Monthly Archives: February 2008

Does Anyone Have Any Pasta?

My Italian friend Ellie is going to New York for a month on Saturday.  Ellie has been my conversation exchange partner for the past six weeks.  We meet once a week and she speaks English to me and I speak Italian to her.  Ellie is an aspiring stage actress but she is going to New York to take a four-week course at the New York Film Institute.

This will be Ellie’s first time in the states and she is both excited and apprehensive.  I have been explaining to her during our time together, what I think might be some crucial things to know about the U.S. in general and New York in particular.  Such as:
Bagels: what they are, where you get them, what you might consider eating on them
Coffee in the U.S.: this was a MUCH longer conversation because I had to explain Starbucks and how she might want to avoid it; flavored coffee (she is fascinated by this and can’t wait to try it, especially hazelnut); the new gourmet McDonalds coffee; and how you order coffee with milk at a deli in New York, ‘coffee light’ (at least that’s how it used to be); and finally that places that served coffee were either delis or coffee houses (like in Vienna) and that ‘bars’ serve alcohol and very bad coffee
Pizza: American pizza is very different from Italian pizza and Ellie is from the south where according to her, and every other southerner I have met, ‘real’ Italian pizza is made.  I’m afraid she will be shocked by what we call pizza in the states so I tried to warn her not to have high expectations

Then I also told her about the Union Square Market (the fresh vegetable market on Union Square), and about Whole Foods which I explained was like nothing she had ever seen in Italy and was worth a trip.

I also explained to her that it was absolutely crucial that she get an e-mail address and be prepared to check it often because Americans love their e-mail as much as Italians love their cell phones.  Ellie has three cell phones (no joke).  When I told her that many Americans had at least two if not three e-mail addresses she understood how crucial e-mail is in the U.S.

Ellie will be joined in New York and at the film school by her Italian friend Mary who is also an aspiring actress.  Today, Ellie and I met for the last time before she leaves.  Much of our conversation was about what it is like to live in a foreign country for a couple of months, what would be new and exciting and what you would miss about home.  I told her a bit about my experiences like the fact that in addition to missing my friends and my apartment, I also miss rather odd things like large American gyms and particular American food like salty snacks.  Being Italian and therefore quite serious about her food Ellie has real sympathy for people who might be missing their particular cuisine from home, no matter how odd she might find it.  In fact, she explained to me that her friend Mary was going to be prepared for her stay in New York because she had packed several boxes of pasta and canned tomatoes in her luggage.

That’s right, pasta and canned tomatoes.

While trying not to laugh, I explained to Ellie (in Italian mind you so I’m not sure how well I did) that at least 40 million, if not 100 million (I forgot the exact statistics) people from her country had come to my country during the 19th and 20th centuries (among them both sets of my great-grandparents on my mother’s side) and therefore, if there was one thing we had in the U.S., particularly in New York (where most Italians settled), was pasta and canned tomatoes.

“Really?”  She asked me with a very skeptical note in her voice.  I swore on my grandmother’s grave that not only did we have pasta but we have two of the brands I see in Italian grocery stores, Barilla and DeCecco.

Still dubious she asked, “well then, what about Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese?”  I told her not to worry about that either because she could find it in every grocery store, though I wouldn’t recommend the kind that comes in a can that you shake.  She looked frightened when she heard about cheese in a can but who would blame her.

Perhaps foolishly, I did confess that when I was a kid “molti anni fa” many years ago, in the 70s to be exact, when my parents first moved to Oklahoma, my mother (who is originally from a very Italian-American town in Upstate New York called Utica) used to have her parents ship pasta and canned tomatoes to her because you couldn’t find them in the grocery stores.  Or, to be exact (just in case my mother is reading this), you could find pasta but it was the kind that turned into mush when boiled.  At the time, my mother’s cousin, Phil, was a regional sales-rep for a well-known pasta company and during one visit back to Utica, he explained to my mother that his company sent the pasta that melted and stuck together when it was boiled to a large portion of the country because that is what “Americans” preferred.

Now, have no fear, I didn’t tell Ellie this part of the story.  I merely told her that if it made Mary feel safer, it was probably a good idea if she brought pasta and canned tomatoes.  However, if she did not find pasta and canned tomatoes in every store in New York (except perhaps down in Chinatown), she should send me an e-mail and I would have my friend Julie drop by and deliver not only a load of pasta, but lots of other Italian food that they might be missing.

