Ciao from Cortina: Appreciating Italy

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— This winter we’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of visitors.

We love showing our friends and families around our town, introducing them to our Italian friends and feeding them homemade pasta. We love to teach them about Aperol Spritzes, the typical Venetian drink, and show them the proper way to dry fresh pasta before lowering it into a pot of bubbling water.

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Courtesy Photo

Sophie Dingle

Having visitors also reminds us of all the Italian things we take for granted now and don’t think twice about.

Last week, my parents were in Cortina. We went to a wine bar for a drink before dinner one night and no one waited on us for approximately 20 minutes. I didn’t think anything of it until I realized that my mother was nervously scanning the room looking for a waiter.

The drinks were finally ordered, and when we were finished with them, my dad waited for the check to come so that he could pay and we could leave. In Italy, no one will bring you the check unless you ask for it; we could have sat there all night chatting and no one would have come over to our table. Here, you usually get up and go to the register to pay.

And then there’s the issue of tipping. During the week my parents were visiting, my dad paid all of his bills, leaving a wake of extra euro behind, much to the surprise of every waitress we encountered.

“You don’t need to tip,” I kept telling him. He looked at me like I was crazy.

“But then how do you get rid of all this heavy change in your pocket?” he asked.

One day we went for lunch at a rifugio (an Italian chalet) on one of the ski mountains. When we sat down, the waitress brought out a few platters of various meats and cheeses.

“Did we order this?” my mother asked, surveying the scene. No – just another perk of Italy – they love to feed you.

Another morning, we went grocery shopping and then stopped at a café for a coffee before walking home. After finishing our macchiatos, my father noticed that a few of the men at the bar were drinking beer, and he wanted to stay and have one.

“But we haven’t had lunch yet,” my mother cried.

“But it’s midday, and those guys are doing it,” my father replied.

So we sat for a bit longer and had a few beers.

Having visitors always reminds me of what Italy looks like from the outside, which is something that I can’t always see anymore. In our day-to-day lives, we can get bogged down with how long everything takes from the grocery shopping to the laundry; we’re focused on hockey practices, deadlines and exactly how long it takes to make homemade pasta from start to finish.

But when I look at life in Italy through my parent’s eyes, I remember just how delicious the homemade pasta tastes once it’s finished and how much fun it is to stop for a quick coffee before heading home to make another meal.

I remember that it’s fun to sit and chat and have a beer and not worry about your schedule for a while, which is something that Italians do so well.

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 www.sophiedingle.blogspot.com.

Comments

Dan Kuechenmeister 2 years, 2 months ago

Hey Sophie, You describe Italy perfectly. One question, how do you dry home made pasta. Grazie Mille

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Sophie Dingle 2 years, 2 months ago

Hi Dan! I usually use a pasta drying rack but this is sort of an unnecessary kitchen appliance! You can hang the strands over the back of a kitchen chair or a hanger. Just make sure they are spaced apart so that they don't clump together as they're drying. If you want hard dried pasta (which can be stored in an airtight container for a few months before use), dry the pasta for an hour or two. If you're planning on eating it within the next few days, just dry it for about 15-30 minutes and store it in the fridge until you're ready to eat it.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 2 years, 2 months ago

Hey Sophie, Thanks for the reply. I usually just pull out our big mixing bowls, pots etc. and drape them over the edges. Never had a pasta drying rack.

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Sophie Dingle 2 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for this story George! I'm going to ask around town and see if some of the older men here remember him...

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Ben Tiffany 2 years, 2 months ago

I have not been to Italy,but I have had similar experiences in other parts of Europe. I do appreciate the casual pace that is so common there. It's very good for stress relief.

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