Friday, November 19, 2010

Signing off from Bologna

This will likely be my last post of the trip. If I happen upon some amazing pizza tonight or during my travel back (Madrid?), than I may have to add one more. Hopefully there will be no need to break out a kleenex for this one... but maybe I will.
a simple meal allowing for old friends to catch up
Ending my trip is Bologna has been an extra bonus. The town has a lot to see and catching up with my friend Martina has been a real treat. Its been almost six years since we'd seen each other. Martina has lived in Bologna most of her life and has spent a few years in the states. We shared a meal and some wine (the Sesti) together last night. The meal was simple and light... bread and cheese and a salad that Martina made. The salad was made with pear, pecorino, and honey. Also very simple and with a little sweet and a little salty. It was awesome. After many hours of talking, Martina then made a ricotta-based cake. It was  sweet and really moist. Yum! I slept well!!
Our conversation during the meal was what you might expect between friends who have not seen one another in a while... memories, questions about mutual friends, our current work and life, and the like. We talked about my trip and the pizza I've been enjoying. She made one comment that really kind of hit home, I thought. During her first time to the states she went to a Pizza Hut and ordered a couple of slices. When she saw the two pieces, she thought, "this will not fill me up." But actually, she could not finish it because the loads of processed cheese, thick crust, and greasiness were so filling. In Italy, finishing a whole Neapolitan pizza is no problem for most folks and it doesn't leave you feeling like you've overeaten (and a Neapolitan pizza is about twice the area of two Pizza Hut slices). The fresh ingredients and light crust of true Neapolitan pizza really is a whole different world compared to the typical American slice. This is definitely a point to bring home and one I thought worth mentioning here.
Torre Garisenda and Asinelli in Bologna
In Bologna, I also walked the centro storico. It was an absolutely beautiful day (could've used this one yesterday!). The town has a lot of great little shops that I enjoyed walking through and seeing all the local specialties. It was kind of like Eataly... the newly opened market in NYC that is modeled after the real thing. There are official Eataly marketplaces in Italy, but the model is one that you can find in many Italian towns. Basically, think of finding local produce, bread, wine, treats all under one roof and you have Eataly.
In the center of town there are two towers, Torre Garisenda and Asinelli. Asinelli is the taller one in the photo, on the right. You can huff it to the top of it, which I did. It was a workout as my legs still feel like jello from yesterday. From the towers, the town radiates out along twelve main streets. Each one leads to one of the twelve porti (entrances) into the centro storico. So Bologna kind-of resembles a bike wheel with the spokes radiating from the hub. appropriate, I thought. I picked up some local focaccia-style bread called crescente for lunch. During the day, I felt half-tourist, with my camera close by, but also half-local... I knew the routine of ordering food, of navigating the streets, and the hours I could expect all the the restaurants and bars to be packed with eberyone taking their lunch brea.
My flight is early tomorrow morning and I will soon find myself back in the comforts, community, and embraces of friends and family in Flagstaff. I am happy to be coming back during the week of Thanksgiving. It seems very appropriate. The first reason being that my trip has once again been flawless in the sense of safety, major incidents, or any other trip-stopping problems. I had one flat! I am not a religious person, but I do believe that the world has a spirituality that keeps watch on us. Perhaps I too was cared for and held up the winds of the world, even if they were blowing in my face half the time. So, I give thanks to the winds that blow.

the stairs of Torre Asinelli
 The second reason I'm glad to be coming back during Thanksgiving is that, of all our holidays, I believe it is the one in which Americans emphasize food and sharing meals with loved ones. These are concepts so interwoven into Italian culture that, in some ways, retunign now makes this next week an extension of my trip... just substitute the turkey for the pasta. I'm very happy to have my mom in town for the holiday as well and what a better time to share the stories and photos of the trip.
As this is the final post, I wanted to conclude with the number one take home message that I learned during my time here. Yes, I ate lots of pizza, picked up great concepts, drink many glasses of wine, and met amazing people, but these things do not summarize my trip in my mind. Rather, its that belief in one's self is an amazing thing. Before and during the trip, I was constantly asked if I was scared or worried about being in the country alone and traveling by bike. My typical answer was no and that I felt well prepared. But deep down, yes, there was concern and anxiety. However, and more importantly, I really believed that I could make this trip successful in all the aspects I wanted to (e.g. seeing as much as I could and creating partnerships with Italian food producers). I knew I'd have to work hard on the bike, be flexible with my schedule, speak from the heart, and listen rather than just hear. When the time came, I delivered on these points and it allowed me to make the most of my daily destinations and meet and hear the story and culture of many Italians.
As many of you know, I have ambitious plans for the near future. Again, deep down there is fear and anxiety about making it a reality and from Italy, I bring back many concepts, recipes, and stories that will be amazingly valuable. But of greater importance and something that is invaluable, I bring back a deeper sense of belief in myself and in my hopes for bringing something unique to our community. I know I am excited and I hope you are too.
Ciao e grazie to all of my dear friends and family. Your pizzaiolo is heading home.

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