Do you NEED that much cheese?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve bought this parmigiano reggiano (parmesan) cheese from Costco. We’re Italian, it lasts a long time and we like to have it on hand. So, my daughters grew up thinking nothing of it. Doesn’t every house have parmesan?

UNTIL… my daughter’s boyfriend opened her fridge and saw this HUGE hunk of cheese and acted horrified. Why do you need that big piece of cheese, it’s ONLY you? What are you doing with that?

My daughter said her first reaction was to become defensive. Grab the parmesan. YES, protect the parmesan! She started to explain, than thought, “WAIT, it’s normal, what’s HIS problem! Why shouldn’t I have this?”

I didn’t know this happened until the other day. I was heading to Costco and asked my daughter if she needed some parmigiano reggiano cheese. It used to be around $12.99, now it is $17.99. We need to treat it like GOLD. Inflation is real.

That’s when she said, “I have a funny story to tell you about my hunk of cheese.”

We both laughed!! I said I was PROUD of her for defending the parmesan.

Lately, I’ve been in a pasta mood. I found this pasta noodle, I love it. It’s called, “Fusilli Corti Bucati.” If I go for a different noodle, other than spaghetti, I go for the bow ties or orecchiette. THESE are so wiggly, just a fun noodle shape.

If I had this noodle when I was young, I could see myself flinging one of the noodles at my twin brother. When he would get angry, I’d say, “It’s not my fault, the noodle flew off my fork!” Now, that would be FUNNY! We did goofy stuff like that.

So, here’s to pasta, Italian heritage and defending parmesan!!

We ALL have our pantry staples, right! What do you have that we might laugh at?

Italy – Sending postcards…

When was the last time you sent a postcard? For me, it’s been years. It’s so easy to snap a photo and send it via text or email. DONE! Taking time to write a postcard, buy the stamp and mail it seems “archaic.” Real EFFORT would have to be put into that process, right!

At my hotel, they had a small entry way. There were people ahead of me to check in. I was standing next to — drum roll — a bunch of postcards. To pass the time…

I started looking them over, remembering how my daughters send me postcards when they are on a trip. I always enjoy the surprise card in the mail. EFFORT = LOVE

So, I decided, I should surprise them in return. I bought two Trevi Fountain postcards.

I wrote:

Just threw THREE COINS in Trevi Fountain. ONE was mine. ONE was your Sister’s. ONE is YOURS! MAKE YOUR WISH! Love, Mama XOXO

Hopefully, they receive the card, so they can make their wish.

When I asked where to buy a stamp, I was told to go to the newsstand. At the newsstand, the fellow gave me my stamps and when I asked WHERE to mail the cards, he pointed to this little yellow mailbox below the postcards.

I had a BIG smile, going back in time.

I admit, I wondered if it was legitimate. It looked cute, but it was in such an odd place.

I asked for confirmation.

The fellow nodded his head — YES!

So, in the box, my postcards went.

Now, to see if they will be delivered!

I made MY WISH! They need to make THEIRS!

I enjoyed THINKING of something clever to write.

Oh, I learned that the Vatican area has it’s own stamps. So, if you mail something through a Vatican mailbox, it must have a Vatican postage stamp on it.

GPS mail — I think on the receipt there was a bar code to scan. If I can find that, I might be able to track my postcards. That would be interesting… right!

Beloved Pizza — NO MORE

Something STRANGE happened when I was in Italy.

I did not like the pizza!

I KNOW… How could that be?

I’ve ALWAYS enjoyed the Italian pizza, but this time. NOPE! In Florence, the pizza crust was terrible. Maybe it was meant to be a healthy version, don’t know, but it’s texture was like cardboard. I could barely eat it. This is a place I have frequented over the years, so it should have been delicious. My heart sank.

In Rome, the pizza crust was so thin it made the pizza soggy, I could barely eat it. Also, they had big chunks of mozzarella cheese on top. When I took a bite and tried to swallow, I thought I would choke. My daughter said the same thing happened to her when she was in Rome. She could not eat their mozzarella cheese. This has never happened before. Soooo… has the texture of mozzarella cheese changed?

I felt the SAME about the sandwiches. I used to LOVE and CRAVE salami, prosciutto, mortadella. It’s the BEST in Italy. We would have this with my grandmother at home at lunch. Put the bread on the table, cut slices and open all the different lunch meat packages, pick and choose what we wanted.

