A Walk Across Italy: Pisa to Ravenna

Feb 12th, 2009, 02:10 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Liz, Liz, Liz,

Is this done yet???
adrienne is offline  
Feb 13th, 2009, 11:13 AM
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Liz, I finally caught up reading this report and wanted to say: WOW! Absolutely love your sense of adventure and spirit.
marigross is offline  
Feb 14th, 2009, 11:41 AM
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A “Fine” hotel dinner, a Just OK Sleep and Onward to the Best Surprise of All – Ravenna.

I can’t really remember what we had for dinner at the Albergo Morelli in Russi but it was mostly uneventful as I haven’t noted any food on my recorder, however we did have the most delightful young woman as our server. Her name is Alia and she had been taking classes in English and boy, was she excited and pleased to be able to practice on us! She kept coming back to our table and saying “Is it FINE? How is your food? Is it FINE?” To this day, four months later (and probably for the next millennium), we are saying, “Is it fine? Is your food fine? My food is fine!” She was so so sweet and extra specially glad that we were exotic Americans and not Brits. Who knew? One thing did make me laugh about this hotel restaurant and that was their salad bar, for want of a better phrase. We could choose to avail ourselves of that long table, laid out with various things to pick at, or we could order a primi, so we both opted for the “salad bar” upon which, at the very end of the table, was a dinner-sized plate of lettuce. It would have fed one of us and we would have been wanting for another refill. What is this about salads and Americans?

We have never been anywhere in the world, New Zealand/Australia, France, Italy, Holland, Austria, UK, Canada, Caribbean – that’s about the extent of our travels, that present salads as the Americans do. So, I must admit, I miss that one food item when we are on vacation. The first item of business when we return home is to build a “Liz & Paul salad”. We use three heads (sometimes four) of romaine, add a sliced whole red pepper, carrot curls from a whole carrot, around a quarter cup of parmesan (freshly grated of course), about a quarter cup of oat bran, a big handful of raisins, same of peanuts, a small handful of pumpkin seeds, the same of sunflower seeds (we get bags of them from the health food store), a few hard-boiled eggs… then I make a dressing with around a half cup of EVOO, a tbsp of cider vinegar, a couple of tbsp of balsamic, a large clove of garlic mashed by my garlic press (the best one ever from the Pampered Chef), salt, freshly ground black pepper, dump it all on the greens and toss toss toss. It fills a mammoth stainless steel bowl that we have (maybe an 8 quart?) and it’s all GONE inside a half hour or so. And we have at least two of these a week and sometimes three – and of course that’s all we have for dinner that night. We are addicted to them!

But I digress. We left that dining room and returned to our spartan Russi hotel room and went to bed. Nasty sway-backed beds they were too soft so that I ended up waking in the middle of the night which I hadn’t done since we began the walk way back in Pisa. And for once, I couldn’t remember for the life of me what was the layout of the bathroom, much less the method that this particular toilet had for flushing. We had had so many! A plenitude of toilets! An embarrassment of riches! I was groping around in the dark, the floor still very damp after the water extravaganza we had just a couple hours before, and I couldn’t remember for the life of me if the flusher was the kind of panel on the wall that one presses, with just one flush, or two circles one inside the other for a large flush and a small flush, or a pull chain, or a button on the wall or on the tank. [sigh] It was a silver button on the tank after all. Just one of the little joys of traveling outside of a boring comfort zone. Wouldn’t trade it for the world!

We had rather a boring but “fine” breakfast and hit the good old 302 and traveled the flatlands once again. If you look at the pics you will see a pic of a sign that says “campo baseball” with an arrow. What’s that all about? The Italians play baseball? News to me. I just had to photograph it though. So, it was flat flat flat – have I mentioned that it was really flat? It’s hot and dusty and we’ve transferred to the 253 and it is “charming” industrial buildings that we’re passing so I look down at the ground to amuse myself as we trudge along and find that there are thousands of teeny tiny snails, about a quarter inch wide, all over the grass and every bit of greenery. Hmm, too small to eat – maybe they grow into big snails? Italian escargot?

We roll into Ravenna and it’s a glorious sunny day (every day has been a glorious sunny day…) and people are riding bicycles everywhere. There are baskets on many of the bikes and people are carrying their shopping. I love it. The streets are clean in Ravenna – heck, everything’s clean. I’ve got an address for a b&b that I’ve chosen, if we can only find it. It’s called “A Casa di Paola” and I liked the photos on its webpage. We ask for directions to the street and find it without much of a problem and look up at the huge, black, double, Roman-arched doors and ring the doorbell. No answer. Oh heck. No one answered our ring but hen someone came out of the door and we snuck in before it closed! Yes! We walked down the interior passage way to the back garden where we met up with a woman with a clipboard – apparently in charge and asked in Italian for a room for the night. I glanced at her clipboard and could see lots of names filled in, in lots of slots. Uh oh.

