Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Smells of Italy. May 30th

My blog can have words,maybe not the best but they are mine. And my blog can have pictures, some good some OK. But what I will have trouble sharing is the smells of Italy. By this time in the trip, we have been to enough places that when I see one of my photos, it relates not only an experience, but a certain smell.
Not all of them are good so let me get those out of the way. The diesel exhaust from an old car or truck. The laborer on a bus that didn't get his weekly shower yet. Enough of these smells.
Now for the ones I shall never forget.  Walk into a pastry  shop early in the morning and the smell of fresh baked bread and sweets. The smell  of zabaione   inside a freshly baked croissant.   Yesterday we had the smell of Parma hams being cured in various stages of delight. The smell of Prosecco just after the owner's wife has popped the cork of their vintage of Prosecco in their small and quaint tasting room. Thursday nights  smell of pizzas  made only the way Italians know how.
All this brings us to today's adventure. We woke early for t least me, and drove to Modena. Found out it is pronounced "MO du ney". Or at least it was a revelation for me. We had an 11:00 tour of a place that produces Balsamic vinegar. When it comes to Balsamic vinegar, Modena is the capital of the world. We got there early so we drove to central Modena, had coffee, (expresso another great smell of Italy), then drove to what looked like another house on a back street.  The minute we walked in, we knew this was no ordinary house or an ordinary tour.

Mosaics under glass under the dinning room floor.

The kitchen

The garden

But the reason for our visit was to learn about Balsamic vinegar  and taste it's  different flavors. Our host, the owner and wife of the founder's great grand son was stupendous. Her English was superb and of course her knowledge of Balsamic unequaled.

Our host and guide.

But again it is the smell that takes your breath away. The Balsamic  vinegar is aged in the upper floors (attic though it really isn't an attic we would think of) because there it receives the correct heat in the summer and the right amount of cold in the winter. We were there for one and a half hours, but I won't  attempt to even summarize her talk. Call me when I get back home and maybe I will share some of the heaven in a bottle that is Modena Balsamic Vinegar.  Suffice it to say that we were given tastes of it by the drops and it rivaled some of the wine tasting I have done in Europe.

Drops of heaven.

The tasting room with casks of vinegar aging.

 Some of this is over 25 years old. Some Balsamic in these casks was produced around the time I started working at the NYSE. 
One happy tourist.

After buying some less than cheap vinegar,  we were very hungry from all the ways Balsamic could be used.  We drove into downtown Modena, looking for  a restaurant recommended by our host.  All I can say is it was the best hidden restaurant  in Modena. We walked (hobbled ) all over downtown Modena, till we finally found it hidden on the second floor of  building. More great smells of Italy. This place made up certain dishes head depending on availability of produce and served only those.  Spaghetti with tuna has another great smell.
We eat and ride back to Parma. Naps and reading.
And one last smell that has been with us in every stop so far of the trip. Jasmine everywhere. White jasmine to be specific. And as I write this blog, 5 stories above one of Parma's street, the smell of Jasmine wafts in and becomes one of the smells I will now always assocaite with Italy. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Ham and Cheese May 29th

Tired from the ride yesterday and since we had had such a big lunch, we had pizza for dinner downstairs.  Early to bed on the 5th floor with a great breeze blowing through the apartment.

Woke today with a tour of the countryside planned.  We are in prosciutto  country and Parma Ham territory.  Downstairs and across the street is a pastry shop that could be on 5th Avenue NYC.  What a way to start the day.  And next to it is a butcher shop/bakery  where we were able to restock the apartment with essentials.
Butcher/bakery shop

Then off to the countryside.
Confession time. I had mapped out a route through prosciutto  country before we left, but never was able to test it.  The way points often took us to places not related to our wants and needs. We stopped in the first town and bought fruit.  So nice to have little shops like this every little town. Most people bike to them whatever their age is.

Reguardless, we were able to find the true home of prosciutto,  tour their little museum, and then go for a great little  lunch. Are beginning to see a pattern here?

My lunch.

Afterwards we drove to a 15th century castle on a hill above the town and wandered around it. Wonderful frescoes still on many of the walls.  We had the castle all to ourselves.

In one of the first towns we stopped in, Mary Ann and Linda got directions to a prosciutto factory so we could tour it.  We had stopped at several but they said because of sanitary reasons, no tours were available.  We were resigned to not getting to see prosciutto  being made when we found, after many wrong turns and  long wait at a railroad crossing, the one that had been told to Mary Ann AND Linda hours ago. It was to be our last stop on the way home no matter what.
After entering in what looked like a service door, we found ourselves in a shop that sold prosciutto  and other cured meats.  We bought some small pieces and Mary Ann convinced the owner to allow us a small tour. Her Italian is really getting good.
 The first stage of curing the hams
 Packaging the hams

Cured with salt

The second curing room

The owner and his girl friends 

We got home to more pastries and gelatto and of course Prosecco. A light dinner planned for tonight.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

On To Parma May 28th

Not too bad for a travel day. But I am getting ahead of myself.  We needed to have a nice meal on our last night in Tarzo, so we find one not too far away, put the address in the GPS and head to it. We have called ahead with reservations for 6 people at 8:00 PM. We are only 3, but when Mary Ann was calling in the reservations, she reverted to Korean . The word in Korean is "set" which corresponds 6 in Italian.  Didn't matter because we never found the restaurant. After driving to the top of a mountain via the GPS, we decide to eat back down in the valley where we saw a restaurant on the way.
The firstplace we stop is a nice Michelin restaurant where the appetizers started at $30.00 and the main courses were around $85.00. We settle on a Bistro around the corner and have  nice meal.  One of the courses was a cheese ravioli that sounded like the Italian word for horse.  Linda said it sounded nice but did not want to eat horse, upon which the waitress replied that it was cheese, not horse. A good laugh all around.

