In case you’re new to Medium Cool, BGinCHI is here once a week to offer a thread on culture, mainly film & books, with some TV thrown in.
In this week’s MC, we celebrate the beginning of the Giro d’Italia. This three-week Grand Tour is probably my favorite, though all three are fabulous in their own ways.
Let’s talk about Italian culture. Art, of course, and inventiveness, but also food and film, the light in the piazza, your time spent on Sardinia or lost in Rome or the hills of Abruzzo.
Scheduling note from WaterGirl:
After tonight, Medium Cool will be moving to Thursdays, so this is our last Sunday Medium Cool for awhile. The next Medium Cool will be Thursday, May 20 at 6pm. After Labor Day, Medium Cool will return to the usual Sunday schedule.
I grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago and there were many Italian folks!
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
Is Olive Garden considered Italian food? //
Seriously, though I love all kinds of Italian food. I’m getting ready to eat some Italian sausages
WaterGirl, I saw your earlier post about Balloon Juice’s 20th anniversary…I hope you include this, a true holiday classic!
On the subject of the thread, I’m biased and love everything Italian ?
Catch 22 107 year old Italian .
Try The Italian Party by Christina Lynch for a good read. It’s set in Siena and mentions a very nice hotel with a great restaurant where we stayed when we were there.
@No name: That was a classic! Added to the list, thank you!
@Goku (aka Amerikan Baka): Uh, no.
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
I’ve really got to read the book some time
Growing up in small town Southern Illinois, the fave family eatery was The Old Rome Tavern.
BG may be a little late chiming in. We started Medium Cool an hour later tonight because of Mother’s Day plans, and he may not be back yet.
My favorite movie about Italian food is the classic Big Night
a beautiful movie about beautiful food.
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
In 2015, on a vacation to Washington DC, I ate this cool pizza place, called PI Pizzeria
I remember having an amazing deep dish chicago style pizza. I loved the pi symbol for their logo too
My work involves archival research in Italy so I get to spend time there most summers. Bologna is my home away from home. If anyone puts it on their itinerary, be sure to see the anatomical theater (medical classroom) at the Archiginnasio (16th century university building right near the main piazza) Santo Stefano, a complex of churches sometimes known as the Seven Churchea) is unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere. Make the trip up to the Basilica of San Luca in the hills outside town – a 2 km walk up a covered stairway to a church that holds a miraculous Madonna and Child.
Other favorites include Orvieto (hill town between Rome and Florence) and Lucca. Lucca is a chill city. The wall is early modern and was built when cannons were a consideration. It’s so wide that there are parks on top of the wall and they rent bikes and carts for people to use on the paths on the wall.
I could go on. I really miss traveling there and hope to go back soon.
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
What was it like back then? I’ve never been to Chicago but would like to be some day
@Azelie: Thanks for the recommendations!
Many Italian Immigrants ended up in Northern California including the Cesanos – my Uncle Charlie’s family. Italians cleared the fields and built morterless stone walls, they introduced wine to the Sonoma and Napa Counties, harvested fish, made bread, cheese, sausages of so many flavors and we still will move heaven and earth for Franco-American Extra Sourdough french bread. Then they started the Bank of Italy which became Bank of America. My god, the sensual and gustatory pleasures of the table! The garlic, the olive oil, sauces, pastas, the espresso and until recently, 100 years of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Bookstore. The Copolla family en Toto! And now, though he may be Argentine by birth Papa Francesco- a Pope that my Irish Grandma deserved but missed by a scant few decades. Italians have added so much to our American Tapestry. (Also, my waistline)
@Goku (aka Amerikan Baka):
Once the Great Fire had been extinguished, it was a pretty good place to live.
@Azelie: Lucca is one of my favoritest places. Its well-preserved walls took over 100 yrs to complete, but they & their cannon were the cutting-edge military tech of their time. Lucca remained independent by making itself an indigestible morsel between not-best-of-friends Milan & Florence. For centuries it was illegal to build structures within ~2km of the walls, clear fields-of-fire had to be maintained !
@Wag: that is SUCH a great movie. Haven’t seen it in FOREVER.
A long time ago I was fortunate enough to be able to go to a conference in Erice, Sicily. Flew into Rome, saw the guards with their machine guns, flew into Palermo, then rented a car and drove to Erice near the west coast. Along the way, maybe half a mile off the road, up on a low hill was this amazing Greek temple. I didn’t have time to stop and see it, but the image has stuck with me.
