Top 10: Foods we have eaten while in Italy

1. Gioletti Gelato con Panna: Life changing. Definitely the best gelato in Rome (Thanks for the recommendation Liz Doe!).  Luckily, Natale in Lecce is a solid number 2 and they even have Cat’s favorite flavor (check out number 2 below).

2. Pastichotto: A typical breakfast pastry from the Salento filled with cream (Cat’s favorite and also a gelato flavor!).

3. Margherita DOP pizza: Torre de Merlino is our favorite restaurant near our apartment and the pizza is superb.  The crust is doughy yet cooked through – we’ve been there twice and still don’t know how they do it.

4. Paninis: Especially from Salumeria, located near the Parthenon in Rome.  These simple, yet delicious sandwiches can be found almost everywhere and there is also something distinctly comforting about not being the only person at the beach going to town on a giant sandwich – must be an Italian thing!

5. Handmade orecchiette: It takes time to make, but this typical pasta of Puglia is amazing – even if made by novice hands.

6. Mussels a la The Awaiting Table: Roasted garlic, white wine, chili pepper flakes and parsley – so simple yet so good.  John has yet to decide if he prefers eating a kilo of mussels piled high over crusty bread or the pleasure he gets after ordering them in Italian at the local pescheria.

7. Italian coffee: Any kind but we prefer it over ice with almond syrup, also known as a cafe in ghiaccio con il latte de mandorla.

8. Wild arugula: It’s different from what you find in the U.S. and John is obsessed.

9. Olive oil: The real stuff, ask us later but believe it or not the olive oil you buy in the store is not what you think it is.  We put it on everything – we might try it on pancakes (if we can find someone here who knows what a pancake is).

10. Carbonara: So easy that a couple of Yankees can make it well.  Some say the name comes from the black pepper resembling coal flakes while the more patriotic set credit the dish to allied troops distributing food rations of powdered eggs and bacon to starving Roman families.  Unsurprisingly, John preferred to give the credit to the American GIs.

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Top 10 things we learned in the first two weeks of long-term travel

1. Everything happens for a reason.  While definitely a cliche, if the train tickets from Rome hadn’t sold out, we wouldn’t have ended up getting a ride to Lecce with an Italian named Marco who didn’t speak a word of English.

2. We still have not learned to pack lightly. Naturally John needed his loafers and Cat needed a few extra dresses for our month in Italy so we ended up both bringing rather large suitcases with our backpacks stuffed inside.

3. Being friendly goes a long way… except with gypsies.

4. You can take the girl out of Montana, but you can’t take the Montana accent out of the girl (Even when Cat is speaking Italian, the Italians still think it’s a foreign language).

5. We still can’t find time to exercise.  We are working and it’s been 100 degrees everyday but still…

6. All arguments can be settled with gelato.  John prefers hazelnut while Cat loves Nutella.

7. Being a tourist is exhausting.  Who knew actually being active for the entire day walking around a city instead of sitting at a desk could be so tiring.

8. #1 rule in cooking a great meal: “Find quality ingredients, don’t screw them up.” Quote from Silvestro Silvestori, our instructor and host at The Awaiting Table Cookery School.

9. When planning a trip with John, allow 2 hours per church.  If you didn’t know, John needs the full audio guide experience in every church he visits.

9.5. When planning a trip with Cat, be sure to pack snacks.  Enough said.

10.  Never forget how lucky we are!