Could that title be any more depressing? I almost cried just typing it. What happened?! Our “year-long sabbatical” in Italy came and went in a flash. But that shouldn’t matter… we extended our overseas adventure another six months. Wasn’t that just a few weeks ago?! How is it that our return airline tickets have today’s date on it? We still haven’t seen the trulli huts in Puglia. We never got the chance to visit Jen’s nonno’s town in Calabria. I never proved my “Italianness” by grilling a branzino on our BBQ. Heck, we never ate at that joint down the road that I’ve always wanted try!
Truthfully, I have been aware of the impending move back to America and it turns out… I am a guy capable of emotions. Expressing them is something else altogether; but perhaps I’ll try. Here it is – I am excited to move home. I am eager to spend time with my friends and family. I am anxious to begin working again (and especially eager to earn a paycheck). I am pleased at the thought of a bit of “normal”. At the same time I am also exceptionally sad to leave. I am sorry to abandon our friends and family here in Italy. I am mournful at the thought of missing the food and wine. I become melancholy when I think about the mountains and the lakes I won’t see daily. Perhaps most of all, I am heartbroken that I won’t spend every day/all day with Jennifer and Julia and that I’ll never have the same uninterrupted bonding experience with my second daughter (who will be arriving this September). I’m more mixed up inside than a perfectly stirred risotto.
Before I continue with this post, I feel that it’s important to comment on the status of the blog. Sipping Espresso will continue publishing posts about travel, food, and of course, a little more nonsense (at least for a period of time). In an ideal world, I would have published a post every couple of days and been completely caught-up, allowing for this to be the final post. Of course, I’m nowhere near finished blogging about our recent adventures. I have a good twenty posts in the pipeline and I won’t let myself or my three loyal readers down by cutting our stories short. Sadly, this will be my last post written from the comfort of my “Italian blogging chair”.Continue reading My Final Blog Post From Italy→
With World Cup fever heating up, I find myself torn between my two favorite teams – America and Italia. Thankfully, the teams are not in the same group and so I can root for both squads guilt-free (hopefully all the way to the finals). As I was comparing and contrasting the strengths and weaknesses of both teams; it occurred to me that perhaps I had stumbled onto something much more important. I realized that it might be fun to compare America vs. Europe… not just the ability to move the soccer ball around the field, but “bigger picture” things. What common sense things do Europeans do that Americans fail to recognize?
For the purposes of this first post, I will focus solely on the items that appear in the “win” column for Europe. I will follow-up a little later with another post listing America’s “wins”. It seemed only fair to publish the posts in this order since Italy logged their first World Cup win before America.
Some background… OK, this piece is not a serious look at which place is “better”. I’m not weighing in on art & architecture, natural beauty or economic importance. I’m not comparing the food or the people. I’m only noting a few of the systems in place that perhaps we would do well to share with one another. Without further adieu… Continue reading Seven Systems Europeans Use That Make More Sense→
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→
Man, do I love the bad puns in my titles or what? Probably about as much as I love posing rhetorical questions to my readers…
Roughly twelve days ago, I was as proud of myself as Arvind Mahankali when he successfully spelled knaidel to beat Pranav Sivakumar and secure the championship title during the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee (apparently, this particular Indian-American knows a thing or two about Jewish comfort food). Why was I so pleased with myself, you ask? Well, I thought that I had finally caught up with our stories on the blog. And then a whirlwind of activity commenced in a flash as Jen’s sister arrived for a visit with her boyfriend. We had such a nice time traveling and eating with them (really, is there anything else you would want to do in Italy?) that now I have a ton more to write about. Additionally, we left them to their own devices while we embarked on a rewarding road-trip, which I cannot wait to tell you about. So, now once again – I am behind the times again faster than you can spell prosciutto.
When I was looking ahead toward the next 5-8 posts, I realized that I would be remiss not to step back and mention our visits to Pisa and then Massa in northern Tuscany. When I last wrote, I detailed our trip to Lucca (HERE). During the drive home we detoured to marvel at the Torre pendente di Pisa (Leaning Tower of Pisa) before getting back on the road. We hadn’t traveled too much further when our perfectly timed Italian stomachs told us it was time for lunch (at first I thought our three stomachs growling in unison was a tractor-trailer honking furiously at me). I was more in the mood for a leisurely lunch than a quick stop at an AutoGrill (picture a rest-stop along the NJ Turnpike with better food and espresso). I turned to my trusty “TripAdvisor” cell phone app and searched for a restaurant near us. I discovered Il Fatty (yeah… you guessed the translation; The Fatty) in the city we were approaching. With a name like, “the fatty” – how could you go wrong?! I took the exit toward Massa and headed into the center of town. Continue reading You “Massa” Check Out This City (Massa, Italy)→
If you read the title of this post with your best impression of an Italian accent, then you probably nailed the pronunciation of one of our new favorite Italian towns. Lucca has been on our bucket list to visit for quite some time and now we can happily say we’ve been.
