Hope everyone is having a great day!! So wanted to fill you in and give you a final round up of my travels to Italy! wow… where do I start! First of all, CIAO (hello), once again!! Now that I have had a few days to regroup, wanted to touch base with more details on my trip… Missed all of you and missed all the positive energy and vibes! Missed your “owning it”, taking charge and taking it one day at a time and one step at a time mentality!! Missed hearing how you all challenge yourself, find ways to become a better you and take on the obstacles that may be thrown at you, without question. Did you all Eat, Pray and Love??!! Yes, I see that several of you joined me in my journey!!! 12 days later, here I am and I did all of the above and am excited to be back to reality and take on the rest of the month and the start of a new exciting month!! Can you believe it is getting closer to the end of the year??? Every day, every experience, every journey, every road walked, I am MORE and more appreciate of our lives, our community, our family, who we are, what we represent and the strong powerful women we are here at ginaaliotti.com!!
A little bit about my travels:
A little bit of history… May 2004 was the last time I traveled to Italy. (SEE MINI VIDEO BELOW) I traveled to Florence, Rome, Pisa, Lucca, Venice and Murano with my Nonna (Italian Grandma). We stayed with relatives in Florence and it was a great experience. Being with relatives (all but my Nonna who didn’t speak English) and being that my Nonna was older, it was a different experience than traveling with my amazing husband. Each trip had something different to offer and for that I was excited! It was in May 2004, when I was at my relatives in Florence, when I received a phone call from my dad (SEE PHOTO IN MINI VIDEO) who was of course checking in to see how my travels were going and then to mention to me that there was a Figure show he wanted to know if I would do it with him, when I got back. He was going to compete in the body building division and there was a teenage figure division he said would be great for me to get my feet wet and for us to compete together, father and daughter. What???!!! I was in Italy and the show was 4 weeks away, really!!!??? So after being talked into it I shifted gears and started my first “contest prep program”. I always followed a healthy nutritionally balanced program but based on my knowledge, my limited access to foods and a gym and with the time restrain, I did the best I could. I decided to phase out any simple carbs and focus more on a higher fat, lower carb diet. I ate a ton of Caprese, olive oils, fresh fish, vegetables, fruits, salads, etc. Mind you these were all communicated with the language barrier and tried to modify my foods as best I could, with my relatives who would not allow me to do or make anything on my own… Needless to say, I did the best I could focusing on portions and sticking with the greens, fats and various seafood, similar to my previous trip. The basis of my program, for my first show, was really similar to my balanced program now, to tell you the truth…. I was able to find a local “gymnastica: (GYM) and was the only American to step foot in the gym and get my workout on! It was right then that my focus changed from Lifestyle to taking it to the competitive level. I had no idea what this was meaning or where this was taking me but I was ready for the challenge, lack of pasta and language barrier and all. So it was 2004 in Italy when my journey in Figure began and here it was 6 years later and I headed back to Italy, only this time without a show 4 weeks away and with a competitive mindset in hibernation….
6 years– a lot of hard work, dedication, motivation, learning, experience, determination, self control, personal growth (mental, physical, spiritual), ups and downs, overcoming obstacles, discovery and so much more and here I am today. I did a lot of reflection and this trip meant more to me than a typical getaway, it was a time for me to reflect, reminisce, take in my journey and my steps to get to where I am today and appreciate every experience for having its place and meaning in my life. Who is to say that my competitive journey started and ended in the European country of Italy but one thing I know for sure, my traveling the distance to the foreign land had more of an imprint and symbolic impression on me than any trip taken thus far. Here is where the praying comes in….
Among all the churches, basilicas, holy grounds, spiritual symbols, endless religious artwork, rosaries, crosses, and so much more, there was a deep sense of life and faith. Regardless of your belief system, there is a sense of “bigger than life” and the questions that come with who we are, what we are all about, what we represent and so much more. My travels marked a significant appreciation for life. Life as we know it, the challenges people have faced and the obstacles people have overcome beyond comprehensive able. Life beyond modifications and judgment and life for the beauty of living and being. Praying or reflection for those around us, different cultures, different belief systems, different points of views, different motives, different drives, different ambitions, different perspectives, different reasons to dig deep and become stronger (mentally and physically) something we all can relate to and that is Faith… whatever ones faith is, that faith is unique and what drives you to be the person you are and you are becoming. Faith in something, someone, yourself, whatever it may be… Praying and reflecting on life bigger than we know it. We all have different ambitions, perspectives and motives and whatever they may be, an appreciation for our differences and discovery of our own unique drive and motives is powerful and worth the reflection!
