Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In Hope that Roots Will Remain Roots

Rico and I are enjoying a relaxing vacation here in Peci, Savogna d'Isonzo district, Friuli Venezia Giulia province, Italy. We are far off the beaten path, away from all the stereotypical aspects of the tourist's Italia. This is how I like it.

Italy for me - at least this particular pre-alpine, cultural and national mish-mash, sometimes painfully provincial part of the country - is about family. It is about childhood memories of sunbathing at Grado, riding my pink bicycle Dino around the public gardens of Gorizia, collecting cherries and figs by the basketfull in the bosco behind my grandmother's house, and exploring every nook and cranny of the property that is filled with antiques and family history.

Italy is about the very real challenge that this magnificent home that has been in my family for hundreds of years must either be turned into some sort of self-sustainable enterprise, or we risk losing it to God knows what fate. My grandmother is in excellent health, but she is 86 years old and nobody is on this earth forever. Rico and I have been enjoying this mini-holiday immensely, but each night as we sit by the open fireplace and sip on a glass of wine, we engage in endless brainstorming about how to save the house(s) in Peci - there are three of them, after all: the old house, the new house, and a garden-less property across the street. We consider all the aspects that maintaining this family legacy would entail, slowly chewing over the possibilities and starting to ask ourselves if we are up to the task of taking on this challenge.

The other day my grandmother announced that she had a present, collectively, for us grandchildren, that is if we were at all remotely interested in what she had to offer. Rico nearly fell out of his chair when she said she'd like to give us my great-great-grandmother's old 1938 convertible Fiat! It is in remarkably good condition, still with the original white convertible top and shiny black exterior. For having sit for decades in such a humid climate, there is surprisingly little rust on the body. We opened up the car and had a look at the engine and then the dusty interior, and Rico and I knew that we were certainly interested in this gift. I don't know about my cousins Jeff and Lauren - we will have to consult them - but I imagine they might be interested in this restoration project as well.

Today Rico and I are going to hike the Sentiero Rilke, a beautiful coast-hugging path that connects the towns of Sistiana and Duino. We will have a mixed salad and fresh eggs for lunch that a neighbor brought by, then some raspberries and blueberries for dessert that we purchased yesterday in the mercado in Gorizia. I've been gorging myself on figs since we arrived, and keep promising myself that "this will be the last one. Just one more perfect fig, then I'll stop eating them." Apparently my promises to self aren't as iron-clad as they once were, as I'm now realizing that I'll probably make myself sick before I voluntarily stop wolfing down the divine fruits.

Being here undeniably feels like home in many ways. I'd hate to lose all of the memories and possibilities, but it is no easy situation that my family and I face. Yet again I am overwhelmed by the desire to clone myself so that there can be 4 or 5 Ali's running around the world: one for Peci, one for the Casa Rosa, one for New Mexico, one to be near my parents and dear relatives, one to be wherever there is good money to be made, and one to be permanently on a tropical beach. Until then, it is back to the brainstorming, in the desperate hope that inspiration will strike in just the right combination with financial prosperity, and that we will find a solution for all of these magnificent homes that I can't imagine living without.


Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I guess the obvious one would be a b&b but that's a lot of work. Would it be possible to rent them out as vacation homes? That's quickly becoming the best/cheapest way to see European countries since hotels are so expensive.

Do you have land? There was a story in the WSJ recently about a lot of old Italian grape farms/wineries growing a certain fruit (was it pomegranate?)-I don't remember. If you're in a good climate part of Italy (sorry, I don't recognise the names you listed to associate it with one of the regions) would it be possible to farm your land for some sort of exotic fruit that's much desired but will be increasingly expensive to transport from other areas?

Sorry the best I could come up with were hospitality and agriculture!

Ali la Loca said...

~Monkey - That's pretty much what we were thinking. Peraps boutique hotel? Definitely luxury, as the location is not known (although it is incredibly beautiful and near the mountains, beach, borders, etc.) we would have to find a way to draw people there...It's a good region for white wines, figs, apples, pears, pomegranate and several types of nuts. Also thinking small-scale agriculture, for sure. It's still brainstorming at this point, but we'll see where it goes...