Ok so I know that it has been quite a while since I posted last, or at least it seems that way. There has been SO much going on this week what with a Permesso di Soggiorno (permit of stay) to obtain, groceries to buy, class to attend, and trips to plan.
To give you all a basic summary, the differences between Italy and America are numerous and I spot new ones every day. I love experiencing the new culture, hearing the Italian language all around me, and, of course, taking lots and lots of pictures. The grocery store is mostly pretty similar, except there’s so much more fresh produce, cheese, and meat. Everything in the store has where in Italy it was made right on the packaging. Italians love their food, and they want to make sure they are getting the best of the best. And people buy bread daily because it goes bad pretty quickly. The reason why is that the Perugians don’t use salt in their bread.
The reason why goes back a loooong long time ago. Similar to our Boston Tea Party, the pope put a high tax on salt in Umbria and Tuscany, so the people rebelled. To this day, Umbrians and Tuscans still don’t use salt in their bread or their pasta (or at least not much). That’s why the bread isn’t quite as flavorful here as it is in Rome. One of my friends actually told me that that was why her great grandfather’s family moved to the States. He was a salt farmer, and when the people were rebelling they shooed all the salt farmers away.
On the topic of food, I had my first pasta dish in Italy last night at il Ristorante Ferrari with some friends and let me just say… all the rumors you’ve heard are absolutely true. I got spaghetti alla carbonara (with egg and bacon) and it was amazing. So many flavors packed into one dish, and the pasta itself was perfectly al dente. My friends and I were all astounded by how good everything was and tried some pasta off each other’s plates.
Today I went on a day trip to Assisi (only a 20 minute train ride away from Perugia) and had such a great time. The quaint little town is smaller than Perugia and has so many flowers hanging from every window and on every doorstep. The views and basilicas are breathtaking and gorgeous. However, the most memorable part of today, that I can still almost taste, was the wonderful lunch. We had been walking and going through churches during the morning and were in need of some pranzo (lunch). Eventually we found a literal hole-in-the-wall trattoria (family-owned restaurant that serves local dishes).
Being the uber-touristy person I am, I decided to get a pasta dish with truffles on it. For those of you who don’t know, truffles are really really really expensive mushrooms that are really rare, but are one of Umbria’s regional deliciacies. I’m not really into mushrooms at all, but truffles are different. There’s like an almost salty, earthy taste to it. I have never had that specific type of pasta before, but it was so yummy.
So as you could probably tell by the main topic of this post, I’m really hungry right now. I’m still getting used to the ways meals work in Italy. Breakfast is basically nonexistent and consists of a cappuccino or espresso and un cornetto (a croissant). Lunch is also really light and people don’t eat until 1 or 2. There’s la pausa in the middle of the day from 1-4 pm which is somewhat equivalent to the Spanish siesta. This break in the day allows Italians to go home and be with their families at lunchtime. Then there is an optional aperitivo where you can like snack on food and have drinks around like 5ish, but I’ve never done that. I basically just starve until dinnertime, which is anywhere between 7-9. If I’m eating at home, that means we have to cook which just makes me even more hungry. But dinner itself is huge. A typical Italian meal has an appetizer, a first course (usually pasta), a second course (usually meat), a salad, and a dessert. I usually only have room for the first course and maybe a dessert if I’m feeling adventurous (my favorite by far is tiramisu).
While I do miss my comfort food at home, I’m starting to acquire some Italian equivalents. Gelato has become a weakness, as I expected. But I also have an obsession with these Italian cookes Quadratini that are little squares that have layers of wafers with dark chocolate in between… now that I mention it, I think it’s time for a midnight snack.