From Modena to Venice (Italy - Part 4)

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Modena, Italy

Our month long trip was reaching our final week in Italy. After our time in Tuscany, we spent our last days with our Skoda rental car driving up to Modena which is in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. We were fortunate enough to enjoy an amazing 12 course tasting menu at the amazing Osteria Francescana led by the great Chef Massimo Bottura, which was voted world's best restaurant in 2016 and is a three star Michelin restaurant. When I first watched the first season and episode of Netflix's Chef's Table, I was blown away by the cinematography and story telling of this docuseries. I was so drawn by Chef Massimo's story and especially his wife as his business partner who influenced and inspired him to push the artistic and traditional norms of Italian cuisine.

We only spent one night in Modena and greatly enjoyed exploring the Mercato Albinelli where fruit, cheese, meat, seafood and also food vendors sold such delicious items. It's definitely worth walking through the market to people watch or to buy items to cook a meal.

Insalata di Mare

Insalata di Mare

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Chocolate with Cherry Ganache

Chocolate with Cherry Ganache

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The crunchy part of lasagne

The crunchy part of lasagne

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Venezia (Venice)

Having spent most of our time in the countryside or smaller towns, Venice was bustling full of tourists. I had come to Venice years ago with my family where we visited every museum and landmark. This time around, we tried to make our experience something unique. A family friend who was born and raised in Venice, offered us his apartment which was located in Canareggio, which is located on the north side of Venice. The neighborhood was still full of locals, but close by the major streets where tourists explored. A few mornings, we woke up prior to sunrise to go explore some landmarks before the crowds got crazy. I would highly suggest this if you are an early bird. We walked through the city where you took in the sites and architecture of the buildings with such ease! Also, as a photographer, the light was just amazing. 

Another great early morning activity is the fish market, which is located close to the Rialto Bridge. Many vendors sell freshly caught seafood at this market. We bought some gambaretti rossi (red shrimp) and cozze di mare (mussels). It's always helpful to learn some key words in Italian especially when your at the market and also understanding kilos and grams.

We really enjoyed a pre dinner wine and cichetti (small tapas-like bites) along a quiet canal-side wine bar called Vino VeroAlso, a great lunch spot is Osteria La Zucca which has some delicious vegetarian dishes. I would recommend a reservation since they fill up!

Gondolas on Grand Canal - Venice
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La Zucca for lunch

La Zucca for lunch

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View from Rialto Bridge

View from Rialto Bridge

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Burano Island

Burano is about an hour vapretto (water bus) ride from Fondamente Nove which is located on the north side of Venice. Known for its brightly colored fishermen's houses and its casual eateries serving seafood from the lagoon, Burano is also a quaint and quieter place to explore. We enjoyed a meal at the small restaurant called Al Fureghin, where we were welcomed by the owner MicheleYou must try the seafood dishes!

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Burano
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Sunrise view from Ponte dell'Academia

Sunrise view from Ponte dell'Academia

Fall In Umbria (Italy - Part 3 of 4)

Agriturismo La Biccoca
We had the pleasure of saying at an agriturismo in Castel Rigone, a small town in Umbria which overlooks Lake Trasimeno. There are only 2 units at this agriturismo where we enjoyed our own private casita, hammock and lawn. There was a lovely pool which we were able to enjoy the first day, but it started feeling like fall the rest of the time we were there. We were greeted by our lovely hosts Paolo, Susan and Salvatore. Each morning, we woke up and walked over to the main house for a lovely breakfast prepared by our hosts with fresh bread, cereals, eggs and fruit from their garden. They were so helpful to helping us navigate the surrounding areas. We were so sad to be surrounded by their beautiful olive trees and not be able to taste their olive oil! Harvest time is happening now in October.

 

Agriturismo La Bicocca
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Olive tree

Aziendo Agraria Carlo & Marco Carini
Just 20 minutes from our Airbnb, we were able to visit this family run farm which has been around since the mid-800s. Now it is a 140 hectare (345 acres) estate which produces organic wine and olive oil, ‘Cinta Senese’ sausages and cheese. "There are approximately eighty pigs that graze in a forest of nearly ten acres, which features a dominant presence of oak acorn, arbutus, chestnut trees and a variety of grasses, precious food items for the ‘Cinta’s diet. During the harsh winters, the feed for the animals is enriched with products grown exclusively on the farm, including chestnuts. The pigs live in the wild for a period of two to three years; this renders their meat particularly dark and flavourful and marbled with fat, a trait that distinguishes it from other pigs and that allows for perfect aging." - Carlo & Marco Carini

From April to September, every Saturday and Sunday from 6:30pm onwards, they offer ‘torta al testo’ and homemade ‘Cinta Senese’ sausage tastings. We loved tasting the fresh oven made torta al testo and the delicious meats. The wine and meats were such a great pair!

