Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Choir Window in an Alleyway

Two things struck me while traveling through Italy... food (of course), and music. Everywhere we went, music was present: two girls with skipping ropes singing as they skipped, choirs practicing with four and five part harmonies, a young priest singing with a voice as smooth as olive oil, a drunk walking home at night and humming out a tune. One evening in Gubbio, as we were walking home after dining, we heard a choir practicing through an open window. Our tour guide, Elisabetta, and I and Gary stood in the alleyway, and we had our own lovely concert. Free of charge.

This perhaps, is a good time to mention, our tour guide. Elisabetta and twelve of us spent two or three hours together each day. (Though for the first few days of our trip, we were on our own.) We had booked a week through a tour company that is environmentally responsible and socially ethical. Their tours are simple, small groups, give lots of flexibility and free time. Do I sound like an ad for Intrepid? If I do, it's only because I was thrilled with this tour company. And, well, there simply is no replacement for Elisabetta. She went far and beyond in the attention she gave to each of us. And if it weren't for her, we would not have discovered so many little, out of the way, family-owned restaurants with amazing food.

We spent one day in Spello, which I've named the "medieval city of flowers". I have never, in my entire life, seen so many flowers, aside from flower shops. Flowers literally poured out of the windows and selfishly took their place in the narrow streets and alleyways. There wasn't one unadorned doorway. There wasn't one spot that wasn't a perfect place to snap a picture. Also in Spello, we went to a wine tasting event at a lovely spot called "Enoteca Properzio".
Now let me say that I am not a wine drinker. As I'm sensitive to sulfates, I rarely let wine pass my lips. But... well, this was an experience I could not pass up. I pictured a few snacks, perhaps some bruschetta, to accompany the wine. I could not have prepared myself for the foods that were placed in front of me- each meant to be taken with a specific wine. At first, local olive oil was drizzled on bread and that alone was enough to make me want to move to Italy. Following that came various selections of cheeses, meats, salads with aged balsamic (the real thing), not to mention desserts of every variety. We spent three of four hours there and I could not have felt more satisfied. Every part of me was delighted.

I especially loved one of the desserts. It had a very thin layer of pastry and the mixture inside was a unique combination of walnuts, raisins, chocolate, anise seed and apples. And it wasn't overly sweet. In fact, the raisins may have been the only sweetener. I'm going to try and recreate it in Canada. The tasting was completed with a glass of port. And for me, the port was the icing on the cake, or should I say, the encore after the performance.