Authors' Desktop

Villa dining room

Palladian Days
Finding a New Life in a Venetian Country House

Sally Gable and Carl I. Gable


Excerpts from Palladian Days:

Excerpt from Chapter 9  - Sally's Tale of a Tub:

I climb into the long skinny bathtub and stretch out full length, my head barely above water. The villa is shuttered for the night. My two guests--friends from Atlanta--are settled in their rooms, presumably deep in their blankets to escape the cold that envelops the villa and overwhelms the inadequate electric heaters in their bedrooms and mine. I bask luxuriantly in the steamy natural perfume of the well water and watch motionless as the bar of Dove dissolves on my stomach. I am warm for the first time since my friends arrived earlier in the day, blown from the train station to our gate by a frigid April storm. My mind drifts lazily as I try to remember why it is necessary ever to leave this perfect warmth.

Suddenly all the lights of the villa go out as quietly as a candle. The villa is shuttered tight as a tomb. Not a ray of light from even one street lamp finds a crevice to peer through. Darkness seizes the villa.

With my mind shocked awake, I begin to review my situation: I am naked, up to my neck in water, in pitch darkness, in a room where I have personally killed two scorpions within the past three days. My rational mind, in an effort to distract me from the temptation simply to scream in terror, tells me that the three electric heaters, bored by their pretense of producing heat, have merely turned to their favorite activity: overloading the villa's circuits. My mind is teased by two dim memories: first, that Silvana specifically told me where a candle is located in my bedroom, but that I did not pay much attention; and second, that Giacomo specifically showed me where the electric circuit breakers are located in a small room between the two main floors of the villa--but I didn't pay much attention to that either. What I remember best is that, in the stairwell of tight circular wooden stairs leading to the small room, I also killed a scorpion yesterday.

'Scorpions don't kill,' I tell myself. Note to diary: Learn more about scorpions.

Excerpt from Chapter 14 - La Cucina:

I realize with a start that that we are nearing our first anniversary of owning the villa. My mind fills with thoughts that I have pushed aside in the scurry and urgency of responding to everyday exigencies. I am reminded of the old bromide that we consume our lives with tasks of little importance but short deadlines, postponing more important matters that we convince ourselves can be done later.

Whatever brought you to buy a Palladian villa?

I am still hung up on that examination of the motives that brought me to my second life in Piombino Dese. Maybe my subconscious has been working on the problem while my conscious self has been focused on lawnmowers and kitchen appliances, because I have some new ideas now. I've gotten past the need to choose a single motivation from the grab bag of "second home" or "growth" or "escape" (or whatever else I might come up with). Now I can see that my motives are not static; all are true, just at different times and to different degrees.

I had indeed been seeking a second home for all the traditional reasons that drive city dwellers to acquire them: novelty, change of pace, relaxation and the like. Many of our Atlanta friends seem to have preceded us in acquiring second homes, usually on Georgia lakes or in the North Carolina mountains, though some have moved farther afield to the Atlantic or Gulf coast, the western ski slopes, even Maine. My own background (and Carl's pleasure with the area) made New Hampshire a reasonable alternative.

But how much time would I have spent there in a year? One month, maybe six weeks? Probably something like that--certainly not four months. So why haven't I limited my Italian time to the same length? That, it seems, was a separate decision, but one that came so early and so easily that I never knew I was making it. Villa Cornaro is no New England lake home existing to serve my family during our holidays. Villa Cornaro is a force of nature, a vibrant personality in the lives of its owners, the farmers who till its fields, the students and researchers who study and measure its lines, the tourists excited by its spirit, the townspeople reassured by its constant presence.

My plans changed because I discovered that Villa Cornaro needs me.

Copyright 2005 Sarah B. Gable and Carl I. Gable
All rights reserved.

Home / Description / Q and A / Excerpts / Photos / More Photos / Critics