Pino dubbed Talla, tiny town in the Casentino Valley, “il paese delle incertezze.” Yes, “uncertainties” threaded through our visit there. Where is/was the Ponte D’Annibale? We followed the directional arrow just before the town, leading us up winding roads (asphalt and then gravel) overlooking sweeping views of rolling emerald green hills bordered by deep green forests… but wondering when we’d find “Hannibal’s bridge.” We never did. “C’era una volta” (“It existed once upon a time”), a farmer with a shovel told us when we finally saw a human along the route.
Next stop: la casa di Guido Monaco, Benedictine monk (born in the late 10th century) and medieval music theorist, regarded as the inventor of modern musical notation (staff notation) and writer of Micrologus, one of the most important medieval musical treatises. The stone house with slanted tiled roof under shady trees was charming… but built in the 10th century?
We headed on down into the village of Talla, stopping in a café where we, chatted with the “locals” about the town, the bridge and the town’s main claim to fame, the Benedictine monk.
While sipping an espresso at the bar, Adriano, retired waiter in a boarding school, told us that although Pomposa near Ferrara vaunts itself as the monk’s birthplace (Arezzo claims him, too, even calling him “Guido d’Arezzo), “e’ impossible,” because that area is marshy and an ancient text states that the monk was born “near wooded pastures”.
Antonio, retired truck driver, joined in the discussion but admitted his own uncertainties, while offering an “undeniable certainty” about Talla. “We are the only town in Italy without dialects! We speak perfect Italian.” His proof? Driving a truck all over Europe for twenty years and wherever he went, being asked why his Italian had no accent.
Another “certainty” of Talla? You cannot miss lunch at Ristorante L’Orcello just steps away from the cafe’ where outdoor tables flank the monument to Guido Monaco. The antipasto of bruschette topped with Tuscan white beans, white truffle, and a soft local cheese told us we were in for a treat. Pino opted for stinco di maiale con patate arroste (roasted pork shank with roasted potatoes) while I was tempted by two pasta choices: spaghetti alle cipolle (with onions) and tortelli di ortica con salsa di noci (large homemade ravioli filled with nettles, topped with walnut sauce). Host Walter (wife Anna and sons inside cooking up the goodness) resolved the dilemma: I’d have two “half-portions.” (ha!)
I had to ask Walter a question (even Pino didn’t know): “Che cos’e un orcello?” “The heels of the bread loaf”, Walter told us (bringing out two to show us, placing them near our wine glasses), “in Talla dialect.”
On my next trip to Talla, I’ll have to ask Antonio about that: dialects or not in Talla? Another uncertainty.