Saturday, 26 October 2013

What happened

Well, it's been an eternity since my last Fair Verona post. To provide a somewhat quick and easy summary, I left Verona in May after a whirlwind tour of the country with my mom. The two of us travelled all over the country, making the most of my dire situation. We had a blast, and as she went home to Canada, I carried on to London to start another adventure. 

It's been a few month since my arrival and grounding in London. And there's lots to be said... 


Friday, 8 March 2013

Comedians, Nudity and Being Tranquilo

Hi Folks!

I trust this post finds everyone well! No excuses for my lack of updates over the past couple weeks, but I will offer a bit of explanation. It's a combo of laziness and much needed settling-in-ness that required a lot of focus on being tranquilo and considerate of my digesting brain that naturally underwent some slight gastritis. I’m happy to report I’m very well, thanks in a big way to many conversations I've had with some of you. I'm thrilled to be able to give you an update now, hopefully in both an entertaining and informative way!  

The following highlights two key events that actually took place on the same day a few weeks ago that I think are worth sharing. They are:
  1. Politics     
  2. Getting Naked 

I hope you enjoy!

One nondescript Saturday morning we swung by a friend’s house. Nursing a painful hangover, the result of mixing red wine with everything, I didn’t ask many questions about this excursion and was just happy to be getting some fresh air (yeah, it was that bad). We picked up two cards from Davide’s buddy, and continued home to curl up with movies and, gross enough, chips, gnocchi and vegetable fingers in bed! Terrible or spoiled? Both! Later that night, Davide told me the cards he picked up were full-day all-access passes to Aquardens, in Valpolicella, a twenty minute drive from Verona, and that's where we'd be heading the following day. Really good job, boyfriend!

The next day was actually Feb-23; a monumental day in Italy and not just because I was going to a full day relaxation session! Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Italy just went through major campaigning and elections for a new Prime Minister and governing body. Feb-23 was Election Day. Italians casted their votes and made their political voices heard! Very well rested, we headed to the voting station at the local library, steps from our front door at the crack of 11am the next day. I was shocked to see all the parties mapped out on a huge poster in front of the voting booths because it displayed over 20 groups! They literally ranged from Communist to Facist. These terms I’ve only ever seen in a History book (Wikipedia) were right there, posted on the wall, whispering the terrifying reality that it is possible for this beautiful country to flip back in time to extremes I can’t even imagine! I won’t pretend to know the current mandate of either of these particular groups, and I say this solely to point out that I hope the doctrine we are used to associating with them is strongly modified today (at the least!) but I will say, seeing Swastikas spray painted on storefronts owned by immigrants, particularly Africans, is not hugely uncommon here. Terrifying. To me it further emphasized the importance of mass participation and engagement in politics. Of course we all feel this in Canada, but I can’t say I’ve ever felt that if I wasn’t able to vote at home I might leave room for an extreme alternative to step in and radically overhaul our basic human rights.

A quick review of the political alphabet before submitting votes.
The outcome of the vote on Feb-23 wasn’t bad, but could have been much better. I’d like to take a couple paragraphs here to briefly describe Italian political structure, as most people I talk to back home are slightly confused as to what happened and what it means. Here are some very important and basic things you should know:

1.    The person you vote for is not necessarily the person who will represent the party in office. It’s a coalition-based government. E.g. Beppe Grillo is the face of a coalition called the Five Star Movement. He is a comedian and is not actually running for office. His personal mandate is simply to open the eyes of citizens, communicate party lines clearly and implore Italians to keep the Berlusconi (and the Right) coalition from winning the majority of seats. He informally partnered with other Center-Left groups in these elections. So although you vote for one group, your vote is counted as a vote for the coalition that party is involved with.
2.   There is a president in place for a 7-year term who is appointed after a vote by government officials, which includes reps from all parties. Obviously those with the most seats in government typically dictate who the President is.
3.   There is a parliament (with two entities; Chamber of Deputies and The Senate). The former is voted on by citizens who are 18+, while the latter is voted on only by those who are 25+. These entities are what Italians voted for on Feb-23. After the votes were in, 315 Senators and 630 Deputies were appointed accordingly. Something everyone finds interesting is there are a number of Senators FOR LIFE, appointed based on “honour” they brought to the nation. Think of all the scandals that have riddled this nation; it's no secret here that there are participants who were guilty of engaging in national scandals who are still in office today. This is a major point of contention with Italians and the anti-corruption mandate from the 5-Star Movement would undoubtedly want to see this overturned.
4.   There is also a prime minister with a cabinet, appointed by the Pres. and voted on by Parliament. Typically, the appointee will be a rep from the majority coalition who won the election because that is who is represented the most, similar to point 2.

