A Travellerspoint blog

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Fish gelato

Like rats, we scurried from one shadow to the next. It was so hot, I lost my appetite. 98 degrees and no breeze down in the valley. Today in the frenzy of Firenze, we visited:

The Medici chapels at the Basilica of San Lorenzo. The "room" that we first walked into was a wow! moment. The mausoleum filled the space under the San Lorenzo dome and made of marble with the purpose of celebrating those Medicis. The next room was the main tourist draw - Michaelangelo's sculptures of the four times of day: Night and Day and Dusk and Dawn (for Guiliano and Lorenzo Medicis, respectively). I refer to them as the women with the googli-eyed boobs.


Baptistery: we sat and stared at the ceiling for a while:


Palazzo Vecchio - the most interesting was the grand hall. Otherwise I just had heat stroke and tumbled down a couple of steps.

Gelato for lunch. I got mente and limone, Matthew passion fruit.

At 3 we met up for our Urban Adventures Food tour. Lu-haas (Lucas) was our guide. Being from Florence, he does not pronounce the c's. Saying "hohla-hola" (coca-cola) was a hit.

We made 5 stops:
1. crema-café in a cafe
2. prosecco and black truffle mini-sandwich
3. olive oil tasting, where we bought an ceramic olive oil cup and a washable brown paper bag for bread (hand wash only)
4. chianti, in plastic dixie cups, crazy-delicious crostini, Toscana pecorino and prosciutto and olives.
5. gelato (stop #2) I had mint/basil and pistachio, M had strawberry and limone.

And if we hadn't eaten enough, our dinner reservations were at 8.

It was The Best Dinner of the Trip. so far.
Antico di Cambi was just over the Altrarno and a recommendation from M's co-worker. Originally called Fiaschetteria cambi - a bar with cured meat snacks until 1985.

Oggi si mangia:
Prosciutto crudo e melone
Pappardelle al pomodoro fresco e mozzarella di bufala
Bocconcini di pollo al limone
Tagliata di bisteca agli aromi mediterranei e rucola
Costello di Bossi chianti classico
Grappa e limoncello

I earned my blisters today!
Italian words of the day:
fichi - figs
pesca - at the gelateria I saw this flavor. I thought, "ewe, fish." nope, it's peach. pesce is fish

Posted by LaurendeMatt 15:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)


It is a miracle that we found each other so quickly in the underground garage in Rome. M and I awoke in Florence and took a cab to a train to a cab to a short walk to the place we were to meet Julie and Maureen, who woke in Rome and rented a car and drove it to this garage to meet us.

We crammed our rollies into the Audi 3 and sweated it out through the Borghese Gardens to the Villa Borghese for our 1:00 reservation.
And don't be late IN: 1:00 OUT 3:00. They are very strict.
Through our audioguides we learned the stories behind the Berninis and Caravaggios and how the Borghese family "acquired" them. They seem to be jerks, like give me this painting or else I'll put you in jail or I'll have my monk-cronies come steal your Raffael in the middle of the night.

My favorite story went with this painting:
which is actually a self-portrait/ apology under the guise of a biblical scene. The story is, Caravaggio murdered a man over a tennis match. He went into exile and when he wanted to come back, he sent this painting to the Pope as an admission of his guilt and an apology. It worked.

Bernini and Canova carved their marble to look like soft wax statues.
Like this Ratto di Proserpima by Bernini. Also, Bernini's Apollo e Dafne and Canova's Paolina Borghese-Bonaparte.

Julie drove us to Frescara, a farming village of, like, 8 people (only 2 of which we saw), and our home base for the next four nights. We met up with Alfeo and Patricia. We are staying at Comare's house. Watch out for scorpians, check before you put on shoes! Oh, and wild boars got loose way back when and they can be nasty. Here is Ripa where Alfeo grew up:

We had to wait around until 8 for the restaurant to open. Ristorante Il Castello was at the top of the hill and named for the town and the street it is on. We ate like kings. It was an obscene amount of food. It started with our very own plate of cured meats (I didn't care for the liver-cured one, but the pancetta, salami and prosciutto were tasty). Then a community plate of anti-pasta; crostini with tortufo and fresh mozz with more tortufo:
and then bowls of barley with fresh veggies and a plate of tartufo salad. I could have called it a night at that point, but we hadn't had our primi piati yet. We had spaghetti with both fresh tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes to give it a little kick AND then a plate full of ravioli filled with porcini mushrooms and covered in - yup - more truffles. I was stuffed at this point, but the food kept coming... the secondi was a plate of chicken in saffron and a plate of veal with tortufo. a couple desserts... coffee... fini. The owner wanted a laughable amount - he wanted to call it "an even 170" We gave him more.

We were there for 3 hours and the only customers.

We rolled out of there and Google narrated the 5 minute drive home to Fag- nano.

Posted by LaurendeMatt 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)


"They went to the cemetery to see who they could find" Maureen said as she got off the phone with Patricia. We were hanging out drinking coffee and listening to the roosters.

Sharing one bathroom - with a Euro shower nozzle to slow things down even further, we didn't leave until noon. We went to Agapito and Olympia's house for Sunday dinner. La sorella de Olympia, Rosella, was there too. She's a hoot. Her laugh is contagious and she wears colorful glasses (she later told us she has 20-30 different pair of fun eyeglasses, depending on her outfit and whether she is inside or outside.) It is a newly constructed house, since after the earthquake in 2009 their home in Ripa centro was inhabitable.

