Saturday, August 3, 2013


DAY 20, JULY 27, 2013
The sullen appearances on the faces of the young adults told a tale of one last night's long party into the dawn of today. They had given the holiday everything they had to give. Despite the sadness of a chapter ending all of us were making plans for our returns. I gave Stefania my paint set as a promise that I'd come back to paint the view from the pool one more time. Rick's dream is to come in winter to see a new season enjoying the view from the in front of a blazing fire, a good book and lots of time cooking with Stefania. The Danes had already made a reservation for next year, this time bringing the grandparents in tow.
Emmy will maybe miss it the most. For her it will always be a remembrance of firsts, a time that she grew into a young woman and survived her first real romance.
The first night we sat around the outdoor table in anticipation of a meal Stefania was preparing, Alessandro came out trying to explain that something had happened in the kitchen. The only English that came to him was, "Terrible moment". It became our catch phrase for the next two weeks. We were constantly toasting, "No more terrible moments". Of course, there were none, but there was always reason for a chorus of "Terrible moments".
It was time for our final picture, the image that would cement 2013 into our photo albums and memories. We took two pictures: the first our traditional smiling effort where we tried to rangle in most of the dogs
and a second where most of us showed off out new talent of creating duck faces for the camera, a trick the kids from the Netherlands taught us. Because of that I kept referring to it as Dutch faces. No one corrected me until the last day when they all had to laugh and clue me in to my mistake.
It was then to our cars as the Saraceni's waved their towels at each departing car it wasn't a sign of good-bye but arrivederci that translates to "see you later".

I had originally booked a hotel in a castle town about an hour and a half away from Armena and closer to Rome. My geography failed me here. We would be an hour and a half from Armena but to the east not to the south and closer to Rome and the airport. We would never make it to the airport by 9:30 in time to return the car, do customs and get our boarding passes. Stefania told us of a hotel Alessandro and she had stayed at when they were young at heart, just outside and to the east of Rome in Tivoli.
It was an easy drive to the exit off the autostrada for Tivoli. Finding the hotel once we had climbed the winding road to the top of the town proper built on the precipice of a huge hill that I would have called a mountain coming from the flatlands of America's breadbasket was no easy task for a panic prone driver like myself. Tivoli, like so many of the towns we visited was a maze of one-way streets barely wide enough for a mini-car to navigate much less the monster we were commanding. We finally found ourselves stuck on a narrow street to nowhere. A man on a motorcycle parked adjacent to where we were stuck and a local woman her hair tied up in a babushka saw our predicament and graciously came to our aid. I handed the biker our reservation papers and a big, "Aaaah" came forth from underneath his helmet and out of the pruney mouth under the babushka.
In comic Italian and wide swiping hand gestures they got me out the car and maneuvered me to a point around the corner where they could point to the hotel perched atop another higher ridge. The cyclist then went to direct traffic so we could back up the one-way street and get us going in the direction we needed to go all with a running  Italian dialogue by the helpful woman.
The Torre San Angelo sat high on ridge. During the evening its huge neon sign with the four stars was visible from miles away.
There was no way I was going to get Rick and Emmy to budge from that hotel for any sightseeing. Emmy still hadn't recovered from her four in the morning night before. Rick never rides well and was ready for a rest, but I wasn't going to let a little sleep deprivation stop me from seeing what Tivoli had to offer, besides Stefania had told me about these amazing fountains at the Villa d'Este; my whole reason for coming here. It was Saturday and now about five in the afternoon. I found the parking area the receptionist at the hotel had told me about. I parked the car and began walking through the town. Everything seemed gated up. I feared an early vacation had hit the town and it might be closed up well beyond our one night stay.
I pressed on determined to find the fountains of the Villa d'Este. Finding the gardens took the better part of a half hour. The signs for Villa d'Este seemed to only lead me in circles. I finally found a small-embedded ceramic sign in a stone wall near the entrance to a church. Next to the church was a separate entrance to the villa and gardens.
The villa's walls and ceilings are covered in frescos,
each room holding a concept from hunting to court jesting.
The gardens and fountains spill down a steep hillside attainable by stairways traversing the slope like an expert skier.
The waterworks spout and flow from the mouths of mythical creatures
and the tits of fertility goddesses.
There is constant auditory presence of water gurgling, spraying and rushing like the great waterfalls of the world.
Rainbows had formed among the dancing waters
of the grandest fountain with its dancing jets and crashing falls.
Despite the heat which was touching the hundred degree mark, despite the deterioration of some of the stone work and the task of having to make the walk back up the garden once you have reached the bottom tier,
everything about the garden was worth the trek.
Once I regained street level, around 6:30 I noticed that the streets of Tivoli had come back to life. The heat of central Italy takes control of its commerce. When the day is too hot all activity shuts down. It's not until the heat begins to subside that Tivoli comes to life which seems to happen once the sun has started to roll back down from its midday zenith.

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