My Style Food Weekend

Someone told me, “Who goes to Italy and eats Chinese food?” I know it doesn’t make sense, but I had already eaten quite a lot of pasta, pizza and seafood, so I wanted to test out some immigrant delights. The best pizza I’ve ever eaten was in Germany. The best lasagna was in Korea. The best Thai was in Laos. The best steak was in Australia. The best sushi was…OK, that was in Japan, but the point remains, good food is everywhere, and I aim to search for it! Having said that, I had a tasty burger, average Indian food and a fabulously meaty pizza this past weekend.

At VOLO: Urband Fast Food (Via Roma 4), I had a rather decent bacon burger and acai with guarana shake.

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At Yoga Ristorante (Via Filippo Corridoni 2), I had nothing special, but certainly enough of India’s traditional flavor to satisfy a craving.

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A newly discovered gem, Pizzeria La Napa (Via XXX Ottobre), I customized their margherita to my liking: sausage, prosciutto, pepperoni and bufala mozzarella. The box felt like it weighed a kilo.

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And lastly, the perfect accoutrement to any breakfast, lunch or dinner in Italy: espresso di Illy.

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Trieste ~ People Watching

I moved to this strange border city without a true identity in July. The World Cup was coming to an end, but our classes were just starting. I spent the past two months here studying during the week and people watching during the weekend. I met the winds of “Bora.” I saw the Italian Renaissance piazzas, the Austro-Hungarian facades upon majestic buildings, the ancient Roman ruins sitting beside cafes melting into the local scenery, the ceaseless energy of the Mediterranean Sea lapping the giant stones of the Barcola, the dogs walking their owners before dinner, the fancy dressed Triestinos, the teenage wannabe punks, babies in strollers, pizzas on every corner, Chinese working the cheap stores, Africans hawking random junk, Indians selling flowers, and there I was, among them all. It is my favorite part of traveling…after eating of course! So, here are a few samples of local life.

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Oddly enough, I went with some Indian food for dinner. It was a nice place, full of Indian families with plates scattered about their tables and wonderfully decorated. I ordered samosas and curry chicken and it was all good.

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Cat Museum

Although this wasn’t a strictly cat museum, it did have an entire exhibit of old-timey photos of people with cats. I like seeing these roughneck soldiers with a fluffy little kitty on their lap. It shows that nobody can resist a lovable cat.

And, here I am playing silly with an ornate mahogany chest.

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People Watching in Croatia

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Our group was out exploring.

Taking someone’s photograph overseas requires courage and perseverance through the language barrier. Sometimes I can manage it, but other times I take the cowardly route and just snap a shot of the life around me. These were taken in various cities in and around the Istrian Peninsula of western Croatia.

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It’s a beautiful land, green hills, blue water, fresh air and unpronounceable words.

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In case you need to find the Ispovijed, it’s near the WC.

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This dress lets you know where to look.

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Breaking Bad is cool everywhere.

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3 out of 4 women on cell phones.

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The Franciscans enjoying a moment of mirth.

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She tried to sell us that tablecloth for 10 euro.

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The faithful lighting candles.

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We got in two minutes before closing. Quiet, empty churches are just as interesting as the ones filled with worshipers.

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People love a pope.

Lunch By The Sea ~ Croatia

On a long day’s tour through the Istrian Peninsula of western Croatia, we stopped in for lunch after a swim in the cool, emerald waters of the Adriatic. Restaurant Najade (M. Tita 69) sits astride the tranquil almost imperceptibly moving water. Our first course was a nice risotto with a firm but chewy cephalopod.

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Next, we ate the main course of crunchy calamari, head-on prawns and a dragonfish fillet.

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The local white wine, Malvasia, had a well-balanced flavor to match the seafood, with an unbeatable view.

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Our dessert, piling on top of way too much food, was soft chocolate crepe and a cherry pie.

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Later in the night, when the food had settled and we were looking for a place to relax, I was thirsty and found a rather poor Croatian gelato to pair with the excellent and fun to say aloud beer, Ozujsko.

