Barcelona

Barcelona

It might be the end of January, but my January blues are putting up a fight. In an attempt to shift them, I’ve been making plans for the upcoming year that include teaching in Italy, writing in Berlin and living the nightlife in Istanbul. And I cannot wait. But a dissertation deadline means that it won’t be until June that I can finally pack my suitcase again. Until then, I can only reminisce on last years adventures, the last of which found me and two of my best girls in the beautiful and vibrant city of Barcelona…

 

Barcelona thrives at Christmas time. The famous Shopping Line is decked with lights and the popularity of the city as a tourist destination even at is time of year means that there is an intoxicating atmosphere of excitement. Whether you are fan of innovative architecture or a just love a look around the high street, Barcelona is a city that has something to do for everyone, and its connections with famous artists mean that there is always something beautiful to see. I spent five days in Barcelona, living in a newly renovated apartment (which I would highly recommend) set in the famous Gothic quarter of the city, close to la Cathedral Barri Gotic Barcelona. The cathedral is magnificent both inside and out, and is well worth a look if you are in the area.

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Another stunning example of the architecture that Barcelona has to offer is Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia. Again beautiful both inside and out, La Sagrada Familia stands tall over the city as a powerful religious icon. Gaudi’s work is further seen along the Shopping Line and in the beautiful Park Guell, which offers stunning panoramic views of Barcelona from its highest points. Street performers in the park add to the inspiring atmosphere created by the park, and showcase some of Barcelona’s best hidden entertainment for free.

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For those who love their art on a smaller scale, the Picasso museum, set in the gothic quarter provides an insight into the artist’s work and study, and entrance is completely free on Sundays between the hours of 3-5pm. Just across from the museum is Palau Dalmases, a romantic venue where you can immerse yourself in Spanish culture with a live show of impressive Flamenco, and the most delicious sangria! Be sure to check out the gorgeous little open roof courtyard, perfect for a cosy evening for two. (Valentines day is just around the corner…)

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Of course, no trip to Spain is complete without tasting fresh paella, and there is a whole host of restaurants that offer paellas with a choice of ingredients. I was new to the dish, and so tentatively ordered a paella made with seasonal vegetables. My paella arrived hot, fresh, and fit to burst with peppers, onion and courgette, and it was absolutely delicious. I am proud to say that I finished the entire thing, which is no small feat considering each paella could easily feed a family a four…

One food experience to another, churros are also a must when visiting Spain. A word of caution, however-ensure that wherever you sample your churros prepares them fresh, the difference is unbelievable! I would highly recommend Valor, a cute little churro cafe and chocolatier, who not only prepare churros fresh for every order, but who provide a cup of their delicious molten chocolate for dipping. Be sure to sample some of the chocolate bars they sell too-flavours include American Brownie!! If churros are not your cup of chocolate (ahem, puns!) never fear-Amorino serve the most delicately arranged ice cream in a range of rich and intoxicating flavours, my favourite combination consisting of pistachio, cinnamon, and caramel.

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I spent my final day in Barcelona in true and unashamed tourist fashion. I shopped my way up and down the Shopping Line until my little arms could carry no more. The sheer choice and availability of stores is incredible, believe me when I say there is a h&m on every corner! Among the recognisable high street stores are also all the biggest brands in high fashion, so if you plan to shop in Barca, make sure you take euros to spare. The final evening found me and my girlies in the Hard Rock Cafe where we had cocktails, fajitas and a whopping slice of oreo cheesecake while admiring enjoying music by the likes of Coldplay, the Killers and Deelite and admiring the ‘hermosa‘ Spanish waiter. From flamenco dancing beauties to gun toting law enforcement, if nothing else, Ill be back in Barcelona soon for its men. 10/10.

