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!
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→
Who doesn’t love a good festival? The combination of food, games and fun in an outdoor setting is always guaranteed to be a success. I mean, what more could you ask for? But if the name of the festival is Primavera dei Vini (Wine in the Springtime) and the location is in the remote Italian countryside – then you’ve got all the ingredients you need and more!
If you check Wikipedia to learn about Rovescala, you will discover that this small commune (municipality) is located about 50km southeast of Milan. Aaaaand… basta (stop). That’s it. If you research the festival itself, you’re likely to uncover only two or three short blog posts about it, aaaaaand… basta! So this event is a relatively unknown festival in a small, remote Italian town – why on earth would anyone be interested in going?! Because it’s a relatively unknown festival in a small and remote Italian town, of course! In our experience, these are usually the best gatherings – genuine and unpretentious, just as it should be in Italy.
Most people visit Europe in the spring or summer. Of course, these are great times of year to see such a magical and historical place. But may I suggest to you a unique alternative?
Come in December, when the weather is at it’s coldest and the people are their warmest. When the cobblestone streets are strung with lights and the ancient buildings are trimmed with garland. Imagine your most magical place for the holidays – a winter wonderland, if you will. You will be sure to find something that fits your image here in Europe. There are amazing markets and festivals across the continent. Some countries boast cities that are particularly renowned for their holiday cheer. Finland, Germany and Austria are at the top of the list. Denmark and Switzerland are there as well. And of course, our personal favorite place to be for Christmas is right here in Italy. Before you plan your next Christmas vacation, add Europe into the running.
“Boy, Clark – I think we should go to Europe next year”
You may have recently read that our Christmas spirit was put into gear when we attended a Milanese festival early in December. We continued our drive toward Santa’s big day by slipping into second gear and crossing the border into neighboring Switzerland. Our Christmas spirit grew as we set out to enjoy one of the things we love most about Europe in December – the Christmas markets.
Christmas trees like this are in cities all over Europe – this is in the main piazza of Lugano, Switzerland
It just so happens that one of our favorite things about living in Italy is access to wonderful markets year round. In the spring and summer, we can stroll the markets to buy fresh vegetables and aged cheese. In the fall, we can purchase delicious homemade jams and carefully crafted grappa. However, the winter markets are undoubtedly our favorite. The backdrop is perfect – streets framed with Christmas lights. Good cheer around every turn. Wonderful food and beautiful artisanal goods at each stand. Beyond that, it is perfectly acceptable to walk around drinking the specialty drink of the season, vin brulé. This cooked wine is seasoned with sugar and spices – designed to warm your hands and belly as well as comfort your soul. No market visit on a cold December day would be complete without a cup (or two). Continue reading The Christmas Markets of Switzerland→
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”… and that means so many things! It means snow flakes and Christmas lights. It means cold weather and hot chocolate. It means Santa Claus and stockings stuffed with goodies. When you live in Europe, it also means tremendous Christmas markets and delicious vin brulè (cooked wine, usually sold on the streets). Over the past couple weeks, we have been taking advantage of it all! Because Christmas is only four days away – I will spend the next four days posting about our Christmas fun. In order to do that, I have to bend my “unbreakable rule” and publish blog posts out of order. I’ll fast-forward to Christmas and then flash back to some exciting posts that I have in the pipeline.
Oh bej! Oh bej! No, you don’t have to say “gesundheit”! I didn’t sneeze. That is the name of a festival held each year in Milan, spanning from December 7th through the following Sunday. How did it get that wonderful name, you ask? “Oh bej! Oh bej!” means, “oh so nice! Oh so nice!” in the Milanese dialect. It is by far, the most important Christmas festival held in Milan. December 7th is the day of the Patron Saint of Milano, Santo Ambrogio. The festival is said to date back all the way to 1510.
Before I’ve even written the first word of this post, my OCD brain is trying to figure out if this post should be categorized under the “Food” or the “Travel” sections of the blog. I will be taking you along with us on our travel adventure to go eat some of Italy’s best food. It’s quite the dilemma…
A selection of salumi (cold cuts), formaggi (cheese) and the cinghiale (boar) that gave his life to the cause
You may have read about part of our visit with Aunt Deb and Uncle S where we ventured into the wine region of Piemonte during the first portion of their visit. Their two week sojourn in Italy included a mission to explore the best of what the country has to give. It was no coincidence then, that their adventure had been neatly divided into three of the country’s best offerings. Part I was Vino (wine). Party II was Cibo (food) – the subject of today’s post. Lastly, Part III was Storia (history). Since they experienced the rich history of Pompeii and Venezia on their own, I will let them tell you all about it at their next dinner party. I’ll simply report on the parts during which we were present… and luckily for us, we were present for a three day trip into Italy’s richest “food region”, Emilia-Romagna. Continue reading Loosen Those Belt Buckles – Some Serious Eating Ahead→
The title says it all. What commentary can I possibly add to a post who’s pictures tell the entire story?! Normally, I envision my readers hanging on to my every word and each carefully crafted pun (I said that I “envision” it… I know it doesn’t really happen) – but this time, I think I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Of course, I do have to give some sort of framework around the pictures (hey, it is my blog, after all).
Crowds fill the streets during Oktoberfest 2013
You may have just read about Josh and Abby’s visit where we ate too much, indulged too much and just did… too much! You know, the norm. We were lucky enough to also have Dave and Jill drop in for part of their trip and join us again in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest. We were excited to get to the party – but before we could drink our first liter of beer in Munich, we needed to get there. There is no better way to travel through Europe than the train – and when you have an overnight-train option, it’s a win. You get your “hotel room” for the night included in the cost of transportation. But travelers be forewarned – the Ritz… It. Is. Not! Continue reading Oktoberfest… What More Can I Say?!→
It’s been a long time since I completed a blog post. So long, that for some reason – I’m a bit nervous (strange, my friends will tell you that I love to talk about myself). So I’ve been procrastinating. I have organized my DVD drawer. I carefully tended to the plants (I’ve discovered I love gardening…in small doses). And the past few days, I have been playing Mr. Mom while Jen is in California for work. I have done just about everything to avoid writing on the blog for the past month… and the only thing I’ve come to realize is that I now have a mountain of work ahead of me.
A mountain in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, not completely unlike my mountain of work
It’s not that I’ve just been procrastinating. We’ve been busy. I mean, very busy. Albeit, busy doing more of the same (traveling, eating, drinking, etc.) – but still always experiencing something new. So, please grant me the excuse of allowing the experience to get in the way of the blog – just this one time! In the coming days and weeks, you will hear of our wonderful trip to visit our good friends in France; the visit from Jen’s family and the upcoming visit with my parents. I’ll toss in a few food posts and hopefully a feature on where we’ve been living (which has been in the pipeline since I started this blog). So let’s get this party started… no more delays. And so, it begins with a trip to France… Continue reading What’s the French Riviera Without a Gold Yacht?→
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→
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→