"Siete sempre in giro," a friend recently told me, and he's probably right. We've been spending a lot of time running around. My parents have been visiting and as it is their first trip to the Ascoli Piceno area, we've been touring around for them to have a glimpse of the flavors and sights that make this place so wonderful for us. Unfortunately, their initial introduction was less than cordial; it rained nonstop for two days solid and they didn't let us hear the end of it. When it started snowing in northern Ohio and didn't let up until about 23 inches of snow had accumulated though, they finally relented. About the time they stopped whining the skies cleared and the air warmed. We even had a picnic lunch in Offida while gazing upon the gorgeous church, Santa Maria della Rocca, perched on a precarious rock.
The boys were left to fend for themselves when Mama Jo and I whooped it up for the Festa della Donna, having been invited by a friend of a friend to participate in her celebration at a local restaurant. We took along a couple of friends, too, and had a great time eating, drinking, and celebrating woman-hood while trying to convince the other ladies present that Americans are largely unfamiliar with this holiday. It was a little disappointing that here in Ascoli very few restaurants organized the usual grand women-only dinners that we'd seen advertised last year. The reason? It was Saturday night and, as several restauranteurs told me, "we're always busy on Saturday anyway, so we don't need to organize a special event for clients." Apparently even here it's becoming a less-important day; or at least it sounded like women would be celebrated only when it could affect their receipts. Hmph.
We then truly went in giro when we made the five-hour drive to Basilicata, the Motherland, so my mom could comune with la famiglia and see the dramatic landscapes laggiu` (down there). They were impressed by the marked contrast of the rugged, harsh mountains to the warmth and kindness of the people we know there. When my stepdad followed a wood-laden donkey and his owner along an insanely-steep and narrow street to take a photo, the lady who received the door-side delivery of firewood was so amused that she gave him some of her hand-made, home-cured sausages. How thrilled was he? He came back holding them up in the air, beaming.
They sampled the delicious home-made coffee liqueuer from a restaurant we like, where they make absolutely everything in-house. The locally-held recipe for this digestivo was purchased by Amaro Lucano, and is now commercially produced but not widely distributed (we can't find it here, and no one north of Basilicata seems to know it exists). They also saw what all the fuss about regarding the peperoni cruschi, about which we have raved and to which they have become addicted, too.
The town priest opened up the churches for us to see the antique artifacts and well-preserved frescoes. My parents may have also arranged a marriage for my sister, so all in all it was a rather productive trip to my ancestral village. (We'll wait to hear if my sister thinks so.)
Then it was off to Matera, a city that completely fascinates me and captivated them, as well. The sinewy pedestrian walkways that unfold among the homes and caves of the Sassi are leg-achingly steep but endlessly interesting. The utter silence as we walked lent an almost mystical quality to the experience.
My parents are now in London visiting friends and giving us a break for a week. They'll return just before Easter so we can celebrate Pasqua tutti insieme in Rome with Chef Giorgio and Francesca. Another trip to Rome in two weeks...I guess we really are sempre in giro.