After barely conquering the road from Bellagio back to a highway, (which never seemed to be the highway because it took us so long to get anywhere near Ghisalba) we made a stop to quickly call (using our iphone) and inform the relatives that we were running late. Unfortunately the Italian word for “late” had slipped Bryan’s mind and after twenty minutes of getting nowhere in Italian the conversation ended with “Sono Retardo!” Yes, finally something they understood: ‘I am retardo’. It took twenty minutes and about thirty dollars in roaming charges to get them to understand we were running late.
But getting there could not be that easy! On the road we realized that the directions we had hastily printed in the wee hours before our trip were to the street Ghisalba in a neighboring town, and not the actual Ghisalba! So after getting lost again, we decided to pop into a pharmacy so someone could confirm we were at least in the vicinity of Ghisalba and point up in the right direction. This also turned into another big twenty minute ordeal with the pharmacist quasi-comprehending what Bryan was asking. Bryan then asked the pharmacist to call the family telling them we would be even more late, but would arrive shortly. Instead the family decided it would be better if they came to meet us and direct us back.
So there we stood and waited by a bridge, watching every car pass by wondering if they could be the family. Each person driving past in cars appeared to stare at us, making us all the more confused as to who it could be. One car honked and a man got out and walked toward us speaking to us in Italian. He didn’t look excited to see us at all, but then it became clear that he merely wanted help moving the “bridge closed” sign which we were standing next to, so he and his friend could drive over the bridge. It then dawned on us that we were not imagining that people were starring at us, because they were all trying to read the sign and wondering “why is that bridge closed?”
Eventually a packed car of ecstatically smiling Iotti’s arrived to meet us. We exchanged greetings and Luca (Bryan’s 5th or 6th cousin) came to ride with us back to Ghisalba. Luca spoke about as much English as we did Italian, and he managed to talk non-stop the whole way to Ghisalba explaining to us that Ghisalba is not “bello” but Bergamo was “molto bello” and he would take us there tomorrow. We arrived at the home of Franco and Mariella, who would generously host us for our stay. They showed us around their apartment and our room for the night (which was their room), we showered and then sat with them in their living room trying to hold a conversation with them in Italian, as they spoke no English. At worst it was only mildly awkward.
Iotti’s — Ghisalba Style
Once the rest of the family arrived for dinner, they took us to a pizza restaurant nearby. Luca drove us in his mini cooper with his mother Marisa. We talked about politics — how they hate (Italian PM Silvio) Bunolesconi, repeatedly calling him a “pedophilia” because of all his escapades widely reported in recent times. They also spoke of their dislike for him because he lets all the Africans in and does nothing about it (which was very evident, because we did not expect to see so many non-Europeans in the countryside). We soon noticed that Luca’s knowledge of English must be straight from hollywood movies due to the awkward use of curse words such as “Brunelesconi fuck you!” or “Brunesconi fuck off!” He also refused to stop talking about how Jim Morisson was the greatest. Luca and Marisa were very chatty and very funny and we laughed the whole way to the restaurant. Plus Megan really liked that Marisa kept saying that she had a “figura” like a “top model.”
The pizza at the restaurant was just ok, nowhere near as good as the amazing pizza we lived off of in Rome. But they do things differently in the north and pizza is more of a southern dish. During dinner the family ridiculed Megan for having wine with her pizza, as it was customary to drink beer only with pizza. Misunderstanding where we had come from earlier in the day, they kept asking when we are going to Lake Como, we had so much trouble trying to say “already” in Italian the waiter was called over and explained to them what we were trying to say. His explanation was followed by a big gasp of understanding by the group.
The Never-Ending Castle Tour and the “Crazy Aunt”
The next morning Massimo, who looks like the stereotypical “Italian Stallion” with his deep tan and long dark hair which he tosses about, took us with his daughter, Aurora and her cousin (or friend) Julia (or Guilia) on a tour of Ghisalba and the neighboring towns and castles. Luca was right, Ghisalba was not beautiful. It has a few old churches and buildings, but unlike the country village we had imagined it to be, in reality it is a conglomeration of ugly modern apartment buildings surrounded by corn fields (grown for polenta). The first stop we made was at the big church in the center of town, which looked like a younger Roman pantheon painted yellow. After that we went to visit an old woman who they called “the crazy aunt.” When we asked why she is crazy they informed us she kisses too much. They were right. We were not really sure who she was or how she was related but she offered us coca-cola (everyone assumes we must love coca-cola here, which we don’t) and biscuits. We politely declined and let her kiss all over us and tell us how “bello” we are.
We proceeded on the the town’s graveyard where we basically just took pictures of all the Iotti graves. Then we went from one castle to another in neighboring towns until we realized that every town in Italy has its own castle and we didn’t need to see anymore. Later we visited another assumed relative and her assumed retarded son. For all we knew it could have been her father. We had not a clue who they were, but they were happy to meet us, even if we were interrupting the Pope’s Sunday message that they were watching on TV in the kitchen.
Across the street Massimo showed us the church he was married in and we briefly met some mysterious people who may or may not have been related before meeting up with everyone for lunch. Lunch consisted of a strange meal in the yard of various types of meat, the main meat being the one that Franco barbecued. It was edible, but not the amazing old world family meal that we had imagined. After lunch, Luca and Massimo took us to Bergamo before we returned to say our goodbyes. Upon departure we were given gifts of local wine, a book on Ghisalba history, a snack pack for the road and Luca and Aurora both gave us CD’s of their favorite music which we listened to in the car on the way to Slovenia.
a dying breed
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