Those of us who love to explore the real Italy and who live near the Ligurian coast say prayers to Rick Steves all the time. I, in fact, have a little niche where I expect to keep relics of St. Rick when they become available on Ebay.
“Why izat?” I hear you mumble.
Ok, here’s the deal. You get on the train to the coast in Aulla. There are plenty of seats. It’s quiet. Folks are well behaved.
The train lumbers its way into La Spezia. The doors open. Suddenly it’s bedlam. Throngs of people push through, a certain glaze to their eyes that gives you the feeling that they are lost in a dream. Guidebook wielding youngsters hunt for seats in bloodthirsty packs. Doughy adults flop into seats, then wedge humongous backpacks between their knees and yours without so much as a how-do-you-do.
Then, a couple stops later in Riomaggiore they disgorge, squeezing themselves into the little platform like acciughe sott’olio, except without the evisceration part.
You stretch out your legs. It’s quiet. You can dance in the aisles if you want.
It’s the Cinque Terre effect. The tourists have been contained in a tiny little corner of the “Best of Italy,” leaving the rest of the coast to us. The evocative Lerice and the Gulf of Poets, and the beauty of Portovenere are ours, we can go topless in Tellaro, or surf the waves in Levanto. Yippee!
Grazie mille, Rick. I mean it. Please keep it going.
I’m still thinking of the relic thing as a way of keeping the flame of tourist concentration alive forever. Relics are important in Italy. Every saint has his own, usually scattered about among several churches that have fought wars to get them. Maybe the relic is a bone, like Saint Mark’s metatarsal, or a shock of hair. My favorite relic is the foreskin. I think it must be the most important of the relic types in Italy. I would really be proud to put in my holy little niche the foreskin of my hero Mr. Steves.
I don’t really have a niche. What I have is a cute little hole in the wall with a whole bunch of wires hanging out of it that is supposed to be for the thermostat we don’t have. Still, I think it would be a central and fitting place.
In Italy, the priest gets out the town’s holy relic and parades it around once a year. That’s the whole idea of the relic as I understand it, to get paraded around so the townspeople can get close and the saint can be venerated.
I would have to hire a priest, because I am not one. Perhaps you can tell from my writing.
In any case, on Rick Steves Feast day, we would have the priest thank Saint Rick for the bounty of the coastal wonderfulness left to us. Then his foreskin would be hoisted on the ancient petard and paraded through the streets, which would be crowded with men, women, and children.
Inevitably a child would tug on the skirts of his mother and ask, “Ma, what’s that gross, wrinkled thing on the tip of that petard?”
“Oh, honey, that’s Rick Steves’ foreskin!”
There would be a moment of silence, naturally.
“What’s a foreskin?”
“Oh, um, well honey, that’s the part of the skin that covers the threeskin,” the mother would ad lib shakily.
And then the real party would begin.