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ROME..Trip report with emphasis on food..January 2007

ROME..Trip report with emphasis on food..January 2007

Old Feb 10th, 2007, 12:39 PM
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ek,

Thank you...I checked the ingredients and they list the artichokes and oil and some pepper and lemon....not much else. Well, if it doesn't work, I can just sit there and spoon the pate right into my mouth straight from the jar....
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Old Feb 10th, 2007, 12:48 PM
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Traviata, ek, SusanP and everybody else who loves artichoke cream: it's really easy to prepare it yourself!, and there's even a recipe on Fodor's (on "Franco's favourite Venetian food&quot - of fresh artichokes... I don't know anything about frozen artichokes (not even that such a thing exists), but if they're of good quality, you might substitute them for the fresh ones, but please: no canned artichokes, never mind which oil went into the jar... I know, cleaning fresh artichokes is not a pleasant work, but after your first 40 or 50 artichokes, it doesn't take so much time anymore

Forgive me that I'll postpone writing more about liquamen/garum - the Greek ferry schedules are torturing me, and I've a terrible headache today... but Kristina, of course I'd be interested in your menu! Though I must say the Gozzini Giacosa, for one, is a cookbook that's on my shelf, too, and I don't agree with her ideas about Roman cooking.
More to follow, perhaps tomorrow!
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Old Feb 10th, 2007, 12:56 PM
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I am SO hungry!!
My husband and I will be in Rome mid-late July. He is always reading up on restaurants....wine...before we travel anywhere. This time, I want to surprise him and make reservations to celebrate a special occasion. Any suggestions?
 
Old Feb 10th, 2007, 01:14 PM
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FAAL, this very thread is full of suggestions!! Alternatively, look here: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34895007 or here: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34792415

Ok, leaving aside my ferry problem for a moment, I've done some research on Delfino's garum, and I'm stunned. This is no gourmet revival of an ancient preparation - it's a traditional local ingredient of a village named Cetara, guess where? There are no coincidences, told us Eloise: on the Amalfi Coast!! They obviously continued to make it since ancient times... that's Italy! (There are several ancient traditions obvious in several modern Italian regional cuisines.) And here is the most important garum recipe of Cetara, I've found it on the web:
Linguine alla colatura d'alici (that's how they call garum nowadays in Cetara)
10 black and 5 green olives, all stoned; half a clove of garlic; six walnut kernels; 0.1 litre of olive oil; 10 capers. Blend all these ingredients. (Personally, I'd blend all but the garlic clove, and chop that one finely with a knife, that's way better than putting it into the blender.) Add one tablespoon of colatura d'alici/garum and NO SALT! Sprinkle with lemon juice to taste, mix. Serve on 350 grams of hot linguine.
For you, ek! You're the only one of us who can prepare this dish - we others have no Cetara garum!
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Old Feb 10th, 2007, 01:17 PM
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Hi franco,

I have loved artichokes from childhood and have many memories of my mother cleaning and cooking them. That is likely why I decided early on that I wanted to be the person eating them and not the person preparing them!!
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Old Feb 10th, 2007, 01:35 PM
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leftover crema on toast...

OK, now there's something else I have to bring back! Do you know where I can get it? At a regular grocery store? I'll be in Venice, Bologna and, of course, Rome.
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Old Feb 10th, 2007, 02:21 PM
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Traviata, I see... I'm used to this kind of reaction! I definitely seem to be the only person I've ever met who does NOT mind cleaning artichokes (at least, not to an extent that would prevent me from doing it). The solution, however, is easy enough: rent an apartment in Venice, and prepare your artichokes there - the stalls on the Rialto market are selling them ALREADY CLEANED (and yes, I prefer it that way, too).
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Old Feb 10th, 2007, 03:38 PM
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Oh dear, I’ve arrived late at the party. Please, please, I hope someone saved some of the pasta with crema di carciofi for me...! One more thing to add to my ever-lengthening Rome list...

