Our first employees came to us 16 years ago, and they have become part of our family. Venerina ( little Friday, named for being born on Good Friday) our first housekeeper, is known for her perpetual friendly smile. Francesco, our security guard and hunter more serious in character, is always ready and willing to give a helping hand.
Time to Work
When a socialite asked if she could remove the bags of marshmallows in all the bathrooms when renting the house for a month, I did not quite understand what she meant. We dislike marshmallows and I have never seen them sold in Italy. In examining the bathrooms found it to be true. Questioning Venerina, she explained that she divided a big bag a guest left and divided them among the bathrooms. Why? She explained how she saw some guests remove make-up with them. No Venerina, I explained, they are not cotton balls, but eatable marshmallows. Happy she was able to laugh at here mistake but commented on how Americans eat the strangest things.
Francesco loves showing off his collection of guns to gun loving guests.
First or second to his guns, is his love of ladies.
Janet Newcomb brought a group from Palm Desert for a cooking class demonstrating the steps involved in making a good wild boar pasta sauce from the successful hunt to the dinner plate.
As the breakfast dishes piled high, beds not touched and some 20 guests about to leave to go sightseeing, I questioned our farm worker who stepped into the kitchen for a coffee, as to where was our cleaning lady? I noticed the banana on the mantle that she would bring everyday for her morning break, but did not see her since her arrival at 9. Francesco convinced me not to worry and that she must be in one of the rooms. I started to clear the table of the dirty breakfast dishes, adding more to the pile in the kitchen. Hearing the kitchen clock strike 11, I joined Francesco in search for Venerina. Walking to our parking lot, we heard a cry of help coming from the barred windows of the bathroom facing the lot.
Coming to the rescue we ascertained that when she went to use the facilities, the hook of the new pocket door slammed shut, slipped into the locked position where she remained for two hours. Venerina in tears led me to put a smile on her face by bringing her the banana and a roll of toilet paper as Francesco got some tools to rescue her.
When asked why she didn’t cry out to the 20 people leaving just a few feet away from the window, she explained that her cries for “aiuti” meaning help in italian were answered with waves of gratitude, happy smiles, and “thank you” in english which she did understand. It was not until the return of the guests for dinner that evening did they understand what she meant by”aiuti”.
Never did I realize when seeing a guest shortly after arriving from France, scrub down our kitchen table, that he had plans to cut up and serve 5 kilos of fresh raw tuna which he brought to serve “sulla tavola” His preparation fantastic that I doubt I could ever duplicate.
Crazy but fun Jean Claude made sure we all ate well with his gifts from France along with music, lots of laughter and great food prepared by him.
On another visit when guests had the main house, he prepared in the back outdoor kitchen, which we use when the house is rented, his favorite dishes of calamari in the black ink sauce. Fun into the wee hours of the morning, acting like kids, we relished the delicious dishes of calamari, and painted our faces having fun with the ink.
When my husband and I retired for the evening, we tip- toed to our room so as not to disturb the guests. Although it was past 2 am the guests were still enjoying themselves and not in their private rooms. Their strange questioning looks as we wished them good night, had us concerned until looking into the mirror and realizing that we had not removed the ink from our painted faces. You might expect this from kids, but not adults in their 70’s.The next morning we had to explain that we were not inebriated, not chimney sweepers not coal miners, but just regressing to child like fun since our parents never allowed us to finger paint our faces as kids. Must say the squid in ink sauce that Jean Claude prepared was fantastic, worth every embarrassment of the evening.
Pheasant hunting is much easier than hunting Cinghiali ( wild boar), which is Francesco’s favorite past time.. When the season opens, one would find Francesco on week-ends fighting traffic to join his team of hunters. One must have a hunting rifle license, permit to hunt the particular animal, and be accepted by a team. There are great controls, down to reporting the animal when killed, age, size and sex. Not always successful, but one week-end he succeeded in killing 3 in one day. Although never having his own camera, on the way back from the hunt, he bought an inexpensive throw away camera to capture his prize for future recording before it was cut up and divided by the team..
Weeks later I went shopping with him to our commercial center where he could also develop his films. Finishing my chores, I found him waiting outside the photo shop. I was anxious to see the pictures. With a anguished look he explained that he would not pick them up because the sales people were giving him glaring stares… I laughed and questioned why he would think people would find him so interesting. Giggling my way into the shop I observed all eyes on me as well, being that the 5 salesgirls had observed us communicating. It did seem strange, but I managed to pick up the pictures without commenting.
Stepping away from the shop and reviewing the pictures, we ascertained why the questioning look on the faces of the employees.The 3 pictures of the 300 pound animals he had killed, were there but they were among the pre-op pictures of my husband’s, headless liposuction patients, having picked up Francesco’s camera by mistake The 30 grotesque pictures of pre-liposuction nude women exposing multiple folds of hanging skin, concealed what after surgery would soon return to being boobs and butts, another meaning of B&B of Tuscany. . .
