Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category
Had breakfast at the Internet cafe/modern wine bar while trying to finish a post finally from the Cinque Terre. Afterwards, we went to the mall/market that comes to town once a week on Fridays, and the fish store that is only open with the fresh fish on Fridays.
We hired a cool driver today, Alesandro, and he drove us first an hour away to Orvieto. Its a small town on the top of a cliff, that was once covered by water, then later volcanic substance. Eventually, all the water went away, and they needed a way to get to water, especially during the 2 year siege by Rome. So they built these underground caves, wells, pigeon coops (for food), and they basically created an underground city. We traversed through 2 long tunnels of caves and rooms that once held olive oil mills and fully situated cities. There are currently over 1000 caves discovered like these here, basically a hollowed out cliff that the town sits on.
On this town is even a giant, beautiful, cathedral. My guess is that in some time in the future, this entire town will collapse. The last giant erosion was in 1992.
Our second town that we drove to was Todi (no, not the soccer player Totti). We spent an hour in its town center that for the day was the flower market and gift market. My mom bought some home made acacia honey, and I lounged on the church stairs. This was a pleasant town, with what seemed to be pleasant people. We ate lunch there. I had ravioli with spinach and ricotta in a creamy sauce and of course, it was quite delicious.
We drove to a third town called Deruta–the porcelain capital of Italy. Yawn. I ate a gelato, had a coke, and milled about.
This entire day we have been chauffeured (whats the Italian word for that?) around in a Mercedes Benz mini van, toting 6 adults and the driver. We have been on extremely winding roads and I have battling car sickness. Kathy Blenkush has brought along these cool wristband type thing that has a bead in the middle of it that is supposed to apply pressure to a pressure point in your wrist that eases motion sickness. I am not sure if it helped me or not, but I am glad I didn’t go without it.
Made it back to Montalcino and had a glass of wine while working on the Internet. I needed to email our Rome apartment to let them know our approximate arrival time, as well as try to book a room for Kathy and Jeane in Rome, as well as trying to secure ticket reservations for them to the Vatican museum with us. Talked to grandad via skype while there and he told me m a racist Italian joke (ok, I told him, but I’ll give him credit since older people can say whatever they want and get away with it).
Made it back upstairs and ate some yummy pinchi and sausage pasta my mom made, and then settled down with some wine and a game of chance (card game similar to golf card game).
May 21, 2009
Started the morning the same way most mornings here in Montalcino would start for me, and that was downstairs at the winebar/internet cafe. It is such a great convenience having it just outside the front door. Almost as convenient as having it inside the apartment, but with better coffe.
We were meeting up today with Ceylan Tumgoren, who runs the winery at Casanuova delle Cerbaie Winery in Montalcino. When we ran into her this morning, she wanted to sit with her mom for some coffee first, so we took the opportunity to walk over with my parents to a church that was currently being restored. My mom has taken great pride in this little town and all of its events and undertakings. You could see the pride in both of my parents faces as they discussed this church, its sinking, the art that was hanging, and the statue of peter that was here.
Rather than squeeze 6 in the car again, Lisa and I rode with Ceylan while the Volvo was behind. We learned a lot about Ceylan on this car ride. Her mother lives in New York and is divorced. Her father is from Turkey. To go along with her American citizenship she also held citizenship of Ireland. She worked for a wine distributor out of NY called Zachy’s. She then spent time working for a vineyard in Bordeaux France before moving to Montalcino where she has been for almost 2 years. She speaks fluent French, Italian and some Turkish. She told us how it was first a tough transition having an American work ethic while working with Italians because a coffee break would sometimes last 3 hours.
We arrived and we walked amongst the grape vines as she told us some of the history of the winery and some of the patterns of growth. She told us about Brunello-gate(tangent: I’m really tired of something controversial being called blank-gate. Watergate was the name of the office complex in the Nixon controversy. It had an actual reason of being called “gate.” However, now everything gets labeled “gate” and its flat out annoying. One recent example was when the Patriots were caught cheating, it was labeled “spygate.” For an inconclusive list of many others read here).