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A Day in Dublin, Ireland

A Day in Dublin, Ireland

While I was on the coach travelling into Dublin’s city centre from the airport, I couldn’t help recalling that most wonderful song ‘Dirty ol’ Town’. Many a night had found my family swaying side to side, arm in arm, chanting the lyrics from the top of their lungs over pints of Guinness. Remembering the song gave me an enchanted feeling, it made me feel connected to a city which I had never even been to. Ireland is special to me for several reasons, however, and I was eager to experience its most prestigious city first hand. I should first say that Dublin is no longer the dirty ol town of The Dubliners’ remembrance. It has an energy that reminded me of London in some ways, enhanced by the early Christmas displays that shed a warm glow onto the streets as we walked passed them.

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The James Joyce Centre

The day began in the most appropriate way: with a full ‘Irish’ breakfast. I use quotation marks because, being English, I like to feel that it is England that owns the legendary fry up. And also because I did not have black pudding on my breakfast, the very element that makes the Irish breakfast Irish, rather than English. So, my non-Irish (but very tasty) breakfast down, it was off for an education in the life of James Joyce. The James Joyce Centre is a must for anyone with an interest in his life and works, and while there is a heavy focus on Ulysses, there is enough to interest those who are too lazy (let’s face it) to read that intimidating, if brilliant, text. The centre has been crafted to resemble a house, and it is a pleasure to walk through while learning about Joyce’s life.

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An education in whisky tasting

From one education to another, our next destination was the Old Jameson Distillery. For a very reasonable price, you can expect a guided tour around the distillery itself, a free drink, as well as a mini lesson in the art of tasting whiskey. I have to admit, I am not much of a whiskey drinker. My most fond memories of whiskey are the few shots I would sneak before a party in my teens. And suffice to say, they were not all that fond at all. Imagine my embarrassment when our super-lovely tour guide explained how whiskey should never be shotted, oh no, but swirled around, over and under the tongue, just long enough to hit all of the different taste buds. While I felt slightly ridiculous, the tasting experience was highly enjoyable, as was the complimentary Jameson’s with Ginger Ale and lime afterwards. Eager for more, I rushed to the (very fancy) bar to order a Cloudy Apple Punch, made from apples, cinnamon, served warm and with a hearty measure of Jameson’s (of course).

Now, the friend with whom I travelled to Dublin had been told of a pub called the Bernard Shaw, one of these super cool hip alternative places that served shisha and pizzas from a double decker bus that looks to have grown from the very hedge of its garden. The Thursday before my escapade to Dublin found me at work (popular supermarket sales assistant) serving an Irish man. When he told me he was from Dublin, I excitedly ask for recommendations, and he described a pub to me that, believe it or not, served pizza and shisha from a double decker bus in its garden. We decided that the Bernard Shaw would be our final Dublin destination, and it was more than worth it. The pub itself has a great atmosphere, but the goods are definitely outside. The bright blue bus looms over the garden and serves not only pizza, but gourmet pizza, real pizza, pizza that took me straight back to Italy. It is a place where one could easily lose track of the time (and, with enough drinks, everything else), and I personally cannot wait to go back there.

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The Bernard Shaw

My only regret about my time in Dublin was that I did not see as much of the promisingly beautiful Trinity College as I had hoped I would. This was partly due to the darkness that was falling all around by the time I got there and partly because of my complete lack of sense of direction. But this is not of much concern, for I know that I will be back in Dublin again soon; by some funny feeling that comes from the memories of Jameson’s hot apple punch, gourmet pizza, and a desire to just see more.

Remembering Paris

I visited Paris back in March, before I began this little blog. In light of the devastating events that have cast darkness over the city and caused great pain to Eiffel Tower by Dayso many people, I write this post with bittersweet intentions. Bitter, because it was the unspeakable actions of a few deranged individuals that spurred me to write this post, and yet sweet, because I want to remember the time I sent in Paris as illuminating, educating, and happy.

