“I would like to accompany you to my home and show you where I live,” announced Bartolomeo, my dreamy Italian boyfriend.
Because homes are so expensive in Italy, they are usually passed down from generation to generation. This is why so many Italians live with their parents throughout their adult years. Homes then become part of the history of the family; not just a place to live. Many homes in Italy are older than America itself. Italians appreciate what they have and they take care of it the best way they can. The home, no matter how grand or how humble is a source of pride.
After an almost 20 minute car ride into the hills of Tuscany, Bartolomeo opened the iron gates to his family home, and pulled his car under a flower encrusted gazebo. Typical terracotta pots of varying sizes full of colorful flowers were scattered about the front patio. After opening the front door, (wrought Iron and glass of course) a gauzy orange-colored curtain greeted us. The curtain, no doubt, was used to keep the hungry bugs out and let the cool air in.
The inside of his home was in the typical Tuscan Farmhouse style. A large stone staircase with wrought iron handrails on either side greeted us. To the left was the door to the kitchen. The kitchen was quite big with wood-beamed ceilings; a marble-topped farmhouse table; and a wood-burning oven that is still used for cooking in the winter. The floors throughout the house were lined with terracotta tiles and antique pieces of furniture flanked many of the room’s walls.
At the completion of my tour Bartolomeo brought me back to the kitchen and started boiling some water. By this time it was late, after 9:30 at night and I was not expecting dinner. I sat at the farmhouse table in the center of the room while he weighed some pasta in an antique scale, and salted the water. We made small talk, he with his broken English and me with my non-existent Italian, while the water came to a boil.
When the pasta was completed Bartolomeo motioned for me to follow him into a room I had not seen earlier. After walking into the seemingly dim-lit room a dining room table, dressed with perfect simplicity, was revealed. The table, lined with a classic white linen table cloth that had delicate blue-thread detailing, displayed a bottle of red wine; two wine glasses; two small water glasses; two forks; and at least 20 glowing tea light candles. A larger vanilla scented votive candle anchored the center of the table.
“Wow,” I thought to myself, “I wasn’t expecting this.” I turned to Bartolomeo with a somewhat confused look. His face showed a small but proud smile.
He opened and poured the wine, first for me and then for him, and then left the room only for a second to bring in a carafe of water and the bowls of pasta. He grated parmesan cheese on both bowls and sat down to toast the meal.
“Oh, I forgot something!” He said, as he popped out of his chair and squatted down at the TV cabinet that sat in the corner of the room. A few seconds later he pulled out a record, placed the needle on the vinyl and sat back down.
“Do you know Louis Armstrong?” he asked.
“Louie Armstrong? Umm yes, of course I know Louie Armstrong. How do YOU know Louie Armstrong?” I say in response.
“C’mon” he replies with his beautiful deep voice and Italian accent. “My father and I listen to these all the time.” He points up to reveal hundreds of records sitting on a shelf that lines the top of the dining room wall.
“Oh my god,” I think to myself, “How does a man with so few years have this much depth? How did I get so lucky?”
I can’t help it. A huge smile spreads across my face; my head tilts a little to the left; and my eyes move to a dream-filled gaze… you know the gaze little girls get when they imagine the man of their dreams. As I sat there starry-eyed thinking what a wonderful night this turned out to be Bartolomeo cupped the side of my face with his hand and pulled me to meet his perfectly full lips.
We made a toast, and started to eat. The pasta was simple, shaped like spaghetti but with a hole in the middle of the tube. It was served plain, with just a little salt and parmesan cheese. Dinner was good, but it was late and I could barely finish what he served me, so I offered him what I had left. He ate it while we talked for a few more minutes and then he announced he had to get the secondi.
“There’s a second course?” I ask in surprise.
“Of course” he replies.
Bartolomeo arrived back to the dining room with a full plate of cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto. I didn’t even have to ask. I knew he prepared it himself. It was delicious and the combination of salty ham and perfectly chilled melon was a refreshing relief from the sticky night air.
When he left the table a final time I was not surprised when he returned with 2 small glass bowls of Tiramisu which he prepared himself that day. He used the same recipe he uses at the restaurant in which he works (a personal favorite of mine) with the exception, he admitted, of using different ladyfingers because he didn’t have the ones they used in the restaurant. Different ladyfingers or not, the dessert was amazing. Again a huge smile came to my face and true joy filled my heart.
“Thank you for this evening,” I say to him.
“Prego” he replies to accept my appreciation, but I know he does not really understand the full extent of it.
How could he? How could he know that a simple dinner together in his home or that any of the little things he’s done for me over these last 4 months have not only provided me with fantastic memories, but have helped me open myself up again, to trust again, and in some ways has restored my faith in men?
He couldn’t know of course, but I’m sure the smile I have on my face every time we are together provides some insight to him that I am happy and he is a part of that happiness.