Archive for February, 2007

La Ciba Umbria

Just thought I’d update real quick before I (hopefully) get to finally talk to my sister for the first time in forever…

This afternoon a little before five, we met in Piazza Italia to catch a bus out to the Perugian countryside for typical Umbrian cuisine. This was organized through a company called AltraUmbria… there is a trend in travel, particularly Italian travel, in which tourists don’t just want to sight-see– they want to experience Italy. Alternative vacationing usually involves staying with a family, cooking meals with them, etc., and thus experiencing a different culture from a very inside-perspective. I think it’s a fantastic idea… anyway, AltraUmbria organizes vacations like this, and set my class up with the opportunity to have dinner with a Perugian family.

We hopped on the bus and went wayyy out, a good 20 minutes past even where my voice teacher lives. We were definitely in the countryside now, and I saw things I’d never seen… beautiful castles, villas, estates, farms… it was gorgeous. We finally got off and were picked up by the mother in a car and driven even further out into the country. A storm was rolling in, and as we drove through the hills we could watch the storm clouds forming vertically on the horizon. It was incredible.

We were greeted by a precious puppy when we got out, as fat rain drops fell, so we ran inside and entered a toasty, cozy home, complete with four Italian children who knew how to say their names and ages in English. They were so cute and sweet and round!

They gave us hot tea and some biscuits that I’m not sure of the name of– they were specifically for lent, and they warned us that they were hard and are supposed to be that way, and to dip them in the tea to soften them. Well I almost broke my tooth and it took me about twenty minutes to get through a small, 2-square-inch biscuit, but… culture.

She spoke to us in Italian for quite awhile about what were going to be making and eating, and explained that all Umbrian food has a history, a story… it doesn’t just taste good, it has historical value.

We started by making torte al testo, which I explained in the last entry… (by the way, I have the recipes for all of this, and now I know how to make it, so when I come home, you’re all getting an Umbrian meal. Well, maybe just some of you.) So we made the torte al testo dough, and while it sat, we tried fresh, raw fennel which we dipped in olive oil and salt. It was interesting– like licorice and onion in one vegetable. Then we made the sausage and baked the torte al testo, and finally made biscotti with fennel seeds… soooo yummy.

As things baked and cooked, we sat at the table and they served us fresh pecorino cheese topped with local honey made by her father-in-law… amazing. Then we had some ciabatta and a little local wine.

We sat down for dinner and started with lentil soup that she had pre-made, and it was wonderful. We ate it with bread (no salt of course) and a little local olive oil, and then she served the torte al testo with some cabbage she had made before, and also the sausages which were baked in a touch of balsamic vinegar with water. Finally we finished with the biscotti with small cups of Marsala, an Italian liquer-type beverage… yummy. By this time, it had been almost six hours and we were basically stuffed…

It was all very interesting and I learned how to cook! She even let me separate the eggs. It was wonderful, and I loved sitting and chatting only in Italian… a few of the others looked a bit lost, but my friend Frank and I speak decent Italian and enjoyed the discussion a lot.

Well, that’s that! I’m so sleepy! Buona notte!

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La luce

Okay, sorry it took me so long to update… it’s been kind of a crappy week… not feeling well again and still really dizzy and will be having a CT scan tomorrow… send happy thoughts and prayers! But I thought I’d go ahead and update a little.

Saturday night, Anna and I came home from Carnivale in Venice… it was a long train ride there, but really beautiful. Northern Italy is gorgeous, and so flat… it was really nice to be out of the mountains for awhile. Pulling into Venice was wonderful, just seeing water! Perugia is so landlocked, except for the incredibly huge Lago Trasimeno, that it can be a bit oppressive at times. As soon as we stepped off the train, went through the station and onto the steps, we found ourselves beside the Grand Canal, which was gorgeous! The piazza was filled with make-up artists, people in crazy costumes, street musicians, vendors… it was insanity. We crossed the canal on one of the big bridges and took a gander at all the gondolas and boats and tourists… immediately we were overwhelmed! Finding the bus station to our hostel was not exactly easy but we did it, and took a couple of buses several miles outside of Venice to our hostel.

