Thursday morning I left Zurich in car with my dear friend Massimo and we trekked 5 hours through Austria and Germany to Northern Italy where his family has a house in a small village near the city of Rovereto. It poured as we drove, but as we arrived in Italy – almost magically – the clouds disappeared, sun came out, and it was a brilliant day.
Before heading to the house we stopped at the small town of Malcesel. The views across Garda Lake were simply amazing. Cobble stone streets, colored houses with low ceilings, and gelato ice cream stores. Ah, Italy! We stopped for a mid-afternoon sandwich and people watched. Time and time again I am reminded of one simple travel fact: nothing beats touring with a native. Even though Massimo lives in Zurich, he knows his Italian and Italy.
We stopped by a grocery store to pick up some food for the next few days at the house. We walked inside and I’m immediately confronted with a huge section of bread. Tons of kinds of bread. All different sizes and smells and colors. Predictably, there were also entire aisles of pasta and olive oil. Massimo pointed out to me “the American section” – ie the frozen food section – and oddly enough there was a frozen pizza called “Big American Style.” It was your plain pizza loaded with toppings. Why would someone in Italy of all places by an American style pizza?!
The village I’m staying in is a true small village. Maybe 30 people. Everyone is family. The house is cozy. I read the Financial Times on a deck looking out on mountains (reminded me of Yosemite) and vineyards with Massimo’s most excellent jazz music playing softly in the background. For dinner, Massimo showed me true Italian cooking. we first had tomates and mozzarella (this is a universal food – I have it in SF, had it in Ireland, Switzerland, and now Italy). Great stuff. Then he made pasta with an interesting topping – salmon and all sorts of spices we picked up at the market. All throughout Massimo did his best Cooking Channel imitation. It wasn’t 5 star cuisine, and it wasn’t hostel cheap shit. Just perfect. Totally authentic.
In between course 1 and course 2 we poured through hundreds and hundreds of his pictures on his computer with Alicia Keyes, jazz musicians, and Elton John in the background. It was great seeing and hearing all the stories…including the many pictures he took when he was in San Francisco last year (SF is a beautiful city!). A couple glasses of wine, bread, pasta, and a pudding-esque dessert later, and I was feeling very content, and very lucky.