Monday, August 30, 2010

Free Concert!

Ever go to a concert where you have no idea who the musicians are but it's free so you say, why not?! Then after the concert you find out it was two of some of the most famous singers in Italy! Ever have that happen to you? It happened to me last night. A girlfriend called me up as I was just settling down to a vintage episode of CSI: Miami. "Come down", she said we are just outside your house going to the free concert put on by the Democratic Party of Italy. "Why not" I said and grabbed my camera and keys and headed down to meet them. It's not until after the show that I learned who I had just seen. Here is a little blurry video I took:

Turns out I had been watching Lucio Dalla and Francesco de Gregori which in Italy is the equivalent of me saying that I just saw Mick Jagger and Bono playing a few of their hits on stage together.Here is a non blurry video of these guys, they sung this song at our show as well:

If you were there tell me what you thought!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Here Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Continuing my Torino Tour Guide Series, here are a few of my favorite things.

Best Gelateria: Grom is the most known gelateria in Turin but after doing two gelato marathons and tasting the most interesting flavors the city has to offer, I believe that a tiny place called Vanilla is the best. They are a true foodies dream with flavors like cinnamon pear and barolo wine, fruit salad, and my favorite, caramelized figs and ricotta.
Best Pizzeria: Spacca Napoli, here you order your pizza by the meter which the equivalent of 4 pizzas. It is served to your table on a long wooden cutting board where you eat away at what feels more like a mile long pizza. There are 42 delicious piazza combinations to choose from including Gorgonzola, champignon mushrooms, and artichokes.
Favorite Piazza: Piazza Carignano, The history is so alive in this pretty and not too crowded square. Here resides, in my opinion, the most beautiful building in Turin the former Savoy residence Palazzo Carignano which is now the Museo del Risorgimento. In front of the palazzo is one of the most famous and oldest restaurants in the city Del Cambio. Inside the walls are covered in 300 year old frescos of chubby cherubs flying in blue skies. There is also a small theatre and the gelateria Pepino, where ice cream on a stick was invented. The pavement is made up of all brick cobblestones arranged into geometric patterns and there are two cafes where you can just sit and enjoy the view.
Best Street to Walk Down: The Roman Quarter is the oldest part of Turin and can make you feel lost in time when strolling along it's thin stone streets. But I must say that Via Mercanti and Via San Tomaso are the most quaint and romantic. It is full of cafes, antique shops, bakeries and small green grocers.
Movies Filmed in Turin: The Italian Job (1969), Heaven (2002)
Best Shopping: The Porto Palazzo Market in the city center is the largest open-air market in all of Europe which makes it a labyrinth of food stalls to get lost in. It is also the most ethnically diverse market which makes it an exotic market as well.
Best Place to Be Seen on a Passeggiata: Evening strolls are not just for your health but it's a traditional walk taken before dinner to see and be seen. Via Roma and onto Piazza San Carlo is ideal for it's wide sidewalks and portocos providing shade.
Best Restaurant: My bet for best restaurant in Turin has to be Caffe della Basilica. It is located in the city center right next to the church that holds the shroud of Turin. The menu changes every night according to the chefs mood, we rarely have the same thing twice, and it's always good. What makes this restaurant unique is that it is built on some Roman ruins. If you are lucky enough to get a table downstairs be sure and look down at the glass floor. You can see right down to the ruins which according to the waiters used to be Roman food cellars. The best appetizer I had there was a light and flaky croissant with a center of warm gorgonzola and walnuts. A wonderful second I had was veal roast slowly cooked in grappa.
Most Photographic Spot: Mole Antonelliana, or just the Mole to the locals, is most notable landmark and the symbol of the city. It is shrouded in some mystery because it was built in 1888 to be used as a synagogue but upon completion it was abandoned and no one knows why. As the tallest building in Turin at the time, it could be seen for miles but remained eerily empty for a number of years. The 167.5-meter tower is the highest work of masonry in Europe and it now contains the cinema museum. A glass elevator will take you to the top of the tower and that, in my opinion, is the best photographic spot in the city.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Don't Forget to Look Up/ Down/All Around

While walking around my city today I remembered to look down and found this lovely street art.
Then I remembered to look up and found the scars left behind from changes made of almost 2,000 years of history in Torino.
Old Door-New Door
When walking around the city I tend to stay focused on what errand I am running and look the way I'm walking, forward. Today I reminded myself to look up, look down, look all around. It's always worth it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Door Series #30

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Guest Blogger on Expat Explorer

Hooray! I was a featured guest blogger on the Expat Explorer. Check out the story I coped and pasted it below and then please do me a solid and leave a comment on the Expat Explorer post of what you thought of the story. I'm hoping to have an overwhelming response and they ask me to write for them again! Thanks ya'll!

