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Italy Tour, the final day

Tuesday was bittersweet as we knew it was our final day together and we enjoyed each other’s company so much! Fabio whisked us away to il Falconiere, which is a luxury resort just outside of Cortona, owned by Riccardo and Silvia Baracchi. Silvia taught today’s cooking class and we learned about the art of cheese making, rolled out by hand the traditional pici pasta, made a tomato sauce for the pasta, a caramelized eggplant that is sweet and spicy to enjoy on the sheep’s milk ricotta cheese that we made, and of course we enjoyed their estate wines, as well. The weather held for our last day and since we were above the morning fog line,  it was gorgeous. Warm, sunny, clear skies, and we dined on the terrace which made it even better. We discussed highlights of the trip, favorite foods/wines/moments, and began getting feedback on what each member of the group would have liked to do differently. Everyone agrees that it is so very difficult to articulate the special qualities of this trip, due to the immersion experience that they could not have gotten with anyone else. It feels really great to be affirmed in such a way.

We pried ourselves away from the lunch tables and went into the walled city of Cortona to enjoy it for just a few more hours. Mark and I just walked the streets that we love so much, enjoyed a few of the shops and looked for friends to say arrivaderci to. We were sad that we did not find Ivan, from our first day at il Pozzo, though we were able to say ‘ciao’ to his wife and daughter. On the way out of town we spied Giovanni leading a group of school kids on a tour and we waved and shouted our farewells from across the piazza. While we had been sitting at an outdoor cafe watching the people go by, we noticed our driver, Fabio, sneaking into the gelato shop for an afternoon treat, waving to us and ‘ciaoing’ all the way. We felt very at home and I will miss this place very much. I don’t know when we will get back, as a return trip is never a sure thing, so it was a lovely way to say goodbye for now. Have I mentioned how amazing the weather has been? Truly, the nicest it has ever been. I couldn’t have planned it better, myself!

We ambled back to the van and headed to Poggio al Sole for our last dinner together in Italy. Benadetta created a beautiful buffet for us, several of the group brought wine, Judy and Susie had their ipod plugged in and as always there was much singing, dancing and laughing. The group surprised Mark with a birthday cake and well wishes, and they also surprised Shannon and Jerry with an anniversary cake and well wishes. We knew that Benadetta’s uncle Stephano was ready to get us ‘home’, so we began to bid our farewells. It took about a half an hour! They got Stephano to dance, which shocked Benadetta and her mother, Lala! A few of the group gave us thank you gifts, which was overwhelming and beyond generous. We finally slipped away and got back to our own bed and breakfast for some sleep before our exit in the morning.

We filled Benedatta’s agriturismo with our group, and Doumina had another house guest, so we have been staying at her neighbor: Locanda della Luna, which is another agriturismo, about 2.5 miles from Poggio al Sole. Our hostess, Maria, made us very comfortable on this rustic, working farm, and our breakfast each day was very enjoyable. It was dark and quiet at night, and each morning either Fabio would pick us up before the group, or we would walk up the hill and meet him there. It was a lovely walk and only a little scary with the hunters shooting all around us. We heard many stories of all the injuries and deaths this year from the hunters, though I have no idea if they were true or not. Each evening after dinner Stephano drove us back to Maria’s to sleep. Maria is as sweet as can be and it is a nice pace to stay, for sure.

We are off to Siena and then flying out of Florence, where we will celebrate Mark’s birthday with dinner at Trattoria Sostanza. Ciao for now!

