Monday, May 24, 2010

Saturday, Sunday, Monday catchup!

Saturday: Una dia a’l mercato

Last night Daniela’s brother, Dante and his friend came to Ascoli as they are attending a wedding this weekend. As I mentioned yesterday, Dante was quite excited to talk English with an American. This also gave my brain a break as well.

We all met in the Piazza Popolo and headed to the “best pizza restaurant in Ascoli”; a restaurant named Bella Napoli. The place filled up quickly with locals as we each ordered our own pizza and salads combined with a carafe of beer, we were all quite content. Dante is a smart, young (I think 27) student of “green” economics studying in Urbano. Our conversation was vast which we both appreciated. We talked “green politics”, the gender economics of Italy, marriage, while comparing to how things are in the U.S. He was surprised at my sense of Ascoli having so many young people while he sees mostly the older generation. Different eyes see different things. He studied in Sweden for a semester where he learned his English, which was quit good. He loves Northern Europe because they are more progressive than Italy. We talked about GMOs and I relayed my perception that they were illegal in italy and he said they just passed a law allowing GMO corn. I thought to myself, well, this battle has really been lost if Italy is succumbing to GMOs. How sad.

With dinner over, we walked to the piazza, which was quite busy and the evening was comfortably balmy. The evening light with a sliver of moon made for a dreamy setting while fountains splashed in the background. A very lovely scene.

This morning (Saturday) Daniela and I both slept until about 9:30am and dressed quickly so we could get to the vegetable market. These are the local farmers who come to sell the local produce. It’s not a huge market as many farms are dying out since the young generation do not want to work the farms any more. These are hard working people. You can see it in their tanned leathery skin and their swollen fingers that they have been doing this a long time.

Daniela has her favorites. We met the woman who sells her the ricotta, then move on to the woman who sells her the eggs and peas. Daniela loves peas! Took just a few photos, as this seemed too intimate of a setting to intrude with my camera.

From there, we walked through another market where an abundance of purses and clothes were displayed. I had a moment of temptation but I kept thinking of my “gorilla’ of a suitcase and thought, “No, I don’t need any more purses or clothing!”.

Some items we were looking for were not there and so we headed to the grocery store of Francisco where I usually buy my tomatoes. Did I mention that Francisco thinks I’m 40 years old….I’ve gained 15 years of life being here! On the way to Francisco’s, we pass the rotisserie of chickens and lo’ and behold, I get to buy my roasted chicken! Daniel exclaims that today is a day of miracles! Too funny.

Further shopping brings me to purchase local honey and the best store for me to be introduced to is where home-made pasta is purchased. Daniela bought the ingredients for cannelloni with ricotta and spinach and so we will eat quite well this week. I saw some tagliatelli and sautéed mushrooms that I just may buy next week.

More later; I need to take a nap!

Sunday: Finalamente Il Sol!

Have I mentioned that since my arrival (today is day 8) it has been cloudy, rainy and cold? I really do think you all should applaud me for not whining over this as you know that I am a much happier creature in a warm, sunny climate. That’s actually why I chose Ascoli (as opposed to say Bologna) as it was south and I thought for sure in mid-late May, it would be warm. WRONG. It has been unseasonably cold, overcast and rainy and even the locals are confused about it. I also have to say that I’ve been a bit sick due to the weather as well; remember my walk from the Rome train station to the bus station? Rain, puddles, no umbrella, no sleep, completely unprepared. It’s taken almost a week to figure out how to dress and stay warm on a daily basis. Thank goodness there is plenty of hot water and a nice tub (narrow but nice). It’s been my saving grace.

But today was sunny and it made quite the difference. It was a great walking day and a perfect spectator day. My morning typically starts with me going just around the corner from our flat to Café Angelina (thanks again to Valerie!!) where I spend my morning. I alternate between the plain croissant and the chocolate croissant; as well as waiver between the Americano coffee and the cappuccino in a glass. Guiliani and his wife are quite lovely and welcoming. Neither speak a word of English and so the extent of my communication is, “Buon giorno, come’ stai? (good morning, how are you) and so it goes….

I do try to read some of the newspaper as well. It’s easier to read than to speak especially since so much of the language is like Spanish. Today in the paper it showed a horrific photo of a bull-fighter in Spain who within moments of entering the ring was gorged by the bull right up through his chin and out! The photographer actually caught this photo and there was no blood as I believe the photo was within the instant of the penetration. What a horrific experience and what a way to start my day! (and yours)….it only goes to show you, you never really know how you’re day will go!

