Perfect house guests…

IMG_4476Having a house in Italy, Friends & Family will come to visit…

The nearly most perfect House Guests, a cousin and her family in from Denver, CO USA, came to Il Poggiolo and have since gone away to the Scottish shores of Saint Andrews… to play golf, for crying out loud!!! It is NOT raining there like it did here the two out of the six days of My Denver Cousin’s visit. They loved it though. They could sleep in, even during the noisy thunderstorms at 4 in the morning. London apparently did them in.

Why perfect? Well how can you beat having a guest/guests clean, cook, serve and treat you to meals & rides for services as Team Leader, Guide, Translator? None of this had I dreamed of. No. In fact, I had with its opposite. So, I was unprepared for the visit to be so effortless, so pleasant, so unstressed EXCEPT… well, except in the choice of their rental car… a Lancia Ypsilon… Yes? What’s that? A dip-compact from Our State Supported Friends over at FIAT… and the manner in which they sought to drive it. Tactically avoiding any admission of a lack of real experience with a manual drive car, the Cousins complained instead of a severe lack of power with the car. It’s not like our cars at home! Fine. But, have you ever been in a car driven in the 2nd gear on a highway with the speed limit set at 120 kph? An amazingly gear grinding experience. One not to be repeated for the car. I would gently suggest, perhaps, maybe, possibly of changing to the 3rd or, Hey! How about putting it in 4th? only to be thwarted, while the designated-Cousin-as-driver maneuvered the screeching Ypsilon around, through… AND NEARLY OVER!!!… trucks, buses and other passenger cars sharing the lanes of the autostrada with us. Another interesting trick was for driving-Cousin to slam down upon the accelerator in 5th gear, frustrated to the max for the lack of POWER, gripping the steering wheel to WILL THE CAR PAST a semi-truck near a curve on a narrow state road with oncoming traffic. I prayed to live till My Next White Wine. Thankfully, God had Mercy upon me. And, in reflecting during the God-granted Cocktail Hour, alone while others showered and cleaned themselves up after a solid day of tourism, I wondered why people who have ENORMOUS SUVs with PUSH-THE-DAMN-BUTTON AUTOMATIC DRIVE transmissions and living in a HUGE 4.7 million metropolis with streets straighter than straight clicked the box for a manual-drive Lancia Ypsilon on the car rental website. Because it’s going to be Italy? Beyond my ability to find a suitable answer.

Between these automobile excursions, I had difficulty tearing the Cousins away from the Loggia of La Casa Grande. Piping hot caffe’ & fresh brioches tempted them during the morning hours. Arctically chilled vino bianco, salami, formaggi e pane nero did the same job in the evening. In between, we all four were at our laptops & smart-phones going full-tilt during our off-days from mass tourism. You know, the Americans work 24/7 even on vacation. Of course, our collective wi-fi participation slowed the reception down a bit. In between facebook, emails and the Wall Street Journal, the cousins adapted quickly to the key element of experiencing Italy… eating and drinking. Finalmente, ci siamo. We toured the local ristoranti.

Then, we pretty much had to venture out to a few Tourist Spots… Florence on a Tuesday and Le 5 Terre on the Thursday after. I was shocked… WE WERE SHOCKED… over the style & quality of tourists seen in The 5 Lands. Here’s what we saw…

hiking boots and ghastly thick multi-colored socks covering hairy legs… micro-shorts… short-shorts with unattractive cleavages… A-shirts for men & women… any AND all visible bra straps… women with visible cellulite over-dose, thanks to their A-shirts & micro-shorts… men with thick, wonky calves… men with pumped to the hilt chests and chicken legs for contrast, we supposed… and a stupid woman who dove into the sea only to be taken to the Guardia Medica for stitches of severe cuts incurred from barnacles encountered as she awkwardly climbed out of the sea. The First Law of Sea Swimming is to ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS think first… How do I get out… safely? Oh! And there was one American hunk of the pumped chest & reedy legs variety and devoid of any sense to cover himself… self-publicity for the investment in a gym, I supposed… who I saw devouring an entire pizza, then an ice-cream cone… and followed by, and now get this… another entire pizza 10 minutes after that gelato!!! How dare he eat and have pecs & abs of tactical temptation!!! We left the glories of one & all with their grotesque tourist fashion sense and headed for the Loggia al Poggiolo for a much needed white wine, etc. Gads.

