With only two days remaining in Lecce, Ana and I had made plans to get a gelato with our ex-teacher, Dario. So, while cooking up some beans Mexican-style, we sent Dario a text asking about gelato and he responded by inviting us to a dinner/concert at a masseria in the country with him, his wife Paola and some of their friends. We couldn’t pass up an offer like that, so we agreed. We decided to meet at the school and when we arrived we started looking around for Dario’s giant ginger head. Unfortunately, he had, in a moment of brazen irresponsibility, gotten a haircut and it took us several minutes to recognize him.
So we headed out to the darkened country side, and even though it only took about ten minutes to arrive at the masseria, it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere. We were surrounded by fields and silence and the stars were so visible that you’d think we were hundreds of miles from any human habitation. We walked in under an arch that was hundreds of years old, from which hung strings of garlic. It made me think of our garage at home where we store garlic from time to time.
We met about twenty of Dario and Paola’s friends and after about an hour managed to start our meal. It started with risotto, pasta, swordfish, and mussels. Then the main course arrived. It was calamari and breaded and fried sardines. The calamari were also whole, tiny squid. For Ana, who doesn’t eat seafood, it wasn’t an especially great meal, but I loved it. From time to time, I’d take a squid or fish on my fork and make it swim into my mouth. I was greatly entertained and managed to further the foreign opinion that Americans are immature and stupid.
After about two hours of dinner, the band started to play. They were a comic band, and most of the comedy was lost on Ana and me because it was heavily cultural. Dario explained some of it to us. They did one song where they took a bunch of love songs and made them entirely first person. Another one they changed ‘Penso a te’ (I think of you) to ‘faccio bidé’ (I use the bidé). This lead to some amusing situations because the protagonist was always thinking of you and some of the instances would not have been ideal for using a bidé. Near the end, they made a brief foray into English music and played some Queen. It was all in English except the chorus which they translated, very poorly, as ‘noi saremmo roccia tu’. This means, roughly, ‘we will be rock (noun) you’. It was worth a laugh.
The next day, we got together again with Dario and his wife for our aforepromised gelato. This time, their daughter Giulia joined us. She was adorable, and seemed shy at first. She then informed Dario that she would present herself to us after getting gelato. So we went to get gelato and she spent the next ten minutes doing her best to coat herself completely in chocolate.
Once we had our gelato in hand, in mouth, and on shirt, we went for a walk. This is a very southern Italian thing to do. It’s true. Italians will go out in the evening just to walk around town. They might not stop anywhere. They just walk around talking and saying hi to everyone they know. It’s fantastic. So, we went for a walk and ended up at a café where Dario and his wife were regulars. We sat, talked and had a couple beers. We had a great discussion about life, culture, and the secret services of our respective countries and how they’re viewed by the populace as a whole. Meanwhile, Giulia was keeping herself busy making sure that everyone had sufficient amounts of water in their cups. She would wander around the table pouring water into cups until someone told her to stop. She would then return to her seat, sit for a couple seconds and then go back to work. When it came time to pay for the beers, Dario decided he was going to pay. We wouldn’t let him, so he only paid for his. When we went to pay for ours, they informed us that Paola had already paid for our beers when we weren’t paying attention. Sneaky Italians!!