Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bologna's Lights

I am always amazed by the enchanting display of lights the city of Bologna puts up for Christmas. There are so many lights! Around every corner and down every little street there are a different size and shape of lights. It feels truly magical and special.

One of the two towers all decorated in its Christmas best...the towers are always amazing and a true symbol of Bologna but when they are decorated with the lights they are even more special because from all around the town you can glance up and see the lights from the tower.

Merry Christmas!
I hope that everyone had a lovely celebration with their friends, family and the people they love.


This was the first year in a long time that I had a Christmas tree. It was fun to decorate it and it brought back memories of childhood and searching and hunting for the perfect branch on which to place each ornament. This guys branches proved to be a little tricky because most of them face up, instead of out, but I think he turned out pretty cute, even if a little Charlie Brownish. Also, here in Italy they do not sell cut trees like in the US so Andrea has already been scouting out places where we can plant this guy when we are done with him. (And yes, that is our pizza dinner all ready for us on the table - after literally hours of decorating I was hungry!).

I don't have a tree topper so I improvised with this little guy. I think he worked out pretty well. Also, notice Andrea's, very patriotic, Christmas Eve morning surprise.

We bought this ornament earlier this month at the Christmas Market in Innsbruck. It is the first ornament I have here that has a special story and meaning behind it.

This guy is another purchase from the Christmas Market in Innsbruck. He caught my eye immediately on the first night we were there so we brought him home and we call him Furry Santa.

We have, somewhat unknowingly, become cup collectors and although it sounds kind of dorky and weird I really like it. The mugs, with the exception of the one from the Sagra Del Tartufo, are all from various Christmas Markets we visited this year and last. It is one of my favorite things, to go to a Christmas Market on a cold night and get a mug full of steamy Vin Brulee (mulled wine) and walk around the snow covered market admiring the decorations, ornaments and other goods. It always makes me feel as though I am walking through the pages of a storybook.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Seasonal Pictures - Fall

Things that are making me happy:

- mild temperatures that allow us to spend time outside without turning into popsicles

- blue skies

- the great big window next my desk at work that allows me to see the sunset over the hills every evening - I am still thrilled after being in our new office over 1 month

Thanks mother earth for being so lovely this fall!

**Excuse me for the not so fabulous quality of these pictures - I was trying to take them quickly and covertly. If someone would have seen me they would have thought I was nuts, for sure - just as they did the first day in our new office when at 5 o'clock I exclaimed, "we get sunsets now".**

Monday, November 22, 2010

Seasonal Pictures - Fall & La Sagra del Tartufo

Andrea and I spent the last two Sundays in the picturesque village of Savigno at their annual Sagra del Tartufo. Sagre are festivals that are typically held in small villages to celebrate a local product including those that are planted and harvested (squash and pumpkins for example), collected or foraged (like the tartufo) or prepared and cooked (like tortellini). Spending a Saturday or Sunday exploring a village and enjoying the goods at their Sagra has become one of my all time favorite things to do here in Italy and this (late fall and early winter) is the peak season for Sagre!

This is the second year in a row that we have gone to Savigno for the Sagra del Tartufo and it has become something for which I anxiously await. The great access to truffles here still absolutely astounds me. In the states truffles are such an exclusive product that they are reserved for only a very few. Here they are everywhere and so much more afforable in comparision! Truffles are offered in restaurants on everything from steaks, to pasta and even on pizza! The varieties of different truffle products is also outstanding! First, there are the whole truffles for sale

The truffles on the right are the black truffles which can be cooked and have a more subtle, less intese flavor. The truffles on the left are the prized white truffle which have a strong, intense flavor and smell. These truffles cannot be cooked but will be shaved on top of the already prepared food.

Now when I said affordable I meant in comparision to the states. As you can see, the truffles are a very desired and respected product and the larger ones demand quite a big price tag. I always find it interesting to watch the truffle sellers carefully weighing, measuring and examing their truffles much the same way a jeweler might exam a diamond. There is a true sense of respect and reverence towards the truffles.

Now if you are not in the market for a truffle in the raw, as I found out that I am not after Andrea bought me one last year and I was too intimidated to use it so it went bad in our cupboard, there are many other wonderful truffle products to buy...

Truffle sausage
(That is one long sausage and the woman selling it simply cuts off how much you want!)

