A Sabbatical-ish Italian Extravaganza

The return of the Chowgypsy.

And then there was that morning that I groggily woke up early in the Cinque Terre, looked out the window, and noticed an old lady hastily selling vegetables out of the back of her car. I think it was some sort of Vegetable Mafia coup. Vegetables are a rare sighting in the upper half of Italy, so I braved the storm of clamoring old Italian ladies and descended. 

After about four weeks of intensive gypsy-style vagabonding, eating, volunteering, more eating, and general exploration, I have finally settled for a fitting chunk of time in a place with a relaxing and open workspace.

With a mind that is as distractable as a kitten's, if there is no space, there is probably no work.

(No hard work, at least.)

The new digs in Tuscany. John and I have a cozy little downstairs apartment with a half-kitchen and loads of privacy.
Situations like this make volunteering absurdly easy.

My sabbatical has been filled with extreme/strange diets (ranging from quasi-veganism to a form of all-pork gluttony), a six-day visit from my parents, a seven-day visit from a friend, lots of ragu, at least 50 hours spent white washing walls, and, within all of that, visits to TWELVE glorious Italian towns.

Did somebody say photo recap?

cathedral tirano
Yet another stunning cathedral in northern Italy, the Madonna di Tirano, which dates back to 1505
Ancient carvings (from the Neolithic and Iron Ages) on the Rupe Magna at Il Parco delle Incisioni Rupestri in Grosio, Italy. Screw up your eyes and you can see figures at top right and toward the bottom left
A hike in Valtellina Valley's Parco Orobie 
Approaching Lake Como's quaint town of Varenna 
It's porcini season. Beautiful, beautiful porcini season.

Venice, the Disney World for adults. Note: this photo was not taken from a gondola. Stay AWAY from the gondolas unless you love wasting money.
Bunny ears: They never get old. Or do they?

how to sun dry tomato
One of my tasks at our previous farm was picking some of the ample tomato harvest and drying them in the heat of the greenhouse. Sun dried tomato much?
Eating one of the three entree options at Trattoria di Ermes in Modena: Roasted Rabbit (and the best I've ever had).
Bologna's Pasta Fresca, run by a mother & daughter team and serving the BEST fresh pasta and sauces...ever.
A well-served Italian coffee should come with a little glass of water for before-and-after palate cleansing
Visiting a Prosciutto di Parma factory with over 50,000 curing legs (more on that later)
Visiting a factory of the KING, Parmigiano Reggiano (obviously more on that later)
A real producer of Balsami of Modena (boy do we need to talk)
Dark chocolate, yogurt, and blueberry. Gelato art.
Meeting up with Sir Dante Alighieri on a walk through Florence. Are we surprised he looks serious?
Coppa, sopresatta, and prosciutto with a side of pickled vegetable sand marinated Bitto cheese.
A little morning surprise celebrating fig season (they're perfectly ripe when green on some species)
John and our visiting friend Kristen soaking up the day in Florence

Clearly we have some catching up to do.

Over the next few weeks I'll be sifting through all of the writing that I surprisingly have (mostly) been keeping up with in order to fuse them together with the surplus of unedited photos currently glaring at me from my laptop.

Hopefully I can make this deluge of memories into a few blogworthy forms, but it's going to take a little backwards time-travel.

Namely, I wouldn't actually mind going back to this time: A secluded beach between Cinque Terre's Vernazza and Corniglia where, apart from a large and awkward speedo-donned man, John, Kristen, and I had the Italian coast to ourselves.

Regarding the future, however, John and I are actually slated to return (!!) to dear old North America in November, which means (dare I say it?!), Chowgypsy will be Chowgypsying Stateside for a while.

What better way to avoid the oncoming end than to live in the past?

(I don't know if that's actually sound reasoning.)

At any rate, be a pal and travel back to Teglio with me, to the days just before leaving Paolo and Marisa's, and we'll careen toward the end together.

I ain't through with you yet, Northern Italy.

Stay tuned...!


  1. My father's friend sell fish by his car.. imagine that, fish! And like that old lady, he also lay his fishes and comes his loyal customers.. I think they get to earn better than those who are renting in the markets, and I think that's very clever. I love your photo list by the way, especially those food which are really enticing.. I haven't eaten a rabbit though., how's it like?

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