Now, the hostel gets its own paragraph because it was humorous. It was called Camp Alba D’Oro, and it was in the Ca’ Noghera district, which essentially means it was the only place we could afford and it was about 30 minutes away from Venice. Haha! Everything else was really expensive, but this was fine! So we arrive and check in, only to see, yes, a campground! But we were given tiny little “Pins,” they were called– trailer/cabin things that were remarkably clean and sunfilled, and we had a large bathroom and a shower with doors (which never ceases to be exciting, since we don’t have that in our own HOME). We dropped our bags off and hopped right back on the bus to Venice.

Our map was absolutely ridiculous, as was all maps off Venice– they’re useless. Venetian streets are complicated, often water-filled, and basically impossible. So we walked about two hours and finally, as darkness fell, found ourselves in St. Mark’s square– an enormous, stunningly beautiful piazza. It was so packed with people that it was more than comparable to Times Square on New Years Eve. There was a huge stage set up at the far end of the square, and after we were camera happy for awhile, little characters made their way on the stage and were jesters of sorts. They talked for awhile and then other characters, contortionists, etc paraded down a runway to about 20 feet from us. Costumed children on horses also rode up, and a large lantern was held in front of a small boy’s face. Church bells chimed and then there was a countdown, and at zero, the little boy on the horse blew out the light in the lantern. When he did, all the lights in St. Mark’s square went out!!! Millions of lights! Shop windows, hotel windows… everything! For about 15 minutes, the jesters did a fireshow to Cirque du Soleil music (Allegria!) and then the lights came back on and the mayor spoke and finally we decided it was just too crowded to enjoy it anymore, so we decided to go find some dinner.

Finally Anna and I found a lovely, cozy little restaurant, and as soon as we sat down they brought us each a wonderful glass of red champagne. We ordered antipasti of Insalate Caprese with buffalo mozzarella (which, until experienced, cannot be explained) which is just buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes. It’s amazing. They brought us bread (salted! hooray for being out of central Italy) and olive oil and even salt and pepper (!!!) and then we had our primi piatti (we decided we only needed one course). I had lasagna which was homemade and had incredible meat sauce on it, and Anna had ravioli con vedura primavera (ravioli with spring vegetables). Both were fabulous.

It was getting late and the last shuttle back to our hostel was at 10:30, and we knew it would take awhile to find our way back. Actually, we didn’t get lost this time, somehow, but it still took a little over an hour of fast, fast FAST walking to get back to the buses.

We only spent the one night, so we had to check out yesterday morning, so we got up early and ran into the market to get bread and cheese for breakfast which we ate on the bus (and a little Nutella). We checked our bags at the station and heard there was a parade in Saint Mark’s, but we knew it was an hour’s walk. Also let me mention here that we had a photography project due on Monday so we had to take about 3 rolls of film on Sunday. Well, predictably, we got hopelessly lost trying to find Saint Mark’s, but somehow after about 2 hours of walking stumbled across the parade… it wasn’t huge, but it was a long line of pairs of costumed Venetians in their haunting masks and incredible clothing. We decided to allow ourselves at least an hour and a half to find our way back to the train station, but we had a few minutes to spare so Anna decided we should trek on and find Saint Mark’s again. So we found it, and also came upon the parade again! That was neat, to see everything. We got our film taken and then decided to start walking back. The streets were so crowded though that literally we were being pushed and shoved along on all sides of our bodies… it was very stressful but we made it! Amazingly, I think we took the correct route back to the station and decided to grab some pizza and get our faces painted before heading home… that was so fun! Everyone had their faces painted in Venice, so we didn’t stand out at all, but once we got to Perugia we looked a little odd.

Anyway, Sunday was spent in the dark room which gets long… this week has been mostly cold and rainy and frustrating, but today the weather finally let up and I think some warmer air has moved in, perhaps. It was sunny and we were so happy about it. We also went to Ranieri again today, which is a bit disorganized, but I think we may have made some headway.

This weekend we will be staying in Perugia to save money and to study. My roommate Ren and I might so see a production of Death of a Salesman at Teatro Morlacchi, a beautiful old theatre near us, and it will be in Italian so that should be interesting.

