18 July 2009

on vacation...

If you live in Italy, where do you go for vacation? The funniest answer, it seems, is California, which we try to do every December for 2 weeks.

However, even though the summer is our busiest season for Bed & Breakfast and cooking classes, I usually try to find a few days for my daughter and I to have ‘girl time.’ In the past we have taken trips to England, Barcellona, or Paris, or to one of the amusement parks in Italy, but this year we scaled back and had our trip closer to home.

Our first few days were camping. Well, maybe that’s exaggerating a bit, as we did stay in a campground, but in a bungalow with beds and a kitchen. Not exactly roughing it! And campgrounds in Europe are quite different from the US in that, besides the essential swimming pool, they have a lot of services such as a restaurant, night-time entertainment, and fresh pastries and cappuccino in the morning. Of course, there are spaces to bring your own tent, but for such a short stay, I was happy to just bring sheets and towels.
The campground was Barco Reale , the same name as one of my favorite wines from Tenuta di Capezzana, the estate where my friend Rolando Beramendi and I started the culinary workshops in 1992.

Part Two of our trip was at the seaside. I had the good fortune to have some credit with a small hotel chain for a translation I did. We ended up at the tiny Sette Archi hotel in Bocca di Magra, a small port at the end of the Magra River, just south of La Spezia. From our room, we looked over the docks and up to the marble quarries of Massa/Carrara… splendid views. From here we drove to the Sarzana train station and took the train to the Cinque Terre to visit friends for the day, so easy and so perfect.

But, the thing that pleased me most was the feeling of stepping back in time. This family-run hotel was full of mostly Italians, and all of us on mezzo pensione, which included dinner in their restaurant. In a few days you knew everyone, greeting them in the morning and saying good night after long evening walks along the waterfront. No WiFi, no public computer without a drive of at least 15 minutes. Imagine that! Forced vacation! We rode our bicycles, walked, swam, and read books.

Ironically, at the campground book exchange, I picked up the only English book on the shelf, one I had never read (some of you know my habit of adopting any stray books in English that I find): Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands. This book once belonged to Minni from Boulder, Colorado, and I thank her for leaving it behind. It opens with a letter from Dona Flor to the author of the book, and her comment about how she learned to cook by cooking: “Was it not by loving that I learned to love? Was it not by living that I learned to live?”

Let us cook, love, and live, then!


  1. It is so nice to meet you and discover your blog and cookbooks and everything! We so dream of moving back to Italy! For now I can only dream through other people's blogs!

  2. Going on vacation like a European is one of the best things about living here: small hotels, simple routines,hopping a train for a day trip. You said (and did) it all! thanks for the reminder. I'll head to Cadaques in Catalunya for a few days soon; a short 4 hour drive from Camont.

  3. One of my dreams in life is to visit Italy with my 2 daughters. We are determined to make it there someday. I simply love all things Italian and I now have stumbled across your blog. Fabulous! It will allow me to experience Italy while still being across the ocean.