I had occasion for both of these “times” on Sunday. I’d seen a poster announcing the “Sagre del Fungo” (Feast of the Mushrooms) in the hamlet of San Leo Bastia while riding around on my bike one day. I pulled up my trusty Google Maps and found that I could reach San Leo Bastia one of two ways – one was 11 km and the other 18 km. Of course, I decided on the 11 km route. I wrote the directions on an old rail ticket, packed up a couple of bottles of water and a granola bar, and took off for my adventure.
Everything was lovely until I took the second right turn and almost immediately started climbing a mountain – it wasn’t a hill, it was a mountain. Switchbacks, steep inclines. And by this time, the sun had decided to come out from behind the clouds – so I was roasting. It wasn’t long before I was walking the bike and having a conversation with God that went something like this….”Why did I decide to do this? Is food really this important?” At one point, I do remember being on the verge of tears but I sucked it up and kept walking the bike.
What seemed like hours later, I crested the mountain and suddenly I was whizzing down the other side approaching the sound barrier. For some reason, I had in my head that San Leo Bastia was on the top of the mountain – so about halfway down the mountain I applied both the front and rear brakes and pulled over to check my directions. Scrabbling around in my bike basket, I realized that the directions must have flown out while I was going Mach V down the mountain. This is when the tears came. I was lost, didn’t have my directions, my breakfast brioche was long gone and the clock was indicating that I might miss the “Feast” altogether because of my late start. I hadn’t seen one sign for the festival or San Leo Bastia – nothing. I looked back up the mountain I had just flown down and said, “I’m not going back up that mountain – I don’t care if I have to go the 18 km way home……. that is, assuming I can find it.”
I dried my tears, hopped back on the bike, prayed that God would send me an angel and started zipping down the mountain again. Just about the time it started getting level, I saw two cars pull out on the road. I flagged down the second car and asked “Where is San Leo Bastia?” I expected him to point at the top of the mountain from whence I’d just come, but instead he turned in the direction I was going and said, “Around the curv-uh, go over a leetle bridge and theen turn left.” Hallelujah! I was totally wrong about San Leo Bastia being on the mountain top, and I might still be able to make lunch! I don’t know if that man was an angel, but he was definitely an answer to prayer.
Soon I was peddling the main street of San Leo Bastia and in short order found the big white food tent (the sure sign of an Italian festa). There was a little hut where everyone was queued up and seemed to be the way to get food, but I wasn’t sure what to do. A young lady was standing near me, and I asked her if she spoke English. She said “Yes”, so I asked her what I should do. She explained the menu to me and then an older woman came up and spoke to her. They talked for a moment, and the young lady said, “This is my mother. You must come and sit at our table.” I filled out a form with my menu choice, handed it to the incredibly good-looking man sitting in the hut, paid my money and went off to get something to drink at the “Drinks Window”.
While I was wandering around the Papa grabbed my arm and said something along the line of “we have wine at our table, just come sit down” – keep in mind we’re primarily speaking broken English, broken Italian and sign language. I was seated at a table that was completely full – all stages of life, from a newborn baby to grandparent age.
|Tagliatelle al sugo di funghi - I was so hungry I ate|
most of it before I remembered to take a photo
Funghi saltati con aglio e olio d'oliva
|Cake with Vin Santo - a very sweet wine that tastes like fire|
|Francesca and Francesco - the Mama and Papa|
|Analisa, their daughter, with Ludavica|
(someone else's daughter)
I had the best time – and I wish that I could adequately thank that precious Italian family for “adopting” me last Sunday. They made my day – patiently answered all my questions (there were two or three people sitting near me who spoke beautiful English), described the cuisine and shared everything they had. One young man even showed me the proper way to dip my cake in the Vin Santo.
|The proper way to dip your cake in the Vin Santo|
p.s. I took the long way home....