Friday, August 3, 2012

Farewell to Italy (for now)!

What a wonderful experience we had!  Our last month in Arezzo was filled with many memorable events, all of which involved food (surprise, surprise!).  In early June our friends Daniela and Giancarlo invited us to join them for the CamminMangiando (literally “walking and eating”), an event that involved a walk through the countryside with stops for food and wine.  At the start of the trek we were each presented with our own wine glasses complete with a nifty around-the-neck carrying pouch!  The Italians know how to organize a hike!

Giancarlo with his wine glass and carrying pouch

Each stop for food was an elaborate affair.  We dined at tables under awnings at beautiful Tuscan farmhouses.  At each of the four stops we were served successive courses of food: the first stop was antipasti, the second was pasta, the third was grilled meat, and the fourth was dolci.  To our amazement we spent the entire day conversing casually with the other hikers, as though it were normal for us to be speaking in Italian.  Such a contrast to those first few weeks after we arrived in October when we were literally petrified at the thought of having to speak to someone!

On another weekend we had lunch with our friend Anna, the fruttivendolo, and all her family.  We had developed a friendship with Anna simply by virtue of buying our fruits and vegetables from her.  Anna took most of a day off work in order to give us a tour of the surrounding countryside and prepare a huge meal for us.  When she invited us we had no idea what we were in store for.  We just showed up at the appointed hour ready to welcome whatever she had in mind for us.  Nine hours later we returned home.  This is how we ended up having most of our most rewarding adventures: just by showing up!

Gabriella with Anna and her family
Also in June we made trips to Pisa, Perugia and Castelfranco di Sopra to have farewell dinners with friends, and we rooted for our quartiere at the Giostra del Saracino.  

The crowd cheers for the winning quartiere!
Our final weeks included shedding a lot of tears, making cards and gifts for all our friends, and most importantly welcoming Eva and Simone’s new baby, Sofia, into the world.  June was busy!

We had lots of expectations before we began this sabbatical, and amazingly we have found that virtually none of them was met.  For example, it was not a quiet time of just the two of us taking long walks, reading and contemplating.  Almost from the beginning our time was filled with school activities, classes, volunteer work, hosting visitors, meeting people, and organizing social events.  We also thought that we’d be traveling a lot around Italy and Europe.  However after we got settled in Arezzo we realized that we really didn’t want to go anywhere else.  We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to stay put for nine months and set roots.

The biggest surprise for us is that we have formed wonderful relationships with many of the people we have met, all of whom were remarkably kind, generous and patient with us.  We remain dumbfounded by the degree to which we were welcomed into their hearts.  This, above all, is what we carry home with us to Seattle.

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