Ek, about Amalfi. First off, I have to admit that I was there on a group tour It was a cultural tour, a German “Studienreise,” so people at least had similar interests, but I still wouldn’t do it again... Anyway, it was so art-and-architecture oriented that we whizzed right by Positano and spent only a day in Amalfi and Ravello. As far as I can judge from what I’ve read about Positano, Amalfi is a little bit more of a “real” place. (You know my doubts about “real” places, but I think this might be one instance where I might go with “real” - or as real as any of the Amalfi Coast gets.) Amalfi’s cathedral (exterior more than interior) and the adjoining cloister are interesting. (You must have delizie al limone from the Pasticceria Pansa!) Ravello, about a half-hour up the hill from Amalfi, is very pretty, has two lovely gardens and splendid views. And the restaurant of the Hotel Villa Maria is good, or was in 1998. But then what? With me, a little bit of spectacular scenery goes a long way; I’m decidedly a city mouse, as I suspect you are. (A propos de rien: Ravello is, of course, where Gore Vidal lived for many, many years. My friend asked the tourist office where he lived and they quite happily told us. But discretion prevailed over valor.)

For what it’s worth, I’ve put myself into the doghouse for my contradictory remarks about Naples/Campania. First I urge it on you, then I tell you a week in Naples is too long...! Having given the matter a little more thought, I think I’d still go for it. Maybe five days Naples, two days Amalfi. Day trips from Naples to Pompeii and/or Herculaneum (you are probably aware, though, that the Circumvesuviana is a rather run-down commuter train...) and, as previously mentioned, Paestum (from Amalfi). Even if one or more of the temples is wrapped in scaffolding, the little museum is quite wonderful: It has that much-discussed fresco of The Diver and some good Archaic metopes. Paestum is also, I gather, deep in mozzarella di bufala country; you might be able to visit a cheese maker It would make quite a long day, though. In Naples itself, the National Archeological Museum is well worth a visit (I love the small little frescoes of Diana and Primavera/Flora; reproductions hang in my bedroom), and the Capodimonte Museum has a good collection. Spaccanapoli is fun - but “Attenzione alla borsa!” I honestly think that with a little bit of extra caution, you can escape unscathed. The cloister of Santa Chiara with its majolica tiles is a quiet oasis amid the chaos, and I suppose the Veiled Christ of Sansevero should be seen - more as a tour de force than as a work of art; I found it quite drippy and sentimental. Lots of churches and the cathedral with the blood that liquifies, so we are told. But enough of culture and on to food. Sfogliatelle! And torta caprese (chocolate and almond) at Caffe Gambrinus! (Do you see a theme emerging here...?) And I think you have to choose your hotel quite carefully, for location and to get some peace and quiet. The tour actually put us up in a four-star on Piazza Garibaldi - gasp! horror! It was not at all bad during the day; I admittedly didn’t go out late at night.

What is on the menu tonight? And where do I line up?
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Old Feb 10th, 2007, 04:40 PM
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Ok, here's what I made. I must preface this with the fact that I "adapted" many of the recipes so that they would be more appealing to my dinner guest's palates.
In attendance at the party were 5 couples, including the friend who gave me the book and begged me to cook from it and my sister-in-law who is a Classics professor at Northwestern. So, there was much discussion about Ancient Rome in general, the TV series "Rome" and the authenticity of the recipes.

Assorted Olives and Bread

Moretaria-Cheese (goat) round with herbs (mint, coriander, fennel, honey and garum)

Arugula and Watercress salad with fresh lavender (oil and vinegar dressing)

Barley Polenta-Corn was not introduced until after the discovery of the "new world", but barley was often cooked like a porriage or like creamy polenta. I added raisins and pine nuts, "just because".

Carrots with Cumin sauce

Squash Alexander-butternut squash with dates, pine nuts, cumin, mint, coriander, garic, honey, vinegar, olive oil and garum.

Minutal Matianum-Pork Stew with Apples (this was really good!)

Savillum-ricotta cheese cake, sweetened with honey.

Patina de Piris-Pear Patina-This is hard to describe, but somewhat like a pear custard baked in a casserole dish.

Much wine was consumed and good time was had by all.
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Old Feb 10th, 2007, 04:40 PM
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ekscrunchy,
I'm helping my inlaws plan their first trip to Italy this May and this thread it AWESOME! Thank you so much for your detail. I only wish I was going with them...I offered to be their personal tourguide if they bought my ticket but they aren't biting!
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 06:18 AM
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Kristina that menu is very impressive!

Eloise, thank you a million times for all the help you have offered, now and in the past. I will do some investigating; I think your idea is a good one. I love your, "attenzione alle borsa!!" comment. I am going to come back with heaps of questions, so watch out. Now, tht spaghetti with artichokes is getting cold but we can heat it up for you; I kept aside some of the pasta cooking water just in case!