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Chelsea Christensen

Today we’re lucky enough to share a new instalment of our Guest Blogger Series and this week we’re taking on the topic of expat relationships. So say hello to Chelsea Christensen an American expat who left her home country to pursue a new life in Turin and a whirlwind romance with her Italian boyfriend. Here on Expat Explorer, Chelsea shares a beautiful story of successful expat romance......
Interlingual Romances: Put Yourself in My Pants

The world gets smaller and smaller by the day. One minute I'm living in a quaint American ski town working for the local film festival and the next minute I'm uttering the words, "Yes, I'll move in with you!", to a dark and handsome ski instructor with a thick Italian accent. 3 months later I sold everything I owned and boarded an Alitalia flight bound for Turin, Italy. Love, and the prospect of adventure, will make you do these outrageous things.

Most of us Expats-by-Love only think about getting there and if you're like me, didn't think about what would happen after that. I learned a few lessons the hard way. One being that the key to assimilating into a foreign culture is to make friends. I started a blog to have a creative outlet and to share the funny things about living in Italy. After starting the blog I joined an online Expat community. I had no idea just how invaluable that would become. I have made many friends both online and in person all whom understand what you are going through. Plus you get to share funny stories with them that would otherwise get lost in translation. For example, once while having an argument with my Italian boyfriend, to help prove my point I uttered the phrase, "Put yourself in my shoes". As this was the first time he had ever heard that saying he looked at me blankly for a moment and then said, "Put yourself in my pants!" Needless to say the argument ended at that moment as I couldn't stop laughing.
Becoming an Expat is certainly not for the fainthearted. In college we had a study abroad semester in London and several of the students couldn't handle being that far away from home and would cry themselves to sleep every night. Those students didn't make it to the end of the semester and went home early. I have learned that if you want to have an interlingual romance, to avoid crying yourself to sleep every night you must make sure that the following 3 cliches are part of your personality.
1. You: Roll with the punches
2. You can: Expect the unexpected
3. You believe that: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em
By 'joining them' I don't just mean learning the language. I mean embracing the cultural idiosyncrasies. For example, here in Italy most shops close from noon to 3:30pm. Why you ask? So people can go home for lunch and take a nap. All of my American work ethics tell me that this is just plain laziness. Italians see it as a traditional healthy work day. After a period of adjustment and planning my entire days around getting all of my errands done either before 12 or after 4pm, I can start to see the benefits of an afternoon nap.

Then there are the days when those little culture quirks begin to make me question what am I doing here. Last month I started to think about where I would be if I had said no to that handsome ski instructor. Then I looked out my window and the Naked Bicycle Club of Turin whooshed by my apartment on their annual nude ride threw the city. I smiled and thought - life would be more dull for sure. So glad I said yes.

About the Author
Chelsea Christensen is originally from Park City, Utah and is now living in Turin. She regularly blogs about her exciting new life in Italy and is always interested in hearing from other expats and sharing their experiences. Find out more about Chelsea’s adventures, subscribe to her blog- All roads lead to Pecetto

Friday, August 20, 2010

Explore the Italian Riviera by Vespa

Below is a guide I wrote about a weekend we had recently where we rented a Vespa and drove along the coast. It was a blast!

Along the northern coastline of Italy there is a place where the mountains touch the sea. A place where the palm trees, pine trees and cacti all grow together in the mild climate and a place where the aroma of the food is so powerful that the Italians call it the fragrant kitchen of Italy.That place is Liguria.
Liguria is a rainbow shaped strip along the Italian Riviera that spans from the border of France and stretches to Tuscany. It's famous for pesto, focaccia, deep marine blue sea water, extra large yachts, and celebrity sightings. The best way to see and experience Liguria is driving along the coastline feeling the salty breeze on your face in a rented scooter.

In this guide I go over some of the highlights to see on the Levante side of Liguria which includes Portofino, Santa Mergarita, Rapallo, and Camogli.
Renting a scooter is easy in this part of Italy as it is the main mode of transportation for the people that live and work here all year around. Scooters, including Vespas, can be rented at many of the hotels, dealerships, and car rental shops in this area. Depending on the type and size of scooter you want, prices start at about 40 euros a day. We rented ours from GM Rent who, for an additional fee, will deliver the scooter to where you are staying and pick it up when you are finished.
Where to Rent:
GM Rent
Don't forget to bring your valid drivers licence, no matter what country it is from.

