Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Staying at La Tavola Marche Agritourismo and taking an Italian Cooking Class

For the last stop on our vacation before heading back to Rome to catch our flight home, we had booked a two night stay at an aguritourismo in Piobbico, Italy, called La Tavola Marche. It was located on the East side of the country about a 5 hour drive south of Venice and about 5 hours north of Rome.
I ended up finding out about this place randomly by clicking through to a "how to travel like a local" article on a website when I wasn't even researching for our trip. I posted a request for information about dates we could stay and had to fill in my information on their website. The owner saw that we were from Washington and couldn't believe it because they were actually American's who moved to Italy 6 years ago and they grew up in Ballard, WA. We knew it was meant to be so we booked it. 
This is their beautiful kitchen in their farmhouse. They ended up moving to Italy and starting their cooking school after they took a trip here on their honeymoon. Jason, the chef and cooking instructor trained in French cooking, but has adapted his classes to focus on the true Italian style of fresh, seasonal and delicious! Click here to read about their wonderful cooking classes. 
I was a little hesitant to book with an American couple because since we were in Italy we wanted the Italian experience, but by the end of our trip we were SO excited to have another couple to speak English with, and they just happened to be from our home state! 
This was our quaint little room. We had our own kitchen and bathroom too. 
This was THE most comfortable bed we slept in for our whole trip! Finally a regular queen mattress!

We were the only people staying with them at the time, but there was another chef from British Columbia staying with Ashley and Jason for about three weeks to train with Jason. The first night we all ate dinner together in their kitchen and got to know one another. Then the next morning we started our day with a lovely breakfast delivered to our room by Ashley and then headed down for our cooking class. 
This was the morning class menu: 
Hungry yet? I was most excited to learn how to make the egg pasta. 

We shucked the peas outside to soak up the sunshine. The peas that Jason bought at the market were SO fresh and delicious! 

Here we are making our fresh egg pasta. 
You have to let it sit out and dry for about an hour or so before you cut it. 
We went out in the field and picked fresh wild greens to put into our ricotta ravioli with toasted walnuts and sage. Let me tell you... this filling for the ravioli was to die for! We used fresh ricotta cheese that Jason made and added lemon zest and the wild greens.I just kept eating it plain before we added it to the pasta because it tasted so good.

We sat down and everyone ate all the food we learned how to cook for our lunch, and then we had a couple hour break before we started the afternoon class where we would be cooking the dinner for the evening. 
They raise their own chickens and have a large garden where they grow most of their own food. :) 
The afternoon menu: 

This was a dish we made with veal, tomatoes, fresh herbs and potatoes. I haven't tried a dish like this before and it turned out really yummy. I really liked the flavor the potatoes took on from the other ingredients. 
We made a homemade aoli for the asparagus with an ostrich egg! Jason grilled the asparagus in the fire for a couple minutes to get that charred flavor. YUM!

Brandon, the chef from Vancouver said that we did a really good job and enjoyed our food. :) 
After filling our bellies to the brim we enjoyed a yummy dessert that we made, an apple-nut roll, and then shared stories about what we missed the most about home before calling it a night. 

The next day we headed back to Rome for our last night in Italy and then caught our flight home. We had such an amazing experience and are so glad that we were able to get to do this fun adventure together!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Venice - The floating city! Photos from our stay in Venice.

Ah, Venice! The floating/sinking city! What a sight to see. It was truly amazing to get to visit this unique city. 
We drove over the bridge to the giant parking garages outside of the city and then donned our backpacks and took a small boat called a Vaporetto from there to St. Marks Square. 
Our phone was about to die and we had no idea how to get around the city so we took a picture with our camera of the name and address of our hotel so if we needed to we could ask the locals to point us in the right direction. 
Here is another vaporetto passing us.
What a fun adventure!
This is the view of St. Marks Square from the boat. 

We started making our way through the city to find our hotel so we could drop off our backpacks. The weather was pretty hot and muggy today!

I love this shot of all of the gondolas lined up. 
We followed the path marked to the Rioalto bridge because we knew our hotel was a little ways past there. 

We found our hotel without stopping to ask for directions! The Foscari Palace! Another recommendation from my parents. They highly recommended it because it has great central access to everywhere and has an awesome rooftop patio where you can watch the boats go by in grand canal and take in the beautiful views and sunsets of the city. 
The rooms were nicely decorated. I am not sure why every bed and bedding in Italy is built for a twin...
This is the view from the rooftop patio.

You could see the tower in St. Marks square, and that is the grand canal. 

We dropped off our backpacks and started walking all around the city to take it all in. 
It was so cool to watch the gondoliers navigate the skinny canals and use their feel to push off the sides of the buildings to propel them forward. 
This is the famous Rialto bridge. It has covered shops across it and it was built in 1591!

Back in St. Marks Square. They were hosting a college graduation in the square. In Italian culture, your family members dress you up embarrassingly and parade you around the town after you walk at graduation. Everyone was singing the same song as they paraded their graduates through the town, so we looked it up to see what they were singing. It was a song that was made up to basically to make fun of them and keep the new graduate level headed so they don't get too proud of themselves now that they were a college graduate. 

The famous Venetian lions.

Enjoying the sunset from our rooftop trying to figure out where we wanted to go for dinner. 

We ended up going to a place right around the corner. It was packed so they ended up seating us at a table that was connected to another table of four. The people they seated next to us were from England and were totally halarious! They ended up sharing their wine with us and then in the end they paid for our whole dinner. This was their best attempt at posing for a picture with us!! Haha!
Everyone is always so friendly when you are traveling. 

The next day we headed out walking aging to check out the other side of the Grand Canal. When we were first arriving to Venice on the vaparetto, there was this interesting glass case and building at the end of the point by St. Marks Square so we thought we would head that direction to check it out. 
We ended up walking for about 4 hours and stopped in lots of shops along the way. We got some lunch and candies at a chocolate shop. I tried a dried orange slice covered in dark chocolate! Delicious!

So we finally made it to our destination and cracked up laughing. The building was a really cool church, but the glass case had a sculpture in it of a naked little boy holding a frog! Definitely not what we were expecting!

We didn't end up paying for a private gondola ride, but we did take the little gondola water taxis across the grand canal. 

Venice was a very cool place to experience and if you have never been here before, you should definitely include it as a stop on your Italian vacation. I wouldn't recommend more than a two nights stay, it is easy to see the whole city in that amount of time. 

After touring Venice, we headed to our last stop on our trip, to stay at a farmhouse and take an Italian cooking class an agritourismo called La Tavola Marche in La Marche in Piobbico.