Oh, what an afternoon and evening it was!
I’m still thinking about it, treasuring this experience of playing bocce ball and eating homemade, wood-fired pizza with Italian friends. While I also treasure experiences of Italy’s magnificent art, architecture, and landscapes, THIS kind of experience sits at the top. And, boy, am I fortunate to be finding myself amidst such an ample display of Italian warmth and generosity!
I was the only non-Italian in the bunch.
Yep, Mr. America amongst a lively, fast-talking group of Italians! How did I score being included in an incredible evening of bocce ball and wood-fired pizza? Well, it helps being married to an Italian and it helps to purposely seek out and dedicate time to building relationships with locals and not gravitate towards other stranieri or expats. Believe me, I know how tempting it can be to find solace in one’s native language and culture, but I believe it can be a slippery slope to procrastination of the hard work required to learn to speak Italian and understand the cultural norms. News flash! Italians are wired and behave quite differently than Americans, and it’s easy to make missteps if you don’t wrap your head around the differences. Believe me, I’ve learned a LOT by the mistakes I’ve made in this regard. But, the wonderful thing is that Italians are happy teachers. They may rib you a bit, but they’ll show you the ropes if you demonstrate that you’re making a solid effort to get on board with the culture.
Speaking of the language…
In the spirit of full transparency, I’m at an intermediate level at best. So, on this particular afternoon and evening, there were times I could follow the conversations going on around me—MULTIPLE conversations are the norm for any Italian gathering, so plan on that extra level of difficulty! Other times I felt like a dog chasing a car that I just couldn’t catch. Expressing myself in Italian is far easier than discerning what is being said rapid-fire around me. So, while the evening was incredible on so many levels, it reminded me that I still have a ton of work to do to be proficient with the language. Only then will I be able to participate more fully! I encourage you to check out my post Time to Make the Leap to Speaking with an Advanced Italian Tongue.
Enough of that. Let’s move onto bocce ball and perhaps the best wood-fired pizza I’ve ever consumed.
I’m already a bocce ball addict.
When you play with and against Italian friends, it can be a rich experience. My skills as a novice proved to be pretty good, meaning I was a decent opponent. But, many of these folks, women and men alike, have spent ample time on the bocce court. They laugh and joke, but when they step into the circle for their turn they turn steely-eyed and serious. And while my Italian friends are sweet and loving, don’t count on any mercy when it comes to getting ahead in the game.
If you don’t know about bocce ball and the rules of the game check out this link.
“Bocce (/ or , Italian: [ˈbɔttʃe]), sometimes anglicized as bocce ball, bocci or boccie, is a ball sport belonging to the boules family, closely related to British bowls and French pétanque, with a common ancestry from ancient games played in the Roman Empire.”
Next up, homemade, wood-fired pizza!
I can’t stop my mouth from salivating every time I conjure up a memory of the pizzas we consumed at our friends’ home, just a minute’s drive further into the tranquil, verdant hills of Liguria. The pizza oven was already being stoked by our friend while his wife had already laid out the big table and had the pizza dough ready for action. This surely had to be a feat of supreme coordination since our host, just half an hour before, had been a fiercely competitive opponent on the bocce ball court.
To be invited into our friends’ home was an act of great generosity, not only in how warmly we were welcomed but in the wood-fired pizza feast that seemed to stretch on and on.
I invite you to get up close and personal with this unforgettable experience in the video I created to pay tribute to such exceptional Italian hospitality and cuisine! (The video’s written narrative is in Italian with English translation. And be sure to choose your highest resolution when viewing!)