Paris is a beautiful city. This is well known and should be remembered. It is beautiful not only for A March view from the Arc de Triompheits buildings and monuments, but for the very way that these buildings and monuments are laid out upon the cities surface. Views from the tops of both the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomph command the city sprayed out below, streets arranged and connected via triangles and circles. The city presents itself from such heights as a geometric maze, at once stunning and intimidating. And while it is known that the city is huge, I still cannot fully comprehend its sheer vastness, even when beholding it from such heights. The city rolls into the distance in every direction, and it is impossible to even guess at its limits.

While I could talk about Paris’ architecture for days and days, I am sure there are Arc de Triomphe many other bloggers who have done so excellently. What I want to remember about Paris in these dark times is its very atmosphere, all at once excited and cosmopolitan, and yet with a calmness provided by the slow boats that glide on the river Seine, illuminated with hundreds of tiny lights at night. There were two moments in particular during which I really felt I was experiencing Paris, and both came somewhat unexpectedly.

Best duck I have ever had, without a shred of a doubt...
Best duck I have ever had, without a shred of a doubt…

The first moment I shall describe was actually one of the last things I did on my trip. I got lost in Paris in the rain. Now, I am the first to admit that I am a true Brit. I complain loudly about the rain, and I complain loudly about a lack of signposts etc. etc. But this was different. Firstly, I was with mon amore, and who better to get lost with than your better half, right? Secondly, we happened to get lost among the most wonderful little alley ways, providing no access to cars and lined with the most alluring restaurants. Combine this with the fact that we happened to stumble upon a chocolatier that sold the most delicious truffles, and you have the basics for a Parisian romance movie, no?

By night. This photo does absolutely no justice.
By night. This photo does absolutely no justice.

The second moment which captured ‘Paris’ for me (though the first chronologically) came in the form of the magnificently illuminated Eiffel Tower. It was our first evening in Paris, and after a delicious meal we decided to go for a walk and admire the gorgeous structure. And there it was, not only illuminated but glittering. We stood there, silently, while the Eiffel tower glittered before us. And in that moment nothing else was visible, I didn’t even notice the cold (a big deal for a Brit). It was magical. Pray for Paris.

Copenhagen, Denmark, on a Student Budget

Copenhagen, Denmark, on a Student Budget

When a friend asked me if I wanted to go to Copenhagen on a day-trip for £16 return, how could I refuse? While the city is quickly becoming more and more popular among travellers, it is still cheap to get to, easy to navigate around, and close enough to home (the UK) to complete all in one day. It is a city full of Byzantine architecture, and while many of its most famous attractions cost a pretty penny to enjoy, there is much to do for those on a budget, and a tight schedule…

1) See Copenhagen from the Sky

Copenhagen’s Round Tower is the perfect place to get a stunning panoramic view of the city from its very centre. Situated five minutes from Norreport Station and

Copenhagen from the first floor of the Round Tower (the view gets even better than this!)
Copenhagen from the first floor of the Round Tower (the view gets even better than this!)

Rosenborg Castle (which I also highly recommend), the tower is not only accessible in terms of its location, but also in its very structure. For while almost all famous towers require their visitors to trek up a few hundred ridiculously steep steps, the Round Tower consists of one long, winding slope, which carries visitors to a beautiful roof-top view of the surrounding city. To make the tower even more novel, at its height is an observatory containing a ginormous telescope and several constellation maps. The towers history is tucked away in exhibitions that lead up to the observatory, and these afford sneak-peaks of the inside of the connecting cathedral. Admission to the Round Tower converts to just a few pounds, making it a great attraction for those who wish to see great sights, walk a little, and learn a lot.

