Saturday, May 19, 2012

Countdown to Italy.

What is there not to like about Italy?

Certainly,  the bewildering bureaucracy in dealing with  seemingly simple tasks, frequently require more steps than would ever appear necessary.  But isn't that just a charming side of the curious nature of the Italians?    

Underlying everything there seems to be one thing - Passion!

The passion to be interested to debate and care for politics;  the passion for the wonderful aesthetics that has created arguably the greatest art in its day, from Michelangelo to modern designs; their love of cars, motorbikes and Vespas; the dedication for industrial action and strikes; stunning women and suave men; football, and . . . . could it be the most important? The passion for fabulous food and ingredients. 

Ahh, the food!

In Guiletta's kitchen
Now of course, the last time I spent any stretch of time in Italy was in 2001, as the world seemed to change with the click of fingers when the World Trade Centre was attacked.  Although it is hard to imagine that it was over ten years ago, I know that Italy must have changed immeasurably since then.  The six weeks of that trip was spent in the north too, based around Ferrara, and making firm friends in the village of Stienta, and heading over to the Adriatic coast for the World Duathlon Championships in Rimini, and afterwards being driven to their favourite haunts such as the dramatic hill town of San Leo, which borders San Marino.
Over ten years earlier, in 1990, I spent an amazing month in Fienze, absorbing the Tuscan way of life as I sort to avoid the gauche, bermuda-shorted Americans, who trundled over the city with cameras slung around their ruddy necks, loudly proclaiming how Diet Coke was sold as Coke Lite, in horror of the price (although a fresh fulatti de frutti laden with punnets of strawberries or other fruit could be had for half the price).
A gauche Australian by the Arno

In a central apartment on Viale Spartaco Lavagnini, I explored every bar testing the merits of Illy caffe, Lavazzo, Segafredo and Molinari.  I had my morning 'bar crawl' from one to another, first having an espresso, and then 'un altro', until one of my friendly barrista  advised me to ask for a 'doppio'.   Occasionally, I would have a cornetto (a croissant or brioche, not a crappy manufactured ice cream!) for breakfast as well.

and after her haircut
I walked everywhere, to Fiesole, the Etruscan village on the hill above the city.  Home from the Pistoia Blues festival after the trains finished at midnight, earning a reputation as a slightly crazy  Australian.  It was easy to revel in the Italy of a World Cup mad Italia '90, when they both hosted and won the final, whilst Canberra shivered with sub zero mornings.

I am so looking forward to this trip in June.  We have spend many wonderful northern summers away from Canberra; backpacking through the deserts ofo Rajastan on the Pakistani border with India, and in the Indian Himalyas.  A trains, 'planes and automobile circuit of eastern europe dodging the roadside verges warning of unexploded ordinances from the post soviet era.  An enlightening road trip of the east and south of the US, where we found true southern hospitality and a culinary desert.  Our four and a half month idyll of apartment living in Hanoi, where as brown faced locals of Truc Bac, toured the countryside on motorbikes and enjoyed our daily haggles for bananas, and pinapples, having great food and surprisingly excellent coffee.

Our most recent 6 months in the UK based in the south western seaside resort of Weymouth is remembered with great fondness, despite it culminating in  such a critical health emergancy and extended hospitalisation.

Now, grasping the opportunit to travel overseas again having been denied last year as my health improved, it seems even more important.  Our time in Dorset was only frustrated by the increasing realisation of what a rich and varied area we had landed in.  With the information that we had only gradually acquired whilst we were there, we had barely touched the surface of what proved to be a district full of fabulous natural , historicaly, military and geological interest, fabulous produce and artisan producers (if you knew where to look), and a delightful west country friendliness.

Thus, avoiding the mistake this time of not organising accomodation before we land, we are prepared to research and get a feel of where we are going so that we may better appreciate the richness of the area when we are there, not just prior to when we are leaving.  With the benefit of ever improving technology I have discovered the petrified forests nearby, the market and festival days, and walked the virtual streets of Aquasparta with Google streetview.  I now have a real sense of the area within a 25km radius of the town.  

In December I was planning what mountain running I was going to be doing.  In January, I assessed the gearing necessary for a bike to ride around the circuit of the towns of Spoleto, Terni and Todi (although the climb to the hill town of Todi seemed a tad too ambitious for my fitness at that time).   As the year rolled on, my health ceased to flourish, and the ability to move without pain or stiffness deteriorated, as did my daily waking hours.  Now, I my week largely consists of my daily cafe date with Bob, shopping and preparing a meal.  It is easy to choose to do that in the sun of an Umbrian village than the bleak Canberra winter.

One month to go - and the passion is mine.