We’re at the tail-end of my second week here, and this week has been very consistent. I’ve fallen into a light routine of wake-up, make breakfast for myself, study italian for a few hours, eat lunch, and then help with some of the chores. Today I was supposed to go for a walk with one of the neighbors but she never showed up. That’s fine with me, it’ll happen eventually. I was able to help my aunt in their little farm, I watered rows and rows of vegetables (vedura) and helped remove rocks from a planter. There were so many ants (formiche) in that planter I thought I was going to be eaten alive by them.
I washed up a bit before dinner and lounged for an hour or so then helped with dinner preparation. We don’t eat until almost 8 or 9 o’clock every night which is much later than I’m used to. But I enjoy it all the same.
I help clean up after dinner and enjoy my twice, sometimes thrice daily espresso.
I never understood the delight (delizia) of espressos until drinking them here. It’s not even a thought to have one or not because you’re never in a state where it’s a bad time for one.
All aside I mentioned yesterday that my italian is starting to string along. I’m able to reciprocate in mini-conversations with my aunt which is great for us bonding. I spend a lot of time helping her so it’s nice to have a little chat.
The wonderful (meraviglioso) thing about learning a new language is it forces you to think differently. Creatively. I can’t form all the sentences in the way I would normally do I have to find some interesting ways to construct them. The best way to describe it is viewing the world as a child again. Of course, a child would have a better grasp of the language them me, but some of the phrases that have spewed from my mouth have resulted in pretty poetic pairings.
In addition to the child-like wonderment of learning a new language, I’ve been trying to force myself to think in italian. It isn’t going so bad but it does take up a lot of energy. I think that’s why I’m so tired at times.
I can expect tomorrow to be pretty much the same, but we shall see. No pictures today, unless you want another version of the sunset (tramonto) I take a picture of every night.
Nothing out of the ordinary I’ve come to known for the time being occurred yesterday. I woke up early, 8:30 am, lounged around for a bit. There’s plenty of sunshine to soak in and fresh air to breathe. In the afternoon I helped with the chores (lavoretti) and helped my aunt bake a cake (which I wrote down the recipe). As I was helping my aunt prepare the cake I watched my uncle go into the barn empty-handed, and come back out with a less than alive chicken, he then proceeded to pluck the feathers in the backyard. All the cats and kittens were crying like crazy at his feet for a piece. He gave them the innards.
We had the cake after dinner when a neighbor came over to chat. It’s an apple-lemon cake and i was delicious. Watching my aunt cook is magical. The way she sweeps over the kitchen, nothing boils over, nothing burns, everything is cooked to perfection. She could lave a pot heating up on the stove and go run an errand in the backyard and come back with time to spare before the flame (fiamma) would need to be lowered. She doesn’t need to exactly measure ingredients. Everything comes together so naturally, and the food is delicious. The neighbor and I made plans to go for a walk tomorrow, which will be really nice because I need the exercise from having carbs three meals a day.
Today was spent similarly. I took my shower in the morning and spent several hours refining my italian. In the afternoon I once again aided with the chores. Their neighbor that lives in the house behind there’s came over and me and her went on a bike ride. We stopped at her house on the way and she gave me a slice of fresh, still warm, oozy-gooey delicious pizza rustica. Mouth-wateringly good.
It was so nice to bike around. The breeze in my hair, getting to look at the mountainside at a slow pace. I also got to practice some of my italian with her. When we got back to the house she made a fishtail braid in my hair and then we all went out to run a couple errands for my aunt. I then spent the next hour outside writing in my notebook and watching the sunset. The scribbles (scarabocchi) in my book you might get to see in the next couple of days if I decide to upload them.
We also looked at the weather forecast (previsione) and this weekend it is supposed to be almost 90 degrees. My cousin informed me on Sunday we are going to the beach. ANDIAMO!
I left for Italy from America on the States’ Memorial Day Holiday, a full week later and I am still here on an Italian holiday. Today was Festa della Repubblica in Italy. We celebrated by pretty much doing the same thing we did yesterday, so as far as recanting a magical experience in the bucolic countryside, well, none of that today. But as long as your concerned, it feels magical to be up here in the mountains, under the Azzurre sky, and enjoying the company of family and new friends.
