A Blog Fan stopped by Il Poggiolo. She wanted to get a look at that blue. Once surrounded by Our Blue-blue-blue, her reaction was Sure IS blue. I said Yep. And that Yellow in the Kitchen? You says it attacks bugs. Oh, Look! He’s right. They’re so many on the ceiling. Do they bite? No, only hoping for any residual when I deem to cook. You’re so funny! May I see the Sage-green too?  Sure. Don’t disturb the bugs. Well, before I go may I ask what was your inspiration? Oh, just some books. The tour ended. I make a terrible salesman for the fruits of My Labours.

Alone and a bit morally bereft, I thought back to Inspiration. You & I had collected quite a library of books, mostly, on architecture, renovation, stone houses, decorating, accessorising, stuffing a house in the country, even before we had laid eyes on Il Poggiolo.

You would come home from some conference, say in Paris, where he had found and bought a magnificent coffee table book Living in ArgentinaArgentine interiorsBegged the question What does Argentina have to do with an Italian farm-house? No reply other than Take a look. I’ve put post-its on what I like. Don’t mix them up, please. I loved every single page!!!

Perhaps, in a bid for retaliation, I’d  surf’s website late at night seeking some super delicious big picture book on what all one can do with stone and 10-14 days later arrived on Our Doorstep in Genoa, New Stone Architecture. New Stone ArchitectureThe thing costs a bloody fortune today. Nearly $1,000!!! Used too. Not when I had bought it though in 2004. My turn with the post-its. Mine were day-glo pink.

And, a friend lugged from NYC a book she thought You & I might like. Axel Vervoordt: Timeless Interiors. Axel Vervoordt Timeless InteriorsIt was a birthday gift for me. I have to say, I am an unstinting fan of Belgium design. To see wide oak planks oiled to a weird greyedgold forces me to take an extra heart-medication as I flip through the book’s enormous pages.

None of what can be seen in these publications has arrived copied per se at Il Poggiolo. Don’t think that’s the point. Inspiration does not mean to copy. It’s more the shot of permission for you to go out there and through the process of discovery create something your own. On that score, Living in Argentina, New Stone Architecture and Timeless Interiors did the trick and marvellously too. And, you have the proper answer now to that Fan’s querie. Gads.


Bowls for fish soup?…

You bet! And how about zuppa di vongole? Well, someone needs to get into the kitchen. While You & I are debating the issue… and may I say, he regularly defers to me on m-e-a-t, since I hail from Colorado, I feel he should definitely deal with f-i-s-h, since he loves the f******g sea… please, feast your eyes on these super-glazed frutti di mare bowls from ARAAMO at the Sarzana street market bought on behalf of Our American Friend…

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From where we started…

The consequence of meeting Our German Blog Fans/Friends and seeing their hill-perched house & acreage, plus the ongoing adventure of rustico hunting with Our American Friend has caused me to Pause & Reflect upon our finding, buying and re-building Il Poggiolo.

We needed all the umph-pah available. The search for a house in the Lunigiana was not particularly fun. The hope of finding something charming which would click kept the two of us going. Mostly me. You was along for the ride. So many houses were a God-awful waste of time, ugly, expensive too… why people think they have La Reggia di Caserta instead, offering a shit-hole and asking a shit-load of money for it, was amazingly annoying to me… and full of defects of one sort or another… Yes… it’s… um… charming… but… it’s on a highway! Naturally, the photos avoided that detail.

Casa Castiglione del TerziereLike Our American Friend, we too had suffered the delusion of falling head-over-heels in love with an amazing house in Castiglione del Terziere, an historic village above Villafranca in Lunigiana, and its failed acquisition. The house? Imagine Frank Lloyd Wright collaborating with Giacomo il Falegname. Did FLW ever collaborate? Our offer collided head-on with a lunatic American-Italian owner and his equally quixotic Italian-only real-estate agent… AND his dumb Italian wife! Sorry, but she was. The A-I owner was asking Euro 650,000!!! He had clipped Euro 150,000 from the original price in the months prior to our arrival on the scene. Our Notary Public, an expert in property values, said not to offer more than Euro 350,000. It was rejected as an insult. The owner’s best offer was to sell the house to us for Euro 600,000 and the closing in 5 years, so he could avoid a capital gains tax. Oh, really? We countered. He rejected. We countered. He rejected. The final collapse of negotiations weeks later… I was walking Moses in small park in Genoa in a sunny day’s wind storm talking on a cellphone with the recalcitrant real-estate agent… made me ill. Literally. I took to my bed with bronchitis for a week. Then, came the depression. I do not mope well. Too big. A burden to the world and to You too. I moved on. By the way, the house is still for sale in 2014 and below the price the owner rejected as an insult. Just looking at the above photo makes me sad. We could envision living in it!!! Yep, that bad. It stings.

