Northern Italy into Toscana
12.05.2012 30 °C
A few days of contrast take us from the coastal cliff towns of cinque terra to the romance of lake Como to liveliness of Florence.
First off, we spent the day walking the five towns of cinque terra and when you catch a break from the waves of the grey army that descend on this place, these peasant towns perched over cliffs are truly breathtaking. Each town has its own story, atmosphere and speciality - fresh tuna in one, gelati in the next and espresso in the other. For dinner, our hosts sent us to one of the highlights of the trip so far. Nonna's house.
Some nights Nonna has people over to sit in a makeshift balconly overlooking a beautiful valley to eat whatever she wants to cook from the season. No menus, no choices, you're in Nonna's hands. For primi, tagietelle ragu. So simple, so fresh. For secondi, we got a serve of crispy roast chicken and another of pork rib pieces. Both melt in your mouth and in our all trip top five. Just prepared tiramisu and sugar cubes of lemoncello round out our memorable feast.
Next we head north to lake Como. Normally films embellish the beauty of a region but not here, every turn is like a romantic scene from a 1950's classic. After much asking, we found our little boat just in time to take us to Locanda dell'Isola Comacina where we had a lunch reservation at this tiny yet amazing island. Another no menu all afternoon feast of local food, wine and tradition. We loved it so much, we left well after the staff had gone home for their siesta. Our hotel was another hit. The 17th century villa is on the lake and our balcony looks over the water to Bellagio. A boat across to Bellagio, dinner and late night walk by the water extend the romance of the afternoon into evening.
Arising to a sunny day, we snuck into the pool area of the next hotel and made friends with the oldies to remove suspicion. Some sun and a quick dip in the lake was the perfect refresher for our drive south. Sorry to leave but much to see, we head out of the mountains again and to Bologna which we're told is the culinary capital of Italy (big call which needs validation). Our 4 course dinner was plate after plate of simple and delicious food (including of course the local bolognese sauce) so Bologna gets the tick.
While the exact site of Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon is unclear, during the next morning we crossed it somewhere so with a quick salute to Jules C we took on the bustle of Firenze. Hot, dusty, hectic and flooded by tourists our first impressions were not aligned with our expectation. Then we had a massive re-alignment when we checked into our apartment. Right next to the Duomo, we're currently staying in a converted mansion complete with library and roof top patio providing magnificent views of the city and dome. We relax while the sun wanes and then walk the 463 steps of the famous Duomo to take in all of Firenze from a height. A shop and a wander take us to the Ponte Vechio at sunset before finding a back ally trattoria to rest and reflect.
Today, we experienced the Renaissance and the Medici's contribution up front and in person at the Uffizi gallery and Acadamia. The masterpieces of the Medici private gallery at riverside Uffizi in the morning was a worthy warm up for the awe inspiring Michelangelo's David in the afternoon. Now that might sound a bit rich, thousands of works as a warm up for one, but anyone who has seen David will attest to the perfection in form that captivates all and to wit, all before and all after is measured.
Culture today, wine tomorrow in the Chianti region, then the hill top towns of Toscana. Thanks for your messages (especially Lio Messi, thanks for the note we know you're a huge fan).
Alla prossima Volta