Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cena Goliardica : This Shit Happens

Last night was a grand night for the Collegio Ghislieri. It was the infamous Cena Goliardica. We took part in the way that Ghisleriani have been doing for centuries. At first, the evening unfolded in the traditional Italian fashion. We all gathered in Portineria a good half hour after we had agreed on and mulled about talking for another half hour. Our intimate group of fifty-seven friends headed out from the college and along the streets of Pavia. It must have been a terrifying sight. Of course, as we passed other colleges, everyone did their best to remember fun little songs. One goes “Ignoranza sempre presente.” Clap clap clap clap clapclap clapclapclap. Clever Italians.

After a good half hour of seemingly aimless wandering, we stumbled upon a quaint little trattoria. I’d like to point out that I use quaint here to mean run-down. We crowded into the poor little business which I’m sure just wanted to die peacefully. In the back room, there was a table set up for us. All the older students set to squabbling over which matricola (freshman) they would own for the evening. I was surrounded by yells of “Cagamerda!” or “Furby!” or “Jar Jar Binks!” I guess it’s important here to take a tangent and explain that every male member of the college has a nickname. When the new matricole arrive, the older students assign all of them nicknames. The names are usually based on resemblance, and as evidenced above, are rarely nice.

After the older students had secured their new wards, we finally all sat down and got ready for dinner, and by this I mean that we chanted “Vino, vino, vino, vino” while pounding on the table. Before long the wine arrived. It was, it seemed, a special variety of wine. On first taste, it seemed kind of like gross water, but the more you drank, the more it tasted like a rich bouquet of autumnal flavors and industrial cleaner.

To avoid boredom while we waited for our meal, the Italians engaged in some other ancient traditions. These ranged everywhere from stealing articles of clothing from the matricole to making them stand on chairs and sing to other, less mentionable things. After twenty minutes or so, our antipasti arrived and the dinner got into full swing. The next two hours were a frenzy of eating, yelling, and above all, drinking.

When it comes to drinking, Italians are interesting. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Italians have the absolute lowest alcohol tolerance of any people. After a two glasses of wine, or a glass of spumante, or a good grappa, they get pretty goofy. When this happens to Italians, who are goofy genetically, the goof factor can get a bit out of control. This is what happened last night. There was an excess of goof everywhere.

I was seated next to a matricola who had a bit of a weird habit. The more he drank, the more he wanted to speak in English. The only problem is, the more I drink, the more I want to speak in Italian and the better I speak in Italian. I wanted to take advantage of my, by now, kick-ass Italian skills, so I was talking to every other Italian in Italian while an Italian talked at me in English. It was pretty ridiculous, kind of like that last sentence.

Our bottles of wine had a nasty habit of emptying themselves. After one such occasion, I finished my glass and was feeling a bit unfulfilled. Suddenly the Italian across the table from me, Stasi, miraculously had a bottle of wine. Proving his genius, he had hidden a bottle under the table to for our end. I was a little over-impressed and complimented him thoroughly for his cleverness. After several of the matricole had vomited (charming, I know) we had a little exodus and headed off to cause some trouble.

The now drunken gang of Italians marched through the streets singing some more clever songs. Before long, we arrived at our rival college, Borromeo. There was a phalanx of Borromaici out in front of the college, prepared for our approach. The others manned the windows ready to throw all sorts of disgusting things on the approaching army of Ghisleriani. The matricole were forced into a formation and almost all the male Ghisleriani surged forward toward the bastion of Borromeo, despite the rain of liquids from above. At this point my compatriots convinced me to do my sacred duty to fight Borromeo. So, like any good person, I went to pee on the side of a four hundred year old building. As I approached the building, a cute girl rounded the corner. I quickly zipped my pants back up, pretending to do anything else. As it turned out, the girl was a Borromaica. We had a good conversation while she waited for the entrance to be free of mildly epic Italian struggle. At a certain point, I had to excuse myself and ask that she didn’t look while I peed on her college.

We retreated in a strangely triumphant fashion, chanting and cheering in generally good humor. Before we made it even half a block, we encountered the female Ghisleriani who had just finished their Controcena (counterdinner). The two masses merged and the Ghisleriani army returned to Borromeo twice as large. There was more general struggle and everyone had a great time.

The second retreat was even more triumphant and all hundred and something of us walked down the main street of Pavia singing and dancing. Sure, it seems like I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. This shit happened.

We returned to the college and I retrieved my jacket from Jar Jar who had been dying from the cold. A bunch of us ended up in someone’s room enjoying warm beverages. We all talked and enjoyed each other’s company late into the night.

Just as it seemed like the evening was ending, we went to the room of my half British, half American friend Ashley. She, Harry, and I talked about life, love, and all the things that matter most. Being a bit of an exhausting subject, sometime around six in the morning I decided to return to my room where I promptly fell asleep.


  1. Ci sei andato!!! Fantastico. Ci sono andato anch'io. Tanto vomito, ma tanto divertimento. Hai pompato? Alla fine, io sì. E vero, non ero ubriaco, ma tutti gli altri, decisamente.

    Per quanto riguarda Borromeo, ben fatto! Io avevo trovato un ombrello per strada e mi sono coperto con quello mentre apprezzavo il tutto.

  2. This blog reminded me the insane days of Pavia, as a student. I enjoyed it a lot. I only argue your theory about the Italians and the alcohol tolerance (yes, I'm Italian, I have a genetic passion for polemics). Your sample was made of Ghislieri students. That's heavily biased! As every student of Pavia knows, a consistent part of the Ghislieri students can be defined as "a bunch of lame nerds" (if you're Italian, you need very very very good marks to get in, and, furthermore, to stay in year after year). The other minority is made of cool nerds -some friends of mine are former Ghislieri student, I've been there many times.
    It's implicit that the lame nerds will get wasted immediately... try to check the alcohol tolerance of the Sottovento (via Siro Comi) customers!

    PS seriously, the aperitivo at Sottovento is good, not fancy, rough and funny. (If you do that, please say to the bartender that "Maro" brings his regards from China)