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Italy trip 2010 Archives

May 22, 2010

Venice--First Day

Here we are! I cannot say clearly enough how thrilled I am to just be here. I am sitting on our terrace. It's around 7pm here and a nice cool breeze is kicking up. It's noisy but I am not bothered by it--I hear lots of Italian voices, dishes clanging in the restaurant right downstairs across the calle, dogs barking and a few birds.
Here are 2 quick snapshots of the view up the street and down the street from the terrace:

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Our flight was completely smooth. I love flying "princess" class. Very comfortable. Slept about 4 hours.

As soon as we got out of the airort we took the land bus to Piazzale Roma and waited in a crowded room to get our Carta Venezia. It took about a half hour but we got it and now we can ride the vaporetti for 1 euro. We took our first ride to the Ospedale stop and walked through the hospital, getting a bit lost, until we finally found the Campo SS Giovanni e Paolo and our lovely red house.

The apartment is nothing fancy but it is totally comfortable so far and easy walking distance to everything.

We went for lunch at Osteria D'Alberto. I immediately ordered a glass of prosecco and it hit the spot! We shared a tagliolini with porcini and little shrimp that I enjoyed. We also shared a mixed grilled fish plate that was not so great--kind of dried out, overcooked.

We've walked and walked--to the Billa to do a basic shopping and now we're crashing. I'm going to make it til 8:00 and then sleep.

Venice is so beautiful.

May 24, 2010

Domenica and the Vogalonga

This was a really fabulous day!
The main event was the Vogalonga--a major boat race/parade. Only non motorized boats can participate. They leave from San Marco, row out around the islands and back through Venice by way of the Canareggio canal and back to San Marco. Last year there were more than six thousand rowers, about half of them from outside of Italy. The boats range from one man kayaks to huge multi person boats (I really don't know one from another). Most of the rowers are in costume of some kind--usually matching shirts or hats and span all ages. It was festivity at the highest level. We found a nice spot just inside the Guglie bridge to sit and watch. I didn't really get any good photos but here are a few to get the feel of it.

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Sometimes it got really crowded with boats jockeying for position but it was all in good fun.

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Young and old---I liked these girls in their skirts.

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I think this may be our friend Nan's boat.

We got some good panini for lunch and came home to eat and rest a bit. We set out for another long walk for the afternoon. First we went to Campo Santa Maria Formosa to check out the hotel reserved for my sister and her husband, the Ruzzini Palace. It looked great! Then we walked over the Rialto bridge through San Polo to Vizovirtu for amazing gelato. I had passion fruit with little crunchy chocolate bits. Ken had the dark chocolate with lemon/peach. Their ice cream is like none other and I love to just walk in there and let the fumes of chocolate make me swoon. (OK that's a little exaggeration)

We came back home after doing a little grocery shopping and read and relaxed before dinner. We ate at Bocadoro--about a 2 minute walk from here. The meal was fabulous and very Venetian. There was nothing but seafood on the menu. We started with a plate of mixed lightly grilled scallops, mantis shrimp, scampi and razor clams. I love the razor clams. These were very small and sweet.
We each had a pasta--me gnocchi with spider crab. The little gnocchi were so sweet, you could really get the delicious potato flavor with the simple sauce. Ken had black taglioloni with artichokes and scallops. Both really excellent. We drank a bottle of prosecco and Ken had their wonderful tiramisu for dessert.

An ideal travel day for me!

May 25, 2010

Takin' Care of Business

We had a few things we really needed to accomplish today.
First, my Italian cell phone wasn't working so we found a TIM store and found we had to buy more minutes. Easy. It's working fine now.
Then we needed to find the COOP grocery store near us. We really didn't like the Billa. I asked the young woman who made our "caffe doppio" this morning and she said there was a COOP just behind the Santi Apostoli church--Ecco. We found it after thinking the exit was not OK to go into--walked around the block to come back to the uscita/exit and see people going in. We were much happier with this store and it's nearer.

For lunch we walked over to Fondamenta Nove and ate at a bar there--Ken had a panino and I asked for a salad with ham and cheese. I think they made it for both of us.

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It was huge.

We came back home for rest time and I began cooking for dinner. I made Marcella's onion sauce which was delicious but I'm saving the details.

We had to meet our landlady, Sabrina, at her office at 5:45. Not knowing how long it would take to walk there, we left very early. I thought we would stop in at the Santa Maria dei Miracoli church but it was closing right as we got there. So we walked across the Rialto bridge and sat by the canal for a while and walked on to meet Sabrina--on the bridge in front of the Frari church. She was right on time. We went up to her beautiful, totally modern, sparsely furnished office and gave her the money we owed for the apartment.
Then I met with Alberto. I am working withe him an hour a day speaking Italian and English for our mutual learning. The hour went so fast! Alberto reminds me so much of Brian! He is so sweet and obviously, I am old enough to be his mama.

We walked back home and made the dinner. Drank a nice bottle of Friulian Pinot Blanc and went for a gelato stroll. I got coffee and I forgot how much I love coffee gelato! It was wonderful.

Back home, Ken tried in vain, to find Lost on the internet. Shows (as well as Pandora) are only available within the USA. Who knew?? Amazing when the message comes up--"we think you are in Italy and this is only available in the US."

Long day--tomorrow we will have to do something "touristy"--We haven't even been to San Marco yet!


May 26, 2010

Doing the tourist stuff

What a full day!
We got a late start, did some laundry and reading after breakfast and finally set out for San Marco around 11:00.
It was, as expected, very crowded, so we didn't stay long. Just had to breathe it in a little bit. There's more scaffolding than I remember from times past and around the Bridge of Sighs is the worst--bright blue advertising cloth on the scaffolds.
From there we walked along the canal into Castello. I wanted to see the Pieta church because I am reading a book (The Four Seasons--historical fiction with Vivaldi as a character) in which the church plays a big part.
We stopped for a while to watch a funeral--the flower covered casket being loaded onto a boat and heading out. Finally we walked to the Arsenale and sat happily in the little park in front.
Here I am studying the map:

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And here's the Arsenale:

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It took us a long time to walk back and we had really worked up an appetite. So, we went to the Strega Restaurant, mentioned in Chow Venice! The garden seating area is really pretty:

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The place was filled with local, business men types. Ken had a huge pizza--they must have 50 different pizze on the menu. It was really good with a great crispy, thin crust, but the mushrooms seemed like they were from a can. I had a nice salad with tuna. The oil and vinegar are in little individual pouches--like ketchup at a fast food place.

After that, we came home. Of course the laundry still wasn't done. These crazy Italian machines!! Finally we got it out but it was awfully wet. We put the drying rack out on our terrace, in the sun.

We went to the COOP together and then split up so I could go meet with Alberto my language buddy and Ken came home with the groceries. It takes about 30 minutes to walk over the the Frari from here so I am logging some great walking times, going to the meetings. My calves are sore!

Came home and I made rigatoni with cherry tomatoes. Not so great. We never made it out again after dinner even though I was really in the mood for gelato.


May 27, 2010

Mercolidi

Ken seems to be sleeping really late every morning so we aren't "up and at 'em" like I would normally be. I think it's really a good thing because I can wear myself out. This pace we are establishing seems to be working very well.

Yesterday we had in mind to venture out on the vaporetto. We went to the Fondamenta Nove and got on the 52. I know even numbers go clockwise and odd, counterclockwise. We are getting comfortable and confident watching the stops go by until we get to Lido--the stop before the one we wanted, Zattere. Everyone gets off the bus. Well, I'm thinking they're all going to the beach--they did have baskets, towels, sunhats etc. We take off from Lido and start heading right back where we came from! Somehow the boat has changed to a 51!!! How was I supposed to know?
So we pass our original stop and get off at Madonna Dell'Orto. We haven't yet been to this quiet neighborhood, just a bit north and west of ours.
We went into the beautiful Gothic church and bought our "chorus passes"--10 churches for 10 euro. There were only about 4 other people in the church with us. I love going into these smaller churches. The spirit of the art and the history is overwhelming in the air. This church has lots of works by Tintoretto and he is actually buried there.
After, we wondered around the neighborhood. I really like this pretty corner:

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and facing the other way:

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We walked back through the Jewish ghetto and finally stopped at La Cantina on Strada Nova for lunch. It was a little strange in there. We sat down and she brought us water and wine (Vermentino--nice and refreshing) and then a big party of locals came in. The woman behind the glass case (open kitchen??) came out to chat with them and take their order. It took a really long time for the waitress to ever come back. They were really crowded with tables outside but still--Ken was getting a little arrabiatto and I was just confused. I stopped the waitress and finally said we would like something to eat. She said wait. 5 more minutes. Ken is ready to leave but I really want to eat there, from what I've read and heard. Finally she comes and I ask for a salad with seafood--cotto (cooked) she asks and I say no crudo (raw) finally she smiles at me and says "meglio" (better). Ken says he just wants a salami sandwich. My plate was gorgeous--I wish I had a photo. There was raw tuna and 2 kinds of shrimp and stripes of raw veggies--carrot, parsley, nice greens, little chunks of roasted zucchini, perfect little tomatoes, fennel and green apples. All dressed, very lightly with oil and balsamic vinegar. YUM! I really loved that lunch.

After lunch we came home to relax. Ken had work to do. I went to Alberto's office at 6:00 and came back around 7:30. We just threw together some salad and leftovers for dinner and then went for a nice walk. I had to wear my sweater!

May 28, 2010

Giovedi--no idea of the date!

Goal for the day: shop in the Rialto Market. Mixed results.
Before doing the shopping we stopped in at the terrific, little Cafe del Doge for coffee.
Then we strolled among all the fruit and vegetable stands until I finally felt comfortable to ask a question or two. The woman vendor was very helpful but the veggies we ended up buying were less than wonderful. Actually they were at least as good as anything we could buy in Publix at home but they just didn't thrill me. The little tomatoes I bought at the Billa were better than the Rialto ones. And the cherries we got were a real disappointment. There's a small fruit and veggie store, always very busy, near to our apartment and I think I'll go there next time. Still the Rialto is a treat for the eyes and ears. The smell of the fish market made Ken a little queasy but I loved it.

