Saturday, September 24, 2016


     I owe my daughter big time for this one.

     Friday we had big plans to head north to the Caserta area for a day of touring.  First stop was a tour of the Reggia, the palace complex of the Bourbon kings of the Kingdom of Sicily and Naples.  Most Americans like me don’t realize that during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this kingdom was perhaps the most powerful in the world, and that Naples was a world capitol.  A crude marker of that status is the fact that the Reggia is actually larger than the complex at Versailles.  The rest of the day was to be devoted to a tour of a local winery and then, if time permitted, a side trip to a Roman amphitheatre discovered only 15 years ago near Caserta and only recently completely excavated and opened to the public.

       The best laid plans, etc….The palace complex opens at 8:30 am and Caserta is some 80 miles north of Agropoli, so we were up early and in the car by 6:45.  But as we pulled out of the driveway, an alert signal appeared on the central panel of the dashboard, the one that shows a motor, and a message crawled across the top of the screen, which I will (probably incorrectly) translate as:  “Hill Holder not available.  Be sure to control the motor!”  Not exactly reassuring.  What to do, what to do?  If it were any other symbol but the motor symbol, there might be a bit less concern, but heading out on the autostrada with limited language proficiency and a bum motor in a rental car—seems like a recipe for disaster, right?   We toodled around town looking for a mechanic open at that hour when any sane Italian is still sound asleep, finally found a gas station and asked a kind attendant there to interpret the message, and he was as clueless as we.  But he checked the fluids (all perfect), listened to the motor (purring like a kitten), consulted with an older colleague, and advised us that the best course of action was to take it to a mechanic who could hook it up to a computer and read the diagnostic from there.

    So, we reluctantly headed home.  But as we turned into Via Fuonti, I noticed that the warning had disappeared!  And was substituted by an equally cryptic one, “7.42 Ven  Sett. 23”.  We returned to the apartment and as I was searching the internet for some explanation of these coded epistles, Sandy said, “You idiot, 7.42 Ven Sett. 23 is 7:42 am on Friday September 23!”  And of course she was right.  I’d been driving the little car for almost a month and never noticed that it continuously updates this information.  So, what to do now?  My internet research had disclosed that Fiats are notorious for such phantom messages, almost all of which are false alarms. We decided to postpone the Reggia and salvage the rest of the trip.

    Flashback:  our daughter Amy is a bartender and aspiring sommelier in a fancy restaurant in New York City. Last year she had met one of Little Park’s wine purveyors, a couple from Alois Vineyard in the region of Caserta.  Amy had been completely smitten by the couple who partially own and are totally responsible for marketing for the winery, and had mentioned our interest in wine and the fact that we lived in Agropoli from time to time.  Massimo Alois and his wife Talita de Rosa insisted that we call when we came so that they could arrange a tour of the vineyard.  I confess when she first mentioned it to me, I was a bit skeptical.  We have no connection to the wine industry—two retired teachers?—and salesmen are salesmen, but Amy was adamant that this wonderful couple were perfectly sincere.

    And they were!  We e-mailed and Talita soon responded that they would be delighted to have us and if we showed up about noon, we could have some ‘nibbles’ and enjoy some wine.  OK, so we’ll ditch the Reggia, do a quick tour of the Roman amphitheatre, not at Caserta but at nearby Santa Maria Capua Vetere, a storied city from at least 700 BCE, and then head to the winery.  All went according to schedule until we hit the streets of Caserta, and there was near gridlock from one end of the city to the other.  I won’t bore you with the gruesome details, but it took us roughly 40 minutes to travel the 3 miles through the northern part of the city to reach the road to Capua.  Nope, not gonna show up an hour late for these gracious people who have made such a generous offer, we’ll reach the winery a bit early and just hang out.

