Agricultural archeology…

Every morning in Codiponte, The Dogs & I go on their prefered AM tour: down the ramps of il Poggiolo to the Medieval bridge, across its 17th Century stones and its ghastly layer of 60’s asphalt to the fig tree at the other end… where first Nina, then Moses pee… then down a long asphalted ramp to the little lane which runs through the flood-plain of new-constructed single-family houses of an untold architectural brutality of pitched roofs & white stucco… at the start of which, Nina habitually leaves a bio-donation in the grassy gulf between the ramp and the sad greyed house in the field next door. Meanwhile, Moses trots off to sniff around the empty aluminium shack where the little lane splits from the spur down to the Aulella River’s ford… on around to the new bridge and through the village for home-sweet-home.

Yesterday, was no different EXCEPT I lost Moses. One moment he was behind me and in the next he was gone. I looked around but no trace of that Weimaraner. I yelled too. The entire village of Codiponte is used to my yelling… MOOOOOSES!!! NIIIIIINA!!! Of late, Moses is either deaf or plain hard-headed. He never responds by plodding back to me. I let Nina loose of her leash to free myself of her constant pulling and to go in search of the Dog. Immediately Nina bolted down a gravel & grass trail at the sandy terraces of the bocce ball courts. I quickly followed to snare her back. No sense to loose both of The Dogs. After a hundred meters, I spotted Moses. He was hobbling and sniffing this’s & that’s beside the most gorgeous yet obviously abandoned stone walls. I walked down what had become a sunken grassy road to re-capture him. I discovered the walls delineated plots of land, probably once-upon-a-time vegetable gardens & orchards and built to protect them from the river’s occasional flooding. Now, none are used for what they were intended for. Struck me as an odd sort of archeological site.

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I ought to thank Moses. I was unaware of this aspect of greater Codiponte.

Il Poggiolo has similar constructions about the path which climbs up to the Borgo Castello. The vestiges have a hedge of spino fiorito… it puts out a small, delicate white flower in the spring… planted to replace the “privacy-protection” of a taller wall destroyed and fallen-down during the ’22 earthquake.

In the future, I’ll let The Dogs show me more of their amblings off their leashes. Who knows where Nina would take me. Scary. Gads!

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November 1966

Yesterday, the 4th of November, was an anniversary of the devastating floods in Florence. Horrifying scenes were transmitted throughout the world, thanks to the nightly news on TV. I can still run several in my mind… waters rushing pell-mell down what were once trafficked streets, the Ponte Vecchio operating as a provisional dam to the insistent push of the flood-waters, people perched out their 3rd or 4th floor windows & balconies watching in anguish disbelief, and so on and on and on for many days and weeks afterwards. The clean-up lasted for over a decade, as an occasional plaque will remind.

IMG_5746At that same moment, similarly destructive floods hit the village of Codiponte. The water & debris washed away the Medieval bridge, the town’s only artery to the world. The right-hand part of the bridge, now graced with an elegant brick arch, was obliterated the same night as in Florence. The village houses built on mud-packed bases along the river were rocked, moved, angled off-kilter and, in some cases, parts were just plain carried away by the terrific forces of the deluge. The water level reached to the attics of some, certainly to the top of many 2nd floors. Codiponte and other towns were isolated by mud- and land-slides. Communication was interrupted. There were other inconveniences too, like no drinking water, provisions or medicines for many days.

IMG_5749The town cleaned itself up. The bridge was repaired and strengthened. Retaining walls were erected along the Aulella River to steer any future flood waters away from the borgo. And, under the banner of Progress, a brand new and reinforced concrete bridge was built a little down stream connecting the village to the Casciana Road and to what is now the SR445, graded, buttressed and asphalted in the meantime. It used to be a rutted dirt mule-track before. And remember, before 1966, the way to “San Jose” was from Monzone behind and on the other side of the chestnut covered hills of our little valley and not by way of what today is The Road through the Aulella River’s throat from Gragnola, Gassano & Aulla below.


When tragedy strikes… car accidents, earthquakes, landslides, flooding… the Italians build and guard with vases of flowers a “Madonnina”. They skip over the part of how come the Virgin’s protection lapsed to allow such an awful & mean event to occur and, instead, rest easier knowing they have marked the location of despair so her attention may always be drawn to that tragic place. The townspeople built one on the post-flood, re-built Medieval bridge, a safe-guard and commemoration too. Above il Poggiolo is another Madonnina built after the IMG_5740huge earthquake of 1922. Once-upon-a-time, our house had a tall stone wall to cordon off the vineyard from the path up to the Borgo del Castello. It tumbled down upon the vineyard and our now houses. In any of these or other cases, safety and security are insured with a Madonnina: the Virgin Mary is watching over us. And, not a week passes that a woman of the village hasn’t refreshed the flowers or, at least, brought in some new plastic ones.

