When our minds wander, they pack bags. (Introducing our Raves & Roves Blog Series – and new travel books!)
For our new Raves & Roves Series, we thought we’d start with Italy.
Because, well – must we really explain? Italy, people. It-alyyyyy. [With hand motions for emphasis.]
We’ve discovered along the way, that as a crew, we share a diagnosable, possibly contagious and definitely incurable case of wanderlust, which could be one of the reasons we work so well together – that kindred spirit-ness. Particularly at this moment, after so many weeks of being housebound per the powers that be, there’s nothing we’d love more than to spin the globe, eyes closed – and point. And then go. Peruse the markets. Smell the smells. Eat something unidentifiable, then tuck another different-something in our bag for later. Boldly barter using only our 7-word local vocab. Count out coins doing slow-math in our heads like 6-year olds. And request directions using mainly the universal language of charades.
We try to not seem too touristy, but the way we look at things is a dead giveaway. We possess an innate wonder and delight that’s a good kind of touristy and impossible to contain. And when locals sense our enthusiasm, they engage – and want to share more of their food, their traditions, their heritage and culture. Are there faux pas and awkward interactions? Yep. The occasional just plain weirdness? Oh yeah. But those are the stories we’re still cry-laughing about years later.
It’s a curious thing – how we spend so much time and care making our homes places we really want to be, yet still continually fixate on the pins in our personal Maps of Places We Will Go Someday. Our minds wander, hatching big plans to venture off to the far-flung – or nearer-flung if that’s all schedules will permit at the moment. When we return from each of those places, we realize it’s not such a curious thing, as home and away are truly connected. Intertwined in our psyches, a beautiful collage-y mish-mash of color and pattern, architectural silhouettes, and intriguing scents and flavors. All ingrained in our brains, with parts and pieces making (sometimes surprising) guest appearances in our work.
For Amy, Italy was where the cap-T, cap-O Travel Obsession began. When she was at Iowa State, they launched a study-abroad program with the option to spend Senior year in Italy. Hello, YES. It would mean missing AutoCad classes, which were a big deal as the world was just beginning to move away from drafting tables and T-squares. So she stayed on campus and spent a not-so-fun summer knocking those out, while eagerly anticipating the Roman Holiday – er “school year” – ahead.
This was big. Like first-flight-anywhere-non-U.S. big. She landed in Rome where she roomed with 2 girls from the program (3 more lived across the street). What stands out most about her time there (apart from a certain nearby bread shop), was a class. No really – a class. (And she’s not just saying that to convince her parents that she WAS actually in class vs zipping around all day on the back of some Italian guy’s Vespa.) It was a color study and students were armed with the Fab 4 (cyan, black, magenta and yellow), then shoo’d away to find 200(!?!) colors around the city, mixing the paint to replicate those shades. So they’d wander off and park themselves in piazzas, mixing and matching – but not really making anything. At the time it seemed tedious and annoying and not all that valuable since there was nothing to show for it. No quick-pull of the veil to reveal a smooth, hand-chiseled marble sculpture. No appreciative small claps or big-loud “Brava! Brava!” Nothing suitable for framing. Just colors. Yawner.
But to give credit where it’s due, that exercise in apparent tedium honed a skill that comes into play daily. Still. 20-some years later. The experience of mixing and remixing (the extended dance version) to get the exact match was an invaluable lesson in color theory. And patience. Basically, the wax-on/wax-off, Mr. Miyagi approach – but for color, not karate. Classes were Mon-Thurs leaving the long weekends wide open for jaunts to Paris, Zermatt, Munich, Nice – it was all just too close to say no to. And so it began. A lifetime love affair with the intrigue of travel.
Fast forward a few years (dot, dot, dot) – Josh and Amy meet, date (long story stashed away for another post), and have a wedding in the works with lots of details to debate about and decide upon. But the honeymoon plan (Italy!) was a no-brainer, with stays in Sardinia and the cliffside Positano. Fast forward a few MORE years – 18 to be exact (dot, dot, dot, plus a lot more dots). They made their way back again with their girls, making the rounds from the Amalfi Coast and Capri, to Venice and of course Rome, where they visited Amy’s college-days apartment and nearby favesie bread shop (still open and still ohhhh-maaaannnn amazing). There were tears. The I-can’t-believe-I’m-back-here kind. And she’s already scheming the how and where and when of a hopefully-not-too-far-down-the-road return visit (dates and itinerary still TBD).
Now, let’s hear about some other Raves & Roves…
Visited family, stationed in Rome with the UN World Food Program,
then hit Florence for a week.
Grateful for the rare opportunity to discover the city with locals eager to share all their fab insider finds – from (top-secret-no-tourists-allowed) hidden-gem eats, to the most history-and-architecture-adept Vatican tour guides, to the most Insta-worthy routes to wherever we were headed. We were in a constant state of grazie mille.
Couldn’t get enough of the mussels fra diavolo (apparently a big hit with 2-year-olds as well!). We hit a lot of hole-in-the-wall places (courtesy of Aunt and Uncle ‘reco’s), but our by-far favorite was Alle Fratte di Trastevere in Rome. (Is it weird to dream about pasta? We think not.)
Adored the way random passersby called our daughter “bella” every few minutes. She was clueless, but we ate it up like a big fluffy slice of tiramisu with extra chocolate curls on top.
Stayed in Sesto Fiorentino for a study program.
(Drop the Fiorentino if you don’t wanna sound like an out-of-towner.)
Fell in love with bread dipped in olive oil, gnocchi and maybe most of all, gelato. (Heart, consider yourself stolen.) Too many favorites to list here, but happy to share the Sarah-Approved List Of Amazing Flavors (SALOAF?) in person.
Didn’t know you could have beer at McDonald’s. Yep. Fact. Beer.
Was most awestruck by St. Peter’s Basilica. The architecture.
The tile work. The sheer scale. It’s like you’re half-expecting some kind of
live angel appearance at any moment. Un.Be.Lievable.
It seems like a cruel joke given the lockdown sitch, BUT we prefer to think of it as planning ahead. Or remembering back. Or a happy hybrid of both.
In the hierarchy of books, coffee table tomes tend to be the stars. The show ponies. The ones to claim one of the most coveted of display spots – the hallowed coffee table. And we’ve got a slew of fresh-from-the-publisher volumes to add to your already quite impressive collection. If your shelves and end tables look anything like ours, you’ll soon require a Dewey-Decimal’d card catalog system to keep track of ‘em all. Regardless, you need these. Your coffee table said so.
Created by esteemed art-book publishing house Assouline and designed with killer covers just begging to be flipped open, these sizable hardbacks cover a series of travel topics from the throwback delightfulness of Palm Springs (enjoying a renaissance the past few decades), to the quietly star-studded and oh-so-French St. Barths. In our humble though commmmpletely biased opinion, Italian Dream gets the prize for best subhead: Wine, Heritage, Soul. Say no more, Italy book. We’re looking up airfare right now. (Darn you, Italia. Why you gotta be so alluring? We’re trying to focus on work here.) Anyway, check out the whole collection here and see what catches your eye. Hamptons maybe? Mykonos? (Ok, we’ll stop. You look. Enjoy!)