Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Touching Up My Roots

This past October, I had the extreme pleasure of traveling to Italy with some of my family members, including my mom. I'd been there previously for a hosting project; but, while on location, I had little to no personal time to explore and connect with the country from which my mother's side of the family hails. This time, there was no business on the agenda, other than rolling a little blog tape here and there. And, most importantly, until October, mom had never been.


She couldn't look more Italian if she were holding a plate of spaghetti!

Though, we covered a lot of ground during our visit, our pilgrimage to Carrara was the most significant. My mother's family comes from the mining town in the northwest corner of Tuscany, which is best known for the marble quarried there. Fun fact, Carrara marble was used in ancient Rome to construct the Pantheon; and, Michelangelo's Pietà and David are both carved from it.


Just to give you an idea of how much marble we're talking, check out this shot of Carrara, from above. Those mountains at the top of the photo aren't snow-capped...it's pure marble!



It was a transcendent experience, just not in the way I had initially anticipated. I typically try not to put too many expectations on a travel experience; but, when you know that your family comes from Tuscany, it's hard to not fill in the blanks with vino and villas and a spa-like atmosphere befitting both pairs of the flow-y linen pants you packed (even though you know you'll be a little too chilly for them in October). 

As we drove further into the quarry-laden landscape, with the family in tow, I was struck with the notion of how tough my Italian family members must have been. (And still are, I imagine.) It's not a terrain or a climate ideal for, let's say, a 30-something, city-loving, travel blogger who likes to sleep in and get facials occasionally. Truth be told, as we drove deeper into Carrara's marble-scarred countryside, it was hard to feel a connection to the foreboding panorama from which I was literally sculpted.

Though, not to worry, we were planning on making a lunchtime stop in Colonnata, where they're known for one thing...lardo! And, if there was a culinary item that could make me feel connected to my birthright, it would likely be bacon.



Colonnata is a tiny, bewitching, ancient village within Carrara. There were clotheslines hanging with clean white sheets, incredible views of the nearby marble quarries, and lots of winding, narrow staircases. It was a charming backdrop against which to not eat lunch.

That's because (while it sure LOOKS delicious) the Lardo di Colonnata that we had the displeasure of sampling is simply fat. Not heavily marbled pork. Not blubber that has been cooked slightly into a delicious, buttery spread and then transferred to a piece of mind-numbingly delicious focaccia. Not lard that has been cured with rosemary and truffle; but, just thinly sliced fatty, fatty, fat.


Sure, try and dress it up with anchovies & honey,
but fat by any other name...

C'mon, world, what am I not getting about this?

But here's the thing about family. Just when you've reached the end of your lardo-covered rope -- when you're at the base of the Apuane Alps, you're cold, hungry and cranky, and you really just want to be left alone -- they're there. I was truly agitated and I was surrounded by them. Of course, the family that took the trip to Italy with me was there alongside me, but it was the family who had never left Carrara that struck me in that moment.



Here I was, on the verge of a Grande meltdown, and I had to laugh at the view. Not my view of the marble from the amazing vantage of Colonnata, but the marble's view of me.

And, just like that, Carrara had me. Before I could count to dieci, I was marveling at my surroundings with a keen respect for my Tuscan forebears. That, or the lardo was laced with something amazing!
(Heck, before we left, I purchased two packages to give as gifts.)

Then, my brother Will braved some very controversial terrain to deposit us right in the middle of the action. He crossed through a terrifying tunnel, across a one-way bridge (below), and dropped us off in a marble quarry. At that point, my sense of adventure was back to a full tank and I would have gladly challenged any authority figure who questioned how we got there: Don't you know who we are? We're Carraresi!


Who knew? Two people talking at the same time,
creates the perfect Italian photo!

I even perked up enough to roll tape and capture a little bit of Carrara for you.



Here's to exploring your roots, embracing the sometimes cranky traveling moments, and always perking up in time to enjoy the view!

Ilana


The “Packing List”

This week, we were rocking the following or something close to it:


    2 comments:

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    2. I enjoyed reading your post and how you mentioned show many aspects of the culture through your photos. It's wonderful that you got to spend time with your family. I am actually looking at Tuscany Villas for Rent so that I can move there. I read posts like yours and get more ideas of things to experience while I'm there.

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