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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