Nine Mouth-Watering Reasons to Visit Italy

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Photo courtesy of Clara Petrucelli.

(Top row, left to right)

Penne Rigate all’Arrabiata – Penne in a spicy tomato sauce with crushed red pepper flakes.

Fettuccini Porcini – Fettuccini with Porcini mushrooms.

Rigatoncini all’Amatriciana – Small rigatoni with sauce made with Guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino cheese, and tomato. This pasta originates from the town of Amatrice. One of the towns in Italy hit recently by the earthquake.

(Second Row, left to right)

Spaghetti alla Carbonara – One of Rome’s signature dishes made with eggs, cheese (pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), bacon (guanciale or pancetta), and black pepper.

Fettuccini al Ragu – Pasta with a meat based sauce.

Pappardelle Cacio e Pepe with goat cheese – Pasta with “cheese and pepper”, Pecorino Romano and black pepper.

(Third Row, left to right)

Gnocchi alla Pomodoro – Small dumplings made with a dough of potato, flour, and egg served in a tomato sauce.

Ravioli Capresi – One of Island of Capri’s signature dishes. Ravioli, filled with caciotta (artisan cheese), Parmesan cheese, and marjoram served in a tomato sauce.

Penne all’Amatriciana – Pasta with sauce made with Guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino cheese, and tomato.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane: Brussels and Bruges

Sitting with my daughter in the Grand Place of Brussels May 2013 Photo By Curt Petrucelli

Sitting with my daughter in the Grand Place of Brussels
May 2013
Photo By Curt Petrucelli

As you may remember, our family lived in Brussels, Belgium for four years from 1997 until 2001. Both our children were born in Brussels. After we returned to the US, I had brought the children to visit Brussels in 2005 but we had not been back since then. We thought it very appropriate to visit Brussels on our last weekend getaway before moving back to the states.

With my children in our visit back to Brussels in 2005

With my children in our visit back to Brussels in 2005
The Grand Place

Visiting Brussels 2013 Photo By Curt Petrucelli

Visiting Brussels May 2013
At the Grand Place
Photo By Curt Petrucelli

Many friends here have asked me if a weekend is enough time to visit Brussels and my answer is always a resounding yes. Not only did we visit Brussels we took a day trip to beautiful Bruges. Belgium is a country about the size of the state of Maryland. It is located north of France and south of the Netherlands, with Germany and Luxembourg to its east. The country is culturally divided in two halves, the northern half that speaks Flemish (similar to Dutch) and the southern half that speaks French. The two groups do not really like each other and often times choose English as the language of choice to address each other in. Brussels is officially a bilingual city so its streets signs are always in both French and Flemish. Belgium is a country rich in history and with wonderful cuisine, not to mention about 400 varieties of beer, yummy waffles, and the best chocolate in the world.

Neuhaus Chocolates

Neuhaus Chocolates

Although Brussels is a small city it is a very important player in the global stage. Both the European Union and NATO are headquartered in Brussels.

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace
Photo by Curt Petrucelli

We departed after school on a Friday afternoon on a 5:00 p.m. Eurostar train from St. Pancras International Station in London. The train arrived at Gare Midi in Brussels and from there we took a quick taxi ride to our hotel Le Meridién located across from Gare Central in the heart of the city.  We were checked into the hotel by 8:30 pm (the clock moves forward by 1 hour). We had made reservations for dinner at the Brasserie de la Roue D’Or located near the Grand Place. This classic Art Nouveau brasserie serves typical Belgian fare like waterzooi (chicken or fish soup), vol-au-vent (chicken in mushroom cream sauce served in pastry shells), moules (mussels), and frites (fries). The restaurant has murals that resemble the art of the famous Belgian surreal artist René Magritte. We enjoyed a delicious dinner.

One of my favorite Belgian Beer, Grimbergen Triple

One of my favorite Belgian Beer, Grimbergen Triple

The next morning we took a one-hour train ride from Brussels to the medieval city of Bruges. Bruges is located in the Flemish northern part of the country. It is a beautiful city that still preserves its medieval charm. The city has canals running through it and has been referred to as the “Venice of the North”.

The canals of Bruges

The canals of Bruges
Photo by Curt Petrucelli

We meandered through the streets of Bruges and took one of the canal boat rides. The boat ride allows you to enjoy the canals and charming buildings along the way. We had an amazing lunch at a restaurant called Kok au Vin where delicious Belgian food was served. The main city square is called the Markt Square. There you will find the Belfry of Bruges the medieval bell tower that still functions today.