Oh, one more thing: I remember seeing the Gore Vidal house in an article in the newspaper. It was up for sale and there were photos of the interior and exterior. Quite a palace. Do you think I should start a new thread with discussion of a possible future trip to Campania? We can intersperse our food chatter..??

Franco, I hope the Greek ferry schedules are not getting you down. I must have missed the planning of the Greek trip..can you divulge where you are headed? I hope lamb will be on the menu. One of these days you must get yourself to those lamb eating parts of Spain north of Madrid!

You are quite the sleuth, Franco, tracking down Delfino in Cetara! The bottle I bought looks like it was purchased on the site..it does not even have a commercial-type label attached, jsut a little card attached to the neck of the bottle by a string.

The garum recipe is going onto my kitchen counter (with the other scattered recipes!!) to be tried very soon.. I am expecting a new delivery of pasta from that place in the Bronx (Borgatti Ravioli) this week so will keep the recipe handy. I would guess that this ingredient is not so hard to order. Here is Delfino's e-mail address for those who might consider contacting him:

[email protected]

There is no web site listed on the bottle.

Franco, shudder to think that I mentioned jarred artichokes. On second thought, you are right, the flavor is not so great even with the olive oil. From Taormina two years ago I brought home artichoke hearts that were vacuum packed in a plastic container. I was so pleased with my purchase but when I opened them I was horrified. They tasted awful..drenched in preservative. Sure enough, I checked the label and they were packed in sunflower oil with some kind of preservative (citric acid?) added.

Well..breakfast is waiting...I wonder if I should sample some crema di carciofi with my toast? Seriously, that product is so good...I am kicking myself for not buying it in Italy recently.

I think it is widely available, Susan. My bottle comes from Chiusanico (Imperica)..Franco or Eloise can tell us where that is...
I am sure I bought my jars in a supermarket..maybe that Billa market in Venice...
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 06:22 AM
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ooops..the crema di carciofi is from Imperia, not Imperica... On second thought, I think I will save it for later in the afternoon and not sample for breakfast!
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 06:42 AM
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Thanks, ek, I'll look for it. Sounds so good...
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 08:30 AM
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http://www.frantoiobianco.it/ita/creme.htm
http://www.intuneweb.com/anticofrantoio/form.htm
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 08:34 AM
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EK, I just wanted to agree with Eloise about Sorrento. I think it is definitely the wrong place for a foodie like yourself. Its main advantage, IMO, is that it is easy to get from there to other places you might want to see in the area like Capri and Pompeii. We were there for 5 days and only found one restaurant we really liked (La Fenice). A lot of restaurants were closed when we were there off-season, but even in November the town was jam-packed with English-speaking tourists. There is no doubt that you would eat MUCH better in Naples, although the city itself is very much a matter of personal preference. I thought it was fascinating, but my husband hated it. And honestly I don’t know if I’d want to stay in Naples -- we only visited for a day to see the museum.

Thanks for all your great Rome recommendations. We hope to get to Trattoria Monti later this month when we are in Rome just for a couple of nights. Have you ever eated at Ristorante Melarancio?
http://www.ristorante-melarancio.it/index_en.html
Their sea bass with paper-thin potato crust is one of my all-time favorite meals. (The web site doesn’t give the complete menu, and it isn’t shown there.)
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 08:59 AM
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NonnaFelice: Thank you for the tip on the restaurant. I don't know it but will save the information for next time. Even thought I thought I did lots of research on eating in Rome, there is just so much richness there that a week was barely enough time to even scratch the surface, not only with food but with everything else that that city has to offer...it is a place that I hope I will be fortunate enough to revisit many times.

Glad to hear you second Eloise's opinion on Sorrento. Pubs and chips do not sound so appealing... I will get busy soon with my research on a possible trip to Campania; this would not be until the first part of next year, unfortunately.

I agree with what Eloise wrote earlier. Spectacular scenery is great but I do not want to base a trip around it. So many people here seem to focus on Positano; that is great for honeymooners and people who want to swim and do the resort activities. But I can relax at home! Also all of the trekking up and down the steps seems like it would wear thin after a day or two. {Is Amalfi also built into the hillside??) Since I will not be going in beach weather, I would like to be in a more accessible spot than Positano, I think. I really have not given this any thought yet...still considering other options. (Italy has so much to offer...I now understand how some people have given up on all other countries and just keep returning to Italy year after year..)

