Friday, June 13, 2008

Day 10 Friday June 13th 2008

It was a really late start today. Amber & Wendel left with the kids for Rome to go home; so they didn’t end up leaving until noon. Everyone lazed around the house kinda waiting but kinda loving the fact that it was a free day and you could do whatever you wanted. I decided I wanted to go to a restaurant supply place and called Susan to find out where to go.

The waitress at Pano & Vino had told me about Metro where all the restaurateurs go, and I really wanted to go there. When I called to ask her she said it was a wholesale place only and that I wouldn’t be able to get in. You had to have a special license from the Italian government. She said there were two other places in Deruta that had that kind of stuff and I should try them. I was happy because I had wanted to go look at ceramic history and kilns there, but never got to.

Everyone left and everyone left still couldn’t decide what to do. So I said I was leaving and going to the restaurant supply store. Josh sort of wanted to go to but is never really definitive if he wants to go for sure, because it might not be good, and then it would have been a waste of time.

When we got to Deruta, most shops were closed because we arrived at lunchtime. However as luck would have it again, we hit a ceramics festival. The artists were all coming to town today and you could paint your own pottery in the city center, on the piazza. We walked around and saw cool estrucan kilns you could walk into. They had these old Perugia chocolate box artwork that was used to make Perugia famous chocolate boxes in the kiln. They were really beautiful.

They call the type of ceramics here in Deruta majolica. There were lots of great pottery shops everywhere. They try to market ceramics to everyone, even to Wendel who plays guitars; too bad he had already left. The fountains and the decorations on the houses were all very interesting and made this town look very different from the rest we had seen. I love the fact they have plants hanging all around outside their houses. There were broken urns used to hold plants and beautiful ceramic statues.

Dad took Mavis to the playground since everything was so breakable. She wanted to swing herself and Dad let her. He didn’t know she couldn’t hold on very well and she went flying off and landed right on her face. Good thing Poppy was watching her.

I told Monica, whom I went to Italy with a few years ago, that I would find something cool for her and I thought I would find some great pottery here for her kitchen. The tiles ended up being really expensive and there weren’t any plates I fell in love with, so we will see what I end up finding to take back.

We found the first pizza equipment place. I had gone into a random store to ask directions because we couldn’t find it on our own. She said it was her brother that owned the store and he would come get us. After five minutes he showed up and we went and looked at his shop. He had huge machines and things for big operations not little equipment. I asked him in my broken Italian if he had the black cast iron pizza pans. I couldn’t understand why he said they don’t carry them anymore. It has something to do with the metal, but I am not sure. We bought two big pans for 9 euros each. I am excited to try them out when I get home.

We went to find the other place and couldn’t find that one either. But while we were there we saw a garden store. My mom wanted to get some seeds, after she tried my aggretti so we went to see what they had. They actually had a plant that just produces the blossoms for stuffing and frying so we bought those. They also had tons of cool bottles and bottling equipment for making your own wine or grape juice in my case. Too bad they are so big and breakable or I would take some stuff home.

Josh got tired of the scavenger hunt and decided to go do other things. I decided that I would try to go to Metro anyway because it was my free day and I hoped I might be able to get in anyway, although chances are it might be a fruitless effort. I decided to walk in through the “out” doors so I didn’t have to go by any check in desk. I did my normal body language that says “I know what I want and I’m on a mission, don’t bother me or ask me questions” look. Don’t make eye contact, keep walking, and fast. I knew I could always just speak English and play dumb if I had to. I made it in without anyone stopping me and once I was in I was stoked.

This place was like a Costco only stocked with primo food for the restaurant industry. They had everything. I started in the meat department and began to look at everything. Racks of meat and lots of different types of proscuitto and salami. They had the Caputo’s flour that I use for pizza so I know that is good. The salt that I pay 9.00 a bottle for was only 2,99 euros, so cheap! I’m not sure if I should buy some stuff. Do I want to take it home? Am I going to be so bold as to try to buy something here?

After I was in there for about 5 minutes, I turn around and my Dad was behind me. He walked in too, but through the front doors, he said the lady was busy and didn’t check. My mom was still sitting in the car, but my Dad didn’t come back to get her so she was afraid to bust in but didn’t want to miss anything by sitting in the car so she joined us too.

She started finding things she wanted so we decided we would try to buy stuff there. I got my clear vanilla extract booze and she got some bottles of mushrooms. We saw huge cans of tuna fish that Josh would have wanted but we didn’t know if he would want to take them back so we didn’t get them. I took pictures of lots of labels, just in case I ever open my own food store.

The produce there was incredible. I think the market people just come and get it here and then take it to the market. Maybe they are the only ones who have cars to do that. Or maybe they have the markets just for the tourists. The white button mushrooms were the size of lemons. The porcini one were almost as long as my hand. The oyster mushrooms were huge, and I have never seen them look as good as those ones, even in a Chinese market.

The artichokes were beautiful and still on long stems. There were so many types of tomatoes. I took pictures of all the varieties so I can grow them in Utah. The red cabbage almost looked black. I was surprised how much food was actually imported from other places. I guess in Italy they have to tell the country of origin. They had lots of seafood; Josh would have like that part. They had everything imaginable.

The cheese cave had so many varieties. I was surprised how heavy the wheels were. We took pictures of all the cheese for Josh. The one thing I couldn’t believe was that they had packs of pre-sliced cheese like we have in the US. I thought that was such a no no. The cheese we had been buying at the grocery store each morning was only 17 euro for 20 balls of buffalo instead of the 8 euros for 2 balls that we were paying. They had all types of tallegio cheese that is my brother’s favorite.

Another thing was they had was a huge isle of just gelato already made. So I wonder how many places just use this stuff. It was in the same metal containers and everything. So all they need to do is decorate with fruit. That really let the wind out of our gelato sails. Now we will have to look to see if it is truly artisianal before we eat it. They also had yummy toppings that we’ve had a couple of places.

After we got our goodies we went to pay for them and since we didn’t speak Italian they were really confused. The cashier was asking me for my card and I just kept giving her my Passport and my credit card. Frustrated she took me to the front desk to the other lady. I showed her the Pano &Vino card where they had written down where and what it was that I wanted. She must have looked up their account, wrote down the number and then sent me back to the cashier to pay. Thanks Pano & Vino!

Since we had an hour or two before we were going to meet Josh & Hiedi at Pano & Vino, I decided I wanted to try to find the farm that Salvator recommended to us, which was above Assissi. I wanted to see if it was any good and if it would be worth coming back to since we were very close. We just needed to go up the mountain to get to the place. We didn’t see the name for the place on the sign where the GPS was directing us but I decided to go up anyway. It was a bad decision.

I should have listened to Brit. It was raining really hard and Brit didn’t want to drive up the mountain. I really wanted to find the farm. We kept driving but it wasn’t anywhere to be found. So after 30 minutes we decided to come back down the mountain. It was raining so hard and we were so high up and the road was so narrow it was scary. The lesson learned is if you don’t see the sign, don’t go up the mountain because it wont be there. When we got back down the mountain I wanted to drive for a little bit further in the wrong direction, just to see if we could see the sign. Brit didn’t want to because I’m sure he thought if I found it we would have to drive up that mountain too and he really didn’t want to.

