I walked well over 20km today. I took the train to Asciano, which is a small Tuscan village, then wandered through the countryside for a couple hours to visit a nearby abbey. It felt a bit like pilgrimage, counting down the mile markers under the hot sun.
There seemed to be a lot of people at the abbey, considering it's way out in the ass-end of nowhere, but after lighting a candle and saying some prayers for N [a friend who passed away Friday], i climbed a little higher and found myself in a tiny village on top of the highest hill in the area where a festival was going on. There was music and markets and wine and the works. It would have been nice to stay if it wasn't a few hours walk back to the train station.
So, you know, yet another fucking day where the only thing i have had to eat is fruit, nuts and dry bread. Italy is the fucking shittiest place in the world to eat. It is so, so bad i can't even. They are so uptight about the right time of day to serve food and drinks and what you are allowed to order when. It feels like eating by committee.
I am getting pretty tired of the whole thing right now, and it's not just the elaborate ceremony around food. I find myself exhausted by all the ritual and dressing up and pomp and circumstance with everything. Put on a glove before you pick up a piece of fruit. Pay for your drink at one bar, then walk to another bar to hand over your receipt and order the drink a second time. Stand up, don't sit down, or it will cost more. Hit confirm on about 10 different popup windows to get your train ticket (not even joking). Then confirm the ticket in a different machine that you already spent 10 minutes confirming on the first machine. I thought Germany was unnecessarily fussy and bureaucratic but Italy really takes the cake. This is what i expected in China, not Southern Europe.
Anyway, tomorrow i am taking a ferry to Palermo. I think i will like the landscape there a little better.
Though, not gonna lie, i specifically chose to take a day trip to Asciano because it is in one of the most arid areas of Italy. There was definitely some cracked earth, and a few olive trees. Unfortunately on my walk i didn't spot the biancanes (white domes), but i did find some badland-ish cliffs. Not a patch on South Dakota, or Wyoming - not to mention the real deserts of America - but beggars can't be choosers. It was a lot more more appealing to me than the dank snail farms of the Alpine foothills.
The walk was fantastic, and the monks all in white robes and pious faces were a sight to behold, but i wasn't so hot on the local bartenders. Grumpy and pointedly refusing to speak Italian to me, even for something as simple as hello and here you are. Not to mention the neo-nazi graffiti, again. After Florence with its very clear and present antifa movement, it was a shock to once again see those sun crosses and sig runes. Especially in areas of the country that depend so heavily on tourism. Sigh.
So, in conclusion, Italy has some beautiful places, but the food situation is dire and it's the most exhausting place i have visited. Let's see if it's any different down south.
I am seriously about to cry right now. I just want a fucking coffee for this fucking shit layover in this fucking shit town on fucking shit Sunday and... "sorry, it's 21.36, we can't make coffee after 21.30".
This was a pretty great day, just wandering alone through the country. And i did prepare myself mentally to face starvation before i got here. But i at least thought Italians could make good bread (they can't) or i would be able to fall back on fucking Asian food for fuck's fucking sake. Like, seriously. It's like the only food you are allowed to eat here is sticky pastries, dry white bread, potato chips, pizza (i.e. dry white bread) or panini (i.e. more dry white bread). Oh, and bland-ass noodles. Fucking hell, guys. Put some fucking seeds in your bread. Leave the germ and bran on. Stop cutting the goddamn crusts off, i mean, what are we, 5? Le verdure. Use them! Spices, too. And for the love of God open your fucking restaurants all day so people who don't live some kind of weird cult lifestyle where lunch and dinner must be at incredibly specific times can still eat. Honestly, everywhere i have visited in Europe has had better and more diverse food options available. I mean, i thought Germany was a barren wasteland, but at least you could get a decent piece of bread. Italy is like a food desert in suburban America, except instead of McDonalds you have fucking pizza, which literally every Italian i meet goes out of their way to tell me isn't real Italian food at all. Well open a fucking restaurant that is, then! I really want to cry.
I guess i didn't realize how important good food is to my mental health. I just want some food that makes me happy. It doesn't take much either. Good bread. Olive oil. Rice. Beans. Greens. Tomatoes. Peanuts. Garlic, chili, ginger. A goddamned burger and fries. Anything that isn't just limp white bread with melted mozzarella on top, for God's sake.
I am calmer now. I was getting hysterical last night, i think because i was completely exhausted from my walk and so desperately just wanted something to eat at the end and nothing but pizza and pasta joints were open. Downstairs there is "breakfast" waiting for me. You know. Microscopic espresso, sweet pastries and maybe a solitary strawberry. Sigh. I miss Andalucía so fucking much right now. Good bread, fresh tomatoes, olive oil and a steady stream of coffee.
Maybe i should go to that lampredotto cart for lunch, or find some bread soup. It was likely a mistake to order in Chinese on Saturday, but i was very badly hungover and wanted comfort food. I figured even very bad Chinese food at least still has good rice, plenty of garlic and maybe some fresh bak choi. It basically only had that. The last time i felt this sad was at dad's place in the first few nights where he kept making all this lovely food for me but it was all fucking lasagne and risotto and couscous. I cooked a few dishes myself later on - nothing crazy, just using Euro ingredients like beans and potato and cabbage - and i started to feel normal again. Mainly, i guess, because i made solid food with plenty of heat. Perhaps i should pull a Hillary and carry around a bottle of hot sauce so i can make this weak Italian nonsense taste like real food. I'd still miss beans and vegetables, though.
You know the saddest thing about all this? I sound like that stereotypical American who goes overseas and then ends up eating at McDonalds. And, well, basically, i am. People say Italian food in Italy is different from Italian food elsewhere. It totally isn't. It's exactly the fucking same, just cooked better (i.e. noodles aren't a soggy mess and coffee is strong). What's not the same is that there aren't 3 other restaurants next door that cook something else, not even modern global/fusion cuisine.
Here is a picture of the grain elevator that stood there to mock me with the memory that food in square/flyover/red state America was better than in a Tuscan village.
Okay, okay, hyperbole. I know there are plenty of other restaurants in Florence. There are lots of students and (apparently) vegan anarchists about the place, and i am sure they don't just eat penne arrabbiata and spaghetti aglio e olio all the time. I'ma need to find a hipster joint and get a really good meal before getting on the ferry where at least everyone understands and expects that the food will be bad.