Let us be thankful. In the years You & I have been at Il Poggiolo, we’ve had our share of tragedies, the most recent of a Fire!!! Now, I say a little pray and hope for the best. How Italian! Gads.


End of the season…

and the start of a new. But, about the old one winding down now…

It was one of the hottest summers on record. During one scalding day in late July, the temp on il Poggiolo’s stone courtyard at 1:43PM showed 108F!!! Italy suffered day-time temps above 90F for 6+ consecutive weeks. NO RAIN EITHER!!! Thunder yes, water no.

My vacation renters were an interesting & friendly lot and ran the gamut of the principal European countries of the ineffectual Euro-Union: England, France, Germany, plus one family from Michigan. I hope this last group survived their Italian adventure, especially the “grandparents”. SEMI-TRUCKS FOR SUITCASES!!! Their son had programmed a change of residence every 2 days. And they practically did everything off their cellphones. Like the human digestive track, they were in Italy but outside it too.

2 different sets of adored cousins came to Italy in July to see You & me: one couple came to Codiponte and did not want to leave and the other arrived in Venice and I thought the 2 would melt & dissolve into a Venetian canal from the heat. They didn’t, thanks to judicious forays into places with AC.

You & I together or me separately hosted some terrific dinners on our aia but, sadly, NO PIZZA PARTIES!!! As the Italians say… c’e sempre domani.

Our Little Bean Man tended his bean-patch for what he described as a pessima stagione per il faggioli = poca roba. TOO DARN HOT!!! He harvested what he could. Most of the vines are now withered and curled upon the furrows of the bean-patch to fertilize next year’s attempt at a crop. Despite his own comment, Our Little Bean Man said he is mostly after the fun of it all. Good for him. At least. For 2015, the beans are kaput.

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So now for the new season, Fall/Winter, my mind is running helter-skelter with the many tasks of closing down il Poggiolo at the end of October… clean the houses, move plants, disinfect them too, shutter windows & doors, put out-door furniture in-doors and tell everyone we know… Ci vediamo nel 2016!!! Gads.

Sagra dei Pomi 2015… done deed

La Sagra dei Pomi 2015 is now History. Already this morning, a few of the more able-bodied ragazzi del villaggio have started to dismantle what all from the three-day festival. Seemed a great success…. from the Friday START to the Sunday FINISH. Lots and lots of people. And, Thank God, too!!! Everyone here worked their proverbial cullos off setting up. Food & drink mostly and the tents & decor.

Il Poggiolo was nightly illuminated with candle-lit lanterns in all the windows and the outside lights turned on. Felt proud of our small contribution. Otherwise, the village was dark. Dead. All lights & life were on full blast over at the sagra on the other side of the river.

The high point of the festival weekend was the Sunday Apple Cake Competition, the Float Parade and La Dansa delle Fanciulle. The last is an exercise in bad make-up and hair-dos. A Codiponte signora won for the best apple cake, though practically, she wins every other year. The boys dressed as can-can girls won the Float Parade… petticoats & wigs include. In the middle of the Float Parade, a woman fainted and was carried off in an ambulance. Very efficiently. Too much food & drink is suspected. But what else WAS there to do? No games, no sports, no tests of strength, beauty or intelligence. What was offered and in abundance was lifting fork to mouth with a luscious mouthful of asado meat or downing plastic cups of the local wine or domestic beer. Occasionally, you could dance or bop to the canned tunes of the moment. Not that I am complaining. I ate asado three times so good was it. And, I enjoyed touring the festivities, from the improvised piazza HQ to the frantoio… the olive press… saying Ciao! to those whom I met and knew while sipping a chilly white wine… in a plastic cup. Il pezzo di genialita’ was the Sunday evening concert given by a Lunigiana musician… Bugelli… nearly a cult figure backed with a small accompaniment of a banjo strummer and a guitar player. Hippie hair. Had Bugelli sung in English, I would have thought to be in the Tennessee mountains. Packed crowd of all ages too and right up to the Midnight hour.

Now, like all the previous years, the little community of Codiponte is thrown into the netherland between the August vacations and the return to work or school. I miss Summer already, hot though it was. Gads.

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Sagra dei Pomi… prep

Ahhh, yes… the quiet of our little community of Codiponte is currently interrupted with the constant sounds of hammers, drills, shouting in dialect, tractors running to & fro’ and other disturbances. Often the fracas persists until well after Midnight some evenings. This bites into The Dog’s Sleep Time. Can only mean the villagers are well on their to setting up what-all for the Sagra dei Pomi 2015… September 4 – 5 – 6.

