Saturday, April 03, 2004


Saturday, April 03, 2004

As usual, another week has flown by. It seems as if we are doing nothing, and everything. We continue to move forward, little by little, and it’s really starting to look and feel like home. A lot has happened in the past week. We were contacted by two couples who had read our blog.…one is a couple who live not far from us, in Tuscany. He is English, but lived in the states for the past 20 or so years, and his wife is from Brazil. They too sold everything and moved to Italy, leaving children and grandchildren behind. They’ve been here about 1 ½ years, and we hope to get together with them soon.

The other couple is just about ready to move to Italy, and amazingly, they are from Louisville! They are moving to Verona, which is a wonderful town in the northern part of Italy. It’s much larger than San Venanzo, and has much to offer. We plan to meet with this couple when we are in Louisville in May. Louisville doesn’t have a very large, or at least a very noticeable, Italian community. There are lots of people with German ancestry in the area, and Louisville has really become a melting pot within the last twenty years or so. Many refugees from Vietnam settled here back in the 70’s and more recently Louisville has seen immigrants from Africa, Cuba, Iran, Romania, and I’m sure many other countries. I guess Louisville has a generous and welcoming community of people who sponsor immigrants. My heart always went out to these immigrants who had left everything they knew and loved to come to a strange country. Most immigrants don’t speak English, can’t work in their chosen profession, and have left most of their extended family behind. And now, here I am, in Italy, facing many of the same challenges!

We also bought a small bookcase that we put in the hall, just outside the blue bathroom. On the top are various “things” I’ve collected over the years, plus a few things from my mom. Leaning against the wall, To the left of the bookcase is a picture of my mom. My parents met when my dad was stationed at Fort Knox, and then my dad was sent to Italy. While he was here, he had this drawing made from a photograph…isn’t it interesting that it ends up in Italy?

We were supposed to get the garden plan and estimate some time last week, but when we stopped in on Wednesday, Antonella told us that it wouldn’t be ready until Monday. We did see her plan, and apparently now it’s just waiting for the numbers guy to figure the cost. I was just itching to work in the garden, so we stopped in to see what suggestions she had for the two large planters by the front door. We have a large round planter and also a large rectangular planter, and want to create a bit more privacy for the front door.

At first Antonella suggested a taxus for the large round planter. We knew that we wanted something tall and narrow for this space, but I really don’t like taxus, so we decided on a dwarf Alberta Spruce. For the rectangular planter we had bought a trellis, and wanted something that would climb and fill in, and we went with her suggestion for a jasmine…I have no experience with jasmine, so I figured I might as well give it a try. It will flower in the spring, then give us foliage as a privacy screen. I added some pansies for now, but later will plant petunias around the base. The "before" pictures are ready, but not the "after", so those will have to wait til tomorrow.

We had the two large planters that had originally been by the front door. They were both very plain, and gray, since they were concrete. I decided that one of them could be put to good use next to the back door, and we put a viburnum in pot. I hope it gets enough sun to survive, but not so much that it grows too fast. I’m not sure what I’ll put in the other large planter, but once the back yard is finished, I’m sure I’ll find a use for it.

We also bought a few plastic pots for the basil plants I bought at the grocery store last week. I love to make my own pesto, and am hoping against hope that there is enough sun for them to grow. For now, I’ll stick with just two, and see what happens. We stopped in the hotel the other day to see if anyone there knew about the trees being cut down in the park behind us. We thought that since the hotel’s pool area overlooks this park, they might know. We were hoping that since they are a business, they might have some influence to get the park cleaned up a bit…once the dead tress are taken out, I would love to see the gardens restored. Unfortunately, the manager didn’t know much…he did say that they had been promising to do this job for some time. Apparently it’s not the commune who will do this work, but the forestale people, and since we are in the same district as Orvieto and Todi, the consensus is that San Venanzo gets the short end of the stick, being the smaller, less important town.

While we were at the hotel, The Villa Valentini, we did see several really interesting and beautiful mosaic pictures in the reception area. Using different types of stone, the artist had created pictures of typical Umbrian buildings…they were really nice!

One other thing we have learned is that we have to obtain permission to cut down any trees in our yard. Of course we don’t understand exactly why. Maybe it has something to do with the park behind us, or maybe it’s just to help preserve the character of the city. Mauro didn’t seem to think that we would get permission to cut down the two trees we would like to, but our neighbor Armando had told us that we should be able to cut down one tree because it’s dying, and the other tree because it’s too close to the house and the roots could harm the foundation. We’ll just have to wait and see.

