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Eating, Drinking, and Driving Stick in Italy

May 6, 2011


I haven’t written in a while, so I’m going to do a few catch up posts today. In October, J and I went to Italy — to Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and then all over Tuscany to be exact. It was 2 full weeks of wine, pasta, and total gluttony, and it was amazing. We started in Rome, where we did the sightseeing extravaganza, from the Colosseum to the Pantheon to the Vatican. We rented a great, little apartment right in the center of the city, and spent all day walking from one end to the other. Our first few nights in Rome were a culinary miss, and we quickly learned that yes, you can have a bad meal in Italy. But J kicked it into gear and did some serious blog searching to get proper recommendations. We loved walking around Trastevere, and one of our best meals was near the Colosseum at La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali. If you ever go to Rome, check out this very useful map that J made. Also, note that you will need reservations for ALL dinners in Italy. You may walk up to a place that has 10 open tables, but if you don’t have a reservation, they won’t seat you. It’s against everything capitalist that we know and understand. And, last tip — eat gelato every day. We did.

From Rome, we went to Florence. Number one tip here: book a reservation at the Uffizi Gallery. All this reservation-making goes against my travel senses, but you’ll wait on line for HOURS if you don’t reserve. We loved Florence, and again rented an apartment that was on the other side of the river from the Uffizi. Our best meal here (and maybe in Italy) was at Trattoria Quattro Leoni (4 Lions). We had a pear ravioli that was to-die-for, and then ordered a hunk of “steak florentine.” I was a little nervous about the concept of eating basically rare meat… until I ate it. Oh man. That dinner haunts me in my dreams. If you are visiting Florence, J made another map… he’s so helpful, right?

From Florence, we took a train up to Cinque Terre. Although we didn’t have great food here, this was by far my favorite stop on our trip. Every minute, every step was a beautiful view. If you’re not familiar with this part of Italy, it’s basically 5 different towns on cliffs overlooking the Ligurian Sea (just below the Italian Riviera). We hiked all five towns (though one pass was closed and we had to take a train). And, the day we arrived it was warm enough for bathing suits and a quick dip in the sea.

From Cinque Terre, we trained to Pisa where we quickly ran to take photos of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (it’s really leaning) and then picked up our rental car. We got a stick shift — all I’ll say is we will never make that decision again. We hit up Pisa in the morning, and then stopped at Lucca in the afternoon. Lucca was one of our favorite Tuscan towns, with a gorgeous park around the walls of the city. We saw a great sunset here before heading to the place we were staying… which was here:

On the middle of vineyard. Nuts, right? In Tuscany, we went wine tasting at the Castello di Verrazzano (yep, like the bridge). It’s a beautiful old castle nestled high on the hills of Tuscany, and we tried lots of yummy things.

One of our favorite finds in Tuscany was a dessert wine called vin santo. It’s made by hanging grapes for more than 3 years!

While we stayed each night in the Chianti region, we visited many other towns during the day, including Volterra, Greve in Chianti, and Siena where we saw the beautiful “duomo.” In Siena, we had lunch at a restaurant just around the corner from the Piazza del Campo called Trattoria La Torre. There’s no menu — and you basically have to pick your pasta and your sauce, but everything was so homemade and fresh. So yummy. 

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