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Finally...our 19 day glorious October 2007 (very long detailed) trip report to Italy!

Finally...our 19 day glorious October 2007 (very long detailed) trip report to Italy!

Old Oct 17th, 2008, 03:41 AM
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I had given up hope that this would be finished, thanks for coming back!!!
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Old Oct 17th, 2008, 10:05 AM
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Outstanding report.

So much emotion.

A thought on Italian wine. I like Italian wine because it's not trendy or gimmicky. California, Virginia and Washington wines seem to try too hard to get noticed. They resort to unusual tastes/flavors/techniques.

Italian wines are unpretentious; simple good quality wine. I agree that if you pay a lot for a bottle of Italian wine, you aren't likely to get swept off your feet. Better to buy a cheaper local wine and be pleasantly surprised at the value.

When we're in Italy we always order the house wine. Sometimes it's not that great but usually it's surprising good at an incredible price. Trying the local wines or beers is one way to capture local flavor.
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 02:20 PM
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Old Oct 26th, 2008, 10:17 AM
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bdjtbenson,

Grazie for stopping by.....

I like your thinking! Looking back, I believe that I had high expectations and wanting to be "swept off my feet" by Italian wines. We did try alot of the house wine which, like you said, was a very decent wine for a great price.

Now, back at in the US, we have begun to try a broader range of Italian wines (more from boutique and family wineries) and are enjoying them more. With each sip I think about the labor of love that is put into each bottle.

Our greatest discoveries have been from small wineries in Abruzza and the Veneto regions.

Saluti!
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Old Oct 27th, 2008, 09:50 AM
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TUSCANY

Part 6 (October 22, 2007)

Day 13

Yikes...An American in an Italian Supermarket!

ADVENTURES IN AN ITALIAN SUPERMARKET

We're on a mission....to find a (open) supermarket and load up on supplies. It's day #3 in Tuscany for us and besides the few things we picked up at the alimentari on our way in, our cupboards are bare.

From what we've seen, there is really only one large chain supermarket called COOP. Another reminder that back home, we have way too many choices. We plan on going to the COOP in Bucine, the nearby town to Sogna. However, on our way back we see a much larger COOP in another town. So, we pull on in.

Our trip to the supermarket turned out to be an experience or should I say, an adventure (just what I'm seeking, right?). ...One that all tourists should experience (ha!).

The adventure begins with DH heading towards the rack of shopping carts in the parking lot. He discovers...they're all locked. Hmmmmm. So instead of figuring it out, we just mosey into the store. With our luck, the store is probably closing in 5 minutes. We grab a few of the (unlocked) plastic shopping baskets and make our way in.

SPINACH, ARUGULA, ONIONS, OH MY!
Our plan was to hit the Farmer's Market in the nearby town of Ambra tomorrow, but the produce here in the supermarket was so bountiful and fresh (unlike our produce back home). It was all amazing. To this day, we still remember the spinach....so fresh, green, large and coarsely thick. NOTHING like it back home. We made a mental note to find some "Tuscan" spinach seeds to grow our own back home. Then there is the arugula....all fresh (like it was newly picked and the farmer just came in to fill the bin), glistening with dews of moisture. We load up on all kinds of produce (spinach, onions, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, arugula, lemons, grapefruit, bananas, pears, you name it!).

We're kids in a candy store imagining the amazing frittata we'll make. Here we are in the local grocery store all excited like we were in Venice the first day we discovered the Rialto Market. There are varieties of vegs and fruits that we've never seen before. We now have 2 shopping baskets filled to the brim with plastic bags of produce.

We notice that we're the only non-locals in the store....COOL (so we think)! There are nearby shoppers that (we think) are looking at us wondering, "Crazy Americanos"....so glib and perma-grin over spinach and arugula!

I'm famished and as the old adage says, "never shop on an empty stomach". Everything looked good. Good thing we didn't master unlocking the cart, as it probably would be overflowing by now.

