My excitement for being in Italia was overshadowed by nerves of a potential new job and for the first time in a very long time, being alone in a foreign speaking country. After the crazy day of travel, I’d let myself sleep in, and then head down for breakfast which was part of my hotel deal. I walked in to see this massive buffet of fresh fruits, cereals, toast with spreads, cold cuts, cheeses, yogurts, a massive jar of Nutella, cakes and a plethora of pastries; that I warned myself to refrain from so that I wouldn’t balloon into a vacation eating machine.
I went to sit where all of the other people were sitting, but was redirected over by the window, on my own. Apparently they were the lunch tables. I choose a seat with a view of construction cum old buildings and went about gathering the healthiest breakfast that I could find, taking it back to my spot. I noticed a small table around the corner, tucked out of view. On it had my lonely room number in large bold Helvecta type. I choose to ignore it that morning, I was already feeling overly vulnerable and not my usual self. Seriously! When I was presented with a freshly made un espresso latte I feebly whispered “grazie”, hoping not to eff up my meek Italian language skills or pronunciation.
Back on the train, I made my way to Savona to meet my potential boss. Again, I had walking directions from the station, care of Google maps, that I should’ve just thrown out the window. Instead I just kinda followed my nose and trusted my gut and I actually just happened to come across the street I was meant to be on. No stress fest at all.
The poor woman wasn’t there due to a family bereavement, so I decided to walk around Savona instead, checking out what might become my new place of residence. It reminded me a little of home, being a cruise ship town with tourists who walk the main shopping streets. I strolled through the markets where a middle-aged stall owner picked through some scanty bras with a cigarette drooping out of his mouth, lapped up the blue sky and warm sunshine in the marina, cruised around some old castle ruins, and got over-charged for a small glass of water that came from a big bottle being tripped up by the fizz factor again. I tried to picture myself living in this place that strangely didn’t feel like I could call it home.
When I’d had enough, I trained back to Varazze and mooched around this seaside holiday spot. The beaches were lined in perfect rows with colour coordinated loungers and closed umbrellas, each area quietly awaiting the calm before the summer-laden storm. The marina was still and calm, the old 13th century church stoically winked down at me, and the supermarket quizzed my abilities to shop for random snacks.
I found some pesto gnocchi for dinner, with a quart of vino o rosso del casa. The men in the restaurant came around one by one, to see who this foreigner was sitting eating dinner on her own. I’d heard about the bread scenario before, where without asking, they’ll deliver a basket full of bread that may or may not have been pre-used at a table before. And if you decide to delve in, they’ll charge you for it. However, I had not heard about the standard coperto charge ranging anywhere from 1 euro upwards, for your table setting and view. My vista was of a small cobbled street walkway, looking into a bar across the way; that had a handful of uniformed ambulance men visiting, who’d popped in for a beverage.
Weary and nervous about the unknown, I headed back to my hotel. I would like to do a shout-out to the universe for appreciation of wifi, particularly to lone travellers who otherwise would feel disconnect with their world and to also help distract them from any creative writing they might do!
By day two, I’d begun to dip my toe into Italian waters. I conformed to my breakfast place setting, around the corner in what I’ll call ‘NJ’s spot’. I ate two kinds of focaccia (the local specialty) for lunch, and then met with the school directors. I popped my virgin gelato cherry and caved in for a cup of bianco chocolate, coconut and Nutella (mind blown, holy cupcakes with unicorn sprinkles!).
I had to go for a run after that and after all the damage I’d done in The States. So I laced up and took the new stomach overhang out for a bounce along the promenade. My feet touched the ground in time to people turning their heads and having a good gawk. I wasn’t sure if it was because they could tell I was foreign, if it was wrong for women to run in public, or if I was looking ridiculous with my mini spare tyre jiggle.
I overcame the public running trauma with a vegetable and cheese ravioli with walnut sauce for dinner. No wine. This is how I cut calories, before they even begin.
I tell you, by the next day, I was well into the swing of Italiano eating… not really giving two hoots for diets or keeping a low food profile. I had lunch with the ‘boss’, before going to check out some classes; a dreamy asparagus ravioli in a cream sauce. I nearly licked that plate clean.
A promenade walk in between meals, I stopped by a reasonable restaurant and lapped up fresh gnocchi bathing in a rich ragu sauce (an entree sized portion) and tipped myself over the edge with a slice of chocolate, coconut and ricotta sponge; while being watched by an inside the restaurant dog, with its judgemental eyes. My exercise pants were expanding at the table and I wondered how a reasonable person could possibly have a main after that first pasta dish.
I rolled up the hill to my room and contemplated my life ahead. My Italian adventure had begun and I had literally taken a big bite out of it. But I’ll leave you with that little taste for now, with some courses in employment decisions, life decisions and creepy old men, to come.
Until then, eat like you mean it and enjoy the heck out of every bite.