I didn’t push my luck. Brit is starting to get uncomfortable driving. We were joking saying in the car that I need to make a special air-cushioned ride out of bubble wrap for his privates. After two weeks of driving he is getting a little chaffed. But we found the sign for the agriturismo we were looking for. I stayed true to my word and once we found it we turned around. Brit was so happy. I was disappointed because I really wanted to see it. Another time, another reason to come back.

We met up with Josh & Hiedi at the restaurant. They were waiting for us by the beautiful view. Hiedi was feeding Jack and Mavis was playing around. This time we parked right in front of the restaurant; we are getting really bold now. Half on the street half off. The centerpiece was made of lemons and strawberries and wheat. Everything handmade.

I didn’t mind eating at the same restaurant, it was really good last time. I usually always want to try something new, but went with the majority who wanted to go back. They had a few different specials and we got a different lasagna which was good too. We had the half moon ravioli again fabulous. The Strangozzi with truffles, Josh got the beef carpaccio. Brit got the beef fillet grilled.

I got the pigeon with chicken liver sauce. Had I know it was chicken liver sauce I wouldn’t have gotten it, but the pigeon itself was really good. Mavis ate mst of it she wanted more chicken. Josh kept on trying to tell her that it was the birdies she was chasing in the park. She kept telling him no it’s chicken.

I got the pineapple again, Dad got the crème caramel and Mom had the polenta cake. Mom licked her plate clean and loved that dessert so much. I could tell she really liked it, so in Italian I wrote that I wanted the recipe. Then in my broken Italian and in their broken English we were able to communicate how to make most of it. They gave me the recipe for the cream part and then they gave me a book that had the cake in it so I took a picture of it. I’m sure that book has a lot of good recipes in it. It’s in Italian, but I bet I could figure it out. I will have to order the book when I get home.

Brit asked them the best gelato and they told us this place on the way out of town. It was really good and It was so pretty there. They had a big square outside with lights and it was beautiful and peaceful. The bridge as you leave the city was gorgeous. There was a cool store I saw on the way out that was closed but was a woodworker who made pictures out of inlaid wood. I’d like to go back there someday.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day 9 Thursday June 12th 2008

Tired again. Got home about 12:00 am. Journaled this morning and then cooked the wild asparagus and agretti for breakfast. It was yummy.

We left around 10:00 am to go to Orvieto. We went to the small town, set on a hill, just like almost every city in Italy. It was rainy and colder today. There was another cool water fountain on the way to the lookout point. First we went to the 250 foot well that took 10 years to build to hid the pope, called Pozzo di San Patrizio. When you got down to the bottom the water was so cold. Someone had actually dropped their camera down the well, it was so clear, you could see it on the bottom. It is amazing to think they built this whole thing by hand with no power tools.

When we got out we were looking at the view and Brit pretended to fall over the wall, which actually had a ledge on the other side. It was funny. Then since the kids didn’t see him do that, he acted like a monster and when the kids went to the wall he scared them from the other side.

When we were figuring out what to do next since it was raining, Mavis saw me put my Garmin into my bra, where I like to store things for safety and easy access since I don’t usually have pockets. She copied me and tried to put her map into her dress. It was a little big and cumbersome, but she managed to get it in there. When we asked her what she was doing she said, “it’s my stuff, you can’t get my stuff”. It was so funny!

After that we decided to go the underground caves in the city, which had been dug to hid things and probably people. On the way Hiedi found a cool typography store and the guy gave her some cool prints he had made. At the caves, there were kilns ceramic making tools and all kinds of “Butto” shuts, which are medieval garbage disposals. The kids loved this. At the end was a place where you could eat on a nice day. It had really cool wires going across it that sheltered from the sun and a bamboo grid that had ¾” bamboo about 18” on square. It was so awesome and looked spectacular.

At the water fountain we had a little fun. Wherever there is water kids will want to get wet, no matter if it is cold and rainy. We decided to go get lunch and drove to the side of town that was a little closer.

The road was so steep in parts of this city a 16% grade. After parking, which we weren’t sure was legal or not where we were, we got out and went to Trattoria dell Orso. They only had room for 4, without a reservation so Mom & Dad and Me & Brit decided to go. Then while we were sitting there, I asked Brit to trade with Hiedi, because we would be fine with pizza, and would actually like it even better. He swapped and all the kids and them went and had pizza and gelato.

The restaurant is just like you picture an Italian restaurant. Our meal was really good; they did this one dish with pureed fava beans, fennel and speck with pasta. It was so yummy. Then the eggplant parmesan was delightful too. The veggies, mixed escarole cooked, tasted delicious and was perfectly cooked. Our dessert was a good moist chocolate cake.

While we were there a group of 10 Italian men came in and had a typical lunch. That is why they couldn’t seat all of us because the restaurants are really small. It was funny to hear their voices and watch their body language as they talked. They had such deep voices. As each one talked they were so animated. They really did the Italian napkin thing, tucking it into their shirt when they ate pasta.

The kids loved gelato! It is fun to watch them lick the cones and keep them from dripping. I saw this cool book at the restaurant I want to check it out when I get home it is called “An Appetite for Umbria”. Everything in the book looked so good.

The streets were so narrow like in every city, but I got some good pictures of how really narrow it is. Our car was small but Josh & Hiedi’s were bigger because they bought a BMW to drive for 3 weeks while there and then they are going to sell when they get back. But seriously the streets are so small, I took pictures to show what we drove through everyday. If you make a turning mistake it’s not so easy to turn around.

As we walked down the street we saw these workers doing construction on the fourth or fifth floor of a building. They would fill up these small wheelbarrows and then hoist them up to the top. It was interesting to watch. I love how everything is decorated and on the outside of their houses.

Orvieto was so green and luscious. Maybe it was because it rained so it felt very wet. Mom had to take pictures everywhere!

On our way to the hot springs we went by the way of Lake Bosena, the largest lake in Europe. It was so massive, but so beautiful. The drive was incredible especially this little town called Pitigliano. There was a very neat castle there too. I would have like to walk through this town but natured called. Brit needed to pee so we had to head out. Don’t look at those pictures, their private. Dad was already asleep again as we left.

Entering Tuscany there began to be so many sheep all around. I stopped at this one because it was really scenic. When I stopped the car and got out I noticed that the guy was actually sheering his sheep. It was awesome and reminded me of my grandpa doing the same thing. The big sheep were so protective of the little lambs. Some of these sheep got mow hawk cuts too.

It was beautiful all around the countryside and there were rolling hills 360 degrees around. We stopped at a vineyard; the caretaker was using his scathe to clean up the grape vines. Since I planted grapes this year, I wanted to see the best way to rig them up. You could tell they have been doing this for centuries. It would be fun to come when the grape harvest was happening, and when the olives were being pressed.

We hit a little town called Saturina and that is where some of the best hot springs that the Romans have come to for years are located. It was crazy there, and they said it wasn’t even that busy. A typical Italian pilgrimage that I’m sure people came for miles to be cured in back in the day.

I didn’t bring a bathing suit on the trip, didn’t know I would be swimming, so I watched baby Jack. He is only a few months old. Everyone said they were so cool and they had a pile of rocks in the bottom so the rocks you sat on weren’t slippery or sharp to cut you. I saw lots of interesting Spedos and would have taken a few pictures if I wasn’t holding Jack. Also the man with the dog was typical Italian.

Everyone loved the hot springs and would have stayed there all day. The kids loved playing with Brit and putting all the gravel in his hair. Last night when we got into bed, he stunk like sulfur and pebbles were still falling out of his hair. We basically had to rip the kids out, but we knew we were headed for a 2-hour ride home. That was the favorite part of the trip for them.

