Thursday, 24 July 2014

Life in Italy

A very old bottle of Barolo
It's been well over a month now since we arrived in Piedmont, and moved in with a local family to help look after their two children.

Above all else this experience has given us a unique insight into Italian life, its customs and nuances.

For example, did you know that Italians eat pasta with their right hand only, and never with the help of a knife. I noticed this one dinner time and was surprised to see the family switch which hand held the fork depending on whether they were eating pasta or anything else. I've always been a backwards eater, but this was something else!

Canale, the neighbouring "city" is where we have spent many an afternoon beside the pool and chatting away. The city is tiny, I know of larger villages in England. Its the kind of place where all the shops still close for 3 hours over lunch, there is a big market every Tuesday and a week long carnival in the summer. Every time we wonder the streets we bump into one family member or another. It's mad to think that places like this still exist, when back home I rarely bump into people and lunch time is prime time for shopping.

Breakfast, where my healthy eating ends!

Those long lunches are starting to take their toll though. A typical days eating here consists of some cereal and an espresso for breakfast, pasta, protein and vegetables for lunch, and similar for dinner with added antipasto, cheese and bread. Whilst travelling I think I stayed about the same size, but I can feel the lb's creeping up on me now! What's hardest is I know this amount of food is typical here!

Corrado and the birthday present we got him

Aside from all the pasta, one weekend I got to eat a lot of cake as it was Corrado's birthday! To celebrate the family held a small party at their grandparents house. There weren't any decorations, but the whole family turned up to wish him a happy 6th birthday. Corrado received a few carefully chosen and completely appropriate presents and stuffed his face with cake and crisps. He played with his friends whilst the family chatted, and we all sang when the candles were lit.

Vespas in La Morra

Last week, the other au pair Evanne's mum came to visit. They were off to tour the Italian countryside for a week, but before they left we took them out to the Langhe. We had been to this area before but looked forward to returning at a much slower pace. Our first stop was La Morra for the unparalleled view of the stunning countryside. We grabbed lunch in a tiny courtyard which was offering amazing wine. We topped lunch off with a wonderful Moscato gelato which was every bit as sweet and refreshing as you can imagine.

Wine on tap!

One Sunday we were invited to the opening of a wine bar down the road. The place had been a bar for a while but was opening under new management after a little refurbishing. As we arrived, lots of the locals were bundled under cover from the drizzle sipping their reds and whites. As the weather cleared up the band started to play their jazzy tunes on the drums, guitar and bass. The wine flowed freely and for free and we grazed on bar snacks such as fried aubergines and omelette.

Making pizza the best way

Last weekend was also filled with parties. On Saturday night the large courtyard outside the families house was filled with tables for a very special occasion; Davide was firing up the wood oven and making pizza. Davide is a chef by trade and hoping to open his own pizzeria in Canale this year, so we expected good things.
In the early evening the neighbours and friends started arriving and the tables were pilled high with bottles of wine. We started with pizza topped with cold fresh tomato, basil and red onion then slowly moved through gorzongola and sausage, stracchino cheese and rocket, tomato and grilled vegetables and Margherita.

Feast your eyes!

Towards the end of the evening the neighbour Gianpiere was opening Barolo wines from 1970 and 1965. This was a very special treat and we were honoured that he chose to share them with us. We finished off the feast with tiny cakes a bit like petit fours. Can you believe we cooked 48 pizzas for about 20 people; some did make it into the freezer for another days lunch though!

Its only 2 more weeks now before we pack up for the last time to head home. Our social calendar is all ready filling up with family events and nights out with friends. It all still feels a world away as I sit here in small town Italy with the church bells chiming in the distance...