Friday, September 30, 2011

Michelangelo's David

One more thing checked off my "bucket list". Yesterday in Florence in the gallery of the The Accademia di Belle Arti ("Academy of Fine Arts"), after standing in a very long line, we viewed the world's most famous sculpture:  David by Michelangelo  Incredibly beautiful. That alone has made this trip to Italy worthwhile. 

Interesting sidebar:  In 1857 a cast of this famous sculpture was presented to Queen Victoria by the Grand Duke of Tuscany.  She immediately had it moved to what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum. The story goes that on her first encounter with the cast of 'David' at the Museum, Queen Victoria was so shocked by the nudity that a proportionally accurate fig leaf was commissioned. It was then kept in readiness for any royal visits, when it was hung on the figure using two strategically placed hooks. *

The fig leaf is no longer displayed on the David at the V&A.  Instead, it is housed in its own case on the back of the base of the figure.
*  "David's Fig Leaf". Victoria and Albert Museum

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Traditional Tuscan Dinner at the Villa Lecchi

Life's uncertain, eat dessert first.  Our dessert of the evening.
Among the highlights of our stay at the lovely Villa Lecchi are the wonderful traditional dinners prepared by Laura's seventy-three year old mother.  The first course last evening was the Ribollita  a famous Tuscan soup, a hearty potage made with bread and vegetables. There are many variations but the main ingredients always include leftover bread, cannellini beans and vegetables. It's a good way to use left overs.   Its name literally means "reboiled".

Ribollita, the first course at dinner.

 The second course, the pasta course, was troffi, a spiral shaped pasta, with homemade pesto sauce.

Troffi wih pesto sauce.

The main course was wild boar served with side dishes of polenta and spinach.  The boar was delicious, but it tasted more like beef than pork to me.

Wild boar, the main course.

We finished with a great dessert, panna cotta  topped with a rich chocolate sauce.
(See photo above).

I always finish my dessert.  Yummy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dinner in Orvieto at the Zeppelin

Chef at the Zeppelin making fettucine for us.

After a cooking demonstration by the chef at the Zeppelin Restaurant, we were served an amazing six course dinner.  The first course was an appetizer of local salami, olives, and cheese which we nibbled while the chef was demonstrating how to make pasta.  He later cooked the freshly made fettucine and served it as the second course with a tomato sauce.  We were careful only to sample most of the delicious courses so that we could eat a bit of everything.  I especially held out for the dessert.

Barbara and Aubrey enjoying the freshly made fettucini with tomato sauce.

Third Couse: Bruschetta of creamed ricotta with truffles served on arugula, dressed with balsamic vinegar.
Fourth course: Asparagus lasagna with cheese. This was my favorite of all the courses.
 The fifth and main course was Guinea hen stuffed with potatoes, fennel, and sweet red peppers.  Side of cannellini beans and green salad.  The hen was delicious--tasted like partridge (or gamey chicken).

Fifth course:   Stuffed Guinea hen with sides of cannellini beans and salad.

Sixth Course: Mascarpone mousse with dark chocolate sauce and chopped  pistachios.
This was one of the best meals of my life.  There is a Culinary Institute of America at this restaurant and the meal was prepared especially for our group by the Italian chef and several of his American students.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Almost Opera in Rome, Italy

It would be a shame to be in Rome and not attend an Italian opera.  Friends Betty, Mary, and I attended an "almost" opera in Rome the other night when we went to a concert at the Anglican church in Rome.  The vocalists and chamber orchestra performed a number of arias from Italian operas.

Friends Betty (left) and Mary (right) at the concert.
The concert.
Walking home after the concert allowed us to enjoy the beauty of Rome at night.

Betty taking photo of fountains.

Rome at night.

On the way home we stopped for drinks at a little sidewalk restaurant, and we stayed so late we were asked to leave because they wanted to close.   So now we can say we "closed down the bar"!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dan's Comments 1

From time to time on this tour of Italy, Dan has agreed to share some of his impressions with me.  Here's the first:

"This is a very interesting country in many unexpected ways.  A motorist is apt to leave his car in the middle of a one-lane road and block the flow of traffic while he has a drink in a bar.  Yesterday a Northern Italian told us that this would happen in South Italy, but before we reached our hotel it happened to us here in Rome."
Our bus blocked in Rome.

"The proficiency of drivers, especially big bus drivers, on the switchback roads of the Amalfi Coast is incredible.  In three days of driving we encountered only two accidents, although there was seldom more than six inches of leeway between our bus and the ones it was encountering.  Fortunately the Vespa riders usually didn't try to squeeze between us until we had passed.

Scenically that coast is quite spectacular, with volcanic mountains of the southern Appenines plunging several thousand feet into Homer's wine-dark sea.  It takes a while, though, to make the esthetic adjustment to fishing villages that look like tenements."
Fishing village along the Amalfi Coast is very different from one in Nova Scotia

"Pompeii was much more impressive than it seems in photographs.  Something about the third dimension gives it a convincing reality, the humanity of which is attested to by the hundreds of museum amphorae and the handful of plaster casts of the bodies of people killed in the eruption.  Today there are 700,000 people living within Pompeii's distance from Vesuvius. That's what makes it the most dangerous volcano in the world."
Amphorae and cast of victim from Pompeii.

