We stayed at a B&B in a small town called Bibbona in the western part of Tuscany close to the ocean. It was 'fantastic' as Msgr. would say. Ryan and I got the matrimonial room with a fireplace, sitting room, and private garden. The idea had been to go around and do wine tastings at the surrounding vineyards but they were all closed so we took a day trip up to Siena instead. The drive through Tuscany was a highlight as spring is just starting to hit Italy. Everything was beginning to bloom and there was the fantastic smell in the air that only spring can bring. The song birds were out in full force and the lambs were frolicking in the fields (they were delicious, but more on that later.) In Siena we had a private mass at San Domenico, where St. Catherine's head is, and then it was off to eat and drink ourselves sick. If someone were to ask, I would say the theme of the trip was 'eat until you want to puke.' It was thoroughly gluttonous/glorious.
For me the food has been my favorite way to experience Italy. You get a very real sense of the culture and the people through their cuisine. Nothing can top a full Italian meal enjoyed over several hours with good wine and good company. The Italians are very proud of their products and each region has a special food and/or wine that they are known for. In Tuscany Sangiovese is king. This is a fantastic little grape that makes some great BIG wines. My favorites are the Brunellos and the Super Tuscans (-->Tignanello is to die for!) Tuscany is also known for its lamb, Chianina beef, wild boar, and truffles. You cannot go wrong with a menu like that. So, to celebrate Msgr.'s birthday in true Tuscan style, we went to a very fancy little place called Arnolfo that features contemporary Tuscan cuisine made with all organic local ingredients (we really are yuppies aren't we?) The meal began with champagne and a pre-appetizer and by the time we reached the pre-dessert course we were all in a collective food coma. We polished off eleven courses, the highlight being the tris of lamb, and left around 1am. Mary and I were literally food drunk afterward and fluctuated between bouts of extreme giddiness and extreme physical discomfort.
On our way back to Rome on Sunday, after one of the wackiest mass experiences ever, we stopped for lunch in the town of Porto Santo Stefano. I could not believe this place, it was like a mini Capri and it is only an hour drive from UD's campus. Who knew?! Porto Santo Stefano is on an island off the western coast, there is a causeway which you drive over to get there, kind of like driving to the Outer Banks in NC. It is apparently a very exclusive vacation spot for Italians. My pictures don't do it justice so I pulled some off the internet. The views and the sea food were out of this world. We will definitely be going back.
After this weekend I am not quite sure how I can eat anything ever again. Please be assured that we do NOT do this often. It was all Msgr.'s idea and I put the blame for this extravagance squarely on him. My next post will be on the joys of caring for 105 nineteen year olds, then you will see how I really live.
(Pictures from this weekend will be posted soon. Ryan and I forgot our camera, so all the pictures are on Msgr.'s camera.)