It’s what I saw in my imagination when I dreamed of staying in a medieval village. It is Vernazza transplanted and added to ancient stone alleyways and buildings. It is winding streets that end with view of a garden far below and more ruins across the small valley. The town is split by the main road but still has small piazzas where villagers sit.
When the bus stopped at the edge of town I was led further into the village by women who had arrived with me. One immediately began to ask me questions. Having introduced me as a visitor to her friend passing by, she and her husband pointed out the trattoria in town and said Buon Giorno.
…the food begins…
A young man seats me at a table in a quiet piazza across from a church whose bell tower reaches so far into the sky that I can see the top over the trees. An ancient cannon sits near the memorial to the two world wars. Plaques list an undue amount of soldiers lost in each of the world wars; sometimes two brothers and sometimes father and son.
Out near the street and old man sits on a bench and is greeted by the occasional passerby. Mostly, though, the streets are quiet since the shops are closed for lunchtime and siesta.
The owner appears in the doorway and approaches my table. He tells me that he is serving the traditional fare which includes first antipasto and then either fusilli or ravioli. I tell him that will be enough for my lunch. His son brings a bicchiere of water and of red wine. A few minutes later I am served a bruschetta with a peppery topping and a basket of rustic bread.
Both the father and son check on me intermittently; the son to see if all is va bene, and the father to talk with me about why I am in this small village.
I’m served two platters. One holds salami, prosciutto, cheese and something white, unidentifiable, and spicy which I taste and then inquire about. When the owner says that it is larda, I am dismayed. Soon he comes back to confirm that it is bacon (fat). The other platter hold fagioli, funghi, pickled zucchini, roasted red peppers and thinly sliced buttery potatoes.
The father spends time talking with me. When I finally understand that he was asking my last name, I realize that he thinks that I must have family from here since I am obviously the only visitor in town.
Hand made ravioli are next. They are the size of small tarts. The ricotta cheese stuffing may be sheep or goat cheese. It is herbed and flavorful but doesn’t overcome the tomato sauce served over the pasta.
I request a caffe and am finishing it when the son approaches to offer me his home made Cedro, a liqueur similar to limoncello but made with the local fruit. As is traditional, he leaves the bottle on the table after pouring a small glass. A few sips makes a fine dessert and I request il conto.
In line for the final bus back to Scalea, I asked the women surrounding me whether there were alberghi in Verbicaro. No.
I can’t stay there. But I can dream.
Catch the cushy bus behind the Hotel Genova in Scalea and get a round trip fare for 2 Euro. Don’t forget to ask what time the last bus comes home.