Just got back from a trip to Italy.
By “just” I mean Monday, and it’s now Friday.
I always regret telling people the actual day I’m coming back, rather than lying and giving myself a few extra days to pretend I’m not here. But I once had a boyfriend who did that, and he was a sociopath, so I try not to take any social cues from him.
He would spend a full two weeks telling people, “I haven’t called you because I just got back yesterday.” And then, a third week saying “I haven’t gotten to it yet. I’m still jet lag.”
(I don’t know why he said “jet lag” instead of “jet lagged,” but it reminded me of the year my father spent crowing, “My daughter was just bat mitzvah.”)
So now that I’ve admitted I’m back, I thought I’d give an FAQ-style report on our trip. OK, some of the questions haven’t been asked even once, and the others were probably asked out of politeness, but it’s just for structure. Go with it.
How was your trip?
Where exactly were you?
Naples for 2 days, but mostly Puglia. It’s the heel of the boot.
Italy is shaped like a boot. Puglia is the heel. A fairly high heel, but stacked and easy to walk on, which makes it the kind of boot I would wear.
What did you do there?
Of the few tourists who visit Puglia, most are there for the food. They plan their itineraries around restaurants. It’s what I like to call “mangiaturismo”. (I hate people who say “what I like to call __” but it’s the only way I can think of to take credit for a word I made up.)
Puglia’s not heavy on museums, just beautiful medieval towns with cobblestone streets, where you walk around and think about your next meal. Which is what I do on any trip, but when food is officially the focus, I feel less shallow for thinking about it constantly.
What was the food like?
Fantastic. Abundant. Every meal started with a 10-dish antipasto course. Then the primo (pasta) and then the secondo (meat/ fish). It’s mostly rustic, with an accent on vegetables, and all locally farmed, but not in a trendy way. More in a “kickin’ it ancient style” way.
They eat what’s there: on the coast, fresh seafood, and more than a mile or so inland, animals.
We had horsemeat.
That’s not a question. And it’s not “ew,” it’s delicious. When you think about it, why is it grosser to eat a horse than to eat a lamb? Isn’t a lamb cuter? And what about cows? Why are horsies weirder to eat than cows? Because they’re shinier and faster? Because they talk and have their own sitcoms?
It tastes like beef, by the way, horse. We had it braised in tomato sauce. Twice.
Did you get fat? (Asked by my friend Victoria.)
Stand by. If I did, the new fat will reveal itself in about a week. There’s always a delayed effect, which is how your body tricks you into overeating for even longer. It says, “Look at you, you’re eating like a pig yet staying lean as a reindeer. Go ahead, keep digging into the linguine, with zero consequences. Mangia!”
How did your packing go? (Asked by anyone who knows me. I am famously packing-challenged. )
Boast: I went carry-on. For 12 days.
It was Steven’s idea. About 4 months ago, he said, “The one thing I hate about traveling is schlepping big suitcases. Let’s go carry-on.”
I agreed. And then spent the next four months shopping.
Me: “Oh goody, here’s another thing that will be great for packing light.”
A friend of mine had said, “All you need is a black jersey dress.” She was so right. I pictured myself sipping cocktails at sunset, in my softly draped, black jersey dress. One night with funky earrings, the next with a chic scarf. It would look like a different elegant outfit every time.
So I went on the hunt. In store after store, I’d try on black jersey dresses and say to the shop person,
“This dress seems great for traveling.”
“Yes,” they’d say, because they work on commission. “It’s so flattering and versatile.”
Who was I kidding? When do I dress up for cocktails or dinner? I took back the dresses and packed a bunch of jeans and t-shirts.
Of course, my little bag was stuffed to the bursting point. Steven’s maintained its perfect shape, and caved in ostentatiously when you poked it. Show off.
Were the people nice?
So nice. My one complaint: they don’t get out of the way. Not even for a moving car. If you’re trying to drive past them in the street, you have to sit there till they’ve finished their conversation. Just like when you’re waiting for an opening to say hi to someone at a cocktail party.
Oh, and there was one mean guy: a hotel owner who wouldn’t let me come in and use the bathroom. Well, take a look on Tripadvisor, Signor. Nobody like-a you or your hotel!
Were your hotels nice?
Yes. I always spend months researching the hotels. People say, “how much time are you really going to spend in your hotel room, anyway?”
I could live in a hotel forever. In fact, I’ve decided that Steven and I don’t really need a bigger apartment; we just need extra towels in the bathroom, twice-daily maid service, and buffet breakfast with a wide selection of pastries, meats, and cheeses.
