Category Archives: Food Blog

Recipes and Restaurants

Last Day–Cats & Rome

Today we woke up around 7 and got ready to leave the villa. We said our goodbyes and Greg drove us, Jim and, Doreen to the train station in Castelfiorentino. We were all taking the train from Castelfiorentino to Florence. From Florence, Don and I were going back to Rome for the day so we could fly back home the next day. The train from Florence to Rome was pretty cool, it was a high speed train, 247 km/h.

We arrived in Rome at noon and we were on a mission to find the luggage deposit so we could walk around Rome all day without our bags. I had found instructions online on how to get to the luggage deposit in Roma Termini but none of them were very descriptive. Basically the easiest way to do it is by exiting Roma Termini onto Via Giovanni Giolitti and walk South along the train station and just after the Airport Shuttle you can re-enter the train station and you will find where you can deposit your luggage. It was super easy and and I think it was around 10 Euros for us to leave our bags there for about 5 hours.

We wanted to leave our bags because we had to be back at the train station later to take the train to our hotel by the airport. Once we were not weighted down by our luggage we were free to roam Rome for the afternoon.

We wanted to have carbonara again because we couldn’t stop thinking about since the dinner in Montecatini Alto. I found a place called La Carbonara and we decided to have lunch there. It was pretty crowded and seemed like a tourist trap.  The carbonara was nothing compared to what we had earlier in the week at Casa Gala. It was ok though.

After lunch we walked to the cat ruins at Largo di Torre Argentina. When we were in Rome earlier in the week I had noticed there were no cats roaming around and I thought this was weird because every where we have traveled has had cats. I usually make it a point to photograph cats in places to travel to, so I was a bit disappointed by the lack of cats in Rome.  A friend commented to me on facebook that we should visit this place and I hadn’t even heard of it so I wanted to check it out on our last day. Largo di Torre Argentina is an archaeological site where there is also a cat sanctuary. Stray cats are cared for here at the shelter and they are allowed to roam the ruins. This place is also were Julius Caesar was killed. It was a weird place. When we first arrived we were looking down at the site and we saw a few cats sleeping among the ruins. It was so hot. We were trying to find a way to get down into the ruins and we found stairs that went down to the shelter. We went into the shelter to check out the cats. The shelter was divided into two areas: one area had cats that were recovering either from sickness or injury and the other side had cats that were just roaming freely. The cats were well cared for and it seemed like you could adopt cats. I am still unsure about that. All of the products they were selling were used to benefit the shelter. I bought a magnet here. We spent some time with the cats and it was pretty cool. I was a bit disappointed because while you could look down into the archaeological site and point out cats you could not go into the site. The site itself seemed a bit forgotten, there were signs around that you could read about the place but other than that there was very little information on site. It seems like they could do more to this place but maybe they are working on it. It was very cool to see cats in the ruins.

After the ruins we didn’t really know what else we wanted to see but we were not ready to go to our hotel. We decided to check out this park we saw on the map earlier, so we risked taking the city bus again. We successfully rode the bus to Villa Borghese Park on the North side of Rome. It was a nice park, we walked around for a bit, and then we noticed there was some kind of horse show going on. We stopped for a bit to watch some horses run around and do some tricks. It was pretty cool, we have never really seen anything like it. Then we walked around some more and came across a small pond where people were in rowboats. Later I found out this area was called Temple of Asclepius. It was a really pretty area. Then we decided to walk back. We stopped at a cafe in hopes of using a bathroom but their bathroom was closed. We each had an overpriced cappuccino and enjoyed being outside at the park. We tried to take the bus back to Roma Termini to get our train but the bus was never coming so we ended up walking. It was about a 30 minute walk.

On our walk back to train station, I may have left my hat in Rome….I just didn’t want it anymore.

We got our luggage from the luggage deposit and we were both so happy that it worked out for us. Then we took the train from Roma Termini to the airport. Once we got to the airport we couldn’t figure out how to get to our hotel. We were staying at a Hilton but there were two Hiltons near the airport. We ended up walking to the Hilton that was connected to the airport because it was right there and we hoped that there would be a shuttle we could take to ours, but there was not. The walk was so long and I was getting tired and grouchy. We had to walk back to into the airport where we ended up calling our hotel and they told us where to find our shuttle. We were staying at the Hilton Garden Inn Rome Airport hotel, which was still very near the airport but you could not walk. It is also cheaper than the Hilton Rome Airport, so if you are ever trying to get to it the shuttle is at terminal 3 door 3 in the airport. The shuttle was weird because it went all around the airport and airport workers would use it.

