Wednesday, 26 January 2011
For this feast too, a special bread is a highlight, il torcolo di San Costanzo, a ring-like cake made with pine nuts, raisins, and candied fruits. A city document, from 1595, even defines the required ingredients. An incision of a pentagon is made on the bread to represent the five city gates of Perugia. For the past few years, the city of Perugia has celebrated this feast with a competition among all the area's bakers for the production of the best bread. In the morning, all the citizens are invited to join in a "comparative tasting". The bread was once eaten only on the feast of San Costanzo and made only in the home, but today every Perugino has his favourite baker and the bread is available throughout the year. Another tradition, lost until a few decades ago, is for an engaged couple to visit the Church of San Costanzo and stare at the Saint's image. If the Saint winks, the couple will be married within the year. If not... be prepared for a wait!
Friday, 21 January 2011
How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns,
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.
There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.
How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?
Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.
And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car
as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.