This week is midterms already, and then spring break!!! We have finally made our hostel reservations for Barcelona, Paris, and Nice, and actually they all look really nice and fortunately they should all be private rooms shared by Sarah and me, which will be great… somehow I’ve gotten out of dorm situations completely while here. Don’t know how!

I had another voice lesson yesterday, and that went great… I was really dizzy unfortunately but it went well. Carmen actually got home a little bit after I got there so her husband, Marcello, said I could sit and play piano as long as I pleased… it was lovely to just sit in a quiet room and play alone. I play at school a lot here but the piano is in a classroom and people are always listening and walking in to talk to me, so it was nice to just be alone and play on their beautiful piano.

Tomorrow night, Anna and I are staying in and watching Harry Potter, and we also found a place that has pancake mix!!! The prospect of a real breakfast is enthralling to us.

Anyhow, I’m off… I’m going to the tanning bed because I need sunshine in my life… and also because if I’m going to be wearing a bathing suit in France, I don’t want to be pasty. Tanning beds here are hilarious… I can’t even explain them, but they are nothing like the ones in the US. Maybe next time I’ll make the attempt to put into words the tanning bed experience.

Also, tonight we’re going to grab dinner at Tutto Testo, one of our favorite restaurants here. Torte al testo is an Umbrian specialty bread. It’s a spongy, dense, large and usually triangular bread, about three-quarters of an inch thick, and it is only found here in Umbria. It’s so good, and they make sandwiches and things with it, really fresh and wonderful. Also at Tutto testo they have fabulous hot chocolate as well as dessert crepes. Hard to turn down. However, I have weaned myself almost off of caffeine!!! It’s difficult and I’m having the headaches and what not but I know it will be worth it. I do love my espresso but I hate needing it to get through the day.

Anyway, love you all, keep me in your prayers if you don’t mind! Please!

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un’altro lezione di voce, San Valentino, e Venezia…

This week has absolutely flown by… it was overall a very busy week, but I can’t believe it’s over already! Time here flies. It’s insane. In a few minutes I’ll start packing for Venice. Let’s see… well, the night after the loud-neighbor entry, I thought surely they’d be quiet for a night, and they were, but a dog sat beneath my window and barked until about 2 am, which was funny in that not-so-funny way. So I dragged my matress in the kitchen and slept there. Great.

That is how my Valentine’s Day started, in the kitchen… as I got my things together for school and voice lessons, I realized I couldn’t find my wallet so I got nice and panicky for a couple hours. After a few very confusing conversations with various store owners, a bus ride to Carmen’s for my voice lesson, and three Saint Anthony chants (Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony please come around, something has been lost that cannot be found), it turned up where else, but in my book bag. Fabulous. Anyway, the bus ride was fine, fortunately, and the climb up the mountain to Carmen’s was, if nothing else, not rainy. We had a wonderful hour and a half together. We worked hard and she gave me a few new arias to work on, not easy ones either. It’s going really well. She is amazing. I love more than anything when she points to her photos on the wall and says, “Questo! Io!” As in, this is me singing this part. I adore it.

The day turned up from there. Anna and I had an appointment at Ranieri with the curator, Claudia (in Italy, that name is common and is pronounced “klow-dya” which is beautiful). She gave us a much more extensive history of the family, the museum and library, and its pieces… it was great. Also, since it is still a private establishment, we have the whole thing to ourselves when we want to just sit and work, and we are also allowed to go there anytime we want since we work for them. It’s really wonderful. I adore the opportunity. After Ranieri, we got some Valentine’s Day gelato (well, just gelato, in honor of Valentine’s Day) and then upon going to Practicum discovered that Anna’s boyfriend had sent her brownies through Sweet Perugia. This is a company in which our family and friends can order things like American brownies, cookies, and cakes to be made for us because one of the faculty members here special orders those things.. it’s a smart little business and if you think I need some cookies or brownies or cake, you just hop on over to http://www.sweetperugia.com and I will not complain. 🙂 Haha! We only spent a few minutes in practicum talking to our professor about our project plans and a few interviews we will conduct with the Bourbon di Sorbello/Ranieri families… yes, the Bourbons as in THE Bourbons… amazing. Every new thing I learn about this family, I just about fall over.

