Fambam in Italy

The Italy Plan was formed a few years ago: take Nana Marge (my grandmother) to see the country of her ancestors. It would require lots of walking and many flights of stairs – bad news for a woman with bad knees, but a couple of years and a couple of knee replacements later, Nana Marge was kicking and ready to roll. The itinerary was for a three-week tour throughout Italy, all fourteen of us. That’s right, one – four.

We roll hella’ deep.

Before their arrival, I had been in Florence for a week, cramming in every bit of Italian cuisine knowledge I could get my hands on:

  • an all-day wine tour through the Chianti region,
  • 4 cooking classes,
  • and countless balsamic and wine tastings.

My family joined me in Florence and we trained down to the Amalfi coast for the first leg of our trip.  We stayed at a small, lemon villa right on the coast and visited the charming coastal towns of Maiori, Positano, Ravello, Sorrento and of course the Island of Capri. I got to practice some of my new pasta skills there in the villa’s kitchen.

 My brother, Sam, and I on the Amalfi Coast.

My brother, Sam, and I on the Amalfi Coast.

 Not a shabby view from our villa.

Not a shabby view from our villa.

 The family was buried in Italian food.

The family was buried in Italian food.

After a few days of relaxation in the Italian sun, we visited the ancient city of Pompeii and then dropped in for lunch at  L' Antica Pizzeria da Michele, in Naples.  Many consider it to be the best pizza in the world. Julia Roberts thought so in the movie, Eat, Pray, Love.

 Views from the ancient city of Pompeii.

Views from the ancient city of Pompeii.

 The ancient people of Pompeii even knew beef was king.

The ancient people of Pompeii even knew beef was king.

 L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, a landmark from the movie, Eat, Pray, Love.

L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, a landmark from the movie, Eat, Pray, Love.

 Damn good pizza.

Damn good pizza.

Then up the peninsula to the capital city, Rome. We took in the Coliseum and the Vatican along with every other tourist in the world.

Warning for those headed to Rome – be ready to fight your way through densely packed crowds in tight and enclosed spaces.

 Rome requires a lot of walking! We found a seat whenever and wherever we could.

Rome requires a lot of walking! We found a seat whenever and wherever we could.

 Sam and I at the Coliseum.

Sam and I at the Coliseum.

In Rome, we did the obligatory dinner at Alfredo’s, home of “the king of noodles” and Fettuccini Alfredo. The restaurant has long been a celebrity hotspot, indicated by the numerous photographs of stars hanging on the walls. It was my cousin Mitchell’s birthday and he was honored to dine with the original gold fork and spoon gifted to Alfredo by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.

 The birthplace of Fettuccini Alfredo

The birthplace of Fettuccini Alfredo

 JFK even liked the spot.

JFK even liked the spot.

Next to Venice where we dined at Harry’s Bar, home of the Bellini and Carpaccio – thinly sliced raw beef dressed in a tangy mayo sauce. It was formerly a hangout for expats and celebs including Ernest Hemingway, Orson Wells, and Charlie Chaplin. One night, Mitchell and I veered away from the family to visit the Casino on the Grand Canal – we didn’t stay very long, but we did feel like we were in a James Bond movie.

 The cousins taking on Venice!

The cousins taking on Venice!

 Beef carpaccio at Harry's Bar.

Beef carpaccio at Harry's Bar.

The last leg of our trip was a week in Tuscany at a villa near Montalcino. We did little day excursions throughout the countryside, but the best was definitely our time in Panzanno visiting the Le Fonti vineyard and dining with Dario Cecchini at Officina Della Bistecca.

 The family at Dario's.

The family at Dario's.

 We were given the seats of honor, right in the middle of the table next to all the meat.

We were given the seats of honor, right in the middle of the table next to all the meat.

 Sam and I visiting A winery in Panzano.

Sam and I visiting A winery in Panzano.

 We couldn't leave without a small tasting!

We couldn't leave without a small tasting!

As our time in Italy came to a close, we made our way to Milan, but not without a surprise departure to Sumirago. (the village where my nana's family came from)  As luck would have it, our bus broke down right as we entered the village.  All fourteen of us spilled out of the bus and onto the cobbled street - nearly doubling the town's population, but the best thing of all, as we were waiting for a rescue bus, we became acquainted with an old man on the street who, as you guessed it, was Nana Marge's kinfolk!  It was a wonderful surprise.

Our Italian Fambam was an epic vacation - a trip of a lifetime.  It was good to see my family after traveling alone for two months. As they made their way back across the Atlantic, I grabbed my pack and rucked-up for my journey back to the land of wine and cheese for some more in-depth training in charcuterie.