Saturday, September 24, 2011

Milan & NYC

Back home in Milan from a whirlwind of travels in the states. As much as I loved being home in NYC and visiting my BFF in San Fran, Bay Area, it's nice to be back home, home, here in Milano. It's funny how the lifestyle, here in Italy, has truly seeped into my blood. When I was in NYC, I felt, for the very first time, disconnected. I know, I know, I cannot believe I'm writing these words but truth be told and this is coming from the little lady who never thought she would leave the big apple, who didn't think there was another city worth living in, has realized that it's not the end all be all city. After spending almost five years living in Italy, I do believe my perspective has changed. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE NYC and so siked to have a little home there again but I couldn't help feel for first time, that the city isn't as sophisticated as I used think. Yikes, did I just write that?  Yes, I did and it's true but unless ya get out and I mean out of the country, one might not really understand what I mean. NYC had that sort of old world elegance back in the day but over the years it has slowly shed its vintage self for some sort of new homogeneous version.  Nor is it the only great American city, hello have ya ever been to heaven-like San Fransisco and Bay area? But what I was longing for as I got back into my NYC routine was the simple beauty of the old school lifestyle which very much still exists here in Italy.  I missed the the fine food and wine.  I missed going to the pharmacy, where one will only find, news flash, brace yourself, medicine\health related items and not your A-Z, one stop wonder Walgreens type of pharmacy which you find on every NYC corner.  I missed my neighborhood pasticceria for fresh bricoche and cafe served properly by a barista. I was cringing every time I heard crazy coffee concoctions ordered at Starbucks (in my defense I was there using their free wifi and always ordered a single shot espresso, ok once a chai latte, okay maybe twice) Everything screamed big, between the cup size and the loud and multiple piercing coffee orders, Tall, Grande, Venti and don't get me started on the new "Trenta",  really peeps, are ANY of those sizes necessary?  What happen to regular or small? Do I even need to go there? I just stared in awe at each "grande, venti, trenta coffee that passed by me. You would have thought, I'd never been in a Starbucks before. That's how much my perspective has changed.
  I missed how clean the metro is (but I did enjoy the air condition in each car, something Italians don't believe in at all)
I missed my neighborhood gelateria, where they make homemade fresh gelato and carefully package it up with paper and ribbon. I missed the "la pescheria" at my farmers market for fresh Mediterranean fish.  I missed my butcher for red meat and my butcher for white meat. I love how I have the choice to go from place to place to buy my groceries instead of one stop mega super store. Although I have to admit, I do adore my Esselunga, which is the an Italian chain supermarket, where I receive expert cooking and wine advice from the cashiers (this is how important food is, you will hear EVERYONE talking about food and everyone giving you advice on what goes with what). I love how the Italians take the time to wrap up your parcels, whether it's food, clothes, flowers etc.  I love how they still use bakers string around pastry boxes. I love how I still need to take a number every time I'm in my panetteria (bread shop). I love how the shopkeepers know what their selling you and take such care with everything. I love how Italians take the month of August off to regroup and relax.
I missed the food, did I say that already?
Food has to be the biggest difference between America and Italy. Here in Italy, food IS the culture. Life revolves around, Food, Family and Friends.  Sure the food concept exists in NYC and in other parts of America but it doesn't even come close to how it plays a role in the every day life in Italy. Really, it just doesn't. Not even your nearest, high end, Italian restaurant can truly give you the real thing. You need to be in Italy to have the true experience. Even walking into Eatly feels too Americanized.  And yes, while we have Eatly here in Italy and yes, I know it was established by Italians, the one in NYC feels a bit like I've stepped into a super sized Epcot Italy. We've replaced, quaint, unique, family businesses with BIG one stop shop and it really drives me nutzo. And even the sales peeps don't know the products very well or handle them with care the way I see in Italy. That part of the food experience, which is very important in Italy, somehow got lost in translation in America.  People just want it and want it fast. Whatever it is. What ever happened to the care and fine details of packaging? Where have all the mom and pop neighborhood shops disappeared too? Where are all the little butchers? fish market shops? cheese shops? There are very few left. Each time I go back, I see less and less of these old school shops. Instead, they're replaced with another Duane Reade, Starbucks or mega one stop store. Really, do we need more?  I feel like our American culture is being commodified. How was I not paying attention to this before? At one point during my trip,  I headed over to Bed, Bath & Beyond in need of some bed sheets. I was so overwhelmed by the abundance of products that filled every inch of the store from floor to ceiling, that I literally had to run out. And when did they start to sell food and add on a pharmacy\beauty section? It was too much for me. I turned around and beelined for the nearest exit. srsly. I guess it was my first experience of readjusting back to life in America. Eh, who would have thought it would only take five years of living abroad?  I certainly didn't. Seems too short of time to feel this disconnected.

Oh but there are many many beautiful things about NYC and after a week and half of adjustment,  I started to feel as though, I had never left. The city that stole my heart and will always have a piece of it. And yes, while the food overall is better in Italy, there are a few staples from the states that I still crave and one being a delish slice of NYC pizza. It's still my favorite and nothing in Italy compares. Yep. You heard me right, I prefer a good old greasy slice of NYC pizza, preferably one from Ben's or Joe's pizza verses one from Italy. Oh there are so many great things about the city, like a late afternoon walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and getting lost in the labyrinth of beautiful brownstones, day dreaming of which one I would like to live in.  The Chrysler Building and Grand Central Station. The plethora of museums at your finger tips, my most favorite, The American Museum of Natural History. I still get a kick out of the dinosaurs and whale room. The botanical gardens in both the Bronx and Brooklyn. Being able to get Steak Frites late night at Pastis. Riding the Staten Island Ferry, taking in the views of the majestic city (it's free and even more magnificent at night) The Lexington Candy Shop for an old school hamburger, french fries and a milkshake. The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, my most favorite time of the year. Winter snowfalls and how it always makes the the city look extra magical and surprisingly silent. Ess-a-Bagel on First Ave, need I say more? Oh I could go on and on but I won't, as there's too much.  I think A. and I got it right,  setting up homes in both America and Europe.  It's amazing to be able achieve our dream lifestyle and I know we're very, very lucky to do so. But being an international family this set up makes sense.  In a strange way it gives me more balance. Most would think being torn between two homes would be exhausting but for me I feel more energized and present.

So speaking of being energized and present, I woke up very early this morning, watched our lovely apartment and plants soak in the morning light while sipping my morning coffee.  After my quiet morning rise, I went out for a leisurely walk around our neighborhood and stopped by my favorite pasticceria for fresh bricoche and another cafe. I took the long way home and walked down the little park on Via Domenichino and watched the leaves fall from the chestnut trees. I inspected our little garden and noticed we had few pomegranates on the tree. It's the first weekend of autumn and the signs of change are slowly making their debut. This is always a spectacular time of the year to be in Milan and I can hardly wait for the typical autumn Italian dishes. Truffles anyone?

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