All posts by Greg

A Sunday Stroll

What’s a good thing to do on a Sunday?  We thought a stroll by the lake might be the perfect activity.  Jen’s uncle Franco had been telling us about a lake nearby that is an exact 5k and perfect for walking and stroller pushing because it has a paved walkway.
Lago di Segrino

Jen and I had ventured off on our own half a dozen times this past week trying to find this nearby lake. First, we went to Lago di Alserio, because that was the closest.  We discovered a charming new town and another “happy hour” place to try – but alas, the lake was not suited for walking.  Next, we tried Lago di Montorfano and found a place to rent boats and a fun-looking beach bar for the summer time.  But no walking trail.  After a few more failed attempts, we realized that we were never going to find this place on our own, given that this area of Italy is often referred to as the Lake District of Italy.  So Sunday morning we asked Franco if he would show us on google maps the location of the map.  Instead, he volunteered to join us and personally direct us in the car.  And fortunately, Claudia offered to stay home and cook us lunch for our return! Continue reading A Sunday Stroll

Our Kitchen

The requests have been flooding in by the virtual truckload…

“Now that you live in Italy… what are you cooking?”

Well, we’re here to tell you two things:

1) Not a single person actually asked the aforementioned question (I just thought the subject might make a fun post).

2) Some things are not that different – some things are very different.

And since I’ve thrown myself headfirst into this “blogosphere” and haven’t posted in a couple days… I’m starting to feel like an addict without an outlet.  So here we go – we’re going to let you into our kitchen and show you our pantry and refrigerator.  You’ll be able to get a first-hand glimpse at what we’ve been eating (when we eat at home that is)!

OUR PANTRY (my favorite)

Pantry Overview

Continue reading Our Kitchen

Julia’s Favorite New Food

The World’s Greatest Sandwich

I had originally come up with an inventive and funny way to start this post.  I was going to draw a parallel between myself and Joey Tribbiani from “Friends”, as we both share an intense love of sandwiches.  I scoured the internet for a clip I can so vividly remember, but could not find it.  When quizzed about his favorite food (which many people assume is pizza), we learn that his favorite food is in fact, sandwiches!

For those of you that weren’t fans of the show, “Friends” (all 3 of you) – Joey Tribbiani is a fun-loving, womanizing, “foodie” who craves [among other things] sandwiches.  Perhaps this love of meat and cheese folded between two pieces of bread comes from his Italian heritage, because as I’m learning – Italians have perfected the art of the sandwich (hereafter referred to as panino or the plural – panini).

On Sunday, Jen and I decided to go to Milano – a forty-five minute drive from our hometown in Como.

Julia playing with pigeons in front of the Duomo in Milano

Jen had heard about a wonderful flea market that is only open the last Sunday of every month.  We bundled up with lots of layers and departed at the wee-early hour of 11:00am (and that was rushing to get out the door).  On the way, we consulted the internet to tell us what else to do for the day and found out about a wonderful restaurant with over 100 types of panini.  We cross-referenced Trip Advisor and read some wonderful reviews of the food.  In my mind, it was a lock we were headed to Bar della Crocetta for lunch!  By the time we finally got to the flea market (after a few wrong turns), it was already time for lunch – so instead, we re-routed the GPS to Bar della Crocetta. Continue reading The World’s Greatest Sandwich

Happy Hour – Although This One Was Unhappy!

What a wonderful tradition happy hour is!  A time when friends can gather and join in a few post-work drinks and perhaps a little nibble to eat.  We’ve always known happy hour to be a 5:00pm – 7:00pm (ish) time to partake in a few cocktails at a discounted price.

Caffè Mazzini – Our favorite Happy Hour in Como

We were pleased to find that the tradition of “happy hour” also exists in Italy and it’s even called the same thing (just imagine saying it with a funny little accent… drop the sound the “h” makes).  However, it’s a bit different here.

