Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hiking to Bergolo

My parents discovered Cortemillia long before I took my first trip here two years ago. My mother has always been an expert at finding small, unique places to stay that promise an experience like no other. I still recall the phone call I received years ago from them. They were raving about a hike they took that brought them to the top of the Piemonte countryside where they found a small, beautiful town. Soon after arriving, in search of a place to dine, they overheard what sounded like a family eating their afternoon lunch. They were spotted by a member of the family who immediately insisted on opening the restaurant so the two of them could eat. It’s a story I’ve heard many times and always been captivated by. I inquired with Carlo and planned to take the same hike early Friday morning. I put my hiking pants on, grabbed some waters, and filled my backpack with a mini snack pack- braesola, pane, an apricot and some hazelnut cake. Directions in hand, I set off through Cortemillia. It was an uphill walk through an unfamiliar part of the town and I was enchanted by the backyards of the locals, filled with fruit trees and clucking chickens. It wasn’t long before I reached the path I would remain on for the rest of my journey, Via dei Feudi Carretteschi. The path was ancient and had been used for centuries and you could still see some of the remaining stones from the original road. After a short distance, I turned to see all of Cortemillia laid out in front of me surrounded by the picturesque Piemonte. The path was tough, rocky and unstable but I kept a swift pace up the constant incline. It was tiring but I was exhilarated by the thought of reaching the topped and pushed myself into action. I continued on with the directions, stopping whenever instructed, to account for my surroundings. The hike was about 2 hours of steady climbing through the woods. I knew I was close when the trees began thinning and the landscape morphed into high untamed grass with only a small dirt path to follow in between. The trees cleared and I was at the top of a ridge, surrounded on all sides by the landscape. Just as the directions had promised, it was as if the universe was at my feet! I took in the views, amazed and proud of the feat I had just conquered. I headed to the church located straight ahead which loomed over the small town of Bergolo. Since it was still early, I sat down on a bench to relax and enjoy my snack while taking in the magnificent views. I studied some Italian and reviewed a few of the historical facts of Bergolo. It is an ancient village made of stone and has for years been home to an art festival that takes place annually. Because of this, the city is filled with art; there are murals on the walls of buildings and sculptures throughout. I took a small tour around the closed church, admiring the beauty and simplicity of the building.
I finally made it!!!

Having successfully killed enough time, I headed down into town in the hopes of finding the restaurant my parents had reminisced about time and time again. The city was beautiful and quaint, and the artwork gave it a truly unique flair. Everywhere you looked there were colorful paintings, wacky statues or bright flowers. I came to the main square and wandered into a building with a sign for the restaurant. I encountered an elderly woman, who was surely the grandmother of the family, headed down into the kitchen. She told me the restaurant would be open in another 20 minutes and I returned to the piazza, retiring to a bench in the shade. I settled there with my Kindle although I was mostly observing the comings and goings of the townspeople. I watched a woman come out the door of the restaurant, light her cigarette and walk across the square through an arched entryway. She came out minutes later with a handful of fresh picked basil and I knew I was in for a delicious lunch. When the time came I went back to the restaurant and headed down into the cool dining room that was flooded with light from the windows overlooking the vast valley below. A man greeted me and after hearing my Italian, he immediately switched over to impeccable English. He brought me a much needed bottle of ice cold water and told me about the wine list; there were no glasses served at the restaurant, only bottles and half bottles. Knowingly using unwise judgment, I ordered a half bottle of Nebbiola; there was no way I was eating a pristine lunch without wine! The server then introduced me to the menu, explaining that they usually served the 3 antipasto plates along with a secondi of my choosing. As a lover of both restaurant traditions and sizable amounts of food, I followed his suggestion, choosing to follow my antipasto up with agnolotti al plin. The first of three antipasti was called Rotondino but was really just the traditional thin slices of veal served with a tuna mayonnaise sauce. This was by far my favorite variation yet, as the sauce lacked the slimy quality of mayonnaise and had a mild flavor that complemented the veal perfectly.


