Two cultures, one experience
I sit in the piazza after my lunch, dopo il pranzo, and I ask myself a question. Is there food on earth as sensual as an ice cream cone? I just sat on the plaza’s low brick wall, feeling the sun each day warmer this spring on my back, and savored a cone of half coffee, half chocolate chip ice cream. An old man in a copper suede jacket and faded blue pants makes his way past me. He must have heard my moan of pure pleasure as I ran my tongue around my ice cream cone because he caught my eye and smiled, that eternal smile that he recognized between his time and mine, his culture and mine, that sometimes it is purely physical is simply exquisite.
During this lunchtime closing in the plaza, I also think about the beauty of simple courtesies. Today at the pizzeria, when I was going to pay for my lunch, the owner, Danielli, insisted on giving me a glass of lemoncello, the very thick, bittersweet, lemony digestif so popular in Italy. Last night, in the same restaurant, I went to pay only for the cashier to tell me “enough ma’am.” It appears that Lucianna and her husband had paid for my meal, probably as a thank you for the chocolate chip cookies I had delivered earlier in the week. Neither the offer of the lemoncello nor the payment of my dinner had a great monetary value. Each one, however, filled me with a sense of acceptance and belonging that is priceless.
The square is quite crowded this day in contrast to other days where I have spent the hours after lunch. It must be the beautiful warm sun that is causing this. I can’t think of any other factor. Four teenagers pass me, each dressed in black T-shirts and jeans; each with their charcoal-black hair tied back in a tortuous Mohawk strip; each licking ice cream cones, one of which was bright orange. As they passed me, the bright orange ice cream perched on the cone fell with a soft, splattered sound onto the grass. Screams of “Dio mio” split the air as the owner of that particular cone ran back to the gellateria to replace his lost, dolce delicia.
I am mesmerized by both the seductive warmth of today’s sun and the life of the town. In general, it is the very old and the very young that catch my eye. However, right now, a very handsome man, in his late thirties, has caught my eye. He’s dressed in a black sweater, jeans, lace-up brown Italian casual shoes, and designer sunglasses. Truly a beautiful figure.
The activity in the square begins to diminish. I see Irene’s son, who works as a waiter at her restaurant, driving through the plaza, exchanging greetings with the young man whose orange ice cream had crashed earlier at my feet. On the wall next to me sits an older woman with abnormally red hair in conversation with an older gentleman dressed in black pants, a white shirt, a navy blue sweater, and black wingtips, with a cane. She says at least ten words to hers. Leaning against the wall behind me, next to the incredibly handsome thirty-something observed earlier who is now eating strawberry ice cream, are three elderly Italian men, all in dress pants, sports coats, and hats: two in felt hats, one with the favored flat-brimmed hat. by European farmers. Your running conversation, performed at low volume, provides pleasant background noise. I can’t discern a single word, but I enjoy the continuous chorus that they are bringing to the other activity in the square.
There is one thing my guests comment on most often. It is this glimpse that you can achieve in a beautiful, charming, and utterly strange way of life.