Sometimes a Bottle of Wine is Just a Bottle of Wine, but, Sometimes…

I arrived in Verona by train from Munich. I was renting an apartment for a month from Famiglia Cera, but hadn’t thought that on Sunday no food stores were open. It was a bit of a conundrum. I’d written to ask if they could please please please please have coffee in the apartment.

They wrote back, telling me what tram to take to my apartment which was on the south side of the Adige. I’d traced the route from my apartment on the map many times. I felt I “knew” where everything was. I wasn’t sure how things would go the next morning when I started school, but I believe it’s a good idea to let the “morrow take care of itself.” I arrived at the apartment. Signora Cera was there to meet me, and we went up to the apartment which was a large room with a beautiful bathroom and a kitchen against the wall.

On the table was basket of very strange things. Dates, olives, olive oil and (thank you Signora Cera) coffee and milk. I would survive the coming morning. That’s really all it takes.

After we had chatted about this and that, trams and school and phone numbers (hers), she left.

I was in Verona because Goethe had gone to Verona and had written about it rhapsodically. It was the first place he’d seen a classical monument — the beautiful Arena around which the city is built. I also wanted to study Italian. I don’t remember why, but partly because I’d seen from my own experience as a teacher of international students that going to language school was a GREAT way to be a tourist.

I put things away, looked again at the strange basket of odd things and headed out and down the street I’d traced with my finger so many times. My goal was the Arena. I wanted to see it.

It fills an enormous square. It’s faced with pink marble and in the late afternoon summer light was incredibly lovely. I walked around it and then, seeing a woman in an outdoor cafe eating prosciutto melone (slices of cantaloup wrapped in Italian dry ham) I realized I was hungry. I looked at all the possible restaurants and choose the one named “Martino e Michele” because those are the names of the two main characters in my novel, Martin of Gfenn. When in doubt, follow your personal arcana, that’s what I say.

I ordered prosciutto melone, a pizza margherita and a bottle of the local wine, Valpollicella.

As I ate my lovely dinner, and drank my wine, the sun dropped lower and the pink of the Arena intensified. Soon I would hear an opera in that Arena, two of them as the month wore on. I would learn some Italian, I would see many beautiful frescoes, I would make some friends and travel to Padova, Mantova and visit a friend in Trieste. I would see ochre clinging to the sides of a limestone cliff and someday I would paint with that very ochre, but that moment? A moment of perfect imminence.

16 thoughts on “Sometimes a Bottle of Wine is Just a Bottle of Wine, but, Sometimes…

  1. Freshly baked bread dipped in oiive oil is a snack I began to love when I first traveled through Italy. Your landlady’s choice was a little eccentric, but I hope you made good use of it. But melone e prosciutto is a much better choice. And a local red is always a cheerful welcome.

    • I love fresh bread dipped in olive oil. She had put local products in that basket, as I learned in time, but before I understood that it seemed like a weird and random assortment. One of our field trips was to a mill for making olive oil. Another was to a villa which had been a Nazi headquarters but was a wine making family with a vineyard when I was there. Chamomile grew beneath the vines.

  2. I love your reminiscences. You are so much more adventuresome than I ever was or will be! Your description of the Arena is vivid – makes me want to see it for myself…

  3. From coffee (an essential) to wine (also essential), what a memorable series of moments. I admire your sense of adventure! Great post – feels like I was there too. ❤️

    • Yep. I’ve discovered it’s strangely burdensome to have those doors closed, not that I’m likely to go anytime soon anyway, but… I want to go back to Switzerland.

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