When  you think of Italy what crosses your  mind? Spaghetti with meatballs? Wine? Hot Italian men and woman with accents, strolling around a picturesque vineyard with a cigarette in hand and short glass of wine in the other? maybe the lazy lunches with prosecco that lead into long and flavorful dinners with wine made in that village?  Maybe its the olive trees planted hundreds of years ago? or maybe its the fine suits and beautiful handmade shoes? maybe its the handmade pasta rolled out by the older woman that looks like your nanna and it looks as if shes been making it for centuries-never a smile on her face until she needs to.  Maybe its the mafia you think of, Tony Soprano at your service?

No matter how  you see it - these are some of the things I associate with Italy - and soon enough I will be there to find out.
This crazy story starts when I was in Southern Cali - I was driving up the coast (hwy 1 - which if you haven't done, is a totally must do)  and went to Pebble Beach Food and Wine.  I rented a pool house on the ocean in next to the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course and found my way back there after long days of tasting and eating.  On one of those nights, I was skimming through the i pad on Facebook and saw this Italian Enrichment Trip that any sommelier could fill out an application for.  There was only a day left or so before the deadline was up.  I decided to write it, half intoxicated, right then and there.  I filled it out, sent it in, and forgot about it. 
A month later I get an email on a Wednesday night, after a very long day and night with Dick Dore from Foxen.  I had my fair share of his miracle pinot noir and when i first saw the email I actually thought it was junk mail.  It started as "Dear Amber - Congratulations, you have been selected as one of the etc etc etc.   Well how many emails do you get that the first line is the same "Dear Amber, Congratulations, you have been selected to (try out Viagara,  win a trip to blah blah for being the 19th caller, will win a trip to blah blah if you call to claim your prize, you will win a gift card if you send back your full name and social security #) So I was about to delete it when I read the word - sommelier.  Hmmm.  Interesting.  Then I crazily skimmed the letter and I lost my breath.  There it was.  It was me.  I was going to Italy.  Was it a joke? A mean one if it was.  I was in my dining room/office in heels jumping up and down by myself,  screaming at 11 pm with half a buzz on from dicks magical pinot (that doesnt sound right) and Yes - I won.  The email told me to email back asap if I could go.  So I did. right then and there in my breathless and excited mode.  The email was as follows. "i am totally in.  I am so excited."  I Didn't realize the capacity of such a ridiculous and unprofessional letter at 11pm with a buzz until the next morning. I woke up at 4 am with a thought of "I need to email them a thank-you"  then as a couple seconds rolled by - OH SHIT
WHAT! did i just send that to the president of the foundation for the guild of sommeliers and the somebody big of something else?  Are u flippn kidding me amber??? 
I then wrote a proper letter to them both, of course apologizing first for the lack of respect in the first letter (leaving out that I had drank Dicks magic pinot noir all night) and letting them know I was honored to be chosen etc etc. 

I heard nothing back for 2 days.  I was in shambles about it. 
Saturday afternoon one of them emailed me back and thought the first letter was "charming and much appreciated"   - I wonder if that means - "why did I pick this person"  but I dont care - I am going to Italy people. 
I will learn like crazy, drink wine with the mother land, and eat like a slutty pig"

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