ROADTRIP WITH THE RENTS
We leave Istria by bus, passing through Slovenia and ending up in Trieste, Italy, for a gelato break at Zampolli. Anthony wants to make my introduction to Italy special, so he finds a local salumeria and buys mortadella, prosciutto, and rustic bread for our train ride to Rome. We have a train ride picnic past the glorious countryside of Northeastern Italy. Can life get any better?
We arrive in Rome, drop off our luggage at our airbnb spot and scour the ancient alleyways for an authentic pasta joint. We roam our way into Trastevere where we happen upon an osteria and continue unto the wee hours of morning slurping bucatini all'amatriciana and spaghetti alla carbonara while drinking vino rosso.
Rome is breathtaking. I have never before been in a city or place with so much intact history. I feel like I am kind of having a transcendental experience. Not to be morbid, but it makes me really think about the human experience and my own little tiny speck in it all. Don't worry I am still an agnostic/Buddhist/same old Leila.
Anthony's parents, who have an abundance of knowledge regarding Italian art history and food, are meeting us in Rome tomorrow for a 7 day gastronomical road trip from Rome to Milan. Inevitably, we are going to visit incredible sites, eat and drink at the best spots, and be pampered like mammones (Italian for Mamma's boys).
We arrive at the steps of the Cavalieri on the morning of their arrival, sweat dripping down our conspicuous, farm-worn clothing; bearing our oversized hiking backpacks and huge smiles. We ignore the sideways stares and head turnings from the jewel laden, rolex wearing guests and continue past the entranceway to the Moranos.
We hear Dr. Morano’s voice booming, from across the Venetian marbled, greeting hall "ANTHONY!!!!" After greeting his parents, we hop in a taxi and head to the Vatican. I see Raphael's School of Athens, Michelangelo's frescos in the Sistine Chapel, and his marble sculpted Pietà in the Basilica. Did you know Michelangelo sculpted the Pietà when he was 24?!?
Saint Peter's Basilica was too enormous and outlandish to comprehend. The entire church is composed of marble, gold, and art. It's unreal...30 ft tall gargantuan statues of Popes line the interior.
.We leave the home of the Roman Catholic Church and head to the catacombs, miles of underground burial sites beneath Rome. It's unbelievable, some of the catacombs are 30 ft deep and in a few of the tombs you can view frescos on the walls dating back to 400 AD. 500,000 Catholics were buried here starting in the catacombs excavation in 200 AD. Before Christianity was accepted in Rome, Christians were persecuted here and killed on the spot for praying for the dead. Walking in the dark between the cool sculpted caves, you feel an eery sense of someone watching.
After the catacombs, we check out Anthony's old stomping ground near American University of Rome. Anthony takes us straight to Da Simone Pizza, a Roman style Pizzeria. Spicy pizza, pizza with zucchini flowers, margarita pizza, pizza with mushrooms, spinach, prosciutto...you get the picture. Once you decide which kind of pizza you want, you tell the employee how big you want your slice, they weigh it and you pay for it based upon it's weight! We order 7 different types. I finally understand the saying "When in Rome...”
The next morning is road trip time! We rent a 4 door sedan and take off towards the North. In those seven days, we travel over 800 km blasting through 20 towns, 40 glasses of wine, 20 meals, and 5 incredible hotels. We travel from Rome to Milan, visiting the regions of Umbria, Tuscany, a splash of Liguria, Emilia Romagna, and Lago di Cuomo. We visit and tour Parmigiano Reggiano factories, we eat and stay at the Al Cavallino Bianco at the Antica Corte Pallavicina and tour their cellars dangling with hundred of culatello di zibello DOP and their farms, we dine at the famous monastery restaurant La Certosa, and L'antica Rupe in Orvieto.
On our way to drop off Anthony's parents at the airport, we receive a call from Anthony's cousins Brunella and Nicoletta. They invite Anthony and I over for a weekend filled with traditional cooking in Emilia Romania and here starts our Made with Love journey in Italy. We spend the night in Brunella's beautiful home, hidden away on a mountain in the small town of Viano. Brunella is an antique seller and former fashion designer and her house is filled gorgeous antiques, paintings, and sculptures. Brunella's husband, Nello, takes us around the city of Emilia Romana and then Brunella's mother Anna offers to show us her favorite, traditional recipe, the Torta di Riso. After having lunch with Brunella and learning the recipe with Anna, we drive to Modena where we stay with Nicoletta.
Nicolleta spends the next two days with us in her kitchen, showing us recipe after recipe of traditional regional food. We make Pasta Rasa in Brodo, Ossobuco, Sugoli con Musto d'Uva, and Zuppa Inglese while Niccoletta tells us of her past, traveling through India, sleeping in monasteries amongst buddhist monks. Nicoletta has since settled down with her husband Mauro, and they live in a cute apartment in Modena where they have an herb garden and an exotic collection of cactii and flowers. The night of our departure, Brunella and Nello join us for a big dinner Reggio Emilia style. We finish the night looking at the story book Brunella made her sister, Nicoletta. Although Brunella did not cook with love, she definitely made art with love, as portrayed in the beautiful story book she made for her sister. We head back towards Emilia Romagna with our bellies and hearts full, excited to meet the King of Cheese in the morning.