I can’t swear this is it, but it seems to fit – Segesta.
Erice is interesting. Some of the worst pizza I’ve ever had, but a very interesting ancient town on an amazing site.
@Frederick Stibbert: I’ve only gone there once and it was to do research on my own but I spent the whole time thinking about how great it would be to come back with people I want to hang out with. There’s stuff to do but it doesn’t feel like you have to pack things in.
If I’ll Giro d’Italia and food had a love child, it would be the film “The Trip to Italy” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trip_to_Italy), the second (and I believe the best) of the Steven Coogan/Rob Bryson partnership The Trip movies.
I’ve seen it so many times I can’t count them any more. The landscapes, the amazing food, the sweet friendship. It can’t be praised enough.
Treat yourself: get some nice wine, a cheese and cold cuts platter, and watch The Trip to Italy with someone you love.
Apologies all!! Mother’s Day festivities ran long so just getting here.
@J_A: Have enjoyed all iterations and Michael Caine impressions.
Lucca Deli in The Mission in SF was the best place. Fresh ravioli daily, guys in aprons and white hats, anything Italian you could think of. Closed in 2019 because the owner wanted to retire, but wouldn’t sell the business because he didn’t want anyone to slack off and ruin his reputation.
@Frederick Stibbert: I spent an amazing day in Lucca. Oh those walls and the food. A much more worthwhile visit than Piza, imho.
@laura: Love it.
@Azelie: I love lots of places in Italy (I almost married a girl from Brescia), but Bologna is where I’d live if I could. Santo Stefano moved me in a way that was more primal than religion. At its heart is something indescribable. Some energy.
I also ate such a big lunch there once that I had to seep for an hour in a park.
My favorite movie where Italian food plays a role is Lady and the Tramp.
J R in WV
I grew up in a southern WV coal town, but there were lots of Italians back then, they were recruited on the docks of the port cities where immigrants came to America, to build buildings of cut stone, many of them in little coal camps. The coal camp where my maternal grandparents met and lived had a hollow called (slur for Italians) Hollow, and Grandma’s store had a competitor run by Frank Ruizzo up the road a couple of miles.
There was a 24 hour restaurant outside town called the Royal Spaghetti House, where we would go after work to eat, around 2 am (second shift work) and you could see former governors and politicians on the road eating and drinking there. Right in town was Enrico’s aka Henry’s where I learned to love Sicillian Cake, a wonderful yellow cake soaked in liquor, with dried fruit, and iced with a dark chocolate covering.
Then a few years ago we joined two friends for a trip to Tuscany, where we stayed at a vineyard turned hotel in the vineyards, near a ridgetop town with an ancient walled city, with an Etruscan tomb, old local restaurants, new high-end restaurants, a castle turned museum with remnants from the Etruscans, had a great visit, great food. We spent a couple of nights in Firenze aka Florence, good food there also.
Wasn’t impressed by the museum staff, they seemed to make a living from tourists they hated with a passion. Too crowded by far for us to enjoy, might go back in mid-winter. I submitted several On the Road photo sets from that trip. It was fun. Air France is the best! I personally enjoyed the more rural little town, we were way outnumbered by the locals, who were gracious and glad to have us, or perhaps were better actors than the folks in Firenze.
We saw a beautiful Ferrari auto in the countryside, and noticed that the driver side door had 6 inch wide scotch tape all around, I assume to keep the water out of the car’s interior. I’m sure there’s an Italian saying for that, like FIAT means Fix it again Tony, but I don’t know the Ferrari slogan for that concept. Think of a quarter-million dollar sports car with the driver’s door taped up to keep the water out!!! Watching a driver crawl in the passenger side door into the other side seat would make America’s Funniest Video for sure.
Never mind the culture, the Rosengarten circumperambulation is probably the best day hike I ever did. And we stayed at a wonderful gasthaus , way up in the valley. (German terms, because Bolsano/Bozen is in the Sud-Tyrol
@Goku (aka Amerikan Baka): Well, the early to mid 60’s were interesting. There is no more racist city in America than Chicago and it was certainly true then. Think MLK getting pelted with rocks in Gage Park
Martin Luther King, Jr., was indeed struck by a rock on an open-housing march on Chicago’s Southwest Side in the summer of 1966. But that event took place in Marquette Park and not Gage Park as is often reported. King was hit on August 5,1966, and later he said that he had “never seen as much hatred and hostility on the part of so many people.”