After the votes were tabulated, parliament is now essentially “hung”. The Centre-Left barely received the majority of votes ahead of Berlusconi’s coalition in the Chamber of Deputies, and in the Senate, no majority won outright, resulting in a hung parliament, meaning political decisions will be very difficult if not impossible to make. Fail!

Interesting article I struggled through outlining the five major indictments Burlesconi is currently being tried for. Yes, this is one of the players still very much in the running to lead Italy. (No. 2 is everyone's favourite: underage prostitution.)
Currently Italy is sitting without a solid governing body or Pope, making for heated, unstable times, and always an interesting topic for conversation. 

So with the vote in, we headed home for a huge 2 hour Sunday lunch, per usual, and then jumped back in the car to go relax. What awaited us was beyond anything I could have anticipated. Aquardens is like going to an all inclusive, except there’s no buffet, and instead of people getting trashed at the swim up bar, most are actually RELAXING! Talk about culture shock! 

With our all-access passes, we jumped into our suits and hit the huge indoor-outdoor pool. Families with small children had claimed and re-orged all the chaise lounges, just like in Dominican, Mexico, Cuba, etc. The pool was huge, and separating it from other sections was a gigantic synthetic mountain structure with a separate hot tub inside. This chamber was massive and almost pitch black. We didn’t find it until late into our visit, but when we did we took the opportunity to do some acqua therapy where individually we laid on our backs, and let the other person gently push and pull us around the pool as we floated on the surface. The music, that told an ambient looping emotional story full of crescendos  synced to the powerful jets and waterfalls, led us into an introspective, detached, pensive state. Coming out of our tours around the pool, we were both almost brought to tears. With the excitement of living together, and the process of settling into routine, overcoming language barriers, finding a new comfort, adapting to new foods, and all the while trying to just be us, this moment provided a much needed release.  

After floating in lagoons and salt water hot tubs, we ventured upstairs to a secluded section of the spa. Upon entering, one of the girls took us on a tour, explaining the ins and outs of every room, including how to correctly use the facilities, obey the rules and get the most out of our experience. We walked through two floors of relaxation areas, saunas and series upon series of multi-person showers, each one with a theme option to accompany the water like tropical storm or breeze (so magical!). There were waterbeds that lit up in different colours during your lie, circular pockets in the walls forming nooks to curl up in, rock beds that heated and contoured to your body; but the main draw, the real attraction, was without doubt the saunas.

Either wood or synthetic interior, every 15 feet there was a beautiful, dark, peaceful sauna, and to enjoy each experience to its fullest, we were instructed to leave our bathing suits, and in most cases towels, at the door, enjoy the chamber for 15-20 minutes at a time, followed by a shower, repeat. After our guide left, we searched one another’s face to gauge sentiments. “Do you feel comfortable doing this?” I asked. “Yup” he said nodding his head, but biting his lip. “Do you?” he asked back. “I want to be”, was all I could honestly reply. So as not to lose momentum with my partner in crime, I held strong to Davide’s eye contact, and together we stripped down.

Each shower and partnering sauna was more than I anticipated. We hopped from room to room, level to level, breaking for naps on waterbeds and listening to music while our hands easily intertwined and suspended between the beds. As the bed surface heated and our minds wandered into that special mid-synapses state between thought and dream, we were both overcome with emotion (I know, again!) as the gravity of who we are as a couple, how we got here, and how terrifying it is, in it’s barest, most naked, and raw form, washed over us. Simultaneously, we were on the brink of tears, smiling through our terror and happiness.

