Tales from the Road 17

Tuesday 31st August 2010.


View from our balcony
View from our balcony

I got up early yesterday morning and after posting my blogs, I was hungry for breakfast but we had no food :-(. Never mind, I’d go out into the wide world. So I headed down the street.

We’re not in the centre of Torino, we’re in the suburbs. The street we’re staying on is made up of houses with two, three or four apartments in them and then there are some apartment blocks. There are four apartments in this house with a communal entrance hall, where the bike is. We’re on the third floor, again:) It’s a very manly (!) apartment – marble floors and no comfy cushions! But it has air conditioning (joy oh joy) and a washing machine which I can tell you is very useful after hand washing every day for 10 days! And something I don’t appreciate enough at home – lots and lots of huge towels!

About a ten minute walk away there is the Metro station and a cinema, a cafe or two and restaurants and a Holiday Inn hotel. When we went for our pizza on Sunday night we didn’t see any supermarkets or mini-markets, so I wasn’t really sure if I’d find food! But of course, I did.

I was inside the door of a small grocery shop before I realised I couldn’t just pick up what I wanted, I had to ask for it because this was a tiny over the counter kind of shop.

Well, if you’ve been following my language fluency situation you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m not fluent in Italian. I didn’t do it in school or college or as a night class. I’ve seen some sub-titled Italian movies at the Mermaid (cinema), so I know how to say hello, Bon Journo; thank you, Gratze (by the way I don’t know how to spell any of these!); okay, prego; please, per favor; yes, si.

There was a lady serving or chatting with (how would I know which?) another woman as I arrived. Great, time to spot the things I need to point to, but no they stopped everything to welcome me, “Bon Journo!” they both said in anticipation of my needs. So I smiled and went “ah, bon journo (you know in that whispered way you use when you’re not sure what you’re saying?)”, and at the same time spotted bread and pointed and said “du pain”. Oh my God no, now I’m using French, where was it in France! But it’s ok the shop lady says “panne” so I say “si, panne” and smile, a lot, really a lot. And she smiled too, okay… this is fine, we’re connecting.

While I’m on a roll I decide to look around and spot the fridge, it’s on my side of the counter and I point to some milk. So she says “latte”, I forgot I knew that word too! But there are three different coloured cartons and I wanted low-fat. (If you’re wondering why I care what type of milk I get when I may screw this up and get no milk, I am asking myself the same question! But at the time I wanted low-fat milk…) I searched the writing on the cartons for anything to do with fat or cream, but nothing. By now the friend and the shopkeeper and I are standing around looking into the open door of the fridge. I’m searching for a way to communicate my request for low-fat milk.

For those males reading this you will be at a disadvantage to use this little tip I’m about to give you but all females have this in their armour.

I pinched a section of my (now ample, with all the great food) midriff and shook my head while saying “no”. Well, you’d have thought we were friends for life, the laughing, the touching of arms (in a friendly gesture!), the smiling, the meaningful nods, the Italian words (no clue…). There was connection happening here and it looked like I was going to get milk!

And the rest was easy. Each time I would point to something the shopkeeper lady would pick it down or her friend would say the word and like a pupil in school I would repeat it and they would look proudly at me smiling all the time. It was a truly joyous experience! Finally, I was done and I said “gratze, gratze, gratze” and again they smiled and said “multo gratze” and I repeated that “multo gratze”. When I left that shop there were three smiling people and I don’t think I’m being too boastful in saying I think I made an impact!

(I’m so sorry I didn’t get a picture of us three friends but here’s the food!)

Food from my new friend's shop!
Food from my new friend’s shop!