Monday, August 06, 2007

Our Italian Vacation . . .

I would make a terrible travel writer. We returned from Italy more than one week ago and, despite the best of intentions, I just can't find the flowery words necessary to convey my experience (evidenced by the title of this entry)!

In sum, we had a wonderful time. We were taken by the hospitality of the Italians, the delicious food, and the stunning scenery.

Here are some highlights and observations of our trip:

It’s better to be French in Venice,

but not in Florence.

Unless you're buying questionable goods from a Senegalese street vendor, then it's better to be French over Italian and English. His arbitary "pricing chart" for some purple hued, gold rimmed Raybanish looking shades? French 20€; Italian 25€; British 30€.

I also learned if I'm really going to get the good deals, I'm going to have to perfect my French (at least if I'm going to pretend to be French). I figured that being French would get me farther with vendors than being American. I had a near miss with the Senegalese vendor - who spoke French - I told Fred he would have to do the bargaining for my next purchase, a suede orange purse. My shrewd scientist husband countered the vendor's initial price of 50 euros with 45 euros (obviously he didn’t spend his summers in Tijuana). I was in shock. I ended up having to bargain with Fred while the perplexed vendor looked on. Ultimately we arrived at 27 euros, i.e., all the money Fred had in his wallet. Our Laurel and Hardy routine worked to our advantage. The vendor just wanted to get rid of us especially after Fred said something about having to go the ATM to get more cash. Fred could never be a druggie. He'd be trying to score crank with his Carte Bleu. Although, in the end, his innocence paid off. Bien joué, Frédéric!

We loved the food in Italy! Simple, fresh, and delicious, whether it be a warm panini and a cool glass of pinot grigio at a little cafe near Venice's Santa Lucia train station,

or this perfectly salted Beef Tagliata served on a bed of roquette and tomatoes and drizzled with a vinagerette at Ristorante Marco Polo located on (we think) Salizzada S. Lio not too far from Piazza San Marco.
The food in Florence was just as good, if not better! For an excellent Beef Tagliata or Chicken Tagliata (served on cooked carrots, yellow peppers, and roquette), try Trattoria Gabriello, Via Condotta, 54 r. 50122 Firenze; it's just behind the Piazza Signoria. I started with the baked lasagna for my primo and then had the chicken. Our last night we returned and I had the beef as my secondo.

We took a day trip to Siena and ate at Ristorante il Sasso, via dei Rossi 2/a 53100 Siena. I still dream of their gnocchi gorgonzola.

Of course, we also tasted the Tuscan wine at Corte di Valle in Greve in Chianti. In addition to the winery, Corte di Valle also grows saffron. We enjoyed the experience, but found their "Super Tuscan" a bit too spicy and strong for our tastes.

Now with the food out of the way, here are a few photos of where we stayed:

In Venice we stayed at the Relais Venezia. It was well-situated and surprisingly quiet. We never opened the windows, however, because we didn't have a view (other than the brick wall directly across from us). Our room was immediately off the lobby, which I thought would be annoying, but we slept in past 10:00 a.m. nearly everyday, despite the fact that the lobby was converted to a continental breakfast dining area from 8:00-9:30 a.m. They must have some serious sound proof walls.

I love hotel bathrooms, and this one was small, but very nice. There's a design defect with the shower though. The water runs along the side of the wall and onto the bathroom floor if you're not careful.

I thought this sink bidet combo was cute and a good use of space.

In Florence we stayed about a 15 minutes walk from the center of the city, opting for a "residence" style hotel at the Residence Michelangiolo. Angela and Cherubino the owners and operators, couldn't have been nicer. We loved this place and now have dreams of opening up our own Residence in Bordeaux someday! Sigh.

Not too far from Residence Michelangiolo is a Bottega dei Sapori (P.zza Gavinana, 6 -Firenze), which carries wonderful Italian meats, cheeses, bread, olives, etc. Our room had a kitchenette so we could make our coffee each morning and picnic in our room on prosciutto and prosecco if we didn't feel like facing the crowds.

The bathroom here was beautifully done as well.

Finally, last, but not least, some shots of the cities in general:






Marina di Pisa

Inspired by our trip, today we went to the marché and bought a roasted chicken, tomatoes, and roquette to make our own Chicken Tagliata for lunch (and perfectly ripened green figs and baby bananas for dessert):

We're off to Bordeaux tomorrow to give La France a chance to win back our affection through wine and cheese!


