Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Moon, Eye, Pizza Pie....... That's Amore...

     It's that time again when I am struggling to keep to my routine. Itching to get away and relax. Needing some release and a breather from the hustle and bustle of life. That time for a lengthy vacation away from the normal bumps in my world. It had been nine long years since we last seen Italy. Nine long years of seeing our cousins. The same cousins we just found out existed nine years ago. Cousins with whom we have gotten really close to with the help of modern social networking. Family that before researching ancestry records we would have never known were still around. Still in the same village our grandmother immigrated from. The same village she never spoke of, with exception of once when I was little. Our roots, our family, our history, our heritage, it was time to go back. I and two cousins chose to take the trip. A fourteen day long trip across the wonderful country of Italy.

     This time around we decided to see our family but also to try out different cities and villages compared to the last time we were there. Our first trip we stayed primarily in the northern region. Our one side of the family is from the middle area just east of Rome in a region known as Abruzzo. We chose this time to start in the Tuscan region, go south as far as the Amalfi Coast, then head to Abruzzo and back up to Tuscany for an amazing summer trip.

     Our first two days we spent wondering the streets of Pisa and along the famous river Arno. Sightseeing and taking the obligatory shot of one of us holding up the Leaning Tower for hoots and giggles. We then headed south on a long train to Naples to catch yet another train to Sorrento followed by a bus to Praiano along the famous Amalfi coast. Our first train had been canceled so we had to wait around and upgrade for another just to get there in time for check in. We chose a wonderful little B&B that hung out over the cliffs onto the Tyrrhenian Sea. What a beautiful view. It is not enough to say how wonderful a place this was. I immediately fell in love with the Amalfi coast. I soon felt so relaxed and like I was home that I have since named it my Shangri-lah. My oasis as it may be, my heaven, my serenity. The crystal blue turquoise water, the ringing of the bells from the church tower, the warm breeze coming off the ocean, the smell of the salt air, the buzz of vespas flying by above on the upper streets. I could continue describing the sounds, sights, smells, and tastes but I would eventually bore you. However I will mention how amazing the fresh fruit and vegetables were. The olives growing right next to my window were the size of lemons and so green you couldn't image such a color existed. Their taste was even better. Speaking of lemons, they along with the limes, figs, peaches, oranges, etc. were the size of grapefruits. Chili's, or pepperoncini, hung out to dry everywhere. I'm not making this stuff up. I know it sounds like something you only see in the movies, but it's true.  We even spent a day visiting the ruins of Pompeii and seeing Mtn. Vesuvius. Oh, how I miss you already.


Make sure you're holding it up

Our view

Festival of lights in Praiano

Pompeii ruins




Little black pebble sand

     We swam in the ocean, rode the bus threw the villages, ate so much fresh seafood, pastas, fruit, but all the while lost weight. After a wonderful five days we headed back north towards Rome where we caught a bus to our family’s town. Just east of Rome, about an hour drive, we landed in Abruzzo. A small village called Pratola Peligna/ Bagnaturo. I speak of the both as our grandmother, Nonna, was born in a little stone house in Bagnaturo right next to Pratola, but more like a neighborhood section of Pratola. Our family now lives in Pratola right outside of the bigger city Sulmona. Our one cousin Sabrina met us at the bus stop and took us right to our B&B before heading to her parent’s house for dinner and drinks. Just like the first time we met them we were welcomed with great big hugs, double kisses, laughs, tears, and screams. It's as if we had never left. It was like we had been seeing each other every day since we last were there. This time around my Italian had improved quite a bit so communication was much better. (At least that was what they told me). I still think I was a bit shy and timid with using my language skills but I digress. The children had all grown up into young adults now. Some had just obtained their driver license and others were venturing into the ideas of college. We sat and ate some of the most amazing and delicious food we had in all our travels in Italy. I must admit I may be biased but Abruzzi cooking is fantastic and probably one of my favorite. The simple cooking of the mountains. The use of fresh vegetables and game from the farms. Fantastic....  We had everything from Eggplant Parmigiano, Lamb-Arrosticini, sautéed zucchini, peppers, sbricciolata, fruit, etc. Oh and don't forget all the homemade wines: reds, whites, blush, limoncello, arancello, etc. You name it, it was on that table.

Giovanna, Sabrina, Katia

Michella, Domenico


Our next day was spent visiting our grandmother’s old home and traveling through the still owned family vineyards until heading back to their house to help, more like watch, as their mother Giovanna made homemade gnocchi with a meat ragu. Followed by leftovers of the night before, more wine, and more after dinner drinks. This was just lunch.

Grandma's home

Making gnocchi


     Later that night after a wonderful nap we headed downtown to the church piazza where the town was holding a festival of the grapes, or Le Uve formally. We received souvenir wine glasses and we went from one family's wine cellar, (cantina), to another sampling all the different wines while obtaining a small plate of fresh food ranging from pasta, to meats, pork, vegetables, etc. Some even had music playing or dj's performing. By the last wine stop the piazza had a wonderful Beatles tribute band playing late into the night. We headed back to Sabrina's house for pizzelle, cannoli, wine, and say our goodnights and goodbyes.
Le Uve with cugini

Walking the streets of Pratola tasting wine

Cugini sitting around eating, Barbara on right.

cugini and new friends


Tears of joy

     We left the next morning in tears but promising to come back and headed back to Tuscany. We chose a small village outside of Florence famous for its walled structure. An entire city built inside a huge wall to protect itself: Lucca. We had the fortunate chance to stay in an old horse barn converted into a three story flat perfectly outfitted with a kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms, and a sitting area. We were also luckily enough to have a nice little yard with a grill and sitting area and bicycles to ride around the city. What a wonderful way to spend our last few nights in beautiful Tuscany.

Our kitchen

Old barn converted into flat

The outer wall

      Now for some of the best parts of our amazing trip to Italy: the food.........  We ate some of the best dishes ever. Octopus and potatoes, veal, beef, scampi, shrimp, pasta, pizza, stuffed zucchini flowers, lamb, pork, tomatoes, olives, eggplant, peppers, chicken, eggs, fresh fruit, grapes, fresh made wine, cheeses, etc. You name it we had it. All made fresh right in front of us. All grown locally and not filled with preservatives, additives, etc. That is one of the amazing things about Italy; everything was fresh and good for you.

Mushroom risotto
Parpadelle with Wild Boar

Oh the olives



Fantastic Polpo e Patate

Shrimp and a pepper sauce with gnocchi


Stuffed zucchini flowers

Caprese pizza


Pizza margharita





Prosciutto e melone

Steak and mushrooms

Tortelli Lucchese

Ah, pistachio and watermelon gelato

Cantuccini with Vin Santo

     I must admit that this time around was one of my favorite trips to this wonderful country. To this day I am still talking about it and comparing everything around me to what it was like in Italy. I truly feel that country. I feel it in my bones. I feel that I am supposed to be there. Like the song says, "when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore." That's what it is, Love for this wonderful, enriched, and steeped in history country. My love I miss you but will see you again someday. Italia, mi amore…….


  1. Great blog entry. The food, the photos, the narrative...really nice to hear more about your trip. The Amalfi coast looks amazing. The Positano Thanks for sharing, now you have made me very hungry.

    1. Thanks Mary glad you like it. It is an amazing place. Can't wait to go again.