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Cinta Senese
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Truffle School with Matteo - Citta' di Castello
We arrived in the town of Citta' di Castella at the Agriturismo Ca'Solare. We had a lovely day learning from truffle expert Matteo who went into depth about the history of the various truffles, how he became a truffle hunter, Matteo is a truffle hunter based in an area where competition is high (over 12,000 hunters in the city alone). We walked his land with his dad and trained truffle hunting dog where he showed us areas that typically grow truffles. Some truffles may be just below the surface but during winter months they could be almost a foot below! It was so fascinating to see them work and also enjoy the beautiful greenery of Umbria. After a couple hours in the field, we walked back to their house and enjoyed a lovely lunch with some of the truffles we found. 

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Montioni Oil Mill and Winery
Located in Montefalco which is in the central part of Umbria, Montioni is a family run oil mill and winery. The owner himself, Paolo, welcomed us to his tasting room and drove us around his olive groves where some trees were more than 90 years old and also walked in the vineyards with various varietals of grapes (sagrantino, sangiovese, and merlot). We later returned to the oil mill and cellar. He proudly shared the history of his family business and the care that goes into every olive oil and wine bottle. Montefalco region is know for its more complex red, sagrantino.  

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Tuscany (Italy - Part 2 of 4)

Most tourists are very familiar with the beautiful area known as Tuscany. It's known for the capital, Florence, the rolling green hills of the wine country and olive groves. Having been to Florence and the famous tourist sites in previous years, we decided to spend more time exploring the countryside and the wineries especially in the Brunello wine country. 

Florence
Known for it's renaissance art and architecture, Florence is full of beautiful museums and churches that highlight a lot of the great artists like Michelangelo and Botticelli. We were able to walk around the streets, eat lampredotto (Florentine street food tripe sandwich), and enjoy busy tourist town even in early September. I highly suggest going to Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset where you can see a beautiful view of the city as seen below. I'd recommend taking the bus since it is a pretty steep climb up.

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Ditta Artiginale

Ditta Artiginale

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Ditta Artiginale - view from 2nd floor

Ditta Artiginale - view from 2nd floor

Our Airbnb at Casa Podere la Casina - Rigomagno

Our Airbnb at Casa Podere la Casina - Rigomagno

Piazza del Campo - Siena

Piazza del Campo - Siena

Duomo - Siena

Duomo - Siena

Montepulciano
Montepulciano was just a 30 minute drive from our Airbnb. It was a great short day trip to see the medieval and renaissance town that sits on a high hill. Most of these Italian hill cities are very walkable and allow limited car traffic. We really enjoyed going to the different cantinas where we were able to taste some delicious vino nobile. We enjoyed a casual lunch at La casa di Edel - da Baffo where you could enjoy a simple sandwich and a glass of wine. Caffè Poliziano has a very small balcony but if you're lucky enough to score a seat, I'd highly recommend paying an extra euro for espresso to enjoy the view.

Piazza Grande

Piazza Grande

View from balcony at Caffè Poliziano

View from balcony at Caffè Poliziano

Caffe Poliziano
View from balcony at Caffè Poliziano

View from balcony at Caffè Poliziano

Montepulciano
Piadine

Piadine

Montalcino
Known for their Brunello wines, Montalcino is another beautiful area with some delicious wines. We had the pleasure of visiting Sesta Di Sopra where we were greeted by winemaker Ettora and his wife Enrica. We go to sit down in their dining room where Ettora poured us his delicious wines with some different crackers and also some dark chocolates. He later showed us around his cellar and shared more about his process. It was such a lovely afternoon where we enjoyed a private tour and informative tasting. We also got to visit Poggio Antico a slightly more commercial vineyard (recently famous for the wine that Obama gifted to John Boehner). 

