The service station was more crowded than usual. Besides the usual trucks queuing up for petrol, there were about twenty cars full of families, all full of cheer and looking ready for a nice country picnic. The man and the woman pulled their small car into the parking area. They didn’t need petrol and had only stopped at the service station to have a morning cappuccino and pastry because the bar at the local village had been closed and the bar at the neighboring village smelled too much like a school cafeteria to spend any time in. And so they had pulled in here to have breakfast before driving on to Siena.
It took a few minutes to move the small car around to a parking spot. Italian petrol station don’t really have a system of where to leave the car when you want anything other than petrol.
With the car stopped and the wind stopped, it was actually quite a hot day and when the sun wasn’t behind the few white clouds, it was very hot. It had rained all the day before, so the sky was unusually blue and fresh. Locals were calling it a cool summer. There had been plenty of rain so the hills were still green and the smell of pines still hung in the low valleys.
Inside the service station, the bar serving coffee was very busy. People were queued up at the area between where you paid and where you showed your ticket to get your cappuccino. The bar wasn’t designed for a line of people and so it was difficult to push through the crowd to get to the register to pay for your coffee. But the time in line did allow you to see all of the pastries on offer. There were the crisp, folded sfoglia, with their golden edges and sweet cream leaking through. There were the slices of torte, with marmalade and with custard, and there were all the usual sweet croissants, some empty, some with jam and some with chocolate. There will also a few croissants, slit down the length and filled too full with hazelnut spread. People went mad for hazelnut spread in this part of Italy.
The man and woman discussed which pastries to order. They called them brioches, because in this part of Italy, that’s what they were called. The man rubbed his chin and pointed at the plain ones. “Empty” they were called here. The woman decided she wanted the same.