Jamikins and Bikerscott do Italy!

Old Jun 26th, 2012, 01:54 PM
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jamikins, laurel is bay leaf. That must have been an interesting liquor!
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Old Jun 26th, 2012, 02:00 PM
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looking forward to reading your adventures!
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Old Jun 26th, 2012, 03:02 PM
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...we had grappa flavored with bay leaf in Umbria - it was
a lovely subtle green in colour.
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Old Jun 26th, 2012, 03:08 PM
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Yes I thought so!! Glad my taste buds and herb recognition have not failed me!! Very interesting taste...I mean I drank it hahaha!!
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Old Jun 26th, 2012, 07:35 PM
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Hi there, this trip report is an entertaining as yours always are! thank you for putting so much time into writing it.

Hey Scott, for what it's worth, I get dreadful indigestion if I have coffee with my evening meal. Maybe skip the coffee and have an extra liquor??
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Old Jun 27th, 2012, 08:45 AM
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Good evening Fodorites - another beautiful sunny day in Puglia - we could get used to this!

Glad everyone is still following along and enjoying!


Day Five – A Holiday on the Sun

Jamie let me sleep in this morning until just after 10 – this is pretty much unheard of on our holidays, but this trip seems to be more about relaxation than site-seeing so a lie-in was deemed permissible. It was wonderful. The bed, while not quite as nice as our memory foam mattress at home, is one of the better mattresses I’ve slept on while on holiday. It’s so quiet here, other than the sounds of nature, that I’m sleeping like a baby. A slightly drunken baby to be fair, but nonetheless.

After finally getting up, we walked out onto what was soon to become the surface of the sun. By 11:00 when we left it was already pushing 32 Celsius with blue skies above and not a cloud in sight. Ashley gave us directions to Urbino and we set off without Gazza to direct us – an adventure if ever there was one.

She’d suggested that we take the slightly longer but far more scenic road to Urbania, staying off the autostrada and using the windy mountain road instead. Windy doesn’t even begin to describe it. Despite the 90km/hr speed limit, I had to keep it in third gear pretty much the entire way, even dropping down into second on some of the sharper corners.

By the time we finally got to Urbino, the mercury had nearly hit 37 and was still climbing. We found the big parking lot in front of the town, and even found an empty spot to leave Giancarlo for the afternoon. Of course Urbino is a hill town, so our first mission was to climb up to the main part of the city – this being us, we chose the steep stairs rather than the not quite so steep road that we hadn’t noticed.

Urbino is a university town, so like Bologna there were a load of students about, most of whom seemed somehow unaffected by the heat. A few were even wearing jeans, which seemed crazy to us, melting in our shorts and linen shirts as we were. We made it a priority to find a restaurant to eat at, and after checking the menus at a few in the main square and rejecting them as being too studenty, we found a place just up (and I mean up) the road which offered typical Urbinian food apparently.

Lunch was, as we’ve come to expect in this part of Italy, very good, extremely filling, and not overly expensive. I finally had another plate of pasta fagiole (pasta with beans), something I haven’t seen since an epic evening of eating several years ago in a village just above Positano on the Amalfi Coast. Jamie was still feeling a bit carsick from rollercoaster ride getting to Urbino, and I think a bit from the heat as well, so only had a single glass of wine and a plate of pasta. I went for a chicken diavolo for my main dish, which turned out to be a grilled chicken with some sort of spice on it – not sure what, but it was very tasty.

After lunch we walked up the very steep hill to Piazza Roma to see the scenic view of the town. The map that described this was a bit misleading – the view is of the town, however it’s of the not particularly interesting new bit of town down by the parking lot. Not worth the trek up that bloody hill, that’s for sure. The map also showed a little series of alleys leading back down the side of the hill with a few outlooks along the way. I think it was closed – at any rate we couldn’t find it.

Admitting defeat, we walked back down that damn hill back to the main piazza and up the hill on the other side for a look at the ducal palace (or dookie palace, as I’ve taken to calling it, because while I may be chronologically in my mid-to-late-thirties, I have the juvenile sense of humour of an immature twelve year old).

