Thursday, July 24, 2008

at last I return!

I spent one week in Italy in 2000 and vowed to return, either when I had more money or with my parents. Well, seeing that I don't have much more money now, I got mom to come with me :) Originally I was going to go to Italy because Anna's parents in Pisa have been waiting for me for over a year. And of course I can't turn down an invitation to Italy. But since Mom was joining, I had to show her more of this country that I love.

So here we go!

first stop - I meed my mom in Rome. It is surreal and wonderful to find her at the airport and start this two week adventure together. Because it is her first time in Italy, we must see Rome. Of course, I don't mind revisiting this wonderful city.

We take 3 days to hit up all the sites, some which I missed the first time and others that I gladly visited again. We stayed in the lovely section of Trastevere, which is similar to the east village of NYC in the sense that it is the more artsy, neighborhood-y location that is a little off the beaten path with fun alleys and restaurants. We walked, took the tram, bus and metro to get to all our sites.

Mom and me inside the Colloseum.
On my last trip, I didn't get to see the Forum or the Colloseum in the daytime, nor go inside it. I still can't imagine the spectacles that occured here.

The Colloseum. It's still pretty impressive.

Trevi Fountain. Rumor is that if you throw a coin over your shoulder - for the first one you will return to Rome and for the second your wish will come true. I didn't throw the coin over my shoulder the first time here but I still returned.

La Boca Verita - the mouth of truth. (which I missed the first time)

The roman forum.
It's amazing how the ruins are intermixed with the modern city. One of my most prom

The Vatican: a must in Rome
Studying in the Vatican: it's hard work plotting our next location!
I was the tour guide for us in Rome, and all of Italy, with the help of Lonely Planet and a few other guide books of course.
Admiring the artwork in the Vatican.


Next stop - meeting Anna' parents, Angela and Piero, in Pisa. Anna is my dear friend and colleague in New York and we have known each other for 6 years, working literally 2 feet within each other for the whole time! What would I do without her? So of course I had to visit her parents in Pisa while in Europe.
Oops! Did I do that?

So here is the obligatory stop at the leaning tower of Pisa, in the Piazza of Miracles. It really is that impressive. We walked by it several times. It took us quite a few attempts to get this shot just right. What other pose would you expect of me other than my signature Matrix kick?

But, really, the main reason for Italy - visiting Anna's parents. The hospitality they showed us was ammmmmazing!!!!!!! We are soooo incredibly thankful for everything they did for us - housing us, cooking for us, driving us everywhere and the wonderful conversations and love they showed us. This was by far the highlight of the trip for me - just hanging out with the Ipatas in their daily life. I love traveling, but what I love more is really getting to know the culture and it's people.
Me, Piero and Angela eating gelato.

Everyone knows how much I LOVE gelato. I talk about it all the time and my fondest memory of Italy is eating gelato for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, Anna told her mom that it is very important to feed me lots of ice cream She went above and beyond. First stop after being picked up at the train station was gelateria. And each night after we had tubs of gelato from various gelaterias acroos Pisa. AMAZING!Anna's mom at a gelateria. It is difficult choosing flavors! Luckily we had many opportunities to try many different flavors.

A close up of the gelato. Every night, Anna's mom got us two containers of gelato (one creamy and one fruity). I got a pretty good Pisa gelato sampling during my stay.

The home cooked meals were such a treat. Here are some things we had....
pope's pasta: linguini with ham, butter, lemon and parmegianno regiano
breaded fish atop eggplant
buffalo mozzerella (the best!!!)
tomatoes from the south with basil and olive oil
baked fish atop potatos and vegetables
eggplant/fish/ricotta layered (a new invention that day)
baked spinach and ricotta
prosciutto and melon (lots!)

OK, I am getting hungry just thinking about all the yummy-ness. These were by far the best meals I had in Italy - those home-cooked by Angela in the Ipata house.

My home in Pisa. I will return one day! If I didn't have plans to meet up with friends in Croatia, I probably would've stayed here much longer, lingering in the wonderful garden, eating home cooked meals and gelato and just chilling.

Meal times were my favorite - just chatting. And we got to meet Elena, Anna's niece, and Franceso, and the little ones at the beach. It was great to finally meet all these people I've heard so much about in the past years and to understands Anna's family and home better.
Angela and Angela: Anna's mom told us a lot of the history of Pisa. Here we are next to the Aquaducto Medici that used to bring water from the mountains into the center of Pisa.

Thank you so much Angela and Piero for EVERYTHING! You both definitely made our trip wonderful and memorable. We are sooo grateful!!!

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