It is always in my last few days at I Cinghiali that I wake naturally around 5am to witness, through windows flung wide open, the exquisite dawn – first just a pale light then a ribbon of orange or pink lightly kissing the mountain tops across my valley as the late summer sun begins to light up the sky.
But before then I get up in the middle of the night to stand on the tiny balcony off the hallway to witness a sky full of shining stars reminiscent of the suburban Melbourne of my childhood. Sadly pollution now obscures this vision in cities but here it is magnificent and a reminder to me at least, that life comes in all forms and happiness is a constant choice.
My days here are simple and easy. Summer is a pair of flip-flops (my Aussie heritage still calls them thongs but not everyone understands that!), shorts or a floaty dress and rarely any make-up other than a smudge of lipstick when I go out. It’s completely different to my more sophisticated London life and I love it just as much.
Food comes from my garden or a local market and is fresh, fragrant and probably the best on the planet. Certainly the tastes are like no other and the age of the people in my valley and elsewhere in Italy are testament to the quality of the produce. Wine is plentiful and cheap. I can buy the best Sangiovese from further south for around €2 a litre and good bottles are only a few Euros more. It has taken me years to find a good prosecco but now that I have there is always one in my fridge – for lunch or for no reason at all.
It’s been a wonderful and full summer with lots of guests, some here for the second, third or fourth time and some whom I had renewed pleasure in introducing my Garfagnana to for the first time.
Back in our 20’s I lived in Astwood Mews SW7 with my sister and a few girlfriends and much jolity was had in early July when Hilma, Geraldine and Lynne came for a week before three of us headed south to visit Umbria and southern Tuscany.
After my 10 days working at a Tony Robbins event in Spain I was joined by my dear friend Connie from LA via the Netherlands, and Cynthia from LA for some lovely and relaxed times; also with Craigh who had stayed with his partner Tim in the barn for a fortnight and then remained because he too has fallen in love with the Garfagnana.
My dear friend Linda then arrived and we had a wonderful time as we always do, visiting the Versillian Coast on market day at Forte dei Marmi and the local market at Castlenovo between languid days by the pool and lovely siestas.
Two London friends Corin and Laila arrived for their first visit and we had such a week of laghter and fun together – seamlessly sharing meal preparation and pouring of the gin and tonics at sundown. Together we had a marvellous day on the Italian Riviera and an exquisite lunch at Boca di Magra at my friend Mario’s wonderful restaurant set on the bank of the Magra river and surrounded by wonderful statues chosen by Wendy, his Sydney-born wife. And we spent much time relaxing, reading and chatting beside my wonderful pool.
Such fun did we have with the shopping that resulted in a FB competition amongst our friends to ascertain who bought what. All those black dresses and 10 pairs of shoes and they were totally confused! Only one suggested which purchases were mine and it was a girl I’ve never met!!
And there were wonderful occasions with my local friends, as always. Dinners in a winery, dancing in the village square, food fests at la casa mia, the annual street dinner party in my village. And one more somber occasion.
Two weeks ago some beautiful villages in Le Marche and Lazio, far south of me, crumbled under the weight of a massive earthquake, just as my old village did on the morning of 7 September 1920 when many lives were lost also. So tonight there is a village dinner to support the earthquake relief fund and I shall be there with an envelope full of contributions from some wonderful friends around the world who have enjoyed time at I Cinghiali and who admire and respect the resiliance and spirit of the Italian village people throughout this wonderful country.
On Monday I shall depart. I have suspended my car insurance, given two jolly good bottles of red to Claudio who looks after my car wonderfully and packed away some precious things downstairs. I never know when I will be back. In bygone days on my final morning I would stand at the kitchen window, the Venetian coronation playing in the sitting room, and weep silent tears of joy and sadness. Now they are just joy for I am no longer a 24 hour flight away.
For 28 years I have loved everything about my simple life at I Cinghiali. And now it is time again to ramp it up and rejoin the other world I love in London. Arrivederci la bella Italia…mi piace tanto, per sempre.
Ci vediamo presto. E io grido il lunedi.
Until next time
My valley with my villa high on the hill below the church tower.