Ligurians do not have the reputation of being the most affable of people, and they certainly don’t win any awards for chattiness. I would say that in general, Levanto lives up to this generalization, though I think it’s important to recognize that this lack of sociability does not mean that they are any less genuine or warm people. It’s just that they don’t always seem the most welcoming. They even have a word, foresti, which basically means foreigner, which they use for all people, Italians especially, who don’t originally come from the area. We are, to say the least, foresti.
That’s why today was such a victory for our family. We were in Vernazza on business and stopped for a drink at at the Baia Saraceno cafe that has outside tables right on the small harbor, one of the jewels of the Cinque Terre. It’s one of those heavenly spots where location literally means everything.
As it so happens, I vaguely know the bartender at the restaurant. I know him so vaguely that I’m not even sure if he is also the owner, but I think someone told me he is. I know him because his son Brando and my daughter Julia go to the pre-school in Levanto together, and so we often see each other for drop-off or pick-up. But that’s all.
To our good fortune his son was there and immediately recognized our girls. We had a couple of drinks and juices for the girls, and we chit-chatted with the waitress who had been informed by Brando that despite appearances (backpack, camera, American traits) we were not tourists, and then we left. I went inside and was quoted a price that was notably lower than what we should have paid … and not because they had screwed it up.
It was because we were locals, at least in their eyes, and though we’ll probably remain foresti as long as we live here, this was a big step forward.