Sunday, June 07, 2020

The short answer? Not right now...

The longest period of time that passed between trips to Italy was in 1997. I hadn’t been back since 1992. Now, it has been a little more than a year, but who knows when we can return?

Looking at pictures from a livestream of Venice, it appears almost like it was in the 1700’s. Not many people, no large cruise ships in the water. A quiet, lilting kind of image, Venice has gone back to being La Serenissima. I’d love to see it like this. But not now.

Likewise, Rome appears to be more like I first saw it in 1971. Pictures from the Sistine chapel, where only 14 people at a time are allowed to view the paintings on the ceiling. 14! That’s even less than when I first saw it almost 50 years ago and during the heights of Ferragosto. Still, I’d love to revisit and see it without the hoards. For now, images and livestream will have to suffice.

What I can still experience, is food and wine. And while it might seem an indulgence, right now, when so many more pressing issues are upon us, we need a respite from time to time, even from the most urgent matters.

I’m not dying to go back into a restaurant, not right now. But I do make my way, once a week or so, to our local Italian oasis in Dallas, Jimmy’s. I go early, before the crowds get there, and restock. This past week, Mike, one of the owners, was throwing away a half box of overripe peaches. “Take them,” he said, “I’m just going to toss them.” So, I did take them, and made a couple of peach cobblers. The wine to go with that? Moscato D’Asti.

“The wine to go with that?” – sounds almost absurd in a world turned upside down by fear and hate and inevitable change. Who cares “what wine goes with that” anymore?

Taking a long walk this morning, and in an alley a young black man is jogging and passes me. We greet one another. I go first. I’m the old white male, so who the hell knows what I’m going to say? Relieved, he counters with a “good morning to you,” as he speeds past me. Godspeed, young man.

My idea of Italy has become welded between a romanticized pondering of the place and the reality on the ground. What does that mean? Between the memories and the thousands of photographs, the countless trips to Abruzzo or Piedmont, Sicily or Tuscany, it still holds a draw on me. I know it isn’t a perfect place. But neither is the America my grandfather dreamt of coming to. We’re both flawed countries, in a world mangled by humankind.

How could I get to Italy right now, if the country would let me, without going on an airplane? Why would I want to do that? Why did my grandfathers and grandmothers want to risk it all to come to a strange land, America? There were no planes available then.

But that was then, you might say. And now, well, progress has…yeah, yeah. Yeah. Progress has…rendered it all a blank slate. We’re on our own now. There’s no cadre of grandmothers and mothers and aunts and sisters to protect us from the outside forces. We’ve ripped the bandage off.

I could drive to Panama, catch a steamer, some kind of a boat, and make my way to Italy, slowly. It wouldn’t be without its own challenges and risks. I could simply drive to the New York and take a freighter to Genoa or La Spezia.

And then, what? The world changes every day, these days. We are in full disruption mode and you want to go to your favorite little seaside trattoria in Castiglione della Pescaia and drink Toscana rosato, as if nothing has happened? Again, and then, what?

I’m hunkering down for now. I may be isolating myself on my little island, as I have done for almost three months now. It’s not an eternity.

There are wines sitting in my little wine closet that have waited patiently for their next chapter. The 1970 Barolo from Luigi Pira, who passed away 40 years ago. The 1974 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Dino Illuminati, who is close to 90 years old now. Dino is waiting. These wines have waited. We can wait.

In the meantime, some of these wines will be opened, with or without any fanfare. They are labors of love and they should be loved. And loved, again and again.

Yes, this has been a long, dry spell without touching the earth of Italy under my feet, listening to the children play in the playground, take in the unforgettable aroma of flowering Linden trees that line the Viale dei Tigli in San Benedetto del Tronto, and sip on a crisp glass of Cerasuolo or Verdicchio or Trebbiano, while the gentle waves lap the shoreline. I miss it, we all miss it. But that world is not a world we can touch. Not right now. And so, we must persevere, and sit tight.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

1 comment:

Avvinare said...

You are always poetic and capture exactly my feelings in many ways. I am dying to go to Italy. I was there last on February 22 before the end of the world but for now, I'm here, dreaming of it, writing about it and looking and pictures, talking to friends. I have no desire to get on a plane or go to a restaurant either. We shall see.
Miss you friend, Susannah

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