Italy Part 1: Piedmont

I lived in Spain years ago in the age of the Internet cafe.  These ubiquitous oases were in every plaza and square in Europe.  Now, good luck trying to find one even in a city like Amsterdam or Milano.  I now know that I am a little naive thinking I had the convenient luxury of traveling with a fancy iPhone.  I imagined local wifi hot spots everywhere.  I could pull up emails and itineraries at a moments notice.  Nope, not the case at all.  Having a fancy iphone means nothing when your server in the US doesn’t even exist in Europe.  That’s right, Verizon doesn’t have a European market.  Everyone and their dog has a cell phone now in Europe, just like in the US, so buying and using  an antique calling card was nearly as impossible.   Nearly missing connections and showing up late was my arrival style.  I was finally able to contact my first wine host, Achille Boroli.  I was able to buy one of those antique calling cards to finally reach him.

Plus, I think I overpacked.  My bags are so heavy by the fourth trip up a set of train station stairs.  I did pack set pair of rain boots, and I am glad I did.  Alba has had rain for days, and the forecast in Florence and beyond says all rain and more rain.  And what was I thinking to pack Berryman’s “The Dream Songs” and Jack Gilbert’s “The Great Fires?”  You would think I’m a poet or something.  Or that I would have loads of free time to read.  I will need a long massage when this trip is over.

I was late and confused, too, for my first couch surfing experience.  This is just another part of my adventure. is a website connecting world travelers with hosts from around the world.  I spent my first night in Milano with Elena, who took me out to a big Italian dinner and wine.  (I’m eating way too much bread.). I’m taking a big risk, too, when I get to Rome and spend four nights with an Italian man whom I have never met.  He feels like an old friend already, but my bullshit detector is on.  But he does have a scooter for night tours around Rome.  It sounds like the set of “Amelie.”  

I am trusting him and the universe.  Plus, I need the edge of adventure in my white bread life.  He is also quite handsome and charming.  If you check out the Italian couch surfing website you will find that most of the hosts are male.  I hope they don’t confuse the site with a dating service.

(I am eating way too much bread.  All I want is a kale and blueberry smoothie)

My days in Amsterdam were quiet and easy.  My old college friend, Rogier, met me at the airport with his car.  Amsterdam is so calm and quiet.  Bicycles make hardly any noise.  No one honks their horns.  No one is yelling at the traffic often crowded with trams, bikes, cars, and people.  The worldwide economic crisis is really happening everywhere.  And we are fools to believe that European food is better or more organic than American.  Just like banks, huge global corporate food companies have no international borders.  There are pesticides and hormones and poor labeling practices all over the world, even in the idyllic pastoral landscapes of Western Europe.

hotel ag is still hanging around with me.  Hotel ag translates to “jet lag” if you are curious.  I am a better speller than this iPad that I am still learning how to use.  My sister is awesome in many ways, and letting me use her iPad is just one of them.  I’m tired, and want to write about wine tomorrow.  My tours of Boroli & Vietti were spot-on awesome.  I can’t wait to write about my experience.

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