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Italy Tour Day 6

St Francis was very special. We got to go to Assisi and see the original little chapel (known as Porziuncola) that he built, which is housed in the Basilica dedicated to St Mary of the angels. This is the 7th largest church in all of Christianity, and the 4th largest church in Italy, so you may be able to imagine how big it is. The facade is ‘new’, a they say, having been created in the 1300’s. We did not spend a ton of time down there (it is not in the famous hill town) because town itself and the giant basilica where he is buried has more to offer by way of interesting and important things to see. The Porziuncola is quite special and we had to take the opportunity to see it, and everyone loved it. I watched the looks on their faces as they began to realize what they were looking at and that was a highlight of the trip for me! Our guide was very interesting and knowledgable, with a touch of theatrical for fun. He took us up the hill to the basilica dedicated to St Francis and we spent a while touring it because it is 3 floors and contains quite a lot of important art, history, and of course the body of St Francis. What a remarkable man he was! He helped put Cortona, Tuscany, Assisi and Umbria on ‘the map’ in many ways, and founded the Franciscan Order, the Order of the St Clares, and the 3rd Order… in other words he was a busy man. His teachings reach across and beyond all religion, as he truly understood the theory of relativity, and our ‘oneness’ with everything.

After the tour Mark and I walked up the hill town to enjoy a gelato, an espresso, and then further on a glass of local wine in a cute little shop in an alley. We joined back up with the group to head over to the Terre Margaritelli estate for a winery tour, cooking class, and dinner. Jennifer McIlvaine moved to Umbria 6 years ago to join her now husband Federico Bibi, who was making olive oil for several years. (We use his Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the cafe, for finishing our soups, salads and other dishes whenever we need a premium olive oil.) She was an accomplished chef and now they have the perfect trilogy: Cooking, Olive Oil and great wine! We got a winery tour after the cooking class and learned about the estate’s organic practices and small wine production. Our cooking lesson included an Umbrian flatbread that was cooked on the stove, stringozzi pasta with 1/2 farro flour and a mushroom ragu, roasted sausages and grapes, and tiramisu. Dinner was delicious! During the tour Doumina conspired via Skype with our friend Rob from Ambrosia Wine Importers. We finalized plans to have Federico come to the cafe on November 7th in the afternoon for a winemaker’s lunch and tasting. It will be so fun and we hope you can stop by!

The trip back was another beautiful drive through the countryside, and since Stephania (of Sunday’s olive grove) had joined us for the day, she told us stories about St Maraget, who followed in Francis’ footsteps and is the saint that the Cortonese Basilica is dedicated to. Stephania’s voice is so lovely and the story compelling, so we thoroughly enjoyed it and were sad to see her leave us when we got back to town. Tomorrow is our final full day together.

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Italy Tour Day 5

On this Italy adventure, as in life (albeit extremely magnified) each day holds special gifts. This morning we were supposed to have gone on a truffle hunt in the Tuscan countryside, and then have a lunch featuring that fine fungus. The weather here has been very dry since May and there are no truffles to hunt, so we were invited to a family farm to learn about the olive harvest, instead. This is the kind of experience that I am unable to articulate to you in the itinerary, though it is the heart of why we are here. This is the family of a friend of Doumina’s, and we went to their private home to invade their private Sunday, and they couldnot have been more gracious or hospitable. 15 strangers pull up in a van that is too big to take the steep and narrow driveway, so we walk the last bit. We help them gather the necessary tools and trek off into the olive orchard.

The nets are placed under the trees, which we are told will provide about 40% less of a crop this year, due to the drought. This mix of 3 families expects to yield 50 liters of oil each, or 150 liters total, and it is jut for their private use, it is not for sale commercially. Fabio, Alessandro and Stephania show us how to strip the trees of the olives, being careful to make sure they land in the nets and not on the ground. The 2 men take turns getting up into the trees and reaching the higher olives for us, as we all find different jobs to do. Some of us gather sticks and stake up the nets to make a ‘bowl’ so the olives don’t just roll out. Other jobs include shaking the olives to the bowl of the net and keeping the nets straight and the olives from underfoot.Raking the olives down from the higher branches and picking those down on the branches closest to the ground.

