Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Italian trip 2017: post #12 -- What I bought in Italy

Summary for this post? How about: What you buy in Italy when you're an Italophile, traveling mainly for the nostalgia, with the sure knowledge that the things you really want to purchase are mainly found at the supermarket, the newsstand, the bancarella of used books under the portico by the church, et al.

Or as I've said before, my favorite souvenirs are my receipts -- a trail of all the good places to eat, drink, read books and browse other wares that I found along the way. And of course, Italian receipts, like everything else in Italy, are slightly different than American receipts. (Printed on a slippery paper stock, and imprinted with the shop logo in a way that you'd like to make a t-shirt from one.)

What's in the picture? Oh the usual:

*Lots of Caffe Kimbo (which actually comes from Naples but which luckily can now be found throughout Italy (and online), yay, thank ya Jesus);
*Italian biscotti because, really, you just have to have what they have; we have not mastered the art of the Italian biscotto, when we're talking about the breakfast cookies they dip in their coffee
*Lots of copies of Bell'Italia magazine;
*Fancy schmancy chocolates from Venchy's outpost at the main Torino train station;
*A copy of Dylan Dog, the seminal Italian fantasy comic, for Il Nostro Inviato, aka Mike, who I think didn't even knew how great a gift it was;

*And, of course, a few new Moka coffee pots from the fantastic Bialetti home store in Torino because really I cannot have enough of them (I have one stashed at my mother's, one stashed at Mike's sister's house, and it's helpful to have a travel model to bring along on trips....you get the picture).

It used to be that one of the best parts of the post-trip ruminations was taking this "group picture" of acquisti (I even wrote about it for Catapult!).

Now it might just be having "someone" model items that you bought! Like a super cool Milano jacket for my super cool Leonardo (Milan is an important city for a guy named Leonardo, after all!).

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #10 Parole italiane

Best of Italy: parole italiane. Italian words. Any Italian words. All Italian words.

In this case, it's a two-fer. A sign commemorating the 150th birthday of the Italian daily La Stampa in Piazza Castello in Torino.

Not my paper, but what of it? I'm a newspaper lover from way back. So I love that this sign marries two sides of my life: the news business and the Italian language business (as it were).

Il Futuro E' Quotidiano. Literally: The future is daily. Bello, proprio bello.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #9 Room with view

My room with a view -- at a friend's house in Florence during my trip to Italy last month.

(Was it really last month, already?)

The view? Well, I see the hills outside of the city in the background and the gorgeous garden of the Four Seasons Hotel in the foreground.

I see orange tiled roofs and greenery. I see Mediterranean sunlight.

I see and hear Italy: the birds chirping, the clatter of utensils as someone sets the table, the distinctive whir of the carabinieri vehicles.

-30-

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #8 ... Caffe + dog

They love their cafes in Turin, they love their coffee and I guess they love their dogs.

Snapped at Caffe Vittorio Veneto two weeks ago, as I embarked on one of my countless early morning marathon strolls.

The Vittorio Veneto is considered one of the city's historic coffee bars. It's also, I note for early risers like myself, one of the few in the Piazza Castello/Via Po area of Torino that opens at 6.

I drink coffee first thing, without exception! So does the signora in the picture -- who also apparently walks the dog first thing.

Cheers!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #7 Hiking Pistoia!


I want to say the highlight of my trip to Italy last month was hiking with my friend, Giovanni! Talking about forest cleansing.

How can that greenery be real? Oh but it is. Where we went -- the mountains outside of Pistoia -- well, I would not be able to re-trace my steps easily but that's the whole point.

Let the Italians take me where they want!


Which Italians? These Italians. These super awesome Italians. Mille grazie Veronica e Giovanni!

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #6 Crazy dry cleaner

Lots of stops when I return to Italy, and most are of a very personal kind of tourism. Like checking to see if "the crazy dry cleaner" is still in business.

Suffice it to say, he is (or at least his business hasn't -- yet -- been replaced by another "snack stop" for tourists).

Phew! For a moment -- I mistook the block -- I thought he'd closed.

He was our dry cleaner when we lived in Florence -- his shop is located just around the corner from our old apartment, near Piazza Santa Croce.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #5 Torino courtyard

Will someone tell me if I've failed so far to make the case that Torino is astonishingly beautiful?

