Gubbio for R&R…

Our Hotel in front of the main square

Our Hotel in front of the main square

The Man and I were feeling a tad fed up so we thought we would spend a couple of nights in one of our favourite Italian towns – Gubbio. If you remember we visited there last year and were pretty impressed and promised that we would return. We had hoped to go back in June 2014 but it didn’t happen so this June (2015), finding ourselves in need of a little R&R we toddled off in the VW Polo just after lunch on a rather miserable Wednesday last week. Jpeg and Mickey (the dog and the cat respectively – you should all know them by now) were given strict instructions to behave themselves while we were away, Jpeg was left in charge – it was her turn. A kind neighbour was going to pop in several times over the two days to deal with food and exercise etc.,

Oh the freedom of the open road and no responsibilities – for a short while anyway – it recharges the batteries like nothing else can. By the time we arrived the clouds had cleared away revealing blue skies and a warm evening.

TheManRelaxing

The Man Relaxing with a cuppa after a two and a half hour drive – By the way, I did the driving!

Our choice of hotel was the Relais Ducale – same as last time but a better room than before – a suite no less and with a the private terrace with stunning view. If you’re going to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights for a break then I think it’s a good idea to go for the best.

View from Terrace and Me!

View from Terrace and Me!

The first evening we went to the Taverno Del Lupo restaurant, we’d visited it before and found the ambience pleasing, if a little old fashioned and the food excellent. We were not disappointed for our second visit. The lamb was as good as ever.

Taverna del Lupo

During the day on Thursday we took in the town, it doesn’t take long – beautiful architecture and The Man has a fascination with the doors – which meant I had to take lots of ‘door photos’ with my iPhone as The Man doesn’t have a camera and has an old fashioned brick for a mobile – which by the way he never carries on him!

GubbioDoors

A selection of Doors – Interesting – maybe

tinystreet

Beautiful little Alleyway with Flower pot in the centre

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view from main square

The view from the main piazza looking down over the town and into the distance.

Gubbio has a Funivia – a cable way is the direct translation but one could expect a cable car or chair lift. What this is actually is a cage which holds two people and maybe a child but you have to stand up. We watched the ‘cages’ coming down and round and there seemed no time at all to get on or off. We agreed to give it a miss this time and save it for the next. I’m not good on those sorts of things but know that I must do it sometime. I blamed the windy weather this time, not the sort of thing to do in a force 10. (Sorry no photo but you can google it to see one!)

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre

Our second night found us wandering around and leaving the city walls for a look at the Roman theatre. There’s not much of it left but enough to imagine a few Roman actors strutting their stuff.

On our way back up to the town we came across a restaurant we’d not seen before – it was the Officina dei Sapori (Workshop of Flavours although I prefer to translate it as the Flavour Garage). It was a real find. We were treated well, shown our seats and immediately given a glass of sparkling rosé and the menu card, which reminded me of an old telephone numbers pad we had in leather when I was a kid. You run your finger down the index and flip up the course you wanted to see – interesting.

Restaurant

Restaurant

Menu Card

Menu Card

We are spoilt for local restaurants back in Petritoli but this had just that something different. Modern décor, unusual menu, good food and excellent service. Three courses and wine (which was organic) for a total of 67 euro. Wonderful – we’ll be visiting there again! Although not many people were there when we arrived at an early 7.30pm by the time we left they were queuing for tables.

On Friday morning we made our way back to Petritoli but made a stop in Jesi something The Man had wanted to do for a long while. I’ll blog about that next week but here’s a photo for a taster.

Jesi - Anyone know the name of the square?

Jesi – Anyone know the name of the square?

Eating Out Is Not All It’s Cooked Up To Be…

Pasta....

Pasta….

I expect many of you will disagree with this post but having had a summer of too many restaurant meals I have been giving some thought to this area of our lives.

I love food, there is no doubt about that and we have a huge number of places to choose from to eat here in Italy and on the whole it’s not too expensive. What it is though is mostly variations on a theme. Antipasti, (cold meats, cheese, olives etc.,) Primo (pasta dishes) Secondo (meat or fish) Contorni (sides, salads, veg, potatoes etc.,) and dolci (desserts). The meals are humungous and it takes about three hours to get through them. We, that is The Man and I have come to the conclusion that if we eat out in Italy we want to do it at lunchtime so that by the time we go to bed the food has had time to be partly digested. If we eat out in the evening then invariably we can’t sleep and suffer from indigestion. I know we’re getting on a bit but that’s not necessarily the problem.

Apart from the lack of variety in the Italian restaurants there are very few if any other types of restaurant other than Italian in this area. Fine if you’re on holiday but when you live here? We need a little more choice and I did find something different in October…

I’m not a lover of burgers and American food but we had visitors who I took for a walk along the seashore at Grottamare one lunchtime. Neither of my guests wanted to eat seafood and most of the restaurants by the sea serve predominantly fish. I remembered I’d see something about an American Food place opening in San Benedetto only a few kilometres down the road. A quick phone call (thank you India) and off we went. It was brilliant. What a change it made to eat something different. I feared it would be quasi American with pasta definitely showing somewhere on the menu but no, Caesar Salad, burgers (real), pancakes, maple syrup, (yum) American Cheesecake, it was like being in New York and I was frantically texting my daughter in Brooklyn, I don’t think she could understand why I was so excited.

The White Bakery

The White Bakery

I really enjoyed my lunch and felt it was worth every cent…

Recently, last week in fact, we went to the UK. The choice was huge, Italian, English, French, Thai, Indian, Moroccon, Mexican and that was just in Lyme Regis! (joke). I suffered from indigestion nearly everyday, a full stomach, a few pounds heavier and an empty wallet by the end of the trip.