Gage Park was the target of open-housing marches, but the most hostile reactions to the non-violent demonstrators came in Marquette Park, which was to the west and south of Gage Park. On July 31, more than ten cars of demonstrators were set on fire at Marquette Park.”
Then there was the convention in 68 and the Days of Rage and the Freddie Hampton and Mark Clark assassinations. Lots happenin in the Windy City.
Ceci n est pas mon nym
We’ve been lucky enough to get to Italy several times. Never to the south — I’ve never been to Rome, Naples, Sicily. So many great accidental discoveries.
First place we went was Milan, which I largely picked by studying train schedules. It seemed to be a major hub and a relatively quick trip to other destinations, about 3 hours to Florence or to Venice. I love Milan because it’s not a major tourist destination, at least for American tourists, but has some great sights nevertheless such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. (Known to Italians as simply La Cena, The Dinner).
Florence was OK but blazingly hot and we shortened our stay there. Later, I’d hear from Italian people I was nuts for wanting to leave “the most beautiful city in the world”, but it was too damned hot and there was no way to get tickets to anything famous on short notice. Instead we went to Pisa, which is a small town on the coast, really relaxing and uncrowded. And yes, I climbed the tower.
From a guidebook we found a tiny little beach town called Bordighera that nobody knows about, which made it perfect for us. It was popular with Victorian tourists in the 19th century. It’s in the Riviera, sharing the same beaches with the more popular resorts of Ventimiglia and Nice, France, but much cheaper. Monaco is in between Italy and France there, so you cross two borders if you take the short train ride to Nice.
And lastly, just north of Milan is the beautiful lakeside town of Como, established in Roman times (by Julius Caesar I think) and a center for silk industry for centuries.
My only complaint about Italy is the coffee. The Italians like their espresso strong but tiny. They don’t sip, they toss it off in one swallow. And a cappucino is too milky for my taste. You can order a “Caffe Americano” but it’s disgusting. I settled for ordering doppio espressos everywhere in order to get a decent sized portion.
@J R in WV: I assume you’ve seen Matewan?
Only been to Italy once, unfortunately. A camping holiday with My Better Half taking in Terracina (not the best campsite) where we had the best Gnocchi ever in an otherwise empty roadside restaurant. Pompeii, which was over 1000 degrees in the shade but so worth exploring, and Rome, which was… well, Rome. Where else are they going to serve a hungry English boy the best lamb shoulder I’ve ever had despite it being right on the cusp of lunch-break?
I’d go back tomorrow. Unfortunately natives of Petty Britland aren’t too welcome on the continent anymore. Something to do with being a nation of colossal arseholes.
@Azelie: Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, and you can tour his childhood home, a spacious apartment. My mother and I went there while my husband took the kids to Viareggio for the day. Most people seem to stop in Pisa instead of Lucca. I agree, it’s quiet but interesting.
I read all of the Aurelio Zen books, each of which is set in a different region of Italy. The books are actually quite dark in some ways even as they clearly appreciate Italian culture.
ETA: The one thing truly special about Italy is that you can seek and find exquisite art still in situ, unlike in Spain and France, which deconsecrated churches and relocated some private works that had originated with the king, who gave them as gifts.
I’ve got many memories of Italy. Verona was a surprise. The colliseo at the intersection of the fascist New Town and the old lovely city. Rome’s surprises around every corner and the old Roman roads under 15 feet of rubble. Bologna’s superb cuisine is worth its own trip but L’Aquila before the quake in a landscape of hill towns on the high slopes of the Appenines was the best surprise. It was a city with Italian tourists not German or American. The crowds for the passagaia (sp?) dressed in down coats much like Seattleites but minus the drizzle of November. My cheap hotel was terrible but it was much fun to wander the city.
And Umbria, the romantic and less touristed neighbor of Tuscany!
Ceci n est pas mon nym
After staying in one place for a few days and having the same waitress every day at one cafe, we had the following exchange at the end of our visit.
Us: “We didn’t want to admit it but we are Americans”
Her: “Why didn’t you want to admit it?”
Us: “Because we’re ashamed that our nation is being run by crooks” (This was the previous generation of crooks under Bush the Lesser)
Her: (Laughing) “So now you’re like all the rest of us”
We try to get by without English, and if you don’t speak English, nobody takes you for an American.
