A Travellerspoint blog

July 16, 2008 (messed up last date)

Some days...

...are so close to perfection that description seems an insult, but I will try. It started after Constance and Lylaine and I said our goodbyes (that is NOT part of the perfect day, in fact, they were sorely missed as the day progressed and I would have loved to share it with them. I am comforted knowing that tonight they are watching the sun set over the Bay of Naples together). Suzy called to see if I would be interested in going to a 4 star spa in Tuscany. Hmmmm. Let me see. Let me check my date book.

We met in Moiano and set out for Fonte Verde (Google it). The drive is beautiful. Sorry to be a broken record about the views, but................We finally arrived at the top of a hill overlooking a wide, rolling valley. This is the setting for Fonte Verde. This terme (thermal bath) is huge and has several options for bathing. There is a waterfall, there are high spigots, there are small "rapids" that come over the sides of the pool (travertine) and there is an indoor area. I did it all. As you enter the lage pool, it seems that you melt into the water. It is very hot and rich in minerals that act as an anti-inflammatory. and the release of stess was almost immediate. As if the travertine pool is not enough, when you turn and look up and around, the hotel and grounds and view made it a "pinchable" moment. How did we get so lucky to he here??? I told Suzy we deserved it, of course we did not deserve the upper pool with the really great view, horizon pool and chair-side service, but I will take D list 4 star experiences any time! We took the waters, rested a bit and then got back in again. S had a caffe poolside and then we dressed and left.

The evening air was light and cool and we decided to go in a different direction in search of a restaurant for dinner. While we didnt find one, the road took us past sights and towns that we had visited in years past with Josh (I aint been to Gubbio) and Julie. Nice to recall those days. We turned around, not knowing where we would end up and ended up in a peach of a town in an enexpectedly different and in every way, lovely restaurant.

The restaurant is in an old oil pressing facility and Toscaninni once slept there (guessing it was not an oil press then). The inside was white and one wall was banquette seating of white leather. The tables were set with natural linen cloths and the silverware was sleek and modern and heavy. The ceiling, instead of the usual beams, featured barrel vaulting. The music was relaxing and at just the right level for enhancing the ambiance. Our newly relaxed attitudes and comfortable anticipation was jolted momentarily by our cute, young waite. He approached graciously and said...and said...and said...we have NO idea what he said! Not on word!!! His words went by so fast that we even if there had been a buona sera in there, it flew past us unnoticed. Our stunned looks must have indicated that we did not understand and he began again. It could have been what he said before, or something different, or Farsi for all we could tell. He paused for a breath and Suzy desperately whimpered "menu" he tenatively replied "aqua" and we all heaved a sigh of relief. From there on out, each arrival at the table (other than the bread...Tuscan bread....not so good) delighted us more and more. We shared exquisite grilled veggies (I know you think that exquisite is an overstatement for veggies, but you didnt taste them) Suzy got the canneloni with spinach and ricotta (Ho My Gah, Meez Boffo) and I got the polpo (ocotpus) salad. An oval dish arrived (very cool white china). It contained octopus, bright yellow potatoes, fresh parsley and olive oil........warm..........YUM. We were both wishing we had taken pics of the food, but only thought about that when the food was gone. Because we did not want the evening to end, and because we knew as good as everything else was, we should splurge on a dessert, we did. They arrived in tall glasses that were somewhat martini-shaped. In mine, 3 perfectly formed round clouds of lemon mousse. In Suzys, affogoto (sound familiar, Bloggers in Pienza?). But this one, instead of having gelato, had homemade chantilly creame, coffee, chopped almonds and amoretti cookies....pardon me while I revisit the delight.

After, Suzy had coffee and we left the restaurant to see the full moon over a stone tower and a nearly dark sky (9:40). We stolled up an arched walkway to what looked like a wall where you could see out over the valleys night-lit hilltowns, but it was a residential square. With some reluctance, we got back into the car, knowing as we got closer to home, our evening got closer to being a memory. No melancholy though. Just smiles as we dove thorough the valley and the transition from here and now to remember when.

Once again, I must thank S for taking me to places and sharing with me things that bring me joy for years to come. Kathy and Jim and Ben and Bob should be getting their thank you notes ready because I will share the spa and restaurant found with them too. I may begin using other names for her. You may see her referred to as Magistra or the Contessa (names from her teaching days). I am trying to break up the monotony of "Suzy said..."