As I walked away from the dinner table one evening, my daughter joined me in the kitchen and suggested that my beautiful designer suit with white pants showed my panty line. “ Mom with those pants you have to use thongs”. I explained that I tried them to no avail and can’t understand how young girls can wear them. She explained that I might not have had the right size. If I did she insisted I would love the feeling of being panty-less. Sure enough a few weeks later I received a gift from my lovely daughter, apparently the right size. Although they rested for weeks in my lingerie drawer, one day as I selected my silky white pant suit to wear to a special event, I decided to wear Michelle’s gift. During the formal dinner that night, I excused myself to use the rest room. Upon my return to the table, I informed my husband of a funny sensation. I felt as if I had broken my water as in pregnancy or menstruating which I retired from years ago. A quick return to the rest room made me realize my daughter was right. Thongs are so comfortable that you feel as if you are panty-less on and I forgot to roll them down when I relieved myself. This was worse than having a panty line. No more thongs for me.
When my two friends came, off-season, to have face and nose surgery, they stayed in our popular chicken coop away from the main house to recuperate. One day as I was working, looking out of my office window in the front of the house, observed a car that had pulled up with 4 passengers. At the moment of their arrival, unknown to me, my friends, bandages and all, were walking in back of the house, knowing there were no customers around. Not aware of the two patients in back, I was curious when seeing out of my office window the 4 walking down our driveway, make a quick u- turn back to their car. Sitting in their car for a few minutes allowed me to go out to see what was going on, As I approached the car, a gentleman walked over to me and asked,” what kind of place is this? Is this a clinic? I thought it was a B&B. Everyone in back is bandaged.” I tried to explain that my husband is a plastic surgeon and I run the B&B. The two women hearing this from the open car window, leaned out and asked in harmony,” is he good?” Years ago in medical residency Jorge did take part in performing sex-change operations. So I answered giving a a little wiggle, arms stretched out with dropped hands, smiling said, “well, what do you think? I use to be Luigi”. With that four strange looking faces, without a comment, glanced at me as the driver hit the pedal and took off. Watching it screech down the driveway, I regretted my humor not appreciated as well as losing the possibility of having 4 reservations.
Finishing planting the tomatoes, looking at my glovelist stained and dirt filled cuticles; I began to wonder if I was right in leaving city life in California for farming? At dinner that night, Claudia, my French girlfriend, reading my mind suggested with her little French accent to “fa un appuntamento per una man-i-cure” “ make an appointment for a manicure”. Our farm hand from Sicily speaking a dialect from the South as well as having difficulty understanding the Tuscany dialect with a French accent, shook his head in disbelief. I questioned his perplexed look. I soon ascertained his misunderstanding of Claudia’s words when he answered my query by asking, “ I am so confused and don’t understand why do Americans need “appuntamento per mano in culo” meaning to have an appointment to put one’s hand up one’s a—.(culo).
You Need Horses
Shortly after arriving in Italy I invited our agricultural advisor for dinner to be informed as to what I needed to do to fulfill my agriturismo license requirements. After an hour debate over horses which I understood he insisted I must have, I became very upset being that I had no desire to have them. His insistance was leading me to leave the dinner table and possibly even Italy.. I could not tolerate at this time, more work and to have to deal with the taking care of cavalli, horses, was out of the question. He explained I would not have to ride since, a farm hand would have to do the work of transporting our olives to the mill, cut wood, and clean the fields. With a look of discuss he turned to me to explain that there was no way I could put these things in a car. With a deficiency in italian farm vocabulary, I continued to insist as well as he did until we both laughed when realizing he was referring to horsepower for my tractor and not horses.
Right Accents Important
In italian, one must be sure to put the right accent on the right syllable. I was excited to share with my dinner guests my excitement that I had just heard that Montecatini was most likely to be selected to be the town to get a casino, what a thought was a gambling location, I explained to my Italian dinner guests my excitement. “Why “? they all questioned me. My answer was to enjoy myself as well it would be very profitable for all of us. Questioning looks but no comments were made, until I added that I did not gamble but loved going to Las Vegas for fun. Giuseppe then responded that he knew that prostitution may be legal there but would not be legal in Italy. Answering to my question as to what did prostitution have to do with it, his answer was they prefer not to have a bordello in town. The confusion was eventually settled being that I had not known that the accent could have such a different meaning to a word spelled the same. I wanted a gambling house, casino, and they understood that I wanted a whore house, casino. All because I failed to put the accent on the last syllable.
JORGE’S SECOND WEEK ON THE FARM: PART 2
As Papa Antonio’s car screeched out of our driveway, I wished I could have left with him, Turning to Jorge, his face, red with anger, looked at me and asked “ what are you going to do?” I reminded him that he agreed to half a cow as well, and besides, he is the doctor.” It is just another kind of meat.” I said. Angry as all hell, Jorge went into our library and walked out with a book in hand, soon positioned upright on the kitchen counter, he proceeded to butcher the cow. I, needless to say, returned to my computer, hating any sign of blood, and certainly having no desire to assist in this new endeavor. Although it took him about 15 hours, our kitchen a bloody mess, he did an amazing job, cutting special cuts as the book suggested and putting them all in piles for me to organize into baggies. That I could do. As I piled them into our freezer, Jorge reminded me that our neighbor told him that we must rotate the meat daily since there was too much meat for our freezer having to work overtime to freeze properly. Then Jorge added, “One more cow in this house and I am out of here, you understand.?” Looking upwards to the ceiling, arms stretched high, he repeated the usual question , “ God why me?
