Saturday, February 19, 2005


I waited a while to blog anything on Italy so I could reflect a little. Here are my thoughts:

1. Iris and Guiseppe are absolutely wonderful people and terrific hosts. Not only did they give us a free place to say (in the foothills of the Alps), she cooked for us every day, they treated us to meals, and they escorted us into the mountains and into Milan. Who better to see Italy with than an Italian from the area and a Texan fluent in Italian?

2. Some of the pictures I've linked to here include Flat Matthew.

3. We arrived on Monday night on time. It appeared that one of our bags was lost, but not the carseat. Just when we were about to give up, an Alitalia employee buzzed on his the walkie talkie that he found the bag. We found Iris and Guiseppe and loaded up into their spacious car. Helen enjoyed getting to ride in the carseat while in a quiet car again. It took 1 1/2 hours to reach Torregno, their town. Iris prepared a delicious late supper of an Italian ham-cheese-herb platter and Ministrone soup. A prelude to the meals we would be eating.

4. On Tuesday Iris prepared a sweet breakfast, then we took off for the Alps. We got within 10 miles or so of France (close enough for me), and stopped at a restaurant. I tasted my first Italian ravioli... I was blown away by how good it was. It didn't look different than what we get in the states, but it was incredible. The secret, I think, is in the pasta. Italians require good pasta. Mary had another pasta dish that was delightful, too. We spent some time in the car appreciating the mountains from the car, stopped by a nearby castle (there are lots of them), and headed home. The snow covered mountains of Courmayeur (Mont Blanc) will stay etched in my memory. On the way home we stopped at Aosta or Aoste, which has several Roman ruins. I write Aosta or Aoste because it depends on the language, Italian or French. Of course, in that area of northern Italy, they speak a very French dialect of Italian.

5. On Wednesday we went into the nearby town of Biella and saw the duomo and some ruins and just appreciated the town. We got $150 changed into €110 (euros), which was unneccessary because I&G insisted on paying for everything, and, as a result, we still have over €70 left. We went to the supermarket in Biella, similar to America's, and then stopped in a cafe where Mary had her first taste of Italian hot chocolate... thick, chocolatey, and her favorite. We went back to I&G's for lunch (real Italian spaghetti in a cream sauce... mmmmm), then we drove half and hour or so into the mountains to a little village which was literally at the end of the road. There, Mary and I hiked for a little while and Helen enjoyed our hosts' company. We stopped at another cafe and I got some expresso. The village was small and we stuck out as Americans. It was neat to meet an older man whose grandfather moved to the U.S. in 1904... to Fayetteville, AR. This guy's father was actually born in the states, but he came back to Italy. Now the family is split - the descendants of one brother in Italy and the descendants of the other in America. They have lost contact because no one in one family can speak the others' language. Back to a description of the village... beautiful snow covered mountains surrounding, houses hundreds of years old, narrow cobblestone streets, old people on bicycles, shrines to the Virgin Mary strategically placed throughout.

That night, our hosts treated us and Guiseppe's nephew and expectant niece-in-law to real pizza at a restaurant in Biella. It was great. As we left we met two Americans from NY state and shared a little small talk. He does alot of business in NY, Nashville, and Milan. Interesting.

4. On Thursday, we got a late start (purposefully) to Milan because we wanted to spend most of the day seeing the city before our flight at 9pm. The 2 most famous attractions in Milan are Da Vinci's Last Supper and the Duomo (cathedral). We were 0 for 2 because the Last Supper required reservations days in advance, and the exterior of the Duomo was entirely covered for cleaning. Thankfully, we went inside. I have never seen such an impressive cathedral in my life. I'll suspend further comments until I can compare it to some London cathedrals.

We enjoyed more expresso, hot chocolate and conversation until it was time to check-in. We bid I&G farewell and waited for our plane, which departed on time. We got back here on Thursday night at around 11pm. Helen did extremely well, but by the time we were landing in Birmingham she was constantly dropping her head on Mary's shoulder. She has slept much the past 2 days and she is as happy as ever.


At 5:10 AM, Blogger Barclay said...

sounds like an awesome trip...sonya and i are about to take langston to alabama...not quite as eventful, but comparably perilous.

one further thought...wikipedia states, "Aosta is the principal city of the Valle d'Aosta," which leads me to believe that this place must be the predecessor to valdosta, georgia.

and when i looked up the history of valdosta, i learned that "The town was then renamed Valdosta, in honor of "Val d'Aosta," the plantation home of former Governor George Troup."

george must've been reading travelogues, or perhaps he took a european tour. btw, the internet is a great thing.


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