Moving on….

I walked and walked and walked and stumbled across a couple of museums and enjoyed a slow stroll while taking in these works of art…one museum was modern and the other were of ceramics. All quite lovely. Walked further wanting to find the really old section where many of the residences are built behind a pre-roman stone wall facing the river. It really is beautiful with the Sibillini Mountains in the background still covered with snow. I did buy a book on these mountains as they are surrounded by stories of myths and mysteries and I’m intrigued.

Heading back to the piazza, I decide to sit outside one of the café’s for another cappuccino (normally I do not have 2 of these a day! But it’s sunny and I’m in Italy). My stomach started to rumble and my back was tired from my backpack and camera and so after sitting for quite some time, I headed home to make some lunch. I don’t eat out much – I’m saving that for when I leave Ascoli. It’s quite economical for me here in Ascoli and I want to take advantage of that since once I leave I’ll be traveling more and possibly changing locations which equates to expensive hotel rooms, flights, trains and restaurants. Want to stretch my budget as much as possible. It would really be something if I came home with ‘change’!

Two sliced tomatoes and a zucchini frittata later, it’s time to nap. Man I sleep a lot. Last night in my thoughts, I couldn’t help but think that this first week in Ascoli (and possible the next???) is really a recuperative time for me. Certainly the weather and a slight cold hasn’t helped but I am just so tired I have to think my body is taking care of itself after these last trying months. There’s no depression but just complete exhaustion and 8 days later, it can’t still be jet lag, do you think?

My thoughts also went to how perfect a place Ascoli is for this recuperation. I’m isolated enough, no one has any expectations of me, I have nothing on my mind from my Santa Fe life, my schedule is simple and everyone in Italy takes naps! It’s perfect. There’s no judgement .

Have I mentioned how much I’m chatting with my parents at night? (They’re both deceased by the way). I guess it is natural as I am with “their people”. It’s been an incredible comfort to have them to talk to (do I sound crazy?). I’m really the only one doing the talking and also asking them for support and guidance. It feels comforting and reassuring.

Oh, yeah, yesterday I decided to call the Calias’ in Sicily. I got a robust gentleman on the phone and after I said my usual, “Mi dispiace, parlo poco Italiana” (I’m sorry, I only speak a little Italian), he broke out and started to speak English. When I told him who I was, he was excited and well aware of my arrival. I don’t know if he is Laura Calia’s father or not but he was quite proud of her. He said she is either the best teacher of English at the University or she is the best student of English at the University. Can’t recall. Bottom line, they are expecting me and I am thrilled! First, this Baglio (which translates to fortified compound) is located right on the sea and I have to think it will be warmer there! Meanwhile, there is this great little island that I must visit (if the ferry is running) as well as a jaunt up to Marsala (Donna, I promise to try to bring some small bottle of the local Marsala wine home with me!).

Did I say how excited I am?

I leave Ascoli next Saturday and have booked a room in Rome for Saturday and Sunday night. I have to purchase a smaller suitcase so I can transfer enough clothes without having the “gorilla” with me. The hotel will store my suitcase while I’m gone. Meanwhile, I will look at flights tomorrow and book one for Monday. The gentleman said once I knew my flight, to let him know and he will have a bus or taxi pick me up at the Palermo airport.

Did I say how excited I am?

I’ll book my flight to arrive Monday and depart Friday and we’ll see how it goes; I could stay longer or I could leave earlier. When I return to Rome, my plan is actually to head north to Siena and then onto Bologna. There’s a real chance I will be rendezvousing with Shastro and Maria in Bologna for a Tango event!

Did I say how excited I am?


Monday: Grottomare!

Woke up feeling myself today. Had a great sleep last night, still have a bit of a cold but otherwise quite energetic. Finally! So, I decided since I felt good and it was a sunny today, it was the day to visit the Adriatic Sea at the coastal town of Grottomare!

I emailed my teacher over the weekend and prepared her for a lesson on figuring out where the train station was and how I could go and return to the coast. As well, I invited her to a day at Offida (maybe Wednesday) my treat as she is really a lovely, young lady.

