I passed Antonio on a country road on my walk this afternoon. He was working in his olive grove and I was curious about what he was doing. He had his hands on either side of this red contraption that shook furiously. On his side of the low stone wall that runs all along the road, he'd started a fire.
What are you burning? Weeds and garbage. Many similar fires had been lit all along the road. It made the air thick with white smoke and burned my eyes.
What are you doing on this back road? Taking a walk, una passeggiata. It was about 2 p.m. and reasonable people here are either eating or snoozing at that hour. He wanted to chat but I waved and walked on.
Retracing my steps a half hour later, there was no sign of Antonio. But before I reached the end of his grove I saw a motorcycle racing toward me from the direction in which I was heading.
Where in Martignano are you staying? Who's house? Is your husband here with you?
He wanted me to stay and chat. I didn't want to. He went back to work, I thought.
But I was back in Martignano walking along via Giovanni XXIII (a dismal street with a tall grey wall running along one side) when Antonio's motorcycle roared up behind me.
I'm going home to eat, he says. Ah, buon appetito, I chime in quickly, in case he took it into his head to issue an invitation. He was a wiry man, in his early 50s, I'd guess. He had a lit cigarette in the corner of his mouth, a la, Vittorio De Sica in a 1940s film, his eyes half closed to keep out the smoke.
Come back to the grove, he said. No, grazie, I replied.
|Farmers working the olive groves burn their garbage|
|Antonio working in his olive grove|
|The roadsides of the old country roads are strewn with garbage|
|This little teddy bear was among the detritus|
|Via Giovanni XXII is a bleak unattractive road. You'd think they would have done better for a Pope Italians supposedly admired.|