“Let’s go and get pizza for lunch today,” suggested Riho, who is visiting me for a couple of weeks.
I agreed cheerfully. Pizza is pizza, after all, even if it does cost a fortune in this country (like everything else, incidentally). I asked whether he had anywhere in mind, and he nodded, looking up from his computer screen.
“Aosta,” he replied in a very bad Italian accent.
“Where’s that?” I queried, hoping it might be down by the lakeside in the village.
“Erm, Italy,” said Riho.
I think I’m at a stage in my life now where I’m just so used to going with the flow that my natural reaction to the idea of driving to Italy for a pizza is more “OK, what the hell!” than the “Are you mad?!” of days gone by. And so off we went to Italy. Clearly I have conquered my fear of driving in Europe/a Mercedes.
We had to go up, and then right through, some Alps, which was a slightly surreal experience. They’ve got a big tunnel going right through the Alps somewhere near Mont Blanc. It’s very long, and the border is at the halfway point, so when you emerge, blinking, into the strong sunlight and dazzling white snow on the other side, you’re in Italy!
Italian drivers appear to have none of the strict adherence to the law that Swiss drivers display. Nor are the roads in and around Aosta in a condition that one might reasonably describe as modern. Still, almost by accident I found myself driving into a parking space right on the edge of the Old Town, and we had our pizza in the most quaint and properly Italian-looking place we could see.
Apparently Aosta has not really been properly discovered by tourists yet, which might explain why we caused so much excitement amongst the staff of the pizzeria. “Excuse me, one question!” said the waitress finally, approaching us apologetically as the nominated spokesperson. “You are American? English?”
“Irish,” we said with cheerful Irish smiles. She looked incredibly excited about this, and backed away thanking us. We could hear her telling everyone where we were from. Everyone was bowled over, and they were queuing up to say goodbye to us as we left. It was quite nice to have some recognition at last. I realised that this must be what it would be like to be a famous author, perhaps, recognised by the restaurant staff as I tried to have a quiet lunch. I pictured myself flinging my hands in the air and crying “I just want to have a normal life!”. It was most pleasing.
So anyway, I had a pretty amazing, authentic Italian pizza. Asparagus. It looked mad but was fantastic, particularly because I’d come to Italy to get it.