Buongiorno Italy!

Hooray! We have finally made it to Italy!

Even though this is my third time to Europe, this is my first time to Italy! Such a surprise though, given that ever since I was really young I loved pasta and my parents would always say “You should marry an Italian!”

Anyways, things have been a bit hectic and so I haven’t had the chance to blog about our time in Naples or Rome. We are currently in the beautiful city of Florence, however, I will try and keep this post about Naples and Rome and will cover Florence in the future. We are intending to stay in Florence until Friday 6 December 2013 (so there will be ample time to blog more!).

My idea of how Italy would be before arriving to this country looked a bit like this – pasta and pizza every day, men with slick hair and people talking with their hands.

Let me be the first to tell you, that Italy is exactly like this, but better! From my current experience in Italy, I found that Italians make fantastic pasta and pizza. They taste completely different to the pasta and pizza in Australia, a lot simpler, but you can taste each ingredient used. Also, good quality pasta and pizza does not leave you feeling bloated and heavy.

A typical first course meal in a local Roman restaurant called 'Da Enzo' - Rigatoni and Cacio e pepe with red wine.
A typical first course meal in a local Roman restaurant called ‘Da Enzo’ – Rigatoni and Cacio e pepe with red wine.

Italian men, they aren’t as slicked hair as I had thought, but the men and women do dress really well here. Talking with their hands. This is something the Italians most certainly do, however, I noticed that they talk not with just their hands, but with all of their being. This I really love! I can really relate to them as I do feel like I express my thoughts and feelings with my hands, body and energy and they do it straight back to me! I may not be able to speak Italian well, but so far, I’ve been able to make myself be understood.

Naples, Italy

Our first stop in Italy was actually the second last port of call on our cruise. We arrived in Naples and we disembarked our ship to take a tour of Pompeii! Pompeii is a wonderful place! Different to the other ancient cities that we had visited as this city was clearly different in the feel of the buildings and design of the cities. This was clearly a ‘Roman’ city. Little things like streets being built with these speed-bump-like obstacles which only permitted the standard Roman chariot, which was very cool. Foreigners who did not have the standard Roman chariot could rent one! Our tour guide made a joke about Avis first appearing in Italy.

Here’s some photos of our day:

Entry into the city of Pompeii
Entry into the city of Pompeii
Side street in Pompeii
Side street in Pompeii
Kevin and a wall fresco of a bull
Kevin and a wall fresco of a bull
Fiery deer fresco
Fiery deer fresco
Flying goat…lion…?
Flying goat…lion…?
The McDonalds of Pompeii - a fast food joint.
The McDonalds of Pompeii – a fast food joint.
An eerie figure..
An eerie figure..

Roma, Italy

Ah Rome. I couldn’t believe that we arrived in Rome when we did. There was that feeling of disbelief, that I was in one of the most famous cities in Europe. I’m going to keep my post in Rome about my overall experience and will let Kev post about what we saw and what did there.

Rome for me was about two things, which I have mentioned briefly above – the people and the food.

After holding out on the pizza and pasta that was readily available on the cruise (and being a pasta lover, it was very difficult for me to do so especially when there was a pasta station with a chef who would cook your pasta there and then!), I was ready and eager to dig into the local food. We ended up staying in an apartment that we found though Airbnb in the area of Trastevere. We met Mario and his dog Guapo and I knew instantly that this was going to be an awesome stay. Mario’s place was simple, but warm. There were three other groups staying at the apartment and Mario really opened his heart to all, allowing us to feel welcomed and not shy to chat with each other. He really encouraged all to get to know each other and within hours, I know I felt like I was at home.

Mario helped us with directions, local knowledge of where to eat and what places to avoid. Insider tip, the Italians eat from 7pm onwards. This is a small adjustment for us as we normally eat at 6pm. Any restaurant that is open earlier than that is apparently ‘not good’. When we told Mario that we had already eaten dinner one night, his eyes almost fell out of his head and he protested ‘No no no no! That means you did not eat at a good place!’ After that, he insisted that we eat with him. I protested politely as I knew Kev and I were stuffed. Well I knew that I was.  However, regardless of me saying I wanted ‘nothing’, we ended up at the dinner table having second dinner, that being home made pasta by Mario.

This was not the only instance where we were treated to home made Italian pasta. Mario insisted that we join him on three occasions. One occasion he asked me ‘So Anna, having nothing again tonight?’ ‘Uh… yes…’ I smiled while I started to regret eating dinner again. ‘OK. I will consider that in the amount of pasta I make. Is Kevin having nothing too?!’ ( 🙂 Big Love! He looked after us so well). Once Mario started dinner, me and Guapo would stand next to Mario has he worked his magic around the kitchen. Me hungry to learn how to cook pasta the Italian way; Guapo hungry to eat anything that fell on the floor. I had mentioned to Mario that we wanted to take cooking lessons and learn how to make pasta, he recommended us a place, but after the second night there Mario said ‘Since you guys are nice, how would you like me to teach you how to make pasta? You got to be ready to do a lot of work.’  I was ecstatic and told him I was up for it and that I was sure Kev would be up for it. Mario asked the other groups if they would like to join us, however, only Martina and Dan from Vienna were keen.

