Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cinque Terre

My trip on the way to Cinque Terre was characterized by late trains and high hopes that I was really traveling in the right direction. Note to travelers: Look up some of the small towns you will be traveling through so that you know you caught train going the correct direction or else you’ll end up like me just praying you’re Italian made enough sense to stranger you asked which one went towards La Spezia at 6:00am while you were both still halfway asleep. I spent the whole trip looking at each train station sign hoping for a town name I recognized. I got really excited when I saw a sign that said “Uscita.” I thought, FINALLY a town name I’ve seen before… yea, “uscita” is Italian for “Exit.” Blonde moments are so much more fun when there’s another language involved. Luckily I got the correct train, but I didn’t know for sure until I was almost to La Spezia. When I got to the train station where I made my first train switch, I finally heard from my friend who I was meeting up with. He was supposed to arrive at La Spezia at 10 and I was to arrive at 12. He missed his first train and so now I would arrive at 12 and he would arrive at 2. Well my train was 45 mins late at the second station (which was only a 15 minute ride to where I was going) so when I arrived I only had to wait about an hour to meet up with Andrew. But then Andrew’s train was late and in the end of it all we FINALLY meet up around 2:45 and took the 3:00 train to our first city of the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore.

When we arrived to Riomaggiore there was one task: Find a room and dump the backpack before my poor shoulders break. So we started to walk towards a place (uphill in the strangely hot weather for the middle of October) that Andrew had stayed the last time he was in CT but we were stopped by a better offer on our way. We were offered a private apartment for 25 euros each. Of course we took it because we were expecting to pay 20 euros for a bunkbed style room. They said it would be about a 5 minute walk up some stairs, but it would be worth it. The 5 minute walk turned into a 15-20 min walk up some of the steepest skinniest stairs that I have ever seen. By the time we got to our apartment I had sweated through two sweatshirts AND my coat on to my backpack. It was worth it though. We had an amazingly clean and safe room and the view, although not from our window, was amazing from that high up.
After re-grouping and changing into dry clothes we walked down to actually explore the town. We walked around Riomaggiore and then started to walk the trail called “Lovers Path.” This path runs along the coast and has some outstanding views. There were names written and carved into everything along the path of couples that had walked there before. There were also lots and lots of locks…the most I can figure is that it’s supposed to be like Locks of Love, but I never bothered to ask , so I’m not sure. We stopped at the foot of the path down by the water to take a break and watch the sunset. I got some amazing pictures of some of the fishermen from the next town over out putzing around as the sun went down.

After sunset we headed to the next town Manarola to walk around and find someplace to eat dinner. I asked a local bartender for a suggestion on where to eat and he said there was a placed called Trattoria Billy that was past the church, to the right up the stairs, then on the left up some more stairs…It’s amazing we ever found it but I’m glad we did. We had a dinner that was so simple and so amazingly good, and our waiter was the cutest little gray-haired man that SWORE it was not him in the painting on the wall. We had freshly baked bread, an assorted cheese plate, house white wine, and tiramisu. I told the waiter I wanted fish and he brought me out what they had caught that day…all raw and just laying there on the plate waiting to be cleaned and grilled. I pointed to one and obviously made the right decision because I cleaned the thing to the bones. Andrew, of course, got a steak that he said was equally delicious. After dinner we made our trek back to the first city then up the never ending stairs to our apartment where we crashed from full tummies and exhaustion.

Day two started out with showers and packing up the backpack. It took a good hour to get it all re-situated…poor Andrew hates my ziplock baggies and all the noise they make. After we got ready we headed down to find our “land lord” of sorts because he had said that I could put my backpack in his warehouse for the day while we were out walking the next three cities. He did however warn me that I should take anything of importance with me, because other people would be coming in and out of this warehouse and if they saw something they liked they may take it. So I packed everything important, right down to my glasses, into my day pack and left all my clothes and bathroom supplies and the bottles of wine I brought to Andrew from Fattori, then I prayed for the best (that I wouldn’t be naked and wine-less come that next day). After the pack was in place we had to figure out how to get from City 1 to City 3 because the path from City 2 to City 3 was closed off. The funny thing was the train ticket machine and all information booths were also closed…long story short we walked to City 2 and hopped the train illegally, with full intentions to pay if we got caught, and rode to City 3 Corniglia. In Corniglia we stopped in a gelatoria and had some sodas and a nice conversation with the owner. I’ve found people are really nice, especially if you speak even a little bit of Italian with you. This particular man even told me a bit of his life story. We jumped the train again and headed to City 4 Vernazza. Vernazza is said to be the most beautiful of all the cities, but for me it was just swamped with tourists. Yes, it was beautiful, but I prefer a less packed with tour groups type of beautiful. From City 4 we took the train again to City 5 Monterrosso. The coolest thing about City 4 was at the train station. Andrew and I were sitting on the bench with a French couple to our right, a Spanish couple to our left, a group of people from the England two benches down and some Italians mixed in here and there. So much diversity, and I loved listening to all the languages! Monterrosso is a beach town and was quite beautiful. After walking the town we headed back to Riomaggiore to pick up my pack, because we had to pick it up by 4pm which is why we took the train all day and really didn’t stop to do too much other than take pictures and look around. We picked up my pack, checked our train times and wasted some time at a little café that had great views of the mar. We almost wasted too much time and at 6:33 Andrew asked me what time it was, our train left at 6:37. We sprinted (backpack and all) down the hill to the train station and made it just as the train was about to pull away. We made it back to La Spezia (this time we bought tickets) and then were able to take the same train out of La Spezia from which he would head back to Rome and I would go to Cecina to start my adventure in Tuscany. I arrived in Cecina at 7:47 to a very welcoming face that I had never seen before but was holding a sign that said "Rachel"…must be me. :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Okee Dokee

