Sunday, April 29, 2018

Good-bye, for the moment

Today we said arrivederci to Fidenza and headed back to the U.S. Happy though I am to be seeing friends and family in New York and then California, I really hate to leave this lovely town and this wonderful country.

Our upstairs neighbor, Pia, invited us for lunch before we left, "so you don't have to mess up your kitchen." She warned us that she's not a wonderful cook, and then wowed us with a perfectly simple, simply perfect lunch: rigatoni in homemade tomato-vegetable sauce with grated parmagiano, then a platter of olives, salame, and mozzarella from Apulia, her home region, which in her opinion is the best mozzarella.

She also made a wonderful dish of zucchini, potatoes, peppers, and onions cooked in olive oil and breadcrumbs. It was all served with a delicious Apulian red wine, a primitivo. For dessert she gave us beautiful strawberries topped with a little sour-cherry gelato. The wonderful food and her friendliness and warmth made us even sorrier to leave.


But the time came and we went off to the station. Here was my last look at Fidenza, moments before our train arrived and whisked us off to Milan, the first leg of our journey back...to our other house. Because "home" now means not just one place, but two.

One more outing before we go

On Saturday Pam and Romano took us to the Antica Corte Pallavicina. The place is a very fancy hotel and restaurant, a 14th-century manor house surrounded by pretty countryside.
We weren't interested in either restaurant or hotel, which are above our pay grade, but we wanted to see its Museo del Culatello. which turned out to be an elaborate exhibit about that specialty cured pork delicacy from this part of the Po River valley.

Culatello is made from the same part of the pig that's used for prosciutto di Parma (the back end), but it's cut into smaller pieces and stuffed into the pig's bladder or stomach before being cured, instead of being left as a whole leg. It's delicious, a bit more full-bodied and less creamy-silky than prosciutto. 

Pigs are celebrated in the culatello exhibition and all over the site. Younger visitors were invited to ride on these specimens.

At one point I went through the wrong door and blundered into this room. This appears to be quite a glamorous place.

The most exciting sight was the basement where the culatelli are cured. It was a maze of dark, barely lit rooms full of suspended bundles of pork, exuding an entrancing aroma. (That's Pam lurking in the shadows.)
When you consider that each one of those culatelli will retail for 100 euros a kilo or more, you can see that this is practically Fort Knox. We were sorry none of us had thought to bring a large tote bag along.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Another haircut

My hair was becoming unruly, after more than two months away from Amanda, my beloved haircutter in Napa. Since I won't be seeing her again for several weeks, I decided I'd try getting a trim here in Fidenza. Pam recommended a little shop on our street, run by two Chinese brothers.

They don't seem to take appointments; you just go in, sit down, and wait your turn. There were kids getting haircuts, women having their roots colored, men getting buzzes. I didn't have to wait too long until one of the brothers summoned me to the shampoo bowl and washed my hair. Then Brother Number 2 sat me down in the barber chair and asked me what I wanted. His Italian was as limited as mine, so mostly through sign language we established that I just needed a little bit taken off all around.

He did a meticulous job, working intently and quickly. He was very un-Italian--no conversation--although all the Italian customers made sure that the room wasn't quiet. While he worked I studied the smock he'd wrapped me in and realized that the logo emblazoned all over it wasn't Calvin Klein, as I'd originally thought, but Galvin Klein. Perhaps unfairly, I assume the smock also came from China.

My Chinese haircutter did a very nice job, and the cost was...wait for it...14 euros. Irrationally, I feel this balances out yesterday's debacle with our debit card. You lose some, you win some.

A quick visit to La Spezia

Last weekend Danny and I took the train up to La Spezia, a pretty port town on the Ligurian Sea. Our main reason to go was to see our friend Romano sing a leading role in a local production of Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore" there. Romano played Dr. Dulcamarra, the quack who sells the bogus love potion of the title and thereby sets the plot in motion.

