Image: Unsplash, downloaded (https://unsplash.com/photos/lZ3TDcE3HEY) 15.10.2023.
The Bread of Linguaglossa
We drove along the undulating roads spiraling up the side of Etna to a guide-recommended winery. (Aitala Vini dell’ Etna) “You have to try the wines of Etan at a vineyard. The ashes in the soil give the wines a wonderful flavor. And the views on the ride up and from this vineyard are spectacular.” This is what I read before we left—and indeed, we had sampled one of the wines at a restaurant so going to the winery seemed a promising idea. We thought bringing home some wine from a vineyard on the volcano that had featured prominently in my husband’s family’s lives, would make the perfect souvenir.
Yes, the views on the way were amazing, and the towns we drove through were charming, at least at the visual level. Just one problem- the narrow road’s curves and twists made me carsick. Arrival found me nauseous. The vineyard staff nodded in understanding of my problem and guided us to an outdoor terrace where we could wait out my tummy upset while looking down at the last, red-tiled village we had passed through, Linguaglossa.
As we sat, looking out, a tall young man with thick black curls and wide smile, came out. “Sono Nunzio,” he announced as he put a bottle of fizzy water, two glasses, and a basket of golden bread on the table. I poured the water for both my husband, Joe, and myself. We each took a slice of bread. Nunzio remained, hovering to see if I needed anything else, I imagine. I turned to him after nibbling my slice and pronounced the bread, “Wonderful.”
Nunzio smiled and with evangelistic fervor, elaborated on the bread. “This bread is from Linguaglossa, my village. It is so good, so wonderful that unless I eat it at every meal, I cannot survive. Friends have asked me to move to Rome, but I cannot be that far away from the bread of my town. A loaf will not keep fresh for more than a day.”
Before I could reply, he continued, “And it is right that I should value my town’s broad. After all, bread is the most important food of all! Our Savior chose bread to represent his own body!”
I nodded in agreement with this ardent young man.
Would this handsome young man, just the right age for our daughter, ever consider coming to America? No, never. I knew that if he wouldn’t even go to Rome, he certainly would not trade his regal baked patrimony for white bread packed in plastic, sold in grocery stores. Such passion for his town and its loaves.
By this time I was feeling a bit better, and it was time to tour the winery and then sample the wines. We were served a variety of wines, more bread and some cheeses and meats. We chose just one bottle to take home since we had only a little room left in our luggage. We said goodbye to Nunzio and the vineyard owners. They gave me a bottle of fizzy water to keep my stomach settled on the downward drive. In a few minutes we were once again in Linguaglossa. I looked at my husband. “Should we stop and buy a loaf of this town’s wonderful bread?”
My husband pointed to the bakery window—“My Italian isn’t very good, but CHIUSO means closed doesn’t it?”
I nodded and we continued without the bread. But after all, as Nunzio pointed out, it wouldn’t have lasted more than a day. In fact, even the wine did not “last.” We drank it before returning. After all, the best souvenir was not the wine or the bread, but the story of meeting Nunzio as we looked out over his red-tiled town and the honor of sharing a small story of his life and “breaking bread” with us.
About the Author: Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. She performs tales of food, family, strong women. Internationally published as an essayist, poet, short story writer, and novelist, she’s a 2021 and 2022 Pushcart nominee, Best of the Net 2022 nominee, and 2022 runner-up in Robert Frost Competition. Her essays, poems, CNF, and fiction appear in Impspired, Ekphrastic Review, Verse Visual, Verse Virtual, Gargoyle, Silver Birch, Yellow Mama, Mystery Tribune, Ovunquesiamo, MacQueen’s Quinterly and many others in US, UK, Australia, German, and more. Her poetry chapbooks are Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, and Feathers on Stone, published by Main Street Rag.