Port of Romance
We started the day in Portofino, the romantic and glamorous stomping ground of the rich and famous including Grace Kelly, the Duke of Windsor, Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, and where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton got engaged. This colorful and post card perfect tiny resort town is bursting at the seems with charm. It's been irresistible to the jet set since the 1940's and continues to grow in popularity every year. Every yacht here is bigger then the one before and every shop here is more expensive than the one before. It's an ideal place to sit at a cafe with a cappuccino not only to people watch but also to view the not so delicate ballet of parking the monstrous yachts as they come into port. Luckily for 2 wheeled travelers there is a scooter only parking lot at the top on the main square.
Where to stay:
Hotel Splendido
Salita Baratta, 16
Here the sign-in book reads like a who's who from old Hollywood to today's royalty. The staff have no problems telling you that the Spelendido is the most romantic hotel in the world. I might have to agree.

Painted City
Hop on the scooter and travel 5.7 kilometers down the coastline and you arrive in the town of Santa Margherita. Santa, as it's called by the locals, is much bigger than Portofino and needs more time to explore. I highly recommend tasting the focaccia here. If you had never tried the focaccia in Liguria then you have never had real focaccia. Made with fresh olive oil it melts in your mouth like a warm and salty piece of flat bread that is somehow soft and crispy at the same time. You usually know that you'll be having seconds and thirds after the first bite. Perhaps there is something in the water that makes it so good but it doesn't come any better anywhere else.
Another unique attraction in Santa Margherita are the pretty painted facades on most of the buildings around the town. Look a little closer and you will notice that many of the doors, windows, marble columns, and reliefs are actually trompe l'oeil paintings. Spend some time walking around the city seeing if you can tell the real windows with green shutters from the faux ones. These frescos are quite remarkable artistic works that you won't find anywhere else.
Where to eat focaccia:
Focacceria Pinamonti
Via dell'Arco, 24
Santa Margheritta

Go Barefoot
Travel 4 more kilometers down the coastline and you arrive at the town of Rapallo. Fans might recognize Rapallo as the sleepy seaside setting from the 1954 film The Barefoot Contessa staring Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart. One of the main attractions to see is the 16th century castle situated predominantly on the sea front. The small castle was originally built to counter the frequent pirate attacks which plagued this part of Italy during that time. It is now open to the public usually holding art exhibits.
Another highlight in Rapallo is found at the gazebo in the public square located in the center of Strada Lungomare. Step inside the gazebo, look up and see a delightful art nouveau style allegory painting on music containing homage to 12 different musicians. The painting, inaugurated in 1929, is called Il Chiosco della Musica or The Kiosk of the Music. There are so many details to see in these paintings and it might be fun to see if you can tell which classical musicians are represented.
Castello di Rapallo
 16035 Rapallo GE

Il Chiosco della Musica
Strada Lungomare Public Square

Relax by the Sea and Eat
Back on the scooter and 20 kilometers on the SE1 brings you to a seaside town that is pretty enough to rival any one of the 5 villages of Cinque Terre and that town is Camolgi. Here you can fill up your memory card with views of the rocky beaches and candy colored buildings. Climb up the steps to Castle Dragonara for the best sea views. I recommend stopping here to sample one of Ligurias most famous food inventions, Pesto. Il Porto Spaghetteria a restaurant who's entire menu is made up of all the different ways to make spaghetti including pesto and seafood marinara. Try your spaghetti plate with a cool and crisp glass of Vermentino, a delicious white wine that comes from the region.
Where to eat:
Il Portico Spaghetteria
Passeggiata Mare
Via Garibaldi, 197A
Castle Dragonara

End the Day
With the day winding down we decided to continue enjoying our Vermentino and watch the sun setting from the beach in Camolgi. You could stop here as we did or continue on along the coast to Sestri Levante, Chiavari and on down to Cinque Terra.

Touring the winding roads that stretch out along the meditterian Sea on a scooter is an unforgettable way to discover Liguria and an exhilarating experience you'll never forget.
(all pictures taken by me!)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mama's Boy

The following story is from the ANSA website, Italian news in English:

A suspected member of the Neapolitan mafia, the Camorra, has been arrested by Italian police after being unable to resist his mother's culinary delights.

Rosario Scognamillo, a 39-year-old suspected of being a high-ranking member of the Grimaldi Camorra clan, was captured by agents Monday while having lunch at his mother's home.

The man, who is accused of criminal association related to drugs trafficking, had been on the run since May. He may have thought his return home would not be noticed with many Italians relaxing on their summer holidays at the moment.