Eat: oh yes–where to begin– carbed up, pasta, bread, vino to last me a lifetime!! We talk about this marathon we are running right?? Well I am ready to go …. Lots of delicious seafood: octopus salads, mixed seafood salads, grilled squid (my absolute favorite!!!) and fresh fish, as they call it “local fish” (not knowing exactly what type)!!! Yummy Salads from “salad mista” (mixed green) to caprese (tomatoes with mozzarella). The most amazing, fresh and tasty cheese! Yes, I am not much of a cheese or dairy person but I gave into the fresh Mozzarella, how could you NOT! A very well balanced nutritional plan that is for sure. Now of course there are ways to do things not as balanced by indulging in every bit of bread and sweets offered to you, and trust me they are everywhere, but then there are healthier choices. Opting for healthy alternatives and choices, without the use of modification, is where my head was.
So I mentioned eating without thought about our usual thought process— I know you can all relate– what is in it, how is it made, how is it prepared, sub this for that, how many carbs, protein count, etc well this was done and HAD to be done because how are you going to tell an Italian to modify their cooking. First of all, it is their pride and joy and second of all they do not understand a word you are saying! With that said, this was one of the first times in my life I went for it, ordered directly off the menu and without modifications, YES, WITHOUT MODIFICATIONS. Usually where there is a will, there is a way but unless you are shopping at a grocery store and able to prepare your own meals, really this trip it was not practical or realistic and nor did it need to be because modifications were out the window and living and being in the moment was where it was. Yes, it IS possible to travel and stay on point 100%, several of you have proven just that (Kim, Nikki and so many others) but there is also a time to make smart choices, live and not allow yourself to be controlled by your mind. How often do you allow this to happen? It is called living and being balanced, making smart choices but not being held victim of your decisions or lack of options. How often in your life do you get to experience such a trip or mindset? We forget how the world around us lives. Not everywhere you go are there Costco’s, non the less a grocery store that carries our special “have to have healthy items”. I know several of you can relate, those of you who are over seas and cannot get some of the products we have here in the states! Traveling makes you see the world beyond your own world and realize that not everyone lives the same! Things we take for granted such as a dryer or drinking water or salad without salt, yes water and salad without salt… are hard to come by! Traveling is so important and helps you gain a bigger perspective and understanding of the world beyond our world and reality beyond our reality!
A few notes on my experiences, Italian culture and decisions without modifications:
BREAKFAST (served from 7-9:30)
Most of the hotels offer complimentary breakfast….
TYPICAL: carbs, carbs and more carbs
(bread, sweets, rolls, muffins, just about anything with white flour and sugar!!! cereals such as granola and corn flakes)
-Hard boiled eggs
-coffee, fruit juices, milk
-fresh fruit (apple and some grapes)
-raw almonds (brought from home)
-4-6 hard boiled egg whites
-black coffee with Pure Via (brought from home, thank goodness)
-Coffee (amazing coffee)
–I brought oatmeal but decided against the oatmeal and stuck with fruits and fats and had a small selection of carbs throughout the day. Just wasn’t feeling the oatmeal for some reason…. Believe it or not, returned home with the same amount of oatmeal as we brought with us…
Usually ate around 8ish so didn’t eat again until noon or so. With the on the go traveling, it was quite easy to fall into not eating 6-7x a day and eating more like 4x/day, which is 1x more than the Italians! (breakfast, lunch, snack, later dinner). Yes, so unlike me but again, was just living and allowing myself to not be held back by “having to eat this or do that”. We fell right into the ways of the Italians!
