The wonderful thing about living in a foreign country is that everything is fresh and new. There are a world of new foods to be eaten and towns to explore. And the wonderful thing about living in Italy is that they have some serious craftsmanship around here, and if you're close enough to the center of it all, you can find some really marvelous things for incredibly cheap. I like both inexpensive and well-made things, which always doesn't work out on my favor — apparently Italy is the cure.
Tyler and I took a day trip up north a couple of weeks back, to the direction of the Alps. Tyler was gone for my birthday, so, to make up for it, I was going to be treated at Nove, a town known for its pottery up north – and oh baby, did he say the magic words.
In Nove — which means nine in Italian — you can find a deluge of factory shops dedicated to the art of ceramics, and even better yet, with some insanely friendly pricing. It's a magical place of beautiful items at prices that don't make me choke. Hold me back, y'all.
Our mission for the day was to head to VBC Ceramics, one of the larger factory shops in Nove. There are all types of ceramic shops in town, specializing in wall art or lighting fixtures, but VBC is mostly known for their china and dishes. They actually make the pottery for brands like Tiffany, Williams-Sonoma and Macy's. And yep — you can go there and find those pieces at dirt cheap prices.
Walking in was definitely overwhelming, with my brain shouting at me how I needed all of the plates. It doesn't help that, you know, I am incredibly concerned for you, my readers, and wanted beautiful dishes for elevated food photography. The sacrifices I make, I tell you.
After spending probably an hour and a half in the store picking up dish sets, setting them down, returning to them, looking them over, going to the other side of the store, asking Tyler how annoyed he was with me, him telling me he was hungry and did I know what I wanted yet, and more mulling it over, I settled on a set. I walked out with a very simple 12-piece dish set that you may have seen around the blog for $50. I also picked up a tall, modern white water pitcher for $10 for myself and a large Tiffany serving platter for my mother-in-law for her birthday for $15. When I got home, I Googled the Tiffany platter and found it was worth around $100. Not too shabby. I walked out feeling like a price-fighting, sale-tastic queen.
After Nove, we drove about 20 minutes further north to Bassano del Grappa, a historic town just at the foothills of the Alps. Bassano del Grappa is known for, well, grappa — a divisive Italian liquor similar to brandy.
Bassano del Grappa is very quaint and charming. Because it is in the northern part of Italy, we decided we wanted to dine regionally, and went to a recommended restaurant, Trattoria el Piron in the downtown area for lunch. In the north, bigoli is the pasta of choice — it has the shape of spaghetti, but is much fatter and is therefore my new favorite. So, I chowed down on some duck bigoli (bigoli alla'anatra tagliata a coltello) recommended to me by the waiter. Tyler had one of our other regional favorites, tagliata, which is a thinly sliced beef that looks similar to roast beef, but his was served with a cognac and pink pepper sauce, with a side of raddichio (chicory). We gobbled it up with no crumb left unturned. I may have also asked if it was too early to have an after-meal glass of grappa, and the waiter kind of looked at me like I was crazy, so I guess it was.
After lunch, we walked to a wooden bridge that crossed the Brenta River. The bridge was actually very important during WWII, with Alpine soldiers defending the simple structure, which was built by famed architect Andrea Palladio in the 16th century. You can still see bullet holes in the buildings alongside the river from the bridge. It's quite a beautiful place, clearly with a lot of history. Tyler got his nerd on while I took pictures. Win-win.
Our last stop before heading back home was the Poli Grappa Museum, which has free entrance. Grappa is a strange sort of liquor — it can be very icky or very delicious, depending on the flavor. We took turns smelling about a dozen different kinds of grappa, before stepping into a bar next door and grabbing a bottle of grappa to take home. I chose a bottle called Tagliatella from the distillery Nardini — only because I had tasted it before at my Italian neighbor's home, after I brought them some Christmas cookies and they asked if I'd like some in my coffee (uhm, yes, duh). It has a more caramel-y taste to it, and is very smooth but with a kick — you know, like whiskey. And you all know our feelings on whiskey.