PS- Danny, Lylaine, Constance...there are memories inair.
PPS-Ben and Bobby arrivo a 4:30 a domani!!!

Posted by Allegra51 07:19 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

July 16, 2008

Today is Chuisi

Sorry, Dan. Another best day yet! "Whats a dayet?" Chuisi is an awe inspiring center for Etruscan artifacts and it is known by some as the center of Etruscan Civilization. The city and environs literally stand supported by the remaining architecture of this ancient civilization. The labyrinths of their water system below the city there were still in use into modern times. They are no longer used, not because they are not viable, but because the water is now polluted from dumping. Think of it.......the system built 2000 plus years ago is still viable. You can gaze at jewelry that adorned their tiny wrists, necks and ears. You can envision the woman whose hair comb survives. You can compare the original and the "knock off" pottery. One authentic Etruscan and the other designed in Greece much later. There is no way to adequately describe the treasures of Chuisi. They are not only vast in number, but they remain in their original "hometown". It is almost incomprehensible. The Greeks and the Romans are credited with much of the foundation of art and engineering that we have today, but the truth is that it was the Etruscans that "wrote the book".

While Connie and Lylaine toured the museums, cathedrals and catacombs, I strolled the town and wandered the market and looked for some interactions with some locals. I have always noticed that the porchetta stands are always crowded with people at the street markets. Food I dont know about? This will NEVER do. The vendor was a man about my age(56 for a couple of weeks yet....whats a weekyet?) He was very attactive with touseled silver hair that suited his face just right. He wore Italian designed glasses that drew even more attention to his bright blue eyes. His dress said "retired captain of industry" more than porchetta purveyor, but what made him my favorite Italian man yet (whats a manyet?) was what Suzy calls "being completely comfortable in his skin". I would expand that for this guy by adding that he was brimming with delight in being exactly where he was. To watch him interact with everyone that approached, you would guess that there was no one else on earth he would rather see. His eyes danced a non-verbal greeting in anticipation of speaking. Every person smiled just looking at him. He celebrated every baby, gifted every child a taste or a small trick, honored every nona and teased every man that came his way, perfectly happy in the moment. I kept thinking I would move on, but was compelled to watch him.

About the time I realized he may think I was a stalker, he motioned to me to come over. I was now the recipient of his energy and attention. I felt as wonderful as I thought the prior pork purchasers probabaly (nice alliteration...huh?) did. He said something in Italian that I didnàt get. He said, "Dutch?" I shook my head no. "Non Brit!" I nodded he was right. He shook his head in astonishment...."Non Italiana?" I said, "Americana". He reacted like I had just told him he had won gold. He clapped his hands to his chest, then his fingers to his lips, kissing them and sending them off to the sky, one hand and then the other again and again, like a fireworks of kisses. "Prima, prima, prima donna, Americana" The gesture now praying hands nodding at his chest "Your name?" He said that in English. "Elysa". "A LEE ZAH. A LEE ZAH, A LEE ZAH." Then singing it, "A LEE ZAH, A LEE ZAH, A LEE ZAH" As he was performing this opera, he was cutting a slice of porchetta and coming down and out of the cart to feed it to me. As I chewed the crunchy, moist, slilken herbed sample, he waited...his eyes closed, praying hands to his mouth, so invested in my response. Instinctively, I uttered "mmm, mmm, mmm". Kisses and kisses and kisses and another crescendo chorus of A LEE ZAHs as he retuned to his cart. He gestured asking if I wanted any. I said "Si. Una fete" He gestured that my Italian was perfect and put the slice on the waxy paper. He asked if that was ok. I said yes. As he was wrapping it, he said "Uh oh. Deescount. and he put another large juicy slice on top of the other. I paid and thanked him and did a little happy dance and as he gave me my change, he said, "A LEE ZAH. Thank you for an especial moment in my life." Constance....that is my favorite Italian MAN YET.

This lovely man was an exaggerated, but no less sincere, example of so many of the casual meetings you witness or encounter here in Umbria. They are remarkable in their genuine joy and celebration and absolute presence in the moment. Dont get me wrong, the Etruscan stuff in Chuisi is breathtaking, but I will always associate Chuisi with my happy collision with the prochetta vendor in the Chuisi Citta mercato.

