ITALY 2019

9/10/19 8:00pm
Now in Andrea's apartment in Roccalbegna!  So far we have seen Andrea, Rosy, Francesca, Monica, Benedetta, Chiara, Anna, Moreno, and Primina.  They all look great and, except for a bit more gray hair, just as we left them 5 years ago!

The flights yesterday were a little tense.  We only had carry-on luggage, but they took our bags at Newark and tagged them all the way to Rome.  Shortly after takeoff I realized my passport was in the bag!  Spoke with an AA Supervisor at Charlotte and she eventually located my bag and retrieved my passport for me.  Teddie was getting quite stressed and we were starting to make contingency plans with Alberto.  But all ended well and we made it to Rome OK, although quite tired.  We finally got our car (little Fiat 500) and made the 2 1/2 hr drive to Roccalbegna.

Andrea has set us up on the 2nd and 3rd floor of his apartment and it is beautiful!!  He has remodeled extensively and did an excellent job.  We feel very fortunate that he lets us use his place during our visit.

Andrea even stocked the kitchen with food

After taking a brief nap upon arrival here, I drove out to the crash site and enjoyed sitting on the bench (Andrea's replacement - ours was stolen long ago) and visiting the monument again.  Sometime in the next few days I need to discuss a possible refurbishment of the aging monument.  Cell phone shows site as N42 44.2407  E11 28.4661

9/11/19 0745
Got a pretty good night's sleep so I feel more "human" this morning.  Teddie is up and feeling good, the weather looks clear and warm, and we have no definite plans.  We'll probably do a little shopping and then drive over to the property and/or the crash site.

The apartment is very nice and serving us well, but I told Teddie she probably needs to sleep on the 2nd floor, as getting to the bathroom from the 3rd can be tricky at night.  No handrail, narrow short steps.  Better suited for someone a little younger and more dexterous.

We need to find a wifi spot today so we can send email to let everyone know we made it OK.  We were unable to find a TIM store yesterday to purchase an Italian SIM card, so we have no phone.

The apartment is beautiful

We did a little shopping this morning and said hello to Pierpaolo who now runs the shop.  Teddie dropped by to see Eugenia (I saw her yesterday evening) and then we drove to the property where we took pictures and relaxed for a while.  Andrea had cleared it all off and it looked great!  After returning to the apartment I walked to the bar and bought a gelato.  While out front, Massimo came by - it was great seeing him again and we chatted for a while and then I brought him to the apartment to see Teddie.  While there, Monica and her daughter stopped by, along with Rosy and Andrea.  We are going to Monica's in a few minutes to discuss the condition of the monument and what steps can be taken to rejuvenate it.  Also, we heard from Zoe.  She wanted to get together on Friday evening, but we have been invited to Vito's Cantina then, so I'm trying to find another time we can see her.

Just returned from Monica's where we chatted with her, her husband (Aldo), and Andrea.  Such nice people and I especially envy her bilingual skills.

I had two concerns. First, the property where the monument resides and, secondly, the eventual disposition of our little piece of property.  We decided to leave the monument there.  The land will probably never be developed or cleared for farming.  Secondly, just leave things as is with our property.  Donating it would just cause problems. (Note: need to ensure I've given Moreno enough Euros to pay taxes well into the future).

The monument endures, although it's showing its age

Teddie and I drove to the crash site and took some pictures.  The writing on the plaque is almost unreadable, so a replacement is needed.  I will look into bronze when I get back to WA. 

Rosy's wifi seems to be down so I'm unable to see if Zoe replied to my earlier email.

Tomorrow we may go to Montalcino.  Seems like we go there every visit.  It's a nice drive and an interesting place.

9/12/19 0820
A restless night - still adapting to the travel and time zones!

Wifi not working this morning.  I wish we had cell phones, as no one can get a hold of us reliably.  Perhaps we can get a SIM card in Montalcino.

Arrived back from Montalcino a little while ago.  It was a nice day and there were lots of tourists there.  We wandered the streets, took photos, and had a beer.  Lunch at the outdoor cafe - salad for Teddie and meat tray for me.  The drive out and back was nice although I'll never get used to someone mere feet behind me waiting for an opportunity to pass!  Also, it seems there has been a lot of ground movement, as the roads are frequently


 fractured with sunken spaces.

