One of the things I love most about Bologna is that very few people speak English. On the weekends, tourists come to the city for the museums, the food, and the music and art scene, but all of these tourists are from other Italian cities or neighboring European countries. But although I have a bit of an American accent when I speak (the blonde hair is probably another give-away), Italian is getting easier every day. The guy at the gelato shop helps me with my grammar when I accidently say, “you would like a small pistacchio and chocolate” instead of “I would like.” My Italian housemate helps me with my pronunciation while we hang our laundry (there are no driers in Italy—even in the wealthier homes in Bologna, everything is hung on a corda stendipanni, clothesline, or stendibiancheria, drying rack). My Italian friends help me learn the difference between the phrases sono eccitata, sono entusiasta, and sono emozionata: all three expressions mean “I’m excited,” but apparently “sono eccitata” means that you’re excited “in un modo piu’…sessuale”. This is kind of important to distinguish, especially when I try to say that I’m excited about the tiramisu for dessert, the warm weather that weekend, and the dinner at my professor’s house. Yet for all of the slip ups and stutters in my day-to-day use of the language, it’s pretty cool to walk home after a four hour dinner and forget that I’ve been speaking Italian the entire time.
On one rainy day in Bologna I ducked into a caffe’ with a few of my friends from the travel abroad program. In the chilly weather we were all craving hot chocolate, so we ordered cups of cioccolata calda. Apparently, hot chocolate doesn’t exist in Italy—or maybe it’s safer to say that hot chocolate doesn’t exist in the United States. The cioccolata calda that Italy has introduced me to is nothing like America’s mug of hot milk with cocoa or chocolate flake stirred in. A cioccolata calda is almost like sipping a cup of hot chocolate pudding—smooth without being goopy, and sweet without being overwhelmingly so. It’s dark, and so thick that you have to stir it with a spoon between sips so the top doesn’t harden.
And it’s unbelievably good.