This year the act of preparing La Romita for the season after a cold, wet winter was smoother than usual. The buildings are nearly 500 years old and post-winter maintenance can be daunting. Before last season began the water pipes connected to our roof-top solar water-heating panels burst in a deep freeze. Unusual seepages and ghost-like power failures are to be expected as we dust off and air out these venerable quarters. The stone walls breathe in a way, keeping us relatively cool even in the hottest months. We have quite a heating system, which we rarely need in our May-through-October season, but which also demands attention from its nerve center, our labyrinthine boiler room. La Romita was built with rough-stone masonry, visible on the outer walls; multi-colored undressed stones in varying sizes. When plumbers or electricians need to get to pipes or wires for repairs or renovations, they need to be adept at some pretty complicated stone masonry as well…often removing dozens of stones and cutting through concrete to reach a simple repair. This year there was none of that and on the morning of the arrival of our first group the sun was shining, the place was shining and the tempting aromas emanating from the kitchen had to compete with innumerable wildflowers and the sugary blossoming Linden tree. There’s an excitement in every member of the staff in seeing everything functioning as it should…working well in anticipation of a new season of art and poetry, printmaking and calligraphy, music and photography.

Maybe things had been just a bit too problem-free…until we noticed bees gathering near the closed shutters on an upper floor window. In just over 24 hours they had basically gotten down to honey-business between the shutters and the glass creating a hive for thousands. We are determined and proven friends to the bees so our only option was to call our local “apista” (bee-man) to find them a new home. He arrived with portable hive in tow, and began pumping smoke from his burning canister into the occupied room which he said calms the bees. They didn’t look very calm to me, but he got the queen into her new home and thousands of bees followed. When he left, we had about four hours until the arrival of guests, and an entire floor of rooms that smelled like a campfire…and hundreds of bees returning from pollinating expeditions to find that their queen had abandoned them. They seemed…um… disappointed and tried to swarm into every open window to find her out. We scrambled around closing everything and waited them out, finally having just enough time to air out the rooms before our first group of the season arrived:  a poetry workshop led by Kim Addonizio.

The arrival was smooth, the food was delicious, the poets were ecstatic and in a few days we get some honey!

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