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→
Sometimes living abroad is hard. Like when you miss a good friend’s wedding in upstate New York – an event that turned out to be the social gathering of the year (according to Facebook pictures and word of mouth). Thankfully Dave and Jill completely understood when we declined to come. Or when one of your best friends tells you that he’s planning on “popping the question” via email, because there’s really no easier way. Those are the types of conversations that should be reserved for a late night in a neighborhood bar, complete with lots of back pats and free rounds for the groom-to-be. Thankfully, Josh was great about keeping me in the loop, sending us pictures of his wonderful proposal to Abby in Charlestown earlier this year (and even calling us via FaceTime shortly afterward). So, yeah – living abroad can be hard when you miss these special moments in your friends and families lives. However… when we’re able to host our friends and family here, we are always grateful for the experience abroad.
Abby, Josh, Jill, Dave, Jen and Julia
For that reason, we were absolutely thrilled when we heard that Josh and Abby were going to come visit us. We coordinated the timing of their trip so that they would be visiting during a beautiful time of year and the start of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. As soon as they booked their airfare, I reserved our train tickets to Munich, which I’ll write about in the upcoming post. Continue reading The Perfect Recipe – Great Friends, Food & Tons of Fun→
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→
I’ve always been amazed by my father’s dad, even though I have very few memories spending time with him. My “Poppy” was a career photographer for National Geographic. He was born before the turn of the century (February 24, 1898… have you ever known anyone from the 1800’s?!) in a rural town in Delaware that even today only boasts a few hundred residents. He raised his family in Washington DC and got to travel the world for his work (long before traveling the world was something you actually did). These are all things that I find particularly fascinating and I have discovered we even have a few parallels in our lives. Except, he was a rather short man and I’m basically what you call basketball height (5’9″ is about the tallest you’ll see on the court, right?).
A scene along Lago di Maggiore
Of all those attributes, his long-standing career with National Geographic is probably the most interesting to me (and one I’m happy to brag about). On a whim one day (several years ago), my sister-in-law, Jessica googled his name and was surprised at the results. Over 400 of his images appeared on websites like art.com and others (I’m still researching how I can lay claim to the royalties… lawyers feel free to message me). Jessica conspired with Jen and they surprised me with an huge print of one of his 1950’s Washington DC images (I was living downtown at the time). Since Jen’s parents, Dominic and Diane had just purchased their condo in the Lake Como, Jessica and Diane also purchased one of his more famous 1950’s lake images in order to surprise me twice, as well as Jen. When the gifts were presented, my dad, beaming with pride ran out of the room for a moment and came back with the two original copies of National Geographic magazines that contained those exact images. I kept one magazine with my image at my home in Washington DC, and we took the other magazine to Dominic and Diane’s condo in Italy to be with the print that now hangs above our bed.
My grandfather’s photo that appeared in the August 1950 issue of National Geographic
I don’t know who was more excited… Jen to see her parents or Jen’s parents to see their granddaughter. It was close, but judging by the suitcase of presents exclusively for Julia, I would give the edge to Jen’s mom, Diane. Of course, this suitcase (along with the 42 other suitcases Jen’s mom, dad and sister brought) got lost somewhere over the Atlantic and didn’t arrive for another two days (the airline had to hire a Mack truck to deliver everything in one trip).
Julia playing with Nonna on Day One
As you’ve no doubt surmised from above, Jen’s family came to visit recently. They wanted to see the country they love, their second home that has been overtaken by three squatters, their kids and their granddaughter (not necessarily in that order). And we were thrilled to see all of them. Since the timing was right with their work schedules and nursing school (Jen’s sister, Jessica had just graduated), they were able to stay a full month. We had plenty of down time relaxing and plenty of time on the go-go-go. Since so much happened during this month, the story of their visit will most definitely be broken into a few posts.
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→
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→
We’ll just call this the “prequel” or maybe “part one of two“. As the title suggests, our day in Brunateshould have given us spectacular views of downtown Como since it virtually sits atop the city on a mountain. But since the fog wasn’t cooperating and decided to stick around – we didn’t get to see or photograph some of the most amazing views our lake town has to offer. So, perhaps a better title might have been…
“Brunate – we’ll focus on the town this time and show you the views next time… the Prequel”.
Welcome to Brunate
Brunate is a small town of about 1,700 residents in the provence of Como and sits [based on my speculation, vertigo and body tempeture] at the highest altitude in the immediate area. It is for this reason that you get the most speculator views as well as an intimate and charming old-world feel.
There are three ways to get to Brunate. First (and my personal favorite) is by helicopter. This is reserved exclusively for George Clooney (a “local”) and the Italian Prime Minister. I’m hoping to get on this short list. Incidentally, there is no helicopter pad in Brunate – I just imagine if they wanted to travel to this way… they could.