We made good work of the better part of 3 trees, and we are rather sure that they would have gotten much ore done without us, though they were very sweet to guide us through the process and include stories of the history of what we were doing. They brought refreshing drinks into the orchard and as we cleaned up the tools and made our way back everyone was feeling as though they had a good day. It was nice to be outside in the sun doing a little physical labor. When we got back to the house there was a table set up on the porch where we enjoyed Sunday lunch with the family. First there was a mix of different sausage, salami, bread, soprasetta, proscuitto, fresh sheep cheese (2 months old, since sheep aren’t milking right now) and medium age sheep cheese (6 months), bruschetta and of course wine. They had already had some of the oil pressed and so we got to taste the new oil (heavenly) and then they brought out a bottle of last year’s oil so we could see the differences in color and taste. More food was passed all around, and I tried to warn everyone that this was just the antepasta, that the pasta course would arrive still, but it was difficult to resist these delicious treats on the table.

The pasta was fusilli all’Amatriciana, a bit spicy and molto delisioso! More wine flowed and singing ensued, because with this group the singing and music is as much a part of our day as the food and wine. the family who was so sweet to host us joined in the dancing (only Stephania speaks fluent English, her husband speaks very good English, and the rest of the family speaks very little or none) and we felt like a special part of their lovely family for the day. Every single one of us completely understood how unique and special this day was, and everyone took as much pleasure as possible from each moment. It was truly magical!

Before any of that even took place, on the way up to the farm, we discovered that the Etruscan burial site that had been closed the other day when we tried to go, was now open, so we went in. The Etruscans lived here 6000 years before Jesus Christ and these tombs and sites are being found everywhere. This one has was discovered in the late 90’s and they have been carefully uncovering the site ever since. There is a stairway to a temple, and 3 buriel grounds on the site. There is a river that is making things difficult and they are having to reroute it over one site, so they can get to the other 2 bigger sites, first. It is really amazing to be able to see what they are doing and what is being uncovered. The Eruscan families buried here were very rich, and much of the gold jewelry and pottery being found is taken to the museum, though there are pictures of it on the walls of a makeshift building that we went into. They had renditions of what they thought the site looked like originally, and what it looked like at different stages of the archaeological dig. When I was here 6 years ago there was no fence around it, and we could walk right up to the dig. This time they have learned to keep people out and we could view it from a platform above.  This is the part of the trip that I always wonder if people will like. Will our guests love this history and be amazed at the age and beauty of what we are seeing? Well of course! Thank goodness, they do love it as much as I do and appreciated that little stop very much.

When we got back to Poggio al Sole everyone retreated to various napping places while a few of us took turns getting a great massage. Dinner was a light soup and salad (well, it was a hearty Ribollita, and it was not exactly super light, but compared to the rest of the meals we have had it was very light!) and I was glad to know that my  menu choice was perfect for everyone. No one wanted a full meal and we enjoyed the comfort of the rustic soup. We got to bed about an hour and a half earlier than usual and I was very happy for that!

Today we go to visit Assisi, another wine-maker, have a pasta making class, and I am sure there will be more singing. This is a dream come true and it is so beautiful to share it with these special people who have joined us. Ciao for now!

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Italy Tour day 4

I hope you will forgive me if my brain is mush; I just had the treat of a massage and It was rather a good one. Today was a very special day and relaxing in many ways, which I will get to in a minute. But first, Orvieto! Yesterday was my first visit to that lovely hill town and while it was far more full of tourists than I love in a town, the duomo was beyond worth the stop, not to mention the views, charming shops, a tower to climb and more. Fabio first drove us to the estate winery Altarocca. Emilio gave us a tour of the vineyards, showed us the winemaking process and even let us taste some of the wine out of the barrel. This was a rare treat to be able to experience, as we would then get to compare the flavors with the fully aged wine at lunch. The family has converted this property into a premier resort, with a fine-dining restaurant, spa, wedding facilities and more. After the tour we shared an elegant 3-course lunch in the luxurious dining room, and we got to taste all 6 of their very delicious wines. Every wine we taste on this tour is unique and the wines of Altarocca are no exception. Learning about the entire process makes it taste all the better, of course, and helps us to really appreciate the nuances of each one. Getting to know the families and the stories behind them make each one exra special and this group seems to especially appreciate that fact.

