Porto Santo Stefano Tuscany
A pathway of light shimmering into the sea as the sun settles behind the horizon. I kiss Raffaella on the neck. There is a hint of salt on her skin from the light inland breeze and she pulls me tighter as we walk along the rocks. She is at peace, the sound of the water, the spray pluming into the air as the waves crash on the rocks relaxes her. This is rather unusual but a spring storm has just passed through and the winds are changing. The battle of the scirocco, hot winds from the deserts of Africa, and the jet stream from northern Europe create significant turbulence in the normally calm waters of the Tiranean Sea.
The sun is hidden behind the horizon. The aura glows red and orange into the evening sky. We turn to return to our hotel as the last rays of light illuminate the castle walls on the hill behind us. A sight that could not be orchestrated, I imagine the enemy ships arriving at dusk to see this potent image of power highlighted from a horizon without a sun. I can feel a slight shiver run down Raffaella’s neck, it could be the light breeze is now cooler without the sun’s direct heat or did she have the same vision?
We walk along the break to the wharves where the fishermen are cleaning their boats. Their faces bronzed from the sun are intense on completing their tasks and going home for the day. Their catch is already in the local restaurants or transported to the markets in Rome.
The town center is bustling with movement. Most employees have completed their day and rush to the stores to purchase the fresh ingredients for tonight’s dinner. A couple strolls leisurely in the square, stopping at each storefront, chatting, and moving on. The stores seem to be a series of paintings, one after the other, well lit, each item placed strategically to catch the customers attention, a exposition of colors, shapes and lighting. Tomorrow they will all have changed and a new kaleidoscope of scenes will be presented.
Time for an “aperitivo”; we stop at a fairly large café and take a seat at a small table outside the shop. The awning reaches well out into the square and the white tablecloths lend an air of understated sophistication. A tall young man with a deep tan arrives dressed in black slacks, white shirt and cumber bun. He speaks with a pleasant Roman accent and tells us he lives in Rome but works here during summer. Although we read the menu’ attentively we already know our libation of choice. Prosecco and some savory pastries arrive in short order. Salted shortbread with a dollop of mascarpone and thinly sliced prosciutto rolled into a rose, puff pastry with salmon carpaccio, and oysters on the half shell, the hardest thing about before dinner drinks in a place like this is not eating so much that you no longer want dinner.
An hour slips by quickly as we look out onto the sea and talk about the day. The Romans are here in full force as they take a break from the chaos of the big city. We say goodbye to our new friend at the café and walk slowly to the restaurant, pausing here and there to admire the beautiful clothes in the shop windows. Marco, the restaurant, owner greets us at the door and shows us to our table on the patio with a beautiful view of the sea horizon. The lights of the cruise ship twinkle in the distance in various colors as they move into position to dock in the port of Civitavecchia.
“Well, Mr. Anderson, what shall I prepare for dinner?” Marco asked already knowing the answer.
Raffaella looked at him slyly and stated, “Marco, my glass is empty…”
Before she could finish her remark, a bottle of Prosecco popped and over her shoulder the sparkling sensation, bubbled in her glass.
“Mrs. Anderson, I would never leave you without a glass of wine.”
As I stared blankly at the menu I asked, “what’s good?”
In the tradition of a true restaurateur, Marco quickly explained the entire catch of the day. The Orata was fresh but he did not like the look of the eyes, the calamari were brought in this afternoon, they also had some eel but it would it take about 45 minutes and they had several coda di rospo so we could choose the one we wanted. He then suggested the zuppa di pesce con papardelle (fish soup with fresh egg pasta) to start and in the meantime he would bring out the fish for us to choose.
The wine was much easier. This is generally Raffaella’s job. Greco di Tufo was the choice, relatively inexpensive yet with a good body for a white wine. It would go well with both the zuppa and the coda di rospo. The zuppa had a delicate flavor with a slight hint of pepper. Vongole, polipi, gamberi and large chunks of a variety of the day’s catch abounded. Crostini with olive oil and salt were readily available to mop up the residuals. The coda di rospo pan seared with butter and lemon. Simplicity in preparation is the best method when the fish is fresh.
Well, we ate, we drank, we talked and the hours passed. The evening air cooled a bit more so we decided not to partake in the usually marvelous deserts instead a quick walk back to the hotel for a couple of espresso. The day had been full, yet it was relaxing and we were content. I opened the room’s French doors on the balcony to smell the sea breeze. A full moon was rising. It seemed to fill the skyline and again, a pathway of light reflected over the now smooth water. Armed with light sweaters we sat on the balcony, absorbing the environment, the sea, the tranquility. It is a tough life, but someone must do it.
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