Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mon voyage. Jour numéro vingt-sept. Frascati and Rome.

Villa Aldobrandini is one of the first sights you see after arriving to Frascati by train. The town is just thirty minutes away but there are virtually NO tourists.  In fact, there are so few tourists that when the 9:49am train arrives there are retirees waiting at the top of the steps above the train station to say 'buongiorno!' to the Old Frascati Wine Tour attendees.  
The Villa was built in the 1550's, and is still owned by the same family.  Popes and Cardinals have stayed here along with other Villas in town, because it is a popular place for people from Rome escape the city.  Although the current Pope has not and will not visit.  The Bishop of Frascati thinks that the new Pope is too liberal so invitations have been extended (papal drama...).

The church was bombed during WWII, but the facade remained standing.  It is believed that the igneous rock used to construct the church absorbed the impact.  Frascati was the Nazi headquarters for the Mediterranean and so it was ordered by the US to be destroyed.  More than 50% of the buildings were destroyed or badly damaged.  

The Minardi family is famous.  A plaque of the father of the current owner of the winery is located inside the church.  

We visited a bakery that has maintained a sourdough starter for over 70 years.

It is natural to notice the breasts on this doll, there are two for breast milk and one wine.  It is their signature piece, and Frascati's advice on how to get their children to sleep...

We started off sampling the Frascati wine sold at a local Fraschette, as well as sampling cheese and bread from the bakery.  Fraschettes are little establishments that make wine and have tables inside.  You bring in your own food and order by the pitcher or jug.  A liter of wine is 2 euro.  
Frascati wine is made from Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia del Lazio, Grechetto, Bombino bianco, and Trebbiano grapes.  In order to be classified as Frascati it does not only contain this mixture of grapes but has to be grown here, in this volcanic Frascati soil.  Wine has been cultivated here since the 5th century BC.

Our tour guide, Dominique (who married into the wine family), is from Fallbrook.  
Traveling is always a reminder that it is such a small world.

The next stop was just a short drive away; the Minardi winery is one of the oldest family run wineries in Frascati.

Umberto happily showed us how the wine used to be made, before modern day equipment.

During WWII, when the city was being relentlessly bombed, people hid in wine shelters.  This is where Umberto met his wife.

Umberto is standing in front of a picture of himself when he was younger, although he is still the farmer for the vineyard.  

With a view of Rome, we drank their white and red wine (although 'Frascati wine' is only white they make red as well), and ate bread dipped in their homemade olive oil.  
Frascati is the Rome's signature wine.  It is light and refreshing.  And unfortunately very difficult to find in the US so if you go... buy as much as you can!

Our last stop as a tour group was back in town for an amazing pasta and gnocci lunch.  55 euro for all of this; all of the wine outside of the winery and at the winery, the snacks, the lunch, the transport (besides the train), the olive oil, and the tour.  What an incredible deal.

Our group voluntarily extended our Old Frascati Wine Tour, to drink more Frascati wine, before heading back to Rome and parting ways.

I felt it necessary to do the touristy thing and come to Fontana di Trevi to throw in a coin, in order to ensure my return.  Maybe it is more of a curse than a tradition since Rome is my least favorite city in all of Italy, but Rome is the gateway to the country so there is little avoiding it.  Plus, now that I know about Frascati I would be more than happy to return to Rome.
I know there is a specific way to do it, right hand over your left shoulder, and maybe you have to throw three and not one... but since this is my third time and I don't think I did it right any time before so I figure that it really doesn't matter. 

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mon voyage. Jour numéro vingt-six. Toulouse and Rome.

My flight wasn't until the afternoon which gave me more time in Toulouse.  I know that carousels are common in the US but some differences include that theirs are in the middle of a square or a random street, and they don't necessarily stop the carousel to let kids on.

I like bow ties on waiters.  Why did we make bow ties a joke in the US?

If you look at la cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Toulouse from the north facade you can see the differences between the left and right side of the church, the left part being built hundreds of years before the right.  The church has been remodeled and redesigned from 11th century to the 20th century (for various reasons, including fires and new bishop orders).

According to my map I had to turn at the Grand Pond, but when I got here I totally disagreed with the grandness of this pond.  
I can clearly see now, while reexamining my map, that the name of this location is Grand Rond, Rond is round in French.  You learn something new every day.  I learned not to be so judgmental, I learned a new word, and I learned that I should look more closely at maps.

The Canal du Midi was constructed in the 17th century to transport wheat between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.  

And here I am, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, on a boot called Italy, in a city named after the Romans.  
(I didn't take a wheat boat, I flew.)

Not only did I break my rule of going out at night by myself, I wandered through seemingly welcoming alleyways. 
Nothing bad happened.  Sometimes in life you have to take risks for pasta (specifically for walnut and cheese raviolis).

This is my third time coming to Rome, and seeing the Colosseum.  It was rather spur of the moment, and not on my list of things to do (unlike the pasta) but I felt compelled.  
When in Rome...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mon voyage. Jour numéro vingt-cinq. Toulouse.

Today I arrived in Toulouse.  The only reason I came here was because there were Easy Jet flights to Rome and it is just a train ride away from Bordeaux.  Surprisingly (based on the fact I had no draw to the city, it is not a big tourist destination, and it is the fourth largest city in France) I really enjoyed my time here.  
Toulouse, like so many cities in Europe, has an encyclopedia's worth of history.  
It was a Roman military outpost in the second century BC, a Visigothic Kingdom in the 5th century, and all of the pages before and after... 

Toulouse is known as La Ville Rose, because of the pink terracotta bricks used in many of the buildings.  It very much defines the city.
The Basilica of Saint Sernin (12th century) is the largest Romanesque church in Europe.

Someone should have told the architect of la Eglise Notre-Dame du Taur (14th century) less is more. 

Le Capitole was built in 1190 to show off Toulouse's wealth.  

Ever since 1664 it has hosted the Salle of Illustres, featuring the work of Henri Martin and Paul Gervais. 

Le Couvent des Jacobins is best known for its palm tree columns, which are way more magnificent in person.  

The church is also famous for its stained glass, designed in 1955 by Max Ingrand, an artist known for his work with glass.

Monks are pranksters, drawing inappropriate images on grave markers.
Monks who wished to remain here for all eternity were buried in the cloister, at their own risk...

I ended my day in Toulouse in front of Pont Neuf (New Bridge).  Built in the 1600's it is evidence that names should not contain the word 'new' if they is intended to last.  They are currently constructing Pont Neuf Neuf (the New New Bridge).  I made that up but it doesn't sound too far off.