Claire’s recent trip to Italy has inspired to finally sit down and write about my trip to Italy – all the way back in May. No, not that long ago. But somehow it seems like a life-time has passed since then. Summer has come and gone. It’s almost Harvest Fest at Gore Mountain. The leaves have turned neon orange and all shades of yellow, the greens of late summer still holding on and surprisingly vivid. As I write this, I can see the brilliant blue sky outside my windows and think, “I should be outside enjoying this day before the leaves disappear and it’s too cold to do anything but curl up with a blanket.”
But no, I will not be deterred. I will write.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Italy. From the moment I stepped off the plane, I discovered that this is the country where I was meant to live. A vacation is a false sense of a country, I know, because well, you’re on vacation. Everything is viewed through rose-tinted glasses so what might be irritating in regular life is somehow charming. The bottle of wine at lunch helps too. But I feel deeply and sincerely that I truly belong in Italy. Sicily in particular. Ortigia specifically.
So here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite memories from Italy:
- The aforementioned bottle of wine at lunch – in particular the bottle of rosé at Ristorante Marina Grande in Amalfi. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was cold and a pretty shade of pink and dry and delicious. The view wasn’t bad either.
- Joe taking photos of cats in Italy so he could send his daughter a cat-a-day photo per her request (I told him he probably shouldn’t send any photos of the cats in Palermo as they were rough as hell and might scar Mia – don’t mess with Palermo street cats).
- Bottles of extra-virgin olive oil and real balsamic vinegar at the Auto-Grill because even when grabbing a quick bite on the side of the Autostrada, Italians do it right.
- The Irish woman on the flight back who kept pinching bottles of booze from the drinks cart and taught me that you always order two drinks at a time (technically, not in Italy, but still a part of the trip and she was awesome).
- Visiting Le Chiuse, Fattorie dei Barbi and Tenuta Rapitala (the first bottle of wine I had at barVino – before it was opened and we were fixing it up, dreaming about it being a restaurant – was from Rapitala).
- White sardines drizzled with a spicy olive oil in a (literal) hole-in-the-wall restaurant in one of the maze-like back streets of Amalfi, served by an 80 year old woman in bedroom slippers.
- Walking through the twisting, narrow streets of Ortigia – the island connected to Siracusa by a series of bridges – trying to avoid the Santa Lucia processional (impossible) and finding numerous places to wait it out with tasty food and delicious drinks.
- Stopping for lunch in Campo Reale, thinking we’d have plenty of time to make it to our tasting at Tenuta Rapitala (which was only 10 minutes away) and having the bakery owner open his family’s (closed) restaurant where the sister didn’t give us a menu, but kept sending out course after course of incredible food, assuring us that we’d have plenty of time to make it our tasting, but in-fact we were late and I called and lied, because I was embarrassed, and then the sister didn’t understand why we were worried about being late, saying, “It’s Sicily.”
- Finally reaching La Locanda Delle Donne Monache – a gorgeous hotel in Maratea that used to be a convent – after getting lost many times. Hairpin turns, cows wandering into the road, covering my eyes with my hands when we missed the turn and Joe ended driving up, up, up the road towards Monte San Biagi and the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer (so far up in fact, that we couldn’t see the ocean below us and it made me realize the road to Positano was really nothing to freak out about) . . . All this made the stunning La Locanda and its serene pool even that much more of a welcome site. Joe explored the town of 44 churches and I drank a beer and read a magazine. Heaven.
- Aperitivo. Sorta like the Italian version of Happy Hour. Somewhere around 7, we’d find a lovely place to sit with either a Negroni (me) and a glass of wine (Joe), accompanied by delicious morsels of complimentary food and people watching.
- Pasta with boar ragu at Re Di Macchia because when in Tuscany you always order the boar ragu.
- Wandering through the Mercato Storico Albinelli in Modena on our first morning in Italy. Yes, we were a little hung-over from our first night in Italy (I blame the after-dinner Nocino), but we managed to get everything we needed for our on-the-road-lunch as we drove to Montalcino.
- One liter jugs of cheap, fresh and very yummy house wine. No name. No label. No description. Just really good and usually less expensive than our dinner.
- The late-night wine tasting orchestrated by our new friend Nino (who translated our tour and tasting at Tenuta Rapitala) after we met him, his wife and son for dinner in Palermo. It was unexpected, gracious and a real education of the variety and beauty of Sicilian wine.
There’s a hundred more memories, a dozen meals and more bottles of wine I could talk about, lingering over the details as they bring me back to Italy, but for now I’ll just write ciao and head off to make myself a Negroni to enjoy in the beautiful October sun.