Dec 282010
 

The following comes from Hewlett, The Road in Tuscany and gives some idea of what could go wrong for the Anglo-Saxon traveller in Italy a century ago. SY

The little town [Trasimeno], but for its castle which is apart from it, looks blighted and poverty-struck; and so it is. I found its only inn – Trattoria del Trasimeno – to be quite remarkably bad; but its landlord as unmistakably good. His engaging candour would commend itself to any humane traveller. He was a fresh-coloured, white-haired little gentleman, well-set up, and dressed in a suit of Scotch plaid. He had the decisive air of a retired colonel turned squire, but kept all the simplicity of his nation. After the preliminaries of hand-washing were done he took me by the button apart; and ‘Senta, Signore’ he began, ‘this is a poor little country, where we think ourselves lucky to be alive at all. There is no meat, there are no fish but eels, and eels at this season of the year are not good for the stomach. But there does happen to be in the house a fine young dead chicken. He, I need not say, is much at your service.’ I engaged the chicken, adding that I assumed his death to have been violent. The landlord rubbed his chin, looking at me out of very blue eyes. ‘As violent as you please,’ he replied. ‘These hands have newly strangled him.’ Evidently the murder had been done partly for my sake, and he not sure how I should take it. It proved an atrocious bird, for which I had to wait three-quarters of an hour in a cave of flies and bad smells. Everything was bad that day – the wine flat and sour, the minestra full of garlick, the bread musty, the maid frowzy and ill-tempered; but to the little landlord everything seemed colour of rose since he had done a stroke of business. He had killed an uneatable fowl, and I was to pay for it.

Related Food History:

  1. Montepulciano C. 1900
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