I helped with chores, sat in the sun, changed my Facebook and phone language to Italian, and overall had another restful day.
One thing I really love about life here is the informality of it. A lot of Italian food is messy, and you know this if you’ve ever sat down to eat a bowl of spaghetti and slurped the strands of sauce covered yumminess so that half of it ended up on the corners of your mouth instead. No one judges you for using your hands to help grasp a piece of meat. It’s relaxing.
Anyway, that is all for tonight, I’m aiming to wake up at a decent time!
I love how in most countries Sunday is the day for ultimate relaxation. Sundays always have a quietness about them, the timid day of the week. And in Italy, a quiet Sunday after a late night Saturday was well received.
Few people who travel get to actually experience it like the locales. Travel guides will always tell you to check out the local spots and visit local places, but that is not the same as returning to a home filled with family. Oftentimes, we romanticized the places we dream about going to. We imagine them as fairytales and as we wander through the storybook streets we miss out on our individual experience.
This trip, thus far, has given me a great insight to the lives my family here live. It’s not always that romanticized version, it’s similar to my life at home, the house chores and errands. And that’s what mostly this Sunday was about.
I woke up late again since my cousin, his friends and I had a late night. We went bowling, which is something a tourist (especially from America) would never do in Italy. As explained to me, Italians do like to bowl, especially in the winter when there’s little else to do. I’ve noticed my family spends a lot of time outdoors, which makes perfect sense since it is ridiculously beautiful. The wonderful (meraviglioso) thing about going bowling is that there is no explanation needed and the universal enjoyment precedes the language barrier. After a game, we went upstairs to the arcade. I played foosball which is something I’ve maybe played twice in my life. My skills were pretty bad but I started to get a better grasp at the end of the second match. We moved on to air hockey and to be honest I am quite dope at it. I can handle an air hockey table like no one’s business.
My cousin and his friends played a few other arcade games, from a sorry attempt of a DDR-like game and also a shooting game. I noticed all the arcade games were in English. Take note Italian companies, create Italian-language arcade games could be an untapped market!!
We left the arcade/bowling alley and headed back to Sora which has quite an abundant nightlife for young people. We grabbed a table in a piazza, ordered beers, and people-watched. There was a lot of people-watching to do because there were, of course, a lot of people. If there’s any generalization I can make accurately about Italians it is that they are born with two things: natural impeccable fashion sense and a built-in GPS for traversing the multitude of narrow windy roads.
Our drive last night was lovely. It was a bit foggy (nebbioso) and the clouds masked the mountains, but you could still see the little villages (borghi) lights. They looked as if they were floating in the night sky. A little piece of heaven.
We got back to the house just after 2 in the morning and even though I tried to wake up early, I couldn’t.
Sunday was spent meandering around the house, helping with laundry and other small chores, and plenty of time playing with the kittens. I also Skyped with my dad to wish him a happy birthday. My aunt and uncle took me to visit some other family, their house was even higher on the mountain. I regret not taking a picture but I’ll probably be back there in the next few weeks anyways.
Two things about this Sunday: No church and we had 3 meals. Now, personally I’m not very religious and consider myself more spiritual, but I know religion is big in the family so I was surprised when we didn’t put on our Sunday best and be on our merry way. And also, I ate 3 meals today, which every Sunday of my life I’ve had 2 because “that’s what we Italians do.” Well, perhaps no. I had breakfast; cereal, yogurt, and of course an espresso. Lunch was fettucini with mushrooms (i fungi) and meat, and for dinner we ordered pizza.
I want to wrap this post up because it’s getting too long, but I did want to make a quick mention of a conversation I had at lunch. Now, at every meal it is insisted that I just keep piling food on my plate, so today when I tried and failed to communicate that I was full and I didn’t want to gain weight, my aunt told me not to worry. She told me no one is going to judge you if you gain weight. That was nice. Hand me over those seconds (and thirds!).
