Someone told me that when I returned from my Italy vacation, I would be transformed.
They were right.
As I begin to write this post, I am still here, but for only about 15 more hours.
There is so much to share that I can’t possibly do it all in one post. But I hope that with each one, that I can convey to you, what I saw and experienced and that you too will be transformed.
Many of you know that this is my first time traveling to Italy and I went with a very special tour arranged by Adam Japko who owns Esteem Media and runs the Design Bloggers Conference.
The trip was entitled Italy Design and Wine.
Here’s the deal.
I realize that I’m a bit of a freak, but I’m not really much of a wine drinker; not really much of a drinker– period. If I never had another glass of wine, I would not feel at all deprived. If it was popcorn you were taking from me, I would be upset and foaming at the mouth.
So, while not particularly fond of wine, I do get it when someone loves a food or a drink. I love anyone who feels passionate about something as long as it’s a positive thing and not hurting anyone else.
And believe me, these people are phenomenally passionate about their wine. I respect that immensely.
I also discovered that I truly enjoyed many of the wines I sampled. But that isn’t one of the three things I discovered during my trip to Italy. In truth, it’s a lot more than three things. However, there are three things that stand out and they are all related to the food.
From the moment I stepped foot inside my first water taxi on the first canal in Venice, I knew that I was someplace magical. (please note: All photos are mine unless otherwise noted.)
We arrived at a lovely time of year that is busy but not with the insane crowds that will be soon encroaching on Venice.
The first evening we were treated to a lovely reception of local Italian cheeses, meats, breads. Of course, wine and an exquisite medieval Palazzo in the heart of the grand canal, the main artery in Venice. Someone mentioned that Princess Diana would come here for a retreat. The main room has been beautifully restored.
The view after sunset off of the balcony. Pretty amazin’ ain’t it? Okay, I’ll admit, it did conjur up thoughts of Disney World, but on a far, far grander and more real scale.
By the time the evening had ended, I was spell-bound with this city. I will definitely be back.
The first full-day we left Venice for several hours to go to the immensely picturesque medieval town of Asolo.
If you go to Italy, it’s a must-see. Just trust me here.
Out of century-old buildings live modern and chic shops and restaurants. It was a little rainy but it only served to enhance the scenery.
Yes, those are mountains peaking through the clouds in the distance.
Dolomites Filini Garden
I got this shot of Adam Japko keeping things together. I love the juxtaposition of a 21st century man against the decay of old buildings and the couple in the distance under an umbrella. A happy, freaky accident.
Just beyond Adam is more lushness.
Hey. I’m on the plane now and have internet! How cool is that? Alas, I woke up with a hideous cold, but Advil got rid of that bone-ache feeling, so I will resume.
Alright or all right if the English troll is in attendance. :]
The post title is three things I learned on my Italy Vacation. And they are all related to food.
One, is that traditional Italian cuisine is exceedingly low in vegetables. And only once was any kind of salad offered. The last night, two of the women and I stayed back at the hotel and actually had a far more typical American dinner. We ordered a big salad which was not on the menu, served with delicious olive oil and balsamic vinegar; a little salt, pepper, some grated Parmesan and I was a happy girl!
Two, no surprise here, but we were given risotto at nearly every meal. It was always as a separate course, and usually the main course. Each one was delicious in its own way. But here’s what really surprised me. Three times out of the five, the dish consisted of nothing but rice in a sauce. In the US, there are always other things like fish and veggies in the risotto. The other two times there was only one other thing in the risotto. My favorite one had tiny bits of asparagus in it. The other time which was yesterday, had tiny pieces of pork and beef.
This isn’t one of the surprises, but it seemed that there was far more meat than seafood. If you’re a cheese and egg eating vegetarian, you might be alright, but a strict vegan would definitely starve to death!
Three. This one is really funny. But two times, we were offered little sandwiches, not on thick crusty Italian break (although we did have that on occasion), but on what essentially, was Wonder Bread with the crust cut off! One time, the little sandwich consisted of egg salad with large pieces of anchovy all through it. I can tolerate anchovies in very small doses, but most Americans will not eat it.
But when in Venice…
The second full-day of our Italian Vacation took us back to Venice for over-all my favorite day of the trip. This was the heavy “design day.”
First we were taken to the Bevilacqua fabric factory. Although “fabric factory” is not really an appropriate term. These are the finest brocades and jacquards – hand-woven in the same way that they have been for centuries. We’ll get to that in a sec. When I say the SAME WAY that they have been for centuries, you will get to see and hear exactly what I’m talking about.
This is obviously not my image. We came in on the water side and it was a rainy day but I think that this image is so lovely.
When you walk in, you find yourself in a kind of Belle Epoque Opulence– A small but elegant showroom featuring a gorgeous Murano Glass chandelier.
They can make anything you want, but it comes with a hefty price-tag. Although there is a range and some is machine-made, the hand-made fabrics are definitely in the “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” range.
Some of these fabrics are available at Scalamandre and Brunschig and Fils.
But just behind the beautiful showroom lives another world— A world that feels like you’ve suddenly stepped back 300 years in some sort of unexpected time machine.
Haha! Well, not 100% back in time.
A short video showing the painstaking process. It takes an entire day to produce the amount of fabric you see here!
Skeins and skeins of yarn, mostly made of fine silk.
Back out front, we have these two beauties who served as guides. To the left is Chiara Zanella who is conversing with Orseola Barozzi or rather, The Countess Orseola. Both are native Venetians and of course Orsie (as her friends call her) is part of its Royalty.
We hung more with Chiara and within minutes, she had enchanted everyone in the group. A morph of Sophia Loren and Ingrid Bergman, I kept waiting for Marcello Mastroianni to come sauntering in and Federico Fellini to shout, “ACTION!”
I chatted with both young women at the opening reception. Chiara is a former ballerina and now an interior designer/antiques dealer. Orsie may be a countess, but she’s as darling and down-to-earth as can be. They own an antique business together and work as tour guides for our Antiques Diva and antique tour guide for our trip, the amazeballs Toma Clark Haines.
If you don’t know who Toma is, you will shortly; it’s a good name to know. And don’t let the “diva” word fool you. She’s a veritable encyclopedia of what’s what in the antique world as well as fun, funny, and very un-diva-like, but still glamorous.
Adorbs they are– hamming it up for me!
I am going to end this post with one more place that Toma took us to before lunch. The Antichita Marciana Gallery. We were graciously guided by the owner, Monica. I don’t know her last name and I understand that she’s a very private and exclusive dealer. So, this was a tremendous honor and treat.
This exquisitely curated collection features many phenomenal Venetian pieces as well as antiques from all over Europe. The pieces include art, tapestries, tables, objets and lighting. Everywhere one turns is one masterpiece after another. The gallery consists of several small rooms.
These are some of my favorite pieces/vignettes.
Always happy to see a little blue and white chinoiserie porcelain.
A beautiful antique brocade
I found these bronze lamps to be quite extraordinary.
While there is much gold, there are also many painted pieces.
I adore this wonderful Chinoiserie corner cabinet. And yes, that’s a fire extinguisher. :]
Here’s a closer look at the fine detailing.
Can you believe that we are only a few hours into the second full day? We still had lunch and a fabulous trip to Murano and then capped the day with an extraordinary tour and meal at a boutique vineyard.
Okay, I am still on the plane. We’re landing in about an hour and a half.
It is Saturday evening and my cold has morphed into something quite nasty complete with a fever. Sorry if there are some mistakes here.