Italian Food Culture | A Kitchen of Many Countries

Enzo cooks dinner for us around 8 or 8:30pm every night. Normally I trek the few miles back home from the city center around 7 or 8 after a long day of class, sight seeing, sunning, gelato-ing, and shopping, so I’m pretty starving. We often sit around the table, just the three of us–Enzo, Donatella and me– for a few hours talking and laughing. Since they speak broken English they resort to acting out a lot of what they try to tell me so we get giggling and can’t stop. Dona is particularly funny because once she starts laughing she can’t stop, and we feed off each other while Enzo just rolls his eyes and mumbles in Italian about how silly we are.

When dinner is finished Enzo takes the dogs to the park leaving the dishes for Dona to clean up. So while she does the dishes we talk about what we did during the day, or she’ll tell me about a new discoteca she heard about, or we’ll talk about previous people that have stayed with them (they’ve had over 40 visitors) or trips we’ve taken.

At the end of the meal after the dishes are done she’ll say “voy a cafe?”–would you like some coffee? And this is my all time favorite part of every day. I say yes, of course, and she puts the little tin coffee pot on the gas burner and makes us shots of espresso. Then she’ll break out her maps and atlas and we sit in the kitchen drinking espresso and pouring over maps for hours. This couple has been EVERYWHERE. She likes to buy plates or teapots at places they visit so she has a bunch of china plates hanging on the wall in her kitchen…

One night I noticed these plates and asked where they were from, and each one, as it turned out, had a special story that went with it. They came from many places: Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, England, Ireland, Croatia, France, Germany, Asia, among others.

Some are big; some are small, some blue china and others painted with scenes from different countries. Dona and Enzo are big fans of their camper and take it all over Europe traveling. Since they don’t have kids they travel a lot and actually have passports for their dogs–Arturo and Trucalino. Dona knows more about traveling around Europe than anyone I’ve ever met. Seriously, I feel like I could interview her and write a guidebook just off of her stories.

Most nights we talk for hours and I don’t get to bed before midnight. At age 53 she is so cultured and has such a youthful mentality that when she confessed her real age the other day I just couldn’t believe it. Here is a woman who has traveled the world, met all kinds of people, has friends in almost every single country, who tans naked on her rooftop, goes to the discoteca a few times a month and zips around Florence on a mo-ped. Her kitchen is testimony to her experiences and its evident to me, after living with these loving, caring people for almost a month now, that the quality of life they live is the highest, and I’m a pretty darn lucky person to know them. They remind me very much of my own parents in many ways. Its cool how travel and food brings together very different people of very different cultures. The universal unifier…

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