On my maternal side, my grandfather's family came from Italy, and my grandmother's family came from (the former) Czechoslovakia and the Austro-Hungarian empire. I still don't know if I'm more Austrian or Hungarian, although I saw a girl who looked mysteriously like me on the train to Budapest. At any rate, Ben and I knew we wanted to visit Italy from the minute we decided to move to Austria; his last name ends in a vowel too. Capisce?
Our journey took us to Bolzano/Bozen in northern Italy. It's the capital city of Südtirol, or Alto Adige. Why am I writing all the names in two languages, attentive reader? Well, after World War I, the city left Austrian hands and became Italian. Its history of Austrian and Italian possession is very evident in the city today. Around town, Italian and German float off the tongues of the locals. It seemed like almost everyone could speak Italian and German, and in many cases, English too. All of the signs are in German and Italian. Even though I knew we were in Italy, it was a little hard to believe because the two cultures and languages are so intertwined.
Our train went through the Brenner Pass on its way to Italy. Doesn't really look like spring has hit the Alps yet, huh? In the last two pictures, you can see what's called Lawinenschutz, or Alpine avalanche protection.
But once through the Brenner Pass, the scenery changed. Say hello to the Dolomites and to a field of grapevines.
After arriving, we quickly checked into our hostel and headed into town.
For our first dinner, we went to Weißes Rössl/Cavallino Bianco/Little White Pony. Being a teacher, planning is a way of life, so, naturally, I spent some time reading reviews on Trip Advisor to come up with an eating itinerary. Do you do this, or am I the only one? Anyway, this restaurant had great reviews, and it did not disappoint. I had pasta carbonara with speck, which is a cured ham and a specialty of Tyrol. Ben had spinach spätzle with ham. Lecker/Delizioso.
Illuminated magnolias in the main square reminded us of spring's arrival.
This dog, who joined us for a digestif of grappa, received about 1,000 pets, sat on Ben's foot, and stole my heart. When his owner came to collect him, she asked in German if we would like to take him home. Ben said, "yes, no problem," and then she laughingly said, "one problem," as she kissed him and took him from our lives forever. We need a dog. We need a dog. Repeat.
Also, we meet a cool Swiss gentleman who couldn't believe that Ben was American and spoke German so well. That's always good to hear. He told me that he met his wife in Milan and that she did "this" (*mimicked his hands being tied together*), and he still hasn't found the key.
The friendliness in Italy shocked me, as I've become accustomed to Salzburg and how people keep to themselves. Cultural differences, man.