From Lignano to Chianti, Italy

13 Jul 2019 – Sat.

First thing in the morning, we had a quick breakfast and bid Gianna a heartfelt goodbye. We left the beautiful town of Modena and headed back North to Lignano where we were to meet with family.

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With all the bad traffic due to the beginning of summer holidays, Florian and I arrived quite a lot later than anticipated. We were being treated to a day on the boat with Lawrence and Monica.

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And surprise, surprise! We went on board Lawrence’s new yacht and while exploring the rooms, found Naima hiding in one of them!! Best surprise ever!

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Naima managed to take a day off work to fly down from Munich for Lawrence’s birthday and with us as a bonus. Flo and I were over the moon to see her, and after we had our hugs and kisses, and question and answer session, we were all just happy to be in each other’s company on a beautiful day in Italy.

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Inside the yacht.

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The new yacht hadn’t got all its licences for sailing so we took the smaller boat Lawrence and Monica have to set off for lunch.

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We set off to Marano Lagunare, a small, non-touristy town for some seafood.

Can’t say no to fresh prawns and scallops!

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These sardines were yum!!

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Can’t go wrong with seafood pasta when near the sea.

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A fresh off the boat catch, grilled seabass which was so clean tasting.

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Just after we had sung “Happy Birthday” to Lawrence,

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and dessert had been set down,

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We were warned of a freak storm brewing and heading towards Lignano.

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We had to pretty much make a crazy dash back to the docked boat in order to avoid the impending rain.

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And rush away we did. The black clouds kept threatening to catch up with us, following closely as Lawrence expertly handled the boat, steering it over now-bumpy waves to return back to the marina.

Flo, Naima and I alighted the boat and quickly proceeded to the bigger yacht to take shelter just as the clouds unleashed heavy droplets of rain. Lawrence and Monica went to park the boat and it wasn’t for about an hour before they managed to make their way through the torrential storm, back to us. Even with their rainproof jackets, they were still soaked on arrival but we were glad to have them back. We managed to spend a further hour with them catching up, talking about the babies etc before Flo, Naima and I had to brave the rain to return to our car.

It was a wonderful day that we spent with Lawrence and Monica – both of whom I’ve heard much about but never met until that day. Lawrence was every bit as wonderful as Flo made him out to be. He is so much like a father to Flo, and I could see how much he loves Flo as well, like a son. It was too bad that the freak storm cut our time short, but hopefully we’ll see each other again soon!

Flo and I drove Naima to the Venice airport where she had to catch her flight back to Munich. The bad weather and traffic meant that we were driving against a tight time frame but we managed to get her there just in time… Only to find out shortly after that her flight had was going to be delayed… and then delayed again due to the storm. Thankfully, she did arrive in Munich safely that night, albeit very late that night.

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After dropping Naima off, Flo and I had a few hours drive to get to Chianti. By this time, we had the black clouds hanging over us, pouring buckets of water over the car. I was quite concerned about the visibility and even told Flo that if he wasn’t confident, we could just stop by the side and wait for the rain to subside, if ever. He soldiered through and at one point, we were pelted by hail. That was quite scary.

Finally, after we’d passed the area of Modena, we saw the end of the clouds give way to clear sky. It was the most peculiar thing. Almost as though the clouds had formed a thick blanket and we had finally raced towards the end of it.

14 Jul 2019 – Sun.

We woke up in our next hotel in Chianti to blue clear skies and the tweeting of happy birds whizzing nearby.

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Breakfast was a lavish spread of savoury/salty foods… most of which I couldn’t consume at the time.

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And sweets.

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It’s strange how in Italy, many are used to having sweet foods for breakfast – cakes especially. I stuck usually to the hard boiled eggs and yoghurt, and fresh fruits if offered. Of course, I’d also have a little taste of cake because they are so difficult to resist, but I realise I’m not so much a fan of Italian cakes with their sweetness level being a bit too much for me.

We took our time after breakfast before taking a drive out.

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We stopped every so often to take in the beauty of Chianti.

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There were vineyards that littered the valleys and mountains, and the greens all around made for such a pleasing drive.

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We finally made a proper stop at San Gimignano where we had lunch against a wall. Haha.

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I really liked the rustic town with all its brick buildings.

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Even though it was very very filled with tourists. We didn’t expect it to be so crowded but it was.

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It’s so difficult for me to imagine that people live within this town especially because it looked like something out of a film. The architecture of the buildings were lovely, at least in my eyes, and I spied a well in the middle of the town too.

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As usual, me being me, I wasn’t supposed to take this picture without giving a donation. I took it anyone only for hubs to nudge me and go “you’re supposed to pay to take it“. Oops! Anyway, it was a clay version of the entire town and it was built to be like a fortress. Where we wandered around was only a small part of it, but it was magnificent.

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We went next to Monteriggioni where we wanted to visit the castle. They had a medieval festival going on there so entry fee was about 12 euros per person and there were people decked in medieval attire going in. I wasn’t too excited about the idea of paying 24 euros altogether to go in, and well, I comforted myself with the thought that I’ve seen other castles before so we decided to give it a miss.

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Still managed a photo of it from afar though so there you go!

Dinner, we went to Castellina in Chianti – the town centre closest to where we were staying.

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It’s a quaint town filled with lots of eateries and considering it is rather on the small side, it was nice to feel the lively ambience of the place with locals and tourists alike filling the al fresco areas and digging into their aperitivos or dinner.

Flo and I walked around and settled on Antico Trattoria.

We had a sharing platter of antipasti.

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There were some hits and misses. This wasn’t particularly outstanding and both of us didn’t appreciate the livery spread on top of the baguette to the left of this plate. The frittata was ok and puff pastry one next to it.

Being in Chianti, you can’t leave without having a truffle dish so we got trufflin’ with a Mushroom Tortelloni in Truffle Sauce. This was mainly Flo’s, and it was creamy, rich and perfumed with the truffles.

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I decided that I really wanted to try authentic minestrone so I went for it.

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Unlike the minestrone soup often found here, the Italian version was filled with lots of vegetables – carrots, kale, beans, tomatoes… all crowding a rich, tomato broth. No pasta whatsoever.

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It was a hearty soup to warm the soul and I really enjoyed it more than I thought I would when it arrived at the table. I don’t think I could ever go back to the minestrone soup offered at Soup Spoon here.

