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La Dolce Vita With Swiss Chocolate on Top

This year of travel would certainly not be complete without sharing our adventures with my favorite traveling partners. These partners of mine happen to be twice my age. They’re also my parents.

I’d been looking forward to the day of our reunion since our tearful goodbye last fall. Standing in the St. Louis Lambert Airport, my mom whispered to me as she hugged me tightly goodbye: “Think of all your eyes will see before we see each other again.” She was right. These eyes have seen quite a lot, but no exotic locale has brought these eyes more joy than seeing my favorite traveling partners again.

First came the great debate: where to meet up on our around the world journey. With my dad’s thirst for adventure, the sky was the limit. A remote corner of Africa or isolated region in Asia, he was in. My mom’s adventurous appetite is, well…quite malnourished. She sticks to a strict diet: no further west than France, no further east than Italy.

With this in mind the decision was made: la dolce vita it would be with a little Swiss chocolate on top.

Italy is a special place, and in my opinion, the perfect holiday destination. There’s abundant sunshine, rich culture and history, friendly people and arguably the best food and wine in the world. We had all gotten a taste of this on previous visits to Italy, making the Italian Grand Tour -Rome, Florence and Venice. This time around it would be different. We were here to discover how to live like Italians.

And so our adventure began. We greeted my parents in the fashion capital of the world and from Milan headed north to our new Italian digs.

Our Italian home away from home goes by the name of Casa Sue. Located on the shores of Lago Maggiore in the Piedmont region bordering the Italian Alps, Casa Sue is owned by a relative of mine who so graciously lent us their Italian holiday home for our stay. Just an hour north of Milan, the home sits on the mountainside between the lakeside villages of Lesa and Stresa overlooking one of Italy’s great northern lakes.

I fell in love with Casa Sue from the moment we walked through the doors. Housed in a renovated paper mill, the place oozes with charm. High ceilings and well-appointed furniture give it a Venetian ambience and the hanging copper pots, hand painted cupboard and sun-choked kitchen take you out to the Tuscan countryside. But above all, what really got me with Casa Sue is the veranda. This is the heart of the home and where many of our sweetest Italian memories were made. Country-style barn doors open up to an unparalleled view of idyllic Lago Maggiore. Flower boxes exploding with purple, orange, pink and white flowers welcomed us as we sunk into the bouquet of pillows awaiting our arrival. We thought our view was even better than that of octogenarian president Berlusconi whose ‘humble’ abode sits on the large swath of real estate resting just beneath our lane.

For the next 10 days we would use Casa Sue as our Italian headquarters from which to explore the surrounding region. My dad set the tone of the trip early on. Within the first hour, we ventured into the town center to feast on an Italian lunch of cannelloni and eggplant parmesan, hit up the local gelaterria and stocked up on meats and cheeses, breads and pastries and copious amounts of red wine.

For the next week we took pleasure in exploring the traditional villages dotting the northern lakes of Italy while indulging in all our Italian fantasies. Our to-do list each day consisted of two things: eat well, drink better. Mornings were spent lounging on the veranda preying on flaky pastries while plotting out the day’s drive and culinary escapades. Afternoons consisted of leisurely walks into the neighboring villages for cappuccino and stand-up espressos. At sunset we assumed position: the ladies preparing the veranda with candlelight and men uncorking bottles of wine and laying out a platter of antipasti fit for a king.

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From here, with our hosts’ restaurant Bible in hand, we faced the biggest decision of the day: where to eat. After selecting our ristorante di giorno, poor Pop had to cut his cocktail hour short as the windy roads to dinner necessitated sobriety.

Like all regions in Italy, Piedmont has its own assortment of provincial specialties. Each night we set about making the second most difficult decision of the day: what to eat. Again, my dad set the tone, always ordering a primi and secondi piatti, surreptitiously, if we ever chose to forgo the two courses. As luck would have it, the famed white truffle was in season as well a myriad of Italian game. As such, primi piatti often consisted of homemade tagliatelle topped with white truffle or a wild boar ragu. The second course was often fresh fish and seafood from one of the surrounding lakes or local game. A favorite dish, and certainly hard to top, was the sage-stuffed quail wrapped in prosciutto and served over parmesan and truffle risotto. Back at the homestead with bellies full, we eased our way out of the food comas with chocolate liqueurs.

This was la dolce vita at its best and the reunion with family proved well worth the 11 month wait. Truly the trip of a lifetime within our trip of a lifetime. Thank you, Mom and Pop!

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