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The moment we stepped off our train in Gatteo a Mare, we were greeted by my stepdad’s aunt and uncle with warm hugs and kisses on both cheeks. We were quickly welcomed into the family and immersed into the Italian culture. For some of the family, they had not seen their Italian relatives for ten years; while some of us were meeting them for the first time. For Adam and I, this culture was an experience we had always imagined and only seen on television. Italians are so friendly and have so much love for family and strangers. I cannot express it enough in words, but they were so happy to have us there that they could not stop smiling and maybe even had happy tears. So much love and appreciation.
Piadinas and Bomboloni
This is the moment we fell in love with piadinas – Italian thin flatbread sandwich. We had them before in Ravenna, but never as good as the ones we had in Gatteo a Mare! We went to a nearby piadina restaurant after we checked in from our hotel, Hotel Flamingo, and they had at least four pages of different piadinas! Of course, the menu was in Italian, but luckily for us, with everyone combined, we were able to translate some menu items. You may think piadinas look and sound pretty simple, but we promise you they are better than any flatbread or sandwich we have ever had. They are especially delicious when washed down with some Peroni and Moretti beer, which is exactly what we did.
Another family favorite – bomboloni, aka, Italian filled donuts. The bomboloni were light and filled with something sweet and luxurious – nutella. Our mouths are watering just remembering how good they tasted. The sweet tooth in us also ordered a chocolate twist/braid and a lemon bar. What can we say? We love our sweets and we love having them for breakfast while in Italy.
Adam, Shelby, Uncle Fred, cousin B and I, all went exploring to the beach when we came across a beach restaurant that had beach soccer, bocce ball and a foosball table! We were in heaven. We instantly got inside their netted court and started playing soccer for fun. As soccer players this was an amazing experience. The atmosphere was so authentic – playing some simple pick up soccer on the beach in Italy. Thank goodness the court was small because we were worn out after about 30 minutes.
Shelby and I played some beach bocce ball while Adam and B played some shirtless foosball. This was one of our fondest memories, it was nothing fancy or extravagant, just pure fun. We were so happy we told the rest of the family to meet us here and sure enough they did.
After we exhausted ourselves in beach sports we ordered some food from the restaurant and every plate that was served was delicious! We had lasagna, tortellini, seafood risotto and seafood linguine.
After our lunch on the beach we decided it was time to actually take a stroll by the water and watch the waves crash. The beach was as active and lively as the beach restaurant. There were full volleyball courts and slides in the ocean, as well as many families playing beach games in the sand. As families played in the sand, Adam collected our third handful of sand from the trip to add to our collection. All in all, it was one of the best beach days ever!
Gatteo a Mare had a Californian appeal to it, with the local restaurants and pastry shops, the perfect beach spots for families and the capability to walk the streets and shop till you drop. During our two days in Gatteo a Mare we noticed that there were white tents lined up and down the street full of shopping vendors. They had absolutely everything – clothes, hats, purses, jewelry, knick knacks and more. Quite a few people in the family ended up finding some amazing pieces of clothing and deals. We really just enjoyed the leisure of walking down the streets and seeing all the different types of vendors sell their products to the locals. The interaction between everyone was another cultural experience we enjoyed watching.
Our Big Fat Italian Dinner
Every relative of my stepdad’s came to the family dinner – from aunts and uncles, to cousins and their significant others and all of their children, making our family a total of thirty! Thank goodness we were not eating inside a restaurant because we would have needed to rent the entire restaurant out! We ate at an outdoor restaurant that was owned by a cousin. It had a large outdoor patio with a canopy covering the patio and a small playground. There was around a dozen picnic tables and we took over at least half of them making two very long picnic tables to seat all thirty of us.
We all tried to disperse ourselves to be able to mingle with our Italian family and vice versa, s0 they too could mingle with their American family. It was a great cultural and family experience. We sat with Mauricio, Frank’s cousin, who was a local police officer and the comedian of the family. He did not speak a word of English, as we did not speak a word of Italian – thank goodness for Google Translate!!!! We used Mauricio’s phone to communicate during the entire dinner. He would speak Italian into his phone as he laughed and then show us the English translation and we would laugh. It was almost like a playing the Italian version of telephone, everything was a little delayed and sometimes translated incorrectly. We in turn would speak into the phone in English as it translated into Italian for him. There are many conversation memories I will never forget, but my favorite was when I told Mauricio that we were big fans of soccer and the international Italian soccer team. He was instantly excited as I reenacted the penalty kicks of Italy vs Germany in the Euro Cup quarterfinals. Mauricio died laughing and expressed the same disappoint we had with the end outcome of the game. As fans of the game, it was so much fun and authentic sharing the same love and passion for the game with a local Italian. Again, it may be hard to express in words how much of an amazing experience we had with Mauricio and the rest of the family, so all we can say is that immersing ourselves in the culture with family is more exciting and life changing than eating at a touristy restaurant.
We had more piadinas for dinner! The piadinas were sliced in triangles and served on a tray to be shared amongst everyone. Some of the paiadinas we remember are: prosciutto, arugula and balsamic vinegar, mozzarella with prosciutto, salami, steak with grilled onions, vegetarian and more that we cannot remember at all, but one thing we remember without a doubt was they were all delicious!
After piadinas we had pistachio and hazelnut gelato with a waffle cone. And if that was not enough they started passing around shots of limoncello, sambuca and grappa!
At this point in the evening one of the uncles stood up and started singing an Italian song, as the family started singing along. Just remembering the moment brings a smile to our faces. After the Italian song the entire family started singing some Dean Martin songs. We were definitely not in tune, but it was definitely music to our ears because of the atmosphere and instant memories we were created. Unfortunately, no one has a great video to share the moment because we were all living it, but here is a short video of the end of the singing.
The dinner lasted at least four hours with a lot of talking, laughing, singing, eating and drinking! Exactly what you expect for an Italian dinner! It will always remain one of our favorite memories and experiences of Italy.