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13 January 2010
WanderFood Wednesday: a few of my favorite things, part one
big-city restaurants

pappa al pomodoro, Florence 
pappa al pomodoro, Florence

As a contribution to WanderFood Wednesday, and in preparation for an upcoming exhibit of "food porn" photos, I'm creating a four-part series of my favorite foodie pics from our recent trip to Italy.


Part one: iconic meals in big-city restaurants
We noshed at many wonderful ristoranti, osterie, enoteche, and assorted charming spots during our monthlong gastronomic tour through Italy. Finding affordable food in the major cities was sometimes a challenge, but we ate quite well in both Florence and Venice, as well as nearby cities Murano and Treviso.

patate arroste, Dante, Florence 
patate arroste, Dante, Florence

lardo! il Santino, Florence 
lardo! il Santino, Florence

spaghetti al nero di seppia, Trattoria alla Madonna, Venice 
spaghetti al nero di seppia, Trattoria alla Madonna, Venice

penne al salmone, Trattoria Busa alla Torre, Murano 
penne al salmone, Trattoria Busa alla Torre, Murano

spritz and penne rosate, Piola, Treviso 
spritz and penne rosate, Piola, Treviso

Most of these dishes came from some of our favorite restaurants, which are highly recommended if you find yourself in any of these cities (or suburbs).


RECOMMENDED:
Ristorante Trattoria Dante
Piazza Nazario Sauro, 12/R
50124 Firenze
+39 055.219219

il Santino Gastronomia
Via di Santo Spirito, 60-red
50125 Firenze
+39 055.2302820

Trattoria alla Madonna
Calle della Madonna San Polo 594
30124 Venezia (VE)
+39 041.5223824

Trattoria Busa alla Torre da Lele
Campo San Stefano No 3
Murano (VE)
+39 041.739662

Piola
Via Carlo Alberto, 11/a
31100 Treviso (VE)
+39 0422.540287


Coming up next week: Part two: festival snax!

Hop on over to Wanderlust & Lipstick's WanderFood Wednesday for more mouth-watering pics.


RELATED LINKS:
* browse all Florence pics
* browse all Venice pics
* browse all Murano pics
* browse all Treviso pics

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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 3 comments


19 September 2009
Triple-zen day in Firenze

Supposedly 9/9/09 was the most auspcious day this year, but for us it was all about 9/19/09. It was one of those picture-perfect days that started out great and kept getting better.

Thanks to @italylogue's fantastic tip, we found the last-minute ticket window to get our Uffizi tickets. True to the article's description, it was a bit tricky to find, and so nondescript that the uninformed would likely pass right by. But we had the inside scoop! It's located on the busy Via dei Calzaiuoli, embedded in the Orsanmichele church. We got same-day tickets to the Uffizi, no waiting in line, no fuss. It is cash-only, though, so be prepared for that. And there's a €4 fee. Totally worth it!

view of Firenze from the Duomo Campanile

We had plenty of time before our 3:30 museum reservations to check out the Duomo complex. The outside of the church is spectacular, although the inside wasn't all that impressive. We debated whether to climb to the top of the dome or the belltower. At €6,50 each, not to mention all those stairs, it was an either/or scenario. Both afford awesome views, but if you go up the Campanile di Giotto, you also get the iconic dome in your pics. So that's what we did. The reward for hoofing it up all those steps, in increasingly tighter spaces, is a stunning view of Florence's red tile rooftops, Tuscan hills in the distance, and an impossibly blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Che bella!

Mark on the Uffizi patio

After a few scoops of gelato to undo any good we'd just done by climbing all those stairs, we headed to the Uffizi. Neither of us is really a museum person, but we spent almost three hours viewing a staggering array of art (and dodging huge Asian tour groups). We finished up on the outdoor patio with yet more gorgeous views of the Palazzo and Duomo.

busy corner outside the Uffizi

Our first real Moment of Zen that day came when we bought the Italian version of Two-buck Chuck at a tiny snack stand outside the Uffizi. I LOVE this country! We sat on the edge of the Loggia, sipped our €2,20 bottle of wine, ate some snacks, and watched the world go by. Students sketched the marble statues, a nearby busker performed on guitar, and tourists streamed past this historic corner en route to or from the Piazza della Signoria. Life did not suck.

Il Santino treats Il Santino cheese dude
Moment of Zen #2 happened shortly thereafter, as we strolled across the Ponte Vecchio into the Oltrarno neighborhood and found the most perfect wine bar. Il Santino Gastronomia, which is next door to Il Santino Ristorante, is a tiny little shop with gorgeous lighting and exposed brick. The cheese dude behind the counter sliced up paper-thin strips of lardo on crostini to start us off, while an adorable waitress brought a fabulous bottle of wine (which was only slightly pricier than the last one, at a whopping €9) and delectable piatto di formaggio. The whole scene was so magical that we got another round, and sat mulling over plans to open up a place like this in DC. It was perfection. And they invited us to come back the next night for their anniversary celebration. Sold!

nostra bagagli!

