IT'S ALWAYS SOMETHING!
We continue to stay busy, and usually in very unexpected ways. Oh the advantages of being retired! Lunch tomorrow? Sure, why not? Can I stop by for a few days for a visit? Great! Can you help us pick olives this weekend? Glad to! And so it goes….
After finishing with Belinda and Giacomo’s olives, we thought our olive picking season was over….but no! We knew our friends Larry and Shelly would be back for a week or two to host their annual Thanksgiving get together, but we didn’t know if they’d had someone local pick their olives for them, or if the trees would be waiting for them once they arrived. I emailed Shelly to tell her we’d be happy to help and waited for a reply.
Meanwhile, Beverly and Ron, who we met in August at the Rotecastello medieval festa, had emailed to say that they too would be returning to Umbria for a few weeks. We’d never been able to get together during August, so we were determined to make it happen this time. Although we’d only talked to them for a few minutes, they seemed like people we’d like to know better. I told them to email us once they were recovered from their jetlag and we’d take it from there.
Additionally, we had yet another surprise email….from Rhonda, who we’d met at a SlowTrav get together in September. Rhonda, aka Limoncella on the message board, had been traveling throughout Italy since then, and was ready to leave Sicily and head north. Umbria was a good place to stop along the way, and she said she’d arrive on Saturday and leave on Monday. She knew she wanted some local wine and olive oil, so we thought maybe a trip to Montefalco might fill the bill.
Beverly called us with good news and bad news. The good news was they were in Italy safe, sound and recovering from jetlag. The bad news was they had no heat…at least no heat from the radiators, and were relying solely on the fireplace for warmth. Calls to plumbers and other technicians hadn’t yet produced any definite results. We invited them for lunch at our house on Friday, and hoped they’d stay warm enough til then.
When the phone rang early Friday morning we thought “Oh no, it’s Ron and Bev calling to say they can’t come for lunch!” We figured the heating repairs had been set for that morning, and when you don’t have heat and the technician says they’re coming to fix it, you drop all other plans, so we certainly were prepared to understand. Except that it wasn’t Ron OR Beverly…it was Rhonda, saying that she was on the train to Marsciano, and that she’d be arriving at 9 a.m. HUH??? Wait, she’s not supposed to be here until tomorrow, right? Well, we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and Art got ready to go pick her up.
And so lunch that day was us with three Canadians in our kitchen. We had a great time getting to know everyone better, and I had a ball listening to their accents….I just love it when they say “aboot” for about!
Ron and Beverly left that afternoon with the WISH for having us to their place for lunch, but with the heating situation still not resolved, Ron was toying with the idea of taking the next flight back to Toronto.
Art had run into Belinda and Giacomo earlier that day when we stopped by the post office, and they’d invited us over for a drink, and to meet Giacomo’s dad, Santi, who was visiting from Sicily. Well, at least Rhonda was getting to meet several of our friends.
On Saturday morning we headed to Montefalco. Trying to accomplish as much as possible in a short time, we figured the drive to Montefalco would give Rhonda a chance to see some wonderful Umbrian scenery, Montefalco itself would give here a chance to see a cute medieval hilltown, and as a bonus she’d also be able so buy some olive oil in 1 liter tins. We like the one liter tins because they’re small enough to squeeze into a tiny space, there’s no worry or breakage, and the tins are much lighter than a bottle. Trouble is, one liter tines aren’t always easy to find, but we were pretty sure we could find them in Montefalco.
Once we arrived in Montefalco we were distracted by a few other shops along the walk up into the centro, but eventually we arrived and headed straight for our favorite enoteca. Yes, they had olive oil in one liter tins, but it was all last year’s oil! Boo! The proprietor told us the new oil would arrive within a few days, but of course Rhonda didn’t have a few days. We checked with another shop but found the same situation. And then Art had an idea….
When Shelly called to take us up on our offer to pick olives and learned we were going to Montefalco, she asked us to stop at the local hardware store and pick up several one liter tins. We’d done that when we first arrived in town, but now Art suggested that Rhonda buy another tin or two and that we have them filled at our local frantoio. Great idea!
Our plan was to have some lunch, return to San Venanzo, then later drive over to the frantoio. We weren’t 100% sure that the frantoio was still open for the season, but it seemed likely. Just to be safe though, we decided to watch for any signs along the road announcing ‘new oil’. As luck would have it, there WAS a sign…and it was just seconds outside of Montefalco’s walls! I’d forgotten about this frantoio since we hadn’t visited it previously, but we pulled in and smelled the wonderful fragrance of olives/olive oil as soon as we opened the car doors.
Once inside the small frantoio we asked about having Rhonda’s tins filled, and were happily accommodated. The tins were wrapped in plastic and taped up so there was no danger of leakage, and we were on our way. Mission accomplished!
Of course lunch would be at our favorite pizzeria in Marsciano, Nestor's. We hadn’t been there in several weeks, and Belinda and Giacomo told us Giuseppe and Mara had been asking about us. We were only too happy to say hello in person! We ordered pizzas from the oven and were entertained by six year old Annalaura, who was anxious to show off her artwork….Babbo Natale!
After lunch we returned to San Venanzo, and later Art would walk with Rhonda down to our local grocery store to buy a few small (375 ml) bottles of 1997 Brunello for an incredible €15 each!
Sunday morning was partly cloudy, and definitely colder than the previous olive-picking weekend. We bundled up and headed south towards Massa Martana to pick olives. As expected, some trees were loaded while other contained only a handful of olives. We made quite a bit of progress, and later, when neighbors stopped by, they pitched in too! What could be more Italian than picking olives with a cigaret in your mouth? Well, I guess he could have been talking on his cell phone, but that might have been pushing it!
Once we lost the daylight…damn I hate that it’s dark by 5 p.m!...we warmed ourselves at the fireplace with a glass of wine, then went to meet friends for pizza. The neighbors came, kids in tow, and twelve of us enjoyed the meal and the company.
On Monday morning we took Rhonda to the train station to catch a train for Venice. We got to the station in plenty of time, but needn’t have worried; the train was about five minutes late. We piled all of Rhonda’s belongs on board and she settled in. We waited for the train to depart so we could cross the tracks and return to our car. And waited……..and waited. Conductors conferred. People stuck their heads out the window. Calls were made. Most of the other people on the platform eventually walked around the front of the train to cross over and go back to the station and/or their car. We didn’t want to leave Rhonda stranded, just in case, so we waited.
At first we thought we were waiting for another train to arrive, but eventually it was discovered that there was a problem with the switching device, and workmen had to manually switch the track. After about a thirty minute delay, the train finally left the station, and we hoped Rhonda would make her connection in Florence. We told her to check with the conductor on board about connection times, and reminded her that she might be entitled to a refund if the more expensive train she’d paid for had already left the station. Rhonda’s been traveling since September, so we were confident she could handle the situation.
Back home the house was quiet, but not in a bad way. Now it was time to relax, do some laundry, maybe have some of that new oil on freshly toasted bread for lunch.......and wait to see what tomorrow would bring.