Thursday, March 31, 2016

Traveling to Florence

BarWe took our time getting up on Friday morning. Ate breakfast at the hotel and packed our stuff. We took an uber to the Rome train station which was very very hectic. We were told that pick pocketers were prevenlent and with the recent attack in Brussels we were both a bit on guard. It took us a few minutes to figure out the ticketing station and then we waited for our train number to appear on the sign. We walked out to our platform and waited. The only seats left were 1sr class so we had to pay a bit more for them. We happened to be sitting in the same car as the loudest 4 children on the train. They were yelling and screaming and up and down out of their seats. The trains travel at very high speeds and I was feeling a bit motion sick. At one point John got fed up and as one of the kids started running over to our seats he slammed him hand down and said "SIT DOWN" for the rest of the trip the kids were a bit more quiet. But we were super happy to be off that train. We walked from the train station to our hotel, which was about 10 long blocks away. It is a very eclectic hotel, that is very very old. 

We left our bags and set out to explore the new city. For some reason we thought that Florence was much slower and smaller then Rome, but we were wrong. It is SO busy.
The large farmers market was about a 5 min walk from our hotel. We stopped for a meat plate and some wine to hold us over until dinner 
Then we needed out to explore the city. 

We stopped for espresso as a very cute resturant/ bakery
We walked nearly 12 miles that day. The best part was at the top of the Michael Angelo gardens. 
It was such a beautiful view. We walked up even more stairs to the top of a church with a cemetery.
Barbara our host in Rome suggested we go to ZA Zas for dinner. Luckily it was very close to our hotel. We were lucky to be seated right away, most people had made reservations. We shared a giant steak 
 We ordered it medium and it was served pretty much raw. So I sent it back to be cooked a bit more ( john was pretty unhappy that I sent our food back, but there was so way I could have eaten it like that. We also enjoyed a salad with Brie 
John made sure we didn't waste any of it. 

Florence museums

On our second day in Florence we wanted to see the David and the art work at the Uffizi. Had we not really done our research and didn't reserve tickets to either. We were able to get reserved tickets to the academia to see the David, but not until 3:30 in the afternoon. So we walked around looking at street art and shops. 
The David in real life was magical. To think this was craved out of marble and it is so anatomically correct is just wild, 
John was doing his best David impression. Pretty close don't you think? 
We decided to wait in line at the Uffizi. We met a great couple from England  which helped pass the time in line. We were nervous we were not going to make it in before they closed and due to the holiday. But we made it. 
I snapped a great shot on our way back to our hotel 
This bridge was built I the 1300s and has lots of stores along it. We tried to walk across it a few times, but it was always wall to wall people, so we enjoyed it from afar. 

VIP cooking school in Tuscany

Since Florence was so busy we really wanted to take an excursion to Tuscany. Sunday was Easter, which is a huge holiday. We did find one and made reservations. It seemed to be the perfect fit. Wine tastings, local product tasting and a cooking lesson. We met them at their office in the center of town 
 We got to see a parade procession as we waited. Then we took a very bumpy van ride for about 45 min. We arrived at a beautiful estate 
Tuscany is just as beautiful and peaceful as I could imagine. The cooking school it's self left a lot to be desired, we didn't really get to do any of the things listed on the website and it definitely did not make us feel like VIPs. 

We did learn how to make egg pasta and ravioli at this cooking school. 
We also learned two different types of pasta sauces as well 
Our ravioli on with ricotta and Parmesan cheese

We did get to try a few little tastings of truffle oil and balsamic vinegar. 

Next we put it all together 

It was a long day, but we enjoyed being out of the city for the night. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Coliseum

LWe decided to walk all the way to the Colisium. I decided to wear my boots which seemed like a good idea for a while, but after 10+ miles, those boots were not really made for walking.we stopped at the top of palatine hill and looked at the ruins. 
This is one of the oldest parts of the city. 

