Down and Out in Denver

Blake in Italia

Posted in fashion, food, gays, travel, wine by Blake on June 12, 2010

View of the Ponte Vecchio from the Uffizi Gallery, Firenze

Forgive my silence of late (not that you’ve probably noticed, Alastair has been so busy in his postings), but I have been abroad.  In Italy, to be specific, with mi famiglia (that is about the extent of my Italian).  La famiglia di Blake rented a house on a working vineyard in the hills northeast of Siena (courtesy of la mamma di Blake).  We spent a couple nights in Firenze and then rented a car and drove south. When we arrived at what we had somewhat facetiously been calling “the villa,” we realized the description was not far off.  It was a house on the property of an actual eighteenth-century villa.  We were met by the scion of the wine-making family, who acted as caretaker for the rental properties. Pietro came in from a nearby field he had been tending, and, dear reader, he was seriously cute.  He was also a former semi-professional tennis player. Were I a heterosexual teenage girl, this would have all the makings of a summer blockbuster starting Amanda Seyfried. We would have had a romance complete with moonlit chases in fields of grapes and chaste makeout sessions in abandoned medieval castellos on winding lanes.  It would have ended in heartache when I returned stateside, but then Pietro would have…  I digress.  Instead let me share some of my observations on the pluses and minuses of Italia.

The pluses:

1. Gelato.  In all of its many wonderful flavors.  My two favorites — which, I kid you not, I consumed every single day — are caffè and cioccolato.

2. Wine.  As I believe I mentioned, we were staying on a working vineyard and while we consumed plenty of wine just about every time we ate (including lunches), we also got a tour of the vineyard and a private wine-tasting with Pietro’s older brother, Alessandro, who heads up the vineyard.  Though it is purely coincidental to Alastair’s recent post on the wonders of the rosé, I brought back a bottle of the very stuff that I look forward to sharing with him soon.

3. Wine, part due.  We mostly drank red — we were in Chianti, after all — but ordering a glass of house white in Italia you can be almost guaranteed you will not be served a dreaded, oaky, buttery California chardonnay.  It’s pinot grigio and soave and orvieto all the way.

4. Acqua gassata.  I hate water.  I need flavor or carbonation to drink the stuff.  And so I love that at all restaurants in Italy you are automatically given the choice of acqua naturale OR gassata.

One of the tamer moccasins at Maledetti Toscani

5. Footwear.  The shoes are gorgeous.  From the moment we landed at Roma’s Fiumicino airport, I knew I was in a different land because people were just so well shod.  The leather!  The stitching! The colors!  The shapes!  Women and men, boys and girls.  I picked up two hand-stitched pairs in a shop in Montelpulciano called Maledetti Toscani.  Check out their men’s selection here.

6. Eyewear.  Ditto above (minus the leather and the stitching).  The colors!  The shapes!  Italians just are not constrained by trying to blend in and the men especially don’t seem to be super concerned with appearing masculine so they take chances that straight American men would see as “gay.”

7. Which brings me to my final point.  Italian men wear clothes that fit.  And while some of them are tight (even overly so at times), this is not my real point.  They buy clothes in their actual sizes, not in the American straight man’s baggy large and extra-large.  This is bad in one way because one of the American homosexual male’s tried and true methods for identifying his brethren is to look at the fit of clothing and Italian men (like many of Europeans) are thus confusing.  But it is good for two even more important reasons: (a) it is so easy to find clothes that actually fit!  Stores there have real size small and even the equivalent of an extra small.  (b) Italian men look good in their fitting clothes!


1. The bread was surprisingly awful.  Dry, tasteless, floury.  As my mother remarked at one dinner, “And they’re  really not that far from France, you’d think they could figure it out.”  Indeed.

2. The showers (or lack thereof).  Many European homes still insist on those cumbersome bathtubs with handheld shower heads that you have to manipulate yourself while trying not to flood the whole room.

That might be it.  And when you’ve got a view like this one to come home to every night, complaints seem foolish:

View from the porch


12 Responses

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  1. squadratomagico said, on June 13, 2010 at 7:37 am

    I’m surprised about the tasteless bread. I really enjoy a god Tuscan casarecchia — a round loaf with a very thick, often slightly burned crust and lots of air gaps inside. It’s not at all like a French bread though — very rustic. But it’s excellent for bruschetta, or with cheese.

    Glad you enjoyed your trip!

    • Blake said, on June 13, 2010 at 10:11 am

      I’m pretty sure we had exactly that kind of bread a number of times (though I definitely didn’t know it was called that — thanks!) and it was just kind of dry and tasteless. I did have one very good bruschetta that I think was made with that.

  2. ej said, on June 13, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Will comment once I have regained my ability to speak. Right now, I am too overcome by envy to formulate a reply!

  3. BSG said, on June 13, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Like EJ, choking on my envy. Can I please teleport to that porch and enjoy the view, just for a moment?

  4. Historiann said, on June 13, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Re: your bread complaints. I wonder if Blake was desperately missing the salt? Tuscan bread of the kind that Sq. mentions is famously unsalted. That might account for its lack of taste, which is easily remedied with a little sprinkle atop your buttered or oiled slice.

    Funny comments on how men’s clothes fit. I think it also has to do with the fact that there are a lot of American men whose physiques are better off covered with non-form fitting clothing!

  5. squadratomagico said, on June 13, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I think the reason casarecchia has no salt is because it’s made with a small amount of live sourdough culture, instead of yeast, and then left to rise very slowly for a couple of days. Salt inhibits any kind of dough rising or fermentation, so it’s left out, especially since only a little bit of starter is used. The large air gaps inside are due to this particular long-term rising process. Then it’s cooked fast in a brick oven. I happen to love this type of bread.

    • Historiann said, on June 14, 2010 at 7:45 am

      Sq.–I’m sure you’re right. I liked the bread, too, but reapplied the salt! It was good for eating with the antipasti plate ‘o charcuterie (or whatever they call it in Italy–I forget) that my husband and I loved, and that I’m sure Blake loved too.

      Did either of you try the lardo di colonatta? That’s the cured stripe of lard that looks like a reverse slice of raw bacon (mostly fat, instead of mostly meat).

  6. Blake said, on June 14, 2010 at 8:42 am

    I did not try the lardo di colonatta, though we did have lots of other meat.

  7. Alastair said, on June 15, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Really, Blake? Really that view, those shoes… REALLY? Where are the photos of Pietro? He sounds dreamy…

    Sounds like an amazing time and looking forward to sharing that bottle of rosé with you.

    • Blake said, on June 15, 2010 at 9:26 am

      Alas, no photos of Pietro. I think he would have found that a little strange….

      And yes, the shoes, too, are pretty nice.

  8. Wills said, on June 15, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    In re: Pietro. Pics or didn’t happen.

    • Blake said, on June 15, 2010 at 1:01 pm

      You have a point, but it’s not like I’m claiming that anything actually happened, I’m just saying he existed. And what do I have to gain by that?

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