Sunday, November 24, 2013

Return trip....Ah, nothing turns out quite as you plan, eh?  Ivo had offered to drive me to Rome in the afternoon of Friday.  Due to a flat tire and other complications, we set off later, at 4:30.  It was raining and due to the infrequency of heavy rain in Rome, Ivo predicted blocked traffic on the GRA and throughout the center.

(Annual rainfall in Rome?  33"  London?  24"  Seattle?  38".... who knew?)

Well, it DID take 3 hours to arrive at my little secret pension, near the Piazza del Popolo.  However, we were able to navigate, without error, via the via Aurelia, past Vatican City, directly to via di Ripetta!!  Again, the streets glistened and were evening-peaceful.

Based upon a recommendation from Rome friends Suzanne and Don, I enjoyed a 7:30 reservation at GranSasso.  I was re-reading  Alan Epstein's "As the Romans Do", published in 2000, coincidently the section on trattorias and since I was dining alone, I carried it with me. 

As I sipped my white wine and awaited my starter of smoked duck carpaccio, main course of alici fritte and contorni of spinach, I read, "Just give me a plate of....fettucine with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella at Gran Sasso on via di Ripetta near the Piazza del Popolo, where Mom cooks in her blue apron and slippers in full view of the diners, and her two sons deliver the food...."   !!!  I showed it to my server and he was, indeed, a son and he pointed to his brother sitting at a table near the wall, doing the books....  !!!  Dinner was wonderful and very affordable. 

Taxi'd to FCO at 3:30 a.m. arriving at 4 and smoothly checked in for my KLM flight.  There were 20 people ahead of me in the line-up waiting for the KLM counter to open when I arrived and over 150 as I walked away!!!  Only 2 agents....  word to the wise, I guess.

Then, the real or should I say surreal walk to the gate (stopping along the way for my last great cappuccino and cornetto), FCO at 4:20 a.m.

All travel was smooth, though passport control in AMS is still clogged, so stay calm and anticipate it.  If you have a short connection, there IS a display board for those flights whose passengers qualify for a separate "short connection" line.  It's mounted overhead but very close to the actual windows so watch for it and ask the AMS attendants who are facilitating the flow if your flight is on the list.  They are very helpful!!  Prepare yourself for frantic and sometimes pushy Americans, though, crashing about...

So, back in Seattle as it flows into late fall/early winter and preparation for the holidays.  Off Wednesday to meet up with Madelyn in SF for our Thanksgiving with the Moody clans!!

Hard to bring myself to say, but, I'm leaving now, in a few minutes!!!  It's been a whirl and like always I never feel I've gotten enough done!!  But I will be back very soon, for New Year's, so can pick up the harness again, then. 

My Villa photogallery kept me company these weeks - for those who know -

As always, good food abounded -

Steamed persimmon pudding....

This last a new dish at Il Conte Matto - cavolo nero sformatino, with lardo di colonato and a sauce of ceci. 

And we had a visit to see the Christmas projects of Brigitte Deval and Kristina.  They leave in a few days for the Munich Christmas Market, which lasts a month!!  They take a variety of art-quality ornaments - tiny terracotta angels, silver and gold (real silver and gold) wire ornaments and, unknown to me - cut paper -


I show just a few of the over 200 that were made for this year's Market!!  The ones that are shown in the albums are actually ornaments, that fold out, like the tree, above.  They hang on the tree and as the air currents move them, they sway or spin!!!  Each year Brigitte and Kristina load up their car and take off to bundle up and display their Christmas arts in a small booth, together with several hundred other artists and vendors in Munich. 
Munich Christmas Market in front of the old town hall

Next year, I'm thinking of ordering a selection of these ornaments.  They are amazing!!!

The house, and Neve, are both in trusted hands - Misha and Dillon, from Seattle - and friends.  Good food, good wine and wonderful live music from Dillon, guitar and autoharp.  These two instruments are SO compatible with the house and the sense of a fire in the fireplace, a glass of wine and evening!! 

So, with a 'sunny sky' created by the last of the grape leaves on the terrace pergola, I'll say a fond "good-bye" to Montisi for a few weeks. 

And send a welcome to Helen, who is going to house-sit when Misha and Dillon return to Seattle in early December!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rome in the fall.....

Hello!!  Took the train down for a couple of days to attend the Rome Film Festival.  It was cold and rainy, so glistening streets and lovely scarves everywhere....

Last night walked the city, past the Spanish Steps.  Sat at a café and sipped wine and watched the city life.  Went to a showing of "Her", which I highly recommend at Barberini.   

