One long weekend, two long hikes, two long lunches. Not bad!
At this time last week we were headed for the Sibillini National Park, which is about three hours outside of Rome in the region called Le Marche. When I mentioned our trip to Amy she immediately asked how it was and whispered into a cuffed palm, “some people say it’s the new Tuscany!” Whether or not it’s the new hot spot for villas and vineyards I think it was gorgeous. Rolling hills plus a seaside coast are hard to beat.
On the way we stopped in Norcia, a small town known for truffles, lentils and pork (two of which we’re very familiar with now). As the rain drizzled down, we strolled in and out of shops on main street, stopping for postcards. We’re trying to mail a postcard to Phoebe from every place she visits. An idea we got from Melissa. In the end–when she’s old enough to read–she’ll have quite a collection! There were also maps of the park and even some English books for kids. Score! Then we had lunch but not just any lunch. Since we’d be eating in at the villa that night, we splurged on a 5-course tasting menu with a glass of wine each. But we did show some restraint by splitting it “uno per due” (one for two) which was lucky because we barely managed to finish the last delicious bites between us. Phoebe was a delight, a trooper and a great sport. Since it was early, no one else was in the restaurant yet and she alternated between eating her own little meal, cruising from chair to chair and cooing at the waitress.
Then we were off.
When we arrived at the villa, we were greeted by the housekeeper who spoke only Italian and immediately picked up Phoebe to carry her around the grounds. I’m always surprised that Phoebe goes to people in these situations. I find myself, arms stretched out tentatively with a worried look on my face saying, “Oh, I don’t think she’ll…” But it’s for nothing. Phoebe just sits contentedly in their arms, being shuffled around and coo-chi-cooed to in Italian. Amy said it’s the confidence of these seasoned mamas, nonnas and zias plus Italians love babies so there’s just something comforting about it.
She told us in Italian that the owners of the villa would arrive either that night or the next morning. We could chat, pay and whatnot at that point. When I woke up the next morning and saw a cherry red sports car in the driveway, I said to Paul, “I think there’s a Ferrari in the driveway, so I’m guessing they’re here?” But I was only half right. The owners, him a lawyer and her a plastic surgeon, had arrived. But it was a Corvette. In the land of Ferraris, a Corvette might even be cooler.
They live in Bologna where they both practice. This villa is a “labor of love”, they explained. In 2006 they bought the place as a dilapidated wreck and proceeded to restore it, beam by beam, tile by tile…adding flat screen TVs and jacuzzi tubs here and there. It’s a lovely set up with 8 apartments in three different buildings, surrounding a courtyard, pool and enormous outdoor fire pit. If you’ve ever thought of a compound in the country, you should do this. And then invite us.