Posts Tagged 'italy'

insalata, insalatón

roasted squash and pomegranate salad

Here’s the sort of salad I imagined we’d be eating as we rode our bikes through the hills of Tuscany: plates of field greens piled with herbs, fruit, roasted vegetables, cured meats, mozarella di bufala – everything local and in season. Peppery vinaigrettes. New olive oil. Verrry old balsamic.

The reality looked more like this: a glass bowl of green leaf lettuce, wedges of anemic tomato, and perhaps a few rounds of carrot or cucumber. Sometimes, an arugula salad, composed just of arugula. Accompanying the salad was not a vinaigrette – remember, vinaigrette is a french word – or, even ‘italian dressing’ (this may be an american invention), but the same four things that arrive with any contorno: olive oil, ordinary vinegar, salt, and pepper.

If you hail from the U.S., where the number of words a server uses to describe your entree seems directly proportional to the ‘fineness’ of the restaurant, the food of Tuscany requires a mental shift. Tuscan food is defined by a simplicity that verges on ascetic: antipasto is a plate of thinly shaved prosciutto, the primo piatto, a plate of hand-rolled pasta with olive oil, pecorino and black pepper, the secondo piatto, a perfectly grilled pork chop.

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under the umbrian sun

cappelacci con pecorino di fosso e miele

We’ve just come out the other side of a week of seriously sketchy weather. Days of driving rain or constant drizzle, punctuated by periods of clear enough skies to buoy false hopes that it would end sooner. Despite the weather, this last week ranks among our favorites, with the rain often being a catalyst for the best experiences.

On the last day of a 4 day tour of medieval hill towns, we camped in the front yard of a lovely octogenarian named Anna, who treated us to crostata, milky coffee, and long conversation, despite our formidable (but diminishing) language barrier. Just outside of Siena, morning rains cleared the normally hazy skies of The Crete, bringing the most classic of Tuscan landscapes into high resolution, hills of rolling amber offset by purple skies.

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post florence

fromaggi pecorini

First things first.

1. Minor revision to the claim that “this camping thing is crazy-good”. (We make this revision in the interest of accuracy, knowing full well that you will use this information against us for many years to come.) Start by deleting “good”. It would seem that there are drawbacks to being the first civilization to invent indoor plumbing, the most obvious of which is that most of the plumbing is as ancient as its cathedrals. Those interested in green power might explore the possibility of capturing the methane that is off-gassing from city sewer vents. Especially near camping areas. Where we are trying to sleep. And hoping we will wake up in the morning.

Really, the problem is not everywhere, and is mostly a problem if you locate yourself downwind of the source, but is common enough that at least two campgrounds have earned the title “bog of eternal stench”.

Not that we want to dissuade you from considering camping as an option for your next tour of Europe. The in-city locations are great, the price is a quarter of the cost of a cheap hotel, your fellow campers are quiet as mice, and your campground will often have a great panoramic view and a bar and cafe to enjoy it from. And your tent is guaranteed to be nicer than most hotels in the budget category.

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can’t tweet

la strada del amore

Ok, this business of 120 char tweets is driving me crazy. We’re going to try using the blog instead to allow prose and complex retrospective reality to come a hair closer together. Even if we are typing with only one finger.

We are at the end of week one. An amazing thing about bicycle touring is that so many things happen in one day, that every week feels like a month. Every day, a week.

Here are some of the important things to say:

1. Italy may be the best place in the world to ride a bike. The roads are good, but more importantly, the drivers are amazing in their attitude toward bikes. They are patient and careful and don’t pass until they can give us a wide berth.

2. This Italian camping thing is crazy-good. Can you imagine staying five minutes from the beach in Sausalito with an ocean view for only $25? That was us in Lerici night before last. (Dove stiamos in Lerici due notti fa.)

3. Bicycle touring will help you learn italian. We have to talk to people A LOT. Plus, they want to talk to us about our giro d’ italia de sei setimane. In Castelnuovo di Garfagnana a woman curious about the bikes was thrilled to discover that it was two *women* who had dragged those trailers over the apuane alps – ended our exchange by slapping me on the butt repeatedly: bella! brava! bella! brava! The same happened to Kath near Radicci pass.

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chocolate frosting

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italy photos

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pisa

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Moonrise over Pitigliano

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bruschetta

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roasted chestnuts

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