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I Shouldn't Be Alive: Spain & Italy...in August...in a wheelchair!

I Shouldn't Be Alive: Spain & Italy...in August...in a wheelchair!

Old Oct 6th, 2011, 06:39 PM
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Thank you, ellenem! I'm definitely adding them to my list.
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Old Oct 6th, 2011, 07:17 PM
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So weird! I went to Cacio e Pepe in Manhattan (East Village or nearby?) about 5+ years ago. And I live in San Francisco. It was good.
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Old Oct 6th, 2011, 07:29 PM
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I followed that link above and it was wrong. Here's official site as well as the sibling restaurant.

http://www.cacioepepe.com/

http://www.cacioevino.com/
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Old Oct 6th, 2011, 07:48 PM
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Weird - it must require the www for some reason. The full link is the same web site I found. Serves me right for trying to be brief! Thanks for making sure I had the right info - and Leely, thanks for the review!
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Old Oct 6th, 2011, 10:30 PM
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Oh my adoc! As soon as I read the line about you seeing Pienza down the hill... I thought of the best meal I've ever had in Italy.

It was in Pienza and it was... Cacio e Pepe!! And the olive oil used in it was so phenomenal, that I asked for more bread just so I could soak up the oil from it. (I can still taste it after 18 months!)

Additionally, when we arrived in Rome several days later, we stopped in at one of my favorite litte restaurants there, called Sor Eva. Though it was not on the menu, I asked the waiter if they could fix me some fettucini with Cacio e pepe. They did and it was just as fabulous as the one in Pienza. He even shaved the Pecorino into the bottom of the bowl first, so when he put the hot pasta on top, it formed a bowl of Pecorino. Marvelous!!!

I bought a wheel of this fabulous Pecorina in Pienza. On my thrid night home in Texas, used it to make Cacio e Pepe for my friends. They still talk about it being their favorite meal I've ever served. (And I entertain a lot!)

Thanks so much for the memories! I like your writing style and am really enjoying your report.

Grazie!
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Old Oct 7th, 2011, 03:06 AM
  #106  
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Thanks for all the cacio e pepe discussion ellenem and jent103. We actually have plans to go to Manhattan for a few nights for my birthday and we'll definitely be visiting one of the mentioned restaurants.

Jent103 - I don't mind the threadjack at all, ultimately its for the betterment of everyone's taste buds
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Old Oct 7th, 2011, 06:01 AM
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Another reader giving you a thumbs up, very nicely written report. The Autogrills were a pleasant surprise for us too, couldn't believe food could be that good at on a highway rest stop, puts ours to shame...I'll take a panini over a quarter pounder any day (not that I even eat that stuff).
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Old Oct 7th, 2011, 07:27 AM
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Another reader who has been truly enjoying your trip report, but who has yet to give the big thumb's up - but now that you are in bella Italia, let me add my enthusiastic appreciation of your trip, and your writing. Hope you gave Autogrill another try; we did not actually stop in one until maybe our third trip and were we ever sorry it took so long. The bigger ones, with the sitdown cafeterias, and the grocery gift stores, are amazing. My DH's favorite meal is cacio e pepe, and when I read your review, he's ready to go back - actually we going back in the spring, to Venice and the Veneto, not actually home for cacio e pepe, but I bet he finds one somewhere. Looking forward to the rest of your trip. Oh, and what you do with limited mobility is just amazing; two years ago we took a trip to Italy right after my husband had unexpected knee surgery. While he could walk slowly, he couldn't drive and we did use mobility services in 4 airports, 3 countries. It was quite an eye-opener, but if anything it did show us that travel is possible with adaptations. Brava to you.
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Old Oct 7th, 2011, 09:20 AM
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The Autogrills were a pleasant surprise for us too, couldn't believe food could be that good at on a highway rest stop, puts ours to shame..>>

we just got back from germany, and their "Marche" autobahn chain is very good. same in Austria where there is something similar. all fresh and seasonal and cooked to order.