She also told us about pinching the grapes and how they do not want too many grapes growing on any particular vine because then all the energy of the vine is spread out through larger numbers, rather than focusing all its strength and flavors on a smaller number of grapes. We walked up and down some vines, pinching the vines.
We then went into the barrel rooms where we were gonna taste some of the wines that were in the middle of the aging process as well as some fresh wines.
In order for a wine to be classified as Brunello, it must be 100% sangiovese grape, grown in the region of Montalcino. It must age in the barrel or vat for a minimum of 5 years. If it is bottled after 2 years it is called a Rosa di Montalcino. If it is less than 2 years it is called “Tabalo” or table wine. I can’t imagine the patience that goes into a bottle of Brunello. Not only do you have to grow the vine for a certain number of years in order to yield fruit, but then once you do you have to wait 5 years for it to properly age.
We tasted some of the wines that had been in the barrel for 2 years, and others that had been longer. On one taste she immediately said “this one is ready to be moved out of the barrel” and she took note to make sure that got done immediately. To me it just tasted like wine, as I am not sure I would have noticed it was ready to move.
It was a great experience and I really enjoyed the first hand tour and imparted knowledge.
We made our way back to Montalcino and I spent some time posting to this site while at the internet wine bar. We then all went to St. Antimowhere we spent time at a 30 minute service of Gregorian chants. It was a really pretty church whose history dates back to the late 8th century. After the beautiful service, we walked around the grounds and made our way back to Montalcino.
Back in town, we walked around, ate some gelato, and then had dinner of wine and bruschetta, and then risotto with chicken. All very delicious as we watched the moon come up over this beautiful valley.
Our conversation started toward Bridge and how my parents play often with Kathie. We then spent 20 minutes trying to give me a bridge lesson and playing a hand.
Time for bed.
Today we are leaving to go to Montalcino. However, we do not meet up with JeanE and Kathie till 5pm at the train station, so we have the whole day here in Florence. However, due to my mom’s fall, she can barely move as her whole side is in pain. So we decide to do very minimal today. Nope, we will not be hitting the Pitti Palace or the gardens as intended. I actually didn’t mind as I wasn’t really looking forward to that long hike again up the hill. If I could have done something tourist this day though, I think I would have hit the Duomo museum (Mary Magdalene statue) or the Borgello museum (Donatello’s David and other sculptures).
After a great night of food and fun, and lots of wine, it was a slow moving morning. We took our time eating breakfast, and then packed up our rooms and left our baggage with the front desk. And then we just sat in the bar area. We discussed things like bidet usage, we did work on the Internet and computer, and we looked at pictures. My dad ran all over town looking for my moms cross necklace, chain, and angel pin. He was successful on 2 of the 3, but quite sweaty after literally running around.
We ate lunch down the street at a pizza place, and we were approached by a lady about a charitable organization.
We head thru the market one last time for shopping. My mom bought more scarfs, probably, I don’t really remember. But it was time for last minute shopping in Florence before we headed out. We got towards the end of the market, and we sat my mom down, left her a couple bags, and my dad’s camera. Then the 3 of us walked back to the hotel to grab all the luggage.
We got the luggage and then trekked it through the town. Luggage is heavy when you are carrying multiple pieces for multiple blocks. We have had to do these long walks usually when we first get to a city, and when we leave the city. I didn’t want to get any hotels right near the train station, as that tends to be more of the seedy parts of town, as well as a little bit of distance from the city centers.
We made it back to my mom, and then trekked through the city some more until we arrived at the train station. We were scheduled to meet our new travelers here, as they were coming in from Venice.
We waited about 20 minutes, protecting our bags from pick-pockets and crowds, and eventually JeanE and Kathie met up with us at the McDonald’s there. We then walked to binari 2 and waited about 45 minutes for our train.
We took the train, and the first stop was about 5 minutes away, it was a secondary Florence stop. Then it seemed that everyone got on the train. Meanwhile, my dad is asking my mom for the camera and she has no idea where she put it, or if she even had it. I have visions right now of when my dad emptied the entire suitcase of clothing once, in the paris airport, looking for something that K.C had misplaced. We have stacks of luggage now, all over the seats on top of each other, and there is no way he could possibly do that now. Though, I am sure he wants to. He is frustrated and agitated, as travelling with many people is not easy. We try to calm him down by letting him know that at this point, its either in the bags, or its not, and there is nothing he can do. But more than likely, it is somewhere in the bags and we will find it when we reach our destination.
