Tag Archives: favorite finds in italy

wanted: italian tapparelle stateside

When in Italy a few weeks ago, I took note of some of my favorite Italian things that, for some reason, have not become popular culture on this side of the ocean.


I sleep the best when in Italy. I owe it to the efficient tapparelle that cover the windows (they go up and down either by pulling on a cord manually or pushing an up and down switch electronically which, from experience, is a celebratory way to start a day) and make a room pitch black. At home, blinds and curtains – even black outs – don’t keep the sun out and I wake early, particularly during summer. Italians transplanted here or on vacation will complain of rooms that are too light and how they are prevented from a good night sleep.  I am convinced, like the bidettapparelle is an item searched for stateside, but I have yet to see one dressing a house window. For a country that invented the personal computer and put a man on the moon, my neighborhood’s decorative, can’t-shut shutters on windows blasted with the hot California sun are an embarrassment.


I was as excited to see an Autogrill off the autostrada again as the Duomo in Florence. Seriously.  I almost cried. It’s a consistently quality restaurant off the autostrada (or highway) that will serve you a fresh, delicious prosciutto crudo and rucola panino and one of the best espressos in all Italy. While we have Subway for fresh sandwiches, this all-in-one, easy-exit-off-the-autostrada restaurant & store has also been our go-to place for replacing lost sunglasses or picking up the latest newspaper.

Latte Vending Machines

This trip is the first time I stumbled upon a vending machine for fresh milk. I found one just outside the train station in Desenzano on Lago di Garda. Stepping out of the train, my kids plugged their noses and I smelled what I thought were cows. My guess was right. The milk, we were told by a local, comes from the cows in the area. We have 24 hour convenience and grocery stores but I’d choose the fresh, local latte vending machine any time.

Finally, the machine used at the Italkmark grocery store deli to cut meats like prosciutto crudo is different than here, and I continue to wonder if it’s operator error or the machine that cuts of prosciutto just plain wrong, even in the fanciest American grocery store.  There’s nothing worse than walking out with fifteen dollars worth of too thickly sliced proscuitto crudo. But I’ll save that for another day.


top 3 new experiences this spring in Italy

On our trip back to Italy last month, we walked a lot down memory lane – visiting our old apartments, old jobs, old friends, favorite beaches, buildings, bars and restaurants. The children were gracious, my oldest posing in front of the hospital she was born and standing on the lungolago for a picture where I strolled her endlessly years ago.

But what was equally enjoyable was the creation of new memories with our children through new experiences in an old country with endless things to discover.

Three of our favorite new Italian finds this Spring include:

Visiting the Madame Fisscher exhibit at Palazzo Grassi, Venice (through July 15, 2012)

Even if you are not a contemporary art fan or have had enough of Venice (but is that possible in the city that never gets old?), it may be worth visiting this exhibit if only to  enter the breathtaking Palazzo Grassi for the first time.

From the brochure, “The exhibit offers a journey through Urs Fischer’s artistic career from the nineties to today.  His work, characterized by humor, penchant for paradox and virtuosity of execution, employes simultaneously an extraordinary diversity of media and materials.  It calls into question the history of art and sculpture, our relationship to the body, the notion of time and the status of the object.”  Our favorites include “Untitled”,  two men in candle wax allowing visitors to witness the transformation as the flame burns (the head representing Fischer himself had fallen into his hands when we were there) and the idea of the importance of all processes of transformation, the body’s endurance and duration of artwork; Jeff Koons monumental pink “Balloon Dog” (which is used to contrast a nearby Fischer work);  “A Light Sigh is the Sound of my Life”,  an enormous sphere, slowly rotating on itself made of different materials (what looked like skin and hair). My daughter also gave a thumbs up to the “floating” cigarette box  hung by a thin wire from the ceiling while the naked professional model/woman in the “Necrophonia” room was a surprise.

Eating at GustaPizza, Florence

Near Piazza Santo Spirito in Florence I ate some of the best pizza I’ve had in central and northern Italy. Our friend who lives in the area introduced it to us. Delicious and affordable,  my pizza came with rucola and grana (above) while the kids had Margherita. If you are traveling in the area this summer, this casual restaurant is not to miss.

Renting a motorboat, Lago di Garda

All the years we lived on the lake, while we enjoyed its stunning water by ferry-boat and swimming, it’s hard to believe we never rented a boat. On the lungolago in our old village of Toscolano Maderno, you can rent a motor boat for an hour for 75 euros. While a splurge for us, the kids agree it was one of the best activities we chose to do on the trip. The views of the villas and castles and mountains lining the coast are best experienced by boat. The boats go fast enough to feel the thrill of bumping over small waves and wind through the hair.