i wish we had that in the UK too, rather than the dreaded ..you know who.
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Old Oct 7th, 2011, 11:25 AM
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'Thoroughly enjoying your report. I never wanted to go to Barcelona before...but now it's on my list! We were in Montefollonico in July but not at a mealtime. If only I had read this before going. The restaurant in NYC is now a must for me the next time I am there!
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Old Oct 9th, 2011, 11:23 AM
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I'm enjoying your report very much. We spent a month in Spain last year and loved Sevilla and Barcelona. This year we were in Tuscany. We must have been near where you were. We were near Montepulciano. We were in an apartment in a renovated old farmhouse. The owners lived upstairs and they had three apartments on the ground level. Our place was the former barn for the cows and you could see the rounded bricks (about cow shoulder height) in the arches left in place. I'm sad, though, that we didn't hear about your meal of pasta in a cheese wheel. That sounds wonderful. Another reason to go back.
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Old Oct 10th, 2011, 01:30 PM
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I forgot to mention that when we were in Sevilla we also stayed at the Hotel Amadeus. Our room, though, while charming was pretty small and crowded. We also went to the bullfight ring and found it very interesting. Originally, my husband wanted to go to a bullfight and I didn't know if I wanted to go or not. One late afternoon we were resting up in the hotel and there was a bullfight on TV. We watched it there and decided we didn't need to go to the real thing. The tour of the ring, though, was fascinating. We also went to a flamenco show. My seat was not very good - there were two people directly in front of me, so I didn't enjoy it as much as my husband did. I found I spent most of the time trying to bob and weave so I could see what was happening. The Alcazar was lovely.
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Old Oct 10th, 2011, 05:43 PM
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Day 11- Tuscany

We wake up to our first morning in Tuscany. Its overcast, but still beautiful and it doesn't feel as hot as yesterday. We head to the kitchen for breakfast, which is served from 8 to 10am. We have the option of sitting outside or inside, both at small tables with the cutest settings I've ever seen. As we reach the kitchen another couple arrives as well, they are Dan and Sarah from Seattle. We all decide to have breakfast together at the table outside. We sit and get to know each other a little bit, all of us gushing about how much we love Follonico. Sarah is very pregnant and they are using this trip through Italy as a last hurrah before their first baby arrives.

Inside on a small table there is coffee, juice and hot water for tea. Mike and I opt for tea, so he goes to fill our cups. Sarah and I adore the polka dot milk/sugar containers and flowered teacups. One thing is for sure, if Suzanne did the decorating at the B&B then she has amazing taste and a flair for design. Breakfast is also laid out on another small table. There are fresh cheeses, meats and bread. On another platter are pastries, sweet bread, fruits and jams. Its so quaint and everything is so fresh - the perfect breakfast.

We eat and chat about our new friends' upcoming plans. What is funny is that another couple arrives and greet us with a happy "good morning." The woman is also pregnant and her and Sarah have the same due date, what a coincidence! They take a picture together and exchange e-mails to track each other's progress.

After breakfast Fabio brings us a map that he created for all of the guests. It is very detailed with the most scenic routes highlighted for all of the close, small Tuscan towns. We draws us a sample route for our first day, which will allow us to see some of the countryside as well as some hill towns. We definitely want to venture out on our own, but we're here for 5 days and we figure that following his advice for day 1 will help us get our bearings.

Our first stop is Pienza, which is only about 10-15 minutes away. We drive back to Montefollonico and on to the road that will take us straight to Pienza. Its so close that we don't see a lot of countryside along the way, but what we do see is gorgeous. Although Fabio and Suzanne are praying for rain (it hasn't rained in 35 days), we are hoping that it will hold off while we're here.

We come to Pienza and follow the blue parking signs. We find a spot in a residential area and take advantage of it - its Sunday so we don't know if we have a chance of finding anything closer and its really not too far from the city walls. We walk to the town and see a huge banner that says, "Fiera del Cacio" a cheese festival from September 2nd through 4th, what luck! We head inside the walls and see people filtering through the small streets. Even though there is a festival, its not overly crowded at all and we're so excited that we happened to catch this. I first head straight to a small ceramic shop on the left, which has lots of brightly colored bowls, plates and oil cruets. There are lots of different patterns and I see so many things that I'd love to bring home, but we leave empty handed.

We start walking down the main artery of the town, passing carts of cheese with every step. The town literally smells like cheese right now and people are buying up wheels of it right and left. We come to a church on our left, which is taped off with a crowd surrounding it. Some type of game is going on and there are occasional cheers and claps. I can't see over the crowd, so we decide to try to get a better view on our way out. We continue walking through the bustling street and I'm so happy. I'm sure we will see plenty of sleepy hill towns, so we're glad to see one that's very much alive. Children are running around, excited and playing, while their parents browse the carts of cheese. We stop and and try lots of delicious samples, wishing our suitcases were bottomless and could accommodate a few wheels. We continue down the street, wandering in and out of shops.

We walk along and come to a road named Dell'Amore and Mike laughs as I take a picture of the sign. I look to my left and down the same road is a spectacular view of Tuscan hills. We walk down this way and as far out as you can see are beautiful rolling hills, vineyards, cypress trees and stone farmhouses. Its idyllic and we stay here for a few minutes, just absorbing the amazing view while the scent of pecorino floats through the air. We love Pienza!