It was served with a little bowl of anchovies swimming in an oil based parsley pesto. I munched contentedly, spreading the anchovies and pesto onto bread. My plate was cleared and my next course arrived, stuffed zucchini flowers. The flowers were fried perfectly and were lightly doused with a bright green pea sauce. I cut into one of the flowers, delighted to find it stuffed full of ricotta cheese and ground meat. I cleaned the plate, soaking up every bit of sauce with my last bite. The third antipasti arrived and I dug in. In a small ramekin, there was a flawlessly cooked egg topped with parsley and coarse sea salt. I dove in with my spoon and was thrilled to find a dense layer of porcini mushrooms hidden underneath the egg. YUM! I enjoyed my agnolotti slowly, eating each pinched ravioli on its own, savoring the buttery sage flavor that melded with the piquant filling which burst forth when I bit into the pasta. As I reveled in the blissful meal I had just enjoyed, I finished the last drops of wine and gulped down an espresso, matching each sip with a large swallow of water to ensure my survival on my return trip. I left the restaurant and stopped to fill up my bottles with water from a flowing fountain in the street. I saw a cute little cat and couldn’t help but try to tame him; the cats in Italy have been constantly resisting my advances! Of course, he skittered away before I could get near him, but I pulled out my secret weapon- leftover braesola! It wasn’t long before I had corralled in a crowd of hungry kitties, 4 or 5 of them, eager to get a bite of the meat. I was overwhelmed with a sense of self-awareness, at that moment in time I WAS the creepy cat lady, but I couldn’t resist a little loving from my feline friends. I set off along the route I came, determined to make it back in time for a siesta before the night’s cooking. The going was a lot easier on the return as it was mostly downhill, but it was also treacherous. I happen to have very weak ankles and I am no stranger to rolling and spraining, so I made my way gingerly down the rocky path. Even at my cautious pace, I made it back to Cortemillia in an hour in a half. I guzzled some water, showered off the gallons of sweat coating my body, and hopped into bed for siesta.

Pictures top to bottom:
The path up
"Via dei Feudi Carretteschi"
Reaching the end!
Me at the top
View of Bergolo from the church
Inside Bergolo
Meow :)
Bella fiore

View from the top; my horrible distance camera does it no justice!


The church

The police station

Artwork at the top

My favorite painting; it took my breath away!

Stuffed zucchini flowers!

