Arrivederci, Italia! Thank you for treating our girls so well!

It’s been a wonderful three weeks in Italy with our girls, ages (almost) five and six and a half.

They’ve been trying all kinds of new foods (Lila Jane now loves rabbit; Georgia has a yen for fried anchovies) and picking up Italian words along the way (Georgia can now count to 13 in Italian; Lila Jane’s grazie is impeccable).

They’ve made a ton of friends here: Cecilia, Tiziano, Lorenzo, Federico, Andrea, Alba, Azzurra, Atena… too many to count. And they played with kids from all over the Mediterranean.

Their mother and father have been eating well, too.

Our host (and the best friend you could ever ask for), Giovanni, made us delicious linguine with fresh tomatoes and coppa last night (above), a perfect pairing for his Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero (Arcari + Danesi).

Other highlights were fish stew in Liguria, a cow-goat hybrid Robiola paired with Nebbiolo in Piedmont, spaghetti with clams at Giancarlo and Francesca’s house (Piedmont), erbazzone and homemade salame on Michele and Vanina’s farm (Piedmont), aperitivo with the Lini mispucha (Emilia), tortelli verdi with the Levy clan (also in Emilia).

Another highlight was a vineyard picnic on Sunday with my dissertation advisor Luigi and his son Edoardo, also a great friend of mine. We were the guests of the Arcari + Danesi winery in Coccaglio (Franciacorta, Lombardy), where we enjoyed perfect weather, wine, and a paradisiacal Bagòss.

And that brings me to the best part of all — loving and being loved in return.

That’s Giovanni in the photo below (top, left) with Nico (his partner at Arcari + Danesi, top right), and Andrea (their partner in SoloUva, bottom left), Georgia (center) and Lila Jane (right).

The guys did everything in their power to make sure that the Parzen family was comfortable, safe, and well fed. By the time we said goodbye this morning, the girls were playing with them (and on them!) like they were uncles — my Italian brothers.

Words cannot express how thankful I am to them for everything they did for us. Just knowing they were there for us in case we needed them made the trip all the more relaxing and enjoyable for Tracie and me.

Not many can boast of having such loving, lovely, and generous friends. We’re so lucky to have them in our lives.

Many tears were shed as we all said goodbye this morning: dew cascading gently from a grape bunch as the sun rises over Montorfano.

Arrivederci, Franciacorta! Arrivederci, Italia! We have loved you as you have loved us.

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