Yesterday (Friday 5/30) I was supposed to start my WWOOF. And you even got a sneak peak of my experience there with my last post, which is now completely irrelevant. And here’s the story (il racconto) of what happened soon after I wrote that and why I’m not at that farm anymore.
After my cousin left my host showed me my room and then we went to eat lunch. We chatted a bit about who we were and she ate quickly and then apologized. She’s an older lady and explained she needed to take a nap because she wasn’t feeling well and that she would be back in two hours. Before going to take a nap (fare a pisolino), she helped me set up my room and gave me the device to connect my laptop to the internet (which I was told only to use briefly).
I checked in with my family and told my mom how nervous I was to be here, because it felt strange. The lady was the only one at the farm. I had expected more people to be there and working, but there was absolutely no one. I couldn’t imagine this elderly lady doing all the work.
I explored the place a little bit, not straying too far in case she woke up early and needed me. I took a few pictures, played with the cats, and sat down in the shade to attempt some creative writing.
Three hours pass by and I felt something really wrong was happening. My host woke up and the first thing she says to me is that she needs to go to the hospital and that I need to leave. So we call my cousin and make plans for him to pick me up at a train station in Rome. I felt so bad for this, but what was I to do? My host explains she has a heart condition and she asked me what I would do if she were to die. It was a bit surreal. She brought me to the train station in town, bought me a ticket, and explained when my train would come and when it would arrive in Rome and where I would meet back up with my cousin. Then she left for the hospital.
A little over two hours I was back in Rome and then we drove the hour back to their house. When I walked in the door, my family could tell I felt bad and they reassured me that I shouldn’t worry about it.
I ate dinner, showered, and checked in again with my family back at home to let them know I was safe and sound.
The host contacted us again to tell us that she was back from the hospital and if I wanted to I could spend a week there. But I’m not so sure, what if she gets sick again?
I woke up pretty late today, and felt bad for it, but sometimes a long sleep is all you ned to feel like yourself again. After my very late breakfast I helped out at my cousins farm with watering vegetables. I collected the eggs from the chickens after lunch, just in time because the clouds rolled in and the sound of tuono heralded a hail storm.
Oh, I forgot to mentioned what we did Thursday night, the night before we trekked to Viterbo and that fiasco. On Thursday night we visited the medieval town of Boville Ernica. We gazed at the overlook as it is one of the highest villages in the area. At first I thought I saw a shooting star, but it’s erratic flight pattern had me guess again. I pipistrelli, bats! Very cool. We walked around a little bit admiring the medieval walls and buildings before returning to Frosinone to drive around the downtown area and sit at a salsa bar and enjoy cocktails and music. I didn’t take any pictures of Boville Ernica because it’s a memory I wanted to preserve in my mind. Taking too many pictures ruins your visual memory, so I have to remember not to be such a shutterbug all the time.
I just arrived on the farm about an hour ago. It’s very beautiful here and the host has been so nice so far.
However, I’m actually really nervous. And excited. But my nerves are absolutely destroying me right now. I’ve never truly been this alone in the world and it’s causing me to wonder if I really want to be alone. I decided to WWOOF to find peace with myself and to find strength. But now that I’m here I think I’ve always had those and I’m wondering why I had to go out and prove it.
Either way, I’m here and I’m going to try and make the best of my time.
You won’t hear from me a lot because the WiFi here isn’t as I thought it’d be. I have to borrow a piece to connect and it works almost like a calling card. Maybe if I have free time I will go into town and get my own.
I don’t want you all to worry, I am somewhere safe and surrounded by beauty. I just wish I could understand why I’m so nervous over this.
Today was quiet. We did a lot in the past two days so waking up a little later and just taking the time to enjoy my surroundings was great. It was raining on/off in the morning, so we were also hesitant to get caught in a storm.
It stared slow with a simple breakfast of cereal, yogurt, and of course, espresso. I Skyped with my sister and my dad in the late morning. They were still groggy from sleep. My dad seemed thrilled to chat with me.
But the rest of the day turned out great.
We drove to a look-up point where I snapped a few shots of the beautiful vista.