Truffle Cheese
(which are actually the small rounds to the right - the huge round of cheese was just too impressive not to get a picture of. Also check out the huge piece of Coppa di Testa in the back. It is delicious but I am a little afraid to know what it is made of as the whole time I was eating it yesterday the boys err, I mean gentlemen I was with were teasing me about what I was eating. I told them better to just enjoy and remain in ignorant bliss.)
Truffle Eggs
(I find these to be truly amazing! The people that make these put the eggs and truffles into a big air tight, glass container and then seal it up. The truffles are so pungent that their smell/taste permeates the shell of the egg so that when the eggs are cooked they taste of truffles! I have yet to try a truffle egg but I am very curious.)

Then there are also many, many non-truffle delicacies to purchase as well...

More cheese (I think this Gorgonzola looks to die for) and more Coppa di Testa

Beautiful Tigelle
(think flat biscuit that are fantastic when they are hot and fresh with some sliced meat and cheese)
Exqusite fresh pasta

And candy pink Pesca
(These are a soft, cake like, cookies. The two halves are baked seperately and then soaked in liquor before being sandwhiched together with chocolate and then rolled in sugar - devine!)

This is my favorite part of Italy. I feel so grateful that there are small towns with real pride in what they make, forage and grow. It is in these towns that I feel a real, genuine sense of history, time, tradition and culture. None of this is done as a show or for tourists from faraway places. It is so very nice to be absorbed into the country and to intimately come to know the people and places that I feel make up the true Italy.

Friday, November 19, 2010


There is a lovely tradition here in Italy that when a baby is born a ribbon, blue for boys and pink for girls, is hung on the outside of the family's front door to announce the birth. I love walking around the city and spotting these ribbons. It always makes me smile to know that there is a happy new family inside that building celebrating the joy of a new life. I love the pride, joy and great hugeness and wonder of what a new baby's life will become that is all respresented in a simple ribbon.

One month ago today a new, little person entered this world and my life. My friend, Caitlin, had a son and I became an auntie. Welcome to the world little one. I cannot wait to watch you grow and learn. Your life will be full of fun and adventures (I can gurantee this last part because I have lived with your mom before). I wish all the best in the whole wide world to this new little family.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Seasonal Pictures - Fall

fall and especially November will forever and always make me think of Tartufi (Truffles)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Seasonal Pictures - Fall

Hooray for unseasonably warm days and still being able to enjoy lunch outside!

Hooray for cheery, orange tulips unexpectedly showing up during the first week of November! Hooray also for the cute boy that bought them for me!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Too Hard

I promise by the end of this post the swimming pool picture will make sense

I started this blog as a way to share my experience of living in Italy. My intention was to provide an honest portrayal of my life here as a way to give people insight into what it is actually like to live here. I wanted to include the positives and the negatives as a way to perhaps deflate the general stereotype people tend to have of Italy; that everything is beautiful, everyday is wonderful, and that every meal is the best of my life. So far, I have failed. So far this blog has been entirely slanted towards the beautiful and the postive. From today on, I would like to try and give a rounder, fuller picture of my life. So here it goes...

After living here for over a year, I feel confident to make the following conclusion (of course this is based solely on my own experiences and I fully trust that others will conclude the exact opposite or at least something different - but this is mine): life, in general, in the US is much easier, less complicated and more convenient than it is here. In fact, often times here it seems like they have sought out the most difficult way to do something and decided that is how the thing shall be done.

Today I went to the local pool to find out information about the possibility of going there to swim laps. I found out the times and the price (89 euros for 1 month or for 10 times - a little steep, I think, but I can live with it) - everything was going fine UNTIL I was told that I would need a doctor's certificate to swim there unless, of course, I would like to pay 13 euros (by today's conversion that is $18.50) per time. What? I could accept the need for a physical when I was playing junior high school basketball but I am a grown adult! I think I can swim at my own risk. A doctor's visit would probably cost around 120 euros! Plus I don't even have a general doctor so I would have to find one, make an appointment and take time off of work to go to the appointment.

And there is no hope of gaining any sympathy from an Italian upon sharing this story because for them it is totally normal. It is just the way it is.

Needless to say I do not think I will be swimming anytime soon. In fact, now I am drinking a glass of wine to console myself and later I might just have to make some brownies. In total, the complete opposite of my original intentions of getting some exercise.

(the picture is originally from this website)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Seasonal Pictures - Fall

I have often read about people expresing a desire to take part in a culture exchange with a person from a different country. This always made me think to myself, first of all, what would I exchange? I am American. What is our cluture? Hamburgers? Baseball? Then I thought even if I figured out what to share, how would I share it? Should I make a power presentation and bring visual aids? This idea of a cultural exchange was always intriguing, I want to learn about other people's cultures, but also daunting because I did not now what I would give in exchange. This weekend I found out.