It's amazing how once wine starts flowing, speaking Italian gets easier. Or should I say our Italirenchish - a mix off Italian, French and Spanish. We, Maureen Julie and I, decided that since the E.U. has banned together as one and have one unified currency and government, then they should have one language. We would be much more proficient in that.

The dinner table was outside, in the shade, on the driveway, and our wine glasses never even close to empty. The carafes of both red and white mysteriously got replenished in the garage. Olympia and Rosella in a constant state offering more and more food. It became a joke. She made corkscrew pasta with sausage and then veal-non-breaded-cutlets with a heap of insalade verde - a mix of arugula and other lettuces from their garden in the back. Dessert was ice cream and some fruit with a whole lotta grappa poured on top. Then we had gin-a-sing-ah liquor that Olympia makes from the root of an herb, we think ginseng, found in the Gran Sasso.

M has boasted for years that he is a landowner, including a quaint farmhouse in Abruzzo. I finally got to see it.


It is quite large and has a lot of history in it. It has Alfeo's old school books, the bed where he was born. He told of the Nazis taking the hay to feed their livestock. The shute that shot grapes down into the basement that started the wine-making process and the secret-cellar where the wine juice was stored. Patricia was drawing up renovation plans in her head. We have dreams of "Under-the-Tuscan-Sun"-ing it. Agapito thinks it will be about one thousand Euro to just make sure electricity still runs to the house.

We checked out Ripa's entertainment complex, the bocci-o-drome.

We went to San Demetrio for gelato. A cinghiale (wild boar) crossed our bath on the drive home. They are nocturnal.

Italian phrase of the day:
frutti di bosco - fruit of the forest - a flavor of gelato, yogurt, etc.

Posted by LaurendeMatt 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Socks al Forno

"I am half Irish, maybe that's why I am tone-deaf to hand gestures." Matthew explained as he drove us to the Gran Sasso. First we stopped at the supermercato for some picnic provisions: provolone, salami picante, crusty bread and grapes. a true Troy picnic. They sell self-service wine by the refillable 3-liter jug. We got a jug o' vino bianco Pecorino. I think it smells like cheese.

We were prepared for a windy peek, but it was wicked hot. Mussolini's mug was everywhere. The story is that the Italian militia imprisoned him at the hotel at the top and then the Nazis came and freed him. But then on his way to the northern border, the Partisans recognized him hiding in the back of a car and shot him dead. It seems as though lots of Italians still respect him.

Just a bit out of the way on the way back to Ripa, we stopped at some ruins. We were all spent and burnt, but we did make it up for a bit of the hike we all were not prepared to take. It had a nice view. And if we were a band, this would be our album cover:

We went to Agapito and Olympia's house for pizza. Although there was no pizza at all, but a home-cooked meal: zucchini frittata, barley mash, cheesy bread followed by the cheese and cured meat course (fresh mozz, salami and sausage) then the coffee with sambuca and fruit course. The skins have to be peeled off. They insist. The skins are too bitter.

I came home to cook my socks. With no dryer, I need to MacGuyver it so Alfeo suggested I throw my stockings in the oven. If that doesn't work, I am going to iron the other experimental pair.

Posted by LaurendeMatt 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

You gotta aggio that!

It was hot. Sunny and in the mid-90s so we went to the caves (Grotte di Stiffe) where it was in the 50s. It's a relatively new cave, only about 600,000 years old and only opened since 1990 to tourists. Its stalactites and mites grow just one-cubic cm every one-hundred years! We learned this post-tour, when the guide overheard Julie, Maureen, M and I talking. "Oh, you speak English? Did you understand anything I said in there?" Nope, not a word. But it looked cool, and it was cool.

Alfeo took us to the cemetery to leave flowers for his father, Giuseppe. There were lots of Fattore and DeMatteis surnames. The tradition is, kids are named after grandparents, paternal then maternal. M's middle name is Joseph, or Giuseppe, named after his paternal grandfather. Achilles, Alfeo's older brother, was named after his paternal grandfather, Giuseppe's dad, and Alfeo was intended to be Antonio, after his maternal grandfather, but just before he was born, the son of family friends, who had just served in the war, was killed by the Germans just five miles from home. He was on his way home from battle and he was killed just five miles from home.

We gussied up and went out on the town in Abruzzo. Alfeo wanted to thank Olympia and Agapito for their hospitality. Sorella Rosella came too. She recommended this restaurant called Antica Taverna di Navelli. It was delicious. I couldn't keep up with all the courses and plates within each course. I had to assagio (taste) everything. The antipasto course was my favorite. The honey "married well" with the cheeses and the ceci beans, both regular and negro. I didn't care for the animal innards - the respiratory stuff. They had farro pasta with ricotta. Pecorino to put on the spaghetti with pig's cheeks. I asked Rosella if she ever would have Parmagiana cheese. "no, that's from Emiglia Romana". drink chianti? "no, it's from Tuscany". Even more important than their national pride, is their regional pride.

It was another three hour meal. "Say ceci!"


there will be some unhappy travelers 5 hours from now when we have to get up and go to Rome to catch our flight to Split.

Posted by LaurendeMatt 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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