After returning, Teddie went up for a nap and I walked down to the bar for a gelato where I ran into Mario.  He looks good but still does not speak English.  Using Google Translate I asked if he ever married and he shook is head "no".

I'm now back in the apartment and Teddie is up.  Dinner in a while, although what and where are uncertain at this time.  Weather still beautiful, although a bit warm.

Went for a walk around town while Teddie rested.  Saw Mario, Anna, and Monica.  Explored side streets and took a few pictures.  Most people I passed gave me a friendly smile and seemed a bit curious.  A few looked the other way and ignored me.  I guess it would be the same if a stranger walked through my neighborhood.

Chiara came by the apartment!  When we saw them the other day they first asked if we could have dinner with them tonight and we said yes.  But they then mentioned maybe lunch would be better or perhaps next week when Jacopo was in town.  It was an unfortunate miscommunication that left us thinking things were still up in the air, but Chiara felt dinner was still a go.  We will have to be more careful about this in the future.  We all finally decided to get together for lunch tomorrow and confirmed it three times!

Vito entertains with his accordian

Friday the 13th!!  The weather is perfect this morning - clear, blue skies and very little wind.  We slept a little better last night despite feeling bad about the misunderstanding with Chiara.  I'm hoping to find a white flag to wave when we go over for lunch today!

We are just finishing breakfast - a bowl of corn flakes for me, a glass of milk for Teddie, and a small cup of super strong coffee for both.

I saw Mario driving down the alley in a red Ape this morning but didn't recognize him at first. 

Teddie will do some food shopping this morning and later (1300) we will be sure to show up at Moreno's.  We may wander around town in-between, as Teddie wants to take more door pictures.

Just completed a pleasant walk around the village.  Saw Rosy, Andrea, and Francesca as we were leaving.  Rosy and Francesca were on their way to the eye Doctor's in Siena and then off to shopping afterwards.

Took several photos - Teddie is documenting the various types of doors.  She is now resting, as she does not

Roccalbegna is very scenic

 feel well. 

The stress of flying and traveling is taking its toll.

(old note) two days ago a white cat came up to me and I petted it.  I then went to rub its ear and it bit me on the hand.  A little blood, but nothing serious.  Bad ghatto (but my fault)!!

1150 I was outside checking my email and I met Giampaulo, Rosy's brother.  Very pleasant man - speaks some English.  Teddie came out and we had a nice visit with him.  Afterwards we roamed around and chatted with Monica about the upcoming school visit on the 17th.  It looks like Zoe will be able to join us and we are excited about that.  Twenty-three years ago it was Beatrice doing the translating and Zoe was a student.

We will be heading to Moreno's in an hour and hope they are not angry at us.  It was a misunderstanding of the worst kind, and one I hope to never repeat.

Andrea and Monica. Two very special friends.

We had a very nice lunch with Moreno and Chiara and Jacopo at the little house behind Primina's.  We talked of many things and enjoyed the lasagna that Chiara made.  We even chatted briefly with Isotta via video chat on Chiara's cell phone!  Afterwards Teddie came back to the apartment to rest and I walked up to the fort and returned via the trail to the school.  Then I joined Teddie for a nap!  Now we are awaiting Vito's Cantina at 1930.  Tomorrow is the 14 September Festival and that is always enjoyable.  Even without the fireworks it will be fun.

After exchanging a few emails, it is arranged - Zoe will join us at the school on Tuesday and then we will have lunch with her at La Grotta.

Cantina this evening was fantastic!  Many of our old friends were there, as were a few new ones.  Vito played the accordion and at one point Monica sang (she is very good).  They sang a song about us that was written by

Vito and Teddie enjoying themselves at cantina

Andrea, and then they sang many folk songs.  We could not understand all the words, but the spirit of the songs came through loud and clear.  The food was delicious and plentiful and Monica's gelato was perfect.  All in all, it was a typically wonderful, and humbling, evening with dear friends.  They even had a poet/songwriter there who was the life of the party, and very entertaining.  Monica has promised me a name list of everyone there.

9/14/19 0820
Another beautiful day in Roccalbegna!

