What most visitors know as ‘the Italian experience’ is the Italian summer experience. This article in yesterday’s New York Times describes rural Italy in the winter. It features a part of southern Tuscany that is less than an hour from here, so it describes exactly the type of experience I’m having in Italy in the off-season.
Being here in the winter feels almost like being an invited guest. I’m loving having shops and restaurants practically to myself. Just as an example of how this is making this experience so rich, I was at the supermarket’s version of the deli counter trying to remember the words with which I could form an order. A nice gentleman, who speaks even less English than I speak Italian, was gracious and even cheerful in his [successful] attempt to help me. That interaction somehow made the formaggio (cheese), pizza bianca, and suppli (delicious rice balls) even tastier.
One other seasonal note: Easter preparations are in full swing. For families without a nonna (grandmother) to bake the traditional Easter treat, the grocery store offers a wide selection of colombe (cakes made in the shape of a dove). There are also lots of candy Easter eggs, but no baskets of plastic grass.
And no sign of bunnies … except in the meat department.