Back from Italy, First Thoughts (and Pictures)

Oh yes I’m back in Madrid and it’s good to be back, but still…I kind of miss Italy.

You see, the past 9 days I’ve been meandering through Tuscany and Central Italy and it was just awesome. Here in Spain, the holy week known as Semana Santa is one full week of no school, no work, and no problems. Almost everyone has plans or somewhere to visit: those religiously inclined will often depart for Sevilla, Spain or Rome, Italy for the holy processions and events, while those who desperately need sunshine will often jet off to the Canary Islands for warm rays. Those who seek adventure, who seek a new experience, simply roll the dice and pick a new destination. Last year I teamed up with a good friend as we explored Istanbul, Turkey and this year was only slightly different. After scanning all travel deals I opted for a flight from Madrid to Bologna, Italy, where I then took a succession of trains and buses – plotting my course through Tuscany to Siena, finally boarding a bus in route to a small town east of Perugia called Caccamo. Yes you’re not alone. No one has heard of Caccamo. Not even the bus driver.

From there a good friend picked me up and took me to his sprawling home in the outskirts of San Severino Marche, a beautiful and historic little italian town you’ve never been to (but you’ll hear about in forthcoming articles).

So while I unpack and unload, rethink and review, here’s a quick list I compiled based on scribbled notes, iphone reminders, crumpled maps, and snapshots.

Things I saw (just a few of them):

The David by Michelangelo (I know I know you’re not supposed to take pictures)

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Grieve in Chianti, Italy

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Tuscany, Italy (on bike)
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Florence, Italy

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Siena, Italy (Argentinean friend and yours truly)

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San Gimignano

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San Severino Marche

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Food I Ate:

Best Pizza. Ever. Pizza Calabrese.

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Best Pasta. Ever. Pasta alla Puttanesca. 

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Meatballs cooked with a broth and peas. Good? Hmmm not so much.

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Wine I Drank:

Chianti Classico, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Brunello di Montalcino (a whole lot of really expensive “tastes”)

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Things I Heard:

“Oh my god, like thanks for dressing up for this flight. You’re wearing what I go to sleep in. Eeeeeeeew”.  – American girl in airport line, making fun of another girl (likely American) wearing sweatpants and hooded sweatshirt

“Food is…is…bery bery important!” It matters. Take your time. Enjoy your food.” – Drunk Argentinian

“You YOU must go to carnival in Brazil. Man it will change your life and teach you how to live. You’ll wake up the first day and feel like you are dead. Bery dead. But you can not rest. You can not go for, like a fuckin’ coffee or something like this. NO you must get up and get back out there. Take a shot of some good Cachaça. Drink a beer quick and go find the party. You do this each day and it…it…is amazing.” – Same Drunk Argentinian (before he stood up, kissed everyone in sight and wished them the best, then regressed to his bedroom for what appeared to be a bit of much needed rest).

“It’ll fit. It’ll fit!!!” – Angry traveler forced to mash all belongings so that his bag “fits” into the wire frame used to check the carry on bag size before boarding the plane.

People I Met:

An Argentinean (not the drunk one), he served as travel partner for 3 days and hopefully we will keep in touch.

Nicest couple ever. They own a great little hostel in Florence. Will be sure to include them in future article.

An American girl from Minnesota who “forgot her wallet” at a fancy dinner 3 friends and I had invited her too. She noticed as the bill arrived. Then paid me back the next day in coins. Grazie mille!

An old italian man who owned a winery up on top of a giant hill. I rode my bike up to the front door in hopes of tasting wine. He told me they were closed for winter and opened in two weeks. Then he pointed at different hills and views, spoke for 15 minutes, and finally waved goodbye blowing kisses as if I was an old friend (or as if I understood Italian).

A quite unpleasant hotel manager in Bologna (presumably French). When I asked for dining recommendations he told me there was a pizza place across the street and gave a back handed wave as if he was being bothered by a rather persistent fly. ¡Que te den!

Things I Learned:

Flying Ryanair is truly awful. You’ll feel like you’re cattle or traveling in steerage, you’ll hate it, oh you’ll hate it! You’ll stand in line for an hour just because everyone else is doing it, you’ll stuff things in your pockets, down in your pants, and worse (all in the hopes your measly 1 carry on bag fits). At the end of it all you’ll hate the flight but you will, undoubtedly arrive on time, sprint of the plane, and then attempt to forever forget that terrible event as you enjoy your destination. And the next time you fly? You’ll buy with Ryanair 1.) Because it’s cheap 2.) They landed on time.

People in Italy speak remarkably good english (or just much better than those in Spain). And the tourism/customer service industry is, well, seemingly slightly more concerned with your experience.

When you tell people in Italy you’re from Seattle, they assume you know Amanda Knox. And wether or not she’s guilty.

Wine tasting while having rented a bike can be great fun. Reaching a warm and giggly, border-line drunk, while riding a bike down steep cobblestone-streets can become hazardous to your health.

All that you hear about italian food being amazing, delicious, and out-of-this-world is true. It’s fresh, incredibly simple, and different than anything you’ve ordered in the States. For example, I asked if meatballs and pasta are ever served together on the same plate and was told, defiantly, “NO”! So now you know. But if you live in Spain, the food is similar in many ways.

Italy is incredibly beautiful and the people are warm, charming, and kind.

Traveling is fun and one of the best ways you can possibly spend you’re time (but I already knew this).

#keeptraveling

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