“Ciao, hello, I’m Stephano. Are you Alison?”
A slim, spry man with a kind voice asks in clear, thickly accented English. He looks directly into my eyes and extends his hand as I sit on a bench with our bags, fresh off a night ferry from France and an afternoon bus from Porto Torres.
“Si, buonasera,” I answer, taking the Italian basics I’ve been practicing for the last few days out for a test drive. The lilting syllables are as delicious as a cool, effervescent glass of prosecco on my tongue.
Stephano unlocks the front door to the walk up that leads to a six-room, family run hotel. Our room is high ceilinged and airy with a small balcony overlooking a leafy, new town neighborhood street. Women carry shopping bags from a nearby market on the sidewalk below. A pair of pale gray morning doves nestles in the fork of a gracious tree, close enough to touch.
In the morning a young, beautiful trio of dark-haired baristas at the café across the street, recommended by Stephano for breakfast, greets us genuinely with “ciao” and “buongiorno” and pulls us a pair of thick, smooth espressos. “Prego,” invites a businessman with a newspaper standing at the bar and scooting over to make room.
More buongiornos and buonaseras are exchanged with strangers we pass on the sunny, sleepy streets of Alghero, still in off-season mode before the busy summer rush. Later, a husband and wife team makes us feel at home at one of three small tables in their primarily take-out pizzeria.
“Please, your Italian is fine, no problem,” the husband assures me before slipping our pies into his wood-fired oven with pleasure and pride. A cascade of buonaseras, arrivedercis and grazies follows us out onto the lamplit street at the end of our late night meal.
Is it the Mediterranean air that makes Sardinians so friendly? Have the coinhabitants of this island made a pact with one another to be congenial?
Dolphy, I’ve a feeling we’re not in France any more.