Egg with porcini

*** Don't forget you can click to enlarge any picture!!

Daily life in Cortemillia

I spent the past week staying close and enjoying my time in Cortemillia. When I am not traveling I stay at the hotel and I spend my time leisurely. I’ve been enjoying plenty of time in the pool, going on long bike rides, and of course putting in plenty of hours in the kitchen. I have also taken the opportunity to work on my Italian! I discovered an app for my Itouch which has improved my comprehension skills and given me the ability to communicate in Italian, even at a minute level. Titled the Michael Thomas method it is easily available for download from Itunes and offers lessons in Spanish, French, German and Italian. The method is so great because it teaches you an understanding of the language on a deeper level. I am learning to translate my English thoughts into Italian, rather than just memorizing vocabulary words and trying to retain all of the regular and irregular verb forms. Instead of trying to find the words to express my thoughts, I’m able to say exactly what I want in a manner that people actually comprehend. It is very exciting! While I haven’t become adept at communicating in lengthy conversations, I am able to understand most Italian discussions to a point and have managed to pickup on most kitchen lingo. Instead of standing there like an idiot while Carlo barks out orders, I jump into action to help or move out of the way when I know I cannot be of use.
On Monday night we left Cortemillia and traveled to Savona for a special family dinner. It was Carlo and Poala’s 13th anniversary and we dined at a superb seafood restaurant to celebrate. We were seated on a beautiful porch directly on the beach where the sun was still shining. I was relieved that the weather was much cooler, likely because of the light sea breeze. We watched the sun set as we admired the view and had our usual Italian English dinner conversation.By Carlo’s recommendation I first ordered the pesce crudo plate, a gigantic plate full of fresh, raw seafood. For my second course, I went out on a limb and ordered a dish whose description I only halfway understood. I had no doubts, I knew it had to be good! The waiter brought over a cool bottle of Chardonnay and poured glasses for all of us, even Ricky who is only 12. It is the Italian way to give young children little sips of alcohol here and there so they become educated and aren’t ignorantly attempting to consume everything in sight when they reach the proper age. It is a practice I admire and respect as I grew up the same way and as a result I have always been more responsible when it comes to drinking than my peers. The meal began as small plates of anchovies drizzled with olive oil were set in front of us. I have a natural adverseness to anchovies, as their flavor is more often than not overwhelming. Here in Italy though, it is a very different story. The fresh anchovies don’t taste incredibly fishy, rather they have a fresh sea-like taste with a hint of mild characteristic anchovy flavor. It was the perfect start to munch on along with a few breadsticks. Our plates were swept away and in their place, our pesce crudo was placed. The dish was absolutely beautiful. It contained sea bass, tuna, shrimp, langostine and sea urchin, all fished straight from the sea and delivered to our table. Drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of pepper, the seafood was left to display its true, delicious flavor. The spines of the sea urchins danced the entire time we ate, and I flipped mine over to stare, fascinated by the idea that the thing I was eating was still alive. Paola got squeamish and refused to eat the urchin! There were also fresh capers on the plate, an absolute favorite of mine and quite a treat as I don’t often get the chance to eat them. I took my time eating, making my way slowly around the platter and savoring each bite. We took the period in between courses as a pause to salute and celebrate Carlo and Paola’s 13 years of marriage. Just as the sun fell below the horizon, our main courses were delivered. My dish was a spicy spaghetti with chopped pieces of a sea snail whose texture faintly reminded me of conch which I ate so much of years ago in Abaco. It was served with small, tender slices of zucchini only found in the region, and a sprinkling of parsley. I slurped up my whole plate and sampled some of Carlos saffron infused risotto. We sat in the candlelight, sipping the last of our wine and laughing at the never ending wait for our check which had already been requested multiple times, a typical Italian trend. We left Savona in high spirits and began the journey home. We stopped in a town nearby to Cortemillia to get ice cream at a gelateria owned by a friend of Carlo’s and headed back to the hotel, arriving just before midnight.
I spent plenty of time in the kitchen this week. I learned to make “ravioli al plin” which means it is pinched- you’ll see the method on pictures! The ravioli is stuffed with a ricotta cheese and spinach mixture and its piped onto the pasta. Then you fold it over, pinch it into sections and cut it with a nifty ravioli cutter (which I already purchased). We also made picollili, which is similar to gnocchi. The main difference is the size and shape. It’s a bit longer than gnocchi, and has hazelnuts rolled into the dough. Carlo serves this in the restaurant with a take on butter and sage sauce topped with hazelnuts, yum! Otherwise, I have been spending time with the girls who work here and Carlo, Paola and Ricky. When nights end early in the kitchen, us five girls usually sit out on the porch in the cool evening air and enjoy some birra or mojitos while Paola and Elena smoke cigarettes. The girls gossip about normal things, shopping and their children. I usually just relax with my drink and listen in on conversation, trying to store in my memory the words I don’t recognize so I can look them up later. Every once in a while, Ricky and I take trips together, going on bike rides, or getting gelato down the street. It is refreshing to have a routine; every day I wake up and help myself to breakfast then relax in the lobby, checking up on my emails and such and socializing with the Zarri's. We eat a simple lunch together everyday, usually salad which is sometimes accompanied by special treats like mozzarella di bufala from Naples or smoked salmon from Norway. In the afternoons I take a bike ride or go for a swim and then spend a couple of hours in my room, reading, studying Italian, or taking a nap. I'm always ready for dinner at 6:30 where I cook something simple or on busier nights, scarf down whatever I can. When the cooking is finished, I clean up as the girls finish their duties- clearing the tables and doing dishes while Marlene prepares breakfast for the following morning. On earlier evenings, we enjoy our cocktails and gossip, but on the nights when the kitchen duties go on all night, we head our separate ways. Such is life in Cortemillia- relaxed and simple.

