Category Archives: Friends

Mercatone dell’Antiquariato – Milan’s Outdoor Antique Market

Jennifer and I simply love outdoor markets.  Jen holds on to the belief that she’s going to stumble across a vintage Louis Vuitton handbag or uncover that perfect piece for our future living room.  I’ve got much lower (and more realistic expectations); I’m just thrilled that I get to eat “street food”.  Nothing is better than a porchetta paninio (pork sandwich) from a food vendor with freshly fried zeppole  (Italian donuts) for dessert.  I love sandwiches, I love eating outside and I love feeding my entire family for less than €20!

Pack your bags, let's check out the market!
Pack your bags, let’s check out the market!
All of us at the Fiera
All of us at the Mercatone dell’Antiquariato

Jen has been trying to get to the Mercatone dell’Antiquariato del Naviglio Grande since we moved here nearly a year and a half ago. “What’s the big deal – why is it so hard to make it to a market”, you ask? Well, this particular market only takes place on the last Sunday of each month (except for July).  For those of you that aren’t math wizards, that’s just eleven chances a year to make it to Milan for this 80-year-old Milanese tradition.  Our first attempt was foiled – we set out one day in January of 2013, but got derailed when we couldn’t find parking.  It was ambitious of me to try so soon after moving to Italy – had I known then what I know now, I would have just thrown my car on the curb like the hundreds of other locals.  Instead, we stopped for lunch and found an amazing sandwich place, which I blogged about HERE.  After lunch, we lost the motivation to go back and agreed, “we’ll try again as soon as we get the next opportunity”.  Well, travel and other obligations delayed that opportunity fifteen more months. Continue reading Mercatone dell’Antiquariato – Milan’s Outdoor Antique Market

Our Lil’ Sis Comes to Visit

Since the moment my wife Jennifer laid eyes on her baby sister, Jessica, they formed a strong bond that has only developed over time.  Sure, Jennifer usually acts more like her mother than her sister and yes, there have been a few lively battles resulting in a couple “boo-boos”, but they are as close as any two sisters I have ever known.

Jen and her younger sister, Jessica overtop Lake Como
Jen and her younger sister, Jessica overtop Lake Como

That’s why we were thrilled when we learned of a last-minute vacation Jessica planned with her boyfriend, Matt.  We were doubly excited because not only were we going to spend time with Jessica, but we were finally going to be able to meet Matt.  Living in Italy comes with its obvious benefits, but we do miss out on a lot at home and so we are thrilled any time “home” comes to us. Continue reading Our Lil’ Sis Comes to Visit

Le Violette – A Bed & Breakfast Full of Charm

You know when you visit a charming little restaurant or hotel and turn to your significant other on the way home and say, “what a wonderful place.  I wish them all the success in the world – I’d love to come back soon and relive this experience all over again”?  Or, have you ever been so impressed with someone personally that you truly want them to succeed at whatever it is they decide to do with their life?

Well, when we recently visited Le Violette in Lucca, Tuscany; I had the rare occasion to think both of those things.  Le Violette is such an inviting place and its proprietor, Elizabeth is such a warm and genuine person that it is impossible not to fall in love with the entire experience. Continue reading Le Violette – A Bed & Breakfast Full of Charm

“Lucca Over Here… This Tuscan Town is Amazing”!

If you read the title of this post with your best impression of an Italian accent, then you probably nailed the pronunciation of one of our new favorite Italian towns.  Lucca has been on our bucket list to visit for quite some time and now we can happily say we’ve been.

Lucca, Italy
Lucca, Italy viewed from the Torre Guinigi
Torre Guinigi - Lucca
Another angle from Torre Guinigi
Lucca viewed from the city walls
Lucca viewed from the city walls

The city is renowned for many things, not the least of which is the giant annual gathering of comic book nerds and fantasy film geeks. Lucca plays host to Europe’s version of Comic-Con, the Fiera Internazionale del Fumetto (International Festival of Comics) or as it’s commonly referred – Lucca Comics and Games.

Some participants of Lucca Comics.  Photo courtesy of Francesco Petrucci
Some participants of Lucca Comics and Games. Photo courtesy of Francesco Petrucci

Continue reading “Lucca Over Here… This Tuscan Town is Amazing”!

Let’s Set Sail Together Again (Corfu, Greece)!

It’s been nearly a month and a half since my last meaningful post and I am once again faced with the monumental task of getting caught back up.  I’m not sure how or why I allowed myself to get so far behind, but I do know that I have left myself a lot of work.  The wine, cheese and salami will just have to wait (well, I suppose it can’t hurt to have a little wine while I write).  I would like to apologize to my readers for this delay and I would like to acknowledge one loyal reader in particular;  Helen  actually reached out to me through our Contact Us page and basically said, “what the hell, Greg – where’ve you been?!”  Helen and everyone – even though it can’t excuse the lack of content, we  just got back from a two-week trip to the States where, in my capacity as Best Man, I roasted my good buddy Josh and toasted his beautiful bride, Abby (read about Josh and Abby’s trip to visit us here and here).

