Two months into our Italian adventure and I could already write a novel about all the unexpected, strange, wonderful and sometimes not so wonderful things that go on in the Umbrian hills. As I brushed off my rusty Italian and put the house in order, spring has turned into a scorching summer, and Nadine and I have begun to adapt ourselves to local rhythms and customs.
On May 16th I loaded the car with as many art supplies as it could carry, threw in my toolbox, power saw, computer, printer, a few short trousers and tee shirts, piled the dog on top and headed south. Orlando was as patient as his doggy brain would allow, but when we emerged from the Mont Blanc tunnel it was time to stop, take a long walk, and sniff the Italian air. We spent the evening with Anna and Domenico, good friends and the producers of my wonderful ruling pen and bracelets. Next day poor Orlando need convincing to get back in the car. Seven hours later we pulled up to our house in Rapicciano di Spoleto. Unlocking the door was a strange experience: this is now our house, I marveled, shared with Amity and Glenn Parks and Ellen Bauch. But it fell to me to infuse it with the soul of new owners.
That proved quite a challenge at first. The old owner, an artist from Rome, left behind furniture, sheets, towels, a kitchen full of pots and pans and a plumbing system that still functioned – more or less. He also left a lot of junk. Sorting out good from bad and driving the latter down to the recycling center took several days. What I couldn’t fit in the car the local second hand shop picked up. Day by day order emerged from chaos and the house began to breathe with fresh life.
Rapicciano is a tiny village about 15 minutes from Spoleto. We have a few acres of land with olive trees (needed pruning, still need feeding) and a truffle forest. I was soon initiated into the low level battle for these lumps of smelly gold from the ground. As Orlando and I toured the property, he dashed off into the woods barking. I followed and found two young guys with a bag of truffles. In my poor Italian I made it known that the truffles belonged to me. They kindly handed them over, perhaps half a kilo. Sadly, they were harvested way too soon and had almost no flavor. That was back in early June. The story in July is very different. I now have my man Franco and his pack of dogs. The truffles are mature. Day after day Franco returns with a kilo or more and pours them out on the garden table to be divided, half for him, half for me. The freezer is now full. How many do I need? Do I now have to take the things to market? Not quite how I planned to spend my time here. As I said, there have been surprises.
The house has a big studio. It took a while to get up the courage to start a new phase of artistic work. Slowly and with all the agony that goes with art making, I am getting started. More on that next time!