AICW, COVID19 pandemic, Måneskin, Paris, Polpo, Post-pandemic travel, Torino, Venezia
Like most travel postcards, this one is arriving after the vacation is over. Things have been quiet on the blog, with only 3 posts published since May. Perché? Partly creative block, but also because I tried to make up for almost 3 years of no travel all at once. I did quite the epic job of it too! If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you already have an idea what I have been up to. Here is the short version of my adventures. More info to follow in future posts.
In June, my parents, sister, nipotine* and I attended a family wedding in Manfredonia. Read all about it in Un Matrimonio in Puglia. The rest of the weekend was full of post-wedding activities, including a long table meal under olive trees by the beach in Mattinata. We also spent a day in Polignano a Mare.
I took an unexpected ‘extra’ trip to Santorini to keep my nipotina Francesca company for a few days before she met her cousins. Who knew you could fly direct to Santorini from Napoli for €70? I had been to Santorini in 1990 and it is still just as breathtaking but more crowded and expensive. Bring lots of $ if you go!
On my way back to Puglia, I stayed in Napoli, since it is one of my favourite places. Finalmente, I was able to see L’Ultimo Caravaggio in person!!! Also more sfogliatelle.
The rest of my time was spent in Orsara di Puglia trying to stay cool. It was HOT! The mornings and evenings were amazing. My weekend camping on the beach in Mattinata was spent almost entirely in the water.
I had pizza one night in the smallest town in Puglia, Celle San Vito, population about 200. Papà says that is only if you include the cats and dogs, but he was joking…I think. The pizza was yummy! Apparently there are more than 200 people from Celle who immigrated to Brantford, Ontario.
Between Puglia and Greece, I ate a lot of polpo. Many photos were posted, and this one of Mamma washing polpo in the sink was popular on Instagram. Stay tuned for a recipe post coming up.
My last few days were spent in Roma, where I had to follow my own advice to Beat the heat-Surviving summer in Roma. My mission was to finish crossing all of the Caravaggio paintings in Roma off my list. I have now seen them all-except for the ceiling fresco that is in a private home.
I spent a day with friend and fellow AICW member David, who works at Santa Maria Maggiore for the summer, and I ate at a few Roman restaurants I had wanted to try. ‘Research’ was required for the post I am editing on Pasta Romana. My amica Shannon from the post Val d’Orcia day trip and I overlapped for 1 day in Roma. She photographed me crossing the street in style on the Gianicolo, and we made plans to meet in San Francisco in November.
At the end of July, I flew back to Vancouver to work and take care of my garden. I even managed to publish a post In my kitchen in Puglia.
The Association of Italian Canadian Writers- AICW conference in Torino was postponed 3 times due to the pandemic, and was happening the last week of September. My cousin lives in Nice, and she informed me that the high speed TGV train travels from Paris to Torino in 5½ hours. She knew I had never been to Paris, and suggested we meet there before the conference. A brilliant idea-the travel planning gene definitely runs in our famiglia!
September 22 I flew to Paris and spent 4 amazing days with Elia. I will save the details for another post. The TGV was comfy and the scenery through the Alps beautiful.
I arrived in Torino the day before the conference started, and met Lucia from Turinepi for a morning walking tour and Bicerin. The afternoon was spent at il Museo Egizio– the largest collection of Egyptology outside of Cairo. Torino was a pleasant surprise. It is walkable, has grand architecture and hardly any tourists in early October! Autumn is a perfect time to visit Piemonte, especially for the seasonal food….zucca, porcini, castagne, salsiccia, with tajarin and agnelotti del plin.
The conference was at l’Università di Torino and featured 4 days of inspirational presentations. Mine was called ‘A Nzalat d’Purtuall‘, inspired by this blog post. I made lots of new Italocanadesi friends and also Italiani who study Italian Canadian literature—yes, that is a thing!
Following the conference, the plan was to go to Venezia for 3 days. I have been many times, but the last time was 24 years ago! I wanted to stay right in Venezia, as I previously stayed in Mestre or went as a day trip. Things do not always go as planned. For reasons I won’t elaborate on, I left booking my accommodation too late, and could not find a reasonably priced place to stay-even in Mestre.
So… I took the train to Milano while I figured out what to do. I stayed with the new sposini from Un Matrimonio in Puglia and also visited other cugini. 3 cuginetti came with me to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana to see Caravaggio’s Canestra di Frutta and they may have been even more awestruck than me!
I did manage to find a last minute deal on accommodation in Venezia. It was even half price!!! I spent 3 days/2 nights in Venezia the first week of October, and no one got the memo that it was not summer! The crowds were crazy, but the weather was gorgeous. Everything required online reservations and lineups so I mostly just walked and walked. I finally made it to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum spent a day on Burano and Torcello.
Venezia was not only crowded, but definitely more expensive than the rest of Italia. it reminded me of Santorini. Gorgeous, but expensive. I can only imagine what it was like in the summer. I spoke to several Italian business owners and they are not sure if this year was a post pandemic exception or if it will be the new normal. Next year will tell.
The next train journey was Venezia to Foggia (6 hours). I spent 2 weeks at home in Orsara di Puglia going for walks, meeting friends for caffè, eating good food and just hanging out like a local. The weather was mostly really nice, but I did have to sleep with 3 blankets, as nights were cold and there is no heat in our little casa.
October 17th I attended ‘Appuntamento con la Daunia’ an annual event hosted by amico Peppe Zullo. Every year I receive an invite but am not usually in Italia in October. It is a Slow Food/Farm to Table type of event featuring speakers, tours and local food. It was attended by food and wine journalists, chefs, RAI, and other enogastronomic types. Read more about it in my next post.
The final train journey was to Roma where I mostly visited with friends. 2 places I had not been to since age 11 were revisited-Ostia Antica and the Musei Vaticani.I also had aperitivo with the Italian Senate representative for Italiani all’Estero, On. Francesca La Marca. We met earlier this year at a function in Vancouver.
10 days after flying home from Roma, I went to San Francisco. Shannon and I met there to see Måneskin live at The Masonic. Read about them here. It was amazing and we felt like teenagers. Listening to a North American audience singing along to all of the Italian lyrics was so cool. We were glad to have attended this concert, since we doubt the band will be playing 4,000 seat venues any longer now that they are selling out stadiums!
This brings me to the end of my post-covid travelpalooza. If anyone is still worried about travelling, I did not have any issues at all. I do not have any travel plans right now, but I am sure something will come up! Got any plans? Let me know in the comments! Buon Viaggio, Cristina
PS My nipotina* Isabella gave me selfie taking lessons, so I practiced during all my travels. At the Fontana di Trevi I impressed myself, managing to capture the coin toss mid air and not cut my head off, while avoiding the 500 other people trying to do the same!
*nipotine can mean nieces or granddaughters. In this case it is nieces!
AICW Photo by Vincenzo Pietrapaolo
Me crossing the street in style-photo by Shannon Milar