Archive for the 'Italy' Category

Italian for Beginners

The Great Italian Adventure started early on Thursday morning. As we stopped to buy a toll pass at the border, the man asked us “Do you want a ticket for all of Europe or just Austria?” Austria? Imagine discovering you’re in Austria without knowing it. Our drive through the Swiss Alps was nothing short of breathtaking. All was going smoothly until Tom Tom took us on a suspicious detour from the highway. We raised our eyebrows, but followed obediently. The road became narrower and narrower, and then petered out completely. Suddenly, a man skied past us. We looked around to realise Tom Tom had lead us into the heart of a Swiss ski resort, and now wanted us to drive straight onto the slope. Am I the only one who wonders whether Tom Tom is actually controlled by an unseen evil genius?

I arrived in Italy hoping to experience something of quintessential Italian life. The tiny town of Varenna could not have more perfectly met my expectations. Tiny cobbled streets, beautiful stone buildings with colourful shutters, steep hillsides with olive and citrus trees, and a sensational view over the lake and Alps. By the end of four days, we were on first name terms with Pietro, the shopkeeper (he makes his own bresaola and a very intersting donkey salami) and had tried three of his wine recommendations.  Rose was a huge hit with the locals (I think it was the blonde hair) and received countless exclamations of “bellisima!” and “mia bella bambina!” By the way, she heard her first real ducks quacking. Incredible how close hers was to the real thing.

But the stand out experience came courtesy of my beloved.  In a moment of sheer magnificence, Tony had organised for Lesley and I to take an Italian cooking lesson with a local restauranteur. We were picked up from the ferry dock by Mareno’s daughter Francesca, and driven high into the hillside. As the hairpin bends got sharper, Francesca tooted her horn around each hair-raising corner to warn anyone else crazy enough to be on the road. Moreno’s only other pupil for the day had cancelled, so Lesley and I were treated to a six-hour, one-on-two lesson in fresh pasta, creamy gnocchi and Milanese risotto. Heavenly. Its hard to imagine how Moreno makes a living, given the daring location and the fact that Gittana has just 150 residents (his family have lived there for 1000 years). But his humour and hospitality make it easy to see. Asking anxiously whether my pasta was rolled thinly enough, he declared (heavy Italian accent necessary) “Ally, if it was any thinner it would be a newspaper!”

Just in case I’ve started to gush, I feel bound to tell you that the view was shrouded by fog for almost our whole stay, and that the day trip we made to Milan was an unmitigated disaster culminating in the revelation that reservations must be made months in advance to view The Last Supper. Lessons learned:

1. Flea markets are just as seedy in Europe as they are in Dapto

2. Italian ticket machines don’t give change for notes

3. Seeing Italy does not make you Italian and therefore more interesting/glamorous

I’ll leave you with this piece of encouragement given by Moreno on the subject of language learning:

“English is for singing a song, French is for talking about love, Italian is for praying to God, and German is for talking to a dog.”



About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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