All roads lead to lunch.
We are on a trail in San Bartolo, in what they call a “natural park.” It’s an area of rolling hills and stunning views along the sea above Pesaro. You drive up into it on a road called “the panoramica.” The term is apt. Our plan today, like most days, is to be active throughout the morning, work up an appetite, then have a big lunch. Nearby, in Marina Alta, is a seafood restaurant called da Gennaro. The da is like “chez” in French. It’s Gennaro’s place. The food is amazing, at a reasonable price.
When I suggest Gennaro for lunch, Tizi considers and says maybe not. Didn’t we have fish yesterday?
The trail follows the edge of a bluff. It’s 400 yards down to the sea. Not a cliff exactly But definitely not a hill either. Call it a hilff. In the distance we can see Valugola, our destination down at the water’s edge. It could be a mile, it could be three miles. It doesn’t matter. We have a few hours to kill, and the sun is out.
We’ve been telling ourselves for a while: get some walking sticks. We finally got a hiking app for our phone, so we know where we are. Tizi is keen on the idea of sticks. The three women we just talked to on the trail all had walking sticks. I’ve been resisting. For one thing, it’s more stuff to keep track of. And for another, I associate them with age. That’s foolish. Our knees are getting old, maybe our balance isn’t what it used to be, and who wants to fall? In places the trail is rough. And it’s all downhill to Valugola, hard on the knees, where we’ll turn around and walk back up the hill, back in the direction of lunch.
“What’s the opposite of steep?” Tizi says on the return. “Not steep, not flat. What’s in between?”
She considers. So do I. Neither of us likes it. We’re stuck with gentle.
Half way back, along the bluff we do something foolish. There’s a cut from the main trail that gets close to the edge of the hilff. We want to look down there. At the water’s edge there’s the remains of a restaurant, Il Molo, where we ate 25 years ago, closed now because the road to it is washed away, the way these hills are being eroded and caving in over the years. The cut is 50 yards long. Tizi goes first. The path is fine, but at the end of it, we have to scale a muddy hill. It’s eight feet up to the main trail.
“We should go back,” I say.
“I can do this,” she says. “It’s not that far.”
She goes first, on all fours, grasping at roots to pull herself up. There’s a kid up there, sitting on a blue towel, working on a laptop. An angel. He reaches out, gives her his hand, and pulls her over the edge. I follow, grasp a sizable root, grasp another root, smaller. Then, is that a weed? Will it hold my weight? Where’d that angel go? It occurs to me that if this weed doesn’t hold me, I’ll fall backwards and maybe go right over the edge of the hilff. There’ll be no stopping. I’ll roll 400 yards to the bottom.
When I crawl over the edge to the trail, the kid is there.
“You guys are brave,” he says.
Tizi stands there smiling. The sun is out.
“That was not smart,” I say to her.
“That was stupid,” I say. “We have to think.”
We walk back to the car, a gentle descent. I’m thinking, Get the sticks. I’m thinking, Remember to be careful.
We sit in the car a minute, put the windows down, and rest. My phone rings. Her cousin Arnoldo and his wife Marisa will meet us for lunch. Marisa suggests Gennaro. I say yes.
And it’s a great lunch. And it’s another great day. We make plans to go to Venice.
Such a great day. I’m glad neither of us fell to our death.