The charming medieval houses in Bruges

The charming medieval houses in Bruges
The Belfry Tower in the Back
Photo By Curt Petrucelli

We returned to Brussels by late afternoon. We strolled over to the Grand Place. The Grand Place or Grote Markt is on the UNESCO list of heritage sites, and rightfully so because in my opinion it is one of the most beautiful city squares in Europe. The earliest mention of the Grand Place is 1174. It has always had seven streets feeding into it. Today it is a collection of private and public buildings, with the Hotel De Ville (City Hall) taking up most of its south side. Other buildings in the square include various guild houses, Cloth, Bread and Meat Halls. Many of the immediate streets off of the Grand Place are cobble-stoned. We decided to enjoy an afternoon snack at one of the cafes in the beautiful Galeries St. Hubert. One of my all time favorite snacks is Crepes Mikado, a crepe accompanied with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. My daughter enjoyed another family favorite, a Dame Blanche (White Lady), the French term for a Hot Fudge sundae.

Walking down Rue de Bouchers - Seafood Restaurant Row

Walking down Rue des Bouchers – Seafood Restaurant Row
Photo by Curt Petrucelli

From the Galeries St. Hubert we entered the section known as Ilot Sacré with its famous street called Rue des Bouchers. This street is full of seafood restaurants exhibiting their exotic seafood displays enticing customers to come in. Make sure you do your research before eating in one of these restaurants, since some of them are tourist traps. We had made reservations for dinner at an outstanding family run Italian restaurant Pasta Divina. The wife rolls out the pasta, the husband is the maître’d and the daughter is one of the waitresses. The pasta dishes were amazingly delicious.

The Cathedral of Saint Michel and Saint Gudule

The Cathedral of Saint Michel and Saint Gudule
Photo By Curt Petrucelli

We spent our Sunday visiting more Brussels tourist attractions. One of the city’s famous landmarks is that of a small fountain statue of a little boy urinating, The Mannekin Pis. The statue dates back to 1619. There are several legends explaining the significance of the statue, one is the story of the little boy who tried to put out a fire in the city by urinating on it. The bottom line is that it is very endearing and Brussels is quite proud of it. The statue even gets dressed in various costumes depending on the occasion.

The Mannequin Pis 2005

The Mannequin Pis 2005

A Typical Waffle shop near the Mannequin Pis 2013

A Typical Waffle shop near the Mannequin Pis 2013

The  Jazz Marathon Festival was playing in the Grand Place during our visit.  The Grand Place was set up with dozens of tables and chairs and surrounded by food and drink stalls. On our second day we chose to have lunch at one of the square’s famous Belgian restaurants Restaurant ‘T Kelderke. We enjoyed more delicious Belgian food. We ate stoemp, a typical dish of mashed potatoes and vegetables, accompanied by various meat dishes. My husband and son had stoemp with sausages and I ate stoemp with Carbonnades Flammandes a delicious Flemish beer stew.

One of the Bruges local beer  - Bruges Zot

One of the Bruges local beer – Bruges Zot

We strolled through the Parc de Bruxellles and made our way to the Royal Palace. We visited, The Cathedral of Saint Michel and Saint Gudule dedicated to the male and female patron saints of Brussels. We then meandered to the Place du Grand Sablon another very quaint square filled with cafes, boutiques and restaurants. On of the ends of the Sablon is the gothic church of Notre Dame Du Sablon built in the early 15th century. Not far from the Place du Grand Sablon is Pierre Marcolini, one of Belgium’s world-renowned chocolatiers.

The spoiled life of a yellow life looking over the Bruges Canals

The spoiled life of a yellow labrador looking over the Bruges Canals
Photo By Curt Petrucelli

Belgium is famous for its tapestries and lace making. I definitely recommend you buy some of these as souvenirs. One of my favorite shops is Goblins Art located off of the Grand ‘Place. On Sunday afternoon we enjoyed our last Belgian beer and snacks at the restaurant Le Roy off of the Grand Place before heading back to Gare Midi. We would once again bid the city we once called home, “au revoir and tot ziens”.

