The Incidental Roman Affair, Part I: Gelato e Baci

It’s a pleasantly crisp February morning as the sun shines brightly over Piazza del Risorgimento. Mischievous gusts of wind whip through narrow, cobbled streets as The Eternal City relishes a leisurely start to another wonderfully clamorous day.

At this hour, one might reasonably be in search of un caffè. Instead, I’m on a mission for gelato. Solely for research purposes. Well, research and the fact that I love gelato. Can I use the excuse that I’m in Rome, so, “When in Rome…”? Perhaps I should preface this by mentioning that Italians really only do gelato in the summer, and typically only in the evenings…. Good thing I’m not Italian. It’s 10am and I will have my creamy scoop of frozen goodness. Ask me if I want gelato (any time, any day) and the answer will likely be a resounding sì, certo. Yes, of course! The more important question is, “What flavor?”

We’re walking toward Old Bridge Gelateria, delayed intermittently (and amusingly) by promoters trying to sell us guided tours, discounted tickets, and skip-the-line passes into the beauties of Vatican City, just across the street and beyond the wall. With my physical features, I’m presumed (correctly) as a straniera: foreigner. Nicolò, walking beside me, is then, consequently, often assumed (incorrectly) to be a straniero. After deftly dodging a few promoters, a brave youth jumps onto the path ahead of us, trying first a Mandarin “Ni hao,” then a Spanish “Buenos días,” and, finally, an English “Hello.” Nicolò listens to the promoter’s pitch for a minute, chuckles, then breaks into fluent Italian, hands gesturing this way and that as he explains he’s actually local. The promoter chortles his way through “Scusi, mi hai fregato. You trick me!” and saunters away to charm whom he hopes is his next sale.

Approximately 50 feet from our destination, Nicolò is inspired by the promoter and decides to have some fun of his own. He approaches a group of teenagers, asking in unfaltering English –and speaking solely in English– how he might get to the gelateria. You should probably know that he doesn’t have a thick Italian accent when he speaks English, and you might not easily place his accent immediately;20140410-194943.jpg I play along with the charade, only partially able to suppress my laughter when he pretends to grossly mispronounce Italian words and streets.

By the end of our conversation, a girl has patiently pointed us toward Caffè Portofino in her seldom-used English, and we change course for the Prati district. Once out of earshot, I burst into laughter, leaning on Nicolò for support.

“What’s so funny?” he asks innocently, a smile playing on his lips. I reply with more laughter.

Exiting Caffè Portofino with mounds of gelato topping all-too-small waffle cones, we stop for a selfie. This is when I discover the deliciousness that is a Bacio. Before you get carried away, I don’t mean an actual bacio (kiss), but a chocolate of the Baci Perugina variety. You often hear that chocolate is one of the ways to a woman’s heart; well, traditionally, an Italian gifts the object of his or her desire with a Bacio.

Nicolò produces two baci from a jacket pocket and introduces me to the hazelnut delights wrapped in shiny blue and silver foil. I enjoy Hershey’s as much as the next girl, but Nestlé takes the cake –or in this case, the chocolate– on this one.

What makes Baci® so delizioso? Here’s the anatomy of a Perugina Kiss.

 

 

Having never actually had Baci before, I’m surprised to find love notes (or so they’re called) inside the signature wrapper.

 

 

I like fortune cookies. I like Dove Promises. As of today, I think I like Baci Perugina most of all. I guess you could say it started with a chocolate kiss.

 

Stay tuned for part 2: Dinner Date?

*Gelato isn’t merely the Italian word for “ice cream” – learn the difference from The Food Network.