In my last post I gave an overview of our summer travel in Italy — the where, if you will — but what, exactly, did we do while there?
Well, first off, marathon training on vacation — let alone finding running routes in tiny towns with some crazy elevation changes — certainly proved interesting.
But I love checking out new places on foot, and Hubby was game to tackle some hills so we could enjoy the views (the shots above and below are from Taormina in Sicily).
And as much as we love relaxing during a good pool or beach day (believe me, we had a few of those), we also like to “adventure” around. That’s how we ended up at the crater of Mount Etna, an active volcano.
Hubby’s the figure up top, leaning his full weight into the high winds; I ventured about two-thirds of the way up before turning back around so I wouldn’t get blown off the side of the mountain.
I’m all for getting a good rush, but sometimes you just have to know your limits!
Luckily, not all of our days were as adrenaline-filled; one of our favorite parts of the trip was grabbing a cappuccino and either people-watching or scoping out the scenery — or both — like when we stopped at this cafe near a swanky hotel in Ravello.
And you can’t help but want to take in some of the culture when traveling in Europe. We’d heard rave reviews of the art in Florence, so one of the high points of our day trip there was the Galleria dell’Accademia and its sculptures.
One of the not-so-high points? The wait to get in to see David, which was about three hours for the ticket line, plus another hour and a half for the actual entry from there.
Here’s a helpful hint: Cut that time in half by paying a little more for surplus tickets from tour companies (shhh!).
Speaking of buying…Italy’s small towns have some of the most wonderful shops.
This linen store had every pattern and color imaginable, and the store owner was all too happy to show us the goods (Hubby also made a friend).
But the absolute best part of traveling in Italy?
You guessed it — the food.
With our daily morning cappuccinos, I discovered a new obsession: sfogliatelle. They’re light, flaky, crispy ricotta-filled pastries that look like seashells (see in the background below).
The pizzas are out-of-this-world with a thin, chewy crust and the most delicately-seasoned sauces. I like to keep it simple with basil, mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil.
One thing we weren’t expecting was the stellar seafood; I guess we take it for granted coming from the Bay Area, but this stuff was fresh.
So fresh, for example, that this little lobster was walking around the seafood display case next to me before he was plucked out and cooked to order in Taormina.
All the produce was super flavorful, too. In Italy, they don’t serve something unless it’s in peak ripeness, so you’ve got to try pretty hard to get a bad meal there.
And that whole farm-to-table movement? Well, you can’t get much more local than in Tuscany.
One night, for example, the owners of the villa made us dinner, which began with bread that was baked in a stone oven and seasoned with rosemary growing on the grounds.
Or this awesome meat-and-cheese spread from 13 Gobbi in Montefollonico where we sampled homemade mozzarella and a duo of prosciuttos, one of which was wild boar from the area.
A tip: If you go there, also order the pecorino pasta. Words don’t do it justice, so just watch this video of the owner working his magic to see what it’s all about.
But this dish from our day trip to Pienza featured one of my favorite things in the entire world: TRUFFLES!
We capped off the trip with an experience that merged art and food at La Pergola, Rome’s only Michelin three-star restaurant.
From the atmosphere of the room to the table settings, from the service to the plating…it was a bucket-list kind of meal.
And last, but certainly not least, was our gelato mission, which ended in a final tally of 15. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
As a result, we’ve got some great memories (and a few extra pounds!) to carry us until the next trip.
In the meantime, I’m on the hunt for some authentic Italian delicacies in Portland…so if anyone’s got suggestions, I’m all ears!