We are very tired from last night's gathering but will be fine.  Teddie and I both feel extremely fortunate to have such wonderful friends.  Everyone we meet is so generous and friendly, and I wish there was some way to repay their kindness.

Tonight is the festival but we have nothing planned for the day.  Perhaps we will wander down to the property (which was neatly cleared prior to our arrival - no small job!) or out to the crash site.  First we need to do laundry,

The food was great, and our friends are fantastic


Teddie finished the laundry while I drove back out to the crash site to visit for a while.  On the way back I stopped at a self-service gas station and promptly lost 10 Euro while trying to figure the pump out.  Eventually a stranger came by and helped and I managed to put 15 Euro worth in the little Fiat.  Arriving back in the village, all the parking spots in the south lot were taken and I wound up parking on the street north of town.  Met Stefano on the way back to the apartment - he looks great.  He introduced his girlfriend, Mara, who seemed very nice but spoke no English.  I called Teddie out to see Stefano and we had a nice visit in front of the church.  Then we visited with Luciano on the steps for a bit before coming back to the apartment for lunch.  Bread is now rock-hard and requires a band saw to cut.

It was a very enjoyable evening!

Many motorcycles have come through town - almost all are Harleys!  There must be some sort of a club ride going on.

Saw a man and wife in the north Piazza who are familiar to me, but whose name I can never remember.  Nice folks, though.

We drove to the base of the fort and then walked up the steps.  It's a nice, clear, blue sky day, so it was perfect for picture taking. After we came down and parked the car we walked over to the Jolly Cafe and bought gelato.  It was peaceful, sitting on the outdoor bench in the Piazza.  Now we are back at the apartment and probably won't leave until 1730 when the procession begins.  That will mark the beginning of the festival.

We watched the procession - Luciano, Vito, Andrea, Sergio, and others in the band.  Everyone eventually gathered in the Piazza and they lit the balloons.  The wind picked up a bit so the first failed but the second was good.  Saw Francesco (Massimo's son) and he is all grown up.  Also met Elena Pacchieri and her mother.  When her mother was born they tied the umbilical cord with line from a parachute from the crash site!  We also ran into many of our friends, including Violetta, who we had not yet seen.  She invited us to lunch tomorrow with her and Massimo at 1300.  We have gone back to the apartment to rest a

Luciano and Teddie on the steps of the church

 bit and then will return to the festival for a while.

We went back to the festival but things were very quiet (band on a break?) so we hung around for just a bit and then returned to the apartment.  Ran into Othello on the way back and he said a few things in Italian that we could not understand.  Nice guy, though.  Now we are settling in for the night.  Teddie felt better today, so hopefully she will feel even better tomorrow.

Another perfect weather day!  I walked through town at around 8am today and it was like a ghost town!  The only people I saw were a couple of guys checking over their ambulance down by the basketball court.

The only thing on today's schedule is lunch with Massimo and Violetta.  I would like to spend some more time at the property, so perhaps we will do that too.

Teddie and Violetta

We drove to Santa Caterina and down through Vallerona this morning so Teddie could take some landscape photos.  Then we came back through Roccalbegna and went to Triana, stopping at a few places on the way.  In an hour we go to Massimo's.

Lunch at Massimo's was most enjoyable and we managed to communicate fairly well with Google Translate.  The food was delicious and the company was fantastic.  Spending time with Violetta and Massimo brought back many good memories.  They are among our special friends that make coming to Roccalbegna so enjoyable.

Now Teddie is napping and I am undecided.  Perhaps a walk through the village or a drive down to the Rancho.

I wandered over to the Piazza where the children from 4 regions were playing competitive games.  Chatted with

(L-R) Aldo, Andrea, Luciano, Rosy, Monica

 Aldo, Luciano, Monica, Rosy, Andrea, and Eugenia.  Monica and I exchanged email addresses and she gave me Rosy's new address.  Teddie is still taking a nap but I expect she will be getting up soon.  She is having a great time, but all the activity is making her tired.

It looks like we will have a quiet evening in the apartment tonight.  Teddie has turned on the TV and we will see if we can find a news channel that we understand.

While Teddie was watching TV I wandered over to the Piazza and found a lot of people there drinking wine and eating sandwiches.  There was a solo singer/musician performing and several of our friends were there.  I returned to the apartment and retrieved Teddie and we spent some time in the Piazza with many of the people we know.  Very pleasant!  As we were leaving, they invited us to dinner tomorrow at 1930 at Andrea's.  Now we are settled in for the night.