After lunch we headed to the hill town and expectations were high based on the views of it on the way up. We parked in a lot at the base of the hill and Elisabeta, our tour guide for the afternoon, took us to the funicular, which was like a little train car on a track, that got us about half way up the hill. From there a bus got us the rest of the way to the Cathedral, which for me was an absolute highlight of the trip. This Gothic church was built in the 14th century and my favorite part, the Signorelli Chapel, was added 100 years later. Fra Angelico and Benozzo Gazzoli started the frescoes that adorn every inch of the interior, and Lucca Signorelli (A father of the Renaissance and influencer of Michelangelo) finished this masterpiece. I held my breath in anticipation as we entered and was not disappointed on any level. My eyes welled up with tears as I was overwhelmed by the realization of where I was and what I was seeing. I have loved Signorelli’s work for nearly 30 years and this is the finest example of it that I have ever seen. And it took my breath away. Elisabeta did a fantastic job of explaining what we were looking at and helping us to make sense of the immense panels of pigment over our heads. We made our way over to a Pieta by Ippolito Scalza and I was again overwhelmed with emotion. This phenomenal work was carved out of a single block of Carrera marble in 1570-1580 and you can walk right up to it! My favorite Pieta is Michelangelo’s final work that is actually unfinished, in the Museo del’Duomo in Florence, which I stumbled upon a few years ago. This one is my 2nd favorite, it is so detailed that the carved marble seems to move as fabric. It is more proportionally correct than many of the others and the emotion carved into the faces is palpable. And you can walk right up to it and touch it! I am still in awe of this entire experience. The facade of the Cathedral is beyond beautiful and I could have spent an hour just studying that.

Mark and I walked the town a little and he walked up the tower, while I got lost and had to run back up the hill after taking a wrong turn and getting distracted by the architecture of the area. We made our way back down to Fabio and the drive back was rather quiet as several of the group fell asleep. We had dinner out at CantaNapoli, a wonderful restaurant that Mark and I enjoy visiting each time we come, and the whole group had a great time at a casual and fun dinner. The restaurant is lively, has great pizza and seafood because the owners are from Naples. Doumina surprised me by bringing our friend Corina to dinner and it was really fun catching up wiht her, too. When finally got back to the B&B and my head hit the pillow, I was very much asleep!

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Italy tour, day 3

Well hello there! It has come to my attention that I have been entirely remiss an not mentioned our tour coordinator. Doumina Whyman, The Enthusiastic Traveler, La regina d’il mio cuore (the queen of my heart), the entire reason we are here in Italy. How can I take it for granted that you all know about her? I talk about her so much in my life that I think I just overlooked mentioning this beautiful, amazing woman here on my blog. Well, that is ridiculous. I met Doumina (say: “Doo-mee-nuh”) over 6 years ago, glommed on to her arm and never let go. She created this tour for me and allows me to say it is mine. We love Doumina for cultivating the relationships that we have blossomed into our friendships in Italy. Today she took us to Avignonesi,

Today she arranged for us to visit the Avignonesi estate. I have been to this beautiful plae before, but it was 6 years ago and this visit, with this group, was even better. The estate is famous and I was surprised and excited to learn that they are becoming a ‘biodynamic’ winery. From Wikipedia: “As a practical method of farming, biodynamics embodies the ideal of ever-increasing ecological self-sufficiency just as with modern agro-ecology, but includes ethical-spiritual considerations. This type of viticulture views the farm as a cohesive, interconnected living system.

I find this exciting because Avignonesi is an important name in the wine world, and the fact that they are setting such a strong example in this area of viticulture could mean more attention is paid to the biodynamic style. This is beyond organic, more than paying attention to chemicals. It is an ancient practice that is new again, and if a large estate such as this can do it, certainly others can as well.

