Friday, November 25, 2011

Heading North - Rome, Reggio Emelia and Courmayeur

Our last morning together we drove Walt and Honoree
over to the Navy Supply Base to pick up their rental car.

Our great friends, Carlo on the left and Charlotte on the

The living room in their new apartment in Rome
We had a wonderful dinner with them at home

We had such an amazing time with our good buddies Walt and Honoree. It was hard to say good bye. But they were headed south to Sicily and we north to Paris. Our first stop was to visit old friends Carlo and Charlotte in Rome. Charlotte was my best friend growing up and lived almost next door to me. She did a semester abroad in Italy and fell in love, with the language and people. She and Carlo are Opera singers, soprano and tenor. She also teaches English, writes sub titles for movies, and tutors. He is now a Professor. When I received an early retirement from Verizon 16 years ago I took our two youngest sons to Italy for the summer. We rented an apartment in Rome and on the beach nearby. It was a magical time.
So we decided early we wouldn't spend much time in Rome but of course stopped to visit them. They took us out to lunch at Nino's near their old apartment in Via Merulana. It's a fantastic place and if you're going with them, Nino's a great friend, the food never stops coming. Carlo always thinks of one more dish you must try. I'll try to list as many as I can remember now, all on separate plates!; fresh mozzerella, parmigiana, cured swordfish, seafood salad, bruschetta, prosciutto, baby artichokes, roasted peppers, grilled prawns, fried calamari, whole baked fish, artichoke raviolis in brown sage butter, orecchiette and broccoli rabe, eggplant parmesano Neapolitan type pastries, coffee and liquors. There was more, but I can't recall everything. We pigged out, totally. The food was fabulous.
We did some walking that afternoon and in the evening Carlo cooked us a "light" meal at home. They have moved to a lovely new apartment since we last saw them with balconies overlooking a park. After coffee and pastries at a local cafe the next morning we had to continue north, sorry we had such a short visit.
Enticing doorways beckoned as we walked
down the shop lined main street, the Roman
Via Emilia

Piazza Cavour and the 19th Century Teatro Municipale
with a computer run fountain and outside living room.

This little dragonet guarded the edge of
a church

On the north side of Via Emilia are the broad tree lined
streets of the modern city

It was definitely fall in the city and we were glad for our

Colorful flags hung above the streets. This
is the city where the tricolor flag of Italy was
first flown.

Even though it was a bit chilly people were
still enjoying sitting outside for drinks or

As the natural light faded the city lights and the color
of the buildings created a warm glow everywhere.

The Duomo in Piazza Prampolini with it's unusual single
octagonal tower.

Down the arcaded street we could see a bustling market
scene ahead.

The Baroque church of San Giorgio AND a bustling market

Our hotel gave us a recommendation to this wonderful
shop where we bought Parmesano Reggiano and 5 year
aged Balsamic vinegar. They gave us lots of tastes too.

As the night darkened beautiful entries beckoned 

The next morning as we left we loved the two bridges
just out of town

They were symphonies of design and we're sorry that we
couldn't stop and take better pictures as we were on a
busy road

And it was a damp, dark morning.
Reggio Emilia, like Orvieto earlier, was a wonderful surprise. We just looked at the map and chose stops along the way to Paris that were equally distant, about 4+ hours apart; Reggio Emilia, Chamonix and Beaune. They were all perfect, even with the less than perfect weather. We arrived at our hotel around 3PM and after settling in walked all over the town. Despite it's being overcast and damp we loved it. This doesn't feel like a tourist town although it certainly is worthy of that. It is known for having numerous ballet schools demonstrated by the number of attractive young people around. There was a concert being set up for that evening in Piazza Cavour and we saw the singers around the town, all dressed in red. We discovered one lovely square, church or street after another as we wandered around. We stopped at a fantastic store to buy aged Parmigiano Reggiano and 5 year balsamic vinegar, both made here. And then, as it got darker and the city lights went on, the buildings took on a rosy glow and everything reflected in the wet streets. It was magical.
On the advice of our hostess at our small hotel, Albergo Morandi, we ate at Ristorante Canossa and had a great evening. This is the last of the local specialty places still right in town. The pastas are homemade and I had pumpkin ravioli with brown butter. Then you are served a variety of roasted and boiled meats from a trolley that comes to your table. You can choose your own selection and it comes with 3 types of sauces and wonderful mashed potatoes. Lambrusco is the local wine here and although it is sparkling and served cold, it isn't the sweet cloying variety made in the U.S. After dinner we walked back over to the Piazza Cavour and listened to the concert for awhile. It was "People Against the Mafia". Who isn't?
The fall colors in Courmayeur rivaled those in New England
Next morning we drove up past Turin towards Chamonix, stopping at Courmayeur for a walk. One thing that struck us forcefully was how industrialized and prosperous it looks in the north of Italy compared to the south. This renders the suburban areas outside the towns unattractive and very American, but there is growth and jobs here. It looks almost like another country from Naples. We spent some time in Courmayeur a number of years ago and loved it. It has grown since then but is still charming. This day it was almost totally deserted. It was Sunday and very off season, although the fall colors were beautiful. Unfortunately it was still overcast and we had only brief glimpses of the snow covered peaks around us. The Mt. Blanc tunnel is 7.2 miles long and expensive at 39 euros one way, but what an engineering feat! More in my next entry as we cross back into France.
The architecture has turned "Swiss Chalet"

The town was almost deserted. It was a Sunday and of
course, totally off season. Notice the reindeer hanging
from the early Christmas decorations

Tantalizing glimpses of distant snow covered peaks appeared

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