che sfiga!

so this past weekend was supposed to be spent in lyon, france, but i was waylaid by the confusing, inefficient italian transport system (and my still faulty understanding of italian — not to mention italy). i had gone to one of bra’s travel agencies some six times to secure train tickets from torino, which proved no easy task. [can i mention here too that living in small town italy is great for your credit rating? it’s been a constant struggle to maintain some kind of equilibrium in my wallet, however, as you need cash for any kind of purchase, be it food, train tickets, or toilet paper.]

Finding decent not-exorbitant lodging in lyon was a bit of a pain as well, but i managed to make reservations on thursday. i took off from work early on friday and stopped at home to pack, thinking that 2.5 hrs was ample time to reach a city that’s only about 40 min. from bra by car. but no, i reach the bra train station and am informed that i have 2 minutes to get on the train to torino, but there are three trains there — which one? i hadn’t yet figured out how to make the “partenze” and “arrivi” schedules work for me, so while i ran around, asking strangers if they knew (no, no, and no) which, all three trains took off, at which point i began to get a sinking feeling. somewhat panicked, i was saved by a coworker who was able to drop me off at carmagnola, the one town in between bra and torino that’s good for making connections. i managed to get to torino with 30 minutes to spare, but of the three stations there, i was at the most remote, least helpful one, lingotto.

the train that should have gotten me to torino porta susa on time didn’t show, but a nice man helped me catch the next one, at which point i had 10 minutes before my train to lyon left, and the train, the nice man informed me, takes 10 minutes to go between lingotto and porta susa. he was still optimistic, however. that is, until the train stalled for 5 minutes when we were probably several hundred meters from the station. so i missed my train to lyon by 5 minutes. and had me a good cry in public.

all told, it took me 5 hours to get to torino and back.

my friends here, taking pity on me, helped me have a decent weekend anyhow. i got a ride to milano, and spent the day wandering about, dodging tourists, getting blisters on my feet. i did manage to get to one of the wonderful osterie listed in slow food’s guide. al pont de ferr (navigli neighborhood, ripa di porta ticinese) embodied everything one imagines an authentic osteria should be: dark wood, chatty local patronage, bottles and bottles of vino lining the walls. i had the squid ink pasta with mussels in a briny, sea-infused, parsleyed sauce (that was really just the mussels’ liquid and some olive oil, probably), and a hefty serving of baccal, or salt cod mashed with butter (and cream i think), accompanied by toast with a drizzle of olive oil. getting back to bra took 5 hours again, somehow (milan is about two hours away by car).

sunday we celebrated my friend sarah’s birthday with a 16-course lunch at an osteria in dogliani, one of the beautiful towns in piemonte’s wine region. now THIS is the italy i’d been hoping for, all verdant rolling hills and terraced vineyards. bellissima! took lots of pictures, but still haven’t found a way to put them up. anyway, back to lunch: highlights include a tuna pat; my favorite raw meat salad, garnished with chives and white truffles; plin, a traditional piedmontese filled pasta; a delicious frittata made with the san pietro herb (a very minty sage-like herb with a bitter kick); and a series of desserts that came in the middle (palate cleansers?), like fried amaretto cookies (as fucking good as it sounds) and prunes stewed in wine. then there were little spring lamb chops (delicious), beef filet (in a terrible, terribly burnt dolcetto sauce), great goat and cow-sheep cheeses, and macerated strawberries with gelato. oof.


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