LUNCH & DINNER (typical lunch is between 12-3:00 and Dinner around 6-10:00–Yes super late dinner!)
TYPICAL: same as dinner with carbs, carbs and more carbs, protein, more carbs, offer of dessert and coffee
LOTS OF BREAD SERVED AT THE TABLE and then they bring you toast with tomatoes (brushetta) on top of bread, YES on top of the bread!!!
Antipasto (salad, caprese, cheeses, sliced meats, brushetta, etc)
second and third plates
second being a pasta or pizza and third being a protein (seafood or meat)
GINA’S LUNCH AND DINNER (both very typical and looked the same)
ANTIPASTI- Caprese salad and Seafood salad (shared)
Second and 3rd dish: ensalada mista & Grilled Squid (LOVE IT!!!) or Fresh Fish (local fish or swordfish)
A few times I had a small pizza for lunch and also a few times had a sandwich. Had a mortadella sandwich on Italian bread for the first time since I was a young girl! (WOW)
Michael may have had a pasta with his meal so had a few bites of his
No modifications, just avoided the breads, own servings of pastas etc. To be honest with you I was not taken back by any of their pastas dishes! I am a pesto lover and there wasn’t any pesto on the menu nor was there a plain basic pasta with olive oil and garlic. When it comes to my pastas I prefer them plain Jane…
My Lunch and Dinner options look pretty good right?!… Well let me add, with no modifications came loads of olive oil, not bad, olive oil is good right?, well loads and loads = calories but what are you going to do, not like it was gelato. Then not to mention I am sure there was butter used here and there and then to top it off SALT SALT SALT. Ladies, Italians know how to use salt, that is for sure!!! Oh well. I embraced the salt, which I never do and just said, bring it! For the first time in my life I let it go and it felt kind of good to not worry about waking up puffy. I just let it go!!! Even the salads have salt on them and all the seafood salads are marinated in oils and salts but LET IT GO… I had my fair share of anchovies, marinated peppers, etc and just let it go!! To be honest with you, the ability to accept “letting it go” removed any stress and believe it or not, felt my body adapt well to the food and never felt overly puffy or that feeling of water retention experienced in the states. Hummmm… was it the fact that I was not stressing about it, their salt is different than our salt (lol) or that my body just adapted and excreted it without any problems!
In between lunch and dinner was when we would have a shake, which we brought with us, thank gosh for a quick and easy protein shake or good ol QUEST bar that worked well between lunch and dinner!
Do I need to go into explanation… I had the man of my dreams with me and we were able to just be and enjoy each other! 6 months after getting married, able to reminisce about how lucky I/we are for the people we are, individually, and the couple we are and continue to become!
EAT, PRAY, LOVE…. Exactly what we did and it was simply amazing!
Needless to say, Italy 2004 marked the beginning of a new journey for me and Italy 2010 marked the beginning of a different chapter, a new journey, and fun and exciting new things ahead!
Gina’s Top Things learned in Italy…
1. Never throw your train ticket away until you get back to your hotel room! You often need your ticket to get you out of the train station or else you pay a fine!!
2. Soccer is their life!
3. Grilled Veggies = Soaked in Olive Oil
4. The Mediterranean Sea is SO salty
5. You must request an Americano without Milk otherwise an Americano is closer to a latte!
6. There is NO such thing as a Venti Coffee/Americano, you may as well ask for a coffee in a shot glass!
7. Italians don’t want you to try to speak their language and will tell you “English Please”!
8. Don’t over drink water because bathrooms are hard to come by and when you do you better have Euros on you because you often must pay to use the toilet!
9. Italians eat dinner super late!! 8:00 is typical and that is even early!
10. There is no such thing as lanes or a speed limit!
11. Italians serve wine with every meal and look at you funny if you order just water!
12. Energy is expensive in Italy and they actually get it from France. You often have to pay an extra fee on top of your hotel room rate!
13. Most restaurants have a “cover fee” just for eating there! Yes, just like a club here in the US but a restaurant!!
14. Our blow dryers do not work in Italy! They require too much energy and you will blow the fuse!
15. You better learn to drive a scooter because scooters are the “thing to have” in Europe!
16. When ordering a pizza, any toppings you think you are getting, think again… Italians skimp on pizza toppings!
17. Garlic is hard to come by! Believe it or not, there was not much garlic and Americans use way more than the Italians!
