We’re in southern France now, but here are some pictures of our week in Italy.
We ate well, and one of my favorite dishes was this lovely tagliatelle at a place in Montecatini Alto (Tuscany).
One of the best gelatorias (I guess that should be gelatorie for plural?) we found was La Botega in Montecatini Terme, just a short distance from where stayed.
But the best best gelato we found was at a place across from where we had a fantastic lunch at Trattoria Anna Maria on via delle Belle Arti in Bologna, unfortunately, we never got a picture of the gelato or wrote down the name of the place because we were too busy eating.
While in Bologna I managed to find the pasticceria of which Francesca of Fluffbuff reminisced of her grandmother getting chocolate covered ground cherries. It’s Zanarini, and as she described it is a pasticceria under the portico by San Petronio. I spotted a ground cherry among the fruit atop a cake, so I asked about alkekengi, as Francesca calls them, and was told that they would have them in a couple of weeks. I would have loved to try them, but I settled for some yummy miniature pastries instead.
Despite the fact that we didn’t know a lot about the Montecatini area, we really enjoyed it, with Montecatini Terme being a nice small city and the big bonus was nearby Montecatini Alto, overlooking Terme. We went to Alto twice for lunch on the piazza, taking the funicular once, which my son took great delight in as his first train ride.
One thing I didn’t think I would do was make the stair climb to the top of the Tower of Pisa; it just never appealed to me and I had never been that fascinated by it. Also, we were under the mistaken impression that we would need reservations to go up, so we wandered about the base of it and visited the other buildings, and I became more intrigued by this world famous mistake. So I decided to ask about entry and found that all we needed was to purchase tickets. Within minutes my 75-year old mother, my sister and I were making the climb up the crooked tower. One thing that I didn’t expect about the climb: dumb as it seems, I didn’t know the stair climb would be crooked; I mean, it never occurred to me to think about the logic of it. Also, I didn’t know the stairs would be so dark, that there wouldn’t be an handrail installed, that the steps would be the original marble and, therefore, warped and worn smooth and curvy by centuries of footsteps, and that as I got closer to the top, the stairs would become more narrow, and finally, that I would threaten not going any further as we got higher.
It was when we got to the lower of the two “observation” levels and I saw the security guard leaning against the rail that it dawned on me that I was way up high and I began to feel a bit dizzy, but I walked cautiously around that level, gripping the rail to enter the steps to the upper level along with everyone else. Until… Until I saw how dark, steep and narrow the final set of steps were and then I lost it. Much like the Cowardly Lion cowering in front of The Great and Powerful Oz, I announced that I WOULD be turning back and proceeded to do so. My mother wasn’t doing so hot about going on either, but she had made it to this point encouraged by a young couple from India (who had climbed the Duomo in Florence earlier that day) behind her, and now they were behind me and pushing me back up the final set of stairs encouraging me all the way, and I made it to the top just in time for a beautiful sunset. The view is worth it, but getting to the top does nothing to relieve acrophobia, and I spent much of the time taking pictures with one hand while gripping the rail with the other.
It didn’t take me much longer than my first day to find yarn; I swear, I can smell it. I happened upon a yarn shop in Lucca and bought two skeins of some beautiful machine washable laceweight merino wool, for 6.50 Euros each, that about $11.00 US$10.00 each for 1250 meter skeins. I’d wandered into a few yarn shops in Italy quite by accident, since they seem to double as button shops, sweater shops, underwear (as opposed to lingerie) shops or general clothing shops.