When we decided to take this fantastic journey, one of the things we were looking forward to was sharing it with friends and family. So we took on the apartment upstairs to use for visitors. After seven weeks of preparing, organizing, and planning, we hosted our first guests. Tim and Julie, some of our oldest friends from Atlanta, came for a week long visit.
They arrived in Rome and spent a couple of nights there before taking the train here. A couple of nights is good, but it’s just not enough to cure being hurled across the ocean in a giant metal tube. So we did what we do best – we fed them and gave them wine. We’re lucky we have so many Italian friends. We don’t feel lonely here and we have people to turn to when the Italian bureaucracy gets the best of us. But there’s nothing like old friends, friends that you’ve shared a lifetime with, to make you feel a connection to the universe. These are people who have informed our decisions and shared our joys and sorrows. They’re part of us. And it was so good to see them and welcome them into our home.
A Day Trip
We took a drive over to Castiglion Fiorentino and Cortona for lunch one day. This is a beautiful drive over a mountain, so it’s not a quick and easy path. One of the things I still haven’t completely wrapped my head around is that we live in the mountains. I’m still astounded sometimes when I walk out of the grocery store and look at the horizon and see the Apennines. Right there, not in the far distance. Taking a day trip here is not covering a lot of distance, but covering a lot of terrain that climbs and descends and twists and turns. It’s beautiful, but not speedy. We arrived at Castiglion Fiorentino late morning and had planned to visit the Etruscan museum there. It’s one of the best and is actually an archeological site. Part of
the museum descends down into the excavation site and you can see where and how it was all found. However, we got there to closed doors. The museum is only open on weekends. We strolled around the ancient tower and city walls of this amazing city and worked up an appetite for lunch in Cortona.
Cortona was just as I remembered it – beautiful and bustling. It took us a while to find a place to park, but we managed and made it to the restaurant just in time for our reservation. With COVID, it’s a good idea to make a reservation, especially if you want to sit outside, which we do at every opportunity. This was a Slow Food restaurant and it was fantastic. Osteria del Teatro has a gorgeous interior consisting of rooms of an old palazzo. Arched ceilings in one room, wood beamed ceilings in another, frescoes on the walls, and an old world vibe that made us feel quite elegant. We sat in the garden on a slope that made the person sitting on the downside feel like they were sliding down the hill. The service was great, although a little surly, but the food made up for it. Steve had the most unusual thing I’ve seen in a while – chianina beef, marinated in oil, and served in a jar. I had the second most unusual thing – a roasted onion served in a bag with the most divine juices swirling around the bottom. Everything was excellent, but Tim’s dish was the big winner. Baccala pieces that were coated in a light breading and seared to perfection.
A Dedication and a Feast
We were invited to attend the dedication of a small piazza, called a largo, honoring the grandfather of Giovanni Sassolini, who ran Busatti textiles for many years. He has since passed it on to his children, just as it was passed to him decades ago. Livio Busatti was honored as a great philanthropist and businessman who employed a great many of the local people and gave back to the community. It was quite the affair, with all of us gathered in this largo, complete with the Mayor in his Italian flag colored sash, and the priest who blessed us each and every one. After the unveiling of the plaque, there was a mass in the tiny, ancient church of San Bartolomeo, the first church inside the city walls of Anghiari. It was full inside, so most of the Protestants gathered outside and waited on the blessing to be completed. Then on to the feast.
You gotta love the Italian way of celebrating. They do the somber blessing and speeches and then have a feast to end all feasts. I do a pretty good job of eating my way through this country, but this spread was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Dozens of tables were reserved for us at La Pineta. Platters of food kept coming. I don’t think there was a food group that wasn’t represented at least twice. The good thing was it was all served family style so you could get a sample and then decide what you wanted more of. Endless food and wine and merrymaking. Old Livio Busatti, in whose honor all this was held, surely was smiling down on us celebrating his largo in grand Italian style.
There are more adventures with Tim and Julie to come – this was just the beginning. Not bad for the first few days – at least they won’t leave here hungry – we’ll make sure of that.