La Spezia is a pretty town on the water, with a lot of Italian tourists, many of them heading to or from the Cinque Terre, which are nearby. The opera was presented in the Teatro Civico, a small, quite charming hall in the middle of town, not far from the port. (I swiped this photo off Google--apologies to whoever the photographer was.)
We ate fried fish and penne with squid at a funky place next to where all the boats dock, then headed over to the opera, which started at the very European time of 9:00 p.m. Although it was a community production, the soprano was terrific and Romano was even better. He not only has a beautiful voice but a ton of on-stage charisma, and his acting in these buffo roles is perfetto--funny without being heavy-handed, and very supportive of the other singers. His beautiful duet with the soprano was the high point of the evening.

The next day, before getting on the train back to Fidenza, we stopped in at Museo Lia, which shows off the art collection of a local worthy. I love places like this. For one thing, these private museums are usually small enough so that you can look at everything without being overwhelmed or exhausted. For another, they generally offer a quirky mix of things, and a range of quality, which is much more interesting than seeing nothing but world-historic masterpieces.

The Lia more than lived up to expectations. Evidently its most significant holdings are the 13th-, 14th- and 15th-century panels of religious images, but I was most intrigued by the roomful of little carvings, many of them in ivory, and by the dozens of elaborate illuminated manuscripts. But my favorites were the more recent paintings, because I'm always a sucker for portraits.

These two fellows were hung side by side, both painted at about the same time, in the mid-1700s. The differences speak volumes about the state of the world then, and now.
Pietro Longhii, Portrait of a Young Gentleman

Giacomo Cerruti, "Portrait of a Wayfarer"
Here's another great portrait, from--incredibly enough--about two hundred years earlier. This lady looks ready to take on the world. 
Giovan Battista Moroni, "Portrait of a Lady"
Two more that I particularly liked were this anonymous artist's "Memento Mori," whose protagonist looks like he's not really minding Death's caresses all that much...

...and this odd little picture from the early 1500s. It is titled "Madonna of Perpetual Help" (Madonna del Soccorso), but it looks more like an allegory about how sparing the rod spoils the child. The combination of the Madonna's upraised club and her beatific expression makes her come off as something of a psychopath.
Ansano di Michele Ciampanti, "Madonna del Soccorso"
Afterwards we stopped into the little ethnographic museum down the street, a one-room exhibit of textiles, handicrafts, cookwear, costumes, toys, and other items from the area's rural past. Definitely worth a visit, we thought.

We also enjoyed just wandering around the town, stopping for a coffee here, some gelato there. As in our own Fidenza, even in areas that aren't particularly picturesque or historic, there is something so delightfully Italian about everything. I don't know why, but laundry hanging off balconies seems as Italian to me as a Donizetti aria. Though not quite as pretty.



Friday, April 27, 2018

Letting it go

Today I checked off another item on my to-do list by going to our local bank branch to alert them to my new citizenship status and inquire about a mysterious 72 euro charge on our bank statement from last December.

The extraordinarily pleasant man who helped me out rummaged around in his computer for a few seconds and printed out a ledger explaining the charge. It turns out that since we have a "non-resident" bank account, we are entitled to only 15 free transactions every three months, including use of our debit card, online payments, you name it. For each of the next 10 transactions during that three-month period we're charged 2.50 euros. After that, each transaction costs a whopping 3.25 euros. or almost $4.

When we opened the account at the end of last year, as luck would have it, the euro was quite a bit weaker against the dollar than it is now. So ever since we've been back in Italy we've been using the debit card every chance we get, and congratulating ourselves for spending the cheap euros we already have instead of handing over a U.S. credit card and paying for more expensive ones.

Doh.

That 72-euro charge was just for a few weeks in December. We've probably run up at least another $150 worth of bank charges since then--most of which we could have avoided if I'd inquired about that charge a few months ago, instead of waiting till now. Procrastination is a very expensive vice.