That day we swam with like-minded Italians, tourists, teenagers, families, lovers and loners. From our exclusive upstairs area, we just were. We had floated down the lazy river, grottos and hot tub caves and there was nothing left to do but do nothing. I saw a father lounging poolside while his daughter jumped around him, told stories, lay by his side and giggled her way on top of him, throwing her arms around his neck and falling asleep. To my amazement, this struck me as so foreign. I’ve cottaged for a solid 26 years in one of the most beautiful Ontario towns, I’ve vacationed in stunning ocean-side resorts, I’ve used insurance returns to buy tickets to Mexico just to be a on a beach. I would easily consider myself an expert in relaxation. Yet I have seldom if ever seen so many people actually doing nothing. Everyone kicked it like nobody’s business, and I mention this only to mark it as perhaps some food for thought the next time you feel guilty for taking time to do nothing, no matter what you do for a living or how you define yourself. There is no shame in enjoying nothing with the loved ones, for there is no question in my mind it’s these nothing moments that are truly everything.

Ready to float.

We made great use of the passes, leaving well past 9pm after close to 6 hours of nothing everything-ness.

What would a post be without some foodporn! Obviously this was our first stop after a beautiful day of detoxing. Best Kebab in Verona, and yes, those are french fries.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Food-Control, Nick Cage, War and the Real Famiglia

Ciao Tutti!

Picking up from my last post, I'll have to back track here a bit and start with the day of our Lord. Sunday is a day of leisure in most cultures, and Italia is not to be excluded. Unsure of what the day had in store, we decided to go for Italian breakfast (colazione) instead of making it at home. A real treat, and a welcomed one as I had been making "Canadian breakfast" for a few days straight (over-easy eggs, salad, toast -- "salad for breakfast?! oh dio!"). Typical Italian breakfast on the other hand is much less exciting on the surface, but once experienced, can easily be filed under necessary, delicious and to-the-point. It entails the following:

  1. Italian Caffe: this is a short cup of coffee (espresso), that I find 
  2. very strong to the point that I can barely finish one teeny tiny cup without feeling my heart race. THIS is what you want in a coffee. you don't have to over do it with a bath-tub size jug. This will stuff will get you Cozmo Cramer-ing in a way that lasts all the live-long day.
  3. Brioche: a pastry of some sort. Think croissant or cookie or, well just think delicious dough-based fairy kiss that comes in all shapes, colours, sizes and flavours usually involving jelly or chocolate. 

you take the pastry - you dunk the pastry - you eat the pastry
(if you know Sandlot, please read like the large ginge who explains to Smalls what a Smore is)

Here we are eating colazione. 

After the brilliant coffee in-take and brioche, we both felt ready to take the day on, starting with a farmers’ market not far from home. I picked up some gems including a pear mustard and asparagus cream sauce. I realized while ordering the goods that there are major differences between “sauce”, “salsa” and “mustard”, so while I may recognize some of the words I’m seeing, the meanings are quite different across languages. Specifically, “sauce” does not exist, from what I can tell; “salsa” is the replacement. Mustard does not refer to the typical yellow stuff we’re accustomed to, literally made from mustard seeds. Instead, it refers to what we would call a jam or pepper, but not like the typical strawberry jam or jelly consumed over breakfast either. The pear mustard I bought came with a warning of medium-piquante. In fact, I chose it because the apple mustard I had originally reached for came with a very strong warning from the vendor who went so far as to say I shouldn’t buy it! Heeding, I opted for the pear, trying to add together how this jelly could possibly be spicy. Once home, I realized the spiciness comes from a horseradish flavor that is both delightful and painful in consumption, similar to wasabi. We have yet to give the asparagus cream a try, but I can’t wait to see what it brings out.

