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Monday, August 31, 2009

My First Italian Book!!!

Even though I have spoken Italian all my life, I have NEVER read a real Italian novel before!! I have read my share of magazines (OGGI was always in my home while growing up), children's picture books, and newspaper articles...but I never braved a novel. I always thought that it would be too difficult to sift through all those words that are used in the literary world but not part of everyday vernacular. But, to my surprise, I didn't have that problem when I read VANIGLIA E CIOCCOLATO by Sveva Casati Modignani! It is a light story about a couple's struggle with their marriage and all the impedences they encounter. The 400 or some pages flew by without me even noticing. The language flowed easily and I was reading it with the same fluency that I read English-speaking novels!! This totally thrilled me and made me want for more! So bring it on!!! Any and all suggestions would be appreciated :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Italian Festa in San Jose

Last night, we attended the Italian Family Festa in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose. It was a great event!!! There was so much activity on Lincoln Ave! From street vendors, to food booths, to wine stalls - all were bustling. But, by far, the best entertainment was the live music. We stood (yes, standing room only was left) to listen to Italica! They played traditional Italian music with an upbeat! The energy was electrifying and you couldn't help but move to the beat! Just watching the little kids out dancing, along with those who actually know some dance steps kicking up their heels, was so much fun. Of course, it helped that the evening was absolutely spectacular - warm with a slight breeze! And being with good friends - what more could we ask for :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bolzano - The Val Gardena

Another day excursion from Bolzano is a drive through the picturesque Val Gardena, the valley between Bolzano and Cortina d'Ampezzo (site of the 1962 Winter Olympics). This drive is not for those afraid of driving mountain roads as the roads are narrow with sharp turns and HUGE tour busses travelling the route as well. But if you brave the drive, you will be rewarded with incredible scenery not to be surpassed by many places in the world. We took the drive in the summertime, therefore we did not have to contend with snow and the dangers of winter driving. We drove through lush green rolling hills which formed the foreground for huge granite peaks seeming to jut out of the earth! Around every turn there were more and more scenic views.

At one point, we parked behind a car of an Austrian chorale group that were serenading the beautiful mountains in 4 part harmony! Along the drive, we passed many small quaint mountain towns whose homes were constructed with an Alpine flair. The red tile roofs so typical of Italian towns are replaced by chalet-type roofs and many wooden features in this region of Italy. The town of Gardena was filled with artisan shops of wood carvings. These merit a stop along the way.

Our journey ended at the town of Corvarra. This quaint town is located at the base of yet another Dolomite peak and has many restaurants and shops to explore. The restaurants feature local cheeses, fondues, and other Alpine treats (apple strudel, for one!!) Our restaurant even came with a resident St. Bernard lounging on the outside patio.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bolzano - A Memorable River Walk and Dinner

Before heading out to dinner one evening, we decided to take a stroll alongside the banks of the Talber River. There are two tree-lined promenades which are wonderful to stroll on either in the evening or on a warm summer afternoon. There are wonderful views of several of the castles surrounding Bolzano, as well as views of sprawling vineyards and the Dolomites in the background. Our walk was along the western bank of the river, and we headed in a northernly direction. We passed playgrounds and tennis courts where the locals congregate. We headed up to the the castle for more views. It was great way to work up an appetite before our wonderful feast at the Schloss Korb.

The Schloss Korb is located in Appiano, a small town on the outskirts of Bolzano, along the Via del Vino (the wine road). It is nestled atop a hill surrounded by rolling hills filled with vineyards. We had asked our hotel for a recommendation for a romantic restaurant with a view. When he recommended this restaurant, we knew that it would be the perfect place to experience the tranquility and beauty of the region. Driving up to the Schloss did not disappoint. We passed acres of vineyards and saw castles and monasteries perched on every hilltop. Once at the Schloss, we took a walk around the premises before settling on the terrace overlooking the valley for dinner. The restaurant is a bit pricey, but the views make it well worth it. The food was very good and the service attentive. We ordered a Korb platter which was advertised as a complete dinner for two featuring grilled meats and vegetables. We knew we were in trouble when they had to bring an extra table to lay the platter of food on! There was enough food to feed at least 4 people. We felt bad having all the excellent food go to waste. So, if you go, do not order the Korb Platter unless you are REALLY hungry or they will let you share it between 4 people. The wines offered were local varieties and very good. Watching the sun set over those beautiful valleys was an incredible experience.

Bolzano - The Ritten Cablecar & Earth Pyramids

We just got back from a whirlwind trip to Bavaria, the Austrian Tyrol, the Sudtirol area of Italy, and Salzburg. I wanted to share some of the travel joys we experienced in case someone else is planning a trip and might enjoy our adventures. We like to experience some of the out of the way places that seem to make the trip so much more memorable. So here is a blog of our adventures in and near Bolzano, Italy (located in the Alto-Adige province of Italy and very near the Austrian border). Before I begin, I'd like to give a brief history of this part of Italy. Up until World War I, it belonged to Austria. Even to this day, the towns have two names: one Italian and the other German. For instance, Bolzano is also known as Bozen. Many people here still speak German, and in fact, some don't even speak Italian! There is a movement here to become independent. They would like to be called the Sudtirol and be independent from both Italy and Austria.

Our first excursion around Bolzano was via the Ritten cablecar (La Funivia del Renon) to Oberbozen. This cablecar rises high above the city of Bolzano, over beautiful valleys covered in vineyards and filled with beautiful Dolomite views. The trip only takes 10 minutes, but it takes you to an altitude of 1200 meters.

Once in Oberbozen, you can purchase a ride on an old cogwheel train to the town of Collalbo. This old train also offers culinary night journeys where visitors can enjoy a gourmet meal with local wines and music. Once in Collalbo (Klobenstein), we followed the old wooden signs towards the Ritten Earth Pyramids. It was about a 4 km walk (one way) along mostly paved roads via small towns. The walk does have lots of hills but it is easily walkable for most people. The last part is along a well-maintained dirt trail through the woods.

The views of the valley with it's tiny towns and churches all below beautiful Dolomite peaks is spectacular. The highlight is the famous Earth Pyramids. These are a phonomenon of erosion and very unique looking formations.