@Goku (aka Amerikan Baka):
PI Pizzeria is around the corner from my office when, you know, I’m actually going to the office. It’s quite excellent.
I haven’t watched the whole thing but when I can I’m gonna get Tucci touring Italy. That and I really need to find a nonna to teach me how to make proper gnocchi.
Speaking of which…where is La Nonna? This is her country after all!
I’ve only been to Venice and environs (“only”!), but we’ve watched a lot of Italian mysteries and I really, really want to go to Sicily and do a Montalbano tour.
If you get to northern Italy, Venice of course is great, but I’d really urge anyone to find a way to get to Ravenna and see the mosaics. They are mind-blowing and they’re all over town.
Also, I have to say that the average quality of the meals in Italy was pretty darned high.
Ceci n est pas mon nym
One place I’ve never been but always wanted to is the “Cinque Terre” (the Five Lands). It’s a series of five villages along the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. As I recall, there is no vehicle access. You take the train to the first town, La Spezia, and then hike the rest.
I hope I’m not already too old for that. I suppose if I ever get there and find the hiking too strenuous, I’ll just sit in La Spezia and drink wine while watching the boats. There are worse fates.
@Ceci n est pas mon nym:
This worked and did not work for me in Germany. It was a wonderful skill to have on the occasion when I ran into someone who did not speak English. On the other, when I did, they would always answer me in English. It never did occur to me to ask why. But the little smile I would get speaking German to them was always worth it.
Fall of 2016 I went on a bike-riding trip to Italy. One of the routes was Firenze – Lucca. Sharing the road with Italian drivers was part-fun, part-scary, part -crazy. Another stop on that trip was Lerici – favorite hangout of English romantic poets of the day. Had a spectacular seafood feast at a local joint there. The trip ended with a fairly arduous hike to Cinque Terre. The views on that hike were just gorgeous.
One thing that stands out on that trip – when locals realized we were from the US they always asked about the elections – and TFG. This was Sept 2016…
In 2019 I made a couple of work trips to Italy – to Torino and Firenze. The location outside Torino in the mountainside was just so gorgeous, we stayed in a small family-run hotel. Amazing experience. Another work site was 30 mins or so outside Firenze. We had a whole local crew working with us and we would all go into the city at the end of the day. The meals with them were something else. After dinner we would stroll around the touristy parts – Duomo, Ponte Vecchio – and hearing the locals describe the sites was so interesting. On that trip I got an unexpected day off and drove to Siena – it was a week day and pre-tourist season and explored the city with almost no crowds.
@Ceci n est pas mon nym:
Ha! That’s a valid point, we’ve all got historical danglers drooping unappetisingly from our reputational undergussets, some more than others. No one has a clean skin in the game of nations.
It’s just that we’re painting the walls with handfuls of monkey-chomp right the hell now. It’s not a good look.
A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan)
Back in 1965, my mother took me to Europe for the summer and we visited Venice, Rome, and Florence. I loved everywhere in Europe except Spain (too much like N Ca in scenery for me), but Florence was a favorite. When my husband and I were looking for a winter trip a couple of years ago, we visited Florence on a tour which included a private visit to the David. I again loved everything about Florence, especially the ART, so much and so wonderful. It was cold, but the food, architecture, and art more than made up for it.
There’s much to admire from the Italians. Guess it’s clear that I like the music. Also the movies. And the food goes well with the northern MS/Piedmont food I grew up in. I get a feeling that the culture respects craftsmanship a great deal, and from travelogues it seems easy to surround oneself with high quality fine and vernacular art. I’ve never been there myself, and right now the prognosis for foreign travel is poor for me because of mobility issues, but would take the chance in a minute should it come up. Little J, my brother, has been a couple of times, as a result of which I have a nice small basket from Sardinia and a t-shirt from Lucca. He was much taken with both, and with Florence.
Sister Golden Bear
@Ceci n est pas mon nym: There’s actually train stations at all five of the towns, but there’s no vehicle access, it’s a short walk from the station to town in each.
Gorgeous place. First visit was in March so it was blessedly uncrowded but mudslides from heavy rains had closed the scenic cliffside walkway between the villages. Second visit was on a summer weekend and it was hella crowded. Not sure if summer weekdays are less so.
Definitely one of the places I’d like to return to.
Speaking of Mother’s Day – I hope every mom out there had a happy one.
