Much like my retrospective take on Savannah, I’ve decided to share my perception of Italy thus far. We’ve been here long enough now to feel I have a decent grasp of my current surroundings and the culture. Since I don’t feel like writing an epic novel today; I’m going to break this post up into categories. Over a few posts, I plan on giving you all my take on the people, culture, geography, travel, wine, etc, etc. But lets begin at the beginning. What is the one bonding thing all people have in common? Food, of course! And one of my favorite past-times too (eating that is, right John??).
A typical Italian anti-pasta platter. Fresh asiago from the market, cured meats, fresh tomatoes, a baguette, and bread sticks.
When people think of Italy, pizza and spaghetti is what usually comes to mind. You ever hear the saying “stereotypes are there for a reason?” Case in point, the Italians sure do love their pizza and pasta! If you broke it down, I would say a good 80-90% of restaurants are Italian cuisine…. which brings me to my first subcategory:
You have one of three choices in Italy: Italian, Italian, or the occasional sub-par novelty foreign food (i.e. Chinese, Mexican). Oh yeah, and a gelataria around every corner for you ice-cream connoisseurs. You can eat Italian at a high end Ristorante, or lower cost Pizzerias, Osterias or Cucinas. I would give you a more detailed explanation of each but I’m not quite an expert…yet!
Besides the occasional Burger King or McDonalds, fast food does not exist here. Grabbing a meal on the go on a road trip usually constitutes a stop at the Autogrill which gives you a choice of you guessed it… Italian food.
Most restaurants are only open here in the evening as well. Italians don’t eat dinner until late so if you show up at a restaurant when they open at 6, they’ll look at you funny and most likely, you’ll be the only one there.
I’m still getting to know the local restaurants better. My apologies to Laura, she was our “learning-curve” guest and had to bear with us for over an hour to find a place that served lunch on her last day here. We ended up at this little “hole in the wall.” No really, it’s a quaint little hotel/restaurant that has awesome Italian food… it had better for the price!
The grocery stores here are small and expensive. They usually consist of 6 isles, a deli and a bakery. It’s expensive too. I like to go there for novelty meats, cheeses, biscotti’s, etc. that I can’t get at the commissary. Besides that, I do most of my shopping on base. Why spend € 4 for milk when I can spend $1.50 on base?
I LOVE the local traveling market. Where we live in Sacile, has one of the biggest around. I’ll stroll the kids down there on Thursday mornings and pick up some fresh asiago (literally the best cheese I’ve ever had), tomatoes, flowers, or whatever floats my boat. I try to limit myself to € 20 a trip but will quickly spend that in 30 minutes.
The market also have some awesome stands that sell very reasonably priced (and fashionable) clothes but I’ll save that for another post.
Living here inspires you to “live off the land.” Most everyone has either grapes, fruit trees, or a vegetable garden in their yard. Unfortunately, we got the short end of the stick and got one messy fig tree and some fruit trees with the fruit so high you’d need a ladder to pick them. Oh well. Our neighbors have grapes growing right on the other side of the fence (hence the blurry green chain link in the picture). I am SO tempted to reach through the fence and pick some. Wine grapes are almost (almost) as good fresh as they are fermented. Again, I’ll save that for another post. Wine, yum!
I bought some fruit bushes and herb plants. Fortunately my basil, hot peppers, mint and oregano have been spared from my black thumb. The parsley, thyme, and most of the lavender did not fare as well. I’d like to think next summer I’ll get a vegetable garden going but between Trav’s constantly-extending, impending deployment (for which I’ll probably be stateside for most of it)and my black thumb I’m thinking that’s a pipe dream!
Stay Tuned for Part Due: The People & Culture. And boy, do I have some things to say about that.