Il Poggiolo 4Destiny lead us to Il Poggiolo months later. Not anything like the house in Castiglione. Good that we kept an open mind to be so struck by serendipity. The rest is History. Il Poggiolo a CodiponteGads.



Emma is 97 years old. Her house is unliveable from last year’s earthquake. She takes it in her stride. She’s staying in a rented apartment above the Scuzzy Bar. You can find her sitting under the portico of the bar most afternoons with other Codipontesi who have happened by to chat. Her mandate is to smile, speak a kind word, look at the positive side of Life. In the meantime, Emma walks the village, visits her nieces, picks wild flowers to put on her husband’s grave, shops at Anna’ Alimentari. She’s a Joy, a Pleasure, a wonderful Spirit here in Codiponte.

Summer bean brown-out…

Nature and our shitty cool & damp weather have taken their course… but, there are beans!!! They strike me as weird Christmas tree ornaments.

I asked a Codipontese, who was watching me take pictures of Tonino’s Bean Patch this morning, if it was normal for the leaves to be so yellowed in the middle of August. He replied that it is early but, the weather & temps have hastened their change. He added that it is easier to pick the beans when the leaves are withered. In any case, the harvest will be after the Sagra. Gads.

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Nuts about the chicken salad…

Chicken SaladDear Mary Anne,

Hey! More food news. You know those Virginia peanuts you brought me in July? Well, get this…

An American Friend came to Il Poggiolo to party with us and the locals at Our Big Ferragosto Party and to help out in the kitchen beforehand. No surprise there. She writes cookbooks and appears on American TV talking about foooood. One dish which I have no problem making is a chicken salad. She rallied to The Cause. The recipe is not quite everything out of the refrigerator, but nearly…

chicken quickly boiled in water along with an onion, a carrot and a stalk of celery and when cooled, shredded. I then take and mince a white onion, cut up a couple of apples doused with lemon juice so not to brown-out, dumping into the concoction anything else for colour or taste. This time it was a carrot from the broth. I save a bit of that broth, pour in some plain yogurt, a bit of mayo and a dollop of French moutarde douce… NOT French’s Mustard. You know the kind. They come in oddly shaped yet chic mini-jars… and chopped parsley. I could not find any walnuts at the super-market, My Preferred Nut. I bought shelled almonds.

Before I arrived at the nuts, I had to go help You move the heavy bar table to a new location. When I came back, Our American Friend had finished the job. Wonderful. We shoved the bowl into the frig and went on with other tasks. I had a bit of the chicken salad during the Eating Orgy Phase of the evening, nearly 40 at the proverbial trough, and I thought it delightfully crunchy. Gosh. The almonds?

Last Monday night I had a hankering for Virginia peanuts to swallow down with an exceptionally dry pro-secco. Got the tin can, opened the lid AND THERE WERE NO MORE VIRGINIA PEANUTS!!! That’s what had made the salad so unexpectedly crunchy good. Our American Friend, a cracker-jack cook and food-item huntress had found AND deposited the five mouthfuls left of the Virginia nuts into My Chicken Salad. Success!!!

You now know everything, including The Secret Ingredient. Gads.

Rusticos on the brain…

AAAAAAOne other reason for Our American Friend to be in Codiponte for the long Ferragosto holiday weekend besides attending Our Big Party was to go rustico hunting in Our-neck-of-the-woods in the Lunigiana.

