Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What's different on weekends

Steps away from my hotel is tiny Menaggio’s Piazza Garibaldi, or what we’d call the town’s main hub, though there are villas here on Lake Como with larger terraces. It’s been the place this and last week where I’ve had more than my fair share of red wine, sitting outside with a book (several books, at this point) to take in the scenery and overhear as much Italian as possible in my attempt to improve my language skills with minimal work. During the week, the scene is tourists and any locals who happen to take an espresso next to you at the bar, though you probably don’t choose the bar over a table unless you’re running late, but it’s vacation, so you’re not.

Weekends have regular rhythms too, but these involve the town residents. On Saturday evenings, very close to seven, tiny Italian women fill the piazza, grasping each others’ arms in what seems both a greeting and a way to steady themselves. Their husbands trail behind, shuffling with what is neither delight or sadness. There is a buzz in the piazza missing from weekday evenings, when tourists, happy but tired, talk low. Saturday night brings meetings and greetings and a cheerful excitement, and then without a rush but not slowly, they move toward restaurants.

I follow, momentarily forgetting that my two weeks here has meant I’ve now eaten at every establishment in town, even with day trips to Bellagio, Varenna, Lecco, and even Lugano. Recalling this as I pass one of the town’s many gelaterias, convinced I can smell the dark chocolate flavor I crave, I step inside and remind myself my trip is about to end, so dessert for dinner is wholly acceptable. My friend behind the counter agrees and greets me, for we are not strangers at this point.

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