treated, so that the burnished color will remain. It is a special treatment, one that we will remember.
On their back terrace the pranzo is served for more than two dozen of us, mostly Italians. Tia and Francesco and Lorraine, Simone and her son, Thomas, are there, but mostly we meet new friends. The food is wonderful, with many courses of mostly room temperature salads and antipasti, followed by Jill's famous meringue dessert.
Sofi is left to wander, and seems to enjoy herself. She stays nearby for most of the afternoon, and we're finding that she is good when we take her out with us, looking around buy mostly resting close to us.
We drive home and take a walk to see if Maria Elena is in her garden, but she is not, so we walk down to Pietro's and enjoy prosecco with he and Helga, while Maria "the Sarda" (from Sardinia) stops by.
Pietro has picked a smattering of olives from his trees, and has them in water. She tells him that is wrong, that they should be covered in sea salt and stirred each day. In serveral weeks they will be ready to eat.
He loves having her teach him different things to do in the garden, as we do. While we sit around he smokes a Tuscani cigar, and kindly keeps his distance so that he remains "downwind of us". After a while we leave, to walk up the hill to our home.
First we continue the walk down the hill of "Aqua Puzza", and for the first time encounter Priscilla and Maggiolino, Pepe's asini (donkeys). They are huge! We don't have anything to feed them, but tomorrow perhaps Sofi and I will walk down with some stale bread and some carrots.
Sofi acknowledges them, but is not particularly interested in them. Maggiolino leans his huge head over the fence after snorting and raising it high in a greeting not unlike that of a horse, and we don't know whether to pat him or not. But Priscilla leans her snout against the fence, so I'm comfortable giving her snout a rub.
Yes, I have another headache, but am able to cure it with my new medicine in about an hour. I do some research about painting marble and especially travertine, for this afternoon I'll paint the base upon which "Pan" sits, looking out at the view.
Then that painting will be finished, and Dino promises me that he'll work on the two tellaios that need to be prepped. I'm ready to begin another major work, and to paint larger canvases again.
Dino drives in Pandina to Tenaglie to mop up after the plumber, who is making holes in the walls for the drains. Rober is a great plumber, but not a great communicator.
He also drives to see Michael and Stefanie's little house at the edge of the Bomarzo borgo, and it's our latest house to list. It's a very cute one, with one room downstairs and one upstairs plus a bath. €120.000 (one-hundred and twenty-thousand euro). Take a look!
I make a pot of cece and pasta soup and leave it for Dino, then drive off to Marco's bottega for today's workshop. Lucia, I now know, is Tia's neighbor, and we get together at a break to talk. Mostly we paint, and we sketch.
Lucia has been painting for five years and is quite good, and also relieved to have someone like Marco watching over her. He has such an expansive and encouraging way about him, that it's no wonder she loves coming to the Monday workshops. I look forward to getting to know her better.
So about Ugo...He's our model again, and a very kind man, but although I sketch poses of him from different angles, I'm not sure I want to turn any of them into a painting. Lucia has a camera with her, and takes photos of him from different vantage points. She'll then look at them at home and work more on the sketches. I think that's a great idea.
I like the independence of driving myself to and fro from Marco's bottega, but do miss not being with Dino. While I am at Marco's, he's back at the house. After finishing off the soup, he meets the technician who installs our internet connection. This is a VERY BIG DEAL.
From now on, the ARIADSL connection will be on all the time, and we can hardly believe that we finally have it. We don't know what it will be like to send or receive a large file, but will soon find out. At first blush, we're completely happy, although the square receiver is installed at the corner of the front of the house.
We're expecting rain, and lots of it, for the next two days. We're going to be driving to Montefalco tomorrow for pranzo, and on Wednesday we'll go out for cena, but otherwise will be here, hopefully hunkered down while the rain lets us know who is boss.
Tonight I'm in bed early, wanting to read more of the book that Duccio gave us a few weeks ago. There is a search taking place in the book to see if Dracula really exists, and right now the book is moving along slowly, developing the characters. I don't expect Dracula will ever emerge, but then one never knows what to expect in a book at first reading.
Pending storms and thunder and lightning will be perfect backdrops for this book. I don't anticipate being frightened, but then there' s always a first time...
So we now have phone and internet service via satellite, and it seems quite good so far. We are so far behind the rest of the world, and find ourselves clattering into the 21st century, somewhat bewildered, as these technological marvels find their way into our tiny medieval village.
We check in at the house, and things look good, but a number of details remain. Will we finish before we leave for the U S in November?
