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Wednesday
Dec042013

The Vatican: a great place to confess a mulititude of culinary sins

Okay, I’m going to come right out and say it and get it over with. Ready? Are you sitting down? Here goes: I loved Italy, but the pizza kinda sucked. I knowthat’s committing culinary heresy, like going to China and longing for Panda Express. Please forgive my corrupted taste buds that long for more sauce, more spice, and thicker crusts. In the land of haute Italian cuisine I’m just a gauche, lost tourista.

That being stated, Italy was AMAZING (or sorprendente, in Italiano).

Here are my Top-10 moments:

10) Before Goth there was Gothic. Stepping into the massive Duomo (Milan Cathedral) was an overwhelming sensory explosion—like walking into San Francisco's Candlestick Park as a seven-year-old, but with former archbishops lying in state. The scale, the brooding aura of the place, it’s easy to see how a pilgrim could be swayed to Christianity, or Hot Topic hoodies.

9) Authentic Chinese Pizza. The first pizza place I wandered into was run by a Chinese family. So yeah, maybe my whole pizza experience is a little jaded. Still, it was cool to see a Chinese family speaking Italian and serving anchovy pie.

8) Dogs. Babies. People. That was how one person describe the pecking order of Italy. I loved seeing dogs everywhere—in cafes, in stores, even on the train to Rome. Next time I’m bringing Dexter and a very short leash.

7) There’s no city like BookCity. Milan’s book festival was huge. As in 675 events all round the city over three days huge. Walking into a gorgeous museum that was featuring Warhol and Jackson Pollack and seeing a packed room for Come un Fiore Ribelle—that was a relief to my road-weary, literary heart. Grazie!

6) Bookstores EVERYWHERE. It was delightful and also sad to see a cityscape without the impact of a certain online retailer from Seattle named after a jungle filled with poisonous snakes. In Italy there are still bookstores, seemingly on every corner—chains, indies, bookstands, it was a book browser’s Nirvana.

5) Meeting my grande familia in Rome. I spent a week in Milan then caught up to Leesha and the kids in a little rented apartment near Campo di Fiore—in the heart of Rome. The wifi was strongest in the living room, so we gathered there every evening to hang out, watch Glee in Italian, play candy crush, exchange photos, tease Lucas, and otherwise do this strange thing called bonding. I miss that tiny room.

4) Meeting Deacon Garrett from Montana. Through the Catholic grapevine we arranged lunch with a Deacon from home, who not only guided us to a nice mom & pop restaurant and gave us tickets for the Wednesday Papal Audience, but he gave us advice on how to avoid the lines at the Vatican. I suggested dressing up like seminarians, but that only sends you to some other line.

3) Papa Francesco. When it comes to religion I’m somewhere between a progressive Catholic and a born-again agnostic, with a healthy nod to karma. But it’s hard not to love the new Pope. On Wednesday’s he was out there kissing babies, shaking hands, and trading his cap with visiting clergy. And if the rumors are true, he’s going out at night and visiting the homeless. Amen.

2) Silencio. Many of the Vatican museums, galleries, and chapels are places of reverence. Which is hard to maintain with thousands of tourists milling about, taking selfies, and speaking a multitude of languages. So every once in a while we’d hear “Silencio” droning on some unseen loudspeaker. That’s now become our family word for shut-up, shush, and please shut your pie hole.

1) Giving thanks in Italy. One of the nearby bars, frighteningly named Sloppy Sam’s, was offering an "American Thanksgiving". Weary of pizza and pasta we were all over it. (We ate at McDonald's the previous night). It didn’t matter that the turkey and mashed potatoes were served as two separate courses. It was a magical evening with my lovely family. We didn’t care that it was bar food. The only question was, did the Pilgrims teach beer pong to the Native Americans or was it the other way around?

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Reader Comments (1)

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Italian cuisine but you shouldn't have stopped at McDonald's... Come on! It's a "food" you already know.
I grew up in Italy and I didn't even knew that Chinese make pizza! And, even if it's not Chinese, it will still suck in Milan or Rome. The most authentic one, you will find in Naples (avoid touristic areas).
And it's "silenzio" in Italian ;)

I loved your first book, and soon I will buy the new one, I hope.
December 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStanislav

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