So, this may be TMI (* Mom, if you're reading this, that means "too much information" *), but most of the time when I travel, my stomach is upset. For example, even at my yoga retreat, an hour away from home, I find that my stomach gets nervous and I have a tough time calming it down. I planned ahead for this, buying medicine that can either speed up or stop any intestinal difficulties should they arise. Nothing ruins a trip like doubling over in pain before you're even through a museum line.
But there's something so different about this trip to Italy. I have been telling friends that it's a purpose-free journey; meaning, I've been to many of these tourist spots and museums and cities before, so I don't have any "must-see" items on my list, just a vague "well, if we get there, that'd be pretty cool..." feeling. No expectations. Just hoping to soak up some of the culture. Kinda low-maintenance.
Five years ago, Christine and I met here, in this house when we attended an art workshop, and so there's an easy familiarity in "living" here together. We both have some food allergies and are very sensitive to certain foods, so having our own kitchen is a great relief. Since we only have to feed ourselves - I don't have to forage for kid-friendly options or abide by anything but my own hunger patterns and caffeine requirements - it's super easy. Scramble some eggs. Cut an apple and some parmesan. Peel a blood orange. Mix some ricotta, cashews and ground flaxseed into frutti di basco yogurt. Saute some gorgeous veggies -- mini zucchini, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, cipollini onions, baby carciofi (artichokes) -- in some fresh olive oil from the bottle on the marble counter.
Yesterday, we went to the tiny family-owned trattoria in Cortona where a grandma cooks in ancient pots in a home-style kitchen and ate steaming bowls of pasta. I never eat pasta at home, but this (photo at the top of this post) was a bowl of egg tagliatelle, freshly made and topped with a ragu that, yes, your Italian nonna would make. As we ate, one of the owners' daughters arrived with a stroller and her 4-month-old baby boy Andrea, a couple of Cortonese businessmen arrived for lunch and then an expat redhead with her auburn-haired son, everyone making a fuss over the baby with the big eyes and chewable cheeks. The last time I was here, I had to squeeze through the tiny kitchen, navigating my way past the two grandbabies in high chairs eating their lunches, to get to the bathroom. It seemed like a good sign to me: there's no way a nonna would feed her grandkids anything less than the freshest, most delicious ingredients. Not being an Italian by birth, this was the next best thing to having a traditional family meal in my Italian grandma's kitchen.
And I feel good. So relaxed. My body is happy and well-fed. Abbondanza indeed!