The afternoon was spent in the baking heat trying to do too much at once. The mind is perpetually switching on and off to connections from the past, its living breathing surrealism, you get glimpses of how things were then struggle to re-capture them in the midst of a bombardment of noise and beauty. The other aspect that becomes apparent is the annexing of what was ostensibly Roman Paganism by The Catholic Church. Apart from lopping off a few marble cocks (wanton vandalism) the church has merely stepped into the boots of another’s culture which it happily parades up and down as if they created it. They did a nice number on The Coliseum for example, in the mid 1700’s Pope Benedict declared it sacred on account of the fact early Christians had met their comeuppance in there (we saw it in the afternoon, it’s quite staggering to think it could seat 50,000 and to think of what they saw once in) the church didn’t even bother making excuses for The Pantheon, Pope Boniface just declared it Christian without so much as a by your leaves to its creators.
By the time we met up with our friends again for a farewell drink I was bushed, we went back to the hotel and early evening found a beautiful al fresco spot to eat traditional Roman fare without too much shit from tourists and locals. This meal is worthy of a particular note as it’s one of the finest bloody things I’ve ever had. Saltinbocca (meaning ‘jumping in mouth’) alla Romana is basically meats (cured and otherwise) and melted cheese, but like most Italian dishes which are, by and large, simple affairs, it’s the way of making and the ingredients involved that take it way beyond the immediate sum of its parts. It was the perfect way to see off Rome, short and terrifically sweet it begs another visit. If you see me there stay the fuck away, okay.
After checking out in the morning and a short taxi ride I had the mother of panic attacks on the train from Verona to Bescia following the rather nice air-conditioned journey on the Eurostar out of Rome. It came from out of the blue, a full on Can’t Breathe fit conducted in front of IC and a handful of foreign types. Not sure of the source by the upshot was hell. By the time we arrived I was just about recovered, just.
IC’s mum collected us from the airport and took us back home where we had time to shower, relax and indulge in a spot of lunch prior to picking up Mary from the ‘port place later in the afternoon. After jettisoning her stuff we wandered about Brescia which is almost totally tourist free. It’s a beautiful little city but as it’s close to Milan and Verona gets somewhat overlooked, save the Mille Miglia in April, it’s pretty much left to function without the trappings of tourism. This means that when you order apperitivo, for example, you get the full monty without any fuss, that is, Prosecco with either Apperol or Campari and complimentary snacks, anything from crisps/nuts to little sandwiches and pastries.
After dinner at home (rabbit, delicious) we popped to the local bar and caught up with some friends before carrying on to meet up with Len and some of his pals in a another bar that one of the said mates owned. It was afterhours, everyone knew each other, and there was a strong bond between all present. It’s hard to contextualise but maybe because of most of the guests were drinking wine and Sambuca, and certain factors regarding the average over-40 age-range, I found myself realising that this sort of situation would be strangely unfamiliar to most British people. The place was devoid of any aggression or malice; I can only liken the situation to a loving family enjoying a top-flight Christmas. Bloody ace it was.
I’ve no idea what time we arrived home but the following morning IC, Mary and I nipped over to the local supermarket to indulge in provision buying. Visiting supermarkets isn’t the traditional thing for a tourist to do so for fucks sake, if you do visit Italy make sure you go to one, they are, of course, like any ordinary Tesco save the fact the cured meat and cheese isles are about 50 miles long and the rest of the stuff on sale is simply better than what we have here. Next thing I recall, following is lunch, was travelling through the Italian countryside to IC’s parents place by Lake Garda. It was spectacularly hot and the place was alive with chirping crickets and miniature flying pairs of teeth.
We spent the remainder of the day and evening relaxing, eating, playing cards and finally, drinking, on the veranda that overlooks the lake, with the odd bat zipping past for good measure. On the Sunday Mary and I went to the lake for a swim whilst IC and her mum went to church, we had pizza for lunch and walked about Salo (no English people go there, it’s a holiday destination for the Italians, though the odd German could be found) one of the small lakeside towns that’s like a mini, though just as opulent, version of Cannes with its million euro yachts and boutique shops. You can walk the length of the town with the lake inches away on one side, the other flanked by all sorts of posh bars and eateries. Of course we tried one of the former out.
In the evening we headed back to the lakeside apartment, one final meal and a few hands of cards then off to bed. On the Monday we went back to Brescia, it was time to pack-up and fuck off. I was less than happy to leave, I’d enjoyed leaving all the hassles of London behind and now I was going to have to face up to ongoing work and flat issues, aspects of these detailed in the next instalment before the weekend.
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