Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Welcome to Modena!

Dad and I took a day trip via train to Modena and Maranello to visit both Ferrari Museums. Modena is famous for the home of Enzo Ferrari, as well as the production of a large amount of Italy's balsalmic vinegar.
For those who aren't sure of where this is, it is slightly north of Bologna.

So we woke up super early and caught a cab to the Firenze train station. One and a half hours later (on a slow train) we got to Modena. Modena hosts Enzo's family home and the Enzo Ferrari Museum. From June to sometime this fall the museum is hosting a large Maserati exhibit! What a beautiful display of cars! Not only that, but the museum created two videos that played in the showroom, detailing the history of Maserati and the link to Ferrari. Next to the museum (which is shaped like a Ferrari hood) is Enzo's family home, which was renovated to host some collectibles from the family, as well as a few vintage Alfa Romeos and Ferraris. My favorite was the "Enzo" Ferrari of which only 399 were made. Pure beauty! Even for those who are not car buffs like my father and I, you cannot deny that this is a form of modern art.


After we looked at the Maseratis, we took a break for lunch at the museum. Both of us got the tortoloni and some cappuccinos to refuel (na ha!) for part two. We then hopped on the shuttle to head to Maranello where the official Ferrari Museum is housed. I think our shuttle driver had dreams that his van was actually a Ferrari and that he was actually Mario Andretti... we were flying through the streets and weaving around traffic.

When we finally made it (in one piece) to Maranello, we entered a bustling Ferrari Museum with an overwhelming amount of Ferraris and memorabilia. It was the crush of humanity stuffed in a car museum. Regardless, it was a place of pure beauty and appreciation for the art of racing and craftsmanship.


I think my father's face is now stuck in a permanent grin. It was the mecca of the racer...a car lover's utopia. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration... but not by much. :)

After a long day wandering through both places, we headed back to the train station and traded up our tickets to an earlier fast train to Firenze. Dad met a family from Brazil on board that we recognized from the museum. So he made friends. That man can talk to basically anyone, language barrier be damned.


Beware of Pickpockets!

It can't be a Cinderella story all the time.

Of course you read "Beware of Pickpockets" all over Milan (and other places in Italy) and especially in bus/train stations. And of course you clutch your purse tighter, pay closer attention to people near you and keep stuff out of your back pockets.

But sometimes it happens anyway.

Dad and I were taking the train from Milano Centrale to Florence this past Saturday, and sometime in the station, Dad got robbed. Centrale was packed with people and we kept getting bumped into while weaving our way to our train. At one point when we were heading to the platform everyone bottle-necked and we ended up at a standstill. That's when I think it happened.

The worst part is that poor Dad was even prepared. He had his money clip in a side cargo pant pocket that was velcro'd shut. Sadly, it was still snatched. Credit cards, 300 Euro, license and the money clip from Joan... gone.

Thankfully we have my cards/cash and phone. So Dad called the credit card company etc to cancel the cards.

He took it fairly well, whereas I on the other hand was livid and nervous! For the next two days I had some anxiety going out and about and the distinct desire to punch people in the face. In fact, I may still want to do that. ;) But we figured it all out and all is well. I just hate not having control over certain events, or just knowing that I can't change the outcome of something frustrating.

This is two robberies in one trip: Cathy's smartphone and Dad's wallet. Can we be done now!?

This has not and will not sour my trip to Florence. <3 nbsp="" p="">

Stresa in a Day

If you have not considered taking day trips while visiting a central location (such as Milan) you should reconsider. I have thoroughly enjoyed the day trips to Turino, Pavia, Lake Como and most recently, Stresa. More specifically, we took the group to the islands surrounding Stresa. It's nestled in the Italian Alps with Switzerland to the north and west. On a clear day you can see snow capped mountains in the distance. The weather was mild but a bit humid... however, on the boat it was just delicious to take in!


The trip consisted of wandering about two separate islands with mansions and museums and gardens at both. Some of the most beautiful (and precise) gardens I have seen. Might even give England a run for their money.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dad's Week In Milan!