In the meantime, if any of my readers can think of anything that Ellie and Mary might need to know about the U.S. or New York, please let me know and I will send them an e-mail, which Ellie promises she will be checking regularly.


Four Days in Spain

This week I had the opportunity to go to Madrid for a few days. A friend had to attend a meeting there and invited me to join him knowing I might be able to take advantage of the libraries in town since I do study the Spanish, albeit who live in Rome.

I like Spain. Its like a team of Germans came into Italy and cleaned up all the graffiti and made everyone start following rules. So the cars and motorinos (I believe Americans call them scooters) stop at red lights, the buses come on time and the bus stops all have protective awnings with route maps, people clean up after their dogs, and every merchant has change.

However, I am not a fan of Spanish food. Even Tapas. Whenever I make that statement to an American I get lots of “but, what about . . . tapas, paeya, etc.” First, Tapas is VERY different here than in the U.S., it’s a lot of fried foods, small, fillets of fish in vinegar (think fresh anchovies), and ham (about a 100 different kinds), cheese (it seems like only one kind, manchego) and not so great bread. As for paella it is a regional dish (from Valencia) and if you eat it outside that region, its made in a touristy place and its tastes like a hamburger ordered at a Chinese restaurant. The Spanish as far as I can tell, have virtually no relationship with vegetables. If you order a salad here, you get a bit of iceberg lettuce, a few slices of tomatoes, olives, sliced, hard-boiled egg, and often a big hunk of canned tuna on top. As I am currently residing in the land of vegetables after a few days here, I go into withdrawal.

That being said, the typical Spanish grocery store has many items that are hard to find in Italy. The Spanish grocery stores have an entire aisle devoted to salty snacks, especially nuts. Much like we do in the U.S. A group of us were discussing this over dinner and we decided that the availability of a variety of nuts must be the Arab influence in Spain. The Italians don’t eat a lot of nuts so they are difficult to find and when you find them, they are about $3 for a bag that would cost $1 in the U.S. For salty snacks, the Italians (at least the Romans) eat something called “Pizza Bianca”. This is not cheese pizza without red sauce. Its thick foccacia like dough with olive oil and salt. Its fabulous, but hardly as healthy as nuts. You will see lots of Romans walking around during the day munching on a piece of pizza bianca.

Anyway, I am a huge nut eater so the Spanish grocery stores were like a salvation for me after my two-month nut deprivation. I stocked up on both nuts and change running around to all the stores and paying for things with large bills.

But, to return to Spain being a Mediterranean country that seems to be run by Germans. I think I was most surprised by the fact that the traffic stops at red lights. In Rome, a red light seems to mean, ‘stop if you have time’ and it doesn’t seem to pertain to the scooter operators who keep driving through the red lights. Every time I cross the street I fear for my life. Seriously. So, I was surprised to hear from a local that last year Spain had the highest number of pedestrian-motor vehicle confrontations. I was in shock. In response to this statistic, the Spanish government initiated a campaign to put an end to this. They put advertisements around town telling drivers and pedestrians to be more cautious and repainted crosswalks so they are more visible and for those drivers who don’t know that a crosswalk is represented by the large white stripes, they changed the image to painted silhouettes of people walking. Then, to remind pedestrians to be on alert as the cross the sidewalk, they painted a sign that reads “1 in 3 die in traffic accidents” (please feel free to improve on my Spanish translation here).
Madrid Crosswalk

1 in 3

It seems like such an organized way to solve a problem. See what I mean about a team of Germans? Anyway, I’m now back in the land of vegetables and enjoying a huge salad with several kinds of lettuce (sans tuna and boiled egg), sautéed greens with garlic, locally grown apples and of course, pizza Bianca.

For My Readers Waiting for Photos

For those of you are waiting for me to stop musing on Italians and start posting photos, here are a few.

First is free Sunday at the Vatican. While typically you wouldn’t be able to drag me kicking and screaming to the Vatican on a day like free Sunday because . . . well, its free, so every Italian who has ever thought they should get to the Vatican goes; its Sunday, so you can combine a visit to the museums with seeing the Pope make his bi-weekly appearance; and its the Vatican, the tourist mecca of Rome, where there seems to be no ‘maximum capacity’ in any room and most Europeans don’t have the same idea of ‘personal space’ that Americans do. However, if you are German, and are offering to buy me a cappuccino before, gelato after, and in between give me the German take on Italians, I’m sold.

