ITALY!

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At our first meal in Florence!
Italy has been my dream destination for as long as I can remember.. I have always dreamed of eating fresh pasta and enjoying the culture... Shockingly Italy was not my absolute favorite stop on our trip! This was initially confusing for me... Could it be that as soon as we arrived we couldn't get on transit because you had to buy tickets from stalls that were closed for Easter? (what a dumb system)... Could it be that I got into a heated argument with one of the Arab market vendors over an amazing leather jacket his assistant told me was 49 Euro only to find out it was 490 Euro and he screamed that I had wasted his time and made quite a scene? Could it be the pushy and aggressive African vendors lining the streets trying to sell watches and sunglasses? These all just didn't fit my mental picture of Italy and it had me a bit rattled and homesick. Luckily we did hit some magical restaurant stops AND we went on this unbelievable bike ride to the Chianti region of Tuscany which made me fall in love with the Italian countryside. I don't think I would visit Florence again but an Italian villa is where my heart resides. Here are some of the highlights and our eats!:
PISE (Pisa)
We caught a really cheap flight from Paris to Pisa and spent a night in the small town of Pisa seeing the leaning tower and we had our first official Italian meal which began with this simple bruschetta.. Pretty good but pretty basic as well.
Here is us splitting our first pizza pie in Pisa! And of course vino which is cheaper than water! hehehe.. The best part was the spicy olive oil they gave us to dip our pizza in. Yep- oil to dip your pizza in. Pisa's version of ranch perhaps?
Shopping at the markets in Pisa. haha good photo James!
This is Pisa's most famous gelato stop which even has a Michelin star... Not easy for an ice cream shop to accomplish. Are you familiar with the "Michelin star rating?".. One star indicates "very good cuisine in its category", Two stars represents "excellent cuisine, worth a detour" and three stars are awarded to restaurants offering "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey". This gelato was definitely worth a detour! We had pine nut and pistachio
FIRENZE (Florence)
Loving the liters of wine in Florence!
Yummy bruschetta. The bread was nicely toasted. Ugly garnish though I thought hehehe
Lasagna that James ordered... not the best we were to have...
I chose the black truffle penne.. How can you go wrong with truffle anything ?! Except this dish was extremely al dente to the point of being undercooked unfortunately.
Jacket that I thought was 49 EURO that was actually 490. Oops. I had three picked out for what I thought the price was! The vendor ending up causing quite a scene when the miscommunication was revealed.
We hiked to Piazza Michaelangelo for this beautiful view of the city
We had a fast meal at the top and I got this yummy butterflied hot dog. I love hot dogs! haha.
Dudes hanging out in the window of a seafood restaurant.
Oh ya baby... mountains of gelato!
Beautiful palace gardens in Florence
Florence's infamous locks of love. Lovers sign the lock and lock it together and then throw the key into the river. how romantic :D
We found a true blue pizzeria that the locals ate at... YUM! It was PACKED !
More jugs o' vino ! *happy girl*
Traditional Tuscan anti pasti- prosciutto, two varieties of salami and a crostini in the middle with a pate of chicken liver... This pate is everywhere in Florence and on many anti pasti platters but we weren't big fans even though I do enjoy pate!
I had my usual quatro framaggio! ... Unfortunately I couldn't taste this night *TEAR* but James raved about it... I have a really  bad sense of smell and taste, especially in the evening which is really hard for this foodie!!!
I could taste James' spicy sausage on this delicious pizza pie. Oh man his was good!
The highlight of our entire stay in Italy was a 60 Km bike ride to the town of Chianti in Tuscany... A-mazing scenic views and a very challenging bike ride with 22 km of the way there being straight up. This is how narrow the road was... This is a TWO way road and there was no shoulder for us to bike on... Scary!
Fields and fields of flowers, poppies, olive groves and vineyards.
At the peak of our bike ride we were recommended to head to this second floor restaurant... All Italian on the menu which is what we were looking for- none of this English tourist strap stuff! We ordered and the waitress just laughed at us and told us we had ordered the wrong dishes and not their house specialties.. So instead of lasagna James got this delicious seafood spaghetti!
I ordered the risotto which she said wasn't good and instead I got this A-MAZING seafood soup loaded with mussels and clams. Good thing we aren't allergic to seafood! HA!
Calamari to split for the second course... Yummy but as a Canadian I was looking for some tartar sauce or some type of dipping tzatziki/Greek yogurt to dip the squid in.
The staff got quite a kick out of us two Canadians and we got these as a surprise for dessert! We nicknamed them Nutella bombs because each one was jam packed with Nutella filling. Yum!
James mapping out our course home
For dinner that evening we had the best meal we had our entire stay in Florence just a few blocks from our hotel 4 km from the center of town. Here is the traditional Tuscan bottle in which house wine is served.

