Saturday, September 03, 2005


We spent the last weekend of August enjoying a four day festa in San Venanzo, then celebrated the first weekend in September with yet another festa. In between we managed to host our new friend Nedra, who is here for a month to study at the University per Stranieri in Perugia.

Last weekend the festivities started on Thursday with a play in the main piazza. The story was told by two guys with the help of four large “puppets”. That might not be quite the right word because they weren’t puppets with strings, but large stuffed animals.

The only prop used besides the puppets was a large wagon…or what appeared to be a wagon. As the story progressed and the scenes changed, the wagon was transformed into a forest or a room or one of several other scenes. It was quite creative and very cute.

The story was about the journey of four animals: A donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster. They traveled around, eventually coming to the house of two pirates where they enjoyed an incredible feast. Although I didn’t have the foggiest idea what was happening, it was so much fun to watch the kids who were completely mesmerized by the play. Even eleven month old Mateo, the son of our friend Paula, was fascinated.
On Friday we went to the same piazza for the introduction of a new cookbook featuring old recipes from San Venanzo and this area. Adamo was involved with the production of this cookbook and had told us about it a few weeks ago.  In addition to the cookbook, which we bought for ten euro, a DVD was also available.

The DVD was a slide show of old pictures from San Venanzo. Many of these same pictures were featured in the cookbook, and even though we didn’t know any of the people or recognize any of the places, it was still interesting to see these old photographs. The slide show was narrated by a young woman who told the story of San Venanzo. Amazingly, just like the picnic DVD from June, all the background music was American pop……”As Time Goes By”, “Miss You Like Crazy”, “Yesterday”, “Imagine” and “Everything I Do”….all appropriate to the theme, but still, very strange.

The planning for this event left something to be desired. After a VERY late start, there were two speakers scheduled for after the DVD, and they both talked for WAY too long. Even if we had been able to understand what they were telling us about the food and cooking of this area, the speeches still would have been too long.

Adding to this confusion was the fact that food had been prepared for after the film…food made from these old recipes, along with wine supplied by the cantina in Marsciano. All of this was free, and the set up was nice, but the timing was way off.

As usual, lots of people stood in the back of the piazza rather than sitting, and once the film was over these people began to sample the food and wine. This wouldn’t have been so bad but additionally they began to talk….more and more, louder and louder. We were sitting in about the third row listening to the speakers and found the background chatter quite annoying. Eventually Adamo stood up and asked for people to wait until the speakers were finished before they started eating and drinking.

Both the speakers droned on and on and on….even if we’d been able to understand all they were saying it was too long. The mayor pasted a frozen smile on her face….Adamo stood up, ready to take the microphone as soon as the last speaker finished. And at last, the speeches were finished! The audience clapped quickly and excitedly, but not so much as to encourage any additional comments!

It was about eleven o’clock at this time, and for us it was much too late to eat. Others didn’t feel the same, or had been waiting all evening, and the crush of people at the food tables was unbelievable. We did enjoy a glass of wine and a few minutes of conversation before heading back home.

Saturday’s festivity was a concert on the piazza, and for some reason we just listened to it from the house. It was quite enjoyable, as expected.

I’m not quite sure what exactly was scheduled for Sunday. I think it was to be a walk through the town sampling various foods along the way. Because it was raining off and on all day we never did check to see if it was running as scheduled.

On Monday we welcomed our new friend and guest from Florida, Nedra. Nedra had found us and our blog through the SlowTrav and Expats message boards and had contacted us several months ago. Her plans were to live in Perugia for a month, improving her Italian at the Universita per Stranieri. When she found out that her apartment in Perugia wouldn’t be available until Thursday we suggested that she stay with us.

Because Nedra is a flight attendant who has family in Italy, she already had a cell phone for Italy and she called us on Monday morning to let us know she had arrived. The original plan was for her to take the train to Perugia or Ponte San Giovanni, but when we found out that she could catch a train to Orvieto and be there a full two hours earlier, we suggested that option.

We were so glad that Nedra had her cell phone so we could call her to let her know that her train was running thirty minutes late, and to warn her that the stop in Orvieto would be short. As it turned out, the stop was exactly one minute, so for anyone else, be warned! You need to have your luggage in hand and be waiting by the door as the train pulls in to your station.

