The driving route was going along smoothly, fitting in with our plans.
The Casentino area drew us in with its intense green; it was a late September
full of light and sun, part of a summer that still lived on in tanned skin and
sunglasses pushed back on people’s heads.
We’d stopped to refuel on gas on the road for Rassina in the town of Castel Focognano, in the province of Arezzo and the beautiful region of Tuscany. We were singing freely, without a care in the world, looking forward to vacation days for Paolo’s wedding.
Giovanni and Paolo had met two months ago at the beach, sharing the joys and pains of the scorching July sun; escaping the rays together under the beach umbrella to avoid heat rash and foot blisters from the fiery sand. They decided to reunite for Paolo’s wedding, who was a Casentino native in great shape, even with his “baked” skin and feet.
Shortly after stopping for gas, the GPS told us to turn left.
We then came upon a bridge with a tabernacle in the middle of the road.
The river underneath the bridge was the Arno, which we learned from Giovanni’s maps – he’d been an explorer since his childhood.
After we’d crossed the bridge, the GPS indicated we should turn left, twenty minutes left until our arrival.
We continued singing, as if our voices, following along with the river current, were announcing our proximity to those waiting for us.
But Luigi, at the steering wheel, stopped singing and then yelled that the gearshift had gotten stuck between his hands, rigid and immobile like a piece of wood.
Silence. The nightclub-like car quickly felt more like a tomb.
We pulled over to the right.
In front of us a map indicated the nearest town: Pieve a Socana.
On our feet, we moved toward civilization, ready to assess what could be done without disturbing those who were waiting for us 20 minutes’ distance away.
We ended up in a small
square in front of a Romanesque church that left us breathless, with not much
left on the journey, with our backpacks on our shoulders and heavy suitcases on
We were thirsty and hungry, and a standout sign brought us into a cute little place where we asked for cold water to drink and something to eat.
They told us to go for the bread and prosciutto at that spot; it had been worked on following an ancient Etruscan recipe; actually, they even added that we should go see it, behind the church.
Right before our eyes stood an Etruscan altar, showcasing its power and emotional magnitude. Next to it was Arnth, Arno, perhaps the Etruscan inventor of prosciutto, the very meat that we could still tastge in our mouths. To us, it seemed like we really saw him; he was part of this unforgettable stop, one that was as unique as the altar and the desire to return to Pieve a Socana.