Old Friends, New Friends and a Trip to the Past

Ciao Amici!

Allora, (basically, well then, in Italian) it has been two weeks since the return from our hiking trip and Scotland and I really miss the cooler weather. With the temperatures jumping up to the 90’s (32 c) and the humidity staying strong at a soul crushing 70% I could use a cool ocean breeze. I have decided to cook only with slow cooker or electric pot with minimal use of the stove top and absolutely no oven. My oven may not get used for months in these temperatures.

So with the heat upon us I decided it was a good time to teach my Italian friend how easy it is to make tacos and guacamole (at her house, of course). Tacos, guacamole and too much wine. The argument could be made by some that there is no such thing as too much wine but I personally would have to disagree. I like my summer wine cool and refreshing without the added effects of a headache the next day. One of our friends does not believe in empty glasses, so while I cooked he made sure I had plenty of wine until I reminded him that I needed to drive home too. He then turned his attention to Will, this is the result…

Not his usual ride but he rode it with a certain panache.

The next day, a slightly headachy Will and I took off towards the mountains of Lake Garda. We made a quick stop in Verona for cheese.

Yes, cheese.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when we discussed how aghast my father was about what a bad Italian I am? Well, he is such a good Italian that he and his wife have already eaten the 20 pounds (9 kilos), yep, I said 20, of cheese that they brought home with them last year from Italy. Apparently it was a cheese emergency, they were down to their last 400 grams and so I had to find a specific brand of parmigiano reggiano to send to them. Yesterday, I sent them 10 pounds to hold them over. Honestly, that’s the most cheese I have ever bought at one time in my life. Thank all the gods for self checkout so I didn’t have to try and explain my father’s cheese emergency in my terrible Italian to a confused checkout clerk.

After procuring the cheese we drove on up to Caprino Veronese and met some newer friends. The town is a smaller community and everyone seems to know each other. There is less English there and Will and I stumbled through the spattering of Italian words that we know. Our friends, showed us the house they have bought, it is a 400 year old pasture house surrounded by forest and pastures of sheep. It is a beautiful old building, which they will be doing some small renovations too, I would love to live there. Up on the hillside surrounded by nature. Though I would probably have to downsize my home again. We ate lunch with them, tomatoes and mozzarella, hard cheeses and nuts, grissini (breadsticks), crackers and fruit. It was a wonderful repast and very typical for Italy in the heat. Plus I do love me some tomatoes with some mozzarella on them. I don’t keep them in the house because I could honestly eat a mozzarella ball a day and that isn’t good for anyone’s waistline.

We drove up even further into the mountains to Mt. Baldo and looked at some WWI trenches and talked about some hikes and bike rides that we might do in the future. It would be nice to hike up in the hills and get out of the heat down here.

After exploring some of the area we headed towards Affi and the walled area of their Old City where there was a medieval festival happening.

Now, I have been to several kinds of medieval fests in several states and a couple of countries and each one has something different to offer you. If you want a party and good time I recommend the one in Maryland. Libations, singing, entertainment of various natures as well as scantily clad bosoms abound in this area (I may have participated in one or more of these areas when I lived there). In Arizona they had great villages set up but the Arizona fest seemed more geared to the children then the adults. (The exact opposite of the Maryland fest). Less music and entertainment over all.

When we moved to Germany we found that during the late spring, summer and early fall months you could (depending on how far you were willing to drive) got to a renaissance or medieval fest almost every weekend. We had a wonderful time exploring different towns and taking in the different levels of their commitment to re-creating a medieval or renaissance atmosphere. One of our favorites, Burg Lichtenberg, was great because they not only did the summer fest but also a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) in the medieval style also.

A new fest every weekend is one of the things I miss about Germany. That’s not to say Italy doesn’t have their festivals, they do, but they are not necessarily centered around the renaissance or medieval period.

The one in Affi was more of a reenactment of life for normal people (You know, not nobility, because no matter how much some people would like to believe that everyone had a cushy rich life with servants in the renaissance some people had to be poor, really the majority of them. Cushy lives were not the norm).

So, what I didn’t like was that they had very few food vendors for snacking. They had a set eating time (7 pm) and if you were hungry before then you were mostly out of luck. The other issues was the only drinks seemed to be beer or wine. Kids (and those people that didn’t want alcohol) apparently just had to suffer until dinner time. There also didn’t seem to be very much for sale. I have found in other fests that artisan wares are plentiful but in this one it seemed harder to determine if something was for sale.

What I loved was the people dressed in hand sewn costumes, some with beads and buttons they had made from pouring metal into a mold. I loved the fact that many of them were working their crafts while we watched. They were also willing to explain their crafts to onlookers. Many of them spoke English but for those who didn’t they spoke slowly and gestured to what they were doing, plus we had several people with us that spoke both Italian and English.

My favorite? Whew, that is a tough question.

I liked the man that was making string instruments by hand (carving the wood for the neck of, well some kind of instrument) I really liked learning how they made paper from old rags of cotton or linen, that was then pulverized, mixed with water and then gathered on a wire mesh to dry. I enjoyed the companionship of the washer women as they beat the long sheets against the water before ringing them out. The man who designed leather cases for everything from glasses, to cups, to combs was neat as he walked us through the process of making a wooden mold and then stitching the leather before dying and tooling it. Then there was a woman who was re-creating buttons and jewelry. She explained making molds out of squid bone or soapstone and the process of melting down the metals and finishing them.

Everyone was interesting and it was another of example of how I can’t wait until I understand the language better so that I can learn more.

After a while we decided we were too hungry to wait for 7 pm dinner and took the short drive back to Caprino Veronese to the Pizzeria Olympia for a pizza and beer.

It was a great adventure all the way around.

We have nothing too exciting planned for the next week as we begin to get ready for the hordes of visitors we are hosting this fall but I am sure I will come up with some story to tell you

Until then

Ciao miei Amici

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