At some point surely I will stop saying and thinking “What a day!” but I suppose these first few weeks will be filled with new experiences and I will be forgiven for my enthusiasm.

Last week I was accompanied by one of the teachers to venture into the Porta Romana neighborhood (where we are looking as a possible spot to live) and to shop for shoes (desperately needed after my sandal broke on my solo odyssey around Milano before I met up with the teachers- see ” Nuns, Tourists and Models” entry). A few things I learned at the various spots :

  • Many of the nicer restaurants have specials for lunch during the work week, with a fixed price, multiple courses (with several choices within each course), wine and coffee.  The price range is around 12 to 15 euros, and it’s an understatement to say the food rivaled the best meals I’ve had.  We went to a favorite restaurant of several of the teachers in the Porta Romana area (and one of three restaurants nearby owned by the same family).
  • The restaurant we went to for lunch was at Giulio pane e ojo.  Via L. Muratori, 10.  It’s a traditional Roman osteria.   I’m afraid I will now be spoiled for life.  For 12 euros, I had tortiglioni cacio e pepe, stinco di maiale al vino rosso, rosso vino, e caffè.  That’s an incredible pasta with butter, cheese and pepper, a huge pork shank in red wine with potatoes, 1/4 bottle of good red wine, and of course a delicious coffee, with a touch of milk.  The other choices for the first course (selections change daily, of course) was a puttanesca or another pasta dish.  Alternate second course choices included a soup with calamari, tomatoes and basil, or a sausage.  I ate with several teachers who live in the area, enjoying the delicious food and atmosphere for no less than 2 hours.
  • Dogs are welcome virtually everywhere, big or small, but they are well behaved.  They are taught at an early age not to bark or to run around because most people live in small apartments.
  • A drink before dinner at a different spot is common.  Many places have a set price (reasonable) for the first drink which often includes a large spread of heavy appetizers.  Second drink is more expensive.  It feels designed to get you in for that first drink, in hopes that you will stay for more.  I think it works!  We had drinks at another favorite spot of our hosts, but this one did not have the big spread of food to accompany the drink, thank goodness for me:  Un Posto A Milano. .  We sat outside enjoying the sun and the garden of fresh herbs.  After an hour, it was time to head to dinner.
  • Dinner was at a second restaurant owned by the same family where we had lunch.  To give you a feel for how good this restaurant is, one of last year’s new teachers told me that his uncle is a frequent business traveler to Europe.  He had business in Switzerland and said he would take a train down to Milan to see his nephew (Switzerland is a mere hour or more by train from here!) and take him to his favorite restaurant in Milan.  Lo and behold, it was this restaurant where the school took the entering class of teachers on the first Friday of orientation week.  That certainly impressed his uncle and me!  There were about 35 of us in the group of 2 long tables, getting ever louder as the evening wore on.  The head of the school and other senior administrators of the school joined us, and it was heartwarming, welcoming and festive.  There was a toast to the new class and people played musical chairs sitting in different spots to talk to different people.  I sat next to the boyfriend of one of the new teachers- he’s Florentine and speaks mostly Italian, but of course he speaks a heck of a lot more English than I speak Italian. I did my best to communicate with him.  He was a gentleman to the core- my water and wine glasses barely dipped halfway down before he would give me another pour. One thing I learned from him- he said that in Milan they use more butter in their dishes, while in Florence they use more olive oil.  We had 5 courses- the first was a traditional dish made from day old bread and I don’t really know what else. I forgot the name, but it looked like a tuna tartare piled up.  Second dish was cheese and salami/proscuitto.  Third was the most delicious risotto I’ve ever had, with small pieces of ground sausage and copious amounts of parmesan cheese throughout.  I could have stopped there.  There was more food than one could ever imagine.  Fourth course was a meat- I had a delicious beef dish that tasted like it had been cooking all day. Others had a vegetarian dish or a pork shank.  Last was dessert consisting of plates of a chocolate tart, a tart with raspberry jam on top, or something with cinnamon and a fruit.  I could barely eat anything else, so I stopped after a sample of the chocolate tart.  We were at the restaurant for 3 1/2 hours.  There’s no hurrying these delicious meals.  How can we top this day of incredible food?  I’m guessing this will be a common refrain.  I am thankful for a wonderful day!
  • The next week we went to another nice place for aperitivos and drinks: Un Posto Incredibile .
  • Un Posto Incredibile is a public bath area by day (right in the middle of Porta Romana, surrounded by apartments), and a nice place to have drinks by night.  It was a beautiful evening and it reminded me of pool parties at the end of the summer in the south.  The sunset was terrific and the drinks were refreshing.  I’m enjoying the apersol spritz drinks that are common. All is well.