What IS that ringing noise?

Today’s photo is my idea of a truly acceptable day of winter. Jasmine with a hint of snow. Note the jasmine is still green. This snow, unlike Maine snow, is just a temporary aberration. Spring in Italy will be right back in a moment. And so will I.

PANICALE, Umbria— Walking down the cold empty street thinking to myself, “What strange music someone is playing.” And the town SO quiet. Except for that. Yet. Somehow. Familiar? Later that same century the light she dawned on me. My cell phone ringing frantically at me from the depths of my parka pocket. Just had not heard it since September. What an idiot. I am better now. Nothing like a fine 13 hours Rip Van Winkle episode to cure even the finest of jet lags. “Hello, hello? Much better. Thank you.”

Last night we were in the piazza listening to our “heeelllooo” echoing off the walls. Linda at the grocery said “it’s nothing but us and a pair of cats in town, is there?” and we agreed it was kind of fun for the moment. And it is a lovely quiet. But still. This morning hugs all around at Masolino’s and Mauro the tax man jumped to his feet and bought me a cappuccino. At the bank there was a line to get at Mario, just like in summer. I talked to an old Italian friend who passed me like a good piece of gossip to a British friend (whose house is on the site) to our American friend, a writer of all things culinary, from California. And so on, back down the street to Aldo’s and Nico who passed me back out to Orfeo. Oh, my gosh, the grocery is about to close and anything I have in the house is from September. Got to run.


Either way, I slept like a baby last night. And the dining that happened before the sleeping was really a delicious way to start the trip. Even sleepless zombies have to eat don’t they? Four, most excellent, cheery German friends invited Alec of Yorkshire (who was decamping) and I, who had just stumbled off a plane, to dinner out. Conversation swirled about the table in Italian, English and German with wee bits of Chinese. Alec is a linguist and Chinese is his language du jour. The Chinese and German trains of thought pulled in and out of the station without me on board. I came to eat. Well actually my intentions were to nibble sparingly and drink not a mouthful of wine. Best laid plans. We were the only clients at the great fun il Casale. Seated by a roaring and welcome fire Giuseppina, the owner, had us clearly in her sights and basically made us clean our plates and empty our carafes between courses.

My fellow Americans, and non-Italians everywhere. . . Please take note of this special announcement: I have discovered the cure to the common headache. Well, the wine kind.

It is the Silly Sulfites in the wine we get. I think it must be. Here the Italian wine doesn’t need a preservative. It’s not going anywhere. It’s not going to last that long after being pulled off the vine. It’s going to be put to good use. And soon. In the US I find even a tiny glass of wine requires almost equal volume of aspirin to counterbalance the aftereffects. Last night I will tell you it was sweet dreams sans medication of any sort and waking to a sunny day fresh as any daisy in Piazza Margherita. But what a dinner we were treated to. Every kind of antipasto I had never heard of. Fennel covered ones, fish, olive, faro croquettes (faro and cheese and to die for) grilled polenta with rosemary. And a hot, thick bread/faro/bean soup by the aforementioned fire on a chilly night in Italy with a table full of interesting friends? I surely don’t deserve it. But I will happily take it!

Today’s photo is my idea of a truly acceptable day of winter. Jasmine with a hint of snow. Note the jasmine is still green. This snow, unlike Maine snow, is just a temporary aberration. Spring in Italy will be right back in a moment. And so will I.

See you in Italy,


We have really arrived

UMBRIA, Italy— We are here in Bella Umbria. Easiest trip. The Maine to Umbria connection often runs 20 hours door-to-door. Certainly it does by the time you factor in arriving early for international flights, trains, buses to the airport, rent-a-cars and all. But this time we cut it really thin, thin, thin in Paris and made the whole trip in 18 hours. In spite of an adamant Air France ticket taker going, “non, non, non”. We were looking at (and I will admit pointing at) the bus getting ready to take our planeload of fellow passengers to the plane and we kept saying, “yes, yes, yes, please, please, please.” I think eventually, having no checked baggage convinced him letting me on the plane was a good call. Whew.

I always like an aisle seat and I have that on file with our travel agent. But for the short hour and a half early early a.m. hop from say Paris to Florence I am thinking of changing the request to window seat forward of the wing. Sunrise over the Alps in winter when you find yourself sort of dopey from being up all night is a rather out-of-body experience. One minute you are in a foggy little sleep coma, and the next, you suddenly wake to dramatic blue gray mountains of granite pressed right up against the windows, long dark shadows on snow whites and the pink rays of dawn poking between the peaks and spilling out over sky and snow.

Arrived to the town bells ringing twelve noon and to a warm and toasty home. That is a welcome in and of itself. Our friend Anna has the house spotless and has turned the heat on for us a day or two in advance. Her cousin-in-law is our good friend Bruno and he was one of the first people we saw. And snapped. I have been in town for one quick loop to the cafe to wave hi and try to convince my mouth/brain to remember how to form Italian-like words in my sleep deprivation state. Got updated on many business, health and gossip fronts already. And have already been invited to dinner tonight. Must have said something right