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.

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.

The Delightful Down-unders…

An Australian Mom & Dad, two nearly teenage sons, Mom’s brother, who sported an Italian first-name and then, Dad’s sister rolled into Codiponte last Tuesday with n’er an idea of what had been happening here since the Friday before. Lovely to be on vacation… was the reply to the news of our earthquake. They were not going to let a few little jiggles get in the way of it either. And, they didn’t. The Aussie-crowd briskly knocked-off visits to Le Cinque Terre… getting there by every known means of transportation which, apparently, they adored the adventure, Lucca ending in a crushing down-pour, a bit of Versilia for a dip in the freezing waters of the Mediterranean Sea and a day of relax in Il Poggiolo’s Garden. I treated them to a pasta lunch, they delicious fixings for an aperitivo with Our English Friends in the village.  You arrived, and to his amazement, could speak Italian with the Mom. She had come with her parents & brother to visit relatives in both the Veneto & Puglia. A round of applause for the Australian People!!! My batch were polite, appreciative, fun, interesting, laid-back without fault. They even managed NOT to have a car-accident on the wretched detour though unaccustomed to driving on the right as they are. Gads.

Who’s heard of it?…

We have a house in the country. Oh, really? Where? In the Lunigiana. Where’s that? Italy… it’s part of Tuscany… Oh, then, I think I might HAVE heard of it. Down near Siena, no? No… and there dies the conversation. I have no tolerance for anyone, especially an Italian, who is unaware of the Lunigiana. It’s like an American who’s doubtful of North Dakota. Yes, a trick question… for the ignorant & unsteady. I’ve been to ND. Twice. It has its charms. Have you ever seen a moving bank of fog sailing past inordinately green fields… expanses as large as all of Italy? Or miles & more miles & even more miles of nothing but sunflowers? Pretty darn yellow. While you ponder a reply, let me say, so too has the Lunigiana un sacco di fascino. Well, nothing to the wide-West of open spaces of ND but, how about…

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100s of stone villages from the Cisa Pass above Pontremoli to the North over to the Cerretto & Carpanelli Passes to the East & Southeast… a 120 castles to visit or, at least, snoop around. Go to http://forrestspears.com/serendipity/a-castle and see the video about an extraordinarily romantic castle started 1200 years ago. And, I can take you to & through it personally. If that is not enough, I can escort you to the Castle of Castiglione del Terziere and personally introduce you to the owner. How about that?… did you know the first working typewriter was invented in the Lunigiana? 1803. There’s a museum in Fivizzano with it…. there are acres & acres of olive groves… the via Francigena pilgrimage route to Rome runs right past Il Poggiolo and you can do it too, in either direction… Oh! And let me NOT FORGET to mention Hannibal perched on top of a pachyderm on his merry way to crush the Romans. The merry died near the lake below Perugia. And again, he & army trooped right past Il Poggiolo, for cryin’ out loud!!!… the Mediterranean Sea is 40 minutes by car. In other words… BEACH!!!… Ever want to see where the poet Shelley met his watery demise? Lerici and the Bay of the Poets. And anyone who was anyone literary stopped in Lerici or, thereabouts… the Cinque Terre is an easy train trip to walk its Via del Amore… the region is defined by the Apuane Mountain Range and its four dominating peaks… one of the five principal Roman cities was Lunae/Luni from which the Lunigiana takes its name. You can visit the amphitheater and then go eat testerolli, a kind of rough-grained crepe cut into strips eaten with, for example, a savory meat sauce. If that isn’t your bill-of-faire then, there is a fried bread called sgabei served with salami + un formaggio cremoso… Parma is 1 + 20 minutes by car… ditto for Pisa and its leaning thingy-ma-jigger, while Genoa is an extra 10 min. You can stroll down via Garibaldi to click away at the magnificent palazzi built during the city’s 300 years of Superba… you can bike, hike, walk, skip, if you so desire throughout the Lunigiana… should I stop? There’s much more. So, why don’t you all come to see me in the Lunigiana? There’s plenty to do. Then, if asked, you can sound intelligent & informed of PARADISE!!! Gads.