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Our bible during this trip.

The next day we packed up and drove our car to Florence to return it. Of course we had to circle the car around the block 5 times before one of the four spaces in front of the rental place opened up. The rental company was kind enough to let us leave our luggage there for a couple hours while we toured Florence!

Aaron at the Duomo

Aaron at the Duomo

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A fresh pasta shop!

A fresh pasta shop!

I wish I could have bought some. Alas, no kitchen. :(

I wish I could have bought some. Alas, no kitchen. ūüė¶

We arrived to a restaurant that I had read about in another travel book. When we arrived, it didn’t look very good so we went to the restaurant next door. It was a bit touristy, so Aaron and I tried to get the most authentic dish possible. We got the baked seafood for two:

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It was delicious! It had HUGE shrimp, almost like lobsters, and everything was baked in a delicious seafood broth that we dipped our bread in. Yom! However, the wine suggested was not very good. So it’s just as well that I forgot to write down the name of the restaurant, I guess!

A random graffiti we saw in the courtyard of the restaurant. I have no idea how that is an insult.

A random graffiti we saw in the courtyard of the restaurant. I have no idea how that is an insult.

We also saw another graffiti in the subway station, above a coke machine that said, simply, “Crap!!”

Me at a random bridal shop, kind of similar to my name!

Me at a random bridal shop, kind of similar to my name!

It’s a circle of life! Here we are back on the Malpensa Express. We took the train to stazione centrale in Milan, then the Malpensa Express because our hotel is very close to the airport. When we got to the airport, we were going to take a cab to our hotel since it was so close. Our cab driver found out where we were going, and very kindly called our hotel for us on his cell phone because he knew our hotel has a shuttle service, which *I* didn’t know.

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Here we are sad that we are almost leaving to go home...ok Aaron was just pretending to be sad under my instruction.

Here we are sad that we are almost leaving to go home...ok Aaron was just pretending to be sad under my instruction.

Now, happy!

Now, happy!

We were very bored on that 45 minute ride. Good thing I snatched a box of FREEKY FRIES! Which essentially are the outershell of fries. I don’t really get it but it was yummy!

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We arrived to our hotel, which was probably the fanciest corporate hotel we stayed at this trip, but very reasonable since it was close to the airport.

Novotel Milano Malpensa Aeroporto

Via al Campo, 99
21010 Cardano al Campo, Varese (Lombardie), Italy

+39 0331 266611
http://novotelmilanomalpensa.hotelsinmilan.it/

Hotel lobby, where they had two really nice macs to use, a full bar, and a full restaurant open until two a.m.

Hotel lobby, where they had two really nice macs to use, a full bar, and a full restaurant open until two a.m.

When we were waiting in line to check in, the Scandinavian group in front of us tipped the concierge with small bars of chocolate. She was so excited to get the chocolate! There were also lots of pilots and stewardesses staying in the hotel. It was a very fun atmosphere! They also had a small library where you could just take the books to your room on an honor system. They had Twilight!!

Our little coffee station in the room.

Our little coffee station in the room.

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And we were finally able to watch American TV! Hallelluja.

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I love their ultra modern bathroom with European charm!

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A shower AND a bath tub!

A shower AND a bath tub!

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After a good night’s rest, we took the hotel shuttle to the airport:

Milan Airport

Milan Airport

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I was bored and woke him up, um, accidentally.

I was bored and woke him up, um, accidentally.

I am charming.

I am charming.

Shenanigans once again happen once we get on to the plane. That's Aaron trying to hide from me so he can sleep.

Shenanigans once again happen once we get on to the plane. That's Aaron trying to hide from me so he can sleep.

Well, that’s the last of the pictures! I will post all the pictures and VIDEOS (!!!) on picasa in the next couple of days. Let me know if you are interested in seeing all three hundred pictures and videos and I will share those delicious moments with you! Thank you everyone for following me along on this trip! We had a wonderful time, and we hope to go to Italy again very soon. Or wherever the cheap tickets bring us!

I’ve had a request to make a post with my overall itenerary, so here it is:

May 6: Leave from Houston for Milan

May 7: Arrive in Milan, take the Malpensa express to stazione centrale, walk to hotel

May 8: Take train from Milan to Rome. Take cab to hotel.

May 9: Rome

May 10: Rome

May 11: Take train from Rome to Florence. Walk from train to car rental place, about 6 blocks. Drive from Florence to Montepulciano.

May 12: Montepulciano, Montalcino, Pienza

May 13: Montepulciano, San Gimignano

May 14: San Gimignano, Castagnoli, Lecchi

May 15: San Gimignano, Brolio. Train from Florence to Milan

May 16: Milan back to Houston

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A couple of views from our car on our way to the Chianti region:

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See our car in the mirror?

