Pievepelago: In the middle of nowhere

Trip Start Feb 06, 2011
Trip End Sep 15, 2011

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Where I stayed
L's house

Flag of Italy  , Emilia-Romagna,
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We left the sun and the coast and drove 3 hours to the Province of Modena in central Italy.  About 2 hours in, we exited the highway and began the treacherous journey up the mountain on some of the most narrow and windy roads I've ever seen.  This didn't bother L one bit as she easily drove 80km/hr around hairpin turns.  She used to drive the same route every weekend while she was studying in Florence so she intimately knew every turn and curve on this stretch.  I told her that she could try out for F1 Racing.  She was THAT good.  We arrived fairly late in the evening so her parents were already sleeping but when I got out of the car, it was freezing.  It couldn't have been more than 8 or 9 degrees.  If there's one place in Italy that isn't hot in the summer, it's Pievepelago.  The town is 700m above sea level (higher altitude than Whistler) so the summers are quite mild.  Everyone was fairly tired so we stopped at the local pizzeria for some grub and called it a night.  

The next morning, I met her mother for the first time (her dad was out of town for a couple of days) and she was exactly who I pictured her to be.  She was a little pudgy, incredibly cute and spoke no English whatsoever.  For the next few days, my conversations with her consisted of "grazie" (thank you),"prego" (you're welcome),  "buongiorno" (good morning), "buonanotte" (good night), and a dash of charades thrown in.  Yes, there were moments of awkward silence when L wasn't there to translate for us but it didn't matter because I was just so grateful for the opportunity to live how they live and eat whatever they eat.  I even took siestas when they took siestas!  

After breakfast, L took me on a tour of her village.  I say village because there are only 2000 people who live there.  Everybody knows everyone.  14 seconds after we walked out of the house, L bumped into some friends.  This continued as we walked down the street.  Also, they don't see many Asians in the area so I was quite the novelty.  Since I was the new face in town, I got free beers and coffee from every cafe and bar we walked past.  No complaints from me!  After a couple of hours, we finally finished walking through the main street, all 100m of it.  Time for lunch!    Italians usually eat lunch at home since all the shops close in the afternoon for a few hours.  My lunch consisted of the most spectacular lasagne I've ever had in my life.  L's mom made it from scratch including the ragu which alone took 3 hours to make.  I don't think I can ever eat restaurant lasagna again without being disappointed.  After lunch?  Siesta time!  Dinner was just as amazing as L's mom made an Italian version of veal meatloaf.  Ahh, I love homecooked Italian food!  

Nothing much happens in Pievepelago but this weekend, the annual beer festival was on.  It was like a really ghetto version of Playland.  Really ghetto.  There was one bouncy slide, one swing carousel, about 6 carnival booths, one really awful Queen coverband, and LOTS of booze.  When you ride the swing carousel in North America, every person sits in a swing and the carousel rotates until you start "flying" in the air.  Harmless enough.  Well, in Italy, they do it differently.  You pick a partner and one sits in front of the other in separate swings.  Before the carousel starts, the one sitting in the back holds onto his partner's swing with his hands and feet.  Once the carousel is in motion and there is enough momentum, the person in the back tries to "kick" his partner's swing higher up in the air so that his partner can snatch a piece of ribbon hanging from the air as he "swings" past it.  Sounds dangerous?  I told L that this would never fly in North America due to safety concerns.

Over the next few days, I ate my body weight in food.  It was L's mom's family birthday dinner and we had this insane 8 course meal.  Highlights were the bruschetta, fresh tortellini soup, and funghi frites (mushroom fries).  I ate so much that I could barely breathe.  It was such a treat to eat all this authentic Italian food.  Many times I thought to myself, "So THIS is what it's supposed to taste like!"  Needless to say, Italy treated my taste buds very well.  Thanks to L and her family for their hospitality!

I noticed that Italians are quite similar to the Chinese in a few ways.  They always order way too much food and eat until everyone keels over.  The same topics of conversation are recycled.  There is a strong emphasis on family and nothing is more important than eating together.  The only major difference is that Italians are way better drivers than the Chinese :)

Some other observations I noticed:

-They smoke A LOT.  I probably inhaled more second hand smoke in 2 weeks than in my entire lifetime.  99% of L's friends smoke and it's just a part of their culture.

-Italians are always late.  If you say, "let's meet at 8pm" it doesn't mean a thing.  You're lucky if they show up at 8:30pm.  Even the trains are notorious for being late all the time.

-It's almost impossible to find a bad bottle of wine in this country.  If wine was this cheap in Canada, we'd all be alcoholics.-There are rules but nobody ever abides by them.  The mentality is "if you can get away with it, just do it."  

-The general public doesn't seem to care about the environment.  I think that most cities lack a recycling program and the streets always look very dirty and unkept. 
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CPoon on

It's official. Ad and I will HAVE to do a dream trip to Italy (1-2 months?) one day. Can't fit it in our dream trip next year, but one day, we'll go! I keep reading about Italy in travel mags too and it's KILLING me. Can you bring back some of the mushroom frites????? And throw in some Sangiovese too. Love the stuff!

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