"After even Amalfi's tourist accommodation, Rome's seem rapacious.  Five euros to use the TV or the Internet. It would be cheaper to buy a new blouse than to have one laundered here."

Eleven euros ($15.00) to launder a blouse.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Drive Along the Amalfi Coast, Italy

On Tuesday afternoon after spending the morning in Pompeii, we had a lovely drive along the Amalfi Coast which is truly spectacular. Except for the rain on Monday morning, the weather has been perfect.  We have seen so much in such a short time that I will have to post some blogs about this trip after we return to North Carolina.  In the meantime, here are some photos from our drive along the Coast.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Viagra on the Amalfi Coast

Fruit stand in Positano, Italy.

On Tuesday, after visiting Pompeii, we drove along the beautiful Amalfi Coast which must surely be one of the most beautiful coasts in the world.  (Photos of that later.)  Near the small town of Positano we stopped at a little roadside market..  Many of the products we encountered were similar to ones we might find at the NC State Farmers Market.  Others were quite different.
These small tomatoes resemble ones you might get at Harris Teeter, but they taste oh so much better.
Locally grown lemons.

The Amalfi Coast has the perfect climate for growing lemons and lemons are a major crop of the area.  The trees produce from four to five crops a year.  And in addition to fresh lemons, many lemon products are sold here.

Colorful hot peppers.

Although there are lots of peppers sold in the market, we haven't found the food particularly spicy.
The most interesting products sold at this market were the Viagra peppers and the olive oil infused with the Viagra peppers.  Do these products have the same effect as Viagra?

Viagra peppers.

Olive oil infused with Viagra peppers.

Did I see some of my colleagues preparing to test this product????

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jim's Birthday Celebration in Roma, Italy

Jim, the birthday honoree, with Dania, our tour director, to his right, and his wife Barbara to his left.

Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii

Mt. Vesuvius as seen from Pompeii.
On Tuesday morning we toured Pompeii.  Incredible.  Mt. Vesuvius in the distance was impressive.  I think best to just post some photos.  Under time constraint here---dinner coming up, and then we are packing tonight to leave for Rome tomorrow.  I'll have post later on Ravello and Amalfi coast. 

Ruins of Pompeii.

Cast of Pompeii victim probably trying to keep ash from face.

Cobble stone streets.

Dan taking a break.

View of  Vesuvius from the other side looking across the Bay of Naples.
Dan and I almost missed this trip.  We overslept and fortunately woke up about half an hour before we were to meet the bus.  We had to skip breakfast.  We would have been so disappointed to miss this.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gelato in Amalfi on a Rainy Morning

The beautiful town of Amalfi, Italy.
On Monday morning we were bussed over to the town of Amalfi, the largest of the coastal towns in Salerno.   The town is surrounded by dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery.  It began raining soon after we arrived at the town square.  Despite the intermittent showers we were able to have a good view of  Saint Andrew's Cathedral (Duomo) that overlooks the Piazza Duomo or town square..  This area has been very dry—three months with little rain— so the rain was welcomed by the locals, but we wished it had held off a day. 
The Duomo overlooking the town square.
At times there were heavy downpours, and we had to duck into the little shops for refuge.  Dan and I sought cover in a little coffee shop that also served gelato and other ice cream treats.
A deluge of rain flooding street in  Amalfi.
I had pistachio gelato and Dan had a banana split.
Lemons are grown in the area around Amalfi and they are plentiful in the markets.  There are also many products made from lemons: candy, biscotti, candles, and soap, for example.

A basket of lemons for sale in market.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Arrival in Amalfi, Italy

We had a rather uneventful trip here.  On Saturday we flew from RDU to Dulles in Washington to Munich and on to  Naples, Italy arriving on  Sunday morning. The tour director met us along with others in the group, and we were taken by bus to Amalfi where we're staying at the Marmorata Hotel.  The hotel overlooks the romantic Amalfi Coast.

On Sunday night we had dinner with the group in the hotel.  Our tour is organized by the NC State University Alumni, and there are seventeen of us plus the tour director.

Dania, our tour director, and the waiter setting up the bubbly.

Dan with Jim and Barbara, two members of our group.

On Monday, if weather permits,  we will go by boat to the nearby town of Amalfi.  (Our hotel is about a mile and a half from the little town.) Otherwise we will go by bus.  We'll spend the morning in Amalfi and have lunch there.  In the afternoon we will continue on to hilltop Ravello.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Travelling with Our Tilleys

Tilley hats are made in Canada.
When Dan and I travel we always have our Tilley hats.  Right now we are traveling with our Tilleys in Italy..  See where we've been with our Tilleys. 
Pat at the harness races in Inverness.
Dan waiting for our rental car to be delivered in Halifax. Maggie is in her "taxi".

Dan shopping for a new Tilley for Italy.
Leaving for airport for trip to Italy.
Pat sailing on the Bras d' Or Lake, Nova Scotia.
Lake Gaston with Tyler and Zach.

Dan on safari in Kenya.