Here are a few shots:

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We were going to get something else besides veggies so we went to Aliana just down the street into San Polo. We got a whole roast chicken, a "sotttocenere" cheese with truffles and a piece of spinach torta. Also bought some rolls from the little bakery at our corner.
The stuff from Aliana was really great--especially the truffled cheese. I ate some, with bread and arugula, for lunch, sitting on our terrace.

In the afternoon, we took off toward San Marco. Because a light rain kept starting and stopping, our walk was starting and stopping, too. We went to the tourist office and bought tickets for a Vivaldi concert for Saturday night and got a new Venice map. The one we brought isn't quite working.

Finally, around 5:00 we crossed back over the Rialto bridge and into San Polo. We had a nice relaxing coffee at del Doge and I went to meet Alberto and Ken went home.

The meetings with Alberto are wonderful. It is so charming, to me, to hear him express himself in English and I think I am really building fluency by just talking with him. We talked about phrases like "What are you up to?" and "I'll bet".

I was a little bit early so I wandered around the back side of the Frari and took this quick little snap shot of the canal in the dull grey light.

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After dinner, Ken found a way for us to watch Lost on the computer so we huddled together in bed and watched it. Interesting--it kinda took me out of Italy for a while. Almost a relief to hear English. My brain is constantly translating every thought into Italian.

May 30, 2010

Another great day

I am so enjoying these slower mornings. We are really on vacation!
We started out with coffee right here under our apartment. There were a bunch of Venetian, older men there eating something and drinking wine. I asked what it was and the barista told me--spleen! Wow--wine and spleen for a mid morning snack.

We went to the Santa Maria dei Miracoli church. I can see why it is such a popular destination. This tiny gem has it all--gorgeous marble, beautiful carvings, serious paintings and a ceiling totally covered with art . I love how small it is so you don't feel totally overwhelmed with too much to see in a visit. We sat there for a while just taking in details.

Then we took off down Strada Nova and decided to go to the Ca d'Oro museum. I could have spent all morning just checking out the floor:

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and here's one of the exterior stairways:

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The whole museum was much bigger than I realized and I got exhausted from looking. Luckily, on each floor there is a beautiful loggia, over looking the Grand Canal. You can just imagine the previous residents of this house watching ancient Venice go by from their privileged spot.

After that Ken wanted to walk down to the Rizzo store and get sandwiches. He got salami and cheese and I got tuna and we sat by a small canal and ate them--and fed the pigeons.

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Then we went to the big Billa store and did a major grocery shopping. We are getting the hang of it and now I feel quite comfortable shopping.

We just had random stuff for dinner in the apartment and caught the vaporetto to the Academmia stop to go to the Chiesa San Vidal to see the concert by the string ensemble "Interpretti Veneziani."

I forgot how beautiful Venice is from the water in the evening light:


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Kris and I had seen these players 2 years ago and I knew it would be great. We heard Vivaldi's Four seasons and a few other pieces. The best was the encore where they all played without bowing--just plucking the strings. I loved the concert more than Kenny did.

Walking home from there we got a little turned around and found ourselves back at Piazza San Marco but considered it a treat to see it in its peaceful nighttime state.

May 31, 2010

Lazy Day, Italian Style

We were really lazy, couch potatoes today.
I think if we didn't really need coffee we would have stayed in until after lunch but coffee called so we went for a nice walk into Cannaregio. We found ourselves at the Campo dell'Abbazia--very pretty:

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I chose this shot because Ken and I had just been talking about how we are seeing so many young families, with little kids and strollers, on this trip. Maybe it's because of our location or maybe the population of Venice is changing, or both.

Came home and had salad and melon and prosciutto for lunch. Did some extended reading and resting and went out agian. This time we headed into Castello and we found this "leaning tower of Venice."

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I have no idea what it is--I'll have to check the guide books.

We met Nan McElroy for dinner.
She is so engaging, entertaining and devoted to the city. I can't imagine a better way to meet Venice than hiring Nan for her introduction session.
First we had a glass of wine (delicious Lugana from Friuli) and some chichetti at a new little place near the Santi Apostoli church. Then we went on to Promessi Spossi where she had reserved. She ate a Piemontese beef tartar appetizer and Ken and had the little scallops in the shell--canestrelli. Then we got 2 pastas to share--one was orechietti with lamb sauce which I loved, and the other was homemade black cavatelli with swordfish, tomatoes and capers. I really enjoyed the second one but we all agreed it was a bit salty. We drank a nice Tocai with the meal.
For dolce we shared a chocolate "muffin" which was liquid inside and as good as any molten chocolate cake. Ken ordered a glass of sweet wine and a plate of cookies which were fun to taste. I liked the one with a little cornmeal in it but only remember that they start with a "z". Nice to find a serious, unpretentious, friendly place so near to us. I'm sure we will go back there.

June 1, 2010

The Lagoon

The morning started very overcast but we decided to go on and catch the boat for Burano and Torcello. First lovely thing was when we walked into "our" bar for coffee the young woman greeted us in the usual friendly way but then she remembered our coffee orders! How nice to feel like a regular.
Then we walked to Fondamenta Nove and got on the boat. It took about 40 minutes to get to Burano, including 2 stops. We met a couple from Alabama who's sister lives in Tallahassee---nice talking to them for a while.
Burano is quaint and pretty in a kitchy way. We walked around seeing the pretty colored houses.

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Also, they have their own leaning tower there. We were standing on a quiet street looking at it, from a distance of, say, two blocks. A man walked up and started telling us about it--you could just feel his love for his island, his place and his leaning tower. It was hard to understand him with his Buranese accent but I managed to get that the tower is 82 meters high and some kind of restoration was done to it last year. Also he tole us how to walk over to it which we did. Afterward, we walked through the town and went into a bakery to buy some cookies. Where we stopped they had a small deli case and made panini, too so we go a couple. They had a chicken loaf with asparagus and that's what I got in my sandwich--it was really delicious! Ken, of course, got his favorite, salami and cheese. We sat in a park, near the boat docks and ate them.

Then we took the 5 minute ride to Torcello. It was so peaceful there. Imagine seeing the chair of Atilla from the 5th century! There are about 4 or 5 restaurants there but they were all empty. From one side of the island we could see rain and dark skies but it never came to us. The whole day was sunny, breezy and clear. I wore a light sweater most of the day.
I took this picture of a litttle shrine in a garden on Torcello:

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We came home. I was so sleepy on the boat ride that I leaned my head against Ken and dozed a little. We relaxed for a while and then went for a walk to see the Questura from the Donna Leon books. Turned out, it was exactly where we had walked yesterday but didn't realize it.

We made dinner in the apartment. Pasta with zucchini and onions--and I chopped up the little bit of leftover ham and threw that in, too. It was good. And we drank a Valpolicella Ripasso which we both enjoyed.

Too late, really, we went out to the Ca d'Oro gelato place and got some ice cream. I felt too full all night after that but I think it's really a great gelato place--about a 4 minute walk from our apartment.

I took this of the canal in front of our house; it's called Rio dei Mendicanti:

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June 2, 2010

The Quest

Most of you know I am part of the Pomodori e Vino, cooking blog, dedicated to Marcella Hazan and her wonderful book "Essentials of Italian cooking." One of the recipes I was randomly assigned was for Pasta with Botarga Sauce. I knew I could never find it in Tallahassee but lucking I came to Venice. And in a great spark of serendipity, Sandi, my partner on the blog, came to Venice, too. So, in the spirit of this charmed life, we set out on a quest to locate, purchase and cook the Botarga.

We first met for coffee, at Cafe del Doge, near the Rialto market. After wandering the marktes for a while, admiring the little purple artichokes and the perfectly red tomatoes, we began the quest in earnest. Botarga is a dried fish roe, considered a delicacy--think dried caviar. First stop was a little stall where they had dried cod in front--I came close but they only had the roe from tuna and I knew we needed Sardinian mullet roe. I learned the word for mullet is mugine and the person sent us around the block.
Finally I spotted a little "gourmet" shop--part of the Casa Parmigiano. The woman in there was so sweet and helpful. Not only did she have the right stuff, she also sold it vacuum packed, already grated so it looks like dried, amber caviar. She also gave us the brochure she had on display with it and I bought a little jar of crema di tartuffo.

We got the rest of things we needed in the veggie market and headed home.

The recipe was simple--onions in butter--toss with the cooked pasta, more butter, lemon zest, chopped parsley and, of course, the botarga. We were pretty skeptical about the results, thinking it would be too fishy, but all three of us really enjoyed the flavors with a nice glass of Soave. Success--mission accomplished.

Here I am cooking the pasta:

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and here is fabulous sous chef, Sandi:

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After Sandi left, I was doing the dishes and a pipe broke under the sink. We had our own little "Acqua Alta" with water covering the whole dining room floor. It really was no big deal. I called Sabrina and she quickly sent someone over to fix it. We had to wash a bunch of towels but no big deal.

After the clean up, Ken and I went to Mille Vini, and got a few bottles to have in the house. Lorenzo was so nice to us!

In the evening I went to meet Sandi and two other Slow Travelers at the La Calcina, for dinner. I really enjoyed the risotto with seafood and peas and Sandi and I shared Orata (sea bream?) with tomatoes. Not usually a fan of tomato sauce with fish, this was surprisingly enjoyable. We all drank a bottle of Lugana with the meal The fishermen are on strike so they had their boats all lined up honking their horns continually. It got a little annoying. I took the Vap home from Accademia to Rialto and then ended up staying up late with Ken, talking and looking at oil spill stuff on the internet.

June 3, 2010

Does it get better than this?

As we started getting ready for our day, I heard music and I immediately knew who it was. Elena Krasantowitch is an Estonian cello player who, apparently, makes her living playing on the streets in Venice.

