I don’t think I’ll ever be something other than a foreigner in a foreign land.
I mean, I’ll never be totally relaxed. I came to this realisation whilst driving the dogs to the pineta on Sunday morning. I reached the traffic lights and, as I sat there, waiting for the lights to turn green, it struck me again that it’s not the place I am “from”. To the right is a place that looks a little like a timber yard – except that it sells marble. To the left is what look like a run-down workshop – except that it is a place where marble is carved into headstones and statues. The weather is warm and there is not a cloud in the sky and yet it’s towards the end of September and I am dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. This is not deepest Herefordshire.
It’s not such a bad thing – it’s just that it is, in a way, a little bit frightening. I don’t know that you will understand that and I’m not sure that I do either. Still, there it is.
The night before I had been with the family. This was the close family. This was F’s Mum’s birthday dinner. So F’s Mum and Dad, his sister (with husband and niece), twin brother (and girlfriend) and him (with me). There’s no strangeness from his family towards me at all. I am accepted completely and surrounded by his family and, in some way, feel part of it.
We went to Ristorante Venanzio in the small town of Colonnata, near Carrara which is situated deep in the mountains and surrounded by the marble quarries, famous for their white marble. It’s also famous for it’s Lardo di Colonnato, which I love.
Normally, when we go to Carrara for the weekend, we arrive sometime on Friday night and, usually, we drop the dogs at home and then go to Bati Bati for a pizza. I always have the pizza with Lardo, asparagus and aubergine (egg plant to Americans). It is one of the very best pizzas I’ve ever had. And, even now, writing about it, my mouth is salivating (really)!
However, at Venanzio, we had Lardo as antipasto (along with a load of other, very nice, things) which was “to die for”. So tasty. F’s brother told me that they have a special source for it and you won’t find it for sale anywhere else, even in the small village of Colonnata. We had a selection of pasta dishes (my favourite being Lasagnetta with sausage sauce) and then, I had lamb. Unfortunately, like most of Italy, the lamb was only so-so. Not a replacement for La Brace. However, I tasted F’s rabbit with lardo. It was slices of a rolled rabbit joint with lardo and herbs filling it. It was incredible.
Service was excellent (but we were the first there). Sweet was a cake (as it was F’s Mum’s birthday) which was very nice.
It wasn’t so expensive – about €40 each, including wine (4 bottles), a glass of sweet desert wine with the cake and a digestivo. Would definitely go again, the only downside being getting there (or, rather, getting back). The only way is via a narrow switchback road from Carrara – so you really MUST NOT drink and drive!
Anyway, you should go there for the Lardo!
Sunday was a day on the beach and it was one of the best days on the beach. Now, being the end of the season, half the umbrellas have been taken away so there’s much more room and, of course, a lot less people. Now, at this time in September, you can sit in the sun all day without becoming too hot – the breeze is cooling, the sun not so fierce. And so we do.
F talks about coming down next weekend, if the weather is good. It will be the last weekend – the beach closes at the end of September, the café is doing some sort of buffet spread on the Sunday. F suggests we might take a few hours off on Monday so we can stay down Sunday night. Let’s see how the weather is.
But, even here, on the beach, I have the same kind of feeling as I had in the car. It’s not really my place. Even if I feel relaxed and read (I finished “Bring Up The Bodies” – Hilary Mantel, which was great, btw), I almost don’t really belong.