Bianco, with a little sparkle
Champagne arrival in Venice
Water stop at Spanish Steps, Rome
Dinner on banks of Arno, vantage point for fireworks later that evening
Tastes better than it looks!
More photos from this Italian trip at http://swissroll07.blogspot.com/
or click on Corkman on Tour link on the right hand column
TOUR IN ITALY JUNE 2008
Arrived late from Milan to Baveno and went to the Hotel bar for a drink. A large and a small beer was the order. €14.00 was the price! Welcome to Italy. And it wasn't even a pint and a glass as we know them but 400ml and 200ml respectively.
Things got better. Another night in the small town, on the shores of Lago Maggiore, saw us follow the noise, as advised by a friendly waiter in a local restaurant, to a small piazza where a crowd of about a hundred had gathered to see Italy play against France in a vital game in Euro 2008. Great noisy atmosphere as we watched the big screen and the levels rose when Italy took the lead. There was bar service and here the large beer cost just €3.50.
But you don't really go to Italy just to drink beer. One dinner at the Hotel Dino was included in the tour price but we ate the other two nights at a local restaurant La Posta. The first evening, the night of the match, was a very lively one and we enjoyed a fine meal which included great starters, main course of grilled sea bass for me and rabbit, a bottle of water, a bottle of excellent wine. With the usual cover charge, the bill came to €49.00.
We went over the top at the same venue on the next night. Starters, mains (veal and rabbit), plus a plate of three desserts each, yes each, water, wine and cover came to €72.00.
Baveno also had a good selection of pizzerias. Lunch was no problem. The first day in Stresa was at the Pizzeria Central, a modest establishment. Two huge salads, one with tuna, the other with crab, plus a 50cl carafe of a local white came to €19.30.
We got good lunchtime value the following day in Lugano (Switzerland) where two well filled rolls of local bread and a big glass of the excellent local apple juice (invariably good here and in Austria) failed to wipe out the €10.00 note. We still had more than four Swiss francs left which we used to buy 2 bars of excellent Villars chocolate.
The Hotel Dino breakfasts are generous, taken in a beautiful lakeside setting and you really don't need much for lunch. On the Wednesday visit to Como we bought a bag of cherries in the market and enjoyed them at mid-day. On the following day, in a market in Verona, we demolished a carton of the local strawberries.
Dinner is included tonight at a local restaurant on the Lido of Venice where we are staying. There is a beautiful Risotto Cannelloni starter, a surprising main course of turkey and mushroom, a tiramisu dessert (it was apparently invented around here) and plenty of local Pinot Grigio at €15.00 a bottle. Later we enjoy a drink on St Mark’s Square, Prosecco or wine, and sit and watch the musicians play. This is usually very expensive but is included in the tour.
After a visit to the highlights round the square on the following day, our guide instructs us to get lost. We move well away from the square and end up in a restaurant situated on the Lagoon. Here we have a fine lunch. One has with a bountiful salad, one a plateful of Venetian sardines (served with currants and pine nuts). Two beers (€5.50 for the larger one), the cover charge (which includes a basket of bread), and water bring the total to €31.00.
The wine was a Ribollo Gialla, well worth the €18.00 charge. We were also charged for potatoes (which turned out to be chips) and water, and the bill was a stiff €84.50. Might have been worth it had the main course been more user friendly.
The next day we had quite a big lunch at the nearby Roxy Pizzxeria. Two Camparis, two pizzas, one water and one 50cl carafe of White wine (€6.00), plus a cover of €4.00 made up the €35.00 bill.
It is Saturday and the included dinner tonight is on the Fishermans Island of Burano. Not surprising, virtually all of the many course are fish but, surprisingly, most are done in batter. The restaurant is the Gato Nero (Black Cat) Trattoria. We get fish pate, the local St Peter fish, scampi, calamari etc and jugfuls of a decent local white wine before finishing off with Zambucco laced coffee.
Sunday we are on the road and heading for Florence. Included dinner is a multi course at a nearby restaurant. All the courses go down well, helped by a €20 bottle of the local Chianti.
Monday takes us on tour to nearby San Gimignano. We sample the World Champions ice-cream and relax with a cappuccino in a restaurant in the square. Both are excellent. Lunch back in Florence sees us stuffing ourselves at a sit down establishment with a €4.00 tramazzini (white bread sandwich, crustless), stuffed with salad, tomato and mozzarella.
The included evening meal is at a hillside restaurant outside of the city and is one of the highlights. We are greeted with generous glasses of a Campari and gin mixture. This is followed by a Risotto demo and a magnificent multi-course meal. One generous fellow at the table orders a slab of Florentine steak. The Chianti was flowing...singing...dancing.. but, what happens on the bus stays on the bus!
Tuesday, after a visit to Pisa, we are taken to a Tuscan vineyard (Montecarlo) for a tour and lunch. Lunch goes on for a while as we sample the six different types of wine (3 red, 3 white), a dessert wine into which we dunk our dessert biscuits, and then a grand finish with Grappa! The meal is good too!
It is St John’s Night and the banks and bridges of the Arno are packed for the fireworks, We stop at a deli for a mozzarella, salad and tomato sandwich and join the crowds to watch the spectacle.
The next dinner is in Rome on Wednesday, in a side street a block or two back off the Piazza Navona. Two courses, one bottle of wine €10.00, and 2 bottles of water, cost us €32.00.
Next day, we are off to Pompeii. Lunch here at the entrance gates comes with a rather stiff price tag of about €25.00 for a plate of pork and sautéed potato. It is a long trip and we look forward to dinner which is taken near the Hotel on the Via Cavour. It is a bit more upmarket than the previous night.
The mains are spaghetti with meat sauce and Lasagne al Forna. They are top class as is the fruit dessert that follows. The lot, including a bottle of win (€12.00), water, coffee, cover charge and a service charge of 10 per cent, comes to €55.00.
The next morning is spent visiting the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s and the Coliseum and we are well up for it by the time the farewell dinner comes around. It is held in a restaurant near the Vatican.
The meal, while a bit touristy, you get photographed with a Roman soldier as you enter (€6.00) and there a two opera singers entertaining (and selling their CD), is excellent and we enjoy the meal, the music and the farewell evening.
The following day, it is back to Ireland and we have to make do with a €5.00 Aer Lingus Panini (ham and cheese) and a little bottle of white wine (also €5.00) as we journey home. All good things come to an end. C’est la vie!