From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 74
Return to Gioviano, 2009
By Sue Russell
Regrettably, it has been three long years since I last saw our beloved Tuscan hill town of Gioviano. How I have missed it! My week-long trip to Italy in May, 2009 would be different from previous trips. For the first time, husband George (Giorgio) wouldn't be with me, since he remained in Texas to look after his father, Kenneth, and to keep busy at work. Kenneth Russell does extremely well at ninety-eight years of age. He is confined to a wheelchair but linked to the outside world by means of his computer from which he emails friends all over the world. George's mother-- Marjorie Russell, the artist and writer-- passed away in 2007 after a long struggle with cancer. We all still miss her, but can feel her spirit around us.

My friend Susan Rodgers flew with me from Houston to Paris and then on to Pisa, Italy. Yes, it is the same Susan Rodgers as is in the Strange Convergences chapter of this book (Chapter 55) , and indeed, it is one more strange convergence that found us traveling together! Susan and her husband, Rick didn't give up on buying a house in a Tuscan hill town after being disappointed by Maria in 2006 (Maria's Joke, Chapter 69). They kept looking and found a wonderful terraced farm and farmhouse in the Tuscan hill town of Coreglia Antelminelli which they purchased last spring. Susan was anxious to see what progress had been made on their plans to renovate the old dwelling, and she also wanted to take in the beauty of the spring wildflowers which blanket her terraces. Because I needed to be in Gioviano again to take photographs and to finish up this book, off we went to Europe together Susan's town of Coreglia is perched on the western flank of the snow-dusted Apennines just across the Serchio Valley from Gioviano. So, we can see each other's towns while gazing out over the valley. Years ago, we could have built fires to signal each other, but I'm glad we have our cell phones to communicate more easily in the twenty-first century.

What would I find in Gioviano this trip? I couldn't help but wonder about this since Susan and I planned to stay in our old Renaissance Palazzo with its frescoed walls and ceilings. This would be the first time either one of us had spent a night there, so would we encounter Argia or any of the other resident ghosts in the dungeon? Would the Palazzo be livable after three years of being closed up? Two of our dearest friends, Dina and Domenico, had passed away, so how would that change my feelings about being back? Lots of questions to answer.

We called ahead to Eddie and Shirley Dye who met us at the parking lot with keys to the golf cart (carrozzina) and to the Palazzo, since I had forgotten to take mine. These two Texans spend much of their time in Italy since Eddie retired from teaching. The town looked wonderful, if somewhat quiet, during our ride up the steep hill. Along the way, fragrant white acacia blossoms fell down on us almost as if they were snowflakes in a summer snowstorm--beautiful!. Speaking of storms, the temporali really hit Gioviano badly earlier in the spring. Heavy rains caused a mudslide in the parking lot, so that enormous cement blocks had to be brought in to support the hillside from further serious erosion.
Dina and Domenica's house at the entrance to town was closed up with no flowering plants on the terrace, so it looked lonesome, and there was no one to greet us there. Because school is still in session in May, there were no children playing in the streets during the day.

Entering the Palazzo again almost took my breath away. In the golden afternoon light, it was so much more beautiful than I had remembered, and there was a warm and friendly feeling throughout that I had never felt before. It might have been the spirits of Dina and Domenico welcoming us there—instead of in the parking lot-- because the Palazzo was so much a part of their lives, and maybe the spirit of Margherita (Marjorie) also, because she loved it so. I'm just guessing, but it makes sense. Susan and I felt completely at home the whole time we were there. The rondini (swallows) still feel at home there as well and continue to build their nests and raise families under the protective Palazzo eaves. A choir of rondini started singing to us around 5 a.m. each day just outside our open windows when the sky signaled the advent of morning.

Of course it was wonderful to savor being in Italy again and to see our friends. At the beginning of our visit, Eddie and Shirley welcomed us with a delightful dinner party in their home complete with home-fermented Prosecco wine brought by neighbor Gianni Lotti. Near the end of our stay in Italy, my dear friend, Daria, gave me an extra big hug along with kisses on both cheeks and lots more kisses to take to Kenneth and George back in Texas. Susan was disappointed that we didn't get to see Daria's chickens and rooster this trip--not the same mean-spirited rooster as in Chapter 59, Daria's Rooster. Maybe next time she will see them.

Because our rental car broke down in the mountains about half way through our stay, we didn't get to do everything we planned on doing. Much of our trip was taken up trying to get a replacement car. However, we did manage to dine in a few of the best restaurants in the valley—Al Cantuccio, Circolo dei Forestieri and La Cantina. Yes, Giampaolo's steaks are as wonderful as ever, and the gelato and cappuccinos at the Blu Matisse in Borgo are still my favorites.

Before leaving Italy, Susan and I visited the historic walled city of Lucca and walked the Via Filungo shopping street. I had one mission in mind there—buying new Mephisto sandals for George! Mission accomplished --until our next visit when we go back to Lucca for more. I hope it won't be another three years, and maybe George will be able to go as well. I think he misses his aging fidanzata and the man with the prickly beard.

Posted October 15, 2009
Copyright 2005-2009 George H. Russell
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