Villa Pulceria sits atop two green hills of farmland in Umbria. The hills lead to gardens and rows of olive trees and grape vines that descend away from the tops of the hills so that they become dotted ripples of ochre and grey lines falling to a groin in the drainage at the bottom of the hill and up to the next ridge and so on until the eye squints and imagines where the sea must be.
From a drone’s view the villa is made up of three buildings fused into one. The roof is tiled and the size and formidable structure of the buildings could be mistaken for a monastery or winery. A dark gunite, rectangular pool takes up the grass area guarded by Cyprus trees that dot the property. A dirt road lined with more Cyprus trees and olive trees winds from the hill town of Todi.
From the ground view the back door is open and so are the windows. Heavy, white linen drapes blow in the breeze. On the patio, near the door and under the windows, there are clay pots filled with Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano next to Foxtail Agave, Herculean Aloe and several Mexican Fenceposts that bow outward from the foundation. Under the covered patio sits a long farm table with a wood bowl that is filled with lemons.
Inside, Annie, who has rented the villa with her family for the month, looks out the kitchen window at the dust rising on the dirt road. A black Peugeot that looks far away behind the wavy hot air of the Tuscan afternoon, raises a cloud of dust that settles out into the brown grass on the sides of the road while it bounces ever closer. The engine drowns out the Cicadas until its tires turn in onto the pea gravel driveway, crunching to a stop and the cicadas rise, stopping on a T, then starting again.
Luana, the Villa representative falls out of the old oblong Peugeot that looks like a Citreon. She fumbles with an armful of olive oil, a local wine and an old pasta making machine. “Buon pomeriggion!” she says, hugging Annie and kissing her cheek. “Allora, prego… Luana places the gifts on the table and straightens her black and white Polka Dot dress.”
“You have to stay for dinner!” Annie says, full of American expression. “No come on, I am making my nonas red sauce, gnocchi, I have Bucatini with Chicken Piccata. I am doing artichokes. Look we have drinks.” Luana looks out at the pool waving to Reily and their toddler Rily who is walkng pidgeon-toed after a butterfly. “No I have to get back but I will see you for the night we do the wines and the pasta making. I see you then?” She says backing away pressing her hands together smiling and wavng at little Rily.
The Victrola that sits under the window next to the back door crackles as Sinatra’s “That's life” fills the air dancing with the cicadas that lift on convective drafts up and around the property in the hot afternoon air, floating above the olive trees like smoke from the burning juniper pile that lays by the patio.
They will be there for a month, laying by the pool, learning to make pasta. On some mornings they will drive into town for Sfogiattele and Pignolis. Other mornings they will swim and pick tomatoes from the garden for that night’s red sauce. They will ride bikes from vineyard to vineyard and more than anything, they will fall into the rhythm of the place, reading, drawing journaling, becoming full and quiet in a way that our modern world does not often allow .
At the End of the month we have picked out a villa in Puglia that is white washed, low slung with a squat olive tree in the center of the driveaway, bisecting two windows with light sage shutters. The windows are open so that a visitor can see through the front window into the kitchen and out the next window to the pool and the sun shimmering off the Adriatic sea.
They will visit hill towns that are far more Turkish and Greek with white buildings and stone alleys that have bougainvillea climbing up blue shutters. In the afternoon when the air feels like it is pressing in on them, they will swim in water lined by ruins that jut out into the aqua sea and lay on the hot concrete to dry off.
At night there will be a moment that the air changes from hot to very warm, not cool, but refreshing. It will come in on the breeze that pushes the curtains a smidge. Not much but enough. There will be Pastis and Negronis, and Apperol Spritzes interspersed on an old olive table filled with cobalt dishes. Humus next to Fava beans and cucumbers, Lemons and Linguini fruti di mare. Annie’s family will fly in from the States. They were born in Napoli but came to the states when Her father was a boy. They will look around the table smiling after laughing too hard and realize what this time together means to them. They will remember this night and their long month in Italy, Like a cinema they have directed, for the rest of their lives.