     We accessed the road north of Caserta, wound our way through the beautiful countryside of northern Campagna, and crept up the narrow streets of the cute little town of Pontelatone, wondering if we should call or just ask for directions.  As we pulled into a parking lot to make the call, Sandy spotted the Alois / Villa Paolina sign, and we decided to wing it.  Some two miles up a gorgeous country lane with the runners of trumpet vine hanging down and creating a sort of tunnel effect, we came to the gates of a large villa complex which opened to a sinuous allée of cypress trees which led to the Villa.  I called on the speaker phone and a young woman, who turned out to be Talita, buzzed the gate open and invited us to drive down to the winery.  We drove down past a gorgeous villa and a fantasyland of landscaped grounds, parked before a modern, industrial-looking building where stacks of grape crates and a huge pneumatic press indicated the nature of the business.  We hopped out, asked for Signore Alois, were met by a very distinguished older gentleman, and I explained in my bad Italian that we were the parents of the young Americana he had met in New York City.  “You want Massimo,” he interrupted when he heard the name of the city, and led us around to stairway to the upstairs business offices.  Oops!  It seems there are two Signori Alois, father Michele Alois, who planted the vineyard and whose vision has made it one of the most prestigious wine appellations in a part of Italy which is producing some of the most exciting new wines in the world.  More about that later.  And son Massimo Alois, who soon appeared with his beautiful wife Talita.  And we felt instantly welcome.

     I am not waxing poetic when I say that this is a beautiful couple.  Massimo is forty-something, tall and slender with a touch of grey at the temples.  Talita is drop-dead gorgeous, with that classic southern Italian panoply of dark hair, brown eyes, and a flashing smile.  But what really makes them attractive is how gracious and charming they are.

    They were a bit non-plussed by our premature appearance.  It seems that Talita’s e-mail suggesting we meet at 1 pm at the Reggia had arrived while we were on the road and therefore had missed it.  And Talita had business that had to be attended to, while Massimo was on Dad Duty and needed to drive to Caserta to pick up the son at school.  Italian schools dismiss at 1 pm and what we call extra-curriculars are strictly family business.  We explained our problem with the car and our scheduling dilemma, apologized for our early arrival and assured both that we were perfectly content to stroll around the grounds for as long as they needed.

     Thus began one of my favorite days in many years in Italy.  Massimo assured us we could poke our noses wherever we wished—the winery, the Villa, the vineyards, gardens, grounds—then led us up to the Villa and showed us how to access the kitchen, the salon and the huge terrazza, then popped a bottle of white into the frigo, showed me the little box with the waiter’s friends in it, and encouraged us to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor while he was away.

The front of the Villa Paolina

The winery

Cleaning the de-stemmer

The modern bladder press

Temperature-controlled fermentation tanks

French oak barriques

Italian botti

Temperature-controlled aging in oak

     The wine needed to chill a bit, so we strolled around the Villa admiring the huge salon with its period pieces and panoramic views through huge plate glass windows, examined some of the family ledgers from the 1930s, then strolled around the grounds and down to the winery.  Massimo had explained that the crush of the vineyard’s star white grape, Pallagrello Bianco, was in process, and we were shown through the winery by Enzo, the winery’s capo, a quiet, friendly man whose English was great and who, Massimo later ruefully confessed, gets none of the credit when things go well but all the blame when they go wrong.  I suspect with Enzo in charge, they go well far more than otherwise.  The modern ‘crush’ in a prestige winery of this sort is not much to see; next to human feet, still the absolute best way to crush grapes without crushing stems and pits which contribute bitter tannins to wine, is a so-called ‘bladder press’.  It’s basically a long cylinder with a deflated rubber ‘balloon’ in the middle.  Grapes are plucked from stems and peduncles in a de-stemmer, which was being cleaned when we toured, and fed into the cylinder through a port at the top.  The port is cranked shut and the bladder is inflated, in this case to two atmospheres of pressure, a very gentle ‘press’ indeed, and the grapes are squeezed against the inside walls of the cylinder to express their juice.  Then the juice, called ‘must’ is pumped through closed hoses and pipes to huge fermentation tanks without ever being exposed to air.  Oxygen quickly strips wine of its most delicate elements and also encourages all sorts of aerobic spoilage organisms.

    Enzo showed us one tank which had been recently filled with Pallagrello Bianco grapes which were macerating under their own weight at 50° F for two days.  This is what’s known as a carbonic maceration and allows the grapes to ferment within their skins and creates a wine that is incomparably fruity and aromatic.  The free-run must, the juice that is pressed out under the weight of the grape mass alone and is the sweetest and fruitiest component, is taken off the solids, which are then pumped to the press, and expressed must pumped back to separate fermenters to be fermented by a yeast culture.  Remaining solids, the vinaccia, are used to make grappa, Italian brandy.  Then the wines which make the cut are partially aged in wood, either the classic French oak barriques or the huge Italian botti or both in succession.

The automatic bottling operation

And the labeling apparatus

Pomace to be made into grappa

Enzo also showed us the bottling operation, completely automated, and a large warehouse and shipping dock.

