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 :)

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