Annesitaly, Tour Guide in Assisi, Umbria Italy

Anne Robichaud offers unique guided tours of Assisi and all Umbria's hilltop towns

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Memoirs of Rural Life

Observations on rural life will appear periodically in this section. Objective: to encourage an observation of rural life during your travel to Italy, and to entice you to seek out a firsthand rural-life experience for yourself, wherever possible. Any all-encompassing trip to Italy includes a stay on the land, for you can't have a sense of Italy without contact with the rural people, who have made Italy what it is today. (Previous articles listed below.)

"The Good Ole Days"

anne's sheepMy husband Pino and I moved to the land here in Umbria in 1975, with very little money but alot of determination and will. We wanted to work the land, experience rural Umbria. We rented an old stone farrmhouse with a terracotta roof on 8 acres of land behind Mt. Subasio which backdrops Assisi (what views!).

The road up to the house through our woods was impassable, after years of abandon. We parked our old Gilera 150 motorcyle down at the bottom of the hill and walked up with the groceries on our shoulders. The house had no electricity (which we put in after a month), no indoor bathroom and no running hot water. No central heating - just a huge fireplace (big enough to sit in- benches built into the niches) in the kitchen. A wood-burning stove supplemented the kitchen heat - and we cooked on it. No heat in the bedrooms so bedwarmers took the icy chill off the sheets in the winter.

Our first animal was a pregnant sheep, my birthday present from Pino. She was old, lame, arthritic... and cheap. From our farm neighbor, Peppe, came the first chicken - as thanks for helping him prune his vineyard (which is how we learned to prune ours). Marino gave us a pregnant rabbit (that led to alot of rabbits!) as thanks for helping him prune his olive grove (...and so we learnt to prune ours).

Each season had its tasks. Every spring, we sheared our sheep and I washed the wool down in the creek with my farm women neighbors. After the wool was carded in Assisi, a neighbor made our quilts, mattresses and pillows. Every January, the butcher came and one of the pigs was turned into prosciutto, capocollo, sausages, salami, lard (see Zsa zsa's story). My neighbors made their soap from the lard...

Pino plowed and planted all our land, chopped the firewood, milked the goats and sheep to make the cheeses. Feeding and caring for them - and the fowl, rabbits, pigs - was one of my jobs, along with the splitting of firewood, making of the pasta and putting up what came out of the vegetable garden...

We both had outside jobs to supplement our lack of income from the land. Pino went to work with the stonemasons - and is now considered the best in Assisi in the restoration of rural architecture - has a team of 14 who work with him (Happy ending: we're restoring the farmhouse - Pino's skills are evident). I started teaching English... Our businesses grew, 3 children came along... and the animals gradually "disappeared".

Only regret: too tired at night in those days to keep a diary as "Under the Umbrian Moon" would have been a good read!

Step into Italy's rural past! "My Memoirs of Rural Life" takes you on an unforgettable journey...

Umbria's Sacred June Rites
Umbria Brings in May
Blessed Easter Abundance in Umbria
November: Sweets, Saints and Cemeteries
Gathering the Olives
Bread: a "Sacred" Part of Rural Life
Grape Harvest

Ode to Alessandro
Rino Stalks the Truffles
Pig to Prosciutto
Harvest Time Past
A Fireside Chat
Concetta's Funeral
Zsa Zsa's Story
Foraging for Wild Asparagus - and Reminiscing
Novella's Last Wild Asparagus