Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Circeo and back again

Saturday, everyone slept in to recover from the previous night's ER adventures. This was a first for me since arriving in Rome and I couldn't have been more thankful. I'm slave to daily naps here as a result. Around 11:30 we eventually left, arriving in Circeo (cheer-chay-oh) just in time for lunch. Not only is Circeo named for being home to Odyssey's Circe (cheer-chay in Italian), it also happens to be the vacation home of Giovanna's parents. 

Even through the fog and the clouds, this little town is characterized by beautiful beachy coves and engulfing mountains. One really doesn't have to travel far to find breathtaking beaches in Italy since most of the country is made up of coastline.

Just before lunch, all able-bodied Vitoli headed for the beach. Since the water is clearly visible from their grandparents' house, in less than three minutes we were already enjoying the cool sand between our toes. Soon, Virginia and I were scaling the rocks in pursuit of sand crabs. I'm told this is a favorite pastime of Giulio's, who is famous for carrying on extended dialogues with his "crabby" friends.

Lunch was served and I felt a twinge of pain in my heart for dear madre in Salamanca. This meal would have made her and the entire Spanish population proud. First course was pasta bolognese, followed by baked chicken and greasy potatoes, fried anchovies, anchovies marinated in lemon and vinegar, and bread. It keeps going. As I spotted nonno (grandpa) bringing out the basket of fruit, I felt a wave of relief. This is the final course, thank God. I managed to cram in a slice of melon before pushing back my chair and planning my escape. Unfortunately, I hadn't acted quickly enough. Giovanna was already serving up generous wedges of her famous Caprese cake (thankfully not inspired by the tomato, basil, mozzarella salad, only from the same region). This delicatessen miracle was fudge-y like a dark chocolate brownie, made with almond flour, and topped with powdered sugar. And just as I was about to assume the "U-B" position, there was stovetop coffee and a very strong flower liquor nonno peer-pressured me into trying.

After lunch, the grown-ups and I stayed at the table, swatting flies and talking, for what must have been several hours. Because the best thing to do after eating a Thanksgiving-caliber meal is to sit idle, right? Since the kids had already gone inside to play, I was finally allowed to practice some of my Italian. Short-lived, yet blissful :)

Later that afternoon, Ben and Jo wanted to show me around the quaint little town. We strolled down winding streets, past white-washed storefronts stacked against apartments in brilliant tropic hues. Even hanging laundry has charm in a place like this. 

Before returning home, we made a final stop at the produce stand. Not until later would I realize just how significant this errand really was. Never before had I seen fruits and vegetables so large! Judging from the tendency of size to affect the flavor of the produce in the States, I have to admit I was a little skeptical. Jo swore Circeo was famous for its high quality fruit, the thing she missed most during her time in America. As a result, we've been enjoying rich peach sangria at dinner and ruby red tangerines for breakfast all week. They're almost too tart to finish. My personal favorite was a new fruit for me and one that Lelo (Mr. produce man) let me have: strawberry grapes. You heard me. In typical Italian fashion, I squeezed one end of the grape and popped the fleshy strawberry filling into my mouth, died, and went to heaven. 

You see a yard, Virginia sees a stage. This garden served as our dance, acrobatics, and gymnastics arena for the remainder of the evening. Just before dinner, Virginia prepared a special spa-like bath for our very dirty bare feet. Benito says we crossed a threshold that night and are now officially (mud) sisters.

Still very much in pain from lunch just hours before, dinner was served. Since Giovanna's family is from Naples, I did manage to choke down two slices of homemade, authentic Neapolitan pizza. Virginia is a wonderful helper (pictured above making pizza dough with nonna) and genuinely enjoys cooking and cleaning. If she keeps this up, she'll make a man very happy someday. 

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