      We figured we had interfered with Enzo’s busy schedule far too long, so we thanked him profusely and headed out to the vineyard.  Background:  the Alois family is of French extraction but have been in Italy for more than five hundred years.  They were part of a select group who were brought from France when the Bourbon king Ferdinand established a thriving silk industry in San Leucio, a frazione of Caserta.  The Alois ancestors became leaders in the industry and were ennobled, but were almost wiped out financially when Italy was unified under the House of Savoy in 1861 and the Bourbons and their retainers were exiled.  The family returned some fifteen years later and started over from scratch, gradually expanded from a single set of looms to an internationally famous concern.  Alois silks are still among the world’s best jacquards and they have redecorated parts of the White House no fewer than five times.  But about twenty five years ago, Michelle had had enough of corporate life and sold out his portion of the extended family enterprise in partial exchange for some of the lands which now form the heart of the vineyard.

     Michele is one of those persons I admire so much, a visionary in a country which so often stifles innovation and rewards conformity.  Not content with a comfortable income from the Chard and Cab of this part of Italy, namely Falanghina and Aglianico, he was determined to rescue some of the rarest and most historic vines of Caserta province.  One of those was our Pallagrello, another a red grape called Casavecchia, “Old House” because it was reduced to a single eighty-year-old vine at an ancient villa in the area, a vine which had not succumbed to the terrible New World vine scourges of phylloxera root louse and oidium fungal disease and was therefore still growing on its own root system, unlike the vast majority of the world’s grafted vines. Some of these cultivars were perhaps introduced by the French and hybridized with local ones, others, such as Trebulanum, may well go back to Roman antiquity and beyond.  And they are all a bit strange and absolutely wonderful if you are an adventurous wine drinker.  Massimo, meanwhile, was at the top of the corporate structure and was initially reluctant to leave it, until a major schism with some of the cousins convinced him that life was too short for that sort of drama and it was time to move on and help Papa. Massimo's vision has been to make the vineyard an international player, and in that capacity he travels the world tirelessly.

The Vigneto Audelino

Almost ready for harvest

Casavecchia, rarest of cultivars

Manicured landscape at the Villa

    We wandered through the 20 acres of the vineyard, awestruck by the wonderful aspect and the terroir—gentle slope, perfect sun exposure, the volcanic soil that vines absolutely adore, and the beautiful Caiatini Mountains on all sides.  Sadly, the Casavecchia crop is scant this year.  The weather in the Mezzogiorno has been dismal, and Massimo explained that they had lost at least 40% of the crop to weather and another several acres to a marauding band of wild boars!  Fortunately, the 2015 vintage was spectacular, and smart farmers of every stripe learn to take the long-distance view of such misfortunes.

    We strolled back to the villa, I popped a cork on that lovely Pellagrello, Alois’s Caiatì, named after the mountains we were admiring, and we sat on the northern terrace and drank in the crisp, refreshing taste of that remarkable little grape while our eyes were feasting on the prospect.  If there’s a place closer to paradise in my fantasies, I can’t imagine what it would be:  sitting on a terrace in perfect weather, kissed by an Italian breeze, looking out over a beautiful vineyard with the mountains of the Mezzogiorno in the background.  I have dreamed for years of buying a small hobby farm in western North Carolina where I could make goat cheese and grow a few acres of grapes to vinify.  Imagining such a life in Pontelatone was overwhelming.

The eastern terrace

Sandy with Pallagrello Bianco

Talita's wonderful antipasti

     We  soon heard Talita bustling in the villa and she appeared with the rest of our bottle and an inviting antipasto of classic bruschetta, provolone cheese, two local sausages, one a salsiccia picante, rustic bread, and cubes of cassava melon.  Talita apologized that she had to leave us again to prepare lunch and we assured her we’d be perfectly content to sit on that same terrazza for the next week soaking up those views and sipping her wine.

     Shortly after, Massimo appeared with their son, Gianfrancesco, named I assume after an ancestor who was a famous humanist and intellectual martyr during the Inquisition—Massimo is a passionate devotee of philosophy. With Gianfrancesco was his schoolmate Antonio, both of whom greeted us in the English they had practiced to perfection on the trip home from school. But they soon left the boring oldsters to practice their real passion, what the locals call ‘basket’ and which will require no further explanation to any true North Carolinian.