But, rather than take pictures of the art, I took pictures of the people looking at the art. There is a famous photographer who does this. Troy if you are reading this, please remind me of his name.

By the way, if you are thinking the woman in the front is me after six weeks of eating gelato, its not, I was taking the picture.

Free Sunday at the Vatican

The second photo is the back of the Pantheon. This is my favorite part of the Pantheon because it still has the marble column and decoration that would have covered the building until Renaissance and Baroque architects and builders started using it and the rest of the ancient Roman monuments in town as quarries.

Back of the Pantheon

The third picture is a chapel in the church of San Pietro in Montorio on the Janiculum Hill The Chapel was painted by an artist named Sebastiano del Piombo, who originally hailed from Venice but came to Rome in the early 1500s. He became friends with Michelangelo. At some point, one of the two artists decided that they should combine Michelangelo’s design abilities with Sebastiano’s sense of color and challenge the reigning ‘it-boy’ of the Renaissance art world, Raphael. One of their collaborative projects was this chapel representing the Flagellation of Christ flanked by Saints Peter and Francis and a Transfiguration above, for which Michelangelo is said to have provided the drawing for the Christ being flagellated (hence the burly figure reminiscent of those on the Sistine Chapel ceiling).

I had never seen this fresco in person until a friend and I wandered into the church the other day. Its a hard chapel to photograph because its shallow, there’s no light, and there was a window directly across with the afternoon sun beaming into my shot. But, here it is anyway.


Do you have any change?

Italians are obsessed with change.

First, let me explain that Italians use the Euro, which comes in bills and coins.  There are 1 and 2 Euro coins, then 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and  500 Euro bills.  Less than 1 Euro is called cents and it comes in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50.

This weekend, I had an exchange with a cashier in a grocery, which is very typical of my experiences in Rome.

My friend Laura and I went to check out this new Eco-Center in Rome which has a natural foods grocery, café, and restaurant.  (Let me just say that if you are picturing an Italian version of Whole Foods, scratch it, think more neighborhood health food store with better design sense).  We looked around the Eco-Center, had a coffee, and picked up a few groceries.  My bill was 7.07 (7 Euros and 7 cents).  I handed the cashier a 20 Euro bill and having learned over the last 5 weeks that Italians prefer change, I had even gone to the trouble of digging 7 cents out of my purse.

I started loading my groceries in my bag when I was interrupted by the cashier who said to me “Do you have 2 Euros?”  I looked at the register thinking I had misunderstood the total of the bill.  I must have looked confused so he repeated the question, a little louder this time, “Do you have 2 Euros?”  I stood staring at him trying to calculate in my head why he would want 2 Euros.  Then, he smiled, nodded his head as though he’d figured out the problem and said to me (in English this time) “Ah, you don’t speak Italian.”

I responded (a bit defensively) in Italian, “I speak Italian, why?” hoping we could work this out in Italian and I would not have to look like a clueless American in front of the now sizable line of customers that was forming behind me.  Ignoring my claim to speak Italian, the cashier proceeded in English and said “do you have 2 Euros?”  I could see I wasn’t going to win this one so I dug a two Euro coin out of my purse, handed it to him and he gave me a 5 Euro bill and a 10 Euro bill in change.

In Rome (I can’t speak for the rest of Italy), when you go to the grocery, the pharmacy, the bread store, the place that sells shampoo, soap, lotion, etc, and you go to pay for your purchases, there is a complex money exchange that ensues.  It’s not simply that if your total is 8.31, they want 31 cents in addition to your 10 Euro bill, they also want a 2 Euro coin and a 1 Euro coin, HOWEVER, they will take two 2 Euro coins and then give you 1 back.  If you are not used to this type of exchange, you can easily get confused and loose track of how much you have surrendered.

