Trail of Crumbs

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The evening after you get back from Ravello, and your cab driver has just ripped you off to the tune of 20 euros, you will not feel much like spending more money on a lavish dinner. Besides, your lunch was lovely and late, and you aren’t particularly hungry.

On that evening, is it perfectly acceptable to pick up a sandwich in town that is roughly the size of a longshoreman’s forearm and take it back to your hotel room. It will have prosciutto and fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, and bread so crusty it will wreak havoc on the roof of your mouth, but you won’t care.

 

Because this will be your table.

 

And this will be your view.

 

And you will sit there and listen to the sea and smell the citrus from the groves below and realize that there is no better place to have dinner on that night, and maybe any other.

“I have to run to the bathroom. Here, hold my camera.”

“Okay.”

“Wait, why are you smiling?”

“Huh? No reason.”

 

(more…)

 

Honestly, if I think about it, it’s a miracle Rand and I end up anywhere. Because so many of our outings are just disastrous. Rand will get it into his head that he wants to see something, and ask me if I want to go along.

A day spent exploring some unknown city with my husband? Yes! Of course! I’d love to.

I never bother checking to see if, say, the thing that he wants to see is where he thinks it is. Or if it’s even open on that day. Or if getting there requires climbing infinite flights of steps while a southern Italian sun beats down relentlessly upon us, as though it’s carrying out a personal vendetta. No. I never do any of those things.

Life is too short as is, darlings.

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Going to the castle made me sad. Not because I didn’t have fun. I had a lovely time.

But I knew it was all going to be over soon. My aunt and uncle and cousin had to drive back to their village, and the next day we’d leave for the Amalfi coast. I’d be back again – I was sure of it (Rand had already declared it himself), but this trip to Frigento was winding to an end.

 

When I was a kid, I remember positively bawling when my aunt and uncle had to return to Italy. Whenever anyone came for a visit and then left. I’d desperately wish to be a grown-up, because they never seemed to cry at the end of a trip. I mistakenly assumed this was because goodbyes no longer made them sad.

But that isn’t the case. As an adult, you just get better at not collapsing into a heap of tears and snot. Most of the time, anyway.

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My family has trouble following directions. I’m not entirely sure if it’s a my family thing, or an Italian thing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

 

Like their total disregard for warning signs. Is it a countrywide epidemic? Or is it just that my family is nuts?

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I suppose I should have warned Rand.

Rand, sitting with my great-aunt. He had absolutely no idea what was in store for him

 

Honestly, though, I thought he knew. That is why I didn’t lean over and whisper, “Pace yourself. There are four more courses to go.”

I mean, why else are they called primi and secondi? They are referring to courses. What they don’t really mention in Italian restaurants is that those are just the beginning.

There are also antipasti and contorni and insalate and dolci. There is wave after wave of food, eaten by ridiculously skinny people (don’t ask me how this works, because I haven’t cracked that part of the code. I can only assume that incorporating vigorous hand gestures into conversation burns crazy amounts of calories. So if I look like I’m trying to direct a plane the next time I’m engrossed in a polite chat, that’s why.)

In Italy, the midday meal (pranzo) is a sort of sprawling feast, lasting hours. It is the reason many of the shops in Italy are closed between noon and 3 pm. Because food is more important than Capitalism.

Come to think of it, that might as well be my family’s mantra.

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I wish I had taken more photos of the archaeologists in my aunt’s yard, but I was too busy marveling at the fact that there were archaeologists in my aunt’s yard. 

The archaeological site. Also pictured: my auntie’s dog.

She was completely used to it, of course.

Her village, my grandfather’s own, is ancient. I knew this. The area is full of artifacts and relics. Some 30 years ago, there was a major earthquake in the area, and the damage led to the discovery of even more treasures: a massive catacomb and a winding cistern underneath the village.

I’d been in them once, years ago.

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Me, talking to Marciano about his creations. Notice how much I use my hands when I speak Italian.

Yesterday, I may have exaggerated slightly when I said that I found my aunt’s home all by myself. I was caught up in the poetry of it, of the idea that I could wander the same ancient streets that my grandparents did, and find their loved ones’ homes without needing an ounce of help.

But that isn’t the entire story.

Marciano helped.

It was the morning after we’d arrived in Frigento. Marciano saw Rand and I walking outside our pensione and stopped us.

“Ma, voi a chi partiene?”

To whom do you belong?

In that question lies everything you need to know about life in this part of the world. That everyone here knows everyone else, and if a stranger wanders in, it is because they are connected. They belong to someone here.

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