While they make many world-class wines here, the process of making Vin Santo, the Tuscan dessert wine, is the most interesting process to see. They dry the grapes, as in the beginning of making Amarone, but they take the sugars much further, and Avignonesi does it better than anyone else in the world. We tasted 5 of their wines after the tour (not the Vin Santo) and we ended in the gift shop where a few of us splurged on their special premium tasting. They had a deal on it for harvest season so we jumped on the chance to taste their very best wines, including the Vin Santo. It was a treat to taste these amazing wines, and when it came time to  sip the nectar of the Gods, it was everything we thought it could be, and more. They actually make 2 types of dessert wine, one is a red Vin Santo, with the sangiovesi grape, which no one else makes. The other is the regular white Vin Santo, though there is nothing ‘regular’ about it. They age their Vin Santo 10 years, taking it so far beyond what anyone else has attempted to do that it is not even in the same class. This is not a fortified wine, in fact it is only about 14.5% alcohol. It is a rich amber color, and it coats the glass like a grade A maple syrup would. The taste is multi-layered, and entirely unique. It is a dessert wine, but it stands on it’s own. It is the only wine that I have ever tasted that would not be enhanced by food. A 325 ml bottle of this wine (half bottle of wine) would set you back 210 euros. That would be close to $260. Dana got the red: Occhio di Pernice (say it: oak-yo dee pear-nee-chee) which is less expensive, at 180 euro for the 325 ml bottle. It was very fun to compare the two and experience these fantastic wines. I have never tasted such high end wines before and it is not likely that I will again, and it was definitely worth doing, especially being able to share it with the others in the group.

Fabio drove us back to the agriturismo and we enjoyed lunch together on the patio, because it has been absolutely gorgeous here. The mornings are cool and foggy, turning to delicious sun and blue skies by noon. The evenings are clear and cool, and at night it gets rather brisk, which is so perfect. We dine ‘al fresco’ as often as possible and whenever we have ‘alone time’ you can find almost all of us outside somewhere. We had a group cooking lesson later in the afternoon and we watched and assisted Benedetta in making our dinner: Crostini with sausage and pecorino cheese; Gnocchi with porcini sauce (I posted a picture of the gnocchi rolling on the cafe Facebook page); pork tenderloin wrapped in pancetta, and topped with a sauce of tapenade and vin santo (NOT the Avignonesi!); and I don’t know what to call dessert so I will describe it: in a pretty glass we placed a piece of chocolate-chocolate chip sponge cake (the batter type, not the foam type), then drizzled a few spoons of sweetened espresso over it to soak. She then mixed her home made ricotta (sheep’s milk in this region) with fresh mascarpone, a few egg yolks, whipped cream, sugar and sambuca folding it all together to make a light and delicious cream. It was topped with crunchy bits of meringue and some cocoa powder. It was really delicious, and we think the best meal there so far, and I am sure that being able to help and watch the process made it even tastier. We shared the wine that Alessandro Bocci sent with us after  visiting Perazetta (thanks ‘Sandro!) and declared it another fabulous day in Italy.

Saturday we will head to Orvieto, a hill town in Umbria, to visit one of our wine makers and the beautiful church in the town. I hope you are enjoying something delicious today! I will try to take more pics with my tablet so I can post them on Facebook for you again.

Ciao for now!

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Italy Tour Day 2

The group grew by 2 for today, as we picked up a fun couple from Seattle to join us in Pienza and at our winemaker’s, Perezetta. Pienza is a very scenic town and they filmed the English Patient there. A hill town surrounded by fields of sheep (this is the heart of pecorino country) and wheat, vineyards and olive trees. The fields are turned right now and the rich color of the soil contrasts beautifully with the greens and silvers all around. The drive is a bit long and very curvy so we are lucky to have great views.

Our first stop is la Cornucopia, a sweet little shop steeped in Slow Food. Every article in the store is artisanally made, and the reason we are there is to taste balsamic vinegars. This may sound odd to those of you who have never tasted fantastic balsamic, as it did to me before my first visit to this store. There are many different styles (the white balsamic was a big hit), variations (no one cared for the chocolate flavored vinegar), and ages (the 22 year old balsamic is heaven on my tongue) to explore. We even had a little vinegar on gelato! We also tasted some pecorino and some special conserves from the region. Then we were all off to explore and shop for about an hour.

