Now don’t get all peanut butter and jelly (jealous?) on me but it’s turning out I am on perma-cation. This time of year in my “adult” life I’d typically be slaving away at Arapahoe Cafe, or before that on a trail crew in Colorado, or before that fighting a forest fire somewhere. Occasionally I ponder how hard it’s going to be to return to normal life–but then again, I never really believed in a normal life, did I? Most importantly, I’ve been presented with a year off and I’ve grabbed it, like a bull by the horns 🙂
Recently, I reconnected with my (now married!) pal Nicolette, aka Nini. Both of us are as good at keeping in touch as two similar poles on a magnet. But as soon as one of us remembers to switch poles, it’s like nothing ever changed. I told her about my magical year off thus far and she said, “Or year on.” Ole! Nini’s right. It’s my year on–on course, on a joyful wavelength, on a big, free, unplanned adventure.
And during this exact moment of my year on, Faenza–as elsewhere in Italy and the world–is waist deep in a heat wave; two days ago, we passed a sign reading 44 C (111.2 F). In the un-airconditioned castle, post-midnight, the temperature clung to 32 C (89.6 F). The only solution: to go neck-deep in a river. Lisa and I chose the Montone, specifically a her happy place outside Bocconi. By car? I’m surprised you’d even ask!
After the quaint town of Tredozio and a decent, sweaty climb, we stopped to check out Romagna’s very own vulcano (volcano)–in all reality, a fumarole. Even if Lisa hadn’t been there many times before, it was easy enough to find…At first glance the fumarole appeared to be dressed for Halloween–quite convincingly–as a rocky, pyramid-shaped campfire. But, perched on the dry lip of a wheat field overlooking a valley of relatively green hills, the vulcano was still impressive. Its bold orange flame licked the air like I wished I could lick a popsicle; we were careful not to get too close lest we lose what electrolytes we had left to sweating (more) profusely.Arriving at The Guardrail, we tiptoed down the steep dirt path to the river in our bike shoes like newborn goats on an icy lake. After claiming a flat boulder, we set up shop and devoured the “cold” basil and tomato quinoa salad chef Lisa prepared. We chipped away at the afternoon happily watching leaves blowing in the wind, reading, journaling, dunking, drying off and doing a whole lot of Important Nothing.Of course, Murphy’s River Law went into effect once we’d set up shop: clouds gathered like a band of hippies in front of the last Cannibus plant on earth, crowding in so close they blocked out the sun and the heat. Of course, every other moment had been vulcano-hot; luckily we decided to stay anyway and the mountain storms came and went quickly.
On our return, we barely dodged the wet bullet of a real soaker. We hid out under the eave of a bar where old Romagnolo men did their best to shield us from the elements with their curiosity.
We capped off the day and the ride back with friends at a sagra (an Italian outdoor summer festival with dancing, music and most importantly: food) in Santa Lucia, just outside Faenza. Santa Lucia’s sagra celebrated the numerous joys of cappelletti, local pasta formed like a hat (un cappello) and stuffed with cheese or meat. Afterward, we felt like twice-stuffed cappelletti and managed to sleep with the help of our two, dueling fans.
In the midst of the worst drought in at least 60 years and a two-week heat wave the likes of which could fry an egg inside a fridge, it became apparent we needed to do Important Nothings Near Water. So two days later, we were dominating the flats from here to Marina Romea on our bikes, destination Romea Family Camping, Boca Barranca and water. The coolest part: we followed the partially gravel route along the very same Montone River all the way to the murky, refreshing waters of the Adriatic.We made a weekend of it, setting up shop next to my favorite animal in the whole world:And then we committed to a refreshing yo-yo between our lettini (beach chairs) and the Adriatic. The only interruption to circular heaven was a shower to rinse off the salt water before succumbing to another nap, seafood lunch and later Spritz in Boca Barranca’s breezy, outdoor dining room.
That evening, of course, said dining room transformed into the dance floor we were all too familiar with. The first night was Club Adriatico, techno beats and a young, too-cool crowd that didn’t mingle much, except among themselves. We turned in early (aka before 3 a.m.), in order to spend maximum time at the beach again in the morning…
The next evening, we rode bikes north along the coast, took the little traghetto (ferry) across the canal, ate our weight in fresh, fried seafood at locally infamous Baracchina and arrived just in time at Hanabi for the concert to begin. If we had socks on for some reason, the band would’ve blown them off. Xixa (chee-chuh), from Tuscon, Arizona, played and their sound was Mex-American, like an aural taco in a cowboy boot. Their energy was infectious, the lead singer (who raucously climbed on top of the drum set at the end of the last song) was swimming in charisma. We met and thanked the entire, chill very attractive band afterwards at the merch table.And then we beelined back and danced our proverbial pants off until 3 a.m. This time, the flavor was house and the crowd was an older, quirky group we seasoned veterans hadn’t yet spotted in the hallowed, sandy halls of Boca. It became quickly apparent the Faenza-based DJ (who may or may not have snuck away to do some coke and come back with more than enough energy to head bang to house music) had a cult following. This crowd came to dance, not pick up chicks or dudes or stand around and stare and drool and be creepy while we danced. Ages ranged from blushing youths like ourselves to–literally– grandma in her flowered mu-mu.