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Day 6 ~ Siena’s Black & White Cathedral

Unbeknownst to me, but knowst to everyone else, the second Saturday in August is the busiest travel day in the country. Luckily, I was about to drive for about 500km. Everybody likes traffic right? Ugh, but first, I stopped in shortly after sunrise at the Siena Cathedral, a marvelous black and white marble achievement. With some bad Italian I managed to get a look inside without waiting in line for a ticket at the closed office.

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The outside was intricate also.

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They were getting the Piazza del Campo ready for the Palio di Siena. It’s the rugged biannual race of ten men around a tiny courtyard on hyped up horses run for bragging rights to the local neighborhoods.

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I snapped a few more photos, then had to jet to my car for the long drive back to Trieste.

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This is the view of early morning in Siena. The church looms large over the city.

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I ate nothing but roadside food and espresso for the 9 hour trek back. I needed some quality for Sunday lunch and found Fratelli Da Bufala near the water at Piazza Ponte Rosso in Trieste. Meeting up with an old friend from high school and her husband made for a wonderful Sunday. I had a killer chicken salad, and pappardelle with meat ragu. Unfortunately, the sauce tasted less than homemade–more like poured from a jar.

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Day 5 ~ Toscana Springs and a Steak

After the mess of Day 4, I woke up in the morning hurting from too much wine and too much microwaved meat. I quickly got moving after an espresso. I was headed for Montalcino. One of the myriad mountain villages of Toscana. It was a lovely morning drive through the sun drenched expanse.

 

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I finally came across the organized bricks posing as the town of Montalcino.

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I found an empty restaurant Di Macchia (Via Soccorso Saloni). with a charming old man and was still a little sour stomached, so I needed something soothing and I got it. This is pici pasta with wild boar (cinghiale) ragu. It was great. I told the guy it was like a cow and a pig had melted together to make one delicious animal. I had a glass of the local specialty Brunello red wine, deep and full.

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Walked back to the car slowly as I enjoyed the town and the views…

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The next stop was the thermal pools. The Medici family used to frequent these places, and it seemed like a perfect way to feel even better. Plus, there was a smiling pup.

 

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The bottom pool was rather cool, but when you climbed up the sticky, sulfur coated rocks, the waterfall had a pleasantly heated temperature. Free swimming in healing waters.

I stayed as long as I could allow, for there was more to see, such as the famous grapes of Toscana.

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I didn’t dare pluck any off the vine as they were coated in a white dust, presumably not an organic compound of Tuscan dust and bee poop. It’s such a picturesque landscape…

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I wanted to stay near my hostel tonight as it would be an early morning to go visit the Siena Cathedral, so I found a cute white tablecloth place full of locals Fontebecci (Via Fiorentina 133). I wanted to go big, and needed a steak. But first, the guy recommended a walnut cream sauce ravioli.

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I was finally feeling better. My last day of the food tour ended well, and I was up at sunrise to go see the two toned Siena Cathedral.

Day 4 ~ You Can’t Win ‘Em All

Started the day off with a decent breakfast before heading to the beach. It was a quiet beach, with free chairs and umbrellas. The ocean was more of a pool, as a manmade rock barrier had been formed about 100m out to sea. The deepest water is only waist high.

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It was dreadfully boring, all drastically tan old people or piteously unhappy parents with their bouncing off the wall kids. I stayed about 2 hours for some Vitamin D and left. My friend had told me to try the flatbread sandwich here. I found a cute place run by LeLe and Elena on the main street. It’s tastes as basic as it looks, which isn’t really a bad thing.

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Nothing special about this, but a decent beach snack. Not quite up to par with some other lunches I’ve had. I took a slow walkabout to explore before leaving. It’s a classic beach town with lazy cats behind fences, pastel homes and a pleasant perfumed air.

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I was excited to get in the car and drive across the peaks of Umbria and Toscana.

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It did not disappoint. Beautiful driving weather and the miraculous landscapes combined with poppy tunes from the radio made me jump, jive and wail all along the meandering path through the mountains. The lack of tunnels, but plenty of cutbacks along the ridges make for exciting travel.

