I can say is, “What a wonderful family.”
I arrived at the Campari’s around 11 am, but was more than exhausted
from the jet lag to communicate my best. And, I was a bit concerned that I would never in my life be able
to speak in Italian when I met the Campari’s maid, Antonietta, who smiled
and spoke to me so fast that my head swirled. Francesco, the only Campari not in Milan had told me about
her. Francesco lives in New York and is a talented actor and director. He is also a friend, meaning someone I can pick on with
relish, and he’s got some pranks coming to him, because I found out a few days
after I arrived that he had told the darling maid that I spoke Italian. That Francesco….
a nap, some time with Federica, the young and beautiful engineering graduate
student, and Francesco’s younger sister, I was able to do a bit of work. I was
still in a “between-worlds” state. When traveling abroad, there are a few days right at the beginning where
your consciousness has to get used to its new surroundings. It’s where your soul looks out and says
hello. Like calling down into a
canyon, you wait for the echo back. What will the echo sound like? What will be the tenor of my voice? What will I discover here? Who may I become?
evening, I met my hosts and the patriarch and matriarch of the family, Marco
and Anna Campari. Thankfully Marco
spoke English and Anna spoke French so we chatted without any
problems. This was a real blessing.
My Italian was non-existent. Niente.
Nunca. Nada. What’s the word again???
Milanese apartment was full of old world charm and everything you would need to
entertain. Quiet, comfortable and
situated in a round with passageways that can be closed off to keep things cozy. My first marvel though, was Anna’s
kitchen. She said to me in French,
“I went a bit crazy with the decorations.” I disagreed. It
was beautiful! Decorated in what I’d
call more of a French style (but very well could be Italian) with blue and
white tiles, a large professional stove that looks like it’s more meant for a
family than a restaurant, and tons of beautiful copper hanging and sitting
amongst the blue–I was in love with this kitchen!
moved about the space with the help of Ciandu, a Sri Lankan man who has been a
part of the Campari family now for a little while. I watched her fetch pasta and something
amazingly green and in a bowl from the fridge. It was labeled by hand in Italian, but I didn’t catch it. Pesto? Maybe. We
talked about my flight, my fall down the airport stairs, and her kitchen. Soon we were three hungry humans
sitting around a table, and I am eating the best pesto of my life.
I had been told about this pesto, thanks to Mr. Lenny Ciotti, another
amazing Italian actor I know back home in New York (and who seems to always be right about food even when we disagree, darn-it). You see this pesto is made from Ligurian basil, whose leaves
are smaller, but with a more intense flavor and color. It was so good I consumed two portions
of the pasta, unaware that it was a first course. How could I forget?? I had been schooled on that, too. Pasta can be served as a first course or a side dish in Italy if you are
planning to have more than one course in a meal. So by the time the main dish of pork tenderloin arrived–cooked
perfectly and served with potatoes and fennel–I was already pretty full… I ate it all anyway.
We drank red wine with our meal, but afterwards had a sweet dessert wine that only comes out of Cinque Terre called Scíachetrà. Marco told me that there were many
false ones out there, but this one was for real and it was old, sixteen years
old. It was very good. The color and flavor almost resembled Meade. It was easy to drink, and I snapped a
Marco is a businessman, an
engineer by trade, and quite successful. His practical but not overly serious demeanor made me feel like I could
trust him with my life savings if need be. He was the perfect compliment to Anna, an entrepreneur and
jewelry designer, with absolute chic-ness mixed in with her warm Italian mama
When we finished eating and were enjoying
the Scíachetrà with some Italian biscuits, they set out to open the gifts I
brought them. They told me many
times that it was completely unnecessary, but I hoped they liked them anyway; I
really wanted to do something for them, to thank them for their
generosity. I brought Marco scotch
and brought Anna things that were more Native American—from my culture to hers—such
as sage and sweetgrass. Thankfully, they were very happy.
It’s hard to say how I felt the first night going
to sleep. Here I was in a
wonderful place with wonderful people, and wonderful food. And although tired, I felt like that
echo just may be making its way to me, but not yet. I didn’t know who I was in this place, but at least I was
experiencing things the way I always do as a traveler. I was eating with new people, and
learning more about them in their own surroundings. Now that I had shared my
first meal with the Camparis, in their home with its old-world sensibilities,
it all made perfect sense. They
knew how to create a warm and loving place in the world and it showed.
It’s hard to say how I felt the first night going