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We were starved and thought for sure we would see a place for lunch on the way, but we didn’t for what seemed like an eternity (I would guess about 45 minutes). We finally saw a sign for a restaurant, and turned immediately into a small town named Lecchi. Restaurant info below:

Ristorante Malborghetto

Lecchi in Chianti Gaiole in Chianti (Siena)

0577=746201

http://www.malborghetto.net/index.php

We sat outside since it was a beautiful day. The restaurant was right off of a bed and breakfast, and there was no one else there. We were seated and the chef, came to take our order! He was a very nice guy who spoke almost fluent English (with an awesome Italian accent of course). He suggested this wine:

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We were a bit skeptical because it was a 2007, but the chef assured us that because it’s a half bottle, it matures much faster than a full bottle. He was right—the wine was great!

We forgot to take a picture with our chef, but I found this picture on the website. He is all the wya to the right in the yellow shirt.

We forgot to take a picture with our chef, but I found this picture on the website. He is all the way to the right in the yellow shirt. His nails were trimmed short, and a little dirty...I'm not sure what that means, but I imagined he had been digging for truffles.

Appetizer:

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Starting from bottom left, clockwise: parsley quiche, bean and some sort of cheese on toasted bread, fried quail egg (so good!), pate on bread, pecorino cheese soaked in E.V.O.O., lardo covering beans on bread (this one was my personal favorite, not originally included in this sample dish, but they serve it separately and the chef offered to put it on our plate because I asked about it. Lardo is basically cured pork fat, sliced very thin.), pureed cauliflower on toasted bread (I really want to try to make this. It was delicious), roasted zuchinni and squash, and salami. In the center is a barley and bean salad, very refreshing.

Our new friend, Antonio. See close up.

Our new friend, Antonio. See close up.

close up

Get it? An ant? Named Antonio? We should really go into the naming babies business.

Ravioli stuffed with pecorino cheese, topped with creamy pear sauce.

Ravioli stuffed with pecorino cheese, topped with creamy pear sauce.We were obsessed with this delicious dish. YUMMY!!

Picci in red sauce with duck. It was good, but I realized you should really stick with having picci in Pienza, where it comes from. It's not as good elsewhere.

Picci in red sauce with duck. It was good, but I realized you should really stick with having picci in Pienza, where it comes from. It's not as good elsewhere.

Since we were starving, although by this time we were pretty stuffed, we had just a LITTLE room leftover. We ordered another serving of the ravioli with pear!! Before our check came, the chef joked with us and said “Anything else? Another order of the ravioli? Ha ha!” hahahaha!!

Our second serving of the ravioli...this time I remembered to take a picture before eating a bite of it.

Our second serving of the ravioli...this time I remembered to take a picture before eating a bite of it.

The restaurant’s dog, very obedient—she was trained not to approach tables (our waitress told us) and was very hesitant to come near us, but when we went to play with her she was very friendly!

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We left full and happy for Castagnoli, one of our chef’s suggestions. It was the most modern wine house I had ever been to.

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Built-in fireplace, visable from both sides.

Built-in fireplace, visable from both sides.

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View fromour table

View from our table

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The coolest part: the wall was patterned with sections of wine barrels.

The coolest part: the wall was patterned with sections of wine barrels.

This is the first chardonnay I've ever really liked.

A very earthy, unique wine. It was expensive in Italian standards (30 euros). After tasting it I wanted to buy a glass of it, and he ended up giving it to us for free, along with a complimentary plate of cheese and bread dipped in E.V.O.O.

This is the first chardonnay I've ever really liked.

This is the first chardonnay I've ever really liked.

He showed us their barrels in the back:

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NOM. The olive oil tasted very different than any I've had...it was very strong and tasted like...plants. I'm not sure how to describe it but it was delicious!

NOM. The olive oil tasted very different than any I've had...it was very strong and tasted like...plants. I'm not sure how to describe it but it was delicious!

For dinner, we had pizza in San G, which was unremarkable, but also gelato, which was delicious:

We're not sure what happened 2007-2008.

We're not sure what happened 2007-2008.

I still have yet to find a gelateria in Houston that compares to the ones we had in Italy.

Good night! Have sweet dreams of gelato!

Uhoh, it’s been a couple days since I last blogged. I might forget some details…but here goes!

*Two quick things: see, I told you I would forget, I’m adding this stuff after I’ve already published this post:

1. Note the deterioration of our hair bounciness as the trip progressed. This was due to the lack of conditioner in the hotels. For some reason Italians seem to think hand soap is ok to wash hands, body, face, and hair with.