Oh wow, I am so behind on the blog! Forgive me if you have been trying to follow along.

Dad came in to Milano on Monday, and the next 5 days were a whirlwind!
The Camplus Turro staff was nice enough to let Dad stay with me at a VERY low rate, and rearrange my room to host two beds. Let the snoring symphony commence!

When Dad got in, I took him to the same restaurant I went to on my first night in Milano... Gemelli's! Dad proceeded to eat an entire Margherita pizza and clams and spaghetti... and some of my bruschetta in record time. :o) I really will miss that place, and the super sweet waitress that was there every time we went in  over the past month.

We hit the ground running! Everyone got up early for breakfast at campus (croissants, yogurt and cappuccinos) and the off we went to the University. Dad sat in on the lecture on Italian Film and even participated a bit with the discussion. :o) After we took a bit of a break for lunch, we set off to see the Last Supper. I repeat. THE. LAST. SUPPER. As in Leonardo Da Vinci. To say it was breathtaking and stunning and fabulous is not even scratching the surface. It brought tears to my eyes, and I'm pretty sure I saw Dad and Cathy welling up also. And... it was huge. I suppose it was my ignorance and just seeing it in photo books and art history classes. I knew it was big, but I had no idea how big. I cannot believe I got to be there, right in front of it. Sadly we were not allowed to take photos, but I got a book from the church with photos and info on it.

I will need to write a separate post in detail on the trip to Stresa, but since it's late and for the sake of brevity, I will summarize. We got up at the crack of dawn to get to Centrale to catch a train to Stresa, north of Milano and west of Lake Como. It was the perfect day for us to go! Beautiful blue skies and we got a fair view of the Italian and Swiss Alps. :o) When we got to Stresa, we hitched a ride on a lake boat and made our way to Isola Bella and Isola Maggorie. Dad has a knack of making friends everywhere... regardless of language barrier. So he set off in befriending the captain of our boat who spoke VERY little English and dad spoke even less Italian. But yet, they talked boats and cars for quite some time. The islands were an amazing mix of gardens, statues and architecture/art. I took a bunch of photos which I still need to load. After the islands, we headed back to Milano to get some work done and to find some dinner!

Dad and I got up and out early with the group and headed out to the Duomo in downtown Milano. We finally got to go inside!! All month I have been looking forward to this. What a beautiful, sacred place. After the tour inside, we rode the elevator (the students took the stairs) to the roof of the Duomo which overlooked the rest of the city. It was raining so we had to tread carefully around, but the photos made it worth it. Dad and I strolled to the piazza duomo after the tour for some lunch. I took him to Biffi's for some caprese and wine. After a filling, uber-Italian lunch, we walked over to meet Alex (our guide) for the Black Death Tour. Basically we hiked around the city (for miles) and talked about the plague and its impact on Milano and Italy in general. The tour took us through areas south of the duomo that I had not been to yet, and we saw three other churches ranging in age. Again... I had a field day with photos!

The last full day in Milano! I took Dad to the Brera Museum for a few hours. He was enraptured with the Caravaggio there, and rightfully so. It was outstanding. We got lunch out there at Bar Brera where again I watched dad consume mass quantities of lasagna and pizza. :o) And he is now a fan of espresso and cappuccinos. Huzzah! I had grading to do so we came back to the dorms for a bit and hung out with Cathy before heading out to the farewell dinner with the group. It was bittersweet for sure. I had a lovely time and the food was amazing, but it was sad to know it was the last time the group would be together. Professors Luca and Mossimo came to the dinner as well and again Dad set off to make new friends. They talked for hours! :o) After dinner, Dad and Cathy talked me in to going out a bit longer with some of the students who were having one last celebration before their early flights. After a long, tiring walk home I was ready to pass out!