DAIRY OR BUST!
Next: Dairy. Piece of cake, right? There we are standing in front of the dairy case staring at the milk containers trying to deciper what is what. We're looking for 1% (cow's milk). Easy, right? We spend about 10 minutes here and narrowed down what we think is the lowfat version of cow's milk.

The cheese section was abound with amazing fresh choices. It was like an artisan cheese shop back home....without the price tags to match. DH selects some aged and non-aged pecorino along with some parmesan. So fresh that, once again, we expect the sheep farmer to make an appearance and restock the cheese.

The yogurts were a slam dunk as the picture on the carton showed the fruit. We piled a handful in the basket.

THE ART OF SIMPLE LIVING
I was surprised at how basic, simple and straightforward the choices were. The salad dressing aisle back home had an entire aisle devoted to dozens of Ranch (regular, lowfat, fatfree, parmesan peppercorn, yada yada.), Italian, Caesar, etc. So many choices, not to mention brands. Thinking about it was giving me a headache. Here I was in Italy, the food capital of the world, looking at a very small section of dressings. Then it dawned on me...the dressing of choice here is Olive Oil and Vinegar. Plain and simple. Why douse all this fresh fabulous produce with anything but? And, when I venture over to the vinegar and oil aisle, not too many choices. Then again, most Italians go directly to the source and get vats of fab freshly pressed olive oil from the local olive grower. Lucky Italianos!

It made me sad to think how our society back home becomes so engrossed in more choices, more options...more, more, more. I make a vow to live simply and teach my son to do the same.

I locate DH in a trance looking at the deli section. This one has platters and containers filled with fresh offerings: marinated "this and thats" (artichokes, peppers, olives galore, etc.), spreads, cut meats, etc. ….All the provisions needed to have a killer picnic. We select a handful of "must-haves" to make appetizer platters back at the cottage to accompany our vino.

Naturally, we observe how small the frozen food section is (half an aisle). We also make note of how reasonable the prices are (even for Euros!) and how excellent the quality is.

Next we load up on chicken, pastas, a couple bottles of local red vino, blood orange juice, vinegar, waters, etc.

GOT LABELS?
We've now got 4 baskets full, heavy and overflowing. We wobble over to the checkout and it is pretty crowded. When we get to the cashier, she begins ringing us up. When she gets to the last basket, it's the produce and she is speaking Italian to us while waving her hands and pointing. Hmmmm? We look around to see if anyone here speaks any English...nada. I feel as if I'm on Candid Camera or in an episode of "I Love Lucy". There is now a line of 3 people formed behind us and the pressure is on. She then picks up a bag of fruit and motions to it. I say whatever comes to mind, “no comprende”, uh, “no capisco”, whatever. Hmmmm? Finally, a lady behind us shows us her bag of produce that has a label on it and points in the direction of the produce section. Okay, we get it….we need a label. So, DH will pay for what has been rung up and I'll take the 2 overflowing baskets of bagged produce back to the produce section and figure out what the heck I'm supposed to do to conjure up a label. I'm thinking that I got the wrong end of the deal!

Before I leave, I notice that no one is bagging our goods. I look around and see the shoppers bagging their own items in reusable bags. Once again I think how spoiled we are back home. Well, we don't have any reusable bags. hmmmm? The cashier points to a shelf nearby with plastic bags that we pay .05E for. (think IKEA) No prob, we grab a handful of plastic bags and DH begins to bag our stuff. Phew!

I'm back at the produce aisle thinking that this will be an adventure to figure out, but lo and behold is the scale with PICTURES of the produce on it. Very universally and user friendly! It was actually quite fun. I would put on my bag of bananas and push the "banana" picture and voila!... out would come the label. So easy!

I wobble back to the checkout with our "legally" labeled bags of produce. I now know the drill as I grab a couple plastic bags, pay and load up the produce. DH is waiting for me with armfuls of bags. Off we go into the sunset....an Italian grocery adventure under our belts!

