From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 50
39th Wedding Anniversary
June 1st of 2006 would be our 39th wedding anniversary, which I had forgotten about until reminded by Sue while traveling through France on our way to Gioviano. She remembered that it was I who had to remind her the year before, so all we could do was laugh at each other’s lapses in memory.

When we arrived in Gioviano, it was rather late at night. Our neighbor, Daria, had heard us arrive, and just as I was about to hop into bed, the doorbell rang. I called out the upstairs window and then proceeded down the steep stairs in my skivvies. She was very happy to see me, and we of course exchanged the traditional kisses on both cheeks.

In one hand she had the huge key ring with the numerous keys to all of the exterior doors of each of our five houses, and in the other, the massive main key to the ancient wall safe in Casa Rosina. Daria explained that she had locked the safe and taken the key as a precaution in the event that workmen might be sent to the house to repair the skylight that had been leaking for a decade or so. Of course no workmen had come.

I almost died laughing, as the only contents of the safe are a few virtually worthless coins from the pre-Euro days. If the entire contents of the safe had been stolen, the loss would have been less than $10.00, yet her concern is the very reason that Gioviano is so special. The village is like a warm and happy family, the members of which look after one another, and being accepted into this special family is indeed an honor.

As the drive from Paris, at our age, gets harder and harder with each passing year, we found it almost impossible to get out of bed the next morning. In addition, strong, cold winds had descended from the Apennines across the valley and the chill made staying in bed all the more desirable. I like to sleep with the windows open regardless of the weather, so the chill factor was pretty intense since I had turned on only the water heater and not the radiators.

Around 11:00 A.M., Sue managed to get out of bed long enough to make anniversary-day coffee and Anne, who would normally stay in her dungeon room in the bowels of Palazzo Margherita, was too scared of the ghosts to stay in a 12,000 square-foot, 1,000 year-old building alone, so she slept in the tiny bed in the upper room of Casa Giorgio, that looks out over the rooftops and on to the mountains. She climbed down the steep stairs and through the doorway that we had cut between Casa Giorgio and Casa Rosina, for “coffee tawk.”

Anne was so cold that she started to shiver, so we invited her to snuggle between us, under the covers in our large bed that faces our special Tuscan windows with their incredible views. It seemed as if the clock had turned back 33 years to the winter of 1973, when Sue, baby Anne, Lady, our dog, and I would all share a tiny bed, in the room that is now Sue’s bathroom. At night, we would huddle together to keep warm during this time when we were attempting to restore the roof on Casa Giorgio before moving back to Texas. All that was missing was the big warm dog, the lack of which explained why Alpine farmers traditionally built their bedrooms over the stalls where their cattle were kept for the night so that the heat from the cows would rise to the rooms above to keep the people warm.

Around 11:30 A.M., the doorbell rang. I opened the window and called out. It was fellow Texan, Eddie Dye, whose house shares a common wall with Capanna Susanna, our second Gioviano home. I went downstairs, still in my skivvies and invited Eddie to come upstairs for a visit. The windows were still open, and Eddie began to shiver. I laughingly invited him to join us in the big bed, but there was no more room. So, Eddie closed one of the windows, and we had a nice visit about events that had transpired in Gioviano during the past year, some of which were not too happy, but which tend to bring one back from paradise to reality.

Our wonderful friend Domenico was in the hospital, having had a second stroke. Corrado’s father, another great friend, had been killed by a passing auto, and Nancy, who had been in frail health for a number of years, had moved to Scotland to be with her nephew. The village seemed almost deserted since Al Cantuccio had moved to the bottom of the hill to Piano di Gioviano and our next door neighbor, Mariella Barsanti, had moved to Fornaci di Barga.

I always looked forward to early morning discussions with Mariella about Gioviano and its rich history. One of our bedroom windows looks out over the grand terrazza of the Barsanti Palazzo where she hung her laundry to dry and watered her flowers.

If she spotted me at the window she would greet me with, “Giorgio, come va?” (“George, how are you?”) If I spotted her first it would be “Mariella, buon giorno.” (“Mariella, good day.”), followed by a few minutes of chiacchiera. It is sad to look out that window now because the flowers and colorful laundry are gone along with our friend and neighbor.

But there was much to look forward to as well. A concert was in the planning stages. Beppino’s house that had been willed to the Misericordia (ambulance service) of Borgo a Mozzano and that had been abandoned for years was in the process of being brought back to life. In the cantina at least, construction had already begun on a circolo or gathering place for the Giovianini to gather to gossip, talk politics, and play cards.

We all had a great laugh about the start of our “romantic” 39th wedding anniversary. That evening we descended the hill to Piano di Gioviano and had a great anniversary supper at the new Al Cantuccio. The food was heavenly as always but sadly, the panna cotta con frutti di bosco (baked cream dessert with berries) was “finito” (all gone), so we drove to our favorite gelateria (ice cream shop) for dessert.

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