Anyway, there was a Valentine’s Day TANDEM which is basically a little chat mixer organized by our school where Italian students come and practice their English on us and we practice our Italian on them, but mostly there was free bread and nutella, hot chocolate, and Baci. And Italian boys. It was fun, and after that, we decided that nothing would end the day better than some Italian Chinese food. Let me tell you, ordering Chinese food in Italian is an interesting affair, but it is quite good. Anyway, this has not been the healthiest of weeks, and after I return from Venice, things must change!

So tomorrow morning we are heading to Venice for the famous tradition of Carnivale, which has been going on for almost a week already and ends on Martedi Grassi (Fat Tuesday). I’m only staying for one night, but it should be a wonderful (and probably crazy) time.

Anna and I are taking a Eurostar train at 8:45 tomorrow morning and it lasts about 6 hours… not too bad, really. Originally we planned on stopping in Verona but changed our minds. So, Venezia, andiamo!

I’m sure there will be pictures… hopefully there will be no bad situations. Some friends of ours went last weekend and were mugged and then later on, saw the guy, chased him down, and had to beat him up (in their own defense) because he pulled a knife on them… so now they have to go back this weekend to testify. I feel bad for them. So we are a bit apprehensive but we will be very careful!

Love you all. 🙂

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Here Comes the Sun, doo doo doo doo

Well, last night, the neighbors weren’t exactly quiet but fortunately (or unfortunately), it was raining so extremely hard that I couldn’t hear them. Our outside shutters weren’t closed yet when it started raining, but it was pouring so hard that I couldn’t even consider opening the windows to close the shutters, so they banged and banged… I was impressed that no water got inside, but there were little hail pellets on my windowsill when it finally calmed down enough to close the shutters. If you’ve seen Under the Tuscan Sun, the storm in it is no exaggeration… weather patterns here seem to be anything but mild. This morning, we got up and as per usual donned our sweaters, scarves, gloves, heavy coats… but walked outside to an almost-balmy morning. As the day progressed it got even warmer, and after ballet I walked home with my coat in hand and wished I wasn’t wearing tights and leggings under my skirt and tall boots. Anyway, I am sure it wasn’t actually that warm, per se, but the wind ceased for once, the sun came out, and I didn’t feel like my fingers would freeze off at any moment.

Tomorrow morning I will once again brave the Perugian APM bus #87 to the San Marco district to see Signora Carmen Gonzalez for voice lessons… this time, without Anna. I’m a little nervous, so I’m hopping in bed earlier than usual (although it’s hard to get much earlier than 10:30) to ensure proper vocal rest.

I’ve been taking it easy this afternoon on account of some more dizziness and vertigo, simply the remains of pneumonia lingering around… I watched a few of the first episodes of That 70s Show and giggled, remembering watching them with my daddy several years ago and laughing so hard together. It’s a funny show.

I also found out today that for my first weekend of spring break in Barcelona, some of my music theatre Elon friends are going to meet up with me! They are studying in Madrid, so I am so extraordinarily excited to see them. Seriously, almost cried! Also, high school boyfriend Daniel will be in Italy at the end of April for a wedding and I will definitely get to see him, as well, which is equally enthralling.

Anyway… I’m off! Buona Notte!!!

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Italian Noises

My neighbors are loud all the time and because we have brick walls covered in plaster (where it is still in tact), banging on the walls does almost no good, yet, amazingly, I still hear every word they say. However, I know this is difficult to fathom but I cannot for the life of me figure out which door is theirs, or if they are even in my building, in order to bang on the door to say “PER FAVORE! Potete non essere MOLTO MOLTO FORTE TUTTO IL GIORNO E TUTTA LA SERA E TUTTA LA NOTTE?!?!?!” which means please, can you not be so, so loud all the day and all the evening and all the night?!

I think actually right now they are arguing. Which is not surprising. I hear the girl yelling, throwing (yes throwing) things, and the occasional frustrated scream. Every now and then the man gets a word in.

