My working days in the small town of Monselice were somewhat more challenging than those in Tuscany. Luckily, my workmates were of the cocktail appreciating kind, and so every day after work, we walked from the school where we worked to the nearest cocktail bar, whilst sweating in forty degree heat. If Tuscany was beautiful for its vineyards, Monselice was beautiful for its seven little churches, nestled in a cusp of rock jutting from a hill, and for its maize fields. Every morning I stood on my balcony and looked out towards Este castle, just visible across a gorgeous field of maize. The only drawbacks to Monselice? The mosquitoes. Sure, there were mosquitoes in Tuscany. And I happen to be one of these lucky people who do not suffer many bites. No, the problem was their sheer noise. After the first day, their drone became (very loud) background noise, and it was more noticeable when they actually stopped their singing. But I digress. Back to cocktails.
In Italy, the Aperol Spritz is by far the most popular appetising long drink in Italy. It is made from Aperol (sticky sweet red syrupy thing), prosecco and soda water. Yum. At €2.50 a pop, they went down like a dream after a hard day’s tutoring. Even better, if you buy enough, and stick around long enough, you will be treated (as we were) to aperitivo, similar in kind to British ‘happy hour’, though, rather than offering 2-4-1 on drinks, you can help yourself to a buffet of Italian treats. I’m talking meat. I’m talking cheese. I’m talking crisps, olives, bread, and salad. And if that wasn’t enough, you get Whole Bowls of snacks delivered to your table (as long as it is healthily stocked with cocktails).
Great. However, by the third day, I was struggling to cope with the Aperol Spritz. One was good. Two were okay. Any more than that and I started to feel like I’d downed a bottle of washing detergent. (And that is purely my taste). So, imagine my delight when I had the fortune of being introduced (by a local of course) to the Spritz Hugo. Made with Sambuca syrup, prosecco, mint leaves and topped with soda water, the Spritz Hugo quickly (and dangerously) became my new favourite. I would highly recommend to anyone with a sweet tooth (even better if you’re like me and have a whole set of sweet teeth), just remember that, despite its classy appearance and easy drinkability, its still not okay to drink more than two within one hour.
For here was another surprise. Contrary to my former speculations, the majority of the Italians I had the pleasure to drink with, were not heavy drinkers at all (but, of course, there were a few exceptions to this observation). Before my trip, I had imagined that my Italian hosts would be showering me with wine. And, don’t get me wrong, they all did. But I was encouraged to drink wine in a way that made me consider (and in time appreciate) the different tastes, textures and scents that accompany good wine. And the drinking of beer and cocktails is no different. Alcohol in Italy is refreshingly consumed as a thing to be enjoyed, not as means to aid you to enjoy yourself. There is a lesson to be learnt from the Italian way of drinking, and it is this: drink for quality, not for quantity. And enjoy it.
Monselice was a small city. A very small city. It has one train station, one taxi
service (bookable only 24 hours in advance), and one school. And while its attractions, including its cute little churches and its old Duomo may not be the most extravagant and while its waitresses may not be the politest (Maleva, I’m looking at you), Monselice will always have a special place in my heart because of the wonderful, wonderful people I had the pleasure of meeting there. The two families I was lucky enough to live with during my two week stay, and the friends I made whilst working, will stay in my life forever. I think there’s just something about a small, quiet town like that…