I’m finding my entire experience here is truly centered around food. When Davide would say he loves going out for dinner, talking, eating, drinking together, I always thought it was sweet and genuine, but also kind of a given; who doesn’t like doing that? Now that I’m living this culture, I’m realizing this isn't just a fun thing to do, or an indulgence, the way a night out might be in North America. Instead, eating together, drinking together, talking, letting your emotions dictate what you do and how you do it and who with, along with the senses you ignite during – really living the experience – is what life is about here. We finish eating, do the dishes, take a nap and prep for the next meal by getting groceries (the patio table, which acts as the second fridge in the winter, is always over flowing with veg), heating up the oven (takes 20 minutes to get to 250) chopping veggies, organizing spices, etc. I’ve started a new rule where I don’t stuff myself to the point of pain. I’ve adapted a perspective based on guidance from the family who have looked at me confused on numerous occasions as I reel in the pain of being stuffed beyond capacity. They would tell me, “don’t eat so much if you don’t want to! Only eat what you want.” This advice was laughable considering the amount of food that was put on my plate at the beginning of the meal (that’s right, straight from the stove onto your plate, which means giant portions topped with fromaggio, always). I tell them, if it’s on my plate, I will eat it. Now, they serve me tiny portions at the beginning of the meal, or if the portion is “Italian size", they take it away halfway through consumption. This teamwork-controlled approach is perfect. I embrace it with open stomach.

On Sunday night, Davide took me to a beautiful underground restaurant called La Cantina De L’Arena. It is literally right beside the Arena in la citta centro of Verona. Google Verona and any photo you see will certainly be of the Arena. The city centre stands out from the rest of Italian centros because of this gargantuan stunning ancient building that hosts the most incredible operas likely in the world. Right across the square from its main entrance is La Cantina, found under the streets of Verona. It's a huge cave-like restaurant that, on Sunday nights, features live music and “Happy Hour”, pronounced “Appy Ow-Errr”. For 30 Euro you receive entrance for two people, one bottle of wine and antipasti, primo e secondi. Obviously we splurged and found ourselves two tables from the band, as the waitress popped our bottle of Cab Sauv from the Veneto region. (Literally, that was the vague description of the wine on the menu.) I was delighted when I saw that none other than Nicholas Cage and the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street would be serenading us this glorious eve.

MonDAY is something for the record books, and the sole reason will get many of you excited as it features the return of one of our most popular and enjoyed characters, NONNA. Monday was my first experience of life with Davide at work from 4p to approx. 9p. I asked Manu, our second most popular supporting character, to accompany me to Nonna’s for a coffee, followed by a quick pass through a couple stores I wanted to check out on my hunt for cheap shoes for dog walks that typically result in mud-covered boots. Manu, mann(u)ing up, gladly joined me. We spent two hours talking with Nonna. Through broken Italian on my part, broken translations on Manu’s part, and an unwavering Italian cadence from Nonna that flowed without pause, I learned the following:

Nonna was married to Paolo for over 50 years before he passed away, I believe due to some kind of cancer and related complications. From Nonna's gesticulations, I believe it was throat cancer. Nonna, Olga, and Nono, Paolo, were married after WWII. Paolo was enlisted in the army in his late teens (18-19), and fought for the Italians (history recap: Italians + Germans = the enemy) in Russia. He was eventually caught by Russians, who in their blinding rage towards Germans, separated the captured soldiers by Nazis and Italians  and killed the Germans right there on the spot. There was no sympathy for the Third Reich, and this notably giovane (young) lot weren’t given any kind of Prisoner of War consideration. Mentioning this only to shed light on the terrors of war, not in any way to suggest the Nazis deserved observation of the laws of war. Paolo and his troop were marched from Russia to Siberia on a 40-day trek. I can’t imagine what that must have been like, especially for Paolo, who helped a young friend for the duration of the walk. Upon arrival in Siberia, Paolo turned to his walking companion who must not have spoke a word for the duration of the hike, and said “We made it!” to which his partner responded in German. What he said we’ll never know, but it sounded a lot like “Heinz, shveinz, hitz!”. Nonna does a much better rendition.

