Tour and Dinner in San Gimignano

Would you believe that after our amazing cooking class, there was more planned for that same day? After the cooking class, some of us took naps, while others decided to go for a walk. I got to enjoy wandering around the villa property with my sister Emily (hermana!).

We met Gina Stipo to spend the evening in San Gimignano. First we went to San Gimignano 1300, an amazing museum that included a reproduction of the town from the 1300’s. We learned all about the history of the town, and especially its towers.

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The town originally had 72 towers, which were built as symbols of familial power. Many of the towers were torn down over the years, but there are still 13 standing.

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After the museum, we wandered around the town some, visiting piazzas and climbing to the top of a hill to see a view of the entire town and the surrounding landscape. Beautiful!

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Before heading to dinner, we enjoyed an apertivo in the Piazza della Cisterna. We tried drinks recommended by Gina, including Spritz (prosecco and Campari) and various little snacks. The Italians never have drinks without some type of food.

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After enjoying our apertivo, we headed to an amazing dinner in a small restaurant in San Gimignano. My meal started with stracciatella, which ended up being a shared appetizer due to its size! It was delicious.

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Next, both Jon and I enjoyed ribolitta, a Tuscan vegetable and bread soup. Gina taught us how to top it with slivers of fresh onion and flavorful olive oil. Although it is incredible to think that we would have room for anything after all the food from the day, we all managed to save room for at least a little bit of world famous gelato from Gelateria Dondoli.

I love how the little bins of gelato are decorated with bits of their flavoring. Much more attractive than plastic bins of ice cream like you see in the US!

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With all the amazing food and activities, it was hard to believe that this was just our first full day in Tuscany! More to come from our Italian adventure. 🙂

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Trastevere food tour

I was lucky enough to get to go on a trip to Italy recently, and the best description is Wow! When friends have asked what was my favorite part, I literally can’t answer the question. As you can imagine, food was a major component of the trip, highlighted by a “culinary adventure” in Tuscany. So, Italian food and all things Italy will be occupying my blog for the next several weeks!

Jon and I started off in Rome, and what better way to get ourselves oriented than to take a walking food tour. After suspending our veganness for the trip, we signed up for Twilight Trastevere through Eating Italy food tours and it was a great way to kick off the trip!

After landing in Rome that morning, walking several miles, and eating lightly, we were ready for our food tour. We decided to walk to the Tiber Island to meet up with our tour, walking past the Imperial Forum on the way. After meeting up with the group and getting a little background on Trastevere, we were off to Da Enzo Al 29, where we had prosecco accompanied by stracciatella and melon (and prosciutto for the meat eaters). The cheese was drizzled with olive oil, and some of the best cheese either of us have ever tasted. 20130609-203715.jpg

After savoring this decadence, we were off to the next stop – Spirito di Vino – a restaurant/wine cellar in a building that was the oldest synagogue still standing…obviously it was no longer in that function! We sampled some amazing red wine, along with some more cheese dishes. Would you believe that this shot is ~20 feet below current street level, but was street level 2000 years ago?!? Amazing. 20130609-204831.jpg

Next we were on to Innocenti, an absolutely amazing bakery – Yelp and Tripadvisor agree!20130609-205524.jpg

After ogling the cookie display from the window and admiring the ancient industrial oven…
20130609-205651.jpg we were able to enjoy 3 varieties of cookies from the award-winning bakery, delivered by a fourth-generation baker. All were amazing, though sadly I don’t remember any of the proper names. Hopefully if I go back in the future I’ll be able to order via photo!20130609-205805.jpg

Next up was Antica Caciara where we sampled some amazing cheese. I also ogled some cheese to take home, but decided against it.
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Massive wheels of Pecorino Romano…they would fit nicely in my luggage!20130609-212244.jpg

Next we were off to La Renella. First we got to observe the amazing kitchen and bread oven.20130609-212657.jpg

The bread ovens were huge! They seriously went back at least 10 loaves of bread, and required massive bread paddles with long handles to pull freshly-baked bread out of the oven.20130609-212901.jpg

After seeing the kitchen, we got to sample some of the amazing pizza. As a former cheese addict, I always thought pizza had to have lots of cheese on it. This pizza, however, was a revelation. With a simple crust and excellent tomato sauce, both Jon and I thought it was some of the best pizza we have ever had.20130609-214532.jpg

You’d think we would be done at this point? So did we, but we were not. We went to Ristorante La Scala for some amazing pasta – Ravioli and mushroom fettuccine alfredo.
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Before our last food stop of the evening, we went to Farmacia Maria Della Scala. Closed in the 1960’s, this was an amazing glimpse into the past. We sniffed viper paste (literally made up of ground vipers and 40+ other ingredients), admired the old ingredients, and peered at the paintings of famous historical patrons. We weren’t able to take photos inside the Farmacia, so I can only share the exterior sign. It is most definitely worth a visit, if you happen to be wandering around in Trastevere.

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Finally, we wrapped up the tour with an amazing gelateria. Jon made better flavor choices than I did, but it was very interesting to learn the identifying characteristics of “real” gelato: the pistachio should be earthy green, not bright green; the mint should be white-ish and not bright green; and gelato that is mounded up way over the containers is not heavy enough to be real. This education probably saved us a few gelato calories in our wanderings through Italy!

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After the tour was wrapped up, Jon and I decided to walk back to our hostel. Although we walk all the time at night at home, we definitely don’t wander past 2000 year old ruins illuminated by moonlight!

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