Places to Go

Europe… Boats

Over the last few months (since Christmas!) I have been going through the fun but time-consuming process of organizing our most recent travel pictures for the “albums”.  (I guess I should say “photo books” – so modern these days…)

It has been a very slow process sorting through photos from weeks on the road in multiple countries with various cameras but every minute I spend looking at the pictures it brings me back to the trip, and I could spend every minute doing it with pleasure!

Some time in the last few months the author of a lovely travel blog I enjoy reading posted some photos of boats that completely stole my heart… the light she captured in her pictures brought back summer for me completely.  Some of our favourite “family scavenger hunt items” when traveling are boats.  As I discovered them again when going back through the (seemingly endless) photos, just for fun I thought it would be nice to post them all together…DSCN2771 DSCN3091 IMG_0598 IMG_0631 IMG_0632 IMG_0633 IMG_0637 IMG_0638 IMG_0639 IMG_0928 IMG_0929 IMG_1332 IMG_1693IMG_1220

G.Jr. was a boat lover on our trip too – wearing his captain’s hat he proudly saluted (and was saluted by!) sailors in the street.  (Sailors are a common sight in the many port towns around the Adriatic…)  Maybe he has a little sailor in him, passed down from his Papa.


I hope you enjoyed looking at the boat shots as much as I have… they put me in the mood for another adventure.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” (Louisa May Alcott, Little Women)

Places to Go

Europe… Street Art

For the last few days I have been reminiscing about our summer holiday and posting some fun photos of our traditional family scavenger hunts (food, cars…) but this  post might be my very favourite… On this last trip, more than any other, I was struck over and over by the abundance of informal “street” art everywhere we went.  By the end of the summer all of us were joining in the search and sharing our discoveries.

For your entertainment:


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Firenze…(Art installation)

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(Street Art)

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(Renaissance paintings – reimagined with a scuba theme?)

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(Altered Street Signs)

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Have you noticed any amazing urban art lately?  I am loving the way it surprises me in unexpected places…

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” (Edgar Degas)

Places to Go

Europe…Vintage Cars

Another one for the car lovers in our midst… I have  been a fan of vintage European cars since before they were vintage – as we are aging together I think it’s important to give them some well deserved love and attention.  Of course, for a North American girl, the best way to find European vintage is to visit Europe!  As we travelled around this summer I was thrilled to see so many well cared for classics out and about as daily drivers.  For your entertainment: In Grisignana… IMG_0851 IMG_0868 In Rovigno… IMG_1265 In Pola… IMG_1485 In Buie… IMG_1506 IMG_1762 IMG_1791 IMG_1794 IMG_1797 In Firenze… IMG_2471 IMG_2472 IMG_2649 In Pisa… IMG_2768 Driving north (the further north we went, the more volkswagens we saw…) a gorgeous Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus with a split window coming up behind us on the freeway… IMG_2824 …and heading off (maybe home to Switzerland?) IMG_2822 In Bellagio… IMG_2976 (Lago di Como in the background…) IMG_2998 IMG_3000 IMG_3003 Sirmione (Lago di Garda in the background…) DSCN3628 In Trieste… IMG_3826 IMG_3829 IMG_3942 IMG_3946 …and in Renata and Ferruccio’s garage in Cranzetti.  I am hopeful that they will lend this one to me next time… IMG_3995 Looking through these photos is making me wish for spring time weather so that our own classic car can get out of the garage and back on the road!  Wherever your road leads you today, I hope it’s filled with fun and adventure…

Places to Go

Europe…Grocery Stores and Markets

Although things have been busy as usual around here, many of our friends and family are deep in the mid-winter blues and dreaming about spring… Whenever I get a moment of feeling blue these days I spend some time reminiscing about our summer holiday in Europe.  I posted so many photos that you might have felt like you were there with us, but I saved some special ones for just this time when I knew I would be dreaming of the next holiday.

One of my favourite things to do on any trip is investigate the various grocery stores.  It is extra fun to do so in foreign countries!  You really never know what you might find. Continental Europe has a fascination with English and uses it rampantly on random products. While Nonna shopped I had many laughs with the children trying to find strange and silly examples on the shelves. Also fun and fascinating: searching for unique products that don’t exist in our part of the world. Every place has its own specialty, and we were in the land of my favourites!  Bread, pastries, cheese, sausage, ice cream, wine… I was in love.  Every time we shopped it was like being in the best European deli ever, except it really was Europe… Delicious.

