Day 4: Feeling More at Home


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Europe » Italy » Aosta Valley » Aosta
June 24th 2011
Published: June 24th 2011
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Friday, July 24, 2011

Anti-Starbucks Coffee, Per Favore
This morning’s breakfast was as fantastic as yesterday’s, with one exception. I decided to try out a piece of cheese. It was soft, possibly brie. As soon as I put it in my mouth I realized my mistake. It tasted like feet. In America, with our proud cheddars and even prouder processed cheeses, our pallets have not adapted to the variety of cheese available. Even so, I could not bring myself to eat another bite of feet-cheese. The good news was that my hostess made me a cappuccino, which was so much richer than anything I’d experienced from an American coffee bar. It became very clear why there are no Starbucks in Italy – coffee here is superior. It’s rich, thick, and full, versus our “fast food” coffee, which is weak and often burnt.

A Better Start
I left my room well before lunch time and trotted around town some more. Realistically, the town’s sites can be covered in just a day. But my resolve had a weak start and two days seemed like a good pace for me. The Alps and Mont Blanc would still be there on a return
Cathedral Exterior ArtCathedral Exterior ArtCathedral Exterior Art

Last Supper art always makes me hungry.
trip.

Wandering somewhat aimlessly, I found the Archaeological Museum. It was supposed to be free and have plenty of findings from excavations. Alas, it was closed, which was the only part in the many sentences quoted to me by the museum staff which I understood. Nearby was the cathedral, which dates to 1200 or so, was more ornate on the exterior than St. Orso. Inside, it had some medieval art, but not nearly the quantity as the other church. The cathedral was located next to the old Roman forum, whose pile of stone rubble was not extremely distinguishable, so I took the sign post at its word. The cryptoporticus (basement) was very cool – and free with English brochures. It’s an underground cavern with two big hallways separated by many, many archways. I pretended not to see the “no photo” signs. I enjoyed seeing the ancient construction up close. The material used did not appear uniform throughout the cavern, but all the dimensions were exact.

On my way back to the town center, I was stopped by someone appearing to try and get people to register to vote or sign a petition or something. She addressed me and began speaking very quickly, in the typical sales pitch manner. I shrugged, “Solo inglese, mi dispiaci.” “OK. Sorry, bye,” was her reply. I didn’t think I looked local, but I took it as a compliment.

Lunch and Siesta
I walked the main pedestrian street building up the courage to find a place to eat. I chickened out and found a pizzeria and got my food to go. But – I made contact and I was fed. The pizza slice was square, which made it easy to eat on the go. The crust was thick and tasted better than any pizza dough I’ve ever had. Toppings were simple; a bit of red sauce, cheese, and real pepperoni. I think it’s called something else here (order pepperoni and you get peppers), but it was all the same to me. After lunch, I napped to pass the time until the hottest part of the day was over.

Courage Under Hunger
I was lucky to catch my Mother online in my afternoon/her morning, and we video chatted for a bit. After that I was hungry, but not quite ready to face the inevitable. I stalled and read my book. Finally, when the Sun began to dip below the western mountains, my stomach spoke for me. As I strolled down the main pedestrian street, I casually people watched. The restaurants and cafes were full of people dining, drinking and talking, creating a buzz-sound through the whole street. And this was at 8pm at night. In Seattle, you should be fed by 7pm and back in your own home before the bums and weirdos claim the streets. Here, the piazza is everyone’s living room, the streets are clean, and it’s perfectly safe to be out late.

Not feeling hungry enough for a huge dish of pasta, I settled on gelato. This is not a deviation from my normal diet, where a Dairy Queen Blizzard would sometimes suffice as dinner. I used small words and correct (enough) pronunciation and got exactly what I wanted. Coconut gelato, my favorite. I continued my stroll and ended up on the south end of town at the old city wall.

Aosta is divided into two parts, the city center, located within the still existing wall, and the new part of town. My hotel is in the center, where almost all roads are traffic free. The wall’s construction was interesting to me – river rock cemented together, with higher quality stone on the outside. I followed the wall and came across a couple towers, partly crumbling. It seems like all the ancient structures were weathered down, and not deconstructed like in so many other places; I attribute this to the sturdiness of Roman construction.

Random Note
Italian fruit is so much better than anything I’ve had at home. Fresh picked, ripe, juicy. The oranges especially are fantastic. Alas, I don’t think I’ll ever look at month-old fruit from the grocery store the same.


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Pedestrian StreetPedestrian Street
Pedestrian Street

Quiet before the lunch rush


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