Monday, March 14, 2011

Abudius and the feather fertilizer

Friday, March 11
From San Salvatore we can see several small hilltop cities, and today we set out to explore one of the most prominent, Buggiano Castello. We can ride the train to Borgo a Buggiano and then take a 20-minute salita up the hill. There are other cities around here based on the name Buggiano—Ponte Buggianese, Buggiano, Colle di Buggiano. Buggiano sounds similar to the word bugiardo, liar. How did such a name get attached to this region? A bit of Internet research shows three possible solutions, two of which are rather boring and have to do with words that came from other languages.

One theory is that it came from the Gallic tribe of “Booj.” Another is that it derived from “Bovianum,” Latin for ox. The best story is about a Roman soldier, Abudius. He had fought a valiant battle, and his commanding officer wanted to reward him with a piece of property on the hill to live a life of peace. The officer gave Abudius an ox skin and said he must mark out the property with it, thinking that Abudius could get a piece of property only big enough to make his grave.  Abudius took the skin away and secretly cut it into many thin strings with which he was able to circumscribe a large plot of land. The officer had to concede to the cleverness of Abudius, and Buggiano grew from this land.

So none of these solutions are related to bugia, the word for “lie,” or bugiardo, “liar.” But then these stories all come from the Comune di Buggiano website, and perhaps these Buggianese are just master fibbers who made up some good stories to hide their true nature.

We chain our bikes up at the base of Buggiano Castello and climb a broad road that winds through fields of ancient twisted olive trees. Halfway up, we see what looks like snow on the grass between the trees. On closer examination, it turns out to be white chicken feathers, spread out evenly about three inches thick. We also see under a shed some tightly packed bales of feathers that have yet to be spread out. We guess that somebody has found out that chicken feathers make good mulch and fertilizer, and later I look this up on the web and find that to be true.

Castello Buggiano turns out to be entirely a bedroom community. It has many more houses and apartments than Montecarlo, but we don’t see a single restaurant or store. We get some great views from the top, because we can see both west to Montecarlo and east to Montecatini Terme and Montecatini Alto. During the entire half hour we spend exploring, we see only a handful of people. If we had to chose a hilltop city on which to live, we’d much prefer our own Montecarlo, which has a healthy mix of businesses and residences and is alive and active both day and night.

We walk back down and ride our bikes for ten minutes to Uzzano, where we stop in to say hello to Alberto Spadoni at his real estate agency. I recently sent Alberto an email asking him to help us look at some houses here so we can get an idea about the market. We are not in a position to buy anything now, but it might help us plan for the future, and besides, we love to dream. He will be glad to help us and we will call him back when our schedule clears up a bit more.

Then it is back to the bikes for another ten-minute ride, this time to Pescia, where we stop to see Francesca Seghieri at her bicycle shop. We have not seen her since she sold us our bikes five weeks ago. She is about to get in her car and take off, but she stays to chat for a while. I tell her that I have spoken to her Uncle Mario and found that we are truly cousins, she and I. We have the same trisavolo, great-great grandfather. She seems to take this in stride. She is friendly and helpful but probably not nearly as excited about this as I am, though I can’t read her expression. Her husband makes a few minor adjustments on Lucy’s bike, gratis, and we also talk to Francesca’s mother, Dosolina, who comments that our Italian has improved.

Our next stop is the EsseLunga in Pescia, where we stock up on heavy items such as potatoes, dish soap and laundry detergent. Everything has to fit in two backpacks and the cestino on Lucy’s bike, an amount that would fill two or three paper grocery sacks in the states. It is a short distance from here to the Pescia station, so we take the train home, where I get to spend a relaxing afternoon and evening.

Lucy, instead, takes a short rest and then is off again, this time to Lucca for a cooking lesson with our language school. In my opinion, she doesn’t need this, but I’m all in favor of anything that involves her practicing her culinary skills, so I feel it is tuition money well spent. I know that I will be the one to benefit in the long run.

1 comment:

  1. Chicken feathers for mulch - that's a new one for me. Now I know what to do when my pillows gets old!



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