Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cappuccino Porta Via (To Go)

It is half past 1:00 am, and my hands are shaking with excitement. I think to myself, "If I don't have a cappuccino now, I will have lost the opportunity to experience two of the greatest things in the world at the same exact time." Of course this means I will breaking two of the Italian golden rules: ordering a coffee after 10 am (though maybe it's before 10 am in this case), and ordering it to go...but with an epic sight like this, I don't think rules need to be adhered to.

Walking home from a night out with my friends, I stop and take a moment to indulge everything that is around me…the closed coffee shops, the bars, the cobblestone…but nothing is more magnificent than the Duomo which stands like a castle in front of me. Nothing is more breathtaking than this sight, this epic sight.

And so I stop, and I ponder, “What would make this moment even better?” “Oh my god. A cappuccino.” So I search. I walk around the square and see that nothing is open. I walk to the shop across from school, and they tell me that the cappuccino machine has been turned off for the night. I frown, and the barista’s face drops…gosh I love Italian expressions…he genuinely feels bad for me and says sorry a million times over. “It’s okay,” I say, “Niente”(no problem). I walk out of the coffee shop, slowly worried that I will not find my midnight cup of Joe. I tear up a little bit thinking about how much my moment in front of the Duomo would be intensified with just a cappuccino—it didn’t have to even be the best cappuccino in the world—it just had to be simple foamy covered shot of espresso.

And then from across the Piazza Del Repubblica. I saw a shop that was still open, and so I hurried along. Once inside, I crossed my fingers behind my back , approached the register and said “Forse…Prendo un cappuccino porta via per favore,” (Maybe… Can I take a cappuccino to go please?) The man behind the register pointed at the barista who was clearly polishing the Danish window. “Si si,” said the barista at the window, and he scurried behind the counter, a bit confused. A few moments later, I had my cappuccino in hand…and I was standing in front of the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. I was walking around it. I was admiring it. I was sipping my cappuccino. I was licking my lips which each gulp. I was living out one of the most monumental moments since I had been here. I was indulging in two wonderful things at once. I wasn’t in any rush, and I wasn’t thinking about anything else. I was truly enjoying the simple things in life--I was truly living.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Dove Vai?" (Where are you going?)

“Dove Vai?” Roberto’s words echo in my head as I order a cappuccino at Caffe Giacosa—or anywhere that isn’t the Jolly Café, for that matter.

Just a week ago, Roberto beckoned me to as I was hurrying past his shop with groceries and toilet paper in hand. “A la mia casa,” I responded. (To my home). He reached out his hand and touched my nose, smiling. Domani? (Tomorrow) Yes, domani.

But I didn’t return to the Jolly Café the next day…or the day after that…or the next five days after that. I didn’t return to the Jolly Café until today, a week later. As I walked into Roberto’s shop bright and early this morning, I noticed that he appeared sad.

‘He knows that I have been cheating on him with other coffee baristas,’ I thought to myself. ‘He is angry with me.’ ‘He doesn’t want to talk to me…’ “He doesn’t want to make me a cappuccino.’ I suddenly felt as though I had committed a horrible crime by going off to other coffee shops. I began to ask myself if there was a law in Italy that said once your barista knows your order by heart, you aren’t allowed to go anywhere else. I began to wonder if I was a felon.

I suddenly felt like I should tell Roberto all about the cappuccinos at the other coffee shops, how the foam was really fluffy at Caffe Giacosa, and how the temperature of the espresso shot in my cappuccino in San Marco Square was simply just perfect. But I refrained. All Roberto needs to know is that I only have the best conversations with his cups of coffee…I only truly love him, not my other baristas. Because he still loves me back even when I don’t spend every day standing at his bar.

In hopes to break a smile out of the somber looking Roberto, today, I told him that I liked his sweater. It was tan and simple. It was the first time I had seen him in something other than the blue sweater I had seen him in on the first day. My plot worked, and Roberto smiled, a big, wide, glowing, grin. I smiled back saying “va bene!”

Suddenly, the week without seeing me seemed to leave his mind as he began asking me to describe my family. He corrected my Italian and applauded me when I said something correctly. ‘He really cares about me,’ I thought.

I then asked him about his family and his son who works at the bar. He joked with me that I should date his son, and I laughed. When I went to leave, he smiled, and we shared a moment. Roberto is smart, caring, and wonderful. And as I’ve said—he understands my love for cappuccino better than anyone else I have met. He understands my love for cappuccino enough to let me go experience all the cappuccino in the world…he understands my love enough to let me go. And he knows I’ll always come back.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Un Momento Perfetto (A perfect moment)

“This is so good,” I whisper under my breath.