If not informed, a rustico is a stone shack, often a barn, sometimes an animal stall and even a garage for your tractor! It’s a functional building, cheap, rudimentary of construction though often since fallen in. A pity. There are few small farmers left in Italy. And, since rusticos were cheap to buy once-upon-a-time most of the good ones have been snatched-up and re-done. Just go to any vacation rental site to see the results. Punch in Villas… Tuscany… Swimming pool and BOOM!!! Rustic-land spiffed-up. Some look like they use tweezers to clip the grass! Today in 2014, it’s the dregs. And, the Aquila earthquake of 2009 made rebuilding a rustico nearly too expensive to even touch. Massive change to the building codes. Better to buy land and build a rustico from scratch. The look is easy. Just know that its structure will be a Bauhaus Rubics Cube of reinforced concrete. Then, face it with stone for the look, if you can find a good stone mason who knows how. What fun. Cheaper, Euro for Euro, than reconstructing the real thing, let me assure you.

Our American Friend was on the down-side of having lost a near perfect rustico attached to a large vineyard. The owners were selling the vineyard with a rustico. Our American Friend wanted to buy the rustico with a vineyard. The negations ended. You & I saw it. We too thought it charming and, as My Dear Aged Mother enjoyed spouting when happening upon a dilapidated house… Distinct possibilities for renovation!!! We too felt the loss terribly but, we moved on. Our American Friend did not. She has rusticos on her brain.

Everyone of the houses we saw on Our Saturday Morning Rustico Tour was pitted against the prerequisite of a rustico look. After a desultory hunt, on our return to the car in Fivizzano, we passed by a villa in vendita. Surprise!!! Not a rustico. No. A real-live villa with a garden, the cornice for any house. Our American Friend peeled screams of Joy, exclamations of Ecstasy, sang Halelujahs over the villa’s garden and descending array of terraces from the perch of what I thought was a sober rendition of the Italian Stile Liberte’. We’d gum that up by saying Art Nouveau. It ain’t. The Italian stile was super fan-fan until WWI with the studied extravagance of its primo architect, Copede’. It then altered into uno stile piu’ moderno on into the 40s. Art Nouveau squealed its last curly-cue during the First World War. One of the two sisters owners waved us up for a tour. She was an adorable 80 year old forced to sell because of her age and that of her 87 year husband. It happens. One could move right in. Our American Friend could put a teaching kitchen on the Ground Floor along with a photographic studio AND a Guest Bedroom! The upstairs floors could be designed & furnished with any sense of pizzaz you’d care to cart up to the villa. AND IT WAS AN ABSOLUTE STEAL for Euro 400,000!!! A gift. From God. Go!

Then, Our American Friend’s enthusiasm took a hard left. She had escaped her head-set. Fear. She insisted the villa’s stucco facade of a trompe l’oeil… or, fake brick… be struck-off and replaced with the real brick like on the small house next door. That brick, I explained, was not indignant to the Lunigiana. It’s Emilia Romagna. It looks funny. Out of context. I dared to add that the villa is a gem of an historic Italian style and was purposely built to have a fake brick stucco facade. Like pixels on a broad expanse of flat-ness. What is underneath would be akin to the shitty Roman bricks used as filler for pillars of the Coliseum. Our American Friend couldn’t have given a rat’s ass. She wanted a rustico… stone, brick, rustic… and by golly, the villa had to have that look. We changed the subject and went on with the rest of our day & night & next day.

On Monday, Our American Friend, after conferring with her husband back in the States, sent me an email to say she was no longer interested in the villa. Too bad. Too much rustico in the head. Yet, is it admirable to be so faithful to one’s ideals? Gads.

Sagra time…

La Sagra dei Pomi si atterra’ Venerdi 6 – Sabato 7 and Domenica 8 Settembre 2014 in Codiponte Toscana Lunigiana Italia sotto il ponte Medievale al frantoio.

Here are the initial preparations… ASL sanitary kitchens for frying long pieces of leavened bread called sgabei serve plain or stuffed with prosciuto e formaggi bianchi, frittelle di mele rolled in sugar and piping-hot plates of asado argentinian cooked ribs & beef accompanied by beans & tomatoes… yum-yum. Sunny weather, please.