Fun with labels:

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Off the shelf options that are gourmet wish lists here at home:

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First sign that Europeans take their coffee very seriously:


Endless sangria mixing options:

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Pastry case from paradise: (this one is in Venice – the meringues alone are making my mouth water…)


Chocolate bar aisle in Switzerland: (very serious – do not fool around with less than amazing chocolate…)


Things I wish I could buy at our local:

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The largest (and cheapest) selection of wine and (Mr. Martini approved) beer:

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This five litre bottle of wine was 20$.  20$.  Why am I still here?!

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Grocery store takeout: (one million times better than the hot dog stand at Costco, and cheaper…)

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But the very very best thing about being a food lover in Europe is the easy abundance of roadside groceries…










These photos are just a tiny slice of a pretty wonderful  holiday – I hope your world has something delicious in stock to tide you over until your next vacation too!

Places to Go

European Farm Life…Finale


We passed our final days in Europe with visits from friends and relatives as our children cemented their status as real locals.


They participated in the tomato sauce making process (sugo, fatto in casa!) so for dinner we had a roast and pasta, accompanied by sauce from tomatoes which, that morning, were just growing on the vines in the fields. Amazing. The children spent the best part of their time “helping” with the canning in the yard, and ferrying the various parts of the process in and out of the cantina during sudden spurts of rain. One other highlight: a visit to the pumpkin patch, and then the required scrubbing of two very dirty farm children!








Our final beach excursion was to Zambrattia – a very family oriented beach with an easy lagoon for the children to play… Perfect weather as it was not too hot. We finally had a chance to bake the cold and damp of our northern adventures out of our Canadian bones!





We were back in Matterada in time to freshen up and head out for dinner in Petrovia at Kantina Melon. All thirteen of us this time – a great family send off.







I had to have the truffles.  The ravioli was perfect: stuffed with soft cheese and covered in shaved truffles. I soaked up the sauce with crusty bread to savor every mouthful… I could eat this meal every day and never be tired of it!


Still, I coveted Matteo’s volcano pizza. Next time!  The other options – especially  the meat platter – were incredibly well received all around the table…








We finished the day back in Matterada for grappa (gooseberry?) and evening conversation… this really is the good life.

Another day meant more cousins coming to visit, and then a special trip to the cemetery and a candlelight mass.  I hope my children never forget how much love was poured out for them in that tiny church…

After mass and a farewell visit with the priest we ran into more cousins again just outside. We said more goodbyes before walking home to find another festa underway – the sampling of the latest pride of Matterada: sour cherry liquor.  It was a bittersweet ending for our last night in the village…

On our very last day Nonna and Zia were outdoing each other in the kitchen. We ate all day. Pancakes and thick crispy bacon for breakfast, then a packing marathon to make all of our gifts and souvenirs fit. (Mr. Martini is the champion of the luggage scale, and eventually it all worked out although we have to leave some things behind… )

For lunch we had the last of the homemade food: pasta with homemade sauce and sandwiches with prosciutto, cheese and olives… More visiting friends and then a last minute visit to Cranzetti – I can’t believe we only made it here at the very end! Renata and Ferruccio’s garden was as beautiful as always.











For our last meal:  fried potatoes, chicken cutlets, bean salad, muscato… Apple hazelnut struccolo for dessert with ice cream from Trieste (my favourites: hazelnut and pistachio… ) and then one last festa out front with everyone gathered together and prosecco to toast…

Then – the saddest part of every trip – the long goodbye.

Our village-to-Vancouver journey had countless incidents and anecdotes too, but the most meaningful one for me was this – a quote I noticed in the movie I watched on the long flight home:

“To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain.  Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.” (Celine, Journey to the Edge of Night) (Quoted in the movie “La Grand Bellezza”… great film!)

This was the trip of a lifetime in many ways, and it is hard to accept that we are back home again with life “as usual” unfolding around us.  There were life changing moments every single day, and writing them out here has only made me more nostalgic for them – I am really counting the days before we get a chance to go back…

Something I am grateful for, although it wasn’t anticipated: the effect of Europe on my children.  The chance to see and live in a different place, with different languages, different money and different culture has changed the way they look at and experience their regular every day world.  It has opened their eyes and hearts and minds to the wide world beyond their own front step.  It has created questions and conflicts, it has intrigued and inspired, and most of all it has created a kind of curious empathy that is impossible to teach without real life experience…  They will never be the same, and for that above all else, I am so incredibly overjoyed, in awe, and overwhelmingly grateful!

