Day 5 - 30/6/2002 - Italy
Woke up without much sleep. The place I was staying was fine ... but that snoring from someone who will remain nameless :)
Went to Zio Lucioano's house (Uncle Luke), who lives in Palestrina (approx. 50 km from Rome city). The different driving experiences continued as my cousin, who is a police officer, comfortably broke several driving laws during the trip :) At times, we would have been travelling approximately 120 km in a 70km zone and cars/bikes were zooming past us (when I say zooming, I mean at about double the speed, that is 240km per hour in a 70km zone!) Also, if you did not realise, you do not need to wear seatbelts in the back seat , and basically no-one does ... however, I am probably the only person in Italy who has been sticking to the tradition of wearing a seat belt. I questioned him about the speeding/driving, and he said that it is common in Italy - his thoughts were that most Italians do not care about anyone else .. hence the speeding - apparently the police have higher priorities to look after (like theft, drugs and prostitution - which I was "exposed" to later on the trip). Towards Uncle Luke's house, some "barely" dressed women kept popping out from the bushes - they were prostitutes parading themselves on the roadside. Strangely, they were all non-white (or as Greg put it "they were blacker that the deepest darkest parts of Peru), which was unusually for Italy ... my cousin explained that only the "Nero" ones are on the streets - the white prostitutes are more expensive and only go to your home (less change of being caught).
MOVIE: Turtle Trying To Lay Eggs [MPG 250KB]
At Uncle Luke's, most of my uncles, aunties, cousins and partners were present ... I think have actually got my head around all their names etc (which is pleasing since there is about 20 of them). We had the biggest lunch ... I lost count of all the courses, and even Greg was full. The meal included (but was not limited to)
Starters: cold meats (prosciutto), rockmelon, bread, olives followed by rice salad and rice filled tomatoes
Entree: Baked Pasta (I eat bread with my pasta, but apparently this is unusual in Italy)
Main Course: Veal Schnitzel, roast beef with potatoes, rabbit, beans, salads etc
Desert: Ice cream cakes, apple pies, berry tarts, home made Italian biscuits etc
All accompanied by lots of home-made vino (wine).
In Italy, if you stop eating for any more than 1 split second, everybody starts saying "mangiare, mangiare" (eat, eat).
MOVIE: Lunch With The Family [MPG 275KB]
All this happened while the soccer world cup final was on TV. They did bring out a TV, but they didn't seem to show much interest. I asked why they were not interested, and most of them said that a lot of Italians are not interested in soccer (which is different from what I always thought) ... mum thinks they were showing no interest (and pretending that it was not on and not a big event) because Italy was not in the final.
Had a siesta after lunch and didn't really want to get back up, but it was worth getting up because some of my cousins (Pamela, Michaela and her fiancÚ Fabio) took Greg and I out to see some of the local sights. It was great! First we went for some pizza at a local pizzeria - delicious and different from Oz. There are big square pizzas pre-prepared and you simply choose which slices you want. Value seemed to be good (graciously they would not let us pay, but it seemed as thought we got ample pizza slices for approx. AU$8 per head).
We then went up the top of the local mountain (Castel San Pietro Romano - castle of St. Peter's), and did the common thing to do ... stroll down the old pebble paved streets. The streets were narrow, but cars still tried to whiz past as you squashed up against the houses lining the streets - an experience. There were also lots of motor cycles (and scooters); in Italy there seems to be just as many motor vehicles as cars (if not more). You can get a licence for a two wheel motor vehicle from the age of 14! So, you get a lot of young people whizzing around. From the top of the mountain, there was a beautiful view of the city etc.
We then got some local desert, "Cornetto's", which are croissants filled with different delights.
MOVIE: Almost Getting Run Over [MPG 115KB]
We visited an old museum that was built before Christ! I am starting to appreciate how ancient some of the buildings are going to be (compared to Oz)
Finished the night at one of the local pubs. Actually called "William Wallace's Pub" and owned by Mel Gibson? The style was different, because you had to be seated at a table and order drinks from your table (not at the bar), which is different from Oz. Schooner of beer seemed to be approx AU$6. I was told that in Italy you can drink in a pub at basically any age - apparently it is not "policed" and as long as you do not get too drunk, nobody cares.
All of my relatives have been fantastic to me. They have been treating me like a VIP and have made me feel really welcome. They seem genuinely excited to see me and spend time with me, which has been very comforting. I am looking forward to spending more time with them.
Communicating is not as bad as I thought. Greg and I (who speak basically no English) spent most of the night with my cousins who speak basically very little English ... and yet, we managed to understand each other - using synonyms and hand motions. It is a bit like a challenging game of charades, but it is delightfully funny and entertaining.