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Italy - Ed's journal
So, this weekend was a trip to Italy. The illustrious mrph had arranged a 'tasting experience' session, at a restaurant called Il Canto, which is one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. And as the person he was intending to be going with dropped out, I went along instead.

We flew out of London Stanstead, to Pisa, flying with RyanAir. Ryanair ... was an experiences, I must say. I can appreciate the notion of a low cost carrier, and how they're trying to keep prices right down, but ... well, I can't help but feel that they were just looking for excuses to sneak fees in wherever they could.

From Pisa, we went by train to Empoli, and then onwards to Sienna. Sienna is a very picturesque town, built on 3 hills - there's many winding roads, and they've made a real effort to keep the modern development out of the 'old town'.
Staying at the Hotel Certosa di Maggiano was certainly a delight - a monastery built in 1314.
But the centrepiece of the experience was the 'tasting experience' at Il Canto. Hard to describe this, really, as it was like ... well, almost nothing else I've experienced. mrph used the phrase - like a really good therapeutic massage for your tastebuds.
And it was. The food was 'a little bit experimental', but the flavour combinations were really quite incredible.
The 'taste of norway' plate, was a combination of caviar, cheese, and ... I think a sort of sea-water sorbet.
The 'taste of the earth' included some rich earthy flavours, including coffee, mushroom, I think toasted pumpkin, and one that will stick in my memory for quite some time - a tobacco leaf mousse.
A fascinating 'milk punch'.
An incredible aromatic leaf salad - with small italian and japanese salad leaves, providing a startling variety of flavours - and a sneaky smear of wasabi underneath.
Carrot sorbet, with fresh vanilla, hazelnut and lemongrass.
Escargot in green tea
Some fresh white truffle.
A mussel, with a savoury vanilla mousse.
A rather amazing... rice dish, consisting of a plate - barely a grain thick - of slightly salty risotto style rice, with a fantastic intensely flavoured butter on top.

It all somewhat fades into a blur - the meal was less like a meal that I'm used to, and more a succession of destinations on a taste journey. I can see, I think, why despite being one of the 'top 50' this place has picked up mixed reviews on Google - there's some combinations in there that are just ... well, quite off the wall.
But none the less, once we'd finished with our meal, we went back to the room very well satisfied with ... everything.
Breakfast was a similar sort of epic treat, with an incredible assortment of delicious breads and pastries.

The second day, sadly, didn't really give us a lot of time to spare - the journey to Pisa was quite a long one, and so we decided that better to 'idle' in Pisa, 15 minutes from the Airport, than in Sienna where we were still 3 or hours away. Having had an all too brief look at the town, it's definitely very beautiful, and a place worthy of ... well, probably at least a week.
Still, a thing not without it's compensations - Pisa has a rather fascinating belltower, which we got the opportunity to climb. 300 or so steps wasn't so bad, but the leaning bit ... was quite remarkably disorienting - the stairway is an enclosed spiral around the inside edge of of the tower - and as you walk, you go from steps leaning 'left' to 'forwards' to 'right' to 'backwards'. It's more easy than you might imagine to miss your footing.
The view from the top was rather amazing though. Being able to look directly 'down' from a tower, is something of a novelty :).
7 comments or Leave a comment
fishrgreat From: fishrgreat Date: October 25th, 2010 10:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Sounds fab. Not so sure I'd have got on with the restaurant but still sounds fab.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: October 25th, 2010 11:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I was thinking there's a lot of people I know, who really wouldn't have enjoyed that meal. Don't get me wrong, the food was utterly fabulous, and the entire experience... well, you know how when you've had a really good workout at the gym, and are feeling content and at peace... well, it was quite a lot like that. The overall result very satisfying, but individual steps might have taken a bit more exertion :).
hedya From: hedya Date: October 25th, 2010 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
glad you enjoyed it! and a pedant note: it's Siena, really... :) If you manage (and can stand) going back during teh summer it's worth trying to see their palio.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: October 25th, 2010 05:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah yes. I keep doing that. They both work in the spell checker, but for different reasons ;).
sobrique From: sobrique Date: October 25th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
But it's been a long time since I last went to Italy - I seem to recall we were there about when my sister was 6, and the highlight of the day was the vast quantities of ice cream we managed to consume.
hedya From: hedya Date: October 25th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
As you might expect I am a bit of an ice cream and pizza snob when in this country, but indeed vast quantities of freshly made ice cream are a must, especially during the summer.

About the leaning tower: did you know that the Pisans have been mercilessly teased for being idiots by the neighbouring Florentinians at the time? Also, it is THE tower from which Galileo was conducting is experiments on gravity and acceleration, exactly because of the "look straight down" effect.
mrph From: mrph Date: October 25th, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I ended up reading most of Galileo's Daughter (which I'd borrowed from E ages back but never quite finished) at the airport, an hour or two after we visited the tower.

Finished it now. And in an odd way I'm glad I read so much of it yesterday - after visiting Siena and Pisa (and climbing the tower) it had a certain resonance to it.
7 comments or Leave a comment