san nicandro, southern italy - easter with family, with a brief stopover for dinner in rome

We spent Easter with Alex's family in Southern Italy, sleeping in and being over-fed and basking in perennial blue skies and warm currents.

We flew into Rome and drove into the centro. It's always a thrill to be reminded of what a complete shitshow driving in Rome is. The sun was just starting to set and cast a beautiful golden glow on the city; it was warm, in the 60s, and I tugged off my tights in the car so I could walk around with bare legs for the first time after a long winter.

Caffe Peru, Trastevere, Rome, Italy
A favorite caffe in Rome... look familiar?

Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

We took a detour into Rome specifically for dinner at an old haunt, Roscioli's, which we'd discovered last summer (and, after our first bite, decided immediately we'd go back for every remaining meal in Rome).

Rosciloi restaurant, Rome, Italy

Rosciloi restaurant, Rome, Italy

Rosciloi restaurant, Rome, Italy

Rosciloi restaurant, Rome, Italy
Everyone seemed to leave all at once, and I snapped this right after the exodus and right before the onslaught of busboys.

Rosciloi restaurant, Rome, Italy

We ordered a bottle of wine, chomped away at the salted bread and plates of meat and cheese and meatballs and grilled fish, and made sure we had room for dessert -- insanely good pistachio creme brulee.  Mmmmmm.
 
Then we had a long drive through the Italian countryside to San Nicandro Garganico in the south, in Puglia.

In San Nicandro, we woke up every morning to barking from one of the ten million stray dogs who travel in ravenous packs around the city, and would coax ourselves back to sleep. Our final wake up call was the fruit man who drives through the city in a beat-up white pick-up truck full of baskets of fresh local produce, with a loudspeaker announcing his presence and what he had for sale; our neighbors shuffled out of their homes in house slippers to stock up for the day. (The fresh milk man came too, though we didn't buy from him.)

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy
This barky little sun-loving guy was almost always guarding the street; the king of Via Vincenzo d'Amato.

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy
A little game of street-football.

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

First order of business was always food. Every day Alex's aunt slaved away for hours in the kitchen to cook us outstanding, mind-blowingly delicious (and ALL THE ADJECTIVES) lunches, four and five and six courses. And always a bottle of red wine. The wine was from Alex's cousin's girlfriend's father, and came in bottles without labels, but something scrawled on a piece of masking tape stuck on. Finishing a couple bottles of red with every lunch is a habit I'm loathe to leave behind in Italy.

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy


San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Apulia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

Our company for lunch every day was Alex's aunt and uncle, who runs a dentistry downstairs from the apartment, and Nonna, and one or two cousins. On Good Friday, like good Catholics, we ate a course of spaghetti with shrimp, a plate of steaming king prawns, one huge oven-baked fish per person, huge bowls of fresh mussels, small steamed shrimps, and, for dessert, grappa-soaked strawberries. Grappa. Soaked. Strawberries. Recipe: cut strawberries; soak in grappa. Italy, you are the best.

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

Other meals: pasta cooked with fresh asparagus, in season and currently sold on the streets of San Nicandro by men in hoodies, like it's a black market luxury. Pizza from the little local spot that Alex's whole family waxes poetically about every time they're not eating it. Leftover pizza, with a bottle of prosecco. Take away sandwiches from Autogrill, the world's best highway-side foods purveyor (and where Susan and I at every meal, happily, when we were in Italy 10 years ago on a bus tour of the country).

We stayed at Alex's nonna's house, decorated with tons of old family photos with bright colored walls and gorgeous old wood furniture and beautiful fabrics.

 Thank you for lending us your beautiful home, Nonna!

I had a few midterm exams to take during our trip (Alex's nonna, scandalized: 'But it's EASTER.'). This was my temporary office. Yep. Speechless.



The shorty in the bow-tie is my future husband.

One day after lunch, Alex took me to visit the land his Nonno used to tend; sprawling olive trees, lush greens and wild flowers, a towering white simple house that used to provide some shade after working all day.





San Nicandro is a sleepy town, especially on Easter weekend, and especially in the off-season (it's 15 minutes from some damn beautiful beaches). Alex and I went for walks in the winding streets with colorful buildings under bright blue skies, women hanging laundry, men shooting the shit, dozing off on benches. We went for long drives through the countryside, stopping on the "highway" for a whole herd of sheep to cross in front of us, under the eye of a shepherd, who shrugged at us -- c'est la vie.

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

View from Monte Sant'Angelo, San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

View from Monte Sant'Angelo, San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy


View from Monte Sant'Angelo, San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

View from Monte Sant'Angelo, San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

View from Monte Sant'Angelo, San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

View from Monte Sant'Angelo, San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy
Alex was thrilled to see so much lush green; in the summer it's so hot that everything bakes under the sun to a crisp brown.

San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

Monte Sant'Angelo, San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy

View from Monte Sant'Angelo, San Nicandro Garganico, Foggia, Puglia, Italy


View from the highway at sundown... looks familiar?

We visited Castel del Monte, an octagonal castle by Frederick II, a half-German half-Italian emperor who built magnificent structures across Italy and Germany. We'd just seen a previous castle of his in Kaysersberg, a few weeks before. Frederick II was apparently as big a fan of overlooks as I am.

Castel del Monte, Apulia, Italy

Castel del Monte, Apulia, Italy

Castel del Monte, Apulia, Italy

Castel del Monte, Apulia, Italy


Every time we saw a stray dog: 'Alex do you think he needs a hug or a home should we take him home Alex I love him. Alex? Alex? Are you listening? Why are you walking so fast?'


We left very early on Easter Sunday, and drove through Italy for four hours back to Rome to catch our flight. The entire country was completely quiet and deserted; everyone was rightfully at home with families, preparing to stuff themselves full hours later after mass. It was odd to have entire humongous stretches of highways completely to ourselves. You kinda miss those swerving speeding Fiats with drivers screaming and gesturing offensively at each other. Kinda.

San Nicandro Garganico, Apulia, Italy



 Alex and I do a lot of touring, and so we spend a lot of time with (other) tourists. It was pretty nice to have all our senses completely overwhelmed -- with beautiful architecture, magnificent food and drink, and beyond wonderful and generous family -- and to have that experience to share just among us. It felt less like a trip and more like... being home. Grazie mille to Alex's family for bringing me so warmly into the family (and for feeding me so well!), to Nonna for constant love and laughs and a beautiful present, and to Zia Lucia for spending so many hours in the kitchen cooking absolutely spectacular meals that I will never forget.

No comments:

Post a Comment