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Our First Agriturismo

A Trip to Italy – August 1992
We got an Air UK Bae 146 to Florence airport, with a Scottish pilot who said, upon approaching Florence, that the temperature ‘downstairs’ was 33°. He also said that the runway at Florence was rather short and that therefore the landing would be a functional rather than pretty one, though easily managed by the sophisticated technology of this *British-built* aircraft.
Old-fashioned airline pilots like that don’t exist any more, do they?
We got off and casually walked to the airport building which was under reconstruction, with a sign that said, ‘Your inconvenience today will be more than rewarded tomorrow!’
To get to the toilets in the airport one had to step over the tools and live cables of a man fixing the electrics. The loos were marble and tile, probably unchanged since the 1960s, with cables hanging down the walls that had about two inches of dust on them.
We hired a little Lancia Y10 with a worn-out centre of the steering wheel from too much pressing of the horn. At first, it was fitted with a child seat in the back, but I muchly amused the car hire clerks by passing this through the window of their cubbyhole and so creating some Italian confusion (We were novices to Italy at this time, and unaware that such episodes of confusion invariable cause delight and mirth).
Then on to our agriturismo run by Andrea, with a fine collection of baggy shorts, and Berta, who speaks good English with a deep voice, and smiles a lot.
In the agriturismo there are staying:
a. Two German-speaking Swiss, maybe just married, who are first with the sun-loungers by the pool each morning and who never go anywhere. They spend their time getting browner, Mrs having two swimming costumes so as to spread the white bits. They have little to say to each other and spend much of the day playing board games. After dinner, though, with a half litre of red down them, they sit on the terrace and are quite voluble.
b. Two German-Germans, a roly-poly man and a bony lady with red-painted toenails. Like the Swiss they appear to speak no Italian and are similarly isolated, though they do at least go sightseeing.
c. Two Italians, a man we call the Etruscan with an Etruscan haircut, curly grey, and an Etruscan beard, long and down-pointing and with a moustache that stops short of his nose. His wife, who looks older than him, like him smokes all the time and has a terrible smoker’s laugh and rasping voice. She is frightened of insects.
On the first night in the restaurant a giant moth flew in – big as a bat. Mrs Etruscan ran out with her head down and would not return until Mr Etruscan had turned off all the lights and waved his napkin about, with the aim of convincing the moth that outside was a saner place to be.
After dinner, Mr & Mrs Etruscan sit by the pool and talk, Mrs waving her cigarette in the air energetically to keep the bugs at bay.
d. Initially, Mr & Mrs Bradshaw, schoolteachers from Oxford. Mr Bradshaw cleaned the surface of the pool with a net so that his wife might have a swim, and spent the rest of his time reading in a deskchair with a white cap on his head. They left on Thursday.
e. There have been two sets of young Italians who have nothing whatever to say to each other.
f. On Friday, Mr Spindlylegs and Mrs Frumpyshoes arrived. Seriously academic-looking. At least they have plenty to say to each other in the restaurant. Mr Spindlylegs goes into the pool, but only to swim widths. He daringly borrowed the Swiss-German’s sun lounger one evening – after they had gone to get dressed for dinner.
More on this tale to follow when I get round to it.


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