Wednesday, June 19, 2013


I know this is crazy but a few hotels in Sicily have accepted my offer of staying at their hotel while I blog about them. I didn't think it would actually work and even though I did get a few rude replies, I was surprised by how many people were open to the idea. Actually they're not hotels but agriturismi like where I stayed in Le Marche.

I've been gazing at the pictures of one of them and it's amazing! 1200 years old kind of amazing! So here's a list of the pros and cons:

  • I would be back in Italy
  • I've never been to Sicily and I'm dying to go
  • I just need to pay for my flight and any other personal expenses while I'm there
  • Maybe this whole thing is leading me down a path that I need to follow (I'm a strong believer in destiny and that all things happen for a reason).
  • It will give me something exciting to write about as I'm obviously not ready to give up on my cute little blog
  • Financially a crazy thing for me to do but when will I get this opportunity again.
  • Oh and let's not forget, I would be back in Italy.....

  • I would have to rent a car as I would be in remote areas of Sicily and having the freedom of a car would be essential.
  • The loooonnnnng flight! again!
  • No WiFI at most of these hotels so I would be hunting down WiFi bars and cafes on a daily basis
  • Having to put Toby in boarding again!
Okay, it's always a good sign when there are more pros than cons. Since the best time for me to go would be toward the end of the summer, I have time to ponder this. Until then............


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ristorante degli Archi


On my last day I was walking around San Quirico D'orcia having a wonderful time taking pictures of everything I set my eyes on-from doorways to hidden parks to the craziest store I've ever seen, more on that later! However as always is the case my stomach was grumbling and I began a reconaissance mission on where to eat. Since it was my last day in Italy it had to be somewhere special! As I was walking down via Dante Alghieri I saw a sign for this restaurant that intrigued me. I walked through the main part of the building to a beautiful courtyard in the back.  I loved it so much that everytime the waiter turned his back I went crazy taking pictures. Today I went onto their website and lo and behold, they have mini concerts in this beautiful courtyard.  How perfect! By the way the food was amazing and I won't even tell you what's really on that crostini (and no it's not only percorino)!!!!!!!

Oh before I forget, while I was looking for somewhere to eat I walked by this little store with these beautiful antique brass cowbells hanging outside that I had to have.  The sign outside read "Tutti per la casa" and believe me-it was tutti to the max! Hoarders italian style.................

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Helpful hints

Why am I still writing in this blog when I'm not in Italy anymore? My last entry from Italy was sitting in Trattoria Dardano taking pictures of my empty plate where I wrote "The end"...... The reason is because it's too soon to give it up, I'm having nightly, vivid dreams of being there which is kind of brutal considering the obvious-I'm not actually in Italy......

This kind of sucks because I'm constantly trying to figure out how I can get back. Go work on another farm (over my dead body), e-mail every agriturismo in Italy asking if I can stay for free if I write about them in my blog, scour the internet looking for the cheapest but most decent accomodation possible which would be a great idea for a blog by the way-except I'm supposed to be here looking for a job (which is how I was able to take 3 weeks to roam around Italy in the first place) and I have to think about Toby. I would love to bring him with me but the idea of him having a panic attack in the bowels of a plane for 8-9 hours doesn't seem very appealing to me.The idea of him running around Possum Place with a new girlfriend seems like the better option (sorry Frances).

Until I figure out how to get back I keep playing the lottery like a maniac. I've somehow convinced myself that I will win, I'm sending positive thoughts out into the universe and I can only hope it will pay off in the end.

