Thursday, 3 April 2014

Picturesque Tuscany

As we drove into the region of Tuscany, I started to get goose bumps.  First of all, take a look at how picturesque this is! It’s exactly how I imagined Tuscany to look like and more, based on all the photos I’ve seen and everything I’ve seen on television.

The cypress trees, rolling hills and castles were all around me and I was trying to take it all in and just enjoy the moment.  You never get a second chance to experience something for the first time, and the first time is always what you remember the most. 

We decided to stay in Montalcino which is 120km south of Florence, for 3 nights. Montalcino is home to brunello wine, a red Italian wine produced in the surrounding town of Montalcino.  Also referred to as Brunello di Montalcino, this wine is made from1005 Sangovese grapes. There are very strict rules and regulations when making brunello.

We stayed in a hotel called Suite D’Artista, a lovely hotel in the heart of Montalcino. Our room came with a kitchenette and was an open concept with our bed and dining area in one big room. It looked like it belonged right out of the ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ movie.  It was nice to be able to sit outside of our room and enjoy the amazing views.  If you do stay here, just make sure you have a map or GPS because a few times, we were lost trying to get back to our hotel by car. The roads are extremely narrow and there are so many turns and exits and one ways streets.
Outside our hotel room at Suite D'Artista
Beautiful view of Montalcino from our hotel room

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Orvieto, Umbria - Part 2

We chose L'Antica Rupe for dinner from another recommendation. Italians are known for eating their dinner very late so we decided a time of 8 pm should be late enough for us to have our dinner.

We had to start the evening off with a bottle of Orvieto Classico wine! We had to have at least one bottle because we were in Orvieto afterall.

Fava beans were in season and we still had not had any in Italy so we asked our server about them.  She then brought over 4 large stalks, fresh from picking and we ate them plain. The were enormous!  They were so fresh and flavorful that it was so easy to eat raw.

After scanning the menu, we decided to ask our server for her recommendation and she selected a baked prosciutto appetizer and 2 pasta dishes (truffle cheese ravioli and gnocchi). Absolutely tasty!

Most of the time we eat dessert with our meals so tonight was no exception. Their dessert was written on a large board and was brought to our table.

I really enjoyed this restaurant because the atmosphere was very lively, and I liked the busy chatter and positive vibe I got from being there.  The pasta was fresh and the service was very good. By the time we finished dinner, it was almost 11 pm. I’m still not accustomed to eating dinner so late and being so full before I go to bed but when in Rome (or Orvieto), do as the Romans do!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Orvieto, Umbria - Part 1

After our 3 days in Rome , we rented a car to our next destination, Orvieto in the region of Umbria. We planned to stay in Orvieto for only one night and we thought of it as a place to ‘rest’ in between our drive from Rome and to Tuscany . Had we known how beautiful and lively Orvieto was, we would have stayed another night.

View of Orvieto from a distance
It took us about 15 minutes to actually find our hotel when we arrived into Orvieto. We had booked a hotel called Hotel Virgilio and we asked a local for directions. As we were driving towards our hotel, we looked at the incredible Duomo ahead of us. It was black and white and just stunning. To our surprise, our hotel was actually right beside the Duomo, literally. You couldn’t get a better location than that.

We were so pleased with our hotel when we arrived! Excellent location, friendly staff and very nice rooms. 

The main attraction of Orvieto, the magnificent Duomo!
We checked into our room and asked the front desk for recommendations on where to go for lunch. She immediately said Trattoria La Palomba and gave us walking directions on how to get there. It took us about 10 minutes to walk there and then we entered a nice, cozy restaurant. Being there reminded me that we were now in a different, quieter region of Italy compared to Rome. 
Inside Trattoria La Palomba
I looked at the menu and a few things stood out. I was really craving a traditional antipasto platter with cured meats and cheeses. I also saw that fresh truffled pasta was on the menu and that instantly grabbed my attention so I ordered it. Since I was in Italy, I wanted to indulge as much as I could on these delicate treasures.  My husband chose the squab in a black olive sauce.

The antipasto platter was delicious. The cheese and meats tasted fresh, and weren’t too salty and it was a great starter to the pasta and squab dish.  

Our antipasto dish appetizer. Soooo delicious!
The pasta dish was hands down the star of the 3 dishes. You could tell the pasta was fresh and homemade. Our server came over to us with a fresh black truffle and a grater and just started grating the truffle onto the beautiful bed of pasta, like it was parmesan cheese. They were generous with the amount of truffle too. As she was grating the truffle in front of me I kept thinking to myself, don’t stop now, keep going.  

The squab was cooked well but we found the olive sauce to be a little on the salty side. But this is dish I’ve never seen at home or at any other restaurant so we were happy we tried something different.

After lunch, we bought tickets to Torre del Moro, which basically took you to the top of the tower so you can get the best view of Orvieto. It was sunny with some clouds in the sky and a little windy but the view was fantastic and we took some great pictures. 

View of the Duomo from the top of the tower
After this, we explored the city and walked up and down the cobblestone streets and into some stores and gourmet shops. Orvieto is also known for their pottery so we found a nice pottery store where we saw the pottery maker hard at work on one of his creations. It's nice to walk into a pottery store and actually seeing the pottery hand made so you see with your own eyes that it is made the old fashioned traditional way. He stopped his work when we walked in and helped us select a nice little bowl. I asked if this was handmade by him and he said yes so I said I would take it.