2) Get a Danish Pastry from Holm’s Bagar

The best looking darn Danish pastries I ever did see...
The best looking darn Danish pastries I ever did see…

When I think Denmark, I think pastries. Cinnamon. Apple. Custard. Chocolate. So as the date of my day-trip loomed ever nearer, I found that more and more I was fantasising about finally having the opportunity to experience the real deal. And oh, was I in for a treat. Holm’s Bagar not only offers a wide selection of sweet treats, but of savoury ones too. The staff are friendly and welcoming and the bakeries location on the busy high street makes it the perfect place to relax and people watch for a while. So, first up, a puff pastry Danish swirl held together by a sticky chocolate substance and smothered with chocolate ganache. Followed closely by a cinnamon swirl topped with delicious royal icing. Holm's BagerEach was the size of a small plate, and cost the equivalent of about £2. Money well spent. So well, in fact, that will power could not stop me from sampling a third treat; an oaty, nutty, chocolate chip cookie approximately the size of my face. If you have a sweet tooth, Holm’s Bagar is your Copenhagen-haven…

3) Visit the Little Mermaid

At dusk, there are less tourists and you can get a gorgeous view of the nearby harbour...
At dusk, there are less tourists and you can get a gorgeous view of the nearby harbour…

While preparing for my visit to Copenhagen, I had read numerous articles for recommendations as to how to spend my time there. I notice that more than a few writers suggested that the Little Mermaid was not a priority. After visiting the Little Mermaid, however, I can honestly and gladly say that this is a load of old tosh (no offence to those writers). I had, of course, seen photos online of the statue, poised on her rocky perch at point where the water meets the land. It seems to me that these photographs overcompensate for the Little Mermaid; she appears grand and intimidating. They fail to capture her humble size, life-like proportion, and ultimate tranquillity. My own photographs cannot do justice to the skill that went into crafting such a piece, and I highly recommend that, when in Copenhagen with a few minute to spare, you go down to see the mermaid and see for yourself the beauty of her (for absolutely no charge whatsoever).

Valli Del Pasubio, Italy

Valli Del Pasubio, Italy

From one tiny town, to another. I’m still not sure of the exact location of Valli Del Pasubio. It lies between Schio, a city of 30,000 inhabitants (not to brag, but my university has roughly the same population!) and the Pasubio mountain range, which I believe to be known as pre-Alps. That being, they are too small to be considered Alps, though they looked pretty damn mountainous to me. Valli (as I shall affectionately call the town) is mostly residential. Pastel shade apartment blocks dominate its architecture at those parts nearest to Schio, and on the ride through the valley and towards the taller mountains, they become fewer, more scattered, and of a more unique (and ginormous) character.

The town of Valli itself is charming. It is one of my regrets that I did not get the Mmmmmtime to run amok with my purse full of euros through its narrow cobbled streets and outdoor market, or to linger for longer than a sniff outside the bakery, but I can rest assured in the knowledge that I am welcome back in that village. For the people are the kind that welcome not only with open arms, but open homes. I have been informed I have at least two beds waiting for me, should I ever require them. But enough bragging. The thing that struck me most about the gorgeous valley was, of course, its breath-taking panoramic views.

The weather was milder in Valli than in Tuscana or Padua, so I was able, each morning, to sit on the swing in my (host families) back garden and admire the great mass of mountain that faced the back of their home.  And admire I did. Any which way I turned my head were these beautiful mountains, incredible for their imposition if not for their size, and making up for any lack of height with their sheer bulk. However, while I admired the mountains of Valli for their seemingly militancy, on a mountain hike I was struck by their silence, their wildlife, and their colour. Trivia time: the mountains in Valli produce the most beautiful spring water, which is carted all over Italy and sold in ginormous quantities due to its quality. So there you go.

My mountainy excursions did not stop at hikes, however. It was suggested to me That drive...by my host family that we go for dinner on top of one of the smaller mountains. I agreed enthusiastically. While we got into the car, my host-dad gestured for me to take note of the temperature. 28⁰. Nothing strange there. The drive up the mountain was something spectacular in itself, never mind the views that I glimpsed from behind the trees that lined the (very thin) gravel track along which my host-dad navigated with skill. Every now and then he gestured to the temperature gauge. It dropped steadily. By the time we reached the top, it was 12⁰. It was hard to imagine that 1600 ft below us it was feeling like a British day in late August. And so high were we, that the views, though no doubt beautiful, were completely obscured by cloud.

