Friday, July 30, 2004


JULY 29, 2004

We finally got to celebrate Art’s birthday with a dinner at the restaurant in the hotel.  This was the end to a very interesting day. 

As planned, I got up early and gathered the basil to make pesto.  I had to grate the parmesan and chop the garlic, then I was ready to put everything into the food processor.   The mortar and pestle may be traditional, but the food processor sure does make things a lot easier.

 I had planned to take a container of pesto to Adamo, and then I decided it would be nice to also give a container to the new neighbors.   I guess calling them the new neighbors isn’t quite correct since they’ve probably lived here since they were children…at least the relative of the man we bought our house from. 

Art was outside while I was finishing up the pesto and he came in to tell me that our new neighbors were outside, and that I should come and say hello.  I grabbed a container of pesto and went for the “official” meeting. 

The neighbors were out by the garage where the husband was putting up a clothesline between the house and the medieval wall.  He had cut back the climbing rose that grows against the wall and was cleaning up the branches. 

From the sounds coming from the garage, I gather that the washing machine is in there.  I wonder if they used to use the clothesline in our backyard, or if this is their usual procedure?  This way would certainly be more convenient than carrying the wet clothes around to the back yard.  

Art had been talking to the woman, and it turns out that the house wasn’t owned by two brothers, but rather by a brother and sister, and SHE was the sister.  She told us that her brother would be coming to stay with them later in the week, so we’ll finally get to meet the man we bought the house from!  I guess we’ll give the whole group the grand tour once he arrives.  I wonder what they’ll think of all the changes?

The woman, whose name I was never told, had been telling Art how pretty I was, and how lucky he was to have such a young wife.  He later said to me “boy, she must think I’m really old!”  I’m sure this wasn’t her intention, but it was at that point that Art decided not to have any more birthdays. Later, my sister would make him feel a little better by telling him that HE hadn’t had a face lift!  She also told him to enjoy his dinner, because if he didn’t celebrate his birthday, he wouldn’t get to go out to dinner.  This made him change his mind about celebrating his birthday!

Anyway, while the husband was trimming the rosebush and making sure the clothesline was both tight and secure, the wife just kept talking and talking.  She asked if we knew anything about when the park would be cleaned up.  Of course this is one of our questions too! 

Art told her that we had heard that it would be cleaned up at the end of the summer.  He also told her that we had heard that because San Venanzo was so small, we were on the bottom of the list for this type of work.  I pointed out that just the four of us, plus Armando and his wife were the only ones who had access to the park, except of course for the hotel guests. 

I mentioned that many of the trees were dead, and she told us about a time when one of the dead trees had fallen over.  As the road goes down the hill, the park gets more and more above street level.  This means that the tree had fallen over from above the road, and a car that was coming down the road was lucky not to have been in the spot where the tree fell, since he wouldn’t have seen it coming.  As it was, he was barely able to stop his car in time to avoid crashing into the tree! 

I gave the pesto to her, and told her that Adamo was letting us use his garden for the basil and tomatoes.  She told us that she had seen our garden, and also complimented us on the garden in the back.  It’s undergone an incredible transformation since the last time she saw it! 

She also told me that the three planters in front of our kitchen window are mine to do with as I please.  She said I could plant whatever I wanted there, but that they were important to keep the cars from parking on the sidewalk.  I certainly understand this…give an Italian a few feet, and he can make a parking spot out of it, even if it means parking sideways, or the wrong way. 

I told her that I liked to garden, and that I would probably replace those plants eventually.  Since I don’t know much about what will and won’t grow, for the time being it’s just easier to leave the stuff in the planters.  I have no idea what these plants are, but they stay green the whole year, and seem to survive snow, drought, whatever.  At least there’s something green out there.  I did prune them back severely, just to thin them out, and they seem to be coming back. 

Later in the evening we took some pesto down to Adamo.  His mother, another old lady, and the woman who watches the two ladies in the afternoons were all sitting outside.  I don’t know who this other old woman is…she’s just been there a week or so.  Adamo told us that these two women are 93 and 95 years old.  His mother is not quite with us 100%.  Maybe it’s Alzheimer’s, I don’t know, but she tends to ramble on, sing, and occasionally call for help from passers-by. 

