12 Sparkling Winners & White Lies

     The Palio de Siena brought an energy to the town which had been lacking in the previous days.  The race itself only last about 75 seconds, but the rituals and rivalries that have developed around the event make it a full-on festival.  The streets of Siena were packed with people wearing colorful shirts representing the neighborhood from which the rider they supported hailed.

            Music and motion filled the fan-shaped town square.  And I had my money on a competitor from the “contrada” or neighborhood, called Onda.  I basically picked him because I liked his horse’s colors.  The race was over before you knew it, and the winner was crowned victorious in a scene that would be the equivalent of a Nascar race back in the states.  Except that Nascar was more white-trashy, and usually involved girls with fake boobs congratulating the winners at the end. 

            In true celebratory fashion, the winner popped a bottle of sparkling Italian.  Interested, I asked around and found out the wine was called Franciacorta, which is Italy’s most famous sparkling wine.  I later came to find out that Italians produced some amazing sparkling wines that were much cheaper than their French or Californian counter parts.  The Franciacorta comes from the Lumbardy region of Italy, and has was designated as the “good shit” in 1967.  Franciacorta is made using the traditional champagne method (which we’ll learn more about when CiCi and I head to France).  Suffice it to say, bottle aging sparkling wine makes the bubbles more delicate, effervescent, and delicious. 

            I don’t think sparkling wine gets enough play in the wine world.  It usually gets limited to weddings or celebrations, or ruined by pouring orange juice in it on Sunday mornings.  Feeling that sparkling wine wasn’t getting its fair treatment, I vowed to drink my newly-discovered Franciacorta for the rest of the day.  CiCi obliged. 

            As the celebration of the races continued, we found ourselves in a medieval-style night club that played house music, lit with only candles.  The atmosphere was inviting, fun, and full of 20 somethings.  As we were enjoying the high energy, and involved in an interesting Seinfeld-style conversation about the benefits of high heels paired with miniskirts, two young Italian men interrupted us.  “Ciao Bellas!”  The taller of the two said. 

            Now, to give you a little bit of background, we had been getting hit on all day, and were kind of sick of it.  There is a fine line between being flattered by male attention, and just wanting to have a good time with your girlfriends.  The Italian machismo that we’d been enduring the last few days had started to take its toll.  That, and our love of the Franciacorta shortened our patience.  I returned the hello, but then tried to igore the men and continue my tirade about wedges or platforms.  The men were persistent, and I was buzzed —a bad combination. 

            Feeling feisty from the Franciacorta, CiCi and I decided to have some fun with them.  “Hi, how do you do?”  I asked, introducing myself.  We started with short pleasantries, and CiCi introduced herself using an impossibly thick Czech accent.  “Oh,” I said, “You’ll have to excuse my sister, she doesn’t speak English.”  Of course, the young men found this odd since I spoke perfect English.  So I went on to explain that CiCi were fraternal twins who had been separated at birth.  She was adopted by a Czech family of dignitaries, and I was adopted by an American family.  I explained that we were just now getting acquainted as I had made my way to Prauge to meet her for the first time less than a week previously. 

            This was an age-old game we’d played on unspespecting guys since we were sneaking into bars.  Its like a fake back story where  you get to make up who you are, what you do, and why you’re there.  When I was younger, I was a marketing graduate from the University of Kansas who ran Pepsi’s latest ad campaign.  I’d also been a flight stewardess, a nurse, and a dive master.  Its like story telling and a joke all rolled into one and the more creative, the better. 

            That night, every time CiCi wanted to add to the conversation, she would make up some more “Czech” speak, which apparently, only I could understand and translate.  After about three hours of meaningless, drunk, bar conversation.  CiCi was ready to speak in English again.  When the guys got up to go to the bathroom, she told me her plan:  She was going to fake like she got ill, and we’d both have an excuse to leave the conversation and head to another bar.  Brilliant. 

            When the guys returned, CiCi took a shot of whatever it was they were buying us, and ran for the bathroom as if she was going to lose her dinner all over the bar.  Being the caring and concerned sister, I had to check on her, and make sure she got home safe.  We were free of the cling-ons. 

            Leaving them with the bar tab, we thought we were pretty cleaver to escape the situation.  We got a few blocks away, and headed in the next bar.  As we continued our evening, our conversation and obliviousness to the outside world took over.  I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but I burst into a fit of laughter at some impression CiCi was doing.  At that moment, the tall Italian guy that didn’t think CiCi spoke English, tapped me on the shoulder… “You are deceitful!”  He said with a tone of anger.  I felt like I was five years old and just got caught spitting out my dinner.  We were busted.