I love my Belgian family. We laugh together. We explore together, often wandering off the beaten path. And we support each other: Curd getting tired after so much driving in unknown areas, me coughing over here and over there. Etcetera.
And then there was a time for me to go out and about … alone.
I wandered along the Viale della Repubblica towards downtown Riardo. A narrow street beckoned upwards to the right and I followed my raised eyes. Beyond a tiny square stood a stone shrine to Maria. I thought of the thousands who have stood there.
The cobbles launched again, so steeply. Soon I was at the base of narrow steps that soared above the world. Balconies and potted plants greeted my climb. It was just like in the movies, and like a painting of an Italian piazza that hangs in my home. I stopped … stunned. I was really here.
The beauty of the scene embraced me, and yet a niggling feeling came my way: there were no people. Closed wooden doors told me that there were homes here but no one came out to say “Hi.”
I stood in the loneliness. It was so clear that ancient architecture and grand vistas only go so far in the creation of happiness. I need eyes meeting mine.
I ventured up and around and up some more till I saw the shade beside the castle approach. The gate was closed but I enjoyed resting in the lee of the stones. Just me. Just what I needed.
In the evening, we decided to eat at a restaurant a couple of miles out of town – the Masseria delle Sorgenti. I wanted to walk some back roads to get there. I believe my friends found that strange. They drove. My old friend Google Maps showed me the way, through a neighbourhood of Riardo and then out into the countrywide of vines, rows of small plants and huge bushes overflowing with white and pink flowers.
Once again, I wanted to be alone in the world.
The light was fading and I’d agreed to meet the folks at 8:30. All was quiet over the fields and part of me lounged in the solitude. Sadly, the other section of Bruce was well-scheduled, and so I didn’t give myself fully to the fragrant moments. Didn’t even take any photos.
Mr. Google told me that taking this road, that one and then the other would take me safely to my destination. And then I spotted a twinkling terrasse across the flowing land. Perfect … only about ten minutes late. That’ll do fine.
As I turned into the driveway, I noted that the sign said “Villa Ida” rather than “Masseria delle Sorgenti”. Not a problem. I pushed my chest out and strolled onto the patio, seeking my kin. There were little knots of humans spread across. I made my gracious rounds of the tables but there wasn’t a Jo or Lydia to be seen.
Huh? How could they have got lost? Google said I was here. You’d think that in a car they’d have been able to achieve that as well.
I spoke to a chef. I had just uttered the word “Masseria” when he threw his arms in the air, aiming his outstretched fingers way to the left.
Well … Back to the road. Down to the highway. A large sign announced my restaurant but I had no clue about how to find it. Two young men in a car pointed down the way I had come.
Just so you know, thanks to WhatsApp, and Curd picking me up amid the darkness, I was reunited with les Belges. The pasta was delicious. The company was better.
Ciao until tomorrow.