And we went to Podenzana for dinner on a damp February evening. The occasion was the retirement of Acciaroli, Sandro, a great friend and the same age as Parolini, a teacher in the spools and artifices workshop.
I didn't know him enough but I had been invited by him, if only for my frequentation with Parolini and, as a transitive rule: who is my friend's friend is my friend.
My blue gas-powered Innocenti "Regent" with a quadrangular steering wheel, bought a third hand for a couple of weeks and belonged to the mayor of the town, climbed safely up the numerous hairpin bends that separated us from Podenzana for less than four kilometers ; it was as if she was more than the driver who knew the road well. There were three of us on board and I should have remembered to park it downhill, since sometimes it had some starting problems. My recent purchase had aroused quite a few (and unsolicited) judgments from the people of the factory, that is, those who professed political tendencies opposed to those of the mayor, claimed that, despite the price, I had certainly made a bad deal and that soon I would have regretted it; who instead was of orientation consistent with that of the first citizen, assured me that the car, despite the kilometers, was certainly very reliable and that, also considering the price, I had certainly made a great deal. Time would have given reason, in principle, to the second thesis; but then, you know, the first machine is like the first love, the defects are forgiven and one never forgets.
At the "Gavarina d'oro" upon our arrival the atmosphere was already well preheated, both as a general mood and as a thermal condition. We were about thirty, including Director and Deputy, a few wives and a gentleman never seen before, sitting next to Sandro, whom I would have known afterwards that he was a retired general of the paratroopers and the reason for his presence; all distributed on a composition of tables joined in a horseshoe. Menu of the house rigorously typical, unique and decidedly robust, that is monothematic appetizers, with a rich selection of mushrooms in all ways, on Vinca bread bruschetta; then panigacci at will and various cuts of exquisite grilled meat, called rosticciana, to end up with regulatory cake and sparkling wine. Panigacci are an ancient Lunigianese peasant and ultra-poor specialty, as they were the daily bread made in the woods, by the chestnut pickers when they were away from home and in the absence of an oven and leavened dough (in those parts, in the in the Middle Ages, wars were interrupted when chestnuts were to be harvested). The preparation is very simple and somewhat resembles that of the piadine from Romagna, but more good. Some very rustic terracotta dishes (called texts) turn red on a wood fire and then stack them, interposing between a plate and a plate, a ladle of almost liquid dough made of only wheat flour, water and a little salt. After a few minutes, unstacking you get hot bread disks that for a very short time remain soft and fragrant, to be consumed immediately, stuffed with caciotta or stracchino, lard and various salami, all strictly indigenous and according to imagination. The same ones, in the Ligurian variant, once dried can instead be boiled and, cut into triangles, eat as a first course, with pesto and parmesan, in which case they take the name of testaroli. The historical employee of the panigacci club was the old Eustace, transplanted from Bari, an almost mythological figure, both for his extraordinary ability to prepare them, and for his familiarity with the fire and whose hands, as big as shovels, with long years of "piropractic "They seemed to have become refractory to heat.
Fortunately, beyond me there were also half a dozen young colleagues, mostly girls who amiably lowered the average age of the group and who, decidedly cute, dressed on the elegant, made up and perfumed, anyone would have found it difficult to realize that , as for a prodigious mutation, they were the same girls whom, not arousing particular interest, I met in the factory bundled up in the rough and little graceful blue-colored cotton-work suit.
The evening spent happily amid good food, cheerfulness, jokes and flasks of wine that emptied with impressive rapidity (these were times when the word breathalyzer was not even in the vocabulary), someone procured an accordion (I believe it was fixed equipment of the place) that in the skilled hands of Bertacchini, the Director's driver, accompanied improvised choruses of heart-wrenching songs, a bit retro, alternating with obscene songs from the tavern or barracks which, and not surprisingly, I realized that the girls knew all and very well. Capece, then, moved everyone by performing in a truly memorable "Back to Surriento", and then dragging all of us, none excluded, into a unanimous and thunderous "funiculì funiculà".
As I said before, I hardly knew Acciaroli at all, except the fact that, by hearsay, he had had an interesting life, or troubled according to his point of view, but I didn't know exactly what.
It was Cànepa, of the Personal Office who as dean had taken on the task of making the pragmatic speech, before giving the floor to the director, at the delivery of the gifts with the usual snapshots (usual watch, usual medal and photos of the Plant with handwritten inscription by the Director, as well as a beautiful new chainsaw, the result of our collection), to trigger the spring of my incorrigible curiosity, when and jokingly, he hinted that the birthday boy was such, more than for retirement, for the fact that he had arrived alive (and in good health) to retirement, in fact, and that the medal awarded to him would have been a problem, since there was no place left in his chest. My gaze ran to Parolini who understood me on the fly, saying only that since, and after much insistence, I had offered to accompany him at the end of the evening to his home in Monzone, we could also embark Acciaroli, who lived in Serricciolo, therefore along the road to Monzone, thus facilitating Venturelli, who lived just outside the town and on whose car Sandro had first come up to Podenzana.
It was implicit that the thoughtful but interested expedient, suggested by Parolini, would have served above all to make him speak and for my satisfaction, which was greatly facilitated by Parolini, who would have made me a priceless shoulder.
Therefore the evening, or rather the night, had a very interesting end. The hood of humidity had dissolved to make way for a magnificent starry sky. My Regent did not quirk at the start and led us (intentionally almost at a walking pace, maximizing the time of the journey and therefore of the conversation) to Sandro's house where, in the cellar and in a low voice so as not to wake his wife, daughter and son-in-law, we made almost the sunrise invited to "a few" glasses of the stirrup.
He uncorked a bottle for us for special occasions, of an amber wine of three years, which he made with the grapes of his small vineyard and which had a particularity; in addition to being really pleasant, the vines from which the wine came, had made the character of the ancient pine forest existing in the same land before the vineyard, thus giving the wine an aromatic, discreet but decisive aftertaste, like inebriating alpine fragrances. Among other things, the wine proved to be an excellent accomplice to increase Sandro's limited loquacity who, and in paradoxical contrast to his history, was one of the most shy and meek people I have ever known.
I summarize in the next story of this series, the story of Sandro, as learned by him and as integrated by the numerous details provided by Parolini, a story that would be written as a whole book to tell it all and for good.