You Don’t Have to Be Italian to Make Homemade Italian Sauce and Meatballs

Pomodori

Pomodori

I have always loved Italian food. The closest I came to authentic Italian food as a child was eating at my parent’s Italian-Argentinian friend’s home. Their lasagna was to die for. There was always pizza from the local Queens or Brooklyn pizzeria. Then there was the annual trek with my parents to the San Gennaro feast in Little Italy in New York City every September. We would eat Italian sausage and pepper sandwiches and greasy delicious zeppole (fried dough). But even San Gennaro did not answer my prayers for I continued to live in an Italian food deprived home and continued to be fed Italian sauce out of jars for many years to come. Especially coming from a Colombian home where Italian food was defined by: catsup used as a substitute for Italian sauce, canned tuna fish added to spaghetti with catsup (one of my abuelita’s favorite, not mine), Ellio’s frozen pizza, and where arroz and papas (rice and potatoes) ruled over pasta, oh, and if there was pasta it was in Hamburger Helper. Mamma Mia! What to make of my early culinary influences!

Fast forward to when I met my future mother-in-law who happens to be of Hungarian, Scottish, and German descent. When she married a 100% Italian American she learned to cook delicious traditional Italian meals and added these to her northern European cooking repertoire. When I first had Italian sauce and meatballs at their home I was surprised to hear them say, “Pass the gravy”. Italian Americans from New Jersey refer to their Italian sauce as gravy. I also learned that although my mother-in-law worked full-time back then, she always made her gravy from scratch. Why would she buy gravy in a jar if making it from scratch, was so easy, better tasting, and less expensive. It took me years to accept this axiom. During my working career years and before children it still made sense to me to just open a jar of Prego sauce. Then came the children with their finicky ways and we quickly learned that they only liked white pasta (no red sauce in it). Finally, two different forces collided in the universe: our children miraculously started eating “red” sauce, and I had a moment of culinary enlightenment. I could make a more nutritious sauce, hide vegetables like carrot in it, make it free of additives and preservatives, make it with less sodium and sugars, and in general better tasting and healthier. And henceforth I started making homemade Italian sauce. My recipe varies each time I make it. Sometimes I use “a little of this or a little of that”.  You are welcome to get creative with the recipe.  I sometimes make the meatballs or sauté some Italian sausages and add them to the sauce. Other times we go vegetarian and have the sauce with roasted vegetables or by itself. And perhaps, why not, I should add some Tonno (Tuna Fish) to it.  

Mangia e Buon Appetito!

My Italian Sauce and Meatballs

My Italian Sauce and Meatballs

Il mio Sugo di Pomodoro con Polpette di carne

English Translation: My Italian Tomato Sauce with Meatballs

New Jersey English: My Italian Tomato Gravy with Meatballs

Sugo di Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce/Gravy)

Making sauce is as simple as the two pictures below.

The Basic Ingredients

The Basic Ingredients

The herbs and spices

The herbs and spices

This recipe makes approximately 8 servings. I usually make the meatball recipe as well. I like to serve it to our family of four. This recipe makes excellent leftovers. I prefer to freeze the leftovers and enjoy another meal of Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Meatballs at a later date. When I freeze foods I make sure I use an airtight container and that I label the container with the description and date.

A note about tomatoes: If it is not tomato season (July & August in the northern hemisphere) then the next best option is to use canned (tinned) tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are stewed and canned when they are fresh. However, if you grew 15 tomato plants like my husband did three summers ago, and ended up with an 80 lb. harvest, then you’ll have to learn to stew and can your own tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs Olive oil
  • 2 – 800 gm/28 oz cans plum tomatoes
  • 1 onion coarsely chopped
  • 2 to 3 carrots cut in ½ inch cubes or slices
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic minced (use more if you like garlic)
  • 1 red pepper diced (optional)
  • ½ to 1 Tbs dried oregano (can use fresh sprigs)
  • ½ to 1 Tbs dried basil (can use fresh sprigs)
  • 1 good handful of fresh Italian Parsley (flat)
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 2 Tbs sugar (This is optional, but I feel that it balances the acidity of the tomatoes and you are still using a lot less sugars than store-bought jars)
  • ¼ tsp – ½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ cup of red wine (optional) Use good wine, do not use cooking wine.
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Preparation

– Heat olive oil in large pot.
– Add onion, garlic, carrot, and red pepper to pan. Sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes, then reduce to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Sweat the vegetables.

DSC_4501

Sweat the vegetables.

– Open cans of tomatoes, pour into onion/carrot/garlic mix. Note: Break up tomatoes with your hand as you pour them in or pour them and then break them up with a wooden spoon.

