Making my favorite salad with farro perlato (arugula and mint, summer tomatoes, and a tiny bit of smoked cherrywood salt—the unorthodox sidetrip mine), I travel back to Lucca, two years ago in October. There, they cook farro with beans in soup most famously, the composer Puccini among them. And I've just recently sent a character off on the ferry boat Manon, named for Puccini's heroine, in search of her wayward and unrepentant mother.
Most of all, oddly, I like to think of the other composers we found there in Lucca— Catalani’s home just across the narrow side street from the terrace of our b&b; Puccini’s just three or four blocks away; and on our Sunday morning prowl behind the albergo to find the church with bits of Roman arch, finding an abandoned cloister and the house of Luporini. Not Boccherini’s, though I knew that he was born in Lucca too (and have since learned that he is buried there). All of them writing lovely masses, full of grace and of humanity. Messa di Gloria; canzone. We’ve since listened to Luporini’s mass, which we marvel is so verismo; and the verismo mass of another Luccan, Landi.
We found sacks of dried beans (for Luccan soup with farro) in Il Antica Bottega di Prospero (a name I love, too, recalling the magic of Shakespeare's magician). An hour we wouldn’t have had except for the time change, before catching the train back to Pisa.
I'm in need of that particular time-travel today, feeling desperately sad about the ugly air, brown and unclean, that was the most conspicuous thing about today (aside from a great orchestra of birds first thing this morning). Like my father, who wrote "He wanted to return to days before fear and start all over again to understand the shape of the world and things men shared in common," I want to travel back to days before global warming and threats to every creature that we love. To start over again. To give things back their grace, like the masses.
And like the rest of that journey. The green shutters I loved; the walled garden in Pisa with ancient cat (blithe spirit) and orange tree where we found them. The oranges made into delicious marmalade by the innkeeper, using his mother's and grandmother's recipe. His generosity to strangers. The loving welcome of the cat too in the dark of the October garden near the Arno, between convent and blue palazzo with its quiet tribe of long distinct Modigliani faces visited the next morning.
Thus I travel, backwards and forwards, in recipes and tastes and aromas and the music that calls a lovelier world forth.
image: Christie B. Cochrell: Puccini's Organ