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Italy, STUNTS

Remembrance of Things Past in Merano, Italy

Cake_and_coffee

Kaffee und Kuchen, just like Baba used to order.

One of the things about traveling is that you can step foot in a town or city you have never been to before and be reminded -- powerfully reminded -- of people and places that have receded far into the past. This is what happened to me at the Vigilius Mountain Resort.

After my brush with German sternness and German nakedness at the spa, I came back to my room and phoned my mother. We talked about the sauna episode, and eventually she asked me, "Are you near Meran?" Meran is the German name for the town Italians call Merano, and to get to Vigilius, you take the first exit for Meran off the highway. "Baba absolutely loved Meran," my mother said.

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Italy, Spa Life, STUNTS

The Naked Truth About Spas and Germans

Relaxing_in_the_hot_tub

Getting the feet -- and everything else -- wet at Vigilius Mountian Resort.

Wir sollen Uns unbeschrenkt uber Nacktheit unterhalten.

The above sentence is German for, "It is now time we had a frank and open discussion about nudity." There's a good reason it's in German.

Let me paint you a picture: It is early evening at the Vigilius Mountain Resort, a hotel and spa complex Monte San Vigilio in Italy's South Tyrol. I have just returned from my triumphant via ferrata assault on Mount Fenberg. Though it is not the cheapest hotel I have stayed at on this generously funded circumnavigation, the Vigilius is the one I like best. It is modern, both starkly and warmly. To behold its neat interior vistas is to rinse the mind of clutter.

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Italy, STUNTS

Scaling the Via Ferrata in South Tyrol

South_tyrol_80days
Yikes!

Italy isn't a very big country, but a lot changes as you drive north.  The economy picks up, for one thing. Northern Italy, many people say, is the tugboat that pulls Italy along, while southern Italy is the anchor. The Po Valley, which runs from the Italian Alps into the Adriatic near Venice, is one of the most industrialized regions on the planet. If you keep driving north of the Po Valley, people start speaking German, but you're still in Italy. It's fair to say that more changes in one hour of highway driving in Italy than in one day of highway driving in Nebraska.

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Food and Drink, Gear, Italy, STUNTS

Getting Respect From the Florentine Hordes

Segway_florence_2
Ciao, baby!

Things started going wrong for Florence about a thousand years ago, when a very important man named Hugo--a margrave, no less--decided he wanted to live in Florence instead of the then capital, Lucca, a decision which brought on a period known as The Golden Age of Florentine Art. Half a millennium later, A guy named Lorenzo di Medici started running the show and throwing serious money at local artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci (best known for his thrilling novel, "The Da Vinci Code") and Botticelli. Pretty soon, all the talk was about Florence: The architecture! The paintings! The sculptures! The ravioli!

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Food and Drink, Italy, STUNTS

When to Choose Espresso Over Cappuccino (and Other Italian Rituals)

Makethatalarge_80days
Make that a large

Thanks in great part to Starbucks, we have become a culture of Italian-style coffee drinkers. We drink cappuccinos, we pour honey into caffe lattes and sprinkle cinnamon on top, and a few of us even know the words "espresso macchiato," which is a quarter of an inch of mud-like coffee topped with a little milk and a tiny dollop of foam. Or at least that's the definition I'm going with. The very concept of macchiato is troubled by controversy.

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Food and Drink, Italy, STUNTS

Trolling for Fishies on the Amalfi Coast

Thefish_80days

The following post is dedicated to James Hathaway, genius marketer, loyal blog-reader, and nice guy.

James Hathaway is the Communications and Conservation Manager at the Orvis Company, which makes fly-fishing rods. As some of you may remember, I brought 6/7ths of an Orvis fly-fishing rod with me to Mongolia. My plan was to bring all seven sevenths of the rod, but something went greivously wrong during the packing phase of the trip and the end result was that I found myself standing on the bank of a Mongolian River with an incomplete-and useless-fishing rod.

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Italy, STUNTS

More on horny folk music

Paul Cilwa:  Wrong on both counts:  I'm Canadian and I've long been a fan of sexually suggestive folk music. I even have a suggestion to make: "Red Staggerwing," which is on All the Roadrunning, the album by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris that came out last year. It's not quite as blunt as "La Cilentana," but it's playful in  the best way. I consider this album a must-have.  In fact, I've listened to it at least once in every country I have visited on this trip.

Thanks for all your messages, by the way.

Food and Drink, Italy, STUNTS

In Praise of Bawdy Italian Folk Songs

Mynewitalianfamily_80day
My new Italian family

My Slow Day in Italy didn't begin nearly as slowly as I'd imagined. Tilde woke me up at 7:30, I had a quick shower, a quicker breakfast, and then it was into Tilde's car. The three of us--Tilde, myself, and her daughter, Wanda--were headed into the mountains and I wasn't quite sure why. Tilde said something about a crazy man named Ali and sausage. That's all I knew, but it seemed like as good a reason as any.

Like all the hills in Italy, the ones around Cilento have a pretty look to them. The road climbed over hillocks and wound left and right in an upwardly direction, past increasingly thick woods of oak and chestnut. Occasionally, we would pass an old man or woman walking along the side of the road who appeared to be on their way to an Italian peasant contest.

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Food and Drink, Italy, STUNTS

Recipe: Tilde's Fresh Fusilli

Fusillidinner_80days Ingredients
Flour - 500 grams (100 grams per person, 80 percent soft flour and 20 percent hard flour)
Eggs - 3 (possible more or fewer, depending on "feel")
Water

Weigh and mix the flour. Pour it in a tall pile on a pastry board, and form a crater in the center with hands. Crack the eggs into the crater and beat well. Fold the flour into the eggs and when they are absorbed add water. Knead the dough with hands, adding water, until it has reached a desired consistency.

Flattening the hands, roll the dough into a long thin line, about a quarter of an inch thick. Cut it into 3/4-inch lengths. Take each length individually and lay on pastry board. Insert a round metal rod--a kebab spear will do, so long as it is round--into a section of dough running lengthwise, so that the dough hugs the mid-section of the rod. Using the palm of both hands, roll the rod back and forth, spreading the dough out towards the ends until it reaches a length of several inches. Remove fusilli and lay on cookie tray covered with dishtowels. Repeat until there is no more dough.

Boil in salted water. Add sauce. Eat.

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Food and Drink, Italy, STUNTS

Fusilli and Bistecca...Delizioso!

Tilderolling_80days
Tilde rolls fusilli

Sometime after lunch, we hopped into Tilde's Alpha Romeo and paid a visit to the butcher, Luigi, to get some Podolica bisteccas.

Podolica is one of the "autochthonous" breeds of Italian cattle. Italians are very proud of their cattle. They even have a magazine, called Taurus, that talks about nothing else but Italian cattle breeds. (I am a subscriber.) The most famous is Chiannina--the lumbering alabaster-white cow of Tuscany. Podolica is from the south. It's raised both for its milk and for its meat, and like so much from Italy's south, northerners tend to sneer at it. They rave about Chiannina, Marchigniana, and Maramma beef, but no one says a thing about the lowly, grey-faced Podolica. I wanted to have a taste for myself.

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Food and Drink, Italy, STUNTS

I Like Italy

Welcometoitaly_80days
Welcome to Italy

I like Italy. I have liked Italy from the first moment I stepped foot on Italian soil, which was in the winter of 1987 when, for the first time in my life, I was greeted by a taxi driver with the word, "Pronto." There is only one other country in Europe that can match the history, cuisine, and beauty of Italy--I think you know which one I am talking about--but Italy has one thing that country does not have: friendly people.

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