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Sweat lusting horse flies…

Tafano flyThis bug is one of God’s nastiest creations. The horse fly. Tafani in Italian. They bite flesh. I HATE It when God says… Hey! Why not? He could’ve taken pity and opted for a re-think for a nono-second more. Nope. They are now out in force after our simulated summer of rain with intermittent sunshine. Those bugs thrive on it. So too on my sweat. Sweat lust. Disgusting. Mean too.

Awoke from a non-nap this afternoon. Went to the window to survey the afternoon and saw folk working. Said to myself… Time to get busy Mr. Descended to the cantina and pulled out the weed-whacker and the lawn-mower. Hey! It’s Thursday, Grass Cutting Day. And, lo’ and behold, the weather was copacetic to the enterprise! Started whacking the ramp and got attacked by a storm of tafani. They got me everywhere: cheeks, forehead, arms, forearms, wrists, neck, they sure went for me. Huge welts from their icky poison. Had to stop and re-group. Here I am prepared to defend myself… please note the determined tilt to my head. Admirable, no? I was ready: pants, long-sleeve cotton sweater, dish rag for the Lawrence of Codiponte look and tied at the neck for the Little Miss Bo-peep and My Stinky Paglia Garden Hat.  The Safety Spectacles are the glowing touch of style, n’est pas? Had no more trouble after that. All is now cut, clean, ship-shape for You’s arrival tomorrow Noon. Gads.


Cannot mix the peoples…

FerragostoOur Big Ferragosto Party last Thursday night was a success…

lots of food… two 14 foot long tables were piled with plates and platters and trays of food, glorious food: savoury pies of one sort or another, salads to satisfy any and all imagination for taste or colour, devilled eggs galore and an outstanding chicken salad… just one of several dishes concocted by moi!!! Days before the bash, Roberto’s Girl-friends, made a list of who-brings-what to the pot-luck but, 3/4s of the invitees brought two or three dishes to contribute. So much for the planning. When it comes to food, the locals like to go over-board. Our American house-guest for the long holiday weekend, a food writer & TV guest, nearly fainted from hyper-ventilating… Too much food! So much food!! Way too much food!!! She and I had the task later of dumping the left-overs no-one wanted to take home for their next day’s Ferragosto pranzo. Shhh… we disposed of the dishes we didn’t like and yet, there was still tons of food remaining for avanzi. Enough for every meal during the entire holiday weekend. Not that we ate them for every meal. We ate out too.

and drink… though You complained incessantly about My Choice of the white wine. Why fuss? He’s not a drinker. Only fizzy water. I drink water when I am completely de-hydrated after mowing the lawn at il Poggiolo. All other times, it is fruit juices, white wine AND pro-secco. I thought the pro-secco I had selected was optimal. As luck would have it, a couple brought friends who hail from the pro-secco region of Italy around Treviso in the Veneto. I like a dry pro-secco and that is what I had put out on the 7 foot long bar table. The guest’s friend did not concur. Said it was semi-dolce. Cosa? C’e’ di meglio. Between the red wine, the white wine and the pro-secco, the drinking guests of mostly burly men, consumed nearly all the pro-secco I had on offer. Must’ve been good enough for their palettes, dry, sweet or whatever.

and lots of folk… The head-count was 39. The invitees were, more or less, 1/2 Roberto’s Girl-friend’s family & friends and 1/2 folk I had invited. I discovered you cannot mix groups in Codiponte. Though all these people have known each other for a life-time, and though they were very pleasant to each & everyone of the others, and though they knew Our Big Ferragosto Party was a party of people invited by us… noi siamo padroni... they DID NOT MIX outside their Standard Sphere of nuclear family or near-relations. I was caught off-guard. You had arranged the painted palettes along the wall of the aia to eat & drink since, they was no space to do so at the buffet tables. At one moment, burdened with platters of more food for the 14 foot long tables, I looked out over the aia and at our guests below on the painted palettes and I could see glaring spaces in between one group and another. You noticed it too. To stir things up, he circulated. We circulated. Nothing doing. The invitees remained un-moved… until Midnight. I will not do that again. I’ve learned the lesson. But, how boring!!! Gads.