Tuesday, June 01, 2004



Today was the day we were to have lunch with our friends from Ternana’s. We were both up early this morning, since we have so much to do. On Sunday we spent the day with Enrico and Wilma (more later), and yesterday we went to see Jill and Larry’s new place near Cortona. I hadn’t put anything together for the Prague trip…the suitcases weren’t even out of the garage! This morning I finally gathered some clothes after checking the forecast one more time. It had been changing every day, kept, and I couldn’t decide what to take.

Since the chances of rain seem to be lessened, and the temperature will be slightly warmer than we first read, I think we’ll be okay. Of course the concert is in an outdoor stadium…what were they thinking? June is the rainy month for Prague!!! Anyway, I’m taking my red vinyl raincoat and layers, so that if it IS cold and/or rainy, I’m prepared. I still have to do some ironing, but other than that I think I’m pretty well organized.

We’re going to leave the car at the Perugia airport and Wendy will pick it up later and keep it in the secure part of the garage where she works. We don’t return to Perugia until late Tuesday night, so she’ll bring the car back to the airport where it will be waiting for us that night…that way no one has to pick us up at a very late hour. I’m also leaving my printer in the car so she can have her friend fix it while we’re gone…it’s a good plan if it works!

Anyway, I was up early today to finish some laundry and gather my clothes. I had wanted to bake some chocolate chip cookies to take to the lunch, and last night I was going to make the dough then bake them this morning. When I opened the refrigerator I remembered that I had used all the eggs in anticipation of our being gone for a week. No chocolate chip cookies today! I also had an appointment to get my hair cut at ten, so we rode down to Marsciano for that.

While I was having my hair cut, Art bought some more mortar for the barbeque…he ran out on Saturday when he and Giuseppe were putting it together. He also bought another garden hose…the one we have now is so thin that it kinks in multiple places on a VERY regular basis. The new one Art bought will never kink. And as is usual, he also had to buy both ends of the hose, but at least now we’re set.

Once we got back home, Art discovered that the hose end that attaches at the house was the wrong size, so we left a few minutes early and exchanged that. Of course it only took a few minutes, then it was just a short drive to Rita and Pino’s house. Rita greeted us at the door, along with their huge white Pyrenees Mountain dog. We later learned that this dog is the female, and she weighs 40+ kilos, but that the male is TWICE her size and also twice her weight. Marco keeps the male at his house in the country for security…and I’ll bet he’s a damn good deterrent to anyone who might want to trespass!

Rita introduced us to her brother, Umberto, who was apparently living with them for a while since he had some heart problems. His home is in Terni, where Rita is originally from. Umberto was shelling fava beans…HUGE fava beans that we would have for lunch. Rita had a large pot cooking on the stove…fava beans that were pureed with garlic and oil, and would eventually be spread on bruschetta. We would also have the fava beans in a very traditional way…raw, with pieces of Pecorino cheese. Needless to say, it was all delicious.

Rita knows that I like to cook, and told me that she would call me when we got back from Prague and would show me how to cook the fava beans. I don’t know how well this will go…as she has pointed out to me, after I went back to the United States, I forgot much of my Italian!

After a few minutes Marushka came in with a large dish of rabbit prepared with tomatoes and olives. Normally Art and I aren’t big rabbit eaters, but we knew we would eat this rabbit and love it! I told Rita that everyone in their family was a great cook, and it’s true. Marco is an amazing cook…it’s his passion, as he’s quick to tell us. He not only makes the pizzas and breads, he also loves to create pasta dishes. Our lunch today would consist of many, many products that Marco had grown or raised on his farm…all “biologica” , or organic. The oil, the rabbit, the tomatoes, the olives, and the eggs in the pasta that was made by hand….all these came from his organic farm. Marco’s dream is to run a bed and breakfast with a small restaurant…should that ever happen, we’ll be posting a link!

Since Marushka was now here to watch the kitchen, Rita took us on a tour of their house. It’s just outside the centro of Marsciano, and they’ve lived here for thirty years. The ground floor consisted of a large covered patio, where Umberto was shelling the beans, and inside was a large room where we would eat lunch, and the kitchen. A guest bedroom was down the hall. Rita told us that this is where Pino takes his afternoon nap. At the other end of the hall was a large room where Pino has his ham radio equipment set up. You can spot their house from anywhere due to the radio towers.

At the back of the house, was an attached garage, in which there stood a large iron grill for steaks, and the rotisserie that had once been used by the restaurant. They had shortened it so that it was more practical for home use, although it looks as if it will hold AT LEAST thirty chickens! And not surprisingly, there wasn’t room for the car in the garage!

The second floor was divided into Rita and Pino’s area and a separate area for Marco and his family. A large covered balcony wrapped around all four sides of the house, and was accessible from many rooms. In Marco’s apartment, the room that had been their kitchen was now a sunny playroom for the boys, and it was also home to Marco’s collection of bonsai. This room was converted because Rita said they always ate together anyway, and used her kitchen.

The third floor was an attic room that Rita used for sewing and ironing. It was finished in a knotty pine paneling and had several skylights. Rita told us this room was her place to get away.

