The other great weekend

Trip Start Aug 28, 2009
Trip End Nov 24, 2009

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Flag of Italy  , Lombardy,
Friday, October 23, 2009

Saturday:  We were going to go chestnut hunting!  But first, we had lunch at Nonna's (gramma) and it felt very Thanksgiving-y.  We sat at the fancy table, and there were 9 of us.  The food was delicious, I had wine and champagne, and although the meal started with my usual sadness and feelings of "I wish I was with my family instead", by the end it was pretty fun.  Then we went back home, grabbed a bunch of warm clothes and chestnut hunting gloves, and headed out in the gloomy weather.  We went to Iseo Lake, which is about a half hour away from Dello.  It was a quiet ride there, and then we parked and headed up a path towards the forest.  It was a bizarre combination of vegetation and topography.  The mountains are like Colorado mountains, but then there's the lake, and then upon closer inspection, the trees are so different from Colorado, they're thick and ferny, it felt more jungly than anything else.  And it was so funny, these brightly colored Italian villas are tucked away in the side of the mountain.  Mountain homes in Colorado are standard A-frame, wooden, beautiful in their own way, but it was funny to see such a drastic difference.  But I mean, there's bamboo here.  An A-frame wooden cabin next to a bamboo shoot would just look weird.  We followed this path then Angelo stopped and started picking up the sea urchins that hold the chestnuts in their spiky center.  Even with gloves on I got poked quite a bit, but it was such a satisfying feeling to crack open that shell and see the nuts inside.  I didn't realize it, but chestnuts are actually 3 to a shell, but usually only the middle one is big enough to keep.  It was almost like fishing, we'd throw out the little ones.  It was misty and grey, but the forest was so green, and then the chestnut sea urchins were a brown contrast-it was so serene and beautiful.  I could have spent all day doing that, but the boys got bored so we decided to go into town.  It was freezing next to the water, but still pretty.  I can see why people would want to visit in the summer, but I'm glad I went when I did, when the town was quiet and just the locals were out.  We passed a sweets shop, hypnotized by the window display of goodies, and then Luisa went in.  In my head someone yelled "YES!"  I think it's fat Allison, the one that no one has physically seen, but totally exists and makes me eat seconds or thirds and as much junk food as my stomach can handle.  I love fat Allison.  We got these croissant things with chocolate and chestnuts and powdered sugar, and were basically a little bit of heaven.  We ate by the water until our noses were running and we couldn't feel our fingers and Francesco's coat was covered in sugar dust.  The ride home was much more rowdy what with all the sugar coarsing through the boys' veins.  I told Angelo and Luisa I never imagined one day I'd be chestnut hunting in Italy, and they both smiled, not knowing why this simple thing would bring me such happiness.  After dinner we went to the castle in Dello, the woman who lives there is throwing a Halloween party and wanted my input, and her daughters need help with English lessons, so we were going to discuss tutoring options.  Not really tutoring, but mostly I would just read them English books so they could hear the correct pronunciation.  Not bad.  They put out a plate of more sweets and seemed offended I wasn't shoveling them in my face even though fat Allison would have loved to do it.  As the conversation died down I mentioned how cool it was that they lived in a castle, and the dad lit up, and took me on a tour.  We went in every single room, on every single floor, and I even got to see how the beams worked in the attic.  It was awesome.  As we were leaving, Luisa said she had lived in Dello her whole life but had never been inside the castle.  I'm glad I gave her that opportunity!

Sunday:  The day before, at Nonna's house, she had offered to take me to Cremona while Luisa and company went to visit their friends in another town.  I said yes, but inside I was dreading it due to the language barrier.  She picked me up and we drove in mostly silence, interrupted occasionally by someone saying a word or two she knew in the other's language.  Parking was hectic, but finally we got out and started walking towards the center.  Because it was a Sunday, it was extremely quiet, nothing was open, there were hardly any people out on the streets.  Then we turned a corner and BAM, the duomo, tower, and baptistery rocked my socks off.  They are on a piazza and by that time the sky had turned a brilliant blue, and they were incredible looking.  We got to the baptistery just as it was opening, and it was pretty inside, but nothing spectacular.  Then we went to the tower.  It was 500 some steps to the top but Nonna started the trek like that didn't even cross her mind.  Mind you, she's about 70 and was wearing heels, but she walked like she wasn't even short of breath.  We got to about step 100 and she motioned for me to go on and she'd meet me there.  I was impressed though.  I kept going, each turn giving me better views of the city, until I was at the top.  Well, what I thought would be the top.  There was a single spiral staircase going up another level, and it was old and creaky, but I still went up.  The views were amazing.  I could see where the city ended and the countryside began, and during my hike up the stairs I hadn't run into a single soul.  There were only a few people at the top as well, and I was so happy to be able to do this without the crazy crush of tourists.  I took lots of pictures but then hurried back down, knowing Nonna was waiting for me.  I was on Cloud 9 by then, but then we went in the duomo.  As soon as we walked in, tears sprang into my eyes.  It was breath-takingly beautiful, it was so gorgeous it almost hurt.  High ceilings were adorned with paintings and statues, every single inch of space was covered with them, and I didn't know where to point my eyes to next.  I walked around with my head cranked all the way back, partially to get a glimpse of everything and partially so the tears wouldn't spill out of my eyes.  I felt so in awe, how could people have done this, so long ago??  It blew my mind.  It was spiritual, the feeling I had is something I can't describe, even to myself, but it was...unique.  I felt like exploding with happiness and love.  We walked back out into the sun and I waited as she bought more sweets, some that are only made in Cremona, then we visited a cafe nearby and drank cappucinos (hers with two packets of sugar mixed in, mine sweet enough as it is thank you very much) and attempted a conversation using the dictionary as our crutch.  As we drove home it started to sprinkle, and then the largest, most complete, brightest rainbow I have ever seen in my entire life followed us the whole way back.  It was like God was saying "you really want to keep complaining NOW?"  We went back to her house as she made tea and opened a box of sweets (they never stop appearing) then dropped me off at the house.  I told her "oggi...FANTASTICO" (today...FANTASTIC) and she gave me the double kiss on the cheek before she left, something she had never done before.  It was a great weekend, exactly what I imagine when I think Italy.
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