Images top to bottom:
Il gatto relaxing on the porch of the hotel
The drive to Savona
Our beautiful table on the beach
Pesce crudo
"al plin" - pinching the ravioli
Cutting the ravioli

View from our table

The Zarri family :)

Lasagnette drying- ready for cutting!

Elena, one of the servers, making our mojitos!

Mojitos made right- that's rum and cognac, topped with a little tonic water post photo

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Day in Alba

Saturday morning I was headed to Alba. Paola gave me a ride to the train station although it is a short walk; I have learned it is hopeless to argue with the Zarri’s when it comes to their generosity so at this point, I simply accept. I got on on the bus and paid 2.50 euro for a ticket. It was empty and I seated myself in the middle of the bus right next to a window to take advantage of the views. A few more people got on the bus and we were off, right on time! The drive was short, only about 45 minutes, and it had the luxury of air conditioning so frankly I wasn’t in a hurry to get off. As we pulled into the city, I paid close attention to where we were going so that I could find the bus station later. I got off the bus, not sure which way to head but I used the method that never fails, following the crowds towards the center of the city. Soon, I came across the tents signifying market day. It was one of the biggest markets I had ever been to and I had plenty to look at. The city of Alba has an organized market, clustering their tents in piazzas and open areas rather than in the streets. With so many options, I couldn’t help but make some purchases. I got a Bialetti stovetop espresso maker for two, something I have been needing for a long time! While meandering along, I did some window shopping and stopped at a jewelry shop to admire the glinting silver and gold. My eye was immediately drawn to a collection of colorful watches. I gave into the temptation and went inside to try one on. You see I have a problem which I wasn’t even aware of until I got to Italy- I am completely dependent on my cell phone for telling time. As it is always attached to me or at least close by, it is what I always look to. Because I don’t have it in Italy, I am constantly unaware of the hour, especially when traveling. The saleswoman showed me how you could change the bands, choosing from a vast array of colors, and easily adjust them so that it can be worn loose or tight around your wrist. I had to buy it, in bright pink of course, and I purchased a modest white band to accompany it for my less adventurous outfits. I stopped once more in a kitchen shop whose diverse window display drew me in. Walking through the aisles, I resisted the urge to touch everything as the signs in front of my face yelled “DO NOT TOUCH!” I bought a set with 2 espresso cups, plates and a sugar bowl, all hand-painted in pastel pinks and greens. I exited the store happy with my purchases but resolute in not spending any more money! I wandered a bit more, exploring side streets and losing all sense of direction. I stopped in a truffle store to try to complete my mission given to me by my father- to find a truffle paste whose ingredients are 99% truffle. Unfortunately, the store did not have anything near as potent, but I got to taste many of the different pastes and I left thinking that my mission although near impossible, was not so bad. I arrived at the center square and chose a little bar to eat at, opting to sit in the center of the piazza underneath a large, white umbrella. I ordered a special gin drink with orange and grapefruit juice and enjoyed fresh pasta with mushrooms and a side of tender cooked artichokes. I took my time eating, basking in the shade and taking advantage of the opportunity to people watch, never a boring thing in Italy. After paying my bill, I had to get my bearings and find the train station. Surprisingly, I did so quite easily and impressed myself. I am unlucky enough to have a terrible sense of direction but happily I have not yet gotten lost in Italy. I boarded the bus with pleasure, reveling in the cold air blasting onto my face.

