Life in Little Italy

Torricella Travel Blog

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Let me tell you about life in Torricella. There are two roads in town, and they both lead you abruptly out of it. Train tracks determine the city limits to the north, but most trains scurry past with no intention of stopping in the stationless town. The village heartbeat pulsates from the sole cafe/bar/gelateria/post office/hangout for every old man in town. The locals gather here for their morning coffee and gossip. Then recollect for their mid-morning, lunch, afternoon and evenings cups, as well. They cast the occasional curious glance at the strange tourists popping in and out of the hostel, but are well-enough acquainted by now with the stream of newcomers, that their curiosity is short-lived and conversations continue as usual.

Directly behind the chatty klatch of cappuccino sippers, is Lake Trasimeno and its collection of outstreched piers and slumbering motorboats.
Lake Trasimeno
Olive-covered hills encircle the lake, displaying the occasional fortress remnant proudly from its peaks. In the evening, the sun shrinks down into the hills, radiating ribbons of pink, orange, purple and blue off the lake's reflective canvas. The birds sing. The insects buzz. And everyone unhurriedly carries on with their business.

I'm volunteering for the week at La Casa sul Lago hostel. A large school-to-hostel converted oasis for vacationing families and stray backpackers. For five hours a day, I help with breakfast, make beds and clean the occasional toilet. In exchange I get a room of my own and all the pasta I can handle.

The owner is a short, italian man named Giangiacomo. He has a big heart, but small attention span. He's been known to interrupt a story or two with the belted-out lyrics of "Don't Worry About a Thing.
"The House on the Lake"
" We developed a love-hate relationship, where he could propose marriage and tell me to "stop asking so many questions," all in the same breath. Really, I knew he'd be crying himself to sleep when I left, so I accepted it and retaliated with my own bouts of orneriness.

Giangiacomo has a habit of walking through the hostel halls, yelling names, "AMANDA!" "VALENTINA!" "NADIA!" in lieu of quietly searching out his target. In fact, they all do this. And after hearing every neighboring geriatric shout their greetings at passing acquaintances, I'm fairly convinced it can just be chalked up as "typical Italian." There were multiple times I ran to the window thinking there was a fight between patrons at the facing cafe, only to discover it was simply two old friends discussing how great it was to see each other.
agnese and our book


The Italian language wants to be heard and begs to be understood. In contrast to the french, who have a tendency to swallow the last half of each word, there's not a single syllable that passes through an Italian's lips that hasn't been carefully considered and pushed forth with purposeful enthusiasm. As a foreigner and student of the language, I'm grateful for this straight-forward approach to speech.

Much of my previous training in Italian has evaporated with the years, but basic sentence structure and key phrases are thankfully still lingering. When Giangiacomo couldn't be bothered with my "how do you say that?" questions, I turned to alternative sources. I had a few sit-down lessons with his non-english speaking friend, Maximello, and on-the-go lessons with the housekeeper, Nadia.
I can thank this job for now knowing how to say "broom, mop and change the beds." Agnese, a full time employee and my personal favorite, patiently and encouragingly sat by as I would read to her about "The Little Locomotive." It will be a long time before I'm passionately talking about life and politics in Italian, and most of my attempts at stories resemble a hybrid game of Taboo and charades, where there are many words I can't say and plenty of hand gestures and sound effects to fill in the blanks. But as a whole, the week was a good briefing and for the time-being I'm content with just being able to get the product or directions I need.

When the cleaning was done, I took advantage of bike paths around the lake, increasingly summer-like days, quick train rides to nearby towns like Assisi, and the steady stream of friendly, interesting guests that stopped by for a few days.
There was Keira, and american girl who extended her stay as she waited for lost credit card replacements to arrive in the mail (I think I can relate). Or Joe from Denver and his two daughters, touring Italy in celebration of Stephanie's graduation. The motorbike racers from Napoli who let me join them for a day at the track. I also finally met a handful of Aussie and Kiwi contacts that will actually be back in their countries when I head that way.

For my last couple days, two more Help-Xers joined me in the hostel cleaning duties. Dane and Rory are two traveling brothers from Halifax, Nova Scotia and my company when the other employees left and guests were kicked out of the common rooms. It will be interesting how they get along without me as their interpreter.
lunch!
Even when conversations between Agnese and the boys were purely in the english, I'd get anxious, bewildered looks from both parties, asking what in the hell the other crazy foreigner just said. I imagine they'll all be very good at talking with gestures before it's done.

Leaving Torricella, I again feel like the time was too short. It's my lesson learned for the next time I travel with Help Exchange. I'll miss the people, the simplicity, the flowing wine, cappucino and food that allowed me to spend a whopping total of 8 euros in 9 days. But as usual, on I must go. Ciao bella Italia!
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Lake Trasimeno
Lake Trasimeno
The House on the Lake
"The House on the Lake"
agnese and our book
agnese and our book
lunch!
lunch!
Assisi
Assisi
the bikers club
the biker's club
at the track
at the track
Napolis best
Napoli's best
buba and taio. taio bites.
buba and taio. taio bites.
the hostel
the hostel
hostel courtyard
hostel courtyard
reception
reception
lounge
lounge
dining room
dining room
view from the hostel
view from the hostel
view from the hostel
view from the hostel
Valentina and Nadia
Valentina and Nadia
when the boss is away, the mice wi…
when the boss is away, the mice w…
Giangiacomo
Giangiacomo
Torricella
photo by: afredrix