Italy – Tell Me What It’s Like (In A Nutshell)

Making pasta in Lecce at The Awaiting Table
Making pasta in Lecce at The Awaiting Table

“So, whats it like in Italy?”   Countless people have asked this question in the two months I’ve been here.  It’s a perfectly normal question, but I can hardly begin to answer it.  Italy is such a vast country with many different regions and local cultures – seas, mountains, lakes, inland, cities, villages, north, south, east and west.  Roma, Venizia, Milano, Napoli  and all of the places surrounding them. It will be  impossible to see most of it while I’m here, but so far, I have been to:

  • Naples – scary place to drive – Stayed one day/night, but that’s where I flew into. Ate fabulous pizza my first night in Italy.
  • Sorrento -across the harbour from Naples. Lemons, limoni everywhere you look! Stayed three days where we met Irish friends for drinks at where else…an Irish Pub and saw a wonderful outdoor sculptural exhibit of Benedetto Robazza’s  L’Inferno di Dante. We also got to see the ominous Mount Vesuvius across the harbour.

    Mount Vesuvius off in the distance
    Mount Vesuvius off in the distance
  • Maratea and Sapri  – a few day trips to the sandy and pebbled beaches to search for shade and cold drinks. People watching is fantastic as everyone comes out at 5 o’clock to ‘promenade’ along the oceanfront walkway.
  • Lecce  – 3 days where I took two fabulous cooking courses in Salentine cuisine and almost wilted in the 40 plus degree temperatures.

    IMG_1414
    It’s been 30 years since I’ve been dizzy in one of these!
  • Cetraro  – 3 days at the Grand Hotel San Michelle. All of the food and wine served there is grown and prepared on the grounds and you have to take an elevator down the cliff side to get to the beach.
  • Nemoli – Attended a local festival where we ate fabulous street food, perused ‘authentic’ Gucci purses and bedazzled phone cases, shot down unsuspecting tin cans and bottles with rifles attached to the counter and had the most fun in one of those whirly swing things.

That’s the touristy part. As for the daily adventures, we are staying just outside the village of Lago Sirino where we buy groceries, wine and ant killer at the supermarket, savour handmade gellato and cappucinos at Nives and eat fabulous pizza at Albergo/Ristorante de Mimi’s.  Every Wednesday and Saturday we drive to Lagonegro for the farmers market, have coffee or an Aperol Spritz at the cafe next to a church.  And for the past three Saturday’s in Lagonegro we watched the walking out procession of an Italian wedding featuring tossed rice, confetti exploders and the releasing of two white doves into the air (it was ridiculously entertaining watching so many well-dressed people try and catch them and return them to the basket). Mama Mia!

Rivellos street steps
Rivellos street steps

On occasion, we take a jaunt to Rivello to have coffee and buy bread after picking up mail at the Postale Italiane. In Rivello, you park your car and climb the narrow, cobbled streets that often incorporate steps in the lane ways. And just for the joy of it, every now and then I visit my Romanian friend Michaela in Nemoli to hold her new baby Darius while his big brother, Constantine, watches cartoons, sneaks biscuits because there is company and tells me (in Italian) all about his puppy Billly.  Billy has since had a name change.

Baby Darius in Nemoli
Baby Darius in Nemoli

On the home front, we have an ongoing battle with ants who love to go marching 60-by-60 in my sugar bowl.  Then there was the day the workmen from the local Water Board had to dig a humongous hole underneath the kiwi plants (who won’t fruit because both a male and female are required for kiwi sex) as there was a water leak so bad the ground was bubbling up with water and not enough water pressure to enable us or our neighbors to shower. We did not speak Italian and they could not speak English and a miming/pointing contest ensued. There’s a nightly house check to ensure no tail-dropping lizards, mighty big green grasshoppers or high jumping baby frogs accompany you as you sleep. As to temperatures – most days a balmy 28-36 Celsius degrees in the shade (this cold blooded Newfoundland girl tries to grin and bear it). I can’t forget draining half the swimming pool with just a bucket (a siphon hose and gravity stopped working) and having to remove hundreds of tadpoles before refilling the darn thing. Lizards digging holes in the veggie patch and all over the lawn until each looks like a close up of a bathroom sponge…

You ask, ” So what is Italy really like”?  

It is like no place I’ve ever been and not at all what I’d expected. It is so much more of all that is truly and completely wonderful.

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