And dinner itself was something quite apart from what I had been led to expect. Dinner? For I had been informed we were on our way to dinner. Imagine my surprise, when I discovered that we had parked in front of a farm house, which itself was in front of a pig sty, which was itself overlooking the edge of the mountain. I looked around, half expecting, half praying, that a restaurant would declare itself upon the horizon. But we were on the summit of a mountain. And the cloud obscured the horizon. After a mooch around the pig sty, my host-family led me into the (seemingly deserted) farmhouse. Inside were a few tables, all set up with place mats, and plastic knives A room with a viewand forks in little clear plastic wrappers (to prevent insect contamination as far as I can guess). Light bulb. So, taking a seat at the farmhouse/restaurant table, I eagerly awaiting dinner. And when it came it was delightful. While at first apprehensive of the setting for my meal, I now could not think up a more appropriate place to have enjoyed it. A homely helping of spaghetti Bolognese, followed by a selection of salami, cheeses, and fried polenta. Buon appetite indeed.

As if a farmhouse/restaurant/cheese factory combo wasn’t enough, the mountains The Historical Monumenthad another little marvel hidden up their sleeves: a World War One monument. The monument takes the form of a tower complete with winding staircase and views looking out to the surrounding mountains and overlooking the valley. The monument is humbling for more than just its impressive structure and its situation among the historical battlefields, however. Work began on the monument in 1919, and as surveys of the surrounding areas were carried out, hundreds of bodies were found, lost to the tragic First World War. Determined to build the monument in such a prominent location, the authorities decided to build tombs within the structure, in order to rest the bodies of those soldiers found and to complete the monument to them. Work was completed in 1926, and today it is one of those harrowing, heart-wrenching places that words cannot describe. And while it brought a sense of reality to my week in Valli, it impressed upon me the fact that emotion is international, and powerfully uniting.

My time in Valli marked the end of the beginning of my journey in Italy. It marked my final teaching destination, as well as my final host family. To follow Valli, came a week exploring the beautiful cities of Roma, Firenze and Venezia at my own leisure. And, not that I was aware at the time, but also for your reading pleasure.

Monselice, Italy

Monselice, Italy

My working days in the small town of Monselice were somewhat more challenging than those in Tuscany. Luckily, my workmates were of the cocktail appreciating kind, and so every day after work, we walked from the school where we worked to the nearest cocktail bar, whilst sweating in forty degree heat. If Tuscany was beautiful for its vineyards, Monselice was beautiful for its seven little churches, nestled in a cusp of rock jutting from a hill, and for its maize fields. Every morning I stood on my balcony and looked out towards Este castle, just visible across a gorgeous field of maize. The only drawbacks to Monselice? The mosquitoes. Sure, there were mosquitoes in Tuscany. And I happen to be one of these lucky people who do not suffer many bites. No, the problem was their sheer noise. After the first day, their drone became (very loud) background noise, and it was more noticeable when they actually stopped their singing. But I digress. Back to cocktails.

In Italy, the Aperol Spritz is by far the most popular appetising long drink in Italy. It is made from Aperol (sticky sweet red syrupy thing), prosecco and soda water. Yum. At €2.50 a pop, they went down like a dream after a hard day’s tutoring. Even better, if you buy enough, and stick around long enough, you will be treated (as we were) to aperitivo, similar in kind to British ‘happy hour’, though, rather than offering 2-4-1 on drinks, you can help yourself to a buffet of Italian treats. I’m talking meat. I’m talking cheese. I’m talking crisps, olives, bread, and salad. And if that wasn’t enough, you get Whole Bowls of snacks delivered to your table (as long as it is healthily stocked with cocktails).