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Arriving in Siena late in the day and weary from my transport, I asked for a dinner recommendation from the staff of the outstanding Sienna Hostel Guidoricci. This place was brand new, and had done its homework regarding what a hostel should provide. It was top notch, top notch! The old man singing classical music in the lobby told me to visit his friends at Il Vinaio di Bobbe e Davide (Via Camollia 167). I was forced to sit at the bar, which for a solo traveler is frustrating but understandably acceptable. I ordered the pici pasta with pepper because it was recommended as typically Senese.

 

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Boring! The best part was the pepper…

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Then, after 40 minutes of waiting, drinking and nibbling bread, I got this microwaved gem.

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A sad plate of meat for sure, and not even good! To be fair, the employees were rushing around prepping for the party of 20 that had just sat down, but seriously, no vegetables? I asked the guy to try everything, and I don’t mind paying. I guess everything includes leftover ribs and dry meatballs. Whatever, my stomach feeling queasy already, they saved a bit of class for last.

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This is a Ribollita, a true Tuscan dish of day old bread, tomatoes and other veg. It was okay, but I’d had enough bread. I was done with today and headed home for a shower at my awesome hostel.

San Marino Sunset

A stonemason, running away from religious persecution, founded the smallest republic of the E.U. around 300 C.E. They were under constant threat from armies in the modern era, but with charming diplomacy, were granted the sovereignty of their small union of 24 sq. km. upon a mini-mountain overlooking the Adriatic Sea. I was driving down the winding roads from Ravenna and in the distance, many miles away, I could swear to see a castle on a hill, in the direction where San Marino should be. I was right, you can see this country from at least 100km away.

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This was the castle I saw. I had to run up the steep stairs leading to the city entrance to make it for sunset.

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I was proud of my quick hike and snapped a selfie.

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The town was empty, until I got to the top. Tourists of all shapes, colors and camera lenses were lining up for the opportunity to get this background.

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From the other side, you can see the winding streets and large houses of a very wealthy country.

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If you look in the distance, that is the Adriatic. I remembered being on top of a mountain in Pyeoncheong, Korea (about 1,000m), brutally shivering in the Siberian winds, and seeing a similar sight of an ocean in the distance. It feels so magical to me to look out upon a land from great heights. Maybe that’s why people climb Mt. Everest. This is far from the highest peak in the world. It is only about 700m high, but rewardingly expansive.

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These poor old-timey role players probably make the same smile all day. They were pleasant though. Cute country.

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Big Bologna Pranzo and Pizza in Rimini

It’s no surprise that Bologna cooks it up big. CIBO (Also: Culinary Institute of Bologna) is Italian for food, and this is the best eating city in Italy. I found a little place off the main street called Trattoria Del Rosso (Via Augusto Righi 30). I was learning that to make it from noon to the eight or nine o’clock dinner time for Italians, I’d need to order a primo and secondo piatto. First up: Tagliatelle con ragu.

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Perfect homemade sauce, fresh Parmigiano, bread to clean up the meat, and a deep red wine to match. Next was the biggest surprise of the trip for me. I asked for a meat recommendation, and he told me the unappetizing sounding “stinco.” It means shin. I said, “Si, grazie.” About 40 minutes later, this comes out…

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The two men next to me shared a plate of this, and they seemed very full afterwards. It was a delicious struggle to finish. The meat was outstanding; rosemary potatoes; lovely afternoon meal. I was loaded with food and made my way to Ravenna before darting off to San Marino for sunset.

Finally arriving in Rimini after dark, I asked the young lady at my cute hotel Hotel Fra i Pini for a place to eat. She told me to go to the Old American Bar (Viale Giuseppe Mazzini 25). I was surprised to find basically the most layered and delicately flavored pizza I’ve had yet. It was called barsciola? and had sausage, onion, truffle oil, rucola, garlic and mozzarella. I finally met a pizza I couldn’t finish.

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