Monday, April 21, 2008

lotus eaters

The guidebooks say Don't visit Civitavecchia....There's nothing to see we go to Civitavecchia. After an early morning deluge, the skies clear on the coast, and we have sun for the day. Civitavecchia is a classic seaside city with a broad lido along the Mediterranean. Pink, yellow, and whitewashed buildings, shops and old-world hotels, framed by grand palms line the corso and we wonder up the pedestrian zone looking at shop windows. We take a flight of stairs in a broad alley, something about them has beckoned, and we land happily in the weekly market. We find local sheep's milk cheeses and spiced green olives along with a little salame and black pepper-cured pork loin for dinner. Dessert will be a small Sicilian melon the size of a bocce ball. In the kitchen at home there are already fresh eggs and a bagfull of fresh baby artichokes for an omelet.

Lunch happens in Santa Marinella, one seaside town down the coast toward Rome. We find a small seafood restaurant with a wood-fired oven on a shaded residential street on the water called Il Bambu. The air is full of salt and blooming jasmine. We order the seafood antipasti with crostini covered with inch-long baby octopus marinated in a hint of tomato and their own juices, raw octopus salad cured in lemon, a squid salad with yellow peppers, carrot, and celery, and fresh marinated anchovy filets. After, we eat plates of thick spaghetti with baby clams, olive oil, garlic, and peperoncino, grilled squid (we call it "bacon of the sea" it is so salty and tender), and small fried red mullet and cod. A pitcher of cold white wine washes it all down, and to finish there are glasses of house-made limoncello and black espresso.

We walk out onto the small beach and out onto the rocks into the salt spray. We walk down tree-lined residential streets peering into shaded gardens. We lay down on benches in a small public garden on the sea. We are under a bower of jasmine, the air heady in the hot sun. A dog barks. Workmen sweep freshly layed stones at a renovation project next door. The waves on the shore crash and fall. The sun is hot on our faces, eyes closed.

(photos by lindsey putnam)

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