In an earlier post, I wrote that I had some doubts about this country thing. I loved living in New York, and even as a kid, I caught a buzz whenever I was in Manhattan. As a teenager, I went to Brooklyn Tech and, er, I enjoyed the odd extracurricular run to the big city across the Brooklyn Bridge. Somehow, the truant officers never caught on (sorry, ma!).
I have to say, though, that there is something to living among the trees and hills.
When we first started traveling around here, we did what self-styled travelers (as opposed to tourists) always did. We rented a car, drove around visiting hill towns, and ate in restaurants. We looked for that obscure Piero della Francesca painting, and did some shopping, taking stuff back to remind us of being here.
Stupid us. We did kind of notice that the landscape itself, connecting those towns, was pretty damn scenic. Just like the backgrounds in those della Francesca paintings, in fact. Finally, we spent a couple of times with friends in the countryside, and we were hooked. On one Ferragosto (the August 15 holiday here) we went to the house of friends in Migliano, about a half hour out of Perugia. A long meal, a walk up the road to the fortress, then a descent into the edge of a green forest seemed like the perfect way to spend a day.
Now I spend almost every day surrounded by the greenery of Umbria and with incredible views. I work most mornings, but we first head out for a walk right after we wake up and I make a couple of coffee shots. We were thrilled that young guest, our friends’ daughter Allison, came along on one of our early morning walks.
We like to share, too. Luckily, we’ve had guests who, like us, get up at ungodly hours to march around the hills like we do. It helps that there’s a network of hiking trails within walking distance and the views (and the uphill climbs) are pretty incredible. We took our first crop of guests, the aforementioned Allison and her parents, Ilene and Alan, for hikes on the Isola Maggiore and to the stupendous Piano Grande, up past Norcia. (We did not, however, force them to wake up at the crack of dawn.)
We had a full house. My cousin Assunta and her husband Armando stopped by on the their way from the Veneto to their home in Sicily. I hadn’t seen them in maybe nine years, though we follow one another on Facebook. It was great to see them, and to introduce them to The Spartan Woman, whom I’ve always talked about but is someone who’s never made it to Palermo. We talked, we ate (we put on the Umbrian dog and drenched the local pasta, strangozzi, in a black truffle sauce. And of course we took them on walks and hiked the Sentiero Francescano della Pace. Good times. (And thanks, Armando, for teaching us how to play bocce, which I did with my dad and uncle as a kid, and then forgot.)
The second wave consisted of two dog-walking friends from Staten Island, Amy and Joanne (they are Bailey’s moms) and their friends Carol and Renée. They brought us pesto, a couple of cool plates from Liguria, where they’d been, and a huge reservoir of energy and good cheer. We sat around the pool, The Spartan Woman played badminton with, I think, Renée, we swam, we drank epic amounts of good wine and we woke up early to take hikes. For the second time in a week, we tackled the Sentiero—from the trailhead near us (it uses our road for part of the way), there’s a long, steep uphill climb followed by short uphill climbs. The views make it totally worth it.
Below, Carol races around the pool so she can appear twice in a panorama.