2. A couple days after we got our car, we decided to turn on the radio. We discovered that our car actually came with a very sophisticated built in GPS system. So we were cruising along, listening to the radio when I said “you know, this radio station really loves the Bee Gees! The last 7 songs were Bee Gees songs!” Aaron pressed the eject button, and a CD labeled “Bigis” came out.

The next morning, we had coffee and apple tart for breakfast next to our hotel:

The little cafe where we ate. We actually sat on the opposite side of the street where they had big umbrellas. I forgot to take a picture...

The little cafe where we ate. We actually sat on the opposite side of the street where they had big umbrellas. I forgot to take a picture. Our hotel is one or two doors down from where that car is parked on the left.

I look fly.

I look fly.

As does Aaron.

As does Aaron.

The piazza in the day time:

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We saved going to Montepulciano’s wine house for our last morning there. Here are some wines we liked:

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Us in the hotel parking lot that took us 4 tries to get there the first day:

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Warning: lovey doviness coming up. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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We drove to San Gimignano, about 90 minutes north of Montepulciano and arrived at our hotel. It was a bit of an ordeal because I didn’t want to go through the driving fiasco we went through in Montepulciano. We got to the town center of San G and immediately I was a little annoyed. It was flowing with tourists, and our hotel was inside the town center. We parked the car outside of the town center and went to the tobacco store to find our hotel owner, following the instructions he emailed us. I was apprehensive about the hotel but went along. We got our luggage from our car, and proceeded to walk back into the town center. By the time we got to the hotel I was drenched in sweat. The hotel room was pretty clean but very cramped, and RIGHT outside was the breakfast room, which I can’t imagine to be very quiet in the morning. We decided to eat before making a decision.

We went to a restaurant suggested by our hotel manager. It was, probably, the best restaurant thus far in the trip:

Trattoria Chiribiri

Piazza della Madonna 1

San Gimignano 53037, Italy

0577/941948

First off, it was very reasonably priced. Across the street from the restaurant was a very traditional small blacksmith shop with really ornate door knockers. The shop owner was standing outside conversing jovially with passer-bys. We walked into the restaurant down half a flight of stairs. The restaurant is very small, probably about 8-10 tables. We were the only people there because it was already 3:00, but the waitress was very friendly and welcomed us in. Oh, another thing to note about Italian restaurants is that most of them have a 1.5 to 2 euro cover charge, kind of like clubs in the States. Isn’t that odd? Anyway, the inside of the restaurant was kind of like a bomb shelter, but very warm and cozy, with no windows aside from the glass door. The inside of the restaurant has murals and is painted as if you are outside. It was an interesting juxtaposition.

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We shared the lingua, which is ox tongue. You would not believe how delicious it is. It is on a bed of cabbage and thinly sliced greens. The lengua is served hot, with a vinegrette sauce. I have never tasted this combination, and I am dying to find the recipe.

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Not sure why the image is a little pixelated...my hands my have been shaking in excitement. And covered in drool.

Aaron got the lasagna. Nothing like the lasagna in the States. It don't know what it is...the tomato sauce is very fine, not chunky like in the states. And the pasta is thinner...and I don't think I saw ricotta cheese. I must try to make it.

Aaron got the lasagna. Nothing like the lasagna in the States. I don't know what it is...the tomato sauce is very fine, not chunky like in the States. And the pasta is thinner...and I don't think I saw ricotta cheese. I must try to make it.

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This is risotto. I tasted it and thought "if THIS is what risotto is supposed to taste like, I have been making it completely wrong!" The rice was a bigger grain of rice and the texture was a bit harder. It was pretty salty but very flavorful!

If THIS is what risotto is supposed to taste like, I have been making it completely wrong! The rice was a bigger grain of rice and the texture was a bit harder. It was pretty salty but very flavorful!

Apparently I was still hungry. I forgot about this! I also got sliced grilled steak with whole peppercorns, onions, and cabbage. It WAS SO GOOD!!!!! Sorry I will stop.

Apparently I was still hungry. I forgot about this! I also got sliced grilled steak with whole peppercorns, onions, and cabbage. It WAS SO GOOD!!!!!

This picture looked pretty disgusting on the small screen of my camera, but looks pretty good here!

This picture looked pretty disgusting on the small screen of my camera, but looks pretty good here!

