Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Italian Twilight Zone

It may be said with a degree of assurance that not everything that meets the eye is as it appears.” So said Rod Serling. The last few days sought to punctuate that. I have been On the Wine Trail in The Italian Twilight Zone.

Vespas bolted to the ground, Piazza’s with Exit signs, empty Italian wine bars, cabanas by the pool with televisions blaring, bocce ball games that seem to have been abandoned in mid-play, made-up roads, tables laden with replicated Italian food, empty harbors and vacated galleries, facades to a nonexistent osteria and wine bar. Where is this place?

Somewhere in America, there is this version of the vision of a place in Italy that represents someone’s idea of what Italy must be like. A place where the music of Jerry Vale and Peppino di Capri play endlessly, where Volare and Funiculi’ Funicula’ and La Donna e’ Mobile chant incessantly in a mind-numbing mantra of the Italian dream. This place exists, a place where people go to be conditioned to accept all things Italian, as sponsored by Viacom and Sysco and L’Oreal and Illy. Illy, how’d that get in there?

In all seriousness, this place was an Italian-themed adult resort, down to the Lancia Zagato and Fiat 124 Spyder in the front drive. Made to resemble a portside resort, dotted with piazzas one might find in the Veneto and towers in Tuscany. A shrine to garlic and wicker, and “family style” plates that were made as "single servings," enough to feed that family of four or five not too long ago, after the end of World War II.

Walking around the site at night, I was struck by something I had experienced as a child. We had a neighbor who worked, most likely, as a gopher, for Mr. Serling’s Twilight Zone production. He had me believe, as a young child, that he was a writer. We often talked about things as he threw a baseball to me in the back yard. My dad would be off selling a skyscraper or a power plant, and this neighbor, also an Italian-American fellow, would hang around the house. He was harmless enough, though at times he liked his Chianti a little more than the average fellow. But to me he was someone who had a key to a door to another dimension, and his access to the show gave my young imagination many hours of entertainment.

So then I came upon this piazza, almost empty, somehow not quite right. Just a shade off balance, maybe the music would be a little out of tune or the calamari would be a little too much like an onion ring. It reminded of those days of imagining alternate universes while tossing the ball.

And then the wine, Omigod. Here I am fighting the good fight for “all things truly Italian,” and here I am confronted with Italian white wines from the 1990’s and an occasional wine from Australia, or one of those ubiquitous flasks of wicker Chianti. They were all there. A place where Gavi was still “Gavi di Gavi,” where the Maremma was still a mosquito-infested marsh, much like it was the last time I saw it nearly 20 years ago, before all this was here. So far we’ve come, and so much higher the mountain has risen. Very surreal.

Yes this is a rant, and no this is not made up. And people go there to get married and to take their dogs on vacation and to listen to another rendition of “Mambo Italiano” al fresco in the piazza in the twilight, sipping a Prosecco. Or was that really a Prosecco?
To borrow from Mr. Serling, "You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Italian Twilight Zone.”
All photographs taken "on location"

6 comments:

Tracie B. said...

that sho' don't look like no pizza napoletana...

Travel Italy said...

I totally agree with Tracie b.! Why do we here continually try to make things look antique or to recreate some atmosphere.

Let's start a new concept. Build great buildings that will last 500 years, put in local businesses that sell local produce. Bring in great wines no matter how many points wine spectator gives them and let it develop on its own!!!!

Italian Wine Guy® said...

Ya think?

spozed to be a Caprese....
yeah,uh-huh...

Anonymous said...

have you've forgot "mitica" fiat 500...?

see you soon
::B

Anonymous said...

sorry...I would say:: have you forgot "mitica" fiat 500...? ;-)
bye ::B

EVWG said...

Truly bizarre. First Disney then Celebration, Florida now this. i almost want to see it for myself.

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