Always room for gelato here in Italy.

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So Flo went for his favourite stracciatella and peach… if I remember correctly.

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The gelato at this shop near the start into the town centre was really good! I was quite impressed by the creaminess of the gelato and how it wasn’t overly sweet either. Good stuff!

A little sunset to see us off into the night.

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Osteria Francescana, Modena.

12 Aug 2019. Friday. 

This was the dinner Flo and I had been looking for since we managed to score reservations back in June. It was a crazy fight to get a table because their online booking system meant that queueing was virtually inevitable. What was frustrating though was that it kept jumping us back even when we hadn’t refreshed the page. Flo and I were both on multiple computers over at least two days trying to reach the reservation page, which had, by the time we were successful, turned into a waiting list.

I was so annoyed by their buggy system that I wrote an email to Osteria Francescana – very nicely of course, informing them that they might want to have a look at their online booking system so that others might be able to have a better experience than us. I also mentioned that if reservations were only open from 10am (Italy time) onwards, it wasn’t fair that the queue started way before then. I explained that Flo and I were in Italy for our honeymoon and that we had anticipated getting a table at Osteria but we understood the situation, and perhaps we would be luckier the next time around.

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I honestly never expected to hear a reply from them, seeing that they were the World’s Top Restaurant 2 years in a row, now in the ‘All Stars’ list, and had thousands of people each month trying to get a table in their restaurant 3 months in advance.

But they did.

And they were warm and wonderful, extending an invitation to Flo and I to dine at Osteria. We were obviously over the moon and couldn’t believe our luck. We informed them of when we would be in Italy and they offered a dinner date for us which we made sure to weave into our itinerary.

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So here we were, on our honeymoon, and kind of a baby moon, dining at one of the best restaurants, if not THE best restaurants in the world, helmed by a man incredibly respected not only for his culinary prowess, but also all that he gives back to the community of Modena – Massimo Bottura.

Flo and I arrived slightly earlier than 8pm, and when the long hand reached the ’12’, the doors were promptly opened for us to enter. Flo and I were seated in a room of about 6 tables, and while the interior was rather on the sombre side, it had some quirky little features such as the very old school wire lighting.

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Staff were very polite, although a little stiff. I was quite overwhelmed initially by their attentiveness, even being escorted right to the ladies’ from our table. Their accents were a not so easy to understand, but we managed to get a gist of what all the dishes were composed of which suited us fine.

Flo and I zeroed in straight for the tasting menu, and as we settled down for our amuse bouches to arrive, we were presented with some beautiful, warm, crusty, seeded bread. Let me just say that Italy isn’t known for their breads as such, and most restaurants and eateries usually gave grissini (which I enjoyed), and plain, whiter than white, chewy bread. The breads at Osteria Francescana were heads and shoulders above anything we had had prior, and we wouldn’t have expected anything less.

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The heady aroma of bread, all fresh and warm was enough to make us both happy muppets.

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Our snack arrived shortly after.

We began with ‘Fish and Chips‘. I loved the lightness of the crisp cracker below the slightly tart fish mousse on top.

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We were also treated to Foie Gras Lollipops with 35 Year-old Balsamic Vinegar coated in crunchy Sicilian almond nibs. We’re not big fans of foie gras but these were pretty good. Wouldn’t have them again though but that’s more a personal thing.

We also had a kind of a fish cracker that wasn’t really made of fish? This one wasn’t so memorable and I remember we weren’t particularly impressed by it.

The Mini Macarons were decent, though I did enjoy the parmesan crisp on the side.

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Bread was taken away and in-house freshly baked grissini were offered. These were quite addictive.

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First course arrived: Grilled Hamachi with Frozen Shaved Parmesan. 

The raw fish below was Florian’s…

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Mine came fully cooked. And while it was nice, it wasn’t anything mind-blowing for me because well, I guess the slippery moistness of fresh raw fish trumps the texture of flaky slices of cooked fish.

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Second course: Autumn in New York as a fresh water fish salad. 

This was crazy good!! Tart slithers of green apple atop fresh water eel. This was refreshing and so moreish.

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Third course: Spaghettini from the gulf of Naples to Hokkaido.

Beautiful, fresh strands of perfectly cooked pasta noodles, topped with a luxurious, creamy seafood sauce and uni. I, however, had mine sans uni, but with prawns instead. It was delicious.

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Fourth Course: We are still deciding which fish to serve.

They finally decided on turbot. With a Squid ink sauce – caviar for Flo. This fish was lovingly fried with its batter kept so light. There was a generous dusting of seaweed powder atop that balanced nicely with the cleanness of the fish. I enjoyed it even without the sauce.

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Fifth Course: Pasta al Pesto in Abstract.

So this was created to resemble a kind of chawanmushi. The custard below however, was not quite as light and fluffy as a well-executed chawanmushi but I thoroughly dug the beautiful crunch of fresh vegetables that were laden on top – asparagus, peas, basil.. The ‘pesto soup’ poured on top was infused with pasta water, hence ‘pasta… in abstract’.

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Sixth Course: Wagyu non Wagyu. 

Mine, as you can see, was entirely not wagyu. I was served sliced avocado topped with a robust orange and sesame ponzu sauce.

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The original dish features pork belly that was supposed to resemble wagyu in its rich, melty glory. Florian’s not a big fan of pork belly so I think this dish was ok for him. As for me, avocados were nice enough but not so much so that it made much impact on my tastebuds.

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Seventh Course: Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, in different textures and temperatures. 

The piece de resistance. I can totally understand why this dish is Osteria Francescana’s signature. It was a symphony in itself from start to end being able to taste the mildness of young Parmigiano and moving up to the more mature, punchy notes of the aged cheese. I loved the play on textures and temperatures that made this dish such fun to eat, gathering different harmonies of flavour with every bite. I would fly back to Modena right now just for this dish… if I had the money to spare.

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More bread.

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Eighth Course: Ravioli of Roasted Potatoes in Roasted Guinea Hen Sauce.

These were very Japanese-inspired in that the ravioli were presented gyoza-style. This meant that there was a sheet of crispy dumpling skin sealing the tops of the dumplings and holding them together. That made for a nice contrast against the yielding, thin skins of the ravioli that held the ample, smooth roast potato filling.