Aaron and I were talking about something, and he nodded and I nodded. Then he shook his head and I shook my head. This went on for about ten minutes until Aaron said “wait. Can you not shake your head if I’m nodding?” The whole time I thought we were just playing the shadow game where one person imitates the other person until the other person explodes from annoyance. So I went along and said I couldn’t. Aaron then proceeded to try to “train” me to do the opposite of what he was doing. We did this for about 20 or 30 more minutes until I let him in on the joke. Here is his reaction:

Awww. Poor baby!

Awww. Poor baby!

I can already see the eye rolls coming, but after the main course, we got another order of the lengua. The waitresses had a good laugh!

Some flowers I thought were cool looking:

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Not sure what kind of berries this is. Olives?

Not sure what kind of berries this is. Olives?

We drove around the town, looking at different vineyards for a place to stay, and ended up at Torre Prima, a small farm house with very clean and cheap rooms! We drove up to the farm with a couple workers plowing the fields. A man came up to us and I asked if he had any rooms. He nodded and I asked how much. He spoke almost no English, and miraculously I remembered how to say price in Italian. He held up ten fingers and we exchanged confused glances. His wife spoke a bit more English and after a lot of “90?” “50.” “15?” “50.” We confirmed that the room was indeed 50 euros and after seeing the room and views, we were sold. There were also some friendly British visitors there.

Torre Prima

Località Cortennano La Torre 17,
53037 S.Gimignano (SI), Italy
Tel/Fax +39 0577 941371

And for future references, do NOT stay at this place:

palazzo al torrione
via Berignano,76 53037  SAN GIMIGNANO (Siena)
TEL.: 0577 940480
CEL.: 338 9381656

We had to go back to Palazzo al Torrione to explain to them that we were not going to stay there. Aaron and I brainstormed for explanations and concluded with “our parents want us to meet them in Florence, so we need to leave now and we wont’ be able to stay the night here.” which I thought was pretty good. Later that night when we were walking around the town center, we imagined what we would say if we bumped into the hotel owner…something like “Our parents…died…? and said their last wish was for us to immediately go back to San Gimi…g…na…no…” I still do not know how to pronounce the name of that town!

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Our room on the first floor.

Our room on the first floor.

The pristine pool with a view

The pristine pool with a view

Aaron taking it all in.

Aaron taking it all in.

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The inside:

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Kitchenette with stove top!

Kitchenette with stove top!

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We drove back to the town center near early dinner time, around 6 p.m., and stopped by small cheese and wine shops.I had a caffe d’orzo (expresso made with barley). SO good. I bought some back, and now I just need a cappucino machine to make it. Ahem. Anyhoodles, we then went back to the same restaurant again because it was just that good.

Here is the restaurant at night.

Here is the restaurant at night.

You guys ready for the menu?

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Steak tar tar covered in melted goat cheese sauce. I didn't really like it but it's because I don't like goat cheese. Aaron thought it was very good (obv!).

Steak tar tar covered in melted goat cheese sauce. I didn't really like it but it's because I don't like goat cheese. Aaron thought it was very good (obv!).

Porcini mushrooms with linguini egg noodles. Their pasta tasted very different than other restaurants. I think they make the pasta in house. The porcini mushrooms were the most fragrant mushrooms I have had other than the shitake. When we were at this restaurant the first time, a pair of Korean tourists ordered this dish and I smelled it across the room. It tasted as good as it smelled! I'm having a hard time finding this mushroom in the States. I know I can get them at Whole Foods, but I don't want to spend an arm and a leg buying mushrooms...

Porcini mushrooms with linguini egg noodles. Their pasta tasted very different than other restaurants. I think they make the pasta in house. The porcini mushrooms were the most fragrant mushrooms I have had other than the shitake. When we were at this restaurant the first time, a pair of Korean tourists ordered this dish and I smelled it across the room. It tasted as good as it smelled! I'm having a hard time finding this mushroom in the States. I know I can get them at Whole Foods, but I don't want to spend an arm and a leg buying mushrooms...

Creme caramel, or what we know as flan. But oh so much better!!

Creme caramel, or what we know as flan. But oh so much better!!

More excitement, coming up later! For now, good night!

The next day we went to Montalcino, one of the many small towns we will visit in Tuscany. We arrived at Drogheria Franci:

Drogheria Franci

Piazzale Fortezza, 5

0577 848191

The wine house was in the middle of houses on cobblestone and a small elementary school:

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Kids playing in the school yard next to the wine house.

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View from the wine house balcony

View from the wine house balcony

We did wine and honey tasting:

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From left, clockwise: chestnut honey, truffle honey, strawberry honey, and raw honey (the lightest honey, usually used in tea or coffee). The chest honey was especially good with the pecorino cheese, but the truffle honey made EVERYthing taste like heaven.

Truffle honey was my favorite.

