A boy named Sue ~

You never have to go into the sun to turn red~

With the dog days of summer quickly approaching, the heat has me thinking about the beach and, with it being high travel season in Italy, I am sure Italy’s beaches are packed with the touring throngs.

I spent five days in the small coastal town of Amalfi once and the view from the hotel room over the bay could not have been more stunning.

Before I take any trip, I spend months surfing the web for the most idyllic places to stay and visit…and part of their beauty always involved price—a bargain price. There are bargains out there, if you search long enough.

Once such bargain was the Hotel Aurora. It took me countless e-mails back and forth with the hotel’s booking agent, Andrea, to reserve the rooms I wanted. I would write to her in my elementary Italian and she would respond in a very proper British English—with all of the gracious overtones of exceedingly polite conversation. There was nothing Standard American about her English.

For months we corresponded back on forth trying to insure that the rooms I booked would have terraces overlooking the bay and that they would be right next to each other, since Richard and I were traveling with friends, adjoining terraces were a must. I thanked her for her continued vigilance about contacting me first, before anyone else on the waiting list, should a vacancy open up. We joked about the unending throngs of tourists and I tried to be as charming as I could with my Italian—making sure to use all of the correct feminine word endings. I wanted to be as polite and formal with her as she was in her writing to me. After weeks of touching base and daily emails, by the end, I felt that Andrea and I had developed a relationship…a friendship…as basic as it was. I was excited to meet her and she responded in kind. It is in moments like these that I am quite proud of the fact that I can speak some Italian. And sometimes I catch myself gloating to Richard about how I have charmed another Italian with my fundamental knowledge of their native tongue. He congratulates me, but I can see that, in his mind, he is rolling his eyes at me.

We arrived at the Hotel Aurora hot, tired, and exhausted from the harrowing journey by private car from Salerno to Amalfi. If you have ever heard of traffic on the Amalfi Coast being terrifying—it is no joke. The narrow, cliff-side roads twist with breakneck angles, while being packed with motorized vehicles of all sizes—cars, motorcycles, small Italian three-wheeled utility trucks (envision an enclosed motorized wheelbarrow), and enormous tour buses. At times, traffic stops so people can pull their side-view mirrors in against the sides of the car or bus—there is that little clearance. There are literally only inches, and sometimes less than inches, between the passing lanes of traffic.

We approached the hotel counter, pleased to have survived the drive, and I very proudly said to the balding, middle-aged man behind the counter, “Buona sera, il mio nome è Mark Leslie e ho una prenotazione. Anche, è Andrea qui? Lei vorrei conoscere.” (“Good evening, my name is Mark Leslie and I have a reservation. Also, is Andrea here? I would like to meet her.”)

The man behind the desk looked oddly at me. I thought, “OK, my Italian isn’t perfect but he should be able to get the gist of what I said. I mean I know I am close.” Here my arrogance, much like my gloating to Richard, started to take over.

“È possibile? È Andrea qui?” I asked.

Again the man looked at me plainly before smiling and saying, “Sono Andrea.” (“I am Andrea.”)

Ugh! Andrea was a man! I am such a fool. For months I had been charming, practically flirting, with the woman “Andrea.” I knew my attempted Italian would endear her to me—and get me the rooms I wanted. That is what gloating and arrogance gets me—every time—my foot in my mouth! I completely forgot that in Italian the feminine name is “Andria” (“Ahn-dree-ah”) and the masculine name is “Andrea” (“ahn-dray-ah”). I was looking at his Italian name the whole time and thinking it was the feminine “Andrea” for the masculine “Andre.”

I turned three shades of red. For months I had been calling the man behind the counter “her”—I knew our rooms were going to be the broom closets in the basement.

Luckily, Andrea is accustomed to silly American tourists slaughtering his name and language and took pity on me. We were given the terraced rooms with adjoining balconies as promised—with the most wonderful views of the bay.

Our five days there were glorious and Andrea was the most gracious concierge the entire time. One morning on our way to breakfast on the bougainvillea-covered loge, I stopped and apologized to Andrea for the entire feminine/masculine mistake. He was forgiving, though despite my attempts at making him laugh it off, he never did crack a smile.

I hope to return to the Hotel Amalfi again and, this time, Andrea will know that I remember “him.”

Ciao e a presto~


The Photos:

(1) The mosaic tiled map that is embedded in the wall above the main gate into Amalfi.

(2) The town of Amalfi viewed from the bay.

(3) The view from our balcony. Thank-you Andrea!

(4) Boats moored at night outside the Hotel Aurora.

This post is an entry for the Language Learning Blog Contest being hosted by Pimsleur Approach.

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at www.beyondthepasta.com and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

  1. Kris KendrickKris Kendrick07-19-2010

    I so look forward to my first trip to Italy!

  2. heather Chappleheather Chapple07-19-2010

    Pretty much classic…thanks for smiles and the pictures!

  3. Mark LeslieMark Leslie07-19-2010

    Kris, you’ll love Italy. Heather, thanks for the comment–glad you enjoyed the read!

  4. atippettatippett07-19-2010

    As one of the friends travelling with you, I thank you for all of your dealings with Andrea. He may have not been what we expected but he did well by us & Chris & I happily reaped the benefits of all your hard work.

  5. Mark LeslieMark Leslie07-19-2010

    It was a GREAT trip. We’ll have to do it again soon~ 2011?

  6. atippettatippett07-19-2010

    Unless I find a pot of gold in my backyard, my Italian vacation for 2011 might have to be Rome, GA.

  7. Hilarious Mark! It’s so you or any of us trying to impress someone with our knowledge. I can’t wait to go on my first trip to Italy. Have you ever been to Molise?

    • Mark LeslieMark Leslie11-28-2010

      Thanks! It IS just like me…to put my foot in my mouth. It happens 24/7, sadly. Glad you enjoyed it. -M

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.