Olives besieged…

IMG_5642A friend gave me this little, tiny olive tree. It’s on the ledge outside the window at the sink in La Casa Grande. It gets sun for most of the day. Well, until we go on Standard Time and as the days shorten to zilch.

Washing dishes the day I got back to Codiponte from our USA TOUR 2015, I noticed there was this black thing nestled in the silvery-green leaves of the little, tiny olive tree. AN OLIVE!!! Hot-IMG_5658diggity-dog. You will beyond ecstatic!!! I’ve got to send him a photo. I was just plain dumb-founded. Dogs were super emozionated but they thought all my commotion meant there would a piece of b-r-e-a-d in their immediate futures. I went on with My Daily Tasks and gave no more thought to olives or trees, even the three at the Scenic Overlook of il Poggiolo’s Garden.

Then, this past weekend, I noticed another black orb dangling close to the one from The First Sighting. Rapt inspection produced the same effect as the other day. Dogs came almost immediately to hound me for a whole-wheat t-r-e-a-t. At this point, I marched out to the Scenic Overlook and discovered that of the three olive trees gracing said terrace, one showed fruit. How weird, but thank you. T’was the one next to the descending wall of the ramp and modestly full of these savoury fruits. You will be in olive-stratosphere!!! And, he’ll bother me too until we’ve harvested and put to salts these tasty morsels.

Italian House - Olive fruit flyEvery afternoon the Dogs & I walk to the local Codiponte olive press, a frantoio or, to many, simply called il Mulino, to kibbitz with the proprietress while the dogs are subjected to the verbal assaults of one of the nastiest Shih-tzu’s to afflict the Face of the Earth. Her phone rang. Someone asked when the Mulino would start up for the Olive Crushing Season. She said it would be later this year. Not many olives about. The other end agreed and then confessed he was besieged by olive fruit-flies. Oh, mio dio!!! said the mill’s owner. The fellow hung up. I thought what had devastated last year’s olive-crop was a fungus. Turns out that is only a general term the Italians use for anything bad to hit their agriculture, like the Scuzzy Bar Lady saying it was Germans who had walked off with my abandoned vintage scarf left in her dirty establishment yet, meaning anyone who does not speak Italian. No, the proprietress said, It’s flies and They’re wrecking havoc in the olive groves of Codiponte again this year. I feel lucky that we have the olives we’ve got. 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.


Nina at it, again…

This is going to be a short AND tragic story. You has been driven into silence and so unlike him too…

Falcon imbalsamatiA few months ago, You found a rare falcone… stuffed to its once ever-living-flying feathers… in his preferred mercatone del usato over in Savona. It is very convenient. He walks out of his hospital, crosses a car-clogged street and enters into Stuff Paradise. He acquired the noble creature for a mere $50 bucks. He preened. Naturally, the stuffed bird arrived at my doorstep here at il Poggiolo. What joy! More stuff stuffed.

You debated as to a perfect location for his falcon. The deliberation lasted most of a Saturday afternoon. 75% of that time was spent piddling with Other Stuff… unmarried-aunt-like fruit bowls, etc.  Finally, You found the embalmed bird A Good Home on an ex-roof beam-cum-pedestal placed in an anonymous corner of La Casa Grande’s Sala da Pranzo. And there it remained, quiet, in Peace, safe until…

AirFrance A-380 Atlanta Skyline Pinehurst NC 2

You & I hopped aboard AirFrance to Atlanta, GA USA for My Sister’s 25th Wedding Anniversary Party-hearty weekend shindig. The parties were great fun. No time to recoup. On the Monday thereafter, we drove My Ancient-but-still-cognisant 87 yr. old Mother back to her home in Pinehurst, NC USA. She alternated between doing the New York Times Crossword Puzzle and telling me how to drive. You napped during most of the 7.5 hour Interstate voyage. We promptly dumped her in her condo and headed to a South Carolina beach for some Sun ‘n Fun before returning to check on the ol’ lady and to catch our AirFrance flights back to Our Home in EEtaaalyyy.

IMG_5627I drove down to Codiponte the day after our arrival. No sooner had I opened the gate to il Poggiolo,  Our Neighbour and Dog-sitter came out to tell me something went missing in the house. WHAT? Robbers??? Snooping through La Casa Grande, I discovered to My Horror!!! the plinth was bare!!! Oh!… My!!… God!!… You will be distraught!!!!! Hearing a rather loud GASP, in came the Dog-sitter to explain…

Nina had had a Beeg Crisis during My Absence. A violent thunder-storm one Sunday niht did not help. Alone, forgotten, scared apparently and missing me terribly, she hunted, found and tore into the poor, stuffed falcon and mangled it into an ever-lasting Oblivion. All that remained for the Dog-sitter was the stand, the paglia stuffing and a few miserable feathers.

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Another victim to Nina’s ever-growing rostrum of carnage. Gads.

P.S. I found the courage to call you with The Bad News. He was speechless and hung-up. Then, counting to 10, he called back and continued to do so about every 5 minutes with questions, mostly hovering around The Question of… How could it have happened??? Silly boy… she’s a Huntress!!! On the brighter side of it all, less stuff!!! Gads again.

