From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 37
Brutto Tempo (Bad Weather)
Fall 1980

For this chapter, I am relying almost exclusively on my mother’s notes from October 1980, when she and my father returned to Gioviano to check on the work progress at Casa Giorgio. The weather was awful during much of their nine-day stay, but Gioviano and the little house grew on them even in the rain.

So much for books like Under the Tuscan Sun. Believe it or not, Tuscany is not alwa

ys sunny. Perhaps my mother could write a sequel from her experiences during the fall of 1980 called Under a Tuscan Umbrella.

October 13, 1980: “It was nearly 4 p.m. when we climbed up to Gioviano. The weather was overcast and cold, but the little house is cheery. When we get electricity, so the water isn’t like ice, it will be really livable.”

Apparently, my parent’s desire to live medieval style without running water was vetoed by my desire to be able to take a hot shower if and when we were able to return, in spite of the $2,000.00 cost. I believe it was about this time that we gave my father a lifetime use of the house to encourage him to participate financially in its “modernization”, especially since he, my mother, and sister and her family were getting most of the use of it. That night they couldn’t get the lanterns lit, but found a candle and lit a fire in the fireplace.

My mother wrote: “We were living like our ancestors. After our simple meal by the fire, I read aloud and Kenneth gazed into the fire.”

October 14, 1980: “It started pouring, and we have no umbrella, nor did we have raincoats. After lunch, we built up our fire at Casa Giorgio and Kenneth began painting the walls. In the evening, we again sat by the fire, and I read aloud till 8:40 p.m., our Gioviano bedtime. I was much warmer in my new pajamas. It poured all night, and it is dark and raining today. But the little house is comforting.”

October 15, 1980: “Another cold, nasty, rainy day! Around midmorning, the rain let up enough for us to walk to the little store and the post office. It cleared a bit again in the late afternoon, so we drove to Lucca. We stopped at our little hardware store and bought more gas for the lamp, so tonight we were in the light. As usual I read aloud. Our light lasted only an hour.”

October 16, 1980: “It poured during the night. The river is up much higher than we’ve ever seen it. We walked to the store for more bread, then to the post office. The store is the local gathering place. Every morning it is full of Gioviano housewives who come to pick up bread and a few supplies and visit a bit. It takes a while to be waited on. It is amazing that we aren’t discontented with all the rain and dreary, cold weather.”

October 17, 1980: “It poured, and there was thunder and lightning all night. It was still pouring at 9 a.m., and as we have no umbrella, we covered up with a rubber air mattress and a huge, black plastic garbage bag, and literally waded through the narrow streets. Back home, during our meal the sun peeped through for a few minutes, and there was a gorgeous rainbow out across our valley.”

“Vineyards begin below our window and stretch on downhill. The vines are heavy with grapes, but the weather is terrible for harvesting them. I did see one woman under an umbrella picking a bucket full.”

“Late in the afternoon we headed out in the rain to shop. We found a huge green, shepherd’s umbrella for $30.00, a real extravagance, but we bought it. We can both walk under it with ease, except one of us must walk in the torrent that pours down the center of our steep streets. Also the umbrella is almost as wide as the street -- quite a picture we must make!”

October 18, 1980: “It poured again all night! Once the thunder was louder than usual, and it can really rumble through these mountains, and lightening flashed brightly all through the room between our two beds. I didn’t sleep too well.”

“The store lady, Marta, has a sign saying if the weather is fair tomorrow, the store will be closed, but if it is raining, it will be open!”

“The ‘brutto’ weather has changed the appearance of the countryside. Numerous small rivers, now torrents, are raging out of the mountains into our river, the Serchio, and they have overflowed their banks. Yesterday I saw the river take a family’s woodpile.”

“We notice the people of Gioviano no longer say ‘Buon Giorno’ for good morning, but ‘Brutto, Brutto’!”

Revised March 3, 2008
Copyright 2005-2006 George H. Russell
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