Seven o’clock rolls around pretty early here in Italy.
I am aware that in reality it comes right after six o’clock, just like back home, but it sure seems earlier. Maybe it has something to do with the euro/dollar exchange rate or the English/metric conversion. But it seems awfully early.
Maybe it has something to do with our daytime activities.
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On paper yesterday looked like a relaxed kind of day. Wake up, enjoy a nice breakfast and then drive to Bastardo (the sign to this nearby town is perhaps the most photographed sight in all of Umbria) and spend a couple of hours visiting with Augusta Pardi, the matriarch of Tessitura Pardi, the Pardi family weaving mill which furnishes all of the beautiful linens, table cloths, towels and other fine fabrics for their network of retail stores in the area, including their flagship shop in Montefalco. Our itinerary was then to continue with a visit to the Pardi’s winery where we would tour their facilities to learn about their wine, and then do a wine tasting over lunch prepared at the cantina. On the way back to the villa we were to stop by another local winery for a tasting before relaxing in front of the fire and cooking a home made dinner with local chef Simone Prioetti Pesci.
Somewhere along the way we got seriously off track. And no one seemed to care.
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Stepping through the doors of the Tessitura Pardi, a nondescript industrial building on the outskirts of Bastardo never fails to impress our guests. We are invariably, as we were yesterday, greeted at the door by Augusta Pardi, the tall, regal and extremely elegant English speaking manager of the business (although she would deny with her last breath that she exercises any managerial authority over the business). Augusta’s personality is so big and so welcoming it exerts is own gravitational pull and, like yesterday, you are immediately thrown off course and settle into orbit around this celestial body. She becomes the center of your universe and you wonder how you ever wandered space alone without her.
We arrived in Bastardo more or less on schedule, according to Italian standards, and were greeted by Augusta. After oohing and ahhing over the surprisingly cool elegance of the factory’s interior, which we did not expect to see given the nature of the exterior, we were escorted to the shoproom floor, a series of forty or so clanging electric looms, each one jerking to the beat of the bobbin that rhythmically alternated left then right, trailing behind it a single filament of fine thread, which was woven into the delicate and intricate fabric that emerged row by row from the machine. As we moved from loom to loom we could see the progress of table cloths, bed spreads, table runners and towels, in rich earthy colors or light elegant ones, each with gorgeous designs lightly woven into the structure. From these big, noisy, somewhat archaic machines the emergence of such fine and sophisticated fabrics seemed completely unexpected.
We circled the machines for what seemed to be ages, orbiting them as we would orbit Augusta, returning time and time again to see how this piece progressed or that one finished up. Then we followed Augusta to the showroom, a bright comfortable room set up with several beds covered in Pardi bedding, Pardi curtains covering mock windows and shelves stuffed with Pardi table cloths and towels. There, for the next couple of hours the children held sway over the candy store.
After that couple of hours and many euros later we emerged from the Tessitura into the bright clear light of the Umbrian afternoon sun, squinting like gambling addicts emerging from a lightless casino after hours of indulging their addiction. And then it was on to the Cantina Fratelli Pardi, the family’s winery located just outside the walls of the town of Montefalco.
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For the next several hours our little planetary system was under the sway of two solar masters, Augusta and Albertino Pardi, the son of Augusta’s cousin Alberto, the charismatic young man who with his father manages the family’s winery. A visit to the Pardi winery is a frequent stop for us and our groups wishing to learn about and sample some of the best wines that Umbria and its most important D.O.C. zone – Montefalco – have to offer. Yesterday was no exception, as we were treated to a fabulous four course lunch presided over by Augusta and Albertino, the lively conversation turning from wine to food to dating to travel and back to wine. In the expansive, beautifully laid out dining area at the front of the cantina time seemed to be warped and after we emerged from the rear of the cantina, having learned about the process of wine making, Pardi style, and being fortunate to see firsthand the family’s grapes fermenting, thanks to the fact that the harvest ended just days before, another several hours had somehow passed. Still, we found ourselves unable and unwilling to tear ourselves from the strong gravitational forces exerted by the Pardis.
So it was back to the Montefalco linen shop with Augusta for a bit more shopping and just to spend a little more time with her. Finally, with the earth’s sun going down we felt a slight weakening of Augusta’s gravitational force and slipped those bonds, our group saying its sincere goodbyes to their new friend, and headed back toward the villa for our 4:00 wine tasting appointment at the DiFilippo winery. It was 6:30.
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Needless to say our late arrival at the DiFilippo cantina, where we were met by our friend Simone, the chef-owner of Bevagna’s le Delizie del Borgo restaurant (who had arrived at the cantina only a short time after our appointment) necessitated a rescheduling on our part. But here in Italy they don’t seem to sweat schedules the same way we do at home, realizing perhaps that time is bent and distorted all the time here, whether by the intense Mediterranean sun, the powerful wine or other forces too complicated for us to understand. The simple fact is that here in Italy, time is not your master, you are the master over time, even if you cannot control it or conform to it. What a simple and refreshing shift in perspective that makes all the difference in how one lives one’s life.
So we caravanned back from nearby DiFilippo, Simone in tow, and arrived back at the villa to begin cooking our dinner together. A “light” dinner the day’s itinerary claimed. The only thing light about our dinner was the morning light that began to creep in our windows as we finished off the last puddle of 1999 Adanti Sagrantino which we enjoyed with our sedano ripieni (literally stuffed celery), a unique and first time experience for us consisting of seasonal black celery from Trevi topped with not a meatball, but a meat cube of ground beef, parmigiano and other spices, slow baked in the oven and then topped with a rich amatriciana sauce.
The sedano was preceded by an ancient and traditional pasta called chichie, small gnocchi-like pastas made with a yeasty bread dough which our group made by hand under Simone’s watchful eye. The chichie were tossed in a rich but simple sauce of onions, guanciale and rosemary. That plate was preceded by an enormous platter of scrambled eggs cooked with tartufata (truffle sauce) and topped with shaved fresh truffles and accompanied by toasted bread with grated truffles. Pinzimonio, an antipasto of raw vegetables, in our case fresh fennel and raw artichokes, served with a dish of just pressed olio novella mixed with salt and pepper, started the festivities, followed by freshly baked focaccia topped with rosemary and salt and a bruschetta of pureed celery leaf sauce.
And as our stellar friend Simone said his buona nottes and ci vediamos, we each, too, waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch our faces to our pillows.
Bill and Suzy