I wasn’t as a big a fan of the guinea hen sauce compared to Flo, finding it a bit too robust and rich. A little more restraint in the extraction of flavour would have gone further with me but for those who have a taste for bolder sauces, this one would sit well with them.

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Ninth Course: La Vie en Rose

Mine was slightly more done than Flo’s, whose piece of veal was cooked to medium rare. Still, cutting into my portion of meat was like knife cutting through room-temperature butter. It slid right through the tender veal and eating it together with the cherry rose sauce, was insight to the perfect marriage… And that’s coming from someone who’s not much of a red meat eater.

The cut of meat was succulent and flavoursome, with the savouriness of it being balanced by the slightly sweet, slightly tart reduction. The pickled endive was filled within with creamy foie gras and it went well with the veal. Truth be told, the meat alone would have worked perfectly for me already.

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Pre-dessert: In Defence of Nature

I enjoyed this even though I was pretty stuffed at this point. The strawberry tuile was fruity and crunchy, the biscuit soil below added more texture and the gelato was creamy and refreshing.

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Dessert: Tribute to Amalfi

This Lemon-soaked Baba was filled with Ricotta cream, topped with fresh cherry tomatoes, candied lemon and slithers of fresh basil, finished with a drizzle of strawberry sauce. This was a little too heavy for me although dear husband polished his up, and a bit more of mine.

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Petit Fours: Yuzu Madeleines. Trio of Chocolates.

So I was beyond stuffed by the time we finished our dessert, but somehow, I managed to nudge some space clear for the petit-fours. I’m glad I did because every single one were mind-blowing.

The yuzu madeleines were zesty and light. They were served warm and I made sure to have my share of two pieces.

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We then hopped over to the plate of chocolates. We were treated to Tiramisu truffles, and Cherry Bon bons. Both had such thin chocolate shells that the second we placed them into our mouths, the shells shattered, giving way to molten, liquid centres. I was beyond impressed!

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The chocolates in the middle were called “Camouflage“. They tasted a little of seaweed but they were in fact made with civet, reduced in hare’s bones and blood. Who would have thunk?! And I ate it all with a sigh of appreciation and an ignorant bliss in not knowing what I had just consumed.

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Sure, there were some misses, but thankfully, there were more hits than misses. The start to dinner began a little shaky but built up to end in fireworks. The icing on top was being gifted a bottle of Massimo’s Balsamic Vinegar upon bidding goodbye. Unfortunately, the big man himself wasn’t there that evening but we felt fortunate to have been able to dine there even.

Also, I was so touched by their accommodating us in the first place, that I gifted them back a bottle of kaya (local Singapore coconut jam). I felt rather bashful about it and even wondered whether I should give it at all. But when they handed us the bottle of vinegar, I was so touched I just pulled the kaya bottle and thank you letter out of my bag and handed it over, all red-faced and shy.

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Flo and I spent a lot of time talking about how lucky our trios were to have been able to dine at one of the world’s top restaurants, albeit through umbilical cord feeding, and even thought of how wonderful it would be to take them all back one day when they’re old enough to appreciate the finer side of life – or when they were old enough to treat us to another round at Osteria Francescana. Sadly, that won’t happen, but the memory of this wonderful evening, all five of us, will be firmly clamped in my heart the rest of my life.

Modena, Italy.

Getting some semblance of normalcy back into our lives so here’s carrying on with our journey through Italy. 

12 Jul 2019 – Friday.

We spent the morning at Modena’s Mercato, a beautiful central market with vibrant colours from all the fresh produce. Unlike Asian markets, everything was organised and there was ample space between the food stalls for mill around.

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Aside from fresh vegetables and fruit, they also had stalls selling antipasto which were highly popular amongst locals and visitors alike. I bought some Frutti di Mare and Spinach for my lunch.

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Most of these were sold cooked and cold. I believe many locals buy them home and warm them up for a hot lunch, or have them cold during hot summers.

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It was a pity Flo and I stayed in BnBs and hotels throughout our trip, so we didn’t have access to a kitchen where we could cook. The variety of tomatoes alone were enough to whet our appetites and concoct thoughts of having a simply tomato salad composed of a various tomato types.

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They also had fresh breads and ready-pizzas for a quick bite.

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And olives galore.

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Fresh meats were also on sale. The chicken pieces were huge and meaty, and I could certainly see why Italians are so proud of their produce, and why they embrace the idea of home-cooking, especially when Nonna is helming the kitchen.

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Various fresh pastas to suit any tastebuds.

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Smoked, cured, canned fish to top bread.

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A little wine stall selling a host of different wines. Flo had a glass of rosé(?) while I settled for sparkling ‘aqua’. In Italy, alcohol is always served along some light snacks. In this case, it was freshly well-fried crispy skin-on potato chips. Most places provide little crunchy savoury breads to go with.

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My handsome hubs in front of the market.

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I accompanied Flo for lunch at an obscure eatery highly recommended by Gianna for their Gnoccho Fritto. It’s called L’Insolito Bar and looked nondescript as it sat by the roadside, away from everything. Upon entering the little bar, we were shown through the sheltered back area, and then to a covered outdoor area where it was buzzing it lunchgoers. It was a lot bigger and more spacious than it looked on the outside, that’s for sure.

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Every table had cold cuts and a basket of two of gnoccho fritto, as well as a bottle of wine at least. We did without the wines, Flo ordered a basket of gnoccho fritto, and a serving of cold cuts with cheese.

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It took a while to arrive but when they did, the puffs of deep fried bread came piping hot with steam rushing out upon being pulled apart.

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I tried some gnoccho fritto and they were indeed quite tasty.

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Flo was very happy with his fill at lunch since this was something he was eager to have while in Italy. These ones did not disappoint.

Thereafter, we walked to the park just behind the eatery where I had my fill of lunch.

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Mixed seafood and a big ball of spinach for iron.

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Simple but nice.

After my fill of food, Flo and I took a short drive to visit a Balsamic Vinegar Factory.

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Its grounds were huge and it looked like some kind of posh mansion. We wondered if we were in the right place. Thankfully, the little signages that said ‘Leonardi Aceto Balsamico de Modena‘ on some of their walls reassured us that we were where we wanted to be.

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Smelling lemons. I thoroughly enjoyed the bubbles of excitement I felt at seeing lemon and lime trees in Italy since they are so uncommon in Singapore. Especially when the lemons were big and voluptuous. It was fascinating how they could grow so well without falling off the branches due to their weight.

