Friday, August 12, 2005


Okay, where was I? I think I left off just as we dashed home from Shae and Art’s house. We had told Josepinna that we’d be a little late, and it was about six o’clock when we arrived. I don’t know whether there had been anything for us to do, but when we got there everything seemed to be in order. Josepinna asked us if we’d like to take a walk around the town to see if everything was ready, and we agreed.

Last year I thought that all the art work on display (and for sale) was made by people who lived in Rotecastello, but now I think that most of these people just rent out a storefront for the festa. One woman had soaps and candles and honey, and most of the other shops were painting, drawings or sculpture.

Of course Silvano, Josepinna and Francesco live in Rotecastello full-time and have a thriving (at least I hope so) mosaic business. They make pictures, tabletops, floors, lamps, mirrors, dishes, coat rack, bottle carriers, ashtrays, pencil holders…just about anything and everything you could ever imagine. The basement workshop held a beautiful and varied display of their work.

As we walked through town I asked Josepinna if the old public oven at the edge of town was still used and she said yes. How cool! Tonight it was transformed into a small bar selling drinks. Small tables were set up and music was playing. This would be a place to get away from the main performance and the crush of people in the main piazza.

We were introduced to Silvano’s sister along the way, as well as other townspeople. A young English couple, Janine and Keith have bought a house in Rotecastello and manage to fly over every couple of months to continue their restoration. Amazingly, they too read the blog and said they identified with many of the things I had written about….finding the stores, dealing with the mid-afternoon closings, learning what things are and are not available in Italy, or maybe just finding out that these things are sold in a different type of store, kept in a different department, or just called something completely different. I think the best example of this, although not related to home renovation, is baking soda. Over here it’s just called bicarbonate of soda, but unfortunately is kept with the soft drinks! I think its main use in Italy is for indigestion….which still doesn’t explain its location.

We also met Anna and her husband (Manlio?). They too live in Rome but come to Rotecastello during the summer. Anna spoke a little English and were just as warm and welcoming as everyone else had been.

About seven thirty we walked down to the soccer field to see what the nightly specials were. Although we were all absolutely stuffed from the fabulous lunch that Shae and Art had prepared, we thought we might get just a little taste of something to get us through the night. The performance wouldn’t start until nine thirty and would probably last until midnight. If this years performers were as good as last years we knew it would be a long night.

As expected, it was hard to make a decision about what to eat, but we decided to get an appetizer plate and some grilled meat. Art also ordered a bowl of risotto. The appetizer plate consisted of bruschetta with two types of pate, a tuna/farro/bean salad, stuffed grilled tomatoes, prosciutto, and mortadella with arugula. We bought a bottle of red wine for €5 and a bottle of water.

The computer age is wonderful for festas like this. Each order is typed into the computer, then two copies of your order, complete with your name, are printed out. After you sit down, a waitperson comes to the table to bring your utensils, then marks your table number on one copy of your order and takes it to the kitchen.

After our order had been delivered to the kitchen, Anna came over and invited Isabella Art and me to join them at their table. How sweet! The other couple, whose names we never did learn, had a small child with them…a charming Filipino boy of four whose name was Christian. Although initially shy, he soon warmed up to us and made sure to stop by to say hello whenever he saw us on subsequent nights.

Anna told us quite a bit about the history of Rotecastello, and as usual we were amazed at how much history people seem to know. If you asked me to tell you about the history of Louisville, I could give you a VERY general outline, but not supply all the names and dates. Here in Italy everyone seems to have a much better education about the area. I think regional pride has a lot to do with it too.

After dinner we walked up to the piazza to listen to the band for the night, a blues band. Chairs were set up and we easily found a seat, in part due to the cool night and the threat of rain. Unfortunately this blues band wasn’t nearly as good as last years, and at eleven I told Art I was ready to go. It had been along day! Had the band been really smokin’ I could have stayed til the end, but as it was I didn’t think we’d be missing too much. Isabella agreed, and we headed back to San Venanzo….it was great to be so close!

On Friday Isabella discovered that she had to return to Todi. The roof on their building had been replaced, and now it was time to meet with someone to pay for the work! She arranged to be in Todi by 3:30, giving us time to stop at the Franco Todini winery on the way there. Isabella didn’t know this place, and in addition to a great (and inexpensive) red wine, it also looks just like you think a wine estate should look…a large stone house sits atop a hill, over-looking fields and files of vineyards and accessed by a cedar lined road. In the distance Todi sat atop it’s hill, and the whole scene is amazing.

Later in the day we called Bob and Rosemary to find out if they’d like come for Saturday night’s procession….since Bob’s a photographer, we thought this might be right up his alley. We arranged to pick them up from the bus stop in Marsciano on Saturday afternoon, and planned to drive them back to Perugia on Sunday afternoon.

