04 Dec Nino fakes us out
I remember meeting Nino once or twice as a kid when he visited by grandparents’ house. They called him “Travolta” because he often boasted about his dancing skills. His hair was also usually combed in “Saturday Night Fever” style.
Arriving at Nino’s house on the border of Isca, the first thing you notice is an imposing black electronic gate. On the right of his property is a field of olive trees owned by an engineer who lives in Rome. Nino’s own olive and mandarin trees block the house to the left, but I’m sure it’s considerably smaller. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is smaller.
“Ciao, Nino, e’ Bruno!” Uncle Bru called through the telecom, his face nearly hitting the receiver.
“Ciao, Nino, e’ Bruno!”
On the third try, the gate slowly slid open. No one appeared immediately, so Uncle Bruno and I walked down the long cement driveway, passed Nino’s olive trees to our left, until we came to an opening. Olives were strewn on the cement, and some were placed on a towel, apparently to dry.
Nino’s house is three stories tall, all orange brick, with terraces on every level. We went onto the first terrace — which overlooks the olive and mandarin trees, as well as pomegranate and fig trees — to look for an opening. There was a door, but it was not the main opening, so we turned to go back down to the driveway.
That’s when Frine appeared from the rear of the house up the long driveway. Frine, named for a character in a 1950’s Italian movie about Cleopatra, is Nino’s old German Shepard who follows Nino wherever he goes. The poor thing limps from arthritis pain, yet still has the ability to open and close doors. Frine takes small leaps that no doubt kill him, but Nino prods him in his loud basso: “Chiudi la porta, Frine!”
Uncle Bruno and Nino chatted it up, I’m assuming about old times, but God only knows. As someone unfamiliar with Nino’s thick Andreolesi accent, though competent in understanding proper Italian, all I heard was “Buh buh buh buh buh.”
And it seems I’m not the only one. There’s a reason Poppy’s voice is the one greeting callers on Nino’s answering machine.
Nino proceeded to show us around. I was at first reluctant to eat a fig from Nino’s tree, but then the old guy handed me one. “Buh buh buh buh buh. Try it.” He spoke two words of English! In that case, as a show of respect, I had to try it. And it was good.
In fact, Nino remarked that before he took us there that day, he hadn’t been to the third-floor terrace in a year and a half.
Nonetheless, what a view! From every angle was a tremendous panorama of untamed land. (In the photo above is Isca, where weather alerts come in the form of clouds rolling over the mountain.)
Again inside, another thing that stood house was a photo of young Nino in every room. Yes, every room. Sure, there were family photos here and there, including one of his father and grandparents, but they were 90 percent Nino, who makes sure to point to his young self stationed on some shelf … in every room.
We asked to take a picture of Nino for posterity’s sake, and he immediately positioned himself next to the upstairs fireplace that he hadn’t used in years. Of course, as in on cue, he called to his dog: “Buh buh buh buh buh buh, Frine! Vieni qua!”
Frine immediately sat with Nino for the picture.
OK, now that we got the grand tour, I was hoping to get the cheese and leave. We had so much to see and so little time.
What?! But Poppy said he had it. We were supposed to go to Nino’s for the cheese. We did out duty, saw the fortress, the trees, the view and the dog, and now it was time to go.
But no. We were behind the iron gate and we would only leave when Nino wanted us to leave.
To be continued …