Paolo and troop settled into life on the working camp, picking cotton of all things! Ironic foreshadowing as he would go on to become a very wealthy man making a living off of cotton back in Italy, where he and Olga started and excelled in a clothing business. Although he loved Siberia, he eventually returned to Milan and the Veneto region and, after Olga insisted she was not moving to Siberia (ya, girl!), they settled into life in Italia. Paolo’s parents bought him a bike and told him to get to work, selling anything he could. He filled the front and back with socks, a hook up I believe he received from a friend or family member who purchased them from Milan, and returned at the end of the day without any inventory. Successful as he was, a friend of his naturally started helping, thereby expanding the business two-fold, and like most success stories that somehow make sense because we see the fruit of the labour and not the elbow grease that went into it, Olga was eventually filling every nook in their humble home with clothing product for sale. She even remembers one Christmas Day when a woman came knocking on the door asking for a pair of socks, “On Christmas day! Can you believe that!” No, no I couldn’t. We laughed and laughed and laughed. But gut-splitting jokes aside, I think the take-away is that Olga and Paolo and their clothes were in demand, and people knew where to find them.

Nine years after returning from the war, Paolo and Olga wed. Olga says it was one of the happiest days of her life, and rightfully so. She and he waited a long time for that glorious day. The war had changed everything in Italy and their lives. For example, Paolo’s brother, a stunning young man, was driving to Verona from Milan one day with a carload of textiles when his car was shot clear off the road by planes flying overhead. This kind of reality is so far from anything I’ve ever heard growing up in Canada. It’s so close to home, and as Nonna showed me the photo of the brother-in-law she never met, hanging in a huge oval frame in her attic, the gravity of my surroundings coagulated in my mind. This reality of lost family members, by-products of global turmoil, brothers never met, cousins never had, hit me like a ton of bricks. This reality is likely more common, and my utopian upbringing is  the exception on a Global scale. Anyway, Olga and Paolo were married and from the way she speaks about it, and the photos she shares of a stunning, beaming bride, she and he were very much in love. She, a picture of perfection, with a warm smile featuring the perfect gap between her front teeth (so in right now!), thick, wavy, glorious hair, and a waist line I would murder for, rode her bike to work every day. From the photo we were looking at, her on her bike with one leg up, two hands on the bars, and a big ear to ear grin, I could see this woman’s energy exuding across the table had not aged a morsel from circa 1930.

We closed the Dalfini/Tomelleri history lesson for the day with photos of Ornella, aka Mamma. A true beauty, who knew it, and still does to this day.

Next time, I’m promised more photos of Giorgia (Davide’s older sister) and Manu. I can’t wait. As we parted, Nonna and Manu checked the kitchen balcony window to check for rain, and seeing that it was coming down, she quickly hunted down a giant umbrella. After two baci on the cheeks, she followed us to the front door and instructed Manu to open the umbrella and for me to link my arm under his. As we walked through the garden on our way home, I turned and saw her huge smile and waving hand in the doorway watching us until we were out of site. For those of you out there who have an affinity for the elderly, I can only hope you get your butts in gear to come visit. If not for me, for Olga.

Turning the page brings us to Wednesday! After a two hour lunch where I prepared zucchini parmigiana (Gianna, do you hear your name every time people say that word?), baked mini-onions (don’t knock’em till your try!), insalata and spinach and ricotta tortellini, Davide went to work and I excitedly suited up for a much over due and undeniably necessary work out. Shoes and jacket on, hyped to tackle the only thing I had on my list of things to do for the day, I burst out the front door and into the sunshine! Finding a path Mamma showed me the night before, I started runnnnn-iiiing Gump style, post leg braces. 

Obviously exercise is the key to life, the elixir to aging and the uncontested shoulder to cry on when the real deal is an ocean, neighbourhood or car drive away. Continuing my dry-land training at home with sit ups as Jay-Z blared in the background, I was invigorated and inspired. When I checked my email, out of routine (email me!), and saw that I had sold my first table, I was elevated to such a high that I almost chucked my beautiful child (MacBook Air) across the room, off the balcony and into the glowing, stunning, all-connected world to fly away, capsizing in a mighty EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY AND LIFE IS THE BEST roar to the billions of restless minds that await an answer to that implied proverbial question.