She said something like “Una momento” and made a phone call with her cell, without moving from the spot. After a brief conversation, and after asking if our stay would just be for the night, she led us up to a room, and oh, what a room! This has now become the “pinnacle” bed and breakfast by which all future b&bs will be measured. There is a huge (firm!) bed with gorgeous sheets and blanket, an asian-type chest next to my side of the bed, another single bed/settee near the window, a fabu bathroom with the coolest fixtures and a shower to write home about. A square toilet and bidet! Oh my. Can I stay here a few weeks? All of this gloriousness for only 70E per night with breakfast of course included. I don’t think we ever did meet Paola because the woman in the garden was not Paola (that we could tell). Whatever. Thank you Paola. Ravenna was looking really really good. We have walked 10.2 miles from Russi to Ravenna and just have a few more miles to go this afternoon to get to the coast and “finish”.

We performed our usual afternoon ablutions using that glorious shower, had a brief rest and knew it was “now or never” to make our final hike to the coast and put our boots into the Adriatic, thus finishing our quest for the “coast to coast” experience. But I first set about taking 8,000 pictures of the house – there’s no one here! We go down hallways, peek into open rooms, rest on a couch here, a chair there. We do meet a woman in the kitchen or somewhere (can’t really remember) and she tells us to help ourselves to a cold drink from the fridge and so we do and choose two of those tiny bottles of red aperitif that everyone drinks in Venice – can’t think of the name at the moment. But everything was gratis in the fridge. My kind of a b&b. : o ) The house is MAMMOTH. So many stairways, so many nooks and crannies, so many antiques and curiosities, oh my. A housekeeper is busily preparing one of the larger rooms/suites for a guest and very proudly shows us the rooms with its gloriously painted ceiling and very large bath. I take pics pics pics. I definitely could take a while exploring this house but we’ve got to get on to the business at hand.

Heading back to our room, I haul out the final map from my pack and put it in my day pack along with the water bottle and camera and we’re off down the labyrinth of stairways, out the mammoth front door and heading east, dead east, on a land so flat that if you stood on a chair you could see 50 miles. But the walk was farther than we thought and more wearying than either of us expected.

All in all, it was a grueling six miles to the sea so we’ve gone 16.2 miles today. Grueling! Why? I can’t imagine why because we had no heavy packs for this last bit of hiking and no hills (though I truly do love the hills) and it was just so tiring, but it was also far into the afternoon. We walk through a mostly deserted beach pavilion that screamed “Lido Miramare” on a sign with bats emblazoned to the left and right of the name. ? Whatever. The beach is windy to beat the band and the sky is darkening up just a bit and there lies the Adriatic before us, the waves whipped up by the wind, a stiff fetch of whitecaps. Paul dips his boot in as I take his picture and also throws his Mediterranean stone, carried from Marina di Pisa, into the briny deep. He returns the favor and I now have a picture that can go into my Covidien newsletter at work. It’s low tide and the beach is totally devoid of humans with red, white and blue boats pulled back from the water, stranded on the beach. It’s done, it’s all done at 5:43 on the 17th of October, 2008 and so we head back the few hundred yards to civilization and the center of Marina di Ravenna, find a place that sells the bus tickets and hop the bus back into Ravenna.

The bus ride back took all of 20 minutes even with all the stops for people to board and alight and we were back at our glorious Casa di Paola to take another shower, LOL. Ah if it’s good, ya gotta use it. We head out at around 7 to check out the local restaurants, reading menus as we pass and finally settle on La Gardela Ristorante. I am lovin’ Ravenna. Of course the elderly waiter speaks perfect but perfect English (the Brits come here in droves) and we order up everything on the menu, it being our “end of walk” celebration. We have arrived just in time as the restaurant quickly fills up with people who have reservations. They even have to take a minute to see if they could fit the two of us in as it’s Friday and very busy. We are partly in the center but near the kitchen serving window where Paul can watch the chef flipping around his sauté pan. I’m happily taking in the room and eyeing what diners have ordered. We hear Italian being spoken around us with a smattering of german and english. Ah, everybody loves a good restaurant.