We were plastered to the dance floor like the sweat which clung to us like drunk flies on heat-melted proscuitto. Afterwards, we were past primed for bed. Back at the tent, an angry buzzing arose like fish burps from the bottom of the shallow river in Bocconi. A large fly? A bee? If I got a euro for every time I’ve gotten gnawed on by an insect, I’d retire yesterday so, of course, we had to find the source.
“I think it’s coming from your ass,” said Lisa, after we’d ripped the tent apart like the biggest, most mysterious Christmas present under the tree. And yet the bedding, pillows, pads and tent were oddly insect free. And we hadn’t had a drink since the bottle of wine sloshing around with our seafood. Still the buzz prevailed.
I peered under the tent–in case the idiot bug mistook itself for a gopher–and Lisa put her ear to my thick, orange Big Agnes sleeping pad. The same one with a single entrance and exit: the valve I spend 20 years of my life blowing through each time we camp.
“It’s inside your mat,” she said, as the warm three a.m. breeze came to investigate. We looked at each other incredulously, shrugged, remade our beds and laid down. Lisa fell asleep immediately with her mouth open, intent on catching whatever else was going to sting me later. Meanwhile, the drowsy buzz continued on and off–Zzzz. Zzzzzzzzz. Zz–until I flopped off the sweaty ledge into sleep.
I must say, before moving on, I didn’t think my peculiar relationship with insect-kind could get any stranger. But now I’ve had a winged tenant residing inside my sleeping pad, I realize it can always get stranger.Miss Merighi–per usual–rose when sunlight invaded the tent and made her way to a prime beach spot. I slept soundly, like the insect inside my sleeping bag which was certainly dead and baked to a crisp. Outside, a battery-powered car driven in ever-decreasing circles around the tent by the kids next door encroached on my dreams.
“Guarda,” I heard mom say, loudly. Then, insistently, “Guarda avanti!” Or, “Watch in front!” This statement was followed by a crashing noise, which was the tree next to the unicorn and also the end of my rest.
Sunday was another beach day. That evening, once it had “cooled down,” (which was more or less the difference between riding bikes in a dry sauna and riding bikes in a dry sauna with the door cracked), we rode home.
Back at the castle, the air crept about like a stoned tortoise and the temperature gauge once again moved about as much as the house DJ, pre coke. I’m part of a strange breed of humans whose progeny has largely died out and who naturally prefers sweating to shivering. But even I had to concede the better choice was to escape Faenza again, as if chased by a herd of zombies intent on eating only endangered, warm-weather brains.
And where better than back to Bocconi, where we could make our world a slab of rock in the shade of a quivering tree…… or explore the neighboring world in the cool, green waters and dry off on a hot rock…… or wander barefoot for hours upstream to discover quieter swimming holes…For much of the day, with the heat wave in full effect, the riverbanks were crowded for a Wednesday. But once darkness curled its fingers around the stone amphitheater of the river’s bend, the crowd evaporated. So we set up our (illegal) tent by the gurgling river…
… tried to make dinner and realized since it’s our first time camping, we forgot a lighter AGAIN. We ate piadina and ripe melone instead and chilled in our swimsuits until we turned in around midnight. Before sleeping, we meandered barefoot downstream and laid on a flat rock, still warm with sunshine heat. I lost all track of time, observing the stars observing us.In the morning, we logged in river nymph time (wandering around or sunning ourselves totally naked). It felt gloriously wild and free. Eventually people trickled in like a bead of sweat between… well never mind. Anyway, we frantically traded swimsuits for birthday suits and resumed our earlier positions…They say all good things must come to an end, but first, how do they know? And also, can they end when buttressed on either side with more good things? I’m not sure, but at any rate our next adventure called so we picked up the phone, packed up our tent, left the area clear of our presence, hiked up the steep hill to the road… …bombed down hot pavement on bikes with a crescione break at our new favorite kiosk…… and arrived back at the castle before the stars popped out of the hot, humid skies like mystery bugs from a sleeping pad.
I can’t even taunt you with teaser of the next adventure because this blog–for once–nearly brings us up to speed. Just in case you were worried about a lack of blog material, I’ll touch on the wonder that was my birthday (August 6th) and tomorrow (for almost the next two weeks) Lisa and I trade hot Faenza for the cool Italian alps. Alla prossima!