We woke up at home – jet lagged and too early – to flurries of snow outside our windows here in Boulder. It was clear that our luxurious 12 days in Italy were thousands of miles away and yet it has taken me and entire week (and plus some, now) to summon all the parts of my being back from the country shaped like a boot. I shouldn’t be surprised that this particular trip required a good bit of recovery/re-entry time – it was the first trip in as long as I can remember that we didn’t plan to DO anything specific. We had no agenda but to spend time with our friends, to bridge the gap between Skype conversations, to give them proper hugs. We didn’t intend to achieve anything of note, but to get to this place -this hand-talking, never-enough-gelato-eating, timeless, loud and wonderful tobacco + espresso smelling place – and simply BE.
Admittedly I was worried that without something avid on the schedule, and this being Derek’s first time to Italy, he would be well fed, but bored, or worse yet, underwhelmed. (I don’t know what sort of person doesn’t/can’t fall in love, and is instead underwhelmed with Italy?! But if anyone could be it would be my sometimes-unimpressed husband…) But that first night we were welcomed with the wide arms and cheek pinching fingers of our friends and three generations of their family at dinner in the villa they call home in the countryside beyond Florence; fresh tomatoes, gorgonzola gnocchi with early pears, prosciutto, melon and a whole array of cheeses from all over the country not to mention more wine, grappa, limoncello and gelato than we could bear to turn down. The house rolled with laughter and full bellies into the late enjoyed rolling on our bikes through the changing leaves scattered among verdant green fields of Chianti. We settled in with books, drank too much wine, floated weightless in the chilly Adriatic Sea, planned long lunches, hiked the hills of the Riviera, bopped through the busting, sweaty, ancient streets of Rome, and rolled with all of the unexpected punches that just go along with Italy and its people. Your internet is down? The train is late? You’re lost? These are unimportant things. You haven’t had lunch yet? You don’t know the soccer score? You don’t drive in the middle of the highway entirely too fast? These are primary concerns. Amidst it all, I found the occasional, expectant disarray comforting – not maddening. So much of modern life, and our modern life at home in particular is unimportant. If I don’t get to check Instagram, to write on my blog, return an email, eat a healthy organic salad for lunch – my world continues on, deliciously. If I eat ice cream several times a day, if I’m a few minutes late, the world still spins and I still wake up excited to see each day.
This was just one thing I encountered on this trip to Italy. Here are a few others:
1. Myself, waiting to crawl out of bed in the morning until the church bells rang in San Casciano.
2. A tourist (not us) eating gelato for breakfast in Florence.
3. Golden fall leaves, and bright green young figs sharing the same tree branches in Chianti.
4. A meal composed entirely of cheese from various parts of the country, followed by gelato for dessert.
5. Another meal, composed entirely of figs straight from the tree.
6. Four generations of sons and fathers, sitting around a dinner table, discussing dimples and baby farts.
7. Nonno’s little production kitchen in the cellar of the house, adorned with photos of his son playing soccer, and tomatoes so ripe you can smell them coming down the stairs.
8. The simplest, BEST recipe for pizza dough. Never written down, repeated by heart.
9. Little old ladies in bold printed bathing suits and big sunglasses, shaking their leather-fingered hands at each other (and smoking cigarettes) over a card game at the beach.
10. The same little old ladies yelling at each other as they played cards in the main piazza of town, fully clothed and coifed (still smoking), about two hours after seeing them at the beach.
11. Tourists so hell bend on snapping photographs of the dramatic landscape on the Riviera that they start to push and shove one another around the ferry for vantage.
12. A little old man who used just one finger to stop four lanes of traffic on a green light in front of the Roman capital, because he was ready to cross the street.
13. A three-mile-long line that wound its way around St. Peter’s Cathedral as tourists and visitors waited their turn to enter.
14. My own love for the tiny Piaggio Ape.
15. Ribollita, beer, prosciutto and melon as the perfect end to a bike ride in Siena.
16. A menu still printed by typewriter and a handwritten wine list dating back to 1929 at Il Moro Trattoria in Rome. Our waiter was not surprised when I snapped pictures of each.
17. The hypnosis that inevitably takes over when you stare relaxed, and just long enough, at the striped umbrella above your head from one of the beach chairs along the Riviera and you start repeating “I will never leave this place. I will never leave this place….”
18. Tiny fishing boats so charming I think I could be a fisherman. (Or, fisherwoman.)
19. Little café tables so pretty you could eat off them as decorative plates.
In the days to come, I’ll share a few of the best parts of our trip here; a little (untouristy!) hiking adventure in the Cinque Terre, the highlights from our time in Rome, and a few recipes I gathered along the way. I can’t wait to put it all down! – xo L