Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Italy trip - some highlights

We are back from our two week trip to Italy and it was super! We had a great time traveling and visiting with Quentin, and got to see many wonderful sites, and eat good food, and drink wine, and I even got to see one of my target birds (common kingfisher). Marianne will post some pix online later, but for now I just wanted to note a few of the highlights from our trip.

- Spending time with Quentin. We were together for two weeks and that alone made the whole trip worth it! Getting to catch up on news, cook and eat together, have Quentin help navigate while I drove, seeing how well Q can get around and use his Italian. Yep, family is the best!

- The weather. Almost perfect! We had one rainy day in Naples, when we walked around the city in the evening. But even that was fun and added to the mood of the city. Otherwise it was warm and lots of sunshine.

- The food. I had read that food in Italy is a big part of the culture and now we have experienced that. We ate out about 1/2 the time and cooked or made our own meals the other 1/2. There are hundreds of different kinds of pasta in Italy and we had quite a few. Some of our special meals out included an amazing dinner at Monte Pucci restaurant near Peschici, along the coast of the Adriatic sea. We had a plate of fresh mollusks, several different fresh fish, along with wine and bread. Another great meal out was to the tiny mountain town of Capaccio, in a local restaurant called "Scugnizzo's". We had a nice antipasti plate, including fresh artichokes, and several types of pasta for sinner, and the real highlight was the baba' rum cake for dessert - delicious! And we cooked some great pasta meals too, always adding a bit of hot pepper that Quentin had bought in Morocco.

- The drinks. We had quite a few different red wines, and a few whites too. Especially memorable was stopping at a small bar after a long bike ride, where Rick enjoyed some limoncello, and Marianne and Quentin had a mixed drink with campari.

- Bike rides. We had two great days riding. First, we had some older bikes from our stay at Agriturismo Seliano. We rode down to the Greek ruins at Paestum, and then found our way to the Mediterranean where we had a nice picnic lunch. Rick's bike had a problem and the left pedal fell off! But we got it back on and then drove off through the countryside. Quentin spotted a small home that sold Limoncello, so we stopped and bought some in a beautiful hand painted bottle, and asked if they had a wrench for the bike. They did and we tightened the pedal, and off we went! We rented bikes for an afternoon in Tuscany, and rode up a very steep mountain road to the small town of Lamole. We were pretty tired out, but there was a small restaurant where we stopped and had some cafe latte and biscotti, which tasted great!

History, churches, and ruins - We visited many amazing places, including Greek ruins at Paestum, many incredible churches, spent a full day at Pompeii, wandered through much of old Rome. An amazing place was the Sassi cave homes in Matera. People built homes into the soft rock there, and in recent years, these are being restored. We stayed at a beautiful B&B there, where the owners had restored a home and modernized the inside. Really interesting place.

Birds - I did get to see one of my target birds,the common kingfisher! In all, I saw 44 species, including 12 new ones, so it was pretty good. Some areas that I hoped for lots of birds did not turn up too much, but birding was a part of every place we went, for sure.

Steps - My little pedometer got quite a workout! We walked a lot, but the record day was in Rome, when I got over 30,000 steps in a single day. Whew! But the walking is always fun, sightseeing, people watching, and touring.

Gelato - YUM! We sampled gelato in almost everyplace we went and overall, found it to be very yummy. Quentin showed us the proper technique of asking for 2 or 3 different flavors in a small cup. That way you get to try even more types!

Well, those are a few of the things we did. Just wanted to post some while it is still fresh in my mind. Marianne will post pix with more descriptions, and we'll fill you in on more when we see everyone.