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We Didn't Drink ALL the Vino! Maitaitom's Italy Uncensored

We Didn't Drink ALL the Vino! Maitaitom's Italy Uncensored

Oct 28th, 2005, 01:39 PM
  #201  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 689
Betsy, thanks for the Ribollita tip. I'll try it -- kale is easy to find. Sadly, we have a shortage of farmers markets round here because of a limited growing season ...the farm stands run from strawberries, corn and tomatoes through pumpkins and Christmas trees, and that's pretty much it. (I get pangs of envy when I see all that is so readily available in cities like NY and LA!) Good thing is that it focuses me on cooking what is seasonally appropriate, which is a Good Thing.

Oops, wandering OT here -- sorry, Tom! Now back to the subject at hand...
SB_Travlr is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 02:26 PM
  #202  
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 342
tom you sound like a pistol - how does your wife keep up with you? If you ever get divorced and don't marry the Italian wife - could I propose to you?
peeky is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 03:03 PM
  #203  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Still lovin' this...thanks, Tom!

And, please sign us up for the next departure of Tom's Tours. I like your style and admire your tirelessly upbeat and game group.

Happy travels!
fun4all4 is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 05:28 PM
  #204  
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 81
Great reading! As one who travels Italy often, I can say you are almost always on the mark.
Thanks.
Tuscanson is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 05:30 PM
  #205  
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Finally! I found a website that shows the Molino or Mulino di Quercegrossa. They spell it differently on their brochure and on this website. In any event copy and paste:

http://www.agriturismo.regione.tosca...arch2?code=730

It shows the hotel (our room was the balcony on the left in the photo - reception area is on right also on second floor). I knew this had to be somewhere on the web. I wish they showed the swimming pool complex. It also shows the room ( I told you it was small).

Mathieu, glad you could join the tour (that damned work will kill you), and Peeky, thanks for the marriage proposal, but as I found out on this trip, I better just stick to one wife. It makes life easier.

I will try and pump out the rest of this over the weekend for those who remain on the tour. And remember two more important rules of Tom's Tuscan Tours: No Separate Checks! Drink Lots of Vino!
maitaitom is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 07:46 PM
  #206  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 228
Tom,thouroughly enjoying your trip. I am still on board Tom's Tuscan Tour, always split dinner checks down the middle and drink my fair share of vino or vin, depending upon where I am.
Judy
anotherjudy is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 07:57 PM
  #207  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 578
Loving this report, Tom. I too loved the restaurant at Lamole. So much we went back a second night. Fabulous meatloaf.

Regarding Karen Valentine - whatever happened to her? Wonder how she's aged & if she's still so darn perky!
cobbie is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 08:30 PM
  #208  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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cobbie, Karen Valentine did a recent TV movie with John Laroquette about a couple whose three daughters all get married at the same time. I never liked her (way too perky for me!), but have to admit that she has aged pretty well and isn't quite as perky as she used to be.
SusanP is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 10:40 AM
  #209  
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LUCKY DAY THIRTEEN - WHY DO MEN HAVE NIPPLES, WEARING COSTUMES, LUNCH IN YET ANOTHER HILL TOWN AND HOW MUCH IS THIS PLACE GOING TO COST IF WE COME BACK IN TWO YEARS?

Mary and Tracy were at the breakfast table sobbing uncontrollably, complaining that I made them walk too much , Kim was throwing a tantrum over his croissant being too hard and I was threatening to leave these whiners behind at the Il Mulino. #-o

I was so sick of these people that I downed an entire bottle of Campari before breakfast. Oh sorry, that’s Barb’s post.

After a nice sleep, we enjoyed cappuccinos outdoors overlooking the beautiful vineyards surrounding the Il Mulino. Not as exciting as my lead, but boringly true.

Tom’s Tuscan Tours was in relax mode before hitting the “Big Three”, so after breakfast we headed out by the pool for some relaxing reading time. While the others concentrated on convoluted novels, I delved into my new book, “Why Do Men Have Nipples?: Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini.” The title alone was longer than most books I read, and the book now shares a prominent spot in the Tom and Tracy guest bathroom.

The day was beautiful, and we were the ONLY people who were enjoying this little slice of Chianti heaven. Although we had brought trunks and swimsuits, we quickly adhered to the new Italian terminology of these clothing items. They were now known as our “swimming costumes”, which it was stated would be apropos for pool activities.