We went to the monthly artesian market in Marsciano. Starting last month, this market will be held on the first weekend of each month. Last month it was still pretty cold, and rainy too, and they weren’t many vendors. We expect that each month will see more and more vendors as the weather improves and tourists begin to arrive. This month a Feriale Verde, or Green Fair, was also being held, meaning that lots and lots of plants and flowers would be for sale. Perfect timing! I bought some impatiens for the planters next to the bench by the front door, and saw some really interesting chrysanthemum-type flowers of all different colors. I bought one of the peach colored ones, and would have bought more, but no one was selling pots! The vendor from whom I bought the flowers told me that he will be there on Monday at the regular market, and that then there will also be vendors selling pots. I definitely want to get some more of those…they were so interesting. Pictures of those later.

We saw tons of interesting plants…orchids as tall as me, Bird of Paradise to die for, so many new things and different colors. Of course it was reassuring to see many of the plants I do know. I saw petunias, but not “The Wave”. I bought two types of larger begonias for the pots with the impatiens. Although I have no idea what they are, the girl at the stand said they would grow in the shade. That was good enough for me. As anyone who gardens knows, shade is always a challenge.

We also found a few other really interesting places. One place was selling rooks that had been painted to look like animals…frogs, ladybugs, cats curled up, etc. When we stopped to look more closely, we saw that the woman was from Peidicolle…where we had stayed when we were house hunting! We told here that we had stayed at the house of the American, Judy, and of course she knew who we meant. We also found a really cool store selling things from around the world…lots of cool stuff from Africa, India, Central and South America, AND they had chocolate! We bought some chocolate/nut spread, and also a few gifts! I know where I’m taking my sister when she comes to visit!

We wandered up into the centro storico (historical center) which has just been redone. The grand palazzo that once was home to the most important family in town was bought by the city of Marsciano and has been renovated to be used as the new city hall. The area really looks wonderful.

As we rounded a corner, I saw the same mosaic pictures we had seen in the hotel! As we stopped to look, the vendor said “I know you! You live in San Venanzo…I’ve seen you out walking!” As the only Americans in San Venanzo, I’m sure we stick out like sore thumbs, but it was still surprising that this man knew us, since he lives down the road in Rotecastello. Since Rotecastello is so small, I guess they come into San Venanzo for their daily supplies. We would later find out that Rotecastello has only 20 residents! We’ve driven past it several times, but haven’t stopped in yet…since the artist and his wife invited us for coffee, hopefully we’ll change that soon. The artist, Francesco Rossi, told us that he and his son make these mosaics. They make pictures, mirrors, tables, trays…lots of beautiful things. His website,, has an English version, although whoever did the translation was not as good as they should have been. Maybe he just used Babelfish…you know how weird those translations can be! Anyway, it was nice to meet a “neighbor”. And he gave us a nice price on a mosaic picture. Oh, I did ask…he did make the ones we saw at the hotel! I would really like to have another of his works…he had a great scene of a house, but instead of being framed, this one was made on a curved terracotta roof tile. I think one of these would look great in our bedroom…the thing about mosaics is that the further away you are, the better they look. We put the one we bought today by the back door, and I really think that you’re too close to see it clearly…I’ll have to think about another location.

Although rain had been forecast for the entire weekend, it never happened today. I wouldn’t mind the rain for the things I’ve just planted, but for the market it would have been a disaster. We went fairly early in the afternoon, and there weren’t many people there. Later on the crowd picked up, and Sunday will be busier still, if the rain holds off again.

We stopped in Ternana’s for a slice of pizza, and Rita shared her crostata recipe with me. I’m going to try that, as well as make a test batch of chocolate chip cookies for the Easter Monday lunch we’ve been invited to. Not only are the ovens in Italy much smaller, I don’t really like the way they heat. Maybe it’s less insulation, but the placement of the rack is EXTREMELY important. I’ve scorched the bottom of a few things because of this, and I’m still learning how this oven behaves. Since I plan to take the cookies as my contribution, I need to check the timing, temperature and rack placement. Thank goodness I brought a Fahrenheit/centigrade oven thermometer!