Published: May 21st 2012May 21st 2012
Monday May 21
Renting a car is never fun or easy, especially if you're not sure where the rental place is, it's pouring rain, and each well meaning Italian stranger points you in the wrong direction. We did finally get there however, and found our tiny, very authentically Italian ford fiesta waiting for us. My father was disgusted that it was an automatic, though I was kind of glad, since in an emergency the last thing I want at the wheel is to be crying and screaming, "clutch, you devil machine, CLUTCH!". He was even more disgusted when it developed that the little power outlet slash cigarette lighter thingie didn't work, so the iPhone Tom Tom rapidly ran out of juice. The Tom Tom was set to a very officious British voice who butchered Italian street names with dazzling authority. My mother refused the Homer Simpson voice, declaring it a travesty against the Italian countryside.
Something delightful about the highways here are the highway rest stops. Instead of slushies and glory holes they offer paninis, chocolate and cappuccinos, all of which we enjoyed.
It was a three hour drive from Florence to Tori in Sabina, just
outside Rome. What is Sabina, you ask? It is defined thusly: The Sabines (English pronunciation: /ˈseɪbaɪn/; Latin: Sabini; Greek: Σαβῖνοι) were an Italic tribe that lived in the central Appennines of ancient Italy, also inhabiting Latium north of the Anio before the founding of Rome. In 1996, the Italian government designated plantings around the Sabine Hills as a DOC wine region eligible to produce red, white and rose wine as well as some sweet sparkling wine from white grape varieties. The grapes are limited to a harvest yields of 12 tonnes/ha. Red and rose wines are a blend of mostly 40–70% Sangiovese, 15–40% Montepulciano with other local varieties permitted up to 30%. The white wines are a blend of at least 40% Trebbiano and at least 40% Malvasia with other local grape varieties permitted to make up to 20% of the remaining blend. Red and rose wines must have a minimum alcohol level of 11% with whites having a minimum of 10.5%. Extra virgin olive oil Sabina is, chronologically speaking, the first Italian Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) oil to gain the certification from the European Community, the production of olives and oil is a millennial tradition in Sabine. Legend
says that the Romans abducted Sabine women to populate the newly built Rome. The resultant war ended only by the women throwing themselves and their children between the armies of their fathers and their husbands. The Rape of the Sabine Women ("rape" in this context meaning "kidnapping" rather than sexual violation, see raptio) became a common motif in art; the women ending the war forms a less frequent but still reappearing motif. Remember how I photographed the statue of the Rape of the Sabines the other night in Florence (Firenze of Fun), the one that has no best viewing angle? That was a totally deliberate and not at all accidental allusion to the legend of where we are now staying.
The area is absolutely stunning and idyllic. But why are we staying here? My uncle Geoff has a place in New York and this is his first foray into house swapping with the Italian professor who lives in this brand new villa he just built in his home town. It's not totally finished yet, which is interesting. The electricity comes and goes, and my uncle has been freezing each night, but it sounds like he has had many excellent
adventures in the days before we arrived, which isn't surprising. The owner and his wife are extremely good looking and charming, but seem a little flaky on details like towels and table salt. The villa is an odd mix of luxury and cut corners. There is a big soaking tub in the bathroom, but my uncle reports it is squeaky fiberglass. There is a pool, but it is not entirely filled. And I just had to turn off the light in my room because it began to smell oddly like burning human fat. Though the fly in my room is gone now...
It's been rainy here, but the ground looks dry. It is not. It is quicksand mud that will envelop your shoes and drown an army.
We went to the town for groceries to make dinner and I felt like we'd been Truman Show'd. It didn't seem possible that the town was so beautiful and quaint and that everyone would come outside to see who the strangers were. We got fresh ingredients for pasta with fish and vegetables and wine, lots of wine. And lemoncello.
Dinner was delicious, and there was much drinking of wine and
sharing of stories. It was great to spend time with my uncle and have and extra person to keep our wine consumption from looking so alarming. Then the damn lemoncello came out in espresso cups, and that was the end of the night.
Tomorrow there is nothing formal on the schedule. We plan to explore the surrounding area. On Wednesday we're doing a day trip to Rome, and the staying in Rome at the end of the week. The weather the last few days has been mid teens with rain, but today was low twenties and sunny. It's expected to be the same this week with the odd thunder shower, so hopefully the demon mud will dry up.
And remember everyone, never go to the bathroom in a house you don't know on a floor where only you are staying without checking first that there is toilet paper.
There are more photos below