Wednesday, July 3, 2013

24 hours in: Verona

Figure 1: Summer sunlight over Verona and the Adige River

I have been in Verona, Italy for just over 24 hours. And yet, I have still managed to eat gelato, prosciutto, pancetta, mozzarella, spaghetti and some Italian wine. I also managed to get lost en route to my friend's place, and had to stop at a local fruit and vegetable store to ask (mostly using sign language) to use the landline. In a true gesture of Italian hospitality, the jolly greengrocer actually made the call on my behalf and gave my friend directions (in passionate, animated Italian) on how to find the street we were on. To return the favour, I grabbed a little wicker basket and filled it with fresh fruit - peaches, strawberries, apples, watermelon. When I got to the counter, the greengrocer smiled and said: "Niente, Belinda!", and wouldn't take my money no matter how hard I tried. He then proceeded to top up my bag with cherries from the large wooden box sitting next to the counter. 

Figure 2: Piazza dell'Erbe 

Figure 3: Piazza Bra

Woke up around midday after an epic sleep-in (I was exhausted, it took 4 trains and 12 hours to get here from Toulon) and in the afternoon I set out to explore the old city of Verona. It's beautiful, especially the view from the northern side of the Adige River up on the hill. While walking through Piazza dell'Erbe today I got my first "Ciao, Bella!" and got kinda excited about it. But by the 15th one I was a bit fed up, I'll admit. 

I just had to go see the Casa di Giulietta, even if it is supposed to be a phoney tourist-trap. It was a little hard to feel the romantic vibes, surrounded by not one, not two, but three different Chinese tour groups, each guide armed with a megaphone and a colourful stuffed toys on a sticks (for visibility, naturally). It was nice to visualise the Shakespeare scene taking place though.

"But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliette is the sun." 

Figure 4: Casa di Giulietta 

Figure 5: Juliette's statue, with all the tourists cropped out

Figure 6: Now that's what I call true love

My Italian friend here in Verona is Alessio: engineer by day, sky-diver-kick-boxer-snake-fanatic-skate-boarder by night. There is never a dull moment around this guy, and even better, he hasn't stopped cooking for me since I arrived. I keep making feeble attempts to offer to cook him a meal, but to be honest, I'd be quite happy if he just kept going. 

And if this is the treatment I get after just one day in Italy, then gee, I'm pretty excited to find out what else is waiting for me for the next four weeks in this country!

Figure 7: First dinner in Italy - Spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino and a glass of Ripasso

Figure 8: Second dinner - meat, glorious meat!

Figure 9: Pan fried thick-cut prosciutto, Italian sausage and cheese

Figure 10: Steak from heaven

Piadina (Alessio's way)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Serves 2

Alessio tells me that Piadina comes from the Romagna region of Northern Italy, and wealthy people back in the day used to eat the filling but not the bread - only peasants ate the bread. Fillings vary, but this is how Alessio likes it. 

  • 2 pieces of piadina (Italian flatbread)
  • 10 thin slices of pancetta arrotolata (rolled pancetta)
  • 2 large handfuls of tatsoi (the small, round-leafed lettuce)
  • 2 small balls of mozzarella 
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper
  1. Slice the mozzarella into half centimeter slices. 
  2. Toss the mozzarella with the tatsoi, some olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. 
  3. Heat up a stove-top grill pan or a saucepan large enough to fit the piadini.
  4. Place a piadini on the grill. In one half of the piadini, lay down pieces of the mozzarella, cover with the tatsoi leaves, the top with pieces of pancetta. Fold it over to make a sandwich. 
  5. When the bottom is toasted, flip it and toast the other side. Serve hot. 

Figure 11: Cured meat? Check. 

Figure 12: Fuck napkins

Figure 13: Beautiful colour 

Figure 14: Simple, delicious lunch

Figure 15: Leisurely evening stroll with Nietzsche 

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