And so we begin the ending of our Italian odyssey not exactly where it began, but in the center, in the place that always draws us back, that place that cast its magical spell on us and commands that we return. We return to Umbria.
The days of food and wine, too late nights and too early mornings, of racing somewhere to slow down and see and the vagaries of the Italian internet have time shifted these reports from the live to the tape delayed. We begin our fourth day in Umbria today, three days of nonstop activity, frivolity and excess, but of those three missing days there is only a single thing to report.
Our friend Marco once told us of a billiard parlor in nearby Foligno. It described itself as being in Umbria, the center of Italy. And in Foligno, the center of Umbria. The parlor itself was in the center of Foligno and one particular table was in the center of the billiard parlor. Here, then, was the center of Italy.
They got it just slightly wrong.
Each night here in Cannara, both on our first stopover three weeks ago and today, as we host two families whose sons used to go to school with our twins and another family whose daughter now goes to school with them, we dine under the stars at a makeshift table, an assemblage of small wooden tables pushed together to accommodate the evening's group, whether it be the three couples who studied together in Bologna supplemented by my college roommate and his wife, our expat friend from Rome, the chef of a nearby restaurant, our new close friends from nearby Castelnuovo, the gentleman who sold us this house, our twins and their friends. The table is infinitely expandable to suit our group for whatever occasion.
And every night it is the same. Three hours under the stars, platters of food, bottles of wine, plastic water bottles everywhere. And conversations animating the night air, punctuated by laughter, shouting and heads tilted backwards, pointing skyward. Over these weeks in Cannara old friendships became deeper and new friendships developed easily and naturally. That is the way here in Italy and that is the way around the table.
Last night, the sixth installment of the grand meal since our new guests arrived ((lunch + dinner) X 2) was more of the same. But as the evening wound down and I looked across to the other end of the table, to the "children's end" I saw the same thing. Eight young adults deep in conversation, eyes wide open and fixed on each other, hanging on every word. For three and a half solid hours. It gave me hope and it gave me joy to see this generation so engaged, so at peace. At home no one would make the time to do this.
If you ask me, we can't afford to not do this.
Bill and Suzy