We stopped and got gelato in Saturina. It was good! I wonder why is it so much better over here? Mavis decided her and Levi were going to get married it’s been a topic of conversation on the trip.

We tried to eat dinner at Mancinao in a place called Trattoria da Paolino but they didn’t have enough room for us. It was 8:30 so the restaurants are all full by then. We generally have been the first to a restaurant, which has been good with all the kids. We separated and Josh & Hiedi went to find their own dinner. We decide to eat over by Orvieto but it was still 1 hour away and that would make it 9:30.

For the sake of time we decided to eat on the side of the road somewhere so we found a place that looked busy and we stopped. Trattoria del Conte It was so good and the pasta was excellent. We had bucatini con pomodori al forno, gnocchi con sugo di spuntature di maiale e salsiccia, tortellini di carne fatti a mano all’etrusca, zite allo atracotto di spezzatino, umbrichelli all’amatriciana, and ravioloni di ricotta e spnachi burro e salvia. We had cotolette alla Milanese which were breaded veal cutlets.

For our side dishes we got fagiolini all’agro, green beans with lemon, peperonata, which were stewed type peppers, spinaci saltati, and insalata mista o verde. The owner of the restaurant, the father, was mad that we came in so late to the restaurant and that we had a lot of people. The daughter was very nice and tried her best to accommodate us. We tried to order a couple of other things but they were out, or maybe they just didn't want us to stay?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Day 8 Wednesday June 11th 2008

I woke up at 5:15 this morning and got on my computer to journal. We didn’t get home till 12:00 am as we packed it in again yesterday. I could tell we were going to get a late start, just because we got in so late last night. I journaled all morning and then we went to the bakery for some breakfast.

When we went to the bakery I tried to open the door but couldn’t and we thought they were still close. We were standing outside trying to figure out when they opened, reading their sign. I saw the lady in there but wondered why they wouldn’t be open. Then we realized we were opening the door the wrong way. We were laughing so hard at how dumb we were, but the funniest thing about it was to watch the lady try not to laugh or smile, since in their culture that would have been so rude. But we were laughing at ourselves about how dumb those Americans can be.

We got bread and pizza and then went to the supermarket to pick up some mozzarella di buffalotta. It was out in the case, but then we asked for it and they went and got some. It is like that with a lot of things over there. If you don’t see it, you need to ask. So we ate our salami we bought the day before with our bread and cheese and it was yumm-o.

We finally left and we headed off to Trevi; another old city on a hill. We found parking the weather looked grim. We decided to walk around the city. We found a neat linen shop and Hiedi and Mom bought a bunch of stuff there. While they were in there I took Mavis and walked down the street. We walked by a craftsman who was repairing a little vanity desk. We walked in; he could see we were watching him and I told Mavis he was making a princess desk. She was fascinated and wanted to show the other kids.

We went back but he was gone. So instead we sat down in front of a hotel that had a lot of chairs and tables out in front of it. We played restaurant and I ordered my meal from Braeton. Mavis wanted chocolate and ordered that. Levi wanted to be the waiter and told me what the specials were. The ladies cleaning the hotel could hear us outside and looked out the window to see what was going on. They just stood at the window and watched us. They were so fascinated we were playing. They even came down and got other people to watch us. Braeton wanted to talk about his girlfriend while we ate and that was pretty funny since he is only five. It was fun to pretend eat.

The streets and pathways are very intricate here too. I took a lot of pictures of them; I have gotten a lot of ideas for my house. Brit got a pastry and loved it and said I had to go have some; so we walked back to the bar and grabbed one. It was funny because Brit hates Nutella; I think just because the word has the word “Nut” in the title. He supposedly hates nuts and I’ve tried to give him Nutella before but he just crinkles his nose and wont eat it. As soon as I tasted it I knew it was Nutella, I asked the guy in front of Brit what was inside, cioccolata or nutella and he said Nutella. Yeah, another nut victory! I’m really still not sure what nuts he doesn’t like.

We walked to the wall of the city and it was a beautiful view. There were huge cherry trees all around whose branches were heavy with fruit, waiting to be picked. We sat and absorbed the view waiting for everyone; Dad and Braeton were still walking around. Dad came back without Braeton. He said he told Braeton to go up ahead and then to come back and tell him what he saw. Braeton obviously went to far and got confused as to which street to go back down. Luckily he was smart and went back to the café and waited for us. It took us awhile though because he went inside the café and so everyone was freaked out looking for him. While we were, it started pouring rain. Reminder….Dad can’t watch kids.

Driving out of the city was crazy again since the Garmin doesn’t recognize the one-way streets that exist. We kept on driving the same way and after the third circle and following other cars we made it out of the maze. Sometime you just have to disregard the GPS and follow someone else. It was raining so hard. Good thing we were driving right now and not trying to site see. We drove to Fuminglao which was on the way to Spello to eat a restaurant we found in a book.

We parked and then made a mad dash toward the restaurant. It was pouring so hard; we were soaked. It wasn’t bad for the adults, but the kids were cold and so wet. The place we went to was interesting. The bread was horrible to start with. But then we had the torta di testo which is like a fried bread and delicious. There is no menu, they just bring what they bring. We had panzanella salad that is like crusty bread mixed with tomatoes. It was probably the best salad we have had so far. It’s also the first time we’ve really seen fresh basil.

You had no idea what was coming. You could tell it was his girlfriend who was our waitress. She served everything and he was obviously in charge. They brought us water without asking us and it was gas water and they didn’t want to change it so we were stuck. They also were a little upset that we weren’t ordering wine. But it seemed they got over that after awhile. The guy came out and he reminded me of Ben. He got his knife ready and then began carving off the proscuitto from the leg in front of us. You could tell he had a fun personality although we couldn’t understand him.

They brought a yummy lentil soup some roasted chicken diavolo and a beautiful salad. Local cherries were for dessert and were so good. Pigs decorated the whole place and the kids loved seeing all of them. Levi found a pig that squeaked and played with that. There was writing all over the walls and you could leave your mark so we did. I love pork!

While we were there I saw these bags of grain; they were from La Chiona in Spello. They are famous for their lentils; that is what we had for lunch. The address is Azienda Agraria La Chiona, Via C. Piermarini 8, Spello. They grow all types of legumes and cereals like lentils “Castelluccio di Norcia”, a local variety of tiny Chick Peas, the “Paradise Beans” and the “Saluggini” Borlotti Beans. On rotation with the Legumes they grow also Cereals like Farro Dicocco and Orzo Mondo.
He also told us about two farms that were very good to go to.

We went walking around the town after lunch and Mom found a pastry she wanted a big cherry tart. I tried some candies there but they weren’t good at all. Everyone else went and got gelato. Luckily it was lunch time so everything else was closed. The Duomo here looked very pretty from the outside. Then we couldn’t figure out what to do, everyone wanted to do something different. We decided to drive to Spello and then on to Assisi.

Spello was a very cool old town. It had unique architectural inheritances. We walked through its old stone and hand made brick buildings, down narrow streets with old arches, and small squares. It had a nice fountain and old roman historical ruins, it was almost like you were in the atmosphere of the Middle Age. We went into this bar area and they had a beautiful view out into the valley.

The main feature of the buildings here are the hand made walls, built by using the local “pietra rosata” carved out by hand from the Monte Subasio, on the south side of which Spello is located. It is amazing how all their cities blend into the landscaping. There was a garden tour going on through the city so it was beautiful.