First course: sundried tomato bruschetta. Definitely the best bruchsetta we had and packed full with flavor and oil.
I had a thing for the black truffle sauce in Florence... Here is some mushroom bow tie pasta with black truffle.
O.M.G. homemade ravioli dumplings.... Filled with ricotta cheese and served with a heavenly tomato sauce... One of the best pasta dishes yet!
MMMM! Traditional Tuscan stew that has been simmering away for 12 hours... The beef literally melted in your mouth and the thick, rich red wine gravy was out of this world. One of the best dishes we had on our trip!
The stew was served with these comforting roasted potatoes that were seasoned to perfection and I loved the really crispy ones!
Our waiter was hilarious and couldn't speak a word of English. He took us right into the back of the kitchen to choose our desserts. James chose this flan which was smothered in honey... Mmmm
I chose the apple tart which ended up being pretty bland and dry... The entree was delicious though!
ROMA (Rome)
This is our first meal in Rome after arriving via bus... Ciabatta cut in half with ham, cheese and "salad" aka. lettuce.
The Vatican
The meal of a lifetime... We wandered for 2 hours in the pouring rain looking for a restaurant that was NOT a tourist trap and did NOT have English on the menu and where locals ate! It took a lot of searching but finally we past by this restaurant which had no sign and no menu illuminated outside the door... It was PACKED with Italians and the amazing waiter squished down some boisterous Italian women who we dined with and had one of the best meals of our lives for about 1/4 the price of the tourist traps...
We soon realized how lucky we were to be dining in this restaurant as a small crowd gathered outside of the restaurant vying for a seat that wasn't to be had... We were SO happy to be sitting at a table with strangers!!!! No menu- the waiter comes up and asks us "carbonara, tomato or lasagna?" I chose this carbonara as this is what most of the locals were eating.. O.M.G... Fresh Parmesan, bacon and an unbelievable sauce... Oh and can you tell the noodles are homemade ?! Yep - little Italian nana cooking in the back. Incredible.
The. Best. Lasagna. We've ever had. Hands down. Imagine six thinly rolled layers of homemade pasta, bechamel sauce and a tomato sauce to make a grown foodie weep.... *And the angels singggggg*
We didn't like our meals very much as you can see... Oh did I mention it was bottomless wine ?!
Second course! Love the way Italians eat... Anti pasti, pasta and then entree... This was a beef stew with potatoes in a delicious gravy that James had. There were only two entree choices and the waiter pointed to surrounding dishes and asked us which one we would like. HA!
I chose the tomato option which was thinly sliced roast beef rolled up and inside were carrot slices in this unbelievable tomato sauce... Mmmm.
We were served a large plate of cookies and biscotti for dessert which was meant to be dipped in the wine... Oh man what an amazing meal!
Here is us with the awesome waiter looking a bit rosy after that delicious meal and bottomless wine... He wrote our total on the table: only 45 Euro... unbelievable!!!!!
Love the open air markets selling nothing but cheese, meat, bread and wine.
The Colosseum was one of my favorite places that we visited. The stories were SO interesting about Gladiators fighting wild animals such as bears, lions, snakes and crocodiles before turning on themselves in the afternoons.
We watched the Royal Wedding live from an Irish Pub and had some comforting eats:
James just chose a ham & cheese baguette with chips and a salad.
I was craving curry at the pub so I got this chicken curry which I was expecting to have carrots, potatoes, onions etc as I was in need of some veg... Instead it came with just chicken and sauce but luckily the sauce was pretty tasty.
Sandwiches galore! There are baguette sandwiches like this EVERYWHERE to the point where I was sick of sandwiches.. haha in the airport all you could find was these too.
Za anyone? This pizzeria was packed... They kind of trick you because the posted price says $1.20 per slice so you think you are getting a great deal but it is actually $1.50/100 grams so they cut them HUGE... They were also really greasy and looked better than they tasted but still pretty! hehe
Roasted chestnuts near the Spanish Steps.
For me this was the dish to end all dishes... The dish I can't stop thinking about.. The best gnocchi I have ever had in my life... PERFECTLY cooked, homemade and in a gorgonzola cream sauce... There were CHUNKS of blue cheese throughout this dish... Oh man I shouldn't even be looking at this photo.. and the fantasies begin...
James ordered a hot dog pizza ? Anyways.. I win.. Mine was so good! HEHE!
What would a trip to Italy be without a true blue tiramisu ? NOM NOM NOM
Had to snap a photo of this Mozzarella Bar at the airport... Only in Italy!

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