Epilogue

I am writing now on the last day of a most memorable trip. It has been fun, exhausting, challenging, daunting and amazing. The most awesome thing about our trip is that even after 29 years of marriage you could learn so much more about your partner – their strengths, weaknesses, foibles, likes and hates. We are all complex indivuduals and there’s nothing like 7 weeks away to peel back some of the layers and be reminded of why you married in the first place. I can’t wait to do it again.

A special thanks to all of the people we met along the way. And finally…

3 Things I Learned in Italy.

  1. It’s all about the food and the people
  2. It’s all about the food and the people
  3. It’s all about the food and the people

The last week.

Caught the FrecciaRossa (RedArrow) back to Milan and Zia Romana’s Apartment. Louise and I are getting to be public transport experts in Italy and Milan.

This is our last week of holidays and our 10 days in Ireland seems a lifetime ago. We have essentially spent the week immersing our selves in Italian daily life – doing mundane things like taking Zia Romana’s car to the carwash, going to the Monday market in Rho (buying Proscuitto crudo, Scamorrza (smoked Mozarella) and the sweetest, juiciest Cantaloupes I have ever tasted), ordering coffee like locals, going to the Supermarket and sharing meals with Louise’s family. For me this cultural immersion is more rewarding than sightseeing (you’ve seen one old building, you’ve seen ’em all. Amiright?). Loved every minute of it – especially trying to wrap my toungue around the Italian language. Godamn those rolling Rs.

We decided to take a practice run to Piazza Febbraio where our Milanese cooking class will be on our last Saturday. Some difficulties in relation to my navigation skills created some tension in the Edwards camp (which way IS north?), but these were soon sorted out. <insert sheepish grin emoji>.

We followed this up with a visit to Corso Buenos Aries for retail therapy. Probably a bit high end for the likes of Louise and I – with every conceivable name-brand represented.  Ironically, Louise bought nothing and I walked away with a couple of shirts that were a bargain… A bit of a downer was the number of insistent beggars. Studiously ignoring them was not effective – and I always feel conflicted – are they really destitute?

Thursday saw Louise and I head off on a day trip to Como. No words for how beautiful it is. Louise was really looking forward to meeting George (Clooney), but he must have been having a nap. We settled for lunch in the Piazza – picking a Ristorante at random and then being blown away by the piatto di carne e formaggio per due. See below.

.

Here’s why we don’t take selfies:

Saturday finally arrived and Guido and Caroline decided to drive us to our Cooking class at Pizza Febbraio. We were greated by Clara from Cook in Milano . If you’re ever in Milan, I highly recommend this if you’re into cooking and food.  Just about the stand-out highlight of my holiday, and I can’t wait to get back into our kitchen to try and replicate the recipes (Prosciuitto Parma e Melone, Tira Misu, Gnocchi e salsa di Zafferano and Parmigiano Melanzana). We ate it all! Clara (our host and chef) was just awesome with her knowledge and polite disdain for anything but the traditional methods and ingredients.  I will do this again for sure.

Here’s a FB link to photos of our day…

Great cooking class with market tour today: last seasonal summer menu!

Posted by Cook in Milano on Saturday, September 23, 2017

 

Things I Learned in Croatia.

  1. Despite decades of upheaval and having had 4 different nationalities (Austro-Hungarian, Italian, Yugoslavian and Croation in 100 years, Istrians are indefatigable and immensely proud of their Istrian heritage.
  2. Louise’s ancestors endured incredible hardships and were incredibly brave to escape from communist Yugoslavia after the 2nd world war (and settle in Australia)
  3. Istrians celebrate everything. (Beer festivals, truffle festivals, cheese festivals, blues festivals)
  4. The Adriatic Sea is beautiful and you can swim in autumn
  5.  Pula is about 3,000 years old and has incredible Roman monuments and architecture
  6. The food is as good as it is in Italy
  7. The cost of living, although everything is relative to wages, is low.
  8. I’ll be back.

Day 38 & 39 – Monfalcone

Another couple of nights (one full day) in Monfalcone with Zia Vittoria. More freshly cut proscuitto for breakfast and a walk into town for some more shopping (and to recharge my Italian SIM for data) – and a couple of quick family snaps for memories…

Days 31 – 37 Pula, Croatia

Louise and I left Venezia behind and headed off into the sunset aboard the Adriatic Jet, a lovely modern ferry that was to take us down the coast of Croatia via Umag, Porec and Rovinjo before arriving in Pula just on dark. That, at least was the plan…

About half-way across The Adriatic, thingsg started to get (unexpectedly) a bit rough and it started to get dark, way ahead of sunset…

This triggered a mass stampede for the toilets and I haven’t laughed so much, as I listened to people of all ages barfing uncontrollably. At this stage, Louise stopped talking to me and focussed heavily on the horizon. Not sure what was wrong with her; a bad Vongole in her Risotto in Venice?  Never did find out…

Given the horrible weather on the radar, the Captain of the Adriatic Jet decided to make a beeline for Rovinjo, bypassing the scheduled stops and before you know it we were in Rovinjo’s safe harbour and expected to disembark.  In all of our holiday, Louise hasn’t moved as quickly as she did to get off the ferry.