After, I was longing for red wine and a slice of pizza (those who know me know that is unusual - the pizza, not the red wine).  Found a little restaurant, with pizza on offer, and live jazz - two marvelous guitarists!!  The waitress messed the order for the pizza, so I was able to change - fresh grilled orate and grilled veg.  And great music.

Coming along about midnight, past the Spanish Steps arrived to find them empty and sparkling with rain!!!  I took 2 photos, but, alas, the camera ate them....
Today has started off well.

Off to see a total of 4 films today, wander in between and perhaps meet a friend for lunch near the Vatican.  Will train home tomorrow.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fall in Montisi ~ Yes!!  The new oil is flowing - sharp and rich.  The white truffles are abundant this year and the festival in San Giovanni was active last weekend with soft fall weather and dramatic skies. 

For those of you who visited this year, the red flowers at the bottom of this photo are the pineapple sage - which is now over 5' tall!!!

Miss Fussbudget - aka Neve - is glad to be able to resume her honored position in her chair -

The new lounge chairs await a few minutes in the fall sun....

...and a little music in the boom box in the tettoio....

and the last of the cool, sunny lunches on the terrace.
In the late summer, into fall, the begonias, and see the fragrant gardenias? I've also added gardenias for those last summer nights.  The fragrance was wonderful.  Now it is almost time to tuck them into the winter greenhouse!!!  We found that they are even more fragrant in the evenings, while we were eating outside.  Lovely!!!

And impatiens brighten the corners, almost over, now that it's colder..... 
This year we finally put up some of the waiting antique botanicals.... illustration of asparagus, for those of us who await the appearance, next spring of the wild asparagus.  I am determined to go out the find my own this time!!!  It's hanging by the grill.
Then a few significant flowers for the house - the agapanthus that refuses to grow, so far...but one of my favorites.

I'm beginning to collect botanicals of the wild orchids you will find growing in the fields and woods around the house....

And finally, a rare, large format belladonna.  I loved the texture of the original folds from the folio where it was published, so I asked Heather, who did the matting (Mercer Island Cascade Frames - great framer!!), to add 2 spacer sheets to preserve the folds and give it depth.

and for those who love watching the barn swallows drinking, on wing, from the pool or the little fledglings, tipsy as they grip the bars of the pergola over the living room door, getting flying lessons from their parents - I found an antique print showing these gorgeous birds at rest.


So, all of these are now hung to continue to tell the story of the house and the garden.
Speaking of the garden, this fall I am redrawing the garden plan and noting the most successful plantings and sequences.  We'll be giving it a try - making successive plantings of the veg so we have a nice, long season for the tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and lettuces.  The tomatoes this last year were the best we've ever had.  Also this next year more aromatics and of course, Ivo's new invention - a HUGE terra cotta pot of ever-bearing strawberries. 
And finally, my little 'souvenir' plant - plantlets collected from Villefranche sur Mer - is blooming and putting out new plants.  Clearly there is a good connection between our two little nirvana villages.  I think of Villefranche each time I look at this pretty spider plant.  Okay, show of hands, who had a spider plant while in college....????  Macramé hanger?
So, that's all for today, Monday.  I'll have a surprise, I think, later today.  Stay tuned.
So, here's the surprise - it arrived a bit earlier than even I had hoped....
Friends - Meet Atlas!!!

He is a figure from a spettacolo.  Read on -

Hieronymus Carl Friedrich von Münchhausen; 11 May 1720 – 22 February 1797) was a German nobleman and a famous recounter of tall tales. He joined the Russian military and took part in two campaigns against the Ottoman Turks. Upon returning home, Münchhausen is said to have told a number of outrageously farfetched stories about his adventures.  Münchhausen's reputation as a storyteller has been exaggerated by writers, giving birth to a fully fictionalized literary character usually called simply Baron Munchausen.    Several years ago, Francesco Trecci, a local sculptor and professional writer and producer of marionette  plays, “spettacoli,”  wrote a play “The Baron” based upon these famous tales.  Villa Maddalena is now home to “Atlas” from this collection of performance figures.  And temporarily the location of the accompanying fully animated “Horse”, through the middle of January.  (Take note Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years friends!!)   Photos to follow of "Horse."

In Atlas, I'm very excited to have such a dynamic figure that moves with the air currents and with changing lighting takes on a wide variety of shadow patterns.  The Horse figure has two personalities - his 'front' is painted and carved and ornamented.  The other side of the figure reveals all the 'works' that allow his hooves to move and the figure to operate.  He is mounted on a rolling dolly because he was pulled onto the stage, with his legs galloping.  A truly engaging sculpture now and a fanciful performance figure in his day.

All for now!!!