The city is renowned for many things, not the least of which is the giant annual gathering of comic book nerds and fantasy film geeks. Lucca plays host to Europe’s version of Comic-Con, the Fiera Internazionale del Fumetto (International Festival of Comics) or as it’s commonly referred – Lucca Comics and Games.
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.
Have you ever wanted to sound like the world’s biggest a-hole and alienate multiple friends, all in one fell swoop? If so, pay close attention and do exactly as I say. Kind of roll your eyes a little bit in an exaggerated act of annoyance and say the following words with the smug impatience of someone who thinks they’re as classy as Ivanka Trump (but really only has as much class as her father, ‘The’ Donald). Repeat after me:
“Ugh. We have to go to Venice… again?! Bleeeehh.”
Do that, and you are sure to land on the top of most people’s sh*t list! At the risk of losing blog readers, friends and maybe even a few family members… that is exactly how we felt recently when we went back to Venice. I can fully appreciate this is a ridiculous thought to have and even more obnoxious to share… but hey, this is a blog that delivers brutal honesty. When we booked our cruise with Celebrity Cruises a little while back, we did it despite the fact that the ship spent two days at port in Venice. Don’t get me wrong, Venice is a beautiful city with a unique charm found nowhere else in the world. If you’ve visited Venice before, you may reminisce about the romantic gondola rides, the charming cafes and the stunning churches. But when you’ve faced with a visit to Venice for the fifth time, you are more likely reminded of the crowded piazzas, overprices restaurants and long lines full of pushy tourists.
Venezia (Venice) has an alluring history that I find to be more fascinating than nearly any other city in the world. I mean, the entire city has been floating on water for centuries, for Pete-sake! I detail a brief explanation of how Venice came to be in this blog post (definitely worth a quick read).
Even though we weren’t very excited at the prospect of squaring off against millions of other tourists in a space not much larger than the Mall of America, we abandoned our original plans to stay on the ship and instead ventured onto Venice’s shores. We were sure glad that we did! Over the next two days we rediscovered a new Venice; one with more magic and charm than we ever realized was possible. What’s the difference, you ask? We were walking around in the off-season. Continue reading Venice, Italy – Alfred Hitchcock’s Inspiration→
If you’ve been a loyal reader of this blog or have spent a little time playing around on the pages, you’ll see that I’ve started a “series” that highlights some of the differences between Italy and our native America. Some of the differences are strange to us, many of them make perfect sense and others are just plain silly. If you’d like to see where the series began, take a look back here:
It’s been nearly a month and a half since my last meaningful post and I am once again faced with the monumental task of getting caught back up. I’m not sure how or why I allowed myself to get so far behind, but I do know that I have left myself a lot of work. The wine, cheese and salami will just have to wait (well, I suppose it can’t hurt to have a little wine while I write). I would like to apologize to my readers for this delay and I would like to acknowledge one loyal reader in particular; Helen actually reached out to me through our Contact Us page and basically said, “what the hell, Greg – where’ve you been?!” Helen and everyone – even though it can’t excuse the lack of content, we just got back from a two-week trip to the States where, in my capacity as Best Man, I roasted my good buddy Josh and toasted his beautiful bride, Abby (read about Josh and Abby’s trip to visit us here and here).
While we were home, I rediscovered some magical things – burritos, quality customer service and Netflix. We haven’t watched as much TV over the past year as we did over the past two weeks. I became obsessed with the Netflix original series, House of Cards – an amazing drama starring, Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, a cagey and politically ambitious congressman who is constantly scheming and conniving to reach the next rung of the political ladder. If Frank Underwood can work through all hours of the night and stay ten moves ahead of his opposition, surely I can bang out a few extra blog posts in the next couple weeks.
Wow! We did it! SIPPING ESPRESSO officially turns one today. I distinctly remember starting our blog one year ago today. Jen had the idea to use a blog in order to maintain a “virtual journal” of our time in Italy. She also wanted a vessel to share our photos and stories with family and friends. I was intrigued by the idea of maintaining some sort of project and so I was happy to jump into the blogosphere. Over the past year that we have been posting – our tiny, insignificant blog has grown into something much, much more…a little, insignificant blog.
Over the summer, we took a cruise that concluded with a goodbye letter from the captain, along with “fun facts” about our time at sea. For example, they listed the number of crew on board, the amount of food consumed in terms of weight, our nautical miles traveled, etc. It gave me the idea that it may be fun to also look back at our own blogging voyage and break down the numbers from this past year.