Ferragosto August 17, 2006


August 17, 2006 I have commented on the “August in Italy” phenomenon many times in this space. What I have never mentioned is Ferragosto, a national holiday on the 15th of August to celebrate the middle of the month. I guess this holiday was created for the few working stiffs who couldn’t take off for the entire month. And since this year the 15th fell on a Tuesday, this created the opportunity for a “ponte.” When I first saw the word “ponte” used this way, I was clueless as to the meaning. Anyone who has had at least three Italian lessons has picked up that “ponte” meant “bridge.” But in this context it means a four-day weekend, i.e., “I don’t work on Saturday or Sunday, and since Tuesday is a holiday, I will just ‘bridge’ over Monday and take that day off too.” And since employers recognize that few people are going to show up anyway, why not just shut down? Or, why not just shut down for the whole week?

My discomfiture has been minimal. Sarnano is just that much cooler than the other side of Italy so I see a lot of Rome license plates in the parking lots. Because of the influx of turisti, the retail stores have remained open. And for entertainment for selves and guests, the Sarnanese provided two colorful processions with full Medieval costumery. The processions also included little drummer boys (and girls) who have been filling the hills with sounds of “bumptiddy bump, bumptiddy bump, bumptiddy, bumptiddy bump bump bump” for the last month in preparation for the event. Unfortunately, the city also licensed a bumper car franchise adjacent to the school about two blocks down from my apartment. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing except that the bumper car people feel obligated to play pop music at a high decibel level until midnight. But I can see how this franchise helps entertain Roman visitors who have family in tow: “Hey kids–here are a bunch of tickets. Go learn how to drive in Rome.”

And it looks like I will be driving my own car fairly soon, though hopefully not that often in Rome. I got a phone call yesterday and quickly realized that this was not a telemarketer (yes, I get those too–I treat them as language lesson opportunities until they finally give up and hang up.) When I determined that Francesco was calling from the company that was financing my car, I waited until he would pause figuring that he needed a response and then I would say “puoi ripetere?” (can you repeat?) Gradually he caught on and when he would get to an important part he would slow down so that I could understand. At the end he confirmed, in English, that I had been approved for the loan. Now all I have to do is wait for the end of Ferragosto and for the targa (license plate) office to reopen on Monday.

I enjoyed all of your comments about cars and the congratulations on my car purchase. One BETVet, who will remain anonymous, confessed to having actually backed over a Miata with her Bronco. (“No way in hell could I have seen that little thing!”) Sara spotted a Smart Car in Seattle and Dale reported that he read that truck sales were down over 40% in June. Maybe America is finally growing up. (Six-wheeled extended cab pickup trucks in urban high school student parking lots? Get a grip.) And Stephanie confirmed my suspicions–it is always Truck Month in Texas, with the same commercials run over, and over, and over, and over. “Like a rock, ooohhooh,” and “Fahrd is the best in Texes.” (Explanation for non-Texans: apparently ever since the classic CW hit, “All of my exes, live in Texas,” Texas is pronounced TexES in all CW songs.)

There was mild consternation voiced concerning my postponing the Wales+ trip until 2008, mainly that there might not be an autumn trip available. (I just don’t have the resources–time nor money–at the moment to head over to the UK a couple of times to put the tour together.) With the imminent arrival of my new diesel-sipping little toy (which would be Bronco bait in Texas), I offer the following adjustment to the tour lineup for 2007: In either late September or early October, I will offer: The Wild Side of Italy: The Abruzzi. I can put this trip together with a series of little trips since the Abruzzi is just south of where I live. Because of its mountainous terrain, the Abruzzi was cut off from most international commerce until the 20th century. In spite of it being adjacent to Rome, it retained many pagan traditions, only slightly melding them into the dominant Christian culture. I drove through the Abruzzi just last month as I was returning from Sorrento and was most impressed by the jaw-dropping “omygod” scenery. Our focus, as always, will be on the culture, food, and wine. And also, checking out the scenery! Obviously, this will not be a first-timers’ trip to Europe. But then, most of you have already done the basics..

But I do have a great first-timer’s trip coming up in December-January–Classical Rome. This tour will have many “now I get it” moments for you. If you have been on one of the previous Classical Rome tours, you know how helpful it was, and I would appreciate your helping me sell it yet again. And if you are new to BET, please join us!

That’s all for now. I await the report of the first sighting of a Smart Car in San Antonio! (back)