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Linda's Backroads--In Italy?


How does a country girl who loves the backroads of America, prepare for a two-week trip to Italy?

With a lot of help. Hopefully, more from you.

The adventure started when I accepted an invitation from my daughter to accompany her and six other ladies to Agriturismo Cascina Papaveri, a working vineyard, cooking school and palates studio in the Piedmont region of Italy. Perhaps a church or two, but mostly this trip will be to experience cuisine, culture, land and the people. And, maybe truffles!

It's not like I am a travel novice. Well, actually, I am.

True travelers experience a foreign culture, cross the ocean, communicate without knowing the language, order food without an interpreter. I feel comfortable poking around our good ole US of A. Even Canada. A ship to Mexico with international personnel—who talk my talk.

Here is where I hope all of you will help. I find that most students now travel abroad at least once, sometimes with only a backpack. Tell me, what should I leave at home? What should I remember to take above all else? I'm looking for advice. I would like to blog this trip for you right here on this site. Suggestions for doing that would be appreciated.

We fly into Milan, jump a train to Cinque Terre for three days, The Farm for six days, back to Milan for one full day and home.

There you have it. I know I am limited to 40 lbs luggage. My goal is 20-25. The only thing I am set on is shoes—hiking shoes and my new pair of Birkenstocks that I've been breaking in all summer. Other than that, I'm open.


Ronda Miller 8 years, 9 months ago

Linda, my suggestions include daily blogging with photos (running naked with your iPhone is always a good idea).

Sounds like a wonderful experience to share with your daughter - memories to last your life time with lots of 'bad' travel experiences that will make you laugh your truffles off in years to come.

Always travel light - I tend to take one carry on where ever I go. Drink lots of wine and wear protective clothing so your bottom isn't bruised with pinches! ;)

Please share some of the recipes with us as well!

Linda Hanney 8 years, 9 months ago

I can count on you for excellent advice, Ronda:) I've been a stranger around here--thank you for hanging in with me.

Ronda Miller 8 years, 9 months ago

I agree you have been absent way too long. Hopefully that means you have been busy doing some fun things with your life and not just work since that seems to continue along with retirement. lol

I always, always enjoy reading what you have to say and am really looking forward to your upcoming blogs!

jaywalker 8 years, 9 months ago

If you like to shop (and what woman doesn't?!) then pack light going so you've got space for purchases. My girlfriend and I utilize those vacuum bags that shrink down for our clothing on the return, opens up much space (she brought back 4 purses and a number of outfits last trip). Check again on your weight limit, ours was 50 lbs. Make your own trail mix for the plane. Long flight. Bring a good, lightweight camera. Don't know how much time you have to prepare, but I bought some language CD's and studied for the three months prior. Served me very well. I'd also study the Piedmont region and their modes of cooking, utensils, regional customs, etc. (If you're lucky you'll have 'brick chicken'!) Never eat in the piazza of a touristy area - always over-priced and comparatively sub-par food. It pays to browse the side streets. Generally speaking, service deteriorates in relation to how long you're sitting down. It's not you, don't take it personally. Don't worry about needing to find "your" waiter; need something just request it from anyone or you might be waiting a while. There's no better way to end your meal than with a limoncello. Supposedly it aids digestion, I just like the flavor and shot of alcohol before moving on to another fabulous, inexpensive red wine. Or, if they're in season, the little, teeny strawberries (can't recall their actual name)on vanilla gelatto are spectacular! Italian chocolate is under-rated. Sample every type of coffee. Secure your purse/money while walking and keep an eye on urchins, they often work in teams so one will try to distract you while another sneaks in from behind. And if you give to one you're an instant mark, resist the urge. Don't buy food from snack stands or quick shops. Knock-offs are cheap for a reason. Do NOT expect tax reimbursement from a street vendor. It ain't gonna happen no matter how much they promise you, even if you fill out the forms. Don't know about Piedmont or Milan, but it's a good idea to take a power converter as their electric outlets aren't always compatible w/ hair dryers, etc. Take as many traveler's checks as you can or find best exchange rate to buy euro's. Using ATM's costs big surcharges. Get to train station an hour early if you need to buy ticket to guarantee departure when you want. Make peace with the fact you're going to gain 5 pounds, it's totally worth it if you can shed the guilt. Pardon the topic, but travel is conducive to constipation. Pack some medicinal relief. If you're a light sleeper, ear plugs are worth every penny. But most importantly, whatever else you do, never, EVER pass up a chance to have some gelatto!!!

