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→
Before Jen blindsided me so many months ago with the suggestion that we move to Italy, I never thought I would know how to make grappa. Honestly, I never thought that I would ever even like grappa! But like so many other things I swore I’d never change about myself, living in Italy has transformed that part of me (keep an eye out for me sporting a “puffy” coat this winter – a style I hated when I first moved here and now think is the coolest thing to come of the runways of Milano).
A selection of grappa offered in a restaurant in Lago Maggiore
Grappa is an alcoholic beverage that is served in Italy as a digestivo (digestive) after a meal. We have learned that Italians take the digestion of their meals very seriously and have structured the order of eating in such a specific way as to aid in the digestion. A full blown Italian meal will include the following: Continue reading Learn How To Make Grappa At Home→
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!
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!→
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!→
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→