Spritz Hugo
Eat, Sleep, Spritz, Repeat

Great. However, by the third day, I was struggling to cope with the Aperol Spritz. One was good. Two were okay. Any more than that and I started to feel like I’d downed a bottle of washing detergent. (And that is purely my taste). So, imagine my delight when I had the fortune of being introduced (by a local of course) to the Spritz Hugo. Made with Sambuca syrup, prosecco, mint leaves and topped with soda water, the Spritz Hugo quickly (and dangerously) became my new favourite. I would highly recommend to anyone with a sweet tooth (even better if you’re like me and have a whole set of sweet teeth), just remember that, despite its classy appearance and easy drinkability, its still not okay to drink more than two within one hour.

For here was another surprise. Contrary to my former speculations, the majority of the Italians I had the pleasure to drink with, were not heavy drinkers at all (but, of course, there were a few exceptions to this observation). Before my trip, I had imagined that my Italian hosts would be showering me with wine. And, don’t get me wrong, they all did. But I was encouraged to drink wine in a way that made me consider (and in time appreciate) the different tastes, textures and scents that accompany good wine. And the drinking of beer and cocktails is no different. Alcohol in Italy is refreshingly consumed as a thing to be enjoyed, not as means to aid you to enjoy yourself. There is a lesson to be learnt from the Italian way of drinking, and it is this: drink for quality, not for quantity. And enjoy it.

Monselice was a small city. A very small city. It has one train station, one taxi

Pretty sure that is it's tallest building right there...
Pretty sure that is the city’s tallest building right there…

service (bookable only 24 hours in advance), and one school. And while its attractions, including its cute little churches and its old Duomo may not be the most extravagant and while its waitresses may not be the politest (Maleva, I’m looking at you), Monselice will always have a special place in my heart because of the wonderful, wonderful people I had the pleasure of meeting there. The two families I was lucky enough to live with during my two week stay, and the friends I made whilst working, will stay in my life forever. I think there’s just something about a small, quiet town like that…

Tuscany, Italy

My travels around Tuscany marked the beginning of my journey in Italy. I worked for a total of 7 weeks as an English tutor at summer camps, and I had the pleasure of living with the families of children who attended these camps. I have always been a notoriously fussy eater, and the prospect of eating food that would be prepared for me by host families who would probably speak no or very little English was, in all honest, quite terrifying. In actual fact, my first host dad was fluent in English, and asked me on my very first evening if there were any foods I didn’t like. Decision time. Would I be that girl, who listed off every single green vegetable in existence, turned her nose up at homemade dishes I’d never even heard of, refused to try anything new? Hell, no. Instead, I took a deep breath, looked into his eyes, and answered ‘Only shellfish’. (My aversion to shell-fish comes not from a dislike, but more of a deep-seated unnerving that comes from never ever having eaten something that looks so slimy.)

The only way I can describe these delicious things, as I cannot remember their Italian name!
The only way I can describe these delicious things, as I cannot remember their Italian name!

And so it was that it was in Tuscany, surrounded by vineyards and pastel shaded apartments, I learned to love food. I am convinced that the families who were kind enough to host me during my stay in Tuscany were among the best chefs in Italy, heck even the whole world, so enjoyable were my daily dinner time feasts. And not only were my taste buds delighted at dinner, but at breakfast, perhaps even more significantly. For those who have never been to Italy, rest assured that those of you with a sweet tooth need look no further than a breakfast table in a common Italian household for a place to satisfy your cravings. The best of my breakfasts in Tuscany included delicious farm made jams spread of cinnamon French toast, sweet biscuits with chocolate hazelnut fillings, yoghurt, fresh fruit, all washed down with fresh juice and cappuccino.

