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!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Italy Driving - Tuscany

Today we rented a wagon and drove 3 hours to our villa outside Sienna about 20 miles. Italy drivers in the left hand lane drive autobahn velocities. No surprise, but the roads are amazing ! Guess that's what hefty tolls of $17 buy you! But the drive was gorgeous to say the least and pretty straight forward.

Our villa is on a dirt road 2 Km and is run by a handsome man named Stefano and his English shepherd Kim. It is heaven on earth. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, granite floors and a view of the valley that is astounding. The stars are bright at night as well.

It is outside a small town with two restaurants - one being pizza. We went to the family run tavern, La Taverna Di Casciano, and not only had the cheapest meal of the trip, but the best. Andrea had the most delectable tender beef topped with fresh greens, tomatoes and parm and a tagalatelli and it was spicy liked I love it. They gave us a small dessert sampler - holla Pana Cotta! Next favorite thing to the tort ofolo I sampled last night.

Tomorrow Sucia gets in at 7pm at the Florence Airport so we are going to putter around Florence. We have the 36 Hours in NYT article Andrea is reading now.

Is the Pope Catholic?

Yesterday, we went to Vatican City. As most of you know, its a separate state from Italy. You can mail your own post card from there, but you need a Vatican stamp which is not good in the rest if Italy. I mailed Santa in hopes he would bring me Xmas gifts as I am tired of eating Chinese food and watching movies every year by myself.

We had to admit most of everything we knew was from watching the da Vinci code although I knew Jesus was Jewish ; ) which was reiterated by our tour guide. We decided to take our same tour guide we had for the Colloseum, Ian with Roma tours www.romatours,com which I HIGHLY recommend for an extra few bucks and skip the massive lines and actually understand some of the history and/or religion since we are both atheists at best. And he was cute with his Diesel underwear hanging out and pelvic bones protruding. I tipped him more than I should.

Some of the interesting highlights. The Japanese own rights to sell photos et. al. in the Sistine Chapel therefore no photos - not to preserve the ceiling paint. The map room was my favorite and had all the maps individually of Siciliy, Sardina and then all rolled into one kind of like a pre-ordained Google maps thousands of years earlier.

St. Perter's Bascillica was rad esp. because I have an affinity to the morose and loved seeing actual pope corpses. Holla! In fact, I can't wait to go back to this crypt next week with like 4,000 skulls even though it only has one star in Rick Steves.

We decided to take a chowhound recommendation for dinner and wound up at a lovely square Navare at osteria aldina where we met to gals from Florida one now living in NYC. We had a blast hanging with them the whole night. I also got hit on by our 25 year old Moroccan waiter Ishmael who was a young President Obama self-admittingly. God bless him, he thought I was 27! Holla again!

It's late, Andrea is still sleeping. I am making coffee in the biletti. Please keep your fingers crossed and wish us luck getting out of Rome on these crazy streets with the car. There are no sidewalks, they are more narrow than the narrowest and all cobblestone. Then wish us luck finding our villa in Sienna.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jacked on Espresso y chianti

So I got up at 2 and then 5 am so if you wonder why I was facebooking like I was in the US this am - I waited about another 5 hours before waking Andrea and then I said f-ck it and woke her. At that point I was jacked on two bilettis worth of Illy espresso, had eaten an ameretto cookie and busted into our Argentine parma breakfast not waiting.

I must regress and say, we are staying in the rather chic joven area of Campo de Fiori in an amazing apartment found in, which I highly recommend. An apartment is the way to go - I mean one 1,000 sq. feet, complete kitchen, internet, couch, table for 6, nice American style shower with rain head! And cheap! I looked at hotels that were dumps for 200 Euro - hello 110 Euro for the apartment.

So after a late start, we walked to the Capitol. Rome is quite clean considering how awfully dirty my mom said it was back in the day, but then it impossible to find trash cans yet there seem to be trash trucks starting you in the face for a half-hour while you eat.

We continued onto the Colloseum. We decided to do the tour for an extra 8 euro and it was worth it so I give Andrea much credit for that. I was amazed at a lot of things. One, how they filled it with water and like had battle ships and shit on it. Two, I read in Rick Steve's that one 100 day ceremony they killed like 9,000 animals and like 900 people perhaps and people brought perfume to cover the stench (I know who is saying "RAD" right now btw). Three, so I thought of passover and how they brought all the Jews in to build the damn thing and how I hate the Passover horse radish that I am forgetting the name of that is supposed to remind you of the tears the Jews shed under the persecution of the Romans. Man, after seeing how that monstrosity was built...I suddenly felt a lot better about my day job.

