We all agree that this trip to Italy has raised the bar for the first day in a foreign country.
We traveled for two days solid, snatching bits of sleep here and there with our clothes and shoes on, until time had no meaning except for how long until the next flight. Light or dark outside? Coffee or beer with this meal? It didn’t matter.
At the airport in Lamezia Terme, here in the south of Italy, we were met by Enzo, who, with his cowboy boots and Fender guitars and Ford 150 pickup, is only a little larger than life. (Mark: “Are there many trucks like this in Italy?” Enzo: “Maybe four or five.”) Enzo took us to a spaghetti western restaurant, with horses in stalls outside, saloon-style swinging doors, and pictures of Butch Cassidy and Robert E. Lee on the walls. The antipasto and spaghetti was, as we expected, delicious, different than anything we had tasted before and much spicier than northern Italian.
Mark and I are staying at Enzo’s house and playing his guitars, since we had to leave all our instruments with our agent in Milan before the trip south. Franher and Marlon are staying with Enzo’s friend Saro, whose house is a museum, a collection of ancient items from all over the world — carved wooden doorways, columns, bird skulls, turtle skulls, monkey skulls, a bowl made from the top of a human skull inset with metal and turquoise, a thousand — and I mean a thousand — monkey teeth on strings, rusty padlocks, rusty keys, spears, swords, musical instruments (“I like things that vibrate”), a giant Javanese gong, Tibetan vibrating bowls, Jew’s harps, masks — on and on and on.
Mark asked, “How old is this house?”
“Not old,” said Saro. “I built it myself in the last 12 years. But this area is very organic. There’s a volcano and the earth shakes. The buildings fall down and people rebuild them with the same rocks. Some of these rocks have been in houses for maybe 3,000 years.”
Saro takes the long view. He told me, “This area is cut off on land by the mountains, but the sea is a crossroads. Over the centuries this land has been taken over by everyone — the Greeks, the North Africans, the Turks, the Saracens, the Normans. They each come in and are strong for a few hundred years, then someone else comes along. Now is the turn of the northern cities — Milan, Turin and others. They have ruled for the last 150 years. My grandmother and her friends could not understand Italian as it is spoken on the TV and radio.”