The title of this blog is inspired by the Graham Greene novel, Travels with my Aunt. It seemed fitting, given that while visiting my parents at their home in Italy over the week leading up to Thanksgiving last year, going on adventures with them to new and beautiful places and staying up until the wee hours of the morning hearing stories of their life, their travels and the characters they met along the way, it felt somewhat like I was Henry Pulling from the novel, with a rather ordinary existence and they were Aunt Augusta, full of adventure and wonderful tales!
Since my parents have lived in Italy for almost a decade, I have spent quite a lot of time there and while the most important thing about every trip is to spend time with them, we also always make the effort to explore this beautiful part of the world. On this particular trip we spent time in Lucca, San Gimignano, Assisi and Milan.
Our trip to Lucca was inspired by the fact that mine and my husbands favorite restaurant for pasta in our neighborhood of North Beach (also know as Little Italy) in San Francisco, Baonecci, is owned and run by a family from Lucca with the mum in the kitchen and father and sons front of house. When I told the family of my trip to Italy, they recommended a restaurant in Lucca owned by one of their friends but unfortunately we didn’t book a table in advance and the recommended restaurant was fully booked for lunch on the day my parents and I went to Lucca. However, we managed to find another lovely little spot for lunch and spent a wonderful day in Lucca wandering through the antique markets, popping into the churches, walking the city wall and enjoying the atmosphere in the beautiful old squares.
I visited both Assisi and San Gimignano back in 2000, when my mum’s side of the family met in Italy to ring in the new millennium. Back then, I remember being so excited that I ended up in the one car that decided to drive the extra distance to Assisi one day while everyone else returned home, exhausted from a long day of exploring. However, I remember little else from that trip and so thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the Basilica of St. Francis to see the incredible frescoes inside.
I also have fun memories of visiting the Museum of Torture in San Gimignano with my grandfather back in 2000, but again remember little else about San Gimignano. This time, my dad and I gave the Museum of Torture a miss, opting rather to spend our time drinking coffee in cafes, stopping in at the churches, wandering the streets and taking in the views!
Neither my dad nor I had been to Milan before so our three days in Milan were a real treat. We spent our days admiring the many rooftop gardens in the city and the lovely old trams, that also run on the streets of San Francisco. We got lost in museums and churches, dazed by the volume of religious art, listened to opera rehearsals at the famous Teatro alla Scala and observed archeological excavations. We explored hidden streets and gardens (both of plant and sculpture) and enjoyed drinks at trendy cocktail bars, including the bar designed by the film director, Wes Anderson, at the Fondazione Prada.
Just like it lead to richer and more exciting times for Henry Pulling when he was persuaded by Aunt Augusta to join her on her travels, traveling with my parents is always a good idea!