We are back in Italy. We have been back three weeks and have hit the deck running. Everywhere so green. Heavy. When we first got back, the mountains felt heavy with green, you could hardly see the villages, the roadsides overgrown, great fronds of grass obscuring the road, everything abundantly, quickly growing in the damp late Spring. Now its full bore into Summer, the grass has been cut, and the swallows are here, joyously swooping through the skies, making their nests and their babies. We have bought our geraniums and their bloody red blooms are an extravagant sight against all the dripping green ivy over the river. And the fireflies are out and it feels like we are living in a holiday camp, life a fantasy as you catch up with people visiting from all around the globe, laughing and joking in the bars and lunching at the fantastic local Borghesi restaurant in Bagni di Lucca.
We have been so busy. Just after we got back we had some dear Australian friends come to visit, so with them, we took stock of this beautiful place we live in, as well as a little inspirational visit to the Marino Marini Museum we love so much in Pistoia. When they left, we threw ourselves into the renovation of the apartment Jake and Jaqui were living in over the last year. We want to sell it as we have too many properties and would like to merge them all under one roof. We are crazy. We fall in love with property so easily , especially here, but you have to look after them all and improve them and we just go around in circles doing a little bit here and a little bit there – now we are going to use our heads and be a bit more sensible! Hopefully!
This last weekend was really special. We had lovely friends from England, two opera singers, come to visit. We took them up into the mountains along the tiny narrow cliff road toward Montefegatesi. Along the way we exploded our tyre hitting the curb when a car, racing wildly in the opposite direction, met us suddenly on one of the bends. A couple of old timers got out of their old Panda behind us and gave us an expert and efficient hand so that before we knew it, we were once again pottering along the spine of the mountain and making our way up to Prato Fiorito. It was glorious to be up there again. The grass was long and lush, billowing in the gentle breeze, and the flowers were everywhere, poppies, lilies, orchids, daisies. While our friends went an extra leg up the bald mountain, we lay and talked and came back to ourselves after all our busyness, the simpleness of life, exquisite.
That night, 25th June, was the San Giovanni Festa in Pieve di Monti dei Villa. Jake and Jaqui are now living up there, renting a wee cottage with a wondrous view. They had the job setting up and lighting all the candles in the village and Jake was seconded into the procession, taking turns to carry one of the giant lamps through the cobbled streets and up onto the main road and then down under the ancient archways and back to the church again, the band playing ebulliently, the bells ringing and ringing, the singing thin in the night air, everywhere aglow from the red candles flickering along our pathways. At the back of the church is the parish hall and refectory. It is really Romeo and Juliet stuff, delicate white marble pillars holding up the arches of the loggia overlooking a little courtyard, roses climbing the ancient walls. People everywhere in the soft candle light, climbing the stairs to the hall to partake in the feast. What a feast. Prepared by a handful of village women who had been cooking since 6.00 in the morning, it was ravenously devoured by a good hundred or so people, who later danced into the night, leaving at 4.00 am in the morning…..
The following day we had another visitor, a lovely young cousin we had never met before, and we took the opportunity to go back up to Pieve with her to see Jake and Jaqui. In a super relaxed state, we all went up to have a beer at Pina and Oriano’s bar. We sat out on the terrace under the grape vine on those old fashioned twirly chairs, the ducks gobbling and pooping around us. While we took in the fading view of Prato Fiorito in the soft twilight, Oriano in his mysterious other world wandered sweetly around us. Every so often he would remind us, with tears pouring down his face, of the time the SS killed his father, mistaking the backpack and hose he carried to spray his vegetables for a gun. In the hills there were many partisans so everyone was suspect. Orphaned immediately, Oriano has a devastating sense of abandonment. Wartime must be so terrible. All the old people speak of it here like it was yesterday. For Oriano, he was homeless and hungry and had no one to care for him. The sorrow in his face is so pitifully sad. But this day is his birthday, he is 82, and spontaneously as we are leaving, we sing him the birthday song while surprised, he stands like an emperor with his arms outstretched, his eyes shining and his cheeks wet, joyful, and Pina, smiling and delighted as she gently pats his arm.
Everyone has gone home now and its Monday and we are trying to be normal about going to the studio to work. Jake and Jaqui suit it up there and we jokingly say – they’ll still be there in 50 years, but they don’t laugh. They say instead that it is perfectly possible.