Thursday, September 9, 2021

Montecarlo has changed but little since we left two years ago

Dinner at the Festa del Vino, Montecarlo.
Lucy and I have missed two years of life in Montecarlo because of Covid. Well, not really two full years, because our plan for now is to live three or four months a year in Montecarlo and most of the other time in America. But
we missed being in Italy for all of 2020 and most of 2021, and that’s set back our Italian social life. It’s hard enough to develop bonds with people here with our limited contacts and language skills—not to mention that we are both introverts—but it’s impossible if one doesn’t see people at all.

The former bank across from our house.

Of course, it wouldn’t have helped much if we had been in Italy these last two years, because for much of that time, people were shut up in their homes, as we would have been as well. So in that respect, we can at least take comfort in the fact that we didn’t lose any ground by not being here. It’s as if Montecarlo was just frozen in time, while our lives in Gig Harbor basically moved ahead. We worked, we played, we visited with family and friends—outdoors, certainly—but we were never lonely or felt cooped up.

We are sad to see that the farmacia here has closed, and so has the bank and ATM that were conveniently right across from our house. Granted, the bank brought some noise and traffic, but our borgo seems less like a town without these two essential services. We are also down to one hole-in-the wall all-purpose grocery story instead of two, although that happened a couple of years prior to Covid. Fortunately, the women’s clothing store and the regionally famous shoe store survived.

Juri & Silvia outside their negozio.

The most visible change is that new restaurants have opened, the main street has become a ZTL (limited traffic zone) and many more tables for outside dining have been set up. Parking spaces have been reduced, and Via Roma is now a lively restaurant row. Another bright spot is a small women’s accessory store that has opened by the teatro—owned and operated by none other than Silvia Benedetti and Juri Nesti, our downstairs neighbors. Così Fan Tutte will be a nice place to show to our out-of-town visitors. Lucy already bought some orrechini—earrings—there.

The Trattoria di Montecarlo, ready to serve cena.

This is the first time we’ve been to Montecarlo in September, and it’s a perfect time to be here. The weather is like Gig Harbor in August—warm but not at all uncomfortable. Despite Covid restrictions, the town is still buzzing with activity, and for the first time, we were able to experience a little taste of the regionally famous Festa del Vino. Usually, this event occupies the entire town, but it was scaled back to provide more control. It was limited to three piazze, and reservations were required. Juri reserved us a space for a Sunday night dinner that included a sampling of five glasses of local wine (all refillable upon request—but it was already more vino than I have ever consumed at one meal). The exquisite five-course meal, prepared by two local restaurants, lasted nearly four hours and was worth every centesimo of the 35 euro per person cost. The ravioli was particularly remarkable, indescribably sweet and savory, but the antipasto and Italian taco were also memorable.

Check out the gorgeous antipasto!

We had our vaccination cards and temperature checked at the door upon entry. The evening was interspersed with explanations about each wine and dish, along with some guest speakers—including our neighbor, the illustrious Dottor Sergio Nelli—talking up a book on local history that is in the works.

Our progress in becoming more native is slow, and we know it will never be complete, but we feel a smidgeon more montecarlesi each time we are here. Hopefully, our progress will not be interrupted by any more anni pestilenti (years of pestilence) in the future.

Guest enjoy aperitivi during "happy hour" at Carlo IV

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