We drive to Turri, a tiny hamlet outside Montefalco, for pranzo with Noreen, who regales us with tales of her Italian adventures. She is quite an accomplished artist, and gives me a few pointers about canvas qualities to buy.
Later, while visiting Pat and Dick in Casale, Pat tells me not to worry about buying the most expensive quality canvases. For now, I'm still in the experimental stage, although I plan to move to larger canvases, starting with one that we pick up in Deruta on the way home.
We're invited to have an audience with the pope in November, before we leave for the U S, and will attend with Dino's confraternity buddies. It should be interesting, and I'll surely let you know.
What a disappointment! I wake with a full-fleged cold, and spend the entire day and evening in bed. Dino calls the Motturas and the kind Signora lets us change the reservation to tomorrow. We're hopeful, guardedly so, that we'll all be able to go.
Dino brings home a beautiful and "over the top" bouquet of roses from the florist in nearby Attigliano, complete with huge shiny leaves of philodendron and sprinkled gold dust. It sits near the bed, where Sofi and I can look at it. This is certainly a strange way for Dino and I to celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary.
With my cold somewhat worse, we agree that Dino will attend the special dinner tonight without me. It sounds strange for one half of a couple to attend an anniversary dinner, but with my cold and the rain pouring down outside, I can't imagine attending.
The situation is complicated because this is the kind of reservation that is really not possible to cancel, as the meal is specially designed for the group and the location is not a real restaurant. The name is La Tana dell'Istrice (the lair of the porcupine). The porcupine is their logo!)
There are a number of these places in Italy. They consist of special properties of character, where meals are designed based on a reservation made in advance, and items for that meal are purchased specially for the occasion.
The Motturas produce wine, which is sold in the U.S. as Orvieto Classico, for example, with the image of a porcupine on the label. We remember buying it at Whole Foods in Mill Valley.
We understand that the evening will consist of wine tastings that are pared to different courses, and the meal is a fixed price. It should be a wonderful place to spend an evening. Somehow drinking lots of wine does not appeal to me tonight, although I'll really miss the company. In this photo, Sergio is in the dark blue sweater and our friend Helga is in the beige jacket.
The second book is quite dry in parts, but an astounding chronicle. It appears that each page could be expanded into an entire book, the intrigue and greed of the Germans seemingly devouring each paragraph.
We've had the Ariadsl for a few days now, and have no complaints. The telephone reception is good, even to the U S, and we've been able to receive larger files more easily than before. So as long as there's no problem with the satellite, I think we'll be fine.
By about 9:30 I'm feeling a little better, but relived to be at home with Sofi, who sits with her ears peeled for strange sounds. We're not used to being home alone at night.
Dino returns to tell me that Sergio Mottura and his wife were wonderful hosts, but that the American guests at the boutique hotel were an embarassment. At one point, Pietro said out loud after dinner, "Is it customary for Iowans to hide their shoes behind the sofa and sit around in their stockinged feet?" It appears that the place caters to groups of Americans. Sigh. I suppose in groups of vacationers almost every group becomes boisterous, telling stories and laughing, forgetting that they are guests in someone else's "home".
Dino described the dinner, the wine tasting five levels below street level (I'm also pretty claustrophobic, so that is another reason it is good that I did not attend), the place. We do recommend it, especially to people who keep their shoes on after dinner.
I'm back among the living, and ready to paint again, since Dino drives off early for Bastia Umbra. I have wanted to finish projects around the house. Wonder what that means? Of course that means first of all to have fun, and that means completing paintings I've already started.
It's a wet morning, so might as well turn on the music and paint. After looking at the Three Virtuous Women painting off and on, it's time to have it framed and put it up in the kitchen, giving Cezanne's Ghost a rest.
I'm enjoying painting figures more and more, so perhaps will move from animals and still lifes to figures. Birds have returned outside our bedroom window, and it's oh so good to be alive!
Last night my fever broke, and I had the most amazing Salvador Dali kind of mind-altering dreams. I could have sworn I had taken LSD they were so weird (not that I'd know, I'm such a dork). I've researched painting balustrades for one of my paintings, and it's a good exercise, along with trying to paint formal Italian gardens in perspective. Marco is so good about showing us in little steps. Tomorrow at his bottega I'll paint out the balustrades and next week we'll do marbling of the columns. There's always so much to learn.
Dino takes me to Marco's this morning, and I take in two paintings. One is the painting of two birds, and we determine that the reason for the cracks in the finish in three areas is that I painted most of it, let it sit around to dry for a few weeks and then returned to it to work on it some more.