I am torn about Naples. I have been there twice and do not remember being afraid both visits were brief and a long time ago and from what I hear, safety is more of a concern now. I have to say that my feelings are colored by a bad experience I had in Palermo two years ago..although I was not hurt it has made me a little more hesitant to travel to a destination that has such a reputation for petty crime. On the other hand, maybe I am being a total ninny..after all I live in New York so an not unused to big city situations....such a dilemma..we should all have such problems, right??

I think I should start a new thread.."help ekscrunchy plan her next Italian eating extravaganza..!"
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 09:56 AM
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Apropos of the artichoke discussion above, I just learned (from travel tv show on PBS) about an artichoke festival held very spring in the Tuscan town of Chiusure. I am not able to find details about the dates, however.....
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 01:49 PM
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Ok, this isn't going to be a posting; it's going to be a novel.

First, artichokes festival, Tuscany: "Chiusure in piazza", April 23rd to 25th. http://www.slowfoodcrete.it/index.php, for who can read a little bit of Italian.
Google reveals (always in Italian, though) there is a second carciofi festival there in November, when they're cutting what seems to be the "crosta di carciofo" (they have a different name for it in Chiusure: carduccio). That's a stem like a cardoon (the artichoke's nearest relative, and much, much worse for the one who must clean it) that has, as far as I'm understanding it, to be cut away in autumn in order to gather artichokes (the plant's buds) in spring. No, I've never eaten croste di carciofi, but reportedly, they're excellent, too.

Second, Imperia, that's the westernmost province on Italy's coast - Liguria, near the French border.

Third, Eloise with a German Studienreise in Amalfi and Ravello, that serves you right (for your rejoicing at the thought of me, eating moussaka - brrr). In revenge, I can imagine you visiting Ravello with a bunch of German Oberstudienräten, who all must have known their Richard Wagner by heart. (I guess I'm definitely falling from grace with Eloise now, but anyhow, already my donkey salami above may have been sufficient to achieve this state of disgrace, since she didn't even react to it. Or was it the "rompicoglioni" for that certain Venetian poster? Imagine, having been banned from Fodor's only on Friday, he's already back since yesterday, under a new screen-name...) Ok, to be slightly more serious again, Ravello is of course an interesting place for opera buffs, as well - Ravello's medieval Palazzo Rufolo, and it's sumptuous garden, were Wagner's inspiration for the realm of Klingsor. German Oberstudienräte apart, though, every opera lover should count this among the dark sides of his passion - Parsifal is certainly Wagner's worst work, both on the level of inspiration (the music living on craftsmanship only, plus faint echoes of long-gone creativity, a typical late work) and, above all, on the level of ideology, which features Wagner at his truly most disgusting in this work (worse, IMO, than even Siegfried or Meistersinger).

Fourth, Sorrento. What I'd like to file here is not a protest (Eloise and nonnafelice have been pretty convincing on that town), but just a reminiscence, obviously not relevant anymore… I have actually fond memories of Sorrento, and especially of eating in Sorrento! The town has a small second harbour in a separate small bay, a somewhat hidden quarter; and there, we found a simple but nice trattoria with simple but nice food, mainly grilled fresh fish, and nothing but fruit for dessert – but memorable fruit indeed! Theirs were the best peaches and the near-to-best figs I've ever had in my life. Ok, this was back in 1989, and I guess the trattoria won't be there anymore.

Fifth, Greece. Yes, ek, I'm going on a Greek islands tour this year: Athens & Attika, Dodekanisos, Cyclades. We had been talking about it here and there with Eloise, but you didn't miss much, it hasn't been a major issue.

Sixth, garum vs. colatura d'acciughe. Reading carefully again about the Cetara "garum", and thinking about it, it's certainly a heir to ancient liquamen/garum (to make that clear, too: liquamen is the usual Latin name; garum was the less frequently encountered name, it's the Latinized form of Greek garon, and the Greeks were in fact the inventors of liquamen/garon), and that's why oregano goes into it – liquamen was always prepared with some herbs. But it's also different: they're simply draining the liquid from salted anchovies, stored in cool dark cellars. So that's what we can have (in way too small quantities, of course) at home, too, when marinating our own anchovies in salt – after a few weeks, inevitably, a limpid liquid emerges, and that's the colatura, quite obviously. Ancient liquamen, however, was the product of fermentation; they would heavily salt the anchovies (or whichever fish they were using) and expose them (seasoned with herbs) to the summer sun in barrels until they were fermented. Surprising as this may be, the salt prevented the raw fish from spoilage. I imagine this product to have been quite salty… But there were many recipes for liquamen, and another, maybe less widespread, attracts me much more: putting the raw fish and the herbs into grape must, i.e. young wine; the fermentation, then, was the normal development from must to wine, and the result, I imagine: a fish-wine. That's how I'm substituting for liquamen in my kitchen: rinse salted anchovies thoroughly, chop them, cook them in mild white wine with sage and rosemary for just a few seconds, let stand in the refrigerator for at least a few days (no problem to store it for many months, it grows even better).