As a newly minted citizen I now qualify for a regular, that is, resident, account. But since everything having to do with our bank seems to require a minimum of seven working days, nothing can be done about this until we return. Between now and then we are operating on an all-cash basis.

At least I got the unpleasant part of the day over with early. It was almost all pleasure after that. First I had coffee at my favorite bar, La Strega (The Witch), with my upstairs neighbor and new pal, who turns out to be a retired Italian teacher. While at La Strega we ran into a friend of hers who is a pianist (and a very good one, she says) looking for people to play music with. So the pianist and I are now connected and planning to play together when I come back.

After I got home, I kibitzed while Danny finished hanging the first artwork to go up in our apartment, a suite of three photographs by our multi-talented friend Pam.
They are extreme close-ups of three of my favorite things: pepper, onion, and spaghetti. Aren't they beautiful?

After lunch I had another Strega date, this time with Franca, who remains my favorite person to speak Italian with and my favorite English tutee. I am really going to miss her while I'm gone. 

I came home and did a few little chores and practiced the violin for a while, getting ready for the workshop in Vermont that I'm going to with my mom next week. I'll be playing two gorgeous pieces of music there, the Shostakovich piano quintet and Dvorak's first piano quartet, and even the most repetitive practice of these wonderful pieces is a bit of heaven, for me if not for whoever can hear me. (Which I hope is no one.) (Danny takes his ears off, so he is safe.)

Before we sat down to the veal stew Danny made to go with the rest of the polenta, we decided to take advantage of the mild /weather and have a drink outside at another bar in our immediate vicinity. (There are at least six within a few blocks of us, and they are all busy in the evenings.) 
Tonight many of the people sitting outside having drinks had their children and dogs with them. The kids ran around the piazza with each other, while the dogs sat quietly under the tables. and everyone talked and talked and talked, as Italians are wont to do. It was delightful. And in the big scheme of things, worth a few hundred dollars wasted. But we paid for our drinks in cash.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Small steps

Yesterday's extended whine apparently had a salutary effect, since I've managed to check at least a few things off my to-do list since writing it.

My first achievement was figuring out how to make a payment through our bank's web site to our condo association. We have to pay the monthly maintenance and, separately, a special payment for the new roof. Parting with money is always a little painful, but this is a bit more so because the maintenance fee is at least twice what our realtor led us to believe, and Danny and I also think he told us that the roof had just been replaced. This may well reflect language confusion rather than sharp practice, and we liked the apartment so much that we would have bought it even if we'd known the truth, but still, it grates a bit.
I do love this apartment. This was the view from our balcony during a festa last weekend. How great, right?
In Italy people don't seem to use checks very often. Instead they do a bank transfer, which requirens navigating a site that is (of course) entirely in Italia, and where none of the procedures or the names of things are anything like the ones I'm used in the U.S. In addition to the challenges of full language immersion, you have to input a 27-digit tracking number as well as a passel of other data, including your personal tax code, which is a string of 16 letters and numbers, and the SWIFT code, another string of letters and numbers identifying the recipient's bank. The possibilities for errors are thus legion, which is one reason it took me a full 90 minutes to make these two payments.
I had to retype this IBAN so many times I've practically got it memorized.
About 20 minutes of that time was spent being flummoxed and then enraged when I entered the amount to pay, hit "confirm" to move to the next screen, and saw the amount disappear from the little box while a notice popped up saying, "Amount not entered." Not knowing what else to do, I kept repeating the same procedure, getting (as the definition of insanity aptly reminds us) the same infuriating result. And of course half the time I hit the wrong button, which sent me back to the previous screen, where I had to again fill in all those strings of numbers.

After an embarrassingly long time I realized that I'd been filling in the amount with a period to mark the decimal point, as per American usage, instead of using a European comma.

