As the rain outside slowly dwindled away we walked into a preserved castle, tucked gently away in Italy. Upon entering, the shadows of people danced upon the walls as they talked in hushed voices at their tables. The small murmurs that rang in our ears were unrecognizable yet beautiful as the sweet Italian flowed off of their lips. We stood intoxicated by the quaint, yet enchanting realm that unfolded before our eyes. Quickly, we were interrupted by a small voice which beckoned us back to reality. “Ciao” said a woman dressed in black attire with an immense grin on her face. Although we did not respond, our expressions were a language of their own.“Oh English,” she mumbled, and disappeared into a concealed room. Moments later another woman returned wearing a white apron and bearing a frazzled, yet inviting expression on her face. “Follow me,” she cooed while she turned gently and disappeared into a separate room off to the side of the building. After a quick exchange of glances we sauntered into the same small room. Although my family had enjoyed our Italian vacation, this place seemed different.It possessed a magic all its own and we were under its spell.
Honorable Mention 2009 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Upon entering this new room we settled into a table in the corner. It was a cozy fit but somehow it was perfect for the quaint castle. The woman in white who had seated us seemed nervous, although no one could distinguish why. “Hello” she began.“Hello” she repeated, “my name is Elfriede. How are you today?” she continued slowly. We all beamed at her with expressions of excitement mingled with hunger. “Great” we echoed as if our responses had been practiced for decades. “Well let me explain the menu because it is all in Italian” she said lightly while glancing at our amalgamation of translation books, dictionaries, and papers. We all chuckled and encouraged her to go on.“Okay where do I begin?” She replied once again looking perplexed, explaining that her English was not so good. Despite her apprehension she spoke perfectly. Our new Italian friend translated the entire menu for us while making recommendations about her specialties. After dialoguing back and forth, we quickly learned that this castle had been in their family for generations and that her grandmother had taught her to cook. Elfriede overflowed with eagerness as she told us stories about learning English, mastering cuisine, and wanting to learn more about Americans. The hours flew by as we talked, ate, and sat intoxicated by her wit and charm. All too soon she excused herself into the kitchen. Disappointed, we returned to talking amongst ourselves and enjoying the atmosphere of the restaurant, the Stachelburg Keller, and the incredible cuisine we were engulfing.
Later that evening her Italian speaking sister approached our table. She looked shy yet smiled and read slowly from a piece of paper. “My sister has prepared you a tiramisu. She will bring it out soon.”
She smiled when we nodded our heads excitedly. Moments later Elfriede emerged with the epitome of perfection: A homemade tiramisu like none other. She once again sat down as we all grabbed spoons and destroyed the perfect combination of ladyfingers and custard. As we sat talking it occurred to me that this is what travel is truly about, finding unique people and places. It is about enjoying a perfect tiramisu in an old castle. It is about the relationships that you build and preserve, and above all else it is about the unexpected friendships that come together in the most unique of places.
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