Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Quick Trip Across the Border, Again!

   We took a quick trip to Italy last weekend. I love that I can say that! My brother left here to tour around of Tuscany so we decided to meet him in a beautiful city called Lucca for more cousin time and group adventuring.
   We landed in Rapallo, a seaside town south of Genoa our first night. It was dark upon arrival so we found a good meal and a wander followed by bed, but woke to a stunning view of the harbor and sea. It was a Thursday and an enormous market was taking place with thousands of booths, unfortunately only selling clothes. We wandered the docks and enjoyed the sea air as we always do.
   Onward to Pisa- yup, the leaning tower. It was among the most unattractive cities we have been to, but we got the obligatory photos and promptly got out of there. Lucca was a short drive and the opposite of Pisa. An ancient walled in city, Lucca is full of history and charm. We met my brother at our rented apartment and settled in for a few days. I arranged a private tour in Florence the next day so an early morning train ride into the city was easy and our wonderful guide met us, whisking us off to the main sites of Florence with an abundance of well articulated information. She engaged the kids too, and with a guide, there is no getting lost. It was money well spent. Oldest Child has been studying the Renaissance so it was perfect timing for her to relate her lessons with Florence.
   As usual, I had to find the best food possible, so we were sent to a small gelateria where they make small batches of delicious gelato each morning, using the best ingredients. It was a treat and a big difference from the hundreds of other stalls selling mountains of gelato made with artificial ingredients.
   We rented bikes one day and rode around the top of the city walls where there is a wide path for walking, biking, dogs, kids and all things outdoors. It was a good reprieve for the kids from touring. Perpetually in search of good food, I searched for a store to buy fresh pasta for dinner. It was not easy-clearly everyone has a pasta machine and makes there own. But, I found a place and it was wonderful. The woman has a few different kinds of ravioli and tortellini and a variety of other shapes along with gnocchi. I chose my shape and she went behind a curtain and cut the pasta to order with a giant machine, much like the home versions but electric and large.
   We left lovely Lucca and headed to Vernazza, one of the Cinque Terre towns. These villages hang on the coast, are tiny and hard to get to by car. We took a train in and enjoyed the spectacular views and yes, more sea air. I was determined to have a delicious seafood lunch, but was talked out of it for various reasons. The town is tiny, but I glanced at a take-out menu posted on a wall, and ordered a papercone filled with fritto misto- a mix of delicately fried shrimp, calimari, anchovies and cod. It was delicious and just as satisfying as a fine dining experience would have been. Once again, I found "THE" gelato place in town and I think it was even better than the Florence place. The gelato chef made flavors like Sri Lankan cinnamon, Mandarine orange, and the most wonderful crema. It was the perfect ending to our last Italian visit(probably). We bid farewell to family who were fortunate to have a couple more days in the Cinque Terre, hopped on our train and drove back to sunny France where the weather is perfect, luckily, because leaving family is always tough. Arrivaderci!
View from our hotel in Rapallo 
Obligatory photo
Florence gelato
Tough choice
Picking pasta is just as hard for me as picking gelato. 
Wishing I could have gotten some of everything. 
Delicious filled pastas
Top of old tower in Vernazza, Cinque Terre.
once again, tough choice

Perfect sight before leaving this wonderful country- we like Italy.


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