I love travel. One of my favorite things is discovering new places, cultures, and their local foods. Sometimes, getting there can really screw with your “I’m so pumped to be going on vacation!” vibe though. This is definitely one of those cases.
When I was in Italy last year, we hit a few bumps in the road. Literally and metaphorically. Get ready for a good story here. It’s a bit like a hangover. Really, really awful when you’re in it, but definitely makes for a good story when it’s over. Know the feeling?
We weren’t even out of the house when the strugglebus started. The morning of our flights to Newark, then Milan, we get a call from the airline that our first flight had been cancelled. So we would miss the second flight. Perfect. Within 5 minutes I hear screaming and f-bombs out the wazoo over the phone towards said company.
So last minute we drive to the airport and get on a flight to Albany, NY, which would then fly us to Newark, then to Milan. So we get to Albany. The next flight is delayed to Newark so we were going to miss that connection to Milan, Oh also, they lost some of our checked luggage between BWI and Albany. LIKE REALLY?! So we get in a car and drive 3 hours to Newark. Only to find out that we can’t make that direct flight. Eventually, we put on 3 connecting flights: Newark – Lisbon, Lisbon – Zurich, and finally Zurich – Milan. So we arrive in Italy about 12 hours after we originally planned.
The struggle continues. It takes about 2 hours to get a rental car, the airlines are basically fighting over who lost our luggage (which we still don’t have at this point) and then we drive to Bellagio, about 1.5 hours north. Did I mention we have eaten one meal since we left the US, about a day and a half beforehand? So we drive along endless hairpin turns on the edge of cliffs overlooking lake Como before we get to our place. Which would’ve been beautiful, but it was so dark you couldn’t see anything. We finally arrive about 10:30pm to meet the family whose apartment we rented. They don’t speak any English, we don’t speak any Italian. Besides the google translate app. And finding something to eat at this time wasn’t exactly going to happen in a tiny town, even in Italy. So we go to bed on hangry stomachs.
Hang in there, it gets even better. The next day is spent on the phone with Swiss Air, United, and I can’t even remember who else trying to get our luggage back. That was a fun day. At least we ate once. We drive 2 hours back to the airport, FINALLY grab our luggage. Making our way back through the little lake towns, and we hit a bump in the road. A brick, actually. And get a flat tire. Fun fact: there are no spare tires in rental cars in Italy. Also, no gas stations are open on Sundays. Good thing we’re in a rental car AND it’s Sunday. In a town where no one speaks English.
Told you this was getting good. Long story short we pull into a (closed) gas station and my brother is running around to different hotels
asking gesturing for help, my mom is staying in one spot refusing to let go of her suitcase, and my dad is fuming at the flat tire, not able to do anything to help. Eventually this one guy pulls up in a little panda van that looks like it just came from the junkyard and may fall apart if it drives one more block. None of us can understand what he’s saying, but eventually we find common ground – he speaks French!! THANK YOU study abroad and that I’m still fluent. Basically my dad and I got in this guy’s car and he drove us about 20 miles away to get some shellack to fix the tire or something, all the while he’s ranting about the Italian government. It was pretty funny, actually. Especially because this rando and I are chatting away in French and my dad is sitting in the front seat thinking “where the hell is this guy taking my daughter and I and what the hell are they talking about?!” but trying to look calm, cool and collected.
Did I mention we’d only eaten two meals now at this point? So much for the stereotype of Americans gaining weight when they visit Italy. We were probably the only tourists EVER to lose weight the first few days of visiting the country, HA! At least the meal we had was GOOD. Burgers + fried eggs on them always hit the spot.
Panda van man ended up coming up short. We got a tow truck/taxi back to the airport AGAIN, then drove the additional 2 hours back to Bellagio. Again, it’s 11pm and nothing to eat. Yaaaaaaay. The rest of the trip was (relatively) uneventful, just really fun! Told you it was a good story. And I hope for your sake you never have to deal with that.
Luckily our trip this year was much less uneventful in terms of travel struggles. Ciao for now and enjoy this recipe! Totally unrelated to Italian food at all. But extremely delicious.
- 1 whole head cauliflower, chopped into florets
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- pinch of sea salt
- ½ tsp black pepper to taste
- juice of ½ lemon
- ¾c olives, drained
- ¼c olive brine
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- In a large glass casserole dish, toss the cauliflower with 2 Tbsp olive oil.
- Combine the turmeric, garlic, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
- Sprinkle the spices evenly over the cauliflower, then toss so the florets are evenly coated.
- Distribute the olives evenly throughout the pan, then pour in the olive brine. Squeeze the lemon juice all over.
- Bake for 45 minutes, tossing halfway.
Inspired by Diane Sanfilippo’s ever-popular Chicken with Artichokes and Olives from the 21 Day Sugar Detox book. Served here with the Creamy Cilantro Salmon from Mediterranean Paleo Cooking.