Image by gruntzooki via Flickr
Today, for the first time since I returned from Italy on Monday, I weighed myself and was surprised to see I had shed four to five pounds on my trip Sept. 8-20.
I was surprised, but also pleased that I had followed the advice of my trainer at the gym to cut down on bread, pizza and other carbohydrates.
In the past, I've always gained weight. In Greece, I blamed the retsina wine and incredibly fatty yogurt. In New Orleans, I blamed just about everything in one of the great food cities of the world.
I ate well in Italy -- fresh fish and seafood, seasonal vegetables, a salad with almost every meal, pasta, lasagna, risotto, sparkling mineral water and wine -- but I didn't do that three times a day.
In fact, I tried to eat only two meals a day and relied on granola and soy bars, nuts and espresso to tide me over. I never had dessert. If I ate a big lunch, I'd skip dinner. Or I'd have a big breakfast and a big dinner.
Sometimes, I would tell my server I didn't want bread, and ate the bread sticks I found on every table or settled for one or two slices of the seven or eight in the basket. Bread sticks are "grissini" in Italian -- as in Grissini, the expensive Italian restaurant in Englewood Cliffs.
I ate pizza only once, on my last full day in Italy. The vegetarian pie was an oval, about half the size of a small pizza here in New Jersey, and had more vegetables than cheese on top of the soft, chewy dough, which was scorched by the coal oven.
Pizza is brought to the table unsliced -- you use your knife and fork to make pieces as big or as small as you like, and in whatever shape you like.
I not only ate well, but I was full when I left the table, even of I had only two courses from a fixed-price tourist menu.
I also walked a great deal. From my first stop in Milan, I took a train north to the city of Monza and then a free shuttle bus to the autodromo -- the track where the Formula One race was being staged. I did that three days in a row, and on two of those days, I had to walk more than a mile each way to the race course.
The walking never stopped. I drove to Venice on Monday, Sept. 13; parked in a garage and for four days, relied mostly on ferries and my own feet to get around.
(Photo: Fish display at a Milan restaurant.)