What sadness, really!

I had to think. Had the food changed or did COVID change my taste buds? I’ve never tested positive for COVID, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have it over the past 2 1/2 years. Was it the weather, high 90s, little interest in food?

Oh… it GETS WORSE!

I didn’t care for gelato either. My gosh, this is a major Italian taste bud issue, right! Who doesn’t enjoy a gelato. I did eat it, but I had no sense of this is so fantastic, like I did BEFORE COVID.

GOOD NEWS — Drinking a Fanta with ice cubes was enjoyable and my tastes buds were working. PHEW, so it wasn’t a COVID issue.

Oh, and my FAVORITE cookies — Atene, my grandmother would have these. My taste buds were GOOD. Thank goodness!! I would have been sad to have those memories taken away. Here is what they look like. They are a heavier type of cookie, good with coffee or tea.

I do think that the taste of food is changing around the world. They, whomever they are, keep trying to genetically enhance meat, fruit, vegetable products and more. There are constantly fraud issues with prosciutto. If you Google, you can read about it.

So — I’m hoping it was the extreme heat that changed my taste buds. I was happy that my daughter said she experienced the same feelings on her trip to Italy, so it wasn’t just “me.”

Soon we will all start having our own organic gardens, so we can trust our produce!

Italy – Hotel v.s. Monastery stays…

When I tell someone I stayed at a monastery, they give me a strange look. Am I overly religious OR becoming a Nun. It does make me smile. I know they are missing out by being narrow minded.

A few years ago, I was in Florence for an extended period. Given that, I searched hotels, hostels, etc. for a more economical way to stay there. Up popped this website — www.MonasteryStays.com. You can see from the Home page, it looked interesting. I was intrigued.

To date, I have stayed at three monasteries in Florence, one in Assisi, one in Cortona and one in Rome.

The monastery in Cortona felt like a boutique hotel. You would not know it was a monastery. FABULOUS!! In fact, I did not see any Nuns around. Don’t quote me, but I think they had TVs in the room.

Here’s what you should know. While each monastery is different, they do have similarities:

  • Breakfast served at a certain time. Sit where your name is placed on the table.
  • Breakfast – bread, butter/jam, yogurt, lunch meat, cereal, fruit, coffee/tea. Unique to each stay.
  • When you leave monastery, leave your key at reception.
  • Curfew, need to be in by 11 or 12 pm, depends on the monastery.
  • TVs, some monasteries have them, some don’t.
  • Wifi — yes, most of them.
  • Summer – check if they have air conditioning.
  • Note: Sometimes the Nuns only speak Italian or at reception they have an English speaking person.

WHO CAN STAY? Anyone – single, married, parents with kids, workers who are on assignment stay there. Now, honeymooners??? LOL – if you are loud at sex/love making, you certainly would have ALL of us entertained and in shock. In fact, I imagine the cross hanging in my room would start shaking. The monasteries do tend to be quiet.

HOW ARE THE ROOMS? I must say, quite spacious and nice. Great bathrooms.

This was my place in Rome. Nice, very clean and a balcony. LOVE the white pressed sheets! Resembled some normal hotels I stayed in Munich.

Trying to think if I missed anything. If you browse the Monastery Stays website, you’ll see ALL the rooms, read through what they offer. Good rates too.

Any questions… leave a comment, happy to answer.

REALLY love the monastery stays. Wish they had this type of website for Germany.

Rome – St. Peter’s Square

They say people are having REVENGE travel right now. I don’t know. Before COVID people were traveling as they are now. The streets in Florence were so packed with tourists, it was hard to see the sights. I honestly thought, I don’t need to come back, it’s no fun.

Fast forward to now. So much turmoil in the world, I wanted to see Florence once more. I would be sad if I didn’t see it again. It’s my mother’s birthplace.

Normally, I would fly into Florence connecting through Munich. Now, with fewer flights, the best deal I could find was either flying into Milan or Rome, not even Pisa. I decided to go to Rome.

