Saturday, 29 June 2013

Ventimiglia II - Il Bar

a drinking game that baffled me
There is Ventimiglia old and new. The new is full of vacationers who laze by the Mediterranean and drink at fancy bars and caffes.

They stay in hideous five story block-houses built on the flats facing the sea. No, I have gone too dfar. There is a charm to this place. Only a stones throw away from the French Riviera, Canne.and Monaco it is really a haven. from that madness. It just feels very busy after my quiet village experiences of the last week. Even Torino was low key - small numbers of tourists spread over a large area. Here they are concentrated.   

On the hill only 400 metres away is the old walled Ventimiglia, A bustling enclave of locals. It lives its days laregely oblivious to the tourists. There's nothing glitz and glam here and no nic nacs that diminish the authenticity of any place. I had the lanes and alleyways to myself. I got drenched in a late aftewrnoon thunderstorm and found myself in a litttle bar on the main cobbled street.

No carbon price here.
I ordered a vino rosso and hung around watching. There were a lot of men inside, and a lot of noise and chat, both good signs. The only women were behind the bar. There were 14 of them sitting around a group of tables. They had a deck of cards and were playing some sort of drinking game. They ranged in age from their thirties to their seventies.

I had no idea how the game worrked it seemed like a dare and win or bluff game. Drinks were lined up; cards were laid out (not dealt around the table). There was a lot of noisy shouting and banter and reference to the fall of the cards and eventually one of two seemed to be declared the winners and these two first drank (no skulling) followed by some but not everybody else. The champion was pointed out to me.

At one point things became a little heated. I couldn't tell if it was merely Italian exuberance or genuine discord. It looked and sounded pretty serious to me as more and more of the group joined in the fracas and eventuallyy one of the main protagonists got up and left.It seemed to be about the 'spirit of the game', how the round had been played.

Outside the barman was stoking up a charcoal fired grill which was smoking the place out. I wiould have stayed for a goat kebab but I knew it would be another hour before the food was produced. So I reluctantly took my leave.                                                                                                                    
If there's a theme emerging from this trip it is about the insiders and outsiders; the locals and the visitors; the haves and the have nots. In Ventimiglia this was about the culture of local life contrasted with the tourist culture of the visitors, myself included.

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