Italy, The Beginning

Sooner or later I’m going to have to talk about my trip to Italy. I have been avoiding it due to the sheer enormity of the experience. How do you reduce two weeks of travel into 700-1,000 words? How do you transcribe what it was like to play soccer with middle-school children in the courtyard of a church that is over a thousand years old? How can I describe what it is like to hike down steps for over an hour to get to a secluded beach? I fear that my skills as a writer are at their most vulnerable in this situation. I can babble about literary questions, postulate over theories of political strife and wax poetic about anything related to geology, but this is on a more personal level. This is something that I experienced and I hold it to my readers to give them the essence of those experiences.

So, I’ll take baby steps. Did my trip to Italy change my life? Well, everything influences and changes who we are on an emotional level. So in that regard, yes, I’m sure that my trip to Italy changed my life. Did this trip change my life on an influential level? No, it did not. I enjoyed it very much and I will certainly repeat the trip, but it did not change who I am as a person or a cook. So many people told me that as a foodie (their words, not mine) I would never recover from the shock of Italian cooking. I have to say, I was only shocked by the cooking a few times. Granted, those times were magnificent and worth repeating and raving about, which I will do later, but they were few and largely far in between.

The anchovies, though, were magnificent. I bought them whenever I could. They were most always cooked in citrus and served simply so. I adore anchovies and ate them everywhere. My wife’s 30th birthday was also celebrated while we were there, which is an event I will never, ever forget. It deserves its own post so I won’t elaborate, but trust me; it was the experience of a lifetime.

One thing that I will highly recommend is the use of Ambien on long flights. I was dubious at first, yet seasoned travelers informed us that it is the best way to travel! Simply take an Ambien at the bedtime of your destination, sleep like a baby during the flight, and wake refreshed, coherent and ready to begin your adventure.  Right?

Here I must backtrack. The so called genius of travel giving us advice is a globe travelling fool. China today, South Korea yesterday, Amsterdam and then Atlanta? Give me a break. For me, my general world consists of Pembroke, Eggleston, Newport, Radford, Blacksburg and ….well, that’s it. I don’t need Ambien to go from Eggleston to Radford, even though it would be more pleasant. Nor do I need a driver to pick me up in Radford to go to class, even though it may be more convenient. So, I boarded my plane in Charlotte, took two (One more could never hurt, right?) Ambien and a double scotch and water (when in Rome) and proceeded to take the funkiest flight I have ever taken.

For starters, my wife and I are not snugglers. Let me rephrase: She is, I am not. I am claustrophobic to the ninth degree and should probably be medicated, hence the Ambien .  On this flight, I snuggled. For twelve straight hours. We experienced turbulence at some point on the flight, to the point that people were plastered against the ceiling of the plane. We didn’t care, not one bit. We did wonder briefly why people were on the ceiling but we had our seatbelts on, thank you very much.

Nothing is worse than not sleeping while tripping on Ambien and scotch. I watched the same movie four times and didn’t remember any of it. Lucky for us, we had the presence of mind to hire a driver to pick us up in Naples and deliver us to our apartment in Sorrento. God could have maybe helped us otherwise, but I highly doubt it. We were dumped on the cobblestone streets of this beautiful old world village after thirty hours of travel and left to our own ability to find our apartment. We did find it. Eventually. Turns out it was right in front of us. Huh. Imagine that. It was magnificent. We fell into bed and slept for nearly thirty hours. Such is travel.

We awoke to the sound of soccer and loud Italian cheering. Evidently, our street was the site for locals to watch soccer and cheer wildly all day, and all night, for their favorite, or most hated, team. We poured ourselves onto the street our first true morning there into the midst of magnificent dissaray. My wife, always the leader, looked slowly around. She sighed and put on her sun hat. Then fumbled through her purse for her sunglasses, which she slid onto her face almost ceremoniously. She then held out her hand. I then realized that this was my time, my time as a man, to shine. To namely, find breakfast. And I did. I found her the most magnificent breakfast of all, which is common all over Italy. Proscuitto, with cheese and melon. A little olive oil and house Vino. I was a hero. A God, even.  I decided I liked Italy.





3 comments on “Italy, The Beginning

  1. Jeremy says:

    Loved Italy – we went a few years ago and traveled from Venice down to Rome. Amazing country, and I can’t wait to go back.

    And – shocking, I know – I haven’t found a Proscuitto anywhere close to what we had in Italy. How is that possible?! Ah, Italy – the risotto, the pesto, the wine, espressos, the lasagna in Sienna … I’m hungry.

  2. ramblinron says:

    I think, Jeremy, and I may be wrong, that in the u.s. we are not allowed to age Proscuitto long enough or in the proper conditions to develop the true Italian product. Out of frustration, your favorite restaurant has started curing it themselves.

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