Lauren Graziano: Casa Dolce Casa, che bello rientrare a Viterbo

Lauren Graziano

Bruges, Brussels, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Sorrento, Capri, Naples—spring break was a riveting adventure full of turbulent flights, delayed trains, remarkable cities, charming towns, sketchy metros, mouthwatering cuisine, and wonderful friends to share the journey. As thrilling as traveling is though, there is nothing quite like returning home to Viterbo after an exhausting twelve days on the road. As happy as I am during my travels, I find that perhaps my happiest moments take place as I exit the Porta Romana train station and stroll up the sidewalk parallel to Viterbo’s archaic city wall, accompanied by unforgettable memories and the best kind of people.
Waking up this morning, my first reaction was to turn off my alarm as quickly as I could so it wouldn’t wake up my friends. It took me few seconds before I realized I wasn’t in a hostel or an Airbnb, I was home in Viterbo, alone in my own room in my own bed. Bliss.
Walking to class was wonderful; our long trip had almost made me forget what it was like to have class at all. And I was desperately in need of a leisurely afternoon which made this Tuesday’s calm nothingness the perfect recovery afternoon. The simple joys of having a pleasant lunch on the balcony, watching a group of Italians play soccer in the field across the street, in the company of my dearest ginger companion. Naturally, an afternoon nap was certainly in order and next on my agenda. While the day was grand, the evening was the perfect way to end my ordinary day in Viterbo.
Zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, raisins, and walnuts, sizzled in the oven. The kitchen was happy, echoing with good Italian music, and occupied by a brilliant chef, a fantastic host, and two very happy American students. We were learning to make Ratatouille (al Giovanni—the brilliant chef) according to his own personal recipe. How lucky to be personally taught by an Italian chef—certainly the best way to learn how to cook and much more fun than any. After pureeing the sauce, we removed the perfectly toasted bread and the assortment of vegetables from the oven, me being particularly cautious not to burn myself because I tend to do that too often when cooking. I carefully constructed small pyramids of vegetables on each of the slices of bread—not too much that the vegetables would fall off but just the right amount. My co-chef, fellow American, and dear friend, Ashlynn, placed the slices of cheese precisely on each of the vegetable pyramids and back in the oven our creation went, to warm the cheese and slightly melt it. Next, I cracked the eggs into a pan, making sure to not let any bits of eggshell find its way into our dinner, and placed them on the stove to cook. Giovanni was very specific that the oil must be hot before the eggs are cracked into the pan and they should be cooked over easy rather than over hard (not particularly fond of oozy eggs but never question the chef). A few moments later and I was placing an egg atop each of the vegetable pyramids. And then, for the final touch, the sauce was drizzled over our magnificent Ratatouille. It was glorious. As good as it looked, it tasted even better, along with a delicious red wine of course because this is Italia. I now consider myself a chef after making such a delectable dinner. Grazie mille Giovanni! Ashlynn and I are looking forward to many more nights in Viterbo spent learning to cook and enjoying good company and good wine. It is good to be home.

Lauren Graziano è una studentessa americana USAC che studia all’Università della Tuscia per il primo semestre di questo anno scolastico. E’ cresciuta alle Hawaii, ma ora vive in Colorado e studia in una università nello Iowa, dove ritornerà il prossimo autunno, dopo il suo semestre a Viterbo. Ama viaggiare, leggere, scrivere e uscire fuori, sia che si tratti di escursioni, sci, nuoto o altre divertenti attività all’aperto.