Worst thing about your trip?
Well that’s a strange, negative question. Can’t you just be happy for me that I had a nice time? But since you asked: the talking GPS device. The lady inside it was a total psycho bitch who kept going off her meds. Her goal was to split up our marriage, humiliate us, and kill us in the same daytrip.
“AFTER 200 YARDS, MAKE A LEFT. MAKE A LEFT. MAKE A LEFT.”
“We heard you!”
“MAKE A RIGHT.”
“What? Make a left, or make a right? Are you sure you programmed her right?”
“MAKE A RIGHT. MAKE A RIGHT.”
“Hun, is this a one-way street? All the signs are facing the other way!”
“WHEN POSSIBLE, TURN AROUND.”
“Don’t yell at me, it’s not my fault!”
“YOU HAVE REACHED YOUR DESTINATION.”
“Nice going, we’re in a field.”
We finally turned off the passive aggressive bitch and used my ipad.
Can I see pictures?
Oh goodness, you don’t want to see a bunch of food porn and churches, do you? Fine. Here.
Comments? Questions? Vacation stories? Horsemeat stories?
Leave ’em below.
I had horsemeat in Italy for the first time whilst up North in Lecco. It blew my mind and then I couldn’t get enough. Its really good!
Glad you enjoyed Puglia!
Diane Akers says
Love the pictures. Not sure I could eat horse,
though I have tried some pretty wierd things in my rural pacific northwest upbringing. Mom said we’d watch to see if she was eating the meat served at dinner. If she didn’t, my sister and I wouldn’t either. My brother would eat anything. Dad loved to make jerky, take it to work,then tell the guys what it was made out of.
She drew the line at mountain lion and sent Dad outside with an electric fry pan. She said no cat in my kitchen! Hi to Steven! Never saw him unshaven before. Pretty badass looking!I’m the one that sent those ditzy emails on your anniversary. Hope to meet you someday-really love your sense of humor!You made me laugh and giggle all day when I first read your stuff.
And it had been a really bad week! Thank you Laura.
Mike Howarth says
Just got around to it, but another great read. Great use of asking yourself questions and great avoidance of rhetorical ones. Maryland horse farms are currently on lock down.
And at least they cook the horse there, unlike some countries I could name…
Love reading what you write, even if I don’t care about Italy or food. (Although I am half Italian, so I should probably go there someday. Don’t tell my mother.)
And even if you get so much good comment love on every post, don’t fall into the temptation of posting a lot more often. Your every once in a while posts make it like a super candy treat I only get for super special occasions.
Your post is a special occasion.
Thanks for sharing your talent. It doesn’t even matter what the subject is, horsemeat or lamb. I get inspired by reading your words. (Inspired to write, not eat or travel.) (Although, hotels are fun.)
I get not caring about Italy, that’s just because you haven’t been. But have you tried food? You should. It’s awesome.
You are probably the first person who’s told me not to write more. When I feel bad for not writing more, I’ll reread this comment.
You are Jew? ??
You are Jew-hater?? You are spam??
No like Jew. Only Jews woemns large breasts. You have?
Am I really the only person who asked if you gained weight? You posted a zillion pictures of a carb orgy on Facebook, what else would anyone ask? Because if you didn’t it can’t just be from the walking and the red wine (that only works in Paris and you have to add cigarettes) — it is magic and we all have to move right now! (By the way, your dad was right — that’s how you you’re supposed to say it, “My daughter was just Bat Mitzvah”).
You are the only one who asked, birthday girl. But you’re not the only one who thought it, I’m sure. By the way, if you compare gelato to American ice cream, you’ll find that gelato is diet food. It’s so much lower in butterfat, it practically burns itself. Like celery. So that might be the secret. Walking and gelato.
As for “being bat mitzvah” – that just sounds weird. Jews be crazy.
That is so true about overeating and the weight showing up way after the fact!
Love the photos.
Right? What’s up with that? It’s like the fat is hiding out, saying “not yet – let’s wait another week and then ambush during the night.”
I love your blog. You’re an inspiration. I’m right there with you about hotels. Couldn’t do the horsemeat, though. I can’t eat lamb (ever) after visiting a local meat farm just after lambing. (Wait, poor phrasing — I didn’t actually lamb. The mom sheep did.)And by the way, I love your blog. There, I’ve said it. Twice.
Thank you Marci. I love you. Twice.
If you draw the line at lambing, then you’re perfectly within your rights turning your nose up at horsing. You’re consistent, I respect that.
You should try rabbit, though. Also really good.