Once I'd successfully completed that task, I also managed to pay a traffic ticket that we got last summer in Otranto, and that only now found its way to us in California and thence (thanks to a very obliging neighbor who was willing to photograph it and send it on to me via email) to us back in Italy. I had to ask Romano to translate it; apparently we were photographed driving in a "limited traffic zone," whatever that means. (Grazie a Colleen for that enlightening link.) Paying off the city of Otranto took only about 45 minutes, which felt like real progress.

By the way, I keep hearing how advanced Europe is compared to the U.S. when it comes to protecting citizens' internet privacy. What this means in practice is that every time you open a new web page you have to agree to accept cookies (the electronic kind) if you want to continue. To buy a train ticket online or maintain an online bank account, you have to not only provide vast amounts of personal data (birth date, birthplace, etc., etc.) but check numerous boxes accepting miles of fine print about the site's privacy policies.

In other words, it's not that they aren't collecting tons of personal data; they're just making us agree to let them, and agree over and over again. And like everyone else, I'm glad to surrender my data for the sake of convenience.

Last night I also checked off another item on my list of things to do: for dinner we had hot polenta with cicciolata di Parma melted on top. This was something I pledged to do a few posts ago, and it totally lived up to expectations. For fans of fat and gristle, this stuff is hard to top, and combining it with cornmeal, olive oil, and a little parmesan just makes it that much better.

Now I was on a roll. So this morning I went to the Servizio Tributi office to try to solve the mystery of our property tax.

Far from being a dusty cave, it was a maze of sunny rooms full of very helpful, very fashionable women who were eager to help me figure out what my tax status is. They found it a bit of a puzzle, since I'm a citizen and also a non-resident, but not yet registered as an Italian living abroad. (That's something I need to do once I'm back in California.)

Another wrinkle is that the taxable value of the apartment is not determined by the sales price, the way it is where I come from, but by "the authorities" (some other office, apparently), based on size, location, and who knows what else. The nice ladies in the Tributi office explained that said authorities think our place is worth a whole lot more than we paid for it. and evidently there is nothing we can do about that but accept it--another case where the Zen attitude that Pam keeps urging on us really does seem like the only possible path.

Eventually the ladies figured it all out, and with great patience managed to explain it to me in a way I could understand. The upshot is that I now know how much we owe and how to pay it (via a bank transfer, of course). Tomorrow perhaps I'll be able to check this off my list, too.

When I complain, in my moron Italian, that I'm having trouble learning the language, my Italian compatriots often respond, soothingly, "Pian' piano." That is, take it slowly; you'll get their eventually. Which I guess is also a kind of Zen attitude that I would be smart to adopt.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Unfinished

Up till now I've been such a dutiful blogger, but in the last week I seem to have entered a state of collapse. And not only in regard to this blog.

To start with the headline, our kitchen remains incomplete and we have no idea when the missing backsplashes and kitchen counter will arrive. Ikea, normally machine-like in its efficiency, is apparently baffled by our problem and unable to provide even unsatisfying answers. Our best hope at this point is that they will deliver sometime after we leave; Pam and Romano have volunteered to come over here and receive delivery (and supervise installation) in our stead.

I could probably absorb this blow without feeling too tragic about it. We have heat, after all (not that we need it--temperatures have been in the low 80s the past few days), and a dishwasher, refrigerator, sink, and stove, all working and all in the same room. But in the meantime we are discovering ways the new kitchen is less than ideal.

The cabinets are too high, for one thing. The design lined them up to go over the refrigerator, but the result is that we have to climb up on a stool to see the top shelf or even the back of the middle shelf.
Danny illustrates cabinet height problem. Note tiptoes.
It may not be a coincidence that the Ikea designer who helped us put the plan together was a charming English-speaker but also about seven feet tall.

An even greater daily annoyance is the stove-sink-drainboard relationship. We were told we had to put the dishwasher to the right of the sink, and not the other way around, but the result is that there's no place to put things that come off the stove, or the spoon, spatula, or whisk you're using to cook.
This didn't seem like a bug when we were in the design stage.

