Last night after dinner, I walked up to get pink grapefruit gelato with S.J. & Lola. (This after a dessert made, essentially, of cream.) But the pink grapefruit gelato is wonderful—it tastes exactly like pink grapefruit, with just the right amount of sugar. Pampelmo Rosso. It is even good to say.
We walked up toward the Piazza Communale, eating our coni piccoli, stopping at shop windows to look at what was on offer: giant meringue shaped like hamburger buns, some striped with chocolate; linens, brightly colored leather sandals, ceramics, jewelry. The usual tacky souvenirs: San Francesco crosses, San Francesco statues, San Francesco rosaries, San Francesco fans (it’s beastly hot here.) The winning juxtaposition of goods was a stack of alarming-looking toy pistols displayed next to cheerful little San Francesco figurines dressed in the traditional brown robe tied with a cord, and sandals peeking out at the bottom.
The irony of Assisi is sometimes astounding. You can’t help but think San Francesco would be aghast if he came back to his hometown. All this stuff.
We walked on up the crowded street into the Piazza Communale, where there were people everywhere enjoying the cool evening air—lots with gelato themselves. Near the fountain, we found some others from the workshop. They’d been looking for an outdoor concert,concluded that it had been canceled, and were considering gelato to take the edge off of their disappointment. Any excuse for gelato! Sometimes I just like to look at it—all the beautiful flavors lined up like blocks of watercolor.
By this time it was nearly 10:30, most of the shops still open and the streets still packed with people. I saw a little girl sitting on her grandma’s lap outside a shop wearing black and white striped tights that I loved. There was a guy talking on a public telephone, his bicycle propped on the wall beside him; countless others talking on their cell phones. There were young couples, kissing; older couples holding hands. Monks strolling along, chatting.
Winding back toward the Hotel Giotto through narrow streets that feel like canyons at night, we heard a soprano voice and soon came upon the deconsecrated church where we’d attended a concert the night before—students from a summer music program in the town—a plethora of clarinets, two cellos, and three magnificent vocal pieces. We peeked in the door and saw one of the vocalists from the night before, Eduardo Manetti, came onto the makeshift stage (once the altar) and sang an aria from “Rigoletto” in his beautiful tenor voice.
Then an accordion sextet. (Yes, six accordions!) How could we not stay for that? I had no idea what I was listening to, but it was lively and (even I could tell) very difficult to play. The best part was how they became the music, how they so clearly loved those cumbersome instruments that went out of fashion years ago. As we left, near midnight, music followed us down through the street.