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My girlfriends and I found affordable tickets to Italy and traveled there together in October. Our destinations were Venice, Florence, and Verona, we arrived by plane in Venice then did a loop around those cities by train.
Verona is known for the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and it sits on the River Adige. It was a colony of the Roman Empire because of its navigable river, and is famous for a few castles including the Castelvecchio fortress. It was an artistic center in the Middle Ages, and today it’s a thriving smaller city in northern Italy just west of Venice.
The city of Verona is a smaller town that felt like more of a community and less of a major tourist destination. Although it’s known for the Juliet balcony attraction and first century amphitheater, what we enjoyed most were the river views, the meandering streets, and the piazzas filled with cafes. We got lucky with blue skies which were the perfect backdrop to the pastel hues on the old buildings.
For me there’s nothing better than sitting in a cafe people watching and enjoying local food amid centuries old architecture. It’s my favorite part of visiting anyplace in Europe. Below are a few snapshots from my two day exploration of Verona, plus the experience of learning to make homemade pasta!
One of the things I really wanted to do when in Italy was learn how to make homemade pasta. One of the afternoons we were in Verona we took a three hour pasta making class from a local professional chef.
Homemade pasta has a slightly different taste and texture and it’s an amazing experience to make and cook your own. We started from scratch and ended with a meal of tagliatelle in a hearty tomato sauce.
I found this pasta making course on Trip Advisor and booked it for the experience. It started in this charming small professional kitchen where we gathered in a small group to learn from Chef Cristina.
We started with flour, an egg, and a pinch of salt, then turned that into a dough. Cristina taught us how to knead the dough to activate the gluten and then her technique for rolling and cutting. (I’m sharing all the tips in a video tomorrow on Instagram stories if you’re interested!)
The proportions were this: one egg to every 90g of flour (which is between 2/3 and 3/4 cup) and a tiny pinch of salt.
Once we combined the egg and flour and salt we formed a ball of dough. Then we kneaded it for about five minutes, pulling the dough out and then forming a ball again and again. The pulling activates the gluten. We were told you know when the dough is ready when it feels as soft as a “baby’s butt” and comes back into shape when you try to indent it with your finger.
We wrapped our dough in cellophane and let it sit for 30 minutes before rolling, then unwrapped it and rolled it super thin, then folded it over like a crepe. We learned to cut the different widths for pasta (spaghetti, linguine, tagliatelle) and the technique for forming tortellini and how to layer and cut ravioli.
With a hearty homemade tomato sauce on the menu, our chef instructed us to cut the width of tagliatelle which we did. She served it to us with a sparkling wine and it was delicious!
What an amazing afternoon with friends! I’ve traveled with these two ladies on multiple international trips and we always have so much fun and make great memories. I wrote an article about what makes a great travel mate last year, if you’re curious about why we travel so well together. I adore these two and we’re already planning trips for next year!
So the real question I asked myself when I got home was could I recreate it? Could I use my new skill and make my own homemade pasta?
I ordered the same Italian wheat flour on Amazon that our instructor used to make my own pasta and gave it a try.
I did it! I made homemade beef ravioli and served it to my teenage son. He loved it!
Making homemade pasta was so much simpler than I thought and there’s no need for a pasta maker. It can be done by hand! I’ve read other recipes that use semolina flour which is a very common flour used for making pasta, it comes from durum wheat and it’s coarser and darker than all purpose flour. The flour I used was a whole wheat flour imported from Italy that I linked to above.
I’ll share my experience and photos from Venice on a later date. Check tomorrow’s Instagram stories for tips and techniques on how to make homemade pasta in your own kitchen too!
Since I’m sure many are curious, there were a few extra documents that were required for us to travel to Italy. To fly, the airline required a negative covid test within 72 hours of arrival and a completed EU passenger locator form. On arrival, they check your vaccination status at border patrol. If vaccinated you’re free to enter, if not, you need to quarantine for five days. However to travel on any train or eat indoors or visit any museums, the Italian government required a green pass or proof of vaccination. To return to the US we needed a rapid covid test with a negative result to board the plane back home which we got at the Venice airport for $35.
People wore masks on planes and trains and indoors in shops and restaurants, but many chose not to wear masks outdoors when walking around or when they were seated while dining. The extra paperwork wasn’t a big deal and we didn’t feel the trip was diminished in any way by the extra requirements or masks. We were so happy to be exploring the world again after being grounded for almost two years. 🙂