Until then going down memory lane is the closest I can come to actually being back there. I never really took the time to recap all of my advice, useful lessons and mistakes properly and all in one place, so here goes:

  • When you get the crazy idea of working on a farm thinking that it will be the coolest thing ever and a great learning experience, think again! You need to be realistic about your standards of cleanliness and ask to see pictures of the house when you notice that the only photos of the house are from far, far, far away. Alarm bells should have been ringing but the beautiful country side won me over. Imagine how I felt after flying for 8 hours and driving ,completely lost, for 5 hours and the first thing I see is a moldy mattress leaning against the wall near the front door. I'm not a diva but I do expect to sleep in a clean bed-meaning the sheets should be cleaned before new guests arrive and if a pillow is stinky from hundreds of other dirty heads-I'm thinking the pillow should maybe be thrown away or disinfected.  That's just my opinion.....
  • Don't be tricked into renting the cheapest car possible. I usually rent my cars from Maggiore and I've always been very happy with them. Their prices are reasonable and they were always very professional and reliable.  This time though I found a cheaper rate with Locauto, they did end up charging the balance however after I brought the car back due to some fine print that I missed-in the end I paid more than if I would have had I stuck with Maggiore. There's also the obvious, check the car carefully for bumps and scratches before driving off.  Driving in Italy is a little insane and not for the faint of heart-your car will amost certainly have a few nicks when you pick it up so be careful that you're not blamed for them.
  • Before leaving I downloaded the "H" hotels app on my iphone and I used it constantly.  It's how I found my hotel in Cortona and I loved it there. I would have never found this hotel on my own. You can even find hotels near you that have availability for that night which is great to have when you've been driving back to a farm for 6 hours and are asked to leave when you finally arrive at 6pm and are completely traumatized by a dog on the higway incident.
  • Regardless I was so lucky because I stayed in the most amazing hotels when I left that place.
  • Agriturismo LeSelve (Communanza):  Amazing.  This is a 15th century hamlet that has been brought back to life and turned into an agriturismo. I would love to be there during the summer as there's an amazing pool that I never had the chance to use.  The owners are sweet and quite funny, making sure you leave with a jar of home made jam. The location was amazing as there's a grocery store at the end of the winding road so you can easily pick up any necessities you may need (wine)! I was in shock when I paid my bill, I mean I knew it was low season and that I was the only guest staying there so my room was only 40 euros per night but I was eating at the restaurant every night and my week only cost 283 euros. That means my meals ended up costing an average of 9 euros including a half litre of wine. On top of everything I'm not exaggerating when I say that young chef is amazing, I wish I had asked his name-those delicious pizzas coming out of that kitchen!!!!!
  • Villa Marsili (Cortona): I originally had planned to stay for 3 days and ended up staying a week. I mean really! A 4 star hotel for $63 canadian a night? This hotel was immaculate and I fell in love with the staff. They all knew my name! How many hotels do you know where the staff takes the trouble to know your name? How great does it feel when the receptionist is so happy to see you she loudly yells out " hello Leen" the minute you walk through the door. Don't even get me started on the beautiful breakfast buffet or the evening 5-7 where you could have a glass of red with some cute little crostinis. I really loved it there, the location was so easy to find and I always found parking. It was the perfect home base to take off and discover other little Tuscan towns.
  • Palazzo Coco (Maori): A little hotel up on the side of the mountain in Maiori. Antonio is a young guy (with a big heart) who owns and cleans the rooms himself and also happens to make the best cappucinos ever. He even woke up at 5AM to pick us up in Positano. I loved the beautiful view from our little patio and anyone who has been to the Amalfi coast before knows that it's almost impossible to find a hotel for 70 euros a night. Just make sure you are in shape.  The stairs are a killer!
  • If you have the guts, don't book any hotels before leaving. I did this one year and my friends all thought I was insane. It was amazing! I never really had a plan of where I would end up. I just drove the car and pulled over when I would see a sign that looked familiar. On this trip I did alot of driving through Tuscany,mostly because I was always lost ,but all I saw were Agriturismos after Agriturismos.  They're everywhere!  Even during high season you will have no problem finding a room. It also gives you the freedom to discover a small hill top town, like I did with Orvieto one year.
  • Last piece of advice! Try to learn some basic Italian before you go.  The locals really appreciate it when you make the effort. You need to remember that you're in a foreign country and not everyone speaks English-especially if you decide to venture out to more remote areas.