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Inside, we went for the tour that explained to us how balsamic vinegar is made. It’s relatively simple but takes a lot of time and patience in order to produce one with the complexity of flavours that they are so known for.

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We were also treated to some tastings of 100 year old Balsamic Vinegar. One came from a Cherry wood barrel, and the other from a Juniper barrel.

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It was truly interesting how different wood types can influence the flavour of balsamic vinegar, making it spicier, or sweeter, or a hint more tangy.

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All of them that we tried that day were so rich and unctuous. They were thick, and a drizzle on top of a chunk of parmeggiano or some fresh salad or creamy gelato, is all you need to hit that spot.

Just before the tour ended, I started to suffer for a dizzy spell either from standing too long, or from the heat. The staff at Leonardi was quick to get me some cold water and let me have a sit down which I thoroughly appreciated. Once my bearings were back to normal, Flo and I went downstairs to the tasting area and we were generously given some cheese to taste with their vinegars even though we had only paid for the basic tour.

We made sure to buy a bottle back for Mum and Dad, knowing that we would also get to have some by default whenever we eat with them. 🙂 Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

We returned to Gianna’s BnB after this for a rest and to get ready for the meal we’d been looking forward to for the whole three months prior to our holiday…

Any ideas where our dinner location was going to be?

Love and Loss.

I woke up this morning and in minutes, had tears spilling down my cheeks as I laid in bed, body still aching from last week’s ordeal. A couple days ago, I felt that I wanted to do something positive in memory of the babies we’d lost. So I started the ball rolling, and perhaps, if it rolls out the way I hope it does, I’ll share with you what I will be doing in part to help others who may trod this path that Flo and I did (as much as we wish no one else will), as well as to aid us on this continual process of healing.

In the email reply that had me touched beyond words, the lady I’d contacted had shared with me a bit of writing of Henri Nouwen. It read:

Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country to dies… the pain of the leaving an tear us apart. 

Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.

In the last weeks, I had some days where I’d wake up feeling hollow inside. The emptiness of loss screams so loud, that it echoes against the chambers of my heart. I go through countless ‘what ifs‘, knowing that none of them will ever give me an answer as to why we lost our children. There are also days when everything feels surreal, as though I had never fallen pregnant, as though our triplets were merely a figment of my imagination, a haze of a dream.

It is true what Henri Nouwen wrote though. “…if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving we will never experience the joy of loving…”. I can be comforted in knowing that our babies were loved immensely the moment we knew of their existence. We, along with our family, loved them greatly without seeing them. Our friends added generous dollops of love on top. To say that our triplets were blessed is an understatement. I believe they were blessed above and beyond most. The joy we experienced in watching them grow and develop over the weeks, and being able to enjoy them while on our holiday, added to the beautiful memories we were accumulating with them right until the end.

The suffering as a result, the feeling of utter loss and despair, is therefore natural and unavoidable. We love, and as a result, we suffer. That doesn’t mean we stop loving. It means that we continue to love, despite knowing that there will be pain that comes with losing. Flo and I knew there were possible risks and complications involved with a triplets pregnancy, but we decided that we would let the babies have the chance to grow and not interfere with what God had given us. So while we never imagined they would be taken away from us so prematurely, there was no saying that everything would have been guaranteed to be smooth sailing.

In a funny way, there is a comfort amidst all the pain and suffering. In feeling the sadness of it all, there is also knowledge that we feel this way only because we loved, and still love, fiercely. For once since a long time in my life, I realise that it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to cry, it’s ok that my heart feels heavy some days, it’s totally ok to sit with those feelings because they only serve as a reminder that it was only because I have the privilege of experiencing the joy of loving that I now feel the hurt of loss. It doesn’t mean we should stop loving, because what would life be without the happiness, laughter,  and memories that come with it?

I don’t believe that we will ever get over our babies going to heaven way before us. That’s only because we will never forget them, and we will always miss their presence even though their absence may far outlive the time they had on earth very quickly. I do believe though, that things will continue to get better. And we will move forward. Even as we build the family we dream of in the future, there will always be a place for them in our hearts. And the memories of and with them, the warmth of having had them growing within me, the love we feel for them, will overcome all that we are feeling now.

The Hardest Post I Hope to Ever Write.

I was meant to continue with my Italy journals, but I cannot pretend that this didn’t just happen. I cannot continue writing those entries as though unaffected. So here it is, the hardest blog entry I hope to ever write. 

A few months ago, I blogged about Flo and I finally conceiving. We were beyond surprised to find that we were having triplets, but we soon came around and fell in love with each of them. We looked forward to seeing the babies at every scan, looking at how much they’d grown, feeling their kicks in the evening as we played music for them… It was just wonderful.

We had a successful 15.5th Week scan before we flew off for our big Europe trip under our doctor’s blessing. And how lucky can a set of triplets be getting to taste Swiss foods, Italian foods, and hearing all the sounds of these beautiful countries through my womb? Flo and I were immensely proud of them, happy to share with anyone the wonderful news that we were expecting ‘tre bambino‘!!

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Our family and friends were incredibly stoked for us, knowing how hard we’d been trying and every Sunday, Flo would take a photo of all of us – me with the three bubs, to see how my tummy was growing. It took a while to pop up but a week into out holiday, when we were about 16 weeks, it started to become a bit more prominent.

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And from that point, my belly grew each week like there was no tomorrow. It surprised me sometimes, how quickly it was stretching to accommodate our growing babies. Initially, I felt strange, like my belly was completely foreign to me. It was as though my body was still mine, but my belly, a foreign extension attached to me.

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Even then, I started to come around the idea that I was housing three beautiful babies. I started to embrace the bump, wearing cute dresses and tops to show them off to the world. Many commented that my bump was pretty small to be housing three, but I didn’t care. I knew they were all healthy and moving within me, and that was all that mattered.

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When we returned to Singapore, there was no longer a doubt that I was pregnant. Unlike in Italy where people are a lot more receptive and warm to pregnant mothers, people in Singapore tend to not be quite the same. Often times, they’d stare at my belly as if to question if there was really something inside. I was offered a seat on public transport twice, but that aside, it sometimes felt quite alienating. But honestly, I wasn’t too bothered. I knew that if I really needed a seat, I’d speak up and ask for one anyway.