I asked my friend Laura why Italians are obsessed with change and she explained that
in the 60s and 70s when the Italian Lira was being used there was actually not enough currency in circulation.  Often times if you went to a bar to have a coffee and tried to pay for your 1000 Lira coffee with a 2000 Lira note, they did not have change, so the cashier would give you either candy or a hand written voucher for the amount.  Laura has a friend who lived in Italy during this period and explains that when she ran out of cash, she would simply go to her regular bar for coffee and pay for it with candy that she had accumulated from the ‘change’ for her transactions.

Even though today Italians use the Euro which is produced by the European Union and there is more than enough in circulation, old habits seem to be dying hard and when you pay for purchases, the cashiers seem to be trying to supplement the change in their drawers with what is in your wallet.

However, in order to do this, Italian cashiers have, through necessity become math whizzes because what your total reads on the register and the transaction that ensues are rarely the same.  While American cashiers always seem to need to look at their register to make the correct change, Italian cashiers open their registers and begin a complex math problem that looks a bit like: If Mary has 12 Euros, and she gives 2.40 to Jimmy and 3.20 to Kathy, and then gets another 5 Euros from her little brother . . .

In fact, there are times when you will be in line at a store and the cashier will have run out of change.  (This is not the result of a change shortage in Italy but the result of banks that keep cryptic hours that only the bank staff know about.)  Someone tries to pay their a 6 Euro bill with a 20 Euro and the cashier begins calling down the line of patrons in her queue asking if they have a 5 Euro bill or a 10 Euro bill.  Everyone without complaining begins emptying their pockets and passing forward their bills and the cashier is thus able to make change.

As if this were not a bizarre enough exchange to watch, what then follows is for someone like me who can barely add without the aid of a calculator, miraculous.  When the others step forward to check out, the cashier remembers what each customer has donated to the change collection and simply subtracts that amount from their bill.  This is all done in the cashier’s head.  Though sheer mathematical ability developed under the fire of a change shortage crisis, either real or simply perceived, the cashier is able to calculate and keep in her memory everyone’s bill.

So, when you come to Italy, be sure and bring lots of change and, perhaps even more useful, a calculator.

Come back tomorrow because the lights aren’t working

After a month of Italian classes, this week I have officially started my research.  Some of you know, that I am writing my dissertation on the Spanish community in Rome during the late 15th and early 16th century and in particular looking at the art they commissioned, I won’t bore everyone by laying out my argument here, but if you are curious, I am happy to e-mail you a copy of my proposal.  In order to do this, I’m doing most of my research in the various Spanish affiliated churches and libraries and the embassy here in Rome.

Monday I went to the Spanish National Church to try to get permission to work in their library and archive.  I was taken to a small room at the back of the church to meet the librarian, Don Francisco, a short, round priest who explained I was welcome to work in the library but that the archive is currently closed for renovation.  He then offered show me the library.  We walked across the courtyard passing several workman carrying construction materials (probably working on the archive).  Don Francisco then ushered me into a room with floor to ceiling bookshelves, and reached over to turn on the lights, but nothing happened.   He flipped the switch a few more times, then turned to me and said: “this is the library, but you will not be able to use it today because the lights are not working.  Come back tomorrow.”

Of course, why bother to ask one of the five construction workers we had just passed in the courtyard to restore the lights,  just come back tomorrow when the lights are working.

It was only after I left the church that I realized that for the entire conversation, Don Francisco had been speaking in Spanish.  While I had started the conversation with my memorized speech in Italian about who I am and why I want to use their library and archive, at some point, in response to his Spanish, I started speaking in some bizarre form of half Italian-half Spanish.

As many of you may know, Spanish and Italian are very similar languages.  So similar that Spanish speakers traveling in Italy and Italians traveling in Spanish speaking countries simply speak their native language and manage to make themselves understood.  There seems to be a mutual agreement that this will happen and, as far as I can tell, no one is treated with any less respect because of it.

This week as I have spent my time in the Spanish church and a Spanish research library in town, and of course everyone is speaking Spanish to me.  This is not a great situation for someone who knows a little of both languages because it is easy to start muddling them.  So if I spend the day around Spaniards, by the end of the day, when I go to the store or the gym, I can’t figure out what language I am speaking.

I was contemplating the Italian-Spanish language situation as I stood in a bar (as in coffee bar) today, mid-afternoon, taking a break from my work to have a cappuccino.  I was surrounded by Italians who were sitting eating lunch and drinking coffee and talking.  Suddenly, in the midst of this, an older couple rushes in the bar and the woman says very loudly in English “Two large coffees please.”