To save money we didn’t eat at the festa on Friday, but did drive over for the music at 9:30. Tonight’s entertainment would be a jazz quintet. One of the best parts about going to the festa was seeing people that we know….Giulia, Janine, Josepinna, Lucia and baby Ricardo. Francesco told us that we were becoming citizens of Rotecastello and that pretty soon we’d be getting keys to the city!

Although a little better than the previous night’s entertainment, I was still a little disappointed, and the fact that I was freezing could have affected my opinion. We stayed until about eleven again, then decided to go home where we could at least warm up. Although we never got the rain that had been forecast, the temperatures had definitely taken a turn for the colder.

On Saturday before heading to Rotecastello with Bob and Rosemary we called Adrian and Hazel up in Ospedaletto to make sure they knew about the festa. Ospedaletto was scheduled to have a festa of their own, but the lure of a medieval procession would certainly guarantee which festa I would choose. Adrian and Hazel were glad we had called…they had attended the festa last year and knew how good it would be. We arranged to meet them at the soccer filed around eight.

In addition to Bob and Rosemary, we were also joined by Diane, Pio and their six year old son Dante. I had posted a notice about the festa on the ExPats message board and Diane, although newly arrived in Italy, thought that a trip to Umbria sounded like fun. Pio is originally from just southeast of Rome, and after nearly forty years in the states he wanted to move back. He and Diane have been married for about nine years, and this was certainly the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. 
They had asked us about accommodations, and we had suggested the (only) hotel, the Villa Valentini. At least we’re doing our share to help stimulate the local economy! We left our number for them at the hotel, and when they called we told them to head for the pool and we’d meet them there. By going out our back door we can be at the hotel pool in less than a minute.

Pio offered to drive because all of us could fit in their Multipla. Knowing how difficult parking could be we quickly agreed. Because of the cooler temperatures and the earliness of the hour we were able to park pretty close to the town.

As Art and the others got in line and began studying the menu I walked down to the soccer field to see if I could find Adrian and Hazel. I group of teenagers were on the path leading down to the soccer field and it wasn’t hard for them to guess that I spoke English. Turns out all of them were from Rome, spending their August holiday visiting grandparents in Rotecastello. They practiced their English and I practiced my Italian for a few minutes before I said goodbye.

Adrian was on his way up to meet me, and said that he and Hazel hadn’t ordered yet. I went to the table to say hello to Hazel while Adrian went to join Art and the rest of the group in line. The line seemed to be moving just as slowly as it had the first night, but eventually everyone arrived at the table. We were a group of nine…me and Art, Bob and Rosemary, Adrian and Hazel, and Pio, Diane and Dante.

It seemed like quite along wait for our food, but this was after all the night of the procession and as expected it was busier than it had been on Thursday. The kids serving the tables brought us our wine and water so we chatted and sipped and waited….and waited.

Eventually the food started to arrive. First our food came, then Diane, Pio and Dante’s, but then the food stopped coming. Shouldn’t the other two orders be right behind ours? We flagged down a waitperson and discovered that Bob and Rosemary and Adrian and Hazel had never handed in their tickets.

I’m not sure what happened…maybe the person who took our orders didn’t realize that there were four separate orders, or maybe none of us realized that only two of the four orders had been turned in. Well, at least it was taken care of, and soon the rest of the food arrived. Everything tasted great, probably even more so for the four who’d been waiting and watching the rest of us eat! By the time everyone was finished eating is was time to walk up into town for the entertainment. A tenor was scheduled to sing, then the procession would begin.

The piazza was fairly crowded, and while Art took everyone to see Silvano and Francesco’s studio I saw Giulia, who pointed out an empty seat for me. The tenor was really good, and seemed to be singing the standard “best of” Italian arias. By the time the others had finished looking at the mosaics and the historic photographs, a few more seats had opened up and everyone was able to sit comfortably….a seat with a back always makes a difference.

We were all fairly impressed with the tenor…..especially when you consider how small Rotecastello is. I wonder where and how they get their entertainment.

When the tenor finished, to a great deal of applause, an encore of “Nessum Dorma” no less, followed by an even greater round of applause, we knew it was time for the procession to being. Our friend Anna took the stage and began to tell the story of Rotecastello. As the story neared its end, we heard drums in the distance. The drums grew louder…and louder…and louder….they were coming up the hill and into the town through the main gate.

The procession was led by a nobleman and a corps of drums. More nobles followed, then knights, townspeople, the priest, the court jesters. The costumes are beautiful and I’m sure a lot of time and effort has gone into them. I wish I had counted the number of people in the procession…obviously a great many of the summer residents must participate too!

Unfortunately Sunday’s activities were rained out, and the weather was even colder than it had been earlier in the week….what a strange August we’ve had so far. I was really glad that the medieval procession was held on Saturday this year instead of the last night. 


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