Il Duomo di Milano, Italia
Milan is also home to the insanely extravagant, and my favourite church/cathedral throughout the entire trip, Duomo di Milano. It's so pretty it hurts.
After lunch one day in a random, hideaway trattoria (risotto Milanese, I think it was) I was keen for a light dolci and the waiter had just the thing for me. A little dish of fresh blueberries, blackberries and raspberries served with lemon and a sprinkling of sugar. I remember being very happy with the simple dessert and quite stoked to have found a little gem of a trattoria.
It was then to two amazing weeks on a farm in the Apennine Mountains, which was disgustingly idyllic in comparison to any other life I know. Views of mountains and valleys all round; mild summer weather; and loads of Italian home cooking. Too many favourite meals to recall, including a soup of white zucchinis from the garden, risotto with four mushroom varieties from nonna's garden, and a simple lunch of a ball of buffalo mozzarella with rosemary potatoes, head of butter lettuce from the garden, home-baked bread and olive oil.
The pizza day was plenty fun, starting with the largest pile of dough I've ever seen in a home and culminating in short burst cooking in a woodfired oven that had been burning for a few hours beforehand. Toppings were plain cheese or olives with mozzarella.
It was our luck in that it was also cherry season and we had free reign over fruit straight from the trees. Every afternoon became cherry time where we'd pick and eat as we stood under the trees. You could not get fresher, sweeter fruit though I didn't need the ant that came with a cherry one time.
There were even strawberries growing by the mountain roadside; minute in size but adorable and a yummy addition to the American-style pancakes we had for breakfast one morning.
A day trip to nearby city Bologna was an adventure and a half. After sightseeing and some shopping we settled into a wine bar in a laneway, where a dashing waiter seemed to ply us with wine and free nibbles for hours. We saw these young boys and couldn't help but smile and take a sly photo of their brightly decorated drinks. The journey back to the train station after a couple of bottles was amusing, to say the least, and the ensuing adventure was ridiculous, irresponsible and so very funny.
From memory, restaurants were a little more scarce in Amalfi and tiny neighbour Atrani, so I hit up the village grocer in Amalfi one night to DIY. Much fun going from grocer to fruit and vegie stall to the wine shop, where the guy kindly uncorked my bottle of a local red wine to go. Above I have a bunch of basil, a tomato, a bag of buffalo mozzarella, and some mini bread sticks on the side. And of course, the vino.
There was a lot of creativity in the process of making the salad in a kitchen-less hostel room. The drinking glass became servingware; the bathroom sink became washing, prep and cool storage; and plastic cutlery accumulated from the trip proved invaluable. I had two glasses of my insalata Caprese and the same amount of wine.
Atrani turned out to be the perfect pinnacle and end to the trip but not so great in that I didn't want to leave. Imagine leaving a tiny, sunny beach village on the Amalfi Coast for cold Sydney winter. It didn't seem fair, and it still doesn't.