Packing. Packing. Packing. I need to reconfigure my rolling bag... as it is currently 52lbs and I have a week in Florence to buy things... Yikes! Dad, Cathy and I spent the day together before Dad and I had to head back to Milano Centrale to catch the train to Firenze (Florence). We had a delightful lunch together and just chatted about the whole adventure. When we got to Centrale poor Dad got pickpocketed by some assholes at the station. I am over that place. :o( All of his cash (over $300), credit cards, license and a money clip that Joan gave him... gone. We didn't even find out until we got to Florence and went to pay the cab driver. To make it even worse, Dad was being cautious and had it in a velcro cargo pocket of his pants. But there were hundreds of people in Centrale and at one point we were stuck in a large group without moving. But, we are both okay and safe.

So a poor end to a great week in Milano... but still a great week. Dad said he is just as happy as he can be, and that he isn't worried about the pickpocketing. So that's a plus at least. His level of calm allowed me to be freaked out a bit. I don't know how he does it. My admiration runs deep.

More later. I must rest!


Friday, July 25, 2014

Switzerland for the Weekend!

 Cathy and I packed up and took the train up to Switzerland. Here is a whirlwind recap of the weekend... I will be going back to that country someday. It was amazing.

THURSDAY (Still in Italy):
What a fast week! After a quick lecture on Italian Music given by the dashingly handsome Luca, Cathy and I went to grab a quick lunch and then catch the train towards Tirano, Italy. Since there is a small Eataly restaurant near the metro stop, we decided to eat there. Either I was starving and EVERYTHING would taste good, or the classic club sandwich and caprese salad I got for lunch was amazing. I’m going with the latter since it was Eataly.

After lunch we had to haul ass to the metro to catch the yellow line to Centrale. When there we had to again haul ass up the stairs to catch the Regional train headed to Tirano. We made it with 2 minutes to spare. My thighs were burning and I’m pretty sure I suffered a mild heart attack. But after we settled in our stuffy train car, we set off for the 2+ hour journey to Tirano.

Making it Tirano was a beautiful thing. What an adorable little village nestled in the valley of the Italian Alps. It would be a perfect place for me to set up shop and write the rest of my dissertation. What a fabulous idea! Shame I couldn't afford the trip back. The little hotel we stayed at was freaking adorable and right out of a Goldilocks story. We had a small but cozy bathroom and two twin beds. Our windows opened to the main road and the rushing aqueduct that flows through the center of town. The alpine water was this crystal aquamarine color that I’d liken to the “robin’s egg” color of some classic cars from the 1950s. After setting down our goods, we set off to wander the little town and scout out some dinner spots. Some of the photos I got of the little alleyways and side streets are beyond charming. It almost seemed fake.  I met a cute little gray kitty that obviously belonged to a local Innkeeper as she was super friendly and anxious to be loved on.
A turn back through town took us to a cute little ristorante and pizzeria where we decided dinner was necessary. Our grumbling stomachs agreed. Oh. My. God. The food was fantastic! I got this pear and cheese salad with walnuts and a light vinegaratte that was to DIE for. I’d eat that every day if I could. For dinner we got a 4 cheese pizza and some local white wine (a staple of the area).

We called it a fairly early night since we had to be up at a decent time to catch the Bernina Express into Switzerland.

Ate breakfast at the hotel
Bernina Express – 2.5 hour trip; What an amazing journey through the Alps! The weather was beautiful and the trip was exactly as I expected Switzerland to be. Took well over 400 photos … Cathy got a little snap-happy

Hiking nuns!  Luckily at one point during the trip, we passed a beautiful aqua lake where Cathy spotted two nuns hiking around. She snapped a cute photo of them.

When we arrived in St Moritz we wanted to wander around and dig up somewhere to eat lunch. Being the tourists we are, we walked up the side of a steep hill towards the center of town. That was painful! Not only was the elevation working against my lungs, but so was the steep incline. Come to find out that there was an escalator that would take you up the mountain… Whoops.

Expensive ass lunch – meatloaf with fried egg and potato salad; Very good, but very pricey!
After lunch we wandered back down to the lake for some more picturesque views before taking the train to Celerina where our hotel was. I decided my goal for the trip was to stick my feet in an alpine lake or stream before I left Switzerland. So I stuck my poor aching feet in the lake! And maybe it was the fact that my feet were numb, but maybe (and I’m going with this) the lake has some healing properties because afterwards my feet felt 10x better.

