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Italy At Last

ITALY | Tuesday, 1 July 2014 | Views [641]

14-hour flight really sucked the life out of me! Still, that little piece of Michael Bublé did brighten up my mood (thank you Alitalia), and as soon as I felt the warm afternoon sun tenderly caressing my skin for the very first time, I was alive again.

And there I was, rushing out of Bologna airport to find, standing tall and calmly in his blacks suit and shades with a sign reading my name, a coarse-bearded dark-haired Italian who greeted me with a low-toned gentle voice. Giovanni was his name (if I am not mistaken, sorry mate). He would be driving me to my hotel in Ferrara. Suddenly emerged a slightly higher-pitched voice, and a fair-skinned bright-haired British guy slowly put down his Canon and briskly walked towards us. It was Andrew, my assigned filmmaker (slash travel companion slash dining comrade slash drinking mate slash partner in crime – well, you get the idea). It was so surreal; to be honest, I am a little overwhelmed with all these VIP’s treatments (and that was just the beginning). The team was assembled at last, and we wasted no time as we quickly buried ourselves in discussion while being escorted to our first destination. It was 2 hours of ‘what…?’, ‘when…?’, ‘how…?’, ‘where…?’ and ‘why…?’ during which I was the one who mostly provided the answers.

At around five, the car took a final turn onto a narrow stone-paved street. Giovanni hit the brake, and there we arrived, at Hotel De Prati, a small yet cosy hotel adorned with an artistic touch. After managing to squeeze our cargos and selves into a tiny elevator, we got to our rooms. Not bothering to unload my suitcase, I hit the bed and had a little nap. A moment later, I met up with Andrew and took a stroll together. For a sweet tooth like me, nothing represents Italy better than a good gelato; and with my first Italian ice cream cone, I was far from disappointed. Rich flavor harmonized beautifully with velvety texture, and perfectly contrasted by crunchy fragrant thin biscuit. FANTASTICO! We headed back to the hotel soon after that frozen indulgence and geared up for the upcoming dinner party.

In short time, we saw ourselves standing in the middle of an open space in front of a local church, Santa Maria in Vado. Decorated with colorful banners, ribbons, paper ornaments and filled with long dining table half-laid, it was unmistakably a party site. Certainly, the folks were in festive mood as I saw them gathering in the church courtyard, drink in hand, chatted enthusiastically while sharing the same look of anticipation. With the help of two ebullient ladies, Giulia and Beatrice, I got to know about the annually month-long celebration taking place at the moment, Palio di Ferrara. In fact, it was the night before the culminating event, the Palio races; so the neighbourhood threw a gathering where everyone soaked up the atmosphere, enjoyed some food and wine, and had a great time. As the stars lit up the night, the whole place was lit up with fluorescent lights. Everybody soon found his or her place at the table, and we quickly followed suit. By that time, I was fully submerged into the cheerful ambiance. Food plates were flying, glasses were clinking, and laughter was spreading. Everybody ate, everybody drank, but then I only drew a blank. Do not get me wrong, it was a bloody lot of fun. However, with Italian frantically shot out at one hundred miles per hour, I could only recall giving toasts the champions (the ones who took part in the races), munching on some copieta (traditional bread), some baked pasta, some chicken stew, and… taking selfies with locals. The rest became a blur. Then, not for very long after the exhaustion kicked in, we excused ourselves and reluctantly left the party midway, probably before its inevitable deviation into a carousal. (What a shame!)

Therefore, Andrew and I took a walk back, enjoying the chilled breeze drifting through the dimly-lit streets of Ferrara. (I personally did not enjoy the cold night air so much! Brrrrr!) My very first night in Italy wrapped up at last. Beautiful sights, abundant and sumptuous food servings, a great company, affectionate locals, those were certainly the harbingers of a tremendous journey.

Tags: emilia-romagna, first time, passport & plate: italy 2014

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