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I was blessed never to be plagued by a lot of hormonal changes that most mothers go through – I didn’t suffer from acne, nor did I have a sudden spurt of hair growth on my belly. I did suffer from some edema especially when I stood up too long, but it was nothing that bothered me. I didn’t have much aches and pains, except at night when I struggled to find the right areas to cushion my back, but once I did, I was fine.

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Our 20th week scan on Aug 02 2019 showed our gorgeous threesome growing nicely. They were all growing a few days ahead of their gestational age, they were developing beautifully and were waving at us, active within their sacs, with Baby B and C even kicking each other while Baby A chilled below. Seeing our doctor had us in even better spirits as he told us that they were all doing well and he’d see us a month on; and then the following month on. As long as there were no complications, we only had to see him for routine scans.

On Saturday Aug 10 2019, our dearest friends put together a little gender reveal party for us. Flo and I were adamant about not finding out our babies’ genders, so we had the doctor write each baby’s gender on a card, and we had it passed to Les, who passed it to Brandan (whom we’re not so close to) to organise the surprise.

We were praying so hard for a mix of genders, but Flo’s dream of having 3 girls from the night before had me feeling a little doubtful when we were opening the boxes. Of course, we would love them all the same whether all girls, all boys, or a mix, but honestly speaking, with three babies, we still hoped for a mix.

 

We had a great time that afternoon, as we FaceTimed with family from abroad so that they could all watch the unveiling together with us. We were over the moon with the outcome and it just made Flo and I more eager for the babies’ arrival.

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This was taken on Aug 11 2019 at 22 weeks. Our last photo taken with all four of us. 

Only… we hadn’t wished that they’d arrive as early as they did.

On Monday Aug 12 2019, I went into hospital with bleeding. It didn’t look anything too bad, and we suspected it may have been a simple case of being intimate the night before. Doctors found that I had an infection and two days later, after checking on the babies and my cervical length, they sent me home with antibiotics and an order to be minimally active. My cervical length was measured at 2.1cm but I suppose doctor wasn’t too concerned at that point.

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On Thursday Aug 15 2019, the day after I’d been discharged, we were back in hospital after I’d shared with Flo that I was still bleeding and feeling a bit crampy after he came home from work. He insisted we go in to get checked even though at 22+3 days, I knew that the babies were not viable and I feared that the doctors would call for them to be induced – I was not ready for that.

I was attended to quite promptly and checked for contractions. I couldn’t feel anything but apparently I was having contractions. The MO checked my cervix and immediately called for me to be admitted. Apparently, my cervical length was nowhere near 2.1cm and I was already 5cm dilated. My heart turned cold and I felt so helpless.

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The next three days, Friday to Sunday, I was in constant pain. They felt like contractions, initially starting at 10min apart and gradually increasing to 3-5min apart, each lasting about 50 seconds. By Sunday, I’d woken up ready to have them out because I could no longer bear with the pain. I was told by the doctors it may be better to let them pass through rather than be induced since my cervix was now full dilated and the membranes were out apparently, so I tried. Every ‘contraction’ I tried to push. I found that there was a 2-finger gap between my upper and lower abdomen and was convinced that our baby boy below was keen to come out. Then, that evening, after nurses found out I hadn’t peed the whole day, they inserted a catheter into me, draining out 1.7l of urine. That lower abdominal bump disappeared.

That same night, while I kept calling the nurses because of the pain, they asked if I was constipated. I wasn’t sure. I just knew that pain killers weren’t helping me alleviate any of the pain so they gave me 10ml of lactillus and within hours, I was pooping every few hours. By morning, the pains had reduced significantly, and by Tuesday, they were almost entirely gone.

Flo and my spirits started to pick up. We were into their 23 week and feeling more hopeful, thinking that the worst was over. I imagined God being with us, keeping our boy in even as I pushed like crazy that Sunday, alleviating my contraction-like pains and solving the mystery of my split abdomen. I prayed every day that they would reach 24 weeks, but even then, Flo and I knew that it wasn’t any guarantee for their long term health. We had already agreed that should the babies come in the 23rd week, we would let them go simply because survival rates were a mere 20-30%, not considering the multitude of health complications they may struggle with from being severely underdeveloped, leaving them fighting in the first few days, weeks, months, years of their lives.

We hit 23+4 days, but around 10pm. I had been feeling some kind of fluid come out from below but it wasn’t the water bag. The nurses changed me and found that I had green discharge flowing out with a foul smell. The doctor immediately ordered me to be sent to the delivery suite. I panicked but Flo kept assuring me that everything would be ok. I wasn’t so sure.

In the delivery suite, we were advised to have the babies out lest my health is put at risk. With the infection already attacking my womb, and having had fever spikes the few consecutive days before, the doctors said they couldn’t wait. For an hour, Flo and I debated what to do. I, filled with emotions and maternal instinct only wanted to keep the babies, to give them a chance at life, even though days ago, I felt it right to let them go. Flo was more rational but I couldn’t accept that decision. We argued. I was insistent on what I wanted. In the end though, I knew within my heart of hearts that Flo was right.

At 2am, 23 Aug 2019, Friday, one day before my birthday, the doctor broke Baby A’s water bag. He didn’t take too long to come out and even though he was still small, it was tiring. I couldn’t feel the contractions and the midwife had to keep going back to the contraction monitor to tell me when to push. They had me on oxytocin to try and speed up and increase the contractions for Baby B, and had to increase it until I could feel something. Another doctor came in about an hour later to help me break B’s waterbag and get her out. During that time, Baby C’s bag broke too. Baby B came out strong willed and crying. It was heart wrenching and I had to cover my eyes, telling her not to cry. Finally, just before 6am, Baby C was out to join her big brother and sister.

The entire time, Flo was with me, holding my hand, giving me sips of water, keeping me going. When the babies were all out, I think I started to go into shock. I was cold and shivering all over, my muscles tensed, my mouth clenched, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t relax. Then I fell into the deepest sleep and woke up intermittently feeling as though I was stuck in a boiler. I was so hot I thought I’d peed bucketloads on myself and it’d all seeped into the blankets below, sizzling up as though the table below was a grill on high heat. I had Flo remove the blankets from me, to get me cold water, to cool me down with wet wipes as I floated in and out of consciousness. My temperature had shot up.

