Just back in Rome after a lovely and wonderful couple of days visiting one of my favorite Americans in Italy, my pal Sara. She and her adorable hubby were the perfect hosts, plying me with homemade pasta for Sunday lunch, homemade olive oil and homemade limoncello, and all sorts of the more random things that we expats love to horde and share. For example, I brought up some gossip mags in English that an American guest in my apartments had recently left with me, while Sara filled my bags with treasures like Ziplocs, cranberry juice, and Good Earth tea. All in all, a perfect weekend, and yet another testament to real-life friendships born from the blogosphere!
I had only briefly passed through Milan once, so this was my first real introduction to the city. From aperitivi on Corso Como (where I also had the pleasure of meeting another bloggy buddy, Michelle) to fried pockets of sinful goodness (luckily the line outside wasn't so long), I really enjoyed this Italian city. Yes, it was gray and rainy most of the weekend, but since I grew up outside of Seattle, that was fine by me. Of course, Milan definitely has a much different "city feel" than Rome. On the street I felt an air of fashion and sophistication of a certain type that we don't necessarily have here, with decidedly less of the chaotic tourist frenzy we get around this time of year. While I can appreciate Milan for its business savvy and crisp feel of relative efficiency, I must admit that the haphazard craziness of Rome still holds the #1 spot in my heart.
As far as curiosities go: have you ever heard of the tradition of spinning your right heel on the bull's balls in the Galleria? I certainly hadn't, and this action is reputed to bring said heel-spinner good luck. I was too busy filming it for you to take a spin myself:
We "just happened" upon a major event on Saturday for the Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day). A huge line-up of military personnel were in front of the spectacular backdrop of the Duomo while a military band played the Italian national anthem (which I have to admit I really like, as far as anthems go.)
We walked through Sara's surprisingly lively neighborhood outdoor market, and she also took me to a fascinating shop she recently discovered. We sparked up a conversation with the friendly owner, who told us interesting stories about how many people call the shop this time of year to report beehives they've discovered around (and in!) their apartments, and to get help with removing them.
Creative "bomboniere" or wedding favors, of tiny jars of honey with wooden dippers.
I was truly amazed by the selection of honey and honey-related products in this shop. There was everything from soaps and lotions to a huge assortment of flavored honey, candy and tea, and even honey-flavored grappa. Above you see the front shop of the window, with a veritable laundry list of ills that the various bee-produced products can cure ... from heavy legs to swollen feet, menopause to andropause (!?). I myself picked up a bag of "digestive sugar cubes." Oh, how I love this country and its charming contradictions. Sugar -- to help me digest? Yes, please!
And, jolly fun was had by all through the miracle of Twittervision. If you follow Sara's blog, then you have probably noticed that she's a technological and Internet genie-us, and while we were hanging out she showed me a bunch of cool stuff online, including this random, voyeuristic and reality-TV-like gizmo of a website.
And, last but not least, I even managed to pick up a photo souvenir for another of my favorite bloggy buddies, who I had the pleasure of meeting in person here in Rome earlier this year.
NYC/Caribbean Ragazza, this one's for you!