On Tuesday morning, we woke up to glorious Tuscan sun streaming through the lucernari. Breakfast of home-made dolci and fresh espresso awaited us downstairs, where Daniel and Oana greeted us with smiles. We gorged ourselves on Italian pastries and prepared for a day in the country.
Dressed in our pilgrim uniform of Project brand white T's and black pants, we set out, blisters and all, for the walk of a lifetime. Our destination: UNKNOWN!
After strolling through the castello di Bagnone, we took a steep and treacherous "shortcut" and discovered the slippery, silent killer of the Italian countryside - wet moss! We trekked through Bagnone and beyond towards the medieval town of Malgrate, stopping to chat with many friendly locals. One gentleman, especially excited to learn of our visit, described an unbelievable phenomenon known for miles around. Cameras ready, we continued down the road and there it was, the most amazing sighting yet: Roberta Cavalla the Wonder Horse and her lover Giuseppe the goat! In a spectacular feat of interspecies acrobatics, upon seeing us approach Giuseppe scaled a stone wall, shimmied a wooden rail, and leapt onto the back of his equine companion. Shutters clicking, we cheered the two on and continued on our way.
After touring a silent Malgrate, the inhabitants of which were in mid-siesta, we returned to Bagnone (paying our respects to Roberta and Giuseppe on the way) for a quick lunch of focacce. In keeping with the day's theme of extraordinary farmyard friends, we also gained the company of a merry cane! Unaware that he commonly goes by the name Pippo and is known to ride the bus between villages, we christened our mutt Alejandro as he led the way back towards our hotel.
Our day, though, was hardly over. Not only did we return to see our luggage safely delivered -- we also had an invitation from Professore Loris Jacopo Bononi of nearby Castiglione del Terziere. An incredible character who once taught Pharmacology and worked as the head of Pfizer's European branch, he conducted research central to the discovery of synthetic endorphins. After working in Southport, Connecticut for nearly twenty years, the Professore returned to his homeland to purchase a rambling and run-down castle, constructed in stages between the 8th and 15th centuries. With his wife, he lovingly restored the structure and proceeded to fill it with cultural relics pertaining to the history of the area. To tour his home was a truly unbelievable experience, as we were shown a first edition copy of Dante's Divine Comedy, Durer's Symmetry of the Body, and works of art spanning periods from prehistory to Arts and Crafts. Both he and his wife spoke eloquently, describing their love for poetry, conservation, and Italian history. Over coffee and pastries, he expressed his heartfelt joy to see young people who shared his interest in history and culture. He saw us to the door with words of how our visit inspired hope in him for Italy and humanity.
With his kind benediction in our hearts, we returned to Gardino della Luna for a different transitory experience - dinner!