From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 70
Too Much Tuscan Sun
Today, our forestieri friends, Eddie and Shirley Dye, were going to leave for Poland for a visit, and we wouldn’t see them again until they returned to Texas in the fall. Capanna Susanna and their medieval home not only share a common wall but a common set of front steps as well. I went up the steps to tell our friends goodbye, rang the doorbell, and was greeted by Eddie.

I read him the chapter that I had just finished entitled “Forestieri in Gioviano” to get his reaction. So far, Eddie seemed to like all of the chapters that I had read to him. He said that my book was reminding him of his very favorite book about Tuscany.

I asked, “It’s not Under the Tuscan Sun is it?”

“Heavens no!” he responded as if I had just insulted his intellect. “You’ve just got to read, Too Much Tuscan Sun by Dario Castagno and Robert Rodi. I think we have a copy upstairs. I’ll get it for you.”

With a heavy load of research and writing still to do, the last thing that I had time for in the few short days that we had left was to read a book. Walking back to the Palazzo, I cracked the book open at random and read a passage about an American woman. She had been to many museums and galleries and was very excited to expound on the great dynasty of artists known as the Circa family.

You’ll have to read the book to get the punch line, but I was immediately reminded of my dear sweet Aunt Alberta. After traveling through numerous Italian towns and villages with my parents as tour guides, she exclaimed, “Why every town has the same name!” Then she asked, “Why are there so many towns named Fiat?” Back in the 1960s, before the era of dozens of automobile brands, Fiat had perhaps 90% of the market. Therefore, every town, no matter how small announced the presence of their Fiat agency with a big sign right at the city limits.

I was hooked. Sue would hear me laughing out loud every few minutes. My reading of the book was broken only by eating, writing, and going to the Palio (sack race) at Borgo. It was nearly 2 a.m. when I finished writing the chapter about the Palio at my Palazzo office. I returned to Casa Giorgio, and then went through the doorway we cut through the wall into Casa Rosina to our bedroom.

Sue had just put down the book herself and had turned out the lights. She usually doesn’t mind if I read in bed if she has an extra pillow to cover her head, so I immersed myself in Dario’s adventures and misadventures, reliving our days in Italy. Soon, it was 3 a.m. I counted out the eight hours of sleep that I need in order to operate as a normal human being. “I’ll wake up at 11 a.m.,” I said to myself.

Wrong! First there was the hammering in Pepino’s cantina beginning around 8 a.m. I checked my watch. I needed three more hours of sleep, so I hid my head under a pillow, but to no avail. Pepino’s house shares a common wall with Casa Rosina, and thus the pounding reverberated through the wall, along the floor tiles, up the legs of the bed into the headboard, and then into my skull.

Pepino, having no family, willed his houses to the Misericordia (ambulance service). With the move of Al Cantuccio restaurant and bar to Piano di Gioviano (lower Gioviano), there was no longer a place for the old men to hang out and play cards or for the elderly women to sit and gossip while watching the old men. The village council made a deal with the Misericordia to allow the community to turn Pepino’s cantina into a gathering place where the Giovianini could come to drink coffee, play cards, and chiacchierare (to chat).

A committee had been formed to take up donations, so when Remo, Roberto, and Michele came to the house asking if I would like to contribute, I dropped 50 Euro into the sack they held out and told them to return for more if it was needed to complete the project. At this point, I was hoping that they would run out of money and have to go home within a minute or two so that I could return to my slumbers.

I looked over to Crocky and Blue Bunny’s couch. There was Sue, happily reading Too Much Tuscan Sun. I said, “Sue, give me that book. I can’t go back to sleep with all that pounding, and I am obsessed with finishing that book so that I can get back to writing mine.” Understanding my urgent need, she gave it up.

I was making considerable progress with my reading, trying not to laugh and cry at the same time between the contrasting mix of gaiety and melancholy. This reflects life in Italy and I guess everywhere on the planet, but just like the food and wine, the Italian flavor is somehow different and unique. Then, the doorbell rang.

It was Daria with a sack full of fresh eggs from her hens. Apparently, her rooster had made the hens so happy that they became quite prolific producers, and Daria wanted to share the bounty with us. I was immediately reminded of the generosity of the villagers who oftentimes would present my mother with gifts as she and my father were leaving to go to the airport for their flight back to Texas. These gifts would sometimes consist of a dozen eggs or a freshly skinned rabbit.

Yesterday, I had spent some time with Daria and her daughter Anna discussing the best method of advertising one of her homes to prospective tourists who might want to spend a week or two in Gioviano. They could stay in her little house with magnificent views almost identical to those that we have at the Palazzo. I was more than happy to help in any way possible, and we worked on the language I would use in the “Where to Stay” section in this book.

At first, I had suggested that the little house be named, “Capanna Barsanti” but since a capanna is really no more than a rural chestnut drying shed, Daria decided that perhaps, “Casetta Vittorio” would be better since the little house belonged to her husband, Vittorio, and wasn’t really a capanna. I explained that since the house shared a common wall with the house where the great martyr of the Republic had been born that it would be best to capitalize on the Barsanti name. We all agreed and the house is now known as “Casetta Barsanti”.

Daria said that she wanted to share the bounty with me if renting the house was successful, especially if my book or my help brought her clients. At first, I said that I wouldn’t take anything. I just wished them success in their venture. I thought about giving up my percentage of the action for awhile and then changed my mind and said, “Lei deve pagarmi un uovo ogni volta che Le porto un cliente, specialmente una che paga.” (“You have to pay me one egg every time I bring a client to you, especially one who pays.”)

So, this morning, I said in Italian, “Daria, you don’t owe me any eggs yet. I haven’t brought you a single customer.” She just laughed and left the sack of eggs on the threshold outside the front door, urging me to go back to bed for my beauty rest. I went back to bed, but only to finish Too Much Tuscan Sun, which was accomplished just in time for lunch.

Revised March 3, 2008
Copyright 2005-2006 George H. Russell
Previous Chapter
Back to the Table of Contents
Next Chapter