Brit found a perfect truck for Ben. They have to be so tiny to get through the cities here. We took some pictures of how narrow the streets are. I love how they attach rings in their brickwork to hold their pots. There was another car we saw that was held together by scotch tape, not duct tape. It was funny and we were joking that our truck might look like that soon with Ben driving it.

There were people that looked like they lived here their whole lives walking around the town. This Italian woman captures the spirit of what they look like to me, and what they like to do, just sit and be peaceful. I love their whole shutter system too. I like opening the windows and letting the world in. The hardware on this stuff is really intense.

The alleys and streets were filed with plants and flowers. In contrast to the brick it looked so beautiful. There were bird nests in the city wall. I saw a poster for the Olive Oil Show. It would be fun to come back here when they are being harvested. The butcher shop here had proscuitto legs hanging there and they even had fur still on them.

After getting gelato here we decided to drive to Assisi since we still had daylight and see the famous Saint Francis of Assisi, the Saint of world peace. The town was beautiful and a definitely a monument to this Saint. We drove into this parking lot that was very far from the church and I had the feeling the church would be closed so I didn’t want to walk all that way for nothing. My knee was kind of hurting by this point in the day.

So Brit & I drove the cars around town and it was really pretty. The sky was turning black again and the scenery was incredible. I got some great pictures of the church and the valley surrounding the city with the sunset. It is amazing how they walled their cities off. The streets were even narrower in this city.

We drove around trying to get out of here too. Seems like this happens to us frequently. You could tell millions of tourists come here every year. We decided to eat a restaurant that served a lot of vegetarian food. It was called Pallotta. It was really good and the restaurant inside was beautifully old and had the right flavor of contemporary and historic.

The food was so good but we didn’t end up eating until 9:00 pm. The kids were so tired and feel asleep on the table. Mom & Dad got the vegetarian menu that had a lot of tastings of different items. They also had a tourist menu, I found that funny. We got the cheese ravioli, the sage & butter ravioli, the lasagna, cannelloni, the best dish was the ravioli with pine-nuts, pesto, and cherry tomatoes.

The strangozzi alla pallotta was really good too and we debated about getting another one but we were all too tired. It is an eggless pasta tossed with mushrooms and black-olive pesto with a touch of spiciness. Mom got a spelt and pea soup but it was very unflavorful. The speck, pecorino and cheese tortellini were delicious also. The truffle omelet was good, but not as good as the Umbrian ones we had. The potatoes took like an hour to cook. We thought they forgot about them but they did finally come. We were so tired but ordered dessert anyway since Mom & Dad’s came with their meal.

I took pictures of the inside of the place. It was decorated incredibly. This was the first restaurant where you could tell the décor was important to the restaurantor. I loved the beams in the ceiling with the tiles. They had a dessert cooler which was cool, literally 5.1 celsius. It was made of metal on the bottom but then looked just like a cabinet. The waitress served straight from there, it didn’t come from the kitchen.

Our desserts came, Mom got the torta di mele, an apple cake, Brit & I shared tortino al cioccolato fondente, a chocolate cake, not so good, but the semifreddo allo yogurt con zuppa di frutti rossi, which was a yogurt strawberry semi-freddo was great. The zuppa inglese, or trifle as we call it was okay, others liked it but I guess it’s not my type of dessert. My dad got the crème caramel and he liked it.

As we walked home the streets were lit up and it was just like you would picture it in your mind. Very romantic and a very fun day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day 7 Tuesday June 10th 2008

How do you get out of this city?
We woke up to a foggy, but beautiful morning. We left at 7:30 and headed for Spoleto.
In Spoleto we walked around for a few hours; it is a beautiful old city with a great castle on the hill. The intricate stonework on the paths and the buildings were designed beautifully. We were walking and found an open-air market. They had a whole bin of zucchini blossoms. The guy who grew everything also had wild asparagus that is supposed to be excellent in this region. The onions were beautiful and so long. The swiss chard was as long as my forearm. He was selling tons of fava beans. They must be in season. He gave us a taste of his peas and I like the US ones better, they are much sweeter. The rosemary stalks were as thick as my pinky they looked so good. He had something wrapped up in newspaper and we couldn’t figure out what is it was, but it ended up being eggs. He even makes his own olive oil, and he showed us that.

We decided to buy some wild asparagus, agretti, and some chicory from the market stand. The guy was really old and his hands and fingertips were very cracked. The cherries were really beautifully displayed at the market, and they were seriously some of the best I have ever tasted. At the market, we saw our first real fresh truffle sighting. 250 Euros a kilo which is like $400 dollars U.S. We also had our first real catholic priest sighting. You don’t see many of those these days.

For breakfast, we got lemon, chocolate, and ham & cheese crepes. Brit got a doughnut, but it wasn’t anything special he said.

We walked around the city, and saw lots of fun shops. The cheese shop had fresh mounds of ricotta salatta that were huge. I went into the salumeria, some old nasty guy tried to kiss me and feel me up… yuck! I definitely didn’t want his salami. We decided to hike up to the castle, but after we got there, we didn’t want to pay 12 euros per person to go in the castle and up in the tower so we just strolled around town, and looked at the view that way.

I saw a lady setting up an awesome painting apparatus it was mounted to a collapsible tripod. I bet she is painting all across Europe. That would be so fun; too bad I’m not patient enough to paint. The view was incredible we savored that, as much as you can with 12 people, and then decided to go to the agriculture farm. We thought the kids would like the farm more than the castle anyway.

We couldn’t get out of town, for some reason Brit kept missing the turn and we kept circling the city. Brit decided to try the road up by the castle and so we took that. It went on the other side of town, but we obviously missed that sign that designated it was a walking path only. So here we are two cars and everyone looking at us like we are crazy. After we got to the end, it was too late and just left our cars and went to walk across this cool bridge.

As we left there were a bunch of ladies that were giving us evil looks. One even said in very broken English “no parking”. Brit was very spry and said “bon jour” and spoke the only French he knew, so they wouldn’t think we were dumb Americans. He told everyone bonjour as he drove back us out of town.

Poppies are in full bloom right now. And the fields are white, already to harvest. Poppies are everywhere, but especially amongst the wheat fields. Pictures became an issue today. Everything that my mom sees is the “most beautiful thing I ever saw”, so she is having Brit stop everywhere which frustrates him, since first of all it is hard to drive here, second, Brit wants to get to his destination, third, how can everything be the most beautiful, and fourth, how many pictures of poppy fields do I have to stop for and still be a good son-in-law, I’m sure he wonders? He is very patient satisfying her and my desires, but 6 days of this might do him in.

So after our hike in Spoleto, we went to find the agritourism place, “Antico Castagno”. It was a beautiful drive up the mountain to a very isolated small town. We had clutch problems. Brit for some reason has a hard time driving a stick, which I have known most of our married life. But when he gets frustrated it makes me laugh even harder. It is a pride devastator and every time he pops the clutch and we stall I laugh.

We ended up not being able to find the farm, but we found lots of other cool everyday things. Wash lines, cemeteries, dogs that hunt truffles. We lost Josh & Hiedi at this point since we were all lost and didn’t stay together well. We tried to go to different agritourism place to eat lunch, hoping Josh would get our text of the change of plans, since our lunch location was still 1.5 hours away.

