Aaaaaand it's January and I'm FINALLY finishing the blog posts from our trip back in May ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Can't skip the last part as it's pretttty much the reason we went to Italy in the first place....to see Mikes family house in Usago!
As we left Molfetta we geared up for a cheeky 9 hours drive up north. Mike, being the planner that he is, found a beach in Sirolo half way there that looked like the perfect spot to take a break from driving, grab some good food and go for a quick dip. This place did NOT disappoint with its bright blue water and pin-striped umbrellas giving you all the Italian fragrance ad feels. See photos below...
Once we got to Mikes house we arrived at the same exact time as our good friends Dee and Dougie who previously left their apartment in NYC to move to Australia and took a 5 month hiatus to travel the world inbetween moves. They had already been traveling for a few weeks before meeting up with us so needless to say they were happy to see a house and some friendly faces. Two of Mikes other friends, Guy and Emily had arrived a few hours before us as they were in Venice for part of their honeymoon and found a bar nearby to hang out at until we got there. I really don't think theres anything better than meeting new friends for the first time after they've had a few to drink. Guy is one of Mikes oldest friends from childhood and Emily, his wife, was the biggest ball of energy I had ever met. She met Dee and I both with a huge smiles and hugs and she was already wearing a pair of my earrings she bought a while back, so yea, we love her.
Mikes house was the most perfect little Italian home you can imagine. It smelled just like my Grandmas house growing up and had the same sort of frosted glass on the sides of the doors (DJ, Coli, Erick, you guys know what I'm talking about). We opened all the windows to air it out took a little tour, caught up and then went on an adventure to see the town and find some wine and cheese. When in...Usago.
We headed to the town of Spilimbergo which was a short drive from Mikes and had all the cute churches and cobblestone streets with outdoor restaurants and frescos dated as far back as 500 years ago. After walking around and snapping 100-500 pics we stopped into Al Bachero where Mike was determined to make us eat their famous Baccala. Baccala for those who don't know is a mashed up dried and salted cod fish that you put on some toast and "enjoy". We had a few bites each, told Mike we loved it, secretly spit some in our napkins and continued to order gnocchi by the pound and paired it with some wine.
After that, it was time for the "Mattiussi Tradition". Now, typically in past years it's only been the men that have done it, but Dee, Emily and I were prepare to take on the challenge. Theres a small lake in the backwoods near Mikes house that is the most beautiful clear blue, but also THE most freezing water. The tradition is simply to jump in, swim to the rock across the lake, touch it, and swim back. Sounds simple until you get there and touch your toes to the water. Knowing we had to-go cups of wine with us as a prize made it a little easier.
We then made our way to the town to buy some wine for the house. Mike knew of this place that sold wine by the GALLON so, obviously we went straight there. While there we bumped into the store owner which has been a family friend of theirs for years and as soon as Mike reminded him he's the son of Adrian the man lit up, spoke a million miles a minute in Italian and gave us samples of about 4 different kinds of cheese he had on deck. Dee was amazing enough to catch this all on camera as we all chewed and stared in amazement as Mike spoke back and forth with this legendary wine and cheese man.
After that, we decided to go to Mikes neighbors house, Adolfo or "The Dolf" as they appropriately refer to him, to say hi and introduce ourselves. We had met him for a minute earlier in the day when we saw a man on Mikes property trimming the lawn. This man, mind you, is about 80 years old, and looks like a complete boss. The day he stops mowing his own lawn (and everyone else' on the block) is honestly the day he dies. If his secret recipe is eating prosciutto and cheese everyday for the rest of your life then count me in. I wish so bad we had taken a photo with him to show what I mean, but alas, we were too busy being ushered into his basement to see his workshop. His workshop was filled with meat cutting machinery, lawn tools and calendars of hot, exotic women all on different months, probably the ones with his favorite girls. He brought us into an adjacent room with a big dining room table were we all took a seat. Despite telling him we were off to dinner after this, he proceeded to bring us plate, after plate, after plate, of his home-made prosciutto, cheese AND wine. We didn't eat or drink a single thing this man didn't make. For about 2 hours we sat around, laughing, smiling and eating even though 90% of the time it was Mike and The Dolf speaking as we watched amazement. I couldn't tell you why that was so much fun whilst not understanding a word being said, but it was.
The next day, unfortunately Guy and Em had to leave so we said our goodbyes and continued our unspoken determination to eat all the prosciutto in Itay and headed to San Daniele Del Friuli. That's right, where the San Daniele prosciutto comes from. Unfortunately at this point I had fallen ill from GOD KNOWS WHAT (every damn time I travel) and I was unable to fully enjoy the bountiful plates of meat in front of us. Here's a photo so you can feel just as tortured as I was.
The rest of the day we continued to explore as Mike wanted us to see the beautiful views of Tarvisio where he and his family would frequent to ski. We bought a chairlift ticket to the top of the ski resort, Monte Lussari, to this ridiculously picturesque town (see instagram @air_dnd to see what I mean). The cobblestone streets and blue mountains were absolutely breathtaking. We took a stupid amount of photos and proceeded to head back down to get happy hour and some spaghetti ice cream (that's right, vanilla ice cream pushed out like spaghetti with strawberry sauce on top, I'm a cheesy American and friggin loved it).
The next day was filled with more eating, playing Briscola (a classic Italian card game Mike taught us) and relaxing on this beautiful dock we found on a lake. Dougie even pulled out a travel fishing pole he had packed and fished while we swam and enjoyed the sun. A super casual day followed by making a home cooked (way too spicy) spaghetti dinner with the four of us and two of Mikes neighbors Enrico and Phillippo who came over later to talk about Italian politics and to make fun of Mike. Knowing it was the last few days of our trip we tried to make the most of it and our time with Dee and Doug who we knew we wouldn't see until Christmas in Oz.
After saying our sad goodbyes the next day, we all departed Usago :( Dee and Doug were off to Modena and Mike and I to Venice where we would stay for a day and night and fly home from there.
When we got to Venice it was JUST as I remembered as a kid. There is something so magical about this city, it's like a disney world to me. The moat-like streets, tiny hotels and ornate wooden taxi boats put me into sensory overload. To be honest though, we dropped our things off in our beautiful hotel, walked around the streets and through the square, had an aperol spritz, and could not WAIT to jump back into our room to put on some giant white robes and relax. Maybe it was because we had been so non-stop, maybe it was all the asian tourists in Venice, or maybe we just loved our pillowy hotel bed, I don't know, but I couldn't have been happier. We wandered around later that evening to a random restaurant we found that had the perfect people watching outside street-facing table, ate some pesto pasta and called it a night.
It's been extremely difficult to put into writing one of the most memoral trips I've ever had, but I'm glad I did so I can always look back on it and see the photos to remember it. I highly suggest you go to some of these places if you're over that way, it's too hard to say which was my favorite. To all the friends we met up with and then went our separate ways, we'll always have this overseas rendezvous in the books to remember. Until next time!