Posts Tagged With: Italian food

The Way of St. Francis: Italy at its best


As I sipped coffee at a bar in Poggio Bustone Wednesday afternoon, Sue wandered down the road a few doors and returned with a dinner invitation. The fellow in the white t-shirt runs the La Laconda Francescana Ristorante and hostel, where he later served us a delicious two-course meal with more wine than we could drink for just 27 euro, about $33. The chef (dad?) was pleased to be part of the after-meal photograph.


The view as we walked back to our wonderful accommodation, the San Francesco Suite, perched somewhere in this photo of Poggio Bustone. Such a quintessential Italian evening!




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The Way of St. Francis: Mountaintop surprise



Three carryoncouple posts in one day, you ask? Probably too many, but please forgive our enthusiasm. The Way of St. Francis just gave us another reason to celebrate.

After yet another climb, we reached our accommodation Saturday afternoon on an isolated mountaintop with sweeping views of Umbrian valleys. We were welcomed to the Casalotto Francescano like family. Our en suite room is part of a building below the two-story main house.

We tidied up and shared a bottle of very nice white wine from our kitchen while sitting outside, watching clouds march by and trees bend in the breeze. We took turns telling about our favorite parts of the trek and the biggest surprises.

Soon it was time for dinner. Our host, Luca, a firefighting helicopter pilot who has traveled the world, delivered his mama’s finest.  Zucchini and eggs never tasted so good. Salad, marinara penne pasta, parmesan, superb red wine, and fresh strawberries. All marched down from the main house, just for the two of us.

Luca was celebrating (we hope), too, because he said we are the first Americans to stay here. Tomorrow, we face a particularly difficult trekking day to Valfabbrica. But the gratitude we pack will lighten our load.

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Learning Any New Language Is Foreign to Us!

Conventional wisdom says travelers should learn a few basic words in the native language for convenience and to show respect. I think this is true, so here are some Italian terms we found useful:

First, I found many Italians spoke English as soon as I tried my Italian. My theory was that they were proud that they knew English. Sue disagreed; she thought they wanted to avoid hearing any further assault on their beloved tongue.

Unmini (men's room): Sue learned this on our last day, after-the-fact.

Per favore (please), grazie (thank you).

Buon giorno (good morning, good day), buona sera (good evening). I had trouble here because I could not figure out when sera began. I once said something like buon giorno and was greeted with (I hope!) buona sera at 3 p.m.

In Italy, this pizza and calzone are each meant for one!

Arrivederci (goodbye), ciao (hello or so long, familiar)

Stazione (train station). Centrale (central). In big cities that have several stations, such as Florence, it helps to know which station is best for you. Stazione Centrale put us in the right place most of the time, but not in Florence.

Autobus (bus).

Parli Inglese? (Do you speak English?)

Prego (Our book says it means “you are welcome,” but it is used for more basics. Servers used it to tell us they were ready to take our order, for example.)

No need to know: Sono Americano (I am American.) They know that before you speak, whether you are in London, Beijing, or Rome.

Mi scuse (excuse me)

Si and no.

We didn't know many of these, but it would help to know some food words. Kinds of meat, sauces, vegetables, milk, juice, salad, etc. Or have them in your phone or on a cheat sheet. Many menus have English, but stores usually do not. Some menu items are not traditional American fare. Or, be adventurous! A few times, I wasn't sure, but it all tasted good.

Dov'e il bagno? (Where is the bathroom?) In cities, carry some change for public restrooms. Prices usually range from 50 cents to one euro.

You can see this is a very short list. We got by with these and often did not need to know them. We welcome your suggestions.

We try to remember to be ready to laugh at ourselves. Sometimes sense of humor is the most difficult thing to pack everywhere. We often tell each other that we will never see these people again, so it is alright to make mistakes. This did not work so well in Scotland because we have great friends there who remember our miscues, and they still get a good laugh at our expense! Don't worry, I won't mention any names, Trish!


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First Disappointment, Then a Surprise

Leaves were painted for fall as we climbed Viale Niccolo Machiavelli.

A winding road as we begin our descent.

We returned to Florence today for a walk through the Uffizi, one of the city's top art museums. After more than an hour in a long line that moved little, we reluctantly moved on to Plan B. What a good decision.

We walked across the famed Ponte Vecchio (bridge) and, after a great lunch (see Possibly Our Favorite Meal post), we were on the far-less touristy side of Florence. We walked around the Boboli Gardens and up the winding Viale Niccolo Machiaveli next to a picturesque park, beautiful homes, and toward views of Florence.

We ended the walk with coffee, sitting in a cafe next to the Arno River, with a stunning view of the Ponte Vecchio. We missed a famous museum, but we made some fond memories.


A marker of the city center in the distance

After our walk, we pause for Americanos next to the Ponte Vecchio.


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Possibly, Our Favorite Meal!

Not as flashy as the places that circle the piazzas, this restaurant was everything we hoped for!








We could have passed by without a second glance, but we were hungry and this “Mom and Pop” restaurant in Florence felt like a slice of old Italy.

He may have been the busiest of all the staff, but this pizza chef was most welcoming!







We took a chance and grabbed a couple stools at the counter, in front of the pizza oven. While the pizza chef calmly rolled out pizza after pizza, orders were shouted (in Italian) from the front counter.

Not a fancy meal, but boy did it taste delicious!









Amid the chaos, we enjoyed one of the best meals of our trip!



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Italian Meal Brings Tears to Our Eyes

After a few hours today of zig-zagging our way around central and southern Tuscany, we were walking along a wonderful narrow street in the amazing hilltop medieval town of San Gimignano. Shall we get something to take home for dinner? Yes! We bought some terrific pasta, Chianti wine, cheese, and flatbread. Now for the sauce. I chose some dried spices to mix with water and olive oil. The one with some chili sounded best. It was Sue's turn to cook.

A few seconds after my first bite, I refilled my water glass. By this time, we were both laughing and Sue, with spice-induced tears flowing, explained she had put three heaping tablespoons of the spices in the sauce because she wanted to make sure we used it all. The recipe called for a teaspoon per serving.

Neither birra nor water quelled the fire, but some Tuscany Chianti wine was the perfect cure.

Ah, Italy!

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