That hidden treasures await you?

What do they do in this courtyard? Who lives in this gorgeous building? Whose days begin looking out of that window at the grassy little field in the center of the courtyard?

To be sure, all Italian cities are riddled with tiny hidden courtyards -- but the key is "hidden." One rarely sees them. In Turin, just turn your head while heading down Via Po toward the river or Via Roma toward the station. They're there. They sometimes even house businesses like florists.

One can imagine someone wheeling into the cortile on a bike, gleefully putting an end to the commute (such as it were) by hopping off the bike and sniffing the air, with a premonition about dinner...I have a premonition that I may never return to Torino, if only because it seems almost ridiculously lucky to get two chances to explore such a wonderful city! More to come.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day -- #4 Fresh peas!

Just follow them. Go where they go, do what they say, ask questions but don't obstruct.

Those are my unspoken rules for being with Italian friends. It was a strategy that when I was a student in Siena reaped such travel gold that I insisted on going to live in Italy full-time. My Senesi friends took me to places that I could probably never find again -- some abandoned castle in Vescovado di Murlo, thermal baths in Southern Tuscany, a discoteque all'aperta out by a small airport in the countryside.

When I was in Italy last week, I had the chance to go hiking with my friends Giovanni and Veronica and again, they took me to a place that I could probably never find again. Two places, in fact. The second, in the low mountain range outside of Pistoia, that was so silent, so remote and hidden, that I felt as if my footsteps were trampling over the footsteps of the ancient Romans who'd sown the path. No tourist signs, no official place to park where you fed money into slot. Just the most intense greenery I've seen in a long time, and a serenity befitting the Buddhist converts who have taken refuge in this corner of Tuscany.

Oh and of course after you hike (or really do anything in Italy), you eat. In our case, a tiny restaurant in an old mill beside a stream (where else would they have put a mill?) where the waitress read out the menu, which is to say, read out the menu in her mind. We left a small window by our table open so we could hear the babbling creek below us.

We were hungry so we had pretty much everything, including these fresh peas (stunningly good) and a swiss chard involtino filled with baby veggies, plus I had the fresh pasta with a ragu of rabbit (don't tell Leo!).

Buon appetito!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day -- #3 Fiori!

Sure, we have flower boxes in our windows, too, in America but they never look like this! What exactly is the Signora or Signore feeding these flowers in Milan that they look like something you'd bring to a wedding?!

I became obsessed with window flower boxes during my last trip in Rome when I photographed several in Piazza Navona, and it might even have been the moment I decided to admit (once more) that I had it bad (for Italy) and it wasn't good, to quote the old blues song.

I cannot for the life of me understand why more tourists don't visit Milan. It's stunning beautiful, like any major Italian art city, but also chic and modern!

I had really only a few hours there, before bedding down for the night, and catching my return flight to the US. But I made the most of them, strolling before dinner from my hotel down via Brera into the Brera arts district, where I took this photo, past La Scala (where fancy Milanesi were filing in the famous theater for the 8 p.m. symphony performance), through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (oh if our malls could look like that), around the Duomo, and then ultimately down Via Orefici and Via Dante toward the Castello Sforzesco. Troppo bello! Especially for a walking enthusiast, such as myself. I basically threaded my way through the city from one pedestrian area/piazza to another.

(I really think American cities could take a page from this book -- we have beautiful buildings in our downtowns, even if they may be abandoned or underused. Can we give people a place to stroll? Can we build some squares? We'd have to contend with the homeless population, but then again, in Milan, you're contending with the strolling vendors who seem to think I need a woven bracelet of the kind I wore when I was 12).

Cheers to the gardener who lives at this home in Milan! You made my day.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day -- #2 Breakfast


Una ciambellina. Oo-nuh chah-m-bell-eena. The name of my favorite Italian pastry, hands down. The name of this blog, in fact!

I did something this trip to Italy I almost never do -- I ate breakfast twice every day! Meaning, two pastries. I usually adapt myself to the very Italian habit of moderation (something visitors often overlook in the Italian character) when I visit il bel Paese but this time, I wanted to try other pastries without giving up my beloved ciambellina.

Che golosa!