In the end, the train station was where I got picked up when I arrived by bus....but since Giogio took me all over Kingdom com' when I arrived, I had no clue where I was. It's funny to me that it's basically down the street (like everything in Ascoli.

With train schedule in hand and the language to insure I could get back, I pack my backpack and head out on my adventure. I have no clue how hot, warm, cool, cold it may be so I just dress in layers. My real goal is to eat pasta con vongole (clams or anything from the Sea for that matter).

The train ride was easy and lovely. I see why this region (Le Marche) is compared to Tuscany as the hillsides are identical with crumbling structures and colorful palaces. Unlike Tuscany though -- really, few, few tourists.

While riding the train I reaize no one is calling out the stops and I'm no positioned in a car that can actually see the posting of the station when it arrives. So, good lesson soon in this journey, I move up closer to the front of the train and now I can actually see what stop we are at.

I can tell we're getting closer to the sea because my hair is starting to curl up! Bravo! As soon as we begin to slow down I can see the Adriatic in between the narrow allies of residences with enormous palm trees and the sky is the bluest blue. I have arrived! I am so happy!

It's about 2:30 in the afternoon and as I begin to walk the shoreline, I realize food at most establishments will not be offered until 6-7pm. This is not good, but I just walk. I figure I should be able to charm someone into feeding a poor, hungry (female) Americana! The beach is clean with beautifully colored umbrellas and very white European tourists getting quite red before my eyes! I can hear many of them talk and I think many are from Germany. It's a relaxing beach area, not crowded and so I decide since I have plenty of time to find the city center and return to the beach later.

While walking around, mostly down the small streets and thinking about the people who live here, I come across a gentleman leaning in his doorway looking quite curiously at me (I do think I'm a curiosity -- there aren't many woman my age walking around alone in this region!) I say, "buon giorno" and he seems friendly enough and so I ask him if he can recommend a restaurant that will feed me and sure enough he gives me the name and I now have a mission.

Back on the beach I walk for what seems days and I come aross the restaurant which has it's doors open but it is empty. I am caught peering in and a waiter prompts me to come inside and then I begin my broken language. He falls his comrade over who speaks broken english an I am able to ask in broken Italian if they can feed me pasta con vongole and they are delighted! In fact, they make their own pasta on the premises and it is the best pasta con vongole in Grottomare. So, I go the high road and request a verde ensalada, agua naturalamente, and a bicchieri di vino bianco!

P.S. Bicchieri (which means "glass") was one of the first Italian words I had an intimate relationship with as it was my last name during my 1st marriage when I was 20! Took my maiden name back and never gave it up again!

I find my place at the railing where I have enough shade but am "on top" of the sand and looking out at the ocean. It's glorious.

My pasta arrives first (salad is last here for digestion -- makes sense, doesn't it) which looks divine, my wine, water, and bread are all sitting in front of me waiting for me to dive in (pardon the pun).

Then I make THE cardinal mistake and ask for "un poccotino di formaggio" (a little cheese) and I can literally feel my parents and their parents and their parents roll-over in their graves as one grows up knowing clearly with no dispute that you never, ever add cheese to a fish plate. Oh my, have I digressed. Even the waiter sweetly scolds me but then brings it to me followed by the cook who comes out and explains that you do not add cheese to this meal. Well, all I could say was "okey dokey"! No formaggio por me!!

I ate and drank with gusto expecting and welcoming a little ponch of a belly to grow before my eyes! and it did!

As lovely as this day was, I'm reaching that place where sharing these experiences with a friend or a lover is so much more satisfying. I'm not lonely though; just able to appreciate the value of companionship. In fact, really appreciating my friends and family.

I am so enjoying your little posts or your quick emails supporting me and sharing your love. I am so blessed. Now, I think about how I would love to come to Italy every year to study Italian and wouldn't it be great to do this with a friend!

This location has proved to be a good place for me to recuperate; however, it is not tapping into the passion in me that continues to hide a bit. Ascoli is a bit small, and a bit reserved.

I am excited to see how I "feel" in Sicily and, ideally, Siena and Bologna.

Thanks for reading this, I know it's long but the wireless cafe was closed yesterday and so I had no access to the blog!



  1. I'm continuing to love reading your blog, Natalie... you go, girl!

  2. Thank you darling, it's really become a fun thing for me to day! Appreciate you following....

    ciao for now!