Saturday, March 10, 2007

Casa Chiocciola at Five

This weekend marks a fairly significant anniversary for me. Five years ago, I signed my name several times on various legal documents in a language I could barely understand. I then handed over a cheque, plus nearly all my savings, and, in return, took the keys to a little stone cottage on the top of a hill, in a village called Amandola, a place I mention from time to time on this here blog.

I told friends I was buying my second home first. They thought I was nuts. I recall denying that this meant I would some day live full-time in Italy. At the time, London seemed like my proper home. Amandola was to be my refuge, I thought, an escape hatch when things got too crazy in the big city. Things got immediately crazy in the big city after that, and so I found myself coming out to Amandola as often as I could, sometimes for less than 48 blissful hours, just enough to recharge the soul.

The house gave me more than I gave it in the first few months, which was kind of amazing because the house was as simple a place as you could imagine. It had electricity and a few appliances, but few modern conveniences. No phone. No TV. No distractions from the outside world. But it was surrounded by rolling hills and impressive peaks, and in between were flocks of sheep and bobbing sunflowers. Further on, were Medieval hill towns with fascinating local tales about art and war and prosperous times and desperate times, and now, hopeful times. That's the appeal of Amandola. It's such a rare place. It has zero pretensions. And, the more the world around it changes into an indecipherable blur, Amandola, for me anyhow, is always the same tranquil place.

Five years on now, and I've been giving back to the house the love and attention it deserves. It's just a small token of my thanks for all it's given me over the years. Each spring, I squirrel away enough money to make modest capital expenditures on the place. Some landscaping one year, a pergola the next, new furniture last year and even a sat TV (which nobody ever watches). If it was a sanctuary before, it's truly a home now. Today, Xtina and I usually drive up to Amandola with our friends from Rome; sometimes we host friends from elsewhere across Italia. Each time, the experience is the same: completely blissful.

It's probably not healthy to be so attached to an inanimate object. But when that thing is a house that's been standing on a hill for centuries, I guess it's okay. If my arms were big enough, I'd give the place a hug. That's how much the silly place means to me. Grazie, Chiocciola.


jeffo said...

i'd hug it, too. it's a wonderful place. (btw...small chance i may be heading to milan for a few days. i'll let you know.)

Bernhard Warner said...

grazie, amico. and the house thanks you too... btw, michael, it seems, just installed a wireless adsl connection (I don't know how else to describe the technology), meaning the Amandola buro of Il Sette Bello could be up and running any time now... And, please let me know about Milano. It's just a few hr train ride. I've been meaning to get up there to see a few old friends. It's been too long

jeffo said...

over here, we call it wi-fi (i think the french say oui-fee). looks like milan's out. the guy (Benedetto) i interviewed -- and was contemplating visiting for a story i'm working on -- totally oversold his role. so i'm off to norwood, mass, instead. not much of a consolation prize. but we're still looking forward to seeing you in SF in October.