From the bakery, we followed Michele to the hotel, formerly a home next to one of Frosolone’s many churches, La Chiesa di S. Michele Arcangelo, at the center of the town’s original settlement. Rich and I went from there to a very late, but delicious lunch at the taverna, bar and ristorante of Antonio and Concetta de Nezza. Concetta prepared a delicious meal of triangular ravioli in a simple sauce made from locally-grown tomatoes, and as Rich and I wolfed it down and discussed the events of the day, I watched the di Nezza’s young son play a video racing game on the restaurant’s large, flat-screen tv.
We rested until dinner, then decided to walk to the restaurant at Frosolone’s main hotel, Luigi Colaneri’s La Colombina. During the stroll, a pleasant ramble through town and downhill to the restaurant, we passed by a bronze monument to the artisans of Frosolone, a life-size casting of a forger at work. The Colombina is a sprawling complex built into the hill of the town, with diversions on many levels – a bowling alley, billiard room and bar on one level, restaurant on another, rooms above that. You can see more at its website, hotelcolombina.it.
We walked into the main dining room, wherethe staff was opening a couple of cases of wine – for what, we never discovered, because, as I’ve said, whenever we finished our dinner, Italians were just beginning theirs. We actually ate in a smaller dining area, off the restaurant’s bar, where the jolly waiter, who didn’t speak much if any English, promptly sat down at our table and asked what we wanted to eat. We worked out our choices, not exactly knowing what cuts of meat would be in our secondi, but everything was delicious, abundant and reasonably-priced.
In most of the restaurants we had visited up to this point, when we asked for sparkling mineral water, we would be served a bottle of Ferrarelle, a brand that is known in America. The surprise at the Colombina was the brand name on the carafe of sparkling water that was placed on our table – Culligan. Yes, the same logo that we only associate with water softening in the states.
My antipasto was buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes – which tasted so fresh, I could believe it was delivered to the kitchen minutes before it was sliced and served. Every course was that good, actually – good country fare, well-prepared.
On the walls of the bar area of the Colombina were a couple of Italian proverbs, which provided Rich with a challenge he enjoyed – understanding Italian. It can be fairly easy to literally translate words, but proverbs in another language are often untranslatable and obscure idioms. That seemed to be the case here. On one wall, in varicolored letters that seemed to dance, was written: “Non c’e’uomo che non erri, n e’ cavallo che non Ferri.” Literally it says “There isn’t a man who hasn’t erred, nor a horse that hasn’t thrown a shoe.” But that has none of the poetry, rhythm and, I suspect, a typical Italian world-wise sense of humor. And a horse isn’t exactly our major means of transportation. So, I offer my own modern transliteration: “Every man sometimes lies, and every car eventually dies.”
The other quote was more difficult to figure out. It was a short conversation that read: La vite disse all'ulivo: "Insegnami l'eternite." L'ulivo rispose: "Sala quando mi insegnerai l'ebbrezza.” Rich and I tried to translate it, but our results didn’t make a lot of sense.
A friend of Rich’s, who has actually published translations from Italian works, kindly supplied this literal translation: "The vine said to the olive: teach me eternity. The olive answered, “It'll happen when you teach me intoxication." Again, I feel there’s a lot missing from the original, so I did some research before I attempted to transliterate it.
First of all, for thousands of years, the olive tree has been the symbol of eternity – in Judges, in the Koran and in fables from countries where olive trees are common. In many of these writings, it’s called the “Tree of Eternity,” because olive trees actually live and produce fruit for thousands of years; and then, when they’re no longer fruitful, they send out shoots that replace the original growth.
Learning that, plus realizing that the phrase is on the wall of a restaurant, I reasoned that there might be a life lesson in those words. Is it a rivalry between the grape and the olive, both of which are fermented before offering their liquid pleasures? Or is it folk wisdom telling us that long life and joy are equally important? Or just a restaurateur urging us to eat and drink? My interpretation attempts to encompass all of the above: The vine said to the olive tree, “I wish I could live forever, like you.” The olive tree replied, “And I wish I could live for today, like you.”
After a very satisfying dinner, we realized that we were now facing the reverse of our easy downhill amble to La Colombina. But we clambered back up to the main part of town – by a different route, but it’s difficult to get lost in Frosolone – and made it back to the hotel, where I, at least, got a good night’s sleep. I think Rich used his ear plugs and got some rest.