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 Raimondowhich 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!
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!→
I have no proof that when my sister, Michelle came to visit with her husband and daughter (David and Elsa) that he was the tallest man in all of Italy… but I’d say there’s a good shot! When I picked them up at the airport, I simply looked for the tallest/shortest couple combo possible (he’s a hair over 6’8″ and she’s a modest 5’2″). I spotted them instantly and helped them get some caffeine before taking them home for our big Italian lunch.
David, Elsa and Michelle – he’s crouching down to make it in the frame
Julia’s younger cousin, Elsa was her newest obsession and she had been excited all week leading up to their visit. She would wake up every day and scroll to some of the video’s or pictures we had on our iPad and scream “ELSA!” When the real thing walked (or rather, crawled) through the door – she was like a kid on Christmas. She couldn’t stop hugging and kissing her. Although, she had an awkward way of pulling her in by the neck – so much so that we dubbed Julia the, “Scranton Strangler” (you “Office” fans will get the reference).
The girls all reunited – Julia just wanted to kiss Elsa all the time
“Is my cousin trying to strangle me?!”
Michelle and David have a high-paced, action-packed lifestyle in Chicago and they were looking forward to a couple weeks of unplugging from their demanding jobs that they both do so well. We were happy to accommodate and show them a slow-paced trip filled with lots of good food and wine. We spent a couple days in the area, taking it easy. We visited the local park with the girls, we walked around downtown Como, we drove through many of the smaller lake towns. I showed David my favorite 5k loop and we went running together nearly every morning. Michelle cracked up one day after her privacy was invaded by our little Julia, somewhere in the beginning stages of potty training. She barged in and saw Michelle on the “potty” and declared to her, “Michelle… potty… YAHHH!” Continue reading The Tallest Man in Italy→
On May 4, 2013 a tornado touched down in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. A path of chaos was carved throughout the area best known for a city that inspired a processed meat in the US nowhere near an authentic representation of it’s namesake – Bologna.
One day prior, a different type of tornado touched down in the Lombardia region just north of Emilia-Romagna. Our friends, Nathan and Danielle landed in Milan and a whirlwind of food, fun, wine was about to begin – our own path of chaos would be carved throughout northern Italy.
Our very good friends, Nathan and Danielle
I picked them up at the airport while Jen stayed home to prepare a proper welcome – an Italian pranzo (lunch) done right. We greeted them with an aperitivo (an alcoholic beverage used to stimulate the appetite) and then began stuffing them with salami, prosciutto, lardo (cured meat – basically just pork fat thinly sliced), cheese and olives. Then it was on to the pasta course, with a simple red sauce before our secondo, veal Milanese. Next of course were the salads and then dessert – fresh fruit and pastries we bought that morning. Plenty of wine flowed throughout the meal and we finished with grappa. The only problem… our large lunch had an effect opposite of our intention to keep them awake and perky in order to stave off jet-lag. They were both crying out for a nap, but we were merciless with our plans. We whisked them to downtown Como, where we walked off lunch and eventually made our way to a bar for happy hour outdoors under the sun. Continue reading Tornado Touches Down in Italy→
Apparently I’m the only person in the world to forget that, “The Sound of Music” took place in Salzburg, Austria. I base this observation on the countless number of tour operators and tourists we observed visiting and posing at key movie locations. However, thanks to a quick iTunes movie download in the hotel, we were quickly singing our doe-ray-me’s along with the rest of the cheese balls.
Not only was this classic movie set and shot here, but a fairly famous musician was also born and raised in the city. Perhaps you’ve heard of him… Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salzburg is an amazing city filled with a rich history and jaw-dropping beauty. We left northern Italy for Austria on a whim two days prior. We continued riding that whim and drove further into Austria to see Salzburg on the suggestion of family. Since our expectations of the city were nonexistent, they were easy to surpass – but I would think this city could have easily leapt the most lofty of them all.
We had exactly two trips pre-planned before we moved to Italy. One to Scotland with Jen’s family this coming June and the other; something way to good pass up… Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland! Jen suggested we participate in one of the largest parties in the world and I happily obliged. We booked a flight on a local carrier and headed to Dublin for a long weekend. I’m going to publish three separate posts dedicated to Dublin – too many stories and photos to fit all into one!
On our way to Dublin
We boarded our flight on Ryan Air from a small, regional airport. As it turns out Ryan Air (an Irish Airline) is simultaneously the coolest and the absolute worst airline on the planet. They offer low-cost airfare throughout Europe (great), but those flights are tricky to find and they nickel and dime you to death (not great). When you book your ticket, you have to navigate through 5 pages of extras that they try to trick you into buying (“would you like trip insurance for your goat?”). By the end, you’re too burned out to read their luggage policy and you might end up in a pickle like we did. Continue reading Kiss me, I’m Irish in Dublin!→
Last week, we received a visit from our Uncle S. and Aunt Deborah who were traveling through Europe on business. They had planned a stop over visit us before traveling by train to their next destination. We had also coordinated with Jen’s mom, who was departing on the same day they arrived, which saved us a trip to the airport and allowed us to spend the day in Milano (never a bad thing). Whoever said planning is overrated never had traffic and a two year old to contend with.
Julia with her great-uncle S.
Julia was sad to see her Nonna leave, but excited to have new visitors to play with. She instantly recognized S. and Deb as they arrived through customs. Since it was early evening when they landed, we took them back to our condo and had a “light” dinner of bread, salami, salami piccante (spicy salami) prosciutto, cheese, a cannelloni bean salad, acciughe in salsa verde (anchovies in green sauce), insalata finocchio (fennel salad) and insalata caprese with some wonderful buffalo mozzarella. Franco and Claudia came downstairs to join the party and brought some additional goodies of their own. Of course, we had more than a bottle or two of some good vino along with grappa and limoncello to wash it all down. Continue reading Eating On Top Of The World→
Jen picked a wonderful restaurant in the heart of Verona, romantically hidden from site, lending the feeling of authenticity (as opposed to “touristy”). We were visiting the amazing city for the day (read all about our visit HERE) and had pre-selected, Ristorante Greppia as our place for pranzo (lunch).
The small street leading to Ristorante Greppia
We were instantly taken in by the charm and warmth of the restaurant. The wait staff elevated our excitement for the meal to come by extending great courteousness and hospitality (indulging me as I took photos with this blog in mind). Continue reading Eating Brains Will Not Make You Smarter!→
I just tell you – I am quite the romantic! I mean, so much so that I didn’t have a card, a plan or a clue this past Valentine’s day. But I just knew something would work out!
“Sure hope Daddy has something special planned for us”
I figured, what better way to start a romantic Valentine’s day than finalizing one of our last major tasks – car shopping. Thanks to my new best friend – the internet – we found a car in a town about 40 minutes away. So we piled in and headed over. After some intense negotiating (and let me tell you – your author was winning like Tyson versus Spinks) we built up an appetite. We asked the salesperson for directions to a local pizzeria (having not eaten delicious Italian-style pizza for a full week). He asked if we wanted pizza, or we wanted to eat like a local. That was a no-brainer and we answered at the same time in Italian (my accent, perfect – Jen’s not so much) that we wanted to eat like the locals. He gave us directions and we set our coordinates to GO.