A great tradition here in La Bel Paese is the August hiatus. Just as the flow of tourists reaches it's peak and they can't land planes fast enough at Pisa, Firenze & Perugia, a good seventy-five per cent of businesses owners pull down the shutters for two or three weeks! This is a double-edged sword. On the one had it signals that a few weeks down-time isn't commercial suicide. Anglo-american culture might take a lesson from that. On the other hand it's a time when it's impossible to get anything done. Indeed, it's prolonging our lack-of-internet predicament as the telecom transnationals aren't even answering the phones at the moment.
In Italy, if nobody is putting on the entertainment we make our own. Right in the middle of the month comes Ferragosto, a national day of celebration, on August 15th. This year it coincided with Lorenza's (pictured) 50th birthday and about 50 of us gathered at the Priest house for another party.
This time they were prepared for our strange dietary requirements and we had starved all day having learned from the previous experience. Vegetables in tempura batter, roasted onion foccacia, crostini with funghi,/tapenade/ pomodoro secco, panzanella, a lorry load of salad and delicious white beans cooked with sage and smothered in a very intensely flavoured olive oil... After which the pasta course arrived!! Various aperitifs, digestifs (an excuse!), home made vino rosso and an excellent vin santo. We feasted and ended up feeling like fois gras geese.
Well past dark everyone sang “Auguri Compleanni a te”. The tune is Happy Birthday To You so it wasn't too much of a stretch. Then we all stood in a semi-circle around Lorenza while she opened the gifts and read the greetings. During the proceedings Elio, who's only two and a half, excitedly helped unwrap the parcels all the time pleading for one of them to be a 'trattore' – a tractor. Lorenza must have received at least four watches amongst other stuff. At the end of the proceedings Elio finally got to open a parcel by himself which turned out to be a scooter. He quickly forgot about the tractor.