Sunday, March 21, 2010

John and Beth visit Italy

We had an excellent weekend hosting John and Beth!  Here are the details of our adventure together.

They arrived late, late on Friday night.  Even though we were all tired, the excitement of their arrival kept us up and going. We opened up a bottle of wine and had a munchies spread of Parmesan cheese, olives, artichokes, bread, and a variety of salami including prosciutto, speck, and mortadella.  

On Saturday morning, we popped into a pasticceria so they could sample their first cappuccinos and pastries.  The cappuccino here is heavenly and must be tasted by all who visit.  Next, we ventured to Padova's market scene for some browsing and buying.  We did a lap through La Basilica di Sant'Antonio and gawked at the relic of St. Anthony's tongue!  (Beth didn't want to see the saint's tongue but we made her anyway!)  We found a small pizza place that featured the wood-fired type, our favorite! 

After lunch, we drove to the small town Soave.  As I've mentioned before, it's known for its white wine production and beautiful hilltop vineyards.  We tasted Valpolicella and Amarone at the cantina and of course couldn't leave without a hefty purchase.  We hiked to the ruined castle and by the rows and rows of grapes.  Soave is only about 10-15 minutes from Verona, so we ventured onward. 

In Verona, we paused for a much needed cafe in Piazza Bra with amazing views of the Arena.  We made the tourist trek down Via Mazzini to Juliet's statue and balcony.  Beth and John will now have outstanding luck for they both groped the left breast of Juliet.  We took them back through the beautiful Piazza Erbe and to one of the watering holes we always frequent while in Verona.  It was Saturday night during la passigata, the evening stroll, which meant that the Italians were out, dressed in their best, ready to see and be seen.  The weather was quite nice so we were able to drink our pre-dinner wine standing out on the street.  We love that about Italy- patrons of bars and cafes always spill out on to the streets to drink, socialize, and people-watch when the weather is lovely. 

For dinner, we went back home to cook.  We started with some pecorino cheese topped with Chianti jelly (picked up on our Toscana adventure).  For dinner, I made baked cherry tomatoes with spaghetti- a recipe from my newest Italian cookbook by Lidia Bastianich (a beautiful gift from my Mama).  It features fresh cherry tomatoes seasoned with pepperoncini (crushed red pepper), garlic, basil, and ricotta.  We opened a bottle of the Chianti Reserve that Michael and I also picked up while in San Gimignano.  

On Sunday, we made the required visit to Venice.  You can't come to northern Italy without seeing Venice's charming canals.  We took a vaporetto down the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco.  It's our favorite way to show off the glorious facades of Venice's former palaces.  We had the panino lunch on sandwich row and then stood with all the other tourists, taking in the facade of the Basillica di San Marco.  Unfortunately, the interior of the church was closed and we were only able to visit the entry way.  We wandered the winding streets over to the Rialto, pausing at glass and art shops along the way.  John and Beth purchased a stunning glass plate for Chateau Papillon. 

For dinner, we headed back to Vicenza to take them to our local favorite - Vecchia Portega.   (We take everyone who comes to visit  because it is so very good.)

On Monday, we ended their visit with a walk through Vicenza.  We pointed out Teatro Olympico, Palladio's Basilica and Loggia, and Villa Valmarna.  Lastly, they were also able to check gelato off their must-taste list.

The weather was wonderful- bright and sunny, a sharp contrast to the earlier part of the week which featured snow.  The whole weekend was enjoyable.  We always love sharing with others what we love about Italy - food, wine, landscapes, and architecture.

A note about the absence of photos....
John is an amazing photographer.  He has top of the line gear including multiple cameras, lenses, flashes, and others gadgets I have no clue what they are or what they do.  He also has a good eye, and understands composition and lighting, and other advanced photography jargon.  I would love to have a learning session if he would teach it.  He has a website of his own and I am sure will feature his photography from this trip.
A true story...I took only one photo the entire weekend, and John's eyes were closed!  I hope to "steal" some of his.      

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