Monday, February 21, 2011

See ya Starbucks, Wine and Book is the place to be

Posted by Tess Raser, Student, CET Intensive Language and Culture Studies in Catania.

As a college student, I am used to grabbing my books and heading to Starbucks when I desire a social studying environment. I can cram for the next exam, write that final paper, or meet with friends and chat over our favorite java beverages.

In Catania, it’s a little different. Of course there are more cafes serving delectable espresso drinks than I can count. However, the place where I go with fellow CET students to study and reflect on our Sicilian days, is called Macondo Wine and Book Cafe.

The first time I saw the small shop’s name, just a block away from the Residence, I was intrigued. It stood out among the panificios (bread shops), pizzerias, and gelaterias. And it seemed that every time we passed by, the shop was closed. That is, until one Wednesday night when May, another CET student, and I walked past it and saw the lights on. Excited, we ran home and grabbed our compiti (homework) and returned with painted grins.

When we arrived the door was locked even though minutes before a man had been standing inside. The lights were all still on. All we could do was stare through the window and watch a computer’s screensaver, a fake flickering fire with candy corn in place of flames and pretzel sticks in place of logs. A couple minutes later, a hip-looking couple arrived on a Vespa and casually said, “He probably just went for a walk or something.” At that moment, May Bayer (middle, pictured with Julie Hooper and Angela Pisoni, CET 2011) and I remembered that we were still in Sicily. This was not unusual.

Eventually the man returned, and we were finally able to enter the mysterious shop. The walls are bright orange and covered in tall, wooden bookshelves, which hold hundreds of books—some old, some new, some tall, some short, some green, some written by Spanish authors, some by Japanese. The only book we could focus on was the wine menu on the table in front of us. There are wines from all over Europe and Sicily in particular. We got generous-sized glasses of wine and a plate of fresh bruschetta; the perfect accompaniment to Italian language homework. Of course, we couldn’t do homework forever and soon were distracted by the shopkeeper’s dog.

Since then, every time we’ve returned to Wine and Book, there has been a different dog there. On our first visit, we played with what I think was a very chubby pitbull, pictured above. That day, while we smiled, smitten, at the dog, an older man sitting across from us was also smiling at the dog. Perhaps because of our mutual love of dogs, he asked if we wanted to play with the checkerboard set on his table. Instead, we challenged him to a game. Embarrassingly, May and I lost. It was a two-versus-one game, but he was a particularly tricky opponent.

Still, the defeat has not stopped us from returning to Wine and Book, and we have gone back several times with our other housemates. We hope to get through the whole wine book. After all, the only thing more embarrassing than losing that checkers match, would be returning home from Italy and not being wine connoisseurs.

Edited by Janet Lawrence, Resident Director.

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