Martina and Dan were a wonderfully fun couple that Kev and I got to know during our time at Mario’s place. The first day we met them we spent the night chatting at the dinner table about where we were from (us from Australia, Dan from Berlin but now currently living with Martina in Vienna), cultural idiosyncracies and just randoms stuff. Mario joined us and offered us some grappa (to which we all politely declined), however, as the conversation took off, Mario stealthily poured us all a glass of grappa anyways! Some of the interesting things I learnt that night were:

1. US/English speaking movies that are shown in Europe either are dubbed or subtitled. If they are dubbed, the American or English speaking actor has his/her own voice over actor! The example given to us was that the voice over actor for Tom Hanks will always be the voice over for Tom Hanks. So Europeans can recognise his voice over and associate it with Tom Hanks. However, the voice over actor for Tom Hanks is also the voice over for Bruce Willis and Gerard Depardieu! We were told that it can get quite confusing.

2. Sandra Bullock can speak flawless German. She has a flawless accent and both Martina and Dan were amazed at how well she can speak. I kid you not, she sounds awesome. It blew my mind when we YouTubed it. I really loved her before but she just got awesomer!

3. When we continued to chat about English speaking actors who can speak German, Diane Kruger and Michael Fassbender came up. I love both actors, and both of them were in the movie Inglorious Bastards. Funnily, Dan referred us to the scene where Michael Fassbender’s character gives away his ID when he orders ‘three drinks’. Dan wanted to know whether it was true that we signal three with our hands using our index, middle and ring fingers! Kev and I laughed so hard because we have always wanted to know whether it was really true that Germans used their thumb, pointer and middle fingers to signal three. As you can tell, our conversation confirmed this tiny, but facinating cultural difference which would not have been picked up by either of us, but for Quentin Tarintino’s film. The scene which I refer to can be found here.

The next day, Martina and Dan had planned to go to the Colosseum, whereas Kev and I were tossing up between there and the Vatican. Kev and I left a lot later than them but decided to go to the ancient ruins instead of the Vatican because the weather was good. By good luck, we bumped into Martina and Dan around 2pm on the bottom floor of the Colosseum! We all were starving and had pretty much finished exploring. Kev and I suggested that we try a trattoria that Mario recommended. A Trattoria which was the ‘typical’ Roman soccer fanatic type – loud, lively, slightly gruff but not intending to be rude, and with great pasta and pizza. Martina and Dan liked the sound of that and agreed to join us. We had a great time there watching the locals talk and eat.

Outside the colosseum.
Outside the colosseum.
Awesome foursome selfie of Dan and Martina, Kev and I.
Awesome foursome selfie of Dan and Martina, Kev and I.

All this bonding naturally made cooking pasta together with Mario and Guapo really fun and comfortable! This night was by far the best night in Europe so far! Mario filled the kitchen with life, fun and energy! I could’t help but relish in the positive vibes that bounced from the walls. The tiny kitchen was cozy for five people and a dog to fit in, but it worked!

Pasta is SOOOOOO FUN!
Pasta is SOOOOOO FUN! Eating and making! I can’t contain myself! GAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!
Mario, our host showing us how the Italians do it.
Mario, our host showing us how the Italians do it.
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Mario said you only need one person to do this. Us rookies needed three.
Look at our looooong pasta!
Look at our looooong pasta!
Mario cooking our pasta al dente.
Mario cooking our pasta al dente.
Serving up our meal.
Serving up our meal.
YUM!
YUM! This was the BEST pasta ever!

On Martina and Dan’s last night in Rome, we all went to their favourite Bar, Antico Caffe Del Moro, for some final drinks!

Dan, Kev, Me, Martina and Mario.
Dan, Kev, Me, Martina and Mario at Antico Caffe Del Moro

It was sad to see them go. It was always nice bumping into them in the kitchen, dining room, our hallway chats or in between the rush for the bathroom. We didn’t get to see them off, however, when Kev and I returned from the Vatican, we saw this napkin note which was slid under our door:

LOVE :)
LOVE 🙂

Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of the other lovely people that we met at Mario’s place. We met two German sisters who left on the same day as Martina and Dan, Nathan and Hillary from New Orleans and Alicia from Seattle. Everyone was so nice and friendly! And, after Mario’s insistence over the time of our stay, on our last night in Rome, I brought out my ukulele to play some tunes. Luckily I had a few glasses of wine to calm the nerves of playing and singing for a small group of people who I just met. But it was a BAG full of fun! Most of them knew the songs I could play (Alicia is a karaoke queen!!!). Mario then asked me to play an Italian song, to which I was unable to do so as I didn’t know the song well enough to play just by looking at the chords. I felt super bad because of all people, I would have loved to have obliged him given that he had looked after us so well. By the end of our ukulele-singing-YouTubing-bonding session, we all were smiling and we decided to call it a night at 1.30am. What a night! Now I am determined to learn one Italian song before I leave this country!

*** By way of update (04/12/2013) Mario has sent me a short video clip which he created for our ukulele night! You can meet Guapo, Alicia, Nathan and Hillary here! 🙂

I should be Italian

As mentioned earlier, my parents always thought that I was secretly Italian, or that I should marry an Italian. While exploring Rome, we stumbled across some confirmations that I really do belong here:

My street!
My street!
Actually, it's Anna everywhere in Rome!
Actually, it’s Anna everywhere in Rome!

Our footprint: http://spiked.it/PbduoT2

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