Okay so a quick back track to last Thursday which was my last day at the Cantina. That morning I had my first chance (and obviously the last chance) to drive Antonio's Audi to work. It was incredibly helpful as I had to go up and down to the house several times that day. My friends always called the windy road up to Antonio's house the road of poop. I never understood until I actually DROVE on up this hill just how annoying it is to have to curve back and forth so much. It did feel great to be behind the wheel of a car again though. So my first endeavor on Thursday morning was down to the Il Girasole shop in Roncà where I did the photo shoot. I brought all my clothes with me and luckily I had something that worked out beautifully. The lady, I think she said her name was Paula but she said it so fast and I didn't want to ask her to repeat it, took lots of pictures, mostly Christmas type pictures. She said that if I come back to see her when I return to the Veneto in November that she will have a photo album of the pictures as a gift for me. After this I went to work, but as soon as I got there I was sent back to the house to pick up boxes out of the cellar. I got back to the Cantina right at lunch time. We had a great last lunch together. I had brought two kinds of red wine...both were actually pretty horrible and we ended up drinking the Lambrusco that Augusto brought for us all as a goodbye present. We also had two frozen desserts that are popular here, Via Snella I think they're called. It involves layers of ice cream and other goodies depending on what flavor you buy. We had tiramisu and another one that had some kind of cookie thing in it. After lunch I ran around taking pictures with everyone and then at 4 I headed back to the house to start to pack my bag. I did all the rolling and put my clothes into their ziplock bag homes (another shout out to the greatness of ziplock baggies). Around 5:45 I headed down the hill by foot so that Daniela wouldn't have to spend time coming up the hill to get me. It was actually a really good thing though because I was walking at the time of sunset and I got some amazingly beautiful pictures (I will eventually post them in Casa Fattori). Daniela and I went grocery shopping and she bought me a very large fish from and three boxes of sea salt. She made me dinner at our friend Augusto's house and the three of us had a wonderful meal together. The name of the fish I can't remember, but it was delicious and all Daniela did was put it in a roasting pan (in fact we had to as the neighbor for a bigger roasting pan because the fish head and tail were over the edges of ours!), cover it with a loooot of salt, and then stick it in the oven. Amazingly simple and yummy (as long as you were careful not to mistake a large chunk of salt for a chunk of fish meat...that was a bit of a shock). After dinner our other friends from the cantina, Alessandro and Francesco, came to have dessert with us. Augusto had bought a cake like torte that was almond flavored with those yummy rice looking sugar thingys on top.Everything about this evening was beautiful. Well, except for me. I was an emotional wreck. I was sad to begin with but man, Oh MAN was I a mess. I have never felt quite so emotionally attached to a group of people like this before. I feel like they are my family now and the thought of leaving them after seeing them almost every day for the past two month literally ripped my heart out. This was surprising for me because usually I’m not that big of a crier. I don’t cry for movies or books, I’m just not like that. Not that night, if you see the pictures you’ll notice my makeup is all over my face…schifo but I couldn’t help how I felt.

I have to admit it probably wasn’t all just the fact that I had to leave my new family behind. I was scared. I didn’t want to have to try to fit all my belongs into my backpack again; I didn’t want to have to worry about which train I was going to catch to where at what time; I didn’t want to have to switch back to “Always on guard” mode that you HAVE to have when you’re traveling with your passport and literally everything you own (on this side of the world). But after all the tears were gone, I sucked it up, packed my stuff, said goodbye to Casa Fattori at 5:30am on Friday Oct 22 and headed out to the next leg of my adventure.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I'm here and safe

Just a quick update to say I'm here with Colleen and her family in Tuscany and I'm safe. I made it to Cinque Terre and had a wonderful time with my friend and he has gone on home to Rome and I will be harvesting olives and making olive oil until Tuesday morning when I will go with my new found friend (Colleen's long time friend) Sharon to Lucca then Pisa and then to Rome to stay there with Andrew for a bit of time. After Tuesday afternoon when I have more time I will write to all about everything that has been happening and how amazingly wonderful and how much more I Love Italy now more than ever (however the best friends are still from the Veneto and I still miss them very much). There will also be LOTS and LOTS of pictures. For now, I will go to enjoy life and company as it is happening. Ciao!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Daiiiii, che mattina!!!

