I woke up like any ordinary day. I open my mail and there is an email from Mary Jane. I have heard her name mentioned several times in the past year and everyone has been saying, “you have to meet her”. Well I considered it a message from the universe that it was time. After a few emails and phone calls we made a date and time. I waited at the Sun City Bar in the piazza next to the Etruscan Museum in Tarquinia. I always liked this bar because the name reminds me of a Tarantino film. There I was drinking an espresso and thinking, “I’m going to meet a blogger that someone actually listens to”. I like to write because I kind of feel free from thought as you feel when you read a book or are concentrating on a task that doesn’t let your mind focus on your current reality or what beholds the future. She was late but it didn’t matter. I needed the time to just enjoy my coffee and listen to the enthusiastic interactions of the locals at the bar. I’m a foreigner so anybody who is not Italian will marvel at how they are so connected to one another. I step outside to where the buildings shade ends to get some warmth from the sunlight and I see Mary Jane. She recognised me right away even though I forgot to describe myself. I read her blog so I knew what she looked liked. Mary Jane introduced me to her husband Fulvio and right away there was that comfort feeling of old friends yet we had just met. Our meeting was to talk about our efforts to promote Etruria and the small towns in the area. Mary Jane was a decade ahead of me and covered all of Italy but none the less we were on the same page. We both had a genuine passion and love for Etruscan Sites. Tarquinia is an extraordinary place filled with magic and yet so unknown. I probably stay here too because of the fact and maybe my efforts to let people know are self defeating.
We decided to go to see a new B&B ‘la Residenza i Tre Portali’. The owners, Celeste and Franco are friends and I wanted Mary Jane to write about it. It’s the best location
and setting of all Tarquinia. It’s less than a mile from the historical center and there is an amazing garden estate to roam around with several little private spots for reading or just relaxing. We chatted a bit with Celeste and Franco and marvelled at the views of the Medieval Center of Tarquinia. Mary Jane left a few copies of her book and then we left to go have a piece of pizza at Napule in the Piazza near the Archeological Museum of Tarquinia.
After lunch we went to say hello to Bruno “Gnocchetto”. He’s the farmer with the artistic garden I mentioned in a previous post. After a walk in the garden and appointments made to return when the flowers were in bloom Mary Jane, Fulvio and I said our good-bye greetings. Mary Jane wrote a wonderful article about the day. If anyone is reading this you may want to follow her blog here.
I’ve been recently asked why I live in a small town in Italy. It made me pander for a few days and I realized the answer while doing a usual shop for food. The town folk are curious and perplexed why a California girl would decide to live in a farm town when most of the young inhabitants dream of living in a big city abroad. I grew up in Orange County California and some would say that it is the utopia of opportunity and lively social life. What makes it special here is my daily routine. Shopping is a social and cultural event that entails talking to the town folk and getting the latest on who is doing what and political opinions on who will be our next president of parliament.
I buy my bread from the baker, meat from the butcher, pasta from the pasta shop, flowers at the flower shop, vegetables from the green grocer(Gnocchetto in Piazza Europa),pay my bills at the tobacco shop and have a cup of coffee at the bar with a friend I bump into on the street with my personal shopping cart filled with fresh food. We talk about what we are preparing for lunch and change recipes. It takes a few hours and it is all on foot. My exercise done, I return home to cook – not heat-up my lunch.
It seems very romantic and it is. Life is just good and it keeps getting better. Tarquinia is a small town loaded with history and tradition and everyday seems like a holiday.
One of my favorite pastimes is walking through the medieval center of Tarquinia, Italy near Civitavecchia. I buy my bread from an old bakery near the artist’s studio. Domenico takes scrap metal and transforms it into animated objects. His studio is like a museum with thousands of sculptures and if you have the time he will explain his philosophy in their creation. His vision on social flaws in human nature and the soul of the politicians is rhetorical and will keep you intrigued while walking through his iron forest.
