Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rude Awakening

9am. The doorbell rings. Doorbells here don't have a cute "ding-dong" ring, but rather a "blAHHHHHH" buzz that frightens you every time you hear it. More or less like a bull horn in your entryway. (Much like the doorbell my grandparents had in Florida, which amazingly never caused either to have a heart attack.)
This morning, I prepare for work as quitely as possible in an Italian apartment where everything creaks and echos... BLLAAAAAHHHHHHH. Doorbell.
I quickly respond, hoping to save my sleeping roommate from the same fear that forms in my stomach and multiplies every time the doorbells buzzes.
It is the gas man. He is turning off the gas, again.
So, 5 minutes before I was going to take a shower, I am without hot water.
I immediately go into crisis mode: I run to the bathroom and manage to get a bidet in before the gas is shut off. There are some things that just CANNOT be washed with icy water.
And now, I wait. I am heating water in a tea kettle to wash myself. It is 2009, in the "Western" world, and I am bathing like my ancestors once did.
Not quite. Realization: to heat my kettle, gas is required to light the stove. (I still haven't had my espresso, so the brain isn't fully functioning yet.)

The only thing that could make this better is a trip to the pastry shop. If I can't prepare breakfast at home, I will start the day off as sweetly as possible, dammit! This kind of rude awakening calls for a sfogliatella.

...I'm home from work. I ended up having a brioche with chocolate chips from my favorite bakery in Via dell'Ariento. Then across the street after work for a glass of Prosecco and some crostini. All was right in the world, as my belly was full and warm. I must point out: one of the best things I've ever eaten and so simple: a soft roll with a pat of good butter and an anchovy. Don't knock it until you've tried it. Just to be sure, I tried it twice today! Brilliant.

A sure way to ruin a good mood is to hop on the 23 bus during lunch hour. To my left, a man rubbing up against me. To my right, the fake fur collar of a tall gentleman tickling my forehead and reeking of stale saliva (I swear, that is the only way I can describe the odor).

To my delight, my gas has been turned on. Now I can have a mediocre shower (this will be a future blog topic).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


When you're 20, you don't have 30 years of memories fighting for space in your mind. Ever closer to your 32nd birthday, you realize memories begin to soften, and should be archived and protected before they are faded by the light of time.

So, I begin my blog with an old story. My first trip to Italy in 1997. I was 20 years old.

When I think of it now, I laugh and cringe all at once. How could I have been so bold? So scema?

...I have a great idea. I don't speak a word of Italian. I'll throw together a heavy backpack with the essentials: my birkenstocks, a sundress, a sweater, and a couple of items made out of that horrible slinky material that makes up the bulk of my mom's wardrobe (it is supposed to dry quickly).
I will head to Italy with my Rick Steves' book and no hotel reservations. Tanto, Italy is small and I will find my way around. I'll "do" the Cinque Terre on my way to Lucca, where I'll be studying Italian....

I will save the story about my airport departure for another blog. Back when, unfortunately, your ENTIRE family could escort you all the way to the gate!

...On my flight to Rome, I have the good fortune of meeting Sumi, a girl who is on her way to see her sister, Uma, who is studying for a year in Bologna (where many of Italy's great foods originate). Sumi doesn't really want to go to Italy. It seems that she has been put on the plane by her parents- against her will. She is frightened and at the most 18 years old. We make a deal: I hang out with her at the airport while she waits for her sister : Her sister will call and find me a hotel reservation (since she speaks perfect Italian).
Sumi and I wait on a bench, Italians passing by with their cigarettes and their perfect shoes. Uma appears eventually and calls every place I hope to sleep in for under 40,000 Lira. Long story slightly shorter: there is no room at the inns. Rick Steves' recommendations can only accomodate so many people. Uma invites me to sleep in her student apartment and the next thing I know, I'm on a train with the reunited sisters, bound for Bologna...

I remember my first lunch, my first dinner... and my first morning the following day: the first time I woke up in Italy. These will appear in my next blog entry: THE PUFF BALLS.


No Longer Foreign

When you live in a foreign country, it stops feeling foreign after a while. I have decided to start writing about my experiences, important and banal, before they fade from my memory... since Italy is starting to feel like home and America is further away every day.
I no longer notice the strange odors (unless they're really bad), I am no longer enchanted by the oldness of things, the new colors and shapes and textures and light. I now take it for granted. Except for the food. I am wowed by the food on a daily basis. My senses will never tire of the variety of flavors, ingredients, expressions of Italy, that one could not fully experience in a single lifetime.
Hence the name of my blog: EATALIANA. I live here for the food, and I am grateful that it is not only socially acceptable to eat 3 meals a day- but it is common to talk about eating while you eat!
So, bare with me. I will have to tell some stories and chronicle some fond memories, but I will eventually get to the good stuff: the food. In the meantime, I will take you back to my first trip here in 1997... then to my studies in Florence... to 2003 as I experienced the dark side of life while in Italy... 2004 and my rebirth in Florence... 2006 and my "white water rafting" adventure in the Arno River... my annual habit of breaking off relationships just before the holidays... my adventures in the Chianti (coined "Toni Does Chianti" by a good friend)... and finally, my choice to take control of my fate and start my own company... TM