At around 10am, the babies had been washed and clothed in Angel Gowns (swaddles made from preloved donated wedding gowns that looked pristine white and soft), each had a small knitted beanie over their heads that was a little loose. It took some time for them to be brought to us because of all the admin stuff that had to be attended to.

The babies were brought in for us to see and they were more than we’d expected – they were more beautiful that we could have ever hoped. Baby A resembled Flo already with his thin little lips and thin crop of hair, and Baby B was very fair had full lips like mummy. Baby C was a lovely mix and looked a little of both of us, and a little of her siblings. Seeing them there, doll-like and peaceful, made me realise that we had made the right choice. They came to us together, and they left us together. At least they are together in heaven, under God’s watchful eye, waiting for when Flo and I join them.

A Sister asked if we wanted to take photos with or of them, whether we wanted to carry them. They were so tiny, so delicate, that we couldn’t bear to carry them. We chose to forgo pictures because just as we wouldn’t take photos with ones we’ve lost at their funerals, neither should our babies be subject to them either. They looked perfect and happy, next to each other, and I know that when it is our turn to go to heaven, we won’t need a photograph to recognise them. We’ll just know.

***

Our dear babies, I wish we could have had you longer. I wish we could have got to see you all grow up, take your first steps, hear your first words… But I know that no amount of time would have ever been enough if God’s intention was to take you all home prematurely. Daddy and I miss you all every day. We miss your kicks and punches, we miss talking to you, we miss daddy rubbing my belly every night…

Often, I wonder whether I could have done something more. Maybe I ate something wrong; perhaps I should have insisted on more tests and swabs for infections; maybe I was too active and did not consider just how risky this pregnancy was, especially since everything was going so well. I know as well, that it’s all over now and while Daddy and I are at peace with every decision that we made from the minute you were conceived, we still have moments where we bawl, or wonder, or regret.

We did give you names, but we hope that in time, when we are ready to try again, that we can bestow those names on your future brother(s) and/or sister(s) in your memory, which is why I will not reveal them here. I’m sure you know them anyway. The hospital gave us a little box, each one containing your footprints. I’m glad they did. In a strange way, it gives us some kind of comfort.

In the 1.5-2 weeks I was in hospital on bedrest, and especially over the weekend where I was having those endless contraction pains, I thought to myself and told Daddy as well that I don’t think I dare to conceive again. It’s too scary and full of uncertainty. Still, when you all came out, I felt an emptiness within me that yearned to be filled again. And so, I know, I hope to be pregnant again. I hope to be parents with Florian – a man who was made to be a father. I hope to give the three of you siblings whom you can watch over from above.

Flo stood by me throughout my hospital stay, sleeping on the uncomfortable chairs, not a single complaint when I was waking up 5, 6 times to call the nurse for a bed pan or when the nurses came in two take my vitals in the middle of the night. He held my hand as I delivered each of you, and we cried tears of sorrow together right after.

It was tough. Tough when Baby A came out and I knew I had two more to push out. It was traumatising. It was heart-wrenching knowing that I was giving birth to each of you, but would never get to bring you home the way we always imagined. But I know that Flo also went through his own trauma. He may not have experienced it all physically like I did, but I know he felt it emotionally and watched it all unravel before his very eyes while trying to be strong for all of us.

***

We have been blessed with close friends, and family, who came often to visit us and spend time with us. Mum and Dad especially came down every day, held my hands, cradled Flo and I as tears streamed away. After the babies were lost, I spent another 4 days in hospital because the doctors were trying to figure out the source of my infection and why my temperature was still spiking. I’m now out and Flo and I are building ourselves back up from our ordeal. I know that with all the support we have, and the love we have for one another, we will pull through and be even stronger.

It’s been 5 days now and every day feels like a year. My wish this birthday was simply to be happy just for the one day. It was initially for the three of you to stay in without any further complications. Today, we have our 3rd year dating anniversary but no mood for celebration obviously. All we wanted for today as well was for you three bubs to still be inside me. I look at my belly, it’s like a baby chimp’s – I’m skin and bones all over but my belly is round with a little belly button barely poking out. Every day, I see my bump shrink down. And I know it will only be a matter of days perhaps before I’m back to where I was before I had you three. I’m afraid I will forget, yet I know, I will never forget you three.

I know that I am not the first, nor will I be the last to miscarry at just under 24 weeks. I also know there are many hopeful mothers who have lost in their first trimester, some even in their last. No loss is ever easy, and whether it is loss of a single baby, or loss of triplets in one go, I understand there is no such thing as one story being more tragic than the other. The pain is something we will all need to wade through but take heart, that God has bigger plans, even if we may not understand them just yet. Better things are coming. And while we mourn, our babies are together, in a much happier place, watching over us. We, will always be their parents, and they, our children. And we, will always love them. Every single day.

I hope that none of you have, or will ever go through what Flo and I went through, but if you have, feel free to share your story with me. I may not be able to advise you on how to move on, but I hope that my listening ears can be a source of comfort to you. ❤

Bologna, Italy.

11 Jul 2019 – Thursday.

Bologna it was on Thursday, which, like Parma, is only a short drive away from Modena. First on the agenda was going in search for their hidden canals.

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Apparently, Bologna used to be filled with canals, but many of them have since been covered by buildings.

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As with every town we’d visited so far, and every town we’ll be visiting, we went to the piazza where Basilica di San Petronio is located. It’s famous for being half completed on the outside, so the bottom half is covered in a beautiful white and peach marble, while the top remains as bricks.

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We did go in, but we weren’t allowed to take photos unless we gave an offering. It wasn’t as impressive inside compared to the cathedral in Parma. This basilica is also heavily guarded because there have been threats made to it in the recent past.

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We went looking for lunch and found ourselves at Osteria Bartolini which serves a seafood-centric menu.

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Nice, warm, toasty breads to start our meal. Most Italian eateries then to serve mediocre, chewy bread so this was refreshing.

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Flo and I shared a plate of grilled prawns and squid, and a bowl of garlic butter cozze aka mussels.

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The seafood were fresh, and the mussels in particular were so plump and juicy. You’ll see me ordering cozze many more times during our trip.

Cigarette vending machine, literally in a hole in the wall.

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Quick stop for a quick snack. Flo had a lemon aragoste, better known as sfogliatelle (lobster tail). A thin, flaky, almost like puff pastry, kind of pastry filled with lemon cream.

