Ora Vado a Italia

Sergio, our very competent and knowledgeable driver cheerfully arrives at 7:30 am. I add “cheerfully” because it has taken him an hour to get to us from his home and now he will retrace his route in traffic to get us to the Brussels airport. Here we do not have to go through Customs because we are traveling inter-Europe but we do have to stand in line to produce our Passports. The line, like many airports wraps around and around and as we make the turn around the ropes you come face to face once again with familiar people. It is 10:00am and I am wondering if so many people cannot have heard of deodorant or mouthwash! The line moves very slowly and it seems like organized chaos. I am perplexed the entire time as to why airports can’t entertain us like Disney does. But Charlie and I are not novice travelers so we patiently acquiesce to their chaotic process. Once we pass the grim reaper and show our Passports (with a smile, of course) we meet up with Joan and Roger who have been also traveling with us in Belgium. Up the escalator, down the escalator, walk the moving sidewalk, up and down a few more escalators and we are in a very modern area where you proceed to the Gate. Cleverly enough it is planned that you can only get to your gate by going through Duty Free.

Ciao, Siamo Arrivati! Two and one half hours later on the wings of Delta we are in Italy. Roger has made a reservation for a car but this process still takes almost an hour. Perche? Non lo so!

For the next week or so, on and off we will stay with them at their beautiful Villa, Le Vigne in Umbria. We have been here before as we always visit with them when we come to Italy and they with us when in the States. It is here that we have joined in their Olive Harvest and this is where we get the delicious olive oil that we use at home and sell in the store. It is here that we vacationed with our entire family, 15 in total in 2004 to introduce them to Italy and their roots. So we feel quite at home in Le Vigne. For a better appreciation check out their website www.levigne.net.

Erica and Drew are traveling through Italy also and they meet up with us for a few days here after their trek in Rome. For a few days they will come with us to Montefollonico in Tuscany. This is where life, so to speak, began for me as many of my ancestors and my Father were born in this tiny but enchanting village.

So, we traveled to Montefollonico, just the four of us with Drew the driver of our rented four-on-the-floor diesel Fiat. Drew took to shifting like a duck to water and I think he was quite enjoying the challenge of the high speed highway and then the twisty roads of the countryside.

Montefollonico is, for me, an endearing, sleepy little hamlet that sits quietly on a hill overlooking the most beautiful green valleys and the view is breathtaking no matter in which direction you look. One can see Montepulciano from here, too. It is a walled city and inside the walls, which is the older part of town, I’m sure the cobblestones and pavers are the same ones my ancestors walked on. So I never come to Italy without a visit to Montefollonico because as I walk the stone narrow streets I feel the presence of my Dad who I know walked on those same streets too.

Also, and a wonderful thing for me is that I have family, Sandroni family, here and they live in the same house that was once partially owned by my grandfather and then passed down to my Father. At some point it was gifted over to the ancestors of our sweet family who live there now. It has been lovingly restored by Andrea, from being a Pensione and operated by his grandparents and then parents as Pensione Anna, to a now beautiful and semi-modern home without losing any of its charm.

So we arrived mid-morning to welcoming arms, hugs, kisses and tears of joy all around. There is Andrea, Cristina, Lorenzo 27 newly a doctor, and 21 year old twins Roberto and Riccardo. We are all very familiar with one another because of numerous previous visits and we keep in touch via FaceBook and email. We have brought some pastry with us so coffee and pastry is served; a mini Colazione. After happy chatter, English to Italian, Italian to English , pictures and more pictures as our iPads and iPhones are passed around, the table is cleared for lunch or Pronzo. Salad, cheeses, cold cuts followed by pasta and Porchetta. Lorenzo makes Cacio e Pepe and Cristina fixes Pici alla Nonna! ( Nonna, Cristina’s Mother is always there on Sunday and we have met her often but today is Tuesday so this visit we do not have the pleasure.) Both truly delicious. Of course, wine.

With such full stomachs one would really want to take a nap but I want to stroll around the city and show it off to Drew and remind Erica of it all again because someone has to be able to pass the significance of this town on to future generations. For me that is very important. My children, grandchildren , great-grandchildren and all that follow must know where it all began. So off we go. You really can see this entire town in less than one hour (pop now 550 people and 5 churches). One undedicated, one used only at ferragosto one used only for a Prescipe at Christmas and San Leonardo, still in operation. I’m missing one but can’t remember its fate!) but stopping for pictures and explanations is necessary. Andrea and the boys are with us which is great because it gives me more time to spend with my Italian family. A trip past the original house and birthplace of my Dad is a must and then on to the Church where my Grandparents were married and my Grandfather, my Dad and one of my Uncles were baptized. Later that night we take everyone out to dinner and, of course, there is much talking and picture taking around the table.