We have had lots of opportunities recently to get together with some of the Americans here and had some fun times. A new person arrived, Nedra, who is only in Perugia for the month of September and studying at the Università per Stranieri. She rented an apartment in Perugia and got in touch with us before she left home, arranging to meet us when she arrived. Art and Barbara (of "Barb and Art Live in Italy" fame) were their usual generous and helpful selves and invited her to stay at their home in San Venanzo for a few days until she could move into her apartment on the first of September driving her to Perugia the next day to get all settled in and we were able to join in and get to know Nedra a bit in the meantime. They even picked her up at the train station in Orvieto. We invited them to have lunch here at our apartment so that we could meet Nedra and we all escorted her around the city, pointing out the landmarks. That night we tried a restaurant called Torta al Testo that specializes in the "torta" the typical Perugian flat bread that is a cross between the tortilla and the pita and is best when heated and filled with meats and cheeses; and crepes, also filled with delicious things - like the desert one I had with vanilla gelato and shaved coconut - yummm. We had previously planned with Art & Barbara to go to the Zampano, the outdoor summer movie theater to see Al Pacino's Merchant of Venice (which we all really enjoyed) and Nedra had her first taste of a chilly summer night here in Perugia as we 5 nestled under our big quilt to keep warm. She then remained with them in San Venanzo until the 1st when they brought her back with her luggage and helped her get settled into her apartment. It also gave us the opportunity to visit a museum here in town they had not seen and have a nice lunch together. We continue to be impressed by their generosity and helpfulness, which many of us have now experienced and are grateful for.
On Monday Larry and Shelley, who own a borgo (a cluster of stone buildings that is too small to be called a town, but more than just a single house in the country), in Massa Martana, surrounded by fields of sunflowers and olive trees, invited us to join some of the expats we had met before for lunch. The sandy colored stone buildings stand out with their interesting architecture and dark wood accents and it is breathtaking to drive up to the retreat they have created for themselves in the Umbrian countryside. We are absolutely the poor relations to these folks who have carved out their own piece of paradise here in Umbria but they never make us feel that way. All of them are so friendly and gracious and just so delighted to be living in Italy that it is fun for us all to share the stories of our experiences and to want to help each other in whatever way we can. Lots of tips and advice are asked for and given freely. Everyone has something they need to find and someone else who is willing to help them find it. There is talk about home repairs, insurance, buying a car, buying groceries, how to say things in Italian and what NOT to say (for instance, one of the women recounted the story of how for two years she used an expression she innocently thought meant that the weather was so hot, she was feeling all sweaty, saying "Sono bagnato" but it turned out she was telling people that she was sexually aroused and we all had a good laugh about it. The food was wonderful as it always is: roasted vegetables, caprese salad, an assortment of the most delicious cheeses and fresh fruits with figs right from their trees, an entire table with this terrific spread of fresh salads and meats and wine that didn't stop flowing. Some of the folks we had met before, some were new to us. There was lots of conversation also about the tragic situation in New Orleans and how we feel about the Bush administration and stretching our American dollars here in Italy. I think we all had to drag ourselves away when it was time to go, it was such a nice time. Art and Barbara, lovely people, drove us home to Perugia, which was not at all on their way home, and we shared a pizza with them before they headed back to San Venanzo. They invited us to come to a sagra (a small town festival with food and music) last night but we are working with Sergio, our landlord, who is helping us buy a car and had to decline. Art left us a message telling us how much fun it was and that he was sorry we had to miss it.
On Sunday we invited Nedra over to our apartment for dinner and were happy to hear that she is settling in very nicely and had already found some shortcuts to her daily travels and we learned a few things from her about getting around that we had not discovered on our own!
There's a garden tour we hope to attend with Art and Barbara in a week or so and Shea and her husband Art are coming to Perugia on Monday to go to a bicycle shop we found for them here. Art is an avid rider and is looking for some bicycle clothes and accessories. We will probably have lunch together and show them around our garden.
On September 11 there is a planned peace march from Perugia to Assisi - further than we can walk but we are going to go to Assisi to be there when the marchers arrive and take part in some way.
It's just interesting to think that here is a group of people who never would have met in the U.S. since we all live in various cities with no reason for our lives to overlap. But since we are sharing the same dream of living in Italy we are finding friendships and common ground. Fascinating indeed and very enjoyable.
Rosemary e Roberto