This past weekend started for my friends, as the Itlains would call it, a “casino.” What a mess. They were supposed to go to London for the weekend, but the Italians, in their infinite wisdom and sanity, decided to make Friday a day for striking. There were notices that public transportation would strike, the trains would strike, maybe teachers. And the baggage handlers. And those baggage handlers, while legally exercising their right to strike, created un gran casino for my friends. Exactly during the hours of their flight to London, those baggage handlers would strike their hearts out. No London. No H&M. No Pimm’s. Etc, etc.
So Friday, as consolation, we went to dinner and ate a really fine meal: pizza margherita, gnocchi, coca-cola to quench an American craving. And somehow, by divine providence, the waitress knew and asked, “Would you like fries with that?” So we got patate fritte and they were delicious! Ketchup and mayo and fries salted just right made the night. We were stuffed, but we got nutella crepes anyway.
The next day, after strong encouragement from Poppy, I looked up info for a day-trip to Civita di Bagnoregio.
I warn you, dear reader, that I am trying to make sure that the term “musical” in reference to amazing moments and experiences of beauty and indescribability (word?) does not become overused. I want it to retain its meaning and strength. So as the day progressed and we made it through the bus ride (through unbelievable autumnal Umbrian countryside) and then trekked through the deserted side of Bagnoregio to the bridge that crosses a valley into the Civita, “il paese che muore,” in which only 14 people reside, I was hesitant to deem the day truly musical. It had been great, sure, but not musical.
We had arrived during siesta, la pausa, that inconveniences any traveler that doesn’t realize Italians are serious about lunch and rest and closing up shop for a few hours. As such, we searched for food and at first were a bit worried: the first place we found was expensive and they were closing in 20 minutes…we crossed the bridge into the civita and walked through the arch that greets visitors, draped in redtoyellowtogold leaves. Piazza San Domenico, which was nothing but a church, was the first thing we saw, and on the left, a hanging sign: L’antico Forno. We walked in after looking at a moderately-priced menu and realized it was the B&B where Rick Steve’s had gone and fallen in love with. His photo with the owner and cook, Franco, graced the walls, as did yearly Christmas cards from the Steves’ family. We took a seat and soon Franco himself, warm and short and a bit tubby, took our orders. 2 types of bruschetta, pesto gnocchi, red wine, tiramisu and a chocolate cake later, we were the last diners in the small dining room. He chatted with us about the new Pinocchio movie they were filming…
(Me: “Ma Roberto Benigni gia’ ha fatto Pinocchio, si?”
Him: “Si, ma fa schiffo!”
Me: “Yeah, it didn’t do very well. Mai ho visto.”
Him: “Nessuno ha visto!”)
Bob Hoskins apparently is playing Gheppetto and Franco comes to us and says, “There is a famous American actor here, maybe you know of him?” I saw the photo and couldn’t place his name at first but then, “Wait…that’s! That’s! Yes! I know who that is! He’s really famous! He’s a good actor! It’s Smee!”
After eating and chatting and getting restaurant recs from Franco, etc. etc. we went in search of Bob Hoskins and the Pinocchio movie crew. We didn’t find them, but our brief exploration of the deserted town was eerie and fun. That meal and the friendliness shown to us by Franco made the day officially musical. We rode home on the 530 bus satisfied.
We also got to jump in crunchy, fallen leaves.