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Last time I was here I was really taken with her and here she was, playing her dreamy music in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo—just out side our front door. We went down there and listened for a while and bought her CD. Bellisima. Then, on to coffee at La Trinchetta.
We took the vaporetto from Rialto to Salute and went into the grand Santa Maria Salute (health) church. This church is free but there are no guide materials. The big space is really well maintained and quite impressive. I particularly liked the big brass fixture with red candleholders hanging right in the middle of the church but my photo came out blurry. I did manage a good shot of the exterior.

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From there we went next door to the contemporary art show called “Mapping the Studio” at the Punta della Doganna.

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We really loved this show. The actual space is wonderful—set up perfectly for contemporary art. The works were extremely varied, including painting, sculpture and other things that defy description. What a fabulous way to spend the morning. On the audio guide, at the very end, they say they want you to be “transformed” after the show and I felt they succeeded! We came out of the show and began to walk around the actual point of the spit of land at the end of Dorsoduro and there was one last sculpture to make you smile.

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We continued to walk along the Zattere all the way to the Riviera Restaurant where I’d had a great lunch last trip.

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It didn’t disappoint. Ken and I shared—zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and a little bit of anchovies, deep fried in a very delicate batter. These were perfection on the plate! Then we had tagliolini with artichokes and scallops and the Friturra—fried calamari and shrimp with a little fresh fennel and tomato salad. The meal was really the taste of Venice—with a little of the very good house white. The local Italian family across from us (how could I tell they were local? They waved and said “ciao” to passersby 3 or 4 times during lunch) ended their meal with a dark looking liquer. At first I thought it was grappa but it was such a dark brown, it couldn’t be. So, I asked the waiter and he brought us one to share. It’s called Averna—a bitter, but totally drinkable, herbal digestivo from Sicily. We lifted our glasses to the family and spoke to them a bit. The rain cloud were rolling in so we left and started to walk home, knowing we could get there faster by walking than by boat but the rain got harder and we jumped onto a vap at Zattere.

We stayed in and napped, relaxed the whole rest of the day.

June 4, 2010

Staying up Late

Before I forget--I am LOVING the comments. Keep 'em coming!

We woke up to rain which progressed into a morning of real thunderstorms; for just a moment we thought we wee back in Tallahassee. Soon the skies cleared and the rest of the day was clear and beautiful. We have been extremely lucky with the weather, so far—Spring in Venice—I’ll take it!

We had to go to the grocery store and went to the COOP near us in Cannaregio and got some sandwich stuff and new paper goods etc.
After putting the stuff back into the apartment we went for a nice long walk through the northern, mostly residential, part of Castello. We saw one of these clever corner devices I had read about in “Venice is a Fish”:

It’s an anti urination structure—use your imagination…

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We also saw this tower with the lush roof top garden below. We basically made a big loop into the area and came back home.

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For lunch we had porchetta, speck and montasio sandwichs on really nice rolls. I have learned to ask for “pane crocante” (crunchy bread) so we get a nice crust on it. We had a peaceful few hours and then set out for Dorsoduro where our friend, Nan, was singing in a free concert. We walked over the Rialto bridge and into Dorsoduro and found ourselves in Campo San Barnaba. There were lots of good choices for places for a quick supper. We chose La Bitta where we had the best meal of our trip.
(While I am typing this Elena is playing her cello downstairs in the campo—it gives me such a comfortable feeling…)
For dinner we shared first a raw artichoke salad—baby artichokes are shaved with parmigiano cheese and a little fresh black pepper and oil and are served over a bed of mixed lettuce. So fresh and wonderful!
For pasta we had tagliolini with sausage and peppers—the sausages were in small chunks with basically a red pepper sauce with just enough cream to make it luxurious in the mouth. I loved how they served it on an oval platter with a small mound of coarsely grated cheese beside it. Next we had roast duck with Peverada sauce—the sauce supposedly has an Arabian influence, including the duck and chicken livers with some wine, making a very rich sauce. I had time for a quick coffee and the waitress sent us on our way to the concert.

The location was the Sala del Palazzo Armeno di Ca’ Zenobio, an historic place which they sometimes rent out to do weddings. The room itself set the elegant mood:

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Nan and the other singers were of varying levels and talents. The songs were mostly well known opera. We thought Nan was the best, of course!

After the concert we met Sandi and Jerry for a glass of wine (Prosecco for me, horrible grappa for Ken) at the bar at the bottom of the Rialto. We sat and talked til after midnight (Yes, friends, I WAS awake). It was a beautiful night to sit with friends on the Grand Canal.


June 5, 2010

Lido

On the advice of my mom, we went over to Lido for a few hours.
It was a beautiful day; I started out with a sweater but after we got off the boat, I packed it up. Being there reminded me of how different Venice is from the rest of Italy. As soon as we started walking around Lido, I thought, now we are in an Italian beach town and it was quite charming. There are lots of decorative touches in the architecture--beautiful iron work and colorful trims.

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After a bit of an explore, off the main street, Ken was jonesin' for a salami sandwich. So we stopped at this little cafe.

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I had two small pieces of "torta salata" think vegetable pie with a top crust--one piece was spinach and the other mixed veggie. They were delicious and a perfect lunch for me.

Then we walked down the tree lined lane to the beach:

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Ken said, "Our beaches are so much more beautiful" and I have to agree. The sand is dark on Lido and there's some trash floating around. The beach was crowded with sun worshipers but we weren't the only ones just walking in real clothes.

One more photo from the Lido:

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We decided to come back the long way on the #2 vaporetto and go to Cafe del Doge for a quick coffee. Later we went to our nearby vegetable market and I got about a kilo of tomatoes to make a little fresh sauce with pancetta, for pasta. We stopped at the bakery around our corner and they had fresh spinach ravioli in the case so I bought some of those. The combination really didn't work--both the sauce and the ravioli were good but they didn't compliment each other at all.

We took a short walk after dinner and went around to the back of the basilica Giovanni e Paolo:

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We haven't gone inside yet--We are saving it for when Pat and Bob come.

June 6, 2010

Day trip to Padova (Padua in English)

We were psyched up for a real day trip on the train. Woke up a little bit earlier and went for coffee. Our new friends at La Trinchetta were replaced by a gray-haired man about our age. We ordered our coffee and talked with him a while. Turns out he is the owner of the bar and le ragazzee (the girls) are his daughter and niece. I had a nice talk with him in Italian--I'm really improving, but I realize my grammatical errors usually about 5 minutes after the conversation is over. Anyway, we ended up giving him the rest of the botarga and that was nice.

I had to buy more time for the phone and then we walked to the train station. It took about a half hour. It was easy to get the tickets from the self-service machine--in English. We found our train way out on one of the last platforms and there were no yellow boxes there to validate. So--I had to go talk to the conductor and he wrote something on our tickets and initialed them to validate. The train made about 4 stops before we arrived in Padova. We got off and there were signs for pedestrians so we knew how to walk towards town. I really wanted to find the "i" (information for tourists) office so we made that our first goal. After asking a few people we finally found it and got a nice free map and some directions.

We walked to the lively market area first--lots of clothes, leather goods, fabrics, fruits and vegetables. Here is the view approaching the piazza:

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I am always taken with the juxtaposition of the really old, the astronomical clock tower
built in the mid 1300's, and the totally present day happenings.

This fruit was unknown to me and it didn't have an Italian label??? They are big--like bigger than a softball.

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After the market tour we walked by the duomo and baptistry. I really was intrigued by these topiaries in front:

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Then thoughts of lunch began stirring. I had a page from the slowfood book with a restaurant on it and we were right on the street so we walked in there and it was pretty full. I said we would be back in about an hour and they said they'd have a table for us.

I really wanted to go to the "Orto Botanico" supposedly the first botanic garden ever. We had to walk about 15 minutes and follow the map to find it. We got there at 1:00. Guess what time they close! So...this is the only photo I got of the garden:

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Back to L'Anforna (the restaurant). We were to only tourists in there, as far as I could tell, except for one solo woman, reading her guide book. The restaurant was dark with lots of jazz paraphernalia on the walls. We had to share a table with another couple but we pretty much ignored each other and they were soon gone. We ordered a plate of affetati misti (mixed cold meats) to start and then Ken had terrific twisty pasta with pesto, served with little green beans and pieces of potatoes just like in Liguria. I ordered chicken with asparagus. The plate had the pieces of breast meat in a sauce, a side of very fresh and sweet peas (cooked a little longer than we normally would) and tiny zucchini. I was thinking--OK where's the asparagus? I tasted the chicken and realized there were pieces of white asparagus mixed in with it--and olive oil and some broth. I really enjoyed it--"down home" cooking, Italian style.

We started the walk, slowly back to the train station, passing this unusual sculpture we had seen on the way in.

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This huge piece was, from what I could tell, donated to the town by an architecture firm. Kids play and climb on it and people sit on it and read.

Back onto the train--much faster this time with only one stop in Mestre. We thought about taking the vaporetto from there but we just missed our boat so we walked. I figure we walked for about 3 hours total. Too much! We were pretty pooped the rest of the day--made a simple salad for dinner and then went out for gelato. The Ca d'oro gelato is really great!

There were some young people out on the street for some kind of bawdy pre-wedding party. They were obviously having fun in their crazy costumes, singing an Italian song to the tune of "Guantanamera" Who knows?

June 7, 2010

La Fenice

We were really tired from all the walking we'd done in Padova so we spent the morning doing laundry and just relaxing. We also did some grocery shopping at the Coop. This was the first time we managed to walk directly there, using the shortest path. Other times we've had to wander a bit before we found it.
We had lunch in the apartment.
In the afternoon we walked into San Marco to the famous La Fenice (the Phoenix because it has burned down twice and been totally restored) opera house. You can go inside and, using an audio guide, tour for 7euros. I would describe the interior as amazingly, over the top, beautiful. We were able to sit in the audience seats for a while and even in the royal box. It was great to have the audio guide tell you where to look next. Really, my favorite part was the ballroom. I could just imagine Cinderella waltzing her way through it, glass slippers and all.

