Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tagliatelle and Gelato: my trip to Italy!

Recently, I was lucky enough to accompany my good friend, Chelea, on a reward trip to Italy that she earned through work. We went to Milan and Florence and spent the week indulging in pasta, wine, and gelato. When we were making plans for what we wanted to do and see on our trip, we both came to the same conclusion that we each just needed a vacation and not another to-do list. Traveling is so fun but it can really be exhausting. Our goal was to take in the scenery, eat amazing food, relax, and catch up on each other's lives. We skipped the daVinci art tour and the city walking tours. We did not go to a museum. Some of you may find that appalling but we got the vacation that we wanted and it was wonderful.
Milan is a much bigger city than I expected. It's very industrial and cosmopolitan. There is a definite hustle and bustle on the city streets. Once we got checked into our hotel, we took a walk down to the city center. We walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is an amazing shopping center covered with an awe inspiring glass dome. There, you see all the fancy fashion shops that make Milan a fashion destination: Prada, Louis Vuitton, and the like. We found a little cafe outside the galleria to eat lunch while taking in the scene. The cafe also had a great view of the Duomo di Milano.
This is Duomo di Milano, the cathedral church of Milan. It took nearly six centuries to complete. The architecture in Europe always takes my breath away. It was interesting seeing this Duomo and then the Duomo in Florence. They are so very different but equally impressive.
One of the more hilarious things that Chelea said while we were walking around was, "what is with all these people and their ice cream?" Haha! That would be gelato, my friend! I am never one to buy a pint of ice cream and sit on the couch, but I can assure you that if I lived in Italy, I'd be stopping for gelato on a regular basis!
There was a day that Edward Jones had offered a free city walking tour where they'd point out all the prominent landmarks. Initially we thought we'd sign up but then changed our minds. Something about walking around with a hundred other people just didn't sound like the Italian experience we were after. Instead I suggested we check out a beautiful city park called Parco Sempione. It's situated adjacent to the Sforza Castle. We walked through the castle gardens to enter the the park and found a little place to order a glass of wine and enjoy the sunshine. It was lovely and completely enjoyable. As we were leaving the park, we actually ran into the tour group. They were all standing around with their headphones, listening to the history lesson. I'm sure hearing about the history of the castle was plenty fascinating but they seriously looked so bored. When I close my eyes to think about Parco Sempione, I can imagine that little cafe in the park where the sparrows scam potato chips from the patrons' table. Something tells me that I wouldn't have such fond memories of the walking tour.
We spent a lot of time doing the above, which is looking at the map, wondering where we were and where we were heading! We walked more miles than I can count and it was the perfect way to justify all of our decadent pasta and gelato stops.
We signed up for a side trip to Lugano, Switzerland. We took a tram to the the top of Monte San Salvatore. The view is supposed to be outstanding, however, we visited on a very foggy day and the view was basically non-existent. Oh well, at least we can say we went to Switzerland!
Lugano, Switzerland
After three days in Milan, we took the train to Florence. Florence is near the top of my list of favorite places. I had been there once before and it's such a breath of fresh air. After hitting the city streets of Milan, walking through Florence is completely different. Life seems simpler and calm. Mostly, it's just completely beautiful.
This is the Duomo Firenze. The architecture feels softer and more inviting to me than the cathedral in Milan.
In Florence, we spent our days walking around, shopping, and eating. We had one meal that was the standout of the whole trip. It was at a little place called Mamma Gina's. We had walked around all evening and it was pretty cold. We decided to start with soup. Chelea ordered a minestrone and I ordered pasta fagioli. This was the best white bean soup I have had in my entire life. The beans were pureed in a savory broth that was infused with rosemary and the noodles tasted like they were freshly made. We were served huge bowls of soup and the meal could have ended there and left me satisfied. Of course, then my second course of tagliatelle bolognese arrived and it was equally mind-blowing. The pasta and sauce was so good that I ate every last bite. Stuffed beyond reason, Chelea suggested we order dessert. I looked at her as though she was insane. She ordered us a tiramisu to share and I planned on having one bite just to taste and being done. As I took my first bite, I looked at Chelea and said, "Oh shit." Seriously, that is what I said. We both started giggling because we knew that plate was going to be empty when the waiter returned. That meal sums up my trip to Italy. It was indulgent, satisfying, and fun. Here are just a few more photos.
Streets of Florence
One of my favorite things about Italy is you just order "red wine" and they bring you something inexpensive but completely fantastic. Chianti always tastes better in Italy.


Eileen said...

fantastic pictures and loved reading about your trip. the tiramisu comment made me laugh out loud! what a fantastic meal. your choice of soup and pasta sound perfect to me. glad you had so much fun and did it the best way possible

Missy said...

Now I'm hungry! I love your vacation style. Kelly and I travel well together because we don't like to-do lists either. We like fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants vacays too. Sounds like a fabulous trip...and wow, what a reward trip!

jenny goodman said...

Sounds amazing!

Emily Adamson said...

Great vacation plan to make no plans! What was your favorite gelato flavor? Love all your photos and the description of your fabulous meal … it makes me happy you didn’t skip dessert!