Evenings are usually very quiet in the village

As expected, another nice day.  There is a high overcast, but the morning is still bright and clear.  Teddie just got up, so we will decide what to do and where to go.  Probably down to the property and again out to the crash site.

Had to go out and purchase bread and milk, only to find out that Pierpaolo has gone on vacation for a week. Went down the street to the second
alimentari and purchased the food from the woman there.  She was quite abrupt and businesslike, but very efficient.  I've noted during all my visits that the Italians can appear cold and withdrawn until you get to know them.  Then they transform into the warmest, friendliest people I have ever known.

(Note: Last night at the Piazza I thought I recognized a Mr. Bianchi, a man who, along with his son, met me at Santa Caterina in '96 with a fragment from the airplane.  At first he did not remember me, but when Monica told him about meeting me with an airplane part, it all came back to him.  It was nice visiting with him after all these years.)

A classic view of Roccalbegna

After Teddie got up we went around and took pictures of the village, including the little chapel up on the hill.  On the way back we stopped again at the alimentari and bought some wine to bring to dinner tonight.  Also, I earlier bought two very small coffee pots to bring home.

We packed a lunch in my backpack and went to the Rancho where we relaxed on the bench under the olive tree and pondered our good fortune to have such wonderful friends in such a lovely country.

Ran into Stefano and Mara earlier.  They are leaving tomorrow to return north, a 7 hour drive!  I don't know when we will see them again.

Dinner was most enjoyable.  In attendance were Andrea, Rosy, Monica, Aldo, and later, Luciano.  It was good food and good conversation.  Monica speaks and understands English very well and has a lively personality.  We had a very good time.

Looking down at the restored Chapel from the fort atop the rock

As we were preparing to leave, Andrea brought us to the basement where he showed us a cabinet like structure made of aluminum that he obtained from a man in Scansano who said it was from the crash.  Andrea said he would hold it for me as long as I wanted , as I'm not sure how I could ever get it to Washington.  Now I'm wondering if it could be made into something useful for the school, both for function and as a monument.

(Note: Earlier this evening and before dinner, I drove to the crash site and sat for a while.  It will always be a special place for me and I'm going to miss visiting it when we leave here in 3 days.

Tomorrow we go to the school and see Zoe again!  Two special events in one!!

Yet one more perfect weather day!  We are looking forward to meeting at the school and also to seeing Zoe, our Swiss/Italian "daughter".  Meanwhile, we are relaxing in the studio and doing a small load of laundry.  Also, thanks to Rosy, we are able to check our email via wifi and keep in touch with the people back home.

Our time in Roccalbegna is winding down, with only one more full day here.  Tomorrow we will have lunch with Chiara and Moreno and then we will prepare to depart no later than 0700 the next morning. I wish we had time to properly clean the apartment, but we will do the best we can before we leave.

Luciano and Andrea with us at the school.

The event at the school was very humbling.  All of the students gathered out front, as did the teachers, Carabinieri, Andrea, Monica, Luciano, Aldo, Violetta, and Laura (the Mayor's assistant).  The Priest read a prayer, and then Andrea and Monica read from a script - Andrea in Italian and Monica in English.  Zoe was there too and she spoke briefly to the children.  Luciano played his trumpet - the Italian National Anthem and then the American Anthem.  Laura spoke for a bit and unveiled a plaque mounted on the wall of the school which basically duplicated the language of the monument.  Then the children sang a song they had written.  It was a fantastic experience and certainly more than I deserved.

After the ceremony Teddie, Zoe, and I went to the bar for a drink while waiting for our 1pm lunch reservation.  At 1pm we walked down to La Grotta and had a wonderful lunch.  It was so nice to see Zoe again and get caught up on all her activities.  Following lunch we went to the Rancho where Zoe and I walked down to the river bottom while Teddie waited on the bench.  We sat for a long time enjoying the peace and Zoe's company.  Then we returned to the village and dropped Zoe off in the small Piazza and said our goodbyes.  We don't know when we will be together again, but we all promised to keep in touch.

Now we are resting and have no plans for the rest of the day.

