We’re perched on a hilltop in a village that boasts one Renaissance painting by Perugino, two bars and three restaurants. The owner of one of the bars (the oldest in town) and one of the restaurants (the newest in town) is not speaking to the owner of the other bar and of one of the other restaurants and is not being spoken to by the owners of the third restaurant. Loyalists of the various sides avoid or are barred from the opposing establishments. Life is lived intensely in this village.
It’s amazing anyone speaks to anyone here, but as far as I can tell the English-speaking community speaks to everyone (except the opposing restaurateurs). In the last week we have had dinners or outings with people who appear to see each other on a nearly daily basis, eating at each others homes, exchanging tips for where to get various items, exchanging plant cuttings and fresh eggs from their chickens, etc. It may simply be a very generous welcome for us visitors, but I get the impression it is typical of daily life here. We’re social folk, but we’ve had to skip a couple of get-togethers for a quiet night at home.
And between the visits and dinners, we have been driving all over Tuscany and Umbria, taking pictures of the glorious countryside, the churches and villages and medieval fortress cities, and eating pasta wherever we can find it. I had lost weight in Paris because we walked so much and ate fewer snacks. In Italy I’m in the car a lot more and eating more carbohydrates. I fear for my waistline but can’t resist the tagliatelle al tartufo and the stops for gelato, something that rarely tempts me anywhere else but has become irresistible here.
We visited the gardens at La Foce near Pienza and La Scarzuola, by the architect Tommaso Buzzi, near Montigiello. This sacred and profane “ideal city” is built at a smaller-than-real scale and contains multiple theater spaces that form the profane balance for the restored Franciscan convent representing the sacred. Add to this the usual trips to Montepulciano, Montichiello for lunch at the divine La Porta, Todi, Perugia, and heaven only knows where else and we feel like we’ve left no corner of the countryside unexplored. Until we get in the car the next day and find some little gem like Spina or the teensy tiny Pieve Caina.
Next stop: Rome.