What does the Odyssey have in common with Virgil’s Aenid when it comes to San Felice Circeo? Why it is Circe, of course, or “la maga Circe” as she is called in Italian — the enchantress, sorceress or goddess of magic or whatever other title you might desire to bestow on this very tricky lady who was famous for turning men into pigs. “Circe was renowned for her vast knowledge of drugs and herbs. Through the use of magical potions and a wand she transformed her enemies, or those who offended her, into animals”, says Wikipedia. Yes, but you can’t fool Ulysses — “Hermes told Odysseus to use the holy herb moly to protect himself from Circe’s potion” — which beggars the question, is THAT where we get the expression “holy moly”? Whatever … Ulysses follows all the good advice meted out by Hermes and not only does he get to bed Circe without risk of having his manhood tampered with but also decides to remain on the island for one year, feasting and drinking wine.
Who could blame him?
There is something about the light in San Felice Circeo that completely entrances me — that and the air, and the rocks, and the scrubs and shrubbery, the vines and the olive trees (one of the hotels in town is called Il Giardino degli Ulivi), the bougainvillea and the prickly pears, and the green and the trees and the air of mystery and the giddy sight of the sea — and the idea of doing nothing all day except “be here now”, cast sorrow and stress aside, ponder the imponderable and indulge in a little philosophy for a change. Take a look at a few photos I took yesterday:
If you look closely, you will see in the background four of the six Pontine Islands — Palmarola on the right, Ponza and Zannone in the middle and La Botte on the left. My camera is just not good enough to do justice to what was a breath-taking view. It’s not every day that these islands can be espied in such a crystal clear fashion.
Can you imagine — really imagine — waking up to this in the morning? Oh my, oh my, oh my … I was experiencing a truly Stendahl moment there … and was brutally snatched out of it by the barking of a dog. It wasn’t fierce, ‘nasty’ barking as such but it was canine barking nevertheless and my little adventure in trespassing came to an end, as I quickly made my way back to the car and slammed the door shut.
My travelling companion, who was seeing this the Cape of Circeo for the first time, was likewise totally beguiled by the idea of this house and as we made our way to our next appointment we were visualising all kinds of occasions for hearty conviviality and exchanges of lofty thought. When she pointed out that the house seemingly lacked a swimming pool, we both decided that it wouldn’t take much to install one, or even a small plunge pool. Oh and we’d have to rent a boat to visit the islands, naturally, and have some kind of daily help to make the stay there all the more enjoyable.
Our next destination was lunch on the beach at Sabaudia. By the time we got there, the sun was still shining brightly and gloriously …
But the wind had picked up …. There is the Circeo promontory in the background. And here we were, at Mauro’s … one of the many beach houses that dot the Sabaudia coastline.His ‘ombrelloni’ (big umbrellas i.e. sunshades) are characteristically orange. The red flag was flying, a signal to all and sundry that it was dangerous to swim in the sea today. I would have thought the mighty waves would have made the red flag somewhat superfluous but banners fluttering about are usually quite eye-catching in a pleasant sort of way, aren’t they.
I did actually venture in and thoroughly enjoyed myself as I measured my own strength against that of the strong currents and crashing waves. Hardly a swim, however, and more like a strenuous work-out. And by now, of course, Tummy-Time said it was legally lunch time … almost 2 o’clock. Here is a girl who has taken a leaf out of Circe’s book – my lovely cousin Teresa who introduced me to Mauro’s in the first place. And here is her very own Ulysses-husband … former chef and home cook extraordinare, Mimmo. As we climbed up the steep stairs to Mauro’s, we all felt we deserved a proper lunch. The service is typically beach gear but Mauro’s serves wine only in proper wine glasses.No pomp and circumstance in the beach house, just the bare necessities, including ceiling fans. I hope these people didn’t mind my taking a photo of them … While they had ordered a perfectly suitable salad-y sort of fare … we went for the best that the clam world can offer:
Spaghetti con le telline. Telline are a kind of clam that lurk about in the recesses of the sand and have to be hand-picked almost. Not easy to find. Aren’t they simply gorgeous! Our party of six all decided on the same menu … Here is what my plate looked like at the end, with the solitary morsel of bread (for mopping up the juices of course) and the pretty shells all in a row. Everyone pronounced my style of dining as being most artistic … Neat, I call it! Even their colour was bewtiching …Here is Teresa hugging Giulio our table server to show our appreciation … Giulio has the most amazing blue eyes and never lets the heat or the wind ruffle him. A true professional …
Giulio suggested and we agreed that some fried calamari would round off the meal in a most appropriate way. Seriously? these were among the best calamari I’ve ever eaten! Crisp and not-at-all-greasy on the outside, and soft within.And here is the man himself: Mr Mauro, looking suitably pleased — as well he might. His food is jolly good, it really is.
Mauro is Mr Cool and totally laid back. His clients are very faithful. And with cause … with good cause!