Once we got to the hotel we were surprised to see the check in line was out the door. The check in went pretty fast though. There were a ton of police checking in and all around which I thought was weird but apparently it was the G7 Summit here.

The room here was nice, along with the lobby. I would definitely suggest staying here for the convenience and the price. We decided to get some dinner at the hotel restaurant, it wasn’t very good. Don had carbonara and I had pizza. During dinner we were watching a couple from afar who were in an obvious fight. They were American and we had fun commentating on what the fight could be about. It lasted a long time.

I can’t believe tomorrow we are leaving Italy. This trip has been awesome. I really don’t want to leave.

 

Lucca and Pisa

Today was our last full day at the villa. We got on the bus around 9 again to check out Lucca. On the way there our driver, Fernando, told us a bit about Lucca and what we should see. Lucca was a very cute city. There is a wall built around the old part of Lucca. The wall was cool because you could go on it and walk the perimeter. You could also bike the wall and we were planning to do that but we got caught up walking around and seeing different things.

We saw this awesome kid driving his car.

We ate outside at a cute little place called Bistrot e Winebar Des Arts. We had an appetizer of meat and cheese and of course it was great. I had a pesto pasta that was also amazing and Don had some kind of quinoa dish.

After lunch we walked around more and came across a very pretty church.

We also found the amphitheater which is all shops and restaurants now. We quickly got some gelato here and made our way back to the bus.

Our next stop was Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. It was pretty cool. It was fun to watch everyone trying to get the perfect picture of themselves trying to hold the tower up. It was crowded and hot but we all got our photos and headed back to the villa.

Once we got back to the villa we immediately wanted to make the most of the pool on our last day. We all were relaxing and having drinks at the pool. The water finally felt like it had really warmed up and most people were in it. All of the sudden Greg and I were in a diving/jumping contest. We had fun providing entertainment for everyone. Hanging out in Lucca today and seeing the leaning tower in Pisa was very cool, but the dive contest was probably the highlight of my day. It was so fun!

While we were swimming the chefs had arrived with their wood fire oven to make our final meal of pizza. The pizza dinner consisted of about eight different types of pizza that we all got to try. They were amazing! The ones that stood out the most to me was the margherita, veggie and burrata cheese pizza. The burrata cheese pizza was amazing!! I wish I could have some again right now. We also had an anchovie pizza, which wasn’t bad. The tuna pizza was probably the most interesting one and I don’t think I would eat that one again. After dinner we had some more drinks then we had to start packing so we could leave in the morning. This trip has been awesome!

Crazy Bus Ride To A Winery and Pool Fun

Today we left on the bus around 9 again to head to a winery for a tour and tasting. We had a new bus driver today named Riccardo and we got a little lost on the way to the winery, although I don’t think it was entirely his fault. The route was really confusing and the GPS didn’t seem to be working correctly. We had to stop a couple of times and ask random people for directions and no one really seemed to know anything. Finally Don saved the day by using his awesome navigation skills and some google translate to tell the driver in Italian what we were doing wrong.

The drive was crazy though. We were on a tiny road on a mountain pretty much the entire time in a giant bus. There was barely any room for the bus and often you could not see far ahead of you to see if another car was coming. At times we would be inches away from the wall of the mountain and one time we even had a car coming at us head on. I have to admit I don’t even remember how we got out of that, I think the car backed up. I was not feeling so great with a bit of car sickness and it was really scary so I didn’t look outside a lot.

 

We finally made it to the winery after about 2 hours and they were shocked to see all of us because apparently we did not finalize our reservation. The winery was called Montefioralle. We had some time since they were not expecting us so we took a few pictures. Everything around the winery was beautiful,but what did you expect it’s Italy.

Once things settled down we got a brief tour and then we were seated for some snacks and tastings. We were able to taste five wines and they were all great. We also had meats, breads, and bruschetta. I normally do not like bruschetta because I don’t really like raw tomatoes but as usual everything in Italy taste better and I even ate the tomatoes! We really enjoyed our time here and a lot of people purchased a lot of wine to be shipped back home.

On the bus ride home many people slept, I was one of them. Once we got back we went to Castelfiorentino to buy train tickets for Saturday. We also went to a grocery store. Once we got back we all had fun at the pool and cannonballs were done.

After the pool we went to dinner where we were greeted with little dolls.

Dinner tonight was very good. It started out with an appetizer of asparagus and mozzarella on bread. Then there was a truffle pasta, which I didn’t even know if I liked truffles, but this was soooo good. It was probably one of my favorite pastas of the trip. I wish I could have some right now! The rest of the meal was veal with potatoes and salad. We also had a little birthday celebration for Greg during dessert. After dinner we went to bed pretty early.

 

Volterra and Cooking Class!