We walk around the perimeter and take in the views from every angle. We've been wandering for about two hours and decide to head back to the car. We aren't sad to leave because we know we'll be visiting Pienza again since its so close to where we're staying. On the way back we stop to try to get a glimpse of what game is being played by the church. I peek my head through some people and see that there are teams of men in different colored shirts. They're playing a game on the ground that reminds me of curling in the Olympics. Everyone is really into it and cheer loudly when someone does well. Anyone know what this game is?

We head back to the car, thrilled with our first hill town. Pienza is very flat and in my opinion very wheelchair friendly. A couple of the shops had one step to enter, but a lot of them didn't have any steps at all and the door frames were always wide enough to enter with my chair. The town is fully cobble-stoned, but they are in good shape and not too difficult to maneuver.

We reach the car and set out for our next town, San Quirico. We drive a very scenic route and have a fun time listening to Italian music, while I snap pictures along the way. We reach San Quirico, which definitely looks to be asleep. We actually find a handicap parking spot and we hope that everything I've read about being able to us our US handicap tag in Italy is correct.

By this time my stomach is starting to bother me and I'm feeling a little nauseous. Even so we're both pretty hungry and decide to find something to eat. We walk through the town, which looks dead. Everything is closed, everything. Even if it weren't though we don't see a lot of shops we'd be interested in visiting anyway. We walk for quite a while before we find a restaurant that looks open. We decide to eat at a place called Il Pozzo and make our way in. There is one step that is not a problem, but after that there is a ton of deep gravel which gives me a problem. One of the owners sees me and runs over to help, making sure we're able to get to the closest table. We sit outside in a small courtyard and most of the tables around us are full. The owner tells me that they actually have a portable ramp that I could use to sit inside (there are 3 steps to go in), but we decide to stay in the courtyard. In order to get to the entrance to go inside we would have to maneuver through much more gravel and it would be far too troublesome.

We order bruschette with olive oil to start, which is delicious (though not as good as 13 Gobbi). Mike orders the pici with meat sauce and I have the pici with meat sauce and mushrooms. Both come out and are fantastic, homemade pasta is Michael's favorite. We're both fulfilled and with one liter of water and two cokes our bill comes to 25 euros. We rush out because it starts to sprinkle and we don't want to get caught in a downpour. Overall San Quirico didn't really leave much of an impression on us, but I'm sure it would have been different if we hadn't have visited on a Sunday afternoon. There were some gradual hills, but nothing too steep and it was perfectly doable on my own.

We find the car and head back to Follonico - we don't feel like walking through any towns in the rain. The sky is so dark, but it actually looks really pretty and quite striking against the wheat-colored hills. We pass by a field of sunflowers that have all dried up due to lack of water. Its a shame because the field would have been beautiful in bloom.

We reach Follonico and it looks as though the rain hasn't reached this area yet. We get out of the car and as I'm walking toward the house I see a big, black dog. She spots me at the same time and before I know it she's running right toward me at full speed. This would definitely be intimidating if you are scared of dogs or uncomfortable with her size. Luckily I grew up with a doberman and a timber wolf (yes really, a timber wolf) so I am more excited than afraid as Priscilla approaches me. She is extremely friendly, running circles around Mike and jumping all around like she couldn't be happier. She grabs my forearm in her mouth, but I know she's just playing and she doesn't bite down hard. We can barely move because she's so happy to see us that she won't get out of our way. We've been missing our dogs so we're both really happy to have finally met her. She bounds off to the side and comes back with a 6 foot branch in her mouth! She runs around like a nut, but she's adorable and I love her already.

We walk over to the benches we sat on yesterday and she follows us over. We're trying to figure out what kind of dog she is, but we really have no idea. She has long hair that has matted into dreadlocks, but it suits her and is pretty cute. She grabs my arm again and we gently play tug of war with it. Although she is big, she is not nearly as large as I imagined - surely not big enough to mistaken for a bear.

Suzanne spots us and walks over. At first she looks concerned to see my arm in Priscilla's mouth, but I assure her that its fine and that I'm used to big dogs. We find out that she is a Giant Schnauzer, although she doesn't look it due to her long hair. She is only a year old, which explains her energy and playfulness.

