Once Italian Friends, Always Italian Friends.
Above: An Italian vineyard.
Once upon a time, nine full years ago, I studied in a small town in Germany called Schwabisch Gmund. For two weeks I learned German and befriended international students while living in the dormitory. No one knows why the group formed such a unique, friendly bond during this specific year, as teachers and students who had studied here before claimed there had never been such a tight-knit group of students. When the time came to part, everyone was distraught and tearfully promised to stay in touch, hoping to see each other one day down the road. During this world trip, I was able to reunite with four of these international friends, (one in Hungary and three in Italy) who are still the same sweet people I knew nine years ago. This time we made promises not to wait nine years for the next visit. Thanks to the people listed below for their hospitality!
Above: Venice waterways by night and day.
After a day of walking around the city, Jason and I met up with my friend Matteo, who had come quickly from work, still dressed up nicely. We whistled at him cat-call style and he spotted us sitting on the train station stairs awaiting his arrival. Matteo is from Padua and introduced us to the “Spritz,” a drink that is sipped before an Italian meal as an “Apperitivo.” Matteo and Jason preferred the Campari Spritz, whereas I sipped a Peach Bellini, which is peach juice and champagne.
Above: Matteo, Jason and I after dinner in Venice.
After our drinks, Matteo lead us through the Venetian maze of streets and canals to a waterside table where we tried salad of the sea, breads with olive oil, and pastas. For dessert we tasted the truly Italian limoncello, which Jason vowed to prepare at Christmas for the family. Be prepared- this stuff will knock your socks off and should be tasted AFTER eating! The night came to an end too soon and we hope to host Matteo and his girlfriend in the US next time they make it across the big pond.
Chiara, who has been living in the mountain town of Trento with her parents, cheerfully announced that they had plenty of room and would love to host us for a weekend. Just as with Matteo, she first treated us to an apperitivo where she and I sipped “Radlers,” beer mixed with Sprite, and Jason ordered a Aperol Spritz in the trendy city center surrounded by fountains, a cathedral and old brick buildings that glowed in the orange light.
Above: Chiara treats us to another Italian lunch.
That night, we came home to her mom and dad who made a true Italian dinner, where plates of pasta carbonara were eaten first, then a bread and veggie bake, then the salad and lastly the gelato with fruit. The whole time Chiara’s dad Bruno and mom Paola, who received our award of best looking international parents, poured Italian wines from the Trento region and also from Sicily. Throughout the rest of our stay, this Italian food theme was repeated and admired by us, and I even tried my hand at a tiramisu with Chiara as my guide and translator. See the “Places” tab for a picture of our tiramisu and some authentic Italian recipes!
Above: Our hosts in Trento, the Giampieretti family.
Both nights in the Giampieretti household, the Miss Italia competition provided entertainment and set our geography straight as we saw which girls were from which areas of Italy. And, I guess it was not all just for the education, right Jason and Bruno? Thanks to Chiara for the introduction to Italian family life, the method of eating a whole pizza (which is apparently the ONLY way to eat it), and a bit of local knowledge, from the sandstone pyramids nearby to the grape farming industry!
Above: Jason and his very salty anchovy and olive pizza. He finished it all!
Above: Chiara took us to see the rock formations near Trento.
Benedetta’s last minute hospitality was much appreciated as we found out that no hostels in Milan would rent us a dorm room for the night. Bene grew up in Padua but now lives in Milan’s city center and simply rolled out an extra bed for a sleepover in her apartment.
Above: Milan’s Cathedral and square.
During the next day while Benedetta worked, we walked around Milan, window shopping and drooling over all of the amazing fashion pieces, including handbags, shoes and suits and checking out the cathedral, park and market.
After work, Benedetta took us out to meet friends and for an apperitivo like none other: a huge bowl-like cocktail glass filled with our choice of a mojito or long island ice tea. We sat outside on cushioned furniture and visited the indoor buffet of local cuisine for free, just because we were customers of the bar. It is supposedly customary in the Milan area and in big cities to provide customers with an abundance of food as they drank, but we could not get over the masses of ravioli, pizza, focaccia, artichoke salads, risotto, and pasta dishes that were served to the bar’s patrons, encouraging them to drink more! After the cocktails, we started making funny videos, soon to be posted on the site, of Benedetta’s friends and their cute Italian accents as they told jokes.
Above: Bene and friends in Milan.
We gave our final hugs to Bene at the subway station and headed for the airport, where we spent the night for four hours before boarding the plane to Morocco! Moroccan adventures up next…stay tuned!
Above: One last hug with Benedetta before getting on the bus!