A sweet remembrance of Popehat’s mom.
@Raven: Eva Kilpinski (sp) took a bunch of us yokels to meet her family in their tiny house in Maywood in the summer of ’69. Mana Kilpinski was a marvelous person.
Ceci n est pas mon nym
@Yutsano: We were in a restaurant in Munich, having a conversation with our waitress, a young German girl. My wife’s German is pretty good, mine is halting but OK. Germans generally guess that we’re from other (not German) European countries.
Anyway, we’re asking about tipping customs, and my wife says “we’re not from here” (which as I say, I’m sure she knew but was polite about it). “Oh”, she says, “where are you from?” “We’re from the US”.
And then suddenly the young German girl is transformed to a young American girl as she says “So am I” and the conversation switches to English.
That was really fun, and the kind of thing I call an “international experience” that are my favorite memories of European travel.
There’s a nice hideaway Italian restaurant in Hyde Park called Piccolo Mondo, hanging on through this pandemic last I heard. When I went there the first time, I was quite hungry so I just barrelled through the menu to the appetizers and entrees. I relaxed a bit while waiting for my marsala, and began to notice a certain vibe, somehow both formal and relaxed or hospitable yet reserved or something, though I don’t recall any music. So by the time I saw the large Gardel poster on one wall, I wasn’t surprised. Of course, had I not been making a beeline to gustatory relief I’d have noticed that they promote their Argentine bakery. I hope to go there this summer.
Sister Golden Bear
One of my favorite memories is driving the Great Dolomite Road. A bit adventurous between the Italian drivers (passing on a blind hairpin turn, why not!) and the Austrian/German motorcyclists in full leathers who weren’t really racing, really. Not at all.
But traffic thinned out at the higher elevations and the Dolomites are incredibility beautiful. Compare in scenery to the Sierras or the Rockies. However, a definite difference is that once you got back below tree-line, there would be houses or a hotel at least every kilometer. A reminder of how Europe is populated far more denser than the States, and why Europeans have their minds blown by the vast emptiness of the West
It would be interesting to stay in that area sometime, it’s really off the map as far as American tourists, although popular with the Italians and Germans.
@Goku (aka Amerikan Baka):
Only if Chung King Chow Mein in a can is considered Chinese food.
@randy khan: “The problem with Italian food is that after two or three days you’re hungry again.” Attributed to James Beard
2nd trip to Europe (1994) was Italy. Our regular travel agent flaked out on us and we got hooked up with a new guy who talked us into spending more time in the hill towns of Umbria rather than the more popular Tuscany. After a few days in Florence we then drove to Umbria andspent several days in Spello, self-touring Spoleto, Assisi, Gubbio before heading west to San Gimignano and on to Luca, a favorite around here I see. Our flight home was out of Milan so we ended with a couple glorious fall days on Lake Maggiore, ferrying to the little islands within.
Dennis went on to arrange many wonderful trips for us. Unfortunately, he passed away too young, as the good often do. I’m happy this thread made me think of him again.
@HinTN: I’m sure there were Italians there somewhere!
In Australia, we have this wonderful invention called Long Service Leave. After 15 years service with one organisation, you get 6 months Long Service Leave available to you (this isn’t free, it gets calculated as part of your salary package).
In 2018 we decided to take our LSL and do a month touring, mainly Italy, follwed by a month in the Pays Basque in SW France.
After travelling through Verona, Florence, Rome and Naples we decided to stop in Puglia for a few days as we needed to catch a flight from Bari airport. We picked up a hire car in Naples and had to sign a waiver that the rental insurance did not cover theft if the car was driven in Puglia, Catania, Sicily (we hoped the Amex insurance would cover it!). I presume this was because organised crime is very active there.
We ended up in a small town called Trani, just North of Bari and spent 4 days there. It is a stunningly beautiful town set on a circular harbour with a cathedral right on the shore. We’d never heard of it before but loved it. Restaurants ring the harbour and you can eat as the sun goes down. I’d highly recommend it as a destination when we can all travel again.
The Italian Party started strong butdidn’t know where it wanted to go. The ending was a let-down, Still, enjoyed the read especially descriptions of pre-EU Italy.
@raven: This same yokel got to see and hear Jesse Jackson as a very young Black Panther preach one summer Sunday at an Operation Breadbasket gathering on the south side.