It’s really crowded on the train right now, and we have our luggage taking up seats and people are irritated with us. This Italian guy sat down across from Lisa and is breathing his bad breath in sighs of frustration on us. I’m having a hard time concentrating on typing and its really hot and uncomfortable. I think it must be train rush hour time. Meanwhile, my dad is irritated because he thinks that he may have lost the camera or misplaced it somewhere in Florence. Meanwhile, we have met up with 2 new travelers and so there is always transition time of getting used to people and group dynamics. I am curious to see how this will all work out.
We sit on the train for about 20 minutes without it moving, when over the speaker in Italian, they announce that the train is having problems and we would need to exit and find a new train. Brilliant.
We hop off the train, high-tail it to a different track, only to see the train that we really wanted, was just leaving a different track. We hop on a new train. Lisa runs down the track to ask the conductor if it is the train we want, and he says no. We all quickly jump off the train with our luggage before it takes us to an unknown destination. We eventually find the right track, after lugging the luggage up and down stairs. At one point, I thought there was a nice citizen. I was carrying multiple bags (mine, Lisa’s, Jeane’s…I don’t remember anymore), and taking my time up the stairs. Someone came by and grabbed the side of one of the bags, and helped me carry it to the top. How nice! How kind and caring these Italians are.
Five minutes later, he came by begging for change. I was set up. The “norm of reciprocity” strikes again. Eventually our train arrived, and it was the nicest train we had been on yet. We enjoyed a 2 hour train ride through the country side. We were covered with green hills. It was beautiful.
We arrived at the Buonconvento train station and saw for the first time my parents new car. While my dad was walking the couple blocks to pick it up, we rummaged through our bags and found his missing camera. He will be so happy. Because they have a convertible, we couldn’t fit everyone (this time) and our luggage so Lisa and I stayed behind to wait for trip #2.
We walked thru the streets of Buonconvento, used the restroom, checked out the 7-11 type convenient store, and eventually sat outside the tiny train station at a little restaurant and ate a snack of pasta with bolognese sauce.
Dad came back and picked us up, and we drove the 10 minutes to Montalcino, with the stars above us, the top down, and my dad blasting Michael W. Smithmusic because its the song on his ipod that gets the most bass and he wanted me to experience the woofer in the back. Very funny when a 1980′s Christian pop/worship music singer is your idea of heavy bass. It was a beautiful drive. One that I wish we could do again, over and over. It was a very pleasant evening and it was nice with the wind in our hair.
We arrived in town, walked our bags up and down hills and made it to the cute little apartment with a fabulous view of the green country side. There was pizza waiting, and jugs, yes, jugs of wine waiting. We ate, we drank, we looked out through the peaceful valley, and we enjoyed catching up with everyone.
It was kind of odd, being in a big city again. It kind of felt like I was in civilization again. That isn’t a good or a bad thing, it just felt like there was a large town now, and lots of people.
I really wanted to get some items posted to my site, so we spent a good chunk of time this morning on the Internet in our hotel’s bar.
After that we started heading out into the streets, walking around, enjoying sunny Florence. Two days ago on our hike in the Cinque Terre, Lisa lost her sunglasses. And today, when we left the hotel, I had forgotten mine. So we hit up a sunglass store and shopped around. We now both have some european shades to add flair to our trip.
We continued across the duomo piazza, past the rustic building, to the central mercato. In Florence, they have 4 or 5 blocks that are just street vendor after street vendor. Often times, the vendor’s push cart is merely in front of their store that is in the building behind them. Some pushcarts are selling leather wallets, others are selling leather purses or belts. Some sell souvenir tshirts, while others sell glass or necklaces.
I love this part of Florence. It is kind of like a giant flea market or swap meet if you will. 11 years ago when I was here, we’d have to walk through this market every day to get to the park where our group would eat our lunch of nutella, bananas and cold cuts. I have very fond memories of walking through here. Plus, I love shopping here cause you can barter and find cool items. Today I bought some soccer jerseys, a belt and a wallet.
