I’ve got a big family. No, big is an understatement. I’ve got a big, huge, enormous, can’t-keep-track-of-who-I’m-related-to family.
I don’t have cousins for days – I have them for weeks, months, and years. Meeting someone then finding out we’re related (or that they know someone I’m related to) is a regular occurrence. I call my parents’ 1st through 10th cousins my aunts and uncles. I’m best friends with my 7th cousins like it ain’t no thang.
That all being said, it didn’t surprise me when my mom told me she has cousins in a random city in Italy. What do you do when your Mom tells you you’ve got cousins in a random city in Italy? You hop on a train and go visit them.
My weekend trip in Modena began on a delicious note – a foreshadowing of the good meals ahead. My aunt (again, I use the term sparingly) made a delicious dinner of fatoosh (Arabic-style salad) and some of the best pasta pescatore (seafood with linguine) I’ve ever had. Although it was the first time we’d met, we hit it off and had a great weekend getting to know each other. Needless to say, it felt so nice to eat around a table amongst family here in Italy.
Saturday was a day full of exploring, and our first stop was the local gelateria, “Slurp.” Now, before I continue, I must put out a disclaimer: I absolutely love Rome, but by no means does it have the best food. Italians know that the best food – the stuff that’ll really blow your mind – is to be found in other parts of Italy (namely the south). That being said, I had the best gelato I’ve ever had at that gelateria in Modena. My aunt feels the same, as she’s had gelato in various cities throughout the country, and nothing compares to the stuff she’s had at Slurp.
We toured many things within the city center: the Duomo (cathedral), Torre Civica, Piazza Grande, and the outdoor markets. Highlights included climbing up the steps of the Torre della Ghirlandina (bell tower) and seeing the Italian Military Academy… the first military institution in the world.
On Saturday night, we went out to dinner at a restaurant featuring classic Modenese fare: tigelle and crescentine with a variety of Italian cold cuts and cheeses. The spread was paired with a classic Italian white wine. The whole spread was sooo good.
On Sunday, we had another great homemade meal together. This time, it was an Austrian meal, since my mom’s cousin is originally from Vienna: goulash with polenta. I don’t think I’ve had polenta that tasty since I was in Spain. We made one last pit stop at the gelateria before she dropped me off at the train station and I was on my way back to Rome. All in all, a great weekend trip – hopefully the first of many!