While we were home, I rediscovered some magical things – burritos, quality customer service and Netflix.  We haven’t watched as much TV over the past year as we did over the past two weeks.  I became obsessed with the Netflix original series, House of Cards – an amazing drama starring, Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, a cagey and politically ambitious congressman who is constantly scheming and conniving to reach the next rung of the political ladder.  If Frank Underwood can work through all hours of the night and stay ten moves ahead of his opposition, surely I can bang out a few extra blog posts in the next couple weeks.

You and me both, Frank
You and me both, Frank

We still have tons of travel left to do together – I’ve only written about the very first part of our cruise late last year and so much has happened since.  So put on your boating shoes and let’s get going… Continue reading Let’s Set Sail Together Again (Corfu, Greece)!

The Perfect Recipe – Great Friends, Food & Tons of Fun

Sometimes living abroad is hard.  Like when you miss a good friend’s wedding in upstate New York – an event that turned out to be the social gathering of the year (according to Facebook pictures and word of mouth). Thankfully Dave and Jill completely understood when we declined to come.  Or when one of your best friends tells you that he’s planning on “popping the question” via email, because there’s really no easier way.  Those are the types of conversations that should be reserved for a late night in a neighborhood bar, complete with lots of back pats and free rounds for the groom-to-be.  Thankfully, Josh was great about keeping me in the loop, sending us pictures of his wonderful proposal to Abby in Charlestown earlier this year (and even calling us via FaceTime shortly afterward).  So, yeah – living abroad can be hard when you miss these special moments in your friends and families lives.  However… when we’re able to host our friends and family here, we are always grateful for the experience abroad.

Abby, Josh, Jill, Dave, Jen and Julia

For that reason, we were absolutely thrilled when we heard that Josh and Abby were going to come visit us.  We coordinated the timing of their trip so that they would be visiting during a beautiful time of year and the start of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.  As soon as they booked their airfare, I reserved our train tickets to Munich, which I’ll write about in the upcoming post. Continue reading The Perfect Recipe – Great Friends, Food & Tons of Fun

Two Greeks in Italy

I don’t know anyone in their thirties that really goes around saying, “I’m Greek” because he or she was in a fraternity or sorority – but it was certainly fun to be a part of Greek Life during college.  Jennifer and I were both “Greeks” while we attended Virginia Tech together and we each established lifelong friendships that have opened world’s of opportunities.

Lauren and Jen in front of Lake Garda

One of Jen’s sorority sisters, Lauren recently came to visit – and they instantly fell into their old college routine.  We welcomed Lauren at the train station; she was arriving from Switzerland having visited another friend living abroad.  We went to downtown Como and had a nice dinner, before enjoying a few drinks in the piazza while a live band entertained us. Continue reading Two Greeks in Italy

Step Aside… It’s Time to Grill!

When our friends, Nathan and Danielle had come to visit this past spring – Danielle pointed at a unique outdoor-oven-with-a-chimney-thingy in a neighbors yard and asked what it was.  I replied with all the confidence in the world that it was an Italian-style BBQ, but in reality I wasn’t positive.  I had seen the smoke billowing through the chimney and I had seen many of these things in other neighbors yards – but I had never inquired about it.  I asked my “go-to guy for all things Italian”… Jen’s uncle, Franco.  He confirmed that it was in fact a BBQ and a fairly typical one in Italy.  So, my educated guess was right.  Whew!

Classic Italian style outdoor grill

I noticed shortly thereafter that the typical gas Weber grills we’re accustomed to using in the States are non-existent here.  In fact, it’s possible you may see a round charcoal grill – but more often than not, it’s one of these large, permanent fixtures that people use to grill. Continue reading Step Aside… It’s Time to Grill!

Beaches, Wine and Pasta Making – What a Vacation

Recently, Jen’s family came to visit (HERE) and since we’re not the type of family that does well sitting still, we planned a couple trips within their trip.  One of these week-long sojourns was an impromptu visit to Civitella in the Abruzzo region- Jen’s nonna’s (grandma’s) hometown.  The official name of this gem of a village is actually, Civitella Messer Raimondo which is home to less than 900 residents. Jennifer and Jessica grew up going to visit their nonna and family friends in Civatella during many of their summers abroad.  Since I had never been to see such an important part of my wife’s family history – I was excited to go.

Civitella Messer Raimondo – the place where it all started!

Continue reading Beaches, Wine and Pasta Making – What a Vacation

And I Thought Italians Eat Big Meals!

Jen, Julia and I spent a few days exploring France – from the French Riviera (blog post HERE) to Côtes du Rhône (first blog post HERE).  I knew that the dining experience would be different than what we’ve grown accustomed to while living in Italy, but I think I underestimated just how different it would be.
I’ll point out a couple of the noticeable differences.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I have made many references to pranzo, or lunch.  While the literal definition is simply, lunch – it should be modified to be more along the lines of, large meal in which copious amounts of pasta are finished with meats and salads and where the act of gathering is as important as the meal.  Wine and grappa are a must.  Since lunch is usually the “big deal”, that means we partake in a very light dinner.  Whereas in France, dinner was the star meal of the day.  Although, many of our days in France we also had a big lunch, and so our stomachs questioned our brains when we sat down to a second coursed-out meal at dinner time.  Continue reading And I Thought Italians Eat Big Meals!