Hi from Rick: My Month in Italy
|One of my favorite Italian restaurateurs, "like a cherry under alcohol...never ages."|
I've just finished a month in Italy — blogging all the way. Coming up this month: Spain, sprinkled with a little Morocco, Gibraltar and Andorra. I'm now a third of the way through my 100-day travel blog, and if you've been traveling with me online, you've...
• Learned that language skills have little to do with the quality of the restaurant. In fact, last night my waiter declared, "The cook is in the chicken." Later, when I ordered a tonic water, he asked me, "You want lice?"
• Met my favorite friars: Franciscan brothers have always reminded me of really smart dorm kids in the University of God...and that night, it seemed, their studies were done for the evening. [4/12]
• Caught my Vatican rant: In what seems like a callous (one could say even un-Christian) gesture, the Vatican Museum limits its hours to about half of what other great museums offer. [4/8]
• Had some mind-blowing wine: Sagrantino de Montefalco — Umbria's answer to Brunello de Montalcino — was almost like marijuana, evoking flames and dancing girls. You know when the fancy wine glasses come out, it's going to be a particularly complex wine. These glasses seemed designed to function like a gas mask...drug paraphernalia, if the truth be told. [4/12]
• Gone to the movies: Dubbing in Italy is a prized art form. The big news in the Italian movie world is that the king of dubbing voices, Amendola (the voice of Dustin Hoffman, Sylvester Stallone and Roberto di Nero) recently passed away. Dubbers are better than life: when Italians finally hear a TV interview with stars like George Clooney or Elizabeth Taylor actually talking, they are often hugely disappointed by their weak-sounding voices. [4/18]
• Enjoyed intimate conversation: The food that night looked and tasted delightful. Anna greeted each plate with unbridled enthusiasm. Suddenly, Giuseppe looked at me and said, "My wife's a good fork." Misunderstanding him, I blushed — amazed at what I thought he'd said. My face said, "Come again?" And Giuseppe clarified, saying, "una buona forchetta...a good fork...that's what we call someone who loves to eat." [4/12]
• Shared some tips: Reviving a 19th-century custom, Jim Fox and Barbara Miller, an American ex-pat couple living in Florence, hand their calling cards to people they meet. Jim explained that when you travel with a personal card and hand it out liberally, Europeans take you more seriously.
• Insulted the neighbors: With my friend in Siena, I barely missed stepping in a dog mess. In a disgusted voice my Sienese friend said, "Those Florentines are everywhere these days." [4/18]
• Found amore: A happily frenzied couple in their 25th year of running a restaurant together, serving great food with an almost musical rhythm. He says their goal is to stir emotions with their cooking. She winks, "Like a cherry under alcohol, he never ages." [4/22]
For more of these on-the-road ramblings, join me every couple of days through Blog Gone Europe. And while you're here, check out this month's fact-packed Travel News...and our Travel Store's money-saving new Back Door Bargain Bin.
Yes, I'm actually getting lots of guidebook research done on this trip. But, as with any worthwhile journey, the sights drive the itinerary, but the people make the magic.