Italy – The Trip Of A Lifetime
Breakfast was never a big meal with Italians. Usually it consists of a cup of coffee and a simple biscuit. When I was 14 and traveled to Italy with my brother, who was 21 at the time, we had to get used to the fact that bacon and eggs were not on any menu. And the menus were not written in English.
My mother packed for us as if we were liberating Italy once again. We had bags of chocolate, cartons of cigarettes, shirts and blue jeans. Only thing missing was K-rations and nylon stockings. It was quite some time since the war, but she thought that if we ran out of money we could barter our way through Italy. My mother had every angle covered. Till this day I can’t believe she let my brother Richard and I make that trip. It was a testament to my brother’s maturity that my mother allowed us.
We each had one suitcase and a good pair of shoes. We landed in Milan with no reservations at any hotels and had a copy of the travel guide “Italy on $15 a day”. We pretty much stuck to it by staying at Pensiones, they were family run boarding houses, usually with a shared bath down the hall. When we wanted to take a bath or a shower we had to tell the family that ran the pensione ahead of time so they could light the water heater for hot water. We didn’t care. We were young and ready for adventure.
Between both our suitcases, half of one was full of the “rations”. It was a lot to carry and my brother decided to unload some of it. We offered a cab driver a carton of cigarettes for payment. I think something was lost in the translation, because he took the cigarettes and still asked for his fare. I told my brother not to tip him! It would have been cheaper if we just paid the guy in Lira.
I was on my guard the entire time. On day I was thirsty and asked a bar keep for a glass of water. He gave it to me out of a bottle and charged me 50 Lira. I was appalled! You have to pay for water here???!!! I told my brother that this guy was trying to scam me. I told the bar tender, in sign language, “open the faucet and give me whatever comes out”. He looked at me as if I was crazy, but I wasn’t going to pay for WATER…. back in 1968 you can get water anywhere in America for free. Isn’t it wonderful how we have progressed. Now we are just like Italy.
We spent a month in Italy, arriving in Milan during a city-wide strike of some kind, and made our way south on a Euro Pass, stopping at Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples and eventually meeting up with my Aunt Angie (my grandmother’s sister) and Uncle Benny in Sicily. We stayed at a sea-side resort on the Ionian coast in the town of Riposto, where my Uncle Benny was born. Riposto was just south of Taormina and in our back yard to the west was the active volcano Mt Etna. I can’t even begin to describe to you the scenic beauty that was all around us. The resort was run by a local family and they served some of the most delicious meals I had while in Sicily.
One morning I just couldn’t take another biscuit for breakfast and I asked my Aunt if she could order me some fried eggs. The resort owners were amused and granted my wish. The eggs I had there were not like the ones we got back at home. These were free range chickens and the yolk was much darker than I was used to and had a much stronger taste. But I didn’t let that stop me. They served it with their home-made peasant bread that they baked every morning in their brick ovens and it tasted wonderful. Only thing missing was the bacon.
Back home my mother would make me this simple egg sandwich she called Pane Ciapata. Ciapata is a dialect word for “mixed up or together”.
You will need slices of Italian bread, 2 0r 3 large eggs, and olive oil.
Heat a large non stick frying pan and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
When the oil is hot crack the eggs into the pan
Take the slices of Italian bread and press each slice on top of the eggs, until all the eggs are covered by the bread. Press them down firmly with your hands or a spatula so the egg is absorbed into the bread.
After about 3-4 minutes flip the egg and bread and toast the other side until browned.