Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Final Note

I am now back at work in my Dilbert gray cube being the vapid corporate "fake it till you make slave" that I am. I miss the sunlight of Tuscany, the stars at night, and wonder why as Americans we work so hard with so little vacation. I saw the liesure way of life, the time with family in ancient cities thousands of years before our 200 year old US and in many ways I was envious.

We spend the majority of our time at work. Do we live to work or work to live? Or live for two week long Italy vacations? Something seriously has to be re-done about the American work ethic in addition to our struggling jobless economy. As yes, Americans are not perceived well by the rest of the world. We felt this first hand, and reverting to Spanish vs. English saved us some European stares and scathes by the locals. Our economy brought down and up the rest of the world. In many ways, I hear it daily that China owns us with our debt.

For all its worth, travel is the best opportunity for education and growth in this world. Take it from a girl sitting in her corporate cube today....

Compilation of Final Tips and Links

A few summary items as people have asked me to compile my Italy recommendations:

For apts in Rome, Florence and Venice Vicky at is awesome. Most of the apts averaged 110 Euro and were gorgeous. In rome I esp. liked the Vogue as it was in a non-tourist part of town although near the Vatican so that means food and prices at the locals do.

Highly recommend our villa 20 miles outside Sienna. It is owned and run by Stefano! It was gorgeous and two huge bathrooms and bedrooms and Stefano can point you in all the tourist or non-tourist ways and he is hot:

Other tips:

We liked

For 8 extra Euro we skipped the massive lines at the Colloseum and we also did the Vatican with them and skipped four hour lines. It’s worth it for that and a tour of the history and religion alone us being atheists. We loved our Scottish tour guide Ian.

If in Florence and a meat eater, you must go to Pegasus and share the biggest Porterhouse steak!

It’s called bistec Fiorentina and is native to Tuscany.

Address:Viale Ariosto, 22Florence, Italy 50124
Phone:+39 0552298335

Monday, October 11, 2010

Borghese Jardin Yoga

I woke up to a splendid Sunday in Rome. We actually drove the coast route on the way home from Sienna and stopped in Porto Stefano per our villa hosts recommendation. It is where the rich moor boats and it was gorgeous like Newport Beach without the modern strip mall build up or housewives of OC hanging.

I decided Sunday I needed a down day. I walked to the Popolo Plaza beneath the Borghese Gardens, unfortunately, its a shopping area and I stumbled upon H&M. I then headed up to the gardens and met an Aussie gal living and doing ecology reaseach in Rome who was doing Ashtanga yoga. I asked to join her and killed her (Shelly) with extra pushups in a vinyahsa flow. Her quote was "damn Americans" as I worked her ass. It was an hour of heaven. An older woman joined us who spoke some langauge I didnt recognize and led more a tai chi flow. It was heaven. With all the walking, I needed that.

Its raining and I am going to hang in our nontouristy hood and shop for food products like Paprika Pringles. Flight leaves at 9.30 and back to PDX about 8 pm. I am homesick, miss the cuddle of Sushi and the annoyance of Laika. I am reday to cook healthy for the next 6 mos.

Friday, October 8, 2010

off the Beaten Path on a Day of Rest

Andrea and I took a down day. We set no alarms, but were up to the beauty of our Lord of the Rings Tuscan lair by 9. We lazed around all day doing odds and ends of cleaning and packing all our purchases as we leave for Roma again tomorrow.

Our host Stefano pointed us in the direction of a small town Buonconvento. The shops were open until 8, Sucia we bought each another leather bag! Its got to stop.

Stefano told us to eat at Ristorante da Mario. He said 4 years ago when he was there Clinton's lawyer who has a massive villa in the town was dining with Ted Kennedy at this family establishment run by of course two Nonnas. Our Spanish served us well, and we were treated with Italian nonna love. We each had the ragu and it was phenomenal, Andrea a second course of fish in tomato sauce and my creme brulee came out a flame.

Here is the key to Italy. Make friends, talk to the locals not in the larger towns and find out where the true Tuscans eat. The little towns are gems in every aspect from shopping to food to no tourists.

