June 26, 2012
DEBBIE TRAVIS' TUSCAN RENOVATION
This is how I spent this morning in Tuscany:
Woke up at 5am to the sound of a screeching rooster having way too much fun and a husband also having too much fun packing for his motor bike ride across Tuscany with numerous bike buddies. As I waved him off, he zoomed up our pit-holed, white, dirt road and crossed paths with two packed trucks of Italian builders bouncing their way into our work site. After an exuberant (I was still in silk pajamas) buon giorno from my new gang, they started their relentless hammering and I began to tackle emails in my new office. Its perched on the only piece of terrace left that is not part of the demolition. My desk is a shabby chic style table I found in a roadside flea market along with a couple of mismatched metal chairs. With a steaming cup of strong, Italian coffee and my laptop open I leapt into a slew of the usual requests, fan mail and bills. It was an Impossible task. My view across this valley has not changed for centuries. Vineyards, olive groves and ancient farms undulate before me in a rolling wave of every shade of green and shimmering ochre. Montepulciano, a medieval hilltop town renowned for its hearty red wine, is bathed in sunlight as the day in rural Tuscany comes to life. Above a crane circles. No not the elegant, long-limbed bird, but a tall, and some may find elegant, metal structure that goes back and forth over my head as the 400 year old roof tiles are removed and thrown into a giant bucket. One of the young builders has the task of stacking them and marking them (they will go back once the roof is insulated) another man is on the roof prizing each one from its place while the happiest worker of all stands with a hand held control, like a boy on the beach with his remote control plane. What with the view and the renovation clatter I give up and decide to walk into the village that soars up behind me. Summer holidays have begun and the narrow cobbled streets are filled with kids playing. A strange sight. My North American eyes have to adjust to children playing and laughing in a way that seems to have disappeared at home.
I notice some of the ladies turn their heads as I walk by in a rather familiar way. I notice they are gossiping and staring in my direction. I am the new girl in town by about 40 years! Fifteen minutes later, laden with bags of groceries the lady behind the cheese counter gives me such a marvelous grin that I immediately feel comfortable to introduce myself. “ I am the lady from Canada who has just bought the ‘ruin’ down the road.” I say in a messy mix of English and embarrassingly bad Italian. “My name is Debbie”. To my astonishment she says in stilted English “Oh I know who you are. You are ‘SOS Debbie’ - we all...” she says waving at all the other local who are grinning at me ... ”we all watch you everyday on television here in Italy” Well knock me down with a chicken feather. Apparently old episodes of Facelift (called SOS Debbie here) are playing in Italy. With that she handed me a paper bag filled with fresh tomatoes from her garden. A gift from my new fans.
Still beaming with delight I walked back into the old courtyard of our villa to be greeted by 10 workmen enjoying lunch. A red and white table cloth had been thrown over some planks. There was a jug of red wine, a bowl of tomatoes, a bulb of garlic, a bunch of parsley, a loaf of local, rustic bread and the ingredient that is never ever missing from an Italian’s table; a bottle of olive oil. They were eating brosccetta. The simplest lunch possible but the most delicious. Giovanni, the maestro of stone, beckoned me over and offered to make me some. He took a thick slice of the Tuscan bread and with a fork quickly toasted it over the fire they had made. He then dribbled the oil over the surface and rubbed a massive clove of garlic over the bread. He cut a thick slice of tomato and plunked it on the top of the toast followed by a little parsley, salt and a final drizzle of oil. We all know eating al fresco makes food taste so much better and eating with some ruggedly handsome, sweaty builders doesn’t hurt, but I will forever taste that brosccetta – scrumptious. A simple, inexpensive but delicious lunch that any of us can make and enjoy. Now it was time for a siesta – no, not with the builders!