So this morning...was in interesting morning to say the least. I woke up and wrote a note to Antonio saying that I would run down to the Cantina and that I would see him when I got there. So when I was in the shower I heard him leave, but when I got outside the Audi was still parked in the garage. He took the Maserati to work. I thought, "Okay, yesterday I asked him if I could use the car today to run some errands, so he must've just left the Audi for me to drive. I can run and then finish at the house and the drive to the cantina..." So I ran, I finished at the house, and took another shower (because that hill is killer). When I got in the car to start didn't start. Nothing, niente, nada. But why not?!?! So I had to walk, after I had already ran for the morning all the way to the cantina, with all of my things. So I started off, and on the way I stopped in a store in the tiny town of Roncá to buy some birthday cards. As I was leaving the owner of the store asked me if I could do her a favor and be in some pictures for her advertisments. At first I said no, then I said okay, maybe later when I return in Nov...then I was walking and got about five minutes away and decided, "well, why not?" So I went back and told her I would do it. Tomorrow we take the pictures for her Christmas advertisments. I'll let you know how it goes! After this I saw a grocery store. I was in need of a bit more food for the next couple of days before i leave and also I wanted ot bring a treat for everyone at lunch since I am leavning on Friday. So I went in, did my shopping, and came out with a bag...a heavy bag, full of groceries. I thought this store was close to the winery...however, I thought wrong. I ended up walking about 30 minutes with all these groceries, switching from hand to hand and sweating to death because i had put on my warmest long sleeve shirt so that I wouldn't be cold in the Cantina...daaaaaiii ( which is like saying, oh my goodness!!!). When I FINALLY got to Franco's house where we all eat lunch it was exactly noon. I was hot, and sweaty, and couldn't feel my arms. It's a story that I've told several times, and it still makes me laugh...

Now I can say I've been in a Costa Rica soap opera, a promotional video for Soave wine consortitum, and on advertisments for a photo shop in Roncá Italy...I guess I was in that calendar for cheerleading once too... maybe I should give up on finding a steady job and just be a model. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Kidding Dad, KIDDING.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Update from the weekend

So we left off with Friday night... I went to Daniela's house for dinner. They were having rabbit and I was having everything but...

Friday night after work Daniela and I went for our first spritz alone together since...shoot, since I first arrived. It was nice to have some alone time, some girl time, and just time to catch up. Work is always so crazy, well for her anyway, that we never have time to just talk other than the 5 minutes it takes her to take me home at night. After spritz we were headed to her house for dinner. When we walked in the front door to Daniela's house the first thing I noticed was the heat, ahhhh, it was SO cold that night and SO nice and wood-stove cozy warm in her house. The second thing I noticed was her grandma standing over the stove in the cover stirring a biiig skillet of polenta with a looooooong wooden spoon. The table was set with bread and silverware and glasses. Dani went right to work helping get the food together on the table. I watched as her nonna (grandma) dumped the skillet of polenta goo onto a big round board taht looked like a large cheese platter. And that's all she did to finish the polenta. I asked her if there was something else she did, and she said "no...mangi cosí." (you eat it like this.) Huh. So I was a bit skeptical that it would set up in time for dinner, but when it came time to eat this yummy round mass of masterpiece it was warm and steamy and never mushy or grainy. With dinner we also had squash from their garden that had only been boiled but was so amazingly smooth and delicious that it could've been served as a dessert. We had mushrooms that Dani had found herself that were in that same delicious "just slimy enough" state that I've found in many kitchens in Italia. We had red and yellow peppers from their garden that had been cooked with tomatoes from their garden (seeing a pattern here?) and also had some pepperonicini...and it was spicy. Spicy to make your nose run when you eat it spicy. I loved it! Apparently Nonna loves spicy food just as much as I do.

All of this (plus the stewed rabbit and some various cheeses) was shared with a bottle of Valpolicella Ripasso 2007 from the Veneto. A ripasso is a particular style of wine making that allows the wine to set on the left-over skins and seeds of another kind of wine, Recioto. Basically this deepens the flavors and allows for a stronger fermentation of the Valpolicella wine. Now, I'd love to say I knew that all on my own, but I didn't. I googled it. :) So now I understand why when I wrote about this wine that I wrote, "It was rich, dark, heave bodied, dark berry flavors that lingered...mmmmm." Very full, just dry enough or rather well-balanced with the sweeter berry flavors. Probably due to that extra fermentation period on the Recioto skins (Recioto is a dessert wine and very sweet indeed). Huh, who knew this might all make sense someday?? Dessert was store bought but was delish non-the-less (and being a baker, I'm not one to admit that store bought desserts can be good, but this was GOOD). It was a layered dessert in a pie shape that was kept in the freezer. On the top was sprinkled these sweet rice puff thingys that I LOVE, but have no idea what they are. The top layer was a light cream then a layer of seimfreddo (think icecream that has been in teh freezer too long ((without that nasty freezer taste)) and gained the ice crystals and now it's just creamy enough to get a fork through it), and the bottom is best decribed as thing layer of a crip cookie in toffe flavor all piled together to make a whole layer but still very light. Nothing about this dessert was dense and it wasn't overly sweet, just a hint of vanilla and cream and that buttery toffee taste. After dessert of course was coffee...

The entire dinner the family set around the table talking about life and watching glimpses of the TV that set in the corner of the room, just loud enough to make everyone talk at a slightly elevelated level, which added to the warm feeling of the tiny room that was completely overtaken by the large table surrounded by the not perfect, but loving family (píu(plus)one foreginer). All the while the still warm stove in the corner opposite the TV added color to our already red cheeks. This is real Italia.

