Tuesday, December 20, 2016
The travel teaser
I would have thought I'd written more about the trip my wife and I recently took to Rome. We were there for a month, but the project of taking that trip consumed me for a year. And what is there in writing about it so far? A mere 64 blog posts about Rome. The subject could stand a good deal more. I remember... things.
But for all these essays I've written, fake travelogues, and moderately well researched guides, one thing it hasn't much occurred to me to write about is what sucked in Rome. When people asked me, after my return, how was Rome, the simplest, truest answer was to say it was perfect.
And the power of the real world, of language, and of the human heart, is that perfect has room in it for total disasters. Perfect can be full of failures. When I think of this in regard to glorious, wonderful, beautiful, magical, perfect Rome, I think of cheese.
Rome did not understand cheese. I would not have expected that.
Oh, their fresh cheeses were fine, great even. Buffalo milk mozzarella is half the battle in their remarkable pizza. And some of the wonderful Parmesan was around from up north, but when it came to their eating cheeses they specialized in very bland sheep milk cheeses that all tasted much the same, and some kind of Blue that was more gray than blue and always looked like it had died right there on the plate. Flies liked it.
We tried our share of cheese boards. We tried them in fine restaurants, in a well regarded cheese market cafe called Beppe E i Suoi Formaggi, and at a variety of Prosciutterias. That they did not understand cheese, or apparently think it worthwhile to borrow from the north what was clearly beyond them, was a genuine surprise. And a disappointment.
I appreciate this. I appreciate the ability of darkness to give texture and dimension to perfection. Even in the best of times one needs a little let down now and then to give music and rhythm to the ideal. Perfection cannot be flat.
Plus there is the next trip to begin planning. Disappointment from the last can provide guidance. If formaggio didn't work, surely there is fromage.