This is our 3rd 4th (make sense?) in Italy. And we’ve spent a couple of Thanksgivings here, too. So we decided that it was time to create our own celebrations of American holidays. At the moment we’re in Castelnuovo with two of my friend Barbara’s kids, attending a music festival. This is celebratory in itself. But we’ve also been planning an American style celebration for some days.
Sarie and Lydia bought American flag scarves, which are trendy in Italy right now. (Maybe they’re also trendy in the rest of Europe, but I wouldn’t know.)
Yesterday morning they hung the scarves out the upstairs windows for a particularly bi-cultural look.
In addition, no one had any lessons or rehearsals in the morning, so we all drove up into the mountains to La Grotta del Vento, to tour a cave with some fantastic karst topography inside it. Some of formations are called “drapery,” “bacon,” and “spaghetti.” I thought they looked like candle-wax. But finally we hit upon a simile that satisfied our entire group of New Yorkers: three-day-old city snow.
After our tour we went to a nearby trattoria and ate outside, eschewing the English tourist menu for the wider-ranging Italian one and ordering a variety of Garfagnanino cold appetizers plus some pasta. After Sarie told our waitress that she spoke Italian, the waitress spoke full-speed with a Tuscan accent. All the food was delicious, but the waitress seemed quite worried that Lydia and I couldn’t finish our chestnut gnocchi with sausage. She almost scolded us. Finally I explained in the best way I knew, considering my limited vocabulary, “I’m going to sleep in the car.” Considering the way Bob hugs the road on hairpin turns in the mountains, this was a high claim for the soporific effect of gnocchi.
View from just outside the trattoria
But how could our waitress know that we were also planning the most American Fourth of July dinner possible? We’d been gathering ingredients for days: a bag of potatoes for homemade fries; fresh ground beef patties; sesame buns with cheery American flags on them (made in Alto Adige); Sarie’s favorite chocolate brownie pudding with vanilla gelato to go on top; and best of all, a 10-kilo watermelon with “Lorenzini” stamped on it, which Lydia insisted on parading through the main square in Castelnuovo, without help. (The next day, she confessed that her arms were a bit sore.)
All our preparations were a success, but the watermelon was perhaps the most popular item of all. We made an utter drippy mess and were considering what mischief could be done with the rinds when around the corner streaked the Bertolanis’ new puppy, Chira. All chairs were emptied as everyone ran to give this new bundle of energy a tummy rub and exclaim over how cute she was.
Chira was followed by one of the Bertolanis’ sons, Gianmarco, three of his friends, and Mrs. Bertolani. We talked for a few minutes, during which time I saw Gianmarco look around and mutter something to his teenaged friends about New York. It was only after they left that we all looked up and remembered the utterly silly-looking flag scarf display in their upstairs windows. We had a good laugh about the state of our dinner table and the American takeover of Tuscany, and decided maybe it was a good thing that we didn’t sing patriotic songs at the top of our lungs as threatened. Then the kids went off to the evening’s festival concert.
So that was our Fourth. Perhaps I’ll post some photos of the festival itself soon. But it’s still ongoing, so I’ll wait a bit.