PANICALE, TORINO, PADOVA–I like saying “Our Italian daughters.” It just fills me with happy memories. Twice, years ago, we had the good fortune to have lovely Italian girls come to live with us for a year at a time.
Roberta from Torino came first, and a few months after she left Alexia di Padova arrived. We have visited both of them at their homes in Italy and know their families, and we keep in touch by email and see each other as often as we can when we are in Italy. It is an easy four or five hour drive to either of their home towns from Panicale. This trip they both came to see us! The same day almost.
And both came bearing serious boyfriends we hadn’t met yet. Both girls looked great, were happy with their jobs, their lives and we loved their guys. What are the odds of all that? Maybe it is me. I know I was a terrible territorial you-bums-aren’t-good-enough-for-these-girls dad when they lived with us in Maine. But I’m so much more mellow now? Dunno. Something is different.
Alexia was renting a villa with 10 friends to have a week-long birthday party so we were really glad she would leave her posse and squeeze in a leisurely lunch and a lazy afternoon with us. We relished catching up over Porcinis and panacottas at Masolinos and some later some Proseccos like her dad taught us to drink, in the cafés of the Venato in another galaxy, far, far away.
TAKE THE BRIDGE
Our friend Steve from San Francisco arrived that evening. To bridge the gap between Alexia’s leaving and Roberta’s arrival. Just in time for Labor Day. Yes, it has only been FIVE days since the last national holiday. But hey, who’s counting? Other than me. So we went right back to Masolino’s. That is just what people do when they want to connect or re-connect with Mother Panicale. A good place to start is a place at her table. A place with your name on it. I’ve figured out that if Andrea even hears we might be arriving in town, he puts a gold Reservato sign on a table because he knows. It’s a heart-melter to feel that warm welcome even before the hot, out of the oven, comfort food hits the table with a grin and a flourish.
The next day, killing time was killing me, waiting for the next wave of buddies to party with so, post-coffee, we were glad to be well distracted by tractors in the piazza? I have not seen that before. Shades of Iowa in Umbria. The ancient 14th century fountain in the middle of the piazza surrounded by modern, noisy, house-sized pieces of farm equipment and angry rise-up-oppressed-workers speeches. Which segued abruptly to happy, almost cartoon-y music, wine in paper cups and the ever popular porchetta sandwiches in the piazza.
And then, enough stalling around, Roberta was here! Baci, baci, and was unloading a huge azeala for our garden and introducing us to her Stefano. And before you knew it we were in the garden admiring her pink azeala over some of Paul’s pink rose’. Salute Azaela, salute amici.
We grabbed a lunchtime snack in the sun outside Aldo’s and rushed off to Castiglione del Lago to check out ferry schedules for a day of island hopping later in the week. What crowds. The parks around the ferry stop below the fortress were almost shoulder to shoulder full this happy holiday. The ferry and its dock were mobbed too. Especially for a Thursday. Sure, it’s a holiday, you might say. But it is partially because of the bridge.
What bridge? That last holiday a few days ago, it was OK. But being on a Friday the best you can hope for there is a three day weekend. But Labor Day this year! That is on a Thursday. Italians shrug and say “ponte” making a small bridge shaped arch with their thumb and pointing finger. With an optional wrist rotation. Usually accompanied by a “Not MY fault they put that holiday on a Thursday” look. They put on a look that says they are serious/sad, concerned at how this all turned out. Like there was nothing further from their mind than ditching work Friday. Until you put that annoying Thursday holiday on the calendar. And forced their hand.
Up in the town, above the dock we strangely found a parking spot and not so strangely found the first gelati we could wrap our soon-to-be sticky fingers around. And then we took a nice hot, mad dogs and Englishmen sort of tramp around the vertigo-inducing parapets of the fortress.
And then back to Panicale. No moss growing on us. This is a movable feast and we took the next bite up on Steve’s top floor balcony. The sun was setting, the prosecco popping, swallows doing boomerang cartwheels around us. You could feel the breeze they made going by us. Hey, we all look like we were poured out of molten gold, is this lighting great? How do they do that? Glasses clink. Now drink up me hearties, because it’s time to Sagra.
But that is another story. Stay tuned to the next edition of . . .
See you in Italy, The Blog