After a day of meetings yesterday, where my imaginary shoulder pads quivered relentlessly with executive power I arrived back at the palace in the evening.
The day itself was as expected – forced jollity and co-operation and alliance building and yadda, yadda, yadda.
I felt out of sorts – is it wrong I wonder to believe that I belong in the palace on the hill and that I was born in the wrong century? That my true calling was as the Renaissance era, Italian equivalent of a butler – not a member of the royalty or clergy, as I am not evil (and I don’t want to end up poisoned or dead from syphilis) but an important part of the palace household. I would be involved in all the intrigue? I’d have to procure the poison for the dastardly plots being hatched, but wouldn’t be involved in its consumption. The butler always did it, and outside of murder mystery novels he always gets away with it.
The plan was simple – to wander about and have dinner in the first pizza place we came across. Pizza is not glamourous food. But we are in Fiuggi in Italy – a town without a Pizza Hut or McDonalds or Starbucks. Perhaps these chain brands are present in other towns in Italy, but Fiuggi is a spa town, famed for the healing properties of its water – which according to scientists has low mineral content and is therefore easier for the body to absorb. Allegedly it is good for your kidneys. It sounds like tourist guff, but it forces me to believe every word.
The only chain store I saw was a Spar shop. In Italy it is called Despar – the similarity to the word ‘Despair’ was not lost on me.
Fiuggi is built in the hills and from the palace it is breathtakingly beautiful – all the old houses built into the side of the hill seem very old. Now it’s lucky that the sun was shining and it was 23 degrees because in the depths of winter it is apparently grim.
We started walking uphill, unconsciously heading in the direction of the church in the hill facing the palace. The hill was steep, the roads were narrow, the footpaths were rudimentary, the cars were fast.
My romantic notions of life in the hills in Renaissance Italy was challenged – imagine having to do this walk everyday – even if you had a donkey it would be tough. We eventually reached the summit and the view from the church was even more stunning than from the palace – being at a higher elevation the view of the mountains was impressive.
Being in the heartland of the Roman hinterlands the catholic iconography was everywhere. And Saint Don Bosco was on many posters. What these posters were advertising I have no idea, but that dude’s face is familiar to me. He is the patron saint of the Salesian order of nuns. My sisters went to a Salesian primary school so Don Bosco propaganda was a regular feature in our childhood home.
The hillwalking made us hungry so we descended the mountain and repaired to a pizza restaurant guarded by an irate parrot sitting in a cage inside the front door. His party piece was miaowing like a cat. That was quite bizarre.
I had a thin crust tuna and pepper pizza, and glass of vino rosso. I felt all urbane and sophisticated, and very far from Limerick indeed.
While waiting for the pizza to arrive, I felt that familiar horror come over me – the feeling known to type 1 diabetics the world over – an oncoming hypo. I ordered an emergency glass of Coke from the waiter.
My urbane self delusion shattered, I gulped down the cola and took a moment to realise that you can take the boy out of Limerick. But he’ll always be a diabetic.