A Northern Soul

Trip Start May 06, 2009
Trip End Jun 30, 2009

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Where I stayed
Rino and Sheila 's house

Flag of Italy  , Friuli,
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

We arrived in the province of Friuli expecting to stay only a couple of days. Paul's aunt and uncle, Lydia and Ivan Zecchini, had arranged for us to stay with their friends. We did not know what to expect, but cannot emphasize the hospitality we received from Sheila and Rino Pagotto. We got to the train station in Codroipo at about 4pm, and immediately felt at home. We were back at their place in 2 minutes and our stay began. Sheila and Rino are incredible. They treated us as though we were their own son and daughter. Their 92 year old house is a beautiful property with a vineyard and fruitful garden. Shortly after we arrived we went for gelato in Codroipo's town center. They then drove us to see the house where Renato Infanti (Paul's father) was born. We then visited the cemetary and saw the many tombstones and mausaleums of past Infanti family, before heading to the church where Nonno and Nonna Infanti were married over 70 years ago. Afterward, we popped in on Vivianna Infanti (Paul's second cousin), who was very happy to meet us. She told us many stories of the Infanti family. We then went for a beer with Sheila and Rino and began talking about the town of San Danielle--you know where the Mortadella is made. However, Mortadella is not their speciality. This is the largest producer of prosciutto in the world. Rino insisted we drive to San Danielle for dinner, so we headed straight there. It was about a 20 minute drive from Codroipo, and on our way to the restaurant, we passed at least 30 different prosciutto factories--all family owned. We went to Ai Bintar restaurant (which translates to mean troll beneath the bridge), which laid at the foot of the escalating town of San Danielle. The owner knew Rino and we knew we were in for a good time. We sat on the patio and enjoyed a bottle of tochai (white wine), a giant platter of the freshest prosciutto we've ever tasted, funghi (mushrooms), artichokes, and two different types of cheeses. We toured San Danielle by car, then returned home to chat before bed.

The next day we had lunch at the house. Rino grilled us veal steaks to prepare us for the game that afternoon. At about 1:30pm, we left for Il Stadio Friuli to watch th greatest soccer team in the world--Udinese. It was the last game of the year, and the home side was up against Cagliari. We had goose bumps as we approached the stadium. Tickets were twenty percent less for women and invalids--Juliana was sure to capture a picture of this. The game was incredible and the homeside won 6-2. It was Quagliarella's last game before leaving for Napoli. After the game, Rino took us on a tour of Udine and we headed home to get ready for the Feste del Torro (Festival of the Bulls) in Camino. We made the ten minute drive and parked beside a river that Paul immediately noticed was full of trout (he wanted his rod). The festival featured a country-western band, and an energetic feel. We saw the Torro on the spit and followed Sheila's recommendation to try a taste. Torro was served with polenta and washed down by birra alla spina. It was surprisingly tender. On our way home, we stopped to visit the palace of Il Doge (the Duke of Venice, you may recall from our last entry)? The most amazing part was Sheila's and Rino's ability to recall the history and tradition of the region. It was as though we had professional tour guides, who are also members of our family.

June 2nd was a very special day. After breakfast, we went to the home of Alido and Marta Del Degan. Alido is the nephew of Paul's Nonna Esterina. When we arrived at the century-old house, which was tucked into a courtyard, we were greeted by Marta, who explained that the 70+ year old Alido was out working the field. She jumped into the car and took us to see him. They insisted we come back to their home and spend some time together. Shortly after arriving back at their home, Alido showed up on his bike. While waiting for him, Marta gave us a tour of their home, which included roaming chickens who tried to avoid us, and a cantina (cellar) that was a war-time refuge during German bombings--it now contains damigians of wine and the best homemade salami and prosciutto we've ever had. When Alido returned, he quickly showered and shaved and greeted us with a bottle of wine. Marta insisted we stay for a "small" lunch and we obliged. We had her homemade pasta as a first plate, which was then followed by never-ending salami, prosciutto, bread and fresh salad from the garden. When we were finished, Alido said he had to call his sister Leda and her husband Sylvano to come and have coffee with us. Shortly thereafter, they also arrived on their bikes (she in her skirt and pearls), and had espresso accompanied by Friulan Grappa. It was very emotional, as we met members of the family with whom we felt so connected to, despite never having met them before. It was incredible to see the way they live, as it is nothing like our suburban lifestyle in North America. It was sad to leave (eyes watered, but tears were not shed), but we promised to send back Paul's father in the coming year. This was, of course, the house where Paul's grandmother, Esterina, was born and raised. After a brief nap at home, our tour guides, Sheila and Rino, took us to Palmanova. It is a star-shaped medieval city that was built to protect its people from Attila the Hun and his muslim invaders. Due to their multi-layered (wall, moat, wall, moat) protection, they were never invaded. Next we went to Acquilea, to see a civilization that were not as fortunate, as these were the people who were invaded by Attila's barbarians and eventually escaped further North to create Venice. The 14the century Roman church was built overtop a mosaic floor that dates back to the 4th century--jaw-dropping, indeed. The rest of the evening tour will be featured on our next blog, as it deserves a separate map pin-point.

The next day, it was time for the beach. We went to a city called Lignano--the Italian Riviera on the Adriatic Sea. It was only a 45 minute drive from Sheila and Rino's (which is apparently the center of the universe, as we came to realize)! It was the most beautiful beach we have ever seen. They thought the water would be too cold for us, but being from Canada it turned out to be like a warm bath. We swam in the salty water, and then laid on the beach and worked on our tans. We then visited Rino's son's (Lorenzo) bar, and enjoyed a gelato and beer. We drive home and had tortellini stuffed with prosciutto (amazingly enough--a fantastic invention) and Frico, which is a Friulan dish of potato and cheese.

What was expected to be a couple of days turned out to be five of the best days of our lives. It was difficult to leave, knowing that nothing will compare to our stay in Friuli. We would like to extend a special thank you to Sheila and Rino Pagotto for showing us the time of our lives. We will never forget you, and look forward to the next time we meet again.

Mandi! Ciao!
Paul & Juliana Infanti

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johnnyq29 on

Funny feeling
I always thought there was something odd about you two,and now my suspicions have been verified.

'They treated us as though we were their own son and daughter.'

You guys are brother and sister!!!!!!!!!! Oh my God!!!!

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