It’s been twelve hours since I landed in Italy, and I’ve already had quite the adventure. After a flight with little sleep, due to the two screaming children in front of me, I arrived in Rome, then took a train to the Roma train station. After buying my ticket to Firenze, I made my way to the platform only to find the entryway locked. Another girl was standing at the door, as baffled as I was. We spoke in Italian a bit and decided to try a different set of stairs and then walk around to the correct platform. Thus we became temporary travel buddies. We spoke in Italian for the most part, since her English was not as strong, and I learned her name was Ekaterina and she was from Russia, traveling to visit friends in Rome, Florence, and then Padova. I yelped with excitement when I heard she was going to Padova, the city I studied abroad in two years ago.
We ended up finding our platform, but were mistaken as to which side our train was supposed to be, and only realized this as the train pulled away. It wasn’t all our fault, considering the platform was listed in two places differently, and we both saw the wrong one. Luckily we were able to exchange our tickets for the next train in a half hour, and even more luckily, she spoke better Italian than I did so when the man at the counter impatiently instructed us before moving on to the next person, I wasn’t completely lost. When we arrived in Firenze, I said goodbye to Ekaterina and met my grandmother, or as I call her, Nana, on the platform. Papa Tom was waiting outside with the car.
We drove through the windy, Tuscan hills that took my breath away and entered into Castellina in Chianti, the town I will make my home for the next month. Nana and Papa Tom stay in an apartment in a farmhouse smack dab in the middle of a vineyard, about at fifteen-minute walk to the town’s center. They told me that when I begin working at the forno, I should take the car in because there are cingale about. At first I assumed this was a term for shady characters, but no, cingale are wild boar. I’m not kidding. I have to beware of wild boar.
The house is so lovely and cozy. Nana and Papa Tom live on the first floor, where there’s a bedroom, bathroom, living area and a small kitchen. Upstairs is a bedroom and bathroom where I am staying.
We sat outside facing the valley and had a nice lunch with salami, insalata, risotto salad and bread that Nana bought at the forno that morning, so I was able to taste the deliciousness that I will soon be making. Of course, as soon as the food hit me so did the fatigue, so I passed out for a few hours before heading into town.
This is the house next door, which has other apartments too. We take these stairs from the front door below to where the cars are parked.
We started at the hotel, where I met Monica, the woman who runs the hotel and lives next door to us. She was incredibly warm and friendly, and always smiling and laughing. Her family owns the hotel, the farmhouse apartments we are staying in, and the surrounding vineyards. Irene also works at the hotel, and she spoke to us in Italian and English, with an accent I couldn’t place. After a reviving espresso, Nana and I strolled the one main street of the town, stopping to talk to Vanna, an old woman sitting on a bench in front of her building. She was adorably sweet, and I hope I will get to talk to her more. I also met Patrizia, who owns a painted ceramic shop, and her son-in-law and grandchild, a chubby little baby named Mattia. Of course we also had to stop and get gelato. I had yogurt and peach, while Nana had quite interesting flavors: prosciutto e melone and also tarragon and apple, which were surprisingly awesome.
All in all, I am already in love with this town. And it is going to put me to work; Monica told me I could even work at the hotel practicing making cappuccini. My goal is to warm up to the gelateria people and eventually convince them to teach me how to make gelato. Tomorrow I am going to meet the bakery family with whom I’ll be working. The daughter, Paola, who tutors my grandparents in Italian, is my age, so I’ll even have a friend! Depending on how things go, I’m expecting to start working on Saturday morning…at 2am. Then I have the rest of the day to sleep, eat, and meet people. And get them to teach me their ways. My other goal is to find someone to teach me how to make homemade pasta. And since I’m listing goals here, I also have to improve my Italian skills, because I’ll have no excuse if I can’t master this darned language after a month of working with people who speak only Italian.