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Entries in Italy (8)


Sights and Flavors of Northern Italy

As many of you know, our mom (Marmo) is the El Heffe at Gourmety Getaways, a travel agency specializing in gourmet tours of Italy.

There are three take aways from the above sentence:

1. Gourmet

2. Tours

3. Italy

Simple addition of the above three points leads to taste-sensory eye rolling, oooohs and aaaaahs, spectacular scenery, and the overuse of the Italian word, "andiamo!" (let's GO!).

Marmo is throwing together a new tour of the Northern region of Italy, which by all intents and purposes should be fan-freakin-tastic, or if you prefer, bellissimo!

How do I know? I know this because John and I had the opportunity to accompany her on a recon mission to the aforementioned area last spring.

We ate lardo. We skimmed across Lake Como on water taxis. We drank fabulous regional wines. We shopped our wallets off. We over used the Italian word, "andiamo!" (let's GO!).

You can read more about the Iaciofano family Northern Italy travels here, here and here And you can find out more about Marmo's tour, which takes place October 19-27, 2013, here.



Italian Favorites from Our Recent Excursion

John's Favorite Dish:

The Fliet Mignon from Al Veluu in Tremezzo

Elana's Favorite Dish:

Piglet Stuffed Ravioli with Pear Sauce at La Fontanina in Verona

Favorite Breakfast Buffet:

Favorite Gelato:

Gelateria Agianni in Bologna

Favorite Bathroom:

Bathroom door of the Lake Como water taxi

Favorite Display of ABC Gum:

Juliet's House

Marmo's New Favorite Drinks (cut her off at two, please):


Favorite View...ummm....Please don't make us choose...


TremezzoVilla Balbianello, Lenno

Favorite Ridiculous Photo:

Roman Theater, Verona

Favorite Food Signage:

Favorite Wine Bar to Regain Body Heat and Internal Cheese Quotient after a Freezing Rain Tour of Villan Balbianello:

Cantina Follié, Tremezzo

Favorite Place to Pretend You are James Bond:

Villa Balbianello, Lenno

Favorite Italian Outfit:

Elana's Italia Cycling Kit, acquired in Bellagio

Favorite Hair Style:

Marmo after a day in the rain at Villa Balbianello

Favorite Place for John to Carry a Purse:


Favorite Swimming Pool:

Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Garden Pool

Favorite Meat Product:

Osteria del Bugiardo, Verona

Favorite Family Photo:




Pizzeria Carillon in Bellagio

I may have mentioned this, but the way Lake Como works is this: You stay in one of the little towns (we stayed in Tremezzo) and then you water-taxi-it around the lake to the other little towns for the purposes of sight-seeing, food, shopping and general merriment.

Pretty sweet, right? Right.

One of our water taxi stops was Bellagio, a tiny town built into the hills around the lake. Restaurants and shops greet you at the harbor, and you can wander up the steep, perilous steps to find more shopping and restaurants. Marmo and I loved it.

I even found a REAL cycling shop in one of the crevices of the town, proceeded to talk with the shopkeeper IN ITALIAN (thank you very much) about cycling, and left with this cool Italia cycling kit at a hugely discounted price.

I was pretty excited. So was The Box, as I dragged him into the shop and then proceeded to squeal with delight at the selection of Italian spandex. The Box, as you might imagine, is opposed to spandex, unless it's being used to encase sausage.

And speaking of food - we haven't yet spoken of PIZZA.  We go all the way to Italy, and no talk (yet) of pizza. To be fair, we didn't visit Naples or Rome...two of our favorite cities for pizza. Pizza is traditionally a Southern Italian food. But pizza can be found everywhere. And we found some quality examples at Pizzeria Carillon on the Bellagio harbor.

I asked John for his notes on our pizza experience, and he supplied the following:

Brick Oven. Floppy, Runny, that is all I have. (via gchat)

Ummmm, yeah. John's lack of verbosity should not be confused with a lack of enthusiasm. In fact, we very much enjoyed our pizza, and his notes hit the nail on the head. Besides, who can talk or note-take when you have your cheeks full of oven-toasted pizza pie?

Brick oven? Check. The crusts were nicely charred and crispy, but still retained....wait for it....

that FLOPPY, squishy-bready quality that is characteristic of Neapolitan pizza crusts. 

And they were mildly RUNNY – also a Neapolitan feature. The centers of the pie are JUST cooked. Picking up a slice often encourages the tip of the pizza to droop and contents to sliiiiiiiide gently from bread to plate. Not a bad thing. The featured pepperoni pie above had just the right amount of grease and merged perfectly with the mozzarella cheese.

This above number was quite tasty with copious amounts of fresh basil and sweet cherry tomatoes. You will also notice from the fork and knife photos above that the pizzas were not pre-sliced. Points for authenticity on that one. Italians don't slice their pizza, because then they can't "fold and go"... pizza was one of the original "to-go" foods. 

Let's pause a moment for the flop shot...a piece of pepperoni droops perilously on the tip, only to be devoured moments later by John's watering chops.

A sign of a well done pizza lunch: the pizza swop. John, Marmo and I frequently traded slices, looking for just one more bite of each other's variations. 


The Iaciofano's Go To Naboo, I mean Lenno...

