I am at the airport and around me, there are at least 6 posters saying “Italy loves food!”, which could very well sum up my trip!
Life does these things, and a few years ago it happened, I won an Italian brother, Matteo. After many years of promises, “One day I’ll come and visit you!” it was about time to finally go! Staying with a friend who warmly calls me irmãozinha (a mix between little brother and little sister) has made the outlines of this adventure a family and gastronomic trip. A few hours after arriving in Italy I was seated at the table with a huge breakfast in front of me and all plans included tasting food. I tried to resist but quickly realized that I would have my own condensed version of Eat, Pray, Love (from here I jump India and I go to Bali) and that it was best to embrace this relationship.
The plan to visit Milan included where to have lunch, where to taste coffee, go to Luini to eat panzerottes, eat ice cream or go shopping for dinner. The monuments were clearly a secondary aspect of my trip.
However, this reached another level when we visited The Mom. We arrived home, with the typical greeting, “Ciao” and even before I had time to think I was already sitting at the table with appetizers in front of me. I could feel the breakfast still in my stomach, but there was nothing to do.
Luckily, I brought reinforcements! A Belgian friend with a lot of experience of family meals in Italy joined us. While they were at the kitchen preparing the last details, Joost was kind enough to brief me on Italian manners, or “how to fall in the good graces of your Italian friend’s mother!” I realized at that moment that at one meal my stomach would double and that I would not feel hungry again that day. I’ll summarize the list of etiquette rules, never leave anything on the plate! And if you really want them to like you, clean your plate until the last bit sauce with bread.
Between my weak Italian and the non-existent English of Matteo’s mother, the question that was repeated was “Ti piace?“, to which I always repplied”I like it very much!” accompanied by the auxiliary gesture, the index finger to the cheek and rotate it. I hoped to convince his mother that I really liked it and that I did not eat more because I couldn’t, but there were repeated orders to eat bread and cheese, to repeat the dose, to eat the third dessert … We all tried to control the madness. Me and Joost kept glancing at each other grinning, and I was delighted with this free pass to eat with passion.
The experience is more or less like spoons full of love thrown at you! A mix between love and the military regime.
While conversating we have come to this hypothesis, that perhaps, for an Italian mom, this is the more natural way to show love.
After a brief stop in Lugano, Switzerland, we returned to Como and my mission of not eating all afternoon to save space for pizzas, fell to the ground with doses of pie properly distributed and placed next to us while we rested in the sofa and we heard the rain falling outside. It’s hard to describe how much I felt at home, calm, warm and at peace. How much I felt part of the family.
A few days later, on the last Italian night, as we walked to dinner, I looked at Giuseppe’s, a Neapolitan ice-cream maker living in Milan, next to the house where I lived these days. Giuseppe makes heavenly ice creams and always greets us with a smile from ear to ear that accompanies the friendly “Ciao!”.
“Gelato?” I asked Matteo and Antonella. They looked at me like I was crazy! “Gelato!” We ate ice cream and from there we went to the restaurant.
The pace would be absolutely unsustainable, the salads and soups were already calling for me, but it was wonderful to live the Italian passion for eating and for enjoying eating!
Travel? Traveling is also this! For me, few things are as uncomfortable as changing my food habits, or even saying I like food. Traveling here was allowing me to be free about something we spent the time watching.
Thank you Italy!