I stayed on an olive farm in Tuscany this weekend where there lived a wonderful, little boy named Pietro. Pietro was very excited about Halloween. He talked about it all day Saturday and repeatedly chimed out, "scherzetto o dolcetto" (trick or treat in Italian), usually from the top of an olive tree. He also talked about carving a pumpkin. On the farm they grow many things but unfortunately not pumpkins. After we finished dinner that night, Christina, the farmer, brought in a butternut squash she had picked from the garden and offered it up to be carved. We, five adults, sat around the table thinking how to carve the squash. I must admit that at first I was skeptical. There are many differences between a proper carving pumpkin and a butternut squash. One of the adults suggested to cut the very hour glassly shaped squash into two pieces and at that suggestion the possibilities started to come to life quickly, followed by the jack-o-lanterns.

The squash was cut in two. The seeds taken out and the center cut away. Pietro drew the perfect face on each half with triangle eyes, a small triangle nose, and a sweet little smile. I carved out the pieces and then Pietro, who had the perfect sized hands to fit inside the small squash, removed the cut out pieces. We lit little tea lights and put the two squash faces on top of them and here are the results:

Notice how Pietro even drew nostrils on the two noses

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seasonal Pictures - Fall

I have been inspired by two Australian blogs I read (you can check them out here and here) to begin to post a weekly seasonal picture. I like the idea of slowing down and taking the time to appreciate each season and to find the unique beauty in the ever changing world around me. I think right now, fall, is the perfect time for me to start this; I am absolutely a summer/warm weather person (can you blame me? I grew up in California where, admittedly, it was not warm all the time but it was never COLD) so I have not been welcoming fall with open arms. I am looking forward to beginning to appreciate fall and in turn all the other seasons for exactly what they are instead of disliking them for what they are not. A lesson in acceptance.

the different stages of changing and falling leaves

fall vineyards

the last of the grapes
Each Monday I will feature a new series of seasonal photos. Come back and check out what I find.

P.S. The three pictures above are all from our trip this last weekend to the Piemonte region of Italy. If you like what you see, stayed tuned for the rest of the week. I will be posting, in three parts, about our weekend at the Salone del Gusto in Torino and our adventures in Barolo and the surrounding areas.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


A few random shots from our recent weekend trip to Firenze...

Ponte Vecchio with a little Venezia flair

Gelato for breakfast - always a good idea!

this was a lovely side room in the gelatoria with molti vini and other fun local products

We had our second (and real) breakfast at a cafe on the main piazza, Piazza della Signoria. It was fun to people watch and see the groups of tourists from all over the world. It was especially fun not to be one of those tourists but to be more of a local.

Another shot from Piazza della Signoria

Look at that room! Isn't it amazing? What would you use it for? I would make it into a super, cozy reading nook complete with a collection of wine and also a hot water heater and a selection of delicious teas (and of course elegant wine glasses and the perfectly, perfect large, round tea mugs).

This place had me and Andrea in stictches....translated it means Pharmacy of the Wild Boar

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rovinj, Croatia

The city of Rovinj, Croatia

The city of Rovinj (Rovigno, in Italian) use to be an island that sat right off the coast, as you can tell in the above picture, the space has since been filled in and it is now connected to the mainland. The city is a winding labyrinth of narrow streets leading up the hill to a large church. We enjoyed wandering around and finding the hidden treasures of the city.

St. Euphemia Parish

like these small alleyways that led straight into the sea
a restaurant without a ceiling
lounging cats

and beautiful, narrow homes

We were very lucky and ended up renting an apartment in the middle of the historical city center. I loved living among the locals and being able to go inside one of the very narrow apartment buildings.

This was our apartment building. Can you see the stairway in the back leading to the front door? Our apartment was on the top floor!
P.S. I was thrilled to see that this was the entryway to our apartment. Andrea, maybe not so much.

Our downstairs neighbor
the view from our apartment

We also had many excellent meals, including local cheeses and lots of delicious seafood (my favorite was the grilled squid which we had several times), in beautiful spots.

A yummy lunch of melon, cured meats, cheese, and olives on the beautiful, back patio of a small restaurant right on the water. At the end of the meal I fed the rest of our bread to the hundreds of small fish in the water and the eagerly awaiting seagulls - not environmentally correct, I know, but really fun.

our table on the rocks
you cannot beat that view

One night we had dinner on the rocks next to the sea. When we sat down there were still people jumping off the rocks into the water.

we had front row seats for the stunning sunset

Rovinj is a perfect place for a long weekend getaway from Bologna. I look forward to going back and enjoying the crystal clear water, the yummy food, and the quaint, historical old center.