Ciao, Ciao, Ciao!  I’m back from my trip to Italy and I’m here to say I definitely did my share of chow, chow, chowing.

However, as I sit here on this dreary, rainy Saturday afternoon in New Jersey, I wish, oh how I wish, I was still in Italy.  I went to Italy with my daughter A to visit my lucky, lucky son D, who is studying abroad this semester in Rome. (Mind you, I don’t know how much studying he is really doing since he is traveling all over the world most of the time.  I did decide after this trip that if and when I am young again in my next life, I definitely want to be just like D and travel all over the world.)

In Italy, it was sunny all the time and the weather was between 60 -70 degrees every day.  (It was so great to dress in tees and capris.  And I loved my new Merrell Lorelei Zip walking shoes which were super comfortable for walking all over Rome, Florence and Cinque Terre. I liked my Jag capris too which were made of stretch fabric to allow for extra expansion as I ate my way from town to town.)

In Italy, the vegetables were so fresh.  (Juicy red tomatoes, crisp orange carrots, delicate green arugula. The salads were the best in Rome at L’Insalata Ricca. My daughter A had eaten at this unassuming restaurant when she was a student four years ago and told me all about their large salads filled with fabulous vegetables. We hadn’t had a chance to sample their salads back then when I was visiting A during her stay, so I went there twice this time.)

In Italy, the desserts were to die for. (OMG, the cannolis and cookies from CiuriCiuri – simply spectacular.  D and I shared a crispy cannoli pastry.  We asked our waitress to fill one side with pistachio ricotta cream and the other side with chocolate chip ricotta cream and then we took bites from each side until our tasty cannoli was all gone – for me straight to the hips.  Then A and I devoured the biscotti, amaretti and hazelnut cookies.  I had to try them all.)

In Italy, the gelato shops were on almost every corner and my body seemed to gravitate towards them most afternoons or evenings.  (“You can have two flavors,” said the gelato man as he pointed to the vast array of flavors in the cooler.  “I can have two flavors in one small cup?” I couldn’t believe it.  I thought I had heard wrong. I put my two fingers up to ensure he had said two.  “Yes, two,” he said in perfect English.  Two, two, two.  I was so excited. Which two should I have?  They all sounded so incredible.  Two, two, two.  I chose heavenly hazelnut chocolate and chocolate chip with huge nuggets of semi-sweet chocolate.  It went down smooth – likely landing on my waist this time, but I didn’t care a bit, it was so worth it.)

In Italy, the pasta was perfect al dente. (I ate pasta several evenings.  Penne puttenesca was one of my favorite dishes with capers and olives as was the homemade capellini with pesto.  D also took us to one of his popular spots called Tonys in Trastevere, where he is living.  The three of us, along with his roommate B, feasted on focaccia bread, fried calamari,  antipasti appetizers and jugs of wine for starters.  Then I enjoyed tortellini for dinner made with veal ragu.  Our pants were ready to pop, but for the grand finale the waiter brought out complimentary slices of Tonys‘ chocolate cake with tiramisu cream filling.  I couldn’t resist. Mangia I did.)

In Italy, the fish tasted like it was straight from the sea. (“Where is that restaurant where we ate four years ago?” said A as we walked around Florence looking for a place to have lunch. “I know where it is,” I said to my kids as we walked down the street past the center of town.  I remember it was down this street.” “At your age mom, you’ll never remember where it is,” said D.  “Yes, I will,”  I said.  “I do remember, we just have to go a few more blocks and then turn left and it will be right there.”  “Ha,” said D, as he grabbed my Blackberry and searched for the restaurant’s address.  Sure enough, we turned the corner and there it was – La Giostra.  “How did you remember that?” said D.  “You’re pretty good.”  It was my daughter A’s 25th birthday so we dined on squid carpaccio and I had shrimp risotto.  I also had fabulous baked swordfish fish with capers later in the week in Monterosso at Ristorante L’Altamarea.)

In Italy, the pizza was pretty, pretty amazzzzzing! As Let’s Go Italy – The Student Travel Guide said, Pizzeria La Smorfia has a huge selection of 50 different pizzas as three employees work the frantic pace serving, baking and making change.  (We had done a lot of strenuous hiking one day so we took ourselves to La Smorfia for lunch.  We ordered two regular size pizzas – one with buffalo mozzerella, eggplant and capers and another with pesto, ricotta and pinenuts.  We ate every last crumb of the deliciously thin pizza crust.  Then we went up the block to have gelato.)

In Italy, a scrumptious breakfast was included at our hotels in Rome and Monterosso.  (At the small Hotel Pasquale in Monterosso, I awoke each morning to a fragrant smell of freshly baked croissants.  I couldn’t wait to go down to breakfast and bite into the flaky pastries sprinkled with confectioners sugar and filled with homemade apricot jam. With a warm cup of frothy topped cappuccino, it was a lovely way to start the day.)

“How are your parents doing on their first trip to Italy these past two weeks?” I asked my son’s roommate B.  Just at that moment, his mom called on his mobile from their last stop in Venice.  “Ask them how they are doing, ask them, ask them,” I said, “Ask them if they are enjoying their trip?”  “How are you?” B said to his mom.  I could hear her yelling into the phone, “We’re in a food coma, a food coma” she said, “We’re in an absolute food coma.”

I too was in an absolutely fabulous food coma when I departed Italy last Monday morning.  It was a wonderful trip and I have more stories to tell, especially about my exciting adventures hiking through the five towns of Cinque Terre.  Stay tuned.

For now, arrivederci.