I made a couple of observations today. First, that my face looks clearer than at home. Second, that there is no takeout or delivery in Italy. At that point, I was really wishing I could pick up the phone and order a pizza. Now, I'm interested whether this, coupled with the preference toward organic foods in Europe as a whole, could be making the difference for my skin and overall feeling of healthfulness.
Before departing for Europe, Chipotle and Chick-fil-A were a regular part of my diet. In Italy, besides the McDonalds on the corner in larger cities, you rarely come across fast food chains. Cheap restaurants, usually consisting of large pizzas sold by the slice at the counter, are still fresh - still real food. Since Rome and since moving in to a little apartment in Verona, my roommate Juli and I have cooked most of our meals. I wonder if it's the organic ingredients, or the lack of fast food in my diet that's making the difference for my complexion?
In the midst of the first week of classes, having our first real "down time" since the tours in Rome and our first days in Verona, I have had the unfortunate inclination to take long naps. I have not made it downtown in a couple of days... what to tell you about, then?
Well, we'll start with the beginning of this week. On Sunday, I was rather impressed with myself for waking up early, around 7:00 a.m. I made my way to the bus stop hoping to make a service at a Russian Orthodox church at 10:00 ... little did I know, a few stops from where I was picked up, the bus would stop. Engine shut off and the driver and I just sitting there, far out of the way of town, I waited for about 20 minutes until we kept moving. In this time I started reading Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, which my boyfriend Samuel and I have wanted to read together for a while now. It was quite engaging and the 20 minutes flew by. At this point it was 10:10 a.m. I had left my apartment around 8:10... I made a note to self that on Sundays in Verona, allow an extra hour or two for the buses.
When I finally arrived in town near the church, it was about 10:30... too late to interrupt, I thought. So I went to St. Luke's (San Luca in Italian) Catholic church at 11:30 after stopping for some breakfast and a cappuccino. I've been having issues getting Euros from the ATM, so I paid with card. The man informed me that my coffee and prosciutto sandwich cost 3 Euros (what a good price!) and that the minimum for card transactions is 10. Not knowing where the nearest ATM was and seeing that it was raining outside, I looked around the shop and grabbed 7 Euros worth of Venchi chocolates to solve the problem. I don't regret this decision one bit.
At 11:15 I headed to the nearest Catholic church, San Luca's, a 5 minute walk from the coffee shop.
I am Catholic, and having gone to Catholic school and Mass for about 15 years now, I could recognize what was going on, and some of what was said, even in Italian. One thing I noticed was that the standing, kneeling and sitting was more spontaneous and perhaps optional... something which is definitely not typical in the U.S., where everyone moves together.
Despite the beautiful, grandiose and traditional architecture in the church, the Mass itself seemed more casual than in the U.S. One reason I say this is that some people in front of me would not kneel during the Eucharist, which is kind of taboo... I thought that perhaps they were visitors as they sat the entire time like spectators. The crowd in the church had a good mix of kids and young adults, but the largest group looked like they were in their 50s and 60s. After sticking around afterward to view the church and pray for about 15 minutes, I was shown the back door because they had already locked the main.
Outside, it was still foggy and rainy. I walked back to the Castelvecchio bus stop, but not before stopping at a home store nearby to search for a blanket. I bought a cheap, white fleece blanket with old (not Disney) Cinderella print. I went back with my roommate Juli on Monday so she could get the other feather print one. With a little personal flair like this, a candle, and a fruit bowl on our dining table, our little apartment across the ocean is beginning to feel more like home.
On Tuesday night, we headed to Soave for a tasting of wines unique to Italy. Soave and Valpolicella are white and red wines from the Veneto region of Italy, which encompasses where I am living in Verona and stretches north to the border of Austria. Like Champagne in France, Soave and Valpolicella are two of the most popular Italian wines whose grapes must originate from the Veneto region... Soave grapes are from Soave, always.
Our tour through the Cantina di Soave winery began outside castle walls. This castle was built by the same family that built Castelvecchio downtown. Today, it is home of one of the largest and most prestigious wineries in Italy that produces more than 30 million bottles of Rocca Sveva brand wine per year. Soon, they will upgrade their machinery to be able to produce 70 million.
After a brief introduction outside, we headed into a room with giant oak barrels. These barrels are from the 1920s and are used to age the wine for a minimum of two years. Each barrel holds hundreds of thousands of liters of wine... so they are equipped with measuring tools and kept in a temperature and humidity controlled room to make sure nothing goes wrong. Each time the wine is finished, a layer of the barrel is scraped out to clean it for the next round.
We walked down a long corridor underground where we encountered a massive hallway of smaller wine barrels. These barrels went on further than the eye could see! The ceiling in this room was made of copper to collect and drain the water that drips from the humid, rock walls underground.
Upon finishing the tour, we had a wine tasting of a Soave (white), a Valpolicella, and a Valpolicella Amarone (red). The Soave had a light, fruity taste with a "salty" almond finish. The Valpolicella tasted like a smooth red wine - nothing very interesting but a good wine. The Valpolicella Amarone smelled like cheese to me and had a strong finish. I thought it'd compliment cheese and prosciutto or a steak dinner.
After the tasting, I was prepared for the price of these wines to be slightly out of my budget. However, the ones we tasted were no more than 12 euro ($13.80) and had aged two years. These wines are exported all over the world, so I assume the great prices were due to the fact that we were buying from the exact place where these wines are produced.
This tour was one of my favorites so far. I expect my wine palette to be much more sophisticated by the time I return from Italy!