We didn’t quite make it before the cool interior of a massive church beckoned to us – not because of any religious feeling, but simply because it looked as if it might be a little less warm inside than out. It was.

While I’m not religious, I do like lighting candles in churches when I go in, for reasons explained in previous reports. The churches in La Marche seem to have gone into the 21st century in a big way and have replaced all the little candles with electric lights. Some you put into little plugs yourself, and in the church next to the ducal palace, they’re all already in place – you drop your offering in and one of the several dozen will turn on for a while. It seems to lessen the little ceremony of lighting a candle in the darkness, but maybe that’s just me.

Slightly cooler and refreshed, we ventured back out to see if we could find the entrance to the palace. We did, but it seemed to just be an exhibition of urban planning on display, for which we would need to buy tickets. Neither of us were particularly interested, so we walked back down to the piazza, stopping for a gelato on the way.

We paid for the parking – only €3.60 for three hours, which isn’t bad at all, and got into the car. I keep thinking that I really should leave the windows open just a crack when we leave Giancarlo parked in the sun, but never when we actually park it in the sun. We had to open all the doors and let the air conditioning run for five minutes before we could get in, and even then I just about burned my hand on the gear shifter when I tried to put it in reverse. We set Gazza for home via the Furlo gorge – a longer drive than the way up, but much straighter plus it offered a detour through a tunnel built by the Romans. Well actually the slaves of Vespasian, to create via Flaminia that leads all the way to Rome about 250 km from here.

The Furlo gorge is amazing. The tunnel was chipped through the stone, and has seen emperors, kings, queens, and countless others pass through it before the big autostrada was built. Apparently the road became notorious for highwaymen and brigands, and I can see why. Narrow and winding next to the river it wouldn’t take much to stop a coach back in the day. We stopped at a pullout to take some photos, and continued on our way.

Our last stop was in Piobbico for a soda at one of the cafés on the main road, followed by a stop in at Conad for dinner supplies. It was kind of neat going to the same small café for the second time in a few days – they remembered us and were happy to welcome us back – not something we get all that often in London with the endless stream of people through.

One of the signs in town said it was 41 celsius – this at 4:30 when the temperature had finally started to drop. No wonder we were melting. With the heat, and the richness and amount of the food we’ve been eating for the last few days, we decided to take a bit of a break for dinner this evening. In addition to the obligatory bottle of wine or two, we also picked up an assortment of fresh fruit for our evening meal, including a bowl of just about the best cherries I’ve ever had, and a quarter of a watermelon that was so large it almost needed a basket on it’s own.

We’ve had a lazy afternoon and evening back at La Tavola Marche. A dip in the pool followed by an hour or so reading our books in the lounge chairs next to the pool, then snacking on fruit at the little table outside our room. And wine, of course.
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Old Jun 27th, 2012, 09:44 AM
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3 weeks ago the high was 15deg. and the rain was pelting down.

Love the 'surface of the sun' - you do have a way with words!
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Old Jun 27th, 2012, 03:57 PM
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As always, enjoying your report and photos! Thanks!!!
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 12:32 AM
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And here are the pics from Le Marche:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?...1&l=9a81a23e9e

Happy Thursday everyone!
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 01:00 AM
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Scott, it all sounds lovely and I'm enjoying reading about something other than the usual big 3 or 4 Italian cities. Not that I don't love them, but this is something else to consider next time! I love your photos too.

Here's a little tip when you head out next time in the car. Throw a bath towel in the car and drape it (folded thickly) over the steering wheel and gear stick while the car is parked.

It's not a fun experience to grab hold of a boiling hot steering wheel or gear stick - as a resident of Sydney, I know it well. My car has leather seats and hopping into that car when it's been parked in the summer sun is a mistake I only made once!!!
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 04:01 AM
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Really enjoying reading about your holiday adventures - also really lovely pictures, Puglia really is nice, not wonder so many Fodorites love it so much, plus the food looks divine.

