Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rome in a Day (Abruzzo in a week)

So I'm finally posting about my week long vacation in Italy. I actually started to write this post the day I returned to Paris but became so overwhelmed with the details of the trip that the task seemed too daunting. I am remedying this by splitting the experience into two posts - one about our land and air adventures before & after Italy and one about our actual trip.

(***More photos can be found here)

After all of the complaining I did about the rain in Paris, I certainly got more than I had been waiting for weather wise. This reminds me of an old adage my mother still recites to this day "be careful what you wish for - you just might get it." 34 degrees in the shade and a minimum 38 in the sun more than made up for the miserable weather in France and left me praying at times to the rain gods. I even killed a spider one day just in case the arachnid-rain superstition is true - it did nothing however and we were left sweltering.

After our hour long bus ride from the airport into Rome, we spent a fantastic afternoon in the city playing tourists - shopping, debating the way the local women dress (flashy or trashy?), eating panini and oohing and ahhing over the ruins and the colisseum before heading off to catch the bus to our main destination - Abruzzo.

Upon arriving at Nick's family's home where we would be staying, we were treated to a gigantic Italian meal of cutoletta, pomodoro, fagiolini, melanzane, panne and a ton of other delghts while Zio Vittorio, Zia Modesta, Enzo, Laurredana and cousin Alessandro regaled us with praise and stories about recent events and the lack of rain in the mountains (at least, that's what I think they were talking about - everything was in Italian so I can't really be sure). While the three dogs played, I watched the sunset behind the many high and rolling hills - several of which were topped with tiny towns built like fortresses. The clear and blackened sky revealed more stars than I think I've ever seen before - if I knew the constellations better I'm sure I could have drawn them in the air with my finger. We took a walk to the shrine to the Madonna that the two family households (next door neighbours to each other) had built on the road separating their respective properties. Upon reaching our destination we were delighted by spontaneous fireworks in a neighbouring town, which Alessandro told us were arranged to celebrate our arrival.

Over the week, we visited various family members who also ladened and lardened us with culinary delights. I became quite good at finding creative ways to say "thank you, it's wonderful but i can't possibly eat any more," as the Zias would spoon food onto my already half full plate, lovingly saying "mangia, mangia," and patting my cheeks saying "bella, bella." Funnily enough, I noticed that none of the other women dished such hearty quantities of food out to themselves. I also noticed that I was gaining probably about half a kilo a day! (Those of you who have previously envied my otherwise dainty frame and speedy metabolism can now take solace in the fact that I am trying to loose my new amore-handles as you read this.)

In the morning, I was amazed to come out of the house and be smacked me in the face with a close up view of Il Gran Sasso - a famous mountain of the region that looks like a big-bellied giant fast asleep on his back.

An average day looked like this:

Wake up sometime between 7:30 and 10am to Zio Vittorio reliving the happiest days of his youth by playing his favourite cd full of tributes to and songs about the Alpini.

Light breakfast of coffee and ciambellone followed by family gossip all generously provided by Zia Modesta.

Day's Main Activity:

Tuesday - Walk in the mountains followed by a drive up the winding roads to the Alpini meeting hall, drink well water and look at tiny lizards native to the area;

big lunch complete with homemade frizzy wine and acqua Santa Maria, followed by a two hour sosta (nap). Watch Alessandro play in a soccer tournament (finals) while drinking local beer and secretly nicknaming the other players things like Gino, Vino and of course Pino (for the guy with the orange tan and muscle car). Visit the other members of the family, eat some crazy italian layer cake to celebrate cousin Angelo achieving 98% on his accounting exam.

Wednesday - Day trip to a private beach in Rosetta - along the Adriatic Coast - with Theresa and her two children. Sun, swimming and, of course, a good sosta in the shade followed by a tour of Theresa's husband Pepe's restored Lambretta collection and homemade wine & olive oil cellar; big family dinner back at the house (big dinner and big family with Theresa, Pepe and kids also in attendance). Watch another of Alessandro's soccer games, this time with all of the cousins and boyfriends/girlfriends followed by gelato in a neighbouring town (complete with a spontaneous waterfight at the table).

Thursday - Lunch with Zia Angelina and Zio Gaetano - a three hour event where I learned the art of eating slowly, very slowly and saying "piano, piano, buono, buono" while Gaetano charmed me with his enthusasm and aptitude for the english language. This was followed by a three hour sosta and then dinner. (Yes, we literally ate-ate-slept-ate!) Alessandro took us to a pub in a nearby village for beer, electronic darts and melone vodka. An early night.

Friday - Day trip into a neighbouring town to look at the church and reliquary San Gabriel followed by cooling off in the icy waters of a local waterfall/natural spring (more lizards); big lunch of homemade gnocci, sausages, cheese and cold meat. Sosta (surprise).

All week Enzo kept hinting that there would be a surprise on Friday. At one of the soccer games earlier in the week, Alessandro introduced me to the joys of the regional specialty Arrosticini - sheep meat kebabs cooked over a skinny barbecue that is actually fired up with a blow torch. As it turned out, this was Enzo's intended surprise - a giant family BBQ of said meat sticks. So Alessandro made me promise not to tell that we had already eaten them on Tuesday night and I feigned ignorance for the rest of the week. (To be fair, and because I felt guilty, I only ate one or two at the game but at least twelve on Friday).

The BBQ brought around almost everyone we had met during the week, including Theresa who had cut her hair short since we first met Wendesday, inspired, she said, by me (blush blush). We all stayed up late drinking Enzo's homemade genziana - a digestive that tastes like dandelion root soaked in 99 proof alcohol (actaully, that's what it is) - aka moonshine. Entertainment was provided by all of the men in the family who, after dinner, lifted up their shirts to pat and compare the size of their bellies while Zio Vittorio played his Alpini hits again.

Saturday and Sunday - more fun at the seaside. These were the days where we planned to relish the luxury of being able to eat next to nothing! Then we were invited to lunch by a local family... and taken out for dinner by cousin Vittoria...

Saturday night found us at an evening flea market by the beach while Sunday brought us back to the soccer field where Alessandro played in the final match of his local league. His team, the underdogs of the game, won the entire tournament by one point in a sudden death mano-a-mano shots on net situation after two rounds of overtime. Needless to say, I found by the end that I had developed a new appreciation for the world's most beloved game.

Our trip finally came to an close on Monday morning and though I had had a wonderful time, I was glad to go home. The fact that no one spoke English really wore me down more than I had expected. I learned more italian than I had ever imagined but, although by the end I could understand a good deal of what was said to me, I grew tired and frustrated with the fact that I could not fully express myself, only being able communicate through simple words and partial sentences. Not only were we treated unbelievably well by our hosts, but I felt every second as if I was part of their own family. Indeed, I will never forget the beauty of the land, the sea and most of all the people. I have been invited back and I can't wait to return.

And by the way, yes, gelato was consumed every single day. Sometimes twice.

Monday, August 13, 2007

instead of posting about italy i did this quiz...

what do you think?

You Are An ENFJ

The Giver

You strive to maintain harmony in relationships, and usually succeed.
Articulate and enthusiastic, you are good at making personal connections.
Sometimes you idealize relationships too much - and end up being let down.
You find the most energy and comfort in social situations ... where you shine.

In love, you are very protective and supporting.
However, you do need to "feel special" - and it's quite easy for you to get jealous.

At work, you are a natural leader. You can help people discover their greatest potential.
You would make a good writer, human resources director, or psychologist.

How you see yourself: Trusting, idealistic, and expressive

When other people don't get you, they see you as: Bossy, inappropriate, and loud
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