WHAT A YEAR. We almost can’t believe it happened. We almost can’t believe we survived. But it did. And we did. (Woot!) If we’ve learned nothing else this year, we learned the importance of taking life each day at a time. Piano, piano as the Italians would say. And that when times get tough… it helps to have gelato close at hand.
We love all the “Best Of” lists that start appearing at the end of each year — like this year’s Best Books, Best Food Books, Best Book Cover Designs, Bill Gates’ Favorite Books, Best Meals, and Funniest AutoCorrects — so we couldn’t resist doing a Year in Review of our own. Below you will find our 2012 Superlatives, our Year in Photos, and Places We’ve Been in 2012.
We’ve visited so many great places and eaten so many great things in 2012, making this section impossibly difficult. In most cases, we just had to randomly choose one thing among several favorites (and in same cases, we still couldn’t choose).
L: Elba Island. Good beaches. Relaxing. And we saw Shakira.
A: We did not see Shakira. Though she was on Elba the same week as us. This is an impossible question, but I’ll say our trip to the Tre Cime. I had been curious about staying in an Italian mountain rifugio and this trip exceeded my expectations.
L: Osteria Francescana in Modena. Where else can you find a foi gras popsicle filled with balsamic vinegar?
A: Biagi in Bologna. I have had a great time every time I’ve eaten here. They are most famous for their tortellini in brodo. They also give you a couple of free appetizers before your meal. I love restaurants off the main drag and small family-run joints with only one waiter, especially when the waiter is a little cooky.
L: Can gelato be a dish?
A: Tagliatelle al ragù, Bologna’s signature dish, which is good at just about any restaurant in Bologna.
Most embarrassing moment
L: Getting our car towed our first week here.
A: Saying tette (tits) instead of tetti (roofs) and then ano (anus) instead of anno (year) in front of a ten year-old Italian girl.
Best lesson learned
L: Don’t drive in the ZTL.
A: Other than the lesson I mentioned in the opening, I learned that speaking Italian (even terrible Italian) goes a long way to enhance your time in Italy. Your efforts will be rewarded with special encounters with waiters, strangers on the train, and much more. Don’t be scared, just say something.
Favorite Italian phrase
L: In boca al lupo (literally translates to “in the wolf’s mouth” but is used for “Good luck”).
A: Va bene (or for short, Va be). This means “OK” or “that’s fine” and can be used in response to almost anything.
L: The raw anchovies that gave me food poisoning.
A: Lardo: basically sliced pig fat. It doesn’t actually taste all that bad, but it’s just not appetizing for me.
L: Our Day 2 hike at Corno alle Scale.
A: This is an especially tough one, but I’m going to pick our hike from Portofino to San Fruttuoso. I’m a sucker for hikes that lead you to water and let you ride the ferry home.
L: Sansone beach on Elba Island.
L: A friend’s former farmhouse in Portofino. It helped that it came with friendly Italians willing to cook for us.
A: I love staying somewhere with a kitchen so that you don’t have to eat out every meal. The apartment where we stayed in Rome with my parents was great for this. It felt like home, but was right around the corner from the Colosseum. Casa Felici on Elba Island was also a great find. We had a 2-bedroom apartment with kitchen and a great space for eating outdoors.
L: Pretending that we ran out of gas on Elba Island.
A: Hmmm… took me awhile to laugh at the gas incident. Though I did immediately laugh the time that our waiter at Osteria al 15 dropped a fake fruit cake on Luke’s lap. I also got a good chuckle seeing my parents practically run back to the train station in Naples after we tried walking towards the city center. And the image of Squinty, a cat at our house-sitting gig, getting his head stuck in a can of cat food will forever be imprinted in my brain and make me smile.
Most frustrating moment
L: Sitting through a six hour video about the Italian Constitution and Civic Life in order to get my permesso di soggiorno.
A: Having one of my visitors get pick pocketed in Bologna. (I WILL find you, Zingare.)
Thing missed most from the US
A: Puffins & Pad Thai (not together of course).
Favorite spot in Bologna
L: Giardini Margherita. I like to go for runs there and then grab a coffee at the Garden BO.
A: Piazza Santo Stefano. It’s less crowded than Piazza Maggiore, but you can always find people there, just simply sitting outside and chatting with friends. I have to mention my runner up: Parco San Pellegrino. It’s a bit of a hike from the city center, but offers a great view of the city and of Bologna’s San Luca.
