Monday, January 26, 2015

Pasta Class

Richard sent me to a pasta class with my friend Emily and mother-in-law fora Christmas present. The class was taught by a sweet woman who brought us into her home and kitchen. We learned to make pesto lasagna, tagliatelle, gnocchi and tiramisu! My favorites were the gnocchi and tiramisu. Words can't describe how tasty it all was. And eating it after we had spent hours making it all by hand was so rewarding!

The gnocchi was actually much easier than I thought it would be. Using this little gnocchi board to add decorative lines in the gnocchi was fun too.

The tagliatelle is what took the longest. We mixed the ingredients, let it rest, kneaded it, then rolled it so thin that you could read something placed underneath it.

The tagliatelle was then folded, cut and set out to dry.

Our teacher served us our hand-made dishes at the end.

The tiramisu was amazing! And the teacher also gave us some limoncello made by her family using lemons from her family's land in southern Italy.

Here is our whole class. It was so much fun!

If you're interested in taking this class, I highly recommend it. Go to for class schedules.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Naples in January

From Florence, we took the train to Naples. I don't really know how to describe Naples politely. Basically, it was a dump. The buildings were falling apart, and even had netting to keep large chunks from falling on pedestrians below. We didn't see a single wall that wasn't covered in graffiti. Shattered glass was embedded between stones on the streets and sidewalks. It was just gross. I thought it was going to be romantic, maybe because of that song "That's Amore" by Dean Martin.

(In Napoli where love is king
When boy meets girl here's what they say)

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That's amore
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine
That's amore

A couple examples of what we saw as we walked around. This was a hotel. Any newlyweds want to honeymoon here? Or maybe a great family getaway?

And the typical graffiti and dumpsters. You can't see the shattered glass in the picture, but it's there too.

Sadly, this place was far from romantic. BUT, we did have some amazing experiences there. First there was the small limoncello factory. Limoncello is a traditional digestive served after meals here.
This place, called LimonĂ© made their small batches with local lemons, and pealed them by hand. This is a view of their one-room factory, and batch process.

Janice and I became big fans. It was so tasty!

Other notable things that we don't have pictures of are the pizza and the wine. We learned the history behind the pizza in Naples. A long time ago, it used to be the food of the poor people. The the dough was made very thick in order to keep you satisfied longer. This is different than the pizza in northern Italy, which is thin. There was a pizza joint around the corner from where we stayed, and Richard says it was the best pizza he has ever had. And I would say it's definitely up there on my list too! We loved one of the green vegetables they served on our pizza, and found out it is a local leafy green called fiarelli. I was told it's only available near Naples, but I have a hunch I may be able to find it at my local market in Milan. As for the wine, well it's all good in Italy. But we particularly liked a couple different red wines from Sicily. So now we are continuing to look for more "Siciliane nero".

As for the sites around Naples, the big ones were the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Both ancient cities were where the wealthy escaped the heat of Rome and stayed near the water. And both were destroyed when Mount Vesuvius errupted in AD 79.

Here are Richard and Gabriel overlooking the ruins of Herculaneum. You can see Vesuvius in the background.

The kids were able to walk around and explore and touch things. They had fun playing hide and seek.

And here are Richard and Gabriel in Pompeii, which was massive compared to Herculaneum.

The kids just wanted to be in more pictures, so here they are. Aren't they adorable?

Husband and wife selfie time!

It was fun to see the stadium at Pompeii. It was a smaller version of the Colosseum in Rome. Very cool.

At Pompeii there was a display of some of the bodies that were found. When the volcanic ash, etc cooled over the bodies, it created a hard shell. These shells were later found and filled with plaster, which is what we see in this picture. Since the excavations started, archaeologists have discovered around 1150 bodies.

And here I am with Richard overlooking the ruins of Pompeii. We loved the history that came alive while visiting here! We recommend not staying in Naples though :)

Florence in January

We kicked off 2015 with some travel to Florence and Naples. The grandparents were visiting and we all had a great time exploring these two completely different cities. This post will be about Florence, with a Naples post coming later.

Florence was magical, really. I loved the atmosphere. Some of that may be contributed to the Christmas decorations. Italians keep their decorations up until January 6th, which is the Epiphany holiday. Epiphany is based on the story of the three wise men offering gifts to baby Jesus. Italians typically have a huge feast in celebration each year on January 6. On January 7, all the decorations are promptly taken down.

Anyway, the heart of Florence was decked in lights. Each street had it's own design. I thought it would be fun to capture some of the different street lights.

Ponte Vecchio, translated "Old Bridge" is the oldest bridge in Florence, and the only bridge that was not destroyed during World War II. It still has shops located directly on the bridge, which is apparently how things used to be. The shops are mostly jewelers and souvenir sellers, whereas they used to be butchers and such. By viewing the bridge, one would think the shops are about to fall into the river, because they hang out over the side of the bridge and are held up with wooden beams.

One night, we walked to a recommended restaurant, only to find it closed (since we hadn't past the January 6th holiday yet), so we found this cute little pizza joint that was very crowded. Crowds usually mean good food, and we were hungry, so we went in and enjoyed a wonderful pizza with drinks. The tables were simply wooden barrels topped with glass, and customers have the tradition of leaving their mark or a note shoved under the glass for future customers to read. We left ours, the grandparents left theirs, then Gabriel wanted to write his own too.

Viewing the many street lights is fun, but the Florence duomo steals the show.

I climbed to the top of the dome with Rick and Janice. It was a lot of stairs, but so worth it!

On our way up and down the dome, we were able to pause and take in the very unique paintings on the inside. See the grey ledge that wraps around the dome below and above those round windows? That's where we stood to take in the view.

Of course, if you're in Florence, you have to see The David by Michelangelo. He was much larger than I expected. Gabriel thinks Michelangelo was confused, because it was Goliath who was the giant, not David.

We practically ran through the Ufizzi gallery since we arrived with only 45 minutes left before closing time. Hope just enjoyed running the halls and talking to the statues.

For me, part of the magic of Florence was in the little things that we hadn't even planned for. Like when we were wandering home one night and stumbled across this beautiful church. What a nice surprise!

Or walking past cool castles.

We also took a day trip to Pisa to see the leaning tower.

Florence was beautiful, and I enjoyed every minute of it!