Living abroad can be tough. Things may always look very magical on my Instagram feed, but in between pictures of afternoon glasses of wine and gorgeous antiquated Italian doors, sometimes what I'm really thinking is, "Where the hell can I get a taco?" or "Why is my family so far away?" or "How did we move here without knowing Italian?!" Things like going into a store can invite mild panic — or quickly googling phrases such as, "Where are the fresh herbs?" or "Do you have something to make my bed not so terribly uncomfortable?"
However, as of this March, we're six months into living in Italy! And things are so much better than when they began. It's much easier to enjoy the amazing food when you know where to find it, and taking a scenic drive is less intimidating when you're no longer surprised by the crazy antics of Italian drivers and precariously small side roads. I now know that it is possible to find craft supplies locally, and I've even found a few places where they sell ethnic spices. So, even if there aren't restaurants that can serve up my favorite Mexican and Thai dishes (no, it's not the same), I guess I can at least make my own! (though it's still not the same, either)
Tyler was gone for work a lot the last two months, and I usually feel terrible traveling without him – oh, the guilt! So, I made it a point to discover all of the local treasures while he was gone so when he returned, we could spend less time getting lost and more time enjoying the hot spots. I could do all these things over and over again and be completely satisfied. (List below in order of pictures).
- I-NEED-ALL-DIS COPPER SHOP: One step in the Antica Bottega Artistica dal Toso will make you hate everything in your kitchen, and decide all your pots just need to be copper — they need to be! The hand-hammered copper pots, pans, glasses, champagne holders, and decorations lining the walls are all made from the four generations of Dal Toso men. The shop was originally opened by the current owner's great-grandfather in 1896, and Hyginus Alessandro continues on the historic business today with amazing craftsmanship.
- TRINKET PARADISE AT THE ANTIQUE MARKET: This giant market in Piazzola sul Brenta has me counting down the days until the last Sunday of the month (and crossing my fingers that we have money left in our bank account). Vendors set up their booths in a gorgeous cobblestone plaza surrounded by archways and some, I don't know, random breathtaking villa that just happens to be there. Even if you don't buy anything, just milling about the booths, coveting everything and taking in the atmosphere is reason enough to go.
- THE CHEAPEST DEMIJOHNS: I finally found myself a teal demijohn — the fancied color of the week. Most demijohns — a large glass vessel that typically stores wine — are green or clear, but bluish ones are hard to come by. Many people here sell them for quite a bit of cash, but I scored mine for under 10€. Of course it's from an antique store that doesn't have a website, but it's located near Treviso.
- NEVER-GETS-OLD VIEWS FROM MONTE BERICO: Monte Berico is a small mountaintop that overlooks most of Vicenza. Some people like to run to the top of it — I'm just as happy driving up there and taking in the scenery, sans sweat.
- GIGGLE FEST WITH COOKING WITH LUCAS: Lucas Migliorelli is a sweethearted chef that plays host to Vicenza and the surrounding areas. Lucas hosts a variety of different classes, from learning how to make bigoli (a regional pasta) to taking groups on drink-themed bar crawls. He recently hosted a tour of the weekly downtown market and favorite food shop staples that I had the pleasure of attending. The day ended at his beautiful naturally-lit apartment in the downtown area, with a large helping (ok, two!) of Christmas lasagna, many glasses of wine, and conversation that just wouldn't end.
- A MOUTH-WATERING PASTRY SHOP: Pictured below, Panificio Gem has so many delicious-looking breads I didn't know how to choose just one. Their friendly staff will help you find what you desire — or probably send you home with more than you need.
- TUMMY-FILLING CAKE TASTING FROM LOISON PANETTONE BAKERY: I went on a cake-tasting — which, in my opinion, is the best kind of tasting — at Loison, a local bakery that makes traditional Italian cakes that are very popular around Christmastime, and sometimes Easter. Perhaps even more enticing than their cakes was their gorgeous packaging, which is very French country chic. Our tour guide filled up our stomachs and then loaded up our arms with take-home goodies, including macaroons, cookies and, yep, more cake.