Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Springtime for Britain and Italy: Part Two



One train, one plane, one bus, and most of a day later, Susie and I finally arrived in Florence, Italy, to warm, sunny skies. After checking into our hostel, Susie set off to meet her friend Jill, and I set off to do some touring before dinner. Waited in line to see Michelangelo’s David, which was truly impressive, and generally wandered about the streets before meeting Susie, Jill, and my friend Taylor (from the frisbee team) for the first of many scrumptious Italian dinners. The spot was Donatello’s Ristorante, right in the shadow of the city’s massive cathedral, which is generally referred to simply as “The Duomo”.
Here’s a shot of my fettuccine with tomato cream sauce:

After dinner, Jill took us to one of her favorite gelato spots, Grom – unique for making their gelato fresh daily, according to their own recipes. It was a treat!

The next morning, Susie and I were up early to do some sightseeing before heading to Rimini on the afternoon train. We tried to go over and climb the Duomo, but it was sadly closed for Easter week. Unfortunate. Instead, we wandered over to the Piazza della Signiora, which among it’s sculpture garden of famous art, offers the entrances to the famous Uffuzi Museum and Palazzo Vecchio. The line at the Uffuzi was far too long, so we wandered into the Palazzo Vecchio instead. This building is the old seat of government in Florence and is still used for some political purposes to this day. It’s chock full of exquisite paintings, artifacts, furniture, and more – not a floor, tile, foot of wall or ceiling panel is untouched. This is a view into the map room (note the giant globe that anchors the room): It was then on to the Ponte Vecchio, which was picturesque!

For lunch, we stopped by a little hole in the wall called I Fratellini for a panini. Lonely Planet calls this place "the best street food in Europe". It's a tall order. But I was impressed. Fresh, warm bread, creamy mozerella cheese, and delightfully salty prosciutto made it an extraordinarily delicious treat.

After lunch we got some mid-afternoon gelato at the Festival del Gelato!

They have over 40 flavors! It was hard to decide which one to get. I landed on nutella and profiterole.


We then dashed to catch the afternoon train to Rimini, just a few hours to the east. We spent the first night at the Paganello opening party on the beach, tossing the disc, eating steaming agilo e olio spagetti and sardines, and copious amounts of Paganello wine. Our first day of games was sunny and somewhat warm. We all got a little sunburned. That night the whole team went to an upscale pizzaria near our hotel. Ok maybe all Italian pizzarias are nice by comparison. Or perhaps its just that they don't have much in between take out shops and formal restaurants. Anyway, here's my pizza - prosciutto e funghi (mushrooms).

Here's Julie and Jim enjoying the house red!
Our second day on the beach was partly cloudy and a little bit more chilly, but still pleasant. After our last game we dashed back to the hotel for a quick scrubdown before heading over to Chi Burlaz for another delicous Italian feast. The owner of this place is a crazy Italian man who randomly serenades diners in broken english karaoke. The food however, was right on pitch. I had pumpkin ravaoli - one of my faves:

And here's table one...

... and table two!

Day three started off a little chilly and cloudy, and rapidly went down hill. But before the cutting 40-degree rain squalls rolled in, we posed for a team photo! That night, we figured out how to order in some pizzas to the hotel (thanks Julie!), and I negotiated a neary tobaccaria for a box of beer. We then headed to the last night party - which had a good & evil theme. We didn't really dress up, but in true fashion, there were some spectacular costumes from the UK teams and many of the European teams. If there is one thing the brits know how to do, its to throw a proper theme party. Gawsh I miss it!

The next day the weather cleared a bit, and we played one game in the morning before settling in to watch the finals in the afternoon. After that, it was off to the train station and on my way to Venice.


After arriving to Venice after dark, exhausted, I finally made it to my hostel (by boat), which turned out to be overpriced and exceedingly basic, but delivered the warm, dry comfort of a bed anyhow.

I woke to georgeous blue sunny skies. I only had one full day in the city, so I did my best to make the most of it. Really, I just ended up wandering the streets and alleys, stopping into churches and museums here and there. Here's the grand canal:
In the afternoon I stopped into a little cafe

for an espresso and nutella crepe. I have to say, I have never, EVER, liked espresso before, but this stuff was liquid gold. It was so smooth and aromatic, and not cuttingly bitter like much of the espresso I've had in the past. It was a perfect complement to the crepe!
As the afternoon waned, I picked up a ticket to see a string ensemble perform Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" and other selections at this church.After a quick trip back to the hostel to freshen up, I returned to the main island for a delicious dinner-for-one of 1/4 carafe of wine and mushroom risotto. I ended up chatting to an Australian guy and his mother who were sitting next to me - love meeting random people abroad! I was actually impressed by the number of random people who started talking to me when I was travelling alone - it was nice to meet so many friendly people.

After dinner, I dashed off to the concert, which was exquisite. After that, it was straight to bed, to rest up for the next day's travel to London! To be continued...

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