We went to Sant’Anatolia di Narco to a farm called La Vaie in the hills. Well we tried to at least. We went to a different town first and had to ask how to get there. The address programmed into the GPS was wrong. We had to go over to the “yellow mountain” and it would be up there somewhere. But after looking for the last one, we thought it might be another needle in the haystack. One of the problems with the GPS is unless you’ve been there before and pinpointed it yourself, it is usually not precisely accurate, which leads to a frustrated driver.

We finally got there and the kids were rewarded with a great variety of animals. The famous black pigs from this area, cows, turkeys, pigeons, chickens, bing cherries, and even a bocce court to play with. They had fun chasing the chicken, petting the cows and such. There were huge cherry trees with a large crop ready for picking.

You could tell they only ate what they grew at that farm. The grandmother was out shucking fava beans, and then they fed those pods to the cows. They have a restaurant that you can eat at even if you aren’t staying at that home, but it is closed on Tuesday’s and of course, that’s today. So we got out our Garmin language guide and asked the lady, “where a good restaurant was?” Her husband read it and said we were eating here!

I felt bad for the lady, but it did seem like she really want to cook for us. Brit played with the kids while we waited for everything to get ready. The food was okay, but nothing to right home about, another Caputo’s recommendation that was blah. However, the pizza bianco, from the al forno was good and so was the pork, it had such a rich almost chickeny flavor.

There were huge amaryillis bulbs growing outside, along with the rest of their food. Everything was so neat and tidy, even the woodpile was so neatly stacked. After eating we headed for Scheggiano, we were just going there to see the city and it was pretty. It was very small, but had a stream running down the middle of it filled with trout, and many signs saying “no fishing”. We had gelato there. The favorites were the fior di latte and the bosco berry one. We always like lemon. It has such a clean refreshing flavor. Brit & I told Braeton that everytime the clock rings you get to buy another gelato if you are finished with your last one. Luckily, we left before the bell struck again.

We drove through the mountains. It was so beautiful. We went to a little town called Monteleone di Spoleto. It was way back in very secluded pristine valley. You couldn’t have asked for a better day. The temperature and the weather were perfect. We drove around absorbing the views and the breathtaking scenery. We took lots of pictures.

We drove to a remote farm called “Colle Del Capitano”. This was obviously a free-range animal farm. Not sure if we should get out of our car, due to the fact there was a 300+ lbs. pig just right next to where we should park, we were leery so we watched our surrounding closely. Unfortunately the kids were asleep. This farm was so cool. None of the animals were scared or ran away. We went and talked to the lady, and she said we could wander anywhere just like the animals. The pigs captured Brit & my Dad’s attention. They went to pet them… Watch the video to see more.

While we were watching the chickens, I got some great pictures of them, and Brit was pretending to drive the tractor the shepherd came back with all his sheep it was so beautiful. You felt like you were in the middle of the Sound of Music or something. They had even shaved some of their sheep so they had a mowhawks. There were goats and huge white Newfoundland type dogs.

You can rent the apartment there for only $55 Euros and they had kitchens were so nice and brand new. It was so cool and a great place to stay. Mom of course doesn’t eat pork, but she bent down and ate some weeds, but then Brit said teasing her “what’s the difference between eating those and the pigs. I’m sure have peed on the weeds that you just ate, and you didn’t even wash them.”

While we were so high up in the mountains we found a tartufi forest. Of course there were signs that said no trespassing, but of course that doesn’t stop our family. So we went hunting for truffles. The steps were so cool going up there and the roots of the trees were so snarled after being picked under for truffles for years. The roots are actually exposed and look very strange. It was so amazing to be in this forest. Since Josh wasn’t with us when we got home we showed him the pictures of us going on the truffle hunt and photoshoped the Shepard guy to be the truffle hunter and took pictures of the dogs that were on the side of the road and acted like they hunted the truffles. We weren’t sure if he bought it or not.

We drove through Cascia and on to Norcia. We stopped at Norcia so the kids could get out and run around. We bought salami, lentils and cheese here. Some of the proscuitto legs still even had fur on them. Some of the truffles were as large as my hand. The pancetta tesa di cinghiale looked so rustic and delicious. I saw some cool old doors I would live to make for my pool area.

The city of Norcia was the perfect place to rest and walk. There were already kids, playing soccer in the square. There were fun lion statues to climb on and the city was very clean and beautiful. We were going to eat dinner here but then realized the town was the wrong one. So we got back in the car and started driving. We were glad we did because we got some beautiful pictures. There were some old cities in the hills that were in total ruin. The sun was shinning so beautifully on certain spots. The town of Preci at the right time gave me some incredible pictures too.

So we decided to drive to Preci while it was still light because that would be a shorter, safer route home. It was supposed to be a place where three valleys intersected. It did not disappoint. By this time a bunch of us needed to go to the bathroom, which always seems to be the problem anywhere in Europe.

We drove back and forth on this road trying to find the restaurant but to no avail. Then we thought we finally found it, unpacked all the kids and when to go to it, but it was the wrong one. We were all frustrated, especially the driver. I call him the autorista now, which means chauffer.

We were well rewarded at the restaurant called Il Castoro. The food was so good, especially the gnocchi and pizza. The ravioli was delightful. We ate until we were stuffed. Braeton took pictures of Nanna at the table. He is really funny. Dad and Mom slept as soon as they got in the car. It was a long drive home, and I stayed awake, trying to keep Brit from falling asleep.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Day 6 Monday June 9th 2008

Buon Giorno. I think I finally remembered enough Italian to get by now. I’m sure my accent is horrible, but it’s all in the effort, right? We all woke up lazily today. We had no plans, Brit and I were just going to do whatever people wanted.

We had our lunch and dinner guide so we felt we could go anywhere and find something good to eat. Mom kind of wanted to make dinner every night, but that would mean grocery shopping, dishes for 14 people and all that goes along with that. Being in Italy we all wanted to experience Italian food and we’re on vacation, so we told her that wasn’t what we had in mind.

Or as the quote goes in Italian…
"Nutrisi di cibi prelibati e trasformare una necessita in estasi" which translated it means "To nourish ourselves with delicious food turns necessity into ecstasy"

With five kids under 5 years old, I knew we wouldn’t be getting out of the house anytime soon that morning. We ate the grapes we bought yesterday and they were so good. We were still hungry so Brit, Josh and myself drove into town to the bakery to get some morning bread. You needed to get there between 9:00 and 9:30 the lady that we rented the villa from said, otherwise all the good bread will be gone.

The name of the store is called Il Fornaio, which is basically the name of every bread store you walk by in Italy. I know it means “the oven”. I guess it is just like calling every store that sells bread the bakery. It’s the “di Salustri Fabrizio” , the owners name, that distinguishes them from each other. We got some pastries and some pizza. Josh already has powdered sugar on his lips trying to taste everything. The éclair was full of pudding.

There is a grocery store right next around the corner and so we picked up some fresh mozzarella, mortadella, and fruit there too. On the way home I saw another pastry stopped and pulled over to see what they had. Around the corner I could see another food type store. It was a butcher and they were hand making their sausage in the back. I took a picture of a guy eating his morning pizza by his truck. This is real Italian life, happening everyday. The trucks are so small but cute. I think that we’re going to get something like this for my brother Ben who works for us.

We brought the bread back and everyone dug in. It was a type of rosemary fociccia with olive oil and seasoned perfectly with coarse salt. They actually make it in large sheet and then cut however much off you want with scissors. Their pastries were just okay, nothing fabulous.