     Pranzo (lunch) was served along about 2:30, the proper hour in Italy, and what a feast it was!  The primi piatti or pasta course was a delicious spaghetti con pupkin e tonno, spaghetti with pumpkin and chunks of tuna, a combination which I suspect will sound a bit strange to American ears but was, I assure you, absolutely delicious.  With this we had more of our Pallegrello Bianco. The entree was another pasta dish, in this case tortellini with ham and fresh tomatoes, accompanied by a relatively young Trebulanum.  Like most young reds it was a bit rambunctious, and Massimo decided it did not pair well.  To my untrained palate it was a charmer, a bit like an awkward teenager who shows all the signs of a promising future.  Next we had a Casavecchia called Cunto, ‘Song’, which Massimo assured us had been renamed for the American market.  Lots of depth and tannic structure.  The next course was snowy-white mozzarelle di bufala from the local herds, and tomatoes dressed simply with basil. Caserta is one of the two famous regions for buffalo mozzarella, along with our beloved Paestum.  With this we had a 2013 Caiatì, and to belabor my bad metaphor, the difference in this and the 2015 was that between a charmingly gangly teenaged girl and the elegant young woman she becomes only a few short years later: beautiful straw color, wonderful notes of pome fruits, an oily texture (I mean that as a compliment), and a soft finish.  Dessert, as so often in Italy, was sweet espresso and fruit, our melon again.  And then a special treat, slices of uncooked, cured pancetta from a special breed of pig indigenous to this region. 

Spaghetti with pumpkin and tuna

Local mozzarella di bufala and tomatoes

Massimo carves pancetta and serves Trebulanum

     As often in Italy, the conversation was more delicious than the food.  We talked of family history, of our experiences in Italy, of all the things we loved about the South of both countries and the remarkable parallels between the two, of the political status in America which has so much of the world concerned, of family, friends, aspirations—perhaps it was the wine, but I don't think so; we told Amy afterwards, only half jokingly that Talita and Massimo are our new best friends.  

     Talita had to scramble to take the boys to ‘basket’ practice, so we made our Facebook and What’s-App connections and kissed her goodbye.  Massimo gave us a tour of the cellar under the villa, well stocked and containing two more of those huge botti, these for the absolute premium wines to age in this perfect environment.  But my favorite part of the cellar was the museum of terroir along one wall.  Massimo has traveled all over the world visiting the finest vineyards, and everywhere he goes he collects a sample of the soil and now has, neatly stored in glass jars and properly labeled and described, soils from at least a hundred vineyards, from Bordeaux to Napa and parts in between.  He took us back to the winery, where he and Enzo allowed us to sample the musts at various stages of vinification from raw grape juice to young wines, a particular luxury to the academic who has read so much but sampled so little.  The highlight was definitely making arrangements for a return visit and for a visit by our new friends to our area to see the ruins of Velia, home of the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides. Our departure was highlighted by a proper introduction to Michele, who insisted on saying good-bye to the Americani.  Hugs and more kisses and we were off for a very happy return homeward.

Sandy and Talita

Part of the cellar under the Villa

With my buddy in the cellar

Massimo and Enzo 

Enzo draws a free-run must, the most luxurious of all

Tasting must

Some of the family pets

Giorgio the free-range pony...

and King Arthur, the free-range pooch

    Look, I know these people entertain on a regular basis and probably do so relatively effortlessly, what with buyers and visiting vignerons.  But the thing which touches our hearts is the fact that they so graciously opened their home and hospitality to two almost total strangers who offered them nothing in return except friendship and appreciation, and did so for the pure, unsullied joy of sharing themselves, their culture and their bounty.  How can you NOT love a country that produces such people?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Life in a Palace

Sandy with Maria Teresa and Signora Crisci

The civita vecchia of Ogliastro

 This morning our wonderful new friends, Andrea Tesoniero and Maria Teresa Calabrò, met us at a local business in the gorgeous little village of Ogliastro Cilento and took us through the center of the civita vecchia (old town) to tour a palace.

     We have grown accustomed to hill towns where the old town clusters around a castle at the highest, and therefore most defensible part, of the mountain, but as we slowly drove down the corso of the old town, Andrea explained that towns further inland, away from the menace of Saracen pirates and the dozen other sea-borne raiders who have plagued these parts for centuries, could afford to locate on the southern aspect of the mountain, where the wind doesn't howl in the winter and agriculture is (or at least has been before climate change) more profitable in this part of Italy which has been famous since antiquity for its plentiful water and agricultural bounty.  We found the same phenomenon last year in our tour of nearby Copersito with Nunzio and Teresa.

