Behind Giulia’s eyes lie many stories waiting to be told. She struggles to maintain eye contact with whoever she’s talking to; she is always searching for the right pair of eyes that can truly listen to her. So anything would be better to rest her gaze on.
It seems like shyness, but it isn’t.
It’s Friday at long last and her desk piled high with papers is a distant memory: this weekend is when the vines are planted. Spring is coming to Modigliana, you can tell by the warm ray of sunlight coming through the window. The very first one. Unexpected.
At Maria’s osteria, they’re waiting for Giulia for their usual lunch before the weekend begins. Loosened ties, that can tell their work is done, keep tired jackets company on chairs.
Giulia closes the door behind her in her usual way, as though it were a kind of ritual. There’s still a chill in the air. She turns up the collar of her coat while her heels click on the now silent pavement that for centuries has been home to cart wheels and horses’ hooves.
She crosses the bridge, passing in front of Sergio’s butcher’s, with its bull on the sign that looks like it belongs on the streets of Madrid.
She goes down to the right, picking up the pace, and a few metres on she comes to the door of Maria’s place. Her tables have seen three generations of Modigliana pass through. Everything’s the same as it has always been.
She opens the double doors of the old osteria and is greeted by the aroma of capon broth, home, wood and fast-moving rolling pins, fresh pasta and the chatting and laughing of the cooks.
Giulia’s hands still gripping her coat collar, Maria’s voice calls out:
“Hello there, look how busy we are today, love… you’ll have to sit at the bar with me, we’re celebrating.”
“What are we celebrating, Maria?”
“Life,” she replies.
“Do you need a better reason to open a bottle of wine?”
The dark wooden shelf is filled with reds. Maria searches for one with the confidence of someone who knows exactly where to look. “This one,” she says.
2012, the label says.
“I remember the February of 2012…We had such a huge snowfall. Then spring came and went with hardly any rain at all. The summer was close and boiling hot. The grapes were bursting with sugar and produced full-bodied, broad and generous wines. It was as hot as 2007 but cooler than 2003 and 2017. A cheeky year, in short.”
Giulia smiles at all the knowledge that is spilling out of those hands that have just finished rolling out 12 eggs worth of pasta. She caresses the glass with her fingers, brings it to her lips and slowly savours the taste: aromas of red fruits and flowers, sweet spices and notes of tobacco. Giulia’s hands smell of salt, the wind and the sea. The taste is full and flavoursome on her lips.
Maria looks at her and says: “It’s the sandstone. It’s the sand that has been brought up over the years. It’s the nectar of the sirens…what do you think they used to bewitch Ulysses? Was it really their song?”
Giulia nods, pushes her hair off her face and turns the glass slowly in her hand. Maria watches her and wonders if today she will have the courage to meet the gaze of that handsome man, the one who waits for her every Friday to offer her a glass of wine. She wonders if this glass of red will give her the nerve to acknowledge him, so she can finally discover that it’s not really the ‘cappelletti’ that bring them to the osteria every Friday.
This is Torre.