Friday, October 3, 2008
Two weekends ago, so, Sept. 20th, we visited "The Count" out in the Tuscan countryside. He is the real thing - it was extraordinary. He uses his family's land now to grow grapes for wine, and offers this tour of his property to our school because he is friends with the director, Cristina. He was extremely entertaining - as he said himself, he abhors being politically correct. Some gems from the tour (and picture this all in an English accent):
"There are three ways to lose your money: women, gambling, and wine-making. Women are the most pleasant, gambling the quickest, and wine-making the surest."
"Go ahead, pass it [the wine] around, there's enough alcohol in there to kill AIDs."
"What do you think luxury is? A yacht? A summerhouse in an exotic locale?" He says this as he fills a glass of wine from a giant barrel, "Making your own wine? No," he sloshes the wine about and pours it out, "this is true luxury." (being able to rinse your wine glass out with WINE?)
... and I remember little else very well, as he got us quick drunk at lunch. BUT I know that he took us through his family villa and showed us some truly historic items. He prohibited picture-taking as they've had trouble with THIEVES, but showed us some antique furniture (as in, 19th century antiques that have been in the villa this entire time), his traditional garden laid down hundreds of years ago (when the villa was more prosperous, it was better maintained, but there were some lime trees there in their original pots that were 200 years old), and, of all things, some books. Signed books. Books signed by Mark Twain, inscribed to his grandmother, thanking her for tea. With his real name, not just his pseudonym. OMG, I touched these books.
After the tour, most of the group hiked into town to catch a bus, but Leigh, Caelie and I opted to get a ride with The Count - for real! He gave us a ride to town as he was already headed that way to drop off his fiance at the train station. It was quite entertaining - he complained bitterly about old men in hats who drive slow (and said that in the US it's old ladies with blue hair), and complained that there are no good political jokes this election year - everyone is too touchy about a black man and/or woman in the White House. He only knew three jokes, and one of them was, "Chelsea Clinton visited the Middle East. A delegate who spoke with her said, 'There are three people I'm afraid of, Osama, Obama, and yo'mama'."
It was quite the grand adventure, seeing his home and meeting such a personality. If he and Cristina weren't friends, he might work in the SLC program, but if they weren't friends, we wouldn't get to see his villa and wine-making operation! I think he really enjoyed lecturing us about the history of the area where he lives, how wine is made (wood barrels to cement to fiberglass and, in the end, back to wood, of course), how to eat lunch properly, and complaining about everything you can think of. Ornery old man. I hope I meet him again someday, somehow. Cristina told us that his name is actually Niccolo.