Posted by Allegra51 06:43 Comments (0)

7/15/08

Last night...

...Suzy continued her gracious attention to me and my visitors. She took us on a wonderful drive ripe in the history of WWII and the Red Guard terror group from the 1970s. Of course, in addition to being surrounded by history, we were surrounded by beauty. The ride on this little road was a journey through time, again crossing the Etruscan road that cuts through Jennys property, viewing Lake Trasimeno, where Roman history was made in the spectacular battle of Trasimeno and Hannibals bloody defeat of the Romans...

Learning note: The Romans lost 15,000 troops and Hannibal lost 1,600.

...we traveled through the area where the Brigatta of Pausillo fought so courageously in WWII, viewed the remanants of the Red Guard graffitti on the wall of a building where they hid out and we saw Suzys beautiful house and her view looking across to my home in Paciano. The little drive was like a gossamer thread connecting me to my place in time and history from the Etruscans til now.

Constance and Lylaine also mined Suzy for information and suggestions for Napoli and the South. Again, Mrs. Toll, we all hope you know how much we appreciate the enrichment you provided us with your knowledge of this special place and its history.

Posted by Allegra51 06:32 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

July 14, 2008

Lylaine and Constance...

...have been very attentive guests. I have hardly washed a dish or made a cup of coffee since their arrival. And each day, when we leave our little walled city for adventure, Lylaine takes out our garbage ILLEGALLY to the public trash in the piazza. It is perhaps worth noting here that your notion of an Italian piazza and what is here in Paciano may be a bit different. If you are thinking large, marble statues of naked Romans in fountains...every bar and restaurant around the square having 10 or 20 outdoor tables and people and cars moving about.......not so much. Think an outdoor space somewhat larger than a new construction home's main hallway, 4 benches, 4 tables and JUST enough room for an api to pass.......NOW you've got it! Allora....2 days ago, I was going to be the good host and prepare the coffee for my guests. Coffee pot top, check. Coffee pot bottom, check. Water, check. Thingy you put the coffee in....thingy you put the coffee in....thingy!?!?!?!? I wasnàt goinng to mention Lylaine's other illegal acts since her children may read this, but hey...she trashed the coffeepot insert in the town trash can.....

Come with me if you will, back to Gubbio. I mentioned the tablets on display there that moved us all so much. It was here that while turning one sacred tablet (mounted inside wood frames and protected by glass) and studying the tablet that Lylaine was commenting on how clever it was to display them so that they could be turned to see both sides. She was so pleased with this arrangement that her turning of the tablets became rather excited and may have bordered on spinning (Her version of keeping the plates spinning on posts would be a bit of an overstatement, but not much) As she was spinning the ancient artifacts, I noticed a rather prominently displayed sign "Please Do Not Turn The Tablets" Under it," We have video surveillance to assure compliance". She was shocked, but I was a witness...she turned it one more time and smiled for the camera! Andy, Peter and Matt.......your mom is an outlaw!!!

Posted by Allegra51 08:18 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

July 13, 2008

Dan got off to the station...

...early and then we had a party...not really. We miss you Danny boy. We had a very lazy day and decided in the aftenoon to visit Deruta, the ceramics center mentioned in a parior entry. Constance and Lylaine are also dish whores, so they had a wonderful time wandering the streets and buying treasures. Unfortunately, Lylaine discovered that her water bottle had opened and flooded her bag, on the bottom of which was her very expensive and more importantly, treasured camera. Tomorrow, we will go to Moiano to a shop there to see if it can be repaired or if there is a burial in the offing.

We returned to town and decided to have dinner at the pizzeria at the bottom of the hill. Another perfect meal was shared and more memories made. The view of the city wall, the vine covered portico, that "Paciano at night" colored sky (complete with a rainbow...thank you, God!) and enjoying the local families and their kids was sweet.

We got back to find live music in the piazza below our balcony complete with a light show. There was quite a mix of songs, some Elvis, Blueberry Hill, When a Man Loves a Woman, Hotel California and If You Come to San Francisco... It ain't Pavarotti, but it is quintessential Italian...piazza, amici, vino, la luna and musica. Of course!

PS-Turns out, we don't miss Dan at all.

Posted by Allegra51 08:06 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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