Italy – Apr. 12 – May 24

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!!!

the view of Assisi from our villa bedroom window

Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Assisi

we were like kids in a candy store...

duro means "hard" in Italian - who knew Pfizer humour is international...

this one's even funnier... coglioni di mulo = testicles of a mule; le palle del nonno = balls of your grandfather - we passed on buying these...

Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli - right behind was our favourite pizza place in all of Italy "La Basilica"

making Braciole - one of the 2 incredible meals we made in Letizia's cooking class

it tasted as good as it looks

the marble work in all the churches, especially the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, was remarkable

the Roman sites were as stunning at night as during the day

we enjoyed a "biga" wine and "biga" food while we watched Pope Benedict XVI celebrate the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday

St. Peter's Square and the Basilica before Easter Sunday Mass (and the masses)

us and...

... more than 100,000 others attending Easter Sunday Mass...

... celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI

Michelangelo's "The Last Judgement" in the Sistine Chapel

and on the ceiling "The Creation of Adam"

Pantheon

Trevi Fountain

Spanish Steps

this "slab" of gorganzola was a perfect finish to wonderful meal of homemade pasta, "parmigano della melanzana" (eggplant permigano), and of course the accompanying liter of homemade vino rosso

we visited the island of Capri while we were in the Amalfi Coast

and made sure to stop and try all the free samples of Limoncello

Positano, also known as "the vertical city" - one of the 4 Amalfi Coast villages we toured (Positano, Ravello, Praiano, and Amalfi)

looking down on the Amalfi Coast from Ravello

the narrow canals echoed with the songs of the gondolieri

Piazza San Marco and the Basilica - everynight the piazza would flood with about 6 inches of water

having traveled for 8 months with the same trekking and travel clothes we decided to inject a little "fashion sense" into our wardrobe... when in Rome... (or in this case Venice)

the view of Lake Como and the surrounding mountains from our villa in Argegno

two of the many opulent lakeside villas

Richard Branson's villa

Villa Balbianello

Menaggio

enjoying sunrise from our villa in Argegno

Duomo di Milano

Manarola (one of the 5 villages of Cinque Tere)

cliche we know, but we couldn't resist...

Villa Santa Lucia...

... near the village of San Gimignano in Tuscany

one of the many fine meals we shared with Aunt Josie, Uncle Emile and Nicole

Duomo di Firenze

we climbed to the top of the dome and enjoyed a 360 degree bird's eye view of Florence

the Tuscany countryside is as beautiful as it is bountiful

Duomo di Sienna

of all the "Duomos" we visited the Duomo di Sienna was our favourite

and our favourite wines were the Brunello's di Montalcino

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2 Responses to Italy – Apr. 12 – May 24

  1. Dear Janet and Steve I am so happy you decided to spend with us some of your wonderful adventure, you are our star guests, we’ll never forget you!

  2. Very good post! We are linking to this particularly great article on our
    website. Keep up the good writing.

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