Today we drove to Italy and back. The occasion was the arrival of Valerie Ellis, a Bennington classmate of mine, and her husband, Eros Leotta, who is on a temporary medical assignment in Monte Carlo. Eros lived in Italy until his early thirties. He and Valerie now live in Chicago. Eros suggested we visit Ventimiglia, because on Fridays it hosts one of the largest open-air markets in Europe. Darlene and I drove the blue Honda to Monaco, and from there Eros guided us across the Italian border into another world.

As we inched into town in heavy traffic, he warned us away from what looked like a prime parking area, because he saw that it was, in reality, a public space that had been turned into an ad hoc business by shady characters with no right to charge money for parking there. He helped Darlene bargain in Italian at the market, which stretched more than a mile between ancient buildings and a pebbled beach. And he taught me the basics of crossing the street in Italy. “There are no rules,” Eros said as he sauntered into traffic between two crosswalks. As I skittishly hurried to keep up with him, he calmly explained, “In Italy, we all have our own rules–if the authorities arrest you, that’s a random event, and you accept it.”

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