Truffle honey was my favorite. It's the one with the specs in it.

We REALLY loved the honey:

A very attractive picture

I look pretty darn hot in this picture.

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So does Aaron.

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A dessert white. Only ok.

We kept the labels of the wines we liked and wrote what we thought of them on the back.

We kept the labels of the wines we liked and wrote what we thought of them on the back.

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Things got a bit silly:

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Before leaving Montalcino, we took some pictures in  the parking lot. Yes, this is the view from the PARKING LOT.

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Our lovely car:

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We then headed to Pienza to walk around their town center / piazza, and ate dinner at another one of Gourmet Guide to Italy’s recommendations:

La Buca della Fate
Corso Rossellino 38a
0578 748272

We got there early by Italian standards, around 7:00 p.m. We were the first ones in the restaurant. By the time we left, the entire restaurant was full. There was even a big table of 10 priests!

We had the local pecorino and prosciutto for appetizer. It was probably the best cheese and meat I have ever tasted, and it came from the front of the restaurant where our host sliced it on the counter for us. Then we shared the picci (thick udon like pasta) as recommended. Very simply prepared in a spicey tomato sauce, it was delicious!

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We also shared the T-bone steak:

Forgot to take a picture of it until we already ate a mouthful.

Forgot to take a picture of it until we already ate a mouthful.

Also shared the tiramisu:

I don't remember why they gave us three forks. Hehe.

I don't remember why they gave us three forks. Hehe.

We took some pictures in the piazza during our after dinner stroll:

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We were on our way back to our hotel and got a bit turned around. It was when the GPS uttered our now most feared phrase: “drive on unpaved road.” We proceeded to drive on the “unpaved road,” which for the most part was not too bad, was just wide enough for two cars to pass by each other. Now I really cannot remember why the confusion happened, but I thought the GPS wanted us to turn around, and Aaron thought it wanted us to turn right. We thought we missed a turn so I told Aaron to turn left into someone’s driveway, thinking that he would turn around and make a complete U-turn from the driveway. So we turn into the driveway, Aaron turns around, then proceeds to go straight into a small road (would have been turning right from the original road). The small road was basically some flat, square stones, paved into a field of bushes, going uphill at about a 30 degree angle. I had a delayed reaction but soon was saying in a nice, calm voice, (not wanting to upset Aaron) “Wait, what are you doing??” And Aaron said “that’s what the GPS said!” proceeded by “This is bad.” followed by us trying to back up. We backed up and things seemed to be going well until we heard a small noise. Immediately I remembered there was a ditch on the other side of the road and my heart sank when I realized our back tires were probably in the ditch. Keeping a facade of serenity, I said “I’ll just pop out and see what’s going on” while Aaron said “OOOOOO NOOOOOOOOOO.” When I saw that our tires were only 1/8 in the ditch, Aaron rolled down the window, and after about 40 K-turns, we finally got out of there! Good thing there were no one else on the road. While exciting and a bonding experience, I wouldn’t suggest going on sketchy looking roads if you are in a foreign country! I asked Aaron if I seemed calm and he said “Yes! You were so great! Thank goodness you were because I was freaking out.” and I said “On the outside, I was calm. On the inside I was screaming “OHMIGOD OH NO OH GOD OH NoOOOOOOO!”

Then. The best part of the trip happened: PASTA GATTI!!!!

Translation: pasta kitty!!!

We went back to our B & B in Montepulciano and decided to get a glass of wine before going to bed. Since all the wine bars were closed (I think they close in the afternoon in Europe…it was about 10 p.m. when we were out) we decided to go to the restaurant where we went the night before for a cappucino. We were on our way back to our hotel (about a whole block away) when a little orange cat started following us. When we stopped, he stopped to sit down. We played with him a while and decided to sit down on the church’s step (also in the piazza) to gaze at the stars. As soon as we sat down, Pasta Gatti sauntered over and sat down on our laps, giving each of us a turn! He was purring so loudly and was obviously cared for. When we stood up to leave, he went right into the restaurant and no one seemed to mind. He must belong to the owner of the restaurant.

Here is Pasta Gatti, following us.

Here is Pasta Gatti, following us.

Here he is, stopping when we stopped. La-ti-da-ti, I'm Pasta Gatti.

Here he is, stopping when we stopped. La-ti-da-ti, I'm Pasta Gatti.

He was very soft and clean (I examined him for fleas).

He was very soft and clean (I examined him for fleas).

Here he is, surprising me by walking on to my lap.

Here he is, surprising me by walking on to my lap.

I'm Pasta Gatti, I like to party.

I'm Pasta Gatti, I like to party.

