As a small-town guy raised Protestant, I grew up thinking a carnival (“a carnival,” not “carnival”) was 3-4 trucks that came to town, driven by ruffians who set up a Ferris Wheel, the Tilt-a-Whirl, a House of Mirrors, and a few games like Ring Toss, Milk Bottle Pyramid, and the Basketball Shoot. Hey, there’s a carnival in Pinconning. Wanna go?
We’re short on time, not sure we can see both Murano and Burano, and make it to the train station on time. We decide on Burano. Which you reach by getting on one of Venice’s water buses, also known as a traghetto, roaring away from the main islands, past the floating cemetery, past Murano and its glass factories, 40 minutes across the lagoon.
Venice is a conundrum. For many, it’s a torture. For some, it’s an ethereal mysterious place that repays repeated visits.
In the summer it’s hot and humid. And in the summer it’s crowded, horribly so. And in the summer, rising from the canals, there can be a smell. Unlike American cities we love, take New York, for example, which is also hot and also crowded and also smelly, Venice is not perpendicular.
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.
Tizi and I arrive in San Marino on a Thursday afternoon, focus the rest of that day on getting heat turned on, hot water flowing. After 14 hours of travel, it would be nice to have a shower? From the need-to-do-right-away list, pick one and get busy. Mop the floors. Pick up the carcasses of the cimicie, local bugs that like to come indoors and die. Shake out sheets laid over a few pieces of furniture. And dust. Dusting is your new career. Launch the washing machine. Make beds. Look out the window to make sure everything is still there. Shaggy pine trees? Check. Mountain? Right where we left it. Elementary school? Check. Adjacent homes, castle, green hillside, park and dog run, construction cranes, vineyards? All checks.
So I guess the Maresciallo is still with us. It’s two years since we were last here. He’s two years older, two years harder of hearing. He and his wife are watching television tonight. When Tizi and I stand at the door of our apartment in San Marino, right next to his door in the foyer, we hear the bombast of a loony Italian game show next door.
Wrong about local tomatoes that are coming into the farmers’ markets right now, gorgeous, firm, red, both sweet and acidic beauties that I’m using to bake alla gratinata.
Wrong because in the off season, I content myself with hydroponic vine-ripened tomatoes that do have a little flavor, that are firm enough to be transported who-knows-how-many hundreds or more likely thousands of miles to get the local Kroger, firm enough to withstand 120 minutes in the oven at 350 F and miraculously retain their shape and make a pretty good graté. But the local tomatoes are besting the vine-ripeneds this summer, blowing them right out of the oven.
My relatives by marriage, and how lucky I was, am, and will always be. (When Tizi’s cousin Pierpaolo shakes my hand and says, Come va, cugino? How goes it, cousin? I sort of pinch myself. How did this happen?)
I wouldn’t blame you if you said, “You went where?” It’s not the kind of place, you go back to the States and say, Hey, when we were in Italy we went to Bargni.
Remote location. A small town on a hill west of Serrungarina. Twice this month on the state highway we’ve driven past the exit for Serrungarina, on our way to Acqualagna, on our way to Fossombrone. This is hilly country between the Adriatic and Gubbio. Along this state road that goes south to Rome, Bargni does not merit a sign. And Bargni, truth be told, is barely a town. More like an abbreviated village. So, that’s where. And I’ll tell you why.
Fat rats. Research focused on them suggests there may be something to intermittent fasting. So says Monique Tello in Harvard Medical Publishing.
Good, I think. Because this morning I feel like a fat rat.
My wife and I are in our fifth and final week in Italy. Around this time in our stay, a kind of desperation sets in. Can we eat enough before we go home? Yesterday at lunch, after our first course–she had the ravioli, I had the pappardelle in boar ragu–we asked our server about the carbonara.
So you’re standing outside a restaurant in Italy. Its PR machine has been humming for months, no, make that years. The restaurant has been featured on Chef’s Table, in Food and Wine, who knows where else.
You’re standing outside enjoying a glass of their Tuscan wine, actually a third or fourth glass. It’s a small glass, of a light swill, and it’s free! While you wait for the starting gun at 1:00 p.m. you enjoy crostini with lard, crostini with olive oil, slices of house salami, and all the free wine you can drink.
I remember a distinction professors made on their course reading lists: required reading vs suggested reading.
Put Gennaro down as required eating.
That’s Da Genarro.
It’s on a hillside high above the Adriatic, on a two lane road called “la panoramica,” through a national park called San Bartolo. I wouldn’t say the restaurant is in a village. It’s not a village so much as a brief deviation. If you don’t deviate, you’ll miss it. And trust me: you do not want to miss it.