Italy seems to be synonymous with romance. Opera, art, the entire culture drips with the sweat of an erotic current that powers the emotional life in Italy. Something as simple as a lunch on an outside terrace of a villa overlooking Firenze, or a hotel room with a balcony looking out to Capri, can set emotions in gear, that can fuel the heart and the soul of the lovers who share that meal, or that room.
Have you ever been hit by the thunderbolt? In Italian life it is seen as a rare gift for the fortunate few. Puccini, Verdi and Rossini devoted hours of their operas to love at first sight. It does happen. It happened to me once.
The past few days I've been talking with people about their upcoming romantic holiday, Saint Valentines Day. Saint Valentine the martyr. Eros and Thanatos. Open arms and open hearts. Soul Mates. Chocolate and Brachetto. Champagne and anything. Love and loss. Guys and Dolls.
This is not a moment to schlep another Chianti, not to worry.
This might be a call to the search party in the desert, to the lonely wanderers looking for their lost parts, their completers, to come back from the solitude of the sand and look once again in more familiar places.
Folks running about, running out their time as if it were a roll of quarters easily replenished over and over.
Today a man in a hospital bed was breathing what might be his last breaths. He has given his life to the grape and the fork. Two of his three children are missing, his customers are nowhere to be found, and his colleagues are otherwise occupied. And yet he must climb that last hill alone. How fair is that? He has given all his goodness to the vine and the hearth, neglected no one. Not his father, nor his wife, nor his children.
Where is France when this son is old and dying? Where is Italy for this soldier of Spumante? And California, which without folks like this one, would still be making jug Chablis and Burgundy? A fine send-off for one of the early ambassadors. And yet the young ones grab for the brass rings of certification, their master grasping, hoping to elude the grim reaper and the realm of anonymity.
Like my two young friends who have spent all week testing and tasting, hoping and praying. They remind me of these characters from the Alejandro Jodorowsky film, El Topo.
So while you hunt for the perfect restaurant to take your romantic partner to, or decide between the dark chocolate or the deep red rose bouquet, or maybe it’s a home cooked meal and that special bottle of wine you’ve been cellaring, go about it without the pressure to be something out of the ordinary. Love, with no reservations.
For if you’ve found that someone special, something out of the ordinary has already happened. It may not have the accompanying thunderbolts, don’t worry.
Be thankful for the ones you have found along the path, these are fleeting moments to savored, on any trail.