   We had met (in person; Andrea was already my Facebook friend by way of Nunzio) the night before at a great new pizzeria, Da Zero, and Andrea had told us of his dream to recreate an authentic traditional frantoio, olive processing plant, using only traditional crafts, and then to operate the frantoio to produce artisinal oil using only traditional techniques.  If it were anyone but these two proposing such an ambitious scheme, I'd be a bit skeptical, but these are very resourceful young people.  Andrea graduated from the University of Naples, has done extensive graduate work in various European countries, and earned a doctorate in seismology from the University of Copenhagen.  Maria Teresa is an attorney.  Today Andrea is interviewing via internet for a position at Yale, and of course I wish him well, but part of me hopes they both stay here where their vision is so sorely needed.  Andrea spoke to me of his passion to preserve the best parts of the 'old' in his little village, and in my dreams I suppose the best of both worlds would be for this power couple to move to New Haven, become rich and famous, and then move back to Ogliastro to become the patroni of their town.

     We parked next to an imposing palazzo, strolled up a beautiful, ancient street and stood before the gorgeous, imposing portale of the Palazzo Crisci, built in 1755.  We were admitted by a lovely woman with a warm, unpretentious demeanor, Signora Rossana Crisci, whose husband was born in the palazzo and was heir to the family estate.  Andrea had promised a tour of the house, which we relished, but first Signora Crisci wanted to show us the frantoio on the ground floor, which she assured us had not been unlocked for four years.  I hope you can appreciate from Sandy's wonderful pictures how lovingly the couple has restored the facility.  It is spectacular.

The old mola, olive mill, with an antique saddle on top

The huge beam press of the frantoio
The vat where the raw olives were put before processing

The furnace for heating water and a ziro to the left

     The most spectacular elements of the plant are the huge olive mill and the enormous torchio, or lever press, easily 30' long.  An exterior door was opened to provide more light and Andrea was kind enough to stand holding a spotlight, and Signora Crisci explained what we were looking at.  At the far side of the room was a large vat, perhaps 6' X 12', made of masonry and plastered to make it waterproof.  Into this the raw olives would by placed as they were harvested.  On the opposite side of the room, near the exterior door, was a small wood-fired furnace which heated water in a large bronze kettle.  The signora explained that the olives which came in during the November harvest (olives are frequently harvested in stages to insure perfect ripeness) were often so cold that they were reluctant to give up that precious nectar, so hot water was poured over them in the vat, cleaning the olives and heating them simultaneously.  Then they were placed on the pedestal of the mill and two men would push the axle projecting on either side of the millstone to rotate it.  Alternately, a donkey could be harnessed to one of the sweeps to do the same thing.  As the olives were macerated and the flesh was reduced to a paste, the paste was transferred to frails, flexible baskets made of esparto grass and open at the top, and these were stacked on the circular bed of the press with circular wooden discs between them.  When a stack was complete, a huge screw at the opposite end of the beam was turned and the tremendous weight of the chestnut beam as well as the force of the lever squeezed out the precious oil along with the watery element in the olives, a part the Romans called amurca.  Eventually the screw would lift a huge stone counterweight attached to its base so that, as the olive stack shrank as liquid was expressed, the lever would continue to exert a constant pressure.

The press bed with its frails and the tub into which the liquid drains

The giant screw of the press...

And the huge counterweight

With Andrea and Amrigo

    The oil and amurca ran through a channel on the front of the press bed into a large wooden tub.  If you've ever mixed a vinaigrette and left it a bit too long, you know how oil will float to the top of the vinegar because of its lower density, and so separating the oil and amurca was simply a question of allowing the two elements to separate and then ladeling off the oil.  Amurca is so bitter and tannic that if you tried to eat a raw olive your mouth would pucker up and you'd be unable to speak.  It will also taint the oil if left in contact very long.  The water was poured out onto the floor and ran down a declivity and out into the street.  Oil in antiquity was stored in huge terra cotta jugs called dolia, sometimes as much as 200 gallons.  The standard Italian version is perhaps 1/4 of that, and Fernando tells me that locally it's called by the Arabic word ziro.  The Moors didn't simply raid in these parts, they were also part of the cultural landscape.  From the ziri it would be ladled into glazed vessels such as you see in the picture.

