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May 30, 2021 41 min

Lemons and sunshine! What's not to love? Today we're talking about poet and Nobel laureate Eugenio Montale and his "happy place," the gorgeous coastline of Liguria, tucked up in the northwest corner of Italy, bordering the French Riviera.

In one of his early poems, I Limoni (The Lemon Trees), Montale describes the lemon trees in Monterosso al Mare, a small town on the Ligurian Coast where he spent his childhood summers. These lemons offer a glimpse of what is real and what is true, through the brightness and beauty of nature, a brightness and a beauty that can persist even through the cold and dreary winter days. And speaking of the beauty of nature, we talk about the Cinque Terre, the five small fishing towns of which Montale's Monterosso is the largest, that have become incredibly popular in recent years among tourists because of their accessibility by train and boat, colorful houses, wonderful seafood and white wine, and rocky beaches. To better enjoy the towns, consider staying a few nights, and also walking the famous trails nearby, the most famous of which connects the five villages one to the other, and which, until the train came through, was the only way villagers were able to visit each other other than by boat. Other nearby options might be Rapallo, Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure, Portovenere, Lerici, and Tellaro may be slightly less-crowded options to actually staying in the Cinque Terre (although the secret is out about them as well!).

And finally we reminisce about our one and only cruise (we both got violently seasick) and introduce our upcoming episode: "The Oldly-wed Game", where we ask each other questions about Italy and try and guess what the other will answer. As a teaser we find out that after nearly 25 years of marriage neither one of us has any idea what kind of ice cream the other likes! (And I suspect I only said lemon because I was still thinking of Montale...)

The LemonTrees
Eugenio Montale (Trans. Anne Schuchman)

Listen to me, the poet laureates
move only among fauna
with obscure-sounding names: boxwoods, privet, or acanthus.
For my part, I love the roads that end in grassy
ditches where in half-dry puddles
boys grab at
a few haggard eels:
the paths that follow along the shoreline,
then move down between the tufts of reeds
and into the gardens, among the lemon trees.

Better still, if the riotous songs of the birds
are silenced, swallowed up by the blue:
you can hear more clearly the whisper
of friendly branches in the air that just barely moves,
and the intensity of this scent
that cannot be separated from the earth
and a restless sweetness rains in the heart.
Here the war of conflicted passions
by some miracle falls silent,
here even the poor, we have our share of riches—
and it is the smell of the lemon trees...

(Read the rest of the poem here

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