We all love our mother's cooking but and Italian son will risk his own life to get a taste of mama's ragu.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tried and Tested: Kofola Soda

One of the best parts about traveling is trying the local food. While Coca-Cola has mostly enjoyed world domination, before the Velvet Revolution it was not allowed in the Czech Republic. They produced their own cola which they called Kofola. Today Cola-Cola is found all over the country but Kofola is still the most popular and is sold on tap in bars and restaurants or in liter containers at the grocery store. When we were in Prague I had to try it.
Kofola is made with 30% less sugar then the other soft drinks on the market and has a unique mixture 14 ingredients including apple, cherry, current, and licorice.
Here is what I thought of Kofola. On my first taste I described it as sweet licorice flavored cough syrup. But then I remembered the first time I tried Coca-Cola, coffee, and beer, all of which tasted awful on my first try, and I gave it a second chance. The more I sipped it the more I liked it. I didn't miss the sugar in fact I really like it with less. You really have to like black licorice to like this soda and if I had to totally simplify the flavor I would say it's black licorice soda. It's for sure worth a try next time you are visiting Prague and my tip would be to have it with a shot of rum. Cheers!

Monday, August 16, 2010

One Night in Munich

What do you do when you have one night in Munich? Let me give you a hint:
There is only one legendary Hofbrauhaus. The biggest and most famous beer hall in all of Germany, a fact easily understood within one minute of walking in the door. We went for the food. We went for the atmosphere. We went for the music. But really we went for the beer.
My meal of Bratwurst and sauerkraut and potatoes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Prague: I Heart Mucha

Prague is a beautiful city. I can't say that enough. It's also my kind of city full of history, drama, beer, and art. It was also the home of one of my all time favorite artists Alfonse Mucha whom, lucky for me, painted on almost everything in the city. Prague is an art nouveau paradise, even our Hotel was an protected building, including the elevator inside.

Some highlights of Prague were:

...and Mucha:
Everyone should go to Prague at least once in their lifetime. Soak up the culture, listen to the Czech language (it's really beautiful, even though every one speaks english), and drink a Budweiser (the original not the American Bud) Dark and eat Beef Goulash and dumplings, it's ultimate comfort food.
That being said remember these tips before you go.

Check your bill. Our waiter tried to charge us for extra beers and we would have been none the wiser if we had not read the itomized version throughly.

There is no escaping the crowds so embrace it. There are 9 tourist to every 1 Czech (unoffical stats), I'm sure they love us and hate us for being there so you may never get that picture of the Charles bridge at sunset that you wanted.

Times by 4. To get the Euro conversion just times Czech mony by 4. For example, 400 CZK x 4= 16.00 Euros. 500 CZK = 20.00 Euros etc. etc. Exchange kiosks are everywhere in Prague.

Have you been to Prague? Leave me a comment.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

...and we're back!!

We've been on a road trip! We have just returned from Vienna, Prague, and Munich. Over the next couple of posts I'll share a few of my favorite highlights. First Vienna,

If you have ever been to Vienna (or Wien as it's know in Austria) then you know it's the city of Mozart, Klimt, and The Hofburg's but what I discovered is that it's also the city of the Sacher Torte.
There is a fierce competition between the many cafes to see who makes the best. This, of course, was a challenge we were happy to put our 2 cents into. The two most famous Sacher's to try were at the Demel Cafe and the Hotel Sacher.
First we tried the torte that the locals recommended from the Demel Cafe.
For those of you who have never tried this culinary delight, the Sacher cake consists of two layers of dense, not overly sweet chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle and dark chocolate icing on the top and sides. We agreed that the Demel Sacher was good, great even, but was a tad on the dry side. The apricot center was very thin so only a hint of the delicate flavor came through. One fab thing about the Demel is that you can watch the chefs in the kitchen making not only the Sacher cakes but also strudel.
Next we waited in line (in the rain) to try the Sacher at it's birthplace, the Sacher Hotel.
This torte had more prominate apricot, more chocolate ganache, and the dark chocolate square on the top was delicious. Hotel Sacher was the clear winner of the two. Plus we had it with a coffee with thick whipped cream on top that was so good I licked my cup clean, discreetly of course.
We did do other things besides eating cake like visiting the Opera House, Hofburg Complex, and the Stephansdom but really what I couldn't wait to tell you about was the Sacher Torte and whipped cream coffee!
If you have tried Sacher Torte feel free to leave me your thoughts and comments.
Next post: What cake did we eat in Prague? Wait till tomorrow to find out...