Because our flight got in so late, Matteo offered for me to stay with his family and stay with his sister in her room. I was very thankful for that, especially because I hadn’t heard back from any couchsurfers for the first couple of days of my original dates for the trip. By 3am we were finally asleep (they lived an hour outside of Milan, which was an additional 20 minutes from the airport). When I woke up I thought it was 6am but, nope, 11, Estonia got me all messed up! But it was OK because Lara had just woken up too.
After a light breakfast and then a little lounging, and a homemade pasta lunch, we were off for a late afternoon and evening of exploring the city.. err … countryside (never actually made it to the city, but that is totally OK because I prefer the cultural experience instead of the tourist traps anyways). We started by heading to her friend’s aunt’s house to meet up with two of her friends before heading our for more exploration. On the way we stopped at a ceramic shop where an old man was so friendly and eager to tell his story of being born in the South of Italy and going to school for ceramics, and now he doesn’t do the painting but the forming of it. And he has family in America that immigrated over there in the 80’s, and he was very proud of that. We also stopped at the grocery store so I could pick up some pasta for my host mom and some wine for dinner. You know, it’s really fun to go into grocery stores in different countries to see the differences. You’d think they’d all be the same or at least pretty similar, but they’re not. In Estonia there was a HUGE meat and potato section, and in Italy it was the pasta. I wonder what it is in America? Once I’d bought everything we needed and met up with Lara’s friends (who were shy about their English but were actually pretty good and really funny), we headed to Kerry’s village of 150 people. She told me the legend of knight who was beheaded and his head fell into the river in her village which thus turned it red (although she studied geology very thoroughly and says it’s actually just the “rubification” of the rocks and the red algae… but the story is more fun, especially for a town that small. Then we went up to a pink rock that had an incredible view of both the village and the valley in which the village sits. That is something that is so cool about being in Italy- there are a bunch of small villages that put together looks like one big village, but that’s just not the case. And as you go from one “big” village to another, the structure and the architecture actually changes a lot of the time. So on this rock we sat and talked about “dead” musicians (Like Jimmy Hendrix and Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley) and how they aren’t really dead, but instead on the seashore. Apparently they became so famous and tired of being famous that they decided to go there and change their identity… and apparently it worked because everyone thinks they’re dead. And with that comment, Kerry “cracked herself up” (which it Italian translate “I die” but the sense is “cracking oneself up”).
So after some touring around the small villages, it was time to hit the capital of their Provence- Varese. What I liked so much about this city was that it had the vibe of a big city life- but it wasn’t swamped with tourism… which is exactly what I love to find when traveling. Even though I didn’t make it to Milan, I realized that I didn’t have to. We still saw an old church, small side streets, expensive stores, and had tasty gelato. And the best part? No tourists.
As we wrapped the night up and headed home for some homemade pumpkin gnocchi, I thanked Lara for showing me around. Her response was great, and so true: Sometimes you forget the beautify of where you live until you show someone around who has never been there before.
She’s so right.