They have a love-hate relationship, and trust me when I say, we hear all, ALL of both sides… so much for privacy?!

Geez, now she is crying. It never ends. *sigh*

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Observations…

I know I write a lot about what I’ve been doing, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg in a lot of ways. The motions we go through on a daily basis are really just that– motions. I’m trying to make observations about how I’m changing, but that’s not an easy thing to do when you are the one doing the changing. I already know that I’ve changed in some big ways but I can’t put a finger on how yet. There are definitely things that strike me as interesting. Sometimes I think that I was completely unprepared for what this semester was going to be like. I was so extremely caught up in packing, saying goodbyes, and filling out forms that I did almost no mental preparation for what it was going to be like– literally removing oneself from all comforts, all vices, all loves is not an easy thing to do, and instead of dwelling on this while here, I am trying to observe my own reaction to this and adjust accordingly. It definitely brings up interesting points. I start to miss things that I never thought I’d miss. I know I’ve said this already but it is amazing what leaving behind the comforts of home can do. Now, I know I’m just gone for a semester, and I know it’s flying by already, but you have to understand what it feels like to be so far away from home. It’s such a bittersweet experience.

It’s funny. When I think of myself at home, I think of my little lavender office and I think of sitting in my desk chair and twisting back and forth, staring out the window and watching thunderstorms come in over our little field outside and thinking what’s beyond it, what’s beyond Gibsonville, Burlington, North Carolina, America… thinking how I know I’m meant for “more than this,” how “out there,” there is so much noise and action and I’m just here in my office, thinking about it. I think of driving a little too fast down the almost-too-familiar Neelley Road towards mommy and daddy’s house, my childhood home, taking a deep, satisfying breath if I get lucky and come home the week the wisteria is flourishing in the summertime or the time in the fall when the trees are on fire… pulling into the driveway and hugging Daphne and Delilah, the ever-faithful puppies… summer dinners in the garden battling bugs and wondering if the sun is ever going to set, winter vegetarian chili in front of the fireplace and hoping it snows but of course it never does… and then going back to the townhouse and once again thinking, “I’m meant for bigger places.”

So, here I am, in bigger places, doing bigger things, and I find myself thinking so often of home and wondering exactly where life sits… is it in the adventures or the comforts, or somewhere in between? Is it in the details or the big lessons? And if it is in the moral of the story, how come the moral always takes so many years to really grow and blossom until it’s so far in the past that it has become a natural part of life? We are a very goal-oriented race, often ignoring the journey, and I find myself living it so vividly here that it is a very new experience.

Why do we always want to be somewhere else? Or why, more specifically, do I?

This morning I woke up and put on my tennis shoes and decided to go on a long walk. I walked through the center of the city, past the accordion player, the little old men with their bushy white eyebrows and bright blue eyes, the women in their furs, and just kept going down, down, down and found myself at the walking track which is on flat ground (very exciting). Of course, the gate was closed but I sat on the wide marble bleachers for a long time and just breathed. Off the top of the mountain, it was several degrees warmer and sunnier. It was such a safe place. Of course, as soon as I left, I was followed by one of the sketchy guys for awhile until I took off into a jog (which worked because I was wearing workout clothes anyway) and it was such an odd, extreme few minutes of feeling completely safe and then very vulnerable until I got back to the center. The thing is, I was never in an unsafe place, or even an isolated place… there are just weird people everywhere here.

Anyway, don’t get me wrong… this place, so far away and so beautiful, is slowly becoming not so far away, not so unfamiliar. It’s becoming comfortable.