I was relieved when I got off the bus in Cortemillia and felt like I was home. It is very comforting to have a place to come back to after all of my travels. I am getting accustomed to some of the things here. Constant heat which leads to constant sweat which leads to constant cold showers. The ice cold water that is warm by the time it reaches my feet from the heat of my body. The noises I wake up to every day outside my window, cars and vespas racing by, shutters banging open and shut, kids playing. The horrifying bug who appears in my bathroom every morning; I simply nudge him with the bathroom carpet and he skitters into a hole which he doesn’t leave until the following morning. The affable, communal atmosphere in the kitchen filled with sounds of Italian and broken English and the clanging of pots and pans. And most of all, my Italian family, Carlo, Paola and Ricky whose unending generosity and kindness have made me feel right at home. As always, I am loving bella Italia.

Images top to bottom:
A piazza with market tents- these were connected to the Slow Food movement, which began in Italy!
Lots of formaggio
The awesome bread plate they brought with my delightful gin drink

Produce section of the market

Beautiful pastries and sweets

Main square in Alba. I ate right there!

My lovely new espresso set :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Acqui Terme

Thursday was a free day, as I had no plans for traveling. I ate some breakfast and headed to the supermercati for some grocery shopping. By Paola’s request, I was making “American hamburger” for lunch and had to pick up some supplies. As I left the hotel, Paola stopped me, handing me a 20 euro bill. I tried brushing her off, but as always, she insisted I take it. The store was only a couple of blocks down, so it was a short walk. Thankfully, I have had the good fortune of being introduced to the Italian grocery store by my parents. The produce section happens to have a very specific structure. For one thing, the Italians are very particular about picking out their fruit and vegetables. Gloves are provided so the picky Italians can dig through the cases to find the perfect specimen and they are very wary of those who don’t use them. After taking care not to touch the vegetables directly, you face the confusing task of pricing. While the process, once learned, isn’t too difficult, a first time shopper is likely to get scolded at the register because of their ignorance. The procedure is simple if you posses the knowledge- you simply pick out the fruit or vegetable desired, note the number clearly (or sometimes not so clearly) marked on the corresponding sign (make sure you have your Italian dictionary) go to the nearby scale, punch in the number and viola, your price tag is printed. Once you stick it onto your bag, you are set! I picked out my few needed items, along with a conveniently packaged twosome of Moretti beers, paid, and headed home. I casually slipped the 20 euro bill onto the front desk and went into the kitchen to begin cooking. Paola presented me with a plate of lardo which I fried up as a topping for our “American burgers.” Paola had purchased pre made patties and genuine buns and I got to work cooking the burgers and toasting the poppy seed topped buns. As we sat down to eat I couldn’t help but giggle at Paola’s childlike expression of giddiness. “It’s like Burger King!” she explained joyously. We even enjoyed some refreshment together, pairing our burgers with some ice cold Nastro Azzurro. It was my first drink since a glass of wine I enjoyed on the night of my arrival! After lunch, Alice popped by to say hi and talk business with Carlo. We set up a date for later in the afternoon and I took advantage of my free time, doing my laundry then hopping on Carlo’s bike. I journeyed even farther this time, making it to the next town over, which was even tinier than Cortemillia. Traveling away from Cortemillia, you encounter a slow uphill climb which leaves you breathless. But the ride back is always enjoyable, a fast downhill cruise that leaves your adrenaline pumping even after you’ve jumped off the bike. Shortly after I changed, Alice arrived and we departed the hotel. We took a slow, leisurely walk around Cortemillia and stopped to get some gelato. Conversation with Alice is becoming more and more comfortable. We are getting to know one another and discussing the culture and politics of our countries, which is not only interesting, but informative. We set up a plan to email each other, me in Italian and her in English, so we can both improve and I don’t have to suffer the embarrassment of speaking just yet. I had time for a shower before dinner and entering the kitchen was grateful to find Poala had already prepared me a plate of prosciutto, braesola and parmeasan along with a green salad for dinner. It was a slow night in the kitchen but Carlo made an a traditional Piemonte dish for special guests who were dining with us. The sauce was a simple one, ground veal sauteed with onions, sage, rosemary, oil and butter, with a little white wine and seasoning for good measure. He poured it over a fresh spaghetti and topped it with white truffle shavings. To my delight, Carlo instructed me to get a fork and offered me what little was left in the pan. Belissimo! One of the best dishes that I have sampled from the kitchen of Carlo Zarri!! Paola seemed excited about her discovery that I enjoyed alcohol, a fact which anyone who is acquainted with me knows well. She had Elena make us mojitos and we sat on the porch with Carlo to enjoy them. The nights are cool here and in the pleasant weather we chatted, sipping on mojitos which Paola informed me were enhanced with Cognac. Paola made a comment about me getting drunk and Carlo snickered, stating “it would take her 10 of those!” I was quite amused by this but in my mind I contemplated... By the end of this trip, at the rate I’m drinking, I will probably have readjusted to a tolerance of one drink, just like the good old days.