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Aaron petted him while he was on my lap so Pasta Gatti decided he liked him better.

Aaron petted him while he was on my lap so Pasta Gatti decided he liked him better.

Aaron said "So, here I am, sitting in a piazza in Tuscany, petting a random cat. You know, just another day." Pasta Gatti's all, "So???"

Aaron said "So, here I am, sitting in a piazza in Tuscany, petting a random cat. You know, just another day." Pasta Gatti's all, "So???"

We finally got up to go back to our hotel room. Pasta Gatti went into the restaurant for more pasta.

Stay tuned for our adventures in San Gimign..a..no..na. Still cannot pronounce the name of that town.

Day 5  was our last day in Rome. Sad!

My parents told me about Campo dei Fiori and I made it a point to go. It was well worth it! There are also cute clothing shops in the alleys surrounding the market.

Pasta stand. I bought squid ink pasta (which doesn't taste like squid ink, but was still delicious, according to mom. And also I bought the pasta they used at ne arte ne parte.

Pasta stand. I bought squid ink pasta (which doesn't taste like squid ink, but was still delicious, according to mom). And also I bought the pasta they used at ne arte ne parte.

Produce stand

Produce stand

This curly vegetable reminds me of the dragon vegetable from Taiwan. I wonder!

This curly vegetable reminds me of the dragon vegetable from Taiwan. I wonder!

I had a dream about this butcher stand later when I got back to the States. I dreamt that I could pick up the whole window with the meat in it like a suitcase. Then I picked up another suitcase full of power tools. Good dream!

I had a dream about this butcher stand later when I got back to the States. I dreamt that I could pick up the whole window with the meat in it like a suitcase. Then I picked up another suitcase full of power tools. Good dream!

More produce!

More produce!

Then we went back to the hotel to pick up our bags and say bye to Caterina, Barbara, and Gianni at the B&B. This time, we figured out how to get from our B&B to the train station without taking a cab (we took a bus instead). Rome is so easy to get around with  public transportation. You really can get anywhere with their buses and subways.

We met the funniest couple on the train. They were our age. His name was Jason, and his wife’s name was…I can’t remember, but she reminds me of this girl Candice so let’s just call her that. They were traveling because Candice recently got laid off, and Jason was on leave from the military. They were on a budget, but because of military priviledges, all of their hotels and transportation tickets were on major military discounts. We got on the train and were in the midst of lifting the big suitcases above our heads to put them in the luggage racks (ok Aaron was lifting, I was directing and attempting to help while he says “it’s easier if just ONE person does it!” ahhaha). We hear someone say “Oh, are you guys going to Florence too? That’s cool, so are we! We’ve been in Rome for a couple days. What about you guys?” and on and on. On his own. Ahahah!! So we were talking back to him and trying to do the luggage at the same time. I was thinking, why doesn’t he HELP us instead of yammering on. But it was clear he was just oblivious and not being malicious. So anyway we sat down and talked to them some more. They were some of the friendliest people I’ve met. Candice was saying how she forgot about something and Jason said “this one, she forgets about everything! She’s like that Adam Sandler movie. Which one was it? You know? That Adam Sandler one? What was it called?” meanwhile not realizing the irony of the whole thing. Other highlights of the conversation:

Jason: Wait. Honey. Look at that! AHAHA!!! Look what she’s reading! (pointing to me, I was reading Twilight, don’t judge)

Candice: I love that book AHH! My little sister has the audio book! She listened to it on the road trip we took from ____ to ____! Isn’t it so great?!

Jason: I’m not going to read it but THEY love it

and on. and on. They were too funny!

Here’s another gem:

Jason: My brother’s fiance is such a mean person. She is so stupid too. She only care about money. Like the purses. Oh, honey, tell them about the purses. It was funny!

Candice: Yeah like, his brother just buys her a bunch of fake Prada and Fendi purses, and he doesn’t tell her they’re fake, so she thinks they’re real, and she brags about them all the time! Oh and the one up thing! honey!! Tell them about the one up thing!

Jason: SO!! They always have to be better than us! Like we’d be like, oh we went to Sandals for our honeymoon. It wasn’t too bad, about $3700 for the whole trip. And they’d be like, oh, we went to Sandals too! But we spent $8000 there. And we’d be like, oh well we rented a sailboat for the wedding reception, and they’d be like, oh well, we rented a yacht!

Amy: Ahaha! That is funny. You should have said, well, we rented TWO yachts!

Jason: No. But we rented a sailboat.

YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN about these people being absolute gems? One last story and I promise I’ll stop.

