Temple Rome Tracy Huang

Under the Umbrian Sun

I have just returned from the most incredible weekend of my life.  And it was with my two friends from Duke, Katie and Marie, and five fifty-year-old women.  We spent three days in a villa in Paciano (a small town in Umbria) immersing ourselves in the Italian values of food, wine, relaxation, and family.

Now, how did three twenty-year old girls come about spending their weekend with five fifty-year-old women? Well, coincidentally, Marie’s mother was renting a villa in Umbira the same time that Professor Aldo Patania had planned Temple’s trip to Umbria.  So after Katie, Marie, and I participated in the olive oil and wine tours, we met up with Marie’s mother who then drove us to the villa.

View of the Umbrian valley from the villa.

The first night, we all enjoyed an apertivo of wine, cheese, crackers, prosciutto, and figs while watching the sunset from our fresco dining area.  Then, we walked to a local restaurant in which we ordered about ten different dishes and enjoyed them tapas style—all while sipping on Umbrian red wine, of course.  My stomach was so full I doubted if I could walk back up the hill to the villa!

The next morning, I slept until 11:30 AM.  Had my morning cappuccino at 1 PM—the Paciano bartender gave me a weird look, but hey, I had just woken up!  Coming back to the villa, the “older girls” prepared a picnic lunch while Marie, Katie, and I tried to help.  I ate to my heart’s content under the warm Umbrian sun.

Picnic at the villa on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Finishing the lunch around 4 PM, the three of us Duke girls lounged around the pool chatting as we waited for our driver to pick us up at 7:15 PM for dinner.  Yes, we were eating again.  And yes, I had a snack with wine in those three hours by the pool.

Escorted to Chiusi by our friendly taxi driver Leonardo, who gave us a bottle of wine because a couple of the women with us had tipped him too much on the drive from the train station to the villa, he gave us a quick tour of the ancient Etruscan walled town.  Leonardo leading eight American women around a small Italian town was certainly an entertaining sight.

The best part of the informal tour was when he took us to Ristorante Zaira.  We did not eat at this establishment, but Leonardo instead revealed to us Zaira’s underground wine cellar.  The restaurant rests on an Etruscan cave filled with over 20,000 bottles of wine aged 50+ years.  It was incredible.  The rest of the stay was just as relaxing and delicious as the first half, but the Etruscan cave turned underground wine cellar was an unforgettable experience.  It definitely pays to make local friends!

Wine on wine on wine.

This weekend, I felt like I became a true Italian.  I embraced small-town life, ate the freshest ingredients, bought groceries in Italian from boutique stores, ordered food in Italian, and asked for directions in Italian.  Seems my three weeks of Italian 1 class has gotten me very far!  The greatest compliment I have received is being answered in Italian when I ask a question.  However, Italians speak so fast so I have a hard time understanding what they are saying.  In the end, we try to find a common ground with broken Italian and English, but it is still fun to pretend for a little while that I am fluent.  Language acquisition is coming rather quickly for me since I practice it so much; thus, I definitely plan on hunting down the Italians at Duke so that I can keep up this beautiful language when I return to the States!

I love experiencing Italy the slow, relaxed way.  Katie, Marie, and I are already planning our return.  In fact, being with these five women, who are so vivacious and strong, has forced me to think a lot about the future.  I can only hope that, thirty years later, I will be as fabulous as they are!

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