The drive from Pineto to Pescara is absolutely dreadful. I grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida, whose official town motto, the hyperbolic "The World's Most Famous Beach," could as easily be "The Ocean Drive Most Likely to Make Your Skin Crawl," so I know a thing or two about tacky. The drive from Pineto to Pescara, however, makes Daytona look like Cannes. It is hard to imagine where all the neon that lights the road into Pescara comes from and there are more slimy, unattractive businesses along this road than I have ever seen in America. I am simply floored that the Italians have been able to out America the Americans. But such is the nature of a seaside resort.
The scenery becomes more subdued and attractive as I near Pescara center and at last I recognize some of the sights that have been my neighborhood for the past five days. I head toward the Esplanade Hotel and arrive a few minutes before the group is to assemble for our final dinner.
Joining the group a few minutes late, we begin our walk to dinner in the "old" part of Pescara, a town that was largely built and rose to regional prominence within the last one hundred years. Somewhere along the twenty minute walk, the weather that closed the Gran Sasso tunnel arrives in Pescara and gale force winds begin to blow and the skies begin to open. We arrive just in time at the Ristorante Old Marine (Corso G. Manthone, 39, Pescara, tel. 085-67512, closed Sundays) and enter another small, cozy space, perfect for our last night together.
|Four out of five lab technicians|
And enjoy the last night we do. Alfredo takes charge, ordering mixed platters of various creatures of the sea with names I can't pronounce and can't remember. What I do remember are the smile around the table, smiles for good food and a warm, cozy table. Smiles and jokes about one another (I get my share of ribbing and innuendo about never getting to Castelli), about the people we have met, about the places we have visited, the sights we have seen. Smiles of friendship among a new group of friends who did not know one another five days ago, but who have shared so much together in a short time. Smiles that we were all returning to our homes but taking with us treasured memories and experiences.
And as a final Abruzzo experience Alfredo has us try a local digestif called centerbe, meaning one hundred herbs. This powerful concoction has no place in local trattoria and should be placed under strict governmental control, like the supply of weapons grade plutonium. Alfredo warns us that one must drink it sitting down, leaning against a sturdy wall or lying on the floor. We soon discover the reason for this is that you will end up in one of those three places quickly after sipping it. The stuff is, to put it simply, awful. The color of green Scope, there is nothing therapeutic about it, unless you need to exfoliate your esophagus. None of us admits this of course, and there is much joking and choking to go around. We somehow finish our glasses (declining offers of seconds) and I leave with the strange thought that perhaps tourism in Abruzzo has been more successful than I had imagined, but that the Abruzzese had killed off all of their potential repeat customers through centerbe.
We begin our walk back to the hotel, our journey coming to an end. I will be up for several more hours packing and organizing for several more days of travel on my own, with plenty of time to reflect upon the magic of Abruzzo, a region I did not know about a week ago but which now has infected my soul and become a part of me. On a day of many misses and near misses I feel in my heart that the thing I will miss the most will be Abruzzo.