I picked up my round of pecorino in walnut leaves that is my tradition to take home, visited a church that I had not seen before (I love going in them!) and walked the path on the edge of town to enjoy the unequaled views. Mark and I saw a group of people on an artist’s tour, and they were all painting the view and getting help from an instructor. It looked like a fun way to travel for artists. It was almost time to be back at the bus when I discovered a cermics shop that was very different from the others. Every beautiful piece was done by the owner/artist and I love her work. Linda Bai is her name, and she has a web site so you can see her work, as well.

We got back and saw that many big tour buses had come to town (I have never seen it like this before) and our driver, Fabio, was very smart to park way down the street with all the big buses behind him. The street is quite narrow and no one could leave until one particular bus moved, so there was a big blockage of buses and a farmer with a truck full of pigs, and lots of cars stuck behind it. We headed out of town and on to Perezetta. The group got a tour of the winery while I visited and got caught up with the Bocci family. Alessandro, Rita and their daughter Sara work this business together, farming and making really wonderful wine. Sara is a new mommy and when I saw her last Emma had only been discovered inside her one day before. Emma is now 16 months old and exceedingly cute! Daddy took her away for a nap, as she was stealing the show.

We had lunch with the family on the terrace (Sara is an accomplished chef) and tasted their wines all the while. The Boccis are very generous and everyone felt like family by the end of the meal. Some of them even did the dishes, which shocked and delighted our hosts, as no one has ever done that before! I have to say, this group has a really special vibe together, and it is incredible to watch them enjoy themselves. On the drive back there was much singing and joking, and as tired as everyone was, they were planning to make a light dinner together when we got back. They enjoyed themselves so much that we returned 2 hours later than we had planned to, because no one wanted to leave the Bocci family!

Today (it is Friday morning here, while for you it is still Thursday evening) we will visit Avignonesi, a very old winery, and then we will learn to make gnocchi together, up at Benedetta’s. We will help prepare a 4 course meal and enjoy it together, which is the best part, of course! It will be a lighter day, which is great, and I have a feeling more singing will be heard.

We hope you are all finding some laughter in each of your days, as well. Ciao for now!

 

 

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Italy, The Tour, Day 1

Well I can officially say that Italy is a big hit! We have a fantastic group and they are all loving this place as much as I do, which is so completely satisfying. Yesterday was day 1, we went into the walls of Cortona and had about an hour to wander the streets and shops. Then we met with Ivan (Ee-Vahn) at his shop il Pozzo (the well) and got the most interesting history lesson, complete with visual aids of pottery relics found below his shop and more. We enjoyed his bread with hot toppings: tomato/juniper, pesto and chicken liver ‘pate’. He makes the best! Some wine, sheep cheese and nuts.. and his charming shop filled with beautiful local art, ancient maps, handmade stationary and leather goods…

Our Cortona guide, Giovani, picked us up and escorted us throughout the hill town explaining the architecture, art, history, culture and traditions, helping us to see everything through the eyes of the ancients. We cannot post pictures until we get home, I’m sorry to say, but you will get lots of them, indeed. There is not much point in me taking a few shabby pics to show you when you will be in for such a visual treat with Mark’s pics when we get home.

The weather was lovely, sunny and mild, and it felt really good to be out and traipsing up and down the hills of my favorite hill town. Fabio picked us up in the van and took us almost all the way up to the top to see the Basilica, the beauty of which stunned everyone in the group. We visited le Celle, where St Francis stayed (it was one of his homes away from Assisi because his family was here) and this, by the way, is still a working Franciscan Hermitage. There are a couple of older Friers who are always there, and a few younger ones who cycle through. We didn’t see them, but we enjoyed this beautiful place.

Next we visited Signore Landi at the olive pressing mill. Harvest is just starting and it is still quiet at the mill, so we got a nice tour and explanation and then the best part: Olive Oil! Sr. Landi toasted bread on the fire, topped it with a little salt and drenched it in fresh, new olive oil. It is the best in the world! Everyone was lapping it up and of course the farmer’s wine to go with it made it even better.

