Poffabro ~ Origins of Me

My grandmother was the first one in her family born in America. The story goes like this: My great-grandfather, Dante, came to the U.S.A. with his family days before the stock market crash in 1929. A year later, my nonna, Elia, was born. The depression was terrible, the girls dropped out of school to work, boarders stayed at their house, but Dante stayed employed with tile and stone masonry. Life moves on, my grandfather met young Elia before he left for service in WWII, then returned safely, they married and had my father. My parents met in New Jersey, married and had me. The simple twists of fate align, but one part of it began here–in the mountains of Northern Italy–Poffabro.

This is the main square. My grandmother had this as a painting in her living room above the fireplace.

DSC_0211

DSC_0208

DSC_0255

The inside of the church was clean and pious.

DSC_0231

DSC_0232

I walked around and checked out the cute little village of only 200 inhabitants. This was the only cafè that was open on a Sunday afternoon. They were friendly and happy to help me.

DSC_0240

DSC_0210

DSC_0214

DSC_0265

DSC_0259

DSC_0280

DSC_0275

I had a local lunch at the only restaurant. It was tagliatelle ragù, and second was polenta, white beans and local venison, with a tasty German beer. I met some bikers who were enjoying a mid-ride lunch and we all chatted and made broken English and Italian jokes over espresso.

DSC_0241

DSC_0244

DSC_0250

These geese were not happy I took a post-lunch stroll through their garden!

DSC_0221

I finished off the visit in the forest, accidentally soaking my feet by slipping off the moss covered rocks and bringing home some of the mountain dirt caked to my sneakers.

DSC_0271

Last is Via Colussi: my family name and probably the street where they lived. This house was occupied by my ancestors in the early 20th century before they departed for a better life. It’s hard to imagine leaving this hillside village for the bustle of 1930’s Philadelphia.

DSC_0283

DSC_0289

A bit of a dream come true to stand in the square of the painting that hung on my grandma’s wall for so long and I used to stare at it and imagine what it was like there. Now I know.

Cortina D’Ampezzo ~ Fancy Hotels and Cute Dogs

CSC_0200

Cortina is gorgeous.

DSC_0062

DSC_0069

DSC_0077

DSC_0070

Its blue skies, green hills, grayish/brownish/bluish mountains combine for powerful effect. It was the site of 1956 Winter Olympics, as well as filming location for Peter Sellers’–The Pink Panther, Roger Moore’s 007–For Your Eyes Only and Sly Stallone’s–Cliffhanger. It also has that vibe of rich people.

DSC_0080

I saw a woman in black ski pants and an ostentatiously stylish fur jacket. Luckily it was off season, so I was allowed to pass through the gates of conspicuous wealth, as parking was free this time of year. The hotels must cater to this type of affluence, and they all look wonderful.

DSC_0076

DSC_0081

DSC_0103

DSC_0104

DSC_0106

DSC_0108

DSC_0119

DSC_0118

DSC_0114

This last one was special to me. My grandmother’s family originated from this area. My great-grandfather was an immigrant stone mason. The stone and brick work appeared so often in bridges, churches or walls, and looked to be constructed with strength and ingenuity. Check out the bridge in the background.

DSC_0115

People and dogs love a good walk, but somehow, in this town (and maybe the world) people really resembled their canine companions!

DSC_0107

DSC_0111

CSC_0201

DSC_0116

This guy, not so much. But, I introduced myself to this wolf and his body felt like one big muscle, and his fur was not soft like the others.

DSC_0112

Old ladies love the balcony people watching time. She was nice and smiled and waved.

DSC_0102

I took a slow drive home, stopped along the aquamarine lake, and stuck my fingers in the water. It was as expected, frigid.

DSC_0135

DSC_0145

DSC_0147

DSC_0151

DSC_0165 (1)

 

 

Laggio di Cadore ~ Into the Dolomiti

The mountains surround Udine in a massive embrace. They are pale gray in the day, and bluish in the setting sun. Jagged, steep and imposing are these baby Alps. The Dolomites are concentrated in a small corner of NE Italy. The people here speak Italian as well as the local Friulian dialect. The hearty local food aims to winterize your body with hefty portions of cheese, polenta, meat and wine. Once escaped from the Venice inspired and Austrian influenced realms of Udine, quickly the landscape changes. The mountains are now uniquely focusing your attention. They impart a sense of invigoration through their inspiring peaks and a feeling of relaxation beside their majesty. Hillside villages with smoky chimneys, each house complete with a fully stocked woodpile, fresh mountain water streaming from public taps, and the Evergreen trees cleaning the air all combine to form the magnificent smell of an alpine forest. I stayed in a petite town, Laggio di Cadore, with two restaurants and one church. This was the view from my room, followed by some pictures of the little town.

