Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I am starting to see results in my campaign to become mayor, or tyranical ruler, of Monticchiello.  The reisdents are starting to take a shine to me and I now have a majority (three of the five) of the  local merchants in my back pocket, and everyone knows that it is the business folks that start, finish and finance an election.

My first supporter is Giacomo, the young owner of the La Guardiola Bar and Cafe at the entrance of town.  He is a handsome 32 year old Italiano with a curly mop of dark hair, a wide toothy smile, and an occasional distracting pimple.   

While making our initial approach to Monticchiello we noticed we were frighteningly low on gas.  The next morning it was Giacomo who gave us a short-cut to Montipulciano that only the locals travel.  It cut off 3.5 kilometers and covers the car in a chalk-like film that means... LOCAL.  The fithy car gives me steret cred. 

When our landlady, Barbara, introduced us to the town the day before, I ridiculed her for how filthy her car was.   Some would say this wasn't the smartest political move, but I knew she is a slum lord who lives in Montipulciano and has not vote in town.  Thankfully she got my odd sense of humor!

Giacomo is loose with his wifi code so I have frequented his cafe almost daily since our arrival and yesterday when I ordered a glass of wine so I could call Jose, he brought me out a salami, olive and crostini plate.  He also gave me a look that made me a bit uncomfortable.  Believe me - I have his vote.
The first night here we went to LaPorta, the world-renowned restaurant in town owned by Daria.  Her restaurant has been written up in the New York Times, as well as several other publications.  Her view of the Val D'Orcia is the most spectacular and she, not so slyly, lets you know there will be a discount if you pay in cash.  Turns out the discount is 25%.  

My campaign manager and I agree we need to grease her palms a bit more in order to count of her support.

We definitely can count  on the support of Daria's daughter, Deborah.  She too is a restauranteur (Ristoante La Cantina) in town and we have had two campaign meetings in her establishment.  She confides secrets to us (her service charge is less than her mother's and yet she serves linens - her mother-paper) and she freely and openly engages in sexual relations with her boyfriend on the street outside her restaurant.  Her boyfriend is not her mother's chef.  See, I know secrets, and blackmail can be helpflul in any campaign!

While waiting in the piazza, and I am being very generous using that word, for my campaign manager, I pressed a little flesh.  Three Italian women and a bambino, maybe 1 1/2 - possibly two years old, were walking by and I gave the boy, Lucca, a campaign winning grin (sans Invisalign since we were going to eat).  His traditionally Italian looking mother -  meaning  unattractive and rather hairy - picked up Lucca and forced the child to wave at me in one of those backwards Italian waves.  

I feel comfortable I have the toddler vote.

Tonight I secured a majority of local business owners.  Francesca (Francoise) at the Bistot Di Moranda fell in love with me, and I her.  While it turns out she is French, she has a familial,  bossy German feel.  

She scolded my campaign manager, who embarrassed me, for drinking white wine with her secondi course - a sirloin steak.  I could have lost Francesca's support in an instant, but I made sure she knew that I understood proper wine etiquette and that said campaign manager was just hired help.

For a moment I thought my campaign was sunk. 

 While standing at the "hostess stand" to pay the bill, I spotted one of the local dinosaurs that roam the streets on Monticchiello on a daily basis.  Pleasantries do not come to her naturally - perhaps she doesn't like Americans - but tonight I thought I would press my luck and give the old crone a big campaign smile and wave.  Hesitantly, she lifted her fourteenth century arm and waved.  I think I may have seen a smile too.

Departing the restaurant, Francesca begged that I return before  the election (or was run out of town) - without my campaign manager, of course.  Lying through my half-completed Invisaligned smile, I told her I would return. 

The final business owner in town is an obese, cigar chewing man who owns the ladies clothes shop.  He diverts his eyes whenever I try to make eye contact to say giorno or sera (morning and afternoon).  He  constantly paces the street in front of his shop.

He too is a relic, as are nearly all of the residents of Monticchiello, and will be a difficult nut to crack.  I suspect all it will take is for me to be in the right place at the right time andI will be able to snap a few photos of him in one of his lady outfits and then my coup will be complete.

Monticchiello is magical, and the Val D'Orcia may be the most beautiful in all of Tuscany, but I have come to feel that when I am elected I may not see my term to completion.   Beauty and magic are enchanting, but I aspire to a higher level of spirituality - cell service and 3G for my iPad.  Connectivity is key!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


I now have just less than 13 hours before my flight leaves.  We have an intentional four and a half hour layover in Newark.   Initially it was three and a half hours but United changed their schedule.  I am fine with it.  I want to make sure if there is a delay out of Phoenix I do not have to scramble to get my connection.

Joanne and I will have to figure a way of filling our time in Newark.

If the layover was a little longer we could have gone into New York City for lunch, or if it was the pre-September 11th days, friends could have met us at the airport for drinks. 

Wow - I just realized I don't even remember pre-911 travel and whether we had to go through screening.  Did we?

I have made a vow, a promise to myself, to share my experiences in Italy on a daily basis.  I am hoping to sit down each evening before I go to sleep and write about the day and upload some special photographs.

The next post should be while in Newark.

Stay tuned to see if I am able to keep my promise.

Monday, June 10, 2013


It is unbelievable that I booked my trip to Italy over five months ago and now I leave in less than  ten days.  Where did the time go?

The first two months after booking the flight and the apartment (Villa  - ha) in Monticchiello, I was obsessed.  I spent most of my waking hours planning one portion or another of the trip.  It took me that long to locate a hotel in Verona for one night and to commit to a hotel in Rome for our three nights there.

There was also negotiations with my travel companion, Joanne, on where we would spend our time.  This part was quite simple.  From the beginning, her main focus has been on our time in Tuscany. 

She has been to Rome and has already informed me she will not be tagging along to the Vatican, and I suspect she will not be going with me to the Coliseum, ruins, or ancient city.  She hasn't mentioned the Trevi Fountain. 

One thing I had hoped to accomplish prior to leaving for Milan was to be conquer the Italian language.  Well, maybe not conquer as much as familiarize myself - and I did start out admirably.  I listened to my Italian language lessons while driving to and from work and whenever I was in the car.  I took a few quizzes on the computer and did quite well.

That was three months ago now and I fear I have lost most of what I learned, - which actually wasn't much.

I know the words for today, hot and cold. 

I have downloaded some language apps to my iPhone and I suspect they will be my saving grace.

Tonight I repacked the items I have already packed into my suitcase and I would say I am about 50% done.  Tomorrow I will pack more and hopefully write more.