Tutti ne parlano, pochi(ssimi) lo fanno.
I have been marooned on Greek islands, but for a week or so. I have been sent back and forth from offices, sometimes for months. I have been exiled to work on the road, for years at a time. But never had I been sentenced to go back 200 years in time.
To be sent back 100 years before my family thought to escape Southern Italy, in the time of Napoleon, could prove to be instructive, perhaps not only to find reasons for why they would leave the idyllic countryside, but also to offer a fresh perspective on 2011. Look, things aren’t that bad here. But there are some bad things happening and initiated by people whom, it seems, have no accountability for their short-sighted actions. It’s going to be hell to pay and though the ones who are making the bad decisions might not bear the brunt of the consequences, someone will. And usually it will fall on the little people. The ones who till the soil, to live the rest of their lives like a schnook. The worker bees.
Thus my dream sent me back.
I arrived in Naples and mistook it for Palermo. The plan was to take a boat to Sicily, to Palermo. Cross over Sicily to Messina into Reggio di Calabria. Take Calabria around the gulf to Taranto in Apulia and then back through Basilicata to Campania. One year. On the wine trail in Italy in the year 1811.
All the different languages! Fortunately in dream space I understood them all. Unfortunately, I don’t remember most of the conversations, save that most of them involved directions or means to get money, food or sex.
Transportation. Slow. About two thirds of my year was spent in transit. But as that was the way in those times, I adjusted. One thing I noticed – people looked you in the eye more than they do now.
Food and wine. Where are all the tomatoes? Down here, with the little people, there were no pomodori. In fact, oddly, we ate a lot more polenta than I would have thought. But it didn’t seem to be made from corn. One note- the food was bitterer than food in 2011, generally. The vegetables seemed livelier. The fish seemed odd. Delicious, but fish I didn’t recognize. Meat? Are you kidding? In one year I had Lamb maybe three times and goat once. Beef was unavailable. Pasta was crude but savory and delicious. Thank God for goats – we had cheese – and even two hundred years ago cheese was my little addiction, although on rare occasions.
And wine? I’ve got to say the wines, when fresh, were out of this world. When aged, if they weren’t fortified, they were pretty dismal. Alice would have loved the young whites. I preferred them when they were fresh – they had a musky quality that I found alluring.
Luckily, I made friends with farmer communities along the way and they liked my new world attitude, even back then, even if they didn’t quite understand who I was or where I came from. I looked like them, and I was younger, about 25 years younger, than I was in 2011. And I spoke with a funny accent, just like in 2011.
It was good to know I affected folks in 1811 similar to the ones in 2011, eh Chiara? Some things never change.