Jason and Candice found this nice little grassy area for their picnic. Later on during the meal, they realized they were sitting in the yard of a poor person. I’m not exactly sure what this means, but they termed it a “bumyard.” I believe it was perhaps a homeless person’s yard? Or maybe just a very ghetto house? Maybe the homeless person was living in a tent on this green pasture? I am really not sure. Anyway they were very VERY excited about this incident. After they ate their picnic, they left a half bottle of wine on the yard for the homeless person to drink and felt very magnanimous about the whole thing. I laughed along confusedly and returned to my book. Next thing I knew, Candice had whipped out her pink camera, and Jason was next to my seat, camera in my face with images of green pastures with half bottle of wine, saying in a sing-song voice “Bumyard!” I would laugh agreeably and a minute later I would hear in my right ear “Oh, look! BUMyard!”

Aaron and I have taken the term “bumyard” to describe anything now. Examples:

“I told you it was goign to rain. Oh, BUMYARD!”

“Ugh. This leftover is not good anymore. Bumyard :(”

And sometimes I want to say “burn” instead of “bumyard” and it comes out as “burnyard” or “barnyard.”

And as I type this out I am realizing how ridiculous this is all sounding. Back to the pictures!

Here we are on the train to Florence:

As much as we loved the chattering of Jason and "Candice," we escaped to the dining carriage for some quiet time.

As much as we loved the chattering of Jason and "Candice," we escaped to the dining carriage for some quiet time.

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First course: linguini with spicey tomato sauce. The waitor / cook came over with a big platter full of steaming pasta and served it on to our plates. Yum!

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Second course: pork medallions with mushrooms. The pork was…very hard…I would not recommend.

Our waitor preparing the food in the small kitchen

Our waiter preparing the food in the small kitchen. First course: linguini with spicey tomato sauce. The waiter / cook came over with a big platter full of steaming pasta and served it on to our plates. Yum!
We felt like we were in a movie!

We felt like we were in a movie!

We arrived in Florence and walked about 5 blocks from the train station to the car rental place. We got a Mercedes by pure luck (yay!) and drove to Montepulciano, about an hour and a half. Unfortunately, I had taken a Dramamine on the train in order to not get motion sickness, and it really did not kick in until we were in the car. I white knuckled it until I got Aaron safely on the highway, then I handed him the GPS and promptly passed out. We got to Montepulciano and proceeded to drive around the city center four times before we were able to reach our hotel. Our hotel was in the city center, which basically looked like this:

monte map

Now, imagine that these streets are all one ways. And on a 45 degree incline. With lots of buildings that come very VERY close to your car when you try to turn. And when you do turn you scraped your rental Mercedes. We don’t have to imagine any of those things because they happened to us!

Fortunately by the time we turned the car in, the car was covered in dust so the scratch was not visible. Also the scratch was minuscule, so all’s well that ends well!

Hotel:

Osteria del Borgo

via Ricci 53045 Montepulciano (SI)
Tel.0578757370
Tavern‚Ķ…0578716799

Our hotel was a very nice place, very clean and romantic, and at the top of the city center. It was next to the main piazza and chapel, surrounded by the civil museum, two restaurants, and the main wine house. But because of the harrowing driving memories, I forgot to take any pictures! But here are some from the web:

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The hotel was owned by a family who has a wine bar and a terrace attached to the hotel. They were so nice and gave us directions many times. The bathroom had a nice big tub with bath salts and fizzies provided. It was also very clean and had a full kitchen. I highly recommend it if you don’t mind the drive!

We then walked next door to the best restaurant in town, where I once again forgot to take pictures. It’s a good thing I have an encyclopedic food memory. For appetizer, we had bread with lardo (french bread topped with cured pork fat and toasted). For our courses, Aaron got the cheese ravioli and I had lasagna. Then we shared the tiramisu, and I had one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had. I highly recommend this place! If you go to the hotel you will surely see it, because it is the only dinner restaurant in the piazza. Our waiter was a young guy with a ponytail (he made a very good wine recommendation), very courteous, and the owner was a very nice woman in her 40s with very curly hair.

See you in the morning!

Ah, the pleasure of waking up and knowing that you’re in Rome!

For breakfast, we went to a very cute orange juice cafe we saw the night before in Piazza Santa Maria (in Trastevere). I tried to go the night before but when we saw it we were going to go eat dinner, then go back, but by then they were closed. I know, fascinating!

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Orange juice with a glass of ice separately, lemon gelato, and a cheese and tomato panini.

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I am apparently still sleepy.

I am apparently still sleepy.

