Stefania called in March. The members of the family had agreed to converge in Siena sometime in early May, date undecided, for the sale and transfer of title. Until now, I'd had a very maybe-it-will-and-maybe-it-won't-happen attitude. Now it seemed all too real. To out Italian the Italians, we would go over at the beginning of May and give ourselves a whole month to arrange the transfer of money from the States, the sale, the buying of permits, everything. That seemed like plenty of time.
These are the first tools I packed in my suitcase. Note the blue machete and the red sledge hammer.
May 2, 2007. Arrived in Tuscany and went immediately to the property, jet-lag and all. Somehow I could see more clearly the work that was needed RIGHT NOW. It was a riot of vegetative chaos. More grapevines had fallen over and died, their support stakes and trellises rotten and snapped. Living trees had been used as trellis posts and many were being girdled with trellis wire. And then there were the clematis vines (vitalba) strangling and pulling whole peach and cherry trees to the ground. Many trees had branches broken under the weight of last season's untended fruit. And there was junk everywhere. If I was going to buy all this in 2 weeks, I needed to know what was here, and I needed a plan for discovering it. That plan was to begin quietly hacking my way through the vines right away.
May 3. The first thing we had to do if we were going to transact any business at all in Italy, was get a Codice Fiscale. It's like a social security number but for taxes to. Stefania took us to Siena to get it, and then to Montalcino to open a bank account so we could transfer the money and write checks at the time of the sale. When we got back to Villore, Sally went immediately to bed. Me? I had to know what was under all that vine. So I borrowed Russell's four-wheel Suburu and went over to the property to begin the triage of trees and vines. And began whacking away with the machete.
That day, I liberated 8 grapevines, 5 peach trees, a big cherry tree, and one plum tree from the smothering vines. All the while a solitary bird in a nearby tree mocked "Cuckoo. Cuckoo. Cuckoo."