We said family prayers and then got started. Luckily someone prayed that we’d all get along. Caravaning with four cars would be interesting, especially when one car wants to go really fast and others don’t. Also with a nursing mom and lots of kids who need to use the bathroom a lot, it is going to be a fun road trip. We decided to go to the Dunnroba Fossil Forest. We think the kids will really like it so we program in to the GPS and head to it. It’s not easy to find. We missed the signs but when we got there it was closed anyway.

We forgot that almost everything is closed on Mondays. So then we changed plans and went to Todi to see the city and all the views. Dad is already falling asleep in the car. Brit wants no more pictures taken. By the time we got there, people were hungry for lunch so we found the restaurant. The best way is to have it programmed into the GPS so you have the name you can show someone. That way to don’t have to try to say it in a bad Italian accent.

The piazza was classic, and looked like an Italian one should, but only served bar food and we wanted pasta. Trying to find a place that will hold 13 people also is not an easy task. Especially if they see you have kids. They generally act like they can’t accommodate you. Then, when you tell them no wine, it is way worse than in the US. We ate at Pane & Vino and boy was it good.

While we were waiting for our table we went across the street to look at the views. They were gorgeous. Rolling hills and fields in bloom and harvest. It was a beautiful day. It was amazing how far you could see in the distance. Pane & Vino was such a tiny place, but they had a large back room that sat us all perfectly. They even had high chairs.

Since this was our first meal all together it was going to be interesting to figure out how we were going to do the ordering. We ordered the house appetizer, which had smoked duck breast carpaccio, deer, wild boar and goose salami, spiced lardo di Colonnata served on wardm toasted bread, honey and Roquefort cheese served on toast, a “Gioconda” bacon with balsamic vinegar, fresh Pecorino Fossa with honey, and savoy cabbage roll stuffed with ricotta and Roquefort cheese. Everything was so good, but my favorite was the duck carpaccio and the salami. I wish the lardo had been melted more, I think I only like that when it is really thin and melted.

For our first course we ordered all the pastas they had. We got ravioli with cheese, so good, strangozzi pasta with black truffles, delicious. Taglierini pasta with fresh tomato and lemon, a very refreshing flavor, chickpea and porcini mushroom soup, kind of boring and not very flavorful and risotto with yellow pumpkin and saffron that was so creamy and excellent. We got the kids lasagna and that was the best dish of all.

For our second course we ordered the black truffle omelet, the smoked pork chop served with porcini mushrooms and black truffles, and the spiced lamb shank with black truffles. We couldn’t believe how many truffle shavings were on everything. At $295 dollars a pound, we thought they would be used sparingly but they were all over every dish.

For our side dishes we got roasted potatoes, the mixed salad, grilled eggplants and the cooked green vegetables which ended up being cabbage. We ordered every dessert to try them all and loved the wild berry mouse, the crema catalana with caramel, biscotti with dessert wine, chocolate mousse, the amor polenta, which is a maize flour and almond cake served with warm cream and wild berries, and pineapple with vanilla, ricotta cheese with chocolate on top.

Seriously everything was so good. I loved the pineapple with vanilla and it ended up being a clear vanilla that they soaked it in. Yum, and the way the cut it was so clever. I asked the lady if I could get the vanilla but she said no they don’t sell it around here. I asked her if she could show me the bottle and she did. She told me they buy it at Metro and I asked her if she could write it down for me on their business card and she did.

Brit loved the cream catalan. I think that is what his grandma used to make a type of flan like that. My dad liked it too and was even licking the dish with his fingers. Josh had Braeton acting like a dog and chewing on the bone. He was telling him to suck out the marrow which was making Amber sick. Brateon is very charismatic.

We rolled out of there and decided to walk around town. It’s amazing all the little alleys and stuff that are behind all these doors in the city. We walked down this one since it looked so cool. Everything was so pretty and I love the little terracotta pots that are all over the houses. We stopped at a food store and bought a strangozzi pasta roller and some other items. They had a really cool book there that I tried to buy but he wouldn’t let me. I’m not sure why. I tried to find it on-line but I couldn’t at

We got gelato and everyone walked around the town. It was funny to watch the ladies watching us walk down the street. The patterns in the stones on the street and on the paths are very intricate and are designed so beautifully. Their planter boxes are usually always curved too. In one of the shops I found these cool water urns that I like, but there was no way I was taking it home. Maybe if I still really like it in a year, I’ll have them ship it to me. It started raining really hard, and I mean really hard so we decided to go home.

We went back to the house since Todi is only like 10 minutes away and tried to plan out the week. When we go home there was no electricity and the entire floor where you come in was flooded with water. We called the lady’s friend that runs a B& B in a few towns over. We weren’t sure if the electricity went out because of the flood and shorted the computer wires on the floor, or if both were out because of the rain. She called her friend and told us to look for candles. She called us back and told us that all the electricity had been out in the town since 3:00 and she didn’t know when it would be going back on, maybe 1 hour, maybe 1 week, you never know she said.

Now that was a nightmare, not only trying to figure out the flood situation but every one wants to do different things this week so how are we going to decide? We finally made a list that everyone wanted to do and we were set. Brit & I decided to go to dinner and Josh & Hiedi, and Amber & Wendel decided to go find the pizza place down the street that the lady said was good.

We didn’t want pizza so we decided to go by ourselves to dinner. It was like 8:45 by that point so we headed to eat. At least this time we weren’t the first people in the restaurant called La Mullennia. We’ve always been the early birds. Even when we left at 10:00 and people were still just starting to arrive. To me that is so weird.

They brought an appetizer that was pane fatto, fried bread with spinach. We had tagliatelle with truffles, gnocchi with greens and a mushrooms sauce, ravioli with pink sauce, and lasagna. Everything was so delicious. For dinner we had “Stringhette di maiale” which was like a carnitas style pork. So good! We had the semifreddo della casa which was made with mangos, biscotti, crème, and panna. We need to come back here so yummy.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Day 5 Sunday June 8th 2008

We had a great sleep and I was able to get all my batteries charged, literally and figuratively. I should check my email, but I really don’t want to. I’m on vacation. We had slept in and woke up later. Josh & Hiedi had just woken up too, so we all went to breakfast on the balcony. Mavis was being really funny. Josh was letting her eat all the sugar she wanted. So she was being crazy. It was pretty and the sun was shining but you could see gray clouds in the distance. It was Sunday and we planned on driving to the Villa today to meet up with the rest of the family.

In the day the city looked so different than in the black of night in the darkness with all the dark people around. Bolgona is know as food capital. They are also know for their leaning tower skyline which they feel is more leaning than the Pisa tower and don’t understand why tourists don’t like theirs better. We walked by the gelato place but they didn’t open until 12:00pm. It is funny because during the whole trip so far, everything always seems to be closed. So always check if something is open if you really want to go there. I don’t always follow my own advice.

We tried to go to the market called Tamburini, but it was closed on Sundays. Trying to get there we went past a bakery called Antico Pastiserra. They had lots of good-looking pastries. Brit got a blueberry tart, which he loved and I got a chocolate éclair that was divine. They had baskets that they had made out of meringue and then they fill them with fresh fruit or pudding or whipped cream. They reminded me of pavlovas. We bought some cat tongues, chocolate tartufi and a coconut coated one too.

