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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What I learned in Italy

1.  First, I learned that if one is lucky enough to be invited to a site visit to Italy with one's husband and is subsequently invited to a big fancy dinner with 10 of his Italian colleages, one should not go on and on about the books one is reading which portray Christopher Columbus as committing genocide and trashing Native American civilizations.   I forgot, for a minute, that the Italians admire Christopher Columbus.  I should have remembered that big Columbus statue on Columbus Street in Little Italy in San Francisco.

2.  Secondly, if  your husband's colleague at the above dinner orders the cavallo (horse), one should not gasp loudly and make the yucky face.  They find it offensive.  I tried to make up by raving about the meal.  The antipasto was amazing as was the wine and the bread. I don't think anyone who knows us would characterize either of us as "picky eaters."  I just don't want to eat horses or bunnies.  I used to have qualms about eating veal, but our hosts figured it was something Americans like and, so, they ordered for us.  It was really delicious and so was the cheesy polenta.  How come corn meal is disgusting when it's grits, but really wonderful when it's polenta? 

3.  I learned that my husband has a profound admiration for Italian women.  Their style, their bodies and their ability to walk on cobblestones in stillettos are very impressive.  There were as many lingerie shops in Descenzano as there are tattoo parlors in Panama City, Florida.  Sexy stuff for the men, too, though I've never known a man who wants anything but comfy underpants.

4.  I have discovered that I can take pretty good pictures with my Ipad.  The above is one of little little Italian alleys.  Brett liked to belt out the "Theme from the Godfather "when we were walking through these.

5.  Now I know that if you want a snack, this guy will slice off a hunk of this huge sausage.  It really was bigger than it looks.  Then you get some bread, some wine and you're good to go.   Once again, the food was amazing.

6.  I learned Shakespeare picked some pretty fabulous settings for his plays.  Venice, Verona, Padua were all around us.  We missed Juliet's balcony in Verona because we decided to go to Venice instead.  We passed all of these places on our train ride from Descenzano.  I'm going to need some more trips to Italy.

7.  I learned something very important about the Italian train.  First, it was pretty easy and fairly cheap to buy a ticket and the schedule was convenient.  We wouldn't buy the First Class tickets again.  The only perk was a little table, a couple of crackers and a "communion-sized" serving of wine.   It was such a beautiful trip with old stone barns, miles and miles of vineyards, and ancient churches.  The station was right in the middle of the city and was a huge, bustling place.  So we spent the day in Venice.  We drank, we ate, we shopped, we even had a gondola ride.  Our gondolier didn't sing to us but he did whistle. 

Finally, at dusk, we get back on the train to return to Descenzano.  As we arrived at our station, we started to gather up our things and head to the door.  But we couldn't figure out how to open it.  We looked around for help.  We pushed every single button that said "Aperto" and Brett tugged without success on all the handles.  And then... the train starts to roll out of our  station.  Oh crap, Oh merde, Oh Nooo!!! We slunk back to our seats and resigned ourselves to a trip to Brescia, the next stop.  (One of us was trying to see the humor in the situation and it was definitely not Brett.)   At Brescia, we were standing ready at the door, packages in hand and managed to exit the train.  It cost six extra Euros to retrace our steps and we had to  wait in the sketchiest train station we'd seen.  We saw a drunk and bleeding dude and a few other scary-looking folks.   Brett tucked his camera under his jacket and I kept a firm hand on my purse.  But the ride back was uneventful and quick.  A taxi ride home and we were back in our hotel with a bottle of Proseco.  Ahh.

The next day, we flew back to Brussels wiser than when we left.

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