Sesta Di Sopra - Montalcino
Sesta Di Sopra - Montalcino
Sesta Di Sopra - Montalcino
Sesta Di Sopra - Montalcino
Sesta Di Sopra
Poggio Antico - Montalcino
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Poggio Antico - Montalcino
Harvest time 

Harvest time 

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Biggest fig tree fresh for harvest

Biggest fig tree fresh for harvest

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Love x Food Cooking Class
Just outside Florence, we had such a lovely class with our instructors Luca and  Lorenzo. Passed down from their families', we learned how to make ravioli with ricotta and lemon zest, tiramisu (tuscan style), and various types of pasta. Being a handmade pasta newbie, Luca and Lorenzo were very patient and explained the fundamentals of pasta making. We all rolled our own pasta dough, folded ravioli and made spaghetti a la guittara. During our breaks, wine was plentiful and so were the fresh antipasti at the family table outside overlooking the countryside.

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La Marzocco Factory
For anybody that works in the coffee industry or is an espresso drinker, taking a tour of La Marzocco factory just outside of Florence is a must. We were so warmly welcomed by Sylvia who spent a couple hours with us talking about the history of La Marzocco and showed us every step of the process of how they create their espresso machines. She spoke so passionately and proudly about the craftsmanship that goes into every part and piece of their machines. After seeing the factory, I'm personally excited to have a La Marzocco Linea Mini machine in my house in the near future.

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Porto Ercole - The Tuscan Coast (Italy - Part 1 of 4)

This September, my husband and I had the pleasure of spending a month in Italy. Outside of our busy home of LA, we both prefer staying in the countryside, meeting the locals, eating local cuisine, and experiencing daily life in the area. Summer was ending, but I still wanted to find a place with some beach time. Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terra are both beautiful areas, but we wanted to find a place with fewer tourists. While looking on Airbnb, I zoomed in on the west coast of Italy in between those two areas and found an area called Maremma. Porto Ercole is a small town on the Tuscan Coast. We stayed at the Rocca Espagnole, which is a short but steep walk from the main town center. We enjoyed short hikes, relaxing at the beach, eating delicious seafood and visiting nearby towns. Our Airbnb had a small kitchen which was great for us since we both enjoy cooking. With some of our market buys, we made carbonara with fresh pasta and pancetta from the local macelleria (butcher shop) and steamed mussels. 

alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
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alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy - Rocca Espagnole
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The private grounds around the castle were limited to residents. We enjoyed the quiet gardens surrounding our Airbnb. Just a short 15 minute walk from the castle, we could rent chairs and umbrellas and lay out on these beautiful rocky beaches at Riva del Marchese. There is also a bar with espresso and some snacks available down near the beach. 

alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
alicia cho photography - Orbetello, Italy
alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
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alicia cho photography - Porto Ercole, Italy
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alicia cho photography - Orbetello, Italy
alicia cho photography - Orbetello, Italy
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I would definitely recommend grabbing a drink at sunset at Hotel Il Pelicano. The grounds are beautiful and the service is excellent!

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Torre Di Capo D'Uomo

There are so many beautiful areas you can drive to around Porto Ercole. Just a 15 minute drive gets you to the trailhead where you can hike up and see some amazing views from Torre di Capo d'Uomo. Along the small path, you'll pass by two houses with olive orchards, and continuous ocean views. 

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Spiagge d'Acqua Dulce

Spiagge d'Acqua Dulce

Where we stayed:

Rocca Espagnole
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/13331906
Private and beautiful quiet castle that overlooks the port. It's a short walk into the town center. 

Where we ate:

Alicina Hosteria
Via San Sebastiano, 54, 58018 Porto Ercole, Monte Argentario GR, Italy
Great local seafood restaurant in the town center. We made reservations ahead of time for dinner.

Hotel Torre di Cala Piccola
58019 Porto Santo Stefano, Province of Grosseto, Italy
Food is fresh and good, but expensive. We mainly dined here for the amazing view!

Orbetello Market
via Caravaggio corner via Trento, just outside of the Porto Nuova
On Saturdays, you can buy fresh produce, fish and also meats from local butchers.

Hotel Il Pelicano
Località Sbarcatello, 58019 Porto Ercole GR, Italy
Sunset drinks at their bar that overlooks the water. Excellent service!

Where we went:

Hiking at Torre di Capo d'Uomo
A short but slightly challenging hike with great views.

Spiagge d'acqua dulce
Every beach in this area requires a pretty rocky and steep walk to reach the beach. This beach is definitely worth it! Mainly Italian tourists and locals.

Riva de la Marchese
Walkable from or Airbnb. Chairs and umbrella available for rent. Snack bar and coffee available near the beach.