We have a gardener. I know that sounds very extravagant and maybe even a little pretentious. He kind of came with the house. Our landlord owns a couple of properties and is 85 years old. He’s spry and agile, but needs help with things. The other day they were over here trimming the bay tree so the fig tree could get more light. Our 85 year-old landlord was heaving branches over a fence and cutting them up with a chain saw. He’s what I want to be when I grow up.
Piero is the gardener and is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. He always has a smile on his face and really doesn’t seem to know that we don’t speak Italian. We were at the Wednesday night music festival recently and he plopped down at our table with his adorable grandchildren and proceeded to have a lively conversation with us in Italian. He doesn’t speak a word of English, so Italian is our only hope for communicating with him. We muddle through and generally understand what he’s talking about, but there are some times when we both scratch our heads.
Our landlord, Peter, told us that Piero has a huge garden of his own that he tends to. My ears perked up at that. I’ve been looking for a source for fresh, home-grown produce and eggs. The markets here are great – really fresh and largely local stuff at ridiculously low prices. But I want things from someone’s garden. I want that direct connection to the earth and sun that shines over my head.
Yesterday afternoon, just as the rain was starting to fall, our doorbell rang. I went to the door and there stood two tiny children looking up at me with their big brown eyes. Then I looked over to the right and saw their grandfather, Piero coming from his car. We exchanged pleasantries and I was wracking my brain trying to remember if we were expecting him for some reason. Then he pointed to my left at our little bistro table where he had set a huge box of tomatoes from his garden! They were arranged by type – cherries, Romas, and the gorgeous slicing tomatoes. I gasped when I saw them, sitting there in all their bright red glory. My hands went to my heart and I felt at that moment such a feeling of belonging. I thanked him profusely, cursing myself for not having sufficient language skills.
That night for dinner we had a pork chop from the butcher in the piazza and a big salad of arugula, melon, onion, basil, and a glorious tomato. It might have been the best salad I’ve ever eaten. It certainly was the salad that gave me the most joy. I’ve got my produce connection and I couldn’t be happier. Now I’ve got to find those eggs.