Two of my favorite Italian writers are Italo Calvino and Primo Levi. I first read them a long time ago, and need to revisit them sometime soon.
Back in the 1980s, when my wife and I were living outside Munich, her best friend said, “Let’s go to Venice during Carnival.” So the three of us took the S-Bahn downtown, then a bus that got us to Venice in the afternoon. It was cold and drizzly and still magical. We were just kids, in our mid-20s, and we were blown away by the pageantry. Wearing masks we’d bought from a costume shop, we wandered through the city, admiring the people in extravagant costumes. We got caught up with a crowd of young Italians somehow and followed them around, stopping for food and drink once, then wandering some more… To be honest, it ended up being a blur even just a little while afterwards. In the early hours of the morning the bus took us to Germany. I’ll always remember the atmosphere; the only mementos I have are one mask and a snapshot of my wife, smiling, being hugged by a giant rabbit.
J R in WV
OH, yes. As a youngster, playing in Grandma’s attic, just east of the coal camp where Granddad worked as the hoist engineer and ran the steam engines back in the nineteens, my cousin and I found .30 shells, dozens of them, in a toolbox my uncle had made.
When we asked about them, all we got was hemming and hawing, but it was from the National Guard’s machine guns back during the UMWA mine wars. The mine there was a union mine, and everyone (but my grandparents) was a FDR DEmocrat.
Being hoist engineer, granddad worked even during a strike, and was thus disliked by most of the union miners who did not work. But the fireboss and safety guys had to go down regardless of the strike, so there had to be a hoist engineer on duty 24/7.
Blair Mountain, where the actual combat was intense, is very near us now. Wife has a great story, little old lady was having her 100th birthday party at the nursing home, and during the festive event two FBI agents showed up to talk with her. Turned out when the family went to close up her house, there were dozens of rifles in the basement, pretty well hidden.
At first she was puzzled, and then her memory clicked “Oh, yes, Them’s from the mine wars so many years ago!” Bolt action war surplus munitions hidden by the union men. Rediscovered just lately. They dropped bombs on the union men on Blair Mountain, good old Billy Mitchell’s air force.
Matewan was pretty accurate as those thing go. Shot down like dogs, by the Pinkerton thugs, and Baldwin-Felts thugs. No telling which were worse!!
I lived in Rome for a couple of years, traveled extensively throughout the country, and pre-pandemic was leading culinary tours of Umbria so if anyone needs food or other tips let me know.
@Sure Lurkalot: Closer to Florence but also an interesting hilltop town is Fiesole. Among other things there is a Della Robbia museum (private).
Gin & Tonic
Boy, I still remember the Giro when Andy Hampsten survived nearly freezing to death crossing the Gavia Pass. Here’s what it looked like – and remember, this was June. He went on to overall victory, the first American to win it.
James E Powell
Boston is in the lobby, pacing back and forth.
One thing I did on one of my trips to Rome was get up very early and walk along a trek that stuck as much as possible to the old Roman roads around the Aventine hill. It took hours round trip but so worth it.
In Rome I really got a kick out of seeing SPQR on ancient monuments and manhole covers. Rome is the eternal city.
@Sister Golden Bear: I went to Italy with a Swiss friend who lived in Belgium and worked in Germany. We were planning to stay in the Dolomiti (Dolomites) but it was a German Bank Holiday so th rental car was $250 per day and weather was moving in. There were only very pricey rooms available. I so wanted to walk the high alpine plateau there but it wasn’t to be, instead it was Verona, lovely city with a great garden next to a cliff, and on the cliff.
I confess. I confess. In the Medici Chapel, I let the back of my hand brush a Michelangelo. Twenty-five years ago, security there was nonexistent.
Pasolini. Moravia. Fellini. Ferrante. Il Duomo in Florence. A bus trip to the Vatican from the 400-year-old hotel I stayed in in the old section of Rome. All of Rome has rooftop gardens.
And kids. Kids. Kids kicking soccer balls against walls that predate Christianity.
I should return.
@Dan B: I had been planning a hiking trip in the Dolomites in the summer of 2020. Maybe next year. Ravenna and Verona are both high on my list of cities to visit.
Mike in NC
My only exposure to Italy was stopping to refuel in Naples on a flight that started in Providence and ended in Diego Garcia.
Such a good movie. Have you watched any of Stanley Tucci’s tour of Italy?
