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Living the Village Life

I love living in an Italian village.  It’s everything you want from a small town – people popping over unexpectedly, everyone knows everyone and notices if things aren’t right, you know every shopkeeper, no traffic, church bells – but with fringe benefits.  Tons of great restaurants, bars, a piazza or two, a performing arts theater, and many artistic and cultural events that just spring up.  It’s what I would love for small town America to be.  But the small towns I know in America don’t have any of the fringe benefits.  And that’s what makes living here so incredible.

We were invited to lunch with the Sassolini’s – the family who owns Busatti linens.  We have a long connection with them and they are how we found this wonderful town.  Lunch there can be either be very formal or very casual.  This one was casual.  If they have clients in from around the globe, it’s usually a formal lunch in the huge dining room with a commanding view of the town.  That room can hold about 16 or so comfortably.  If it’s just us having lunch with the family, it’s very casual in the family dining room which seats about 8 or so.

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L-R: Michelangelo, Steve, Paola, Dr. Pliny, Giovanni, Me, Livio holding Arthur

Giovanni’s mother was a Busatti and he inherited the business from her.  Paola is his wife and Livio is their middle son, and is now the President of Busatti.  Michelangelo works for them and is our dear friend.  Dr. Pliny is Paola’s father and it’s his house that they live in.  Even though they’ve lived there for years and all the kids lived there, they all refer to it as Dr. Pliny’s house.  He is the undisputed ruler of the roost, and at 97 is still as commanding as ever.  Lunch was lovely, as always, and we love being welcomed into this family and spending time with them.  We had pasta with tomato sauce, turkey, roast beef, spinach sformata, and a salad.  We also had a special dessert called Colomba, which is only served at Easter time.  It’s shaped like a dove (kind of ) and tastes a lot like the special dessert that’s only served at Christmas time.  IMG_0978 (2)Later that day we saw a poster for a concert in the parish church.  We thought, what the heck – let’s go!  It started at 9:00 – that gives people plenty of time to finish dinner before they have to be at the concert.  I like it – but only because I’m on vacation and the parish church is just down the street from me.  Otherwise, you’d never catch me going out on a week night at 9:00.  But we went and it was just wonderful.  It lasted about an hour and there were maybe 20 people in the audience.  The performance was great and the acoustics in that old church were incredible.  Unlike the heating, which was non-existent.  I wonder if those churches are designed to make you uncomfortable, because – well, that’s what religion does best.  Why couldn’t they throw a radiator or two in there to at least take the chill off the cold, damp interior so that you might feel a little better about being in there?  IMG_0992 (2)The concert was Easter themed (not “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” or even “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”).  It was hauntingly beautiful.  There was an organist, a cellist, a violinist, two sopranos, a contralto, a tenor, and a bass.  When it was over we walked the 90 seconds back to our apartment.  Love this place.

There is a weekly market here and it is a big day and one not to be missed. They have a wide variety of things that are brought in for the day – socks, clothes, copper kettles, shoes, fruits and vegetable, and great food trucks.  The food truck with the roasted chicken – unbelievable.  Usually there’s one with fried fish, but for some reason it wasn’t there this week.  And lots of cheese and salumi opportunities.  And the fresh fruits and vegetables are great.  I don’t know if it’s a law or just a custom in Italy for markets to display the area where the produce comes from, but I like it.  You know that the fabulous strawberries come from Basilicata and and the great tomatoes come from Sicily.  From Tuscany, the artichokes and fava beans are in season and they look fantastic.  We bought some more artichokes, strawberries and some other things to tide us over.  I love this market concept.  It’s also a very social thing.  We saw many old familiar faces there that we got to catch up with.  It was a nice morning.

After the market, we went on a long walk.  Walking here is unlike walking in Atlanta.  There are hills here – lots of big hills.  Steve and I think we’re in pretty good shape – until we get here and start walking these hills.  We can do it, but the first few days, we really huff and puff.  Then we see the old villagers hiking around with no problem and we have step up our game.  Then we think if we walk this hard, we can eat even more!  Sick, I know.  Regardless, the walks around here are fantastic.  You walk just outside of the city and you’re in the country.  Rooster crowing, crop growing, dirt road, country.  I love it.

Again, it’s the best of both worlds.  The country is so pristine and when you’re there, you don’t have the feeling that a city is just up the hill.  We come back rejuvenated.  Tired, but rejuvenated.

Yesterday afternoon we were on our patio and we heard a noise and some voices coming from the side of the house.  When we went to check it out, it was our landlord and his wife trying out a key to one of the gates.  We had a nice visit with them and they invited us to “breakfast” the next morning.  They would come by here at 9:00 and we would go to breakfast.  What you should know is that Italians really don’t eat breakfast.  They have a pastry and some espresso while standing up at a bar and they’re on their way.  But we said sure and they came and collected us at 9:15.  We walked up to a little bar at the top of the ancient city just next to the city hall. It has an incredible view over the valley and the countryside and we’ve always loved it.  We had pastries, espresso, cappuccino, and tea.  We sat outside in the lovely sunshine and had a wonderful time talking to them and getting to know them.  They are such kind people and we look forward to getting to know them even better.  They lived for 30 years in London beginning in 1960 and owned several sandwich shops.  One of them was located just above the BBC studios and they hosted many celebrities there including the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.  Fascinating.

Living here unlocks so many wonderful things in life that you wouldn’t experience otherwise.  Everyday is a new journey and holds wonderful surprises.  You wake up to a blank slate that, if you let it, takes you to such great places.  Flexibility is the key here.  You have to leave your regimented Americanism behind and adopt the Italian attitude of no rules.  Do whatever comes your way.  Let life wash over you and whatever it brings, then go with it.  Again, it’s easy because we’re on vacation, but I love the way the Italians embrace whatever comes their way.  Time is relative, plans are soft, la dolce vita.  The sweet life, indeed.  We’ve found it and it’s here in Anghiari.



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