Sunday, June 17, 2007

Venezia!



So once we actually GOT to Venice it was spectacular of course! We had a very nice meal the first night at Osteria Enoteca San Marco and the next day a fantastic lunch at Al Theatro next to La Fenice. But the most fun food wise was experiencing some of the cechetti bars! These, usually hole in the wall, bars are where the locals go for a small glass of wine and snack before dinner. The first one we went to was Do Mori- great atmosphere, cechetti and wine. They really take the "snack before dinner" seriously though as it closed right at 9pm! As with tapas we over ordered and were full of our snacks so dinner ended up being a bottle of wine and dessert at Florian in Piazza San Marco. It was a gorgeous night!


There was a really big storm one night and it left the canals spilling over onto the sidewalks. It was just a peak into what winter must be like for the locals with the flooding that happens, wow- I can't imagine dealing with that! some of the boats could not even get under the bridges because the water was so high!

Our last full day we spent over on the Dusadora area- it was very nice to be the only one's in most of the neighborhood.



We went to the Peggy Guggenheim museum which was fantastic and then ended up having to walk all the way back to our hotel as there was a vaporetta strike! On the way back we stopped in a wonderful deli and picked up some nice "happy hour" snacks to enjoy in our room.


Being our last night we headed out and took the obligatory gondola ride and then headed out to another cechetti bar- Botte which I think is quite well know and very popular.

We loved being in Venice, it's such a unique and gorgeous city! All photos of Venice can be seen here

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to Venice...

Setting: a train platform in Bologna, one fine September afternoon. A train arrives at the appointed time on the expected platform. Two Americans board and find their first-class seats. They then proceed to the dining car and enjoy a pleasant [for a train] meal and a bottle of wine. The husband idly remarks that he's really interested in getting back to the seats and taking a look at the map to check out the route, because he didn't expect the mountainous geography they're seeing.


Such a scene might look something like this:


Unfortunately, the camera fails to capture the following scene, approximately 15 minutes later, when the train pulls into fabled (and previously visited) Florence. To establish context, picture this: Bologna (the origin) is in north-central Italy. The destination, Venice, is north and east of that. Florence, by contrast, is south and west. There are intervening mountains.

When Wendy and I realized that we'd just traveled several hours in the wrong direction after somehow managing to board the wrong train (from the right platform at the right time...) we panicked a bit. The next stop was some unknown destination on the way to Rome, unlikely to be a major train hub. Yikes! We grabbed the luggage and heaved it off the train -- almost leaving a bag behind -- and found ourselves in the main station in Florence on a sticky-hot afternoon, further from Venice than we' d started the day, and without valid tickets.

Long story short [well, too late for that], we did eventually repurchase tickets and make it onto a train later in the day, bound for Venice. We were going to arrive late, miss our scheduled bar walk, and were in general just in a bad mood. At the same time, as I took pains to point out, we were still going to Venice and hadn't actually lost anything other than a little time.

Eventually, we got to our little tiny hotel (perched across the street from the Ferrari store!!) and made it to San Marco plaza for a chance to shed some stress.


We did get to [famous, tiny, overpriced] Harry's Bar that night, to be confronted with pre-made, super-chilled martinis:

But we still had a good time ;)


...and eventually found our way to a fantastic wine bar / restaurant for a meal as they closed the place down around us. All was good in the world, and Venice waited for us the next day.

Bring on the Cheese!



We were sad to leave Florence but excited to head to our next destination- the Emilia-Romagna region! It wasn't a far drive but the insane curvy road and the hordes of motorcycle riders driving at break neck speeds made for a heart stopping trip. You just can't imagine how many bikes there were! Then we hit Bologna at rush hour which caused us some headaches too. Finally we made it to Modena where we were very excited to be staying at Villa Gaidello an agriturismo for 3 days- but as soon as we drove out to it (past the prison!) we knew it was not the spot for us. I have read many rave reviews but our apartment was dark and creepy and way too big for the 2 of us. It was in the middle of no where which meant driving 30 minutes for a good meal through copious amounts of highway construction that was happening. ugh.






