San Gregorio Matese

The view from San Gregorio Matese

***

There is a place at the top of the world
where our Peugeot wants to run
back and forth on the roads.
Will you come with me?

And you did

***

The family had been to San Gregorio many days ago, when I’d been sick in bed. They wanted to include me in the majesty so we climbed again. We moved above the Autostrada, the roundabouts and the t-shirt shops. Into the clouds.

Jo smiled as he remembered the restaurant at the tipping point of the world, where the pasta was also close to heaven. We approached the ristorante sign in San Gregorio … and the smiles ended. Closed. I could feel how much my friends wanted me to experience the ecstasy of this particular Italiano cuisine.

We stepped out of the car and padded our way downhill. An old man smiled with us … “Buongiorno.” As we curved, a few chairs came into view. Two tables were full of old men playing cards, and there was also a spot for us. It was a gelateria, and I chose choccolato and caffè. Soon spoons and tongues were united in delicioso sweetness. All was right with the world.

We waved at the locals and they waved back, across the permeable boundaries of language. And then we just sat, saying something or nothing, just being together.

Across the way, two sweating men were removing a temporary stage that no doubt had been the centre of an evening celebration. Their banging with hammers seemed right at home with it all.

Also over there was a bar. I saw several men around a table, tiny bottles of beer at the ready. I yearned for such a brew, but it is not to be in the short while. Antibiotics and alcohol are not tender bedfellows. On Friday I’ll have an Omer or a glass of wine.

I could feel the pull. “Go over there and sit with them.” So I crossed the street. I went inside the building and indicated to the young server that I’d like the piece of sweet cake that was on display. Without words, we knew. One Euro and the dessert was mine.

I sat outside, at some distance from the gaggle of men. Six older fellows were joined by two male police officers for a round of talk. I loved seeing the officers lingering with the customers, laughing and gesturing broadly. Relationship … what our countries so dearly need.

It was time. I got up from my lonesome stool and walked over to the table. O offered “Buongiorno” and it was offered right back to me. A few of the guys looked at me a bit funny but I warmed them up by singing “O Canada”. A search was soon on for someone who could speak English, but no one showed up. No matter.

Half an hour later we the family left and I shouted goodbye to my high altitude amici. Ciao!

***

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself … what a wonderful world

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