Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Italy that found me

There is a place in Italy where all my memories distill into one. And I was there recently, standing on the balcony of a room overlooking the Adriatic Sea, watching the sunrise. For a west coaster it is an odd thing to see the sun rise in the east. And to look out over a place where there are so many memories, and in a time of my life where there have been so many sunrises. It was a bit disorienting. Italy isn’t something simple, something one can pull out of a tour guide and follow the steps like so many people do when they go to Italy. But this wasn’t just anybody’s Italy. This was the Italy that found me.

Yes, after so many airplane flights, and so many arrivals into Rome, picking up the luggage, finding transportation and getting to my destination. Italy, I keep finding out, isn’t something I have been looking for. It is something that has been looking for me.

I was apprehensive about my return. In fact I’d had cancelled a trip in July. The accident in Sicily was just too nearby, my leg was still swollen, my ribs were still sore. And my head was still throbbing. I had no business going back.

So I decided to return three months after that near fatal day near Vittoria in Sicily. And my first destination, after arriving in Rome, would be a place I knew to be safe, San Benedetto del Tronto.

San Benedetto del Tronto is one of those places every one of us should have somewhere. It has serenity. It isn’t asking for my time, my attention and my dollars. It just is, as it is for those who live there and come back there to rest and recover. Over the span of more than 30 years, I’ve had the whole range of emotions, seen all kinds of weather, and eaten all kinds of food. And had my share of good, wholesome, wine. And I’ve grown up with friends there, some of whom no longer are here with us. When I look on my balcony to the hotel next to me, the Excelsior, my emotions well up. That was the hotel I stayed at many times, in the summer, often with my wife Liz, who died now half a lifetime ago.

Liz - 1988

We’d take the stairs all the way up to the top of the hotel, the one where large letters, E-X-C-E-L-S-I-O-R, line the rim of the building. Fishermen can see it when they come back into port from a night of fishing. Like some kind of a beacon, they return. I too, return, walk into the hotel lobby and over to the bar, looking for the barman, my friend, Piero. Now he is white haired, and a bit shocked to see me. Am I an apparition? Have I really died, and is this place some way-station in Purgatory? He makes me a cafĂ©, and we talk for a few minutes. The season is winding down and he is preparing his part of the hotel to close until after Easter. “50 years,” he answers to my question of how long he has been doing this. 50 years.

Piero & Eugenio - 1990
Piero - 2016
I’d like to say I cannot imagine that period of time, but really how much longer is 50 from 30? Back then, San Benedetto del Tronto was a sleepy little seaside town. Now it is a little larger, but it still retains its small town charm. I can still afford to come here and find great seafood. And see the children and grandchildren of friends who are getting older or who have passed away. I can still drive into the hills and find the craftsmen and women toiling over a machine, making their wonderful shoes and clothing, and bread and pasta and wine. My Italy. It has, once again, drawn me back and found me. I’m a bit more grey and modulated now, than my first time here in this peaceful little oasis. But I’m not all sung out yet. After 50+ voyages over the water over nearly as many years, Italy has set a place at the table for me. “This is where you will sit. Have a seat and we will prepare everything for you now. Here have a glass of Pecorino.” A wine, which in my lifetime, was recovered, in the hills behind San Benedetto del Tronto. It now has a place. It too has been offered a little shelter and a place on a balcony from which to watch the sun rise. It too has been found. And once again, I have been recovered.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


Peter Bernstein said...

Just lovely. It reminds me of "non-wine" trips or parts of trips to Italy over the past 30 or more years: a day at a semi-deserted beach town out of season; peaceful and calm. No frenetic cellar visits or Vinitaly days and nights these.

Wine Country Geographic said...

I love the Adriatic coast of Italy...Vasto...and Tremiti!

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