Beautiful Amalfi coast

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Montepulciano wine cellars

I've already posted pictures from that day but because I was so excited and took so many photos, I shrank everything to fit as many shots as possible into one blog entry. I'm still thinking about this wonderful wine cellar and how majestic and creepy it was. I had a feeling when I walked down the steps they were originally meant for horses and I was right!

Here's the description from their website:

The Winery
In the heart of Montepulciano, just a few steps from Piazza Grande, the main square in town, below the elegant Palazzo Ricci, a Renaissance palace commissioned by Cardinal Giovanni Ricci (1498-1574) to the great Sienese architect Baldassarre Peruzzi (1481-1536), there is the monumental Cantina de’ Ricci, one of the most ancient and beautiful in the world, which is accessed through an impressive equestrian staircase that gradually leads the visitor to the discovery of an enchanted place.

Here, for many centuries, the now extinct Ricci Family has lovingly cared and treasured one of the most demanded products of these lands: the wine.

The Cellar
For those visiting the Wine Cellar, excavated into the soft tufaceous soil, roofed by a monumental succession of arches and sustained by massive pillars which together remind us of a Romano-Gothic Cathedral, the sight is absolutely breathtaking.

The visitor will walk through the silent corridors bordered by several caves, laboriously dug out of the tuff, which host, at an optimal natural temperature, rows and rows of huge precious Slavonian oak casks, perfectly preserved, where thousands of hectolitres of the delicious Vino Nobile are stored.

In dozens of neatly lined barriques are refined the best wines obtained from grapes ripened under the golden sun of Tuscany, in the well-kept vineyards which luxuriant crown the fertile and gorgeous hills around Montepulciano sloping gently toward the Valdichiana valley on the East, and stretching until the edge of the Valdorcia valley on the West.

A visit to this Wine Cellar is a journey throughout time and history; here you will find the very essence of the sweet land of Tuscany: the wine, which the Etruscans, our distant ancestors, centuries before the Christian era, already took care of, worshipped and drank, with passion and perseverance, in happiness and joy!

The cellar, on the occasion of a high qualified visit of a few international enologists organised by the Enoteca Italiana Senese in 1992, was defined as “THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WINE CELLAR IN THE WORLD”.


Friday, June 7, 2013

The thrill of a lifetime

I can't believe it! Last week I wrote a comment on Frances Maye's blog (the author of Under the Tuscan sun) never thinking in a million years she would even read the comment let alone answer!!! I'm absolutely thrilled.....

Lynn Bertin says:
Dear Frances,
If you would like to have a little chuckle please read my posting about Bramasole in my blog
This was my 4th time in Cortona and I only got the nerve to take the trek to your house on this trip. I have to be honest in saying that I felt a little like a stalker and relieved to know that you weren’t there:)I’ve never stood at someone’s gate before to take pictures of their house. Lovely by the way and I love reading your beautiful blog!
  • Frances Mayes says:
    Lynn- What a grand group of photos on your blog. Great trip I can tell. Next time, take Toby! Thanks–Frances

So much for the diet......

I did it! I was determined to try to re-create this recipe and it worked.  I may have gotten carried away with the lemon juice in the cream sauce but it was delicious regardless (rolling eyes to the back of head and all). I even got to use my new tagliatelle roller that I bought in that store in San Quircio D'Orcia. I just really need to find the discipline to stop eating PASTA!!!! I was determined to start a strict cleansing, starvation diet since being back and so far it's not working, meanwhile I've been keeping busy by going out for brunch, lunch or dinner with friends-doing my 2 favorite things on earth, eating and talking about myself-more specifically talking about my wonderful trip!

Eh! Va bene.........


Thursday, June 6, 2013

The ultimate challenge

After scouring the Internet I've combined 2 different recipes to "try" to recreate the most delicious thing I've ever eaten in Italy. Stay tuned to see if I actually pull it off.....

You need to eat here if you go to Cortona!!!!