After we trekked up the mountains to Fibreno, a town in Italy with a beautiful nature preserve and lake. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking down the path and admiring the intense clear blue of the lake and its inhabitants. We sat down at Chateau Lago for a drink and watched the rest of the afternoon roll by. My cousin described it as, ‘pace in scenario,’ peace in scenery. We sipped our beers slowly and let the windcarry our conversation.
At the Chateau the drink menu had a little reminder from my actual home. Long Island Iced Tea was on the menu. I didn’t order it but it’s funny seeing the name so far from home.
I couldn’t help but think how different the air up in the mountains is here. I think because back at home when we travel upstate to where there are mountains, the air feels heavy in a way. Here the air stays the same no matter what altitude. And speaking of how hilly and narrow the roads are, while we speed down them in Alfa Romeo’s and FIAT’s, you don’t get that light-headed, stomach-in-your-throat feeling you would driving on our mountains. I wonder what is this wonderful sorcery.
Tomorrow my journey north to the medieval town of Viterbo starts. My cousin wants to drive me there but I feel it’s too imposing and insist on taking the train. Let’s see who wins this.
Before I start my recount on my second day in Italy, last night we went out for a pre-dinner cocktail, I forget the exact name of that what they call the cocktail before dinner, but it was really refreshing. Then we had dinner, showered and went to the feast I mentioned in my first post. It reminded me of our feasts back at home, which us Italian-Americans have done a pretty good job at preserving the traditions from here, now that I’ve seen it first-hand. Lots of food, knick-knacks, a band playing… the core elements of a good time.
So this morning we enjoyed croissants and cappuccinos for breakfast and drove to the train station where we hopped on board and rode it to the Spagna station, which us English speakers identify as the Spanish Steps.
We meandered our way through the crowds and cobbled streets to also visit the Trevi Fountain, La Piazza del Polpolo, the building where the politicians meets (forgot the name but I did take a picture of the name on my D-SLR), Altare della Patria, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, a few other piazzas and of course the Colosseum. Last time I didn’t get a chance to go inside the Pantheon or see Altare della Patria, so seeing those for the first time reminded me how magical Rome is. My cousin asked me if I prefer Rome or New York and not even having to think about it my answer is Rome. He thought I was crazy because he loves New York.
We had lunch at McDonald’s which was funny because I don’t even eat McDonald’s at home but wanted to see what it was like here. Pretty similar in standards. The large soda is the size of our American-sized small. I was a bit embarrassed over that. Also, Italians do not seem to put ketchup on their french fries (patatine fritte).
I can’t figure out how Italians walk. I tried my hardest to to walk as slow as they do, but still was walking ahead of our little group. But then at times they would end up halfway down the block from me moving still at their glacial pace. I do not know how that happens.
We hopped on the train during rush hour so it was crowded. The Italian trains tell you what side the door is opening prior to arriving, so you can already situate yourself to that side. I napped in the car on the drive back.
When we got back to the house we played with the kittens (one of them pictured below). Cats always make me smile. So let’s see what tonight and tomorrow brings.
So I’ve just woken up from a nap and feel a bit refreshed and able to think a tad more straight. A tad.
My journey started yesterday when I left for the airport in New York- Monday at noon. My plane took off almost an hour late due to a mechanical problem. I was fortunate to snag a seat in business class which was very comfy for traveling. I wish I slept more on the plane but my excitement had a better grasp of my brain then my practicality did. I watched The Wolverine and The Amazing Spider-Man. I was served dinner and breakfast as well, but I probably only got three hours tops of sleep. Silly girl.
I arrived in Rome about 8:30 in the morning on Tuesday. Customs went smoothly and I didn’t have to wait long for my checked luggage. Unfortunately my phone isn’t working right even though I opted for an international plan and I couldn’t call my cousin to let him know where I was. He eventually found me and we trekked our way to Castelliri.
I got situated in and after a while we had a filling lunch and enjoyed some sunshine. I had two espressos. We then went for a drive all around Castelliri, Isola di Liri, Carnello, Sora and the surrounding area. I saw the famous waterfall in Isola del Liri, known for being the only centered waterfall in the world. Then we ventured on to find a place that was on my must-see list. It was really important for me visit the house where my dad was born and lived. It is abandoned but the moment for me was intense. I couldn’t help but think that this is where it started for me. This is a hallowed ground in my history.
