Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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Last Day In Tuscany

On our last day at Salvadonica we rented bikes, and explored the area checking out the closest town and the surrounding wineries. Jeannine got an e-bike and I got a regular hybrid. I am a cyclist, and ride to and from work in the nice weather. The ride has hills and its about eight and a half miles each way. Yet, those Tuscan hills kicked my butt. I was cursing my decision while watching Jeannine motor up the hills with ease.

We ended the day with messages and a lovely dinner at the restaurant on the premises at Salvadonica. The servers at the restaurant were a bit slow, even by Italian standards, but the food was excellent. It was a great way to wrap up our relaxing stay in the country. Tomorrow we checked out and started our busy, and exhausting Rome adventures.


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Cooking Is More Fun In Italy

Salvadonica offered cooking classes every morning, and we decided to sign-up for this as a group. We were doubtful when we learned that the price was 120 euros per person, but were swayed when we learned we would prepare and then eat a 3 course meal that came with complementary wine.

This experience was just lovely. The chef was a wonderful teacher and answered all our questions about regional differences between cuisine in the north vs south of Italy. We made fresh ravioli by hand in a pancetta cream sauce, roasted pork stuffed with raisins, Parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs and a ricotta and dark chocolate tart. She was Sicilian and explained how the pasta recipe differs in the north vs the south and why. We asked about Tuscan olive oil, and she wryly said that the Tuscans think theirs is the best. She described the flavor profiles that olive oils from the south of the country will have vs the north.

This foodie loved every minute of this class. I know we peppered her with a zillion questions, and it was lovely that she seemed delighted to answer them. I would almost say I enjoyed cooking more than eating the food, but that would be a lie. That meal is one of my favorite of all time. Our chef gave us copies of all the recipes we used, so Jeannine and I are most certainly inviting over friends and giving them a go this spring.


Tuscany Is Gorgeous

I got distracted with stuff like seeing Lucius at Memorial Hall last night, and making feeble attempts at putting in our garden. To be fair our efforts have been strong, the constant rain has impeded out progress. In case anyone decides to remove 800 square feet of honeysuckle and rose of sharon and reseed grass in it and carve out a garden space, let me stop you right now. It is mountains of very hard, very slow work. This may or may not be a warning to my future self, who might be trolling through my past posts to remember how we tore those devil weeds out. KATE, YOU SUPER HATED THIS TASK. PAY SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

Now then, back to Italy. After our 4 days in Florence we took a bus out to the Tuscan country side. We stayed at an olive farm that is also a resort. The trip out there was a bit of an adventure, which involved off-roading with our massive roller suitcases and sympathetic drivers pulling over to ask if we needed assistance.

The resort, Salvadonica, was a 15 minute walk from the closest town, and there was little to do apart from soaking in the gorgeous countryside by taking walks or relaxing by the pool. This was a dramatic slow down from our sightseeing in Florence, and it was very welcome. We were treated to this incredible sunset our first night there.

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Day Trip to Genoa

On our last day in Florence, we took a day trip to Genoa. It just didn’t make as much sense to get to Genoa from Rome which is where we were headed the day after. Unfortunately, we decided Venice will have to happen on your second trip to Italy, which we are certain we will take in the future.

Jeannine’s mom’s family came from Genoa and small towns in the general vicinity. So we wanted to get the vibe of that city. We didn’t really think our day through in advance, which proved to work to our detriment. After three days of walking all over Florence we were beat and decided we needed a sleep in. That meant that we didn’t get on a train to Genoa until 11. And in turn that didn’t put us Genoa around 2pm. The last train back to Florence left the station at 7pm.

Those five hours were too much time to just walk around the city, and they were not enough to go to the Aquarium or any of the other museums there. In addition, Italians eat dinner, late, 8pm at earliest. So, trying to get some dinner before hopping back on the train was difficult. We found may places we were interested in, but they opened too late. Net, we think a second, better planned visit is in our future.

We did manage to eat some focaccia and pesto, two foods the region is known for. And they were both great. Jeannine tried zucchini focaccia, and it was super. I tried the cheese focaccia, and it was a little more dense than what I was hoping for. We both had pesto at dinner, and we both enjoyed what we had very much.

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The Duomo Through Telephoto

Yesterday, I promised Satan munching on human snacks. The day has come. The Satan pic is directly below the Jesus picture in the upper right corner of the mosaic below. Enjoy.

When as I was going through these pictures, I was reminded of how much I admired the craftsmanship on display at all of the places we visited in Italy. And… it reminded me of how little we strive to make things beautiful in the United States. This seems particularly striking to me while I was driving down Colerain Ave. in Cincinnati. It’s a massive 4 lane road, that somehow also manages to be monstrously congested, and lined with oceans of dingy strip malls. It’s at once boring and chaotic, and particular mix that seems difficult to achieve. It’s disgusting.

And it’s not hard to see why Americans don’t value place. It’s because all the visual queues tell them those spaces are throwaway. The roads and parking lots are made for cars and not people. The buildings are constructed in the cheapest possible way. Construction from the 90’s is already looking dilapidated. Everything thing about this space is constructed for the maximum extraction of value.

I suspect that this is really just an offshoot of a larger truth. Italians value history over progress. They value quality over quantity. They value people over capital. America is in contrast on each of these. And seeing a culture that has chosen differently, reminds me that these are choices rather than forgone conclusions.

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The Duomo & Several Bottles of Prosecco

On our third day in Florence we toured the Duomo Baptistry and the church as well as it’s underground crypt. Then we hunted and gathered deli meats and cheeses, bread, and wine, and headed to Michelangelo Park for an afternoon listening to music and enjoying the view until the sun went down. Yes, that afternoon was just a lovely as it sounds, especially when you consider 6 adults probably drank 3 bottles of wine and 4, perhaps 5 bottles of prosecco.

The Duomo was interesting. The Baptistry was stunning and ornate. The exterior of the Duomo is imposing with all that colored marble. The museum was fascinating, showing the history of the Duomo and the facades that it’s had across the hundreds of years that it’s been standing; it was started in 1200’s and finished in the 1400’s. Which is why it was so confusing that the Duomo itself wasn’t ornately decorated.

The crypt under the Duomo had some of what you might expect, dead people, of some of what you might not, the old sanctuary floor mosaics. When you want to update something in Italy, you just build on top of the old stuff. And that’s apparently exactly what they did with the Duomo. They just built a new floor above the old sanctuary floor, and that was that, new and improved church. This was on the only instance of this happening. Be on the look out for St Clément’s in Rome.

After lots of church time, these heathens when on the hunt for picnic provisions and headed to the park. The weather couldn’t have been nicer to lounge in the sun. We ate drank so many bottles of wine and prosecco, and heard live music. It was a much needed break from walking and absorbing information.

I think I got a great shot of satan chowing down on people, a scene on The Baptistry ceiling. I will leave in suspece for that until tomorrow.


David Up Close

I can already tell were getting some of these David pictures printed in a triptych or something. Here’s Jeannine’s shots with the telephoto lens of the same places we visited in my post yesterday. I wrote most of my thoughts on the matter there. This one is just all picutures and mostly David. Because what could possibly be more magnificent.



This is where we had the best pizza of the trip. It’s a market in Florence. The bottom functions as a food market, and only operates in the mornings. Upstairs there’s food stalls that stay open until the late afternoon. These guys made the best pizza I have ever eaten. I also got an amazing conollo here. 


This is where the best pizza was born.


Pope Snoke.