But what will you DO in Italy?Oct 18, 2015
Last year I took the opportunity spend six weeks in Italy. It was glorious. My husband Fred came out with me for about a week, then returned home, leaving me alone to spend the better part of a month in a Venetian apartment. A month in a single city is enough time to really experience the rhythm of a place, and establish your own rhythm within that. I’ve never lived in a city; this felt like a no-risk way to give it a try.
When I told people I was going to Italy for six weeks, I tended to get the same reactions: Wow, that’s great! I’m so jealous.
But what will you do for six weeks?
My answer was typically: I’ll grab my camera and a notebook and head out into the city. If I had a plan at all in my head, it was simply to be and do whatever I felt like doing at the moment. When I explained this to one of my clients, he said “Good for you! Americans suck at taking enough vacation time – show them how it’s done!”
Here’s how I did it:
(dateline: June 15, 2014: Venice, Italy)
We’ve done and seen a lot, especially while Fred was here. No matter what, the highlight of most days is lunch. It’s become the star of my daily itinerary.
Here’s how today went:
Left the apartment to find Vini da Gigio, not far from what Fred calls Highway A1A because this main strada is packed with tourists and stalls of things tourists can buy. As I turn onto the smaller calle, I’m faced with a very, very drunk Italian man. I assume he’s a bum, but closer inspection shows him to be young, handsome and well-dressed. He just also happens to be completely tanked, which is unusual for an Italian. He’s staggering a bit, struggling to put a jacket on, so I give him some space and sit down on the steps of a church to make a phone call. He follows my lead and sits down, but doesn’t quite make the steps. Fortunately the ground is right there, so he sets himself down without too much effort. There’s a struggle to remove the jacket he just got himself into, and it winds up in a pile in front of him. Then he pulls out a cigarette and a lighter. I’m thinking whatever he’s been drinking has made his breath highly flammable, so I wander off toward the restaurant as I finish my phone call. When I turn around to look at him, he’s curled up and sleeping on the sidewalk. The nap will do him good.
I’ll be sorry to get back to normal life in July, but for now I’m happy to wander into a nice restaurant at lunchtime, say buon giorno and settle in. Lunch has a structure: a bottle of water and some wine to start. I’ve gotten so accustomed to ordering un mezzo litro di vino bianco with Fred, that I automatically do the same today, not thinking that I’ve ordered two-thirds of a bottle of wine for just me. At lunch time. Well, it’s not like I have any important meetings this afternoon.
The waiter brings me the menu, then as an afterthought asks me (in Italian) if I want the English menu. No, grazie, provo questo. As usual, I understand most of the menu, but there’s always something that I can’t quite get, especially when they use the Venetian dialect instead of Italian. I can speak Italian, I can’t speak Venetian. For example, I’m not sure what the pasta with coda de rospo is. According to my dictionary, rospo is toad. That can’t be right. I switch to the English->Italian dictionary and type in frog, expecting to see rospo. Nope. I have no idea what it means. No matter, because I see sarde in saor (sardines in a sweet & sour onion sauce) plus pasta with a spider crab sauce. These quickly join my bottle of white wine and lunch is underway.
One thing I really love about restaurants in Italy is that no one will ever rush you. Ever. Your food may come out quickly, but you will never have to leave before you’re ready. Your waiter won’t even bring you the check until you ask for it. Seriously. Before we learned this, many years ago, we enjoyed a dinner in Rome, then waited (and waited) for our check. Not realizing the bill doesn’t come until you ask for it, we watched our waiter put on his coat, walk out of the restaurant and go home for the night. It seems to be some etiquette infraction to bring the check unasked, so the wait staff would sooner leave work than breach protocol.
After spending the better part of two hours at lunch today (remember: I had a lot of wine to finish and no important meetings), I headed back out to the main strada. My first thought was Gelato would be good right about now. Here’s the thing about Italy: I’m constantly hungry. Constantly. Each meal is followed by a plan for what I’ll eat next. Doesn’t seem to be having any impact on my weight, which I chalk up to the freshness of the food and the amount I walk each day. So I’ll enjoy it while I can.
I’ve found a gelateria near my apartment that serves the most decadent cioccolato. I prefer to order a cone rather than a cup. Meaning, in this summer’s heat, I have to eat quickly before the gelato pours off the cone onto the sidewalk (or onto me). Gelato finished, I head back to the apartment.
On my way back, I notice I’m getting some funny looks that I can’t quite interpret. I later realize they mean Someone should tell that girl that she has chocolate gelato on her nose.
And that’s exactly the kind of problem I love to have.
p.s. coda de rospo means monkfish
p.p.s I didn’t finish the wine, but not for lack of trying.