Some of you may know and some of you may not… I have embarked upon an Italian adventure. After spending eight months in London, in the heart of my family, it was time to spread my wings again and do the thing I was always too scared to do. Travel. Alone. I think, like most people, I am capable of more than I realise. Virtually all of us have a strength inside us which we rarely test, it lies there waiting for the day it is called upon. And yesterday I knocked at the door of my strength and asked if I could come inside. This may be verging on cloyingly sentimental and philosophical but if I am going to share this journey with you all, I should start with absolute honesty.
Yesterday was my first proper day in Monforte D’Alba. It was a beautiful day, I had the pleasure of experiencing Italian hospitality firsthand, this hospitality basically means that you cannot enter someone’s house without being offered a plethora of food and drink and you are certainly not allowed to leave until you have consumed large quantities of said food and drink. My friends who I am staying with not only were generous enough to introduce me to all their friends but also took me to a fantastic restaurant in Verduno.
Trattoria dai Bercau offers a 9 course degustation menu and that is all. You do not go there for a quick feed, you go to be with family and friends and enjoy the bounty of the region. We arrived at 12:30 and left at 17:00. Now, this is not the kind of degustation that might spring to mind, there is no fancy pants fine dining malarkey, it is good, honest country food and lots of it. They bring plates of food to the table and serve you as much or as little as you like. After four different generous antipasti, all brought out one course at a time (you need to pace yourself), we then moved onto primo, the first course, of which there are two, obviously! So, I opted out of the ravioli course but relished the tender rice of the saffron and asparagus risotto. Thankfully, the food started taking its time to appear at the table. After a brief respite, the meat courses were being introduced, secondo. They come to the table with sliced meat and you say how many pieces you would like and you get a little of the cooking juices poured over the top and that is it, no vegetable sides, just meat. I rather enjoyed this concept, as you get to truly appreciate each ingredient. We had two meat courses, one of milk fed spring lamb ribs, which were delicious but more bone than meat and one of turkey. Turkey is far from a favourite of mine, it usually brings forth memories of dry, overcooked breast meat but this ‘tacchino’ was rich, moist and full of flavour, the best turkey I have ever eaten. All of these delights were finished off with a light, fluffy goats milk panna cotta and a delicious cup of coffee.
After what was a spectacular day, I looked out over the stunning mountains, with the small Italian towns nestled in the foreground as the sun set behind the church and; I had a wobble. Ridiculous I know, but something about staring out at the vastness of it all, seemed to compound every fear I have ever had about this trip and more besides. What if I don’t like it? What if I break my leg and there’s no-one to pick me up? What if I can’t find work? What if I freak out and want to go home? Home being the ultimate ambiguous concept, I currently have no home so where does that leave me? Some time later, when I had run every negative question possible through my brain, things became a little clearer, things became a little less terrifying and it dawned on me… I have nothing to risk and everything to gain. When you are building a life or at least an adventure from the ground up, anything is possible and I am absolutely in charge of this adventure. I think we are all prone to a wobble every now and then, but the important thing is to pick yourself up, put two feet firmly on the ground and know that the road WILL rise up to meet you.
Once the fear started to melt away, I remembered that I am blessed to be in this position, I am blessed to have freedom and I am blessed to have family and friends whom I love very much. I might not have the security of a home but am safe in the knowledge that no matter how far I travel, I carry the people I love in my heart.