First Guests of the season…

Wouldn’t you know? As the date neared for the arrival of My First Guests of the Vacation Season… a young South Korean couple traveling through Italy on their honeymoon… the weather took a mighty grim turn for the worse… IMG_4447SNOW!!!

I suppose I ought to be content it only did so about 200+ meters above Our Fair Village and not right on us. Instead, we got four days of cold, wind, a snowy air and about 3/100ths of an inch of half-ass precip. I wanted more 02 after seeding the grass but, t’was not to be. Just the cold, the wind, etc. The Cold was My Big Worry. I only have a fireplace to heat L’Appartamento Azzurro. No prob to scaldare the open-space but, the Master Bedroom receives less of that scaldare.

Already anxious, the couple’s arrival was made more so by the huge lack of back-‘n-forth emails experienced with the Aussies, The Brits and the Yanks from last year. Zilch with the South Koreans. A language problem? Perhaps. It dawned on me later that I could’ve Google Translated the English text of an email into South Korean and hit SEND!!! But, the groom did confirm reading the one email with the kind request to call when in Aulla to alert me of their imminent arrival in Codiponte 30 to 40 minutes later. It was a dark & cold night when the groom bounded out of his mega-grand Peugeot monovolume to hug me Hello! I was caught by surprise. A nifty tactic to disarm me of My Worries & Concerns. Greetings to the stylish new bride and up to the L’Appartamento Azzurro we lug their suitcases, I gladly showed-off the house… a fire ablaze in the fireplace… and gave instructions to a nearby restaurant and that was it.

The apartment became their happy camp-ground. It’s always a threatening experience to see what is, actually, My Bedroom, decorated with clothes exploded from an over-packed suitcase, towels draped from open doors and the furniture re-arranged. The couple would leave about 10AM for parts unknown… I had given a list of places to visit nearby, such as, Lucca, Lerici and the like… while late in the afternoon, I would re-start the fire so that when they did return, L’Appartamento Azzurro would toasty warm. They seemed delighted with it all. Even the outlet mall outside Florence they had heard about back in Seoul. In fact, the couple gave me a lovely gift of a fancy sort of Nutella in an adorable glass jar… one to save absolutely for You… thanking me for the best place they stayed in on this trip to Italy. Well, come back… and soon too!!!

They’re gone now. I am waiting for the Cleaning Lady to hit after 2PM for the next onslaught… a Canadian family from Edmonton, Alberta Canada. Let’s hope they can stand the chill too. At least there is some sun. Gads.

Guest Couple #7…

Yeah, more Australians…
down at the bottom of the above map, sort of where the top tip of the Tasmanian island… Do know it? If you don’t, it’s easy since, it is the only one on the map!!!… might spear the Australian Continent just southwest of Melbourne and way below most of that color-coded tribal mess, there ought to be a small beach-town by the name of Ocean Grove. It is home of Guest Couple #7. They said their town is a surfer haven. I THOUGHT ALL OF AUSTRALIA WAS A SURFER HAVEN!!! They said there are Bihg Wayves. I’m so glad to hear it. They both work in Melbourne. Four hours to & fro are eaten out of their lives with the commute. Happily, this happens ONLY three times a week. One day to recoup and another to get on with really interesting stuff. She’s a Doctor of Women’s Issues, Please don’t hold me to that particular title. I am deaf… another encroachment of Old Age upon My Well-being… and I might not have understood properly her Australian terminology. He is an ex-musician… been lots on TV too… and now a lawyer but, is moving into finishing a novel. They came… well, he came to work. Up at 6AM, writing ’till Noon… while she lazed about in the garden on blankets & pillows under the Mulberry Tree reading intense novels. A speed-reader. I must tell you, though laid-low by Tremors & Things, the cancerous lack of Good Government in Italy, Berlusconi’s stabbing shenanigans di pessima gusto e giustizia, taxes & taxes & taxes too, I am encouraged about Our Future due to people like Guest Group #7. I believe the World could do with more thoughtful Folk like them. Perhaps there are already but they haven’t book L’Appartamento Azzurro yet. Chissa? That we could talk about sex, movies, books, OURSELVES!!!, she with her beautiful blond smile and he with his shy one, was all wonderful side-dishes to their Quality, Character & Charm while hosting them for 8 sunny, tremor-filled days. They took that last item in their stride, by the way. I hope they come back… and soon!!! I miss them already. Gads.

