My passion for all things Italian began in the Summer of 1989.
At that time I had been living in Manhattan for several years and I wanted to go to Italy. All of my friends had already been or couldn’t go with, so I decided to go by myself.
I flew from New York to Zurich and then on to Milan to meet a friend who was doing the fashion shows. Two days in Milan – alone – because said friend had to go back to the states suddenly. This is before cell phones and the internet so he had no way to reach me. On top of my shock and surprise that my friend was not only not there, but I had now had no place to stay. Thinking I would just get on a train for Florence sooner than planned, I was quickly advised that it was ‘non e possibile’ – because as it would happen, and used to happen quite frequently – the trains were on strike. So I was now stranded in Milano with no friend and no place to stay.
Luckily for me, my friend’s landlady thought it was a terrible thing that said friend wasn’t home when I arrived and called her son (who spoke English) to come over and help me. He did just that and then called me a taxi to take me there.
The next day I made the best of things exploring Milan while the train strike ran it’s 24-hour course. Having studied Architecture in college I sat in front of the Milan Cathedral – for I don’t know how long, gazing at it’s awe-inspiring spires and incredible detail wondering how in the hell they built this thing without cranes. Inside the Duomo also hangs da Vinci’s Last Supper. Not to be missed next time you make your way to Milano.
The trains were running again, so I settled in for the 4-hour train ride to Florence. Back then, Le Frecce or the super-fast direct trains that zip you from city to city in less than two hours unfortunately did not yet exist.
Stopping in Bologna to change trains, I had some time to kill before my train left for bella Firenze and wandered into a cafe close to my train’s ‘bin’ or track. At this point in my life, I didn’t even drink coffee. I’d stopped drinking it years before as I just didn’t care for the taste of ‘caffe Americano’ nor it’s after affects. But I was in Italy for the first time and I was still feeling jet lag – so I ordered my very first cappuccino.
I was not expecting it to be such an overwhelmingly life-changing experience as I took my first sip, but somewhere between the creamy froth hitting my lips and the rich chocolaty flavor warming it’s way down my throat, I was a changed woman. It was official. I’d lost my Caffe Virginity somewhere in the Bologna Centrale Stazione.
Returning to New York ten days later I immediately ran to Bloomingdale’s and purchased my first Espresso machine. And a day hasn’t passed since then that I haven’t had my ritualistic morning cappuccino. It’s become such a part of my life that my son never, ever finishes the milk at night and on road trips or major moves, I don’t leave home without my espresso machine carefully packed along with my favorite Lavazza Crema Gusto espresso, my raw sugar and a fresh carton of whole organic milk. Whether I am at home in California or at home in Italy – I still recall that first creamy chocolaty cappuccino in the Bologna train station.