Originally written Oct 12

Rusty writes:

Pepper and I were traveling with Norma, a friend of ours from Little Rock. It was her first trip to Italy. It is always fascinating to travel with someone who hasn’t experienced Italy before. Each person reacts to new experiences in a different way, and Norma was no different. At times, she pulled in, rejecting an unusual piece of meat. At other times, she charged brightly forward, for example taking a train for the first time. It was a reminder to me that our guests will also be a diverse lot and each of them will have a unique response to our home. And I will have to remember that each one is valid, even if I don’t share his/her opinion.

As our plane approached the coast, we saw a thick layer of black clouds hanging over the entire coast. Within 2 hours of our arrival in Pisa, the heavens opened up. By then, we had found a nice sidewalk café situated within one of the main galleries leading from the train station. As we ate lunch, we watched the rain fall, first as a shower then as a torrent.

I always enjoy people-watching in Italy, but especially in a rainstorm. One lady refused to open her umbrella and strode defiantly through the rain. She entered the galleria with glistening curls and wet face, but neither increased her pace nor slowed down. A man walked within the gallery with his umbrella open, not noticing that he was protected by the arches above. Tourists in rain hoods ambled past, teenagers skidded by on the wet marble, and old Italians in tweeds and sensible shoes walked past us.

Even as I enjoyed the show, my mind was picturing the misery of a rainy visit in Italy. October is often a rainy month, so this deluge seemed to signal the weather for the coming days. How delightful then to see the rain cease and, almost magically, the clouds begin to scurry away. By the time we began our drive up the Serchio valley, the brilliant blue of the sky and the blazing Italian sun were with us.

As we approached Ghivizzano, I was both excited and anxious. We would be spending over 2 weeks in Italy. But 6 months had passed since our last visit. What would we find at Casa La Pace? As I put the key in the lock, I really felt the tension. Imagine my relief to see that the house was in better shape than when we left in March. Pino had conscientiously scrubbed the kitchen and living room and put away all of the linens. Walking through the house, I felt as though we’d been gone for a long weekend and were returning to our home.