For those of you who have just cringed reading those words, you will be happy to hear, the woman had an English accent.  Whew.

The guy who seemed to be the proprietor of the place ran over to the couple and started speaking to them in this obsequious but shifty I-know-you-are-a-tourist-so-I’m-going-to-try-to-sell-you-things-you-don’t-need-voice: “Oh you would like a coffee?  American coffee right?  And would you like desert, I have lovely deserts . . . “

Hopefully I won’t offend anyone when I say that this drives me crazy.  I feel like if you are going to visit a foreign country, you should make an effort to learn a few of the crucial words in that language.  But, if you think you can’t manage that (and I would certainly forgive any English speaker struggling with Japanese or Arabic), smile and point or do anything other than order people around in your native tongue.

I offer as an example my father who is horrible at languages (sorry dad), but he would be the first to tell you this.  However, he always manages to learn a few crucial words in the language of whatever country he is visiting: ‘coffee’, ‘bread’, ‘wine’, ‘cheese’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘where is the bathroom’.  For anything else, he smiles, points, and says please.  Given that my father can handle this, I think the English couple, who probably learned French in school, could have managed ‘due caffe’.

However, for those of you who speak Spanish, come to Italy and just speak to them in Spanish, they don’t care.

“And of course, Americans eat eggs for breakfast”

Last week in my Italian class one of my fellow students was having difficulties answering a question.  He offered as an excuse that he had skipped breakfast and coffee and thus was too sleepy and hungry to think straight.  This prompted a conversation about what people from different countries eat for breakfast (all in Italian, of course)

My teacher explained that few Italians actually eat breakfast, they only have a cup of coffee and then later in the morning if they get hungry they stop for a coffee and cornetto (the Italian version of a croissant) at a bar.  She then went around the room and had students explain what is the typical breakfast in their country.

We started with the British guy (toast and tea) and then the Germans (museli and yogurt).  However, when she got to me, just as I started into my carefully worked out speech about cereal, toast, muffins, etc she preempted me saying , “and of course, Americans eat eggs for breakfast.”


Then she moved on to the Japanese guy who talked about traditional Japanese breakfasts (rice and tea) but he explained that today, it is more common to find people eating breakfasts similar to that of Americans (whatever that means).  Of course I raised my hand and tried to explain that Americans are often in a hurry and just grab toast or cereal and coffee or get a muffin or bagel and coffee on the way to work, but she was having none of it.

I would have just thought this was an anomaly had the same ‘fact’ about the American diet not been repeated to me two other times over the past week. My school offers something called a ‘tandem’ in which you are paired with an Italian who wants to work on speaking in your native language for a conversation exchange.  I have two tandem partners.  One is in her 20s and is an aspiring actress going to New York in March for film school.  The other is a teacher in her late 30s who wants to work on her English so she can move to Holland, teach Italian to foreigners, and ride bikes (that’s what she told me).  Both of them asked me what was my favorite ‘American’ food.  I don’t even know what ‘American’ is any more, so I told them it is pizza and spring rolls (not together of course).  This confused them completely.  Then somehow the topic of breakfast came up and both said something like, but of course you all eat eggs for breakfast.

Where are they getting this?

I can tell you it’s not from tv.  Since I now have tv in my apartment, I’ve been taking full advantage, keeping it on as much as I can bear it to help with my Italian.  I have watched several hours of Italian news which currently centers around three topics:
the crisi dell’governo (crisis in the government – see my previous blog)
the crisi dell’refuti (crisis of the trash in Naples)
and the marriage of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy to the Italian model, Carla Bruni

I have also discovered that one can watch many American television shows that have been dubbed into Italian like Alias, ER, Cold Case, Desperate Housewives, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and other similar shows.  I think what all these shows have in common (even Desperate Housewives) is that no one is eating eggs for breakfast.  In fact, I don’t think anyone in any of these shows is ever shown eating breakfast.

So why is it that Italians not only think we all eat eggs, bacon, toast, etc for breakfast but they even call this an American breakfast?  This may have been true in the 50s and 60s and even for a while in the 70s but it seems today, especially in households in which everyone works, no one has time to make eggs except on the weekend.  It seems that a visit to any American grocery store, most of which have an entire aisle dedicated to cereal and breakfast bars, would reveal to any outside observer what Americans eat for breakfast.