We then walked through the incredible Roman ruins which just seemed so tranquil. The entire forum its almost like the cars, hub-bub of city and pollution were non-existent if but only for a few hours and 300 photographs worth.

Not so keen that we walked to try to find some osteria two chefs recommended to us. We got there as it was closing and had only the second dish, but ok the tira mi us - kicked ass! And 'picked me up' which is the literal translation of tira mi su.

Finally, I have to admit, I have a problem. So does Anne, my Croat partner in crime, a total weakness for PAPRIKA pringles. So far my list consists of Illy coffee for a third the price of Amerika and PAPRIKA PRINGLES. The question is can two of the cans make it to 1) Anne's bday on 23 Oct and 2) my bday on 5 Jan. I just ate 3/4 of a can?!? You do the math.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We are in Roma

Wow - we are here! The weather is superb. A little cool - not humid nor hot. Fashionistas Italia walk around in scarves and jackets.

Our apartment is gorgeous. Its in Campo de Fiori. We walked the plaza had gnochhi, wine gelato and eyed every shoe store. Purchased Illy cafe for the am for a third the price in US and our porscuitto cheese and bread for the am.

Both of us our extremely jet-lagged.

The plan tomorrow is the Colloseum, catacombs, fountain and Friday the Vatican as the NYT just did an article on night concerts there for the public.

So sorry I lack my wit and humour. My exhaustion is insurmountable. We both want espresso in our biletti, but know that is not a wise choice .

Ciao, Deanna

Monday, September 20, 2010

Getting Excited

Its official that I am starting to not sleep in excitement and anticipation of escaping this rainy continuous spring weather that lasted the whole summer in PDX and go to Italy. A place my friend Carlo said where there is something "just different about the sun. " I envision me, my camera and lots of cinematographic landscape pictures of rolling hills and yeah you know it food.

When I can't sleep at night, I've been pulling out the Rick Steve's on the Kindle. Of course, the first section I went to was about food and dining. My soul goal in Italy is mangia for economical non-fancy means, but rustic Italian non-touristy gems. So if anyone has been to Rome and places in Sienna, Florence, etc. and has a recommendations by all means shout em out!

The second thing I am obsessed about is Cinque Terre and hiking there, that and bicycling. I want the open air of being care-free with camera in tow. One of my fondest memories with Chris was borrowing our German neighbor's guide book on a hike from Fira on Santorini and hiking unknowingly 8 miles to Ia in my chacos with the toe loop and yes, not enough water. But the pictures I got were the most cinematographic of the whole trip. There was a sense of accomplishment to reach the end of the island where all these people were waiting to see the elusive sunset that Ia is most known for. And so it goes, I hope and know Italy will provide these same adventures. And gelato, vino, pasta, pizza, fashion, oil

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Places We are Staying

Two apts in Rome

And the villa in Tuscany

In less than two weeks

In less than two weeks, Andrea and I are leaving for Rome. Andrea is a friend I met in LA in graduate school while at USC. We happened to be a in a small neuroscience class of about 12 and both of us had gone to Univeristy of Michigan during the late 80's and 90's. Instant roller blading, beach volley ball, hiking and making empanada friendship. I lead her into my biomedical device industry. She lives in the bay area and it was her idea since we have traveled so much to go to Italy. Of all the exotic places we both have been to for pleasure and work, neither of us have been to Italy.

Jump in Sucia Mih. I met Sucia as one of the first friends in PDX 12 years ago through Vanessa crowd. She is married to a American/German dude Markus and after years of PDX, they moved to Northern Germany. With my work in Berlin and travels to Greece, I had the pleasure of running around Berlin with them. Sucia is joining us for Tuscany.

So the plan is Rome, a villa in Siena for a week with day trips to Florence, Lucca, Cinque Terre, decided daily. And then Rome before we jet. I plan to post many pics of food and food and food. Ok and some landscape cinematography.

I'll link this blog to FB where you can checkit and see what I am eating ; ) .

Cheers, D