– Make a bouquet garni (bundle of herbs) with the bay leaf and fresh parsley. If you are using fresh basil and oregano sprigs add them to the bouquet garni.  Place in the sauce.  If using dried herbs add them to the mix.  Add Sugar. Add the wine and red pepper flakes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

DSC_4508

Add bouquet garni, herbs, sugar, salt, and pepper.

– Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes

Cool for 10 minutes.

– Use immersion blender or blender to blend until smooth. If you like your sauce with some chunks, just blend part way.

Blend smooth

Blend smooth

– Keep sauce in pan. Make any corrections for seasoning.
– Make meatballs. See recipe below.

Polpette di Carne (Meatballs)

Makes approximately 28,  1 ½-inch to 2-inch meatballs.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of ground meat – I like to mix 1 lb of ground beef with either 1 lb of ground turkey or ground pork.
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ to 1 cup parsley coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic cut in half
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs

Preparation

– Add to a food processor: eggs, parsley, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, salt, and black pepper. Blend and make a purée. The reason I started making a purée was to hide all the herbs and garlic from our children when they were little. I still make the purée because I find it so much easier to blend the ingredients together with the meat.

Making puree of egg, cheese, parsley, and garlic.

Making puree of egg, cheese, parsley, and garlic.

– Place the ground meat in a large bowl and break up.

– Add the egg parsley purée.

– Add the bread crumbs

Add the puree and breadcrumbs to meat.

Add the puree and breadcrumbs to meat.

– Mix together gently.

Mix together gently.

Mix together gently.

– Assemble the meatballs. When you assemble the meatballs, handle the meat gently, and keep the meat loose. Don’t squish together the meat to form hard compressed balls. That will toughen the meatballs.

Assemble the meatballs gently

Assemble the meatballs gently

And here is where my recipe varies from others. I do not bake or fry the meatballs. I drop them raw into the red sauce and allow them to cook in the sauce. This saves preparation time and imparts additional flavors to the sauce.

– Bring the Tomato Sauce back to temperature and drop the meatballs into the sauce. Make sure they are covered in sauce.

Bring sauce to temperature, and drop the raw meatballs in the sauce.

Bring sauce to temperature, and drop the raw meatballs in the sauce.

– Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour to 1½ hour. The longer you let the sauce simmer the more flavorful it will become.

Simmer for 1 hour

Simmer for 1 hour

– Serve over a bowl of spaghetti or your favorite type of pasta

For further reading: About San Gennaro feast in New York City:

http://gonyc.about.com/od/autumninnewyork/a/san_gennaro.htm 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feast_of_San_Gennaro

Great Italian food website my husband discovered: 

http://www.italianfoodforever.com/

Before the food network was popular we watched cooking shows on PBS. One of our favorite Italian chefs was Mary Ann Esposito, on the show Ciao Italia, which celebrates its 23rd year this year, making it the longest running cooking series in America. http://www.ciaoitalia.com/recipes

For some history of Italian food: http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall10/hoppner_v/history.html

Alps, Lakes, Pizza & Pasta

This summer we took a wonderful driving vacation in Switzerland and Italy. I hope this serves as a guide to your trip planning. I have added feedback of places we stayed and ate in.  Generally speaking we always have to reserve two rooms for our family of four in our European travel since so few rooms come with two queen or two double beds. Sometimes the rooms are interconnecting other times they are not. Sometimes family suites are available that can accommodate extra beds or have sofa-beds. We also try to research the restaurants we eat in since we love food so much.

Spaghetti Carbonara

We use sources like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Google restaurant reviews, and hotel recommendations. Word of caution, many restaurants in Italian cities we visited close at 2 pm and reopen for dinner so plan accordingly. We designed our own itinerary. My husband researched what special roads to take such as the Furka and Splugen mountain passes. We did have a travel agent help us narrow down our hotel choices. Right now the Swiss Franc is very strong and that makes everything in Switzerland especially in the large cities very expensive. The scenery of driving through the lush Alps both on the Swiss and Italian side in the summer is absolutely breathtaking. This was also a trip of mountain lakes, Lake Zürich, Lake Lucerne, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Como. And most importantly for our family, this was a trip of eating delicious food!