And just to show a small shawdow of the Italian hospitaity, especially when it comes to food or wine... Before we began dinner I was asked if I would like for them to cook me some eggs since I wouldn't be eating any rabbit. No, no, I said there's plenty here for me to eat, there's no need to make the eggs. So then Dani and her Nonna tried to convince me I needed to eat the eggs because they were from their chickens and I HAD to try THEIR eggs. No, no, grazie, there's more than enough here for me to eat. So THEN I caught Dani trying to make the eggs while I wasn't watching, Dani! I don't need eggs, I promise, there is more than enough here that I can eat (because the only thing I did not partake in was the rabbit and maaaaan was I stuffed afterwards!) So finally Dani accepted defeat...on account of the eggs. During dinner I saw that there was some sort of cheese wrapped in butcher's paper on the table. By this point I was full but wanted to see if it was a type of cheese I hadn't tried yet. So I unwrapped it to take a look and I had tried it before and decided that I wouldn't partake again and wrapped it back up...Dani and EVERYONE at the table took this to mean I wanted a different kind of cheese. I tried to convince her that I was only curious but her, nor her dad, nor her grandparents, nor her brother took no for an answer. I was then brought four different kinds of cheese. One of which I finally tried because it was new (something along the lines of a swiss). This is how most Italians are, loving. They want to make you feel welcome. I love this!

Saturday was spent mostly at home. Dani couldn't leave her house because they closed her road to completely re-gravel. I spent my morning and afternoon preparing my room for departure. Just cleaning things up and putting everything in place. This was when I decided I had need of sending a parcel home full of my summer clothes...Mom and Dad, keep an eye out for a Fattori wine box. :) Saturday night we went to a Trattoria in Montecchio. I'm not sure of the name, but it was amazing. We started outside with a spritz, which is where the pictures of Dani and the staute were taken. The first picture was pure accident, the statue started to fall and Dani went to catch it right as I snapped the picture, and the second is the result of 5 minutes worth of laughing at the first picture. Then we went inside and sat down at teh table. We were served there Primi, all family style: 1. Mushroom Risotto, creamy delicious, warm, and the first risotto I have had in Italy, I was not disappointed.
2. Fettuccine with mushroom, again with that perfect consistancy of not really slimy but not really a sauce either 3. Gnocchi with a tomatoe sauce. I had high expectations for gnocchi, I'd heard so much about it. But my first bite was waaaay too creamy and hot and it got stuck to the top of my mouth like peanut butter and I didn't have a drink because Augusto had just dropped a Gnocchi into my white table wine. I wasn't too impressed, sorry gnocchi lovers of the world. The Secondi for the evening of course included a plate of grilled and roasted meats, some white, a few red, and I saw sausage rounds as well. There was also grilled polenta that had the prefect grill marks and just crusty enough on the outside and hot and creamy/gritty (but the good kind of gritty) on the inside. There were mooooore mushrooms, delicious mushrooms, spinach that had been sauteed in garlic, mashed potatoe pure...all of course followed by coffee.

As for this week at work...I haven't been "working" much. All the orders that are going out are small and take only 20 minutes to prepare. The grapes have officially stopped coming in and now all the equiptment for de-stemming and pressing the grapes is being sanitized and powerwashed. The bottleing system has been here since last week but this time they came armed with a crew, so I can't help there either. All the better for me. I feel like my life this week has been all about getting my travel plans in order.. by this ticket from here, wait to buy this one there, ship this home, pack this in your bag, leave this with your friends, who has a car I can drive to get ziplock baggies, who can take me to the train station at 6:00am...I wonder often if this is how a travel agent feels. Maybe I should really try to lock into that line of work, I seem to be doing okay at it for myself anyway. I hate this time in the planning stage though. Stuff hasn't gotten on the way but it's just around the corner, down to the last minute and still need to do a list of things before I go. Makes the nerves go crazy. However, the list is getting shorter and I'm going to try to start to pack tonight...try...because tomorrow I send the parcel to my parents and whatever isn't in that parcel HAS to go in the bag eventually. Wish me luck! I'll try to write one last post before I head out on Friday. Other than that it might be until the 26th before I have internet access again. Stay posted though, and keep an eye out for new photo albums because now is the time to start snapping photos like crazy.

New pictures, blog to come

New pictures in Casa Fattori, including pictures from Giulia's camera and pictures on my path up the hill that I run AND THE PICTURE OF THE STATUE.

New pictures in Out with Friends with the blog to explain where we were and what we were doing to come hopefully later today

New pictures in Days at Work from Giulia's camera of us in the warehouse and basically just causing trouble. :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bread Pizzas,Ma Don..huh?, The Lord Speaks Italian...

Okay, all the labels have been stuck, all the boxes have been made, and the warehouse has been swept up. It's the last day of the harvest so there will be no tractors to weigh...I think it's safe to blog now...

We left off with last Saturday night when I was going to go to the San Giovanni's town fair again. Dani came to pick me up around 4pm on Saturday afternoon and we spent the evening shopping in a smaller (but still a mall) shopping center along the autostrada (like a toll road). I found one thing that I abosolutely had to have, a blue scarf, and it was a good thing I bought it because that night at the fair was probably the coldest night I've seen here so far. I had on three shirts, a coat, a scarf, of course pants, socks, and shoes, and I was STILL cold. We were there until about 2am when I finally got to go back home and warm up with a hot cup of tea! Before we went to the fair that night we went again to the pizzeria for one of her friend's birthday where I heard again the familiar birthday tune, only this time i realized what they were saying! "Tanto auguri a te, tanto auguri a te, tanto auguri aaaaa te, tanto auguri a te." Which is their way of saying congratulations, you're a great person, best on and so forth.