Instead of discounted drinks and food, you usually pay the same price for the drinks (which always tends to be low anyways… between $4 – $6) but get a big bonus.  ALL YOU CAN EAT heavy hors d’oeuvres – Italian style!!!  Imagine a bar full of pasta, pizza and other wonderful treats.  If you’re not to embarrassed to fill a plate – you can easily have enough for dinner. Continue reading Happy Hour – Although This One Was Unhappy!

Saturday Market in Como

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday there is a market on the north side of Como.  It exists just outside the old fort wall that surrounds the original city.  There is a collection of over a hundred vendors, most which arrive in their vans and vend from open doors.

Vans – vending on the other side

We strolled through and decided there was nothing we needed before moving on to a late afternoon snack (more on that in a subsequent post).  Below you’ll see a collection of the random items you can purchase if you so choose. Continue reading Saturday Market in Como

Christmas in Italy

OK, we realize it’s nearly February and people are more inclined to think about Valentine’s Day than Christmas… but it’s still cold and snowy and hey, who couldn’t use a little holiday cheer any time of year?!  So, if you’ll forgive us for posting about Christmas at the end of January, than you’ll certainly excuse the fact that these pictures were taken last year!

Christmas is such a special time in Italy.  We didn’t want to miss a posting about this wonderful event and some of the local traditions.  When we arrived  on January 4th, all the lights and decorations were still present but we didn’t have an opportunity to photograph anything.  Therefore, we had to use some from last year’s library.

Lake Como’s Duomo – lit up at night

Starting in early December, you’ll find lights and decorations sprinkled throughout each piazza and cobblestone street you encounter.  In front of every church you’ll see a presepio (nativity scene)  that is always presented wonderfully and illuminated each night.  If you venture into the suburbs (or look up toward the windows in most cities), you’ll see hundreds of little Santas trying to climb their way into someone’s home.  And you’re sure to hear “Buon Natale” (Merry Christmas) at every turn. Continue reading Christmas in Italy

Fourth Time’s the Charm – Our Cell Phone Experience

Whoever said the “easy-going” Italy lifestyle is “easy” was pazzo (crazy).  Take for example our experience in obtaining cell phones.

We thought it would have been simple.  We both have unlocked iPhones that only required a TIM card (the same as a SIM card in the U.S., you just have to slide it in… batta-bing, batta-boom).  We had been briefed that there are no cell phone plans; you simply pre-pay for the week, month or year.  We had decided to get plans with voice, data and text – just enough to help us find each other if separated and maybe find a good trattoria (restaurant) if we were in a new city.

So one nice day (maybe 3 days into our trip), we decided to walk across the street to the local TIM store.  The woman did not speak any English and we didn’t feel comfortable picking a plan blindly.  So we did what we always do… we asked Jen’s uncle Franco (who lives upstairs) for his help.

All Things Are Just a Little Different…

I think this will be a recurring theme… most differences are charming, some can be frustrating and all of them can be humorous when looked at in the right light.

A perfect example of some of these differences that “welcomed” us to our new life in Italy was our own house key.*  There are normal keys right next to it so that you can get a proper scale.

Didn’t know we were living in a bank vault!

*When we say “our house,” we really mean Dominic and Diane’s beautiful home that they have so graciously allowed us to live in for the next year.  We’ll do a separate post with pictures of the place as well.

Touching Down in Italy

We knew the deadline was coming for months… January 3rd was staring us in the face for a long time.  January 3rd rustled up feelings of excitement (me and Jen), nervousness (Jen…ok, me a little) and stress (mainly me).

It got here before we were ready.  We still had a list a mile long on January 2nd and I don’t think either of us were as prepared as we thought to say goodbye to our friends and family.  Jen’s girlfriends threw an incredible send-off hosted at Mike and Aubrey Ciatto’s home.

Aubrey and Mike’s beautiful home – nice touch with the flag

And then… all of a sudden, we woke up on January 3rd.  We hugged our first set of goodbyes to my parents, Julia’s “Pop-Pop and Grandma” in Darnestown, and got a little misty when my usually stoic parents both shed a couple tears. Continue reading Touching Down in Italy