Later that day when Papa’s wife called I heard Jorge communicate to her that yes, we do love the tongue and certainly they could have the brains. I understood the message, the head was going to arrive soon. But later that day we were asked to go to Papa Antonio’s house. Happily we went to pick up the parts we desired.. When we arrived I became aware of all the neighbors surrounding a big animal head on a butcher block in the center of their big farm yard. Our smiles vanished upon seeing Papa Antonio’s wife come towards us to greet us with an apron for Jorge and a big farm saw. I knew he was in trouble. As all the neighbors greeted us with big happy smiles followed by cheers of Bravo Bravo Dottore, I was hoping Jorge would stay calm, for I understood the next step. Although fluent in Italian he looked over to me and in perfect English asked, “What the hell do they want me to do?” My answer,” I quess, you are to perform a craniotomy on a cow?” With a forced smile on my face, I begged him in english to hide his anger and try to smile as I was doing and then I added, “You wanted the tongue.” Guess that was the only way we were going to get it. As Jorge sawed away at the skull, working hard with the unsuitable farm saw, the neighbors all shouted together, “Bravo. Bravo Dottore” as Jorge looked up heavenly asking, “ God Why Me?”
JORGE’S SECOND WEEK ON THE FARM
Enjoying beautiful Mediterranean weather, delicious fresh organic foods from our garden, laughing and having fun with our guests, did not do anything to change his mind about Italy. When Papa Antonio, our farm neighbor who has more animals then Noah’s Ark, called to ask if we might be interested in buying half of a cow, I responding yes with pleasure, especially hearing daily about the mad cow disease that was a concern in Europe at the time.. We would be reassured of quality meat knowing that Papa Antonio raises animals for his family’s consumption. I have seen him thrash the wheat himself to make into animal feed. I was pleased when at least Jorge agreed that it was a good idea, especially since we consume a great deal of meat to nourish our steady flow of vacationing guests.
Weeks passed before Papa Antonio called to say he would bring the meat over. Working in my office, I left Jorge downstairs to greet him. My intuition was that it might make him happy to get involve, talk and get to know our neighbor, put away the meat and become involved in farm life. Moments after the car arrived, I heard Jorge’s, Desi Arnez yell to Luceeee, Dashing down the stairs, entering the kitchen, I saw before me half of a headless cow, lying end to end on our kitchen work table. “ What the hell is this?” Jorge yelled. “ I guess half of a cow” I answered, knowing that it was not what he wanted to hear. Looking over to Papa Antonio I explained that I didn’t think he would bring over the animal. Papa Antonio’s answer in Italian was that he thought my husband was a doctor. Yes, I tried to explain, but not a butcher. He added, “they do the same work, meat is meat isn’t it?”.
Serving dinner to some 20 guests during Jorge’s first week at the farm, I was amused more than concerned as he continued to follow me into the kitchen while serving to complain about his itchy nipples. “ what are you talking about? “ I questioned him, disturbed that he should be so concerned for a minor itch, knowing what woman go through at times, it was annoying. I was more concerned about our guests being served their food hot and on time, then a few itches on a man’s breast. Seeing his dreadful, worried face, he continued to repeat his predicament. I continued to serve our guests, avoiding him so as not to hear his constant plea for attention. Ignoring his dilemma at first, I did become a little concerned after the guests retired to their rooms. He explained that he knew without a doubt that he was experiencing a hormonal imbalance. This would require a possible return to Newport Beach, California for a lab study. Of course this study could be done in Italy, but I interpreted it as a reason for a trip back being that he was so unhappy in Italy.
The next morning as I was preparing breakfast, I heard that loud Desi Arnez latin scream for Lucy coming from our room upstairs. As I ran up the stairs concerned that he might have fallen in the shower, I found him stepping out of the shower with a stern look of discuss.” Where is your estrogen patch? ” he asked. Pulling up my shirt, I noticed a sticky 2 inch by 1 inch border of gluey residue, framing where a patch once was placed to the right of my navel. Before I could complete my sentence of not knowing where it went, he added,” I know where it is, on the dam arch of my left foot” Apparently two days before it had slipped off my belly in the shower and somehow, got attached to his foot during his shower. When commenting that I had no idea it worked so well, he answered that it worked dam well and added if he didn’t remove it soon he might continue to see some parts of his anatomy continue to grow and others continue to shrink.
As I quickly escaped downstairs, excusing myself to resume my breakfast duties, his voice carried throughout the house as he yelled out how much he hated this country. Now tell me, what does this have to do with Italy? When he joined the rest of the group for breakfast and told his story of having experienced 48 hours of fresh estrogen, they laughed continuously for what seemed like 30 minutes. . He didn’t think it so amusing as he explained that his voice may adopt a slightly higher pitch in tone. He then looked up to the ceiling, with hands outstretch high and questioned what many have heard him ask,” Why Me God:?”