But as I have thought about it further, one common denominator among all of these people who have told me that Americans eat eggs for breakfast is that none of them has ever been to the US, they have been to other English speaking countries, but not to ours.

At any rate, I guess this is an example of the idea that old idea that stereotypes die-hard.

Internet Woes, Part II

As many of you know, last week I lost Internet access in my apartment. For those of you keeping track, this would be day 10.

While the loss of Internet has been frustrating in itself, what made it worse is that it was the tip of the Italian-appliance-difficulty-iceberg. Since my arrival my hot water heater has only been producing about two minutes of hot water in the morning making for some quick and tepid showers; my tv which was advertised as a one of the ‘extras’ in the apartment has no remote and no access to anything except a dvd player; and finally, my power shuts off every time I run more than one appliance at a time.

As you all know from Internet Woes Part I, my rental agent was sending a ‘technician’ this week to fix all these problems.

Turns out the ‘technician’ or ‘technicians’ were a very friendly father-son duo who are actually electricians. They spent at least an hour at my apartment working on the various problems but weren’t able to fix anything. They apologized profusely and left and I went off to my gym which has wireless, sent off an angry e-mail to my agent detailing the ‘technician’s’ report and jumped on the stationary bike to work off my frustration.

When I returned home I decided that making a big pot of minestrone with all the fresh vegetables I had purchased at the farmer’s market would be a good way to make myself feel better about my apartment’s deficiencies. In Rome, farmer’s markets go year round unlike in most cities in the US and there is an excellent selection of squashes, greens, citrus, etc. See pictures here:

I chopped up the vegetables, threw everything in the pot, turned on the burner and . . . the electricity went off.

This has happened before when I have been using too many appliances at the same time, but it has always been quickly resolved because all I have to do is turn everything off, go downstairs to the fuse-box, flip a switch, and the power returns. This time, I was not so fortunate. After multiple tries, including on other people’s boxes (just in case), I called my friend Laura who told me to grab my toothbrush and my computer and come over to her apartment where I could spend the evening firing off angry e-mails and sleep in her extra bedroom.

What followed was calls to the agent, return calls, lots of promises that things would be resolved quickly and in fact, by the next morning, the power was back on, and over the next few days my tv has been repaired, and a plumber has come to bring a new hot water heater.

Of course, there is still no Internet.

As though right on cue, Corriere della Sera (English edition on the web) published an article entitled: “Consumers Give Italy a Thumbs Down” and the first few lines read:
“Italians are Europe’s most disgruntled consumers of electricity, post and telephone services. Electricity costs twice as much as in Finland.” See the rest here.

Whenever I am feeling frustrated by Italian inefficiencies, I find it best to seek out a German. While American’s are certainly sympathetic, I often feel like at some level they see it as part of the charms of Italy. However, Germans seem to take it as a personal affront, after all, they are now all members of the EU and civilized countries are expected to provide certain services in a prompt and orderly fashion, ja?

This would explain the fact that German newspapers have been attacking the Italians over the trash situation in Naples. In response, the Veneto region (where Venice is located) is running an add campaign that explains “We are not Naples!” See an article on this here.

I suspect the German reaction is much like the way I felt the day after the last presidential election. Though I had not voted for Bush, 51% of my fellow Americans had decided to return him to office and I felt completely horrified and embarrassed.

So, the day after the power outage, I went for coffee during our break in language class with two of my German classmates.

My Language Class

This was therapeutic for two reasons: first, drinking Italian coffee always reminds me that there are some very good things about being here and then when I relayed my tales of woe to the Germans, they were received with a great deal of head wagging and muttering about this is a lovely place to visit but living here is not a good idea. (Which, oddly enough, is the same thing my Italian cousins said to me last week).


I do feel bad for the Italians—they have an enormous trash crisis in Naples which they can’t seem to get a handle on and now the prime minister has resigned, and there is talk that Silvio Berlusconi will return to power. For those of you who are not familiar with Berlusconi there is a useful article in the Economist.

Meanwhile, if you want to feel better about living in the U.S. during the Bush administration, spend a few months here you will feel like we really have our act together.

To continue with my therapy, I plan to spend the rest of the weekend drinking Italian coffee and eating lots of gelato.