Because she had emailed us her picture we had no problem spotting her, although she was one of the last people off the train and for a minute we panicked and were afraid that a) she was still on the train as it was pulling out of the station or b) she was on a different train to Orvieto.

After an all night flight and several hours on trains, Nedra was ready for a quick shower and a nap. We had plans to attend “The Merchant of Venice” (Al Pacino!) in Perugia later that night, so we were hopeful that a nap would help Nedra feel rested enough to go with us. This would be her first introduction to Perugia, and also to Bob and Rosemary.

We were happy when Nedra woke up and told us she’d love to join us for the evening. We drove into Perugia around seven and met Bob and Rosemary for dinner. We found a small restaurant on the way to the amphitheater where the movie was being shown. Nothing great, but passable food.

We were so happy that it wasn’t as cold as it had been for our last movie two weeks ago. Of course I was prepared for cold weather this time, and in the end was glad I had dressed warmly….it does cool off dramatically at night.  The movie was amazing….Pacino was incredible, and the movie was very well done.

Tuesday was the day Nedra would need to contact the school and her landlord to see if she might be able to move into her apartment a day early. When she eventually got a hold of the rental agency she was told quite curtly that no, it wouldn’t be possible to get into her apartment before September first. She was able to contact the landlord and make an appointment to see the place on Thursday before she paid her deposit.

For school she was told to be there at eight thirty on Thursday morning. She had been sent no advance information, but we knew she’d have to be tested on the first day to determine which classes she’d be taking.

We had a lazy day, hanging around San Venanzo, walking through town, making homemade pasta for lunch, taking a nap. It was nice that Nedra had arrived a few days early to help her adjust to the new time zone.

On Wednesday we got up early and drove in Perugia. We wanted Nedra to see the city in the daytime and to help orient her. We found the main building for the school, and then drove off in search of the neighborhood where her apartment was located. As usual, dumb luck rather than map skills or knowledge of the city took us right there. A map for Perugia is definitely needed, but looking at a flat map bears little resemblance to the up and down streets. IN addition to the hilliness, many of the streets are one way…a fact that doesn’t matter if you’re walking, but of course makes a huge difference in the car. In the end we told Nedra she’d have to find the best way back and forth on her own, through trial and error or the help of other students….we were quite limited in the car.

The neighborhood where she’ll be staying, Monteluce, looks to be quite nice….very residential and quiet. Although we couldn’t see into her apartment, we did the the small garden leading to it….a garden covered with a pergola with grapes vines. We all hoped that the interior of the apartment would be as charming as the outside.

We walked up into the centro and had lunch with Bob and Rosemary. We wanted Nedra to see what a wonderful apartment they had, and hoped hers would be a nice. Altho Bob and Rosemary’s place is small, the setting is perfect….quiet, off the beaten path, and has an incredible multi-level garden that overlooks the city.

Later we walked down to the rental agency where Nedra would have to pay the rest of the money owed on her apartment. Although she had been hesitant about paying for something she hadn’t yet seen, the exterior, combined with reassurances from Bob and Rosemary that she could change if she didn’t like it made her decide and get that chore over with.

Because it was the last day of the month the office was busy with other students coming and going, and Nedra had quite a wait. We walked up to a bar for a coffee while Nedra waited in line. The good thing about this was that she got to meet other new students like herself, and of course they all had something to share.

A disagreement about the amount of the deposit she had sent kept Nedra from completing her business, but the office told her that she could still move in on Thursday, and when they checked with the bank and verified her deposit she could settle up on Friday. What a relief!

We made plans with Bob and Rosemary to bring Nedra into town for her first class on Thursday morning. We’d drop her luggage off at their place for safe keeping until she could figure out her schedule. We said goodbye to bob and Rosemary and headed back to Marsciano….we needed to take Nedra to Ternana’s for dinner, and tonight was our last chance.

As we entered Ternana’s we were glad to see that the entire family was there, even the kids. Pino even had the pictures he had taken at our picnic. We don’t want to show them our pictures yet because we plan to frame some of them and give them for Christmas gifts!

Of course the food was wonderful as usual, and I think Nedra got an idea of why we like this place so much. We stopped at Stefania’s for a gelato then headed back to San Venanzo….we had to be up at six a.m. to take Nedra into Perugia.


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