This 'n' That

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Orvieto, for this writer, is a place thousands of miles - an hour by train and another ten hours by plane - away. It was not the wonderful experience I had in early July 2005. But it was a good learning one, even though I came away unable to string together a proper sentence in Italian. For two weeks last year I had enchanting two hour lunches with an extremely attractive young woman. Her country of origin and name will remain confidential. Each day we dined in a different restaurant; she was fluent in Italian, which helped expand my choices on each menu. My favorite was Palazzo del Popolo, where a waiter stood by to scrape away crumbs from the white table cloth. My female friend and I happened to be the only two in the restaurant the afternoon we were there. The owner, a middle age Italian who spoke english, came to our table and told us about his stay in New York City. He supposedly worked in an Italian eatery there and returned to Italy to apply his craft in Orvieto. As we left, the owner's fashionably dressed wife approached us. She handed a business card to my friend, and the two of them seemed to have a pleasant exchange all in Italian.

After lunch my sophisticated lady friend and I strolled to our favorite cafe for "due espresso macchiato caldo." She taught me to say those words so that I could order for the two of us. We did this on a daily basis. Our conversations ranged from current world events to books and film. This year my friend was unable to return, and so I missed terribly the long, languorous afternoons that we shared last year. It is just as well, because Orvieto is not the place with the cool, dry winds and peaceful silence that never left my thoughts or my friend's for a full 365 days.

There is now a criminal element. Young angry males full of alcohol and drugs from Rome spend days and late nights around the famous Duomo. Given an opportunity they harasss others who frequent the front steps to pass a few late night hours in conversation. On my last night, I nearly had a violent encounter with two of them along with a few of my classmates. The local police had to be called to put an end to the two young men's threats. It was a sad end to a below average two weeks in a town that is possibly in transition from friendly and welcoming to a place a visitor might find necessary to leave before sunset. Unless the local power structure quickly puts an end to the influx of suspect transients from Rome. Nonetheless, my final night in Orvieto was bittersweet. Because the next morning, after a long early morning train ride to Rome's Fiumicino Airport, I boarded a plane that would deliver me to the homeland of mi amica from Orvieto 2005!