June 2, 2013 § 1 Comment
Yesterday I attended a friend’s wedding in the middle of the Italian countryside: 12 hours of live jazz music, chatter, and endless courses of foods. Let’s get honest: if I ever get married, this is the exact wedding that I want- sore feet and all.
The ceremony started out with a formal church gathering, in a modern-yet-old-fashioned building in the middle of Ancona. What a turn-out! First came a big group of musician friends to rehearse for the music during the ceremony; I was expecting formal choruses and Latin chants (okay, okay!), but instead, the music was lively and fun, with guitars and violins, and drums, and a lot of hand claps. The ceremony itself was sweet, and the eruption of applause and cheers that greeted the newly-wed couple as they exited the church gave me (very positive) goosebumps. Just like the shower of rice (we had a very talented rice-thrower) made me run for cover a little bit every time.
I realize that it’s Italy, and everyone always looks like a model, but…. yesterday especially. I could have summarized the wedding into three word: friends (love), food (wine), and high heels (high heels). Against my better judgement, I even joined the club. It was kind of worth it; I mean, I leave for a 6-week hike tomorrow and I can barely stand on my feet today, but that’s okay.
Then, the party moved to a restaurant in the middle of the countryside; La Cipolla d’Oro. I thought that places and events like this only existed in movies: old buildings, fine china, old vespas scattered throughout the restaurant, villa-like grounds to stroll through, numerous (and by ‘numerous’, I mean ‘really numerous’) courses of food, endlessly-replenishing bottles of wine (champagne, white, red, dessert, ah!), talented jazz crooners and live bands, and the most picturesque couple. And fretting Italian families and big groups of friends and little kids running all over the place, somehow managing to avoid knocking down all of the old grannies.
With all of the games for the newlyweds between courses, speeches, food presentations, chit-chat, live music, and eventual dancing (finally!), the wedding stretched well into the early hours of the morning. My feet wouldn’t let me stay until the end, but I can imagine that it included a little bit more of the same wonderfulness that occurred during the first half of the day’s 24 hours.
May 31, 2013 § 2 Comments
The past three days have been a blur of hills, giggles, and beautiful photography (on both the landscape and the portrait front). And while I wish that I have had the opportunity to properly document each day of culinary and geographic adventure, Mumsi and I were too busy drinking wine and chatting like a couple of high school BFF’s.
Before I leave Italy on Sunday to go walk through France and Spain for the next couple of months, I will simply summarize our week together with a few pictures:
First day in Ancona consisted of walking up and down many steps as I showed off my city. Breakfast of the three C‘s, Italian markets, a descent to Passetto, an ascent back to the level of gelati and caffe’s. As a last stop before returning home, I took Mumsi to Parco della Cittadella, a little hilltop park just down (or, up?) the street from the house:
Mumsi found herself and Italian admirer: the park-keeper, who also owns the little bar inside the fortress park, and serenaded us for an hour with his guitar. His voice is pretty amazing, Mommy enjoys good food and good company, and I love the opportunity to play Translator, so we accepted an invitation for home-made lunch the next day. Then, went home, changed shoes, and went out again with Italian to Strabacco, a cozy restaurant of typical Marche cuisine:
After courses of bruschetta and meat cuts and mint pasta and wines and tiramisu, we waddled back home and collapsed.
Next day consisted of similar activities: more walking up and down hills, looking at beautiful views, spending a few hours with Park-keeper (not only do Italian meals take an eternity, but this lunch date extended into a private concert and a field trip to his house as he showed us off Anconian rooftops), and watching sunsets:
Day Three was a little bit more action-packed. Italian took the day off, so we drove around the region and pointed out all of the cool spots. Like Senigallia, where walked along the beach,
and had a lovely lunch at Le Boudoir, a belle epoque cafe’ with hundreds of vintage items decorating the walls, even more artsy books dotting the shelves, and a basement completely cluttered with trinkets and pianos and little stages for nighttime music events:
Then, off to Genga, where we stuffed ourselves with local food, hiked around a bit (if you want to have your breath taken away with more pretty photos, click here),
enjoyed visciola (cherry wine), and then returned to the seaside. Where we climbed cherry trees and walked around the quaint town of Sirolo,
and then headed over to Portonovo to watch the sunset and enjoy one last aperitivo together.
And then, back to Ancona to order a piadina for take-out, play Rummikub, and fall into a sight-and-food-inspired stupor.
