Thursday, April 25, 2013


I like doors. Like many before me I am sure, I have spent much of my
Tuscany-visit camera roll documenting doors, walls, archways and
towers. I like the architecture of doors, the decoration, the
knockers, and of course, the churches or homes they give entry to.
This is a place of doors, and while all of the doors have their own
peculiarities, two particular Tuscan doors will leave me with a
lasting memory.

Following our first day of class, our newest friend and teaching chef,
Luciano, offered to drive us to Lucca and Pisa. We
jumped at the opportunity, but all agreed that our best bet would be
to take the left over Osso Buco, Crepes Carciofi, Rissoto and
Pannacotta up to our Villa home before our 70km drive to walled city
of Lucca. That way, when we return to Villa Rosa - a four bedroom
home on the estate named Pandolfini in the Firenze suburb of Lustra
Signa - we'll have a snack in the fridge. At the top of the winding
ride to the top of the hill, Luciano tugged on the emergency break of
his car, we flipped open the doors, and unloaded.

"Paully you have the key, right?" hinted granny. My 'uh-oh what did I
do with that key' moment was short-lived as I dug the old key from the
back pocket of my jeans. I knew the lock and door were tricky because
Meaghan - our hostess for the week - had given me instructions on how
to unlock the door. Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle, click.

I swung open the door to the curious sound of running water. Water
pooled on the floor of the entry way. Water cascaded down the short
stair, then settled a few inches deep in the hundreds-of-years-old
kitchen, water dripped from the ceiling. In my room, the lowest point
in the house, my suitcase floated in a deep pool, and only the items I
had sloppily left on the bed were dry. Rain poured from the window
sill along the far wall; all I could do was stare in amazement.

"Whadowe?" "Omy" "Holy"

I was honestly more worried about the house than anything, but I guess
if a house has been standing for almost 1000 years, it has probably
seen much worse.

We had reported a slow leak that morning, prior to leaving for class,
to the always-in-a-hurry li'l old Italian man who stopped by to check
an external pump on the house. In his hurry, he gestured that he
would come back with a wrench later; we headed on to school.

All wet.

The nice thing was that my clothes were clean - Villa
Pandolfini sits on spring water. Our kind keepers, Meaghan and
Mossimo, moved us to another home on the property, Cipressa, gave my
clothes a proper Tuscan line dry - I wouldn't need to visit a
laundromat to make it through my two-week trip - and Luciano said,
"Good thing we brought the food, If we go Lucca first, you swim to
your room."

The next morning we woke at Cipressa, headed off to school, and after another full
menu, did make our way, via Luciano(and his Chinese-ish driving, which
I am now discovering is also just Italian driving) to Lucca. What a
fantastic place. The city is old, maybe 1200, and the massive city
wall is still somehow intact. Bell towers and churches adorn every
road, and the city is alive with University students, children playing
soccer in churchyards, and shoppers toting expensive bags.

The train is lifestyle in Tuscany, and while Lucianio happily delivered us TO
Lucca, he also showed us the train station FROM, and told us, "go here, buy
ticket, go to Signa." to get home. He then gave us the
swipe-of-the-hands-with-open-palms, indicating, "that's it," and he
left us to our touring.

We did have to change trains in Pisa Centrale, so when we arrived
in Pisa - the last and most popular stop on the line - we got up with everyone else
and disembarked the train. No Problem, we can handle this.

Granny encouraged me to see the tower while I was in Pisa, so Rita and
I walked to the tower while Granny and Joan took a coffee - or wine -
near the station. When we returned, we caught the next train to

The muted voice on the train intercom sounded like,

I turned to Rita, "What? Is this our stop?"

"I'm not sure, I think that's what he said."

The train slowed. Noone else moved. Unlike the busy exodus we
experienced in Pisa, it appeared we were the only suckers trying to
leave this train in Signa. I looked out the window; useless.

Screeech, clunk. The train rocked and settled to a stop. Fairly calm
on the outside, I felt the spasm in my mind, "whada we do?" "Sh'we get
off?" "I'da know?"

We pushed the 'open door' button and stepped from our car into the
causeway between cars; the same as the subway in Philadelphia, the
Metro in DC, the railway in Beijing.


Two red door handles stared back at us. Joan pulled them - nothing.
She tugged them - nothing. She twisted them - nothing.

I dismissed the concerns, "this can't be our stop...doors aren't open.
It's gotta be an emergency exit."

Maybe we were stopped short of the station, waiting for a train to clear.

After a 30 second gasp, in which I am sure the conductor saw
no one leave his train, the vehicle bumped into action; we looked at
each other in confusion. We knew we had missed our stop.

Rita broke the silence. "Where's Signa?" She pleasantly asked the
Italian woman nearby.

Fist with thumb out, pumped over her left shoulder, the woman
indicated, "back there."


We belly laughed, stayed on the train to the next stop, and hopped a
cab back to the front door of Villa Rosa.

Fiddle, fiddle, click, and the door opened. It was dry, mostly; my
now-dryish clothes were neatly folded on my bed; the windows were open
and the Tuscan breeze was airing the home, and Granny's Limoncello was
waiting for us in the freezer.

I opened the door and twisted the top.


Sent from the iPad of
Paul R. Koch

Biscotti and vin santo gelato

Pollo ai Pistacci

Deboned chicken rolled with pistachio, sausage, fontina cheese,
mortadella - c'mon!!