Seventh, Kristina – two of the dishes you've prepared for your friends are Apician favourites of mine, the Alexandrian squash, and the patina de piris. My problem with Gozzini Giacosa is that she is actually trying to adapt the recipes to modern palates, and I strongly disagree with that approach. I, for one, want to come as close as possible to the original flavours, be they however strange and alien to modern usages. And much as I like Nuoc Manh, the Vietnamese fish sauce, and closely as it seems to resemble ancient liquamen (both being fermented fish sauces, in any case), I doubt somehow that this is the taste that is required for Apicius recipes. I try to deduct the taste of liquamen from the (minority of) recipes that don't involve liquamen – that should give us a fair idea of how they were used to season their dishes. And those dishes are always delicately seasoned, perfectly equilibrated, and no hint of very strong or powerful seasoning. And given that, Nuoc Manh should be the real thing? The ancient Romans used to poach their meat, fish, vegetables, whatever, in nothing else than liquamen & oil, or liquamen, wine & oil, which means covering the main ingredient with mostly liquamen… which would certainly give a VERY strong taste, if we think of Nuoc Manh…

Ok, I don't want Fodor's server to break down from being overloaded by one single posting (this one), so I'm stopping here; if anybody is interested in further essays on ancient Roman cooking, just advise; you may have noticed that this is a subject inciting my loquaciousness…
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Old Feb 11th, 2007, 05:53 PM
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Franco, I have just been reading a book on Cicero, plus watching the HBO series on Rome, so I am in the mood for ancient Roman trivia! Thanks for all those interesting tidbits.

Re Sorrento: I think ekscrunchy, like me, prefers to travel off-season. We found that there were practically no restaurants in Sorrento open down in the harbor area in November. It was a lovely place to walk, but very deserted off-season. One problem witih Sorrento is that it pretty much exists entirely on tourism, unlike Naples which has a life of its own. So if you go outside of the main tourist season, what we found were still lots of tour groups getting bused in for the cheap off-season rates, but many of the restaurants had closed for the season.

EK, I have heard that Carla Capalbo’s "Food and Wine Guide to Naples and Campania" is very good, and I am thinking of buying it for our next trip farther south in Campania.
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Old Feb 12th, 2007, 11:29 AM
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Nonna, thank you for the information. There is something very dreary about a town which is battened down tight like you describe. I have to rethink this idea...I am wondering about Amalfi. Just the fact that there are a number of SlowFood restaurant recommendations in that town (and only one in the Positano area and I think, not many in Sorrento (have to check again on this last fact) )makes me think that there will be at least something going on in Amalfi the off-season, as I do not think that the SlowFood recs are geared to foreign tourists..could be wrong again here, though. I have some more thinking and planning to do, and more questions to ask.

Franco, you endlessly amaze. To imagine that you are actually making your own liquamen! And that you are able to offer a tratise on garum and colatura! Here is yet another coincidence of Eloise's..little did I imagine when I purchased the "garum" on a whim last week that it would spark such a fascinating dialog. Franco, opera cape and patent slippers aside, I am now utterly convinced that you are a culinary scholar, perhaps a professor of history with a specialty in cuisine through the ages. Given your interest in food and opera, I am almost convinced that you are Fred Plotkin! Since more than likely you are not Fred, howver, I am wondering again if you have any comments about his Italy for the Gourmet Traveler book, or any of his other Italian food books. There is one on Liguria and one on Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.

Seriously now, I grant you the liberty to "pat yourself on the back" for all of the information and ideas that you continue to contribute here. You certainly made me laugh with your comments to Eloise about her ordeal with the Uber Student Wagner mavens!

Eloise, where are you?


So what do you think..if you had a week to spend in any region and you preferred not to do much driving...??

Nonna..I am going to look at the Carla Capalbo book. I think she has a new one out; I remember seeing a notice about it recently. She also has one on Tuscany.

What do you all think of the Faith Willinger book on eating in Northern Italy? Eloise, forgive me if I asked you this a long time ago...
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