Of the many meals that I ate in Tuscany, there are three which I would like to

Can you tell the difference?
Can you tell the difference? Try it yourself at the Sapori di Toscana.

describe in detail here. For they are the three meals which changed my entire attitude to food. For the first of these three meals, I was whisked away to a typical Tuscan restaurant and told to expect typical Tuscan cuisine. Rabbit. Okay so it doesn’t sound so dramatic. People eat rabbit in England and Wales on a fairly regular basis, yeah yeah. But for me, this was a big deal. I mean I owned a rabbit as a little girl. And now-well, now I was expected to eat one? As it happened, eating rabbit turned out to be a hundred times easier than I thought it would be-though not a whole lot tastier, I have to admit. After a starter of meats and canapés, down was plonked a silver serving dish of what looked like chicken nuggets. Not quite what I was expecting. I looked to my companions questioningly. ‘The rabbit is on it’s way-this is chicken’. Ah. So it was chicken nuggets. Down was plonked a second silver serving dish of what looked suspiciously like chicken nuggets. Wait, what? ‘The rabbit’, said my one of my Italian companions. And, do you know, if I hadn’t known the difference, I would have sworn both platters were chicken. It was dessert, however, which makes this meal particularly memorable. For here I was presented with the most delicious Italian biscuit-a twice baked cookie called cantuccini. Traditionally served at special occasions, cantuccini is served alongside vin santo, an intoxicatingly sweet dessert wine. Pour, dip, devour. It is safe to say that I became unhealthily obsessed with cantuccini, and can only say I am relieved that it is slightly more difficult to get hold of in Britain (though not impossible-hello, Costco).

Grilled branzino. You should try it.
Grilled branzino. You should try it-head to Il Sassoscritto.

The second meal came to me in the (perfect and untouched) form of a fish. Grilled branzino, to be precise. Scanning the menu of the hideaway seafood restaurant directly overlooking the waters from which it gathers its produce, branzino immediately caught my eye, being the meal over which Gwen Stacy awkwardly introduces the laid back Spiderman to her (rather more uptown) family. I know, I’m so cultured, right? So, when a whole fish, head, tail, fins and all was placed in front of me, I waited with bated breath. I was waiting (praying is more like it) for some instruction as to how to eat the damn thing, which looked all at once absolutely delicious and yet all too close to swimming off my plate to eat. My wonderful hosts, smiling with encouragement, gave me all the Victoryinstruction I needed. Buon appetite. And so, bravely, knife in one hand and fork in the other, I grappled with my fishy opponent until, at last, all that was left was a pile of bones, a head and a tail. And do you know, I have never eaten a fish so fine as that one.

The third and final Tuscan meal to be described was by far less exotic to me than the previous two. But let me assure you, the fact it was a simple, homely Bolognese should not be sniffed at. The restaurant where I sampled this unearthly Bolognese

Tasted at the Birreria Centrale in Florence.
Tasted at the Birreria Centrale in Florence.

is situated ideally in the heart of Florence, and boasts that rare quality of being both a favourite of locals and the lucky tourists who have been introduced to it by locals (as I was). Fresh tagliatelle swirled into a rich sauce made a luxurious mound upon my plate, and teemed with an amount of delectable mincemeat that would make a grown man quiver. No, it was nothing especially new to me, but the flavours were so rich, so fresh, and so superior to any Bolognese I have ever eaten in Britain, that I couldn’t not write about it. The menu afforded a whole range of typical dishes from all over Italy, and I cannot wait to return to stuff myself with another heart, homely, delicious dish.

Florence was the perfect city in which to eat this delicious meal, and nothing quite compares to the atmosphere of excitement that pervades Tuscany as tourists stumble upon hidden marvels and locals offer wide arms and warm welcome. My experience in Tuscany offered me far more than food, however its cuisine stands out in my mind as some of the most delicious I have had the pleasure to eat anywhere. And what should follow food, of course, but drink? Let me tell you of a small town near Padua in which I first became acquainted with the Spritz, and more importantly, with the Spritz Hugo…