Thursday, September 20, 2012
Out for lunch
with a friend the other day at our new favourite place in Santa Marinella. So lovely. What a great place to live!
About a block from our castle in our tiny Old Town. Most of Sta. Marinella is new, but the one piazza was the original centre of the village attached to the castle and goes back to the 17th century. The restaurant terrace looks over a slope down towards the sea, all covered in palm and olive trees, then a cliff, then the glittering Tyrhennian, with the little sail boats and a few yachts. We had all the seafood we could stuff into ourselves, and downed a half litre of prosecco between us.
One of those memorably great lunches where we just sat and sat and didn't want to move, under the umbrellas surrounded by blooming bougainvillea, feeding the restaurant's cat under the table.
All you can want, grilled gamberoni, fifty kinds of little fishy things for antipasto, and good prosecco on tap. On TAP!!
The food in this town is far superior to Rome. We have a farmer's market every Thursday. We are right in the middle of a huge agricultural area, and right next door to one of Italy's biggest fishing fleets. I've gone a bit nuts in the markets now and then. The tables piled high with fruit and veg, the fresh fish on ice, the home made cheese and every type of pig product you've ever heard of (except bacon). One time I came home with fresh peas in the pods, a bag of spinach, those weird Italian alien-looking fibonacci broccoli, fresh artichokes. During the season, they pile up the strawberries in a kind of mountain and you buy it by the scoopful. Local clementines, apples, fresh octopus, giant shrimp and mackerel, fresh peccorino from the cheese maker, incredibly sweet carrots, so good it's a shame to cook them. And everything served up by the nicest, friendliest rural Italians central casting ever imagined.
Seriously, I go every week and feel like I've fallen into one of those soft-focus movies about the uptight middle aged English woman who moves to Italy and at last learns to relax, drink wine under the olive trees and find true luuuuurve.
After The Heat is over in August, the temp drops down to what I consider normal summer range, about 26-28 degrees. You go out on market day and it's like living in a movie: the mothers all pushing prams, the nonnas in their sensible shoes all standing in the middle of the way, oblivious to the crowds trying to shove past them, gossiping away. There are a lot of other kinds of stalls, clothes, household goods, the tackiest curtains you've ever seen. One place was selling new feather duvets and pillows for ten Euros each. I don't know what truck they fell off the back of, but I didn't question the guy who sold me two feather pilows for the guest room for 13 Euros. All I could think of was how much I felt like I really lived here. Everyone calling me "bellissima" and "la signorina Inglese".
Seriously, living here is really starting to turn into one of those films. I still get very badly worn out if I go to Rome for the day, shopping or appointments or whatever. Some time ago, after a day in town, I called Santa Marinella's one and only taxi driver, Gianni, to ask if he could pick me up from the train station and drive me home. He has been driving me back and forth to hospital, doctor appointments, he has even picked up prescriptions from the drug store for us. He speaks not a single word of English. He was waiting for me when I got off the train, took my bags and offered his arm to walk me to the taxi, took down the plastic step and handed me into the seat like a Victorian princess. I didn't have to tell him the address, he just took me home.
There was one night we were in dire straights trying to get an expensive prescription after normal hours. The hospital had released me at five pm on a Friday, but in Santa Marinella, there is no doctor office open until Monday morning, and I had to have the drug within 24 hours of the last chemo treatment. So we phoned the on-call volunteer oncology nurse, who called the dispensary in Civitavecchia, and arranged for the hospital dispensary to have the drug waiting for us. Gianni drove us to Civi, then when we couldn't find the dispensary, spent about 1/2 an hour on the phone sorting it out between the nurse and the hospital, then drove us there and back home again. I think at some point in Civi he just turned the meter off.
After the response I've got from having cancer just from the local people, Gianni the taxi driver; the fat, kindly pharmacy lady who always told me how nice I looked without hair; Rosetta the real estate agency lady who gave me a freezer from out of her garage when my own freezer died, the gelato place guy who gave me a free gelato when I was looking like I was going to faint one day in the heat, the hardware store guy who fixed my bike for nothing; the bike shop guy who fixed up the wheelchair we borrowed from the parish; the mad old lady who lives upstairs who drops her cigarette ashes on my flower pots, but always lets me in when I've forgotten my keys...
This is starting to be more home than anywhere I've lived since I was a kid.