“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, the sky – all things tending toward the eternal or what we imagine of it.” -Cesare Pavese in The Comfort of Strangers
[This is a wonderfully accurate quote about travel except for one thing- sleep is one of those essential things that has on the whole proven difficult for me so far. I have allowed myself some leeway, given the six hour time difference, and this means opting to going to bed earlier rather than hitting the town with my hosts on some nights. Everything in moderation! ]
In the past five years, I have realized that travel isn’t for everyone. It’s uncomfortable and uncertain, unsettling and isolating. The only constant is knowing that the factors involved in your day-to-day life will not remain the same for long, and knowing this at least provides some comfort. Perhaps it is because of the unstoppable changes that traveling appeals to me; there is always something new to discover, a new person to meet, a great mural around the corner, or some food that for some reason I never knew about until now.
Enter the panzerotti.
I think that I am forever in debt to my host in Milan, Stefania, for introducing me to this culinary masterpiece. Wikipedia tells me that outside of Italy, the panzerotti is popular in the United States, particularly Southern New Jersey, which is news to me. I must have been concentrating too hard on the zeppoles, garlic knots and pizza to notice them on all those childhood vacations to the Jersey Shore. Back to Milan- Stefania told me that this particular place, Luini, just off the Piazza Duomo, is famous throughout the city and is known for nearly always having lines out the door, though she hadn’t been there yet herself. Why, what better reason to tackle something you’ve been putting off than showing your couchsurfing guest the best your hometown has to offer! True to rumor, the line was out the door and spilling on to the narrow cobblestone street. And as for the taste? Well, if you can, try to imagine biting into one of the most delicious plain doughnuts you’ve ever had. Now, combine that with the taste of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese- and how your taste buds will delight! Though it may sound like a strange combination at first, I immediately had another, this time filled with spinach and ricotta cheese. Subsequently, I also sampled a panzerotti in Bologna, which was still delicious but couldn’t compare to the high caliber Luini in Milan. And though I’m curious where and how soon I might find panzerotti back in the States, I know that it will be a far cry from any I eat here in Italy.
Another bready food item I’ve had is panetonne, somewhat similar to what we call fruitcake, though this is more palatable. Cliche as it sounds, I have had pasta every day so far (and even introduced my Bologna host to tossing eggplant, garlic and olive oil in pan and serving it with penne), and I treated myself to gelato twice while in Milan. The other morning, I visited Bologna’s fruit and vegetable market, eager to get some frutis and vegetables in my system. Though there were far too many options with all the exact same selection (terrible for someone as indecisive as I), I walked away satisfied with the prices and even hungrier than when I set out.
This is a photo I hastily took before i ate- both the eggs and spinach picked up at the city market. I’ve seen dark yolks before, and plenty of double-yolked ones, but these eggs were definitely the most orange I’ve ever cooked.
Now I am situated in Dozza, which is about half an hour from Bologna, with a family that keeps animals for consumption. You might be eating a lot of pasta and pesto for dinner, they said, when discussing my vegetarianism, but that is just fine with me. I’ve gone from couchsurfer to helper- doing various tasks around the house and with the animals in exchange for a place in their home and all meals provided for. My arrival here marks the 10th place that I have spent the night throughout the month of January, the most I have bounced around, ever, to my recollection. Here’s to feeling a bit settled!
A shot in Milan from Thursday (I will be sure to get better pictures of the Duomo and the rest of the city when I have a few more days at the end of my stay):