These past couple of days have been a whirlwind of speaking Italian, meeting new friends, and of course making bread. I feel like I’m becoming very much a part of the town, and I am quite content here. But then I start to get that anxious feeling of knowing I’ll have to leave soon, even though I have another three full weeks left. But I suppose that’s a good feeling to have; it doesn’t let you waste any time.
I’m happy to say that my Italian is improving! I had my first dream that was totally in Italian last night too. And when my bakery friends talk to each other or make fun of me, I can actually follow along! (Most of the time). Now I can laugh with them and respond back to their jokes. And the best part is, I can actually interact with the customers who come in for bread. I even work the register now!
When I first started working the front counter, to my first customer I said “Come posso aiutarti?”, How can I help you? I soon found out this is not normal register-speak, because when Lina heard me, she could not stop laughing! In fact, it was so funny to her that she had me repeat it to all of the customers that day and the next, and they would all laugh. I still don’t get why it was so funny. Maybe it was my peppy bounce as I said it? I haven’t a clue. Lina really gets a kick out of things that I don’t even realize I’m doing.
Lina and Paola are wonderful, and they have been so welcoming and helpful to me. Yesterday Lina’s sister and her husband and daughter came to visit from Napoli (where Lina is from), and they invited me over to try some dolci Napolitani. When I arrived I met their huge and adorable German Shepherd dog, Buck (pronounced with an ooo sound). As we sat in their living room, I found I was actually following the conversation…except when everyone was talking at once, which was most of the time.
Then we walked through town, this Italian family and I. We stopped along the way so Francesca (Paola’s cousin) and her mother, who strolled arm in arm, could look in the windows of the shops. After spending some time talking to the jeweler, we went into the rosteria, a small restaurant that also prepares take-away meals (as the Italians call them). The man who owns it, Andrea, also makes desserts, and he said he wanted to teach them to me! Next week I’m going to go in the afternoons to learn how to make specialty Italian desserts. Non vedo l’ora! Andrea joked around with Paola and at her request, poured us some prosecco and gave us some dolci. I saw Andrea again today at the bakery, and he and Giacomo were total buddies, goofing around and making fun of each other.
Rumbaba di Napoli and Trunco Albero di Andrea
With a bag full of desserts and bread from the family and Andrea, I eventually went on my way, and didn’t realize until later that I had forgotten to take any pictures! So for now we’ll just have to do with more scenic pictures.
A few days ago, Domenico had me meet his daughter, who’s 18, so I could make some friends. It was so nice of him, and I was grateful because I didn’t know anyone other young people except Paola, who works a lot so I don’t see her often. So, at four I met Beata and we walked around town for a bit. She showed me these Etruscan tombs which are on (well, in), this big hill down the road. They were empty, but still creepy! On our way back towards the town, we ran into Beata’s boyfriend Damiano, and their friend Ilya. I hung out with the three of them for the rest of the afternoon, and I really enjoyed hanging out with them. Though, at one point, when we first set out after meeting, Ilya went into a bar and got us all these peach juice box things. So there I was, walking down the street with some high school-age kids, drinking out of a juice box. I felt old!
But besides that, it was really fun. There is a small castle in the center of town (hence the name, Castellina), and we climbed to the top of the tower and saw the most amazing view all around. Damiano knew some English from school, so he spoke to me in English, but the rest of us spoke in Italian. Because we were just hanging out, the language flowed more easily, and I found it very easy to talk to them.
One thing I asked all of them was if they liked living in Castellina. Beata works and the boys go to school in Siena, but all of them live in this town. I was actually surprised when they said they liked it. I guess I sort of expected that teenage I-can’t-wait-to-get-out-of-this-small-town mentality. There isn’t too much to do around town for young people besides just hang out and walk around, but I suppose that’s the case in most places.
The more I thought about it though, I can’t see how anyone could not love it here. It’s such a beautiful place and everyone is so friendly and warm, and they all know each other! You greet everyone as you walk down the street, and by now I’ve started to recognize some of the people who come in to buy bread. Everything in this town is connected. Each person who comes into the bakery plays a specific role in town, whether it’s the mechanic, the gas station attendant, or the hotel manager. And since I’ve been getting to know all of these people, and seeing them as familiar faces, I feel very connected to the town as well. As I help make and sell the bread, I am a part of daily life and connected to the community. This is what makes the idea of leaving so sad.
One last thought before I end this really long post. I’ve noticed here that everyone, always, always asks if I have a fidanzato, or boyfriend. I don’t know if this is a cultural thing, or if they are just trying to make conversation, but even at the bakery everyone has asked me at least twice, which I find hilarious. Giacomo says I must find a fidanzato Italiano, because according to him, Italian men are better and more good-looking. I wasn’t going to try and argue with him either, lest I offend. Today in the shop, we all had this whole conversation with one of the customers about men and women and relationships. It was very interesting to hear the same complaints one would hear in America. E’ tutto iguale. It’s all the same.