Side note.. My hair has been driving me crazy, so I went and got a "blow out" at a salon a few blocks away from our hotel. It turned out to be 15 min head and neck massage as well which felt amazing. 
Anyways. We wandered around some more. Everything is so well made, which a crazy amount of details. 
We made our way down to the Colisium, luckily I bought tickets online a few days before. But there was still a huge long line for security. We ended up "paying the piper" to skip the line and have a tour.  But it turned out we still had to wait in a pretty long line to get in. (Lesson learned) 
We did learn a few fun facts.
They had a canvas cover to keep the atendees cool in the sumer time. It could hold 50,000 to 80,000 people, and tickets were free to those who could not afford the,. The entire complex could be emptied in just 10 min. Also amazing that this enormous structure was designed and built without commuters. 

We stopped for a quick lunch break at a deli, which was needed after walking almost 12 miles that morning. 

We headed back to our hotel for a quick nap and to let our feet rest. Around 7 pm we decided to partake in the tradional "spritz" at a bakery/ bar near by. 
 It was served with a bunch of small bites and treats. 

Later that night we set out for dinner. We had see. Really good reviews for a small pasta shop and for 5 euro a piece we thought we would give it a try. 
But it was actually terrible. We actually didn't finish it because it was so salty. My ravioli was raw and my sauce was terrible. Then we set off for a wine bar
It was a Local hangout with the nicest bar tenders. John found his perfect glass of wine that night. It is from a small region in Southern Italy. 
After that we were on the hunt for dessert. We stumbled upon a beautiful resturant and decided to sit down. As we waited for our table we ordered the best glass of prosecco we have ever had. Their menu looked so amazing we decided to order a few dishes, I had the beef tenderloin which was thin cut and served cold with olive oil and lemon( it was amazing) john ordered oysters and the shrimp. We decided to get a bottle of wine which turned out to be amazing. Then we finally ordered dessert. A chocolate cake and a terimausu. We forgot to take our phones out for any pictures, which was probably a good thing. We true.y enjoyed the evening .

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Exploring the city after cooking school

We love to take advantage of walking around different part of town. The area around the cooking school was a great part of town. Full of cute little shops, bakeries and resturants. We ended up walking around for about an hour, weaving in and out of streets and ended up back where we started. ( we were trying to venture back towards our hotel. 
We visited so,e beautiful churches.
After walking a bit more ( we walked closed to 6 miles) there was a smell that we needed to follow. It smelled so sweet and wonderful. We ended up at at cute little bakery/ deli. 
We choose so,e meats, cheeses and a bottle of wine to snack on. It's funny, I don't think I have ever drank so much wine out of plastic cups as I have on this trip. 
I snapped this beautiful picture on our walk back to the hotel. 

Rome cooking school

John and I had a great time learning how to cook authentic Italian food. 
Our chef and teather Andrea was importation and passionate about the ingredients as well as the tradition of food. We learned both fun cooking pointers and the history of the dish. 

We took an early uber to the "ghetto" it is where the servants for the rich use to live. Back in the day they were only paid in food, so naturally some of the best food comes from this part of town. 
He had gone to the farmers market and bought the ingredients for the day. The food looked so beautiful, at first I thought it was fake. 
We started by balancing the fresh tomatoes for our sauce.  We peeled the, and cut them up

Next, we rolled carrots and celery inside the thin cut of meat. 

We learned that in real Italian food, you never cook with onions and garlic. Yup... Mind Blown!! 
In our fresh tomato sauce we put garlic ( unpeeled) fresh basil and salt. We learned that since it is early for tomatoes it was important to sift the tomatoes seeds out, because they make it bitter.  
When using canned tomatoes, use onion, celery and carrot in your sauce, we also added basil and red wine. 
Next we made roman artichokes. Peeling them was quite the art.. And some people did better then others.
They were stuffed with parsley, mint and garlic then pan fried and steamed. 
Next we got to make home made pasta.
We made a lot of pasta! 
Then it was time to eat! 
This might have been one of my favorite things I have eaten so far. 
Next was the pasta. The sauce was so simple and light. It was really wonderful 
John recalled like the beef rolls and the sauce they were cooked in. 
For dessert we had tiramisu