We arrived with the sun on Christmas morning. Wow. Immediately I am stunned by the beauty of the land. Have you ever flown over the Midwest in the US during the summer? I’m always awestruck by the patchwork patterns of the fields below. Here in Italy I’m blown away by the never ending land of green. Where are the subdivisions? Large shopping malls? Huge interstate systems? Now don’t get me wrong…I love Target, but there is beauty in this green. It breaks my heart to see acres of woods being torn down to be replaced by cardboard-like homes and parking lots.
Which brings me to another wow moment. Yes, I know, there are many modern apartment buildings and I’m sure many urban developments in Italy, but here we are in our Italian apartment, built in the 1400’s. Please let that sink in…built 600 years ago. What will our homes look like a thousand years from now? The 8 houses they just threw up in about two weeks time around the corner from my home in SC, what will they be like 100, heck even 10 years from now? Is there quality in the workmanship today?
As we were planning for this trip, I must have heard a hundred times…”Try to blend in” and “Wear black”. Yes, it’s true, black is the national fashion color. But you know what? It is ok to be different too! After fretting for weeks before the trip about what I was going to pack, I realized it isn’t about what you wear. It didn’t matter if we were wearing black head to toe…people knew we were NOT Italian! They may have mistook us for Australian or New Zealanders, but never Italian. Wear what’s comfortable and a big ol smile!
Simple, fresh food. We have our markets too, but unless we live in California, we don’t have this variety. The grocery stores are set up much different too. From what I could tell, the aisle for chips held about five different varieties, instead of the hundreds we can choose from here in the states. The checkout line was just that: a place to pay for your goods. We were not ambushed by the soda, candy and trash magazine companies. If our apartment kitchen is an example of most Italian homes, the storage is small, so you need to make wiser choices for that space.
Meal portions are of appropriate size. Why do American restaurants feel the need to oversize our plates? The dishes were simple. You knew what you were getting with each menu item. It was a beautiful thing.
Everywhere you look is something interesting and beautiful. Many doors were 20 feet high with intricate carvings, the floors we walked on were decorated with beautiful tiles and even the lampposts were colorful and fun.
My mind was blown away thinking about how a duomo like this one in Siena could be built without cad drawings, fine laser machines to cut and large scale equipment to move the pieces in place.
Forgetting about trying to get from point A to point B, we took a left turn and visited Montepulchiano on a whim. Santas on Motorcycles! Come on, this is great! I love the adventure of the “Unplanned-plan.”
Have you ever had a hot Nutella crepe made right before you on a cold winter day, with the chocolate melting on your chin and the powdered sugar falling on your black coat? It is THE BEST! My heart got all jittery as I went from one stall to another. I saw handmade knits, leather belts and wallets, fine crochet jewelry, chocolates, cheeses, pickeled and stuffed olives. We sampled area wines and beers and kept warm with a hot cup of vin brule’, mulled wine.
Go up that side street? Yes! Otherwise, we would’ve missed a gorgeous Tuscan sunset.
Our last night in Italy ended perfectly with a surprise find in this jewel of a wine shop. The owner made us feel as if we were long time friends. At any moment I knew he was going to invite us to his house for dinner. He cupped Mary Claire’s face with his hands and said “Bella, how old are you?” M.C. answered “23”. He says “Good enough. We need to marry my son!” Mary Claire quickly replied that she already married the dude over there. All was good. Delicious wine was poured. Then we all hugged and kissed good bye.
Ciao, my friends! Until we meet again.