A Busy Day

I had the opportunity to go to Rome for a meeting this week. My coworker and I arrived Thursday night just in time for dinner. Fresh from our health screenings* at work, we were determined to make responsible dietary choices**. Like truffle pasta and fruttini- tiny fruits and nuts stuffed with ice cream versions of themselves. Followed by an after-dinner cookie stop at a baker/butcher/cheesemonger/wineperson. The legs of ham were just a hair too big to fit under the seat on the ride home, otherwise...

The next morning we headed out early to catch a quick glimpse of the city before our meeting. After knocking back a few espressos, we had just enough time to spend 5 minutes gaping at the magnificence of the Pantheon. 

And then meetings, meetings, meetings followed by a mad dash to the airport, a quick flight back over the mountains and home in time for dinner.

*"Apparently," there is a serving size for cheese??????...what witchcraft is this?????

** Lies.

Cars in Como

Forever ago, in May, we took a weekend trip to Lake Como.

The lake was lovely but we were on a mission and had to remain focused.

We were not there to see the lake, you see.

Even though it was beautiful.

We were there to see cars.

Little cars that have traveled long distances.

Tiny bubble cars.

Cars with faces.

Cars with their own accessories.

And cars with wings.

And nice rear ends.

And senses of humor.

There were cars from home (the VD is a common issue)

And cars with awesome graphics.

They demanded appreciation.

From all ages.

I fell in love with this one.

The details were breathtaking.

My favorite photo of the trip. If this isn't a reason to learn to drive a manual transmission then I don't know what is...

On the way home: Palleroso

On our last morning, the sun made it's first real appearance of the trip (of course) so we decided to stop at the little hilltop town of Palleroso on our way out of the area.

We had taken the drive up the day before, but the heavy rain made it impossible (and zero fun) to walk around.

The astonishing thing about Palleroso was how new it looked (well, new in the context of something that is clearly very old). It seems that Tuscany is heavy with these little towns only most are in various states of melancholy, quietly waiting for their glory days to return. Memories linger. I think it filled both of us with a little happiness that someone is clearly tending to Palleroso and looking ahead.

We waved at another charmingly small little hill town from atop our charmingly small hill town.

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Views from Palleroso

The church in the small center "square." 

And then we headed homeward. Something I learned about Italian rest stops, the bigger ones have great food! The above feast is our lunch, purchased from a chain called Autogrill. Granted, our rest stop meal on the way to Barga was much...humbler, but still, a small nugget of info worth filing away.

Thanks for re-living our trip with me. I hope your Friday lets you off easy into the weekend.

An Easter walk in Lucca

Easter Sunday we drove from Barga to the coastal town of Cecina to have lunch with another of Anthony's relatives. It was a spectacular meal and we tried our best to do it justice. 

When we left later in the evening, buttons and zippers working rather hard, we wondered if the feeling of hunger would ever return. We decided to stop in the old (and by "old" I really mean "founded by  Etruscans in B.C. times") city of Lucca on the way back to Barga and take a stroll around. Having gotten rather acclimated to the desolation of Swiss towns on weekends and holidays, I expected the place to be deserted.

WRONG. There were people everywhere. It was great. Shops were open, families milling about. Very festive. We waddled through the streets taking everything in, musing at the restaurants setting up for dinner. Because...how could anyone in the Euro-verse still be hungry?

Lucca is known for many things: intact Renaissance-era walls surrounding the city, a circular piazza and this, the Torre Guinigi which has oak trees growing on the roof. Unfortunately it wasn't open, but we spent a completely acceptable amount of time staring in wonder at the trees suspended far above our heads.

Did I mention we were stuffed from lunch?

Oh, I did?

Well, really, I mean...we just had lunch you see. Not dinner. No one wants to wake up in the middle of the night going "oh man, if only I had some of that delicious Lucca ice cream." So this was really an insurance policy more than anything else.

Inside the piazza. An number of the buildings have curved outer walls.

The city walls are now used as a promenade with a different type of tree planted along each of the four sides. We were pretty bushed by this point, so we did not walk them, but the phrase "next time" was used with some frequency on the drive back to Barga. There will be a next time.

I'm already waiting for  it.

To top off the day, we were treated to a magnificent sunset. As it had rained pretty steadily since we arrived in Italy, the sight of blue sky was most welcome.

Sports Section: The Italian Family Dinner

Guys, I like to eat. Love it in fact, there's not much that makes me happier than sitting down to a great meal. And, not to brag, but I can kind of hold my own at the dinner table. Now that we've gotten the foreshadowing taken care of, onto the main event.

On Saturday, we were invited by one of Anthony's cousins, Maria Olympia (can we please agree that this is the best name ever? She's the one standing up with the great smile) to a late lunch at their home just outside the walls of Barga. They were so welcoming and kind and when we sat down to eat I was pretty flipping happy.

The food was incredible, but I quickly learned that eating a true Italian meal is not a sport for the faint of heart. As my pasta dish was refilled again and again as if by magic I began to feel as though I had shown up to a marathon, without ever having run before. My brain began to cloud, my arm moved on autopilot. Cake from an old family recipe? Yes please. More wine? But of course. Thirds on the rosemary potatoes? Please get in my mouth right now. And on it went. Bite after delicious bite.

Somewhere around my fifth glass of wine, I began oscillating between a floaty warm ball of pasta happy place and a fluffy pillow of cake happy place. At that moment, Maria Olympia's husband leaned over and said "so, do you guys want to see my guns?"

UM...YES.

Above I give you Anthony, renegade killer of boars. Or at least he will be in September when he comes back to go hunting. I will be at home trying unsuccessfully to control my jealousy.

Anthony and his other cousin, Ivo. Owner of a very cool jacket.

After we had digested to the point at which movement was no longer painful, we took a trip over to see some property that Maria Olympia had inherited. 

Above, an outbuilding on the land.

The house was in rather (charmingly) rough shape, but the property was beautiful. 

Rolling hills with a great view of Barga in the distance.

All in all, a great day.