Ciao from Cortina: The other Italy | SteamboatToday.com

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Ciao from Cortina: The other Italy

Sophie Dingle

— People at home always ask us if we've turned into wine snobs since we've lived in Italy. We used to answer that no, we've actually turned into cheese snobs, refusing to eat packaged Parmesan and turning up our noses at orange cheddar.

Then, in the past year, we realized that we have actually become slightly picky about our wines as well, picking out obscure favorites from our region and smuggling eight bottles home in hockey bags.

Lately though, we've been thinking that we're Italy snobs. We know how things work here (or don't). We're completely comfortable not always understanding the conversation around us (and frankly, when we come back to Colorado in the summer, we're shocked to hear what people are talking about in line at the grocery store).

We're aware of cultural norms and traditions. We stare in horror at a tourist who orders a cappuccino after dinner.

After living in Italy for four years, Italy doesn't feel like a foreign country anymore; it feels like home. We're comfortable up north in our tiny mountain town. We know the locals — the ladies who work in the supermarket, the most efficient teller at the bank — and they know us, always asking if Ryan's hockey team won the night before, and depending on the answer, delivering either a smile or a rude hand gesture.

But, while we love feeling at home in Italy, it seems like there's a whole part of the country (the bottom half, for example) that we're missing. So when my husband's hockey team lost out early on in the playoffs and his season was over in February, we decided it was good for one thing: travel. South.

Once I read that Italy intensifies the farther south you travel. So naturally, I planned a trip in which we would wind our way down through the country: Cinque Terre, Rome, Bari, Sorrento and Naples, ending up the farthest south you can go, in a tiny fishing village in Sicily.

These days we're discovering parts of Italy that we had no idea about. We sat on a beach in Monterosso and ate spaghetti with fresh seafood. We drank fresh squeezed orange juice made from oranges picked right from the backyard tree.

We tasted what really fresh anchovies taste like (and discovered that it's not too bad). We battled rush hour in Rome and took two buses to get to our apartment, something we would never do in Cortina where we walk everywhere.

And it turns out that it's exciting to learn about a different part of Italy and to see it for ourselves. It doesn't matter that we don't feel as comfortable anymore, that we don't recognize the wines on the wine list and that the sea breeze is making everything damp

It doesn't matter that we wandered around the train station for 20 minutes before finding the exit or that we took the wrong bus and had to turn around and go the other way — because that's a part of Italy that we don't get to see from our little mountain town; and we're going to spend the next month exploring it.

Sophie Dingle is a freelance writer living in Cortina, Italy, where her husband and Steamboat native, Ryan, plays professional ice hockey. While in Italy, she loves to eat, cook, explore and drink red wine. You can follow her adventures online at http://www.sophiedingle.blogspot.com.