The merits of a local guide

Today I was lucky enough to meet up with a friend of a friend to introduce me to Pisa. Despite the rain, I had an absolutely wonderful day. We met up for lunch, and she read through the menu and translated it for me, teaching me a variety of words along the way. She was very encouraging and patient with my attempts to speak Italian, and as a result I had a great time practicing with her. I learned:

  • Sono abstemia: I don’t drink [at all]; useful as a reply to the ubiquitous queries about wine with every meal.
  • Io prendo…: I’ll have (lit. “I take”), for ordering food.
  • orecciette is female and plural, so to order my pasta at lunch I said, “Io prego le orecciette con pesto e pomodoro” (with pesto and tomato).
  • Sono finita: I’m done/finished.
  • Euro is invariant. It is Euro in the singular and Euro in the plural (I’d been trying to figure out if I needed to say “3 Euri”).
  • The streets that parallel the Arno river both begin with Longarno because they go along the Arno.
  • sinistra, destra: left, right

After lunch, we went to a special cafe that serves panna, a local specialty that is a very thick whipped cream. I ordered a cioccolata con panna that was absolutely to die for. The hot chocolate was thick and rich and not-so-sweet and more the consistency of mud than water, and the panna sat on top and made for a heavenly cream experience.

We then met up with another friend and continued walking around the town (the Arno, outside the (closed) Botanical Garden, back to the Leaning Tower, etc.), getting lots of local tidbits not found in my guestbook. At the Tower, I glanced around and saw three different people simultaneously posing for the obligatory “I’m pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower” shot. Yes, they really do this!

I ordered dinner mostly in Italian (from the English menus we were given): Io prendo le pappadelle con… come si dice “rabbit”? The waiter said, “lepre,” then paused and called over a colleague, who launched into an explanation that the wild rabbit mentioned on the menu was a lepre but the tame form of the rabbit is a coniglio. “Ah, like coney!” I said. Turns out that the dictionary translates “lepre” as “hare”, so it’s possible that what I actually had was pasta with hare sauce. At any rate, it was a little gamey at first, but it definitely grew on me; I liked it! The waiter asked if I wanted cheese on it (in English). I’d been told at lunch by my local guide that Italians never refer to “cheese”, because that’s too generic; instead they refer to all cheeses by name. So I asked, “Quel tipo?” which I actually made up but turns out to be correct (I think), aside from me giving it the French pronunciation (“kel”) instead of the Italian (“kwel”). Live and learn. The waiter’s response was “Parmesan”, so I figure I successfully asked the question.

Back at my B&B, I composed what I think is my longest sentence in Italian to date: “Posso pagare per la mia camera?” (Can I pay for my room?) and took care of my bill. Time for bed now — we’re thinking of a trip to Florence tomorrow!

3 of 4 people learned something from this entry.

  1. Marcy said,

    December 14, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    I glanced around and saw three different people simultaneously posing for the obligatory “I’m pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower” shot

    And where’s yours? :]

  2. Elizabeth said,

    December 15, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    (Knew it already.)

    I’m so glad you’re having fun and learning fun new things. Isn’t the food divine?

    Just from one grammar geek to another, it is more correct to say “Ho finito,” (I have finished) not “sono finito” (I am finished). The difference in meaning is a little more acute in Italian than in English. In any case if you were using “essere,” you would have to say “sono finita” anyway because essere past-tense verbs must agree in gender with the noun. Spero che questo sia utile (hope this helps)!

    Buon viaggio and I can’t wait to see you Friday!

  3. wkiri said,

    December 16, 2008 at 4:25 am

    (Learned something new!)

    Thanks for the correction, Elizabeth! No doubt the error was mine and I misremembered what my local host had instructed. Ho finita!

    See you very soon! Ce vediamo!

  4. Vali said,

    December 28, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    Hello Kiri!

    You have to tell me more about your Italy adventures. It is so nice to read your story. I hope you are still speaking English!?

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