October 3, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Travel, Travels in Europe

When you go to Italy, try not to catch a death cold. I’m serious – it really blows (no pun intended). But I did, and I made the best of it. As Guido explained to his parents: “She’s American, she doesn’t complain.” Ha ha, I’ve got him fooled. Oh the things I will do for good pasta and wine.

The trip had to go on, so off to the local towns of Ravenna and Cesenatico we went. Ravenna – a rival city to Guido’s Cesena – is home to churches filled with colorful mosaics, and also some of the best pasta I’ve ever had (see that ravioli – it’s covered with a butter-and-sage sauce that tasted so good I can’t even talk about it).

Then we visited the sweet port-town of Cesenatico that hugs a 500-year-old canal surveyed by (whatever that means) Leonardo da Vinci. Lined with colorful buildings and filled with even more colorful boats, I think Cesenatico might just be able to give tourist-filled Venice a run for its money….at least once it sinks anyway.

About 50 minutes away, we visited Bologna where portico archways dominate the sidewalks of the university town. And because a country can’t have just one leaning tower (here’s looking at you, Pisa), Bologna’s got a pair of its own. Actually, I can’t really be sure which one is leaning, or if both are, but suffice it to say that something isn’t standing up straight (Guido tells me it’s because there’s an aquifer below them, but I think he was making a lot of things up, so don’t quote me on that).

Finally, as I was about to pass out from pretending like I wasn’t practically on my deathbed, we stopped in Perugia. You want to know who else stopped there? Hundreds of journalists, that’s who. All lingering around and chatting about the Amanda Knox trial. I honestly didn’t think much of our visit prior to going, much less the timing, until a friend of Guido’s living there mentioned that the week to come would be a big one. Judging by my news feed, I’d say that’s about right.

More than Amanda Knox and a murder mystery, the hillside town is one giant monolith of rock – rock buildings, rock stairs and a rock aqueduct that shoots out of the city off to who knows where. Larger than life with gasp-worthy stone walls, staircases and arches, the town made me feel a bit like a shrunken Alice in a medieval Italian wonderland.

So now I’m back in Spain, still a little sick and without any chance at having good homemade pasta. Let the complaining begin!

September 28, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Travel, Travels in Europe

I’m not joking, either. My recent and sixth trip to the shoe-shaped country was Guido-filled. But not the way you’re thinking. I’m actually talking about my host – one of my best friends, who also happens to have a name with a certain fame in the US (I had the pleasure of breaking that news to him).

This latest trip brought me to Guido’s hometown of Cesena, a city near the Adriatic Sea and about 50 minutes southeast of Bologna.

Home to the Europe’s first public library and a hilltop castle, the town definitely met my charming Italian pueblo criteria. High-end fashion shops dominate the tiny streets of the affluent city, making for one painful window-shopping-only visit. And rather than tourists, the village teems with bikes as locals go from one place to another (I’m assuming from the pizzeria to the gelateria, as that only makes sense since they’re Italian and all).

From Cesena, we hit the Italian road. Our road-tripping was punctuated by me trying to convince Guido that I had “moves like Jagger” (because I do), me educating him on the key features of American bologna versus the Italian city (by singing the Oscar Mayer wiener song – yeah, that happened), and me interrogating him about the landscape and various crops. I’m almost certain he had an amazing time.

And then of course we ate. We devoured homemade pasta at least once a day made by his drop-dead gorgeous Italian mamma. We noshed on the regional pita-like bread called piadina. Then we drank the famous spritz – a mix of prosecco, bitter liqueur and carbonated water. Of course I also consumed cappuccinos and caffe shakeratos (shaken and iced espresso awesomeness) like it were my sixth and final trip to Italy – the smart thing to do, really.

Now don’t you worry – I’ve got more Italian goodness coming your way. Stay tuned for the rundown on our road-trip stops – minus my moves and the songs about American B.O.L.O.G.N.A.