@Barbara: Sounds wonderful! Verona’s Colliseo is huge and used for opera and other events. There’s a big moat in front of the stage where they float a barge and for Aida they have a parade of African animals. The garden on the cliff has a firefall like Yosemite used to have. The piazza by the Coliseo has some very good restaurants. Despite the size of the piazza it’s a great place to people watch. We were there in early October before the snows.
@Ceci n est pas mon nym: I went to Cinque Terra, via Reggio and to Genoa because my grandmother got the last ship out of Genoa to America before ww2 broke out. Other trips I’ve seen, Rome, Florence, Cuomo -Milan. I adore Italy and could park myself there for 5 years
@J R in WV:
The Tuscan countryside might be the most cliché thing/place that’s every bit as good as the hype. It’s just magical there. And the wine and food? Well. Not to be missed.
When I was in the navy long ago, my ship hit ports all up and down both coasts of Italy. Had a great time. Trieste was my favorite. The people there were super friendly
I have had many cocktails at a place in Fiesole overlooking Firenze. Lovely place. First time I went I walked! Hell of a climb on foot.
@Ceci n est pas mon nym: There’s train service between all of the “5 lands”, but the hiking is so nice and I don’t remember it being terribly strenuous. I understand it’s much busier now; we were there Easter weekend and it was very quiet but that was 20 years ago. It was my most loved part of two months of wandering northern Italy on that trip.
The Dolomites and the town of Corvara is great too; the busy town is Cortina (jet setters) but Corvara in late fall was magical.
@HinTN: My dad taught there and that is where John Prine is from.
J R in WV
There is no bad red wine in Italy. The Prosecco is pretty good also too.
Even in a tiny local joint in the tiny ridge-top town near the vineyard hotel we stayed at, the food was pretty good.
They’re both great.
Verona is also really close to so many other small cities you should try. Especially Padua and Parma. But also, head west to Lago di Garda and go up to the northern tip to Riva del Garda. Gem of a little town, though also lots of German tourists. The lake is amazing.
@J R in WV:
Totally agree. I never had a bad pizza anywhere.
You know what else Italians are known for, fishing! Good night, we leave at dawn
The Giotto frescos in Padua are incredible. That is all.
@BGinCHI: The wood-fired pizza I had in Erice was almost inedible. Burnt (black), etc., etc.
The other stuff was good, but not the pizza there.
@BGinCHI: mille grazie, I wish you a late night hour in an open window seat at Tosca with a Cappuccino as the fog horn blows in North Beach.
Spouse’s greatest treasure is his dad’s late 40’s Lugnano 8 speed with the suicide shifter down back on the right. It took almost a year to unearth the original gear works that Steve Rex rebuilt (that spouse busted in an unauthorized ride in the hills of Mill Valley as a young back in the early 70’s).
@Barbara: Thanks for this reminder. We did go there and chose our lunch restaurant by nose, resulting in the best gnocchi ever.
J R in WV
Castellino in Chianti was the walled ridge top city we spent the most time at in Tuscany back in 2017. Vineyards all around the high ridge, some converted into hotel/restaurants. The also picturesque town of San Gimignano is some 18 or 20 miles west of Castellino in Chianti. Great food, wine, things to see…
Gotta go to bed now…
@Gin & Tonic: The only American to win it so far. That stage is a legend.
Strade Bianca is the best bike race of the year now.
May have missed anyone mentioning it, but I love Barolo. My favorite wine.
I love and follow all three grand tours. For non-cycling fans the television coverage of stages are often more like travelogues produced by the respective tourist bureaus of the home country than one would expect. Today was the second stage of the Giro and northern Italy was shown to good effect since it was a sprint stage and the two-man break had no chance of surviving. Several dozen sites worth checking out were shown in HD. In the US you usually have to purchase a package to see them but past tour stages are available on YouTube. Cheers.
A Montalbano tour! That’s on my bucket list, too.
The only Italian culture I am very familiar with are Andrea Pirlo, Paolo Maldini, Roberto Baggio, etc.
Well them and Sick Rose
Assisi. The view over the countryside is amazing. The Giotto frescos in the lower Basilica of St. Francis are equally amazing. The food in the little cafes is amazing.
@J R in WV:
It’s true. I trust that if I just get the house wine I’ll enjoy it.
@laura: Would love to see a pic of that bike!
The cheapest way to watch full stages I know of is the GCN+ app. Global Cycling Network.