With the gourmet food fair and my delightful meeting with my host counselor Nicola Rabaglietti, today has been an exceptionally great day! I finally got Nicola’s contact information and gave him a call yesterday afternoon. I had such a huge amount of anxiety, because although I can get along well enough in person, talking on the phone is an entirely different cup of tea! I had no idea what to expect, if he would be nice or mean (I assumed nice), speak slowly and clearly or so quickly than I could understand, if he was busy or not… Anyway, I actually got his daughter Jennifer on the phone because he was not there. She was really sweet and gave me his cell phone number, so I called. Someone else answered his phone and I tried to explain who I was, how I had gotten the number, and what I wanted with Nicola Rabaglietti! I was told to call back in 10 minutes. I waited 20. Finally I got the guts to redail the number, and I was greeted by the most gentile, calming voice. We decided to meet each other this evening for a drink or two and a couple of appetizers. I showed up a little early, and took a seat in the cafe we had agreed on. Twenty or so minutes later I got a call from Nicola saying that he was outside waiting for me. I went outside and was instantly given a friendly smile and a big bear hug, and then ushered back inside. Nicola frequents this particular bar and is good friends with the owner, Massimo. Massimo was incredibly kind, charming, and had great taste in wine. He poured us two glasses of his favorite spumante, a sparkling wine. This particular one was quite lovely, made out of Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc– no Chardonnay. It was delicate yet had a definite presence and was absolutely perfect for a warm, lazy afternoon. We were given a gracious helping of various little appetizers: mini pizzas, little quiches, pastries topped with potato or zucchini, little pastry boats with tuna cream piped lavishly into them… it was a “snack” fit for a king! We were frequented by Massimo, who came often to refill our glasses and elaborate on today’s happenings. Nicola is one of the most gracious men I have ever met. He was instantly warm and welcoming, and has taken it upon himself to find me a bicycle that I can use while I am here. He has also invited me to go skiing with his family (on a weekday; he says he won’t tell anyone from Rotary that I am skipping class!), to go to the country for Easter, and to go to the beach sometime in May. He has also planned dinners and opportunities for me to meet his daughter (close to my age and a veterinary student in Pisa) because he is sure that we will be quick friends. I never in a million years expected such hospitality, but then again such has been my entire experience with Rotary. I am so honored and so thrilled to be a part of this wonderful organization.