I had some friends going to Florence 10 years ago and they bought me a wallet. It is a wallet I have used since then. Of course it has been falling apart for a few years, but I said I needed to replace it with one from Florence. Today I did.
We followed this up with lunch near Piazza Della Signoria. This piazza is near an old fortress/palace which is now a governmental building and a museum. In this piazza are replica statues of David and many others. We had a pizza and it was one of the best yet.
This is a good time to talk about my pizza quest (if I haven’t already). Once again, 11 years ago, I ate pizza in Italy, mainly in southern Italy (Brindisi, Rome…) and it was amazing. I will never forget it. It was not like pizza at all. I would cut into the dough, which was soggy with its toppings. As soon as I would cut into it, the pizza would practically drain off. It was like a big doughy, tomato-y, cheesy soup. Since then I have always held, that pizza in italy is so entirely different than we have come to know it in the states.
During this trip, the pizza has been delicious, and different from the states, but nowhere near what I remember. I am on a search for the perfect, soupy pizza.
Today’s pizza was much soupier, but still not the same. Though, I have developed a theory on this trip. The pizza has gotten better, the further south in Italy we have travelled. I think it might be a regional thing. Much like their sauces are regional (creamy base to tomato base), maybe their pizza is too. Do I really have to travel back to Brindisi to experience this again?
We were still sore from our hike a couple of days ago, and still interested in finding a massage to work those kinks out. We asked our concierge and the best they had to offer was having the masseuses come to our room. I’ve never done that before, and it was a little weird having it in our own room, but of course once I slipped off into relax mode, I forgot all about that.
After our massages, we were in our room, and we heard a lot of clatter from the street below us. We looked out our window and the street was packed with people, in orderly lines and groups, like a giant marching band. It was like a parade, but it was a protest. It was a giant protest march. The signs they were carrying spoke of communism, of schools, of 1972. They were singing, chanting, clapping, playing drums and instruments. It stretched from the Duomo, all the way to Piazza Signoria.
For dinner tonight, we went to the Golden View, Open Bar restaurant which is just on the other side of the Arno. It was spectacular. Great views, great food, lovely company. The restaurant was all white and had a really bright and cheery atmosphere. We started our meal with some mixed Crostini. Our second course was some Gnocchi for Lisa, and some Penne for me. Then, Lisa had some Chicken I believe that she loved, and I had a giant steak Florentina. I figured, when in Florence…
All were extremely delicious, and the wine and service were great too. It was unbeatable.
We walked home happy and satisfied, taking pictures of the river, the bridge, and all the crazy town folk.
Went to Il Pirata for breakfast and enjoyed a couple of delicious Sicilian pastries, and then we caught the train to La Spezia then Pisa and finally on to Florence, having to change trains at each station. Carting luggage up and down stairways onto the wrong tracks and then finally to the correct Binari.
Arrived and exited the Firenze train station, but exited the wrong side of the station, and then started walking in the wrong direction away from the city of Florence. Oops. 400 yards away, we asked for directions to the Duomo, and was told to go back the direction we came from.
We found our way to the hotel, and it was a beautiful hotel in which part of it was a museum as it used to house a roman bath, a jail, and a lookout point. It definitely was the 4 star hotel that it advertised itself as–at least compared to the other places we have stayed.
After checking in we took a little stroll to Piazza Republica and ate a pizza and some wine. Following that, we headed towards the duomo, to check out its graceful, colorful beauty.
After our 7 hour hike yesterday, we were kind of interested in a massage, and so when we stumbled across a place that looked like one, we headed in to examine it. But it was mainly a tanning and waxing place that was a little odd, and they had no openings for massage.
Spent some time on the Internet, and then walked towards the River Arno to find a restaurant. We went down the street next to the Arno, but there wasn’t anything interesting there. So we crossed the Ponte Vecchio to the other side, and guess who I saw at the base of the bridge?
I noticed the back of his hair and the side of his face first. I’m less than a foot away from him, and I realize that it is a Wold brother. Was it Josh? Jeremy? I don’t recollect the name at first. I say “Josh Wold!” but didn’t get a response. Then I said “Jeremy Wold” and didn’t get a response. But then I realized that it was Josh, and said it even louder. This time he turned around.
