Sunday, 12 August 2012

Talking Italian


Last week we went to Lake Garda in Italy: our first sunny holiday for fifteen years (the last being a week in Turkey during our first year at University when we both decided that we loathed pool holidays. But with each passing year my longing for a sun lounger has grown a little, until this year it reached desperation levels). We stayed in a little town on the lakeside named Salo. My paper piecing came with me. For the first four days it stayed in its bag, until I had acclimatised to dipping in and out of the pool, baking my limbs in the sun, eating frozen yogurt twice daily and feasting on huge mozzarella and tomato salads. I had almost forgotten about it, until suddenly it felt just the right thing to use my sunhat as a bowl and sit poolside stitching pieces together.


Salo was beautiful, but my family teased me that this was just the first stop on Florence's World Tour of Supermarkets, for it was Italmark that really captured my heart. I love foreign supermarkets. The delight of seeing aisle upon aisle of exciting new biscuits, sun-warmed and misshapen vegetables, and curious breakfasting possibilities somehow makes me feel impossibly happy. Being vegetarian makes for a particularly enjoyable game of hunt-the-meat-substance on any ingredients lists and it's nice to feel one's Italian vocabulary of obscure food stuffs growing with each visit. I made a highly controversial deviation from my usual puritan breakfast of greek yogurt and instead treated myself to a vanilla yogurt with an upper layer of sweet and gelatinous (but gelatine-free!) lemon mousse that melted in my mouth. When I woke this morning without it to look forward to I felt rather bereft. I made a point of fitting in a trip to Italmark each day and on the final afternoon my husband photographed me outside the shop for posterity (and he says to officially record the first stop on the tour).


We played a point-scoring game as to who could speak the most Italian words during the holiday - my little boy won on the grounds of speaking with adorable enthusiasm, the most authentic accent and not an ounce of self-consciousness and so was permitted to do some biscuit choosing from the shelves of Italmark on the final day as his reward. My husband and I had downloaded an app for our phones which helped with phrases and pronunciation. I was delighted to find a section covering dating and enjoyed confusing my husband with phrases enquiring as to whether he'd like to go to a nightclub with me (Andiamo in un locale!), complimenting him on his handsomeness (sei molto bello!) and more surprising phrases which I was amused to find in an app clearly intended to supply only the basics needed to get by.


Salo is beautiful, with an incredibly long promenade flanked by elegant gelato cafes and pizza restaurants, and backed by a mish-mash of narrow, house-crowded streets.


And windows holding cats.


We walked for hours every day and time was punctuated by gelato stops and finding shade. I took few clothes but, humiliatingly, my family did count ten pairs of shoes lined up beneath my chest of drawers. This pair was my favourite and most-used.


Today, as well as the yogurt and lemon mousse, I am missing the pool. I asked my husband if he might like to dig out the garage to make our own indoor version. He said no, but he's such a restless creature that I'm hoping if I leave a spade out on the patio he might suddenly set to work on it one day.

On the way home from the airport we took a diversion to see some friends and got lost in tiny country lanes. As we bristled the car side with brambles to pass by a rare car coming in the opposite direction, I felt unexpectedly elated to be back in England: people smiled, mouthed thank you and acknowledged other signs of life, where in Salo I had been stunned by how cold and unsmiling people were. Their reserve isn't characteristic of other parts of Italy and felt quite shocking. One day we took a ferry across the lake to Lazise, a more commerical lake-side town, where we were rewarded with smiling inhabitants and little shops selling nick-knacks which delighted the children - they bought turtles with pleasingly wobbly heads.


My own head also feels pleasingly wobbly for having had a lovely, sunshiney break.

Florence x

16 comments:

  1. What a lovely vacation! I find supermarkets in other places thrilling, too! I went a bit out of my head shopping for food in Paris last summer! :)

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    1. I have a friend who goes over to Calais just to visit the supermarket...I may ask if I can go with her next time. I think the toiletries in France are probably wonderful.

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  2. love a bit of food shopping! and those turtles, too cute!

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    1. They're adorable, aren't they. They have undergone some superglue surgery since their return to England though!

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  3. I read your delightful post immediately after reading a post from a young Australian friend who, with her husband and two young children, is living in Sardinia for six months. Is it an omen that we need to get back to Italy? Sigh.

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  4. We just got back from France and my tour of supermarkets there. I love French supermarkets, they are huge, quiet and have masses of veg (which isn't perfectly shaped like in the UK). They also have tonnes of stationary, intriguing biscuits and pasta. I'm missing the pool to entertain the kids, oh, and the sun. I think I'm in post holiday come down :(

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    1. Yes, it struck me as really odd - why do British supermarkets assume we all want uniformly shaped vegetables?

      Yes, ditto post-holiday come down. They both wanted to go the local pool today...not quite the same.

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  5. ten pairs of shoes...abbastanza

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    1. Totally! Although they were mostly ballet flats in varying colours!

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  6. Florence, che belle foto! I hope your next holiday in the sun won't be as long...you may try Lake Maggiore. The scenary is also beautiful

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    1. Oooh! Thank you! It's always lovely to have a recommendation!

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  7. Oh how cool is that? I thought I was the only person who gets thrilled about supermarkets in foreign countries. My favourite one was in Vietnam last year: it was huge, my bag had to be covered in plastic and for obscure reasons my camera too. We were a huge hit with the vietnamese people in the supermarket, as I am ridiculously pale and my husband is really tall ;)

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    1. That's so funny - I love that you took covert pictures!

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    2. hihi, it was my husband who took some covert pictures ... with his iphone. they didn't think about covering that in plastic as well ;)

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  8. What a lovely post, but ten pairs of shoes? I don't even own that many!

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I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x