It was a beautiful sunny day today and I decided to take a walk. It’s finally warming up so I think the first view of spring made me see things I’ve seen hundreds of times and appreciated it like the first. While enjoying my walk in the warm sun I stopped and chatted with a few towns folk. Everyone very cheerful and we seemed to be sharing our winter shedding of closed and protected habitation. The almond trees were in bloom and the Judah tree buds are ripe and swollen for the soon Easter celebrations. They’re glorious colors paint the new green wheat fields with magenta. Everything is waking up and the town is busy with the preparation of the “Cristo Risorto” statue that will make it’s annual debut on Easter Sunday where it is paraded around town with shooting rifles and 150lb tree trunk crosses carried by only the strongest of the towns male population. It feels more like the beginning of the year when we all start to split our cocoon and are reborn fresh to start a new cycle.
I came here in 2001 and bought a ruin. It was magnificent. I walked in and I just knew it was magical and I gave the real estate agent a deposit in just 10 min after he showed me the structure. My neighbor was an interesting character named Bruno or “Gnocchetto”. It took me 5 years to earn the honor of being a friend but he eventually took me in. I would watch him from my balcony for my sunset ritual, a glass of wine and sunset gaze of the Mediterranean Sea. I watched him build a extraordinary garden one meter at a time, everyday.
Bruno is a farmer and wakes up everyday at 4am, has breakfast at the bar with his farmer friend Giovanni then goes to piazza Europa where he sells his vegetables freshly harvested at an open market. The vegetable stand is open until 11:30am then he has lunch and a siesta. At 2pm he is in the fields of vegetables tending to them and planting for the up coming season. He comes home at around 6pm.
My sunset ritual was hard to miss. I would sit there, wine in hand, waiting for the enchanted moment when the sun bows close to the sea. The light becomes golden, blessing the earth as if a flock of angels were flying over the land to shower it with rays of gold. The moment is brief but so beautiful that I looked forward to it everyday.
When Bruno enters his garden, he is greeted by an ark. Peacocks, ducks, funny feathered chickens, turkeys, big white dogs and a flock of cats like an old Saint Francis of Assisi postcard. He feeds the procession then begins to work on his garden.
His ritual became part of mine. Although on the other side of the fence, it was always an essential part of the whole scene. It started with the sunset and a glass of wine that turned into days, weeks and then a decade. I saw him build the impossible a meter each day. He had a vision and tenaciously built a sanctuary where hundreds of visitors come every year for a stroll in the summer afternoons to savor that brief moment when god shines his divine light before nights silent repose.
Bruno, although a simple farmer, has become one of my influential teachers in life. I don’t sit on my balcony anymore but have put on some gloves and rolled up my sleeves and help him when I can. Bruno became my godfather a few years back and my house was sold but I made a real friend and mentor.
‘Pasticceria Gentile’ is probably the best “cornetto” croissant in Tarquinia if not Italy. It is an amazing breakfast if you get up early enough. It’s such a popular place that by 10am the only thing left is a crumb trail that lines the bar. The staff are great and very passionate about what they do and it is recognized in the first bite while waiting for them to make a cappuccino. I usually have to order a second because I finish it off before my cappuccino is made. The shop is just behind city hall.
The month of May is filled with activities and events. There is the “Fiera di Maggio” or May Fair that is a big Agriculture Fair. Companies from around Europe come to show of all the new equipment and ways of farming. There is the “Medieval Festival” with banquets and jousting on horseback and hundreds of people dressed in medieval attire. At the end of the month there is the ” Fiori & Luce per Arte” festival with light shows , art exhibitions and music. The weather is very nice in May and the fields are lush and green with sprouting wheat and wild flowers.
Great tour for the history and mystery enthusiasts. Start the tour off with theEtruscans in Tarquinia then to Rome to explore the Roman Empire, Tuscania, Viterbo,Bagnaia, Bomarzo and the dying city “Civita di Bagnoregio“. This tour is filled with mystery, beautiful gardens, monsters and an incredible countryside. Travel Italy by discovery the historical timeline going back 3000 years while indulging in gastronomic pleasures of Italian cuisine in quaint restaurants chosen for the particular ambiance or historical importance. click here for info.
Day tours of the Maremma. Explore the countryside on horseback. See the free roaming cattle of the Universita Agraria and lunch in the wild or at an Agriturismo. A licensed Equestrian tour guide will accompany you through the territory and explain the history and historical structure you encounter. Click here for info.