Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Italy, part 2

It was raining when we arrived on the northwest coast of Italy, in a tiny town called Vernazza. This is the hidden treasure of our travel guru, Rick Steves, and as soon as we got off the train the blue books were everywhere.

An English speaking Italian with a large umbrella met us at the train station. His name is Egi and he owns a small B&B. Steves recommends showing up and sussing out a place in this part of Italy, but with the downpour we weren't in the mood for much hunting. So we took Egi up on his offer and got a fine, if overpriced, room. The room had no view and I was feeling disappointed until we got settled in. Let's just say the sound of rain on shutters can be surprisingly romantic.

We wandered out of the room around 8 to find some dinner. As soon as we entered the small trattoria recommended by Egi we were surrounded by familiar accents. A southern woman proceeded to tell us exactly what she ordered, what we should order, and what we should avoid, all before we were seated. When we did get a table, it was in a corner with the southern lady, her husband, and a similarly chatty English couple. As happens when Americans meet foreigners, each compared who disliked Bush more, and then they moved on to loud complaining. It was really embarrassing!

Rick Steves' travel philosophy is about blending in and experiencing the culture like a local. Apparently these couples missed that chapter. The English couple complained to everyone in earshot that the menu did not explicitly state that their meal came with vegetables and that they didn't want vegetables (typical?) while the American couple declaimed the restaurant's merits to a ridiculous degree. I'm glad you're enjoying your meal, but the entire restaurant doesn't need to hear all the details. Then the two couples moved on to the elections. If these couples wanted the atmosphere of a TGIFriday's they could have saved a lot of money.

But after they finally left, the locals resumed their pace of life and we observed a lovely birthday celebration for a little old lady. Plus it had stopped raining! We walked down the cobblestone road and danced on the pier.

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