Saturday, 3 July 2010

Un pranzo in famiglia

Today I had the most wonderful experience of Italian family life. I spent the morning working in the B&B and Gavina kindly invited me to join them all for lunch. I was ecstatic! I felt so welcomed and so spoiled! They made me a traditional pasta dish with local pecorino cheese; pane fratau, which is a local dish where they soak the flat bread I've talked so much about in boiling water, cover it in tomato sauce and pecorino cheese, and you roll it into what Antonio described as the shape of a joint(!); then a cassole, a form of bruschetta topped with egg, tomatoes, onion and basil; fruit salad, coffee, wine and lastly a taste of Gavina's famous blueberry liqueur.

Among the many stories exchanged, Antonio told me about a group of rowdy Australian tourists who had stayed in the B&B a few years ago. They totally took over the place, left their things everywhere, drank a ton and generally made a huge racket. Antonio's solution was to offer them a taste of Gavina's liqueur. He offered them three (small) glasses of the stuff, in fact. Soon silence descended, as the entire group passed out! I thought this was ingenious! He offered me a second glass with a smile, which I naturally declined!

I also met "nonna", the kind and warm little grandmother who speaks little Italian. She understood me, for the most part, but Francesca had to translate many things into Sardinian for her. She found me fascinating, as I did her(!) and as she left for her afternoon nap, she told me quite fervently, that a beautiful girl like me simply had to come back to Nuoro soon! After that feast, I am certainly tempted!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Yesterday I felt alone here for the first time. I was suddenly hit with a real need for proper conversation and company. And in spite of my wonderful pizza and hilariously funny book, there was nothing about my evening that could cheer me up.

Today could not have been more different. I went into the library quite early so as to get my reading sorted for the weekend and was soon interrupted by the head librarian, who once again came to shake my hand and ask me how my work was going. He asked, with my permission, if I could please follow him because the president of the Istituto Etnografico wanted to introduce himself to me! Baffled, I followed him upstairs and was led into a large conference room. The president asked me a few questions about my work, told me that he was very honoured to have me there and that the city of Nuoro should be told that I am studying Grazia Deledda at Oxford! I am to go for coffee with them on Monday morning, when they will give me a momento of my days spent here in Nuoro.

Totally astonished, I was unable to concentrate on my work any more (ironic as that may be) and so I packed up my things and headed out in search of the bus station to gather timetables. Two things I have learned from this experience: never walk anywhere in Sardinia in the middle of the day, and never gamble when it comes to pizza! My trip to the station and back took over an hour. When I arrived there, naturally they had no printed timetables because they'd just changed them for the summer (thank you Italy!) and so I copied down every possible combination of journeys to be taken over the next few days. I had spotted a pizzeria on my way down where I intended to pick up lunch on my way back and so thought nothing of passing the 15 bars which appeared on my way. Upon arriving at said pizzeria, exhausted and starving, I discovered that they only served it by the slice at night time.. i.e. when people are hungriest and need an entire pizza. Sensible that. I then took about 17 different turnings through various criss-crossings of side streets in desperate search of pizza, only to find success... back at the library. You wouldn't have thought that pizza would be that difficult to find in Italy...

This afternoon I braved the mountain roads leading to the peak of Monte Ortobene. The views are breathtaking. There is no adequate way to describe this beautiful rocky landscape backed by mountainous scenes which stretch on into the distance. Deledda tried in many of her novels, but only today did I really understand. The walk I took there truly filled my soul up again.

The day was completely capped off with the most amazing dinner. On the way down the mountain, as I was the only passenger I got chatting to the bus driver and asked for a recommendation of somewhere to eat. I swear that he took the bus on a different route, which led through narrow streets not designed for a bus that size, just to show me to his favourite restaurant! It turns out, I've been eating lunch here all week! The antipasti of sundried tomatoes, pickled mushrooms and onions, olives, mixed meats and sheep's cheese ricotta were possibly the best I have ever had. Tonight I will dream of Sardinian cheese, in the best possible sense of course.