Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Happiest Business

"The happiest business in all that world
is that of making friends, and no investment
on the street pays larger dividends. Life is more
than stocks and bonds and love than rate
percent, and he who gives in friendship's name
shall reap what he has sown."
~ Bill Gates

We saw the smiling man in the white coat and cap before. While we were having cappuccini at Caffe degli Artisti on Saturday morning, he ordered an espresso, drank it and went to work at the salumeria next door. He did the same thing Sunday morning.

"Buongiorno," I greeted him as he passed our table on the patio. "Come va?"

"Va bene. Va bene. E voi?" he replied as he stopped and leaned on the wrought iron railing. The simple greeting started a 20-minute conversation with our new friend, Aurelio, owner of the salumeria e fromaggeria in Piazza del Mercati.

(Please note: He speaks Italian, and I try, but I'm translating the conversation for convenience sake. If a verb is missing, it's intentional due to the fact that I didn't know some words. I'm also leaving out the fact that I translated what he said for the three others.)

"Where are you all from, Signora?" he asked me.

"Las Vegas," I replied. "Do you know Las Vegas"

"Yes. Yes. Were you born there?"

"No. I born Ohio. Husband, Ohio. Him (I pointed to Bob.) Massachusetts. Her (Steph) Connecticut."

"Why do you visit Spoleto?"

I explained to him that my grandparents were born in Abruzzo and that I wanted to learn to speak Italian better and learn more about their home. I chose to stay in Spoleto so I could talk to the people who live in the town. He lit up.

"Spoleto is a special town. Very friendly," he told me.

"Yes. Yes. I like much."

"What town in Abruzzo? L'Aquila?" He wanted to know the name of my grandparents' town.

"No. No. Pettorano sul Gizio, near Sulmona." I told him.

He lit up. "I know Sulmona. Nice town. I've been there, Pescara, Roccarosa, and the place with the beautiful lake in the mountains."


"Yes! It's a beautiful place, Abruzzo."

"Also, Umbria," I told him, and he lit up once again.

He started to tell me a lot about the history of Spoleto (It's older than Rome.... The Etruscans lived here... The former church at the end of the piazza was built in 900-something.... A lot of Etruscan and Roman ruins remain..... etc.), about his family (He's married and has two children... He and his brother own the salumeria.... The family has been here for 25-30 generations..... He has a cousin in Dayton, Ohio), and about himself (He's not traveled outside of Italy.... He works everyday because if he closes, people will need him....).

He also asked me questions about the others and me.

I mentioned that Bob and Steph were going to Rome on Wednesday and then heading to France next week, and Bob said they were going to look for family history.

"Are you going to Rome, too" he asked me.

"No. We there 2010," I informed him. "Maybe just one day. See Vatican. New pope."

"Ah, Francesco. I think he will be good."

Paolo, owner of the caffe, called out to our new friend. "Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy-gook. Per favore."

"Yes. Yes. Right now," replied the man. He patted my arm and turned to everyone. "Have a good day. I see you tomorrow. You come by, and we will talk more so you learn more Italian. Ciao, everyone." He rushed into the salumeria and, within 30 seconds, was back with a box in his hand. He popped into the caffe, and when we left, he was still talking with Paolo.

"What's his name?" Mike asked me as we headed down the street.

""I have no idea," I said. "I forgot to ask him because i was concentrating too hard on what he was saying. I'll ask him tomorrow."

Aurelio (Today, I finally discovered his name.) is a great ambassador for Spoleto. He knows so much about the town and its history, and he is very friendly. When we talk, he always tells me a little bit about this and that. For example, today he told me about the earthquake of 1997 and how it cracked walls and floors of the old structures.

He's patient with my Italian. "I'm sorry," I tell him. "Sometimes I mix up Spanish and Italian words." He laughs, pats my arm, and tells me I'm doing great. He forgets and talks fast at times, but he'll slow down and ask, "You understand?" a lot. He must understand some English because he listens to me translate for the others and nods his head.

He also gives us recommendations for buying food and going to restaurants. "You get good meals anywhere in Spoleto," he told me tonight. "No, that's not true. XXXXX and XXXXX don't have good food. Don't go there." (I'm leaving the names out purposely.)

Aurelio saw us at Ristorante del Mercato (two doors down from his salumeria) tonight and came over to talk. He noticed that Mike and I had crescionda spolentina (a specialty sweet of the region) and he asked if we liked it. I assured him that we did.

"My wife makes it very good," he told me and illustrated with his hands that hers was bigger and thicker than what we had on our plates."

"How make it?" I asked him.

"Milk, eggs, chocolate, amaretti." He had a pained expression on his face. "I don't know. My wife make it, and I do a better job eating it." We all laughed, and he was happy again.

Around 8:00, he said, "I'm going to close tonight. I'll see you tomorrow to practice Italian." Remembering that Bob and Steph were heading to Rome tomorrow and Paris on Sunday, he wished them a good journey.

"Domani," Mike said to him.

"Domani," he called back as he rushed to lock up the store.

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