Took train over to Celerina – stayed at All in One Hotel which was an adorable ski lodge place. We had a room with two bunk beds, a desk area and shower/bathroom. The only issue I had with the place was that they charged 5 franks for towels…. We had to pay for towels.
We promptly took a well deserved nap after the day of travel. The beds were surprisingly comfortable and I was hard-pressed to move after I woke back up. But we had big plans!
Took a “Mountain crab” to Romantik Hotel for dinner. By mountain crab I mean it’s a trolley that climbs the side of a mountain.

Spent 100 franks per person on dinner of: tomato soup, peach sorbet, steak med rare with herb butter, veggies and chocolate mousse with strawberries for desert
It was one of the best meals of my whole life. After dinner it was around 11pm and FREEZING! Of course even though I packed pants and a light sweater, it wasn’t enough. Cathy on the other hand was in pure heaven. However we did decide to split the ungodly cost of a cab to take us to the hotel instead of waiting outside at 11pm for a bus that would come around midnight.

Woke up early to get breakfast at the hotel. Had the best croissants of my LIFE with some creamed honey; cute waiter made us cappuccinos

Took an adventurous trip on the train to find the mountain lift we were scouting for
Took the lift to 3033 meters (about 10k feet) to the top of a mountain in the Alps. Walked on a glacier.
Ate lunch at the panorama bar/bistro on the mountain; Got a mixed plate of dried meats and local cheeses as well as some French fries. Ordered 2 cappuccinos which I aptly dubbed “ALPaccinos” J

Spent the day taking photos and wandering around
Took bus back to Celerina where we promptly took a nap.
Wandered into town for dinner and came across a place that served fondue; Got the cheese fondue with potatoes, onions, pickles, baby corn, pepper and olives. Ninja’d some cheese for tomorrow

We woke up for breakfast at the hotel. I had more great croissants and a cappuccino! Seriously, the croissants were so light and flaky I could have eaten 10 of them! Get it together Italy!!!
Grabbed a local train to St Moritz; Got back on the Bernina Express towards Tirano. Today the weather was rainy and cloudy which was beautiful against the mountain backdrop; nice to get both types of weather for the trip. The 2.5 hour journey seemed a little longer this time due to a plethora of young children in our car making a LOT of noise, and the fact that we were leaving Switzerland for good. A bit depressing, but the view made me smile. I would love to go back.

We ate lunch in Tirano at Vittora where I got spaghetti bolonese and salad with a super thick hot chocolate… it was like chocolate pudding!! Cathy got a Hawaiian pizza and some red vino.
We hopped on the 3pm Trennord Regional train towards Milano Centrale (where I am currently writing this blog). Thus ending our weekend getaway in Switzerland. Bought a few knives and trinkets.
Dad leaves for Denmark today (he will arrive Monday morning) and then tomorrow night he will be in Milano!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lake Como and Chef Murano

What an amazing week and I feel like it FLEW by! I will have to catch you up on my weekend in Switzerland, but FIRST I have to talk about last Wednesday when the group took a train out to Lake Como for the day.




First of all, Lake Como is gorgeous, and the little lake-side town we visited, Perledo, is something out of a story book. We wound our way up the side of a mountain to Chef Murano's restaurant for our cooking class.

He showed us how to make tortoloni from scratch, as well as veal wrapped in prosciutto and tiramisu! It was DELISH, and not too hard to do, so I'll definitely be trying it when I get home. (Something to look forward to Kris!)

While we were waiting on our items to cook, the chef and his lovely wife fed us local meats and cheeses as well as copious amounts of wine.


We spent a good share of the afternoon there and when we finally left, some students grabbed the train home while others of us decided to go across the lake to Bellagio for some shopping. :) They are known for their silk, so of course I had to pick up a scarf!

Overall a wonderful day and I got some beautiful photos. I have quite a task ahead of me when I get home... I have to sort through all of them!