The coffee barista has just looked in my direction, unable to understand what I have said in English. I look up and smile, “Perfetto!” This time, understanding, she smiles and responds with a beautiful and natural “grazie.”

This was one of those moments…you know those moments...the ones where you realize that you aren’t dreaming about what is going on, one of those moments where you realize you are awake and everything around you is real, one of those moments where everything comes together perfectly.

I seem to have one of these moments each day here in Italy. I think it reminds me that I am not imagining all of this: I am really back in Tuscany—I am really living the life of pasta, and pizza, and cappuccino all over again, I am really HERE. Normally, I have these moments each night when I walk past the Duomo—an epic sight to see.

But today, today my moment has come earlier. It has come at a time when most of the world really is dreaming, when most of the world doesn’t care if I add sugar or not to my mug, when most of the world is missing out.

Today, my moment is with this cappuccino, this delightful blend of espresso and milk; this mix of mocha; this heartwarming cup of coffee.

Unlike all of the other cups that I have had, this one seems to stand taller and carries itself a bit more elegantly. It is as if it knows that it has been better than the rest.

A tiny tear forms in the back of my eye as I realize this moment is nearly coming to an end, this one morning stand. And so I reach into my pocket, hoping and begging my lint to have some coins stuffed in between it. I just need ONE more of these cappuccini NOW. I look for change frantically, wishing coins would simply appear. After digging through my pockets one last time, I realize this moment is over, this one morning stand is officially, and sadly, done.

“That was so good.” I whisper again under my breath—with a sadness in my voice. And then I think to myself, “That was the best so far.”

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Una Posizione di Mattina (One Morning Stand)

"Drink me," My cappuccino says calmly. "Love me," my cappuccino adds.

It is teasing me. It knows how much I enjoy looking at it, going googly-eyed over it, and drinking it. But I don’t want it to go away just yet, because when the cup is empty, then that cappuccino is gone—then the best conversation of the day is already over.

While the foam upon my espresso cannot literally open up a mouth between bubbles to actually speak to me, somehow we talk back and forth every day, revealing our deepest feelings, and our biggest hopes. It tells me when it is too hot or cold and I tell it when I am satisfied or not.

That’s right, I am having a relationship with my cappuccino. And while each one serves as a “One Morning Stand,” I can always trust the friendly cup of Joe to listen, without interruption. Some days, I can even see the coffee smiling at me—or frowning, as if it knows exactly how I am feeling.

Today I have returned to the Jolly Café on the corner, to visit my love Roberto. This will be my fourth cappuccino at the Jolly Café. I enjoy coming here, because while Roberto knows no English, he seems to be the only one to truly understand the relationship that I have with my cappuccino each day. I no longer have to speak to Roberto, as he knows my order by heart. It is as if he and the ingredients were joking back and forth before I walked into the café. I think the milk is probably saying, “Go light on me today,” while the chocolate probably adds, “Treat her special today, give a little extra of me.”

Roberto watches me as a I stare at my cappuccino with bright eyes, then as I intake the heavenly smell of the chocolate on top, and then of course as I take the first sips. He then observes as I carefully remove my journal from my backpack and begin to write of my latest, wonderful cappuccino. He knows that this is a serious relationship that may never be broken apart. You see, it is a relationship where no hearts will get broken.

However, I often wonder what my cappuccino might say if it could use real words with me rather than imagined forms of facial expressions.

Would it tell me that it loved me back? Or would it tell me that it truly hated our time together, that I drink it too fast or too slow or that I cherish it too much?

I imagine it taking on the voice of the candle stick in Beauty and the Beast, singing to me songs of joy, romance, and happiness. But maybe it would take on the deep voice of Scar from the Lion King, and yell at me about how I drink it too much, and that if I keep drinking it each day, it will no longer bring me happiness, that it, filled with whole milk, will make me fat, and that it actually despises my every day brooding.

And then I wonder if it would speak in Italian or English, and if it would understand a word of what I said.

Would it laugh at my jokes and cry tears of espresso with my sadness?

I think if my cappuccino could talk, I might tell it all of it’s wonderful qualities, why I feel the way I feel about it and how I envision us together every single day for the rest of my future. I would explain how it comforts me with simplicity and how I love that it always offers me a hand to hold by reaching out to me through the side of a mug. Yes, I am having a deeply involved relationship with my cappuccino…and if it could talk, I would get down on one knee, and propose…Yes I think if I could—I would marry my cappuccino.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Una Pozzanghera di Cappuccino (A Puddle of Cappuccino)

Puddles, Puddles, Puddles, and More Puddles. Drip-Drop, Drip-Drop, Drip-Drop. Rain hits the ground like the sound of espresso splashing in the bottom of a new white mug.

