Tag Archives: Beauty

The Christmas Markets of Switzerland

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

Would You Like To Join Me For a Run?

I have a love-hate relationship with running.  I love the feeling of finishing a five or six mile run.  I hate the agony I get in my calves the next day.  I love pushing myself to run a distance further than I’ve ever run before.  I hate pushing myself through that first mile after foolishly taking four months off during the winter.  Currently, I’m learning to find a proper balance in my on-again off-again relationship with running.  Since living abroad, I’ve discovered a renewed commitment to running.  I am lucky enough to have some of the most amazing routes in my own backyard – a benefit that definitely keeps me on the trail a little longer.

“Please, come join me along my run”
Julia loves to join me on an occasional run

We have been really lucky with some wonderful weather this fall.  Just this morning, I went for a jog in shorts and a lightweight jacket.  I understand it’s a lot colder at home, so I would like to invite you to “come for a run with me”.  I have several routes that I take on a regular basis depending on how long, how far, or how much of a vertical climb I want.  Or sometimes, I’ll just go out and try to find something new. Continue reading Would You Like To Join Me For a Run?

Loosen Those Belt Buckles – Some Serious Eating Ahead

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

Our Second Love – A Bunch of Old Grapes

Jennifer, Julia and I had a wonderful time when my Uncle S and Aunt Deborah came to visit us this past March.  That’s why we were thrilled when they mentioned that they would like to come back to Italy again this fall.  They wanted to do a bit of traveling and invited us to join them on their adventures, using our condo in Como as a “home base”.  They had sketched a rough itinerary and just wanted a little help filling in the blanks – assistance I was happy to give.  They knew that they wanted to spend some time with us here in Como, some time in Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna (two regions adjacent to our region of Lombardia) as well as a quick jaunt down to the historically significant city of Pompeii and another to Venezia.

S and Deborah standing near the divide of Lake Como

Jen and I share the responsibility of planning our trips – researching restaurants, activities and hotels.  But they’re usually in three or four day stints and one location at a time.  This time, I had to navigate through a two week itinerary, complete with activities, restaurants, hotel stays and all at new locations each day.  Putting the puzzle pieces of their trip together was a challenge not for the faint of heart.  Jen and I dug in, and by the time S and Deb landed in Milan, we had an itinerary that we were both proud of.  I think all of us agreed that it came together quite nicely.  Of course, the key ingredient was the company, mixed with a little food and wine! Continue reading Our Second Love – A Bunch of Old Grapes

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

Five Villages – One Day

Cinque TerreStunning.  Breathtaking.  Spectacular.

This often-sought and somewhat difficult place to access is all those things and so much more.  The area of Cinque Terre, which translated literally means, five lands – is a section of rugged coastline that is comprised of five small fishing villages; Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.  The villages, coastline and surrounding hillside are all part of a National Park that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Each of the five villages offers something individually different from the others; yet the overall unique beauty of Cinque Terre would be entirely different without any one part of the whole.

Fishing boats tied off in Riomaggiore
Looking up the coast from Riomaggiore

When my parents recently came to visit (HERE and HERE), we knew that we wanted to take a mini-road trip.  I had been to Cinque Terre over a decade ago and eager to go back.  I had three vague memories of the most wonderful pesto, my favorite seafood dishes and the creamiest gelato I’d ever had.  There seemed to be no better opportunity to go back than now. Continue reading Five Villages – One Day

Villa Carlotta’s Beautiful Gardens

There is a wonderful town along Lake Como, called Tremezzo.  Most people have heard of Bellagio, which sits on the exact shore opposite Tremezzo, but the lesser known town is a true gem with far fewer tourists crowding the streets.  Tremezzo is home to a couple of our favorite restaurants and gelaterie (ice cream parlors).  It is also home to Villa Carlotta, a 17th century treasure that has been beautifully restored and maintained.

Villa Carlotta

Jen and I have been wanting to visit Villa Carlotta since we moved to Como.  The beauty of the villa and the gardens are well known in this area and attract thousands of visitors each year.  We had planned on going in March when my aunt and uncle were visiting, but the villa is not open to the public until the 15th (just a few short days after they departed).  Since the gardens are the main attraction, the preservation society wants to ensure all the flowers are in full bloom.  Jen and I decided that since my mom is a big fan of gardens, we would visit while they were here (read about the first part of their trip HERE). Continue reading Villa Carlotta’s Beautiful Gardens

Someone Turn The Hose Off… These Streets Are Flooded!

One of the true gems of the world…. Venezia (Venice).  The name alone evokes powerful feelings for many people.  Romantic gondola rides, historical architectural treasures, beautiful creations blown from Murano glass, unique hand-crafted masks and always… always a city constructed with streets of water.  Amazingly, the entire city is listed as a World Heritage Site in order to preserve it’s unique beauty.  According to my Wiki research, Luigi Barzini described it in the New York Times as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man”.  I’d have to agree with Luigi!

Panoramic view from the roof of our hotel
Venice from the water
The Grand Canal
More of the Grand Canal
Happy to be here

Our good friends Nathan and Danielle joined us recently for a whirlwind visit filled with food, wine and lots of fun (read about it HERE).  We punctuated their trip with a stopover in this romantic city.  I was intrigued by the history of such a unique place and just did a little research.  Venice consists of 117 islands, formed by 177 canals and connected by 409 bridges.  I kept waiting for that “ah-ha” moment when I discovered the name of the genius city planner that decided to create a magical city on the water.  But unlike Bugsy Siegel’s Las Vegas or Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid’s reinvention of Dubai – there was no one person that can be credited with the conceptualization of Venice.  The truth is that refugees fleeing from invasion of the Lombards sought shelter in the marshland that is now Venice.  And how do any cities really get built?  A collection of people working together to establish trade and industry, creating habitation and then services to support the population.  And so the city grew around the marsh and homes and churches and municipal buildings were constructed.  This begs another question.  How can you build a city on water? Continue reading Someone Turn The Hose Off… These Streets Are Flooded!

Edward and Bella – We’re Here!

Well, we didn’t run into Edward Cullen, Bella Swan or that creepy little girl that can induce pain in people’s mind (I suppose the world’s largest and most powerful coven of vampires was in hiding) during our visit to Volterra in Tuscany.
Now this is Tuscany!

For the Tibetan monk that has been living in isolation in Bhutan… and my sister, the only two people in the world that haven’t a clue who Edward or Bella are – I am making a playful reference to the Twilight Series.  Buddhist monk and Michelle, listen up – the premise of the fictional story is simple. Girl falls in love with boy.  Boy happens to be a blood-sucking vampire.  Girl also falls in love with another boy.  Boy happens to be a shape-shifting werewolf.  Love triangle ensues.  They all get in trouble when the Volturi (fictional Vampire royalty from the non-fictional town of Volterra, Italy) get involved.  Giant battle rages.  Extend story over five books.  Produce six movies and collect hundreds of millions of non-fictional dollars.  You know – your classic love story. Continue reading Edward and Bella – We’re Here!

Facebook Brought Us To Tuscany

Facebook is great for a lot of things.  First of all, it’s a wonderful time killer.  It is a spectacular medium for sharing funny videos about cats.  The site is also great for shameless self-promotion of your unimportant blog (ahem).  Facebook keeps me and Jen apprised of popular youtube videos and trending pop-culture stories we would have otherwise missed living in another country.  But perhaps best of all – it helps reconnect people after many, many years.

This is how you “like” a post on Italian Facebook

This was recently the case when my wife re-connected with a high school friend of ours, now living in Tuscana (Tuscany).   Continue reading Facebook Brought Us To Tuscany