After all that juice, I naturally had to do an act of nature. I went inside the cafe to use their restroom, which was next to the bar. The bartender shouted “no no no nono!” as I reached for the door handle. He smiled and said “someone in there.” So I waited my turn. When I went in, I discovered that there was no lock on the door. And while I was in there, I heard the bartender say twice “nono no no no!” It was very funny.

Then we went to the Pantheon, which was more amazing than I thought it would be / can describe. While we were in Rome, there was some sort of pollen that was visibly floating in the air. They looked like tiny cotton balls floating in the air. Since the Pantheon is open air, the pollen could be seen near the oculus, looking like little fairies floating about.

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Aaron unaware that he was being photographed.

Still unaware and jetlagged

Still unaware and jet lagged

Now for more interesting pictures:

A cool fresco we saw

A cool fresco we saw

Aaron's opinion of the fresco.

Aaron's opinion of the fresco.

Heehee.

After the Pantheon, we walked around for about 45 minutes trying to find a restaurant I had mapped out. 40 minutes into it I wanted to give up and try a cute restaurant we had seen while we were trying to find the original restaurant. Aaron was determined to find the original restaurant, but after we saw it, we decided to eat at the cute little restaurant we had seen earlier:

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A sweet, light, and smooth chardonnay

A sweet, light, and smooth chardonnay

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I liked it.

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The weather was perfect as we sat in the little alley way. Just absolutely perfect. One of the best meals I’ve ever had, but not just because of the food.

Aaron had a plate of various cured meats: boar (surprisingly fatty, YOM), deer, and pork.

Aaron had a plate of various cured meats: boar (surprisingly fatty, YOM), deer, and pork.

I had the seafood linguini.

I had the seafood linguini.

The linguini here was NOT cooked al dente. Therefore, authentic! Also, they gave us complimentary limoncello for dessert! We had limoncello at Nana’s earlier, and were unable to drink it because it was so strong. Limoncello here was served with ice, which made it much easier to drink.

That day was warmer than usual, and so we went to rest in the hotel until it cooled down. Then it was dinner time!!

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We got a bit lost looking for this restaurant because the GPS only recognized the street name, not the address. As we were walking, we saw an older gentleman who reminded me of the professor at Rice I used to work for, walking around with the same Gourmet book. My thought was to follow him, Aaron’s thought was to out run him so that we could get a table before he does. Hmm. We saw a restaurant that fit the description, and sure enough, the gentleman was already sitting down with the book before him. Aaron said “is this the restaurant?” not having seen the man and I said “Yup! This is it.” He said “Are you sure??” and I said “100%.” Then he saw the guy and we both laughed! Near the end of the meal, the man knocked over his half bottle of wine, but he didn’t seem to mind, and proceeded to drink the rest of the unspilled bottle.

Here is the restaurant information:

Ne Arte Ne Parte (in the Gourmet book, the name of the restaurant was La Luna Piena. I guess they changed their name because the address is the same. The review in the book still fits the restaurant so I think it is just a name change).

Via Luca della Robbia 15/17

06 5750279

This lively restaurant uses excellent fresh produce from the Testaccio market just across the street. The soups, pastas, and vegetable dishes are all excellent, the pollo alla romana (chicken with onions, tomatoes, and peppers) is delectable, and the coda alla vaccinara (oxtail braised with celery) is superb.

We were very thirsty.

We were very thirsty.

A delicious bottle of wine

A delicious bottle of wine recommended again by our waiter. I found that in Italy, it was generally a good idea to take suggestions on wine by waiters. After all that have probably drank enough of it to know! Unless, of course, your waiter was an absolute idiot (albeit a nice idiot). More on that later.

Pasta de nete parte, their specialty. The waitor recommended it to us. I was skeptical because it didn't have any meat in it (let's call a spade a spade) but he assured us it was delicious. Sure enough, it was probably the best pasta dish I had in Italy. It was a simple dish of thinly sliced zucchini, some kind of smoked cheese, and halved cherry tomatos. DELICIOUS!

Pasta de Ne Arte Ne Parte, their specialty. The waiter recommended it to us. I was skeptical because it didn't have any meat in it but he assured us it was delicious. Sure enough, it was probably the best pasta dish I had in Italy. It was a simple dish of thinly sliced zucchini, some kind of smoked cheese, and halved cherry tomatoes. DELICIOUS!

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I got the oxtail braised in tomato sauce and celery. Highly recommended.

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Aaron got the Osso Buco, which was not as good but did have some bone marrow.

As you may have noticed, our limited budget for the trip quickly turned from spending money on going to museums and historic centers to spending it on food and drinks. I can’t help it, I love food more than I love art!

Done!

Done!

A happy and full boy

A happy and full boy

We got bored waiting for the check:

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Good night!