Wednesday

Travelling bites

Is there a difference between travelling and taking a holiday? The former makes me think of gap-year students roaming around Asia and the Far East or older adventuring types who will happily drink warm yak's milk or sleep under a Landrover in the Sahara. Compared to that shuttles from the airport and room
The wonderful kitchen at Le Rughe apartment
in Montepulciano, owned and run by the lovely
Nico and Elena of Sant Antonio Country Resort
service seem rather tame although both of those things are guaranteed to make me happy. There does seem to be a bit of snobbery around what you call yourself and what you do during the weeks, or months, away from your home 
turf: travelling is challenge, holidays are fun. But the older I get then convenience, comfort and safety are towards the top of the list of any holiday requirements. Fun and laughter are right at the top. 

Tony and I are staying in Montepulciano for a week checking out its possibility as a base for a longer 'learn Italian in school' trip next year. Sometimes I feel as if I'm on holiday, that 'freshly risen dough' feeling when all is bright and airy around me. I'm curious, light-hearted, relaxed. Occasionally, I feel as if I'm doing things to fill time: walk these streets, visit another town, check out that museum. Because that's what you do on holiday, isn't it? Have new experiences, take photos, collect memories, tick things off lists. That makes it sound as if I'm not enjoying myself, and I am, but I'm also distinctly aware of myself as a 'visitor' peering at the locals, the souvenirs, the architecture. A kind
Montepulciano street.
of inverted 'culture' zoo experience.

And maybe that's what travellers, or people who call themselves travellers, don't feel, or don't want to feel. They merge with their new environments, work there, get involved, set up homes rather than briefly stop over and observe. Or are they just under the illusion that's what they're doing and they're actually equal to us ordinary holiday makers bumbling around the world, sometimes fitting in, other times wanting to go home?

Hungry writing prompt
Write about not fitting in to the world around you.

Fortunately, any slight and temporary feelings of disorientation, discomfort or disconnection - wherever I am in the world, home or away - can generally be resolved by food. Is that shallow? I don't think so. To eat the food produced and made local to you connects you to its landscape and its people, however subtle that connection might be. 

In Tuscany the pici pasta is a hand-made fat spaghetti usually served, in this area, with one of three sauces. I've tried two so far: aglione (tomato and garlic) and cacio e pepe (pecorino cheese and black pepper). The third one (briciole) involves day old bread, toasted and breadcrumbed, mixed with oil, garlic, pepper and salt. I'm not sure of the 'carb-on-carb' combo but I bet it'd taste delicious all the same. 

The name pici probably stems from the verb appicciare - to stick. And my pici at Pienza yesterday was sticky, especially after the cheese started to cool slightly on the terrace of the wonderful La Terrazza del Chiostro, but that was no reason for complaint. Every mouthful was a heart-lifting, stomach-patting, deep-mind-and-body-connecting delight. 

And, of course, there is one aspect of travelling, or being on holiday, that makes all the difference, no matter where you are in the world: the people. And all the people we have met in this small area of Tuscany are rich with kindness and humour. There has not been a single restaurant, cafe or shop in Montepulciano where we have not been greeted with a smile and good-natured assistance with our stumbling Italian. Come si dice en Italiano... we begin and they open their arms, their hearts and welcome us in.