Sunday was not entirely a day of rest. First it was a day of delicious food and wine. Dani came to pick me up at 11am (a horrible hour after staying up until 3am) and she and I went to have lunch with our friend Augusto at his sister's house. The house was just as beautiful as the family that was living in it. It had a beautiful view and it was just contemporary enough while still upholding a great Italian house floorplan. I found out later that Augusto's brother in law is an architech and had designed the house himself. We had lunch for about 4 hours. We started with an appetizer of something similar to a kiesh but made with phyllo dough rather than a crust. It had eggs, cheese, smoked salmon, and tiny blue seasme seeds. It was accompanied by a local prosecco. Then we had the first plate which was tortellini stuffed with asparagus, artichokes, and cheese, and with a very light sauce (almost like water with cornstarch added, but delicious)with mushrooms, and the mushrooms here are always fresh and exotic. This was topped with grated cheese (grana) and served with a local Chardonnay. The chardonnay was very light bodied and sparkling of all things! Good, but tasted more like a sweet reisling to me than a Chradonnay. Then we took a smoke break (for those who smoke and also to wait on the meat to smoke in the outside brick oven). They cooked chicken and beef kabobs on the grill. There was also a salad that looked liek it included chicken, cabbage, and carrots all cooked together in almost a stew style. For me, there was more of those amazingly delicious mushrooms, just slimy enough, peas, a soft local cheese that was just a little firmer than brie and not quite as rich but just as delightful, and fresh hot bread. This was all accompanied by a Montepulcciano d'Abruzzo, the only wine that day that wasn't from the Veneto. This Montepulcciano was heavy than the ones I've tasted at Vino but still had the same delicious flavors. After the second plate there was a round of tiny coffee made from the built-in expresso machine. Then for dessert there were crossiants filled with, what else?, Nutella served with a Recioto d' Valpolicella that had the same berry flavors as a Port but wasn't as strong (I'll say that's probably due to the lack of the added Brandy in the Recioto). AFTER THAT (by this time I needed a nap and to be rolled out of the house) there was another round of tiny coffee this time with an assortment of disgestifs, there was the noramal suspect Grappa (ew), another liquor that smells like a very strong Rum and Coke (also ew), and a Prune liquor that makes you think ew, but really was just pretty darn sweet and not horrible. I went home and slept for 5 hours...that is not a joke.

Monday through Friday, litterally all week, I have been in the warehouse. I don't mind the warehouse so much anymore as I used to because now it's cold outside and the cold Cantina is even colder. I'd rather be sticking labels to bottles while listening to my Mp3 player than freezing to death while washing out a tank. I've been going home all week at 6 because mostly it's cold, I'm tired, and cranky and hungry by 6 and Antonio continues to come back from the Cantina at way am I waiting around for that bus. I actually even went home early one day this week. My sinuses were killing me because the weather changed so rapidly, I was waiting on more wine to be bottled so I could stick them with labels and fulfill my order, I was was I sleepy. I went to the house at 3, sat down in the chair and didn't move until 6 when I woke up because Rada, the Salvick lady who cleans Antonio's house had come to tell me goodbye. Tonight marks my last Friday in Roncá so I'm spending it with my friend Daniela. I'm not sure what we'll do, other than have dinner at her house, we may not do anything, but at least I won't be at the house by myself under my covers becasue it's the only warm place there is in the place!

Now just for some fun things-

One night my friend made me bread pizzas. Pieces of bread some topped with homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzerella cheese, and basil, and the others topped with mozzerella cheese and fresh rosemary picked from the back garden. All cooked right on the grills of the tiny oven (seriously what happens when an Italian wants to cook a soufflé?). These were delightful, simple and delightful. And Lindy, if you're reading, I had to say it but they sure beat the heck out of our bread pizzas made in the microwave with prego sauce and kraft cheese. :)

One night at the fair I heard the Beach Boys come on over the load speakers, and I was really excited because I love all of their songs. My friend, who loves the USA, said he had NEVER heard of the Beach Boys before....WHAT?! I can't believe he'd never heard of the first American Boy Band, and they sing about California all the time, and he loves California. I told him he was crazy, and quickly made sure he knew who the Beatles were. I think he might be recieving a Beach Boys CD for his birthday. Haha!

One night I had kind of a rough evening (the same day I went home early and slept for three hours) and I was writing about it in my journal. The particular journal I have right now was given to me by my good friend when I was in Costa Rica. She gave me this journal because mine was stolen, along with all of my other belongings, and she had a spare. Before giving me the journal she went through and wrote the locations of her favorite Bible verses. I saw one at the bottom of the page I was writing on and decided I'd try to find a Bible and see what that particular verse said. I found a Bible...and Italian Bible, in Italian. *At this point my brain replayed a scence from right before I left the states: My sister looked at me and said, "Rachel, are you sure you don't want to take even one of those little Bibles with you?" I answered, "No, no, I don't think I can make it fit, and besides I'm sure there will be one there." * What on Earth made me think that my Italian host would have a Bible in English? Sarah, you were right. BUT I went ahead and started to find and translate Bible verses that my friend had written down for me. It would take me at least 30 minutes per verse to locate the book, translate the words, figure out the placement of pronouns = figure out who was talking to whom, and then I would write it all down once I realized it was a verse I'd been hearing my entire life. :) After I achieved the first translation, it was a verse that helped to put me in a better mood, I thought to myself, "The Lord speaks in mysterious ways..." and then I laughed out loud for about 5 minutes...the Lord had in fact spoken in a mysterious way, Italian! I got both a great Bible study and a great Italian lesson that night thanks to my friend, thanks Kristin!