I had not recorded another word on my digital so I can’t tell you what we ordered for dinner except that it was a LOT, but I do remember one item: dessert. And not my dessert but Paul’s. He decided (as he often does) to order something that he had no clue as to the contents. It arrived and lo and behold it was a stewed fig, drizzled with balsamic with a portion of some sort of dessert cheese on the side of the plate. He dives in. His eyes light up – “Liz, taste this.” I brought the plate over to my side of the table and tried it. OH MY WORD. I have never in all my life had a dessert as good as this one, and that’s saying volumes. I used to have a wedding cake business and I thought my cakes were great (the name of the business was “GreatCakes”). I make an apple crisp that’s to die for. My eyes roll back in my head when I dive into a chocolate molten lava cake with vanilla bean i.c. on the side. But this simple fig and cheese dolce was absolutely divine.

Maybe it’s because we didn’t expect it? Maybe because it was just so simple it hit all the right spots? Who knows, but I will never forget it. The cheese tasted much like cottage cheese but without the lumps. Who knows? If anyone can give me any input about this dolce, I’d be delighted. Back to our room we head for a glorious night’s sleep in a gorgeous room.

We’re off in the morning to Venice, taking the train but first we must head down to breakfast and also find someone to take our money for the room. We are the only people in the dining room cum living space and a woman brings us the two biggest cappuccinos we’ve ever seen. The cups had to have held a minimum of four regular coffees, no word of a lie. See the pic. The coffee cups were LARGER than the cereal cups. Breakfast alone was worth the price of admission. Amazing B&B.

We say goodbye to Case di Paola (sniff) and we have arranged by cellphone to have another Paola meet us at the Venice train station who will then take us to an apartment that we have rented for four nights. Our time there is better explained by just the photos that I will post on Shutterfly later on today (I hope), but I will say that we happened upon a few places where no tourists were and we were happiest, namely one glass blower (and assorted helpers) when we chose not to follow the crowd that left the boat… The weather continued to be wonderful for our time in Venice and we ended up with some glorious photos of Venice, Murano and Burano.

So, my story is ended. We walked from Pisa to Ravenna, “cheating” with just a short train ride and 157 miles of adventures. Now, it’s just 7 months before our “big” coast to coast walk across England – 190 miles, leaving Boston September 19th and returning October 5th and we can hardly wait.

Bye for now and happy traveling!
lizcakes is offline  
Feb 14th, 2009, 12:04 PM
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Just had to provide a fanfare for the end of a great, unusual report.
ellenem is offline  
Feb 14th, 2009, 12:41 PM
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Liz, I have loved reading your walking tales. I would love to do walk in England but unfortunately my DH is not a walker.

You were wondering where all the kiwi fruits end up. I was surprised to see our kiwis from Costco here in Calgary this year are from Italy, usually they come from California, Chile and Mexico.
MarieLouiseB is offline  
Feb 14th, 2009, 04:06 PM
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MarieLouise, They HAVE to send the kiwi fruits out of Italy, otherwise the sheer weight of all of them would sink the country.
lizcakes is offline  
Feb 14th, 2009, 04:48 PM
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Mille grazie for the wonderful finish to your report. Such a different type of trip and such an accomplishment. Brava!

PS - I'm keeping the name of the Ravenna B&B handy, as I haven't visited there yet and it's on my list! Casa di Paola...
Dayle is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 05:03 AM
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Liz, I've made your big salad three or four times and it is indeed filling and very tasty. Thanks!

If you get any info on the fig and cheese dolce, please share. I believe I could eat that.

Loved the whole Italy trip report, not just the food, and look forward to your next exploit.
Coquelicot is online now  
May 14th, 2012, 07:58 PM
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Bookmarking this incredible trip report. Thanks so much, lizcakes!
nbbrown is offline  
May 15th, 2012, 12:43 AM
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We loved the trip report thank you so much!
Tuscany_Villas1 is offline  
May 15th, 2012, 05:42 AM
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Am glad this came back around. I had missed the last parts of it. I long for Venice most of the time so was happy to see your wonderful shots of her.
TDudette is offline  
Sep 24th, 2012, 09:16 AM
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Liz, My wife and I are hoping to duplicate your trip. To a certain degree. We are most interested in the "should, woulda, coulda" parts and need to know how to avoid those. Also, it seems that later in your walk you were able to locate walking trails that got you off the road. Any idea where more info could be gathered about those? Would it have been possible for you to have found them earlier? Any info on the best maps and guides to order would be greatly appreciated. It would be nice to open a dialogue by e-mail. I am at [email protected].
jsriggs is offline  
Sep 24th, 2012, 10:01 AM
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click on the OP's name and you will find a more direct way to communicate with her.
Michael is online now  

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