Make sure both of you are putting on sun block when you are out in the sun, otherwise you will each end up like an enormous boiled calamari!!!

Thanks so much for taking up your precious time to report to us Fodorites, who love travelling so much. It seems like we are doing the holiday with you!!!
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 05:27 AM
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We're headed to Le Marche in a few months, and I'm loving every word of your report. And those pictures are amazing!! Thanks so much.
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 07:02 AM
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I feel your pain!! We hit 112F yesterday (I guess around 44C) YIKES! But we have the monsoons rolling in late afternoons to help us cool down

LOVE the report! Just the kind of vacation I would take if I wasnt going to be a first timer to Italy (or Europe at all!!)in three more months! You guys crack me up! Thanks for sharing!
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 07:38 AM
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Great tips cathies!! And yes, Anna, I lather up on the sunscreen trust me...as a fair skinned person it is essential!!!!

Enjoy your trip readytogo...I am sure it won't be your last!

Another gloriously sunny day here in Puglia..,a girl could get spoiled!!
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 07:40 AM
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Modern you are going to love it! The landscape is just beautiful and it's so nice to not get crushed by all the tourists! Just ask if you have any questions!!
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 09:56 AM
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Just getting ready to watch the Italy vs. Germany game tonight. The Masseria has a huge screen they are erecting in the courtyard so we can all enjoy our meal and watch the game together! GO ITALY!!!

Day Six – The Video Game Theory of Touristing

After the epic lie-in yesterday, we decided to make an early start to the day today. That meant two things: 1) due to careful planning, we went to bed relatively early, and 2) the damn alarm went off at 8:30am, which in my opinion is far too early for a relaxing summer holiday. We dragged our sorry selves out of bed, showered etc, and left.

Mission today was Gubbio – not technically in La Marche, located instead in nearby Umbria next door. We’d been in a train which inexplicably stopped on the track just below Gubbio some 10 years ago on our honeymoon trip. At the time, an extraordinarily ugly man (whom we named Pig Man at the time) tried to remove the tonsils through the mouth of an unusually attractive woman who was wearing a very short skirt. The view of Gubbio up on its hill was the only other thing to look at, and much preferable to the alternative on the seats across from us.

So ten years later, we drove the unbelievably badly maintained road from La Marche into Umbria and found ourselves at the parking lots just below Gubbio. I had managed to give myself a minor corneal abrasion on the drive and was in quite a lot of pain, but as I’m extremely tough didn’t whinge about it nearly as much as I could have. To be completely honest, I made Jamie aware of the issue in no uncertain terms; I’m just saying I could have been more vocal than I was.

Gubbio is well designed for the lazy tourist, featuring several lifts to take one up to the top of the little hill town. We found these fairly quickly and made our way up the first lift, where we presented with the option of paying to get into the local municipal museum, or continuing up on another lift to another higher level. We went up, based on the video game theory that going to a higher level is almost always better and leads to more valuable rewards (this was my thinking at any rate, I’m not sure Jamie thought about it in quite the same way).

At the top of the second lift, we were again presented with the option of paying to get into this time a church museum of some sort, or taking the mystery path to the left. We went left and found ourselves in a church. This almost never happens in video games; normally I would have expected a troll or other baddie to block our way.

The church was churchy, with the now expected electric candles. This one also featured “Pay to Illuminate” lights, without which the interior was quite dark. I don’t mind dropping a donation at the box whenever I go into a church, but having to pay for lights seems a bit much to me.

After leaving the church we found yet another ticket office – this one for the Ducal Palace (another dookie palace, yes, I giggled again). This time instead of taking the path to the left, we paid our €5 each for the self-guided tour. It was a bit of a rip-off, if I’m perfectly honest. The archaeological section underground was sort of interesting, but mostly featured broken bits of walls and broken bits of pots with no explanations for either.

