Istria: A Franco Fasiolo Novel — Chapter 2

Tomaso De Giovanni

Chapter Two

In which Franco makes a date with Catia Piagenti, exchanges emails with Paolo Burolino, protects a root by covering it with soil, and makes preliminary plans for the trip to Istria.

Read Chapter 1

Baernnn-baernnn… Baernnn-baernnn… , Franco mimiced the sound of Catia’s phone ringing.

Pronto? Catia.
Catia, Franco sono. Franco.
Franco! Catia, with a brightness in her voice.
Come stai? Franco.
Sto bene. Tu? Catia.
I’m fine. I have a question. When do you work again, in Ruffrè? Franco.
Friday, but I will drive there on Thursday. Why, do you want a ride? Catia.
Yes. Franco.
Where, Ruffrè? Catia.
Istria. Franco.
Sorry. Not on way. Catia.
You can just take me to Ruffrè and I will work it out from there. Franco.
I take you Bolzano. You make way Istria from there. Catia.
Why are you all of a sudden speaking with a Russian accent? Franco.
I not speak Russian. Russian speak you! Catia.
What time will you leave on Thursday? Franco.
Early. 8:00. Catia.
8:00? My place? Franco.
8:00 my place. Probably 8:15-8:30 your place. Catia.
Have coffee at mine. Franco.
Perfect. See you then. Catia.
Ciao. Franco.
Ciao. Catia.

Franco went to his computer and entered ‘microbiome electrical and hormonal communication’. Boom. A million hits. They were enough confirmation for now. Proof of concept; that is all Franco needed from these searches. The details could be worked out later. Email.

Dear Mr Burolino,

Thank you for your kind email and of course I am available to help you with your project. I will leave my home here in the Valtellina on Thursday to go to Bolzano, and then I can make my way to Burolini, arriving when you want me to arrive, as long as it is within a week or so, give or take. Would that timing work for you? In the meantime, I can get started on reading whatever I can find on your vines and on your area.

Cari saluti,


Malvasia. Odorosissima was right. So fragrant. Too fragrant, maybe. All flowers and fruit, like some Chinese candies, but better. Apple-y. Rosy. Dry roses if the wine was good. Sweet roses if it was not. Franco Secco.

Franco thought about what to do. There was still plenty of time left in the day, but he did not feel like climbing back down into his hole. He looked out of the window and saw the root there, pushing out of the side of the hole, bare and exposed to the air. Not so bad, he thought, but better if it were covered with soil for the night, until tomorrow, or whenever he would try again.

Franco opened the door and walked to the hole, picking up two boards on the way. He jumped in, using the boards in a kind of reverse pole vault. Hole vaulting, thought Franco, my new sport. He stood the two boards on either side of the root and leaned them edgewise against the dirt wall. He began kicking soil loose from the sides, but then cursed when he remembered he had plenty of soil just outside the hole. He grabbed some but it was stiff clay, good for the base but maybe not so good to put around the roots. For that he would need something looser. So he built his clay base, quickly, piling it between the two boards starting at the bottom. He stopped just under the root and then kicked some dryer and looser soil loose from the side of the hole, in the upper strata near the top, where there were also some fiber and roots from the grass and other plants that surrounded the hole, as well as some sand. Soil, Franco thought, a word that was as nice as the thing it named. He sifted this looser dirt around the root and then gave it a nice clay hat to keep it in place. Soil cap. Clay hat. Dirt lid. Franco hoped this would keep the root protected overnight. He clambered back up the ladder, out of the hole, and into his house. From hole to house, the Franco Fasiolo story.

Once inside, Franco checked his email to see if Paolo had replied. He had. Good man, Paolo, Franco thought, he’s a man who answers his emails. It read:

Dear Franco (if I may),

Thank you. Sometime after Thursday is fine. Shall we say Monday? But let me know. Earlier or later is okay also. I will send you what I have on the vines and on Burolini.

Un caro saluto,


Getting and spending, we… let loose our power? Franco could not remember the lines exactly. Late and soon. Franco liked Paolo’s sense of time, his loose engagement with it. It was farmer’s time, agricultural time, plant time. Well, no, maybe partly plant time, partly soil time, but in any case, agricultural time, and Paolo was rooted in it, as was Franco. Catia also, the early bloomer.

Istria on Monday, then. Bolzano on Thursday. Udine by the end of Friday. Trieste by Saturday night. All day Sunday to make it to Burolini? It should be okay, Franco thought. But what of Catia. What were her plans for Thursday? She was hard to read, Franco thought, but that was nice. She was strange on the phone, but also funny. Why did Franco feel such an instant ease and familiarity with her?

Catari’, Catari’ Perché mi… 

Baernnn-baernnn… Baernnn-baernnn…

Pronto. Franco.
Franco, it’s Catia. Catia.
Catia. I was just thinking of you. Franco.
Yes, me too. Catia.

Franco resisted the easy joke.

Oh good. Franco.
I am thinking about something. Catia.
Oh, what? Franco.
I won’t have time to drop you off in Bolzano on Thursday. Catia.
Oh no! Franco.
But what I could do is pick you up on Wednesday, late, and then we spend the night at my place in Ruffrè. Catia.
Oh, okay. Franco.
Or, I come over to your place on Wednesday, spend the night, and then we leave really early on Thursday. Catia.
Which of those plans works better for you? Franco.
Wednesday my place Ruffrè. Catia.
Is this your Russian accent again? Franco.
Don’t get any ideas. Catia.
I’m bad at ideas. Franco.
Okay, see you Wednesday in the  afternoon. Catia.
Come and have lunch. Franco.
Could do. Catia.
12:30. Franco.
12:30. Catia.

Franco’s email pinged.

Oh, email. Gotta go. Franco.
Ci vediamo. Catia.
Ci vediamo. Ciao. Franco.
Ciao. (Catia)

Franco put down his phone and looked at his computer screen.


Attached are two documents: one on the variety of Malvasia I think I have, and a short history of the vineyard, which has been in my family for as long as I can remember. I hope they help.


Paolo, not a man who was afraid of the double email, Franco thought, very nice. And a list of instructions to pore over. Even better.

Instructions this afternoon. Hole and root time tomorrow. Catia on Wednesday. Franco’s calendar suddenly thrummed and fizzed with new events and prospects.