Valentino rocked jovially back and forth in his seat, his sunhat casting shade on his tiny neck as he clasped the handlebars of his trainer bike. Giuseppe guided him down the footpath and I walked beside him, the brilliant blue sky a bonus backdrop to this scene - starring my two boys, father and son... and me, quasi cinematographer, snapping away with my new phone, trying to capture every moment.
We stopped at a café, which is typically known as a ‘bar,’ (and every bar or food outlet serves alcohol because there is no required liquor licence, yet I’ve observed that most people typically order coffee more often than alcohol...) Anyway, we stopped at a bar and ordered a delicious-looking fruit tart with glazed strawberries, two caffé macchiato’s, and a pizzetta. Here in Italy, you have to say caffé when ordering a coffee. If you order a ‘latté’, you will get a cup of milk, following a strange look from the barista upon your request. A pizzetta is a tiny pizza no bigger than the palm of your hand. Remember what I said in an earlier post: ‘etta’ = ‘small’.
This bar is renowned for its pastries, known as the best in town, made in-house and, to top it off, made fresh every Sunday. We timed it right.
Valentino decided to start pushing chairs around the bar, annoyed, because he was no longer travelling on the bike. So we sculled our coffees and reunited him and the bike, as he kicked the pedals that spun freely, his legs too short for his feet to reach them.
Giuseppe marvelled at my impressed noises, something like ‘Ooh!’ and simultaneous camera clicks as we passed landmarks and scenes so common to him in the town that he grew up in. He smiled warmly as the sun warmed our heads and the afternoon ticked on and seemed like two afternoons in one, because today the clocks changed for Daylight Savings.
He stopped and watched each scene that I captured, explaining it in detail like my own personal tour guide. We passed an old shed, build a mere metre from the train track at an intersection and he told me about the little old man who used to wait in there, his job was to let down the railway crossing gates manually.
Giuseppe bought some patatine fritte = hot chips, at a stall in the piazza. They sold patatine, panini, (bread rolls,) bibita, (soft drinks - or ‘soda’ for those living outside of Australia,) and a selection of beer. There were a few people sitting at the stall, (which looked a bit like a Kebab trailer back in Melbourne,) having a drink or eating patatine fritte, served in tiny white plastic containers with two wooden skewers, which I observed one woman using to skew the chips and eat them one by one.
We walked towards the fountain to find a bench to sit at. Two boys chased each other round and round the fountain – which was at least two car lengths wide. One boy had a small bike with trainer wheels and the other carried a toy robot. Valentino was impressed.
Vale and I walked alongside the fountain as Giuseppe picked a bench and sat, eating patatine. Valentino walked as I held his left hand and he giggled and shrieked, trying to get closer to the boys. He almost broke into a run. The only way I could get him to turn around and head back to Giuseppe, was to wait until the boys completed one lap around the fountain so they would pass us, continuing on in Giuseppe’s direction.
I sat down on the bench as Giuseppe stood, lifting Valentino up high as he squirmed, twisting and turning like a little cat, trying to catch sight of the boys again. So Giuseppe placed Vale back down to standing position, held his hand and walked him towards the fountain once again, Valentino pointing and shrieking with joy.
The bench was wooden and the wood was warm from the sun, I could feel it through my clothes, warming my back. I smiled – the sky was certainly brilliant, certainly blue. When some things in life don’t seem definite, there are always certainties to marvel at, certainties that make you warm; make you smile.
I crunched the guilt-free patatine, tasting the salt on my lips, the oil and the burst of flavour told me that this potato was growing in the earth not very long ago. Guilt-free, because it’s patatine... oh but I don’t mean to say it wasn’t deep-fried, or that it wasn’t potato, in all its high-carb glory. Patatine are, simply put, simply wonderful and there is something more wonderful about eating hot chips whilst warming yourself like a reptile in the sunshine, under a brilliant blue sky, in the company of those you hold dear, amongst others who are also out to soak up the sun and enjoy a relaxing, leisurely Sunday afternoon.
I had flashbacks of sitting at a park bench, under a brilliant blue sky in good company, vibrant green grass surrounding, with a white paper parcel of hot chips and potato cakes, or with beach towels and hot sand beneath us, or unravelling greasy white paper in the centre of the kitchen table, as others prepared the surrounds by equipping the table with bottles of tomato sauce, white vinegar and salt.
People know patatine, hot chips... however many different names they may be known by... if I may, I must state – other cities in the world... if they have restaurants and bars and fast food then there has got to be potato cut in strips and deep fried to perfection, and therefore there has got to be other people in other time zones sitting in the sun and sharing hot chips right now. And you can bet that they are enjoying a leisurely afternoon in good company.