A neighborhood kid has taken to riding one of those motorized scooters up and down our street; the ones that make that awful, too loud, buzzing noise. Buzzing like there’s a mosquito so close to your ear you think you’re about to fly off somewhere. That loud, no-muffler-to-quiet-it type buzzing. It’s a sound not so common to American culture. It is very common to many other cultures, and it reminds me of a week I spent in a hill town on the Cilento coast of Italy. A good friend, who is also a world-renowned chef, and I had decided to open a restaurant in Italy – ultimately not such a terrific idea. On one of our exploratory trips, we rented an apartment just outside the walls of an old hill town for a week. Unbeknownst to us, the narrow street the house sat on was a thoroughfare for every moped for fifty miles around. To our great distraction, the buzzing of their little engines went on morning, noon and night.
The town, Castellabate, is high above the Tyrrhenian Sea. It has stunning views up and down the coast, as did the tiny, square apartment we stayed in. From the veranda which was equal in size to the apartment, we could see for miles. The city walls of the old village were right across the street. Narrow brick staircases led up to the small town square where one went to buy espresso and gelato. All of this glorious beauty complemented by the buzzy comings and goings of the local youth. They went up the street, right under our open windows, then back down the street, right under our open windows, and then back up again. Beautiful Italian teenagers, boys and girls, riding their inexpensive modes of transportation. At the top, our street merged into the tiny, cobbled streets of the ancient village; where the road ended, and the cobbled streets began the moped-riding youth stopped to gossip, smoke, and flirt. When boredom set in, back down the hill, loudly buzzing once again right under our windows. By week’s end, I’d grown used to the sound. It had become a part of the local color, and, ultimately, a good memory of our very Italian stay. // C. Gregory Thompson