Il cibo, la moda e la dolce vita

Trip Start Sep 19, 2006
Trip End Dec 19, 2007

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I arrived in Cambridge and more or less just dumped my stuff and slept, before Ian and I took a quick trip to Pescara in central Italy, before he started his course. The original plan was to go to Croatia, but booking at the last minute made it far from the cheap destination as promised, so I'll save that for when I have more time. We went to Pescara purely and simply because Ryanair flew there cheaply at reasonable times of the day.

We had been looking at packages to Greece or Spain on last minute holiday websites, but those deals didn't seem outrageously good either and Ian was getting a bit fed up with the whole thing, suggesting we just stay in Cambridge as he'd just come back from Prague himself.

I was determined to have at least one sunny holiday before suffering through an English winter, so then I said we should just go somewhere in southern Italy, which wouldn't be too expensive and at least I spoke the language. Ian agreed and so I started looking for flights. I was hoping to go to Palermo, or at least Bari or Barisi, but the flights from Stansted were either nonexistent on the days we could go, or at stupid times of the day (it's not a holiday if you have to get up at 4am to go to the airport!). So Pescara was the southernmost place in Italy we could get to, on our budget, at the right time.

I was a bit anxious because despite travelling around Italy for a year I'd never even heard of Abruzzo (the province) so hoped I wouldn't be dragging Ian to some horrible place. It is marketed as 'untouched Italy', which is what I was hoping for, as I felt that Florence was like Disneyland in its similarity to everyday life, as well as being so overpriced. I wanted Ian to experience the proper laid-back, indulgent Italian lifestyle. Well, I cringe at myself writing that because my year in Turin was nothing like the aforementioned lifestyle I wanted. So, rather I wanted us to have a romantic Italian holiday, which to me is what Italy should be all about!

We booked our first night's accommodation in a small beach town near Pescara called Montesilvano, which was lovely - but absolutely dead on the Friday night we were there. We decided to go back to Pescara the next day to get a bit more action, but Montesilvano was great for the typical Italian lifestyle aim. We had pizza and gelati for dinner, which was nothing special, but the next morning we discovered the market was happening by the church, so we headed down and wandered through the stalls, listening to the church bells. We passed a bar alive with people having their morning espressos, so we went in and had them standing up like everyone else. It was an enchanting morning that reminded me why I wanted to come back to Italy.

I discovered Pescara has a decent beach, good shopping and beautiful buildings like most southern Italian cities, so I was relieved and excited. We found a charmingly shabby chic place called Hotel Alba to stay at - just by the palazzo where the Best Western is, but a third of the price for the same size rooms with ensuite and balcony! The romantic paintings and chiffon and velvet draped everywhere made me truly feel on holiday - and far from Australia. Perfect!

I was surprised to find that the clothes shops in Pescara were alive with colour. I moved to northern Italy as a teenager after working in a surf shop for some years, so had accumulated a wardrobe of typically colourful Billabong and Rip Curl gear, as you might imagine. I put that all in the back of the wardrobe on my arrival, because I quickly discovered that in northern Italy (five years ago at least), you were a freak unless you wore black. So I quickly changed from a cheerful colourful surf girl to a skinny, black-donned, angst-ridden Euro clone. How depressing. So the colours in the Pescara fashion houses were amusing and uplifting... and helped shed a little more of the hate part of my love/hate relationship towards Italy that I've harboured ever since.

The highlight of the trip, besides discovering that getting back into a foreign language is like getting back on a bicycle (I got there after a few wobbles), was without a doubt the food. There was a fantastic place on our street called Café Briciola, which we were attracted to due to its popularity with the local young professional crowd. The café pretty much just served salads and panini but the salads were incredible. We went with the flow and ordered what the locals at the next table were having, which were antipasto style platters with prosciutto and other cured meats, loads of fresh veggies and the masterpiece... the hugest and freshest ball of mozzarella I've ever seen.

I had to eat it with a knife and fork like a steak, and the texture was incredible. Nothing like the supermarket ones packaged in water you get (or the pitiful bocconcini we have in Australia... don't get me started on how much of a sham that is). This mozzarella was so fresh that once I pierced the outer layer, milk oozed out between the springy but silky strands beneath. It took me about five minutes to eat it, "oh my god" I said with my mouth full, "this is incredible!"

Most people who know me well know that I absolutely love cheese, so it's not such a surprise that I was orgasmic over it. Ian, on the other hand, sometimes tries to limit my cheese intake and dampen this passion. On this occasion, however, he was in even greater rapture than me. "I didn't know cheese could taste anything like this good!" he exclaimed. So, in Pescara at least, my cheese passion was indulged, we had the fresh mozzarella again and again over our days there.
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