I've racked up the running to twice a week now. I feel it wakes me up in the mornings when all I really want to do is lay under my warm covers. Not to worry, I'm not in depression or anything, it's just stinking cold outside (and inside the house even) and man are those covers cozy! Anywho, one morning on my run was particularily eventful. I started out on my normal course and headed up the hill to see Ma Donna...only when I got up close to the statue to see if there was a name or maybe something I could use as a clue to what it was for I realized...Ma Donna ain't no Donna. It's a friar, a monk, a DUDE. Oops. I was laughing as I turned around the start my favorite part of the run, downhill, and when I looked up there was standing an older lady in her cotton night gown, white bucket in one hand, LIVE CHICKEN in the other. She had this look on her face like, she'd never seen anything like me before, like I was some kind of alien running by her house. I was thinking, "Lady what are you staring at? You're the one with a chicken squirming around in your hand. I'm justing running up the hill in cold weather with purple pants, a beige fleece jacket, and a red stocking cap complete with fuzzy pom pom on top..." Okay, maybe I was the crazier one of the two. As I headed down the hill I was almost hit by a car that had sped around the corner. Luckily I was aware of my surroundings and darted out of the way. On this car's way back down the hill it was more attentive. I noticed this car was full of kids and it seemed to be a type of carpool. So I thought to myself..."Huh, I haven't seen any schools around here, I wonder where it is..." No sooner had I reached the bottom of the hill and turned to the right to head into the town of Roncá did I find the answer to my question. I ran right into a swarm of kids and parents and crossing gaurds and craziness...I very quickly ran out of the caos. At least I had the answer to my question. As I headed through the town I realized that it was the first time I'd seen people out and about in the square during the day. Unfortunetly everyone I saw seemed to have caught the staring diesase. So I would smile and wave hoping they'd get the hint and at least wave...sometimes they did, sometimes they didn't, and sometimes they'd do a half wave and look at me like, "Do I know you?" After running out of the town and back into the town and on my way to the Cantina I can to a long stretch of straight road. One the other side of this straight road was a tractor...I couldn't help by see myself in the seen from Footloose where the two tractors are playing Chicken on the old farm road. Lucky for me I didn't have to dive out of the tractor's way when we actually met, I just ran on along beside it and waved at the farmer as I passed (he waved back, usually the famers do). After passing the tracor I had another moment of "Awwww Italy is so beautiful" while I was running towards the vineyard covered hillsides with vineyards on either side of me in all the vines glowing in the morning sun...beautiful. I'm sad it's about time to leave my lovely Roncá, but I'm excited for the journies to come.

So plans as of now are this (and you should keep up with these because more than likely most than one of the trips will be moved or changed, shortened or lengthned...always open to ideas and suggestions for the best way to fit more in):

October 22nd I leave the Cantina, my friends, Antonio's house, and Ma Donna who isn't a donna and I head to Cinque Terre where I will meet up with a friend that i know from my study abroad in Costa Rica who goes to school in Rome. From here I will go to visit my friend Colleen and her family and help them harvest olives and make olive oil! I'm not sure how long this will take, but after I will head to Rome to stay with my friend. He and I plan to go to see Florence, Pompei, and Isle of Caprí before he and I fly together to visit another friend that I met in Costa Rica in Budapest Hungary. From here I have a couple of options. I can try to squeeze France in and go to visit my friend there who just had a baby. I can do this by cutting my Hungary trip short or by cutting my visit back here to Veneto before I go home short. Or I can cut the trip back here out completely and head to France from Hungary and possibly spend a few extra days in Madrid before I leave... at this point it's hard to say what will happen with this part of the trip, but if you keep reading you'll find out! ;)

That's all for now. I'm going to try to upload some new photos, no promises though because this computer is old and may not function quite as nicely as I hope it will. Ciao for now!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Okay so I have all these fun stories, and cute antidotes, and neat things I've noticed over the last four days, but I am locked away in the warehouse. And when I do have time on the computer I get all the emails replied to and all the facebooks taken care of, all the travel plan questions answered and cordinated, and just when I start to log in to tell everyone my wonderful stories (believing I still have and hour and a half before I have to leave the cantina and thinking it to be plenty of time) in rolls the work. Apparently the bottles I've been waiting on are just now, conveniently *sarcasim* ready....away I go. Hopefully tomorrow everyone, hopefully tomorrow. Ciao!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Wow 8 days, I'm a slacker.

Okay so 8 days is a little long to go without writing. BUT I have good reason. This past week was my last week to spend with Giulia and rather than stay late at work so I could use the computer I chose to go back to the house early so Giulia and I could watch movies and drink wine together. She had to leave me this morning, and I can say that today is the first time since I came to Italy that I am actually sad. I want to cry just thinking that when I go back to the house my friend won't be there. Just me. I can imagine what you're thinking, "But Rachel, you said that having another intern made it harder for you to learn, shouldn't you be happy that now you can go back to how things were before she came?" And my answer to this thought is: Yes, I did say that. And yes, it was hard at first to get used to everyone addressing Giulia in Italian rather than taking time to try to explain things to me. BUT the truth of the matter is, I was jealous. It was easy for her and hard for me, and therefore I was jealous. And once I admitted that to myself, and to her, we became really good friends. We were together all day except for when we slept. We'd always be assigned the same tasks and when we'd have to stick labels on 500 some odd bottles of wine we'd say, "Ma daiii, siamo sfortunata!" laugh about it and then take our time so we could talk about... everything(always with our best friend, the dictionary, close by)! I tried to convince her to stay, and she wanted to, but she has to go back to school. She's in her 5th (or was it 6th) year of their version of high school and in this last year the students are allowed to spend the first month of school on a Stage in a winery instead of going to classes. I hope that she'll come to visit and my other friends in teh winery have already planned a visit to see her closer to to end of November.

