Today started very early–about 1:00 last night, in fact. That’s when Judy, Lew, and Elaine arrived at Ronco delle Rose with John Lavezzi, newly flown from Barcelona after the discovery and return of his pilfered passport. And with that, our traveling group is complete.
We met at breakfast, provided by the house here: a wonderful spread including several types of breads and pastries, served, as is the Italian custom, with salume (the catchall term for smoked meats such as salami), coffee, and tea. (Most Italian breakfasts we’ve seem don’t include eggs, bacon, breakfast sausage, pancakes, waffles, or French toast.)
We wanted to stroll downtown Bettola today, our one full day here; but we had another interest. Since tomorrow we will be heading to smaller towns in the hills south of here, today seemed a good opportunity to look for a laundromat. Since there are several shops in Bettola, that seemed to be a good place to look. The strolling went well, but not so much the laundromat shopping. The closest we found was a laundry; and by the time we found it, even that was closed for the usual midday siesta. (Americans think of this as a Hispanic custom, but Italians, too, usually rest between noon and 3:00. )
Fortunately, some sharp use of smartphones revealed that there was a chain laundromat about 12 kilometers north in Piacenza, so we piled back in our cars and headed there to take care of that task. Equipment was all clean, modern, and well-maintained, instructions were posted in Italian and English, and the attendant could not have been more helpful. Plus, there was a little coffee-drink-snack bar next door where we could take turns getting something and using the rest room.
A word about that: Italians aren’t keen on euphemisms for “the necessary.” There’s no use of terms like “rest room,” “bathroom,” “lavatory,” etc. The room, like the fixture, is called a toilet (usually spelled “toilette”). Public toilets are scarce; there certainly wasn’t a public facility at the laundromat. Restaurants and bars make their toilets available to (giggle if you must) sit-down customers only, NOT “take-away” customers (what we call carry-out). So an espresso purchase also buys access to the establishment’s toilet. My guess is that that place does a great business from laundromat customers.
From there we went again to La Vecchia Stazione. Elizabeth, Rob, and I had been there yesterday to visit our cousin Francesco Costa, and this was the first chance for Judy, Lew, John, and Elaine to see him on this visit. Wine was poured and foccaccia and salume magically appeared, all of it on the house. So did Francesco’s brother Alessandro and their mother Maria Luisa. And we were introduced to Francesco’s girlfriend, an early-childhood special education teacher named Francesca. We enjoyed lively conversation, frequently enabled by translation apps on our smartphones or the generous application of gestures. After an hour or two, after declining our invitation to join us for dinner, the Costas recommended a place for dinner (foccaccia clearly being just a snack), and we headed off with a promise to stop by tomorrow before heading south.
Francesco’s recommendations are not to be ignored! The restaurant, La Fratta Osteria Conviviale in Ponte dell’Olio, was marvelous! In addition to orders from the menu, they offer “surprise dinners” based on items that are local and in season. You can specify a meat, fish, or vegetarian surprise dinner, and you eat what comes. We all opted for the surprise, and we enjoyed our dinners, which were not stereotypically Italian but were well-prepared and wonderfully served. After espressos, cappuccinos, and coffees both regular and decaffeinato, our waiter Aurelio brought out digestifs (chilled after-dinner shots) of Amaro Diciotto, a delicious liqueur made with 18 spices and herbs (diciotto being Italian for 18).
So now we’ve made our way back to the vineyard, with plans to meet for breakfast in the common room tomorrow before we check out of Ronco delle Rose and move down to Soglio, site of the upcoming Festa di San Michele Arcangelo, the centerpiece of our trip.
Today’s photo: This shot from the vineyard’s patio isn’t a great group picture, but since this is the first day we’re all together I’ll use it as the photo of the day. Here we are: my third cousin, Lawrence John Lavezzi and his wife Elaine; my sister Judy and brother-in-law Lew Grothe; me; and my daughter-in-law Elizabeth and son Robert.