There’s a certain romantic type, someone who lives in an Anglo-Saxon country like Britain or the United States, who wants to live in a warmer Latin country, like Italy. He or she dreams about stone farmhouses lovingly restored, pergolas under which to have fabulous wine-drenched meals, and outdoor markets, where you can walk through the stalls and proud local producers sell their wares. There are fresh vegetables, artisanal cheeses, honey from the lavender in their garden, stoneground flour and biodynamic wines. People can taste everything before buying, and maybe get to be friends with one of the purveyors.
They do not think (shudder) about the IperCoop in the suburbs. They escaped all that back in the consumerist hell they left.
I was like that once, despite having grown up in a Sicilian-American household and having spent a lot of my vacation time in Italy, either with relatives or friends. Once we bought a small apartment in the historic center of Perugia, I would try to do our grocery shopping at the Tuesday/Thursday market down the street, or among the stalls of the shrinking Mercato Coperto downtown (really up the hill, and now it’s being remodeled as a temple of gastronomy). Once a month, there’s a big organic market, with local cheese producers and organic grains and beans and…well, you get the picture.
Every now and then, we’d have to go to the dreaded big supermarket on the outskirts of town, in an area called Collestrada. I’d allow myself to drive there with The Spartan Woman and maybe kids, and I’d whine the entire time, urging said TSW not to get distracted so that we could get the hell out of there. Needing household goods like paper towels and dishwasher detergent, I once drove M. Chasse out there, and like all good romantics, he looked as though he wanted to bolt as soon as he could.
I was so foolish, so naive. I’ll come clean. I’ve given up my resistance. I’m embracing the Borg, er, the IperCoop and the Centro Commerciale Collestrada.
Today finally did it, my last bit of resistance just evaporated. Why? It’s yet another dark rainy day. I’ve spend the last two days basically at home working and waiting for a GPL (natural gas) delivery, which never came, DO YOU HEAR ME UMBRIAGAS??? With cabin fever turning me into a hall-pacing lunatic, I had to get out. TSW, who likes nothing better to do than to settle down with a few hundred online crossword puzzles, got restless, too. Plus, we could fix our runaway cellphone plans. We kept thinking of rational reasons to go to Collestrada, all very adult, very important. But really, we were going stir-crazy because of the weather and needed not to be home.
It was fun. No, really. Without the overhead of fantasy and good weather, I’ve learned to love the IperCoop. Are you in one of those U.S. cities that has an Eataly? Eat your heart out. Look! Over there, red oranges (what Americans disgustingly call blood oranges) are on sale by the sackful, for a couple of euros a kilo. There’s an entire aisle for fresh pasta. Over there, a giant mortadella. A sushi stand, for chrissakes. A pretty good wine canteen (Sorry, New Yorkers. Maybe after pot legalization, Andy Cuomo can tackle the no-wine-in-supermarkets rule.)
I gawked at the espresso machines. We bought a case of decent house wine for €12. A case—not one bottle, which I think would be the price in New York. Should I get that leather jacket? We chatted with the fish monger, watched harried young people wheel their babies around. I saw two Chinese girls with a cart loaded with Moretti Rossa beer. Party tonight!
Oh, and we changed our phone plans: €7 a month for unlimited calls and 50 GB of data on our iPhones.
I’m sure when the weather is nicer, I’ll revert to my old habits. I’ll want to go for a hike or a swim. Or have an aperitivo at Spello’s Bar Bonci, looking at the mountains and stroking the owner’s cat. Our friends will come over to splash around with us and prepare decadent lunches. But until this incessant damn rain ends, I’ll take what I can. I [heart] the IperCoop.
UPDATE: The sun is back. Sort of.