Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mia zuppa è molto freddo e disgustoso!

I have this thing about Italy.

It started maybe three or four summers back when I read Eat Pray Love. Which is a really wonderful book and not just for chicks. Just because it was written by a woman, who isn't Joan Didion, about herself doesn't mean it's just for chicks, ok?

If I am on any kind of spiritual journey, it was started by Eat Pray Love.

I wanted to do all the things Liz (I affectionately call her) does in the book--travel to India and stay in an ashram, hop a flight to Bali and get to know some sweet but wily locals, make friends with an ethereal Swedish beauty.

But mostly I wanted to eat the pasta.

And the bread.

And definitely the gelato.

Before I read Eat Pray Love, I had read Under the Tuscan Sun. Please don't think of the movie when you read this book. The book is a woman's memoir of traveling back and forth between Tuscany and the US with her husband, renovating a house they bought on impulse in the Italian countryside. It has nothing to do with bus tours for all the single ladies, or men that drop by to kill scorpions and put back in order that life you have ruined with all your hysterical estrogenic fumblings.

The book is also about things like taking your own olives in to rustic Italiano farmers to be pressed for oil, and walking down a dusty Etruscan road (I don't really know they're Etruscan, I just couldn't use the word 'Roman' here because I'm going to use it again in a minute) every day to buy cheese that was made that day and bread that was just baked and oh yeah, on Christmas Eve it seems all the Italians in Tuscany roam about the palazzo, which is lit-up like a carnival tent, drinking strong spirits and eating roasted nuts and laughing with one another and just in general being so. Damn. Italian.

I had never really thought of Italy as a place I dearly wanted to go. When I think if Italy, I think of reds and oranges, and those aren't really my colors. I think of dry and dusty too, and heat. Not really my specialty. I am Nordic, ok? I am meant to be staring out at a stormy gray sea with my flaxen hair floating in the breeze.

I also think of vaguely smarmy, dimly lit Italian restaurants and cheesy music and the smell of burnt garlic.

Napoli e napola e napoli e napola! Dat's a spicey-uh meatboll!

But I felt pulled there in a way I couldn't explain.

(Well ok. There is actually a lot to explain the pull. Let's just start with the art. We'll take our time moving on from there.)

I knew I couldn't go to Italy, so I made some rather lame attempts to capture the Italian spirit in my own life.

This involved mainly things like laying in bed til ten, drinking wine with my morning coffee, taking a two hour nap in the midday heat, staying in bed to read historical fiction books about the Medicis and the Italian Renaissance, eating right to bursting every night, working on my Liz Lemon Italian accent (I like-uh to make-uh de prrranka phone coll!) and telling my husband my new found sloth was not actually that. I was just being in Rome, ok?

I asked my parents for at Italian-themed birthday. We ate pizza and drank sangria (which I guess is actually Spanish?) and my parents bought me an expensive slice of tiramisu from the molto authentico Italiano Tony's Meat Market.

Like Liz Gilbert, I also started learning to speak Italian. I checked out the cd's from the library and listened to them on my way to work, trying to learn to roll my r's. And I did rather well, thank you very much. I can tell any Italian the very useful "Mio marito e Italiano" (which means "My husband is Italian!") (thanks to my high school Spanish, it sounds to me like I'm saying "My little husband is Italian!" but I don't think the language tape people would want to play that kind of prank on me).

Also if you ask me where I'm from, I can say: "Di Denver". The example on the cd's actually used Denver. Maybe they thought it sounded better with an Italian accent than "Di Cincinatti" or "Di Fargo".

I do remember some of the lovely alphabet. The Italians utter no clumsy "dubble yew". Rather, they say "doppio vou". Then there is the wonderfully Romanesque 'zeta' for 'zee'.

As you can see, I am quite an achiever. (I can also tell you that "A Chevrolet is an American car!" in French, and can inform you that I am Japanese--admittedly with more gusto that accuracy).

(For those of you interested: if you try to learn to speak Swedish by cd, you are taught to say things like "Waiter! My soup is cold!" and "Take this back immediately! This is not what I ordered!" Also, how to ask to speak to the manger. I guess when traveling to Sweden your main concern should be poor restaurant service.)

After my toga party-esque foray into Italian culture, I sort of forgot about all things Roman for awhile.

But the heart wants what the heart wants.
And it doesn't forget.

So I turn to my husband, after some real deep thinking, and say:

"When I publish my book, and when I have money of my own, I want us to travel to Tuscany and live there for a year."

And he says, "Ok."

And then he says, "Italy is pretty much the one place in the world I have no desire to see."


Fancy that.

I sip my sangria and hand him my well-worn copy of Liz.


  1. Just recently started following your blog. I absolutely loved this post! Incredibly well written and hilarious!
    I recently read Eat Pray Love and completely fell for the book and all that made it great. I too found a new love for all carbs - okay well pasta and bread - as well as wine and yoga.
    Good luck on your quest to get to Italy!!

  2. Ah, Noah, that is awesome.

    All you need in Italy is 'Prego', it means just about everything. Much like 'Aloha'.

    I love books of the Medicis and also Saint Francis (not the ones that make him to be the guy just below Christ).

    I am in love with France and would love to go. I adore the language, can sing most of the lyrics to Les Miz, have been studying the wines with great care (before pregnancy I was so into Chardonnay), and even sometimes use their idioms.

    I feel your longing and think it is funny we have both gone to each other's desired destinations.

    Good job on bringing Italy to you.

    Bene! Bene!

  3. What's the deal? Twice in two weeks I have had friends bring up that book. Never heard of it before. Maybe because I don't read anything unless I'm reading aloud to my kiddos. How sad. Looks like I will have to check out this book so I know what everyone is typing about. Oh and great post as always. :-)

  4. Kimberly, how delightful to hear from you! I guess pasta plus yoga even out? Better than pasta plus wine, I'm sure!

    Dalley, what a conundrum. Why have we each traveled to the place that was not our heart's exact desire?

    Although, I'm sure neither of us regrets it.

    Sarah--all I can say is, I loved that book hard. You should check it out! And thank you!

  5. I'm resisting that book...

    Don't have me, but, I think I'll just watch the movie. :-D Although I did end up loving Time Traveler's Wife and you recommended that.

    Great post. I've been thinking a lot about Italy myself lately. It has recently replaced France at the #1 desired vacation spot.

  6. I am also in love with the idea of Italy. I took two semesters of Italian in college, and have a fascination Italino...the food, the culture, the naps they take..I too loved Eat, Pray, Love and can't wait to see the movie. The only thing I can't handle in that book is that she seems to leave her husband because he is so...nice? So...committed? It's like the whole idea of marriage is stifling her and I just can't take her seriously. I love my husband and I do not feel like loving someone somehow makes me less of a strong, independent woman. Liz struck me as someone who was always seeking greener pastures, even when her own was very nice. I imagine her new Bali love will eventually stifle her as well and then she'll go to Dubai.


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