Now on to Parma.  A 3 1/2 hour trip, puntuated by a stop at the Riondo Winery. This is the Prosecco that we drink a lot of in the USA. No tours avaiable, but they send us to the tasting and retail shop. What a treat. Not only great prices, but they sell, it from pumps you would see at a gas station.  I loved it

In front of Riondo Winery

A wine dispenser (pump)
Topping off someones wine cask

What blend do you want?

On to Parma. It is always a struggle parking in these old cities. Luckily Mary Ann found us a parking garage where we could park for more than 1/2 hour. Then Linda guided us to probably the best restaurant in Parma via Google Maps. Is there anything Google cant do? Up next World Peace? It was one of those lunches where you never want to leave. I have to say I had the best horse stew I have every had. (All the Ossobucco was gone).

 Eating outdoors in Parma
 Walking in Parma

We contacted our host and went to our apartment in Parma where we will be for the next four days. 5th floor, airy, and very nice. We are three happy folks.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Treviso May 27th

Today was a nothing scheduled day so the Ladies got to choose  where to go. Treviso is a city 40 minutes from Tarzo in the direction of Venice. Late late start so we go there around noon. With a late breakfast we only stopped in one of the squares for gelatto and coffee.  The old part of the city  was surrounded by a wall. Seemed like a college town, though bigger, or at least the section we were in seemed to have many young people and  lot of them in love.
We walked a bit but because of the time, most places were closed. We did get to mail the post card we had for the last 5 days.
We drove home, dropped Linda off for a nap,  and then drove to Cornigliano  where I wanted to video the old city streets.

We are going out to eat tonight, then we head to Parma in the morning.

Prosecco Country May 26th

Today we drove through Prosecco country to sample the different types of Prosecco. Our first stop was at the school for wine where they make and sell their own wine. Sorry no tastings. While there, several people came in with their own containers of various sizes to have them refilled. I would guess rather cheaply.

Young grapes on the vine.

But after a late start, we stopped for gelatto in a lovely little town.
 Gelatto time

At the school for wine.

Before sampling any wine we needed to have lunch first. Funny how when you are looking for places to taste Prosecco you see all kinds of restaurants, and when you are looking for restaurants you only see places to taste Prosecco. No matter. We found a 1 star Michelin restaurant and ate there.  Quite good food and fit the bill. Not nearly as expensive as I thought it would be. Though Mary Ann and Linda re really  quite good at Italian now, this lady waiting on us had some kind of lisp, so she got one of the guests to translated for her.
First Prosecco stop was at one of the bigger wineries and very straight forward. Owner was not there so one of the workers helped us with the tasting. Somewhat disappointing as we were comparing it to the tastings we had done in France.
The next stop was at a small family run winery and it did not disappoint us. The owner got his wife to take us to the tasting room, and she was ever so good at explaining how Prosecco was made and the the different classifications of the wine. I think we spent 45 minutes taking, all in Italian, and sampling the three croues they produced. This was at the Riva Grande Winery. They don't export to the States, but if you are ever in the area. .......

On the ride home we made a couple of stops for  cheese. One was at the  cheese COOP I tried to walk to a day ago, and the other was at a supermarket where we also stocked up on some other items we needed for the apartment. We ate at home from things we had bought before and went to bed early. The owners dog Bosco was also there to help us eat.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mount Pizzoc Monday May 25.

Everyone needs a slow day now and then and today was ours.  Slept late  lounged around most of the morning. Decided to drive up Mount Pizzoc since today would be the nicer of the two next days. Stopped at a fancy restaurant before driving up the mountain.

Linda and Mary Ann contemplating the  climb

A successful summiting of Mount Pizzoc.

Afterwards we headed home to rest. While the ladies napped, I went looking for the cheese shop our host said was near by. Within walking distance. After 2 miles of walking I gave up. But not before I found a meat shop and picked up some more mortadela, prosciutto,  and sopresado. I walked back the 2 miles to Tarzo feeling exhausted and still no cheese.

Our town of Tarzo Italy

After some wine and snacks we decided to take the car and find another cheese shop in a different town. Never found the cheese shop but discovered a nice old town and a great pizza place. Home before dark and to bed. Tomorrow we go hunting on the Strada del Prosecco.

Driving to Tarzo Sunday May 24th

We said goodbye to Assisi and head off to our next stop, Tarzo. Tarzo is a small town northwest of Venice and in the heart of Prosecco wine country. After a 2 1/2 hour drive we reach Ravenna the half way point of today's trip. Among over things, Ravenna is famous for its early Christian church mosaics. Seat of the Roman empire in the 5th century and then the Byzantine Empire till the 8th, Ravenna is home to the best church mosaics in the world. Truly breath taking.

A quick lunch and back on the road. 3 hours later we arrive in the town where we will be staying for the next four days. Unfortunately,there is no cell service so we cannot contact our host to tell him we are here or find out the exact location of his b&b. A nice British person knows where it is and walks us there. Small and on three levels, it is just right for us. The town is in the foothills of the Dolimites and has about 100 people in it. Our host made us dinner reservations at an agrotourist restaurant nearby. Great dishes and a wonderful view. And a wonderful rainbow just before we ate.  Three contented people.

 Our street in Tarzo

Main street Tarzo

View from our room
Mary Ann at our window