Best gelato flavor
L: The chocolate gelato at La Sorbetteria.
A: I tend towards granita, Italy’s slushly-like dessert made from real fruit. One of my favorites is the almond (mandorla) granita at Stefino.
Favorite Italian custom
L: Coffee breaks.
A: I love the restaurant culture in Italy. The waiters aren’t working for tips and don’t care if the tables turn. You show up at 8PM (or later) and your table is yours for the night. The waiter won’t bring you your check until you ask for it or get up to pay.
Best road side snack:
L: The bombolini from Autogrill!
A: I’m a snack pack rat and generally pack my own snacks for the road, but I certainly don’t mind taking a bite or two of Luke’s bombolini.
THE YEAR IN PHOTOS
We started off the year living in La La Land, aka Los Angeles, CA. In January we hiked near Santa Barbara and made our first trip to the awesomely, strange Austin, TX. (Austin photo by Aud’s Aunt Patty)
February included a brutally cold camping trip in Joshua Tree National Park & a sneak peak at the Grammy performances during rehearsals with a moving come-back from singer Adele. (Grammy photo from nytimes.com)
We officially moved to Bologna, Italy and got our first taste of fresh tagliatelle. The symbol of Bologna is the Basilica of St. Luke… coincidence?
April was a rainy month. It rained nearly the whole month. But for Easter we made our first trip to the mind boggling Ligurian coast. The shot below was taken in Manarola of the Cinque Terre. Is this real life?
Aud spent a month on the farm WWOOFing and we visited the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. It was also in May that a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the region of Emilia-Romagna near Bologna.
June was an action packed month (hence the two collages). We visited London, Nice, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We also participated in Emilia-Romagna’s Blogville project (our first official blogging assignment).
In July we had the privilege of crashing an Italian family vacation in the hills of Portofino, during which we hiked to the dreamy San Fruttuoso. July also brought our first visitors.
August brought more familiar faces to town. We followed the Italians’ example and fled to the coast for Ferragosto, visiting the Cinque Terre and Elba Island.
In September we fit in as many hikes as we could, visiting both Corno alle Scale and Le Tre Cime. We also explored the ruins of Rome and Pompeii with family.
October was all over the map (literally). Aud visited with family in Bologna and Venice. Luke went to Taiwan for work. Then we reunited in Oklahoma for a fun family wedding. As October came to a close, Luke caught one of the last flights out of New York before Hurricane Sandy. Aud spent some serious, no-electricity quality time with the fam.
In November Luke had visitors in Bologna while Aud spent Thanksgiving in NY. We didn’t take many pictures. Aud ate a lot of pie. Luke ate a lot of gelato.
December in Bologna was a pleasant surprise. The streets were filled with excitement and sparkling white lights. We also enjoyed some spontaneous trips that semi-effortlessly came together in the off-season. We went to Umbria for the first time, visiting Orvieto. We also explored Tuscany while house-sitting in Castagneto Carducci over Christmas.
PLACES WE’VE BEEN IN 2012
For those who are interested, and for us when our memories aren’t so sharp, here’s a list of places we’ve been in 2012. Most of these places we visited together; though some Audrey visited with Blogville, family, or friends; and some Luke visited with friends or for work.
Port Jefferson, NY • New York, NY • Avon, CT • New Haven, CT • Boston, MA • Yemassee, SC • Los Angeles, CA • Santa Barbara, CA • San Diego, CA • Joshua Tree National Park • Austin, TX • Tulsa, OK • Bartlesville, OK
Bologna • Modena • Ravenna • Rimini • Riccione • Porto Garibaldi • Verucchio • San Leo • Petrella Guidi • Santarcangelo • Montebello • Forlimpopoli • Urbino • Castiglione dei Pepoli • Ozzano • Lugo • Cotignola • Parco Storico di Monte Sole • Parco Regionale dei Laghi di Suviana e Brasimone • Parco Regionale Corno alle Scale
Portofino • San Fruttuoso • Santa Margherita Ligure • Paraggi • Cinque Terre • Portovenere • San Terenzo • Tellaro
Florence • Pisa • Elba Island • Castagneto Carducci • Lucca • Volterra • Sassetta • Suvereto • Massa Marittima
Dobbiaco • Parco Naturale Tre Cime
Zermatt, Switzerland • Nice, France • Bordeaux, France • Paris, France • London, England • Leipzig, Germany • Brussels, Belgium
Well, that’s a wrap. Thanks for reading this far.
2013, WE’RE READY.