I am waiting until next week to show you the progress on my painting of Santa Maria del Calcinaio. It is going well but I am taking it slowly as I find my way with the subtle Tuscan tones. Instead here is a Madonna painting I have been working on. It contains the colors of Tuscany and I think it will interest you to see how the surrounds influence the palette of an artist. I love the way this painting looks in my house. We will probably make a print of it.
I hope you have all had a great Memorial Day weekend. We celebrated on Sunday with a barbeque lunch on the patio with Becky, Roberto, the girls, Enza and cousin Martina. The weather was perfect with full sunshine tempered by a cooling breeze coming up the mountainside. We played games, starting with hide and seek and ending with Animal Rummy and Old Maid.
This Friday, Becky completed her series of courses for the students of the International Schools. At last we have been able to spend decent spells of time together.
Saturday was market day. In the Plaza Signorelli, close by Enza’s house, trucks with sides that open and canopies that extend from their tops, were selling everything a household could need and a lot more. I was particularly taken with the linens but, even with the help of Becky, could not make up my mind. Well there is still next Saturday.
We did however stop at the Porchetta (pork) truck to buy Panini di Porchetta (massive pork sandwiches with delicious stuffing) from the two stout gentlemen who have no necks and who make Panini de Porchettas all day long and laugh and joke with their customers. They carve the pork from the carcass of a pig that was slaughtered and cooked over night. In the photo of the Pork Men, you will see that both Becky and I have wild looking hair. Later that evening we rectified this with a visit to the beauty salon.
I have mentioned before the long break businesses take between 12:00 noon and 3:00 p.m. in rural towns like Cortona. The Internet office for instance opens to the public from 9:00 a.m. till 12:00 noon and from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Because the shops are small, many display a large part of their goods on the street, setting up in the morning, taking in at the midday closing and then setting up again for the second part of the day’s business. I am including a photo of one of the fruit and vegetable shops to show you how much work is involved.
Apart from the generous break allowing due respect to be given to the importance of lunch, this system allows for shops to be run by husbands and wives and for the family to eat together. I like it and wish it were common elsewhere, as it once was. However I doubt the clock will turn back and the best I can hope for is that it will not change here in my lifetime.
One word of warning when you shop for fruit and vegetables in a traditional Italian town like Cortona, do not touch the produce. Even when you have decided what you want, DO NOT TOUCH. Wait until your turn to be served and then point. After being reprimanded for picking up the melon I wanted to pay for, I asked Becky why, when I had chosen it, could I not touch it.
“Because you might change your mind and put it back,” she explained.
A little more than a week and Malcolm and I will be heading back for the Foundation Board meeting and then on to Ames, Iowa. Much as I love Tuscany, I am always glad to travel back to Virginia.
Caio for this week.
For those who want to read more.
Thanks to all who sent me Birthday greetings. I appreciate them greatly. I last wrote to you on the morning of my birthday. I had expected an uneventful day, after the surprises of the Williamsburg party and the tickets to Italy. I was wrong. At lunchtime, Roberto appeared and whisked Malcolm and me to Enza’s, where a delicious lunch of lasagna (my favorite pasta), champagne and blackberry pie awaited.
After lunch we staggered back down the hill, our tummies full.
“That’s it.“ I said to Malcolm. “You won’t have to take me out to dinner.”
Later Malcolm said he had to go back to town and attend to the day’s Internet mail.
“You go! I am staying here to work.” I told him and then, seeing disappointment in his face, I relented and went with him.
Malcolm was barely five minutes in the Internet café.
“Nothing of importance today. Feel like a walk? It will shake down the lunch” he asked me.
“Ok! But not too fast.”
Malcolm led, threading the way through the alleyways of the town, heading always upwards. Soon he was far ahead of me. When I reached a corner I would see him about to round the next. He was always out of calling range. Though my legs ached, I had no choice but to follow.
After what seemed an age of endless climbing, I saw he had stopped at the Porta Montanina, the gate in the Etruscan Wall at the highest point in town. He was waiting for me to catch up.
“From here it is only a mile or so along this ridge to Torreone and the road that leads back down the other side.” He said, before adding. “If we complete the circuit we will sleep well tonight.”
I weakly agreed.
At the hamlet of Torreone, we came upon Restaurant Cory’s, a restaurant for which we had heard many words of praise but had yet to visit.
“Could you manage some food now?” Asked Malcolm. He was right. I could eat again.
“Buona sera! Un tavalo per due, (a table for two), per favore” Malcolm requested in his best attempt at correct pronunciation.
“From England?” asked Guseppe, the owner.
We sat by a window and as we dined, we looked down on the valley far below, where lights began to appear in the growing darkness. Guseppe advised us well, treating us to an antipasti of four cheeses on which we sampled various jams made from figs, ginger, green tomatoes and one of red tomatoes and peppers. For appetizers we shared a plate of three different crostini, mushroom, chicken liver pate and tomato. Our main course was rack of lamb and then to finish we shared an almond paste cake with a blackberry sauce.
By the time we left Cory’s, it was dark. We set off on the road for home, our way lit by moonlight. On our right, the Etruscan wall loomed high above us. On our left was the drop to the valley. Cypress trees lined the road’s edge on the valley side, standing tall and slim, like a line of soldiers, they protected us from straying off the road. Half way down we passed Bramasole (the Tuscan home of Francis Mayes, author of “Under the Tuscan Sun”). It was ten by the time we got to our front door, tired but happy.
Note: The reason you seldom see Malcolm in a photo is that he is most times behind the camera. I will make sure he is seen in next week’s letter.
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