We left Bavaria by train and headed south through the Alps. A word of advice: when traveling by train and you have the chance to secure a compartment for only €8, do it. I’m so very glad we did. The 4 hour ride from Innsbruck to Venice would have been brutal otherwise. The seats in the hallways were no bigger than toilet rims and anytime someone wanted past, folks had to stand up. There were people everywhere: in the gangway, in the connecting areas… kids, dogs, huge suitcases, body odors. We had a compartment with a/c, shades, and a door. I felt bad for the people in the gangway, but I was grateful that my kids could sleep.
When we got off the train in Venice, this greeted our eyes:
I cried. I cried the same cry when I got to mile 24 of my first marathon and knew I would finish. Exhaustion, elation, disbelief, gratitude. I’m from small town America…Vegas and Memphis were really big deals when I was a kid. Venice? Only in books. Not for me. Never gonna see it, might as well be a fairy tale. …but I did get to see it! And my husband gave me a hug and my kids chased pigeons.
Our friend Ty picked us up and we spent a relaxing evening eating and catching up. After a shower and a good night’s rest, Ty had a surprise for me: his neighbor Lidia agreed to give me a cooking lesson! The catch? …
Lidia speaks no English. I speak only Food Network Italian (malto benné!). Ty called his sister (they are Nigerian) to translate over the phone for Lidia and I so we could get things arranged. Lidia was anxious to get things going; ten minutes later, I was in her kitchen.
I don’t know exactly what I expected…but I was very surprised when she pulled out a mini food processor to chop the onions and tomatoes. 🙂
We stirred and she talked and I smiled. Every once in a while she would mutter something that sounded an awful lot like “I really wish you spoke Italian; You’re exhausting me.” to which I would smile and nod and say, “Butter?”
We made a meat sauce (I learned how to speak some Italian, not spell it. I won’t insult the language by butchering the spelling), some zucchini with peppers, and beef ribs cooked over an open fire in her downstairs kitchen.
The afternoon was amazing and there isn’t a show on the Travel Channel to compare how fantastically wonderful my day was.
Her tiny table was transformed with a plywood sheet, masking tape, and a table cloth.
To get the table cloth, she directed me to a ladder and a cupboard which she referred to as her linen mausoleum. Holy cow, that woman has some table cloths.
The it was time to eat. And eat. And eat…
We laughed and the kids fell in love with Lino, Lidia’s husband. He doesn’t speak English either, but it doesn’t matter. Laughter and piggy faces are universal.
After the food was coffee!
Lidia honored us by bringing out her good coffee set.
…Italian coffee is not something to be taken lightly. It is strong and thick and positively divinely caffeinated.
Lidia refused to let me help with dishes. She said it would take away her hospitality; not wanting to insult her, I hugged her and told her thank you a million times. She said I can come back, anytime I want. 🙂
Lino showed us their garden. No pesticides. All natural…
…and then at 1400 on the dot, it was announced that it was Lino’s nap time and we were shown the gate. There are some things in Italy, he said, that are not negotiable: time to eat and time to sleep are at the top of the list.
It is 1500… I feel as though I’ve lived a month since I woke up this morning… and we haven’t even seen down town yet.