There are certain moments that seem decidedly Italian to me. Like Friday, when I boarded the Malpensa Express from Centrale train station to return to the airport, there were two empty seats with a bag laying across them. I looked around, but no one seemed to claim it. It would not fit in the overhead (big backpack), nor was I inclined to lift it if it did, but I started to move it into only the window seat, so I could sit in the aisle, when the women across the aisle (not sure where they were from, definitely not Italian), tried to shoo me away, finally saying in English, “For our friends.” No problem. I moved a few rows back and found another seat. Within moments though several more people boarded the bus, and as those were the only two seats available and no friends were in sight, the bus driver told them to sit. What then ensued delayed our departure for some ten minutes, as these women were trying to explain they were waiting for their friends (who it had turned out went to get some gelato without ever giving the driver their tickets), and the driver wanted to leave, and then the friends arrived and chaos ensued because several of the Italian passengers got pissed and were yelling at these other foreigners, and others were trying to explain the friends could get the next bus… well you get the idea. It was definitely something I would imagine in a Roberto Benigni film.
Anyway, I digress with that example, but basically a quintessential Italy experience.
And so was the one we had Saturday night as we finished our dinner at Ristorante Gembro, where we’d also dined on Friday night.
Dinner was good, like the previous night, with Shannon having one of the best steaks ever, me enjoying the tagliallini with meaty, fresh porcini, Chris having the gnocchi and shoot me, but I can’t remember what Jen enjoyed. As we were finishing (Roberto had put a bottle of and a bottle of grappa on the table for us), an older gentleman approached to use the rest room (our table was next to it). Shannon greeted him (we had seen he and his wife earlier in the bar section) and he stopped to speak to us. He had limited but understandable English to match our extremely limited Italian and after he excused himself for a moment to relieve himself, he ended up sitting with us and enjoying drinks.
Eventually, his wife, Margarita, joined us too.
And there we sat, draining a bottle of limoncello, trying some blueberry flavored grappa, and chatting with our new friends well into the night. I think it was past midnight before we finally had to beg off to go to sleep (and you know it’s late and we drank a lot when Shannon excused herself earlier). I never did get his name but I’d swear that Marlon Brando based his portrayal of Vito Corleone upon this gentleman and his mannerisms and his wife, Margarita, was adorable. I still cannot believe how much we were able to communicate between ourselves (Jen and Margarita share a passion for perfume, so they were off to the races once that connection was made), and though Margarita does not do email (no computer) we did get her phone numbers (home and mobile) with instructions to call when we return to Sondrio. And we will.