Being Catholic, I felt I should see the Vatican again too. Say a few prayers, visit the Nuns. I like the Nuns in their habits, they each have unique personalities. In fact, I got scolded at breakfast one morning by a feisty Nun. I had sat at a random table not realizing they had placed name cards at the tables. She KNEW immediately I was at the wrong table, because there were two priests names at my table.

She had to BELLOW out, so everyone knew my mistake. In Italian she said, ”Why aren’t you HERE?”

I apologized, saying, I did not see the name cards. She sighed heavy, picked up my name card, banging it on the table for emphasis and said in Italian, ”TOMORROW YOU SIT HERE!”

She was cute, shaking her head, thinking such dumb tourists, can’t follow simple rules.

The next day, as soon as she came in, I SMILED and in Italian said, ”LOOK, I’m at the right table!”

I was staying in Rome at Istituto Maria Santissima Bambina, a monastery. Did you notice the AMAZING view of St Peter’s Square that I had from the monastery’s rooftop. WOW – it can’t get any better.

Also, look at the square, NOT many tourists. The taxi driver told me in May/June many tourists like before COVID. I got LUCKY, beginning of July, maybe because of the heat, not many tourists. WONDERFUL!

Trivi Fountain was a bit crowded. People had to make their WISHES! Taking a picture with so many people in front of the fountain was challenging. I did my best. Even through a coin over my shoulder. Hoped it made it in the fountain. I was up a few steps with a lot of people in front of me. FUNNY if my coin ended up in someone’s fluffy hair, right!

Well, that’s all from Rome today.

Oh, I got lucky with my flights. Direct flight from Chicago to Rome and back, no delays or cancellations. Going there I even had three seats to myself. It was a full flight, it just happened that way. GREAT!!

In case, you are wondering about masks policy. I didn’t have to wear my mask anywhere except the bus. Even on the plane, we didn’t have to wear them. Some people did, but most did not.

So — traveling, I got LUCKY and enjoyed seeing Florence / Rome with few tourists. Many traveling horror stories, I wonder if that is the norm or that’s what the media focuses on. I had an easy pleasant trip. I do recommend direct flights if you can do it. Less stops, less chance of lost luggage. Also, I took a small weekend carry on suit case, ended up working fine. Did not need a bigger one. Traveling was EASY!

Glad I went, but also GLAD to be home!

Florence, Italy… I miss you!

I was taking to my Italian mother the other day. She said was one of her cousins was in Florence and it felt so strange. There aren’t many tourists, so to be able to walk and “see” the city was an eery feeling. We are used to so many tourists that we are elbow to elbow with them. Instead, my mother’s cousin arrived in Piazza Della Signoria with open eyes, as if seeing the Piazza for the first time. BEAUTIFUL!

I remember that feeling years ago. I was in Florence in June, it was so packed with people that I could not enjoy the city and I wanted to leave. I thought, I am DONE, I do not need to visit Florence for a long time.

THEN, one year, I visited in late November. I was walking the streets, hardly any people. Like my mother’s cousin, I had this strange feeling that something was wrong. Where were the people? My next thought was… ah, it’s late November – no tourists – this is GLORIOUS!

Fast forward to COVID 2021. My friend is in Florence right now. She said that August is SO HOT, over 100 degrees, she can see why the Italians go to the seaside the whole month of August. She remembers going around town with me, but couldn’t remember where restaurants and shops were.

So, I marked up this quick map for her. Once I did that, she had her bearings. She said there are not that many tourists. When outside you don’t need a mask, but inside you must have it. Also, because of COVID there were no new things to see in the market place or the shops. Everything seemed as it was from 2 years ago. Oh… this was funny. She was looking forward to a good dish of pasta. The pasta came, but it was SUPER AL DENTE. Not good.

My Italian girlfriend said her husband did that sometimes. I mean, there is AL DENTE, and there is ULTRA AL DENTE. She would tell her husband, “You must have been REALLY HUNGRY to serve pasta like this! YUK!”

Anyhow…

Traveling right now is challenging and different, because COVID rules / regulations keep changing.

If you are traveling… BE SAFE!

Florence… I miss you. I’ll be back.

Disney Plus… NEVER too old! LUCA – yahoo!

My daughter called me the other day.

She said, “Mama, do you watch Disney Plus?”

Me… WHAT?

I laughed and said… NO, I’m a little old for that, right?!

