Sunday, July 15, 2018

An Italophile prepares for a trip to Italy

I'm not thinking about monuments -- except the Pantheon, my favorite building in Italy -- nor am I likely to visit many museums.

I am instead, as an Italophile preparing for a trip to Italy this summer, thinking about ciambelline -- see the name of this blog! -- and where I will be eating them and how to find the largest, freshest ones at each stop along my route.

And I'm picturing myself walking the streets, almost obsessively, as a way to reclaim my adopted country. (I won't be happy unless I walk all day.) I'm thinking about window-boxes full of flowers and all of the other small workaday jewels I hope will pass before my eyes when I touch down in Italy.

I am thinking about my own private itinerary, especially in Florence: lingering under the window of our old apartment near Santa Croce in Florence; visiting Bar Simone across from the turbine plant where I worked; stopping by piazza della Repubblica because I had to thread my way under its arch and across its lovely cobblestones so many evenings on my way home when I lived in Florence; making a beeline for Costa San Giorgio and via Erta Canina and all the other hilly streets on the Oltrarno where one can get a good walk and a stunning view all at once.

Also: Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio, where I did my produce shopping, making sure to walk through Piazza dei Ciompi on the way (in the hopes the antiques market is still there). Also: any place where Italian words will be on display. So bookstores -- but also grocery stores. Plus, the sandwich shops along Via della Vigna Nuova, and the Arco di San Pierino where druggies used to prowl but now tourists consult maps on their iPhones.

I'm fantasizing about the beach towns in Puglia I'll visit for the part of the trip down South. I know that will be the most languorous leg of the trip, and I am already imagining the Pugliese wine (Nero di Troia, Aglianico, Primitivo, ecc) I'll be consuming along with bruschetta and spaghetti allo scoglio from beachside cafes as good as what you'd find in a city.

In other words, I am making a mental list of my must-sees, and more often than not they consist of tiny corners of Florence (and to a lesser extent Rome and Puglia) where I feel I can best breathe in the Italian way of life.

I'm also thinking about about what I will buy. What mementos will follow me home and insinuate themselves among my belongings, serving as little bursts of Italophilia in my daily life.

Well, I'll buy books, it goes without saying (thinking of perhaps shipping a crate home, in fact -- no joke. The literary translator's indulgence?).

Also, coffee, of course (Caffe Kimbo and other Southern Italian brands that are a bit hard to find in the States). Saffron, Italian breakfast cookies (if for no other reason than to distribute them to Starbucks for a teaching moment). Also maybe a new coffee canister. And another darling red and green "mokina" coffee maker, like this one.
And magazines of all kinds (including the political weeklies, maybe a cooking mag, and the world's most beautiful travel magazine: Bell'Italia). Plus postcards, brochures, stationery. Papery vehicles of Italian artistry, in other words (particularly vibrant in Florence where the decorative arts were much prized during the Renaissance).

I also fantasize about conversations I will have in Italian when I arrive. (Hey I'm old -- this is how I get my jollies! Too much wine and I am not jolly the next day). Conversations with friends, conversations with baristas (soccer will come up) and fruit vendors and the taxi cab driver (che casino!) and the signora waiting for the bus who's worried there might be a sciopero (labor strike).

And what I do to prepare for this onslaught of conversation and kibbitzing is listen to podcasts and watch movies and of course read Italian. Though I've found in recent years it's best, before embarking on a trip to Italy, if I consult newspapers, magazines and web sites rather than bury myself in, say, D'Annunzio. What are Italians talking about now? That's what I want to know. That's the talk soup I want to slip into once I arrive (even if it includes the name Salvini).

Here are some books I'm reading:

Lezioni di Tenebra, Helena Janeczek (who just won the Premio Strega!)
Non ora, non qui, Erri de Luca 

I'm also listening to podcasts, including this one.

Here's a movie I watched to gear up, with the amazing Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher:

Last but not least, a song from my personal, ready-get-set-Italy soundtrack (used in a film I want to see so badly, Il Nome del Figlio, with Alessandro Gassman).



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