As Kim and I tried to figure out how much the swimming complex had cost, we also realized that if we came back in two years, the price of this place would probably be double. “Still, a good bargain,” we said.

Boy, that reading can make you hungry, and damned if it wasn’t time for lunch. We hopped in the car and made the ½ hour drive to Monteriggioni (hill towns, nothing but hill towns). This town, dubbed “The Crown of Italy”, has some ramparts, a nice piazza, restaurants and a church, the Santa Maria Assunta, where Mary could dip her hand in holy water again. It has a population of 60, who must all work at restaurants.

We had lunch on the patio of Il Pozzo, which has a very nice and secluded position a little off the main piazza. Since I really didn’t down a bottle of Campari before breakfast, Tracy and I shared a bottle of Prosecco, while Kim and Mary went the beer route (although not rally a big beer drinker, the beer in Europe is so much better than it is here). Lunch was good, and I had to try the strawberries with shortcake dessert. No, I really did.

We walked around the ramparts after lunch (like that was going to help take off any weight), got back in the car and became slugs out by the pool for the remainder of the day (still, nobody else taking advantage of this…amazing!).

I came out in a sleeveless tank top and stupid hat I had bought for the trip. Kim was taken aback by the fashion statement I was making, while the women just laughed. “Dear God, what is that?” Kim said, shielding his eyes like a vampire at dawn. When the blog goes up, and people see me in this outfit, I fear the marriage proposals made to me in some of the replies will be quickly withdrawn.

We again had more wine on the patio (the Lamole di Lamole was delectable) and it was back down to our restaurant for dinner, where we once again sat next to the friendly Canadians. Dinner was good, the wine delicious and cheap, and, best of all, nobody cried or complained. Another Tom’s Tuscan Tour rule: There’s No Crying On Vacation!”

We congratulated ourselves for the find of the trip. If anyone is contemplating staying here, they do have a couple of apartments for families (I think the cost is only 110 euros for an apartment). The menu is in Italian, English and German, and we were told that they do get a good clientele from both Great Britain and Germany.

We needed a good night’s sleep because tomorrow we were going to drive into Firenze, a place where in previous trips I have nearly killed nuns, bicyclists, street vendors, locals and tourists alike with erratic and dangerous driving, including backing up down a one-way street. Florence, here we come!

Oh yeah, here’s the answer from the book: “Although females have the mammary glands, we all start out in a similar way in the embryo. During development, the embryo follows a female template until about six weeks, when the male sex chromosome kicks in for a male embryo. The embryo then begins to develop all its male characteristics. Men are thus left with nipples and also with some breast tissue.”

Tom’s Tuscan Tours: Fun AND Informative (By the way, so is the book).

NEXT: AN EARLY WINE BREAK IN GREVE, THE DANGEROUS DRIVE INTO FLORENCE, OUR FIRST IRISH PUB AND THE HOSTESS FROM HELL

maitaitom is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 02:49 PM
  #210  
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DAY FOURTEEN - AN EARLY WINE BREAK IN GREVE, THE DANGEROUS DRIVE INTO FLORENCE, OUR FIRST IRISH PUB AND THE HOSTESS FROM HELL

Break’s over! It’s back on the road to Firenze, with a slight detour in Greve. Greve is a cute little place located right on The Karen Valentine Highway, after parking, we made a little excursion around the Piazza Matteotti, Greve’s main piazza.

There is a statue in the piazza of Greve’s favorite son, Giovanni da Verrazzano, who in 1524 was the first European to sight New York Bay (even though Henry Hudson gets most of the credit). The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in Brooklyn is named for him.

He also discovered Cape Fear in North Carolina, however, showing his dark side, he kidnapped a small child on that trip.

Karma can be a bitch, however. Da Verrazzano met a rather ignominious end. While exploring Florida, the Bahamas and the Lesser Antilles, he was met by some unfriendly and hungry natives, who, not being on the Atkins diet, devoured the intrepid explorer. Whether they enjoyed a nice Chianti with there meal is not known.

Anyway, I was in search of an Internet café because in my lethargy at the Il Mulino, I had inexplicably forgotten to email for directions to our next hotel, the Tourist House Ghiberti. This is tour director error number one, especially when driving into a city as complex to drive in as Florence. Unfortunately, the server was down at the only place where they had a computer.

What to do in this situation was easy; sample some wine. After taking pictures at the butcher shop (Macelleria Falorni, which was founded in 1729 and is now run by the 8th generation of its descendants), we walked a couple of blocks to Le Cantine. They advertise that they are “the biggest wine store in the Chianti Classico region,” and who were we to argue the point?