We'll deal with these problems or find work-arounds. (Danny has already located a nice little kickstool for the kitchen.) What is more upsetting, or at least feels so at the moment, is the way our unfinished kitchen presents itself as a metaphor for so much else that hasn't been accomplished during our two months here.

My ability to speak Italian has not undergone the surge I fantasized about before arriving here. If anything, I'm having more trouble than ever choking out simple sentences. (And that's even though I have been getting a little more sleep.) And so many things I was sure we'd get to during this trip remain undone, from visiting the palatial bingo parlor down the road and checking out the public pool to eating at the restaurant that specializes in goose. We've never found our way to the big regional park a mile away; I've never gone into the clothing store across the street, alluringly named Pinko. (It is a local brand, Pam tells me.) We haven't done anything about getting the apartment painted or deciding what kind of furniture we want in the dining room, besides the table and chairs we already have.

This blog seems to have devolved into pointlessness, too. The adventure of our early pioneer days here has faded into a chronicle of meals, shopping, and other tedious bits of quotidiana. Really, why bother?

And anyway, who has the time? With our departure date looming (we fly back to the U.S. on Monday), I'm being forced to deal with paperwork that I've been avoiding till now. And no wonder. It takes literally hours for me to decipher the various bills and the web-site instructions, and even then I'm terrified I'm sending the wrong amount of money to the wrong place.

The biggest mystery surrounds the property tax we're supposed to pay. We've asked the realtor, the condo administrator, and our fellow condo neighbors, and none of them can tell us where to go or how to figure out what we'll owe. Yes, it does occur to me that maybe none of them actually pay this tax and that's why they're vague about how it's done. I have figured out where the relevant tax office is and plan to go there tomorrow.  I picture cobwebs and snoozing bureaucrats, resigned to being ignored but, I hope, eager to help out a new citizen intent on doing the right thing.

I can't go today because it's Liberation Day, a major national holiday here celebrating the end of Mussolini's fascist regime and the defeat of its Nazi German protector/occupiers at the hands of the Allied forces and the Italian Resistance. The main piazza was full of vintage American military vehicles this morning as part of the celebration. All that gratitude, decades later...perhaps this was what Bush and Cheney were dreaming of when they decided to "liberate" Iraq.
I have to find out where the people across the way got their flags.
Much, perhaps all, of my dark mood is no doubt due to the fact that I find it emotionally challenging to have to pack up and tidy up and go to a different place where I have different routines and responsibilities. In the weeks before I left California I was frantic, in despair at all the things I wasn't able to get done before our departure and worried about whether I'd manage in a new place. Now here I am in much the same state, because I'm going back. Back to that other long list of undone tasks!

Perhaps I've wandered into this whole Italian arrangement because I need to learn to find a better, less punishing way at looking at things. Evidently I am not there yet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Coming along

I have been remiss in not reporting that our kitchen has arrived--mostly. Two very energetic fellows showed up on Monday, right on time, with a truckload of boxes containing the various parts of our Ikea kitchen. They set to work putting it all together with amazing speed.
When I took this they were just getting started. They did an amazing job, including a lot of little fixes to compensate for the fact that the room the kitchen is in, like the rest of the building, is just a few centimeters off kilter. That took a lot of extra time. 

But as they were finishing up, we all realized that Ikea had sent the wrong countertop AND the wrong backsplashes. We'd ordered a butcher-block counter for the "dry side" of the kitchen, and plain green backsplashes. Ikea had sent a formica counter and kind of hideous gray=marble=pattern backsplashes. It was very frustrating for all of us and meant that the kitchen could not be completed that day. Argh.

Still, it's pretty far along. This is looking into the kitchen from the dining room. 

And this one is looking from the someday-a-second-bathroom toward the dining room. 

The butcher block counter goes there, next to the fridge. The space between the lower cabinets is because Danny wanted a place he could sit while he chops onions. 

