Tuesday, September 17
We’ve come to the end of our time in Rome! Cicagna, the town where we’re staying tonight, is up in the hills of the north. The driving at that end would be challenging, and more difficult if we arrived in the dark. In addition, we intended to drive through Florence on our way. All of those considerations called for a fast getaway this morning, so bright and early we were up and packed for breakfast. A quick goodbye to the sisters (and paying the bills), and we were off in cabs for the EuropAuto office.
We had some delay at EuropAuto. We were to pick up three cars, and only two were ready at 9:30; one hadn’t been delivered yet. It soon arrived, but by the time we were on the road it was nearly 10:30.
We reached Florence about 1:30, and our three drivers dropped off the rest of us in the city center. For the next two hours, we were able to enjoy one of the world’s most beautiful cities. A number of great statues, including Ammannati’s Fountain of Neptune and a copy of Michelangelo’s David, take up much of the Piazza. From there it was a short walk to the Duomo, or cathedral. The cathedral is shocking: you turn a corner and suddenly a gorgeous 200-foot church is standing a few feet in front of you. Very beautiful, very surprising.
We met up with our drivers near the Ponte Vecchio, and we began the rest of the ride to Cicagna. This is when we start to talk about the crazy cities of the north.
Evidently, a couple of centuries ago the nearby town of Soglio was awash with the Lavezzo clan. Our great-great-great-grandfather, GB (probably Giovanni Baptista) Lavezzo, and his wife Caterina Lavezzo, were both from Soglio. That’s right, they both had the last surname. Personally, I think that the idea of calling their children the “Lavezzi” (which would be a plural for “Lavezzo”) probably started as a linguistic joke; it’s certainly the sort of thing I would have done.
GB and Caterina settled in Bettola, today a harrowing ninety-minute drive from Soglio over the mountains bordering the Buonafontana Valley. One of their sons, our great-great-grandfather Costantino, came back to Romaggi, in the Cicagna area, to marry our great-great-grandmother, Rosa Raggio. After Costantino’s death, Rosa and their children, including my great-grandfather Giovanni, emigrated to Chicago in the late 1860s and early 1870s–just before the Great Chicago Fire.
For today, however, the main business was settling us into our accommodations for the night, in a bed-and-breakfast in Cicagna called La Novellina. Once unpacked, it was time to look for dinner. We headed into the town of Piano Dei Ratti to try the Pizzeria da Robertone. Robertone was a bit mystified by the unheralded arrival of eleven Americans, but he and his staff entertained us with great hospitality. We didn’t even attempt to order. Once he made it clear that he would personally see to our dinner, he began serving pairs of plates, one for each end of the table. We lost count, but I think there were a dozen pairs of plates, most of them some sorts of pizza or similar flatbread. They started with sautéed polenta and ended with Nutella calzones. That’s a little more than one pizza per person, along with several bottles of wine and water. We felt pretty happy to pay the bill, which amounted to €160.
The place was pretty raucous, with a fiftieth birthday party and a family dinner also going on, and each of us joining in the other celebrations. Before we left, Robertone invited us to join him for a “digestive,” which turned out to be, basically, shots. Except for our drivers, we obliged.
We headed back to La Novellina ready to fall into our beds before the adventures planned for tomorrow.