I loved their antique paper boxes that they used to put things in. They had fresh homemade pastas that looked so good too. Sometimes I wish I had a kitchen to cook all this good food, but then I realize I am here in Italy and can have it at any good restaurant so why would I want to cook!

It started raining so hard. We had to find cover because we had no umbrellas or rain jackets. We had forgot to bring any provisions from home for rain. I guess that’s what happens when you pack at 2:00 am. I was slipping and sliding because I had worn my flip flops and that and cobblestone are not a good combination. I slipped a bunch, but luckily I was holding on to Brit. He decided he wanted to wait out the rain. I thought he was crazy because the sky was so dark and it didn’t look like it was leaving. I went ahead a left him behind, trying to find cover as I want. I almost biffed it several times.

We made it back drenched. I got out my computer and tried to get on the internet, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was down so we packed up the car and headed out. We decided to go get some gelato at a famous gelato place in Bologna. It said it was nine miles out, but it was in the direction we were heading so we were excited. After trying to find the treasured gelato we ended up in a parking lot at a huge warehouse, which I figured was where they must actually make it. But since it was Sunday it was close. So sad! No gelato today. Looks like we should have gone to church instead. We got on the auto-strata and started on our way down to meet our parents at the Villa Cimcolle.

We stopped for lunch in a small town called Faenza. It was a cool Trattoria Marianzana. Everything was really rustic. The menu was made of thick wood. Three women ran it and their whole restaurant focused around the fireplace. You can see why. The fireplace has three large grills on the bottom that are in a runner type operation and pull in and out. There is a big copper shield that goes up and down and holds the heat of the fire inside.

Everything is cooked to order right in front of you. It was fun to watch, kind of the Italian version of Bennihana. The food was really good. The “Contori” is the vegetable course and their misto di verdure alla grigli, grilled vegetables were so good. We watched her make our bruschetta and it was so simple. Why do we make it so hard sometimes?

We had the misto di bruschetta and loved the variety you got one of each. It is interesting, I have never seen them use basil or chop up the tomato on their bruschetta. And they definitely have no garlic in it, they just really do rub it on the bread. One of the bruschettas had the Lardo di Colonnata. Then we had the crostini di polenta, which was grilled polenta with some type of soft cheese on the top.

The next course we had tortelloni burro e salvia that is with butter and sage. Yum! The other one we got was a local type of pasta Gramigna and it came with prosciutto and piselli, that is ham and cheese. The pasta was excellent but the peas to me are way overcooked. We also got patate arrosto, roasted potatoes there that were so yummy too! We got the Misto di carne, a mixed grill of meats. It included, lamb, belly pork, sausage, liver and loin of pork. It was all pretty good. We also got the tagliata di manzo al rosmarino e aglio, sliced steak with rosemary and garlic. It was good, but a little undercooked for me. I’ll have to remember that since this is the first time I ordered steak here.

For desert we go the torta di robiola and the panna cotta that ended up really being another crème caramel. As we watched them grilling, they put cheese on the grill and then served it warm. It looked so good, but we were so full.

We drove down towards Todi and it took us about two hours. There were beautiful grape orchards everywhere. The fields and mountains were so green. It had stopped raining, or we drove past the rain and the skies opened up to beautiful scenery.

We arrived at the Villa Cimencollo and it was huge. It was really well done but parts of it were still under construction. Mavis got a bath and loved drinking from the lion. There was a washer and dryer and each family basically had a floor, except for Brit & I who shared with Mom & Dad. Mom made dinner and it was good everything was so fresh.

We all just talked about what we had done since being in Europe and then went to get gelato just down the street. My Mom & Dad had gone to Spain before heading to Italy with my sister Amber, her husband Wendel and their three kids. It sounded like everyone had fun. Then we all just went to bed.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day 4 Saturday June 7

Yesterday we had beautiful scenic breakfast on the balcony at Hotel Belvedere. I said scenic, so as not to confuse that with the bad food we were offered for breakfast. Breakfast, like I said before, is usually continental and generally always comes with the room. It was cheap yucky food, kind of what you get at a Fairfield Inn, but European style. Everything was packaged and nothing was fresh. We didn’t care though because the view was gorgeous, the weather was sunny, and Brit & I were having fun being together.

Brit does not like to get stuff on his fingers. It’s funny because his whole family is that way. They don’t like their fingers to be sticky or dirty. So Brit doesn’t like to touch his food or eat anything messy like ribs or fried chicken. I finally after all these years captured the look he does when this happens. He kind of looks at his fingers, rubs them, and then wonders how he can get whatever is on off. It’s a classic look.

Another ritualistic habit of Brit’s happened this morning. At home he always eats everything with the smallest spoon he can find. He would eat off of a child size spoon if we had them in the house. Sometimes when I want to annoy him, I give him a the larger spoon in a silverware set to eat his cereal or pudding. So this morning at breakfast the guy gave him a spoon for his yogurt and wow, can he even get that spoon in his mouth? Open wide; this might require surgery to extract.

Since we ate so late, we slept in until 9’ish. Josh, my brother sent me a text and said he and his family, had left Milan in the morning and were going to Bologna. They asked us where we were and when he heard we were closed he said to meet up in Parma. I said okay because I wanted to go to Parma and Modena to taste and see how the Parmagano-Reggiano cheese was made and the world famous balsamic vinegar.

It was about 45 minute drive up through the mountains which was pretty. But it is freeway driving so you just don’t get the quaintness as you do if you take the back roads, which is always my choice. Brit fulfills my requests to do this because he knows my desire is to enjoy the journey not just get to the destination.

We were supposed to meet in Parma but Josh and Hiedi missed the exit on the toll road and there are only exits every 20 miles or so. So they didn’t want to drive all the way back so we ended up meeting them in Modena instead. We met for lunch. I have a really great book called Osterie & Locande d'Italia: A Guide to Traditional Places to Eat and Stay in Italy. It is like a Michelin Guide, but has never led us astray. It recommended a great place for lunch called Trattoria Aldina.

I texted the place to Josh and he put it in his GPS and we met there. As we were walking to the restaurant we could hear Mavis, our 3-year-old niece, calling us. We looked up and saw her in the window above. She was eating her lunch, a big cucumber. The restaurant was located on the second floor and full of locals. There was no menu. The owner just recites what is on the menu and you tell her what you want. She waited all 30 tables by herself, and everyone is just patient and enjoys the wait.

Some meals can take as long as 3 hours to get all your courses. That is just how it is in Italy. And, you have to ask for your check, otherwise you might sit there for hours waiting for the bill. They think it is rude to give you your check unless you ask. It would be like them asking you to leave their home and you might not be ready to go yet.

At lunch the meal is a little shorter. But here all the pasta was handmade and you could tell it was a real home cooked meal. The food was so cheap but more importantly so fresh and tasty.

Their roasted potatoes were so moist inside, but had the best crusty outside. Brit really liked the cheese ravioli with speck. The cannelloni stuffed with spinach was so good and light. It is almost like their pasta noodles are so thin so you can really taste the flavor. It also means that you don’t fill up with lots of pasta dough. The sheets are almost as thin as Kleenex. Now I can see how they can eat pasta just as a first course or “Primi Piatti” and then have a whole “Secondi Piatti”.

The lasagna was the same, so good the noodles were so thin. They must make a very big square and then free form fold it, adding the sauce as they go. I noticed too that they don’t add a thick layer of anything. It is all really thin and light. The tortellini in broth was so fresh also. The tortellini was stuffed with a moist heavenly ricotta cheese, flavored with sage. The tagletelli was good, but not as good as the other items. We got a pork leg and also some veal medallions, but the star of the show was the lasagna.

