January 3 – Stateside tour of Veneto

Antipasti and Prosecco

For Mom and Dad’s Christmas present this year my sisters and I gave them six Italian wines we picked out from The Savory Grape in East Greenwich, RI (my all time favorite wine shop). These wines represented different regions of Italy, and to accompany the bottles we gave them food pairing suggestions and a description of the wine.  Since they are heading to Italy for three weeks this year we figured we’d introduce them to the wines before they go. Tonight, we made them a dinner that featured wines from the Veneto region, the north-east corner of Italy.

Our first course was assorted charcuterie with smoked gouda, white cheddar, and gorgonzola cheese, and honey, butter and apricot jam. This was served with Carpene Malvolti Prosecco, which was very pleasant – not too sweet and not too dry. The main course was sausage risotto which I must say turned out nice and creamy. We drank Di Lenardo Pinot Grigio, and although I normally don’t like white wine, it was alright although not memorable.  I am hoping mom and dad open the Nero d’Avola before I go back to school…

For dessert, Gabriella and I made a chocolate tiramisu (Giada’s recipe) which, to my delight, includes red wine.  It came out looking very professional and the flavors worked well together.  Mom and dad went to Federal Hill yesterday and bought us the special Savoiardi lady fingers which added to the authentic taste.

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad!

-V

November 8 – Pack your bags, we’re going to Milan!

City Center of Milan

One of the great things about traveling with a Eurail pass is that you can make up your mind as you go.  We changed the final destinations of our trip about three times and ended up in Milan.  Tomorrow we take a 6 am (oy) train to Lyon for a day or so and then end our trip in my favorite city of them all, Paris!  I don’t have any plans for Paris except to walk around and eat!

I didn’t really want to go to Milan because I had heard it was a very industrial city.  I wish I could remember who told me this because after exploring today, I saw only beautiful buildings and parks!  We made sure to see da Vinci’s Last Supper which I can’t make up my mind about.  Yes, it was beautiful, and something cool to say I’ve seen, but 7€? Nahh. I think that money would have been better spent on more of the delicious truffles we sampled at a patisserie.  This café, called Sugar, makes all their own chocolates and cakes with no preservatives.  The owner was very chatty and gave us a free milk chocolate truffle to try which just made my day.

The buildings here are colorful and elaborately decorated, but the real beauty of the city is behind these facades, in the courtyards with beautiful gardens. Since this city is also known for its fashion, we spent as much time people watching as exploring.  Dark colors are still in, but I was surprised to see a lot of sweat pants and track suits which seem to be on the decline in the states (or maybe I’m now just too far removed from high school trends).  Of course, there are scarves and boots everywhere.  Marleen commented to us (very accurately from my own observations) that Italians dress for the seasons and not for the weather.  Although it is a very mild fall, you won’t see any Italian woman without a scarf, and most everyone is also bundled up in puffy winter coats to protect them from the 60 degree weather.

One last dinner in Italy before soup à l’oignon tomorrow!

Ciao,

V

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOCfbYDvezU

November 7 – We came, we saw, we conquered

An eerie glimpse into Pompei life

Today was quite a day.  We missed our train to Naples, almost took a train to Milan, managed to switch our tickets, arrived in Naples and discovered our train to Pompeii was diverted because of flood waters covering the tracks.  We took a commuter train to Pompei, which consisted of an hours time packed into a train car like sardines with quite the bunch of characters.  We left at 9 AM and arrived at 2PM.  It was trying and stressful.  There were heated moments and moments where I felt I deserved a gold medal for the 50 yard sprint to track number 10.

Although it wasn’t the easiest traveling day, we saw Naples, Pompei, and managed to get home by 8:30PM to have dinner with Jim and Marleen.  I have to say, Naples isn’t what I thought it would be.  It was industrial and dirty, and is Monday laundry day?  EVERYONE had their laundry hanging out.  It was chaos! I was very happy to take our pizza and eat it on the train in peace (well, until we conversed rapidly in universal sounds and gestures with a TrenItalia worker who forced us off the train because Pompeii was no longer a stop).

Pompei was incredible.  I have a question though: why would you live so close to a volcano (although currently inactive) when you can clearly see a destroyed city just around the corner?  Food for thought. It was interesting to think about the effect of this volcano… it wiped out one civilization, but its fertile soil had nourished generations for thousands of years since.  We enjoyed a lemonade which was made from fresh lemons grown on the side of Mount Vesuvius, which was absolutely delicious. We saw plaster-casts of people who perished from asphyxiation during the eruption which was incredibly sobering, but we were also able to glimpse into their world by walking through their homes and along their streets.  We saw not only their bath houses, theater and places of government but also fine details such as frescoes, preserved tile floors, sculptures and even several indoor bars which resemble modern day island kitchens.

Tomorrow, we are taking the train to Milan, good night!

Ciao,

V

November 6 – Roma, roma, ma

Looking up at what remains of the Roman Forum

Yesterday was a busy travel and sightseeing day.  We woke up early, toured the Pitti Palazzo in Florence, found our way back to the pizza place we enjoyed the day before, did some touristy shopping and managed to catch the fast train to Rome at 1:00 pm. Pitti Palazzo was beautiful; we walked through the gardens which overlook Florence (see yesterday’s photo).

We are staying with Madison’s friend’s parents in Rome, Jim and Marleen, who are so nice for opening up their home to us!  They live in Trastevere, a beautiful section of Rome just over the river from the Colosseum.  From their balcony, there is a great view of the skyline of Rome – we feel so lucky to be staying here, it is absolutely the best Italian experience we could ask for.  Last night we walked around the Roman ruins which are so impressive, and especially striking in the moonlight.  I took a few unfocused (no tripod) but beautiful shots of the moon over the Roman forum which I am hoping are clear enough to print later.

The weather here is insane! Last night there was an intense wind storm that took down a lot of branches and this morning, the sun was shining and it was so hot that I was overdressed in a long-sleeve shirt and boots.  Within a fifteen minute period around noon, clouds moved in, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped at least ten degrees.  Shivering later this afternoon, we were caught in a downpour and had to buy a flimsy umbrella from a tourist shop.

The weather, as strange as it was,  did not keep us from exploring. We still walked this city up and down, stopping to see the Il Vittoriano, Trevi fountain, Pantheon, Spanish steps, Borghese gardens, the Forum, Palatine and the Colosseum.  It’s so hard to comprehend that the ruins you are walking past were places of immense significance, from politics to theater, several thousand years ago.  After studying archaeology in college, it was amazing to walk around on ground excavated several stories into the earth to see this old society which at its height ruled all the surrounding land on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea.

The cities we explore on this trip keep getting better.  I love Rome and I hope one of my sisters has the opportunity to study abroad either here or in Florence so I can come back and visit!

Ciao,

V

PS: To anyone who realized my title is Lady Gaga lyrics, I love you.