gratitude-a-thon day 2052: the pasta

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Busting out the major gratitude for Italy. Where is the ugly in this place? I am thinking it doesn’t exist–here it seems the garbage is attractive. The renovated farmhouse we’re staying is situated inside of a postcard. I actually think I might still be asleep and dreaming when I wake up and step outside. But then I feel the dew on my feet and I find I’m really awake. As I write, a conference of exuberantly chatty birds are in the distance and the sheep are waking up and ready to be herded into the valley. It feels like they come out just for me–to give me a show.

We learned to make pasta last night. Simona showed us how to roll out our dough Twiggy-thin, which looked effortless in her hands and gave me an intense upper arm workout–Pasta Padasana–a new yoga pose. Simona then, like magic, turned her dough into bowties and linguine and a cornucopia of delectable shapes.

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When our pasta was served (and fortunately nobody could tell which were my mishappen noodles), I became a human Electrolux. Not even kidding in the least (I have witnesses). I simply could not get my fill of the homemade pasta. I had six servings, almost half a platter by myself, and still, I could have eaten more. I had to force myself to leave the table (mostly so I wouldn’t eat it).

While the unspeakable is happening in the U.S., I am trying to ignore it until I arrive back to the shit show in 48 hours and just nourish myself with the dolce vita of this place, these people and did I mention, the pasta. Gratitudine.

 

gratitude-a-thon day 1017: travel

I am childish when it comes to traveling. Which is to say, I am gleeful, delighted and utterly beside myself with the novelty of the foreign. Give me new sights to see, a  different language to decode and the flavors and coffee that accompany them and I am as happy as Trump on Twitter.

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I think I had this same dumb smile on my face the first time I was in Florence, too.

I didn’t set foot in Europe until I was 30.

Imagine.

But I  would never have appreciated it in the same way if I had gone when I was younger. My kids have been many times already, and will never know the crazy smile I had pasted on my face for the three weeks I spent in Zurich, the Alps, Basil, Copenhagen, Gotland, Rome, Venice and Florence, that first time.

Along for the ride, I’m with my husband, at a scientific conference in Tuscany. A diverted flight due to weather allowed us a surprise night in Florence, where we’d not been since my virgin visit. We fell in love with it, and are headed back for the last few days of our stay.

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Our hotel. Yeah, it’s up there.

The hotel we’re in is the size of a small town, poised on a hilltop overlooking small villages and mountains–some that are even snow capped. When we arrived it was rainy and foggy. At one point, you couldn’t even see anything out of our window, but like magic, in the morning, there was a storybook view, a movie poster perfect scene.

On day two,  we visited Lucca, a small walled village with many beautiful churches, in fact, one I might have to give my “Most Beautiful Church Award” to, and the second pace I’ve been to with a wall–the first is in Gotland, Sweden, in a town called Visby. I hope never to  have to visit any walls in the States, if you know what I mean.

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This church in Lucca knocked me out. It looked like it was carved lace in marble.
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The olive oil of Lucca! I love that label.

The food is wonderful. I mean, fresh pasta, cheese, wine. BUT, there is instant coffee in my room, and the dining room, which is buffet style, but quite good, HAS COFFEE MACHINES. Thank GOD we were in Florence, where they still served you a nice POT of coffee, or I would be very disillusioned. Italy, coffee machines–does not compute.

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Barga is beautiful from the distance, as well as up close.
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Barga wasn’t supposed to be special, but it was!

Yesterday, one of Peter’s colleagues and I headed to a small town called Barga, which I was told, was unremarkable. The hotel gives a funny little flyer on how to walk there. Well, let me tell you, I was thinking of my grandmother Constantina, who it is said walked on the steep hilly terrain and winding mountains of Calabria for food and water because on this walk, we were on vertical hills, gravelly, broken pavement, uneven rocks, all along a deep embankment, through deep woods. It was not a clear path and certainly not one a major hotel would ever give you in the States. After an hour of climbing hill after hill, on this major obstacle course, we arrived at the sweetest town, with yet more hills! But we didn’t mind, because the colors and buildings were so breathtaking, we just kept walking, in total awe. We ended our visit with a glass of wine and two decadent desserts, in the friendliest patisserie. This stop also included a hot chocolate that turned out to be chocolate moose heated up!

Gratitude for the fully immersive experience of travel. It’s a mind, body and soul cleanser.