June 20, 2011

Italy

Ok, yes, I was terrible at writing in Scandinavia. And I said I wouldn’t write in London, but I also didn’t write in Paris. But now, after almost a year’s absence, I am back – writing to you once again from the foreign lands that are Europe! [SH 2016 note: have now moved to London.]

Last Saturday I flew Stansted, “London’s Economy Airport,” to Pisa’s Galileo Galilei International. The two are worlds apart – Stansted is located an hour out of town (practically in the countryside – I saw cows), ridonkulous about security, has no rubbish bins bigger than a paper basket, and puts most of its restaurants outside the terminal for no apparent reason. Pisa’s airport is small and kind of dark and old and located in the center of town in what appears to be an outdoor mall with lots of grassy areas and people eating outside. In between was Ryanair, “Europe’s Economy Airline,” which is really cheap but makes up the extra money in the following ways:

-Not giving seat assignments, but allowing people to purchase “premier seating”

-Charging for checking bags

-Charging for extra hand luggage

-Charging for not printing one’s boarding pass

-Making people buy the little plastic bags for liquids

-Offering food and water onboard… for a steep price

Their airline colors are navy and yellow, which seem innocent at first, but on the plane you discover that the exact shade of yellow is “emergency yellow,” a frightening color used on caution signs, yellow caution tape, janitorial signs saying “SLIPPERY FLOOR,” and basically any time someone wants to say EMERGENCY with a color. In addition, each seat has the full emergency instructions stuck to every seat. Seriously, these people do not want to get sued.

Upon my arrival in Pisa, I was whisked off to Anna’s family’s house, where I was presented with an overwhelming amount of food. On the table were:

-a caprese salad that used at least two mozzarella balls

-bread of varying types

-no less than four types of hard cheese

-and after I was stuffed, her mother offered me veal. This started off the weekend as an eating extravaganza.

After seeing Anna’s apartment, we went to a great piece of beach that used to be some sort of lighthouse-castle-thing. It had disused inlets for boats that created adorable tide pools. It was a rock beach rather than a sand beach, and we found pieces of rock that fit like lounge chairs with a view of the sea to the left and a view of some Italian boys to right. It is surprising how much more attractive than they are compared to a similar selection of Londoners: they go to the beach every day, play sports, exercise, wax their chests, and wear Speedos – and also, as my mom says, “well, they’re Italian!”

For dinner we went to a really local place in Livorno where we ordered a pasta gorgonzola and a typical meat dish. The pasta was so incredibly rich and the meat was like a brisket with Italian herbs – delicious. Afterwards we met up with some of Anna’s friends and went to a coffeeshop that is so off the tourist track as to be invisible to Americans. Since I don’t drink coffee, I had a typical warm red syrupy alcoholic drink. I have no idea what it was called, but I felt the ethanol in my eyes with every sip. Needless to say, I worked my way through one over the next two hours while the friends played cards. The highlight of the evening was a man nearby wearing a t-shirt that read “Manhattan: Upper West Side,” but I could not explain to a group of non-Americans how funny it was.

After that, we went to the biggest (only?) Saturday night venue in Livorno, where I discovered I was one of four English-speakers out of the three hundred or so people there. The club was half inside and half outside, the interior in some kind of former church reformed into a concert stage playing metal and rock and the exterior in a lovely courtyard playing pop and hip-hop. Everyone knew each other and kisses went all around (both cheeks), along with head-banging and riotous dancing. I discovered that the courtyard was bound on two sides by a derelict historic hospital building – the two were separated by a rather flimsy fence and I was quite confused as to why it had not yet burned down or been turned into an illegal rave cave. We were at this place til at least 5 in the morning, at which point dawn appeared over the horizon and we left to get breakfast.

Breakfast was in another coffee shop where we saw pretty much everyone who had been at the club. Anna and friends had espresso and I had a mini-pizza. After some sleep back at the apartment, we awoke to a beautiful day!

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