We came back home after the tour. Venice/San Marco seemed very crowded. Maybe because it was Sunday or maybe because we are getting deeper into June.

I'm embarrassed to say I had never tried a Spritz before. We see it everywhere here. It generally includes white wine, soda and Aperol, a bitter liquor. So we decided to go to one of the places with seats on the Piazza Giovanni e Paolo and try it.

While the drink didn't thrill me, I really enjoyed the front row seats for the piazza--it's more like a public playground. Lots of children are playing while parents watch and tourists pass through with their cameras and maps. Great entertainment!

I took all of these photos while sitting in our orange chairs drinking the spritz which were 4 euros each.

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This building is the Scuola San Marco:

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Our house viewed from the cafe:

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I made us a fritatta and salad for dinner and we called it a day.

June 8, 2010

The Heat is On

Got up this morning and made our way to La Trinchetta for coffee. First we stopped at Palazzo Ruzzini to check on a few things for Pat and Bob’s arrival. Trying to figure out about airport transport for them.
Then we started walking east through Castello. We wandered along until we go to the Lagoon, watched some guys fishing and this guy who reminded us of Anthony’s workers:

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We walked through the gardens and on to the San Pietro church where we enjoyed a visit.

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It is so quiet out there—doesn’t seem like crazy, busy Venice at all.
This fruit stand is actually a boat.

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Gotta love the laundry over the canal.

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We came home on the vaporetto and went to lunch at Al Fontego dei Pescatori. I had gnocchetti with scallops and zucchini—fresh tasting with just a few scallops for flavor. The little gnocchi were tasty and light. Ken had tagliolini with scampi. The waiter was nice enough to tell me that his shrimp were supposed to be raw—“marinati” and I said he would prefer them cooked—no problem. I drank prosecco and Ken had beer and we both had beautiful mixed salads.
Next stop the Billa because they have the kind of cereal Kenny likes.
Then home—reading and rest time.

We have had to turn on the A.C. It’s was in the mid 80’s today. Summer has arrived.

I took a walk by myself in the early evening while Ken did some work.
We had sandwiches and wine for dinner and walked down on the Fondamenta Nuove where the breeze is blowing.

Tomorrow we go to Bologna for a Slow Travel get together and, likely, lots of great eating.

June 10, 2010

Moving on

Excitement about our vacation within a vacation abounds!
We got up early, suitcases ready, got coffee and walked to the train station. I wish we had taken the vaporetto--too many stairs for me with the heavy suitcase--but we made it fine. We had to get the "expensive" train because there were no cheap ones until the afternoon. Upside is that it only took us and hour and 20 minutes to get to Bologna. We had assigned seats in car 5, second class. When we got onto the train, car 5 was crammed with people and big suitcases. I looked to the right, to car 6 and it was empty so we just went in there. The whole ride there were, at most, 5 passengers in our car. I was afraid we would have to move at some point we stayed put--the conductor said nothing when he punched our tickets.

Funny thing--here we are, supposedly savvy travelers--we get off the train in Bologna and we could not figure out how to get out of the station! First we went downstairs where it said exit but then there were other signs for the street I knew we should go to, so we went back up. Finally I asked and it turned out we could exit through the "back door" right off the tracks and we did. It was about a 10 minute walk to Hotel Paradise from there. Our room wasn't ready so we stashed our bags and walked to Piazza Maggiore. We were a little unsettled with the heat, the car traffic and fumes (spoiled Venice residents that we are) so we decided to sit in the piazza and have a cafe "shakerato"--espresso, with sugar, shaken with crushed ice--Italian iced coffee:

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We went back to the hotel just in time to meet up with David (Battin) and jump in a cab to go to Al Sangiovese for lunch with 9 other Slow Travel friends. It was SO much fun seeing old friends and new friends. I loved my ravioli with fresh tomato sauce. Ken had a curly short pasta (gramanni???) with a sausage sauce which was also wonderful. He also ordered a beautiful "salad deliziosa" with asparagus, fresh mozzarela and pancetta which was plated beautifully and lived up to its name. We drank a Tocai from Friulli. We sat there and talked and talked. Finally Ken and I walked back to the hotel to check into our room.

We hung out and read, did emails, etc. and the went for another walk. There are lots of very interesting stores around here. On the main street--via Independenzia, there are mostly familiar ones--Zara, H&M, Promod, Golden Point on and on. On the side streets are lots of smaller, some seeming very sophisticated, shops and lots of housewares. I did some serious window shopping and we went into one store with fantastic cheap dishes but we are not buying.

We went through an alley way/pass through at one point and I saw these lights, I really liked:

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We decided to make dinner reservations even though we were still full from lunch. We went to Trattoria dal Biassanot, right around the corner. Sitting outside on a breezy evening was lovely and I was glad the hotel told us to reserve because it was full. The food was good but not great. Ken had tagliatelli with porcini and an artichoke salad. I had grilled vegetables, which, although there was a wonderful assortment, were obviously made hours before. I most enjoyed the braised pork shank with porcini. It was falling off the bone-tender and really nice. Ken had a huge bottle of beer and I had a glass of prosecco that tasted like kool-aid at first. I had coffee and they gave us some wonderful crispy meringue cookies with it.

We walked back to Piazza Maggiore which was full of fun loving teens at that hour, and back to the hotel.

June 11, 2010

Getting the rhythm of Bologna

Yes, we're getting into it here. We went to breakfast here in the hotel and then for a really nice, short wander through the market area and to Santo Stefano. Bologna is a photo fest. There are architectural details, old and new, shadows and light, everywhere.
This hall was the first shot of the day:

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I have been having lots of trouble with my contact lenses and yesterday, I knew I had a piece of one stuck in my eye. Finally, as we were walking, I stopped in at an Ottica (optician) and asked if they would check it out for me. A lovely woman in a white coat and Birkenstock sandals took me upstairs and looked, but no luck. The thrill for me was that nobody spoke English there and I was able to really talk and understand with my Italian. The piece of lens, by the way, finally worked its way out, hours later and I've been wearing my glasses.

Back to Santo Stefano--it's a complex of 7 small, ancient churches. We were lucky because we bumped into Jerry there (he had just climbed the 500 step tower) and he had his guide book. I loved seeing this basin where Pontius Pilate washed his hands:

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and all the decorative brick work, the very strange, underground housing of bones of (forgive me, please) some saint--Petronios? All of this is placed on a modern day piazza where people are meeting with their dogs, kids are playing and tourists are staring at their maps. I loved how some of the stuccoed walls across from the churches had areas of exposed detail:

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And above all of it is even more interesting detail including this guy:

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It started to get hot, so we walked back to the market area and stopped in the Tamburini take-out store, and the bakery just around the corner, to get stuff to make a little picnic in the room:

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We took a nice long rest time and went out again in the late afternoon. I stood and listened for a while to this circle of people in the Piazza Maggiore:

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They took turns standing on the step stool (soap box) and speaking. I think they were talking about doing a strike but not sure. Bologna has a great history of politics and is one of the least corrupt cities in Italy.

We came back to the hotel to shower and change for dinner. We went to Da Nello--just a 5 minute walk away and met Palma, Jerry, Marcia and David. Drank a nice Lambrusco, ate a beautiful lasagna and a veal dish called "primavera" but kind of tasted like vegetable soup???? Ken had tagliatelli with Bolognese ragu and he loved it.
A party of about 30 people came in while we were eating and made conversation difficult. We all stood outside the restaurant talking for a while and then walked home.

June 12, 2010

We did it!

Yes, we did it! Climbed the Torre degli Asinelli. Over 320 feet high, 498 steps, up, up, up... Finally you are rewarded with great views all over Bologna. It was really fun and challenging and worth it. (Susan, if you are reading, I thought of you) We did it first thing in the morning so it wouldn't be too hot but the walls are so thick it seems the temperature probably doesn't change much each day. The tower is the taller of the 2 towers which seem to symbolize Bologna, built in the 12th century when the town was dominated by many towers.

You enter here:

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to go all the way up to the top:

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I didn't get any really nice photos because it was a pretty smoggy day. They say when it's clear you can see all the way to the Alps and to the Adriatic.
Here is a shot looking down to the shorter tower:

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After we came down my legs were really shaking for a while so we walked it off heading to the huge Basilica San Petronio in Piazza Maggiore. Lots of fascinating stuff in there--including an astrological calender/clock based on light coming through the
ceiling. It was because of this clock that we have leap year--this is really making a long story short. We actually ran into Marcia and David there and sat a visited for a while.

Then we went across the piazza to the Sala Borsa--an art deco palace which houses the public library. Walking over there I was noticing that the old (from the 1700's) clock has the right time, still keeps the time:

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Inside the library is super modern with a wonderful kids section. There is also, in the lobby, a glass floor so you can see through to the ruins below.

From there we went on a shopping trip for lunch, through the market streets. We got way too much stuff-- I loved the vegetable torta--like a tall quiche with lots of veggies and parmigiano cheese. We also got a "spring salad", a farro salad, a few slices of the coveted "culatello di Zibello" (a type of prosciutto), two little pieces of chicken breast rolled in prosciutto and roasted (YUM!), spinach, bread and some salami. Some we got at Tamburini and some at another place. We had fun talking to the woman in the bakery from the day before, too.

After our sumptuous picnic Ken did some work and I watched the first World Cup game. Gotta love watching the games in Italy!

Biagi was our restaurant choice for dinner--we took a cab there with Marcia and David. As soon as we sat down they brought us 3 bowls--one with panzanella (tomato, basil and bread salad) one with a chicken salad and one with warm chick peas with rosemary and olive oil. I had a plate of perfect cheese and oritica (stinging nettle--yes you can eat it) torteloni with just enough butter and one lovely sage leaf. Ken and David had the the tagliatelle with ragu. Marcia and I shared and artichoke salad to follow. We drank a local white bubbly wine called Pignoletto and it was perfect. We shared 2 desserts--a chocolate budino, like a terrine and a rice cake that was soaked with Grappa?. We loved sitting there talking with Marcia and David-- I also drank a grappa and I feel it this morning--just a little yuck. I was glad that we walked home. It was after midnight!!! And there were many bars, restaurant/cafes still open and full of people.