Out came the travel guide and the bottle of wine we'd been packing around since Cinque Terre for just such an emergency as this! A few phone calls found us a room at Hotel Button in Parma. The name made us laugh so we booked it, but not without quite a hassle as the manager needed us to fax or email our credit card info to him and we had access to neither. A long text was sent back home to our friend Della who (saved us!) and emailed the hotel. And off we went to dinner in Modena knowing that we would get to move the next day.


Each of the towns in EG is quite industrial and commercial upon entering it- only when you find the center of town, park and then walk into the old areas are you charmed by these incredible cities. It took us a while to get use to that....for those of you from around Seattle they looked like Tukwilla upon driving in.


We spent the next 3 days exploring each of the towns and the amazing food they have to offer! In Bologna we found fantastic markets selling huge varieties of salumi, prosciutto, pasta, etc.



Modena is of course home to the best balsamic in the world and then there is Parma......

Once morning we got up early and drove to one of the Parmigiano-Reggiano facilities for a tour. BEST DAY EVER! We went through the entire process and were then rewarded with a huge wedge of cheese to eat! These people are the best! haha!




From here we drove to the Ferrari Museum!



and then back to Modena for lunch and cocktails. If you ever are in Parma do not miss a cheese tour, sounds hokey but is probably one of the highlights of our trip!

More pictures of the beautiful Emilia-Romagna area here!

On to Florence!





We left Cinque Terre by train and headed to La Spezia where we picked up our rental car and started our drive to Florence. On the way we stopped in Pisa for the not to be missed photo ops!


After walking around the Piazza dei Miracoli and snapping our photos we had a quick dinner of Pizza (in Pisa!) and continued on to Florence where we were staying at the Hotel River, a wonderful boutique hotel right on the Arno.


We thought our room was just gorgeous and huge and the people working the desk at the Hotel River over the top nice- turns out they thought it was our honeymoon and had booked us in the suite with a balcony and view of the river!






We stayed in Florence for about 5 days and saw many, but not all, of the wonderful museums, buildings, cathedrals, etc. And of course we ate some amazing meals! We spent one whole day driving the entire road around Chianti- it goes from Florence to Sienna. This was soooo beautiful. The vineyards and hundreds of villages that dotted the landscape were exactly as we had imagined it. We stopped at the winery Fontodi and also shopped for wine at a fabulous little wine shop in one of the villages, seems most wineries don't sell their wine direct. And yes of course we had a case shipped home!




We had the most amazing lunch at Badia a Coltibuono which is an old monastery on top of a hill outside of Gaiole. They are a working winery and inn. After lunch we continued on to Sienna- wow!! Next time we head to Italy we are staying in Sienna for a few days, it was beautiful!!

We explored the cathedral and the old town then stopped for a much needed gelato in the famous Campo. Sienna is just an amazing town of twisty lanes, brick buildings, hills and alleys!
The drive around Chianti is a bit white knuckled at times- very twisty and lots of blind curves. Dayne did a fantastic job (as I had lost my driver's license before the trip) and so did our little Renault Mégane which we drove all over for over a week on 1 tank of gas!!!
Upon leaving Florence we drove up to the hilltop town of Fiesole for some stunning views and small town charm.
You can see all the photos from Pisa, Florence, Chiati & Sienna here!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Cinque Terre Sept 2007



Dayne and I traveled around northern Italy for a few weeks in Sept. Here is a bit about our trip! Our stops were Cinque Terre, Florence, Emilia-Romanga, Venice and a day in London on the way home.

We started off in Milan, mainly because the flights in were well timed for us. Didn't do much as we were just there for the night before heading to Cinque Terre. Our friend from Paris met us and we went out for some nice aperitivos and snacks before dinner. Had dinner at Cantina della Vetra which was very good- gnocco fritto became one of my favorite things!

The next day we were off to Montorosso in Cinque Terre! These towns are stunning!


Some other friends from Geneva, Oxford and Vancouver met us here so we had a nice little apartment for 5 days. Every morning we would go down the street to the Foccaciaria where you could order multiple slices of different foccacia and pay by the gram. Brilliant!

This is also the region for pesto which we ate daily!! And of course lots of fresh fish.

We spent the days lounging at the beach, hiking and exploring the towns, having lots of aperitivos and just relaxing while catching up with our friends. It was really a fantastic time.



You can see all the pictures for Cinque Terre here