By this time Pino and Marco had appeared. Marushka told us that her uncle, who has lived in Detroit for many, many years, was moving back to Italy…to San Venanzo! When she first started to tell us the story, we thought she was asking if there were any other English speaking people in San Venanzo, and we told her no. Then she laughed and said, yes, now there would be another…her uncle! His wife had recently died, and for whatever reason he had decided to move to Italy. They told us that he speaks very little Italian. When we asked about this, someone said he just speaks a little, like Art, but then someone else corrected them and said no, VERY little, like Barbara! Guess you just can’t fake it!

The large room where we ate lunch had a huge fireplace that Rita told us had been made by hand, especially for their house. A fire was burning, and it felt nice. Even though today is the first of June, it’s cloudy and cool. Rita toasted the bread for bruschetta in the fireplace, the put the fava bean spread on. Lunch was ready!

We sat down to this huge table set for nine people. Art was given the place of honor at the head of the table. There was water, fizzy and natural, a decanter of red wine and a small box of white wine. There were two platters with bruschetta and two plates with fava beans and Pecorino cheese. They told us we just had to help ourselves, and the serving dishes were passed.

After the antipasti, Rita brought out the lasagna that we had seen in the oven, and had been smelling for quite some time. It was delicious! Marushka had made the pasta by hand, using their farm fresh, organic eggs and home-grown tomatoes. Marco told us that when we got back he would give us some of the fresh eggs. Since I’m an egg lover, I would gladly buy eggs from him on a regular basis…I hope that’s possible.

While we were eating and talking, the two boys, Phillipo, about ten, and Leonardo, about five, were busy showing off their English. They knew their numbers and colors in English, and also the names of animals. We had fun telling them the names of various things at the table, and as they would think of a word they knew in English, they would shout it out. .Phillipo told us that he studies English at school, along with mathematics, music and one other subject, I don’t remember what it was.

Once the pasta course was finished, so were the boys. They each grabbed a warm piece of bread that had just come out of the oven and were gone. Although it was cool and cloudy, it wasn’t raining, so they wanted to be outside.

The adults were now ready for the secondo, the meat course. As I said earlier, the rabbit looked and smelled delicious, and it tasted just as good as we expected. I was starting to fill up, and knew that I wouldn’t be able to finish all the meat that Rita had given me! To accompany the meat we had green beans, which were served at a tepid temperature…something that I just can’t get used to! A little of Marco’s olive oil helped me to enjoy them despite the cool temperature.

We continued to eat and talk and Marco told us that he had been to the doctor. He had an infected tooth that was extremely painful, and he had been given antibiotics. Although the left side of his moth was very tender, he managed to eat quite well using only the left side! He told us that he had a fear of needles, due to being hospitalized when he was three years old, but we don’t know what was wrong with him.

After the rabbit was cleared, we had fresh strawberries, and I was amazed when Marco told us that he did NOT grow the strawberries! As we finished up, Marushka started doing the dishes, and Rita told us about their house by the sea. They had gone there for the Easter holiday, and she told us they would also go in July. The house is near Grosseto, which is in Tuscany. She told us that is was very peaceful, and that there was a huge SAND beach! Sand beaches are a luxury…often what the Italian call a beach looks like a rocky coastline to us!

Then something amazing happened…Rita asked us if we would like to be their guests at this house by the sea in July! Would we! Plans are to be made once we get back from Prague…I guess we’re just not going to get a chance to sit around and rest…at least not here! Maybe I can get some reading in at the beach!

Pino got up from the table and said his goodbyes…he was off to take his nap! Shortly thereafter, we said our goodbyes to the rest of the family, with promises to call when we returned, and well wishes for Marco’s tooth. As we walked through the covered patio area, Umberto gave us a bag of shelled fava beans to take home. Art’s stomach will hate him for it, but we’ll eat them with some Pecorino.

Art was anxious to get home to finish the barbeque…he had found some more mortar mix while I was getting my hair cut. We did finish it, and I hope we used enough mortar! We did add some mortar to the areas that had been done the other day. As heavy as this thing is, I don’t think there’s any danger of it falling over, but we DO want it to be stable. WE still have to paint it, but we want to see if we can tint the white paint that came with it…otherwise our barbeque will look like a beacon in our back yard. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Mauro told us this morning that the commune DOES have plans to clean up the park behind us! I certainly hope that it will happen THIS year, but since this is Italy, I’m not getting my hopes up.

We had such a nice lunch with Jill and Larry yesterday. The have a place in the country, near Cortona. The building is a former convert, and has only been partially restored so far. There are four apartments I think, and Jill and Larry have rented theirs long term. The other apartments will be filled with vacationers over the summer, and with the owne'rs daughter who uses one of the apartments periodically.

They have a beautiful setting…the Umbrian hills on one side and the Tuscan hills on the other. They have a large plot of land with a beautiful pool, many tress and roses, and they’ve even put in a garden. I guess they must be new to gardening, and got carried away with enthusiasm, because they planted THIRTY tomato plants! We feel certain that we will have an unlimited supply of tomatoes, and I’ve suggested the idea of a roadside stand. Should you be in the Cortona area and see a couple selling tomatoes from the back of a VW Golf, you can bet it’s Jill and Larry!


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