Josh is the brother of one of my dearest friends, David Wold whom I met and lived with in college. Josh was currently living in Holland, and was merely in Florence for the weekend.
We had a short conversation and then continued on our ways. Why is it, when travelling on trips like this, that it is bound to happen that you run into someone that you know? That has happened to me frequently. When has it happened to you? and with whom?
I took a picture of the Bibo restraunt where we all ate 11 years ago. They weren’t quite open yet so we went to a nearby restaurant where our waiter Victor entertained us with his friendliness.
We found a waterbus to the St.Mark’s stop since we knew our hotel was somewhat near there. Boy was it crowded. It was late morning and the crowds filled the waterways and st. mark’s square. We tried to find our hotel, but got lost. Store owners had no idea what hotel we were talking about. Eventually though, we came across it, and it was right near where we had been. I left lisa in the downstairs foye and walked upstairs to a tiny hotel reception/office that was filled with 3 people. Their reservation system was a handy desk/notebook calendar and she was busy writing in pencil and erasing inforation. It was a chaotic office with one young lady (our age or younger) taking our passports and writing down information, an older lady (60′s) scribbling in the calendar, and a gentleman (her husband?) grabbing the keys and getting directions from the lady. It was 80 euro’s cash and she tried to explain that because we were paying cash and staying in the annex, that we were getting the cheapest deal.
The gentleman took us to our room which was around the corner. We were given a keychain with 4 keys on it: the street-side door, the hallway door, the bedroom door and one to stick into the light socket to power the lights. Our room was funky and colorful with bright burnt orange curtains on 3 windows that overlooked the street and would become noisy at night. It was a cozy room and we didn’t see the landlord again. It had a bidet, and this time I used it, but mainly as a refreshment from long days of walking and getting lost.
We set out to walk around venice, and after about an hour, we came across a restraunt called Il Paradiso, and thus far, might rate as the best meal yet (though every meal is a slice of heaven). We ordered a bottle of their own house wine, caprese, gnochi with bolagnese and pennecita with bolagnese. Everything was perfect. It was a cute, street-side cafe with lovely atmosphere. I think I drink four glasses of wine to every one that Lisa drinks. I was trying to get her to drink faster, cause I wasn’t able to slow myself down. My new mantra: Slow meals, slow living, fast drinking.
Venice is certainly a picturesque location. Nothing like it exists in the world as far as I know. Water that leads right up to buildings, with zero sand or gradual shore. It’s truely breathtaking. It is very colorful, and during the day, very crowded. It is full of people and personality.
We came across a street vendor, and I bought a pair of joke boxers for Cameron–the statue of David’s genital area.
We jumped on a gondola ride that ended up being a much shorter trip than promised, so it wasn’t really worth the cost of the 80 euros. However, it was really pleasurable thing to do, and was the first time I ever rode a gondola. I found myself during this entire trip to Venice remarking that it must have been crazy back in the day when there was much less canal traffic, and more just gondolas. Now, the canal is crazy busy between water buses, water taxi’s, gondola boats, and private personal boats. Our gondola ride took us thru some back waterways and was very pleasant. However, when we exited the boat, I left the blue bag with Cam’s boxers. Sucks.
We started walking some more, and eventually we found ourselves to have traversed most of the main island and was far from where we thought we were. That is something you should be aware of if you ever come to Venice. You will get lost. There is no doubt about that. Every street is a winding narrow street, with no views of landmarks, and they lead you from one square to the next, to a bridge, to another. However, during our few hour trek, we happened to find ourselves again back near where we caught our gondola ride. A few askings around, showing the picture of our gondalier to other gondaliers, and we eventually came across our lost blue bag. So good for Cam, even though, they probably won’t fit anyway.
We found ourselves back to our hotel approximately 5:30 pm and was perfect timing for a siesta. Our legs were beat from all the walking we have been doing, all the exploring we have accomplished while being lost.