Our Itinerary:

  • Day1: London Heathrow to Zürich Airport / Zürich Airport to Zürich Center via Swiss Rail
  • Day 2: Zürich
  • Day 3: Zürich to Zürich Airport Car Rentals via Swiss Rail / Drive from Zürich Airport to Lucerne
  • Day 4: Lucerne to Rhône Glacier via the Furka Pass / Rhône Glacier to Stresa, Italy (Lake Maggiore)
  • Day 5: Stresa, Italy (Lake Maggiore)
  • Day 6: Stresa, Italy  to Tremezzo, Italy (Lake Como)
  • Day 7: Tremezzo, Italy / Day trip to Bellagio, Italy
  • Day 8: Tremezzo, Italy to Zizers, Switzerland (near Chur)
  • Day 9: Zizers and Chur
  • Day: 10: Zizers to Zürich Airport  / Return to London, UK

Total driving time: 9.5 hours – Total distance: 730 km or 453 miles

Day 1 – 2

Upon arriving in Zürich we took the Swiss rail from the airport station conveniently located below the airport making it a very easy and inexpensive way to get to downtown Zürich. Our hotel, The Hotel Opera, was conveniently located walking distance from a train stop. The hotel was very beautiful, comfortable, and contemporary in style. We stayed in Zürich for 2 nights.

St. Peterskirche
St. Peter’s Church
Zürich, Switzerland

Zürich, the largest city in Switzerland, is very easy to explore by foot and offers beautiful views of Lake Zürich. We spent time meandering through the Old Town. We tried traditional Swiss fondue at Le Dézaley and rosti, a potato and cheese dish, at the Weisser Wind. We enjoyed a delicious Italian lunch at Tre Cucine.

Day 3

We took the amazingly efficient Swiss rail back to the airport to the Hertz car rental desk. We had reserved a 4 wheel cross over vehicle ahead of time through the US AAA and got an amazing rate compared to what our travel agent was offering. We left the airport and drove to Lucerne. We arrived in Lucerne and checked into our beautiful hotel, The Montana, located in town but perched up on the mountain. The views of Lake Lucerne were spectacular from our rooms.

The View from our Room
Lucerne, Switzerland

The hotel boasted a modern Art Deco style. The Montana had its own funicular to bring its guests down to the lake level. From the lake we were able to reach all the sights by foot. The first order of business was finding lunch. We found a wonderful Italian restaurant name La Fenice.

The Dying Lion
Lucerne, Switzerland

After lunch we went to see the most amazing sculpture I have ever seen in my life, The Dying Lion of Lucerne Monument. The sculpture of a dying lion commemorates the Swiss Guard who was massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when the revolutionaries attacked the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Another major site in Lucerne is the Kapellbrucke or Chapel Bridge. It is a wooden footbridge over the River Reuss built in 1333 to help defend the city. We spent the rest of the day walking through the Old Town. We had a surprisingly delicious Chinese dinner at Li Tai Pe.

By the Chapel Bridge
Lucerne, Switzerland

 Day 4

The next morning after eating delicious pastries from the famous Bachman bakery we left Lucerne and drove south to pick up the Furka Pass road. The Furka Pass is a mountain pass in the Alps that stands at 2429m/7969ft.

Looking Down from Highest Point of Furka Pass
Near Hotel Belvedere

The pass is closed certain times of the year due to bad weather conditions. James Bond drove the Furka Pass in the movie Goldfinger. Driving the Furka Pass is not for the faint of heart, it requires skilled driving and no fear of heights. One of the highlights of driving the Furka Pass is that you visit the Rhône Glacier, the source of the Rhône River. There is a rest stop conveniently located at the Rhône Glacier.

Inside Rhone Glacier
Canton of Valais, Switzerland

We paid an admission fee and were able to hike to the ice cave that was carved inside the glacier. The Rhône Glacier covered most of Switzerland during the last Ice Age (110,000 to 11,000 years ago). Although, the glacier has retreated significantly in the last 150 years due to Global Warming, it is still a very spectacular sight.

After the visiting the Rhône Glacier we continued our drive south southeast to reach the town of Stresa, Italy on Lake Maggiore in the northern region of Piedmont. We stayed at the Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees right on the edge of the Lake. The views of Lake Maggiore and of the Borromean Islands on the lake were beautiful.

Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees
Stresa, Italy on Lake Maggiore

The hotel was a rococo extravaganza bordering on museum-like, somewhere where beautiful meets tacky but still pleasing to the soul. We were also very centrally located. The first night we dined at an excellent Italian restaurant, frequented by locals, Ristorante Pizzeria MammaMia.