When I added more black, the black was quite thick, so I used petrolio to thin it, and that is what must have cracked the surface. So Marco gently took olio di lino on his hand and rubbed it over the areas where I must fix the damage. He tells me that it is now ready to work on. So this weekend or on Monday I'll add more paint and finish it.
I take most of the paint off the face of the woman I am painting on another canvas, in a cloth soaked with petrolio as if I'm taking off her makeup. In the best session I've had yet with Marco, he shows me how to paint the face by using very little paint, and a special brush to take most of the paint off, creating very thin layers of shading. Since I'm still in the experimental stage, I soak up each session like a sponge.
I'm quite excited to continue to paint, so after pranzo I work on another painting, using a similar technique to paint a balustrade, after drawing it out on the canvas. Slowly, slowly...
Tonight we pick up Duccio, who is here for a few days while Giovanna and Ludovica repair some leaks in their bedroom ceiling in Rome. We take him with us to Viterbo, to Michelle Gordon's opening in the San Pellegrino section of the city.
The premise of the show is interesting. It's called "Not for Sale". The show is of six-week duration, I believe, and for the first two weeks Michelle's abstract painting covers the walls of a little studio. On the center of the back wall is an ongoing film of Michelle painting of the room, as well as her comments.
It's all quite interesting. After two weeks, a sculptor will take over, the walls will be painted white, and we don't know what the sculptor will do as their piece/s.
We meet Michelle's boyfriend, and he seems to be a very likeable man. After they and we get back from our trips to the U S in December, we'll surely get together.
I don't really understand abstract art, so when Marco shows up and we have a few minutes to spend alone in the space, I ask him to explain it to me. "How does one begin to create an abstract art piece?" I ask him.
He tells me that if it is he who is doing the painting, he'll begin with a pencil, and draw the general design on the wall, then follow it up with color. He'd use one color at a time, at first.
I'm still not sure if one begins by moving the brush whereever it takes the artist, and then stopping to consider what has been done, moving back over the work with other colors or details, or not. I am a figurative painter, and want to open my thinking up to other forms. These colors tonight in this exhibit are clean and pure and joyous. What palate would I choose?
For now, I'd better stick to what I am doing. I have so much to learn. Let's see if I can paint a face that looks real before moving on in another direction.
We drive back to Mugnano, stopping at Pietro's for a minute. Helga is there, but Pietro has gone on the gita (pilgrimage) to Sienna, and we drive off, coincidentally meeting the bus on Via Mameli on the way home.
Pietro gets off the bus with a bag in each hand. He shops...everywhere. Today it was wine and two glasses. This was a good experience for him to get to know the neighbors better. Tomorrow we'll see Pietro and Helga and he'll have lots of stories to tell about the day, we are sure.
While looking through some old photos, I find photos of myself holding a violin. The first is at Paul and Glenda's house, on the very day I first held a violin in my hand. The next two are of me holding my violin on two separate occasions here in Italy.
Today at Marco's bottega, Tiziana sits looking at her painting of a woman and a violin, the shape of the violin and the shape of the woman somewhat in sync. We speak about the subject, and I tell her about my violin and my experience playing for four years.
I agree to bring in my violin on Monday. She thinks I should paint it, and I probably should. I'm not sure of the context, however. But I will enjoy bringing it and holding it for any members of the class who might want to use it as a subject. I so wish my shoulder would allow me to play, as I really miss the connection with this special instrument.
It's Sunday, and the month ends on a bright note, with a clear sky and Dino up in the tree, cutting down caki. It is very late to be cutting, and much of the fruit is, well, gloppy, making a mess as it falls on the gravel.
While I stand looking up at him and the tree, I realize there is no reason to keep the tree, now that we have the pergola firmly installed. If the wisteria does not cover us enough in the springtime, we can use an umbrella when eating outside.
Dino almost falls off the tree when I tell him not to worry about cutting branches, that this winter is the time to take the tree down. He's so very happy, or thinks he is happy. But for now, he cuts judiciously, then takes the branches to the burn pile. I'm able to save a few cups of caki, and why not make the persimmon puddings we give for Christmas presents this week?
Everything has come early this year...the tomatoes, the grapes, the caki, for we've had strange weather. Yes, it's global warming...
We'll be stocking up on supplies to make the puddings, and can now use the stove in the loggia to steam the puddings, an effort that takes two hours and is a real drag. So we'll need to defrost the freezer to get it ready to stock with holiday treasures and hope that we don't have a major power outage before then to destroy them all...
And so the month ends, with the season rushing ahead of us, and the start of plans for our November trip to visit our son and his family in San Francisco.