Slept for a few hours, and then forced ourselves up around 8:30 pm. Went out towards St. Mark’s square (1 block away really), and it was dusk. It stays light late here, usually till about 9:30. There were many cafe’s and restraunts that have chairs out in the middle of the square, and serve food, and have live bands playing contemporary favorite songs. We sat at one that included a violinist, a clarinet, fluetist (jazz flute?), an accordian, a standing bass, and a pianist. Shared a caprese pomodoro panini and a 12 euro bottle of coke. Although it may have been a tourist trap of a place (high prices, cover charge etc), the atmosphere, the scenery, the music, the company, were all worth it.
Met up with Lisa at the Saronno train station. I was a little worried about meeting at a random trains top since we didn’t really know how big or small the station was.
As it ended up, she was waiting at one end of the train station for 90 minutes and I was at another end for 45 min before our paths crossed. Though, it went surprisngly smooth.
We took the train 40 minute’s to Lake Como. Then we caught a boat that took us slowly town to town for 2 hours before we reached Bellagio. The lake is really peaceful and beautiful.
We walked around all day, burnt our noses in the sun.
Then we had a really pleasant dinner on the waterfront: a half bottle of Montepulciano wine, risotto with perch fillets, minestrone soup, beef filet and tagliatelle with meat sauce. The risotto and the pasta were extremely delicious and the wine was very tasty.
A wonderful day.
Yes, I know what that phrase means, do you? The other night I went downtown to little Italy for a lecture on florence art and architecture at the ICC. The lecture was done by Miti Aiello, Architecture and Art Professor at Newschool of Architecture and Design and was titled Under the Shadow of the Duomo: Architecture of the Renaissance in Florence. It was an enjoyable lecture, seeing pictures from florence, and learning different things about certain aspects of the history of florence.
After the lecture, I walked around little Italy, and decided to stop for a bite and got a table curbside at Buon Appetito. I had a lovely evening, on the street sipping a glass of wine, enjoying good food, and soaking in the culture. I ordered a caprese salad, a glass of Rubico Lacryma di Moro d’ Alba ~ Marchevv, and a plate of Penne Pasticciate. Everything was very delicious other than the wine. Although I enjoyed it, I probably won’t order it again. It had too much of a strong fruity taste. The menu describes it as “Medium body with notes of dried rose petals with raspberry overtones. A hidden treasure! Like no other wine!” I agree that it was like no other wine, but not in a good way. However the caprese and the pasta were to die for. The pasta was a penne bolognese, basically. However, they put a dallop of mascarpone cheese on the top. Mascarpone cheese is relatable to cream cheese. So imagine a cold dollup of cream cheese on top of hot steamy pasta with meat sauce. Odd, no? I mixed the cheese into the sauce and it was heaven on a fork. Yum. I want to go back.
I like being immersed in culture. I found it fascinating to just sit on the street patio, people watching. Couples walking by speaking italian, customers at their tables jabbing about their flights back to the east coast, and waiters flirting with pretty girls. I didn’t feel like I was in a different country, but I felt like I was not in my own neighborhood. Part of me wishes that I was more cultural. I am always fascinated when I am in a new place or am with people different than I am used to. I love soaking in history, culture, and different people.
I feel completely blessed. Part of me thinks that I could die today, and that I would feel like I have lived a lucky and blessed life. I have experienced so much more than most people in the world. I have traveld– been to about 10 different countires and about 35 different US states. I have loved and I have been loved. I have spent time at college. I have developed deep friendships. I have been employed. I could die today and feel that there was very little my life lacked. But despite that, I still wish there was more. I am always in longing. There is never enough time in life, enough hours, days, weeks, months to fully do all that I want, or be all that I wish.
I wish there was someone in my life, that was more of a “forger.” That fits themselves into any situation and holds total confidence. I am a follower at heart. I lack confidence. I wish there was someone close to me that I could latch on to and find myself feeling at home in random situations and scenarios. There is so much culture out there that I wish I could invert myself into. Whether that means clubs downtown, bars, countries, art galleries…I want all that life can offer. My shy un-confident side often keeps me out of these situations, or at least limits them. There is so much more of life I want to soak up. There is nothing I want to miss out on. I want all that life has to offer. I want to live the life.