Our last full day of family time on Wednesday was spent in Oderzo, where another branch of the family lives. The main church in the city piazza is where Margaret's grandparents were married in 1892 before coming to the US. So, much family history here.
We arrived at Valentina's house, where we were met by 10 family members. We were welcomed with soft drinks and snacks. The espresso cups were out and ready, but the heat was already close to the 92 high of the day. Seven year old Laura was the gift giver, and she brought around tied stalks of lavendar from their garden and red bags containing candy treats and held together with a ladybug for good luck.
We piled into cars and caravaned down the street to Enrico's wine shop. Guess what we did there? Yes, we tasted Prosecco! Enrico started his wine shop three years ago, and he also works for a winery, so he sells some of their wines. The Prosecco was delicious, and the best weakve had. They had breadsticks, chips, cheese and meat out for everyone's paletes.
Then, the lunch to top all lunches (though we didn't know it at first). We all sit down in the back room and wine and water is brought to the table. Then, lasagna is brought out, and I had great bowties and tomato sauce. As everyone is feeling full and comfortable, the second round comes out. First, salad for me and salads for everyone else to share. Roasted vegetables. Then, plates of meat for everyone; on each plate, five pieces of meat: sausage, chicken, two ribs, and something else. Everyone looked mortified by the amount of meat. So, everyone dug in and tried to get through the wonderful but large portion. My salad was just perfect :)
We then went on a great four hour archaelogical and historical tour of the city. Most of us walked around in a food coma, not helped by the heat. Our guide led us through the Archaelogical museum, explaining very well in English the pre-roman, roman and medieval history of Oderzo. We saw roman artifacts, mosaics, and building materials. He explained the growth of the area and how it evolved. He took us into a restaurant that was built around a significant roman site that was discovered when building the restaurant. He took us through the old roman forum and other builidings that had been excavated. It felt like hearing an adventure story.
As we finished the tour and found ourselves in a history stupor, we were told it was time to head to dinner because there were reservations. Looks of panic ran across everyone's faces ('I can't possibly eat' was the universal thought). We returned to the same restaurant and the same back room. The waiter was waiting with...yes, prosecco.
For over an hour we all cooled off, chatted, and drank prosecco. I couldn't possibly pass up the olive tapande bruschetta. Oh, so delicious (the olive is one of nature's perfect foods). Eventually, everyone ordered pizzas and shared with each other, thus making it slightly less painful. I ate my entire cheeseless vegetable pizza. I convinced myself that I had more room due to missing out on the lunch meat orgy.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the evening was spending time with Laura. She was a little bored of us adults and amused herself by walking circles around the table. Finally, she sat down at the table with me. I had a sudden curiosity to see if Laura knew tic-tac-toe, which she did. We played a few rounds, but then I got bored. So, I tried hangman (while wondering if maybe this was a little macabre), and she knew it. So we hung teddy bears instead of people. Is that worse??? Since she was learning english in school, I did English words for her, and she did Italian words for me. It was absolutely delightful. Then, when it was time for dinner, she moved her seat next to me. Break my heart.
Then, after dessert arrived (glasses of ice cream, lemon + vodka), it was another round of presents: beautiful scarves and a photo of Oderzo). They were so generous to us, and it was humbling to see how much it meant to them that all this family had come over. While I was not blood family, I was treated like it. I would love to host any of them in Chicago and repay their many kindnesses.
The night eventually ended, and it was time for us to say goodbyes and return to the hotel. A wonderful family reunion thanks to Margaret's spectacular planning and the generosity of the Italians.
On to Slovenia.