So I think the best way to catch up is to seperate into sections and summarize rather than go in chornological order.

WORK: Last week I wrote about our fiasco in the warehouse, unfortunatly (perché siamo sfortunata) the fiasco continued on into this week. After we remade all of our boxes (with glue, not tape) we were given another order that was going to the US (Minnesota). The laws in the US about the information that must written on a label for a wine bottle are different than the laws in Italy. This is why I'm always sticking labels on bottles, and right now I'd like for the person who made the laws to come and stick the labels on bottles and see how they like it. Anyway, this was a partically large order so we started on Friday afternoon to put the labels exactly where we were shown to put the labels. Fastforward to Monday morning when we returned to the Magazine (warehouse) and continued to stick labels to bottles. Giulia had just said, "Rachel, we only have six more boxes to go and we're finished!" when Daniela walked in. The labels were wrong....all the labels we had already put on all the bottles were wrong. Also, the place we were told to put the labels was wrong. SO, we first had to take off all the labels, THEN clean all teh bottles, THEN when the new labels arrived the next day we had to put all the new labels on the bottles in a different spot. We we SO HAPPY when that order went onto the truck yesterday morning. My whole week at work was spent in the Magazine. Luckily for Giulia and I, Alessandro let us borrow his portable speakers so we could at least listen to music.

FREE TIME: Giulia and I went to the house everynight this week at 6 (we would practically run out of the Magazine like we were being freed from our prison of labels). We borrowed movies from one of our friends in the winery and each night we watched a different flim. We we put the audio in Italian and I'd put English subtitles so I could understand what was going on. Luckily the only film I hadn't seen before was also the only one that didn't have an Italian audio option. I had to chance to try to explain some interesting things. You don't think about where a saying comes from until you try to explain what it means to be "cracked out" (the film we were watching was Blow, and is about drug trafficing)to someone who hasn't heard the saying before. Giulia and I would share wine with our movies. We bought some bottles of red wine (because Fattori only does whites) because it has been really cold here and when it's cold outside there's nothing better than movies, red wine, and blankets!

WEEKEND: Last weekend was my last full weekend with Giula. Friday night we had a movie night because after the fiasco with the boxes we didn't feel like asking if we could use the car... Saturday night we made it all about Giulia. We went down into the town of Roncá (down the hill from the house and directly to the right) and attended the anniversary party of the enoteca there. I had expected it to be small considering the rather small size of Roncá, but it was packed! We drank a sparkling durello (which is a new type of product for this region). Durello is a frizzante wine like a prosecco which this region is famous for, but the durello is a bit fruiter and still not sweet like moscato. Quite lovely. Last Sunday was a day of rest and recovery for all, laundry (and for a random thought, I seem to have the WORST luck with the washer and drier here, and I've lost three pairs of socks and have no idea how I could've managed to do so...)and being lazy. Fastforward to this weekend- Last night was my last night out with Giulia. :( We came home from work and she had to pack up her room. When she started to do so she found her video camera and we made a video of us just being silly. I also gave her a going away present of a bracelet that she looked at every time we went shopping (which was a lot because at least twice a week we'd need to go for food or to get money out of the bank). At 9 Daniela came to pick us up so that we could all go eat dinner together. We went to Daniela's favorite pizziera and it was delicious. I have learned that if I ask them to put polvere di peperonchini on my pizza it comes out amazingly spicy and delicious. We enjoyed about two hours worth of eating and talking and then we walked down the street to the Sangra di San Giovanni. Which is the town's yearly festival. It's compareable to our county fairs with the rides and games and booths, but add in an awesome dj and an outdoor dance floor overflowing with beautiful Italians. I also got to try chestnuts for the first time, and yes, they were roasted on an open fire! It was a great time, and getting up at 8 this morning to come to the cantina with Giulia to meet her father was almost impossible after going to bed around 3. Giulia also gave me a gift this morning, she gifted me wine from her family's winery, prosecco and tocai...I'm excited to try them out. She also gifted wine for us to drink when we all have lunch together on work days. I've her the cabernet franc from her winery (and the fruili region as a whole)is the best you can find. This is her father's winery if you want to check out some pictures... . Today at 3 Daniela will come to pick me up and for the afternoon I have no idea what she has planned. Tonight I believe we're going back to her town's festival. Tomorrow will probably be another day of rest and laundry...seems that no matter what country I'm in Sunday is alway laundry day. :)

RANDOM: I tried a tiramisu here for the first time. I always see it on the menu and think that I'd liek to try it, but I wanted one that was really made in the restaurant and not in a factory. I think i chose wisely. It wasn't what I expected it to look like. It was in a dish rather than on a plate. But the marscapone part was just rich enough and creamy like silk. The lady fingers were soaked to where you could see they were lady fingers but when you ate them they melted into the creamy custard. was delicious. Before that I also had a pizza (imagine that!) that was Ratatoullie...I was surprised when I ordered it that one of my Italian friends had no idea what ratatoullie was...isn't it an Italian dish?

