The high point of the day for most of us at the Fondazione, as well as for the inhabitants of the town of Bogliasco, is its famous passeggiata a mare. The passeggiata as a phenomenon means two things: going for a stroll, an activity typical of most Mediterranean cities, and the place along which one strolls, in this case, a boardwalk made of narrow bricks laid out in a herringbone pattern (to protect against slipping in this very rainy climate), alongside a stretch of sea called Golfo Paradiso.
I’ve taken this walk every day since we arrived here, and I probably will continue (given my daily consumption of pasta and grissini), and I’ve been cataloguing the population, trying to decide what is distinctive. Dog walkers and runners are not. Nor are women pushing strollers, or mothers (often grandmas) urging toddlers to get a move on, couples, men or women in pairs, tourists with backpacks. What is most striking to me, though, but again it’s not so much an artifact of this tiny town on the outskirts of Genoa, is an Italian look (the French come close, but this is a bit more specific). The most interesting specimen is the well-dressed, middle-class, retired man.
Now what I would like to have put here is a picture of this elegant creature wearing a three-quarter length jacket, a cleverly knotted wool scarf, pants with a crease (even if they happen to be jeans), slender shoes, often made of brown suede. I have not yet figured out a way to take his picture discreetly, but believe me he exists, often sitting on a bench, reading a newspaper in the sun. At the risk of making an invidious comparison, I can’t help wishing Sandy would model himself on one of these exemplars of masculine dress, but it is highly unlikely (think about it, brown suede shoes on the promenade along Riverside Drive?).
Although by definition the passeggiata is about walking, this one is also designed for sitting and contemplating the sea; and also sitting (waiting for customers) and selling: the familiar stock of African street vendors (here, maybe Nigerian)—inexpensive pocket books, wallets, and small paintings.
And there are invitations to sit, my favorite this café where I’ve succeeded in ordering the equivalent of a bone-dry, superfoamy cappuccino delivered in a real cup and, mercifully, in no way reminiscent of Starbucks. Standing on line in my neighborhood branch, waiting for a so-called grande, seems a distant memory. When I dip my focaccia (speciality of Genoa) in the foam, looking out at the water, still or agitated, and in the distance, the snow-capped mountains on the horizon, it has the opposite effect of a madeleine—I remember nothing (as Nora Ephron wonderfully said, writing of old age).
It’s all very well, you may say, but didn’t I come here to work? Amazingly, despite the morning passeggiata and the afternoon stroll into town, I am working steadily, if not always happily.
I’m doing daily battle with my copyedited ms. and cringing at my lack of talent for creating dialogue that doesn’t sound wooden and stilted (I will not give any examples, and can only hope I’ve deleted the worst ones).
Monday was Passover, and instead of attending my cousin’s Seder I went into Genoa with a small group of fellows and heard a concert in a monastery. I confess it felt weird, as we sat there shivering in our down jackets, listening to an orchestra of young people play mainly 17th and 18th century works for strings, to be spending Passover in the company of suffering Jesus on the walls and ceilings. But it is Italy, after all, and I gather that there are many processions to come (more crucifixions), as Pasqua unfolds (as I write, it’s Maundy Thursday, and one will take place in town tonight).
It’s also pouring down rain.