Tuesday, January 16, 2007

First week in Umbria

(I know that’s annoying.)

Anyway you’ll be happy to know (I guess) that we are more or less safely ensconced in The Molino. To just hit the main points up till now, the flight was fine as flights go – long, of course, at least four run-throughs of “The Black Dahlia” -- except that everyone but me lost most or all of their checked-in luggage somewhere between London and Rome (bets are on the Romans). The bags began trickling in the day after arrival, starting with Nick’s viola, and at this point we are only short the last of our nine (!) bags, which alas contains Robin’s jewelry. But we remain hopeful!

Arriving Wednesday AM, we were flagged down by a fellow with our name on a placard (been waiting for that moment al my life) and driven to our Renault pick-up point near Rome, which looked like a Mafia dumping ground, and we spent night one in the nearby Ibis hotel, comfortable but overlooking a bit of a wasteland. Thursday we drove to Orvieto an hour or so north, and spent a fab two nights at the Palace of the Cardinal (1548), which has been remade over the centuries into a series of charming and fairly inexpensive B&B flats on the edge of the city walls, which are built into the native tufa (kind of like pumice) cliffs. Our hostess was great and helped us make several calls to the airport. We walked all around much of the city, poking into shops and churches, lanes and wall-walks, piazzas and parks (this sentence pretty much sums up the trip so far). Had a couple of good dinners, featuring for example bruschetta with local truffles and pasta with wild boar sauce (Orvieto is decorated with a good number of stuffed boar heads; apparently they are hunted not only because they’re dark tasty but because they tend to eat the grape harvest).

The drive to the Molino was a bit fraught. Long story short, the user interface was bad – i.e., disappointing road signage and small-scale maps conspired to make it unclear where the turnoff for Todi was (by which we aimed to north go via Perugia). This unnecessarily exposed us to the autostrada toll system and a comedy(?) or errors resulting in a 44-euro traffic ticket issued by the robotic tollbooth. (For those keeping score, the euro is now worth about $1.60 I think.) I still have to see if I can get this annulled. It did give me a chance to wrangle properly with the Italian language in trying to explain our idiotic problem and get pointed to the right road.

Anyway after several detours and hours we eventually arrived in San Giustino about 5 PM Friday, in the dark and a deep fog, bought supplies and settled in to our “villa.” Had a pizza dinner at our favorite spot from last summer, and were greeted warmly by the waitress, the owner’s wife, who offered us gratis glasses of prosecco with kiwi – making up for the day’s hassles a bit. I was really needing that kiwi. The main item of interest that night was the appearance of the neighbor’s loveable but ferocious tabby kitten, which made itself right at home. The second item was failure to get the woodstove lit. Mea culpa. Plenty of wood but little or nothing in the way of kindling, and few matches, for one thing, and again questionable documentation. This made for a somewhat chilly night (Orvieto was quite warm actually but S.G. is at least 10 degrees colder).

Yesterday (Sunday) we slept in (afraid to get out of the warm covers), made brunch, and then drove to the hilltown of Anghiari, where we led the kids through the silent old labyrinths, and came out on the square to find a jumble sale going on, everything from old drawer pulls and hardware to memorabilia and crafts, plus a bookfair at which we purchased an old print from a bestiary, illustrating several types of wild pig. Nearly everywhere was closed Sunday so we were unable to buy newspapers for kindling; instead we cannibalized a kids’ coloring book, properly cleaned out the grate, and thank goodness got a roaring fire going, which brought up the ambient temp to a sweltering 58 degrees.

Have not spotted any dormice yet. However two scorpions have made an appearance.

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