On the way back to Poggio al Sole for our dinner of Chianina beef, a specialty only in this area, I asked Fabio to stop at Alimentari Claudio, which is a little grocery store. Now I know that sounds boring, stopping at a grocery store, but trust me, it is not. They have a fantastic ‘deli’ counter with cured meats that they produce right in the store, local and other cheeses, and oh so much more. The entire group loved exploring the aisles and picking up goodies for the week. At dinner it was apparent that everyone enjoyed this first day in the most special of ways, as we always hope and intend. We were all tired and ready for sleep by the end.

Dinner was simple and elegant, prepared by Benedetta: toasted bread topped with prosciutto-wrapped, warm local sheep cheese and olive tapenade; then farro and white bean soup, then the delicious steak with roasted potatoes, quince and onions. We ended with a lovely, light dessert of lady fingers sandwiching cloudlike mascarpone and macerated local berries. Their wine accompanied, of course! We are all feeling so nourished and happy!

Today we head to Pienza and Perezetta… I must get ready to go whisk them away! Ciao for now!

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Italy, part Uno, finale

Monday October 15

Up, but not quite as early as we planned. We had a big day of site seeing ahead and were ready to roll. After our morning macchiati, Mark and I headed across the street from our apartment to check out the neighborhood church St Eufemia. I thought it would be a little church so when we walked into a giant one it was a surprise! It was really beautiful; the current church was built in the 14th century, though the original was probably from the 11th or 12th centuries. I even saw a painting that included Santa Monica, which I have never seen before, so that was extra fun!

We went around the corner to check out a little deli we had seen but never been in because it was always too early or too late. They had a great variety of vegetables and salads, whole roast chickens turning on a spit, wines and olive oils, bread, cheese and salumi. We grabbed a few things for breakfast and went back to eat before picking mom and dad up for the day. We decided then to go back later and get fixings for dinner so we could have a lighter meal in the comfort of our apartment. It was a great idea!

We got mom and dad and walked to the Duomo. The next stop on our itinerary was St Anastasia. It was raining the whole time and we were beginning to get rather wet. We hoofed it over to Torre dei Lamberti and climbed 289 steps to the view platform. We spent some time up there enjoying the panaramic vistas and then decided it was time for lunch. We wandered away from the touristy center and looked for a place to eat and finally found a dark little place that looked good and we enjoyed a light lunch, out of the rain. After lunch we started out for the next site on our itinerary. But wait! We spotted an artisinal gelato shop and of course we had to go in! Support the local independents, right? Right! It was so delicious, I had the saffron (yes, really) and it tasted like saffron! Mark wasn’t as fond of it as I was. He enjoyed his flavor, though. We started out again and lo and behold, an espresso bar! So we refueled and finally made it to the Teatro Romano and Museo Archeological.

It had now been a long day of walking in the rain from site to site, and mom and dad decided to go back to their B&B for some rest before dinner. Mark and I decided to use the time we had left to see more, so we kept going. We were pretty soaked, my coat was like a sponge, and as were his shoes. But it was warm, and just water, so we didn’t care too much. We walked along the river and through a newer neighborhood, then crossed a bridge to St Zeno’s church.

Next was the Castel Vecchio bridge and then, luckily, Mark looked at the time. It was 5:45! We had to meet mom and dad back at our apartment in 45 minutes! We walked more quickly to get to the deli and pick out dinner. We were supposed to have pre-ordered the roast chicken, though we didn’t know that. When I asked for one she told us the next bach would’t be ready until 7:30, and we could get one then if we wanted to. So we ordered it, picked out all the accompaniments and wine, and Mark returned at 7:30 to pick it up. It was a lovely dinner, lighter than we had had (which was a really good thing) and casual and fun. Then off to bed for an early morning of packing and moving on to Cortona.

Tuesday, October 16
Farewell Verona, you were a lovely city for us. Up, packed and out, first espresso of the day and hopping a bus to the train station. On the train to Firenze, short wait and on the train to Cortona. Here we come! The entire group arrives this evening, we will enjoy a “getting to know you” dinner at their fabulous agrigurismo ‘Poggio al Sole‘ made by the wonderful Benedetta. Wednesday we start the tour and away we go!

Ciao for now!