15 March 2012

Myth vs. Truth (or, Your Guide Book/Friends/Family May Have Lied a Little)

-Italians don’t drink to get drunk.
Spend time in any small town and you will see that they do, tho usually not as belligerently as people where you’re from.

-The “primo piatto” of pasta is small, more like a taste of pasta to get your stomach ready for what else is coming.
Maybe in larger cities, but in many small to medium towns, the first plate is a meal in itself yet is still followed by a secondo. It is also the primary reason I blame for gaining 5 kilos in 7 months.

-Italians are such warm, open people.
Ok.  This one’s kinda true.  So many Italians I’ve met will tell you the most personal (often cringe-worthy) facts about themselves.  Unfortunately, they will also ask you the most personal, cringe-inducing questions.  I still haven’t figured out how to respond when this happens.

-Only tourists drink cappuccino after noon.
Not true.  Around here, some locals  do, but they call it cappuccio.  And when they order it, they do so with attitude: “Un cappuccio, per favore, eh?”  In Italian, with an “eh?” at the end. Makes all the difference.

-Your Italian grandmother is the only one who knows how to make sauce correctly
EVERYONE’s grandmother is the only one who knows how to make sauce correctly. Just ask them.

12 March 2012

Holy Water

We were sitting in the pub in Acquasanta having a half-assed half-Italian-half-English conversation with one of the girls who works there when a man with a bald head and a long white beard shuffled in wearing jeans, a sweater and sandals without socks.

I thought I’d seen him around town during Christmas-time wearing a monk’s tunic and maybe I had.  He was in the pub now to ask if he could bless the place.  Turns out, he’s a hermit, maybe a Franciscan friar, who lives in a house up in the surrounding hills. Going around blessing businesses and homes is something  he does before Easter.

The owner obliged. She and the girl behind the bar moved over to him, explaining as he looked over at us not moving from our barstools that we were Americans. That seemed to be all the explanation needed. They bowed their heads and he began the prayer. We heathens, I mean Americans, stayed where we were.

Near the end of his spiel, he took a little silver wand-type thing, which added quite a bit to his modern wizardly appearance and shook holy water about the girls, the restaurant and even us Heath-americans as he stated, “In nome del padre, e del figlio e dello…

I watched as he aimed the shaker in our vicinity and with the words “Spirito Santogot a direct hit of holy water in my left eye. Alessandra’s shoulders shook as she peered up from her bowed head and stifled laughter, droplets hitting the top her head.

An hour later, standing outside the bar, a burning ember from a cigarette landed in the exact same eye. Seems someone somewhere in the spirit world took exception to my newly blessed eyeball. That eye hurt for hours.

Two days later, our doorbell buzzed, then our neighbors’. V opened the door to the vestibule the apartment doors share and found the same hermit, asking if he could bless our houses for pasqua.

Since both doors were open, V tried to suggest that the man stand in the vestibule and bless us all at once. The neighbors giggled.

“No, no. It is for each house, for each family,” they explained.

“No due per uno, insieme?”  I ventured, getting only more giggles from next door and a strange look from the hermit in return.

We let him inside.

Just within the doorway, he handed me a card featuring Jesus and some apostles and began the prayer, container of holy water in his hand.

Not taking any chances this time, I bowed my head. 

07 March 2012

5 Tips for Running in an Italian Hill Town

1. Ignore the Stares.  You will be stared at.  By everyone who passes you.  While many of them are staring because they’ve never seen anything quite so crazy as your lycra-clad ass chugging up the hills, most of them are just looking to see if they know you.

2. Resist the Urge to Run Against Traffic.  This is ok on the straights, but around the multitude of curves, you risk scaring the oncoming driver so badly that he has a heart attack behind the wheel and kills you both.

3. Keep the Music Low. If you must run with an ipod, keep the volume down so you can hear the cars, trucks and buses that will zoom around the curves next to you. It’s much nicer to hear their approach than be startled into their path as they’re within a hair’s breadth of your mid-striding ankle.

4. Wear Bright Colors. This not only helps the drivers to see you, but also distinguishes you from cinghiale and other wild animals that hunters may be after.

5. Smile at the Locals. It unnerves them and their startled visages will provide amusement to power you up the hill past their olive trees/orange trees/pumpkin patches/chickens.