Mystified by Guests…

IMG_1064OK… Guest Groups #1 – 5 so far and here is what I have noticed about Guests… much to my mystification… and horror too…

they never open a window… ditto for the shutters… they lock themselves in & on purpose… they turn every frigging light on & leave them on!!!… only one group, the current one, makes their beds… they take showers in the AM AND PM too!!! Is tourism such a dirty pursuit?… towels get hung wherever… they drink tons of water… picking up their clothes, as You would say, is an optional… flip-flops are the key footwear item, regardless of age, nationality or, sex… they get lost, a lot!!!… they love any & all ristoranti, osteria or trattoria I send them to… driving three hours to Volterra & back is nothing. Their dumb Good Luck they do not have me in the care belly-aching to stop for a cappuccino, please!!!… they love the antique furniture, but then, they’re over it… many who inquire about availability through the several websites Il Poggiolo is listed, apparently, do not read what took me hours & hours & hours to post, i.e. Il Poggiolo is not available for a one night stand for a family of 2 adults & 3 kids touring Italy. God invented hotels for that sort of behavior. And, many, again apparently, find using a last name tiring to type in the ill-worded message… and, finally, You & I CANNOT WAIT for the sun to stay out in the all important afternoon hours to read & sunbathe in chaises up on one of five grassy terraces yet, our guests CANNOT WAIT to crowd into a rented FIAT & drive to see things. I suppose that is what Italy is mostly about. I must have it all wrong. Gads.

 

Guest Group #5… USA PINK

An American couple arrived last Tuesday… dressed to the nines in PINK!!! They are golfers, you see… for a radically price-slashed nine-day stay at L’Appartamento Azzurro. They hale from the same town where My Dear Aged Mother lives. That might explain the now established & generous North Carolina Discount. Forgive me… I’m being a bugaboo. I forget that Americans meeting up with another American… though an ex-pat for the last twenty-six years… just automatically feel everyone’s on the same darn team and are due a home-spun hospitality hard to resist. How un-Euro is that? Pretty darn!!! The consequence of this USA Character Trait is… hand-made gifts for You & me were happily pulled out of leopard print carry-all… I’ve been up for drinks on the grassy terrace above L’Appartamento followed by a pasta & salad dinner, which was not bad at all… You & I were graciously invited out to a dinner last Saturday night at our friend’s restaurant where all but You consumed an inordinate amount of vino… and am the respondent to an insatiable curiosity about the noted differences between Italy and America, mostly about the roads & serial u-turns to get anywhere… and the continual reminders of We’re having a blast!!! Well, that’s a relief. Oh! And there was holding-of-hands to say Grace before digging into any meal. This did require a bit of preparation for You… or, perhaps, a WARNING to him of this transposed cultural phenomenon… for Saturday’s night’s dinner invitation. You wondered why such customs could not have been left at the airport Customs. I replied… They’re Americans!!! Luckily for You, the couple forgot to insist. I suspect they were in awe of the green ravioli set before them from the kitchen. Gads.

