All of Agrate knows when I come to visit. I’m the stranger who sets the dogs barking when I walk by their gated homes. Most of the time I don’t even see them until there’s a sudden surge of furred energy toward the gate and the roar begins from some Doberman or mutt, lab or pug.
The laneway near Remo’s house is especially dangerous. There are always two dogs in one house – the breeds have changed over the years – and one in the house across the way. I’ve tried tip-toeing by, and almost made it a few times, but once one spots me they’re all in full howl. When the owners are outside they look annoyed – can’t she find somewhere else to walk?
Remo had a dog once, some poor lost thing they took pity on. Now there are cats, long-haired black Romeo with the powerful claws who used my leather purse as a scratching post when I left it on the floor – last time it was my new boots – and the furtive Palina who comes in and out through a secret door Remo somehow carved in the metal back door.
I’ve just set the clock for 6 a.m. The plane leaves Malpensa at 8:55. We won’t have time to get lost this time so we’d better choose the right roundabouts! No more trusty GPS with her soothing Girate a destra, poi girate a sinistra, terza uscita. I won’t miss the loud spiky beep whenever we drove over the speed limit, but it’s preferable to getting a ticket.
Cold and wet again today, but I was still determined to go to the weekly mercato in Borgomanero, the nearest big town, or perhaps a small city. Sandro had no interest in going, but I didn’t realize Marisa had volunteered to take me. There’s absolutely no parking anywhere on market day, but she had a plan to park at the Lidl supermarket, a short walk from the mercato, which took over – literally — four long downtown streets. It would probably take the whole morning to see everything.
Lots of stalls sell clothes, purses and scarves. I tried not to look at the camouflage jeans that looked remarkably similar to those I’d bought the day before in Casale for much more than 10 euros. At least I was able to try mine on in a fitting room and had a wonderful clerk to tell me how great they looked and how easily I can cover up the fact they sit half-way down my ass by tucking in a light cami underneath my top.
More fun are the stalls selling domestic stuff, from kitchen gadgets to light bulbs to Sandro’s favourite ProRaso shaving cream (2.5 euros vs $10 at home). They even sell chic plastic clothespins – only in Italy! I passed on the 2013 Elvis calendar, though.
The purse seller was a lovely black guy from Senegal who’s been here 14 years and speaks beautiful Italian. It was easier to converse in French. Like everyone else he seems to have heard the Canadian economy is doing well, and asked if there were jobs. Yes, I said, but it’s difficult, especially for young people. This afternoon when we went to say goodbye to Giancarla she asked playfully if we could please find her son Patrick a job in a restaurant in Canada. He’ll even work for free! she said.
With his limited English, I’m not sure we can help him, but we’ll try.
Patrick’s tiny twin sister and brother, meanwhile, were near the bar man-handling mewling kittens. I hope the tiny things learn to hide before they’re squished or shaken to death.
After a splendid fish soup for lunch, tonight there was one last feed of homemade soup with zucchini, fresh mozzarella, baby greens from a bag, tender salami rich with flavour and thin-sliced bresaola showered with lemon juice and coarsely grated Parmigiano Reggiano – we’ve bought a hunk to bring home.
They may have to drag me on the plane tomorrow.