Excellent resource on Italian Supermarket Shopping 101 (if only I found this webpage BEFORE our trip):
http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/foodsh...permarkets.htm

Next...Our first REAL meal in the cottage.
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Old Oct 27th, 2008, 01:04 PM
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I am so glad you are back and writing again, can't wait for more.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2008, 09:40 AM
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TUSCANY

Part 7 (October 22, 2007)

Day 13

First REAL meal in a Tuscan cottage!

ROUND 2 AT A ITALIAN GOURMET SHOP

We're back in the car and headed home. My sweet tooth is still in full force, so I'm on the lookout for a quintessential Italian Pasticceria. We took the normal route back home so we were bound to pass a few towns (hence Pasticcerias).

I finally see a charming little shop which was more like a gourmet deli, so we pull in. There are no locked carts nor no scales to weigh produce....we're good. This is a cute shop with shelves of gourmet items all presented nicely and beautifully. Naturally, the prices match the display. I mosey to the back of the shop to the deli and spy the most amazing platters and bowls of cooked beans, cippoline caramelized onions, pastas galore, marinated this and that, etc. Oh yes, we had to have some of each. I'm thinking of that decadent chicken dish that DH had at Orient Express. Yes, that's what we'll have for dinner...saucy chicken scallopini, white beans, rocket salad and w/ a nice Italian red. Aaahhhhh! Forget the sweet tooth, I'm in savory heaven!

There are about 5 people waiting with numbers to load up on all the goodies. So, we locate the machine, grab a number and patiently wait our turn. We anticipate what we want and the size of the containers. So, since everyone is speaking Italiano, we can just point. Point to the beans and then point to the size of the container we want it in. Easy as pie.

SUGAR OR BUST!
I wander over and see a the pasticceria case that is loaded with Italian cookies, cakes, you name it. Success at last! It's our turn and we're pointing and waving our hands (very Italian-esque). Next, we move over to the sugary section and do the same...but, this time it's cinque 5 of this, due 2 of that, etc. I'm a happy camper, we have a dozen or so of fun Italian cookies (moons dipped in chocolate, shortbread hearts, etc.) all wrapped up beautifully in a pink box tied with a ribborn. Bellisimo! (I don't think this box will make it home wrapped up...if you know what I mean!).

Homeward bound. We're warm, we've got a carload of fab Italian provisions...we're happy! We follow the signs to yet another way home-no problem. Day #3 in Tuscany and we're getting our bearings. Life is good.

On the way up, up, up to Sogna on the white gravel road we're on the lookout for Cinghale (we don't see any) or small branches. We stop a few times to pick up some kindling pieces. Tonight we'll have a hearty meal with the fire a blazin'.

The cottage is a welcomed sight as we lug our groceries in. I begin to fill up our bare cupboards and DH has the task to make the best fire ever. He's struggling as the kindling burns out too quick and the large logs don't catch as quickly as they should. It's frustrating. Luckily, this cottage is equipped with a very efficient heating system, but that's not the point. A woodburning fire in a stone Tuscan cottage is an absolute must.

THE LITTLE FIRE THAT COULDN'T
The fire continued to be uncooperative all night long. It would first rage and then die, DH was up and down checking the damper and re-lighting. DH moved the loveseat in front of the fireplace to enjoy the little bit of a fire that we could after our meal. I kept my fingers crossed. (note to self: bring ax next time)

LET'S EAT!
Quick, we need to get dinner ready so we can enjoy as much of the fire as we can. DH opens the wine and we toast, we sip while quickly whipping up dinner. The menu: Chicken Scallopini w/ caramelized lemons, garlic and cippoline onions. White beans drizzled in olive oil, Sauteed spinach w/ thinly sliced garlic. I grabbed some fresh rosemary from the garden and plated it all...yum! We both enjoy and love cooking, but I truly don’t remember a more pleasurable experience than preparing this simplistic meal. With every chop or slice, with every touch of the fresh spinach, garlic, lemon, it’s a sensory experience. The cottage fills with the perfume-y smell of garlic. A toast to our first real meal in the Tuscan cottage!

