My Uncle Renzo called me to one side and said: “I’m going to Parma tomorrow: ask your father if he will let you come with me”. We caught the bus at seven in the morning. The one the students and the workmen took. We got off at the bus station at eight and went to have a hot chocolate in the Bar Cantarelli where they used to put a touch of snow-white cream on top of the thick brown liquid. Here everything was warm and clean, the waiters darted among the tables, and the beautiful ladies glanced around and hoped to be looked at. The next port of call was the bar of our cousins, the Sarti: Dirce offered us coffee and lemon cordial while her son Mario gave his advice to my uncle about the best cowboy film on show: we both liked Gary Cooper because he was ruthless but could also be good. It depended. John Wayne was too hard, he was never compassionate.
Before the film started there was enough time to pay a visit to Pepén’s. A place where you couldn’t swing a cat, always packed with people and everyone spoke in Parma dialect. My uncle used to crack a few jokes with everyone. In their sandwiches they added a sweet and sour sauce which united all the aromas, colours and tastes of the vegetable garden. A sheer delight. The cinema was as holy as a church. With a whisper we looked for our seats and then, when the Cine News had finished, we didn’t utter a word. From time to time I took my gaze away from the screen to look at the mysterious beam of soft light, which broke the thickness of the dark. However there was no time to waste: the shooting of pistols, the galloping of horses and the slamming of the saloon doors were top priority.
We got into heated arguments outside the cinema and I was of the view that Red Indians were not at all warlike. Basically America was their home and the USA cavalry massacred the buffaloes. Gianni Brera also said the same in his Ten Questions. My uncle considered this for a while and then replied: ”What shall we do now? The bus is leaving in two hours”. I already knew the answer; we would be going to have an aperitif at the Osteria dei Corrieri.
The aperitif consisted of a mound of rissoles in a big white bowl and a good glass of red wine. For me a chinotto. The rissoles they made in the Osteria dei Corrieri in the days of James Stewart were light and crispy with a particular parsley taste, the likes of which we had never eaten since. In the evening, when we were about to go into the house with a box of dates to give my father as a present, just before knocking on the window, my uncle said to me: “OK, the Red Indians are right. But in films there has to be a baddy to hit. Otherwise, what sense is there in the cinema?”.
From “Sun and snow”, by Luigi Alfieri