Spaghetti Vongole

Day 5

We purchased an all day ferry ticket that allowed us to island hop the Borromean Islands located in Lake Maggiore. The islands are: Isola Bella with its grand palace and gardens, Isola Madre with a 20-acre park, and Isola dei Pescatori with its typical fishing village. The day included a good pizza lunch on the mainland in the neighboring village of Baveno at Ristorante La Trappola. Our favorite of the islands was Isola Bella with its amazing palace and gardens. The gardens looked like a wedding cake from the ferryboat.

The Gardens on Isola Bella, one of the islands in Lake Maggiore

After a long day exploring the islands we returned to the hotel swimming pool. A highlight for our children and my husband was diving off of the two diving boards in the separate diving pool. We enjoyed yet another wonderful Italian traditional meal at Taverna del Pappagallo in downtown Stresa.

Pizza with Carpaccio, Parmesan, and Arugula

 Day 6

After breakfast we drove from Lake Maggiore to Lake Como. By lunchtime, we arrived in Tremezzo located on the western shore of Lake Como across from Bellagio. We stayed in the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in a family suite.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo
Tremezzo, Italy Lake Como

The hotel was absolutely beautiful as were the grounds. The decoration of the hotel was very classical with a playful blend of contemporary.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo
Whimsical Sitting Rooms

The hotel had 3 swimming pools. Our family’s favorite pool was the floating pool on the lake.

The Grand Hotel Tremezzo Floating Pool

We spent hours jumping into the floating pool and diving into the lake. The first night we had a wonderful dinner at a small family restaurant called Trattoria del Prato.

Diving into Lake Como

Day 7 

After swimming in the morning we took the ferry across the lake to visit Bellagio for lunch. Bellagio is located in the Lombardy region of Italy. We ate an amazing lunch at Bilacus.

Pasta Bolognese

We then explored the town of Bellagio before returning to Tremezzo. We enjoyed our last delicious dinner in Italy at Ristorante Belle Isole.

Cute Yorkies Traveling in Style
Bellagio, Italy

 Day 8

After breakfast we continued north along the western shore of Lake Como and started ascending the mountains on the road SS36 also known as the Splugen pass. We stopped at a roadside restaurant still on the Italian side called Al Santuario for a yummy local lunch, where they spoke no Italian, so my pseudo Italian Spanish came in handy. Then we began the most hair-raising experience of our whole drive, crossing the Splugen pass. The Splugen pass at 2113m/6932ft connects the Lepontine and Rhaetian Alps between Italy and Switzerland.

Part of the Splugen Pass
Somewhere in Switzerland

On the navigation system and on a map all you see is a collection of hairpin turns or switch back roads that look like zig zig scribbles. Let’s just say that my husband was relieved when the Splugen pass ended and we picked up the E43/13 at the bottom of the valley in Splugen, Switzerland. We then took this road all the way past Chur and then on to nearby Zizers, Switzerland. The reason for our special stop in the village of Zizers, is that my husband had an AFS exchange student, Christoph, live with them many years ago. Christoph, now part of our family, is the town doctor in his village of Zizers where he lives with his family.

Day 9

After a week of a historical heat wave in Switzerland and Italy, the weather was now back to the 70’s and overcast. We spent the morning hiking the lush green local mountains. In the afternoon we visited the city of Chur.

Hiking in the Alps with Friends

Day 10

We said our goodbyes to Christoph and his family and once again took the E43/13 that took us straight to Zürich Airport.

Most Memorable Moments:

  • Fondue and Rosti in Zürich
  • The Dying Lion sculpture in Lucerne, Italy
  • Driving the Furka Pass
  • Walking inside the Rhone Glacier
  • Diving off of the diving board in Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees
  • The big Newfoundland dog allowed to eat with its owners inside the Ristorante MammaMia in Stresa.
  • Visiting Isola Bella, the castle and gardens
  • Swimming in the floating pool on Lake Como
  • Diving into Lake Como from the floating pool
  • The special driving club that pulled up with 15 SLS Mercedes-Benz sports cars to our Lake Como hotel.
  • Visiting Bellagio
  • The two Yorkshire terriers traveling in their owner’s special backpack.
  • Driving the Splugen Pass
  • Visiting friends in Zizers and hiking the Swiss mountains with them.
  • Eating delicious food both in Switzerland and Italy
  • And eating delicious Italian food the whole week.  Mamma Mia!