Not an inspiring assemblage so far as seen on this morning’s W-a-l-k with The Dogs. They could not understand why we were doing Our Afternoon Trek in the morning. Here are some rather desultory photos of tent-central… the middle one is the start of the announcer’s stand…

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Not to worry though. String-lights, coloured mini-flags, and the country decor of the sagra traditionally revolving around hay stuffed into hand-me-down clothes for the pupacci and the accoutrements of the local agriculture industry… disks from the olive presses, antique pitch-forks, baskets made of chestnut slats… plastered with bright flowers, and yet to be pulled out of storage or created ad hoc for placement nearer the dates. The main motive may be to distract from the generic tents destined for food-prep and as dining halls for the famished.

The sagra is an amazing magnet. The August vacations draw all sorts of UP’s… Unidentified Persons… to Codiponte. Well, they are UP’s to me. Children & teenagers in tow. What a joy it must be for the nonni. This Next Generation is immediately enslaved with building, painting and fine-tuning the famous sagra floats, the highlight of the sagra’s Sunday afternoon festivities. I can do without il Ballo dei Bambini which follows. But then, doing away with that act would kill the make-work scheme to sew the little one’s dance costumes. I can already hear the exclamations of the genitori e nonni… Come sono carini i nostri bambini. Instead, the floats bring out all the village’s prosciusto’s to ham it up with the crowd at Parade Time. Much more fun and worth a good laugh at their antics. About every male in the town falls into this yearly category. Most adults… and they are ENTIRELY male!!!… sacrifice their holidays, as their kids do, sweating in the sun or shivering by cool night stringing, hammering, building, cutting, cleaning, mowing and spiffying up the sagra infrastructure and environs. This predominantly male population is quite competent with those manly pursuits of electricity, plumbing and construction. Welding is surely the most popular. Give a Codiponti-guy a soldering torch and there is no stopping what can be melted together to outlast the sagra for years to come, if the acrid smoke is any indication. Everyone seems happy though… again, guys at work… and with n’er a complaint. They collaborate well with each. Odd for Italy perhaps, knowing how Italians can be.

So, here are a few attractions from last year’s Sagra dei Pomi in anticipation of this year’s fun… to be posted in September. Oh! And I’ll put in the gads now…

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A medley of events this August afternoon…

IMG_5377IMG_5383The Italian festa on the 15th for the August summer holidays has come & gone. You & I ate for three days solid… pranzi, cocktails & cene… except for our hiatus to shop the Soffitta In Strada street flea-market in Sarzana. We bought these bunny wabbits. Then, an Italian House reader informed me that they are, in fact, hares!!! Gosh. Well, the black lacquered hare is mine. The hare vaaaase is You’s. The world still turns and we are happy about it.

CimiteroCodiponte is populated with folk I have never seen before. This typically happens in August. What does not normally occur is a group of Australians are gallavanting about the town. They’re from Perth. Only Aussies can pronounce the city’s name like they like. The noise is as if you have pursed your lips to let it out, but actually, it’s squeezed out from the palate. How the Perthians??? Sandgropers??? Mates??? can purse their palates is probably just another mystery to add to their far off land. How did these Aussies choose Codiponte? Well, Mr. Perth’s dad died. The fellow was born in Codiponte. He had brought the gentleman’s ashes to be placed in the local cemetery here. I ran into Mr. Perth while walking The Dogs. He was biking. He had a Billy-bongo outback hat on. Goes with the accent. After I had heard his explanation of why he & his family were tramping around the village, I replied that, in the future, it sure will be a long way to come to pay one’s respects and how come the ol’ dad had stipulated Codiponte for his final resting place? Mr. Perth replied he hadn’t. Part of him is buried in a cemetery in Perth and the other half is now here. Gosh. He wished me G’daeyee and off he peddled. Did he bring his bike from Perth too? Very fancy. Would’ve been better to have rented a car instead. They are car-less.

Ford Taurus Station-wagonMeanwhile, many villagers are working on the preparations for La Sagra dei Pomi, the oldest sagra around, and is scheduled for the first weekend in September… from Friday, the 4th to Sunday, the 6th. Three days of eating just like every other weekend it seems here. Che sara’ sara’. Yesterday, while out walking The Dogs… again and this is not the ONLY THING I DO!!!…  a group of men-folk were standing around a Navy-blue Ford Taurus stationwagon parked under the blighted trees below the Medieval bridge and right next door to the eventual fry-house for the sagra. Yum-yum… sgabei. Apparently, the men needed the car to be somewhere else to put a just delivered portable building down on the ground the car was occupying. The Dogs I went about our business only to find the same group standing around the car under the trees upon our return. Suddenly, before I could open my mouth, and bounding down the concrete ramp came a super-deluxe SUV cum truck tottin’ a orange jack on its flat-bed. And that is what they did… they jacked the car up and dragged it to another spot. Evviva!!! Minutes later, down was plopped the portable building. The men dispersed to purse their prep-programs. As you can tell, Life is really, really exciting here in Codiponte.

