Thursday, October 16, 2008

In which Penny and Frank wash up at the Villa gate

Tuesday October 15, 2019

It truly is an amazingly small world. Early yesterday evening as Nancy, Dan, Gary, Cliff and I sat down to dinner (pasta with sage pesto, pecorino and olives on the side), we heard shouting from the gate. After an awful moment of looking at each other (should we ignore it? Run into the olive groves to hide?) we cranked up the flashlight and cautiously ventured forth.

It was Penny and Frank, who know Nancy and the rest of us from way back. They were lugging rollerboard suitcases, which of course couldn’t roll worth a damn on these dirt/rock roads, covered with dust and exhausted. Penny was nearly hysterical, and it was all we could do to get them into the house, get some food into them and put them in bed. The next morning, fortified by coffee and scrambled eggs, they were able to give their story. They flew into Pisa a day after we did (just before the airport was shut down entirely), coming to visit their son Francis, in Firenze. The rental car company was entirely out of vehicles, so they tried to take the public bus—it took them all day to get halfway, since the authorities had instituted check points, looking for leaders of the student riots who had fled arrest. When they reached Pisano they gave up, disembarked and started walking for Villa Crespine. (Having visited Nancy before, they knew the way, though even armed with that memory they lost their way in the dark twice.)

Nancy and I have been taking inventory all day. Unfortunately Italians don’t stock a lot of prepared food, having a tradition of shopping at market every day or so for fresh ingredients. Which is fine when there are fresh ingredients, and you can get to market, neither of which pertains right now. The Pisano market is held once a week, on Sundays. We can walk in and back (about three miles round trip) but since the power is off more often than on, that means no reliable refrigeration. Fruit and veggies last ok for at least four days, and there are abundant pears, plums, grapes, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, eggplant, kale, and some other basics. Nancy has plenty of flour stocked, and when we can get eggs we can make pasta. The villa has abundant fig trees, walnuts and almonds, all with ripe fruit and nuts just now. Herbs just grow wild on the grounds—you stroll around crushing oregano and fennel underfoot, and there are huge hedges of rosemary and sage planted along the stone paths. Unfortunately the main crop is olives, which is damn frustrating, looking at all those lovely olives, black and glossy and yet completely inedible before they undergo extensive processing. The markets at other "nearby" towns, such as Rada, are inaccessible without gas for the cars. Nancy and I are going to go volunteer at a nearby vineyard, destemming grapes as they are harvested, in trade for more flour, olive oil and eggs. In my case this is completely illegal, as I don’t have a work permit. The owner of the vineyard will turn a blind eye because Nancy is a friend and, frankly, they need the help.

Got word via email to Dolores, my brothers, and other key folks back in the States that we are well, though trapped. Andy is going to start making noises with the State Department to see if they are planning to help extract Americans trapped by the riots, but I don’t think anything will happen soon. So, we had better keep working on the food supply. I have a feeling that more folks will keep showing up…

1 comment:

KayBee said...


What an adventurous time you are having. One of the best dishes I had in Italy was papparedelle cinghiale. If you can catch that beast, you might be set for foodstuffs for a while.

Happy hunting