Yesterday, Anna and I decided that getting out of Perugia for the day would be a good idea. So we hopped on the first train to Assisi, which is about 20 minutes from Perugia. Once there, we found the first bus up the hill and wandered around for the afternoon. The cathedrals there were so stunning. There is a line in one of my favorite songs that says, “In the cathedrals of New York and Rome, there is a feeling that you should just go home and spend a lifetime finding out just what that is.” I never really understood this until I got here… the smaller cathedrals are my favorite. They are so sacred and suddenly you understand why the little old ladies are there that kneel in the pews rolling their rosaries over their knuckles with their heads bowed … they feel it. They feel something in there that I feel too, and I don’t know what it is. I’m not excessively religious, and I’m definitely not Catholic, but these places bring a solitude to your soul that you know you could never find anywhere else. In the first cathedral we went into, I lit a prayer candle for my sister’s birthday, and one for my family. We also went in the Saint Francis basilica, which is enormous. We saw a mass being performed, and I must say, this place didn’t do it for me as much. It was too big, it felt a big oppressive. It was beautiful, but less personal. And then, of course, we sat in a gelateria and giggled and said what we’ve said every time we’ve done this– “No, really, this time, this is the best gelato we’ve had.”

Anyway, just thought I’d throw those thoughts out there. It’s yet another cloudy day here in Perugia, but fortunately I have a lot of homework to do. Also, there is a cafe very close to here that has a piano in it and I might ask if I can play it. There’s never anyone in there.

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!!! 🙂 Kisses to you all… miss you!

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Buona compleanna a tu…

Birthday celebrations were extensive this year. They began late Wednesday night at La Tana dell’Orso, a pub close to our apartment near the Etruscan arch. It was decided that mourning the last night of my 21st year was equally as important as celebrating the first night of my 22nd, so we went out. It was a lot of fun, the first night I had really been “out” since before I was sick… so, really since the first week we were here. At midnight, the entire place sang happy birthday and I got to blow out a candle, and I headed home a little before two, called home and chatted with daddy for awhile, and then went to bed.

Thursday started off, as per usual, at 7:30 in the AM for Italian, ballet, and our first meeting at the Ranieri Foundation, the private library/museum that I’m working for. We headed over to the library which is actually in the same piazza as the organic foods market, near my apartment sort of, and discovered that it is housed in a lovely palazzo- yes, palace- with marble staircases and columns galore. The library itself is only one floor of the palazzo so I didn’t get to see the whole thing, but it is a warm place filled with ancient books from floor to ceiling in many languages. The museum doors were opened to us, as well– since it is a private museum intended for scholarly research and requires appointment for admission, this was a treat. The museum’s displayed items consist mainly of the Ranieri/Sorbello family heirlooms: things like portraits, handmade playing cards, carved chess pieces, incredible lace and pillow tassels, carved busts, and a lot of beautiful porcelain things. What we didn’t see was the rest of the collection, which is in private storage but will eventually be shown to us– the heirloom jewels, tapestries, and more art. The palazzo itself was stunningly gorgeous, complete with the family’s original furniture, frescoed ceilings, fireplaces, etc. After talking with the owners for awhile, Anna and I (and our new Dutch friend and partner Sytske) sat down and discussed our project, which is basically to create an English version of their Italian website from a “fresh” perspective, as they intend to open the library and museum to the public as a tourist site in the upcoming years. This will require some research on our part of their displays, books, and archives. Basically we will be doing some cataloging of the pieces, research on which are the most notable, and a lot of writing for target audiences, creating the text and format of the website for the tech people to implement as we tell them. So anyway, it’s a really interesting project and I love that I get to be a part of their history. I feel like I get to leave my mark on this city in a tangible way and that really warms my heart!

After Ranieri, Anna and I decided it was absolutely necessary to stop by Sandri, a gorgeous pasticceria that only recently opened its doors for the season (it is closed for all of January until Festa di San Lorenzo). It is on the big road in the very center of the city, Corso Vanucci, and we are in love with it. Its front windows always have the most beautiful pastry displays, chocolate creations, and enormous tiramisus. Their tiramisu is undoubtedly the best in the city. Inside, the shelves and bar are a heavy, dark mahogany. The walls are lined from about head level up with liquors and wines up to the ceiling. On the right, under the liquors and wines, is an entire wall of glass cabinets filled with petits-fours, chocolates, and candies, and on the other side is the bar with antique cash registers, brass caffe machines, and beyond that, more cabinets with freshly made pastries. Beyond the pastries is yet another case that usually contains a tavola calda– “hot table”– a much classier version of the American cafeteria set-up. You just ask for the pasta or meat or whatever it is you want. Also, they have things like sandwiches that they heat up for you, but my favorite is the line-up of pans filled with their tiramisu, which they cut for you according to how much you ask for. And above your head during all this are the most beautiful crystal chandeliers. Anyway, we limit our visits there because they are dangerous, but it was my birthday, and I wanted chocolate, so we got it. Haha!

