True to my Californian roots, I love the beach, and as temperatures soar to 90 in Roma I could not have been more excited to go. After a trip getting there which was trying to say the least (See ‘Getting Lost and Found’ for the nitty gritty of our navigational difficulties), it was exactly what I needed. Revitalizing waves, the tickling sun, kites flying above—I was loving it.
What I didn’t expect, though, was for the inviting beach town of Fregene to be so friendly to us in return.
Within moments of arriving, the cashier working Saint Tropez, one of Fregene’s many private clubs renting out corners of the beach to visitors, was chatting with and welcoming us. The boys in our group managed to befriend him instantly, bonding over beer varieties. Before we knew it, he’d come over to bring them each a complimentary bottle and plopped himself down in the sand to speak English with us.
He told us all he could about Italy, and in return asked us all about America (he was especially fascinated with wild visions of “spring break” he’d seen in American movies).
“Well, I must now go back to work,” he said. “Thank you for allowing me to feel American for twenty minutes.”
Shortly after, in search of lunch, we followed him in.
We discovered the restaurant was not in fact open, but the boys’ new friend was happy to accommodate us. “I can fix you a classic Italian dish!” he proposed. “Very simple, a salad with octopus.” Despite his enthusiasm, I was unsure. I’d never tried octopus, and sliminess and suction cups were not on my list of favorite flavors. However, between his proclaimed love of cooking and his tattoo to the same effect (a fork, knife, and Italian flag), I figured I could trust him to give us something tasty.
It arrived, suction cups and all. I took a moment to mentally prepare myself, and dug right it. Pleasantly surprised, I discovered the dish was, just as our friend had promised, delightful. The restaurant’s proximity to the beach was apparent in every bite of the fresh salad, and I felt as though we’d happened upon the Italian seafood version of the Starbucks’ secret menu.
He was just one character of many from a town friendly enough to welcome its tourists, excited to join in their enthusiasm, and generous enough to offer them an octopus salad or an Italian brew.