Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Italia Part IV - It is the custom


It's almost been a month since my last Italy update and here we are, at Part Quattro. And if you know me, it's an amazing feat that I remember that I even went to Italy, oh that once upon a time, so forget I took so long and count your lucky pizza stelle (that's pizza stars for you ignorant folk). Snuggle up your cuddlies and listen well, for here I will discuss the more everyday sort of things. Because if I didn't, I'd just have to regale you with lots of synonyms for walking, sprinkled with a Colosseum or two.

Let's start with one of my favorites... gelato! Oh, it's divine. The first night, during our brisk night tour of Rome, I get my first taste of Italian gelato right by the Pantheon. It's a tad expensive at two euro. KM, ever the expert, a title well earned by much eating and traversing, says there is clearly only one flavor of import at this joint - FRAGOLA! (fragola rock. ahurhur.) It tastes as all fruit gelati should, like the absolute essence of whatever the fruit - this case, strawberry, in ice creamish form. Sounds so ridiculously simple, so captain obvious, but it's true and true, through and through.

Two more gelaterie of note were Giolitti and Old Bridge (more info here). Giolitti is fancier, with a dazzling display case of flavors, seats, mirrors etc. but excellent. MM gets canteloupe and one other flavor (memory like sieve) - see essence of fruit remark. I get chocolate and zabaglione which is wonderful for a bit but then is overwhelmed by the marsala or rum or whatever alcohol is in this hard to spell flavor.
Old Bridge is closet-in-the-wall near the Vatican, with locals and tourists alike lining up patiently. Here, I did my best attempt at flawless Italian ordering. The effort at the language warranted a "brava" from the gruff but smiling server and a huge portion of nocciola and cioccolato con panna, which is whipped cream that pretty much comes as a natural, and free, after-thought to any cone (pictured above).
Most Italians are happy to see any effort at speaking their language. Some common things to know of course are Grazie, Scusi, and Ciao. Un caffè is not coffee but espresso (mmmmmmm). On buses and other crowded means of transport where you must push and shove to get off at a destination, it seems you do not say 'scusi' but 'permesso'.
mcdonalds.jpg And when ordering pizza, this is foolproof: point to the variety of rectangles of goodness before you and say, "Questo." The guy will then indicate where he is about to cut and you say (and I couldn't help motioning with my hand here) "Meno" for less and "Piu" for more. And if you are too soft-spoken, a regular just might take over for you and roar out, "Due suppli!" as happened to G.
Almost as important as the gelato and pizza was a McDonalds in Trastevere near Piazza Sonnino. I don't really understand what those Italians were eating in their Happy Meals but my bladder thanks the clean toilets there. KM tells me that McDonalds is not very popular but nevertheless, this location always had people whenever we made a pitstop and there is a McDonalds straight as the crow flies across from the Pantheon. Also great, considering the unrelenting sun and copious walking, were the water fountains scattered all over the city (most look like this). The water is cold and good and always flowing.
There are various internet points scattered about as well. Common is the internet point slash laundromat (makes sense though doesn't it?). Below is the view from the one in Trastevere where KM frequented. Here, whilst the others were taking care of further travel plans, I would watch some Italian TV, some infomercials - exercising machines, dating services - and music video countdowns. La Dolce Vita indeed.

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