We sit outside for a while. Mike listens to his ipod and I write in my journal, all the while Priscilla is laying right by us. We see a car pull up and Suzanne runs over to greet them. A man and two women step out and Suzanne guides them to a room near where we are sitting. Priscilla goes to greet them too, but doesn't look very excited and seems a little wary of the man. Instantly the man says, "Excuse me, excuse me!" as Priscilla hesitantly tries to sniff his leg. At first we think he's joking, but he repeats it and is serious. He then turns to Suzanne and says, "This is going to be a problem." She asks if he is afraid of dogs and he says no, that he has dogs at home, but that he would like the dog to be confined or tied down. Suzanne looks surprised, but apologizes and agrees to tie Priscilla down. Call me judgmental but I am instantly not liking this guy. Its one thing if you don't like dogs or you're afraid of them, but he seems like he's just being difficult for the sake of being difficult. A woman who I assume to be his wife looks embarrassed and turns away.

We go back to our room and lounge for a while. I'm loving this part of the trip - see some gorgeous views, eat some delicious food, lounge and read for a while with Italian music in the background. Around 6:30 we head back to Pienza for dinner. We have reservations at Latte di Luna for 7:00.

We find parking in a small lot with an open handicap spot. We make our way to the restaurant, which has a cute little terrace with vines and lights. As soon as we're seated people start to pile in and are instantly turned away if they don't have a reservation. Luckily we made ours earlier this afternoon when we happened to walk by and see the restaurant.

I order the tagliatelle with truffles and Mike has the pici with tomatoes and garlic. Of course we order more bruschette because we love bread and carbs are my friend while on vacation

The restaurant is full in 20 minutes and its clear that you don't have a chance without reserving in advance. Our pastas come and they're fabulous! The tagliatelle with truffles is delicious and Mike devours his pici. I'm so full and starting to regret that I ordered a second course. Luckily it takes quite a while for our next plates to come out, but I'm so glad that it does. My stomach is still bothering me and I'm hoping that I don't have some type of 48 hour bug.

Our second courses come out. I had ordered roast beef with mushrooms and Mike ordered the plain roast beef. When it arrives we're both surprised that it isn't at all what we expected. It is very thinly sliced pieces of beef with gravy and mushrooms on it, almost like deli roast beef. Its good, but not mind blowing. Just the same I'm thankful that its so light because I don't think I could have eaten anything heavy.

We order the misto di gelato for dessert, which turns out to be a sampling of three homemade ice creams - hazelnut, orange, and zabaione. The hazelnut is our favorite, but all three are tasty. We sit and linger for awhile, finally paying our bill at 11pm. We leisurely walk back to the car and enjoy our drive back to Follonico. Its a cool night and its so nice to have the windows down and to listen to the crickets and Italian music on the radio. A Vasco Rossi song comes on and instantly reminds me of a Rossi concert I went to years ago in Milan with my cousin. Life is good.
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Old Oct 10th, 2011, 05:53 PM
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Ifnotnow_when - the place you stayed in Tuscany sounds lovely! There are so many gems to be found there in terms of places to stay.

kwren- I'm so happy that you've changed your mind about Barcelona! We truly loved it.

annhig - "i wish we had that in the UK too, rather than the dreaded ..you know who." Who? I've been to the UK, but never driven through to have the chance of experiencing any "road food." I'm curious what you're referring to so that we can avoid it in the future...

Owlwoman, Sarge56, & Socaltraveler - thanks so much for your kind words, I'm glad you're enjoying the report!

txtree - I hope you have a wonderful time in Barcelona, though isn't it impossible not to? Do let me know if you happen to see my feline friend
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Old Oct 10th, 2011, 06:08 PM
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Life is good, and so is your report.
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Old Oct 11th, 2011, 02:19 AM
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Adoc86 - I think annhig is referring to: KFC, McDonalds, and Burger King! They are littered all over our motorways in England!
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Old Oct 11th, 2011, 06:40 AM
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I think annhig is referring to: KFC, McDonalds, and Burger King! They are littered all over our motorways in England!>>

got it in one, jamikins.

the ordinary cafe fare [where you can get it] isn't much better and Costa, well, costs, doesn't it?

oh for well cooked, fresh food.

i suppose they think there's no call for it.
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Old Oct 13th, 2011, 03:20 AM
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I had the tagliatelle with truffles at Latte de Luna too and loved it...my first truffles!

And I have to guess that the Pienza festival involved rolling cheese wheels - but I don't know anything about how it's p[layed if that's the right guess. If that's what it was, what cool festival to happen upon! I'd love to see it myself someday! Don't forget to give us the details!
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Old Oct 14th, 2011, 03:35 AM
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The Follonico looks astounding and I've added to my long, long Italy wish list. Enjoying this.
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Old Oct 14th, 2011, 08:43 AM
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This is just great! I'm enjoying every step you took and every road you drove. I was in Tuscany a couple of years ago and am reliving it all. Right down to Latte di Luna! More, please.
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