We paid our money at the counter, were given a card, and it was off to the vino races, sampling Chianti, Brunello and even olive oil. We helped the local economy by purchasing some wine and headed for the deathtrap known as Florence city streets.

We used Kim and Mary’s International cell phone to call Claudio for directions. Mary jotted down the directions. As we headed over the bridge, we were all ready for our appointed jobs. I felt like Captain Picard (or Kirk, depending on your Star Trek affiliation).

Number One (Tracy) had here eyes peeled (ouch) looking for any street signs (never easy in Florence). Data (Mary) was relaying detailed information given by Claudio. Worf (Kim…well he doesn’t kill people like Worf, but Star Trek didn’t have a map reader that I remember) was telling us the streets we should be passing and when our appointed street should be near. Myself? Well, I had the easy job. I just had to drive. However, had we been killed or killed any pedestrians, I knew the fault would lie with me.

We actually were on the street of the THG, and we made a quick stop to ask a local whether we were near the hotel. She said “Avanti, about 100 yards ahead on your left,” and in about 100 yards, there it was. We rang the bell, Claudio helped us with our bags, and we were safely at our hotel. One part of the Florence driving journey was complete without incident.

We looked at our rooms, which were spacious and had computers (by the way, to show how nice Kim and Mary were about the rooms, they let us pick at every hotel which room we wanted since I had made the reservations). Now it was time for Claudio to give us directions to drive and drop off the rental car.

Tracy gave me the rental car papers and Worf (oops, Kim) went with me to drop off the car. I had driven about 75 yards when I remembered I had put the papers down on the bed and not retrieved them (tour director error #2). Kim ran back and Tracy was waiting with the papers. When Kim got back to the car, he said, “Tracy just wants you to know that you’re an idiot.” I don’t remember Riker ever telling Picard HE was an idiot. Oh well.

Kim had this baby mapped out perfectly, and we made no wrong turns. Outside of nearly getting creamed by a huge bus, there were no major incidents. The people at EuropCar fortunately did not have our final bill (see Gubbio and Gas), so we could ride out the rest of the vacation in ignorant bliss of what that charge would eventually be.

The Tourist House Ghiberti is a terrific find in Florence, and thanks to the people on the board who had written about its virtues. It’s only a couple of blocks from the Duomo, and across from the Santa Maria Novella Hospital. The double paned windows meant there was little or no street noise. The bathrooms were spacious and there was a nice breakfast that you could enjoy on the small outdoor patio in the morning. And the price is inexpensive for this quality in Florence. Four big thumbs up for THG! Oh hell, let’s make it eight thumbs up!

This was Tracy and my fourth trip to Florence and Kim and Mary’s second, so it was easy finding our way around. We go to the Uffizi (which, I think is vastly overrated…sorry) and we did not have tickets to the David, which we had all seen before. We did want to go because of the restoration, but the line was too long each time we stopped by, and nobody really wanted to wait.

After doing some window-shopping and buying some scarves, it was once-again the cocktail hour. Inexplicably, we picked an Irish pub (you haven’t visited Florence unless you haven’t visited an Irish pub). Hey, drinks are drinks, and we all thought it was pretty funny to be in Italy and drinking at an Irish pub.

Back at the hotel, I had my usual 300 – 400 e-mail messages regarding Viagra, but one message stood out. My San Diego Padres were one game closer to clinching the National League West, even though they would be in last place in the National League East.

Before I had left, I had been given the recommendation of the Trattoria Zá Zá in the Piazza Mercato Centrale. After convincing everyone that this was not run by a Gabor sister, we walked over to the piazza. The place was crowded, and a hostess who was grumpier than Scooter Libby after he was indicted greeted us (well, greet might be a stretch). If looks could kill, we’d be dead now. She said there were no tables outside and sat us down at an inside table, flung what must have been menus in our general direction and walked away to snarl at some new guests.

It only took us a few moments to realize that we need not patronize the Zá Zá, and we departed. I am sure our hostess missed us as much as we missed her.

We walked back toward our hotel and had dinner at Café Danté, or something close to that. Fortunately, there was no inferno. We were not all that hungry anyway, and the dinner was relatively unspectacular. However, even this place had a dish that would be enshrined in our Italian Food Hall of Fame (which will be posted at the end of the trip report). Kim had chicken in a yellow pepper, butter sauce that was incredibly tasty. I also enjoyed by gnocchi with blue cheese.

