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!→
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!
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→
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 entirecity 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’sLas 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!→
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.
I recently realized that our “Home Cooking” section of the blog was growing the slowest throughout the entire site. I’m only partly ashamed to admit that the one consistent about our trip is that we’ve been indulging in some of the most amazing food we’ve ever had. However, my OCD recently kicked in when I noticed all our food posts landed in the “Restaurant” or “Jen’s Kitchen” sections. So, in an effort to right this wrong… here is one very memorable home-cooked meal we hosted a little while ago.
Eugenio brought a wonderful Champagne
Jen has a warm and wonderful family, with whom we love spending time. Recently, her cousin Eugenio drove from Torino to spend time with us and get reacquainted with Julia. He brought his lovely girlfriend, Barbara as well.
Day three in Dublin brought no less excitement than either of the first two days. If you haven’t read about the first couple days and are interested in reading about this wonderful vacation in sequential order, you can read about Day One HERE and Day Two HERE.
Julia getting ready to go outside for some fun
We had booked a return from Dublin on Monday morning so that we could enjoy the famous Saint Patrick’s Day Parade and all the corresponding festivities on Sunday. We had heard for quite some time that the People’s Parade was a wonderful sight to behold and that we should arrive early. Fortunately, our hotel was directly along the parade route. Even more fortunate was that we were given a room with a direct view of the parade. Continue reading Mardis Gras’ Got Nothing On Dublin→
We arrived in Dublin on Friday with plenty of time to enjoy the day, which you can read about HERE. We woke up Saturday even more eager to get started after everything we had seen the day before. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of eggs, soda bread and black pudding (blood sausage) in our hotel’s restaurant. As Jen drank her fresh-squeezed orange juice, I poured over my cheesy, hyper-animated tourist map of the city. I came to two conclusions – animated graphics of tourist attractions are as helpful as pictures on a menu at Denny’s. That, and we were going to do a lot of walking! Continue reading I’ll take a pint of the black stuff, Gov’na!→
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!→
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!→