Tuesday, August 17, 2010


We're back in Rome after a two week trip to la campagna and I admit I was savoring the lack of traffic congestion and clean air afforded by the small towns of Puglia, Molise and Umbria. Happily, we were greeted by a very pleasant surprise in that the city has disgorged itself of at least half its residents -- all of whom are doubtless smoking on one of the many crowded beaches or looking for a parking place nearby -- and the temperature has dipped below 90 degrees. It's actually perfect except for the fact that our corner store and some of our favorite cheese shops, enotecas and pizzerias are closed until September when we move to our more permanent digs at the American Academy.

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.


  1. Is Renato the guy who took us out to dinner on that memorable evening multi anni fa? Lord what a bad driver. Greetings from me tho'!

  2. Si, securo! He's picking us up next week after work and driving us to his place in the country. The autostrade has fewer red lights to run so it should be somewhat more relaxing once we're out of town.Un abbraccione a voi!

  3. Marie, What an adenture! VA and I loved Viterbo. The history is interesting -- lots of crooked Popes scheming and hiding out there. If you have time, take a ride over to Tarquinia on the coast and check out the Etruscan tombs -- the kids would love 'em. The Etruscans certainly knew how to have fun -- and they seemed to like to recline a lot, even on their tombs!

  4. BTW, can you send me your email? Apparently it's not earthlink anymore. (I don't know if earthlink even exists anymore.)