J: Buon giorno. Me: Buon giorno.

J: Mi chiamo Justin.

Me: Io non parlo italiano. Parla inglese?

J: Do I speak English? Si.

Me: Great.

J: No - we're not done.

Me: We don't have to learn the language.

J: I want to learn the language.

We're going to Italy to visit my little brother, Vinnie, who is studying abroad in a town called Ferrara. It's near Venice, but nowhere near as popular a tourist stop. J's insisted we learn a couple phrases to get around, probably a good idea as the town won't have the comfort of Italians used to annoying Americans who don't know any language but their own. But I foresee shoe and scarf buying, lounging, and espresso drinking, and plan on relying on my natural instincts to whack out some Italian phrases when I need to. I've tried this before - this on the spot summoning knowledge of a foreign language. It doesn't work.

J's never been to Europe, and while we're both getting pretty excited, I think his excitement beats mine a little. Plus, he's been working harder, later, and more than me, and this will be a true vacation. "Italy?!" he keeps saying. Yes, Italy.

He's daydreaming about Italian food, he says. J told me he is just envisioning the food we are going to eat when over there, and the atmosphere in which we will eat it.

We'll be on a mountain, overlooking a valley, he tells me. We'll be outside, but under one of those wooden things? With the ivy growing all over it?

I remind him it is November, and slightly cold. He gives me a look and goes on.

So we'll be under that thing, eating big, hot bowls of pasta and bread, and everyone is talking and drinking wine.

I ask him who these people will be, and why we'll be on a mountain and whatnot, but reasoning isn't really part of this daydream. J's also excited about families inviting us in off the street to have dinner with them.

I have no doubt that the trip will, if not live up specifically to these imagined scenes, at least live up to how wonderful we are hoping it will be. Ten days in an Italian town. We'll be the loud Americans and they'll show us how it really is.