As we were ready to go to bed, Tracy started coughing like Mary and my other wife back at the Piccolo Oliveta, and we had reservations for a big-ticket item tomorrow. She didn’t have chicken for dinner, so I went to bed safe in my knowledge that at least she didn’t have The Bird Flu.

NEXT – LEAN TO THE LEFT, LEAN TO THE RIGHT, NO CHICKEN SANDWICHES, SOME DEAD MEDICIS AND, “OH NO, NOT ANOTHER IRISH PUB!”

maitaitom is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 05:52 PM
  #211  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
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Maitaitom, I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying your trip report, but of course everyone is! The waitress in Florence with the attitude. I have always found more "attitudes" in Florence than anywhere in Italy. No doubt regarding the number of tourist, you think?

I remember one time my husband was buying beautiful and expensive silk ties for male family members in Florence. The sales clerk helping him was quite cheerful etc. A very elegant and beautiful lady. As my husband was signing the credit card slip for the purchases he said to her "your English is beautiful". She pulled herself up (all five feet of her) glared at him and snarled "only the English I need to sell things to the stupid tourist!". Well so much for that pleasant memory, LOL.

I must say that most Florentines are beautiful people and I do understand their getting weary of the tourist especially in the historical center. But I also know how they moaned and groaned after 911 when tourism was down.

Now, more about your trip please!! Hopefully Tracy did not become ill?
LoveItaly is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 05:59 PM
  #212  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 108
Tom, you truly have me laughing so hard my stomach hurts! I love reading stories like this ... I can't wait to get back to Italy in May! Can't wait for the rest ...
jaclynpoulson is offline  
Oct 30th, 2005, 08:47 AM
  #213  
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LoveItaly, she was really the only unpleasant Italian person we encountered on the trip. I think she was an equal opportunity grump to tourists and locals alike.

By the way, I was just looking at the flier I got at Il Mulino, and there are SEVEN total pools there.
maitaitom is offline  
Oct 30th, 2005, 09:52 AM
  #214  
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 139
Thanks for posting the website for Il Mulino. When you get to posting your photos I sure hope the pools are included.
janemc is offline  
Oct 30th, 2005, 09:58 AM
  #215  
 
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maitaitom, you should write a tv script.
This is better than what's on these days.
tondalaya is offline  
Oct 30th, 2005, 03:00 PM
  #216  
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"When you get to posting your photos I sure hope the pools are included."

Kim, Tracy and I all got some great shots of the pool at Il Mulino. They will definitely be included.
maitaitom is offline  
Oct 30th, 2005, 05:05 PM
  #217  
cw
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
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I am so loving reading this report. You tell a good story, while giving us incredibly useful information.

Thanks so much for taking the time. It's good to read a post about friends traveling well together. It really is attitude, flexibility, and humor that gets all of us over the bad spots.

I'm sure your friends appreciate not only your planning abilities but your talents as trip chronicler. What fun to have all of this to look back on!

Thanks again.

cw
cw is offline  
Oct 31st, 2005, 08:31 AM
  #218  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,463
Just wanted to let you know that DH and I are still loving every minute of this report I especially appreciated TWO installments on my birthday - so thoughtful ;-)
TexasAggie is offline  
Oct 31st, 2005, 08:33 AM
  #219  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
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Well, I was going to tell that funny Peeky to take a number (and an Ambien per Barb); if she had been reading carefully she would have known that I already professed my interest in you (and I learned about sharing when I was "wife number two" on the last trip to Europe, where one very tolerant husband put up with 4 women, so Tracy has nothing to worry about of course!).

However, you had to go spoil everything with that comment about the tank top and stupid hat. Hmmmm.

Still loving the trip details! Next time you are in Greve, go 10 minutes outside of town to the teeny little town of Montefioralle and eat a fabulous and fun meal at La Castellana. I still drool over memories of "typical pork cooked in the typical way."
annabelle2 is offline  
Oct 31st, 2005, 09:06 AM
  #220  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 17,106
Many thanks for posting the website for Il Molino!

Having had our plans for Asia deflected - for the moment- by the bird flu, we are eagerly looking for alternative destinations for next summer. You are certainly influencing us in the direction of Italy!

Love your sophisticated yet gentle approach to travel! What fun! I vote this the best report for 2005!
easytraveler is offline  

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