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Light and crisp on the outside,

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Citrusy and creamy on the inside.

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We went on towards the leaning towers of Bologna. If memory serves me right, there used to be about 6 of these leaning high towers. These two, Asinelli and Garisenda, used to stand at around 60m but one was reduced in height, and the other had a height increment where the extra levels on top were made a little smaller in order to put minimal stress on the structure.

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Although Asinelli and Garisenda can be seen from a distance, we happened to walk right by their base because we were searching for St. Stephen Basilica.

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My curiosity about this basilica peaked when I found out that it held 7 small cathedrals within.

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I believe there are still monks living within its walls as we saw them going about their day. While we were able to visit the courtyard, the upper levels of this inner building is not accessible to the public.

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As you can see from the floors and walls, the basilica is extremely old, with some of its buildings being build way way back in the 4th Century!

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After visiting St. Stephen’s, dinner came calling and before we went to Bologna, Flo refused to order any Tagliatelle al’ Ragu, insisting that he would only eat it in Bologna. So I checked with our trusty friend, Google, and found a wallet-friendly eatery, popular with students, that supposedly served a very good rendition of this dish – Osteria dell’Orsa.

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I wasn’t keen on pasta, so I went for a grilled vegetable bruschetta. We were going to order two thinking they’d be a simple two slices of baguette with toppings, but when the order arrived, we were happy to have stuck to the one because it was a whole slab of thin cut bread.

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Flo of course, went for the Tagliatelle al’ Ragu which came looking pleasingly homey – just like how you’d imagine grandma would make it, if you had an Italian grandma.

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It tasted very rustic, with the earthiness from the meat and as usual, tagliatelle cooked perfectly. That being said, I actually made a ragu for us before back in Singapore, and it tasted the same. Even Flo had to give me that!

Always room in Italy for some gelato.

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We went to a random gelateria that we found on the way back to the carpark and Flo found some space to pack away a small cup of pistachio gelato and stracciatella, hands down his favourite. It was pretty good gelato, then again, you can hardly go wrong with gelato from any gelateria in Italy.

Two satiated people, and three satiated babies (in my belly), drove back to our B&B thereafter. Bologna was definitely worth the visit. It’s a little bit more of a student town but it was filled with activity and life, similar to Parma. Modena, compared to the other two, is still a little bit slower in terms of pace, but each has their own character and charm so it’s tough pinpointing which was my favourite.

Modena; Parma. Italy.

09 Jul 2019 – Tuesday.

Flo and I reached Modena around 1.30pm, too early for us to check into our BnB. So we left our luggage there and drove as near to the centre as we could. Do note that if you’re driving in Italy, almost every town and city has restricted zones where only residents with a pass can drive into and park. Yes, even driving in is not permitted.

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I loved the cobbled streets! Modena Old Town was quite sleepy when we arrived. Most of the restaurants were closing for the afternoon, and it was getting quiet. Flo and I quickly legged it to Trattoria Aldina for lunch. I had it penned down as a place that’s supposed to serve really good food.

It was a little hidden away and when we arrived at the door leading to the second floor where the eatery is situated, I had second doubts because I imagined that going up would either reveal to us a place that was exorbitant and snotty, or humble and casual. Thankfully, it was the latter.

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They supposedly close at 2.30pm for the day, but were happy to accommodate us even though we arrived just before. The trattoria was simple and very homely; the service warm and inviting.

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Flo and I decided to share a primi consisting of these delightfully plump pumpkin filled tortellini with balsamic vinegar. I wasn’t expecting much, and even wondered if I’d made the right choice with the vinegar. The kitchen staff kindly portioned our tortellonis onto two plates so we each got three. This was honestly enough to fill me.

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I took one bite into these glorious little packages and found myself grinning with utmost satisfaction. They were possibly the best things I’d ever eaten. Smooth, creamy, sweet pumpkin filling against perfectly cooked, thin wrappings of pasta dough and the balsamic vinegar was like no other I’d ever tasted.

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It was sweet and tart and spicy all together and sang harmoniously with the flavours of the tortelloni. This, was without a doubt, one of the best dishes we had over our entire trip. It was affordable, and impeccably executed. I would have loved to have returned for more of Trattoria Aldina’s dishes but sadly, we didn’t have enough meals there.

As a secondi, Flo and I shared the pork tenderloin in a balsamic gravy. I’m not a fan of pork in general but babies needed protein and as Flo always says, you won’t know whether you really like something unless you try it.

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I have to admit that a bite of one of this slices of pork had me putting my fork down in order to savour its tenderness. The meat was flavoursome, hardly porky and the sauce had a wonderful depth that complemented the savoury meat so well. Still, the tortelloni…

We had a side of spinach because I found myself lacking a lot of fibre while we were in Zurich and Hamburg. The portion was generous. It was simply cooked, tossed in some salt and olive oil, and still tasted amazing. Perhaps the lack of veggies in my system made it taste more impressive that it really was.

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Still, Trattoria Aldina impressed both Florian and I in her givings. It was not only the delicious food made with heart that we thoroughly enjoyed, but also the friendly service that put us at ease the minute we stepped in.

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If we ever head back to Modena, and I hope we do, then I pray to the food gods that Trattoria Aldina will still be around, waiting for our return.

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After lunch, we wandered around the deserted streets of Modena before checking in at our B&B – B&B Igea 50. It was just as well because it started to rain off and on as we walked.

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Our home for the next three nights was situated a short 8min drive out of the Old Town, and of all the places we stayed at around Italy, this was by far my favourite. The bed was comfy and plush, and the room on the whole felt so homely.

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It’s not a very big B&B – there were two other rooms, and a common living area where we could chill and flick through magazines, or even watch tv.

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Every morning, we were treated to a sumptuous spread laid out by Gianna. She’s like a typical Italian nonna fussing over us, ensuring we were well fed before we left for the day. She personally baked all the morning cakes, and cookies. Italians generally seem to lean towards sweeter breakfasts.

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Gianna also provided fresh cut fruit salads, a range of yogurts, savoury items, cold cuts and cheese, as well as breads, some of which she baked herself. Needless to say, we were spoiled.

