A month in a place can be transformative. We only get twelve of these each year, so to spend one somewhere other than the place you call home is more than a vacation. You develop a routine and adapt to the rhythm of the place. You know when the kids make their sleepy walk down the street toward their school. You know that Wednesday is market day and a whole new opportunity for fresh produce is available. You know the butcher won’t be open after lunch so you have to get your meat in the morning or wait until later in the afternoon. You come to feel at home in that place that is not your home.
Such was the case with Myra. She felt so at home here in Anghiari that she hatched a plan to spend a chunk of time here – maybe a year. It just so happens that the house next door to us is for rent and we arranged to see it. It’s the perfect size for a year sabbatical and is right next to the best neighbors in town (us)! The wheels were turning over options to make this happen as she tried to memorize the view from our terrace. I think the excitement of the possibility of doing this softened the sharp edges of her departure. It did for me anyway.
La Pieve Vecchia
You’ve probably noticed by now that food plays a major role in our life here. And Myra jumped right on that bandwagon and took it to another level. She wanted to have her last meal in Anghiari at our house on the terrace. That meant we had one other dinner out, so we were going to one of the restaurants in Anghiari. Only problem was it was Sunday night and they were closed. Off we go to Monterchi to La Pieve Vecchia.
This is a small inn and huge restaurant in an old stone farmhouse set in the valley just below Monterchi. They have the most fabulous terrace that overlooks Monterchi and the countryside. And the food is great, too.
For reasons beyond our comprehension, their terrace is not open yet. They have a makeshift outdoor area set up on the side of building under white tents. It still gets pretty chilly here at night, so I guess that’s the reason, but I don’t understand why the tents aren’t set up on the gorgeous terrace. But they’re not, so we sat under the tents and had a feast. Myra and I got the grilled seafood platter and it was extraordinary (and quite messy). Steve had roasted quail with a roasted red onion from this area that is very much like a Vidalia, only sweeter.
An Italian Dinner at Home
For her departure gift to us, Myra made a fantastic meal of pasta with shrimp and sausage. She has this knack for looking in the fridge, pantry, and freezer and developing a menu that puts any restaurant to shame. I’ll say “We really don’t have anything” and she’ll say “Let me look”. Then she makes this magic happen as I drink wine and watch. I have the good job in this scenario. I also put the tablecloth on, so I do play a critical role.
We took the train to Rome with all Myra’s luggage, our bag, and Millie. Steve, being the only strapping male in the party, had the honor of heaving all the bags on and off the train and up into the luggage racks. We had a system worked out and everything went smoothly and no one pulled any muscles or otherwise injured him or herself. Two nights in Rome meant three meal opportunities and we were ready.
Velavevodetto is one of our new favorite restaurants in Testaccio, near where we like to stay in Rome. Crowds are really picking up this time of year and this place was packed. By the time we left, it was overflowing with people waiting for tables. I’m glad to see people out, but I miss those sparse winter nights where we had restaurants practically to ourselves.
We had a great meal outside on one of their patios. Enough to make us swear we would never eat again. Until the next morning, of course.
Lunch was in the Jewish Ghetto at Nonna Betta. If you ever go to Rome, make a point to visit the Jewish Ghetto. It’s a beautiful part of Rome and is right in the thick of things, near the Roman Forum. We love going to Nonna Betta, mainly for the artichokes, but everything there is good. In addition to Roman specialties, they have a variety of Middle Eastern dishes. I’ve always said that I’d like to try some of those, but usually I don’t want to sacrifice an Italian meal when I’m here. Since I live here now it’s not such a sacrifice. I got hummus and falafel and it was a nice change from pasta – and quite good. Don’t miss the fried artichokes – I could eat nothing but those and be perfectly happy.
Perilli is an old style Roman trattoria in Testaccio. It’s one of our favorite places and we chose it for Myra’s last night in Italy. We had a wonderful meal and a great time reliving the highlights of Myra’s trip. We shared a dish of fava beans slow cooked fava beans with asparagus and guanciale (pork cheek). It was one of the best things I’ve had in a long, long time. And the artichokes – one fried and one Roman style – were fantastic. I love artichoke season.
We ate, we laughed, we drank, we watched birds, we saw hill towns, and we did a lot of catching up. We had a nice visit and it came to an end too soon. I’m so grateful for visitors. I yearn for those things that are familiar to me and I love letting people glimpse into our lives here. Myra had more than a glimpse and something touched her soul. She left with the idea of doing a sabbatical here at the top of her mind.
She asked us if we thought she was crazy to have this notion. We looked at each other, puzzled, because we are the original cuckoos who not only had the same notion, but sold everything we had to make it happen. Who are we to judge other people’s sanity? Some people “get” Italy and some don’t. Myra is definitely on the get it list and she has never been one to shy away from an adventure. We’ll see what happens as she merges this idea with reality, but it sure gave us many lively discussions.
Myra, whatever you decide I’m glad you came here for a month. I’m so happy that you loved it so much that you are seriously thinking of staying for a while. And while we didn’t get around to doing everything that we wanted to do, the things we did are wonderful memories. You were here as we ushered in spring – remember those first chilly nights when we built fires and wore sweaters? When you left we were on the terrace under the bright sunshine with sandals on. That change in the season, the heartbeat of the universe as it keeps us moving through time, was more than a change in the weather. It was a renewal of our long friendship and a symbol of all the things that bind us together. Thank you for touching our lives with your beautiful spirit. You’re welcome here anytime – even if you’re our next door neighbor.