I met up with my roommates on the walk home and we discussed our plans for the evening. We decided to eat dinner at a “secret” restaurant called L’Osteria dell Tempo Pranzo, the Osteria of Lost Time. We showered and dressed and several hours later, headed over there. This place is delightfully anonymous and not noticeable if you are not specifically looking for it. It is off of a side street, sort of in an alley, and its door is covered in wood with the restaurant name hand-scrawled in black cursive. Upon entrance, you find yourself in small room, about twice the size of my bedroom here, but two stories, with a staircase leading to a small loft. To your right is the kitchen, and at your feet is a fireplace burning hot. We were shown to our table (actually, she pointed and said, “this one”) and we sat and ordered a liter of wine, which was brought to us in a handmade ceramic pitcher, which we poured into handmade ceramic cups. There’s something very special and authentically Italian about drinking wine from clay cups. The service is remarkably slow, which is warned about on the menu, and foreshadowed in the name of the restaurant… lost time. Definitely. We got there around 8:30 and left a little after 11, and we didn’t even order all the courses– in fact, we left out 3 courses. We each started out with an antipasti of incredible bruschetta… I am consistently confused about bruschetta here. This time, it was a plate of two large pieces of crunchy bread piled high with soft, fresh, warm tomatoes and a touch of basil and olive oil. It was amazing. About forty-five minutes and another liter of wine later, we received our primi piatti. I ordered pennette with gorgonzola and it was simple and incredible. Pasta here is typically served “al dente,” or a bit harder than we would eat in the states. Some of the other girls ordered pennette with an interesting cream cheese and pumpkin, which was also amazing. Only one of my friends ordered a second course, which took about another hour to receive. We all ordered side dishes instead of the second course and decided to split them. A few of us ordered breaded, fried mozzarella which is nothing like the frozen cheese sticks you get in America at places like Applebees. These were small balls of mozzarella, hand-breaded and lightly fried in olive oil… they were so good! The roast potatoes were really roasted– they actually wrapped them in foil and put them IN the fireplace we saw when we first entered. Finally we were full and headed back to our apartment briefly… the girls said they wanted to brush their teeth so I followed along, delightfully tingly from the couple of cups of wine I’d had. As I brushed my teeth and chatted absentmindedly and loudly from my bedroom to the other girls in the kitchen, they called me in and had gotten me a beautiful cake!!! It was so gorgeous… layers of chocolate with thick, glossy icing and fresh fruit and pieces of thin white chocolate around the outside. I squealed a bit and then insisted we saved it for after our outing. They were so sweet to do that! So we headed over to Elfo’s Pub, a bar that is usually filled with Italians and usually has great music. Unfortunately, that night, there was an absolutely horrendous Italian band playing American music, and playing it terribly. I’m not being a snob here– they were just bad. But American songs get lots of applause here, no matter how poorly performed. Anyway, Michele and Umberto (some of our Italian friends) showed up and we decided we couldn’t handle the music, so we headed to La Tana where our gypsy music friends were playing. Here we met a few of Umberto’s friends, Lorenzo and Gabriel, who are sweet Perugians that discussed American and Italian stereotypes for awhile with me. After being at La Tana until a little after 2, we headed back to our apartment for cake and finally went to bed a little after four.

It was a delightful birthday, and yesterday morning I got up to have my eyebrows waxed, walked through the rain, and promptly went back to bed when I returned and slept til about three in the afternoon. For dinner we went to our favorite pizza place, Etruschetta, for a meter of pizza and wine, came home, and went to bed again.

Today is a mystery thus far; we want to get out of Perugia but finding a place without rain is going to be a challenge. So, we shall see…

Happy birthday to my dearest and greatest friend, my sister… I love you so much and I miss you so much and I’m thinking of you constantly!!!

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