Natale and Cappodanno in Italia.

Earlier when I was in Rome, I’d met many great people. Through Pia, I had the pleasure of meeting Monica and Daniele.
Daniele and Monica

Over the course of many conversations, they asked what I planned to do in the future, and where I would be for Christmas. Daniele offered to take me in for Christmas, at the family home in Ascoli Piceno. When I was in Sicily, the thought of a Christmas alone was depressing, even if it was in a beautiful place. So I took Daniele up on his offer and took the train to Ascoli Piceno, not really knowing what to expect.

Everything exceeded my expectations. Daniele included me in all his activities, and I was welcomed into the family. Daniele and Fabrizio are the oldest two brothers (twins), and Faride and Samuele the younger two. Daniele speaks French, and Faride english, so they did the translating me when it was necessary. Since I’d now been in Italy for two months, I’d begun to pick up quite a few Italian words as well. The rest of the family spoke only Italian, so I tried to learn as much as I could when I was there.
D'Ottavio family home

On Christmas day, we had a family dinner. I kind of slipped in as the fifth son for a week. Mama couldn’t pronounce Jeremie, so I was Jerry for a week. She was happy that I ate so much, and I was happy that she fed me so much. It was a win-win situation.
My Italian mamma
She’s a great cook.

As usual, the food was great, and the company even better.
Christmas cake

That afternoon, we dropped by Valeria’s family home. I eventually found myself having my fortune read by a nice old lady with dyed red hair, faux fur scarf, and a beret reading my future to me.
Forturnes told
I’m not at liberty to reveal what she told me.

Most evenings, Daniele brought me out. We patronized the local bars in Ascoli, and I met a great deal of his friends. A particular memorable evening occurred christmas evening, where we went to the local bar “smog”. The evening started with a local punk band, and when that was done everyone moved upstairs for the febbre da cavallo or “horse races”.
Horse races

Apparently, the horse races are popular, as the place was packed shoulder to shoulder. A froth of people dancing, moshing, smoking, and drinking… made it feel like the old fox and firken in Calgary on a Monday night. Anybody remember that? It was hot enough in there, that there was condensation running down the walls, if you could make it out through the “smog”. Good times.
horse fever
Credits to Valeria for this photo.

I had the opportunity to see both Samuele and Daniele play the drums in their local bands.
Samuelle's concert
Samuele’s band.

Daniele's band
Daniele’s band.

A couple days after Christmas, the Samuele and Paride offered to take me out to Castelluccio, in the Umbria region in central Italy. The place has a high plane or a “piano alto” famous for lentils, and apparently paragliding. The town itself is very pretty, and there was a surprising amount of snow laying about.
Castelluccio di Norcia

The appenino
I had previously been thinking of riding the bike from Ascoli back to Rome, and this outing changed my mind. Central Italy was quite a bit colder than anticipated.

We then planned to head back to Rome for the new year. Rather than ride, we strapped my bike to Daniele’s car and drove back. It was a bit strange going back, as this is the only city in 7 months I’ve returned to. That night, we went out to a friends place for a meal. I noticed something peculiarly Italian. They don’t ask each other how their Christmas was, rather, what did they eat for Christmas! I was asked on several occasions what I ate, and I couldn’t recall everything.. the list is long. I did however eat a lot of these:
Oliva Ascolana
Olivio Ascolani. It’s a meaty olive that can either be cooking in oil, or baked. Particular only to that region.

New Years evening, we went to a friend of Pia’s. We hung out there for the evening and ate and drank. Apparently I drank a lot. I overheard a lot of fuss in the kitchen “who brought the whiskey?” It looks out of place with all the other wine…haha.. um yeah…. canadian tradition 🙂

So on the 4th of January, I finally bid Italy a fond farewell, and took the train to Ancona, and ferry to Igoumenitsa. I’m currently on Corfu, and will head for Patras, and Athens in the coming days.