With plans to head to Acqui Terme, I was up early again on Friday. I love Italian breakfast; it is perfectly acceptable to eat cake first thing in the morning and the Zarri’s serve a different one every day. I sliced myself some pinoli cake and spooned out some soft sliced pears that were marinating in their own juices. The drive was short, with the usual incredible views and Carlo and I maintained lively conversation for the duration.
Carlo dropped me at a roundabout where he would later pick me up. He was headed to a screening, picked to be on a cooking show that travels to different areas, showcasing chefs and their creations. The dishes are meant to represent the region where the chef hails from and Carlo would be making the very dish I had the opportunity to sample the night before! Before dropping me off, Carlo explained why this dish was so important to him and Piemonte. It is a simple, but classic dish with few ingredients that requires little preparation. To Carlo, this embodies Piemonte cooking but there are chefs that go against the idea, insisting on complicating their dishes and fluffing them with unnecessary additions. The show was giving him a chance to express these views and prove the merit of the belief that simple ingredients, when they are of good quality, are best left uncomplicated to let their true flavors shine. With my sneakers and backpack, I was looking like a total tourist, but I was undeterred. I have learned from the decades of traveling I have done in my life that comfort is more important than appearance. Although I hate blatantly appearing like an American tourist, it is an apprehension I’ve overcome. It was market day in Acqui Terme and the city was full of Italians doing their shopping for the week. The tents were strewn throughout the streets with people crowded on either side and I followed along in the flow of pedestrian traffic not stopping very often. I usually only pause at a stall if they have something that really appeals to me. The tents selling clothes and shoes often are overcome with Italian women searching for the perfect deal so I avoid them. But it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the ones selling kitchen supplies often grab my attention. It was no different on this day and I stopped to peer into compartments full of useful tools, priced fairly cheap. As a rule, when traveling abroad, I try not to purchase things unless they are impossible or difficult to find in the America. I came across a ravioli cutter and an awesome veggie peeler which is so simple it’s illogical to me that I have never seen one in the US. I purchased both, spending under 10 dollars and considered it a fair deal that fulfilled my self-made rule. I wandered into the indoor section of the market where they were selling meat, seafood, cheese and freshly baked bread. I was filled with longing, a feeling I’m used to here in Italy, wishing that these things were available in the US, much less Orlando. Satisfied with my market experience, I set off to explore a little, venturing into less crowded streets. I came to a square where a fountain bubbled. I dipped my hand in, seeking some relief from the heat of the day and I was momentarily surprised by the hot water I encountered. Acqui Terme is built over hot sulphur springs, and this is where it gets its name. I had found La Bollente spring, a pavilion built in 1870 in the center of the town where citizens could access the hot water. Steam rose from the fountains where the water flowed and came into contact with the cooler air. It was all very fascinating! I continued on, passing by an outside theatre and I encountered a little castle, called the Palaeologi Castle. It was set on a hill and from the top I had a beautiful view of Acqui Terme. There was also a pretty bird garden inside and I enjoyed a walk through it, thankful for the shade. During my walk I was also scoping out restaurants, of course! I had already spotted a promising restaurant near the theatre appropriately named Osteria del Teatro. Although it was early, only 12 o’clock, I was hungry so I took my chances and headed in. An older woman seated me, informing me the chef would be in soon, and gave me a pitcher of