One hot July Michele announced "Tomorrow we are going to see that villa you posted on my Facebook page last month" and me sick of the Florentine heat and the beach...agreed it would be a good idea. To our dismay the next morning, and in contrast to what the weather report said the night before...it was raining. "Should we go?" Michele asked. The thought of our two boys running around the house all day, and me being the referee exclaimed "Yes, yes, let's go!" I bundled the boys up, as it was ironically a cold day in July, complete with wellies, rain coats and all other accessories and we packed them in the car. What trip would be complete without first stopping at our favourite local pasticerria? So we did that---then a stop at the gas station for gas and snacks---and then we were off! Cruising down the A1 was a piece of cake---even though it was pouring down rain and not relenting for even a minute. Our oldest son, Matteo, can't sit still even a second and we got the stereotypical 'Are we there yet?' every 5 minutes or so. I had made a mix playlist the night before with summer jams and decided to turn it up every time he asked me that question and wasn't satisfied with the answer I had given him. We exited in Chiusi and drove along the country roads. At that point we turned on the GPS---I set my GPS with a British accent. You have to keep things classey when getting directions. We found it amusing at it tried to pronounce Italian street names, and then annoyed as we had no idea what it was saying. We also thought it was crazy when 45 minutes later it told us to turn onto a dirt road and saying we still had 20 minutes more to go. Turns out it wasn't. I felt like we had travelled back in time. It is very rare to drive anywhere in Italy and not come across a house or some sign of civilisation, but that day there was very little of either. The dirt road was lined with broom bushes bursting with yellow flowers. I would have loved to have opened the window and get a whiff of its enchanting smell---but the rain was coming down even harder now. Twenty-five minutes later the GPS said 'arrived'. We were about 20 minutes early for our appointment, but it didn't seem like the place was open---or that anyone lived there. We drove around it...no hint as to who or what was inside. To our relief we saw a camper and two other cars when we came back around. Michele rolled down his window and in heavy Tuscan slang asked the middle aged balding man in the camper " Is this the entrance to the villa?" "I hope so" he said in a strong northern accent, smiling at Michele's accent "the gps took us here" I wasn't feeling super confident at that moment. Sorry GPS, you don't have the best reputation---even if you do have a posh accent. A couple of minutes passed. All of the sudden the gates opened, and a middle aged dark haired man emerged from behind the gates sporting two hunting dogs. He was completely geared up for the rain with an umbrella, wellies, rain coat, and special rain pants! My thoughts were, " Sophisticated Italian gentry". We geared up our kids---against Matteo's pleas to leave him in the car so he could play on his iPad...put the baby, Giovanni, in the stroller complete with rain cover and proceeded inside of the gates. As we all piled in the gate the man collected our money, We were in the courtyard of a romanesque monastery, built to keep raiders out---there was no escape. I wasn't all impressed and honestly a bit disappointed. I thought ' Did we just drive 2 hours for this?" All of us congregated at the far end of the yard under the porch of the monastery. The man then began to bar the gates. It is at that moment I heard shots in the distance. I glanced down at my phone, no signal. The man began speaking to us and the more he talked the more I realised he may be a genius or stark mad. Profanity started racing out of his mouth as he explained how he inherited the property. " The man I inherited it from was an a$$"£". A bit shocked from this tangent he had started down, my husband whispered under his breath " Sounds like your the a$$%&$, you got this cool property for nothing." The man from the camper asked the mad man " What are those shots I hear in the distance"--- "They are hunting wolves" he replied. "Wolves?" camper man exclaimed "There are no wolves in Umbria!" "Well then why did you ask the question? I mean I am so sick of people trying to take over MY tour---stay in your place dic£$%! Now, as I was saying this villa was originally a Franciscan monastery. Did you think Francis knew this place would become a voyage through space and time? The man who built the structures we are going to see designed this garden off of a novel with only three words written in it." The mad man then turned his head to the side and let out a guttural laugh, his teeth protruding from his gums--like a donkey when it brays. No one else was laughing---we were all looking at each other. I looked down at Matteo to see if he had noticed the string of profanities. He looked up at me and with a circular motion of his fingers to his temple said "This man's crazy mom." I looked at the other bystanders---the French tourists also had a look of panic in their face. Maybe more than me as they had no idea what he was saying. They could only guess by his gestures, tone, and deranged laughter. We heard shots firing again in the distance. Panic started racing through my chest---should we have come here?
Stay tuned for next week's finale!