How to beat the heat on a blistering Sunday in Umbria? How about chilling out and cooling down with our buddy Simone? That’s how we spent our Sunday. A little eating and drinking was thrown in for good measure.
Sunday is one of those white hot type of days, the high water mark of our Umbrian heatwave, a day on which the sun seems to burn with phosphor, scalding and blinding everything in its ambit. Squint hot and bright, where every breath is uncomfortable, singeing the insides of your lungs. When it’s this hot there is no wind, as even the breeze is too hot and tired to muster up the effort to blow. When finally the air is moved, by a passing car, a loud noise or a makeshift fan, it is an unwanted hot, a crackly dry wind that brings more disappointment than relief.
Under this blazing sun we assemble at Simone’s for lunch. Improbably outdoors, on the restaurant’s outdoor terrace protruding into Bevagna’s Piazza Garibaldi. But here, for the next four hours we find an oasis of cool, of comfort, of relaxation.
The food is familiar to us, a series of plates to be shared with our banquet table of guests, somewhere around a dozen (guests, not plates) in all. The food comes from inside without great fanfare but also without interruption throughout the afternoon, the courses so numerous that if you lined up all of the plates end to end they would surely reach back to our villa in Cannara.
Under the cream and red and green awning – the colors of Bevagna’s San Giovanni neighborhood – the sun is neutered and neutralized. The air is cooler under cover, perhaps aided by the chilled bottles of spumante and white wine that cover our table. And Simone and his staff keep the plates coming but with slow, deliberate moves fitting the hot weather. This is how you make the best of blazing hot weather, how you adjust and learn not just how to survive, but to thrive, when summer hits you full force. You slow down, stay in the shade, sit with friends speaking with lowered voices. Life is hushed down and it is good.
* * *
The other way you adapt to the heat is to cover yourself with water. In your villa pool. Honestly, almost nothing feels as good as that first icy cold plunge in the pool that literally shatters and sloughs off the layer of heat, sweat and grime that comes to encase you throughout the day. It is like a butterfly being born from a cocoon, the light and airy you waiting to take wing and be alive if only for a short time before the heat once again envelopes you. We take this plunge upon our return from lunch, the group of guests from the villa plus Simone and his army of followers. And for the next several hours we get to play host to those who so often and so well host us at the little oasis they call le Delizie del Borgo.
* * *
Among our guests are two new friends, a friend of our sons who lives and works part of the year with the Benedictine monks in the village of Norcia, about an hour from our villa. He is joined by another American friend who also lives in Norcia and who also has dealings with the monks. They are a fascinating pair, two gentlemen from Norcia, Americans who consider themselves and who truly are citizens of the world. They regale our American guests as well as our Italian guests with stories and insights from their unique perspective. It is the sort of thing we run across frequently here in Italy.
* * *
And as the sun begins to reach for the horizon it is time to say goodbye to Simone, who has to work back at his restaurant that evening. But his other friends, our friends, too – Marco, Desiderio and Laura – have no such need to return to work. And so they stay and join us and a few other guests whom we have invited for dinner. And outdoors, under the darkening sky which the sun has finally left behind, we enjoy yet another al fresco dinner with new friends and old, enjoying fresh vegetables and even fresher meats from our butcher friends in Rome, as well as crisp wines from our vintner friends here in Montefalco.
This, too, is how you beat the heat during a hot Italian summer. Wait out the sun and celebrate in the cool evening air with good friends and good food.
Bill and Suzy