Twice in a lifetime seems too much, but it was just as good the second time as the first. In many aspects, it was even better; closer with family than ever before. And flying back First Class because of an airline error wasn't bad either...
Great Alitalia flight from Boston to Milan. Chose Milan over Rome this time. Arrived to a wonderfully empty Malpensa Airport. We couldn't believe how quickly and smoothly we made it through.
This car was so nice to drive that I'd like to own one at some point! A 2006 Volkswagon Passat TDI.
From Milano we drove up to Lugano, found a hotel that was moderate in price and just fine (the Meister) and then found what was MOST important! A great cup or two of cafe!
Here's the Old Man - Campari and Soda in hand - sitting out on the terraza of the hotel. He's a happy guy. So am I. We're waiting for the arrival of our cousin Sam and his wonderful wife Paola.
Sam and Paola took us to a beautiful garden park overlooking the lake where we walked and caught up on life and the families. This was one of the views down onto the lake. Such a wonderful place.
The lake is on one side and these wonderful old buildings are on the other. I loved how they were leaning in towards each other. Makes passing whatever your neighbor needs much more simple!
Here is a very nice plate of gnocci with asparagus and a local fish.
You knew I wasn't going to be in Switzerland and not buy a few Cubans, right?
Lugano is just gorgeous; so manicured, so pristine, so orderly. Maybe a bit too much for me as I would tolerate a little more mess if it came with some more passion. But a beautiful place nonetheless!
Found an ancient treasure in the center of Lugano. Dating from 1499, it was a nice and serene place to light some candles and spend some moments with my favorite angels. The Passion and the Crucifixion scene is the masterpiece of Bernardino Luini.
Found a GREAT cigar store in Lugano to buy enough goodies to last me a week. I got the following: 2 Hoyo de Monterrey Petite Robustos, 1 Cohiba Siglo I, 1 Partagas Short, 1 Partagas Lusitania, 1 Cohiba Robusto... all set!
More views of the walk around Lugano.
More views of the walk around Lugano.
The gnocchi from the night before were nice, but our cousin Paola put it to shame! This lunch was amazing: Saltimbocca, Tagliatelle, some amazing roasted peppers with caperberries, green beans... and strawberries for dessert.
Without question, the greatest motivation of this trip was to deepen the bonds between our families and communicate how special everyone was to us. Here is a wonderful family photo of our cousin Sam's family.
Here's a classic photo of the two cousins! If it weren't for the internet, they may never have met or discovered their mutual roots. How amazing!
Killer espresso, a Cohiba Siglo I and a walk through the outdoor market. Enough to make me burn my passport and sweep the ashes into the street drain. Oh, what I could do here with a kitchen!!!
There must have been a dozen of these "Salumi-mobiles", each one of them a treasure. THIS is what happens when the people who buy food have HIGH EXPECTATIONS. I watched as the shoppers made their selections, knowing that if the vendor supplied an inferior product he was going to be out customers the following week. Why do I have to go back to the land of huge supermarkets with sorry-ass produce sections? It must be that "high expectation" thing...
As we drove out of Bazzano. Many of the fields are full of mustard plants with their yellow flowers making a beautiful statement between the green and the bright blue skies.
That's my dad, beaming as he stands next to his wonderful cousin. Paolo ALWAYS makes us feel like kings when we visit Ravenna. A truly generous, warm and giving soul. I am so glad I got to capture my dad with so many of his family members. These are treasured memories.
I really have something about the mosaics and the the architecture and the "feeling" of the sites in Ravenna. This city is one of my favorites in all of Italy.
I snapped this photo in Ravenna and I just LOVE the sentiment. I frequently go and light candles for my dear relatives who have passed on. It's a way of wishing them some light on their journey and honoring their memory. This picture just conveys the best of the sentiment as it is passed from one generation to another.
The Roman influence is stunning. That's the road folks... I am so glad that this masterful work has been preserved for so long.
Can't live without this stuff. It's my drug of choice. And no one even blinked when I downed my shot and then stepped back to snap a photo!
Is the Basilica di San Vitale more inspiring than Sant'Apollinare Nuovo or the Mausoleo di Galla Placidia? I have no idea. I love them ALL. The early Christian and Byzantine buildings and mosaics here are one of the true wonders of my travel life.
You come back from a trip, download your photos, start looking at them in Photoshop and you get little gifts like this. An image that just works. You saw it in part, but you never saw what it could end up being... without being Photoshopped to death.
More spectacular views in Ravenna...
More spectacular views in Ravenna... And these guys are bringing FOOD, not frankincense and myrrh
More spectacular views in Ravenna...
Gorgeous paintings too... On the ceiling. Can I bring a sleeping bag and just stay here when everyone else has to go home for the day?
Lunch was Rigatoni all'Amatriciana made by my father's cousin Louisa. The single greatest dish of the trip. "The secret is the tiny dice of the pancetta, the onion, etc." she said... Nope. The secret is being HERE. I ate like a FOOL today.
Second Plate at Lunch: Vitello with carciofi... like BUTTER and SO delicious.
I got the photo I wanted... what eluded me last visit because the photo looked in focus on the tiny LCD screen on the camera back. This time I was going to to shoot it until I got it. I could stare at this image for hours.
In a very happy place!
My Dad with Paolo's children: Maria Gabriella and Michele. These are my contemporaries. We will be the ones to keep the trans-Atlantic love going!
I can't stop snapping pictures in Ravenna.
In Ca' de Ven... Capiletti with sugo
The uncontested "sweetheart" and nicest member of our family worldwide! Paolo's wife Louisa with their daughter Maria Gabriella.
Here is Gianluca with his wife Maria Gabriella. He is loading up on those carbs in order to be in tip-top shape for his visit to NYC and the running of the NYC Marathon!
Here they are, the youngest G's... they don't know how good they have it! Living and eating in Ravenna!
It didn't hurt when I was about to attack it. But BOY does it hurt to look at that and long for it from this side of the Atlantic, like I'm doing right now! I am SO salumi-deprived.
The MOST relaxed residents of Casacalenda.
A unique view from the main street. I could live here. EASILY.
get a REALLY good recommendation for dinner. This is the antipasto at Da Gino. The woman at the Municipal Bldg in Larino suggested we stop here. I could kiss her.
Orichiette with broccoli. Masterful. Especially with the Olio Santo drizzled over the top.
That's a veal chop with a simple salad, homemade wine ("my father made it, I don't even know what it's called" she said)... We were the only ones being cooked for that night. What a TREAT.
In Molise, you'll see lots of towns like this... and EVERY one of them makes me want to park the car, walk up, explore, spend the night, find the local food, connect with the people and enjoy them to the fullest!
Casacalenda... Our roots. Eternally special for that very reason.
Of our family. Those eyes, that forehead... we've ALL got them! The beard would just be too hot in Miami, though! ;)