I played with various options for the title of this post, ranging from “Italy’s Most Hidden Treasure” to “Italy’s Best Kept Secret”. Really, any of those title would be apropos. Bergamo is all of those things and so much more. Ultimately, I went with “most underrated” because it seems that most people would rather bypass this northern Italian city for the sexier Venice, Florence or Rome. Heck, even neighboring Verona pulls more visitors than Bergamo. As a matter of fact, I had never even heard of Bergamo until I moved here and I had visited nearby Como plenty of times leading up to this adventure.
Getting to know Bergamo was truly a blessing, because it is the type of place that we will continue to visit over and over. The distinguishing feature of Bergamo is that it is really two cities in one. There is the older, medieval city at the top of the hill (Città Alta) and the much more modern city (Città Bassa) below. Incidentally, I use the term “modern city” quite loosely… most notable development is still several hundred years old. Continue reading Bergamo – Italy’s Most Underrated City→
Since the moment my wife Jennifer laid eyes on her baby sister, Jessica, they formed a strong bond that has only developed over time. Sure, Jennifer usually acts more like her mother than her sister and yes, there have been a few lively battles resulting in a couple “boo-boos”, but they are as close as any two sisters I have ever known.
That’s why we were thrilled when we learned of a last-minute vacation Jessica planned with her boyfriend, Matt. We were doubly excited because not only were we going to spend time with Jessica, but we were finally going to be able to meet Matt. Living in Italy comes with its obvious benefits, but we do miss out on a lot at home and so we are thrilled any time “home” comes to us. Continue reading Our Lil’ Sis Comes to Visit→
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.
“The journey should be fun, but if you haven’t learned anything along the way, you’ve not yet reached your final destination.”
If you can find Kim Kardashian quotes online, then certainly I should be allowed to try my hand at it!
There is a point to that quote however, apart from just trying something new. Our journey abroad has been a wonderful and wild ride. I have had a blast blogging about it and I appreciate all of my readers for tuning in. But more importantly, I’ve learned a thing or two over the past year. As it relates to blogging specifically, I’ve learned a lot. When I look back at my older posts and blogging habits I cringe. I used to spend ages loading photos, and have just recently learned a shortcut that saves me hours. I moved from Blogger to WordPress, which I would equate to a jump from junior high directly to college (my MBA is awaiting the day I can build my own website). I have learned that Top Ten lists and featured images of scantily clad women get you the most page-views. I used to write posts that seemed to go on for days (and you thought I wrote a lot now), but recently I am attempting to keep each post specific to one topic (as opposed to combining multiple cities and multiple food related stories all into one post).
If you read about our recent trip to Venice (HERE), then you’ll know that we finally unlocked the key to really enjoying Venice. In a nutshell, it involves beating the other tourists to the finish line. If the “finish line” is a guided tour in Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), then be the first person in line in the morning. If the finish line is grabbing a moment of solace in an empty Piazza San Marco, then you’d better be there as the sun rises (conversely, you can arrive well after the sun has set and listen to the beautiful music of the dueling bands). Or, more simply, you can do what we did; visit this magical city in the off-season and get to know the city of Venezia (Venice) without having to put up a fight.
If you’re blessed with a couple of days in Venice, I would suggest that you go a bit deeper than the surface level attractions. Skip the gondola ride (it’s overpriced anyhow) and instead tour the neighboring islands. With 117 to chose from, you’ll have your pick. You can visit the Jewish Ghetto on the island of Cannaregio. Many of the beautiful parks and gardens on the island of Lido are free of charge to you botany lovers. Or, for the real adventurers, you could opt to wade into the marshes and cast nets with local fishermen near the island of Chioggia.
We knew that we wanted to visit the island Murano and watch how the world-famous Venetian glass was blown. This would require a little preparation and so I enlisted the assistance of a guided tour. I discovered a wonderful website that offers local tours at very reasonable prices – Viator. Travel bugs, take note of that website! It is a great resource for sight-seeing tours in cities all over the world. We will definitely use them again; my only regret was not discovering the website sooner. When searching for a tour of Murano, we found a better option – a tour that also included the islands of Burano and Torcello. You can find the link to our specific tour HERE. I bought my tickets ($28 pp) and had the confirmation sent to my smart phone. I showed up at the designated area, presented the pass on my phone and received our tickets to the boat. Easy, breezy, lemon-squeezy. Continue reading Murano, Burano & Torcello – The Keys To Unlocking Venice→
Since I’ll never be a movie producer, I finally have another outlet to satisfy my life-long dream to wrap something up with the simple phrase…
I think this is a fitting title to end our trip in France, which you can read about HERE, HERE and HERE.
Our little family recently journeyed into France for a visit with some wonderful friends, Michel and Shirley (read his blog HERE). We spent a few days with them in their home in Sablet, France. They were wonderful tour guides, packing in many activities that they knew we would enjoy. After a day spent touring some of the most beautiful villages in France, we had a serious thirst to quench. So the next day, we took advantage of our prime location in the Côté du Rhône region of France (arguably one of the most well-known wine producing regions in the world) and drank our way throughout the area.
Our good friends Michel and Shirley have a wonderful home in a small village in the Côtes du Rhône region of France. They invited us to join them for a few days recently, an invitation we were happy to accept. Google maps told me that the journey from our home to theirs was approximately six hours and so we decided a stopover at the beach for a night would break up the drive nicely (read about it HERE). After a relaxing night in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, we headed north to Sablet, France so that we could savor an enjoyable visit with good friends.
We arrived in Sablet as scheduled, late in the afternoon. However, I had misplaced all the phone numbers to reach Michel and so I wasn’t quite sure exactly where to go upon arriving in the village. Michel gave me specific instructions not to attempt a drive directly to his home. “The roads are far too narrow – many cars scrape on either side. Don’t attempt it – park at the local bakery and head by foot”. I only had his home address plugged into the GPS and admittedly, I had the words of Barney Stinson ringing in my head “I shouldn’t attempt the drive… challenge ACCEPTED!” After creeping up, up, up, slowly, slowly, slowly – I made it to their home. Luckily I made it with all car paint intact – but it was close. I had been far too cocky and got lucky – I literally had centimeters on either side of my car at times. We found their home and discovered they were just out at the local market, preparing for our arrival. Continue reading Trois Villages in Une Day→
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→