The apartment hunt continues; that’s no reason this kid can’t stop for some vino.

Christmas present spoiler alert for Michelle, my sister: Turn back now if you want to be surprised!

We’ve been utter failures at finding a place to live here in Verona. I’ll detail the experience in a later post. Suffice to say it’s been a few months, we’re living in a temporary hovel, and I’m coming both unhinged and unglued. Two days ago, we toured an apartment that’s kind of meh but good enough. Capitulating, we asked to sign a contract.  I received it in email last night.

However ….

Yesterday, after my penultimate Italian class at Inclasse of Verona, Dirk and I met with the owner of our temporary/bridge-to-home/hovel airBnb to sign a contract for this month. He was surprised to learn that his friend, Paola, hadn’t called us yet to arrange to see her apartment, which she intended to rent. He explained that this apartment was just about his favorite place in the city, and we really must see it. Top floor, terraces, the works. FFS.

But we got to talking tax and maritime law, and you know how that goes. That’s right, it was difficult to move on from such intoxicating subjects.

As he assembled his belongings, I asked him to call Paola on our behalf. Come to find out they’ve been renovating and her mother in law didn’t want to show the apartment until it was perfect. Paola explained, “You know how mother in laws can be.” Sarcastically, I said, “nooooo. I wouldn’t know at all.”* She didn’t pick up on my tone, however, and continued to explain how mother in laws could be.

*To be completely honest – my knowledge of bad in-laws comes second-hand. My mother in law is wonderful. I won the in-law lottery. And I’m not writing this to cover my ass. It’s absolutely true. Helen is a sweetheart.

Reminder: Italian humor != British humor.

She asked to meet to talk, and proposed 4pm at school. Her 11 yr old son also attends, and she picks him up at the same time we pick up DS. At that time we could arrange the viewing.

Ruh roh. But … but …. I had my class field trip to a Valpolicella winery at 2:30. What to do? It took all of 2 seconds to resolve the matter. Send husband as family ambassador to meet Paola.

Dirk accompanied me to my meeting spot with the class. As we discussed his meeting, I said, “act normal!” (as in Little Miss Sunshine). No one got the reference, but the Aussies thought it was funny. The Italians? Not so much.

Meeting my classmates at Ponte Vittoria
Meeting my classmates at Ponte Vittoria

Valpolicella is gorgeous. It’s a small valley to the northwest of Verona. We toured the grape processing, wine fermenting, and bottling facilities of Terre di Leone.

Obligatory Grape Shot:

Loading grapes into the stem separator ( later I learned that guy up there is the winery owner ):

My adorbs* teacher, Giacomo, complete with wild-n-crazy hair, snapping a photo:

Here’s our tour guide explaining the effect oak barrels have on the wine. I understood nothing (except for where the barrel maker’s label is located (Answer: at the very top of the lid)).

Here’s our tour guide explaining the complex process that went into each of the six bottles we were about to test. I understood nothing.

When a call came in from a realtor, suddenly, my brain snapped to attention. Over the phone, I held a full convo. We agreed to meet at 2pm Friday. When I returned to the wine tasting room, it was back to hearing the Peanuts teacher – wah wah wah wah wah.

One day it will be effortless (it has to be, right?), this comprehending of a foreign tongue. But that day ain’t today. Nor do I suspect it will be tomorrow. But one day. I have to tackle that Elena Ferrante novel, after all. Laudable goals here. Nothing but laudable goals.

I discovered that I possess the refined tastes of the proletariat.

We tried small pours from 6 bottles. From left to right:

1. Table wine. Valpolicella Classico. Aged in casks 4 months.
2. Ripasso. Where the cheap table wine went through 2 stages of fermentation.
3. Classico Superiore. similar to #1 but aged 10 months.
4. Calssico Superiore Ripasso. #3 taken through fermentation 2x.
5. Amarone #1 aged for years
6. Amarone #2 aged > 4 years.

My fave? 1 & 3. Nearly everyone else raved about the Ripasso – #2. That was my least favorite.

#3 reminded me of a wine that my sister loved. I don’t remember the name of it, but that right there was the taste.

We stood around in the cold, and Maria – a substitute teacher who I hadn’t met until the tour* – asked me questions. Like so many other Italians, her eyes widened, just so slightly, upon the mention of my son’s school. I interrogated. Her opinion: parents pay for grades. She knew a teacher who was pressured to inflate grades. I made a mental note to let DS’s teacher know that we did not want inflated grades. If DS earns a C, we’ll teach him how to handle a C. Better to learn how to deal with reality. The world ain’t made up of gentle and inflated As and Bs.

I thanked her for being candid, then explained my understanding of the school. (I forget if I’ve written about it). Briefly: there are two tracks – regular Italian certificate, and IB. For kids on the IB track, there’s no getting around the tests. Grades really don’t matter. We intend for DS to be in the IB track, so we should be okay. She added that as far as she knew, they hired really good teachers. It was mostly the administration that had a bad rep. This aligns with what Jole had told me.

Giacomo announced it was time to go? But wait, we hadn’t been shuttled into a retail room to buy wine. “Oh you want to buy wine?” he asked. He called out for our host.

OMG how refreshing!  Not being herded like cattle into the retail funnel.

I bought 2 bottles of #3 for Christmas gifts (one for my sister), and one bottle of #1 for me to enjoy, prolly this weekend.

When I returned home, I asked DH about meeting Paola. He said the apartment is 4 bedroom, 2 floors, 2 terraces, a bit up the hill in Valdegona. She’s going to pick us up at 9am Friday (4 hrs from now as I write), to come have a look. We’ll see.

For your viewing pleasure, one more obligatory grape shot:

*Why do  I still use the word, “adorbs?” Because, in addition to being adorbs itself, I get to imagine the 20 something kids of the family recoiling and cringing upon reading it. It’s a win win.