The Dogs Always Find Me

I drove with some trepidation at first, in the rental car, as we pecked our way around the tight Fiumicino Airport parking garage and escaped into the airport streets. The nav apps aren’t always familiar with the most up-to-date traffic patterns, so I had to do my own thing for a time until our courses could match.

Soon we were free of the constraints of the airport and found ourselves on the autostrada, heading north along the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

We eventually veered eastward toward Tarquinia and Tuscania. After somewhat less than an hour of driving, the phone directed me to exit the freeway. We cut through Tarquinia and were in the countryside, careening around corners, testing the car, and headed in a generally eastward direction.

I had a blast on this drive, although Lisa commented that she regretted not having taken her dramamine.

We didn’t have an address to go by, just a location I had extrapolated from an Air BnB listing that they have, but it was enough.

We were instructed that the gate was open, but I don’t know if this alone would have sufficed (although Lisa told her I knew where we were going).

Up the long drive way, edged by stately olive trees, we drove. We parked the car and were promptly greeted by Lisa’s aunt and cousins. They welcomed us with excitement and generosity. I immediately felt like family.

We were met, as well, of course, with pasta (lombrichelli, literally translated as worms) all’ amatriciana, sausage, salame, porchetta. And wine – plenty of wine.

And there were the two family dogs, Guccio and Daisy, who were everywhere all at once.

Best of all, there were family stories, through most of which I sat back, listened, and enjoyed myself. There’s something great about listening to people recount personal tales to each other. It’s like seeing the colors of their life background filled in around them. And I get to see them light up in joy as they share memories.

There was more food offered, but neither Lisa nor I was especially hungry so we declined and just kept talking.

After a while I took a walk around the grounds, just to move my legs a bit, the exhaustion of the journey threatening to overwhelm me. The walk to the road was refreshing, and on the way back, the neighbor’s dogs guided my steps.

Returning, it was clear that Lisa’s aunt (Flora) wouldn’t allow us to sleep too early, so we continued to talk and get to know each other. Well after dark, despite our initial protests, more food was readied, and we learned about the cantina downstairs, where the house olive oil and wine are kept.

Of course we had to explore.

Millennia ago this was an Etruscan tomb, and this mere fact, and the casualness of it, amazes me. The Etruscans were everywhere in this region, well before the Ancient Romans came.

Back upstairs, bread for the bruschetta was toasted to perfection in the fireplace.

And finally I tasted the house oil. It truly came from this estate and was a surreal shade of green, tasting incredibly grassy and bitter. It was lovely.

Sated beyond any reasonable expectations, we at last had earned Flora’s permission to find our beds. And I promptly fell fast asleep.

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