Moment of Zen #3: just when the day couldn't get any more fabulous, we got back to our locanda to find that our bags had arrived! And we didn't even have to schlep to the airport to get them; someone had delivered them right to our room. It was a poetic ending to a perfect day. We may never come home.

Related links:
* all photos from Florence
* Il Santino on the map

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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments


18 September 2009
Photo Friday: Ponte Vecchio at night

shops closed up for the night

Ponte Vecchio and River Arno

oktapodi si piace il Ponte Vecchio

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments


17 September 2009
Arrival in Italy: settling the score

So far, the count is Mark & Sonia 2, airlines 1.

You may recall that back in June I scored an amazing fare from DC - Rome. It required a quick stop in JFK, which seemed totally worth it at the time.

The commuter flight left Dulles on time, and even arrived in New York a bit early. Then we got to our departure gate at JFK and found that the Rome segment had been totally oversold. They were looking for volunteers to give up their seat in exchange for a $600 voucher. Sweet! I'd always wanted to do that. And the voucher was worth $200 more than we'd paid for the original flight. They would re-route us through Venice to Rome, and we'd only arrive 2 hours later, coming away with $1200 to use for our next trip. Seemed like a win-win situation.

Well, we all know there's no such thing as a free lunch. Or a free flight.

Getting to Rome was a breeze, but when we arrived and asked for the Delta baggage counter (since our bags had come over on the original flight), they told us to go to Terminal C. And of course when we got there, no bags. And they told us we had to go back to Terminal A to file a claim with Alitalia, the SkyTeam partner airline that had flown us from Venice to Rome. So we trooped back to the original terminal, irrationally hoping that perhaps our bags were sitting over there somewhere and we'd be able to go on our merry way. Foolish mortals.

The Alitalia lady was quite pleasant, but since at least two systems were down she had no way of telling us where our bags had ended up. Lovely. We filed a claim and continued to Florence as planned, since we'd already booked our stay there and there was no way to know when our stuff would show up.

Here's where things really got interesting. There's a small railway station in the airport that connects you to the main Rome Termini, the departure point for trains heading all over the country. You can buy your tickets at a kiosk or at a window. We decided to avoid the throngs of Japanese tour groups at the window and use the machine. Fatal flaw! While it happily spit out our two tickets (one to Rome Termini, one to Florence) and charged about the amount I'd been expecting based on advice from my tweeps, it said the next train would be leaving in about half an hour. Turns out that was the departure for the train from Rome Termini to Florence! But we didn't realize that at the time, and hopped the Leonardo Express to head downtown. The train was incredibly hot, and the jetlag was catching up, so we dozed a bit. Groggily stepping off the train in Rome Termini about an hour later, everything came crashing down. The "Express" had spit us out at the far end of the station, so just getting to the main area with all the connecting train info had a bit of a Spinal Tap feel to it. When we finally found an information booth, the grumpy little man told us we'd missed our train, and we'd need to find a Trenitalia office to exchange the tickets. This turned into about an hourlong ordeal, as we managed to find every OTHER kiosk where you could buy tickets, but not the official Trenitalia counter which is literally on the farmost opposite end of the station from where we started. (It's right inside the door if you're coming in from the street though.) Long story short, we exchanged our tix, found the track for the departing train, and quite exhaustedly flopped aboard.

And reminded ourselves that even the most irritating day of travel is better than a day at work.

Piazza de Santa Maria Novella

After a gorgeous 90-minute train ride through breathtaking Tuscan landscape (we'll see you later, hill towns and wineries!) we arrived in Florence and easily found our hostel. Soggiorno Prestipino is a five-minute walk from the Santa Maria Novella train station, so the location can't be beat. It's small but clean, well-priced (especially for Florence), and the management are a friendly bunch. Highly recommended!

Pappa al Pomodoro, the ultimate Tuscan comfort food

We scraped off some of the road grime and wandered out for a late meal. With plenty of options to choose from, we tried to find something on a small side street that didn't look too touristy or too expensive (these are actually one and the same in Italy). We picked a charming little trattoria and had the first of no doubt many fabulous meals: a steaming bowl of Pappa al Pomodoro, glistening with fresh olive oil, and some house wine that utterly hit the spot. Topped off with a tiramisu so good it brings tears of gratitude to your eyes. Ahhhhh, yes! That's the stuff!

Tiramisu to make you weep

With any luck they'll track down our bags soon, and settle the final score at 3-1 in our favor. But in the meantime it's not going to stop us from enjoying the best that Italy has to offer!


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Posted by sonia at 10:00 PM | Link | 1 comment