    The Signora is assisted in her restorations by a very nice gentleman named Amerigo, who Fernando tells me is a well known musician in the area.  Amerigo explained that when Don Filippo Crisci, husband of Signora Crisci, was having the frantoio restored, he had every floorboard over us numbered because they were so carefully fitted to each other, despite their crude and random appearance, that trying to reassemble them otherwise would have been a nightmare.  Today Amerigo was working on some pretty French doors at the entrance to the western suite of rooms.

An antique pitcher...

And beautiful amphorae

Sax guards the house

The beautiful inviting courtyard of the palazzo

The salone of the Palazzo Crisci

The terrazza

Incredible views everwhere

Olive groves and the Cilentan mountains

     When we finished our tour of the frantoio, Signora Crisci invited us upstairs for caffè and cake and for a tour of the residential part of the home.  She showed us a large, exquisitely decorated salon, complete with the beautiful glazed tile floors which make such rooms seem so opulent, then led us through the study to a south-facing terrazza where she served us.  The coffee was great, the cake was delicious, a sort of pound cake but with olive oil substituting for butter, but the vistas to the south were the real star.  We could see the Cilentan countryside for miles! In the foreground, the olive groves which apparently gave the little town its name, a huge masseria, farm production building which Andrea explained belongs to the De Stefano family, and up the hill he pointed out their palace, the only one in Ogliastro bigger than Palazzo Crisci.  But, c'mon now, we're talking about an embarrassment of riches.  And then the mother church and the old town clustered around it, clinging to the slope of the mountain and drowsing in the sun.

    After we finished our spuntina, the Signora gave us a tour of the rest of her quarters. The dining room, lovingly preserved in its former glory, featured a huge, rustic table, a tall etagere with dozens of wine goblets of every description, a glorious old sideboard, and a framed shadowbox with antique keys from the palazzo's past.  The kitchen was long and narrow and had been updated with modern appliances while still respecting the best of the eighteenth century, not least the rustic, beamed ceiling, the hearth and fireplace which originally provided the cookstove, and an ingenious rotating steelyard above the hearth from which large copper and brass cooking pots were formerly suspended over the embers on the hearth.  The Signora explained that during the restoration a small cavity beside the fireplace had been detected by knocking on the wall and hearing a hollow sound.  The wall was carefully opened to reveal a clever little warming station with its own tiny furnace beneath a pedestal for a small pan and with a small smoke hole which led into the chimney nearby.

The dining room

Keys from the past

The cucina

Signora Crisci demonstrates the revolving steelyard

The little warming nook

Bedroom with its antique bed

    Signora Crisci showed us the two bedrooms in her private suite, both lovingly restored with family heirlooms and period pieces, most notably a wonderful iron bed of the nineteenth century from Naples.  Both bedrooms opened onto an extension of the terrazza we had previously enjoyed, and both had that spectacular vista.

   So, yeah, it must be nice to be rich and live in such opulence, right?  Well, not all sweetness and light, it seems.  The house was for the Criscis and is still for Signora Crisci more a labor of love than a guilty pleasure.  Professional careers dictated that the couple had to live in Salerno and then Rome for their entire married lives, and the old palace is a beast to try to heat in the winter, despite its southern aspect.  And then there are the constant repairs that such an old dinosaur always requires.  Amerigo's presence today was no accident; after a recent storm several leaks in ceilings appeared and had to be addressed quickly.

   But if you'd like to experience the life of an aristocrat without all the headaches, take heart!  Signora Crisci has furnished a separate suite of rooms across the cortile as a bed and breakfast and is eager to rent it out to mature Americans and Northern Europeans.  No riffraff please!  And what a glorious vacation it would be!  First there is this achingly beautiful part of Italy that few Americans have even heard of.  Second, there is life in what I will personally guarantee  is one of the prettiest hill towns in Italy.  And then there's the apartment.  The suite has its own cool, inviting salon, a cute little kitchen, a bathroom completely updated with modern fixtures, and a bedroom straight out of a movie set.  And from every single window, those same incredible views!  If Sandy's pictures don't convince you that you want to be here, I despair, but let me simply say that any American with a lick of imagination could sit on the terrazza of that beautiful suite, sipping your caffè and scanning those miles of countryside and easily imagine yourself the king of Italy.  Or at least the duke of Lucania.

The salon of the B &B suite

And its bedroom

Your own terraces...

with your own spectacular views