We are off to an adventure in Florence today and will not have internet.
Will write again when we are home, in Venice, that is.

One parting shot from Bologna:

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June 13, 2010

Bellissima Firenze

Oh My God! The Duomo! I really had forgotten how breath takingly beautiful it is!

But the day...
Got up and checked out of Hotel Paradise. Said our goodbyes to Marcia and David and the staff there. Went for one last coffee in the Piazza Maggiore and to the train station. The train was totally packed and I was glad we had gotten our tickets in advance. The ride was only 40 minutes. We are here, in Florence, to meet my "pen-pal" Marco. Kris and I met him and his truly lovely wife, Giovanna, in La Zucca in Venice two years ago. We have been writing REAL letters (with paper and stamps) for the last two years--in Italian and English. We get off the train and there is Marco at the end of the binario with a huge sign in thick letters "JAN". He whisks us into his car and takes us to his mothers flat. It's in Scandicci , on the outskirts of Florence. The apartment is so different than a rental. Somebody lives here--although not really; it is vacant but Marco and Giovanna use it as an office as they live just across the street. This is in a "complex" of building--like condos built in the 1950,s. But it is totally comfortable and not too hot even though there is no AC.

We settle in for 5 or 10 minutes and we are on the new tram that takes us into the city, to Santa Maria Novella, in fact. We begin our tour with Marco, who was born here and knows the streets and their history like I know how to make scrambled eggs. It is amazing! Hard for me because he is speaking in Italian about 80% of the time. He starts out nice and slow and I am with it but then his enthusiasm gets the upper hand and I am lost. Marco is remarkable. He used to edit books--not guide books, but souvenier type books about the art and history of many major cities in Europe. The stuff is in his blood. We walk to the Strozzi Palace and through Piazza della Republica. There, on one corner is a big department store--Rinascente (sp?) and we go to the top for a drink of grapefruit juice mixed with bubbly water--Perfetto. The view is gorgeous.

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Ken and Marco:

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Refreshed, we continue on to the Piazza Signoria. There is a small crowd gathering and I jump up on a wall to see. People is costume??? Marco does some recon and runs back to tell us that the spetacolo (Parade) for the Calcio Storico is about to pass--right her--right where we are standing and have probably the "best seats in the house". After 10 minutes we hear the drums and the outrageous processional passes for our pleasure.

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It is a feast for the senses.

The we walk to the Duomo. Marco is full of history--Michaelangelo, the Medici--on and on. The Piazza del doumo is so gorgeous I feel like someone just placed the backdrop there from a movie set for us. It can't be real! It is impossible for me to take it all in because I am constantly concentrating so hard on Marco's continuous stream of information.

Finally, we take the tram back to the apartment. We have about an hour and a half to get ready for dinner. I shower and the minute my head hits the pillow, I am dead to the world--so I got a great 15 minute nap. And off we go in the car with Giovanna. We head up to piazzale Michelangelo for the view. It is a hazy day and they are both disappointed but for us it is grand. The we go to the restaurant. Osteria La Terazza Principe--I think--on the side of the hill with a beautiful panorama of the countryside.
We sit outside; it looks like a movie set--pink geraniums, purple wisteria, the young beautiful black haired waitress and the very round boss man in his apron and his perfect mustache. With Marco and Giovanna's help (they are regulars) we all share 2 pastas--one is thin tagliatelle with "agrumi" basically--butter and orange. Perfectly light for a warm summer evening. And we have penne with pistacchios from Bront--according to Giovanna, they are the best in the world. It's a lushly creamy dish and I love it.
Marco got a filet--to me, a huge steak--barely cooked, with a wine and balsamico reduction. Giovanna, Ken and I shared Peposo in the style of Imprunetta. Chunks of veal, long cooked (about 5 hours) in a deep mahogany sauce. It looked like a Mexican mole but it tasted like Italy. We drank a fantastic mellow Chianti. (All the details are a blur because of my concentration on the conversation) We also had fried zucchini flowers--the batter a little heavier but still--love it, and wonderful sauteed spinach with just enough kick from the garlic and peperoncino.

Home--spent. Can't wait to see what's up next in Marco's town.

June 14, 2010

Day 2 in Florence

We had a plan to meet Marco at 10:30 to take the tram into the city. He keeps asking us what we would like to do and we say whatever he thinks. Somehow we play the game of idea ping pong this way and come to an agreement. We head for Pitti Palace. First we stop into the Station to get the tickets for our return to Venice. Marco stands with me at the ticket window but he lets me do all the talking in Italian—finally he intercedes to make sure we are assigned seats beside each other. All set.
We walk and talk. We stop in at a beautiful bar with a Polish name for a quick coffee. It’s the best we’ve had since we left Venice. Ken has learned from Marco to order caffe lungo and he likes it.
Over the Ponte Vecchio pausing for a quick lesson in architecture, we find the Palace. We decide not to buy the expensive tickets and focus on the Boboli Gardens. We enter into the humongous courtyard and proceed taking in the amazing views.

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Marco has brought an old guide book with him including a family tree of the Medici so we can see where Cosimo and Lorenzo all fit in. The gardens are huge. The first area is really an amphitheater centered on an Egyptian obelisk and a granite bath tub big enough for your pet elephant. We continue to climb. The flowers are mostly spent and it is a shame. I can see that maybe even a week ago there were hundreds of peonies in bloom. There is a small exhibit of porcelaine at the top and we breeze through it before we start down to the smaller Bardini Gardens. There is a bar at the top where we have another incredible view of the city along with water, little panini and salad.

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Interestingly enough we are right at the Forte di Marmi which we saw and asked about in the view from another hill last night. It doesn’t seem like in 5 minutes walk, we can be back on the streets, thick with tourists in Florence. All through the gardens there is beautiful contemporary wood sculpture by George Calizzi (I don’t quite have the name right). Finally we make our way back down to the streets, walking along the old walls.

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Our destination is Santa Croce, which we could see clearly from the bar but it is closed. There are men working on the “campo” for the Calcio Storico show this evening. We walk back through town and Marco shows us, up on a wall, the remains of an ancient hinge from the original city gates. We make our way to the Santa Trinita church which he says he loves but it is closed, too. Ken and I are OK—a bit of travel fatigue is starting to set in. So, we walk back to Santa Maria Novella. As we are passing the multi colored marble front I ask Marco is he can really see it anymore—the beauty and the inspiration and he says “no” he really doesn’t like Florence anymore and rarely comes into the centro without guests. Sad.
We come home for a much needed rest. There is a short rain and the weather is changed. As we get ready to meet Marco and Giovanna for dinner, I realize I’m going to be cold. Of course, the first thing Marco asks me is do I have a “golfo” a sweater. No. I didn’t bring one so he calls Giovanna and as she walks out of their apartment she has an extra sweater for me.
We drive up into the hills of Scandicci to a beautiful restaurant but it’s too cold to sit outside. Trattoria Mosciano is actually, like Scandicci, to the southwest of the city of Florence, in the little borgo of Mosciano. The interior is also beautiful and homey with walls the color of fresh butter. They start us out with a small panzanella (bread salad). I ate a fantastic dish of gnocchi with a parmigiano cream sauce and truffles. Really an amazingly rich dish. Ken had fettucine with a spicy tomato sauce and saffron—Giovanna had something similar but with sausage. Everything is really tasting great. The saffron threads are abundant on top of the pasta dishes—each thread is about 3 inches long. I’ve never seen saffron like this and they say it is from Abruzzo. Marco had a steak and Ken and Giovanna had little lamb chops “alla brace” (grilled). We also had spinach and delicious Tuscan white beans. The desserts weren’t as good as the rest but Ken got his biscotti and vin santo. We stayed there talking until almost midnight.
These people have really become our friends. They are simply wonderful! And, SO Italian. They’re both very into movies so that is something easy to talk about—and food, of course.

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One last photo--of the apartment where we are staying--bottom floor corner:

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June 15, 2010

Judy, Judy, Judy (think Cary Grant)

I was so excited about taking the Monday Market Tour with Judy Witts Francini aka The Divina Cucina, that it took a little of the sting out of saying goodbye to Marco and Giovanna. They drove us to the train station in the morning so we could stash our luggage before the tour. It was easy to do and we were on our way. We were very early so we did what we love to do—walked around. At a respectably early hour, we walked to the front of the Hotel Baglioni and there was Judy. I was glad to be the first ones there so I could hang and talk to Judy a little while. The other four people arrived for the tour and we began walking together. Judy pointed out some interesting things on the streets, like the della Robbia Madonna and child shrines on the walls. We stopped into a small Norceria (pork products store). I wish we could take some home. We passed through the leather guys and scarf sellers with Judy pointing out her favorites who would give a discount to her clients. We stopped at a small wine bar/store and here the real fun began. Most of us had a glass of prosecco (yes at 11:30 in the morning!) and a tasting of wonderful little treats including a mini, to-die-for truffle sandwich and a fabulous chicken live crostini. Luckily it was there I remembered I wanted to buy one of Judy’s cookbooks because he had them for sale for 20 euros. From there we entered the Mercato Centrale. You could smell roasting meats as we walked in. We tasted bunches of things—sun-dried cherry tomatoes from Sicily and dried fruit. The official tasting was of three kinds of balsamic and two of olive oil, cheese with truffle honey, biscotti and more. I bought a few things there including a small bottle of vin santo for Ken for father’s day. We moved on to the meats and veggies. I learned a lot about the various tomatoes and how the season was reflected in the availability in the market. We ended at the “cheese guy” tasting parmigiano reggiano and pecorino. I bought both, vacuum packed to take home. Here’s Judy opening the door to the cheese vendor’s stash:

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From there we headed for lunch in a small trattoria called Pepo. I ordered pork filet with balsamic glaze and they accidentally made it with truffle sauce—Oh dear! I had to eat more truffles! Ken had a dish of pappardelle with wild boar sauce that was rich with juniper berries. My favorite dish at the table was the ravioli—I’m just a sucker for good stuffed pasta. We drank a very smooth Poliziano, Nobile di Montepulciano. Desserts were also fabulous. The crème brulee was a bright orange from the eggs—so pretty. I had panna cotta with berry sauce which was just perfect.
Inside Pepo—just classic:

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After lunch Judy showed us a couple of shops—her personal favorites. What a fabulous job she does! She was really able to make everyone comfortable and happy. Besides the fun and meeting Judy, I learned a lot, too.