It’s been a good week; I haven’t laughed this much in a long time. It was bittersweet to drop Mumsi off at the airport today morning, with the glorious Italian sunset just beginning its transformation of the land. I’m looking forward to the next Mommy-Daughter date, in some obscure corner of the world : )
Until then, I will just continue listening to the silence of the birds and scrunching up my nose to photograph other adventures:
May 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This Sunday, I went to Rome to meet up with my lovely Mother and walk through Roman streets with her for 24 hours before dragging her back with me to Ancona to show off my corner of paradise on earth. Coincidentally, it happened to be Mother’s Day in France, where she was flying from. I certainly did not expect to celebrate Mother’s Day with Mommy this year, so this little weekend getaway was even more of a treat.
I booked us a room at a guesthouse with a view out the window that just screams ROME:
, picked her up at the train station and introduced her to my favorite aspect of Italian culture: l’aperitivo.
I had the whole evening planned out, with a flamenco show in mind…. we got the theatre, and found out that the performance was on Wednesday (nice job, Italian advertising), so we walked around some more streets during sunset:
, passed by the Colosseum,
, meandered through random streets and by historical buildings at night,
, and finished Sunday off with Moroccan tea and a bottle of wine at Libreria Caffè Bohemien, a really cozy, low-kay bar with shelves of books on the walls and posters desgined by the Il Bastardo label artist in the bathroom:
After many giggles and zig-zaged paths through the city back to our hotel, we collapsed onto our springy mattress… yet managed to wake up at dawn, with the birds singing and chimney sweepers sweeping chimneys outside of our window. Then, Mommy presented me with a smuggled-in stash of bootleg liquer from the States (shhh):
We walked under multiple arches,
, walked through quaint neighborhoods:
before running through the entire city back to our hotel, picking up our bags, running even faster to the train station, and boarding our transportation vehicle for Ancona.
Benvenuto in Italia, Mumsi!
May 27, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Heaven descended onto Marche this weekend.
In the form of cantine aperte, or “open vineyards”. One of my favorite aspects of the Le Marche region is the plethora of delicious wines produced by all of the different grapes of the many, many different hilltops. In order to raise awareness and exposure of the Marche wine industry, over 70 vineyards opened up their doors this past weekend. For $5, you buy an official Movimento Turismo Vino wine glass, a handy little lanyard in which you can put the glass in as you stumble around, and you’re set. You can go to any participating vineyard and enjoy all of the different samples of all of the wines. There’s a lot of vineyards, and there’s a lot of different wines types, and all of the wine “sample pours” are very generous amounts. And there’s complimentary snacks and live music and other games, depending on the vineyard.
So, feeling as excited as one could possibly be, I sat down for breakfast with a map of the region and mapped out a route of vineyards and scenic drives that I would like to make that day. I didn’t really care as long as there was a lot of wine involved. In my head, Italian and I would hit a dozen different vineyards.
Instead, we got to the first one a little bit before 11 AM and didn’t leave until 8 PM.
We passed by Accadia a couple of years ago, while driving back home from a little village in the middle of the countryside. It was a random detour, and we just wanted to give the territory a glance. No one was at home, so we called the number posted on the door. The man that owned the house responded with “Ciao! I’m at the beach, I can make it back in an hour or so, if you want to wait!” We didn’t want to disturb, so we left… and, finally, we made it back there.
In short, this is pretty much the coolest vineyard in the world- if not one of the coolest places in general. It is a house of artists; a community of colorful intellectuals that love wine and art. There are instillation pieces all over the property, art stations set up on tables in corners, authentic sculptures from Mario Boldrini next to the large urns, a gallery of paintings next to all of the bottles of wine (every type of wine has its own label designed by one of the artists, including a really remarkable guy who paints what-seems-to-be-flat-boring-paintings-until-you-view-them-with-a-negative-filter-and-then-they’re-full-blown-amazing-pictures), and a great vibe.
Met some amazing people, was invited to stay for lunch (which included the biggest pan of pasta I have seen in my life, special bottles of older vintages from their personal cellars, and delicious apple pies), and made a few contacts with people in the city that I will be living and working in come autumn. How perfect is sharing fermented grapes and paint splatters with others? While the sky above shifts from cold and dreary to the clearest sunset possible?
( The day also included the best toast that I have ever clinked glasses to- “to complexity.” In art, love, life. )
( And learned that “we are partly made out of wine and partly made out of flesh. When we find the proper equilibrium between the two, we are human.” )
I haven’t felt this stimulated by others in a long time. Can’t wait to play again with these characters!
May 24, 2013 § 1 Comment
First, let’s celebrate this morning with this picture:
As if to have a farewell-dinner to the cold’n'rainy weather, last night’s endeavor consisted of preparing a menu to warm up the heart and soul. And lasso the food menu back to the European continent. So, I got dolled up and put on some high heels (because that’s how Italian women do everything, right?), turned up the Italian beats, and got into the Kitchen State of Mind.
