It’s been three weeks long weeks since I last wrote. One reason for my absence was due to an accidental splash of coffee on my computer keyboard… ugh! The other reason for the delay is that for two glorious weeks, Emile and I were traveling in Italy.
Italy… I still can hardly believe it but we were really in Italy. The impetus for our trip was created by a classmate of Emile’s who has been living in Italy for the past 30 years. This classmate, Sylvia, is a teacher and has recently studied to become a tour guide. Sylvia organized a week-long reunion at a villa in Tuscany for her high school classmates…. but wait, I’ll speak more about that in a moment.
Emile and I left for our trip a week ahead of the reunion date to explore Italy a little bit on our own. We flew into Pisa, and then spent about five days in a place called Cinque Terre, a group of five villages built along the hillsides abutting the sea… and each one is breathtakingly beautiful!
The village of Vernazza
While there we walked, tasted wonderful food and wine, and collected pretty stones and other gifts from the sea.
Ocean treasures: Beach glass, broken tiles, and small pieces of copper.
After a week spent relaxing on the “Italian Riviera” Emile and I traveled to La Spezia, then to Lucca, and then on to a town called Ponte a Moriano where the villa was located. When we left the train we found a small store/bar at the station and decided to wait until others arrived. Sure enough, within thirty minutes, Emile’s classmate, Lydia, arrived with her husband, David. Soon afterwards we all walked up the hill to the villa.
The group of students for whom the reunion was organized attended a Quaker boarding school in Pennsylvania called Westtown, and there were about 100 students in their class. Of those, fourteen came to Tuscany to celebrate, and most brought along a spouse. It was the first time in over 35 years that some of those folks had seen each other and I thought it was remarkable how soon we all (spouses included) were at ease with one another.
Our “organizer extraordinaire” Sylvia put together a week full of activities for us including a tour of Pisa (to see the Piazza dei Miracoli, or the Square of Miracles, home of the Leaning Tower), a walking tour through several museums in Florence (home of Michelangelo’s David), and a trip inside the marble mine in Carrara ( where the marble for David came from).
Sylvia also arranged for us to dine together each night at the villa… beginning with wine on the lawn and ending with a sumptuous feast. She did this all with grace and humor and she catered to so many personal requests that I think she earned a few gold stars for patience as well.
One of those “special” requests came from me… because I wanted to make a “pie” (okay, it was actually two cobblers) for the group. Sylvia took me to the grocery store and helped me find the necessary ingredients. Sylvia understood that this was my way of reaching out to everyone and took it in stride… and I appreciated that.
On the last day of our time together I knew I wanted to make a pie for Sylvia, but we were late in getting back from Carrara and all of the markets were closed for the afternoon so I couldn’t purchase any fruit. There was nothing I could do but try to figure out a plan B.
That evening we were treated to pizzas baked in an outdoor wood-fired oven… and as I sat at the table with Sam watching the cooks I noticed that there was a cherry tree above my head… groaning with fresh cherries. The cook, Christina, told me that the cherries would be eaten by the birds if we didn’t pick them… and so that is what we did. In no time at all we had plucked a large bowl of cherries and Sam and I and a few others sat and pitted them as we watched the sun go down.
Early the next morning I went to the kitchen and found the last bit of butter and made a crust with it and put it into the pie tin that I had brought from home (I know, I’m just a little bit crazy). Then I mixed the cherries with sugar and cornstarch and searched for a topping for the pie. In short order I found the Amaretti cookies that I had purchased and crumbled them on top of the pie. Then, once we figured out how to turn on the Italian oven, the pie was put in to bake.
After an hour or so, Sylvia and the rest of the group began to congregate in the kitchen… oh my, I forgot to mention the kitchen. This is it…
Gorgeous isn’t it? Well, anyway, it wasn’t long before I was able to present Sylvia with her pie… it’s a small token of thanks for all the time and effort that she put forth to make this trip so special. We were all very lucky to share this time together.
Sylvia, me, and Sam
The Creator made Italy from designs by Michelangelo. Mark Twain