 

 

 

Season of guests…

IMG_1056The Guest Season 2013 is on!!!…

The first shot arrived on Wednesday. Five under 25-somethings spilled out of a rented FIAT SUV… an Italian oxymoron, if there ever was one. And, what an eclectic bunch too: 3 Canadian girls… sorry. They should wear tags, spiffy-up a recognizably national accent or, sport weird ethnic hair-dos, so we, Ignoramuses of the World, might take them for Canadians instead of, mistakenly, as facsimile Americans… an irresistibly confidant & charming Brit-fellow from Newcastle preforming the service of Master of the Ceremonies, and a tag along token American. Like puppies eager for the next bit of fun to run, the crew pulled out back-packs, purses, heavy-duty shopping bags filled with recent wine purchases and… and since IT IS 2013, several ipad & imusic-boxes…???… and off we all… The Dogs included… climbed up the multi-ramps of Il Poggiolo to the Appartamento Azzurro. They were unprepared for their mouths to drop open upon entering the once-upon-a-time abode of the contadini. Became hard for them to leave the scenic overlook terrace of the apartment to go out to dinner in a local osteria. I had to call the owner twice to move the reservation to a much later hour.

The kids are here until next Wednesday. They intend to tackle Rome before dispersing to their respective home-countries. I have two days to restore Peace & Cleanliness before a professional photographer shows up to photograph what-all… both inside & out… of Il Poggiolo and the next bout of Summer Guests. An American family from Nebraska with two uncles in tow. One & all hankering to restitch their Italian roots yanked from a village nearby to Codiponte immigrating to America. Cannot wait to discover how-why-when Nebraska was chosen to set-down new roots. However, the email exchanges have been delightful with the Team Leader.

Due in afterwards are an Australian family on, apparently, a standard holiday of 6 weeks on the Italian peninsula, an American couple from the retirement community in North Carolina where My Dear & Aged Mother lives and, again, another crew of Australians… well, a couple from Melbourne in Italy for some R & R after a conference in middle Tuscany.

I get a breather by fleeing to the US for a family reunion… shhh!!! It’s a surprise.

And then, joy of joys, I go into hospital for a hip replacement operation. Ah, yes! Burying 2,000+ flora with a shovel has taken its toll upon my 60 year old hips. Che sara’… gads.

 

Eeet’s theh Eeeaster Rrrrrabbit!!!

IMG_3393

…a message from You this morning.

We have paying guests staying in L’Appartamento Azzurro. They’re Irish. They’re perfect too… not minding a bit the shitty, rainy, cold, grey & ugly weather this holiday weekend. And, they arrived well furnished with ample gin & tonic… an Easter fruit-cake to Die & Go To Heaven & Hang-out With All The Irish Saints & Martyrs… and the adorable Irish Easter Tradition of building a nature hut for the Easter Bunny to lay his Easter Eggs in. Am I confused on a Gender Issue there? Whatever. The Easter Bunny gets a dry & cozy place. How thoughtful, no? And, apparently, Mr. Easter Bunny-Rabbit really liked these digs constructed for the occasion here at Il Poggiolo… the garden was rife with colorful eggs in every visible nook & cranny. I came bounding up The Ramp to Wish One & All una Buona Pasqua and nearly squished half his production!!!

And guess what? We have sun!!! An Easter Miracle. Nearly rivals what we are celebrating. Thank You, Mr. Easter Bunny-Rabbit!!! Come again and soon!!! Gads.

Goblets…

Cleaning up after a weekend of guests… yes, the very ones who had brought that engeniously successful ping-pong set… I found myself re-arranging stuff in the mega-large armoire in La Sala da Pranzo della Casa Grande. I stopped folding cotton napkins… actually, dish-rags bought at IKEA for 50 cents ea…. to admire one of the Best Birthday Gifts a fellow could get…

a German girl-friend AND Invaluable Kitchen Assistant for il Poggiolo Party 2012 last September… brought & presented me a mix of 60 crystal goblets. She’d picked them up for a few cents ea. at a flea-market near her home in Mannheim. What a find!!!

My admiration turned to delight thinking about how nifty the goblets were for Our Party. Practically none are the same so, no prob for Our Guests to remember whose goblet was whose. And, thanks to the minimum investment on the part of My German Girl-friend, c’est la vie when one shattered on the stone pavers of the aia. We lost only 5!!! A miracle.

