On leave from the Army in summertime Verona, the living was easy. At least it was after a pair of GI’s looking for a hotel were found scratching their heads in a labyrinth of piazzas by Luigi Cozzi. Luigi was a roving concierge in black-and-braid who in his streetwise inventiveness must have been a graduate of some DeSican school of wartime hard knocks. “All this you want I have found,” he announced, and off we trailed behind this piper to the Albergo Gabbia D’Oro.
Then we were ready for Quality Time.
There was breakfast with pin-cushion rolls and good marmalade next to the bead curtain and a warm outdoors, picnic lunch on the ramparts, opera in the arena by moonlight. I can hear the announcer barking across the piazza, “Sabato cinque Agosto, terzo di Turandot con Gertruda Groba-Prandl, Magda Olivero…” And the hawkers in the stadium intoning lustily like Parpignol in act 2 of Bohème the Italian equivalents of “beer, orangeade, ice creams.”
At 9:15 the audience in the arena lights a sea of candles, then the conductor enters the giant orchestra pit (notice six harps!) and the opera duly commences — with, one night, a shirt-sleeved lions’ roar when the well-meaning tenor momentarily cracked.
(By the way, our trip had been interesting so far: I especially remember the radio chromily embedded in the wall of our Geneva hotel’s up-to-the-minute room, something unheard of in the antique France of 1954; the clawp-clawp-clawp of the horse-drawn milk wagon beneath the window of the Mozart Hotel in Vienna, this noticed after driving off the edge of the world through Austria’s verdant, muddy Russian Zone, a kind of outdoors equivalent of those mysterious corridors in Last Days at Marienbad; then the sight-and-sound on pioneer Italian freeways of Lancias and Maseratis piloted by imitation Juan Fangios tooling along, if that’s the word, at 180 kilometers an hour.)
In Verona’s Aida there was lots of good singing, Fausto Cleva conducted authoritatively and the Ethiopian prisoners tumbled over the top of the arena, careening liked spilled furniture onto the well-populated stage. But not before our dinner! . . . Invariably it was a pleasant scallopini with good pan juices followed by baseball-sized peaches and slabs of perfect gorgonzola. This combination was so satisfying the first night out there was no alternative but an encore domani sera — and another the evening after that . . .
You don’t need a recipe here. Simply splurge on some nice gorgonzola cheese and the largest, juiciest peaches you can find and place slab and sphere on a rather large plate. Proceed with knife and fork and feel on top of the world.