It’s official. There’s no turning back. Isn’t that what non-refundable means? As in the purchase of roundtrip airline tickets at the lowest rate possible, as in a deal too good to pass up. Even if we didn’t want to go, we’d have to anyway. Okay, so maybe we could change the dates and pay extra for that privilege but we’d still have to go. So, we might as well make the best of it; try to enjoy ourselves now during the planning and later when we eventually get there. Transportation is A-ok, under control. We’ve already reserved our rental car, as usual a manual transmission because those precious automatics are held back for the corporate clients, which leaves us … well, you know, out of luck.
Yes, Hubby D and I are returning to Italy this summer. As in the past, he’ll be using his Piemontese dialect (a bastardization of French and Italian) to communicate with the Italian relatives while I’m taking notes and photos to wrap up my next novel in the Savino Sisters Mystery Series. Most of this current WIP (work-in-progress) takes place in the foothills of the Italian Alps, about forty miles north of Torino (Turin), with action centered on Piedmont villages such as Pont Canavese, Cuorgnè, and Castellamonte. And since my novels tend to focus on flawed or misguided characters caught up in crime, betrayal and passion, expect something bad, illegal, or immoral or any combination thereof to happen along the way.
My yet-to-be-named WIP will be a continuation of Italy To Die For, which means Ellen and Margo Savino will travel along the Italian Riviera from Cinque Terre to Genoa before heading north. D and I will also spend a few days on the outskirts of Genoa, visiting with relatives while soaking up the sun-drenched atmosphere and tracing the route my characters will be taking. If I close my eyes right now, I can conjure up memories of the Liguria Region, envision sloping vineyards perched above the coast, smell the vagrant flowers that grow bigger and better with less effort than elsewhere, taste the salty air blowing in from the bluer-than-blue Mediterranean, or as the Italians prefer, the Ligurian Sea.
And speaking of vineyards, I think a trip to the Piedmont Region’s Barolo vineyards might be in order. The last time D and I attempted to find Barolo on our own, we were armed with a myriad of instructions that didn’t pan out. Frustrated, we stopped for a mid-afternoon meal, killed a bottle of wine between us, and then headed back to Minichin, our pensione high in the foothills overlooking those villages I mentioned earlier. No way can we go back to Italy without spending a few days in Colleretto’s Minichin, a stone’s throw from la cappella di San Elisabetta, the chapel of St. Elizabeth that overlooks seven villages below. On a typical morning outside Minichin it feels as if we’re walking in a cloud of fog. Oh wait a minute, we are. At night the stars shine as bright as those in Montana’s Big Sky country and down below, beyond those seven villages, we can trace the lights bordering Torino’s airport runway. Did I mention that we’ll be spending some time as house guests of the relatives who visited us in 2012? What a marvelous reverse opportunity, to experience a foreign country from the perspective of those who have lived there all their lives. I’m talking gallon jugs of homemade red wine, sautéed wild mushrooms, braised cinghiale (wild boar) and Bambi (no need to translate).
A few winding miles from our hosts’ small village is one slightly larger, Cintano, population 262, where D’s father lived as a boy and often returned as an adult in the 1920s when there were twice as many residents as now. Lack of work took families to Torino and beyond Torino to America. Those descendents fortunate enough to have access to the family homes now use Cintano as summer retreats in the refreshing alpine.
Further up on this same foothill is the even tinier village of D’s mother. Her centuries-old family home was attached to three others, typical for that region and era. Most of the structure has been declared a ruin, condemned and unsafe to enter. Except at the far end, in which one portion has been brought back to life and is now occupied.
Twenty minutes north and closer to Gran Paradiso National Park are the villages of my maternal grandmother and grandfather. Both family homes are undeniable ruins but D and I will visit them again, just as we’ve done in the past. There’s something about standing on the land of one’s ancestors, of taking in the glorious view of distant villages below, of wondering how life was when they lived there and what it took for them to leave for a better life elsewhere.
Yes, aside from the research, there’s more than one reason for going back again.