Lunch with Mussolini
Friday, April 27th, 2012
Actually it would be pretty hard to to have a lunch with Mussolini since he has been dead for 67 years, killed by partisans near the Swiss border while trying to escape from Italy. The lunch in question took place on the holiday here commemorating the liberation of Italy near the end of WWII. The location of the trattoria was in Predappio (a little town in Emilia-Romagna) just across the street from where he was born. It was the usual group lunch with a bunch of italians: Barbara and Vittorio and 21 of their friends (including me). There was a pasta course (the primo), a main course (the secondo) accompanied by side dishes of veggies (contorni), dessert (fantastic strawberries with lemon cream for me), lots of wine and bottled water and of course a bottle of grappa afterwards. Lots of debates about whatever subject all around the tables at increasingly loud volume. It always seems that if an Italian doesn’t feel that he has satisfactorily gotten his point across then he just raises the volume for the next round of discussion. Maybe we Americans are much the same. After lunch we strolled across the street and up a little hill to his birthplace. There is a little museum there but I wasn’t that interested in paying the 5 euro entrance fee. We then proceeded up the road for a relatively short distance to a cemetery where we visited the crypt of Il Duce.
It felt a little strange to be visiting the crypt on Liberation Day of all days and I mentioned that fact to Cesare. He started off on a winding statement that; first of all it was all just history (granted) and that no other country celebrates their defeat. “But Cesare, it has nothing to do with a victory or defeat.” In fact, I wish that I had presence of mind to mention the fact that near the end of the war Italy was, in fact, occupied by the Germans and that I thought that was the point of Liberation day. Anyway I could not deter him and this sparked another discussion among the Italians which I couldn’t follow very well and feared that I had become a pariah due to what I thought was a fairly innocent comment. Anyway everything passed and I did have a pretty good discussion with Vicenzo who did understand what I meant by my comment. I must say that Italians seem a little sensitive about certain points in their history.
Back in our caravan of cars we then visited a store that was completely devoted to Mussolini memorabilia. Another somewhat strange experience. I was really tempted to buy a baseball cap with the statement “Non me ne frega” which roughly translates as “I don’t give a damn”. It was a famous statement of Mussolini’s. It would be fun to wear in the states but I would never consider wearing it in Italy!
I did buy a postcard at the store and also received a giveaway calendar with his smiling face on the front ; well, he’s almost smiling. Plus at the restaurant someone found a pile of business cards for the store saying ” Duce you are always in my heart”.