So, I’m back here on Sipping Espresso… blogging. Weird. I’m in America. I’m blogging aboutItalyfromAmerica. Can I do that?! Is that even allowed?! Well, I promised you in my Final Blog Post From Italy that I would finish our tale of overseas adventure and intrigue (OK, OK – more like overseas adventure of gluttony and transparency), so I suppose that I’ll have to make good on my word. For those of you that are sick of hearing about these adventures… I’m sorry, but I’m OCD and I am not much good at leaving things unfinished.
So, let’s flash back; way, way back to this past spring when Jen’s sister came to visit. Just as they departed for Venice and Rome, we took our own leave from Como and headed toward the metropolitan city of Trieste. When I think about what brought us to Trieste, I finally understand the word bittersweet. We undertook the four-hour road trip to Italy’s easternmost city so that I could run in the Maratonina d’Europa (Europe’s Half Marathon). Despite having to add the somewhat embarrassing “ina” suffix to the end of Maratona (changing the meaning to “very little”), completing my first half-marathon was a very “sweet” accomplishment for me. However, the impetus behind the race was a very “bitter” one. Jen and I had started listing all the things that we wanted to do before our time in Italy came to an end. This particular road trip checked many of our boxes; competing in a race in Europe, a visit to the city of Trieste, time in the region of Friuli–Venezia Giulia, capped off with a visit to Slovenia (upcoming post). Now, that checked a lot of boxes, so careful planning began and hotels rooms were booked.
Here’s how I would sum up Trieste – it is a MUST-SEE city. Sometimes I find myself guilty of trying to label a city by comparing it to another city. “Rome is like New York, but much older and without the high-rises”. Sometimes, you’ve just got to stop and appreciate where you are for what it is. Don’t try to “label” the place or put it in a box; its easy to fall into that trap with Trieste. A city that has bounced back and forth between Slovenian, Austrian and Italian rule leaves us with a place today that is proud of its blend in architecture and attitude. Trieste is a city not at all confused about its confusing identity. With a rich mix of Slavic, Germanic and Latin influences – I am simply content to label this magical place as one of the most “European” cities I have ever visited. Continue reading Trieste… Italy’s Most “European” City→
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→
Sicilia (Sicily) was the birthplace of the original Godfather, Don Vito Corleone; its shoresharbored his son, Michael Corleone and recently the island hosted Don Greggorio and his small family. My only disappointment in visiting Sicily was that my wife, Jen wouldn’t let me wear a white suit and hat while walking around passing out fruit like I was Don Vito himself. Oh well, there’s always next time…
I was so excited to visit Sicily because I’ve wanted to see this unique part of the country for as long as I can remember. This region of Italy is so far south from where we live that I wasn’t sure if we would ever get the opportunity to explore the island while living here. Sicily boasts a plethora of interesting facts that I couldn’t begin to detail in a single post. However, perhaps the most interesting few points are that the island is the largest in the Mediterranean, archeological evidence dates human inhabitants are far back as 8,000 BC and the terrain has changed hands dozens of times (from Greek to Byzantine to Roman and all over again and again).
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→
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?→
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→
In my most recent blog post, we embarked on a cruise throughout the Mediterranean. I’d love for you to continue the adventure with us as we head to Istanbul, Turkey and the beautiful Greek island of, Lesbos. I’ll finalize our voyage in an upcoming post that will include the final ports of call and some more stories about our shipboard life.
“Oh, tell me… tell me all about it!”
When I last left you, we had visited Venice, Olympia and Athens. By this point in the cruise, we really hit our stride and had fully immersed ourselves in everything Holland America’sNieuw Amsterdam had to offer. We were overeating delicious food (and then trying to work some of it off in their state-of-the-art gym), spending time in the casino (maybe too much time… literally every casino worker knew me by name), taking in shows and making friends all over the ship. We found a couple of other families with small children, but for the most part – we were in the minority (not fitting into your typical “cruise-goer” demographic). I’ll tell you what… if you ever want affirmation about your kids cuteness – go on a cruise with thousands of grandparents missing their grandkids. They were all so happy to pay us compliments about Julia that it made us excited to take her anywhere on board. Continue reading Come Here, You Turkey!→
Admit it… you sang the title in your head, complete with the voice raising on the “and-a I”…
I love to cruise. Jen loves to cruise. And now… Julia absolutely loves to cruise. We have very few experiences aboard cruise ships, but each time we’ve been on one of these massive floating hotels (or mini-floating city’s… I couldn’t choose between adjectives – you pick your favorite), we feel like royalty. We know that we will chose this method of vacation many more times in our lives. Cruising requires little planning and you are always rewarded with the very best customer service, the opportunity to see many more cities than you normally could in a given time period, endless activities aboard the ship, wonderful food, the benefit of unpacking only once and perhaps best of all – a very affordable vacation (you can get very good deals if you hawk the last-minute deal sites).
Our ship – Holland America’s MS Nieuw Amsterdam
The first time that Jen and I took a cruise was on our honeymoon. We spent three weeks sailing around South America (from Buenos Aires, Argentina all the way around Cape Horn and on to Santiago, Chile). I chose Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for our first cruise, primarily because the itinerary was perfect and I found it to be reasonably priced. I wasn’t nearly the internet-nerd I am today and so I did little research beyond that. We had a wonderful vacation, ate way too much food, enjoyed some lovely scenery (I have thousands of pictures to prove it) and had an absolute blast. However, I had no idea how amazing cruising could really be until we recently boarded Holland America’s, MS Nieuw Amsterdam (pronounced, n-e-w); one of the newer ships in their fleet.
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.
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→
Jen and I recently went to Scotland with her family (HERE) and had a fabulous time exploring the Scottish Highlands. We saw Aberdeen and quite a bit of the Scottish countryside. Next on the agenda was a trip to the country’s capital, Edinburgh. The original plan was to make it a day-trip, but we felt that there was too much to see and do in just one day (not to mention a two hour drive each way), so we planned an overnight stay.
Country road in Ballater
These dry stone walls have been used as field boundaries for well over a thousand years in Scotland
We set out early in the morning from our cottage in the charming town of Ballater, and headed south (still on the wrong side of the road) toward Edinburgh. I was simply amazed to see how the landscape could change so quickly from one part of the country to the another (the colors went from a lush, fertile green to a more rustic, almost coarse landscape – beautiful in it’s own right). Continue reading Make My Order Of Haggis a Double, Please→