Every voyage has a story – this was the story of one family on one voyage, and I hope that this is only the beginning of a lifetime of stories from all of us…



Places to Go



There are a few things that make this place completely different from our life at home.   Of course there are the giant fig trees growing all around, even in this “terrible season” they are bigger and more abundant than any I have seen.  There are the acres of grapes hanging from their vines, wild along the roadside or espaliered neatly in vineyards…


Then there is the fish truck that makes its’ weekly stop in the village.  Our children have become experts at recognizing (from miles away) and mimicking the loudspeaker calling out: “Ribba! Ribba! Pesce! Pesce!” and always run to see the spectacle. (Once in awhile the ice cream truck comes down our street at home but we never have a glitzy fresh fish wagon on our block…  )Of course G. Junior has charmed the ladies who drive the truck – when he runs out shouting to meet them they give him his own personal fish in a little bag.  Today Nonna was inspired to buy some very fresh and very local oradde which we grilled on the barbecue for our lunch.


The rest of our day was very quiet.  We are leaving tomorrow for a road trip and so we spent the day close to home  – just a visit with cousins in Giuba  and then the short walk down the street from their house to San Pelegrin church and the beach alongside it.



This beach has become very popular, and the locals have begun setting rocks in front of their little houses to prevent people from driving or parking – I was thrilled to find these very artistic interpretations dotted along the roadside:






Each beach we have visited has it’s own particular character… This one is the wildest we have seen.  It has some crazy beach going customers – crazy haircuts , (extremely) loud music and offbeat outfits (or no outfits…) But we found plenty to entertain a young family too: lots of beautiful natural tide pools in the rock, and a great series of “bridges” and “caves” to climb around along the water…










The tide pools made me think of giant footprints winding along the rocky beach, making magical homes for all kinds of sea creatures as they went…

An hour or so of exploration stretched our afternoon until the shadows started to lengthen and we knew it was time to head home – we have a big day ahead!


There is just enough time left in the day for a short drive home past the roadside fruit stand…


…past my favourite farmhouse…


…past the grand estate at Seghetto…


…with a look back at the beach and the sun setting all around us…


…in that dreamy happy place between one great day’s adventures and the promise of the next one just a good night’s sleep away…


(Post Script for Mimi and Cowboy: The cousins we were visiting in Giuba are the proud owners of this furry friend:

…which reminded me that I neglected to include this photo from our Venice trip:


…which brings our trip total to five Berner sightings, and we haven’t even made it to Switzerland yet!  They are truly lovable international ambassadors. We miss you Mimi!)

Places to Go



We have been in Matterada for over a week, and in to Umago several times, but we haven`t really stopped to visit the small city of Buie which is actually closer to home …


I have been in the town many times (this is where we found emergency antibiotics on our last trip for Miss G.`s sudden ear infection…) but I have never really explored.  We make the most of our discovered time today and take a walk – bottom to top, including the old church where Nonno Benedetto had his confirmation so many years ago, and discovered some amazing history along the way.


The first place we found was the old cemetery, fallen into ruins but incredibly beautiful and with panoramic views out to the Adriatic…


…framed by fragments of windows and wall from centuries ago:










Our next visit was to the Church of St. Mary of Mercy, built about 500 years ago…



…and then we took the longest, windiest route we could find to the main square at the highest point of the town…


…with a beautiful medieval campanile…


(a venetian lion, of course…)


…and then the phenomenal church – St. Servelus, built in 1272, on the remains of a Roman temple.




Here is St. Servelus himself – and one of his great friends (St. Sebastian…)


…fragments of roman history…



After investigating every inch of the main square we wound our way down the hill again in search of shade and a place to play…



…stopping to photograph the windows along the way..








…and maybe an antique car or two – another family scavenger hunt item…



…until we found the perfect park to pass some time!







At the bottom of the hill below Buie there are acres of sunflower fields – I can never take enough photos of them…


We stop to visit cousin Maria only long enough to take a picture or two in her front garden – it is beautiful enough to feel like a park.  (Really!  This is her yard!)


To end our day we drive through Carsete – the bells from their campanile can be heard in Matterada and add an extra layer to the ringing of the hours.  (This is one of the things I miss the most now that we are home…)


Our very last stop is the tiny but perfectly formed town of Verteneglio – it has everything you would want in a perfect getaway: restaurants, shops, quiet places to pass the time…


Verteneglio is also the home of G. Junior`s favourite church – it is his favourite colour!





We ended our day of exploration at home with dinner barbecued by the talented Mr.Martini… Does the meat taste better here or are our appetites inspired by the air and activity? We are lucky to have crostille and conversation with the talented baker Ciana – (where does Mr.M. put all that food?) And then before bed: Ciana’s homemade palacinke (with nutella!) and MORE ice cream. The kids are in heaven.  We all are in heaven – and so grateful that our trip has only just begun.  Tomorrow: Venice!