A Florentine in Boston.

BOSTON – The North End rocks. Repeat after me, Boston’s North End rocks. How could I have forgotten this? We only live two hours away. What a rush to rediscover it. We found ourselves spending a few days in Boston recently so we headed off to the Italian Zone. Worrying about finding anything open on a Monday. Need not have worried. EVERYthing was open this lush summer evening. The only trick was deciding which place to try. We were flicking back and forth from the “Around Me” app to the very funky, fun”Urban Daddy Boston” app. And finally decided to just enjoy the stroll and let one restaurant “speak to us” as we walked by. And there were plenty to do the talking. All in Italian. It is wall to wall, building after building, street after street of Italian restaurants. Oh, sure once in a while, just to break things up, there will be a Catholic church draped in statues of saints and modonnas. Or a jewel like Mike’s Pastry. Its been there what, a hundred years and the name doesn’t sound Italian but look at the people on the street leaned back against the bricks, smacking their lips over cannolis. Looks pretty Italian to me.
There were lines at restaurants like Gioccomo’s down the street like every night. Sure, this was a not-to-be-missed, lovely summer night. But it was also a MONDAY. Full houses everywhere. We slid into the last open-air bay window seat at the Florentine Cafe. And our Italian, from Italy, waiter took our order. What a night. We were looking out at the crowds strolling by with their blue and white boxes of Mike’s Pastries, and groups touring the St. Leonard’s gardens behind its wrought iron fences across the street (first church built in America by Italian immigrants i think the sign said) and watching the BMWs, Hummers, and Mercedes jockey for parking spaces outside our window, we thought “What economic downturn?” Did someone give not give Boston the memo? I’d love to see a moment like this on the evening news for a change.

We may not have been to the North End for years but THAT isn’t happening again. We will be there with our friends the Lambarts of Steamboat Springs Friday night. They just got back from Panicale, Umbria, Italy and we will be swapping stories over pasta and cappucchinos all weekend. I just hope they will be good sports about our Northwestern Wildcats beating what ever they call their son’s BC team. Shoot, you know what, we will have to be extra gracious too as we are sitting in the BC section. Gulp. I think we can do that.

Roberta of Torino just left a couple days ago, California buddies we know from Italy were here just before that and other San Francisco/Panicale friends are coming in a couple weeks. And we are hoping when it settles down here to get to Actual Italy in late October. Our daughter Wiley, The Wiley Traveler, late of London, is headed there on a cheap flight Friday, lucky girl! We keep realizing that even when we are not in Italy, you can see it is still a huge part of the family photo here.

See you in Italy,
(or, if not, maybe the North End)

Stew Vreeland

New Fiat: First the hard drive. Then the test drive.

PORTLAND, ITALY – We’re not really in Italy but standing at a Fiat dealership surrounded by a sea of new Fiat 500s, it’s not hard to imagine you are on right side of the pond. Quirk Fiat of Portland has them lined up as far as you can see in every color. But all Midge can see are the shiny red ones. Ooooh, tops go down? midgefiat

We are there partially so our buddy Roberta of Torino who has worked at Fiat for ten years, can see where the rubber hits the road here at Fiat USA. (You’ll maybe recall, she started all this by bringing us that 500 shaped removable hard drive.) We’re also trading test drive vehicles with our friends the Turinas. Paul, imports his family’s wines from Italy: Turina Italian Wines. He has had one of about every kind of Italian car made. We’re just a bunch of Italians at an Italian car dealership on our way to pasta night out at Paciarino’s Italian restaurant. Owners are Italians from Milano. Did you notice how I tried to slide a renegade pair of Vreelands in with the bonafide Italians? Big old wannabes we are. I know, sad really isn’t it? We try.


Check out that soft Fiat in the showroom. It’s a car cover. Can you believe? Too cute. But alas, too pricey. The Fiats are not expensive. But putting one of those covers over your Fiat is going to be. Over $900 with taxes. Gulp. Ma puo darsi va le la pena perche carina al massimo. And way cute.

OK, see you in Italy!

Stew Vreeland

The new Fiat is here.

newfiat4PORTLAND, ME–Our friend Roberta is here from Torino, Italy. We’ve known her forever. She lived with us for a year, many years ago. For the last ten years she’s worked for Fiat. She arrived here August 1st, the day they started promo’ing the new Fiat 500.

I’ve always wanted a Cinquecento. I fantasize that we could even squeeze one in our cantina in Panicale. But, mainly its just fun to say “cinquecento.” Usually the ones you see now in Italy are the cool tricked-out survivors, and they are often hyper-cool. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, and Fiat has worked it hard on these new ones. Rightly so.

Check out the fine bit of branded swag she scored for me. Very fuel efficient. And like any fine vehicle it has good storage. Two megs in this case.

Just for fun (and because Midge insists) we’re going to check out the real ones tomorrow afternoon. Last month, during the Italian Expo, the dealer had three and they were all locked-in, not for sale, demos. Today they say they’ve got a 100 of the 500’s. We will see, test drive and report back.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

How about a slice of Italy?

ITALY, NYC–Couple good ways to slice it. One is checking out our friend Steve Callen’s blog. Steve is a film maker from Down Under. He’s chucked it all down there for the moment and is living The Life in Italy. But old habits die hard and the video cam is still grasped tightly in his fist. To our benefit. He’s got a couple video Slices of Life in Italy. One two-parter is him doing a walkabout in Florence. And another one is going on An Explore south of Naples. As Carter said peering into Tut’s Tomb “I see wonderful things.” And his audio capture in Panicale . . . and the story that went with . . . they are able to put me there – on the very Umbrian cobblestones – without pictures. To my mind’s eye, it is a graceful piece of art. And his Spielberg Sighting Story is most excellent fun.

Need another slice? Our friend Shireen got our attention today with a link to an Urban Daddy story about a store that is all Tiramisu. Shireen is ahead of the loop on many things and we look to her for fun trends on all things electronic. She recommends Urban Daddy app and website. They are both pretty slick. We’ll be in Boston a few days next week and we will definitely be using that app there. Addresses, phones, photos, maps, pretty nice.

See you in Italy,