Just as Layne and I were complaining vehemently about Tropea men not knowing how to properly treat women, we go out Saturday night and meet due fratelli (two brothers) who show us a good time and can teach these men around here a thing or two.
We met them at a restaurant when Paolo fell innamorato (in love) with me at first sight. Seriously. He couldn’t take his eyes off of me the entire time. Eventually his group, which included his fun brother Giampiero and a quieter friend, Carlo, joined me and Layne at our table. I followed as much of the conversation in Italian as I could and had Layne translate every so often. Giampiero wanted to practice his English but I said no. I need to practice my Italian more so let me tough it out. We drank wine and grappa and danced (my friends know that I do NOT dance so this was huge), at one point joining arms and jumping up and down in a circle. If only I had a photo of that!
And we cheered on Paolo when he took the mic to sing.
When I went to the toilet, Paolo told Layne that he was in love with me. It was quite apparent.
Then we hit another spot for more wine and conversation. I learned to make sure I enunciate well after accidentally dropping the “d” when I said ho ordinato (I ordered) and it came out ho orinato, which means “I peed,” and caused both Giampiero and Paolo to quickly correct me in unison. I remembered years ago when I started studying Italian and I made a similar mistake in school when I tried to say to the class that every afternoon I take un pisolino (a nap) but instead I said every afternoon I take a little penis. I thought about sharing this with the guys but decided against it. Finally around 3:30 a .m., the trio walked Layne and I to our door. We made plans to get together the next morning.
The boys, who conveniently were staying at a bed and breakfast right across the street, were to come to our place to cook lunch before they returned to their respective cities. Giampiero, who boasted of his cooking skills, said he would buy the food and we didn’t have to worry about anything. Sounded easy enough. But nothing is ever easy in Italia.
Paolo showed up alone at the appointed time. I was still getting dressed and Layne said something about him going to get the other two and then we were going out for lunch, which was fine with us. Then all three return with a Nespresso machine in a box that had never been opened and we had espresso. Giampiero opened the kitchen cabinets to check out the cookware and deemed the pots and pans adequate enough for him to make us a meal. The next thing I know, we’re all leaving. Layne and I weren’t really sure where we were going. Wasn’t somebody supposed to be cooking for us? Even Lucy was confused. She was in the kitchen with the five of us, hoping some food would drop on the floor. But there was nothing but espresso. The trio talked about getting tartufo (truffle) pizza and we said yes, great! There was more confusion on the street. Layne and I thought we were walking to a pizzeria in Tropea but then there was talk about whether I would fit in Paolo’s car. (My height was a never-ending joke which got on my nerves but I kept smiling.) Okay, this meant we were driving somewhere. Somehow the five of us crammed into the Audi and off we went. Where to? I didn’t have the slightest idea.
Our first stop was at a fruit and vegetable stand a few blocks away and only Giampiero exited the car. Huh? I’m thinking we could have walked here. I wondered if Layne was as clueless as me. After all, her Italian is great and I’m figuring she picked up on something that I didn’t so I was fine to go along for the ride. Paolo, who drove, and me, who rode shotgun, munched on delicious dried tomatoes and bananas that Giampiero bought, still not knowing where we were going. I just knew I needed food because I had skipped breakfast in order to get my beauty sleep. Giampiero, a true Alpha male with an engaging personality, was soooo much fun that it didn’t matter where we went. As long as we ate at some point. I was getting to know Paolo with my bad Italian and Giampiero entertained Layne, whose language skills I envy. Paolo learned English when he was in school but hasn’t spoken it in a long time. Giampiero is studying English again and loves practicing. For me, it’s frustrating having to concentrate so hard to speak. (Yeah, I guess I could go to school here and I MIGHT next week but I’m on vacanze!) I tuned out the conversation when Jay-Z’s and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind came on in the car.
By the time we ended up in a crumbling yet charming town called Pizzo about 30 minutes away Layne was nauseous from sitting in the back seat scrunched between two grown men with little air. Windy roads, espresso on an empty stomach and a backseat apparently don’t work well for her. But once we got out of the car, her head cleared and she asked me what’s going on. Neither of us knew but we figured we would have lunch. She said she told the guys to leave us at the piazza after lunch (really so we could continue to drink wine without them knowing how much we drink) and take Carlo, who had an early flight, to the airport, then to come back and get us. And that way there would be more room in the car. But Paolo couldn’t bear to leave me. (Can you blame him???) Giampiero had made phone calls but we were still basically clueless as to the plan.
We climbed stairs, walked past apartments with laundry hanging from windows and flower boxes overflowing with colorful fiori before ending up in a piazza with a lookout point over a beautiful body of water.
A cousin came to the piazza and Paolo, introduced me as his fidanzata (girlfriend). Layne and I assumed there was still tartufo pizza somewhere in the plans but we sat down at a gelateria, where I ate tartufo gelato, which was quite good.
Now we understood. The cousin was there to take Carlo to the airport. That left the four of us, who trudged back to Paolo’s car and discussed what we were going to do. I’m thinking finally we’re going to have the tartufo pizza they’ve been talking about. But no. Instead we feast on a delicious seafood meal and drink wine on the terrace of a restaurant overlooking blue and green waters.
I had filled up on the big bowl of ice cream and the banana so for once in my life I wasn’t that hungry. I even begged off pasta after eating two seafood dishes first. And after I warned Paolo that I eat A LOT. (I think he was scared but better to prepare him first than shock him later.)
During lunch Paolo asked if I’d like to come home and meet his mama and of course me, playing along, replied si. (Mothers always love me. It’s the sons who don’t for some odd reason.) He called his mama from his mobile and told her about me, that I’m as tall as he is and have curly hair. That’s as much as I picked up though I’m sure he must have used the word bella. Suddenly he handed me the phone for me to talk to my soon-to-be mother-in-law. I quickly corrected myself when I spoke to her, going from the informal to the formal. I told her she has raised two fine sons, which she appreciated. She giggled like a schoolgirl (I think she was a teacher) as we try to communicated and then she passed the phone to her youngest son, Dino, whom I chatted with for a moment before I gave the phone back to Paolo. Now la famiglia knows about me – the father died last October – and by now I’m sweating from the sun beating down on us and my nervousness. We move out of the sun but still enjoy the view.
As it turned out, I didn’t go home with Paolo, an attorney with no kids or a girlfriend, to meet his mother Sunday night. He drove back to Tropea, dropped me and Layne off, then took his brother Giampiero, who lives in Rome, to the airport.
By the next day, it seemed like every man in Tropea knew we hung out with other men. One of Layne’s more athletic admirers was quite hurt and questioned Layne as to why she would rather go out with a big guy than him while another seemed relieved to hear that it was Paolo who was innamorato with me. (Both Layne and I absolutely adore Giampiero, who too bad for Layne is married because they both live in Rome, and we would take him and his extra pounds over a chiseled sex-starved jerk any day. For the record, Giampiero was a perfect gentleman.)
Meanwhile, Paolo, also a perfect gentleman who lives 120 kilometers away from Tropea, said his mother asked how come I didn’t come for dinner and when will she meet me. We chatted on Skype and I told him I had just talked to my brother. He wanted to know if I had told Kevin about him yet. Well, not just yet, I said. Will I go home with him and meet la mama? We’ll see. If I do, I have to make sure I know the word “nap” from “little penis” and “order” from “pee.”