Travel without Traveling: Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy

Nancy Flynn Apostrophe Blog Archive, Cooking, History Lessons, Travel, Writing

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Musings on Writing and Life.

I have spent the past few days attempting to fit random-shaped jigsaw pieces into a beautiful but challenging puzzle. It is a calming activity, slow time, time out of mind, creating a picture and a world one solitary piece at a time. I took it up long before the pandemic when, apparently, it became something of a fad, a craze. No, it was the election of 2016 that drove me to the jigsaw puzzle world.

My back is to the television set where my convalescing spouse watches the second season of the Emmy-winning Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy for the second time; we originally saw them during the pandemic when they first migrated from CNN (which we don’t get because we don’t have cable) to HBO. We binged each and every one of them at the time.

I listen to the (at times) halting but serviceable Italian that the ever-gracious Tucci offers to his hosts and interviewees throughout the regions of Italy and the ex-pat Italian community in London as well. I practice speaking and translating the words I hear. It turns out that my several courses of beginning Italian at BOCES in Ithaca, New York and then again in Corvallis, Oregon at the Linn-Benton Community College were not for nought! Place names. Food words. Basic interrogatory questions and simple dialogue to ensure civility and politesse—all of these word scraps from one of the most beautiful and melodious languages on earth come back to me now.

Where has Stanley Tucci journeyed the past two nights while J. recuperates from his surgery of February 23rd in a rented recliner with a fancy remote control? In order of appearance—Venezia, Piemonte, Umbria, London, Sardegna, Puglia and Basilicata, and finally Genoa and Liguria. And what sorts of food has Stanley cooked and sampled on these culinary adventures? Bread, cheese, fish, pasta, pesto among many, many other delights.

We are unable to travel for these next twelve weeks or so; that is how long it will take for J. to fully recover from his recent bypass surgery. It has been warm and soothing to visit Italy these unseasonably cold early March days. Tonight the six episodes of Season 1 will be queued up and our streaming adventures will take us once again to Napoli and the Amalfi Coast; Roma; Bologna; Milano; Firenza and Toscana; and Sicilia. I will be starting a new and (hopefully) less difficult puzzle. I will be listening for words I recognize and saying them to myself while I fiddle with color and shape, seeking patterns, seeking the fit. I will be transported without ever having to get on a (scary) Boeing airplane.

Yes, we watched Last Week Tonight with John Oliver after the final episode of Searching for Italy concluded. I sat (still with my back to the T.V.) and listened to a sordid (but sadly familiar) tale of management incompetence and shareholder greed, of malfeasance, of short cuts and slipshod work and cover-ups at best. Yet one more too-often typical corporate manufacturing story in this United States of late-stage capitalistic days and this particular one (not unlike the evil Sacklers and Purdue Pharma) with deadly, tragic outcomes. I listened to a tale of bolts. Of critical yet missing bolts. Then I put the final pieces of the jigsaw puzzle into place.

Nancy Flynn
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