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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Vacation rentals at il Poggiolo a Codiponte…

All 3 houses of il Poggiolo a Codiponte in the Lunigiana are available for vacation rentals… La  Casa Padronale is the summer residence and is available until the 31st of October. Its season re-opens on the 1st of April 2016. L’Appartamento Azzurro is the spring, summer and fall residence and is available until Epiphany on the 6th of January and it re-opens on the 1st of March 2016. No chilly New Year’s, thanks to a wood-burning fireplace. La Casetta is available through-out the year!!! Steam heat + a wood-burning fireplace. Please contact us at either… forrest@forrestspears.com… or through the custom travel and event planning service, Your Italian Concierge, at… advice@youritalianconcierge.comHope to see you soon!

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Vacation rentals at il Poggiolo…

All 3 houses of il Poggiolo a Codiponte in the Lunigiana are available for vacation rentals…

La  Casa Padronale is the summer residence and is available until the 31st of October. Its season re-opens on the 1st of April 2016.

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L’Appartamento Azzurro is the spring, fall and summer residence and is available until the 30th of November and its season re-opens on the 1st of March 2016, thanks to the wood burning fireplace.

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La Casetta is available all year-round!!! Steam heat AND a wood-burning fireplace too.

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Please contact us at… forrest@forrestspears.com… or through our travel & event planning site of Your Italian Concierge at… advice@youritalianconcierge.com

Hope to see you soon!

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.

 

 

Vacation renting business…

IMG_1057The first year You & I decided to rent out parts of il Poggiolo… L’Appartamento Azzurro and La Casa Padronale… we thought 5 to 6 reservations would be a nice start. We had 9. Great. For our 2nd year, we set the bar at 8 to 9 and we got just 5. Not the best of trends. This year I had still hoped for 8 to 9 reservations and to date we have had only 4. Worst still. Well, 5 really but, I don’t count the 2 night stay of an American family with too many XXL suitcases and tablets to book everything beforehand so as not to actually touch Italy. All the others who came were quite wonderful as guests… interesting, engaging and very considerate. We want them all to come back.

The odd thing though about this 3rd year is we have received lots of inquiries, something like 25 to 30. The previous two years we had maybe 10% more to our bookings. And yet, a dearth of paying & staying for 2015.

What’s wrong with my renting Kharma?

What’s wrong with the Kharma of la gente in vacanza?

Many of the emails sent through the various vacation rental websites we belong to are so complimentary… We love your house, it’s so charming and intimate, we wondered if it would be possible for us to stay in La Casa Padronale from July…? I quickly reply with equally friendly terms to any request and, especially to those complimenting me on my house. And, I am often alerted by a squealing cellphone message, since all these websites keep accurate records of how quickly you respond. They also feel so obliged to menace further with monthly statements of how you did. But then… NOTHING.

A friend who rents her house in the village above Codiponte complained to me of the same lack of solid bookings this year too. She went on to hypothesize about a world rife with too much competition and/or the growing nightmare of house trading… someone comes to say in your house while you go to theirs. Ever see the movie The Holiday? Cute, very feel-good and highly romantic about switching abodes. Superb cast of Cameron Diaz… quite a comedienne, Jude Law… sexy, sexy, sexy, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, who I do not understand why he even exists much less stars in movies and, Eli Wallach, Bless his now gone heart, what a great actor. The novelty often does not entail lucking out with a beautifully manicure home in Beverly Hills with abundant Staffing, as in the movie. And the new found custom bodes ill for us who want to earn enough money to pay the ever rising taxes on a 2nd home in Italy.

What I think is many vacation-folk rummaging around on the Internet pick & place several inquiries to see what pops ups best with respect to price and location. Ah yes, the old adage of location, location, location. Doubles the intrigue when price, price, price is added on too.  Ignorance does not help either. The Lunigiana, Codiponte, il Poggiolo are better situated to see Pisa, Parma, Genoa, Florence, Lerici, Versilia, Forte dei Marmi AND the le darn Cinque Terre than any old place down near the heartland of people’s conception of Tuscany, San Gimigniano. Yeah, right. Every 50 yards there are signs for B&B’s, agriturismi, country frigging hotels and their ilk amongst the Disneyland of tall cypresses along a climbing dusty track to a lone chapel. But so… HOT.

Yesterday, a straw arrived which broke my camel’s back. And I will name names… Francois sent me a message through House Trip which arrived at my email’s proverbial door-step at 11:40 AM. He requested an arrival for that same afternoon… yesterday!!! Caspita. I was on my laptop so, I immediately replied and hit SEND at 11:44 AM. I kindly asked if he could let me know ASAP to have time to put to the ready & perfect L’Appartamento Azzurro… wine, cheese & bread included… which he expressly asked for. I HEARD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FROM FRANCOIS!!! Thanks to his inconsiderate behaviour… besides asking the same day, would it be so hard to reply with… Merci beaucoup mais nous avons trovee un’autre maison? I HOPE HE BURNS IN VACATION HELL!!! Thank you. Now, I can let go… ahhhhh! Big 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.