I know at the moment our kitchen looks pretty soulless and Ikea-ish, but once we crap it up with all our stuff I think it will be a bit more accogliente (which Google Translate tells me is the Italian equivalent of gemuetlich.) And it will certainly be easier than to work in than our present arrangement, where the stove and fridge are in one room and the sink and larder are in another.

Rodolfo the plumber is coming tomorrow to hook up the new sink and the dishwasher, which will mean that the kitchen will at least be functional, if not aesthetically perfect. Meanwhile, we went back to Ikea today to try to straighten out the countertop-backsplash mess. 

The fellows who work in the Ikea Parma kitchen department always seem delighted to see us, because they know they're going to have a chance to practice their English. I still have to get through a phone call with the Ikea warehouse personnel, but it sounds like the backsplash will be delivered sometime next week. The countertop is back-ordered, so we might not see it before we head back to California at the end of the month. But we can live with the temporary counter they put in, if we have to, and have them deliver the butcher-block once we're back here. 

Of course while we were at Ikea we also took the opportunity to drop a few more hundreds of dollars on baking pans, chairs, drawer inserts, a table to put on the balcony, a few more rugs, and about a thousand other things. Pam had offered to give us a lift home from the store, and for a moment it looked like we weren't going to be able to get everything into her little station wagon. I had to ride in the back with all the goods, since the space available back there was too small for Danny. It was a tight squeeze for me, for that matter. 

Meanwhile, I've had two significant revelations this week.

The first is that the obvious solution to the problem of what to put on all these huge white walls is to take some of the big paintings we have back in El Cerrito off their stretchers and bring them here. We'd rejected that idea initially, because it's a pain getting pictures on and off the stretchers (all those staples). But the ceilings are high here and stopgaps like posters are going to look ridiculous in these big, empty white spaces. We have paintings by my mother and Danny's brother that we really like and have no room for in California, and they'll look great here. This is one I'm hoping to bring--a picture my mother made years ago of Max and me and one of her dogs.


The second realization is that I have to do a better job of getting enough sleep, or I might as well give up on learning Italian (...she writes at 12:56 a.m., when she has a plumber coming in seven and a half hours). I've been going to bed too late and getting up too early, and the consequences of this were borne home to me when I went out for coffee with Franca yesterday and could hardly understand anything she said. It was as if she were speaking some other language, one I'd never encountered before. And I realized it was because when I'm really tired, the parts of my brain that process Italian are the first things to shut down. So I have to stop doing what I'm doing right now, and go to bed.




Monday, April 16, 2018

Campobasso bits and bobs

While we were down south we had to kill a little time one afternoon in Campobasso and ended up browsing in a big supermarket. I was very taken with this gigantic piece of provolone.

About 17 pounds for about $188. I wonder who buys provolone in this quantity.

I was also taken with the brutally carnivorous honesty of this oven-ready rabbit. (Apologies to my friends with pet bunnies.)


Later, we passed this balcony covered with well-used, well-washed aprons drying in the breeze.
This might be the household of someone who buys provolone in seven-kilo increments.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A little more Montagano

Friday was our last day in Montagano. After our delectable lunch at Da Filomena, I retraced one of my favorite Montagano walks while Danny recuperated with a nap.
I took a road out into the countryside, After a kilometer or so you can look back and see Montagano on its hill, like a toy castle.
I can't tell what kind of orchard this is

The building in the distance is a dairy.

This is someone's little farm
 Coming back into town I ran into this lady, who was bringing a load of wood she'd gathered back to her house in the center. She was very friendly and told me she's 76 years old.
Later, Maria said she thinks this woman actually has a lot of money and doesn't need to gather firewood out in the country. Maybe she just likes the exercise. Of course Maria herself is planning to go out in the fields and pick nettles to cook as a filling for pasta. "I have a freezer full of greens," she declared. 

Since it was our last night in town, we met our friends for a drink at the Circolo Unione, the social club underneath the Montagano City Hall, where Rita, Fernando, and their kids all work. 

