Sunday, August 29, 2010

Florence to Arezzo

Today I managed to wake up around 8 am and truly felt as though I have adjusted to the 6 hour time difference. I enjoyed another yummy breakfast, but didn’t want to eat too much since I had a great little place picked out for lunch. The tough part of the day was trying to get everything back into the backpack. Somehow it never goes back the same way! I had to check out at 11 and every minute was spent getting packed. I was taking the 2:30 train, so I still had time to walk around the city. The hotel was great, they held my bad so I didn’t have to walk around with it. The bells were ringing all morning and it was such a neat scene.

There are tons of artists selling watercolors along the streets and I was trying to find the one I liked best. It was really interesting to see them as they worked. I did find one whose work I really liked. After some deliberating I finally made my decision. I spent the rest of the time up until lunch people watching outside the Duomo. I made my way over to the little restaurant by the train station that had really good reviews. I ordered a calabrese pizza (olives, salami, onions) and it was absolutely incredible. Two guys were seated next to me and it took me a minute to realize that they were speaking English (I haven’t heard very much over the past 2 days!). Turns out they had just graduated from University of Colorado and are traveling all through Europe for 5 weeks. We had a nice time chatting over lunch. I walked back to the hotel and went by the Santa Maria Novella.

It was time to go and catch the train to Arezzo. I did a good one - when I went to get my backpack I swung it up on my back, however, I had forgotten that I clipped my metal water bottle (that was full) to it. I managed to get knocked in the head with it and wow did that hurt!

Now that I have the trains all figured out, it is such a wonderful way to get around. The train trip was about 1½ hours and I even managed to catch a quick nap. I arrived in Arezzo and took a cab up to Torre del Tartufo. I was not quite prepared for the ride up the mountain (Mom – picture that drive to the winery up in NY 2 year ago, but 10 times worse!). We turned down a gravel road and I started to get a little worried. Then it was up, up, switchback turn, up, etc. We finally arrived at an iron gate. Barbara, the onsite manager was there to greet me. She immediately showed me to my room and wow, what a view! She took me around the villa so that I was acquainted with everything. I soon met several of the other guests who were enjoying some of the house white wine out on the terrace. I soon joined them. Turns out we only have 9 people here this week – a couple from Australia, Nicole and Scott; Cheryl from South Africa; Dinah from the UK; Carrie from the US; Florence from Singapore; Ingmar from the Netherlands; and Suzanne also from the US. I was amazed that except for the one couple we are all traveling solo. The after was gorgeous and about 5 of us sat around enjoying wine and chatting away. I could not have asked for a better group of people! We laughed because we had all planned on going to change for dinner, but the wine kept us too occupied!

Franco, the chef soon arrived with prosecco and we toasted to the week ahead. Paola had set a beautiful table outside where we would dine. Dinner was amazing. We started with an onion tartlet that the students from last week’s class had made the day before. This was followed by risotto with zucchini blossoms. The main course was beef seared and served rare with mashed potatoes garnished with rosemary from the herb garden (saw him snipping it just before dinner). Dessert was lavender scented baked cream topped with berries. After dinner Barbara brought out every type of after dinner liquor imaginable, including Franco’s grandmothers Limon cello. We had quite the fun evening eating, drinking and getting to know each other. Tomorrow (Monday) will be the first day of our cooking class and I can’t wait!

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