Getting through customs was a bit chaotic, but credit where credit is due, the Ferry company had laid on buses to get us the 40-odd kilometres to Pula (no time to stop and take photos of Rovinjo’s beautiful waterfront area as we marched quickly through town to catch the bus. Looks worthy of a visit on a future expedition.

Arrived safely at Hotel Brioni at about 9.00am – an hour or so later than we had anticipated.  The 1970s called and they want their hotel back.  It is in . serious, serious need of a facelift. However, I hope that when they do renovate they are able to keep some of the charm. I swear they have stolen the decor from that relative of yours who has a beach house.The ancient lift finally got us and our luggage up a couple of floors and we squeezed into our room, opened thedoor toour balcony and let the cool air of the Adriatic cool our stuffy room. Got to witness an amazing lightning show from the balcony as the storm slowly passed by, dumping drenching rain across Pula. Here’s the tail end of it the following morning….

Sonja and Zjelko, Louise’s cousins, picked us up for lunch for our first day in Pula and we drove out into what seemed the hinterland outside of Pula. However, we ended up in a very small fishing village (possibly Trget?) and had lunch whilst the horrible weather continued to assail us. We sat outside though,  and had the biggest seafood tagliatelle platter that I’ve ever seen – and including a whole new range of shellfish I didn’t know existed.

Here’s some photo’s of a most memorable lunch that included slivovic, wine and schnapps.

The next few days were spent hanging out with Sonja, Zjelko and their daughters Petra and Ivana. We managed to fit in some swimming – even though the temperatur was only 23, the warm water of the Adriatic Sea was most conducive to swimming. Most swimming spots have a bar, so it was easy enough to have a cold drink (read beer) or a capuccino for Louise.  Tiny little beaches, but just beautiful.

We both managed to get nasty colds whilst we were in Pula, so we tested out the Croatian Health Sytem – just to be sure that our hacking coughs weren’t anything sinister.  Gotta say I was relatively impressed – other than the ER at the hospital had a corridor for a waiting room. It was relatively quick (I think because we were paying foreigners) and it turns out we just had nasty colds, although I did get somewhat nervous when they sent me for xrays of my lungs (all good).

In our 6 days in Pula, we ate typical croatian food almost everyday – more cured meats, more cheese, more sausage and cabbage and more beer.  the consistent high quality of smallgoods amazes me.

Sonja was a most gracious host – nothing was too much trouble and she took me on a walking tour of old Pula, taking in the roman arches, the amphitheatre various pubs and up the hill to a fort on top of the hill that overlooks the whole of Pula.  She also took us on a day to to Krmed and surrounds to revisit Louise’s heritage (her grandmother and grandfather were born there). Louise was able to gain some more insights into her heritage. Here’s some pics:

 

On our last day, Sonja drove us to the bus depot and we headed back to Monfalcone via  Slovenia and Trieste. Very sorry to say goodbye to Sonja, Zjelko and Pula.

 

Days 29 – 30 Venice

There’s a Monty Python ‘Travelogue’ called ‘Away From It All’ (here it is on youtube) that was released as a curtain raiser for Life of Brian that has a bit about Venice – it has a bit like this:

And so back to Venice, Queen of the Adriatic, here certainly we have peace and tranquility and more of those f*cking gondolers. We need more of those like we need a hole in the head

So I’ve always wanted to go to Venice. However…

I reckon Venice is another one of those places that would be a nice place to visist if it wasn’t for the tourists. Never have I felt more claustrophobic than I did near the Bridge of Sighs and San Marco Piazza. There was a couple of ginormous cruise ships in town, including the Queen Victoria and they spewed all of their guests into Venice in tour groups, who walked around like no-one else was there.  In the end Louise and I decided to find some of the less crowded areas of Venice so we caught the Vaporetto (water bus) back to where we we staying and found a lovely Piazza not far from our hotel and decided that this was much nicer than the major tourist spots – Campo San Magherita.

I guess I’d better post some pics.

