I’ve been in Italy for only five days, but have seen so much. I spent the weekend in Rome, with an old friend from Belgium, before heading down to Sorrento for a week of Italian language school. This is not my first time here though. I visited as a child, I think only Rome and Venice. Then, last year I stayed for a month in Rome, the Eternal City.
When I arrived on Friday, I dropped my stuff off at my friend’s house, met her family, and then set off to explore the city and have a proper Italian dinner. A feeling was beginning to form in my head. After spending a whole day wandering around the city, starting in Monti and raking up twelve kilometers on my iPhone health app, this feeling turned into an idea.
I started to think…I could really see myself living here. I’m a big city kind of girl, so Rome is where I would go. I know I get wooed by a lot of cities, but this time it feels different. I asked myself, what’s making me feel this way?
The first thing that comes to my mind is the food. But just the food is not enough for me to leave an entire life behind and set up somewhere new. The way the Italian treat their food, the way they perfect everything they make, is a reflection of who they are. It’s the perfect metaphor for an Italian lifestyle.
It’s not uncommon to make a trip to the local farmers market, where you can buy fresh cheese, fruit, meats, and any other type of food that you see in their diet. The fruit themselves are bright and plump, the prosciutto is simple yet flavorful, and the buffalo mozzarella will change your whole perspective on cheese.
You can find any pasta you want, including spinach and ricotta ravioli that was made that morning. When you buy your prosciutto, you get to watch a butcher slice it from the actual slab of meat yourself. The Italian like to know what they’re putting in their bodies and put a lot of thought into what ingredients they want to use for cooking.
Not to mention that half of the restaurants that you visit probably have decades-old family recipies.
Breakfast usually consists of toast, yogurt, pastries, or fruit. But once lunch and dinner come around, it’s a whole new game. Many people start cooking hours before the food is ready, making everything from scratch. My friend’s mom made us lasagna the other day and, I swear, it was hands-down the best lasagna I’ve ever had in my life. And I watched her make the whole thing.
The whole family will come together to share a meal, and after hours of preparation, the meal is finally ready. The table could be covered with a risotto made with wine and parmesan, a platter of soft meats, or pasta-based dishes of any variety. I firmly believe that the best food is made in an Italian mother or grandmother’s house.
They don’t eat fast. They take their time, possibly starting with some cheese, loaves of bread and oil, or vegetables. Wine is present at every meal, and they always know exactly where it was made.
Eating is a social act of all kinds. Whether it be a romantic candlelit dinner in a local restaurant, a Sunday lunch at your grandparent’s house, or a picnic at a park with your friends, eating is how they connect.
It’s not just the food that makes me dream of living in Italy, it’s the way they make it. It’s the way of life.
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