by Sarah Kovacs
Every since I was a little girl I knew that I wanted to travel to Italy. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture, visit the country where my great grandparents came from, and most importantly eat everything that I could get my hands on!
The dream became a reality and on September 29 as I was off to Rome to meet a friend and start my Italy excursion. We first explored Rome, visiting the Colesseum, Palatine Hill, St. Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel, Pantheon, Circus Maximus and other Roman ruins. The city was so alive at night. The streets were filled with people eating gelato, feasting on 5 course meals, couples sitting arm in arm on the Spanish Steps, and the continuous crowd making wishes into the Trevi Fountain. One may have thought everyone was on holiday, but for the locals it was just a typical Thursday night. I quickly adapted to this Roman way of living and relished in eating gelato at any hour of the day, drinking wine with every meal, and strolling the streets with not a care in the world.
One night, we walked over to Trastevere for dinner and drinks. Though our dinner was amazing, the highlight of the meal was the complimentary tomato bruschetta. The bread was rubbed with garlic, lightly toasted and then topped with the juiciest tomatoes and lots of fresh basil. To top it off, our waiter insisted on us trying their special dessert which consisted of mini fried balls of sweet dough, covered in Nutella. We were so stuffed by the end of the meal that we were forced to take a taxi back to the hotel.
Next stop was Milano. After witnessing the magnificent Piazza Duomo, my palate was exposed to the most succulent mussels ever. They were served in a garlic wine sauce and the mussels were so amazing that ordering seconds was not even a question. The next day we walked the streets looking for a bar which would offer us the best lunch selections. After selecting a variety of flatbread pizzas topped with zucchini, mozzarella, anchovies, tomatoes, and onions and a olive baguette with brie, grilled vegetables, and prosciutto, we joined the rest of the lunch crowd and sat in a local park and enjoyed the beauty of the day.
Our next stop was Venice. It was amazing to be in a city that had no cars and was completely infiltrated by water. The streets were narrow but filled with activity and everyone had a boat. It was common to be sitting during dinner and have a boat pull up and dock right next to you. There were many little bridges and of course the famous Rialto Bridge. One of the most memorable moments took place in San Marco’s Square. Little did I know it was the local hang out for every pigeon in Venice. I couldn’t even walk without feeling their feathers fluttering against my ankles. After walking along Grand Canal, shopping at the local markets and visiting Doge’s Palace, it was time to hit Tuscany’s countryside.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast called Borgo Argenina, located in Gaiole in Chianti, right outside of Sienna. Nestled in the midst of a vineyard, I awoke to the sun rising over the beautiful Tuscany landscape. Breakfast was served in the carriage house, where we meet other guests and shared traveling experiences. The cuisine in Tuscany had to be the most memorable and favorful out of all the regions. From wild boar with tagliatelle, rabbit, ravioli with truffle brown sauce, lentils with lavender, gnocchi with a light tomato sauce and a ricotta spinach flan. We also had the opportunity to visit Badia a Coltibuono and learn the history of the winery and taste several of their fine wines. One our greatest feasting experiences did not take place at a restaurant, but on the steps outside of a local bar, eating a loaf of bread, a chunk of parmigiano-reggiano, a jar of anchovies, and juicy tomatoes!
It was bitter sweet when the journey ended. Though I wanted to get home and share my adventure with family and friends, it was sad to say goodbye to this beautiful country.