I was an Air Force Captain and I had just arrived in Italy for my second overseas tour. My sponsoring Officer announced that I would take over his condominium apartment and had no need to look any further!
When I viewed the huge, beautiful apartment and found out that the price was right, I had no argument with the setup.
But renting an apartment in Italy involved more than just meeting with the landlord and signing paperwork. This was to be a great social event, and we were to be guests at a special dinner that would be hosted by our landlords! My sponsor could not attend, but I went to the dinner to sign the paperwork.
The paperwork signing dinner was incredible. We started with vino and appetizers (cheese doodles that were passed around as if they were gold) and went on to have five more courses of the best Italian food that I had ever tasted. The meal alone lasted for three hours!
My landlords/hosts had built a separate building on their property that was just for having huge dinners. I had never heard of such a thing. This beautiful building had an anteroom and a full kitchen, but it was the wood fired monstrosity that kept grabbing my attention for most of the evening. The wall of wood fired ovens and roasters could hold an entire animal of just about any type, as well as pizzas and breads to feed an army.
There was antipasti, pasti, roasted meats, cured meats, breads, fruits and cheeses and more. Oddly, the salad came last, and we had to mix our own dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
Several varietals of wine poured freely and the conversation...well the spirit was there! I was not fluent in Italian and the hosts spoke a dialect of Italian that would have made my traveler's vocabulary useless, anyway.
We did not need language. It was a wonderful and welcoming evening, with 12 people who won my heart and made me feel that I was at home.
The next day, my sponsor informed me that the dinner of the night before was just for signing the papers.
He informed me that we were both invited to the real dinner that had been originally scheduled for saying goodbye to him and hello to me!
That dinner lasted for about six hours!