During the summer of 2001, eight of us friends rented a villa outside Panzano, Italy on a working farm. The owners lived in the other wing of the house and grew grapes and olives. They also kept a couple of horses, Oskar and Luna, for riding. Our group enjoyed looking at the rolling hills, watching the horses graze while we sat on the flagstone terrace as the sun set, and talking until late at night under the stars. The villa was our home base for a week while we explored Siena, Florence (Firenze), Montalcino, Montepulciano, and Panzano itself, which had charming restaurants and a renowned shoe-maker. We also cooked a lot of our meals and went through a ridiculous amount of the local wine.
One day half the group went to San Gimignano to see the sights. The rest of us decided to have a lazy day at the villa’s pool. Sally had broken a bone in her foot six weeks before we left for Italy. She had touristed through Rome, Florence and Siena in an orthotic boot, so she thought a day at the pool would be a nice break.
Sally, Scott, Nancy and I were sitting on the terrace reading and relaxing when we heard a clopping sound. Oskar and Luna were standing in the yard looking at us, and the fence was down. Sally jumped up and caught both horses by their halters, while I tried
to find some rope so we could tie them to a tree or something. There was no rope in any of the outbuildings, so Scott closed the farm’s electric gate to keep them from straying onto the road. The owners were away in Florence for the day. Nancy called them on their mobile phone and reported the problem.
Oskar and Luna were patient with us, but they didn’t stand still, and they had big, heavy
hooves. One of them shifted his weight and stepped on Sally’s broken foot! She
yelled and let him go. The horses drifted to the front yard, and Sally put an ice pack on her foot.
Then a real Italian cowboy arrived, on a motorbike. The owners had called him to come fix the fence and get the horses in. He wasn’t much like John Wayne. He was small and handsome, with a ponytail and a tan, and wore shorts, stylish sunglasses, and hiking boots. He said something like, “Los cavallos escapa,” and we said, “Si, si.”
Turns out the horses had broken their water pipe and were thirsty, so that was why they broke down the fence. Our cowboy fixed the pipe, repaired the fence, put the horses back in their field, and took off on his motorbike, smiling and waving.
I plan to write more about this trip. It was an amazing time, overshadowed by illness in my family at home, but still a fun, peaceful interlude. Then later that year came 9/11, and the world changed.