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Which decided it better stoke up before it went out

Drinking Can Be a Problem

As soon as you say you are going to travel in Italy a travel agent or a doctor or someone who has been there will tell you not to drink the water: it is not safe. This attitude is fully supported by Italian waiters. They don’t understand the word “water” even in their own language. Whether this is because the water actually isn’t safe or because they can charge for anything else they serve, I never did find out. Anyway, you start looking for liquid substitutes, of which there are plenty, but –

Tea and coffee are available, but they are always served for breakfast, and at the end of a long hot day they are just one more bit of overheating. There is iced tea, but aside from the question if the water isn’t safe would the ice be? There isn’t much ice in it. Besides, it is made with lemon and no sugar, and I like mine with mint and a lot of sugar. For mineral water I developed an immediate, violent, and lasting distaste. There were soft drinks, but it is difficult to nurse an increasingly tepid soft drink through a three course dinner even if you want to. That leaves wine, which is what you were supposed to drink in the first place.

So the group I was with experimented with wine. We tried dinner wines, red and white, local and brought in, bottled and open stock. By the time we reached Rome, where the water was safe, I had come to the conclusion that all table wines are just one step removed from vinegar so I wanted no more of them.

The exception was found in Florence where I went on a small trip of my own. The first night the waiter asked if I wanted wine with my dinner, and I said, “Certainly, red, not too dry.” He said, “I think I have just what you want,” and he did. So I asked him to save the rest of the bottle for me. The next night when I was asked if I wanted wine, I reminded him my bottle was in their care. The headwaiter agreed it was and brought it. The third night the bottle and I were reunited on sight, and I was being treated like a beloved friend. I even felt like one.

When I returned home I decided the Mogen David Concord was similar to that vintage. Actually we have kept a bottle of Mogen David in the refrigerator ever since the doctor recommended it as a circulatory stimulant for mother. It would be misleading, however, to say we keep it for medicinal purposes only.

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Two bottles I did bring back with me. One was Compari Bitter, a beautiful, clear red liquid. But no one liked it. It was compared, unfavorably, to cascara and mouth wash. I kept sampling it to be sure I still regarded it highly. I did, but it took me six weeks to finish the bottle unaided.

The other was a dessert wine, a special Marsala, heavy and sweet. That everyone liked, so I bought a replacement locally. The label was white and printed in English instead of yellow and printed in Italian. It didn’t say the same thing. The contents were also different: all right but not superb. So temporarily we gave up. After all, the local water is pure. But in the fall when leaves were drowning themselves in the reservoir and additional chemicals were being poured in, we resumed the search.

Eventually we discovered a strawberry Marsala that came close to the Italian carry home. We ordered five bottles. The package arrived with our address on the outside, our bill on the inside, plus someone else’s bill for four salad bowls, the four salad bowls, and no wine. The next two times that store delivered we tried to send back the salad bowls but the driver refused to accept them because he had no pick up order. The third man had the necessary order. Naturally he was followed on successive days by two more men with identical orders. In the meantime, the wine, which had been sitting around the store with no address on it, was misplaced. It finally turned up and was delivered to us.

In anticipation of its coming, we had bought a corkscrew. There were, however, no corks in the bottles, just a cap seal. As matters now stand, the concensus is if we are ever going to be able to use the corkscrew and drink what we really want, someone will have to go to Europe again. It seems a little expensive for the purpose, especially since Ohio had passed a law to the effect that each traveller may return with only one bottle, but there are things to do in Italy besides drink.

(If you really insist I might relate some of them.)

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Louise Lincoln and A. Walrus
Columbus, Ohio 43209

With the usual assistance of Alf Babcock, Cranford, N. J.

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