Later, I enjoyed deliberating upon which 1 of the 60 to fill for an end-of-the-day white wine. Lucky. There’s a goblet to satisfy any mood OR inclination. What a wonder. Gads.

 

The Fall Program…

 

The weather has changed. It rained. Not sufficiently for all the water we need. Still, why is the air always so heavy with humidity? The rain drops prefer to stay in the clouds? Droughts are tough. But, it IS cooler. A couple of evenings & mornings too I built a fire in the camino of the Blue Apartment. Finally completed with the new-fangled copper vents to cover the gapping holes in fireplace’s flanks for additional ambient hot air. Wow! The Dogs adore the warmth. Rather than curl themselves up in a ball on their beds, they splay themselves across the full length of their individual mattresses and a bit of floor. Leaves little room for me to pass to the Kitchen Area to make myself another cup of caffe’.

So, this autumnal tang has triggered A Fall Task List. If anything, now as the owner of a country residence, I have learned to condition myself to the Seasons. Before all can, or must be set into motion, I will have to survive two events…

You’s Family’s Mid-day Invasion this coming Saturday. You had struck them off the Guest List for il Poggiolo Party 2012. He didn’t want to mix them with our Genoese friends. But You, your brothers & families are wonderful people. Another time he said. And, thus endeth the conversation. The next thing I knew and less than a week after Our Big Party, I was informed of this family get-together on the 6th of October. I AM happy to report that I will be relieved of Perpetual Kitchen Duty. Everyone has to bring something to eat. We will provide drinks, salamis & cheeses with potato bread and a hot pasta dish. Then, the forty something crowd can take naps in a chaise, play tether ball on the aia, menace the fish in the pool, tour the Codi-village… for cryin’ out loud.

and then, My Brother’s & Sister-in-law’s arrival towards the middle of this month on a belated honeymoon trip. Their wedding was six years ago. Better late than never? The two not-so-newly-weds have conceded me two days to show & do all that is possible in the Lunigiana before setting off for Lucca, Florence & Siena. Not really enough time but, I will adapt.

Then…

all the potted plants will need to be moved to the Warmth & Safety of the Loggia for the Fall/Winter. This move will entail the use of a hand-truck and an extra person. He/she/it won’t be You. Some clever person, for fear of incriminating himself, had decided to put rhododendrons in large terra-cotta pots clear on the opposite side of il Poggiolo from their Fall/Winter Quarters. Perhaps a crane would be better? Oh! And, of course, there are the XXL pots with flowering lantana in the triangle of the old chicken coop area. What fun. The rest of the Plant-life can, blessedly, be hand carried.

Later on, in November, all the flora flotsam in the Fish Swimming Pool will need to be fetched-out and relocated to tubs of water with the other plants in the Loggia. Since the Pool sees NO SUNLIGHT for a good bit of Fall AND all of WINTER, the water tends to freeze solid & thick, killing the flora. The fish don’t care. They will be in their seasonal coma until the Thaw. How lovely. Saves on food.

And then, there is the classical Shutting up of The House/Houses… refrigerators divested of their stuff, both frozen or not, shelves & tables & You’s nick-nacks dusted to end all dustings until the Spring, ditto with the vacuum-cleaner everywhere else, followed by… and here we’ll need some solemn piece of Baroque music… no, not a durge… Our Entire Supply of Single-bed sheets draped to cover what all. I may cry.

Last year, I hung on in Codiponte until November, ignoring You’s lamentations of My Continual Delays in returning to Genoa. I just couldn’t tear myself away. This year, I am bound to seek New Opportunities. Il Poggiolo is done… relatively. Time for a new Project. Our Home in Genoa seems a better location for such pursuits than an 800 year old farm- house in a little known corner of Tuscany called the Lunigiana. But, let’s see how long this decision will last. Gads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the next few weeks will see an invasion of You’s family at il Poggiolo this coming Saturday. At last reports, there was a rebellion amongst a few Family Members. They felt it Then, a break until the 14th of October when My Brother & Wife come to pay us a visit.