Patience, Prosecco and Preplanning

Posted by Alex | | Posted On Saturday, 18 September 2010 at 14:21

The other night I was talking to some Catalans I'd just met, and they said my Italian was very good. I still don't believe it, no matter who tells me. However, that's not the point - the point is that I told them "When I speak, I don't think about it. I just pretend to be Italian until someone says 'Hai sbagliato' and corrects me"

What I'm beginning to notice about Italy is that I have the language 'down'. I can cope with talking to the Italians, and once I get the hang of their accent I find it easier. What I haven't quite mastered is the Italian patience. You can go into a restaurant or a bar, and sit down, and wait a long time for people to come and serve you, and they don't mind if you stay five minutes or half an hour after eating. You can go and wait for a bus, and sit for half an hour, and nobody cares. My problem: I finish eating, I pay, I leave. I wait for the bus, if it's not on time, I walk, only to see it pass me by. I'll even stand in queues in Carrefour or Spar and tut to myself because there's only one cashier working, while the rest are on a permanent 'break'.

I suppose that's also why I paid €15 to get to Milan on the faster Intercity, rather than pay €7 and go via the regional train - I just wouldn't have had the patience to go on the slower train. I guess I'll have to learn it, though, because I've found prices to Turin for as low as €5, rather than the €40 it would cost to go via Frecciarossa high-speed trains. It'll take a bit longer, and I'll have to change in Voghera (a place I wouldn't mind seeing properly), but it's worth it for an overall saving of €70 to see the capital of Piedmont.

Aside from my lacking patience, I've not exactly done much this week since Milan. Wednesday I decided to go out for some birthday drinks, and found out it was the birthday of another Erasmus student. Thursday I finally got my bus card - yay for free bus travel from now on! - and bought a Spanish-Italian dictionary which will probably be the handiest thing I have ever bought. Then it was a case of: Malaika, kebab shop beer, Piazza del Duomo until 3am. Time flies when you're meeting new people. I still think I have to cut back to maybe one night a week - my finances can't handle this constant drinking, no matter how cheap it is. Then again, I could probably go out all the time if I wasn't constantly sampling all that Mulino Bianco (the Italian, expensive equivalent of Mr Kipling) has to offer - last week it was Saccotini con Crema Pasticcera, this week it's Tenerezze con Limone.

To finish this one off, I'm going to introduce you all to some typical Italian cocktails. Essentially, this is what we start drinking on. The idea of a drink & mixer is called a "Long Drink" here, so that'd be Vodka and Coke, Gin & Tonic, etc. Cocktails are mostly pure alcohol through-and-through. Thankfully, Italy isn't restricted by stupid rules of 25ml per shot, it's "until the glass is full". So, here goes - if you can be bothered to find a bar that'll do them properly (or want to buy the alcohol yourself), try them out:

The Negroni is a typically Piedmontese/Lombard drink, though it has spread to most of Italy. It is 1 part Gin, 1 part bitter Campari, 1 part Red Vermouth. It's a really bitter drink, thanks to the mix of the Vermouth and Campari, but, it's a favourite for aperitivi because of the supposed good it does for digestion. As Orson Welles once said: The Gin is bad for your liver, but the Campari is good for your health.

Spritz Aperol
Spritz is the "in drink" amongst the Italian youth, particularly the Venetians. An ordinary Spritz is 1 part Prosecco, and soda water. Think a Wine Spritzer. However it's more normal to have uno spritz con Campari or uno spritz Aperol. The alcohol in the name is then added so it becomes 2/3 Prosecco, 1/3 Aperol/Campari and the rest of the glass is topped with soda. I've not tried the Campari Spritz, but the Aperol version is really nice - think a slightly sweeter version of Cointreau & Lemonade.

Or, more properly, Negroni Sbagliato. If you don't think you can handle that much liquor in your glass, ask for a Sbagliato. Instead of the Gin, you get Prosecco and the Vermouth is sweeter (rather than Vermouth Rosso), which makes in fizzier and slightly easier to stomach, but only slightly.

Almost every cocktail in Italy has Campari in it, unless it's a foreign one like Sexo alla Spiaggia or Mojito. If you don't like bitter things - and I mean medicinally bitter - stick to the foreign drinks, or Aperol. I'm not a Campari fan, having learnt my lesson with the Negroni, so I stick to Aperol Spritz personally.

I think that's all I can bore you with for now, at least until I've been to Turin and have pictures galore to put up.


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