It was a tourist day in Spello, a warm, Sunday afternoon in September and Jessica and I sat in front of Enoteca Properzio drinking wine (of course) and watching the multi-national throng walk up and down the main via of the town. Finally, among the many unfamiliar faces, we spotted the familiar ones of Francesco and Colleen, just arrived from Cisternino, led by Trilogy, the three-legged dog that Colleen had rescued and brought back to health. We greeted each other as good friends, well met, that had been separated too long, with many kisses and hugs. Two more glasses were quickly brought and filled.
“Where is your car?” I asked Francesco.
“We leave it in the car park up the hill from here,” he said and I knew the place well.
“When a space opens later in front of the enoteca,” I suggested, “you can move your car down. Roberto will make sure that you don’t get a ticket. If you leave your car overnight where it is, you’ll either be putting money in the meter all night or you’ll be fined.”
“There is something we have to tell you,” said Colleen in a tone that sobered the moment. “It seems that, since the cistern water is not being used as often as it should, it has turned stagnant. We drained some if it and had it replaced with new water, but it still smells a bit of rotten egg.”
“What I think,” said Francesco, “is that, when you get to the house, you run the water for a while and it may be okay. If not, there is a chemical that you can put into the cistern to clear the water.”
As anxious as we were to be at Villa Tutto again, smelly water would be nothing but a minor annoyance, even if our first house guests were to arrive the day after we got there. Greg and Laura were good friends and easy-going enough to both understand and to cope.
As Francesco, Colleen, Jessica and I chatted, a bit of a commotion erupted at the doorway into the enoteca. Three new arrivals, intercepted by Irene, were hurriedly unpacking sheet music, a guitar and other paraphernalia. Irene saw us and quickly came running over to our table.
“This guy,” she said referring to the thirty-something, dark-haired, unshaven man frantically tuning a guitar, “he is a famous singer in Denmark. A man flew him here as a birthday surprise for his wife who is a big fan of his and he is going to sing to her.” And she hurried off to lead the now-ready performer back to the courtyard and the birthday girl. We returned to our stinky water conversation when we were pleasantly interrupted by Irene.
“I tell the Danish that our very good friends are here and they asked if you could join them.” Without hesitation, we grabbed our glasses and followed Irene through the enoteca and out the back door into a lovely courtyard. The party was well underway, the surprise having been sprung and the guest of honor duly overwhelmed by the sight and sound of Kim Wagner, her musical idol. He sang a number of songs, some solo, some with the dreadlocked man who showed up with him, and one with his wife. Among the solo numbers was “Nessun Dorma,” an aria from Turandot, and “Hey, Jude.” You can watch a few minutes of Kim Wagner performing at Enoteca Properzio at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8T1cK7sojg. (And, if you look closely, you can see Jessica walk out the door and into the courtyard.) The Danes, who spoke English seemingly as their native language, welcomed us warmly and we joined the party as though we had been original invitees.
When it ended, though, we found ourselves, all of us, a bit tired and we still had a birthday party to go. So the four of us went up to the parking lot, fed the parking station some more euros, got the luggage out of Francesco’s car and retired to our respective apartments.
The table was set for the birthday celebration when we arrived a few hours later back at the enoteca.
It was then that I noticed that a parking space had opened just in front of the enoteca and I suggested that Francesco run up to the parking lot where he had left his car and move it to the empty space. While he was retrieving the car, Colleen, Jessica and I stood in the vacant space, on guard for anyone who might consider leaving his car there. Sure enough, a right-hand drive, Astin Martin DB9 eases up the hill and the driver moves to slide the beautiful machine into the only empty space in sight, the one we were protecting until Francesco arrived.
“Riservato,” Colleen told the driver in her British-accented Italian.
“Riservato?” responded the driver, likewise, with a British lilt. “How can you do that?” he said, obviously quite miffed and clearly unused to such treatment.
“Sorry,” said Colleen with a shrug.
The DB9 purred up the hill a few feet and parked within feet of the table that had been beautifully set for the birthday party. The driver, a large, gray-haired man, and a perfectly coiffed and attired woman got out of the car and headed into the enoteca. Roberto intercepted them on the way in and I knew immediately that we had offended a good customer of his.
Francesco showed up at that moment and pulled his car into the space as I went to meet the newly-arrived couple and make amends. Roberto introduced the couple, I apologized for the perceived breach of parking etiquette and explained the necessity to have the car parked there. When Roberto asked if they could join the party and I responded enthusiastically in the affirmative, all of the earlier drama disappeared, we took seats at the table and the wine began to flow.
The couple from Great Britain proved to be very interesting. He is from England and she from Colombia. They spend about half of their time in England and the rest at their home in Umbria. The property consists of two residences — one, a six bedroom and the other with four — and a large olive grove. They live in the smaller residence and rent the larger one to vacationers. He created this idyllic life by building and selling software businesses. His prowess was revered in the UK and he developed relationships with members of the royal family, including the Queen. As I listened to him talk about such things, I hearkened back to “riservato.” Oh, well, I thought, ingratiating myself to the Queen of England was never high on my list of “things to do” anyway.
The food and the wines exceeded any expectation we could have had. The pasta with cinghiale (wild boar) was rich and imbued with fresh herbs so that scarpette (little shoes), pieces of bread used to collect every last drop of the sauce, were used by all.
I did feel somewhat sorry for Colleen and Jessica since, they being non-meat eaters, had no opportunity to experience this rustic and very Umbrian treat. I didn’t feel too badly for them though, as they showed no signs of deprivation.
The depth of Roberto’s generosity was on display as one incredible bottle was followed by another. Among the wines we enjoyed that night was one by Tua Rita, a Redigaffi merlot, on which Robert Parker had bestowed 100 points.
Then, the birthday cake arrived and I made a wish…
…blew out the candle…
…and watched Roberto open yet another bottle of perfection.
As much as we all wanted the night to continue, we had an early morning and six-hour drive home to Puglia, a drive Jessica and I were most anxious to make. We bid “buona notte” to everyone and went back to the apartment for the sleep that would have to carry us through the next day’s travels.
And, as it turned out, it was a long day of travel.
Two notes: first, thank you to Colleen and Francesco for providing the photos in this post. They are each worth more than a thousand words.
Second, after reading this, you all will certainly be wanting to buy wines from Enoteca Properzio and to visit Spello. For more information on the wines and the apartments in Spello, check out the website at http://www.enoteche.it. (Click on the British flag in the upper right for the English version.)
Next: A Very Buon Compleanno – Act III, Scene 1: Puglia