Four nites and days we stayed on an amazing farm in Cortona. We were taken in as members of the family. Franca, our hostess prepared and served us amazing meals with such style and grace. We ate family style with her mother, Nonna Dina, father Nonno Vasco, husband artist Valerio, son Francesco, his girlfriend Silvia, and 2 Canadian couples.
When we arrived, I couldn't help but notice Ringo, a lovely dog in a very high cage. He is a distant cousin to my friend Betz' dog Buster, one of my fave dog pals. There is one exception, Ringo has a cropped tail. Every day my heart sank about this trapped, wonderful dog. I fantasized every day about freeing Ringo from his imprisonment. We asked our hosts if it would be ok to bring him our food scraps, Certo...certainly. One of the Canadian men tried taking Ringo for a walk, as he was missing his black lab, back home. It was fairly impossible...as Ringo pulled him furiously! Our hosts explained that if Ringo got out of the cage, he would run into town and get hit by a car. Every day my sadness grew. I would go to the cage and pet him. He gave me gentle kisses, so I knew he had a sweetness about him. I hoped somehow to free him on our last day.
I wondered about their reasoning for locking him up. I saw Nonna Dina feed him every day. She'd go to his cage and shoo him back with a stick, get him into a submissive posture before feeding him. You have to know that Nonna was about 4 feet tall, about as big as a minute...even in those high shoes she wore. As each day passed, I watched these people work their land, slowly and steadily. As time went on, I realized that they had a rhythm and a wisdom about all they did. I wondered if Ringo was really better off in that cage. Somewhere, sometime I let go and surrendered the fantasy of releasing him. Yesterday morning before we departed, as we were cleaning out the fridge, Kim handed me our small milk carton and said, "Why don't you give this to Ringo?" So I took the half empty/half full carton to pour into his bowl, which for the first time was full of water.
Hmmm. I got him to come around and perch on his dog house and slipped the carton thru the grid so he could drink. He took the carton from my hand, spilled it onto the roof of his dog house. As he licked the carton, it fell on the ground near the door of the cage. Not wanting him to eat the carton, I naively slid the metal latch on the gate, and he was out of that cage so fast and furious, I did't have a chance to catch him. Nonno Vasco who was watching all this, grabbed a hunk of bread set aside for Chicken feed and started calling the dog. "Allora Ringo" , “Well then, now then Ringo”. Ringo is already running all over the country side lifting his leg over hill and dale. I'm whistling at him and praying he doesn’t get hit by a car or knock down Nonna who looks really frail, but I suspect not. My mind is in a panic of embarrassment, thinking what a stupid, ugly American they must think of this city/valley girl, and my body furiously trying to find and capture this rascal Ringo. I see him in the lower terraced olive orchard. I call him, and he sees me. I decide to try a trick that works with my dogs. I start running back down our driveway which works! He runs after me, at least now his is in our yard-on our turf. Nonno Vasco gets his leash, and we capture him.
Vasco and I climb up the turf, slick and damp from days of morning nebbia-fog just like we have in Santa Cruz...which burns off by noon or one. We wrestle Ringo into the cage. Nonna Dina and Kim are screaming and cheering in the background. I hear my own scream, as I tumble backwards in the slick earth, toppling over a giant flower pot and Ringo is on top of me scrambling over me and Grandpa trying to hold onto him, to no avail. Flat on my back, my shoes and pants full of the wet earth, I am laughing out loud. For a split second, I think about their country wisdom, pick myself up again and am now in hot pursuit of Ringo, andiamo onto the chase! Somehow nonna grabs a stick and along with her husband of 47 years, they coax Ringo back into the cage. Grandma gets into the cage with the dog. She gets the dog into submission and grandpa can now exit. Allora, all is well, and nobody got hurt. What a laugh riot we all had, and a lot of endorphins expressed for 8:30 in the morning. I get Kim to translate for me, saying to Vasco "It would be really great if you could hook Ringo up to your plough. That dog has so much horsepower." We all kiss cheek to cheek, Buon Viaggio. How sweet it is to feel loved in this way. When they say CIAO, they don't wave their hands away from their bodies, but they pull their fingers into their hands to say come back again.
ah bella Italia!