Tuesday, September 15, 2009
satisfaction in Lazio
We stepped off the flight from Rome delirious with jet lag and excitement. Everything was familiar. The overly pretentious uniforms of authorities, dirty floors, short men, beautiful women in impossibly pointy shoes. Ah, Italia.
We found our way onto two trains, using a payphone in between to call our host and let her know we’re coming. Marco and Caterina picked us up at the station in their boxy little car, looking aghast at our immense suitcases. We tried our best to act nonchalant, despite our lack of sleep and the cramped nature of our long limbs in their tiny vehicle.
They drove us to their house through rolling hills, cultivated in aesthetic ancient patches with mostly vineyards and olive trees. Their English isn’t perfect, but our Italian is much worse, so we struggled through some awkward patches with our mutual lack of vocabulary, but mostly had an easy time with conversation.
Marco is a Woodworker by trade, and Caterina has her PhD in Wildlife Biology. They’re in their mid-thirties and have only been together for about five years. They are both from Rome, but have elected to flee to the countryside and make a go of it with organic farming. Rome is ‘too busy, too chaotic’ for them. I am beginning to agree.
They produce mainly olive oil from the several hundred trees they have on their land. When they bought this place about 18 months ago, it was abandoned and the trees were all overgrown. They got a great price (150,000 euro for a house, barn and about 12 acres of land). They now have three ducks, one chicken (they had many more of these but they were eaten by a local fox), two horses, one donkey and a three-month old calf named Gina which they feed every morning and evening with fresh milk.
The food is intense and wonderful. The Italian way of eating would be peculiar to most Americans. On the table is wine, water, bread, olive oil and often cheese. The first course is served while the second continues to cook. Usually the primi piatti (first plate) is a pasta dish, and the secondi is meat. After everyone finishes the pasta dish, the second is removed from the oven a served separately. Salad is eaten at the end. Followed by fruit or sweets. Each meal lasts longer than an hour and always includes gregarious conversation.
We have had fresh mozzarella from the next town over with basil which is grown on the front steps; heirloom tomatoes from the garden in the back; a meal with clams, squid and tuna over pasta in sauce of their own olive oil; spaghetti carbonara with bits of ham; home-made chocolate cake; gorgonzola spread over fresh baguettes; gourmet coffee; figs we picked from the tree in front of the house; gorgeous and juicy nectarines. I could go on. Yes, we are well-fed here.
The life is slow in this place. We work in the morning from about eight to one and are free for the rest of the day. Marco and Caterina take a siesta (nap) after lunch for a couple of hours. We get most of the day to ourselves - reading, writing, photographing, exploring the countryside. Sometimes I go down and play with Gina, who is always nudging my sides in affection. We will be here for a month and in that time I will see if my city-girl restlessness can learn to slow. If I can stop, look out over the hills draped in fog after an afternoon thunderstorm, letting the sun warm my face, and be satisfied.