In the end Louise and I were pretty happy to be getting on the ferry for Pula. OR SO WE THOUGHT…

(Stay tuned)

Days 26 – 28 Grado

Louise has spoken a lot about here visit to Grado 2 years ago and how beautiful it is, and I wasn’t disappointed! It’s been a highlight of the trip so far…

We booked into the Hotel Savoy, along with about a million German/Austrians and went straight to the pool – it’s still hot and had a poolside lunch accompanied by the biggest beer I’ve had so far – a 1 litre stein of beer. That’s how the germans roll.

The following morning we walked a short distance into the main shopping area and cashed up. If you think australian ATM fees are steep, how about 3.50euros to get a couple of hundred euros out! Sheesh!

Louise did her best to boost the local economy again and bought more clothes. She will be the best dressed person in Geelong this summer.

During out time in Grado, Louise and I did most of our exploring by bicycle.  I don’t think I actually believed that Louise would ride a bike, but credit where credit’s due, she was quite proficient, although she did nothing to assuage my fears by falling off about a minute into her first ride when she decided to practice before I was ready. Other than a dent in her pride there was no damage done and after quick seat adjustment and putting the chain back on the spokes, we were on our way. Thankfully there were lots of bike paths and we only had to venture out into mad italian traffic on a couple of occasions.

We ventured deep into Grado Vecchio (Old Grado) and looked up Calle Tognon and Calle Lunga where Louise’s Dad was born and raised before emigrating to Australia. Grado Vecchio is beautiful and I’m not sure the pictures do it justice. We had pizza on a park bench for dinner one night (I love that you can buy pizza by the slice – especially since we didn’t have  a fridge and couldn’t eat the cold leftovers for breakfast (@soopofficial).

Also during our stay in Grado, we caught up with Louise’s Zia Santina (Rino’s Cousin) she cooked us every kind of fish in the Adriatic Sea, including canocchie (prawns are a poor cousin to canocchie), rombo fish and a beautiful delicate-flavoured zucchini risotto. No dinner that night – thankfully we were able to shed a few calories on the bike ride home.

We also had an fantastic dinner with Massimo and Sarah, their daughters Lucia and Anna and Georgio and Lizzi (another cousin of Rino). 

I know this blog is starting seem a bit like a gastronomers tour of Italy, but many of our memorable moments seem to revolve around food.  On our last night in Grado, Louise and I had dinner at a tiny little restaurant in Grado Vecchio and had Risotto Vongole (like pippies) which was also beautifully prepared and tasted unbelievably good.

Note: we ran into a few people in Grado who remember Rino – he is known in Grado as Nino Riso (should be Riccio – Curly).

More photos here:

Aside

We’re approaching the end of our holiday and I’m miles behind. It’s been hard to find the time/energy to keep the blog up to date.  Consequently, I’m in a mad rush to try and post some updates so that the last few bits are relatively up to date.

Apologies for my tardiness…

It feels like cramming for exams, or writing a business case in time for the next portfolio board meeting.  I’ll do my best though…

P.S. Theres a few updates behind this aside.

Days 22 – 25 Monfalcone

Arrived in Monfalcone having successfully navigated the Trenitalia website to book train tickets, find our way around Milano Centrale Stazione, catching the FrecciaRossa (red arrow) to Venice Mestre and then the regional train to Monfalcone, which happened to be the scenic route via Gorizia and Udine. The supposed 1 and a half hour trip took a shade over 2 and a half hoursand at one stage google maps seemed to be suggesting we were in Slovenia. Anyhow, got to Monfalcone and Zia Vittoria pulled up at the station in her lime green 1980s 2-door Daihatsu, parking on an angle like Starsky and Hutch. We hightailed it through the streets back to the Collaute residence – set in a beautiful vineyard. Zia Vittoria made us most welcome and we met Husband Alfio and their son Max and daughter in-law Cinthya and grandson Luca. We had meat-stuffed green and yellow peppers for dinner and they were maginficent.

We spent the next few days wandering around Monfalcone and soaking up italian life (many espressos and cappuccinos) and having lunch at various ristorantes and always stopping on the way home for a gelato. I’ve raved on about the cheese and the cured meats a bit, but the gelato is fantastic. Not sure we have anything that comes even close in Australia. Still loving the food – especially my breakfasts which consist of formaggio, proscuitto, fresh italian bread and the sweetest grapes ever. Buonissimo!!!

Obligatory photos from Monfalcone here:

Days 20 & 21 – Rho

Not much to report here – a trip into Milan (Garibaldi) to have a look around – some awesome architecture and great food along Como Corso. Louise also emptied the H&M store so not sure how we’re going to get all the shopping home at this stage – looks like we’re gonna need a bigger suitcase.

A couple of snaps around Garibaldi to keep the punters happy…

Love the Unicredit Bank building…