Weekly Photo Challenge: A Taste of Venice

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Afloat,” as well as Writing101’s Day 2 Challenge: “A Room with a View.”

You close your eyes to appreciate this perfect moment. You are comfortably seated next to your special someone on a luxuriously upholstered seat; a warm, gentle breeze is blowing, and it enhances this feeling you have of gliding on air.

The only discernible sound is the gentle lapping of water, until the dulcet tones of a piano accordion permeate the silence with a romantic Italian melody. Suddenly a rich baritone breaks into an operatic classic by Puccini (or perhaps it’s Rossini, you can never tell the difference) and your beloved leans in for a soft kiss.

You open your eyes and the sight of your singing guide in his striped shirt and straw hat makes you smile, and you look around, expecting to be surrounded by the fading pastel hues of historic grand palazzos and gently arched stone bridges…

But – hang on a minute…this can’t be right. Trees? Parkland? Che cosa?

COAFT Afloat

No, you aren’t among the heave of tourists travelling along the Grand Canal in Venice, nor are you even in Italy.  You are, in fact, enjoying a glorious late spring afternoon gondola ride on the Charles River in Boston, USA!

Who’d have thought?

PS while we’re on the subject of ‘Afloat’ (and still in Boston)…is this not the most adorable houseboat you have ever seen?!

COAFT Afloat 2

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La lingua di cibo (take that, Rosetta!)

If you could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language you don’t currently speak, which would it be? Why? What’s the first thing you do with your new linguistic skills?

As soon as I found this Daily Prompt from almost a year ago, I knew there could only be one answer.

Since I was eight years old, learning basic conversational Italian from my Year 3 teacher Mrs Ciccone (no direct relation to Madonna, alas), I have been in love with Italy and anything and everything Italian. While the twice-weekly, hour-long lessons only lasted one (and a bit) school years, when I began working at an Italian cafe-restaurant ten years later, I was surprised to discover how much of it had stayed with me.

One of my favourite parts of the day working at the cafe was when my boss’ dear Italian father would come by to take care of any light maintenance or cleaning before we opened and patiently wait for me to make him an espresso. He was very shy (presumably on account of his speaking very little English), so he would initially only politely nod his thanks each time I made his coffee. Imagine my delight several months into the job when I handed him his daily espresso, and he looked me in the eye with a shy smile and said “thank you” in very careful English; I responded with a very nervous “prego” and he chuckled and said “bene…very good! – high praise, indeed! From that moment on we were great friends.

I picked up a bit more basic Italian during my time working there, thanks to the authentic Venetian menu, and (as cliché as it may sound) Dean Martin constantly playing in the background. By the time my dream opportunity to visit Italy came true another ten years later, I could greet strangers, ask how they were, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’…and find my way around a menu enough to not accidentally order tripe, or some other ghastly substance (for the record, if you’re not a fan, stay away from trippa).

My first visit to Italy was a bit of a ‘blink-and-miss-it’ trip as part of a Top Deck European Odyssey bus tour, but it was was the perfect introduction and no less a dream come true to find myself at the foot of La Torre di Pisa, gazing in awe at the Duomo in Firenze, tossing a coin in la Fontana di Trevi in bella Roma, or enjoying un giro in gondola in Venezia. 

In 2013 (less than five years later), we found ourselves – blissfully – back in Rome and Florence, only this time around we had a few days to spend in each, which gave us a lot more time to explore these great cities on our own terms. As wonderful (and delicious) as our first six days in Italy were, they were only a prelude to the magnificence of the final part of our trip – a three-day, four-night cooking class and villa stay in Tuscany.

Oh, the memories (i ricordi). I am determined to one day carry out my Frances Mayes-inspired dream of living Under the Tuscan Sun for at least six months (perhaps minus the seemingly-endless renovations part).

Therefore, in order to converse freely with my new neighbours (and possibly avoid being swizzed by dodgy tradesmen), I would love to become fluent in la bella lingua Italiana.  

*Note: I apologise in advance for any errors in my poor attempts at translation – they are completely unintentional, and your corrections are welcome! 🙂