Imagine the Colosseum. Now imagine an arena of that size but much better conserved. And now imagine watching a concert or an opera in a monument that is more than 200o years old. And to top it all of, imagine an ancient Roman ruin but inside a trendy clothing store. Never did I imagine all of those things together but sure enough I found them all in Verona.
The Colosseum was awe-inspiring and more massive than I imagined. Rome both frozen in time but so dynamic at the same time. There was something so majestic and beautiful at every step in Rome. But the highlight of my trip to Rome? Drinking from a literal water fountain! I was a little confused when I saw an Italian man in a suit just put his mouth up to the spout to drink the water. After watching a few other locals also putting their heads up to the lion to do the same thing, I quickly learned that all fountains in Rome had drinkable water! So sticking to the "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" philosophy, I started to drink straight from the lion's mouth (Rome seems to be bringing out a lot of idioms)! A combination of the Roman heat, the miles of walking, and the excitement of being able to drink from a public fountain made the water taste even better! My time in Rome flew by way too fast so it looks like I may just have to take another trip there!
A glimpse of the making of Parmesan cheese. The only ingredient is milk and the cheese is aged for 24-36 months (sometimes even longer!).
Tuscany is one of those places everyone talks about. There are paintings of the Tuscan countryside, movies about fancy villas and countless recipes on Pinterest with Tuscan-inspired flavors. Naturally, I was excited to visit such an exotic and picturesque place. I'm pretty sure I asked the question, "Is this Tuscany?" about 20 times even before we got to Toscana whenever I saw something that remotely resembled pictures I had seen of Tuscany. These regions we passed on the trains weren't quite Tuscany and were just beautiful farms of Modena and Lazio.
The real Tuscany exceeded everything thing I had ever imagined. The rolling hills with colorful, cute villages mixed in between the trees and the fresh air made Tuscany feel surreal. I realized quickly that pictures don't even come close to capturing the beauty of Tuscany so I just gave up on that completely and stared out the window barely blinking so I didn't miss a thing. On top of visiting Florence and see the parade, and seeing the set up for the Palio Race in Siena, we were even able to see a local music festival in Marcialla (strangely, they sang English songs the entire time)! I loved every minute of my time here and there's definitely something magical in the Tuscan air!
Honestly, I could write pages and pages raving about all the delicious food I ate during my time in Italy. My 5 GB of space on my iCloud is full and 80% of the pictures are food related so I think I did a pretty good job immersing myself in Italian eats!
I tried so many different foods and things on this trip. I've never had risotto before and now I'm such a huge fan. Give me risotto with mushrooms, pumpkin, eel or my favorite version--fried and I'll eat the entire plate. Oh my gosh. The cheese. No food post would be complete without mentioning cheese. Cheese at lunch, cheese at dinner and even cheese in dessert but I never got tired of it. I have a friend who claims she doesn't like cheese. I'm pretty sure after a trip to Italy, those words would never come out of her mouth again. So much care and attention is put into every single component of the meal and the simplest ingredients like milk and grapes can transform into something with so many levels of flavor like Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar.
The number one thing I miss about Italy is the coffee. A strong, perfectly foamy and delicious cappuccino (that cost less than €1.20!!) was the absolute best way to start the morning. Usually my coffee consumption is rushed, on the go and involves an occasional spill either on my shirt or in my car. The taste of Italian coffee wasn't the only reason why I enjoyed the coffee so much though. I loved the simplicity and the slowness to my morning coffee in Italy. I actually asked for "coffee to go" once and the barista just gave me a confused look! This look could have been because of my terrible Italian translation but maybe it was because rushing through coffee is not something Italians do. Dinner is usually a 3 hour affair so it makes sense that the meal you start your day is slowly savored as well.
Now that I think about it, I do miss something else as much as I miss Italian coffee. I miss the fresh and creamy gelato. One of my personal missions was to get gelato in every city we visited during the course. Lucky for me, the best gelato I had was right at our home base in Ferrara! La Gelateria Romana has a very special place in my heart.