With found time, we sat in the lobby and ordered a coffee, surprised when it came out as espresso in demitasses with a plate of sugar cookies. This is “caffe” in Italy. They call our coffee Americano. Simona stood before us and introduced herself as our guide. She led us out front to her Volkswagen subcompact. It was just us.
Simona wound us out of downtown and into the countryside. We made our way to Mazzano Romano, a medieval village. When I stepped out of the car, I spun around in slow motion. We were about 1,000 feet up in the lush green hills, overlooking a forest and river. I got out my camera and struggled with what to shoot. It was all beautiful. We bought fresh zucchini, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, and a potato from the vegetable stand in town, where we tasted enormous green peas from the pod. We walked through winding cobblestone alleys to Il Drago, the at-once elegant and rustic home where we would be cooking.