Sunday, April 13, 2008

Returning to Bella Italia

It seems surreal to me. Here I am on the plane to Italy and it hasn’t really hit me that I am returning there. I know I will be so happy to return to the comfort of Tuscany.
I am excited to eat the large Italian pears and big, juicy, green muscat grapes (they taste like a combo of peaches and grapes…oh yum). My tongue can’t wait to take pleasure in the 2 bottles of wine I left behind telling my friend Marco, “Save these for me if I ever return!” (I hope he did ;). My eyes are waiting in anticipation to see what exquisite piece of clothing the fine people at Versace have placed in their Florentine store window. And I can’t wait to try it on – hoping that I’ll love it this time.
No, I don’t have money to be going on this trip – never mind buying something Versace. This trip is just something that I wanted to do – a personal development sort of thing - and I thank God that I am doing what I want to do despite how strange it might seem to most people.
I was talking with the gentleman beside me on the plane and he told me the story of his friend who built coffins. His friend was standing at the kitchen sink, large glass of whiskey in his hand and the gentleman asked, "What are you doing to yourself you are drinking away your family's fortunes!"
He replied, " You know I was just thinking, I never built a coffin with any pockets – no one has ever wanted to take anything with them!"
The Gentleman told me in the end, when you are in a nursing home all of your life contents fit into one shelf in a small room. It doesn't matter if you tried to keep up with the Jones'.

I think the fact that I was unpacking clothes out of 3 different suitcases (from my move to the farm) and packing them into one suitcase for this trip had me feeling like I hadn’t unpacked from the last trip yet.
But alas, I am on my way to a wonderful four months under the Tuscan sun and in Tuscan kitchens. This trip is what I would consider ideal: Getting into the heart of the lives of Italian people. Other than seeing the beautiful history of a country I truly enjoy meeting and interacting with the country’s people – ok maybe not to the extent of some of my last interactions :)
This trip takes me to the romantic river city of Florence for 2 weeks of language school. I am staying in accommodation close to where I stayed with the nuns the last time which is a nice part of the city.
I am then on my way to the TINY village of Castelnuovo del’Abate where I will ‘work’ at a locanda (restaurant and hotel) for room and board! I frequented this lovely little restaurant, located near the Abbey of Sant’Antimo (where Gregorian monks perform chants), twice the last time I was there. They make the BEST ribolitta soup. I asked for the recipe but from what I understood the recipe was too long to write out. I was thinking yeah right, they probably just don’t want to give me the recipe...some secret or something. So I wrote them a letter asking if I could come to work there to learn to make the soup and they said yes! BUT Lorenzo, owner of the locanda, said the recipe is secret but he thinks I should be able to get close enough to learn the recipe and he informed me there is a fire oven for making pizzas. Maybe I’ll be throwing pizza dough like a pro by the end of this? How great would that be?
After improving *I hope* my rotten cooking skills, I am off to the rolling hills of the Pienza area of the Val D’Orcia. This time I hope the clay hills will be covered with wheat and who knows, maybe I’ll see the ghost of Russell Crowe the Gladiator walking thought that wheat field. Podere il Casale an organic farm. Here I hope to be perfecting the craft of making cheese – Pecorino cheese to be exact. This beautiful farm makes a lot of other products like pasta from various types of flours including chestnut, jams, cheeses and I will see what else. I am staying in a small trailer and I hope it’s a trailer overlooking the valley.
My 4 month I do not have allotted to anywhere yet but I am hoping it is a hotel in Positano on the Amalfi Coast.
I think this will be my most educational trip yet!

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