Mi dispiace that I have taken so long to post – it has been a busy week for me! Let me begin by trying to find a word that can possibly describe just how wonderful it is to be back in Sansepolcro … hmmm … nope … niente. I’m afraid no word exists yet! I will work on it.
Sara e Patrizio have been absolutely wonderful to me and i bambini are just adorably sweet. Leonardo is four years old and we are already good buddies. He wants me to do everything with him all the time!
Ginevra is two, into everything all the time, and likes to climb pretty much anything bigger than herself. She is trying very hard to add my name to her growing vocabulary list.
But before I go on and on about my felice life in Sansepolcro, I should debrief you on my trip. Overall, it was a very good one, though there were decided highs and lows, of course. The flight from RDU to Dulles was a warm one (the pilot said the air conditioner sometimes took a while to cool off the plane, and we were only in the air for 45 minutes or so), but thankfully I was in the very front row and thus, able to make a quick exit once we had landed.
And then there is the baby, Veronica, who is one of the most happily-tempered babies I’ve ever known.
In Dulles, after I had made my way to the proper gate, I saw a Starbucks nearby and went in for what might be my last chai frappecchino for a very long time – and left with possibly the worst frappecchino of all time (it looked like my cup was full of glaziers, not slush). When it was time to board, I chucked the cup and waved goodbye to Dulles with my numb fingers. My seat number was 23A, which meant I was in the Economy Plus section of the airplane; I later learned that this was because I originally bought a ticket for a Lufthansa plane (which is usually operated by United Airlines in the U.S.), so when they made the switch I was automatically placed in the roomier economy quarters. And, being in an “A” seat meant window – yes!
Anyway, I was thrilled to pieces about the arrangement, so the only trepidation that remained was in the identity of my seatmate. And, as it turned out, I was quite pleasantly surprised there as well. Lucius, a German student returning home to Munich after a year of community service in Savannah, was probably one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met on my travels. He walked up with a frappecchino in hand and almost immediately struck up a conversation with me (despite the fact that I had headphones on and was clearly engrossed in Wharton’s The Age of Innocence). Thus began a nearly nonstop conversation – by takeoff, we were already discussing the presidential election and comparing it with the structure of Germany’s political system.
Basically the only times we weren’t talking were the handful hours that I tried very dutifully to fall asleep (and failed) or during the in-flight movie. I think we probably annoyed the people sitting in front of and behind us because we never shut up! Another thing I really enjoyed about him was that, even though he had flown this very route at least three or four times, he still expressed wonder and delight over things like the way the wing of the airplane worked, or the beauty of clouds when looking down at them from above. He had this wealth of knowledge, and yet, still possessed an innate pleasure in “little” things too.
Sleep proved elusive for me because it was absolutely bone-chilling on that plane. I had on two shirts (one of them long-sleeved) and blue jeans, and was swaddled in both mine and Lucius’ blankets – clutching both pillows as a shield of sorts to protect me from the AC. He had dressed more appropriately and, being at least 6’6” and on the husky side, apparently produced enough body heat to endure the frigid climate better than I. In light of this, he took special pains to make sure I was comfortable during the flight, yet never gave me a moment’s hesitation as to his character or intentions – he always polite, and his behavior always gentlemanly in nature. My only regret is that I never got the chance to tell him thank you at the end. As the plane emptied, there was a lot of confusion and we were separated. I looked for him again at customs, but never saw him again. I only hope that Lucius realized just how much his kindness was appreciated.
The flight from Munich to Piza was also pleasant, though by this time I had been awake for about 24 hours and was beginning to feel the effects of the intercontinental flight on my back. It began by being delayed, and then not so very delayed, and then ultimately, rather delayed. The plane was very small, which, for me, was not a problem (I like roller coasters). However, there were barfbags sticking out of the back of each seat, so the size of the plane clearly has not sat well with all! My companion for this flight was a 50-60 something Polish man, who wanted to make sure I knew he was from Poland, not Holland. His English was sometimes hard to understand, but we got along just fine and I enjoyed the company.
My only complaint with him is that when he heard how old I was, he said he thought I looked much younger than twenty – but, to his credit, he then when on to say that his daughter, now thirty-three, is mistaken for 25 all the time (“So, you will like it later!” he said). We had the sweetest little snack – peach-applesause, orange juice, tea cookies, and something else that I remember liking (but I can’t remember what exactly it was now).
Upon landing, we climbed down the steps to the runway (yes, it was that small) and were shuttled over to pickup our luggage. From there I said farewell to my Polish friend and made my way to the information desk to find out about train tickets. Those being bought, I made my way over to the proper binario and boarded. I stopped at one of the Firenze stations to catch another train before finally – FINALLY! – reaching Arezzo where Sara e Patrizio came to take me home to Sansepolcro.
