March 18, 2017
Living with Antonella, even if for a short time, can feel like being caught up in a whirlwind. Saturday was a particular — if well-intentioned — tornado.
It began as a gloomy day threatening rain, with the two of us in full chiacchiera (chat) mode, over our morning caffelatte. She needed to go to Ikea in Florence to buy a hide-a-bed to place in her mothers’s apartment in Lido di Camaiore. Was I game? Sure! Why not!
Ikea in Florence. . . It all felt so familiar. It could easily have been Vancouver (or New York, or Stockholm, or Hong Kong, I imagine). The only difference was that the food was oh so much better! How do I know this? Because the sofa she wanted was not available until the end of May in Florence, but there were four in stock in Pisa. What did I think: should we go to Pisa (one hour away), then head to Viareggio (half hour from Pisa) and then to Lido (ten minutes from Viareggio), then high-tail it back to Florence for an 8 pm. dinner with some members of her choir?? Well, why not! We were two crazy gals with no set plans until the evening and no kids to drop off at various sports practices. (The signorine, Antonella’s teenage girls, were with their dad for one more day.)
Even a local such as Anto bemoans the dearth of clear signage along Italian roads and superstrade, and finds it all most confusing. So, once we’d actually found the Ikea in Pisa, it was after 2:00 pm, and were both famished. I honestly never foresaw that I would be having a meal in Ikea in Italy — or back home, truth be told — but our growling stomachs led the way. The cafeteria was large and its food offerings extensive. Besides the ubiquitous lunch salads and stock desserts there was a large variety of cooked main dishes (meat & vegetarian) and also a good number of fresh pastas and soups. The place smelled amazing, like a regular Italian restaurant, like home. Parents were busy feeding their young ones in the hope that the post-lunch torpor would calm them down before attempting another kick at the shopping can. Sadly, for our part, we knew singer/cook Roberto would be spending all day in the kitchen preparing delicious seafood dishes, so we opted for the virtuous salad route, nonetheless gaining three pounds each simply from the smell wafting around us.
The sofa acquisition did not go as smoothly as predicted, nor did our attempts to stuff the extremely large and unwieldly boxes into Anto’s small car. The end result was that we left Pisa later than anticipated. A quick pit stop in Viareggio to greet my cousin Sandra and Sara, her daughter, and to finally meet Emel, her granddaughter; then another quick stop at my zia‘s (aunt) house to drop off the sofa, and we were on the run again, this time taking the autostrada in order to get to Flrorence in time. Made it!
On previous visits I had met everyone in Anto’s choir, Associazione Musica Harmonica, except Roberto, our host. It was nice to see familiar faces. John and I had sung with several of them a year ago, when we participated in the Flash Mob in Bologna, in celebration of European Early Music Day. The familiar faces included the children of three of the singers. Even though the evening went from 8:00 until 12:00, there was no question of not including the kids. It is one stark difference between our two cultures. Children are included in most social activities in Italy and treated as full members of the gang. The conversation includes them, topics are not censored, and the kids feel comfortable interacting with the adults around the table. As the evening progressed, all of them, even the older ones, draped themselves onto their father or mother, conversing or resting, with the parents not missing a beat of the adult action taking place around them.
The dinner at Roberto’s was wonderful! He most certainly does have a knack for dealing with seafood. We dined on spaghetti al sugo nero di seppia (spaghetti with black ink), followed by the delicious seppie (squid) which had provided the sauce.
Being a squid girl from conception, I felt I had died and gone to heaven. My only moment of sadness came when I thought of my dear Giovanni, back in Victoria, he of squid-and-black-black-ink-adoration fame.. . To ease my guilt, I texted him a picture and moved on.
Next came baby red mullets cakes (think crab cakes) in tomato sauce, followed by more calamari, also in a very light tomato sauce.
Dessert? Well, of course. Homemade torta alla ricotta con cannella (ricotta & cinnamon torte).
Wine? Oh, let’s just not talk about it…