In Bristol we had; a disappointing curry (3/10), fish and chips, very good (9/10) it was in the top 100 fish&chip shops in the UK. One lunch was taken at the Waterfront, watery soup, salty mussels and not so good fish pie (4/10)

In Bournemouth a fish restaurant we went to was very good (8/10) but quite pricey and afterwards we decided they were trying to be too fussy and less fancy would have been preferable. A bit of indigestion kicked in around 11pm. We did have a fantastic breakfast though in our hotel, a Full English (10/10) from which we are deprived here and although I cook it at home, the bacon is not right, the sausages just not the same and baked beans are about 2.50 euro a tin!

Not only do I love food, I love cooking and have come to the conclusion that eating at home is actually much better than eating out at a restaurant. Years ago, eating out or getting a takeaway (only pizza takeaway here) was a special treat and now it has become the norm for many people. At home I can conjure up most things, I bring over spices from the UK so that we can have Thai curries, I make shepherd’s pie, roast dinners (with all the trimmings and lashings of gravy), soups and fish dishes. I also cook pasta. The Man loves my cooking, it doesn’t cost us much and we don’t get indigestion!

I’m not dissing all restaurants and I’m not saying I never want to go to any again. I love meeting up with friends and going out. But, I have to say that it’s mostly better if you meet up at someone’s house and take a dish or two. Sharing is caring. Also you get to speak to everyone that way. When you are at a big table and go out to dinner you can only really converse with your immediate neighbours. I think a romantic dinner in a restaurant is a great thing to do on a special occasion, except on Valentine’s night when they hike the prices up everywhere.

My favourite restaurants locally.

I Piceni (romantic dinner) Fab desserts.

Dessert I Piceni

Dessert I Piceni

Mamma Rosa’s (family and friends) Nutella pizza anyone?

Parco Galeano (family and friends) good homemade bread gets thumbs up.

Re Squarchio (family and friends, or romantic for two) quality cooking

Ristorante Roma (a must for Sunday lunch…although you won’t get roast dinner!) Definitely a family favourite! (their site seems to be down at the moment so I’ll add a link later)

Best meal out this year was back in April in Taverna Del Lupo in Gubbio where we had the tastiest and most beautifully cooked lamb we’ve eaten since being in Italy. Oh and of course the wine is good and soooo much cheaper here.

Taverna Del Lupo Gubbio

Taverna Del Lupo Gubbio

Off to Thailand in December, I cannot wait to sample the food. Maybe I’ll change my mind about eating out?

Dining, Dancing, Doting Nonna…..

Viareggio

Viareggio in the Evening Sun

Long time no blog. That’s because Olivespastavino has been travelling – a lot!

In the middle of March we drove up to the North of Italy, first to Viareggio inTuscany, then on to Apricale in Liguria and finally a visit to Gubbio in Umbria. It was fabulous. We absolutely loved each place and plan to visit Gubbio again in June, specifically the Relais Ducale. Another Blog post with more info to follow next week.

Apricale

Apricale Piazza

Gubbio

Gubbio Hotel Relais Ducale

At the very end of March I jumped on a flight to the UK to meet up with my lovely daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, they live in New York so this was an opportunity to meet up. Sadly they were visiting the UK because of bereavement on my son-in-law’s side of the family.

The weather was fabulous and despite a sickness bug (for them not me) we managed to have a wonderful time. A visit to Hampton Court Palace Gardens was the highlight. A truly English experience. Spring flowers, shrubs, trees, foot paths and all beside the river Thames.

flowershcp

Spring Flowers in Hampton Court Palace Gardens

Wide Pathways and Beautiful Trees Hampton Court Palace Gardens

Wide Pathways and Beautiful Trees Hampton Court Palace Gardens

It really is truly wonderful being a grandmother, Nonna in Italian.  I love it! Of course I have got the most beautiful granddaughter in the whole world…who hasn’t? Every moment spent with her is precious, she lives so far away.

Nonna and Grandchild

Nonna and Grandchild

I returned to Italy for just one week and then went off again. This time to Northern Ireland for a grand dinner and knees up…splendid do, The Man polished up quite well for this and he was a lot better than the dog at selfies!

3photo

From Belfast we travelled over to Bristol where again the sun shone. After visiting Cardiff for family business The Man and I went our separate ways for a few days, him to London and I stayed in Bristol where I suddenly got the fitness bug!

My friend Jan took me to the gym, I don’t often like them but this one was rather lovely…Bristol Health and Fitness I did ten minutes on the bike, ten minutes on the running machine and then five minutes on a machine for toning biceps and triceps, it was a bit like riding a bicycle with my arms. Think I only covered a few metres though. We then had a swim, me in the slow lane and Jan in the fast. I never was any good at swimming.

This is Jan not me!

This is Jan not me!

Jan gave me some of her old gym clothing and I invested in a good sports bra – very necessary! The very next day I borrowed a pair of trainers and I went for a run, yes a RUN – well a walk with a bit of jogging thrown in for good measure. It took me half an hour, up the road and round the park.  I felt very proud of myself.

Back in Italy I am determined to carry on what I have started but so far the bra has only had one outing and I’ve yet to buy the running shoes. BUT – today I collected a registration form from the local gym in Valmir. Not quite up to the Bannatyne standard but what the heck. Watch this space.

Hope you all had a good Easter, our Sunday lunch was taken at Parco Galeano again this year, 33 euro for a meal of several delicious courses, wine, coffee and liqueurs thrown in! No wonder I need the gym!

Easter Sunday Lunch

Easter Sunday Lunch

 

easterlunch2

Thanks for the photos Ivo!