The harvest is almost over...or at least to a slowing point. A lot of our farmers have finished bringing in grapes and no longer do we have lines of tractors waiting to dump their grapes. Some of the farmers even brought cookies or cakes on their last days for the workers in the Cantina, as a way to say thank you or maybe just HORRAY WE'RE DONE! I'm not really sure, but it must be a tradition beacuse for the past week we've had a different kind of biscotti or torta on our desk at the weighing station, sometimes made by the farmers wife and sometimes bought from the grocery store. And speaking of torta, yesterday Giulia bought a torta from the store for everyone to share at lunch time. It was a two layers of cake with a hazelnut cream in between and on top....absolutely to die for. It was rich and creamy and the cake wasn't dry, and it was just nutty tasting enough without being too much...yuuuuuuummmmm. I ate two pieces and afterwards wished I hadn't because I was so full, but it was so good I couldn't NOT eat another. :)

I've started making plans for my travels after I leave the winery. I've been in contact with my friend from Rome. As of right now I'll leave Antonio's house on October 22nd and meet my friend in Cinque Terre. From there we'll head to Rome and I'll be there until Nov 2nd when we will travel together to Hungary to visit my other friend. I will stay in Hungary until around Nov 15th where I've through a kink in my travel plans and will not be going to France but rather coming back to this area of teh Veneto to see my friends here. Add in there somewhere, at un determined times, a trip to Florence, Pompeii, and possibly a trip to learn to make olive oil from my friend Colleen who lives in the Tuscany area...aaaaahhh so much to do and so little time.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Let me tell you...

Let me tell you just a little bit about how my days went on Thursday and Friday...

Thrusday started out wonderful, slow, but none the less nothing stressful. I went around with Giulia and to watch her do her enology stuff. I took notice to the fact that when she fills the cylinder with must to test the Babo (which I now know is the degree of sugar in the must...which is what I thought, but wanted to confirm with Google!) she has to keep the must from creating a foam. I noticed that to do this she pours the must from the tap on the vat exactly like I was taught, in my Bar and Beverage management class, to pour beer from a tap in order to achieve the perfect amount of foam on the beer...only she blows the foam off the top after she pours the perfect pour! After walking around with Giulia and playing secretary, taking notes, for her we were called into the office. Luckily it's not like high school and we weren't in trouble but there was an order to prepare in the warehouse. It was a rather large order in which all the boxes had to be made before we could fill them, and we were told that it needed to be done by the end of the evening... So we went into the warehouse to get started and shortly realized the the boxes we needed to make were at Antonio's house in the cellar. So we made a run to the house to bring as many of the boxes that we could stuff in the car (not to mention that we had ALREADY been ot the house that morning to get another type of box). We finally got everythign in place and were on our way taping boxes,labeling boxes, filling boxes, taping shut, and stacking the full boxes on to palete. About halfway through it was 5:00 and we were called and told that we needed to bring wine to the house for something. When we got to the house we were told to change our clothes and stay for a while because they were shooting a video for the Soave Wine consortium and they wanted Giulia and I to be in the video. *When I find out where the video is being posted I'll post the link so everyone can see, it should be pretty cool!* This process took us about two hours. We returned to work and finished almost all of our large order by 9:00 when we FINALLY got to go home. That night we went to a local bar, Jack the Ripper, with one of our friends from work to hear a band play. I was told that this band had won some sort of contest on MTV, Trio Loski. They were really good and the place was packed!

Friday morning is when, excuse the expression, the s**t hit the fan. Apparently we were supposed to GLUE not TAPE all of the boxes together...all 171 boxes that we were almost finished with were wrong. We had to re-do all of them. We had to un-pack the palates, take the bottles out of the boxes, break the boxes down, GLUE new boxes together, label the boxes, re-fill the boxes, GLUE the boxes shut, re-stack the was a loooooong day. I felt like this was my fault because I had filled an order once with this type of box and we had to tape the boxes together then too, but I thought that surely the other order was a special order and there was no way that anyone in the right mind would expect someone to hot glue together 171 boxes... Anyway, I had a pretty crappy morning on Friday. I felt bad because now not only did Giulia and I have to re-do everything we had already done, my friend had to take the blame for us not knowing to glue the boxes even though she wasn't really in charge of the project. However after lunch another friend told me that this happens, it wasn't my fault, and that sometimes things like this just happen (especially when you're new at a job, in a different country where you don't fully understand the language). By the afternoon the whole thing had blown over, the ending palate looked beautiful and Giulia and I can move on to the next big order...lesson learned.

Today Giulia and I walked from the house to the Cantina. It was a comfortable temperature outside and I took some beautiful pictures on the way. I posted them under Out with Friends. You'll see the pink flowers the I always smell on my runs and later today I'll take a picture of Ma Donna. Now we're headed to do grocery shopping because we both need food and laundry soap because all of our clothes are dirty. Tonight we are thinking of going to the local Enoteca who's anniversary is toinght and after we're not sure. This is the last Saturday I'll have with Giulia and I'm sad that she's leaving. I told her I'll call her school and tell them in Italian that she has to stay with me and then right after pretend like i don't understand what they are saying to me. :) That's all for now, until...later!