A Travellerspoint blog

Roma

cittá eterna

sunny 18 °C

Rome is Eternal, but our schedule was not. We caught an early-ish train on Sunday morning, but by the time we navigated the station, the buses, and the crowds (and there were a lot of crowds) to get to our hotel, it was about 1:00 pm. We had less than half a day for Colleen's first visit to Rome. We decided on some highlights and set out from the Porta Portese in Trastevere to see San Clemente (12th century church built on top of 4th century church built on top of 1st century pagan temple), the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, and the Theater of Marcellus. By that time, it was dark, so we head back where we came from, past the Colosseum again...

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... and the Arch of Constantine ...

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... and the Bocca della Veritá ...

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... to great Roman-style trattoria in the Testaccio neighborhood, Ne Arte Ne Parte. I had the bucatini all'amatriciana, thick spaghetti with a hole in a tomato-bacon sauce:

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Colleen had spagetti alla carbonara, in a bacon-egg-cheese-and-pepper sauce:

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We split a plate of fried calamari and shrimp as a secondo, and then I just had a coffee for dessert. Colleen did not:

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We're back now, safe and sound. See everyone soon.

Posted by elefantstn 11.11.2008 08:38 Archived in Italy Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Moiano / Castiglione del Lago

sunny 15 °C

Saturday we spent exploring the area around the Tolls' house in Moiano, including the towns of Castiglione del Lago and Panicale.

In the morning, we walked about a mile up their gravel road through the olive groves to the Le Balze olive oil operation -- all local, all organic, etc., etc. We asked the first workman we found if we could see the the production, and he found the owner for us. After finishing up some office work, he gave us a personal tour of the oleificio, including a taste of the oil as it was pressed, and 3 liters of it to take home [note: 3L of olive oil is heavy].

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Castiglione del Lago, built opposite the side of the lake where Hannibal trapped and massacred the Roman army, is a well-preserved medieval hill town. The castle is open to the public, and you can walk around the ramparts and enjoy the views over Umbria and Tuscany.

Over the lake:

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I'm in the way:

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Over the town:

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We stopped after the trip in Panicale for a coffee and a nice view over the surrounding countryside. Here's Colleen on the way into the piazza:

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The coffee was good, but we were tired, so we headed home to rest up for our last day, in Rome.

Posted by elefantstn 11.11.2008 08:08 Archived in Italy Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Tuscany

all seasons in one day 12 °C

We drove from Ravenna down to the Tolls' today, via two nice Tuscan hill towns.

The first, Montefollonico, contained a restaurant recommended in Osterie d'Italia. It was not open. The visit was not a total loss, though -- it's a nice twelfth-century stone-built town with great views out over the Val D'Orcia.

Colleen rests her feet on the steps of San Lorenzo:

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It was also not a total loss because we found another good restaurant for lunch. Colleen had green ravioli with ricotta. I had pici all'aglione, hand-rolled spaghetti in a garlicky tomato sauce.

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We split a nice bottle of Rosso di Montepulciano with lunch, then (after an hour or so of walking it off), drove to Montepulciano to walk around the classic Tuscan wine town. The reward at the top (and it's way up there) is the Piazza Grande, with views for miles around.

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Posted by elefantstn 06.11.2008 14:23 Archived in Italy Tagged postcards Comments (1)

Ravenna

cittá dei mosaici

sunny 15 °C

In the fifth century AD, as the Western Roman Empire collapsed among the barbarian hordes, most imperial and papal business moved out of the actual city of Rome to newer, cleaner, more defensible, less swamp-ridden locations like Milan and Ravenna, built near the headquarters of the Roman fleet on the Adriatic in Classis. When Rome was sacked and the last Western emperor removed, the Eastern (Byzantine) empire retained a toehold in Ravenna, from which they occasionally waged wars up and down the peninsula in an effort to reconquer Italy from the Germans. It didn't work, but they left stunning works of late Roman architecture and art behind them. Most famously, the mosaics, in five different sites in the city. I took pictures, but it doesn't really work. The churches are dark, you can't use a flash, and even if you did, they're too massive for a handheld camera to illuminate. The best result follows, it's from Sant'Apollinare Nuovo a block or two from the hotel.

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The mosaic pieces are gold, it's about ten feet high, it's about one tenth of one side of the church, and there are mosaics above and below it. The scope is breathtaking.

The architecture itself is novel, if less stunning. The church of San Vitale was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great -- his portrait is inside as a twenty-foot high mosaic -- and it was constructed before the design of a church was a completely settled issue. It's octagonal on the outside, with buttresses to support the multiple levels of domes.

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Lots of walking around gawking at ancient history can make you hungry. We popped into Ca de Ven (Romagnolo dialect for 'House of Wine') for dinner.

Colleen had gnocchi with spinach and gorgonzola.

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I had a duck risotto.

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We split a cheese course for dessert.

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Posted by elefantstn 06.11.2008 14:08 Archived in Italy Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Bologna

la grassa

rain 12 °C

This morning we left the car in the garage to take a train to Bologna, site of the first university in the Western world, and spiritual home of culinary Italy.

It's not just food, though, it's porticos too. Bologna claims to have over 70km of porticoed streets, which on a day where it poured on and off until well after dark came as a blessing.

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I've seen Bologna described as 'gritty' in guidebooks, but unless they're talking about the suburbs outside the city center, it doesn't really fit. The city doesn't rival Venice for sheer beauty, but has its picturesque moments.

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Bologna does, however, have a rival for Pisa's famous leaning tower. The Torre Garisenda, built in a twelfth-century bragging rights contest, does not have a proper foundation, and is sinking visibly into the ground.

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In an effort to spare the rest of central Bologna, 175ft of it were cut off the top, leaving the Torre di Asinelli victorious at 314ft, almost twice the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It takes climbing 498 rickety wooden stairs to get to the top and be rewarded with this gorgeous view of the historic city center.

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I assume it's much more gorgeous when the visibility tops triple digits; I leave for the reader the consolation prize of my piercing gaze.

All that exercise is bound to make a person hungry. Bologna is a good place to be hungry.

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Lunch at Giampi e Ciccio (recommended in the Slow Food Osterie d'Italia guide I bought last night). Colleen: Tortellini [unbelievably fantastic ethereal tortellini, stuffed with mortadella] in brodo. Josh: Lasagne verde alla bolognese [spinach lasagne with rague]. Split secondo: Misto Petronio [little meatballs, peas, stuffed zucchini, stuffed prosciutto.

Posted by elefantstn 04.11.2008 14:13 Archived in Italy Tagged postcards Comments (0)

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