In the evenings the place fills up with men who play Italian card games, drink beer, and talk about sports at the top of their lungs. 

Our group adjourned to the Giardino di Bacco, a pizza place just outside of town. It's not that great, but it's the closest thing to a real restaurant that the town has. 
By the time I thought to take a picture, all the food had been eaten. We've noticed that Italians seem to eat really quickly. And they all tend to be members of the Clean Plate Club. Closest to the camera are Rita and, to her left, her husband Fernando and, to her right, their son, Francesco, and daughter, Luciana. Maria and Claudio are on either side of Danny.  

I have never been able to capture in a photo how entertaining Claudio and Maria are. Even when they're speaking Montaganese dialect to each other and I can't understand a word, their gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice are all hilarious. These photos do not do them justice.


The next morning Rita and Fernando saw us off over coffee at the Circolo. As a completely unnecessary going-away present, Fernando gave us a bag with two bottles of local wine and a chunk of his and Rita's own capocollo. They buy half of a pig, make sausages, capocollo, and other salumi out of it, and hang the meats to cure in their basement cantina. We'd had some of their coppa at lunch at Rita's and it was great. I'm looking forward to revisiting it. I have no doubt the wine is tasty, too.

So we ended up with quite a bit of Molise swag--the wine and capo from Rita and Fernando, the towels we bought at the Petrella market, and some items we picked up one morning when we stopped by the Molino Cofelice, the mill in the neighboring village of Matrice where we had our pasta lesson last summer. For old time's sake we bought bags of whole wheat and buckwheat flour and pasta made with ortica--nettles. 

When it came time to say good-bye to Rita and Fernando there was a lot of two-cheek kissing and Rita insisted several times that we instant-message her as soon as we got back to Fidenza, since otherwise she would worry about whether we had survived the (completely uneventful) train trip.

I feel foreign here in Italy in many ways, baffled by the language, the way things work, the nuances of how people behave. But many things about our visit to Molise--Rita's anxiety about us as we moved out of Montagano's orbit, everyone's worry that we might not be having a wonderful time, their obsession with good food, their nearly insatiable appetite for social contact---all this struck me as very Italian and also very familiar. Perhaps I'm more Italian than I realize.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Petrella and Bojano

Petrella Tifernina is a neighboring town where Fabio, a friend of Rita's, has his hair salon. Last summer Fabio gave Danny a really nice haircut. He was due for a new trim, so on Friday morning we drove over to see Fabio again.

Danny has been enlisting me to cut his hair with electric clippers. Fabio does a much better job than I do.
Fabio's parents live in Florida and Montreal, but he remains loyal to Petrella, a town of about 1,200 people. His place is called High Philosophy, he told me, but there's no sign on his business or most of the other little shops on the Corso, the town's main street. 
Fabio's shop is the square door on the left

A very understated gas station
 A
This is some kind of workshop a few doors down from Fabio's place
After the haircut had been successfully concluded, Danny and I strolled around town a bit. It isn't as pretty as Montagano, but there's a nice lookout over the surrounding hills.
Petrella has its share of picturesque corners, too.


We came upon a street market where one vendor was selling tiralli by the kilo.
Another had an array of kitchen and farm implements for those who were still doing things the old-fashioned way. Note the scythes and, on the right, the chitarra for cutting noodles.

Our next stop was another Molisan town, Bojano, home to Trattoria da Filomena. We'd eaten well there last summer and wanted to visit again. There weren't many customers, and the waiter had a TV one in one corner airing pundits discussing the upcoming regional elections, but the window near our table looked out on a mob of gamboling lambs. And the lunch was great: beans and squares of pasta in a tomato broth, farfalle with asparagus, an excellent veal chop, roasted scamorza cheese, garlicky broccoli rabe,, and strawberries and cream for dessert. It was a perfect spring lunch.





Good-bye, for the moment

Today we said arrivederci to Fidenza and headed back to the U.S. Happy though I am to be seeing friends and family in New York and then Cal...