The first botti I came to know as a child had lived their file as wine containers and were located in the cave my father and her sister had in their native village. I know this sounds strange, but that is how it was: not far from the house in Poggio Catino, inside the village, a massive door opened to reveal a high-ceilinged, dark and cool corridor carved into the rock. For many years that was our refrigerator and also our long-term storage area for staples like fruit, wine and olive oil, and also for the wood my aunt used during the winter to fuel her stove and fireplace. I was afraid of going there by myself, but loved visiting it with one of the adults, because of the earthy smell and the cool temperature.
Botti smell good: of wood, wine and work. One of my uncles was a bottaio, a maker of botti.
I have always been small, short if you wish: I am 5'1" and usually have no problems with it. Have you ever seen a Fiat 500 car? One of the advantages of being small is that I could fit in that car. From third through fifth grade I had a teacher who was a tall man. He was the first one to tell me that nelle botti piccole sta il vino buono (literally, good wine is found in small barrels, meaning: good things come in small packages).
There are other sayings involving botti. The first one of this selection is quite funny:
- volere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca (to want to have your cake and eat it too; I know, the English saying is slightly different: I adjusted it to the Italian construction, which literally means to want to have the barrel full and the wife drunk1);
- dare un colpo al cerchio e uno alla botte (to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, which is a British expression and means to try to be on good terms with both sides in a conflict or a dispute; in Italian is also used to describe trying to answer conflicting needs);
- essere in una botte di ferro (to be on sure ground, literally, to be in an iron barrel).
1I realized I had omitted the literal translation of the Italian expression: apologies to the early readers.