007. ADVENTURES OF A WONDER KID / by Cara Hines

(Journal from 1-4 November)

I’m staying at Ostello Le Volte at the edge of Tredozio for 20EU/night. I have my own room and a bathroom on the 2nd level of an old stone building on a hill, away from people and commotion, except the persistent meowing of one very plump and friendly black cat I call Romeo. He sits below my window, looking up and crying with such longing I’ve begun reciting Shakespeare unawares. From this window, I can look west across the Tramazzo river valley and a different view of the same autumn Apennine kaleidoscope I enjoyed during Vipassana. There are many hiking trails in the surrounding woods. One of these begins near the hostel and leads to Lago di Ponte (Lake Ponte) about 5km away. It’s a 15-minute walk to the center of town, and a very small, tranquil town at that, exactly what I’d pictured. It’s as if I placed an elaborate order, and it arrived in front of me cooked to perfection. Si, perfetto.

I awoke this morning to heavy rain and a cold room. It was difficult to extract myself from the warm covers, so I snuggled up, watched the dancing yellow leaves of the tree outside my window, and listened to the soft wrustling they made when mixed with the rain. It was like an elaborate wind chime with the faintest swish of a song. Eventually I braved the cold room and tile floors to begin my day. I had planned to hike but thought better of it. I had gotten sick during the meditation retreat, and am still fending it off. It seemed the cold and rain were here for the day, like many others since my arrival in this valley. So I decided to walk to town and see what I could see. 

The Tramazzo river bifurcates Tredozio, and is lined by bright velvety green banks and richly patinaed stone retaining walls. There are several bridges connecting the two sides of town and providing picturesque views in every direction I look. Only a few little shops, cafes, restaurants and pizzerias are here and the people everywhere I go, yes, once again they are friendly and helpful beyond expectation.

The rain was growing heavier, so after exploring a bit, I ducked into a café for a bite to eat and a caffe con latte. I set up shop on my laptop and enjoyed some time writing and making plans for the next leg of my trip. A group of men sat at one of the tables, playing cards and smoking the occasional forbidden indoor cigarette. Smoking is technically not allowed in public places in Italy and “Non Fumare” signs adorn the walls of every bar and café—often right next to the generous ashtrays that seem to beckon their disregard.

The rain slowed to a drizzle and clouds began thinning. I watched through the window of the café as the emergent light changed the sky and everything it bounced off of. When the incessant rain finally decided to cease, I packed up my computer and journal and pulled out the equipment. I fluttered about town in full gear, including clunky headphones, equipment pack, camera, mic, and cables trailing. Do you think anyone noticed? Yes, I might have been a little obvious. Maybe just a little. I captured moving bits of this place and its people, and I had a blast doing it.

I was in the midst of a filming a spellbinding scene—water dripping from a rainspout—when an old man approached with seemingly grave distress. From what I could decipher, he was quite concerned that I was invading privacy and ran the risk of an encounter with the carabinieri, possibly landing me in jail. I think he was trying to help rather than scold, but I can’t be certain. I assured him “io sono soltanto una studentessa di filmare”, albeit without a university, but it didn’t seem to deter him. He attempted a conversation with me for much longer than was comfortable considering his inability to slow down or enunciate, as more than once I kindly requested he do. He directed me to the carabinieri office (police station), and I finally assured him io capito. My equipment is obviously not your typical handycam. I thought there might be validity in his warning and took his advice. On my way, I was assisted by an elderly man and his Romanian caretaker, a woman perhaps in her 40’s. We got along a bit in conversation, but again, he did not seem to heed my requests to “per favore, parle puo lentamento” speak more slowly. No capito. I suppose it is typical. Charming and helpful. I wanted to pinch his scruffy, wrinkled little cheek.

A little later I returned to the Pizzeria La Luna Rosa where I dined the previous night. I typically like to maintain some diversity, but there are few options in Tredozio, and I had made arrangements with Lara, the waitress there to come by and make a plan for getting together for coffee on Wed. Lara is British, and now lives here with her son Stefan, and 9-year-old daughter, Saskia. I met them both briefly the night before as Stefan works there as pizza chef and Saskia is unofficial hostess extraordinaire. This time when I walked in she was playing cards with one of the various men who frequent the bar per un caffe, una birra, o una macchina a gettone (slot machine).

When I sat at my table to rest and check email and ordered un quarto litre di vino bianco. Saskia joined me, curious as a cat. If she were any brighter, she’d glow. As the exchange developed more and more into an interview, it occurred to me it would be fun to give little miss her foray into videography. We white balanced and tested the audio (wish I had a picture of her with the headphones on), I taught her the rule of thirds, and we framed her subject—me—in the viewfinder. She proceeded to quiz me on everything from the pony I wanted when I was her age but never got, to what I like to drink. Then I interviewed her, and rather than going shy when that little red light went on, a star was born. I suppose sitting in one place was dull for her. She announced that she’d like to take me on a tour of the restaurant, including its inner sanctum. We visited the small game room with a few men playing the slot machines, the storage room, the artwork, the coat rack, the toilettes, the kitchen, and the additional upstairs dining room for overflow and formal events. The owners, the cook, the bar flies—everyone was participating, and Saskia was a natural talent. She introduced everyone and everything in the place. Her mother was more than amused, and it was all I could do to keep from giggling into the microphone as she led me about. For the finale, I was fortunate enough to film as the owner/cook Tino fired up the pizza oven and made my pizze con prosciutto crudo, and owner/barista Alessandro served it to me with a rotund “buon appetito”! Without a breath of doubt, it was the best pizza I have ever eaten.

As Lara and I made plans for coffee the next day (which, by now is today), Saskia would have nothing of our meeting while she was in school. She insisted that I come to their home in the evening, so we made our plans. It would be Wednesday, the day Lara usually makes a cake. She would have no time to bake one this week, so she’s buying one and will pick me up in front of the Luna Rosa at 10 past 5, about an hour from now. My friends are multiplying at a very rapid rate. And I have a feeling you might see at least one of them in the future as host of her very own show, Adventures of a Wonder Kid.  

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