18. Everyone Smokes!!!
19. Italians Hang Dry their clothes, back to the issue of expensive energy!
20. The tomatoes and the mozzarella cheese are incredibly fresh and probably the best I have ever had!
21. You have to pay for water at restaurants (acqua minerale/frizzante or aqua naturale) but you can fill up on free water from the water flowing randomly in fountains throughout the city!
22. There is history behind every building, church, street sign, walkway, hotel, and it is never ending!
23. Italian men do not think twice about riding on a scooter together and sitting close!
24. Italian house wine is just as good if not better than expensive bottles!
25. There are a million different ways to say Hello in Italian (Ciao, Pronto, Salve, and so many more…)
26. No matter what you say or how you say anything in Italian, even if you are fluent, YOU ARE WRONG!
27. There is no such thing as Fettuccini Alfredo in Italy!
28. They don’t serve spoons with their pasta like they do in the states.
29. You don’t order appetizers and then your meal later, you order every entrée you are going to have for the meal all at once, except for dessert! If you as them to serve your appetizers first and then take your order they look at you like you are crazy!
30. Pasta or Pizza is just a first course not considered your meal!
31. Meals last at least 2 hours long!
32. The only salad dressing is Oil and Vinegar and most likely salt! Other salad dressings are not offered.
33. Italians don’t wear deodorant!
34. Gelaterias are like Starbucks in the U.S.
35. If you want to turn on your air conditioning in your hotel you must call the front desk and ask them to turn it on for you!
36. It is way to easy to spend a disgusting amount of money in Italy since the dollar is weaker than the Euro.
37. Don’t order a Bloody Mary expecting the same type of Bloody Mary you get in the States! They are NOT the same and I don’t recommend them!
38. Walking in Italy is their only form of exercise!
39. Never pack any valuables in your checked luggage because you can’t trust anyone these days and will come home with items missing!!
40. Don’t touch fruit or veggies unless you are planning on purchasing them!
41. Only bring comfortable walking shoes because that is all you will be wearing!
42. Tourists are everywhere so beware of tour buses!
43. To get to most towns on foot, there are numerous staircases that will all lead you to the same place!
44. You absolutely cannot take photos or video while in the Sistine Chapel!
45. You must cover your shoulders and wear shorts/skirts below your knees in order to enter the St. Peters Basilica!
46. The less you pack the better because you will be hauling your luggage on cobblestone streets!
47. When you order a sandwich it doesn’t come with any greens!
48. Showers are made for really thin people! If you are above average in height and or weight, reconsider being able to shower in Europe!
49. You better love carrots because they are the prime source of “veggies” used in salads and even on pizza!
50. Italians speak more with their hands and can communicate wonders just by the clench of a fist!! (is that where I get that…??!)
51. Never bring make-up to Europe because you won’t wear it! On the go, walking all over town, who needs make-up anyways!?
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
“To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.”
“We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy’s fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure–your perfection–is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the buy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.”
“There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.”
EAT PRAY LOVE… LOVED THE BOOK, LOVED THE MOVIE. Ladies, this resonated well with me, as I am 2 weeks away from a trip to Italy!! September 15th, Michael and I take off for Italy. Watching this movie just got us more excited for our travels! Watching the movie, really had me thinking about the lessons it offers and similar content we chat about here at ginaaliotti.com. It is so common, while being so consumed with what you are eating and what you aren’t eating that you lose site of eating for pleasure. Pleasure gets taken out of eating when you are all consumed and restrictions are everywhere. Even though this is a Diaita (way of life), that “way of life” is all consuming and becomes all encompassing. So often, people cannot eat mindfully or enjoy the small pleasures of life! When was the last time you sat down and ate a meal, without thinking in terms of calories, fat, proteins, carbs, weight, etc., etc. When we talk about living a balanced lifestyle, we talk about Being able to Enjoy the small things in life such as Food, Spirituality, Love and all that life has to offer. It is a part of a healthy balanced eating that addresses different aspects of why we eat but there are times that we need to put aside our brains and just live….