Today on the agenda was a morning trip to Volterra or an all day pool day. At first I really just wanted an all day pool day but then I decided if I went to town I could go to a pharmacy and pick up some much needed allergy meds because mine are running out.  These cough drops were the best cough drops I’ve ever had. They actually work!!!

So we took two cars and headed to Volterra. It was about an hour drive and then we had to walk up some stairs to the city. I’m glad I decided to visit Volterra because it was a cool town and uncrowded.

We kind of all went our separate ways to explore the city. We ended up at this super cute wine shop called VolaTerra, mostly because I needed to use a bathroom. We were the only ones in there so the store owner asked if we wanted to do a tasting and we decided, sure why not?! We each tried a few wines and they were all good. We had some breads and olive oils also. The shop was very cute, I’m so glad we stopped by.

After some wine we started to look for the viewpoint that overlooked the country side.  It was beautiful as always.

After that we got some sandwiches from  a little deli and they were delicious and super cheap! Look at this giant sandwich!

Next we met up with everyone and made our way back to the villa.

When we got back we did a little swimming and then the chefs came to set up for our cooking class.  We learned how to  make pasta, bruschetta, meatballs, and tiramisu. It was a lot of fun and easier than I thought it would be. We broke into groups to cook and our group made the meatballs and bruschetta, while another made the tiramisu. We all got a chance to make pasta and that was really cool.

Here are the finished products! Everything was so good, it even ended with a tiramisu tasting because that group broke into two more groups and each made their own tiramisu. I had never had a tiramisu that I liked before and these were both great!!

Exploring Siena and San Gimignano

I woke up today around 5:30 am because I could hear the cowbells outside. I got up and opened the window to look out and watched the cows for a bit. Then I laid back down and started to fall asleep again.  I heard a weird sound, like something was fluttering around the room. I looked up and saw a bird flying around the room; it had came in the window because there are no screens. It flew around a few times, all confused, and then it made its way back outside. It startled us and now we were up and getting ready for the day.

Greg had arranged all of the Tuscany day tours; he had even hired a bus driver to get us to our destinations. It was very cool. The bus picked us up at 9 am and we rode about an hour to Siena. When we got to Siena we met up with our tour guide and started on a walking tour.  The first thing she told us about was really interesting. It was about how Siena is made up of 17 different districts that are represented by different animals or symbols. Twice a year representatives from each district participate in a horseback race called the Palio di Siena. In the park where we started the tour she told us about the districts and then gave some of us marbles that had the colors of the district they represented. Then we put the marbles into this stone structure and watched the marbles race to the bottom. I had a marble that represented the She-Wolf district. It was entertaining but my marble did not win the race.

I found a She-Wolf on the tour! My district!

The tour was very informative and the city of Siena was beautiful.

We had some free time to explore and have lunch so we decided to eat lunch with Alyssa and Kevin. We ate in the Piazza del Campo at Ristorante Alla Speranza. It had a very cool look on the inside of the restaurant because it looked like catacombs. We ate outside though. I had pizza called Diavola which was basically like a spicy pepperoni and it was delicious. Don had pasta. After eating we took some pictures around the piazza. Then we had a few more minutes on the tour and we walked back to the bus.

Once we got back to the bus we were on our way to San Gimignano. The town of San Gimignano was also very beautiful. It had many medieval towers and Don told me that a lot of these towers were in the game Assassin’s Creed. So he thought seeing this place was very cool. It was very crowded and the streets were lined with shops. Everyone seemed to be going on their own way so we split off from the group. My throat was starting to hurt again, it’s so weird. I don’t know if I’m getting sick or if it’s allergies, but we decided to get some gelato and that helped. We found a little museum that had a replica of the town.

We also watched some artists who were working on some drawings.

Seeing all of the towers was very cool, although I don’t think we made it to all of them. It was like the whole town was a castle.

On our walk back to the bus we saw an overlook and of course the views were spectacular because it’s Italy.

Both Siena and San Gimignano were very cool and I would definitely recommend checking them out if you’re in the area. I think I liked Siena a bit more because it wasn’t as crowded, but the buildings and towers in San Gimignano were awesome. It’s too hard to pick which was better, just know that if it’s in Italy it’s probably awesome.

When we got back to the villa we tried to go for a swim but it was getting a little chilly so we got ready for dinner instead.  On the menu for tonight the chefs made an appetizer that was fresh spinach with ricotta topped with tomatoes.  The next dishes were a bolognase, zucchini, pork tenderoloin with mashed potatoes and then cake for dessert. We were stuffed and it was very good.

We ate outside and it was getting cold so we decided to go inside. We played some cards for a bit and then a sing along broke out and that was fun.