WELL, that’s going to change! You’re going to LOVE this new movie, LUCA, set in Italy.

So… We watched it.

I have to say, it was a cute film. My ONLY critique is that the main characters should have had Italian accents. I mean, if these are Italian characters, they should speak English with Italian accents. Like the bad guy (Ercole Visconti), he was GREAT, he had an Italian accent along with the typical Italian expressions and hand movements. Super funny!

If life has you down and you need a laugh, a cute film to lighten the mood — TAKE A CHANCE ON LUCA!

Like me, you’ll be booking your next trip to Italy!

Italy – eccomi! (Italy – here I come!)

Virtual walks… Italy – it’s FUN!

When COVID hit last year, we were finding new ways to exercise. Suddenly, virtual walks became really popular. I just did a virtual walk in Ireland with Fleet Feet. I liked it, it motivated me to log my miles every day, not fall behind.

When that walk ended, I took a break for a month. I noticed that without the challenge, I lacked the same motivation for walking. I walked, but not with the determination. It does HELP to have a challenge. Add friends for accountability – perfect!

My friend told me about The Conqueror website. Being Italian, I had to sign up for the St Francis Way challenge. I’m enjoying the walk and looking up new cities on the way from Florence to the Vatican in Rome. Some of the towns are really small, not many people.

In case you are wondering, I am not affiliated with The Conqueror website. Just sharing. The Ireland Fleet Feet challenge was nice, but not easy to log the miles. So, helpful to share with each other. If we are going to spend $$, good to find the BEST virtual site out there.

Now, putting gym shoes on, heading to CONSUMA, ITALY. Looked it up, many things to see/do: wineries, vineyards, castles, zip line, religious sites, art galleries and more.

Of course, a GELATO at the end of the walk!

Italy – The Uffizi Gallery prepares for overtourism in Florence…

Yesterday, I read an article in CNN’s Travel section, Italy has a new way to combat overtourism, by Julia Buckley. My mother was born and raised in Florence, so I immediately stopped what I was doing to read the latest news. This article is specific to Florence and The Uffizi Gallery.

Before COVID, anyone who had traveled to Italy experienced first hand overtourism. In Florence, it was impossible to walk on the streets. So many tourists, we were elbow to elbow with them. It was not an enjoyable, add to that making sure you were not pick pocketed, due to the crowds.

This article talks about a new project, Uffizi Diffusi, which means “scattered Uffizi.” Eike Schmidt, Director of the Uffizi, came up with the idea of multiple (100) exhibition spaces for art from the Uffizi to be displayed all over Tuscany. This does two things, it shares the tourism burden and also allows locals to visit exhibits in their area.

COVID has allowed Florence to take a breath from the fast paced tourism. To think, plan and re-invent tourism for the future. My mother’s relatives are out in the country, it’s nice, no tourists. Selfishly, I hope it stays that way.

If you have been to Florence or have planned to go, you can read the article for more details.

Why won’t my bus pass work?

1101C145-8D70-4953-8BC0-63FBAC5AE605

Yesterday, I was rushing to catch the train as usual.

I scanned my train card and tried to go through the turn style. Negative, the turn style was not moving. Once again, I scanned my train card, and tried to quickly pass through the turn style. AGAIN, it was not working. The night before I had added money to my card, so WHY wasn’t it working. I scanned the card “one more time,” and the turn style would not budge.

At this point, I had to move away from the turn style. It was embarrassing, all of the busy commuters looking irritated that I was “holding up the line.”

WHAT was the PROBLEM!

I looked at my train card…  It was NOT my train card. It was my devotional card for Saint Leopoldo of Padua. I visited his shrine in Italy a few years ago. He is known as the Saint who could heal you of your illness. At his shrine, there was a room full of photos that family members had sent of loved ones that they asked Saint Leopoldo to pray and heal them. He had a small room where he would hear people’s confessions. I bought this devotional card and always carry it with me.

So, I did have to SMILE!

This was Saint Leopoldo’s CLEVER way of telling me to slow down. Time for a trip to Padua and Abano Terme. For those of you who do not know, Abano Terme has hot springs and mud baths. People go here to rest and rejuvenate.

Sometimes in life, we need a SIGN to take care of ourselves!

Thank you, Saint Leopoldo. We have a three day holiday coming up, I will rest!