The road to Smellsville

Having grown up beside a land grant university with large bovine and swine research programs, I am thoroughly familiar with the windswept smells issuing from Porkchop and Buttercup. Today being Sunday, Aaron and I walked out of Moretta in search of exactly what we didn’t know. The wafting scent of confined ruminant and ungulate chased us to the very frontier, which lies just a few minutes from our doorstep on a two-lane highway stretching across this flat Italian heath like a shot. A gray bullet through gray water.

Once we crossed out of Moretta the dietary smell dissapated and the sight of the next town, Villafranca, came into view. Aaron found hops growing in the blackberry-brambled ditches while I jagged my thumb at passing cars. A friend recently asked me if Italians are kind to hitchhikers, and now I believe that they aren’t, so long as you’re in view of a church spire or water tower. (It seems that these landmarks of civilization close at hand dampen the driver’s sympathy toward outliers.) This likely describes 90% of the Italian landscape–no virgin Wests here–thereby proving that settlement patterns influence passengership by way of geography. Zounds! We’ll have to test our theory someday in the Aostan outskirts.

Good stories often start on country roads, like the Thomas Hardy novels that have biased me to see any flat, grayish landscape through the otherworldly lens of his Wessex heath. Technically, Aaron and I were walking a much more verdant and cultivated earth today. Whole lettuces survived in patches abutted by fields of dry shucks where old men sat around drinking whiskey from a still (this last part taken from Aaron’s imagination).

In bustling Villafranca we turned down a piece of 18th century crockery from a spry octogenarian vendor at an antiques market before heading to a cafe to split a beer. I looked for a job in the classifieds while Aaron went outside and got in a heated, mud-slinging soccer match with some local ragazzi (this last part from my imagination). Upon paying, we fell into conversation with the cafe’s beautifully brunette, proprietary cougar, she describing to us the wonders of Torino’s catacombs and the splendidness of Tuscany in summertime. “The city he left behind has seven months of dreary winter,” I offered in counterpoint, jagging my thumb towards Aaron. “Oh,” said the cougar, “I thought that America was sunny all year long. We Italians think that.” I replied that some Americans have the same misconception about Italy. “We are all foreigners,” I concluded. “Indeed,” said the dark-haired woman with beautiful eyes.

Back in Moretta, Aaron and I made cappellini from scratch and ate it with a garlic, butter and rosemary sauce. We feel well here in Smellsville.

-Patrick

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