I'll keep thinking of other tips. Man, I'm jealous. Can I go? When do we leave?

Ronda Miller 8 years, 9 months ago

Seems jaywalker has been jaywalking in many other countries and cities. What wonderful advice!

Linda Hanney 8 years, 9 months ago

I agree Ronda. I've got a list going, jaywalker. Also, LarryNative, I didn't think about Olive Oil.

Linda Hanney 8 years, 9 months ago

Oh, almost forgot. Has anyone used Skype when traveling in Europe?

Alia Ahmed 8 years, 9 months ago


Limoncello and gelatto were two of my favorite treats in Italy as well.

Linda, it sounds like a wonderful adventure. I didn't use Skype when I was there, but used little internet cafes when ever possible to send emails to home. Cannoli and marzipan are other treats we enjoyed as well as the vino! I agree with Ronda, travel as light as possible as far as clothing goes. There wasn't anything I regretted not bringing but often regret bringing too much clothing on a trip. Plus, if you travel light, you'll have more room for wonderful gifts to bring back to your family and friends. Ciao!

Linda Hanney 8 years, 9 months ago

Gelatto, I can't wait. I've heard so much about it. Limoncello on my list. I've tried to be diligent about clothes. I had a seasoned European traveler look at my selection and she told me it was in the ball park but could stand to cut back even more.

jaywalker 8 years, 9 months ago

Great tip on the olive oil and I'd add balsamic vinegar to the list as well. You'd think the stuff was made with gold when you see how pricey it can be, I've actually seen small bottles for $150! Don't go there unless you have a balsamic fetish, but a local bottle is worth the extra price. Your cell will roam with a call to your provider but you won't want to see that bill. I bought fantastic pop-up map books from Sharper Image for Venice, Florence, and Rome. They might have some for your areas and they're light years better than fumbling w/ a regular map. Do NOT be timid about haggling for price, be willing to walk away and then wander by later and let the same salesman see you; it's kinda like fishing. Last trip I bought a phenomenal brown calf-skin leather coat, impervious to water and fire (silk treated); price on the tag was 900 euros-- I paid 300.
If you're not already, force yourself to be an early riser. My favorite times to explore the city were just after sun-up. I'd walk the routes to the venues we were to see that day, explore the streets while only the locals were heading out for work, and make it back for breakfast before my better half got up.
If you haven't had italian 'bacon' (pancetta) before I'll spare you the shock-- it's a very fatty, incredibly salty treat. I grew to like it, but that first taste is a smack in the face. Eat it and you won't have to worry about cramping leg muscles. Save your bread intake for pizza. Tipping at your hotels is very big and improves service. Don't wait 'til you check out, spread some wealth early and you don't have to be over-generous. Look on-line for tipping tips, how much to whom, etc. Concierges are supposed to command a good percentage based on your total bill, but that's excessive in most cases. Tipping waiters, on the other hand, can and should be kept low unless you get lucky and happen across an outstanding server. Quite often you'll only see 'your' waiter once or twice anyway, they 'tag-team' ya. Very important: if you plan to go to a popular museum or the like, do whatever it takes to buy tickets in advance to avoid walk-up lines. You can get many on-line before you go, do NOT rely on whatever service you use to forward your tickets to a hotel. I'd estimate we saved at least 6 hours of standing in line for the Acadamia, the Uffizi, and the Vatican by doing so. Total time in line w/ advanced tickets= 10 minutes. Big meal of the day for Italians is lunch. They will sit down, start w/ antipasto and 4 or 5 courses and two hours later still be eating. We preferred a light lunch, quite often sharing some pizza, fries and the house red (they love fries over there and the house red is almost always excellent). Dinner was our nightly event, usually wandering out after a catnap and an early evening red purchased for 4 or 5 euros at a corner market. Sit al fresco whenever possible and not on a busy street.

Still thinking. Still jealous.

