Our first night
By the time we had found our apartment we were tired of living in the hotel. We had met some very interesting people and they treated us almost like family, but we wanted out own space. Somewhere to “walk around naked” if we wanted to. I put that in quotes because that was one of my fathers favorite sayings when he wanted us kids to leave him and mom alone. We would pester him as to why we couldn’t stay and he would bellow at us “Well maybe we want to walk around naked, did you ever think of that”. Where was I, oh yes, when it came time to take possession of the apartment Gina and Jakamo were there to see us off. By that time we were good friends and they had volunteered to get us settled in. We had packed the night before and were ready to go. Jakamo had brought his car in, very small, to take the heavy suitcases. Gina, Lynn, and myself walked the 6 blocks from the Hotel to our new apartment. On the way Gina gave us a lesson in the part of the city that we would be living in. She told us that for all our shopping we would need to go to piccolo alley, when I asked why it was named that she told me that I would have to see it to believe it. We got to the apartment and began the laborious task of taking the suit cases up the 3 flights of stairs. Of course Lynn and Gina didn’t carry anything, that was still in the 80’s when chivalry was not dead. Gina and Jakamo were impressed that we had gotten such a nice apartment for a 2 year lease. Most of the landlords would only do a 3 or 6 month lease and jack the rent during the summer months when tourist season was. Our landlord was a saint compared to others. Gina gave Lynn directions on how to get to the market and Jakamo gave us the traditional Italian blessing.
Bread (hands us a loaf) so that you will never be hungry
Salt (hands us a bit of salt wrapped in cloth) so that life here will have flavor
Wine (hands us a bottle) so that you will always be happy.
I was touched. We kept in contact with them the entire time we were there. They were our beach buddies.
As we had absolutely no food in the house, we decided that it would be nice to go and do some shopping. We headed down the hill to the place that Gina had described as Piccolo Alley. We would know that we were there because it was the last left before the main road. As we approached I thought that perhaps we had missed it because the only thing before the road was the alley that I could almost touch with both arms spread out wide. I exaggerate but it sure looked that way at first.
Lynn and I start going from side to side, just looking at things. We saw an older lady selling potatoes and thought that it would be nice to have some for dinner. I went to her “booth” nothing more than her standing there with potatoes, a scale and her daughter. She started saying something in Italian that I didn’t understand and waving her arms at me. The daughter explained that her mother thought that I was shopping the wrong way. You went up one side of that Alley and then back the other side. She wished that the dumb Americans would learn how to do that. I found out later that her speech was much more colorful but the daughter had cleaned it up for us. so she sold us some potatoes and I continued down that side of the market looking at things but not going to the “other side”. I thought: what the heck, when in Rome, so I thought we would try it. Actually was a better way to shop, over the centuries the people had set up shop where you would buy things in a certain order. It was elegant actually. Anyway, we picked up some fruit and some cheese along with some bread and on the way back on the other side of the alley we saw a canned goods store that also had some wine. We thought that would make a great dinner topper. We went in and found some wine and at the time I loved honey on my bread. But I couldn’t find it. So I ask the shop keeper if he spoke english, which he didn’t, and then I proceeded to try and describe honey to someone who has no idea what I am saying. I tried words like Honey, Bee, I degenerated into flapping my hands and making a buzzing sound while using one of my hands for a stinger out my nose. You try it some time. By this time My wife is rolling on the floor in laughter, the shop keeper is sure I am an escaped lunatic and I am drawing a small crowd to boot. All for a container of Honey. Finally I hit upon the word SUGAR…. and the light came on in the shop keepers eyes… Ahhhh he said Sucoros. Walks me over to the shelf where there is a can with the picture of a bee on it. How I had not seen that I will never know. I wonder, to this day, if the shop keeper knew exactly what I wanted and just wanted to see me make a fool of myself.
Shopping became a daily experience for us. We had a small refridgerator and not that much cupboard space to store things. Besides fresh was the best.
The Bread Man
I forgot to tell you about the bread man. When we walked into the bread shop there were several men behind the counter and lots of people in the shop. The funny thing was not a lot of people were saying anything. The main guy behind the counter would greet someone and then would pick up a loaf of bread, say something to one of the other younger men and toss him the loaf of bread. The younger man would put it in an oven and then take it out, give it back to the older man, who would inspect it, bag it and get it to the person whom he had spoken to. Now understand that this is going on for about 10 people at a time. The person who got the bread would take to to the door where the cashier was. It was almost like a dance. Everyone knew what was going on but me. I waited in line and when I got to the front I asked in english for a round loaf of bread. He just kind of looked at me, an older gentleman next to me asked me how brown I wanted it and if I wanted the crust thick and crispy or thing and chewy. I said I wanted it medium brown and thick and crispy. The person told the bread man something and then a few minutes later I had the perfect loaf of bread. I kept going to that bread man and every day all I had to do was walk in the shop and by the time I got to the front my loaf of bread would be ready to go. It was always perfectly warm and crispy. I never really spoke to the baker, or to anyone else really. I would mumble greetings to the cashier when I paid but that is about it. Oh but the bread… I can only say that I have never really had bread like it since. The insides were airy and tender, perfect for picking up sauce, the crust was shatteringly crisp and a little thicker than normal, perfect for scooping up something. I bought a loaf of bread every day when I was in port. That evening and the next morning I would eat it all up. When we would go shopping we would get one more.