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a thrill to be so close to all that history. Venice looks beautiful, thanks for sharing your trip., Love Mom

mlle smith said...

Those pictures are absolutely stunning and the bathrooms are incredible (I seriously have a thing for bathrooms...and kitchens). I love that white/black tile in the second bathroom, and the placement of fixtures in it.

I have to admit that I prefer Italian food to French food. :0l

Marine Wife said...

Oh, yay! You're back! Okay, must go back and actually look at pics and read post now...

Marine Wife said...

You're pictures are amazing! Who needs flowery words when you have those great pictures? So glad you had a wonderful trip AND that you shared with us, especially the ones that have to live vicariously...

Anonymous said...

fantastic photos! writing about travel experiences IS so difficult but the pictures can really say it all. I'm in love with that second bathroom. Which place did you love the most? I'm hoping Christophe and I will go to Italy for our honeymoon next July but I'm not sure where we should go. Nice to see a photo of you out the front of the tower of pisa!

Aralena said...

Your photos are really fantastic - so vibrant and colorful. The graffiti shots are priceless, too!

I'm going to say what the others have already said: I love the second bathroom with the black and white tiles. It's going in my mental b-room idea bank.

Have fun in Bordeaux!

Tigue said...

What beautiful photos! I cant wait to visit there. We just got back from the mountains and though it was very charming it doesn't come close to comparison. BTW I live in Bordeaux...wave the next time you drop by :p

Lazy Gal Tonya said...

you're a great travel writer - I'm ready to go. Guess I better disguise the fact that I'm american though. That food just looks incredible and the scenery is excellent. love the photo of the Venice canal and the brightly colored houses. Enjoy Bordeaux.

Michael H. said...

Amy and Fred - Sounds like a wonderful trip...thanks for sharing your adventure. Hope this finds you well. Michael Holmstrom

ColourMeCrazy said...

Wow - I love your photos! Looks like you had a great vacation. And I have a thing for bathrooms in hotels as well...I like them to be clean! None of the hotels I've ever stayed in (in Europe) have been as nice as the ones in your photos!

The Late Bloomer said...

Amy, so glad to have read this post! And glad to hear you had such a wonderful vacation to Italy -- a country very close to my heart, second just behind France, bien sûr! And your pictures are gorgeous -- the colors, my gosh. Looks like you had amazing weather too. Ah, how I miss Firenze! My most recent trip was to Rome, but that was in May 2005 and it seems like ages ago now... I hope to make it back again really soon. As a matter of fact, I have been considering a trip to Bologna to the huge children's book fair next spring, but it will take some planning and budgeting to make it happen -- we'll see! :)

Are you still on for getting together in September? Let me know! I'll try to drop you an e-mail in the next week or so. I just got back from my vacation down in Noirmoutier myself, so I have LOTS of catching up to do... Ciao for now!

joy suzanne said...

Mais non, je suis pas d'accord; You'd make a really excellent travel writer. But write, write!

Your posts always make me laugh or smirk or smile...


Love Venice, particularly after I spent a month there invited by the Emily Harvey Foundation. To live in a place where basically wheels are relegated to chubby guys gliding refridgerators about or little tykes (under 4) on trykes is heaven. You can hear your self think, and that's good because Venice is – per square centimeter – the most aesthetic place on Earth (according to me). I see you ate your way through Italy... that's normal. Hard to resist.



IslandGirl4Ever2 said...

Hi Amy,

Thanks for visiting my blog and for your compliments... Merci... C'est vraiment sympa!
Et moi aussi, j'adore tes belles photos... surtout les photos de la nouriture!! MIAMMM!!! Ma famille viennent nous rendre visite fin septembre! Je prendrai beaucoup de photos!! On va tous ensemble en voiture a la Loire (les chateaux de la Loire) et en Normandy... a Mt. St. Michel, Hornfleur et Deauville!!
Je suis tres excitee!! Bon WE.... Leesa

Emily said...

Again, great photos! I love Italy. So beautiful. Looks like another great trip. :)

Cynthia Rae said...

Venice to Florence??? You almost drove right past our house on your way (well, maybe not right by our house but you guys were close).

Looks like you had a wonderful time.