DSC_0031

DSC_0038 (1)

DSC_0043

DSC_0046

DSC_0178

DSC_0042

DSC_0171

DSC_0186

It’s puzzling, but, judging from the flags, somehow this house supports the racist southern past of USA as well as Texas, Australia and Friuli.

DSC_0017

The mountains were a never-ending source of prime photographic material. The colors of fall were just starting to settle into their yearly retreat.

DSC_0023

DSC_0057

DSC_0058

Lunch was a pretty decent lasagna (half veggie, half four cheese), cannolo, and wine. The last is something the guy was making called “spaghetti ice cream.” I was too excited to get my amazing pizza back to my apartment and eat it in front of the wood-burning fireplace, so no dinner pictures.

DSC_0033

DSC_0035

DSC_0037

Lizards are awesome.

DSC_0051

Cats are awesome.

DSC_0181

 

Where to Eat in Udine

Moving from the sea of Trieste to the lowlands before the Dolomites lies Udine. It’s the largest city in the province, and the only city in Friuli Venezia Giulia to have a professional soccer team in the Serie A. Recently attending a match of Udinese v. Parma, I was lucky enough to see quite a game, including an overhead bicycle kick goal and a home win of 4-2. After some exploring and eating, I’ve got a few pictures of this cozy little town with baby rivulets along the cobblestone sidewalks, the ubiquitous antiquities of anywhere in Italy and of course, some food.

dsc_0006

dsc_0038

dsc_0010

First is my new favorite restaurant, Gustoso. It’s located on Viale Ungheria about two blocks from the University Student Housing. They have plenty of grilled meats, but an unbeatable pizza with crunchy crust and gratuitous toppings. I order spinach on my pizza lately to round out the food groups.

dsc_0010

dsc_0002-1

dsc_0002

Next is a fantastic place, sitting beside the little city creek in an old wooden building, with an almost unpronounceable name, Osteria Ghiacciaia (Via Zanon 13). I went for dinner around 8:30 and they were fully packed by the time I left an hour or so later with a waiting list outside. Well priced and delicious. I had the papardelle with ragu and the classic Friulian dish of Frico (Montasio cheese with potatoes) coupled with the always rib-sticking and comforting polenta.

dsc_0015

dsc_0016

Walking home, I caught sight of some Italian women enjoying their evening. One with a wine glass, one with a cigarette, both with trouble in their eyes.

dsc_0004

This was a decent place, but overpriced, Aquila Nera (Via Piave 2). I had the spaghetti with radicchio and meat sauce, rather bland; followed by a tender tuna steak with some flavorless potatoes. For the price, I expected more.

dsc_0003

dsc_0008

There is a small restaurant with low ceilings but high expectations, Trattoria Ai Frati (Piazetta Antonini 5). It was recommended by Google and locals. Busy, bustling interior, loaded with knick-knacks and assorted stuffs everywhere, it felt like a fancy, but crowded living room. It seems to have only two waiters, both continually in motion. I ordered the gnocchi with duck ragù, and baccala (cod) with polenta, with a tiramisu dessert. The gnocchi was outstanding–soft, tasty and comforting; the fish was chewy and not well presented and average tiramisu.

dsc_0035

dsc_0038

dsc_0041

I like the idea of “down home cooking.” Google recommended Antica Trattoria Maddalena (Via Pelliccerie 4) as representative of such a style. A clean, modern appearance when entering, the pleasantly plump hostess, who inexplicably has a tiny t-shirt which exposes her rear-end, walks you up the stairs to the white linen covered and candlelit tables. Romantic but also not intrusive for solo eaters, I ordered the typical food of Carnia, (the mountainous region nearby) Cjarsons, (which are some kind of cinnamon dusted ravioli) and they were quite flavorful in an unexpected, wonderful way; and medallions of pork. Both were satisfying and pleasant.

dsc_0095

dsc_0097

Oggi (near Piazzo San Giacomo), serves up real good homemade gelato. They also have a fountain of chocolate to sprinkle onto their cones before serving.

dsc_0048

dsc_0104

Udine sits under the Dolomites. They are very present, except on the cloudy days, when they become invisible but always palpable.

dsc_0091

European Car Emblems

If you chose a car based on the emblem on the crest of its hood, which would you choose? Pretend you knew nothing about the car, where it was made, how much it cost, the cultural significance of its brand. And simply choose your favorite based on what information you get from the symbol used to proclaim its name. (Please ignore my reflection in the shinier ones, couldn’t be helped.)

csc_0081

dsc_0010

dsc_0011

dsc_0013

dsc_0014

dsc_0015

dsc_0016

dsc_0020

dsc_0021

dsc_0029

dsc_0036

dsc_0037

dsc_0039

dsc_0041

dsc_0043

dsc_0050