Toward the end of summer after my high school graduation, I worked a stint as a hired hand during the grape harvest in Montecarlo. A friend of mine found me the job; he knew that I needed money to get out of the house and move to the city, so every morning I take my grandpa’s car and drive through the 40 kilometers that divide the Versilia, where I grew up, and the winery where I work. There are too many curves for a new driver, really, but the views make the challenge worth it: I drive through the super-green waves of a veritable sea of olive groves and vineyard vines, through the hills that seem nearly embroidered with packed lines of red and white grapes. I move through the mist that rises from the plain and breathe in the September air, which gives off a scent of grass and wet grapes. This is a landscape that’s been looked after by humanity since Roman times; with my discolored work overalls and my gardening gloves on, and a handkerchief in my hair, I too seem to be from another era. A simpler one, one that I can simply fade into for a while.
For nine hours a day, I cut off the cord that connects every grape bunch to its vine: I’m the Atropos of grapes and at night I dream about the huge scissors I work with, seeing them open and close, stuck in perpetual orbit. In the morning I prepare my basket for noon: a sandwich, an apple, panzanella left over from the night before. The winery’s vineyards line the hills: we harvest them starting at the top, dragging behind us the box where we drop all the grape bunches. I connected mine around my waist area with a cord so it would move with me. We’re students, housewives, retirees: we talk about school, children, regrets, tell obscene jokes, eat together under an oak tree and sleep in the shade for the rest of our lunch break. Montecarlo, with its walls, its tower and bell tower soaring above our heads, is almost like another planet: I learned how to guess what time it is by looking at the parabola of the sun moving above the village.
At the end of October, we disperse: the grapes are in the cellar, ready for fermentation, and it's also time for me to get ready to begin my new journey toward adulthood. On the last day, the winery owners invite us to pass by their central headquarters so they can give us a case of wine: I enter Montecarlo all dirty and roughed up, and the village is a harmonious, medieval sort of display, with a typical cotto color. After two glasses of red, the boss shows us a secret door and a wobbly ramp: I head above the 14th century walls and observe the vineyards that I conquered with my blood, sweat and tears; the patch of grass where I would stretch out to rest; this gorgeous, proud land so close and yet so far away from my own. Up here I can understand that I had the luxury to put my life on pause for two months, but as soon as I come downstairs, I’ll be getting right back on track.
When I return to Montecarlo, 16 years later, I’ll have a husband, a silk blue dress and a speech to give at the wedding of a friend. I’ll dance among the vineyards and this time I’ll watch the moon make its full arch above the village.