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This is lovely Gianna. She was such an amazing host, generously sharing with us the best places to visit if we wanted to see where Parmigiano Reggiano and Balsamic Vinegar were being made; happily dispensing to us the best restaurants and eateries to visit depending on which area we were heading to do the day; keeping us company for breakfasts and listening to our stories about what we had been up to the day before.

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This was her sharing with us a bit about how balsamic vinegar is made. She had these little bread ‘barrels’ made for her specially by her neighbour, and that little bottle held 25 years old vinegar which she happily poured out for Flo and I to try.

Gianna definitely left the deepest impression on me. I loved how she was so excited upon hearing we were pregnant with triplets, and how she asked us to keep in touch after. It’s not often you come across people who by their very nature, is able to touch your life. And for some reason, without much effort, she has made herself unforgettable to me. I really hope that our paths will cross once more in the near future, and many times more after that.

10 Jul 2019 – Wednesday.

We started the day with me donning on a pair of sturdy Birkenstocks that dear hubs bought for me the day before because my shoes were threatening to fall apart.

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Then, it was off to Parma!

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As with most Italian Old Towns, I loved Parma’s buildings, especially their arches.

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Cobbled streets and brick buildings certainly highlighted the history of each town and how far back it must go. A huge contrast to the white-washed concrete walls of Singapore.

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There is also a tradition for buildings to be painted in terracotta colours. Personally, I feel it worked in some areas, while for others, especially in the drier, hotter regions of Italy, it made the town look washed out and tired.

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There was supposed to be a market going on. I was so excited imaging grocers showing off their fresh vegetables and butchers yelling out to those looking for meat. Sadly, it looked to be a flea market for clothes. We did find this indoor market though, which helped perk me right up.

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Look at those hunky legs of prosciutto!

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And glorious chunks of cheese!

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This was when my belly had just started to pop, although it was easily mistaken as a food baby rather than three babies. Right at the beginning of our trip, the presence of a bump was hardly noticeable. You’ll see as we travel through Italy how all the food went straight to my belly and I returned with an obvious baby bump!

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As with every town, Parma’s piazza.

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We had a quick lunch of nothing particularly extraordinary, before going to visit Cattedrale di Parma.

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It was magnificent! The moment I stepped in and looked up, the beautiful paintings on the walls and ceilings took my breath away.

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Every painting, sculpture and carving told a story, but against some of the gruesome, heart-wrenching scenes depicted in the artworks, there was such peace and tranquility within the cathedral.

After having our fill of Parma, we scooted off to 4 Madonna Caseificio dell’ Emilia, one of the highlights of our trip.

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Flo and I discussed against joining an expensive tour, choosing instead to go to a Parmegiano Reggiano factory highly recommended by Gianna, where we were blessed enough to walk in just in time for an English tour beginning at 4pm. We had a half hour to spare so we browsed the cheese shop, rehydrated ourselves and had a short rest.

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We were first taken through the various steps that go into making a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. Sadly, we weren’t able to see work in motion because most of their production is done in the morning. Our disappointment was more than made up upon entering this room filled from floor to ceiling with beautiful wheels of cheese!

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Flo and I were in cheese heaven and let me tell you, the sharp aroma of the Parmigiano filled our noses and I swear, we wouldn’t have minded living right there amongst the giant wheels of nutty, savoury, gritty goodness!

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We could have stayed in here forever.

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But as luck would have it, we were eventually ushered out for a little cheese tasting. We got to try some freshly churned butter on baguette, fresh ricotta, 3-day fresh, unsalted Parmigiano (aka Tosone), 12-months, 18-months, 24-months and 30 months old Parmigiano with some jams and balsamic to go with.

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My favourite was actually the 24-months aged Parmigiano Reggiano because while not quite as complex as the 30-month old one, it was still bang full of flavour and I liked that it wasn’t as gritty and dry.

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That’s us with the golden hammer, used to check on how the wheels of cheese are ageing. The hammerman (I make this name up), will usually be so accustomed to knowing what sounds to look for, that he’ll be able to tell whether the wheel is ageing well, or not so well.

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With great reluctance, it was time for us to say goodbye to the beautiful world of cheese and head back to Modena in time for dinner.

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Upon Gianna’s recommendation, we dined at Danilo Ristorante, known specially for their boiled meats and tortellini in brodo. As their boiled meats dished consisted of many parts Flo and I were not daring enough to try, we stuck to the tortellini, had a side of grilled greens to share (mostly eaten by me), and a mushroom crepe.

The veggies were decent. Nothing to moan nor to shout about.

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We were both surprised when the crepe came because it wasn’t what we pictured it to be. In our minds, we were obviously thinking of something more akin to the French-style of crepe where the mushroom filling sits within. This was more like a parcel, almost lasagne like, with layers of creamy mushroom within and a generous portions of melty, gooey cheese on top and around. Needless to say, it was extremely rich and quite on the salty side; quite tasty for the first few mouthfuls, then it gets a little too cloying.

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The tortellini in broth looked like such a simple dish. Each tortellini is handmade, usually around the pinky so they are really small. They’re filled with a mix of veal (sometimes pork), prosciutto and parmesan cheese. The clear broth in which they were served in looked nothing spectacular. The portion below, by the way, was half a portion as Flo and I ordered this to share and the restaurant kindly portioned them out for us before serving.

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This spoon with the two plump, petite pieces of dumplings comprised my first real taste of tortellini. I wasn’t expected much by their looks but it was a total flavour bomb as soon as I bit into them. An explosion of meatiness balanced nicely with some saltiness from the cheese and prosciutto, as well as the sweetness of the veal totally blew my mind. The broth, though light in looks, was wholesome and would warm the coldest of hearts.

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How one little dumpling is able hold so much punch is beyond me! But there you go – the Italians managed to master that art. The only reason why tortellini in brodo doesn’t trump the pumpkin tortelloni I had at Trattoria Aldina is merely because, I’m biased towards vegetables. Honestly though, if you’re ever in Modena, I highly recommend trying this dish once.

To end, Flo decided he needed some good, authentic Tiramisu.

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Unlike most tiramisu we find back home, the cream on this one came a gorgeous shade of yellow from the egg yolks, and the fingers below were heavily soaked in coffee and booze. I did have a taste and it was pretty spectacular. It was rich without being overwhelming, so Flo had no trouble licking his bowl clean without much help from me.

It was a sweet ending to a wonderful day. Next up, Bologna!