Not all those who wander are lost.

Una cena senza vino

Italian families usually have a few 5-liter glass jugs that they take to a cantina to fill with wine for the week. It basically cuts out the middleman, so the wine goes straight from the barrel to the table. It is local, it’s cheap (8 euro for 5 liters), and it’s damn good.

Chianti, Brunello, Barbaresco, Barolo…these aren’t names of Roman Emporers, but given the importance of wine to Italians, they might as well be. L’aqua fa male, il vino fa cantare – Water makes one sick, wine makes one sing. Buon vino fa buon sangue – Good wine makes good blood. The Italian proverbs on the topic of wine are endless. And last night, I had the opportunity to witness first hand the intensity of this dedication to wine for the average Italian family.

Tonja had taken the kids to a Start-of-Summer party and I had opted out, choosing instead to spend some time on my own in Lucca. I met Simone (father) at the train station and we drove back to Castelvecchio, stopping briefly for an aperitivo (pre-dinner drink) and a chat before heading home to the madness.

It was just after 19:45 when we left the bar and as we neared the bottom of the hill to Castelvecchio, Simone received a phone call from Tonja…after a cheery “Pronto” to answer the call, Simone received the worst news possible. Everyone was safe, and dinner was almost ready, but we were out of wine. I smiled to myself in amusement as I listened to the conversation, and I prepared myself for a fun car ride.

Italians are crazy drivers, but I have never seen anything like this. We whipped around turns, Simone cranking the wheel with all his might right and then left…he floored it as we passed slow-moving vehicles around blind corners. This was no laughing matter, we were about to have una cena senza vino – a dinner without wine.

Stop #1 – “Dio Madonna, e’ gia chiuso.” The nearest mom & pop store that sells wine had already closed for the evening. After a brief pause for cussing and a U-Turn, we were back on the road in a race against time. The clock read 19:58, and the nearest large grocery store was a few kilometers down the road. The next option was Euro Spar – a large grocery store by European standards, but Simone was virtually positive it closes promptly at 20:00. Insert more cussing, this time in Lucchese dialect, but I didn’t need to know the words to understand their meaning. We were approaching a situation of catastrophic proportion.

Stop #2 –The lights in the Euro Spar were already dimmed and the entrance was locked. “Dio Maiale, e’ chiuso!” Closed. Weather forecast: cloudy with a chance of sobriety.

But what was this? A customer exiting the store? A glimmer of hope? Simone sprang out of the car and raced to the exit before the automatic doors could shut him out. Two minutes later, Simone came out like a champion holding his prized trophy – a 1.5 liter bottle of Tuscan house red. We were saved!!! Hallelujah!

When I asked Simone what the employee said to him when he entered through the exit he said, “Lei era Italiana, quindi ha capito.” She was Italian, so she understood.

Crisis averted.

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