I have learned two lessons since returning to Florence. The first lesson is that November is the most rainy month of the year here, and the second lesson is that coffee shops don’t generally open here until 8:00am at the earliest, which means that when I left for school at 7:30am the other day, I nearly came up empty-handed--and also encountered many, many puddles.

As my search for a morning cup of joe dragged on, I began to imagine that the giant puddles were giant cups of cappuccino and that each drip was just another drop of perfection leading up to foamy fantasticness. And as each puddle grew, I imagined jumping in and submerging myself in each giant cup of cappuccino, doing the doggy paddle, bathing in it, and drowning my lungs in it. For if I truly drowned in a puddle of cappuccino, I think I might die the happiest person on earth.

As I came back to reality and discovered that I could not in fact turn the puddles of murky water into puddles of deliciousness, I continued my search for an open coffee shop. I finally stumbled upon Il Posto Café. There were quite a few people inside, so I figured it must be good—either that or it really was the only coffee shop open in all of Florence open.

I stepped inside the shop and suddenly felt the walls close in as four of us attempted to squeeze in at the standing bar. “Prendo un cappuccino per favore,” I said. I had hoped my long walk to find this open bar would be well worth it.

I turned to my right and I realized a nice Italian man was looking at me. He then said “Ciao.” I responded by saying “Bonjourno!” What I had truly wished to say was, “Do you wish to swim in cappuccino as well?” Unfortunately, I didn’t know enough words in Italian to get that point across, so instead, I laughed to myself at the thought of asking a complete stranger if he too wishes to drown in cappuccino. Not before long, my cappuccino was placed in front of me. “Va bene, grazie.”

I had searched for this cappuccino for so long yesterday…so much so that I had hallucinated about the puddles being cups of cappuccino like Wonka’s river of chocolate. That’s when you know you have an addiction.

I picked the cup up and took a sip.

“No va bene,” I thought. Burned coffee. It was my first bad cappuccino in Italy…My first euro and thirty cents gone to waste. It really must have been the ONLY coffee shop open.

Regardless, I finished the cappuccino, said “Grazie, Ciao,” and went on my way…jumping in a puddle with hopes that my hallucination would become real. To my dismay, a giant cup of cappuccino did not form...rather instead of drowning myself in the deliciousness…I just got very, very wet.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Con Tutto Il Mio Cuore (With all my heart)

I have only had cappuccino two days now, but I think that I will be replacing a majority of my diet--aka veges, bread, and cereal with the wonderfulness that is the Italian cappuccino. It was only moments after finishing my cappuccino on day 2 that a set of strangers offered to buy me a second one. Then, later on a man by the name of Fabio bought me a dessert cappuccino outside of the Duomo. If strangers buy me all my coffee--then it probably will replace my diet! (Scherzo--Joke Joke).

But let's discuss the coffee I bought--the cappuccino that made me fall in love.

As I trekked from the square to the Ponte Vecchio (the most beautiful bridge in all of Florence), and from the Piazza Della Republica to the phone store, all I could think about was my next cappuccino. I had woken up late, 11am (5am US time), so I had missed the 10am
deadline. For hours I fought the urge to buy a cappuccino, but as I turned down my street, I spotted a shop on the corner.

And let's face it--I needed a cappuccino like Wonka needed his Oompa Loompas.

As the doors slid open, I saw many empty coffee cups that had been drank from. It is always a good sign when there are remnants of many people having experienced the same place as you. It means that it must be wonderful.

Ho parlato a Italiano (I spoke in Italian) as I turned to the white haired, plump Florentinian man who stood in front of me: "Prendo un cappuccino, per favore." "Si." As he turned to make my masterpiece, a huge smile formed on my face--he hadn't thought twice about a cappuccino after 10am (I am starting to believe that maybe my friend was playing me on that fact). I added "Grazie" to my request, quite cheerfully, and before steaming my foam, he turned his head to face me and with bright eyes said, "Prego!"

Not before long, il mio cappuccino sat in front of me just waiting to slowly meet my lips. I took this opportunity to stand at the coffee bar, not sit. Before taking my first sips, I realized that the man next to me was having trouble ordering beer for himself and his wife, so I offered my Italian expertise. He asked, "Prendo due birra." The coffee man looked at him awkwardly, so I turned and said "Due Birre. When a word is feminine and plural, you change the last letter to an e." He smiled and said a big thank you before turning back to who I now knew as Roberto and said, "Due birre." "Ah perfetto," Roberto said.