blissfully cold acqua naturale. I also ordered a quartino of white wine, a little pitcher that holds about 8 ounces of liquid. I was happy to be sitting in the shade, drinking my cold beverages and reading from my Kindle, so I didn’t mind the wait.As soon as I was seated a young Italian girl, delighted for company in the restaurant, approached my table with a tentative smile. She took my greeting for an invitation to keep me company and rarely left my side throughout the meal, although her mother came over repeatedly ordering “vieni, vieni!” I placed my order opting for a traditional Piemonte antipasti and agnolotti con sugo di brasato di barolo, a ravioli with a sauce of beef braised in Barolo. As I waited for my food to arrive and munched on breadsticks flavored with olives, people came in and out, obviously a part of the family that owned the restaurant. It is so comforting to know even with changing times and modernization that the traditions of Italy remain intact. Family restaurants are still very common and they remain the meeting place where members join for meals and socialization. My antipasti arrived and I explored it with my fork and my taste buds, attempting to figure out each ingredient that made up the dish. There was an asparagus souffle that resembled a fluffy omelette full of shredded asparagus. Next was an onion concoction, a mixture I can only deduce contained onion, egg, and cheese with a texture resembling ricotta stuffed inside the peel of the onion and roasted. Also on the plate was a piece of crispy, toasted cheese and the tradition vitello di tonnato, a thin slice of veal topped with a mayonnaise like sauce flavored by the addition of tuna, capers, and anchovies. I am very familiar with this dish as we serve it in the restaurant and I have learned how to make it, but I am still unsure of the combination, the sauce being a bit overwhelming for my personal tastes. My plate was swept away and replaced with agnolotti. It was incredible!! I savored every bite. The ravioli was stuffed with the braised beef and the sauce was thick and rich and made my mouther water just smelling it. This was one of the best meals I have had since arriving in Italia! I finished my ravioli and lingered a bit longer, finishing off the last of my wine and drinking an espresso. After paying my bill, I strolled through the city and found a bench in the shade back by our meeting place. I settled down with an Italian newspaper and attempted to translate it with the assistance of my Italian dictionary. It was an article about politics and the strife over the Berlusconi budget crisis here in Italy. Berlusconi is proposing a budget and if he is refused, he proposes a new election. But, this was not what I gathered from the article, simply what Carlo has educated me on. I only got through about a paragraph, struggling with the large words I had never read before and attempting to interpret their definition. It was very difficult but I think it is a good way to learn new words and correct grammar. I am deriving the necessary conversational skills from my interactions with Italians so I think this is a different approach that could broaden my knowledge. I tired of the mentally draining exercise and sat to observe the roundabout I was seated by. It was far from boring watching the Italian bikers and drivers fly around the circle, driving straight over the stone center as if it didn’t exist. Before long Carlo picked me up and we headed back to Cortemillia. Back at the hotel it was the usual routine, showering and prepping for dinner. It was a light night but I enjoyed it as I am finding my place in the kitchen and get to do more and more each night.

Images top to bottom
American hamburger
No dryers here- my skivvies in the open for everyone to see
Carlo's specialty, pasta with veal and white truffle
Herbs and plants on sale at the market
Fish in the market
Acqui Terme from the top
La Bollente spring
Adorable Mia, the girl who kept me company during lunch
Agnolotti con sugo di brasato di barolo

This cheese cart needs to move to my neighborhood, I would go every day!

Beautiful fresh berries

The bird garden

Osteria del Teatro

The roundabout the Italians drive all over