An ancient Panicale flower pot, said to have survived the woeful times when Hannibal of Carthage left a wet and bloody swath nearby in 217 b.c. at the historic Battle of Lake Trasimino, was knocked over Friday night by Hourie Sahakian, a house guest of Nancy Silverton, the American chef who vacations here..
Shortly after 10 p.m., a loud crash was heard in Panicale's Piazza Umberto, This was followed by an "Oh my God, I didn't mean it," then pure silence as the 25 or so customers of Bar del Gallo, the town's main hangout, stared at the fallen pot. Standing next to the pot, its precious black dirt spilling out on to the brick walkway, its symbolic lone flower fallen like one of the 15,000 Roman soldiers killed by Hannibal's forces, was Hourie Sahakian. Her look said it all; Guilty..
Within seconds a young man from a wine bar, a bitter rival of Bar del Gallo's owner Aldo, tossed aside decades of animosity, and rushed over and began frantically trying to scoop up the pot's splattered soil, belovedly known here as "la sporciza sacro dei morti", (the sacred dirt of the dead).. Soon, Aldo rushed out of his bar, his face awash in shock and disbelief, and slowly stepped toward the what has already become known as "Potgate".
"Che ha fatto questo?, Aldo said, ( "Who did this?")
A customer blurted out loudly - and wrongly - out "La sorella". The sister.
Aldo looked briefly at Gail Silverton, who was innocently finishing off an oat biscuit and who immediately thought, "If they try to pin this on me, I will sell that Armenian baker out faster than Nancy can say "ancora, bicchiere di vino rosso Montefalco."
Saturday morning, a team of art restoration experts from Rome's fabled Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro arrived in Panicale to examine the pot.
The team's leader, Luigi di Luciano stared in silence before saying "We will try. We did put Humpty Dumpty back together again. But, he didn't have this much significance."
Also, authorities said a toxicology report on Sahakian is expected to be finished by nightfall. A source close to the investigation said he would be "stunned" if there was not significant amounts of alcohol in Sahakian's blood stream.
"Dopo tutto, lei e amica di Nancy," he said which translates to "After all, she is a friend of Nancy.".