Falling In Love with Italy

22 Nov

 

          It’s week four of my ISG Fundamentals of wine class.  I have been very eager for this week’s class because we studied and tasted Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Syrah, Grenache and Tempranillo. As Sangiovese is the primary grape in Chianti, and I own a vineyard in Chianti, I really need to learn as much as I can about Sangiovese.

            If I had tried to imagine in my twenties what my life might look like in my forties, I would have never even considered that I would have started a winery in a foreign country and that instead of practicing law, I’d be spending my time going to sommelier school and learning Italian.  Every time I think about how we were first drawn to Italy, it just makes me smile.

            I had an amniotic fluid embolis while delivering our third child in 1994.  It’s a long and detailed story, but my son and I are walking miracles.  He was delivered by emergency C-section 27 minutes after my heart stopped beating.  Needless to say, I had a very long and difficult recovery.  We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in the spring of 1996.  My doctors were trying to treat some lingering stroke like symptoms that I was having and I was heavily medicated.  My precious in-laws gave us tickets to Europe and we were thrilled to try and forget about my health challenges for a couple of weeks and explore Italy.

            Due to the high levels of medication, my memories of our trip are a little hazy.  We started our adventure at the Gritti Palace in Venice and blissfully reveled in history, ambiance and romance.  We drank Kir Royales in the Piazzo San Marco, wandered aimlessly through the Murano glass shops, picnicked on a gondola and tried squid ink risotto.  It was magic.

Gritti Palace

            Then we took the train to Florence, checked into the Helvetia and Bristol and let the magic continue.  We toured the Uffizi and Accademia, strolled leisurely through the Boboli Gardens, and ate enough gelato to make a beanpole fat.  Even in my medicated daze, I recall how it felt to walk the streets of old Florence.  I’m a history buff and in Florence, you just breathe it in and a sense of timelessness and raw antiquity sinks deep into your bones.  I remember standing on the Ponte Amerigo Vespucci  and wondering what it must have been like in centuries past – the boats that would have been floating by while cavaliers in renaissance cloaks galloped over the bridge on urgent Medici business.

Ponte Amerigo Vespucci

            But my favorite part was when we rented a car and drove south throughout Tuscany.  We stayed at inns and bed and breakfasts – all recommended by one of my favorite guidebooks on Italy: Karen Brown’s Charming Inns & Itineraries.  I can’t say enough good things about her book.  She does an amazing job recommending places that allow you to really sink into the ambiance of Italy.  I loved exploring the hamlets of Chianti Classico, climbing the towers of San Gimignano, enjoying pizza and people watching on the Piazza del Campo in Siena, sipping a beautiful bottle of Brunello al fresco in Montalcino and breathing in the salty seaside scents of Forte dei Marmi.

     But my most vivid memory is of a picnic on the side of one of those perilously windy roads in Chianti.  There’s something very romantic, even a touch ethereal to me, about picnicking in foreign countries.  I love the process of gathering local fare, and choosing a spot.  Gathering fare in Italy was interesting, because of the bounty of the yet undiscovered.  Italians have knack for curing meat and we snacked on Bresaola, Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto Cotto and Mortadella.  And the cheese…..how can I even put words to the sensation that I felt the first time Gorgonzola touched my lips?  Bravissimo, delizioso, straordinario!!  While I didn’t speak Italian at the time, I now understand that the delights of Italian cuisine are best reflected in their native tongue.  The flavors married perfectly with the superb bottle of Super Tuscan that a young vintner gave us out of kindness because he had sold his full inventory of highly rated wine and could not legally sell us a bottle (again, another story for another time).

     While gazing over vistas that are hard to match on this side of heaven, we feasted, in both body and soul.  It was one of those instances in life, rare but wonderful, when the ambiance was literally palpable.  As untrue as it may sound, I knew in my gut that I somehow belonged there, that it felt in some unexplainable way like home.  Since that time, I’ve been aspiring to become Italian.  Please don’t misunderstand, I’m proud to be an American and wouldn’t trade my homeland or family for the world, but I’ve been intrinsically drawn to that boot on the Mediterranean ever since.  Since that trip, we’ve progressively taken baby steps toward creating a life there, at least part time.  It’s still a work in progress – and that journey itself is part of the fun.

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One Response to “Falling In Love with Italy”

  1. Addicted2Italy (@Addicted2Italy) December 19, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Hi Pam,
    Nice post, I fell in love with Italy too driving through the Tuscan countryside and enjoying that awesome Chianti wine! That is a combination that is hard to resist. 🙂

    Larry

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