“Sinpannay; conpannay.” A man holding a white pad stood by our weatherbeaten outdoor table, gesturing from me to the Salad Queen. His face was turning red. We were so frazzed by our drive that we just didn’t get it. “Sinpannay. Conpannay.” He gestured back and forth, threw up his arms and stalked off. His thin cry of exasperation [...]
The tongue of heat that laps at the Maremma’s hardened landscape takes away our breath. We’re only three hundred feet down the trail that leads to the sea and already gasping for water. Not only is the heat scalding our lungs, but the signs warning of malaria mosquito are freaking us out. A long-horned bull [...]
Intense rivalry charged the warm air that lingered around the Piazza del Campo in Siena that night. Hoards of young Italians swarmed the square with flags held high, ranting, gesticulating, and then moving off to blend into side streets. Some were in street clothes and some medieval costume. As groups came through in waves, each behind [...]
In mid-morning sunshine, we squint up at the Tuscan hill town that rises in a tangle of narrow streets and medieval buildings as far as our eyes can see. At the very top peeks a crenellated building that looks remarkably like a fortified castle. Sounds resonate in the clear Sunday stillness, bringing us back to [...]
The rain cleaned the cobbles in the night, giving way to a fresh mist which hung lightly over the slow-moving Tiber. A man with the only gas-powered leaf blower we’d ever seen in Italy blew damp leaves down the stairway beside the Ponte Mazzini, rousing the sleeping gypsies who live under the bridge. As we [...]
Morning mist rose off the Tiber as Mauro swung his little van onto the forbidden streets of our Roman neighborhood. Sunlight glistened at a low angle, highlighting every crack and crevice in the faces of 15th century tenements. Wheels clattered against cobbles and slowed.
‘It’s okay,’ he assured us, conspiratorially as he eased the van to [...]
West of Sienna, sunflowers paint the softly rolling hills as far as the eye can see. The road dips and sways through the Tuscan landscape, with shoulder high banks that rise to either side. Swallows glide on late afternoon thermals in the clear blue sky. At an opening to one field a man holds up cars to [...]
My Italian was not at all up to this. ‘Lo sportello automatico non pagare il denaro,’ I said to the beautifully tailored man across the desk from me – as close as I could get with my tourist phrase books to ‘the bank machine ate my money.’ I felt perspiration rise on the back of [...]
Our green door with its dodgy lock opened onto a path with cobbles worn smooth by bathers going down to the sea. Mornings, we made the hike down to claim our Ligurian beachfront with colored towels and plastic buckets. Later, when the air had cooled, we made our way up the path to join the promenade.
In a shop just off a sunny piazza in Colle Val D’Elsa some years ago, I watched the proprietor take down a bottle. He shook it just a little and held it up. Shriveled black balls the size of fat acorns, backlit by the sun, moved in golden liquid at the bottom. ‘Truffles,’ he said [...]