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Monday, 11 October 2010

Italian Adventure Part 3

What sort of person would do a runner from a high class joint like this - if you have been to Italy you will understand how this could happen to someone quite easily - the system goes like this - you go to the till and buy a ticket for what you want to eat or drink, then you go to the counter and tell the handsome waiter what you want - he is too clever to bother looking at the ticket, so gives you the drinks. When you have spent a couple of hours over a boozy lunch and just want a coffee to pep you up, you lean on the counter, tell the waiter what you want, he provides, you leave satisified and afterwards realise that neither of you paid the bill! To make up for this outrageous deed, you return the following day, order the same and pay for it (3.5 euros for a double espresso and an iced coffee - who said Rome was expensive?) and leave a generous tip, hoping that you have not been caught on camera! Since this is the system in many Osteria and bars throughout Italy, I wonder how much they loose out when us foreigners don't know how it works?

Maison Matilda - luxury B&B Treviso - the inner courtyard

Our room - "The Music Room"

Well I am back and it was a success!! I cant believe how busy my fellow bloggers have been whilst I was away and I have only caught up with a couple so far, when my phone contract is up I will get an i-phone so that I can blog on the trot.

Anyway, here is a synopsis of the Italian road trip which I think went very well, I didn't once have that feeling of hating the hotel room and wanting to be home, which is quite normal for me at the beginning of a holiday.
We started by flying courtesy (£75 return) of Ryanair (not bad once you have the relief of knowing that your hand luggage is not overweight/over sized and you will not be charged a king's ransom to check them) Liverpool airport has had a makeover and is significantly better than the last time I flew from there, although when you fly cheaply the name "self-loading freight" rings very true - don't ever think of paying for priority boarding with these companies, it means nothing.
We were visiting Venice initially so flew to Treviso airport and stayed in a beautiful luxury B&B called Maison Matilda - perfect for a quick transfer from Treviso airport, and handy for the 4 euro train ride into Venice.

Our lovely host Alex made breakfast to order each morning, fresh berries with honey and greek yoghurt, pastries and unusually (for me anyway) little breakfast pizzas, with freshly squeezed orange juice and espresso - the best breakfasts of our trip.

Venice was breathtaking as usual, the weather was perfect, everytime I go I find another amazing tiny canal and a great bar to sip an aperitif or two. Have you tried the local tipple, an Aperol Spritz - it is the colour of Irn Bru or Tizer and tastes not dissimilar but looks so elegant and is often served with a huge green olive - delicious!

The owner of Maison Matilda took the lovely man to collect the hire car and we set off into Tuscany with an initial flaw when the dopey chap from Sat Nav took us north for 15Km before we just knew something was wrong - you cant beat a map can you? Next stop Antica Casa Rondini in Colle di Buggiano - another luxury B&B in a car free Medieval hill top town rising above the Tuscan plains

This village has a micro climate and orange, lemon and grapefruit trees were in all the gardens, then hanging over the garden walls into the narrow walk ways were fat ripe pomegranates. Buggiano has one tiny old restaurant where we ate fabulous local fresh ingredients including wild porcini mushrooms and black and white truffle. We tasted pappa al pomodoro, and ribollita which are fantastic Tuscan soups, more like a thick vegetable puree. The following evening we shared the best pizza we have ever eaten - thinnest crispiest crust baked in an open wood fire, followed by tagliata of beef served with truffles and rocket, truly outstanding.

With heavy rain forecast for our second day in Tuscany, we decided to visit a thermal spa, we went to the fabulous Grotta Guisti in Montesummano - where we lavished in hot underground caves dressed in outfits which made us look like horror film extras, then lazed in the mineral rich thermal waters in the outdoor pool - our skin felt lovely afterwards, and the rain never came so all in all another rather perfect day.

Florence was bustling, our hotel the J & J Hotel was another find, housed in a former monastery in the centre of old Florence, only one night here, but fabulous anyway.

And finally on to Rome - ancient and outrageous and wonderful and still need to go back because there is always more to do - my list for the next visit includes, the Baths of Caraculla, the ViaAppia and Civita Vecchia - getting back to Rome is never going to be a problem because it is the lovely man's favourite place in a tie with Venice. The hotel here was less fabulous than the previous places, we still managed to have a penthouse room, with a terrace overlooking Villa Ada, and a lovely marble bathroom, it was only when the guests in the neighbouring rooms returned that we knew the walls were so thin, we might as well have all been in one room!

One question for fellow bloggers - we ate veal steak in an old roman trattoria, we watched Janet Street Porter and her two veal calves Elton and David and understood that veal is actually the wasted by product of dairy herds (ie bullocks are not productive so have to go) - it was delicious and I didn't feel guilty thanks to Janet - what do you think? You can see from the photo that this was not meat from some tiny animal.

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