Once a year, when the publishing calendar allows it, I go to Rome to see my mother. This time I met my uncle in Zurich (he lives in New Zealand), a major financial center with the charm and style so typical of Switzerland.

We left for Genoa, our place of birth, in a comfortable train. The crossing of the Alps was breathtaking, a monument to Swiss ingenuity. Lunch was prepared by the Italian crew and was excellent. Wine: superb.

We stayed in Genoa one day, and left by car only after a sumptuous dinner based on specialties prepared with pesto -- a must-have in Genoa.

Our next stop was the Bay of Poets (in honor of Shelly and Byron). A marvelous coast going from Portofino to Lerici, just south of Genoa. Little villages painted on the hills plunging into the Mediterranean Sea. Excellent food and unique wine completed the stay. American tourists should go here. They are missing a great experience.

Next stop: Rome. Italian freeways are narrow for our standards. They look like some parts of I76 in Pennsylvania. I know Rome very well because I grew up there. This is where I received my master’s degree before coming to the US for my PhD.

What I like about Rome is the diversity of food. If you go to the seaside, you eat fish-based dishes with a spicy flavor. 20 miles away in the Roman hills you can have marvelous prosciutto, large porcini mushrooms, sausages of every type, and venison accompanied by a robust red wine. A totally different way of eating.

In Trastevere, where the real Romans live, food changes again. Here, preparing spaghetti is an art. Some dishes, however, are appreciated only by the Romans.

Da Giggi, in the midst of the Roman ghetto, in front of astounding ancient Roman ruins, we had carciofi alla giudea (artichokes Jewish style). They just melt in your mouth. A typical light white wine accompanied our lunch together with fried baccala' (cod) filets.

It was a feast.

(This Observations appeared in the 10/11/04 issue of The Peter Dag Portfolio ).

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