And now I can rave about how fantastic my time here has been. After arriving martedi evening, which was the 22nd, I unpacked, played with the kids before dinner, then enjoyed a delicious meal of salmone e pomodori al forno, compliments of Patrizio. I had my first glass of red wine, which was, despite Sara’s and my asking Patrizio to give me a small taste, hard for me to finish, but not as bad as I anticipated. Then I was quizzed as to what kinds of flavors and types I preferred, both in foods and wines. I assured them I would try anything, but added that in the past, I had preferred sweeter, lighter wines (“Ah, dolce! Bianco? Ah, bianco e rosa, si.”).
After dinner, Leonardo wanted to watch La Bella e la Beastia with me, and I must say, the movie was better in Italian! I went to bed that night after being away for about 36 hours, probably the longest I have ever been awake. I think it took me about thirty seconds to fall asleep after the light went off!
Ieri, mercoledi, Sara and I took the kids out in the strollers (Leonardo rode his bike) so that I could learn how to get to the center of Sansepolcro from their house. As you will hear later, this lesson only partially stuck with me, but that is because of my directionally challengedness, not Sara’s lack of instruction!
After una buona cena, which consisted of pasta con pesto, pane, e frutte, Sara said that Patrizio was going to Montecasale (a monastery founded by St. Francis – San Francesco) and that he would be glad to take me too. So off I went, admittedly clutching onto the motorcycle for dear life at first, but after we had clearly survived a few turns, I relaxed a bit and started enjoying the sights around me. Riding a motorcycle up the winding hills of Tuscany is infinitely superior to that of an autobus. Protected by one of Sara’s sweaters, I was able to enjoy the cool breezes and glorious sights – and, of course, now I want a motorcycle more than ever :)
From Montecasale, all of Sansepolcro and Anghiari and beyond was in view! True to form, I took tons of pictures, where appropriate at least (i.e., not in the chapel). Patrizio showed me around inside first, then, while he attended an afternoon mass given by the monks that live there, I explored the outside grounds. I will try to post all my pictures of beautiful Montecasale very soon – they will be on the Picasa site though, because the blog takes a while to load pictures!
After about an hour or so at Montecasale, we started back down through the Tuscan mountains and countryside. Patrizio was going to drop me off at the local mercato to pick up things like bottles of shampoo and lotion that had been left behind to lower the weight of my suitcase. He let me off at the entrance, and was about to drive off, but then, unsure that I really knew the right places to turn on the walk home, had me get back on (“Two minutes!”) and drove me up the street to remind me where the turn was. Is this family attentive to my needs or what?! In another minute he had me back down at the grocery store and I, thanking him profusely for his help, walked in to make my purchases.
It took me a while to make sure I was buying what I thought I was buying, but before long I had found the things I needed, paid with my Euros, and was walking back up the mountain to Via Sbragi. So, through the combined efforts of Sara e Patrizio, I made it home on my own without getting lost!
That night, we ate dinner outside in the backyard. Patrizio had made a traditional insalata di Toscana (see picture below), and there was also Tuscan bread con prociutto and fresh pineapple. I couldn’t stop eating long enough to grab my camera during my first serving of the insalata, so I “had” to get some more :) According to Sara, the secret to the recipe is the Tuscan bread.
Mid-meal, Patrizio took my partially full glass of water, said “excuse me,” chucked its contents onto the grass below, filled it with a new sampling of wine, and then set it down for me to try. It was perfect! Very dolce vino bianco, light, and yet, very flavorful too. And, to top it off, I haven’t had any headaches so far!
Today Sara and I took the children to a park to play for a while, then we walked through Sansepolcro again before heading back home for another mouth-watering lunch. Afterwards, I fed Veronica while Sara washed the dishes; Patrizio had taken Leonardo e Ginevra outdoors to ride bikes and play, so it was nice to get the chance for the two of us to talk and visit in a quiet house for a while. I could tell she enjoyed the stillness very much!
After that I walked down to town for a while and dawdled around the streets I grew to love last summer. It’s been a lot like reencountering a brief but special friendship – reacquainting does not have the same ease as one with an old, lifelong companion, but then at the same time, discovering all the things you liked and loved before is easy. So yes, I have needed to reorient and remind myself directionally, but emotionally, all the old feelings are there – and so I appreciate Sansepolcro all the more this second time around.
I was thinking about how blessed I was to be back today, and I came up with this analogy: to visit Sansepolcro for a day is a delight, and to stay for a month, delightfully wonderful. But to come back again, for a second, third, or fourth extended stay, is truly a gift from above, and to live here, well, no that is a taste of heaven.
If you’ve never been, you may think these words are a bit of an exaggeration, but for those who have walked these streets and been greeted with “Ciao!” from the natives, you know that I am in no way exaggerating.
In other news, my Birkenstock sandals seem to be among the height of fashionable female footwear this season. I see them everywhere I go!
I will write more soon – please forgive the typos and other errors as this was written without any proofreading on my part. There is no time for that I’m afraid, so mi dispiace!
A dopo, famiglie e amici,