Part I was supposed to be a crostata di spianci. Not sure how accurately that turned out, but I still had fun making the pasta frolla salata, shaping it, mixing together all of the spinach stuffing ingredients, and watching it grow in the oven. A little too enthusiastically for my liking, because I still haven’t figured out the oven settings completely… so, what was supposed to be 40 minutes turned out to be 20, and there was a lovely umber hue on the top that I will try to avoid next time. Also, less panna, more greens.
Part II drew inspiration from this:
So, I did a lot of cutting, and added this:
And ended up with some onion soup:
Yum! Coincidentally, my mother shared a newly-learned-in-France cooking tip yesterday: if you hold your breath while cutting onions, you won’t cry. I’m a sensitive person, and this was the perfect opportunity to try out the tip. It worked for the first two seconds, after which I had to breath, and thereby started sniffling. I also heard the opposite of holding your breath- breathe in through your mouth (thanks, Sandy!). Which, despite all of my efforts to look like a dead fish with my mouth wide agape, didn’t work either. Never have I shed so many tears over a meal before. But that’s alright, it was worth it.
It’s been a while since I spend hours standing next to the stove and using every single pot and pan in the house, so this was nice. Therapeutic. And scrumptious
May 22, 2013 § Leave a Comment
There is a reference to Italian breakfast culture that I absolutely love in one of Amara Lakhous’ books. It is a summary of morning rituals in the form of “…le tre C: cappuccino, cornetto e Corriere della Sera.” And I completely agree. I’m not sure what gives it that thrill every single morning to roll out of bed and to make it to the bar in the middle of the city center in time to order a cappuccino before it’s too late in the day for me to do so with courage. And devour a still-warm pastry, and flip through the newspapers laid out on the tables. But, there is something that deems it special every single morning, and I’m not gonna fight it.
My past few days have been as mellow as the skies have been cloudy.
So, after my morning ritual, I’ve been working on another random piece of art that was inspired by who-knows-what. It started out as a regular watercolor figure drawing… and then came out the little paint brushes and the colored pencils…. and with them, the ladybugs and the flowers. I’m surprised that wings didn’t make it into the picture. This might have stemmed from a subconscious acceptance of the fact that before I write my sweep-the-world novel, I am going to come out with an illustration book. That, or a deck of tarot cards entitled Graceful Ladies In The Wild. (hah)
Also, good news come to those that love perfect timing.
I found out that I was selected for a position to teach at a school near the outskirts of Milan this upcoming semester. I applied to this program a while ago, it was kind of a hassle, and all of their e-mails so far have not been very encouraging. And then, just as I began to wonder what I am going to do in Italy other than drink wine and play with paintbrushes, I get these news. So… looks like it’s time to thoroughly enjoy the summer and then pack up and head north for a few cold months! And get some more money into my pocket and finally find my own niche in Italy and become an expert Speaker of the Italian Language. And take advantage of being right next to Milan and stock up on theatres and art shows at every opportunity.
And have many more exciting adventures and amusing stories, I’m sure : )
May 19, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Today didn’t really start until the evening, when the sunset and the sea completely made up for it.
It’s been a weird couple of days around Ancona lately, with the sun and clouds battling to have dominance in the sky… and reign changing every few minutes. Today was no different- beautiful early morning, ominous skies by noon, lovely afternoon, and return of the clouds in the evening… with heavy sprinkles scattered throughout the region. But, then, as if the sunset wanted to show just how impressive it can be in Italy, this happened:
After spending the peak of Sunset Time at IKEA, buying flowers, Mr. Italian and I drove over to Portonovo, a tiny cove on the Adriatic coast a few minutes outside of Ancona that has gorgeous scenery and several top-notch seafood restaurants:
And, since Mr. Italian never passes up the opportunity for a good meal (good character trait), we stopped by Il Molo, one of the restaurants dotting the Portonovo pebbleside and had our first seaside meal of the year: grigliata mista di Pesce.
.. and enjoyed the complimentary lemon sorbettos that come with all seafood dishes to wash out that fishy taste:
… and tried to figure this end-of-dinner treat out… as far as I could tell, it’s a ball of ooey slime, that is supposed to somehow, magically, take an animal shape. And, judging by the instruction manual (reference guide?) that came with it, this purple ball of goo is suppo)sed to be a hippopotamus. Which I have a slight problem with (especially after visiting the zoo yesterday and learning all about hippos)… because I really don’t think that Mr. Wanna-Be-Hippo looks like a hippo in the first place. In fact, he looks exactly like the hyena. What’s up with that?