Although we were sad to leave Verona, we were anticipating with much enthusiasm the adventures that awaited us in Lake Como.
Our fearsome foursome took up temporary residence in Tremezzo, one of the towns circling the lake. Travel from town to town happens by boat on Lake Como, so the Iaciofano's heaved-to and set sail for Lenno one rainy day.
Our main purpose in visiting Lenno was to see the Villa Balbianello, an impressive estate that you may recall from such films as Star Wars (I forget which – one of the new films with that Jar Jar creature), and Casino Royale.
In order to get to the villa, we had to trek through a couple miles of woodsy terrain. I very much enjoyed this, even in the rain, but The Box was not a fan. 
"Are we there yet?" He'd ask... and, "I'm turning around and calling a cab."
Needless to say I was not amused. I was, however, floored by the grandeur of Villa Balbianello once we finally made it onto the main grounds.
Impeccably manicured and coiffed, ivy coiled around the columns and the trees were manicured within an inch of their lives. We entertained ourselves for quite some time, until I got very cold.
Did I mention it was raining? So, we hailed a water taxi (one conveniently pulled up to the back door of the villa's grounds) and made haste back to the main center of Lenno, where in spite of the cold, we all had gelato at La Fabbrica del Gelato.
This wasn't the best gelato John had sampled – he much preferred the gelateria in Bologna. BUT it was very pretty, and they got extra marks for their display of tiny colorful gelato scoops.
Now I was REALLY cold. And the state of my hair in the rain...let's just say Marmo and I were picking up RAI Uno and RAI Due station feeds.
Also, we were hungry. Yes, we just had gelato, but gelato does not a meal make. What does is meat and cheese. And wine. So we headed back to Tremezzo and located a local wine bar, Cantina Follié.
Perched atop some bar stools, and wearing The Box's jacket for warmth, I commandeered the wine list. I selected the wine pictured below based on the label design. I do that. I'm a sucker for pretty design. Also, I was cold, hungry and out of patience.
Luckily, the wine proved to be delicious. Marmo and I started to calculate U.S. shipping as we devoured a plate of local meats and cheeses, included a personal favorite formaggio of mine: TALEGGIO.
Stuffed full of meat, cheese, wine and gelato, we headed back to our hotel for.... a NAP.
Hey, we needed to conserve energy for dinner. 



Verona, Part the First

After rejoining the rest of the Iaciofano's in Bologna, all four of us made haste to the train station and headed to Verona.

I have to admit to being a bit disoriented, having just spent four days biking in France and getting blown over by hurricane-force winds. I kept saying "frommage" instead of "formaggio" and I couldn't get my outfits right.

Verona is a beautiful city. A combination of Medieval and Roman architecture, it's a feast for the eyes. 

We made camp at the Due Torre Hotel. Marmo scored us some prime suites with a balcony!

We were just a short skip away from the Piazza delle Erbe...and some serious shopping. And eating. Have I talked about the eating yet? I'm gettin' there, don't worry. Before there is food, there are usually some antics. You have to work up an appetite by doing something... 

So first, we visited Juliet's (of Shakespeare fame) house to find a place to put our used gum...

And then we made our way to the Roman theater surrounding the city center to check out some quality ruins, and play amongst the archways.

And then we got lost. So The Box had to pull out the map and both sets of his glasses.

Getting lost makes me hungry. So I suggested we forgo the usual tourist-infested, open-air panini cafe's and find something local. We found something local while I was getting everyone lost running them around the Verona looking for a cycling shop. Which we eventually found, along with a fancy wine bar - Osteria del Bugiardo.

The Osteria looked very local. There were no Americans inside. I could tell. This made The Box nervous. Things "outside the box" generally make The Box nervous. But I convinced him with the promise of cured meats and cheeses and perhaps even beer that it would be worthwhile.

Well, they were out of beer.

But they had wine! And LOTS of meat and cheese. I suggested to our server using my elementary Italian and some all-encompassing hand gestures (Italians love hand gestures), that we wanted enough meat and cheese for four people, a crostini sampler plate and some local wine.

Our server wandered away with what I hoped was our order (The Box was still wary at this point, perched atop his high bar stool like an owl on high alert). At this point, he and John started sketching diagrams of the perfect golf swing onto the kraft paper placemats.


And then came the crostini!

Some of these were unidentifiable! Others were just strange, like the purple one which turned out to be a cabbage slaw type of thing. All were really good! Seriously. I have not, however, developed a taste for anchovies, so that particular crostini didn't appeal to me.

This was just a precursor to the awesomeness that lay ahead in the form of:


Not a scrap of either remained. Iaciofano's young and old devoured them all....diagrams of golf physics lay forgotten underneath piles of LARDO. Yes, my favorite meat butter made an appearance on this platter. This particular version tasted slightly smoky. It was expertly seasoned with fresh pepper...and it just butter. The best I've had to date.

As for the cheeses, we were presented with a lovely arrangement of semi-hard to hard cheeses accompanied by a selection of jams. John preferred the raspberry, while I fought Marmo for the pear flavor.

The Box was now full of wine, cheese, beer, and some random crostini and acting like going to the wine bar was his idea all along.

He does that, get used to it.

As for the rest of us, we were ready to go get lost all over again, in an effort to work up an appetite for dinner...