Mario Pampel. Celebrating birthday in a different way or looking for pleasure and relaxation.

As the sun shone on our bed while waking up on a Sunday morning I had an idea: “Honey, instead of celebrating a birthday party, how about packing our suitcases and travel through Italy eating?”

In the past we often visited Italy, not least because of the stunning scenery landscape and the terrific food. But also combined with the rich culture this country has brought forth, which is characterised by numerous old buildings of various ages and nationalities. Even the journey through Italy is a pleasure. Glorious blue sky and sunshine revealed a beautiful sight and warm welcome between the mountains and the vastness of the Val Canale, which triggers a strange fascination in me every single time. The ambiance in the end of September is exciting.

Somehow this reinforces the impression of our own secret escapes on our travel. After arriving in a small fishing village called “Marano Lagunare” we toddled through small lanes. The village invited me to do what I love to do: observing. For a few minutes I stood in the Main Square – from the left children playing soccer, on the right side the supposedly goal, over there a pigeon. Behind me a laughing group of elderly women, who probably did not drink the first glass of wine, in front of us four teenagers playing table soccer outside a bar, discussing loudly and gesturing wildly in an adult way. Observing the boys between the green plants, bicycles and wheelchairs was a real pleasure. And then, on the stroke, the doors of the restaurant “Alla Laguna Vedova Raddi“ opened and we treated ourselves to some fine food – fresh fish in many ways of preparation, sensational pasta and fine wine completed our enjoyable evening.

Thanks to a freshly brewed coffee the next morning, our tour group started for Aquileia. Next to ancient remains of Roman temples we found an ageing steel construction, which used to be a Boccia facility a long time ago. For a brief moment I wondered whether this would last as long as the Roman columns, but distracted by an old wine press I kept on walking. A closed ice cream parlour and shops from a bygone time somehow lent a ghostly appearance on the road to the Campanile di Aquileia. After climbing the old bell tower I admitted defeated and sat down at the side of the square with my mother. Sorely tempted, we decided to treat ourselves to a Snack. Pizza. Walnut and Gorgonzola. Delicate. Satisfied, we decided to return to Aquileia another day apart from the wedding guests.

The next stop on our journey was Grado. The long carriage drive to the Isola del Sole really forces you to slow down – only 60km/h permitted. A good opportunity to marvel at a church on a small island or the occasional wreck on the sandbanks. Arrived in this beautiful harbor town, the evening was waiting with another nice fish restaurant, the “Trattoria Al Pescatore”, where we simply could not get enough from the starter through the pasta to the main course.

The view from Muggia next morning at eye level with the sea over the port of Trieste fascinated me – at anchor sleeping steel giants and small white sailboats, which were worn over the sea like arrows. Looking for our morning coffee, we managed to grab a sunny place on the water. The fresh espresso felt like a reset to us. But also these priceless moments watching people, developed into an amusing morning show. Next to scallops and remnants of various shellfish I found something else in the crystal clear waters on the other side of the harbour: an entire column with a beautiful Doric capital. Decorated by full colourful clotheslines on lovely facades our further route led us through colourful streets, which we thought we knew from several films. A truly charming picture.

Leaving Muggia, our next stop was Trieste and visited the “Castello di Miramare”. For many reasons: curiosity, because it was on our way back to Grado, cultural interest and our fascination of this cultural asset. However, we maybe hadn`t an ideal timing. Sunday afternoon and sunny weather attracted many tourists from all over the world, although it was off-season. Difficult to imagine how crowded Miramare must be in busy season. Everyone, who has already visited this place, knows what I mean: the avenue to the Castello was once designed for carriages at the 19th century. Nowadays, with cars and coaches passing by an almost impossible task to coordinate tourists, cars and tour busses simultaneously. After half an hour we found a spot to park our modern carriage and were able to start the fun part: the visit of Castello di Miramare. Treasures, which had accumulated over the time by its builders and owners made this place unique and breath-taking.

After the cultural delight we headed a little bit exhausted and nearly starving towards the restaurant “La Subida” in Cormons, well-known for its wonderful cuisine. Prosciutto as a starter and a matching “Vino” bianco made us forget all the worries that we previously might have had. At least we had a good excuse to treat ourselves to something special. From the
corner of my exe I noticed a perfectly styled and style-conscious trio on the terrace not far away from our table. But for now, my attention turned back to the dishes at our table. When all of a sudden a cute little black furball sizzled under the tables looking for delicacies – if someone was clumsy then there must be a chance to find something on the floor. Losing sight of my food I instinctively reached for the camera and asked the stylish trio for the furball`s name. His name was Narcos. The three of them and me started talking, there was a lot of laughter, we chunk glasses on my upcoming birthday, photographed and swapped contact details. The way to Cormons was really worth it. A great place, delicious food and pleasant people rounded off the stay. The next day, it was my birthday, we spent on the golf course. Relaxing 18 holes on the golf course of Grado. Bel Gioco! Besides our golf play we were watching gooses, ducks and muskrats including progeny being out to grass. In the evening we returned and faced another highlight – the “Trattoria de Toni” in the historic centre and pedestrian zone of Grado. Aside from the amusing an professional service the food was once again an extraordinary experience. My first tuna steak. Wow. Once again, greetings to the kitchen!

The next morning we visited the Church of Aquileia again. Stunning mosaics on the floor, frescoes and excavations – all these treasures are witnesses of a long past time. An unique experience.

Cividale and a small bakery with fruity little pastries was the next target of our program. A city, as I have not seen yet. A medieval city core, cut off from a deep ravine with an emerald green river, where the “Devil`s Bridge” is crossing. I crossed the bridge, went up and down to look at all possible perspectives to take a perfect shot. Beside that, I had a chance to watch the fish in the river and relax on the white river bed of gravel in the sun. For lunch we decided to visit the “Osteria ‘Enoteca de Feo’” – an insider’s tip. Deserted, but we met the probably most fascinating and charismatic manager, I can only imagine in Italy. Listening while she tried to explain the daily menu and specialties to us, sounded like a beautiful harmonious play. As may be imagined she used her whole body to speak: her hands, arms, shoulders, her whole gestures combined with her facial expressions were fascinating to watch. It was wonderful. Not to mention the food. Pasta, as I would never dream of, fish beyond reproach, definitely made an impact to our excitement of Italian food.

Wednesday. A sunny day on the beach of Grado. Deserted. How relaxing. Warm water, wind and seagulls – what more could a heart desire? The local cooperative was our host of the evening, where it was taken care of our well-being. Then. It was bound to happen.

The day of our departure. Our way back home led us to “Villa Manin”, a magnificent residence of the last Doge of Venice – stunning and perfectly suitable for our morning coffee as well. Spilimbergo was our last, but not less impressive stay of our trip, where once again Italy`s overwhelming ancient architecture was presented. Everywhere in the city there was a beguiling aroma of ripe oranges, which we smelled here and there again. It made us dream about this and that. The sun in our hearts and as a companion on our way to the Alps, we headed a little bit melancholic but full of beautiful experiences, new acquaintances and wonderful impressions back to our home, Vienna. In addition to the experiences there were also our companions who particularly made this trip so unique.

Many thanks to Barbara, Hermine, Lisa and especially Wolfgang, who enabled us unforgettable moments thanks to his organisation and planning. We`re grateful.

Translations by
VALENTINA CAGNIN

Edited by
TEAM VENICE