Tuesday, June 07, 2005


June 5, 2005

It’s hard to believe we’ve been back almost a week. In many ways it feels as if we’ve never left. We seem to have slipped back into our normal rhythms, with the exception of sleep. Today I got up about 7:30, and went back to bed at 9:30! I thought I’d sleep an hour or two, but when I heard the church bell ring two o’clock, I was really surprised. Art’s snoozing on the couch right now, and we’re hoping that our sleep patterns are just about back to normal. We’ve had a busy week, up early and to bed late so I guess we haven’t been helping the situation.

Flying home was fairly uneventful. For some reason our plane was re-routed before we left Detroit, delaying our departure while they added more fuel, and increasing the length of the flight. We had been scheduled to arrive in Rome at 10:20 but didn’t land until about 11:20. Our luggage FINALLY appeared and we loaded up two carts and headed outside.

We tried something new this time for our return to Umbria….we took the bus from the airport all the way into Perugia. Luckily we caught the 12:30 bus and didn’t have to wait for the later one. Taking the bus meant that we wouldn’t have to worry about changing trains and heaving all our suitcases on and off…always a challenge. As usual we were loaded down with supplies…things we can’t find in Italy as well as things that cost a lot less in the states.

We called Wendy and arranged to meet her at the bus terminal in Perugia. She would bring our car, then we would take her back to work. The bus was scheduled to arrive in Perugia at 4:15, and we dozed on and off for the entire journey. I wouldn’t say that this was a restful sleep, but, combined with the few hours we had on the plane, it was enough to keep us going for a while.

After a few quick stops we finally made it back to San Venanzo about 6:00 that evening. We unpacked most of the suitcases and started laundry. Wendy had opened up the house for us so it wasn’t too stuffy. Although it had been fairly warm in Perugia, up in San Venanzo it was much cooler and we had a nice breeze. We made ourselves stay up until about eleven, and had no trouble falling asleep.

After a good night’s sleep I was ready to tackle all the stuff we had unpacked. As usual we had quite an assortment: Crisco, spices, vitamins, shampoo, plant food, plastic containers, pecans, computer supplies, clothes, books and more. We had filled our four large suitcases to capacity. For someone who’s not really much of a shopper, I have to admit that I do love to shop when we go back to the states. I’m like a kid in a candy store, I guess because I know what everything is, because there’s such abundance….and because everything seems so cheap compared to Italy.

We saw Adamo and he invited us to a community picnic on Thursday. We thanked him but told him that we were expecting company on Thursday. Leslie from the SlowTrav message board was in Umbria with her family and they were coming for lunch. Adamo told us to bring them along, so we accepted his invitation and hoped that Leslie and her family wouldn’t mind. We thought it might be an interesting experience for all of us, and when we spoke with Leslie we were glad that she seemed to agree. Although we weren’t really sure what this picnic would entail, we knew it would be interesting.

The garden seems to have thrived while we were gone. I don’t think the water bottles I used for heat and protection were necessary, but of course you never know when a sudden frost might occur. The bottles had come in handy for Adamo to water the plants, though, since this May wasn’t as wet as last years.

I planted the basil and a few more pepper plants, but I still need to plant more arugula. What I had planted before we left had obviously gone to seed. We drove to Marsciano one afternoon to visit the garden center …the one we didn’t know about until Giacomo drove past it on his way to the airport. I bought some flowers for the window boxes and back yard….not as many as last year, but I’m still trying to get it right.

Leslie, her husband Brent and daughter Riley arrived in San Venanzo around eleven and we gave them the house tour and then a quick tour of the city before we left for the picnic. Leslie has been following our blog for quite a while and had contacted us about getting together. When I suggested lunch at our house, she was really excited to be able to see in person all the things I had written about, and to see things that she had only seen in pictures.

Brent is about to retire from a career in the army and the family is just settling down in a new house in Atlanta. We really liked both Leslie and Brent, and their nine year old daughter Riley was not only beautiful, but also well-behaved….in other words, the perfect child.

I had planned to bake some brownies for the picnic even though Adamo had said we didn’t need to bring anything. When I ran out of time and didn’t get the brownies baked I decided not to worry about it, and as it turned out, it was a good thing.

We knew we’d have to park on the main road and walk down to the picnic area, and as we got closer, we saw that there were already about 100 people there. Tables and chairs were set up everywhere and we met Adamo on his way back to town to get more.

The huge grill was blazing and people were busy preparing food. We still didn’t know exactly what the menu would be, but of course we knew it would be delicious and filling. We found Adamo’s table and sat down. It was in the perfect spot overlooking the whole area so we could indulge in one of our favorite pastimes, people watching.

Riley found her way to the creek where a bunch of the kids were playing. Catching tadpoles in water bottles seemed to be the sport of the day and she jumped right in there despite the language barrier. With her olive skin and dark curly hair she blended in perfectly…..Until some pre-adolescent boys started to bombard her with questions, causing her to run back to our table for some reassurance. After a quick pep talk from mom and dad, and the reassurance from Luciano that she was “bellissima” she was ready to face the kids again, and eventually she settled in with a couple of the local girls. Despite the language barrier they managed to get along just fine.

Adamo’s sister Rosalba and her husband Luciano arrived, along with their guests, fellow professors. Rosalba is the friendliest, most animated person you’ve ever seen, and we all had fun just watching her. 
The weather that day was absolutely perfect: it was warm enough for the kids to play in the creek, yet still cool enough in the shade. We had a nice breeze to tempt us with the smells of the food as it cooked, so by the time lunch was served we were all more than ready to eat.

When it was time to eat, Adamo made the announcement and in normal Italian style, a herd formed at the serving table. Lines seem to be unheard of in Italy; it’s strictly every man for himself.

The first course was bruschetta and bread with prosciutto. We each took a plate and settled back at our tables. Each table had bottles of home made red wine and also bottled water that had been cooled in the stream.

After fifteen or twenty minutes everyone started to line up for the second course. Despite the fact that this was a picnic, the second course was still pasta. A HUGE vat of water was boiling with pasta, and as it was drained the pasta was added to large pots of tomato sauce and stirred to mix.

Not surprisingly, the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and the sauce was amazing. I told Riley this might be the only time in her life when she had pasta at a picnic!

After the pasta course came the grilled meats….sausages and pork grilled to perfection on that huge grill. I guess years of practice ensure that everything is perfect, but we were all suitable impressed.

Cake and crostata were served for dessert for those who still had room, then watermelon was cut as the grand finale. Wow!

As the afternoon wore on the crowd got smaller and smaller as people started leaving. I guess it was about four o’clock when we decided to head back to the house. By this time Riley was soaking wet but very happy…she had a nice collection of tadpoles as a souvenir.

We thanked Adamo and said our goodbyes. What a great experience for all of us! We were so glad that Leslie Brent and Riley had gotten to share it with us!  I don’t know about Leslie and her family, but Art and I didn’t even think about eating dinner that evening!


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