Let’s face it, there is one route the finance guys have yet to try. You have to pray to a saint! Am I right?
We had a problem. A BIG problem! Exactly, it was all about money. We were staring two mortgages in the face. Changing houses is easy if your bank goes along with the idea. We had found our new dream residence. Signed on the dotted line and then our bank refused us a bridging loan. We needed badly to sell our old house.
I mused, stared at the sky. My wife was more practical.
“We will ask St Anthony,” she said.
“Are you kidding me?”
“People do it all the time. St Anthony is the patron saint of lost things and people, infertility, asses, the elderly and the poor, which is where we fit in, and tons more. He also led a life of steady courage to face adversity and to deal with a crisis with total love and trust in God.”
“Okay, what do we do?”
“Well, you make a plea and then make a pledge.”
“It figures. How much?”
“I reckoned that if we get a quick sale on the old house we could donate 100 euros to the St Anthony Fund for Children in Padua, and light a candle in the basilica.”
“We have to go to Italy?”
“Sure, anyway I already made the plea and the pledge.”
Don’t ask why or how, but it worked. The very next day a mountaineer fell in love with our old house because it was located at the foot of his favorite mountain. Bargaining was not an issue. He simply asked where he was to sign and could he send the payment through quickly. It was the kind of deal that is not of this world. Like, because there was a mountain, St Anthony sent a mountaineer! It figured.
I checked the Internet and found a hotel in Padua, called and asked for the price of two nights and changed the stay to one night. I mean, we had to go but not go broke!
Padua accommodated us in the heart of the Old Town at this very expensive hotel—and we loved it. One drove through streets that would be passageways anywhere else, but were assisted by a ‘hotel document’ giving free access to ward off policepersons. There was a garden-like café at the hotel door and one sat and pretended to be anything one wished to be. The markets were a revelation (as always in Italy) and the Alimentari were like so many chambers of wonders inside—we purchased one kilogram of pecorino for less than 10 euros. We also learned that Peregrino is neither a wine nor a mineral water. It is, apparently, a church.
We approached our mission to donate 100 euros and light a candle in the basilica. There are two basilicas (St Antonio and St Giustina) in Padua, both of which are of the Gothic persuasion. We were not permitted to light the candle. One placed it in a box and a priest did the honors later. The 100 euros donation was also deposited in a box. There was a monk in attendance.
That was it! We had done our duty. The world was wonderful and we were in Italy, which is where people go to eat. Where else?
“The waiter at the cafe said we should eat at the Chinese restaurant around the corner,” I said.
“Are you kidding me?” she wanted to know. “You don’t go to Italy to eat Chinese food.”
“Look, we placed a chunky part of our financial existence in the hands of a demised saint. It worked, so let’s go for phase two.”
This, we realized, would need some explaining back home. Nevertheless, all went well. The restaurant floor was of glass and beneath our feet swam fish in their very own grotto. Perhaps I should mention that we saw massive carp swimming in a city canal so filthy that nobody would dream of catching and eating them. Thus, living in a disgusting environment could in some situations ensure survival.
Still, outrageous décor is hardly sufficient to recommend a restaurant. The food, however, was of the most delicate imaginable—and one was also obliged to imagine the task of impressing Italians with food from elsewhere! Anyway, we were truly impressed. My curried prawns must have been waved in front of a sack of curry powder without making real contact because this was delicacy of the first order. The lady wife took duck with a mushroom sauce. The service was exceptional.
I watched a young Chinese girl resetting an adjacent table, the modest slit in her skirt barely reached higher than her knee. Her face, though not grey-green, had the fragile beauty of a celadon tea bowl. She seemed enraptured with her task and was undoubtedly named Little Flower of Dawn. She set the table as if she were, indeed, arranging flowers. She patted a tablecloth smooth and gazed lovingly at her work. She sighed! I sighed! It was quite obvious that I was, at last, subject to mid-life crisis.
The restaurant began to fill. An adjacent table was occupied by schoolgirls because the culture of eating well begins in one’s younger years in Italy. These kids had simply met for a great meal before heading to a discotheque.
In the end people were queuing for tables and we had to fight to get out on to the street. It was past the summer season and we were probably the only foreigners in the place.
We took coffee at the famous Caffè Pedrocchi where we heard jazz among the marble columns and chatted with musicians about the saxophonist Lester Young who had played in the Basie band all those years ago. We drank Campari and murmured “Bella,” every so often.
“The jazz was your bonus,” said my wife.
“One thing is certain,” I said, “if St Anthony had been a musician he would have played like Lester. Hey, why don‘t we put the finance guys in the picture. Maybe our man could do something.”
“The situation is different, darling. Our plea was about need, they are into a different thing altogether.”
Editor’s note: The image above is a detail of “Saint Anthony of Padua and the Child” painted by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo in 1665.