I went out and bought more cereal, and that may be our last trip of the day.  Teddie is now very tired and is coughing a bit, so we will likely relax in the apartment.  While I was out I ran across Giampaolo and we attempted to chat for a bit.  Then we saw Chiara and she told me me Primina is in the hospital.  I assume it is for testing, but

Teddie and Zoe pose in front of the plaque the school dedicated to us. It was a humbling experience.

 we will find out more at lunch tomorrow. 

Our visit is winding down fast and, although we are anxious to be home again, we are going to miss the people of Roccalbegna immensely.

Heading to bed.  Teddie did not feel well this evening so we stayed indoors.  Tomorrow is lunch at Moreno's and packing!!

9/18/19  0755
Our last day here!  The sky is overcast this morning but the ground is dry.  Teddie just got up and looks better, although she said she has a cold and is very tired.  We only have one event planned for today - lunch at Moreno's.  Otherwise, we will need to get packed and clean the apartment as we will be leaving early tomorrow.  Another enjoyable and heartwarming experience is coming to an end.

The kids at the school were great!

We walked outside to do a little last minute shopping only to discover we were too early.  We will try again in a few minutes when the shops open.

Our bags are 90% packed, so we will not have to do much in the morning.  In some ways I think it would have been good to plan our last night at the Corsi Motel so we did not have to head out so early, but we will manage.

Feeling very lazy - just got up from a morning nap.  Earlier Teddie and I wandered around the village, taking yet more photos.  Saw the woman from La Grotta heading home and briefly chatted with the retired fireman we met on our previous visit.

The overcast sky has given way to blue skies with scattered clouds.  Every visit I have made here has provided me with excellent weather, with the exception of my original 1996 trip which was met with drizzle and chilly temperatures.  I hope the roads to Rome will continue to be dry for our trip tomorrow.

Just back from dinner at Moreno's with Moreno, Chiara, and Jacopo.  It was an enjoyable afternoon catching up on old news, asking questions about Italy, and enjoying Chiara's fine meal.  We also spoke of the tax on our

I enjoyed taking pictures at night.  The village is usuall very quiet and peaceful.

property (Moreno has been paying it from funds I left him).  He said he has not received a tax bill in a few years, so he feels they have decided it costs more to bill than they would receive.  It was hard to leave them at the end of our visit.  As we all know, it may be several years before we see them again.  Such it is with all our friends in Roccalbegna.

Got restless, so I went to Santa Caterina and put 5 Euro gasoline (less than one gallon!!) in the little Fiat.  We

Looking east towards Santa Caterina

 should have plenty of fuel to take us to Fiumicino Airport in the morning.  Also at the ready are the GPS and plenty of coins for the tolls.

I finally managed to download the boarding passes for tomorrow's flight.  This was thanks to Rosy's wifi connection - a valuable resource for us!

We are pretty much packed and ready now, and should be able to get on the road quickly tomorrow.  The plan is to rise at 0600 and head straight to the car return area at FCO.  It's been a great visit but now it's time to head home.

9/19/19 1750 EDT
The day started early, as Teddie woke me at 0545 to begin our trip home.  We drank a glass of milk, zipped up our bags, and loaded the Fiat.  The drive to the airport was uneventful although we missed Building B on the first go-around and had to circle the airport once again.  Once

It was great to see Stefania again

the car was returned we found our way to the check in area and waited for Stefania.  She showed up right on time and gave both of us a big hug.  It was quite special seeing her again, as it must be at least 9 years since we were last together.  We chatted about old times, people in the village, and she even translated a news article for us.  All too soon it was time to head for our gate so we said our goodbyes and received another warm hug.

(Note: FCO airport is amazing - clean, modern, and much like a high class shopping mall.  Going through customs and security was fairly easy and quick.  A 2 hour flight brought us to Heathrow - quite a contrast from FCO.  We had to walk down outside steps to deplane, and then ride a crowded bus to the terminal.  Then there we had to wait to find out the departure gate, followed by a lengthy walk and tram ride to get to it.  But we eventually boarded our 777 and as I write this we are 1 hour from Newark.  Soon we will be dealing with deplaning, customs, car rental, and a drive to Bloomfield.  It will be nice to get some real rest tonight.


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