I’ve got ‘em! I’ve worked out, I’ve got someone who wants to buy my work, I’ve got a beautiful boyfriend, family, extended family and new-found family, I’m supported and have the ability to support; I’m a surviva! cue D-Child!! (think superbowl halftime show if this reference is lost on you)!!

Which brings me to yesterday – V-day, Valentino Day, Valentine’s Day, in the land from which romance was born, from whence Romeo and Juliet made it so, from the LAND OF LOVE! I wrote this entry from a bar while awaiting Davide. I was in the citta centro (city centre) and wearing out my battery until the very last drop. Yesterday afternoon I joined Manu and his girlfriend Federica for a walk downtown. We wound through the streets of the city that is painted red for St. Valentino. There are hearts, balloons, chocolates, roses and wine everywhere. Second potentially only to Paris (although I've never been), this must be the home of this Halmark Holiday. Federica is as young as Manu, and smart as a whip. When teachers tell you to apply yourself, they are asking you to emulate her. Today she told me: “We never stop learning Jenna”. She makes a great point, thank you Fede, you 18 year old inspiration. She took me on a tour of the entire citta a piedi (walking), including a pass by her school, located in the middle of the stunning centro, and every major church in the vicinity, before leaving me to get some much needed alone time and a chance to write.

Replying to a letter someone wrote Juliet looking for a help landing a man. It was from Erica, 35. We told her to do two things: 1. move to Italy, 2. be patient.

Juliet's balcony.

Davide bought me a gorgeous bouquet, and we dined over Indian food, sitting side by side in a banquet. Exhausted from the day, we called it a night and turned in around midnight. 

I've officially been here for nine days, and can feel my footing gaining traction. Not a day passes that I don't feel beyond lucky. 

Tonight I'm meeting some of Davide's closest friends, tomorrow we're taking in a soccer game followed by live music and beers. Sunday we'll lunch with Papa, and hopefully next week only continues to get better.

This post is extremely long so if you've stuck with it, I applaud your commitment. I hope everyone back home is doing well and keeping warm or at least hitting the slopes or rinks to take advantage of the season.

Much love as always,


Saturday, 9 February 2013

Potatoes, Culture Shock and Mr. Bidet

A couple things: first of all, I'm not landing 100% of my jokes. Not that I was in Canada, but I can honestly say my percentage of hits has plummeted, my friends! I have faith it will be back, but for the time being, I'm sticking to sexual puns only, as those seem to transcend any cultural barrier.

That saiddddddd, the past three days have been fantastic and culturally shocking at the same time. Let me pick up from last post. The beers and drinks were fabulous on Wednesday. The band was singing in Inglese, which helped me look cool, belting out R-E-S-P-E-C-T with the Aretha voice-a-like, who likely didn't know what she was melodically saying. We drank an unfiltered white beer, and then switched to a Honey infused brew called Bloe Men Bier from Germany (cue dirty joke #43 of the night: me explaining how hilarious it is that a delicious beer also resembles multiple BJs in pronunciation). A friend of ours is finishing his university degree, focusing his thesis on the Great Lakes of Ontario, if you can belieeee dat! Boy, did I impress him with the photographs on my iPhone of the magnificent Lago Ontario. I also offered some insight as to the amount of snow the area gets every year, and whether or not the ice freezes over completely in the winter time (thanks Sheila and Tommy). 

This brings us to yesterday, a day of food, family, cooking music, Carnival and the biggest yard sale into culture shock I've experienced yet. In the morning we went to pick up Nonna at her house which entailed a tour of every square inch of the place, and in all seriousness, it was worth it! It was incredible! High ceilings, huge camera di letto (bedroom), balconies, attics, due cucine (two kitchens), three stories, un giardino (garden) -- molto bellissimo! She is the most lovely woman in Italy, I am sure of it. On our way out, she handed me a giant sack of potatoes and told me today is Carnival in Italy, which means we make and eat Gnocchi. 

Back at the ranch, I brought my bose (pronounced bos-ay) downstairs to the cucina and got ready to get my hands dirty in potatoes with Mama, Nonna and Manu, Davide's 18 year old brother, and cutest young man ever. I threw on the only Italian Songza playlist available, which was entirely Opera, and scored another 10 points with everyone, "how does she have this musica? It's beautiful!" I can now officially confirm the 10 pd bose in my luggage was worth the clothing I had to sacrifice to make her fit. 