We had what was probably the longest conversation in Italian that we’ve ever had.  Adamo told us that he would like to visit the United States, and we talked about how big it is, and how difficult it was for him to imagine.  We told him that once he learned more English and we learned more Italian, he could come with us to the United States and we could all visit the Grand Canyon together. 

We also talked about the differences between Italian and English, and he told us that English is very difficult for him.  He does speak French, and said that it was fairly easy to learn.  Because the verbs are conjugated the same, we had heard that French was fairly easy for Italians to learn. 

I showed him how well the rosebush next to my tomato plants was doing…. I’ve been feeding and watering it when I do the tomatoes and basil.  I told him that roses needed lots of plant food to make flowers.  I’m hopeful that this bush keeps on responding.  The ground in this area resembles concrete more than dirt, but the plants seem to somehow keep growing, although they don’t exactly thrive. 

Our neighbor walked down, and told us that she had enjoyed our pesto for lunch.  She thanked me profusely and said that she had already called her brother to tell him what wonderful people we were!  I guess this means that we can’t crank up the music too loud while they’re here!

We walked to the hotel to make sure the restaurant was open.  As soon as we saw that the doors were open, we knew that the answer was yes.  Art really likes this restaurant and I decided that this would be the perfect place to celebrate his birthday.  They have a very nice and interesting menu, and a nice wine list.  We could eat later, Italian style, and not have to worry about driving home in the dark, or under the influence. 

We walked back home to take showers and change for dinner.  Since it was only 7:30, we knew we had plenty of time.  We didn’t want to be the first and only people in the restaurant.  As we got dressed we both moaned abut the weight we’ve gained.  Although I can still wear everything, some of it looks bad enough that I WON’T wear it!  I need to lose a good ten pounds…maybe more, and Art would like to lose twenty.  This is no easy task under the best of circumstances, and damn near impossible in this land of delicious carbs! 

When we entered the restaurant we saw that there was a table of seven Brits already eating.  They must be staying there.  At least we weren’t the first! 

A flute of Prosecco was brought to the table, as is normal here.  This was followed by a small antipasto…one slice of sausage, a piece of Parmigiano, and bruschetta. We were then given menus to peruse. 

We decided to each have a pasta dish and then share a steak.  Art ordered umbricelli, which is an Umbrian form of spaghetti, fatter than regular spaghetti and ideally, hand-rolled. I ordered the ravioli with arugula and tomatoes.  We asked the manager, who is also a sommelier, to pick out a reasonably priced red wine for us. 

The pastas were both delicious, as expected.  The steak was then served, and it had been cut in two pieces and each plate had been arranged beautifully.  The steak sat on a bed of arugula, so at least I feel that I had my greens for the day. 

The wine we had was a red, and it was very nice.  We would later be surprised to see that it was only €13!  For a whole bottle!!! I don’t think you could get a bottle of RIPPLE in a restaurant in the states for that price!

We decided to splurge on dessert, but again we decided to share one dessert.  We chose the Torta di Ciocolatto, and it turned out to be very similar to a brownie!  What a pleasant surprise!  Usually the textures of baked goods are quite different from what we are used to, and we don’t really care for them.  This was different and delicious! 

Once we received the bill (which arrives ONLY after you request it), we were surprised to see that the total bill was €47.  This was for a large bottle of water, the Prosecco and antipasti, the two pasta dishes, the steak, a bottle of wine, and one dessert.  Oh, and they also brought us a sweet dessert wine, which was on the house, in recognition of Art’s birthday, I think.  Oh, and Art had a coffee after dinner (Isn’t he becoming Italian-ized?)

We wished that our walk home was longer, but in just a few minutes we were home.  At this point we didn’t know that we would have one more interesting thing happen to us. 
 Art went downstairs to the bathroom, and when he turned on the light, what should he see in the sink but the scorpion!!!  I guess you can’t really kill anything with air freshener after all!   Luckily for us this time, it was in the sink, and probably couldn’t get out because it was so slippery.  Art was able to squash him, but he did manage to save one of his claws to show me


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