Dreaming of Olives

Before visiting, I intuitively knew that I would like Italy. I didn’t know I would love Italy. But it’s settled: I love Italy.

At night, the air smells like smoke and salami. I have tomatoes in every meal. There’s cappuccinos and pizzas and pastas a’plenty. I had a moment of clarity the other day when I realized why the pastas were all different shapes. I mean, it’s the same ingredient, technically. But when I really experienced the paccheri, swirled the Bolognese, it all made sense. Of course the pasta’s shaped differently!

And although the grocery store’s panna cotta (pronounced PAN!na COT!ta, as the grocery employee exclaimed, after being confused by our super American pronunciation) was overly sweet, I will be making it at home. I discovered it on accident. In Paris, I bought it, thinking it was yogurt, fell in love, googled it, and realized it wasn’t yogurt at all, but a traditional Italian dessert.

I can read rudimentary Italian! There is heavy overlap between Italian and Spanish – because I was fluent in Spanish, I can piece together signs, menus, phrases. While I can’t pronounce anything for shit, it’s better than being overwhelmed by French and Swiss and Dutch, which I couldn’t understand at all.

My affection for the country grows.

Instead of planning anything, we took the ferry to Como and walked alongside the lake. George Clooney lives somewhere here. I’ve been babbling about how I know him (I don’t.) For the first time in weeks, the sun came out, blasting us pink. We had lunch at an outdoor restaurant: cappuccinos and pasta.

As we walked, I noticed a peculiar type of tree. Unlike the trees in America, the branches didn’t start until maybe 2/3 of the way up, and then they billowed upwards and out. I kept pointing them out, wondering what they were.

They are called Italian stone pines.

“The stone pine, botanical name Pinus pinea, also known as the Italian stone pine, umbrella pine and parasol pine, is a tree from the pine family. The tree is native to the Mediterranean region, occurring in Southern Europe and the Levant.”

The trail was lined with stone pines. I dreamed about lying under one and eating olives.

We continued our journey by the water until the path ended.

After grocery shopping, we waited for our ferry and listened to a street guitarist sing Bob Marley in the square. His lyrics sounded English, but they weren’t, not entirely. I had noticed that all of the music was in American English.

And then it hit me. A few years ago, my Spanish tutor had showed me a video of a man singing gibberish that sounded just like American English. It was an Italian song called Prisencolinensinainciusol. I had wondered why, of all countries, an Italian singer had produced Prisencolinensinainciusol. Now it made sense. In a way, listening to the guitarist was like listening to Prisencolinensinainciusol live – as an American, hearing how Italians heard Americans.

Category: Trips

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