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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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October 10, 2010

The Grand Tour Ends and On a "High" Note

When Part II ended, we were headed toward our "light" lunch at a winery which, after our cheese, wine, and gelato, I figured would probably be some more cheese and a platter of their various cured meats. We drove to a vineyard in a beautiful setting.  It is an agriturismo, which means that in addition to their vineyard (and whatever else they grow and produce), they've converted some of their space into small apartments for people like me. Here's the view that greeted us when we arrived.

Their agriturismo also has a trattoria on the property and we had lunch there outside on the covered patio.  Already on the table were two platters of cheese - one had about 6 different cheeses on it and the other just had two and I'm thinking they were probably parmesan and something else.  I never did get to them.  There was also a platter with lardo (which I have been meaning to try since I heard about it) and pancetta, a mostly fat with a little lean, round "bacon".  But since it's cured it doesn't have to be cooked and this wasn't.

On another platter were more of the Italian cured meats - salamis and mortadella which tastes very much like our boloney but has little discs of fat in it.  And on a platter all by itself was a heaping mound of prosciutto.  Ah, bella, bella Italia!  We started with a sparkling white, moved on to a chardonnay, and then came a choice of three reds - or try them all!  A Barbera, a Cabernet, and a merlot.  And in the midst of eating everything we had put on our plates, here came dishes of penne with a sausage-y, creamy sauce!  I had just a bit of that cause I had assumed that what was on the table was what there was to eat, so I hadn't skimped.  Oh, and there was good bread too, of course.  I had to stop and think real hard about dessert and yes, there was one ... plates of various bite-sized pieces of little fruit tarts which were delicious but, by then, paled in comparison to all we had eaten.  And dessert was served with a walnut liqueur which as usual, was very strong.

I forgot to mention that this winery produces wine from organic grapes which is becoming more and more popular both with growers and drinkers.  I admit that to my inexperienced palate, there was no difference but one of my neighbors swears by it.

So, here are the pictures from the winery and incredibly enough, I didn't take any of the groaning board (or the nice folks around it)!  Ah, well...

The main harvest is pretty much over, but there were still folks out cleaning out what was left.

This picture reminds me of one of those late 1800's paintings - very bucolic.

Not the best picture cause I was basically shooting into the sun, but I wanted to show this one section of very craggy hills surrounded by all the typical, rolling hills all around it.  Would be interesting to know what caused this.

Just more pretty countryside...

Now, be happy - we next went to the prosciutto place, but as Alessandro had warned us, we were all pretty much in a zoned out state - stuffed and a little tiddley so I'm afraid I was beyond absorbing much more information except for the fact that each ham goes through several aging areas, gets slathered with a special type of fat by a man who does it with "passionate love" and, if it's lucky, gets the D.O.P. designation. Oh, and the D.O.P. inspection for the hams includes sticking a special "stick" made of bone into it and smelling it. Lucky or not, it is certainly a wonderful mouthful - and I say that with passionate love!  And do you know, I feel sure we had some samples there but I can't even remember that! :)

And here are just four pictures and then we're done.

The ham with the hams.  And Alessandro - if you ever read this, that means you're a really great entertainer, so don't be offended. :)

LOTS of hams...these are still fairly early on in the aging process because they're not black like...

these.  The actual meat that's exposed with no skin over it gets hard and turns very dark.  Then it's time to slather it with a protective coating of fat.

And, as I said, that is done with passionate love.  In fact if I remember correctly, I think Alessandro said it must be done with passionate love.

And that only increases my passionate love of Italy! :)

Oh, I'll post this here but also go back to Part I and post it at the beginning.  For all of you who have decided you have to come over here and take this tour before Alessandro becomes world famous, here is his website:
www.italiandays.it . Enjoy!!


January said...

What did the ham room smell like? In my mind it would smell delicious, but maybe not in reality? I approve of any culture that refers to preparing food as something that must be done with passionate love, so kudos to the Italians!
This must've been one of the most pleasant days ever. And the view at the vineyard is unbelievable!

Christopher said...

Seems like every trip flto Italy should include this particular excursion--- though maybe over 2 days since you were too zoned out to remember the prosciutto!!

Hi! said...

It didn't smell bad at all but I don't recall it smelling all that hammy either although what smell there was was ham. The parmesan place was what really smelled - and, again not bad, just CHEESE! And, yes, it was a very good day. As was that cooking class in Cinque Terre except for the breaking of the camera. They were both things I was very glad I ended up deciding to do. Oh, and good gracious yes - must add the truffle hunt to that. That started out kind of eclipsed by the stress of getting me there, but on my goodness, what a day once there! All very good selections and all would be very highly recommended by me to anyone coming to Italy.


Hi! said...

Well, yes, we were kind of done in by then, but then too, there just didn't seem to be as much to say about this as about the cheese especially and even about the balsamico. It was funny because really, aside from that topping up every year, there's just not much going on with the balsamico and yet Alessandro went on and on about it - I think he must be a real balsamico afficianado. And he probably went on quite a bit about the prosciutto but that's where the big meal got in the way. There was very little activity there though or at the balsamico place. Those two things just seem to sit and age. As does the cheese of course, but it has to get made first and that's a real process you can watch.


Diane Adams said...

Mary Lynne: This tour of Italy has been most wonderful to look at and read. I shared it with my best friend who was here visiting me this weekend and she found it all very amazing.

Hi! said...

Thanks Diane! That's very nice to hear. :)

From the Editor's Desk... said...

A little note from Heather today:

WOW! Is about all I can say for those pictures. What beautiful countryside. I must also say, I very much enjoyed learning all about how the ham and vinegar is made. I hope you got to buy some of each. I REALLY miss our chats and can't wait to see you. Be safe in your final days of travels there and I'll see you real soon! Love you.


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