When I finished helping him order, I turned back to my cappuccino with big eyes like that of a dog that has just seen a squirrel leave a tree. But something was missing, and Roberto knew just what it was--chocolate powder--lots of chocolate powders. With his hand on his stomach, he joyfully scattered chocolate.

"Perfetto!" I exclaimed, and he smiled.

Now, now it was time to indulge. Now it was time to focus all my attention on one thing--and one thing only.

I brought the cappuccino to my nose and smelled the fresh chocolate powder that had now made my white foam a pure wonderful mess of cocoa. I then breathed it in, antagonizing my taste buds to come out and play. And then I carefully brought the cappuccino to my lips, melting like the chocolate into heaven. This was my happy place.

I continued to stand at the coffee bar staring at the coffee steamer, imagining one day owning my own and having my own factory of cappuccino. I continued my moment by writing this. And Roberto, the beautiful wonderful, jolly, white haired man looked at my journal and asked me what I was writing.

I described my love for cappuccino to him, almost glowing as I told him that I write about a cappuccino whenever I love that cappuccino. I told him that it was my favorite drink and then used as many Italian words as I knew to describe my love. And he looked at me--first happy--then saddened. He said, (all in Italian of course), "You love cappuccino, but no love me?" I giggled and no, I love cappuccino, and you!

And the truth is I do love Roberto. I love my coffee baristas, each and every one, because my cappuccino would not exist without them.

So Mr. blue sweatered, big hearted, white haired, Italian man...Roberto...I love you...I love you with all my heart! GRAZIE!

Un Caffe Perfetto

The first cappuccino. Place of choice: Pizzeria Bar Piccadilly. 3:00PM

Forget that I had only gotten three hours of sleep on my eight hour flight overnight. Forget the five hour time difference (now six), and forget that I had just grabbed a newspaper from someone that I couldn't read. Forget it all--I didn't care.

I didn't care that I was sleep deprived or that I was stuck in another time zone. I didn't care that after 10am you aren't supposed to order a cappuccino (besides I was still stuck in the time zone where it WAS 10am!) I didn't care about any of that--I just wanted my cappuccino.

The lovely Italian man behind the bar cringed as I asked, and I could tell all he wanted to say was: You stupid American girl, we don't drink cappuccino after 10am! But I didn't care. No. No one was going to stand between me and my first cappuccino. No one one was going to deprive me of that dome of foam that would sit delicately above the rim of the mug. No one was going to deprive me of the warm milky mustache that I would form with my first drink of that wonderfulness. No one was going to stop this cappuccino from happening.

As I took my first sip, "Delicious," I thought. Simply...Delicious. I mix matched it with the one and only slice of pizza in Tuscany that had no cheese, but it still went down the way I remembered it going down all those times two years ago.

And it wasn't just in that first sip that I fell over taste buds with joy. No, it was in the entire process. As I had heard the machine begin, I almost jumped the counter. I nearly gave up all senses as I got a fresh whiff of the brew. I almost dove over the register at the first splash into the mug. I almost cried as it was placed teasingly in front of me. I almost fainted as I passed my Euros over to the young woman who had to suffer through watching me salivate from across the cafe. And that dome...oh that dome was so perfect that I almost bought another. I almost double fisted cappuccino. Oh...that cappuccino...that first was perfect.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Prendo un cappuccino con...

"It is merely the world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated."-Eat Pray Love by Liz Gilbert

Before I get into anything else, I should point out that I am not going to Italy to find myself. While I may have quoted her to begin my blog, this is not--I repeat--this is not some sort of Liz Gilbert escape to eat, pray, and love: This isn't a search for the perfect slice of pizza--I have had that before, in Naples in 2008; it's not a desperate attempt to leave some man behind who broke my heart--I am only 22 and I've got a lot of heart break to go through before I even think of escaping from it; and I might pray a lot since the Pope will be my neighbor, but it's certainly not my purpose of going to Italy. So if pizza, prayer, and love are out, what is left?

That is simple. I'll start my days similar to the way I start my days in America...I'll start my days with a cup of coffee, but it won't just be any cup of coffee. No, I won't just take an espresso shot. No, too simple. Each and every day that I am in Italy, I will
partake in foamy fantasticness. I will drown in delightful dolce (sweetness), and I will smile with each sip.

It's simple...Oggi tanti prendo un cappuccino...Each day I'll take a cappuccino. And on the most extraordinary of days, I'll share those cups of cappuccino with you...

Won't you join me?