After, we stopped in Sora which is the larger city in the area and enjoyed a beer in the town square. There weren’t many people around but they were setting up for a feast of their Padronale for later in the day. Their was something so heavenly about the juxtaposition of palm trees bristling in the wind with an old church in the back drop. In another life I could have been here on a daily basis. Sipping cappuccinos and truly being apart of la dolce vita.
We then headed back to the house where I soon took a little nap because my lack of sleep began to grind me down. Tomorrow I think we’re going to Rome for a bit. On Friday I leave for Viterbo and start my three-week WWOOF program.
My italian is a little bit rusty, I haven’t taken a class in it in almost five years and I don’t have much opportunity to speak it at home (despite it being my father’s first tongue, but it’s hard to understand him at times). My cousin and I had a whole conversation using Google translate, it’s pretty miraculous how much that little piece of technology can help people get by.
I still really need to figure out my phone business, I don’t feel safe not having the capability to make a phone call. I can’t even make a phone call when I have WiFi. At least I can go on Facebook, check email, and straighten out some plans.
As I sat in the terminal yesterday awaiting departure, I had a silly thought that maybe after my stay in Viterbo I could travel down the coast and visit L’Isola di Ponza, where my mother’s family is. My father was uneasy about this idea because it is a bit difficult to travel to, but I’ll start looking deeper into. Otherwise I may want to stay a few days in Roma and focus on writing and sightseeing and just blending in with my surroundings. It should be an exciting time to be in Rome with the World Cup starting in a few weeks.
And so concludes my first day in Italy, or at least for now. I’ve taken a couple of pictures of my big D-SLR and only two on the camera in my phone. I don’t feel like uploading my D-LR pictures yet, so for now enjoy the two shots I took in transit somewhere in the Sora region.
If you’re still reading, congrats! Now I’m going to amble on about the little things that interest me. Growing up in an Italian-American household, I’ve always been surrounded by a rich culture. My family is big on speaking, eating, and keeping traditions alive from when they lived here. And now a part of me that has made me unique my entire life has found its connection. I always wondered where my ability to drive fast but not rush anything different from most of my fellow Americans. Driving down l’autostrada you realize everyone is zipping in and out of lanes, texting and speaking on their phone with fervent hand gestures. A lot of rules that are strict in America aren’t as tight here. Heck, I saw a passenger holding a baby in their lap. That would definitely warrant public outcry for negligence and such back in the states. But here it seems that people have a respect for each other that is just dying elsewhere. We’re all distracted in our lives, but Italians watch out for each other, almost bearing the sentiment that ‘we may not do everything perfect, but we know what we do effects others.’ I suppose I see that in my dad everyday, he always says ‘it’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.’
I am absolutely loving it here in Italy. It is a dream, tranquil and bustling in its own small way. I cannot wait to share with you the rest of my adventure!
So much has changed for me in the past few months, I can barely decide where to begin. Actually, how about I catch you up with the present. On Monday, Memorial Day, I am leaving for a month long trip to Italy. I’ve joined the WWOOF program and cannot wait to get on the farm with my sleeves rolled up. I am also spending a few days with my family over there, I am excited to see them.
I finished my proofreading position in early May. At first I was scared because I didn’t know what I was going to do after that, but then I decided to follow my heart. And my heart was grasping for Italy.
When I went to Italy five years ago for the first time, my soul was awakened. I see Italy as hallowed ground for me. All my past is rooted in there. It was important for me to go and to walk where my ancestors have. It was very special to me.
Now upon my return I am looking to establish a connection with the earth, the very ground that has sustained this life. My journey feels some parts spiritual as it does fulfilling my wanderlust bug.
I will be learning all about biodynamic farming and reaffirming my belief that our food needs to be organic, pure. My health depends on this as much my mind. I’m excited for the manual labor.
I will have internet connection in Italy so I will be updating. For the next month this will be my travel blog. Stay tuned!