I am sad to leave Tuscany. I could stand more lazy days here for sure. I want to be lazy in Rome, no alarms, lie in the Borghese Gardens, etc.

Florence thru an Italian's eyes

Florence was CRAWLING with tourists! Thankfully our host Stefano had made reservations for 4 extra Euro to see the Academia & Ufizzi so we could skip the lines, get our Venus, Da Vinci, Carvaggio and Michelangelo fill. It was neat to see the Italian school kids of 2nd grade or so touring the gallery. But hella lot of people.

The best part of the night is Sucia was staying with an Italian friend of a friend since she was leaving from a flight out of Florence today. He took us to a restaurant called Perseus where we shared the most delectable Florentine meat cooked only the way I liked it, so gets up and walks off the plate. Dang it pays to eat with locals. It was by far the best meal in lieu of stopping in small towns for 10 Euro. Everything else no matter what even by chowhound standards near any metropolis is a tourist trap, but we all are pretty savvy in that regard.

He then took us to his favorite galateria, by far the cheapest and best we had had ! Yes I hopped on someone's free wifi and posted 20 pics of deserts.

I guess the point being having locals is the way to go.

Today we are exhausted and lazy. We are hanging our clothes to dry that Stefano washed. The therme baths are open late so we will peruse down there at some point and probably eat another fine meal in our town with one restaurant and two pizza joints.

BTW, Florence was dirtier than Rome.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pisa, Lucca, Sienna market and San Giamano

We woke up this am to a lovely morning of sun and about 73. Our wonderful host Stefano the hunk who wears Northface and drives a subaru forester told us of a market in Sienna. It was full of food, clothes and leather goods. You can imagine three girls doing some damage! The best part was sampling the cheese! Pecorino is the fav from this area. Our cheese guy spoke no English, but over-loaded us with samples of every cheese he had. I was in heaven.

Clothes wise, sadly, much was from China. I really abstained from buying things that were not local so stuck to some scarfs and a couple wraps.

Oh, I should go back to what we did yesterday. I had the crazy, round-about hellish drive to Pisa. The town Pisa is nothing to shine upon, but the leaning tower worth it.

We then continued onto Lucca the much recommended NYT undiscovered, unbombed town. The highlight was walking the wall around the city. Many HOT runners and many bikers. We did this at night and had dinner on the wall.

San Giamano was nice in that we got off the beaten path and walked into a guy's 17th century house. Took a nice hike on the outside of the wall sans tourists. And took post-card pics from outside the city!

More tomorrow after Florence as we made pesto and pear tomato salad with pecorino!


Monday, October 4, 2010

Sieanna, Sucia, Montepulciano and Pienza

I had an eventful day yesterday! I hadn't drove stick shift in a REALLY long time and I did it! I drove in Italy and have never driven in a foreign country before. Yes, the left lane is for autobahn drivers! And the right for slower, old fiats and Oregonians like me.

Andrea and I went to Sienna. The best part about it was the piazza, the best in Italy - like an open beach! I fell asleep in the sun and snored (the latter according to Andrea). We then drove in hella traffic to get Sucia in Florence. But for a Euro even the cappucino was divine at the airport! And never available to go!

I had not seen Sucia in 5 years and we yelped with seeing each other again and Holla we are in Italy! We stopped in some small town and had the best meal and cheapest. We find when we stop in sleepy towns of the non-tourist kind, the food is divine and CHEAP. We had the most divine sea salt rosemary flat bread. Sucia and Andrea had had the whole calamari - not f-ing fried! I had never seen the whole thing not cut up or fried!

I slept until 11, and they let me sleep. So we went to Montepulciano. I am with shoppers and we all bought funky boot in blue and red, soaps, perfumes, etc.

We decided to make dinner tonight! We made steak in a rose salt Sucia bought with a wine reduction, pasta with truffle tomato sauce and a arugula, raddicho, tomato salad! It was insanely awesome!

Tomorrow we are off to Lucca and Pisa! I drive!