If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

19 May 2005

So many firsts!

My first attempted pickpocketing
The car pickup was in and of itself amazingly smooth (if you’re ever going to be in Europe for more than 17 days, www.europebycar.com is definitely the way to go!). I had been on the ground for approximately 30 minutes total (including passports, baggage claim and shuttle to the other terminal) when a guy tried to steal my bag. I was sleepy and not paying attention as well as I should have (*that’s* when they get you!), with everything in a cart next to me at the rental car counter, when I felt someone ‘in my space’ and turned in time to see his hand on my (open) carry-all bag. Though my wallet itself was on the counter with me (so all he would have gotten was a toiletry bag, socks I wore on the flight, a book I had just finished, and a power bar… It was so quick, I thought I must have imagined it – and he and the woman stood next to me for a few minutes in ‘line’ like they were waiting for something – obviously not wanting to call attention to themselves. Then they vanished, one at a time. In hindsight, next time, I will say something, and LOUDLY. If I’m wrong, I can always apologize – if right, I will hopefully prevent it from happening to the next person. The lesson here: you can never be too careful, and trust your instincts when people get too close to you!

My first drive along the Cote d'Azur
The weather for my arrival day couldn’t have been more beautiful! The coastline along the south of France and heading into Italy was sparkling and lovely, now I know why they call it the “Cote d’Azur” (literally, the Blue Coast, I think, in French?) It strikes me now more than ever that Americans need to 'get over' the wailings about how much gas costs -- I have a TINY TINY TINY Peugeot, which cost me exactly 50 Euros (nearly $70) to fill up, about $5 a gallon!) I took a wrong exit at Genova and ended up on the road through town (it’s a major port city, and was more beautiful than I had expected it to be. As I headed through town, there was a parking place right in front of a florist shop --- perfect luck, as I wanted to be sure to pick up flowers for the Diplomat and the Renaissance Artist.

My first purchase
I took a deep breath and walked into the shop – having practiced many times in my head, “Vorrei un grande gruppo di fiori, per favore” (I would like a big bunch of flowers, please). Of course, I first apologized profusely to the shop owner that I am just learning Italian. He was very sweet with me, walking me through the shop and asking which stems I wanted… conversing all the time with me in slow and simple Italian (where did I arrive from, how long was I staying, told me he had tried to learn English but found it too difficult, though both his children had studied in England and were very smart – both in the sciences. Seems that bragging about your children is an internationally shared pastime!) Twenty minutes, no English, and thirty Euros later I left with a gorgeous ‘mazza mista’ (big mixed bouquet), directions to the entrance of the Autrostrada on the other side of town, and a greatly lifted spirit.

A Casa a Covivole: la prima sera (the first evening)
The remainder of the trip, about 5 ½ hours total, from Nice to Monte San Savino was easy, I arrived in time to enjoy the waning afternoon in my new home. The Diplomat was out, but had left the Capanna (literally ‘hut’ in Italian, but more gently the ‘one room guest house’) open for me, so I took a deep breath and settled in: bless the Unassuming Princess who had sent ‘real mail’ that had arrived and was waiting for me on my bed. It was a perfect welcome to my new digs.

Spent the rest of the afternoon going for a hike to reacquaint myself with the property (20 acres, eek!) and stave off the 15+ hours of sitting, then returned about 7, poured myself a glass of wine and settled in with a book to watch the sunset.

The Diplomat arrived a bit in a flurry a few hours later, it is a very busy week for him. We took a quick walk through the garden, then the stone man showed up to consult on some repairs to the terrace, and the blacksmith (Not kidding. We have a blacksmith!) arrived to take measurements for two new iron gates on the storage spaces, plus a framing for a pergola that ivy will grow on outside the capanna. More on this later, but the array of tradespeople and craftsmen to become aquainted with is a bit dizzying!

My first friend

I haven’t even been on the ground for 24 hours yet, (apologies to all you out there for whom all these “first” details must be painfully boring,) but I wanted to be certain not to miss describing these early days – I know that in a very short time, things will seem ‘normal’ to me here: thought the feeling of excitement, nervousness, and discovery is all fascinating to me for the moment.

Tonight, Thursday, The Diplomat invited me to go to hear an historic speaker with him at 9:30… though it was an hour away, and knowing it was my first night, I was confident I would embarrass myself and be sound asleep in the midst of it (especially since it was, of course, in Italian!). Instead, I went on my own to my ‘local restaurant,’ Il Cacciatore, 2.4 kilometers away.

I arrived and asked for a table for one. Paolo, the owner, remembered me from the night that Beatrice and I had eaten there a few months back. I explained that I was ‘new here’ (nuova qui), living at Covivole. Paolo is called ‘il dentino’ by some of the locals (meaning ‘the teeth’ – because the poor thing has been a victim of the notorious lack of Italian dental care). He immediately adopted me – teasing me for reading a book in English (though it was ABOUT Italy!), introducing me to the other two men who were eating there, and generally lavishing me with attention – a glass of prosecco as an aperitif, a bottle of wine when I ordered only a glass, pasta to start, some grilled steak, and a plate of the famous cinghiale (wild boar), which is a (DELICIOUS!) specialty of the house. Finally, I cried uncle (Basta means ‘enough!’) – simply not able to eat any more! (It’s interesting to note that Italians generally are members of the ‘clean plate club’). After the meal, café and Amaro – a ‘digestive’ liquor … he wrapped up the ¾ of a bottle of wine that I hadn’t finished, and sent me on my way with a ridiculously tiny bill (15 Euro!). I offered him an extra 5 Euro in appreciation for the service and told him genuinely that I would be happy to be a regular there. My second real Italian conversation seemed to have gone well.

While the day was clear and sunny, nights here (I’m not sure what the elevation is, but it’s higher than most places around us) are still crisp and chilly. After the short drive back to Covivole, I made a fire in the wood stove (the Old Soul would be very proud of me), hauling wood in from the shed. Self-sufficiency will be the key to survival. The moon is very bright and so are the stars, a comfortable and clear first night.

I’m not yet completely comfortable with the night sounds of the country, so pulled out the computer and put on some tunes. The low-key soundtrack for tonight: “Feels Like Home” (Chantal Kreviazuk), Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” “These Are Days” (10,000 Maniacs), Sarah McLachlan’s “Do What you Have to Do” and Diana Krall’s “I’m just a Lucky So and So…” the perfect soundtrack to the best possible relocation day that it could have been!


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