I want to officially thank Judy for donating the Monday Market Tour for two to the Menu for Hope fundraiser. And I am so happy I won!

We took the train back—sleepily reading, I am amazed that we had been gone for 5 days. Homecoming to Venice—about the best feeling in the world. The air was clear and bright over the water, riding the vaporetto to our stop. We got in and rested, did laundry but there was really nothing to eat here. So, we went out to the chicchetti bar near here—Mondo del Vino. We each had a glass of red and some rice balls and a few other little things and walked to the Ca d’oro gelato shop. We got home just in time to watch the first Italy soccer match in this World Cup. There are lots of Italian flags hanging on the streets and many places closed early. I went to sleep right after the game—a disappointing 1-1 tie.


June 16, 2010

Pat and Bob--Hurray!!

I was so excited about my sister and brother in law’s arrival that I woke up super early. We went downstairs for coffee and it was so good to be back at “our “ bar—the coffee really is great there.
We went to the COOP for some basics, then to the “salami guy” and the bakery. Then we walked, in a little storm I must add, with our umbrellas blowing inside out, to the vaporetto stop. The ticket for the Alilaguna Blu line was 6 euro with our Carta Venezia. We were pretty early for their arrival so we got a coffee and waited. Their flight from Zurich was early but it took a long time for their bags to come through. Like us, they couldn’t believe that customs was almost nonexistent. Using one of the big wheeled carts, we strolled to the water taxi dock and easily found our taxi which I had arranged through our friend Nan. The ride was beautiful but the rain made it a little less glorious. We came into Venice through the lagoon not the Grand Canal but we did ride right by our house so we got to show it to them and to see it from the water.
After hanging around in the hotel for a while they came back to our place for a very informal picnic on the table, lunch. I was so thrilled to have them here! Bob was showing me a new camera he brought for me to try out and Pat was just happy to look out the window and see Venice.
We walked them back to their hotel in the early evening and after a very short walk, we came home.
Ken finished up the lunch stuff for dinner and since I really wanted something hot, I threw together some penne, tomatoes, basil and tuna with olive oil and lemon juice. I loved it.
We watched the calcio (they don’t call it soccer here) on TV and called it a night.

June 17, 2010

Rain, Rain, go Away

We woke up to serious rain—not really hard but constant. Pat and Bob were waiting for us in the lobby at Palazzo Ruzzini so we sat there and talked for a while about what we’d like to do for the day. Off we went to walk to the Rialto stop, in the rain. The umbrella etiquette is a complete unknown—often I raise mine up so people can fit, as they walk by us in the narrow calles, but Ken says I am really too short to make this work. We took the vaporetto to San Samuele and visited the Palazzo Grassi, the; second part of the Mapping the Studio show. This part was not as thrilling to me but still very enjoyable. There are lots of paintings included as well as a big floor of flashing, colored light tiles. Ken really wants to eat at La Bitta again so we took the traghetto across (a mini adventure) but the restaurant was closed. Since it was still raining we didn’t want to just wander around so we stopped at Ristorante Oniga in Campo San Barnaba. I had read about it on Slow Trav and I think Annie liked it. I wish I had realized we were just steps away from Casin Nobili which might have been a little better choice. Anyway, we stayed at Oniga, ate outside under an awning, so we stayed dry but the rain isn’t my favorite way to be a tourist. Our lunch was nice. Ken and Bob had spaghetti with Bolognese ragu. Pat and I shared a salad and ravioli stuffed with fish and made from kamut flour; the sauce had a really nice celery flavor and no tomatoes. I asked the waitress about kamut and she told us it is an ancient grain from Egypt and that everything is organic at the restaurant so I felt a lot better about the place. We stopped in at Grom, just 2 doors down, all tasted the nougat and dark chocolate ice creams, and took the vap back to Rialto. We left Bob and Pat at their hotel and we went home for rest time. After a while, the sun came out. It really made me happy. Ken and I went for a walk/shopping trip. We love buying stuff from these brothers’ shop on Salizz. San Canciano:

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They have that street all decked out with Italian flags since the World cup began:

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I was loving the light so I took a bunch of pictures, both of these are from the Ponte Cristo right behind Campo Santa Maria Formosa.

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Pat and Bob came over here with pizza, and torta rustica (spinach and ricotta pie) for dinner. We also had some beautiful prosciutto San Daniele and a nice bottle of Refosco Leonardo from Friuli. Bob and I watched the World Cup while Pat and Ken stayed at the table talking. We walked them half way home and it still wasn’t raining—hurray!

June 18, 2010

Alle Testiere

We had an easy morning. Took a stroll with Bob and Pat. Watching Bob take photos is a treat. He’s posted a few, on Facebook, and the results are amazing.
The big goal of the day, for me, was to eat at Alle Testiere. Some say it is the hardest reservation in Venice but lunch worked. I popped in there around 11:00 and asked for a lunch table—she said 1:00 or later so I said 1:30 and we were set.
I did some quick shopping damage—got the cheese knives for Diane and some for us.
Luca is the charming owner and front-of-the-house man and he was very welcoming to us. I wanted to taste a lot of different things so I ordered three appetizers. They were pretty substantial servings of razor clams, little scallops and little soft shell crabs—each done a different way. The razor clams were quickly cooked with just a bit of olive oil and a trace of garlic. I really love their flavor! The scallops were with lemon and fresh mint—very gently seasoned so you could still taste the scallops and their beautiful “coral” in the shell. The “moeche” are very small soft shells. Usually they are just simply fried but here they were fried, then dressed with vinegar and plated with an unusual cumin scented carrot salad in the center and very thin strip of fresh beets. This treatment (in the vinegar) is called “in carpione” and I had only seen it in Piemonte before. It worked beautifully with the crabs. Bob had a simple grilled fish, Pat and Ken both had spaghetti with clams. They agreed the clams were better than the pasta. To gild the lily we ordered three desserts. This was, after all, a once in a lifetime meal. I had the gelato which was strawberry-basil—totally refreshing, served with three pretty butter cookies. Bob had caramel apple cake, which he liked, and Pat had the best—a semifreddo with a little dark caramel sauce. We were so stuffed!
It had started to rain while we were in there so we said a quick goodbye to them in front of their hotel and we came back home.

In the afternoon, I felt like I really needed to get out so we went for a nice walk into Canneregio to see the Gesuit church we hadn’t seen yet. It is really glorious in the wedding cake style and set in a kind of run down residential neighborhood not far at all from the lagoon.

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We got some bread and a melon for dinner with the leftovers from last night. Pat and Bob have the typical third day jet lag, hitting hard, so they didn’t stay very late after we ate. Ken and I watched Mexico kill France in the World cup.

One more canal shot--I can't resist:

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June 19, 2010

Perfect weather for all of us!

We awoke to bright sunny skies so, after breakfast and coffee, we headed for the Rialto market. I wanted to buy some porcini to make for dinner, but they weren’t to be found yet. We did see some in Florence, but I guess, in Venice, being a bit more to the north, the big mushrooms will come later on. I asked one woman and she told me they won’t be here until the end of the month. We enjoyed “sight seeing” in the market. I loved watching this young guy unloading his truck/boat.

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There are still some asparagus and artichokes but not as prominently displayed. Tomatoes, in every shape and size, are everywhere. I loved this display of herbs and zucchini blossoms.

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We went to Mille Vini to get another bottle of the red wine we had so enjoyed the night before. There was a very well dressed couple in there with two metal suitcases and a big duffel, loading up on wine. I saw them with a Chateau Lafite, wooden wine cases in their suitcases and bubble wrap everywhere. I’m imagining this was a huge sale for the wine shop but Lorenzo still managed to be attentive to us and our one, 8 euro bottle.

We decided to just stop at Palazzo Ruzzini and it was perfect timing. Bob and Pat were just about ready. Using the hotel’s computer (they really need a new keyboard) and printer, I reserved entrance to the Basilica San Marco for the 4 of us. Funny—when Ken and I did the same thing 3 weeks ago, it was free. Now there’s a one euro charge but it’s well worth it to avoid the lines. We went in and right to the Pala d’oro, just like last time. I could tell Pat was really enjoying it, with me. (It’s amazing being here with my sister.) We then sat out in the canvas type chairs for a while looking at the mosaics while the lights were on. They went off as we were sitting there and it was interesting how you saw different things with and without the lights. Pat and I lit candles and we left.

We walked through the Piazza to see the Bridge of Sighs and gaze at the lagoon for a while and headed back into San Marco in search of the Geox store. I had looked on Google maps but it turned out to be not quite right—finally Pat just spotted it as we walked. Turned out there was nothing there she really liked enough to try. Hunger started to play a part in our direction and we came over the little bridge into Canneregio and ate at a little place with about 6 outside tables. I was pleasantly surprised by a wonderful plate of cheeses and various marinated veggies. I really enjoyed it with a glass of Prosecco. Bob and Ken had panini. Being so close to our favorite gelato, we HAD to go. Then we wandered home. Full again.

After a rest time, Ken and I went to the COOP for, probably, our last visit. We noticed just how beautiful the day was--not too hot, not too cool--clear, breezy and bright. I am getting a little sad about leaving Venice but trying to practice what I preach and “be, here, now”. We stopped in for bread and this was the first time I didn’t buy way too much.
Bob and Pat came over and we all ate random stuff. Bob said it was a day with no major annoyances.
Ken and I watched World cup and that was it.

June 20, 2010

Murano

The weather report was for rain so we wanted to get going. Ken and I went downstairs to the bar and the father/owner was there. He began telling us about the “Teatro in Barca” (theater on a boat) that is a Venetian tradition. People on boats gather in the little bay at Arsenale and there is a play. You watch from your boat. At the end of his long Italian explanation his wife comes out of the kitchen and is asking about raincoats; it becomes clear to me that they are actually inviting us to be their guests for afternoon on their sailboat to see the theater. I am so touched by their kindness but we decline—mostly because we want to be with Pat and Bob and also because I cannot imagine sitting out in a boat in the cold rain. They said, “next time” and we said yes.
We get to Palazzo Ruzzini and have a great chat with the two guys behind the desk. Mario has now become our best friend and the other, tall, gray haired, officious one shows us a drawing of his grandfather who was a famous gondoliere. These moments are priceless and are truly what charge the magnetic pull of Italy for me.
The boat for Murano arrives. Even though I’ve read horror stories about taking these free excursions to see glass in Murano, we are assured there will be no pressure but, of course, no ride back if we leave the Signoretti factory. The ride is only about 10 minutes—flying through the lagoon in style. We arrive at a factory that, by appearances, could be a small hotel in the Caribbean. It is painted sea blue and white and lots of tropical plants line the walkway. We are never really left alone, ushered into the demonstration, which is totally impressive.

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First the master makes a horse and then a vase while another man does the explaining. I love how, after he completes the piece, he touches a small square of paper to it and it bursts into flames—it’s that hot! From there we are lead into a string of showrooms—small chandeliers, larger more ornate ones, vases, glassware, and sculpture. Pat looks at some earring right before we exit but no purchase. We walked from there all along the fondamenta looking in some of the other shops. View from the walk:

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Pat and I got Kathryn a very pretty pendant in one of them. We can tell it is just about to pour so we decide to head back—for lunch, of course.
Osteria al Ponte is right across the calle from our apartment and is always full of people so I decide to go in and see if they have “take out”. They do, so I proceed to ask about all the different looking cold fish dishes they have—just on platters behind the counter. I got some branzino and something called cagneletto which looked like it eel—I have to look it up—and some little shrimp, eggplant, beans, zucchini and, of course, two salami panini. It was totally chaotic in there but the woman behind the counter insisted that I drink a glass of prosecco before I leave.
They serve it from an old fashioned, blue glass seltzer bottle. So we go upstairs and I notice the guy in the rooftop garden across the way is looking up and that another man is lifting a basket, on a string. The picture, in this case, doesn't really tell the story but it was a weird thin I noticed--a lift for herbs???

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eat and go to our respective rests.
Ken and I took a nice little walk later on and then we got ready to go to dinner. We had a reservation at Osteria dei Orto Mori and it was a good thing because they turned away some people who didn’t. Our meal was outstanding. The place is different from any other I’ve been to in Venice. It is very contemporary, cozy, arty, but noisy with the tables quite close together. It could have been in any big city in the US. The food was really excellent. We started with a mixed fried seafood and vegetable platter. There were two kinds of a lot of vegetables, shrimp and calamari with a wonderful thin batter, no trace of oil. Then Ken had shrimp with asparagus (well cooked and chopped in the center of a long, white, rectangle plate) and Pat and Bob shared a terrific salad of pears, parmigiano, fennel and walnuts over lettuce. Bob had steak in nebbiolo sauce, which he loved. Ken had pappardelle with white ragu and peas. He was not as thrilled with his choice but I thought it was delicious. Pat and I shared a stunning dish—thin veal rolled around asiago and Parmigiano cheese and wrapped in bacon. So when you cut into the roll, the melted cheese oozes out. The bacon was sweet and salty—the whole combination in the mouth—I loved it! Our plate also included some lovely green beans. We ordered, what I thought was the best wine of the trip, so far: Ronco dei Tassi Collio—a blend of red grapes from Friuli and velvety soft. We were all just too full for dessert although they looked interesting around the dining room.

We walked back to the vaporetto stop in the rain. It was fun to have the whole front cabin to ourselves.
Another perfect day!

June 21, 2010

The weather is "brutto"

“Never in June”. That’s what everyone said about the weather. Not only did it rain, non-stop, the entire day but also it was chilly. I don’t think we ever got out of the 50’s but the centigrade conversion is confusing to me. In the morning I was really happy to be “stuck” inside. We didn’t even get dressed—just stayed in bed and read, did the internet, laundry and talked, totally lazy. Around noon we decided there was a break in the rain so we would go get groceries and coffee. By the time we got dressed, it was raining again. We went down to the bar and had coffee and came right back up. Finally, around 3:00 we decided to go for it, even in the rain; it was just a drizzle by then, and when we got to the COOP it had closed at 1:30. We would have to eat dinner out. Walking through the streets, there are abandoned, broken umbrellas everywhere—it’s really been a storm.

Italy played New Zealand at 4:00 (to a dismal draw) and Bob and Pat braved the rain to come here and watch with us. After the game, we went for a largely rain-free walk, into Castello. It thrills me to see P&B being comfortable here, saying "buona sera" and "grazie"; they are doing great! The canals are all getting higher. It’s not exactly “aqua alta” but the water is high:

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We decided to eat at Trattoria Giardinetto, near Palazzo Ruzzini and recommended by the staff there. I had a lot of trouble ordering—nothing really appealed to me. Ken wanted some mussels and we had them with a flavorful garlic and white wine broth. They were top notch. Then I had ordered ravioli with tomato sauce—in Venice? Just dumb. It was not so good. Pat and Ken had tagliolini with Bolognese sauce and theirs was OK. Bob’s roast chicken and fried potatoes was the best dish of the night.

Ken and I walked home super fast because—can you guess? It was raining again.

June 22, 2010

Last Day in Venezia

Woke up to more rain-- just a bit more than a mist. We started the packing process and tried to relax. Here's Ken on the computer:

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Bob and Pat slept late so we decided to go over the Rialto Bridge for coffee with them, at Café del Doge. Somehow we lost Bob at the top of the bridge but after about 5 minutes Kenny was able to find him. We strolled in the market (no fish on Mondays) and then had our coffee. Pat had a really pretty cappuccino with an apple design in the milk.

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We walked through San Polo, window shopping. Bob got a great speck and cheese panino; Pat and I got twin, glass bead bracelets to remember the trip. I had in mind to go to Trattoria San Toma for lunch but when we got there it was closed. We stopped into Ciak’s for salads and their kind of pizza which is really a big bruschetta with melted cheese on top. Pat and Bob took the vaporetto back and Ken and I went to the COOP for supplies to make dinner. We stopped at Intissimi for some underwear for Kathryn—her favorite gift from last time. San Marco is crowded and it’s interesting trying to negotiate umbrella space. We came home to finish packing. Then, finally, Ken and I went to see the Santi Giovanni e Paolo church. It’s the one we see right from our apartment but we still hadn’t been inside the huge Gothic church. Here’s the view from our dining room:

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It is filled, inside with tombs of the doges and other famous, historic Venetians. One of the most interesting things is the relic of St. Catherines’ foot. We are feeling a little melancholy about leaving this city which has firmly entrenched itself in our hearts.

Bob and Pat came over for a quick pasta dinner. We figure we'll be eating in restaurants from now until we leave. The best part was that Pat walked over here all by herself—without getting lost. She and I hung out on the terrace for a while so we could see Bob coming over the bridge.

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World cup, after dinner and to bed.

June 23, 2010

Trento, here we come.

I woke up very early, with a little anxious feeling. I really didn’t want to leave Venice. Sabrina, our charming landlord (lady?) came by in the morning to return our cash security deposit and say good-bye. We went downstairs for a final coffee at La Trinchetta. We arranged for a water taxi to pick us up and then Pat and Bob. We met at the bottom of the bridge and I couldn’t resist taking some quick pics of our home-for-a-month.

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bridge detail:

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It was really lovely riding in the boat on a perfect sunny morning. We arrived at Piazzale Roma and got the car. It’s a 3 series BMW, which the man says is an upgrade but, of course, the trunk is too small. Pat and Bob sat with a small suitcase between them in the back seat. Luckily the drive to Trento is only 2 hours. We drove right to our hotel. The Aquila D’Oro is a quirky place. Definitely not your typical Italian hotel. The rooms are very contemporary in design; each one id unique and each one has either a sauna or a special tub. The floors are light wood and the tile is iridescent and beautiful. The showers are wonderful! Our room has a view over the rooftops.

It’s great to be in a new place and we’re all excited. We had salads for lunch at the little restaurant in front of the hotel. You can see the Piazza del Duomo from there:

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We took a nice walk. There are lots of bakeries and shops. Pat and I keep saying we think we came to the right place. I chose Trento because I wanted some place non-touristy, pretty and lively. This certainly fits the bill. We have not heard any English, at all.

In the afternoon there was a marching band on parade. Looked like grown up boy scouts.

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We went for dinner at Tre Garofani. Wow! It was a fabulous meal. We started with complementary local sparkling wine—dry, not at all like prosecco, refreshing. Then we got a little square of homemade bread with wild boar pate and a tiny salad. It tasted like chopped liver—we all loved it. I had a wild boar appetizer. Small chunks of the delicious, tender meat with a very faint curry flavor to the sauce beside a “tower” of a foamy red pepper cream with small discs—like soft crackers. We drank a local Traminer from Maso Bastie. Its flowery perfume changed with each course. Ken and Pat shared an app of asparagus flan, smoked duck breast and salad. Bob had a chicken dish stuffed with zucchini and onions. He said the vegetable were great because he didn’t know he was eating them. For my next dish I had to try the local specialty canederli. They are described as dumplings but to me they seemed like balls of very tasty poultry stuffing. I was really glad to try this dish but really was too heavy for a steady diet. Ken had fabulous lamb chops with fennel and peppers. Pat had a house made tagliatelle with favas and guinea fowl. For dessert we all shared a “strawberry salad” (sliced strawberries) bursting with flavor and a zabione sauce. As we were leaving Ken was saying how we should reserve o come back on Thurs. night. It was the restaurant experience Italy dreams are made of: Enthusiastic owner out front, wife doing the cooking, beautiful rooms, linens, heavy wood tables, art on the homey walls.

We walked back to the hotel and Bob got gelato. We are all happy campers!

The fountain in the center of town:

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June 24, 2010

Trento, day 2

I woke up in our very comfortable room in Trento, thinking I was hearing all the “ciaos” from the street in Venice. Finally, I realized where we were. The sun rises, right over the mountains we see from our window—pretty, but very bright in the mornings. We went downstairs and ate a nice hotel breakfast with Pat while Bob slept in. We made a tray to take up to him. Discovered that the well in the breakfast room, the archway and one of the walls are the original Roman and that there are ruins under this whole city, including catacombs under the duomo.
We decided to take the car up into the mountains. I should know better than to try to read a map, read directions and navigate while being in the passenger seat, especially with the record number of round-abouts. I was very car sick in no time. Long story short—we didn’t make it to our destination. Came back to the hotel and recuperated for a while. Ken went out for a nice long walk. I had gelato for lunch—not as good as in Venice but it is very good and just three doors down from the hotel.
We had a nice stroll—again, I really like this town. Feeling a little upset that I blew our day but moving on. We hung out in Bob and Pat’s room to watch the USA match. Right before we came up to watch, a group of about 5 or 6 guys were marching down the street chanting something about Algeria. Too bad for them, Donovan scored, late in the game and we won! So happy!

Bob really wanted pizza for dinner and none of the rest of us were really very hungry. Somehow we ended up in this beer garden place. His pizza was fine BUT—Pat and I decided to share (thank goodness) a plate of the “typical” foods. It was so terrible that it was funny! There was a wurstel (hot dog, really) on the plate and we both tasted it first. It had absolutely zero flavor. There was also a pork steak with a weird consistency—kind of mushy, a canederlo dumpling also, no flavor, some goulash which I thought was OK. Also there was some decent sauerkraut with caraway seeds and a piece of oily polenta. Here’s a picture of the worst food in Italy!

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We laughed a lot. Ken had a pork shank and potatoes, which was just OK. I will have to go back today to find out the name of the place. At least the beer was good.

We walked back through town, winding around. Saw some cool gardens and sculpture.

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Pat and I went into a shop where the woman/owner was asking about the oil kill situation and about Obama. It was not a happy conversation. There’s excitement building in the town for the weekend “Festa Vigiliane.” It celebrates the patron saint of Trento and starts tomorrow. We’re excited too.

We finished the night with more gelato. I had pink grapefruit and it was perfect! We sat on a bench in front of the ice cream place for a while before calling it a day.

Two shots from Trento:

The restaurant we loved, the night before:

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And a street with a tower:

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June 25, 2010

Last Full Day in Trento

A full day in Trento and we still haven’t really scratched he surface. Thursday is market day so we spent a lot of time strolling through the stalls. In the Piazza Duomo, right near our hotel, were all plants and flowers. It was very interesting to read the Italian names. They had many kinds of cabbages—I guess because of the Tyrolean influence here. The next few blocks had all kinds of clothes. We looked but didn’t buy anything. Ken was all excited because of the food trucks—thinking of a good porchetta sandwich for lunch but they were only roasting chickens. I guess this isn’t porchetta country. I had read about the Bertelli pastries in the Fred Plotkin book so we went there for a mid morning snack but found it disappointing. It was not as good as Sandri in Perugia. Pasticcerias, in general, have been less than great on this trip. We did, however, enjoy sitting there having coffee, talking, etc. We did more window-shopping and came back to the hotel. Ken and I set out around 2:00 to grab something from the food trucks but by 2:10 they were all closed. So, we went to the Osteria Scrigno del Duomo from the Slow Food Book. We really enjoyed the lunch. I had a vegetable terrine with fresh ricotta inside and chopped walnuts on top, and a small side salad. Like so many dishes, here in Italy, the olive oil really took it to the next level. Ken had tagliolini with a red pepper sauce and speck. The homemade pasta was bright yellow, the rich orange sauce was in a pool under it and it was topped with small pieces of the speck, which had been cooked to a crispy bacon-like state. I had a glass of Trento DOC sparkling wine and Ken had a Forst beer. It was a great lunch on a small patio with beautiful views onto the piazza and the duomo tower:

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At another table were about 10 Japanese business people having a very quiet lunch. At one point one of them got a cell phone call and raised his voice. It was fascinating to hear him speaking very accented English to an Italian person on the other end of the line.

We watched the pitiful performance of Italy in the World
Cup. It was great to hear the game from outside our windows. Bob went down to try to get some photos of the watchers but since it was a loosing effort, the photo ops weren’t so great.

For dinner, we were determined to get street food. This was opening night for the big weekend “Festa San Vigiliane” so they had a bunch of benches set up where you could buy a plate of “tastes of the Trentino.”
Walking around early in the evening:

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We checked out the plates and nothing really appealed so we strolled through the booths, tasting a few things—salami, apple vinegar on cheese and some cookies, checking out the jewelry and other funky crafts. We came to another food area and dove in. We had a great grilled sausage with grilled vegetables on a nice crunchy roll, a bag of fried potatoes, and a ham sandwich, which we all just passed around and shared. I drank a Spritz in a plastic cup but it hit the spot, being really thirst quenching. We were sitting right under this medieval wall:

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Bob, happy:

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Finally we heard heard the parade revving up. We strolled back towards the center and got gelato in 2 places. It was amazing how long the parade was! Where did all the people come from? There were probably thousands watching along the route, too. Trento is the capital of Trentino so we imagined that people had come from all over. I took a ton of pictures with my new camera (which I am really enjoying, thanks Bob).

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We could still hear drums and music in the distance late into the night.

June 26, 2010

Winding Down

We had to say goodbye to Trento. Pat and I did a little last minute shopping and she bought me a pretty purple glass pitcher I had my eye on. Ken and I bought one bottle of wine.
We drove south on the Autostrada and exited at Affi. We took the small road around Lake Garda and finally pulled into a parking area in the town of Lazise.

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We walked along the lakeside for a while and stopped into one of the many out door restaurants lining the walkway. We lucked out because the food was pretty good—Bob enjoyed his pizza and Ken, Pat and I loved our salads. I had my last glass of Lugana. We were right there in the Lugana zone. We really enjoyed our Danish waitress who did a spot on imitation of Bob’s very American pronunciation of “pizza Margherita.”
We took some fun pictures sitting in the restaurant.

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We drove on the lake road a little farther and then got back onto the freeway to head for Milan.
The Ramada Inn is nothing great. Ken and I changed rooms because our first one smelled like smoke.
We went to Buca di Bacco, a Piemontese restaurant in Ollegio—we couldn’t get a reservation at the Slow Food place. We enjoyed the dinner. Pat and I shared ravioli with sugo arrosto (like meat gravy) and duck breast with berry sauce. It’s interesting that they cook the duck so much more than we do. Bob had good lamb chops with roasted potatoes and Ken had a huge portion of pappardelle with boar sauce. We all shared a yummy almond semifreddo for dessert.

Can’t believe Bob and Pat are leaving in the morning.

June 27, 2010

Milano

This was our “bonus day” because we were originally scheduled to leave the day before but Delta canceled our flight. (this was months ago so no last minute surprise.) So we got up early to take Pat and Bob to the airport. I could tell they really enjoyed their time in Italy and we loved having them here with us. We all got along so well!

We came back to the hotel for breakfast and drove back to the airport to return the rental car, thankfully a totally uneventful experience.
We took the Malpensa Express train to Cadorna Station and walked to the Duomo. There were a lot of people in front so we decided to go around to the side to climb to the top, first. It was a pretty easy climb and very rewarding. It’s really great to be so close to the details of the beautiful cathedral.


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After a while we came down and went inside. The place was totally full because they were having a real service in there—closed circuit TVs and all. We were able to walk around the periphery and admire the floors and the stained glass, light a candle and listen.

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From there we walked to Peck, a high point for a gastronomic pilgrim like me. I loved wandering around the beautiful food displays and bought a small bottle of Garda olive oil, I had wanted. The prices are outrageous there but it IS Peck after all. We walked through the Galleria doing a minimum of window shopping, we watched a perfectly coifed and made up, woman trying on sunglasses at Prada --she was waking in and out of the store with various pairs and a small compact mirror, to check them out.
Inside the Galleria:

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I really wanted to eat at the Obika Mozzarella bar so we went into the Rinascente department store to find it in their “food court” at the top.
On the way up, I spotted 2 purple plaid dishtowels, which I had to have. They were on sale, of course! Lunch at Obika was fun in a very big city, fast food way. I got something other than what I ordered but I loved it! It was a plated sized bruschetta—the slice of toasted bread was huge—topped with perfectly ripe, quartered, cherry tomatoes, black olives, small pieces of buffalo mozzarella, big caper berries, a little fresh basil and ricotta salata grated on top. I drank a nice white with it but I don’t remember what it was. Ken ordered (and got) pasta with zucchini a light pesto sauce. It was very noisy and hub bubby in there but great fun sitting at the bar watching the people work making the salads—a very well oiled machine.
We started walking back towards the train station. We saw a man sitting on the sidewalk carving vegetables for money. I took a few last pictures of the big beautiful city.

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Back at the hotel I worked on fitting everything into the checked bags. It’s just a puzzle; I can do it.

We went downstairs to the hotel bar to watch the USA soccer match and have something to eat. We had some prosecco and a plate of salumi and cheeses. I was thinking—we could have this for dinner at home sometime but where do you get this quality of meats? Here, even at the bar at the Ramada, there was an excellent assortment. Since we were the only ones in the bar and they were playing atrocious music over the broadcast,
We finished watching the game in our room.

Tomorrow we catch the plane back.
It’s been absolutely perfect!

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