Dessert was okay. The crème caramel was good but we figured out now that we don’t like the Zuppa Inglese. It is just cake soaked in some kind of red alcohol and then placed in pudding with whipped cream. The chocolate cake was so moist and amazing. They always serve dessert with the fork or spoon stuck into the treat. They are definitely not concerned about the appearance of the dish, just how it tastes.

The meal was so inexpensive it ended up being $72 Euros for all that food. Another tip…no pun intended, you might see “pane e coperta” on your bill. This is because some restaurants charge a nominal fee for bread and service. Most of the time we were never charged for this but on occasion it does show up.

As we left, we window-shopped on the way to the market. Mavis stopped to look at the shoes; she definitely like me. The market was still going on when we got out of lunch so we headed there. It is usually located in the main piazza. The food was amazing there. We bought cherries and grapes there. It is pretty standard that you can sample something like cherries or grapes, usually if you are truly looking to buy some, they will offer you a sample so you can taste how ripe it is. We sampled olives and cheese and showed Mavis all the huge octopi they had there.

There was really fresh garlic there. I had never seen green stems on garlic at the market. The figs were so large, almost as big as my hand and so perfect. They had tons of rice and legumes too. The butcher was chopping all the chicken heads off as we walked by and saving them on a ring. We were curious so he held them up for us to see. I wonder what they do with them? After the market, we tried to go to a few places that supposedly made balsamic vinegar, but our information let us down and the addresses didn’t add up.

The boys wanted to go to the Ferrari Museum so we headed for that next. Brit went into the actual museum and I stayed with the kids and played. While Brit was doing the tour, we were figuring out what we would do next. Brit took pictures of everything for Tyson Hummer who loves those cars and Brit bought him some stuff there. We realized that if booked it to Ravenna, went to see the mosaics in the Duomo there. It was about an hour drive to the eastern coast of Italy. Ravenna is a beautiful port town and seemed like a vacation spot for many Italians.

We have a good friend Phil that is a religion professor at BYU. He takes tour groups over to Italy and told us to make sure we went to Ravenna and to specifically look for the LDS symbols that are shown in the mosaics. There were found in these three places and are pretty obvious once you see them.

The Arian Baptistery—mosaics by early Arian Christian show immersion baptism.
Basilica of San Vitale—mosaics of processions special markings.
St. Apollinare Nuovo—paladium that will mean something to LDS—clearly Temple significance!

These pictures of Mavis are so cute lighting the candles in a church. We went to see the Basilica there. The mosaics were beautiful and this was what others have said about them. “The half dome is partly filled with a green pasture, at the bottom of which twelve sheep, symbolizing the Twelve Apostles, march in single file on either side of the orant [a figure with outstretched arms in the posture of prayer] Saint Apollinaris, wearing a purple chasuble ornamented with gold. Above him, against the gold background, a circle of jewels encloses a giant disk of blue sown with gold stars, on which floats a golden cross studded with gems, as if appearing to the saint in a vision.

On either side of the disk Moses and Elijah, depicted to the waist only, are surrounded by clouds to indicate that they, too, are visionary apparitions. Below them among the trees three lambs look upward. These figures in the upper part of the apse symbolize the Transfiguration and portray that moment when Christ, who had climbed to a mountaintop with Peter, James, and John, was suddenly transfigured in raiment “white and glistening” and Moses and Elijah were miraculously revealed in conversation with him. Christianity, no longer a new religion, has created its own language of symbols in which it can address the faithful with complete confidence that it will be understood. The mosaics of the triumphal arch, which show sheep emerging from Bethlehem on one side and from Jerusalem on the other before Christ flanked by the symbols of the Four Evangilists, were added in the seventh or eighth century.” (Hartt, Art. 324)

We missed the baptistery because we got there to late. We bought some postcards that showed some of the mosaics. I think like many things in life, the mosaics are really a matter of interpretation. Would I drive all the way to see them again, probably not? Would I go to Ravenna again? Yes, the church mosaics are beautiful and it was a pretty fun town to see. We ate gelato, since we hadn’t had our daily dose yet. I saw a cute children’s store there that was decorated really nice. I knew Hiedi would like it so we wandered in and I took a lot of pictures.

Mavis and I chased each other on the street. I got some fun pictures of her with her hat on. She was being very photographic today. Usually she doesn’t like the camera, another trait I have. There was what looked like a cool market and we went to check it out. It was called the Plenty Market. We looked around and I saw pork rinds and some meringue that looked good and I wanted to try. I love pork rinds, but the Italian version was gross.

Josh wanted to go have seafood so we decided to try a restaurant out by the water. No one spoke a lick of English. They had a translation guide for fish but it wasn’t that helpful, we had a hard time distinguishing specific fish types. No matter, everything ended up being excellent. First we had a assorted sardine plate. Then we had fried calamari with balsamic vinegar. After that we had tortelli with ricotta and spada e porcini alla salvia, which was excellent. The ravioli with ricotta and sea bass with zucchini and shrimp was heavenly. We also got risotto del pavese. Our grilled fish platter was good and we also got the brocatto braised eel, which wasn’t good.

It was getting late so Josh left to start making his way back to Bologna. Hiedi still had to feed the baby so we waited for the last dish. Some guy got a huge trough like plate taken to his table, he could tell we were bug eyed about his plate and so he brought it over to show it to us. It was a grilled special it looked really good.

The best dish of the night was the grilled eel. It is funny because I have seen that dish at so many Chinese restaurants but have never been brave enough to try it. But she said that was the best dish she served and she was right.

Josh texted us that they had other rooms at their hotel so we decided to drive back there. We had a hard time getting to our hotel in Bologna. After driving the same path a couple of times, we finally saw Josh’s car. They were still in it and had been trying this whole time to get to the hotel too. There were hundreds of what looked like wild kids hanging outside and we were a little weary of what hotel Josh was staying in, and on what side of town.

What Josh didn’t know is that the road you have to go down has path blockers that look like they are permanent but when you know the code there is a box you punch it into and the street pillars disappear and you drive right in. Kinda James Bondish. Then when we pulled up to the Hotel there was a riotous crowd of people that was kind of scary. I hadn’t seen anything like it since I was in East Berlin in a scary place. Josh went in to see where we parked because we couldn’t find where the guy said. It ended up being behind two big gothic style doors that opened, but you couldn’t see it behind the riot.

The hotel guy came out and we parted the sea of black dressed, weird looking people with our car and drove into a huge courtyard that seemed pretty secure. It was funny because we were very uneasy about the whole area. We got our luggage out and went up to our room. We had seen a really yummy looking gelato place on the way there, actually we saw every time we drove in the circle and decided to brave the riot and go try it. Josh stayed with the kids and Hiedi, Brit and I went.

As we walked out we figured out why there were so many young adults around. The bar “Transylvania” had just opened. It was like 12:00 pm. Now we understood why everyone was so garbed up. It’s funny because when we drove up, there were just the rolled type of garage doors down and locked and when we went back out the façade totally changed and a decorated trendy bar was there. I got marscapone gelato it was good. The chocolate though was the best we have ever had in Italy. We went back to the hotel and Josh was still awake so we gave him a bite. He was mad that we didn’t bring him more. To our defense we thought he would already be asleep, he was beat.