The kids continue to keep us on our toes and have made the very important discovery that the color of the gelato is not a good indicator of yummyness. Clearly another developmental milestone.
We started our country foray catching up with Giovanni's relatives in Carlantino, the Pugliese hill town where his parents grew up, and were able to partake in the fest of San Donato - the local patron saint. The celebration was officially kicked off by a traditional procession with decorative icons held aloft, brass band, dignatories, priests, nuns, countless dour old ladies in black walking arm in arm, and led by a small child holding a crucifix twice his size. It definitely felt like being on the set of a Fellini film. Afterward, the festivities continued with more food, fireworks, street vendors and, oddly enough, a Pink Floyd cover band. While admittedly incongruent, I presumed the latter was previously vetted by an obscure Vatican council that specializes in such matters.
We spent the remainder of our stay partaking in the hospitality of many families, overeating, meeting up with more cousins, walking the main street between meals, and (at least in my case) trying to understand the local dialect. I am now entertaining creating a board game based on our experience. The goal is to get through town in five days without gaining weight or offending anyone. Clearly it's a matter of succeeding in one respect or the other as refusing a course at someone's table is not condoned. This go round I'm certain we managed to fail on both counts.
Oh yes, and lest I forget, we spent a very memorable final evening at a farm where watermelon was served for desert after being ceremoniously cut by a chainsaw. Clearly not the kind of thing you will see anytime soon in Gourmet or Sunset magazines as part of "An Authentic Italian Picnic" spread.
Our next out-of-town outing will be to Viterbo for a few days and the country home of Renato and Christina, good friends of ours from years ago, and their two boys. I met Renato one summer while traveling through Italy working as a volunteer and he still runs "Brancaleone", the alternative social center that started as a communist-run squatter collective in an abandoned school -- and which I helped build the patio and garden area for with a dozen other well-meaning stranieri. The Italian government continues to leave them alone because they've improved the neighborhood by reclaiming a derelict building and, more importantly, pay the utility bills on time (and most likley turn down the screaming techno pop after 11 pm on weekdays). He's a club producer and a farmer/beekeeper and says their rural retreat has Etruscan ruins nearby as well as cats, turkeys, chickens and dogs so it promises to be a kid-pleaser.