Linda Hanney 8 years, 9 months ago

I'm so glad I put this out here. You are giving me excellent suggestions. I'm printing it all out. Siena for a day trip--thank you for that suggestion. Even though we are staying at a "working farm" probably more like a B&B, there are opportunities each day to walk or ride provided bikes to nearby villages. It is truffle season--probably am getting my hopes up about that.

Ralph Gage 8 years, 9 months ago

Local currency, or a credit card that won't rachet up the price on top of the merciless exchange rate. Wow! Have fun, Linda.

Ronda Miller 8 years, 9 months ago

If anyone wants a source for Limoncello I know someone who makes it. I have the lemon, some blueberry, and soon mango, in my freezer now. I would love to write an article about the process. Perhaps Mr. Gage will give me the okay nod! ;)

Alia Ahmed 8 years, 9 months ago

Limoncello is a liqueur but I've have limoncello flavored gelatto before as well as limoncello cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. I'd love the recipe for limoncello or limoncello gelatto. Yum!


Linda Hanney 8 years, 9 months ago

Multi, will enjoy the relaxed schedule. I'm sure the gorgeous men are looking for a much younger lady--as to fountains, well... Ralph, I found out that Capital One VISA Signature card does not charge a fee--the only one, I believe. I did apply and it has arrived.

jaywalker 8 years, 9 months ago

I actually found limoncello filled chocolates once, but that was on Capri. Out of this world, but idiot that I am I only bought one box. If you've got the energy, don't plan to sleep when on the train. The scenery is spectacular, every small town built on a hillside with church steeples towering above, some buildings seem to grow right from the edge of the cliffs. I paid extra for comfort, private cars on the train, private vaporetto's in Venice, Mercedes taxi off the station to avoid long queues. Personal preference 'cuz you can drop big bucks if you don't discriminate.
Also, beware pricing for seafood. Depends on region, but if they're pricing it by the gram it's gonna be steep. You should be ok away from the Venice/Venetto area, but if your waiter suggests the "medio flounder"...heads up! Could be a wonderful $90 medium sized piece of fish. If you're shrewd and pay attention, pick out trattoria's where the mother/father/chef is greeting or close at hand and when you've sat ask them what they would recommend. That's a much appreciated show of respect, they will instantly like you, and I've never been disappointed with their selection, almost always something they've prepared fresh for that day and they're eager to show off their skills. I gotta mention it again 'cuz I'm making it tonight (got a hankering w/ all this talk!), if you see Pollo al Mattone on the menu -- get it!! That's 'chicken under a brick' and it's the best chicken you'll ever have. I've gotten pretty damn good with it if I do say so my damnself, but I'm sure I'm losing something in the technique 'cuz over there I come darn close to havin' an accident from the first bite on.

More jealous. Might be lookin' up flights tonight!

Linda Hanney 8 years, 9 months ago

jaywalker, great post. You should be a travel writer as your inside tips are well done and definitely make me anxious to get there & see how it goes. There are some deals out there on flights--from Atlanta. Good luck--maybe we'll see you there!

riverdrifter 8 years, 9 months ago

You can make limoncello with either vodka or grain alcohol. Believe me, the recipe with the Everclear is vastly superior (ô¿ô)... http://whatscookingamerica.net/Beverage/Limoncello2.htm Freeze it when finished and enjoy as a digestiva. Or just drink it. Note that you can use oranges in the same recipe to make arancello. Most excellent.

Alia Ahmed 8 years, 9 months ago

Thanks, riverdrifter, for the recipe for limoncello.

Ronda Miller 8 years, 9 months ago

Ronda finally spotted the nod! ;) thanks. I'll try not to test too much of it along the process of writing about it.

andrew_fisher 8 years, 9 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Alia Ahmed 8 years, 9 months ago

Wow, some blogs or stories you expect there may be comments deleted because they are controversial, but this sure isn't one of those topics I would expected to engender questionable comments.

Linda, have fabulous time. I'll look forward to reading your blog about your trip. Perhaps you'll give the rest of us tips on how to pack and what to see on a trip like this when you get back.

Linda Hanney 8 years, 9 months ago

Alia, I couldn't believe the delete either. I've spent enough money on this trip that nothing is going to keep me from having a good time. Definitely will try to post a couple times.

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