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Across Northern Italy: from Friuli to Liguria for the Ballet

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a dancer. Not a ballerina, but a modern dancer wearing tank tops and sneakers. I gave up on my athletic dancing aspirations eventually, but I never gave up on the art. I’ve been following Roberto Bolle’s tour for years, from Trieste to Sanremo, passing by Florence and Verona.

Last year, I dragged my parents to Sanremo, crossing northern Italy for the show, from our region Friuli Venezia Giulia to Liguria. We left Udine in the morning with my mother’s cake still intact.

In Venice, my dad took the wrong exit (as he always does) and we found ourselves crossing the lagoon and barely avoiding the shocked tourists blocking the street -they never believed that cars aren’t allowed in the floating city.

We drove through Padua without more incidents. The city of the Scrovegni Chapel hid memories of Ligabue’s concert under the summer rain and of afternoon strolls in the Prato della Valle.

The first time I walked to the Prato, I was mesmerized by the island in the middle of a modern city, the canal surrounded by statues on pedestals and the pastel colors of the imposing Basilica of Santa Giustina.

Instead of stopping for coffee at the historical Caffé Pedrocchi in Padua (built in 1831), we drove on to Vicenza, the city of the architect Andrea Palladio. Palladio worked for the Republic of Venice in the 16th century and his work in Vicenza has been recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

My mother tried to explain me the history of the city while we drove through the Pianura Padana, but I replied her with the history of Gardaland, the amusement park founded in 1975 that we had just left behind. Obviously, my speech didn’t impress my parents, who refused to take me to giant slides and fast canoes. In revenge, I gulped a piece of my mother’s cake.

Soon, we were in Brescia, the Lioness of Italy built few miles from Lake Garda. Surrounded by the beauty of the Alps, Brescia attracted the Longobards (the city is part of the Longobards in Italy, Places of Power) and it inspired the writer Alessandro Manzoni.

Since the car race Mille Miglia started in Brescia in 1953, I tried talking my father into slightly speeding, but our Lancia Musa wasn’t vintage enough. Legally stopping at red traffic lights, we made it out of Lombardy.

I got hungry. Luckily, we were crossing into Emilia Romagna, the region of piadina and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I made sure to gulp down the tortellini before facing the last three hours of our road trip to Sanremo -sweetened by another piece of my mother’s cake.

I knew we crossed into Liguria when the tunnels of the Ligurian Apennines blocked the view on the coast. We ignored the signs to Genoa (where we would go later) and start descending into the region of the pesto and of Roberto Bolle’s show.

Sanremo’s roofs shimmered under the sun, the Mediterranean Sea a bright stain through the window. After more than six hours, we had arrived. Sadly, the cake didn’t make it.

One quick stop at the Hotel Esperia and then we walked along the sea front, following the crown to the pedestrians streets of downtown. While we waited to go to the historical Teatro Ariston (home of the Sanremo Music Festival since 1951), we got lost among cobblestone streets and window shopping -I refrained from entering to spare my dad.

We left my dad with a full stomach by the Antica Trattoria Piccolo Mondo and we headed into the dance world. I watched Roberto Bolle and Friends in silence, ignoring my mom’s attempts at chatting. I was just too in love to talk. Until the show ended and I started screaming like a groupie. Needless to say, I loved it -and I promised myself to go to another show next time I go back home.

The next day we took a walk to the Medieval neighborhood La Pigna with its pastel and tiny streets to stretch our legs before driving to Genoa. After few days in Liguria’s capital and a provision of croxetti and trofie pasta, we started our way back.

None of us wanted to end the family trip, so we made one last stop in Cremona, the city of violin, torrone and mostarda. We sat in a coffee shop by the cathedral with a cappuccino full of foam, thinking about our upcoming trip to California. Finally, my parents were going to visit me in the U.S. Perhaps I’d take my mom to the Joffrey Ballet.

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I am an Italian reporter who lives in the United States, from the rain of Venice to the ice of Chicago. She is a traveler and a wannabe ballet dancer. As every typical Italian, Gaia loves pasta (especially carbonara) and complains about everything... but she can't sing opera nor cook decently.

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