Before I go into a sage, I have to say other than my dogs, nobody is luckier than Jim and I. The world is so shitty and we’re in bliss. So if/when I kvetch, take it with a grain of salt!
Yesterday was filled with lemons. For awhile it looked certain there wouldn’t be any lemonade either. We arrived at the so-called villa. We got lost a dozen times despite GPS. The ride was interminable. The last part of it we encountered a MediVac rescue by helicopter. (see video attached!) It was hilarious. Not for the poor person who was helicoptered out of course, but for those of us who watched and waited like it was Live News at Five. The narrow road winding was held up for nearly an hour. The police were redirecting all the cars, except for the trucks, and us. We refused to go anywhere because it was the only road to the villa. Finally, they let us go. We found the road we were supposed to turn up to reach the villa – six kilometers up a dirt road only wide enough for one car. It took 25 minutes to get up it. We arrived and the chain-smoking Italian caretaker was waiting.
Despite the fact we said we didn’t speak Italian, she chattered away, rapido, 1000 words a minute, to which we replied…no capisce, but she was unfettered. She walked through the house, throwing open windows, dropping ashes and warning us that we shouldn’t let the dogs go outside. The reason we understood that was because she pointed to a poster of hideous creatures tacked to the wall, and snapped her jaws open and shut to indicate they’d eat the dogs. That needed no translation. Then she pointed to something else on the poster that looked like ticks, pulled out a bottle of poison spray and proceeded to spray, nearly causing asphyxiating me. The entire time she puffed away, waving her cigarette, her motor mouth running. There is a LOT of smoking in Italy. They put the French to shame.
I could feel myself starting to meltdown. The four and a half hour ride had been seven, it was nearing six o’clock, and we hadn’t eaten since we split a sandwich at noon. If we were going to have anything to eat, it would mean another harrowing ride down the hill dirt road and more harrowing minute drive back up plus another twenty minutes to reach a shop. There was no way. After a one-minute conference with Jim, we decided we weren’t staying. Since we were at the top of a mountain and deep inside the woods, we had no cell reception. Let me say here that ATT is TOTAL SHIT. I’ve had nothing but problems since we arrived, despite having bought some outrageously expensive int’l service. How can they charge so much for service, which is, essentially, FREE. It’s in the air, right? Satellites and such. Anyway, I used the chain smoker’s cell (even that reeked of the smell of stale cigarettes) to call the rental agency to tell them we weren’t going to stay and that they needed to find us a proper place. Then we headed back down the hill for the last time.
We went into the town, Arezzo, had a drink (Aperol for moi and a Martini for Jim) at outdoor café while I began searching for a place to sleep. The rental agency recommended a place that turned out to be a Marriott. Man, do they not know me. I won’t stay in a Marriott in the US let alone Italy! I put a few of my favorite words into the search engine and voila, a hotel popped up called Val di Colle. I called to see if they had a room for the night and they did. I said we had two small poodles with us. The woman said she too had two small poodles. Then she asked if I was from California. She recognized the area code because, get ready for this, she’s from BEVERLY HILLS!!! I couldn’t believe it. They welcomed us and treated as though we’d known them a lifetime. Couldn’t have been nicer.
Italians are so incredibly warm and hospitabile. Today we got lost and some stranger left his lunch, got into his truck and drove us two or three kilmoteres to where were going! That’s just an aside in the event I forget to mention it. Or to mention the Euro is great! Although fluxuating not in our favor, but still.
The hotel is actually a castle, parts of which date back 3000 years to Etruscan period, the “newer” parts are 1200 years old. The owner said it was five-minute drive from where were sitting. And it was. If we could find it and we couldn’t. Forty-five minutes later, arguing the entire time about directions, we arrived. It was worth the wait. And the arguments. The owners, the American woman, Renee, a former surgeon, and her Italian born husband, Pier Giovanni Palleggi, whose father had bought the castle from the last king of Italy, greeted us like old friends. They had just hired a new chef, whom they had “stolen” from Ferragamo, because the chef didn’t want to cook fusion but rather traditional Tuscan dishes. This man could cook! We had a fantastic meal, everything fresh from the premises from the wine to the herbs to the olive oil to the pasta made only hours before we ate it. The path alongside the kitchen dates back to 600 B.C. and was part of the original Roman trail. It was still in fantastic shape, unlike the streets in Laurel Canyon or much of LA.
I admit having always wanted to sleep in castle. I’m bourgeoisy. Shoot me. We slept in a bed, the headboard of which belonged the last King of Italy (is there a movie or title in there?) After a delizioso breakfast the Royal “we” (as in I), got back on the phone and Internet with the rental agents and found a new place that looks absolutely charming. The owners of our present hotel, Renee and Giovanni, went over the pictures and details with a fine tooth-comb and agreed it was lovely. So tomorrow we set off for the new house, outside of Cortona.
Our second night, Renee and Giovanni, our new BFFs, recommended a place called Olga’s which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. We met Olga, now probably 80. She works six days a week from 5 am through closing making everything herself. OMG. The food was phenomenal. I had been in Italy for three days and had yet to have a gelato. Usually, I find a gelato bar on the first day. The gelato place we went to in Arezzo was, by far, the best gelato I’ve ever had and that includes the world famous place in Orvieto. The place had just won the best gelato in Italy and I understand why. I’m so bummed that we’re leaving Arezzo and may not get back to it again this trip. It will be the gelato by which all over gelato will be measured.