What I Learned In Italy This Fall – Part 1

7 Oct

alberobello1We have just returned from a two week vacation in Italy – a bite of Roma, a big sip and swallow of Puglia, and a deep breath of the Amalfi Coast. It was just what the doctor ordered – minus the unavoidable wine which she, my doctor, would have discouraged. This trip held some interesting observations and lessons. I’ll share a few lessons learned this time and then sow some others into future posts. I’ll talk about the wines in a separate post.

  1. Who Needs Information and Documentation?

Seconds before we left the house for the transfer to the airport, I repacked my carry-on to make it lighter. In so doing, I took out all our travel documents and inadvertently forgot to put them back in: e-tickets for two flights; hotel reservation information (including directions, phone numbers) for four different hotels; photocopies of passports; car rental reservation and electronic confirmation; travel health insurance documentation; train timetables; a list of wineries with directions, phone numbers and their top wines as per Gambero Rosso; and, a lovely piece that I’d printed out on wine travel in Puglia. “What certain disaster would befall us?” I asked as I discovered too late that I’d made this booboo. What indeed? Almost nothing. Nada. Zilch. Everything went off without a hitch. I even remembered many of the wineries – ‘cause that’s just what wine geeks do – remember stuff like that. Next time, I won’t even bother to print that stuff – The Planet will, in fact, be saved.

  1. High School Translation Can Be Perilous

On one segment of our journey, we trained from Brindisi to Caserta and then on to Naples. At Caserta, the automated biglietto machines were down so we stood in line to purchase our tickets. While in line, we observed the train schedule on a large screen and saw that the train we wanted for Napoli Centrale had several comments scrolling after it. One little description was bothersome. It said “Via Cancello”. Now, I took Latin for five long years in high school (yes it only took me five years and I realize that Italian and Latin aren’t exactly the same – as W so eloquently stated, “Latin is spoken in Latin America”, for crying out loud) and I know that ‘Via’ in Latin means ‘Way’. So, Via Cancello could only mean that the ‘way’ was Cancello – Cancelled! What to do? Yup, it said – Via Cancello! We were meeting a transfer to our hotel at Napoli Centrale. Disaster was imminent or ‘imminente’. But, we blundered on and pretended that all was well. The ticket purchase went off without a hitch (4 Euros for both of us!), the train arrived, we got on, fingers crossed. and voila (which I realize is a French word ‘cause I’m Canadian and – you guessed it – took five years of high school French), we slowed down and stopped at the ‘Cancello’ train stop. Yes, Cancello is a friggin’ train stop, a village hard by Caserta – we were going by way of Cancello – Via Cancello. That was the last time I assumed that I understood any Italian. Well, maybe not the very last time.

  1. “Apparently, You’ve Confused Me With Someone Who Gives a S@*t What You Do”

I write a blog – a wine blog. If you Google me, you’ll get a connection to my blog. That’s the kind of power a sparingly read writer has. Many bloggers possess this lofty recognition factor. In my world, I’m famous. It’s a very small world of a few friends (6 and shrinking) and a weird guy from Iceland with an interesting Gravatar profile, but – they know me. So, what to expect when a wine writer arrives at a winery to visit? Red carpet? Well, we’re closed. Next one – well, its closed too. See above – I did have numbers, contacts to call ahead. Then we have a meal at a special restaurant in Puglia – I mention quite self-deprecatingly that I write stuff mostly about wine – I get a free prosecco stopper – now, we’re getting somewhere! Mostly though, explanations were given on wine that pre-supposed that I hadn’t done the hours of research that I’d actually done. That I wasn’t a wine geek. That I hadn’t heard of or had Aglianico or Piedirosso before, that I mistook Fiano di Avellino for Greco di Tufo (OK, I did that mistook but most people would, wouldn’t they?), or that I thought Primitivo di Manduria was an Italian take on a Richard Condon novel – ba-da-boom. Suffice it to say that I was an ordinary soul as far as anyone was concerned. Humble? Happy? Ordinary? That’s me always.

10 Responses to “What I Learned In Italy This Fall – Part 1”

  1. Miguel. That's latin for Michael. October 7, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    You’ve just got yourself a 7th friend, my friend I’ve been meaning to figure out how to get a free Prosecco stopper for a while… and BOOM, your blog has the answer. Your prose, your poetry, your apparent fondness for languages, and your superlative knowledge of all grapey things… man, you’re so smooth, you make smooth feel like 30-grit sandpaper.


    • Duff's Wines October 7, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

      Thanks for dropping by Miguel. I try. I try really hard. And it seems to be paying off with seven friends now!


  2. Stefano October 9, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Lovely piece in your lighthearted style that I appreciate a lot! 🙂
    Plus, I love the W quote! LOL! 😀


    • Duff's Wines October 9, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

      Thanks for the comment and follow. I wish that I could have taken pictures halfway as well as you do. There were so many vistas tht came out looking so one dimensional. I think that I need to invest in a good camera and some instruction.


  3. the winegetter October 12, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    Sounds like a trip right from my playbook! Glad you had an awesome time…and, just for the record, I usually leave it to Nina to point out I am a wine blogger…somehow, her word carries more weight…


    • Duff's Wines October 12, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

      I’ll have to try that. Thanks. The best art was smuggling home some wine. Can’t wait to have and report on.


      • the winegetter October 13, 2013 at 1:51 am #

        A wise man told me it’s not smuggling if they don’t find it…I will withhold my legal judgment on that, and just join your happiness! 🙂 Did you end up going to the Sessantanni producer in Puglia?


      • Duff's Wines October 13, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

        We didnt’t. Actually the Puglia wineries were less than receptive. The best visit was at Mastroberardino in Campania. I had heard of this guy from our friend the Armchair Sommelier and followed up. Spectacular wines and great loyalty to the region and history.


      • the winegetter October 13, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

        Now that’s a shame. They probably still have ways to go in getting used to more and more wine tourists…

        I’ve heard good things about Mastroberardino! Glad to hear you had a good time with them!



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