The upstairs bit was room after room of paintings, again with no explanations (we did later find a map with the paintings on, but only in Italian, which didn’t help as a) they were at the exit and b) we don’t speak enough Italian). The only positive of the tour was the unfinished toilets on the deserted 2nd floor of the bit off to the side that I don’t think we were supposed to be in. By the time we found them I was a bit desperate, so it came as quite a relief and almost worth the €10 we’d paid for the two of us to enter in the first place.

After our generally non-informative tour of the palace, we felt lunch was in order. Gubbio is a great little city with not a lot of tourists about, which unfortunately means not a lot of selection in the lunch arena, as far as we could discern. The restaurant we did end up was actually quite nice, and we had an excellent lunch outside watching tourists walk down the hill and what must’ve been locals drive up it. As a side-note – the locals either have a great deal of trouble finding parking, or there is some sort of Gubbian obsession with driving around and around all afternoon, because most cars we saw more than once or twice in the few hours we sat there.

We stuffed ourselves silly at lunch. We had the Menu Tipico which included 4 courses with dessert. We ordered a glass of wine for Jamie and a coke for me and got a bottle of wine and a coke, and rather than making a fuss we felt we should drink the wine, which was quite tasty. I had to drive so didn’t drink as much of it as I normally would have, can’t imagine what the waitress thought when we ordered a bottle and a coke.

After lunch we continued down the hill, keeping between the two of us three eyes out for a pharmacy where I could by some eye drops which we were unable to find between lunch and the car. The drive back towards La Marche was as terrible as the drive out, which leads me to two observations. Firstly, Umbria really needs to spend more time and money maintaining their roads. Secondly, when hiring a car, make sure before driving away that the car is equipped with both an engine, and also suspension not made out of jello. The Hyundai did not do well.

As is our new tradition, we stopped briefly in Piobbico for a soft drink and gelato at the little café, followed by a purchase of wine (and sunblock) at the Conad, and finally a brief game of charades in the local pharmacy for some eye drops (the pharmacists didn’t speak English, and I don’t know enough Italian to explain that I’ve got a great bloody scratch on my eyeball and need some drops to make it feel better). I think I’ve ended up with the right thing, but if I’m blind tomorrow morning, we’ll have a suspect in mind.

La Tavola Marche was hosting their weekly Thursday night pizza extravaganza tonight and we’d signed up. Jason got the wood-burning pizza oven going at about 6 in the evening and started stretching the pizza shells to an appreciative audience of residents. Dinner was scheduled to start at 7:30 for the people staying at the B&B, with a second seating for the 15 locals from Piobbico booked in to start some time after 8pm.

We got going on time and freshly cooked pizza after pizza came flying out of the oven. They were all tasty and hot, with the vegetarian and margarita being the winners I think. The 15 locals turned into 25 with no notice, but Ashley and Jason took it in their stride, moving tables around to accommodate everyone.

The evening was fantastic, with wine and conversation flowing. We made some new friends – a Dutch couple exploring the area with an eye to moving here, a Kiwi couple visiting for a few days, and an American family doing the grand tour of Italy. The Italians were hilarious, with a few faces we recognized from Piobbico. After too much pizza and probably too much wine, we’ve called it a night – slightly drunk but happy with the evening.
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 11:55 AM
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What road did you take to Gubbio? We're staying in Cagli, and plan to take a day trip there, and I wonder if we can avoid the bad highway (and any injury). Also, do you remember the name of the restaurant where you had lunch?

Thanks so much.
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 12:06 PM
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Modeen, we took the main highway through Cagli, it was fine...the roads are a bit rough everywhere but not horrific haha!

I will try to find the restaurant, it was great!
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 12:21 PM
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oh my those pictures are Sooooooooo good!! i am so hungry now!!

(and scott the strawberry tart lookgin pretty great!)
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Old Jun 28th, 2012, 12:57 PM
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Thank you HG - we are buddies again hahaha

Ps - woo hoo Italy! Just watched the game with all the Italians and it was awesome! Bring on the final!!
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