Just as we were preparing to cook, Davide told me his sister's dog needs to go for a walk. My options were stay home and cook, or promenade in 10 degree weather with a 10 month old white retriever! Oh the terror! It was like Sophie's Choice! How difficult life can be!!!! I chose the puppy and boyfriend, with the promise that there would still be some gnocchi to make when we got back. The walk was lovely; dog is obviously super cute and I'm obviously the best dog walker and imparted some Cesar Milan on the little guy like it was nobody's business. Upon return, I jumped into the cooking and failed miserably at rolling the gnocchi off the fork properly. I definitely need practice. There are some things I can fake in life, mastering Italian cooking is not going to be one of them, although my teachers were beyond patient and helpful.

 Gnochhi is made entirely with potatoes, boiled and de-skinned, mashed, mixed with eggs (amount of eggs done by eye), flour and cooking powder. Mix it all together into a dough, roll the dough, cut into one inch cylinder/cubes, roll off fork onto table, fill ENTIRE table with gnocchi, place in boiling water until they float to the top. For sauce, either Bianco or Rosso. White is butter and sage from the garden; Rosso is home made tomato sauce, no idea how they made that heavenly dressing.

 Nonna and Manu
Mama e Nonna. "Mangia!"


After 5 kilos each of potatoes, we retired to our room and I fought the urge to plot myself in bed and sleep because, after all, it's Carnival, and downtown there is a huge parade happening, where people of all ages are dressed up and ready to party. If you're anything like me, you'll agree this definition is extremely vague. What is Carnival aside from a party? If people are dressing up and flooding the streets, that's great, but why? To this I received no explanation, so I didn't push. Just as I'm getting ready to leave, I'm hit with my first bout of culture shock that I didn't see coming. Davide asks me if I can put eyeliner and mascara on him. 

I would never in one million years have thought this would rattle my cage, but pressed to put mascara and black eyeliner on my boyfriend really shook me! What I came to realize after much processing is that, at the time, I didn't actually understand the culture of this amazing country and wearing makeup to go see a parade in Canada is entirely different than in Europe. What I learned from this day is that Italians, in particular, are astonishingly enthusiastic, energetic, and supporting in nature, and when they say it's Carnival, similar in description to our Hallowe'en, they mean all people celebrate; this is not just for kids. Every single person dresses up in some way shape or form and participates. Likewise, I anticipate I'll see this in most facets of life here, like soccer games, politics, protesting the crisis, etc. When Italians rally to do something, they do it, full-heartedly, ambitiously and proudly. This is something I haven't really experienced in my Canadian life, and I don't say this in a negative way at all. I don't think Canadians are less passionate people, I guess what I'm getting at is the Italian expression of thought, creativity, socialization - whatever the situation - is bigger, louder and more openly profound that what I'm used to. 

So, with eye makeup on (both of us), we headed d-town and within minutes were lost in a monstrous crowd. Everywhere I looked people were throwing confetti and flower (the baking kind) while shooting streamer foam at anything close by. It was a war zone of colour and energy.

This post is getting extremely long, so I'll leave you with one final thought. 

In past, I have definitely "worshipped the porcelain throne" in more ways than one, this is no surprise to anyone reading this. I am both proud and sad to say, there is a new King of my Cleanliness Cage, and it's all thanks to the one and only Mr. Bidet and his ingenious invention. 

BIDETS ARE THE BEST. If you are renovating or not (I sincerely hope you consider renovations after this post) I can't recommend highly enough the Bidet addition. I won't go into detail, you truly have to experience it to believe it. I would also rank this in my top five reasons for visiting Italy, as if you needed more encouragement to travel.  

I hope you are all very well. I miss you so much. 

Rest assured, Davide and his family have been nothing short of warm and welcoming to me, that said, I think about home all the time.

More to come soon I hope!

With much much much love,

p.s. some eye candy: