Eat, Pray, Drink… what’s not to Love about that…
After spending 5 weeks in Nepal and eating Dal Bhat twice a day (which we loved), we immersed ourselves in the food and wine of Italy for the next 6 weeks. Of course to offset these sins of gluttony, we prayed for forgiveness in the countless churches we visited throughout the country.
We started our tour of Italy in the region of Umbria at a villa just outside of Assisi (Alla Madonna del Piatto – http://www.incampagna.com) – the owners Letizia and Ruurd made us feel like one of the “Famiglia”, and the week we spent there enjoying the regional cuisine and touring the Umbrian countryside was “fantastico”. The 2 cooking classes and wonderful recipes that Letizia shared will feed us for years to come.
We then spent the Easter weekend in Rome and Vatican City visiting all the major sites and celebrating Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Even without prearranged invitations we managed to get prime seats by arriving a couple of hours before Mass (and the masses)… 100,000+.
The Amalfi Coast was our next destination, basing ourselves in Nerano at Casale Villarena Relais (www.casalevillarena.com) where Guglielmo and his staff spoiled us with the best antipasti misto, zuppa di pesche and limoncello (made from lemons grown right on their property). We didn’t even bother venturing out to a different restaurant for the 4 dinners because every night there was a new, locally grown and freshly prepared menu to sample.
We continued our coastal theme to the Adriatic and the floating city of Venezia. For 3 days we lost ourselves (literally and purposely) amid the narrow walkways and canals, browsing (and for Janet, purchasing) Murano Glass Jewelry, and never passing by a gelato counter without trying the “limone”.
Once again we boarded a high speed train and set off for Lago di Como (Lake Como). Here we stayed for a week in a perfectly situated villa in Argegno overlooking the Lake and surrounding mountains and used the ferries to shuttle to the villages of Menaggio, Bellagio, and Varenna. We never ran in to George Clooney, but we did see Richard Branson’s villa, and tasted some of the best smoked fish we’ve ever had.
A day and overnight stop in Milan was enough time to visit the Duomo and a few other sites, and as importantly, not enough time to “visit” all the clothing stores.
Back on the Mediterranean side (specifically the Ligurian Sea) we based ourselves for 3 days/nights in Monterosso al Mare; one of the 5 villages that make up Cinque Terre. We divided our time between relaxing on the beach and trekking along a hilly coastal path to all five seaside villages and eating some of the best calamari in Italy.
We ended our Italian itinerary in Tuscany, spending a week at a villa just outside of San Gimignano where we met up with Steve’s Aunt and Uncle (Josie and Emile) and their daughter Nicole. The owner’s of Villa Santa Lucia, Paolo and Laura, went out of their way to make our stay comfortable and memorable. Our days were spent either day tripping to Florence, Sienna, and the wine regions of the area (Chianti, Montalcino, Montepulciano), or lounging poolside; while our evenings were spent enjoying wonderful home cooked meals; especially the tartufo risotto (truffles that we brought from Umbria) prepared by Aunt Josie, Nicole’s carciofi (artichokes), and the 5 course meal we enjoyed with Paolo and Laura at Laura’s brother’s restaurant; oh, yeah – and of course finishing every night with Sambuca (purely for medicinal purposes).
We would be remiss, and Steve could be kicked out of the Italian “brotherhood”, if we didn’t comment on the vino. Everywhere we went the wine was fabuloso – from the homemade wines we enjoyed during pranzo (lunch), to the Vino Nobile and Brunello’s savoured with a fine dinner. As we look back on all of the food and wine we enjoyed throughout Italy, most memorable were the ones shared with Famiglia e Amici. Buon appetito e Salute!!!