Another year has flown by. It doesn’t seem possible that 2014 has ended already. 2014 was a banner year for Casa La Pace. And for Pepper and I, it was another year of new friends and wonderful memories.
Pepper and I began the year with a visit to friends and family in the U.S. We were there 6 weeks. That sounds like a nice long trip, but in fact it still was not enough time to see everyone we had hoped to.
This year, Casa La Pace’s season began in April around Easter. It lasted until early December, so we had a longer season than ever before. During that time we welcomed more guests than any prior year. As I think back on all the faces, I remember fondly the many people from around the world who graced our home.
I’m glad that we had a diverse guest list. Although the majority were Americans, we welcomed our first Belgians and our first Italians (can you believe it took 3 years?) We enjoyed our Belgian friends so much that we went to Gent in December for a few days to spend more time with them.
I remember 2014 as a warm, wet year. (And the latest news is that 2014 was the warmest year on record globally). There were several months of gorgeous weather, fortunately. Spring and autumn were quite nice and there were glorious stretches of warmth and sunshine. Unfortunately, summer was almost non-existent, with more than average rainfall and not a single truly hot day. November was quite rainy, as usual. And December unusually warm, with several days of record high temperatures. The first cold snap arrived with Santo Stefano, i.e. only a week before the New Year.
Some of our guests had personal connections. I met a cousin of my father; she remembered me from when I was very little, but I didn’t really remember her. Our paths hadn’t crossed since the mid-1970s. I was happy to get to know Jennifer and her husband. They provided new stories of my family. And more importantly, they were great company. I was sorry that they were with us for only a couple of days.
Pepper’s brother, his wife, and her son came for a visit during the summer. It was his brother’s 3rd visit to Casa La Pace, but the first for his stepson. We had a great time at Casa La Pace and took the opportunity to travel with them.
Our young friend David spent almost a full year in Europe. He bicycled around the British Isles, working odd jobs in the spring and early summer. Afterwards, he crossed the Channel and met up with his family in Belgium. He later headed south, crossing France and the Italian Alps, arriving at our house in mid-August. He was with us for about a month. We loved spending time with David, who we hadn’t seen much of since we lived in Arkansas. He regaled with stories of his bicycling and ‘woofing’ adventures and I even bicycled with him in the Serchio Valley. We were sad ‘uncles’ the day he rode away, off to southern France and Spain.
Speaking of Spain, our first Spanish guest actually lives in Berlin with his husband. Paco is a newscaster for a German television channel that broadcasts in Spanish language news of Germany to Spain and Latin America. He is perhaps more famous abroad than at home. We were honored to spend time with a celebrity – who is a delightful, normal guy.
We are proud that Casa La Pace was a honeymoon destination for at least 5 couples. One happy pair even left behind their one-year old (no easy sacrifice, I’m sure) to enjoy a delayed honeymoon with us. Another beautiful young couple are both post-graduate scientists in Puerto Rico.
Ancestral connections were important to a family who came from Boston late in the summer. Pat’s grandparents were from this area: his grandmother was from Lucignana and his grandfather from Ghivizzano. Pat had never been to Italy until he came to Casa La Pace. The family had an incredible week, meeting long-lost relatives and learning of property they didn’t know the family still owns. They also learned the moving story of an uncle who played an important role in the partigiani (Italian resistance movement) during World War II.
Other special guests were Anne and her daughter Kristin, who arrived in October. We first met Anne when she and her other daughter came to Ghivizzano in 2009, before our house was Casa La Pace. During her first visit, she and Juli sanded and drilled, nailed and cleaned, helping us improve our house. Anne’s first stay was almost a hardship, as we didn’t have interior doors nor hot water. We were proud that on this visit she and Kristin could take long, hot showers and see how much Casa La Pace has improved since those early days.
We had several return visitors; we are proud that they enjoyed their previous visit and wanted to return to Ghivizzano. Among them was Gail, who first came to Casa La Pace as ladies-only outing. This time, she wanted to share Italy with her husband. He is as kind and interesting as she.
Speaking of ladies only, one of the most memorable groups was 6 women, almost all somehow related. We tried explaining to Ramona and Grazia, our good friends who live nearby, the relationship between them all. I kept getting confused, and forgetting the Italian for ‘in-law’, ‘step-mother’, etc., and it all ended in laughter. Ramona and Grazia still ask fondly about Elaine and her group.
Our final guests of the year were with us for Thanksgiving. This family of 6 could not have been more interesting and entertaining. Father and mother are both doctors and their 4 children (two girls and two boys) are typical teenagers – in all the right ways. Italy doesn’t observe Thanksgiving, but we appreciated being together with fellow Americans on this special day.
I’m also happy to end this reflection with good news for the coming year. 2015 is shaping up to be another good year. We have many confirmed reservations for our new season. We’re hoping for another banner year. And I’m certain many guests will arrive strangers and depart as friends.