Italy from U.S.A.

Un articolo atipico, originale e molto schietto scritto da un americano in vacanza nel nostro Paese … come appare l’Italia ai suoi visitatori?!

Per non snaturarlo, abbiamo preferito pubblicare il testo inviatoci da Mike così come lui lo ha scritto.I seated myself in the compartment of the train as it steamed out of the station. I do so enjoy the trains in Europe, with their compartments consisting of 6 seats that force you to acknowledge the person sitting next to you, no hiding here! As the train meandered through the Italian plains, I was enthralled by the view of the snow-covered mountains out the window. This could not be the Alps already could it? Indeed they were, glistening in their titanium whiteness. As we stopped at numerous stations and more and more passengers entered I was grateful that I had a seat and was even more grateful that by shear luck it was in a non smoking car. As it approached noon, I was anxious for the train to stop in Brescia knowing that Emilia and Luca would be waiting there for me. 12:05 no stopping 12:10 still going. Had I missed my stop? I had hoped not as I already had a lunch date with Em's parents and did not want to keep them waiting. I started to perspire and just as soon as it looked as though I would be taking a cab from Milan, I saw the sign: Brescia, and breathed a sigh of relief.

Out the door, across the platform and down the stairs, following the throng to the station. At the top of the stairs the familiar smiling faces of Em and Luca greeted me. It pays to have friends in foreign countries. We threw my suitcase in the trunk and Luca sped off to the house. He's a great driver and we made excellent time. Em's mum was just putting the finishing touches on lunch that was a real treat of pasta, different types of veal and for dessert, panettone. That was the best dinner of the entire trip.

So much to do and so little time.
Museums, Ruins, Nature, all of these await the traveler to Brescia.

I particularly enjoyed the time spent in the Santa Giulia Museum, where every corner led to even more beautiful sculptors, paintings, artifacts and of course the Desiderius cross. The cross was a gift from Charlemagne to Desiderius. Seems Charles was tired of his wife Ermengarda, the daughter of Desiderius, ( I am going to name my first daughter Ermengarda ) and sent her back to daddy along with a wooden cross embedded with jewels and cameos. It is beautifully displayed in a darkened vaulted chamber with frescos of the night sky adorning the ceiling.
I took walks in the park with my hosts, and came to appreciate even more the uniquely Italian life style, wishing secretly that I too could incorporate at least some of it into my own life. But the touch of melancholy was displaced by more eating at a pizzeria as we met up with another Luca and his wife, another English teacher! It was here that I encountered the famous crack pizza. I chose to stay away and opted for something a little less illegal sounding and had pepperoni. Oh it was so good and the friends, let me tell you there is nothing like Italian friends! The other Luca is a painter and on my last visit gave me watercolors he had recently painted. They are beautiful!
Em was kind enough to share her favorite bargain shopping stores with me. I am sure my eyes popped out of my head as I looked at the racks full of sleek Italian fashion. One of the things on my list of things to do before I die is to own an Armani suit. Why, I don't know but when you see them in the window you think maybe just wearing one would catapult the wearer into the realm of super-cool. No Armani at this store, so I had to settle for Versace! I gorgeous blazer and yes, I feel oh so cool just wearing it. And, Thanks to Em's magic discount card) the bargain price I paid makes me feel even cooler. Che buon affare!
New Years eve brought us to a party at the home of Em's friends Guido and Luisa. For a couple of math teachers they certainly had a great sense of humor. And what gracious hosts! They had such a cornucopia of culinary treats, pastas, sausages, cheeses, Prosciutto and oh some many others to numerous to mention and homemade fried bread, it was great. At midnight we toasted champagne and watched the fireworks shoot into the January sky from their balcony. After that we partied on until 3am playing parlor games. Great fun.
The next day we were off to Verona. The setting for many a Shakespeare play. Cigo himself accompanied me on this trip! Awesome city with an ancient coliseum in better shape than Rome's! We walked down narrow streets whose houses were adorned with 500-year-old frescos and every corner opened onto a lovely piazza. And the churches! This catholic was overcome with awe. Stopped by Juliet's balcony and wondered at the love letters pinned to the Christmas tree. Seems Juliet answers them all. Sweet girl. We followed our noses to the best espresso I had on the whole trip. We could literally smell the coffee from 20 meters. Take that Starbucks!
My Dad told me that I had to go to Sirmione if I was going to Lake Garda. Em and Luca were kind enough to indulge me, so we hooked up with Guido and Luisa and off we went. First we stopped at Em's favorite bargain outlet, the street market of Desenzano. What bargains! I got a scarf and a shirt at unbelievable prices. It was damn cold that day with the wind coming off the lake, and I was glad to put the scarf on as we walked back to the car. Sirmione. Great little town. Spas with naturally hot springs, a beautiful castle, and lots of little shops. We walked round, had a nice lunch and visited a museum. On the way back we stopped to watch the children skating on a rink that reminded me of the frog pond back in Boston.
On my last day in Brescia, We went to a bicycle store where I could see first hand the Italian bicycles of my dreams Cellini, Colnago, and all the rest. There they were. It was like I had died and gone to heaven. And the clothes. Italians wear the best clothes so it should come as no surprise that Italian cyclist wear the best cycling clothes. There they were all on the racks. Not this trip though. I could not help but fantasize about what summer must be like here, riding the narrow roads up into the mountains, screaming down the same hairpin turns that Marco Pantani and Mario Cippolini ride in the Giro. Some day.
From the bike store we went to the electronic store where I saw once again the advances that Italians have over we Americans. the washing machines, TV's, Dishwashers, all so much more elegant than what we are given. And the cars, don't get me started! Since I live in the city center where parking is scarce, I can appreciate a well-built small car. Although it isn't Italian, I fell in love with the Smart. What a car. At 6 feet long you can park it anywhere.
I spent the remainder of the day helping Em correct English tests since school would be starting again soon and she had taken so much of her vacation time to play tour guide to yours truly. It made me feel good to be able to help her out so. Unfortunately, her students were far beyond my humble studies of Shakespearean literature and I may have been more of a hindrance than a help.
On my last night there we ate pizza by the meter at a place that had probably never before seen an American. I can honestly say it was the best pizza I have ever had. The crust was as light as air.
January 04 and time for me to head back to the States. The week was over just as I was getting comfortable. Em and Luca dropped me at the train station and helped me purchase my ticket. As I climbed into my cabin, I waved farewell to my Italian friends, hoping that they would allow me to return their hospitality being my guests in Boston this summer. I will badger and cajole them resorting to even kidnap if need be to get them over.
The train arrived at the cavernous Milan station. They don't make them like that anymore!
I made my way to the bus that took me to the airport where I had one last surprise awaiting me. I heard my name called over the loudspeaker and fearing the worst, thought I was going to be bumped. Was I surprised to hear the stewardess ask if I would mind being upgraded to first class! What a way to end a fabulous vacation. I was sitting in a full recliner, being pampered by the Alitalia staff while the Boeing soared home at 30,000 feet!
To make a short story long, I would recommend visiting the cities I saw. I enjoy not only seeing the famous attractions, but also take pleasure in observing how the real people in a different culture live on a daily basis, far from the tourist traps and typical fare that is usually served up to the unsuspecting tourist.
Go and visit. just give yourself more time. There is so much to see!

In closing if I may quote Dante:

"Nessun maggior dolore che ricordarsi del tempo felice nella miseria".


Un commento in “Italy from U.S.A.
  1. Avatar commento
    15/03/2001 06:00

    Trovo che l'idea sia molto originale ed è sicuramente interessante capire...come siamo visti.

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