It may not be that we are purposely “not enjoying” our food but we are always on the go and time to enjoy is slim to none…. Hopefully with all our healthy recipes, you are able to enjoy some meals but eating mindfully is often forgotten! When was the last time you ate and were in the moment. Not thinking about what you were eating or why you were eating it but simply to just enjoy the flavor, texture and hard work of the food preparation and not to mention the history behind the food?? Honestly, I would have to really think hard to recall that time, myself. We get so wrapped up in nutrients, our plans, etc. that it is easy to forget that food, still healthy but wholesome food, is one of the marvels and pleasures of life! While we may not eat regular pasta or regular pizza daily, weekly or even monthly, when it comes to being in Naples, where pizza originated, that is when you just have to throw in the towel and go for it. How are you going to go to Naples and ask for “whole wheat dough”. You may be able to make modifications here at California Pizza Kitchen, but no Italian is going to go with modifying their precious pizza!!!
Traveling Internationally takes us out of our element and forces us to often expand our horizons. Now, traveling to Italy, wow, that is taking us away from our “complex carbs” and into the love of breads, pastas and vino…. “La Vita è Bella!” Traveling makes you savor the moment, and should be special! Each experience and each meal should count and be one to remember! Digging deep into a different culture and not eating just because “you can” or it is “an excuse to eat bread or pasta but eating because it is a fine thing in life. Eating because of how the traditional Italians serve their food and the hard work and history that went into preparing the homemade meal!
It is about being in tune with your body, eating slowly, pausing during meals, you will get appropriate and accurate measures of when to stop. Being mindful will allow you to enjoy the pleasures of life yet allow you to decide how much you need of yummy food without overdoing it! That is how enjoying the moment, we can dig into our food, enjoy it thoroughly, and still walk away healthy. In fact, enjoyment and happiness even promote good digestion and utilization of the nutrients in food.
“Eat, Pray, Love” is about a woman (Julia Roberts) who travels to Italy, after hardship, to discover herself, find balance and search for “everything”. In her journey of self-discovery, she deals with the face to face issues of American women’s attitudes about eating, dieting and the guilt often associated with enjoying indulgent foods.
The message throughout the book and movie is about finding balance in life, love, work, thoughts and deeds. Balance is certainly something we are all striving for, seeking that perfect balance of all the finest things in life from healthy eating, love, and the well being of our body and mind.
One of the messages and things reminded throughout the movie is how to tune into cravings and mindfulness, listening to body signals and responding to what your body is telling you it wants, sometimes more, sometimes less. Sometimes more because it just looks so good and tastes so good, but then there are other times when our body tells us that we have had enough. Julia reminds viewers of the sheer enjoyment of eating without the worry of what others are thinking or what may happen to our body!
It can often be a catch 22 when you are so in tune with your body because it can limit your ability to just Eat and Not think….
One of the positive life messages in Eat, Pray, Love is to realize that food is a wonderful part of life and to enjoy it as part of a full life, especially when once in a lifetime opportunities present themselves. Another lesson is to stay in touch with ourselves and live life fully, enjoying what is there to be enjoyed, examining the challenges life presents, and making choices and decisions about how to live the lives we want.
Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I didn’t modify something, why.. because I would always opt for the healthier option because it is what I know, what I like and tastes just as good if not better. In Italy, this is not happening, modifications get thrown out the window but that is what it takes to be able to mindfully eat and be in the moment, striving for a wholesome balanced life full of eating, praying and loving… Loving life for all it has to offer and the quality you can gain from being in the moment and taking things in for their traditional importance and part they play in our world!
In Italy, once again, my mantra of Less is more and quality over quantity is what will allow me to indulge La Cucina Italiana without having to pick up a new pair of jeans….
I WANT YOU ALL TO JOIN ME IN THIS QUEST FOR EATING, PRAYING AND LOVING… CONTEST DETAILS TOMORROW…
HERE IS TO A LIFE FULL OF EATING, PRAYING AND LOVING…