Italy: Exploring a Rural Town and the Ritual of Family Meals

Miss my other Italy posts? Catch up here:

Italy: Ortisei di Val Gardena

Italy: Fresh Powder and Last Day on the Slopes

Italy: New Years Eve

Italy: First Day on the Slopes

Italy: Selva di Val Gardena

Italy: Surviving Jetlag

Day 7

Since we got in so late the night before, we happily slept in and lazed around the house all day. Peter started coming down with the chills and a fever so we fed him hot tea and aspirin. By 4 o’clock I was getting extreme cabin fever and begged everyone to take a walk with me through town.

Surprisingly, Peter and his mom agreed to accompany me. Bundled up against the bitter cold, we set out to chase the setting sun.

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Forgive me, but I cannot remember the name of this town. It is close to Caselette in the Province of Turin, Italy. Our friend moved into the home directly above his childhood home which is now his office. This building has a warehouse attached which is where his father’s cheese empire was based. This is where they cured cheese and ham for prosciutto. Although they no longer cure cheese and ham, they sure like to eat it and feed it to guests. I would know!

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The town is very small and nestled against a great mountain. It has one main street that takes a narrow and crooked path between stone and brick buildings. It begins at an open green field next to a large parking lot and coffee shop, and ends abruptly at a highway. The rest of the town consists of residential homes clustered together in tight rows along the hillside, creating wild car ride.

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Walking along the narrow street was precarious as cars whipped quickly around corners. We hugged the brightly painted walls as we passed by a few small shops and of course, some religious tokens. This is Italy after all.

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At one end of the street is a castle of some kind. We walked up to the gates hoping to explore this majestic structure at the top of the hill but they were locked. Peering through, we could see an open garden area and a beautiful look-out tower peeking behind the trees. This place must have been a fortress.

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At the heart of the town, a church sits next to a pizza parlor. We entered the church to say a quick prayer and found a nun praying as well. When we walked inside, she slowly turned around and gave us a long and somewhat disapproving look. She must have sensed that I haven’t been to church in a long time. Sorry!

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Once we reached the end of the street, we discovered stone steps leading down the hill. Following these steps brought us most conveniently through an alleyway and back to the house. By that time, it was dusk and the Alps were glowing in the fading light. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

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Back at home we quickly got ready for dinner with our friend’s entire family. This involved another multi-course meal and hours spent eating, drinking and chatting at the table. Thanks to Latin in high school, I could actually understand the context of the Italian conversations around the table. Hooray!

One of the things I love most about Italy is the ritual of these family meals. The family always sits down to eat together. They start with bread, serve the main dish, then move on to cheese, nuts and fruit. Each meal is prepared fresh with wholesome ingredients. Ample time is spent at each meal to sit, talk, and enjoy the food whether it is for a quick lunch or long dinner. They eat slowly, allowing you to taste every bite and fill up so there is no need to eat between meals. After the meal, you are always offered coffee or tea and usually a small shot of espresso is preferred. Wine, champagne or shots are also offered at dinner or lunch parties.

Meals are treated as sacred and are reserved for eating and family. This is how eating should be! Meals in Italy are meant to nourish the body, mind, and spirit. Let me tell you, I was plenty nourished after 12 days in Italy!

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Mountains, castles, churches, and food… Just another evening in Northern Italy.


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