Let’s see. When last we left Barry and Bob they were still reveling in the beauty that is Florence, Italy.
Our last day in Florence was yesterday so we opted to visit the Uffizi museum. We spent probably two and a half hours in this iconic place, marveling at the artwork and statuary. After the tour, we went back to our hotel to collect our luggage. We were chagrined to find out that we were being charged for our breakfasts which we had (mistakenly) assumed were gratis. We paid 6.50 euros apiece for what was basically hard bread, runny yogurt, some pastries and brown swamp bilge incorrectly identified as “coffee”. Next time we will be more attentive.
Upon leaving, I took a photo of Le Fonticine where we had our last meal the night before. If anyone is going to Florence, you must eat at this restaurant. I had a tortellini with wild boar that was exquisite. The house wine was also very good which is pretty much the rule in Italy.
We then jumped on the train and traveled to Ascoli Piceno. Watching the Tuscan countryside pass by once again, we went to Bologna where we switched trains for the next leg of the trip to San Benedetto del Tronto. This particular stretch took us along the very shores of the Adriatic so we could see the myriad blues of the water. I’ve never really experienced that anywhere I’ve been. The farther out you look, the bluer the water gets.
Upon arrival in San Benedetto del Tronto, we waited for an hour for the next train to Ascoli Piceno. The entire train trip took us roughly six hours. When we got to Ascoli, I hailed a cab and, for ten euros, we were brought right to our hotel in Villa Pigna–the Hotel Villa Pigna.
I had visited this place during a previous visit. On a walk one day I stumbled across this little gem and remembered it when I was researching lodging for the area. For a measly $330, Barry and I got a room for seven nights. The grounds are beautiful and the hotel is well appointed. We ate outside under an umbrella surrounded by trees and soft lighting. Barry had grilled veal and sides of porcini mushrooms and a salad. I had a “macaroni” with ragu sauce. It was not the type of “macaroni” we know–the hard crap in a box. It was more of an angel hair pasta. Of course, I ordered a side of olive di Ascolana–stuffed olives, a regional delicacy.
Two glasses of champagne and two glasses of a very grape-y wine rounded out the night. Of course, I had to have my required dolce–a panna cotta with strawberry sauce. After loosening my belt, we decided to turn in.
Today was my day to share with Barry my heritage. We took the bus into Ascoli Piceno and Barry wanted to enter the first church we saw. The altar was reminiscent of that in St. Peter’s Basilica. What really captured us, though, were the crypts in the basement. There is actually a small sanctuary down there and the crypts were facing it. The crypts are blocked off, but you can see the arches and some of the actual sarcophagi.
After the church, we went to an optometrist where I could get my glasses fixed since I had knocked out a lens on the train. (I always have to do something to make any travel interesting). I had been looking out one lens with the other eye shut for the previous six hours and it wasn’t easy.
So, with lens inserted, I took Barry to the Piazza del Popolo. This, for me, is the crowning glory of Ascoli. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful piazzas in all of Italy. I’ve seen a couple dozen piazzas around the country and I must say it is truly breathtaking. Restaurants and shops line the perimeter. The cafe Anisetta Meletti enjoys
almost cult-like reverence. The walls inside are painted in frescoes and the collection of desserts is enough to send a person into diabetic shock. An administrative building is located there and the Chiesa di San Francesco is located at one end. The streets leading up to the piazza have any one of a number of shops, restaurants, gelateria and pasticcheria.
I would have to say that this piazza is my favorite place in the whole world. I love getting a latte and half a dozen pastries and just sitting outside watching my hometown walk by. Of course, sitting alone at a table with six desserts causes the waiter to look at me sideways. I know what he’s thinking: “Fat American”. I don’t care.
My favorite restaurant is also there, Cafe Lorenz. Every time I come to town, I must eat there. I’ve promised Barry that I will take him to both of these places. I’m sure he will enjoy them as much as I do.
Tonight was dinner with my family after returning from Ascoli to relax. My Aunt Rosalba and her daughter-in-law, Daniela made a traditional Ascoli dinner of fried chicken, fried zucchini and olive di Ascolana along with insulate and two desserts (one of which I brought). Of course, we had espresso afterward.
And I learned something interesting from my cousin, Maurizio. Apparently, there is a special way to make olive di Ascolana. One must use a certain type of olive that is native to this area. There are certain meats that must be ground with certain spices and breads. I had wondered about this because, although the olives last night here a the hotel were good, they did not cause my eyes to roll back in my head as they usually do. My aunt’s olives tonight did just that. Even Barry commented on them. I am always so touched that my aunt makes these olives for me because it is quite a process and takes two to three days.
This dinner tonight with my family opened my eyes to something, too. I now believe that they would love to have me live here. Barry commented on how much they love me and how much Maurizio’s kids think of me. There was laughter as usual and lots of joking and kidding as usual. They love to poke fun at me and laugh and make jokes and I love it. I used to worry that, if I did move here, they would somewhat dread it, thinking they would need to cater to me or, perhaps not want me around constantly. I no longer feel that way.
I have some good information about moving to Italy and will pursue it this week. I won’t be discussing it on my blog until I can get something a bit more concrete.