Italy Has My Heart

August 17, 2021

Italy Has My Heart

As I sit down to write this post about the amazing trip we had to Italy, I’m not even sure where to begin. We covered so much ground, experienced so many magical locations, and ate our weight in delicious food. We were blessed to have had seven full days in Italy and a bonus day in Paris. From the moment we landed in Venice, we hit the ground running at full speed. We immediately went from the airport to the train station and took a high-speed train to Florence. From there we headed to our Airbnb to quickly freshen up and then straight to one of my favorite restaurants, L’osteria di Giovanni.

Florence, Italy

I had the pleasure of eating at Giovanni’s back in 2012. This latest experience was just as amazing as I  remembered. You not only get some of the best food you’ve ever eaten, but you also get the best service you will ever experience anywhere. The waitstaff is very personable and appears to love their jobs. They go above and beyond to make sure everything is perfect and you are enjoying your time in their restaurant. They are constantly bringing “presents” to the table, in the form of food and drinks you can’t find anywhere else. This dinner included presents of soup, two different desserts, a house-made butterscotch liqueur, another liqueur with mandarin oranges, a plate of house-made biscotti, as well as a bag of their biscotti to go. I must add that Giovanni’s biscotti is not like American biscotti. It is soft and unlike anything, I have ever had in the states. I dream of this biscotti. For an appetizer, we had goose carpaccio. Back in 2012, I had their duck carpaccio and I still dream of that appetizer to this day, the goose was almost as good. For our entrees we had Tortelli stuffed with pear and pecorino cheese in a cream sauce with leeks and almond shavings as well as, potato raviolini with porcini mushrooms and a truffle cream sauce. The lighting in the restaurant is terrible for taking photographs and because of that, the photos below do not do the food justice.      

Cinque Terre

The next day we headed back to the train station and on to Cinque Terre. This is a group of five villages along the coastline. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. We only had the day there so unfortunately we only made it to two of the villages. We enjoyed walking, wandering, and stopping whenever we found something special. On this day we happened upon a Michelin starred restaurant, Rio Bistrot. We tried the “if you trust us menu,” which was six courses of the chef’s choice. Everything we were served was caught fresh that morning. The best courses were hand-breaded calamari with pesto and zucchini, fried cod with fennel and garlic cream, as well as, steamed sea bass with cannellini beans, and pickled onion. The food at this restaurant was delicious however, it wasn’t the best food from our trip. Before we went back to Florence that evening we stopped at a little gelato shop and had affogato- gelato drowned in a shot of hot espresso.

Florence, Italy

On our last day in Florence, we discovered Gino’s. That is where you will find the best pastries.  Trust me, we ate a lot of pastries. Most mornings consisted of cappuccino and pastries, some evenings included this as well. Stopping for charcuterie along your way is always a good idea while visiting Florence. When you are on vacation you have to try everything, right?

Cortina, Italy

Our next adventure location was the Dolomites. These mountains are gorgeous. We drove to Cortina, a little village near the top of the mountains. The drive up was breathtaking the entire way. In Cortina, we wandered and had lunch at Hotel Cortina. The food was decent but nothing to rave about.

Mezzane di Sotto

We are now on the adventure I can’t stop talking about, truffle hunting. We met Michele and Ika- the cutest truffle hunting dog, in Mezzane di Sotto which is outside Verona. He took us for espresso at the local pub and then to the surrounding mountains. The first forest we arrived at was something out of a Disney storybook. It looked like the type of forest that fairies live in. The leaves were all over the ground, there were boulders and rocks covered in moss, and the air was crisp. We followed Ika around as she had her nose to the ground searching. Within the first fifteen minutes of our hunt, she started digging. Michele stopped her and finished the dig. She had found our first truffle of the day. I will never forget the smell of fresh truffle. We continued following her around the forest as she found truffle after truffle. Most of the truffles she could retrieve from the ground fully herself and then she would bring them to Michele. Michele and Ika had such a beautiful bond. They were best friends and Ika was family, not just a dog. After collecting around ten truffles, we moved on to a different location in the mountains a few minutes up the road. In this location, Ika found an abundance of truffles. Many of them were very small so Michele would let her keep those and eat them. We hunted for truffles for a couple of hours in total and then Michele took us to a mountain restaurant to enjoy local cuisine and one of the truffles Ika uncovered.

This restaurant didn’t have a sign and we didn’t see anyone receive a menu. The food we were served was by far the most amazing food I have ever eaten. To start off we received gnocchi that was made from fresh cheese and seasonings only. There were no potatoes or flour in this gnocchi. It was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten, it just melted in our mouths. It was topped with a very light and delicate cream sauce and we shaved our fresh truffle on the top. From there it was family style. One plate of a variety of meats- from carpaccio to a melt in your mouth roast, to sausage. There was a plate of some sort of vegetable mix, a plate of pickled pearl onions, a plate with roasted potatoes, and cheese-stuffed tomatoes. The last thing served family style was a bowl of peara, which is a traditional Veronese sauce made with bread crumbs, stock, beef marrow, and black pepper. It tasted like the best gravy you never knew existed. This whole meal is indescribable. If I could have one meal for the rest of my life, this would be it. I have eaten in many different countries and restaurants and this meal was on a different level than anything else I’ve ever eaten. To finish the experience we had an apple streusel for dessert along with more espresso. If you ever go to Italy, you must go on this adventure.  

Cheese gnocchi
One of the truffles Ika found

Venice, Italy

The next two days we spent in Venice and the surrounding area. We wandered, spent time in a few different cafes, and got lost in Venice. We ate different pastries each morning and even stumbled upon a Saturday street market where the locals were getting all their groceries for the week. The wonderful thing about the cafes in Italy is you can either have an espresso or an alcoholic beverage. We met lovely people, laughed so hard, and ate everything that looked amazing. Italy is a place I could visit and never leave. It has everything from the mountains, to the oceans, to the rolling hills with wineries and olive trees. Espresso and pastries ran through our veins while awe and wonder-filled our hearts.

Paris, France

On our way home, we had a twenty-four-hour layover in Paris. We took full advantage of this and walked the city to see as much as we possibly could. We had an amazing lunch at a restaurant down the street from our cute little hotel. We shared a warm goat cheese salad and a Croque Madame.  We had gelato after lunch and again before we were in for the evening. We also had espresso throughout the day, at this point I think we were running on it. We ate dessert at Laduree- which has the best macarons. We had drinks at The Louvre to warm up and saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night. The morning our plane left Paris to head back to America, we had the perfect French breakfast at our hotel. It consisted of baguette toast, fresh yogurt, cheese, two soft-boiled eggs, house-made jam, a croissant, orange juice, and a cappuccino. I couldn’t think of a better way to end our adventures.

Macarons from Laduree


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