(oh, and the ribbon wrapped pink box of luscious sweets didn't make it all the way home. We had 7 or so melt-in-your-mouth pieces on the drive and polished off the rest after dinner!)

NEXT...A FABULOUS DAY OF ABBEYS, MONTALCINO, PIENZA AND SHEEP!
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Old Dec 6th, 2008, 08:32 PM
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going to italy for the forth time live in l a (san fernando valley) would love to talk [email protected]
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Old Dec 8th, 2008, 12:37 PM
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Thanks for the awesome trip report, it makes me so excited to head to Italy next year! We'll be staying in room 31 at La Mala in June for our honeymoon
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Old Dec 8th, 2008, 02:31 PM
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Very enjoyable, thanks so much for posting your report.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2009, 06:46 PM
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Old Jan 4th, 2009, 05:47 AM
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hi seeker,


i just loved your description of shopping in the supermarket - you sound just like me. my trouble is that I want to buy everything, and my DH spends his whole time saying what we don't need and trying to drag me out of the store!

the fire not drawing my anot have been your fault - we've got a "real" fire and for that last few days, it's been really hard to get it going - I think it may be something to do with the wind direction.

love the report,

regards, ann
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Old Jan 5th, 2009, 08:32 PM
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Grazie all...

Gosh, I really need to finish this report!

Lindy27, Congrats on the upcoming marriage! You will love, love, love La Mala, Vernazza & Cinque Terre. It's heaven on earth.

Ann, welcome back!

Ciao...for now!

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Old Feb 9th, 2009, 10:09 AM
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Old Apr 5th, 2009, 06:36 PM
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adventureseeker,
My husband and I are planning a rather unexpected trip to Italy, leaving in less than a month.

I remembered reading your report with such pleasure and went looking for it tonight, especially for the Cinque Terre portion. I hadn't realized you didn't finish Tuscany. I'd love to see how your trip finished.
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Old Apr 5th, 2009, 09:10 PM
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Hi adventureseeker.

Your report was great ! I will be going to rome , florence , venice and milan in May and your reprot helped alot !

My itinerary goes like this so im wondering if i have enough time to do all you did.

Day 1 - arrive rome morning
Day 2 - Rome
Day 3 - leave rome morning for florence
day 4 - leave morning for venice
day 5 - venice
day 6 - leave for milan morning

Do you think its too rush ? Too few days for venice and florence ?
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Old Apr 6th, 2009, 10:28 AM
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Hi supertraveller

adventureseeker may disagree, but I think it's too rushed.

ridiculously so. too few days for everywhere. you have 1 1/2 days in Rome, 1/2 day and a night in Florence, 1/2 days in Venice. you will be exhausted. you wil not be able to tell whether you are in the Borghese or the accademia.

personally, I would just go to Rome for a week, but if you must, stay in Rome for 3 nights, then get the train to Florence, and stay there 3 nights. Venice can wait.

[acutally, of them all, it's the one that possibly can't wait due to the ravages of the rising water, but to get the train there from Rome, and then back to Milan wil take you too long, which is why I suggest you should plump for Florence as your third place].

regards, ann
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Old May 29th, 2009, 02:06 PM
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I'm going to Europe in August for 5 months and would love to read the rest of the trip report... please?
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Old May 29th, 2009, 02:58 PM
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Adventureseeker, your trip report is excellent. I wish I'd read it before I started mine on Venice (I'm in the middle of it now). Maybe I wouldn't do mine at all; yours is so good.

I appreciate all the practical information, but mainly your overflowing joie de vivre and sense of humor. When you put your produce into bags and went to the register, I held my breath, knowing what surprise was in store. But like you, I enjoyed using the label machine. It's brilliant.

I can see from all the enthusiastic readers' comments how your report has given pleasure to many people, including me. Thanks.
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Old Jun 14th, 2009, 08:56 AM
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Great report, thankyou.
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