Saturday, January 20, 2007

Second Week

The rip-roaring adventures continue, the high(?) point so far being locking ourselves out of the house. Fortunately this was on the same day we were scheduled to meet up with Jim the caretaker who lives in town, so we were eventually saved from having to break a window.

So far we have walked our socks off, so to speak, in:

·         Neighboring San Sepolcro, where there is a useful and cheap (though somewhat seedily Spartan) Internet “cafĂ©;” the town is the home and showplace of Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca, who draws perhaps the most tourists to this part of Umbria. We had the kids navigate us around town by map reading.

·         Gubbio, a medieval town in the mountains about 30 km away, which we visited during a kind of bleak siesta time (the problem continues of getting kids out of bed before 10:30 – too much Italian candy late at night). Many intriguing passageways, archways, and stairs interlace among the narrow cobbled streets, and Piper’s personal goal was to sprint up and down all of them.


·         Anghiari – our return yesterday on market day proved fruitful: we bought a sweater for Pi, some fish (not sure what kind, but they looked sort of like baby barracudas, some Italian candy for latenight sucking, grapes and cabbage and tomatoes and garlic; and CHEESE.


·         Monterchi, a sleepy (siesta notwithstanding) hilltown featuring one of Piero’s most famous frescoes, rescued and restored – a rare picture of a pregnant Madonna. We hiked up the steep lanes to the town, the most exciting moment being when Nick aimed his camera at a watchdog atop (fortunately) a high wall, which resulted in a great action shot of snarling fury. 

·         Wednesday’s capper, an afternoon killing time in San Giustino waiting for Jim the caretaker. We window shopped (Nick is always looking for shoes – there are some gorgeous Italian ones of all persuasions but none are cool enough for him!) and connected with Monika and Marco, who own the corner pub and whom we met last summer. (Did I use whom correctly there?)

·         Thursday we returned to Orvieto to retrieve our final missing bag, wahoo! We also stopped by Todi, again placed atop a hill with a fantastic view of the fields and orchards below. An ice rink was set up in the main piazza below the Duomo.


·         Friday we spent at home and in San Giustino where it was market day (recognized some of the same vendors as in Anghiari), including scoping out the elementary school that we might place Piper in. We explored the road above the Molino, which eventually winds up in Urbino, but not before going through a spectacular series of hairpin turns up the side of a mountain. And finally we did the passegiata (evening stroll) through nearby Citta di Castello, where the kids discovered yet another playground (it’s cute that 14-year-old Nick still enjoys merry-go-rounds) and we dined well at a subterranean pizza ristorante.


Jim advocates not pampering the visiting kitten since at one time such a beast accidentally got locked in the house at season’s end. However, it is hard to resist the little raggazzo. We have beaten the challenge to get the hang of lighting the woodstove.  Assuming there is a newspaper on hand (big assumption) it took the whole thing to even get the wood smoking, let alone flaming – until I found the hatchet and cut proper kindling! Jim also showed us the knack of lighting the propane heater to briefly take a “chill” off the (for example) bathroom  -- warning however against the joys of monoxide poisoning. Common consent is that this is an unusually warm winter (we have at brief times been content in shirtsleeves) , but nights and mornings are particularly nippy and Jim suggests we buy some chains just in case since our remote little hillroad has steep and curvy bits. Hard to believe since yesterday was really warm and sunny.


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