codiponte-old-village-tuscany-massa-e-carrara-italy-lunigiana-medieval-church-saints-cornelio-cipriano-built-th-44249801Codiponte has a priest. He came after the one before went mad. Yep, he went mad. The new one went and bought a dog. It’s a Pincher. Nice colour too. Kind of matches the priest’s outfit… dark, dull, brown-grey. The Dogs & I sometimes come across the pair on the dirt track to the Acqua Paradiso, the village’s local natural spring. The dog darts and bounces and leaps around. Scares the shit out Nina. If off her leash, she bolts for home. Moses ignores it, him with the collar, me with the leashes to sniff the environs. The priest’s dog has a defect… it howls with every toll of the priest’s church’s campanile. AYYYROOOOO!!! on the hour, the half-hour and the three times the bells rings like mad… sorry, not the best word to use here… rings and rings and rings in the 7AM Time-to-get-up, the Noon Time-to-go-home-to-eat and, finally, the 9PM Time-to-get-yourself-in-the-bed chimes. Whew. Amazing vocal cords has this priest’s dog!!! Kind of sad though. Doesn’t the priest KNOW his dog is lonesome? No surprise. The priest is clueless. One time at a Confirmation ceremony, he forgot the names of the nine Confirmation candidates. Noticing my shock, a local standing next to me bent towards me and said the priest has had zilch practice in human affairs. All he did before he was posted to Codiponte was to bless dead folk in a morgue of a hospital in some other Italian hinterland. Gosh. And he drives a new Peugeot too! Gads.



Bean Patch in August…

20150811_120511_resized20150811_120329_resizedLong over-do post on the Bean Patch. T’was busy travelling to ‘n fro in Italy. No surprises though in my absense. Walls and walls and walls of leafy green vines. Helps that the plants are watered daily by the Little Man’s earthworks of canals. A lovely cool. Vines recall the antenna to the new NYC World Trade Center. Can’t eat it though. Gads.


Around the Codiponte neighbourhood…

Early morning w-a-l-k with The Dogs on a dimly lit Saturday before the Nice Big Man comes to pick ‘n fix the earthquake damage from 2013 in La Casetta. I am thoroughly amazed with myself that I could get up, be dressed and out the door BEFORE 7AM!!!  20150613_093537_resized

By the way… we are coming upon Our Two-year Earthquake Anniversary next Sunday, June 21st at 12:33PM. I may go out to lunch with My English Friends at the Spino Fiorito to mark the occasion. Pro-secco for starters.

Now, onto happier topics…

thought it might be an appropriate time for a photographic What’s-going-on in Codiponte. Keeps me from complaining about the weather which is hot and unpleasantly muggy…

From the left to right for each horizontal group of three photos in descending ordergrape vines trimmed DOESN’T ANYONE PICK UP AFTER THEMSELVES?hedges clipped at the standard height of 2 meters and THIS SANCTIONED BY LOCAL LAW!!!… prim-roses at La Colombiera A FALLING DOWN WRECK WITH AN ASKING PRICE OF EURO 500,000!!!… unidentified flowers in the garden of the lady whose TWO DOGS BARK AT MINE!!!… jasmine in outrageous bloom… a new roof over the only other oven in the town, IL POGGIOLO HAS THE OTHER AND IT WORKS!!!… wood splint-sided shack and weed-infested land off the town’s piazza FOR SALE WITH AN ASKING PRICE OF EURO 80,000!!! What is it with these folk? They think they have Versailles to sell?… garden gate to an orto + its bamboo architecture for climbing tomatoes… my most favourite flower in the entire world NAME UNKOWN… impromptu garden table THE HEIGHT OF MODERN DESIGN!!!… white hydrangeas… the remnant of the 13th Century bridge of Codiponte, now a terrace with an adjoining 20TH CENTURY BATHROOM SLUNG NEXT DOOR… and…


Our Little Man has been diligently tending to his Bean Patch since the half-efforts of his June 2nd Holiday Hiatus. Can’t miss an episode of this, can we? Gads.

Patching the Bean Patch…

A Saturday on the cusp of May & June and during a long holiday weekend for Italy’s 4th of July… La Festa della Repubblica! For a lucky few, like Dr. You, it means five days of working around the house, in the garden or, how about in the bean patch? Gads. 20150530_083514_resized